Tudors Tales and Turpitude – James Schardt

Tudors Tales and Turpitude – James Schardt

Greetings everyone. Normally, Sarah would either be posting here, herself, or would have someone who, at least, has a blog of their own post here. However, in the interests of keeping her writing the stories we all want to read instead of the unprofitable columns or gif posts she sometimes feels obligated to write, I am stepping in. Sarah, go write. We gots this. *cracks neck*


Brad Torgersen reposted a link to his “Nutty Nuggets” column Sunday. To summarize it, Brad felt that sales of Science Fiction books had gone down because the stories published had drifted away from the themes that had attracted people to Science Fiction in the first place. I am going to expand on this and point out that the same themes that attracted people to Science Fiction are the same themes that attract people to stories in general. And blatantly inserting current issues into a story stands a good chance of marring that story and rendering it preachy and forgettable.

An anecdote was posted last year by an author who had personally delivered a story to an editor, I think it was John Campbell, hoping for it to be published. For his trouble, the editor took him out to lunch. During that lunch, the editor asked him if he could name one story written by a man in a mud hut 4000 years ago that is still sold in airport book stores today. The author looked confused. The editor told him he was talking about “The Iliad” written by the blind poet, Homer. His point was that people wanted to read stories about heroes striving to overcome things. Brad feels that the striving has been lost in a sea of messages that will have difficulty resonating five years after they are written.

This year, the big issue in the news, besides the election, seems to be whether to allow non-op transsexual persons to use the restrooms of the sex they feel they are as opposed to the restrooms and locker rooms they physically are. Three years ago, this wasn’t even on the radar. I would have to look up opinion columns and news stories to be able to tell you what issues were big even five years ago. Time passes and people move on. Laws will be written and passed or rejected. What is controversial today may not be controversial tomorrow. While I cannot tell you how society will eventually deal with this, I can guarantee this will not be a big issue two years from now. This means basing a story on a current issue is probably unwise.

Does this mean you should leave out these issues entirely? No! Look to authors who have remained in the public eye for years, even centuries, after they have died. There are several of Shakespeare’s plays that are, to put it bluntly, nothing more than Tudor propaganda. He set up a whole series of historical plays just to lead up to showing how bad Richard III was and show how justified Henry VII was to take the throne from him.

In his time, one of the major issues was the legitimacy of Queen Elizabeth and the House of Tudor. England had a woman on the throne (scandal!) Her father had broken from the Catholic Church (scandal!) Her grandfather’s claim to the throne was tenuous at best (scandal!). Needless to say, her political enemies, both inside and outside of her kingdom, were happy to use these issues to weaken her power and possibly take her throne from her. But, unless the reader is a serious student of history, nobody remembers this.

We remember the strained relationship between Henry the IV and his son Harry in “Henry IV part I”. We remember King Henry V inspiring his soldiers to overcome the odds against them at Agincourt in “Henry V”. We remember how Richard III’s quest for power and hubris brought about his downfall in “Richard III”. Nobody remembers the politics behind these stories. But that doesn’t mean it was not there. The story came first. The issues were woven in with subtlety. People’s minds were changed. And Elizabeth I is still remembered as one of the greatest monarchs England has ever had.

The legitimacy of the English throne was a topic for discussion, but it didn’t effect that many people outside of the nobility. People eating and not being robbed in the street were what mattered on a day to day basis. It wasn’t that people didn’t care about who their rightful monarch was, they did. It was simply a lower priority. So Shakespeare slipped the message he wanted to put out into his plays. He barely mentioned the Tudors in Richard III. The focus was on how rotten a person Richard Plantagenet was. At the end, his audience was saying “Thank goodness Henry Tudor got rid of THAT guy.” The message, the Tudors are legitimate because the Plantagenets were bad, worked. He didn’t have to beat people over the head with his message. They came to that conclusion themselves.

By contrast, his play “Henry VIII”, is mostly remembered for accidentally burning The Globe Theater to the ground. It is a blunt message play that is simply there to remind people that Queen Elizabeth is, indeed, King Henry’s daughter. It did not resonate at the time and it is largely forgotten now. This is the sort of fiction Brad was talking about when he was saying it wasn’t “Nutty Nuggets” and what others talk about when they say “message fiction”. Making the message the story is simply preaching. If your reader wants preaching they’ll either go to church or listen to the shaggy guy with the sandwich board ranting in the park. Readers want a story. If there is a message, fine, but the reader wants a story first.

Take a timeless theme. A story that would be recognizable to both your grandparents and your children. Put it in a future or fantasy world. Weave your message in with subtlety so it is barely seems to be there. Your story will be memorable and it will plant the seeds you want to grow. The story wins over the message. Always.

177 thoughts on “Tudors Tales and Turpitude – James Schardt

  1. oh come on now. we all know that how the author identifies is the most important thing in a story. god forbid we not recognize the greatness of melanin content and psuedobiology

    1. Don’t forget that the characters have to be representative of real-world demographics, too. Except not really, because in the real-world, populations are under-represented in fiction because they’re under-represented in life.

      Also, remember that if you ARE using under-represented populations, they can’t be stereotypical, but they must be representative according to each and every reader’s personal definition of “representative”. And those characters have to make their demographic identity the focus of their overall identity, otherwise you’re “erasing” them.

      1. “but they must be representative according to each and every reader’s personal definition of “representative.””

        Correction: They must be representative according to Manhattanite literary critics’ personal definition of “representative.”

      2. On hearing of an individual who counted the representative demographics in a book as she went along and would stop reading if they failed to meet her prescriptive standards I shrugged. That is up to her. She is going to miss a number of great reads*, but it is her loss.

        BUT – should she insist that everyone have no choice but to do likewise? Hell no.

        * For example: To Kill A Mockingbird lacks Asians and the transgendered altogether.

        1. For example: To Kill A Mockingbird lacks Asians and the transgendered altogether.

          It does NOT! Now you’re mocking the transAsian community …

        2. In Alabama* way back when (which was what–I forgot and I read the doggone book). Oh, sorry, caffeine isn’t working well this morning.

          (*as oppose to Hawaii or California)

          1. There are some who don’t care one rip what the historical record has to say about the population mix in any given area — or if it makes sense in the story — they want the to see what they view as correct demographics interpreted correctly.

            1. Alternately they’ll find one highly biased, largely disproven comment by some professor or idiot with an axe to grind that backs up what they think and wave it around insisting that it proves that there was a large population of (insert minority) in (insert location) during (given time period). Fill in the blanks with whatever is most, or least appropriate.

        3. For example: To Kill A Mockingbird lacks Asians and the transgendered altogether

          Boo Radley identified as a Tibetan woman.

          1. Well that would provide an alternate explanation as to why his father kept him shut away.

          2. a transgendered lesbian tibetan with an overabundance of melanin and a likely speech impediment, not to mention a weight issue.

        4. Perhaps all novels should start with a ‘Dramatis personae’ section with 200-300 people, listed by race, gender, sexual identity. All authors can use the same list, and just add in the actual names of characters in the book. That way every book is a ‘celebration of diversity’.

          1. Ah yes, the Russian novel, where you have to keep a score card to keep track of all the players…

            1. Or Weber’s Safehold series over at Tor, where 15%+ of the book was a Dramatis Personae and glossary (and the glossary was a fraction a size of the DP).

              1. Or Dune, with its extensive golssary and character list at the back of the book (or so i recall from reading it many years ago,)

                Come to think of it, Dune had a distinct lack of Asian, Polynesian, Hispanic or African characters, presented pederasty in a stereotypical and unenlightened manner and promulgated the stereotypical myth of female conspiracy managing an ostensibly patriarchal culture.

                Very problematic.

              2. Weber has reached the point of totally ignoring editor input. He really seems to like showing off his vast knowledge of weaponry and military history. Loong books wrapped around a short narrative. His naming conventions provide ancillary irrigation.

                One of my all time favorites, but he is losing me. Sigh.

                1. And this is why Indie publishing is bad: it allows unedited, unproofed books to be published, unlike traditional— hey, wait, Tor is traditional publishing! What was the difference, again?

                  1. The difference is that with Indie publishing the authors make all profits from the book and are directly responsible to readers for the contents. Traditional publishing ensures that editors, marketers, art directors and publishers siphon off some of the money from book sales and are able to direct blame onto the author for any failure to diligently perform their duties.

      3. I’ve been studying the rules, and I think I’ve figured out how it works. Take some minority group, we’ll call them Oolots, but any group “championed” by the SJW could fit here:

        If you have an Oolot hero, that’s cultural appropriation.

        If you have an Oolot sidekick, that’s tokenism.

        If you have an Oolot villain, that’s degenerating all of Oolot culture.

        If you have an Oolot who behaves in the standard way people expect from Oolots, that’s stereotyping.

        If you have an Oolot who behaves nothing like the stereotype, that’s just a white guy in Oolot clothing.

        And of course, if you have no Oolots, that’s whitewashing.

        1. Conclusion: If, for some reason, they don’t like what they think your politics to be, if they perceive you to be outside their dispensation, you will not be able to successfully negotiate the rules. There will be a way to condemn your writing.

          1. Which leads to a precept I’ve lived by for years:

            If nothing you can say is “right,” you’re free to say anything you want to!

              1. Nah, it just means that the Oolots in any text I might write would do whatever I needed them to do (or that they wished to do), and the whiners’ dislike for that would mean pretty much nothing at all.

              2. Hey, as long as the authors write their Oolots in one leg at a time…

            1. Dealing with SJWs is like being caught out in the middle of a park with no trees and no shelters when the heavens open. You’re going to get wet. Don’t pour yourself into trying to avoid it.

          2. Much in the same way that changing more than a competitor is “price gouging”, charging less is “undercutting the competition” and changing the same is “collusion”.

            1. I always suspected that, under management pressure to get a good result before the next quarterly status statement, the interrogator in that episode actually brought in a fifth light the last day just to get the case closed successfully.

          3. As long as everything is, potentially, a thought crime, the Social Hygiene Committee always has an excuse to rake you over the coals if they need to.

            Perhaps you weren’t paying close enough attention to the current Group Outrage. Perhaps they need a scapegoat to keep the restless members from being lured away by some merry band of plucky rebel pups gusanos to make an example of.

            Or maybe you’re just in the the way of some committee member’s friend getting the award land grab.

            It’s a witch!

        2. If they break out in song to drive home a moral lesson would that make them Oompa Loopa Oolots?

        3. And if you have Oolots in your story in the exact proportion they are represented in the general population, say, twelve percent or so, you’re under-representing them.

      4. I’ll erase them, all right… all this kerfluffly triggernumery is partly why my nonhumans don’t *have* races, or nonstandard genders, at ALL. Erased? Ha! they never existed!!

  2. My junior high library had several years of Judith Merrill’s Best SF. What fun! Every story and novella had a theme, and was enjoyable reading. So I bought recently a best SF edited by Jonathan Strayhan. My goodness! Managed to read only one piece all the way through, the first, and finally gave up about half way through. Purposeless dreck! Or maybe my IQ has gone away over the years. Yeah, that’s it.

    1. My sister introduced me to a used book store in Champaign (central Illinois/Indiana Guns and Houdens, I highly recommend Jane Addams bookstore on Neil Street. I did clean out an entire shelf of Barbara Hambly, Heinlein, and some others, but there’s still stuff there.) I picked up some “Year’s Best SF” and ” Hugo Winner” anthologies from
      the 50s and 60s.

      I think I even got an anthology from 1938, or thereabouts. I had to get dragged out of the store at closing time. Most of that is going to be sitting in my friend’s attic until I get back from deployment and can enjoy it properly.

      1. OK, now I am visualizing you being dragged by the collar by your long-suffering friend while you make grabby-hand motions at the shelves going past, and the bookstore owner giggling and suggesting maybe it would be cheaper to buy the shop…

        1. Also called “Why the Huns are not allowed to take the Time Machine to the Forbidden Planet Bookstore Anymore.”

          1. Other customers tend to notice four identical people standing in the same aisle.
            (Maybe they wouldn’t bat an eye at four cats, but us bipeds don’t have such social camouflage.)

            1. Fake beards, mustaches, and hair works pretty well for me. The nutty accents, too.

      2. At a used book booth at a flea market I found a “Science Fiction of the 30s” anthology edited by Damon Knight, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

    2. Over forty years ago I would regularly walk a few miles to and from the book stand in an old hotel downtown so that I could buy Analog when it came out. Now? Nope.

      Well, yes the hotel has since burnt down. But if it was still there? Still no.

  3. Message fic is bad enough, but then they add insult to injury by promoting such a *stupid* message.

    1. What’s the award for Most Stupid Message and Most Preachily Scolding Story? No, I do not wish to go through the lot, but it would be a useful marker of Here Be Dreckons.

      1. “What’s the award for Most Stupid Message and Most Preachily Scolding Story?”

        Most of them?

      2. I used to like Bova. The Orion stories were rollicking reads and his tales of Sam Gunn were a fun look at a possible near-term future.

        The last of his I (likely will ever) read was New Earth. OMG what a pile of dreck – cardboard characters and endless preaching. Can I get my FRN 7.99 back?

      1. Which then gets us chided for not figuring it out because its sooooo obvious. (Please do not step in the puddles of dripping sarcasm.)

  4. “By contrast, his play “Henry VIII”, is mostly remembered for accidentally burning The Globe Theater to the ground.”

    Just as Scalzi’s Redshirts might one day be remembered for accidentally burning the Hugos to the ground.

      1. As much as I’d like to lay that at Scalzi’s doorstep, what finally got me to pay $40 was Alex McFarlan at tor.com with her “end binary gender in SF” shit. That was my final straw.

        Because it’s one thing to write stories with gender-bendy characters. Like, are girl-robots really girls? Probably not. Or maybe so, depends what you wanted to say, right?

        It’s entirely another thing to declare that -only- bendy characters will be acceptable. So all you little lurking twerps, you can thank Alex McFarlan for your current situation.

        I don’t remember Redshirts at all. It made no impression. Cotton candy. Making it by far not the worst Hugo awarded book I’ve seen. Too many I’ve gotten started on and after 100 pages wished there was such a thing as brain bleach.

        1. Actually, ‘end binary….’ was what made me drop Tor.com as a site I checked somewhat regularly. But it was the Gallo post and response that was the deciding factor in not buying any more Tor, or MacMillan as a whole, books.

          1. On looking at my library, I see I’ve been on an unconscious TOR boycott for a long time. Prior to the Hugo-pocalipse I would never even notice who the publisher was, but TOR and a few others are very under-represented compared to Baen.

            Sure makes shopping easier, knowing where the dreck gets made.

        2. If you call a golem Gladis and put a dress on it, does that make it okay for it to clean the ladies room?

          1. It depends on what level of sentience/sapience the golem has. I don’t see any issue with tasking to it clean the ladies room, but if it has enough sense of self to object to the name or the dress it shouldn’t be forced to use either while cleaning. If it’s just a mindless entity built to preform tasks then there’s no harm in calling it whatever you like and dressing it up, but as soon as it has enough of a mind to have its own ideas about what it is then said ideas should be respected.

    1. First consider the fact that they changed the ‘command’ uniforms to red for TNG, Paramount’s admission to the phenomena. Then, if anyone wanted a great spoof on the redshirt meme, there is Galaxy Quest.
      Fast forward to a dull, derivative, not a single original thought or idea book written by a spiteful hack… And give it a Hugo Award. Anyone wondering anymore why the Hugos have lost their relevance.

          1. I’m not sure on the integration part. I understand College students are now demanding gender and race specific safe spaces. Apparently the ‘separate but equal’ of the Jim Crowe days is back in fashion.

            1. Don’t forget; they need separate water fountains for each gender type! Stocked only with free-trade spring water, of course.

                1. Nah, it just means that it was bottled between March and June of some year, in exchange for something or other…

            2. I understand College students are now demanding gender and race specific safe spaces.

              I imagine that at many institutions of higher learning they will get them… so long as said spaces aren’t asked for in the bathrooms, locker rooms or changing rooms.

            3. I await seeing the extreme butt-hurt when white students claim a “safe space”.

        1. Fuzzy nation? I -hated- that thing. Bought it expecting more Little Fuzzy, ended up with SJWs in space teaching the Poor Little Fuzzies about the glories of Karl Marx. Predictably the Fuzzies are revealed to be a bunch of manipulative Me First pricks at the end. Plus it was INSIPIDLY sjw, so like Redshirts I can’t remember the friggin’ plot at all, just a couple of highlights.

          His editor needed a swift kick for not taking a red pencil to that thing. But then given who his editor was, it is unsurprising the red pencil didn’t get a workout.

          1. Editors used to use blue pencils to indicate changes to be made, not red ones. But given the editor you’re talking about, red pencils seems more appropriate, I agree.

            1. Chesterton’s Mr. Pond would say “something much more like a red pencil than a blue pencil. And it leaves very black marks.”

    2. “Just as Scalzi’s Redshirts might one day be remembered for accidentally burning the Hugos to the ground.”


    3. Um, A cannon used for a special effect actually burnt Shakespeare’s theater down. I knew The Globe had burned. I was laughing when I found out how it happened while researching this.

        1. No, that was some stupid with a flare gun that burned the place to the ground. Just ask Funky Claude.

          1. Funky Claude did an interview years later about the whole thing. Was fascinating. I think it was Zappa used a stratacaster to smash out the window (those were heavy windows but a strat is a heavy hunk of wood) so the kids could get out of the building.

    4. Yeah, I was wondering if the Globe suffered because WS lost his groove and a fan was … er, “hotly disappointed” ?

  5. To teach others is not to tell them what they are to conclude, but to provide the facts so that they will draw the conclusion for themselves.

    1. Persuasion works best by placing before the audience the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent.

      1. This presumes that the audience possesses a reasonable amount of common sense, or at least the capacity for intellectual honesty.

        God bless Thomas Jefferson.

  6. I’m not sure I would say Shakespeare’s English histories were all about Tudor propaganda. Henry VIII, yeah. Richard III, maybe, or at least it was based on what the Tudor histories said of Richard. What about something like Richard II, though? That one is a serious problem for the Tudors. Elizabeth was descended from Henry IV, so she isn’t going to want to hear that Henry was a nasty, good-for-nothing usurper who took the crown from the rightful king. On the other hand, if you make Henry the hero of that story, you’re saying that overthrowing the king is sometimes justified, another message that a monarch probably doesn’t want to hear. All in all, I’ve got to think that if Shakespeare were really just writing those plays to please the Tudors, he’d have swept that story under the rug and just started with Henry IV, already crowned and clearly legitimate king.

    1. Witness, Essex commissioned a performance of RICHARD II, before his coup attempt. A play about deposing a monarch was a serious problem (and ended being a serious problem for HIM.)

    2. I think you are reading the propaganda wrong. The idea is to get the audience to act with their feelings, not rational thought. “See, Henry VII got rid of that nasty King Richard. He has to be good!” It is notable that Shakespeare never, actually, did a play about Henry Tudor. Having read about him, I’m pretty sure that was because there simply wasn’t any way to spin that turkey into something positive.

      1. Yeah, but the point I was making with Richard II was that no matter how the audience feels about it, it’s still a problem from the Queen’s point of view.

        1. Half a thought… was Richard II written before or after he was a ‘big name’? (My Shakespeare timeline is rather shakey.) Relatively unknown playwright writing a somewhat politically risky play that none of the elite is likely to hear about is different than ‘this play insults my highest ranking patron. I actually like my job…’

          1. 1595 is the date Wikipedia gives for it. I’d call that somewhat of a middle period, though early in the middle period. Notably for this bit, it is after the dates given for the Henry VI plays (1591-1592) and Richard III (1592-1593).

  7. Could you really find copies of The Iliad in airport bookstores in Campbell’s day? I don’t recall such, but I did not spend much time in airports back then. (Not sure about the mud huts in Homer’s time and place, either, but let it pass …) JWC wasn’t always right, but he was usually interesting.

      1. Ah, but they are inhabited by ‘noble savages’ who are completely in tune with nature and live in harmony within their environment of filth and squalor.
        Kind of like North Carolina *must* have transgender bathrooms, but it is so noble and multicultural to approve of ISIS beheading Christians and mutilating women.

    1. I didn’t check the last time I flew, but when I was coming home after getting off active duty (2005) it was there with a couple of other classics (Shakespeare, Chaucer, Austin are the ones I remember). As the rest were all cookie cutter romances and thrillers (you know, the pre-made NYT bestsellers?) I was less than surprised to see they sold reasonably well.

      1. It was 2003, the last time I flew? I don’t recall the Iliad – but I did pick up a copy of Sun Tzu in the airport. (Not as good IMHO as the other two I have, but I can thumb through it without worrying so much about the binding.)

        Actually, I took that more as “look at the theme” of the Iliad – that theme sells, and sells, and sells…

      2. Last time I was in an airport bookstore (Schipole) I almost got an issue of Karpf Magazin (yes, it is for people who raise/fish for/manage carp). The books were mostly translations, romances, and thrillers. Oh, a few alt histories about WWI, but this was June 2015, so they were timely. I don’t recall any classics, but I wasn’t looking for them (was looking for some German magazines and they didn’t have what I wanted).

        1. Schipol’s probably my favorite airport. Strangely, though, it was the only place in the Netherlands I had trouble finding milk. The rest of the time, it was everywhere and I seldom wanted it. At Schipol, I wanted some milk to wash down a rich, delicious, decadent chocolate pastry – and never found any.

          1. I have a fond memory of Schipol. On returning from the Kingdom of S.A. in ’91, I had to make a connection in A-dam. After unsuccessfully petitioning to get an entry visa stamp (my favorite, and sometimes only, memento of my world travels), I ambled out the front door. Note; it had been better than six months since I’d seen a female in anything other than a BDU or a full-blown burqua. Wafting towards me was a statuesque copper-haired woman in high heels, fishnet stockings, a leather miniskirt and vest, and a *very* sheer blouse which left nothing to the imagination.

            I literally walked into a steel post. Through the stars, I think I heard her laughing at me.

    2. Homer then: “I sing of the wrath of Achilles . . .”

      Homer now: “D’oh!”

      1. I truly need to find a good audiobook of the Ilead, chanted in the way the Athenians would have heard it.

          1. Unfortunately, the amazing George Guidall version of Fitzgerald’s translation (via Recorded Books) has been allowed to go out of print/license, in favor of Macmillan Audio’s relatively-crappy version (Dan Stevens). So obviously one must get to a library and record off the CD. Darnit.

            Here’s a cute YouTube animation utilizing Guidall’s version for audio: “Achilles vs. Emissaries.”

            1. How sad and maddening at the same time.

              There are some things one mourns when it goes out of print, like John Cleese’s Emmy winning recording of C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.

      2. I read the Iliad in college. Thought it a bad translation, because the story HAS to be better than this.

    3. Depends on the airport and time frame. If it was the 1950’s to 1960’s and Idlewild, more than likely you could. There was a big classics push back then and Idlewild(JFK) is a big airport with, among other things, bookstores.

  8. The late SF Grand Master Clifford D. Simak wrote this about writing about any current topical issue:

    “One thing that starts a trend is writing topically. You know, when you take the burning issues of the day and extrapolate them into the future. Trying to show solutions or trying to show the extent to which it can go. The population story, where you’ve got one square foot per man, and then what do we do–that sort of thing. These things are fine; they’re gimmick stories I think, but they haven’t got the universality, the lasting quality.

    If you write about the universal mind, about the human heart, then you’ve got it going.”

    Full text of the interview in which these comments were made can be found here:


      1. I read the whole Divine Comedy once, after reading Larry Niven’s version. The original was pretty cool, I must say.

    1. I did too, for High school lit class (Iliad) and college class (Odyssey).

    2. Just once for a lit class. I’m not a fan of ‘the classic poems’ (Iliad, Odyssey, Beowolf, etc.) and such. It’s not the story I dislike (because I actually find the story fascinating) it’s the language used. It makes for good sleeping.

  9. I have mixed feelings about railing against message fiction. Sometimes you have to get it out of your system, for one, and sometimes messages are important enough that it’s worth your time to slog through the work. And sometimes, when the moon is blue and right kind of revolution is in the air, you just might be a good enough author to pull it off!

    There is a time and a place for such fiction. Indeed, a lot of Ayn Rand’s work is probably the quintessential example, and since her message is “collectivism is dumb, because we need to respect the individual” it will always be timely. But some of her her work nonetheless requires determined slogging.

    Having said this, my concern with the current push for message fiction is two-fold: first, is the insistence that message is, first and foremost, the *most important* aspect of the story, for *all* stories, and *all* audiences; second, only *approved* messages are allowed. As someone else pointed out, the *approved* messages are actually rather lousy messages to boot!

    1. The “Message” may be important enough to give but IMO you owe it to your readers to “wrap it” in a good story.

      Ayn Rand’s message may have been important but why should I “slog” through a story to get it?

      1. Providing an entertaining story to “wrap” your oh-so-important-to-you message is somewhat like using courtesy to lubricate human relations — well known to work better than omitting it.

        1. Courtesy?

          That’s a Tool of the Patriarchy! [Very Big Sarcastic Grin]

        2. So, what you’re saying is that SJW hectoring is a manifestation of Rape Culture?

        3. There are plenty of examples of good “message” writers, too. Samuel Clemens, Jonathon Swift, Harriet Beecher Stowe, etc.

          (Actually, I think you can find the message in The Odyssey also – a religious one; don’t piss off the Sea God when you are a mariner…)

    2. RE: Ayn Rand — While sympathetic to the message, I prefer my characters to have more substance than thick pressed paper pulp.

      1. I finally got around to reading Atlas Shrugged several years ago. Didn’t care for it, as a story, and as a message it seemed pretty self-apparent to me. Like reading several hundred pages to explain why using your bare hand to grab a piece of metal that’s been sitting in a fire for a half hour is a bad idea.

        1. Agreed, I read the whole thing until I came to Galt’s speech then I started skipping through it. 14+ pages reiterating the point made in the first couple of paragraphs was a bit much.
          Also agree that “Anthem” was much better.
          When I was a younger man I was quite taken with Rand for a while, I blame Rush. 😀

    3. I actually LOATHE Ayn Rand because she is so horrible with message fiction. I often use her as an example of why message fiction is so bad when done bluntly (It’s okay for a whole train full of people to suffocate because they were a bunch of Socialists mooches? Really?) And I actually agree with her on a lot of things.

    4. I’m not a fan of Rand’s writing. I agree with the message, but the story it was wrapped up in made me put it down.

  10. John W. Campbell had a degree in physics but could lecture a young writer knowledgeably about the “Iliad.” How many of our contemporary editors could do the same today?

    Of course, they don’t really have to. The purpose of SJW’s and the progressive movement generally is to ensure no one will need to know any history, literary or otherwise, because history will never be permitted to happen again.

      1. How many of our contemporary editors could read the Illiad if you put it in front of them?

        1. I don’t know if they could or not, but many wouldn’t because it wasn’t Politically Correct. 👿

          1. What, hasn’t anybody done a long rebloggable post about how only racists think Greeks are white?

    1. Progressives as a species are ultra specialized, and need special conditions to survive, ie, an artificially enlarged network of colleges and universities.

      1. And we know how Heinlein felt about specialization. It explains their predilection for the hive-mind.

    2. Generally, science majors know more about the arts than arts majors know about science. I can remember a couple of geophysicists amusing themselves while waiting on a long-running computer job by seeing who could name the most operas that were based on a work by Walter Scott.

      1. Yep. I once heard some geologists making up a parody of “Modern Major General” about “Cretaceous Seaways Predator.” Why yes, beer was involved, why do you ask?

      2. Sciences are rightly known as a Discipline: there are penalties for getting basic facts wrong.

        Humanities largely consist of gaining command of specific jargon which is then used as a shovel to win a PhD.

        In the Olympics of Academia, the former are races — winning or losing are matters of objectively quantifiable fact; the latter are synchronized swimming and gymnastics — the victory is not to the swift nor the strong, but to the one best able to perform a series of contortions as judged by not wholly disinterested observers.

      3. As a Freshman in college, I and my roommate took a class called “Recreational Keyboards,” it was essentially a music class for non-music majors. The instructor, Sister Joachim, told my roommate that “Science Majors have no appreciation for the Arts” — my chemistry major roommate…

        (I was still an Astronomy major during this incident.)

    3. “…history will never be permitted to happen again.” You are incorrect, sir. History never did happen.

      You can dig up the bones from the Holodomor or the Cultural Revolution – but it never happened…

      And women science fiction writers were never published before PNH and Scalzi broke their chains…

    4. But, but JWC was a racist and all those bad think things that SJW’s aren’t allowed to talk about. I don’t know how many variations I’ve heard of that.

      1. They do, and I went out and got some, along with some chili, for a belated dinner. Yay.

        1. Dang straight — those English archers collected a pile of French purses after that battle, both found on the field and in exchange for nobility ransomed.

      1. I would say his audience required more substance than ours, because educated folks learned Greek and Latin in grade school. An avid groundling would have picked up a lot of Greco-Roman mythology along the way, even if he couldn’t read himself. The audiences of our time, apparently, are too busy playing Minority Representation Bingo.

        If any time needed people of substance producing art of substance, it is ours. We don’t have the luxury of leaving our problems to the nobility and the royals. To whom much has been given, much will be required.

  11. In Steven Brust’s “The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars” one of the major plot points revolves around the main character absolutely hating message art, and thinking that doing message art is a betrayal of whatever artistic gifts you have.

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