I’ve been meaning to write a long post about the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop, but life has been fraught since we came back, so it waited till today. And now it’s going to get somewhat highjacked (sorry) by … idiocy surrounding the shirt of a man who landed on a comet. Which means the real post about the workshop will come later, again.
First of all I want to thank my friend and Baen books colleague Les Johnson who is a real scientist and who invited me to this, for reasons I don’t fully grasp but I’m very grateful for. I suspect it was a conjunction of “has an interest” and “can take time and pinch pennies to come.”
Dan went too, because I couldn’t go to a space thing without him. I think it is in fact in our marriage vows “shall not go listen to space stuff without me.” I don’t know. The vows were in Portuguese and I might be missing a bit of the translation at this point. But he says it was in it.
We went early on Saturday, so we could take the Seminars on Sunday on terraforming and interstellar flight. The interesting part of the later is that Les had managed to convey most of it to me already, in helping me with my story for Going Interstellar. These were 101 seminars, but I needed to do them because – for those of you who’ve heard – another Heinlein child in the aerospace industry has convinced me we must write juveniles like Heinlein’s on things that children could hope to live when they’re grownup. I think it’s doable, but I needed my level-set on state of the art.
The rest of the next three days was spent listening to some of the most devoted proponents of space flight and interstellar colonization.
I’ll note right here that women were about one in five people – none of which mattered, I was just jazzed to be in the show. – more on that later.
I have voluminous notes elsewhere. The stuff on worldships is fascinating, as is just the… psychological intersection of a (relatively) short lived species and the dream of the stars.
Which is where everything comes to a point. Part of my prevailing issue was people talking about “we can get there in a thousand years.” “If we set it in motion now…”
I fully agree we should go, don’t get me wrong. We are a colonizing species by design and makeup. The “long lived” civilizations on Earth that eschewed colonization (okay, China) seem to be caught in a recursive loop and ever-increasing conformity.
We must look outward to save the Earth civilization.
On the other hand, HOW CAN one make a plan that will take a thousand years? Be it in a worldship or here on Earth?
We can’t. A quarter that is the distance to our founding. A thousand years ago we were busy with the crusades. Our aims, aspirations, our very civilization changes in much shorter periods than that. Some of the motives in Shakespeare and Jane Austen are already unintelligible without concentrated study.
Which brings us to why I was there and why I think the seminar is amazing and necessary, and why I’ll go back in a year and a half, if they let me.
There is a bit in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress where Mycroft says, about an “impossible” invention (I think it was transmuting matter) something like “It is a mathematical certainty we’ll develop this, the question is when.” And then explains that kind of conceptual breakthrough requires a “genius event” and those can’t be predicted. They’re the result of genetic drift and recombination.
I feel the same way about interstellar flight. It HAS to be possible and we – curious monkeys – will find a way to do it. The question is when. And also, remember what I said about civilizations turning inward and becoming recursive? We must not let that happen. Going out there, past our solar system, might not be possible right now, given who we are and the distances involved.
But it will be possible someday, at which point having people who kept their eyes on the stars and have studied some of the issues is important too. Which is also why it’s important to write and explore REAL science fiction. By that I don’t mean hard science fiction. Yes, I came back from Knoxville with a fistful of story ideas that will be sent to Analog by the by, and a few more that will be integrated in my future history, BUT – this is important – science fiction is not just what we know now. Science fiction about space marines, folded space, colonization of interstellar vasty deeps, all of that is “REAL” science fiction, if the author approaching it approaches it with the mind set of “how will it be?” and not “I’m going to write a story about how my minority/gender class is exploited now and set it in the future to evangelize the geeks.
I fell in love with science fiction at 11 because of that “speculate about the future so you’re prepared when it gets here” aspect.
And it’s an important aspect, and it must be worked on. Because, yeah, that genius breakthrough MIGHT come through in a thousand or two thousand years. Or it could come through tomorrow. And we have to be ready/have people who are used to thinking in that scale.
When I was at the workshop I kept thinking (and one of the speakers (I’d have to find my notes to know who and since I’m not allowed to bend down because of the eye issue, the briefcase sits unpacked) said this explicitly) this must have been what Science fiction was like in the thirties and forties. Most of the people in the room had scientific training (and none made me feel bad) and were passionate about the future and about space.
Which brings us back to the ratio of men and women. And to the shameful incident this week, in which the despicable Rose Eveleth at the Atlantic bullied Dr. Matt Taylor into apologizing, in tears, for wearing a shirt with women with rayguns on it.
Rose Eveleth is the fluffer who wrote the piece about Lekie and science fiction starting to give awards to women in SF again, in response to which I wrote this. (And yes, I know a few male names escaped the slash and burn I did on the rawish data uncle Lar sent me. Because he didn’t know many of the names, some ambiguous names got in, and I cut (most) of them out, but it’s hard to highlight and cut with my mouse at present, so a few escaped. In the same way, I almost guarantee if I had time to filter the raw data, that Uncle Lar missed some females with unusual names, that I’d know because I know their work, or at least heard of it.)
Why a woman who can’t even do her own research for her own articles should be allowed to bully a man who as part of a team (incidentally led by a woman) landed on a comet is beyond me. Or rather it isn’t. It’s a symptom of the sickness in our society.
The sickness can be defined as this: we are trying to remake women into men, and in the process we castrate men and we release profoundly wounded women out into society, who think they should be what they cannot be and therefore lash out at all and sundry from a core of hatred inside them. And society aids and abets them, due to the bizarre idea that men and women should be exactly alike and equally represented in all endeavors or society is “sexist.”
I’m going to say it once and for all – men and women are different. They were subjected to different evolutionary pressures.
Note I didn’t say one is better and the other worse. That is where we’ve gone all batty, because the feminists say women are better and prove this by trying to make women like men.
Men and women are different. And according to my son’s class on evolutionary psychology, they’re not even different in a way you’d expect. For instance men are better at highly focused work and women at multitasking. Women are usually better at reading non verbal signals, etc.
Beyond that there are instinctive drives. MOST women want to have children, even when you berate them about this constituting a sell out.
Here’s the thing – men and women are different as categories. Not as individuals. What I mean is, I was an odd boyish girl, not in presentation but in interests. The ratio of females at the TVIW was high compared to the groups I preferred as a child/young person (note preferred isn’t often got.)
There are women who are passionately interested in science and engineering. I was one of those, and if I had realized that my penchant for scrambling numbers was beatable and workaroundable (totally words) and not a sign I was “stupid” I’d have ignored mom and gone into mechanical engineering, anyway. (She was afraid I’d get knocked up in a class of all guys. Fundamental misunderstanding of WHY I wanted to go into engineering and also the social couth of most engineers.)
But most women, that vast middle mush (women are mostly just average for IQ, or a little above. Men statistically speaking cluster at the ends of the bell curve: morons and geniuses, one of the ways in which “are men smarter than women?” is only answerable with “no” and “It’s complicated.”) don’t want to learn that stuff. Most of them have very little room for abstraction in their lives.
Heck, even I, with my untrained mind, jotted down mostly “social developments related to this innovation” ideas. Most women don’t become fanatics about some scientific project to the exclusion of all else.
Which is why in the hobbies (and most people at the interstellar workshop most participants are hobbyists in the sense of not paid for) that rely on high abstraction, extrapolation, mathematical know how, etc, you find mostly men. This is everything from space societies to mathematical societies, to even war gaming.
There no one is trying to force women in, because there’s no money at stake (though that might change with the new incursion into gaming by the sisterhood brigades) and there you can see the ratios of who really wants to do this.
Note that in these circles of men, any woman who is GENUINELY INTERESTED, even if not trained in the field is not only welcome but treated as a star. Because, you know, most men like women, and love having women around in their circles, women who validate their interests. (I think it goes something like “I’m not uncool. Look, this hot chick likes the stuff I do.” (and note for these purposes, I count as a hot chic at 52 and battling weight issues.))
What they don’t like is women who come in and try to change the game so they can “win.” I don’t think it’s news to anyone that men obsessed by an important topic are often not great on the social graces. Because the topic is what’s important. The women equally interested in the topic account for this, and might now and then gently redirect intercourse into a more normal pattern, but they DON’T shame geeks for being geeks or for their idiosyncrasies, as the despicable Ms. Eveleth sought to do.
Of course, she needed to do that, because compared to the deeds of men and women who can land on comets, her mind appears petty, vulgar and effete. Which, of course, it is. The proper response to that is to either stop faking interest in topics that visibly don’t interest her or to inform herself or if – like me – her education was cut short for whatever reason, she should listen from a position of humility to those who know more than she does.
But humility is unknown to the contemporary “feminist” who has retained nothing save the idea that women should be superior to men in all things, and if they aren’t this is proof of sexism.
And thus the “Social Justice” Whiners trundle on, changing the rules of every field they take over to fit their small minds and miniscule concerns, so they can claim to be “as good as men” without any of the effort. In this process they turn everything they touch into a cross between the mean girls club in high school and a neighborhood sewing circle. I have nothing against a neighborhood sewing circle. I’ve belonged to some. But there are places and times for it. And places and times for big, world shattering, species-changing concerns.
What I want to say is this: we can’t let them. What they’ve done to science fiction is a poisonous disgrace, that has turned a speculative and highly innovative field into a pimple on the rump of paranormal romance and romantic fantasy. (Not that there is anything wrong with those genres, but they shouldn’t be cannibalizing science fiction, nor would they be if science fiction had retained its original thrust.)
Understand, I’m not saying we shouldn’t write about possible social developments in the future. As an historian, I’m almost unable to look at something like a worldship and not see the social (and biological) issues that arise, and how they can be countered.) Will we have social problems in the future? Undoubtedly. And writing about them is fascinating.
But the people who write about it from today’s perspective, really, are shorting the future in favor of the social (and mostly herd-learned, not original) concerns of the present.
Yeah, yeah, racism in the future, sure. It’s bound to exist, given that humans identify “my tribe” instinctively. It’s the way we’re made. On the other hand, will it have anything to do with skin color and hair texture? Or will it be based on the modifications we take on in colonizing different environments? Or even “natural” and “bio engineered”? Compared to those differences skin color seems petty.
In the same way the interaction between men and women is bound to be fascinating, particularly as some form of bio-womb is invented. But it is highly unlikely to stay stuck in the 21st century neo-marxian narrative of “everything men do is wrong.”
It’s unlikely to stay stuck there, because if it’s stuck there we will not survive. Because women will bring their concerns to forums in which most of them (note I didn’t say all. I’m not writing myself out of this story) have no interest. Because “parity” and “feminism.” And in the process they’ll destroy outer space exploration, make it petty and ineffectual, in the same way they’re now trying to do to Science Fiction and gaming.
Women who like space exploration, or science fiction, or gaming are already perfectly welcome in those fields. Welcome with open arms, in fact.
Women who want to change them to be all about social justice and neo Marxism and a kind of ridiculous self-absorption that could only interest the subject and her giggly-girls club (see Lena Dunham) need not apply.
Because the truth, Ms. Eveleth, is that women who have an interest in space exploration will not be put off by a scientist’s shirt showing pretty women in next to nothing, holding ray guns. THOSE women – I’m one of them – will think it’s cool. They will dive into the field with renewed interest because there are Odd men there, and only Odd men get Odd girls, the same girls your cliques tend to treat as pariahs because we don’t wear the right clothes and we don’t emit the required bleats at the right time.
I know you’ll never get this, but you can keep your “social justice” and your damned Marxist-derived feminism.
I want my ray guns and my spaceships.