*This post is unusually typo-ey because author is finishing novel. Deal. And say a prayer for my copyeditors.*
In yesterday’s post, Jason didn’t openly point out what was absolutely weird about the fisked post. Yes, it was part of invoking Zombie Heinlein to come scold us. (They are so wrong. Even as a Zombie the man would get what’s going on better than they do.)
I’m going to post the two/three points of weirdness below. The first, is the normal accusation of what the Sad Puppies want is a return to the pulps (forget that no one on the sad puppies side said that, ever) this time with a side of “pulps just like Heinlein wrote.”
Finally, let’s consider one of the deities the Puppies claim to idolize: Robert Heinlein, who wrote a lot of terrific pulpy action adventure back in the day. One of the Puppies’ major goals is to get more of that kind of stuff and less preachy message fiction in the Hugos, after all.
Hello. There it is. Apparently Heinlein wrote a lot of terrific “pulpy” action adventure back in the day. And our goal is to get more of that kind of stuff. (That would be nice on that kind of stuff. Does anyone know how to find someone of Heinlein’s caliber? No? Yeah, me neither. Because we’ve been eating our seed corn and giving the benes to the PREACHY* Message fiction.) As to the claim that Heinlein didn’t write message fiction, this is when they bring Heinlein out to scold us:
Except the Puppies are kind of forgetting something. Heinlein was no stranger to “preachy message fiction” himself. In fact, he had some pretty harsh words for critics who wanted all adventure and no message:
He will permit any speculation at all” as long as it is about gadgets only and doesn’ touch people. He doesn’t care what mayhem you commit on physics, astronomy, or chemistry with your gadgets but the people must be the same plain old wonderful jerks that live in his Home Town. Give him a good ole adventure story any time, with lots of Gee-Whiz in it and space ships blasting off and maybe the Good Guys (in white space ships) chasing the Bad Guys (in black space ships) but, brother, don’t you say anything about the Methodist Church, or the Flag, or incest, or homosexuality, or teleology, or theology, or the sacredness of marriage, or anything philosophical! Because you are just an entertainer, see? That sort of Heavy Thinking is reserved for C. P. Snow or Graham Greene. You are a pulp writer, Bud, and you will always be a pulp writer even though your trivia is now bound in boards and sells for just as much as Grace Metalious stories and you are not permitted to have Heavy Thoughts. Space Ships and Heavy Thinking do not mix ” so shut up and sit down!
The rule is: Science Fiction by its nature must be trivial.
This of course rules out a large fraction of my work” and all my future work, I think.
Now, read those two quotes. Consider they were in close proximity in the essay. He tells us that Heinlein wrote some terrific pulpy stuff in the day, but also that Heinlein wrote message fic.
This has been happening all month, for those keeping score at home. The indoctrinated drones of the establishment have been spinning by here in high dudgeon and sure they have a killing argument and telling us both that we want “pulpy stuff like Heinlein” and that Heinlein was often “preachy. And messagy.”
They’re d*mn right Heinlein had message in his fiction. Or at least he had a purpose, which isn’t the same as a message. I can’t right now — look to where I’m actually working again — find his quote on the reasons he wrote, but I know at the very bottom of those reasons, after “to feed my family” was “to make the reader think” though that was qualified with something like “if I can.”
A lot of the EXPLICIT (aka preachy) messages these people think they see in his books are not really the message of the book, but a way to make you think. Again, if Starship Troopers world were an utopia, they wouldn’t be so desperate to send out colonies. (Yes, yes, population pressure, but weirdly this is one of those books where it’s not really shown.)
A lot of his other “messages” are not really. They’re the way he saw the world and the way his characters acted. Some of them are dead wrong, but were thought rational and logical at the time, and are still believed on the left side of the tree. This includes the “we’re all going to die from overpopulation” which is normal in all the juveniles. It includes “put not your faith in princes” (and priests and shamans) from a lot of his characters.
But each book ponders at least one serious question, which usually relates not to “tech, wow!” which a lot of people before him wrote, but to “how will this tech change us” which is of course the important question. Simak labored in the same vine, though he was less transgressive. Because Heinlein was transgressive. Not as offensive if you think about what material he was dealing with and what he was doing, but in a way he predicted stuff like “A superabundant society will become obsessed with sex and gender” which we are seeing in the West right now. And for those who are going to bleat “but incest” — do you have any idea how you’d feel if you time traveled to see your mother when you were a few thousand years old? Do you have any idea how it would work?
Here is the thing — he wanted to shock people into thinking, not give them answers. And most of the time he succeeded brilliantly which is why we still have panels in conventions that could be headed Robert A. Heinlein, Threat or Menace. Curiously, even those on the left side of the isle that claim to admire him hate those later books. They claim to hate them because of politics (perhaps because in things like Friday he shows the silliness of their schemes — women’s bathroom? Are you discriminating — because honestly, where does he show the perfect libertarian society anywhere in the last books? Nowhere) and “rampant sex” but given what they write (and also that any romance has way more sex, way more explicit) I’m going to guess they hate it for that itch at the back of the brain that makes them think.
And thinking is their enemy.
Look at those quotes above. Heinlein wrote some “terrific pulpy” stuff. Yeah. Even his juveniles — arguably particularly his juveniles, at a level, before he got into “how will man change himself” — have such terrific pulpy action as in Red Planet pondering the utility of the right to bear arms/submission to authority versus rebellion/that man might not be the big boy in space, and that some species might be so unimaginably more advanced than us, we don’t even comprehend them/colonialism versus the rights of the original inhabitants/what is “maturity” in a political sense.
Wonderful action pulpy stuff, innit? It’s like Tarzan of the Apes or something. (Which in itself had a subtext, but to be fair had a lot more emphasis on the action and pulpy adventure — I have a theory Burroughs prospered by plugging directly into the collective unconscious, or the favored myths of mankind, or something but that’s a post for another time.)
They know it. If they didn’t know it, they wouldn’t bring the quote from Zombie Heinlein saying he wrote message or at least meaning to scold us.
However, the party line requires them to hold two thoughts in their head at the same time: that the sad puppies side wants “meaningless” action adventure**. AND Heinlein, whom we “idolize” (guys, you do know that “genuflect” and PBOH are sort of fond jokes on our side, right? No, never mind. you don’t. Humor ablated when you went over to the cool kids’ table. You only laugh on command anymore.) wrote some “wonderful pulpy stuff” but Heinlein also wrote message.
It’s not just this post, it’s the seminar poster after seminar poster in my comments going on about how “Heinlein was preachy” and “Heinlein wrote message” while at the same time claiming Heinlein was pulp and “all manly men doing manly things.”
How is it possible to even hold those two thoughts in your head at the same time? Even if you have never read Heinlein? (And I have reason to believe the author of that post has at least HEARD about Heinlein from non adversarial people.)
This is not the only place their views do this, either. You also get the “Peaceful planet of women” and “we have always fought.” (Which is it going to be, guys? Women are inherently peaceful, or women have always been warriors? And no special begging about women only fighting against men. If women are such awesome warriors, there’s native aggressiveness there.)
Then there is the super wonderful super state, and their dislike of “authority” (unless it’s them, but that’s a long story.)
I think since the fall of the USSR, and since it became obvious just how busted and corrupt that country was despite its appearance of success, the left has not only been running scared of itself (which is why they continue to deny the real conditions in places like Cuba) but has also become — like all messianic beliefs under attack by reality — a bit cultish.
Because they had already captured the bullhorns of culture when the USSR fell, they’ve managed to hide just the extent of the debacle communism was in the one country that managed superpower status despite it. (China is a more complex question.)
But the people at the top know. And they will take no lackeys they can’t trust. And so, like all doomsday cults, they require that their followers perform acts of self-abasement, so the top can be sure of their loyalty.
We should be lucky it’s not something like cutting out their mother’s hearts. It’s more the proclaiming of contradictory ideas in the same breath with seeming lack of awareness they are contradictory, even though no one capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time could fail to see the lack of logic.
This ritual self-abasement earns many a place on the left side of the table.
But I have to believe — because I believe in humanity — they get up in the morning and look in the mirror and see what they’ve become.
And now you know why the nomination of a counter-slate to their “already sure to win” (and yes, they were proclaiming on blogs last year that Ancillary Sword was sure to win this year — even though most of them can’t have read it yet, and certainly hadn’t read the competition) whispered slate caused such unbridled fury that they descend to character assassination, to baseless twitter-calumny, to a storm of false comments on books they haven’t read.
Those who sold their soul for a place at the cool table, and now see the coolness of the table threatened, must fight with all their strength to keep it the cool table. Even to the point of descending to despicable, unimaginable vileness.
Why not? They already knowingly contradicted themselves, and refused to think about it for coolness and status, demonstrating in public there’s nothing they won’t do for a positional good.
Status is all they have.
Not excellence, not craft, not ability. Just status.
And we’re threatening that.
Put on your seat belts. this is going to get rough. But you know how it ends.
In the end, we win, they lose.
In the end we win, they lose because we can read everything and think everything, and enjoy and not enjoy whatever we want, while they’ve restricted themselves to approved thoughts, approved ideas, the narrow path of those books and thoughts that are “safe” and “not hateful.***” And thereby they’ve become (yes, you knew that) Heinlein’s definition of unfree men, shackled to a tyranny:
I began to sense faintly that secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy…censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything — you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him. -RAH
We are free men (and yes, women, for those philologically challenged) and you can’t take that from us, and arguably even if we all die, we still win. Because we will never be controlled. You can’t have us. You can only have the loneliness of your shriveled and forfeited souls.
*I don’t even object to preachy message as such, though if the story can’t carry it, then to heck with it. I’ve read and enjoyed some relatively preachy stuff (what you think Left Hand of Darkness isn’t? How quaint of you.) I just object to preachy message that reinforces the same “accepted” establishment messages that we’ve been getting all along since elementary, at least if we’re fifty or younger. You know things like “Men violent, women peaceful” and “women are better than men” and “a non-capitalist society would be better and more equitable” “a career for women is more important than a family” and other preachiness that I’m sure was daring and mind-breaking at the dawn of the twentieth century, but which is now old and in many cases busted (you can’t argue that a non-capitalist society is better at anything unless you’re ignorant of history.) Science fiction, if it is anything is a literature of thought. You take some big idea/thought and explore it and extrapolate its future. You don’t just read from the hymnal.
**Which means they’ve read precisely zero of Larry, or Brad, or for that matter me. I don’t blame them so much for not having read other people on our side, like Kate, or Amanda, or Cedar but oh, yes h*ll I do. If you’re going to war against someone, the least you can do is read them. At least Larry.
*** Not only has the other side publicly declared they wouldn’t read anyone nominated by Sad Puppies because they have bad-thought cooties, but those who claim to have read Larry have CLEARLY not done it (like, they missed all the women in the book: strong, and powerful women at that) and they certainly haven’t read Brad. And then there was, (and I wish I had the link but no time to look, and doubtless one of you can find it), the precious flower having hysterics, because what if one of us wrote a book under a pen name and she unknowingly read it and became tainted with wrong-thought? This is a very real worry, and the buttercups SHOULD be worried. Because some of us have plans.