Called Out!

By | Monday, March 25, 2013 Leave a Comment
I've written a fair amount about comics and fandom over the past few years. Over 2500 posts on this blog alone, plus whatever I've contributed to various other websites, magazines and books. And this weekend I got called out on something I wrote. Not a simple "I disagree with you" type of called out, but a "you are factually wrong" type of called out. I can't say if it's because most of my work just flies under everyone's radar, or if I'm just not worth bothering to correct, but that doesn't happen very often when I'm talking about comics. So it caught me off guard.

See, it wasn't a case of a typo creeping in that changed the meaning, or a hastily worded post that could be misinterpretted, or anything like that. No, when I questioned the person of what I got wrong, she pointed to some fundamentally flawed conclusions. Basically, my research was nascent enough that I completely ignored huge swaths of others' research. Now it wasn't like I deliberately ignored others' work; it was just that I was unaware that it even existed. But in presenting myself as an expert -- which I always try to do in my writing, whether or not I expressly say as much -- I wind up proposing and/or propogating misconecptions that have already been shown to be inaccurate. And if I do this out of ignorance, it stands in opposition of what I'm trying to do. That is, I'm trying to show myself to be an expert, but by not doing as much research as I might have, I actually show myself to be the opposite of an expert.

Interestingly, this coincides with Neil Cohn calling out another writer on some of his proposals. Same type of thing: "you are factually wrong." Incomplete research that points to a basic questioning of the author's expertise.

You'll notice I'm not pointing to the piece of writing I got called out on. I am proud of myself for not being overly defensive, and asking for the person to point me to where I made my errors in the hopes that I would be able to learn more. But it's still embarassing.

That said, I'd still like to point out the experience as a recommendation to others. None of us are complete experts in everything, and we're bound to make radically inept blunders whether they're in our stories or art or basic research or what-have-you. Maybe you totally screwed up your building perspective. Maybe your historical fiction features two characters who actually lived decades apart. Maybe you just got things factually wrong. And whether that was because you were fighting a deadline or didn't think it was relevant or thought you knew something but didn't or were just being lazy, my point is that to take that opportunity to learn from your error from someone who might have called you out on it. It's embarassing, sure, especially when they can call you out on a blog or Facebook or Twitter or some other public forum, but take advantage of the learning opportunity, so at least you don't continue to look like the opposite of an expert!

My intention was really just to point out that I screwed up, not to get all preachy on you. I'll go back to not being preachy with my next post!
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