Tuesday, March 17, 2009

David Mack & My Destiny Reviews

It was pointed out to me yesterday morning that Star Trek author David Mack had read my reviews of his Destiny trilogy and was writing about it in his LiveJournal account. (You can read the relevant reviews here, here, and here.) I am grateful for any author to take the time and read my thoughts on their book, even in this case, where the reviews were negative.

I intended to comment in Mack’s LJ, but he preemptively blocked me from posting (I don’t believe I’ve ever commented there previously). Rather than wanting any sort of discussion, he aired his opinions not here, but in a format in which he can control which people can respond and whether what they say will be visible for others. There is of course nothing wrong with this, but if I do believe that if one is going to work in a censored forum, it ought to be made aware to those who post there.

Rather than respond directly to a single one of my numerous criticisms, he instead pulled quotes and listed them, often losing the context and therefore meaning of the words themselves. For exa
mple, when I wrote that ‘nothing much happens’ in Mere Mortals, I then explain the progress of the various storylines to defend such a statement. I will admit that my comment on his surprising ability to ‘resist prison-style lesbianism’ may have been out of line, yet other than this I stand by each of my criticisms. It would have been nice to read a response to specific points rather than a rant.

In the comments of his post, Mack implies that I accuse him of being juvenile and racist in my reviews. That is not true. I specifically refer to certain examples in Mack’s prose that I felt were juvenile and racist. Having a character shit her pants when an alien plays an impossibly low musical note, in my opinion, is juvenile. And referring to a character as having ‘Eurasian features’ seems no different than describing a character as having ‘African features,’ which may not be racist (in the politically charged sense of the word, at least) but does focus exclusively on race and ethnicity at the cost of individual description. (I did find it amusing that Mack left out the part about a character shitting her pants when he pulled the quote from my review.) And I know literally dozens of people to whom English is a second language, and none of them have a problem mastering the words ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ Just because Scotty did it in the 1960s television show does not mean that it should be done today.

Mack also called my review of Keith DeCandido’s A Singular Destiny ‘fellatorily effusive,’ striking through that apparently after Keith complained (of course, striking through something is basically the equivalent of doing nothing in such an instance). He adds that no disrespect was meant to Keith, implying that disrespect was specifically meant for me. Taking a swipe at my sexuality (again, something rather juvenile), he basically asserts that my review of A Singular Destiny didn’t reflect my true opinions, but instead was written as a way to ingratiate myself with DeCandido. The truth is that I barely even know Keith, and he was apparently unaware of my review until the link was posted by Mack. In fact, while I did like the novel, I don’t believe my review was effusive, as would be apparent to anyone who reads it. Mack quotes from the review: ‘A Singular Destiny … goes a long way to making something worthwhile after the mess that was David Mack’s Destiny trilogy.’ Yet the entire line from the review reads as such: ‘A Singular Destiny is an entertaining if slightly flawed novel that goes a long way to making something worthwhile after the mess that was David Mack’s Destiny trilogy.’ Calling a novel slightly flawed in summation doesn’t seem all that effusive to me.

I’d be happy to continue this discussion with Mack or anyone, assuming the conversation could remain civil. As always, this forum will remain an open one, with the only restrictions being on personal attacks against myself or others. I am appreciative that Mack took the time to read my reviews of his work, and as I have been trying to gain a greater readership here, his links were appreciated. I have zero interest in creating some sort of feud here for may reasons: for one, I just don't care enough, and two, I surely have better uses of my time.

I've reread the reviews a few times, and I don’t think anything I wrote was personally insulting to Mack. I would also add that bad reviews are a part of the business, and if one and one’s publishers are happy with their work, it might be best to take comfort in that (for that is all that is really important) rather than to search through the Internet looking for reviews.


Gary Rees said...

Jon--You are the great gadfly of the Star Trek universe! I could care less about the debate over Star Trek novels, but what interests me about this character "David Mack" is the way he turns a seemingly transparent and playful text (his blog) into a closed system that allows him to say what he wants and block out/ignore responses to his words that he doesn't care for. I use the word "seemingly" because on the surface it appears that by bringing attention to and posting negative reviews about his work, Mr. Mack is creating a censorship free space. However, he is merely creating a myth (ala Roland Barthes) of transparency, and it fascinates me how he achieves this. When I checked out his post about your reviews of his work, I was expecting more than a list of his "favorite quotes" from your reviews and a link to your texts. You didn't post a disjointed (no pun intended)series of qoutations to discuss his work, rather, you took the time to write three thoughful pieces that expressed your opinions about Mr. Mack's work (not the man himself). It would seem from an (honest) rhetorical angle, that Mack should respond in a like fashion and try to open up a dialogue about his books and directly address the issues you raise about them. Instead, you get an incredibly defensive rant that tries to pass itself off with "humor." What I don't understand about this whole thing is why Mack cares so much? The reviews on "Disjointed Observations" were published months ago and Mack is just getting around to responding to them now? So, kudos to you great trekkian gadfly--I believe this whole thing can only be a positive for you as it gets your work out there to a larger reading base.

David Mack said...


While I don't wish to engage in a point-by-point debate of your reviews, it is clear that I owe you an apology.

I should not have singled out your reviews for mockery or criticism; or, if I did choose to respond to them, I should not have taken such a demeaning stance in doing so.

My elisions from your text were also not fair to what you wrote, in letter or in spirit.

I also regret mischaracterizing your review of Keith's novel, and for doing so in a manner that demeaned you personally.

As you so correctly point out, bad reviews are a part of the business, and I should have accepted yours with better grace.

I apologize for my previous rude reactions, and for preemptively stifling the discussion on my LiveJournal (though that was for other reasons that, again, I would like not to revisit).

I hope that you can accept my apology in the spirit in which it is offered.

David Mack

Jon Polk said...

I appreciate the reply, Dave. Apology accepted, no hard feelings here.