Reading a book like Mr. Schwartz's "Spaceship Earth" reminds me about
the importance of editors. The problem with an outfit like Reagent
Press---I'm not sure whether it's a vanity press or just a little
independent---is that it simply lacks the capacity to ensure that its
authors are being professional in their storytelling. Mr. Schwartz
has a flight of fancy that he's decided to tell his readers about, and
Reagent Press isn't going to interfere to make sure that holds to even
the most basic level of authorship.
I'm not going to bother critiquing the ludicrous abuse of basic
science, which leads to innumerable icepicks of foolishness like "Oh
noes! As the universe contracts, we're running into lots of space
junk flying toward the center! We'd better fly backwards instead!"
Nor will I complain excessively about Mr. Schwartz's obsession with
large and round numbers. Nor even about the bizarre epilogue where he
attempts to blend creationism and his cyclic many-universes ideas,
culminating in a "Big-bang-friendly" rewriting of Genesis 1. No,
these symptoms of the disease of ineffectual editing all stand pale in
comparison to the fact that there is simply never any character
development or narrative conflict, only a ham-handed dance of
cardboard puppets through a disjointed sequence of events.
Above all, the job of the author is to be a compelling storyteller.
Reasonable world-building, good decisions about how to use or violate
science, and so on are all there just to help keep the reader from
being knocked out of the story. But you have to have a real story
first. Being a novelist is more than just putting 50,000 words in
sequence. It's a difficult and demanding craft, and it's something
that few people have the capability to criticize themselves well
enough to really develop on their own. That's where editors come in,
and writer's groups, and seminars, and all the other things that help
a person with an idea turn it into a story worth the time of others.
Maybe Mr. Schwartz could develop into a good craftsman, and maybe not,
but the people at Reagent Press certainly did him no favors by
publishing his novel in the sorry state it's in.