I debated even writing this. Normally I don’t like to amplify articles I dislike, but in this case, I’m making an exception to the rule, just because it ticked me off so much.
Yesterday, Wired ran an article on Brandon Sanderson. I was very excited to see it pop up in my feed, as I love it when friends have cool things happen to them. So I clicked over and read it, and discovered this was Anything But Cool. The author basically spent the entire article talking about what a bad writer Brandon is, how strange he is, how strange his fans are, how stupid fantasy is, and how odd Brandon’s religion is. This coming from a reporter who Brandon clearly invited in to spend time with him and his family and his friends. It was an article hit job, and it irritated me on many levels.
First off, there’s the “look at all the stupid geeks liking stupid things like named swords and cosplay” mentality that pervaded the article. This sent me back to middle school, when I used to get made fun of because the books I read were so thick. (True story: I would go to the library and look for the thickest book I could find and then read it, because they were usually awesome.) I thought we’re past the “geeks are stupid” phase, but apparently everyone didn’t get the memo. Now, you have to like one of the approved geeky things, like George RR Martin or JK Rowling.
I don’t understand this line of thinking. If people like something, let them like it. If it irritates you for some odd reason, that probably says more about you than it does about them. Why spend an entire article showing people what a bonehead you are?
One of the most frequent critiques of Brandon’s books that I’ve seen is that they’re poorly written. That he’s got too many characters nodding or making other facial expressions. That sometimes he tells instead of shows, or that his prose isn’t as lyrical as other authors’. This is an argument that holds no weight with me. His books aren’t designed to be works of art. They’re stories, and he’s a storyteller. He’s focused on making a world and the characters in it come alive in your mind, and he does that superbly. If he were to inject a bunch of fancy prose into all of that, it would actively detract from what he’s trying to do. Criticizing a book because it does what it wants to do too well? That’s not a criticism.
Brandon’s religion has been another thing that’s drawn ire from a number of critics, though this article really brought that to a different level, making it seem like Brandon views himself as a god, and that all these crazy fans of his support him in the same way acolytes support a religion. Again, hitting on a religion isn’t something I’m good with.
But what really got my goat was the constant belittling of Brandon. Of portraying him as this obsessive basement dweller of an author who has no life and can’t do anything other than write. Because that’s not Brandon, and anyone who spent a few days with Brandon (as the author did) should be able to recognize that.
Brandon is a caring, kind person who genuinely looks out for people. He takes time for his fans not because he’s stuck up, but because he loves what he does, and he cares about them. He realizes it’s his fans that have made him so successful, and he wants to do what he can to say thank you. Has he hired many of his friends? Yes. He has. But how is that bad? When I go over to his place in Utah, I see a bunch of my old friends there, all of them happily engaged in doing something they love.
If you’re a Latter-day Saint, the best example I can give you of who Brandon is is this. When we were back at BYU together, he was the Elders Quorum President. I remember one day he had to leave early from a writing group meeting. When I asked him why, he said he had to go home teaching. That was a thing where members would go to other members’ houses and check up with them, make sure they were okay, and give a spiritual thought. Typically someone would have 3 or 4 families they home taught. Brandon had done that for his quorum: given everyone the normal number, so it wasn’t too overwhelming. He’d given himself something like 18 families that were harder to reach, and he did his best to keep up with them.
Is Brandon a geek? Yes, and proud of it. But he’s also a genuinely good human being. He’s fun to be around. He’s got a great sense of humor. And he’s been a friend of mine for a long time. I don’t like it when my friends get torn down. Even the ones who are fabulously wealthy fancy pants authors.
And I guess that’s all I have to say about that.
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