Thursday, September 1, 2016

On Speculation

I was once a professional book critic, until it fell that the paper I worked for succumbed to the Internet Age, and away went the Books Section.

Maybe because of this experience, I'm more open-minded to criticism of my work than it seems a lot of people are -- especially such people as get involved in magic and hoodoo, touchy motherfuckers we are. It's not to say I like being criticized. Naturally, I prefer praise. I do have to mentally prepare myself before going in and reading the 1 and 2 star reviews; but I do try to read them with an open mind, not take it personally, and then use the information to improve future writing. I don't assume critics are "out to get me" or "jealous." I don't interpret criticism of the work (as long as it stays on the topic of the work) to be a criticism of me. 

Something I have noticed I get criticized for a lot, though, is something I do deliberately in my writing. Many people seem to be bothered by my habit of openly speculating, or wording information in an unsure manner. 

Here's the thing: if one person says X is the truth and one person says Y is the truth, one of them is probably wrong. If both of them might somehow be right, one needs to speculate on how both could be right at once. If one of them is wrong and you have no way to know with certainty which it is, your options are either to leave out interesting and potentially useful information, or to report it with the facts you have -- the facts being that it's unsure. 

I also have an awareness that I come off a bit pushy or judgmental to a lot of people, and as mentioned above, lots of folks don't like being criticized that way. (Example: I once lost a friend because she interpreted any negative comments I'd make about movies she happened to like as being deliberate attacks against her and her taste.) Thus I endeavor, in any situation when I am not absolutely certain about something (and there's a lot of stuff in this universe I am not absolutely certain about) to qualify it with perhaps and it seems and possibly. This is especially the case if I'm talking about history or some other event I can't know from experience: if it seems to me that there is disagreement on a point I will make sure to report it as what seems instead of what is.

Interestingly, for all the complaints people make about me openly speculating and hypothesizing and sounding unsure, one of the few times I jumped in and asserted something I had good evidence but not actual proof about, people hated it. That would be The Spellbook of Marie Laveau, or; The Petit Albert. There are so many accusations that I just tried to package a translation of the Albert to appeal to Voodooists by sticking Laveau's name on it for no reason. The fact is, if all I wanted to do was "get rich" off a fake Laveau spellbook (by the way, people are really misjudging how well these books sell) I could have bashed out a bunch of modern voodoo/hoodoo style spells in about two days and packaged it under her name like everyone else does. Instead I did a lot of research, identified the Albert as the most likely text for her to have known, went to France, and spent 10 months translating the thing, in order to finally present a historically correct book that had spells which she'd have actually heard of in her lifetime. Did anyone appreciate it? Apparently not, and the only people fond of the book are the ones who admire it for being the Albert, whereas the Laveau fans are offended at the thought that she'd have ever touched a filthy European thing like a book (nevermind that her common-law husband, Glapion, was a white man; that's his family tomb she's in. The one with her name written on it, as if her family members might be expected to read.) 

And then, of course, if I assert something factual that there's no doubt about, like for example that Marie Laveau was in a long-term relationship with a white man, people get offended because I'm being pushy with information, and start going "Oh, you're being so insistent, you must have some kind of bias, and so your information is unreliable." 

Anyway, it's all The Miller, The Son and the Ass, I suppose. I shall probably continue my habit of speculation. Probably. 

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