John Scalzi gets it. He has a very nice little essay riffing off the page-long review of his work in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, in which he discusses writing about politics in one's science fiction. He uses a really cool metaphor here, and the fact that it's an extremely useful and interesting metaphor just makes it even cooler. Thing is, you can build a really stylin' monument (or a really ugly room), and I've read examples of both, as well as the "God damn, is that nuclear ugly?" monuments and the "Oooh, seductive furniture!" rooms. The difference is all in the quality - well-written books (like Scalzi's) either make you think while you're being entertained or just slip in their ideas in the background while the action is happening. Poorly written books (like, say, Kratman and Ringo's Watch on the Rhine) not only have gigantic, ugly monuments cluttering up the landscape but insist that you spend all your time at them. Polemic, bah! It's poor quality writing and I say the hell with it. (Via Instapundit)
As a side note, the link to Nicholas Whyte's critical post on Old Man's War is well worth reading, along with the comments, in which Scalzi replies to Whyte's criticism. It's a useful illustration of how people can read things that aren't there into what somebody else has written, and a RL example of how imposing your own context on the book can completely distort its meaning.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, I need to do laundry and clean up around here.