Re: RARA-AVIS: Sturgeon's "Cellmate"

From: foxbrick (
Date: 11 Jun 2008

--- In, "Juri Nummelin"
<juri.nummelin@...> wrote:
> --- In, "foxbrick" <foxbrick@> wrote:
> > That's pretty much what Sturgeon meant--from the ridiculously
> awful to
> > the utterly humdrum mediocrity.
> Todd,
> it would be really nice to know why mediocre is crap. I think
> someone like Brett Halliday or Edward S. Aarons is mediocre, but
> they are not crap in any sense of the word. Or maybe someone like
> G.W. Ford, from the more recent writers. Or Sue Grafton (okay, I
> haven't read that much by her, but I wouldn't say she's great nor
> would I say she's crap). Mediocre can be very entertaining, while
> crap is almost never entertaining. (Unless it's something like THE
> I've been pissed at Sturgeon's Law for some time now. Okay,
> meant it as a joke (he was drunk, as Richard pointed out) and we
> should treat it as such and not take it as a truth. It's become
> of a lame excuse. Someone says: "Hey, crime novels are crap,
> you know that, read literary novels instead." And we say back,
> smirking: "Hey, didn't you know that 90 % of literary novels is
> crap?" And that's the end of discussion.

Well, anyone who dismisses all fiction of a certain subject matter is a fool, anyway. (Mason's Uncharitable Estimate--a fool to that extent, anyway.) If something is entertaining, it isn't blandly, dully mediocre...but, this discussion is approaching Sturgeon's Estimate, rather than Law, from the wrong direction. As with your theoretical discussion, or Mario's post, Sturgeon in first putting the estimate in print noted that most people decided that all science fiction was THE MESA OF LOST WOMEN, that almost always sf was being judged by its worst examples. Certainly, he went on, 90% of sf might be of less than stellar quality, but, then, so was a similar percentage of every other kind of literature.

So the trite and the half-assed but somehow including some sort of spark or even bad-laugh fun about them (you decide the difference between, say, Bellem and Avallone) might fall at the borderline, or on either side of the estimate.

Todd Mason

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