So my eyes on Twitter who secretly hates me and wants me to go rabid and start biting the cats or something, has been reporting on the very deep musings of one of the SFWA SJWs. Normally, you know, I read these and shrug, or rolls my eyes so much they’re in risk of falling out and becoming cat toys. But this time, this time the random musings of this special (unfortunately, Alas, not wall) flower struck me as odder than normal and as betraying strange assumptions about the world.
I’m not going to name her, not because I’m afraid she’ll troll this blog – I’m fairly sure she does, at least intermittently and that it fuels her mini-rages – but because there is something vaguely indecent in making fun of the mentally ill.
In the same way we’ll sort of gloss over her latest reported eructation which is that many people need to sit down, shut up and listen. THAT is just because this young (waggles hand) woman is not just privileged, she is one of the very privileged who have never had to face any hardship from birth and never had to work for a living. Which has allowed her to preserve the unconscious egotism of the three year old stomping her foot and wishing the adults would just shut up and listen!
That’s not interesting. It is chortle worthy in an adult woman fast approaching what at any other time and place would be considered middle age, but not interesting.
It just makes me roll my eyes again, and think if we really banned bossy (not the word but the stupid order-giving behavior of women (or men, for that matter) without the life experience or authority to run their own kitchen, this woman would go around with duct tape across her mouth, or possibly her fingers.
And while that image is funny, it’s definitely mean.
So, we’ll avert our eyes from it and go into her other… uh… insights.
Apparently, our hero (well, she would object to being called heroine, because the same vagina she glories in cannot be acknowledged when referring to anything she does, because apparently she’s so convinced a vagina is a handicap that any terms implying one has one – heroine, actress, lady – is immediately an insult) has been to a science fiction convention, (and how thrilling this must have been for the other people) and would like to inform the world that there are a lot of old men in science fiction who mistakenly think they are relevant to science fiction.
This was the pronouncement that made my jaw drop and made me stare at the screen.
We’ll start at the end, shall we? What the heck is “relevant to science fiction?” No, I’m absolutely dead serious.
Sure I can tell you, looking back at the history of science fiction that some writers and some editors were very relevant to the history of science fiction. The field would be completely different without say Campbell, Hugo Gernsback, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov or Bradbury.
There are two reasons these people were so influential and we know they were influential. The first one is that the distribution went through a bottle neck. Not a huge one. There were a lot of magazines publishing stories, but even so, if you wanted to publish a science fiction short story, you had to go through the magazines.
And the second is that these people hit a current of work that was highly popular and resonated with the mass of people in their time. These people pulled readers into science fiction and made them dream. This meant a lot of the kids reading those magazines grew up wanting to write like these men.
And that’s what made them “relevant” and now part of the “relevant history.”
It wasn’t some proclamation from on high, or some pronouncement from above, but the simple fact they were very popular.
So… our SJW is doing what to be very popular and “relevant” to the field? Oh, yeah. Screaming we must be inclusive and have more minorities and women. And that science fiction serves the ends of “social justice.”
Puts hand to forehead.
Look, I’m not saying there are no women or minorities who read and write. I’m not stupid. In fact there are many more than those paraded as tokens at the awards. And there have always been.
They are a minority in science fiction – the minorities, not the women, who despite being considered a minority are actually a majority, in science fiction as in the rest of things – because they are a minority in the population. But that’s all right because a field that enjoys reading about purple tentacle aliens won’t even register someone who tans a little better as a character, and many of the white, male (and female) authors write minorities without making a big deal about it.
The Social Justice (a compound name that denies both the parts) otoh is a problem, because even at its best, where it reflects an actual problem in or current society it is – at the very best – reflecting a problem in our society right now and projecting it to the future.
Yes, I know. All literature classes in college – I have a degree in the stuff, okay? – told you that science fiction is only permissible because “it’s a disguised critique of today’s society.” They were wrong, okay? Oh, sure, the masters, like Heinlein, included aspects of today’s society in their books. They were after all writing for today’s people. But – and this will be really hard for the SJWs to understand – people don’t read fiction to reflect on the wrongs of society or the very deep problems of our day.
People read fiction – except that “literary” fiction that is read to show your friends how smart you are. That can be as boring as you wish – to be entertained. Most of them know the problems in society today, and if all you’re doing is moaning about how bad things are, the book is going to go against the wall and they won’t buy others from you.
Can you slip a new insight into their minds, while entertaining them? Sure. Can you slip one in while berating them? Only if they have some sort of psychological problem.
Yes, sure, you can right now write or edit a book that hits all the Social Justice Whiners’ points, and which will win all the awards. But what portion of the reading public – not just the public who attends conventions – will remember this book in ten years? In what way is that book relevant for science fiction, except to make people write more books like that as bait for increasingly irrelevant (if not counterproductive, sales wise) awards?
And that’s the other important side of it. “The reading public who attends conventions” is probably what 1/100th the people who read, even the people who read science fiction and fantasy.
I was recently advising a friend on what to do with his first novel, and had to tell him that he had to make a choice depending on what he wanted. He could go for a long wait, a small advance and some name recognition at conventions (I don’t think he’d get high name recognition, at least with only one book, but I could, of course, be wrong) or he could go with putting it on line, making the equivalent of an advance in the next three months and being an absolutely unknown at conventions.
I don’t remember it if was Hugh Howey (but I think so) who, having sold a bazillion (give or take) books was a total unknown at a con.
So our hero has some issues when she says that these “old men” are totally irrelevant to science fiction.
First I’m going to assume these “old men” are men who are about ten years older than our brave SJW, since that’s what she was calling “old” before. Oh, older than that too, but starting at about that point. So they’re middle aged and came in when the system was far more concentrated and there was no competition from indie.
That means they’re more likely to be known with the public at large than just about anyone who has published/will publish in recent times. Because it’s a matter of market share, see? These men’s books were in grocery stores, or at least in bookstores back in the times of yore when people actually went to bookstores.
Yes, sure, in the history of sf written by SJWs these men will be ignored. Okay. But who will even read those histories, except college professors who were always more than a little sneering towards our field? And who cares what they think?
Which brings me to the next point – and a point that’s relevant not just to science fiction – (yes, which is why I’m burying it this late in the post. Deal. I haven’t had caffeine): Who in heck goes through life aiming to be “relevant” to something or other? By which I assume it’s meant making an impact in something or other that makes them part of the history of the field?
“Well Sarah, do you want to be irrelevant?”
Uh. To be blunt and honest, there are things I’d like to change and habits of thinking I’d like to illuminate/examine. As for “relevance”? It’s neither here nor there to me.
I have published 23 books. I have two more under contract, and a bunch more started/almost finished. Will I be relevant to the field? Will anyone remember me two minutes after I’m dead?
Pardon me if I don’t give a good goddamn about it.
Oh, sure, assuming there is an afterlife where one still takes an interest in what goes on on Earth, it might be a case of warm fuzzies to have fans acclaim me after my death. Or perhaps it will be more a case of embarrassment, you know, like finding out your kindergarten class still reads your essay on how much you love your dog every year thirty years later.
I can’t even imagine a mind set in which that matters. I want to write now; I want to be read and making a living from it now; and I want to know that I did what John Wright mentioned in an essay recently “my book came to someone on her darkest day, and made that day better.” I want to do that because I have had books do that for me. I’ve had books that if they didn’t save my life saved my sanity that day or week or month. They provided me a place to hide when reality was unbearable and allowed me to regain my balance.
That I’d like to do – as a stretch goal. The first goal is making a living – That is a worthy endeavor. But being “relevant” and having college professors make appreciative noises over my books? (Shrug.) As if I could care.
And it hit me that the problem with these exquisitely indoctrinated flowers of social justice is that they never think. They were taught in school that history moves in one direction and that you have to be “on the right side of history” and they believe it as piously as any religiously indoctrinated group.
They think that their “progressive” beliefs will be validated and applauded in the future. (In this they ignore history, like the history of the USSR or most Eastern Europe or for that matter, even China.) They think if they carry the ball of Marxism just a little further and score a touchdown, or even just repeat previously won goals, they will be acclaimed by future generations, world without end.
It never occurs to them that the future – if there is to be one – might take a sharp turn towards more individual freedom and get rid of the unproductive and deadly miasmas of Marxism. It never occurs to them the future might point and laugh at their oeuvre or, more likely, considering most of them aren’t read now, completely ignore them.
They live their lives posing for the future, like supermodels pouting for a camera that might be there.
But what they’re actually posing for is a mirror, and it’s as shallow and self-obsessed as they are.
It never occurs to them that Shakespeare – to name someone who is remembered and who had an influence in the world outside literary criticism – didn’t go through life trying to strike “progressive” poses so the future would admire him, and didn’t write so that he’d have an influence. They never think that he wrote because “Susannah needs shoes. And Nan has been nagging again about living next door to my parents, and when can we build the house I promised her when I came to London?”
And they never, ever, ever, think that “relevant” is the verdict of history written by people yet unborn, in a future that we (despite our profession) really cannot predict.
This is because none of them has ever had to live in real life. All they know about life, all they know about relevancy comes from books, movies and college classes.
So in the end, while I won’t tell them to sit down and shut up, mostly because when they don’t they are so dang entertaining, it never occurs to them that it is they, themselves, who are irrelevant or that their work will never give a moment of real pleasure or amusement to someone in a really bad place.
Go forth, my friends and labor to entertain, to amuse and to make a living. And let us be cheerfully irrelevant to a history that might or might not justify us.
We’re alive now. That is what matters. Better to labor and live and be forgotten than to have never lived except in dreams of honors to come.