Tribalism in SF – Sanford Begley

Tribalism in SF – Sanford Begley

Humans are a tribal species. We all have tribes we belong to and resonate with. That doesn’t mean the tribe is monolithic for us, just that those in various tribes have similar views on various subjects. For example I fit into the MilSf tribe rather handily. i like the genre and communicate well with most of the tribe members. While most of us will read some varying amount of social consciousness SF we are not driven by its precepts. If the social consciousness drowns out the story we are unhappy. Similarly if the gun geeking that can be a part of MilSF overpowers the story line it will drive away the social conscious readers.

The problem then becomes how much is too much. It really depends on how powerful the story is. Speaking for myself the social consciousness in Scalzi’s Old Mans War was more than covered by the gripping nature of the MilSF elements. I know others who felt his message got in the way. Joe halderman’s Forever War actually had more message but had fewer people bothered by the messaging.  On the other end of the scale we have If You Were A Dinosaur My love. Which was all message and not even remotely SF by my standards. Those of my tribe use it as an example of what is wrong with the other tribe.

The problem with this is that tribes have traditionally gone to war over differences. We in SF are little different. The ones who favor hardware and story are engaged in a long running battle with those who favor message. The war has had gruesome casualties. Any number of authors have been driven to other genres, even quit writing rather than engage. Neither side seems to be able to read what the other side actually writes. We filter through our own prejudices and don’t necessarily even understand what the other side is saying. This leads to a well known author on the Social side printing what are, in effect, flat out lies about what an editor on the MilSF side wrote in an editorial, The authors fan base rallied behind him. They all claim that the lies he wrote were what the editor said rather than reading what she said and seeing the truth.

Similarly I have seen bloggers on the MilSF side read objections from the social side and go on the attack. not because the person on the social side actually said anything that wasn’t true, simply because the blogger interpreted things in the worst possible light.
The sad thing is that except for the extremists on either side, neither is right or wrong, simply different. This is seriously exacerbated by a small but vicious and vocal minority on one side that attacks everything said by the other and flat out lies constantly. Besmirching the name and reputation of others, even on their own side that will not Kowtow to their radical stance.

What i would like to see on a daily basis is for both sides to reach out and try to find common ground. We will never agree, but we should remember that we have a common enemy. The Mundanes may overrun both tribes some day if we can’t join together. We all mourned the passing of Spock. I wish we could remember our common grounds without the loss of more of our own.

219 responses to “Tribalism in SF – Sanford Begley

  1. One tribe thinks, one tribe feels. At the extremes on each tribe, the thinkers see the extreme ‘feeling’ gushing out and think there is no rational basis. The feelers, in the extreme are incapable of thinking, so rational discussion is useless.
    As a *reader* let me tell you who really gets hurt. Me. I have posted here before that late 80’s and 90’s, I had decided all the good writers were dead. All I found to read was ‘drek’. (Not technically true, there were some authors, Niven, Cherryth, Zahn: but their novels are few and far between. [There was also Piers Anthony who turned into a real sex pervert. I have a recent novel, a little girl and a turtle on the cover. I’m afraid to read it.]) I theorized that with the drop of STEM graduates, replaced with gender/race/class “studies” that there simply weren’t enough graduates smart enough to write SF. I eventually discovered Baen Books and a host of new decent authors.
    That all lead me to Sarah’s wonderful site, and between it and Gamergate, I discovered the evils of the SJW tribe.
    As a reader, money talks, bulldung walks. I don’t really need a group of socially uplifted ‘gatekeepers’ to tell me what to read, or to demand that anything I read must be socially uplifting, raise my awareness of my ‘privileged’ status and most importantly, not be fun to read.

    • P.S. I also don’t need Scalzi’s pompous posturing as a SF ‘great’. Last dollar of mine he will ever see.

      • sanfordbegley

        My comment down thread just a little “Many readers feel the same way” was supposed to go here, >shrug< WordPress

      • Professor Badness

        Yeah, to many authors have come to disappoint.
        (I don’t know what happened to Piers Anthony. Oy!)

        • Can we call it the Gor Effect?

          I can think of several series/authors that started out good, with just a bit of (usually sexual) strangeness, and about three books in— BOOM!

          They got rewarded for the minor strangeness, which they already really liked, and it takes over the series.

          Although I’m still wondering if the Anita Blake series is really the world’s most elaborate religious message setup. The first chapter of the first book, IIRC, spends several paragraphs explaining how she isn’t Catholic anymore because they told her that if she used her necromancy power she’d become a monster and golly how mean and judgmental that is, it’s just doing what’s natural to her. Last time I convinced myself they couldn’t possibly be that bad, she was a living master vampire were-creature queen that mind-raped a guy into being her thrall and then rode off with her harem….

          • I think Anthony’s problem was Xanth. The first few novels have some very mild suggestions. He realized children were reading them. So later years, he felt ‘unbound’ for non-Xanth titles specifically the Chroma and later volumes of his Immortality series.

            • Professor Badness

              That’s without saying anything of his Proton/Phaze series.
              I loved On A Pale Horse. Then it got progressively weirder. I still finished the series, but the ending left me without a feeling of closure.
              I don’t read anything of his anymore. I have better authors to spend my time on.

              • I suspect that as an author becomes more commercially successful their editors increasingly lose input, allowing the author’s inner demons to act out on the main stage. Too often, fans follow their favorites into the woods to feast on the houses of gingerbread.

          • You see it in other Arts, come to that. When you get right down to it, Woody Allen’s entire career is a case history of what happens when you reward a neurotic for being neurotic.

            The field of Comedy is full of Stars who were pushed to become caricatures of their favorite “bits”. Some of them overcome it, but too many of them don’t.

          • Gor. That series was absolutely banned at a previous bookstore I worked at. The manager who did the ban was later fired for lending Dee Snider two boxes of books when he directed part of “Strangeland” on Bijou near the old Four Corners Bookstore we worked at, and Snider only returned one of them

        • John R. Ellis

          “Firefly” (the novel_ is what happened to Piers Anthony. Once he wrote an “erotic horror” novel wherein child abusers and victims were depicted as actually being pure and loving compared to the Evil That Is Normal, complete with an Author’s Note on how “If all they do is have sex with children, it isn’t actually abuse or perversion”….well, there was no going back.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Yeah, success went to Scalzi’s head pretty fast, didn’t it? He went from “promising new author” to “oh God, *him* again?” in record time.

        • I just got another plug from Instapundit, which is where I first heard of Scalzi and read “Old Man’s War,” which was pretty good. Scalzi went for light entertainment, which is fine, but his public profile is now higher than his skill as a writer, which must lead to an insecure egoism. I know better than to take Glenn for granted — good thing we agree on almost everything, so I won’t be disappointing him!

          • Saw that. Congrats! Hope it does good things for your sales.

            • 70 books sold in a few hours. It certainly helps people notice my 99c sale on “Red Queen.” A nice boost but I’m counting on people remembering how they felt after finishing book 2 and wanting to read “more like that.” It takes a long time to build up a reputation.

              • Hey, congrats on an instaplug! That’s worth gold for getting interested readers!

                And yes, it does take time – but a plug like that sure helps with having people eyeball you in the first place Hope your keywords and categories, series and all were primed for the attention!

                • I think everything is set up correctly now, though the last linkages settled just a few days ago. Amazon is a mystery — I envision servers all over and periodic synchs that take up to a week to display all the features like “look inside” and links to print and audio versions.

              • I gave you a plug in Glenn’s comments. Said Red Queen at .99 was a great deal!

                • And we see the results: “READER BOOK PLUG: From reader Jeb Kinnison, Nemo’s World: The Substrate Wars 2. It’s $2.99 on Kindle. The first book in the series, Red Queen, is on sale for 99 cents this week.”

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            Congrats on the Instalanch. 🙂

  2. As an aside, I hated Old Man’s War so much I couldn’t finish it — not because of the social commentary, but because IMHO it was badly written. The POV character was a jerk, the best part of the premise was ignored, and the boot camp and combat parts were a cartoon version of military-SF, as if the author had no clue what a real army, or real combat, is like.

    Sanford: your last paragraph reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from The Lord of the Rings: “Indeed in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him.” – Haldir the elf

    • sanfordbegley

      Well, I would feel flattered save for the fact that Tolkein covered so much ground that anything remotely sensible is in his work somewhere 🙂

      • Oooh, that is a lovely turn of phrase!

      • Say, he fully bought in to the “the nustrial revolution was awful” narrative that is so popular with certain tribes of British intellectuals. Other than that, Tolkein was great.

        • You know, reading about the killer smog in London, I can see why someone of his era would think the industrial revolution was awful. We benefit by an awful lot of technology in industry that just wasn’t around then. What I think of as a ‘bad air day’ now is apparently better than a ‘good air day’ then.

          • Brown coal smog, the soot that covered so much the the cities and industrial areas, rationing that lasted from 1939-1956, rapid urban sprawl as large housing “estates” spread after WWII, those would be enough to make me look back fondly on the pre-industrial past. (William Morris, and Blake’s “dark, Satanic mills,” and all that.) But I’m too much of a Took to have been happy in a world where I’m supposed to stay in one place and station forever.

          • The killer smog in London was not largely Industrial in nature, but I take your point. But the British hand wringers who despise the Industrial Revolution mostly mourn the loss of “the simple country life” (Hobbits, anyone?), and completely miss that the Industrial Revolution paid its workers better than they could be paid on the farm. I recall reading a study of the diets of working people before and after the Industrial Revolution which found, to the surprise of the inquirers, that the Industrial workers were eating roughly 1000 calories a day more than their farm-worker parents. Yes, the workers of the early Industrial Revolution were malnourished. Their parents were starving.

            As we move farther way from the “good old days” in time, it becomes easier for the SJWs to imagine that pre-industrial farm workers ate as well as modern farm hands. For one thing, the SJWs mostly have little or no idea how much farming has improved over time.

            The SJWs are, always, firmly wedded to imagined worlds that do not, did not, and cannot exist.

            • I find that one’s idealization of rural living varies in indirect portion to one’s actual familiarity with it. Those who have actually milked cows by hand, f’r instance, are not inclined to romanticize old Bossy.

              • Yes – the lovely, natural scent of plants and animals in their native environment. Just…be careful what you step on.

                • There’s a reason everyone on the farm had chore boots and most farmhouses had mudroom for the doffing of said boots. Yes, “mud” is a euphemism.

              • sanfordbegley

                even that is a lunatic fringe, most of the left doesn’t really care that much. They of course defend their own even as the right rushes to the defense of anyone targeted by the left. I think the problem is that those not on the fringe can’t hear each other over the noise…I hope so

              • sanfordbegley


                • Clark E Myers

                  Maybe, maybe not.

                  My mother who lived through the dust bowl as a late teen swore a mighty oath with her next oldest sister when the fields were brown by the 4th of July to get away from the farm, far, far away. She has a younger sister who doesn’t remember it that way at all – who is romantic about her own youth on the farm and who has paintings of individual named animals all over her living room in the city. There is a still younger sister who kept the connections but only as a hobby farm and taught school for a reliable source of income. See e.g. Mr. Heinlein once again for a contrast between the man who was too lazy to fail and farm life in Happy Valley. Room for both attitudes in fact and fiction. Me, I live in Saint Anthony Idaho but I leave actually working the land to friends and family – I just hunt and fish in retirement.

                  • As an interesting side note; I read somewhere that the “dust bowl”, rather than being created by white folks farming, is something that there is archaeological evidence for being a regular recurring phenomenon.

                    • The drought was a recurring phenomenon, though at the time outside the experience of white history, but the farming practices at the time didn’t help keep the soil on the ground.

                    • Oh yes. Even without plowing the land blows. There are records of dust storms in the 1820s that extended as far as Ohio, in a time when nothing outside the Missouri River valley was being plowed in the Great Plains. Look at James C. Malin’s articles in Kansas History Quarterly, available free on line. The dry-farming techniques of the 1890s-1935, specifically using listers to make a dust mulch, didn’t help, but the area always blows, has since the start of the Pleistocene, and probably will be blowing when the Sun swallows the planet. I have a “small” list of other sources and materials if you are interested. 😀 *trots off to gather books, journals, four carousels of slides, two boxes of transparencies*

                    • Me! Me! Me! send me names. (I can’t take the physical ones off your hands until I have house.)

              • In the words of Phil Stong, Bossy is an ordinary mean old mooey.

              • There is a notable difference between idealization and knowing but preferring a thing.

                Seeing as how a massive number of families that came over to America did so because the land they were on was more productive with sheep on it than if it was being farmed, we can figure that a lot of the improvement in lifestyle from the industrial revolution was simply not trying to use really low quality land as farm land. If we magicked a world where all those family had been on good quality land

                In contrast, the Shire is neither over-crowded nor land more productively used by animals that tear plants out of the ground– just as the orcs had all the nasty without the nice, the Shire was an example of a good situation.

                yes, it makes a difference, and this is one of the things that various “we need to stop eating meat because it’s wasteful” groups miss. Not all land is suited to raising all things, and some land is flatly destroyed by animals that graze in a different way; yeah, some of the sheep/cow stuff was just humans being jerks, but some of it was because sheep eating in that area might destroy it for any other use in no time, while cows could graze the entire summer, year after year. Goats are even worse than sheep when it comes to killing off the plants, too. The area my great grandfather’s family settled in the US had folks raising both, because the plants were suited to it.

                • Sara the Red

                  Very true, re the sheep/cattle thing! I’ve been working as a contractor with the BLM in Wyoming for the last few years (chasing invasive species, which is hilariously NOT what I went to school for, but unlike many art majors I work where there’s actual cash-money to be had) and have gotten to attend some fascinating field trips where they discussed the *ongoing* impacts to rangeland on account of overgrazing by sheep. There haven’t been hundreds of thousands of sheep (millions?) trailed through here like that since the 1920s, but even some 90 years later, there are still areas that have not fully recovered from the hammering.

                  And it’s still a bit of an ongoing argument between the sheep/cattle people. And then you throw in the frothing-at-the-mouth “wild” horse advocates (who will not acknowledge that a.) they’re feral, not wild, and also an invasive species and b.) if you don’t friggin’ control the population, hundreds/thousands of horses die of starvation/thirst. But somehow, in their minds, that’s better than being rounded up, neutered, or otherwise removed from the population…).

                  But otherwise it’s a textbook example: this is a high desert region. Utter crap for growing stuff (you can get decent crops in some of the valleys, with careful and hard work, but when winter can and frequently does last 9 months out of 12 it sometimes doesn’t matter), but pretty good overall for meat animals. Of course, now there’s the folks who get all up in arms over replacing the native plants with grass in large areas…

                  • Oh, gads, the horse nuts.

                    I think wild horses are pretty, too; I just don’t see how that justifies making them suffer by pretending that a population that was openly managed in the 60s by the locals (go out, shoot the stud, replace with a stud of your choosing, catch the colts– at least in Nevada and NorCal) never happened, and they’ve become a native species.

                    From memory, horses are more like sheep for the method that they eat, but it’s been decades since I was in an area with enough of them for it to matter.

                    There’s been some amazing work that got written up in Range magazine about using sensible grazing with proper rotation to recover areas that were damaged– you probably have at least heard of it.

                    Good luck– it’s really nice to hear about someone in the BLM who’s fairly young and not psycho.

                    • There are environmental nuts who think that mustangs and feral burros are the best replacement for the equines driven to extinction in the Pleistocene. They want to add camels.

                      Also cheetahs. And to greatly increase the number of jaguars and cougars.

                    • My first cryptid was the camels that supposedly live up in the desert near Reno. 😀 The Army tried it out, and some supposedly escaped.

                    • While simultaneously outlawing hunting and taking your guns.

                    • Sara the Red

                      I have found the job unexpectedly interesting, considering that I have never considered myself much of an outdoors person and am allergic (of the sneezy, dribbly variety, not “I will die instantly”) to just about everything. If it weren’t a contractor job (which means no benefits, no leave, and I have to pay a truly ridiculous amount of tax), I’d be fairly content. 🙂

                      Horses are indeed *incredibly* destructive to the range. And sure, I like to see them, too, they’re pretty…but not so pretty when they’re starving to death. It’s kind of entertaining, too, when one is out in the field in “wild” horse country, and you end up with one or two following you around, because a.) they’re horses, and horses are nosy buggers, and b.) they’re not actually all that wild. They might not let you walk right up to them, but they’ll let you get pretty close. (And I suspect that if one were foolish enough to be carrying horse-friendly food, you might actually get mobbed…)

                      And we do in fact have standards and guidelines in place that folks who lease the land for grazing are supposed to follow, in an effort to avoid over-grazing. But oh, my, the horse-nuts. Are so very, very illogical and nutty (which makes them, I suppose, like any other brand of SJW…)

                      And while I cannot speak to the crap that happened in Nevada–though I’m pretty sure it was a stupid-fest on both sides from beginning to end, as far as I can tell the real problem with a government agency vs. a private company is that, in the government, it is virtually impossible to fire someone for any reasons short of egregious sexual harassment or something (and sometimes not even then). Sadly, this usually means the incompetent ones just get promoted/transferred to another field office so they become someone else’s problem for awhile. We’ve had field managers who were certifiably nuts (and, I gather, somewhat unsafe when they went off their meds, which happened with distressing regularity), a supervisor with narcolepsy (who neglected to tell anyone she had it, and so no one knew she shouldn’t be allowed to drive EVER) and who was also crazy, people who are flat-out criminal or incompetent…but they can’t be fired, usually because of the equal opportunity stuff, sigh. Meanwhile, there are plenty of folks who really *do* want to do their jobs well, but are hobbled by regulations and/or the higher ups who don’t give a damn. It’s actually been a pretty eye-opening experience, and while I am still very much in favor of small-government, I’ve gotten a good look at why, in some areas, government regulations really are a necessary evil. (Because you better believe there are companies out there who don’t care/don’t know/don’t want to know why you shouldn’t just wreck all the landscape while digging oil and gas wells, and other shenanigans…)

                    • Because you better believe there are companies out there who don’t care/don’t know/don’t want to know why you shouldn’t just wreck all the landscape while digging oil and gas wells, and other shenanigans…

                      People, period. Just companies are bigger and easier to spot. (And can also make a really good place for that kind of person to hide behind, then dodge into another.)

                      Kinda tragedy of the commons.


                      SEE?!?! See, guys? I’m not totally crazy! *grin*
                      I’ve been known to rant about pretty much exactly what you’ve mentioned.

                      Although now I’m terrified because either someone managed to get a driver’s license when they’re narcoleptic, or a federal agency has someone without a license driving.

                    • When Dad was young, he used to make a living breaking wild horses to ride. People would ship in a train car load, and hire whoever was tough enough to break them for a set price per. (don’t remember for sure, but it wasn’t that much)

                    • Sara the Red

                      Thankfully, soon as they found out she was not allowed to drive government rigs. Apparently she did have a driver’s license, though, which is indeed terrifying…

                      And yeah, I gather the problem right now (and has been since the economy tanked in ’08) is that you pretty much can’t *give* a horse away. Makes the adopt-a-wild-horse thing less than effective, alas.

                      Someone once posited that perhaps we ought to issue hunting licenses for the horses. If you want to shoot and eat them, fine. If you just want to hunt one, fine (though probably, as with other game animals, you still need to cart the carcass *somewhere else*). If you want to catch one and take it home and make a pet of it, fine. But put the onus of dealing with them into the hands of, heh, the ‘people’ and let them decide individually.

                      Digressions are fun!

                    • If I remember right, the defacto illegality of killing horses is in part because they didn’t have a good argument against the “license to hunt” argument.

                  • If you aren’t already reading CJ Box’s Joe Pickett novels you really ought try them.

              • Those who have actually milked cows by hand, f’r instance, are not inclined to romanticize old Bossy.

                No not at all. As a kid, about once a month or so I’d spend a weekend at my maternal grandparents house and as such was expected to help Granddaddy with the chores, one of which was milking the two cows. If you did not do it every day, your hands would cramp up very fast. It was fun squirting the cats begging for milk though. you also had to be careful about getting cow poop particles in the bucket. It was real easy to do if ol’ bossy took a crap while being milked.

          • Not to mention what he saw serving in WWI.

        • A lot of it was awful. Had wonderful outcomes, was required to improve things overall, but still awful– the horrific part of the Orcs and such is that you had the slaughterhouse’s death, blood and offal, but not the meat. To steal from his fellow Inkling— lots of winter, but never Christmas.

          • Sara the Red

            Tolkien did mention (I forget exactly where in LOTR) that there were entire kingdoms in the south and east that were enslaved to Sauron and which, unlike Mordor proper, were not barren wastelands but fair lands that supplied the food and so on for Sauron’s armies. Reading between the lines, I actually came away with the impression that the lands of the West were possibly in the *minority* when it came to not being under Sauron/Sauron’s minions’ thumb…

            (And for any who are videogame fans, Shadows of Mordor actually takes a trip into a least some of the more scenic, fertile bits of Mordor, and it is specifically lampshaded that these lands provide the food for his armies…And they are very scenic indeed!)

    • I kept waiting for the protagonist of Old Man’s War to figure out that he had been mind-controlled not to mind the whole “suck out my twin and stick me in” thing, and he never did. And then it turned out that the author saw no moral or psychological objections, so he thought nobody else would.

      (There was the ridiculous religious counselling offer, but anybody who thinks they’d have Catholic priests totally okay with the premise has definitely mind-controlled his characters.)

      • Stopped reading him after the Avatar fanfic he called an H. Beam Piper tribute. He was going downhill before that, but that one finished it.

        • I’m a Piper fan. One who, in large part, agrees with Piper’s take on humanity. On the other hand, I’ve never particularly agreed with Scalzi’s views (or his pompously self-righteous posturing).

          When I saw this one on the bookstore shelf I was astonished, but cautiously pleased – perhaps I had misjudged him. Maybe he *could* interestingly if he was a Piper fan – after all, I like Eric Flint and Steve Brust’s books, even if I disagree vehemently with their politics.

          So I picked it up, read the back cover and winced, read the first few paragraphs and *really* winced, and placed the book firmly back on the shelf.

          IMHO, it was a “tribute” in the same sense that the movie _Starship Troopers_ was a tribute to Heinlein – in both cases, a posturing political hack with jacked up the title and character names to produce a piece of canine excrement guaranteed to disgust any fan of the original work while preening himself on his fresh, true, and relevant expose of the work’s “true inner message”. Pfui.

  3. sanfordbegley

    Many readers, myself included feel the same way

  4. I enjoy a lot of books and other media that is marketed as “science fiction” and my own work is generally described that way. I have friends who self-identify as “science fiction fans”.

    I personally don’t identify as a “science fiction fan” because I believe that the phrase has connotations that go far beyond a preference for a particular genre and many of them are, in my opinion, very negative ones.

    In my case “science fiction fans” serve less as ambassadors and more as gatekeepers. My experience with conventions and fan forums has been negative, as a rule. The tribalism you speak of has made me feel very much an outsider and has left me with no desire whatsoever to become an insider.

    I suspect that many “mainstream readers” have had similar experiences.

    • sanfordbegley

      A very good point, and one I agree with. However it was originally the mainstream reaction to SF/Fantasy which caused the insularity of SF fans. I am a fan of SF. I am involved in the community,mu fiance is a writer of SF/Fantasy, many of my friends are professionals in the field. However I do not consider it a primary facet of me, except in my on-line presence which is often as promotional as anything. In the real world I am as much a mystery fan as SF as Western as… I understand those who hold back from fandom. If it weren’t for business reasons and seeing my friends I would not attend cons either. I don’t care for panels or cosplay or the myriad other fna things. I do care deeply for many of the people involved

      • Speaking of cons, will you be at worldcon this year?

        • I will. Spokane is an awesome location for conventions. (I went to college there.) Huge numbers of restaurants of all types and price ranges within blocks of the center, a beautiful park with waterfalls (RIVER-SIZED waterfalls) just outside the doors, and, not incidentally, a bunch of my college friends.

        • sanfordbegley

          Not this one, not the next, the one after that is still up in the air, money and time mostly. Oddly enough time is a bigger factor than money

      • Gary Roulston

        I am with you on this Sanford!

      • Indeed. I remember as a youngster the reaction was often “Science Fiction? Well, at least he is reading.”
        Somewhere along the way, the literary glitterati noticed things like SF being the only modern authors that published anthologies of short stories, a dying literary trend.
        I even encouraged my Aunt to let her daughter read those ‘Torrid Romance Novels’. Same rationale; while I might not like it, at least she was reading.

  5. Maybe I am just peculiar. I read what I want. I appreciate other people’s recommendations, but I always weigh them through my knowledge of the person. I have, thereby discovered a few authors I would not have otherwise.

    For example: a young friend suggested I try a Georgette Heyer and offered to loan me one. I knew she liked Heinlein and L’Amour. So I gave the Heyer a try. Happy me.

    I have developed an appreciation of all things Sarah Hoyt — or Elise Hyatt — or a few others, but on the recommendation of a friend whose initials are SH I am waiting to read anything by Sarah Marques. Anyway that means when I see that those who enjoy her say that someone is utterly worth throwing against the wall I am too slow a reader to waste my time finding out for myself.

    But if I don’t like a book (or even think it might be dangerous*), I don’t believe it should be banned. I might believe a book is trash and therefore throw my copy away. I am very uncomfortable about any talk of instituting book burning or banning.

    * I am not sure there are books that are in and of themselves dangerous. Mind numbingly stupid, certainly. Advocating evil, yes. But there is that one book chained up all by itself down in the basement of the Unseen University at Ankh Morpork…

    • sanfordbegley

      I am much in the same vein, I of course recommend the books of SH and her alters, I also recommend a lot of others most notably Cedar Sanderson.The only thing that truly outrages me is the habit of some folks from either side of saying that the other has nothing good about it. This and the serious disconnect with reality from those who proclaim that reading authors of a certain age, gender, or ethnicity are bad because of the authors characteristics. You can be a pink monkey and write good or bad books, I cannot see what you look like through the pages of a book and it shouldn’t matter

      • Ellis Peters, author of the Brother Cadfael mysteries is a woman. Not everyone is aware of this and for most readers such knowledge doesn’t change whether or not they like the books. I think this is a good thing.

        I know that some people put great store on the race, ethnicity, politics, sexual orientation and other non-literary factors of their authors. Fine, they can choose to read what they want, and it won’t be skin off my back so long as I am allowed to choose to read what I want. It is when people want to prevent books from being published, destroy books that do not belong to them, attack and try to suppress authors they object to and seek to ban books that I draw the line.

        • In the old days, many women had male pseudonyms. Didn’t think a thing of it. Unfortunately, I did not realize it spread to other art forms. I was very taken by Walter Carlos’ Switched on Bach. By the third album, the music was the same but it was now Wendy Carlos, with the liner notes stating ‘I have always been a woman’.
          I thought it was a sex-change operation for many, many years before I discovered that it was Columbia Records that demanded the name Walter on the first albums.
          Indeed, perhaps the reason for the many years before I discovered this was that I really didn’t care if the musician was a *insert whatever gender identity appropriate name*. The music was outstanding, and that is what I was interested in.

          • I think she meant “I have always felt I was a woman.” Went to check because I remembered hearing she was trans. Wikipedia: “Carlos became aware of her gender dysphoria from an early age, stating “I was about five or six…I remember being convinced I was a little girl, much preferring long hair and girls’ clothes, and not knowing why my parents didn’t see it clearly”. In 1962 (age 22) when she moved to New York City to attend graduate school at Columbia University, she came into contact for the first time with information about transgender issues (including the work of Harry Benjamin). In early 1968 she began hormone treatments and soon began living full-time as a woman. In her Whole Earth Catalog review of synthesizers (1971), she asked to be credited simply as “W. Carlos”. After the success of Switched-On Bach, in May 1972 Carlos was finally able to undergo sex reassignment surgery.”

            And of course, who cares. It’s the art that matters.

            • Oh! Well, I probably read the liner notes on the later album around 1975. Renee’ Richards was big news on the sex-change front then. Later, I decided that I had conflated the two people.
              Doesn’t matter. People with that much talent often have some personality quirks as well. I also have her Switched on Bach 2001, and she seems happy, which is all we can really expect from life.

          • A lot of folks still use pseudonyms that project the image their product will be best promoted by– my mom has been known to let folks mistake her welding for that of a man, romance writers use female pseudonyms or multiple writers use a single name, businesses where the work is really done by one spouse are figure-headed by the other, because it looks better.

      • The only thing that truly outrages me is the habit of some folks from either side of saying that the other has nothing good about it.

        Regrettably, all too many people fail to understand the difference between “It is not to my liking” and “It is not any good.”

    • The danger of a thing is dependent on its power– that’s why my house cats are adorable when they’re “stalking” me, but adding an extra zero to their weight results in a very really dangerous and scary situation.

      Move over to news– a hundred and fifty years ago, controlling the news papers in an area meant you controlled the news. Now? It means that you’re scrambling to make ends meet and compete with all the other sources of information.

      I was taught to be horrified that there was ever such a thing as an index of banned books; on learning more, I found out that it was nothing like what I’d been told, a context that depends entirely on books being relatively cheap and common. When there may only be one Bible in a day’s travel, when there aren’t a variety of science textbooks (with supporting texts), then it becomes a Really Big Deal when someone puts out something false.
      These days, a bad translation of the Bible or most anything else might be annoying, but it’s unlikely to mislead anyone who isn’t actively searching for an excuse to go the way it indicates; in those days… *shudder* Imagine putting your medical instructions through Google Translate about four times.

      • Bad translation – like the one that left the word ‘NOT’ out of “thou shalt not commit adultery”?

        • *snickers* I think that was after they started losing a lot of their power through being common, but yes. Or more innocent things, like using a word that is pretty close…and not correcting for linguistic drift. (Example: “kill” vs “murder,” which I’ve seen selectively quoted to support veganism. No, I don’t know how they dealt with the way that Christ didn’t follow that, unless they justified it as Him having not killed stuff Himself, but the fish He brought into the net definitely died…..)

  6. “simply because the blogger interpreted things in the worst possible light.”

    Or just maybe the blogger or fan looked at two things: 1. What the person on the social side is objectively, factually, untrue. 2. Even after having those facts pointed out, and evidence shown, the person on the social side simply continues to repeat the lies.

    The social side adds besmirchment of reputation; attempts to involve the legal system either by claiming they feel threatened; or that the blogger or fan is an actual threat to his own loved ones.

    And of course, you’ll say “But they aren’t all like that!” And of course, you’re right. Many of the others will simply sit there, either because they believe the lies themselves, or simply because they hope the crocodiles will eat them last. There’s pushing 5 decades of history to show this.

    In the end, though, it really doesn’t matter. Whether deluded or deceptive or ducking and running, the bottom line is that they cannot be trusted on any commitment, even or especially to maintaining a civil and actually tolerant society.

    That alone means that we can’t ever really be comfortable with them around. But that would be fine if they would simply leave us alone and let us enjoy our lives without them. However, they can’t do that either; they also feel an overwhelming compulsion to run / ruin other people’s lives. I don’t see that getting better either.

    • sanfordbegley

      And mostly there we are talking about the extremists. I am aware of exactly the case you are talking about but, it really isn’t very many people. It is a relative handful who are frenetically loud

      • The problem is like any other Marxist revolution, you have the “extremists” , and then the fellow travelers who cover for them, support them in many ways financially, and who, most importantly, don’t disagree with their approaches, letting the extremists say “none of the good people are complaining” and “look how many aren’t disagreeing.”

  7. Some things are lovely in themselves; a baby, puppies and kittens, an apple tree. Most other things are only lovely within a context, and sometimes the context interferes, and sometimes it enhances.
    I personally thought “If you were a dinosaur, my love” was lovely, because my context includes reading “If you give a mouse a cookie” and “If you give a moose a muffin” to my children, and then writing “If you give a dog an enema.”
    By the way, it took me only one trial to learn that checking the ‘Notify of new comments via email” box on ATH is the surest way to pack my inbox to an overwhelming extent.

    • sanfordbegley

      IYWADML might be a lovely story, that is subjective. In context however, it is not SF and the nomination of it for the Hugowas a travesty

    • Pat, you should publish “If you give a dog an enema”. You might not win a Hugo, but I bet it could make the short list for the Nebula.

    • Does the email/system you use allow threading? IIRC, the vanilla gmail system was kind of wonky about randomly starting new threads for the ATH responses, but Microsoft’s free “windows live mail” program deals with it alright.

      • I still run XP in a virtual box so I can use outlook express. Some of us don’t like ‘change’ in our mail systems (OK, the 130 message rules does have something to do with it).
        I think it was you Foxfier that stated recently “most of us here have posts emailed”. I was more on the line of Pat thinking, I certainly don’t need *that* in my inbox.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          With Thunderbird, I can put all the “AccordingToHoyt” emails in a folder by themselves so they don’t “clutter up” my inbox.

          Of course, I check that folder several times a day so it doesn’t get too cluttered. [Smile]

          I can understand the situation for people who check email only once a day (or less).

        • From the number of folks who have mentioned the piles of email in their boxes before– plus the “comment for comment” comments– I’m still pretty sure that most of us do use the more reliable (not to be confused with “reliable”) email option.

  8. To me there is this one critical defining difference between the two opposing philosophies. We simply choose not to read their stuff because we don’t care for it. They (SJW and their ilk) wish to prevent the stuff we like from being published so that we will be forced to buy and read their stuff.
    Thus it becomes essentially a libertarian vs lib/prog issue.

  9. “What i would like to see on a daily basis is for both sides to reach out and try to find common ground.”

    I just seen a pig come flying past my window, so that may happen soon.

  10. Nice sentiment. However, I think that the original premise of the Sad Puppies has been lost here. Their objection wasn’t to the writings by the SJW crowd. It wasn’t any objection to their messages. It wasn’t, even, a reaction to the horrid story telling such as was evidenced in “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.” There was no objection to the existence of the “tribes” which has been true in SF since its recognition as a singular genre.

    It was about the manner and method of nominating and selecting those who were getting the awards, specifically the Hugo and Nebula awards.

    That is all. Nothing more.

    • ???
      Sanford’s post wasn’t about Sad Puppies at all.

      • Not directly, but Sad Puppies in all its iterations is a glaring example of the fundamental difference between the two opposing tribes/philosophies in SFF today. Which was exactly what Larry C. intended, to point out that the system was broken, taken over by the SJW crowd and being used to reward “special” writers who fit some approved diversity niche and filled their work with the right messages.

        • exactly what Larry C. intended, to point out that the system was broken, taken over by the SJW crowd and being used to reward “special” writers who fit some approved diversity niche and filled their work with the right messages.

          In the minds hearts of SJWs that represents the proper functioning of the system; allowing recognition of “Double-Plus Ungood Politically Incorrect works would be evidence of its being broken. The purpose of such awards, after all, is to promote works of significant merit. Mere popularity does not merit awards and in fact argues against such recognition.

  11. I read what ‘I’ choose to read. As a youngster back in the 50’s I was stuck with what the library had. Thankfully most of it was pretty good. Today, sometimes I read the back and forths just for laughs. At this point I don’t believe there is any common ground left. Each side has ‘appropriated’ what they believe is ‘their’ space in SF, and damn the torpedoes (space or whatever type), they’re not going to give an inch. I think it’s truly sad that it has degraded to this point, and I believe it’s sucking the life out of the SF genre. I’ve got a MILSF book about half written, and it will probably stay that way. At this point I don’t know that it’s worth the effort to try to complete it. What ever happened to reading for FUN?

    • What ever happened to reading for FUN?


      How does some folks throwing fits about a thing mean that other folks– probably lots of other folks– aren’t doing it for fun?

      Cosplay wasn’t destroyed by over-serious folks like the ones in that horrible Reality TV show, there’s still a lot of people who will wake up the morning of the con and go: “Hey, I’m a tall, thin guy, and I own a trench coat and a decent hat— I’ll make a pentagram necklace out of wire and go as Harry Dresden!

      • Professor Badness


      • Oh, yes. I do miss being thin enough that I could dye my hair a random color the night before, throw on a chinese silk dress the morning of, and then enthusiastically agree with whatever character someone said I was when I walked in the con door.

        I never competed in cosplay, but I did enjoy playing along. After all, a con is supposed to be about having fun with your tribe!

        As for who is my tribe, well, I usually ignore the battle lines unless the person I’m dealing with can’t help but bring them up. I just think of the first time we got about four blocks away from DragonCon. I was idly watching the passerby through the window, and they started to change in some ill-defined way. Sure, the average body weight went up, and the t-shirts were snarkier, and there were random unnatural hair colors more frequently – but it wasn’t any single obvious signal when my back brain woke me out of half-daze and blurted “My peoples! We are almost there, because I see my tribe!”

        In the end, the mass of people who truly enjoy science fiction, fantasy, and stories on a grand or geeky scale is huge. Multi-billion-dollar gaming industry huge. The source of the SJW whining is small and shrill, like a dyspeptic chihuahua that never got a good owner or firm training.

        • Professor Badness

          I’ve been wanting to do something similar (costume wise) with white dress shirt, slacks, undone tie and white lab coat. I could be from anything.

        • ” The source of the SJW whining is small and shrill, like a dyspeptic Chihuahua”

          Thanks for that visual…er…aural?

      • overgrownhobbit

        Or.. I’m a well-preserved woman of a certain age, who has a dark business suit for work… All I need now is screen cap of a Harriet Jones’ ID badge….

    • The only reading I did that was not for fun, was in school. Why buy and read books you don’t enjoy, on your own time.

      • For information. For non-fiction it’s how-to or facts. For fiction it’s to learn a technique or to see what all the fuss is about.

        • Reading to learn. Um…that is ALSO fun. At least the books I read are.

          • I think it’s the glittering illiterates who want to make learning Not-Fun.

            • Fun = Not Socially Aware Or Useful. I care not what they think, for their “thoughts” lack nourishment.

              • Right now I’m working on my fifth Jasper Fforde “Tuesday Next” novel–time travelling, jumping into and out of books, The Cat Previously Known As “Cheshire”, and other strange, strange ideas.

          • overgrownhobbit

            Some people read nonfiction for fun, too. In fact I have a whole collection of non fic titles under the working rubric “if you’re not careful, you just might learn something!” for use in book talking.

            It’s also a great palate cleanser if you’re up to your eyeballs in teen angst.

            And there really are some truly great nonfiction writers who create informational, how to books that are purely fun to read. Like Marianne Binetti or Tom Sowell.

        • Sara the Red

          One of my qualifications for reading non-fiction is that it be fun and interesting non fiction. Even if it’s for research. (I exclude the research I had to do while in college–though even then I found some good stuff.) Nonfiction does not automatically have to be boring, nor should it be! (Despite what school tries to tell us.)

          How-to…eh. I’ll grant you that one, though most of my how-tos at the moment are knitting books, and those ARE fun. 🙂

  12. Not directly, but most of the back and forth on this subject was initiated by the SP public statements about the awards. Without the SP public stance, all of this would have been the same kind of behind the scenes mutterings which SF has had over message/hard SF since its inception.

    There really isn’t any other significant “debate” going on, is there? Which “tribe” is actually objecting to the writings of any other “tribe?” Certainly, one likes what one likes, reads what one likes, maybe even disdains what one doesn’t like. But, which tribe is actually objecting to the writings of another?

    I don’t know of any author who is saying that “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” shouldn’t have been written. Or objected to it in any fashion other than it was a badly written work of…whatever it was. It wasn’t pointed at, laughed at, or derided for BEING, for having been written, for being what it was.

    It is used as an example of how the awards process had been captured by a small group of people who were intentionally choosing a particular type of writing with a particular type of message to the EXCLUSION of the traditional story-telling elements which good writing contains.

    So, yeah. In the end, this “debate” isn’t about the writings. It isn’t about the “tribes.” It isn’t message vs. hard sf or military sf or pew pew sf or any other kind of “this tribe versus that tribe.”

    Because no one really cares about the stories they don’t care about. No military sf buff objects to someone writing “message” fiction. Or anything else, for that matter. Write what you want; read what you want.

    But, have the awards be selected for good stories and no other criteria.

    • Unfortunately, the awards are the point. During those dry decades that all the good authors were dead, “Hugo Award Winner” or “Nebula Award” were clues that some author you had not read might write good stuff. When all that yielded was socially uplifting crap, I simply switched to reading the backs of the cereal boxes.

      • Amen. Whether Orson Scott Card supports group marriage or opposes same sex marriage (or supports same sex group marriage) is IRRELEVANT to whether or not Ender’s Game is a compelling work of fiction.

        Similarly, however much you like the Harry Potter books, that is no reason to accept Rowling’s voting recommendations.

    • My take from both this blog and Sad Puppies is that one side very much objects to the other side writing. Our side on the other hand just goes blah how can anyone enjoy that? Oh well if the want to waste their money and time on dreck, its their money and time.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies nomination slates are effectively awards.

      I can be reasonably certain that the panels behind them won’t be co-opted by those who read few books. I can be confident that the current slates are not built around arguments that any who reads many books can see are idiotic.

  13. There has always been a broad spread of political opinion in fandom, and a lot of drama and infighting. But in the past, it was generally acknowledged that “Ooh, shiny story” outweighed all that. Even writers who were hated got talked about by those who hated them.

    On the other hand, in the past it was easier for publishers or agents to disappear writers from the field, and one simply never found out what had happened (unless they had a lot of fannish contacts).

    So I think the helplessness of the professional gatekeepers, following so closely on a period when publishing was so closely controlled that controlling the gatekeepers with mean girl tactics seemed wise, has caused the hardcore nasties to try a grab for total power. But it is not as easy as trying to take over a local convention with a sudden coup.

    Point of order: SJW message fic has little to do with feelings or empathy for characters. One of the reasons I stopped reading certain authors is that they would have characters do something or be put in a situation that should have caused a strong reaction by the characters and rules of the world they had set up, and yet no duels or murders or strongly worded arguments would ensue; everybody would approve and be happy that they’d just been screwed over! Mary Sue used to suffer unjustly, at least, but now it is all hail Maximal Leader Sue, from the dust under her feet.

  14. RealityObserver

    It’s not SF, but if anyone ever wants to “inspect” my bookshelf – I’ll make sure to arrange four titles side-by-side. “Mein Kampf,” “The Federalist Papers,” “Atlas Shrugged,” and “Das Kapital.”

    Thing is, I believe that auditors leaning “left” will immediately condemn me for at least two (possibly three) of those titles. Those leaning “right” will probably just shrug…

    • I’d admire your tenacity for having made it through those. Only one is much of a good read.

      • RealityObserver

        “Atlas Shrugged” is a slog. Perhaps 75 to 80 percent ideological agreement – but execrable writing.

        “Federalist Papers” is also a slog. Largely because you have to stop and think quite often (and, myself, dig up some odd piece of history/philosophy/economics, etc. to make sure I understood it in context).

        “Mein Kampf” is one I read in the “know thine enemy” category. In translation, it is actually fairly well written (although one acquaintance that claims to have read it in the original German says it gained *much* technical quality in translation).

        “Das Kapital” is in the KTE category, too. Although the translation I have is somewhat stilted (and ideas that are quite insane), some parts are not bad if you like a certain kind of fantasy. Again, though, I have heard that the original German is an example of horrendous writing ability. (I have heard people say that about Goethe, too – is it something about German writing? Something like Russian writing? Given time, maybe I should learn German to find out…)

        • I enjoy Goethe’s writing, but I can see how someone who learned basic modern German first (as opposed to learning the history of the language as she is learning the basics of the language) would find him hard going. Yeah, Kapital in German is a slog. A self-pretentious slog. _The German Ideology_ is a better introduction to his ideas, and it is an essay collection rather than a tome. The few chapters I’ve read of _Mein Kampf_ in German . . . The author should have stuck with painting.

        • Goethe is quite pleasant in German. Mind you, it’s been 30 years, but I found nothing wrong.

        • 18th and 19th century German academics had developed a sort of peculiar style of writing, which German grammar rules were (and still, in theory, are) amenable to. German grammar tends to stack verbs in piles at the end of long and complex sentences, and includes standardized rules for inventing new words out of old ones.

          Immanuel Kant is probably the most famous example of what I’m talking about – enormous sentences of unparalleled complexity, newly invented words, and enough impenetrability that it is often said (especially to despairing English-speaking students of philosophy) that German students of Kant’s sometimes consult a good English translation in order to make headway.

          I think the German language and its delightful grammar (especially in a more dated form) can share a little of the blame, but on the other hand, you can certainly find modern English-language academics who don’t have that excuse to fall back on.

    • Atlas Shrugged? Why would the lefties condem you for having an instruction manual?

    • I’m betting on “Three”, and they won’t read Marx because he’s a heteronormative dead white man.

  15. As others have said, by current standards of what constitutes a fan, I’m not a sci-fi or fantasy fan. I read and write what i like, which happens to fall into the mil-sci-fi realm, often with an alt-history aspect to it. I get tired of the moral arguments fore reading books by X or about X, usually because I’ve tried X and found it unreadable. Yes, I read IYWADML. As a story it was OK but I wouldn’t give it a major award. I tried _Ancillary Justice_ and couldn’t make it past the first chapter.

    What would pull fans, readers, writers and others together? I’m not certain. After following a little of the fringes, I suspect one thing might be to close all comment sections on all blogs for six months, whap anyone who tries to comment or who opens their comments section about the head and face with a slightly over-ripe flounder, and just write. No politicking, no sniping, no telling people only to read books by left-handed, neo-pagan pacifist ovo-lacto-vegetarian persons-of-color named Pat. And no sniffing about teh Feeeeelz and how people should not read any author who cannot recite the Drake equation and every NATO caliber off the top of their head.

    But I’m still waiting for that pony I asked for when I was 8, too. (Actually, I’ll take a Paso Fino stallion, trained, age 6 would be nice. In black if you have one.)

    • But a Paso Fino is a gaitkeeper!

    • RealityObserver

      There aren’t all *that* many NATO calibers (in current use, anyway).

      Now, I knew a person once who could (plausibly, I didn’t verify) name off all of the calibers, and the associated firearms, used by the Central Powers and the Allies in WW One. That impressed me…

      OTOH, when presented with someone that obviously has not the slightest notion of the time required to train a soldier to the most minimal standards (super-duper implanted nano-tech and miracle drug “suites” notwithstanding) – I pitch the book (you can probably guess the author). That is about the equivalent of reading about a Black in the 1960s Deep South that NEVER encountered anyone who gave them problems over their skin color.

      • I can guess. (Actually, two come to mind, but one doesn’t really count for various reasons of obscurity.)

        • Only two? You have lead a sheltered life.

          • 1) Does it have Baen in the spine?
            2) Does the most voracious mil-sci-fi reader I know like it?

            The ones that I can think of off the top of my head met neither criteria. I’m sure there were other “oh, come on, this is hooey” books, I just can’t remember them.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        I could use some advice.

        I’ve got an over fifty years from now post world war seriously reorganized USMC.

        Some spaceships are put together, and the USMC is supplying the space naval infantry. They need to hit certain sites, and there is probably some sort of deadline.

        I’ve a large group of people who got magical powers from an alien technology. I’d like to have some of them join, get trained, and be part of the expeditions.

        What sort of time do you think they would need? What does minimal standards mean?

        • RealityObserver

          Urp. I have NO idea. What kind of “magical alien powers”? Will they obviate things like marksmanship training? Are they already proficient with their “powers”? (Those would be, I assume, essentially their MOS – Military Occupational Specialty – which subjects are really the major bulk of modern military training.)

          Plus – it sounds like your starting conditions may automatically reduce the basic training time. A lot of time right now is spent just getting some kind of discipline and working as a team into recruits. PT, too (although the author I mentioned took care of that with his nano-tech). Considering that it was probably a war with something close to today’s WMDs, they would probably already have pretty good practical “training” in hostile environmental conditions – such as *always* making sure their air filter is properly seated…

          Taking these into consideration – and assuming their MOS is just their “powers” – minimal training could be as little as 30 – 45 days (my best guess). I’d probably still allow 60 – 90 if possible, though – the (modern) military is just plain different in *so* many ways from even the most demanding civilian life.

          In any case, I’m not sure that ATH is the best place to get good advice on this; you should go over to the Baen forums – there are many people there that will almost certainly be happy to help you out. (Although you might want to avoid Tom Kratman – not because he is unreliable, or will not be helpful – but because you will spend the next six months trying to drink from the fountain before you realize the dang thing is hooked up to an artesian spring.)

          Actually, come to think of it – Tom has a series of articles on *good* training in the Baen Free Library, and I believe they are also all on his own website. Adapt a bit for your “magic” abilities and that they are Space Marines, and you would probably get a pretty darn good feel for what additional training your specials will need, and how long it will take.

          • RealityObserver

            Addendum – I wanna read it!

          • An easily defensible and fairly easy cheat would be to totally rip off the current training for various military groups– figure out who is the most like your group, and go from there.
            There are a ton of resources for “what is boot camp like?” and you could probably ask for details here, too– we’ve got a good selection of folks who either have military backgrounds or have family who did. I think we’re a bit heavy on the Navy technician side of things, but….

            Example: the Navy can take a pretty normal 17 year old and turn them into a basic electronics technician who can also do basic damage control and emergency medical help in one year, without a lot of loss. (And most of that is from being incredibly stupid, such as driving through the front gate with a bag of weed on your dash the week before graduation…..)

            The Marines actually have two “basic training” things, so you could even totally steal that and have one group not require it. (I can’t remember the name of the second, more advanced one that everyone gets. Sorry.) Depending on the “magic,” I might suggest you disguise it by having them need the extra camp and the normal guys only need the advanced training. 😀

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              Checking wiki for training times struck me as easy, and easy to misunderstand considering my lack of background.

              Per wiki, it looks a like an Army Paratrooper gets 120 for basic, AIT, and jump school. I figure it takes some time training in one’s unit before it is a good idea to carry out a real life combat drop. Again per wiki, it looks like the Marines have 150 for basic and infantry school, and the French Foreign Legion 105.

              I probably should read up more on the history of WWII paratrooper programs.

              Rereading Kratman, Ringo, et al. for comparable situations struck me as the level of effort beyond asking here.

              Hammering everything out in Kratskeller probably doesn’t make sense before I actually do the earlier books and have a pretty good idea of what plot I want for this.

              Now I know that I’m going to need more time than I’d anticipated, which is good because I haven’t set anything in stone yet.

              • Clark E Myers

                For the differences between skill training, which civilians tend to fixate on, and other functions of training, see Go on and read it, it’s free.

                Colonel Kratman writes: “I went to Ranger School at about one hundred and fifty-five pounds. I came back, just a tad over nine weeks later, at one hundred and twenty-two.I suspect my actual graduation weight was under one hundred and twenty, and possibly under one hundred and fifteen.
                …….On that kind of diet, injuries don’t heal. If you get a cut in Ranger School on Day 3, that cut will still be open and oozing crud on Day 63.”

                I mentioned simulators, especially advanced technology 50 years hence simulators for training. Colonel Kratman has written some very disparaging things about the NTC. I suspect but do not know some of the reasons. In an only vaguely related way I do know that folks have died after simulating piloting stunts in a full motion simulator before actually trying the stunt because reality scared them beyond what the simulator prepared them for and they panicked. Story idea might make advanced simulator training to save time a theme.

            • Marines have basic boot camp, them School of infantry. All of them go through SOI. The REMF’s do a one month course, the grunts do three (I think, I’ll have to ask Marine sons).

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            A major setting theme is that WMD are over hyped. Think a ‘despair is a sin’ reaction to Cold War era defeatist emo BS.

            That and my handwaving remediation means no skills transfer that way.

            I’m somewhat familiar with Kratman.

            Powers won’t substitute for space infantry training. Plus, they’d need substantially more research time to understand the powers that well.

            I haven’t decided how much work this USMC needs to do to get a good set of equipment and doctrine for space infantry. Hence wondering whether ninety days of training would get past the point where deadly screw ups are likely.

            • One reasonable take on that is the Vorpal Blade series by John Ringo / Travis Taylor. Mostly because their setting is in a universe that’s just starting up with the process of getting a space Navy and Marine Corps.

              I was working a contract with the Marines at Camp Pendleton about 3 years ago, and that led to some interesting discussions and at least a couple new readers.

        • Clark E Myers

          I’d say do whatever you want and don’t worry about it. If getting past the point where deadly screw ups are likely is necessary the universe is currently predicted to die a heat death before that happens – which will be hard on the story.

          There’s reality and there’s good idea. When the United States was scraping the bottom of the barrel for uncommitted cannon fodder for Normandy, any number of men previously deferred for cause or in specialized training at colleges and universities were called up, inadequately trained and sent off to die. The first wave were pretty much pack animals and coolies whose bodies could be looted for the second wave. However inhumane it worked. The phrase 90 day wonder comes to mind from history too. Some say Bob Dole is a shining example of more willing than able when it comes to combat leadership – not meant to be a knock on a good man who did his best, a comment on training as was and is – close counts in hand grenades – and as ought to be.

          Speaking of Marines reminds me of the classic words to the effect that what the once famous speaker is, is a Marine Rifleman. What the speaker does is fly jet airplanes. Trained to do what? Ideally at least get a blood stripe before being blooded but needs must when the devil drives.

          Look at delays and bottlenecks associated with specialized training that only a few people at a time will get. Or alternatively hand wave any number of full motion full immersion simulators or fans for practicing sky diving 6 feet off the ground or what have you then explain why a society that rich and magic too has to fight wars over anything.

          A point is that building an NCO core for your corps won’t be done in days, or even months. Read Kratman on his own Ranger Training (or Cazador training courtesy of the Noahs) and ask yourself how long does it take to prepare, endure and then recover to full effectiveness all the while maintaining a combat edge.

          Might look at the original 10th Mountain for training larger numbers of specialized troops to a high standard in less familiar circumstances for less common terrain starting more or less from scratch..

          I once argued for the Swiss Pattern of universal military service – I was there for the national level games when they adopted the Stg 57 – with one of my own instructors who trumped me by saying he took a battalion of WWII experienced reservists to Korea and watched his men die for lack of current training.

          Can’t do better than filing the numbers off Kratman but I suspect any such writing however good and it might be very good indeed will still be what I insist on calling space opera and not military fiction and from my perspective that’s OK too.

          As an aside I doubt that anybody knows where to stop going back to matchlocks and miquelets for the Great War. I am reminded of one authenticated by memoir uniformed use – Homeguard – for a Pony Colt (single action army) and less than a cylinder full of .32-20 so given all the ersatz by the Axis and because the Italian Army supply line ran back to sporting goods stores (that’s mostly why they used expanding bullets in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa) I doubt any listing for WWII could ever be quite complete.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            I’ve decided the limits of technical feasibility I’ll allow for VR.

            I’d realized early on that this program would have to rely on officers and NCOs developed by other programs.

            I haven’t even decided whether I’m going to be trying for Space Opera or Mil Sci-Fi. Probably not Planetary Romance or Super Sentai.

      • 3rd para–I’m having no clue. Mostly I just read ANALOG, no SF novels except Bujold (and old RAHs) in last few years.

        • RealityObserver

          Well, “Starship Trooper” is an excellent place to start. The training phase (Basic and MOS, at least for “grunts”). Also how doctrine gets changed (hopefully) even for the best organizations when the rubber actually meets the road. And that OCS *might* make you an officer. And…

          Geez. Might as well call it the Origin story for MilSF and *required* reading (at least a dozen times).

  16. Most avid readers on the “right” will have read and, likely, will have those books.

  17. Bujold is probably the big example of someone who is somewhat on the left, writes fic with messages, and yet manages to appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. Since she writes her characters and situations in a realistic and intelligent way that is full of perspective and humor, she truly gives people something they can enjoy and agree with, even if they disagree with the intended message. She does not want to sneer at her readers; she wants to tell them a good story. And she loves every genre she writes with unapologetic love.

    She is also someone who has acted like a grownup instead of joining the hurlyburly, which is a good thing for the field. I don’t think she can write and fight. I am glad she has ignored the mean girl peer pressure that she must get, given that she lives up in Minnesota.

    • Indeed, A good author can write a message I disagree with, as long as that message fits the characters and the ‘world’ of the novel. I will probably like it and finish it with: “Interesting, but I sure hope they are wrong!” But, indeed, SF is the place if you want to write a novel about the brave new society where boys are aborted before birth, except for the 5 sperm donors that keep society running, please, have at it. If you can write it so that the characters and situations fulfill that strange world, I will praise you on your insight, and then think sure hope that never happens.

      • sanfordbegley


      • A “message I disagree with” is fine if it fits the story and characters. It is when (as so many procrustean Lefties are wont to do) the characters and story are forced into the message’s mold that I object. The first instance informs me as to how such a message might be valid for many and helps me shape my arguments against that point into something they can process. (And may even persuade me toward that point of view, now that I understand the forces in play — such as the article about a married couple in which the husband had undergone transgendering convincing me that in such a world the acceptance of same-sex marriage was necessary) The latter simply attempts to club me into submission.

        I do not take well to being browbeaten — shocking though many here may find that news to be.

      • Indeed, A good author can write a message I disagree with, as long as that message fits the characters and the ‘world’ of the novel.

        Good heavens, yes! Ever watch “Avatar: The Last Airbender”? Three kids (then four, then five) run around lying, stealing, breaking promises and being irresponsible, causing massive property damage…but it’s a heck of a story. And don’t get me started on the Old People involved!

    • ..I’m not so sure about her politics. She stuck a very interesting little scene into Cryoburn with an armsman showing a boy who’d been scared of his gun that it’s only a tool, and not something to be afraid of.

      But then, I really don’t care what her politics might be. She writes absolutely wonderful stories that really entertain me, with non-traditional heroes that are still heroic.

      • I think you have hit on her “secret” – empathy for all of her characters. Where an “intersectional social justice” author generally has cardboard bad (old white men) guys, her characters make emotional sense even when they’re doing bad things. If you concede the humanity of the oppressor, then it’s hard to be as simpleminded as is required to buy SJW social theories. She has command of both “father” and “mother” attitudes, like a fully-realized human being should.

        • RealityObserver

          Well, yes, one problem with those authors is that their villains are cardboard. The other problem is that their heroes are tissue paper…

    • She is a good author, I quit reading her after her later Vorkosigan books went to the good guys playing “stunner tag” because that is an utterly unrealistic, pacifistic load of message pap that I despise, and all to many authors have tried to off on their readers. And after Miles had several girlfriends I liked, she married him off to a limp dishrag I can’t stand.
      She is still a talented author, I just found I couldn’t enjoy her newer books. And any message she has tried to consciously slip into her books she has done a good job of covering up with riveting storytelling. Which is all you can really ask of an author.

      I’m not above reading message fiction, I read and enjoy Colonel Kratman, and anyone who claims his stories aren’t message fiction is delusional. I happen to agree with his messages, but still I wouldn’t read them if he didn’t cover them up with good storytelling. I might still read his essays, but I expect them to be factual, and informative, just as I expect the fiction I read to be enjoyable and magnetic.

      • RealityObserver

        The Vorkosigan series – she seems to be going along the line of “Politics is a mere continuation of war by other means.” Which is OK by me, having a fascination with those parts of history as well as the military dominated parts. (But I have to admit that I am with you in that the earlier stories were more stimulating.)

        As far as Miles being tied to a fairly mild mannered woman goes – well, I’m not too sure how interesting her world would be after the little runt conquered the Cetagandans, nuked Jackson’s Whole, etc., etc…

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          I think Bujold has been more challenged to find unpleasant things to do with her characters as she has let them be successful in deescalating the stakes of Barrayar.

          Yes, the leadership of the Empire isn’t getting so involved with disruptor and plasma arc shoot outs. If they did, it would subtly undermine her theme. Gregor rules, likely dies of old age, and no civil war after he passes. That is what the Vorkosigans bled for.

          • I was glad that she turned to an Ivan novel instead of sticking to Miles. Indeed, perhaps it might have been advisable a book or two earlier.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool


              I think the last one was thematically very important. The last two before Ivan kinda of show how hard she has to work now to get Miles into a shoot out.

              Ivan, and some of the other cast seem to have a lot more potential for further interesting stories than Miles.

        • I’m a little bemused at the description of Ekaterina as “mild-mannered.” She’s not a mercenary, but as the overly-socialized product of an abusive marriage she still got up enough of a head of steam to basically piss off a bunch of idiot pacifist terrorists enough that they wanted to space her. I mean, when you get people who *think* they’re against killing to want to murder you, you must be doing something right.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            I loved that section.

            I’d enjoy seeing another go round.

            I just don’t see how Bujold could put her or some of the others in that position without reversing some of what she has established about Barrayar’s stability.

        • Sara the Red

          I actually liked that Ekaterine is a slightly different class of amazon to his exes. (And she’s still tough and strong, just rather different to the other women. She made those Komarran terrorists absolutely miserable.) And really, the reasoning behind her was that Miles had been trying and failing for more than a decade to convince one of his girlfriends to marry him and come live on Barrayar–which they sensibly said no to, because they preferred the freedom that came from more galactic societies. Miles, however, was just as incapable of giving up his ties to Barrayar as they were of giving up their galactic ties, and so he had to find a Barrayaran who didn’t mind his physical abnormalities. I actually felt it was a touch of real-world romance (it’s not always grand passions, sometimes it’s more a matter of finding someone with similar values that you can also love). And Ekaterine is more than willing to slap Miles down when he needs it, which is always… Civil Campaign is one of my all time favorites, because it’s so damn hilarious. But, y’know, YMMV. 🙂 I think I would have been *more* disappointed if Miles had either convinced Quinn to join him (which would have been a betrayal of her character), or if he had abandoned Barrayar for her (which would have been a betrayal of his character).

    • Sara the Red

      Bujold is near the top of my very-favorite authors, and yes, it’s because she tells a damn good story first, with any message a definite second.

      Her books always struck me as being neither right nor left, but in favor of common sense, but perhaps that was just me.

      Elizabeth Moon is another one who, despite distinctly left leanings, tells really, really good stories. At least, I love her fantasy. Haven’t given much of her scifi a go.

  18. I’m not in far enough to see this war much, but some of the “message” stuff is getting so bad it makes me not want to read or watch the show at all.

    If you’re going to have a villain, make sure his villainy is for good reasons. If you’re going to have him kick the dog, do it for a reason beyond “to show how evil he is.”
    Example: in the new Star Trek movie with Kahn Noonan Singh, they chose an actor with a Voice, but not the same look. The fan explanation for this was that in this timeline, the original holder of the name had died and his successor had taken it on in his honor. A second held that hey, they are genetically engineered supermen, why would they have an existing phenotype? Who cares if you’re jaw-drop hot or kind of cute when you’re smarter, faster, more-er than everyone else? The first was a powerful call-back to the Original Series with that famous conversation about recognizing strengths, providing an understandable villain without falling into “The villain has more good qualities than the hero” trap. The latter is simple and makes sense.

    Recently found out that they did a supplemental release to explain it… and decided that they’d make it the same guy. And originally a normal kid, not engineered from the get-go. And he looks like… well, Cumberbatch… because they specifically put him through some long, nasty, painful adjustments to get that result. For no specific reason other than making him not look like a normal kid from India.

    Um…. no. If they’d had a gasp-wow- POWERFULLY attractive actor, it would make sense, but while there’s nothing wrong with how Cumberbatch looks, there’s no way I’m buying that someone would deliberately take a huge amount of effort and risk to the subject to engineer that appearance.
    It’s just silly.

    In contrast, the only similar issues I can think of for the science-and-technology stuff is where they go into specs for five pages and I skim until something actually starts happening again. Even that is only an issue if it requires that you have a solid background in all of the assumptions that the writer was using when he wrote it up, be they IRL technology or only in that series.

    • OTOH, if the characters don’t know what the villain’s purposes and motives are, it’s that much harder for them to stop him.

      • If you go that route, then you’re not going to be showing the readers the Really Dumb Reasons for Evil.

        • “Before I kill you Mr. Bond….”

          (A really fun game by Cheapass Games. I should bring it with me.)

          • the fun thing about that is that many a villain WOULD lecture the hero because he wants his genius to be appreciated for its full wonderfulness.

            • But do the heroes appreciate our genius? NOT! They turn around, Escape, and blow everything up! How crude! And then they make off with our Henchmistress. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a good Henchmistress these days? It ain’t easy!

  19. Professor Badness

    Maybe I’m just dense, but I don’t always catch the message presented in the message fic.
    I read Old Man’s War, and I didn’t really see any message. There were parts of it I didn’t like, such as the lackluster training and the morally questionable downloading of a human brain into another body. But I got over it and just kept reading
    No, I won’t say it was the best thing I ever read, but it wasn’t horrible, (at least, not to me.) Perhaps it’s because I have encountered far more offensive things in the literature I have read. Or that I’ve spent so long reading left leaning literature before I finally discovered Baen and the like.
    Anyway, my main complaint is in agreement with a lot of you. Censorship is not allowable. I am very right leaning, but I am adamantly against telling people what they should and shouldn’t read.
    That’s what this all is; a drive to censorship and book burning. And we all know the kind of cultures that have advocated book burning.

    • Yes, we know, and they generally seem to be on the left side of the spectrum. It’s not much of a stretch to go from calling someone’s disagreement with you as “Hate Speech” to bringing whatever force you have to shut them up, and when that force is the levers of Government….

      • The thing that keeps twigging to me– besides how one side tries to actually remove/prevent/require speech, while another at most tries to keep it in appropriate places, ie provide informed consent for the free exchange of ideas– is that “hate speech” and similar “hate crime” stuff makes it really clear why Catholics (probably other religious philosophies, too) are supposed to try to try to find a non-malignant reason for what people are doing. (It’s in the philosophy about charity of thought– most explosively shown in the way you’re not supposed to assume anybody is in hell.)

        I can even see why there’s such a big divide; one side has a very big respect for the power of words, and the other has a very big respect for the power of will.
        So for one, limiting where a thing is said– ie, not selling Grand Theft Auto 93: Now With On-Screen Prostitute Service to minors– is the same as silencing it, and allowing a thing to be said publicly is promoting it.
        For the other, limiting a generally objectionable thing to where it might reasonably be expected to be found is respecting the freedom of association’s right to not associate, and introducing it into an area it wouldn’t reasonably be expected to be found is promotion.

  20. Bujold is a super example of how to do “progressive” fiction correctly. She is such a great writer that I happily read her fantasy (which as a genre I don’t much enjoy) for the worldbuilding and superior characters. I don’t think anyone complains when she wins awards. The problem is mediocre story and characters hiding behind “progressive” messages and getting awards from the coalition of the once-bullied.

  21. Clark E Myers

    Sadly folks who have much in common can still fracture and disagree strongly. There’s a sort of shaggy dog story with a refrain of “me too” until the last line of “die heretic” over the last and least the most minor difference. I suppose the joke is drawn after life.

    I disagree with the common usage of mil-sf for what I consider space opera. I consider Forever War mil-sf and concur that it has a sad or perhaps melancholy ending and that it says something about life as I’ve seen it.. I’ll go with space opera for what John Scalzi has written and live with his exposition of how things are and ought to be for a view of life as I have not seen it nor would wish it to be but a window into a different perspective.. Facts and feel in Old Man’s War et. seq. are enough to put me off any sense that it shows how things are, might be or ought to be in favor of thinking that it shows a look at life through a distorting frame if at all.

    One function of SF to see ourselves as others see us – that others see Mr. Heinlein as fascist is of interest no matter how unpersuasive. So far as Mr. Spock’s death is concerned I don’t think he died behind the screen any more than he ever lived beyond the screen. I am frequently reminded of what AJ Budrys said – that Star Trek exists to allow fandom without actually having to you know read and ponder.

    I can’t persuade anyone to draw the distinction between Mil Sf and Space Opera that I do any more than I can persuade NPR to use a style book that says decimate from the Roman to reduce by destroying 10%.

    I’m not picking a fight with anybody and I mostly speak up to clarify things in my own mind – who knows I may yet write in total agreement with something on the internet (AOL anyone? the usage died with the service I suppose). As a mostly lurker I would hate to leave the impression I as a lurker agree with anybody including past and future self.

    Bottom line I don’t have a common enemy to fight side by side with a SJW and if I did the Mercenary rules would still apply. I may even share a common vision of the ideal with a SJW while continuing to believe their path is the road to hell (or in this context gray goo?).

  22. Your tribe is often determined by what resonates with you, what themes and elements cause your system to oscillate with greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others. This resonant frequency is a natural frequency of “vibration” determined by the psychological parameters of the reacting reader.

    This resonance can effect itself in negative manners, in positive ones and in both together. Thus a member of the MilSF tribe will react more positively to action elements and more negatively to psychological/empathic ones, while the reverse is true of the SJWSF tribe. So long as each tribe feels free to coexist there is little problem, but when one is perceived as attempting to assert dominance as “the best” or as “true” SF conflict will result.

    And because each tribe hears things differently, according to their resonance pitches, they will engage in competing monologues rather than in dialogue.

    In pop culture a similar (albeit sexist) equivalent has produced the “men are from Mars …” observation. Fans, closely identifying with the stories they read, find validation in the acceptance of their resonance frequencies and feel diminished when those “frequencies” are disparaged; that provides emotional intensity to the tribal warfare.

    In reality, these elements are merely reflective of the fact we are all (sorta) unique individuals and no more define what is “proper” than does the issue of whether BBQ sauce ought be tomato or vinegar based. Peole are encouraged to stand down, secure in their private knowledge that the other side is comprised of knuckle-dragging neanderthals with (at best) no taste and depraved habits.

    • RealityObserver

      Interesting analogy. I must be of the “Quantum Tribe” – no fixed and determinable oscillation…

      I think a lot of the people here must be my fellow tribesmen. (And women, and elves, and were-bears, etc. Not the squids, though, I refuse to associate with rubbery and suckery stuff…)

  23. Met Daniel Coe this afternoon at the local Barnes & Noble. He didn’t ask for one, but I’ll give a shout-out to the Hun tribe anyway.

  24. Amen.

    I read SF of all stripes, as I mostly look for good story. Many of the fights between the campus appear quite pointless to me.

    (I will admit, in the other hand, that I find more compelling stories in the MilSf camp than in the social-consciousness one. It might be selection bias… But it looks like the authors who write for story are automatically branded “trash” 😦 )