The rise of the Self-Insertion fic -Lawrence Railey

The rise of the Self-Insertion fic -Lawrence Railey

If you’re like me, much of your early childhood was spent pretending you were this or that. Perhaps you were a superhero one day and an astronaut the next. Maybe you were a Jedi or a captain of a starship. You were the hero in your own story.

But as you grew older, you became aware that the world wasn’t all about you. Your story was not the only story that mattered. Indeed, when you read a book or watched a movie, you understood that the characters were not you, and were you in the same situation as they were it was entirely possible that you would do something completely different.

Yet, the story remained enjoyable for you, nonetheless.

Puppy Kickers commonly explain that people of various ethnic, religious, and sexual backgrounds are put off because Science Fiction does not contain enough characters who are like them. Chuck Wendig explains this view for us:

“Let’s imagine that you are, as you are now, a straight white dude. Except, your world features one significant twist — the SFF pop culture you consume is almost never about you. The faces of the characters do not look like yours. The creators of this media look nothing like you, either. Your experiences are not represented. Your voice? Not there. There exist in these universes no straight white dudes. Okay, maybe one or two. Some thrown in to appease. Sidekicks and bad guys and walk-on parts. Token chips flipped to the center of the table just to make you feel like you get to play, too. Oh, all around you in the real world, you are well-represented. Your family, your friends, the city you live in, the job you work — it’s straight white dude faces up and down the block. But on screen? In books? Inside comic panels and as video game characters? Almost none. Too few. Never the main characters.”

It’s worth noting that this was written in response to the Star Wars boycott trolling affair on Twitter. Chuck certainly got taken to the cleaners by the trolls in that regard. But the issue he brings up is one frequently touted by the Puppy Kickers.

For as long as I can remember, Science Fiction has been relatively good about containing a mixture of various races, belief systems, and the like. Frank Herbert’s Dune contains a great deal of reference to Islam and Persian culture. Babylon 5 had an episode wherein the commander of the station introduced one of the aliens to an entire row of various races and religious creeds. Star Trek put a Russian on screen as a main character during the height of the Cold War (itself a more radical move, I think, than having a black woman as a communications officer). Darth Vader was voiced by a black man, and wouldn’t have been the same otherwise. Sarah Hoyt’s own Darkship series contains a gay character in a substantial role and, of course, has a female protagonist. David Weber’s Safehold series has a protagonist who is arguably a transsexual, as she changes her gender to male in order to become Merlin and blend in properly with Safehold’s population.

And I’m not even going to start where Heinlein is concerned.

Point is, the complaint of the Puppy Kickers is patently false. You can see people of your particular race, religion, sexuality, etc… already. Indeed, this isn’t even a new phenomenon. For as long as I’ve been alive, there hasn’t been a major issue where this is concerned.

But there’s a deeper point, even, than this. It’s something that I didn’t really think about until recently, too. I was reading Darkship Thieves and I was practically biting my nails when Athena was doing something I would regard as pretty ungrateful and borderline cruel. And I felt it in the pit of my stomach. I genuinely didn’t want her to do what she wound up trying to do. That’s when it suddenly hit me: I’m reading about a character who is not me. Her motivations are not mine. Her personality is not mine. Everything about her is different.

The story isn’t about me, or my perspective, or what I would do in those circumstances. It was about what Athena was going to do. And the story would not be one tenth of what it was if (please excuse me on this one Sarah) she wasn’t so damn stubborn and self-centered. Her bumbling through the first half of the book is precisely why I was glued to the pages. I just HAD to find out what kind of trouble she was going to stir up next. I liked Athena’s character because she was fleshed out, had her own motivations, thoughts, dreams and issues. She felt like a real person to me.

Sometime ago I read an article about the Twilight series of books. The title escapes me at the moment, but the point of the article was that Twilight’s protagonist, Bella, was deliberately written to be vague, nondescript and almost featureless. She was a fantasy Mary Sue. Bella, in other words, was intended to be a reader avatar for young teenage girls (and, apparently, older mothers who wished they were teenage girls). People could pretend they were Bella and attracting the attentions of a sparkling vampire, just as I once pretended to be an astronaut as a child. Bella was the exact opposite of Athena.

Chuck Wendig’s rant about people not seeing themselves in stories is perfectly in line with this thought process. If we extrapolate his line of thinking, there must be, for example, gay black characters so that gay black men can connect with the story and insert themselves into it. For without a suitable number of these characters, they cannot connect with the story. Or, in simple terms, they can’t make the story about themselves personally.

Except that this is complete nonsense to begin with. There’s a reason Mary Sue stories are often derided, and why there’s a lot of bad fanfiction written in this particular style. It’s the same reason why commercials will spout off something like “there’s just one you.” And why advertising everywhere likes to focus on how special you are. You’re all winners, they will say, the world is yours. It’s a way to feed narcissism. You can only read so many stories like this before it starts getting old and patronizing.

Adam Carolla said it best in a rant several years ago:

“We’re now dealing with the first wave of participation trophy [parenting]” when “everyone gives everyone a participation trophy and then everyone feels good about themselves but it’s not based on anything.”

To the Puppy Kickers, everyone else is the problem, but never them. They overlook the problem of a cultural trend toward narcissism, the over-emphasis on personal feelings, a patronizing notion that everything has to be personal so that everybody can feel good about themselves. Instead, they focus on whether or not your story has a sufficient number of gay characters, or black characters, or whatever particular group is currently occupying the attention of social justice.

Are they saying, then, that it is impossible for readers to enjoy a story without the story being about them? It’s actually worse than that. Again, I will quote our friend Chuck Wendig:

“Also, as it turns out, the genre is often, maybe even always, political. Even when it’s not expressly so, fiction isn’t about some rote operational telling of stories. Science-fiction and fantasy, when operating well, serve as a bellwether for the world in which we live. It’s always been that way. Through history, we examine both the small books and films and comics and also the really popular ones to see what ideas and fears and yes even politics have seeped out of the public consciousness and conscience and into the stories that the public loves and shares.”

You see, in the eyes of the paladins of social justice, fiction cannot be apolitical. It categorically must have an agenda, and just as the stories must be about them, personally, the political angle of those same stories must be their political angles. Sad Puppies understand that fiction can come in both political and apolitical varieties, and that the stories need not parrot their own worldview in order to be enjoyable.

If they truly gave a damn about the word diversity, which they reflexively lob around whenever challenged, they would discover that having fiction of a conservative slant adds to diversity, it does not detract from it. But that’s not how it works with them. Just as the books must cater specifically to their individual backgrounds, the books must also cater to their politics. N.K. Jemisin’s book pushing free birth control is considered just fine, revolutionary even. Tom Kratman’s book about war against Muslim terrorists on another planet is considered crimethink, because they don’t want actual diversity of thought, especially not in stories that are explicitly political.

Since, for them, progress only goes in one direction (i.e. towards more Socialism, White Guilt, etc…), fiction with a conservative angle, or even no detectable angle at all, is at cross purposes to what they consider the genre to be about.

It all goes back to the beginning. They view our genre as escapism, not story-telling. They want to be the hero of a grand story about the Socialist utopia, and since that’s probably not going to happen in the real world, they retreat to the fantasy world to get their fix. They want to be an astronaut today and a commissar tomorrow. So characters must either be blank templates, like Bella, that they can insert themselves into, or be so close to their particular background that they can pretend the story was written about them.

Don’t misunderstand me, to a certain extent, the occasional foray into escapism can be fun, and a way to disconnect from a dreary 9-to-5 existence. But at the same time, like any such luxury, it is best used in moderation. The reason Mary Sue stories are considered so bad is that anyone who cannot immediately insert themselves into the main character will find the story patronizing, fake, and composed largely of cardboard cutouts. Fan fiction is not universally terrible, but much of it can be because many of the fans are prone to writing themselves into the story. And while that is their prerogative, it doesn’t make for good story-telling, generally. The story will have a fanbase of one.

Unlike Athena, the characters in those stories will not feel like real people, with real motivations. You won’t care about them, you won’t want to read more unless the author is deliberately stroking your ego. So much of what the Puppy Kickers do is a sort of mutual stroking of egos. Here, you wrote a story about social justice, have a Hugo and feel good about yourself. A decade from now, nobody will remember the book, because it stunk like yesterday’s meat, but hey…

The Book of Eli is a film that I enjoyed tremendously, despite the implausibility of the primary plot device. The titular Eli was a black man portrayed by Denzel Washington. He was a morally upright character, resolved to complete his task; a modern day Christian prophet. He was totally unlike me. Yet I loved the story and it wouldn’t have been the same without Denzel Washington portraying the character. He was perfectly cast for the role.

And that’s the central thesis surrounding the Sad Puppy affair. We want artistic freedom to create characters that aren’t Mary Sues, that don’t necessarily follow some specific agenda or quota formula. We don’t think the inclusion or absence of a particular trait is important. If a character is envisioned as a gay Jewish black man, then that is just fine. If another is a white man with skin lighter than a Norwegian in a snowstorm, there is nothing wrong with that. Or, if your character is a stubborn woman whom you just want to reach through pages and yell “good God, woman, don’t do that!” to repeatedly, so much the better.

Diversity isn’t the goal. At best, it’s a side-effect. Good story-telling is the only purpose, and the Puppies believe that nothing should get in the way of that.

And, quite simply, this notion that one must share essential attributes with the main character in order to enjoy a story is patronizing, narcissistic, and stupid. A black man can enjoy a story about a white woman. And, in the case of the story I just finished reading a couple days ago, a conservative white man can enjoy a story about a transsexual robot named Merlin living on distant planet.

Books do not have to be self-insertion fics, and they do not need to push a socio-political agenda.

The fact that the Puppy Kickers don’t know any better is disappointing to say the least.

580 responses to “The rise of the Self-Insertion fic -Lawrence Railey

  1. c4c

  2. I’m actually reading the Kratman book A Desert Called Peace now, and I find it quite lovely.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard anything Kratman wrote described in such terms. 🙂

      • did you take “and the left cried out no hiding place” from B5?

        • Dear, I suspect B5 took it from the same source Lawrence did: it’s from the New Testament and is a quote from Jesus prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem / the end of the world.

          • Specifically, “And the rock cried out, “No hiding place!”” is a quote found in various spirituals and Gospel songs about the end of the world, and it adapts Revelation 6:15-17 –

            “And the kings of the earth, and the princes, and tribunes, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of mountains.

            And they say to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of Him that sits upon the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?”

      • I love Kratman’s stuff, particularly the Desert Called Peace series, so of course it is lovely. 🙂

  3. For these reasons, they will turn their backs on the best of the best of classic science fiction and fantasy… and act as if it there is a cultural chasm between young readers of today and the seminal works of the field.

    • That’s a feature not a bug. They want people to be cutoff from the past.

      • adventuresfantastic

        That’s for sure. I’ve tried to avoid the blog posts earlier this week about why classic authors don’t matter and shouldn’t matter to younger readers. I don’t need my blood pressure going that high. Me, I’ll take the classics over most the critically acclaimed swill that’s being published these days. The classics, the indies, and Baen. That’s where most of the good storytelling is these days.

      • It also makes it easier to recycle ideas from classic SF and still get praised for being original. E.E. “Doc” Smith had alien characters with “non-binary gender” nearly a century ago, but if nobody reads the Lensman series you can be all brave and transgressive by making up new pronouns.

        • Not to mention Asimov’s 3-gender aliens in The Gods Themselves

          • Or Ursula LeGuin’s race of gender-changing humans (and it’s made clear that they’re human) in ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’.

            A Netflix-sponsered anime series based on a manga also has hermaphroditic humans (they grow up herm, but biologically develop into the necessary opposite gender when they fall in love), and yet somehow, the SJWs don’t seem to be talking up ‘Knights of Sydonia’. In fact, one of the themes of the series seems to be the question of what makes someone human. The protagonist (and probably the ship’s captain) is the only character that we’d recognize as a “normal” human. At minimum, every other human onboard the ship uses photosynthesis to dramatically reduce their food intake. Massive casualties among the population of what is a massive colony ship led to the modification of the population to make it more likely to survive, and the photosynthesis is one of the results of that. Other modifications include things such as the hermaphrodite mentioned above, a group of clone sisters, and a humanoid bear (who was once human).

            • I liked the first season so much I’ve been buying the original manga.

            • Reality Observer

              I like that one, too. Of course, the premise is that they do choose their gender (very non-PC), and it is definitely binary once the choice is made (also very non-PC).

          • Captain Comic

            Their Majesties Bucketeers by L. Neil Smith.

            Whatever the hell was going on with the structure and procreation of the Titanides in Varley’s Titan/Wizard/Demon….

            And on and on and on…

            But hey, no, you SJWs are sooooo original.

            They’re even giving awards to women these last few years.

            • yeah. For being women. And they’re right, THAT never happened before. When women won awards before it was for being good writers. I just disagree that this is progress.

        • It also makes it easier to recycle ideas from classic SF and still get praised for being original.

          Bingo. Which is why it’s mostly low-talent authors who argue that modern readers should avoid the classics. They don’t trust their own ability to build something better on the foundations that writers like E. E. “Doc” Smith or Robert A. Heinlein laid down, so they’d rather erect a tumbledown shack on shifting sands and claim that they’ve just built a mighty skyscraper.

          • Is there any doubt that if the author of Fuzzy nation could have eliminated all existing copies of Little Fuzzy he would have done so? That way nobody could prove his reworking of an obscure minor (albeit Hugo-nominated) novel was not a necessary and desirable improvement … just as Hollywood constantly remakes classics from their vaults, each and every time declaring the results an “improvement” in the same way the Soviets claimed to have “improved” the Baltic states.

            • I bet that after the author of The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) made all her arrogant claims to have invented the American future religious dictatorship in science fiction, she wished that she could have eliminated If This Goes On (Heinlein, 1940) which is the ur-example of that sort of story, as far as I know (though of course not the ur-example of the American dictatorship story, of which I know at least two earlier ones (Jack London, The Iron Heel, 1908 and Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here, 1935). As for various societies with oppressive sexualities, that was a standard trope of science fiction stories from the 1940’s through 1960’s: there are so many I could write a whole essay on the topic.

      • I think that hits the nail on the head. But why do they want people cut off from the past? I’m thinking that it is because our history to a large degree defines who we are. But the whole point of the progressive movement is to make us become , but to become amorphous, ready to be shaped into the New [INSERT IDEOLOGY HERE] Man, an amorphous appendage of the State.

        • But why do they want people cut off from the past?

          He who controls the present controls the past.
          He who controls the past controls the future.

        • Because they cannot sell their spavined, degenerate, inadequate creed to people who have heard of anything else.

          • Too much knowledge of history eviscerates their arguments. In particular, if one knows of the First French Republic, the Soviet Union, and the People’s Republic of China, one cannot believe in their utopias, nor imagine that the PC hipsters would be happy in their futures realized (as their French, Russian and Chinese equivalents were among those most wholly devoured in those revolutions). And too much knowledge of the literary history of science fiction exposes that most of the stories they like and concepts they consider are incredibly derivative, often of the very classic authors they affect to scorn.

    • But much of classic sci-fi has ciphers for characters.
      Asimov’s Nightfall never tells us what color and orientation the scientists are, because that is irrelevant to the story.
      Heck, I’m pretty sure Clarke’s The Sentinel never even mentioned what sex the main character is.

      • And it says something about the assumptions of the SJW’s that if it’s not mentioned in-story, they simply assume that the character is a white heterosexual male. While “heterosexual” is playing the odds, “white” and “male” aren’t.

  4. “Disappointing”? Well, maybe most of the time, but when my fur is awry, downright infuriating that those who claim superiority and leadership are so freaking infantile.

    For the Love of Life Orchestra, sometimes I really, really hate these people!

  5. He’s so right, I mean, I was TOTALLY unable to enjoy The Pride of Chanur, since I’m not an alien cat-woman. I’m amazed ANYONE read it….

    /sarc (for those who didn’t pick it up.)

    You know, there’s a publisher of Children’s books that prints them on demand with your child’s name and other details inserted strategically into the text. I’m sure Chuck and his friends could get them to run off some SF that is more suitable to their tastes.

    • YES. THIS is what they remind me of.

      • This is why I read fiction to see and experience things vastly different from myself and my world. I’d barf if I had to read about a character like myself.

        • These stories fail for the same reason “Christian Fiction” fails — the characters & story are secondary (at best) to a solicitous portrayal of the world view of the genre. They are the literary equivalent of military music: everything driven according to that big bass drum, in 4/4 time and ON the beat, not after it.

          • Calling it solicitous would be doing it a favor. Cliche would probably be a better word. Cliche and oh so painfully predictable. They feature the same half a dozen (maybe) plotlines and the same recycled wet-newsprint (calling them cardboard would be doing them a favor: they’ve been recycled so much that they’re now wet and soggy) characters, just with new-ish names.

            Mama Raptor used to be a voracious reader of Christian Fic, Amish Romance Fic, and what we call “Hallmark Books” so labeled because they’d usually been adapted into made-for-TV movies on the Hallmark or Lifetime network. Little Brother and I used to take great delight in sarcastically predicting the plot of whatever “new” story she was reading at the time. I’d say 95% of the time, all it would take was a quick glance at the cover art and title and we’d be able to precisely outline the entire plot and list all the major characters (or at least the tropes). Pissed Mama Raptor off to no end. Not because we were right: but because we’d “spoil the ending” for her! *facepalm*

            It didn’t actually occur to her that we were right about how cliched and predictable those books were until she checked a book out of the library that was the first book in a brand-new series(just released by the publisher, and she was the first one to check it out), we made our prediction on the car ride home from the library, and *every single one* of our predictions wound up being absolutely 100% accurate.

          • Yes, there is that “problem” with *all _message_ fiction*; However, not all Christian Fiction” is written that way. I wrote a book, with an _unabashed_ Christian viewpoint that is *not* pounded into the reader. It is not hidden, but aside from the central character, it is simply *who they are.* (See for yourself at /www.amazon.com/dp/0991475445.) David Weber is obviously “religious,” but again, it shows in who his characters are, not what “message” he wants to push.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          Good grief, yes. At MOST I would want to read about a character who was like me, but WAY better. And made fewer stupid mistakes.

        • My life is peaceful to the point of being boring most of the time. Besides there isn’t nearly enough romance.

        • Could anyone actually write a character like yourself, deliberately?

          Take me, for instance – short, near-sighted, middle-aged, fat dude of Anglo-Hellenic ancestry. Average White Guy, with bells on.

          But I read Darkship and could relate to Thena, at least dispositionally speaking. If I were a genetically enhanced chick a generation younger than I actually am, that’s the sort of pigheaded, destined-for-anger-management type of chick I’d be.

          In the MHI series, it’s Trip I related to, not because I’m like him physically in any way, but because if I were a better person he’s who I’d want to be. The official ‘head hero’ of the series – be it Owen or Harbinger – didn’t compute for me even though they were – demographically – “officially” just like me.

          I just finished Wright’s Golden Age and the one I found myself liking was the house computer who kept manifesting as a penguin. Phaeton, the main character, annoyed the crap out of me. I wanted to choke him out about 100 pages in and he never really redeemed himself.

          So who says that if all my plumbing and demographic boxes were checked I’d a) be reading about a character like myself or b) even get the benefit of self-insertion? (And may I say, that just sounds dirty.)

          • Most people don’t want to read about themselves all that much. They already know that character. They want new, exciting, entertaining characters to read about. Maybe adventure, maybe romance, but they want something stimulating.

            Personally, I still put myself into the character’s positions and think about how I would handle it. Most of the time I would be doing something completely different. And that’s why I enjoy reading about these characters, even though I sometimes want to ‘reach out and *touch* someone’, it’s usually a surprise what happens next.

          • The official ‘head hero’ of the series – be it Owen or Harbinger – didn’t compute for me even though they were – demographically – “officially” just like me.
            ———————-

            Except that Owen and Harbinger aren’t the same demographic. Owen’s Dad is a minority (Polynesian, iirc). It’s not mentioned very often, but it does come up.

        • A character just like me? Very boring read. Much prefer reading the versions of me in Jason’s books. More interesting fellow, that guy.

        • Patrick Chester

          What? A story about an aging geek who works on help desks? What a riveting tale… *eyeroll*

          So maybe characters like me aren’t a good thing.

          • Depends on the help desk and the call that comes in.

            • And if the Bastard Operator from Hell is on the line…

              • That, too. But I was thinking of a story of a help desk – I think it was Symantec/Norton some decades ago when they had an encryption package – that got a call from a third world government. Seems they needed to open some critical encrypted data and had lost the password. After verifying their were who they claimed, they tried different things as the help desk heard sounds of combat in the background. They were unable to open the software, and those on the line took it calmly and thanked them for their effort. The next day they saw where that government had been overthrown.

          • A character can start that way… modern variant on ‘the common farm boy who becomes a hero’.

            The problem I have is that most of them don’t let their characters grow, or change, or be wrong, or… or… or…

    • Yes, exactly. I’ve enjoyed many SFF books where major characters weren’t even human beings, much less looking exactly like what I see in the mirror. Mike from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Tolkien. Clement’s Mission of Gravity. I could go on for pages, and everyone else here probably could, too.

      The fundamental problem here is that SFF is supposed to be literature of the imagination, and Wendig and his fellow travelers have none, and want none.

    • Oh, wow. I know you’re being sarcastic — but with e-books, there’s literally nothing stopping you from running off a separate file for each purchaser, automatically inserting the names of their choice, and even giving them a few options on the political and religious slant of the story. (Examples: What curse word should the protagonist use when frustrated or upset? (Fudge, Dagnation, Gosh darn it, Crap, Other: specify.) What descriptor should be used for the villains? (Nazi, Racial Supremacist, Rethuglican, Islamofascist, Other: specify.))

      You could even have the purchaser specify tags and traits and descriptions for their Mary Sue/Marty Stu protagonist.

      Like a choose-your-own-adventure or mad libs where you just get the finished version. Taking the co-creative experience of author and reader to a new level.

      • Just to make it even more fun: once you choose your ideal protagonist and antagonist characteristics, have the story twist so that the antagonist clearly ought to be the protagonist, and the protagonist become the true antagonist. And not in a way that “grey goo” does, where the borders between good and bad become so blurred you can’t tell the difference. Make it black-and-white.

        Of course, that just might cause the heads of those expecting Mary Sue fiction to explode…but that might not be a bad thing, either…

        • Kindles flying across rooms, Priests being woken in the middle of the night by their upset parishioners banging on the rectory doors, therapists being badgered at the luncheons…

          Oh, I see lots of fun times ahead with this.

    • So is the reason for Wesley Crusher in STNG?

    • Patrick Chester

      …I’ve suffered through the Honor Harrington series, unable to enjoy it because I’m not a Eurasian genetically-enhanced woman.
      /sarcasm

      😉

  6. It’s ‘tick the box’ creation of a suitable avatar for the intended reader, rather than using imagination and empathy to work up a character, who may or almost certainly does not bear any resemblance to yourself, or even the reader.
    My daughter and I just finished a book together (she came up with names, and plots, I did the characterizations, conversation and descriptions) wherein the character who gives a human window on this odd little community is a runaway British former celebrity chef – male, and rather self-centered and snobbish at that. Another handful of characters are Hispanic – male and female, and one of the key characters is an elderly woman who doesn’t speak English at all. It’s been a blast, creating people in the round.

    • And I’m gonna have to buy the Luna City book soon. The excerpts you posted over at Chicago Boys are a hoot. You have really captured small town Texas with that one.

  7. This all gets so tiresome.
    MONGRELS UNITE!!!!!!!

    • And we’re ALL mongrels as some race proud people who had DNA tests found out!

      • I really need to have one of those done.
        Best I know I’m mostly Dutch/German, but my birth mother was adopted and I always thought she had some very obvious latina characteristics.
        My fear is that it would prove true so then I’d get drummed out of Sad Puppies as no longer a card carrying white Mormon male.
        On the other hand, perhaps I really am your long lost uncle, several times removed.

        • yes, exactly. Actually, given how dad’s side spread it around with a wide-angle dispenser, the strange thing would be if we AREN’T related. 😛

          • Reality Observer

            One of these days, I’ll do that myself. (Although there is a pretty good chance that I am related to Sarah – those Northern Portuguese.)

            I’ll still check “African-American” in the boxes, though – without a bit of dishonesty involved. I do keep up with the research…

            • This is why I, as a Baltic-descended Jew, always check the Hispanic, African-American, and Amerindian boxes.

              Jews are not native to the Baltic — they went there after expulsion from Spain, hence i must be Hispanic. But Jews did not originate in Spain, either — they went there from North Africa following the Roman Diaspora.

              It has long been believed (and if people identify as something it must be respected) that the Amerindian peoples are descended from the ten “Lost Tribes” of Israel, thus I must also be Amerindian (besides, as anybody who has met me can attest, I haz cheekbones.)

              Q.E.D.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              You’ll spread it around with a wide-angle dispenser? (Runs)

          • Reminds me of the Short Story “Let’s be Frank.”

        • Nah, I can’t imagine you being drummed out for being a white Mormon male, just because of some genetic proof of Latin blood.

          If Sarah can be a white Mormon male, then I would imagine that anyone could be!

          On the other hand, if your genetic test shows you don’t have any propensity for melanin, and that you have a Y chromosome (or don’t have a W chromosome, if you have lizard/bird DNA), and you show your Mormon baptismal certificate, then we might consider drumming you out of Sad Puppies for not being a card carrying white Mormon male. Or not. We’re kindof contrarian, sort-of, so that makes such things a tad unpredictable.

          Oh, heck, what am I saying? Sad Puppies are very predictable! If you enjoy reading and/or writing good stories, we just might let you stay, despite what those 770’ers and CHORFs might say about you!

        • Patrick Chester

          …but what if you’re our father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate?

      • My occipital bun and bell-shaped rib cage suggest that I have a certain amount of Neanderthal in me, though I’m not sure it’s worth $100 to find out. This won’t stop me from writing a novel about them. Sawyer’s made me gag.

        • I could not finish that abomination. I slogged through the first 50-60 pages, and then threw it in the Goodwill pile.

      • Well, some discovered they were less mixed than they thought. When one man told his mother that it had not found a trace of African DNA, she said she had been black all her life and was too old to change.

    • The Other Sean

      Mischievous mongrels untie!

      • Eh, that’s why they are mongrels in the first place, their ancestors tied up with anything.

        • Of in my ancestors’ case, untied it . . . It takes some persistance to get tossed out of Scotland, then out of Ulster, then out of the Carolinas for te same “crime” over the course of 5-6 generations. *shrug* So we had an affinity for other peoples’ livestock. It’s not our fault cattle and sheep liked to follow us across jurisdictional lines.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Have you now learned how to “not get caught”? [Very Very Big Evil Grin]

    • Captain Comic

      Dyslexics Untie!

  8. Very well said, Lawrence. Your central point is an excellent one and you make it well. I do wonder, however, how folks like Jemisin or Tempest Bradford or Natalie Luhrs would respond to such an argument. Don’t see how they could talk their way around it without revealing their true biases and motivations, which would cast serious doubt on a lot of what they’ve written in numerous blog posts over the years. They’d have to do some fancy dancing to say the least.

    • No, they wouldn’t make any excuses at all: they’d just accuse the person bringing it up being racisssss or sexisssss and consider the argument “closed”. These people a.) haven’t got any grounding in logic (or even sense), and b.) even if they might have had a nodding acquaintance with the aforementioned at some point, they know very well that trying to actually “defend” what they’re claiming wouldn’t work without revealing their true natures…and therefore they will start shouting “FIRE” (or, rather, “LOOK AT THE RACIST AWFUL PERSON ATTACKING ME”) and run while everyone is looking in the other direction.

      A couple of years ago, I was a tentative Chuck Wendig fan. I enjoyed his writing-advice books, I enjoyed his novel Blackbirds. He told funny, interesting stories and was one of the few people I would acknowledge as being able to use profanity creatively and entertainingly (usually, I find it to be a sign of a lack of imagination). And then, somehow, he turned into an absolute lunatic a**hat. To be fair: the early warning signs were there, but I was still in the final stages of my lingering-twenties-liberalism myself, and didn’t twig to the fact until Sad Puppies 2–among other things–opened my eyes to the insanity. (Why yes, I am in fact proof that the arguments on Larry’s and Sarah’s blogs and elsewhere aren’t meant to change the minds of the already decided, but to sway the undecided. I was undecided, and then I saw the SJWs true colors…)

    • My guess is that, assuming they managed to find their inner civilized debater that day, their response would be something like this:

      “Okay, fine, I understand it’s not a good idea to read nothing but self-inserts and that often its good to read about a character who’s nothing like me in order to broaden my perspective about the world. But I don’t want every book to be a self-insert, I just want the occasional hero who looks like me/shares reproductive organs with me/has the same sexual attractions as me. Is that too much to ask?”

      To which my response would be two-fold:

      “First, I think you’re lying about what you really want, given that you tend to pitch a holy fit at any book that doesn’t perfectly meet your criteria. Second, if you want that sort of book, write it. I have no objection.”

    • Probably point, shriek, and claim that the point supports the reason for their own biases better than their own rationalized ‘arguments’.

    • “I do wonder, however, how folks like Jemisin or Tempest Bradford or Natalie Luhrs would respond to such an argument.”

      Well, because I’m a masochist with a compulsion to play devil’s advocate, but because I also believe in trying to argue fairly and objectively, I might suggest that somebody trying to make these folks’ case in a saner and more patient way might offer the following points:

      “Point is, the complaint of the Puppy Kickers is patently false. You can see people of your particular race, religion, sexuality, etc… already.”

      This is true, but how often are the major protagonists of a large story depicted as something other than the “traditional cultural majority”? And how often are they given antagonists and experiences that conveniently avoid or elide the major issues such groups face today? There are a lot more female protagonists than there used to be, but depending on subgenre it may still fall short of reality’s 50-50 mix. There are still not a lot of explicitly gay or trans protagonists, though more than there were, and stories where a same-sex or queer relationship forms a significant romantic subplot are still quite few and far between when compared to traditional het relationships. And where characters of non-Caucasian races are major protagonists it is often in settings where race has been neutralized as an issue — protagonists only “get” to be American blacks, say, if they never have experiences or histories that might make white American readers feel guilty or uncomfortable. “We,” the underrepresented groups might say, “don’t just want to be in the story; we want to be important to the story — in fact, we want the story to be our story. Yes, we can identify with your stories just as you identify with ours — but in practice, which of us still has to do that far more often than the other? And why is it ‘boring message fiction’ to try to shift that distribution a little?”

      “You see, in the eyes of the paladins of social justice, fiction cannot be apolitical.”

      That’s because the issue here is two fundamentally different definitions of “politics”, one of which is based on the skeptical assertion about human nature that any topic a person wishes to define as “apolitical” is by definition a topic that person wishes to put off limits to challenge or criticism. As a logical argument, this is an unfalsifiable kafkatrap and thus invalid; the problem is that as an assertion about human nature, or an imputation of motive for specific people or groups, it is quite often correct. We call a work “political” only if we think it actively promulgates a particular philosophy; they call a work “political” when it passively refuses to challenge a philosophy, because they believe far more in the power of unquestioned assumption to influence people and culture than most people do. Silence in support of the status quo, by letting the status quo’s assumptions go unchallenged, is a political stance in this philosophy, and one that only those who already benefit from that status quo can afford; only the fish who have never lived anywhere but the clean part of the lake can treat water quality as an “apolitical” topic, which is why they accuse the fish from the dirtier part of the lake as “politicizing” that topic when it comes up during school meetings. It really is as simple as “those who are not for us are against us”, and because that axiom is something you do or don’t choose to base your politics on it can’t itself be politically argued.

      To me, of course, the plain and simple answer to both these complaints is, “Write more books; write better books; publish independently so you can dodge any gatekeeper concerns; don’t make them so politically flattering to one part of your audience that they offend and alienate the rest; and accept that your core audience may simply not be as big or influential as you would like.” But that is slow and difficult, and exploiting political and philosophical sympathy to generate hype and sales is easy (and not something the SJWs invented, in all fairness).

      • The problem with the Puppy Kickers is not the kinds of books they like, it is that they want the kinds of books they don’t like ignored, abused and driven from the marketplace. It isn’t that they want to write “better” books, it is that they default to their books are “better” for reasons having nothing to do with the primary purpose for which most of us read.

        “This food is very nutritious.”

        “It tastes like bad cardboard.”

        “Perhaps, but it is very nutritious cardboard.”

        “I still can’t stomach it.”

        “That is because you are a bad person who wants to deny nutritious sustenance to others, others who do not resemble you and whom you wish to subjugate.”

        “You’re right; i don’t want them to have to eat soggy cardboard either.”

        • Oh… Like the songs they made us sing in Sunday School… “But the tune is awful and no one can hit the high notes and it’s a song for babies and you want us to sing it in Church!” Church lady blinks twice. “Yes, but it has a good message.”

          • Quit describing how a certain (thanks be now retired) senior minister picked the hymns. And then fussed at the choir because neither choir nor congregation could sight-read Chinese or central African melodies.

            • Try working the sound room, being asked to provide music to honor a song leader stepping down, and finding you only have VBS songs and two others – and other of those has the lyric:

              “This is the day that the Lord has made
              I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

              We figured that wouldn’t be a cool thing to play as everyone told him goodbye, and picked the other.

              • Some day, off the net, ask me about how the youth ensemble got even with a preacher for dismissing the choir master (for being too popular). We were professional, polite, and pointed in a most devout sort of way.

              • I presume it was not “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace”

                • I actually had to think a moment to recall it. It was There’s Something About That Name. We really do need to get some emergency music CDs up there, CDs so they can be played either on computer or the audio deck.

      • ” There are still not a lot of explicitly gay or trans protagonists, though more than there were, and stories where a same-sex or queer relationship forms a significant romantic subplot are still quite few and far between when compared to traditional het relationships.”

        On the other hand, gay or trans characters in books are certainly a much higher percentage than they are in the actual population. So I have about zero sympathy for those complaining that there are not nearly enough of them in fiction. As it is, there are already so many in fiction that they often threaten my suspension of disbelief, and occasionally there frequency (and the utter predictability of their appearance) throws me entirely out of the story.

        • How true. In real life, they are even fewer and farther between, so the books are giving them an unreal look at life.

    • I’ll bet a DNA test would show that Jemisin and Tempest Bradford are both more European than African.

  9. Hmm. When I was a kid, I would write *literal* self insert stuff: Me and other people I knew as characters, lightly adjusted to whatever setting. (Then there was the incident where I turned in Godfather fanfic as a writing assignment and almost got thrown out of school … again. No more writing that I actually shared with anyone else from that point on for years.)

    Re: Mary Sues and author avatars: I wonder how much an author can actually get away from their own personality. Sometimes an author will write a character that thinks/feels/reacts similar to how the author would (because the author knows him/herself best), and it doesn’t end up being bad.

    I always sort of suspected that a bit of Sarah Hoyt may have leaked through in Athena.

    Heinlein’s mentor characters are probably a bit of the author’s voice. In some of his work, it’s very good. In others, it sort of sucks.

    With Mary Sues: My own understanding of a Mary Sue character is that things go wrong when the character is absolutely perfect in every way, or if the entire setting sort of orbits the main character and other people are just cardboard cutouts in some drama centering on the main character. If they all react unnaturally to the main character. (Whoever the MC was of the Sword of Truth series – I think that character qualifies, in addition to being an unprincipled ass.)

    • Mary Sue–at least as I’ve come to define it–is a character whose attributes are *all* informed, and never have any actual evidence in the story. For a hilarious sendup of ALL the Mary-Sue tropes, as well as hilarious, massive crossover silliness (including such fandoms as Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and Pokemon, just to name a few–though Trek was the original “setting”) I highly recommend the “Ensign Sue Must Die!” webcomic…

        • Oh, that’s lovely … at least, what I’ve read of it so far. I particularly like this sentence, which seems far more generally applicable:

          “To judge from their writings, there are certain ladies who think that an amazing ignorance, both of science and of life, is the best possible qualification for forming an opinion on the knottiest moral and speculative questions”

        • Ouch. I think Ms. Eliot just lambasted the near-entirety of the romance genre…

          (Not that this will prevent me from enjoying a good romance novel. But much as I enjoy the fluff, it does not stop me from rolling my eyes at the near-overwhelming sameness of most of the characters/plots. I treasure the few I’ve found that either subvert the expected tropes in interesting ways, or overturn them entirely…)

          • Hmmm. I’m also pretty sure that essay is an out-and-out fisking, but because of when it was written she’s not actually naming any names…

          • My mother attempted to write romance… she received 2 rejections. 1) Too much plot. She decimated the plot several times until she had just barely enough to hold the story together. Sent it back and received rejection 2) Your male lead is too realistic. She gave up on romance. Because of that story I have never been tempted to try it.

            • She should try to self-pub the original.

              • I don’t know if she still has it (she wrote it back in the early 80s). I’m trying to talk her into self-pubing, period. She’s got a romp of a spy series she’s working on now.

                • Man, I’d *love* to read a romance novel with actual plot and a realistic male lead! Or spies. 🙂

                • I might be interested in the spy series. I’ve been hoping for years that Sheckley would write a sequel or two to The Game of X, which is a fun romp itself.

                  • I shall have to get back to prodding her over it. Since it’s set real world she’s having to mess with some current events for some of the later books. She’s got the cold war one pretty much outlined for re-write.

                    • There might be no need to update them — the cold war is not so distantly past (and elements of it seem to be returning.) Bernard Cornwell, Max Alan Collins, Stephen Hunter Geo. MacDonald Fraser and others have done well by setting stories in the past, revealing “the Truth” about what happened to cause the explosion of the Almeida armory, assassination of Mayor Cermak, shooting of JFK and other “real world’ events.

      • Reality Observer

        Seconded on that one – the webcomic is absolutely hilarious.

      • That’s probably a better definition than mine.

        Yes, that also fits the Sword of Truth MC: He talked a lot about principles {X}, and violated all of them.

        And I’ve seen Ensign Sue Must Die. Absolutely hilarious!

        • Gah. I *hated* the Sword of Truth. Never made it past the first book, in fact–and when I tried to give it a second chance many years after the first go-round, not only did I hate it, but it bored me silly.

          At least the tv series had a pretty young man with extremely nice muscles who very kindly went shirtless a lot to make up for story deficiencies…(though even that couldn’t save the appalling second season, or the series overall…)

          • I also hated Sword of Truth. I managed to make my way through the first book, but the “hot female sexual torturors who are all really very nice emotionally vulnerable girls” had me wondering why the publisher was sponsering adolescent fan-fic.

            A couple of years later, I went ahead and read the second book just to make sure that my poor opinion of the first book wasn’t a fluke. The series had so many books out that people had to be enjoying them, right? But nope, hated that one too.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            Liked the first three, disappointed with the fourth, DESPISED the fifth and gave up.

      • “Ensign Sue” is pretty funny. I haven’t read all of it yet, though. Another good sendup is Nine Men and a Little Lady, which takes on the idea of Mary Sue in Lord of the Rings.

      • Unfortunately, I’ve seen Mary Sue become the “racist, sexist, homophobic” of literary criticisms. Often unmerited, used to disqualify a work in the quickest amount of time, and usually tells me more of the commenter. Which probably tells y’all more about the sites I used to slum around than describing the crowd here.

        • This would be why, when I find myself reading badfic, I don’t review it, I just stop reading it and walk away. The sad truth is, the majority of fanfic out there really *is* drek, but there are some really, really good ones. But you’re right: the accusation of ‘Mary Sue/Gary Stu’ is overused, and frequently incorrect.

          If I find myself in a position where I must correct someone flinging that accusation about falsely, I recommend they check out the single most infamous Mary Sue fic of them all: “My Immortal”…

          (If you don’t know what that is, look it up on tv tropes. Do NOT, by all that is holy, attempt to read the actual fic, unless you *like* having your brain come melting out your ears…)

        • Yes. I was accused of having Athena as a Mary Sue. Guys — seriously. I’m not that crazy.

        • Personally, I find that Mary Sue doesn’t disqualify a work. It’s merely an aspect of the work indicating that the characters are perhaps a little flat or autobiographical. There’s tons of SF out there that has somewhat flat characters but still manage to be excellent reads because they more than compensate in other areas. Most Niven stuff falls in this category for me. I also find that most beginning authors tend to write in a somewhat autobiographical manner, but the good ones will still manage to make the book excellent despite this. The first Monster Hunter International book is like that. The main character is a lot like Larry, but the book is extremely good despite this and the main character is still interesting.

          • Eh, Mary Sue is a Bad Thing. By definition. Hence its use as a term of abuse — which helps drain meaning from it.

            Sometimes you can retrieve a word but it’s hard — witness the history of Space Opera.

          • See, to me, Mary Sue is NOT actually a based-upon-the-author character. That’s a whole other fish. Mary Sue is an improbably flawless/perfectly beautiful/unbelievably awesome character that a.) has no indications in the actual story that any of this is true, because all of these attributes are informed, and b.) has zero character arc.

            But then again…it’s hard for anyone to agree on exactly what “Mary Sue” means. Even TV Tropes doesn’t try to pin it down, but gives some good generalizations: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySue

            • Ain’t sematic drift grand.

              • Well, the original Mary Sue definitions in Star Trek fandom were of a self-insert (same hair, eyes, name) but with an improvement (more beautiful, many-skilled, purple eyes), who was beloved by all the men and who would always save the day. Leslie Fish’s song about Ensign Mary Sue was from the same vintage as the lady who invented the name.

                • If I see either a mention at the start of a fic that a character–any character–has friggin’ purple eyes (unless it’s Drizzt Do’Urden, and even these days he doesn’t get a pass) I am done.

                  Likewise any descriptive blurb for a fic identifying an OC as “the super-awesome son/daughter/sister/whatever” of . Nope, nope, nope. I don’t have anything against original characters, but they had darned well better be *actual* characters and exist independently of the canon characters. (Then again, I’m also a firm believer in sticking to canon as much as possible when writing fanfic–that’s part of the challenge, in my opinion.)

      • Polliwog the 'Ette

        That is quite possibly the most wonderfully horrible thing ever. Thank you (I think) for introducing it.

    • ‘Sometimes an author will write a character that thinks/feels/reacts similar to how the author would (because the author knows him/herself best), and it doesn’t end up being bad.’

      Isn’t one of the Monster Hunters Int’l characters basically a ‘Larry Sue’? But despite… perhaps BECAUSE he bears an uncanny resemblance to the author, Franks is an interesting character. 😉 No one wants to read about a dull author. But when people like Jeff Cooper or Mark Twain or Charles Lindberg write about themselves, it is interesting because they were interesting people.

    • I know the original definition of “Mary Sue,” but given how the term has evolved, my definition is “A character that the narrative finds way more awesome than the reader does.” She’s smart. She’s pretty. She’s sassy. She’s strong. Everyone loves her. You. Will. Like. This. Character. Only the reader is thinking, “No, no I really don’t.”

      Author avatars are particularly prone to this, just because we all tend to think we’re more interesting than we actually are. They don’t have to be (see Agatha Christie’s Ariadne Oliver for one who isn’t), but it’s definitely a danger sign.

      For me, the biggest sign that I’m dealing with a Mary Sue is what TV Tropes used to call “Shilling the Wesley,” where the other characters just won’t shut up about how wonderful Ensign Sue is. Speaking as reader, if an author wants to me to see his character as an awesome badass, he needs to write about that character doing awesome and badass things, and let me come to the conclusion on my own. If we can’t go two paragraphs without saying, “How awesome is Mary Sue? Aren’t we lucky that someone so special is on our side?” then I’m going to hate the character on general principle.

      • ^ This, so much.

        I also have come to hate a particular Mary-Sue-related trope that seems increasingly common in YA fiction in particular: that of the competing love interests, and all the ‘angst’ the heroine (because it’s usually a heroine) endures because she has to…gasp…choose between them! I have very rarely seen this done well (even in an otherwise decent book), and more often it’s a case of wondering what the hell *anyone* would see in this character to fall in love with, let alone multiple people… (Alternatively, when the heroine is actually interesting, the tradeoff is usually that one of the “love interests” is patently appalling, and so I instead wonder “What woman in her right mind would even *consider* that guy…?” Sure, Jane Austen did it, but she also made it clear to the reader which one really was the twerp. Doesn’t stop me from shaking my head at every film version of Marianne ever.)

        • One Twilight Zone episode had fun with the love triangle. Daughter of a wealthy man has to choose between her wealthy fiance, or the poor young man that she’s also in love with. It’s hinted that it’s a classic “rich jerk vs nice poor boy” setup. But she (and we) learn a bit too late that the poor boy is, in fact, the lesser of the two choices.

          • Chesterton and Wodehouse both had stories about the disadvantages of being rich and sensible when wooing an idealistic young woman, and Heyer had a good chunk of The Grand Sophy.

        • Hunger Games. I never really believed she loved either one, let alone both of them.

          • Gah, I cannot STAND Katniss. She’s an ineffectual whiner. The one and only time I liked her in the books was when she stood up and took her sister’s place. After that, I spent the rest of the book and the next wondering why the hell a.) she didn’t die in the first five minutes, and b.) why the hell people were looking up to her. I didn’t even bother with the third book.

            • I have to agree. I watched the first movie, and mentioned that surely the book must be better (the book usually always is) because it couldn’t possibly get worse than the movie. Then someone informed me that the movies followed the book extremely closely. That quelled any urge I ever had to try the books. It boggles the mind how either the books or the movies (much less both) became popular. Stupid (and not even humorous stupid) characters that you want to beat over the head with a two-by-four, and a nonsensical plot, do not a great story, make.

      • One of these days I’m going to write up Lily-Marie’s story. (Sue means “lily” BTW). She was genetically engineered to be immensely attractive with some kind of pheromone things. People talk like that about her. It makes it difficult to impossible for her to learn things by being taught because the instructors all want to say she’s just great.

    • Eldest’s novel is just like that. He started it at twelve. He’s thirteen now. Seems perfectly age appropriate to me. First novels generally are beloved only by family. He’s learned a lot about plotting, and that if you’re using your novel as handwriting practice writer’s block is not a valid excuse, and when you are stuck (it’s space opera, okay?) and you ask your mom what to do next the answer is always blow it up.

  10. My books aren’t exactly a solo Mary Sue – they are perhaps something even more repugnant to the SJWs. An entire tiny nation (Home) of smart independent people separated from the herd by the selection process to be fit to be in space, and increasingly by self selection. People who have shrugged off oppressive laws and customs and made their own way. Much worse than a single warped character they can dismiss as criminal and antisocial.
    I have had readers aghast at the audacity of my characters deciding things without community consensus. Confident there is actually right and wrong and no – they won’t be treated like crap. And – horrors – using force against force when threatened. All without wetting their panties in self doubt.
    If you do not have corporate and political structures to hide behind and anonymize your actions you have to take responsibility for those actions. However if you own large thermonuclear weapons it still behooves other to consider your side in a dispute whether they grant your legitimacy or not.

  11. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Worse. When they want a MC as non-White, non-Straight, etc, it has to be the Most Important Thing about the character.

    The MC in RAH’s Tunnel In The Sky turns out to be Black but it’s only noticeable at the end. To them that’s “Wrong”.

    Sarah’s MC in A Few Good Men is Gay but that wasn’t the Most Important Thing about himself is his mind. To them that’s “Wrong”.

    They can’t have a “Different Character” who doesn’t “throw his/her difference into our face”.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      Huh. I’ve only read that one a few times, but I would have thought I would pick up on that.

    • Further, the only way you know that The Most Important Thing *is* the Most Important Thing is because even 300 years in the future, they are still being discriminated against. I haven’t come across any of the so-called SJW fiction that depicts these Diverse Individuals without someone discriminating against them or otherwise mentioning how the are “different”. I thought that when diversity was embraced nobody would care–and hence it would never cross a character’s mind “Gee, my skin tone is the most important thing about me.”

      • To be fair, in AFGM I was dealing with a totalitarian regime, and I’ve never seen one that didn’t treat gays (and other minorities) very badly.

        • As far as I could tell the regime treated *everybody* that wasn’t them pretty badly. 😀

          My point is the SJWs don’t really have a way of indicating specialness except by someone else objecting to the specialness. If a black gay man is living in a world where nobody cares one way or the other about the blackness, the gayness, or the man-ness, they don’t know how to TELL you these things in the story because HE doesn’t care, nor does anybody else in his world. And you can’t have the virtue signalling then.

          • Just finished the Long Way Home and sequels. LOVED them! And I mention this because I noticed that you had tons and tons of “diversity” represented by people in positions of authority and power.

      • Indeed. If the story is set in anything but the near to mid-term future, the political situation will logically be very different, and hence so will the racial stereotypes and the patterns of discrimination — if any even EXIST in that PARTICULAR future. It’s the SJW’s who insist that whatever patterns of discrimination exist right now must be eternal, projected both backward and forwards in time.

    • Reality Observer

      I’m with Wayne on this one, Drak. A MC is Black (and female, and good looking, and “death on two feet”). The MC (the POV) could be virtually any race – but probably not Black. (The parents take a dislike to the Black MC – when she is much like their own daughter in personality.)

      • According to the Heinlein Society’s FAQ, Rod Walker is indeed Black.

        http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/faqworks.html

        The Oatmeal’s take on the MC in Twilight (“Pants”, as he calls her) is entertaining:

        http://theoatmeal.com/story/twilight

        • I’m barely through the first three paragraphs of The Oatmeal’s Twilight fisk, and already I’m laughing so hard I’m crying. Dammit, Doctor, I’m at work!!!

        • Wayne Blackburn

          I suppose I need to be comparatively beaten over the head with it, then. I caught it in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, but that was a pretty blatant line when Campbell is being interviewed by the Circle of Ouroboros.

          • Long time since I read it, but as I recall Rod Walker didn’t “talk Black” nor “dress Black” nor “act Black” nor even treat women according to the precepts of Black Culture, so he was not an authentic Black. No diversity points for Heinlein (besides which, it has already been decreed that RAH was raaaaacist sexisssst homophobic and gets no diversity points because any Female/Minority/GLTBWhatever characters are either stereotypes or tokens or likely both.)

            • Which implies that the way blacks talk, dress, act and treat women are somehow genetic characteristics tied to their observable skin color. You’d get no argument on this from, for example, the KKK.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Yep and what’s worse is the “Angry Black Male” theme (and other “angry minorities”).

                The first modern Zombie movie had a black male as one of the heroes. He was no different than any other male character might have been. He was tragically killed at the end by stereotypical “Good Old Boys” who killed him “just because he was black”.

                The remake of that movie had him an obnoxious “Angry Black Male”. IE somebody that it would be reasonable (if white) to dislike and somebody you would almost wish would be killed off. Since I didn’t watch that movie, I don’t know if he was killed at the end of the movie by non-Zombies.

                Great work idiots, instead of fighting bigotry by creating “minority” characters that the viewers/readers would like, you create obnoxious “minority” characters that are easy to hate.

                The KKK would so approve.

        • Yes, that was quite entertaining. I must confess that I didn’t mind Twilight the movie when I saw it. It came off as teen angst with vampires. I tried watching a couple of the sequels and…well…let’s just say that when I contracted a rotavirus many years ago it was about the same.

        • Reality Observer

          OK, having read that, I can take it as “in the context of the time it was written.” (Of course, it didn’t ever hit me that way – but then again my sister was the one who went to Senior Prom with the one and only Black guy in the class.)

          HOWEVER – I then do have a problem with Rod’s parents’ problem with his being associated with a girl like Caroline. Why, then, did they let him associate with Helen? There are some WSOD issues there…

    • Juan Rico in “Starship Troopers” is revealed at the end to be Filipino. I assumed he was Argentinian when I first read the book until I hit that passage.

      • In the movie he was from Argentina, but in the book they allude to him being Filipino fairly early I think with the language he spoke, Tagalog.

        • I suspect we can all agree to dispense with any arguments incorporating that abuse of celluloid as canonical.

          • I understand celluloid burns well.

          • I think you mistook the point, there. It’s supposed to be *cannonical,* as in, suitable to be shot from cannon at high velocity. Or mortars. Mortars are good too. Or perhaps as targets, annoyingly floating on a barrel somewhere in the Pacific… Bomb targets, mayhap? Something that includes explosions, surely.

            But most definitely, surely, without a doubt, not to be watched as film* by any persons under the impression that the book and the film share much more than a title.

            *: As psy-ops torture, perhaps, but folks who enjoy Heinlein are generally good sorts, so we can’t recommend it at this time.

          • that abuse of celluloid

            I’ll admit that Doogie Howser, S.S. is kind of a guilty pleasure as a monster hunt popcorn flick.

            It’s just an amazing coincidence that it shares some character names with Heinlein’s work.

          • I wrote a review of it for the local SF club (in response to a “this is the movie I’ve wanted them to make for years” review) in which I described it as “Paul Verhoeven’s rebuttal to Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.”

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          In the movie he was from Argentina because Nazis. Verhoeven has Nazis on the brain.

        • but in the book they allude to him being Filipino fairly early I think with the language he spoke, Tagalog.

          It’s almost at the very end of the book… my Kindle version shows it as being on page 260 of 263.

        • In the book, Rico’s father joins up too after his mother is killed in the destruction of Buenos Aires

          • Reality Observer

            She was visiting relatives there, though. (There are a fair amount of “mixed marriages” between SA and the Philippines even now. The world of ST has the premise of even easier transcontinental travel than the current day.)

      • I think he was both. Tagalog ancestry, family living in Buenos Aires, and nobody in-story makes a big deal about any of this except when his mother dies because the Bugs hit Buenos Aires. It’s one of the little ways that Heinlein shows that the Terran Federation has transcended the old nationalisms and racialisms.

        Which, of course, shows what a Racist Heinlein was. Why wasn’t Johnny thinking about waiting tables on American military bases or constantly singing tango songs? Obviously, he wasn’t an authentic Filipino or Argentine, because those are the only things those people can do, don’t you know?

  12. Here’s the thing about Wendig’s little spiel. It ignores the fact that the SP fanbase knows good and well what it’s like to have the characters they most identify with be either tokens, villains, or walk-ons. (Leaving aside, of course, Wendig’s correlation of ability to identify with a character to sexual proclivity, race, and sex, with nary a hint of thought process, a correlation that is, at best, incomplete.)
    For example, a a higher proportion of SP fans are religious than in SF fandom as a whole, and tend to read classic SF. Maybe I’ve been reading the wrong books, but I could number off with the fingers of one hand the classic SF authors who regarded religion as anything but superstition.
    However, even that pales when you realize that the number of works that present conservatives/libertarians as anything but obnoxious dweebs is fairly small. Now, Wendig doesn’t notice this, for the same reasons that Ringo and Kratman fans don’t notice how leftists are portrayed in their works. But for someone demanding that people see things from his perspective, he’s really terrible at empathy.

    • Combine “If they truly gave a damn about the word diversity, which they reflexively lob around whenever challenged, they would discover that having fiction of a conservative slant adds to diversity, it does not detract from it.” with “However, even that pales when you realize that the number of works that present conservatives/libertarians as anything but obnoxious dweebs is fairly small.” and I think you get the true picture. I think they want superficial diversity because it will lead to political conformity.

      If the main viewpoint characters are all progressives, the readers will come to believe the progressive worldview is the correct one. This is coupled with the belief that true diversity necessarily leads to progressive thought, which is why they don’t notice diversity when it involves people that think conservative, both in books and in the real world.

      • ” they want superficial diversity because it will lead to political conformity.” EXACTLY. That’s always been the Communist playbook, BTW — unlike the other type of totalitarian collectivist, they generally were willing to ignore your skin color or ethnicity as long as you slavishly toed the party line. Woe betide you otherwise: “rootless cosmopolitan”, “deviationist”, “Kulak”,… 😉

        • UNTIL they were in power, then your skin color mattered.

          • … and your ethnicity. Are you Russian / Han? Unless you’re a ruthless bastard with his foot already in the door, you’re not likely to make it to the top.

          • Oh, yes. The revolution is all about intellectuals advocating for the oppressed classes, until the thugs win. That dates all the way back to the French Revolution, maybe before.

            Many of the prominent Bolsheviks were Jews, and some were openly gay.

            Jews in the Soviet Union — gulag. Gays in the Soviet Union — gulag. The Russian intelligentsia? Artists? Writers? Musicians? Academics? Gulag.

            Mao sent his intellectual class to collective farms for “reeducation”. Pol Pot sent his to death camps without even making a pretense that they were anything else.

            • It’s a measure of just how evil Mao was that Pol Pot is arguably more moral based on his honesty.

              • Eh, it could equally be argued that Pol Pot had a dead conscience, and Mao’s was just alive enough that it had to be stifled with euphemism. When promulgating evil, honesty and hypocrisy tend to be different but not in degree of evil.

                • As La Rochefoucauld said, hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. Mao paid that tribute from time to time. Pol Pot was so far gone that he scorned to pay tribute to anything but his own warped vision of Utopia.

    • Ironically (and rather hilariously), Chuck Wendig is in fact a straight white dude. I’m starting to see him as the “Look how much I’m self-flagellating and hating on others of my kind, please don’t eat me” type…

    • The Other Sean

      Now, Wendig doesn’t notice this, for the same reasons that Ringo and Kratman fans don’t notice how leftists are portrayed in their works.

      Actually, I think many Ringo and Kratman fans do notice how leftists are portrayed – and are glad to see a portrayal other than as blameless, sainted, victims whose good intentions never have bad consequences.

      • For “notice” read “causes depreciation of the work in the eyes of the reader.”
        Personally, I like Ringo and Kratman’s work, but I am mildly disconcerted by the fact that I suspect their MCs would consider me to be a moderate, at best.

        • I’m pretty certain the respective MCs in the “Kildar” series and the “[Royalty] of Wands” series would not agree much in their opinions on me – though one would be much more likley to bake cookies for me than the other.

        • Ringo’s MCs aren’t fanatics. Usually they’re people who can deal w/change and are quite in doing so.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          I think Kratman’s MCs are either moderate, under societal stresses that would radicalize you, or wouldn’t care much so long as you didn’t adhere to their enemies.

          ASOD: Is the governor the MC? I forget. Didn’t the opposing forces kill her brother? That and the civil war would cover a world of difference.
          Caliphate: Pat Buckman is a Democrat’s Democrat, so you are a rightwinger to him. But seriously, the future societies are so divorced from our own, that I’m not sure the politics are comparable.
          Countdown: I had the impression that the MC wasn’t very political. But I’ve only read the first book, and that only once.
          Posleen: Are you sure that the real prospect of being eaten would not change you?
          Terra Nova: Carrera has enough enemies without declaring war on those who have not helped, by omission or commission, injure his blood.

          The two central tendencies I see are the drive to avenge blood, and the cold blooded rational willingness to use violence to solve problems. These are not political. They are matters of culture, upbringing, and temperament.

          • Carrera was pretty much unarguably insane from grief over losing his family. He is not held up as a commendable role model.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              For Halloween this year, I was America’s next President, Pat Buckman.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Can a person who doubts his sanity really be considered insane? [Wink]

              While Carrera isn’t a commendable role model, I’m not sure that he’s completely insane.

              Later in the series, he’s taking steps to limited the damage that he might do.

              IE Setting up a structure that lessens his control over Balboa.

              Note, in one situation he’s very concerned that the government he set up is not arguing with him.

            • “He is not held up as a commendable role model.”

              By Colonel Kratman, personally I have no problem with holding him up as a very commendable role model… well other than accepting/encouraging the arranged marriage of his preteen son to a dozen women/girls. No boy could possibly have done anything deserve that fate.

            • Part of the point of the story is that the great cruelty of the Muslims will raise up their nemeses.

    • Now, Wendig doesn’t notice this, for the same reasons that Ringo and Kratman fans don’t notice how leftists are portrayed in their works.

      Gotta throw a BS flag on that one.

      Yeah, they give them grief. Sometimes it’s a bit over the top.

      The sad part is the absolute WORST of it? Usually pales in front of real life.

      The Saints from the March series? Khmer Rouge made them look like pikers, and there certainly are eco-fascists who want 90% of the world to die off.

      Not really written primarily by Ringo, but Road to Damascus, the revolution was maybe accelerated, but a story seen far too often in the 1900’s/

      • The fact that moderate leftists are completely absent from either Ringo or Kratman is what I’m referring to–while you may consider them useful idiots (as I tend to), the fact is that they do exist, and are not monomaniacally suicidally self-loathing.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Point of order: /Kratman/ is a moderate leftist. This can be shown by his wetist deviationism from the principles of Lincolnism-Shermanism.

  13. I have always hated stories and shows where they HAD to have a character for the reader/viewer/etc to ‘insert themselves’ into.
    Remember all those crappy cartoons with the stupid kid character? Or just the stupid lame added at the last minute character? Put there so ‘children’ could ‘identify’ with the story?
    Remember how much those stories sucked and kids hated them?

    No one WANTS a story with a character put in there specially just for them, unless they’re retarded or stunted or a narcissist. They want something new or different, or better, or unique. They want something to inspire them, to make them think, to transcend what they are now, maybe even something that they can never be.

    That’s story telling. It is uplifting and imaginative.

    It is not a bunch of hacks writing something for you to feel ‘validated’ by telling you it’s okay to attack everything that made us what we are today, that it’s okay to be an unimaginative loser, that low expectations are the only expectations to have, and that just showing up is ‘good enough’. That you’ll never be great, you shouldn’t want to be great, and no one else should be great either. It’s the soft racism of low expectations all over again.

    • … unless they’re retarded or stunted or a narcissist.

      And yet, witness the desires of the Puppy-Kickers en masse.

      Now, I don’t believe any of the Puppy-Kickers are mentally retarded; most of them have quite decent IQ’s*. That just leaves the other two — and the “or” there is definitely an inclusive “or”.

      * Which they are failing to exercise to good purpose in many cases. But just because you never use that exercise bike in your attic doesn’t mean you don’t have one.

    • Heh. They added Robin to the Batman comics to give kids somebody with whom to identify — utterly pointless, as the kids already identified with The Batman.

      What they ended up doing was providing somebody with whom the pedophiles could identify.

      • Which, ironically, is *also* Batman.

      • Or Boxy in “Battlestar Galactica”, or Wesley Crusher in TNG…

        • Speaking of Boxy, and more specifically his pet “Muffit”…

          I recently read a write-up about a setting in a future human settlement on Mars. One of the things that the settlers were worried about was a group of robotic killers (supposedly permanently defeated; but you know how those things always work out…) called “Daggets”.

          Left me wondering if the name was inspired by the robo-dog in the original BSG…

    • That was one epic comment, Mr. Van Stry! Let me add that the only reason to write a sidekick character is if the story requires a sidekick character (speaking as a reader here, not a writer, which I am not). Otherwise, the writer is assuming that the reader, not to put too fine a point on it, lacks imagination. This week I’m doing a ride-along through the Nightside with John Taylor and Suzie Shooter, and having myself a time; a third wheel who looks like me would be out of place on the page.

      • A sidekick can be useful as:

        A. an exposition trigger (eg. Dr. Watson)
        B. a second pair of hands (eg. Robin)
        C. a plot device to trigger events (eg. Gilligan)

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          I thought Gilligan was the Main Character? The island is named after him. [Wink]

        • D. A foil to the main character (which includes comic relief)

        • E. if the MC is an anti-hero, or a “modern” failed hero, sidekick can be somebody to pick up the pieces/rescue the MC, etc.

        • D. Humanizing the hero

          Dr. Watson is more than an exposition trigger. If you look at Holmes without Watson, he’s a disagreeable sociopath. But Watson likes the man, and because Watson likes him, it makes him much more likeable to the reader.

          E. Providing contrast

          Miles Vorkosigan is the poster child for Everything Louder Than Everything Else. (A fact once lampshaded with the emerald green booze.) But when everything is loud, nothing stands out. So you have Ivan Vorpatril, whose chief ambition in life seems to be avoiding attention, expectations, or obligations. (All things that are emphasized in screaming capitals and blinking lights in Miles’ life.) And when you have Miles trying to be more hyper than hyper paired up with good old cousin Ivan, who still hasn’t forgiven him for that incident when he was 8 (or 10, or 12, or 13, or… there are a lot of ‘that incident’s around Miles, it seems), you have someone providing a whole lot of contrast and brings our erstwhile hero down a peg or three.

          • This contrast also made for a helluvan interesting book when Ivan finally got to star in his own novel, with Miles several *planets* away: come to realize, Ivan isn’t boring at all. He just ikes organization, spreadsheets, and making sure things run smoothly (and because he still prefers invisibility, actively sabotages his own performance reviews on occasion so he doesn’t get promoted somewhere that might have messy problems). Understandable, considering how things go when Miles is in charge… Normally, I would have scoffed at the idea that someone so fundamentally different to Miles would be anywhere near as entertaining–but as it was Bujold I was of course proved quite wrong, and while I have always been fond of Ivan I really came to love him once he had a chance to shine.

            • It also explained why Ivan kept ending up with those plush assignments (that drove Miles bonkers). They weren’t necessarily plush when he got them.

            • Miles can’t slow down or he dies. Ivan lives by being slow. Not *slow* in terms of his intelligence, but slow in terms of his ambition. Figure the poor fellow was brought to the spot where his father died every single year on his birthday, since his first birthday. Miles has to stay ahead of danger. Ivan has to duck it.

              Considering that he managed to never *actually* become the nexus of a conspiracy for the throne, he’s at least as brilliant as Miles is.

              • Oh, yes, I quite agree. But because we only ever got Miles’ (for the most part) POV all the way up to Civil Campaign, it was easy to buy into the Ivan-the-idiot front. And then we get Civil Campaign, where we suddenly get things from Ivan’s POV–and it’s very clear at that point that he is far from being an idiot, and just as good at thinking quickly on his feet as Miles is, albeit in a fashion that involves less blood, explosions, and screaming. And to do so in such a fashion that the vast majority of his relatives/friends/acquaintances still think he’s an amiable idiot. Aral Vorkosigan wasn’t wrong when he speculated that maybe, just maybe, his nephew was only acting the idiot. (Not that he ever pursued it–perhaps because he chose to respect Ivan’s reasons?)

                In truth, Ivan would possibly make a brilliant Emperor, albeit of a *very* different type than Gregor. But one of the central points of Ivan’s character is that he does NOT want that kind of power.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Ivan thought from “Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance”

                  Armsman in front and secretary trailing, Gregor paused on his way out to deal with whatever next crisis might be crowding his queue. Because a three-planet empire delivered upset snakes by the basket-load to this man’s office, every damned morning. Yeah—for all the talk of men coveting the emperor’s throne, Ivan had never yet heard anyone speak of coveting his desk.

                  End Quote

                  [Very Big Grin]

            • Keep in mind that while Miles is “physically” out of the line of succession, Ivan is at risk of finding himself at the front of a parade headed for the throne. In such circumstance playing dumb and vapid is an excellent way to discourage those who might otherwise desire to “promote” him.

              Competence at making things “run smoothly” is one of the most easily concealed types of competence.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Playing dumb might make somebody think you’d be a good puppet Emperor but he’s also managed to avoid people trying to use him as a puppet Emperor. [Smile]

                • Ah, but if he fails to do the wrong things, then he’s obviously not a good puppet, merely a somewhat competent middle-man. A good puppet needs to move when his strings are pulled, not spaz out or tip over.

              • As it was put in the Ivan book, Ivan goes out of his way to live a non-ferrous lifestyle, because he’s a magnet.

                Now, of course, he’s cured that permanently by his marriage.

                • I think he’s moved off Barrayar permanently. He lives in the wide galaxy.

                  • Specifically–at least as of the end of his book (which did take place prior to Cryoburn, so where he is post-that book we don’t know, other than he was on the station with Miles)–he is on a planet with very, very nice beaches and lovely weather.

    • To the extent a reader wants to identify with a character (not all do, some prefer to observe the story from afar), I think you’re right: Most don’t want a character who is nothing more than the reader already is. That’s a mundanity, hardly worth reading.
      At some level, readers in their private imagination echo the teenager Luisa in “The Fantasticks”, where she sings “Please god, please, don’t let me be normal!”

    • “Scrappy-Doo-ization” I’ve seen it called. I don’t recall encountering anybody who actually admitted to liking Scrappy-Doo. Compare ‘Pinky and the Brain’ to ‘Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain.” Ouch.

  14. This is something I’ve thought about from different angles.
    Invasive species can cause so much damage to a new ecosystem because the new region has no predators, or even parasites or pathogens, that know how to predate on the invader.
    Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Twilight, and videogames with silent protagonists, and etc. spread through mass culture like wildfires or virgin field epidemics because “Mundanes” don’t have the mary-sue-antibodies that our ilk develop in youth.

    • This, this so hard, especially games with silent protagonists! I’ve come to hate most silent protagonists because there are always people telling me how deep the stories of those games are and how good the characterization is, but when I try to play those games I see nothing. It’s typically a world of drab colors and drab characters who are little more than cardboard cutouts with the occasional strawman thrown in for the player to hate.

      • I hate them because there are now two generations of fan writers who think “…” is acceptable dialogue.

        • Well…I, would have to, assume. You. Are. Not. A-Fan. of Mr. Wendig’s.

          • Was more talking about cribbing dialogue from JRPGs, where entire cut scenes have been written like this:

            Main Character: “…”

            Sidekick #1: “…”

            Main Character: “…”

            Sidekick #2: “…”

            I understand why the games use “…”, but, if you’re a writer using this dialogue, use your words, dude.

            But, yes, you’re right.

            • $HOUSEMATE and I have had entire conversations in ‘moo’ that made more sense than I’ve heard in alleged English. And unlike “…” at least ‘moo’ can have varying inflection.

            • Admittedly I can see that in a cut scene. Mostly as the ‘my brain can’t process that’ complete with odd looks

      • Polliwog the 'Ette

        I generally play with the sound off and listen to an audio book or music. Your comment makes me curious as to if that affects the type of game I like to play.

    • This is exactly why I have come to prefer Bioware’s more recent RPGs: they’ve started giving the protagonists a voice, a history of some kind, and even family. Sure, you’re still given options in how you want to play that character, but the simple fact that they *have* a voice makes it feel so much more alive and like an interactive novel, and the player-character ends up being, in many respects, a collaborative story character (created between the game designers and you, the player), not a self-insert protagonist who is voiceless and (in many ways) faceless. I’ve come to really dislike unvoiced protagonists in games, because it’s just…empty.

      • So… maybe part of the problem is that self-insertion-activists need the story to come to them (make a place for who they think they are in real life) because they are people lacking enough imagination to role-play, to visualize themselves (however imperfectly) as another gender or race or cultural background, etc. so as to identify with a MC not like themselves? In short, people of little to no ability to empathize?

        • ^ I’m pretty sure this is at the root of it. Lack of imagination and/or lack of a sense of humor has provided many of the world’s ills…

        • That could well be it. I recal when much younger I read through the Hardy Boys books that were at hand and then figured that Nancy Drew would do just as well. For that purpose, they served. So what if she was a she and I wasn’t? Ain’t nothing wrong with a smart, competent she.

    • Curious, what’s your problem with Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? I wasn’t a huge fan of the book (I thought it was okay when they were focused on the mystery, but I couldn’t stand the main character and thought the idea of his relationship with Lisbet was ridiculous and disgusting), but it always seemed to be pretty well thought-of, and I’ve never seen any real backlash against it the way there was against things like Twilight and The Da Vinci Code.

      • I haven’t read any of the series (the new one commissioned by the publisher and not written by the late Steig Larsson, I have taken to calling [somewhat unfairly] “The Girl in the Ghostwritten Novel”), on account of its ragingly Leftist premises. But the relevant complaint here is that its hero, Michael Blomqvist, is the ragingest, most wish-fulfillment Mary Sue in the history of Scandinavian literature.

  15. I could go on about the lack of minotaur good guys and why is Theseus seen as a hero, anyway… but.. you know? Why waste the effort? There are plenty of good guys (and gals, of various species) out there – why limit myself? And if that somehow wasn’t enough, I suppose I could attempt this ‘writing’ thing I’ve heard tell of. Not that I expect I’d be much good at it, but having seen what gets into print in newspapers and magazine, that seems not to be a matter of much consideration.

    • I don’t know how fond you are of tie-in novels, but some of the old Magic the Gathering tie in novels had a Minotaur as one of the good guys.

      • IIRC so did some of the Dragonlance / AD&D novels.

        • I can’t say I am into game tie-in stuff, as I am not into the games and therefore the appeal is limited. Perhaps it should not be, but there it is.

        • Kaz! He’s one of the few Dragonlance characters to have made a really profound impression on me. In part because he *was* a minotaur, and not the bog-standard elf/dwarf/human/hobbit–*cough*–kender type.

      • Orvan, you’re in trouble now. there’s a minotaur trying to insert himself into the UF at the back of my mind. This won’t end well.

        • Oh crud. Sorry about that. (And just now the city tests the civil defense/storm sirens…. Big trouble, huh?)

          • Sure, those are “tests”.

            • Every Wednesday at 1 PM. I have wondered about a tornado occurring at 1 PM on a Wednesday.

              • That’s just when the Stargate is fired up each week – they fire up the sirens in case something nasty gets through.

              • In our city it’s Saturday, noon, unless the weather looks tornado producing.

              • To give people a glimpse into the mindset out here behind the lines in CA, while some SF bay area cities have retained and still regularly test the old civil defense siren systems from early on in the previous Cold War, the larger cities like San Jose have competely disconnected them. There’s a vintage 1960 siren tower near where I live that stands apparently pretty much intact, with the connecting wires cut and dangling. The extravagantly paid city and county disaster planning folks can no longer possibly conceive of anything that might happen that would require a general alert that does not go out via text messages.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          I could try describing the interlude with the Minotaur in Piers Anthony’s Battle Circle. That would probably make your brain seize up in regards to minotaurs.

      • What Sarah said, Orvan. I’ve got this mental image of Rada and Zabet trying to negotiate a minor social problem while making a delivery to a minotaur – something about two predators and . . . aw, chuck it. *pulls up blank Word document* ‘Scuze me.

      • And let us not forget the Lord of Hate’s Texas Bullmen.

    • There was Travis from Monster Hunter Alpha–or does he not count since he self-identified as a bullman rather than a minotaur?

    • I believe Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson YA series features some minotaur characters, but I am danged if I can remember whether the portrayals are positive or negative.

    • I can put you in Shifters as a minotaur, Orvan. Not sure about “good guy” but he’ll be a conscientious employee and well, nice guy.
      BUT that’s fun, you know, not the core of the story.

      • It’s your world with your rules. And I am **not** going to try to wedge myself into anything. Though really, “not evil” is enough for me. “I could go on about…” but was trying not to.

        • Try hard enough to be “not evil,” for long enough, and depending on how bad whoever it is wants you to *be* evil, you might even end up on the good side after all, just for spite.

      • I can see being called “minotaur” as that’s what people will think of. But as you know, unlike the Minotaur of legend I am not crazed (right? alright, not badly dangerously crazed) and while he had a human body, I’m “moo all the way down” as it were – tail, hooves – things humans are not known for.

        • The Minotaur of legend was likely crazed from the way he’d been abused and mistreated — I mean, c’mon, as if being trapped in a maze wouldn’t drive anybody nuts! Nothing to read, no TV, no Gameboy, no internet, no one to talk with and anybody you chance to meet runs away screaming or attacks without provocation because of the horrible slanders about you which have been spread. If I recall the legends correctly he wasn’t even given a loin clout to keep his danglies from bruising.

          Classic instance of deformed child who is abused and tormented by a conformist society. Somebody ought write a story about this, get all SJW about it.

          • A loin clout would tend to bruise danglies.

            • Oops! What with the gh in clought being silent I just plum overlooked ’em.

              I don’t care what Google thinks, the proper term is loin clought.

              N.B. — Do not Google images for this. DO NOT. The results are just weird — Google doesn’t know a loin clought from a G-String from a cache-sexe.

    • “Cry Silver Bells” by Thomas Burnett Swann – IF you can find a copy. Silver Bells is the most heroic minotaur EVER.

    • Oh! Gunnerkrigg Court!

      Archives here
      http://www.gunnerkrigg.com/archives/

      The part I am thinking of is the second chapter but you may want to read the first first.

    • Good heavens, what have I unleashed? And from saying I ‘could go on about…” and “Why waste the effort?” Is this what Steve “Did I do that?” Urkel feels like?

      Perhaps it’s as well I haven’t said anything about (omitting much) centaurs or (omitting so much) unicorns. (What? Alright, I admit it… I am…at least somewhat, uh, hoofist.)

      • Unicorn fic has moved over to the political arena, as their byproducts are now government entitlements.

      • Actually you have solved a little bit of a dilemma for me in a story idea. It needed minotaurs. (Not all will be good guys. But not all will be bad guys either. The one now in my head is the calm, deliberate ‘you did what, precisely, and that’s why they’re chasing you… again?’ sort. Don’t tick him off though. Just don’t. Even the dragon doesn’t want to tangle with him too much.)

        • Of course some minotaurs will be bad. Some will be very good. And most will likely just quietly go on with their lives, edging now this way, now that. And now you have me curious, oh yes.

          I cannot claim to be the “even the dragons don’t want to tangle with him” sort, but it is often quite odd to me that I seem to have this weird reputation for amazing patience – but when the threshold is crossed and I react, even mildly, there can be a collective headsnap of “Uh oh, someone screwed up bigtime.” The side benefit of that, is often someone else will deal with things, all I need do is call attention to things. Maybe I’m part gargoyle somewhere, somehow? *shrug*

          • has Fluffy ever tangled with you?

          • Or perhaps it is a minotaur thing. I don’t know. I have met very few. I shall be nosing about their culture for a bit. Contrary to popular belief they tend to avoid urban areas, historically nomadic. Largely still herbiverous. (I think one runs a local vegan establishment, started it up because the city minotaurs had trouble finding workable restaurants and if Humans want to pay for minotaur food… who’s he to argue?)

            Dang it I may be getting a few more book ideas in this world. (This is a better problem to have than no ideas though.)

            • If you need one (or an unreasonable facsimile thereof) to query, I am reachable through Vakkotaur, using google’s mail service. Mind you, my RL work is nights (Central Time) so any replies might be oddly timed as my ‘evening’ is in the morning.

              • I may take you up on that… since my only internet at home is currently on my phone, I’ll probably be e-mailing during work hours anyway.

    • I could go on about the lack of minotaur good guys
      They’d be the hero of the steakhouse……

    • We had to do The Odyssey in school. I got an “F” by arguing that Odysseus was the aggressor by stealing the Cyclops’s posessions and trashing his cave; the Official Line was that it was all the Cyclops fault because he should have given everything to the Greeks voluntarily. Apparently, he should also have expected their arrival and stayed home to meet them…

    • Well does Earl’s coat count in MHI?

  16. I actually sort of like alien/unfamiliar-minded characters too (as long as they are likeable). I like seeing how they would react to certain things. I like seeing if they would approach a problem differently than I would.

    It’s a nice bonus if the characters, the author, the author’s setting, etc don’t loathe some strawman version of me/people-like-me with every fiber of their being.

  17. I would refer to Heinlein’s “All You Zombies” as a truly apolitical story. Other than a culture that contains a bar, an orphanage and a hospital, no other aspect of the country’s politics is discussed. Now, it does constitute ‘message fiction’ in the sense that the message is ‘stop bothering me with these time-traveler-kills-his-grandfather paradoxes’.

    I do take exception to your statement: “So much of what the Puppy Kickers do is a sort of mutual stroking of egos.”
    They are indeed ‘stroking’ but I think the action is a little lower down than where the ‘ego’ sits.

    • But judging by what the PK talk about, that’s where they keep their egos!

      I like aliens when they’re really alien, not Star Trek alien. Aliens shouldn’t be comprehensible, quite, or at least they should be only intellectually comprehensible, but not emotionally comprehensble. Not humans in costume.

      • I always thought C.J. Cherryh wrote “alien” aliens really well… Star Trek aliens usually made me laugh because endless rubber foreheads. I liked B5’s aliens, though–but part of the point was highlighting the kinship even between those who claim to be alien to each other, so I was cool with that. (Also much better makeup/prosthetics than Star Trek)

        • Polliwog the 'Ette

          That’s who I thought of as well. Especially the methane-breathers who are presented as having such a different “world view” that humans, and Chanur, might never be able to understand them, but even the oxygen breathers were allowed to have truly different priorities and motivations (with individuals deviating from the group for personal reasons) which seems to be really rare.

          • Same. And the idea that the weird aliens could kinda-sorta “talk” to the methane breathers, but didn’t understand either culture very well… And the idea the methane breathers had of “trading”- I could see that as making sense of something truly alien, while still recognizing that alien-ness.

        • forehead of the week club

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            The problem with having to create aliens week after week. Heck, on the Original Series, half the aliens were just humans with robes and funny names.

            • Reality Observer

              With a seriously tight budget, besides. Nimoy’s ears ate up a good chunk of it, IIRC.

            • I chose to believe that, in many cases, the aliens just presented themselves as familiar beings to the ST crew – out of courtesy, or something.

  18. It’s also startling how much Wendig’s hypothetical pretty much accurately describes the situation of being a white “cismale” conservative in today’s media landscape. The only characters who look like me are villains.

  19. You see, in the eyes of the paladins of social justice, fiction cannot be apolitical. It categorically must have an agenda, and just as the stories must be about them, personally, the political angle of those same stories must be their political angles.

    This follows from their ruling principle: “The personal is political.” It can be seen in their attitude toward video games as well, of course. Indeed, the supreme expression of that principle came out during the wars over GamerGate:

    We stop upholding “fun” as the universal, ultimate criterion for a game’s relevance. It’s a meaningless ideal at best and a poisonous priority at worst. Fun is a neurological trick. Plenty of categorically unhealthy things are “fun”. Let’s try for something more. Many of the alternatives will have similarly fuzzy definitions, but let’s aspire to qualities like “edifying”, “healing”, “pro-social”, or even “enlightening”. I encourage you to decide upon your own alternatives to “fun” in games (while avoiding terms like “cool” and “awesome” and any other word that simply caters to existing, unexamined biases).

    Given that willingness to advance their Big Idea, do you think there’s any length to which they would never go?

    • “We stop upholding “fun” as the universal, ultimate criterion for a game’s relevance.”

      LOL WUT?

      If it’s not for fun, it’s not a game. Merriam Webster says that a game is “a physical or mental activity or contest that has rules and that people do for pleasure”.

      If this turnip head wants to create a polemic, or a diatribe, or a philosophical essay, or some other type of didactic, edifying, or “pro-social” (urghhh) thingamabob, fine.

      Don’t call it a game, though, because it isn’t one.

      • “Don’t call it a game, though, because it isn’t one.”

        Thus the rise of the “walking simulator.”

      • “…and that people do for pleasure.”

        And that’s why sports, in general, are NOT games for me. I do not find them fun. I find them… tiresome. But that’s just me. Someone else has fun with such? Fine. Just include me out.

      • Nice of the puritanical to openly acknowledge their bent, isn’t it?

        Curiously, the best* children’s literature often includes a prologue denouncing such didactic function.

        Of course, that denunciation is made in favor of encouraging a child’s imagination to grow, leaving us to conclude such puritanical social advocates view children’s imagination as bonsai, only desirable if it grows according to their desires.

        *i.e., that which survives the eras of its publication

        • But the three hundred and sixty-five authors who try to write new fairy tales are very tiresome. They always begin with a little boy or girl who goes out and meets the fairies of polyanthuses and gardenias and apple blossoms: ‘Flowers and fruits, and other winged things.’ These fairies try to be funny, and fail; or they try to preach, and succeed.

          ― Andrew Lang

          • I tried it once, to entertain the kids. It had a princess and a kingdom, But magic just didn’t fit, so it never became a fairy tale. They ended up with an medieval adventure.

            • One long-ago night when my daughter had been bad, she was punished by being denied a bedtime story. That did not sit well with her, and after an hour or so of crying, screaming, fussing, and so on, I walked into her room, sat down by the bed, and said,

              “Once upon a time there was a princess, and she lived happily ever after.”

              Just about my only original story, and I think it likely that I’m a re-discoverer of it, rather than an originator. At least she found it hilarious and went to sleep with no further fuss.

  20. The crap that Wendig is pushing is the reason I am (reluctantly) coming to the realization that I may have to confine Seanan Macguire’s future books to the dustbin (or rather, not buy them at all). Much as I love her October Daye series, more and more ‘check-the-appropriate-diversity-box’ nonsense has crept in, and at the expense of the story. Her latest one, a character who has shown up in a recurring guest role in several of the previous books…is suddenly transgender. (Via magic, of course, not, y’know, the actual process and all its attendant problems.) No prior hints of this, and no actual real or compelling reason in the story-plot for this to even matter one whit. And not only did it feel as though this little detail had been stapled on in an incredibly unsubtle “see how much goodthink I have?” manner (I actually guessed where it was going the minute the character suddenly started acting shifty about people announcing he looked “familiar”, but I felt it actually took the place of other things in the plot that, if they had been explored more fully, would have made for a much better story.

    I couldn’t help but contrast this with one of Macguire’s other novels, the serial-kindle novel “Indexing”, which also had a trans character. But in that case, the fact that the character had been born female but identified as male and made efforts to *be* male had an important bearing on the plot: it saved his life, because he was no longer a target of the super-malevolent narrative force that, because he/she and his sister fit the Snow White/Rose Red archetype, tried to force them into a nasty, deadly real-world fairy tale, and “she” was able to derail it by becoming a “he” (at least, derail temporarily). And there were attendant issues, since it also meant he left his Snow-White sister still at the mercy of the Story (and she was a bit irked about it). So the character being transgender actually made sense as an important part of the character, it was interesting, it was NOT a case of “check-the-diversity-box.” (Even though, to some extent, it likely was–but at that point she expended the effort to make it work within the frame of the story–and therein lies ALL the difference.)

    Sadly, it seems she’s fallen into the lazy-SJW trap. All she has to do is declare a character the appropriate kind of diverse (even if it makes no sense or otherwise doesn’t actually work in the plot), and declare victory and double-plus goodthink. Which means that I probably won’t be buying her next book, sadly, or anything else by her.

    • I was amazed at all the intros on the nano forums whose novel was about “diwersity” (sigh)

    • Being charitable toward authors (who already suffer sufficient calumny for their acknowledged bad habits and low characters) the cranking of the Diversity Wheel might be less their doing than their editors and publishers.

      When conservatives call for letting the market decide we tend to overlook that the market for most authors (not yet converted to the doctrine of Indie Pub) remains not readers but editors, publishers, marketing staff and the buyers for distributors and chain booksellers.

      If that market is convinced it is in their interest to buy and promote “Diverse” then authors are fools not to cater to them. If you know that Rocky Peak Publishing markets their books to Big & Nasty Book Chain by emphasizing “characters your readers can identify with” rather than believable characters in exciting adventures, and you want Rocky peak to buy your books, you will forego your own ideas about what makes for good fiction and roll the Diversity Dice for characters with which to populate your books.

      And, if you are like most people, you will not only deny self-knowledge about your catering to a publisher’s preferences, you will argue that it is virtuous to do this.

      • This. The change in the publishing world is not primarily a shift in distribution methods or materials used in the end deliverable, though those are happening; it’s primarily a shift in who is doing the buying of product from authors, shifting from tradpub editors with their own agendas to end readers who just want good stories to read.

        One could argue that Baen is the only tradpub house that was actually acting as their readers honest agent, buying stuff they could sell lots of to readers vs. buying the right signal flags without notice of the fact that it would not sell as per mainstream tradpub. They’ve been shrinking their pie decrementally with their buying choices for years while denying it was happening or explaining it away.

        The shift to ebook/indie, accellerated by the drivel the non-Baen editors have been preferentially buying, completely bypasses the previous power structure and negates all their graft opportunities and influence brokering. That tradpub pie is now shrinking so fast taht it’s no longer deniable, but indie is taking off and producing bestsellers and now movies, so naturally the entire failing tradpub ecosystem has goe rabid, looking to blame anyone else for their failings, all while loudly signalling their virtue everywhere they can to try and retain some fraction of their lost in-crowd standing.

        And frankly, let them – their signalling and their crazy buying choices no longer matter, as I now have access to more content that meets my needs than I have since the great local paperback bookstores closed back in the 70s and 80s. The heck with them.

    • When I first visited my sister after her move to the Minneapolis area she was sharing a house and was the only genetic female human in the place. And yet, when it came do to the stuff of ordinary life, that the rest had this or that adjustment or modification or planned on such simply did not matter. Minds have bodies that carry them around. Some minds wish to change aspects of the carrying body. Change body shape/fiddly bits, coverings, but it’s still the same mind. Just as effective, or defective, as ever.

  21. Reality Observer

    I’m somewhat of two minds in trying to define the “Merlin” character.

    Certainly “transsexual” in the strict meaning – the “parts” have been swapped out. Certainly not “transgender,” though, as the mentality is still very much “Nimue” – and very female.

    OTOH, by the culture that this MC is thrown into, the behavior is male. Because “Nimue” comes from a culture where females can be highly trained warriors, which is a role the Safehold culture assigns strictly to males. (I haven’t read the latest yet, so I don’t know where Mr. Weber has taken the “other Nimue.” Please don’t tell me!)

    Actually, I pay little attention to whatever “gender” should be assigned by various criteria. The character is doing what needs to be done (or at least what reasonably looks like it needs to be done) to accomplish a worthy goal – and that is what makes the books enjoyable.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      The thing about Merlin being “transsexual” is that his new male parts “work” (the joke in the first book was “he” got a hard-on when surrounded by attractive males).

      Then in a later book, “he” has enjoyable sex with a woman. Oh that happened because it’d look strange for a male to visit an upper-class brothel and not have sex.

    • I like Nimue. She’s how a robot would actually be, IMHO. The series itself is a bit heavy handed, but the characters are fun.

      • A bit? It is the one series of Weber’s I quit reading, for that very reason. Then I ended up with the last three or so of the series free, so I went ahead and read them a few months ago. Well actually I ended up skimming major portions of the last one, and was definitely glad I hadn’t spent good money on them. The last few aren’t unreadable, but they certainly attempt to check all the right boxes, and appear to prove that editors and publishing houses do make a significant difference. Always assuming that the reason that series differs so vastly from his others in voice, is due to his need to please the editors at TOR.

        • “Always assuming that the reason that series differs so vastly from his others in voice, is due to his need to please the editors at TOR.”

          That’s something I hadn’t considered. I just thought he was against religious tyrannies. Sticking Bill Clinton in there as a bad guy couldn’t have made the TOR-oids very happy though, eh? They think the sun shines out of his butt.

          I’ve gone off Weber these days. The info-dumps are getting tedious, of late. As well, that one book with the vampire deus-ex-machina was just friggin’ annoying. It’s all Aliens and explosions and small-unit tactical, and then VAMPIRES. Really? Come on. At least work in the eldritch horror from the start, eh? A bit of fang work in the first chapter, know what I mean?

  22. … as you grew older, you became aware that the world wasn’t all about you.

    The HECK I did. The HECK it isn’t. You take that back!

  23. Christopher M. Chupik

    I am a Canadian of Ukrainian (among other) descent. I have read exactly ONE series in my lifetime that had a Ukrainian-Canadian among the main characters (The Fionovar Tapestry). Yet, somehow, I have managed to read lots of books and relate to lots of characters.

    My favorite Star Trek captain is Benjamin Lafayette Sisko. I am not a widower, Starfleet captain, African-American, a single father or a religious icon. And yet I can relate to him as a character. According to these chuckleheads, that shouldn’t be possible.

    • I am an American of Baltic/Russian Jewish descent.

      I cannot think of a single SF/F work* featuring a positive portrayal of a Jewish (even a non-observant) descent. Obviously the field and especially its publishers, are antisemitic.

      *Okay, Kratman had one in Watch on the Rhine, but he was a German, a nazi, who had converted to Judaism.

      • No, there was the Israeli and Jewish officer introduced about the middle of the book who survived.

      • Cdr. Susan Ivanova of Babylon 5 is Jewish, I think.

        This brings up another major point. It seems to me that self-identity, to a progressive, is ‘are you a progressive’, and ‘what victim groups are you a member of’ (and, if you’re not a progressive, they assume you identify with all the oppressor groups).

        For most of us, this isn’t our self-identity, our self identity is who we see ourselves as (and, ideally, who we would like to see ourselves as). Sisko is a badass hero, leader, and strategist. Almost everyone wants to be all four of those, regardless of skin color. If you look at Sisko and see ‘black male’ first, you’re missing the character.

        If you were asked to describe the most important traits that make you yourself, how many would pick skin color? There are exceptions, if your religion is not on the list, you may want to examine your faith, but this also works against the progressive narrative, in that they seem to expect people to change their faith when faith and politics collide.

        • I suspect in the US at least a lot of blacks and women would put skin color and fiddly bits as their primary identity. The former in part for historical reasons and both because they are strongly conditioned to see themselves that way but much of the broader culture.

        • You’re correct. Ivanova is a lapsed Russian Jew. It, like everything else in her background, is something that she’s running from. But even though she’s running from her Judaism, it’s never suggested that the Judaism is a bad thing. Rather, she’s running from her past in general, and Judaism is just one of the things swept up in that flight.

      • There was a great short story about a Chasidic grandmother in the “Don’t Forget Your Spacesuit, Dear” anthology

      • For the likes of you and me, there’s also the expedient of identifying with a boatload of AUTHORS, rather than characters!

      • RES, the next Colplatschki book has Jewish characters. Granted, they are Interstellar Reformed Conservative, but still.

      • Heinlein had numerous “good guy” Jewish characters, going all the way back to Rocketship Galileo, his first book (one of the three teenage protagonists was Jewish).

        One of the characters in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls was a rabbi, who (for extra diversity points) was in a wheelchair.

      • Dan Simmons has a few in the “Hyperion” and “Ilium” books.

      • What about “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union”?

      • The Other Sean

        Wasn’t the main character in Chalker’s Well of Souls series sort of Jewish? And I could swear there were some Jewish members of RMN crews in the Honor Harrington books. The XO of one of the US space ships in Steve White’s The Disinherited was Jewish.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Nathan Brazil did play Jew but kept claiming that he was God. [Wink]

        • The new Princess Consort of Manticore is some variety of far future Jewish called Autenico Judaism.

          • The Other Sean

            I’d forgotten that – and that the new Torch queen was crowned by a member of that sect, as well, in memory of the Renaissance Association leader who’s assassination helped kick off the events in “Crown of Slaves.”

      • Actually, there have been a lot of lapsed Jewish characters, or Jewish characters who aren’t explicitly said to be, and a somewhat smaller number of practicing Jewish chars in explicitly Jewish sf. There have been some anthologies. Jewish fantasy, too.

        Naturally some of this is by Asimov, Silverberg, Davidson, etc.

        • A lot of Marvel characters are Jewish, like the Thing and Shadowcat.

        • Well, obviously as i did not recall them as Jewish that means i could not identify with them as Jewish and therefore they (or possibly I) cannot be authentic.

          Did we ever see Ben Grimm eat latkes or wear a yarmulke? I am sure we saw him playing poker but never did he spin a dreidel, eh? Vas dere a mezusah on the entrance to the Baxter Building? i think not!

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Kitty Pyrde was Jewish from the beginning. Ben Grimm was only showed to be Jewish much later in the comic series. Part of the “explanation” given was they (and Ben) didn’t want to make a point that this “monster” was Jewish.

            • I can’t help but feel they missed a whole realm of story-possibilities to do with the Golem myth…

      • I own a copy of Wandering Stars, which is all SF by Jewish authors. It’s been some years since I’ve re-read it, but my recollection is that On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi certainly has a positive portrayal.

      • Eric Flint’s alt-history 1632 is full of positive portrayals of observant Jews.

    • Lucky you. Me? Absolutely zero Irish-French Canadian-Italian characters.

    • As a little girl in Portugal I read and enjoyed sf with all sorts of english speakers. I Liked it because they were PEOPLE.

  24. “The fact that the Puppy Kickers don’t know any better …” — not sure they don’t know at some level [it takes a lot of work to ignore the sales figures for books that don’t meet their prescription for self-insertion compatibility], just that they’re so sure everyone else should be wrong.

    It reminds me of Reagan’s “It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.”

    • The bad sales of non-PK works only validate the PKs’ snobbery. ‘If it’s commercial, it must be trash. We, the Enlightened Ones, must save our inferiors from themselves by forbidding them access to such appalling rubbish!’

      • There was a cartoon in the UW-Platteville campus paper ages ago (early 1990s) with a fellow running and yelling at a crew, roughly, “No! No! That’s the Art in Public Places project! The debris to be removed is over there!” And the ‘debris’ looked better than the alleged art.

        • recently a cleaning lady cleaned up the “art” being displayed. It was actually trash strewn about to signify something or other. Somehow she was supposed to know that the trash she was to pick up was not the trash strewn about for arts sake.

          • She was just engaging in performance art, signifying that the appropriate evolution of trash strewn about is trash picked up, on whatever metaphorical level you choose to take it.

  25. An SJW/PuppyKicker is a person who thinks a self-aware artificial intelligence that lives in a spaceship is not interesting… unless it is a Politically Correct, genderbent, non-white artificial intelligence that crusades for social justice against the Patriarchy. (No not the Kzins, the other Patriarchy.)

    Oh, and it must be written by the Right Kind Of Author, determined primarily by surface albedo and plumbing/wiring.

    That none of those things would apply to an AI in Real Life(tm) seems not to have any significance to your SJW. They can’t wonder what an actual AI would chose to spend its time on, because that would contravene the Prime Directive: Politics Before All Else. An AI that likes origami? Don’t be ridiculous!

    Apropos, I watched the movie Ex Machina last night. I liked the parts with the naked women (a little, they’re not that awesome frankly), but I called the plot before the opening credits rolled. So utterly, fantastically predictable.

    AIs are not allowed to be good, or people, or good people in Hollywood/SJW land. Scientists must -always- be bastards, every single time. Programmers are always and forever ineffectual, useless nerds. Oh ghod, the stock characters, please make it stop.

    Dear SJWs, I have read Frankenstein already. It SUCKED, I -hated- it and I’m very tired of seeing it poured into a new bottle every two years and presented by you RETARDS as something “new” and “edgy”. Please help reduce Puppy Related Sadness by coming up with a new plot for once in your miserable, shriveled lives.

    Here endeth my rant. /{rantoff}/

    • SheSellsSeashells

      My inner snark ever since PuppyGate and especially GRRM’s pontifications about it began has been “if you think ‘ghod’ is a typo, you have no room whatsoever to be talking about the history of fandom and your alleged TrueFan status.” *I* know that, and I’ve never been to a con!

    • Had Victor just had any forethought at all. Either know he wasn’t ready for things to work and therefore hold off (or try something that wasn’t a person perhaps?), or become ready and stuck around and “raised” the ‘monster’. As it was, just (pardon) bolting… was a real WTF? moment when I finally read the original.

      • …or try something that wasn’t a person perhaps?

        No! Not…FrankenMonkey!!

      • Seriously, right? You’re creating an artificial being.

        Wouldn’t you start with something smaller than a fricking 7 foot tall circus strong man? In case it might wake up cranky?

        And if you’re going to go to all the trouble of making the thing, wouldn’t you WANT it? Wouldn’t you look after it? Take it to the movies, feed it properly, teach it stuff? It’s an artificial Being, capital B, not a carburetor.

        But no, they always make it so they can be horrible to it. And it’s always horrible back at them. No monster ever overcomes it’s upbringing, so to speak. There is no learning, not redemption, no possibility of change or variation. Everything is on rails, and the tracks lead straight to the toilet every time.

        This is “edgy” in our modern world. Fie upon them, I say.

        I built a race car once, I looked after it a hell of a lot better than old Victor did his monster, let me tell you. Because it was a ton of work, and it turned out pretty cool.

        I like the way Larry C did Frankenstein. With style.

        • Patrick Chester

          And if you’re going to go to all the trouble of making the thing, wouldn’t you WANT it? Wouldn’t you look after it? Take it to the movies, feed it properly, teach it stuff? It’s an artificial Being, capital B, not a carburetor.

          You could put him in a musical number…

        • But no, they always make it so they can be horrible to it. And it’s always horrible back at them. No monster ever overcomes it’s upbringing, so to speak. There is no learning, not redemption, no possibility of change or variation. Everything is on rails, and the tracks lead straight to the toilet every time.

          You know, this theme really bugs the crap out of me too.

          In my space opera type setting that I occasionally write for, I have a set of transhumanist type beings, the Transcends. Due to a lot of backstory, most of the human civilizations are terrified of them (for good reasons in the case of some of them).

          One group, called the Quine, sort of roams the galaxy uplifting native animals and creating sapient life. It works out well, most of the time, because 1000 years of experience goes a long way towards working out the more obvious bugs. (Of course it’s a big galaxy, and they see it as their mission to fill it in, so they won’t stay with any of their creations longer than 100 years or so before taking off. Some of their creations find this behavior by their parents/gods a bit chilly and traumatic, but only a few react by turning evil themselves.)

      • Hmm: A trope inversion:
        Responsible Frankenstein type (genetic engineer/AI programmer/mage) and well raised/loved creations vs. negligent natural parents. 😛

        • Microcosmic God, by Sturgeon, probably comes pretty close to that.

        • Come to think of it, probably Helen O’Loy, also.

        • Yeah, when does the AI ever turn out to be -less- of a peckerhead than it’s creator? It’s supposed to be smarter, wouldn’t it see all the human faults and try to work with that? Wouldn’t it look after people, if only so it would have somebody to hang out with?

          Plus, humans are survival machines but AIs are just plain old fallible technology. Wouldn’t they need some help with new tubes in their processor racks?

    • > predictable

      They *have* to be predictable; their target audience is carrying on a conversation and/or texting in the theater, and later sitting on the couch with the channel changer. If the movie doesn’t follow strictly predictable paths they’ll lose their viewers, who are only paying attention in every other five-second block, unless there’s nudity, impending nudity, or flaming car crashes going on.

  26. It used to be “self insertion fiction” was sold in brown wrappers but between SJWs and Twilight fanfic it is not best selling and considered literature.

    I do not consider this an improvement.

  27. There’s a small but growing movement on Tumblr to celebrate Mary Sue stories — not because of the quality of the work but because it’s someone’s first attempt at writing and they should be encouraged.

    Others are commenting that it’s wrong to shame someone for writing a Mary Sue, as there’s nothing wrong with wanting to see themselves in a better light than Real Life or trying to add non-CIS content to a universe. Because CIS is evil.

    Patriarchy is also blamed for shaming authors of Mary Sues. The reasoning gets about as vague as you’d expect.

    • All the very best stories involve Mary Sues. But that’s “I want to pretend that I’m a hyper competent and heroic Space Marine” or “I want to pretend that I’m a magic girl space princess hidden on Earth to save me” or some such. I mean… Conan the Barbarian… need I say more? What makes a Mary Sue *bad* is bad writing. If I’m writing a Mary Sue, be she a twiggy magic girl or a male of African extraction with bulging muscles and a BFG hunting space pirates, the writing problem is if I can not stand to make “my” life difficult or subject “myself” to disappointments or allow “myself” a flawed character.

      Of course blaming the patriarchy for anything *bad* (Something bad happened! Patriarchy! Run and hide!) is completely and utterly idiotic. I don’t think that anyone trying to write should be shamed for doing a poor job their first time out, or even later. But what the ever living **** does that have to do with the patriarchy? Why not blame Mean Girls?

      I will say though that the last time I tried to do NaNoWriMo I tried to gently suggest to a noob on the forum that writing a story where one was in love with, in a sexual way, animals… was probably less cutting edge transgressive and more gross than the fellow thought it would be. Give me a Mary Sue and spare me a teenager who thinks they have new ideas any day, omg.

      • With apologies to Ricky Nelson …

        Hello Mary Sou, goodbye art
        Sweet Mary Sou, I’m so in love with you
        I knew Mary Sou, we’d never part
        So hello Mary Sou, goodbye art

        You came to me by one sunny day
        Flashed those threadbare plots my way
        And oo I’ve written you forever more
        Now I’m not one that thinks around
        Story obstacles that get me down
        And though I never did write you before

        I said, hello Mary Sou, goodbye art
        Sweet Mary Sou, I’m so in love with you
        I knew Mary Sou, we’d never part
        So hello Mary Sou, goodbye art

      • The problem with sexual desire for animals is that (being animals) they are incapable of granting consent.

        Thus any story about desiring them or (worse) consummating that desire falls into the category of rape fantasy.

        Arguments about “humans being just arrogant animals” fail on the grounds that humans can. give. consent. Animals cannot.

        • Arguments about “humans being just arrogant animals” fail on the grounds that humans can. give. consent. Animals cannot.

          1. Non-human animals cannot give consent. (Your posit)
          2. All non-consensual sex is rape. (Definitional)
          3. Therefore, all sex between non-human animals is rape.

          Methinks you are in want of better logical grounds for your (altogether correct) opposition to zoophilia. Or should we be putting all the monkeys and mice and mosquitoes in prison?

          A bad argument for a correct conclusion is worse than no argument at all. Fools reading the bad argument may be convinced that there are no better arguments, and that the conclusion is therefore false.

          • Your second premise is false. Non-consensual sex is only rape where one or both parties has the capacity to express/procure consent.

            Absurd definitions yield absurd conclusions.

            If two drunks have sex it is not rape in spite of their mutual failure to give/procure consent.

            If the law says otherwise, the law is a ass.

            • Your second premise is false. Non-consensual sex is only rape where one or both parties has the capacity to express/procure consent.

              As they say on Wikipedia, ‘Citation needed’.

              Absurd definitions yield absurd conclusions.

              Right. I took your absurd definition and followed it straight to an absurd conclusion.

              If two drunks have sex it is not rape in spite of their mutual failure to give/procure consent.

              The law says otherwise.

              If the law says otherwise, the law is a ass.

              Well, either the law is an ass, or the person disagreeing with the law is an ass. It might do you good to contemplate the latter possibility.

              • All non-consensual sex is rape. (Definitional)

                Citation? Source of that definition?

                Regarding the legal position: When the Law says a black man who passes out from inebriation wakes to find a white female fellating him has “raped” her, I am willing to stand by my conclusion that the Law is an ass. If you have grounds for challenging that conclusion I am willing to entertain them.

                All rape is non-consensual intercourse =/= all non-consensual intercourse is rape.

                Nor does the law seek to impose human morality on non-humans except in those instances where such non-humans assert rights equal or superior to humans. (I am not aware of any such cases being successfully brought in Western courts but look forward to reading the legal analysis of the question when it arises.)

          • And now I am reminded of the claim (I do not know the accuracy thereof, nor do i care to investigate it) that ewes solicit or accept simply by being still and not moving away. I remember this not as it is interesting in and of itself, but the person claiming such went to say that this meant any lesbian sheep were perhaps some of the most frustrated creatures on earth. That made it oddly memorable.

    • Writing a Mary Sue is nothing to be ashamed of. Nor is it anything to be proud of. It is on a par with depositing a bowel movement in the commode; pretty much every competent adult does it from time to time and it may provide significant relief for those who feel the need, but it is hardly a suitable topic for general discussion.

      • Objection: All humans have bowel movements, unless afflicted with particular diseases (which quickly prove fatal unless the obstruction is relieved). Most humans don’t write stories at all, and not all of those who do write Mary Sues.

        • All humans “write” stories, in the sense that they imagine and develop scenarios projecting likely consequences of some or another act or situation.

          The fact that most humans do not commit these scenarios to paper does not prove their failure to “write” them.

          • All humans “write” stories, in the sense that they imagine and develop scenarios projecting likely consequences of some or another act or situation.

            That is not writing, and the scenarios you speak of are not stories. If you enlarge the definition of those two terms to that extent, you make them both meaningless, and your argument is therefore vacuous.

            The fact that most humans do not commit these scenarios to paper does not prove their failure to “write” them.

            That which is not committed to writing is not written. This is obvious and elementary. And yet you have the nerve to lecture me about absurd definitions!

          • Moreover, you have said nothing that supports your claim that all humans write Mary Sue stories. The term ‘Mary Sue’ has a specific meaning that, at its very broadest, does not apply to the kind of ‘imagining and developing scenarios’ of which you speak. It applies only within the domain of fiction: which requires not only the imagined scenario, but the telling of it as if it were an actual sequence of events – moving it, as it were, from the subjunctive to the indicative mood. Nobody says to himself, ‘What will happen if I do X tomorrow?’ and then frames his conclusions as something that has actually happened. Fiction is not about hypotheticals; it is a game played knowingly with admitted counterfactuals. This difference is crucial.

            • I had not noticed claiming that “all humans write Mary Sue stories.”

              The phrase “on a par with” should have adequately cued all but the most didactic of readers that what followed was metaphorical. Even at that, I did not speak universally but said, essentially, “pretty much every [N.B. – not all inclusive] competent adult” “deposit[s] a bowel movement in the commode” a distinction which should reasonably exclude that portion who empty their bowels other than in a commode.

              Conclusion: the statement does not equal a claim that “all humans write Mary Sue stories.”

              For a person ranting over another person’s imprecise writing you really ought improve your own arguing.

    • Yeah, did a quick search to re-find. Search for “The Importance of Mary Sue” to read the full thing. Key quote:

      “Mary Sues exist because children who are told they’re nothing want to be everything. A girl making herself the hero of her own story is a radical act. Stop shaming girls for doing it. Stop shaming yourself for it.”

      • As if any girls were not told they could be everything in the universe nowadays. I still remember to OWS protester who whined that she couldn’t find a good job in her major and aren’t you supposed to follow your dreams?

  28. Some of us have the ability to empathize with people who fill in different check boxes on the census forms.

    That’s really all the response necessary. The people self-righteously virtue-signalling with these rants are publicly confessing that they lack that ability. How embarrassing for them.

    • Yes – looking back through the comments, “lack of empathy” seems to be the common conclusion as to what makes self-insertion activists/SJW/vileprogs the way they are.
      For those visiting here, don’t want to be included in that number? Develop some empathy – like other skills, it can be developed in most people by practice. But you’ve got to want to…

      • But the Self-insertion activists/SJW/vileprogs all loudly proclaim their yuuuuuge empathy.

        While the possibility exists that this is covered under the “If you have to announce it you don’t have it” rubric, that couldn’t possibly be true here, could it?

        • I suspect a hidden tag, there! – but seriously: They think they’re being empathetic b/c they have feelz for the presumed victim groups – but little/no ability to “go deep” & actually empathize with individuals and their unique circumstances. I.e. SIActivists/SJWs/vileprogs/statists are generalizers.

  29. Thinking back on the works that got me reading F/SF as a kid, one had a Filipino male as the protagonist and another had a white female.

    As to the third, I guess I’m just a horrible person for not identifying with Morgan Le Fay or Sir Palomides.

  30. For the love of God.

    Please…anyone…just tell me a fuggiin story? The dreck being pushed by the publishers isn’t fit to read anymore. I don’t want to read novels set in some intergalactic gay bath house.

    Fact is I see myself in all too many novels written by the social justice crowd. I’m the villain. I’m white, I have conservative view points and mindsets. If I am not killed in some horribly painful and inhumane twist of an all-to-predictable plot – I am lectured about the errors of my ways first – and THEN killed in a most inhumane way possible by a lesbian/empowered woman/vibrant. I’ve never understood that, myself. These stories are chock full of demons, orcs, chigs, bum heads and all kinds of scarey bad guys…and me – the fat old white guy that lives two doors down from you – am the bad guy! And with all those fiendish aliens and turdies to discriminate against – I invariably go after any number of the approved protected human victim groups!

    All I wanna do is go to that planet Abbot and Costello went to where all the women are slim, trim and beautiful and I am the only man there. Is that really so bad?

    • well, not so bad, but boring after a while.

      • I expect it would be boring from the get go. While I can imagine a man wanting to be lusted after by a planet full of gorgeous women I cannot imagine him satisfying them for very long.

        Additionally, given that the planet is apparently running successfully before his arrival, there seems only one job for which he is uniquely qualified and that is one which demands little more than stamina.

        “How many times a day can you salute” is not generally a line one hopes to see in a job description.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Well the problem in Poul Anderson’s Virgin Planet was that the women had an “image” of men that the male character didn’t match *and* none of the animals on this planet were mammals so they didn’t know what his male organ was for.

          Oh, at the end of the book, he didn’t get to chose which of two women he was going to have sex with.

          They played dice over him. [Evil Grin]

          • I have actually read a “feminist” analysis of single-sex worlds where the author was gravely concerned about the fate of the women of that world. As if they would suddenly start treating real men as creatures out of myth. (For those who haven’t read it, the women crash-landed on the planet, and suffered a severe tech loss. Naturally, the Golden Age of high tech and men had quite a glow to it.)

            I suspect that the arrival of more men would have some fundamentalists insisting that they were really monsters (aliens) and sticking to their parthenogenesis, some culture trying to stick to that for stability reasons, others using both for stability and variation, and some cultures leaping on this chance to rearrange the genes in novel ways.

            • What? Hadn’t she seen Vandread?


              This is a serious treatise exploring the ramifications of splitting humanity into two homogeneous groups … in 24 1/2 hour installments, less time for commercial messages.

              “Over the centuries they have plundered our cities, they have cruelly oppressed our people with forced labor … even those who are fortunate enough to survive are left horribly scarred after their encounters with women.”

            • I personally found the Mass Effect series’ take on a mono-gendered race rather entertaining. Especially when you can, in the second game, eavesdrop on a bachelor party that involved a human, an amphibian with little-to-no-actual sex drive, and an avian-descended alien with entirely different amino-acid chirality and they are all watching a dancer from the monogendered race…and all three of them suddenly start wondering, a little worriedly, why it is that *all three* of them find her attractive…

                • Definitely *something* that makes something that is basically a bipedal blue-to-purple female with head-tentacles (of the cute variety) attractive to all the things…

                  Of course, that one conversation implies a wonderful fictional head-screw: do the asari (the monogendered race) *really* look like that, or are we only seeing them that way because we, the player/observer, are human, and therefore are seeing something we are programmed to find attractive and/or pleasant? I thought that was rather clever, actually–it’s possible that *no one* knows what asari truly look like, besides other asari…(and they culturally frown on reproducing within their own species, for various reasons)

        • Couldn’t they just buy sperm? They’d get a greater genetic diversity that way. If all of the next generation was sired by one man sounds like the worst case of inbreeding ever.

        • A rapid progress from “fantasy fulfilled” to “boring” to “frightening” to “how the hell do I get out of here?”

    • Poul Anderson Virgin Planet.

    • In Second Life one can be pretty much anything, even a giant waffle. One group (Twisted Hunt group, fwiw) is oddly amusing as while most people are human, there’s no problem with other creatures. Assorted monsters? Fine. Demons of every type? Dandy. There is an exception. There are some decided arachnophobes. And all colors seem to welcome, except that some are most decidedly against pink. I have threatened to appear as the most terrifying creature I can think of for them: a giant pink spider.

    • All I wanna do is go to that planet Abbot and Costello went to where all the women are slim, trim and beautiful and I am the only man there. Is that really so bad?

      Then the women are all alone again after you die from being gang raped by hordes of sex starved women……..

      What a way to go for a young man…..

  31. I happen to like watching things from my cultural and racial background! That’s why I like to watch shows like “Trigun”, “Fairy Tale”, “Slayers”, “Read or Die” and “Case Closed”. All the characters in these stories are the epitome of white, American value–wait, hold on, someone’s tugging at my sleeve.

    Ok, apparently these shows have nothing to do with America. They are “anime”, and they come from Japan. Well, that would explain the funny characters, and the weird babbling music that has the occasional English word, and the occasional series where the characters speak nonsense words with what they are roughly saying displayed in English on the bottom of the screen.

    Well, this doesn’t matter to me, because I like–hold on, there’s that tugging again. Apparently I’m now forbidden from watching these things, because I can’t relate to them.

    I’ll just go and watch Firefly the–hold on, apparently I’m not supposed to watch American shows, because they don’t have enough diversity.

    So, if we need diversity, I think it would be fun to write a story about Nigerians living on the Moon who wish to buy a space ship and go mine asteroi–hold on, apparently I’m not only not supposed to read such works, but I can’t even write such works, because it would be “cultural appropriation”. Apparently only Nigerians, and ones that have settled the Moon and wish to go to the Asteroids, can write such a book.

    Hmm…with all these restrictions, I can’t help but wonder. Where is this diversity supposed to come from, anyway? Hold on, there’s that tug again.

    Apparently, we’re supposed to get diversity by voting for a small clique of people at WorldCon who, because they are the Right People, can write whatever they want, regardless of how awful the story is, and regardless of whether or not anyone wants to read it.

    Of course, it doesn’t matter if anyone wants to read it: only the privileged few, who can check the right boxes, are allowed to read it, anyway!

    • If we adopt or borrow anything from another culture, it’s “cultural appropriation.” If another cultural borrows or adopts anything from us, it’s “cultural imperialism.” Unless a SJW or such does it, then it’s “multiculturalism.” For those who hold this mindset (alright, collection of beliefs) I have two words. The second one is “you!”

      • Now that I think about it, “cultural appropriation” is at the core of American culture. We call it the “melting pot”. We shamelessly “steal” ideas from other cultures, alter them, and maybe even improve them.

        If you think about it, this shouldn’t concern those who we “steal” from, because the original cultures remain unchanged (unless they appropriate from us!)…and ultimately, the other cultures, if they learn about it, probably don’t care, or are even amused by it.

        It’s the SJWs that get bees in their bonnets over the issue, though.

        I want to shake them, and say, “Look! Multiculturalism and Diversity or Cultural Appropriation: choose one! You can’t have both!”

        • Stop impose your culture, in the form of logic and common sense, on them.

          • Wasn’t the principle of participatory democracy lifted from somewhere? Sure, the Greeks and Romans developed it, but the American form has had its origins traced to, variously, the Vikings and Amerindians. (I confess that when such theories were being expounded upon in the late 1960s my interests were elsewhere.)

            I am sure Free Speech was culturally appropriated from somewhere — America, being an imperialist nation with no antecedent culture before European colonialists appropriated the land from the Amerindian tribes and the culture from everywhere else clearly has no elements of its culture that were not stolen from elsewhere.

    • Whatever you do, DO NOT allow those Nigerians to use email! The TROPE of DOOM.

      • “Greetings from the Moon! I have the honor to be addressing you as the Nigerian Colonial Plenipotentiary Minister for Treasury Affairs, and I have an opportunity for you to help me with a great and noble effort!…”

        • Now Hillary’s people are going to be wondering how you got that email off of her server… as Secretary of State, her ongoing correspondence with the Nigerian Colonial Plenipotentiary Minister for Treasury Affairs was classified.

        • Unfortunately, the page has disappeared, but some years ago, I ran across an appeal from Ginny Weasley, stating that she needed assistance in getting Harry Potter’s wealth released from Gringott’s. I found it very amusing. I titled the post I linked it from, “Scammus CDXIX.”

  32. Playing Devil’s Advocate for a moment: there is usually a seed of truth in any cause. In this case, before 1960 there were almost no children’s books with nonwhite or gay characters, though it was *never* a problem in science fiction. It was a good thing that these appeared, and that children had a good chance of seeing characters that more closely resembled themselves. But that’s CHILDREN; when the spark of reading catches, the next stage is to be able to empathize with all sorts of characters in their human commonality. Demanding fiction have more of “your kind” than real life, and only wanting to read stories about people just like you who agree with your politics, is infantile. And of course the SJW purpose is to create an enveloping government and cadres that think alike and are protected from any divergent thoughts of individualism. Taking a minor good thing and pushing it until it becomes tyrannical is typical of them.

    I made a special effort to include superficially diverse characters in my recent work, but didn’t include any hipsters or SJWs except as minor villains. It was interesting that some readers who liked the politics were suspicious of the gay and trans characters until they proved to smash their stereotypes. A character whose race, class, sex, preference, etc. are the most important thing about them is uninteresting…

    • The thing to note here, also, is that the problem with Children’s books was solved a long time ago. At least from my perspective, anyway (I was born in 1980).

      Every once in awhile, the Progressive Left will say something true, like the proverbial broken clock. But you aren’t allowed to solve the problem. It’s like the old adage about the treatment being more profitable than the cure. They want to ensure that there is ALWAYS a problem which requires their attention and management to solve.

      So they perpetuate the racial oppression narrative even where it doesn’t exist, or where it is so minor and trivial as to be unworthy of significant effort (or, even if it is worthy of effort, should be FAR down the priority list of societal problems).

      Thus, women earning slightly less than men, a statistic that has arguably already been debunked anyway, becomes a top priority. And the fact that in Islamic countries, women are often *actually* treated like property is of little or no concern to them.

      So quotas in Science Fiction… that’s a huge issue, dontcha know.

      • They want to ensure that there is ALWAYS a problem which requires their attention and management to solve.

        “For the duration of the present crisis” always justifies extending the crisis, and a good crisis is the sort of thing no prudent leader wants to let waste.

        After all, who knows but a WWII won’t break out, distracting everybody from what a dog’s breakfast your administration has made of the national economy.

        A person in the umbrella business is sanguine with the knowledge that into every life, a little rain must fall.

        • The justification for NYC’s rent controls is WWII dislocations.

          • Didn’t we just recently (last decade) eliminate a telephone excise tax imposed to finance the Spanish-American War?

            http://taxfoundation.org/blog/spanish-american-war-tax-1898-2006
            Apparently yes, for certain values of yes.

            Whenever the city/county/state asks voters to approve a tax increase to finance bonds for important long-term development (we’ll grant them that designation in spite of all evidence contrary) I look for but never find, verbiage repealing the tax increase upon retirement of the bonds.

            The ratchet moves but one way.

            • If only … one could pass a law requiring all future laws & admin rulemaking to have sunset provisions, that require public debate and comment period before any vote for renewal.

  33. Lord, save us from those who insist they must save us from ourselves.

    • My own version of Pascal’s Wager—

      Even if my religion is false, it reminds me of three verifiable truths that many people seem inclined to forget:

      1. I am not God.
      2. I am not anybody’s Lord and Saviour.
      3. No human being, as such, is qualified to take on either of those jobs.

      • Well, except for Bernard Gruenblum in Smith’s “The Nagasaki Vector.”

        Bernie was a grouchy god, but he had excellent taste in 1911s…

        • Reality Observer

          IIRC, wasn’t Bernie trying to resign that position throughout the book? (I do remember that the acolytes were evincing some doubts towards the end, too – close contact seems to be a professional hazard for the Godding business…)

      • I know I am not anybody’s Lord and Savior. But sometimes the notion of being the Dread and Plenipotent Overlord Wreathed in Fire, Wrath and Terror has just the slightest appeal…

    • “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

      — C.S. Lewis

  34. I will confess to being guilty of self-insertion. I wrote a rather craptastic MHI FanFic a couple of years back and cast myself as the main character. My premise when I came up with the idea was literally, “I want to work for MHI.” I wouldn’t necessarily call it a Mary-Sue/Marty-Stu because pretty much everything that could’ve gone wrong for the character did go wrong, to the point where I got called out over really hating my protagonist.

    The non-sci-fi novel I wrote over last winter and am still editing is sort of a self-insert in that the protagonists are based loosely on myself and some of my friends. Reason being that I got the idea out of a conversation we had shortly after one of us had graduated from college. I asked if he had a job lined up, he said he did, I asked if he had a backup plan in case it didn’t work out, and he said something to the effect of “no, but I was thinking that if I don’t find something in a year or so, I’ll hire myself out as a soldier of fortune.” We all laughed and joked that if we were still stuck in our miserable jobs a year later, we’d all become mercenaries together.

    Obviously that didn’t happen, but as I was driving home I thought to myself, “You know what? That’d be an awesome idea for a book!” And I kept the concept in the back of my mind until I came up with a plot where it would work.

    As far as diversity goes, I do my best to mention a character’s unique or “diverse” characteristics only if they’re somehow relevant to the plot *or* I think it would somehow make the character more interesting, otherwise I don’t mention it one way or another and just leave it up to the reader’s imagination. I agree with the majority consensus about “diversity” for the sole purpose of making the political-correctness grade: it annoys me to no end.

  35. I like the term “mirror” for this “must see myself in fiction” thing.

    *Not* mirror means… I can personally identify with and enjoy reading about that Nigerian asteroid miner. “Mirror” means I cannot.

    If books are meant to be mirrors then I *need* books that are just for me… and the 50 year old Norwegian woman has to be only 5 feet tall, too. I can advocate that everyone else also have books that are “just for them” because I’m a good person who believes in “representation” (and will let you know it at every opportunity, worse than a Vegan) but those books are not “for me” by definition. That this creates a defacto segregation of audiences which is profoundly damaging to exactly those authors and readers who are consigned to the smallest demographics might normally be seen as problematic. But MY virtue is assured so who cares, right?

    I guarantee you all that lurkers are going to repeat this conversation in the usual places and insist that what we are really insisting upon is mirrors FOR US.

    The notion of NO MIRRORS is a conceptual impossibility to any of those who take it for granted… because that’s what “for granted” means. There are no realities where books are not mirrors so who cares what you say, no?

    Unless one is in Puppydom, I suppose. We have cookies and also books that aren’t mirrors. The diversity in them is for everyone. Sarah didn’t write A Few Good Men to be a book “for gays” and I don’t have to wait for her to write a book about a middle aged Norse woman of little stature before I can really enjoy it. I can hope that someone decides to write a story about Nigerian asteroid miners.

  36. Why don’t people write Hitchcock/Stan Lee level cameos and then kill themselves off as innocent bystanders? That would be a fun thing to do.

    • I actually did that in a Dead Six-series fanfic piece I wrote. Needed a redshirt for one scene and couldn’t think of a name for him, so I just gave him the callsign “Raptor” and then offed him a few paragraphs later.

  37. Was Fantastic Voyage self-insertion fic?

    I can’t recall whether Barbarella involved self-insertion but I am fairly sure Woody Allen’s Sleeper did.

  38. I started reading The Aeronaut’s Windlass today. It starts off with insubordination and massive property damage, so you know it’s an authentic Jim Butcher novel…

    • Polliwog the 'Ette

      Listened to it on Audio book last week and enjoyed it a lot. So much so that I’m sort of sorry it’s the beginning of the series and I’m going to have to wait for the next to be written instead of binge reading all of them at once.

  39. If you want to read self-insertion fiction, try some of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, self insertion at its finest, you even get to make some of the decisions for the main character. Otherwise, let the author write what their muse tells them to, it will likely make a better story, whether you personally like the story, or not.

  40. Ok! Who broke the threading, again?

  41. Christopher M. Chupik

    You got Viled, sad to say. The usual Puppy-kicking crap in the comments. You know the drill.

  42. So… John Scalzi has publicly announced that he cannot win a contest if thereare any other contestants? Didn’t we know this after the Hugo nonsense?

  43. Reblogged this on Declination and commented:
    Check out my guest post over at Sarah Hoyt’s place.

  44. Pingback: The Rise of the Self Insertion Fic

  45. John keeps telling me I should finish novelizing the Dr. Mauser stories, but they are quite literally a self-insert, and thus really ripe for that kind of criticism.

    Also, I deserve better than for that to be in a first novel, so I need to finish the other one first….