8 Laws Named For Writers

Gabe Habash -- February 1st, 2012

According to ancient, eerily preserved scrolls found floating in the exact center of the Pacific Ocean in 1702, PWxyz law says: “For every day the faithful slay a wide-eyed doe in the name of the PWxyz god, there will be Truth and Prosperity in the land.” So out back we have a special altar (which is really just a mattress with a bed sheet over it) and everything, because it’s good to follow laws.

But there are boring old laws that, if for some crazy reason you actually wanted to, you could read about in book like this, and then there are more interesting laws, some of which are for writers or named after writers. This is supported by science. So, if you want the universe to work in your favor, it’s best to keep the following Writer Laws in mind.

Muphry’s law

(1) If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.

Further aspects of the law, according to John Bangsund of the Society of Editors, are: (2) if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book; (3) the stronger the sentiment expressed in (1) or (2), the greater the fault; (4) any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent.

Gaiman’s laws

(1) If there’s a typo in the book you wrote, that typo will be on the page the book falls open to the first time you pick it up.

(2) All scientifically possible technology and social change predicted in science fiction will come to pass, but none of it will work properly.

Neil Gaiman explained his first law in a blog post on his site in 2005, revealing his pessimism when first holding a new-born book.

Sturgeon’s law

Ninety percent of everything is crap.

The law is from science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, who in defending attacks claims against his form that “90% of science fiction is trash,” said that sci-fi conforms to the same trends of quality as all other forms of art, so, 90% of everything is crap.

Herblock’s law

If it’s good, they’ll stop making it.

Cartoonist Herbert Lawrence Block coined the term “McCarthyism,” and he also has his own law, supposedly created when his favorite carbon drawing stick was discontinued. If you need proof of the law, I’ll ask you to recall French Toast Crunch. Also look at this.

Celine’s laws

(1) National security is the chief cause of national insecurity.

(2) Accurate communication is possible only in a non-publishing situation.

(3) An honest politician is a national calamity.

These are the laws of Hagbard Celine, the fictional character from Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! Trilogy, the libertarian anarchist from Wilson’s postmoderm sci-fi satire. In the books, they’re outlined in Celine’s manifesto Never Whistle While You’re Pissing and, later, Wilson elaborated on the laws in his nonfiction book Prometheus Rising, a guide of “how to get from here to there” that combined quantum mechanics, yoga, Christian Science, and Timothy Leary’s 8-circuit model of consciousness into a big ball of headache.

Clarke’s three laws

(1) When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

(2) The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

(3) Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The first two laws were penned by Arthur C. Clarke in his 1962 essay “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination.” The third was added when he amended the essay in 1973.

Poe’s law

The unit of poetry must be fixed by the reader’s capacity of attention, and … the limits of a poem must accord with the limits of a single movement of intellectual apprehension and emotional exaltation.

In other words, there is a maximum desirable length for poems. Not to be confused with the religious fundamentalism-related Poe’s law (“Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humour, it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.”), this law is named for Edgar Allen for his writing on writing “The Philosophy of Composition.” In the 1846 essay, he argued a number of points, including that writing is not spontaneous, but is rather methodical and analytical.

Three Laws of Robotics

(1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

(2) A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

(3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

These are the laws that dictate the robots in Isaac Asimov’s Robot series, first introduced in his 1942 story “Runaround.” Asimov’s laws are still being discussed today, because as the technology in developing robotics and artificial intelligence continues to push forward, the laws become more and more important. In 2007, sci-fi author Robert J. Sawyer argued that since robotics are largely developed by the military, it’s unlikely that Asimov’s laws would be hardwired into real life artificial intelligence.

5 thoughts on “8 Laws Named For Writers

  1. Andrew Porter

    John Bangsund is the brilliant Australian writer and editor, whose “Australian Science Fiction Review” flashed across the world’s SF horizons in the 1960s; he and I were responsible for the dream of Australia hosting a World SF Convention becoming reality, but it all began with him. His other writing includes the remarkable “John W. Campbell and the Meat Market”.

  2. Andrew Carruth

    Thousands of scientists and writers spent a whole year in a top research facility and prooved Muphry’s law was a scientific FACT! It makes me feel better because usually I’m the victim of that law.

  3. Lynn

    Because of inflation and the invention of the internet, Sturgeon’s Law (which I use all the time to refer to way more things than science fiction) has been revised to be 99 percent of everything is crap.

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