The Orthodox Church of Heinlein
Posted on March 11, 2014 Posted by John Scalzi 385 Comments
If you’re an aficionado of passive-aggressive fannish xenophobia, in which the frothing distrust of people who aren’t just like you is couched in language designed to give the appearance of being reasonable until you squint at it closely, then you’re not going to want to miss this piece by Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf. It’s a really fine example of the form. I recommend you check it out for the full effect, but for those of you who won’t, here’s an encapsulation of the piece:
“Once upon a time all the fractious lands of science fiction fandom were joined together, and worshiped at the altar of Heinlein. But in these fallen times, lo do many refuse to worship Heinlein, preferring instead their false idols and evil ways. What shall we, who continue to attend the Orthodox Church of Heinlein, do with these dirty, dirty people? Perhaps we shall wall ourselves away in His sepulcher, for we are the One True Church, and should not have to sully ourselves with the likes of them. P.S.: Also, their awards don’t mean anything because we don’t get nominated for them very much and maybe we don’t want to be nominated anyway.”
1. In one sense, Ms. Weisskopf is to be commended for her facility at marketing messaging, in which she, as publisher of Baen Books, quite adeptly makes the argument, implicitly and explicitly, that those who read Baen Books are in fact the One True Fandom, and that the One True Fandom reads Baen (it should be noted that the piece originally ran in the Baen Bar online forum, located at the Baen Books site). At the same time she also suggests that despite being the One True Fandom, Baen folk are also outside the mainstream of science fiction, thus playing the hand of rhetorical cards that includes both Heirs to the Throne and Belittled Outsiders. It’s a nice trick.
You might think I’m being sarcastic about that comment, but, in fact, I’m not. Anecdotally speaking, Baen’s folk really do appear to have a high level of identification with the house, and much (but to be clear, not all) of Baen’s stock-in-trade is a specific type of science fiction, which structurally resembles “golden age” science fiction and whose readership/authorship correlates with social/political conservatism. Conservative folks, pretty much by definition, tend to see themselves as caretakers and standard bearers of a lineage — in this case, of a brand of science fiction that hearkens back to an earlier age, and particularly to the work of Robert Heinlein.
So when Ms. Weisskopf addresses the Baen true faithful like this (as she does both in the Baen’s Bar and on the site of Ms. Hoyt, a Baen author), aside from anything else she’s doing, she’s engaging in the laudable tactic of binding — or rebinding — her company’s host to her company’s product: Baen fans are the real science fiction fans, and real science fiction fans want real science fiction, which comes from Baen. It’s a nice bit of commercial epistemic closure. So good job, Ms. Weisskopf.
2. That said, as a bit of messaging it does have its own risks: Namely, when a publisher of a science fiction house explicitly brands everyone else as heretics and interlopers in the House of the Future, she also implicitly argues that no one other than those she’s identified as True Believers should be touching her company’s books — they’re for the small and select in crowd. Sure, maybe once you’ve gone through a complex baptismal process, in which you memorize the Notebooks of Lazarus Long and are able to recite them at a gun range whilst the members of the faithful blaze away with their semi-automatics, then you can be allowed in. But you’ll still always be a novitiate — now go get papa a cigar, junior.
And, I don’t know. Maybe that’s what Ms. Weisskopf wants; maybe she’s decided that the self-identified True Faithful is a sufficient market, and will remain so, despite the fact that it’s aging as it goes along, and the numbers of people entering the genre through the Heinlein door has, shall we say, shrunk dramatically over the years. However, if I were one of her investors, or her distributor, I’d probably shoot her a note saying seriously, what the Hell are you doing? Because loudly and publicly dismissing a majority of a market segment in a publicly-accessible forum is not generally considered a smart business move. Fortunately I am not an investor or a distributor.
3. However, I have been — and am — a reader of Baen books and authors. The company has excellent stores of both. I’ve featured Baen authors here for the Big Idea segment; I note here and on Twitter the new books that Baen puts out every month, because I think that Baen authors and books are worth letting people know about, including people who aren’t already self-identified as members of the Baen faithful. Have I been wrong to do this? Have I been wrong to personally enjoy the books of Baen authors? Because certainly there are enough Baen authors out there who have been happy to consider me a poster boy for Everything That Is Wrong in Science Fiction. I would hate to sully their books with my gaze, or my willingness to let the wrong people know about their work.
So, a personal note to Ms. Weisskopf: If you’d like me to stop reading and appreciating the work of your publishing house, and to stop publicizing it to the people outside of the True Faithful, all you have to do is let me know. I will be sad to do it, because your authors do good work, well worth celebrating. But if, as you say, you are “not sure there is a good enough argument for engaging them,” where “them” includes a very large segment of the audience who reads this site — and almost certainly me — then I will regretfully stop accepting Baen authors for the Big Idea and stop noting when Baen Books come over my transom.
You know where I am; let me know what you think. In the meantime, I’ll just assume you actually do want me to keep promoting your authors and books.
4. Speaking as someone who does, in fact, love the work of Robert Heinlein, has acknowledged his obvious influence in his own work, defended him from detractors and who has been labeled “The New Heinlein” more times than he can count, I feel I can say this: The fetishization of Robert Heinlein creeps me the fuck out. Heinlein was a great writer, a central figure in the development of science fiction as a literature and as a community and, by all I know of him from people who knew him, a fine and decent human being — flawed, to be sure, but here’s a stone for you to cast if you are not also flawed.
With that said, using him as the yardstick for who is a True Fan and who is not, and picturing him with the sort of uncritically slobbering reverence one offers gods or Ayn Rand is risible. First and most obviously, a man who made a point of aiming for “the slicks” — the general interest magazines that would grow his audience exponentially beyond the pulps and helped him to position himself as a writer of wide cultural significance — probably should not be used as the fetish object for a group of people actively trying to exclude other people as real fans of science fiction.
Second, if memory serves, Heinlein took a exasperated view of people who read his stuff and then climbed his walls looking for him to be their guru. From what I know of the man I would suspect he would feel the same exasperation with the people who want to do to him in science fiction what conservatives do to Ronald Reagan in just about every other sphere. Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer my Heinlein as a human being, not a hand-sized plaster idol, perfectly sized to bludgeon those I’m uncomfortable with.
Third, if you want to make the argument that people who are serious about science fiction as a genre should read Heinlein, then you get no argument from me — indeed, I would agree! Just as they should read Wollenstonecraft, Verne, Wells, Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Russ and Tiptree. If you want to make the argument that writers should pay attention to how Heinlein crafts his work, I’m right there with you, too. But if you say that none but those who go through Bob shall enter the Kingdom of Fandom, you’re going to lose me. Because it’s wrong. People can, people do, people have. They’re quite happy in fandom, too! And there’s nothing a member of the Orthodox Church of Heinlein can do to evict them. Which is the thing which really busts some of their chops, I suspect.
5. There is no one way to be a fan of the genre. Ms. Weisskopf’s unilateral attempt to establish fans of her publishing house as the One True Church, with Heinlein as its graven image, is flat out wrong. Not only are they not the One True Church, they don’t even get Robert Heinlein to themselves. They have to timeshare him with me and with many other fans who love his work, see him as an influence, and at the same time are happy to welcome anyone who wants to be part of the science fiction and fantasy community into the fold, no matter how they got there. Try to take Robert Heinlein from me, guys. See where that gets you. He’s not yours alone. You can’t gatekeep him from me.
Likewise, Ms. Weisskopf’s handwringing about what should be done about the interlopers and heretics incorrectly arrogates to her little group the ability to make any sort of decision on the matter. They can’t. Baen is not, in fact, the core of science fiction and fantasy; people who identify as Baen fans are not the only “real” science fiction and fantasy fans. They’re not even “one side” of science fiction and fantasy; that’s like saying Virginia is “one side” of the United States of America. They are a constituency at best — one with no more or less significance than many others.
If the Baen folks do, in fact, decide to contract into a little defensive ball in which only the pure of heart shall be admitted into Bob’s sight, the impact on the rest of the science fiction and fantasy field will be pretty much exactly nothing. The rest of the field will chug along in its myriad ways, happy not to be bothered by a small and shrinking group yelling at them you aren’t the true fans, no not at all, why aren’t you listening to us.
Baen and its fans and writers are what any of us in the genre are: a constituent part, something the makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts. It’s a shame so many of the people who identify with it — the publisher included — appear to be yelling at the rising tide of the current field to keep it from coming in. I imagine that Robert Heinlein might have something pungent to say to them about it. Maybe he already did. I’ll have to check the notebooks.
1. Why yes, the Mallet is out for this comment thread, why do you ask? Here are the site comment rules. Read them. Love them.
2. I have briefly met Ms. Weisskopf on a couple of occasions. We got along perfectly well. Likewise nearly all the Baen authors, editors and fans I’ve met. Let’s focus on what’s been said, and not make easy ad hominem attacks, please.
3. Along that line, and for the avoidance of doubt, I have (and do) read many Baen books, and admire a number of their authors as writers. So if you make general snark about anyone who reads Baen books, remember you include me in that set.
4. Likewise: Heinlein: Try not to go for the easy slams, please. I’ll get cranky. It is perfectly to note how he is a product of his time, of course, and that his time is not ours.
The argument puzzled me and I don’t think it was overly cogent when I read it. It’s a paean to a past that never was, too.
And when a major publisher/editor puts something like this up…I wonder what the future of fandom is, if there really is a single fandom anymore and not a constellation of islands in a sea of genre.
I think it’s easy to overstate both the existence and desirability of “one fandom.” I think it’s perfectly fine to consider fandom to be an archipelago of confederated groups, in which people often share more than one citizenship.
how is “The Orthodox Church of Heinlein” not, first and foremost, about being a swinger?
A number of Baen writers and editors, Eric Flint most prominently but not alone by any means, aren’t vaguely conservative. That said, he’s IMHO writing into that genre and challenging some of its preconceptions.
Hmm. Just looked at bookshelf. I have a pile of Ringo/Kratman Baen books right next to my collection of Jaqueline Carey. Shudder. Laugh.
I like that a la carte “citizenship” idea, John. Why can’t I go read Bujold’s and Weber’s books at Baen AND read Glitter and Mayhem done by the Thomases? Why do I have to choose? I don’t want to!
I’m a fan of Baen simply for the Baen Free Library. It has introduced me to a number of authors that I have gone on to purchase books from… and a couple I ran away from screaming (figuratively of course).
Nobody gets to define fandom other than the fans. Trying to change that is doomed to failure, the best you can do is drive people away from your stuff specifically, but they’ll go right on liking what they like, for their own reasons.
I will never understand! I pick up a book. I read. If I like it I note the author and look for more works. I like “hard sci-fi” more than “fantasy”, but Matt Stover’s “Caine” series is an absolute favorite. One thing I never do is look for a publisher. I gave up on religion long ago.
I don’t think she’s making that argument, per se. The crux of the biscuit is this: “For instance, a slur that has been cast at people who dare criticize the politically correct, self-appointed guardians of … everything, apparently, is that they read Heinlein. Well, Heinlein is one of the few points of reference those fans who read have. Of course we all read Heinlein and have an opinion about his work. How can you be a fan and not?”
Now, I don’t know if it is true that folks have used that as a slur, but I’ve no reason to doubt her. If that is true, it would be natural for her to be defensive about it. The final sentence might be a bit hyperbolic, and her use of the words “politically correct” sets me immediately on edge, but lets be fair.
Is there any one here that *hasn’t* read Heinlein? Even if just to have an informed opinion on whether the film version of “Starship Troopers” is the best/worst film adaption in history (It’s the best, BTW)? I’d wager that is a small number of folks, or at least a number smaller than those that have his work somewhere in their library.
So, if it is true that it is a slur to read Bob, then it is worth a response, because that is a whole lot of people *and* a great writer.
I haven’t read the referenced piece yet, but I just wanted to quickly note my admiration for the comprehensive rigor and grace with which you’ve crafted this response.
Heinlein was one of my gateways to SF as well, and I would never downplay his importance to the genre as a whole and to my appreciation of the genre filtered through a Heinleinian/Asimovian/Wyndhamian lens – but I’m awfully glad that I read LeGuin and Tiptree and Zimmer Bradley back then and filter my experience of the genre through those lenses as well, let alone the many newer writers I’ve come to enjoy over the years. I can’t imagine RAH wanting his legacy to be one where the adjective Heinleinian comes to parallel Randian as a cultic descriptor either.
Amendment. Moving closer, and to some amusement, paperbacks of “Old Man’s War”, “The Ghost Brigades”, “the sociopath next door”, “Crown of Slaves”, and “1635: The Cannon Law” are between the hardbacks.
Heinlein was one of my introductions to sf and I think he’s a great writer with a lot of great ideas. But his books also made me profoundly uncomfortable as a woman reading them, and it’s upsetting that so many of his fans past and present completely ignore that fact and continue to push him as The One True SF Experience To Which All Others Should Aim.
It’s weird and divisive to say to a large group of people “there’s only one way to like this thing,” especially when “this thing” is a thing that’s outright harmful to a lot of people.
George William Herbert:
Indeed, not every Baen author or fan is who one would consider a “stereotypical” Baen author or fan — and to be clear, I’m not impugning the conservative worldview here, except in the very narrow circumstance of this article. There are plenty of conservatives who I admire, even as I largely disagree with their politics.
There are in fact many readers and fans who have not read Heinlein, because (as much as it hurts to say), all his works are now 30+ years old and as time goes by, they’re not as immediately relevant to new readers. I’ve also had people tell me they started reading Heinlein because they read me first, and I pointed in his direction.
I think anyone who slags someone just for reading/admiring Heinlein is silly. I also think Ms. Weisskopf is using Heinlein as a bit of a stalking horse for a worldview here.
I think a lot of the “one fandom” stuff comes from the yearning toward that golden age when it was said that a dedicated reader could actually read everything that came out in science fiction, every year. It’s possible that some few readers did do that, but that’s a lot of magazines and a lot of paperbacks to read, especially during that period in the 1950’s when there were a couple of dozen sf magazines on the newsstands, but if it was ever actually true, I’ll bet it hasn’t been true since about 1961.
I’m not entirely sure what the Church of the True Heinlein would make of the man himself, who by all accounts was much less of a reactionary curmudgeon than his public persona. Take for example an old friend of mine; a deeply liberal left-of-centre pagan feminist, who was friends with Heinlein (and apparently was the inspiration for a major character in one of his later novels).
Or in other words, “Human being is human”.
I saw the movie of Starship Troopers. Is that enough to receive the sacrament?
More seriously, I would be dubious of, say, a critic or historian of SF who hadn’t read Heinlein (even if they developed a violent distaste for his work). A fan though? Meh. I might offer to lend them a copy of whichever of his works I thought they would like though.
I’d read this a couple of days ago, and had a hard time understanding what Weisskopf was trying to say (beyond the not-so-thinly-veiled dismissal of the battles for respect and representation that have caught our attention in recent weeks). But I had an even harder time getting past the dour, pessimistic tone of it all, the idea that The End Of Fandom Is Nigh. I don’t believe that at all. So fandom has grown beyond that long-ago single entity into that “archipelago of confederated groups.” Is that a Bad Thing? Is it a Good Thing? Or is it simply the way fandom evolves, as more of us begin to discover the inherent joy of being able to share the thing[s] we love?
I don’t know. But it seems like Weisskopf might be missing the point here…
I’ll be polite and call the article “incoherent,” because that is honestly the nicest, most generous thing I can think of right now.
I do agree, however, that this functions as marketing to a significant degree. I remember Baen used to publish a broad range of SF/F, but it’s progressively moved towards defining itself as a publisher of SF/F that reflects a Fox News Channel view of the world. I know that is unfair to people like Lois McMaster Bujold, as well as the dwindling number of Baen authors who don’t hold this perspective, but dwindling in number they are. If the publisher has determined that there’s a niche to fill or a market to corner, you can see why, for business reasons, they’d decide to go full-tilt in that direction.
As someone who doesn’t care for that direction, but does value the existence of independent and quasi-independent publishers (like Baen), I do find it a bit tragic. But I’d already acclimated to thinking of Baen in these terms. I mean, some of the stuff they’ve published in recent years is just dreadful.
It would be nice, however, if they drifted back to the old M.O. That would be good for everyone.
You seem to have read a different article than the one I read entirely. I see a different point being made which doesn’t seem to connect with your response.
Ok, got kind of “end of Atlas Shrugged” for the last part of the referred post, but didn’t the original point (nice guy tells everyone to calm down and focus on what we like) directly contradict everything else said?
I am a huge SF fan, but I have never been to a con. However, if I went, I would expect a lot of the enjoyment is from sharing what you’ve read with those who haven’t, finding out what you haven’t read, and enjoying the sharing of what you’ve read with others that have.
Why is this so hard?
I looked at the comments over there. One of the more… interesting… things I noted was that at least some of the commenters are mighty irritated at young people. Lots of Millennial bashing.
I would suggest that, perhaps, given that the “Greying of Fandom” is rather a concern at the moment, this attitude is counterproductive at best.
I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a “Baen fan” – I didn’t even realize that Baen books, in particular, had a given style. I’ll rarely note the publisher of the books that I read and enjoy, and even LESS so now that I read exclusively e-books. It’s just not something that enteres my consciousness anymore.
Surely a True and Proper Baen-approved author would have used A, B, and C for identifiers of subitems within point 4, not 1,2,3.
I loved Heinlein but I don’t know how you can make him your Jesus if you’re not down with banging your dad/daughter. That’s content that’s rules you out of my deity slot, personally.
That’s certainly possible.
I think it’s part and parcel of a general anxiety about the future, which is certainly a conservative trope at the moment (and one may argue, a conservative trope generally — and not always a bad thing, although in this case it’s exasperating).
Baen publishes a lot of right-wing dreck, but they also publish a lot of flat-out awesome stuff–David Drake, Dave Weber, Eric Flint, and of course Lois McMaster Bujold (oh…there goes the “Baen is shunned from awards” thing). And they’ve long been at the forefront of DRM-free e-publishing, decades before Tor finally shed its DRM in 2013.
I hope Baen doesn’t go from a publishing house enjoyed by right-wingers to a publishing house just for right-wingers. The science-fiction world will be a much poorer place if they wall themselves off and push the rest of us out.
What I find especially, bitterly ironic is that your Old Man’s War books fit the profile of a Baen series to a T. I think you might have been a Baen author had things turned out slightly differently.
I fail to see any merit in your original argument, Mr. Scalzi. I read the OCH post and find an argument against subdivision and drifting apart, as far as I can see she is a call to keep a broad church, though it is harder today.
As a long-time Heinlein fan, and as someone who credits him as one of the influences who started me thinking about my cultural baggage in my teens, my response to Ms. Weisskopf boils down to a heartfelt … “Whut!?”
When I read the bit you quoted, I thought just maybe she was being tongue-in-cheek, but reading the whole thing makes it pretty clear that she’s serious.
That argument has always bewildered me as do most of the “I am MORE of a fan than thou” arguments (c.f. real geek girls). I love a lot of Baen authors (albeit I draw the line at some of the crazy stuff *coughs* Tom Kratman *coughs*). I also love that they have brought back to print some amazing material. A. Bertram Chandler for example! I am truly lost as to why they would want to alienate people who buy their books. “You shouldn’t read this – you wouldn’t appreciate it as much as a real fan” Really odd behavior, especially given the precarious state of the industry and genre publishing.
Yeah, it’s geekery in the very worse sense of the world. Either you have to be a complete, uncritical fanboi or write him off as the devil incarnate. Isn’t it possible to set Heinlein as an enormously problematic author you can be a fan of without having to swallow, or squint past, a lot of ugly politics and social attitudes, or flat out terrible writing.
If I’m not a “true fan” because I don’t want to give the vilely racist Farnham’s Freehold room on my shelves, or re-read Friday where our heroine just shrugs off being gang-raped, then it’s not a community I want to be any part of.
I’m having some trouble figuring out what she is talking about. Is she actually upset that a lot of cons have harrassment policies now and some even actively seek women and people of color as guests?
Or am I way off base?
It’s part of the compartmentalization of conservatism — not a designed plan, but a response to the reality of permanent minority, I think. It goes with conservative-edited bibles, Christian rock music, and conservative-friendly “news” sources. It’s part of creating a bubble in which the general worldview is that of being the chosen people — “everyone else is wrong”. The reason Heinlein is such a touchstone for that kind of thinking is that many of not most of his books are written that way — everybody but the Heinlein-surrogate is wrong, as everybody else comes to realize.
Well, I think the argument Ms. Weisskopf is positing is a fandom as she/they think it should be, or else disengagement. The former isn’t going to happen. The latter shouldn’t, but if it does the rest of fandom will get along fine.
I am so sad to see (this precis of) Baen’s post… as I told a friend recently, “Round about the same time I really started to accept that I was not being taken seriously by my science teachers (“but you’re going to be an English major, so I won’t sign the form that will let you take Chemistry even though you have the second highest grade in the class” “next year you’ll discover boys, so I won’t sign the form that will let you take physics even though you have the highest grade in the class”, I realized that Heinlein and the other Adventure SF writers didn’t really take English majors seriously, either, and I drifted away from hard SF for a long time.
I didn’t really get back into it again until I discovered Lois McMaster Bujold.”
…and Bujold, of course, is published by Baen.
I am sad that they don’t want me in their clubhouse; but I don’t like hanging out where I’m not wanted. :/
Maybe it’s because I’m not from the US, but this idea that fandom is split by the political divide (Dems/Reps I guess) seems weird. I have personally never found there to be a strong political split like this.
Nor do I consider a split in fandoms a bad thing. There will be those who enjoy their SciFi on TV, others in books, and again others in games. Some of those fandoms will overlap. I think it’s this multifaceted version of fandom that makes it more interesting. I don’t think there should be some shibboleth like “reading Heinlein” to let you into the group.
As to who gets awards. It’s a popularity contest. Always has been, always will be. That’s not necessarily a guarantee of quality, nor a guarantee that those who don’t get awards are bad…
Hopefully that does not keep you from reading Bujold, or any other Baen author you like and feel comfortable with.
Huh. Well, reading that made me think there was a lot of coded language going on there that I didn’t understand. I probably missed much of the point (probably because I was born after 1980 according to the few comments I brought myself to read), but my two takeaways are:
(1) Since when is being a fan of a certain sub-genre of science fiction books the only way to be a fan of science fiction?
And (2) since when was fan-fiction not a major part of fandom?
Why does this remind me of Yertle the Turtle?
I can’t see what the intent of her article is other than to either make her “faithful” laugh at her attempt at humor, or if it is a live report on the view from up her own ass.
I’m seriously baffled by the article. It seems awfully tongue-in-cheek at times, and at others a straight troll. Which reminds me of why Samuel Beckett preferred to write his plays in English: it’s a marvelously ambiguous language. So it goes.
I’d love to know what you read in it, Antiqueight; seriously, I’d like to get another interpretation of it. Because having read the article twice now, I still don’t know what the hell it was saying, and so I’m not sure if Our Esteemed Mallet-Wielding Host’s reaction to it connects or not. I’m not nearly far enough inside this baseball league, so having multiple angles on this particular play might help me understand it.
I really like Bujold, and P.C. Hodgell, so I’ll be showing up there periodically. But it may be just long enough to throw the money over the fence, grab the book, and run.
I’m surprised that Ms. Weisskopf would go so far as to alienate a significant portion of the people who read Baen’s publications. I don’t believe Jim Baen would have been so orthodox, wasn’t he the one who gave several budding SF writers the opportunity to be more than “just another manuscript in the slush pile”? Had it not been for Baen, I probably would not have picked up Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Vorkosigan”, “Sharing Knife”, and “Chalion” series. Heck, I don’t even remember how I got hooked on YOUR books, John (don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did!), I don’t think I even knew who you were until the WorldCon in Chicago in 2012 (your room was right down the hall from mine, I think).
I started on Heinlein, then Asimov, Bradbury, Herbert, Andre Norton, Ursula K. LeGuin, Harlan Ellison, C.J. Cherryh, Jane Fancher, LMB, so my SF is not restricted to a particular author. I like Heinlein, not everything he wrote, but then, if he wrote only to please me, he’d be awfully boring, wouldn’t he? I don’t agree with some of his views, either, but others I believe are spot on. I still think “Starship Troopers” is one hell of a fine “coming of age” story, and it’s written from a military man’s point of view – refreshing in a world where people write of armies and navies, without ever having worn the uniforms or experienced what it’s like to be in the military. Yes, John, don’t worry, from my military background, I thought you did an outstanding job on “Old Man’s War” and “The Ghost Brigades”.
You’re right, alienating a significant percentage of your readers is suicide. Maybe Ms. Weisskopf will come to her senses about that. I don’t worship at the Altar of Bob, and I don’t look for “the meaning of life” from any SF writer that I read.
As far as the One True Way of Heinlein, I believe that the author was profoundly suspicious of being a prophet. To my mind, the way-out tendencies of later Heinlein (were attempts to mess with reader expectations and stop the hordes from treating him as the Sole and Only Truth.
Oh, I’m sorry, I heard you mention Russ and wandered around trying to figure out how to sign up for her Church?
No disrespect to any other author intended, why can’t we be fan-curious?
@Theyis, are you seriously comparing SF fandom to the Dem/Rep divide? Please….just don’t. My political affiliation has nothing to do with the writers I like.
Interesting observations and commentary . . . I can’t help but apply, although slightly differently, to people who identify themselves as either conservative or liberal, as Republicans or Democrats, etc.
In all cases you end up with groups of people who attempt to form a ‘closed’ group, and then exalting that group as somehow being better than other groups. The end result is blanket dismissal of other groups as somehow not being worthy of respect.
Strange how people can see the logic and argument against this kind of thinking when it comes to certain topics, but not others.
As someone who posts promotional links as part of my entire blog lifestyle, to the tune of thousands of links a month, I’m getting very tired of feeling like there are now two science fiction worlds, and wondering if this or that link I’m posting is apparently from the “wrong” science fiction.
Am I on a side by default, just because I’m Canadian and a card-carrying liberal? Do I risk offending my fellow “lefty SFers” if I accidentally promote one of those foul “righties”?
Can I just go back to posting links?
I don’t recommend painting every individual Baen author with Toni’s awfully broad brush. I’m a huge Bujold fan also. I’ve conversed with her, I’ve seen her speak, I’m on the e-mail list, I’ve read a bunch of her essays. I don’t get an exclusionary vibe from either her or her work.
I’m sure there are many Baen authors who would not agree with Toni’s article.
I started with Heinlein as well, and I deeply resent the claiming of him by the conservative wing. I also think that the Heinlein in the heads bears very little resemblance to the actual man. But there are some honestly pretty nutty people over there. Look at Sarah Hoyt’s screed regarding the recent MRK affair.
@fuzznose Interestingly, both the Chalion books and the Sharking Knife books are NOT published by Baen. The Chalion books are Harper Collins. I’m not entirely sure, but I think the Sharing Knife books are as well. Bujold /is/ something of a fish out of water at Baen.
It doesn’t help Weisskopf that she opens with an apparently false example. From wikipedia:
For my money, though, the real part of this that feels false is the “So the fuggheads always win.” Man, that is so depressingly defeatist. I’ve always thought of SF as being primarily optimistic, even in (particularly in?) its dystopia material – a look at the ways the mind overcomes entropy and chaos. To suggest that the ideas and ideals themselves inevitably go to shit… that’s exactly the opposite of what calls to me in SF.
Reminds me of the old joke by Dave Allen: A man goes to heaven, and St Peter shows him around. They go past one room, and the man asks: “Who are all those people in there?” “They are the Methodists,” says St Peter. They pass another room, and the man asks the same question. “They are the Anglicans,” says St Peter. As they’re approaching the next room, St Peter says: “Take your shoes off and tiptoe by as quietly as you can.” “Why, who’s in there?” asks the man. “The Catholics,” says St Peter, “and they think that they’re the only ones up here.”
Tad Williams: “The reason Heinlein is such a touchstone for that kind of thinking is that many of not most of his books are written that way — everybody but the Heinlein-surrogate is wrong, as everybody else comes to realize.”
Well, that makes them easy characters for most people to identify with, especially — in this context — white male USians. It seems like “everybody eventually realizes that the main character is right” is the basis of an awful lot of fiction. Not *all* fiction, not even most … but a lot of it.
I’ve always felt (from the admittedly few books I’ve read) like Heinlein’s protagonists always ended up at the center of everything not so much because actions they took, but because of their attitudes. Supporting characters (usually most of them) want to go to bed with the hero, villains want to kill the hero, and events take place purely because of a Moral stand the Hero/Heroine makes a pro pros of anything they actually do. It seems like it’s very often just about being in the right, and then being swept along by events.
I guess I could see how the “The Orthodox Church of Heinlein” would appeal to people who were looking for that kind of thing in a story?
To be clear, I liked these books. This is just a common quirk I noticed. Maybe I’m off base, and happy to be corrected.
First, this post made me a little sad, because I like some of the ideas behind Baen Books (particularly their free library, ability to read sample chapters, lack of DRM, and having plethora of format options). It struck me as weird though that I didn’t hear more talk about their books (they have never been selected for a Sword and Laser book, for example), especially with all the hipster small producer ‘street cred’ these ideas should give them. Now, I know why they have this disconnect. Their marketing is bad. I can only see this piece by Ms. Weisskopf as a poorly executed marketing rallying cry (which had the intent of stirring up pride in Baen’s Bar members). But instead of stirring people up to talk about what they like, it is focused on getting people to bash work they don’t like and the people who like them (vague reference to the excellent gatekeepers post Mr. Scalzi linked).
I also can’t help but think of Baen’s Bar as Sauron with the one true fandom to rule them all.
I’m with Antiqueight and Alex Hazlett – I don’t see Mr. Scalzi’s version of the post at all when I read it. What I saw was someone noting the existence of factions within the sci-fi community (i.e., people who claim that you *must* have read Heinlein to be a “true fan” vs. those who have come into the sci-fi community via television shows or movies) and correlating that to many of the political issues facing the U.S.A. Her explanation of these factions is that people don’t seem to be willing to converse with one another (specifically, to *listen* to one another.) And in her last statement she explains that she thinks it’s necessary to keep trying to bring these factions together, as difficult as that is likely to be. “The fight itself is worth it, if only because honorable competition and conflict leads to creativity, without which we, science fiction, as a unique phenomenon, die.”
Weisskopf seems to be saying, to paraphrase Paul Ryan, that non-compliant fans have full Kindles and empty souls. :0
This is a beautiful little essay. It captures my feelings entirely. I liked many of Heinlein’s books, especially when I was younger, and I continue to enjoy the occasional Baen Books publication, though their core curriculum doesn’t much appeal. Still, they do occasionally publish very good work that doesn’t adhere to what I suppose is the house style. This tribal them-vs-us stuff is very sad, however, smacking of paranoia as it does. I think it will do them more harm than good. Indeed, I imagine Lazarus Long would probably have had something rather cutting to say about it.
Hey John, did we read the same article? I know, this is a hard line to start with, but that’s what I felt when I read your take on this. You go on quite a bit about Heinlein and are accusing her of applying a “No True Scotsman” fallacy. I see how you got that, but I took the entire paragraph (and it was just one) as a way to illustrate one of the many possible ways that people find/found a common basis for science fiction which is being used as a slur.
The second worst way to insult someone is accuse them of something they aren’t. The worst is to accuse them of being something they are.
Here is how I took the article to mean: fandoms are odd – they start from people with a common interest or set of interests get together to talk about their interests. As the fandoms grow, there will inevitably be divisiveness and without a uniting voice to keep the loud haters calm, they will shove out/discourage would-be fans (aka fake geek girl) and she is clearly frustrated and is finding it tiresome to look for a reason to engage across political/fan lines except for the reason that a diversity of voices rather than homogeneity has always been an effective staple of SF.
It’s funny to write this as I know both you and Toni (I went to college with her) and can hear each of your voices when I read the writing.
But even if that view is correct, she’s positing an antagonistic relationship with other fandoms, rather than one that simply recognizes that there are lots of different ways to be a fan of science fiction and fantasy. Implicit in that antagonism, I believe, is the thesis that the Baen crew is the one true fandom, and the “struggle” is drive the direction of the community as they see fit.
What I don’t think Ms. Weisskopf and others who hold similar views see is that most people don’t care if they want to be members of the Orthodox Church of Heinlein, just don’t bother other people with their bowing and scraping. Also (and not coincidentally) don’t walk about thinking the membership in the OCH makes one a better and truer fan of the genre.
“Hey John, did we read the same article?”
Yup! And we both took away something different from it, apparently. Which is fine.
As it happens, in my other browser tab (okay, one of them) I am reading a superb near-future dystopian-Britain novel… that’s “The Thick of It” fanfiction. (GroteskBurlesque, “Secure Beneath the Watchful Eyes”, archiveofourown.org, look it up.) You couldn’t write that novel without an active, informed engagement with science fiction and science-fictional ideas… yet “The Thick of It” is political satire. Written-SF fans are complex. They overlap with Heyer fans and knitters and reenactors and, yes, movie/television/fanfiction/manga/anime/videogame/doubleplusungood fans. Fandom has tried to exclude the unworthy regularly, and has always failed, because you just can’t tell them from anybody else.
I love Baen for publishing Bujold, and for giving Lee & Miller and P.C. Hodgell (separately) new homes. Baen publishes books I want to read. And yet, apparently, I am not their reader. I find this odd.
If I have to join a church (other than the First Church of the Serial Comma, which I founded), it’ll be the Neo-Wodehouse Humanist Association.
Sweet Mother Of Cthulhu, the comments over there… They’re essentially yelling “COMMIES!!! DIRTY FILTHY COMMIES!!!” over and over again while praising each other for doing so. And complaining that those who are not soldiers in the army of Conservative Triumphalism are mean and unwelcoming and making up fake problems. Like rape culture. Holy frak.
Oh… Other people are having trouble parsing the intent of the article as well. I’m glad it’s not just me – I thought I was either being thick or sleep-deprived, or that there was some serious dog-whistle writing going on that I’m not nearly deep enough in SF fandom to get.
Not in the comments, though. Those were… *abundantly* clear.
I don’t think that she’s writing a “let us wall ourselves away in the sepulcher” piece at all: she is arguing that the One True Fandom owes it to themselves–to the world!–to proselytize to the ungrateful heathens. The key sentence comes right after the one you quote: “And I’m not sure there is a good enough argument for engaging them. There is only the evidence of history, which is that science fiction thrives on interaction.” I read that as “I can’t think of a good reason to, but we ought to anyway, because tradition.”
Then towards the end, there’s that whole Ragnarokian “we may be doomed to die, but we shall die with honor! With the name of Heinlein on our lips!” bit. She’s arguing for engagement ultimately, though admittedly it’s hard to tell under her seething disdain for those with whom she wants to engage. Really, quite an odd piece.
Heinlein is, and always will be, my favorite author. This does not mean that I like or agree with everything he’s written (assuming I’ve read it). However, I do like his writing style and appreicate this his first goal always seemed to be to get the reader to THINK. (I used this argument on Steven Brust once which caused him to become a bit unhappy with me, I think.)
Now, I don’t believe that all readers have to read and enjoy Heinlein’s works as much as I do. Though, as John mentioned, I do think he’s worth reading just to get some grounding in the way SF was viewed at the time(s) that it was written.
I also find many readers who have avoided Heinlein because they’ve been convinced by non-Heinlein readers that he wasn’t worth reading. And then when someone like this comes along, it makes people even more resistant. Sort of an “OMG what would I be getting myself into”.
And isn’t it odd that someone from Baen is taking this view since Baen is just the latest publishing house to have rights to Heinlein’s work, not the original publisher?
Who are “the fuggheads” in her article? Why doesn’t she come out and say who she’s talking about?
So I’ve read the piece now, and my initial takeaway is an Antipodean wow, that’s a really Americanised view of SF genre/fandom she’s got there.
I like the archipelago of fandoms with overlapping citizenships idea upthread. I see the neighboring genre/fandom archipelagos with their own overlapping citizenships which also overlap with the SF archipelago as part of the global Bookish Sea that Weisskopf is ignoring as well, what with her “no other genre does this” remark – she should go to a Georgette Heyer fandom zone and look around at what people actually discuss with each other in terms of collaboration and world-building for their own Regency period works. That non-SF genre writers can build their characters’ worlds by referencing non-fiction works for research without having to go online (or underground zine) at all doesn’t mean that’s what always happens.
I’m going to dive into the comments there now. Allons-y!
That’s a possible and reasonable interpretation, although then the question becomes why people which such a general libertarian bent don’t just leave everyone else alone to do their own thing.
Also, as others have noted tangentially, the gentler interpretation for Ms. Weisskopf’s piece is belied by the comments, which certainly have the flavor of a crew ready to wage a crusade against the infidels, i.e., everyone else. If I’m missing the point of her piece, her own host is clearly missing it with me.
I feel you’re overstating somewhat. I’m reading the section you quoted as sarcastic and defensive, i.e. intentionally overstated on her part, so I don’t think interpreting that literally is an accurate interpretation. I only read her piece as about being their area of fandom, as a reaction to what is going on in fandom elsewhere.
She was writing in reaction to the Jonathan Ross controversy (and the SFWA controversy, and the SFWA controversy before that). Some people have a perception that they are or will be excluded because of their opinions. I responded at that site to say that’s not the case. Insofar as organized fandom has a say in such things, what happened was that Mr. Ross was invited to participate in Loncon, and he chose to resign after hearing negative comments on Twitter. I don’t know why it would have been a surprise to him that he was a subject of controversy, but he was not pushed out by Loncon.
It seems like certain people in fandom are becoming more aware of and sensitive to certain issues, and that’s broadly a good thing, give or take that some specific issues may have been mishandled. It is obvious that people are becoming aware of these discussions in different time frames. We want people to be safe and feel safe, so we want to have policies to respond to inappropriate behavior. However some people want to regulate other people’s language, and that’s more problematic. I think the response to unreconstructed, bigoted, or otherwise hostile and demeaning language is to discuss, inform, educate, and confront where necessary, but banning people is an extreme response we’d usually want to avoid. In terms of convention programming, I’d want an editor mainly to talk about editing, though I’d also have no problem putting them on items both that would gather in their particular subgroup of fans, but also on political topics where people could vigorously and openly disagree with them. I just don’t care if the guy at the reg table or the woman driving the logistics truck is a fan of Ron Paul, as long as they’re doing the job. Some right-winger wants to do a presentation about the AI system he’s developed for military drones, yeah, I want to see that and my questions are going to be technical, not political. But especially in a field and a community that is about the expression of new ideas, I think we want to avoid as much as possible limiting anybody’s expression of ideas.
I have no problem with an archipelago of fandoms. I still want to build bridges.
Splitter. </monty python>
By the way, and this entertains me greatly, I met the SF writer Janet Kagan in 1985 or so and her husband, who was a bank consultant, instead of giving out business cards, gave out rubber toy ping-pong ball guns each embossed “K-Gun”. He and she discovered that people don’t readily accept a toy gun that you are handed, but if you shoot the person, they accept it pronto. They made a second rule that if they saw someone shoot an unarmed person with a K-Gun, they would arm the victim.
Janet shot me with a K-Gun when I met her at the house of a friend of mine one fine fall evening. When I left, I had left my K-Gun behind. I sent her a short note, telling her the tale of my forgetfulness and could she please supply me with another? A few weeks later, I received a padded envelope with a K-Gun and a simple note: “Dear Steve, what would Heinlein have said? Janet”
And here’s the funny thing – at that time, I didn’t know the answer to the question. I hadn’t read any Heinlein. I took that as I challenge, checked out the entire collection at my local library, read them and returned them a week later. I sent her a note back, “if you got shot, it would’ve been your own damn fault.”
And I think that’s where I found the resonance in that paragraph: we come/came to SF via a myriad of paths and that the number of paths grows every year.
Eric A. Meyer – I saw the article as described more by Alex Hazlett, M Oldham and plinth above – she seemed to me to be saying that there are many types of fans and that SF was always stronger when we found a way to converse and not assume such a thing as the “One True Fan”
“I’m reading the section you quoted as sarcastic and defensive, i.e. intentionally overstated on her part, so I don’t think interpreting that literally is an accurate interpretation.”
Which is your prerogative, of course. I disagree, and also, I think the piece as a whole points in the direction of my summation (as does, as previously noted, the reaction to it in the comments).
I’ve never read Heinlein, largely because most of the people banging the gong for me to do so are, to be diplomatic about it, not my kind of people. My intro to SFF was through Alan Dean Foster, whose work I still love. (Technically, that was my intro to adult SFF, as I devoured Baum and L’Engle as a child.) From there I got into Pratchett, Asprin, and a few other light authors, and later read many of the usual fantasy suspects.
There is, however, a laundry list of seminal SFF authors and works I’ve never bothered with simply because I couldn’t get into them, or the premise sounded tiresome:Yet another macho white dude doing macho white dude stuff, with a few stock women characters sprinkled in primarily as prizes for quest completion. Boring. Life’s too short and i’m far too busy to waste a week on a book that’s only going to make me angry. I have, over the years, read a lot of SFF books, but honestly, most of my genre consumption has been movies, TV, and ’80s Marvel mutant titles rather than books. Does that make me less of a geek? Less of a fan? Less entitled to write my own works? I hope not, but even if it does, I’m not sure I care. I’m still going to keep doing my thing and socializing with others who share my interests.
To me, the essence of geekdom is being openly passionate about what you love, not feeling obligated to like the same stuff that geek royalty and BNFs do (I’m not into Whedon or Who, and I think Star Wars is way overrated. Burn the infidel if you must.) IMHO, if there’s an element of unreality to the media you love, and if you really, really love it, you have the qualifications for a membership card. Simple as that.
“Also, as others have noted tangentially, the gentler interpretation for Ms. Weisskopf’s piece is belied by the comments, which certainly have the flavor of a crew ready to wage a crusade against the infidels, i.e., everyone else.”
Which is my point: it’s gearing for crusade (you know: engagement!), not taking their ball and going home. Which goes to show that whether “exhorting people to engage the other side” is a gentler interpretation than advocating isolationism depends heavily on what one means by “engage.”
To me it seems like there are two authors named Robert A Heinlein. One is an excellent writer of interesting and exciting science fiction. The other is a rather boring (to me) political philosopher. Which is worshipped by the true church?
“Which is my point: it’s gearing for crusade (you know: engagement!), not taking their ball and going home.”
Heh. Well, unless they decide it’s not worth it. Which is also in the comments. Either way, however, it doesn’t strike me as they best way to go about things.
Actually, ottojschlosser, Beckett wrote most of his works in French:
That’s an article lacking a great deal in clarity, I’m not sure I’d want to be edited by her. The Old Guard of every generation (and those that idolize them) bemoan the degradation of their community/this country/the world in general/etc because it no longer maps to the nostalgia tinged memories they cherish despite how little those memories every actually mapped to reality. I get that, the purpose of the young is to push the envelope and the purpose of their elders is to reign them in from too much chaos and wanton destruction of the traditions.
It can be a messy balance, but ultimately a balance is the best outcome.
Every demographic has this issue (punker than thou, etc) and the people who care more about defining who gets to be in-group and who doesn’t often really don’t care about the community at all but rather care more about their privileged position. So I tend to ignore them. I like what I like, and what I like is well written books with compelling and believable characters and (within the context of the universe in which they exist) believable plots. Good dialogue is a huge bonus, but seems to be one of the hardest bits to come by.
All this categorization and legitimization of pieces of what are actually a highly diverse and creative genre are very distressing to me. I, frankly, have always enjoyed science fiction precisely for its wide breadth of ideas and perspectives. It made me feel good to be a scifi geek. I was one of those people that saw things from a lot of different angles, and not only that, took great pleasure in finding all those perspectives. Unfortunate what’s happening these days.
I’m confused. I read the linked article and what I’m getting from it is different than what Mr. Scalzi is getting. To kind of help clarify it in my head, and as a means of discussion, I hope you guys don’t mind if I go through it.
1) Conflict in sf fandom is nothing new. “It is also nothing new. When fandom was first starting there was the “Great Exclusion Act”…”
2) It was resolved because “… calmer heads prevailed. Bob Tucker in particular, with intelligence and humor, led fandom to the idea that it ought have nothing to do with greater world politics, but should concentrate on the thing we all loved, that being science fiction.”
3)”The fact that fandom as an open culture survived more than seventy years is a testament to the power of that simple, uniting concept. ” and further “We have not been able to transmit this central precept to new fans. Geeks are chic, but somehow we’ve let the fuggheads win.”
4) People who care about things other than (sf) push out those who only care about (sf). “At some point, the people who care not about things, but merely about being a big fish in a small sea, squeeze out the thing people. ”
5) Now there isn’t someone influential enough to heal the rift. Now sf is too large to be united around a small pool of output. The sf community is very fractured.
6) “For instance, a slur that has been cast at people who dare criticize the politically correct, self-appointed guardians of … everything, apparently, is that they read Heinlein. Well, Heinlein is one of the few points of reference those fans who read have. Of course we all read Heinlein and have an opinion about his work. How can you be a fan and not? The answer, of course, these days is that you can watch Game of Thrones and Star Wars and anime and never pick up a book. And there’s enough published material out there that it is entirely possible to have zero points of contact between members of that smaller subset of SF readers.”
This is what, I think, the core of Scalzi’s post centers around, as it’s the only point in the entire linked article that Heinlein is mentioned. To be honest, it’s not entirely clear to me in the way it’s written what she means by “those fans who read have.” I assume it’s meant to be something like ‘those fans who have been reading sf for a long time’. In any case, what I’m getting from this isn’t that people back then ‘worshiped’ Heinein, full stop, but that he was an important writer amongst many for those that have read sf and so people were all very aware of him. It being understood in the context of the piece that ‘fan’ here meaning old school fan when there wasn’t that much being put out, so you couldn’t hardly avoid him.
I’m not seeing from the way she references the ‘newer’ fandom that she is really besmirching them here for not reading Heinlein so much as responding to her perception that they are criticizing Heinlein fans/readers for thinking Heinlein is noteworthy.
7) “So the question arises—why bother to engage these people at all? They are not of us. They do not share our values, they do not share our culture.”
8) We SHOULD interact with them because “…science fiction thrives on interaction. ”
9) SF, as a genre, is pretty cool in that it thrives on interaction. Go us!
10) This method works, but we have people who have different political opinions in fandom. It is necessary to engage them in discussion, otherwise you’re just talking to yourself. However, for this method to work, they have to be willing to engage in honest conversation.
11) Awards are important.
12) “But awards lists only maintain their legitimacy so long as they in fact accurately reflect the field. So if a large part of the field feels that its interests are not being served–and they do–the award is compromised.”
13) ‘What to do?” (about the preceding) ” Fight to reestablish legitimacy? Establish a different awards list?” Ms. Weisskopf believes, really, awards aren’t as important as money.
14) (That said), maybe we should have our own awards, despite the other side cheating to keep us from having them before.
15)”I think the problem is that folks just really feel they have no possible conversation with the other side any more, that the battle for this part of the culture isn’t worth fighting.”
yet despite that
16) “And yet, I can’t help but think that at some point, you have to fight or you will have lost the war. The fight itself is worth it, if only because honorable competition and conflict leads to creativity, without which we, science fiction, as a unique phenomenon, die.”
Which to me means that she thinks ‘their side’ should engage with/fight with ‘the other side’.
So, her article reads differently to me than what Mr. Scalzi thinks is being said. It seems to be more despairing of engagement and mourn a past where sf fandom was united than it is saying that their side is the one true side and the other side sucks, or are heretics or what have you. It seems to me that Mr. Scalzi (and I guess everyone else in the replies from what I’m seeing) is reading it through a much different lens than I am. Or maybe I’m missing something. She certainly doesn’t seem to me to be saying that Baen fans are the real science fiction fans and that only real science fiction comes from Baen.
Plinth: “And I think that’s where I found the resonance in that paragraph: we come/came to SF via a myriad of paths and that the number of paths grows every year.”
This is why I prefer the archipelago model stated up-page: there is no one SF to which you find a path. Bioshock Ultimate is without a doubt original science fiction; it’s just not written. Videogames have exactly the same passionate engagement and fan contributions that Weisskopf is lauding at Baen. (Yes, there are many loud sexist racist neckless jerks. See also:Comic Store Guy vs. indie comics fans.) The current showrunner at Doctor Who, as well as many of the writers, began by writing tie-in fiction. It is routine for series authors to rely on their fans to keep track of chronologic and character details. Somebody who’s hanging out online and passionately discussing how the living ships on Farscape might behave is no different, qualitatively, from somebody who shows up at ApprovedCon and wants to discuss why Honor Harrington’s bionic arm is an improvement over her meat arm. Many Harry Potter/Game of Thrones/Hunger Games watchers are also readers… and writers. There is no clean line you can draw as “real SF”, not if you’re aware of the wider culture, and not much of one between creators and audience.
I think that Weisskopf is attempting to draw those lines; worse, she is drawing them in a way that excludes many of the interests of millennials as being unworthy. If you know that reading SF is a step superior to reading manga, why would the manga reader want to talk to you? If you’re going to build your wall against the barbarians, doing so in the language of the 20th century (“300 channels on cable” indeed) is going to keep you safe from the dangerous young.
OK, I need to settle something here- Starship Troopers the movie, is the worst adaptation of a book…. ever. But I digress
I have read primarily Baen for years– Starting with the amazing and wondrous Ms. Bujold… to Weber… to Ringo… to White… et al. I love military science fiction… not sure why, but Baen has really filled that space well.
But thanks to you sir, I have come out of that particular space and I am now enjoying a wider experience. I started with your posts (we agree most of the time) and then Red Shirts, (getting OMW this weekend).
But I cut my teeth not on Heinlein, but on Analog…. Whom most of the “Golden Age” writers got their first start. My father has 60+ years of Analogs in the basement (I made him promise not to throw them out). I read 30+ years in about 5 when I was 8-13 (the 70’s).
Through Analog I was introduced to the likes of Asimov, Heinlein, EE Smith and many many others. But the one constant was Mr. Campbell (and later Schmidt and Bova). As editor during the “golden age” he would have thrown out anyone who claimed to define that they are the right and only way… and most of the “Golden age” authors embraced this idea. They wanted action, adventure as well as a challenge to the mind but with a rigorous mindset that makes “science fiction” different than other writing, the science.
If there is any place in the space of science fiction Fandom that can clearly define their audience as THE audience, it would be Analog and they would NEVER be exclusionary and more importantly would never say they have “The Audience” They may have been some crazy years (and yes, it started Dianetics and such), but many many authors with many different viewpoints with many different stories got their first start there and it is still a great read.
For a Baen editor to arrogate that their house is the only house is a hubris of a sort that only Napoleon might recognize.
So far what I’m seeing most of in the comments there sums up to something like this:
“When I go to fandom events and make passing remarks expressing my worldview I’m just freely expressing my opinions. When others challenge my opinions with counter-opinions they’re spoiling the purity of fandom by bringing politics into it.”
So once again, it’s all about who is expected to STFU, and after decades of expecting marginalised people to STFU on certain topics some more mainstream folks are simply not willing to consider that it’s a courtesy that should extend in all directions i.e. from them and not just to them.
To me, when someone says ‘political correctness’ I simply replace it with ’empathy’ or consideration and I find a far more honest appraisal of the person’s worldview comes into view. Love what you love, and let no one dissuade you otherwise. The comments all seem to speak of a resentment of millenial fandom, which also speaks to a particular worldview. It’s a shame that in a genre that speaks to imagination and possibility, there are those who cannot see past separation and illusion.
“Burn the land, boil the sea, you can’t take my RAH from me. . .”
Saliva purity tests bore me, whatever the subject. I know a lot of “different” kind of RAH fans, and celebrate Big Tent Heinleinism.
I get a very different message from what Weisskopf is writing. According to her, people have been using ‘Heinlein reader’ or ‘Heinlein fan’ as an insult:
“For instance, a slur that has been cast at people who dare criticize the politically correct, self-appointed guardians of … everything, apparently, is that they read Heinlein. ”
She’s opposing that, and arguing that someone reading Heinlein (or anyone else) is not less of a fan, less worthy of a place in the genre community, etc., than a non-fan.
Then she focuses on the specifics of the Heinlein case. She first gives reasons why one might read Heinlein besides being ‘politically incorrect’, namely, that he was so popular and influential that he’s a common point of reference, so very many people are familiar with him. She then asks rhetorically how, if Heinlein is such a big deal, the people who are using ‘Heinlein reader’ as an insult don’t realize it; her answer is that, with the proliferation of media, there’s so much genre fiction that someone can consume only works that aren’t Heinlein and don’t explicitly refer to him (Game of Thrones, Star Wars, etc). This doesn’t seem to be an indictment of those who don’t read or like Heinlein, at least to me, but just an argument as to why the Heinlein fans shouldn’t be excluded or insulted for liking Heinlein, as well as a reason why people might read Heinlein even if their politics don’t match his.
Similarly, when she’s talking about ‘engagement,’ and pondering whether or not ‘such people’ should just be ignored, I don’t think she’s referring to those who don’t like Heinlein. I think she’s referring to those who insult people for liking Heinlein, and who want the Heinlein fans to go away, or at least stop talking about how they like him. The values she’s promoting are not Heinlein’s libertarian ideals, but the value of inclusion, and of respecting the choices people make in what to read even if one disagrees with them. That’s why she praises Tucker in the beginning, for helping scifi fans to put aside political differences to celebrate their shared love of the genre, and why she says at the end that it’s necessary to engage with people with differing political opinions in order to produce good scifi works–but that ‘such people’ don’t understand this and would instead try to drive away people who enjoy right-wing authors like Heinlein.
So I think she’s supporting inclusion, not exclusion. She’s not arguing that there is one Church of Heinlein; she’s arguing that those who love Heinlein not be excommunicated from the Church of Genre Fiction.
I am huge fan of Baen. Not just for the authors but mostly for their adoption of DRM-free eBooks long before it was cool ;-).
I never had the impression that i signed up for any kind of religion or ideology. Being an opportunistic feeder, that would restrict me too much. I would love to be more of a bar fly at Baen’s but i lack the time to delve into it too deep. An advantage that get’s me involved here more than there is, that Whatever (and some other blogs) are easier accessible.
Not knowing Toni and therefor probably missing some cues, i would rate the text not as a call for a schism but a not-perfectly-executed attempt at self-marketing combined with a mourning for simpler times.
I was there at the end of the third age^D^D^D^D^D^D^D^D^D when science fiction was still a niche and book stores offered to wrap your SF&F purchases in porn to spare you embarrassment on the streets. But as they say: Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. I don’t care if some 16-year old kid only knows LoTR from the movies and has not all appendices memorized. Me being the adult, i should be the one to look for the common ground. And, who knows, perhaps i can get him to read some classics and discuss it with him some future day.
Which is a textbook strawman argument. Who is arguing that Heinlein fans should be “excommunicated” from any aspect of fandom simply for being Heinlein fans?
As once was the fashion on USENet, sirrah, I request the following: cite, or it didn’t happen.
@ fuzznose: Definitely not trying to imply that. There was mention of a divide in fandom along political lines in the original article, perhaps it was wrong to infer a relationship to political parties there. Like I said, to me it seems weird to do such a thing and I would never advocate that idea.
I don’t get it either. I mean, I understand the basic points of the article. I don’t understand why the publisher of a major house like Baen would write it. (And I think it’s important to keep in mind that a publisher or other major employee of a house does not speak for all the authors who are doing business with that house.)
Baen was started by a man who was tired of having authors ripped off by large publishers, which, in those times, coming as many of the paperback houses were from the magazine/media industry, were not exactly forthright about their accounting and didn’t yet face audits as contractual term. That’s not really a conservative stance. In fact, Baen always went with inclusiveness, not exclusion, and the idea of growing the market. While Baen has always published a lot of military SF and while military SF may attract some more conservative writers, military SF has never been an exclusive far right sector and crossovers to space opera, hard SF, cyberpunk and other areas. So it saddens me to think that Baen might be turning that philosophy on its head.
While Heinlein was part of the Campbellian era, he wasn’t really the good symbol for it and denied it being the influencing factor of his work. While a few of his books have obviously been major works for military SF, he wasn’t even a very good poster boy for that, despite his own history and concerns. Instead, he was the conceptual daddy of the New Wave — sociological SF, politics, philosophy, sex, counter-culture, etc. with which that movement would concern itself, in response to and partial rebuttal of Campbellian rocket ships and brawny strait-laced astronauts. Heinlein often in fact satirized those things in his work. And that is what increased his visibility in general literature. But it also made him often the guy who was destroying real SF for many older fans of that era, who was thumbing his nose at the lineage of golden SF, etc.
A lot of fans have a lot of problems with how he depicted women or some women characters and non-white characters. (Which isn’t at all uncommon regarding authors from older generations.) Some of them really dislike his work for those factors and others see both aspects — the problem parts and the parts where he actually pushed feminism and created interesting ideas. (I’d probably put myself in that group. I like some of his stuff and I found other works a bit of an incoherent mess.) Then there are folks who don’t feel that Heinlein did anything problematic, and this seems to include a vocal contingent who would like the other two groups to shut up and feel that the first group, who dislike him, are destroying the fabric of civilization by disliking him. Which I agree, I think Heinlein would have problems with as a stance.
Regardless, the idea that vehement discussion of a seminal author somehow destroys and divides fandom is a really silly idea. If there is one thing that has marked SFF as a community, it is the vigorous and ever evolving discussion of authors, other media and ideas. It doesn’t mean that those authors are being ignored or shut out. Many Baen authors have been nominated for and won major SFF awards, such as Bujold, as did Heinlein himself. Nonetheless, if one group of fans or even authors would prefer not to discuss (engage) certain SFF with others, there’s never been a rule that they have to do so. (This is a different issue from harassment policies at cons and how female and racialized fans and authors are treated throughout the industry.) The notion that they’ll take their toys and go home is their choice, although throughout the history of the genres and fandom, it’s been a fairly empty threat. (And again, one made to Heinlein as well as the destroyer of real SF.) Older fans still go to SF conventions despite the fact that females made them stop pinching their asses there.
But what is extraordinary is that a publisher is taking the position that liberal female and non-white authors aren’t welcome at her house, and that large groups of fans should be repelled by Baen’s authors, on the grounds that they aren’t worth engaging because they have strong opinions about authors or civil rights issues. In these particular times, that’s a very odd position for a publisher to take. Also, it’s a really impossible idea to enforce.
In recent years, there’s been a lot of spitballing at authors and fans for being “divisive” because they’re trying to make the industry better for authors and fans in disadvantaged groups, in order to get an even larger and robust audience for SFFH. This would be unusual, except that it’s happened in every decade of SFF fandom’s existence. It happened to Heinlein, who despite his apparent divisive subversiveness of SF did not actually destroy science fiction. I’m willing to bet that the people who do not like his work are not going to destroy it either.
I’ll note I certainly haven’t been excommunicated for loving Heinlein. But as I noted above, I think Heinlein is being used as a stalking horse for other things.
I feel like a Dos Equis ad. “I don’t always agree with Scalzi, but when I do, it tends to be vehement.”
I’ve always liked Heinlein. Starship Troopers, for example (when I first read it), was a good story. I read it over the course of two nights. Now, as a combat veteran, it’s not a terribly inaccurate depiction of how a soldier thinks about his profession. It’s political arguments are largely lost on me, now.
Having said that, what I go to Starship Troopers or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for is entirely different than what I want from Accelerando.
The idea that Stranger in a Strange Land should be equated to scifi’s One True Cross is, indeed, laughable.
The genre is far more like 15th century Catholicism: there’s a relic for everyone.
…a constellation of islands in a sea of genre.
Can I just say I’m inordinately fond of this idea? Sailing the ship My Interest on the Seas of Genre, navigating from island to island. Making port at MilSciFi (they like acronyms there) to watch great space navies clash. Then hoisting anchor for a trip to the Island of Alien, to enjoy the strange cultures there. Perhaps, after a time, hearing the calls of Giant Robot Island and setting sail for a visit; and beyond, to the realms of superheroes in way-too-tight outfits.
I might have gotten a little caught up in that…
Neil W: No, exorcism is not a sacrament. Sorry.
Well, I am a Baen author (a very minor one) and I disagree with her.
These days, I see Heinlein as a historical stepping stone for how we got here today, but not really relevant today.
“I will, sir, Now as complete coverage is not to be looked for, we can turn from that and consider what can reasonably be expected. This man has gone the three essential ways, those of chance, choice, and the oracle. If he did not follow certain routes, that is merely to say that he did follow others. If he has dallied in some lesser places, no road links the greatest ones only, although of these he has seen his fair share.” – Golias, in John Myers Myers’Silverlock
@tigtog: I am/was on a list on YahooGroups and stopped actively participating because every time I tried to use Heinlein in an argument (when valid) I would have a dozen people jumping on me that I felt that he could do no wrong, that I automatically liked everything he wrote and everything he said; which I didn’t. And the majority of these people had never actually read any Heinlein.
At the time China Mieville (Perdido Street Station) was really big and everyone (and yes, I mean EVERYONE) who hd read him thought he was the proper “response” everytime Heinlein was brought up. I don’t even know if the arguments were valid because I got such a bad taste in my mouth that, to this day, I have yet to read any of Mieville’s works.
So she’s setting up a strawman as her stalking horse, John? Interesting rhetorical twist if one can pull it off, but unless obfuscatory bafflegab was actually the goal, I don’t think the judges will be giving high scores on this performance. Weisskopf’s post is generating a great deal of discussion, but the clamour lacks focus because the post itself lacks coherence.
Although I guess a lot of eyeballs have just absorbed the news that Baen now publishes a regular ‘Military and Adventure SF’ anthology for readers who enjoy that flavour of sub-genre in particular, but was getting that out there really worth the collateral damage?
The fetishization of Heinlein began, of course, when he was still alive – specifically with the Baen-edited Ace “paperback magazine” Destinies of the late 1970s and early ’80s, two issues of which featured huge chunks of Heinlein’s then-new, mostly-nonfiction Expanded Universe; the first of these began with Spider Robinson’s lengthy apologia “Robert A. Heinlein: A Sermon” (also titled “Rah, Rah, R.A.H.”). To what extent the late Mr. Baen influenced the people in charge of his company today, I have no idea, but this Baen-Heinlein juncture of 1979-80 seems worth noting here.
(Online search indicates that in some past editions of Expanded Universe, although not Baen Books’ current one, Baen received an “edited by” credit; indeed the idea of creating it, by expanding the 1966 book The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein, was supposedly Baen’s and not Heinlein’s.)
“Weisskopf’s post is generating a great deal of discussion, but the clamour lacks focus because the post itself lacks coherence.”
I would be delighted for her to offer a clarification!
I always found that essay interesting. It’s here, on the Heinlein Society site.
The scariest part of the RAH for Godhood cult for me has always been how eager so many fans are to take what only certain characters espouse to be the same as what RAH himself would endorse. He had plenty of characters with widely varied views; it’s not really possible to accurately infer what the author himself was about, simply by looking at what a few characters said or did. I’m not sure I’d put Heinlein in the modern Libertarian camp; he would certainly have a huge problem with the dumbing down of science, etc.
I think Heinlein understood human nature a bit too well to think that LIbertarianism would ever really work. Despite the society depicted in “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” being taken as a Libertarian screed, it’s obvious a lot of people miss the essential nature of Prof de la Paz’s “Rational Anarchist” point of view, or how the Luna society winds up in the end rejecting the Libertarian ideals they started out with.
To me, I’ll always love RAH’s work as it is what is mainly responsible for getting me into SF, and I think his strongest point is HOW he told stories, and less what his characters said or believed. If you can TELL a story the way Heinlein did – not tell the same story), you’d doing A-OK in my book. I think this is why Scalzi is compared to RAH.
The article was a bit confusing, I was wondering who was being exclude but then as others have said the comments (after about 4 indistinguishable from worldnet daily or fox news) gave the game away – how *dare* behavior be regulated?!??!?!
I mean…nuclear weapons tangent where it takes 4 comments for people to make claims about the president, rampant speculation of Takers vs. Doers (who are all conveniently The Left).
I was iffy about the article but the comments are nothing but ultra-conservative teajaddi dogwhistles with no effort made to clean up the mess. No one even challenges my favorite quote:
“Engagement really does require one side talking and another side willing to listen, and I’ve quit trying to listen to the other side. I refuse to listen to a group that refuse to listen to me and treat me like I belong in a museum.”
There’s no empathy, only projection. And the nazi posts….it’s like they were reading talkignpoints from stormfront.
In this bit: “But awards lists only maintain their legitimacy so long as they in fact accurately reflect the field. So if a large part of the field feels that its interests are not being served–and they do–the award is compromised”, I notice that she fails to address the possibility that the “feels” of “a large part of the field” may not be accurate.
And even if those feels are accurate, it’s possible that the real issue isn’t the award, but the interests of that part of the field.
Also, there’s a bit of a whiff of previously-privileged entitlement, as noted by tigtog up-thread. One facet of that may be that Heinlein had a huge role in shaping science fiction, and — semi-old-fart that I am — I remember a time when a large percentage of fandom would look at you askance if you hadn’t read at least some Heinlein. I’m not all that familiar with modern fandom, but I’d guess that there are now vast areas of the Fandom Archipelago where most people have never even *heard* of Heinlein, nor any of Baen’s cadre of literary relatives of Heinlein.
krussata: “The genre is far more like 15th century Catholicism: there’s a relic for everyone.”
I pick these. Bought the book, too.
Kat Goodwin: “In recent years, there’s been a lot of spitballing at authors and fans for being “divisive” because they’re trying to make the industry better for authors and fans in disadvantaged groups, ”
Thank you so much for highlighting this. When “everybody” was okay with reading “darktown” in a short story, when “everybody” was cool with knowing Isaac Asimov wasn’t safe in elevators … that wasn’t everybody. In particular, it wasn’t even all science fiction readers at the time. It was everybody who decided to attend a convention more than once. It was everybody who kept reading Campbell after “Fifth Column” was published. The people who walked away … they could have been everybody, too.
The only difference is that now they aren’t shutting up and taking it.
“I notice that she fails to address the possibility that the ‘feels’ of ‘a large part of the field’ may not be accurate.”
And also, that if those folks with those feelings are not actively voting on said awards, then, meh.
With that said, there was a Baen author nominated for the Best Novel Hugo last year and one nominated for the Best Novel Nebula this year, so this is another reason to find the chest beating about non-representation at awards curious. Unless the suggestion is that Baen authors should have all the nominations.
Theophylact, I said Beckett wrote his plays in English. He did write many other things in French.
John, I think the lack of awards thing might lead back to the John Ringo criticism of you from last year. I can’t find the exact post, and don’t want to muck around in his FB stall to find it, but this is one link to the ongoing conversation.
My recollection was that he said that he had enough nominations for a Hugo, but the liberal administrators made sure it didn’t happen.
See also: http://wisb.blogspot.com/2013/09/oh-john-ringo-and-your-silly-fantasies.html
Crystal Shepard, in that case I shall have to return to the worship of Neil Patrick Harris
Staying out of this one for my blood pressure. My only opinion is that Great Scal’zi is correct as always.
The film adaptation of “The High Crusade” was a far worse travesty than “Starship Troopers”. Failed Pythonesque I-don’t-know-what, it was just… I shudder to remember it.
The comments over on that thread are depressing. Obviously I strongly disagree with the blog host, Ms. Hoyt. I should not have taken the bait, but the whole Socialism = Communism = Naziism, that just triggered a reaction from me. Oh well.
I still read Ms. Weisskopf’s essay as more emotional than substantive, and as a conrunner who is often going on about diversity and inclusion, I think we need to be sensitive to the emotion and tone, if not the specific points, and make an effort to be inclusive of a wide spectrum of political views.
MadameHardy: “The only difference is that now they aren’t shutting up and taking it.”
Oh gods, yes. People get accused of being “divisive” when they dare to question the existing divisions.
Well, I came into Science Fiction by reading Tom Swift Senior by Victor Appleton. I went to a one room school house, that had these classic books still on the shelves, because they couldn’t afford to replace them with anything newer :)
Baen does well for the Dear Departed. The reprints of Schmitz, Laumer, Norton etc. are a wonderful service, allowing a new generation of fans to access the classics. This is great, because a knowledge of the classics helps readers understand the present.
Baen also does well with “New Classic Style” like David Weber. It’s fun stuff.
But there seems to be a disconnect – at least that’s how I’d describe it. Sarah Hoyt talked about how so much SF (and fiction in general) is ugly, and suggested that people should write Human Wave stories, where the hero wins.
I agree with Sarah. I’ve read books that, well, I felt like burning them because I could never get the wasted time back. There needs to be stuff that is upbeat, and the stuff for sale shouldn’t promise one thing, and deliver another.
At the same time I’m the guy who has fun killing everyone. When you write Horror, which I personally find horribly fun (pun intended) to write, that sort of thing is expected.
Lately I’ve been reading some Urban Fantasy/Romance cross overs. They aren’t classical Fantasy, like Lord of the Rings, but some of them are a lot of fun, and very well written.
I have a couple of friends who write some really weird porn. I had no idea there was a market for that sort of stuff (and I do mean weird), but there is.
Toni is missing the point. There’s a huge, wide, market out there, with room for just about anything. Castigating someone because they don’t like your style of reading/writing/publishing isn’t going to do you any good. Instead you should be marketing your books to the widest possible audience, in the most positive style possible. You may be surprised by the number of new fans you pick up.
PS: I used to work in sales, and regularly sold to Fortune 500 companies, so my view on marketing is probably somewhat skewed…
Mr. Scalzi, I think you mischaracterized Ms. Weisskopf’s essay entirely. It isn’t worth my time to argue with you point by point. I’d rather play video games or play with my cats. But I think you did a very common thing and assumed ahead of time what it was about, and then read it while fitting it into your preconceived idea of what it was saying.
Fair enough. I’d like to argue with Weisskopf’s post point-by-point, but like a lot of others here her argumentation (and weirdly scattershot tone) is rather hard to get any kind of hold on. I’d sincerely be happy if you’d enlighten me to what you found so unfair and inaccurate about our host’s reading.
Sigh…2014 does seem to be the year for “drama” in the SF community. Hoping this all blows over with minimal hurtz all around. I’m already tired.
Shorter Jonathan Briggs: “YOU’RE WRONG but I can’t be bothered to say why.”
Fine: NO YOU ARE WRONG JONATHAN BRIGGS AND I WON’T SAY WHY EITHER SO THERE.
There, that was fun.
“John, I think the lack of awards thing might lead back to the John Ringo criticism of you from last year.”
It might have. I would note Mr. Ringo and I hashed that out personally to our own personal satisfactions, and I’m not interested in delving into that particular discussion here. But in a larger sense, again, Baen authors are not unknown on awards slates recently.
I knew this was bound to happen eventually.
I have often cringed to see my friends use “Heinlein-worshipping” and similar in critiquing A Particular Subset of Fandom, precisely because it opens their arguments up to exactly what Ms Weiskopf has done in her rambling post. I have never seen anyone actually state what she says folks are stating – because most of the people who critique Heinlein and his stans have read enough Heinlein to know whereof they speak. If reading Heinlein was enough to make you an outcast, surely I would be filling out a change of address form for the outer darkness.
The using Heinlein as a tag for a certain set of ideas parallels to doing the same thing for Rand, and perhaps less fairly as Heinlein’s work is much less didactic and single-focused. I see its usefulness as shorthand even as I disagree with the overall usefulness of the term. Because there are people who use Heinlein as the answer to every problem anyone raises in SF/F. Want more strong female characters? But Heinlein… Want more racial representation? But Heinlein… As if Heinlein’s work ought to be game over, everyone’s representation needs are met and don’t you dare complain. These tend to be the same people who don’t want to hear about problematic content in Heinlein’s work either, who have decided that Farnham’s Freehold isn’t even the teensiest bit racist and anyone who’s bothered by the rape content in Friday is just interrogating the text from the wrong perspective. I have had these arguments, many times: if there were a Church of Heinlein I’d be a strong contender for their Bible Bowl. But such arguments are tiresome. And they grow more tiresome with every passing year as Heinlein’s work gets older and older and becomes less and less relevant to discussions of current trends, themes and issues in genre.
So I see where my coreligionists in the Heinlein Ain’t All That Schism grow frustrated with the endless stanning and poke fun. Especially given that the average Heinlein hero/ine would scoff at those stans for talking the talk with no intention of walking the walk. Just as there are many more Rand stans than captains of industry, there are many more Heinlein stans than candidates for Senior, or even folks with Jubal Harshaw-style resumes.
But Ms. Weiskopf fails just as much as those she critiques – both because no one is actually saying “it’s all that Heinlein that is the problem with Those People” and because she’s fallen into the trap of “speech I like good, speech criticizing speech I like is The Worst.” And her commentariat isn’t doing her any favors in terms of looking for a more charitable interpretation, nor her venue given Ms. Hoyt’s screed of late.
It occurs to me to wonder as I often have of late if these folks are as willing to put their money where their mouths are. Folks like the WisCon organizers and the supporters and chairs of Con or Bust get read for filth constantly by certain segments of fandom for being horrible racist sexist exclusionary meanie-faces who hate free speech and also freedom. But I imagine if these folks started ContrarianCon, where they promise you no pesky harassment policy and guarantee that Harlan Ellison can grope women and call other writers the n-word to his heart’s content – when the inevitable criticism began, would they have the courage of their convictions? Or would they whine that their freeze peaches were being imposed upon by virtue of the speech of others in response? I have no data, but healthy suspicions indeed.
@MadameHardy: And the current Doctor was, in his youth, EXTREMELY active in the fan community, to the point where his name was known to the crew.
@Shawna (Mediated Life): I happen to love Doctor Who. And I’m a Han Shot First partisan. But Alan Dean Foster’s novelizations are a big part of my geek childhood. So ADF is something we have in common. Nice meeting you!
That’s how simple it is to engage. And that’s the thing Weisskopf seems to fear. It’s really a shame when you think about it.
Seems to me either you read too much into things or are a bit paranoid?
She is not positing anything. She is predicting that SF fandom will fracture along political lines – an outcome she does not want to see happen, and hopes to avoid – unless both sides begin communicating with each other, and by that I do not mean grossly misinterpreting each others’ words and ascribing the worst and most ulterior possible motives. (Remember when you said, in the context of private communications, “the failure mode of clever is asshole?” Doesn’t it apply in public, too?)
These words of Ms. Weisskopf could come from either side of the fandom debates:
In other words, I think you are misunderstanding her argument and her motives. Not intentionally, and certainly not maliciously, but misunderstanding them all the same. She wants to be able to have an ongoing conversation, not just between you and her, but between two factions who, IMO, should not even be factions. Yet judging from your response – and the vast majority of the responses here and there, majorities on both sides do not appear interested in communication, or understanding. Both sides are reverting to easy stereotypes and caricatures of the other, pulling words and phrases out of context, and poisoning wells like we were in the middle of Love Canal. Disagreements are turning into feuds, offense is being taken where none is intended. One side sees the other as trying to use its power to exclude the voices and demean the contributions of women and POCs to the fandom – and that ain’t so. One side sees the other as trying to suppress all voices in and contributions to the fandom that do not comply with ideologically-imposed restrictions and double standards – and that ain’t so, either. But if both sides of this fandom keep jeering at the other, assuming the purity of their own motives and the baseness of the other’s, and systematically closing open forums to dissenting views… then the fandom will split, and both sides will be poorer for it.
You are an extraordinarily influential writer within the fandom. Please, be a source of light and not heat. The fandom split she predicts doesn’t need to happen.
Otto, if you read the Wikipedia article, you’ll see that Waiting for Godot and Endgame were written in French.
I’m not really sure why you felt you needed to pick this fight, it certainly couldn’t have been the passing reference (preceded by a “for instance”) to Heinlein. She spent more time talking of and praising Bob Tucker who stood for excluding no-one than she did RAH. Is it possible that you read too many angry responses below her article and somehow attributed their grumpiness to her?
I find it difficult to understand how you could have read her last two paragraphs – a call for re-engagement between those who think that ‘Farnham’s Freehold’ is racist and those that think ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is badly written paranoia at least to the point of stopping the name-calling – and immediately brand her as a right-wing zealot.
John, if there’s more than one way to be a fan of the genre, why are there so many people trying to expel the ones they don’t like?
” but honestly, most of my genre consumption has been movies, TV, and ’80s Marvel mutant titles rather than books. Does that make me less of a geek?”
Not in my book. “Geek” is about passion, knowledge and competence, not content.
People I know are knitting geeks, or cake-decorating geeks, or woodworking geeks.
These days the world is full of good fiction, I’m a little confused about anyone from a publishing house writing an essay that (if nothing else) is going to automatically turn off any fan who is not from the USA.
Especially since it’s partially in response to an issue that was not centred in the USA.
Got me. The more the merrier, I say.
“I’m not really sure why you felt you needed to pick this fight”
I’m not sure why you think it’s a fight. That you do says something about you, not me.
“The fandom split she predicts doesn’t need to happen.”
What a wonderful sentiment! Be sure to tell the people in Ms. Weisskopf’s comment thread that, please.
Beyond that, it’s not in either Ms. Weisskopf’s power or mine to fracture fandom. The worst that will happen — as I noted — is that some people might curl up into their own pissy little ball and everyone else will ignore them.
John, I wasn’t intending to hash the argument out, just trying to answer the asked question. Clearly, Baen authors (and Toni) feel that more awards and nominations were deserved by them than they got.
My intro to sf/f was through Madeline L’Engle.
When I wanted to branch out, I read the James Gunn anthologies. I remember putting two stars (of 4) next to the Heinlein story (as well as the Ellison one), so I didn’t actually get around to reading any more Heinlein for quite a while. Out of those anthologies, Alfred Bester and Lewis Padgett (C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner) wrote two of my favorite stories.
Then the opening to Number of the Beast came out in Omni. Loved the opening. Then the book came out and it went to hell pretty much where the Omni excerpt stopped.
He had a stroke, people said. Read his earlier work. So I did.
I’ve never gotten over feeling underwhelmed by Heinlein.
Still love some Baen authors, though. As many have mentioned, Bujold in particular.
It’s pretty clear to me that Ms Weisskopf is indeed starting from the assumption that she is speaking to an in-group that agrees with her – and it does sound like that group is appalled at the very notion that you can call yourself an SF fan without reading Heinlein/canon works. I’d call references to “our side” a pretty obvious clue here.
I never get people who argue about some vanishing standardized fandom as though it’s a problem – or ever was – if two people have different definitions for being SF fans.
And guys, come on. There is value and relevance and vision in science fiction, but let’s not forget that in the Heinlein vs. Star Wars part of this essay, she’s essentially complaining that kids these days like the *wrong robots and spaceships* to be part of the elite group. The last time someone told me I liked the wrong robot to play with the cool kids was literally second grade.
I can assure any skeptics that there are indeed venues where the name “Heinlein” is generally spoken with a disapproving sneer and the tacit assumption that anyone who does not share the sneer is a paleo-somethingorother or at the very least blind to the Old Man’s noxious politics.
Back in the day, Heinlein *was* a star, almost in the way that, say, Neil Gaiman is now–a status that I suspect he came to enjoy. (I’m still trying to get a bead on the guy. He’s not that easy to nail down, even with a mixed metaphor.) But after Starship Troopers he was not universally admired, and the fault lines were apparent at, say, the Kansas City Worldcon in ’76. (I vass dere, bubbe.) Interestingly (perhaps inevitably), late in his life and even more after his death, Heinlein became a cult figure for a particular subset of the libertarian right, whose conversations and attitudes are the complementary opposite of the aforementioned sneerers-at. (Both gangs cause me pain in my sit-upon.)
I find the curve faired by John Baxter through Weisskopf’s piece to be a decent match to my reading of it. And our host’s Heinlein-centric “encapsulation” at the top of this post strikes me as selective and thus flattening. I take Weisskopf to be writing about the state of fandom, which has been fracturing for decades. I was never a faanish fan (you youngsters can look that up), never active in running cons or producing fanzines, but I’ve been around fandom for nearly fifty years, and another assurance I can offer is that there were always tensions within the subculture–good old fannish feuds–and that from the 1960s onward, at least, some of them were associated with cultural politics. I suppose “Heinlein”–or “Baen Books, or “Jerry Pournelle”*–might serve as shorthand labels for the fractured and fractious condition of the Amalgamated Subcultures of Fantastic Entertainment conglomerate, but they’re all lossy and lacking in nuance.
* There I go dating myself. (A somewhat Heinleinian possibility.)
To misquote the Simpsons “I don’t know if single people like crackers. Truthfully I don’t want to know, it’s not a market I’m interested in.”
I really hope that the commenters above claiming that Toni’s essay has been misconstrued are correct, and this is a call for more dialogue and understanding, not a lamentation on how “kids these days” are ruining sci-fi.
The essay is very cautious and diplomatically worded, perhaps too much so as it makes it a bit hard to tease out exactly what she means to be saying, but oh, God, the comments…
I will say that I’m a frequent reader of her forum on Baen’s Bar and Toni has always been ecumenical about welcoming all sorts of readers with all sorts of perspectives. She’s always made it clear that Baen selects what to publish based on their brand vision, not some narrow political criterion, and that in fact they publish authors with a wide variety of political perspectives (although admittedly heavy on right-wingers).
I am worried that readers coming across this essay from your link will lack this context, and instead have only the incendiary comments at Hoyt’s place to illuminate the text. So whatever her intention in writing the piece, it will only end up contributing to the “culture war” divide opening up in the field.
And as I said above, that would be a shame. Baen has published some fantastic stuff, and I’d hate to see them retreat into a paranoid, insular sort of subculture.
To be clear and up front: I am (barely) a Baen author, having had several short pieces published by the Grantville Gazette.
Having read through Toni’s article yesterday and then yours here, and then the comments here, a few things came to mind:
1) I always avoid the comments on other blogs because they do not have THE MALLET OF LOVING CORRECTION wielded upon them, leading to comments that are frequently not supported by or even cogent to the original article’s content or intent. WHATEVER is something a bit special in that regard, so when it comes to commenting on those comments, I would hope that others would take them as they are; i.e. not the original post or author’s arguments, but those of people who regularly read the blog.
2) I do not think the intent of the article is quite as strident or oppositional as you have made it out to be, John. I read it is a bit of a lament for a perceived divisiveness going on in both fandom and, more generally, American culture right now.
That someone would think to use what someone has read and enjoyed as the basis for attacking them as ‘non-true-fan’ is something I think most of us have experienced, and few of us have enjoyed.
3) As to awards: As you indicate, Baen has frequently been a bridesmaid, never a bride. This has to be vexing for such a popular publisher. That which is vexing causes the vexed to search out answers. I think the post was an attempt to explore that and perhaps come to some conclusions.
I do not offer comment or judgment on her conclusions, as I don’t have the experience base to do so.
4) For my own part, I wish people would engage with each other in a fashion more likely to produce dialogue and Gasp! Dare I say it!? successful resolutions than seems to be the current fashion.
–Muh dos centimes
As noted, I would be delighted if Ms. Weisskopf would clarify her intent with the piece. If so many people are able to have so many interpretations of what I assume was meant to be a reasonably straightforward piece of writing, it does suggest perhaps more time and care should have been taken with it before it was posted to the public.
Like several others, I do not think Mr. Scalzi’s summary accurately reflects her intent. By a significant margin.
Her “intent” is muddied by the fact that she is using this as a marketing opportunity for Baen.
I think she’s asking for engagement when it is possible to engage and discuss. I also think she is realistically observing that there are some folks out there that just want things to go their way and will use every means to ensure that result. At which point, discussion is a pointless exercise.
Person 1: I think objective A is poorly selected due to Argument A-1 with supporting facts A-1.1, A-1.2, A-1.3, etc..
Person 2: Argument A-1 is declared invalid. When did you stop beating your wife?
Person 1: I have never beaten my wife. Objective A is poorly selected due to Argument A-2 with supporting facts A-2.1, etc..
Person 2: Argument A-2 is declared invalid. So do you beat her so that she will assist you when you sacrificed newborn babies to various demons?
I think you can understand the trend.
I have been following some of the more recent kerfuffles in the SF/F community. There may be some “inside baseball” aspects that I have not seen. But there does seem to be a fair number of people talking past one another. And that works in both directions.
I’m just terribly disappointed in Mr. Scalzi for his mis-characterization, IMHO, of Ms. Weisskopf’s (muddied) position.
I thought the splits in Fandom were Star Trek vs Star Wars, and recently Potter vs Sparkly Vampires ;)
My husband and I have been avid Baen readers for many years. We both really liked the Baen publishing model and many of the authors. Both of us found Weisskopf’s post really disappointing and puzzling. To see diversity and harassment issues dismissed as politics was disheartening.
Baen published CJ Cherryh’s book Paladin; since I reread it every year you can tell that I was, delighted by it.
I really don’t want Baern publishing to fold, and the current kerfuffle has reinforced that, but I do think that the intent of the message sent by Ms W is only too obvious.
“I’m just terribly disappointed in Mr. Scalzi for his mis-characterization, IMHO, of Ms. Weisskopf’s (muddied) position.”
So, to sum up, you’re criticizing me for inaccurately (in your opinion) characterizing Ms. Weiskopf’s argument, which you yourself have just noted was poorly constructed and muddy?
I’m not 100% behind your police work, there, Dann.
To be clear, I’m pretty sure Ms. Weiskopf did what I suggest she did, which was to assure her flock they are The One True Fandom, suggest that engagement might not be possible, and otherwise offer reasons why they were right and most everyone else was wrong on these things. But, again, if Ms. Weisskopf wants to clarify, I would be delighted to see it, because what we have out there now is a bit of a mess.
Also, let me be very clear that the rhetoric of Ms. Weisskopf’s characterization of people outside her circle of True Believers is pretty damn hostile, unless you want to convince me “They are not of us. They do not share our values, they do not share our culture” is somehow a neutral, non-exclusionary statement. And, well. Good luck with that.
I’ve re-read the article a couple of times now, and still the only message I can glean from it is something along the lines of ‘fandoms is becoming divisive, but it is all because these new fans are doing it different and not listening to us when we tell them they are doing it wrong’. The cure for the divisiveness mooted there is that all these people who are deemed to be doing it wrong should read Heinlein until they start doing fandom right.
The comments I’ve only read once, and that was enough because those guys were nuts.
FTR I’ve only read one Heinlein novel (I thought I’d read two, but on checking it turned out the second was actually by Fred and Geoff Hoyle…er…oops) and that was Space Cadet. That was years ago too. It was a bit “Boy’s Own” and the Hero was clearly The Right Stuff and it was all a bit too stiff and unbelievable for me. I think I’ll just have to keep on reading SFF wrong.
Staying out of this one, don’t want to trigger my PTSD from The Heinlein Wars.
I’ve not read her work before. So I have no preconceived expectations of her ability to state a position. Also….marketing! Perhaps she shouldn’t mix her modes.
I have read almost every entry from your blog via email for a couple years. Very handy, that. (And of course, others have been reading longer.)
Even when I disagree with your position, I generally find it honestly and earnestly presented. Unless I’m missing something, I think you have the ability to perceive and accurately summarize her message despite the mud.
The post above is an outlier, IMHO. That I took the time to comment is a measure of the disappointment. Were it something minor, I wouldn’t have invested the time. We all have bad days.
FWIW…YMMMV….and other such comments.
I am certainly willing to entertain the notion that this comes from a bad day! Which would be a relief, frankly.
Her intent (why the scare quotes, Dann?) is muddied by her own failure to write a clearly reasoned argument. I read it yesterday, long before John put up this post, and I found almost impossible to read all the way through because she kept going on and on without making clear points. I had the feeling she did have something in mind that was worth saying. I only wish she had managed to make it concise and well reasoned.
Then I started reading the comments on her post and thought, “Oh, it was about that?? Ick. Maybe I was wrong that she had something in mind worth saying.”
I see Weisskopf actually doing the very thing she claims to be arguing against. When she claims that the collaboration which produced the Ring of Fire series was a “process would not, could not, have occurred within any other genre,” I want to insist that she school herself on, say, the history of Elizabethan manuscript circulation with as much passion as she insists upon universal knowledge of Heinlein.
1) Having just read about the Orthodox Church of Heinlein (well, the church inspired by his books), I’m actually under the impression that it involved living mostly in buses, doing weirdo things to goats, and naming your children things like “Rainbow Galadriel,” because the sixties.
2) Once Ms. Weisskopf used “politically correct” as a derogatory term, I stopped reading, as is my policy. If I want to hear from the contingent that thinks that way, I can start going to extended-family Thanksgivings again. At least that way I get free food into the bargain?
3) “Fuggheads”? Really? If you’re going to swear, swear. If you’re not going to swear, don’t swear. Don’t make up cutesy little almost-profanities. Jesus H. Asslicking Christ.
A sterling example of “how not to build bridges”.
Scalzi: Good idea. I went and posted an edited version of my comment over at her site. It’s in the moderation queue over there (I’ve never posted there before.) Will let you know what happens.
Beyond that, it’s not in either Ms. Weisskopf’s power or mine to fracture fandom. The worst that will happen — as I noted — is that some people might curl up into their own pissy little ball and everyone else will ignore them.
You, of all people, should know the power of a good example in preventing undesirable outcomes.
I’ve never read Heinlein, and as a reader of SF/F I’m not embarrassed in the least to admit it.
I used to have an account of Baen’s Bar years back. I was kicked out for failing to maintain a proper level of respect for anti-muslim/anti-gay/anti-liberal rants, and for ultimately for asking that Americans remember that there were more than just American troops in Iraq at the time.
That should suggest what my opinion is of who is excluding who. And I am disheartened to see Ms. Weisskopf has yet to learn that Baen’s Bar is not her PR Department.
I might be missing something here, but having looked through the linked article and skimmed the multitudinous comments over there, I got a completely different vibe from it than Scalzi did.
The whole thing reads like a cover story, a soft-pitch to a certain segment of fans and authors who have most recently been told to cut the sexist shit, and giving them an excuse to take pot shots and snipe at the folks who have been telling them to cut the sexist shit.
The latest fooforaws in the science fiction world have served to highlight the vast cultural divide we are seeing in the greater American culture
The opening line is referencing all the pushback against sexism, and calling it a bad thing.
And Heinlein? His stories are rampant with sexism. So its no wonder they chose him as their rallying cry, their poster boy, their measuring stick:
fourth paragraph: somehow we’ve let the fuggheads win.
Well, that’s nice.
Here’s the twist: a slur that has been cast at people who dare criticize the politically correct, self-appointed guardians of … everything, apparently, is that they read Heinlein
“Politically Correct” is always used by people to change the subject from their bigotry and try to frame you as some sort of tyrant for pointing out their bigotry and saying “enough”. But the new twist is to add a second layer of misdirection: they’ve been “slurred” for saying they read Heinlein.
I’ve read a few of Heinlein’s books. Stranger in a Strange Land was fairly good. It had homophobia in it, but not embedded within every paragraph, so I could enjoy the rest of it. Starship Troopers is sexist and fascist and preaching the sermon of scarcity, the sermon of the folly of democracies, and the neccesity of superior firepower, and does so in some form on nearly every page, so it was not exactly an entertaining read. And I read it three times.
The article posits that Heinlein is what kick-started Science Fiction, and then sort of implies that because of his influence, Heinlein’s works is beyond criticism. To criticize Heinlein is something only “politically correct, self appointed guardians of … everything” would ever do.
Get over yourselves. Anyone who thinks their favorite work is beyond any valid criticism is someone who hasn’t been paying attention to what they’re reading.
tldr: Sorry charlie. Heinlein may have given science ficiton a boost, but that doesn’t mean Heinlein’s works are beyond valid criticism.
Then there is this:
Oh my god. The lack of introspection in this is so glaring it makes my head hurt. They want to “engage” those of differing opinions, but say that there’s no point if the person on the other side is not willing to listen to them. They don’t want a two-way conversation of give and take, they want to talk and they want the people who disagree with them to just shut up and listen.
What is completely and totally missing from that assessment is any acknowledgement whatsoever that they might actually be contributing to the problem. No. We can’t criticize Heinlein, he’s perfect. They don’t want to engage those of differeing political persuasions. The listening only goes one way. Listen to them.
Hey, this might just be crazy talk, but if you really want to “engage” with people in a two way conversation, then maybe you don’t want to start off by calling them “fuggheads”, “politically correct”, dismiss their objections as a “foofaraw” (a big to do over a trifle), and “self-appointed guardians over everything”. And then get upset that they don’t sit on the edge of their seats, quiet as a church-mouse, and listen to everything you have to say after that.
All will love me and despair.
This is the second time in three weeks that I’ve read that there is a group of vocal Heinlein-haters who pick on the True Believers. I was surprised. I didn’t know anyone hated him. I thought they found his work dated, and the later stuff kind of humorously “1970s” without much substance.
Didn’t he write a sorta-famous book about a man who becomes a prophet? And didn’t it end badly for the character? Didn’t Damon Knight write a book about a man who became a prophet? Didn’t that one end badly for that character? Perhaps they shouldn’t be in a rush to do RAH any favors.
I scan through a bunch of Science Fiction sites / blogs once or twice a week, and I happened to go from Baen to this one tonight. For what its worth, I didn’t completely follow Toni’s post, but I mostly interpreted it as plea to get back to the science fiction …
The Heinlein Juveniles were my introduction to science fiction and I get her reference. I have enjoyed all of the Scalzi books, and many of the blog posts. I think that you are in many ways the most “Heinleinesque” modern science fiction writer – not that you share his world view, but because you have your own that has some consistency in all of the books…
With respect, dbr, saying “Cut it out with the politics and get back to the fiction” is itself a political position. It is implicit advocacy for the status quo.
I agree with some others here, who think that Ms. Weisskopf is comforting some upset authors who didn’t get award noms. I can picture her sadly shaking her head and saying (to someone), “Well, you know what they say… a prophet is without honor in his own country…” And I do think she would be saying, “His.”
I’ve read most of the posts attempting to defend the piece, and I have to say I do think she’s calling for a big tent in fandom. Unfortunately, she’s also heavily implying “that would be this tent here, which covers this plot of ground.”
One point that stood out for me was the emphasis on “these” when she quoted a portion of The Declaration of Independence, but not the rest of the sentence. It struck me as like when people talk about “Real” America, or “True” Patriots; that addition of a seemingly innocuous qualifier winking to the reader that “we” all know the right way to be fans, and “they” just don’t get it.
SF fandom has only one qualifier, and that’s liking Science Fiction. The subtle (and in parts not-so-subtle) suggestion that “those” people prioritize other things over SF and therefore aren’t pure/righteous is hardly the way to start a dialogue, but an excellent way to rally the troops.
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I’m not very familiar with Heinlein; why is he the subject of the brouhaha and not some other famous scifi writer, Ray Bradbury, Hal Clement, or any of the others?
Just a quick response to a couple of people upthread who’ve said they’ve personally experienced/witnessed insults or other exclusionary behaviour directed at Heinlein fans, I’m very sorry to hear that this may indeed have happened, but your personal stories don’t actually count as a cite. A cite needs to be a screenshot or other evidence that others can also examine and evaluate.
Also, while some may accuse me of moving goalposts, I offer this more as a clarification of the sort of citation I’m seeking: I don’t think some pissiness in some obscure forums comes anywhere near “excommunication” from SF fandom as a whole. Surely excommunication has to come from somebody with the institutional authority to keep one out of all the official spaces/opportunities/sinecures controlled by that institution? An encounter with just another fan being a petty jerk on the internet doesn’t quite cut it as “excommunication” IMO.
I am a huge Heinlein fan, despite the fact that he wound up as an authoritarian “libertarian” and I’m an eat-the-rich left-winger. Life is complicated, and the owl was once the baker’s daughter.
I’m also someone with plenty of regard for Jim Baen, Toni Weisskopf, and Baen Books. As I said tonight on Twitter, I always have time for small bands of artists who doggedly pursue a contrary, visionary path, heedless of mainstream pressure to conform. Like Rimbaud and Verlaine; like Ginsberg and Kerouac. The self-indentified Baen faction are a bunch of visionaries wedded to their path, no matter how uncommercial. They should be celebrated for their artistic integrity.
And yet, all that said, I have to say, I’m totally baffled by Toni’s alternate-world version of fannish history, in which Bob Tucker saved fandom from having opinions about mainstream politics. Bob Tucker was awesome, but what he and his cohort saved fandom from was crackpot Deglerism, the temptation to believe that science fiction fans are a new, superior, star-begotten breed of humanity. This is a long way from the notion that fans shouldn’t have opinions about the distribution of wealth or privilege in mundane society, like EVERYBODY ELSE ON THE PLANET DOES. Toni’s model is, if anything, closer to Cosmic Claude Degler’s crackpot dingbattery, in that it calls on SF fans to abjure something the rest of our culture embraces, much like Mormons demanding that their followers forswear tea, coffee, and normal underwear.
By that criteria, tigtog, no one can claim to have been “excommunicated” since there is no one who has the authority to keep anyone out of “all the official spaces/opportunities/sinecures controlled by” fandom.
That doesn’t mean marginalization doesn’t happen. It does.
I am still utterly baffled by the article, honestly. I don’t disbelieve people saying it says these things, particularly in light of the comments, but I felt like I was failing to parse it utterly. I eventually figured it was either written in code or poorly writ.
Judging by some reactions from people I respect, it may be code I don’t have the keys for, or silent dogwhistles for a different breed of dog. But all I took away was that Heinlein didn’t watch Game of Thrones.
Hey”The Next to Last Samurai”. There are so many, many reasons of Heinlein to be the subject of brouhaha.
Heinlein wrote juvenile fiction that introduced a lot of people to SF. As such they will hear no wrong about it much as I expect die hard fans of Harry Potter will react to critical views of JK Rowling in 20-30 years. “Why are these kids on about these new authors??? They ought to read some good fantasy like I read! Or at the very least read these newer authors who write like nothing has changed since 1999!”
Unlike Rowling he also wrote at least one novel with a point of view that became associated with a political movement. So that gets wrapped up in it too. Think of Rowling went on to write another fantasy novel that had political overtones supporting some new kid on the block ideology that is half adopted by the Tory party in later years. Of course he becomes both someone who is enjoyed by readers and also a symbol of everything bad or everything good for some others.
Isabel Isabel, “fugghead” is an ancient piece of fanspeak. Very traditional. Doesn’t have the same overtones as “fuckhead”.
Note to all and sundry: This is exactly the sort of comment thread that sprouts trolls overnight, so I will turn it off whilst I sleep and turn it back on in the morning. It’s 10:35 pm Eastern now; expect the thread to be turned off in about a half hour.
samurai: I’m not very familiar with Heinlein; why is he the subject of the brouhaha and not some other famous scifi writer, Ray Bradbury, Hal Clement, or any of the others?
Because Heinlein was a commie hater, a libertarian, a ‘never enough firepower’ monger, quite a tad sexist, and not a little homophobic, and he didn’t have to truck with any hippies climbing his fence and shitting in his yard telling him all that about himself.[*]
Not only that, but Heinlein got away with all that lefty-hating, libertarianism, power infatuation, sexist, homophobia, all while getting shitloads of sales and awards and becoming known as one of the “Greats” who founded the genre.
And I’m pretty sure, these guys want to continue the lefty-hating, libertarianism, power infatuated, sexism continuing, homophobia that Heinlein did, and get all the perks Heinlein got. Instead, it’s several decades later, and they’re doing and writing exactly what Heinlein was doing and writing, and they’re getting all kinds of untold shit about it. And it pisses them off.
In short, their argment is: Heinlein got away with all this crap, why can’t we?
[*] No, he had to truck with hippies climbing his fence and telling him how much they admired his “free love” notions in “Stranger in a Strange Land”, and shitting in his yard.
@Teresa: Huh, interesting!
I’ll admit that most fanspeak itself strikes me as on the irkesomely cutesy side, so my objection kinda remains, but it’s useful to know. Thanks!
“Fugghead” is ancient, alright. There is a 1958 reference to the term in Ralph M. Holland’s “Ghu’s Lexicon” that reads as follows:
Fugghead , a dim wit. A lame brain. A fan who is either too dumb to know or too stubborn to admit that your way is the logical, most practical, and best way of doing anything.
I’m no marketing genius, and I really can’t claim to be a True Fan, either, but it seems at the very least counterproductive to describe one’s target customers in those terms.
Marion: a group of vocal Heinlein-haters who pick on the True Believers. I was surprised. I didn’t know anyone hated him.
Well, I hate the sexism, homophobia, fascism, and sermons of power mongering, scarcity, and democracy bashing, that show up in his books. I think he was a bit of a nutter.
And I don’t mind people liking his books, I said I liked “Stranger” quite a bit. But I will call bullshit if a fan denies there is the least bit of anything by Heinlein that can be criticized validly.
But reading “Starship Troopers” is like watching “Song of the South” by Disney, just with a different flavor of bigotry. It is cringe-worthy.
Greg: “and he didn’t have to truck with any hippies climbing his fence and shitting in his yard telling him all that about himself.”
Except, on the other hand, I have read unpublished Heinlein correspondence that the family won’t allow to be published. I’m thinking of a particular long letter to Philip K. Dick, during the brief period in which Heinlein was helping Dick stay alive, a period which ended when PKD, as usual, managed to punish his benefactor sufficiently that they gave up on him.
The point is, the letter, written in the early 1970s, is basically a narrative about Heinlein’s attendance at what for all intents and purposes appears to be some friends’ hippie wedding in Muir Woods. Complete with paganism, nudity, and other grooviness.
None of which repudiates the idea that Heinlein was grouchy about people (“hippies” or otherwise) telling him he was full of crap. But it seems clear to me that he was far from the stick-up-his-behind hardass that some of (peculiarly) both his defenders and critics seem wedded to seeing him as having been.
While I’m here: I do not get the need to defend stuff you liked when you were a teenager. I liked completely stupid things when I was a teenager. I watched Touched By An Angel , for fuck’s sake. I had not one but two Celine Dion albums. We aren’t even going to discuss my fashion sense, because: damn. No.
I was a moron at fifteen. *Everyone* is a moron at fifteen. I sort of regard anything I liked at that age as more suspect for those reasons, rather than less.
@Scalzi and gottacook: In a way, that essay has contributed greatly to the lessening of my liking for Heinlein over the years. Because A) I grew sick and tired of its author sticking homages to RAH in every single piece of work since, B) I grew sick and tired of its author sliding into ever more snobbish and strident pseudo-RAH libertarianism, and C) I read the unfortunate intro by its author when it was reprinted, whining that his past championing of Heinlein – i.e. that same essay – had cost him any amount of paid work. (As opposed to, say, his slide into bad, obnoxious, snobbish and generally detached-from-reality writing, with heaps of Heinlein worship tossed in.)
Spider’s first stories – in “Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon” – gave me a smile and a lift of spirits when I first read them in the mid-80s. (And by ‘lift of spirits’ I mean ‘helped save me from a teenage depression that might have ended Very Badly’.) But I can’t read him anymore, for those reasons and one or two lesser others.
Reading just the bits of Weisskopf’s piece that John quoted, I would have taken it for a Poe. But not the whole thing…and it’s a direct correlation to the foregoing.
I can admire the best in Heinlein, just as I can admire the best in my favorite author (and his), Rudyard Kipling…but I can do so without ignoring the worst. Weisskopf and others apparently can’t. And that, to dredge up a now-ancient meme, Makes Kitty Scared.
I doubt that many SF readers slur Heinlein readers. Even if they were inclined to do so, I think many might be hampered by not having heard of Heinlein, who died in 1988.
There does seem to be some hostility for Heinlein coming from somewhere. John has argued with it before.
John did write this piece:
I don’t suppose we know if the LA Times reporter in the article he writes about is fan.
Comments are off for the night. Because I need sleep! They will be back on when I wake up in the morning. Save your thoughts for then. Delayed gratification is good.
Update: Comments back on!
@Mike: “I doubt that many SF readers slur Heinlein readers. Even if they were inclined to do so, I think many might be hampered by not having heard of Heinlein, who died in 1988.”
I tend to feel the “slurring” is less due to the specifics of Heinlein’s work, and more to the tendency of those who invoke him to do so in a similar fashion to how Rand gets used. Being a fan of Heinlein is one thing, holding up fiction he wrote over 60 years ago as a series of immutable truths to be applied/enacted in modern society/politics, regardless of how well they fit, is a different thing entirely.
As a point of anecdotal evidence, re: Heinlein and his reputation among “younger” fans. I read Heinlein in junior high and high school; he was clearly old-fashioned, but my scifi options were limited, and I really enjoyed his juveniles. I could discuss them with my dad, who’d read them in his youth. It was fun! I liked his books! I considered myself a fan of Heinlein!
The first time I tried to talk about Heinlein at a convention, I mentioned that I really liked his stuff, but had some issues with how he treated women in his stories, though it wasn’t exactly shocking, given the era he was writing in. In a lot of ways, he was awfully progressive for his time. The response I got was lectures about how I was Reading Him Wrong because if I thought his writing of women was anything other than the gold star standard that all other writers should aspire to, unassailable, beyond reproach, I was clearly wrong and stupid and didn’t understand his genius.
Which, honestly, I thought was an aberration. So I talked to someone else about Heinlein, and said that I liked a lot of his juveniles but found Friday pretty upsetting when I ran into it as a teenager–and got jumped on for, well. Pretty much the same things. With a load of condescension that I did not appreciate, no.
I did enjoy his books. But I can’t read them anymore; when I look at his stuff, I don’t have warm fuzzy childhood memories about exciting adventure stories, I have memories of being lectured by men on how I just didn’t understand how awesome Heinlein was at writing women. So when someone brings up Heinlein now, and how he’s not appreciated properly by the youth, I don’t see “It’s a pity that some of the great older books of the genre aren’t being read as much anymore”; I see an incipient lecture from another person telling me that I’m not allowed to dislike a single word of Saint Heinlein and his Holy Writ.
In another decade or so, I hope to be able to read Heinlein happily again. Nostalgia is good at making the less pleasant memories fade after a while.
I am kinda thinking out loud here, but I think, at first glance, I welcome Ms. Weisskopf’s decision to not engage.
My FIL is an old school 60s hippie. Smokes pot, nudist, whole nine yards. He the minister at a non-sectarian Christian church and his motto is “we’re open to everyone who is open to everyone.” In my younger days, I thought of this as ridiculously hippy dippy. Now I appreciate just how frigging hard that motto is. And I’m hoping to live up to it.
The problem, of course, is that a lot of what was acceptable/normal back in the day can now be taken as “not open to everyone.” For instance, as a woman who isn’t stunning, tall, a genius, and sexually available to wise old men, I would feel deeply unwelcome at any party hosted by Mr. Heinlein. (To be fair, I haven’t read his stuff in ~25 years. But that was my 15-year-old self’s takeaway from his books.) But when I say “Mr. Heinlein makes me uncomfortable” and lots of other people chime in and say “Me, too!” I and my fellow complainers would be accused of bullying and gate-keeping.
So, while I’m happy to have them come and hang out, I retain the right to point out when they are making me uncomfortable. And if that’s going to make them want to leave the party, I think I’m OK with that.
Holy cow, but Sarah Hoyt has a follow-up piece now that even more strongly illustrates the “church of Heinlein” mindset:
This is way beyond “we like Heinlein and think you should read him” into “no attitude other than worship will be tolerated” territory. This paraphrase from Ginny Heinlein really takes the cake:
“Just like the Greeks thought that they’d successfully put Hector down and that no one would survive to avenge him, so the establishment thought it had successfully put Heinlein down and no one would survive to avenge him.”
Leaving aside religious texts, Rand and Heinlein are the only authors whose fiction I’ve seen used as serious “evidence” that (a particular economic/political/relationship type/dessert topping/whatever) would work in reality. Humans being humans, I’m sure some people have used other fiction as well. But I haven’t seen it.
(Oh wait, I take that back. I’ve seen the TV show “24” used as evidence that torture works. [facepalm])
John, you misread Toni so entirely it’s difficult to apply Hanlon’s Razor. What she said was this: “There is nothing new under the sun; SF thrives on discussion; if we don’t talk to—not at—each other we will be undermining the thing we all profess to care about.” (This is an authorized summary. I wrote a summary last night when I was formulating a response; this morning Toni posted this version which was almost identical to mine only worded much more concisely.)
There are some parts of your “summary” which kinda-sorta match some of the words Toni used, though not the meaning of the way she put those words together. The rest is purely sourced in your own mind. Using Larry Correia’s Internet Arguing Checklist, your whole response is a combination of #1 (Skim until Offended) and #5 (Make S——t Up).
All your points about “There’s more than one way to be a fan”? Toni was agreeing with you. The bit about “Only by reading Saint Heinlein and Baen Books can you be a trufan”? You made that up. And when you put words of exclusion into Toni’s mouth when she was saying the opposite, imputing to her the argument that “no one other than those she’s identified as True Believers should be touching her company’s books”—#5, check; #7, check; and edging up against #2, #3, & #4.
Someone up-thread managed to misread Toni as insisting that ‘you’ shut up and listen to ‘us’. Not at all: we ask only for a turn to talk; and that when we do, you respond honestly to what we’ve actually said, not to the lines you’ve written for us.
Off the Heinlein-specific aspect, I will say that I found the original essay we’re all talking about to be sufficiently unclear that I would, in fact, believe that it was intended as a “Let’s all settle down and talk things out peacefully!” sort of call. (I might disagree with how the talking is supposed to happen, as written, but I could see it as that.) But it’s been written in such a peculiar, dog whistle sort of way that it comes across to a large number of outsiders who read it as being an attack on them; and by the comments on the post, it comes across to a large number of insiders who read it as proof that they are the Virtuous Last Holdouts against some sort of communist orc army.
So at the very least, if it’s intended to be a “Let’s all sit down and talk calmly” essay, it has done a very poor job of communicating that to either of the two groups being addressed or referred to. Which strikes me as a problem in a piece of writing.
Bearpaw: Don’t forget Michael Crighton. I still hear people using “State of Fear” to argue that global warming is a hoax.
Joel: Could you link to Ms. Weisskopf’s update? It’s not at Sarah Hoyt’s.
Upon entering my 7th decade of life, here’s my view of science. It appears to be folks taking things apart and putting them back together again, in order to make our lives more comfortable and convenient. I figure we “believe” in science because we discover so many positive and pleasant reinforcements from same.
Obviously, then, the first and best SF book ever would be our first English novel of note, Robinson Crusoe. It’s all about taking things apart and putting them back together again, to help a wayfarer achieve comfort and security. Heck, Crusoe says as much, over and over. Many similar books followed – some on islands in the sea (slavishly similar), some on islands in space (just a bit different), and some from fantasy islands of the imagination (a bit more different, consider The Tempest). All such stories have been wildly popular, though assays for straight comforts and conveniences have sometimes been blanketed over. However, if there should ever be any High Church of SF, then, I’d think we all must all agree it would be the Church of Crusoe or DeFoe.
Heinlein is derivative – nothing against that! My favorite child’s SF was Starship Through Space, written by a NASA engineer out of the optimistic 50s named Lee Correy, in which faster than light problems were solved by slide rules!!! Obviously, we’ve done better than Lee imagined in some areas and worse in others, as with Heinlein; but the story inflamed my imagination along the lines of Crusoe and that’s what mattered. My brother preferred Heinlein but I preferred Correy. Whatever.
Perhaps if we insist on analogies, we should call Heinlein a post-Reformation, Lutheran offshoot comparable, say, to the 17th century Moldavians, who would later accidently start Wesley on a Methodist charge. (Hehe, that’s a joke.)
In case Patrick Nielsen Hayden returns to this thread:
Volume 2 of the Patterson biography of Heinlein has been in the works at Tor for some years now, with David Hartwell as editor (per Patterson’s site). Any chance that it will clarify some of the details as to the “real Heinlein” of the 1960s and later? The long delay has caused me to speculate that Patterson and his editor have had disagreements about whether the Heinlein of volume 2 should be presented as (to quote Have Space Suit) sans peur et sans reproche.
Madam Hardy: It was on the Bar.
“Using Larry Correia’s Internet Arguing Checklist, your whole response is a combination of #1 (Skim until Offended) and #5 (Make S——t Up).”
There is no doubt Mr. Correia is an expert on those particular steps.
And no. I read it just fine and am happy to stand by my interpretation. I will say it’s certainly possible Ms. Weisskopf wanted to say one thing, but the abject contempt she larded into the piece for people who were not of the One True Faith meant something else entirely came out. In which case, perhaps she would be better clarifying, starting with ditching the “us and them” phraseology.
Edited to add: Ms. Weisskopf updating her thoughts in the Bar isn’t particularly useful when her other words are floating out in public.
Also? “Let’s all settle down and talk peacefully” is kind of, in itself, a dogwhistle of the “you should all explain very very nicely, and about fifty times, why we should stop being bigots, and then maybe we’ll kind of listen” sort.
And “we like the same thing, so we should all just get along!” is so very much a Geek Social Fallacy sort of an argument.
I’m not sure whether you are adopting the royal ‘we’ ie, you are talking about yourself, or the more usual ‘we’ which means you are talking about a group of people. If you are speaking on behalf of a group of people then it would be helpful if you identified those people, not in the sense of removing desired anonymity, but to clarify who ‘we’ are.
At the moment it’s coming across as ‘the lurkers are supporting me in emails’, which I assume is not your intention, but I fully accept that I could be wrong about that, stranger things have happened. The implicit claim in the last part of your post is that people are being silenced; you adduce no evidence to support it. It would help your argument if you did…
John, someone posting as you wrote, several times, “I would be delighted for her to offer a clarification!”
I pointed out that she has done so.
You may stand by your interpretation; I will meanwhile mark #4 (Disregard Inconvenient Facts) fully satisfied.
(This comment has also appeared at Hoyden About Town)
As a lapsed Heinleinian myself (I’ve read his stuff, but it was years ago, and I’m really not interested in re-reading it at this point, even if I could find it in all the boxes of books), I tend to find the wholesale deification of the guy slightly worrying. I mean, yeah, he wrote good stuff for the era, and he was good and prolific. But so was Isaac Asimov, and so too were most of the other greats of the so-called “golden age”. And each of them were problematic in their own ways. If you’re a creative person, there’s bound to be something problematic about you to the correct set of people. In Asimov’s case, the problematic bit was his attitude toward women; in Heinlein’s case, the problematic bit (for me at least) was his politics (as someone who has lived their entire life outside the USA, I reserve the right to criticise the USA without being berated for being “unpatriotic”).
But then, I came to science fiction and fantasy in the 1980s – Heinlein was still alive and writing for most of the time I was reading his stuff (I finally burned out on Heinlein in about 1989 – 1990, when I discovered Pratchett). These days? I’d probably recommend the full cut of “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Starship Troopers” to any new reader who wanted to know about his stuff (and explain both of those books were written around the same time – work on “Stranger” was paused for “Troopers”); but I’d also be recommending they find a good impartial history of the USA around the time these books were written (the late 1950s to early 1970s), because they are both very definitely products of a particular time and a particular culture and a particular mindset.
That said: I tend to find it hard to really classify myself as a fan of science fiction and fantasy these days anyway, because science fiction and fantasy fandom largely seems to define itself as being that body of people (usually resident in the USA and of middle-class or greater income) who are able to afford to attend the big conventions, particularly Worldcon. I’m an Australian on a low income; I can’t even afford to attend the few conventions which happen here in my home city. I certainly haven’t been able to attend the AusCons when they’ve happened (in Melbourne). So do I actually count as a fan? Does anyone from outside the US count as a fan?
It strikes me as a very US-centric sort of tribalism, and it’s profoundly off-putting in a lot of ways.
I’m certainly part of the market for science fiction and fantasy novels (when I have money, that’s the genre I purchase books from). But I’m not necessarily part of fandom. The two terms aren’t necessarily equivalent. If it ever becomes necessary that they are equivalent, I’ll probably have walked away long since, because I can’t afford the trappings. The fandom which defines itself through its trappings, and its rituals and its conventions and its infighting is not the fandom I’m part of. I’m part of the fandom which defines itself through a shared interest in a subject, irrespective of whether or not I’ve actually met anyone else who talks about it face to face.
isabelcooper (10.53pm 11 MAR 2014): I tend to regard people’s teenage years as being the equivalent of a decade spent high or drunk, because essentially that’s what it is. It’s a decade where people who have just got up to the point where they’re functioning on all cylinders cognitively are now trying to do so with a head full of weird chemicals (hormones) on an inconsistent dosage. Silly things are going to be said, done, and regretted deeply when sobriety (or its equivalent, acclimatisation) hits in their twenties.
I saw this post yesterday. Calling people names (fugghead) isn’t engaging anyone. And while her post uses what I’d describe as coded language, the commenters don’t bother and expose their ugly opinions. Seems rather than extending a conversation on opening up scifi/fantasy, they are shutting it down. Kind of like trailer park Republicans whose representatives vote to exclude their states from Medicaid expansion, both are shooting themselves in the foot.
Stevie, I was inverting the pronoun conventions from Greg’s post of March 11, 2014 at 9:08 pm above. Sorry that wasn’t clear.
I had to read this piece twice before I understood what Toni Weisskopf was getting at. John, I think you’re lighting this thing on fire just to give yourself something to talk about.
The only place where it’s stated that there might be a “one true fandom” is: “But awards lists only maintain their legitimacy so long as they in fact accurately reflect the field. So if a large part of the field feels that its interests are not being served–and they do–the award is compromised.”
The rest of the long-winded and wandering post is as you said, badly focused and written. If it takes two readings to get the point of the author, some editing is necessary. I interpret her writing as lamenting the fracturing of the fandom. Her failure there is realizing that fracture is inevitable after scifi moves away from four or five markets and into the 21st century.
The core of the premise (and I’m *assuming* she’s talking about the Nebulas, but who knows because of the vague passiveness of the whole thing) seems to be a call to arms to take back the SFWA.
Personally, I think Baen should focus more on the Hugos. Speaking anecdotally, most scifi fans put more weight on them than the Nebulas. They can be influenced by getting people to become WorldCon members and voting! There! Perfect opportunity for some Baen marketing efforts.
Firstly, if you write an opinion piece that gives people two widely divergent possible interpretations of what you meant, you’re doing it wrong. *looks askance at Toni Weisskopf*
Secondly, the commenters, for the most part, certainly seem to be reading it the same way Mr. Scalzi did (and I did and quite a few others here did). Neither Ms. Hoyt nor Ms. Weisskopf have made any attempt to correct the commenters interpretation. That Weisskopf didn’t is, perhaps, understandable, though wouldn’t giving permission for your article to be republished make you a little curious about the reception it received? Hoyt republished it, apparently agreeing with what she interpreted it as saying, yet hasn’t stepped in to correct the commenters. If the article was truly a plea for us all to get along, wouldn’t she step in to say that?
“I had to read this piece twice before I understood what Toni Weisskopf was getting at. John, I think you’re lighting this thing on fire just to give yourself something to talk about.”
You know, when people assert that I am misunderstanding what Ms. Weisskopf has to say while at the same time acknowledging the piece was not exactly a model of clarity — as has happened more than once in this particular thread — I have a hard time accepting the argument that somehow I have done something wrong interpreting it as I have and offering my thoughts on it. Likewise, again, it’s entirely possible that this piece can be read differently by people who Ms. Weisskopf sees as being part of the “in crowd” (i.e., the folks over at Baen’s Bar), and people who do not.
As a practical matter, I strongly suspect that Ms. Weisskopf should not have given Ms. Hoyt permission to post the piece to the larger world until she had a chance to go through it and tighten it up, to make sure (assuming she meant other than what came across to me, anyway) the thrust of her concern was unambiguous.
‘Fugghead?’ Seriously? What’s next? Slan?
@Megpie71: Pretty much. Plus, by and large, there’s not a lot of opportunity for life experience or perspective, by definition. First breakup? OH MY GOD IT IS THE END OF THE WORLD.* First encounter with a book that does a particular trope well, or even half decently? BEST THING EVER HOLY SHIT. Of *course* I liked TBAA at eleven: it was the first “grownup” show I had access to that had any kind of fantasy element.
And also, you don’t have the…auxiliary perspective, maybe, is the term for it? The realization of why certain attitudes or statements are a problem. I was always pretty liberal, but I didn’t really get excited about health care or job security or whatever until I’d spent a few years out of college and seen the system fuck people over. You can get some of that from news and reading, but…again, as a teenager, there’s probably only so much of that you’ve been able to do, just on a time level.
*I have friends with young children, and it’s always both funny and sad to see them get sick for the first time, because lack of experience means that, clearly, you don’t have any “this too shall pass” knowledge: nope, your world is just made of snot and fever now, and will be this way forever, DO NOT WANT.
Is this what was being referred to? http://accordingtohoyt.com/2014/03/10/the-problem-of-engagement-a-guest-post-by-toni-weisskopf/
If so, I have a hard time with Mr. Scalzi’s characterization. It seems to be an appeal for communication between groups that do not communicate. It raises a question I have no answer for. Would Heinlein works be recognized today or would the political/cultural viewpoints prevent that? Is David Drake under recognized because of his military novels?
Science Fiction has the wonderful ability to explore what the future could be whether bad or good, my way or your way. It would be unfortunate if my way was always shown as the good way or rejected as unfit. I would have been more interested in Mr. Scalzi’s opinion of whether there is a schism rather than a religious interpretation of Toni Weisskopf’s piece.
[Inserted Addenda to previous comment.]
Heck, didn’t realize my own joke. If instead of Moldavians I’d have said Moravians, I think I’d have given actual facts! Too, I think some of those Moravians ended up as the Amish in Pennsylvania, if memory serves (erm, memory sometimes does not serve well, but I think that’s how it happened.)
So: The Baen Church of Heinlein may compare to our Pennsylvania Amish. There are reasons to be proud of the analogy (great pies), but also reasons to move on….
“I think some of those Moravians ended up as the Amish in Pennsylvania, if memory serves (erm, memory sometimes does not serve well, but I think that’s how it happened.)”
You may be thinking of the Mennonites. Moravians have similar worldviews, but are not connected to the Amish Church in any way.
On topic, I read – tried to read – the article in question a few days before JS made his commentary on it. And all I got from it was a tangled mess that needed an editor. If she was trying to “bring fandom together” with her words, then the essay has failed to convey the message clearly. If I were her writing prof, I’d give it a poor grade for lack of clarity on topic, focus and intent. If so many people are “reading it wrong” the fault lies with the words written, not with those doing the reading.
Richard, surely including some impressive-sounding but wrong details makes your original post truer to fannish disputation.
Honestly John? I don’t get why you seem to be perturbed over Toni Weisskopfs piece. As a fan and a kind of outsider since I refuse to have anything to do with cons after going to my very first con and being insulted and condescended to for my reading choices. THAT is the attitude Toni Weisskopf is describing, The con isn’t the only place I’ve run into it so I personally believe it’s more prevalent than anyone, even YOU cares to admit. Among the fans and the writers. After watching some of the brouhaha’s that have blown up in a fairly spectacular fashion in the con world and the SFWA in the last couple years? Kinda makes my point for me.
What I got from the piece in a couple of short sentences, and put into my own words is as follows…
Can we NOT just be fans and writers without all this [predominantly] politically ideological driven bullshit? Just talk to each other, not at, past or ABOUT in snide tones and condescending attitudes? Talk about the books, games, [or whatever forms of “geekery” we happen to be drawn to]we love so much and that
A. in the case of the writers/artists makes money and
B. gives everyone such joy and entertainment?
Frankly John your response to Toni Weisskopfs piece is dripping with the same condescension I ran into at the con that day and elsewhere since. I find that sad.
What i got from the original post was that the cons and awards and communities are getting bigger and more mainstream and getting away from what they were originally set up for. She was happy with her small community where everybody had the same frame of reference (eg Heinlein) but now there are people in the scifi community that have a completly different view of what scifi is and she is all ‘lets teach them, about the old stuff!’
It is a bit like how what my father called R n B (like Diana Ross and the Supremes) bears almost no resemblance to what my generation calls R n B (eg Beyonce). It is still the same genre, but it has evolved, expanded and changed to no longer the fit the niche it started in and she feels like the roots of the genre are now being ignored in the big movment that grew out of it. Which brings me back to ‘lets teach them about the old stuff!!! How it used to be and how it should be!!!!’
On one hand the sentiment is admirable, there is a lot of history to appreciate in the genre for something that is only about a century old.
On the other i was reading both Asimov and Rowling at 14.
What SF used to be and what it has grown to include now are both equally important to what is is.
Well, if an article meant to be a straightforward polemic is capable of this many interpretations, it’s either deliberate trollery or very poorly written indeed. I found it incoherent at best. She does seem (to me) to be saying what John says she’s saying, and using terms like “our side” and “fuggheads” (see below) is a great way of burning bridges before they’re built.
Patrick is also right, and I note that she stops just short of saying that All Fandom Is Plunged Into War.
As for Heinlein…sigh. He can be good. Sometimes the good he does isn’t intentional; I’m sure he didn’t really mean for people to go and found an actual commune and call it The Church of All Worlds, based on the group in Stranger in a Strange Land, which is also the book I’m convinced one of my Wiccan mentors meant when she said “the Mysteries were out in paperback in the 1960s,” but is also the book where he declares that “healthy women like to be looked at,” and based on that, that “healthy men must like to look, or else there was no darn sense to it!” and the book where he calls homosexuals “the poor in-betweeners,” and says they would never be offered water, because his human-raised-by-Martians hero “would sense a wrongness” about them, and by “them” he meant me.
He also meant me when he wrote The Puppet Masters and the free men go around with a woman with big boobs, and shoot any man who doesn’t react to her sexually, because that means they’ve been taken over by the Evil Invaders. Even in 8th grade I wasn’t too naïve to know what that meant, though at the time I took it for neglect rather than malice—my reaction was “Hey, wait, that’s not a good test!” Once I realized that the whole book was a thinly-veiled McCarthyist polemic, I figured out that what he meant was “queers are the same as commies anyhow, so shoot ’em all.” (Lots of people have argued with me about that, but the point is it really turned me off Heinlein pretty hard.)
isabelcooper: “Fuggheads”? Really? If you’re going to swear, swear. If you’re not going to swear, don’t swear. Don’t make up cutesy little almost-profanities.
Well, as others have said, she didn’t make that one up. It’s a time-honored term dating back to the days when people didn’t swear so much, but it came to mean, yes, a fuckhead, but a particularly fannish type of fuckhead. As Teresa points out, it’s very traditional, and by using it Weisskopf aligns herself with a class of fan who, like me, remember when we* had to type our blogs on stencils and mimeograph them on twilltone (a kind of paper), call them fanzines, and send them out, believe it or not, through snailmail! —but who, unlike me, regret the loss of the Way Things Were in the Good Old Days When Men Were Men and Women Were Women and Small Furry Creatures from Alpha Centauri were Small Furry Creatures from Alpha Centauri.
Seriously: it’s a semaphor for “see, I’m one of you, the old guard. I am familiar with all fannish traditions!”
Don Hilliard: All that. I can’t read Robinson anymore either. It has been visited, with great enthusiasm, by the suck fairy (who puts suckiness in stuff you used to like).
*Fandom, I mean. Not me. I contributed to some fanzines and was a member of an APA (a related phenomenon) for a while, but I was mostly a reader of them. Got a huge box I still don’t know what to do with.
JS: I acknowledge your point, however the counterpoint is that you’re drawing some very very specific criticisms out of a nebulous opinion piece. I think that in order to draw the specificity out, to which you address your concerns and responses, you have to entirely re-write Ms. Weisskopf’s piece. The clarity just isn’t there to allow for a response. Your stalking horse summary at the top of this posting MAY BE exactly what she intended, but only she will know what she meant (unless, of course, she dives into this matter).
@Rod > No, it wasn’t an appeal for communication, the title was “The Problem of Engagement”, i.e. that communication isn’t an option.
I tried to say that the doors were open, but I don’t think that took. Those people don’t like having people disagree with them.
I was the program director for Cascadia Con, the NASFiC in Seattle in 2005. Toni Weisskopf was our editor guest of honor. The Heinlein Society presented the Prometheus Award to Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. I’m a huge fan of Larry Niven; he brought a lot of thought to science ideas in his books and how changes in science and technology could change society. I think Jerry Pournelle makes a great program participant; he has a lot of heterodox views and he doesn’t just fall back on tropes; he challenges people’s assumptions and makes others bring their A game to the discussion. I want active, engaged discussion at panels, and he does that.
Some people have a perception that they are in the out-group with other groups That may be true. Online communities of every description are so big these days that anybody can choose their own epistemic bubble. Certainly I found quite a lot of groupthink on Ms. Hoyt’s blog; like many such groups, they say they are welcoming, but I observed that that only applies to people who agree with them.
But I still feel that the walls that are being built are not really the fault or the result of conventions, by and large. Science fiction is about science and technology, about what if, and looking at what might happen and then what might happen as a result of that. It’s not really about politics; writers who use their stories to promote their political views with straw-man characters just don’t tell interesting stories. Most conrunners don’t want to make their conventions boring; I see a lot more genuine respect for diversity of opinion within core conrunning fandom than I do in almost every other circle of fandom.
“I acknowledge your point, however the counterpoint is that you’re drawing some very very specific criticisms out of a nebulous opinion piece.”
Yes, I am! I work with what I have. And as noted, if Ms. Weisskopf wants to clarify, I’ll be happy to see. Until then, this is what I think of what she said.
I have to agree with Scalzi’s characterisation more than that of the people who think it was an innocent piece misinterpreted. There were calls for dialogue, but they were more like heavy-hearted, grudging admissions added to a piece largely dominated by complaints about *those people* that seriously wonders if *those people* are even worth talking to. Then there’s the venomous comment thread in which the author was an enthusiastic participant, so the intended audience took it that way and the author made no great pains to correct them.
It’s certainly a piece with some mixed and confused sentiments but Scalzi’s interpretation is totally valid, even if the essay didn’t in the end formally endorse segregation.
Alex, if “It’s not really about politics”, why in the world are people lining up to praise and defend Heinlein? For that matter, why are you praising writers who’ve given as much word count to political systems as Niven and Pournelle?
Several other commenters have touched on this idea, but here’s what this left me thinking about.
A couple years ago, I got hate mail from the parent of one of my students. It took a couple clarifying emails to figure out why, and it apparently came down to this: The young man in question had said something at dinner that conflicted with his father’s political opinions, and since he was expressing his own ideas for the first time, mangled what he meant to say. When confronted by his father, he cited my lecture in class that day for support, and misquoted both words and context. This happens around dining tables every day, and is a natural part of being a teenager. It’s also very common for the parent not to recognize it as part of the process of growing up – separating your identity from your parents, and learning to identify your own opinions. Parents can feel challenged, rejected, even in open warfare with their children and the culture at large when this goes really badly.
And I thought of that when I read Ms. Weisskopf’s line that implied one could not be a scifi fan without having read Heinlein. Why would my students have read him? He died in 1988, my students learned to read in the twenty-first century. There is very little scifi in the school curricula, and if there were there would be no better way to kill any enthusiasm for reading a text than making it required reading. As has been pointed out by many commentators on all sides of Mr. Heinlein’s work, many of the attitudes and situations presented in his work are the product of a very specific part of American history, one that looks as long ago to them as my father’s World War II service looks to me. Of course younger folks will have a very different reading of these texts, and will have their own canon from their own adolescence.
I’ve never read Pohl, or E.E. Smith, or Philip K. Dick. And I’ve never read James Joyce, or Chaucer in the original Old English, or Uncle Tom’s Cabin either. Some of these I may read in the future, some I may not. But I hope when I discuss these or any other writers with readers of different ages, genders, experiences, etc., that I will both listen carefully and explain my points clearly, and be open to learning something new.
As I’ve already said upthread, saying “Cut it out with the politics and get back to the fiction” is itself a political statement. It is an endorsement of the status quo. It is equivalent to saying “Things were fine and perfect before you brought your politics into this. So take them back out of it. No, we’re not going to discuss those things that you keep wanting to discuss. No, not even if you think there are problems here. That’s politics. And we’ve decided that there will be no politics. Just things the way they were before you started complaining.”
It is a call for troublesome people with complaints (fuggheads, evidently) to shut up.
I’m sure you see the problem with such a position.
If her intent is truly to reach out and bring together different segments of fandom, she shouldn’t start out by tossing insults at those who she apparently sees as the other side.
Cricket, to piggyback on one of your excellent points: I and another middle-aged person (I female, he male) had a discussion a few years ago in anewsgroup with a 30-ish woman who had no use for Heinlein. I was a big fan of his novels up until the last few (which I found unappealing to unreadable), starting in my late teens or so. This was the late 1960s to 1970s, so I read them in the context of those times. I liked the characterization of women–in that time (now, not so much). I liked that there was sex in science fiction–actual, fairly overt sex. (Some of the sex scenes I thought pretty bad even then, and now, oy! Sorry, Spider Robinson, but they are. The sex scene in the bomb shelter the night of the bomb is possibly the worst I’ve ever read.) He had interesting ideas and took them interesting places, and then there was the waldo and so forth. BUT: That was then. The 30-something woman had read these books in the context of a later time, and we could not convince her that there was any value in Heinlein’s work. She found them repellently sexist, and I can understand why. I didn’t, but I was coming at them from a different life experience. I still pick up my favorites from time to time, and I recently read Citizen of the Galaxy for probably the first time and enjoyed it.
I do think that Heinlein was progressive for his time. I also think he had an unconsciously patronizing attitude even toward his own strong female characters. I don’t condemn him for that. He was ahead of an awful lot of men in that time (and all too many in this time, alas). But new readers aren’t reading him in his time. They’re reading him in theirs. They shouldn’t have to study up on what things were like back then and appreciate him in his own context. Great if they do, but it’s a lot to ask anyone who isn’t having to read him for a literature class. They cannot be expected to internalize the context of Heinlein’s time to understand how he transcended it, when he did.
There’s plenty of science fiction, old and new, good, bad, and mediocre. There’s easier access to all kinds of science fiction than there probably ever was. Old farts like me can revisit long-lost favorites through interlibrary loans (huge shout-out to the Enoch Pratt library in Baltimore). Young readers can also read these books if they have a mind to. But they don’t need to read them to be science fiction fans. They need to read them if they have an interest in understanding the history of the field and the development of his culture. But such an understanding is not necessary to read, enjoy, and be a fan of science fiction. If anyone wants to argue that it is necessary, they’re going to need to explain very clearly why.
@Xopher: Ah, gotcha.
Granted, on me–who is one of those Young People These Days–that kind of has the effect of, well, making her sound even more like Racist Great-Aunt Hattie. You know, the one relative who talks about how “things were better” back when women knew how to be feminine and “colored people knew their place” and the only profanity anyone used was “Jupiter Christmas” and so on.
And you know what you do with RGAH? You nod, you smile, you drink some more wine, and you don’t bother engaging because fuck it she’ll be dead soon anyhow, what’s the point?
I take it the parallel is obvious to most people here, but Ms. Weisskopf might want to think about that one.
BW, thanks in particular for this part: They need to read them if they have an interest in understanding the history of the field and the development of his culture. But such an understanding is not necessary to read, enjoy, and be a fan of science fiction. If anyone wants to argue that it is necessary, they’re going to need to explain very clearly why.
I think this is crucial. The fact is that it’s not the ’70s anymore, for good or ill. As I get reminded every so often, “20 years ago” now means during the first Clinton administration. I play World of Warcraft with people who weren’t born when I was using GEnie. And so forth and so on. It’s literally a new generation, and as I look back on it, in the ’70s and early ’80s (I was born in 1965, so this is about my teen reading years), I mostly read relatively recent work. I looked at things like the Before The Golden Age anthologies, but not much in them really spoke to me. A lot of stuff from the ’40s-’50s kind of slid off me, too. I was mostly reading work from within my lifetime, a balance of recent and somewhat older releases…just like most sf readers do right now as we are debating this.
It’s neat when people want to learn more about the history of a field and go looking back through various lines of influence. But it’s absolutely not necessary to do that in order to be able to read, enjoy, discuss, riff on, and otherwise engage with work appearing now.
A political “rift” in (at least) American sf has gone on for decades, since at least the Vietnam War, during which time two large groups of prominent writers ran opposing ads:
The position is a bit more nuanced than “pro war” and “anti war” (the nominally “pro war” or “conservative” in that case was actually “We the undersigned believe the US must *remain* in Vietnam to fulfill its responsibilities to the people of that country” which is a slightly different position). But the split is primarily a political one. (One presumes if you asked the signees of the “remain in Vietnam” list if the US should have got involved in the first place, you’d get a subset, for example. Or if you asked either list of signees which position, taking out the Big Names that had already signed one or the other? What if, thought experiment style, a few Big Names were switched, which one would you have picked?)
But this whole ongoing mess depresses me. Too many otherwise smart people are talking past each other, for various reasons, whether marketing, self-interest, rationalization, performance art, “me too”, political ideology of various stripes, etc.
As far as awards go, however: IIRC, the Nebula Awards vote is not an IRV vote; there is IMHO a significant likelihood that a less favored of the nominated novels among the overall electorate will win, by dint of its being selected by a unified minority block. There are pros and cons to this approach if the voting is done along artistic merit lines — Jim Minz, another Baen editor I respect a lot, is right to point out that a striking yet polarizing novel is less likely to win than a more generally popular one — there are largely only cons to this approach if voting is done along ideological lines, whatever “side” of those lines is doing it. I’ve read 6 of the 8 Nebula finalists and significant-sized samples of the other two. I’m not comfortable for various reasons publicly talking about the quality of some of the novels, but from multiple ideological (from multiple political to “that author is awesome”) perspectives, weaker novels stand far better chances than stronger ones, which is not something I remember thinking much about in previous Nebula years.
About 20 years ago, while looking for something new to read, I was inspecting a Baen book. Inside, there was an endorsement from a fan who congratulated Baen for always being the first out of his in-pile. As he explained it, he knew exactly what he was going to get out of reading a brand-new Baen, unlike those other publishers.
That was all I needed to know for making my purchasing decision. I did not buy it, and ever since, I have read maybe 1 or 2 Baen Books total.
Added, because screw it it’s Wednesday afternoon and what else am I going to do, work?
It is too bad, because I really like the Baen Free Library in principle, and the approach to DRM, and so forth.
william e emba: May I commend to you “God Stalk” (republished by Baen as an omnibus “The God Stalker Chronicles”) and sequels by P.C. Hodgell? They’re (now) Baen books, and they’re truly excellent, on many levels. I’d hate to think you were missing out on the quirky Baen books because of that one blurb.
Yeah, Wolfie. It’s funny who keeps getting told to be nice and stop the “politically ideological bullshit” in geekdom. If that how you sindely and condescendingly want to frame the baseline expectation that when geek space is a harassment/rape free zone for ALL people we ALL win, I can’t stop you. But I can ask who really has the civility deficit here.
” Science fiction is about science and technology, about what if, and looking at what might happen and then what might happen as a result of that.”
Not necessarily. I would say that science fiction is about people, and about how people might behave in different circumstances — both in the future and in an alternate universe, one where (say) ansibles work, given a judicious helping of handwave. There exist respected science fiction writers who write about technology; there also exist respected science fiction writers who write about sociology, or about gender, or about swashbuckling romance. Space operas are science fiction. Lois McMaster Bujold speculating about what an all-male planet might look like is science fiction. James Tiptree writing about “the women men don’t see” is science fiction. Ursula Le Guin is science fiction, but the science is often anthropology. (Let’s not start the fight about whether the social sciences are, thanks.)
Chris Ogilvie: What you said. One person’s “politics” is another person’s “Why are you behaving as if I’m not here?”
Yeah: shockingly enough, what genre people like to read or write in is, to me, less important than whether they’re sexist, racist, homophobic, and so forth. Horrible priorities, I know.
I think in this context there are at least three definitions of SF fan:
1. People who enjoy reading (or watching) and discussing science fiction and fantasy.
2. People who participate in amateur press associations and fanzines about science fiction; particularly in the days of yore when they were mimeograped on twilltone. Roger Ebert was into this at one time in his life.
3. People who participate in organized science fiction conventions, particularly those with a mix of activities that are a rendition in miniature of a Worldcon.
#2 and #3 both have their own peculiar subcultures though there is a considerable degree of overlap between the two. The plural of “fan” in both groups is “fen”, or at least was at one time.
When I was new to group #3, I found myself asking questions similar to yours when faced with people reminiscing about the good ‘ol days of #2. It all seemed a bit exclusionary.
I think it is absolutely not necessary that #1 be equivalent to either #2 or #3; only tiny fraction of the customer base that pays for the creation of SF has anything to do with them. In that sense you are absolutely a real fan. It would be ridiculous for me to discount your opinion in this forum because you don’t spell bheer with a ‘h’.
I have seen it represented that stating that you are not a member of groups 2,3 or that I am not a member of group #2 is somehow gate-keeping. I find this assertion fairly ridiculous; It’s a statement of fact. I would call it gate-keeping if someone suggested that you be ignored in some other context, or if someone suggested that you not be allowed to join groups #2 or #3. To parallel the fake fan-girl thing, it would be wrong if you went to a Worldcon and someone demanded that you demonstrate how one spells bheer.
Of course there are way more groups than the three that I named. There are filkers, furries, Klingons, anime fans, comic fans, TV fans, Trekkers, Trekies, Whovians, Brown-coats, for-profit cons, non-profit cons, and all the rest of the islands in the archipelago. I think the same rule applies; it can be useful in some circumstances to note whether an individual is a member of one of these groups without making it about gate-keeping, provided that those who wish to take part are welcomed.
I think some of the subculture features of #2 and #3 are kind of ridiculous and are probably based on the notion that fandom has to protect itself from those who offer ridicule and are meant to build an us vs. them wall around fandom. I think it’s actually been years since I’ve seen bheer spelled with an ‘h’, and I suspect that lots of con attendees under 30 may have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s a silly thing, and I don’t date back far enough to know where it came from (my guess would be a typo in an con report in a fanzine). I have heard younger fans express that they found such mysteries and secret knowledge to be off-putting.
I certainly didn’t know about “fuggheads”, or know that it dated back to 1958, until I read this thread.
It used to be discussed how it was important to discouraging “tourists” who show up at cons to score free booze at the parties and laugh at the costumes. I’ve had con-runners explain to me once that promoting a con in print, TV, radio, within a week of the con was a bad idea because it tended to encourage casual visitors.
I think fandom needs to accept that it “won”. Science fiction & fantasy are a pervasive part of the wider entertainment world. Zillions of kids are consuming mass quantities of YA SF novels. We’ve all lived to see a fantasy movie win the Oscar for best-picture. This is a change that I’ve seen since I arrived on the SF con scene in 1992. I had coworkers treat me as some kind of nut 20 years ago. Now I have coworkers hanging up maps of Westoros outside their cubes.
I don’t see much need to defend the walls of fandom from ‘them’. This year’s Capricon was visited by a news crew due to the efforts of its PR team, and I say “well done”.
So megpie71, yes you are a real fan. If your circumstances do offer you an opportunity to attend a con, I hope you choose to do so.
Mike, every single word of what you said, and especially this: “I think fandom needs to accept that it “won”. ” The nerds aren’t oppressed any more. Being a nerd is mainstream. In some schools (not all of them), the nerds are the cool kids. The day I saw a mainstream reviewer (Washington Post) using “slashy” to describe a TV show, my little head exploded. Sure, there are people who feel contempt for various fannish activities, but the bulk of those people also went to see a superhero movie, or a marooned-in-space movie, in the last year. The Lord of the Rings movies won Best Picture.
Stop the war, we won.
On to my little private rant: I suck at crowds, and I double-suck at crowds of strangers. Crowds make me want to curl up like a pillbug and cry. Conventions are not a happy place, with the exception of WisCon, where I have a comfortable circle of friends. On the other hand, I’ve been doing online fandom since there was an SF-Lovers digest. Online I get to argue with people one-to-one, edit until I think I’ve said what I mean, and embed cites in a discussion. That is fandom, too, real fandom. You don’t have to do it in person.
As a longtime reader but casual fan, I find this glimpse in to the smoke-filled rooms of the writer’s world intriguing. Seeing that many of the denizens here in the realm of the mallet are part of the SF industry, I’m not surprised at the intensity and passion of the discussion.
Myself, I read SF for fun. To escape. My interaction with this world is to find those books which leave me feeling “Wow!” at the end. Heinlein is one of those authors. So are Asimov and Clarke. And in the past, so was Appleton.
In the present, I read many writers labelled “Heinlein-esque” — including our kind host. The phrase “One True…” immediately reminded me of another contemporary whose borne that same label.
My meaning? In this world, I seek out authors, not publishers, and for the most part will read complete their canons.
That said, in my professional world of IT, I’m very aware of publishers: There are publishers whose brand will sway my purchase — both positively and negatively — but that’s based on my own experience with their content, not their back office. [A significant number of the books on my active reference shelf bear the O’Reilly imprint despite my dislike of the “2.0” meme.]
I don’t see my leisure purchase habits changing. I’ll still come for and enjoy the ride.
As one of the commentors over on According To Hoyt, I must say that one BIG observation in coming “over here” is that many of the “look at the tone of the commentary” comments *here* about comments *there* are not appreciating the longer-term conversational context in one way or another.
Let’s see, *IS* there a way I can summarize briefly without allowing my own filters to show?. Darn it all to heck, ‘fraid not. I am the product of my upbringing, and my experiences, and my choices.
I believe that SFWA has perpetrated an injustice in expelling a Life Member. I believe that the several exclusionary factors that have been fluffed up to the level of kerfluffle recently have become needlessly divisive (the call for non-default binary gender or whatever the latest version of that phrasing is, the re-casting of honest appreciation for the human form as sexist attack, other exchanges where whatever -ism is demonstrably attacking based upon what for many of us are NONshared criteria).
It saddens me that anyone would cease to follow an argument or commentary because it takes issue with the concept of “political correctness”. MY politically-correct stance is that while every individual is, indeed, special, there is no way to put every. single. safeguard in place to avoid ALL feelings of “uncomfortable” or “threatened”. This is the human race, at the very minimum divided on some obvious biological grounds in addition to any other chosen, conditioned, or endemic attributes. I celebrate the differences. I adhere to a principle learned at my grandfather’s knee: “When you are through lookin’, yer THROUGH”
I firmly believe that there are significant problems and insufficient thought going into the “new” policies against harassment being rammed into place by some conventions — at least what I have read about them so far. I am saddened that they have become thought of as necessary – common sense CAN’T have become that uncommon, can it? (No need to answer, the answer appears to have been made plain in the response to the circumstances.)
And to be abundantly clear within the current discussion’s underlying context: warts, ulcers, (possibly) outdated concepts, and all the rest, I still like Heinlein’s fiction, and non-fiction. The majority of it anyway (never was fond of FRIDAY,even before reading some of the personal criticisms I’ve seen today). Do I *want* to live in Heinlein’s universe exclusively? Well, that a moot point — we all do by the inclusionary nature of his later work [cf. NUMBER OF THE BEAST, at al.]. Say, just what IS the ficton rating for this slice of reality, anyway?
No, there is no single Church that fandom should accept, unless it is the Big Tent. Remember, even the Big Top circuses have sideshows, living tops, trailers / railcars, and other supporting edifices outside that main Ring or Rings.
Xophec Halftongue: excellent use of (unattibuted) quote “…and Small Furry Creatures from Alpha Centauri were Small Furry Creatures from Alpha Centauri”. Practically perfect.
KiheBard, I think you meant “honest appreciation of the adult female form.”
Well, when you use “politically correct” in a derogatory manner, what I read you as saying is “Thinking about what I say is SOO HAAAARD! Why can’t I just shoot my mouth off however I want?”
And no, you can’t be certain of not offending anyone ever. But you can take pretty reasonable shortcuts to ensure that you don’t offend chunks of the population. The fact that hypothetical-you isn’t willing to do that…yeah, that speaks badly of someone, and it ain’t the people who would rather not be called names.
This might be a foolish question, but do other writing genres, authors and their fans routinely have the sort of poo-throwing spasms that seem to be engulfing the sci-fi arena on a regular basis? Or am I just noticing it because our illustrious site owner skews that way?
As a regular sci-fi reader, this periodic unravelling of everyone’s sanity has a thin veneer of intellectual posturing covering over a coven of immature three-year olds shrieking and throwing. I don’t think divvying up which brand of sci-fi “fandom” or works should be considered the “True Church” is sensible, sane or an effective way to grow the audience, intro new authors or expand the genre’s writing…
Or maybe I’m just not getting it, in which case I will drift back to historical fiction where I don’t see Bernard Cornwell beating his head over self-indulgent trivia and fighting with Simon Scarrow on which era is more important…
I suspect writers in other genres get worked up as well; if you spent the time frequenting their salons and discussion boards, you’d see more of it.
I do suspect SF/F seems more contentious than many because so many of us live online, as it were.
As a lapsed Bar member over at Baen–and knowing the tone of the forums, I don’t think you missed anything John. I would say that large parts of the Baen stable are closed off and happy to be.
I used to be a fan of Baen–the publisher–for their DRM free policies, their support of new writers, their free Library and the quality of many of their works–but I feel like they no longer want me or my progressive ways. They certainly don’t want me on their politics forums and I feel that more than a few of the authors would be quite happy not to have my money. I haven’t disappointed them lately.
@booklinker: Dude, romance is a font of drama. Between the “should RWA recognize same sex books” and the Old Skool Is Awesome vs. Seriously WTF The Eighties and the Holy Shit Plagarism…yeah. Popcorn-tastic. Oh, and the whole “Proposed: Writing A Bad Review Makes You a Horrible Human Being” thing, although that seems to be cross-genre and THANKS ANNE RICE.
Nah, you know what I’m over following or showing much regard for — being told, yet again, that I must have done something to provoke being raped and I need to get a “sense of humour” and “toughen up” when some dudebro decides to over-share his contempt for people of colour and GLBTI. (And I don’t even have to deal with the rape threats and pornographic spam geek women who dare open their mouths get as a matter of course.)
I’m also fucking sick of straight white men (and their enablers) having a pissy fit whenever someone dares to suggest it might just be a good thing if con panels and publisher’s lists were a bit less of a sasuage-fest; that it would be super-cool if cons took the health and safety of their paying guests without penises seriously; that “alpha males” don’t actually get to tone police and dominate every conversation because they’ve appointed themselves Gatekeepers of True Fandom.
A belated reply to an upthread comment, even though the discussion has moved on while Sydney slept:
UltraGotha March 11, 2014 at 10:23 pm
That is indeed exactly my point, UltraGotha – using “excommunication” to describe a demographic change in what fans these days prefer in the context of awards that are decided by popular vote is pure hyperbole. So why did Weisskopf descend to such cheap rhetoric? Did she not have a clearer argument to make for the reality of her claims?
Of course it does. It’s part of how humans organise themselves: into various overlapping circles of Us and Them that make for ingroups who share a sense of belonging and a level of mutual social support that is in part sustained by the exclusion of outgroupers. But there’s still a gaping gulf in social consequence between the Us and Them of the social mainstream vs alienated fringe dwellers on the one hand, the Us and Them of rival football clubs on the other hand, and the Us and Them of some members of some subgenre fandoms not being able to manage having a civil discussion with some members of some other subgenre fandoms or some other members of their own subgenre fandoms on the gripping hand. When we’re talking about the last example, we’re looking at the level of social consequence that is right on the line where one person’s marginalisation is another person’s exercising their freedom of association, and that’s a fuzzy line indeed.
If I see a fandom that is not anywhere close to demographically representative in terms of race, gender, class, sexuality etc then I’m seeing a fandom which has a problem with a status quo bias that leads to perpetuation of societal marginalisations. If I see a fandom which welcomes Heinlein fans like Scalzi or PNH or various others who acknowledge that the man’s work had some flaws, lapses and polarising polemics as well as some great speculative literary achievements, then I’m not seeing a fandom which has a problem with marginalising Heinlein fans. If a particular Heinlein fan feels excluded by a group which is welcoming to other Heinlein appreciators such as Scalzi/PNH etc, then it might just be time to consider that it isn’t actually the expression of admiration for aspects of Heinlein’s work which is leading others to avoid associating with one. It just might be quite different unappealing behaviours than merely a contentious opinion on Heinlein appreciation from which others could prefer to shield themselves.
That said I deplore anyone who has decided that any positive reference to anything Heinlein ever did/said is a sign that the author feels “that he could do no wrong, that I automatically liked everything he wrote and everything he said” as Mia said she was accused of in one forum. It’s just I’ve never noticed such blanket-labelling people in the various SFF forums in which I lurk. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, or maybe they aren’t actually a significant faction in fandom after all. We need some figures, both on which portion of those expressing some admiration for Heinlein’s work are of the Heinlein-as-Pope variety and which portion of Heinlein-as-Pope detractors actually do characterise any expression of appreciation for Heinlein’s work as an implicit profession of Heinlein-as-Pope tribalism.
* * *
This seems like a good moment to drop a link to Michael Suileabhain-Wilson’s Five Geek Social Fallacies essay for those who may not have seen it before. It seems to me that many of the reactions to various social conflicts within SFF fandom pivot on people operating within the parameters of several of these fallacies.
@ BW: “But new readers aren’t reading him in his time. They’re reading him in theirs. They shouldn’t have to study up on what things were like back then and appreciate him in his own context. Great if they do, but it’s a lot to ask anyone who isn’t having to read him for a literature class. They cannot be expected to internalize the context of Heinlein’s time to understand how he transcended it, when he did.”
How does this take on reading and engagement work if for Heinlein we substitute Henry James? Or Dante, or Homer, or Spenser or Shaw or any writer who had the misfortune not to be working within the temporal or at least philosophical horizons of the latest generation of 30-somethings? I realize that for many people, reading fiction (or viewing movies or plays or listening to music) is pretty much a matter of finding entertainment with a minimum of discomfort or dislocation (other than the kind of dislocation one gets from a beach vacation), but that is not the only reason to read/view/listen, even outside the classroom.
I could (and have) argued that the greatest artists do manage to get sufficiently outside their cultural visions to speak across generations or cultural divides. (This was not a particularly popular notion in the academy a few decades back, when everything was seen as culturally contingent and “universality” was a suspect if not outright dirty word.) But even artists who operate at lesser levels of achievment can have something to offer, and in fact I might argue (and have) that without an understanding of the lesser or even the least, we wind up with a diminished understanding of the best. Gaining that understanding is not a, um, universal pursuit, but I would suggest that the notion of “fan” can include it.
And again I don my cardigan and slippers to remind the pre-geezer segments of this discussion that SF fandom originated as a social movement rooted in love of a body of narratives and tropes and ideas and that it represented a minority of the total readership of SF even in the days of regional cons that could draw in 5000-attendees range. The post-Star Wars colonization of mainstream entertainment by the tropes and images of SF and fantasy has expanded the population of those who might call themselves fans in the sense of “frequent consumers of sci-fi-flavored product”–but most of those folk are not fans in the old fandom sense of socially-connected activists and proponents and manners-of-battlements. The fans have indeed won. But it was less about winning than hanging out with similarly geeky, playful, in-joke-loving, mildly-socially-odd, often borderline obsessive-compulsive* people, so fandom in that sense is all around us.
* Don’t be jumping on me for this–who else compiles and publishes endless lists, bibliographies, filmographies, and invents fanfic? Who else shouts out factual corrections from the audience?
It saddens me that anyone would cease to follow an argument or commentary because it takes issue with the concept of “political correctness”.
Does it similarly sadden you when others’ arguments and commentaries are casually dismissed as “political correctness”?
“But awards lists only maintain their legitimacy so long as they in fact accurately reflect the field. So if a large part of the field feels that its interests are not being served–and they do–the award is compromised.”
No. awards lists reflect the tastes of those who bother to do the nominating and voting. That is as it should be. Nobody can fairly evaluate a literary work without first reading it. And nobody has time to read all of the SF field. If a large part of the field feels that its interests arenot being served, they should get off their butts and nominate what they like. Then they should vote for what they like.
Not a direct response, just a note to let you know I’ve been enjoying your participation around here lately.
You know, I don’t know what Toni Weisskopf intended to say, but I know what I got out of her piece: ‘you are not a fan of SF unless you like the right things’. It is not a new argument in fandom. Perhaps she meant it only in terms of SF fans at conventions…and only literary fans at that. It is her type of ‘fan’ that kept many of me and my friends away from conventions in the early 1980s. Oh, we went to conventions…but they were media conventions. We like Doctor Who, Star Trek, Blakes 7, Anime…we weren’t ‘real’ fans, we were told by the faithful. I guess we were fuggheads.
Weisskopf’s piece reads to me like a sermon to the faithful…we weren’t supposed to hear it. I suspect how you interpret it depends on where you started from in relation to her to begin with.
I have to admit, on seeing your post but not going through and reading the original, my thought was, “This has got to be a parody, or at least a work of comedy.” Based on the rest of your blog post, unfortunately, it sounds like I was wrong. (TBF, I have not yet read the original.)
“Weisskopf’s piece reads to me like a sermon to the faithful…we weren’t supposed to hear it. I suspect how you interpret it depends on where you started from in relation to her to begin with.”
I suspect this much is true. In which case she probably shouldn’t have let Ms. Hoyt post it on her publicly-accessible site, at least not without heavy editing.
Pretty much exactly the same – many people will not have done and will have no intention of doing the background reading to garner the temporal/philosophical context in which the work was written.
I grew up as an inveterate bookworm and history geek who read widely in all fictional genres and a lot of non-fiction too. I love reading more to find out more about an author’s temporal/philosophical context in order to better understand their characters and narratives. But I’m hugely aware that I’m the exception rather than the rule (and it’s largely because I had the good fortune to be a natural speed-reader from an early age).
Most people view reading as an escapist leisure pursuit, and even most of those who view reading a particular genre as a passion simply do not have the time in their days to delve into deep/broad background reading when they could instead be using that time to enjoy reading another book by an author who simply entertains them. That is always going to be the majority of readers.
PNH: Heinlein’s attendance at what for all intents and purposes appears to be some friends’ hippie wedding in Muir Woods. Complete with paganism, nudity, and other grooviness
I was being a bit facetious/over-the-top with the bit about the hippies. The “shitting in his yard” was intended to demarkate that.
I wouldn’t be surprised by Heinlein at a hippie wedding. It would be very hard for someone to write someothing like “Stranger in a Strange Land” and not be a little… uh… unorthodox when it comes to sex, nudity, drugs, and what not.
I was pointing more to the notion that Heinlein got to write commie-hating, lefty-hating, democracy-hating, power-mongering, sexist, homophobic books, was very successful doing so, and didn’t get called on it the way some writers are today.
I believe that is why these guys are using Heinlein as their rallying cry versus some author like Arthur C. Clark, Isaac Asimov, or Ray Bradbury. Or god forbid, Ursula K. Le Guin.
Joel : we ask only for a turn to talk; and that when we do, you respond honestly to what we’ve actually said, not to the lines you’ve written for us.
Here is a list of descriptors that were used to describe those who would “slur” fans of Heinlein: Fooforaws. Fuggheads. Politically correct. self-appointed guardians of everything.
My honest response: Get over yourself. If you were interested in engaging, you wouldn’t start by insulting the ones you’re talking to. Also, get over yourself, because if the point of your argument is you didn’t get a turn to talk, on the internet, in email, on blogs, in places like SFWA, then you are seriously delusional. Seriously.
A more accurate description of what happened is that you got your turn to talk, and a vast majority of people told you that you were wrong. SFWA changed its media rules based on feedback from all members, not just you and those who agreed with you, and the problem for you is that a lot more people disagreed with your position. You had a chance to talk. People heard what you had to say. And most people disagreed with you.
So this “we only ask for a turn to talk” is nothing more than an attempt to restart a debate already decided and lost.
fadeaccompli: it was intended as a “Let’s all settle down and talk things out peacefully!”
But first, let me insult everyone on the opposition.
KiheBard: I believe that SFWA has perpetrated an injustice in expelling a Life Member. I believe that the several exclusionary factors that have been fluffed up to the level of kerfluffle recently have become needlessly divisive
This would only reinforce my impression that the article in question is nothing but an attempt to reopen a war already lost, and do so under a new excuse. Yes, SFWA had a vote and someone was expelled. Yes, SFWA asked all its members about their media and SFWA changed the way they do things wiht media. Yes, those are all over and done with. But this, this thing about slurring Heinlein, that’s totally unrelated to anything that ever happened before.
No. The article in question is little more than someone trying to restart a fight they already lost and pretend its something different.
Also, I’ve yet to see “Politically Correct” used in any other way than to say “lets stop talking about the things I said that made you uncomfortable and lets instead talk about how you’re trying to tyrannize my speech”. Your usage appears to be no different.
Data point: A few people elsewhere have expressed surprise that a non-Bujold book published by Baen (Charles Gannon’s FIRE WITH FIRE) ended up on the Nebula ballot this year. I haven’t read it myself, but my wife Hilde (who reads 5-10 books for every one I do) has. While she wouldn’t go so far as to say it deserved to win the Nebula, she said it was pretty good, and worth reading.
So while I tend to think there are “typical”/predictable Baen books (“predictable” is not generally what I shop for in books), I also think the occasional outliers to that Baenish style are worth keeping an eye out for. (Note the multiple recs for Bujold, for Hodgell, and I’ve noted elsewhere that I enjoy Robert Conroy’s alternate-histories, in some measure because he doesn’t seem to carry a heavy political axe to grind in his fiction.)
And I -love- Baen for bringing so many older author’s work back into print.
As for Heinlein, the older I get, the less enjoyment I get out of rereading his work. Those initial readings, in my teens and early twenties, were (mostly) wonderful. The older, more experienced me finds them more and more problematic.
Problematic to the point where, if I want to point a younger reader towards a writer who might give them that same sense of gosh-wow I had in my first readings of Heinlein, I don’t point them towards Heinlein anymore. I point them towards John Barnes. (Barnes’ Jak Jinnaka series — THE DUKE OF URANIUM and sequels — is, I would argue, readable both as a homage to Heinlein, especially the juveniles, and as a very clever subversion of the Heinleinesque worldview.)
I suspect writers in other genres get worked up as well; if you spent the time frequenting their salons and discussion boards, you’d see more of it.
Oh, god, yes. Academics have snit-fights all the time.
Just went back and read the article a third time.
So, the point of the article seems to be trying to point to a particular problem and no where really does the article just come out and say what it thinks the problem actually is other than in this one particular spot right here:
First of all, the latent sexism just boggles the mind. Boggles. Second of all, framing the refusal to allow sexism and harrassment in the SF industry as “squeezing out” other people is just… weird. It’s weird. It’s “politically correct” as an insult. It’s saying “lets not talk about my sexism, lets talk about your tyranny.” It’s saying I’m not sexist, you’re squeezing me out.
Its a great way to frame the conversation if you want to change the subject. But if you want to actually engage in what people are saying, then what they’re saying is “sexism and harrassment won’t be tolerated anymore”, and you would have to actually engage in that conversation, not the other conversation you want to have instead.
They also don’t like the way the awards are panning out, apparently:
But is anyone ever happy with the awards?
And maybe I shouldn’t be shocked that the Heinlein fans revert almost automatically to the metaphor of war:
Thank you for clarifying; I’m English, and thus accustomed to the Royal ‘we’…
Ah, given the “war” metaphor in that last part, I may have misunderstood the question of whether it is worth it to “engage” as saying “engage in discussion”, but maybe they meant it like “engage the enemy in combat”. Not sure.
Exactly — a few weeks ago, I don’t think I was the only Janeite who marked the 201st anniversary of Pride and Prejudice. If you’re so inclined, you could spend several human lifetimes working through the secondary literature on every aspect of Jane Austen’s life, work and “temporal/philosophical context.” But that’s not why her work is still in print and enormously popular, while her contemporary sisters like Fanny Burney and Ann Radcliffe are all but forgotten. If you dig deeper, there’s treasure to be found. But it’s not obligatory to enjoy Austen’s dry wit and high spirits, and it certainly doesn’t make anyone any less of a “true fan” if they do it without a Ph.D. in Austen Studies.
I would very much like a hand-sized plaster idol of Heinlein, please. Though I won’t bludgeon anyone with it.
Your lack of faith… disturbs me, spanner.
Thank you! I have wrestled for a long time about how I feel about Heinlein, and I have often been told that if I do not like his works then I must not be a true sci-fi fan. I think it is more than fair to say that I appreciate his influence, without having to be a “true follower’ or whatever. Thank you for articulating this!
To add to what @cranapia and @brucearthurs so nicely put, there’s a reason I have re-read Pride and Prejudice six times since high school, have read the Divine Comedy in the original Italian (hard work, but worth it), and love dipping into Pratchett and Gaiman for re-readings. And another reason why I don’t re-read Heinlein. Yes, I enjoyed his boy’s life novels, and learned my first theoretical physics from him. Yes, he was an important part of the industry at the time, and broke certain plot barriers that we now take for granted. But like Mrs. Radcliffe, whose works simply pale outside her time, Heinlein simply doesn’t have as much to say to a new generation as he used to.
BW: magnificent. Thank you.
KiheBard, Actually Adams’ original had ‘real’ in it: “…were real small furry creatures…”
isabelcooper: Well, when you use “politically correct” in a derogatory manner, what I read you as saying is “Thinking about what I say is SOO HAAAARD! Why can’t I just shoot my mouth off however I want?”
This. And the rest of your comment, too.
cranapia, you keep saying things that make me think “I wish I’d said that” and “Yeah, that! Me too.”
Please don’t stop.
I find Weisskopf’s piece odd. It ends with a call to engagement, and I think I’m the sort of person she claims she wants to engage. I’ve never read Heinlein. There’s no particular reason for that. I’ve been told there are problematic things involving race and gender and orientation in his books, but that’s the case with many older works I’ve otherwise enjoyed. My lack of familiarity is mostly due to being born after they were published, stronger interest in other sub-genres, and an unfavorable books:time ratio, so I’m presumably an easy target for someone who wishes to convince me to try his works.
Unfortunately, Weisskopf has given me absolutely nothing to work with. She holds an author up as a touchstone, but she fails to explain his appeal. She uses war metaphors, but she doesn’t specify what she would need to consider herself victorious. She claims I don’t share her culture or her values, but she doesn’t bother to tell me what her culture or her values are. I gather from the reference in her first paragraph that she’s not especially fond of recent efforts to address sexism in the SF community, which I don’t find very encouraging, but there’s nothing else. And then she chalks up the problem to one side, presumably the one I’m on, being unwilling to listen. Listen to what?
I assume the piece is really meant to preach to the choir, but it doesn’t speak well of whatever attempts are being made at engagement.
Discrimination costs money. It costs growth of a field. It costs the society at large. It limits the futures of entire groups of people and their career choices. It limits options available to people and the participation of fans. (And it is not “honest.”) One of the reasons SFFH has grown as big as it has is because its authors and fans objected to and worked to end discrimination. There’s still plenty of it about, as we’ve seen with some visitors, and it’s still limiting a lot of people in the field. And, as has been going on since the 1930’s, in every decade of fandom, there are lots of people objecting to and calling for reducing that discrimination, to make fandom and SFFH bigger.
And every time they do, there are the arguments that such objection and disagreement aren’t civil enough, is divisive, will break the genres into factions (as if that didn’t occur on aesthetics alone already,) will lead to the death of the genres, will contaminate written fiction or comics or games by liking other SFFH media or cosplay, is talking past each other, is impossible to ever resolve, is not real “engagement,” is bringing politics into an area it shouldn’t be in (even though discrimination is always political,) is making folk uncomfortable, is wearying in its conflict, means no help for reducing discrimination, means the lads, etc. will stay away (although they never do; they just get more determined to gatekeep,) is…did I miss one?
And these are the same arguments made — by those for discrimination and those sympathetic to ending discrimination but not if it is bothersome or takes too long — for every civil rights discrimination issue ever raised. The identical language often: “honest appreciation of the human (female) form” — 1970’s! 1920’s!; somebody should really do a book or book series on this, going back to written accounts in ancient Egypt and working forward. It is a fascinating historical phenomena.
Or it would be fascinating if it didn’t mean that because my daughter is a female, her choices are still a lot more limited than if she’d been my son. (But hey, the important thing is strange men get to talk to her about how cool women’s bodies are and how sexy her body is and how she shouldn’t worry her little head about it and say a word against it. If she uses her free speech and says a word against it, that’s censoring bullying, and they’ll hurt her and really make her have no choices, and call her a politically correct cunt. And if she stays silent because she’s afraid — clearly she’s giving consent to touching too. Because the important thing is her body, not anything else she might contribute as a human on this Earth.)
If that’s the official position of the folk running Baen Books, of the woman running Baen Books, then we just go on from Baen Books. But I’m not going to punish Baen authors because of who they teamed up with. I’m just going to accept that the folk running Baen Books have less and less relevance to the field as a whole because they don’t want real growth. Which is perhaps what she is mourning in the article.
But Heinlein is doing just fine. Yes, more awful works of his may be largely dropped out (I will not be reading The Puppet Masters,) but some of his works are studied regularly in schools and academia. Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, a few of those. He’ll be studied as a major figure for quite some time, I suspect. And his portrayals of women, etc., will be part of what is studied and debated. As it was while he was alive. Despite the claim, numerous fans in the 1960’s and 1970’s never read Heinlein, and he was, again, a divisive figure like many — considered the new guard who was not representing real SF in its early glory and too popular with “outsiders” and so forth. It’s a silly argument.
And military SF is doing terrific, as it usually does, and not simply from Baen. I am not interested in rehashed 1970’s complaints that the kids don’t respect them anymore. I am especially not interested in rehashed 1970’s arguments that discrimination against women and non-whites is good for them and the field. It wasn’t back then historically and it’s not now. It costs everybody — including Baen — money and growth they don’t need to lose.
@Joel Salomen – pardon me, but that argument sounds for the world like the Right Wing saying “It’s perfectly reasonable for you liberals to continue to allow us to be homophobic racist woman-hating bigots, because – RELIGIOUS FREEDOM!!!” That makes it hard to assume you’re doing anything other than pouring snake oil on the waters – which Scalzi has rightly spanked you for.
Oh, and while I’m on the subject – I’m supposed to trust somebody who proudly uses that Right Wing scumbag Matt Drudge’s hat as his icon? Not happening, pal!
I’m just wondering about one of the apparent differences between myself (who first read Heinlein in the mid-70s) and some of the fens of a similar vintage who appear to be fetishising Heinlein – he wasn’t my entry point into SF (Wells, Wyndham then Asimov, Clarke), and SF wasn’t my entry point into fiction (too many to list). When I did first read the SF Big 3 in my early teens, it wasn’t as part of the Astounding mags with all the editorials and fan material I’ve since caught up on – it was as standalone novels and anthologies, and I was reading other genres alongside them.
From my readings since I understand that Heinlein was by far the cleverest author of his era in terms of expanding the market for his writings and thus for other SF writers who followed in the spaces he’d opened up, and he deserves full credit for this contribution to the field. That doesn’t make his writings the best available then by all other criteria, and it certainly doesn’t make his opinions outside of how to best market his works superior to those of other writers then or now.
@timeliebe: I didn’t know that was the Matt Drudge hat, but I have to say that a fedora in your icon lowers a dude’s credibility by three million percent, because…I’ve been on OKC ever, basically.
@Kat: Ha, word. Also, the people who talk about “honest enjoyment of the female form” flip their shit if men are presented as sexualized, sexually idealized, or in any way as objects of desire. I’ve no objection to eye candy in theory, but it needs to go both ways.
@Scalzi – sorry if that last bit came off as a bit too political, but Joel Salomen’s argument really does sound like the reasons The Right gives for discrimination in the name of “Religious Freedom”.
If you need to kick it, I understand….
@isobelcooper – I’d present you with an idealized picture of me to admire…but most of them were taken by Tammy for a laugh! :D
In the midst of all this comes the irony that I really like a lot of Heinlein’s work, and enjoy re-reading his juveniles (certainly) and many other of his books and stories to this day. But he’s not The One True Path to Fandom any more than Ray Bradbury (who is a beautiful writer, but more Magical Realism than SF) or Harlan Ellison (a brilliant writer and probably the leading light of SF’s “New Wave” in the Sixties, though some of his attitudes are even more odious than the worst of Heinlein!) are. I also happen to love a lot of Baen books – but I’m that oddball Leftist who loves Military SF, so there you go. (Yes, Eric Flint is one of my favorite writers, now that you ask.)
I also know Heinlein dates badly for younger audiences, and shouldn’t be pushed as “True SF” over the works of Elizabeth Bear, Lois McMaster Bujold, Samuel L. Delaney, Kim Stanley Robinson…or John Scalzi.
@Bruce Baugh: When I said it wasn’t about politics, I was referring to science fiction. It’s about science. If people stick to telling stories about science and technology and how people adapt, that’s cool. When they use their stories to push their hobby horses, that’s boring. lots of good ideas in Niven, and good characters in Niven & Pournell’s joint work. I think I eyerolled at the AI’s politics in The Integral Trees, but a lot of other stuff in that story was really innovative, and that’s what Iook for in the genre. Likewise, as John said, there’s lots of great stuff in Heinlein. Some of it was weird; I think the Friday character was failing the suspension-of-disbelief test.
I dealt with some of the Heinlein Society people, and while I think they did have political views, they were perfectly happy for readers to get whatever lessons or benefits they liked out of Heinlein’s work.
The people who use Heinlein as a shibboleth, who insist that we read his works (or any author’s) through a political lens, they’re just turning me away. I’d like to share ideas and learn from each other; I really don’t have a lot of use for dittoheads who only want to talk to people inside their epistemic bubbles.
Meanwhile, over on the other blog, there is someone commenting with the handle “VD” going on about how he was expelled from SFWA. So that’s where that discussion has gone.
Can I insert a mild-mannered objection to the use of “fedora” as a perjorative? Because it’s classifying people by the way they dress, and isn’t that one of the things we’d like to see the other side stop doing?
(The fedora that’s been gathering dust at the back of my bedroom closet for years has nothing to do with this comment. Nothing at all, I say. *ahem*)
I’ll admit that wearing a fedora properly is difficult. It takes a combination of proper fit — which few people seem to bother with nowadays; compare with photos from the 1950’s — and proper attitude to carry off.
It’s also whether it’s the right hat shape at all for one’s personal head/neck/shoulder proportions. Bogart wore a fedora at a time when men paid a great deal of attention to choosing the right hat for their proportions, and when most men knew that not everybody could look good in a fedora, and that there were certain outfits that a fedora would never complement.
There are IMO far fewer people with the right proportions for carrying off fedoras than there are women with the right proportions for carrying off miniskirts, but there are far more women who have the necessary self-awareness with respect to miniskirts not being their friend. It’s one of those things about fashion – in order to look stylish you have to know what actually suits one’s own body shape rather than just copying something that looks good on somebody else’s body shape, and accept that there will always be some things that just will never look stylish for certain shapes.
I’m pretty late to this party, but I’d like to follow up on something JJS posted a while back (although I’ll admit s/he might not agree). One thing that really kind of bugs me is the way that folks who generally seem to worship the all-mighty free market system get bummed when it doesn’t deliver the results they want. I.e., ‘We’re excluded and tyrannized because we didn’t win X award.’ And ‘there are more people who like ___ (fill in the blank) than who like Heinlein.’ Grow up, people. If more people like Dr. Who than the good ol’ mostly dead white guys, the Market Has Spoken. If eligible voters choose a novel by a progressive writer or a woman of color, or somebody who doesn’t portray the old straight way of gender relations, the Market Has Spoken.
I’m not someone who worships the free market, and my infatuation with Heinlein’s work ended sometime in the early to mid 1980s. I buy Baen books on a periodic basis. I’ll admit it’s easier by way of a e-reader, so that I don’t have to worry about casual acquaintances seeing one of those um, striking covers, but I do shell out $ for them nonetheless. I’m not a fan of most of their authors, but hey, whatever floats your boat. But if, for example, John Ringo wins the Nebula next year, I’m not going to complain about it. Or if the latest Larry Correia outsells the latest Jim Hines, well that’s OK too, so long as I’m not Jim Hines. But this type of whinging really gets on my nerves, especially since it seems to say that in *just this one case*, the market is wrong. Or manipulated. Or distorted by political correctness. Or…or… something other than not enough people liked one author’s work. Or not as many people like it as used to.
There’s several authors whose work I really admire whose careers have tanked, or almost, over the last decade. And that saddens me profoundly. But it’s not due to political correctness, or those kids these days, or their failure to properly respect the great dead guys. it’s probably due to a lot of factors, including editors getting fired, bad PR decisions, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or maybe it’s just because not enough people liked the books they wrote. But blaming the audience for being politically correct fuggheads who don’t appreciate what good SF looks like strikes me as a knee-jerk overly defensive move.
I’m ranting now, aren’t I? I’ll stop. But I hope I’ve made my point.
Oh my god. Don’t read the comments on the linked article. It takes them less than 24 hours to meet Godwin’s Law.
The “According to Hoyt” site contains some crazy political nonsense. And its becoming more and more clear that the linked article is just the tip of the iceberg of insanity.
The post just prior to it goes off on a rant about how anti-harrassment rules are a train wreck disaster because con goers are socially inept and don’t know any better.
A post slightly before that goes off on a rant about the Jonathan Ross thing, by complaining about, of all things, seatbelt laws, and then saying “It’s time those of us with a brain — and a sense of humor — told these idiots to STFU. First, because they’re part of the problem, the self-inflicted wound that’s killing SF.”
The “Problem of Engagement” is clearly more of the same insanity. It’s target is exactly the same: people who tell them to cut the sexist bullshit. It just comes up with a different excuse than usual: They’re picking on Saint Heinlein the Perfect.
They’re picking the same fight as they always pick.
“The ‘According to Hoyt’ site contains some crazy political nonsense.”
This is known. Multiple links to it merely suggests you like it, Greg.
there’s the pithy aristocracy vs democracy quotes, in the Notebooks — the whole “if a million people think you’re wrong, it’s a million to one that you’re right” thing that he harps on, over and over, because RAH was AAAAAAAAALL about individualism…
Russell: How does this take on reading and engagement work if for Heinlein we substitute Henry James? Or Dante, or Homer, or Spenser or Shaw or any writer who had the misfortune not to be working within the temporal or at least philosophical horizons of the latest generation of 30-somethings?
I’m not sure I understand. After years of reading whatever science fiction happened to cross my path, I went looking for some of the classics. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. It was “OK”. Great given that it was the first book of its kind. But just OK by today’s standards. “Call of Cthulu”. Again, it was “OK”. Back in the day, I can see how it would be “great” because it was the first ever book of its kind. But by today’s measure, its “OK”.
It might help a person understand the roots of where some of today’s stories came from. But understanding isn’t entertainment. Fiction is sometimes described as a small lie to reveal a greater truth. I think there is value in revealing truth in an entertaining way. I don’t see how reading “Frankenstein” would reveal whatever truth it sought to reveal and reveal it any better than any of the modern versions of a Frankenstein-like story.
I loved watching “Star Wars” Ep 4, 5, 6. Many decades later, I got around to watching “The Searchers”. The first thing that I got out of watching The Searchers is that Lucas stole the plot point for point. He just changed sabers to light-sabers, native americans to storm troopers and horses for space ships. But, damn, The Searchers is long and could certainly use some editing by todays standards.
So, I would ask what a person is supposed to gain by way of slogging back through the ancient texts. But in the end, that’s not what this is about. This is about fans of the genre, not students of the genre. No one has to read Heinlein to be a member of the science fiction fan community.
Alex, politics isn’t some kind of parasite on humanity. If you write about how people interact, you get politics. The Motie stories are intensely political: the opportunities and shackles the characters experience in dealing with their situation are very directly shaped by the nature of the Imperium and of the military. Politics is integral to the stories. Likewise with, say, Pournelle’s Janissaries (a personal fave of mine still). What are our rights? What are our obligations? What means are licit or otherwise? These are political questions just as much as they’re ethical ones – certainly they become political when we decide to try applying them, or decide not to.
Thus always. Certainly back in my youth and before. The Foundation trilogy is thoroughly political. Stuff like “The Marching Morons” and “The Cold Equations” are political stories. And so forth and so on. Politics that I, J. Random Reader, find congenial, even obvious and intuitive, are still politics.
denelian, my sarcasm detector is broken. You were joking, weren’t you?
Scalzi: This is known.
Sorry to have stated the obvious. I’d never heard of it till this thread.
Multiple links to it merely suggests you like it
Ah. I need to re-learn how to do the “nofollow” bit in links. I used to know the syntax, but I’ve forgotten.
brucearthurs: you have my permission to wear a fedora without me judging your character. I might have an opinion about your fasion sense though. I’ve only seen a few people pull off wearing a fedora in current times. Justin Timberlake is one of them. But he also is the only person I know who can pull off wearing a can of soup for homelessville.
denelian: Just for the sake of accuracy, and for the benefit of readers of this thread, here’s the quote from Lazarus Long’s Notebooks (actually a pair of complementary entries):
Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something.
Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again, too. Who decides?
I’d like to point out that there would have to be several churches.
Some followers prefer the Old Testament, the works prior to Stranger in a Strange Land.
Others prefer the New Testament, which are the works after Stranger.
Then these groups schism according to whether or not they actually claim Stranger in a Strange Land. Generally though, most are willing to claim The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
I’d also point out that not every utterance by a Heinlein character represents Heinlein’s views.
As Larry Niven put it:
Heinleins views also weren’t static over his career.
I generally like both the old and new testaments, though I didn’t care for Farnham’s Freehold. I didn’t think it was a very good book, I remember thinking that it was intended to be a criticism of racism. I think there is a better case to be made for racism in Sixth Column.
I had always heard that episode 4 was supposed to be cribbed from The Hidden Fortress.
I haven’t seen either the Hidden Fortress or the Searchers. Perhaps it’s more fashionable to be seen to be cribbing from Kurosawa.
I have seen Dam Busters, a WWII movie. Only the climax of the film ends up in Star Wars but it’s pretty unmistakable.
Tim Liebe: Could you pick out what it was I said that sounded like a justification or defense of bigotry? I haven’t posted all that much on this thread, and yet I cannot find what you say in the few paragraphs I’ve written.
(And the hypothetical right-wing homophobic racist woman-hating bigots are not demanding your permission to be bigots; such is their natural right. The expression of such bigotry in action may at times be subject to law, but to suggest that anyone needs permission to think or believe in wrong ways is rather horrifying.)
As for your argumentum ad petasum—that’s a fallacy I’d not seen before. I’d used this image as an avatar for years before ever hearing of the fedora’s association with—actually I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be associated with, beyond the sartorial trainwrecks who try to pair a trilby with t-shirt and jeans. Some sort of Badthink, I gather from your vehemence and Isabel Cooper’s. (This is the first time I’d heard Matt Drudge associated with a hat of any kind; and my icon is only vaguely like any picture of his hat Google Image Search turns up.)
I chose the hat icon for self-identification. I’ve worn a fedora (yes, Viv, with a suit, and a brim width suitable for my height) since my bar-mitzvah two decades ago, as part of my religious and cultural heritage. You’ve lived in New York, Tim; did you take this dismissive attitude toward all your Orthodox Jewish neighbors, or just the ones who wore hats?
I’d like to point out that there would have to be several churches.
Some followers prefer the Old Testament, the works prior to Stranger in a Strange Land.
Others prefer the New Testament, which are the works after Stranger.
Then these groups schism according to whether or not they actually claim Stranger in a Strange Land. Generally though, most are willing to claim The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
There are indeed several churches! But much as I suspect an atheist does not much care if she’s being preached at by a Lutheran, Baptist, or Presbyterian, the proselytizing came across all the same to me. I generally managed to escape the conversation–usually by fleeing to another room–before I had to learn about the various denominations of worship.
I’d also point out that not every utterance by a Heinlein character represents Heinlein’s views.
You know, I was generally of that opinion. It’s one of the reasons I quite liked his books. Sadly, some of the fans disagreed with me vigorously in this direction.
That said, I am quite certain, in retrospect, that I enjoyed many of those books because I read them “wrong”. I was a wild fan of Starship Troopers because I thought it was excellent and vicious satire on a society obsessed with military service, told by a naive and thoroughly indoctrinated narrator who we could sympathize with but not be convinced by. Sort of a Gulliver’s Travels done as science fiction, you know? And I maintained that view right up until some very awkward conversations with fans around the release of the movie made of that book.
Fedoras/trilbys are recently correlated to “pick up artists”/general douchecanoes, much to the chagrin, I suspect, of people who wore them prior to that association. You might be seeing the results of that recent correlation.
With that said, I’m going to suggest to all and sundry that going on about hats is wandering a bit afield from the subject at hand, so let’s try to wander back, please.
@brucearthurs; This is an outdated comment by now, I think, but I just started *Fire with Fire.* The action sequences are very good, and it’s an interesting premise.
Closing up comments again for the night. They’ll be up again in the morning. Night!
Update: Comments back on!
he declares that “healthy women like to be looked at,” and based on that, that “healthy men must like to look, or else there was no darn sense to it!” and the book where he calls homosexuals “the poor in-betweeners,” and says they would never be offered water, because his human-raised-by-Martians hero “would sense a wrongness” about them, and by “them” he meant me
Xopher, I would encourage you to go back and reread those passages. Those words do not detail Heinlein’s authorial views; they are the internal dialogue of the person (Gillian) who is front and center at that point of the novel.
In my experience, most people incorrectly assign to Heinlein the views of his characters. Given that Heinlein wrote a wide variety of characters (e.g., Lazarus Long who once remarked wistfully on the lost homosexual relationship he had with Andrew Libby), it would be a mistake to assume that any one of them portrays his views.
I remember reading that same ad that william e emba did, and I remember finding it appalling too. I even managed to find it on my shelf: it’s at the back of the first Baen paperback printing of Vernor Vinge’s Marooned in Realtime, July 1987.
“I have come to associate Baen Books with Del Monte. Now what is that supposed to mean? Well, if you’re in a strange store with a lot of different labels, you pick Del Monte because the product will be consistent and will not disappoint.”
This is not the way I think about books. I’m not looking for consistency, and I don’t think of authors as interchangeable product. If Baen really was the way they portrayed themselves in that ad, I’d want nothing to do with them. Fortunately, though, they were selling themselves short. There were and are good authors who publish with Baen, and they’re nothing like canned pineapple.
I think it’s possible to read too much into that particular endorsement. I mean, before I was a Tor author, I generally thought that if I picked up a Tor Book I would on average be in safe hands, amusement-wise because I had come to trust the quality of the work that had come out of the house (now that I am a Tor author, I still think the quality is pretty good, ahem, ahem). So I don’t see that endorsement as suggesting bland conformity, merely quality control.
Cally: Thanks for the suggestion. I have no hard and fast rules, it’s just a form of triage. If Jim Baen was proud to endorse stunted readers, I was happy to not look again. (And I don’t consider reprints and sequels as examples of things that fall under this ban, since obviously somebody else got there first, and I typically buy the edition I would have bought at the time anyway.)
That Baen got things right with e-books and all, well, I missed that, since I will not read e-books.
As an unusual example of triage, I have so many thousands of books that for most authors, I purchase their books in one fixed format only, so they can fit efficiently together on my shelves. I have about 10 custom-made bookcases perfect for mass-market-paperbacks. At the moment there’s a hole where Redshirts is supposed to be.
Huh, interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever used a publisher as a book-selection criteria–not sure if that’s a generational thing or if it’s that I tend to read very specific subgenres (not really a hard-SF person, alas, though I have enjoyed Our Host’s books; have ridiculous tastes in fantasy these days; refuse to read romances where penis=TERROR) and any given publisher will have a pretty wide variety of books.
Following up on JohnD’s post of this morning, note also that Mike does not in fact “sense a wrongness” in homosexual encounters. I don’t recall whether Gillian explicitly realizes she had been wrong, but a careful reader should note that Mike thought so.
First off thanks John for bringing your geek out and getting passionate about your craft. I like when you do that. That being said… I don’t get your exasperation. The quote you posted strikes me as marketing similiar to what Apple does. Buying our products and giving us money proves you are special. Apple does the same thing. As someone in IT, I think people who think they are cool for using apple products are silly, because any idiot can click a button on a screen. Pros use the command line.
I think Baen has a small, but faithful customer base. I get the impression that a large part of their sales comes from recurring customers who buy their books over and over again. I think they are just pushing their brand to those people. Its similiar to what Apple does.
Can someone explain to me what this has to do with Liberal vs. Conservatives? I have met plenty of liberals who love Baen books. John your books are just like the genre that Baen puts out. You can try to differentiate yourself from them , but its not accurate. You write light, fast paced, action books, with some humor, and alot of ‘lets go blow stuff up. That is just like the Baen genre of books. I like your books, but as I get older I tend to prefer harder science fiction and science fiction that is deeper. Thank you for mentioning Consider Phlebas on your site. I really liked that book. I can care less about the communist utopia, but I thought the writing was excellent, the story was deep, and the intentional dud ending was a nice change of pace from the super epic endings you generally get in Sci-Fi. I will read more of his books. My enjoying his books have nothing to do with his politics (I am not a liberal).
I don’t get why you see every damn thing as liberal vs. conservative… Though I do really like it when you show passion in your craft. How about some pieces on the different types of sci-fi and fantasy ? Such as really hard sci-fi vs. the action sci-fi that you write. I know there are people out there that consider hard sci-fi the REAL science fiction and anything else is an imitation. Since these have actual science and this has nothing to do with politics. Or how about the Tolkeinesque type fantasy that Neil Gaimain often criticizes for having too much influence on the fantasy genre?
Mike: I’d also point out that not every utterance by a Heinlein character represents Heinlein’s views.
It doesn’t matter if they’re Heinlein’s personal views when the views of the characters are both reprehensible and presented in the story as accepted truth with nothing to indicate a valid response in the non-reprehensible category.
1984 presents some reprehensible views from the point of view of O’Brien and Big Brother, but they’re counter-weighted by Winston Smith.
Reading through the polemic slog that is “Starship Troopers”, four of the fourteen chapters are mainly nothing more than political statements from Mr Dubois or some other mouthpiece character. These characters present arguments for a world that is anti-democratic, power-mad, living by the rule of scarcity, a world that requires capital punishment and corporal punishment to function or even survive, and a world that is essentially fascist.
No one presents any reasonably valid counter point to those mouthpieces. Johnny tries once or twice, but he merely acts as a weak opponent to show how smart, how right, and how wise, Mr Dubois is. And by the end of the book, Johnny is preaching the same sermon that Mr Dubois did.
So, if the story isn’t trying to present reprehensible views, then it does a pretty piss-poor job of providing counter weight to the sheer mass of text provided to support that reprehensible view. And therefore whether they were Heinlein’s views or not, “Starship Troopers” is reprehensible from a political standpoint.
It’s also just bad writing in that it spends 4 out of 14 chapters doing nothing but having the reader listen to some character essentially monologue their evil-overlord view of the world. Good lord. Whenever a character in a superhero story talks about someone monologuing, I think of Mr Dubois.
So, Heinlein’s views are irrelevant because a story like “Starship Troopers” is just so reprehensible that the story can be criticized at length without once refering to Heinlein’s personal views. His views DO seem to track to the views presented by Mr Dubois and company, but again, even when we remove his personal views from the table, we’re left with a horrendously bad book.
fadeaccompli: I thought it was excellent and vicious satire on a society obsessed with military service, told by a naive and thoroughly indoctrinated narrator who we could sympathize with but not be convinced by. Sort of a Gulliver’s Travels done as science fiction, you know? And I maintained that view right up until some very awkward conversations with fans around the release of the movie made of that book.
I had a somewhat similiar experience. I ended up seeing Starship Troopers the movie before I read Starship Troopers the novel. When I first saw the movie, I was chuckling through most of it thinking “what an awesome satire”. It showed the gung-ho, military-can-do-no-wrong attitude taken to the bajillionth degree. But it also showed them as morons. I mean Casper Van Dien basically played an airhead through most of the movie. Then when they showed a bunch of infantry gathering in a circle around a bug shooting it, and shooting directly at their own people, I thought, “perfect”. Circular firing squad. Just awesome.
But then towards the end, I was kind of expecting some character to become aware of the stupidity, and see it for what it is. Or maybe he/she finds out that the humans were the attackers and the bugs were defending their homeland. Or something. It never happened, and I was a bit confused. So then I started reading about the movie and book on line, and eventually read the book, three times. How I see them now is that Verhoeven (the director who also directed the violence-satire movie Robocop) decided to satirize the fascism in the book by playing it relatively straight to the novel and simply showing it for what it was. And Heinlein sincerely endorsed the worldview in the novel that a military-dictatorship would result in Utopia.
But, yeah, first time watching the movie, I thought the book must have been satire to make this kind of a movie.
JohnD: Those words do not detail Heinlein’s authorial views; they are the internal dialogue of the person (Gillian) who is front and center at that point of the novel.
It doesn’t really matter if they were Heinlein’s personal views. If a reprehensible view is presented in the novel and nothing is presented in the novel to counterbalance it with something NOT reprehensible, then I see that as a problem. Did any character in that novel present a reasonable criticism of Gillian’s view? Or was Gillian eventually presented in the story as a reprehensible character? Does he behave in any way reprehensible that matches his reprehensible views? Or is he a flaming bigot in his mind but never acts on that externally nor harms anyone? Because that’s totally gaming the system.
For example, Mr Dubois rambles on for several chapters in Starship Troopers about pro-fascist policies. If all opposing views are presented as lame strawmen arguments that are easily dismissed and proven wrong by Mr Dubois (and every counter argument by Johnny was lame and quickly proven wrong by Dubois), and if Mr Dubois is never shown to behave in a reprehensible manner in line with his reprehensible views (and he is presented more as a hero Johnny looks up to) then the story is endorsing and forwarding the worldview of Mr Dubois and fascism, regardless of whether Hei, than the fascist nut that he is), then it doesn’t matter if heinlein endorsed those same views or not. The story is endorsing those views and prsenting them in a positive light.
You know what, I’m okay with us not turning this into a thread about Heinlein’s views on homosexuality, or most other general critiques of writing that are not directly on point to the conversation at hand. Hint.
Matt, John, on the other hand, the phrasing of that particular endorsement seems designed to appeal to the conservative mindset (i.e. it appeals to familiarity and tradition as much as consistency and quality). Which goes to the apparent target audience of the Baen imprint. Which goes to Ms. Weisskopf’s apparent intent of her piece.
The point where I started getting really serious “WTF?” vibes was when Ms. Hoyt jumped down on my observation that it’s important to understand Heinlein references but not to the degree that it’s essential to understand Biblical references (also Homeric, Shakespearian, etc. to a lesser extent.)
SRSLY? FFS, you can’t even get the point of several Heinlein titles without recognizing Biblical references.
So, yeah, maybe there’s something else going on besides literature appreciation.
Can someone explain to me what this has to do with Liberal vs. Conservatives?
I’m tempted to ask if this is a serious question, but I’m going to assume that it is. My second reaction is to ask how it isn’t about that? Probably also not helpful.
This discussion isn’t about who buys Baen’s books or who writes books that in some alternate universe might be published by Baen. It’s about the group of people Weisskopf seems to be addressing and who respond favorably to her post.
Let me paraphrase some of John’s summary of the post: All real fans love Heinlein. If someone hasn’t read Heinlein, they can’t call themselves a real fan. We’re the real fans because we love Heinlein, and everyone who disagrees with us should stop talking and listen to us because we alone are the real fans. We don’t have the power and prestige we as the real fans deserve because of unfair opression by people who aren’t real fans.
Now replace ‘fan’ with ‘American’ and Heinlein’ with ‘Reagan.’ See it now?
Or better yet, see the pervasive dismissals by that crowd of concerns regarding proper treatment of women, minorities, the disabled, etc, as “political correctness.”
These are absolutely textbook examples of the conservative mindset today. Certainly there are shades of gray and not everyone fits purely on one side or the other, but this conflict within fandom is largely the modern political conflict spreading into areas beyond politics.
I’m rather a fan of some Baen authors. There are other ones whose output I used to like but now refuse to read, because I don’t want to be repeatedly insulted when I’m reading light escapist stuff. (There are also some that I’m on the fence about but seem, on balance, to produce work that I enjoyed.) Maybe I wouldn’t notice if the authors were bashing a conservative worldview, but my experience is that conservative, or at the very least jingoistic, authors seem to particularly like beating people over the head with it.
The deification and atheism of Heinlein by both sides is getting more than a little tiring. I very much enjoyed some of his writing, particularly “Time Enough for Love.” I’d even go so far as to say it was somewhat influential, particularly as I was sorting out issues of masculinity, self-reliance, and conformity in my teens. On the other hand, so were a couple of hundred other novels and writers of various political, social, and sexual persuasions, all of which I feel at least as much affection. Robert Heinlein, meet Armisted Maupin, meet Robert B Parker, meet Marge Piercy and Anne Tyler and Nick Hornby. I think he was a decent writer. By all accounts he was a pretty decent human being. I wouldn’t start a church based on his writing but I don’t consider digging through his entire body of work and personal letters to create reasons to dislike him some kind of progressive bona fide either. Watching SF culture warriors on either side of the debate try to frame him as some kind of SFnal Ayn Rand is enough to make me wish a pox on both their houses and go read something, anything, written for adults.
@jcb – “Watching SF culture warriors on either side of the debate try to frame him as some kind of SFnal Ayn Rand is enough to make me wish a pox on both their houses”
jcb, that’s completely understandable, but it’s worth pointing out that one side complains about Heinlein being “some kind of SFnal Ayn Rand” largely to the extent that the other side has invested a great deal of time and energy in crafting an expansive image of Heinlein as that very thing. As others of pointed out, Heinlein himself would almost certainly not have wanted to be deified in such a way and was a complex man with a vast array of virtues and shortcomings, and those virtues and shortcomings showed in his writing as both contrasts to and reflections of his times and his cultural context. It’s fair to say that he was and still is an important figure in the history of SF and due every bit of credit for his role and accomplishments as well as every criticism for the ways in which he is problematic. For my part, I do wish that the people reacting against the “Orthodox Church of Heinlein” and the baggage it carries could separate their justified disdain for that group’s image of Heinlein from Heinlein himself and simply see him as he was for both good and ill. But I get why they don’t, at least not at first.
I admit, I’m not a regular reader; I was linked. What is this lady’s screed really about? “Zomg, (feminist) women and/or minorities are getting mad about sexism/racism/etc. in sci-fi, oh noes”?
John, I think you are making one tremendous mistake. You’re reading far too much into the words of people you disagree with, while at the same time expecting your own words to be taken sincerely.
If you think that critics of speech policies and excessive correctness are “really” motivated by intolerance and fear of change, then how can you complain if they think you are “really” motivated by a desire to censor and control? Attributing base motives to one’s opponents cuts both ways.
I think the suspicion and lack of good will is what’s really poisoning the well here. As Ms. Weisskopf said, we need a figure well-respected across the field who can put an end to that mistrust.
You could be that person, John. You’re very well-known and have friends across the political spectrum.
Instead of making your own insinuations and casting this as another struggle of enlightenment (=your side) vs. ignorance (=not your side), you could be making a strong appeal for true tolerance. This is a huge opportunity and I’m sorry to see it being wasted.
If you think that critics of speech policies and excessive correctness are “really” motivated by intolerance and fear of change, then how can you complain if they think you are “really” motivated by a desire to censor and control?
Because one assessment is correct and the other one isn’t?
This has been another in the series Easy Answers to Easy Questions.
Because one assessment is correct and the other one isn’t?
Not only that, but the second assessement does not not logically follow from the first. Those you are “motivated by intolerance and fear of change” typically don’t think the folks who who different from them are “motivated by a desire to censor and control”, they merely see that those people are Different and Other (for example, they might characterize them something like “They are not of us. They do not share our values, they do not share our culture.” Has a ring, doesn’t it?) and then fight against them and the changes that they seek or bring; they seek to “censor and control.”
Having read a few more of the comments (can only take so much at a time), I find an interesting thing:
There is a direct correspondence between the “our science fiction is the only true science fiction” POV and a sense of persecution because the larger literary society doesn’t accept them as (at least) equals. After all, Hemingway and Steinbeck wrote nothing but crap that they had to read in high school.
IMHO anyone who has the least hope of writing anything in English had best read Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea until they understand how he did it. Far from my favorite book, but the writing, as writing, is stunning craftsmanship.
“[S]peech policies and excessive correctness,” “true tolerance…”
Your choice of words here is telling. You may want to take your own advice. Suggesting someone do things your way while implying that their concerns are policing speech, “excessive” correctness, and false tolerance may not be the most effective approach.
I’m going to suppress my homicidal impulses (my collection only goes back to 1949, with some missing issues) and just whimper about the “basement” part.
Humidity is not good for pulp paper. At all. Please, for a collection that (nearly) priceless do what you can to get it into appropriate storage. I read every issue that Campbell edited, but the earlier issues were in the early 70s and I read them in the University of Arizona’s Special Collections department — which was not only climate-controlled but I had to spend every second while reading under the flaming lidless eye of a special collections librarian.
“John, I think you are making one tremendous mistake.”
Well, no. Or if I am, it’s the same mistake I have been making, continuously, for the fifteen years on this site, which is pointing out when I think someone is saying something foolishly and then explaining why. I think Ms. Weisskopf wrote something foolishly — either she intended to be exclusionary, in which case, she deserves to be criticized for it, or she intended something else, in which case she wrote so poorly that she should have bettered considered letting it out into the public sphere. In which case she also deserves criticism, as it was her words exacerbating the existing issue, because they were carelessly chosen.
My reputation, such as it is, is not based on being The Healing Figure of Science Fiction — that person isn’t going to happen for various reasons, not including the sort or arrogance that would be required for someone to decide that it was his or her mantle to assume would be pretty high (and, as noted by people who with intimate knowledge of the history of fandom, Ms. Weiskopf’s characterization both of the early schisms of fandom and Bob Tucker are more than a little off, so it didn’t happen before, either). My reputation is for having a point of view, articulating it with sufficient clarity, and moving conversations along those lines.
Any reputation I have for fair dealing comes from the simple fact that a) generally address the argument, not the person (you will note that the first comment in this thread directly addresses that point), b) I recognize that people having views differening from mine doesn’t automatically mean they are THE HATED ENEMY, just that we disagree on a specific point. I don’t have any ill will toward Ms. Weisskopf, but I think what she did, both in writing the piece and allowing it to be aired in public, was dumb. Ms. Weisskopf is a grown-up; I presume she can handle the criticism, and if she can’t, well.
Beyond that, you yourself are accepting a framing which I specifically refute in the piece, which is that this is a “your side” vs. “our side” sort of issue. Ms. Weisskopf and the folks to whom she pitched her note are not a “side” — they’re a faction at best, among multiple factions in the genre. I gather she (and they) would like to imagine they are a “side,” since that sort of binary formulation makes all of this that more dramatic, and also gives Ms. Weisskopf’s audience a status equal to all the rest of the field.
Surprise! They don’t possess that status. They’re a relatively small group with a relatively specific set of kvetches. Which is why if they take their bat and ball and go home — for whatever values of “going home” that means, the effect on the genre as a whole will be minimal. Likewise, if they persist in the sort of “engagement” that equates to “you’re all wrong and now I will tell you why and you suck until agree with me and no matter what you’re not really part of our tribe, which we have arrogated to ourselves the power to define,” which appears to be the other option under discussion, I don’t suspect the members of this faction will like where that leads them, either.
Also, and incidentally, I don’t think both sides of your “if/then” statement there match up, nor do I agree that the conditions with which you populated the statement are generally accurate. So I’m not going to engage with that other than to say, yeah, no, maybe try again there.
Matt Austern: Funny, you named what are perhaps the only Baen Books that I own (early Vinge). And I didn’t even notice the endorsement at the time.
Every year is the year for drama in the SF community. Always has been, and I hope always will be. Passion is like that.
Cambias: If you think that critics of speech policies and excessive correctness are “really” motivated by intolerance and fear of change
t’s not “excessive correctness”. It’s just what is expected between professionals in a professional space. SFWA is for working authors, dealing with the business and craft of writing. It’s a professional organization. Why would a member of that organization feel it was professional to oogle another member? In a public, written forum no less? Have you been living under a rock since the 1950’s?
I’ve worked in an office environment for decades and every company I’ve worked at has mandatory anti-sexual-harrassment training every year, and this is not a difficult concept. You wouldn’t be talking about a coworker like this at any office environment. And I’ve never run into a situation in an office environment where understanding this concept was a problem.
If you want to objectify people, do it on your own time. On the clock, you act professionally towards your coworkers. The “bikini” comment wasn’t within an “office” environment, but it was in a professional organization’s newsletter, so, my response is, “really”??? You couldn’t filter that crap?
And then when the behavior was pointed out, rather than say “Oh, sorry.” and get on with life, people doubled-down on the idea that it should be OK to oogle a professional collegue in a public channel, and anything less is tyranny. Seriously? Have you been living under a rock since the 1950’s???
It doesn’t matter what it was “motivated” by. What matters is the behavior was unprofessional in a professional environment where professional behavior is expected. And if you can’t acknowledge that, if you insist on saying its all just “excessive correctness”, then you’re not being honest.
Having read Weisskopf’s essay a few more times; no, it really really does not convey the desire for dialogue and rapport that her defenders claim and that some of her detractors think she was clumsily alluding to. She does speak of community and shared identity, but only as something that SF used to have before certain other fans and writers and creators who “are not of us… do not share our values… do not share our culture” came along and started, as she sees it, messing things up. Ah, the Good Old Days when things were as they should be. Even when speaking of “conversation” and “two-way communication” she speaks of conflict, of the need to fight, of “the battle for this part of the culture” against The Other Side with whom she and those like her do not “share a frame of reference, no points of contact, no agreement on the meaning of the core ideas… you have to fight or you will have lost the war. ” When Weisskopf speaks of “engagement” both in the title ond the body of the text, she clearly means “engagement with the enemy”.
Neither she nor her fans are calling for tolerance or understanding or good will or trust. They see it as war. Against the dirty filthy hippie socialist Marxist communist Nazi fascist community organizer thugs who are ruining Their Culture, and in the comments over there they say so pretty explicitly. They are articulating a Gingrichian fantasy vision of themselves as The Defenders Of Western Culture bravely standing against the SF fandom version of the Red Menace, and the conversation and community they seek will be what they have after they’ve “won the war”; though whether it’s with each other or the fans they’ve, I dunno, conquered or something isn’t clear. And I note that someone will occasionally pipe up with a
And as Scalzi and others have noted this is, more than anything else, really dumb. Fandom will keep growing and shifting and changing as it always has. Science fiction will continue to be written, and some people will write it the way the Weiskopff’s of the SF world think it should be written, and others will enjoy that work enough to support those authors. And as Weiskopff herself notes, they do achieve a measure of financial success and accolades from their fans, and there is even some crossover between readers who are “Baen readers” and those who enjoy work that is rather unlike much of the Baen catalog (myself among them). That’s not to say that there is no “cultural divide”, but it is fair to say that it is neither a commercial threat nor something that threatens SF fandom itself.
Argh; missed a line –
And I note that someone will pipe up with a remark about how their detractors seem to think they are talking about a fight for Some Inexplicable Reason when that just ain’t so, no sirree… and then go right back to exactly what they were saying before.
I gather she (and they) would like to imagine they are a “side,” since that sort of binary formulation makes all of this that more dramatic, and also gives Ms. Weisskopf’s audience a status equal to all the rest of the field.
John, you touched on something here that I’ve been thinking about all morning and think is at the heart of a lot of these conflicts: an attempt to force a binary choice on a multiple choice question. To use this post as an example, it’s either A: I am a true fan because I worship Heinlein or B: I am not a true fan. There’s a heavy implication that option A also includes agreeing with a certain group of Heinlein fans on separate issues, but that’s not even necessary to show how ridiculous this false-binary is.
In reality, there are two clauses to this choice, and each clause has multiple options. You may consider yourself a true fan, you may not consider yourself a true fan, or you may not care whether or not you’re a true fan. Likewise, you may worship Heinlein, you may merely like Heinlein, you may be completely neutral on Heinlein, you may dislike Heinlein, or you may despise Heinlein. Even with these still grossly oversimplified options, we’re up to fifteen possible combinations of true fan status and feelings on Heinlein.
Trying to force these fifteen possible choices down to just two is why the more conciliatory reading of Weisskopf’s comments falls flat with me and why the talk about engagement and dialog from that group seems completely insincere. If you’re forcing a binary choice, where is the room to meet in the middle? In this example, how would I engage in a dialog when I’ve read some Heinlein and wasn’t impressed? With the two options given, I don’t fit in the “true fan” category. Since that’s the answer to the binary question, what’s left to discuss?
Of course I’m using the true fan thing as an intentionally silly example, but the same thing is true of the more serious real-world issues behind all this. When Weisskopf says she wants to engage the other “side,” where does she propose the compromises should occur? With the Bulletin sexism issue, should SFWA compromise by allowing Resnick and Malzberg to continue commenting on specific women’s bodies but have no more half naked warrior women on the cover? Or cut their page count in half and say that future warrior women may take up no more than half the cover?
Or in the push for cons to have anti-harassment policies, which Weisskopf’s group seems to think is unnecessary. Given then choice between “have functional anti-harassment policies” and “don’t have anti-harassment policies,” where do they seek to compromise with the other “side”? Harassment policies are fine as long as they’re no longer than X words? Harassment policies are printed and posted but never enforced? Harassment policies are only enforced for 12 out of the 24 hours in a day?
Maybe I’m just terribly cynical, but I’m pretty sure the “compromise” they’re looking for through “engagement” is “have our way.” It’s a disingenuous effort to make the other “side” look bad by calling for a dialog that they have no real interest in and then blaming the other “side” for refusing to engage in their silly game. They’ve done the same math and know that the manipulative, false binary way in which the issue is framed – “free speech vs. opression!” – prevents the very engagement they claim to seek.
If you think I’m wrong, tell me where the compromise could be on some of these issues. Because for all the chatter about engagement and communication, I haven’t seen anyone suggest practical answers.
I’m not certain that she is saying what you think she is saying. If my reading is correct, I believe that her article would have made more sense if she used quotes or styles to indicate comments that she was not making but referring to. If you look at the paragraph which seems to have gotten everyone’s head in a binder, she is explicitly saying that the previous sentences are obviously nonsense. Unfortunately most of us tend to respond emotionally to something and don’t read as carefully the following bits :( I certainly found myself re-reading it multiple times before I came to my current beliefs about what she is saying.
So I think there is more of a formatting / style communications failure there than perhaps you and some others have interpreted.
I am also confused as to where you draw the interpretation that she is saying that any one side are heretics? I didn’t read down the comment stream too far so maybe I missed something, but I saw her post as saying that we are more alike than not, no matter what we read or watch. She very much says that refusing to acknowledge others as part of fandom does not serve ourselves or fandom very well.
Note: She does think there are two sides to this, which I’m not sure I agree with. I also am not sure I would find myself on the same side as her, if there were recognizable sides with a merit I would endorse. I am not arguing for her, other than to say that this post in particular doesn’t appear to say what you indicate that it says.
I should note that while I genuinely appreciate James’ suggestion that I could Be The One Who Unites The Factions, I also note that in the comment thread attached to Ms. Weisskopf’s entry, there’s a meeting of the John Scalzi Is a Big Ol’ Meanie But We Don’t Care About Him Anyway Ha Ha Ha Ha Sob Club convened and going through the minutes of their previous meeting, so, yeah, it may be too late for that.
“So I think there is more of a formatting / style communications failure there than perhaps you and some others have interpreted.”
As noted previously, I’m entirely willing to believe that the piece’s structural issues have led to much confusion, and that Ms. Weisskopf would have been better off putting more care into writing/editing the piece before she allowed it to be set in front of the general public. I also think, however, there’s a little bit more to it than that.
Honestly, if anything lasting comes from this particular discussion, I hope it’s the notion of modern fandom as “occasionally overlapping archipelagos of interest.” I think that’s a very powerful and interesting idea. If we can start thinking of things that way, rather than as a clubhouse with a gate, it seems to me that we’d be doing ourselves a huge favour in the long run.
Like Heinlein? Here’s your island. Like something else? Those islands. Like Heinlein as well as those other things? We’ve got ferries, and bridges, and cable gondolas connecting the islands. Use them if you like. Or don’t. Heck, hop into a sailboat and go wherever you want – no one can stop you landing at their island. Just sail right up to it.
“For my part, I do wish that the people reacting against the “Orthodox Church of Heinlein” and the baggage it carries could separate their justified disdain for that group’s image of Heinlein from Heinlein himself and simply see him as he was for both good and ill. But I get why they don’t, at least not at first.”
It’s that last that makes me tired. The Heinlein Faithful are as annoying any fundamentalist believers, and believe me, I recognize that’s quite annoying indeed. However, humorless didactic atheists are at least as annoying and generally working at the same intellectual level. The job of an intelligent person is to separate out that baggage; everything else is mistaking the kneejerk for signs of a functioning brain.
Chris Ogilvie, +1 thumbs-up to your comment :-)
My reputation, such as it is, is not based on being The Healing Figure of Science Fiction…
I should note that while I genuinely appreciate James’ suggestion that I could Be The One Who Unites The Factions…
I can’t believe you misspelled ‘Kwisatz Haderach’ twice…
Re: the JSISBOMBWDCAHAHHHHSC, I always wondered what happened to Brad. Now I know. So, I learned something today.
@jcb – Heinlein was one of my gateways to SF reading at age 7, with Have Space Suit, Will Travel; in that same year I encountered Lester del Rey’s The Runaway Robot. To this day both books are beloved favorites. I do see them as terribly dated and certainly with some problems, but each work made a powerful and lasting impression on me that led me to everything else I enjoy now, most of which is very very different from those two works and the era that spawned them.
There’s a lot that is genuinely wrong with Heinlein, as many others have hashed over in detail for a long time. Up to a point he was ahead of the cultural curve, after a while the curve had passed him by and kept right on going. As much as I appreciate many things about his work, there are many things about his writing that can and should be criticized, and are. I don’t need to condemn him for the things he got deeply wrong and the ways he failed; likewise I don’t need to reimagine him as a plaster saint in order to appreciate the work of his that I encountered at the right time in my life.
It’s rather like the Founders – many people practically deify them and wax rhapsodic on Oh, these wise and learned men of the Enlightment whose views conveniently line up with whatever mine are. And they were smart and educated men who were products of the Enlightenment, but they were also a bunch of cantankerous bastards. They were smart and generous and vain and smug and kind and brave and selfish and brilliant and humble and paternalistic and lecherous and thoughtful… they were all sorts of messy things that real people are. That they achieved what they did and what we benefit from today doesn’t show that they were guided by the Hand Of Providence, it shows that people are capable of what they did. I can respect and admire them, and deeply, without thinking that I would need to kneel before any of them to kiss their ring or the hem of their robe. And so it is with Heinlein. If I could meet him today I’m willing to bet that I would be enthusiastically conversing with him over some things and saying “Dude. Are you fucking SERIOUS?!?!?” over others. And that’s okay.
I can’t count how many Baen books I’ve read and enjoyed over the years, and of course I’m quite fond of John’s books as well. I must say how saddened and disappointed I am that there is such discord between you, and…
OK, I’m lying. I love a good flamewar as much as the next guy, and have been munching popcorn and laughing this whole time. Gregory Benford’s (!) comment over at Sarah’s is the most awesome over-the-top capstone to this I can think of:
“After living more than eight times in Europe, three in Germany, I know quite well that welfare socialism is everywhere there. Recall that National Socialism used welfare methods from the beginning, and imposed strong nationalism only after gaining total control.”
Seriously, though, anyone who likes old-school science fiction who (a) doesn’t read the Old Man’s War books because they think Scalzi is a Politically Correct Commie Mangina, or (b) doesn’t read Bujold or Dave Weber because they think Baen is a tribe of militaristic fascist loons is a fool. I sincerely hope that nobody is discouraged from trying anyone’s fiction because of these disagreements.
I’ll note that if we keep linking to choice comments in the thread over there, a) it will be an embarrassment of riches, b) we’ll likely digress far beyond the actual topic. So let’s go ahead and skip adding any more, please.
(And yes, I recognize I opened this door with my own snarky comment. Sorry. Closing it now.)
To answer commenter gottacook’s questions from yesterday: It’s not my project, but my impression is that the slow progress on volume 2 of Bill Patterson’s Heinlein biography is mostly a consequence of the fact that it’s a big, complicated project. At any rate, it’ll be out this June, at which point you’ll be able to judge its payload of revelation for yourself.
I think, after reading all of the commentary here, reading the original article, and trying to read some of the commentary on the site re-printing the original text, that the big issue isn’t Mr Scalzi reading into things, or misinterpreting. Our host has more or less parsed the underlying framework of the text fairly well.
I say this because the reaction of the intended audience has been inflammatory, nasty and just plain mean spirited, but agreeing with Ms Wiesskopf basically point for point.
I think the problem in the case is one of an open drape, or a public park.
Having a family gathering, party or what have you in a large room with open drapes means those across the street can see what’s going on through the window. No problem, unless instead of a family event you start behaving in such a way that damn near anyone would ask “what the hell?” in a shocked and disturbed tone and then hustle off- when those onlookers talk, you’re not going to be seen as the best of neighbors. You’re going to have well meaning acquaintances try to talk quietly to you about what went on. More so if you do this in a public park.
Everyone has a different threshold of “what the hell”. That’s called being human in a wide ranging society. But the issue is this: it’s not your job as the family-what’s-gathered to decide what the level of George’s or Sandy’s or Amanda’s or Jim’s what-the-hell rating *is*. Neither is it their job to change their WTHR so as to encompass your goings-on.
What’s going on in SF fandom so far as I see it right now is that the Majority’s WTHR has shifted. Old Uncle Bob and Grampa Isaac, while appreciated for the work they’ve done in the past aren’t looked at with quite the same mystique, and the actions they took aren’t tolerated as family foibles any more, people are asking to say what’s not allowable under their WTHR, and when that’s ignored, they’re have interventions, and when that doesn’t work to have rules, and when THEY don’t work, to ask the Oldsters please, to leave.
It’s not the end of the world. It’s not a hate on for those who want the old clubhouse to stay just the same. It’s people being people.
Having said all that, the tone I read in Ms Wiesskopf’s message wasn’t ‘we must engage and teach the newfolk the error of their ways’ it was ‘they don;t like us, and we don’t like them so we need them out of the clubhouse’. And this brings me back to the analogy of the open drape or the public park.
It doesn’t matter if you’re hanging out with your family, or if it’s supposed to be an insider’s only thing. If you act in such a way that people’s WTHR is popped, you’re going to have reactions. It’s not incumbent on someone reacting poorly to you doing the equivalent of pooping on a public path because “I always did this, why should I stop” to tolerate you leaving poop for someone else to clean up. It’s incumbent on you to re-learn where the restrooms are, and use them.
People will disagree. Some people will at times be in the right. At others they will be in the wrong. This is universal.for everyone.
But to scream and yell and hate over someone asking “please, don’t take a person’s acceptance of your actions for granted?” or “make sure everyone can come in and enjoy this together?” Or indeed, declaring “No. We won’t allow people to invade another’s person, no matter what they wrote/published/created.” and to do so by trying to deny membership in the clubhouse to any who won;t take the dying status quo? Well, when people see it, and call you on it, then there are two take aways:
One- Something is wrong. Applying Occam, the simplest answer seems to be “if someone isn’t treated with basic human dignity it’s WRONG.” Which means what’s wrong isn’t the complaints and impetus for change, it’s having left the situation for so long that the complaints etc are NEEDED.
Two- If your actions/words/whatever make people’s WTHR go off, then consider, honestly and sincerely, that THEY are not the problem, YOU are not the problem. (Personal hobbyhorse. I try very very hard not to say a person is the problem, because a person is an infinitely changeable being.) Your ACTIONS/WORDS/WHATEVER are. And yes, this means that when you leave your backyard, and go to person b’s and act as usual you might indeed end up looking like an ass. Hopefully there’s a way to work things out. Usually with reasonable persons, there is.
dave: I can’t believe you misspelled ‘Kwisatz Haderach’ twice…
Mister Scalzi’s full name is a killing word, so indirect references are generally preferred.
John, at the risk of immediately violating your no-linking request, Toni has posted a “reply to replies” of her essay on Baen’s Bar, which might be of interest to this thread. Can’t really link, since it’s a private forum, but here’s what she says:
[she first describes the various types of responses to her essay, e.g. “read it, understood it, agreed with me” and various permutations of those states, then ends with a clarification for those who “read it and didn’t understand it.”]
…Some people seem to have read the essay as a call to unite fandom under one political umbrella, or, equally wrong, to purge politics of any stripe from fandom.
To address the last: all I was calling for was that SF institutions remain SF-centric in goals, that they not be extensions of one political faction or another. This does not preclude the discussion of political ideas, just that institutions themselves not be changed into mere political ones. We have plenty of those already, and I’ve always encouraged fans to become active in them. It’s the difference between running for your local school board, and turning your local SF club meeting into your campaign office. I heartily endorse the former and decry the latter.
As for uniting all fandom under one political umbrella: the point was that discussion of different ideas is necessary to the production of science fiction, not that one side or another should “win” and suppress any mention of contrary thought. There ought never to be a case where anyone can impose the rule: “if you are an SF fan, you must believe X.”
@RPF @3:37 PM Just… just… wow. And my opinion of another SF author, some of whose past work I had greatly enjoyed, goes plummeting down.
I was calling for was that SF institutions remain SF-centric in goals, that they not be extensions of one political faction or another
being against sexual harrassment is NOT political. Asking people to stop with the sexual harrassment is NOT political.
Part of the problem (a small part, but not insignificant) is that, whatever her skills, talents, or accomplishments as a publisher and/or editor, Toni Weisskopf is a truly lousy writer.
RPF: Really? Again, that sounds a lot like “Let’s just stick to the fiction.” Which, as I’ve pointed out upthread, is equivalent to saying “Keep your political views out of this so we can maintain the status quo. Which supports our political views. But we’re not going to call them that. We’re going to call them ‘sticking to just the fiction.’ Be quiet and keep your whining off of our pristine, apolitical fandom.”
It’s disingenuous–or, to take a more charitable view, non-maliciously unaware of what it’s actually saying.
Chris, to be sure, there’s an inherent lack of self-awareness in a publisher allowing herself to go on record, publicly, making derogatory comments about customers and potential customers.
Meanwhile, I suspect there are commentors like those at Ms. Hoyt’s site who have already cheered Ms. Weisskopf on saying (without irony), “Yeah, why do those damned liberal always have to make everything political.”
Good news, then. Because SFWA (if that’s what she’s referring to–though who can tell what she’s really referring to?) has not become a “mere political” institution. So what’s all the fuss about?
“discussion of different ideas is necessary to the production of science fiction.” I can’t figure out what that’s supposed to mean. _Exploration_ of ideas is necessary to the production of science fiction, but that exploration is for the writers themselves to do in the process of creating their work. They may or may not discuss their ideas with their peers, but such discussion isn’t required for science fiction to be produced. But I don’t think that’s what she’s talking about. Again, it’s unclear what she’s talking about.
Doc Rocketscience, I agree with you.
I agree that she’s a lousy writer, that is.
“I’m entirely willing to believe that the piece’s structural issues have led to much confusion,”
Indeed, as I’ve had this chat in several mediums :)
“I also think, however, there’s a little bit more to it than that.”
Absolutely. There is definitely an unspoken elephant in the room in that article which I wish she had taken the time to put out forthright. I feel that this unspoken bit, or that her definitions of the “two sides” were more clear because I think this is what we should be discussing. The problem is that most people hit the “of course we all read Heinlein” and blow a fuse and miss the more significant IMHO portion of the article.
The hard part is that I know her and I know fandom far too well, and so I knew exactly who says that nonsense — and I also know Toni well enough to know that she wouldn’t endorse that statement, so I rejected it without blowing the fuse and got to the next bits with a clear head. (for clarity: saying I believe Toni would never endorse fake-fan sympathy, not the rest of her post which I’m not entirely sure I understand)
There is one point in this debate that I find very interesting on a psychological level that most seem to miss:
A request that someone “read the classics” <– for whatever value of "classics" you mean, which differs based on the speaker, is nothing more than a request for the other person to gain the same vocabulary/basis/perspective as the speaker so that a common base for communication can occur.
I think all of us who read make this request of each other constantly. I can't tell you how many times a friend and I have agreed to put aside a debate until each of us has read some book or set of books that the other recommends. Phrased as a request in the pursuit of knowledge, this is a great way to participate in an enlightening conversation.
The problem occurs when one person rejects another person, their beliefs, or their tastes, based on their lack of sharing a common base. Excluding academic discussion of a tightly constrained period or style, this is utter nonsense. People should read what they enjoy, and what they enjoy is not a basis for an attack on the value of, well, anything.
For example, while you and I are mere months apart in age and both grew up during the great white fandom period with a fairly small sci-fi output that was easily accessible, I can easily count on having significant overlap with you and have enjoyed discussions with you — back before you became An Overlord Of Fandom ;-) — without needing to set or define a basis because we already shared it.
However, I have always greatly enjoyed deep conversations of both artist works and fannish concerns with people young enough to have entered fandom through Steampunk and have very little of a common basis, as I haven't really caught onto SP at all.
I declare those conversations to be equally valid, and I honor and appreciate their opinion as much as someone who does share a common basis with me. I feel sad that the people who reject those who do not share a basis with them are missing out. And I absolutely laugh in the face of any who attempt draw a line which defines fandom as a safe space for only their kind.
Toni Weisskopf’s piece was highly opinionated. It makes claims that are unsupported, yet done in such a way as to nudge you along or risk being an outlier. A subtle and powerful approach at pushing an opinion across.
There’s an overriding element of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ in her article. That always puts me on my guard when someone identifies so closely like that. And, it doesn’t help that ‘them’ is seen in not too good a light.
Thus, I’m quite put off by Weisskopf. She could have tried to make it from a more neutral position, then attempt to identify the primary motivations of fans in the genre–possibly with the aid of some historical research in its development and growth. But, she chose not to and went with something a lot more emotionally driven and thick with characterization and assumption.
I like some of Heinlein. Love some of it even. I’m also probably one of those she might claim as an outlier type, the ‘fuggheads’ she uses as label,
CanukistaniJohn, I really liked your WTHRs framing of the evolution of social mores – have you written more on this elsewhere? I’d like to unpack it more and add it to my social justice analysis toolkit.
tigtog, firstly, thank you very much. i don’t have my own soapbox, but I would allow our mutual host to pass along my email if you wish it.
I’d like that very much, CanukistaniJohn. I’ve also linked to your comment in a related thread over at my own blog, so we could talk more about it over there, if you like.
I observe that there are two different meanings applied to the word “politics” in this and related discussions:
* The stuff we see in the newspapers, on TV, etc. that more or less boils down to partisan positions, the Quest for Power, and consequent shenanigans.
* The local interactions in SFF communities, be they SFWA, fan associations, or con organizers (intersections are non-null sets.)
I suppose in an ideal world, the first could be kept separate from the second. However, it doesn’t seem to work that way; I get the distinct impression that Toni is blaming biases from the larger political scene for doing evil to the awards process, for instance. Conversely, quite a few women, people of color, and especially women of color have complained that the Right to Be Politically Incorrect has actually worsened the treatment they’ve received in fandom — all without anything other than being seen with the wrong shape and pigmentation.
The (IMHO frequently intentional) abuse of the dual meaning ain’t helping.
I think you’re overreacting a bit. IMO, Baen should worship at the altar of Heinlein since they sell a bunch of mil sf.
Seconded, by independent sources (the ex-wife and current non-wife.)
Please see “uncanny valley” above. We see Dante as someone from a foreign culture, and approach him as a foreigner. Heinlein is too much like our own experience, but jarring in the differences. Elizabethan or Edwardian England is a foreign land and its customs are quaint. Besides, horses. Heinlein’s people drive cars or sometimes helicopters, watch television, and otherwise act like postwar middle-class Americans — except that they still use rotary-dial telephones and expect women to stay home and cook dinner.
Which jars far more than a bunch of 19th century Europeans going on a trip by electric boat.
It doesn’t really matter if they were Heinlein’s personal views. If a reprehensible view is presented in the novel and nothing is presented in the novel to counterbalance it with something NOT reprehensible, then I see that as a problem.
I wonder how you see A Modest Proposal and Gulliver’s Travels, both of which have similarly reprehensible views with no “counterbalance”.
For example, Mr Dubois rambles on for several chapters in Starship Troopers about pro-fascist policies.
No, he doesn’t. But I suspect that discussing Heinlein’s fascist views or lack thereof is just as much a rabbit hole as his abhorrence or love of homosexuality and that our host would prefer that we not go down that rabbit trail either.
What in the Hell of Bring Cut to Pieces is a “fake fan”?
What in the Hell of Bring Cut to Pieces is a “fake fan”?
Anyone who enjoys the same things that you do for the wrong reasons. (FWIW, I do not believe that there are any fake fans, just people with different tastes.)
I think we agree on many things, but alas, I must disagree here: the collective social reception, positive or negative, of sexual harassment is political. Because despite the negative connotations that the word has acquired, especially in the USA, politics is the means by which human beings organize our collective actions.
A policy against spiking the punchbowl is political, as is a refusal to accept a policy against spiking the punchbowl. Regardless of the dope in question.
There are ways to pursue those politics constructively and with minimal collateral damage. And there are other ways, which may include ceding the issue by default. But however we go about it, the process is politics.
D.C. Sessions, Greg —
Yup that definitely constitutes a drift from the main conversation. Tighten up, please. Thanks.
@DC Sessions: That’s kind of fascinating and, I think, true. (Although being Distinctly In The Past did not help Pamela any–but that one’s egregious.) I wonder, now, if it’ll be very long before Heinlein gets there, though. Mad Men’s current season isn’t very long before most of his stuff…
OK, I didn’t want to put any commentary where I quoted Toni’s response, but now the 2-year old is in bed so here goes:
I really think more and more that this was a *conciliatory* post by Toni that backfired spectacularly on her. As read by its intended audience–participants on Baen’s Bar–it’s a call to continue to engage in SciFi institutions rather than withdrawing into their own little spaces. Unfortunately, it has so many in-group whistles and markers to reassure them she agrees with them that it reads as–no, IS–pretty insulting to outsiders. “Where does she get off telling me I have to read Heinlein to be a fan?” and “How can she dismiss our concerns and grievances as the ‘fooforaws’ of ‘fuggheads?'”
Now, nobody has to accept being insulted, and I largely agree with John’s criticisms of the piece, but I hope that some context helps bring about some de-escalation. I think Toni was trying to calm down the likes of Hoyt, Correia, Kratman and their fans and wasn’t intending to provoke a fight with you.
The irony for me being that my favorite Baen stuff is not their ‘traditional’ sci-fi, but their genre-crossing works (see: Eric Flint/Dave Freer’s co-written comedies). Way to toss some of your own under the bus.
Entirely possible. And again, if so, probably should have been edited for outside consumption when put out where the rest of the world could see it.
Reblogged this on OCIO Y ALGO MÁS and commented:
Échele le un vistazo a esta nota seguro que llamará su atención
I wrote this whole thing, but when I read it before posting, I decided it was pissy and passive-aggressive, so I deleted it. So I’ll just say that there some statements upthread that I think are completely false—if I understand them correctly, which I may not, but the subthread has been cut off, so it can’t be explored here.
I will hope to catch the folks who said them at a con or something, and ask about them (and maybe argue about them) then.
If that’s the case, she failed pretty spectacularly, as evidenced by the comments at Hoyt’s blog. They worked themselves up into a pretty good lather, before anyone in the outside world have had a chance to read Weisskopf’s piece and ask, “Um, WTF?” At the very least, Hoyt herself did not get the memo. But then, I’m quickly gathering that she’s pretty impenetrable.
Correia likely didn’t quite follow Weisskopf’s essay, as it didn’t contain any kind of checklist.
I’d like to know when this mythical era existed that nobody brought their politics into SF and everybody just plain old told stories. Couldn’t be 1940 (Heinlein, “The Roads Must Roll”), or 1961 (Vonnegut, “Harrison Bergeron”) or 1966 (Harrison, Make Room! Make Room!), or 1969 (Spinrad, Bug Jack Barron) or 1970 (Russ, The Female Man; Campbell’s editorial defending the Kent State shootings) or 1972 (LeGuin, “The Word for World is Forest”; Brunner, The Sheep Look Up), just to point to a few examples of rather overt politically-messaging SFF.
Why, it’s almost as if there was never a time when SF was just good ol’ cracking adventure without any of those boring message stuff, and people whining about why-do-you-keep-bringing-up-politics are ignorant of the history of SFF or dishonest. Or both, possibly.
Nah, that sounds really lovely in principle but in practice when the “context” is just another round of privileged straight white dudebros and their enablers telling everyone else, however passive-aggressively and heavily coded, to STFU and go away? I’m done playing that game. And it actually gets really dangerous when some of those “fooforaws” (as Weisskopf so dismissively puts it) involve slightly more serious shit that the canonical status of RAH — like the absolute right of EVERY convention attendee to go about their business without being harassed and assaulted.
I’m done “engaging” with folks who think that comes a very distant second to the privilege of creepers.
I’m over being “respectful” to people who think their right to be racist homophobic dipshits obliges anyone else to pay them any mind whatsoever.
And I’m certainly not playing the world’s smallest violin at the self-pity party for some special snowflake who gets an entirely predictable response when they drive by to put straight the hysterical lady-brains, agenda-pushing queers, angry black people and emasculated liberal gamma rabbits.
Yeah, no. Baen Books has about three times more male authors than female ones. That’s a political statement. (Granted, it’s not an unusual one in publishing.) Baen Books also has had some of the most outrageous, spine twisty, scanty clad female covers in the business. While some of those are deliberately over the top as pulp homages, it’s still a political statement in how they are marketing books — a major political and financial issue in the industry since women authors are ostracized on covers for their works, and treated as lesser writers through it and lose potential sales and fans by it. Women authors are being told by publishing folk that they aren’t wanted in certain sectors, such as military and hard SF, on completely fake claims that they can’t sell in them — that’s discrimination that hurts business and it’s political.
Saying that Baen is being shut out of Hugo nominations and awards is first off, as we’ve already noted, out and out wrong. It’s also a political statement, all the more so because it is factually wrong, however much truthiness it seems to have to them. Claiming that Heinlein is being marginalized in literature or SFFH is again factually wrong. It’s also a political statement.
Saying that there are SF-centric institutions, etc., is a political statement and a particularly polarizing one. Basically, there is this assertion that SFFH is some sort of country and that there is a centralized government to that country that runs things and dictates how fans and authors are to be united or divided, and that the Old Guard with its certain set of supposedly unified values is losing control of that government to overwrought totalitarian thought police who will wipe out the old regime. This assertion is A) a political statement that reimagines a business market as a country and reimagines authors and fans as politicians and soldiers; and B) factually wrong. It also keeps discrimination in the market in place, which is a political act.
So for someone who is pleading for no politics, Weisskopf writes of nothing but politics. The situation is not simply just political, however, again. It’s business. Resnick and Malzberg lost their column because they were unprofessional, because they treated the female members as not equal professionals, and that violated SFWA’s code of conduct, and then they had an unprofessional meltdown towards their critics who they declared inaccurately as censoring fascists. Authors are paying money to SFWA to have a professional business organization that assists their business, not a frat party. Women authors lose money every time their fellows start waxing lyrical about their tits. So the majority of the members wanted them out because they were supporting discrimination — intentionally or not — that costs women authors money and the whole field money.
Women make up fifty percent of the writers, fifty percent of SFFH readers and seventy percent of the total fiction reading audience (even if you remove romance from the stats.) Non-white people make up 40-90 percent of the population of most countries and in the Western world are usually in the 40-60 percentage area. If Baen wants to tell those readers and potential readers to fuck off, it certainly can (and it will be a political statement,) but the reality is SFFH as a whole can’t afford the discrimination of major segments of their market. Especially as boys are discouraged by adults not to read fiction as it’s a girly activity and definitely not to read fiction written by women, as it’s gay, etc. They didn’t come up with that idea on their own — you have to be carefully taught, as the song goes. And so we lose a lot of those readers due to discrimination too. Conventions are going to get sued if they don’t get more professional and start clamping down on illegal and disruptive behavior by something as simple as a harassment policy, and lose a lot of business over time if they market their convention as offering women as party favors, as we’ve recently seen happen with two conventions, plus LonCon’s treatment of the female authors. It’s simple good business sense to junk discriminatory policies if the community wants to grow and maintain a convention system — just as it was in the past.
And those who are advocating for removing discrimination because it hurts their business can’t actually stop anybody else from doing crap. But they can try to take care of and advocate for their own business and interests, and that involves what sort of service they’ll put up with from conventions like LonCon and professional organizations like SFWA. And from publishers. Publishers who continue to white-wash covers and discriminate against their female authors are going to lose those authors over time because they are losing business, not gaining it. This is not a polite discussion at a cocktail party. It’s people’s lives and livelihoods. And you don’t really have a valid argument that fucking with their livelihood for your own pleasure should be just fine with them. They are going to disagree and speak up and push for the removal of artificial barriers in the marketplace.
As for the argument that anti-discrimination efforts marginalize them and hurts their business, rather than expands the market and helps their business, that’s crap and they know it. Most readers pay no attention to who publishes the fiction they read. Most readers don’t know the political views of the authors they read, and those that do and are far right have plenty of stuff to read. Anti-harassment policies have kept no one away from conventions and helped increase attendance. Multi-media fandom has helped SFFH become one of the most successful areas of fiction publishing, and YA and YA SFFH even bigger. Diversity grows the business and puts money in publishers’ pockets to add more authors. It’s grown the business when the Old Guard complained about anti-discrimination efforts destroying the genres in the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s, etc. — when the Old Guard complained that Heinlein was destroying the genres. Variety is absolutely essential to the fiction market to capture the maximum number of readers.
Whether she was trying to be concillatory or chest-thumping, Ms. Weisskopf talked about readers and multi-media fans as if they were some new species who might shit on her lawn. I’m inclined to give her a partial pass for that, even though it’s unprofessional behavior from the head of a publishing house. After all, dealing with authors is not easy. I’m less inclined to forgive her false statements and inaccurate account of genre history. But in any case, discrimination continues to cause big problems in the industry and authors will keep fighting it because it effects their sales, their business opportunities, and at times their physical safety.
mythago: This mythical era existed that nobody brought their politics into SF and everybody just plain old told stories.
You forgot one from their own patron saint:
From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starship_Troopers
So, lets be absolutely clear here. When these people are saying they don’t want “politics” in SF, while at the same time deifying Heinlein as the Patron Saint of All Science Fiction(tm), what they mean is they want to be able to bring in all of the militaristic, pro-war, pro-nuke, pro-power, anti-commie, anti-lefty political nonsense that they can write into SF. They just don’t want to hear about all that fooforaw nonsense about sexism, racism, and other silly nonsense like that.
Their call for “no politics in SF” is simply them saying “Politics is what everyone else has”.
And they’re being absolutely shameless about their astounding level of hypocrisy.
Yeah, you’ll get no argument from me that it could have been better done.
Yeah, pretty spectacularly indeed. John’s characterization of that comment thread as the “John Scalzi Is a Big Ol’ Meanie But We Don’t Care About Him Anyway Ha Ha Ha Ha Sob Club” is if anything an understatement of the level of looniness over there.
Kat Goodwin, cranapia, Greg:
I agree completely that Toni’s dismissive sneering at others’ legitimate concerns is a problem. I’m still rather fuzzy on exactly what she was talking about when she worried about people taking over SF toward political ends, but the possibilities that come to my mind (largely the same as yours, with the addition of a certain expulsion from SFWA) aren’t reassuring.
I’m not looking to keep anyone from criticizing Toni Weisskopf over this essay; I just hope that people she’ll listen to (which I think includes our host, believe it or not) can keep her from digging a hole and hiding Baen away from the rest of SF. If she starts acting like Correia and Kratman and does that, it’ll be her own damn fault, but it will still be a shame.
Their call for “no politics in SF” is simply them saying “Politics is what everyone else has”.
To put it even more bluntly, it’s saying, “We get to say whatever we want. You get to shut up.” It’s the kind of thing that comes from seeing your faction as the sole legitimate owner of fandom.
I suspect that if someone were to challenge the “no politics in SF” advocates with the examples above (Heinlein and Starship Troopers or any number of Libertarian Utopia stories today) you’d be told that SF has always been The Literature of Ideas and that they aren’t even remotely suggesting that authors should censor themselves to avoid political topics. Much less, of course, external interference with their freedom of expression .
Then again, if challenged on which internal politics should be out of bounds in SF, they might (or not) talk about publishing standards (bad) and expulsion of life members from the SFWA (very, very bad.) In other words, relitigating a political fight they lost. Not to mention harrassment policies, which would also be off the table as “political.”
However, it wouldn’t surprise me at all for the waveform to refuse to collapse. To avoid being pinned down to any one definition of “political,” because specifics all lead to places they don’t want to go.
 At least as you’re not some sort of Commie.
That tweet from the Heinlein Society on the side bar is delicious. I suspect that, in some corners, bricks may have been shat.
Dear John — If you ever catch me posting something like “Well, [author’s name] is one of the few points of reference those fans who read have. Of course we all read [author’s name] and have an opinion about his work. How can you be a fan and not?”, would you please bring the Mallet and hit me until I come back to my senses?
Because a statement like that is unfriendly and not welcoming to anyone who hasn’t gotten around to reading that author, or to anyone just starting out with science fiction who hasn’t read very much of anything. There are all sorts of good reasons why a person might not have read a particular author yet (lack of opportunity because of poverty or not having access to a decent library is an obvious reason that a lot of privileged people don’t consider). There are plenty of good reasons that someone might not have read any science fiction or fantasy yet, including that they Have a Life.
If I’m recommending books to someone, and attempt to start the conversation by asking what they’ve read already (to get a sense of what they have read and liked), I often get apologies that they Haven’t Read Very Much Yet, and before we can talk about what they like and figure out what else they might like, we have to clear away that notion that they Should Have Read More before they were allowed to ask.
Where does that idea came from, that what we read for pleasure is like schoolwork, something that bristles with You Should Have Reads? I wonder if it comes from brushing up against comments like Weisskopf’s, from situations where fans might be talking to a group of people like themselves who have all read stuff in common, but are oblivious to the fact that they can be overheard by others whose experience might be different.
Science fiction isn’t like some areas of classical studies, where so few works remain extant that one scholar can read everything in a lifetime. There is way more stuff than that to read, so it’s not safe to assume that any fan has read any particular author, or to make the very act of being a fan contingent on reading a particular thing.
I wouldn’t even assume that everyone reading the comments here on Whatever have read YOUR work yet — they may have arrived here because one of your blog posts was recommended to them.
(If you’ve read this far, and you haven’t read Scalzi, or Heinlein, or [some other author someone said you SHOULD have read] then welcome! The fact that you haven’t read [that author] means that there are great books out there that you haven’t read yet, so you have a lot wonderful reading opportunities ahead of you. Don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed that a book is still in your To Read pile.)
This would have described me a few years ago. I didn’t know anything about Mr. Scalzi or his writing, but I had been an SF reader for years, and I came across his blog. I don’t remember how, but I do remember thinking “Huh. This guy writes pretty well. Seems like a decent dude. Welcoming to pretty much everyone. People seem to like him and his books. Maybe I should read one.”
So I did. Then I read another. And another.
Point being, I wasn’t a Scalzi fan when I showed up at this blog. Then, because what was written here didn’t throw walls up in my face, because I felt like I was being welcomed, because no one tried to gatekeep me, I became a Scalzi fan. Had I encountered people saying “You haven’t read Old Man’s War? Who are you, anyway? Why are you here? You’re not a true fan. You’re not one of us.” I probably wouldn’t have picked up Old Man’s War and I probably wouldn’t be a Scalzi fan.
Seems to me there’s a lesson there. Something about being a gateway rather than just a gate.
Chris Ogilvie: Very well said. (I’m another here who started reading Our Host’s books because I like what he thinks about and writes down here.)
It really seems to me like Baen ought to be better than this. I don’t generally care about the brands of publishing houses, but Baen has been one of the few exceptions. With the exceptions of John Ringo’s descent into madness and everything Tom Kratman has ever done, I’ve generally found my entertainment in good hands with a Baen logo on the cover.
And you had to admire the Baen Free Library’s bold and successful thesis against then-current ideas about e-publishing.
But if Baen wants to brand themselves as the Church of Heinlein and position themselves as the Fox News of SF, I may need to re-evaluate my view of them. They have more left-leaning and millennial fans than they appear to realize.
It would be a shame if they lost us.
I am so late to the party, but I cannot believe that anyone has been able to say, with a straight face, that politics ought to have nothing to do with fandom. The very nature of science fiction is to imagine other cultures, other governments, other institutions, and even other laws of physics, and then allow the author to express how they feel those changes will affect humanity. Ayn Rand is going to use this to talk about her philosophy that competition and greed is what keeps the world turning, and Gene Roddenberry is going to use it to say that humans have the capability to accomplish great things without the incentive of money. Same holds for every opinion to the left, right, center, up, down, whatever.
Now, there’s another definition of “politics” that I believe is being conflated here: the personal machinations of players in a given field to convince others to be on their side through whatever means necessary in order to grab power. Everyone hates the “politics” in any corporate structure, everyone hates the nasty way that any group of people with power jockey for more. But that kind of politics is entirely separate from the important questions that politicians running for office are more than happy to answer. Subject that get right at the heart of the human condition are almost ALWAYS going to appear in the political realm because everyone cares about them so much.
The whole thing is a reaction by a group of people suddenly realizing that they are in the minority. And I sympathize with that, too. It can be awfully panic inducing if suddenly no one agrees with your vision of how the world should be.
Everyone has picked up on this already, but her use of the word “politically correct” is what gives her away. She’s worried about her and people on her side *being called a bad person.* More than that, actually; being *thought of* as a bad person. When people use the phrase “politically correct” in a derisive way (no one’s used it in a positive way since the 90s), it means “I said an offensive thing and someone called me out on it and now I’m uncomfortable.”
If, for example, your science fiction is full of (very often literal) xenophobia, then you best be prepared to defend and accept it as your world view, and accept the consequences when it causes people to judge you. Because free speech is free speech, and you cannot act offended when you are the person everyone is using THEIR free speech against.
The flip side to that is that anyone, Heinlein, Orson Scott Card, etc., that writes something, or believes in something that offends you, is also a person. They’re a lot more than their ideology, and if you find yourself arguing about political matters in a negative way that makes you a lot of enemies, you should probably take another look at your social behavior. People are not ideas, they are a very complicated soup of a lot of different things. Judge the idea, not the person.
And free speech also includes the right to talk about what books should and shouldn’t be celebrated, or what books need to be read with a grain of moral salt. I don’t think anyone should be derided for reading Heinlein, or any author for that matter, but if there is cultural baggage with an author, you should celebrate and venerate them carefully. Celebrating them unconditionally implies that you’re totally cool with all their baggage. (And if you are, be prepared to be judged for that position.)
Because while I don’t think politics should be separate from science fiction, Bob Tucker is right in that the love of science fiction, i.e. the love of talking about these things in a stylized way, is common ground that we can use to bring us together. Outside of safety concerns (harassment, etc), conventions and gatherings should be places where people can express their speech freely. Isn’t that why authors write science fiction in the first place? Just… just try to take it in stride when you’re the one at the butt end of everyone else’s free speech.
Thanks for touching on the business side of this. Exclusion essentially leads to less readers/less money. It’s part of the bigger picture, I think, that most writers want to be read by more and more people and, hopefully, to make more money. So excluding a particular kind of fan not only doesn’t make sense in the context of fandom as a whole, but also is arguing for less people buy what you’re selling. It seems awfully silly to be arguing for certain types of people with certain types of backgrounds to just pack up and move along.
Also, thanks for pointing to lack of clarity in her writing as part of the reason for many takes/possible misunderstandings. I feel like a common tactic is making an argument the reader is dumb/wrong/whatever for their conclusions, when in fact the writer is unclear. For the record, I do think Weisskopf’s writing was quite muddy, and I also think you’ve hit the nail on the head of what she said–whether or not it’s what she meant. And in the end, intent matters less than the words on the page because the words are all we have to draw from.
I found Weisskopf’s piece weirdly unparsable, but I find I recognize some of her discomfort. I found out about science fiction fandom through David Gerrold’s Star Trek books in the 70’s, finally found a fannish group to hang out with in 1980, and have been largely a book and con fan ever since. I’m female, white, 51. While I try not to, I find that I flinch at the words”sci-fi” and “fandoms.” And I know that this flinching is largely a function of me being _old_. It’s not something I take pride in. It does, indeed, mark me as being from a particular part of my sub-culture, and I don’t particularly want to leave. This is home, and I’m very happy, here. And I’ve gone through my period of trying to police the boundaries and man the barricades and establish the purity and truth of my type of fandom. And,honestly, that got old, too.
The world changed on me. And I love a lot of these changes. More voices, more stories, stories that are not just about white boys doing manly white boy things. Different stories! This is just marvelously great. I love Heinlein, still love Heinlein in all his problematic glory. Golden age science fiction is a fine thing, and I am frequently finding ancient gems that still charm and excite me. But the new voices? Oh, such beautiful new voices. But do I sometimes recoil in horror at the unknown? Yep, that, too.
I struggle with the fact that I do truly find science fiction television and movies to be inferior. They have certain flaws that I find insurmountable. Dr. Who drives me utterly spare. And yet, these things obviously have virtues to which I am blind. It’s hard, sometimes, to remember that when I am looking at their flaws. It helps, sometimes, to listen to people explain to me why they find Golden Age science fiction irredeemably flawed. It’s a useful parallel.
I think that this is actually hard stuff. I think that when you find your cultural home, and then as it inevitably must, it changes on you, it is very hard to respond to those changes with grace and wit and compassion. And I fail so very often. It is hard to sort out your prejudices from your carefully considered opinions, they tend to look very like each other from the inside.
I guess I wish that there was someone who could articulate my discomfort without being a fugghead about it. Weisskopf, however, is evidently not that person.
I just wanted to say that I’ve loved Webscription’s ebooks since it’s inception and the fact that you used to be able to get a full cd of free ebooks with some of the newest hardcover (Cryoburn first printing had ALL the Vorkosigan books on it’s cd-rom, except for Memory, for example).
Also, BAEN publishes the Vorkosiverse and rescued Lee & Miller as well as P.C. Hodgell from their publishing problems, and I will always be grateful for that – the newest eARC in the Kencyrath universe has JUST become available at the BAEN ebooks site, by the way.
All the other stuff they publish which – as was made clear in the post and your elaboration on it – does not have me as a target, I happily ignore and shall continue to do so. The chosen few can buy those books in peace.
As two different people above have now noted that Baen Books “rescued Lee & Miller,” it’s perhaps ironic that an effort to publish Heinlein’s complete works (involving Lee & Miller’s now-defunct publisher) was a large part of the reason they needed rescuing in the first place. See “the Virginia Edition” in the Wikipedia entry Heinlein Bibliography.
Over the years I’ve written some Heinlein-inspired filksongs (“Loonie Wargames,” “The Long Watch”) and been surprised when younger filkers tell me they’ve never read his writings. It usually turns out that they started by reading THE CAT WHO or one of the other late books and stopped there. They never got around to reading the books I fell in love with as a teenager (like SPACE CADET) or later (up through THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS) so I have to recommend specific early books.
@Estara Swanberg – oh, absolutely about Baen’s eBooks and their eBook policies! That’s one of the most admirable things about Baen – which Ms. Weiskopf carried on after Jim Baen died. I wish more publishers wouldn’t encumber their books with Digital Rights Management, and were as positively inclined towards their readership as Baen is, as opposed to taking what THE TECH GUY Leo Laporte calls a “You’re THIEVES! ALL THIEVES! STEALING FROM US!!!” approach to digital content (no, he’s not a fan of DRM, at all).
That’s why it’s sad when she lets fly with the kind of comment that started all this – and hasn’t just said, “Sorry, guys – that came out bass-ackwards.”
Okay, picking on @Joel Salomen’s hat was OTT – I had assumed it was a homage to Drudge, who deserves all the loathing and contempt he gets, along with his fans.
Sorry about that.
Reblogged this on Cat's Liminal Space and commented:
Excellent discussion on science fiction fandom, in the original post and in the comments.
Gregg” “They want to “engage” those of differing opinions, but say that there’s no point if the person on the other side is not willing to listen to them.”
Well, I would have to agree with someone on that.
After re-reading the piece, I’m less sure what point she was making than the first time I read it. I take it Ms. Weisskopf is an editor, not a writer, generally? Maybe it’s one of those things where *she* knew what she meant and no-one else does.
My reaction: “A publisher wrote that and didn’t mean it ironically? Weird.”
I’ve had complicated feelings about Baen for a while. They do publish some good authors, authors who stuff I like a lot.
However, the politics that Baen’s public face none-so-subtly espouses makes my stomach churn, and if it keeps going I may at some point *stop* buying from them, even when it’s a book I’d love to read–because my reading pleasure is just not worth that level of gut-level upset.
It’s very very frustrating.
In response to http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/03/11/the-orthodox-church-of-heinlein/#comment-578901
“Leaving aside religious texts, Rand and Heinlein are the only authors whose fiction I’ve seen used as serious “evidence” that (a particular economic/political/relationship type/dessert topping/whatever) would work in reality. Humans being humans, I’m sure some people have used other fiction as well. But I haven’t seen it.
(Oh wait, I take that back. I’ve seen the TV show “24″ used as evidence that torture works. [facepalm])”
Another example’s at http://carolinecrane.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/twenty-minutes-late/#comment-147 for someone citing a novel by Caroline Crane as evidence of how people IRL are. Thing is, the person making the comparison was Caroline Crane herself. >_<
She did it again in the comment thread at http://carolinecrane.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/a-web-site/ , even more strangely ("but IRL how do you expect someone to tell which motivation someone else doing X has?" "I said why my character did X in the book!!!!"). o.O
In response to http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/03/11/the-orthodox-church-of-heinlein/#comment-581957
"…If I’m recommending books to someone, and attempt to start the conversation by asking what they’ve read already (to get a sense of what they have read and liked), I often get apologies that they Haven’t Read Very Much Yet, and before we can talk about what they like and figure out what else they might like, we have to clear away that notion that they Should Have Read More before they were allowed to ask…"
Yes! Big difference between "you must read this syllabus first before you read the new stuff" and "this book is good, read it! and it was even better for me because I read this other book first, maybe read that!"
In response to http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/03/11/the-orthodox-church-of-heinlein/#comment-582964
"…I struggle with the fact that I do truly find science fiction television and movies to be inferior. They have certain flaws that I find insurmountable. Dr. Who drives me utterly spare. And yet, these things obviously have virtues to which I am blind. It’s hard, sometimes, to remember that when I am looking at their flaws. It helps, sometimes, to listen to people explain to me why they find Golden Age science fiction irredeemably flawed. It’s a useful parallel…"
Hear ye, hear ye! :D
You reminded me of me being a teenage anime watcher in the mid-1990s reading sub vs. dub flame wars on anime Usenet newsgroups (this was back when English speakers outside Japan tended to buy anime on VHS, so they didn't have both options like on translated DVDs nowsadays). Preferring subs myself, I was still hopefully not the only one thinking "dubs are good if you're blind and can't read subtitles, subs are good if you're deaf and can't hear the dialogue in any language, it's just personal taste for people like me who can both see and hear, yaaay options! :) "
I read the Weisskopf article, and then I read this article, and I have to wonder if Mr. Scalzi even glanced at the Weisskopf article. I can count on one hand the paragraphs in this article that have even the faintest reference to what Ms. Weisskopf wrote. It behooves a critic to actually read what they criticize, and Mr. Scalzi has clearly failed to do that.
(And no, I am neither a Baen devotee nor a particular fan of Robert Heinlein. What I *am* a fan of is accuracy.)