Hello and welcome to Box 010; a bit of light whimsy which is, in no way, inspired by the popular BBC programme Room 101. Here’s now it works. Every two weeks, my special guest will pop in and then present us with five things they would like to see consigned to the dustbin of existence. This week’s special guest is A.F.E. Smith, speculative fiction writer and the brain behind the fabulous Barren Island Books, which, obviously, I shamelessly copied when setting up this feature.
Hello A. F. E. Smith, fellow lover of discreet initials, first of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Yes I can. I’m an academic editor by day and a speculative fiction reader by night – or at least, I was before became a parent and discovered that spare time is a lie – yes nothing prepares you for that bit does it? Quite, I am still waiting for an opportunity to save the world by being really good at maths, but in the meantime I write fantasy novels about people with more mundane skills (you know, like swordfighting and stuff). My blog, and information about my works in progress, can be found at the not-at-all-egotistically-named www.afesmith.com. Feel free to ask me anything, except what A.F.E. stands for.
OK, A.F.E. Smith, thank you so much for joining us to sling as many of your pet hates as possible into the oblivion that is, Box 010. What’s your first item?
Meat-eaters who get all precious about certain animals.
As in the woman who tucks gleefully into a steak whilst declaring she could never eat a rabbit because they’re ‘too cute’, or the meat-and-two-veg guy who freaks out at the idea of eating roadkill. Ethically speaking, if you’re willing to eat chicken then you should be willing to eat flattened squirrels and tiny ickle bunnies as well (or at least allow that other people might). Otherwise, your moral stance pretty much boils down to ‘meat is great, as long as it comes prepackaged in anodyne slabs’.
Good one. I can’t fault your logic, in fact, I have eaten roadkill and ickle bunnies… although I might be wary of any roadkill I hadn’t actually seen get killed, on the grounds that it could be dangerously old. You mean freshly run-down though, right?
Yes I do.
Oh good, thanks for clearing that up. Right then, on we go.
What is the second item you’d like to put into Box 010?
Badly programmed language aids.
I realise that spellcheckers, autocorrect and the like are only tools, and that we all ought to have the intelligence to know when to ignore them. But surely a misleading/over-simplistic/just plain wrong language aid is worse than nothing at all? Every time an iDevice erroneously corrects ‘its’ to ‘it’s’, I cringe inside – no wonder people misuse apostrophes if their beloved gadgets are teaching them that ‘its’ is never valid. And don’t get me started on that stupid green squiggle in Word.
Or the American ‘english’ setting that you can’t switch off. Gits. Sorry, your choices are ringing a chord with me…
OK, A F E Smith, what is the third item you would like to put into Box 010?
Dog owners who don’t scoop their poop.
Good choice, one of my own personal pet hates this one… sorry do go on.
I hardly think this one needs arguing, but just in case: you chose to have a dog. It’s your responsibility to clean up after it. Anything else is disgusting, dangerous and socially wrong. It’s the worst kind of littering, and if you do it you’re essentially saying that avoiding a minor inconvenience is worth more to you than protecting children from potentially serious diseases and preventing loads of people from having their day (and shoes) ruined. If you wouldn’t leave it on your garden path then you shouldn’t leave it in a public street. *rant over*
Brilliant, I can’t agree more. Please everyone vote this in.
Alright then, what is the fourth item you would like to wipe from existence and wring out into Box 010?
The phrase ‘Calm down, dear’.
Please, lovely population of the world, never use these three words in this order again. NEVER. They carry with them so much that’s worth despising. Basically, anyone who directs this phrase at you is implying that you’re a hysterical little woman (because, let’s face it, no-one ever says it to a man) and that your emotion, however justifiable, deserves nothing more than a patronising pat on the head. It’s a throwaway response that simultaneously devalues you as a person and closes down any possibility of meaningful debate. Michael Winner has a lot to answer for.
Finally, what is your fifth choice to go into Box 010?
Snobs of any kind are pretty irritating. But being a fantasy lover and all, I particularly dislike those who are snobbish about genre novels. What annoys me most about this kind of snob is their tendency to extrapolate from a single work (Conan the Barbarian, say) to an entire genre. Saying that all fantasy fiction is badly written and formulaic is like saying all cats are ginger: it’s a statement that could only be made by a person who’s encountered a very small subset of the population in question.
Another excellent choice which, as a far fetched fiction writer, I can thoroughly identify with. A.F.E. Smith, thank you for joining me today.
Thank you for inviting me.
Right then everyone, if you’d like to vote there’s link to the poll further down the page. To find more about A.F.E.’s writing and/or read her blog, click here.
Join us next week for the results, and in two weeks’ time, when we will be finding out what really ticks off Jean Gill when she puts her five most loathed items into Box 010.