The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

This post was brought on partially because of a line of thought I developed yesterday while on this interview with Brad and Mad (political Mobius) Mike (Z. Williamson) yesterday.  Link here for seriously uncaffeinated unslept Sarah.  (You get a bonus chance to hear one of my cats, Euclid the very Neurotic, yelling at mommy for doing this stupid thing instead of pets.)  Note for those who haven’t heard me before, yep that REALLY is my accent.

Anyway, some of you probably remember that I once almost sent a snippy letter to Orson Scott Card over his mis-understanding of the Portuguese language in Speaker for the Dead.  (I think.)  Then I realized that maybe ten of the many people who read that book gave a d*mn, and dropped it.  Also realized that for someone who hadn’t ever SOLD a word to pick a fight with a bestseller would be stupid.  Yeah, took a while for that to get through my head, because I’m that GOOD in social situations.

Anyway, one thing that Card got right (though not in the twentieth century in Portugal, but no answer for certain parts of Brazil because I ain’t never been there) was the… well, we should call it the inherent fanaticism of the Portuguese soul.  I know that sounds mystical, but I don’t know how else to explain it.  Consider it the remnants that stay with the culture from invasion to invasion.  I’ve read a book that claimed the inherent fanaticism of the Portuguese character came from the Carthaginians/Phoenicians, most of whose proper names also made reference to religion and most of whose thought/conversation was completely bound up with their gods.

When I talk of the historically oppressive and all-pervasive character of Portuguese Catholicism, that’s what I’m talking about.  Even through the Renaissance, though more humanized, the art was ONLY religious themes.  In fact, Catholicism so perfectly scoured the region of the previous religions that there are no legends of fairies and elves, even though the North of Portugal was heavily Celtic.

Mind you, there are standing stones aplenty, but no charming legends of kings turned to stone, nothing.  In the South of Portugal there’s remnants of Moorish legend, but even those are rather faint and not “serious.”

The only fairy tales I knew were the mannered fairy tales imported from France in the nineteenth century.  Which probably explains my reluctance to fantasy.

Mind you, you can catch echoes, but you have to be deep in village circles, and even there they only speak in hints and deflections.  Like the stories of women who fall asleep in the woods and this one village woman that grandma hinted (to one of her cronies) strongly had birthed a faun (if I understood it correctly.  Something supernatural, anyway) which ran off into the woods.

BUT the culture at large tumbles from fanaticism to fanaticism, from compliance to compliance.

My family was, for various reasons, odd.  My female ancestresses, as far back as I know, for instance, didn’t have “Maria” in their names.  I and one of my cousins did, but only because of insistence from the person we were being named after.

This is not an explanation, but might be a contributing factor (remember no matter how alienated you feel, humans being social creatures, if you live in a culture some rubs off) for why in my teens I wrote the sentence “It is better to be useful than to be happy.”

Maybe.  Because you see at that time Portugal had flipped from Catholicism to a sort of Marxism in which you should sacrifice yourself to the good of society or something, and this was as pervasive as Catholicism had been.  And both of them might have come up with that I idea.

Mind you, in my teens I knew d*mn little of either happiness or usefulness, or for that matter misery.

You see, I’d led a very sheltered life, that allowed me to spend a lot of time searching for “meaning.”  And if you’re thinking upteen revolutions with upheaval in my life and going hungry off and on for two years was not sheltered, you’re wrong.  You’re sheltered so long as you don’t have the full power of decision in your life, and as long as someone will cushion you from truly dreadful decisions.  So, you know, yeah, I’d gone hungry here and there, but it wasn’t MY fault, and it wasn’t my responsibility to haul us out of it.  And the same way, I’d been pretty contented, but it’s hard to experience happiness as such when you’re not your own person.  So  I had no idea what I was choosing between, I just felt, I guess, that I was a rather useless person and so wanted to be useful.

Now, what does this all have to do with the price of kumquats?  Well… In that podcast I found myself explaining how, when Western Civ turned against itself after WWI, we ended up looking for other ways to evaluate art/a lens through which to evaluate reality.

Part of it became a “tear down the past” lens, still fossilized in all the people who think they’re speaking truth to power and who, really, after 100 years, are speaking power to truth.  This leads to “ever more shocking” stories and art pieces.  If you’ve ever strolled through the modern art section of a museum, you’ve seen them.  (If you haven’t, we’re considering selling tickets for a stroll through Denver Museum of Art called “Desecrate Art with the Hoyts.”  We’ll donate the proceeds to charity, or something.)

And part of it was co-opted by the Marxists.  This was especially true in literature where, in the long form at least, you can make it a blind scream fest at the west and civilization, but if that’s all you bring, you can’t even get intellectuals to read it.  (We were forced to read a book that bragged of being plotless, when I was in college.  “It breaks one of the units of story telling.”  Oh, my, it sure did.  It was two people in a car, talking.  It was so new and revolutionary that I used it as a cure for insomnia for years.)

So, instead of just a “tear down” the stories had to be a “build up” of something.  The book I had to read in the eleventh grade was about the futile struggle of the proletariat.  Okay, “read” is a misnomer.  I read the prologue, couldn’t stomach more, (by then we had read four or five books by this charmer, whose only vivid descriptions were of defecation) so in the test about the book I wrote how the prologue prefigured the book.  (It was a snake crawling into the sun for warmth and getting burned to death.  No, really.)  I got an A so I’m going to guess I guessed right.  The author has since won a Nobel prize.  My second agent contacted me about translating that book, and I told him I’d rather gnaw my arms off at the shoulder.  And I meant it.

But the problem is that this “usefulness” rule for literature and art has pervaded the “elite” judgements.

What I mean is, our universities, our high brow critics, our theorists of literature evaluate writing not on what it is, or even what it does emotionally, but on what it does for the “cause” which is muddled version of positional good (“We’re better than bourgeois society because we understand the West/civ is bad) and “advances progress” with progress understood as the march to a Marxist state.  (The future of the past, you could say.)

In that sense, you can see why If You Give A Dinosaur a Redneck, er, If You Were A Dinosaur My love, hit both of those square on (i.e. it positioned the author and readers who liked it as “enlightened” and it reinforced the Leninist idea that the working class was eaten up with false consciousness and that only the intellectuals could lead the revolution.)  Hence its stunning success in nomination for awards.

So, now we know what the other side views as “Good.”  This is the lens they’re evaluating stories under — a lens reinforced by literature classes in college where because real impact of real literature is very hard to explain and Marxism is easy and positional good, this is how they teach you to appreciate stories — and why they’re running around screaming that our nominees are very bad and “taint” the Hugo.

We don’t fit into the parameters of what they consider good.  I.e. we neither shock the (no longer really existent but they’re still kicking the corpse for effect) traditional, hidebound Western civ, nor do we proclaim the glorious Marxism to come.

So we’re bad, bad bad bad baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad.

Don’t hold it against them.  Most of them are very sheltered university people, who, like my younger self, have never really experienced either happiness or usefulness, but are sure that usefulness is good, because they were told so.  And for sheltered people “usefulness” is easier to evaluate and understand than the REAL effect of truly good literature.

I know it will shock the heck out of you guys, but I despise received wisdom and regurgitated pap, which 100 years into the left-utilitarian movement in fiction is what most of the output of the proponents of Literature-as-useful are putting out.  In fact, in any art form I’d consider boring as an insurmountable defect.

To put this in Renaissance/Catholic terms, what I object to is not that the painting is of the nativity, no.  What I object to is that it’s not The Virgin of the Rocks, with its ethereal light which makes you feel as though you’re in another realm, it’s the tenth copy of the nativity painted by a guy who knows it will be appreciated because it’s the nativity and he can futz the details and paint by rote.  (Even if he’s not conscious of doing so.)

To put it another way: no one has an obligation to consume your “art” and though some will as a “positional good” the ever falling print runs should tell you that your “art” is failing of its primary purpose.

And what is the primary purpose, you ask?

This is entirely my opinion, because, you know, art has been taught this way before the Marxists.  For a long time what was considered “good” was stuff that promoted the state religion, whatever that was, or which flattered the people reading it.  (Actually that’s always a good route to elite-supported art.)  Or even what promoted morality.

The thing is the stories that stayed did more than that.  Shakespeare was very much a captive poet of the Tudors and protestantism, but his plays that stayed are the ones that were not considered very useful at the time, but only “entertaining.”

However what things like Romeo and Juliet do is go beyond message (yes, of course it has a message) to affect the reader in a way that the reader integrates it as “lived experience” and therefore interprets/lives it in his/her own way.

The same say with Way Station (mentioning it because it’s the last book I read.  Starting City today.)  For me, for instance, it is a novel about loneliness which reflects on my loneliness and allows me to deal with it/see it, and see it not as an involuntary tragedy but as a condition that refines and enriches parts of my life, when I accepted loneliness for a purpose.

I’m sure the reason it won the Hugo is because a superficial reason could see the moral as “the USSR and the US would get along if they only talked” which is false (as there were real differences, and also the USSR was a horror of human disaster and not a covalent system) and which is not, btw, endorsed by the book itself (the talisman had a deeper effect and would “redeem” the bad actors.) but it’s one that would have appealed to the number of voters (and there’s always a number like that) who are looking for correct messages.

We could then say that to me, at least, a successful/good story is one that produces a cathartic effect.  (Yes, this is familiar!)  I.e. it allows me to deal with some of the consequences of being human through a perspective not my own and to experience consequences that don’t actually hurt me, vicariously.

Now, if you look at my reading and preferences, I don’t read only “good” (by my lights) books.  A lot of the books I read are purely a good plot/fun.  But some percentage of the books I read stay with me and are processed along with my own experiences, resolving themselves as they go.

Because this experience; this ability to port your emotions/feelings into someone else’s head preferably wrapped in a fictional ICBM of good world building and good storytelling is highly individual, such stories tend to be far less of a snoozer than the utilitarian Marxist ones.

Thus, for instance, my favorites can range from The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, to Bridge of Birds, to Passage to Way Station to The Tomb.  Oh, and from non SF, Shakespeare and Jane Austen and Effie Briest and Tom Sawyer, and…

This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but I hope it explains how and why the selections of Sad Puppies, which I by and large agree with (though of course, these are Brad’s selections and mine would be different but the spirit of selection would be the same) are causing such fury on the other side.

We’re not merely suggesting different stories.  We’re taking an ax to the pillars of their taste, the very thing that constitutes a great part of their claim to being WAY more enlightened than average.

In other words, we’re devaluing their positional good.

It’s as though everyone were wearing shell jewelry until someone starts selling metallic jewelry and people realize they like the shiny stuff better.

The elites who have accumulated a vast store of pierced shells see their investment devalued and are striking back.

Or in other terms, we’re speaking truth to critical power and power doesn’t like it.

Or in yet other words, it’s getting ugly and it’s going to get uglier.  No one ever said a revolution, even when it starts in our little backwater, is easy or without consequences.

Hold on to your hats, though, and stay firm.  The other side is not even any longer aware of why they consider something “good.”  They’re running on the fumes of their predecessors convictions and all they have is received wisdom.

We can and will win this war (by which I don’t mean the Hugos, or at least not this year.  Eventually, though?  Sure.)  But it’s a long war.  Don’t get tired and don’t flinch from the ugly thrown at us.

Ça Ira.

 

224 responses to “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

  1. Portuguese Folk-Tales by Consiglieri Pedroso

    • Mary, yes, but I’m talking at the PEOPLE level. And sigh. If you read those you find it’s mostly intellectual backwash from “mannered” tales in France in the renaissance and romantic movement. I actually own a book like that, and most of them aren’t “real”. I’m talking at the village level and among the people.
      Yes, all of these claim to have been collected among the people. BUT among the people all tales of the marvelous revolved around saints and demons.

      • The elves did it. A little collusion with the local priests, a little money in the church coffers and they disappear. Perfect place to hide, right in plain sight. After all if the Father says that what you saw couldn’t be, are you going to argue. WIN!!!

      • Like the old Irish guy (in my mom’s home town) who was asked by a reporter if he believed in the little people.

        The old man said that of course he didn’t believe in any such silly thing. *deep drink of his beer, since they’re at the bar* But I know they’re there.

  2. “However what things like Romeo and Juliet do is go beyond message (yes, of course it has a message) ”

    Of course — the freedom of youngsters to contract their own marriage was a hotly debated issue of the time.

      • The song “Naughty” from the musical Matilda has my favourite take on R&J (if you don’t know the song, read all the lyrics–it’s actually quite apropos to the current contretemps):

        Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
        So they say, their subsequent fall was inevitable.
        They never stood a chance; they were written that way –
        Innocent victims of their story.

        Like Romeo and Juliet,
        ‘Twas written in the stars before they even met
        That love and fate (and a touch of stupidity)
        Would rob them of their hope of living happily.
        The endings are often a little bit gory.
        I wonder why they didn’t just change their story.

        http://www.themusicallyrics.com/m/244-matilda-lyrics/1749-naughty.html

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Yep, and they made a bad choice aided by the evil Friar (according to Chris Nuttall) [Wink]

      • According to his source material.

        “And to this end, good Reader, is this tragical matter written, to describe unto thee a couple of unfortunate lovers, thralling themselves to unhonest desire; neglecting the authority and advice of parents and friends; conferring their principal counsels with drunken gossips and superstitious friars (the naturally fit instruments of unchastity); attempting all adventures of peril for th’ attaining of their wished lust; using auricular confession the key of whoredom and treason, for furtherance of their purpose; abusing the honourable name of lawful marriage to cloak the shame of stolen contracts; finally by all means of unhonest life hasting to most unhappy death. This precedent, good Reader, shall be to thee, as the slaves of Lacedemon, oppressed with excess of drink, deformed and altered from likeness of men both in mind and use of body, were to the free-born children, so shewed to them by their parents, to th’ intent to raise in them an hateful loathing of so filthy beastliness. Hereunto, if you apply it, ye shall deliver my doing from offence and profit yourselves.”

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Yet, too many people want us to “feel sorry” for Romeo and Juliet. [Sad Smile]

          • Well, why shouldn’t we? Some people try to claim they die because they were wrong-headed, but the obvious fact is that they could have died at any time in that city, and nothing they could have done would have prevented it.

      • The lesson I learned from Romeo and Juliet was don’t be a stupid emo teenager. Which might explain my personal life or lack thereof.

        • Professor Badness

          I came to the same conclusion, and I do have a personal life.
          Of course, that hasn’t always been true, but what teenager does have a “life”?

        • How would not being emo have saved them? considering the amount of violence going on around them?

          I’ve got a take on them where the Romeo and Juliet figures figure out that it’s the city that’s toxic and flee, but since that’s not presented as an option in the play, I don’t think it’s fair to them that they didn’t think of it. (And I may underestimate how difficult it was to try to live in a separate city — which probably would have been another country.)

          • Not being emo would’ve meant that they had some kind of a plan that didn’t involve “they’re dead, I’m going to kill myself.”

            • For those who would like a cartoon format of R&J, the hard way, cartoon by cartoon for roughly a year (eventually to be in book form, [some day your Romeo/Juliet will come], but now only by a long slog) I recommend
              starting here:
              http://www.gocomics.com/pibgorn/2013/07/29

            • Dang you, Foxfier — now my inner “What if Holden Caulfield had been a Heinlein character” voice has a companion subliminal program.

              • Had to look that up; you could probably re-write a lot of stuff via the “let’s erase the Idiot Ball” theory.

                I’d really like to die (peacefully, of old age, with my family, she says with an eye on the Wish Gremlins) without having read Catcher in the Rye. Anything where the biggest point for it is “but everyone has read it/should have read it” that gets such massive hate… I think I’d finish that “dark and stormy night” story first. :/

                • William O. B'Livion

                  peacefully, of old age

                  Bugger that for a game of soldiers.

                  I want to die EXTREMELY suddenly whilst enjoying (relatively) good health. Preferably something so fast and so violent I don’t even feel it. I don’t want a chance to ponder my fate, get hassled by priests or have to say goodbye.

                  One second there doing something, the next second a big splash of bodily fluids and a punctured meat sack.

                  • I think I’ll stick with mine, thanks.

                  • Birthday girl

                    Like the guy at the end of The Sopranos? Everything just goes black …

                  • I plan on leaving this world the same way I came into it: Naked, screaming, and covered in someone else’s blood.

                  • overgrownhobbit

                    You can still go suddenly at an advanced old age (in this case 96) and die peacefully in your sleep. Grandma came home from a shopping trip, sat down in the rocker, “just to put my feet up for a spell,” shut her eyes and woke up, as they say, in heaven.

                    Not a lot of family around just at that particular moment, but we’d all been “around” pretty continually up until then. The trick, is being (or becoming) the kind of person the extended family and assorted dependents want to be around. So, I’m with foxfier – that seems to be a noble and pleasant goal.

                    • Yep. My mom had been in a nursing home for a couple of months, we brought her home for Thanksgiving, and a couple weeks later, she went to sleep eating her breakfast and didn’t wake up.

                    • Grandma’s “kid” brother did the same thing on the train home after an extended Christmas with all the kids. (I think he was in his 90s, too.)

                    • AnotherOldNavyChief

                      Then there was “Uncle Henry” Jackson, a 75 year old member of my father’s church (Dad was a Southern Baptist preacher…), who sat down in the pew half way through his favorite hymn during Sunday morning service and when the song was over his daughter shook him and found he was dead, with a smile on his face…

                    • Wow, it certainly got dusty in here all of a sudden . . .

                • I think it went like this: I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not yelling and screaming, like the passengers in his car.

          • John Schilling

            Toxic? The feud is over by royal decree, only two innocent bystanders are killed over the entire story, and pretty much everyone but Tybalt and Paris – specifically including Juliet’s father – think Juliet should marry whoever she wants but that Romeo is a great guy and a Romeo/Juliet marriage would be just the thing to seal the peace deal.

            Bu, being emo teenagers, they want the whole angsty forbidden love thing rather than the “Hey Dad, can you talk to Mr. Capulet about setting up a marriage with his daughter?” thing. And in the course of turning a straight-up diplomatic marriage into a fiasco, R and J by their own hands kill four people – twice as many as the entire rest of the city had managed.

          • My comment was not to be taken as a sober reflection upon the nature of the society, government and culture of renaissance city in maintaining peace and order while dealing with multi-generational feuds in a martial society with a historic credo of dueling and tribal based familial obligations.

            My comment was meant to be my observations as a pubescent high school student in English class recognizing that classical Shakespearean tragedies and Friday the 13th movies both have the same moral premise that pre-marital sex equals death.

            Also it was also meant as a general personal observation that teenagers are hormonal, overly emotional and stupid.

            • Yes. I had to do the “you’d better leave room for the Holy Ghost” line the other day. The wanna-be luuuuuuv birds were getting a leeeetle too close and cozy at the lab table.

    • Never much liked Romeo and Juliet, mostly because the lovers have always struck me as pretty stupid.

      And to this day my favorite version is the one performed by some amateur group in our school when I was about fourteen or fifteen. The rest of the play they did well enough, I guess, but the scene where Romeo kills himself in Juliet’s tomb, when he thinks she is dead, and she then recovers from the drug, finds him dead and stabs herself – either Juliet fell asleep on the stage at that point, or wasn’t at all familiar with the play and forgot what she was supposed to do, or she realized she had forgotten her lines and decided to skip that final scene altogether. Whatever the explanation, she just kept lying there while everybody waited. And waited. Until the other actors finally just had to continue. Was funny as hell, although the audience was too polite to start laughing (or not many enough were familiar with the play, this was the 70’s, no current popular movie version most would have seen then, it wasn’t quite as well embedded in popular culture as it is now, at least not in Finland. I had read the play, but then at that point in my life I used to read pretty much everything I could find not nailed down or guarded by a library lady who took age limits seriously. Have gotten a bit more selective since then, mostly because so much more is now available. 🙂 ). 😀

      • As the meme says:

        Romeo and Juliet is not a love story. It’s the story of a three day relationship between a seventeen year old and a thirteen year old that ends in six deaths.
        – Sincerely, everyone who’s ever read it.

        • Yep. Dumb. Dumb can be pretty irritating. I felt like hitting them both on the head with something when I first read the play, and still do.

        • there’s no reason to believe that there would not have been six deaths without their falling in love.

          • Feather Blade

            True, but at least the six deaths wouldn’t have been directly attributable to their three day relationship.

            • And there’s no reason to believe that the six deaths there “would have been” didn’t happen anyway, making the total 12 instead of 6. There is no particular reason to believe that Tybalt, Mercutio, and Paris would have been killed in duels absent the specific reason for those duels. Lady Capulet might well have died anyway perhaps. But, absent the reason for their suicides, there is again no reason to expect that Romeo and Juliet would still have offed themselves.

              And even if they would, so what? By way of analogy, a murderer is still a murderer even if his victim “would have died anyway”.

              • So Mercutio’s death is somehow Romeo’s fault? He was the only one in that scene trying to prevent bloodshed, and it’s his fault? It’s not Tybalt’s for killing him? Or Mercutio’s for rising to the bait?

                • Mercutio’s death was solely due to him trying to steal the show. Alas many a character has gone that way. Rest in peaces. (Please observe tongue firmly in cheek.)

  3. You’re sheltered so long as you don’t have the full power of decision in your life, and as long as someone will cushion you from truly dreadful decisions.

    Which explains a great deal about many of the present trends in US politics. People tend to be risk averse, they want to be sheltered. And they don’t think clearly about what it costs them, at least until it starts to chafe.

    • A number of SciFi writers have predicted in their stories that, as lifespans increase, we will become more and more risk averse, but no one seems to have explored the similar effects of delayed maturity.

      • Actually, there was an Analog story sometime back in the late 80’s exactly on the theme of delayed maturity. This was back when Drexler’s “nanotechnology” was very much in vogue and people were therefore able to heal from anything not instantly fatal. As a result people would take insane risks because they never learned about their own mortality.

      • In Weber’s Honorverse there are extended lifespans and people still risk their lives.

  4. Eh. You say fanaticism, I say passion. Toe-MAY-to, Toe-MAH-to. Who are we to judge?

    • Ah, true. Except that it’s a very conformist society, so there’s a pressure to conform that leads to mob-think.

      • My first brush with the Portuguese “fanaticism/passion” was the stories of World Rally drivers learning to call the crowds at Rally Portugal bushes or they could not go fast enough, then later a story of how a Ford Focus came into service with a finger embedded into the rear spoiler. Touching the cars as they go by is a bragging right, apparently.
        Here is some old footage:

      • Maybe it’s sort of a village thing? Lord knows my little town was *ahem* ever-so-slightly strait, as it were, for quite a bit after I was born, too. Any kinks, quirks, and complications must’ve spontaneously appeared with no direct personal input from any specific persons. Really.

        I blame the gossip. I’m pretty sure the whole town was run from the back porch of one little old grandmother for eleventy-one generations, passed on through the genes. At least, things always seemed to turn out pretty much how Granny Eilean thought it ought anyway. *chuckle*

    • Who are we to judge? The poor bastards who will have to love with the fallout. To take no action IS an action. To make no judgement IS a judgement. If you live, you must judge.

  5. I just throw the ugly back in their faces and watch them sputter in outrage at some of the comparisons I’m starting to make of them and some of the worst assholes in history. They really don’t get it. Which makes it sad. Also infuriating because they’re that damn blind

  6. masgramondou

    Ah yes plot, such an overrated concept. It implies challenges and struggles which implies winning which implies someone else losing and that would be discrimination if not micro-aggression

    Can’t be having that

  7. So, you know, yeah, I’d gone hungry here and there, but it wasn’t MY fault, and it wasn’t my responsibility to haul us out of it.

    Those of us who’ve actually taken time to engage with (empathize with) somebody who’s actually experienced the burden of command understand about this. Too many people think that commanders who ‘waste men’s lives” in combat are as callous as they themselves and thus they enjoy the moral frisson of looking down upon those carrying a burden their critics can never grasp.

  8. … I told him I’d rather gnaw my arms off at the shoulder.

    You must have an unusually long and flexible neck. Or is it I who am stiff-necked?

  9. … our high brow critics, our theorists of literature evaluate writing not on what it is, or even what it does emotionally, but on what it does for the ’cause’

    Is it not lovely that they’ve now found an objective standard for literature? Those stale old standards of grammar, character and plot credibility were far too subjective (and easy for casual readers to determine for themselves.)

    Of course, if nobody but the high brow critics reads it, how much can it possibly be doing for the cause?

    • It is a stick to bludgeon the “lesser” into feeling inferior and submissive. “You don’t understand the nuances, you can’t understand, only the experts can perceive, you must rely upon the experts” etc.

      For years after college, I felt somewhat sheepish for not taking a single (English) literature class. That seemed faintly anti-intellectual and probably explained that I was primarily “merely” a plot reader. Eventually, I was grateful to have escaped those classes.

      • I observe that the Annointed are damn careful to not engage Tom Wolfe on his interpretations of Art amd Modernism. If they thought they could out-argue him they’d pile on, but they know damn well they can’t. So they praise him, and avoid ever discussing anything he does with which they disagree. Oh, they’ve made the ocassional mistake with his fiction. They thought they could attack A MAN IN FULL and he brushed them back with a flamethrower (that would be HOOKING UP). They thought they could lynch him over I AM WHATEVER HER NAME WAS SIMMONS, and college students all over the country rose up and said he was truth-telling.

        I haven’t heard of anyone trying to trash the latest, though it is said to have been a commercial failure. Given the fundamental dishonesty of the publishing business, I reserve judgement.

        I do rather wish he would go back to non-fiction, though.

      • RealityObserver

        Lucky you. In my long-ago college days, it was a requirement.

        Not that I think it hurt me – although my contrary nature may explain that (IIRC) I only got a C+. Even so, it still might not have been a problem – the professor was a *real* writer – had some fantasy novels that are… not great, but way above the throw against the wall level. (Skip the “science” fiction, though – sorry, John, but I think you got your “science” from the physics prof that eventually forced me to withdraw from one of his classes before I showed him up as any more of an idiot.)

  10. We’re not merely suggesting different stories

    Different stories would be tolerable. What you lot are suggesting is different standards. You bastards.

  11. So I guess that makes us the Cromwellian Puritans, wantonly destroying stained glass and fine old church organs, destroying all that is fine and sophisticated and replacing it with common pewter and funny pilgrim hats. Cool. call me Solomon Kane.

  12. I’m sure the reason it won the Hugo is because a superficial reason could see the moral as “the USSR and the US would get along if they only talked” which is false

    Much the same as I’m constantly running into the refrain, when I disagree with some SJW talking point (if only on methods–often the goals are the same: I’d like to see fewer people in poverty, more people moving up the economic ladder, fewer wars, that sort of thing. Okay, okay, stated goals.) about how I “just don’t understand” with the implication that if I “understood” I’d agree with the SJW.

    The problem, of course, is that I do understand. I disagree because I understand. I understand not just the claimed intentions of the policies but the very real, and entirely predictable, effects which are so at odds with the claimed intentions.

    But the revealed wisdom cannot be challenged. It must be right. It Says Here. Therefore the “nice” interpretation of disagreement is “you just don’t understand.” And from there it goes straight to “you must be an evil hatey hatemonger who wants babies to die”.

    • I’m leaning toward pointing out that despite the millions of words spilled on the subject (regardless of what it is), if so many people are unable to “understand”, it must be a failing in the writing.

      Too many of them refuse to accept that I do understand just fine. I just disagree.

      There IS a difference.

      • The thing is, the LIRPs and SJWs depend on a fog of jargon to disguise the content of their idiocy. They CAN’T explain themselves so the common man would understand, because if they did the Common man would rightly mock them.

    • I have some small success with “No, YOU don’t understand. You don’t know enough history to grasp that (whatever dimwit fashion of the moment is being discussed) has been tried, and does not work. You and your fellows of the Progressive Left had a wide range of opportunities to prove your theories during the century just past. Where they were tried cautiously they resulted in economic stagnation and the failure of entire industries. Where they were tried broadly and enthusiastically they resulted in mass murder, environmemtal rape, famine, amd misery. We tried it your way. Now we need to do something else.”

      In the case of SF we can, and do, say “Your way has produced shrinking readership at a time when SF is booming in all other media. It’s drivel.”

  13. A few modest observations:

    “Desecrate Art with the Hoyts.” Do it, film it. You can show the video at cons. If you post to Youtube I guarantee it will go viral. Just find someone with a quirky european accent to narrate. I’m sure you can find someone somewhere.

    As to that Nobel winning author. Ever notice how awards are defined and redefined by who wins them? Such as the Nobel after der leader won his for the simple awesomeness of getting elected. Hugos have gotten to be much the same thing.

    “If You Give A Dinosaur a Redneck” you wind up with lizard bar-be-que, some mighty fine eating, and lots of left overs.

    It’s a sad and unnerving thing watching a philosophy and belief system self destruct. And dangerous to be too close. Marxism utterly fails every time it’s tried, yet always seems to bubble up yet again to rinse and repeat. And by rinse and repeat I do mean countless suffering and deaths. The USSR collapsed and I thought we were over and done with all that, but even as a capitalistic rat gnaws at the vitals of old Russia vestiges of the former Soviet Union may still manage to bring about a war in Europe. The Hugos were never all that big a thing, at best a useful tool for the majority of fen to find new authors to idolize. The CHORFS mostly killed that, but now outed are bound and determined to piss in everyone’s punch bowl. Our way or we’ll tear it all down, how mature of them.

    • The Other Sean

      I bet dinosaur tastes just like chicken.

      • Replying to Sean The Other: It should, though likely tougher and gamier, as I keep reading birds are in the line of descension. Unless you wish to take up a line of dissention, I’ll leave off.

        • Professor Badness

          “tougher and gamier”

          That’s what crock-pots and cream soup are for.

          • Too bad all the dinosaurs died out before mammals were “invented”. Nothing takes the gaminess out of wild meat like soaking it in buttermilk.

            Then again, it might be just as well. I wonder how many cow’s worth of buttermilk you would need for an average T-Rex?

          • Low and slow over a combination of hickory and fruit woods. Then the sauce of your choice: Carolina vinegar, Memphis sweet tomato, or North Alabama white. Don’t know what the Bama folk put in that white creamy sauce, but it’s dynamite on chicken so should work just as well on lizard.

            • The time machine/freight train is going to need some extra cars if we’re going to have room for a large herd of milch cows annnnd enough hickory, fruit wood and all the trimmings.

              Or maybe it would be better to go the fossil DNA, frog eggs and mad scientist route and breed dinner in the now-times.

              • Bringing the cows back might be a problem. Remember that grasses weren’t invented yet. How well to cows get along on ferns?

                • What about Jamacian Jerk marinade? No cows needed, just the right spices.

                • Getting cows to live on straight grass can take a little doing, and even then it has to be pretty good grass– going off of there being so many herbivore dinosaurs, I’m pretty sure that something could work for forage with the correct adjustment period.

                  (Seriously, every couple of years you’ll find some poor, relatively new idiot who puts his cows out on knee deep grass that grew too fast, and the poor things starve with full bellies. Usually a neighbor figures it out in time to save them.)

                  • *adds alfalfa, oat and corn seeds to the list and an electric milking machine ’cause I’m not milking this herd by hand*

                    *licks pencil and adds cold fusion generator and a smoker*

                    • Starting to sound like it might just be easier to go back and return with the select cuts plus a few juveniles/fertilized eggs…

                    • Considers the possibility of an ever-full tankard of milk

                      Hey, we got one for the brain bleach.

    • Marxism utterly fails every time it’s tried, yet always seems to bubble up yet again to rinse and repeat. And by rinse and repeat I do mean countless suffering and deaths.

      Was trying to think of a way to summarize why, and suddenly had the lyrics:
      Getcher money for nothin’ and your chicks for free….

      Not how it actually works, but the promise will always find willing ears.

      • The Other Sean

        Now that ain’t working.

        • RealityObserver

          Once a year or so, someone starts that song going in my head again.

          Thanks a LOT. Mental Dire Straits and audio Cruxshadows do NOT mix well.

          • Ow. That takes cognitive dissonance to a whooole new level.

          • William O. B'Livion

            I once tried to explain to Pandora that I wanted “Psycho Alternative” by putting The Cramps, The Legendary Pink Dots and Butthole Surfers on one station.

            Did not work.

    • Film it and you could send it to America’s Funniest Videos. And WIN!

  14. Christopher M. Chupik

    Yes, good interview. I know Allison, one of the Honey Badgers from my writing group. And it was kinda cool to get an anonymous shout-out. 🙂

  15. “Beyond the fact that no one on our side called or would call for retro-sf.

    I don’t know about that. I’m calling for retro-sf. Retro as in something interesting, fun, with clever ideas, interesting gadgets, unusual places, weird circumstances, odd characters or a just a little bit of actual science in the story to make it actual science fiction.

    You know, good stuff.

    Not stuff like:

    “Oh I am so wretched that I can’t express my love for you and why is the couch wet?”

    Or

    “If only you were a T-Rex, and weren’t dead my love, we could be braking into the dino-pron market. “

    • Or Old School SF.

    • Oh, THAT retro, yeah, but not the retro they imagine with buff e-men and cowering females. (rolls eyes. If they knew the history of the field, my love.)

      • The problem is that they haven’t READ the retro stuff. And quite frankly for a LOT of it, I want to keep it that way. There’s a lot out there that the SJW’s would just LOVE in some of the stuff written in the 1930’s and ’40’s. On the other hand I don’t know if they would understand that they were reading fascist literature.

      • Now, you know that the female badasses in old SF were not “women”, they were Colonized shills for the Male Patriarchy.

        The fact that the five Ultimate Lensmen were ONE male and FOUR females? Completely irrelevant, because together, they formed THE UNIT.

    • The pop cultural osmosis one. You know, square jaws, cackling villains, an elaborate plot is “girl in trouble, shoot green rubber men, pick her up from table,” science consists of flames out of the back of the rocket….

      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PopculturalOsmosis

  16. The problem with all that modern crap is that they have so written humans out of the equation that they’ve lost all the drama and made everything boing and gray going through the genre’s one by one:
    http://archive.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/16-02/st_thompson

  17. I’m sure the reason it won the Hugo is because a superficial reason could see the moral as “the USSR and the US would get along if they only talked” which is false

    Then there’s Rite of Passage, which both begins and ends with the heroine’s being one of the votes on whether to punish someone. What changes is which way she votes, not which side wins, and I couldn’t help noticing that if the “no punishment” side had won, they would have faced the question, “Then what should we do now?”

    Still nominated for the Hugo.

  18. Professor Badness

    “Mind you, in my teens I knew d*mn little of either happiness or usefulness, or for that matter misery.”

    That right there explains so much of the mindset that annoys the rest of us so much.
    These SJW’s think are like the teenagers who “Know everything” and have become so “Mature”. Meanwhile the real adults who have actual experience in life just shake their collective heads and wait for the idiots to grow up.
    But we have systematically removed consequences from our society, (or the right to make the mistake in the first pace). And so we end up with inexperienced, emotionally stunted perennial teenagers trying to shout their way to the top.
    Personally. I’m getting tired of hearing from the immature whining of individuals who have never really lived, loved, worked or suffered. They just think they have.

    • It’s the age of the Eternal Adolescent, where they’re abetted by a society which sees a bachelor’s degree as about the equivalent of a high school diploma in the ’50s – a minimum requirement for any serious job. So they go to colleges which don’t demand they learn critical thinking or usable skills.

      And the few who dare to start to think outside the box when they realize their low-wage jobs aren’t going to give them much disposable income once they pay their loans for a worthless education get ruthlessly set upon by their peers at the first sign of deviance from their thinking.

      On the good side, they’re smart enough to grow up pretty fast when needed. On the bad side, what it’ll take to get them to grow out of it will probably involve a massive economic crash or a major war.

      • Professor Badness

        Sadly, I agree.

      • I still wonder how much of this crap is due to all the estrogen-like chemicals we’re exposing the kids to, these days. You look around, and you have to wonder if we are not in the middle of a massive experiment in behavioral modification through making changes in biochemistry. They’ve already established that women taking birth control pills experience changes in mate preference choices, so I don’t think it is too much of a reach to posit at least follow-on effects as men respond to those changes. In all probability, there are hormonal effects at work in the male mind, as well.

        I think at least some of this is responsible for the changes in our society that we’re all decrying here. You have to wonder what things would look like, absent all the estrogen-like substances becoming so endemic in the environment, especially in the urban areas.

        • William O. B'Livion

          I still wonder how much of this crap is due to all the estrogen-like chemicals we’re exposing the kids to, these days.

          Almost none.

          It’s the (for the male children) the lack of testosterone enhancing activities, and for both genders the lack of *adult making* activities.

          Our children are like cats and dogs–they never “mature” like the wild ones do because they don’t have to.

          Yes, women on The Pill are more likely to pick less manly men, but we’re only 2 generations in, and there’s still a *lot* of young women who don’t go on the pill ever, and more that go on and off as their dating life dictates. It’s generally the places that have the highest pill usage that see the biggest percentage of pajama bois, but those are the sorts of places that attract the less manly of men, and those are the sorts of places that protect people from the results of their own stupidity the most.

          • I’m pretty sure he’s thinking more in terms of the known issue with synthetic estrogen not breaking down like natural estrogen does.

            Think like the “growth hormones in milk” thing, but turned up to 11.

            And that’s before foods that mimic estrogen get figured in. (such as soy products– I didn’t know that until my mom was warned off of them after breast cancer)

  19. I am now determined to give “If you were a dinosaur, my love,” a positive review.
    (NOTE: That means as positive as possible. I refuse to lie in my reviews. If I have to only be positive about the fact that the characters show up well on my screen, I will do that.)

  20. Sarah,

    I’m still listening to the interview. Very interesting and a good one. Have to admit that you always had a slightly deeper voice in my head…must be the distance between where we live. 🙂 And I can see where some mistake you for a Russian, but, mostly, that’s because of their inexperience/lack of exposure, or laziness.

    As for me…I’d buy your autobiography, but that’s because I like your work, I enjoy the anecdotes you’ve shared with us, and maybe because I’m just Odd. I wouldn’t expect it to be a best seller, though.

  21. I like your dialect / accent. It reminds me of the blogger Fausta. Did not really imagine you sounded like that. Very fun podcast.

  22. Your voice reminds me of others that I’ve heard, although I’ve never met someone from Portugal. Did meet an Andorran, but she’d been in the US a long time, and I noticed no accent.

    • Husband was amused, he’d assumed she was getting teased about the Russian thing.

      Digression: could’ve knocked me over with a feather when someone complained about Star Trek’s Chekov “not sounding Russian.” I know there are different accents for different areas, but even my dental technician sounds like that.

      • The complainer should listen to some of the interviews NPR did with Jaroslav Pelikan, the historian. Wow. Especially the one where he was imitating his grandmother. 🙂

      • I think the problem was that he overdid parts of it and underdid other parts. I worked with a Russian guy* for a couple of years, and his accent was reasonably similar, but, while he was harder to understand, it didn’t vary as much in how hard the accent came on certain words.

        There was also a Russian woman in the office for a year or so, but I didn’t hear her talk as much as the man, but what was really funny was how she appropriated a particular swear word and made it Russian. Every once in a while, over the cube wall, I would hear, “Aw, shitski.”

    • I’ve been in the US 30 years, but the d*mn accent is still with me.

      • Accents are always interesting, but I’d never heard a Portuguese accent before, so quite enjoyed it! Interesting similarities with Slavic accents. Wonder if that’s a distant legacy of the early Celts, cuz it’s sure not like the typical Romance-language accent.

      • I found it interesting because a Portuguese accent in English sounds so different to me than in Portugues. Maybe it’s just that my lines of thought are different in the two. I knew a few Portugues that had lived in Brasil for many years, and their accents were distinctive, very different from any of ours. Certainly not like my Paulistano accent or my friends’ Nordeste ones, nor even like the gauchos with their odd European/German influence.

  23. richardmcenroe

    I live…abandoned by Heaven and embraced by the Machine I shall wreak unholy cyborg terror on an unsuspecting world–
    –OH SHIT ! IT’S FRANKS! RUN!

  24. Josh Kruschke

    “You’re sheltered so long as you don’t have the full power of decision in your life, and as long as someone will cushion you from truly dreadful decisions. So, you know, yeah, I’d gone hungry here and there, but it wasn’t MY fault, and it wasn’t my responsibility to haul us out of it. And the same way, I’d been pretty contented, but it’s hard to experience happiness as such when you’re not your own person.”

    I love the way you word ideas, Sarah.

  25. I’ve noticed a trend that after Marxist take over creative endeavors, the dang things tend to disappear up their own rectums, with the form turning into self congratulatory mush.

    • Yep. Because when all you need is the correct message, why bother with the good stuff. Creative people — really creative — tend to be prickly, not easy to understand, uncomfortable with social signals. They tend to have weird opinions that don’t fit either party. If you demand right-think and correct fun, you’re going to get uncreative drones. Hence, Hollywood’s plague of sequels.

    • I recommend The Captive Mind by Czesław Miłos

  26. Christopher M. Chupik

    “the USSR and the US would get along if they only talked”

    Jerry Pournelle wrote a future history where the US and USSR got along. It wasn’t very pretty.

    • I’m pretty sure the LAST thing we need is our communists in league with THEIR communists.

      Eventually I suppose they’d go after each other since There Can Be Only One.

      But in the meantime….

      • There was a time when our communists weren’t in league with their communists? I seem to recollect the democrat party getting down on their knees for the Soviet Union during the Reagan years…

        • Pshaw – Teddy Kennedy didn’t get down on his knees for anybody. They did have him bent over a chair for breaking “party discipline” a time or two …

          Back in the second World War the American Party was indisputably dancing to Uncle Joe’s tune, being staunchly isolationist right until Hitler broke the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

  27. overgrownhobbit

    Just an FYI regarding Brasilian vs the portuguese of Portugal; they really are terrifically diifferent. Not only that but Brasil is enormous with near-USian levels of international immigration and local accents. My mom sounds to proper Brasilian speakers the way people from Arkansas sound to Californians. And the Portuguese, when she travels to Europe are always croggled by how such an educated vocabulary can come from a woman who sounds as she does.

    Add in a few more hundred years of linguistic drift, and OSC’s Brasileiros mightn’t be far off.

  28. overgrownhobbit

    Okay, now I really want to know what the missed pun was so I can ask my mom (vocabulary is different too).

    But speaking of accents & cousins, I laughed when I heard you on the podcast, because all this time I’ve been mentally “hearing” you like my cousin P. and you sound nothing alike.

    Of course, I also imagined that marguerite Henry looked like Wesley Dennis’ Wild Horse Annie, and Dave Kellet looks like “Grandpa” from the Sheldon comics and boy howdy was I wrong.

  29. Yes, Sarah, I was actually going to ask which cat was saying “mummy quit talking to the computer and pet me!”

    (Recognized the tone from one of my cats)

  30. Wow! I dont know if Ill ever be able to read your non-fiction stuff again without hearing that sexy accent!

  31. Listened to the podcast. Isabeau and Allie are looking for the other cat … Annie could care less about the unknown meower.

  32. Patrick Chester

    Well, now I know what voice to hear in my head when I read Sarah’s articles. 🙂

  33. Sarah, listening to the podcast, you sound very much like a Brazilian/Portuguese lady I knew about 10 years ago when she came to Calgary to work on a project I was involved in. You gals even look a bit alike if I am to accept your various caricatures as reasonable. Apropos of nothing I suppose but it was interesting to hear that tone and accent again. Keep up the fight!

  34. I have been following this controversy for awhile, and I’m actually getting interested in reading SF/F again. I’d hardly call myself a fan or suitable to evaluate novels for quality, but I’d still like to support the war on Puppy-Related Sadness.

    In high school I read Starship Troopers and a few others on the SF side along with the first 3 Sword of Truth, most of the Wheel of Time series, and the main Tolkien works in fantasy. I also read the Solomon Kane stories and loved them, read some Lovecraft and hated it Most of my SF/F has been games & visual media since then. I like less gritty and more escapist stuff – I like to read optimistic works because real life offers plenty of arguments for depression. Definitely not into heavy sexual content.

    Any recommendations or places where I can go for recommendations?

    • try Baen.com they have a free library.

    • Drop by here this weekend. I’ve got a new batch of books from some of our regular commenters and lurkers I’ll be putting up. You can search the archives of this blog for previous promo posts as well, and if I ever get my act sufficiently together I have a master list of all of them mostly done that will be made public. Of course, you won’t go wrong buying and reading anything and everything by Our Beloved Hostess…

      • That’s a lot of books! I was hoping for something a bit more focused to get me started. I actually posted this same thing on MHN to see if I can tap into different fanbases.

        • Okay, so let’s focus a bit: you seem to like military SF and high fantasy, optimistic in tone.

          You might enjoy John Hemry’s Paul Sinclair series or his (under the name Jack Campbell) Lost Fleet series for the military SF.

          For high fantasy, my most recent favorite is The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia A. McKillip

        • Free-range Oyster

          De moi, le déluge. 😀 Tell me what you like already and I can point to a few starters, either among the Huns and Hoydens or elsewhere. You mentioned you game; what sort of games had stories you appreciated?

          One warning, because it’s bitten us at least once that I know of: the promo posts are not endorsements or reviews. Neither Sarah nor I vouch for the quality of any of the books listed unless explicitly stated otherwise. That said, your odds are good, though the goods are Odd.

          • Games with stories I liked: Mass Effect / Dragon Age / Knights of the Old Republic tend to be good with some annoying parts. Bioware always tends to write memorable characters you care about, which is nice. Alpha protocol had a cool story – always liked clever spy stuff and using science/knowledge as a weapon. Also, really liked the story in Homeworld and Wing Commander 3/4. I also remember the old SNES RPGs I played as a kid like various Final Fantasy games and Chrono Trigger.

            I liked the stories on Burn Notice, Babylon 5, and earlier Stargate SG-1. I’ve watched some anime – Ghost in the Shell SAC, Last Exile, Big O, and a few others.

            Basically, in a story I want characters I can cheer for, in a detailed setting, who achieve victory at least partly due to being clever as opposed to just lucky. For written work, I really like detailed description what things look like, so I can see it in my head.

    • Also, old stuff. H. Beam Piper, anything Heinlein wrote before the brain tumor, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Keith Laumer, Christopher Anvil…the list goes on and on.

      • Cordwainer Smith is good too. His worldbuilding is different. His ftl drives or processes are I think unique.

        • While we’re on the Smiths, there’s always George O.

          • That’s a blast from the past! I haven’t thought about him in 40 years.

            • Gotta get out Venus Equilateral every few years and re-read it, just to see what sanity looks like.

              • Venus Equilateral? I’ve been using William Tenn and Henry Kuttner for my sanity checks. You may have put a finger on my problem …

                At least i haven’t been using Lovecraft and Robert Bloch, the way some folks i know do.

  35. Sarah, that dinosaur story isn’t even SF. (Which I’m sure you know, but in case anyone here doesn’t…) It’s literary fiction. It is not well setup, but it _is_ literary fic. And the back end of the story isn’t terrible, as literary fic.

    It just isn’t SF. At all. And the beginning needed serious work.

    But if the writer had sent it somewhere literary, and worked on the beginning (or had an editor straighten her out), I probably wouldn’t have thought much of it. It’s not a memorable story, and it’s not a well-told story. But the bit at the end about how bad she feels that her lover is dying is actually pretty good. (Sympathy for the devil, or devil’s advocate? I don’t know.)

    Still didn’t deserve any awards, though, even in strictly literary circles.

  36. }}} I found myself explaining how, when Western Civ turned against itself after WWI

    Sarah, you may find this article of interest. It’s the article that really got me thinking of that same idea, and how Classical Liberalism metastasized into the social cancer we call “PostModern Liberalism”, and set about destroying all the foundations of Western Civ.

    What We Lost In The Great War
    http://www.americanheritage.com/content/what-we-lost-great-war