So when someone like John C. Wright holds up Heinlein as the best SF writer ever, I have to wonder what world they’re living in. An important writer in the genre, absolutely. The best ever? Really? Way to declare the race over before everyone’s even gotten to the starting line, buddy.Natalie Luhrs is unhappy about John Wright's invocation of Robert Heinlein to bolster claims of witch hunts against rightwing science fiction writers.
Because that’s what he’s doing, right? He’s trying to draw a line around SF. In Wright’s world, there’s no room in SF for people who aren’t like him and, furthermore, no one’s work can ever come close to that of a man who died in 1988. That’s just. No. I don’t want to read that kind of SF anymore. I did my time there and it’s well past time to move on.
At one time, science fiction was an oasis of intellectual liberty, a place where no idea was sacrosanct and no idea was unwelcome. Now speculative fiction makes speculative thinkers so unwelcome that, after a decade of support, I resigned my membership in SFWA in disgust. SFWA bears no blame for all these witch-hunts, or even most; but SFWA spreads the moral atmosphere congenial to the witch-hunters, hence not congenial to my dues money.In his article Wright provides several examples of people supposedly chased out of sf fandom or otherwise punished for their opinions, including Vox Day, Larry Correia, Orson Scott Card and Elizabeth Moon. (The truth may be slightly different.)
I’m also forced to wonder at the implied assumption that, had Robert Heinlein been born in 1977 (or 1967) instead of 1907, he would be writing the exact same stuff in 2014 that he wrote in 1954 (The Star Beast) or 1964 (Farnham’s Freehold–holy shit, I hope not!). Feels kind of insulting to him that if he’d grown up in a different time he wouldn’t have maybe had some different opinions, but I guess that shouldn’t be surprising coming as it is from someone who has attitudes about gender roles that might have been more at home in the Victorian era.In his article Wright also talked about law and custom and the differences between them:
"There are two ways for a sheep to be lead: one is by fear of the sheepdog, and the other is by following the sheep in front of him. The first is law and the second is custom....which annoyed somebody who actually makes her living as a lawyer enough to strike back with Heinlein references of her own:
Law is enforced by solemn ceremonies, oaths, judges in robes, policemen in uniforms, hangmen in hoods. It is objective, official, overt, masculine, and direct.
Custom is encouraged by countless social cues and expressions of peer pressure. It is subjective, informal, covert, feminine, and indirect."
As an aside? I don’t think Dr. Harshaw would agree with your superficial assessment of law versus custom. (Nor with your extensive ramblings on morals, given his comment on “Customs, morals – what’s the difference?” followed by his description of what you consider moral absolutes as “the psychotic taboos of our tribe.” In fact? You’re a textbook example of Harshaw’s definition of a prude: a person who believes “his own rules of propriety are natural laws.” Dr. Harshaw could admit that his own tastes were not the arbiters of what is correct for all people. You cannot.) Yeah, people who think like you don’t have a lock on allusions to Heinlein’s body of work, any more than you have exclusive license to make 1984 references. You will, as they say, deal.Finally the current president of the SFWA, Steven Gould, responded to Wright's accusations of harassment by making absolutely clear to which extents the SFWA sees fit to monitor or control their members' speech, concluding:
There also seems to be an oddly misplaced tendency to look at SFWA’s recent efforts to moderate language in its own channels as somehow being responsible for public criticism of various individual’s public statements and positions. I submit, though, that if one is somehow threatened by the organization’s requirements that we treat fellow members with respect within our official channels, then the problem is someplace other than with SFWA.
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