I didn’t want to write about this. Eric S. Raymond was one of my beta readers for Darkship Thieves, and has been a friendly acquaintance for a long time, even if we haven’t been in touch for a long time.
So I didn’t want to write about his article, because I … Well, it’s not even that I disagree with his views on the situation, it’s more like he’s looking at it upside down and sideways, so until we clarify that position, there’s nothing doing in terms of agree or disagree.
But everyone keeps sending me this, and it’s come to my attention that in terms of my making a living from writing, this is friendly fire (I don’t view ESR as an enemy) of the worst possible kind. It will put off the people who would enjoy my work and attract a lot of people who will be offended by it.
First of all, he puts the ELoE and the academic left in SF as equal and opposing forces, each wanting to take science fiction in its own direction.
This is wrong. Well, it’s entirely possible this is true of The Bannished One (name omitted to avoid trolls.) I don’t know. I haven’t read much of his work or blog. I know that his work at least from what I heard is not political. His blog is. I used to read it now and then back in the days when instapundit linked him, and I have to say that while I agree with him in some things (I agree with the other side in some things too.) I have as many if not more points of variance with him than the other side does. They’re different. His remarkable infatuation with Europe, for instance, makes someone who grew in Europe as a native facepalm and say, (as I do very rarely) “OMG, only an American would believe this.” The “askew” from “innocents abroad” permeates a lot of his writing from international politics to economy. Maybe it wouldn’t bother anyone else. Certainly it doesn’t bother the left who makes many of the same assumptions. But it drives me nuts.
Now, The Banished One is entitled to having whatever views he wants to have, and I’m the last person alive to say he must have mine or he can’t be a science fiction writer. (And it’s entirely possible he’s right and I’m wrong. I don’t think so, but we’re all colored by our past and our upbringing.) I’m just saying his blog rubs me wrong so often I haven’t done more than dip in and look at this or that when it relates to sf/me. So I haven’t a clue whether he wants to silence the left. (I object to calling them rabbits, as I understand that’s The Banished One’s term.) I haven’t a clue whether he wants to push them out of sf/f writing. I wouldn’t THINK so, but I don’t know for sure.
As for the rest of the ELoE, John C. Wright is more socially conservative than I am, but I don’t think he attempts to impose it except by proselytizing which is within permissible means. And Larry and I just want to write stories, make money and have fun. Sure, his view of government leaks into his books. And it leaks into my science fiction. But that’s because things written by someone tend to reflect that person’s opinion.
I know none of the three of us wants to “cleanse” science fiction from people of different political opinions. For one, I think, should we start, we’d find enough divergence amid the three of us to keep us fighting FOREVER.
The other side does want us to “shut up and go away” but since they are quite without the means to do so, now that there’s indie and while there’s Baen, I couldn’t care less what they think or want.
They remind me very much of when my kids were toddlers and throwing a fit and we’d laugh at them, which made them switch to “Shut up” and “Stop that.” Sometimes to the point of climbing on our laps and trying to hold our lips shut. It just made us laugh harder.
There is, and there will always be a place for the type of sf/f they want to write. It doesn’t sell much. (I know, my first fantasy trilogy, aka the Shakespeare trilogy was considered literary, and when the numbers came in, I was flabbergasted and talked to friends working in the same vineyard. It really doesn’t sell much. It used to get fairly high advances compared to sell through because prestige. More on that later.)
Second – I don’t oppose the left side of SF for ideological reasons. I oppose them because they bore me to death. My very favorite author, Terry Pratchett is an European-centrist which in American terms is kind of sort of left and kind of sort of a right we don’t have. (Right in the sense of respecting authority and constituted authority. Left in the way of viewing the individual as subordinate to society.) His views on gun control are funny. His views on monetary policy are hair-raisingly scary. And yet, I still read every book of his as soon as it comes out, even now when they’ve devolved into a sort of Pratchett fan-fic. Why? Because he’s not BORING.
However, I disagree with ESR about the idea that their leftism and what they write isn’t linked. Of course it is.
Look, Marxism is and has always been a narrow church. You have to agree with the current interpretation of the script (prestige and the fact most of the left in sf/f are academics plays into this too, but more on that later.) This is how all American communists about-faced when the Hitler-Stalin pact broke.
“But Sarah,” you’ll say. “These are not communists!”
Well, in fact a few of them are, admitted communists. There is a “young communists” club and it’s considered hip and cool. (Young as in their early forties. Poor rats.)
And even the ones who would squirm at being called “communists” will admit to socialist, and will defend communism and crush on “heroes” like Che Guevara, oblivious to the record to deaths the Marxist philosophy has left behind. (Read The Black Book of Communism, which I have reason to believe is soft pedaled.)
Now, it’s true that they don’t have “party discipline” as such, but it’s a mistake to think that what holds the left in lockstep is some kind of “party discipline.”
They are Marxist, many without realizing it, a few because they think it’s a good thing and valid, because they were taught to be Marxist. They were taught this was the social signaling for “cool” and that this is what makes them “smart.” Because of that they are as beholden for their opinions to the “party line” as the most slavish communist party member.
Because Marxism is internally inconsistent, the interpretation of it, and what is considered “the right” opinion changes every so often, sometimes abruptly. For instance, in the seventies it was believed that being gay was a matter of choice, and all leftists proclaimed this. (I think it was wrong, but that’s neither here nor there.) Now the idea is that it’s inborn. (I this this is also wrong, and it’s a combination of genetics and environmental factors, probably before the kid is even born. BUT that’s because I was born in a village and I have the benefit of centuries of family histories.) Proclaiming the wrong idea at the wrong time would make all the Marxists scream “fascist.”
This same type of mentality is why their novels neither surprise nor enlighten nor reflect anything about the human condition. Most of these people live in fear of saying the wrong word and being cast out into the outer darkness of the “conservative” and “uncool.”
This was not always so, and Eric has a point it is so now because the “cool” SF is a subset of academic posturing. I.e. these people are mostly college professors, and mostly they want to be admired by their kind. Having tumbled on to the fact that science fiction is not admired in academia, they’ve been trying to change that ever since… oh, the seventies at least.
It’s a doomed effort, because for mainstream writers, even those who in fact write science fiction but don’t call it that, science fiction is frozen in a fifties that never happened. No matter how many awards the left give to stories full of inchoate longing for awards, their colleagues will always view SF as “girl passed out in monster’s arms, pursued by robots.”
But good Lord, if they want to spend their entire lives in a futile endeavor, who am I to stop them?
They can’t stop me doing what I want, so who cares?
Other than the fact that they took over SFWA and made it even more useless than it needed to be, why should I care?
Third – But if I stop talking about my politics, they might then listen to me on the criticism front.
Oh, hell no. (Rolls eyes.)
Look, first, no, they won’t listen to me. I actually do have the credentials to critique them, having a degree in Modern Language and Literature from an excellent college and having read more, both literature and literary criticism, than you could shake a dried up stick of a college professor at. H*ll I ENJOY the stuff. It bewilders my STEM degree sons when I get excited over a poem, and I don’t think relationship with younger son ever recovered from my admission that Jorge Luis Borges is one of my favorite writers.
But that’s all besides the point. I’m not teaching English/Literature at a prestigious university. And h*ll, even if I were it would make no difference, because the minute I set myself up against what they’ve been taught is good/cool, I become one of the lepers. (Kind of like no one asks Dr. Sowell about economics, but they fall over themselves on that fraud, Krugman.) So, yeah, I could explain to them why their stuff, yay, indeed, sucketh mightily. But then they’d just call me fascist.
In fact, they decided I was “fascist” BECAUSE I opposed the drumming out of Malzberg and Resnick (neither of them men of the right, mind) for the crime of using the word “ladies” not because of my political opinions.
The second part of this is that I’m NOT going to stop expressing political opinions on this blog.
Look, for years my livelihood was dependent on keeping on the right (left) side of that list of things you must believe. If I deviated or expressed the wrong opinion even by implication, in a book, even in a way I didn’t notice, it meant I’d never work again.
Now, because writing is something that comes from who you are, it will in itself, reflect you. So I never cloaked well enough to get the promotion, the push and the prestige (“be one of the darlings” as we call it.) But I cloaked enough to stay employed. And it almost killed me.
When Darkship Thieves did well, and I got the possibility of going indie, it literally stopped me walking off. I’d had the talk with my husband that said “I can’t stand this anymore. I have to speak or burst. And I can’t watch myself all the time anymore.” We’d agreed after I delivered the two due books, I could walk off into the sunset and write fanfic or whatever. We were going to sell the house (we should have anyway) and cut our expenses, and I was going to see about starting some crafting business or something. Something that didn’t get in my thoughts and censor them.
I express my opinions – though rarely outright political, though I will admit to the fact this administration’s creepy combination of Marxism and incompetence and hippie-dippie pacifism is giving me the creeps – in this blog because I think it’s important. We are in a cold civil war at the heart of which is not the war for science fiction, but the war for civilization itself.
(This is another blog in itself, but the loss of cultural confidence by Western civilization after World War I as allowed horrors and barbarism to persist that should long since have been glared out of the face of the Earth. And yes, Western Civ has done some horrible things – but so have all other human civilizations and at least we no longer stone our adulteresses or kill people for being gay or the wrong religion. A little admission of our own accomplishments and values could go a long way.)
I will talk about what catches my mind. If it’s political, so be it. Because it’s painfully arrived at step by step on my own, it will often disagree with both sides. And then the left will proclaim me “fascist” because they’re the ones with the unbending, inflexible agenda. A lot of you reading this say “she’s to the left of me on—” but you don’t call me “communist” and storm off in a huff.
Of course, tarring their opponents with the same brush, and then calling them the most extreme thing they can think of is and has been a weapon and a tactic of the left across the world. In Europe social democrats get called “fascist” (people with whom they only have – sometimes – in common the nationalistic aspect of their ideology.) So do libertarians in the US, which is even crazier. Capital L libertarians aren’t even nationalists, and those of us – small l – who are are nationalist in a different way than anyone in Europe. Our loyalty is not to race, blood, and imagined genetic superiority, but to a bunch of documents that proclaim principles of life, liberty and pursuit of (individual) happiness. But we get called “fascist” because we oppose communism/socialism. Same as it’s ever been, all across the world.
Fourth – Why I had to write this, and why the whole thing matters to me: If I am anything definable in politics it’s “Heinlein libertarian” and even there I differ from him in some respects. (For instance while I think group marriages should be allowable, I also think they’re their own punishment.)
This does not define me as “right” in either the American or the European spectrum. Granted, it also doesn’t define me as left.
I don’t think people belong to the government, I think government belongs to the people and I am one small objective “equalite” (as defined as total equality, not equality under the law) from agreeing with the people who started the French revolution. (The people who finished it are more like the other side of the spectrum, including the mandatory atheism. Eh.)
I believe you need to have some very important COLLECTIVE reason – like mutual defense – to take money from people by force (all government is force, all of it enforced by guns, be they in the hands of the police or the army.) I don’t believe “to give to school administrators” is reason enough. (Though I do believe it’s in the general interest to make sure children know how to read, even those whose parents won’t teach them. Then again, this current system doesn’t do THAT, let alone anything else.) I don’t believe it is in the general interest to give money to companies (solyndra) to develop pie in the sky green tech and/or to put limits on what fuel we can burn. Yeah, the environment belongs to everyone. But my money doesn’t. And decisions made by scientifically illiterate people who have power over the army and police are not enough reason to confiscate the money I made.
In the same way, I believe marriage is an intensely private matter. To the extent it produces children, it might be of some interest to government, but I still don’t think that interest is important enough to justify taking from Paul to give to Peter. Look, there should be a better way to legalize/register unions than at the tender mercy of the government. And the tax breaks, etc (which are not nearly sufficient, anyway, as any family with kids will tell you) should go to families with children, not to people who just signed a paper/had a ceremony of their faith together.
And while we’re at it, no, I don’t care what you are, but you have no right to force a church to bless a union against their principles. If the little church of the united KKK doesn’t want to bless mixed race marriages, that’s THEIR issue, not yours. Yes, their beliefs might be repugnant (they would be, if they existed) but that doesn’t give you the right to infringe upon them. We either have freedom of religion or we don’t.
Now, do I expect my beliefs to come to be the dominant ones, absent massive disruption? Oh, heck no.
See where government is force. This means it normally attracts people who want to exert force. The chances of getting people who take over and leave you ruthlessly alone is not high. (And no, I’m not running. That’s what I threaten G-d with, when the book sales dip. Weirdly, they always come right back up after that. Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m also heretical. Such is life.)
The point is that being listed as a member of the Evil League of Evil amused me. I even have a mug with a portrait of me as a beautiful but evil space princess up on zazzle.
That’s fine, because it’s so ridiculous.
But it’s a problem when a neutral/sympathizer like Eric S. Raymond lends it credence. It’s a problem at both ends.
The minute someone gets it into their head that you’re “right wing” what they see is not “I don’t particularly like government, get out of my land or I shoot” – they see the image of the opponents of the left that the left has been pushing through its monopoly on entertainment, news and education for almost a century.
What they see is someone who is uneducated, not very smart (left is the PERSTIGE position) probably is both a millionaire and lives in a trailer park (this part they never seem to pin down. Evil rich or destitute? Eh.) hates working people, hates other races, thinks gays should be treated as the Taliban does indeed treat them, and is a fundamentalist Christian in a way that no fundamentalist Christian is.
None of the people they pushed into the ELoE fits that, not even the Banished One. But I stand perhaps on the extreme side from him as not fitting.
For one, both by skin color and religion and background, I would offend that cardboard cutout a lot. Possibly to the point of death. (Not that it matters, since I’ve yet to meet anyone on the right who IS like that.)
Again, the image is laughable, and that’s why I embraced it in fun. BUT when a friendly lends it credence, people are going to start looking at it as true, or more than likely true.
And while the idea the left has of the right is out of place, there are some points of slight contact.
Someone who reads about how I’m a “moralist” and a right winger is going to be very upset at A Few Good Men where the main character and the main romance are gay. Or even Witchfinder, where the secondary romance is gay. They just are. And the more upset at the excess of feminism, will take exception to the fact that Thena in Darkship Thieves is physically stronger than most men and takes no cr*p from nobody. (There’s a world building reason for that, and well, Thena has issues. – Shut up. She is TOTALLY not autobiographical.)
And then there’s my fantasies, which have no politics at all, and certainly don’t preach moral to anyone. Mine or the left’s.
And there’s the fact that while, if forced to write all literary fantasy all the time I’d slit my wrists, I’m not going to promise I’ll never write “literary” anything. (As soon as one promises not to do something in writing, it’s when one does it, of course.)
So this article by ESR worries me. It might very well scare away potential fans and bring in a lot of people who will get upset my opinions aren’t “pure” enough.
That said, I believe he meant well, and think his point about SF/F having been taken by the side that wants prestige over money is true.
I also don’t think we can do anything about it. Or need to.
Likely traditional publishing – other than Baen – will eventually become a prestige thing, a way to signal you’re among the ‘smart’ and ‘enlightened’ as defined by universities.
And the rest of us, who aspire more to the career of Dumas than of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (that friend of Castro!) what can we do?
Well, for years what we could do was “not publish.” But there’s an indie for that.
Yeah, we might not get the awards or the fawning upon. Like I care. My favorite expression of admiration for my work comes with “pay to the order of.”
So, other than making fun of them now and then (but “if you were a science fiction writer, my love” you’d be far less mockable) because they are so much fun to mock and because it might give other people the courage to say “I too don’t buy the entire lefty list of enforced beliefs”, I couldn’t in fact care less what they do or say.
They can continue writing and fighting for their little pool of true believers.
As for me and my people, we have worlds to create.