So I’ve been cleaning and thinking, two very bad habits of mine, particularly while combined. And what I was thinking, specifically was this: when did the SF/F field become the play ground of Social Justice Warriors? Why and how did they get entry, cache and power as gatekeepers?
Someone in an earlier post blamed Heinlein and Stranger, but he was wrong. Heinlein was doing what he did very well: flowing with the times. Almost everyone with a really long career can and does that. Most people don’t have long careers because they’re creatures of the moment and of one obsession. Hence, for instance, when a great big fad fades, it takes most careers (horror, spy thrillers, for ex.) in that subgenre.
New Wave was already there at least in proto-form when Heinlein wrote Stranger, and hippies already had an interest in science fiction, or at least in science fiction as it pertained to “new consciousness” and creative sexual arrangements. (They were never so much with the colonization of new planets or really interesting civilizations. I spent most of the seventies reading their idea of a colonization novel, in which every person who was interesting or morally upright in the book went mad and died despicable deaths.) (And no, I’m not going to look up the precise chronology, but I know the movement was there before stranger.)
And yep, some of it was an academic movement. Science fiction had acquired enough popularity the professors got interested and decided to redeem it. This meant attempts to make it respectable which in the way that academics interpret the worth of literature involve infusing it with Marxist values. Never mind.
However, even trying to be academic and self important, that movement hadn’t descended to the level of vacuous self-satisfied smugness of the SJWs (who always remind me of a toddler on the potty saying “Mommy, I pooped!)
More importantly though, one must ask why the field was open to this type of invasion and why the destructive people could take over, further weakening the field until it was so weak that what would a few years ago be considered rank amateurs writing and publishing their own stories can have better results than those people in NYC, in lavishly staffed publishing houses.
The answer is: follow the money.
No, seriously. Humans are many things, but one of them is creatures who work for a combination of three things: self-satisfaction, monetary recompense, and social positioning.
Years ago, when I hit a low point in my career and was incredibly burned out, I bought a book on how to combat the burnout. It said the perfect storm of burn out was created by: low remuneration, low status and workload out of one’s control. (The only thing it advised was to change careers, which is something writers don’t do easily or indeed at all. So I threw it away.)
I’ve found over time that their assessment of why people work is true. Also you need a lot of money to compensate for low status, and if you have low income, status will be sought.
Now consider that in the golden age of SF – let’s say the 30s to the 50s – authors were paid advances of around 5 to 10 k and that nowadays they are paid advances of around 5 to 10k, or at least that’s the range if you are a midlister. The darlings, of course, can make more, including millions, but that’s rare enough. Most of the fine flowers of SJWdom seem to be making 25 to 50k a book. But then they are expected to write a book no more than once every two years, and often much more. You do the math.
In the thirties, or even in the fifties you could support a family on something between 5 and 20k a year, depending on the size of the family and how lavish your lifestyle.
In the eighties, you might be able to do it on 20k a year (two books for your average midlister) depending on where you lived and how.
In the nineties… well, let me tell you, you probably needed at least 3 of those 10k advance books EVERY YEAR.
After that… Well, there was the year I wrote six books, and I netted way less than that, because some of them had 5k advances, and the others had delayed payment.
I grew up in a village. I smiled a little yesterday when Charlie said that for the woman to “have to work” was shameful even in the early sixties. It was shameful in the village, too, but “work” meant factory work, menial work, or work outside the home 9 to 5.
The truth is, I didn’t know any woman that DIDN’T work, and bring in at least half of the household income. (Mom brought in 90% of it for much of my early childhood.)
It took all of Dan’s finesse and fast talking to convince me it was okay to stay home and write, even when I was making hundreds a year (94 to 98.) The only reason I even considered it was that I had very small kids and I had seen enough daycare raised children not to want that for mine.
I once had an hilarious conversation with mom on the subject of what constituted “suitable work for a lady.” All I really remember was that she thought “buying and selling” was genteel enough but, say, painting walls wasn’t.
Dan and I who knew nothing about the field in recent years assumed (of course) that the superstars were few (they always are in a creative field) but that most people were making a living, at least if they wrote more than a book, wrote well enough to keep being published, etc.
So when I got my first advance for 5K I thought “well, it’s apprentice wages. Once I prove myself.” And indeed, my second book I got 10k. And there it stuck. (Right now, if you count indie, I average 12.5k per book. But with indie I have hope. I’ve heard stories.)
And then… I went to my first convention. All the writers – and most of them were women – fell into two categories: those who had a day job and had no expectation of quitting; and those who were supported by someone else.
I was raised in the village. And also I’m slightly insane. So I tried to write enough to bring in half of what Dan made. (Making what he made was a forlorn hope.) I sort of managed it, though I’ve fallen behind. However, my income is needed and vital (which is why I need to stop getting sick, etc, and get with the program) and so I continued. BUT my job was neither prestigious nor well regarded (well, maybe among you lot 😉 ) nor was I treated like I was making a valuable contribution. All the publishers but Baen treated me as fungible and also as an annoying part of the process of getting THEIR book out. Calls went unanswered. Warnings of the sort of “that cover will give people the wrong impression” went ignored. Even minor things like “do I have a pub date?” was treated as a great imposition. Proposals that had been requested might go unanswered for a year. IN NO OTHER FIELD (except maybe music) ARE SUPPLIERS TREATED THIS WAY.
Yes, I know, midlist, therefore low value. But is it? Midlist used to be the bread and butter of the craft.
Before houses stopped paying enough that writers could consider themselves workers, with a career.
Career means something you do for money; something that builds; something that responds to application and effort; something that allows you intrinsic satisfaction and a degree of respect.
None of these apply to writing.
And so the people it attracts are either people who don’t need the money or those who use writing SF as a way to bolster their real career which is either in academia or in society. I.e. these people can’t get the satisfaction of working for money, so they work to be admired. And the best way to incite the admiration of their circles is to parrot the cause du jour. In the eighties it was feminism, then it was gay rights, and now I’m reliably informed we’re going to trans rights, because it’s a tiny minority and therefore more rarified. I want to drop a marker here and say I totally owned that territory with Ill Met By Moonlight way back in the early oughts.
They can’t work for the money – though given some academic salaries, it’s probably a nice boost – so they work for “attaboys” (or mostly attagirls.)
The incidence of bullsh*t in the field goes up in proportion that writing stops being a real job and starts being a hobby, pursued for either the admiration of the writer’s circle or help in the writer’s real job.
This means pulling ever further (leftward) into “fighting for the underdog” – provided the underdog is one approved of in the goofier parts of the first world, and not, say, women who get their genitals mutilated in the third world.
And there you have it. How the SJWs conquered science fiction and took it down with them. And of course, the fact that they have the Mierdas touch and that everything they touch loses public favor/interest, means that there is less money in SF/F and so less money to pay (always) the writers. Which in turn brings even more dilettanty dilettantes to the table and takes the field further into the carpper.
And so it would have continued, if it weren’t for indie which is giving SF/F a much needed shot in the arm. Of course it means the SJWs will also get more and more shrill in proportion to their lost power.
I predict we’ll reach supersonic whining levels within ten years.
I suggest we kick them while they’re down and make them fight for the awards and prestige they crave. Also, that we point at them and make duck noises.
So, go forth. If you can, sign up for a supporting membership so you can nominate non SJWs for the Hugos. (Think of the poor dears having to wonder if they’ve rigged the process ENOUGH to keep out those low prestige barbarians!)
And if you can’t, keep reading and writing the good stuff.
Keep making money. Money in the field will make it so declasse that it will drive away all the darling dilettantes. Catch them being associated with vile lucre.
Let’s make SF/F popular again. Let’s drive the dilettantes back to their beloved garrets where they can starve in genteel poverty, knowing they’re better than us.
Do it for the children — and the puppies