Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Engineer writers

Sometimes, even John Derbyshire gets it wrong:
Andrew: The intersection set Writers x Engineers is not large. The only one that comes to mind is the fine & prolific British novelist Nevil Shute (ON THE BEACH, A TOWN CALLED ALICE, etc. etc.) He titled his autobiography SLIDE RULE.

This is, of course, incorrect. The problem is that Mr. Derbyshire hasn't taken the right genre into account, as I wrote him:
I fear you're looking in the wrong place. We engineers don't write boring old regular fiction, we write science fiction and fantasy. At least I do. (Of course, calling myself a writer since I put a couple of short stories and half a novel up on my webpage (http://www.ece.rochester.edu/~cranksha/writings/writings.html) may be a bit of a stretch.) I think it appeals to our creative instincts. We much prefer to create whole worlds with their own histories and cultures, not to mention their own rules for technology and/or magic, than to create just a few new characters and some boring real-life situation.

I haven't heard back from him. In case he's wondering, he has my permission to post my response on the Corner. If that link to my writings happens to be posted too, well, I suppose that's the price I must pay for freely offering my advice. Of course, some other readers responded before I did, prompting Derbyshire to post:
WRITER ENGINEERS [John Derbyshire]
Heinlein! Jerry Pournelle!! Arthur C. Clarke!!!

And best of all, from reader Peyton Cooke*, DOSTOYEVSKY!!!!!!!!

You'll notice that, aside from Dostoyevsky, all of those writers are known for their science fiction works, thus proving my point.

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