Nobody asked for this.

You're right. But I'm mad and I'm bored and my roommate is blasting shitty music and I actually have a weekend on a weekend and I'm not ready to go to Super King to buy tortillas and Armenian coffee so I'm getting this out of my system so I can move the fuck on.

Excellent. Externally processing your internal bullshit.

I'll put it this way: the audiobook is sixteen hours long. I made it 11 hours into it before I figured out what exactly I didn't like about it and why and that made me madder, especially because I actually liked David Wong up until this point.

Sweet jesus why.

This was a groundbreaking read for me.

Really. A thousand-word shit-and-monkey-filled rant about Dunbar's Number.

Yeah, the style of it always bugged me a bit…

So much so that you cribbed it for these little "reviews" of yours.

Pathetic, right?

Oh, no. I'm sure you've added your own special little twist. You're the clever one.

See, and therein lies the problem.

What I've enjoyed about David Wong's work is that he's good at explaining complex concepts in simple terms, using all the bombast and bullshit the Internet requires these days. Of all the soul-searching about a Trump victory, his commentary on how half of America "lost its fucking mind" is an easy shorthand for a lot of complex problems. But I've never bothered with his fiction before; "John Dies At The End" has been on my list for a while but I've never actually gotten as far as reading it. And now I never will. I guess… I guess this book caused me some soul-searching.

You're going to slag on a book that caused soul-searching.

My inability to enjoy the book caused soul-searching. Thing of it is, it's really, really shitty cyberpunk. It's the sequel to Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy that nobody asked for. It's a drunk fratrat's retelling of Jennifer Government. It's quite obviously a wise-cracking, loose-playing "satire" of a tale so you can't judge it like a John Le Carre but the contempt within this book…

OMFG are you just now realizing how much contempt the editor in chief of Cracked has to have

I am. Fuckin'A.

Thing of it is, you have to do a little of that in order to get people to pay attention. That's advertising. Or, that's advertising in a medium with no attention span, terrible monetization schemes and a noteworthy dearth of audience for longform of any kind. but you don't have to hate the people paying you. And that's what I realized about David Wong and everything that flows from him.

See, the thing about that Monkeysphere article is it holds a profound truth: humans can't be naturally sympathetic to everyone, they can only be sympathetic to everyone they know and the function of society is to keep us sympathetic to the people we've never met. The fact that there's a biological imperative behind this is, in my opinion, an important thing to understand if you want to grasp the mechanics behind diplomacy, charity, gossip, fame, any of it. But with David Wong, it comes at it from a terrible place: it starts with the basis that the reader is stupid, is devoid of empathy, and is in desperate name of being spoon-fed.

Post another graphic to show how you aren't like that.

You know what I realized as I sat down to write this? I realized that when David Wong writes, the bold headlines are what the stupid person says. But when I write, the bold headlines exist solely to beat me up. They are the voice of my inner, doubting monologue.

Fourth wall, beyotch.

Totally but it's important. I realized that as a writer, I want to share wonders with my audience because I think they're cool and they'll appreciate it. I want to believe that I come from a place of assuming my readers are at least as smart as I am, they just haven't read what I just read and that through my perspective, they can gain an appreciation of my tale or experience similar to what I experienced. As a writer, I am my own vicarious reader. I travel the course I chart through the wilderness.

Which is not to say I'm immune from posturing. I mean, shit, look at this mess. If this

Is the highpoint of metafiction, what I'm doing here is like the lowpoint of metanonfiction.

(which is not even a word)

But perhaps it comes from the reality that I simply don't enjoy writing, that I much prefer the permission that a conversation grants me to expound, and that without constantly beating myself up about my own arrogance I simply couldn't continue.


Probably. Who really fuckin' cares in the end but there it is. Hey, here's why I bring it up:

I can no longer believe that David Wong respects his audience.

Dude is the editor of Cracked. Started by Demand Media. Fuckers that brought you eHow. Probably half the clickbait links polluting the internet are from that umbrella. The odds are against David Wong having EVER respected his audience.

Yeah. I'm realizing that. This book made me realize that. This book is by a smart person who thinks everyone else is stupid, writing for people who think they're smart and that everyone else is stupid. Which is Cracked in a nutshell: cynical bullshit by people who think they're smart but everyone else is stupid, written for people who think they're smart and everyone else is stupid.

Are you honestly realizing that there are limits to the empathy one can communicate when one half of one's imagined conversations are dripping with scorn and derision?

I am. And just like that the bold text vanished in a puff of sarcasm.

Thing about Dunbar's Number is it defines how many "entities" you can hold in your mind and regard individually. It says nothing about how we communicate with each other, how we become one of those entities. Somehow, it took two thirds of a David Wong work of fiction to realize that the fundamental basis of his writing… of too many of his imitators… and goddamn it, of myself when I get cranky is to do it subtractively, not additively. To make the reader a part of the in-group by slagging on the out-group, by laughing and pointing, by drumming up the mob.

And the look-down-your-nose snark in this book - in all of David Wong's writing - in so much of the fabric of the Internet is just… toxic. Lord knows I've done my part to increase the radioactivity.

And I guess my realization is that when you become inured to that toxicity you can write a book like Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits without realizing or caring that you're forever walling off the wonder of the world and that's a tragedy.

I realize I said very little about the book. There isn't much to be said. It's a mad-lib of tropes and snark attempting to cloak its b-grade story, unimaginative plot and hackneyed cartoon universe in self-aware cynicism so that the paucity of ideas and dearth of entertainment is forgiven by the posturing pseudointellectuals it is so clearly directed at. Here's Nerdist:

    Like Jonathan Swift for the internet age, Wong’s novel offers an engrossing journey and razor-sharp wit inside of an uncanny prediction of an American future. His humor ranges anywhere from blatantly poking fun at our world to more subtle aspects of life that one would not even think of until pointed out. Wong’s capability as an author has steadily matured since he won cult status with John Dies at the End in 2007, and his newest is only more proof that he will be remembered as one of today’s great satirists.

I'll put it this way: nobody could have written the above about Demolition Man, its obvious progenitor. Because once upon a time, we had standards that weren't foiled by handing the reader a pair of shit-colored glasses.

How did we end up with Donald Trump? David Wong. Regarding the rest of the world as beneath contempt. Assuming you're the smart one, despite all evidence to the contrary. Refusing to wonder.

God help us I don't know the way out.


    God help us I don't know the way out.

I'd argue the only way out is through sympathy. The slow, steady erosion of respect which has come to typify the internet

edit: this was supposed to be a draft. pls wait

posted 837 days ago