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Reclaiming Heinlein
May 9, 2014 9:44 AM   Subscribe

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.

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.
Natalie Luhrs is unhappy about John Wright's invocation of Robert Heinlein to bolster claims of witch hunts against rightwing science fiction writers.

It all started when science fiction writer/ex-libertarian turned Catholic John C. Wright left the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America claiming to have been subjected to harassment, though refusing to provide evidence of this. Wright went on to further clarify his motivation and the situation science fiction was in through a long post at the Intercollegiate Review, claiming that Robert Heinlein could not win a Hugo Award today:
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.)

In her own response to Wright's article, Rachael Acks wonders why Wright's so sure a modern Heinlein would've been held the same opinions as people like Day or Orson Scott Card in he first place:
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.

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."
...which annoyed somebody who actually makes her living as a lawyer enough to strike back with Heinlein references of her own:
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.
posted by MartinWisse (129 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
And can I just say that neither Stranger in a Strange Land or Time Enough for Love are polyamory handbooks? Stop using them as a way to get into women’s pants, dudebros.

Has anyone, ever, seduced a woman with assistance from a Robert Heinlein novel?
posted by thelonius at 9:55 AM on May 9 [12 favorites]


successfully?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:03 AM on May 9 [38 favorites]


I love the idea that somehow boycotts oppression. YOU MUST BUY MY BOOKS OR YOU'RE OPPRESSING ME!

John C Wright is just as much of a right-wing hack as Vox Day and their ilk, really only interesting as a reflection of how much naked bigotry there is in certain slices of SFF.
posted by kmz at 10:04 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]


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?

Wright's claims are pretty dopey, but it is worth pointing out that this is an awful lot of huffing and puffing over a claim he didn't, in fact, advance. What he said was:
Robert Heinlein is without doubt the leading writer in the science fiction field. He was the first to break into the slick magazines or into hardcover. Were it not for him, science fiction would still be languishing in a literary ghetto, no more popular than niche-market stories about samurai or railroad executives.
That's a very, very different claim than "Robert Heinlein is the best SF writer ever and no one can ever hope to compete with him."
posted by yoink at 10:05 AM on May 9 [7 favorites]


It sounds like Mr Wright is in serious need of noetic self-examination!
posted by unrulychild at 10:05 AM on May 9


Man, I need me a story about Samurai railroad executives.
posted by selfnoise at 10:05 AM on May 9 [8 favorites]


(Whenever I read something that John C. Wright has written, my response to his worldview is "what is this I don't even". I mean, Planet Earth calling? The Reformation happened! Get with the program!)

Being a privileged white middle-aged male SF writer does not somehow render your Hugo award aspirations futile by directing the screechy harpies of politically correct butthurt to throw poop at you. No, dearie. What gets the twittersphere's knickers in a twist is when you calmly inform them that they're naturally inferior helpmeets who should return to the kitchen/the plantation/their designated place in the [your] immutable scheme of things, because your privilege is the natural order rather than the arbitrary outcome of a genetic lottery and an inequitable social system, and daddy knows best. Because if you believe that shit, you are as wrong as a very wrong thing indeed. Even more wrong than wrong, in fact. And by giving voice this bigotry you are pissing off about 60% of your readers because, you know what? If you add up all the minorities (and include the non-male gendered, who are more accurately a non-privileged majority) they turn out to be the majority.

Aaah, why do I bother? If you're reading this on MeFi you already know. (And if you're John C. Wright you're old enough to know better and clearly don't, so you're unlikely to change now.)

I write that as someone who wrote a Heinlein tribute novel in the centennial year of his birth. And got it shortlisted for a Hugo. Pthththpht!
posted by cstross at 10:06 AM on May 9 [124 favorites]


When I left the Mystery Writers of America because I didn't like some of their dealings and rules, I just let my membership lapse and moved on with my life. No blog entries. No flouncing. No pistols at dawn. I just quit.
These folks have too much time on their hands. Less with the talky talky and more with the writey writey. Not the blog writey writey, the novel writey writey.
When I go to conventions to speak on a panel or merely hang out in the bar, I see their types with the arguing and the handwaving. In person flouncing, I guess you would call it.

I also learned that someone calls themselves a Houyhnhnm, takes great pride in it, and then I learned what one was.

Again, less with the talky talky, people.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 10:06 AM on May 9 [5 favorites]


“We do not view her [black author N.K. Jemisin] as being fully civilised… those self-defence laws [like Stand Your Ground in Flordia] have been put in place to let whites defend themselves by shooting people like her, who are savages in attacking white people… [she is] an educated, but ignorant, savage with no more understanding of what it took to build a new literature… than an illiterate Igbotu tribesman has of how to build a jet engine.”
-- Vox Day

The dude is a racist through and through. In addition, of course, to be a sniveling crybaby misogynist and a terrible writer.

The SFWA was right to kick his ass to the curb after he used their official twitter feed to promote this crap. They shoulda booted him long before it.

Why is masculinity always "defended" by such simpering wussies ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:07 AM on May 9 [28 favorites]


I would be pleased if none of Heinlein's books could win a Hugo if introduced today. They aren't that good. Also, I think Wright is wrong in this:
"There are two ways for a sheep to be lead..."
The ways he lists wouldn't do it. It would have to be by casting, or maybe sculpting
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:08 AM on May 9 [27 favorites]


thelonius: " Has anyone, ever, seduced a woman with assistance from a Robert Heinlein novel?"

Probably. Men aren't the only people who read Heinlein and of course, it's possible to like some things about Heinlein's books while also disliking certain other aspects.
posted by zarq at 10:09 AM on May 9 [5 favorites]


There are a lot of characters in Heinlein, and a lot of circumstances, and a long arc of time this stuff was written over. There is plenty of good, plenty bad, and all of it written at a proficient level as befitting an engineer who graduated from the Naval Academy in the 1920's.

Heinlein's credits are that he had some imagination, wrote in a serviceable style that lots of people found easy to engage with, and his work was of a genre during a period of time that could be described as the popularization of a genre, and his writing contributed to that popularization. So he is an icon in that genre.

His weaknesses have almost certainly been defined, and have in fact been the basis for almost all Heinlein conversations that I have seen for more almost 30 years.

One of the things I often enjoyed about reading Heinlein was the variety of perspectives of different characters in different circumstances. He seemed to like bouncing into different situations of his own creation, with lots of inspection of the Panglossian ideal "it's this way because it's this way, and therefore could not be any other". Classic "what if..." shenanigans.

But that's me, and I think we can consider it established that he was just a working creative popular writer, and not perfect. Tom Clancy made a hell of a lot of money copying Heinlein's narrative style, albeit in a much more restrictive genre than SF(that many consider Clancy to have invented).

And greatest ever anything is a game for children. It doesn't exist.
posted by dglynn at 10:10 AM on May 9 [11 favorites]


cstross: "Aaah, why do I bother? If you're reading this on MeFi you already know."

Because it always bears repeating, and you say it so eloquently.
posted by zarq at 10:11 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]


zarq, I'm sure you're right, but the quote made it sound like it is a frequently attempted manuever
posted by thelonius at 10:15 AM on May 9 [2 favorites]


When I left the Mystery Writers of America because I didn't like some of their dealings and rules, I just let my membership lapse and moved on with my life. No blog entries. No flouncing. No pistols at dawn. I just quit.

Hey, if you're leaving the Mystery Writers of America the least you could do is leave behind a room, locked on the inside, in a snowed-in mansion, with all the current members of the board inside it, all dead, each with a pearl-handled letter-opener protruding from his/her back on which can be found the fingerprints of the person next to them at the table.

I mean, it's just common courtesy.
posted by yoink at 10:15 AM on May 9 [69 favorites]


And just in case anybody isn't familiar with John C Wright, here's a refresher course on his previous shining moment in the sun.
posted by kmz at 10:16 AM on May 9 [6 favorites]


It's an interesting discussion overall. For example, OSC is unwelcome in this perceived Community because of his views on gays and gay marriage, not because of any failings of his writing (although every new Ender novel is more poorly written then the previous, except for Speaker for the Dead, which is a derail I'm happy to discuss in memail). I read one of his new books from time to time and haven't found any passages describing the dystopian depredations of The Gays. Spurning him is the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Wright just doesn't agree that the underlying problem warrants boycotting.

"At one time, science fiction was an oasis of intellectual liberty, a place where no idea was sacrosanct and no idea was unwelcome."

Given how upset Wright is about the encroachment of socially liberal ideas, this sounds to me like the jeremiad of a man who was once part of a Community, not which contained all ideas in harmony, but which either (1) did not contain ideas challenging his own and now does, or (2) contained such ideas in such a minor way that he could safely ignore them and now does such that he cannot. You used to could write really racist scifi and get it published. Now, that would be awful hard. There is a reason for that, and, hint hint, it is a good one.

Also, is it just me, or is his writing level basically still collegiate? I'm talking about (1) needlessly deploying giant words and (2) just talking without an outline. It's 2014 on the Internet, people: give me some subheads.

Finally, I read some of the comments. Someone stepped in to point out that Beale was turned out for calling a black author an uncivilized savage. The Wright supporters' response was, "He calls Jemisin a savage for being a liar, not for being black." I mean, where do you even start with someone who is willing to post that on the Internet under his real name?
posted by radicalawyer at 10:20 AM on May 9 [4 favorites]


dglynn: " One of the things I often enjoyed about reading Heinlein was the variety of perspectives of different characters in different circumstances. He seemed to like bouncing into different situations of his own creation, with lots of inspection of the Panglossian ideal "it's this way because it's this way, and therefore could not be any other". Classic "what if..." shenanigans."

Same here.

His travelogue Tramp Royale, is a fascinating read. Definitely a product of it's time period and the author's politics.
posted by zarq at 10:23 AM on May 9


I love Heinlein but fuck this guy.
posted by 256 at 10:27 AM on May 9 [7 favorites]


When I was a teenager, I read Heinlein at least in part because of all the sex. Brother man was pretty aggressively pro-fucking-between-two-consenting-people rocks. I recall one passage in "Time Enough For Love" that involved Lazurus Long getting birth control for his teenage daughter so she could get busy with her boyfriend without fear - and her being commended for being on top. As an adult, I recognize much of his writing is couched in the sexism of his era, but he was pretty progressive as far as sex and gender roles were concerned.

I like to imagine that he'd lean Andrew Sullivan conservative if he'd been born in the 70's.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:29 AM on May 9 [5 favorites]


Whoa cool, another Syfy (SciFi? SF?) controversy. What a genre, western, RomCom or mystery writers and their readers seem dull and boring when it comes to stirring it up in the ol blogoshere.
posted by sammyo at 10:32 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]


John C. Wright is a wanker of the first order and to be sure Heinlein, while important was not really the paragon of greatness he has been held up to be, but this does seem like adding a lot of energy to a fight that doesn't really need to be there. Just kind of think of it as Wright's opinion, and apply the asshole rule to it, then go and create something fantastic while disregarding the many asshole opinions there are in the world.
posted by edgeways at 10:33 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: chased out of sf fandom
posted by sammyo at 10:34 AM on May 9


Not all of what Wright says is the truth, but Wright is correct on one point: the Robert Heinlein of old could not win a Hugo today. Perhaps it is news to Mr. Wright, that (a) these awards are popularity contents as much as they are critical assessments of the literature, and that (b) tastes change. I suspect it is not news to most people.
posted by tyllwin at 10:37 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]


[L]eave behind a room, locked on the inside, in a snowed-in mansion, with all the current members of the board inside it, all dead, each with a pearl-handled letter-opener protruding from his/her back on which can be found the fingerprints of the person next to them at the table.

If you imagine Tim Curry and Madeline Kahn involved with this shenanigan it makes is SO much more enjoyable.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 10:47 AM on May 9 [9 favorites]


The "Heinlein couldn't win a Hugo today" argument is predicated on the idea that Robert Heinlein, a man who rather famously and successfully tuned his career to escape the poorly-paid ghetto of pulps by tuning his works to "the slicks" -- magazines like Collier's and The Saturday Evening Post -- would be writing the same books today as he did in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Which is, in my not uninformed opinion, a fat lot of nonsense. A great portion of Heinlein's success was that he was tuned into his time, and well aware of where the money was. The suggestion that he would not do the same today, is specious at best. Heinlein did a lot of work to make science fiction an explicitly commercial genre, rather than merely a niche one.

If we grant that a resurrected Heinlein would read the lay of the land, commerce-wise, could he win a Hugo today? Sure he could -- or at the very least could get nominated. Charlie Stross wrote a homage to late Heinlein called Saturn's Children which was nominated for a Hugo in 2009; its sequel Neptune's Brood is on the ballot this year. Robert J. Sawyer, who writes in a clear, Campbellian style, is a frequent Best Novel nominee, most recently for Wake, which has a clear antecedent in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. James SA Corey rolled onto the Hugo Novel list in 2012 with Leviathan Wakes, which is solidly in the Golden Age tradition, updated for today's audiences. And I can think of at least one recent Hugo award winner who has a thrice-Hugo-nominated military science fiction series, who has been explicitly compared to Heinlein all through his career. So could Heinlein win a Hugo? Hell yeah, he could -- and if he were as commercially smart today as he was back in the day, it wouldn't even be question of if, but when.

When people say "Heinlein couldn't win a Hugo today," what they're really saying is "The fetish object that I have constructed using the bits of Heinlein that I agree with could not win a Hugo today." Robert Heinlein -- or a limited version of him that only wrote Starship Troopers, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and maybe Farnham's Freehold or Sixth Column -- is to a certain brand of conservative science fiction writer what Ronald Reagan is to a certain brand of conservative in general: A plaster idol whose utility at this point is as a vessel for a certain worldview, regardless of whether or not Heinlein (or Reagan, for that matter) would subscribe to that worldview himself.

They don't want Heinlein to be able to win a Hugo today. Because if Heinlein could win a Hugo today, it means that their cri de coeur about how the Hugos are really all about fandom politics/who you know/unfairly biased against them because of political correctness would be wrong, and they might have to entertain the notion that Heinlein, the man, is not the platonic ideal of them, no matter how much they have held up a plaster version of the man to be just that very thing.

I imagine that if Heinlein (or his quietly cultivated and therefore relatively youthful clone) were alive and writing today, his response to this sort of thinking would be, "The hell with you lot. I have a career I'm working on." And then he'd write a 2014 version of a Heinlein book that would knock a bunch of readers on their asses, and then, sooner rather than later, he'd walk off with a rocketship.
posted by jscalzi at 10:49 AM on May 9 [128 favorites]


"... to bolster claims of witch hunts against rightwing science fiction writers."

I don't have any idea who John C. Wright is, to be honest, but I find fascinating the idea that there _are_ right-wing science-fiction authors.
I mean, science-fiction, more than any other genre, deals with the future, with change, with possibility.

As a child, growing up in more or less suburbia, science fiction books were the first places I encountered non-traditional relationships (gay, ploy-amourous, poly-species).

The first place I encountered working socialism, collectivism, etc. There were fascists, of course, but they were almost always evil, or at least, less enlightened than the collectivist aliens. And even when they weren't evil, there was always a guy (or often a woman) who urged us that if we just understood the aliens, we wouldn't be fighting.

Corporations? Always abusing the poor space miner, or engaging in shady, pseudo-government shenanigans. Rarely the good guy.

Obviously we all tend to select books that appeal to us, and it's been sometime since I've read sci-fi, but it seems even in the most direct, we-must-defend-humankind-from-the-alien-scourge books, there was still an element of progressive thinking, if just in the hero, who must overcome the military bureaucracy to save the day.
I find that hard to square with the attitudes attributed to some of these authors.
posted by madajb at 10:49 AM on May 9 [8 favorites]


Whoops guess I should've read the comments

When I left the Mystery Writers of America because I didn't like some of their dealings and rules

Ahh but didn't take it to twitter, could'a been a fine show.

( many smilies inserted here)
posted by sammyo at 10:53 AM on May 9


Ok, I've been stewing over this for 15 minutes and now I'm even more angry. Not only is this guy an asshole, but I have to wonder if he's even read Heinlein.

Not only was Heinlein progressive on feminism and sexual liberation (for his time), but also on sexual orientation and race relations.

Two of the main characters in Time Enough For Love hit it off at work (where they only interact via computer terminal) and then agree to go on a date to a sex club together sight unseen, with neither of them either knowing the gender of the other. When they meet for the date, the one says to the other something like "Oh! I'm happy you're a woman!" The lady asks "Would it have made a difference if I wasn't?" to which the reply is "Not really, but I can still be happy, can't I?"

I mean, sure, I don't recall the manly man characters like Long or Hershaw ever getting it on with another dude, but they didn't really think it was their business if other men did. I vaguely recall a passage where one of them makes a comment like "I don't think it's natural and that's not how we were made to do it. But they're both adults and they're not hurting anyone." That reads a little homophobic now, but for the 1960s it's downright progressive.

And the same thing on the subject of race. Heinlein is on record as saying that with some of his characters he intentionally never indicates their race and even went to the trouble of keeping them racially ambiguous in his mind, because it shouldn't matter what colour their skin was. Again, there are some troubling assumptions about race in some of his books, and I can remember at least one vaguely Mystical Negro type character, but on the whole, I'd say that he was way ahead of his time on that issue too, at least when he was younger.

Frankly, it's true that Heinlein's books would be less well received today. Part of that is just that the craft has evolved. Better science fiction is being written today than was being written 50 years ago. But yes, some of Heinlein's ideas have become unpopular as well. The thing is, the ideas that would relegate Heinlein an outsider today have nothing to do with race or gender or sexual orientation. They are things like his steadfast belief in capitalism as a meritocracy. Or his unrelenting support of military imperialism. If John C. Wright were arguing that, he might have a point, though probably still not a very meaningful one. Times change. It would be nice if Wright took a look around and realized that.
posted by 256 at 10:54 AM on May 9 [26 favorites]


the Robert Heinlein of old could not win a Hugo today

The Robert Heinlein of old would not be the Robert Heinlein of today. Likewise, Aristotle born in 1970 would not have been a geocentrist.

I get the sense that Heinlein was trying to be a feminist. Starship Troopers is full of female battleship pilots, women being said to be better at it than men due to better g-tolerance. Meanwhile 1940s rules of chivalry remained ostentatiously in effect for them. Heinlein sometimes failed at being feminist due to privileged ignorance, failing hilariously, but there's something endearing about it. Hypothetical Heinlein of today would know better and do better.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:00 AM on May 9 [18 favorites]


I mean, science-fiction, more than any other genre, deals with the future, with change, with possibility.

Sure, but for many people, their ideal is that, far in the future, white men have conquered the earth and taken their conquerin' to the stars, where they find it convenient to sleep with hot white women or, in every third book or so, an Exotic Beauty of Indeterminate Race.
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:01 AM on May 9 [2 favorites]


Well, he looks exactly like I expected him to. Neckbeard? Check. Fedora? Double check.
posted by stenseng at 11:09 AM on May 9 [2 favorites]


For me, Heinlein was ok. I really enjoyed Job and the juvenile fiction, and Time Enough For Love, but that's about it. As someone mentioned upthread, there's a lot better SF/F to be had these days, so whether or not the Admiral would get a Hugo today is a pretty silly argument to make.

There's a bunch of right-wing Sci Fi authors. John Ringo, Tom Kratman, and Michael Z. Williamson are the ones that come to my mind right now. I think Sarah A. Hoyt could be included in that list, too.

I enjoy reading books that I can learn something from or that make me think. For the most part, sci fi and fantasy have that quality. I stop enjoying them when they get preachy or hateful. Kratman's A Desert Called Peace really turned me off, but I finished that damned book mainly out of morbid curiosity.

Ringo is starting to wade into that territory as well. At first, when he kept his misogynist bullshit confined to the Kildar series, I was ok still reading his stuff. Then it started bleeding into everything, and I had to stop.

Williamson is fine, but I don't know if I'd go out of my way to buy his books.

Hoyt is great, and I highly recommend her writing, especially the Shakespeare stuff.
posted by lysdexic at 11:10 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]


"...I don't recall the manly man characters like Long or Hershaw ever getting it on with another dude..."

Elizabeth Andrew Jackson "Slipstick" Libby Long.

And at one point, yes, Lazarus ends up pretty much putting his pud in anything that will accept it. Including his own mother.
posted by daq at 11:13 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]


"There are two ways for a sheep to be lead"

Three if you count organic alchemy.
posted by Decani at 11:31 AM on May 9 [16 favorites]


From the Wright article: The falsely accused racist here is Hispanic.

Did this make anyone else pause, cock their head to the side, and raise an ear? I'm unfamiliar with Larry Correia or Theodore Beale, so I can't speak to whether they actually are racist, but Wright seems to be implying that their ethnicity disqualifies them from any charge of racism, which is just... odd.
posted by echocollate at 11:39 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]


When I was a teenager, I read Heinlein at least in part because of all the sex. Brother man was pretty aggressively pro-fucking-between-two-consenting-people rocks. I recall one passage in "Time Enough For Love" that involved Lazurus Long getting birth control for his teenage daughter so she could get busy with her boyfriend without fear - and her being commended for being on top.

I'm pretty sure that was the story about the two freed slaves, and the kids were brother and sister, although they were IIRC somehow genetically modified to be sexually compatible and there was no additional risk of birth defects. Still a bit creepy.

Which...

And at one point, yes, Lazarus ends up pretty much putting his pud in anything that will accept it. Including his own mother.

Actually, two versions of his mother: one when he went back in time to when she was young, and another when he rescued her from when she died in his OTL and was rejuvenated (and later they got married). He was also doing the same with twin female teenage cloned versions of himself, at least one former computer now in a woman's body, and an intergalactic sex therapist. Oh, and his mom "tripped up" and married her dad in The Number of the Beast, because why not?
posted by zombieflanders at 11:41 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]


I mean, sure, I don't recall the manly man characters like Long or Hershaw ever getting it on with another dude

I remember Long in Time Enough for Love (?) falling asleep with two women and waking up with a woman and a man in the bed. He can't remember whether he and the man did anything, then decides it doesn't matter. So not getting it on, but not freaking out about possibly having done so.
posted by cereselle at 11:41 AM on May 9 [1 favorite]


And I just realized this is the second comment about incest I've made on Metafilter today. Thanks, internet!
posted by zombieflanders at 11:45 AM on May 9 [4 favorites]


And I just realized this is the second comment about incest I've made on Metafilter today. Thanks, internet!

HAT. TRICK. HAT. TRICK. HAT. TRICK.
posted by echocollate at 11:47 AM on May 9 [14 favorites]


God, I remember the horror I felt, upon reading Stranger etc, that the guy I lost my virginity to used the word 'grok' todo el tiempo
posted by angrycat at 11:55 AM on May 9 [3 favorites]


Aristotle born in 1970 would not have been a geocentrist.

Aristotle born in 1970 would be shouting at hipsters to get off his lawn.
posted by Pudhoho at 12:01 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


Man, I need me a story about Samurai railroad executives.

Shōgun Shrugged: An Ayn Clavell Thriller
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:01 PM on May 9 [10 favorites]


I've been wary of Wright's abilities as a critic since I came across this review of Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others. Wright's ideological commitments distort his reading of evidence  more than they should in a self-aware writer. His treatment of "Hell is the Absence of God" misreads Chiang's story in favor of grinding an axe against certain criticisms of Wright's religious views (criticisms that aren't really there in the novelette).
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:23 PM on May 9 [3 favorites]


Circa 1993, a College English course, I had to pick a book and then do a research paper on a subject of the book. I picked Friday and did the report about genetic engineering.

My (madly feminist) professor first said that "Heinlein isn't an established mainstream author", and then after asking other professors who looked at her like her head was on backwards, had one of the physics profs grade the paper because she didn't understand it.

I remember at the time deciding that at some point in the future I would own every Heinlein novel. I just didn't think that not only would that be possible in the future, I would be carrying them around on my phone.
posted by mrbill at 12:25 PM on May 9 [7 favorites]


Wright seems to be implying that their ethnicity disqualifies them from any charge of racism, which is just... odd.

If odd means unusual then it sadly is not; it's another side of the coin to the people who think that a black dude screaming "honky" at them as they drive by means they have been victimized the say way as someone who is systematically denied housing or freedom from search.
posted by phearlez at 12:27 PM on May 9 [3 favorites]


“We do not view her [black author N.K. Jemisin] as being fully civilised… [she is] an educated, but ignorant, savage"

I'd like to believe that the most deranged and delusional word in that disgusting rant is "we."
posted by straight at 1:04 PM on May 9 [6 favorites]


From my collection of anecdotes, "Me, Heinlein and an intellectual shipping clerk".
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:09 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


Didn't Wright just stir the shit pot by starting a petition against SFWA editorial death panels that did not exist, and managed to get a disturbing number of writers to sign on by passing around a variety of edited versions?

Did this make anyone else pause, cock their head to the side, and raise an ear? I'm unfamiliar with Larry Correia or Theodore Beale, so I can't speak to whether they actually are racist, but Wright seems to be implying that their ethnicity disqualifies them from any charge of racism, which is just... odd.

My one encounter with Correia was Hard Magic. It didn't invite me to continue because I figured that two-dimensional Americans in an alternate WWII against one-dimensional Japs using a variety of firearms and superpowers which are more slavishly detailed and memorable than any of the characters wasn't my thing. That his Axis villains seemed more like a caricature than even the Indiana Jones movies was something that bugged me at the time. I gave it a mild pass for adhering a bit too slavishly to the jingoism of the kind of adventure story it was a homage to, but it might bug other people more.

On Beale/Day, well, if you call another author "half-savage" and bring up the theory that people of European descent are part-Neanderthal to justify a claim that she can't understand novels, I think charges of racism are justified.

Not knowing anything about Correia, I'd say his portrayal of Japanese falls into the "hey this is interesting, let's talk about it" mode of criticism. Beale's comments about Jemisin went beyond the pale. Correia and Card manage to hit general and genre best-seller lists, so I don't think they're hurting.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:14 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


Heinlein's problem is that his novels are too much about Heinlein and not enough about broader things. You can't really read him without getting Heinlein's beliefs and ideas, which are not popular in SF circles these days, full-bore in the face. I really liked the writing and plotting in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but not the ideas, and those were too central to the book to make it a favorite. Whereas Dune – which I read at about the same time I read as Stranger in a Strange Land – has stuck with me as a perennial favorite. It's not that Herbert's books didn't have big ideas, but he managed to be ambiguous in a way Heinlein wasn't, and I think holds up better.
posted by graymouser at 1:28 PM on May 9 [4 favorites]


Heinlein might have had his faults as a writer, but as a human being he was as generous and open-minded as you could hope for. He would have looked on these mean-spirited slugs who use his name with the utmost disdain.

Full story here, but in summary, Ted Sturgeon once wrote to him in anguish when suffering from writers block. (Ted Sturgeon had written a number of stories with LGBT themes, an adventurous thing to do in the 50s.) Heinlein immediately wrote back with a large number of story ideas, and also enclosed a check for $100.
posted by daveje at 1:28 PM on May 9 [13 favorites]


And at one point, yes, Lazarus ends up pretty much putting his pud in anything that will accept it. Including his own mother.



Yep- he did the nasty in the past-y.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:30 PM on May 9 [6 favorites]


TheWhiteSkull... er ah. When you say that I think of this and it makes me really paranoid about time traveling Sci Fi writers and their sexual attraction to savory pastry products from the north.
posted by edgeways at 1:39 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


but as a human being he was as generous and open-minded as you could hope for
Pretty nice to P.K. Dick as well.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:50 PM on May 9


Oh, poor John C. Wright. That heart attack and his sense of impending mortality really sent him for a loop. No fanatic like a converted fanatic.

That said, I'm afraid he's not entirely wrong about the idea that certain people would like to purge right-wing authors from scifi. cstross got into an argument with someone saying just that on James Nicoll's livejournal.
posted by dragoon at 1:53 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


And, anyone who thinks that involvement with NOM is inannocuous and inoffensive is fooling themselves.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:59 PM on May 9 [3 favorites]


science-fiction, more than any other genre, deals with the future, with change, with possibility

Not my preferred reading matter, SF, but that description sounds pretty generic for most fiction. Surely drama arises from people (or alienoids) forced to weigh the competing claims of past and future, of change and the eternal, of possibility and the immovable?

For sure it seems to be a natural field for polemic, and as such well suited to writers on either end of the spectrum. Me, I'm off for popcorn.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:10 PM on May 9


Wow. Those kids just won't get off Wright's lawn.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:30 PM on May 9 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine that Heinlein wouldn't dip his toes into queer-friendly science fiction given how mainstream it has become over the last 25 years.

But it seems like that the sci-fi conservatives want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to be controversial without being controversial. They want to offend their political opponents, but not be labeled offensive. They want to make money promoting their politics in science fiction, but don't want to loose potential readers.

I sort of wonder if the reason we don't hear similar issues from romance or mystery writers is that they're more aware that the genre is ultimately about making the dollar. Yeah, there was that blowup a few years ago when the Lambdas announced that they'd favor LGBT-identified writers. But I suspect that greater diversity in their genres is more likely to be seen as market diversification creating more opportunities as a whole. And there seems to be a lot less nostalgia bullshit that pulps were a better and more pure form. Maybe I'm misreading what's going on over in those corners.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:38 PM on May 9 [3 favorites]


Hang on, hang on. John C Wright is not a satirist?!
posted by fallingbadgers at 2:41 PM on May 9


I agree with one or two others who have pointed out that Wright didn't, in fact, say that Heinlein was the greatest author of SF ever and nobody else could ever compare. Wright says enough stupid things that we don't need to exaggerate his stupidity. He's stupid enough without our help.

The thing about Wright is that he's not a no-talent hack whose only notable feature is his crazy political and social ideas. I realize most people here aren't familiar with his work but I'd compare him much more with OSC than with, say, Vox Day. Wright has talent. Quite a bit of it. That he too often squanders his talent by throwing all kinds of bullshit into his works doesn't change that.

FWIW, the kind of bullshit he throws in has changed over time. In his GOLDEN AGE trilogy it was pure Rand. In his WAR OF THE DREAMING it was crazy religiosity and racism. In CHRONICLES OF CHAOS it was really weird psyco-sexual stuff involving schoolgirls. (Older ones but still...).

I don' t know what craziness is in his COUNT TO THE ESCHATON series because I only read the first one. But I'm afraid to read any more because I don't want my mind to melt when the inevitable occurs and some kind of crazy bullshit shows up.
posted by Justinian at 2:43 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


I've been wary of Wright's abilities as a critic since I came across this review of Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others

Wright: "...except when he trots out a tired leftwing cliché, whereupon suddenly everything becomes flat and predictable...I can only recommend the first half of each story."

Someone who reads Ted Chiang and comes away with this reaction is not competent to write science fiction.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:07 PM on May 9 [3 favorites]


If you imagine Tim Curry and Madeline Kahn involved with this shenanigan it makes is SO much more enjoyable.

WADSWORTH: And then, infuriated by the growing success of queer writers, female writers and writers of color, the sci-fi writer threw himself to the ground and pounded his tiny fists on the floor like... THIS!

[WADSWORTH hurls JOHN C WRIGHT to the ground.]

JOHN C WRIGHT: Will you stop doing that?

WADSWORTH: Nyaw!
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:10 PM on May 9 [8 favorites]


Someone who reads Ted Chiang and comes away with this reaction is not competent to write science fiction.

SFWA appears to disagree with you since they put one of Wright's novels on the shortlist for the Nebula. Lots of other critics seemed to like his stuff as well. Until the brain eater got him.
posted by Justinian at 3:13 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


If you imagine Tim Curry and Madeline Kahn involved with this shenanigan it makes is SO much more enjoyable.

Alternately, there's the great English playwright who is so oppressed by his intellectual superiority, Brian Clapper. (click through to go to the right place in the episode.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:33 PM on May 9


Justinian, the Nebula isn't nominated/voted on by the organization per se, but rather by its members. I might also point out that 10% of SFWA members voted for Vox Day. So there's that.

On Heinlein, despite his many failings, he at least tried to represent women at a time (and genre) where they were invisible in other writers' works.
posted by deirdresm at 3:38 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


The members are the organization.

I'm just making the point that Wright is a swear-to-god real author who writes real books and isn't someone who can be completely dismissed as an utter talentless hack like Vox Day or whomever.
posted by Justinian at 3:42 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


Science Fiction & Fantasy Melodrama Writers of America
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:59 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


10% of SFWA members voted for Vox Day

A vote for Vox Day could as easily have been a "screw you" to the popular choices as a show of real support for Vox Day. I hope 10% of the SFWA doesn't actually support his views.
posted by tyllwin at 4:10 PM on May 9


The interesting thing is that people are leaping to the "Whether or not Heinlein would win a Nebula today if he updated his work" bandwagon. But that's not the question or the charge. The charge is, "Are political biases influencing how writing is being judged?" And that seems like a big, fat, yes. There are a lot of campaigns floating all over the SF blogosphere about how everyone should be working for "No Award" for Vox Day and his slate, simply based on his political beliefs and personal statements alone. And Elizabeth Moon was absolutely uninvited from being GoH for her suggestion that certain religions discourage feminism and need to assimilate to more freedoms. Her personal views on the matter, expressed on her private blog.

Wright's charge that SF is now a highly political business is spot-on. It is not kind to the heterodox. Yes, people can say "it's better that way", but when you say that, you are confirming Wright's point. If you don't want any nasty libertarians in your SF, or nasty conservatives, you are being biased. If you're saying "Sure, the book was fine, but I couldn't get into the ideas because they go against mine", you're being biased.

If Heinlein was transplanted to now, he would not win a Nebula. He would not win a single thing. He would absolutely be hounded out. And that's a shame, because his work is phenomenal. It is possible to separate the writing from whether or not the author goes to your church or votes for your party. Or at least - it was. And that's what Wright, who's also a stunning SF author (see Golden Age), mourns. Rightly.
posted by corb at 4:13 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of campaigns floating all over the SF blogosphere about how everyone should be working for "No Award" for Vox Day and his slate, simply based on his political beliefs and personal statements alone.

You understand that Vox Day is on the ballot because of a campaign headed by Larry Correia? Not on merit - almost nobody has actually read a story by Vox Day - but to take a stand against all the liberals taking over sci-fi?

You get this sort of shenanigans when you have an award voted on by a large group of people in the Internet age. It's sort of surprising that moot isn't nominated for all awards.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:33 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


Wright's charge that SF is now a highly political business is spot-on. It is not kind to the heterodox. Yes, people can say "it's better that way", but when you say that, you are confirming Wright's point. If you don't want any nasty libertarians in your SF, or nasty conservatives, you are being biased. If you're saying "Sure, the book was fine, but I couldn't get into the ideas because they go against mine", you're being biased.

Politics is not some atomized external thing which all things must be evaluated in the absence of. Politics are the practical expression of our interior ideas about how the world does and should work. There is no separating a person and their politics when evaluating that person, nor separating a work from its politics when evaluating that work. Conservative and libertarian views are to varying extents cruel, bigoted beliefs that make the world a shitty place. Glorifying and celebrating works which extol those beliefs is glorifying and celebrating cruelty, bigotry, and shittiness. If politics does not qualify as something to judge things and people on, nothing does.

And somebody's going to say "I judge people only by their actions!", as if speech wasn't an action, as if writing wasn't an action, as if a person's politics are irrelevant to their actions, as if it were okay to support cruelty and bigotry as long as you're interpersonally nice to the people you directly interact with...
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:56 PM on May 9 [17 favorites]


To be fair, Brandon Sanderson is a conservative, and he is about to crush it in the Best Novel category with Wheel of Time. That doesn't come up much inside the filter bubble, because it doesn't fit with the narrative of victimhood that less successful conservative writers seem to depend on to explain why more people don't read their books.

Sanderson has also managed not to go off on any demented rants about Obama using the Boston bombing to recruit a paramilitary goon squad from African-American gangs, of course, or caused the SFWA a giant PR nightmare. Not being an active embarrassment is probably a good idea if you want to be nominated for a Nebula, or win a Hugo.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:06 PM on May 9 [4 favorites]


To be fair, Brandon Sanderson is a conservative, and he is about to crush it in the Best Novel category with Wheel of Time.

That's because when people whine about bias against conservatives they're actually whining about bias against racist, bigoted assholes. There are conservatives who aren't racist bigots and they do just fine.
posted by Justinian at 5:08 PM on May 9 [8 favorites]


Based on his prolific output, I'm convinced that Brandon Sanderson is not a single man but a Borg collective of writers who occasionally absorb new and upcoming authors. Somewhere there is an unsuspecting house within which lives a strange creature, six pairs of hands typing, always typing.

I mean, that or he drinks way more coffee than I can imagine.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:10 PM on May 9 [3 favorites]


Pope Guilty: "Based on his prolific output, I'm convinced that Brandon Sanderson is not a single man but a Borg collective of writers who occasionally absorb new and upcoming authors. Somewhere there is an unsuspecting house within which lives a strange creature, six pairs of hands typing, always typing.

I mean, that or he drinks way more coffee than I can imagine.
"

I'm pretty sure that as a practicing Mormon he doesn't drink any coffee at all. So yeah, Borg collective.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 5:19 PM on May 9


Wright's charge that SF is now a highly political business is spot-on. It is not kind to the heterodox. Yes, people can say "it's better that way", but when you say that, you are confirming Wright's point. If you don't want any nasty libertarians in your SF, or nasty conservatives, you are being biased. If you're saying "Sure, the book was fine, but I couldn't get into the ideas because they go against mine", you're being biased.

Because calling an author a half-savage with questions about her genetic heritage over a disagreement about criminal law, or calling another set of authors and fans equivalent to insects too stupid to run for cover when the light is shined on us doesn't display a lick of bias.

If Heinlein was transplanted to now, he would not win a Nebula. He would not win a single thing. He would absolutely be hounded out. And that's a shame, because his work is phenomenal. It is possible to separate the writing from whether or not the author goes to your church or votes for your party. Or at least - it was. And that's what Wright, who's also a stunning SF author (see Golden Age), mourns. Rightly.

Gene Wolfe, no less a Catholic than Wright, won the WFA in 2007 and 2010 and also won the Locus in 2010. Correia is in print and has been on the NYT Best Seller list.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:21 PM on May 9 [7 favorites]


Well, he looks exactly like I expected him to. Neckbeard? Check. Fedora? Double check

And that's his chosen author picture!

(And yes, I'm still grumpy I read half of one of his books some 10 years ago after the Amazon made me think it would be a good book. It was one of those "wait... he's serious isn't he... this isn't a setup" moments.)
posted by aspo at 5:26 PM on May 9


Dan Simmons is also conservative and has been pretty outspoken since 9/11. He still wins awards and cranks out very popular books.

The idea that Heinlein wouldn't be popular or lauded is silly, imo.
posted by zarq at 5:27 PM on May 9 [2 favorites]


Regarding Sanderson, there is plenty to indicate that while he is a practicing Mormon he is nowhere near the conservative insanity of OSC. He's even had a lesbian character in one of his books.
posted by Ber at 5:29 PM on May 9


Regarding Sanderson, there is plenty to indicate that while he is a practicing Mormon he is nowhere near the conservative insanity of OSC. He's even had a lesbian character in one of his books.

Well, precisely - he's proof that conservatives who are not vocal racists or homophobes are not in fact made pariahs in science fiction.

(I talk more about Sanderson and Card, specifically, and the differences between them, here. Science fiction, I'd say, is still a pretty conservative medium, and there's a way of expressing prejudice that will play perfectly well. Sanderson seems to have gotten smarter about this stuff over time, possibly as a result of hanging out with smart people.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:44 PM on May 9 [2 favorites]


I'm mildly surprised anyone even tries to defend Vox Day. Poor racist homophobe can't catch a break I guess. How dare people publiclly campaign against someone on the ballot purely because someone campaigned for him.
As already mentioned, there are plenty of more conservative writers out there who manage just fine. Wright and Day and so on are essentially trolling here, and I think Luhr unfortunatlly rose to the bait this time.
As to 'private blog'... There really is no such thing. If you are posting something online you are expecting it to be read, and that means owning the words you wrote. Shrug

As for Heinlein, I dunno, even as an adolescent I didn't care for him all that much. I do recognize his importance to the genera, and think if he was writing today he'd be sucessful. And I still wouldn't care for it (it does sound like he was a pretty stand up guy though). Hell, I don't like Wheel of Time, but it sure sells a lot.
posted by edgeways at 5:56 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


I feel about Heinlein's books the way I feel about the Bible -- some interesting and enjoyable stories, but lord protect me from the rabid fans of either.
posted by fings at 5:56 PM on May 9 [9 favorites]


Wow, Vox Day is a full on white supremacist. I'm not sure I've ever seen that kind of sentiment express outside of a explicit, dedicated hate group. And he, too, looks just like you might imagine. White dude, neo-Nazi shaved head, fascist-fetish aviators.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:13 PM on May 9 [2 favorites]


You understand that Vox Day is on the ballot because of a campaign headed by Larry Correia?

To clarify, I think Vox Day is a hilariously bad writer, but I don't think he needs a campaign to get people to vote against him. His writing will undoubtedly assist people to make that decision even in the ideal vacuum. But I do have a problem with people trying to blackball the entire Correia slate, particularly when those authors didn't ask to be there.

There are conservatives who aren't racist bigots and they do just fine.


Well, Pope Guilty might disagree with you, as he seems to be arguing that all conservatives and libertarians are awful bigots by design. I would argue that there's actually a host of sniping over doctrinal issues that really sidelines authors, but that may just be because I have terrible bitter memories of RaceFail 09 where the internet tried to eat Elizabeth Bear.
posted by corb at 7:17 PM on May 9


To clarify, I think Vox Day is a hilariously bad writer, but I don't think he needs a campaign to get people to vote against him.

That wasn't the question I asked. I asked if you understood that this situation was created by Larry Correia launching an Internet campaign to put conservative writers on the ballot at the expense of a campaign-free process. You said:

The charge is, "Are political biases influencing how writing is being judged?" And that seems like a big, fat, yes. There are a lot of campaigns floating all over the SF blogosphere about how everyone should be working for "No Award" for Vox Day and his slate, simply based on his political beliefs and personal statements alone.

I was asking if you understood that this "slate" was not a naturally occurring formation, as the word "slate" denotes in geology. If you do understand this, it seems odd to start the clock on all those terrible campaigns after the Correia campaign. Further, if you understand that, then you presumably also understand that the statement that:

There are a lot of campaigns floating all over the SF blogosphere about how everyone should be working for "No Award" for Vox Day and his slate, simply based on his political beliefs and personal statements alone.

Is untrue, but more relevantly very easy to demonstrate as falsifiable. If you understand that the Correia campaign existed, you must logically understand that what has happened since is a response to that campaign. It is not based on Vox Day's "political beliefs and personal statements alone".

So, the question:

You understand that Vox Day is on the ballot because of a campaign headed by Larry Correia

Was not a request to share a general rumination on Vox Day. It was a specific question about your understanding of the chain of events.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:42 PM on May 9 [8 favorites]


I'll say yes, I'm biased. Tor.com reviewer Liz Bourke commented last year that there's more science fiction and fantasy published just by female authors than she can read or review. Much less someone like me, who's been pecking through an Octavia Butler novel for a full month of lunch hours. Unlike Bourke, I don't get a stack of pre-press manuscripts either.

To put in an additional few data points, Crichton's State of Fear had an initial print run of 1.5 million copies, hit #1 on Amazon and #2 on NYT bestseller lists. It got a fair number of good reviews. Ender's Game is currently #48 on the Amazon print Science Fiction and Fantasy list, and #14 on the Kindle Science Fiction and Fantasy list. (#1 or #2 if you dig down to sub-genres.) Card's Earth Afire cracked the NYT mass market paperback list this week, and Ender's Game cracked the NYT mass market paperback list last week both at the modest #19 slot.

My current bedtime reading is the Tiptree winner Rupetta, which had an initial hard-copy run of 500 from Tartarus press when the award was announced. Jemisin has ranted a couple of times about trying to keep her fiction on the SF&F shelf rather than automatically getting filed under African-American by virtue of the jacket photo. In 2010 when three African or Afro-Caribbean authors were shortlisted for the WFAs, how many were stocked at the local B&N? One.

The notion that conservatives just don't have a market due to the influence of the "insect army" just doesn't make a lot of sense to me when the most controversial author of the bunch is still getting ink on the NYT lists.

Science Fiction and Fantasy are supposedly the literature of BIG IDEAS. So I'm not really certain why, as a person who reads for enjoyment, I should spend my time hunting down BIG IDEAS that don't really grab me in the early chapters, or after the first novel, which I paid for in the case of Correia (Baen if I remember right). If the author is going to break the fourth wall to lecture me about tax law (Chalker), gender roles (de Camp), communism (Burroughs), or the value of a good gun in the fight against tyranny (Correia). That's a part of the storytelling that works for me or doesn't. If it doesn't am I really obligated to carry on in the interest of some form of political affirmative action?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:27 PM on May 9 [8 favorites]


I discovered Heinlein at 9 (Red Planet), started becoming aware of his politics at 12 (Sixth Column), and was through with him by 16 (Farnham's Freehold).

But the later Heinlein ... well, "that poor boy, he was-a sick," and I think that needs to be taken into account when we judge him.

In 1934, (nine years prior to the discovery of streptomycin) Heinlein was hospitalized with tuberculosis --for more than a year, I seem to remember, but the linked Wikipedia article doesn't specify-- and in 1970 he developed a peritonitis from which it took him more than two years to fully recover, and which in retrospect I think was probably due to a recrudescence of his TB; in 1978 he had a transient ischemic attack in Tahiti, was discovered to have a blocked carotid artery and received one of the earliest carotid bypasses.

It's difficult to more than guess at what caused that, and Heinlein died in 1988 of emphysema and heart failure, but a close friend of mine had a clogged carotid due to TB that hadn't been treated quite long enough, and she suffered drastic personality changes very much for the worse as the disease developed.
posted by jamjam at 8:29 PM on May 9


When exactly did Vox Day claim he was Hispanic, anyway? He sure doesn't look it, based on that photo.
posted by DavLaurel at 8:34 PM on May 9


If we're looking for general thoughts on the situation, though, I'd say that either the Hugos are run according to strict no-campaigning principles, and any potential nominee found attempting to drum up support for a slate of other writers is removed from contention - which is possible, but would be hard to enforce - or they allow for the possibility of shenanigans, and let those shenanigans function as part of the process of election.

Up until now, they have relied on the discretion of the nominees - people like jscalzi have said nice things about other writers, but not in an organized or campaigning way. Correia tried to push a slate last year, but couldn't get himself onto the nominations. There's a general assumption that people would not propose whole slates, but there's no prohibition against them doing so. However, breaking the spirit of the Hugos in the way you are campaigning for writers contains implicitly the risk that others will decide that they are now free to campaign against your slate as well. Free speech (which in this case means votes) is being met with more free speech.

It's a shame if a writer who didn't ask to be on the Correia slate, but would have been nominated regardless, loses votes purely by that association, but once you've opened that box, that sort of oddity occurs. Anyone on the slate who wants to distance themselves from it - either for reasons of personal conscience or because they think it might hurt their chances - is free to do so, of course.

If the Hugos become an unedifying mess of politicking and smear campaigns, the market will probably correct by making authors and audiences care less about them, until another award becomes more credible and replaces them. And then the cycle can begin again...
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:41 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


When exactly did Vox Day claim he was Hispanic, anyway?

Wright is referring to Larry Correia here, not Vox Day.
posted by Justinian at 8:48 PM on May 9


Vox Day regularly states that he is Hispanic, though I've never figured out what he bases that claim on.
posted by jeather at 8:58 PM on May 9


Weird. Wright is still definitely talking about Correia, though.
posted by Justinian at 9:12 PM on May 9


Wright refers to both Correia and Day as Hispanic, now that I check the article. (He also calls them falsely accused of being racist. I am really curious what he defines as racist, if not Day.)
posted by jeather at 9:15 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


Hmmm, yeah. I have no idea where that comes from. If Beale says he's Hispanic, though, I don't know that I'm gonna argue. Maybe one of his grandparents or something.
posted by Justinian at 9:29 PM on May 9


I've been keeping half an eye on Vox Day for years and always took him for a Caucasian. So I wonder if he declared himself Hispanic only after the Jemisin affair. Playing the race card himself, you might say.
posted by DavLaurel at 9:42 PM on May 9


I've been keeping half an eye on Vox Day for years and always took him for a Caucasian. So I wonder if he declared himself Hispanic only after the Jemisin affair. Playing the race card himself, you might say.

Even if he does have a Hispanic background, that really doesn't have anything to say about whether he's racist or not. You don't get a 'get out of being called a racist free' card for not being white/Caucasian. For example, his comparing Mexican immigration to the US to the Nazi invasion of Europe is still racist, irrespective of his ethnic origins. Although if he's claiming to be Hispanic himself, I find that particular line of bullshit somewhat puzzling.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:56 PM on May 9 [2 favorites]


Wright refers to both Correia and Day as Hispanic, now that I check the article. (He also calls them falsely accused of being racist. I am really curious what he defines as racist, if not Day.)

Correia, in an incredibly lengthy apologia, provides an answer of sorts to that question:

Basically, he called Nora Jesmin an “ignorant half-savage” and that pissed everybody off. See, Nora, is a beloved libprog activist and Social Justice Warrior, and all the reports of her victimization at the hands of the villainous Vox usually leave out the parts where she’d been hurling personal insults at him for years. Myself? I thought that comment might be a bit over the line, but then again, Google search my name and see what the SJW’s have been calling me for the last few days. It is way worse that ignorant or savage, and I think I’m darker skinned than K. Tempest Bradford. I’ve yet to see any SJWs condemning those comments about me. Tolerance is a one way street with them.

So, pretty much what you'd expect, really.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:11 PM on May 9


When I think of conservative authors, I tend to think of David Weber, who by all accounts is a fantastically nice man. He will never win a Hugo or Nebula, but his writing, while rather redundant and flat at times, has propelled him up the NYT best seller list more than once. He even gives away a good number of his books for free.

I have never heard any call for a boycott of Weber or Stirling or John Ringo (despite the "OH JOHN RINGO NO," which he was apparently really classy about). If you avoid being a dick, you don't have people criticizing you. If you avoid being a bigoted asshole, you don't have people swearing to never read your books. If you don't go out of your way to insult one of the best writers of fantasy (I've only read one of Jemisin's books, so I can only speak to her fantasy) on the basis of racist dipshittery, you don't get kicked out of the SFWA.

I think there still is room for conservative throught in SF/F. I do not think there is room for bigoted thought in SF/F. And while, as a lefty, I believe the second is a subset of the first, I do realize there are conservatives out there who are good people who I happen to disagree with strongly. The way we see the world is different and I may believe their beliefs, if put into practice would cause harm, but they are not evil.

John C Wright is not evil. He is a stupid, shortsighted man who wants to appear profound and faux controversial while having everyone remember their proper place, like they (supposedly) did in the 50's.

Theodore Beale, on the other hand, is a horrible human being. I do not think this qualifies him as evil, but I do not see why anyone would voluntarily associate with him.
posted by Hactar at 11:29 PM on May 9 [4 favorites]


When exactly did Vox Day claim he was Hispanic, anyway? He sure doesn't look it, based on that photo

Let us please never do this ever.
posted by corb at 12:02 AM on May 10 [18 favorites]


If you understand that the Correia campaign existed, you must logically understand that what has happened since is a response to that campaign. It is not based on Vox Day's "political beliefs and personal statements alone".

Well, maybe. I mean, yes, I know that this is a response to the Correia Sad Puppies stuff - but a lot of the campaigning against it I've seen around it is really just more of a carryover from the Vox Day debacle. I don't see a lot of people campaigning against it on the high moral ground of making sure there's no campaigning going on. (And let's face it, everyone always does Hugo campaigns. It's less coy than the 'If you're interested, I just happen to have this Hugo-eligible piece, and so does my friend!' but this stuff has been going on for ages.)

Honestly I think that's kind of why it reminds me of RaceFail a lot - it starts with one person engaged in a controversy, and then it kind of spirals outwards as people circle the wagons, make decisions, counter those decisions, and write essay after essay about the whole situation.
posted by corb at 12:07 AM on May 10


I know that this is a response to the Correia Sad Puppies stuff

OK! So, we understand on some level a causal link here - that if Correia had not launched his campaign, there would not be campaigns in response. That the campaigns did not just pop into existence due to the universe's relentless need to oppress the right wing. That's useful information.

Your filter is giving you bad information, though: there are plenty of objections to the way the slate was promoted. It's just a question of whether those objections are valid, which is back to whether all these campaigns (which I think here means "blog posts") are cool or not cool. If you're not upset by Correia's, which advances writers based on their political beliefs and personal statements, probably don't be upset about the others? It's just the marketplace of ideas.

There have also been questions about the specific conduct of the campaign - buried in Correia's Hugo-eligible novelette about how mean people are being to him is an account of accusations of "ballot-stuffing".

From my perspective, a lot of the responses - not campaigns, so much as expressions of disappointment at the whole thing - have been around the fact that this shows that there are a lot of people out there who aren't very smart - who have not, for example, yet come to understand the causal relations between the companion animal they lie down with and the infestation of fleas they wake up with - and the association of those not-smart people with the Hugos is probably going to make the Hugos also look not-smart, and by extension sci-fi look not-smart. Which, given that it's meant to be about big ideas, is not great marketing.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:33 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]


One thing I've puzzled over is why Day's audience doesn't take issue with his pseudonym. He's essentially calling himself the 'voice of god', wouldn't that fall under some combo of blasphemy/hubris? Personally -- whatever-- teenager LARPer -- but I'd hazard a wild guess his core audience consists of kinda relgious conservatives who would yell about it if someone they didn't agree with did the same.
posted by edgeways at 8:26 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]


John Kennedy Toole Box: "[L]eave behind a room, locked on the inside, in a snowed-in mansion, with all the current members of the board inside it, all dead, each with a pearl-handled letter-opener protruding from his/her back on which can be found the fingerprints of the person next to them at the table.

If you imagine Tim Curry and Madeline Kahn involved with this shenanigan it makes is SO much more enjoyable.
"

Madeline Kahn made EVERYTHING so much more enjoyable.

And sexay.
posted by Samizdata at 10:14 AM on May 10


stenseng: "Well, he looks exactly like I expected him to. Neckbeard? Check. Fedora? Double check."

You forgot what appears to be a badly fitted suit.

And, hypothesizing on observed phenomenon....

Mi'lady? Check.
posted by Samizdata at 10:16 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]


As an aside, there is precedent for this, in both directions. In 1987 a block vote by Scientologists got Black Genesis onto the Best Novel shortlist - where it placed beneath "No Award". I think it's perfectly possible that votes to put it below "No Award" came from people who had read it, and thought it was so bad that it were better not to give an award at all, and people who objected to the Church of Scientology on an ideological level, and people who objected to the block vote pushing work onto the ballot.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:30 AM on May 10 [2 favorites]


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow: "I've been wary of Wright's abilities as a critic since I came across this review of Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others

Wright: "...except when he trots out a tired leftwing cliché, whereupon suddenly everything becomes flat and predictable...I can only recommend the first half of each story."

Someone who reads Ted Chiang and comes away with this reaction is not competent to write science fiction.
"

Truthfully, while reading said review, I questioned his competency to write reviews.
posted by Samizdata at 10:53 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]


I first read Starship Troopers when I was 13. I liked it! Spaceships and pew pew pew and equality for women!

All good.

Over the next few years I read Stranger, MIAHM, and Time Enough which was way, way more than enough for me. For a while I was counting how many times Heinlein referred to sexually liberated women as 'roundheels' before I figured out what he was doing (calling them sluts), and that was the last time I ever touched anything Heinlein ever wrote.

I do have a copy of Variable Star on my shelves though. And I've read it; it was a gift from a friend who is mentioned by name in the book by dint of being friends with Spider Robinson (another writer who should have stopped after his first three novels, written Stardance with Jeanne, and then throw out his typewriter). It's bad. It's not even so bad it's good. It's just terrible from start to finish. I don't know how much of that is Heinlein's notes and already-written stuff, and how much is Robinson, but if you value your sanity don't read that book.

Yes, Heinlein was a trailblazer, and yes he deserves respect for that, but his attitudes towards women are just so gross I feel like I need to have a shower just because I've been thinking about those books now.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:56 AM on May 10 [2 favorites]


Over the next few years I read Stranger, MIAHM, and Time Enough which was way, way more than enough for me. For a while I was counting how many times Heinlein referred to sexually liberated women as 'roundheels' before I figured out what he was doing (calling them sluts), and that was the last time I ever touched anything Heinlein ever wrote.

Actually Heinlein's an early sex-positive feminist. He's just a tiny bit crap at it from our perspective, seeing as 1) he was born in 1905 and 2) once the brain-eater got him he mostly churned out preachy male Mary-Sues who are immortal, tough, clever, and surrounded by pretty women.

And so he's used 'roundheeled' as a positive term for a woman who enjoys and seeks out sex.

I have some sympathy for his usage, because in English there's not very many positive terms for a woman who enjoys and seeks out sex. (Try writing down five on a sheet of paper.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:12 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


FFS. I knew Vox was a bigot, but I didn't realize he was that over the top. Nauseating.
posted by homunculus at 9:22 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


Has anyone, ever, seduced a woman with assistance from a Robert Heinlein novel?

Yes. I lusted after a RH fan; got her a personalized, autographed RH book; and then we did the bidness.
posted by ambient2 at 12:01 AM on May 11 [3 favorites]


Heinlein's attitudes towards women should not be extrapolated wholly from his writings, and it's a mistake to generalize about any of his opinions from his work as though his thoughts didn't change repeatedly through his life. William Patterson's biography (the second volume of which is allegedly FINALLY coming out in June, yay) does a very nice job in showing how nuanced and dynamic Heinlein's philosophies and beliefs actually were. He was really very good about incorporating new data into his hypotheses.

That is sort of the opposite of this Wright character, who appears to be made of gender essentialism. (I confess, I haven't read the whole essay. It's very long and wrong and I can only stand so much.)
posted by gingerest at 6:32 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]




The guy's a douchecanoe, but you folks who are poking fun at his appearance and how he dresses are making me feel some sympathy for him. Please stop.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:01 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


From gingerest's link:

These discussions have an ulterior motive. Either by the deliberate intent of the reviewer, or by the deliberate intention of the mentors, trendsetters, gurus, and thought-police to whom the unwitting reviewer has innocently entrusted the formation of his opinions, the reviewer who discusses the strength of female characters is fighting his solitary duel or small sortie in the limited battlefield of science fiction literature in the large and longstanding campaign of the Culture Wars.

I'm starting to suspect that the real danger to old-school science fiction is not the liberal conspiracy, but that none of them know basic stuff, like the difference between a sentence and a paragraph.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:55 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


Some thick "barbarians at the gate" stuff there.

As I mentioned above, I'm reading the Tiptree winner Rupetta which is and is not a Frankenstein story. Is a Frankenstein story because the title character is an artificial monster possessed of extraordinary self-awareness and intelligence. Is not because Rupetta (at least in the first third of the novel) attempts to resolve her existential dilemmas by being a companion, lover, and nurse to multiple generations of women.

Feminist science fiction doesn't particularly use the "action girl" protagonist model because it tends to question the role of violence as the swiss army knife of conflict. Ripleys, Buffys, and Brides to my mind have more in common with fan-service oriented manga and sexploitation works than Le Guin, Atwood, Tepper, Butler, or Slonczewski. I don't have anything against Alien or Kill Bill. I just don't think they're doing the same thing as Left Hand of Darkness, Raising the Stones, Parable of the Sower, or Door into Ocean.

Of course it's a no-win situation since if we're not masculinizing women we're feminizing the genre.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:17 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


Of course it's a no-win situation since if we're not masculinizing women we're feminizing the genre.

Of course the reality is that it's no-win because you're daring to like something other than what they like/produce and actually consuming/creating what you want. Or more succinctly "doing it wrong."

Statists gonna stat.
posted by phearlez at 9:49 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


That is sort of the opposite of this Wright character, who appears to be made of gender essentialism.

Weird. What I assume is Wright's ravings against people who want to read more realistic depictions of women in sci-fi got flagged by my work network as pornography.

I didn't realize I worked in such a progressive place.
posted by straight at 10:35 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I tend to agree CBrachyrhynchos. As you say, there is nothing really wrong with the female action hero, but it does seem like that's all there is to a lot of feminism in much Sci Fi. At this point it's not really new, nor very interesting to just essentially port male characters into a female body.
Leckie's Ancillary Justice had an interesting spin on it all. The dominate pronoun is her/she rather than him/he and her/she is used to describe everyone in most situations so there is a lot of not being entirely sure what the genders of everyone concerned is. There is some bitching about this onlin e here and there, but I actually found it amusing and well used.

Which doesn't really get away from the action hero default even in this book. I guess we're just kinda stuck in that default right now. :(
posted by edgeways at 10:35 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


My point is that I'm not seeing a lot of action-hero stuff from female authors in science fiction, although it could be that I'm just reading the wrong kind of science fiction. For example, there's Jo Walton's "Turnover" which involves people on a generation ship contemplating mutiny over gnocchi because the ship has its own distinct culture. "How to Get Back to the Forest" by Sophia Samatar is a dystopian mind-control story with ties to middle-class gender roles. One of the best stories I read last year, "The Texture of Words" by Felicidad Martínez takes the gender roles posed by Wright et. al. to the extreme in order to critique it. (Actually the whole Terra Nova anthology is worth reading, and includes a lesbian gynoid romance tragedy and pansexual triads who battle epically for the future of Mars.) Action heros are pretty ineffectual in Jemisin's Inheritance trilogy which puts gods on the stage. Lord's Best of All Possible Worlds is a romance with ethnography.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:24 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


And now that I think about it, I think that strapping hero with a blaster isn't all that fair to many of the classic artists of science fiction, all of whom had stories where humanity was dwarfed by larger and inexplicable forces.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:28 AM on May 12


I might also point out that 10% of SFWA members voted for Vox Day. So there's that.

That is incorrect. Beale got 10% of the vote. Not every member of SFWA with voting rights cast a ballot. The people who voted for Beale represent around 2% of SFWA's entire membership, and around 4% of the potential electorate.

Granted, I'm still not happy that anyone voted for him at all, but assholes are gonna asshole.
posted by RakDaddy at 10:54 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I was trying to recall who John Wright was, and then somebody mentioned the Chaos Trilogy "Oh yeah- Magical Schoolgirl Masochist! That explains a lot!"

Talk about a really neat concept, pretty much ruined by the author's obsession.
posted by happyroach at 12:20 AM on May 15


Paul Di Filippo gave Wright's latest a very positive review for Locus. I still fear it is a trap before zombie Ayn Rand appears and pukes Space Objectivism on everything. But maybe he reined it in finally?
posted by Justinian at 11:19 AM on May 15


Am I missing something or does that review completely fail to mention the title of the book?
posted by Lexica at 7:48 PM on May 15


It's not in the review itself but there is a picture of the book with title, publisher, ISBN, and so on off to the right of the text.
posted by Justinian at 9:16 PM on May 15


Realized this thread was still open, and thought this was relevant: N.K. Jemisin's Guest of Honor speech at WisCon 38.
Let me be clear: all of these were racist and sexist attacks, not just one on the SFWA Twitter feed. And let me emphasize that I am by no means the only woman or person of color who’s been targeted by threats, slurs, and the intentional effort to create a hostile environment in our most public spaces. People notice what happens to me because for better or worse I’ve achieved a high-enough profile to make the attacks more visible. But I suspect every person in this room who isn’t a straight white male has been on the receiving end of something like this — aggressions micro and macro. Concerted campaigns of “you don’t belong here”.

This is why I say I was premature in calling for a reconciliation. Reconciliations are for after the violence has ended. In South Africa the Truth & Reconciliation Commission came after apartheid’s end; in Rwanda it started after the genocide stopped; in Australia reconciliation began after its indigenous people stopped being classified as “fauna” by its government. Reconciliation is a part of the healing process, but how can there be healing when the wounds are still being inflicted? How can we begin to talk about healing when all the perpetrators have to do is toss out dogwhistles and disclaimers of evil intent to pretend they’ve done no harm?
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:52 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


I think Paul Di Filippo is regarded as having some issues of his own.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:34 AM on May 28


Damien Walter: Science fiction's real-life war of the worlds
In recent months the community of science fiction readers and writers has been embroiled in an escalating war of words over the genre's political soul, catalysed by the nominations for this year's Hugo awards. Allegations of bloc-voting arose as a slate of little-known writers appeared among the nominees, after a concerted campaign by a small group of writers to get the books on the ballot.

A startling conspiracy theory was at the heart of the campaign. It alleged that a powerful clique of liberal writers and editors had taken control of science fiction, and worse, were politicising a genre that should exist purely for entertainment. They were filling the genre with heavy-handed "message fiction" and excluding conservatively minded writers. So conservatively-minded fans should vote for those writers to redress the imbalance.

Of course there is a certain irony in forming a political clique and launching an overt political campaign to de-politicise sci-fi– although registering the irony requires more self-awareness than these authors can seem to muster. And that irony is only made stronger when 2014 has proved to be a pivotal year in liberating science fiction from its own innate political biases.

For decades, science fiction's major awards were given, year after year, to white male authors. Women writers have asserted a growing presence in the genre, leading this year lead to a strong presence in all of the genre's major awards. Women and non-white writers swept the board at the Nebula awards, winning every major category. High profile crowd-funded publishing projects such as Women Destroy Science Fiction are proving the commercial potential of a more diverse genre. It is fair to say that SF is coming to terms with its historic gender and racial biases. But not without some resistance from reactionaries within the genre.

As Samuel Delany noted, at a time when he numbered among the very few black writers in the field, prejudice within science fiction would "likely remain a slight force – until, say, black writers start to number 13, 15, 20% of the total." Author NK Jemisin employed Delany's quote in her own Guest of Honour speech at WisCon. Her incendiary argument to fight against bigotry comes at a the time when she and other writers of colour including Aliette de Bodard, Sofia Samatar and Nalo Hopkinson command a higher profile in the genre than ever before. And the resistance Delany predicted has come true.

It is no coincidence that, just as it outgrows its limiting cultural biases, science fiction should also face protests from some members of the predominantly white male audience who believed it to be their rightful domain. What the conservative authors protesting the Hugo awards perceive as a liberal clique is simply science fiction outgrowing them, and their narrow conception of the genre's worth. Of course, if those authors really wanted to de-politicise science fiction, they could easily help to do so – by admitting the genre's historic bias and applauding its growth. And by doing everything within their power to welcome new authors from diverse backgrounds, instead of agitating for protest votes to push them out.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:07 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


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