REVIEW: A Comparision of Superfreaks Season 2 # 6 and Encyclopedia Brown

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Thu Aug 9 18:13:42 PDT 2007

On Aug 9, 5:01 am, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at> wrote:
> On Aug 7, 12:59 pm, Tom Russell <milos_par... at> wrote:
> > On Aug 6, 11:14 pm, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at> wrote:
> > > On Jul 30, 11:19 am, Tom Russell <milos_par... at> wrote:
> > > And yet in Columbo mysteries, you already know who the killer is and
> > > how the crime was commited and the only element left is watching
> > > Columbo solve the crime.  Law and Order similarly, by its own
> > > admission, spends half the time dealing with points of law as opposed
> > > to solving crimes.  These are not good examples.
> > They *are* good examples, because information is not withheld from the
> > audience unless it is withheld from the detectives.  Of course it's a
> > gradual process-- not all the facts are available on the onset.
> I did not withhold information either, Tom.  You really need to grow
> up.

Martin, perhaps I have not made my point clear.  Since you did _not_
provide the information re: Scott's power, you withheld that
information.  That's not subtlety; that's not playing fair.

You're working in a serial format.  You must be aware that each issue
has to not only work as part of a larger whole, but also stand on its
own.  If I printed up this single issue of Superfreaks and gave it to
someone to read, they would also feel that information-- vital
information-- was withheld.

> I don't mind criticism
> but I do ask that you be specific and constructive and not just simply
> continue to make sweeping statements that can actually be shown to
> apply to your own writing and not mine.

I believe I am specific and constructive.  I have pointed out the
problems in this specific example, and why I find it to be lacking and
unsatisfying.  In fact, that's what I've done with every review I've
written of one of your stories, many of which-- you will notice-- have
been overwhelmingly supportive and positive.

I'm not attacking you, and I wish you wouldn't respond like my initial
review was some kind of attack.

> > > > I like to have all
> > > > the information that the detective has.
> > > The whole point of a mystery is that the detective doesn't have all
> > > the imformation to begin with.  The detective doesn't just solve
> > > riddles: the detective detects.
> > Yes, but when the detective has gathered all the evidence, I'd like to
> > be privy to that evidence.  Perhaps you missed my point, because what
> > you say has nothing at all to do with what I said.
> You don't have a point, Tom.  You're just full of hot air.  Well, full
> of something anyway.

Again, uncalled for.
> > > > All the clues one needs to
> > > > solve the puzzle need to be at one's feet-- something you can put
> > > > together logically.  If the writer plays fair _and_ is good at what
> > > > they do, I don't discover the solution but curse myself when I fail to
> > > > do so.
> > > Then curse yourself and not me.
> > When, exactly, did I curse you?
> This is usenet, Tom, and on usenet your posts are archived so you
> can't get away with this sort of dishonesty.  You said "When the
> writer doesn't play fair, I curse the writer".

I'm not being dishonest; it was a lapse in memory, and I apologize.
Let me further state that I did not overtly curse you, rather using
the chaistic phrase as a rhetorical device.  I have not hexed you or
declared any pox upon your house. :-)

> You completely missed my point.  In the real world, amateur detectives
> wouldn't even have access to the original evidence: it would be sealed
> awaiting trial and the only people who would have access to it would
> be the police, the district attorney's office and the defense team.
> Evidence that is tampered with, whether it be at the crime scene
> itself or any time after it is collected and before it is presented as
> an exihibit in trial, can be thrown out of court.  Encyclopedia Brown
> would then have to be called as a witness to explain what he was doing
> handling police evidence in order for the evidence to be brought back
> in.

Perhaps you're not remembering the books correctly; in the official
police type cases in which Encyclopedia assisted his father, he
_never_ saw nor handled any of the evidence.

I understand your general point, though.

> When you realize this, it is hard to take kid's detective stories
> seriously.  It's sad but true that a little knowledge of the real
> world can take the fun out of such stories.

I disagree.  They're still fun in spite of, or perhaps because of, its
fantastical approach.  I know, for example, that superbeings don't
really exist, and that if they did, they'd probably act like jerks.
But that doesn't make superhero stories any less thrilling and
inspiring and, yes, fun.

> To be honest, I don't get a chance to read much fiction here in Asia:
> I usually read whatever I get my hands on, newspapers, magazines and
> internet articles, but I don't bother with most fiction because I'm
> limited to waht I can find in local libraries and book stores.  When I
> was in high school, though, I read a lot of Issac Asimov.  Some people
> criticized Issac Asimov for writing mysteries because, as a scientist,
> he knew a lot more than the average reader and he could solve crimes
> using techniques that the average reader had never heard of and the
> reader would consider that a cheat.  Now, my question is why should a
> reader curse a writer for being smarter than he is?  Isn't that a
> little bit unfair?

I think our aesthetic tastes are different; I don't like an author who
talks down to his audience, and I don't like mystery stories that
cheat.  That being said, if one learns something from those stories--
as I often did from the Encyclopedia Brown books-- then that goes a
long way towards making it fun.  Details are a big part of the appeal,
for me, of most genre fiction.

For example, the little bits about your Atlanteans in the first arc of
this Superfreaks season?  I loved those.  (And I said as much in my
review of the first TEB.)  I found those details lacking in this
particular issue under review, and often find it to be so in this
series.  That doesn't diminish, however, those rare gems-- like the
Atlanteans not being able to identify each other visually because
eyesight is so poor underwater-- which are vastly enjoyable.

> Except you're not eight years old any more, are you?  You might have a
> point arguing that Encyclopedia Brown mysteries are too difficult for
> eight year olds to solve but now, frankly, you're just being
> ridiculous.

My point wasn't the difficulty, but rather that the books were
enjoyable for other reasons.

> In any case, the fact that I don't typically provide a characters life
> story every time I reintroduce them would mean that it would have been
> a massive giveaway if I had mentioned what Scott Grey's powers were
> then it would have been a massive giveaway.  Are you at least capable
> of admitting that much?

Let me say this: if done right, it would not have been a massive
giveaway; if done sloppily, then, yes, it would be.  I'm not saying
that you would have done it sloppily, or that you would have done it
right.  I'm just saying that the ability to put a clue right in front
of our faces without us realizing it is a great skill for any writer
to possess, and one that I myself feverishly desire to acquire.

> You admitted yourself at the begining that Jolt City is not a police
> procedural.  Perhaps you need to get some practice writing such
> stories before you presume to tell me how to write mine.

By that criterion, no one can offer critique to anyone.

> Frankly, Tom, this is the problem we had a year ago when you were
> _supposedly_ considering whether or not to allow Superfreaks stories
> into 8FOLD: it wasn't that I was "allergic" to editting but rather
> that, quite frankly, a bad idea imposed by you can ruin what would
> otherwise have been a good story.

It was not imposed because it was merely a suggestion, and one that,
as I've said countless times both publicly and privately, I was
willing to withdrawl.  Before we could get further into the discussion
stage, however, you decided to go with your own imprint.  And that's
certainly your perogative.

But I'd like you to stop spreading the falsehood that Jamie and I were
leading you along and that we were trying to impose ourselves on your

> > > it.  It's that simple.  I'm so sorry you weren't able to pick up on
> > > that.  I honestly thought you were smarter than that.  Clearly I was
> > > wrong.
> > That, too, was uncalled for, sir.
> Again, I call it as I see it.  Besides, Tom, where do you get off
> trying to act like the victim here?

I'm not pretending to be a victim; I don't appreciate insults on my
intelligence, however.

> You didn't think that the tone of
> your "review" was uncalled for?  You didn't think I'd find it
> insulting?

Frankly, no.  What was wrong with the tone of my review?  I feel it
was level-headed and not insulting in the least.  I provided what I
felt to be constructive criticism.

>  Have you ever heard the expression "If you can't say
> anything nice then don't say anything at all"?  

That's not the way it works, Martin.  You have two options: an honest
review, or no review at all.  You only get to choose one.  Not "an
honest review when it's positive and gushing" and "no review when it's
not gushing".

I have, in fact, not written a really negative review of any of your
writing.  I sling no bile.  There is no anger; just the willingness to
provide feedback, and the impulse to help.  And, as you say, to call
it like I see it.

But I don't insult your intelligence, or sling explectives in the
review itself.  Please make note of those last four words.  With my
use of profanity, I only responded in kind.

>  At the same time, however, I don't feel it is a
> valid for you to go back and criticize the first "season" if you
> honestly don't remember it very well: all you can do is say whether or
> not you remember liking it ot not but the fact that you now don't
> remember it very well precludes you from providing any constriuctive
> criticism.

Did you miss the part where I gushed on Edward and Mary?

> A good story should satisfy two criteria: internal consistency and
> believability.  I wasn't criticizing your internal consistency so much
> as your believability.  Perhaps Martin Rock has some healing factor
> that you've never previously mentioned that allows him to wake up in
> hospital fully awake and fully recovered.  I still fault your
> dialogue, however: perhaps this is a case where your dialogue is
> overwritten where you thought a joke should be inserted here for comic
> relief whereas you should really have been thinking about what Martin
> Rock would most likely have said first thing after waking up in a
> hospital bed.  You should have just "let him talk".

Your point is taken; I'll fix this in the TEB edition.

> > Did you just ask me who fucking Dickens and motherfucking Thurber
> > are?
> Now THAT was uncalled for.
> > Did you miss the part where it explains that Dani's apartment is
> > lined with rows and rows of stacks of books on the floor?
> I've never heard of James Thurber.  Sue me.  The exact quote was "They
> come to an entrance-way: guarded by Dickens on one end and Thurber on
> another."  It didn't say "books by".  You've often criticized people
> for being obtuse.  Is this how you react when people are confused by
> something you've written?

No, it's not, nor do I think I was being obtuse.  Since the beginning
of the scene set up the insane number of books, arranged in rows, I
figured-- oh wait, you probably didn't read it; it was description.
My bad.

It didn't say "books by" because I was using a metaphor.

My profanity was not in response to you not getting the metaphor.  It
was in response to, first, your profanity, and, secondly, the fact
that you, at that time, appeared to not know who Charles Dickens is.
I'm glad to find that you do know a bit about the man.

And, like you said, USENET preserves everything.  I'm certainly not
perfect; I remember, years ago, when I asked a similiar question
because I hadn't heard of Acton Belle.  The response I got back was
one of incredulity, just as mine was intended.

>> > > and why
> > > is Martin Rock going on about "Injuns"?  Is this supposed to be
> > > funny?  It would have made more sense if Danielle didn't get it.  Or
> > > perhaps this is a case where one has to be there.
> > It's a bad joke, and admittedly it doesn't work.
> That's twice you've made the "joke" excuse.

That's twice I used a joke in the stories you quoted. :-)

>  If the joke didn't flow naturally out of your first draft
> then it probably isn't a good idea to go back and insert one.

That's a good point.

> > >    "Two objects-- two atoms-- cannot occupy the same
> > > space, right?"
> > >    "That's basic physics," says Dani.
> > > I'm sorry, Tom, but this is nonsense.  First of all, the idea that you
> > > can vibrate and end up in a parallel world is not real world physics
> > > but comic book physics so it's annoying to have Dani claim that this
> > > is "basic physics" but, worse, neither Dani nor Martin are
> > Dani's claim about basic physics applies only to the statement about
> > two things not being able to occupy the same space, as that is what
> > she makes it in reply to.
> But look at what else she says.  ("I know that," snips Dani.)  Here
> Dani comes across as a know it all.

She says that in response to:

"The way that works is, your body is made up of
molecules and the molecules of atoms."

She's being talked down to, and reacting in kind.  Not "being a know-

> Stop being so damned dishonest, Tom, and reread the part you snipped:
> "neither Dani nor Martin are physicists
> so even if what they were saying did make sense then there's the
> question of how they would know about it."

They're not saying it; Fay is.  Reread the scene.  It's Fay doing all
the explanation.  Fay, being a doctor, would know what she's talking
about.  Dani is just asking questions and, ocassionally, taking

> > 1. Could you point out _any_ pop culture references?
> Um, Dickens and Thurber? :)  Obviously I meant _modern_ pop references
> but if Thurber isn't part of popular culture then why in God's name
> would you have expected me to know about him!

1. Dickens and Thurber are part of Culture.  Along with Shakespeare,
Ogden Nash, Beowulf, and Beethoven.

2. Your point was that Martin Rock would not be knowledgable about pop
culture; even if Dickens and Thurber could be considered "pop"
culture, Martin Rock says nothing about them.  It's in the narration.

> Besides, it goes beyond how well educated Martin Rock is: he still
> can't perform magic; he's not psychic.  I'm thinking in particular of
> how Martin Rock was able to determine that the Crooked Man was a man
> with twelve foot arms with very little evidence or how Martin and the
> Speedster were able to follow a car on a city street hours after it
> had already passed by.  You criticised me for having Edward make what
> you considered to be wild deductions based on the evidence he saw but
> at least he is a trained forensic expert.  Martin Rock isn't.  That's
> my point.

I concede that point, and you'll be happy to know the bit with the
Crooked Man's arms is being fixed, as you suggested initially, in the

> > Granted, you would expect a man who teaches for a living-- regardless
> > of the subject he teaches-- to know who the fuck Charles Fucking
> > Dickens is, but not everyone falls into stereotypes.
> Again, Tom, this is completely uncalled for.

Probably was, but insulting my intelligence-- and that of my
character-- kinda threw down the gauntlet, didn't it?  At any rate, it
could have used a smiley.

> > Martin only goes to crime scenes that would be within his
> > jurisdiction-- i.e., the capture of a supervillain or something Snapp-
> > related.
> He's a frickin' vigilantee.  He has no official jurisdiction, not in
> Pepperon and not anywhere.  Hence the Beverly Hills Cop comparison.

Well, since he doesn't live in the Superfreaks universe... :-)

> > > Instead of going to all the trouble of trying to pass off your
> > > opinions as professional literary criticism, perhaps you should pay
> > > more attention to your own writing and it wouldn't suffer so much.
> > I never pretend to offer anything but my opinions.  If you don't want
> > them, don't ask for them.
> And if you don't like reading Superfreaks then, fine, don't bother but
> if you DO read Superfreaks and you DO choose to criticize it then I
> expect you to make constructive criticism and that means actually
> backing up what you have to say with actual examples.

Like Scott's powers?

> > And, no offense, but I don't think anything I've ever said in any of
> > my reviews of your stories has ever matched this recent post of yours
> > for pure, nasty, unwarranted malice.
> Do you live in the same world as the rest of us?  I dare say it is
> obvious that you have some axe to grind.  Perhaps you can explain what
> the point of this was: "Some of these were good, some of these were
> bad.  Sometimes I found
> the stories to be quite clever; other times, I found them lacking."

You know what the point of that was, and I might add that there were
no insults or malice or nastiness in that review.

> > I bear you no ill-will; I have no intention of escalating this into
> > some kind of flame war.  Let's let by-gones be by-gones, and get back
> > to something close to friendly terms.
> You must be joking.  Your "review" of Superfreaks Season 2 was
> bullshit as I call it like I see it.

This review, and the first TEB review?  You call it bullshit because
you don't like it.
> For the record, adults don't use words like "motherfucking" and then
> claim that they aren't trying to start a flame war.

Adults also don't call other adults idiots, or accuse them of
projecting, or get upset when someone writes an honest review of their

> Martin


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