Over the week I’ve been watching the kerfuffle between the SFWA glittery hoo ha who decided that binary gender was a bad default assumption, and that no SF novel should include it. Then Larry Correia weighed in. Then Jim Hines weighed in against Larry Correia and then– Sorry, by that point the mind boggled. I like Larry Correia, and I have a good idea he might like me (as a cousin, say) but honestly, I wouldn’t go up against him when sarcasm or wit is on the line. Particularly when you come unarmed to a battle– No, wait. Never mind.
The entire kerfuffle – in its initial phase – was covered by my friend Kate who makes some apropos comments on gender too. If you’ve been living under a rock these last few days, go and read it.
But my own personal disturbance over it started with a comment left over at MGC on that post of Kate’s. Actually not even the comment, which was the stupid, but the way the commenter tried to prove his “conservative” bonafides. It opened with (I SWEAR!) “I’m a conservative. I read Heinlein and Orson Scott Card.”
Right at that moment my mind shut down. Because the chances of that person being conservative are about the same of my being an aardvark, and I just looked in the mirror. I’m not.
Look, first of all I know very few readers of Heinlein who’d define themselves as conservatives. We might sometimes, to make things shorter, call ourselves libertarians. A few of us with a little more sense of humor will call ourselves Rational Anarchists. But very few hardcore fans of Heinlein, such that he’d be the first mentioned in their comment, would say “I’m a conservative. I read Heinlein.”
First of all, because for a conservative, in the sense it is understood by most sentient people, Heinlein was a lousy one. A patriot, sure. A lover of freedom, sure. But he liked goring sacred cows too much to conserve anything. And most of his readers who could be called “conservative” purely loathe his later workers. (Most of his readers who call themselves liberals but are really establishment conservatives do too. I’ve been with them on panels. Never mind.)
At any rate proving your bona fides as a conservative is never followed by “I read Heinlein” and proving your bona fides as a Heinlein fan NEVER starts with “I am a conservative.”
But the second point was where my mind snapped. Heinlein AND Orson Scott Card.
Guys, I don’t know if I’m a fairly typical Heinlein fan. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a fairly typical Heinlein fan. I do read Heinlein and I read half or so of OSC’s works. In the statism/freedom scale, I’d place OCS far to the left of me and probably most Heinlein fans. Now, he still writes a good story (about half the time) and he’s on my “trust but verify” list. That is, he’s on my “don’t buy sight unseen, because this might be one of the books I can’t stand.” And yeah, a lot of his opinions and plot twists bother me at a fundamental level, as a Heinlein fan. But he’s not horrible about it, he tells a good story, and half the time I suspend my disbelief by the neck and read on.
However I’d wager good money against any Heinlein fan coming up with “I read Heinlein and OSC” like that. Look, I’d say “Heinlein and Pol Anderson” if I were going for a political thing. And if I were more conservative than I am, perhaps “Heinlein and Pournelle.” (Yes, I do read Jerry, but I mean if I were trying for political bonafides.)
I just couldn’t imagine the circumstances in which any sane person who really meant it would write “I’m a conservative, I read Heinlein and OSC.”
I told my friend Charlie Martin this and he said, “Oh, that’s easy. It was a liberal troll trying to quote the “biggest fascists he could think of.”
He’s probably right. As almost all tests show, liberals can’t in any way analyze the way in which a conservative thinks. This explains things like people coming here assuming I MUST be a fundamentalist, or that I’m an admirer of Hitler or that I am – of course – racist and trying to blend in by pretending all these things. It reminds me of nothing so much as the guy who shot up a conservative organization by going in with a Chickfillet bag as camouflage.
But that made me think again on what the heck is going through their minds. Look, I’m going to be absolutely and plainly blunt: no one – no one in his right mind or even out of it; no one in possession and enjoyment of more than one working braincell, in fact – can read either Heinlein or Card and think they’re “fascists.” Yes, Card is far more statist than Heinlein, but he’s not advocating for a government bigger than we have now – at any time. And Heinlein advocated a government as small as possible (at least after he got out of his Fabian socialist mindset, but that’s a discussion for another time.)
What I mean is, it’s impossible to read these two authors and think they are a liberal’s definition of “conservative” which includes of course, racist, sexist, homophobic, and whatever else ist we’re not supposed to be today, including I suppose lookist and intellectualist.
Both men DO have a pretty strong dose of the populist, meaning a sort of rock-bottom common sense that meant they were never full statists, and they are in general highly approving of humans, including the defective ones and those of other races.
And yet, in the minds of readers who have in fact never read them – or at least never with an open mind – these people are “fascists” and “haters” and we who read them are reading them because we’re Hatey McHaters.
I’m tired of going the full rounds about this on Heinlein panels. It always comes down to “Heinlein is a sexist because his women enjoy hetero sex” or “Heinlein is a sexist because not every one of his characters is a woman” or “Heinlein is a sexist because aprons.” (If you search for apron, I did a post about the irrationality of this in the past.) None of it makes sense, and the women (they’re always women) I argue this with either have not read Heinlein or changed their opinion of Heinlein after academics told them often enough that he was racist, sexist and awful. If they’re my age or younger, they’ve never read him because they KNOW he’s sexist. One of my friends hated him because she read the opening of Friday and he had her raped, so of course he enjoyed it, and he was a rapey McRaper. (Look guys, I had a character tortured in AFGM. I guess that makes me a sadist. And because of who it was, I guess an homophobe, too? Or maybe I was just showing what dictatorships will do? And that Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness have a price, often paid in blood?)
I’m still not sure why they turned on Heinlein, but I think it was his unwillingness to go along with the demonization of the US that had become fashionable, and the fact that if you read him very carefully you can’t help but notice the similarity between his totalitarian societies and some of what is going on. (No? I was recently listening to If This Goes On and as soon as I locate the paper copy, there will be blog post apropos what happens when a people has its history stolen, and also when you’ve been taught not to think. Which is where we are, with this.)
I know when they turned against Orson Scott Card and it was because he disapproves of church-observant Mormons being homosexuals. Not because he thinks the later is inherently the worst thing ever, but because he thinks it’s incompatible with total commitment to a demanding religion.
Okay. It’s his religion. I could care less. I think the reasons he gave are silly, but also understandable for the gay culture he’d have known in the fifties.
This does not make him a horrible person. It doesn’t make him a monster. It doesn’t make him a fascist. It makes him an older man whose opinions might be slightly out of touch with today’s realities, and someone you can read and enjoy and still disagree with.
But the first time I heard about this was from a friend who had heard that he wanted all gays executed. She didn’t trace the original comment, but she’d heard it from friends she trusted…
And this is how demonizations occur. We saw this with Resnick and Malzberg and the whole nonsense about their “leering over women in bikini” when all they’d done was comment on how beautiful a now dead editor was. (I don’t know about you, but I’d love to be remembered that way after I’m gone.) And we saw it full force with Orson Scott Card.
Right after Kate made her post, they started in on Larry, taking off after him on twitter, about how he was a misogynist and various kinds of hater.
And then when he took the idiots to school, he got accused of attacking those smaller than him.
Next time a troll on MGC tries to establish his “conservative” bonafides, he’ll tell us he reads Heinlein, OSC and Larry Correia. And he’ll never understand why we’re laughing so hard.
The funny thing, though, is that they are not only completely ignorant about us, and so unaware of it that the dime never drops, but that these demonization cycles seem to be coming closer and closer and get more hysterical.
The next person who disagrees with them or pokes the tiniest bit of fun at them will be declared “worse than Hitler” and they’ll call for his hanging.
I think I know why. Part of the reason the episodes are coming closer together and getting crazier is that they’re losing power and they know it. They convinced an entire generation of women that Heinlein should not be read. This was because “all the right thinking people know that.” This is breaking. There are enough blogs, and enough of us female Heinlein fans ready to tell them they’re idiots and then describe exactly in what part of their anatomy their head is lodged.
With Resnick and Malzberg the backlash was faster and louder and even a lot of their number thought (privately) that they were off their rocker. With Card, I think only the choir thinks he’s “a fascist.”
And with Larry… There is no word for this. It’s like a Chihuahua trying to hold onto a car by the back bumper. They have not only bit off more than they can chew, they’ve bit off more than they can… bite. In tactical terms it’s getting involved in a landwar in Asia or going up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.
But wait, there’s more. The other reason they’re getting crazier and crazier and trying to enforce group conformity more and more is that they are no longer in possession of the bully pulpit. It used to be due to quirks of distribution and culture in NYC that got get bought and properly distributed you had to be a darling with a “not Baen” house. Oh, Baen had bestsellers, but they were more a midlist house.
So advances with other houses were bigger, and prestige was immeasurably higher.
Well… The times they are achanging. The collapse of the chains; amazon; the internet where people can find out about books that were publishing put paid to the cozy gentleman’s arrangement of yore. Even when these people are getting published, their advances are smaller, and they have to compete with all the great unwashed for sales. They no longer feel their own specialness.
For some of us this was a wonderful freeing thing – we could be ourselves and never mind that we might lose a little money (we didn’t.)
But for people whose only thought has been to kiss as much derriere as possible so they could be the biggest darling around, and get pushed and called wonderful by the NYC houses, this HAS to be a scary and unstable time.
So, how to keep the “followers” in line that will at least give them some prestige and cash?
Simple. If you have nothing to offer; if your incompetence is glaringly obvious; if you can’t entice
voters readers, scare them of the other side. Tell them what monsters the other guys are. How they are terrible horrible scary. Make people ashamed of admitting they read these Haters McHateys.
The problem with that is that this tactic works about as well as crying wolf. After a while the fatigue of all denunciations will set in. And having found how exaggerated ONE accusation is, these people will never believe the next group-madness episode. And then people start believing everything you say is a lie and believing the opposite. It’s inevitable. And I know it is because it was a similar process that brought me out of the left. (Though I never arrived at believing the exact opposite of everything they say. They’re not that reliable. And I ain’t surrendering my right to think things through for myself.)
You can create scarecrows all you want to, but after a while even dumb birds realize these are just clothes stuffed with straw.
“It is the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil.”
And most children eventually grow up.