Hello, friends! Welcome to September’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a support group for insecure writer’s like myself. If you’d like to learn more about this amazing group, click here!
This month’s optional I.W.S.G. question is:
If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?
I’d have to pick Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, one the greatest science fiction novels of all time. Of course there are other Sci-Fi authors I’d love to meet and chat with. I wish I could talk politics with Mary Shelley and H.G. Wells, and I feel like Arthur C. Clark and Isaac Asimov would be great people to turn to for career advise. But for the purposes of beta reading, it’s got to be Herbert.
First off, have you read Dune? I mean, forget about all the Sci-Fi stuff. Forget about all those planets and spaceships and psychic superpowers. Forget about the giant sandworms and Fremen warriors and the plans within plans within plans. At the most basic, most fundamental level, the way Frank Herbert strings a sentence together is marvelous. It’s prose elevated almost to the level of poetry. Even if Herbert wrote in some other genre, I’d love getting feedback from someone who had such mastery over the English language!
But of course, Frank Herbert does (I mean, did) write science fiction, and there are precious few Sci-Fi authors who handle the sciency stuff so artfully. When you read Dune, you might not even notice all the ecology lessons sprinkled throughout the book. That’s real science. You’re learning real science! But the science is integrated seamlessly into the story, like any other aspect of setting or plot would be. I’d love to get a little guidance from a man who could pull off a trick like that!
Now I’ve worked with a lot of beta readers over the years, some good, some not so good. The not-so-good ones make writing feel like a chore, with lots of rules and regulations. Based on what I’ve read about Frank Herbert, I don’t think he’d be like that. Shortly after Herbert’s death in 1986, Sci-Fi author Ben Bova wrote this about him:
He knew pain. But to Frank, pain was something you got around, one way or the other, so you could get on with the main business of life: having fun. Creating great novels was fun. Being with friends was fun. Living life to its fullest was the real goal of existence, and he did exactly that. Life was a banquet, as far as Frank was concerned; his advice was to pull up a chair and enjoy yourself.
Someone who sees writing as fun—pure fun—just another part of the sheer joy of living? Now that sounds like the best recommendation for a beta reader anyone could ever make.
P.S.: Oh, and if I were beta partners with Frank Herbert, that would mean I could give him a little feedback too, right? Because I would like to talk with him, just a bit, about gender roles in his books. That’s one thing I think he could’ve handled better.