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Where Wolfe?
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Lots of fellow SF writers in blogland are commenting on the Gene Wolfe/Odyssey debacle, including David Moles and fellow Clarionite Trey.

As others have pointed out, it sounds as if things were handled poorly from all quarters. The students overreacted with their letter (I sure would like to read that full list of grievances), and Wolfe overreacted by jumping ship.

Some say the students should have thicker skins. Well, yeah, they should. But that slightly misses the point. I've always been of the opinion that the purpose of a workshop or writers group is to help people improve their writing, no matter what level their at. Criticism, even strong criticism is good, but the overall atmosphere should be supportive. People shouldn't be there to score points or tear each other down.

I figure we get enough rejection and abuse from editors...we don't need more from each other. This doesn't mean blowing smoke up people's asses. It means giving thorough, constructive feedback. Basically, if you're not telling the person how to make their fiction or that particular story better, you'd be better off keeping your yap shut.

That said, inevitably this sort of workshop environment will occur, many times moderated by an professional, established writer. What to do? Well, for one thing you can disagree openly with them in the critique circle, even if they have the last word. You can simply ignore their comments (unless they rise to the level of verbal abuse), shake your head, and move on. It's one person, after all.

Part of the problem is with the Odyssey format, with one main guest writer, as opposed to six rotating writers for Clarion. If you get somebody at Clarion with whom your personality clashes, or you think is just godawful for whatever reason, just a few days later and they're replaced by another. At Odyssey you're stuck with them.

Anyway, it sounds like things got way out of hand this year at Odyssey. We had a similar week at Clarion, but we never resorted to a protest letter, and in the end, the workshop was a great experience.

Not so with Odyssey. I wonder now if anybody will ask for their money back.


And then there's Harlan Ellison's response to the whole thing:

But this brouhaha with Gene is unconscionable. Jeanne should not have let him leave, should not have let the little gargoyles take command of the asylum. That Gene opted to do so, to spare Jeanne any embarrassment or hard choices, is further testament to his chivalry and decency. I would have dragged the little fuckers out of their mosquito-infested nests at midnight and browbeaten them into a gelatinous gestalt that understood a GOOD workshop is not one that lets you indulge your delicate amateur umbrages, but one that slaps you around, treats you like an adult, honors what potential you have, gives you your money's worth, does not play to your country-hick paranoias and uneducated ruminations/mythology about what it takes to be a professional, gives you a sense of what true (and truly talented) professionals think of your self-aggrandizing amateur efforts.

Nice, Harlan.

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