Epistle the FirstEdit

By: The Epistler

Title: Why So Many Young Authors Despise InheritanceEdit

There are many popular books in the world. Not all of them are particularly deserving of their popularity. Others are. But few popular novels attract as much hatred as the Inheritance trilogy by young adult Christopher Paolini. On forums all over the internet debates over its quality are carrying on, and often they are quite vicious. The question here is – why? Why do non-fans of this series hate it so much, and why are they so vocal about their dislike? And why are so many of them other young authors not much different from Paolini himself? As fans have demanded time and time again, why don’t these critics simply move on and read something else?

The answer, the Epistler thinks, is quite simple. Other young writers object to Inheritance because they are young writers. In other words they are developing writers hoping to be published one day. This can and has led fans to accuse them of jealousy. This is a false argument which violates the famous Ebert’s Law, but is it true? For the most part, probably not.

In answering the question of why young writers hate the Inheritance series, it is important to note something which most non-writers probably aren’t aware of: publishing a book is not an easy thing to do. In fact it is extremely hard and, for some, impossible. If you were to ask an author with at least one book on the market about their publishing quest, they will almost invariably tell you it took them years of hard work. Not weeks. Not months. Years. And for some it can take a lifetime. The quest for publication usually works like this: an author writes a book. He thinks it is good enough to be published. He then begins writing proposal letters to publishers and, perhaps, seeks out the services of a literary agent. After sending those proposal letters, it’s all a matter of waiting. Then, often months after the initial sending of the letters, the replies come back. It is likely almost to the point of absolute certainty that they will all be rejections. Every professional writer has had rejection letters, and some have entire folders full of them. The legendary J.K.Rowling, for example, was supposedly rejected by nearly every publisher in the United Kingdom. And this is an author who has gone on to make millions and who, many agree, writes quality material.

Young, unpublished authors like the owners of this site are aware of that. They know that years of hard and unrewarding work await them in their quest to attain that distant, shining thing – publication. They long for it. They live for it. It is all they dare to dream of, and they would give anything to achieve it.

And then, quite suddenly, this young man called Christopher Paolini arrives on the scene. He’s published. Twice. He is a bestseller. He has been on TV. He is an international celebrity, and all because he published a book which he famously began writing at age fifteen and finished at nineteen. It all sounds so wonderful, does it not? A child prodigy, according to some. Look at what he has achieved! He’s living his dream and getting rich off it! He has a million fans! He is a genius!

But here’s something those young writers know which most of his fans do not: people who begin writing novels at fifteen are extremely common. There are thousands of them. Many of these young writers began writing before that age. Some of them are still at that age. In essence, the only difference between Mr. Paolini and those young writers is that he is published. And he is not published because he wrote those letters and got those rejections. He is not published because he worked hard. He is not published because he is a genius. He is published because he has family connections. He is published because his parents own their own publishing company. He was picked up by Knopf because he did not have to go to school like those other young writers do. Instead he was free to travel the country – probably at great expense – publicising his book. Knopf took him on because they saw a great marketing opportunity in such a young client with his own novel. Most likely they wanted their own J.K.Rowling, and he would be sufficient to fill that role. So they published Eragon and began an aggressive marketing campaign, hailing their prize as a prodigy.

The problem is this: he is not a prodigy. He is, at best, a writer of average skill. If he had been forced to spend years reworking, revising and editing as writers normally do, he could have been very good. As far as young writers go he is perhaps a little above average. But as writers, period, go, he is mediocre. However, the public does not seem to be aware of this. They repeat what Knopf told them, leading some to think that he is still fifteen whereas he is in fact twenty-two and by no means a child any more. Young children and those inexperienced in the fantasy genre find his works accessible and admire him for his success, perhaps encouraged by of his rather naïve and innocent personal charm.

However, young writers like himself despise him. They loathe his books, they loathe the things he says, and most of all they loathe what he stands for. To them he is not a hero, or a genius, or a good writer. The fact of the matter is this: he did not go through those years of hard work. Instead of suffering all the anguish and self-doubt which a writer usually must, he had the world effectively handed to him on a silver platter. Does he have that folder of rejection letters? Does he have that terror that he will never realise his dream?

No. Instead he has something which is normally reserved only for those of rare and special ability, something which should have gone to a truly original and distinguished writer. Not one who churns out simplistic, unoriginal airport novels aimed at a young or inexperienced audience.

So those young, unpublished writers are not impressed but enraged. By reaching this high point in the way he did, by becoming famous without hard work or significant ability, he has offended everything they hold dear. He has given the public the impression that publishing is easy, that near-plagiarism of other people’s ideas is acceptable behaviour, and that young authors do not know how to write. They are afraid that this phenomena is symptomatic of the corruption of literature and the transformation of writers from closeted, serious, hard-working people into vapid celebrities whose only gift is being charming on chat-shows.

And when they try and share this fear with others, they are all too frequently met with derision, with accusations of jealousy, intimations that they lack talent, and no form of respect for their opinions. Their refusal to accept Mr. Paolini as one of their own means that his fans treat them with scorn, perhaps believing that it is they, and not he, who are phoney writers or pretenders. Not being writers themselves, they cannot know about the passion that drives these people. All they see are a group of individuals who hate what they love and won’t be silenced. They can’t understand their anger.

The writers are angry because they feel their efforts are being mocked. And they are afraid that, if they should ever realise their dream and become published, that status will have been degraded and so mean less than it did before.

Let me put it this way: if you had spent years painting an exquisite and precise picture of a magnificent old building and, having finally completed it after spending what feels like your entire life working at it, perfecting your craft and subordinating all else to getting that painting finished, and then the art gallery turned you down in favour of a piece of canvas which someone had spent an afternoon randomly splattering paint onto, how would you feel?

the Epistles
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