No Excuses, No Regrets

No Excuses, No Regrets

 

I was talking to Charlie yesterday about the problem of “social justice writing.” By which we mean writing that is more concerned with conveying the “right message” delivered by the “approved group” writer than with telling an entertaining/uplifting or otherwise interesting story-that-earns-its-own-keep.

First of all, of course, there is the fact that a story that relies on “right think” to justify its right to exist might not bother with less glamorous bits of craft such as making sure your reasoning makes sense throughout, or that you have established the character’s traits to evoke an emotional response from the reader and catharsis at the end of the story.

In fact, in this “writing to effect social change” shares the exact same drawbacks as writing fan fiction. As a former fan fiction writer (Jane Austen fanfic. Yeah, I know. Exciting. Shud up.) I’m just glad I was a professional before I started playing in fanfic. It is all too easy to acquire bad habits from writing fanfic. For instance, if you’re writing Pride and Prejudice fanfic, all you have to do is name the character Lizzie, even if you set it in modern day, and the reader immediately imbues it with every characteristic of the Jane Austen character, without your having to do any heavy lifting. In the same way if you name a character Whickam, everyone knows he’s a cad or worse and never mind making his faults believable or foreshadowing them.

Writing the politically correct story is much the same thing: introduce a minority character, be it racial, sexual or religious, in one of the approved “categories” and the readership, which are “fans” of social justice will immediately imbue that “victim character” with all the characteristics of noble victims ever penned since Jean Jacques Rosseau rode the noble savage into the sunset.

Because of that, “message writing” will always be inferior to “entertainment writing” when viewed in the dispassionate cold light of day.

Change how fashionable the message is (and frankly the left seems to do that every few years, as a matter of course) and today’s “masterpiece” becomes a story only of interest to historians of passe modes of thinking, if not an outright heresy to the people trying to pretend that we’ve always been at war with Eurasia.

But there is more moral peril to “message writing” because of the very mode of thought it encourages amid its practitioners; a mode of thought best described as “seeing oppressors under every bed.”

I’ll illustrate by admitting that when I first came to the US, within the first three years, I fell in with a group of people who were generally minorities (racial, sexual, cultural.) Nothing strange about this. A lot of my friends (perhaps a majority) still fall in those categories. However, my group these days is mostly conservative or libertarian or yes, which makes them a completely different type of creature.

You see, the first few friends I made were people who obsessed over what today would be called “micro-aggressions.” Oh, macro too. And there was some reason behind their paranoia (and mine, at the time.) Where I was at the time, and the faux-pas I committed as I tried to adapt to living in the US did cause a lot of very strange reactions, and some of them outright hostile. Some of my friends at the time had similar causes of complaint.

I mean, just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

For instance in my first (retail) job every guy (including the ex con) and every “white” (mostly blond) woman was taught how to open the safe and trusted with it, but myself and the black woman (who had an MBA and was only working retail due to a recent divorce, while looking for another job) were not. However, when money went missing, we were the only two people questioned. (Turned out the ex-con was taking money out of the safe whenever he felt like going out to dinner. I know you’re shocked.) This was definitely outrageous, but instead of taking from it that one should strive not to work for *ssholes, we took from it that everyone was bigoted against poor little us.

Anyway, at some point, it hit me that we were getting together to share grievances, and that most of our conversation, not to say most of our thoughts revolved around injustices done to us and how unfair the world was.

And then it occurred to me that more than a few of my friends, and to an extent I, myself, were using these ‘injustices’ inherent in the system (so to put it) to justify not doing anything, not trying anything and not making any efforts to improve our (relatively invidious position.)

Now, I want you to know that yes, there were injustices against us. It wasn’t all in our head. And yes, we were in a relatively difficult position.

But that wasn’t the point. Having realized the effect it was having on me; realizing that my resentment and my feeling of being victimized were holding me captive, I decided to set myself free.

I broke up with my comfortable/encouraging/justifying crowd overnight, and resolved that while I might be discriminated against, I didn’t have to let it define me. That is, while people might think I was less capable, I wouldn’t allow them to make me less capable.

For my own sake, not theirs, I would from then on ignore any discrimination against me (save for occasionally finding it very funny, like when the school was persuaded my younger son had a speech impediment because my husband and I spoke Russian at home. [Why Russian? And why poor Dan who was born and raised in New England and Ohio?]) and proceed to take no excuses for underperforming.

I might or might not be able to prove discrimination against me. I might or might not be in fact discriminated against in some particular. But the fact remained that I couldn’t control those who might or might not discriminate against me. I couldn’t even predict it, or the reason why.

Discrimination is not, as the left seems to believe, a rare thing or confined to minorities. Yes, I know, part of the reason they go crazy about white male “privilege” is that they assume there’s a hierarchy and that white males are the least discriminated against.

I suppose that is true if the white male is you know, one of the Norse gods with inherent superior looks and abilities. But even white males are never exactly what it says on the package. Any white male of less than say five feet six is going to be discriminated against. So is any over 300 lbs. So is any who is just Odd enough to have to back-engineer other people’s reactions to figure out how to react himself. So is any who is too smart or stupid for his own good.

In fact, once you figure out the various kinds of white male, there is no privilege left. And the same for every other “category” of human.

So, most of the time, the obvious form of discrimination against me comes in reaction to my accent. And it’s not even exactly unjustified. I find myself worrying, too, when talking to someone with an obvious accent. You’re not sure they can understand you, and you automatically dumb-down the talk.

But I’ve also been discriminated against because of culture. And I don’t mean Latin (though the boss in that first retail store being a dumb *ss did think I was Mexican. He also thought my name was Feliz (as in Feliz Navidad) – loooong story.) Many people (my inlaws included) just don’t “get” science fiction and fantasy. My mother in law thought and might still think that I invented “grown up stories with elves” and at one time told me I should write for children because ‘they’re the only ones with a mind as open as yours.’ She’s not alone, though most people in that position wouldn’t dare voice it to my face, so I don’t know most of them.

I was even discriminated against when I was young and slim and pretty for being young and slim and pretty and fairly well dressed. For instance, at a gathering of an unnamed high IQ society I was repeatedly asked whose date I was.

The truth is that people make judgments based not on social justice but on past experiences/what they’ve read and watched/the bottomless depths of their own weirdness. The good people revise them later, but almost every one of us has been discriminated against for something or other. And sometimes for nothing at all, but the idea in someone’s head when they first saw us.

Having realized this, I figured that if I became hung up in every time that someone didn’t treat me fairly I’d be paralyzed.

And so, in my head, I’ve decided I’ll ignore those who discriminate against me. (Save for occasionally pointing and making duck noises, because that’s only fair.)

If I let their oppression define me, I’ll be a captive of the impotence that their oppression engenders.

If I ignore it, pretend I’m the mistress of my own fate, and continue pushing to get better and to do what I want to do, then no one can stop me. Because it’s all dependent on me and how hard I’m willing to work.

And that is how I have avoided the moral hazard of victimhood. And why I feel sorry for all the writers entrapped into writing “socially relevant” fiction that enshrines and deifies victimhood.

The chains of defining yourself as a victim are a tourniquet wrapped around the soul.

The only way to stop it is to declare yourself free and ignore those you think are trying to limit you. The only way to break the chains is to believe you alone are responsible for your state of happiness and prosperity or lack thereof. Yes, other factors (including the animosity of strangers) might influence that state, but if you are willing to work hard enough you can overcome additional factors. And if you aren’t willing to work hard enough nothing, not even the most favorable of circumstances, can make you successful.

The chains of victimhood are insidious and will destroy your soul as well as your writing.

Fortunately the key to freedom is in your own hands.

Refuse excuses.

Set yourself free.

 

245 responses to “No Excuses, No Regrets

  1. Oh Mistress of the Evil League of Evil, please forgive me as I grovel at your feet and say “Get back to writing!”.

    I do like your attitude. And it may be the best explanation for why certain people end up excelling in a field, while others fail and whine about how everyone is against them.

  2. I realized some years ago that the advice I was forever getting–hire someone to do that, pay someone to do this–was coming from people who had deliberately handicapped themselves. They might be horrified or scandalized that I stripped wallpaper, plastered and painted, and knew what to do when the drains backed up . . . but I decided to stick with being proud to have these skills, instead.

    • Yes, but its also a good idea to know when to bring in an expert. I do a lot of my own car repair, but i *will not* work on my brakes beyond putting fluid in the master cylinder.

      • And I suppose I’m the other way around. I don’t care much about knowing how to strip wallpaper, or repair cars. If I pay someone who does care about knowing how to do that, I can spend the time I would have spent on that, doing one of the many other things I want to be doing with my time.

        • It pays to know what is going on. My Cuz is a big wig ceo or something and when he needed fencing done put the kibosh on some slipshod stuff because he is not only able to do the job, actually still does it at his parents. At home he is simply too busy to take the time. He’s a former pulpwood cutter who put himself through college by working part time jobs, roofing and siding our uncle’s house, and maintaining his own vehicles (his dad, was a diesel mechanic before retiring). You might not want to know how to peal wall paper, but it helps to know that aircraft stripper is not the wisest method to use.

          • You can’t be an expert at everything, but it sure saves money to be able to deal with minor plumbing problem yourself. And as someone who has has gone through a few bad patches, there are time when you can afford a gallon of paint, but not what it would cost to hire the labor.

            But even without financial reasons, there are psychological benefits to being capable. To doing things with your hands. Not to mention that mowing the lawn is good exercise for someone with a sedentary job.

  3. Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes.

  4. Allow me to make the first Heinlein reference, to with that no one can enslave a free man, the most they can do is kill him.
    Handicap always begins first in the mind. Regardless of the physical ability, once a person decides they “can’t do that, because” they have become disabled.
    I’m not saying at all that real disabilities don’t occur, or that some are physically prevented being able to perform some actions. But if a person has the mindset of “I can do it”, they are not going to allow paraplegia, or multiple amputations or any other perceived shortcoming, to stop them.
    Helen Keller – blind and deaf, became a world renowned speaker. Mickey Mantle – stricken with polio as a child, became a baseball superstar. Stephen Hawking – afflicted with early onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, nevertheless achieved world wide recognition as a physicist and writer.

    Congratulations. You thankfully made the mental switch from “Poor Little Me” to “I Am Sarah, Hear Me Roar”. (Apologies to Helen Reddy)
    May all who read this make the same choice.

  5. The mental chains you create in your mind create the most pernicious form of slavery.

  6. Yup, mindset is a huge factor. When my Dad fell off the roof and smashed his ankles (one into over 100 pieces, the other nearly as bad) the first doctors wanted to amputate. He refused, got a 2nd opinion from a doctor that said “I can rebuild them, but you’ll probably never walk again anyway” and then refused to sit around ‘waiting’ to recover. His doc drove by one day when he was ‘recovering’ and stopped to yell at him for being outside stripping and repainting the boat. He had rigged up a seat with a bunch of pulleys so he could get around without being on his feet. 40+ years later he’s still walking and going to work everyday even though he’s a little stiff in the morning. The guy who was in the bed next to him after his surgery committed suicide about a year after surgery because he felt he couldn’t do everything he wanted anymore. Attitude can overcome nearly everything, but the wrong attitude will doom you.

    • I’m in wheelchair, due to a _serious_ back injury (plus on daily narcotics, a “neural stimulation unit” to control pain), and both knees are bad from four serious injuries/three surgeries. I can barely walk six feet, with a walker, from all of that, yet, I have one book out, and four more in the commenting process. I’m about 80% paraplegic, so I need help to do “most daily activities.” I could easily just “sit back” and let the Government “take care of me,” but I don’t. I may never have anything like a “normal” life, but I’ll still try.

      • Steve Skubinna

        Well, there’s “normal,” and then there’s playing the hand you’re dealt as best you can. You can decide which approach will bring you the most satisfaction.

  7. Some times it can’t be overcome, but all too often the proper response to “I’m being discriminated against” is “so what?”.

  8. C4C

  9. I tend to try and point out to those who write “socially relevant” fiction that all they’re doing is preaching to the choir, because they’re not writing anything the masses would actually find interesting. If they told kick ass stories first, and then thought, “You know, this character could be transgendered and it would help the story,” then people would be far more open to the stories.

    • There is a loooooong history of novels as sermons, though. Lewis Carroll was such a big hit because most books for children were of the prim and preachy variety (and roundly loathed by children for that reason). In STALKY AND COMPANY Kipling has the boys commenting acidly on books like ERIC, OR LITTLE BY LITTLE. I swear that most of the problem teachers had getting kids to read in the 1970’s came down to the kind of overtly preachy tripe they were pushing; books like “HELLO GOD, IT’S ME, MARGARET” or whatever that was. Hell, one of my favorite oddball films, THE ASSASSINATION BUREAU is based on what is essentially a political tract thinly disguised as a story (the film, bless it, departs broadly from the text).

      The sermonizers simply don’t learn. They don’t learn from their own mistakes, and the CERTAINLY don’t learn from the mistakes of those that demonized before them.

      • Steve Skubinna

        Huh. And here I was thinking I might have been the only person alive who had seen that film, and read the book (unfinished by London and later polished up by Robert Fish). And I think that the film just used the unfinished novel as the base and disregarded Fish’s ending, which I admit was not as manic and slapdash full of derring-do.

        Another oddball film with a message worth a view is The President’s Analyst, although the big reveal of who TPC really is won’t make sense to anyone born after, say, 1975.

    • Of course the problem is, most characters whose SJW alignment is actually relevant to their character are also the sorts of characters who make SJW heads explode.

      Can you imagine the SJW reaction to Joachim Steuden?

      • William O. B'Livion

        Can you imagine his reaction to *them*?

        • William O. B'Livion

          (assuming you meant Joachim Steuben)

        • 😎

        • I’m imagining his reaction. And I’m enjoying the mental picture a little too much.

          • (Laughs head off)
            Honestly, I’m surprised Drake hasn’t made the SJW bad list, seeing as every single homosexual character in his writing that I’ve read is either a psychotic killer or a pedophile. Maybe he makes it because his religious characters are almost all hypocrites or sad sacks?
            I was honestly surprised he and S.M. Stirling managed to collaborate on seven books.

            • Well, the few times he’s run into characters he’s considered sad sacks, he actually tends to go into hyper drill sergeant mode. Wasting your life is one of the few things that he seems to find personally offensive.

              He’s not a crazy as he appears on the surface; rather he’s caught between a number of insolvable dilemmas, and is utterly ruthless at finding the closest thing to a valid solution that he can manage.

              • Are you talking about David Drake, Joachim Steuben, or S.M. Stirling?

                • I was actually talking about Steuben. Steuben is a much more complex character than he appears at first glance.

                  • Okay, I was referring to Drake’s characterizations there.
                    But yeah, Steuben’s not just a psychotic killer–for example, he arranges for his own assassination by a man who is very pleased to kill him, and tries to make sure the man isn’t caught.

                    • Steve Skubinna

                      That was the story that forced me to reevaluate Steuben and his motivations. And realize that he truly loved Col. Hammer (and not in a carnal way at all) and would place the Colonel’s goals over his own life.

                    • Actually, I started re-evaluating him when the “Steuben-clone” character showed up in “The Sharp End”. He came across there as less of a psychotic a la Joker, and more of someone who is extremely good at what he does and also extremely focused. Not the type of person you’d necessarily need let alone want outside of a wartime environment… but the kind you want very badly when it hits the fan.

                  • How did he hook up with Hammer in the first place?

                    • If I recall that is asked in at least one book, and nobody who is asked knows the answer.

                    • Steve Skubinna

                      I wonder if Drake wrestled with how to present that and decided to leave it a mystery? But it is obvious that Hammer gave Steuben a sense of purpose, and that Steuben reciprocated with fanatical loyalty.

            • Well, there were a couple in Starliner that were twee elderly killers and bon vivants.

              • I’d forgotten about those two. They were pretty cool.
                Yeah, there was some definite subtext there, although whether it was heterosexual life-partners or homosexual lovers I could never quite draw a bead on.

    • There’s a mystery series I was reading at one point (from ARCs from the bookstore where I was working.) Pretty brutal stuff, not bad writing though. The protagonists were pretty messed up people. And then, at one point, she has the protagonists go into the backwoods South (these were set in the South and the author was obviously from there) and pity the poor folk who lived there, how awful their lives must be, and how misguided they were, believing in religion and conservative values and all.

      And this was played straight, with absolutely no reflection on how incredibly messed up the protagonists were. They certainly were not happy people by any measurement, including their own. I think the author totally missed the irony of that particular reflection; I know the protagonists did. It made me laugh.

      • Reminds me of a television episode (cop/mystery) with a girl who’d run away from home had gone missing and a boy who told the cops she was dead and the detective finally figured out that the boy was the missing girl. During the episode the boy was bullied by a gang and had been breaking into a clinic and stealing drugs for the gang and testosterone for himself and this was all found out and the tearful mother arrives and the detective says… without irony… that the boy had things figured out and WAS DOING WELL. Two of my kids are going through a transgender thing so it was upsetting to me for that but at the same time I was just staring at the TV totally gobsmacked. Exactly WHAT about being forced to do breaking and entering by a gang that would probably rape and kill you if they found out you were trans equated to having a good handle on life? WTF?

    • The new (Fabulous!) Thor.

      Leaving aside that cribbing from mythology would actually get him cross-dressing at least once…..

      The panels that show the female thor taking up the hammer, and taking the time to show the hammer (completely grammatically unnecessarily) rewriting the inscription.

      The fingernails and dainty hand already make it clear it’s a woman grabbing the haft. It’s soon clearly a women. So why rewrite an inscription that works as is?

      TO make a point. Period. The story isn’t what does this incarnation of Thor do, the story is that Thor is now a woman.

      And thus telling a boring story.

  10. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Minor nit. Regrets can be good if they keep you from making *that* mistake again.

    Excuses are nonsense.

    • I meant I don’t have any regrets about not grasping the proffered victimhood-ladder to the top. (Which was offered at one point in my career. I just forgot to put that part in. It was late, and I spent the day painging…)

      • Painging…while i know it is a simple typo I look at the word and think “how appropriate” I have painted and knowing the aches that come with passing the half century mark I love it

  11. The year I graduated with a bachelor’s engineering degree towards the end of the year everyone was sending out resume’s and getting ‘job interview haircuts’ and generally trying to line up what they were going to do after college. One of the black girls in the program came into the lounge frustrated and furious. “I thought I’d escaped the racism and bigotry that would keep me down when I came here!’ she announced loudly to everyone. ‘But now I see I’m just not going to be allowed to succeed ‘cuz I’m black. My momma told me that’s what would happen, but I just didn’t want to believe her… But I’ve got TWENTY rejection letters and not a single interview… not even one call-back!’ One of the white EE girls tried to cheer her up by pointing out that was only her first 20 submissions, just wait until you hear back from the others. ‘What others?’, the poor victim of racism asked. The lounge grew quiet for a moment and then people began to chime in with the number of rejections they’d gotten. No one was in double digits. One guy was on his second ream of resumes. The Soviet Union had rolled over, and there had just been massive layoffs of engineers in the defense industries who we were competing with for jobs. 100 applications per call back were the norm. Only the one girl who had an excuse had given up after 20. Everyone else who’s momma hadn’t given them a ‘if things are hard it is because Racism, and everyone will understand’ had just kept sending more resumes, making visits, cold calling, etc. That is the most insidious effect of SJW obsession with isms, IMHO. It gives people excuses to fail when the least need them.

    • There was a time I got 100 rejections by March, every year. But then people tell me “Tried to publish, was rejected because I’m a woman…” GRRRR

      • Victimhood is insidious. It gives one permission to fail with minimal effort. It whispers “You can never succeed for they won’t let you.” It never tells you “You didn’t succeed because what you did was crap,” because that implies you can succeed if you work at it. Then the person never puts forth effort, which ensures perpetual failure. Victimhood is just another version of despair, a leech of one’s very soul.

        • ^^This! First two sentences especially. Thanks, Timid1.

          And since, I’m commenting anyway, may I just add, Sarah, that I love, “The chains of defining yourself as a victim are a tourniquet wrapped around the soul.”

        • But if you succeed because you work at it, you are a threat. It shows up all the other perpetual victims.

        • Exactly. And that’s why things like “Institutional Racism” and “Privilege” are all the rage, because it changes the blame from someone or some thing that can be pointed at and dealt with, to something vague and amorphous that can’t be solved, thus making it the perfect scapegoat for one’s own failures.

          • Also it makes a good kafkatrap.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Elsewhere, some Liberal is complaining about Right-Wingers being against a “Living Wage”. The conversation started about the closing of a California bookstore because of the raising of the “minimum wage”. Now, it’s the “trap” of saying that if we see problems with raising the “minimum wage” we’re against people having a “Living Wage”. Never mind the real world problem of “defining what a living wage is” or the real world problems of companies being unable to pay their employee. It’s “just” that we don’t want people to get a “Living Wage”.

              Talk about “kafkatrap”. [Frown]

    • I had my post-college job a full month before graduation, even with my idiot major. We’d been on a class trip (all two of us; it was a VERY small class) to the local radio station, and somebody called our advisor over for a few minutes’ talk. (She worked there for a couple of hours a week.) She came back, apologizing, saying that they were asking her to take over a shift because someone *else* had just quit and they were short-handed.

      I know opportunity when it shouts in my face. I got a recommendation from her the next day and had my resume in before the week was out. Interview went smoothly and I had a job by Easter. Wish all my job hunts had been that easy!

      • once, back in my yute, I had a three job week.
        I was working two jobs part time. one as a bicycle mech but doing carpentry for lower than the going rate for a bit, the other in a junkyard, pulling parts and was fed up with both. I took the Monday off at the yard, went to the bike shop and forced the owner to fire me. I applied at two other shops that day on my ride home Went into the yard the next day and got mad and left, and got home to a message to go into the second place I applied for and they hired me and as the pay week started on Friday, I started then.

      • One important lesson. Don’t take a shotgun Job hunting.

    • I used to call responding to job ads, generating rejection letters. I sent out hundreds for no results at all.

  12. Discrimination: It is not so much that white males aren’t discriminated against, it is just when it happens it is assumed to be for another reason. That reason is, of course, discrimination. Imagine your interviewing for a programming position and your choices are between a graduate in cross-disciplinary Computational Operations Research or a graduate in cross-disciplinary Transgendered/Black Studies.

    The original definition is to be able to tell the differences between; for instance: Babies can discriminate between a happy face and a sad face. Unfortunately, in the hands of SJWs, the word takes on an Orwellian meaning of a double plus ungood action against ‘the Other’.

    Much like zero-tolerance means intolerant, non-discrimination quickly becomes random or racial/sex quota based choice. Additionally, in our modern ‘everyone is special’ society, it is a convenient excuse for failure, because, ‘special’ people are expected not to fail.

    I am particularly impressed with the concept of ‘micro-aggression’. Clearly at least one or two doctoral dissertations in useless fields like gender studies were required for this idea. Apparently, it can be used against white males who ‘unconsciously’ have embraced the white male patriarchy, and are vicious bigots. Even if they don’t mean to be. Clearly, all SF works need to have an oppressed protagonist who suffers from their white male sidekick, with these slights discussed in painful detail, until the sidekick realizes the error of his ways and accepts the feminine/nonwhite ways to be superior. I am sure it would not sell well, but it may get a couple of Hugo awards.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      A comedy where the oppressed victim is wealthy enough to hire the sidekick, and the sidekick is actually the one who gets things done despite the victim’s incompetent madness might sell well enough.

      • Steve Barnes had a really kicky idea for a rewrite of the recent Wild Wild West movie, cast as it was, in which Jim West’s cover is being Artemus Gordon’s servant.

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  14. Ascher Goodrich

    The “noble savage” concept has got to be one of if not the most idiotic concept Rousseau ever excreted(and that’s saying something). This idea has caused so much intellectual damage since its’ inception I doubt even the IRS could calculate it- Pure hyperbole;please don’t audit me.

    Rousseau never spent five minutes with a true “savage”. Although It’s too bad he didn’t try. I doubt he would have survived the experience, and this would have saved the world quite a bit of trouble.

    • Isn’t he the guy who had a bunch of illegitimate kids and had them all abandoned at orphanages?

      Sounds pretty savage to me, although I’d probably have to apologize to barbarians for insults to them.

      • Yup. A popular name for orphanges in the day was “angel makers.”

      • Ascher Goodrich

        Oh, no doubt about it, the man was a cretin. I think you are right about owing the barbarians an apology on this one. True savages rank pretty high on the scale of evil, but Rousseau was much worse than evil. He was Ignorant, Idiotic, and Infamous. Much worse than evil.

    • eh, it’s older than him. Tactitus used it.

      The noble GERMAN savage, of course.

      • AKA the anti-Romans, at least the way Tacitus wrote it.

        OT, but I’ve always found it “interesting” that the juiciest bits of his _Annals_ just happen to be the ones that have never been recovered/located. Maybe Ecco was onto something in _The Name of the Rose_, but had the wrong book.

        • Well, duh, the noble savage is always opposed to the writer’s civilization. . . you end up with two types, one where the strenuous life of wringing your livelihood from the wild gives the savage hardihood and courage, and one where the limit of desires to what he actually needs gives the savage a happy life free from the cares of greed, envy, love of luxury, and ambition.

      • Ascher Goodrich

        Oooh, that is interesting. I obviously need to revisit my Roman History.

    • Steve Skubinna

      I rank Rousseau right behind Marx on the shortlist of mankind’s really disastrous thinkers. Neitzsche comes in a distant third. But blame for the majority of humanity’s misery of the past two centuries can be laid at the feet of the first two.

  15. I was under a good deal of pressure in high school from teachers and counsellors to make my life what they though it should be. So naturally after graduation I got a job in a local factory. Biggest employer in town, local operation of an international conglomerate. Worked there for five years when I had a sitdown with my boss’s boss who explained to me that while I had done excellent work I was simply unpromotable at that time. You see, the conglomerate had many government contracts and it had come to the Fed’s notice that their middle management was almost exclusively white male. So, the instruction hand been handed down to promote only females and minorities until the numbers became acceptable.
    I found myself a new job shortly thereafter. In ten years at that job I went from new hire to corporate officer.
    After that I took a break, spent three and a half years getting dual engineering degrees, then entered government service for 25 years.

    • Never underestimate the value of a blue-collar job. My husband got a job in a warehouse during college (with his friend’s recommendation getting him in.) He worked up to shipping and receiving while he was there.

      A few years later, he was sleeping on friends’ floors while looking for work in Denver. And there was a company starting to open up storefronts there, getting thousands of applicants for every position. And *he* got the interview, based on that warehouse experience… turns out that they needed that. Now he works on the corporate end, do logistics and data analysis for the chain across the nation, and occasionally helping the international end.

      You may have heard of them. A little computer company that might grow on a tree…

  16. 😀

  17. If someone’s using fanfic as a practice medium and they need to work on characterization, I’d recommend either importing something foreign – Japan has plenty of anime – and thoroughly Woolseying it, or throwing a curveball at the setting such as to require re-establishing who everyone is.

    Maybe have Wickham be recruited by Her Majesty’s government as a Victorian-era 007 some time prior to the events of Pride and Prejudice, and then retell the story from his own rather jaundiced point of view.

    • Or, alternatively, write in the ‘verse, just use mostly original characters. World’s there for you and you already have a plot outline. All that’s there to do is write characters.

      • I don’t know about that, depending on the ‘verse inserting your own characters can be risky unless you have a very strong sense of how real people act. I write fanfiction and in some of the settings I write in a lot of my fellow fans have a hard time making the characters they create act like real people. The thing is, they can’t write the characters that were there to begin with either because they don’t look at what would motivate any of the characters/how they would respond to a given situation. They simply make all of the characters act like themselves or how they wish they could act in the situations they’re writing about.

        In my opinion the best way to practice characterization is to go out and meet people. I try to base my characters on people I know or know of because real people do some of the most interesting things.

        • Some writers have found some use in the sorts of books that give character types, to make sure they don’t make them all like each other.

    • If someone needs to work on characterization, I’d recommend original fiction.

      There’s no substitute for actually writing original fiction if you want to write it.

    • I prefer the “take the main characters, figure out why they are the way they are, and go from there” version– it’s much more fun to read!

      Will really piss off a lot of folks, though.

      • Very much so if we’re talking fanfiction, though realistically thought out characters acting the way it makes sense for them seems to bug people in original work as well, especially in one of the fandom’s I’m a part of. When a character in a series I’m a fan of went through what was really a logical progression of development from one installment to the next most of the fic writers responded with ‘I don’t like that – how do I fix it?’ My response was, ‘Well, he was clearly insane from the start and getting worse as he had less and less holding him back, what made him finally decide to finally go all out?’ The fascinating result is that a majority of the very vocal fans don’t agree with the direction of the actual series and get bothered by fic writers who go on and base their writings on it.

        The odd thing is it ties into the SJW phenomenon of not being able to see another individual’s point of view. They take everything the main character does/says/thinks as face value or twist it to fit their interpretation and never imagine the situation that others are in that causes them to act the way they do.

  18. I am in the process of becoming a teacher.
    I would like to copy your post to a document and post it, framed, when I finally get my own classroom.
    This was just outstanding.

  19. “…with all the characteristics of noble victims ever penned since Jean Jacques Rosseau rode the noble savage into the sunset.”

    I just wish ol’ JJR had ridden off into the sunset; life just might be a little easier to comprehend. (And that’s an absolutely lovely line. May I steal it?)

    It’s been my observation that most “driscimitorees” are plagued with concerns about what other people think of them. I’ve long been of the opinion that what you think of me is, really, none of my business. In general, I neither know nor care. I’ll keep plugging away at what needs doing. Others can bewail their inability to even try.

    Ben Hartley

  20. The truth is that people make judgments based not on social justice but on past experiences/what they’ve read and watched/the bottomless depths of their own weirdness.

    Present!

    That aside, I read that and summed it up– “what they know.”
    And the other sort wants everybody else to go off of what the person wanting knows/thinks/wishes.

  21. An interesting piece of news: This week there’s a Humble Bundle of visual novels (usually Choose Your Own Adventure/Love computer games, except you often have stats based on your choices which you have to manage).

    It includes a game which really is a visual novel only (no branching, no choices). Instead, World End Economica: Episode 1 is an sf novel about playing the stock market in the future, but with pictures and music included. It’s by one of the guys behind the fantasy business anime Spice and Wolf, so it should be pretty solid on economic concepts.

    The other visual novels are actual games. There’s the bizarre dating sim parody “Hatoful Boyfriend” (in which a normal Japanese girl attends a high school for sentient pigeons with technology and clothes). The game designer’s name is Hato, hence her game’s title. The pigeons mostly crack on the conventions for hunky boys in Japanese media.

    Long Live the Queen is a race to raise your heroine’s skills and stats and have her make good choices, so that she can survive as queen (unlike the last ruler, who was assassinated). You can die in many, many ways. You can also win or lose wars, or do diplomacy and intrigue. Not a romance game at all.

    Analogue: A Hate Story is another sf game. You are investigating what happened to the crew of a dead generation ship, partly by reading their journals.

    Hate Plus is the sequel to Analogue.

    Go Go Nippon: My First Trip to Japan is basically about being a foreigner visiting famous Japanese sights, except you have two spunky girls for guides. So yeah, aimed at a Western anime fan audience….

    Roommates is a college sim/dating sim. You can play a man or a woman.

    So yeah, three days left, you can get all the games for less than six bucks.

  22. In the 1990’s I was looking for a job at 57 years of age. I got lot’s of rejections until I stopped including all my work history in the resume. My assumption was people didn’t want someone without the latest technological knowledge, not age discrimination. It worked; first interview resulted in a job.

    But then, I’ve never been one who believed I was being discriminated against. I went from poor (how poor? Two pairs of shoes each year, one pair for school in the fall and one pair of sneakers in the spring), to earning in the top 25 %. I just worked hard.

    • I remember working really hard to convince Mom I needed leather Adidas tennies. When she finally broke down and bought me some, I managed to go one year on a pair. Get new for the school year, wear them just about totally out by the next pair in time for the next year. Normally it was 2 at best, usually 3 pairs of Shopko Specials and the Adidas sets came out cheaper.
      She did get me one pair of Nike, but the first gym class I stepped right through them and she returned them for refund and we got another set of the Adidas. For winter boots I tended to get Dad’s handmedowns.

      • In summer my winter shoes got cut at the front and back and voila became sandals.

        • I just wore the things right out but for school I wore the same tennies all year. Snow does a job on them so by spring they were rather beat, but by summer they sometimes were close to sandals. My sisters just handed their things down (there were three of them so the youngest got some rather beat shoes)

  23. Eh, lots of great writers made immortal fiction by writing message fiction. Every satirist, for instance. But there are some ground rules.

    1. You have to feel the message. Passionately. Fiction can address itself to the reason, but primarily it addresses itself to the sentiments. Animal Farm and Darkness At Noon work by making us angry about Communism.

    2. You have to get your message to jump through the hoops in all the standard story tricks. Characters, plot, etc.

    • 2 is the essential part. GOOD message fiction doesn’t preach to the converted and beg for low-hanging awards. GOOD message fiction grabs the reluctant and the hostile by the nadders and twists.

      • And to reach the unconverted is very difficult, because they have to see enough justice in the portrait to realize its accuracy. Most “satires” fail because, well, a tissue-paper-thin straw man says nothing except that a shallow and glib writer wrote a tissue-paper-thin straw man.

        I am continually astounded by the writers who make their human characters better than their gods by making their gods act like three-year-olds. Yes, actually, all religious people except the very most naive are aware that shallow and glib writers can make the gods act like three-year-olds; why would that shake our faith? (And man, is that the only bar your characters can surmount?)

        • From what I remember from various mythologies, gods acting like three year olds is not out of the question. All that power and no responsibility.

        • The Jewish God appears to have been the first that DIDN’T behave like – well, not a 3 year old. Maybe a spoiled high school brat. The Greco-Roman pantheon is a bunch of nasty, backbiting swine. The less said of Woton the better. I’m not as familliar with other groups, but what I kniw about the Japanes Kami, the Hindu gods, etc. does not encourage closer acquaintence.

          • Of course, that the Homeric-era gods. In classical era, they were cleaning ’em up — and wondering what to do with the myths, above and beyond just censoring them, as Plato proposed. (Indeed, his first rule for fiction was that it attribute nothing evil to the gods.)

            It was a general clean-up, because while in the Odyssey, Telemachus has no problems getting on a ship with a self-confessed murderer, but in classical Athens, we have a defense speech in which an accused murderer points out in his defense that he took a sea voyage after the alleged murder, and everyone knows the gods will take the chance to drown you.

    • 3) Be subtle. One shouldn’t shouldn’t constantly pound in the message (again and again) by dropping anvils and clubbing your audience over the head THIS IS BAD!! DO YOU GET HOW BAD THIS IS?!?!?! DO YOU!! BETTER SAY YES!!!

      • It has been my observation that any form of art artistic enough to do justice to both sides can be read as a support of the other side by those determined to do it.

        sigh

        The ability of fiction to instruct is limited. Those who most need it have the most capacity to explain it away.

      • Steve Skubinna

        That was my big beef with Gene Roddenberry. When he wanted you to get the point he’d pound you over the head with it until you said “Ow! Yeah, I get it, Gene, prejudice is baaaaad!” Some of the worst parts of Star Trek are the preachiest – which might explain why I couldn’t take TNG much at all.

        • Or some of the preachier parts of Babylon 5, aka most of the first season. The next four were better about it, but every now and then you wanted to yell at Straczynski to get on with the awesome story already.

  24. To be fair, it only made common sense not to show the black woman how to operate the safe; not because she was black, or a woman, but because she was a short-timer. No security conscious manager should provide any potential security breaches to a known short-timer, that are unnecessary for them to do their temporary job. Of course any security conscious manager doesn’t provide the combo to the safe to a known con unless they have VERY amply proved their rehabilitation has been successful and they are trustworthy.

    Oh, I would probably have a speech impediment also; if I was taught to talk by a Portagee and an Easterner… speaking Russian. 🙂

  25. SJW’s believe that White readers MUST be exposed to protagonists who are anything BUT like them, and that Black readers, for example, MUST ONLY be exposed to protagonists who just like them, because otherwise they are incapable of enjoying the book.

    • SJWs believe a morass of contradictory twaddle so completely sense-free that trying to comprehend it can cause serious brain damage.

      I think it’s how they recruit.

  26. Patrick O’Brian has his character Stephen Maturin play merry hob with an acolyte of Rousseau in several of the Jack Aubrey novels.

  27. Pingback: SARAH HOYT: No Excuses, No Regrets. “The chains of victimhood are insidious and will destroy your … | CRAGIN MEDIA

  28. Ages ago I worked at a beauty salon and one of the clients was one of the meanest, bitchiest woman you’d ever have the misfortune to run into. One of her main complaints was that the other nurses on her shift were bigots because they were white and avoided her. It never occurred to her that the problem was most likely her personality.

    I had an epiphany after listening to her umpteenth tirade. The biggest problem facing minorities in this country isn’t racism, it’s the handy excuse it gives them for failure. If you’re a minority, think of how tempting is it to blame ‘racism’ for anything bad that happens to you.

    • I’d roll that into the legacy of racism, myself.

    • It’s not just minorities who find it a handy excuse.

      Back in my SCA days, I met a woman who was pretty overweight. At her first event, she spent a good bit of time bitching that no one liked her because she was fat. Now, this was the SCA, and all around us were very large women attached to adoring gentlemen, but she ignored this.

      She never figured out that no one gave a damn about her weight. It was her attitude that no one wanted to be around.

  29. Steve Skubinna

    Another problem with message writing is that it relies on the reader holding the key to the code. The crushing oppression will eventually pass, or so we hope, and future readers will look at the once brilliant and cutting take down of Whatever Privilege and say “I don’t get it… why am I supposed to assume that one character is bad and another good, because the writer never makes it clear? And did anything actually happen or get resolved because if it did I missed it.”

  30. Great article. As I often put it, “victim is just another word for loser.” You can’t succeed if you obsess over what others think about you and let them control your life.
    Rudyard Kipling—yes, that dead white male—put it well in the opening lines to “If.”
    —–
    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
    ——-

    –Michael W. Perry, co-author of Lily’s Ride: Rescuing her Father from the Ku Klux Klan (a novel set in post-Civil War North Carolina)

  31. People who dismiss “mere entertainment” are unaware of how much talent it takes, certainly moreso than sermonizing through drama, prose or such.

  32. Jews have been victimized down through history but for a number of reasons the sense of victimhood has been avoided. Perhaps that’s because, traditionally, Jews understood the existential reality of Jew-hatred. Some folks are going to hate us and we have to be wary of those who wish to destroy us, but meanwhile we have families to raise and bills to pay. If Jews were denied access to professions and trades, they created new industries, professions and trades or made the most out of the ones they could enter. I’m not trying to justify discrimination, just that in many ways the Jewish community learned how to thrive despite very real barriers.

    • And really, no one ever hears about Jewish plumbers, Jewish electricians, Jewish carpenters…well, there was that one guy. 😀

      Seriously, I’ve always had a lot of respect for how Jews reacted to barriers. They just find a way around them and soldier on. My mother gave me a very healthy respect for the Jewish people and their ability to find a way to take care of themselves.

      • ” Jewish carpenters” … that didn’t end well.

      • I can introduce you to some Jewish plumbers, electricians, and carpenters. But yes, those aren’t typical Jewish jobs any more. But then again, nor is tailoring, which 50 years ago was very typically Jewish. These things aren’t deeply embedded in the culture, they’re the result of passing circumstances. Some things are more deeply embedded, such as literacy and scholarship, thrift and a love of bargaining, or a respect for strong women.

  33. So what do you think of well-done SJW writing? Or do you not classify it as SJW? For instance, what do you think of Jo Walton? There’s no question that her two most recent books, for instance, are message fiction, and they carry messages you and I disagree with, but I loved them anyway.

    I just saw her at Boskone and showed her that I was in the middle of The Just City, and she was surprised that I liked it, knowing my politics. I told her that I disagreed with every word of it (a gross exaggeration, of course) but what had that got to do with not liking it?

    • Jo Walton is a decent writer. I still wouldn’t read it. I grew up with communism and marxism pushed at me through every possible channel. I have a mild allergy. I think it’s as poor taste as pushing Naziism. Worse, because the Nazis killed fewer people. But if it’s your poison, drink. They’re certainly entitled to write it and peddle it.

      • I have never seen Jo push communism or Marxism. She seems to me insufficiently anti-communist; in My Real Children she accepts with equanimity the prospect of what in the ’70s and ’80s we used to call “Euro-communists” (i.e. communists who were committed to democracy and opposed to the sort of repression found in the USSR) taking government in Italy and France. But I think I’ve read everything she’s published and I can’t recall anything that could reasonably be described as pro-communist. Nor have I heard her express any such sentiment in real life. What I most object to in her politics, both in writing and in real life, is that she’s anti-war, even when the alternative is communism or islamofascism. Though the Small Change series is a dystopia based on WW2 having been avoided.

    • Keep in mind that there is a huge difference between message fiction and fiction with a message. I don’t necessarily mind the latter, even if the message is a SJW message.

      I haven’t read Walton’s latest, so I don’t know which camp it actually falls in, but thought it was important to note the differences.

  34. Or take Ancillary Justice, which won last year’s Hugo. It’s a well-written novel, and not even all that message-y when you come down to it. For instance, it’s the completely non-sexist culture that’s brutal and colonialist, so what are we to make of that? And yet I’ve seen it condemned as SJW writing.

    • Possibly because the only reason it won was “the gimmick with the pronouns” — at least from its supporters.

      • The gimmick with the pronouns makes perfect sense; it’s the essence of what SF is supposed to be all about. You read it, and after about three pages you get confused, and then you figure out not just what is going on, but also what sort of culture must have generated a language like that. At about page 10 I thought it was brilliant. It’s exactly how SF has traditionally inclued the reader on the backstory. But by page 50 it had begun to grate; I started to feel, “OK, I get it, you’ve made your point, now stop.” But once you’ve begun that you can’t stop it. That’s just how the protagonist’s language works. So you’re stuck with it. And for that reason if the author had asked me I’d have advised using it in a novella rather than a novel, let alone a trilogy Ghu help us. But that’s just my taste (and probably that of many); I can’t say it’s not a valid thing to do, because it is.

        • The gimmick with the pronouns makes perfect sense; it’s the essence of what SF is supposed to be all about. You read it, and after about three pages you get confused, and then you figure out not just what is going on, but also what sort of culture must have generated a language like that.

          No, that’s not “what sf is supposed to be all about.” It’s a technique in various forms of fiction– Robin McKinley is probably the queen of it, because she makes it interesting enough that it is not just a gimmick, it’s part of the world and essential to a story that people want to read. That is the essence of all of this.

          If the deployment of it is not only used as the selling point, but also interferes with the story to the point that people don’t want to read it, then it violates the first rule: it’s got to be something people will read for reasons inherent to the writing, not other folks’ reaction to them reading it.

    • Also, it’s BAD Hallo fanfic.

      • What is Hallo?

        • Halo, video game. If you hang out here long enough you’ll learn that Sarah has an odd artifact of learning English as an adult, she does double letters. Or maybe it’s because she types like a whirlwind. Either way, we’re all so used to translating it, we don’t notice.

          You can add me to those who read Ancillary Justice and found it poorly written. It was cardboard, honestly didn’t even think about the pronoun thing other than being confused a few times. Look, gender bending isn’t NEW in SF or fantasy, for heaven’s sake. This was very old ground, and it’s annoying to see them promoting it as something original. I feel like they are trying to hang a curtain over the past, and that’s not acceptable to ignore those who came before, as a marketing gimmick.

    • “and not even all that message-y when you come down to it.”

      Wrong crowd to try to sell that little bit of message to.

      Or, as Monty Python put it in the Dead Bishop sketch:
      K: What’s for afters?
      M: Rat cake, rat sorbet, rat pudding, or strawberry tart.
      K: (eyes lighting up) Strawberry tart?
      M: Well, it’s got *some* rat in it.
      K: ‘Ow much?
      M: Three. Rather a lot, really.
      K: Well, I’ll have a slice without so much rat in it.

    • Ancillary Justice is so good it is dropping like a stone despite all the leftist push it is getting. You know, when a book is pushed that hard and people still don’t want to read it it makes you wonder why. Oh that’s right because we are all meanies and those that buy books have no class. definitely declasse and bourgeoisie. Not good enough to really know anything. Really we peasants are getting so uppity these days

    • Actually, I’ve condemned it as painful writing.

      The thing made me want to scratch the back of my eyeball with an ice pick.