Letting It Burn

As a matter of interest as an independent author, with some affection for science fiction … (principally Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, and once upon a time for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series, both of which explored in an interesting and readable way, a whole range of civilizational conceits and technologies with a bearing on what they produced vis-a-viz political organizations, man-woman relations, and alternate societies of the possible future … oh, where was I? Complicated parenthetical sentence again; science fiction. Right-ho, Jeeves – back on track.) … I have been following the current SFWA-bruhaha with the fascinated interest of someone squeezing past a spectacular multi-car pile-upon the Interstate. Not so much – how did this happen, and whose stupid move at high speed impelled the disaster – but how will it impact ordinary commuters in their daily journey, and will everyone walk away from it OK? So far, the answers to that are pretty much that it will only matter to those directly involved (although it will be productive of much temporary pain) and yes – pretty near everyone will walk away. Scared, scarred, P-O’d and harboring enduring grudges, but yes, they will walk away, personally and professionally. Some of these are walking away at speed and being pretty vocal about why.

The crux of the matter in this particular instance, is that the SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America – hey, what happened to the ampersand and the second F … guess the domain name was already taken or something) – got overtaken by the minions of the politically correct. The SWFA is, or was – a professional association of writers of science fiction and fantasy materiel (traditionally-published writers only, BTW), intended as a kind of support group, to lobby with publishers on behalf of wronged writers, and provide professional services, like health insurance. Sort of like the AARP … only for science fiction and fantasy writers. Alas, it seems that the minions of the politically-correct now appear to insist that to be members in good standing and to be considered for various book awards (and this is the short version) one must write glum and politically-correct bricks of sensitivity, emphasizing obedience to all kinds of shibboleths regarding race, gender, et al. Never mind about writing a cracking good story … the glum gruel of a liberal arts curricula at an expensive university is what the Social Justice Warriors at the SFWA have said we should have, and that readers deserve to get it, good and hard. Through a tube down the nasal passage, apparently, if all else fails. Naturally, being a somewhat cantankerous and creative provider of popular amusement, many of the existing membership has sad ‘no’ and not just no, but ‘no, with bells on.’ It seems from various discussion threads that many of the long-standing, better-selling and more popular creators are bailing out of SFWA, or at least, warning caution.

The organization may survive – or not. From the viewpoint of someone passing by the tangled wreckage on the Interstate, it’s of only academic interest. But I began to meditate on it all – another once-thriving and valued establishment, overtaken by the grand Gramscian march through our social and political establishments. Sure – they have taken them over, but at what cost? Yes, the politically correct, the Social Justice Warriors in every theater and establishment … they HAVE taken them over – and many others besides the SFWA, but at what cost if what they have is just a wrecked and hollow establishment?
So, this leaves me to wonder, whither SFWA? If the popular writers, with an existing or a soon-burgeoning readership leave, what then as far as the future of the organization is concerned? Indeed, what then, o wolves?

What then, of the many institutions, taken over and hollowed out by the Social Justice Warriors, or their Gramscian ilk? Most of them are bigger and more influential, then a little pool of writers perpetrating science fiction and fantasy … and yet they also appear to be ridden by factionalism, if not teetering on the edge then cratering economically. Just a few and from off the top of my head – the Episcopal Church, old-line print publications like Newsweek and Ladies’ Home Journal (and possibly very soon Time Magazine, too), and broadcast networks like CNN and MSNBC. Instapundit often points out how colleges and universities are staggering, and how more and more people who can are choosing to home-school their children. I can just barely remember the last Oscar-nominated movie that I went to see in a theater, (The King’s Speech, BTW) and the TV audience for the Oscars is plummeting also. Mainstream publishing is fragmenting, as independent writers go out on their own, cable television is also fragmenting. Just as the long march through the institutions is nearly complete … the institutions themselves crumble. They are run into the ground, as the audience, consumers, and genuinely creative flee in all directions.

There is talk of a non-ideological organization to replace the SFWA; likely the disaffected refugees from the establishments and organizations listed above (as well as many, many others) will form new associations. Creative destruction at work? I’d like to think so. Discuss.
(cross-posted at www.ncobrief.com)

17 thoughts on “Letting It Burn”

  1. I quit the independent publishing group on Usenet during 2004 when the BDS got too smelly. I have missed them. I don’t even know if that group still exists. I joined when I was going to publish my history of medicine book but quit when it became about politics. I wonder how many books the members of that group sold after I left ?

    Soviet art lovers.

  2. The open source software concept of easy and cheap forking is going to eventually solve the problem. People will insist that at time of creation forks become easy to do and that is going to be the end of that as the gramscians find that their efforts have captured a letterhead and nothing else.

  3. The field of SF/F has been dominated by leftist whackos since oh, about the early-mid Nineties. (Except for Orson Scott Card, who would be the token RIGHT-wing whacko.) Azimov and Heinlein were more or less the guardian dragons of the genre. When they and their generation died off, the anti-American left moved in. I confess it surprises me that it took them this long to foul things up at an institutional level, because they’ve been slithering around doing as much damage to the genre for more than a decade. Their great accomplishment has been to disguise outright misogyny and heaping helpings of human degradation as ‘dark gritty realism’ — witness the current success of Game Of Thrones.

    I recall distinctly when the cultural shift took place; it was right around the early-mid Nineties. I recall with particular displeasure a story in Niven’s Man-Kzin Wars 4 that told the story of a female POW being turned into a happy furry sex slave/brood mare by a kzinti Dr. Mengele. Screaming little kids ripped apart and eaten; teenage girls with their skulls peeled away and wires shoved in… all that sort of thing. I have a fine head for things that bother me, unfortunately. And if you read the reviews for that story to this day, they all drool and gasp over wow, what a WONDERFUL story it is and how it gives you deep insights into kzinti culture, et cetera. They resurrected this stinker for The Space Opera Renaissance, and the new reviews are as enthusiastic as the old.

    And who was the author? A rabidly anti-American, anti-Christian Canadian mathematics professor named Donald Kingsbury. Steven Brust? the author of a fantasy series that I was a big fan of many years ago? An avowed Trotskyite who apparently calls people ‘Comrade’ in his correspondence. China Mieville? An outright Communist. George R. R. Martin? Far left libtard and 9/11 troofer. S.M. Stirling? Another anti-American Canuck (who lives in the States for tax reasons, natch) — who, among other thoughtful opinions to be found online, holds that schools would be improved if we brought back caning and that all women are default bisexual. William Gibson? godfather of the cyberpunk genre? Another 9/11 troofer who moved to Canada. And so on and so forth. I could make quite a list if I wanted to apply myself.

    I was at an SCA meeting a couple years back and there was a fair contingent of people who were rushing over to someone’s house afterwards to catch the beginning of the second season, and several of them were pressing me to go. No thanks; not a fan. WHAT? You don’t like what we like? Nope, not really. Flipped through the first book because someone recommended it to me and told me it was loosely based on the War of the Roses, which appealed to the history nerd in me; got to the part where the twelve-year old girl is raped on her thirteenth birthday by here adult warlord husband, complete with crying and bleeding. Tore it in half at the spine and tossed it into the dumpster. Sorry folks. Don’t want any. One lady indignantly declared that well, SHE and her DAUGHTER were BIG FANS of the books and HER daughter was thirteen. And I recall thinking, Jesus. You gave your child child pornography to read…? And you’re bragging about it in public?

    And how about The Hunger Games? Wow! Yeah! Kids slaughtering other kids in gladiatoral games! Let’s make movies about it and take our children to see that, too! Wow! Yeah! GRRM has set the pattern, and everybody is falling over trying to imitate or outdo him in graphic human misery.

    Every time I try to dip my toes back into the pool, I get burnt. I’ll read every Discworld novel that Terry Pratchett bangs out, and I’ll peruse my dog-eared old library from time to time (except for Niven’s known space novels, which I threw out after MKW4. It was an excommunication of sorts). Science fiction and fantasy used to be a wonderful playground of ideas; the place where you could go and explore Heinlein’s entertaining What Ifs with great pleasure. But now there is broken glass and barbed wire scattered about the place, and a child molester lurking in the bushes, and a sadomasochist hiding in the bathroom with his kit of brutal toys. And I don’t go there any more.

  4. Thanks, Phil … I’ve been left pretty cold by Game of Thrones also. I could take GRRM or leave him alone, but … it’s the wholesale killing off of sympathetic characters which annoyed me, even before I was tempted to venture into the books. Well, yeah – done that myself – judiciously and planned from the beginning – but geeze … build up sympathetic characters, have the audience identify with them, and then off them … over and over and over again?

    And I just now found out through a thread on According to Hoyt about Marion Zimmer Bradley’s pedo second hubby. Wow. In my defense, I was overseas and dependent on the print media for years, and by the time I got to dabble in science fiction fandom, I had moved on to Blake’s 7 and Dr. Who. (Tom Baker Dr. Who.)

    How yuck-making … writing a whole series of novels with a strong small-f feminist strand, and all the while enabling the husband to sexually abuse teenaged boys.

    I think I am still safe with the Vorkosigan novels, and with the Discworld, too. I’ve got some others – CJ Cherryh among them that I think I can re-read without being disillusioned or P’O’ed. Really, I’d rather not know about the political proclivities of the authors that I like, but if they insist on pushing it in my face… well, then.

  5. I remember that story from Man-Kzin Wars 4 too, alas. I also found it rather unpleasant but unfortunately memorable. I won’t claim I quit reading the Man-Kzin anthologies because of it, but at some point I did quit reading them.

    In fact I just about quit reading SF entirely, and almost forgot about the genre, at least in regard to new material. I did, however, pick up a novel by someone named John Scalzi, thanks to a recommendation by Glenn Reynolds. Unfortunately, I started reading Scalzi’s blog. It’s been a long time, and I dimly recall that he tended to delete comments he disagreed with, so I don’t think I ever posted a comment there.

    But I do recall that at some point he said that he wished all right-wingers would get exiled to a desert, presumably to die. I don’t recall too much of the context- something about people in a desert, of course- but I do strongly remember wondering if that included Glenn Reynolds, who had recommended his work, resulting in my purchase of it.

    I quit reading his blog soon after, and pretty much ceased worrying about him and his band of Social Justice Warriors- great description, by the way. I paid no attention to their works, and they ceased to trouble me.

    So I am quite happy to see Larry Correia expose them as the passel of politically correct clowns that they are.

    God bless him.

  6. John Ringo seems to fly right of center
    David Weber too as far as I can tell
    The Destroyermen series by Taylor Anderson
    L. E. Modesitt seems libertarian to me


  7. it’s the wholesale killing off of sympathetic characters which annoyed me

    After everyone interesting was killed, the story went to Heck and Martin himself seems unable to rouse himself to finish the series. Maybe he subconsciously wanted to kill the project itself ;)

  8. One more organization falls to total control by Leftists, a trivial, useless, and unimportant one, showing that nothing is beneath the interest of totalitarian ideologies, and that the transformation from the Christian West to Socialist Global state is similar to the transformation from pagan Rome to the Christian West, and just as irreversible.

  9. I read a lot of science fiction growing up, but could never find anything to hold my interest after a certain point. After reading through Jules Verne & Tolkien as a young teen, then Asimov as an older teen, then some of the classics like Dune and Rendezvous with Rama, everything started to seem dry and contrived and shallow and predictable. All in all, I’d rather read history or science.

    I watched the first season of The Game of Thrones because someone gave me the set on DVD. It was interesting, for a season. I had no real desire to watch more. It felt like the Bronze Age meets the Middle Ages on mescaline. [Nothing to do with SF&F, but I thought Dexter was much better and watched four seasons of that. Though once they killed Rita (Julie Benz) I lost interest. :-]

  10. Sgt. Mom, you must remember the long list of front organizations you had review and state if you were a member of when joining the Air force. I remember not knowing what any of them were when I was young. But the lefty tactic of fronts and subterfuge of professional and volunteer organizations lives on in spades. Every hack public school teacher who is bored with their real job starts turning the student art society into a social justice group. I think the theory that it elevates their self importance beyond their actual status is a big deal. It also frighteningly offers real career potential. Your stalwart party credentials will be noticed and further advancement beyond your current lowly position is possible.

  11. Anon,

    More conservative/liberterian SF writers:

    Jerry Pournelle
    Larry Niven
    Tom Kratman
    Sarah Hoyt
    John Wright

    I still read a lot of SF, though most of the stuff written in the last 20 years is awfully boring leftist diatribes, including anything written by Spider Robinson and most of Scalzi’s stuff, though I did like “Old Man’s War”.

    It is interesting to note that Heinlein, Niven, and Poul Anderson were originally politically to the left until they had their epiphanies in the 1950’s (RAH), 1960’s (Anderson)and the 9170’s (Niven).

  12. All this is a delayed reaction from the failure of the Mainstream Fiction market in the 1960s. The advent of TV hastened this decline. Now, TV is dying.

    Leftist writers, needing to eat, entered the only fields which were still selling, SF and Romance. Then they proceeded to muck those fields up. They poisoned the waters with their PC advocacy.

    The works of Non-PC writers are selling well. The PC crowd have been forced to sensationalize their works until they are implausible, even for someone as open minded as SF readers. Worse than hype, their works are boring and predictable. Their themes are done to death.

    Since these PC authors aren’t busy writing, they have the time to stage coups.

    Let them kill their part of the SF field. Sometimes, the only way to break through the propaganda is to allow PC activists to take over and gain the results of their actions. Jimmy Carter’s presidency killed the word “Liberal” for twenty years.

  13. I know some past SFWA presidents, one a knuckle-dragging homophobic who thinks Ghengis Khan was a pussy (and has black grandchildren courtesy of a black foster child he raised), and the other is a true head-in-the-clouds libertarian. Both were elected to get writers the money their publishers tried to cheat them out of, which was the true job of the SFWA president.

    And that job requirement died with self-published e-books. Writers no longer need to deal with cheating publishers.

    This freed the SWFA of any connection to reality. Of course the lefties have officially taken it over.

    But the lefty takeover was the consequence of its collapse, not the cause. The cause was the internet.

  14. @ Joe Wooten … couldnt agree more about the past 20 years of Sci-fi. Most of it is leftist drivel.

  15. I was familiar with the SFWA during the period 1990-2000, and you couldn’t have found a more concentrated group of squirrels anywhere. The only thing holding them together was a consensus that they deserved to be paid if a publisher printed their stories.

    They went critical when the money tamper was removed. I have some doubts about lefty politics being material here. IMO they’re so barking mad that the group would have found something else to fight over if not that.

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