Why Yes, Locus Magazine Does, In Fact, Publish MilSF/Space Opera Reviews

In a discussion about the current Hugo nonsense taking place elsewhere online, a writer trotted out a variation of the now-utterly-stale opinion that Robert Heinlein couldn’t win a Hugo if he were writing today, this new variation being that not only couldn’t Heinlein win a Hugo, he wouldn’t even be reviewed in Locus, the Science Fiction and Fantasy trade magazine. When challenged on this assertion, the writer said that Locus does not review military SF/space opera, period, so he was comfortable making that assertion.

I’ve punted the “Heinlein couldn’t win a Hugo today” nonsense before, so there’s no point going over that again. But the assertion that Locus doesn’t review milSF/space opera struck me as an odd one to make. As a writer of both military science fiction and space opera — The End of All Things will be both, sometimes simultaneously — I know my books in these subgenres have been reviewed in Locus. One of my favorite reviews of Old Man’s War (by Russell Letson) was in the magazine, and the magazine published a review of The Human Division, the most recent book in the OMW series as well.

But I grant I might be a special case, for various reasons, some more specious than others. Fortunately, I’m a subscriber to Locus (it’s super-useful in keeping up with SF/F publishing, subscribe now!), so this is something I could easily check. So I opened up the latest edition of the magazine, May 2015, and scanned the reviews. And on page 49:

It’s not a long review, but it certainly is a review, complete with a useful pull quote from a publisher PR point of view (“‘Good old-fashioned military science fiction’ — Locus”). So strictly from the point of view of actual fact, the assertion that Locus does not review milSF/space opera is invalidated as recently as the most current issue.

But — it’s possible this was a mistake, that somehow this one slipped past the gatekeepers! Fortunately, there is another way to check this. Locus has helpfully posted an index of its book reviews online; every review from January 1984 through May 2015 (the latter date, I expect, being constantly updated), from the magazine and its associated Web site, which sometimes runs its own reviews. I put the numbers “2014” and “2015” into my browser’s “find” function and then clicked off titles I was pretty confident could be classified as military science fiction and/or space opera. Here’s my (almost certainly incomplete) list after about fifteen minutes of perusal, for books reviewed in the last eighteen months:

Dark Intelligence, Neal Asher
Fortune’s Pawn, Rachel Bach
War Dogs, Greg Bear
Shipstar, Benford/Niven
Cibola Burn, James SA Corey
Willful Child, Steven Erikson
The Abyss Beyond Dreams, Peter F. Hamilton
Space Opera, Rich Horton, ed
War Stories: New Military Science Fiction, Jaym Gates & Andrew Liptak, eds
Ancilliary Sword, Ann Leckie
Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu
Starhawk, Jack McDevitt
The Greatship, Robert Reed
On the Steel Breeze, Alastair Reynolds
Lockstep, Karl Schroeder
The Chaplain’s War, Brad R. Torgersen
Dark Lightning, John Varley

And yes, I suppose we could quibble about what actually constitutes “space opera” — as an example, whether Willful Child, meant as an affectionate parody of Star Trek, counts (despite the fact that Star Trek itself is unambiguously space opera). But at the end of the day, it’s difficult to deny that Locus, in fact, does review both space opera and military science fiction. And if you look at the author index, you’ll find no lack of reviews of either subgenre, either in the last few years or indeed in the more than three decades of reviews indexed therein.

Is space opera or milSF reviewed less than other subgenres of science fiction or fantasy? Possibly; someone with more interest and time than I could do the work to find out. From my own cursory glance, and depending how finely you chop the subgenre onion, however, it doesn’t look as if milSF/space opera is notably underrepresented. There is quite a lot of SF/F that gets published, in a lot of increasingly fined-grained subgenres. Locus (or any genre publication, for that matter), has an impossible task in representing the scope of the genre as it exists today. It can’t review everything.

Regardless, the assertion was not that Locus doesn’t publish enough milSF/space opera reviews; it was that it doesn’t publish any. That’s definitively and provably wrong, and easy to disprove.

This is a relatively innocuous example of People Believing Things That Are Manifestly Not True, but it bothers me. If the Puppies (with whom, I wish to be clear, I am not suggesting this particular author belongs or identifies) have taught us anything, it’s that there is a not entirely small group of people out there in science fiction with a rich and deep persecution complex that is unbounded by actual fact. If you’re a writer or reader upset by a lack of representation of your particular subgenre or type of writer, well, fine, but if you’re basing that upset on false premises — for example, that Locus doesn’t review milSF or space opera — then a) you’re getting yourself worked up over nothing, b) should you continue to feel aggrieved after your misapprehension has been pointed out, there are some serious discussions you need to have with yourself.

There’s also c), which is that if you use a false sense of persecution to be resentful and unhappy with other people who you believe to be getting advantages you are not, and then act on that resentment, people will notice. It’s very likely you will be judged accordingly.

All of which is to say: Assertions! Please back them up. Particularly the ones you believe are affecting you. It’s often not difficult, and you may learn something. Whether learning that thing will make you happy is another discussion entirely. But better to know, yes?

134 Comments on “Why Yes, Locus Magazine Does, In Fact, Publish MilSF/Space Opera Reviews”

  1. This is, unfortunately, a tiny part of a very real problem facing America at the moment. The problem is a certain subset of Americans simply do not care what the facts are about any given topic.

  2. I can deal with people who are malicious. I can deal with people who are vehemently hostile, who hate me, who hate everyone like me. I can deal with people who believe ridiculous things, or stupid things, or dangerous things.

    I cannot, however, deal with people who don’t actually care whether claims are true or false. I simply can’t make any sense of them to interact with them.

    If you at least think that whether things are true or false matters, the rest can be dealt with, at least in principle. It is possible to resolve disagreements. The people who don’t care whether things are true or false at all, though? There’s nothing you can do about that.

  3. Locus has always reviewed my space operas, as has the New York Review of SF.

  4. You are completely missing the point. It isn’t about whether Locus reviews MilSF or Space Operas, it isn’t about whether authors of various political leanings get more reviews than others, it is really just about ethics in book reviews.

  5. I’ve remembered a Slacktivist post (well, several) where Fred Clark discusses the way people can tangle up their value as a person with things like ‘I am persecuted, so my actions are justified and not a case of making a mistake’. So good news like ‘Hey, Locus reviews MilSF so your book will get attention!’ is seen as bad news because it means you aren’t the brave anti-establishment writer standing up for ‘good old-fashion milSF’, and if you don’t win a Hugo, maybe it’s because most of Worldcon doesn’t like the same things you do.

    (He’s also spoken about persecution as feeling like you’re part of some vast Good Versus Evil battle, which is why good news (‘Hey, it turns out we’re all in the same boat of finding Cool Things to read, and there isn’t a conspiracy’) can feel like bad news (‘Hey, it turns out you aren’t a crusader against a Vast Hugo Conspiracy, just a published author with a bit of a fan following’).

  6. “…there is a not entirely small group of people out there in science fiction with a rich and deep persecution complex that is unbounded by actual fact.”

    1. Not only in science fiction.

    2. When it is a matter of moments to google and disprove “false assertions” (or what we used to call “lies” in more plain-spoken days), why are those “assertions” still made and/or taken seriously?

  7. The interesting question here is whether that author still believes this after looking at the evidence- and why the agent was telling them this in the first place. Weird.

  8. But John, the assertion wasn’t meant to be literally true, just rhetorically true!

  9. I am endeavouring to retrace my footsteps back out of the rabbit hole which constitutes the puppydum worldview because it really isn’t good for me; I am very, very bad at dealing with the sort of stuff John has outlined.

    Having given up on the purgatory of plodding my way through the dross which constitutes the Rabid slate, I’m recharging my batteries by rereading books I love. ‘Lord of Light’ is working its customary magic for me, and the world is beginning to look a lot better than it did when I was down the rabbit hole…

  10. My philosophy is that if you lie once, you get a pass. Lie twice and I believe nothing you until you prove it, more than once. Credibility should be everything but in these days of scrolling factoids, lies are accepted because it is either what we want to hear or we don’t care to check.

  11. Honestly I think the impulse to cling to your pre-conceptions and your tribal totems is a universal human impulse. There’s a reason why science, a relatively recent invention, insists on the apparently trivial notion that you devise a hypothesis before you test it. We humans run largely on emotion, and cover this up with post-hoc rational justifications, unless we have the self-awareness to account for this.

    I suspect (I’d rather like to know whether this is the best approach) that the way to deal with situations like this is to take a whack at the emotion behind the argument, given that the argument is patent nonsense. For instance, arguing that Heinlein couldn’t win a Hugo nowadays is largely the fear of change, with a smattering of fear of being ignored. One might argue, then, that the arguer is no Heinlein, because Heinlein at least could imagine several possible futures, whereas they can’t even manage to dream up a scenario where Heinlein wins a Hugo in 2015 without the sci-fi field being small-minded and boring enough to retreat to Stranger in an Even Stranger Land.

  12. And it also isn’t true that excluding those subgenres would mean ignoring Heinlein, since (possibly depending on exact definitions) less than half of what he wrote was in them.

  13. We often seem to forget that posts like the one John is riffing on are not written for people who would bother to check its authority or authenticity, let alone its claims.
    Further: much of that audience (most likely including the author as well) have already dismissed any criticism it might receive as coming from “biased sources” who will undoubtedly take whatever “out of context”, or (best one yet) will be “revealing their bias by taking issue with the post”.

  14. I never cared that much for Heinlein so I’m fine with him not winning a Hugo in 2015.

  15. Matt Y., not surprising that Locus wouldn’t review MILFs – that seems more in line with a certain magazine whose letters often start “I never thought this would happen to me…”

  16. ::Killroy: it is really just about ethics in book reviews.::

    Which we will promptly prove by sending out death and rape threats to any women even remotely involved! (That is how it’s supposed to work, right…?)

    I originally came here to say, “This is a joke, right?” We subscribe to LOCUS (it’s a business expense for Tammy), and I’m reasonably certain that at least half the Military SF I’ve read (which is a lot – I once moderated a panel “Can a Liberal Love Military SF?”) has been reviewed in their pages.

  17. Someone beat me to the observation that the original poster was being “rhetorical”. Which appears to be a statement allowing you to continuously lie through your teeth, blatantly ignore facts, and get a free pass from your acolytes.

    Neal Ashers’ Dark Intelligence is pretty fun. I was initially not sure that 3BP is space opera, but I guess it could be if you squint at it.

    It’s also funny that I don’t think I read much MilSF, but I’ve read 6 of those.

  18. Original poster being the one who said Locus doesn’t review MilSF, not John Scalzi, of course.

  19. If Heinlein were writing today would he be writing the same things he did? I would think he would have moved on.

  20. Okay, I admit it, I laughed at the MILF comment. Nice to have something to chuckle about in this painful controversy. It’s one way to deal with having my own colleagues belittle work like mine as only winning awards and Hugo nominations because I am a “fill in the blank” under-represented minority writing about “fill-in-the-blank” under-represented minorities. Yeah, thank you for that lovely sentiment.

  21. The thing is, it might even be true that the stories that Heinlein wrote wouldn’t win Hugos today, because tastes have changed (as they tend to do). OTOH, Heinlein was a very commercially minded author, so if he were alive today he’d very likely be writing completely different stuff that would likely sell well and win awards, because that’s just how he rolled.

  22. Since I reviewed nine of the seventeen books on John’s list, maybe I’m qualified to comment on Locus and reviewing in general. I’ve been a reviewer since the mid-1980s and with Locus since 1990. When I started at Locus, Charles Brown told me that I was replacing Dan Chow as hard SF reviewer. (Why Charles thought a former English teacher with specialties in medieval lit and turn-of-the-century fantasy would be an optimal hard-SF guy remains a puzzle.) Despite that notional beat assignment, Charles and now Liza and Jonathan have allowed me to pretty much follow my nose, with occasional nudges and suggestions about what might be interesting to look at. (Charles in particular would call to make a pitch, usually a first novel or breakout writer. Perfectly normal editorial practice.)

    This is, to my knowledge, the situation for all Locus reviewers. There is no explicit Locus agenda, only the sum of the vectors of the individual reviewers’ nose-following. (That this sum might be the result of the kind of reviewers hired over the decades is a different proposition.)

    Ironies abound in this discussion of the reviewing (and awarding) environment. In my own corner of it: I come up “liberal” on all the usual issues-checklists; have a liberal-arts academic background; and have spent my entire adult life in and around university English departments. But I’ve reviewed Heinlein (by and about) at every opportunity. Also covered Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, Jack Vance, Michael Flynn, Greg Benford, Neal Asher, and miscellaneous explicitly libertarian writers. Gave John C. Wright’s first three books quite enthusiastic reviews. Am also a follower/fan of Eleanor Arnason, John Barnes, Elizabeth Bear, C. J. Cherryh, James S. A. Corey, Greg Egan, William Gibson, Kathy Goonan, Joe Haldeman, Nancy Kress, Ken MacLeod, Paul McAuley, Jack McDevitt, Karl Schroeder, Allen Steele, Neal Stephenson, Charles Stross, Walter Jon Williams. . . .

    Go figure. (Literally–the reviews are indexed.)

    On the current set of conversations about the field: The ignoring-verifiable-facts syndrome is not limited to Locus. I keep reading assertions that should be easy to correct via Google or even Wikipedia, particularly about the history and workings of Worldcon and the Hugos. I suppose there’s wiggle room on matters of interpretation (what constitutes “left wing” or “feminist”; what is “hard SF”; what is “literary”), but even there I see a lack of rigor, a flattening of complexity, and a failure to do basic research (or to give it a lick and an unfulfilled promise). And like our host, I would not limit this syndrome to any subset of Puppies or even people-with-persecution-complexes. I see similar arguments/assertions in many Wikipedia articles, with non-specialists reinventing taxonomic wheels and ad-hocking up histories and definitions and etymologies.

  23. @Merus: “Honestly I think the impulse to cling to your pre-conceptions and your tribal totems is a universal human impulse.”

    There is significant research to back this up.

    What I find particularly disturbing is the extent to which this impulse has been weaponized in the service of political and financial gain. (And to forstall the inevitable Both Sides Do It … no, in any remotely meaningful sense, they fucking well *don’t*.)

  24. Call the rewrite desk: In that last paragraph, a better second sentence would read “The ignoring-verifiable-facts syndrome is not limited to ASSERTIONS ABOUT Locus.” (This is why editors were invented.)

  25. Also, MilSF doesn’t have to be hardcore conservative.

    Take the Belisarius Series. It’s a pretty stereotypical Good VS. Evil setup, with a good-guy military alliance against the evil death cultists of a racist empire. But it’s also solidly liberal if not outright socialist in its politics; Belisarius openly prefers hiring lower-class soldiers and officers, the whitest characters in the series are from southern Greece, the most awesome, badass, and manly characters in the series are Indian (RANA SANGA), pre-Zulu (Ousanas), or otherwise PoCs, and as for gender politics…let’s just say that good guys’ favorite pastime is finding pimps who beat their prostitutes and opening a can of whoop-ass on them.

    Plus there are female characters like Agathius’s wife, who browbeats Belisarius into bringing her along to war because she’ll be damned if her husband goes anywhere without his wife, and Irene, who takes Awesomeness By Analysis to a whole new level, and Theodora, who’s just plain ruthless, and Antonina, who has the CLEAVER OF DESTINY and personally executes Great Lady Holi, an evil cyborg, with two bullets to the face. Complete with cuss words.

    On top of that, the books make it clear that beating Malwa isn’t about some glorious charge; it’s about liberating the oppressed vassals of the Malwa Empire and turning them into a coalition that can beat eighteen kinds of crap out of the Link’s armies. And then Damodara says “you know what, I’m tired of working for these sexist, racist, ridiculously cruel scumbags” and it’s all over.

    Anyway. Long story short, military sci-fi is not inherently conservative. And it’s ridiculous when certain people try to claim so.

  26. In 1961, Heinlein said he was 90% certain there would be a nuclear war and the US would lose. He advised people to “build fallout shelters, stock unregistered weapons, and die gloriously”. Heinlein was furiously libertarian except when he was a militant authoritarian against some foreign enemy. Starship Troopers mouthpiece characters advocated for public corporal punishment, the main character is flogged and thinks it was right. Another character was publicly hanged.

    It’s hard to say what Heinlein would be like in 2015’s world. But he might subscribe to Bush’s approach to the war on terror and be pro-torture. The only other category that would be equivalent to fallout-shelter+unregistered-weapons would be something like sovereign citizens.

    Floored: military sci-fi is not inherently conservative

    Yeah, but I think its safe to say that only a sliver of MilSF is of the anti-war, we are damaged goods “All Quiet On the Western Front” flavor or the war-loses-your-soul-and-sanity “Apocalpse Now” variety.

    I highly doubt this book:


    is about the horrors of war, the sacrifices made, and the damage it does to everyone involved.

    MilSF especially seems to be a lot of gun porn. Some author fantasizing about some uber weapon that would make his so cool and awesome on the battlefield as a lone hero who saves the world, when the reality is more like you’ll be an anonymous morsel fed into an insatiable meat grinder, and if you do happen to live, you’ve got a 1 in 3 chance of getting some form of PTSD.

  27. Greg, it depends on what MilSF is. Does Anne Leckie write MilSF, given her books are pretty critical of imperialism, but are set on warships? Does John Scalzi? Old Man’s War could be read straight, but the sequels let us question the status quo that it establishes and make us realize that the Colonial Union might be being asses*.

    * Regardless if other alien species are also asses. It seems like there’s a lot of vested interest in ‘screw you, I got mine’.

  28. The Puppies: a not entirely small group of people out there in science fiction with a rich and deep persecution complex that is unbounded by actual fact.

    I love this definition. From now on, when people in the real world say to me, “Who are the Puppies? What in the world are you and your sf friends talking about?” I will reply with this definition.

  29. I generally use a broad definition of MilSF, specifically “stories with science-fiction or steampunk elements that prominently feature militaries or members of such, especially as protagonists”.

    This includes everything from that terrible book John Ringo wrote with the de-aged Nazis to Old Man’s War. Hell, Redshirts technically qualifies. Star Trek kind of qualifies, although Starfleet isn’t really a military, more of “we do what the Federation needs us to do”.

    So yeah. Under that definition, the Puppy argument is full of more horseshit than the Augean stables in more ways than one.

  30. @Greg: I’ll see your Strands of Sorrow and raise you The Forever War.

    I think trying to tie down MilSF to one point of view is sort of like trying to tie down military fiction in general… or military servicepeople, for that matter. The (sub)genre is wide enough to embrace a variety of viewpoints; if some are more or less popular than others at any given point in time, that’s just a reflection of that moment rather than something inherent to the genre. It may also be more a reflection of who has the most volume, both in terms of rhetoric and output, than a true picture of the fans’ viewpoint.

  31. 1) repeat a lie often enough and loudly enough and everyone will think it’s true. This is a staple of the Fox News mentality.

    2) Robert Heinlein spent many years as an unabashed socialist which many Puppies like to ignore. Also, his work includes some pretty kick-ass women and social/sexual mores that seem incompatible with the image of “true conservative”. Finally, it is clear that Heinlein wrote to the market and changed what type of SF he was writing.

  32. Totally read that as Milf/Space Opera. Must work on my reading comprehension.

  33. It’s not all that hard to gin up a decent working definition of “military SF.” We could start with something broad and (one hopes) non-controversial, like “A narrative in which military life or combat are central features” and then add “SF” as a modifier of “narrative.” Without “SF,” the description could include The Iliad, The Red Badge of Courage, All Quiet on the Western Front, Her Privates We, large swathes of the Flashman series, much of Bernard Cornwell’s work, every Napoleonic-Wars naval series, From Here to Eternity, and so on.

    Once SF is a limiting factor, the conventional starter (rhetorically, not historically) is generally Starship Troopers, followed by The Forever War and the rest of that longitudinal discussion (which continues to this day–my next column will include a book that cannot be discussed adequately without referring to ST/TFW). I have read military history and fiction for decades (son and nephew of WW2 vets, grandson of a WW1 vet–I grew up on first- and second-hand recollections of those wars) and have reviewed the SF variant since forever. Well, since the 1980s.

    Pro/anti polarity is irrelevant to membership in the subgenre–at least, if literary taxonomy and not political mapping is the point.

  34. Well, if we’re going to disqualify rhetorical arguments then we’ll have to try dialectic:

    – Locus does not review MilSF or Space Opera
    – This magazine reviews MilSF and Space opera
    – Therefore this magazine is not Locus.

    Someone should warn Liza Groen Trombi as it’s probably a breach of trademark.

  35. Becca: Does John Scalzi? Old Man’s War

    Old Man’s War was pretty gung ho pro war. From memory, the guns are magic/nanotech. There is a mock execution in boot camp which is considered a “good thing” or at least no negative effects are shown. The bad guys love to eat human prisoners. I think there was a scene where they mention an alien “celebrity chef” brought into show new recipes for eating man-flesh. And when the main character is confronted with the horror of war and his part in it, he decides something along the lines of, meh, there are more horrible things I could be, so I can’t be *pure* evil.

    Granted its an homage to Starship Troopers, which is actively advocating for constant nuclear war, corporal punishment, public executions, and how inhuman the enemy is, so, not terribly surprising.

  36. All of this talk about MilSF makes me think of how much of the new MilSF I don’t read and I appear not to miss much and some of my favourite MilSF books, which reminds me of my long lost volume of Steakley’s Armor. I got to order an other one.

  37. Just a niggle, John: Darkside War gets what I would call a notice rather than a review–it’s in the “New & Notable” department, which has non-bylined copy sometimes combined with a bylined pull-quote from a published Locus review. I don’t know the sources of the rest of the descriptive copy–some of it reads like the publisher’s promo material. (There will be a regular review of Darkside War, though, as soon as I can finish writing it.)

  38. Greg,

    Ringo certainly amps up the splodey bits, it’s true, but his characters often suffer the almost inevitable side effects of prolonged combat. Many characters in the Posleen series are various degrees of disturbed by what they see and do in combat. Granted, they have to pull their shit together and keep fighting, but they don’t get away unchanged.

    I’m not trying to convince anyone to like Ringo if they don’t already, he write a very specific thing and if it’s not to your taste there’s little point in arguing, but it’s inaccurate to say his take on war is all glory with no consequences.

    And as a veteran with three combat tours, some of us do come back mentally intact, if not precisely the same, despite physical injury and bearing witness to some truly awful things. I understand that many people would like to put us all in a box labeled damaged goods, but it simply isn’t true.

  39. @greg I’m not sure if you’re serious, but if you are, that’s a tragically shallow reading of Starship Troopers and not even a remotely accurate portrayal. And before you start, I’m considerably to the left of OGH.

  40. @Greg, I think I noted thatI thought OMW played the conflict straight, but that later entries in the series brought that messaging into question. Which doesn’t work for folks who were turned off by the first book, but worked for me as it gave the series a nice slow burn and played off of the sorts of characters who would find these things out.

  41. Matt Yarbrough has inspired me to write the world’s first MILF Space Opera! My provisional title is ‘Fifty Wavelengths Of Monochrome’.

  42. I am glad you make it clear that you are not attributing this false assertion(lie) to a frothing-at-the-mouth pup. Although it very well may be one of them, I have become way to consumed reading and commenting on their claims and antics…oh, wait…

  43. As usual the Great Heinlein was there first with Milf Sci Fi, as his main character in Time Enough for Love, Lazarus Long, does indeed have sex with his mother. Perhaps we need a new acronym: MFJW (mother fucking justice warrior?)

  44. I fell compelled to point out that Time Enough for Love contained what might be the gnarliest MILF story of all time.

  45. Russell Letson:

    Reads like a review to me, albeit a short one (as do other New and Notable notices, actually), but as you say, room to niggle. That said, your pointing out that you plan a fuller review of it makes the point equally well — there are reviews of milSF/space opera in Locus, and on a not-infrequent basis.

  46. I cannot, however, deal with people who don’t actually care whether claims are true or false. I simply can’t make any sense of them to interact with them.

    Ok, it seems time.

    I’m sure many won’t read this post due to various reasons (I have a coda – if you post, I read / analyze / digest it as you’re piping up a voice of sentience against the vastness of space, which is fairly cool all, said and done – and you’ve no idea how many gigs of commentary I process per day. Hint: it’s more than your average Hugo novel list), but a trigger warning:

    No, really, not even sarcastic there.

    Trigger warning.


    I shall be supportive of some elements of puppies and Gamergate and even Storm Front.

    Most of this (and by that, I mean almost all of this) comes from one thing:

    The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

    I know this will be hard for this crowd, but imagine you’ve been lied to for most, if not all, of your life. (Simple one: you’ve watched Fox News for more than three years). You don’t know it (but you kinda suspect it), and there’s a niggle at the back of your mind that whispers: “This isn’t really how it is“, and you have a basic desire to be authentic. You’re not a total sociopath, you need to feel that you’re a good person – even when society / culture labels you, you know deep down that you’re pretty decent.

    (Yes, I did say “Some”, I’m not talking about the dangerous ones).

    At the base level of all three of the groups mentioned (yes, even S.F.) is a desire for truth and reality to match up. Are there multiple other layers above it? Of course. At the bottom level, however, is a desire for truth. 4chan (8chan) is also based on this, with (old timers) meta-levels of offensive nonsense to weed out those not willing to push the limits. Seriously: the sharks swimming behind the swastikas are more dangerous than those who buy into ancient mythologies.

    And then, the obvious happens and media etc spout nonsense that confirms the most basic level of research and lies and falsehood about who you are.

    Does that seem shocking?

    Wait until the next reveal:

    You’re probably very much like them..

    Do you notice the amount of times someone will say something like: “Yes, well, when we met in person, he was fine, but I had no idea what he said on the internet…“.

    You probably have extreme doubts about war, killing people, the prison industrial complex, the distribution of world resources. The difference is, you’re self-aware about also being lied to. Be honest: anyone commenting on this blog knows the score.

    That’s the crux of the issue: new minds grokking it all and wondering how the ‘hell’ (sorry) you’ve been able to live with the reality of the situation. Even the worst troll in all of this (VD) is a mere speck of nonsense. Does he know the factual basis for all of this? More than likely.


    When are you all going to start quitting the oppositional bullshit and start forming new things? That’s kinda the way you prune the nonsense and move forward. Always watch out for people pushing binary systems, they’re usually not on your side.

    People aren’t monoliths, nor are they categories.



  47. Steve C: You know RAH would have written that by now. If it weren’t for the cremation.

    Stevie: I have been meaning to compliment you on the term “puppydum”.

    Steve Davidson: Yes. Also, I felt I needed to reply to all the Steves in this comment.

  48. We all fall into the same trap in trying to deal with these numskulls. To wit, we keep expecting reason and fact to prompt them to examine their delusons

  49. One would think that in the age of Google, people would be less likely than they once were to make sweeping claims that are not supported by any data whatsoever.

    One would be wrong. What’s really interesting is how many of folks react by moving the goalposts when their omissions are pointed out. All they have to do is redefine MiLSF and space opera so it excludes writers like Greg Bear and Brad Torgerson, and viola, they’re back in business.

  50. We all fall into the same trap in trying to deal with these numskulls. To wit, we keep expecting reason and fact to prompt them to examine their delusons

    We’ll try this one last time.


    When was the last time you read a truly radical American SF novel?

    You know, that kind of novel that once you’ve read it, your worldview changes and in thirty years you’ll keep on coming back to it?

    You’re all trapped in the dance macabre where neither side is producing radical novels. Lest we forget, I’m talking 50’s / 60’s type of shock and awe. And no, My dinosaur my love doesn’t count. Seriously: I’m coming up with a blank in the last 10 years, which means cultural death. (It’s called the Capitalist Mining of Sub-Culture issue.

    And, yeah, let’s do a call-out: where is the radical novel with a trans protagonist that fundamentally challenges and shifts debate on issues through vaunts of brilliance and imagination? Where is the novel that America has been crying out for, about race and sociological standards that smashes boundaries like To kill a mockingbird?

    Answer: Your masters won’t allow it.

    The Puppies are just the howling scavengers when the last lion dies. (Yep: Blame Disney),

  51. Robert Heinlein would totally still be writing MILF books.

    Actually, he’d be writing MMILF books.

    With the extra “M” standing for “My”.

  52. Rawr. Well, you can always do that thing when your audience is really not well-read and are faking it.


    Wait till I regain all my faculties. And, yeah: why the hell did those novels never got written?

    Publishers, and just like computer games, we’re going to do it old style..

    Trust me.

    Kickstarter – novel from writer you like ~ $8.5k

    Kickstarter – game from ancient dev team you like ~ $450,000k

    We’ll change that a little.

  53. So Locus is part of the “cabal” and therefore Locus must be against anything not liberal, and we have the false assertion that military SF and space opera are never liberal, so Locus never reviews any of it. Which means that they are evil, etc.

    In reality, two thirds of the science fiction field is made up of some form of space opera. It would be almost impossible for any major publication doing lots of reviews of SF to avoid space opera. You would be left with a tiny stream of hard SF, near future and near future post-apocalyptic SF, and some experimental quantum stuff like M. John Harrison writes.

    Military SF, which is not the same as space opera but often overlaps, is a bit easier to avoid, but it would be fairly difficult to do. Both military and space opera have many liberal writers and conservative ones. Many, many military SF novels are about the horrors done to soldiers, while they have adventures and win battles. It’s one of the most popular themes not only of military SF, but military fiction in general. Military readers like to see that sort of realism, and a big theme of course is the grunts getting screwed over by their commanders.

    What’s really silly is that Bujold’s Vorkosigan series has many tradition connections to Heinlein’s Lazarus Long stories, and she’s Baen’s lead author, and they keep acting like she doesn’t exist, doesn’t get Hugo nominations, etc. But of course, that series is too liberal for them to count, I guess. So wouldn’t it make sense to say that Locus doesn’t review conservative SF authors? It wouldn’t be true either, but at least it would be more ideologically consistent.

  54. For those of you who caught the MILF/MilSF thing from my comment a while back, I apologize. It was my spell checker, I swear. But now, it is my pervy brain (and yours) keeping that association alive. Or, maybe it is the SJW cabal working its mysterious ways through my spell checker. My money is on perviness (always bet on perviness).

    Perhaps John can incorporate it in his next attempt at bad erotic fiction.

    I will say the king of weird MILF-in-SF is Heinlein for All You Zombies. And that also addresses the foolishness of appropriating Heinlein for conservative whining.

    Also, thank you to the Locus reviewers. May the force be with you. Live long and prosper. Never give up! Never surrender!

  55. Speaking of Locus, and of Heinlein, as we are…

    The puppies slate prevented volume 2 of the Patterson ‘Heinlein’ biography (Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Vol. 2- The Man Who Learned Better, 1948-1988) from gaining a Hugo nomination.

    This might have been the last chance for the SF community to pay tribute to the memory of RAH, he’s been gone for a quarter of a century now.

    Torgersen has since claimed that he didn’t nominate it on the SP slate because he didn’t know the work existed.


    So, clearly, nobody over there actually reads Locus.

    And yet they think themselves qualified to put forth a nomination slate.

    Either they’re stupid, or incompetent, or just maybe – despite their assertions – they just hate the memory of Heinlein.

    Whatever the actual reason for this oversight, Torgersen has thoroughly demonstrated that doesn’t know enough about the SF field to be the guy organizing a slate.

  56. ‘As You Know,’ Bob: Actually (as you must know, Bob*), the second volume of the RAH bio got *two* Locus reviews–Gary beat me to it (as usual) in the June issue. But I scooped him on vol. 1 back in 2010, so there.

    * That’s a joke, son–your handle is a straight line awaiting its fulfillment.

  57. @Cthulhu (SJW TINGED)

    You know, that kind of novel that once you’ve read it, your worldview changes and in thirty years you’ll keep on coming back to it?

    Personal Reasons: Barbara Hambly’s The Silent Tower and its sequel, The Silicon Mage. Hasn’t been 30 years yet, but honestly, it put an imprint on my life in more ways than one.

    Authorial Fascination: The Goblin Emperor. Compare and contrast the authorial choices for depiction of courtly life with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and the bodyguard relationships with Cherryh’s Foreigner series. It makes my authorial heart go pitty-pat.

    (Where are the books that break and bend lines? Also look at what the self-publishing authors are doing. There’s a lot to wade through — believe me, I know — but that’s one big place where you’ll find stuff that takes chances, whether because the author is burning with a story that’s just not “marketable”[*], or because they figure they’ll find their niche in an under-served market that’s too small for the big publishers to bother with.)

    [*Footnote: Guilty as charged.]

  58. @Alternate Snowcrash: Well, I certainly can’t supply you with a whole book named Chaplin’s War, but I can supply you with the beginning of a short story:

    The Chaplin’s War

    “Are you with GalPax?” The Qorathi approached me at the spaceport in Trecuyama.

    He craned his long neck further out of his shell, to get a closer look at my face. I marveled that a Qorathi would be willing to join the peacekeeper force so soon after the civil war on their own home world, Lorir, had ended. I’d have expected them, once safe, to crawl back in those tough shells of theirs and stay far from any front. But perhaps he felt he owed GalPax a debt for their role in enforcing the brittle ceasefire that ended that war.

    “No,” I said, “I doing relief work. Bringing dolls to refugee girls.”

    The Qorathi nodded, a human gesture for my benefit. “I had thought you were from GalPax from the look in your eyes.”

    He said it as if I had confirmed his suspicion. Peacekeeper, relief worker, it was all the same to him. But he thought wrong. I had lied.

    I, Vijaya Choudhary, am a Chaplin.

    I thought it best to keep that from the Qorathi. It’s not that I’m anything other than proud of my work. But he and I, for the moment, were not exactly on the same side.

    Peacekeeping is an honorable job. Promises, once made, must be kept, and noble are the warriors who ensure that those promises hold, the GalPax forces who maintain the lines of ceasefires and peace settlements.

    But until that ceasefire settlement is made, you must fight like hell, to be in position to make the right deal when the time comes. And we humans have a truce with the Dilgarians on one front only. On that front, GalPax may take its proper stand. But on the front to which I was headed, no truce held.

    And I am a bard of war.

    We Chaplins take our name from the ancient Usan playwright, Charles Chaplin, who inspired the Usans and their allies to fight to victory over the Great Dictator Adenoid Hynkel. We work in the ancient Bollywood tradition of plays broken by dance routines and satirical songs.

    Most Chaplins simply produce holograms to be sent to the troops. But my troupe of players are among the few and the brave, who travel to just behind the front lines, to put on our shows and arouse the troops to action.

    As the Lord Krishna said to Arjuna, “Do not become a coward, O Arjuna, because it does not befit you. Shake off this trivial weakness of your heart and get up for the battle, O Arjuna.”

    It is my job to be Krishna to our army’s Arjuna, and it is as fine a job as any peacekeeper’s.

    A few days and a couple of warp jumps later, having left GalPax far behind, I arrived at the planet of Ventos, where the Sheromi swing through the trees. I held out the hand with my identity chip and was directed to the small Terran settlement. There, I have a friend in city hall.

    It was nighttime when I arrived, and so I let my computer connect with Hemant’s, and find a suitable time and place for us to meet. The next day, I arrived at the outdoor cafe by the city hall, half an hour late, to find Hemant sipping his lassi.

    “What kept you?” asked Hemant.

    “I had to make an arrangement with an independent businessman,” I said.

    “Oh, him,” said Hemant, “I use him all the time. But you might have known how long it would take you to make the deal.”

    First rule about money near the front: Never change too much at once. The worlds in that area are seeing such high inflation that any excess money you exchange might as well be lost. You’ll never be able to change it back for anything near what you had. Second rule of money near the front: Never use the official exchange places. Since everyone knows the currency will soon be inflated, independent businessmen will pay much better rates for our Bitcoin than any official bank ever would. Some merchants give up on the local currency altogether, and simply deal in ours when they can. But for those who don’t, some money must be exchanged. And even people who work for the city government, like Hemant, go outside official channels here.

    “I can suggest another business arrangement that might interest you,” said Hemant. “A weapons shop has opened just outside the city limit.”

    “Hemant,” I said, “on the stage, I’m Queen of the high Cs. But give me a gun and I can’t hit the broad side of a power plant. What would I want with a weapon shop?”

    “You’re forgetting,” said Hemant, “that with the great Ubagane Empire going out of business sale, real weapons are cheaper than props. And more convincing. I’m sure someone in your troupe can disarm whatever you buy.”

    I had to admit that he was right. In the wake of its collapse, the Ubagane Empire is selling off its weapons at bargain rates, to anyone with ready cash. And my choreographer, Fei Shi, had served in the army to get his dance school scholarship. If he didn’t know how to disarm the weapons himself, he would surely have a pal who could.

    And so, two days later, Fei and I found ourselves making our way to the weapon shop outside town, to speak with a man named Yossarian.

  59. Robert Heinlein would totally still be writing MILF books.

    Would he? I wouldn’t classify any of his last half dozen novels as MILSF. Either he would have evolved, as he continued to do over his career, or if we presume his style would have ossified then I’d expect more Lasarus Long

  60. NickPheas: HelenS actually wrote “MILF” as in “Mom I’d Like to Fuck” rather than MILSF, Military Science Fiction. Obviously we can’t know what Heinlein would write if he were alive and winning Hugos every year, but If his writing had ossified into the adventures of Lazarus Long then this might have been a topic he continued to explore.

    This has been your simulataneous explanation and spoiling of the joke.

  61. Greg: In 1961, Heinlein said he was 90% certain there would be a nuclear war and the US would lose. He advised people to “build fallout shelters, stock unregistered weapons, and die gloriously”. Heinlein was furiously libertarian except when he was a militant authoritarian against some foreign enemy. Starship Troopers mouthpiece characters advocated for public corporal punishment, the main character is flogged and thinks it was right. Another character was publicly hanged.

    rochrist: tragically shallow reading of Starship Troopers and not even a remotely accurate portrayal

    Well, the first half of that para is a quote from Heinlein, so… Another sentence about Heinlein’s politics, so…. There is one sentence that is specifically about Starship Troopers, which did in fact contain public executions, public floggings, and a mouth piece character who says you *have* to publicly flog people, because that’s how you potty-train puppies, you just *have* to. The same mouthpiece character suggested that if a child commit a crime, then the child and their parents should all be flogged. And then the same mouthpiece character points out the “pseudofact” that in this fictional world, crime is the lowest its been ever, because of the floggings and hangings.

    So, I’m not sure what part of that single sentence you think is a “shallow” reading of Starship Troopers.

    Becca: I think I noted thatI thought OMW played the conflict straight

    I was agreeing with you on that. It wasn’t my flavor of tea, so I didn’t read the sequels.

    Justin: I understand that many people would like to put us all in a box labeled damaged goods, but it simply isn’t true.

    Lets just rewind the tape:

    if you do happen to live… you’ve got a 1 in 3 chance of getting some form of PTSD.

    National statistics say about 7% of all americans will suffer PTSD. For the Iraq war it was anywhere from 10 to 20% of all veterans who served there. And about 30% of people who’ve served in combat experience PTSD at some point.

    Talking about the population statistics of a problem doesn’t mean I want to put you “all in a box labeled damaged goods”. It means there is a problem caused by war that affects many who fight in war, and when someone writes a story about war where NO ONE has any of those effects, then its painting a rosey picture of war that doesn’t match the reality.

  62. @Cthulhu (SJW TINGED)

    Thanks for both of your responses. I agree far more than you may suspect, and disagree in unsurprising ways.

    Include the NYTimes (primarily the editorial page) and similar sources along with FoxNews, and I think you might have something.

    As a surreal thought…

    Or would you rather be the architect of what we might create?

    Sort of depends on whether that creation represents progress or is “progressive”. The two are frequently not the same thing.


  63. Damn. Sorry for the serial posts, but I neglected to include “Traitor’s Blade” as something I recently read that I found deeply moving. The Demon Cycle series is equally interesting, but that’s more than one book.


  64. I wouldn’t consider OMW a “strait” Starship Troopers-style novel. I think that the heavy influence of CDF propaganda is evident, and that all of the characters are to a greater or lesser extent either tools of or insiders of the CU regime; obviously, this leads to skewed information. However, it is pretty obvious from early on that the CU is not a free or democratic regime, and that they have used humanity’s advantage of a large, out-of-the-way hidden population base to engage in a campaign of aggression and terror in the galaxy.

    And then the next two books focus on just how nasty the CU is, and now it’s in “shape up or die” mode and Earth may or may not still join the Conclave. Which basically exists to destroy the CU, and is basically the UN with serious teeth IN SPACE.

    In other words, I think that over the whole series it’s pretty obvious that the CU are the bad guys, and they need to clean up their act or the heroes under General Gau are going to shove the CU’s collective heads up their rears.

    Just my opinion, though.

  65. Floored: However, it is pretty obvious from early on that the CU is not a free or democratic regime,

    Starship Troopers is a military-tyranny. Only former veterans can vote or hold office. That’s an extremely small percentage of the population.

    Old Man’s War has the CDF successfully “going Galt”. They have all this wild, powerful tech, and they refuse to be regulated by anyone on Earth. Any attempts at regulation, and the CDF simply withdraws from Earth until as such time the Earth submits to the CDF’s unilateral wishes.

    and that they have used humanity’s advantage of a large, out-of-the-way hidden population base to engage in a campaign of aggression and terror in the galaxy.

    That sentence could easily apply to Starship Troopers or Old Man’s War.

  66. Fair enough; it’s been a while since I read OMW without knowing what came up. Certainly I found enough seeds to accept the more CU-critical plots of the sequels, but apparently Greg didn’t find enough plot seeds to see where Scalzi took it.

  67. My point, Greg, is that in OMW the CU are not the good guys.

  68. “This is, unfortunately, a tiny part of a very real problem facing America at the moment.”

    At the moment? At the moment? When was it any different? This comment, I suggest, is an example of the very problem it’s decrying.

    Blithe disregard for fact is not, unfortunately, limited to the Fox News part of the American spectrum. A couple of years ago I was chatting online with an old friend from high school, now a liberal, Obama-loving Law Professor at a major public university, with background in computer science and mathematics. She jumped on a reference I made to “normal science” and proceeded to attack Thomas Kuhn (of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions fame), saying that he had no training in science and should not have written about it. I took a few seconds to check what I was pretty sure I knew, that Kuhn had a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard. I reminded her of this, and she replied without missing a beat, Yeahbut he didn’t do his work in the field where he was trained (though in fact he had advanced training not only in physics but in history). I’d seen similar statements about Kuhn and other historians / philosophers of science from equally educated people, so I suspect that there’s an oral tradition in some science circles of such falsehoods, that get passed around and are never checked, because after all, who’s going to call them on it? It was like debating a Creationist, who use similar tactics: if you get caught in a clear falsehood, ignore it and change the subject. And alas, she’s far from unique in this. Compare, for just one example, the complaints one hears about our failing public schools. Or the longing for the days when the Media was [sic] proudly adversary to power, instead of passive stenographer to politicians. Or …

  69. I’m sure that I’ve read radical SF published in the last 30 years. Off the top of my head I can think of two Rumours of Srping and Views from the Oldest House both by Richard Grant, published in 1986 and 1989 respectively, come in just under the wire. I could probably come up with a couple more of more recent vintage, with a little thought, but I specifically search out such things.

  70. Becca: apparently Greg didn’t find enough plot seeds

    Uh, well, I thought the CDF was horrible from the beginning. The first thing we hear about CDF is that when threatened with government regulation, they “go galt” until the government surrenders. This is a huge red flag for how horrible CDF is. Then there’s the minor things like the mock execution in boot camp as a normal training approach.

    The protagonist staring into the horror of war and going “meh, I could be worse” and then using that to justify pretty much any response he wants? Yeah, huge red flag for how horrible CDF is. based on the number of recruits who arrive per week and the fact that most will be dead in 10 years, I think that works out to something like WW2 level casualty rates, that take place over hundreds of years. ANother red flag for how horrible CDF is.

    The problem I had was that there were dozens of “seeds” planted for how horrible CDF was, but not a single one was actually developed to directly say that CDF was, in fact, horrible.

    Oh, and the one character who is a diplomat? He’s introduced in one chapter where we find out immediately just how much of an idiot he is, and then he’s killed by the next chapter by his own stupidity and naive diplomacy. Which not only didn’t develop one of those “seeds” of how horrible CDF was, but rather instead, propagates the whole Heinlein-ian view that war-is-the-only-way and diplomacy-is-for-wimps nonsense. So, you can say “apparently” I didn’t find enough plot seeds all you want, but I found dozens, none of which were developed, and a number of seeds which actually went in the “war-is-good” direction.

    If the sequels come out and say CDF is bad and war is bad and diplomacy is good and all that, then its an about-face of the direction the first “Old Man’s War” book was going.

  71. @Greg

    “…propagates the whole Heinlein-ian view that war-is-the-only-way and diplomacy-is-for-wimps nonsense.”

    Person of hay. Based on the works (including SST) I have read, he didn’t believe that war was the _only_ way. He believed that it was one viable way for resolving problems; in particular when those issues could not be satisfactorily resolved via diplomacy. I think it is safe to assert that he probably thought that, in certain circumstances, war was a less deadly and less costly option.

    He did heap derision on the idea that “war never solved anything” and any similar peace-at-any-cost perspective.


  72. …a huge red flag…”

    This is a favorite metaphor of yours, Greg. But I have to wonder, how to do you see with all those flags flapping in your face?

    “If the sequels come out…”

    Are you implying that you haven’t read the sequels, or that they don’t exist? The former is understandable if you didn’t care for “OMW”, but the latter is a pretty bald denial of reality.

  73. @docrocketscience: I think you’ve misinterpreted Greg:

    If the sequels come out and say CDF is bad and war is bad and diplomacy is good and all that, then its an about-face of the direction the first “Old Man’s War” book was going.

    The subjunctive there refers to the content of the sequels (which Greg stated he has not read), not whether they exist.

  74. dann: he didn’t believe that war was the _only_ way

    Except Heinlein specifically stated that he wrote Starship Troopers in response to SANE trying to stop nuclear testing and reduce nuclear stockpiles. Heinlein thought the only way to stop the communist hoard was nukes. Hence, the bugs in Starship Troopers are hive mind communist bugs (I think in Starship Troopers, Heinlein actually makes a reference to Marx or Commissars or something while talking about the bugs)

    Heinlein also said in 1961 that he was 90% certain there would be a nuclear war and the US would lose. He advised people to “build fallout shelters, stock unregistered weapons, and die gloriously”.

    So, if Heinlein didn’t think war was the only way, he certainly had quite a lot riding on it.

    doc: how to do you see with all those flags flapping in your face?

    It’s a wooden face, with a rare smile that blooms like a flower, a heart as cold as ice, and eyes that are a window to the soul. And you know souls, they can see through anything mortal, flags included.

    Are you implying that you haven’t read the sequels, or that they don’t exist?

    A quick recap:

    If the sequels come out and say CDF is bad

    the first book never said CDF is bad. It listed several behaviors of CDF (going Galt, mock executions, idiot diplomacy), but for the most part, they were either presented neutrally or as good. The mock execution taught the protagonist a lesson. The idiot diplomat deserved to die by the idiocy of his diplomacy. Every time CDF went Galt, Earth succumbed and eventually let them come back free of any government regulations. And the aliens were all ravenous xenomophs who ate manflesh and couldn’t be negotiated with anyway and were essentially mindless trolls or savant-dogmatic-savages, and in nearly every case, CDF was needed to keep the alien hoards at bay. In nearly every case, CDF was presented in a positive light. Or at least no negative outcomes of the behaviors were really ever focused on.

    The one and only time CDF was NOT presented entirely positively was when the protagonist was stamping around on some tiny alien city like Godzilla, and afterwards, he had a nanosecond of self doubt about it. And then he talked himself out of it. I don’t remember exactly how the reasoning went, but I seem to remember him thinking, well, there are serial killers who are human, and I’m not a serial killer, so I haven’t lost all of my humanity yet, or something like that. Essentially, one scene where CDF==Bad might have come up, but it was quickly batted away.

    What I was saying was that if the sequels came out and say CDF is bad, when the first book repeatedly implied that CDF was good, then the sequels would be an about face from the first book.

    So, yeah.

  75. Could someone please post who John is referring to? The number of people John is at war with is growing by the day. I can’t keep track and I don’t have a search bot setup to find these things for me. if you want to avoid outright publicity please give a hint, but a totally dumbed down one that I can google to find out who wrote the post John refers to.

    Thank You.

  76. Guess:

    Had I wanted to identify the writer, I would have. That I didn’t should signal that I didn’t want them to feel like I was instigating an Internet pile-on in their general direction. That would not have been fair, or nice, and at the moment I choose to be those things.

    I am reasonably sure the writer is aware this particular piece exists. If they choose to identify themselves here, fine. I would otherwise prefer not.

  77. I write the audiobook column for Locus; I adore space opera and also like military sf. Quite simply, action scenes make for good audio. It’s a near-impossible task to cover every single subgenre of sf/f audio in my column, and sure, I have preferences for some, but I strive for diversity (in several senses.) I’ve reviewed REDSHIRTS, THE HUMAN DIVISION, THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM, DARWIN’S ELEVATOR, among others, and since I also cover new audio productions of classic novels, I’ve also reviewed productions of Heinlein’s TUNNEL IN THE SKY and METHUSELAH’S CHILDREN, and Iain M. Banks’s CONSIDER PHLEBAS.

  78. Hi Greg,

    I think it is problematic to take one piece of the work and extrapolate it out to an extreme and/or illogical conclusion. Paul Verhoeven’s movie pointedly was based on the selective use of limited portions of the book while equally ignoring some of the larger issues that were discussed. (i.e. the link between authority and responsibility)

    Heinlein thought that nuclear war was probable. That doesn’t mean that he thought it was a positive thing.

    Given the violent expansion of communism engendered by the Soviets up through the 1960s, it was not exactly a stretch of the imagination to visualize a situation where the limits of diplomacy were re-discovered. Given the close to 100,000,000 civilians that were purposefully slaughtered by communist/socialist governments in the 20th century, it isn’t exactly a stretch to think that they would be willing to toss a few nukes around as well.

    Just because Heinlein thought we should win a nuclear war, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he thought we should work to get into one. I’m in the middle of a collection of his short stories that makes it pretty clear that he was more than a little terrified of the idea of nuclear technology in general.

    Separately, Heinlein thought communism was a bad idea. One of the characters in SST suggests that Marx was almost onto something except that Marx had failed to realize that sugar, apples, flour, and spices in the hands of a gifted chef could be turned into a delightful dessert while the same products could be rendered into something worth less than the unmixed materials in the hands of a culinary incompetent.

    IMHO, SST is one of the great literary works of the 20th century. It belongs in every high school curriculum.

    But it is _not_ a handbook for building a society. It is a collection of ideas presented in a way to foster thought and discussion; just like a lot of other books.


  79. dann: I think it is problematic to take one piece of the work and extrapolate it out to an extreme and/or illogical conclusion.

    I was quoting Heinlein from interviews, which includes quotes as to why he wrote Starship Troopers (because he opposed SANE’s call for ending nuclear testing and reducing nuclear stockpiles).

    So, I’m not sure where you get “one piece of the work” from.

    Paul Verhoeven’s movie

    I’ve read “Starship Troopers”, the novel, three times, taking quite a few notes as I did.

    IMHO, SST is one of the great literary works of the 20th century. It belongs in every high school curriculum.

    It’s jingoistic nonsense advocating nuclear hand grenades and a military-junta-inspired utopia while bashing and bad mouthing American democracy. It is little more that power fetishism and political ideas on par with a high-school student.

    But it is _not_ a handbook for building a society. It is a collection of ideas presented in a way to foster thought and discussion; just like a lot of other books

    Heinlein himself said that he wrote it specifically to explain his opposition to SANE and his political positions. It is a polemic, and a bad one at that. nothing more.

  80. I will say the king of weird MILF-in-SF is Heinlein for All You Zombies. And that also addresses the foolishness of appropriating Heinlein for conservative whining.

    Actually, trying to pin RAH down to any particular political view (especially in the current severely polarized political word) risks getting into a game of whack-a-mole.

  81. Barbara Hambly’s The Silent Tower

    Thank you. And that’s genuine – I’ll find her works tomorrow and start reading.

    I’ll make this quick and dirty: apart from this recommendation, no-one in this thread could even attempt a recommendation. (Even after the silliness).

    We’ll take this to mean that the genre defining cultural moment where:

    1) Trans* author blows away sociological and cultural norms


    2) Someone of “POC” (sigh – please, white people: don’t use this, it’s real fucking patronizing) blows away sociological and cultural norms

    Do Not Exist.

    Which was the original point: all of this Hugo nonsense [tm] is about books that don’t even exist yet.

    We’re kinda hoping they will though.

    Or would you rather be the architect of what we might create?

    No you’re total muppets

    Sigh, we’re no longer allowed to use ancient Greek, but Fates. Clotho etc.

    Serious point: if you can’t stop yourselves spamming and being cunts on the open channel, then, well, meet the Lions, Tigers and Bears.


  82. While “doesn’t review MilSF” is clearly false, it may have been hyperbole for “doesn’t review enough MilSF”. And, despite not being a MilSF fan, I suspect that’s probably true. Locus doesn’t review enough of lots of subgenres of SF. Every subgenre I like, and probably every subgenre you like. Bottom line, Locus doesn’t review enough SF. They only publish a handful of in-depth reviews every month! Certainly no more than a couple of dozen. Way less than half of all SF published anywhere in the world! :)

    For example, since Sir Pterry died, my favorite living author of British humorous fantasy has been Tom Holt. He’s published over 30 novels (not counting non-humor and novels published under other names), and Locus has only reviewed thirteen! Injustice!!

    (BTW, I’m pretty sure that the only reason Tom hasn’t won a Hugo is because of the conspiracy of MilSF and Space Opera fans who keep promoting works like Ancillary Justice instead.) :D

  83. p.s.

    We saw what you did there with the whole wiping comments stuff.

  84. FFS, Tom Holt was outed this year as K. J. Parker which was really obvious and all.

    I make a few little slips (not even books) and I get censored. No, really – that was a cool post you just vanished (I’ll not use the S.American term quite yet).

    Work that out (hint: like Tom, my background isn’t as pure as the driven snow).

  85. I’ve read “Starship Troopers”, the novel, three times, taking quite a few notes as I did.

    You didn’t. Jebis, dude, I’ve long known this was a hobby horse for you, but that’s not a hobby, that’s an obsession. Or a personal vendetta. Over a guy who’s been dead almost 30 years, which is 25 years closer than when I sometimes think you think he died.

  86. @Cthulhu (SJW TINGED)

    I think that expecting a Great Trans And/Or Racial Cultural Moment Book to come out of SF&F may be expecting a bit much, for various reasons. The biggest two seem to me to be:

    A: the deck is, frankly, stacked against it in the mainstream. SF&F is a niche genre thing, and OMG it’s got GENRE COOTIES. (Don’t get me started on the fiction-writing class I mistakenly took in college.) Unless the next Twilight, Hunger Games, or Harry Potter just happens to include some kind of game-changer (probably stealthed), such that people like my “only real things are important” mother-in-law get their vast disapproval drowned out by the movies… Ugh, it’s late, I’m sick, and that’s a terrible sentence. Let me sum up. Professors will teach The Color Purple in some classes. High school teachers will assign To Kill A Mockingbird and The Book Thief (my kid loathed that book and calls the fantastical elements “tacked on”). A few SF classics sometimes get into a college class or two. But for the most part, SF&F has strikes against it when it comes to mainstream. The smaller readership/bias against forcing kids to read it in school means that that the odds are against such a gender/racial literary singularity showing up in the genre.

    B: The realm of literature of all kinds has become huge, splintering like light through a prism. Light through infinite prisms. We have all the old stuff. We have all the curated new stuff. We have all the indie stuff. A potential Singularity Book catching a large enough readership to hit critical mass even just among SF&F fans is going to be FREAKING HARD.

    Which leads me to think C: there’s no longer likely to be a single “Singularity” book that will change how everyone looks at trans or racial issues. I think it’s more likely to be done in the “conversation” mode — as His Majesty’s Dragon is in “literary conversation” with history and Pern (as well as various other conventions of dracocentric stories), so will gender/racial aspects be in conversation with various other books, building on each other.

    (For another example of this concept, observe fanfics, which are frequently “in conversation” with each other, leading to “fanon” — memes tossed into a Darwinian stew to sink or swim or morph. The memes with staying power will show up again and again, borrowed consciously with permission, stolen, or unconsciously used. Sometimes there will be parallel evolution.)

    On the other hand, there’s D: there are some places which are putting their awards where their goals (or at least interests) are, such as, for example, the Tiptree awards. But circle that back up to B: can a Tiptree award-winner, in this current environment of a glut of books, hit the critical mass of readership to become a gender singularity?

    …mm, this has probably wandered way too far afield of the topic, and I may be misunderstanding your point anyway. Sorry. It’s late and I’m beset by brain-addling viruses. Perhaps there will be a subsequent thread more focused on “How to spot a Literary Singularity, during and after the fact.” :)

  87. @Cthulu

    I think that the age of the commentariat here has a huge amount to do with why few people have stepped up to present a world-shaking novel*. The novels that changed how I thought about things were ones I read mostly as a teen and young adult. By this point in my life novels that explore those same ideas (even if they do so differently or better) are not novel (novel novels – words are funny!). Likewise the books that shook my world are, for the most part, no longer topical or written in a modern style which leads my son and step-daughter to find the largely uncompelling. The books that are going to shake this generations worldview are most likely going to be coming out of the Young Adult sections (that are largely ignored by older folk) which is really on fire these days both in quality of writing, quality of ideas, and breadth of available sub-genres.

    *Actually, I think it has more to do with the tone that you used which did not welcome actual conversation; the vast 3 hours between initial question and declaration of failure; and the fact it was moderately deep in a thread in which only ~12 people posted since your query and they were discussing an entirely unrelated point.

  88. I read for enjoyment or to learn :) I have seen Oscar winning movies but never just because they won an “Oscar” I have read everything that RAH ever read… I did not know about him and the Hugos until now and I googled it & FYI I was 20 when he died & I was sad because I had read everything he would ever write. Double FYI I felt the same way about H. Beam Piper

    I just do not understand why everything lately needs to be (to mis-quote shakespeare) so diametrically opposed. But seriously if I say its the moon that shines so bright ~during the day I might add~ and I am an (insert political party here that you would never vote for) Why cant you be honest and call me on it like Scalzi just did. And sadly unlike the original people who just had their opinion examined… wont be intellectually honest and take a look and say Oh I was wrong. Nope they just dont Grok it. :)

  89. @Steve C “I’m sorry we never got a chance to read The MILF Is a Harsh Mistress.”
    FWIW, I’ve known a few MILFs who’re harsh mistresses.

  90. When was the last time you read a truly radical American SF novel?

    Forgive the observation, but surely it’s a lot harder to write something radically different than what has gone before now that it was in the 50s or 60s – the set of ideas that has already been explored, if not necessarily mined to exhaustion, is a lot bigger now than it was then, when anything other than rockets and ray guns was arguably a departure from the norm.

    For our edification, what SF novels of the 50s or 60s do you think fundamentally challenged and shifted debate on issues in society at large? I’m drawing a blank trying to imagine what SF novel could have had such an impact. I don’t think The Left Hand of Darkness did that. I don’t think Fahrenheit 451 did that. I don’t think Dune did that. You may be asking too much of SF. It’s one thing for a literary work to expand one’s personal horizons, to be an influence on forming one’s world view, to be a personal touchstone (which is all I took the previous commenter to be saying about The Silent Tower/ The Silicon Mage – I think you may be disappointed there, Cthulhu). I’d hazard it’s quite rare for a work of fiction – SF, mainstream or in any genre – to revolutionize the thinking of even an adult individual, let alone society as a whole.

  91. Doc: Over a guy who’s been dead almost 30 years

    The whole point of this thread is a response to the someone (puppy?) saying Heinlein couldn’t get a review in Locus today. And you didn’t just brush that off as worrying over a guy who’s been dead 30 years. “Heinlein” is mentioned 3 times alone in the original post, and you didn’t point out he’d been dead for 30 years. Heinlein is mentioned a dozen more times in the thread before I first mention him, and you didn’t tell those people he’s been dead 30 years. You didn’t tell dann that Heinlein had been dead 30 years when he said “SST is one of the great literary works of the 20th century”.

    I’m not the one who worships at the Church of Heinlein. The puppies and some others clearly do. And if you like Heinlein, fine. But if you like him, or if you say Starship Troopers is one of the great literary works of the 20th century, then I don’t know how its valid to like an author who’s been dead 30 years, but it’s invalid to criticize an author who’s been dead 30 years.

  92. Hi Greg,

    So, I’m not sure where you get “one piece of the work” from.

    You seem to be extremely focused on Heinlein’s use of nukes in SST as being the sole work that defines his thoughts on nuclear weapons or the necessity of their development. It is not.

    There also appears to be a lack of consideration of the context given the geopolitical situation that was unfolding from the 1950s to the 1960s.

    In Heinlein’s Expanded Universe, there are several stories that suggest a skepticism about the safety of operating nuclear piles and other related research. There is also a story that suggests that the US should keep nukes out of the hands of every other nation for as long as possible to prevent them from undermining global peace and liberty.

    In The Past Through Tomorrow, a couple stories suggest that the craters on the moon were actually caused by a network of nuclear reactors that had sympathetically exploded, thus ripping the atmosphere from the moon. (yup…this isn’t a science text book. *chuckle*)

    Also it is useful to remember that SANE was advocating unilateral disarmament in the face of murderous and aggressively expanding socialist/communist states that were steadily developing their own nuclear arsenals. RAH found SANE’s policy to be insane; correctly so, IMHO. When the other side telegraphs their intentions, the best course of action is to not only be prepared to fight them, but to be prepared to win with as little loss to your side as possible. Your critique also seems to lack the appreciation between being prepared to win a fight and actually wanting to be in the fight. RAH appreciated the difference between the two. (I haven’t the time nor inclination to research to see if SANE is one of the plethora of such groups protesting the U.S. government that were funded by the Soviets up through the 1980s. Kind of interesting that the Soviets did not have similar demonstrations occurring in their cities, no?)

    In comparison with your experience, I’ve read SST roughly 15 times; I love it that much. I wore out a couple copies and lost a couple more giving them to friends and/or their children.

    The impressions you have shared suggest to me that you have either missed a great deal of what he had to say. That opinion and US$2 will get you a decent cup of coffee these days.


  93. dann: you have either missed a great deal of what he had to say

    Not really. He said he was 90% sure of nuclear war, get a fallout shelter, unregistered guns, and go out in a blaze of glory. Which was pretty clear. But thanks for trying.

    I’ve read SST roughly 15 times

    docrocketscience would like you to know that “that’s an obsession. Or a personal vendetta. Over a guy who’s been dead almost 30 years”. Cause I only read it 3 times and he freaked the fuck out. 15 times? Doc is gonna blast you.

  94. @greg In the late 1950s a WHOLE HELL OF A LOT OF PEOPLE thought a nuclear war was coming. My family had multiple sets of PLANS for various fallout shelters. Eventually, we settled on a halfassed ‘room in the basement’ but we HAD actual PLANS.

    You’re utterly ignoring the context of the time in which that book was written and the time Heinlein lived in. Which, of course, is exactly what the people who claim he wouldn’t win a Hugo now do. Be cause OF COURSE he wouldn’t change and/or grow with the times!

  95. rochrist, back in the 1950’s, did your family support public executions and public flogging? did your family spend thousands of words explaining why public executions and public floggings were necessary? Did your family explain that public flogging and public executions, combined with a military junta, would lead to a utopic form of government with the lowest crime rates, lowest unemployment, best economic indicators the world has ever seen? Did your family spend thousands of words explaining that a military junta would be so much better than American constitutional democracy as we practiced it in the 1959? Did your family spend thousands of words arguing for capital and corporal punishment and then justify it by saying that we have to use corporal punishment to potty train dogs?

    Did your family do any of that?

    If not, it’s probably because your family wasn’t a bunch of raging lunatics.

    And, hey, you know what else happened in the 50’s? McCarthyism. No one in their right mind today would try to defend McCarthyism saying we must look at his actions in the context of the time. It might help understand McCarthy’s insanity. But it certainly doesn’t justify his actions as anything other than evil.

    Fallout shelter? Sure. Lots of people had them. A plan to stockpile unregistered weapons and go out in a blaze of glory???? That was definitely a much smaller set of people. Envision a military junta rebuilding out of America’s ruin and creating a utopic world? That’s a whole other ball game.

    So, no. Context doesn’t justify Heinlein’s words and actions at the time. It helps understand him, but certainly not everyone lost their mind to fear and paranoia like Heinlein did.

  96. I think that expecting a Great Trans And/Or Racial Cultural Moment Book to come out of SF&F may be expecting a bit much, for various reasons.

    Forgive the observation, but surely it’s a lot harder to write something radically different than what has gone before now that it was in the 50s or 60s – the set of ideas that has already been explored, if not necessarily mined to exhaustion, is a lot bigger now than it was then

    Three points:

    1) ‘Great novels’ nowhere intersect ‘commercially viable’, unless by chance, which was the point I was making. I’ve no issue at all with minds plying a trade, I have an issue where art qua art is removed from the scene.

    2) You missed the point about Capitalist mining of Sub-Culture and kinda didn’t even understand it. The point is that once it’s done too efficiently, you cease to have organic culture: this is basic stuff, way back to Nirvana / MTV and earlier. i.e. those books you’d love to exist? Sadly cannot ever grow.

    3) The entire point of SF/F is to break things. Having to explain that is rather depressing.

    And, no, you don’t get a list (BuzzFood style) of the greatest moments in SF from the 20th Century, because you should already know them by heart.

    I think only one person got the grokk, which is basically: your culture and civilization are dead, much like Tuna.

    Or would you rather be the architect of what we might create?

    Next time, fear not and post the music, we love music:


    Nope, it’s tripe.

  97. Cthulhu (SJW TINGED): He listed what he thought were great SF moments in his post. He just didn’t agree they were life changing. So if your going to make a more SF fan than thou argument while using sexist and derogatory language you might pay attention to what people are actually saying.

  98. I long ago brushed off the Puppy’s obsession with Heinlein as a meaningless metric for just about anything they bleat about. I don’t feel the need to restate it every time it comes up. And I probably would mention to the Puppies that he’s been dead 30 years*, if I thought engaging with any of them was worth an instant of my fucking time.**

    It wasn’t so much the number of readings as the notetaking. And the hobby horsing. And the fact that if Heinlein or Starship Troopers is mentioned in any thread, in any context, 9 times out of 10 you launch into your spiel. This thread isn’t even about Heinlein. It’s about Locus Magazine and how often it reviews MilSF. Once again, Heinlein, much like communism, is a red herring.

    (Also noteworthy: guess where the first mention of Starship Troopers occurs in this thread.)

    But, yeah, 15 reads is ridiculous. But frankly, Dann has been wrong about so many things, this is hardly on the radar.

    FWIW, I think you’re correct about the impetus behind the writing of Starship Troopers, and about RAH’s nuclear hawkishness at that time. I don’t agree with your interpretations of those facts. And I think you tend to suck up a lot of air in the room whenever you bring it up – which, again, is inordinately often.

    * Actually, I think I’d point out that what they’re really doing is invoking some sort of Zombie RAH.

    ** Well, I did briefly poke at phantom dudebro, but he didn’t mention Heinlein.

  99. Regarding Starship Troopers: how the heck did the military get all-powerful in the first place? Was it before or after Stalin’s Bugs attacked? And if before… then how the hell did that happen?!

  100. Lurkertype, If i recall correctly, it is mentioned in one of the “history” classes that the bleeding heart democratic governments like America imploded/collapsed on themselves (why they implode is given as being bleeding hearts that are too soft on crime iirc). Which lead to a lawless phase that i imagined as a Mad Max movie. And then some bad guy did something, i dont remember what, maybe it was rape or robbery or muder, and a former veteran killed the bad guy out of his sense of justice. Maybe there was some theater around a “trial” or not. Dont remember that bit. and then more veterans come together with this first veteran to enforce “justice”. Then more. Then more. And eventually through the use of capital punishment and floggings, they beat back the Mad Max savages and establish what eventually evolves into the military dictatorship that rules Earth during the story.

    public hangings is what beats back the Mad Max world of chaos. And veterans proved they only ever do the right thing by being willing to die for the people they are protecting, so nothing bad is ever done by a veteran. Abuse of power just doesnt happen whena veteran is in power. Thats the fundamental “law” heinlein uses to build the world in sst.

    It is basic authoritarianism, but it also plugs into the basic solution that libertarians worship: a government that enforces laws against violence with violence, but then refuses to regulate any higher level interactions.

    and then sometime after the military dictatorship is established, thats when we start a war with the marxist, commisar, hive mind bugs.

  101. I always think that it’s funny how conservatives love to bring up Heinlein when he actually criticizes a lot of things they hold dear. For example in his story “If This Goes On” he criticizes religious fanaticism and intolerance through a horribly abusive religious state. A really awesome character named Zeb (is there any other kind?) makes a point about how awful it is to force your belief system on someone else and in the end the afterword Heinlein says that religious fanaticism is a major problem in America and compares it directly to communism (which going by Greg’s posts was a pretty big deal for him.)

  102. Zeb, Heinlein wrote a story called “The Puppet Masters” which was a kind of “invasion of the mind controlling body snatchers”. It seems to be pretty clear that Heinlein’s idea of ultimate horror is to have someone else control you. Libertarian to the end. And yes, in that story, he again compares the bad guys to Communists. It’s turtles/communists all the way down.


  103. @Cthulhu *chuckle* No fear involved. Just trying to be polite to our esteemed host by not including extraneous stuff. FTR, I bought that album about 6 months ago and have listened to it close to once a week since then. I love their music, even if I find some of the underlying message more than a little questionable.

    @Lurkertype – I’ll try to distill it down for you before the 14 day embargo time closes. Greg is leaving out a few things and making errors in the rest.

    @docrocketscience – Of course 15 reads is ridiculous. That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy it or get something new out of it with each read. Some folks learn to speak Klingon. I read SST.


  104. @Lurkertype

    I have created this placeholder over at my blog. I suspect that my summary will run much longer than will be accepted as a comment here. And also, I don’t want to contaminate John’s site any more than necessary.

    If it isn’t too much trouble, please check back there after a couple of days. I hope to have the full thing up by then.

    Thanks for your patience.


  105. Geg:

    “Lurkertype, If i recall correctly, it is mentioned in one of the “history” classes that the bleeding heart democratic governments like America imploded/collapsed on themselves (why they implode is given as being bleeding hearts that are too soft on crime iirc). ”

    Your memory is incorrect. What happened was that we fought a full scale war with the commies, and civil government was understandably chewed up in the process. His comment s on bleeding heart social policy were a separate issue.

  106. @Will: Okay, but then after we defeated the godless commies and got civilization going again, what did the army do between that time and Bug time? Stand around polishing their guns (ahem)? Congratulate themselves on being a military with no enemies to fight?

    Seems pointless.

  107. >>I always think that it’s funny how conservatives love to bring up Heinlein when he actually criticizes a lot of things they hold dear.>>

    Oh, I don’t know, they do a similar job on Reagan, whose actual governance was wildly at odds with what they invoke him to support.

  108. kurtbusiek: Oh. I didn’t actually know that. I’m a Canadian born in 1991 who hasn’t really read much recent American history. I like how when we discuss these subjects it actually gives me a opportunity to learn new things about my American neighbors.

  109. Greg: That’s interesting. Although I’m mostly neutral in this whole debate (I read a couple Heinlein story’s I didn’t really care for, and A couple I found really brilliant) I should note that I actually share his fear of being controlled, although because of my aforementioned recent birth I never really had that anti communist fear.

  110. “Okay, but then after we defeated the godless commies and got civilization going again, what did the army do between that time and Bug time? ”

    In the book, we didn’t defeat the commies, but fought them to a draw. And there were two or three space wars before we met the bugs.

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