Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Blast From the Past

MWT reminded me that the UCF has encountered a pathological personality such as Wagner's before, albeit by proxy. Does anyone doubt that the pathology of Dr. Andrew Burt almost exactly matches that of "Dr." Walter Wagner?

Exhibit A:

in my opinion it might be possible to find a better example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, but if there is one you’d better hope they don’t work with anything critical to the public, like nuclear power or immunizations. The best I can say about Burt is that he falls into the “means well” category of unintentional menace, although in my experience the petulance and pettiness he indulges in after people are inexplicably unappreciative of his latest well-intentioned disaster don’t recommend him to sympathy; he’s the sort of person who is under the impression that passive-aggressive lashing out can be hidden or mitigated with a smiley-face emoticon at the end of a sentence.

And Exhibit B:

1. Burt’s publishing record, or lack thereof. By his own admission, in Burt’s writing career, which goes back into the last century, he’s produced five short stories that would be SFWA qualifying. His one novel was self-published (publisher: Techsoft. CEO of Techsoft: Andrew Burt) and has more Amazon reviews (seven) than sales registered by BookScan (five). In contrast, Russell Davis has published close to twenty novels and was editor of two book lines at Five Star Publishing, including their SF/F line; his book sales figures dwarf Burt’s by a few orders of magnitude. Davis wrote science fiction for a living; Burt writes science fiction, it seems, largely as an affectation.

Burt would make a virtue of necessity by suggesting he’s not running on his publishing record, because, after all, why would one’s career as a writer be at all relevant to someone who’s running to be president of a major writer’s organization? But of course it does matter, and it should matter. Active professional experience matters to other creative organizations: The president of the Screen Actor’s Guild is not a guy who qualified on a commercial a decade ago and has then spent the intervening time in community theater; the president of the Writers Guild of America (West) isn’t a guy who squeaked into the Guild on a technicality and has since mostly just given workshops at the Learning Annex. And it’s certainly mattered to SFWA in the past: unless my research is wildly off, all of the past presidents of SFWA save one had published novels prior to their presidential tenure; the one exception had his published while he was president and was a multiple Nebula nominee for his short stories before that.

And it matters (or damn well should) to other SFWAns, the ones who have sold books and more than a bare handful of qualifying short stories, to have someone heading their organization who understands the concerns of actual, working writers because they themselves are (or have been) a working writer. Why would you, as a writer, trust someone who has never signed a book contract with a science fiction publisher to engage in fruitful discussion with science fiction publishers about your professional concerns as a writer? Why would you, as a writer, trust someone who has barely any experience as a writer to move the organization in a direction that is relevant to your professional career? Equally importantly, if you were a brand-spanking-new science fiction writer, with your very first book contract in hand, why on earth would you join a professional writer’s organization whose president has less personal experience with book contracts than you do?

Burt is another shining example of the slacker, non-hacker geek I talked about in Delusional. Maybe he and Wagner should write a book.


Of course it would be fiction. Just not science fiction.

No comments: