Good

Yesterday on one of the Facebook groups I attend, I came across a post by one of the Puppy Kickers, (echoed by someone in the group in exasperation) which went something like “Neo nazis want books that are less about conscious feminism and diversity.  So did the Sad Puppies.  Are the Sad Puppies ashamed of themselves now?”

I don’t need to spend much time on the argument itself, and frankly, the person who made it is not a stupid man, and he should be ashamed of making such a stupid comparison.  This argumentum ad similar tastes is ridiculous.  Say, didn’t Hitler love dogs?  And wasn’t he a conscious vegetarian?  So, are dog lovers and vegetarians ashamed, yet? Mao (probably) loved Chinese food.  Are all Chinese food lovers ashamed? Che Guevara, one of history’s most disgusting mass murderers (in that he preferred to club children and puppies to death himself) wore a beard.  Are all beard wearers ashamed now?

In the discussion someone said “But most people prefer non-preachy fiction, so why would the fact even neo-nazis prefer it something against SP?”  And someone else mentioned that people like the poster who made that argument above (I’m not naming him, because at times he has flashes of sanity and I’m hoping he realizes his argument is insane.) might not consider anything that ISN’T consciously feminist/diversity preaching GOOD.

This argument interests me far more, because it gets to the roots of what we consider “Good” which I think is what is at the basis of the split in science fiction.  Their position is not without … defense.  In fact it is the traditionalist position in literature. And our position is a bit of a rebellion, a very much “Aristo, aristo a la lanterne” position, a populist and revolutionary stance, if you prefer.

We’ll dispose before we go on of the fact that yes, the neo-nazis probably oppose feminism and diversity in science fiction because they oppose it EVERYWHERE.  My position (I can’t speak for all of Sad Puppies, since we’re a lose and non dogmatic (ah ah) movement, and what we agree on is that literature should be a ludic endeavor (more on that later) is that I agree with the “motte” part of the feminist argument which is that women should have the same opportunities at pursuit of happiness as men, and not with their bailey argument, in which they find sexism under every rock and are, in the end, in revolt against being a woman. Nature is neither equal nor egalitarian and attempts to make it so have filled countless graves. Women are not statistical incidences nor somehow flawed males.  Every woman is an individual.  I believe in equality before the law for female and male individuals, and after that each of us must make his/her own way through life and find out what we’re good at and what we love doing.  I owe no loyalty to anyone just because she too has a vagina, and no one is my natural enemy because he has a penis.  Insofar as the self-conscious feminism in books is of the “woe to me for I have a vagina and I’m oppressed” variety, the book dents the wall.  But I have never had a problem with strong female characters, particularly those that ring true.  And I know what strong women are like, since most of the female ancestresses I was privileged to meet were of the “I am not oppressed; the bastard hasn’t been born who could oppress me” variety, and that in a genuinely sexist society.

As for diversity — meh — diversity of what?  I have no issues with characters of various hues, though I often forget to mention what color my characters are because it fails to interest me to any marked degree.  I like characters from different backgrounds and with different modes of thought, because that’s just good writing and interesting fiction.  Like most science fiction and fantasy (and even mystery) readers I’m drawn to different settings and different cultures, because again that’s just interesting.

I am not interested in arguments about how all these cultures have been victimized by the west.  (Oh, sure, to an extent it is true.  Africa wouldn’t be the mess it is, if our “intellectuals” had exported socialism and fixed pie economics.  But it would probably still be a mess, due to the evil of tribalism.  And that is not something we exported but arguably something our ancestors escaped if the out-of-Africa hypothesis is true.)  I am not interested in economic arguments where you somehow injure a place by buying its products, because that’s fixed pie, Marxist and (but I repeat myself) stupid.  And I’m not interested in stories about how the poor victim gets up, is victimized and goes to bed being a victim.  (This was 90% of the books my kids were assigned in school.)  You don’t need to raise our awareness that victims exist.  Anyone who has survived middle school knows that.  And we’re all of us victimized enough that we’re far more interested in the story (often a fantasy, but still heartwarming) of the victim overcoming oppression. That is more likely to give us strength to go on another day.

And this gets us back to what “good books” are.

Once upon a time, in the beginning of the present literary culture, what was considered “good literature” was that which bore the signs that its author had an excellent classical education.

Part of the reason this was important is that books were expensive, and while — because we’re human — a lot of them would have a ludic undertone, such as the stories of Arthur, they were also supposed to serve a greater purpose, so you could justify buying the d*mn book.  Even onto Shakespeare’s time there was supposed to be an educational purpose, yeah, even to the plays that made the groundlings throw their greasy caps in the air in joy.  So things were advertised as “the most piteous and instructive tragedy” etc.  For enlightenment see the end of Romeo and Juliet.

Now both the legends of Arthur and Shakespeare were not “high literature” (no really) and therefore wouldn’t have references to classical antiquity.  Marlowe, otoh, who was far better educated than Shakespeare couldn’t help himself and not only wove classical references (and took the themes of his plays from classical stories) but also is said to have written stage instructions in Latin (which the actors crossed out and wrote above, at least according to one of the biographies I read.)

You can find marks of this “I had a good classical education” in the classical references that hit you out of nowhere in nineteenth and even early twentieth century books.

There was a (justifiable) rebellion against this in the early twentieth century.  Probably as a result of World War One, which was viewed as a madness of the elites, people sought “authentic” experiences to write about, and for a little while, because let’s face it, they were rebelling against a literature that never existed, where everything was noble and good (no, not even Victorian literature was like that.  That’s why novels were considered bad influences) this devolved to, as Agatha Christie speaking through her Miss Marple characterized it  unpleasant people doing unpleasant things in the most unbelievable of ways.

But nature abhors a vacuum, and so does intellectual snobbery. Partly because these novels weren’t any fun and people didn’t want to read them, they needed the shelter or academia to “empower” the authors and tell them they were ever so much better than their stuffy predecessors.

And the Academia, by the middle twentieth century was thoroughly infested with Marxist thought (though often not called by that name.)  There was a time there, between the end of World War One and the end of World War Two where the new hotness to show how educated you were was pseudo-Freudianism.  And even if Freud hadn’t by now been thoroughly discredited, what these people thought of as psychological was something even Freud wouldn’t recognize.  If you come across one of these, you’ll be caught up between a desire to throw the book against the nearest wall and laughing to hard to do it.

But for the last sixty or seventy years, the way to signal your “hotness” sorry, your “good literary credentials” was to preach Marxism, in whatever incarnation it took at the time.  A lot of it started with the oppressed proletarian, and now it’s devolved to the rather bastardized version of Marxism taught in our best colleges (which like the Freudianism mentioned above, would give Marx himself kitten fits.)  The proletariat having proved less than amenable to revolution, the true revolutionary force is sought in far distant places, in people oppressed by colonialism, and in that most rare and obscure of creatures, the oppressed woman.  (There are oppressed women aplenty, just as there are oppressed men aplenty.  And some women might be hated because they are women. Most of those are abroad, though, and our feminists can neither mention them nor help them, as that would be “colonialism” and also little brownz peoplez are always right and their culture is precious.  There are some women in our midst who are oppressed theoretically for being women.  What they’re really oppressed for is being themselves and the sort of people who allow it, since the law is on their side in escaping oppression, and there are plenty of groups to help them.  But never mind.)

Because Marxism like the puritans (with whom it shares a number o characteristics and in fact it’s not amazing the same families who were once puritans now fall into Marxism) believed that humans should be USEFUL, rather than simply being — and trust me, I was raised this way and one of the motos inscribed in one of my notebooks for high school was “The important thing is not to be happy but to be useful” — even though books are cheap enough to justify spending money on them simply to “enjoy”, people feel guilty about simply “enjoying” a story.  So a book must be “good for something” and advance the causes that are pushed in the best educational establishments: Equality (of results), Diversity (of skin color) and Feminism (of the all men oppress women by existing, because penis, variety.)

Which means to excellently educated people, including those who don’t consciously buy into the Marxist vision, finding these “markers” in a book makes the book “good.”  The most piteous tragedy of the oppressed woman is instructional and therefore can be enjoyed, and in fact MUST be enjoyed, even if you doze multiple times in the course of reading it, and end up downing three pots of coffee just to finish the novel… and even if you sometimes don’t finish the novel.  You know these are novels your literature professors would approve of, and therefore are sure it is a “good” book.

This vision collides at a fundamental level with that most of the Sad Puppies supporters have.  THAT vision is that reading is a ludic endeavor.  It exists to be enjoyed.  We are not interested in whether it advances the cause of social progress, the cause of social retrogress or no cause at all.  We don’t believe that the purpose of literature is to be useful, but to be enjoyed.

We think “good” in a novel or story depends on how deeply it moves us, how much it stays with us, what impact it has on us and our life.

We don’t count heads, or try to figure out if every woman, including the walk in in the third chapter is a “well rounded” character.  We couldn’t care less.  We just care that characters speak to us, and the plot makes us experience something that moves us, and stays with us.

Btw, unlike the other side (and possibly because the other side needs SOMETHING to make their academic-status-pushing books bearable) we don’t even care if the characters look (or think) like us.

I’ve been doing a tour of early science fiction, and yes, most of the characters are men, and many of them are in the hard sciences.  And yet, I fell in love with these books as a young girl in Portugal.  The characters didn’t look like me, and their culture was not like the culture I lived in — and why should this matter in science fiction, a literature of the strange? — but they were identifiably human, and like me they longed for adventure, interesting scientific developments, and human expansion.

A lot of these books are even confidently socialist or communist, having been written by communist or socialist authors.

But the books take very few pauses to preach.  The writers’ beliefs are just baked into the world building and how people react.  THAT doesn’t disturb me.

I’ve also recently come across some books (mostly indie) who do the “preaching and useful” thing, but do it from the right.  I’ve found my distaste of Piers Plowman type stories is not confined to those that push feminism and diversity. Those that mock people who push feminism and diversity with just as heavy a hand as those people use, also meet the wall with force.

This is because my main purpose in reading is ludic.  My interest in story is that it allows me to experience something out of the scope of my days.  My interest in reading over movies or games, is that it allows me to be INSIDE someone else’s head for a while.  It allows me to escape the space behind the eyes.  Now I have nothing against the space behind my eyes, but I think it’s interesting to “be” someone else now and then.  I also think it makes me a more rounded and better person in the long run, but that’s not why I read books that allow me to “escape.”  I do it, because the books are enjoyable and I enjoy them.  It is the reason I started reading for pleasure.

I knew the other side had issues with this, when the feminists started complaining about “escapism” in both books and games, and insisting that we should do these things for some reason that had nothing to do with entertainment, but more with “raising consciousness” which is modern for “being morally educated.”

They assume that because we don’t want to be preached at we must oppose the aims of the preaching, instead of our viewing books as completely different objects than they do.

We won’t change them, of course.

However, with Marx now entering his final phase of discomfirmation as a prophet, and with our universities teethering on the verge of irrelevancy, certainly for all non-stem disciplines, we will need a new theory of literary criticism.

Yes, I know it couldn’t matter less to the rest of us, but to the extent literature is an academic subject and that it is even important to study, insofar as it’s part of the history of western thought, there needs to be a theory by which academics can identify what is “good” and those interested in academic acclaim might put such markers in their stories.

I propose we go back to the Greeks.  A good literary work makes you experience Catharsis.  I’d add a good literary work speaks to people across the generations and sometimes across difficulty of changed language.

If you combine those two, you get a work that can be enjoyed at a pure ludic level too.  What this means is basically that good works can be enjoyed.

And while I’m sure that even mass murderers and thieves can enjoy literature at this level, I’m not ashamed to enjoy it, nor do I think it associates me with them, except to the extent I’m human.

Liking good stories is a human thing, that has been going on since we’ve been human (and maybe before according to some stuff I’ve read.)

I’m not now, nor have I ever been ashamed of being human.

264 responses to “Good

  1. Good grief. Against such logic how can one argue?

    Totalitarian Marxist dictatorships demand all fiction serve to advance messages which instruct readers in proper thinking. Puppy kickers demand fiction provide messages about proper thinking. Totalitarian Marxist dictatorships slaughtered more than 100 million people in the last century; are Puppy Kickers ashamed of themselves now?

  2. One problem is that so-called “feminists” (especially those of the SJW persuasion) are actually nothing of the sort. They are female-supremicists.

    They do not believe in equality of opportunity for males and females which, as I recall, was the classic definition of “feminism.” They believe in the superiority of the female sex, and it naturally follows that they advocate (all too successfully, unfortunately) the subjugation of all males to females.

    Let’s call them what they are. They are sexual-totalitarians. Misandrists. Androphobes.

    Female-supremicists.

  3. Liking good stories is a human thing, that has been going on since we’ve been human (and maybe before according to some stuff I’ve read.)

    Not limited to humans. }:o) Moo.

  4. …believed that humans should be USEFUL…

    I am reminded of the joke/story of the little boy (or girl) who asks the question, “Why are we here?” and gets the answer, “To help others.” But rather than leave it at that, there is some pondering and then the new question is asked, “Why are the others here?”

    • For some reason that reminds me of the engineer joke about the blind players on the green ahead of them. “Why can’t they play in the dark?”

  5. Another bromide: “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

    • The first time I heard ‘bromide’ used thus, I was not aware of the meaning derived from the soporific effects of bromide salts, and thus pondered the meanings that might be had for/with the other halogens.

  6. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    I’m not now, nor have I ever been ashamed of being human.

    But But… I thought you were a Dragon (just as I am)! 😉

  7. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Mao was apparently a bibliophile.

  8. > However, with Marx now entering his final
    > phase of discomfirmation as a prophet

    What I’ve found is that most Americans wouldn’t know Marxism if someone tattooed “Das Kapital” on their forehead. Some of the most hardcore Marxists I’ve met called it something else, and were completely ignorant of what Marxism *is*.

    Because if you study it, you must agree with it, right? Better to be ignorant than converted. Arrgh.

    • I had an argument with someone who was clearly advocating socialist policies, and even agreed with the phrase, “From each according to ability, to each according to their need,” but swore up and down he wasn’t a Marxist.

      Even after I told him that quote was the core of Marxism, even.

      So stupid. Much derp.

      • Shall we go into business making lighters or candles or fuels named or labelled The Stupid? Then we can use the line, “The Stupid – it burns!” in advertising.

      • Simply because a concept is supported by Marxists does not make it essentially bad … it just makes the probability quite high. Defining a policy as socialist is not the same as arguing its ill-effects; we must avoid the fallacies of our opponents in our own arguments.

        Socialist policies, by drawing on the errors of mercantilists, expertise-cultists and other poisonous wells can be demonstrated to be bad without resort to labeling. For example, the phrase, “From each according to ability, to each according to their need,” can be proven a simulacra for actual thought by the simple question, “Who determined a person’s ability, who determines their needs?”

        • At the base (disregarding “who decides”) – that is the one “tenet” of Marxism that actually makes perfect sense. Of course, it is the one thing that cannot be accomplished by the entire dogma.

          A truly free market maximizes the contributions by each person’s ability – and a moral society ensures that each person gets what they need.

          Nothing is perfect, of course – there will be the slackers, and there will be the victims, in any economic / political system, including capitalism / classical liberalism. But Marxism / socialism / aristocracy (as currently represented by the “progressives”) – maximize the slackers and victims.

          • *nod* It is a wonderful statement of an ideal that any culture that is Christian is built around– but it takes that ideal and tries to force it. You can’t force love, and attempting to do it makes a monstrous mockery.

            Now, actual social justice– not what they stole the term to mean– would mean looking and examining to see if a ‘free market’ did, indeed, make it so that people are able to give their most, freely. The details matter– it’s got to be free in the sense of being actually free to make the right choice rather than just in the sense of “no rules*,” so you can’t have undue influence, all kinds of really messy details– but I think some form of free market would win.

            * “And when you have cut down all the laws of England, and the devil turns around at you, where will you hide?”

            • Every time some Leftist tries to tell me Christ would be in favor of some government program “for the poor”, I ask for the verse in the Gospels where He defined charity as sending out the legions to steal at spearpoint so some politician can make a public spectacle.

              Head detonation follows swiftly.

        • Why, the children of the founder of Twentieth Century Motor Company.

      • I’ve tried asking the “from each…” etc. crowd who decides, and the belief that there could exist someone capable of making that decision for anyone AND incapable of being corrupted is… mind-boggling.

        • The biggest flaw of communism and socialism may well be that it completely ignores human nature. They actually think that corruptible people won’t be drawn to power like a moth to a flame.

          Of course, some seem to think there is no opportunity for power in such a system. Those are a special kind of stupid.

          • Well, yes. Exactly. Human nature isn’t that hard, but it takes a really special “talent” to build a system so completely antithetical to it.

    • I studied it in three courses. Kids now study it in school too. This is good. It made me see all holes.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Of course they don’t know. The Left has spent 50 years whitewashing Marx and normalizing his idiocy. You try to bring up the evils of communism and most people will reflexively counter, “But the Blacklist!” as if there’s any equivalence.

    • Said regarding Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Ökonomie Because if you study it, you must agree with it, right?

      I have studied many a thing with which I do not agree without changing my opinion on the matter.

      It might be argued that if you are able to read Herr Marx’s tome in significant doses at a given sitting it proves you an insomniac. I have heard that prolonged lack of sleep can cause one’s brain to go funny.

  9. As an author, I found I had a message I desperately needed to get out.

    So I put it in a book. In and of itself, I have no issue with putting a message into a book.

    Just do like I did and make it a nonfiction book for crying out loud. Fiction should be entertaining, for Pete’s sake!

    • Perhaps it’s that some put a message in a book, rather than merely wrapped a book around a message? Fiction can be substrate for message, but that should not be the primary purpose. Too much dopant and not enough substrate and the result is.. er… dopey.

    • I’m fine with message-fic, so long as good plot and story and characters take first position, with the message woven subtly into it all.

      Many of Bujold’s books are fantastic examples of doing that right, I’ve always felt. And it’s not hard to find the message, with a little bit of thought–but the message isn’t the center of it all, nor are you beat over the head with it. It’s there, it helps drive the plot’s actions, but not as a ginormous club. 😀

      • I’d argue that’s not message fic. That’s fiction with a message, and I did a guest post here at Sarah’s detailing the difference some time back.

      • I have been accused of message fic in AFGM, but honestly that wasn’t the idea at all. it was rather the playing out of what the characters believed or didn’t believe.

      • Note that what I oppose in the books that this gentleman approves of is “conscious” feminist and whatever fiction. Conscious means it’s not in the world design or the character’s story line. No. It’s shoved in with a shovel and possibly a pick ax.

        • Yeah. That’s the obnoxious kind of message fic. If you have to beat someone over the head with your message, you’re doing it wrong… 😀

      • There’s stories that start with the inspiration of a message. They are much, much, much harder than any other form of inspiration’s starting points, but they can achieve storydom.

    • Paraphrasing the words of the old AFRTS motto “To inform and entertain” – that is why I write historical fiction – to teach history painlessly by making it into a ripping good yarn. The Luna City books are more pure entertainment, though.
      But the key part as always – is to entertain. Otherwise, just a sermon and a damned dull one at that.

      • That’s my issue with actual message fiction. They’re more worried about the message than entertaining, and if that’s the case, just write a nonfiction book.

        If you want to use your personal worldview to create a story that’s pretty awesome, sweet. I’ll be interested in reading it. Otherwise? Forget it.

        • Any hack can write a message and wrap a story around it. It takes skill and talent to write a story which expresses a worldview of such coherence as to convey a message to those with the perception to comprehend.

  10. DSQ (Defenders of the Status Quo, aka Puppy Kickers) seem to be omitting several relevant steps in their arguments. “Escapism” is not, prima facie, bad literature. Literature with no “escapist” (or adventurous) component is not prima facie, good. Such criticism is comparable to complaining that a Miata lacks trunk space.

    The DSQ seek to supercede argument by defining their preferences (aka, biases, prejudices and/or discrimination) as “good” without offering any argument in support of such chauvinistic leaning. Their criticism of Puppy-favored reading matter has been tautological and ad hominem rather than well founded.

    It is almost as if they have no argument for their preferential reading and thus must resort to call all other reading fit only for poopy-heads.

    • To mess up a Tolkien quote on escapism:

      “If a man is in prison, why should he not escape…or if he cannot, why should he not at least think of things other than the walls and bars of his cell?”

      • “I never fully understood it till my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, ‘What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and most hostile to, the idea of escape?’ and gave the obvious answer: jailers.”
        – CS Lewis

    • I think that’s a big part of their worldview: “How dare you not like what I like and tell you to like, and like something I’ve decided you shouldn’t!”

  11. > I do it, because the books are enjoyable and I enjoy
    > them. It is the reason I started reading for pleasure.

    I know several people who have no problem reading for information. But it would never occur to them to read a book for entertainment.

    The schlock the schools tried to force down their throats put them off the entire concept.

  12. The racial thing has always struck me as particularly stupid for fantasy/sci-fi. Most of my stories are set thousands of years in the future on planets many light years from Earth. On such a world, what the heck does “Hispanic” or “Asian” or “African” even mean? Any character in this world, even if hypothetically speaking he was descended purely from people from the Island of Japan let’s say, would have less of a connection to Asia than I do to Africa and would never think of himself as Asian. There are different races in my world, but they are distinctions that don’t exist at our time, and mapping them to existing races seems beyond absurd.

    It’s even dumber in fantasy, worlds where Asia, Africa, and the Iberian Peninsula never even existed. And yet those worlds are still accused of “whitewashing” (unless they’re based on a non-European culture, in which case they get accused of “cultural appropriation”).

    • One of the giggles I had writing the steampunk novel (unpublished as of yet) was having characters praise a “couple” for their child, and the man (who is black and providing cover for the woman and vice versa) rolls his eyes, shakes his head, and wonders what in the name of little green apples the people are thinking (the child is fair, like the mother.)

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        That sounds interesting.

      • What? It couldn’t possibly turn out that way? Maybe not likely, but certainly possible. Some just can’t accept that.

        • I think it IS possible, but yes, very unlikely. Just like it’s possible for a couple who don’t know they have black ancestors to have a baby who, shall we say, leads the father to think his wife has been fooling around on him.

          • The wonders of pleiotropic traits and recessive genes.

          • There are several documented instances of black & white twins, where one looks dark and the other incredibly fair. All you need is two mixed-race parents and the genetic bingo can begin. You can also get black kids with red hair—that usually points to Caribbean ancestry, since there were a lot of Irish sent there as well. (Did fascinating things to the accent on a few of the islands.)

          • The higher-dollar doctors offices will actually give genetic counseling about this if they realize one of the (apparently WASP) couple has or might have “black” ancestors– enough of the tribes have the risk that my neighbor’s daughter got to see the fireworks first hand when two blond, hazel-blue eyed folks who had the infamous “my grandmother/great grandmother/GGgrand was an Indian” that they knew about…had a “black” baby, and they added Indian ancestry to the list of folks they’d give a chat to. (DNA tested the baby and straightened things out.)

            I don’t remember what the chances are, but there was a neat story in the UK papers a while back about a black guy and his central-casting-sent-you-a-blonde-English-lady wife who had twins…boys, I think, one white, one black. It was pretty cool, their hair even matched up with their skin and everything, although from memory the dad is one of those guys with a sort of Jaffar type facial build so no way to tell how much alike they’ll look as adults.

            If you can find that story, I know it had the chances listed.

            • That’s slightly better than the story I was thinking of – twins boys from mixed-race parents, one looks black, one looks white, and the white one gets harassed and bullied for his appearance, while his twin is exceedingly popular is school.

        • Remember, steampunk, and he’s an engineer, not a biologist (although he learns farm stuff pretty quickly.)

        • Oh my goodness, check this out– I was looking at the pictures of “different race twins” and kind of rolling my eyes, because these two girls look so much alike, but– they’re natural identical twins. The zygote split.

          http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/news/a37038/mixed-race-twins-different-skin-colors/

          That is SO COOL!

    • I use the broad definitions in the science fiction stories I have written so far, “African”, “Asian”, and etc, but I try to make clear that they have lost any other meaning except referring to general looks and are used only as a shorthand when it is necessary to describe how somebody looks. The stories happen in pretty distant future, on terraformed worlds, but while they have FTL at the time the stories happen those world were originally terraformed and then populated was by slower than light ships (the first wave of colonists also traveled in hibernation, also, there were several different waves of colonisation, several starting from older colonies instead of Earth) so the cultures and people are not unimaginably far removed from our own.

      However, the colonies have developed their own cultures from the amalgam of the people who went to each had, and while the cultures may still have bits which might be familiar to us those and the genetic mixes don’t necessary match at all in the way you’d think based on what you get now. So you might get a group which had enough African colonists that the generic look became dominant, however the culture they had ended up being something of a mix of Japanese and Russian cultures with a bit of some other influences thrown in because enough of the colonists had grown up in earlier colonies which had had mostly those influences shape their culture, and let’s say those African genetics had come from an older mostly Russian colony which had maybe become to be populated by mostly African looking people because it had gotten several waves of immigrants with those genetics, but who had come in slowly enough that they had mostly lost their original cultures and adopted that of their new home.

    • If you’re going to be accused of something heinous no matter what you write, you’re free to write whatever you desire to!

  13. > science fiction, a literature of the strange?

    Something I noticed recently, looking at some modern anthologies… quite a few now call themselves “Speculative Fiction” instead of “Science Fiction.” So far, it looks like “Speculative” is where the grey goo is accumulating.

    “Boring people not doing anything of interest.” Yay! (?)

    • “Speculative” came out of the New Wave, back in the late ’60s as I recall. It was very often a flag for experimental in form and not very interesting in content.

    • Hmm…I’ve always liked the term “speculative fiction” as a good cover for sci fi/fantasy/horror/alternate history/everything writing about a world not the real one. It seemed especially appropriate for modern sci-fi given that much of the stuff we like to write about (FTL travel, psychic powers) science has pretty much said is impossible, so the “science fiction” seems a bit of a stretch.

      If, however, “speculative fiction” has been taken over by the grey goo folks…well, I guess it’s one more reason to hate them.

    • Once upon a time (alright, it was probably 1979 and then for some years later) I listened to a radio program, Mindwebs ( http://www.otrplotspot.com/mindwebs.html ) that had an introduction that used stereo to effect and called itself “speculative fiction.” I didn’t read many of the stories of it then, but have since – sometimes wondering why they seemed oddly familiar, and this where I likely first encountered many SF authors. I know I listened to a good many of the stories, but only recall for sure a few of them.

  14. Professor Badness

    I hated most of the crap they handed me in public school. I realized then that forcing kids to read this drek would only make them hate reading even more.
    The rare book that was actually enjoyable was always a surprise.
    A class in college covering YA Lit. was equally depressing, (due to what was being offered). I was fortunate to go to a church school, and the class did not focus on trying to teach messages from the fiction. It was just a review of what was available.

    • I was fortunate to go to a church school

      It is amusing to consider that the DSQ disdain most cntemporary “Christian” art as banal and jejune yet are incapable of distinguishing such qualities in their own preferred art.

    • There was no such thing as an enjoyable book in class. Not even Shakespeare. Though his amazing genius was that I could still enjoy him right after reading him in English class. It could taint works that I had enjoyed before and (quite a bit) after.

      • I was fortunate enough to not read Shakespeare until college. I had seen several of the plays (well produced), so I was able to visualize while reading. TBH, the plays are incredibly boring reading. To me, English classes should restrict Shakespeare reading to the sonnets – and show DVDs of the plays (or where they have a good summer stock company, take the class there).

  15. It took me a while to fully grasp the concept, but “Because I like it” is all the justification for any personal preference about how I spend my three-score and ten and the component hours thereof.

    I certainly have no need to impress or seek the approval of those who are demonstrably foolish — to grant the Puppy-Kickers the most charitable possible excuse for their bigotry.

    The most telling possible rebuttal to all such arguments is “What’s it to you, and why should I care?”

    No, I am not interested in enhancing the respectability of my preferred genre amongst those who have rendered other genres unreadable.

    No, I am not interested in adding arbitrarily imposed “literary” markers to the genres I read for diversion. Of what benefit would it be?

    No, I am not interested in promoting “diversity” as defined by the shallow and superficial standards they advocate. What benefit does that offer?

    I look upon their preferences and I condemn them as spinach and I say to Hell with it.

    I can find no place in my own opinions for those of idiots who imagine their own biases to be holy writ.

    • Professor Badness

      I work in a public library. I get many patrons embarrassed to ask for help. They are looking for My Little Pony, star wars, Doctor Who, any of a variety of manga/anime, D&D or anything Furry related.
      They seem to think I am an academic that will look down on their proclivities. The astonishment on many a face is priceless as I begin to discuss the esoteric geekyness.
      I don’t judge (usually) because I know my own tastes are just as weird.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        There are “My Little Pony” books????? [Shocked]

        Note, I can think of worse books than that. 😉

        • Worse books than “My Little Pony”?

          Such as “My Little Hobby Horse”?

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Such as “My Little Hobby Horse”?

            Since I thought of SJWs books when I saw that, yes. 😈

        • Professor Badness

          There is a MY Little Pony expansion manual for the Pathfinder RPG.
          Consider your mind blown.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Not “blown”, just surprised. 😀

            • Professor Badness

              Sorry, I should have considered the audience.
              These or the sorts of things you come across as a librarian.

          • Huh. Though considering there are tabletops for pretty much everything else…

            I mean, if I had a little girl (or boy, I’ve met a couple) who was mad for My Little Pony and I wanted to introduce them to the joys of tabletop gaming…forget mind-blown, I think I’m ecstatic!!! (Especially since Pathfinder is such an easy system to learn!)

            • I found a gaming system that I think is perfect for writers and story-tellers: One Last Job. In that system, there are no stats or character creation–everything is done by telling stories about the other player-characters. I think the system is free for download, but if not it doesn’t cost much.

            • Professor Badness

              It started with “Ponies for Pathfinder”, but the popularity exploded and now there is a series of “Ponyfinder” manuals.
              Enjoy!

              • Wow. Just wow. Excuse me while I do a data dump – erase the last 5 minutes from the memory banks.

                I got my girls playing full-up D&D – no way am I backsliding and DM-ing (or is that PM-ing (Pony-Master)) a My Little Pony adventure….. I guess I found one of those geek lines I am not willing to cross…

                But I can also feel my will weakening… Next time I am at the game store I will have to see if they carry them.

                Not the best thing I have learned on this website – but maybe it can be a gateway drug to D&D – and maybe get some of their friends interested in playing it too……

                -John

                • SheSellsSeashells

                  I have to tell my story on the Kid here; I took her to a kids’ D&D campaign run by the local game store. I filled in to provide firepower but let them do all the thinking, which provided…interesting results.

                  The GM had provided them with a carefully structured series of escalating fights: head into the woods, run across three wimpy goblin scouts; take the obvious path after that, and find a cave with two owlbears before blundering into a five-mean-orc camp.

                  But KIDS.

                  They wiped up the wimpy goblins, sent my daughter the druid in wolf form to scout ahead. She found both the owlbears and the orcs without being seen and trotted back to report. Five minutes of furious planning later, they tied goblin entrails to a rope, tied the rope to the aforementioned daughter-the-wolf, and send her careening past the owlbears and into the orc camp, now with hungry owlbears chasing her. We stood there and watched the ensuing orc-and-monster throwdown, mopped up the surviving exsanguinated orc, and watched the GM, through a teeth-clenched smile, intone “…that was *clever*”.

                  • NICE!

                    GMs who get bent out of shape by player cleverness don’t stay GMs for long, in my experience. RPGer since 1979.

                    • Okay, when I was new to RPG, we played MERPs (a variation on GURPs) – one of the problems with this system is that die-rolling is open-ended up. You roll a 97-99 and then you get to roll again and add the resulting number to the first one. (rolls are on d100). I say “problem” because I have been known to break games with die rolls (and a craps table or two – four hard eights in a row with a fellow better tossing black chips on the table will do that).

                      Anyway. At the end of the adventure, they had a master wizard – we weren’t supposed to defeat him but the second problem with MERPs is that you need to concentrate to cast a spell, and every combat phase one of us would sting him for one HP worth of damage so he couldn’t cast his “teleport away” spell. (second problem with the game system – some spells should be castable without waiting for a damage free turn or your wizards will die death from a thousand papers cuts).

                      Anyway we killed him (I fireballed his cat/familiar because my magic couldn’t touch HIM). Then found his lair. We saw a chest through a doorway – his loot (and boy was it good – the designer never intended for anyone to get to it).

                      Well, we tried to get to it, but it was protected by a fear spell. We all tried it once then decided we would go away. I rolled a 98, followed by a 99, followed by a 92 (I did say I break dice systems) for a combined roll of 289. I passed. But then we had a problem. I was next to the chest but I couldn’t open it. The rest of the party was on the other side of the doorway.

                      So we tossed a rope back, tied it to the thief, and dragged him through the opening (he actually failed his saving throw so badly that he passed out from fear). So they tossed me some sandwiches. Eventually he woke up, picked the lock on the chest – and we all had some MAJOR loot to play with.

                      -John

                      Ah, fun days…..

                      PS: Your daughter-the-wolf is a much better story though – great creativity and tactics from those kids!

                • Polliwog the 'Ette

                  Ten years ago my late husband thought it would be fun to develop and run a campaign based on the manga/anime Tokyo MewMew (why yes, we do have girls and the oldest was 9 at the time). It never got past the planning stage and now they play “real” D&D, but I think it would have been fun.

                  The most hilarious thing about the My Little Pony system is that WotC/Paizo announced they were making one *as an April Fool’s joke* about ten years ago. To see that it now exists is highly amusing.

            • I’m sure more than a few of you (particularly those of you who play videogames) have heard of the Polish fantasy novel series “The Witcher.” A Polish video game company, CD Projekt Red, picked up the story after the novels ended, and produced a series of three generally well-liked Witcher video games using the same protagonist and supporting characters. The video games did surprisingly well, so someone made a board game loosely based off of the video games. That board game then underwent a direct port to video game format (i.e. the port of the board game plays exactly like the board game, except on a computer instead of a table top).

              So it’s a video game that’s a direct port of a board game based on a video game that is an adaptation of a series of novels.

        • Too bad Pratchett didn’t expand My Little Binky beyond the gift set Death sent his granddaughter.

        • There are what amount to re-writes of the (standard issue horrible “see spot run”) MLP books from the 80s, there are what amount to aimed-at-beginning-readers novelizations (usually with pictures) of the show or movies, and there are novel type books. (The ones the Princess has are about on the level of a good ’80s comic book for writing skill. The MLP:FIM folks have done a GOOD job of protecting their intellectual investment. Even the “all the ponies as humanoids” expansion actually made sense and is fun.)

    • I am still confused and astonished to meet people who buy books because they think it will ‘impress’ people, not because they want to read them or because they enjoy them.

      I mean, yeah, I leave books out where people can see them, but that’s ’cause I’m hoping they’ll ask “Is that book any good!” and I can try and introduce them to the joys of my favorite authors. In college, I held story-time for grownups for the exact same reason. I’m good at reading aloud–I do voices and everything!!–and I got soooo many friends/acquaintances hooked on Bujold and Pratchett that way. (Those two seem particularly enjoyable to read out loud.)

      • Back in the early 1990s someone gave me a couple of “romance-SF” novels. They both had the usual lurid romance-style “muscle man in ripped shirt with clinging girl” covers.

        Being quite macho and confident in my heterosexuality, I was reading one at lunch in Pizza Hut one afternoon when the waitress snatched it out of my hand, looked at it, and exclaimed, “Wow, this one looks really good!”

        Um, yeah. I suspect there’s some kind of hidden signaling system in that kind of cover art, like Dale Brown style Masonic inscriptions or CIA analysts interpreting the order of dignitaries atop Lenin’s tomb. To my untutored eye the covers are all so similar as to be interchangeable…

        • I feel rather the same way when I encounter someone wearing a geeky t-shirt of a fandom I’m familiar with…

          Alas, that is one of the (few) drawbacks to kindle/ereaders: while it has cut down on embarassment regarding reading books with lurid covers in publics for many, it also means fewer people strike up a fellow-reader conversation with one. (Which is different to the ‘bothering-you-because-people-don’t-really-read’ type of conversation, of course.)

          I confess to being rather curious, though, as scifi-bodice rippers are one of the rarer forms of the breed. D’you remember titles, by chance?

          (I do recall that one Jayne Anne Krentz(?) who was quite a famous romance author under either that name or another one, had a whole series of romances set in space…)

          • “Romance….In…Spaaaaaaace!”

            (Sorry couldn’t resist ^_^)

          • Authors need to sell t-shirts of their e-novel covers.

            This is totally unrelated to my desire to have a “Count Taka and the Vampire Brides” t-shirt. Totally.

          • No, unfortunately.

            I was talking to a bookstore owner (Beth Anne’s Bookstore in Colorado Springs) about how much shelf space seemed to be taken up with romances, and she told me that “romance” had diversified into romance-horror, romance-Western, romance-SF… they were distinguished by different “imprints” from the regular romance publishers. I left with a couple to see what they were like.

            Unfortunately, the romance parts overwhelmed the SF parts, and I’ve avoided them since. Romance in general seems to require characters to behave in ways that I find, if not outright unbelievable, then highly unlikely, and when the whole story revolves around that, I fall off the merry-go-round…

          • Anne McCaffrey had at least one. Restoree. Quite a good concept novel, as it turns out, and the sex is not gratuitous or deeply described. She also had a short story that was a total bodice ripper, though when she expanded it into a series of books later, she downplayed and delayed the sex by quite a bit.

        • Yep, there’s a lot of cover signaling, both of genre, sub genre, and tropes used in this particular book. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the deconstruction. 😛

          Sadly, while there’s a distinct and growing subgenre of romance that uses SciFi as a setting, there’s a lack of SciFi with a good romance character arc. The difference lies in the tropes: the former has SF as window dressing, and ignores or outright denies the reader the standard SF-tropes, only having romance ones, while the latter – the latter is full of SF tropes and plot, and sneakily inserts the romance tropes and plot where most fans are too busy enjoying the story to wonder about the tropes they don’t recognize. (When it does kick them out, you’ll often see “if the protagonist doesn’t care about her appearance, why does she describe every darned outfit?” or “Man, the hero spent way too much time navelgazing about the girl instead of just kicking the enemy’s butt!” or “Yeah, yeah, all this chatting about feelings… can we get them out of the elevator yet? They’ve been trapped for forever, with nothing happening!”)

          In fact, the only two I can think of off the top of my head for SF romance that satisfies both genre readers are Katherine Asaro and Bujold. (A Civil Campaign was an awesome Regency Romance in spaaaaaace.)

          • Polliwog the 'Ette

            Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is also totally Regency romance set in space. Bujold at her best is very close to Heyer in writing witty repartee.

            • Romance novels have navelgazing, belovedgazing, and sex scenes where an opera or musical would have songs, musical numbers, and duets. Heyeresque romance has less of that, so it is easier for non-romance readers to enjoy.

  16. And we’re all of us victimized enough that we’re far more interested in the story (often a fantasy, but still heartwarming) of the victim overcoming oppression. That is more likely to give us strength to go on another day.

    I don’t read or watch for self-affirmation. I have enjoyed a very wide range of stories told in various media formats.

    I readily admit that I am such a philistine that I don’t care which or whose this philosophical position is advocated. If I find the story and its characters to be engaging and well told I will not reject it out of hand. When the only thing to be said in favor of a story is that it expresses a particular world view I won’t enjoy it. This is a position I hold to even when the material is in overall agreement with my own world view.

    If the material simply insults me with layers of unsupported nonsense upon unsupported nonsense and tokenism? Why waste the any of the valuable limited resource of my time upon it?

    Still, I do prefer inspiration.

  17. *holds up little “Human Wave 4 Ever” flag*
    And it isn’t even escapism. Pure escapism would be as deadly as the Isle of the Lotos-eaters, nothing but bonbons and lounging and no FUN or Adventures, which, lets face it, oft times mean being late for dinner. Or so I have heard. What they are really complaining about is the possibility of readers seeing an escape from the SJW dungeon of thought. Stories about good people doing right even when they haven’t been hectored into doing so, or doing things the SJW’s think they shouldn’t.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      As I like to say, you can make a point with a story, without stabbing the reader with it.

  18. >our universities teethering on the verge of irrelevancy<

    Image: Bespectalcled fellow clad in the robes of Academe, suspended by his choppers clamped firmly, no, desperately, upon the root of a gnarled tree hanging on the edge of a high cliff – and rocks and clots of earth are crumbling into the abyss.

  19. Isn’t that the fallacy of affirming the consequent?

  20. I have only two books I gave up on: FURY, by A.E. Van Vogt; and Catch-22.
    C-22 just made no sense to me. Then I went into the AF. Picked it up at home on my way to first assignment, found it hilarious. Read it again 5 years later, found it tragic. Another 5 years, I found it both.

    • Really? I give up on books all the time. Rarely I go back later and change my mind; for example, I couldn’t get through The Phoenix Guards, but then I took a look at Five Hundred Years After, got the joke of its being an imitation of Dumas, went back and tried The Phoenix Guards again, and loved it (in fact I enjoy Paarfi of Roundwood’s narrative style much more than Steven Brust’s). Other books I never go back to; for example, I’m not planning another try at David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, or Terry Goodkind’s fantasy series, whatever it’s called.

      • Those be the only ones I remember.

        • I don’t usually give up on books, but I did try Wicked and had to drop that one quickly (I was at mom’s and needed reading material – and that was all that was at hand when I had to rush over).

          Of course, I love Weber’s Honor Harrington series – but that is just personal taste.

          -John

      • Polliwog the 'Ette

        Ha, someone else who has read those. I was a little disappointed that The Three Muskateers wasn’t much like those, but the phrasing of Ten Years Later (and apparently there’s a book I missed between them) is spot on to the Brust books.

        • Most Three Musketters translations are dumbed down, which is why Tor reprinted a particular translation that Brust liked. Same thing with The Count of Monte Cristo translation used in school -abridged and de-humored.

  21. One of my friends was recently asking for suggestions for books with a particular type of minority as the main character (I don’t remember which, but may have been either trans or some particular disability). i didn’t confront them about what good it would do to read about “someone like yourself”. Instead, I tried to think of reasons. Reading this post brought the subject to mind again, and I finally thought of a good reason: To learn alternate ways of coping with whatever difficulties that kind of person would reasonably expect to endure in life, that are different from those of others.

    Now, I’m not at all convinced that there are as many types of problems that one group has that are not similar enough to those of everyone else as the SJWs seem to think there are, but there are some.

    But for most of the time, seeking out characters who are like you? Holy crap, a character like ME would be one of the most boring people to read about ever, and if that character ran up against anything that we consider exciting to read about, he’d probably end up as one of the statistics, while someone else saved everything. I don’t read about people like me: Harry Dresden is a wizard, for crying out loud. One of my favorite characters in other books is a militarily cybernetic-enhanced woman (similar to Johnny Cobra) whose eventual good friend is a 7-foot tall Praying Mantis alien. I also like Sabrina Chase’s Argonauts of Space series, whose main character is a woman. All kinds of others.

    • Most of books I read, if I inserted my real self into them – it would be a high aspiration to achieve red shirt status. Far more likely, I would simply be one of the “cast of thousands (millions)” that are vaporized with a single sentence…

    • Yep. I occasionally think that the reactions to my life as the subject of a book would range from “Bo-o-ring!” through “Zzzz. Huh? Is it that late already?” to “Kill me now.”

    • One of my favorite characters in other books is a militarily cybernetic-enhanced woman (similar to Johnny Cobra) whose eventual good friend is a 7-foot tall Praying Mantis alien.

      Sounds like a fun read, but there’s nothing in that description that tells me how I can Google that book. What’s the title, or the author’s name, so I can check it out?

    • I have to admit, one of the stories I enjoy most has a female protagonist in early middle age, very similar to me.

      Of course, she’s a spear-wielding badass in fantasy medieval China, and I’m a non-trad student of architecture, but we all know that age and sex are the important parts XD.

    • When the advice is given to “make your protagonist sympathetic (and if you’re really good, the villian will be sympathetic, too)” – they don’t mean “feelings of pity or sorrow toward the person.” They mean “make an understanding or common feeling.”

      How to establish the understanding or common feeling? Well, when Stephanie Meyer created the protagonist of Twilight, she did a good job of tapping into that drama-fueled ball of hormones mindset that I mentally tag as “13-year-old girl.” And for a lot of young girls, the character felt the same way they did (teenagers being blind to drama and whining the way fish are to water), agonizing over boys and feeling lonely and like the parents were uninterested and (insert a tossed head and stamped foot here) just didn’t understand. My elder godkid loved the book, as a 13-year-old girl. And a lot of women who still vividly remember going through that could relate.

      (I remember at one point doing the sinal salute – head bowed, fingers pinching both sides of the bridge of my nose – because the girl had been dumped and spent “months in a practical coma, not talking to anyone or responding.” Ah, preteen drama, yes, they’re convinced the world is ending when they’re snubbed by the boy. That the story extrapolated six minutes of shellshock and three days of aggravated moping into entire months, well, stories magnify emotions and cut boring parts.)

      Personally, I find in my favourite characters either a similarity, or an attribute I wish I had. Or both. Cazaril, from Bujold’s Curse of Chalion, has the same sharp awareness of physical limitations when surrounded by youth and health… and he has a sharp-minded refusal to bend on principle, and refusal to ever give up even in the blackest despair that I admire. That I have neither his skin color, hair color, reproductive plumbing, or sharp short lifespan as a combat veteran and former slave in a medieval society, doesn’t really matter.

      Many readers, especially outside science fiction and fantasy, start off by wanting someone who is like them, so they can easily relate. This is part of why romance has so very many niches – for the women who are reading it to more easily imagine themselves as the heroine. In children’s, interestingly enough, the readers want someone who is their age or older, but not younger. An eight-year-old will usually choose books about 8-10 year olds, as high as 12, but not 6 or 7. The best summary I’ve seen is “They’ve been 6. They’re not interested in doing that again. Ah, but being 10, they’re looking forward to that.”

      If that’s where the person requesting the list is at – then more power to them. May they find many awesome books that show them that even people who look like them and are their age may be very different under the skin, and offer many worldviews and philosophies to slip into and try out within the story problem and the confines of that universe. With each challenge to their own worldview, may they grow and change, and find out who they want to be. When they’re ready to step into the ocean of available protagonists who don’t look like them, there will be even more books waiting.

      • On the other hand, my muse is fond of making my character’s lives more difficult by ensuring they don’t know what the villains’ motives are, making it harder to guess what they will do. . . .

        Realistic enough.

      • I guess I’ve just never understood needing a character to be like me to be interesting. When I was 9, I read things from “The Mouse and the Motorcycle”, to the “Three Investigators” mysteries (I think they were a 60s revision of the Hardy Boys). to the “Adventures of the Mad Scientists’ Club”, to “First Lensman” and “Children of the Lens” (my mom only had those two, I had to get the others later).

      • Personally, I find in my favourite characters either a similarity, or an attribute I wish I had.

        Chief O’Brian. Mostly in Deep Space 9, although they did some character development in TNG.

        He deals with stuff. He’s not super smart, or super tough, but he’s smart enough to not stop, and he keeps going, and he’s a good guy. Hard working, decent, some fatalism but not a quitting bone in his body.

        • I think all my favorite characters have attributes I wish I had. Sure, I can identify with a lot of them, but that’s because the similarities stick out when you’re reading, and you don’t notice the differences as much, unless they are glaring. And nearly everyone has SOME similarity with almost everyone else.

      • Instead of the sinal salute, I have done facepalms around the girls. Now my eldest (all of 11) takes joy in seeing me just getting ready to do a facepalm when one of the younger ones (5 or 8) does something that will trigger me to facepalm.

        “Look, daddy’s going to do it – the FACEPALM” really ruins the mood of a good facepalm (or double facepalm). Even “ohhh, you were really bad, daddy used BOTH of his hands”…

        -John

      • Marion Zimmer Bradley said that her agent wanted her to write some juveniles. When the said she didn’t know anything about writing juveniles, he told her “make your protagonist sixteen years old, then write the same book you would have anyway.”

        • Um… Yeah. That would be good advice for anyone not having the MZB psychological/criminal issues, but it suggests the agent did not know the specific client.

          • I enjoyed many of her books; I’m not going to try to unhappen them because she turned out to be a criminal.

            Though not as much of a criminal as the crowd who popped up later claiming that they knew what was going on, but couldn’t be arsed to make a complaint to the police.

      • (I remember at one point doing the sinal salute – head bowed, fingers pinching both sides of the bridge of my nose – because the girl had been dumped and spent “months in a practical coma, not talking to anyone or responding.” Ah, preteen drama, yes, they’re convinced the world is ending when they’re snubbed by the boy. That the story extrapolated six minutes of shellshock and three days of aggravated moping into entire months, well, stories magnify emotions and cut boring parts.)

        And that was the furthest I got in that particular series because I decided I had no time for the magnified drama of adolescence. I was on vacation, so I switched to the other book I’d brought with me…which was about Genghis Khan.

      • I remember at one point doing the sinal salute – head bowed, fingers pinching both sides of the bridge of my nose – because the girl had been dumped and spent “months in a practical coma, not talking to anyone or responding.”

        I remember deliberately reading through the whole Twilight series, even though I expected it to be bad, because I planned on criticizing it and I don’t want to criticize from a position of ignorance*. I remember that there was precisely one moment that made me go, “Huh. That’s… actually clever. I kind of like that,” and keep reading to see if there were other such moments. (There weren’t, though Meyer does at least know how to put together a story. If you can get past disliking the protagonist for being a shapeless blob of no agency). That moment was when, after her crush dumped her, you turned the page and under the heading “October”** was… a blank page. “November”: same thing. Since the book’s conceit was that it was the protagonist’s diary, I actually enjoyed that moment. Yes, she is a sixteen year old, in love with drama, so when she feels like her world is ended, what’s the point of writing in her diary any more?

        Sadly, that was the last time I enjoyed my experience of reading Twilight. Especially when in book two, Meyer decided that the one character I actually liked, Jacob, needed to be completely Character Derailed so that he wouldn’t be a threat to her One True Pairing. That’s when I should have realized that I was, basically, reading fanfiction-that-managed-to-get-published.

        * I had heard way too many people say “Harry Potter teaches kids to get involved in the occult” who were not, as it turns out, arguing from first-hand knowledge — and as you’d expect, they had a lot of facts wrong. I don’t want to do that.

        ** It may have been a different month; I don’t own a copy of the book and cannot check on this particular fact.

    • i didn’t confront them about what good it would do to read about “someone like yourself”. Instead, I tried to think of reasons. Reading this post brought the subject to mind again, and I finally thought of a good reason: To learn alternate ways of coping with whatever difficulties that kind of person would reasonably expect to endure in life, that are different from those of others.

      *nod*

      They already have the problem they’re trying to deal with in the original format; looking at the same place won’t help, but if they can move to a different spot and look there, maybe even looking for something else, they’ll be able to snag a method that they can apply.

      I know it’s a heck of a lot more useful for me to read about the interactions of a bunch of humaniod monoculture worlds in space than the nth version of someone’s idea of high school. I can’t be blinded, or miss that something I ‘know’ isn’t there, if I don’t know the situation. I’ve had a lot of ah-hah! moments reading about, oh, dragons and such– but not from the five hundreth rendition of “here’s a story that’s supposed to be normal.”

  22. “I propose we go back to the Greeks. A good literary work makes you experience Catharsis. I’d add a good literary work speaks to people across the generations and sometimes across difficulty of changed language.”
    Absolutely! A healthy dose of anagnorisis and peripeteia leading to a thorough catharsis is good for the soul. 😀

    For me the influence of Tolkien, and in science fiction Herbert, are what informs my sense of grand, “Literary” fiction at its finest.
    In this regard I consider ‘literary’ to describe how the authors use the language, wording and grammar as an art form in and of itself and yet instead of detracting from the story it imparts a richness of meaning and nuance to the narrative.
    Furthermore the setting and characters are vivid, interesting and complex, they explore important themes and work through moral quandaries all without resorting to overt sermonizing or imposition. They are there to be considered and interpreted in whatever way and to whatever degree the reader desires and yet their inclusion in no way detracts from the entertainment of simply reading and enjoying the story.
    To quote Brian Sibley regarding the Lord of the Rings ” Despite all these subtleties and complexities which led to all of this erudition, the story itself is a damn good tale.”

    • I’ve seen more than one panel where writers talk about writing fiction. It’s very common for them to talk in terms of visualizing a movie in their heads, and then figuring out how to “novelize” it. The language, for a lot of them, seems to be not something they’re interested in working with for its own sake, but merely a means to an end. That’s totally unintuitive for me; the writers I like best are the ones who are aware of every syllable, and every word origin. Kipling, for example, or Tolkien. I don’t myself get that sort of pleasure from Frank Herbert; but I think I read sf more for dianoia and less for lexis, whereas in fantasy it’s the reverse.

      • Language is my one gift. I have to be careful NOT to allow it to take over.

      • There’s more to Herbert than “Dune.” He didn’t maintain any particular style; his work varied a lot. His best work was probably “Whipping Star,” which is *very* different from the creeping, turgid pace of “Dune.”

        • Oh yes indeed. His work was quite varied and there were other stories of his I enjoyed every bit as much as Dune. I was fortunate to be able to spend some time talking with him. We had a very interesting conversation about how environment influences religion and culture. He was a fascinating man.

        • I also prefer Whipping Star

          • “The Tactful Saboteur” was a short story that predated “Whipping Star.” Quite good, too. The third BuSab story was “The Dosadi Experiment”, which… was downbeat and didn’t actually make sense. It always felt unfinished to me.

      • The problem with that is, of course, that Style Is the Rocket

      • That ‘visualizing a movie’ may come from someone who’s introduction to the genre was in a different medium. When I work on sketching out a campaign for an RPG, I start with visualizing a couple of big set pieces I want to do, then fill in the necessary characters/factions and their complicated web of relationships. That’s because I come from both videogames (which like the set pieces, probably taken from action movies) and spy novels (which reward deceptive character relationships). Then I revise as necessary to get the set pieces without railroading the players into them… modify the mental ‘videogame’ / ‘spy novel’ into a RPG campaign.

        Somebody who’s favorite Sci-Fi is Star Wars may end up writing a novel by visualizing it as a movie. In contrast, somebody who’s favorite Sci-Fi is Star Trek is likely thinking along the lines of a TV show episode.

  23. Yes, indeed, let’s have some diversity in SF. Conscious feminism with its thinly-disguised hatred of men and children isn’t particularly diverse.
    I don’t particularly care if the author has six arms and is covered in green fur: If it writes about lone amoral bedhopping cynics rebelling against a machine-like dystopia populated by thieves and cutthroats in positions of power, I’ve read that story umpteen dozen times and it’s a cliche.

  24. Christopher M. Chupik

    It’s cargo-cult thinking. Do the Ritual of Representation to bring the Spirit of Diversity and then the Golden Age of Tolerance will surely follow.

  25. Christopher M. Chupik

    Another display of tolerance from the Diversity Cult:

    http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=8521

    • Anonymous Coward

      Saul Bellow once asked “who is the Tolstoy of the Zulus”. While that question remains unanswered, apparently the Shakespeare of the Zulus is
      (according to students at U of P), one Audre Lorde, “a celebrated African American feminist and author”.

      • Notice the assumption, whenever that is quoted, that it HAS to be derisive. The idea that someone would eagerly look for such a book is too alien to them.

  26. BobtheRegisterredFool

    In 1992 Russian intelligence used Dan Rather to distribute fake news, thus costing Bush the election. Does this mean that Bill Clinton is no longer legitimately considered to be President for that turn?

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Interesting. I wonder if the Memo of Doom originated in Moscow?

      • I extend my appreciation to the gents at Power Line for bringing this to my attention:

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Bush’s loss can be attributed to other things than news coverage, and Russian influence on news media of the day is only inference. The Democrats didn’t need Russian influence to do treasonous things in the late 1910s and early 1920s. A lot of that statement falls short of verifiable truth.

        I think BobtheRegisterredFool may have only been floating trolling in response to certain messaging on Twitter.

    • I always figured Blather or his flunkies did it themselves.

      He was entirely unrepentant, finally chiding an interviewer “I don’t report the news. I *AM* the news!”

      “All the fake news that’s fit to broadcast…”

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        It’s probably too crude to have been an intelligence agency. You’d think they’d pay attention to things like typefaces.

        When I hear these young’uns going on about “fake news”, I just shake my head. They don’t know nothin’ . . .

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          That may speak to a pattern of forgery on his part, and there are other things that speak to a pattern of collusion in amongst media.

          1992 was closer to the Russians having the funding and HUMINT capital to have been active in shaping news in the US. Since the Russian government has had many lean years. That they resorted to wikileaks perhaps speaks to the limits of their media influence, or at least the limits of the influence they were willing to burn on this.

    • Not familiar with this Rather incident – the only one I know is the fake documents for Bush Jr.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        I made it up. It is unsubstantiated. The reason I said it was that I wanted a hypothetical parallel for certain media/social media noise about using similar reasoning to overturn the current election results, or to pressure electors.

        • Still, what you say has a certain truthiness to it. 🙂

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            “I can’t prove it is false just yet” is a horrible standard for journalistic integrity. I wouldn’t be surprised it were true, but I would be very much unsurprised if it were not true.

            In conclusion, if I am going to throw such a hissy fit, I should stick to jokes about things unambiguous enough that I can be confident in whether they are true or not. 🙂

            • ‘I can’t prove it is false just yet’ is a horrible standard for journalistic integrity.

              This is why modern journalism relies instead on the “It could be true, and has ever since 1964’s New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 decision which established the “actual malice” standard, essentially reducing journalistic integrity to “You have to prove we knew it was false before you can win damages.”

              OpCit: The Court held that the First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials except when statements are made with actual malice (with knowledge that they are false or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity).

              Over the intervening years the definition of a “public figure” has been expanded so broadly as to include everyone ever mentioned in a news report.

              • Polliwog the 'Ette

                Sickeningly, this was applied to Zimmerman. He was *made* famous by an ABC reporter dragging up a settled month-old self defense case and NBC editing footage to try to railroad him. When he sued them for causing him to lose his job and any chance of a normal life the court said he had no grounds because he was a “public personality”. With that precedent *no one* is safe. Ever.

        • So what you’re saying is that it’s fake but accurate?

          😛

  27. Apt article by Brandon Sanderson over at the tor dot com site: I’m using an archive link instead: https://archive.is/JPnCK – Pratchett’s writings are the highest form of literature (the real stuff that speaks to emotions as well as hiding all manner of little gems about humanity in stories that people WANT to read).

    • Pratchett was very good at that. I almost have to read his books three times: once to get through the story, once to think about the underlying theme, and once to get the comedy bits. His most masterful skill as an author was that he could have the emotional climax of the story and you could read it, struggling to keep from tearing up, and then read it again, and it wouldn’t be until you’d read it again that you realized that this powerful emotional climax is filled with bad Christmas puns or lines taken from RoboCop (Discworld fans should be able to recognize these two books).

      Pratchett wrote to a theme in his stories, but, like the comedy, the theme was woven into the story so well, you didn’t see it when you read the story. He also recognized that “the opposite of a great truth is also true.” That’s why I talk of themes and not messages. In message fiction, the message is treated as an absolute good, its supporters unquestionably right, and its opponents obviously wrong. Take a look at Pratchett’s work on religion, Small Gods. While I don’t think I would see eye-to-eye with Pratchett on religion, the book didn’t hit me in the face with his message, but made an argument with his theme.

      • Yes, exactly. I find new things in Pratchett’s books every time I reread them – and some have been read nine or ten times now.

  28. The argument described by (but NOT made by!) our hostess comes from the same line of “reasoning” as one of my favorite examples of (non)reasoning, to wit:

    “All walruses wear clocks in lockets around their necks.
    Connie wears a clock in a locket around her neck.
    Therefore, Connie is a walrus!”

    Given as an example by a math teacher I once had, using for his example the quite pulchritudinous Connie, who had very little in common with any walrus. 😉

  29. Interesting. In addition to slip-shot logic equating Neo Nazis with Sad Puppies, it builds a straw man in an attempt to reframe the argument. So ironic, because the Nazis were all into the “message.”

    Ah, well. Sad to say, I’ve come to expect no better from the puppy kickers.

    On good literature: Had no less than two teachers who went with a catharsis view of good fiction. One used the term “feel like the top of your head coming off.” The other, a college professor, wrote poetry.

  30. Christopher M. Chupik

    I am always amused/annoyed by heavy-handed attempts to interject diversity into settings where it’s highly unlikely. The most recent being the new Beowulf series, which has an African guy in Dark Age Denmark. Not totally beyond the realm of possibility, but still a bit unlikely. For a thought experiment, imagine a movie about, say King Sundiata of Mali which gave him a European sidekick for diversity. What would the response be to that?

    Go ahead. Take a wild stab.

    It got lost in the avalanche of stupid this year, but a while back there was a rumor that there *might* possibly be *on*e Caucasian character in Disney’s live-action Mulan. This was met with the kind of frothing hysteria that wouldn’t be seen again until the election of Trump. This particular freak-out only lasted a few hours before Disney put the kibosh on it, but I thought it was a good example of the lopsided racial obsessions we’ve been witnessing the past few years.

    • Well, the remake of Beowulf with the Arab narrator – the 13th warrior – did pull off the plausible reason for him to be there, and it didn’t come off as “for the diversity.” So, it can be done…

      • That’s one of my favorite books by Crichton. I particularly enjoyed three things about it:

        1. He did it like scholarly translation of an ancient manuscript.
        2. I once found it in the anthropology section of a public library.
        3. He lists the Necronomicon in the “Bibliography.”

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        It helps that Ibn Fadlan was a real person who really did spend time with the Northmen.

        • I had read of Ibn Fadlan separately from 13th Warrior. When I read 13th Warrior, the first part, based on Fadlan, read well and believably. The 2d half of the book read like a cross between an opium dream and H P Lovecraft. That disjunction threw me out of the book, and the book out of the house.
          JPDev

    • imagine a movie about, say King Sundiata of Mali which gave him a European sidekick for diversity

      Or a movie about the Great Wall of China,


      featuring Matt Damon?

      • Really, that’s like the American adaptation of Gojira, which wrote in a part for Raymond Burr for audience identification, because white people couldn’t identify with a movie that didn’t have any white characters. It’s been going on for a long time. . . .

      • Well, we’ve had John Wayne as Genghis Khan.

        • Yul Brynner as the King of Siam. (Although as a Cossack, he did a believable job.)

          • All such castings occurred before our present era of exquisite cultural understanding and were perpetrated under the old corrupt studio system which concentrated power in the hands of a few venal individuals. They are why such sins must never be allowed to recur in our bright and shiny new enlightened era.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            I watched Taras Bulba recently. It was very amusing to see their attempts to convince the audience that Tony Curtis was the son of Brynner.

            • As with many a great movie line — “Play it again, Sam” or “Mmmmmm, You dirty rat” — Curtis’ most quoted line “Yonder lies the castle of my fodda” was never uttered.

              Via Snopes:
              In his 2008 memoir, American Prince, Curtis laid blame on actress Debbie Reynolds for misrepresenting his Son of Ali Baba performance (while amusingly misstating what he actually said himself):

              Son of Ali Baba was the movie where I gave a line that people unjustly made fun of for years afterward. There’s a scene where I’m on horseback and Piper is sitting next to me, and I say to her, “Yonder in the valley of the sun is my father’s castle [sic].”

              After the film came out, Debbie Reynolds, who would later marry Eddie Fisher, went on television and said, “Did you see the new guy in the movies? They call him Tony Curtis, but that’s not his real name. In his new movie he’s got a hilarious line where he says, ‘Yonder lies the castle of my fodda.'”

              You could chalk up her ridicule up to my New York accent, but when she mentioned the issue of my real name on television, I began to wonder if there was something anti-Semitic going on there. I’m probably just hypersensitive on that topic. But either way, she got the line wrong! Unfortunately, her version stuck with the public, and for a while it became popular for people to quote the incorrect line in a ridiculous New York accent.

              Years later, Hugh Hefner came up to me at a party and said, “Yonder lies the castle of my fodda.'”

              I looked at him coolly. “Hef, I never said that.”

              “Then don’t tell anybody,” he said. “It makes a great movie story.”

              • As I recall, (my memory works sometimes, sometimes not) I heard that phrase said by him in a B+W movie called the “Black Shield of Falworth” which IMDB says was Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, in 1954. And yes, it really was in that bad a NY/NJ accent. (again, my memories)
                (No I did not see it on release, probably as a late-night movie in the 70s. Really. I am not THAT old.).
                JPDev

            • I haven’t seen it in a longish time – but that popped the, um, dissonance right back into my head. You are so right…

              Tony Curtis was a very good actor with a wide range, but that was just not his role…

          • Peter Lorre (Austrian) as Mr. Moto, or Warner Oland (Swedish) as Charlie Chan, Boris Karloff (English) as Mr. Wong…

            • Christopher M. Chupik

              Oh yeah. Back in those days, any “exotic” actor was expected to play any non-Western nationality. The results could be . . . eyebrow-raising.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        I don’t like the looks of that. Not because of Damon, but because it reeks of pro-China propaganda.

        • China is a major player in Hollywood, not just financing many films but offering a market of such significance* that many filmmakers are willing to compromise their artistic vision** in order to secure access. [See: Doctor Strange Gets China Release Date, Confirming That Erasing Tibet Worked]

          *It’s currently the second-largest movie market in the world, and is on track to surpass the United States by 2017. [see above embedded link]

          **A mythical weapon frequently brandished by Hollywood’s denizens

          • That trailer was so dumb. The Great Wall was not as high as shown, or as elaborate as shown. And comparing the steppe peoples to Lovecraftian monsters? Come on. It is just like all those movies where the Mongolian-descended Manchus are evil and the pure Han are good.

            It plays to every racist, Imperialist impulse that the Chinese have, and the only advantage is that an isolationist China paranoid about Uighur Muslims (which they wouldn’t have to be, if they hadn’ t let the Saudis in) is probably better for us than a China invading the Philippines and Japan.

  31. As a conservative leaning Libertarian, there are a number of books I LOVE that have the “ethos & learning” schemes intact, most notably The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers and Rand’s Anthem.

    But of course, they’re the WRONG ethos and you bad-learn by reading them, so the puppy-kickers of all stripes hate them with a passion.

    OTOH, I also love pure pot-boiling pulp of the Burroughs stripe, so what do I know?

  32. in revolt against being a woman.

    Funny, this morning an e-friend sent me this “oldie but goodie” from 2013:

    http://thefederalist.com/2013/10/22/fecundophobia-growing-fear-children-fertile-women/

    He hadn’t heard the litter is expanding yet, even!

    • I’m just on the side of acceptable with having three kids. Honestly, it’s not the kids that bug me; it’s the pregnancies. We’ve had our last planned child. (“Planned” because my husband was a surprise, fifteen years after his nearest sibling. It does not do to taunt fate.) I’m lucky to know a number of moms who have gone for higher numbers, so I don’t stand out—but I did get comments when I had two that I had one of each, that was perfect, I could stop. As I said in a comedy routine I did (open mic at eight months pregnant!), that made me want to have two more just to spite them.

      • Had two girls first. I THINK the fact we didnt stop was fast enough the Duchess didn’t internalize all the comments implying she was an unwanted mistake in the search for a boy…

        • When we lived in Germany, the old women would count us on their fingers and look at my younger brother and say “Ah, you had to have the boy!” When my younger sister, E, was born, that argument went right out the window. I never did appreciate the suggestion that I was a pit stop on the way to my glorious brother.

  33. Because Marxism like the puritans (with whom it shares a number o characteristics and in fact it’s not amazing the same families who were once puritans now fall into Marxism) believed that humans should be USEFUL, rather than simply being — and trust me, I was raised this way and one of the motos inscribed in one of my notebooks for high school was “The important thing is not to be happy but to be useful” — even though books are cheap enough to justify spending money on them simply to “enjoy”, people feel guilty about simply “enjoying” a story. 

    Like most of Marxism, this isn’t entirely wrong– the problem comes in what they consider an acceptable form of “useful.” It’s never in the sense of “improve things,” it tends to be more utilitarian.

    They can’t make the leap that “enjoyment” (causes self pleasure) isn’t enough, but bringing joy (the feeling brought about by a great good) to people is, and you are a people.

    Hm… I was going to make a comparison to the difference between having a handful of jellybeans and eating an entire container, but that kind of runs into it– the food flavors of these guys don’t want people to eat any sugar, or any of the other enjoyable stuff, rather than recognizing that the issue is too much. Sugar isn’t evil. It’s a good that is fairly easy to get, and that makes it easy to get an excess of a good*, but it’s not evil.

    * One of the things that theology exposed me to was a way of understanding sin– they tend to be a disordered desire for something that’s good. Sometimes it’s excess, sometimes it lacks the other needful balances, but it’s not insert-evil-laugh-here stuff, it’s a good that’s in the wrong place.

    • To a progressive, everything needs to be part of the ‘solution’, or it’s part of the problem. The company that makes your food must conform to your politics. Your book you read can’t just be for pleasure, it must make you more informed about the need for progress. You can’t just give awards for writing an enjoyable book, the awards must also celebrate diversity.

      • Yet pity the poor Christian (or Jew; Muslims seem to receive special dispensations as “oppressed” peoples) who tries to live a fully integrated faithful life, reserving their custom to only those entities who share his creed and reserving the right to refuse service that would contradict the tenets of that belief.

        The Progressives worship an extremely jealous deity. To paraphrase Nat Hentoff’s observation: “Freedom of religion for me but not for thee.”

  34. “And what is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good – need we anyone to tell us these things?”

  35. I find that arguments of the form “Neo-Nazis would like X” ( or “Putin would like X”) therefore don’t do X betray an ignorance of strategy. As a short answer I like the quote “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”. At length, I would say that one of the reasons these people are our enemies is that we believe that their judgements of the world are deeply flawed and therefore even their own estimate of what is good for them and bad for us is not to be relied upon. Furthermore, what is available is typically not even their own view of the world, but our view of what that view would be, which I would expect to be less reliable yet.

  36. If we need a new theory of literary criticism we could do worse than Ursula K. LeGuin’s adoption of, wait for it, Virginia Woolf’s rule: if you cannot remember the name of the protagonist of a novel it wasn’t that moving. This would seem to be a variation, perhaps more a specialization, of your catharsis idea.

    Of course, I like it because it makes Heinlein a hell of a writer 🙂

    We could also do much worse than Tom Simon’s three (soon to be four…and the sooner the better) books of literary criticism which are the first I’ve bothered with outside of LeGuin’s Drawing of the Dark.

  37. Oh, and a quote from the prologue to M. R. James’s collection of his ghost stories that reminded me of the Puppies.

    The public, as Dr. Johnson said, are the ultimate judges: if they are pleased, it is well; if not, it is no use to tell them why they ought to have been pleased.

    In the end, the public has not been pleased by the books deemed “good” by literary standards and have increasingly decamped to those realms of story that embrace telling a tale over being “good” to large degree.

    • That’s what has happened every time SF tries to roll left and literary. The attempts fail, mostly because none of the attempts spark the imagination of readers. Most of these movements have rules to smother it instead.

  38. I am sure someone already noted that “socialist had imported” should have been hadn’t exported” to Africa.

  39. Sarah, get well soon. Beware Facebook.