Ron Hogan roasts Dave Itzkoff over an open fire.
Too tough on Itzokoff? Not really. After you’ve read Itzkoff’s moronic and uninformed review, which is far worse than the “impulsive, first-draft ethos of the blogosphere” in its almost total ignorance of science fiction (citing only Heinlein as a comparative influence), you can read my informed review of Rudy Rucker over at the Los Angeles Times, which was half the length of Itzkoff’s and managed to get in comparisons with Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, Robert Sheckley, Connie Willis, Kelly Link and many others.
You see, unlike Mr. Itzkoff, I actually conduct vigorous research for my reviews so that I can offer an informed position, which is what I’m paid to do. (I read six Rudy Rucker books for my review and reviewed many volumes from my library to insure that my comparisons were correct.) This is, after all, what a professional does. Or what I’ve always assumed does. To do anything less is the stance of an amateur.
But apparently such basic journalistic procedure is beneath Itzkoff. He slings John Scalzi’s name in the mud by remarking on his online popularity and pointing out that he writes in more ignoble publications like The Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine. What this has anything to do with Scalzi’s novels is a mystery. And besides, any successful freelancer knows that you write damn near anywhere to stay alive. (And if we’re going to play this silly game, it’s safe to say that Itzkoff’s contributions to Maxim, an infantile “periodical” two baby steps away from a stroke mag, are hardly going to be commended for their literary merit.)
Ron’s already covered many of Itzkoff’s countless solecisms. So I won’t repeat what he’s said, except this: With Itzkoff’s continued employment at the Times, it’s clear that Tanenhaus views science fiction as a genre for idiots. Why else would such a tone-deaf and ignorant hack be hired to write such arrogant and dismissive diatribes that fail to offer specific examples to support his argument?
If Sam Tanenhaus believes that the kind of character and genre assassination contained within Itzkoff’s article is substantive journalism, then the NYTBR is a lost cause. Unless, of course, Bill Keller shows Tanenhaus what the inside of an airlock looks like.
In all fairness, I think there’s room for a thoughtful consideration of Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War” novels solely in the context of Heinlein (well, maybe with David Gerrold’s “War Against the Chtorr” series thrown in as a much more blatantly overt tribute to Heinlein in general and Starship Troopers in particular) without displaying a panoramic knowledge of the field. This wasn’t it, though.
I feel like I should make a defense of Official US PlayStation Magazine, since I don’t think it was seen as ignoble; indeed, until it ceased publication this last month, it was generally regarded as one of the best written and produced gaming magazines out there, and it paid very well (one of the benefits of being a Ziff-Davis publication). As I very prominently mention my association with OPM on my Web site bio, because I wrote monthly for them for six years, I suspect he was simply reading off of my own notes. At the very least, I didn’t see it as a slam to note I wrote for OPM; I did, and I’m proud of the work I did for that magazine.