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I really enjoyed this guy's first book. Fresh, racy, on the edge, I didn't know from one page to the next where the story was going. I seemed to be able to count on it, though, being outrageously unexpected. Just couldn't wait for his second book.

I should have.

In his second book the author committed the Big Crime. I can forgive almost any error except for bumping me out of the story to deliver a political message. What is perplexing with this book is that it's only the fellow's second. Usually, a mystery writer has to have several tomes and at least a decade of a well-established publishing career before the author becomes dotty enough to think that stopping his tale to deliver a political message or to spleen vent all over some disliked politician is a good idea.

Do you think I'm pointing this out only because I didn't care for the message? I didn't care for the targeted politician, and I still didn't like the message. Equally I wouldn't want a lecture on mock mince pie, the works of Barry B. Longyear, nor a zoological discussion on the Ring-necked Fuzzwort. THEY DON'T BELONG IN THE STORY.

Even if you attempt to make the political jabs a necessary part of the story as this fellow did, it still doesn't work. A political jab is a political jab, and it's on the other side of the Moon from that which belongs in fiction.

If you have a really good story to tell, you'll get my money and my time enjoying your tale. Murderers, wizards, soldiers, trips through outer space, spies, cops, garbage collectors caught in a horrific bind, science gone amok, I want it all, EXCEPT your political frustrations. I don't care if it's to save the planet, cure erectile dysfunction, clear out the infidels, or bring us peace in our time. Stick it in a nonfiction article and send it to a publication of the same political stripe. The readers who will appreciate your political whining and blowholing are there.

Yeah, I know that in your college writing course, your instructor trotted out examples of attempts to politically influence readers through fiction. I also know why the instructor of your writing course was stuck in the bottom of Old Main teaching politically correct nonsense for a regular paycheck while still awaiting his or her first sale. (I don't mean to hit all college writing instructors with this brush. I've known a number of them who were also professionally published genre writers who know how to write, and a very few who weren't professionally published but who really knew how to teach and somehow had the real goods. The ore is low grade, however).

I am a reader as well as a writer, and when I find a book that I really enjoy, all of a sudden I want to read everything that author has written. I am learning, however, to read the reader reviews on Amazon before sending in a "buy" order. No matter how good an author can write, if his or her detective looks up from the corpse, sees a familiar political face on a bus poster or TV and takes the opportunity dump on said politico, there will be review-writing readers, who feel sufficiently gypped by the writing offense to warn the rest of us through Amazon reviews. I don't read professional reviews. Their political blowholing is even worse.

"But, it's reality!" cries the injured author defending his four hundred page science fiction novel cleverly dumping on libertarians, or whatever. Perhaps it even is reality. So what? Fiction was not invented because reality fulfills all of our needs. Every now and then we need to see the good guys win, justice triumph, hard work pay off, humans cast off the chains of slavery, and the outcast brought home.

If it doesn't belong in the story, it doesn't belong in the story.
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What About This Blog?

For writers & readers. For writers, this is stuff I've learned, am in the process of discovering, and stuff that is imparted to me by other writers. For readers, I believe the more one knows about what goes into the writing of a story, and into the life of being a writer, the more one appreciates an author's writings.

This is a two-way blog. Your comments on the blogs are welcome, as are your questions. Comments on blogs can be made directly on each blog entry. For questions and comments not related to specific blogs, use the eMail link below.

Barry B. Longyear is the first writer to win the Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer all in the same year. In addition to his acclaimed Enemy Mine Series, his works include the Circus World and Infinity Hold series, Sea of Glass, other SF & fantasy novels, recovery and writing instruction works, and numerous short stories.