Sounding Presidential

One of science fiction fandom’s unwritten rules is – Never review a book you haven’t read.

But that’s not a rule in politics, written or unwritten, so Politico unhesitatingly quoted Todd Dashoff’s criticisms of Battlefield Earth in ”Mitt Romney: Sci-fi fan”.

Romney has praised various sf/fantasy works during two campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination. He cited L. Ron Hubbard’s novel as his favorite book in a May 2007 Fox News interview. This week Politico revived the story and asked selected experts to comment:

Even Todd Dashoff, president of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, raised an eyebrow at the choice.

Asked if he’d read the book, Dashoff told POLITICO he hadn’t – “thankfully.”

“Partly because it’s a long book and partially because L. Ron Hubbard’s stuff does have a reputation for a certain style,” Dashoff explained. “It’s not the best written stuff on the planet. It’s not going to make anybody’s list of the best science fiction. ‘Turgid’ might be the word to describe it.”

Of Romney, Dashoff said: “I would be curious to find out how much actual reading he’d done in the field. Let’s put it that way.”

Let’s put it this way: Mitt Romney has read one science fiction book Todd Dashoff hasn’t.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver for the link.]

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9 thoughts on “Sounding Presidential

  1. Todd didn’t express himself very well, but, then, newspaper interviews are always hazardous prospects for the inexperienced interviewee, as I’ve found myself. Not having read Battlefield Earth myself either, I would have said – or tried to say – simply that “it doesn’t have a very good reputation in the science fiction community.”

  2. @DB: Many of us have deprived ourselves of the experience. But I just couldn’t get over how Todd outed himself and still came away obviously thinking he had scored a point off Romney.

  3. I can see that you’re annoyed at using the field to bash a presidential candidate. I understand what you mean. Individual fans will all have their own political opinions — you have yours, I have mine, we agree on some things and differ on others. However, if I have read between the lines correctly, you dislike the idea of using science fiction as a whole in bashing a declared candidate, and on that we can definitely agree.

  4. I’m just deeply disappointed in the journalist he mentioned Twilight to. I would have loved to hear his answer if asked whether he was on Team Jacob or Team Edward.

  5. I actually have read Battlefield Earth. Nicki and I received a first edition of the book when it was originally published, in hopes it would get reviewed in Chat. (That alone will give you an idea how many decades ago I’m talking about.)

    Anyway, I agree with Todd that the prose was overwrought, but I didn’t think it was a truly horrible book. My impression was that there was a promising 200 page novel that was trying to escape from the 700+ page book.

  6. @Rich: I bet somebody in PSFS has read the book, too. Just not Todd. I bet that other fan didn’t like it any better than you did and would have been happy to share that informed opinion with the media.

  7. You don’t have to drink the whole bottle of milk to know it’s sour.

    Ask any experienced slush reader or editor. Judging books and manuscripts that they haven’t entirely read — or may have, indeed, read only a few paragraphs of, along with a plot summary, if that — is what they do professionally.

    It’s not typically regarded as an unfair practice.

    I don’t this this is actually a partisan political issue. 🙂

    “One of science fiction fandom’s unwritten rules is – Never review a book you haven’t read.”

    I’ve never actually, in ~40 years of being in sf fandom, heard anyone assert that this was an unwritten rule of sf fandom, fwiw. (Presumably I can’t look for evidence in writing.)

    I’d agreed that’s generally a poor practice, but that’s another question.

  8. By the way, this from the quoted story?:

    Whether it’s Mitt Romney saying that he’s a fan of Battlefield Earth and Ender’s Game …or Newt Gingrich who writes science fiction novels and wants to put a station on the moon, or Barack Obama — who is a Spiderman fan — we all kind of cheer [any mention of sci-fi by politicians] because it speaks to the mainstreaming of science fiction,” the organizer of an upcoming science fiction convention said.

    It’s “Spider-Man.” Not “Spiderman.” He’s not “Superman.” You can, like, look it up, reporter person. It’s not little-known. They’ve even made obscure little art house movies with the name.

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