The difference between message fiction and fiction with a message By Tom Knighton

*I have a slightly different take, or at least a better way of explaining the difference — I think — but I’ll use Tom’s as a jumping off point and explain tomorrow.- SAH*

The difference between message fiction and fiction with a message

By Tom Knighton

With this whole Hugo situation, once again we find ourselves embroiled in a discussion of “message fiction”. For better or worse, this discussion will never die, despite the numerous times we have said that having a message is fine, just don’t let it overpower the story. You see, this isn’t clear enough for some people. Either their mental processing abilities are deficient, or they’re simply incapable of understanding that we’re not trying to stamp out their books.


So, let’s start with two different terms to differentiate between the two types. Generally, I use “message fiction” and “fiction with a message”. Yes, there is a difference between the two, and it’s worth serious discussion and, I hope, even people who abhor my own political leanings will see the wisdom of what I will discuss.


First, message fiction. You see, message fiction is where the message is all important. The fiction is nothing but a vehicle to turn the idea into a novel rather than a non-fiction book that even fewer people will read. Some may enjoy it, but doing message fiction and making it enjoyable requires great skill that few people have ever mastered.


On the other hand, fiction with a message is work where the message is there as part of the story, but is not the overpowering factor it is in message fiction. For example, let’s say you wish to convey an anti-sexist message, but don’t want message fiction. You could create a strong, independent woman who faces sexism in her interactions with some folks while maintaining a realistic setting where some of the sexists are fellow women and some of your protagonists are strong, capable men who take no issue with her sex.


Maybe some real world examples could help illustrate this concept.


Atlas Shrugged may well be the most successful piece of message fiction ever written. I’m a fan, and I’ll admit it’s message fiction. The whole story of Dagny Taggert, Hank Reardon, and John Galt is nothing more than a way for Ayn Rand to convey her Objectivist philosophy in a more digestible format than a long non-fiction work would. While the story is good, the message is the driving force throughout.


By contrast, some have recently held up Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers as message fiction, with which I disagree. While Heinlein may have felt it had a strong message, there is an important difference. You see, the story isn’t about the message. The story is about Juan Rico and everything he goes through during the war with the Arachnids, including losing his home and family (he thinks, at the time).


The litmus test that will tell you whether you’re dealing with message fiction or fiction with a message is simple. Would maintaining a position completely opposite from the perceived message eliminate the ability to enjoy the book?

Now, there’s a very important word there, and that’s “perceived”. It’s always amused me the number of left leaning individuals who report that they absolutely adore Atlas Shrugged, and that’s because so many of them completely miss the message as Rand intended it. She opposed almost everything some of these people advocate for, but that’s not what they got. They perceived the message to be something else, so they enjoy the book.


However, if these people recognized the message as something the opposite of what they stood for, would they enjoy it? Of course not. They’d argue about the silliness of the message and maybe argue that while Rand was a skilled writer, she was completely bonkers for whatever reason. They wouldn’t like the book though.


Let’s contrast that with Starship Troopers. Is it possible to love the book while absolutely abhorring the message? Yes. In fact, when I read it, I opposed the message about as vehemently as you could, and I absolutely loved the book. That was because acceptance of the message wasn’t necessary to become invested in the characters and what they were going through.


It’s important to note a few things for the sake of completeness. First, it’s entirely possible to agree with a book’s message and still think the book blows. Trust me, I’ve found more than a few in my day. Bad writing is bad writing, for one thing. For another, message fiction is, generally, boring. It’s hard to do well enough to be entertaining, even for people who agree with you.


Also, just because you hate a book with a message you disagree with doesn’t mean its message fiction. Again, bad writing is bad writing, so that could be the issue. For another, if the story just doesn’t appeal to you, then it’s not going to appeal to you. The question is then, could someone else enjoy it?


I’m not saying this litmus test is easy to apply, but I think it’s important to try and be as objective as possible when trying to determine which is which. I do think it’s an important distinction that needs to be made. We will never purge the desire to impart messages in fiction from people, and to some extent, that’s not a bad thing. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for example, was pivotal is ending slavery. The works of Charles Dickens did wonders in reforming how society dealt with the poor. Messages in fiction have their place from time to time.


Even preachy message fiction has its place from time to time. However, it would be nice if we knew which was which going in.


Now, for some shameless self promotion. If you like this, you may like some of what you find over at my blog:


If you really like it, check out my Amazon author’s page and spend some of your hard earned money on books that don’t have a message but have some fun action.

If This Goes On

So for grins and giggles I looked up the definition of totalitarianism: Totalitarianism is a political system in which the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life wherever possible.

Of course the state doesn’t have control over every aspect of public and private life.  But it is undeniable that it’s seeking it.  More importantly, the people who want the state to have ever more power, those who are convinced that the individual can’t be trusted, those who agitate for every group to be considered as a group composed of equally privileged/victimized widgets, are pushing shock-troop like into every facet of our lives.  No facet can be free of social-justice ideology.  You shouldn’t be able to collect stamps or arrange flowers without being told to check your privilege and without being examined for thought crimes.  No fun, no relaxing, no mindless activity can remain free of ideology.  And absolutely no human relationship, be it friends, acquaintances or lovers can remain free of Marxist-Leninist ideology and classifications.

I won’t promise this is my last post on the Hugo — and this one is only starting from that situation — but it will be my last post on it for a while (and btw, if you’ve dreamed of seeing your name in lights at ATH, I’m trying to get a house ready for sale and finish books, so you have as good a chance as any now) mostly because thinking of it from your perspective, it has to be getting boring.  For you the science fiction field and the travails of authors who don’t conform are not life and death struggles.  They are certainly not fascinating.  For me, of course, it’s different.

The thing is, though, that I’ve heard of this happening — the exact same process — in atheist societies, in birding clubs and in fiber arts culture.  So, one more post is warranted.

We’ll start with where I was at the beginning.  Most science fiction writers weren’t quite real to me.  They were Olympian figures striding through a landscape of dreams.  They were people able to create cogent realities in which a very lonely child might get lost.  I never expected to meet one of them.  In fact, I didn’t find out conventions EXISTED as anything but TV sitcom jokes until I went to my first writers’ workshop.  As for writing to them, which admittedly I could have done, would you have considered climbing Olympus and poking Zeus on the nose just to tell him that you liked his thunderbolts?  No power on Earth could make me write a letter even to Simak or Heinlein.  My husband tried to make me write to RAH before he died.  He managed to convince me to write to Ginny after older son was born only because of postpartum confusion.

So that’s where we start.  I read everything (except Romance.  Read my first Romance at 37) but mostly mystery, historical and science fiction.  Of those, science fiction was my favorite.  As much as I shared dad’s love of mystery, and as much as Agatha Christie is my go to for sick days and down time, I always identified as a sci fi geek.

And to begin with I read everything.  I think I’ve talked here, or perhaps it was in the podcast a couple of days ago, about reading the truly bad sf of the seventies, when sf was very popular and so the publishers bought everything that vaguely resembled it.  Also when publishers were very leftist (at least younger editors, it was the hep thing to be — leftist, I mean) and often picked books simply because they skewered the west or the expected narrative or whatever.  I read them.  The unthinkable thing was being without a book to read.  Now, I didn’t enjoy them and I probably didn’t re-read them (unless I were all out of cereal boxes and newspaper that used to contain fish) but I read them once (usually borrowed from someone.)

Before my eyes went (I need to get a new prescription.  Right now they’re very bad) and I started getting ill with what culminated in this surgery (probably a slow creep over the last fifteen years, and a very bad escalation since the last “serious” miscarriage  and D & C eight years ago) I used to read six books a day.  This while looking after kids/house and writing two novels and two dozen short stories a year (trunk, of course, and yes, some of them will bear rewriting.  Others are just trash.)

In adolescence I read a book an hour which, my being broke, meant I couldn’t be choosy.

By the time I was in my mid thirties, married, with two small children, and a house I was more or less rebuilding from the inside out (when we bought that house there had been six families living in that Victorian and… well… it wasn’t very well kept.) I became more choosy.  Suddenly, I needed a book to capture me, or at least not to make me yell.

And my reading changed almost completely to mystery and historical.  I wanted to read science fiction (and fantasy, though I was never a big fantasy person.)  I still thought of myself as a science fiction geek.  BUT I had trouble finding stuff to read.

It wasn’t just the politics in the books. To a certain extent it wasn’t the politics at all.  I could take or leave politics and was really good at skimming past stupid stuff.  If it had been politics I wouldn’t have run headlong into mystery.  And it wasn’t the grey and dreary future that everyone assumed (and had been assuming since their little red wagon was broken when Carter wasn’t reelected — or at least that’s how I track it) was on its way.  It wasn’t even the despondent “we can’t write about the far future because humans won’t resemble humans” (says who?) or the loony “We’re living in a science fiction world so what’s the point of writing sf?”

No, what chased me out was boredom.  I realized that given the same subgenre, I could be reading two books at once (often.  I usually had one in the bathroom, in the unlikely event I got five minutes in there alone, one in the kitchen to read while cooking, one in the kids’ room to read while supervising, and one in the living room, again, in case I got five minutes to JUST read.) and not realize I’d changed books.  (Names didn’t stop me, because being dyslexic I often don’t even know the character’s full name.  He’s just “name that starts with J”.  Remembering names is a higher level of engagement than reading-while-cooking.)

The pattern was most obvious in the fantasy of mid eighties to the mid nineties (part of the reason I wasn’t big on fantasy.)  I remember going down a shelf at B & N desperately looking for something to read (we had a day without kids.) and getting annoyed at the blurbs.  They were all the same — ALL OF THEM — young female magic user.  Abusive father.  Escape to magical society.  Validation.  Saves the world. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The science fiction was close enough, though by the early nineties we had the truly crazycakes feminist SF with “the women planet is really very peaceful” (I think that this was bought by editors jonesing on the lesbian scenes, but I am a really jaded person) and various would be utopias with males “confined”.  Since I like men and prefer the company of men, this left me cold.  The ecological disaster left me equally cold (though in the early nineties there was this hilarious period where authors weren’t all on the same page and some wrote about us all freezing to death due to industrial civilization, and some wrote about us boiling to death due to ditto.  But unfortunately not enough to carry the books.)  Everything was rusty and leaking, and everyone was living in a danker and less hopeful version of 1984, only in this case it was all the fault of eeevil capitalism and industry and if ONLY big Brother had been watching.

The sameness and a weird sense the writer hated the genre and was smirking at me while he/she wrote as in “Oh, so you want to dream of the future, you nasty little human.  See what I do to your dreams” had me reading less and less science fiction and fantasy as time went on.

Curiously I found I wasn’t alone.  Years later in a group of sci fi/fantasy writers, I found that most of us had made that journey, out of sf/f, out of mystery by the mid 2000s, into historical creative non fiction (not sure how to describe it otherwise.  History told as a story.)  I’d been chased out of that into Romance four years ago, when indie came in, Amazon destroyed publisher control over what was on the shelves, and I could go back to reading sci fi.

This is of course a high-gloss, not instance by instance description of my relationship with the genre.  It wasn’t all bad, and my feelings weren’t all cut and dry. All through this, I could read some sci fi and fantasy, mind, beyond re-reading my favorites.  I discovered Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones, and eventually I came back to science fiction with Connie Willis’ Lincoln dreams, which is a very odd book and perhaps marginally science fiction, but which did draw me in and keep me reading.  And then I started looking and would now and then find an author/series worth reading.

One thing that became obvious in short order is that I could neither read “the years’ best” or “award winning” after a while.  I don’t remember the exact date, but I remember buying a year’s best fantasy and finding it was all “the west is bad, bad, bad, bad” and noble savage fantasies (often without a supernatural element.)  After that I stopped buying them.  (Had to be mid nineties because I just packed up through then for charity store. No, not getting rid of all books, but getting rid of 2/3 of the paper.  It’s that or not be able to live in the house, since I’m allergic to dust.)

I became a professional writer sometime in the late nineties.  (I’d sold short stories before, enough to classify as pro, but the novels were the real education.)  And that’s when I found out that the game was rigged.

Let me explain — I won’t claim to be the best writer ever.  There are certain quirks in my expression that can still be traced to ESL and some of the acculturation might be less than perfect, so what fascinates me tends to be highly individual and targeted.  I’ve been getting better — more transparent in writing, better at story telling — but I am no Heinlein.  H*ll, I’m not even Simak. I’m not fit to untie Pratchett’s sandals.

But I know where I stand, and I have the publications to prove it.  People don’t keep buying authors that don’t sell at all or who can’t write, and I published 23 (25? — I lose count and keep forgetting pen names, particularly since some are secret) novels, one way or another.  Also, the one novel that is not under my name and which the house has no reason to play games with (it’s a house name, and they get the lion share) is still paying royalties 12 years later.

I’m not stupid, and I work hard.  I’m used to obtaining a MODICUM of success in any field I attempt, from academic to furniture refinishing. I expected… oh, I don’t know, high mid-list.  Never happened.

In publishing, everything I did and every work I started was like throwing a pebble in a bottomless lake.  There weren’t even ripples.

I won’t explain here the methods by which publishers controlled distribution and the crazy method of ordering to the net that is now putting bookstores out of business (they deserve it.  It was a stupid idea.)  I’ve talked about it elsewhere on this blog.  (Look up “He beats me but he’s my publisher” in the search bar.)

Let’s say I discovered then that it wasn’t “no one is writing the good stuff” it was “the publishers are pushing the stuff they think I should be reading and the rest is impossible to find.”  Some of this filtering was loony, like when the publishers decided that cozies weren’t real mysteries.  Which means the demand eventually “created” craft mysteries.  (They brought this on themselves.)

I just knew the game was rigged.  As for awards — well, the mainstream ones, like Hugo and Nebula — it wasn’t just as Dave Freer put it that the same names kept coming up over and over again.  No.  Older friends in the field told me that if I wanted awards I had to make friends with the right people and log roll.

Well, I was never good at that sort of thing.  Part of me wants to win awards and be recognized, yes, but I want to do it by knowing I deserve it, not because I kissed the right… er… hand.  And the closest I’ve come to campaigning for one is “you could consider voting for x”.  I mean, even AFGM which I think is my best book, I could look at it and go “there’s better stuff out there.  I can give you some titles.”  I wouldn’t have been able to live with the knowledge I’d taken an award someone might deserve more.  Even though I knew people were doing just that.

So, I kept going.  Recently someone at a conference referred me to the young hopefuls as someone to ask about the field and said “You want to listen to her.  She’s an old pro.  She’s been through the mill.  She knows what’s what.”

And it startled me, but it’s true too.  Dave Freer says we have that thousand yard stare, that battle fatigue of working and working and seeing no result, but being unable to give up.

The unable to give up is important.

I decided to help Brad and Larry with this (last year too, but I was so ill I didn’t even realize there was a story of mine on the slate) because I am an old pro, because of what Brad was doing.  Larry proved the awards were rigged (see Dave Freer’s posts on the subject at MGC.  If you can’t find them, someone will point you to them) and was ready to quit, but Brad wanted to restore the awards.  He wanted to make them mean something again and maybe that way to change the culture of the field to “stuff worth reading” instead of “academic blather and log rolling” again.

That was something I was willing to work for.  I mean, given diverse enough (in thought.  Genetic diversity is poppycock and only counts if you think everyone who tans alike is a widget and thinks like everyone else with the same melanine level.  Also, if you think that, you’re a stone-cold racist) nominees, stories, winners the field would have to embrace its multitudinous variety and become a home for fans of all stripes again.

That’s all we wanted to do — restore the awards.

You know, I read a lot of history and I should know better.  The elites never go quietly into that good night, and they’ve had it so good so long, and controlled it so well.  Getting on the ballot has caused a storm of … character assassination.

They started out with the Creepy Pasta at Entertainment Weekly, Guardian, Wired.  When that failed to stick because of who we are and because accusations of racism/sexism/homophobia are self evidently stupid in our case (I think I have more gay fans than Lackey does, and most of those who contact me become friends over time) they’ve now descended to the Stalinist tactic of associating us with VD who copied the logo and some of the slate.  They have their big names — the names that even non-sf people recognize, like Martin and Willis and Gerrold — come out and punch down.  There is an element of the macabre in this as most of these people are on the other side of the age divide.  They came in when the field was fairer; they are if not internet illiterate, internet naive; they get pointed at the Daily Kos and think it is in any way a credible news source.  (It’s like when the village kids yelled a triggering sentence at the old lady, then hid, to get her to throw things at the next group of kids who walked by.)

Some of this has hurt me, just as it hurt me when people I thought were sane lost their sh*t when I pointed out they couldn’t win elections with a third party absent a massive cultural trauma (like us getting all our major cities bombed) and consequent fracture (and that third party then would more likely be totalitarian, not pro-freedom.)  Those people didn’t argue the idea, they attacked me and called me names.

In the same way, these people are not in any way trying to credibly pretend there were no cliques and no secret slates before (whereas ours wasn’t secret.) Martin admitted there were.  No.  They are attacking us.  It started with being wrong fans having wrong fun.  But it always defaults to calling us racist/sexist/homophobic.  Even if they have to tie us by third degree association to someone else, to do it.

And that part hurts, because some of the people acting most crazycakes are people I’ve enjoyed and admired and I keep thinking “I remember when they were sane.”

However — however — remember this for when the Hugo war comes to whatever you like to do; whatever your hideout and corner of fun; whatever your sacred space and privacy is: there is no backing down.

There is no backing down, because each battle the beast wins, each area they take total control of, causes them to want to devour more.  And having seen the totalitarians up close and personal, having seen how they’re willing to speak power to truth and punch down and obliterate characters and careers JUST to keep their power and their fake prestige, I can’t let it happen.  Yeah, I’ve been through the wars, but the battle is still going on, and so I must continue fighting.

Yeah, I get so bitter, I consider quitting — but it’s more of a “I dream of quitting.”  Only I don’t.  Because legionaries don’t cry and I don’t quit. I wouldn’t do them the favor.  And they have to learn the limits of their power.  Yes, they can shred my name and my reputation, but I’ll be back.  I’ll be back under another name they can’t guess at.  I’ll be back with more experience.  I’ll be back and build another career.  They can’t stop me.  And I’m not in the mood to give them what they want.

I keep getting emails lauding my courage.  My younger son said, “They mistake ‘all out of flips to give’ for courage.”  (Only it wasn’t flips.)

He’s not wrong.  And you know the best part of it?  Courage can be destroyed, beaten down, threatened.

“All out of flips to give?”  That’s forever, and the more they attack the more out of flips I am.

Like the dead or the long gone, they can no longer touch me.  You’d think a bunch of writers, if they were minimally competent would get that if you want to create an invincible foe you take away everything the character cares for that you can control.

But apparently not.

And so, courage or lack of flips, I’m here to stay.

Because if this goes on none of you, none of our children, none of our hobbies, none of our fun, none of our family life, no area of action or love or thought will be safe from the all pervasive “improvements” and will to power of the totalitarians.

And that is a future I don’t want to live in.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers and thank you to Glenn Reynolds for the link!





Le grand Jeté

Apparently we have now entered the era of the grand jeté.  In ballet this is means a jump starting in a high kick in which the dancer leaps off from one leg and lands on the other.

In real life it means someone hears that a friend is supporting a cause they heard is racist, sexist, homophobic, and after demanding explanations and a grand Maoist self-examination, picks up her tulle skirts and LEAPS into deciding the friend is really an enemy in disguise, I guess having been taken over by pod people.

This didn’t happen to me.  I only saw the leaper’s announcement — rather proud — of her grand jeté.  The person she was sure was now an enemy and had changed beyond all recognition is a friend of mine, one of the most honest, decent people you’ve ever met, who has, in many ways paid for his high principles with a slow career and monetary loss. (Yes, as have I in a way, only my principles aren’t as high, I just can’t look at myself in the mirror after supporting a cause that killed a hundred million people, so I don’t, even by inference.)

Now, I’m handicapped here by having seen only one end of the conversation — i.e. this person’s claim she’d asked my friend for explanations, and that his response was “underwhelming” — and so she was unfriending him, denouncing him, burning him at the stake. Okay, I made that last one up, but only because they aren’t close enough geographically for her to do that.

Knowing my friend, I’m going to guess the “underwhelming” came from the fact that this fan who had been a friend was asking him to renounce and denounce positions that had never been his.

For some reason, more than the creepy pasta of Entertainment Weekly (Creepy pasta, as I understand from hearing my kids talk is an internet horror story, designed to disturb and frighten the readers. It often involves monsters and it’s set in the modern day and often around geek preoccupations. It is also understood that it shouldn’t be believed. I mean that’s the underlying assumption of the genre. The term comes from copypasta — a block of text that gets copied and passed around — and I’ve never seen a more perfect description of what Entertainment Weekly did, telling a scary story about racist/sexist/homophobic monsters in science fiction in a way unbelievable to anyone who did even a modicum of research); more than the professional colleague unfriending me over my support of Sad Puppies; more than the twitter sh*tstorms in which I was proclaimed a white mormon male, this made me incredibly sad.

It made me incredibly sad because this person was a friend’s friend and I remember when she was sane. It made me sad, because she swallowed whole the lies of a howling mob, rather than think first “this person I know, he is sound.  If the strangers are all howling in unison, maybe there’s an agenda.”  It saddened me because my friend is less involved with this than I am, and the level of character assassination over casual assassination is scary.

It saddened me because of this are things like the cultural revolution woven.

When I posted about this on FB, one of my “friends” came forth to howl that you know, people would think I was homophobic, since I’d put so much effort into getting a Hugo for Vox and John C. Wright.

I’m pinching the bridge of my nose and bowing my head and betting G-d to give me patience.  This is what I meant.  If you’re inclined to the Grand Jeté, you should at least do a modicum of googling to prove your facts before you leap.  Vox is nowhere near Sad Puppies 3.  Yes, his house is, but none of us writers has full choice over the houses we get bought by, nor do we police our publishers’ beliefs.  We’re in this to make a living.

As for John, he doesn’t need me to defend him, but I’ll just say his beliefs are more nuanced than his posts often give the impression, but even if they weren’t I am not in the habit of evaluating authors by thought-crime, imputed or real.  If I were there are lots of my colleagues I couldn’t read since they are at least soft supporters of communism, an ideology responsible for the death of a hundred million people.

But I’m not in kindergarten.  I don’t demand artists I enjoy be carbon copies of me.  I can read around the parts that offend me.  I can also understand how sheltered Americans, misled by their excellent educations can have come to believe communism was good.  I don’t assume these people are evil, nor do I scream to burn the witch.

The other side, on the other hand, seems bound and determined to set fire to the world to defend their right to keep rigging the Hugo.  They seem to want to implicate us in all sorts of crimes, explicit and implicit, of association and of declaration, for the sake of making sure they keep control over science fiction.

Science fiction, people.  The backwater of the genres as far as sales.

This where this grand battle is taking place.  It would be like fighting world war three over someone’s backyard.

It would irk me less if they hadn’t been taking science fiction down the sucking drain hole of “literary cred” (which in the modern age largely means Marxist utilitarianism.)

As it is, though, we don’t have a choice.  Because they’re fighting for what is our home, what we believe in, we must stand and fight.

I suspect, my friends, that this fight — oh, not over the Hugos, but over something else equally small that you care about passionately — will come to you.  Into your hobbies, into your job, into your home and into your friend circle.

When it does remember that you have no choice but to fight.  The end gambit the other side is aiming for is a Cultural Revolution of Chinese proportions, in which all dissenters, and eventually members of the revolution themselves perish.  If we let them continue with this, if we let it have its way, the grand jete will go on, jumping to conclusions and creating exclusionary tribes out of out of context quotes, wrong words, wrong thoughts, wrong associations.

It might seem what you’re fighting for is too small to bother, only remember they’re fighting for this because they already control the large arenas.

And we must fight now, now that we’re driven to the narrow personal spaces.  We must push back and take the larger institutions from them too.

It won’t be easy and it will hurt like hell, partly because humans are social and tribal creatures, and many worthy but not very bright people will swallow the slander, the out of context quotes, the guilt by association and because the other side fights by all of those means and always have.

But a human being has to stand somewhere.  And standing on the side that isn’t howling for absolute compliance in thought as well as in did seems like a good place to me.  Because I’ve seen the other side in action, and they can’t run their own heads, much less the world.  And because they are working from a set of assumptions that has nothing to do with reality.  And because their beliefs always end in mass graves.

In the end we win, they lose.  Because the very devices that allow them to win the war of words handicap them in reality.

Stand and don’t give an inch.

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

This post was brought on partially because of a line of thought I developed yesterday while on this interview with Brad and Mad (political Mobius) Mike (Z. Williamson) yesterday.  Link here for seriously uncaffeinated unslept Sarah.  (You get a bonus chance to hear one of my cats, Euclid the very Neurotic, yelling at mommy for doing this stupid thing instead of pets.)  Note for those who haven’t heard me before, yep that REALLY is my accent.

Anyway, some of you probably remember that I once almost sent a snippy letter to Orson Scott Card over his mis-understanding of the Portuguese language in Speaker for the Dead.  (I think.)  Then I realized that maybe ten of the many people who read that book gave a d*mn, and dropped it.  Also realized that for someone who hadn’t ever SOLD a word to pick a fight with a bestseller would be stupid.  Yeah, took a while for that to get through my head, because I’m that GOOD in social situations.

Anyway, one thing that Card got right (though not in the twentieth century in Portugal, but no answer for certain parts of Brazil because I ain’t never been there) was the… well, we should call it the inherent fanaticism of the Portuguese soul.  I know that sounds mystical, but I don’t know how else to explain it.  Consider it the remnants that stay with the culture from invasion to invasion.  I’ve read a book that claimed the inherent fanaticism of the Portuguese character came from the Carthaginians/Phoenicians, most of whose proper names also made reference to religion and most of whose thought/conversation was completely bound up with their gods.

When I talk of the historically oppressive and all-pervasive character of Portuguese Catholicism, that’s what I’m talking about.  Even through the Renaissance, though more humanized, the art was ONLY religious themes.  In fact, Catholicism so perfectly scoured the region of the previous religions that there are no legends of fairies and elves, even though the North of Portugal was heavily Celtic.

Mind you, there are standing stones aplenty, but no charming legends of kings turned to stone, nothing.  In the South of Portugal there’s remnants of Moorish legend, but even those are rather faint and not “serious.”

The only fairy tales I knew were the mannered fairy tales imported from France in the nineteenth century.  Which probably explains my reluctance to fantasy.

Mind you, you can catch echoes, but you have to be deep in village circles, and even there they only speak in hints and deflections.  Like the stories of women who fall asleep in the woods and this one village woman that grandma hinted (to one of her cronies) strongly had birthed a faun (if I understood it correctly.  Something supernatural, anyway) which ran off into the woods.

BUT the culture at large tumbles from fanaticism to fanaticism, from compliance to compliance.

My family was, for various reasons, odd.  My female ancestresses, as far back as I know, for instance, didn’t have “Maria” in their names.  I and one of my cousins did, but only because of insistence from the person we were being named after.

This is not an explanation, but might be a contributing factor (remember no matter how alienated you feel, humans being social creatures, if you live in a culture some rubs off) for why in my teens I wrote the sentence “It is better to be useful than to be happy.”

Maybe.  Because you see at that time Portugal had flipped from Catholicism to a sort of Marxism in which you should sacrifice yourself to the good of society or something, and this was as pervasive as Catholicism had been.  And both of them might have come up with that I idea.

Mind you, in my teens I knew d*mn little of either happiness or usefulness, or for that matter misery.

You see, I’d led a very sheltered life, that allowed me to spend a lot of time searching for “meaning.”  And if you’re thinking upteen revolutions with upheaval in my life and going hungry off and on for two years was not sheltered, you’re wrong.  You’re sheltered so long as you don’t have the full power of decision in your life, and as long as someone will cushion you from truly dreadful decisions.  So, you know, yeah, I’d gone hungry here and there, but it wasn’t MY fault, and it wasn’t my responsibility to haul us out of it.  And the same way, I’d been pretty contented, but it’s hard to experience happiness as such when you’re not your own person.  So  I had no idea what I was choosing between, I just felt, I guess, that I was a rather useless person and so wanted to be useful.

Now, what does this all have to do with the price of kumquats?  Well… In that podcast I found myself explaining how, when Western Civ turned against itself after WWI, we ended up looking for other ways to evaluate art/a lens through which to evaluate reality.

Part of it became a “tear down the past” lens, still fossilized in all the people who think they’re speaking truth to power and who, really, after 100 years, are speaking power to truth.  This leads to “ever more shocking” stories and art pieces.  If you’ve ever strolled through the modern art section of a museum, you’ve seen them.  (If you haven’t, we’re considering selling tickets for a stroll through Denver Museum of Art called “Desecrate Art with the Hoyts.”  We’ll donate the proceeds to charity, or something.)

And part of it was co-opted by the Marxists.  This was especially true in literature where, in the long form at least, you can make it a blind scream fest at the west and civilization, but if that’s all you bring, you can’t even get intellectuals to read it.  (We were forced to read a book that bragged of being plotless, when I was in college.  “It breaks one of the units of story telling.”  Oh, my, it sure did.  It was two people in a car, talking.  It was so new and revolutionary that I used it as a cure for insomnia for years.)

So, instead of just a “tear down” the stories had to be a “build up” of something.  The book I had to read in the eleventh grade was about the futile struggle of the proletariat.  Okay, “read” is a misnomer.  I read the prologue, couldn’t stomach more, (by then we had read four or five books by this charmer, whose only vivid descriptions were of defecation) so in the test about the book I wrote how the prologue prefigured the book.  (It was a snake crawling into the sun for warmth and getting burned to death.  No, really.)  I got an A so I’m going to guess I guessed right.  The author has since won a Nobel prize.  My second agent contacted me about translating that book, and I told him I’d rather gnaw my arms off at the shoulder.  And I meant it.

But the problem is that this “usefulness” rule for literature and art has pervaded the “elite” judgements.

What I mean is, our universities, our high brow critics, our theorists of literature evaluate writing not on what it is, or even what it does emotionally, but on what it does for the “cause” which is muddled version of positional good (“We’re better than bourgeois society because we understand the West/civ is bad) and “advances progress” with progress understood as the march to a Marxist state.  (The future of the past, you could say.)

In that sense, you can see why If You Give A Dinosaur a Redneck, er, If You Were A Dinosaur My love, hit both of those square on (i.e. it positioned the author and readers who liked it as “enlightened” and it reinforced the Leninist idea that the working class was eaten up with false consciousness and that only the intellectuals could lead the revolution.)  Hence its stunning success in nomination for awards.

So, now we know what the other side views as “Good.”  This is the lens they’re evaluating stories under — a lens reinforced by literature classes in college where because real impact of real literature is very hard to explain and Marxism is easy and positional good, this is how they teach you to appreciate stories — and why they’re running around screaming that our nominees are very bad and “taint” the Hugo.

We don’t fit into the parameters of what they consider good.  I.e. we neither shock the (no longer really existent but they’re still kicking the corpse for effect) traditional, hidebound Western civ, nor do we proclaim the glorious Marxism to come.

So we’re bad, bad bad bad baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad.

Don’t hold it against them.  Most of them are very sheltered university people, who, like my younger self, have never really experienced either happiness or usefulness, but are sure that usefulness is good, because they were told so.  And for sheltered people “usefulness” is easier to evaluate and understand than the REAL effect of truly good literature.

I know it will shock the heck out of you guys, but I despise received wisdom and regurgitated pap, which 100 years into the left-utilitarian movement in fiction is what most of the output of the proponents of Literature-as-useful are putting out.  In fact, in any art form I’d consider boring as an insurmountable defect.

To put this in Renaissance/Catholic terms, what I object to is not that the painting is of the nativity, no.  What I object to is that it’s not The Virgin of the Rocks, with its ethereal light which makes you feel as though you’re in another realm, it’s the tenth copy of the nativity painted by a guy who knows it will be appreciated because it’s the nativity and he can futz the details and paint by rote.  (Even if he’s not conscious of doing so.)

To put it another way: no one has an obligation to consume your “art” and though some will as a “positional good” the ever falling print runs should tell you that your “art” is failing of its primary purpose.

And what is the primary purpose, you ask?

This is entirely my opinion, because, you know, art has been taught this way before the Marxists.  For a long time what was considered “good” was stuff that promoted the state religion, whatever that was, or which flattered the people reading it.  (Actually that’s always a good route to elite-supported art.)  Or even what promoted morality.

The thing is the stories that stayed did more than that.  Shakespeare was very much a captive poet of the Tudors and protestantism, but his plays that stayed are the ones that were not considered very useful at the time, but only “entertaining.”

However what things like Romeo and Juliet do is go beyond message (yes, of course it has a message) to affect the reader in a way that the reader integrates it as “lived experience” and therefore interprets/lives it in his/her own way.

The same say with Way Station (mentioning it because it’s the last book I read.  Starting City today.)  For me, for instance, it is a novel about loneliness which reflects on my loneliness and allows me to deal with it/see it, and see it not as an involuntary tragedy but as a condition that refines and enriches parts of my life, when I accepted loneliness for a purpose.

I’m sure the reason it won the Hugo is because a superficial reason could see the moral as “the USSR and the US would get along if they only talked” which is false (as there were real differences, and also the USSR was a horror of human disaster and not a covalent system) and which is not, btw, endorsed by the book itself (the talisman had a deeper effect and would “redeem” the bad actors.) but it’s one that would have appealed to the number of voters (and there’s always a number like that) who are looking for correct messages.

We could then say that to me, at least, a successful/good story is one that produces a cathartic effect.  (Yes, this is familiar!)  I.e. it allows me to deal with some of the consequences of being human through a perspective not my own and to experience consequences that don’t actually hurt me, vicariously.

Now, if you look at my reading and preferences, I don’t read only “good” (by my lights) books.  A lot of the books I read are purely a good plot/fun.  But some percentage of the books I read stay with me and are processed along with my own experiences, resolving themselves as they go.

Because this experience; this ability to port your emotions/feelings into someone else’s head preferably wrapped in a fictional ICBM of good world building and good storytelling is highly individual, such stories tend to be far less of a snoozer than the utilitarian Marxist ones.

Thus, for instance, my favorites can range from The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, to Bridge of Birds, to Passage to Way Station to The Tomb.  Oh, and from non SF, Shakespeare and Jane Austen and Effie Briest and Tom Sawyer, and…

This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but I hope it explains how and why the selections of Sad Puppies, which I by and large agree with (though of course, these are Brad’s selections and mine would be different but the spirit of selection would be the same) are causing such fury on the other side.

We’re not merely suggesting different stories.  We’re taking an ax to the pillars of their taste, the very thing that constitutes a great part of their claim to being WAY more enlightened than average.

In other words, we’re devaluing their positional good.

It’s as though everyone were wearing shell jewelry until someone starts selling metallic jewelry and people realize they like the shiny stuff better.

The elites who have accumulated a vast store of pierced shells see their investment devalued and are striking back.

Or in other terms, we’re speaking truth to critical power and power doesn’t like it.

Or in yet other words, it’s getting ugly and it’s going to get uglier.  No one ever said a revolution, even when it starts in our little backwater, is easy or without consequences.

Hold on to your hats, though, and stay firm.  The other side is not even any longer aware of why they consider something “good.”  They’re running on the fumes of their predecessors convictions and all they have is received wisdom.

We can and will win this war (by which I don’t mean the Hugos, or at least not this year.  Eventually, though?  Sure.)  But it’s a long war.  Don’t get tired and don’t flinch from the ugly thrown at us.

Ça Ira.


Nag Rage – Christopher Nuttall

Nag Rage- Christopher Nuttall

[Quick explanation. I wrote this at the heart of the Starbucks ‘Race Together’ idiocy, then sent it to Sarah. However, it was delayed and may be slightly out of date. The core idea still holds true, though. CGN]

(Addendum: Yeah, I was — literally — dopey and only got my bearings enough to put it up today.  I don’t think it’s outdated. – SAH)

I am not a psychologist. Indeed, it is a profession I hold in considerable mistrust. However, after reading a couple of articles online that annoyed me, I wound up defining a whole new mental condition, something akin to Road Rage. I call it Nag Rage. No doubt someone has beaten me to the punch (I did no research whatsoever before writing this) but it needs to be said (in my best pseudo-medical style):

Nag Rage: a condition caused by repeated nagging from the same person (or persons) on the same subject, defined as a growing wave of fury and frustration combined with a swelling impulse to just shut the nagger up. Nag Rage is particularly dangerous as a person who reaches 5 on the Nag Rage Scale, after a long bout of nagging, will immediately jump back to 5 if the nagging should resume. The effects of Nag Rage will double if the victim is unable to give the nagger what he/she wants. Victims of Nag Rage will eventually tune out the nagger, on the grounds that the nagger is endlessly repeating him/herself, or snap and start screaming.

The solution? Stop nagging.

Ok, you may ask, what does this have to do with anything?

I read a lot of posts on Facebook when I’m not writing. One article that came to my attention covered Starbuck’s latest scheme to lose customers … by encouraging baristas to talk to them about race. I have a feeling that customer response will probably end up as “MANAGER, this man is HARASSSING me!” Or “I’ll take my custom elsewhere!” Or “you just absorbed twenty minutes of my time! The bill is $10, plus assorted other charges!”

Or customers will probably end up hurling cups of scalding hot coffee at the poor baristas, who will then face medical bills, while the customers wind up in jail for assault (and legal problems for Starbucks.)

Actually, I thought that few baristas would actually follow orders and talk about race – they’re the ones on the front line – but some recent posts that popped up in my Facebook suggest otherwise.

EDIT – Starbucks appears to have shut the idea down and is frantically doing damage control. Surprise, surprise.

I really have no idea what Starbucks was thinking when it started this idea. People do not go to coffee shops for anything, but coffee. Who in their right mind would go to a coffee shop, when they might be in a hurry, for a lecture on race? Particularly, I might add, one delivered by baristas who probably don’t have the slightest idea how to deliver one? Did Starbucks issue a script? Were the staff given training in how to alter the script or were they told to keep plugging along no matter what they got in response? I haven’t heard anything, to be honest, that suggests there was any training at all.

My response? Support your local indie coffee shop … and forsake Starbucks forever.

But this pales compared to another article that popped up in my feed.

You’ve probably heard of ‘White Privilege,’ the largely-nonsensical suggestion that whites are more privileged than anyone else. (I say largely nonsensical because I have been in a place where there really is such a thing as White Privilege; Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.) What you might not have heard of is it’s unholy twin, White Fragility. Robin DiAngelo, a professor of multicultural education, defined it as “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include outward display of emotions such as anger, fear and guilt, and behaviours such as argumentation, silence and leaving the stress-inducing situation.”

Really, it’s astonishing just how much this diagnostic has in common with Nag Rage.

In the article I read, Professor DiAngelo goes on to say the following:

In large part, white fragility—the defensiveness, the fear of conflict—is rooted in this good/bad binary. If you call someone out, they think to themselves, “What you just said was that I am a bad person, and that is intolerable to me.” It’s a deep challenge to the core of our identity as good, moral people.

Unfortunately, I think the professor is misinterpreting the response. What people actually think to themselves is “what you just said is that I am responsible for the [crimes of my ancestors/crimes of someone else’s ancestors/crimes of a white person with no connection to me whatsoever/being born white] and that you expect me to make recompense for these crimes and that is utterly outrageous.”

This tends to be common, I believe, at so-called ‘diversity training’ and mandatory ‘cultural sensitivity’ lectures. Such sessions, like multiculturalism itself, rest on an unspoken and unchallenged premise that diversity and cultural sensitivity are actually good ideas. The simple application of common sense suggests otherwise. Businesses rely on hiring people who can actually do the jobs, not because of their skin colour/sex/age/religion/etc. The mere suggestion that someone got a coveted job or promotion because of the colour of their skin is corrosive, even if it is completely inaccurate. A person who feels that they were passed over for promotion because they happened to be white is not likely to be in a good frame of mind for accepting that the winner actually deserved to win.

And, as always, it’s easier to blame someone else for our problems.

Diversity training sessions tend to become, very quickly, nagging sessions. The unhappy recipients, who were hired to do specific jobs, are ordered to listen to someone who knows nothing about the jobs they do, but hectors them constantly about the dangers of racism. They are not only forced to leave their jobs for a day, which can mean falling behind with their work, but also be spoken to like children in need of adults to show them the way. Is it any surprise, really, that people are growing less and less reluctant to discuss race when most ‘conversations’ start with an assumption that white men are responsible for the world’s ills … and when any disagreement, no matter how minor, is greeted with screams of RACIST!

And, as I said above, every bout of nagging resumes charging up the rage-o-meter from where it stopped, last time. White fragility? More like frustration with having to play a game where the rules seem to be rigged against them, where victory is impossible, where the slightest expression of disagreement can be used against one, where nothing short of bowing one’s head to PC-orthodoxy is acceptable.

I could spend quite a long time, if I wished, dissecting Professor DiAngelo’s article. I’m not going to bother, not now. All I can really do is point out that hectoring people, time and time again, about ‘racism’ and ‘micro-aggressions’ – and hammering someone into the ground for daring to hint that he might just disagree – does nothing, but make the problem worse. Social Justice Warriors insist on drawing lines between people – and, in doing so, set each of the groups against the others. They have played the Race Card so often that no one outside their circles takes it seriously any longer.

And why, you might ask, do I care?

My son is a mixed-race child. If the world’s population is divided into different groups by race, where does he fit in?

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The Architecture of Fear

Years ago on this blog I talked about Technique of The Coup D’Etat by Giovanni Guareschi and I typed  the beginning in here.  I shall copy that. (Assume typos are mine.)

At ten o’clock on Tuesday evening, the village square was swept with wind and rain, but a crowd had been gathered there for three or four hours to listen to the election news coming out of a radio loudspeaker. Suddenly the lights went out and everything was plunged into darkness. Someone went to the control box but came back saying there was nothing to be done. The trouble must be up the line or at the power plant, miles away. People hung around for half an hour or so, and then, as the rain began to come down even harder than before, they scattered to their homes, leaving the village silent and deserted. Peppone shut himself up in the People’s Palace, along with Lungo, Brusco, Straziami, and Gigio, the same leader of the “Red Wing” squad from Molinetto. They sat around uneasily by the light of a candle stump and cursed the power and light monopoly as an enemy of the people, until Smilzo burst in. He had gone to Rocca Verde on his motorcycle to see if anyone had news and now his eyes were popping out of his head and he was waving a sheet of paper.

“The Front has won!” he panted. “Fifty-two seats out of a hundred in the senate and fifty-one in the chamber. The other side is done for. We must get hold of our people and have a celebration. If there’s no light, we can set fire to a couple of haystacks nearby.

 “Hurrah!” shouted Peppone. But Gigio grabbed hold of Smilzo’s jacket.

“Keep quiet and stay where you are!” he said grimly. It’s too early for anyone to be told. Let’s take care of our little list.”

“List? What list?” asked Peppone in astonishment.

“The list of reactionaries who are to be executed first thing. Let’s see now…”

Peppone stammered that he had made no such list, but the other only laughed.

“That doesn’t matter. I’ve a very complete one here all ready. Let’s look at it together, and once we’ve decided we can get to work.”

Gigio pulled a sheet of paper with some twenty names on it out of his pocket and laid it on the table.

“Looks to me as if al the reactionary pigs were here,” he said. “I put down the worst of them, and we can attend to the rest later.”

Peppone scanned the names and scratched his head.

“Well, what do you say?” Gigio asked him.

“Generally speaking, we agree,” said Peppone. “But what’s the hurry? We have plenty of time to do things in the proper style.”

Gigio brought his fist down on the table.

“We haven’t a minute to lose, that’s what I say,” he shouted harshly. “This is the time to put our hands on them, before they suspect us. If we wait until tomorrow, they may get wind of something and disappear.”

At this point Brusco came into the discussion.

“You must be crazy,” he said. “You can’t start out to kill people before you think it over.”

“I’m not crazy and you’re a very poor Communist, that’s what you are! These are all reactionary pigs; no one can dispute that, and if you don’t take advantage of this golden opportunity then you’re a traitor to the party!”

Brusco shook his head.

“Don’t you believe it! It’s jackasses that are traitors to the Party! And you’ll be a jackass if you make mistakes and slaughter innocent people.”

Gigio raised a threatening finger.

“It’s better to eliminate ten innocents than to spare one individual who may be dangerous to the cause. Dead men can do the party no harm. You’re a very poor Communist, as I’ve said before. In fact, you never were a good one. You’re as weak as a snowball in hell, I say. You’re just a bourgeois in disguise!”

Brusco grew pale, and Peppone intervened.

“That’s enough,” he said. “Comrade Gigio has the right idea and nobody can deny it. It’s part of the groundwork of Communist philosophy. Communism gives us the goal at which to aim and democratic discussion must be confined to the quickest and surest ways to attain it.”

Giggio nodded his head in satisfaction, while Peppone continued: “Once it’s been decided that these people are or may be dangerous to the cause and therefore we must eliminate them, the next thing is to work out the best method of elimination. Because if by our carelessness, we were to allow a a single reactionary to escape, then we should indeed be traitors to the Party. Is that clear?”

“Absolutely,” the others said in chorus. “You’re dead right.”

“There are six of us,” Peppone went on, “And twenty names on that list, among them the Filotti, who has a whole regiment in his house and a cache of arms in the cellar. If we were to attack these people one by one, at the first shot the rest would run away. We must call our forces together and divide them up into twenty squads, each one equipped to deal with a particular objective.”

“Very good,” said Gigio.

“Good, my foot!” shouted Peppone. “That’s not the half of it! We need a twenty first squad, equipped even better than the rest to hold off the police. And mobile squads to cover the roads and the river. If a fellow rushes into action in the way you proposed, without proper precautions, running the risk of botching it completely, then he’s not a good communist, he’s just a damn fool.”

It was Gigio’s turn to pale now, and he bit his lip in anger, while Peppone proceeded to give orders. Smilzo was to transmit word to the cell leaders in the outlying settlements and these were to call their men together. A green rocket would give the signal to meet in appointed places, where Falchetto, Brusco and Straziami would form the squads and assign the targets. A red rocket would bid them go into action. Smilzo went off on his motorcycle while Lungo, Brusco, Straziami and Gigio discussed the composition of the squads.

“You must do a faultless job,” Peppone told them. “I shall hold you personally responsible for its success. Meanwhile, I’ll see if the police are suspicious and find some way to put them off.

Don Camillo, later waiting in vain for the lights to go on and the radio to resume its mumble, decided to get ready for bed. Suddenly he heard a knock at the door and when he drew it open cautiously, he found Peppone before him.

“Get out of here in a hurry!” Peppone panted. “Pack a bag and go! Put on an ordinary suit of clothes, take your boat and row down the river.”

Don Camillo stared at him with curiosity.

“Comrade Mayor, have you been drinking?”

“Hurry,” said Peppone. “The people’s Front has won and the squads are getting ready. There’s a list of people to be executed and your name is the first one!”

Spoiler alert, though this is not one of the stories that you read for the denouement: by the end of the story, the entire cell except Gigio is crammed in Don Camillo’s closet, as each successive comrade shows up to try to save him and is shoved into the closet as the next one comes along.

Then it is revealed that they didn’t in fact win the election, but more importantly, the entire cell, which had lived in fear of the Stalinist *sshole who pulled book and fervor on them every time and made everyone of them live in terror of being denounced as insufficiently fervent, now knows who the enemy really is.  That is, each individual now knows he is not an isolated individual surrounded by good party members who will turn on him, but one in a collection of decent individuals kinda sorta following an ideology but not so far it blunts their humanity and ONE isolated *sshole turning them against each other for the power.

At the end of the story, Peppone finds Gigio proudly waiting to send up the red rocket and kicks him all the way to main street.

Gigio’s power is gone, because he’s revealed to be ONE individual working for himself and only that, and a hateful, little one at that.

It is worth noting that Gigio in Italian means mouse.  This was the mouse that roared, until they realized he was amplifying his squeaks through their fears to sound like roars.

This is not about the Hugo.  Or rather, this is not exclusively about the Hugo.

But it is about the Hugo as well.

My first encounter with what I’ll call the Gigio effect, was in a mailing list for writers, where I dared question the insanity of a well-respected pro who said that George Bush (personally) had raised the price of stamps to ruin her (personally) in her efforts to sell used books through Amazon.

There are levels of insanity I can’t tolerate and couldn’t even while in the political closet.  So I pointed out the sheer insanity of this, the inefficiencies of the post office and probable causes for it.

The list went silent.  I figured tons of people were cussing me behind my back (this was when GB’s name was after all like invoking the devil.)

So, I shrugged, figured I’d be kicked out of the list and went for a walk.  When I came back my email was full of “Oh, thank you, for saying…”  ALL OF IT IN PRIVATE MESSAGES.

The senders ranged from raw beginners to established pros, but no one would challenge this lady’s illusions to her face.  Only me.

So how did the private messages make me feel?  They made me roll my eyes.

I swear 2/3 of the list pmed me to say they stood with me, but in public, not a peep.  They were all so scared, you see, of the imagined disapproval of “all the rest of them.”

I didn’t say anything and I didn’t push them.  It wasn’t any of my business, and at any rate, I’d grown disillusioned with the list and the comradery (Meh) of my peers. I had gotten to see some people I’d respected prior to that in full silly mode.  (We all have one.  I try only to show it to the cats, and sometimes to my husband.)  I was tired.  I don’t know if I answered any of those messages, not now 12 years later.

And now, there’s the controversy over … more people voting in the Hugos and voting for a different slate than the entrenched group approves of.  There are many accusations flung at us, including that we’re pushing an all white slate (which would surprise some of those people) an all male slate (which transformed my friends Amanda and Cedar into guys and made Cedar’s fiance gay.  He’s still in shock) and that we’re pushing inferior taste (It bears reading this post apropos that) and that we’re buying votes for total strangers to vote our slate.  (No, we’re not.  Mary Robinette Kowal, OTOH IS, but yeah, I know, it’s different, after all leftists are good people)

I’m very tired.  VERY very tired.  Not of opposition.  I’m never a happy warrior, but I have had huge arguments (rational, non-attacking arguments) with some of my very best friends, Dave Freer and Kate Paulk included, and emerged from them energized, because we mobilized ideas and facts and our disagreement forged a stronger bond, rather than breaking us apart or making each of us feel small and isolated.

But I’m tired of answering the same senseless accusations over and over and over again.  It’s like fighting people under an enchantment that prevents them from thinking.

And all through this, there are pms on FB and emails to my old email registered with SFWA and not used much now.  “I am with you, but I don’t dare say anything.”  “I don’t agree with everything you say, but you have some damn good points.  But if I say anything, my career is done.”  “Your opponents are scary and are eating each other, but I can’t say how evil they are in public, because they’ll eat me.”

…”Get out of here in a hurry!” Peppone panted. “Pack a bag and go! Put on an ordinary suit of clothes, take your boat and row down the river.”

Don Camillo stared at him with curiosity.

“Comrade Mayor, have you been drinking?”

“Hurry,” said Peppone. “The people’s Front has won and the squads are getting ready. There’s a list of people to be executed and your name is the first one!”…

I’m not going to push ANYONE out of the political, or even the SF-political closet.  I lived in it too long and too fearfully to do that to anyone.  Your secret is safe with me.

But because it matters, I must beseech you, consider, please that you are not alone.  Consider that the sound and fury, the threats, the people pushing you to do things against your will and conscience because you’re so scared of them might be less than the full crowd.  It might be just a small mouse, full of him/herself, roaring up a storm.  Consider that the decent people who disagree with all this bs might actually be in the vast majority but not know it because none of you dares speak.

Yes, it is entirely possible that the publishing establishment will turn its back on you for a while at least, even if you are a loyal leftist, because you dissented from the lynch mob.  OTOH considering — eyes emails — maybe they too are in that closet with you, trembling for fear of the mouse.

But even if you were “blacklisted” — you do realize I know indie writers making six figures a year, right?  And that I myself made as much from Witchfinder as from my Baen books, right?  DO consider that being blacklisted by the establishment might mean less fear and fewer ulcers.  And being yourself.

Do consider how it would feel to come out of the closet and kick the mouse up and down main street, making him eat his Stalinist “guilt by association” cries.

I’m not going to force you.  I’m not going to out you.

But this Stalinist “I know everything you do and it’s all analyzed for deviationism” always leads to purges.  In SF/F those purges might mean not publishing traditional.  Or they might mean not winning awards.  Or getting kicked out of an organization.

But this type of mind-set is a cancer in the culture and sooner or later leads to gulags and graves.

I can’t push you and I won’t.  If you want to keep your opinions — left, right, moderate, libertarian, anarchist — hidden, it’s your job.  I am not the keeper of your soul.

However, I want you to think of the dark and dank place that fear and that suspicion and the constant spying lead.

And then I want you to think of how good it would feel to get off your knees, stand on two, look your tormentors in the face and say “No more.  I’m free. My thoughts and my opinions, my beliefs, my tastes, my friends are my own.  You have no power over me.  Not now, and not ever again.”

That’s all.  I just want you to think.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers and thank you to Glenn Reynolds for the link!

A Way Station Into Science Fiction

Before I go into the post proper, I want to speak about Shadowdancer.  Since bad news spreads like wild fire, I think most of you know she lost her beloved 11 week old son to SIDs last week.  Since all her online family had been living her joy and motherhood through pictures of him (sometimes daily) and progress reports, it very much feels like I lost a grandchild or a favorite nephew.

Even so we had to contend with her to LET us help with something, anything.  As many of you know this is the second son that Shadow as lost.  Her son Damien was stillborn (heart stopped during labor) sometime last year.

Her young family could use some help defraying funeral expenses, and also, unfortunately, because of the distance to her, the only way we can send her hugs is monetary.  I shall send my contribution later today.  And if any of you wants to help Shadow through this, here’s the link:

Now, today’s post.

As you guys know when I’m on painkillers I sleep like the dead, only better.  I think I’m paying back years, maybe decades of sleep debt.

I woke up int he morning, warm and snuggled next to my husband and decided this would not be a post about the Hugos.  This is good, because the piece my husband read me over the breakfast table would… well…  We’ll save that for later.  We’ll save Arthur Chu for later, too.  As several people have assured me, he’s not even edible, and he’s OF COURSE misrepresenting my words and actions.  Eh.  It’s what he does.  Cr*p weasels got to cr*p weasel.

I decided this would be about Simak in general and Way Station in particular.  Some reference to the establishment in sf/f is needed, but it’s not about the Hugos in particular.

You see, I started reading SF with Have Spacesuit Will Travel but I had clue zero it was science fiction.  In my hopper of a mind, all times and places crossed.  I was eight.  (Later a teacher had to correct me, that atomic war hadn’t in fact happened.)

However the first science fiction/fantasy book I read knowing it was sf/f was Out of Their Minds.  And part of the reason I read it (the other part was because my brother, who was 10 years older, in engineering, and borrowing these from a friend, had been warned some had unsavory explicit sex, and so had forbidden me from reading it.) was because standing next to my brother’s bedside, ready to throw the book in the drawer and be in my room looking perfectly innocent at the first step on the stairs, I came across Snuffy (sp?) Smith, a cartoon I followed in our newspapers.

After that came A Canticle for Leibowitz and after that a string of seventies crap-sf.

One of the things that made me roll on the floor laughing yesterday (laughing while growling understand) was a claim from the anti-puppy side that what those concerned with puppy sadness wanted was a return to the “pulps of the seventies.”

Since this claim was made by a man who looks older than I, my mouth dropped open in wonder and astonishment at the ignorance.  Does he have Alzheimers?  Has he totally forgotten the history of the genre?  Or is he one of the homunculus with no trace of real humanity who recreates past reality in his mind according to the dictates of the party line and the push of politics?

Seventies.  Pulps.  With space guns and rockets and manly men having adventures.  In the seventies.

Heinlein wept, people.  Or he would if he heard that nonsense.

Beyond the fact that no one on our side called or would call for retro-sf (though in a way that’s exactly what I’m doing with Darkships — doing very well thank you very much — but it’s modern SF with a retro nod) if we were calling for “SF like in the seventies” we would be calling for a lot of communist-apologia, a lot of hopeless dystopia, a lot of pointless, plot-useless sex and a lot of the explorations that led to the present day class/genre/race precious jewels of social justice.

Yeah, no, we’re not calling for that.

But what is revealed in this idiot’s accusations is how little the other side knows of the history of the genre.  What they know is from the outside, and not even from a scholarly study of our genre from the outside, but from the outside VIA THE MOVIES.

It is known in our family that if a tv series is about something we know or do — math, or writing, for ex — the person who knows the most about it can’t watch it.  You should see Dan when the Numbers thing came up.  No, really.  He’s the nicer half in this marriage, but he was foaming at the mouth.  Though for once it was nice to be the one to say “no, you can’t throw your shoe through the monitor.  You’d regret it. No, you can’t throw your notebook either.  And you can’t even lift your son.”

In the same way, sff came through in movies and series as what it had never been, the myth of the forties and fifties SF/F about scantily clad women and monsters.  (To be fair, the covers were like that.  And if you didn’t read it…)

And this is the sf/f these people talk about, only in their minds it was all monsters, scantily clad women and daring do THROUGH THE SEVENTIES and maybe even through the 2000s.  Up till then, to hear some of these people talk, SF only allowed women in as “prizes” and women were kept in burkas at conventions, or could only attend as drag kings.  It boggles the mind.

You see, as a reader I came into SF in the seventies (fantasy only in the nineties because it doesn’t work well with my mind and I had to work myself into it by stages.)

Here some explanation of the Portuguese method of printing stuff is needed.  Or what was the method of publishing stuff at that time. Now I understand they import a lot from Brazil, so it’s different.

At the time there was one science fiction imprint, and that science fiction imprint (Argonauta!) came out twice a month.  When my brother and I started buying the books, we were often so broke that we had to go halvsies on the cost.  Man, was he happy when I married abroad and left him the collection.  The only semblance of fandom, which I joined in the late seventies, at least in my area, were the lost souls lining up four hours before the store opened to make sure you got one of the copies of whatever was coming out.  Because if it sold out, you couldn’t get it again.  The business ran so close to the bone that there were no reprints, and I never found a used bookstore carrying SF.

Now some printruns didn’t sell out, so once we’d exhausted the library amassed by my brother’s friend, and his father, we bought mostly those “less successful” authors.

Some of these I actually found worthy and interesting.  I can’t remember when I discovered him, but Phil Dick was one of those that languished on the racks till I bought it.

Most of those books I don’t even remember.  I do remember throwing one against the wall when the “typical colonization novel” was turned on its head and the fearless leader died in a horrible manner, then one by one, till the only survivor — the self-rocking, cringing hysteric — kills himself.

I remember another one, in which the US is a backwater behind some sort of Star Wars defense and the future comes from (snort, giggle) the USSR and this woman, being a corrupt capitalist goes out and has a lot of sex with men and women.  I was 14 and I read it, but I thought it was stupid and pointless (even if I didn’t spot the crazy geo-political message) so I don’t remember the name of the author or the title.

It is a merciful part of my makeup (lipstick, I think) that I forget the names of authors and books I hated.  (Of course this used to mean I sometimes bought the same book three times.  Or more. There was this one gorgeous cover in mystery for a book called The Wandering Arm.  From the blurb it sounded right up my alley.  I bought it TEN TIMES.  I never got past the first two chapters, and I don’t think it even offended me, just bored me to death.  Thank heavens I now buy mostly from Amazon which tells me “oh, you’ve bought this.”)

The ONLY book I ever found that fit the “he man space man” and exploited hot babes wasn’t a book.  It was a French magazine called Panspermia.  It turns out — pats 14 year old self on the back — it wasn’t as idiot me thought about the theories of Fred Hoyle and a universe populated by genetic kin.  No.  It was SF-erotica.  (Pinches nose, inclines head, closes eyes.)  Let’s just say when I got to the page with the… ah… illustration, I gave it to my brother.  Who might still have it, for all I know.

Anyway, like all human beings, I immediately developed favorites.  My high trinity, the books I HAD TO have were Heinlein, Asimov and … Clifford Simak.  Once when talking to Jerry Pournelle I mentioned that my tastes were fairly average for Portuguese and we both felt a little sad that Simak never visited Portugal where he would have been greeted as a living legend and feted and appreciated as he never was in the US.

After that came a host of others, more minor but still loved: Anderson, A. E. Van Vogt and a lot more I’d recognize if I saw the names, and even Anne McCaffrey who never appealed to my brother, but whom I was reading when I got married and changed languages.  (Moreta was read in English.)

And like everyone else, my tastes changed, in my case more so due to changing languages and acculturation.

By the time I got married, Heinlein had replaced Simak as my favorite author.  And I’ll confess, partly because Simak’s work is so hard to find (it was in Portugal too, most of it having been published before I discovered, sf/f.  Fortunately one of my friends’ dads was “clearing out” his closet and found a box of sf from his dad, which he gave me.  It contained among other things City and Way Station.  (I’d already read They Walked Like Men and The Werewolf Principle.)

I think I know, now, why I shifted tastes.  But at any rate, because I’m sick and recovering, and because the surgery means a move to another stage of life (you do the math, bucko) and possibly because my hormones are adjusting and I feel a little fragile, I’ve been re-capturing my reading journey, starting with Disney comics, moving on to mystery and then to my beginnings in SF/F.

Partly the mystery and SF/f are in audible because I’m supposed to engage in walking and other gentle exercise and my main issue with exercise is that I get bored.  So, audio books.  Fortunately Audible just brought out three Simaks.  I’ve listened to Werewolf Principle, I’m two thirds through Way Station and I’m going to listen to City next.

As I’ve been doing that, it hit me how much of an impact Simak had on me.  A lot of my themes and fixations seem to come straight from him: the ethics of modifying humans for instance, and what is a human.

There is also an understanding of what a novel was at the time.  Way Station was published in 69, when I was seven, and I would estimate it at around 70k words (?) maybe a little more or less.  It is the right length, I think.  Put any more into it, and you destroy the magic, because you can’t do the dance of the seven veils fast enough to stop the questioning mind.  (More on that later.)

OTOH Werewolf principle felt too short and like some of the more interesting psychological conflict was elided.  I don’t think in that case it would have broken the enchantment to have more.  It might have deepened it. But at the time novels were kept short.  Printing costs.  Fitting in a spinning wrack.  All that.  Art is not the materials, but the material world informs the art.

As is, Werewolf Principle was a major (conscious) influence on Darkship Thieves.

Not that Clifford Simak wrote Space Opera.  His world is one of the Earth, though an Earth sometimes modified by what came from space.  His formula, now that I’m a writer, seems to be the natural world disrupted (and enhanced) by something alien.

Neither Werewolf Principle nor Way Station are about buff men and helpless females.  In fact, the wisdom of the feminine seems to be a Simak ingredient.  And both his main characters, in both books, are in a way handicapped.

I intend to do a podcast about each of these books for Otherwhere gazette as soon as derpy me figures out the tech site, and maybe one of you edits them.  Until then, I’ll tell you the part of the blurb I remember for Way Station “Enoch Wallace didn’t die in the civil war.  He is not in his grave.”

It is not a zombie or vampire novel, but it deals with some of the same problems.  Enoch Wallace is a man who traded the Earth for the stars but can’t have either fully.  It is a novel of profound loneliness, a novel of a man who traded the normal life he could have had for high principles, for a better future for mankind.

It is also a gentle novel — I think because Simak was a gentle man (though I don’t know, never having heard much about him and knowing only he was a journalist and a family man.) — where both the natural world and the stars it touches are enchanted by a patina of wonder and touched with a reasonableness I can only call “the milk of human kindness.”

I challenge anyone not blinded by ideology and hate to read (or listen to) Way Station and find any of that he-man machismo and chest beating I hear old SF accused of.  If I compared Simak to any living writer, it would be Connie Willis (whose work I also love, even if we’re at political odds, and whom I was sad to see implicated by association — the picture — in the Federalist article.  Her Hugos, log rolling or not, corrupt process or not, were deserved.  It was her Lincoln’s Dreams that brought me back to reading and writing Science Fiction.  Which I suppose means the podcast series will end there.)

Yeah, Enoch Wallace carries a gun.  He is a man of the nineteenth century and rural.  If you’re going to scream, put a sock in it.  No, two socks.  I have no words for that kind of stupid crapweaseling.

I don’t know if I can bring myself at this time and in this place — and I mean particularly at this time and in this place — to believe in a world of reasonable and kind aliens (though there is a story reason for that.)

But I’m glad Simak did and that his work cast a golden light over my adolescence and now.  I’m glad too that he didn’t do that he man and cowering female that idiots and illiterates think classic sf means.  I doubt I would have loved that.  And without that love of the strange and wondrous my life would have been a lot poorer.

So, if you have a chance, read or listen to Way Station.  Note the big ideas and the sheer love for Earth and its creatures.

I’ll talk about it more/later in podcast, maybe as early as next week.  It’s a wonderful and worthy book.

It’s human wave all the way.

And then go and find a book that suits you the same way.  And if it doesn’t exist, write it.  There’s room in SF for all visions.  I was going to say “except for hate” but there’s room for that too, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Me, I’ll write what I love instead.  There isn’t time enough for hate.

The Graying of Fandom- Sanford Begley

The Graying of Fandom – Sanford Begley

I attended Millenicon this past weekend (at this writing the date is 3/22/15), a small Literary con in Cincinnati. I’m not a big con goer, I went because my Lady was involved in several panels and because a few friends and a few legends of SF were going to be there. Christopher Stasheff, David Drake, and Mike Resnick were there, Mike’s daughter Laura was the GOH. They are not those I am claiming as friends by the way; I doubt any of them would recognize me as a face they had seen.

I do not attend cons regularly, simply because my only real purposes for being there are friends and my Lady. Most cons I don’t have any friends attending that I know about. Certainly not enough to justify the time and expense of going to a con. Libertycon in Chattanooga is an exception because so many Hoyt’s Huns and Baen Barflies attend. I have a lot of friends in those groups. People attend Libertycon simply because it is considered the Baen family reunion, I am one of them.

Since I don’t usually attend no matter who the guests are I don’t go often. This gives me a more snapshot view of cons than the average fan who attends regularly. For this reason I am going to give you my impressions of the con and especially the attendees. I don’t know for certain, but I think they are probably true of conditions throughout fandom.

The first thing I noticed was that I felt young there. I’m a couple weeks shy of 57 so that tells you something right there. My impression of the average attendee is of a portly sixty-something gray-haired lady. I can’t say that that is accurate, it is my impression, possibly bolstered by the fact that it would be a decent description of the ladies doing registration. I know for a fact that there were younger women there, men too but that is the overall impression you get walking through the door.

Attendance was down from last year, noticeably so. There were less give-away booths, fewer hucksters, less art and generally less of a crowd. This was at 7:30 Friday evening. There were a few children being pulled around by their parents, a few mature adults, including the parents, the rest were, in appearance Senior Citizens. People I thought of as Senior Citizens at my age.

My Lady had a reading at 8:00 and panels at 9:00 and 10:00. Her reading brought in myself, Ed Stasheff who is a friend, The Other Sean a regular commenter here, and David Burkhead an author and friend of ours. This might sound like a pathetic turnout but, it wasn’t, not for this con. The 9:00 panel was on making money as an artist. There was one attendee who never spoke, myself and five panelists. We made the best of it and basically had a round table discussion about professional art.  At 10:00 pm she was in a panel, where there were more in the audience than on the panel.  The panelists were good on the subject of creation through destruction but there was little audience reaction.

Saturday and Sunday were no better. I saw one group of a half dozen teen girls, those younger people with their parents, a handful in their thirties and forties. Most of what I saw was close to, or over retirement age. I also saw few people with a happy look on their faces. Many seemed to be going through the motions out of habit.

This all set me to pondering. If this con is like this, and Libertycon isn’t a whole lot better, where will Fandom be in a few years? I know there are lots of youngsters who love SF and Fantasy, gamers galore. Where are they? Probably at Comiccons and other places which don’t feel like retirement homes.

You see, fandom became locked into a mind set somewhere along the line. The Serious people are serious. Laughter and games are not heavily in evidence. Even the staple of con naughtiness is dying, room parties. We got a ticket each into room parties with our registration. We had no intention of using it. this was a working weekend for us.  I did however see a very sad man loading his van. He had hosted one of the parties. He looked morosely at one of the many bags of candy he had left and asked me “How do you have candy left after a room party?” I suggested that people don’t eat candy when drinking. this brought the bewildered answer that they didn’t drink the booze either.

Now when I was reading about cons and the wild parties there, back in the old days that was a principle thing that made me want to attend. It is no longer. A couple of the older guests were reminiscing about the wild parties and nudity of the old days. It isn’t going to happen unless we bring back the interest of the young people. To be honest with you, had most of the people I saw there disrobed I would have left. You need young people for skimpy outfits and nudity to work. Lets be honest, if you are over 40 and can still take your clothes off to appreciation of the opposite sex they either are very drunk or you are going immediately into something more personal than a party. The skimpy clothing still exists, you just have to have more than the staid old folks of literature to find it.

Fair disclosure I did not see anything to do with the Masquerade. We were busy with other things. Still it leaves me worried about the future of SF cons in general. If we don’t get the youngsters back cons won’t exist in a few years. Maybe I just had a bad con experience. Maybe other cons are doing well. I don’t think so. We have driven our future forth, if we don’t lure them back we are soon to die. Just one fallible man’s opinion

Of Science Fiction and Bed Making

In 2000 my husband had a traveling job. They were sort of the Marines of computer programming. If something was irretrievably mucked up on a computer system somewhere, they sent for this company who, for a high cost, flew their guys in to perform miracles.

Some jobs took three weeks, some three months.

For most of 2000 Dan was working on the computers of a Wall Street firm.

Now, his traveling was very bad for the family, which is why he gave up that job, even though it was fantastically paid (I refer to those two years as “when we were rich.”) Our then kindergartner was crying himself to sleep, our third grader was failing, and I couldn’t sleep without Dan at home. So he sacrificed his job for us. (Of course, if we hadn’t been stupid, we’d have taken the kids with him and become nomads, living in hotel suites and teaching the kids ourselves. We didn’t know we could teach. As in, we didn’t know we would be able to. Only discovered it when we were forced to get the younger kid out of middle school. Chalk that up to “regrets I have a few.”)

In the summer of 2000 we got two friends willing to take the kids for two weeks (oh, yeah, being a functionally single parent sucks, as I’m sure all the military spouses out there know. Even if you still have the emotional support of your absent spouse) because I was so burned out. I went with Dan to NYC. We refer to this as our second honeymoon, because it was that sort of idyllic time. Mind you, he was working 12 hours a day, four days a week. But I was writing All Night Awake. In the evening, we explored funky little restaurants. And during the days he had off we went off to museums and stuff.

Only one thing marred this idyll.

You see, like many such things, it was a last minute decision. A friend said, “Oh, I can watch them” and we rushed to make arrangements. The hotel Dan had booked for himself didn’t have weekend rooms. The only hotel we could find was the Embassy Suites at World Trade Center, so new cabbies didn’t know it existed.

The hotel itself was great and I loved hanging out in the common area looking out at people going to work while I outlined chapters.

But then…

There was bed making.

It will probably surprise no one here that I sleep like a whirlwind. Actually I used to think I could never sleep with my spouse because at sleepovers my friends invariably ended up on the floor or the sofa. I apparently do a good impression a windmill. Which is why we have a California king.

Well, in this hotel – king size bed – it was worse than ever. My feet kept getting tangled, and I’d wake up with the BOTTOM sheet in a knot around me.

So on the third day I watched the maids make the bed. I don’t know where this insanity came from (we stayed there five? Six? Years ago and they weren’t doing this. It might be the hotel was so new, they had no right size sheets) but what they were doing was draping a full size sheet sideways and then putting another one on top across it, so it barely covered the top of the bed.

You should have seen it. It was epic. Portuguese with Russian accent against Russian immigrant maids.

I told them to stop that right away and get a proper sized sheet.

Instead of giving in, they told me that it was “new Russian bed making technology.” (We still use this when the kids come up with a “new” bassawkward way of doing something.)

At which point I said, yep, it’s inefficient, has the wrong parts and doesn’t work. No, it’s not more comfortable. Get the right size sheet.

Suffice to say that I stood there long enough, arms crossed, that the sheet materialized, after they realized they couldn’t convince me this was new and improved.

So, what does this have to do with anything?

Well, I pointed out on FB – note I wasn’t crying, I was PROMISING – that they really don’t want to get me p*ssed off because even I don’t know what I’ll do, but it will be creative. (I have in past, if you pushed me past what I’m willing to endure, got REALLY creative. Look, I’m not malicious mostly because I’m really lazy. Give me a reason to stop being lazy, and I can turn my mind to making you miserable.) And then someone from the other side – mind you, a hanger on with obvious mental issues – told me that I had no reason to whine. We should have thought of the consequences before we set out to destroy the Hugo. We’d made our bed and now we’d lie in it.


First of all though this person is a mentally ill hanger-on, it was clear from his other comments he was repeating what he perceived as his leaders from the other side. A lot of it was the same cr*p that appeared in the coordinated attacks on us in the mainstream media. Then there was the “set out to destroy the Hugo” something the other side keeps saying, as though they think that I would help destroy an award won by Robert A. Heinlein.

Honestly, one wonders if they believe what comes spewing out of their fingers.

So I suspect the “made your bed now lie in it” is something he heard from his “betters”, an impression corroborated by threats of doxing and swatting that have had weakly attached people on the other side trying to warn me and my friends.

And so I’m going to speak to “bed making technology.”

  • Sad Puppies, if it needs to be said, didn’t set out to ruin the Hugo. It set out to restore it. As the Award that went to science fiction greats, since ever, we thought it should again mean something to the kids starting to read in the field.
    I mean, right now it just isn’t a good indication. The kids who got identity politics preached at them in school don’t want to read it for fun.
    And if I had a dime for every person I talk to about SF who says that “no one is writing the good stuff anymore” because they pick up a “best of” or an award anthology and find nothing they like in it, I’d be a very rich woman.
    So, yes, Sad Puppies put up a slate, which since Brad was running it this year was “Stuff Brad likes.” I found it hilarious that some people were accusing Sad Puppies of malfeasance because “he didn’t put up a full slate.” I’m not even sure what the heck that meant. I mean, first we’re accusing of giving too many recommendations and getting people to vote in lockstep (I’m fairly sure no one did, and the stats will show that, but never mind. If this bunch nominated lockstep it’s the first time they coordinated anything in their entire lives.) And then they accuse us of only having a few recommends in some categories. (Rolls eyes.)
    The thing is, Brad only liked a few things in each category, even with some of us making other suggestions. So fine, that’s what he put up.
    And then we told our fans they could vote for these or find their own, but they should READ before they nominated anything. And we told them HOW to sign up.  That was it. In fact, I didn’t nominate (despite having paid early enough to) because I hadn’t read ENOUGH due to being very ill.  So I couldn’t be sure Brad’s slate was the best.
  • This is not political. It would be really funny if it were. I have no clue what Larry’s politics are, except I don’t argue with him about much, and from the little I’ve heard, we pretty much agree. I suspect I’m nuttier “don’t tread on me” than he is, but he’s better armed, so…
    Brad I’d qualify as soft social-democrat, which only falls under “right wing” in Portugal where “to the right of Lenin” is right wing. Oh, wait, it’s the same in SF/F, isn’t it? Never mind.
    The people nominated range from anarchist to socialist and a good number of them honestly are “I have no clue.” This includes two of my personal friends, Kevin J. Anderson and Cedar Sanderson. Heck, even Amanda Green who is arguably one of my closest friends and I have never done a politics comparison. I suspect she’s more statist than I am (she’s more trusting that way) but for the rest, who knows?
    That the other side thinks this is a political attack tells you that THEY have been applying a political filter to nominations and votes. Because only someone blinded by a beam in their eye can see the spec in ours.
    I grew up in a country, at a time, when politics were raw and a matter of life and death. Weirdly what that meant is that you learned to carve out niches where politics didn’t enter, else life became unbearable. This means I grew up with friends of all political stripes. One of my brother’s best childhood friends and a family member to all intents and purposes was communist. Until party discipline demanded he drop us (but not my brother) we just didn’t talk politics.
    I still don’t with my friends, unless they are explicitly political friends, and sometimes not then. I mean some of my best friends I made in Libertarian blogs, but we’re as likely to discuss whiskey or books as politics.
    Also, because of the left dominance in the field and in all arts since forever we have ALL OF US gotten used to reading people from soft to extreme left and appreciating them around/despite that.
    In rereading Simak, for instance, I was surprised at the gratuitous pot shots at “right wingers” (there will be more on this, later, in podcast. The thing is those were … less venomous than now) and “religion” and even southerners. It was always there, but I filtered it out, so I didn’t remember it.  I read for the story.  I still do.
    Mostly we’ve gotten used to ignoring the politics of good writers.
  • Sad Puppies IS about quality. And before you tell me that quality is fluid and can be seen in many different ways, let me explain.
    As a fan of mine who is an art professor pointed out, what is receiving awards these days has all the markers of “high class art”. I knew that.
    For those who don’t know, in my misspent youth I took a degree in languages and literature (a few degrees, among other things I have a BA from the University of Millan, taken via the consulate. I only remember it now because I found the rather impressive diploma while packing up the house.)
    So I could see the “we are high literature” markers all over those stories.
    But here’s the dirty little secret: “literary” unless it refers to something more than 100 years old, which has endured the test of time, is just another genre. It is full of these “I am smart and erudite” markers which add nothing to the experience, except making college professors say “wow, this is literature.”
    Another dirty little secret is that “literary fantasy” (or sci fi) has the lowest sales numbers of all subgenres of F/SF. I know this because that’s where I broke in (early training, again) and I was told bluntly, while shopping for a third agent (the first I dropped after selling the first book because she’d lied to me and the second after the series crashed because he lost interest), that if I wanted to write “literary” fantasy, I needed a day job. A job teaching in college was suggested. I already had it, but I wanted to write for a living. And besides, honestly, what they told me was that “literary” almost didn’t sell. And I wanted to sell. I wanted people to read my stories. That was the whole point. So I changed. (Also I’d found writing literary was making me depressed, because it’s not natural nor fun.)
    So how come it has come to dominate not just the awards but the “publisher interest” in our field?
    Because other than Baen publishers are paying increasingly less (I mean 3k for a pro advance? REALLY? With the book taken out of circulation before they have to pay you royalties?) and so people have to have college jobs. And in college, being “literary” helps with reputation and tenure and all that good stuff.
    And that’s what was getting awards “books that impress college professors.”
    Now there is a place for this, and I read “real literature” occasionally. (I actually enjoy Borges, but if you’re not a genius, don’t try to write like him.) Though most of what I read in that is French and/or Italian and sometimes even Portuguese (though rarely, since they’ve gone the “signifiers of high lit symbols” route as well.)
    BUT science fiction is not the place for this. For well written stuff, sure. For story as status symbol, no. I mean If You Were A Dinosaur My Love has all the markers of “literature” – it is also an execrably researched and plotted story and is neither fantasy nor science fiction.
    Perhaps people will read science fiction as teens and then graduate to “literature” and perhaps people just wanna have fun. Or perhaps they’ll do both as I do.
    BUT one thing is clear: there is a hunger for science fiction and fantasy (look at games and movies and even indie authors like Nuttall and Dandrige and our very own Peter Grant) that “literary” isn’t going to satisfy.
    And why should the award that went to Heinlein and Asimov go to “post modern signifiers.” They have their own awards. Science fiction should be science fiction. (Note I’m not saying it shouldn’t evolve. Part of what I’m doing reading through the origins of our field is to note how much has changed because it NEEDED to change as people changed.)


  • Sad puppies is not against message in fiction. Sad puppies is against the message trumping the fiction. Or in other words “we don’t need no education; we don’t need no thought control.”
    If you think the point of reading is to have feminism or socialism preached at you, you’re missing the point of fun. Also, if you think that these messages are new and wonderful, you must have skipped school K-12 or be older than MY fifty years.
    We object to conventional messages, preached in a conventional way and designed only to curry favor with an increasingly calcified establishment.



  • Sad Puppies IS revolutionary. Because for years the establishment has been this sort of coagulum of the “shock value” of New Wave and the dregs of “revolutionary Marxism” now infused with the militant misandry of the 4th generation Marxists and “literary markings” of “academic literature”.
    This was reflected in what won awards and in the direction of buying from big publishing houses. (Yes, they also bought low brow, they had to survive.  But what they trumpeted were these “literary darlings”)
    Like all TRUE revolutionary movements we are grass roots and chaotic.
    Yes, there was a suggested slate, and I know, just from the people who asked me if they could nominate this or that of mine that the individualists failed to organize.
    Even the ones who asked couldn’t agree on which story of mine to nominate.
    So, the slate simply called attention to some works and the people who got on the ballot simply attracted more grass roots votes. Where this coincides with the Sad Puppies slate it’s almost a miracle. (And that the people who accuse us of lockstep slate also accuse us of somehow being guilty for letting Vox in, tells you a lot. More on that later.)
  • Sad Puppies is not responsible for the universe.
    The people who accuse us of being in league with gamer gate are just echoing Empress Teresa’s nutty slander. (She probably sees Gamer Gate under her bed, and it’s the Gamer Gate of Law and Order.) For one SP 1 was long before Gamer Gate and if Larry has a time machine and hasn’t shared – the bastage – we’re going to have words, even if he has way many more guns than I do. (Perhaps he found it on the… “Dark Net” — cue ominous music.)
    The evidence for this seems to be that Larry welcomed gamer gaters to one of his post updates. Yes, he did. Because the other side’s shrieking and hollering got their attention and they started coming around to see what this was all about.
    I’m not a gamer. My kids are. Bluntly if you attract gamegaters, you’re going to get trounced not by 500 votes but by 10k ones. They are much bigger in numbers than we are and more willing to drop money on things, just to upset people. Fortunately most of them don’t care that much about written sf/f, so we get to play in our little sandbox.
    Yeah, there are some crossovers, like Daddy Warpig, but they are a minority who like both games and written SF/F. Is this forbidden now? Are they wrongfans having having wrongfun?
    I refer you to my middle fingers for an answer to that. You’re not the boss of us. You’re not the boss of anyone. And you don’t get to tell anyone how to have “correct fun.” I’m sorry, that’s over.
  • Sad Puppies is not Rabid Puppies.
    This is the favorite accusation of the establishment, that we are “allied” with the blogger I call VD so as not to attract trolls screaming about nothing else. Yep, he was banished from SFWA. Yep, he’s the most hated man in the SF establishment. Yep he put up his own slate, whose logo looks like SP. Yep, he paid the artist to modify the SP logo for his use. Nope we don’t care.
    Some of us think he’s a shock artist and sort of roll our eyes at him. At any rate, we were not in collusion with him. No, we didn’t leave openings so he could slip in. We left openings so ANY ONE ELSE’S NOMS could slip in, but mostly because our “slate” was “things Brad likes” and we can’t make Brad like exactly five things or however many (I didn’t nominate, remember?) per category.
    My opinion on Vox is the same I’ve repeated over and over on FB “He is not my problem. He’s annoying but not more annoying or nuttier than about half the people in SF/F. You don’t want him in? You have issues with him? Great. YOU STOP HIM. Not my circus, not my flying monkeys.” I won’t lift a finger to stop you. I also won’t lift a finger to stop him. Again NOT MY CIRCUS. I don’t have a dog in this fight. I am not required to fight battles on the “correct side.” My battle is different and my answer to YOUR specific battle is as follows “A plague on BOTH your houses.” (Yes, I protested his expulsion because it was extralegal and because SFWA shouldn’t be in the business of judging moral/political or any other kind of purity. It’s supposed to be working for professional writers, even those in jail for murder. Opening the can of worms of “purity testing” then led to the Resnick Malzberg debacle. And it has diminished the association. It is possible to stand on principle without liking either of the sides.)


In the end, the establishment has created an SF/F field that was all about politics, purity tests and the genetics of the writer. If the story mattered it was only insofar as it showed or didn’t show “literary” markers.

Now, this new “bed making technology” might suit many people fine. And it allows them to make much of the paltry small sheets they have. And perhaps people didn’t complain and metaphorically speaking just booked another hotel.

It’s not a coincidence in this metaphor that Sad Puppies has the help and allegiance of two people of Portuguese descent and was started by a Portuguese. Metaphorically speaking, we’re the crazy Portuguese chick, maddened by two nights of no sleep, standing over the maids going “There hasn’t been new bed making technology since Ogg invented the bed. Now go find the right sheets and stop short-sheeting me.”

The bed we are trying to make is not political; it is not restrictive, either. You want to continue the spotlight on literary fiction? Fine, you make your slate, you tell your fans, you push what you like. If more people like it, it will win.

The game is open to everyone, as it should be.

Because in the end this is not about the will of a few “taste makers.” What should win awards is what the fans want period.

There are no wrongfans. There is no wrongfun.

People vote for what they like, and if they are opening their wallets to vote for what they like, great. Then the new people coming into the field will know what to read.

Fan involvement is the key.

This is not the playground of the powerful and privileged few. It is OUR playground, and in this case by “our” I mean the playground of those who love science fiction.

And if that hampers some academic careers, too bad, so sad.

They can always create yet another award for them, like the half dozen that already exist.

Hugo Gernsback was pulp. He was what people liked to read. His award should be for what people like. No more no less.

Beds? Threats of swatting?

Get a grip on reality. The more you sneer and the more you threaten, the more likely you are to turn the cry of “just another wrongfan having wrongfun” into “aristo, aristo, to the lamppost.”

Now that’s a bed I’d not like you to make.

Social Ignorance Warriors- Bill Reader

Social Ignorance Warriors- Bill Reader

In most real-world conflicts, the key to victory lies not on a battlefield, or in any one special strategy or tactic, but inside your opponent’s head. This can be argued for a variety of historical conflicts and, in my experience, holds up pretty well in day-to-day experience. The key to beating back superior British forces in the American revolution wasn’t besting them at their own game. It was, in some sense, making mostly-inevitable losses too painful for the enemy to continue inflicting (that and, as in virtually every battle involving a European county up through at least WWI, leveraging Europe’s constant in-fighting against whatever portion you were currently fighting). The United States never needed to win. It just needed to become too difficult to keep. Likewise, the slum revolts and regional uprisings that, in aggregate, put paid to the Roman Empire, were certainly not the result of masterful tactics. Rather, those revolting recognized that Rome had lost sufficient belief in its own culture to fight to uphold it; had in any case mostly lost the capacity to impose culture in its wholesale importation of anybody and everybody; and probably was afraid of said anybody and everybody because it spent so much bread-and-circus money trying to appease them. Rome had an unparalleled army, but no clear target, only the most bare-bones idea of when to use it, and increasingly limited resources to maintain it.
Such a key exists to the SJWs. And to find it, we must simply look in the mirror, through their eyes. What does an SJW see when they look in the mirror?
What they see is a member of the redeemed. They see a person who has been touched by an enlightenment, a piece of knowledge so great it no longer matters that they have a non-existent knowledge of history, that they avoid considering any subject long enough to have a deeper grasp than “an important person says”, that their day-to-day dealings are superficial, instantaneous and overwhelmingly emotional.

That piece of knowledge is that they are good people.

The wonderful thing about defining yourself as a good person is that, unlike the rest of us unfortunates, you no longer have to act up to it. It’s why the Democratic party as a whole gets knee deep in corruption, intrigue, petty vendettas and sometimes (Ted Kennedy for sure, the Clintons almost certainly) outright murder. Yet those same people will step to the camera on the turning of the sun and say, with that practiced smile, that they want what is best, are doing what is best, are only trying to help. Because they are good people. And good people never have to prove it.

One problem of being a self-defined good person is relative definitions of good. A synonym for the good person might be the ideal, or the model. SJWs have a peculiar flaw in their ideal, however. Due to influence from postmodernism, a liberal cannot take reality as it is. They take reality as they would like it to be. In fact, they pride themselves on this. They believe it makes them capable of envisioning and creating technological and civil revolutions while stodgy conservatives just try to kick through the problems of not having them without aspiring to something better.

In practicality, a person who sees things as they truly are is the person most likely to see through social dogma standing in the way of bettering mankind, for the same reason that successful automotive engineers are unlikely to round pi to 3. A person who lives in a persistent fantasy world is, however, still more likely to feel that they see through social dogma standing in the way of bettering mankind.
For similar reasons, an SJW’s view of themselves as a good person depends, partially, on literally willing the world to be other than it is. This is because the way the world actually is makes them uncomfortable, and the discomfort would require tinkering with or changing certain basic tenets of their worldview. This would seriously affect the Social Justice Warriors’ work of making other people uncomfortable in order to change other people’s worldview (Hi, Starbucks!). Ironically, as with all systems predicated on postmodernism, this is what makes their view of the world a serious threat to itself.

What Social Justice Warriors haven’t quite realized is that, in their eagerness to think the best of everyone, they have acted more like the ignorant strawmen Americans they are committed to fighting than any other actual American ever has. To demonstrate the point, let us lift the veil on some examples in turn.

Possibly the largest cultural example of outright barbarism in the modern world is Islam as it is practiced in most of the Middle East. That is, cliterectomies for young girls, hanging of gays, stoning of “adulterers”, including women who are raped, legal systems based entirely on the Qu’ran, taxation on infidels, and all the rest. Conservatives have asked, repeatedly, why it is that the left is so silent about this issue. After all, feminists here have become so sensitive to slights against women that the signals they respond to are below the noise threshold. The only sure way not to annoy a modern feminist is not to encounter her. Gay groups are less in-your-face, partially because they have proportionally much smaller representation, but certainly just as vocal. Yet the Middle East warrants no more than a yawn?

Metaphorically, the self-proclaimed fellowship of the ring, rather than journeying to mount Doom, decided to go on a witch-hunt for people wearing rings, any rings at all, and has now gotten to the point of attacking on sight anyone seen wearing jewelry. Why?

In a very real way, SJWs do not believe in the Middle East. I don’t mean that they don’t believe in the people of the middle east. Au contraire, they believe they can do anything! Provided it doesn’t require, you know, support or anything, which is why Obama slept through the Green Revolution in Iran— especially incompetent of him, since the Green Revolution offered an opportunity to make a peace with Iran he’s now paying dearly for (I suppose that would have robbed us a chance for our modern Neville Chamberlain to hold aloft a worthless agreement with an untrustworthy scoundrel for a cheering crowd, as I doubt he’ll be able to resist doing. Or, then again, perhaps the key to this repetition of history as farce is that Mr. Chamberlain was merely naive. Mr. Obama might well have been praying the Green Revolution would falter and leave him a chance to make a “historic” deal.).

The problem is that their response to being read accounts of the horrors of Muslim countries, to being shown videos of gays being hanged or pictures of mutilated genitals and broken faces, is to side step, to pretend, to sink further into the fantasy. “It’s not happening”, or “it’s all fake” may quickly be brushed aside by preponderance of videos and accounts. Then comes “it’s just the leaders, not the people”, and so you show the assuredly lowly middle-eastern citizens dancing in the streets and burning the American flag after 9/11. High spirits, eh? And the leaders of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and their respective sympathizers, must be very busy people, what with having to run all over their countries personally committing these atrocities every day. At the point you tell them this, you become “racist” and they dismiss you, which Sarah dealt with in detail a few days ago.

We’ve all seen this behavior, but it’s not immediately clear why. Why such resistance to the existence of a problem so obvious, especially from people who live on the opportunity to complain about societal problems?

Fundamentally, they don’t see you as presenting them with reality. They see you as challenging their internal view of the world. But it’s worse than that. It says something about their view of the world that they literally cannot believe these are tenets of another culture. Because, to them, what people in the Middle East mostly believe is what Americans mostly believe. They just believe it in a very wise way available only to those who tan or take Women’s Studies degrees. They don’t actually believe in horrible cultural beliefs because those cultural beliefs are horrible, and that would mean that when they support multiculturalism they support doing horrible things.

But they are good people. And therefore people abroad don’t believe horrible things. They believe all the things that the SJWs believe, except for the parts which don’t really, in a nuts-and-bolts way, matter, like linguistic arrangement and cosmetology.

What. Supreme. Arrogance.

I am not merely taking the piss. This is the fundamental issue with the SJW ideology. They don’t just disagree with people who have an actual different view on life from them. They don’t even acknowledge that these people exist.

They are more disgustingly culturally arrogant than the staunchest supporter of the British Empire. That person may not have agreed with what Indians did as parts of various traditions; may have looked down on them as childlike; may have imposed his own customs on them in the process. He at least had the decency to acknowledge that such beliefs could, in fact, exist.

For an SJW, a world truly outside their own is so alien that it must be disavowed if ever it is claimed to exist, and the person claiming it must be put to shame. And they will help you get outside your comfort zone, so you can discover the only true way of living.

Which brings us to their attitude towards conservatives. It struck me, for a long time, as strange that the vilified concepts of conservatives were fundamentally at odds. The complete picture is a small elite group constituting a vast legion of poor uneducated hick wealthy stockbrokers who care for no moral system at all and are unthinking fundamentalist Christians, obsessed with remaking the whole world in their image and totally disinterested by affairs over the border. For years I wondered what blender of a mind could conceive of this hopeless kludge.

The key is understanding it, however, is the SJW inability to believe in anyone except themselves. You might think that this would make it impossible to even visualize an opponent, but in fact that is not the case. As I said, that is entirely beyond their very limited world. Asked to conjure a conservative, they imagine what you would come up with if I told you to conceptualize your evil twin. That is, they imagine people with all of their basic skills and tastes, but with a deliberate desire to do the wrong thing.

To be clear, this person is still, in all ways, them. It’s just a “them” that makes all the choices they consider to be bad. And this figment, consequently, also believes the choices to be bad while making them.

If an SJW finds themselves very rich, it’s most often by the Al Gore approach of trading on the same disaster or phobia you happen to be the prophet of. It is not, however, usually within their means. It takes exceptional charisma and a skill for politics. Most SJWs, like most people, have a certain range of skills they know how to trade on and believe they are using them as best they can. Is this belief true? Usually it’s almost certainly not. I’ve witnessed the amazing malleability of people over the years. Most internal limitations people believe they have are self-imposed habits of mind, and most extraordinary achievements of any kind come from people changing those mental habits. This, however, does not enter into the reflection of an SJW. They see no way of vectoring for the extreme fortunes that they hear about without cheating on an extraordinary scale.

They know nothing of how companies are run and hence do not believe a CEO’s work could be worth a multi-million dollar salary. They have no idea that value can be created, and try to avoid selling anything solid or doing anything productive, preferring regulation as the “purer” career. Hence, they see the wealthy merchant or manufacturer as a large-scale con-artist. They equate conservatism with these things because they don’t know how they could achieve wealth through any of these means except by “cheating” in some vaguely defined way. But they are good, mostly upper-middle class people, or the close relatives thereof.

Consequently, by weight of numbers alone, the “correct” mode of life has become that of the upper middle class, with the very wealthy automatically becoming bad by right of being something besides what most SJWs are.

On the other hand, if they were poor and living in a trailer park, they’d try to fix it. The only way they wouldn’t is if they couldn’t. Obviously, then, the poor aren’t truly poor. They’re people who ought to be upper middle class. That they aren’t and presumably want to be can only be attributed to some outside force preventing their income from changing. What outside force precisely, they cannot agree on. Certainly it can’t be giving people enough free money not to have to actually escape poverty. They love being given free money, but are pretty sure, in themselves, that if you gave them free money they’d still try to escape poverty.

They’ve almost never actually had to do this experiment, you understand, but they’ve thought about it and it would make lots of sense. The only exception to this logic is poor conservatives. Poor conservatives are poor because they’re so stupid they’d believe what conservatives say. And let us recall the SJW view of conservatives as, essentially, evil demons.

A person incapable of seeing the superiority of the liberal worldview is literally a person incapable of differentiating right and wrong to them, a creature barely above the level of an animal. What could anyone hope to do for someone like that? Their circumstances cannot be what they are because they do not aspire to or make any movement to achieve a normal middle class lifestyle. It cannot be because they bet big, or are betting big, on a plan to become very rich, and it has not yet panned out. Everyone wants to get a normal dayjob and live a normal, upper-middle class lifestyle. Because that’s what they want, and they’re good people.

The belief about the world makes their world. Their judgments about others proceed from it. Even the fact that they never actually see anything they do as being wrong is extended onto those they consider on their side. That’s largely why they reflexively defend any person from one of their protected interest groups, treating the actual facts of the case as background noise. If they were accused of a crime, why, they are good people. Obviously they would be innocent.

Obviously, therefore, when their distant allies are accused of any crime, they are reflections of good people and must be innocent. Anyone saying otherwise must have a personal vendetta, because only evil (syn. conservative) people go after good people. And any facts to the contrary must be lies, half truths, or distortions, and are under no circumstances to be trusted, since they are the tools evil conservatives use to go after good people. That there could genuinely be information on a case they do not immediately know is laughable. That would imply there is something outside themselves.

These are your Social Justice Warriors. But I take umbrage with the name. “Social” is a minx and will associate herself with any ratbag movement or product. “Warriors” is undoubtedly accurate, as they have reduced society to a cultural war. But it is unfair to associate “Justice” with a cause motivated by such supreme narcissism.

Justice is what women oppressed under Islam deserve, but no liberal will fight for them. Justice is what perpetrators of crimes deserve whether that means a pardon or a sentence, but SJWs will plead for clemency for a protected group even if that means unjustly dragging a person from a non-protected group through the mud. Justice is what the people of the United States deserve, meaning the removal of unjust laws established by narcissistic control freaks who see no personal consequences in the laws and hence can conceive of no consequences happening. Justice is what people willing to study, work, and improve themselves to exceptional degrees deserve, in the form of not being unfairly punished by an ever-increasing slope of taxation and regulation. But they are being stuck with these things by people unwilling to work, study, and improve themselves to exceptional degrees, who can imagine no way of getting rich except by doing things that would deserve being punished— say, by taxation and regulation.

They do not fight for Social Justice. They fight for the only thing they truly know. Themselves, hampered by all their limitations, but most especially of all these, their ignorance. And on that basis, they will presume to educate you.

I said this was the key to understanding them and implied it was the key to beating them. Now I turn to the recent and unprecedented success of Sad Puppies, and I ask you to consider something in closing, as a hint to how this myopic narcissism will, in time, tear them apart.

These people attacked, reflexively, the slate of authors suggested for the Hugos as being white, male, and conservative. They are none of these things, of course, but the evil twin of the SJWs would have intentionally filtered along all these axis and therefore that must have been what was done.

The idea of independent artistic merit as a litmus literally never crossed their mind, a telling thing in itself. But more to the point, several authors and editors have therefore been caught in the crossfire who were, right up until this, loyal party members. So sad, to be caught up in one of their side’s own little fits. What do they do? They are, let us all recall, good people, but all the other good people are saying, suddenly, and for quite literally no reason at all, that they are bad people because people they’ve quite possibly never met and certainly never associated with said they liked their writing.

It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? This, you see, is how witch-hunts inevitably play out, but the good people could never have admitted they had devolved to a series of witchhunts. Yet in hundreds of such incidents, you might see how the tendency to accuse people because of association will cause collateral damage to their own side.

Some, perhaps all of those caught in the crossfire this time will say their appropriate contrition and try to lay low. Whether it will work in a field still pining for Jimmy Carter’s second term will be interesting to watch. And friends, this is a spectacularly easy and rewarding weapon to wield.

Continue to uphold merit, rather than politics, as a standard for success in all our respective fields, and it is inevitable that yet more of the good people will be caught with bad friends and just as summarily disowned. For a person with enough drive and enough mental resources to become successful, in a host of possible specialties, the fickleness of the crowd will most assuredly become a source of unbearable annoyance. People begin to wonder about the value of friends who will turn on them not because of what they say, but because of what utterly unrelated people say about them. And by just such a mechanic does an ideology eat itself.

So take heart, my friends, and do not be afraid to say art, music, literature and science are good when they actually are so. Though it may seem, in the moment, to be counterproductive, in the end, we win, they lose.