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August 16, 2015

My Privileged Elite Background, Revealed
Posted by Patrick at 06:39 PM * 326 comments

Sarah Hoyt:

MOST of the editors [in the SF field] came from families where ALL generations had gone to college as far as they remembered (kind of like my husband’s family. It amuses me that paternal grandad would have bowed and scraped and been speechless before my inlaws.) More than that, they’d gone to prestigious colleges. For 99% of them, if they had an ancestor who worked with his/her hands, it was buried in the mists of time.
Hm, where shall I start?

delbert at the dropforge.jpeg
Grandfather Delbert Hayden (1901-1962) at his Princeton class reunion, delivering an informal seminar in Renaissance humanities at the drop forge at Fisher Body in Detroit. Like you do.

Seriously. Seriously? I didn’t go to college. In fact, I didn’t graduate from high school, and I don’t have a GED. This is one of the more widely known facts about me, tbh. If you’re making generalizations like that about a set of people that has me in it…well, you just hate to see that kind of thing at this level of play.

Both of my parents went to college — Michigan State University. Both of them were the first people in the known history of their families to do so. I don’t make this assertion lightly. Thanks largely to the heroic efforts of relatives, I know the names, dates, and something of the lives of all 32 of my great-great-great grandparents, and I know the same for all but eight of my 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents. This gets us back to approximately the American Revolution. Not a college degree among them.

haydens and newtons.jpeg
The 1906 meeting of the Modern Language Association, Daviess County, Kentucky. On the left, great-grandfather Prof. Clarence E. Hayden (1872-1908) prepares to speak to his twin sons about Dryden’s The Hind and the Panther. On the right, Prof. greatX3-uncle James Urban Hayden (1856-1933) contemplates figurative imagery in Galen’s On the affections of the mind.

Let’s talk about how people like me don’t have an ancestor who “worked with his/her hands.” Leaving aside my own resume of youthful labor (day laborer, typesetter, printer’s flunky, scraper of paint off of aging Great Lakes freighters—that one was less than perfectly fun), there’s the fact that my father’s father was a factory worker in Detroit. His father was a farmer, as were all the Haydens before him back to the seventeenth century.

My mother’s father was a CPA and a shopkeeper. He came to Michigan from Kentucky with a backwoods accent so severe that he was literally incomprehensible to people there. His forebears were Appalachia through-and-through: hardscrabble, hard times.

freemans.jpeg
Great-great grandparents John Freeman (1850-1928) and Tacy Allen (1857-1924), shown on their grand tour of the fashionable resorts of late 19th-century Europe. “Taormina is so overrated, don’t you think, dear?”

As you can see, Sarah Hoyt is exactly right. My ancestors were generation upon generation of privileged scions of the Ivy League. Beth Meacham’s rural Ohio forebears were all Oxbridgeans; in fact, you couldn’t even show your face in 19th-century Newark, Ohio if you hadn’t published at least one article in a peer-reviewed journal of classical studies. Claire Eddy’s family in Hell’s Kitchen, of course, was composed entirely of high-society patrons of the arts; the entire career of George Balanchine would have been unthinkable without the support of Claire’s tavern-keeping, linoleum-installing relatives. And of course Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s dirt-farmer Mormon forebears contrived the artificial distinction between “literary” and “genre” fiction out of whole cloth, because monkey cucumber parliamentary archaeology. And other things that make just as much sense.

We look forward to explaining other issues of similar subcultural salience.

Comments on My Privileged Elite Background, Revealed:
#1 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 07:53 PM:

Timing!

#2 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 08:06 PM:

One of my uncles-by-marriage reminiscing:
"I was the first member of my family for as many generations as I could count who went to college and that by accident. My high school English teacher visited me the summer after I had graduated from his school. I was busy learning how to fix carburetors in my father's auto repair shop—I was going to be a mechanic. He said I should go to a nearby college (Redlands) and he had arranged admission. 'When does it start?' I asked. 'In a month,' he answered. 'And they will give you a scholarship.' So off I went."

(He later was a fairly-well-known professor at Harvard. And loved Porsches.)

#4 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 08:18 PM:

Oh, well, I see you've taken care of it. But I will add that I too have chased my ancestry way way back to colonial North America, and they were all farmers. Every last one of them. Pioneer farmers at that, and religious utopians many of them. Not a college degree among them. In fact, I'm the first generation of that.

My father was a mechanic. You know, one of those people who takes a shower AFTER work. He was born on the farm his great-grandparents homesteaded in the Ohio territory. My roots in the heartland of America are deeper than any of these people can begin to imagine.

#5 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 08:27 PM:

4
Sounds like my family. Except that mine did include a millwright in one generation, and I have a bunch of carpenters. But mostly farmers, because almost everyone was.

Patrick, I think we had the 1894 meeting of the MLA, in Fleming county.

#6 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 08:29 PM:

Does this make you & Beth the 1% then*?

My response to the current Hoyt piece (and to everything else she has written) is: "citation needed". She doesn't appear to let facts get in the way of whatever convoluted points she tries to make.

*The 1% that is, of the SFF editors who didn't go to college & whose recent forebears did manual labour**.

** Again "citation needed" as I don't find that plausible either.

#8 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 08:38 PM:

Soon Lee, now, you make me want to do that research. Just a little, anyway. Probably not enough to actually do it. But I don't think we're unusual.

#9 ::: Richard York ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 08:45 PM:

I come from an academically mixed family. My father, an MD, was the first in his family to graduate from college (and, obviously medical school). On my mother's side, both sides of her family have been college graduates, or the equivalent, since probably the 13th or 14th century. Being the classic upper middle class white boy, there was never even a question about my attending college.

However, several of the smartest, best read and culturally rounded people I've known were autodidacts. The formality of one's education generally has no effect on one's intellectual achievements.

The truly unfortunate thing is that our credential oriented culture is probably ignoring a lot of very talented people.

#10 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 08:55 PM:

Hoo-boy. I find this amusing in that she's allied with Brad Torgersen, who is required (by Army regulations) to have a college degree.

I don't have one (and the various manual labor I've done... it wasn't the great lakes steamers I was chipping paint off in fhe summer of 83, it was rooftop swamp coolers in Phoenix, that and digging sprinkler trenches).

My father has one, he got it... ~1990. My mother didn't finish Duquesne. My uncle, and two of his kids (I have four cousins on that side) have degrees. Mind you my uncle was an open carry/anti-gov't extremist in the 1960s (seriously, the Dept. of Water and Power sent a code inspector to his house and he went to get a .45 before he'd let him in. Followed him through the house at high port).

The idea that being "literary" requires blue-stockings in the family tree is risble, in the extreme.

#11 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 08:57 PM:

Education/Family background — my generation had the most in the families that went to college. My parents got most of their education while working, Dad’s was paid for by the Defense Department, and Mom got her RN after the divorce, my aunts were mostly SAHMs and uncles were mostly blue-collar with a few white-collar. My grandparents were blue-collar (Three of the four worked in factories.) Before that it’s pretty much SW Virginia* farmers all the way down. The most recent immigrant was my great-great grandfather who came over from Switzerland, everybody else came from the British Isles between 1600-1700 CE. And every generation since the Revolution has had someone in the US military.

*Blue Ridge Mountains

#12 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 09:05 PM:

Hoyt has been living in a dream world of her own making for quite a long time.

#14 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 09:14 PM:

It is in general vanishingly unlikely that anybody who is a third or fourth generation American doesn't have at least one farmer or manual labourer among their grandparents or at least great-grandparents (although there were a lot of different values of "farmer"): this includes the current 1%. Even if you have some genuinely elite ancestors from an older period (colonial or revolutionary) most of their descendants will have passed through "farmer" or an equivalent status before they getting to the 20th Century. And the "elites" of the Gilded Age and later generally had documented origins in nobodies. This is not to mention that many American
elites, such as the prep school classes, tend as a whole to be pretty much hearty passmen rather than shining examples of intellect.

More to the point, why should it matter? I mean does a notional silver spoon corrupt one's reasoning abilities? It's just as poisonous to make the sort of rabble-rousing tarring people with the broad brush of being "elite" as it is to look down on everyone who can't find their ancestors on Debrett's.

I shouldn't be surprised: there's a long and direct connection between the audience to which Hoyt is preaching and the Know-nothings and other examples of the paranoid tendency in American politics, which tend to be virulently anti-intellectual.

I end up thinking of Josephine Tey: "In some parts of the States, I understand, it’s as much as a man's political life is worth to go to some constituencies with his tie tied and his coat on. That’s being stuffed-shirt. The beau ideal is to be one of the boys."

(My family probably counts as elite by Hoyt's standards - both my grandfathers had university degrees, my father is a philosopher with a doctorate, and my grandfather's family was arguably "gentry" (if farmers) by Nova Scotian standards, so I'm probably not a good counterexample.)

#15 ::: JaniceG ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 09:23 PM:

Like all ridiculously overblown generalities, this one is patently absurd and easily disproven. (However, thanks for my giggle of the day, PNH!)

#16 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 09:31 PM:

Who *is* this person? Or would I be happier not knowing?

#17 ::: ClaireEddy ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 09:34 PM:

On top of the cake I was the first person in my family to graduate from college...on a mostly full scholarship...

#18 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 09:41 PM:

Stay happy skzb, stay happy.

#19 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 09:43 PM:

Steven Brust@16: I'm sure you would be much happier not knowing.

#20 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 09:45 PM:

She's one of the point people for next year's Sad Puppy campaign, Steve. Which may be all you need to know -- she's also an author of fantasy and SF novels, and won a Prometheus Award.

#21 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 10:16 PM:

OMFG. Let's set aside the idea that "going to college" means "Not working with your hands" (for evidence otherwise, check out #FieldworkFail ... I'm proud to come from a family of immigrants -- people who worked their fingers to the bone to give me a chance to live in a country where I'd be ALLOWED to go to college. Hoyty-toity and her blue-collier-than-thou crew can choke on it.

#22 ::: ebear ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 10:18 PM:

My father's father went to college. He was Army Corps of Engineers. Neither my father nor my mother did. My mom's dad was an immigrant: he was a plumber. My mom was a nursing unit administrator. My dad has had a series of jobs--cabinetmaker, surveyor, and so on.

My parents were divorced when I was very young, and I grew up in working class neighborhoods and at least one no-kidding needles-on-the-sidewalk defunct-milltown slum. My mom came out as a lesbian in 1980 or thereabouts.

I attended a pretty good state university (University of Connecticut), paid for it myself, and didn't finish because I ran out of money. I'm still paying off the student loans.

My mom's dad was a pretty good sketch artist; my dad is a musician; my mom is a poet.

The working class has always had art, it turns out. And always cared about art, too.

I care about social justice not because I'm some kind of naive elite, but because the people I knew growing up are directly affected by social *injustice*: by divisions of class, gender, race, religion, sexuality, and so on ad infinitum.

But I'd hate to see facts confuse the narrative.

#23 ::: Laura Anne Gilman ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 10:37 PM:

The levels of WTFkery in Sarah's claim are impressive. She's embarrassing those of us who do basic research for our fiction.

Okay, I'm one of those editors in the SF field, or I was. And Sarah knows me, I've visited her home, in less crazy years. One of my grandmothers went to a "ladies' college," so she could be a better secretary. But my grandfathers all worked with their hands (a baker and a tradesman), and before that, we had tinkers and farmers and yes, one branch of scholars - but considering that they lived in a shtetl in the old country where dirt-poor was the default, their education came from studying with local teachers, and their hands were not lacking in work-calluses. College? Prestigious colleges? Who had the money?

So I'm wondering...who are these "MOST" Sarah speaks of? As was said above, citations would be useful.


#24 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 10:45 PM:

My maternal grandmother (may she rest in peace) made a trip from North Carolina to deep in Yankee territory (upstate New York) to witness me becoming the first member of her family that she knew who graduated from high school.

My paternal grandparents, on the other hand... My grandfather was an IBM engineer, and my grandmother was an admissions officer at Vassar.

#25 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 10:53 PM:

My dad was an officer in the Navy and has a degree. He then took up farming. One wonders if these cancel each other out, in Hoyt's mind? How many hogs does one slop and how many nights do you stay up with a gun waiting for whatever's getting into the henhouse before one is washed clean of the taint of the BA?

My mother talks about how it was assumed that she would work at the Highway Department, like my grandfather did. When her high school guidance counselor said "Go to college, I beg of you," her parents accepted this because it meant that she would get a better class of husband. (I still twitch when she says this.) She got an MFA eventually, which I'm sure makes her an irredeemable elite. So far as I know, she was the first in generations to get a degree of any sort. (The rich branch of the family branched somewhere around Cotton Mather. We were the other branch.)

My grandmother had a sixth grade education and went to work. She was a Rosie-the-Riveter type, and I'm very proud of her (she was just spectacularly awesome and a natural charismatic) but I'm also very proud of my mother for never having given up, and getting the degree in the face of a family that had no culture of college.

I am a hopeless and dreadful elite, of course, beyond all possible salvation, but I will put my mulching skills up against any chosen champion of the culture wars any day. You behold a woman who owns multiple pitchforks!

#26 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 11:04 PM:

I'm intrigued by this New Marxism you all are getting all of your opinions from. Where can I learn more of this?

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#27 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 11:33 PM:

The amount of assumed Randian worldbuilding baked into the hard foundations of Hoyt's post is interesting.

Speaking of "If I disagree with your book, it was Too Political, but if I agree with it it just showed subtle and authentic worldbuilding" ...

#28 ::: --E ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 11:38 PM:

Grandfather #1: graduated from high school, I'm pretty sure. He was a signal maintainer for the NYC subways. Surely that required a degree in signal maintenance from Princeton?

Grandfather #2: drove the Flushing Line (now #7) train. I've seen the house where he grew up in Ireland: literally a sod-roof, dirt-floor hovel. He didn't even have an 8th grade education. Despite being dyslexic, he still read the newspaper every night, asking his kids to help him with the difficult words.

My grandmothers did better: they had finished high school in Ireland, despite coming from tenant-farm families. When they got to the US, being literate allowed them to get good jobs as domestics, a/k/a servants to rich people.

Everyone further back than that were tenant farmers in Ireland. This means they didn't even own the land they worked. Basically, serfs.

That said, my parents did go to college. They were fortunate to be born in the Silent Generation, which meant less competition. Mom worked nights for the phone company to pay for school.

Dad had entertaining summer jobs to pay for college, the most colorful of which involved cleaning out the insides of giant fuel and chemical tanks. This was done by holding one's breath and running into the tank with a rag on a pole and scrubbing for 1 minute and then running back out to breathe.

Yep, it's a wonder I even know how to dress myself, coming from so many generations of pampered privilege.

#29 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 11:51 PM:

All I can do upon reading Patrick's reply to Sarah's post is to make strange noises and odd faces. "Yoiky-buk moo-mao? Foinky-frak?"

I think the most recent noise I made, which sounded something like, "Gwinky-doke feemee fark?" translates as "Sarah really needs to have her dosage checked," but I wouldn't swear to that - I think the stupid broke my poor brain!

#30 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 11:53 PM:

--E @29: I clicked through to your view-all-by to remind myself of context and previous conversations, and found right away four threads I remembered fondly and want to reread from end to end. So thank you, sort of. :->

#31 ::: Carol K is right ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 12:04 AM:

Something feels intentional about the timing of the provocation.

#32 ::: Carol is right ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 12:20 AM:

(The first comment is a one-word comment by her, right?)

#33 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 12:28 AM:

Tried to read the post. Failed. (wall of itty-bitty text works poorly with my javascript-addled eyes) Skimmed to the comments. WTF is c4c? Scanned back up and found this part:

"The poor things don’t understand they’re the French court circa 1780. Aping the revolutionaries in the US and trying to be hip and speaking truth to imaginary power. All unaware of the coming change."

Nice! Heads will roll, amirite? Damn those Marxists and their violent imagery; we'll show them who's going to be up against the wall when the revolution comes!

#34 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 12:31 AM:

I actually am one of those editors, a bit, but as mentioned upthread, I'm also descended from a bunch of farmers because come on now, there aren't that many ancestors to go around even with immigration going on. The side of the family with the ancestor who did cool treaty things, and the not-quite-ancestor Washington spoke well of... is the same side of the family that went to a one-room schoolhouse and plowed behind mules. There's a picture of my grandmother in her prom dress, coming out of the outhouse. My parents had a maid during the school year (in Honduras) and Dad painted houses to make ends meet during the summer (in New York). I have a master's degree in Science! and still get food assistance. People! They are all complicated.

#35 ::: Tae Kim ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 01:05 AM:

I cannot stand the use of the word 'hardscrabble' and 'tony'. Every time I see it in print I cringe. Ugh.

#36 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 01:08 AM:

I have a master's degree in Science! and still get food assistance. People! They are all complicated.

Wait, you only have a master's degree? And you get food assistance? You're obviously under-qualified and worse, unlikely to look down on poor people! How can you possibly be a proper Marxist? Get a Ph.D. and some better ancestors, and maybe we'll make you an intern - the better to force Stalin's iron boot down on the poor minorities (for their own good of course!)

And yes, Carol the timing is suspicious! (My suspicion is that the Puppies have someone on the inside and know they're not going to like the results, so they're gearing up to blame a Marxist conspiracy.)

#37 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 01:21 AM:

Diatryma @35: There's a picture of my grandmother in her prom dress, coming out of the outhouse.

My mother went to college. The home she left to go to school did not have indoor plumbing until she got back.

Her mother ran away to go to school. No, not to college; to high school. Her father didn't hold with higher education for women, I was told, so she was expected to stop after grade school. Nuh-uh. (She also went to college, and was the first person in the family to do that. She was fierce.)

#38 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 05:01 AM:

I'm from a family of schoolteachers myself: Three of my parents and three of my grandparents taught various segments of grade and middle school.

On the other hand, my mom did specialize, getting a Master of Library Science, while my dad switched over to law and my stepmother went into banking to put him through law school.

The fourth grandparent had walked away from a law practice because he didn't like the sorts of people he was having to deal with, while my stepfather was an engineer and inventor.

None of this has inspired me to regard the less-educated with half the vitriol that Hoyt seems to hold for the educated.

#39 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 05:55 AM:

Stefan Jones @ 26...

"I refuse to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
- elitist Old Marxism's Groucho

#40 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 06:09 AM:

Non-crazy Sarah says, at #21: Let's set aside the idea that "going to college" means "Not working with your hands."

Quite. I regret only that my post plays slightly into this silly assumption. Despite their masters' degrees in art history, both of my parents have done plenty of plain old manual labor in their lives. I mean, even over and above raising three kids. Some people seem to think that having a university education means being in class of folks who have domestic help. Which is forgiveable, since as a rule of thumb it's only about 100 years out of date and time sure does fly.

#41 ::: Daibhid C ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 06:33 AM:

For some reason the bit that really throws me is "It amuses me that paternal grandad would have bowed and scraped and been speechless before my inlaws."

My maternal grandparents never went to college; my dad's side of the family were - I thought - a bit posh because they did and lived in a big house in Edinburgh (although you don't have to go that far back to find Perthshire tenant farmers). And the idea of my mum's parents bowing and scraping before anyone is hilarious. I guess we're just less class-conscious here in the UK(!)

Having said that, I wonder how broad Ms Hoyt's definition of "college" is? My mum went to secretarial school, and I assume my uncle did some kind of course when he realised he had a knack for fixing computers and it paid better than being a car mechanic. Does that count as college?

#42 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 06:48 AM:

James, at #14, makes the excellent point that "It is in general vanishingly unlikely that anybody who is a third or fourth generation American doesn't have at least one farmer or manual labourer among their grandparents or at least great-grandparents (although there were a lot of different values of 'farmer'): this includes the current 1%. Even if you have some genuinely elite ancestors from an older period (colonial or revolutionary) most of their descendants will have passed through 'farmer' or an equivalent status before they getting to the 20th Century."

I have a never-published post about untrue things people believe about ancestry. As a rule people really don't grasp the profound effects of powers of two. Postulating an average "generation length" of 25 years, a typical modern American has 7000 to 8000 direct ancestors in the mid-1600s, the first period of widespread European immigration into the eastern part of North America. Go back 300 more years, to the mid-14th century, and that same person's direct ancestors number in the millions.

Of course in actual practice it doesn't take long before you start being descended from the same individuals along multiple lines, which is why everybody actually has significantly fewer that 8,192 11X-great grandparents, or 16,777,216 22X-great grandparents. (To say nothing of the 8,589,934,592 theoretical grandparents one would have at the time of the Norman Conquest, a significant multiple of the population of the planet at the time.) But we all really do have an enormous number of forebears, and the chances that they're all one class, or narrow ethnicity, or skin color, are vanishingly small. Every living upper-class person in 2015, high-society Americans and the Queen of England alike, is descended from untold numbers of anonymous peasants and workers in the last thousand years, to say nothing of the millennia before that. And pretty much everybody reading this with any European/Mediterranean ancestry whatsoever (which definitely includes most black Americans) is descended from Charlemagne, and very probably from at least some post-Conquest kings of England. Including European/Mediterranean Jews and Muslims. Because powers of two are so powerful, it takes vanishingly little exogamy for even the most sealed-off populations to wind up sharing surprisingly recent ancestors with everybody else.

I keep meaning to write more about this stuff. I realize that in many sensible people's minds an interest in genealogy, both one's own and the subject in general, is associated with a kind of aspirational fawning over coats of arms and aristocratic titles. For me it does the exact opposite--it demonstrates over and over again the contingent, political, and arbitrary nature of privilege, and the close connectedness of people who pretend and behave as if no such connection exists. It's also one of the secret keys of history, as some historians are beginning to realize.

#43 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 08:35 AM:

I occasionally edit (See: Metatropolis) and was the only one of my immediate family to finish high school, much less go to college.

What a silly and easily refutable argument Ms. Hoyt has made, i.e., standard operating procedure for the Puppies.

#44 ::: Arkady Martine ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 08:50 AM:

I suppose technically I would be one of those "elites" (though my editing is very limited), being the third PhD in three generations on my father's side (grandfather, chemical engineering; uncle, anthropology & Chinese, and me, history) -- but I profoundly resent a) the idea that people with degrees are the only people who have access to knowledge or intelligence, a degree is a credential and more a sign of having sufficient socioeconomic (and in the US, racial/ethnic) privilege to acquire structured proof of that knowledge; b) the idea that formally educated people must necessarily look down on those who aren't.

Also, just because ONE individual in a generation has an academic degree says nothing about the rest of that generation: my parents are musicians (my father finished conservatory, my mother didn't), my brother briefly attended university and left for music operations management; and if you go back to my great-grandparents, they were either farmers or factory workers, depending on the location.

Also, I'm really enjoying reading everyone's family histories, here. The commonalities as well as the differences between SFF fan backgrounds are neat.

#45 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 08:54 AM:

PNH: It's also one of the secret keys of history, as some historians are beginning to realize.

I'm curious who/what you're thinking of. Is there a particular school of thought, historian or book?

#46 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 09:31 AM:

Steven Frug, #45: Not particularly, although a real professional historian like Ada Palmer might know better than me. I'm just thinking about a book I'm currently reading, Radical Origins: Early Mormon Converts and Their Colonial Ancestors by Val D. Rust (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004). Rust began with a specific data set: the names of roughly 1500 people (1) who converted to Mormonism between 1830 and the end of 1834, (2) who were at least fifteen years old when they converted, and (3) for whom genealogical records of at least five generations of ancestry exist. This yielded another data set, about 10,000 seventeenth-century people who were fifth-generation ancestors of early Mormon converts. Rust then shows that, far from being scattered around seventeenth-century colonial America as one might expect, or even just seventeenth-century New England, in fact these 10,000 people are concentrated to a startling degree in a very finite number of specific communities, a large number of which were hotspots of religious and spiritual radicalism. At times his arguments get a little tenuous, and based on my knowledge of TNH's specific ancestors I can spot a few places where he's fallen for some long-discredited genealogical mistakes -- for instance, the William Pratt who was one of the founders of Hartford, Connecticut was not the son of the William Pratt who was rector of Stevenage in Hartfordshire in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century; that chestnut was magisterially demolished by Donald Lines Jacobus in 1952. But the value of the book doesn't lie in perfect accuracy about individuals, but as a pointer for further research and analysis. Teresa and I obtained the book out of personal curiosity--a number of her documented ancestors are discussed in it, and through reading the book I've been able to document a few that we didn't know about. But I'm finding it interesting in terms of larger historical issues. Rust is making what seems to me a soundly data-driven argument that the roots of Mormonism are as much in the spiritual controversies and unresolved tensions of early New England as they are in the folk magic of early 19th-century New England and upstate New York which have been so much the focus of modern secular research into LDS origins. (And those early New England tensions are a lot more diverse than we tend to think! Most of us know at least vaguely about Puritans, separatists, witchcraft trials, and Roger Williams. But there were also Anabaptists, and people going absolutely nuts with hostility over the mere idea of Quakers walking into town, and did you know that a whole bunch of the sons of early solemn New England elders were I-shit-you-not alchemists, furiously corresponding with one another and trying to create the "red elixir", the philosopher's stone, in their log cabins on the Connecticut frontier? New England, it's more complicated than you think.)

(I'm sorry, I ordered a bag of paragraph breaks but they don't seem to have been delivered yet.)

#47 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 09:33 AM:

Terry Karney @10: Chipping paint off rooftop swamp coolers? Now that's hard-core.

#48 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 10:08 AM:

14/42
My brother has a PhD in ornamental horticulture / plant physiology and works for the state extension service. I guess that makes him a farmer of some kind.

#49 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 10:16 AM:

My father was a mechanic. You know, one of those people who takes a shower AFTER work. He was born on the farm his great-grandparents homesteaded in the Ohio territory. My roots in the heartland of America are deeper than any of these people can begin to imagine.

There is a tradition of viewing educated urban people as "rootless cosmopolitans", "not real people", "never had a real job" etc, but it's not a tradition that really needs to be perpetuated.

#50 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 10:29 AM:

Back years ago, when Crown Books was the New Big Thing, I would shop there occasionally. I realized that two types of people worked at Crown: those who would do anything to have a job, and those who would do anything to have a job working with books.

There was also a meme that "publishing is a gentleman's business" because the salaries were so low that the only way one could afford to work there and live in NY was to have independent means.

I think there was a substantial group working in publishing who were willing to put up with living in very cramped quarters in order to be able to work with books. And those were probably disproportionately a larger fraction of the folks working with SF than working with Literary Fiction. At least, those were the people I knew who started out in the 70s and 80s; and now they're a lot higher up the totem pole than they were then.

#51 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 10:42 AM:

This is the sort of silly-talk people get up to when they're talking to other members of their cult and don't much care if the muggles overhear them. The echo chamber is complete: puppies speak only to puppies and, crucially, hear only puppies. They say what it pleases them to say, hear what it pleases them to hear, and believe what it pleases them to believe.

What makes it interesting rather than merely sad is that it's still some days before we find out if these people are a functional majority of fandom. They might now be.

#52 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 10:43 AM:

Those captions are hilarious, Patrick. Hehehehe....

#53 ::: Devin Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 10:45 AM:

Huh, looks like *I'm* a member of the hereditary elite, in this crowd. Both my parents went to college - my mom has a Master's, even - and my maternal grandfather had an MBA. (The better to help with the family commercial empire, of course. Never mind that it was an empire of scrapyards in small-town central Michigan. It was an empire, dammit.) I actually have no idea about the paternal side of the family - Dad doesn't talk about it much, so I tend not to ask, but I wouldn't be too surprised to learn both grandparents had at least some college. I was always told it's because of the firm Jewish-immigrant belief in the necessity of education.

Me, of course, I finished high school and then became the Family Disappointment by running off and starting a career instead of going to college. (They're mostly over it by now, largely because I'm also the one to have a recognizably traditional relationship, a mortgage, and a 401k. As opposed to my little sister, who... well, ask me about it at barcon someday.)

#54 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 10:56 AM:

I've often felt unusual in that I'm the third generation in my family to get a graduate degree, much less any kind of college education. (Seriously, growing up it was "You will get a masters, dammit!")

My grandfather was a biology professor at Idaho State for most of his career. He got his PhD on the GI Bill after serving in the engine room of a converted carrier in the Pacific in WWII.

What was this about working with one's hands? Which category does he fall into again?

#55 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 11:10 AM:

Edmund Scweppe: I was young. I did have a Makita with a wire brush (and scared some poor bastard who saw me changing a battery, backlit by the sun, this was before battery drills were a common thing).

Thinking back: My mother's father was a bank teller; their house was victorian. He installed the plumbing I grew up with, in the 1950s (he'd promised my grandmother indoor plumbing before she had grandkids; so it wasn't later than 1958; which means my mother grew up with either chamber pots, or an outhouse; or both [Cleveland, by the lake]).

My dad's father was a pharmacist in Chicago. He once thought he'd lost a soda jerk when Dillinger blew out the windows of the shop. Kid was watching the robbery through the window. My grandfather was hiding behind the soda fountain. Kid had the sense to hit the deck when the cop shot at Dillinger, and so didn't get hit.

As to my "literary aspirations" My third stepfather (present seems wrong, but ignoring the others moreso, they've been married going on 32 years, so...) sold books. The summer I was 17 we bought a used bookstore; lock, stock, and barrel (honest, we got the keys, the books and changed the name from The Book Barrel).

It paid the bills, but oi! was it work. I went into journalism at not quite the worst time (1980s) which didn't pan out and here I am. Semi-retired from a (different) career of asking questions and teaching people.

So elite that other people told me what clothes to wear (down to the t-shirts).

#56 ::: Devin Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 11:13 AM:

Huh, and apparently Grandma Millie went to the University of Wisconsin, although it's not clear if she graduated. Internet searches for my legal surname are complicated by hits of the extinct German barony of the same name on which estate we were apparently peasants.

#57 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 11:24 AM:

In my mother's father's line I'm either the fourth or fifth generation with not just a college degree, but an advanced degree (depending on whether medical school was an advanced degree in the Netherlands at that time; I'm not actually sure about that.) On my father's side I'm only sure of 2 generations of advanced degrees, though more wouldn't surprise me.

And there is NOTHING wrong with that.

I come from a family that values scholarship and the hard work, dedication and intelligence necessary to get it. I'm proud of my family's educational tradition, and when I see people holding it up for derision I know how to value their opinions.

I don't have a problem with Puppies not being educated (if in fact they *aren't* educated, which seems unlikely in a few notable cases.) I have a problem with Puppies being jerks, which is entirely independent of education.

#58 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 11:36 AM:

I guess I'm a bit of a snob. I'm sure many of the Puppies have degrees, but I would be surprised if they were what I consider educated.

#59 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 11:37 AM:

Steven desJardins... Rimshot!

#60 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 11:46 AM:

My main objection is the way the Puppies frame those people they consider 'other' (whether 'educated' or otherwise alien) people to be innately, by default, insincere.

As if nobody but your closest circle of friends needs to be viewed as anything but a pathological liar.

#61 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 11:58 AM:

Hoyt really hates those strawmen! Hates em right to death. Knows their minds and their history and is gonna expose them for the treacherous fire-hazards they are. And she's gonna overthrow the straw-establishment and burn their straw-academy right to the ground.

Torgersen, in comments, is right there with her:

liberals believe the purpose of government is to perfect the human condition.

Nothing but strawmen as far as the eye can see - except for the platoon of brave torch-weilding freedom fighters; they're gonna rid the Scene of these infernal strawmen once and for all. Just You Wait. Freedom.

#62 ::: sherwood Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 12:16 PM:

Along with her ignorant and mean-spirited persiflage, Sarah Hoyt reveals how very little she knows about the French court of 1780.

#63 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 12:17 PM:

The other interesting assumption is that professional class = college degree. I have several counter-examples from my grandparents' generation.

My paternal grandfather was a lawyer. He didn't go to law school; as far as I know, he didn't even go to college. Instead, he read law (clerked) with a highly respected judge, and then that judge and a couple of others got together and proclaimed him a lawyer.

My great-uncle (paternal grandmother's brother) was a dentist. He went to a 2-year college and then dental school. No big fancy 4-year university, or big fancy med school required.

My maternal grandmother was a teacher. She did not go to a college, instead graduating from a teacher course in a state normal school (Indiana, I believe).

Mind you, none of these relatives got rich and famous (although my grandfather had a long political career). But they all plied their respective trades as professionals. Every last one of them, I should add, came from a farming family, and the farming continued well after the professions were begun.

And for extra data of whatever sort: I have a Ph.D, but have done any number of jobs, admittedly mostly around my college years, that involved light manual labor or a lot of standing about: grocery checker, restaurant hostess, running a paint department in a large hardware store, chip testing, and board testing. These last two led to interesting situations: being the only engineer on a chip tester design project who'd actually used one of the things in anger, and being the only board tester ever to have previously worked with the software used to design the boards.)

#64 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 12:40 PM:

And to Torgersen's piece of stupidity I offer the words of one of our best Presidents, FDR:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first isfreedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.

Yes, Mr. Torgersen -- the goal of every compassionate individual IS "to perfect the human condtion." It is especially the goal of every person who is truly Christian, if you don't believe me, go read the book of Matthew.

#65 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 12:50 PM:

Hoyt's post is very strong evidence in favor of "write what you know". It starts out interesting, if somewhat rambling, covering a great deal of detailed information about her background, ancestry, and childhood, all leading up to the idea that "privilege is complicated", which she somehow transform into "... and therefore doesn't exist".

There's some weird incongruity where she seems to suggest that poor people are poor solely because of their character flaws or culture, and then that poor people are fierce and strong and just as smart as any intellectual elite. Eventually, I realized that she was dividing poor people into two groups, those she didn't identify with, and those she did.

I found it fascinating that she described herself and her background as complex and complicated, but the people she's opposed to are so incredibly one-dimensional. Everything's bad about them (elitist! Marxist! Ivy League! condescending!), but there's no detail, no sense that there are any real 3D villains behind the cardboard cutouts.

Also, Patrick, I'd love to read your post about untrue things people believe about ancestry!

#66 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 12:53 PM:

Carrie V @ 54... Elitist! You are not of the Body! (Insert the Donald Sutherland scream)

#67 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 01:10 PM:

#42...

my father's mother's maiden name was "Borden". that's the same Border as in Lizzie Borden and as in Borden's Condensed Milk. and that side of the family has always been very proud, in a mischievous way, about the former; and a bit bored about the second.

a couple of years ago i did the research to verify these claims. and they're both true!

but, Lizzie is my 7th cousin, twice removed. and out closest common ancestor was born while Shakespeare was alive. so, we're really not related at all. and the milk guy is my 5th cousin 4x removed. so, no real relation either.

Winston Churchill also turns up in the Borden family tree. i think he'd be my 9th cousin. so, if i did the math right, out of 512 different people contributing to my DNA, i share one with Winston Churchill ? sweet!

#68 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 01:31 PM:

ajay @ #49: "Rootless cosmopolitan" ≡ "Jew", at least in old Soviet parlance, where it originated.

My parents were the first in their families to get college degrees (CCNY, Hunter). My father's German-Jewish (on both sides) family came to the US in the 1840s; my mother's parents were Russian Jews who immigrated in the late 1890s in their late teens and spoke no English on their arrival.

Marcia's grandparents were Russian Catholics and Pennsylvania Germans; her illiterate Russian grandparents had seven children, only one of whom went to (teacher's) college, the rest being miners or common laborers. Her mother threw her father out when Marcia was three, and I don't know whether any of his family ever went to college, but I doubt it.

This is still a young country. If you're not descended from (say)a Saltonstall, a Biddle, or a Custis, you may well not have a long collegiate pedigree. But we all have to come from somewhere

#69 ::: Diane Duane ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 02:15 PM:

How far down this continuum must one be located to make sure one isn't somehow accidentally reckoned elite? Is it safe to be an abandoned child of unknown parentage* who actually spent the first two weeks of her life in a foundling hospital? (Regardless of this I'd be half afraid of being accused of being "elite" anyway, as if you put something like that in a book these days it might possibly be assumed that you'd been left on the doorstep in the wee hours by somebody who looked a lot like Ronnie Coltrane with big hair.)

...Adoptive father was an injured Korean War vet and "electrical engineer" (i.e. "wiring guy") for Republic Aviation out on Long Island. Adoptive mom was a homemaker. Adoptive grandparents were farmers, shopkeepers or manual laborers. No college education anywhere in sight. Earlier adoptive family was (on Dad's side) several generations of Irish-Americans and Irish immigrants. (Rumors of direct descent from the first Mayor of New York turn out to have been erroneous: there's a connection but it's distant -- my people were poor farming cousins.) On Mom's side are a crowd of German and (earlier) Swiss immigrants, pretty much all metalworkers and stonemasons, who came straggling up the Rhine between the 1500s and 1800s, hung a left at Hamburg and emigrated to the US -- mostly to Philadelphia and NY, where they apparently did a lot of work on churches and public buildings.

Myself, did one year of college (astrophysics) and graduated from nursing school, a three-year program -- these were the days before Bachelors programs in nursing became de rigueur. That and a whole lot of reading of SF and fantasy was enough to get me two Campbell nominations back to back. A girlhood crush on a TV series (and Leonard Nimoy, but that's neither here nor there) eventually got me on the New York Times list multiple times. And (writing for) Scooby-Doo helped finance the initial volume of the Young Wizards series.

More than this, deponent saith not. Except that I am _nobody's_ fecking elite.

*Thanks to NY state adoption law, which means the pertinent records remained sealed.

#70 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 02:25 PM:

Patrick @42, "I keep meaning to write more about this stuff. I realize that in many sensible people's minds an interest in genealogy, both one's own and the subject in general, is associated with a kind of aspirational fawning over coats of arms and aristocratic titles. For me it does the exact opposite--it demonstrates over and over again the contingent, political, and arbitrary nature of privilege, and the close connectedness of people who pretend and behave as if no such connection exists. It's also one of the secret keys of history, as some historians are beginning to realize."

that is lovely - please do write that 'more'.. even if you do have to skip the seminars on the minor Jacobeans..

One of the first mathematical puzzles to fascinate me was this question of ancestors, and just how many forefathers and mothers are necessary to each of us. Exponents are wonderful things.

My mother used the Mormon records to trace our descent from one of the bit players in the scrap of Danish history filmed as A Royal Affair. Genealogy on the internet has made it apparent that a substantial fraction of S. Africa is also descended from that Danish admiral.. he didn't have a degree though.

Lori @64 - exactly so, thank you.

#71 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 02:55 PM:

The other bizarre thing about the latest Hoyt/Torgerson bullshit is that once again they are taking such an incredibly Stalinist tack in tone and style of argument. After all, this line of discussion basically amounts to "Down with the sneering educated of the bourgeoisie! Long live the proletariat!" Next they'll be calling you class traitors. This is what they claim to be conservatism?

#72 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 03:03 PM:

cleek@67:

Lizzie Borden is my fifth cousin three times removed; my great-great grandmother was a Borden (a branch of the family was a Settler family in Nova Scotia).

This also makes you a relative of Robert Borden, the Prime Minister of Canada during the First World War.

My paternal grandfather came from an old Annapolis Valley family, and most of his ancestors were Settler families originally from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. This includes a number of relatively prominent families: Brewsters, Clarks, Bordens, Rands, Kelloggs, and the like -- all of whom were certainly farmers by the time they moved up here. (Pretty prominent farmers, but farmers nevertheless.)

#73 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 03:04 PM:

I too would like to hear your thoughts about "untrue things people believe about ancestry"!

#74 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 03:10 PM:

PNH #46: Sounds like an interesting book. Thanks.

#75 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 03:14 PM:

Okay, on my mother's side I've got Mayflower types, and after many generations of farmers, my grandfather made it into the top 10% as the town pharmacist in his small Nebraska town. My grandmother went to finishing school "back east." On the other hand, my grandmother then became a teacher at a territory school, and when she and my grandfather divorced, she took a course in apartment management and supported herself and her two kids by managing a string of LA apartments--about the only sort of job a married woman in 1930s LA could get. So on one hand, I've got elevated folks in my background, for sure. (Although I am the first one in my line to graduate from a four year college).

On my Dad's side, I'm straight off the late-1800's boat from Russia. Peasant Jewish stock, turned laborers and then merchants (my grandfather had a candy and soda shop in Brooklyn). Very DAR. Me, I like to think that Sarah Hoyt's forebears might have scorned speaking to mine.

#76 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 03:22 PM:

My paternal grandparents were Canadian farmers (part of the Ukrainian/Galician/Polish settlement of the Great Plains), and my father's generation went to college, first of their line. Not quite as sure about my mother's parents (Grandpa taught history and ran a cannery, Grandma was office manager in a fruit-packing company.)

Would also be interested in hearing more about the oddities of New England and the myths of ancestry.

#77 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 03:56 PM:

As far as I can tell, both sides of my family did college-style things in the last two or three generations; further back than that it's not clear what education people had, just what people were doing when they hit the US. There were cabinet-makers on one side, and (so I'm told) actual French nobility on the other side, and none of that had a whole lot to do with the professions of my grandparents (owner of a natural gas company, journalist) that I can tell. Then my parents went off and became missionaries, which required a B.A. for my father; my mother finished hers the same year my older sister did.

I'm not sure where 'missionaries' falls in the Sad Puppy ranking of acceptable family backgrounds. Most of them had college degrees, and in the missionary community where I grew up, it was expected that every single child would go on to college. Does that make my parents the anti-religious Marxist wealthy elite again? Not sure! I do know that the most respected and admired missionaries in my social circle were the ones working for Wycliffe, who were expected to do original language research in near-isolation under extremely low-tech conditions for years at a time. Highly educated and working with their hands, those folks. Meanwhile, my super-elite college-educated father was spending a lot of days loading airplane cargo in 100-degree weather.

Me, I'm in academia. I melt in sunlight, and have never worked a physically intensive job in my life. So it goes. Maybe I should take up editing!

#78 ::: Annie Y ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 04:18 PM:

Can someone please inform her (and everyone that seem to like her blog and so on) that it is 2015 and things can be checked in internet within 5 minutes or less? I almost feel like I fell through a rabbit hole back in my childhood days (Eastern Europe, 1980s -- fact checking was not just not mandatory but frowned upon when a point had to be made)...

Alternatively she had been reading literary journals and somehow decided that the authors and editors are the same as in the SF (as in Speculative Fiction) field. In that case - can someone please send her an SF encyclopaedia and a few copies of a SF magazine? Maybe she has no idea what SF is...

And of course there is the third option that she just expect people to trust her based on reasons and not to verify information. Which... see the first paragraph.

#79 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 04:21 PM:

I'm going to try and be "nuanced" here, (and at some point I might talk about my own ancestry, but since I'm neither a published writer or an editor I'll let that one go for now...) Actually, I started out trying to be nuanced and discovered that I'd written a very cranky rant. With a nuance or two for those who enjoy such things.

I've had a couple experiences with science-fiction recently that gave the Puppies a little more credibility than they previously had. More specifically, I just finished reading two recent novels; Seveneves by Stephenson and Bowl of Heaven by Niven and Benford. Both novels were, to put it bluntly, gormless. Or to be a little more blunt, they lacked balls. Or ovaries - take your pick of whatever metaphor you'd prefer.

Both books had so many weaknesses... warmed over plotlines, (the non-technical US President screws over the engineers - I nearly cried!) warmed over technology ("Let's put the aliens in a cross between a ringworld and a Dyson sphere." "Great!") and the sheer forgettable-ness of the characters - don't get me started. Just don't. Nobody I loved. Nobody I could even really hate that much. Certainly nobody I'll remember a year from now.

I actually went back and reread Seveneves a second time, just to see if I'd missed something brilliant, but no. Didn't happen. It was like Stephenson was trying to write the first episode of a TV mini-series or something. Starring Sting.

These two books are purely, totally, completely lacking in gorm. Gormless. Useless.

I happen to think that the field needs to be critiqued.* Maybe even purged. (Now I've revealed my ebil Mark-zist plot! Cool, huh?) Right now the field needs heroes. It needs giants. It needs a half-dozen amazing bastard geniuses running around kicking the Nivens, Benfords, and Stephensons (and their editors and agents too!) right in the the goddamn nuts.**

And what do we get when the field needs a few rampaging giants? When the whole world of science-fiction would benefit endlessly from a rampaging messiah overturning the money-changers tables and blowing up fig trees?

We get Puppies. Sad Puppies.

Sad Puppies who weep endlessly about Marxists pissing in the pool and fail to notice that the high level of chlorination has killed all life of any kind. Sad Puppies who imagine that the field's complete lack of gorm is caused by editors with too many ancestors who've been to college... it's as if the puppies have decided that the field has cancer, so thinking quickly, they summoned a cardiologist!***

No!

The (blind) puppies definitely noticed the elephant in the room, but unfortunately they felt the little tuft of hair at the end of the tail and decided those hairs belonged to Stalin's moustache!

No! Just fucking no. Absolutely, completely, fucking not! When I watch the Puppies trying to communicate about the problems with science fiction it's a little like watching someone who dropped some bad acid as they point at their own head and scream.

Just fucking no.

But annoying as they are, as clueless as they are... maybe they're not the disease. Maybe they're the symptom. Maybe science fiction has caught a bad case of Puppies because our immune systems are compromised and books like Seveneves and Bowl of Heaven are growing inside us!

It's just a thought of course, generated as I try to deal with the distractions of a very, very bad day, but hopefully worth considering as those of us with time and money**** head to Sasquan.


* Charlie, maybe Sister Stratagems the Seventh needs to walk among us. Can you arrange for her stalk the world of science-fiction publishing for us? Please!

** Just in case anyone is rhetoric-challenged, please note that I am not actually advocating violence towards any editors, agents or authors.

*** Did I mention that the cardiologist is a racist, misogynist asshole who's completely lacking in social skills?

**** Unfortunately, I have neither!

#80 ::: kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 04:22 PM:

oh my, the wrongness of that person's post.

I come from a background of college education that resembles her description...but I think she loses the point of that tradition. College is _for_ autodidacts, to make being an autodidact easier. The idea was you would live in the place that had all the books, read all the books, and when the members agreed that you had read all the books, they would honor you and welcome you as someone who READ ALL THINGS(!). This became more difficult in the Renaissance, but the general idea lingers.

The point of an editor, is that they are exactly that sort of person: someone who reads ALL the things. And then decides if they are good. Very meritocratic. Almost ideally so, a veritable libertarian paradise of hard work paying off.

What do you bet, that something that was from her team didn't get a good judgement? (Fan awards are the worst, you know, if an editor pans your book, it could be because they can't sell it, not because it's bad. But if fans pan your book...)

#81 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 04:42 PM:

PNH #46 - you'll have heard of George Starkey then? The roots of alchemical study and knowledge run surprisingly deep in many places.

#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 05:06 PM:

46
Connections turn up. My niece's adoptive grandfather has a tree that goes through Dennison Root, who was a brother-in-law of Joseph Smith. (I haven't been able to trace that line back. AFAICT, Dennison wasn't a Mormon.)

#83 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 05:27 PM:

I had reason to quote this on a different thread about a month ago. In that case, the context was delusional glorification of one's ancestors. In this case, the context is the contrasting delusion of claiming that one's grandparents were the Four Yorkshiremen.

In both cases, it is worth remembering that ""every man has had countless thousands of ancestors and progenitors, among whom have been in any instance rich and poor, kings and slaves, barbarians and Greeks..

Socrates describes the philosopher's reaction to claims of noble ancestry:

"And when people sing the praises of lineage and say someone is of noble birth, because he can show seven wealthy ancestors, he thinks that such praises betray an altogether dull and narrow vision on the part of those who utter them; because of lack of education they cannot keep their eyes fixed upon the whole and are unable to calculate that every man has had countless thousands of ancestors and progenitors, among whom have been in any instance rich and poor, kings and slaves, barbarians and Greeks. And when people pride themselves on a list of twenty-five ancestors and trace their pedigree back to Heracles, the son of Amphitryon, the pettiness of their ideas seems absurd to him; he laughs at them because they cannot free their silly minds of vanity by calculating that Amphitryon's twenty-fifth ancestor was such as fortune happened to make him, and the fiftieth for that matter."

Theaetetus 174-175

#84 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 06:05 PM:

Guthrie, #81: If you mean George Starkey, the subject of Gehennical Fire: The Lives of George Starkey, An American Alchemist in the Scientific Revolution, by William R. Newman (University of Chicago Press, 2003), yes.

P J Evans, I've seen you on soc.genealogy.medieval, so I believe you.

#85 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 06:06 PM:

Oldster: That Socrates, he knew a thing or two.

#86 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 06:16 PM:

Patrick #84 - cool, I was just checking.

On ancestors, I do recall meeting someone at a friend's wedding who was enthusiastic about being descended from James IV of Scotland, as in, would tell you about it after a few minutes conversation. I wasn't that impressed, since as has been noted above, everyone has lots of ancestors, and likely many thousand of people are also descended from him.

#87 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 06:34 PM:

The name of Lizzie Borden keeps turning up. TNH has her own tenuous connection with her. I quote the publisher's promotional copy for Killed Strangely: The Death of Rebecca Cornell by Elaine Forman Crane:

On a winter's evening in 1673, tragedy descended on the respectable Rhode Island household of Thomas Cornell. His 73-year-old mother, Rebecca, was found close to her bedroom's large fireplace, dead and badly burned. The legal owner of the Cornells' hundred acres along Narragansett Bay, Rebecca shared her home with Thomas and his family, a servant, and a lodger. A coroner's panel initially declared her death "an Unhappie Accident," but before summer arrived, a dark web of events -- rumors of domestic abuse, allusions to witchcraft, even the testimony of Rebecca's ghost through her brother -- resulted in Thomas's trial for matricide.
Thomas Cornell was in fact convicted and hung, in a trial that, twenty years before the Salem witchcraft insanity, relied on "spectral evidence," i.e., people testifying about things they saw in their dreams.

Teresa is descended from John Briggs (1609-1690) and his wife Sarah Cornell (d. 1661). Sarah Cornell was almost certainly the sister of Thomas Cornell, Sr., the deceased husband of the elderly Rebecca Cornell who burned to death. Rebecca Cornell's maiden name was Briggs; sources differ as to whether she was a full sibling to John Briggs, a half-sibling, or merely a sibling-in-law. What history records with certainty is that John Briggs was one of those who gave "spectral testimony" in the trial of Thomas Cornell, Jr.: "He had a dream and saw a woman at his bedside, 'whereas he was much affrighted and cryed out, in the name of God, what are thou?' The apparition answered, I am your sister Cornell, and twice said, see how I was burnt with fire.' Because of this testimony which was based on a dream, Thomas Cornell was found guilty of the murder of his [mother] and was executed."

Thomas Cornell's wife was pregnant when he was hung. When their daughter was born, she named her Innocence.

Among the descendants of the Cornells were Ezra Cornell, founder of Western Union and co-founder of Cornell University.

Innocence Cornell married Richard Borden (b. 1671). After six generations their most notable descendant was born: Lizzie Andrew Borden.

Killed Strangely: The Death of Rebecca Cornell by Elaine Forman Crane was published in 2002 by, of course, Cornell University Press.

#88 ::: mimi ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 07:30 PM:

I tried to read her post and gave up. I tried to read Brad Torgersen's comment on the file 770 post and gave up.

Then again, I am clearly one of the Marxist elite despite not being an editor: I'm a lawyer (who writes a reasonable amount and helps edit other legal writing). My parents both have graduate degrees (dad's a doctor, mom has a teaching degree), my mother's father and uncle were both doctors, and most of the (male) ancestors who didn't go to college were, at least once they came to the US in the late 19th century, merchants of some sort or another. I myself have two graduate degrees, one of them from an Ivy, so I'm obviously one of those overeducated liberals.

But Karl Marx is actually my first cousin, a number of times removed - his mother and my great-something-grandmother were sisters - so I'd be damned anyway. Which means I might as well go ahead and continue to avoid all things Sad Puppy.

#89 ::: 'As You Know' Bob ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 08:42 PM:

One of the many hilarious aspects of all this is that "We must carefully consider the class origins of our opponents' grandparents" is how Mao's Red Guard would have approached this sort of conflict.

Hoyt might as well be the "Marxist" here...

#90 ::: Aaron ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 10:27 PM:

It seems that Torgersen has thoughts about the purpose of government:

"I have thought this: if conservatives believe the purpose of government is to preserve liberty, liberals believe the purpose of government is to perfect the human condition."

This thinking puts him at odds with some other people, namely the framers of the U.S. Constitution. They thought the purpose of government was:

. . . to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity . . .

Someone may need to tell Torgersen that as a member of the U.S. armed services he's pledged to uphold and defend a document that has those icky "perfect the human condition" ideals tacked alongside its protection of liberty.

#91 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 10:35 PM:

Ooog. Just glanced over at File 770, and apparently Sarah Hoyt wrote "I found this out in sincere arguments with agents while looking for one between my third and fourth. They all wanted me to write literary sf — because I CAN do it — because it would win awards and increase THEIR prestige (and make me slit my wrists in a warm bath if I had to write much more of it. It was no fun.) But they all candidly informed me that it sold almost nothing and so I should try to get a job teaching or write for literary journals or something."

I—how to put this?—find the allegation that multiple agents felt that they could increase their prestige by advising clients to sell fewer copies to be every bit as credible as her factual statements about class snobbery in the publishing world.

#92 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 10:39 PM:

#79 ::: Alex R.

This may not be the thread for it, but I do think there are some virtues of the good old stuff which aren't exactly common these days. One virtue is concision. The old stuff (at least the best) moved fast. Three Hearts and Three Lions had a lot going on in each chapter-- I felt as though an average modern author would have puffed each chapter up into a novel, maybe a trilogy.

There was also a sort of playful inventiveness which I find hard to define, but I'm not seeing it as much. It's possible that I'm jaded rather than the field changing.

Elizabeth Bear's In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns strikes me as a good old stuff kind of story.

#93 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 10:49 PM:

Innocence Cornell's son Samuel Borden was the chief surveyor sent up from Massachusetts to survey the newly acquired Acadian lands in the new colony of Nova Scotia. His son Perry accompanied him and managed to get some very favourable land indeed from the grants being made to the Planters.

It's from Perry that the Canadian branch of the family is descended.

#94 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 11:02 PM:

91
I get the feeling that the agents felt she was the problem. On the lines of 'if one person says it, it's them; if three or four people say it, it's you'.)

#95 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 11:24 PM:

Me: college dropout, sophomore year (autodidact, as many editors are)

My brother: college grad, bachelor's

My father: college grad, bachelor's

My mother: left school months before she would have graduated, because she got married and that's what women did back then.

My grandparents had one college degree among the four of them (two born in the US, two in Europe). That was my maternal grandfather, who studied to be a chemist but couldn't get a job because of quotas, so became a science teacher. The other three? Both my grandmothers finished high school. My other grandfather never would say what sort of formal education he'd had, so I suspect there wasn't much.

Our US employment history:
Mom's mother's family owned a dairy farm and later, a garage. My grandmother was a stay-at-home mother...and also helped her husband (the teacher) run sleepaway camps (and later, day camps) during the summers. (After my grandfather retired, the two of them took senior tours to Italy and other places in Europe.)

Dad's mother's family owned a boarding house (my grandparents met when he came to stay). One of the uncles owned a restaurant/nightclub and may have been peripherally attached to the Jewish mob.

My grandfather owned and operated an appetizing store in the Jewish theater district. My father made pickles and pickled herring in the basement. My grandmother ran the cash register. Later, my grandfather ran a liquor store which he co-owned with a friend/silent partner.

My father worked in theater, doing just about everything from building sets to acting to directing, in college and in summer stock, and might well have tried to make a career of it if he hadn't wound up in Korea during the war. After that, he went into public relations and advertising for consumer electronics.

My mother was a secretary. After she retired, she taught adult literacy classes and was a volunteer in a local elementary school (which she is still doing, in her early 80s).

Dad was out of work for several years when I was in my mid-teens. Mom was working, thankfully, but the family's savings gradually disappeared and dad had to go to his parents for help.

I did typical "girl" work--babysitting when I was younger, then camp counselor, then supermarket cashier (I wanted to stock shelves but in the 1970s "girls didn't do that"). Then I did office temp work before starting in publishing.

The areas in which I might be marked elite are that I grew up in NYC, which exposed me to a lot (though many NYers are very parochial in their own ways), and my mother's family and my parents thought art and live performance were important, so dragged us to museums, music, dance, and theater starting when we were pretty young.

Before we came to the US? Peasants in Russia. Working class in Hungary. My paternal grandfather said little about his childhood in Austria other than to say he ran away from his home village because "they" were coming to conscript the young Jewish men for WWII, regardless of their actual age. He worked in Spain and Mexico in the oil business (he never said in what capacity) before coming to the US in his 20s.

#96 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 12:42 AM:

This may not be the thread for it, but I do think there are some virtues of the good old stuff which aren't exactly common these days.

I'm not sure it's about "new stuff" vs. "old stuff." I've also read some really, really good new stuff, and also some recent stuff that while it wasn't exactly "good" broke new ground, at least for me. I just haven't read much in the last six months that woke up my sense-a-wunda while also checking the "prose," "plot," and "characterization" boxes.

I think the big take-a-way from my post above is the question of whether the Puppies are the problem in and of themselves, or whether they are symptomatic of a larger problem within the genre, something like the "identified patient" in a family with multiple severe dysfunctions.

Eric Raymond's musing on "Literary Status Envy" might be worth reading in this context, minus his complaints about SJWs and Socialists.

I should also note that had I been an acquiring editor confronted with either Bowl of Heaven by two giants of the field, or the latest Stephenson, I would certainly have bought either book. I get that publishing is a business and I'm not remotely stupid - acquiring those books is the only thing anyone could have done under the current rules of the game... but should I ever meet a Tor editor in person I'd challenge that individual to have a couple bottles/bowls of their favorite intoxicant, then look me in the eye and tell me they loved, Loved, LOVED Bowl of Heaven.

And I think this is the context, or maybe the deep background of the current conflict with the Puppies.

#97 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 12:45 AM:

I've been told often enough that books I love are so fundamentally unlovable that anyone who claims otherwise is merely saying so for some sort of nebulous cred that I have very little patience for an argument of that sort with any book. I met a man who gained a love of reading and a desire to learn writing from reading Twilight; whatever I think of that book, I wouldn't question the sincerity of his appreciation for it.

And frankly that's the most polite thing I can say about that line of argument at this time.

#98 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 01:22 AM:

Alex R @96: Eric Raymond's musing on "Literary Status Envy" might be worth reading in this context, minus his complaints about SJWs and Socialists.

Sorry, no. I just looked over the first link Google suggested to me, which looks like Raymond’s first musings on the topic, and didn’t see a single paragraph therein that didn’t reek of bullshit. Any who starts out claiming that Patrick, Teresa, and John Scalzi want to “purge SF of authors who are reactionary, racist, sexist” and are “frightened of and hostile to indie publishing” is doing us all the favor of establishing early that he has no idea what he’s talking about.

#99 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 01:34 AM:

oldster #83

*applause* Thank you for that. Discussions of ancestry make me break out in hives, and that quote is a perfect justification of my gut reaction.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden #40

Please, if you would be so kind, I'm plenty crazy. Certified and medicated. It hasn't made me into someone like Hoyt. Yet. And hopefully never.

#100 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 01:49 AM:

Dosage of self-congratulatory smuggery, perhaps. It's a potent drug.

As for me, my mother had most of a library science degree, my father was Navy back when that meant "Not 4-F? Welcome to the war," and as far as I know my grandparents may not even have had a complete set of high school diplomas. Maybe that's why I'm just a fanfic-dabbling wannabe with some liberal arts credits and a couple of AAs.

Or maybe life is more complicated than that...

#101 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 02:36 AM:

...didn’t see a single paragraph therein that didn’t reek of bullshit. Any who starts out claiming that Patrick, Teresa, and John Scalzi want to “purge SF of authors who...

Once you get past the complaints of how John Scalzi is polluting Raymond's "precious bodily fluids," Raymond has one sane point. He argues that as people come out of college (particularly college literature programs) and into the SF field, they bring with them some measure of academia's contempt for science fiction. As a result, these authors are less-than-competent at the traditional Science-Fictional skills of world-building, scientific and technical extrapolation, scientific and technical description, and the general capacity to convey a "sensawunda."

IIRC, Raymond also argued that these new authors don't know the field and are prone to errors which a better knowledge of Science Fiction's history would have insulated them against.

I'm not sure I agree completely - some of the more literate science fiction is a joy to read - but right now I believe that the field is a little moribund, and if we want to discuss the issue intelligently, we need to engage with people who bring a different point of view.

Does this mean that I agree with Sarah Hoyt's ridiculous ideas about Marxist editors being the children of multiple generations of college graduates? Or that I imagine John Scalzi as the author of all the field's ills? Of course not. Sarah, Brad, Larry, and Eric Raymond are about 95% nuts; delusional, ideological, and prone to the worst kind of Right-Wing assholism.

But I'm also beginning to think that the thing they're reacting against is real in some sense. We don't have to take their rantings seriously - as I've said before, these people are batshit nuts - but we might want to look at the thing they're pointing at as they scream incoherently. Just in case.

As I said before, what I'm thinking about here is the deeper background of the Puppies and their complaints. Why is the field blowing itself apart at this point in time? Why is it vulnerable to being blown apart? Certainly racism and privilege are involved, but I think the field is also stuck in a muddy rut and we might want to do something about it.

#102 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 03:26 AM:

Alex R @101, nah, that part’s bullshit too. Raymond’s recycling an old story that SF fans like to tell themselves, about how academia hates SF, but it’s decades out of date. There were genre literature classes at the college I went to 30 years ago; I imagine they can only be more common today. I know people doing formal postgrad academic study of comic books, which is the sort of thing that was once used in an SF story I read as a kid as a signifier of cultural decay.

What Raymond is stumbling over is a division CS Lewis wrote about in his 1961 book An Experiment in Criticism: The world of readers is divided into a small group who enjoy the actual act of reading (which includes paying attention to the words in front of them), and a larger group that reads as a way of imbibing stories. That’s still true today, but has nothing to do with “literary status envy.” Writers who take care with their prose don’t do so because they envy Thomas Pynchon; they do it because they care about the writing.

#103 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 03:56 AM:

The field isn't blowing apart, the field is changing, as it always has. The "blowing apart" is a small group of loudmouth no-longer-young punks who think that privileged old fogies like Patrick should get off their lawn and stop letting all the younger kids get girl cooties and literariness all over their science fiction.* And the Internet lets loudmouths be really loud, and the Hugo Award rules weren't designed for resistance to targeted attacks.

(*Ok, only Correia and Torgersen are nearly young enough to be Patrick and Teresa's kids; Beale and Hoyt are a bit older, and ESR's about the same age as we are.)

The Puppies want Science Fiction and/or Fantasy to be as much fun as it was when they were 13, reading adventure stories with no depth to them, and at that age they obviously hadn't discovered The New Wave of the early 60s, or probably Tolkien, or the "Tree-Hugging Hippie Mystical Drug-Trip Stuff" movements of the 70s, or the Depressing We're-All-Gonna-Die nuclear paranoia years, and ok, they'd probably liked Cyberpunk, but when Urban Fantasy came around it was for girls, and they'd probably skipped over the Star Trek episodes that were trying to do social commentary in favor of ones where they were fighting Klingons (ok, not all that bad a choice), and they might have liked Scalzi's "Old Man's War" series if they didn't know who Scalzi was by then, but then he had to go write "Redshirts" which turned from early pages they liked into stuff they didn't understand at all and it won?

And Wikipedia says that Sarah Hoyt has a master's degree in literature, so it must be true.

#104 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 07:20 AM:

Alex R @101:

... but we might want to look at the thing they're pointing at as they scream incoherently.

The irony is that what you, personally, seem to be complaining about is what the puppies mostly like, as far as I can tell. In particular, when you rail against the recent Benford/Niven novel... isn't that mostly the kind of thing they want more of? (Especially given that both Benford and Niven are politically conservative.)

It's a bit hard to understand what it is that you're concerned about, other than "I read a couple of novels by some older writers recently, and they were disappointing."


(Also, can I gently point out that "gormless" doesn't actually mean lacking in "balls" -- or guts, daring, chutzpah, whatever you intended? It means something like "foolish" or "stupid".)

#105 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 07:27 AM:

Insert long list of Culture ship names here, substituting "Gorm" for "Gravitas".

#106 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 07:37 AM:

I've known and liked Niven's books for a long time. His extreme conservatism hasn't stopped me from buying them, even when I was annoyed by (say) his representations of Vonnegut and J. Robert Oppenheimer, or his caricaturing of environmentalism. The man could write. Sadly, he seems to have given up, if Bowl of Heaven is any indication; it's perfectly dreadful dreck.

#107 ::: Rail ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 07:38 AM:

Avram @102: Academia vs SF is dying, but it's not nearly dead yet. I was talking to a college kid as recently as three years ago who was going through all the hassle of switching schools because the creative writing program they fought to get into turned out to hate SF/F with the heat of a thousand suns.

Fortunately, there are now programs that they can transfer to.

#108 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 08:25 AM:

Elliott Mason #60: My main objection is the way the Puppies frame those people they consider 'other' (whether 'educated' or otherwise alien) people to be innately, by default, insincere.

Unfortunately, this goes all the way back to tribalism (and the Prisoner's Dilemma). More recently, "see also" historical doubts as to whether Jews, much less atheists, could make a valid oath for public office, because they would/could not swear by Jesus Chr*st.

#109 ::: jane yolen ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 08:53 AM:

No one in my father's family went to college except for my father who went one year to Alabama. (No idea why he went there since he was from Connecticut.) His father had been a kerosene merchant in a Ukraine shtel, his mother was (unlikely as it seems) both literate and nummerate.

My father became a journalist, was on New Haven Register police beat when they found the body of Ruth Judd (I think) in pieces in a trunk. Said he couldn't get the stink out of his one suit and had to use up a month's pay to buy another.

On the other hand, my mother's parents, both immigrants, ran a general store in Newport News Va and all six of their children went to college. My mother had a Masters in Social Work.

That puts me sort of on both sides of the scale.

#110 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 10:18 AM:

Bill Stewart @103 - Ayup. Half the time I think the outrage is that books aren't what they were when the reader was 13, and instead of wondering how the reader changed, well, it must be the books! And if you are already conspiracy minded, then it must be somebody's fault the books have changed! And then you just slot in whatever group you hate anyway. Them. They did it. They took the sensawunda and probably bankrolled the digital rerelease of Star Wars and got Firefly cancelled. Stop them at all costs!

I stayed up all night when I was 15 reading CS Friedman's THE MADNESS SEASON. And again when I was 19 reading SANDMAN. And again when I was 23 reading PERDIDO STREET STATION (and the very next night, reading THE SCAR.) And when I was 25 reading VURT. The older I get, though, the fewer books I will stay up all night reading, because I like sleep very much. I can think of two in the last few years, and one was an interactive novel game. But nobody took anything from me, I just got older and genre savvy and it was no one's fault, and I would be very foolish to wander the Internet looking for people to blame.

(Though if I hadn't started UPROOTED on a long plane flight, I would've been up all night with it.)

#111 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 10:24 AM:

102
One of my nephews is a PhD who does media studies - including games.

#112 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 10:35 AM:

If you all are looking for a book that's like Seveneves but with guts, try N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season. Sure, ok, it's fantasy -- but the science in it is more accurate and more expertly-handled than the science in most science fiction novels.

Also the world ends. So there's that.

#113 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 10:56 AM:

Rail @ 107: Academia vs SF is dying, but it's not nearly dead yet. I was talking to a college kid as recently as three years ago who was going through all the hassle of switching schools because the creative writing program they fought to get into turned out to hate SF/F with the heat of a thousand suns.

I'd like to add this caveat: creative writing programs are a thing unto themselves. Where I teach, none of the creative writing instructors writes SFF; only one of them even reads it, and that on the Vonnegut end of the spectrum. It's difficult for them to deal with students who want to write SFF, simply because it's a foreign field to them (the instructors, I mean). Some cope, because good writing is good writing, but some . . . don't, very well. And some know that their courses aren't a good fit for the students who want to write SFF, and advise said students to Go Elsewhere.

That's true about pretty much all creative writing programs, though--finding the right program is far more personal than might appear at first glance. And the status of SFF as literature, in Academia as a whole, is really not reflected all that well by just the various creative writing programs, in my opinion.

Which is a long way of saying, "Basically, I agree." Because basically, I do. It's just that the literature programs seem to have gotten over the "SFF is popular trash" attitude far more than a lot of SFF fans/writers seem to have done themselves . . .

#114 ::: Sarah E. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 11:18 AM:

jane yolen @ #109:
My father became a journalist, was on New Haven Register police beat when they found the body of Ruth Judd (I think) in pieces in a trunk.

OT, but iirc, Winnie Ruth Judd was the suspect, and the trunk contained the bodies of her two former roommates (also, I'm probably thinking of the wrong case, as that was Phoenix in 1931).

#115 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 11:53 AM:

I think there are two reasons (both obsolete) to suspect an elite university graduate of groupthink. The first is the idea of a literary canon, which has been replaced in most universities by much more freedom of choice in courses and works. This was a big theme in the 1960s and has had a brief backlash in the 1990s. So, no, the elite colleges are NOT teaching in lockstep, nor is every student reading the same works.

The other influence on thinking that might be common for elite graduates would be the importance of connections and "pedigree" in getting jobs, careers and other types of positions that result in your professional reputation. This has been less and less true over time. It's been replaced with luck, which doesn't mean that it is any more merit-based than before. There are a LOT more talented people than there are elite careers. That doesn't mean that any individual in an elite career hasn't worked hard. Luck has put them into the position where working hard benefits them as opposed to just spinning their wheels faster and faster.

Where I personally come from, I've had the education, but only some of the luck.

#116 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 12:02 PM:

Lady Kay wrote: The other influence on thinking that might be common for elite graduates would be the importance of connections and "pedigree" in getting jobs, careers and other types of positions that result in your professional reputation. This has been less and less true over time. It's been replaced with luck, which doesn't mean that it is any more merit-based than before. There are a LOT more talented people than there are elite careers. That doesn't mean that any individual in an elite career hasn't worked hard. Luck has put them into the position where working hard benefits them as opposed to just spinning their wheels faster and faster.

This is why I've volunteered for a new educational outreach committee at work, an effort that hopefully will widen the pool of applicants we see. It's too easy to keep going back to the same colleges and universities. Also, I want us to reach out on the high school level (at least in NYC to start). Like all committee things, it's taking a while to set up, but hopefully it won't be all talk and no action.

#117 ::: Rail ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 12:04 PM:

Mary Frances @113: Some cope, because good writing is good writing, but some . . . don't, very well. And some know that their courses aren't a good fit for the students who want to write SFF, and advise said students to Go Elsewhere.

And some, like the one this young woman was in, are downright abusive about it.

It's sort of a game of telephone. You have a story like this one, and by the time it's gone around the convention grapevine a time or two, it's accreted enough additional stories to become How Things Are.

It's just that the literature programs seem to have gotten over the "SFF is popular trash" attitude far more than a lot of SFF fans/writers seem to have done themselves . . .

Lois Bujold has occasionally talked (on the LMB listserve) about watching people write about her writing in real time. I get the impression that for the literature side, acceptance of SFF has as much to do with reaching a critical mass of publications to cite as anything else.

#118 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 12:07 PM:

#96 ::: Alex R.

I'm not saying there is no good new stuff, I'm saying the good old stuff had some specific virtues which are hard to find these days.

#101 ::: Alex R.

From my point of view, the problem isn't literary sf so much as the average stuff in the middle.

I do think sf has gotten more polished in recent decades. This isn't obviously a problem.

I'm not sure this is the problem, but I keep getting reminded of what Dianna Wynne Jones said about being freer to write whatever she wanted when children's and YA fiction wasn't taken seriously.

#102 ::: Avram

I wonder how Heinlein should be classified. There are certainly people who reread his books, and while I'm not sure he thought much about his prose, he did think a lot about how to structure his stories. (Sorry, no details, but I remember that there was somewhat on the subject in his letters.)

#103 ::: Bill Stewart

I'm reminded of the bit in The Screwtape Letters about the woman who just wants toast that's properly prepared-- but what she means is toast that she'd enjoy as much as she did when she was younger and less obsessed about food.

Still.... it seems to me that there's less science in science fiction, even though amazing things are being discovered. Where are the exoplanets? The dark matter?

#112 ::: Sarah

I've started The Fifth Season, and I'm looking forward to it a lot. There's a sense of spectacle, and a good bit of attitude, and snark which doesn't sound like everyone else's wiseass.

#119 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 12:31 PM:

Bill @103:

That sounds as though Raymond is an old fogy himself, unwilling or unable to see that college has changed since he was a student back in the 1970s.

#120 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 12:56 PM:

Alex R: Eric Raymond's musing on "Literary Status Envy" might be worth reading in this context, minus his complaints about SJWs and Socialists.

I tried to read some of his writing. The best I can say about it is that it's incoherent slop. Take this sentence: On the other hand, you have a faction that is broadly conservative or libertarian in its politics. Its members deny, mostly truthfully, being the bad things the Rabbits accuse them of

On the surface, and out of context, it' a perfectly functional sentence, save for his having never said what it is the "rabbits" accuse the Puppies of being. Nowhere in the essay does he say what the people he is defending are accused of, while making unsupported allegations about the people he doesn't like.

Moreover, he admits there are less than truthful aspects of the puppies defense of themselves, but that's it. No explanation what those dishonest parts are, what they mean, why we shouldn't think a willingness to deceive, in part, might call their claims, in whole, into question.

That's without the rampant question begging (e.g. All this might sound like I’m inclined to sign up with the Evil League of Evil. The temptation is certainly present; it’s where the more outspoken libertarians in SF tend to have landed.

It's gibberish. Full of jargon, unsubstantiated claims, circular reasoning, a priori arguments and foregone conclusions.

There may be a decent discussion to be had, about the various literary styles, etc, but assuming that SF has "deep norms" which preclude any other styles of writing from having merit, is almost exactly what Hoyt is arguing; it merely starts from a different point on the circle.

#121 ::: Dann ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 01:12 PM:

Her assertion is more logical than the assertion that everyone that disagrees with current trends in SFF is racist, homophobic, sexist, demon-spawn...etc., etc.

Think about that one for a minute. Math geeks won't need that long.

As I am frequently reminded....the world, she ain't binary.

B/R

#122 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 01:14 PM:

Alex R: Once you get past the complaints of how John Scalzi is polluting Raymond's "precious bodily fluids," Raymond has one sane point. He argues that as people come out of college (particularly college literature programs) and into the SF field, they bring with them some measure of academia's contempt for science fiction.

I don't think he actually argues it. He makes that assertion but the number of things one has to assume in that assertion are legion.

1: That a mojority of SF writers come out of academic literature programs.

2: All such programs are hostile to SF.

3: That the people coming out of such programs (which are hostile to SF) chose, absent any habit of reading, fondness for the genre, etc. to wade into SF and start writing.

4: That the established editors in the field took such tyros in hand, paid them, published them and managed to sell their work to the fans of the genre; even though they were so full of faults resultant from their acquired scorn for the genre.

Nowhere does he offer evidence. He says it, and then goes on from there as if having said it = QED.

30 years ago, when I was taking college courses (that I have no degree doesn't mean I didn't attend some), there were classes in SF. The University of California has a huge collection of SF, and Fanac (they took in both Forest J. Ackerman's collection, as well as Bruce Pelz's fanzine collection).

I know a very interesting Tolkien/SF scholar in Texas, etc.

So no, "Academia" isn't across the board hostile (no matter what some professors, in some departments might think of SF)

But moreover, when I read the words of authors, they were fans. Most of them didn't take English. They were journalists (Scalzi), or anthropologists, or physicists, or mathematicians, or football players, or drop outs or....

Every thing I look at in his argument is Socratic (and I mean that in the worst way). He posits that what he thinks is happening is the result of something, and then (facts not being considered) leads you down a logical construction which is flawless, if you accept his foundational premise as true: which is of course circular (no, I am not that fond of Socrates the philosopher, no matter what I might think of some of his conclusions).

There is a lot to be swallowed in that "if".

#123 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 01:17 PM:

I realized just a bit ago that while we're discussing what makes us and our predecessors 'elite' and 'not elite' I don't think anyone's mentioned enslaved ancestors.

#124 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 01:21 PM:

Dan (you of the singular post): Her assertion is more logical than the assertion that everyone that disagrees with current trends in SFF is racist, homophobic, sexist, demon-spawn...etc., etc.

Good thing we aren't saying that.

If you'd like to make up the marks you lost with that irrelevant non-sequitorial attempt at "gotcha" you can, I am sure, supply some (substantiated) quotations of someone of a similar stature to Hoyt making the statement you just attributed to "those people" who oppose the puppies.

(p.s. given the hyperbolic rantings of some of the more... voluble Puppies, both unhappy and hydrophobic, I find it wryly amusing the tactic of, "she's not as extreme as "you people" in her claims" is the defense being offered.)

#125 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 01:23 PM:

Nancy@118: "Where are the exoplanets? The dark matter?" James S.A. Corey, Peter Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, Stephen Baxter, Diane Duane, and like that. :)

#126 ::: Zack ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 01:44 PM:

Eric Raymond has a long and well-documented history of crankishness going back at least to the 1990s on USENET. Only the focus of his attention has changed. (Back in the 1990s he was more inclined to write on topics that he did actually know something about, and some of those were well-received, e.g. "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", which I would describe as a valid work of scholarship presenting a model that was credible at the time but has been largely invalidated by subsequent research. But at the same time he was writing stuff about economics that was Not Even Wrong, and I recall at least one item of pseudopagan woo.)

My father was the first person ever to go to college on his side of the family; his father was a tailor and his mother did clerical work for the government. Their families were both first-generation immigrants from Eastern Europe, and my dad used to tease my grandmother about the cousins who were still in the junk business in St. Louis. My mother's family has been in the USA much longer and is generally more educated (there's a family tradition of engineering going back at least three generations), but includes oddities such as a gentleman who may or may not have been exiled from Scotland for peddling patent medicine; a Chinese diplomat; a field geologist for Standard Oil (educated, but definitely hands-on); a commandant of West Point (ditto); and an entire branch whom I know nothing of because they cut my grandmother dead when she remarried. Life is a rich pageant.

#127 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 01:48 PM:

There may be a decent discussion to be had, about the various literary styles, etc, but assuming that SF has "deep norms" which preclude any other styles of writing from having merit, is almost exactly what Hoyt is arguing; it merely starts from a different point on the circle.

I don't think he's coming from the same place as the Puppies (though I think they nominated him for a Campbell.) He's certainly not arguing that SF can't be deep and thoughtful. I think he's saying that someone who's followed the field for twenty years and has internalized some SFnal customs will write a little differently than someone who simply decides to be "science-fictional."

For me the most obvious example of this is Marge Piercy, who is sometimes touted as a science fiction writer. The problem is that in a dozen very subtle ways, her SFish work is not science fiction, while a dozen female science-fiction writers I can think of, some of whom touch upon the same themes, are definitely writing science fiction, and Margaret Atwood's stuff about the future is sometimes science-fiction and sometimes not... I find the "deep norms" very easy to spot, though I'm not sure I could describe them without finding a copy of He, She and It and digging a little. (Just for the record, I wouldn't argue that a work which violates science fictions "deep norms" is without merit, merely that it is not SF.)

And I'd note that the issue of whether science fiction has "deep norms" is possibly one of the issues in whether we're currently in a rut - maybe some of our "deep norms" are the problem. *Shrugs.*

#128 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 02:24 PM:

Zack at 126

I'm not pointing at Eric Raymond as a brilliant philosopher. Most of your critique is entirely appropriate and the man is 90% crank about everything except software. However, I do think he had a couple interesting points about science fiction once the ranting about precious bodily fluids was stripped away. (I'm not sure the ranting is terribly important to the conversation anyway - denouncing someone as a communist is one of the charming customs of his tribe and it must be included in every conversation, kind of like shaking hands or enquiring after someone's kids.)

For me the problem is not the Puppies perception that something is wrong with the field of science-fiction. They're completely welcome to their perceptions, even if I have different ideas, and if I was an extrovert we could discuss this over beer...

What bothers me about the Puppies is the Tea-Party model of behavior, where anything less than being a complete screaming asshole with insane delusional beliefs about how your enemies are communists who want to put you into a concentration camp reflects insufficient devotion to the cause, so naturally we must control the annual awards ceremony, because if anyone else is in charge Osama bin Stalin-Scalzi will behead us and post videos on YouTube!

It's a little like what happens when a three-year-old at a restaurant has a screaming tantrum because he's run out of apple-juice. Yeah, we understand that your kid is upset about a real problem, but maybe he could shut the fuck up until the waitress shows up with more juice!

#129 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 02:29 PM:

I think there is a problem here, in that there is a long tradition in SFF circles of insisting that everything with a futuristic theme is totally science fiction, and it is unreasonable to suggest that it isn't. It's hard to claim that, and at the same time say that science fiction has deep norms that everyone writing it must follow (other than 'write about this kind of subject-matter'). If you try to uphold both claims, you end up implying that there is only one legitimate way to write about these topics; it's a bit like saying that Rugby and American Football are not legitimate games, because they don't follow the rules of real football (alias soccer).

I think genres can be defined either purely in terms of subject-matter, or in terms of traditions and communities and expectations; both make sense. But you have to decide which you are doing; you will be led to improbable conclusions if you try to do both at once.

#130 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 02:34 PM:

I don't know Mrs. Hoyt, although I've read some of her books and the Wikipedia article on her. But what I don't understand is this: She grew up in Portugal. Portugal was a particularly nasty Fascist dictatorship until she was 12. And she grew up bitterly resentful of mild Euro-socialists and liberals, like those that took over the country when the dictatorship was overthrown. Is that what we are dealing with here, a latter-day Salazarist?

#131 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 02:46 PM:

#125 ::: Bruce Baugh

Thanks. Unfortunately, they're either writers I've tried and wasn't crazy about, or in the case of Duane, used to love but don't like her more recent works.

I may give them another chance, or I'll just wait until work that's more science-oriented gets written by someone else.

#132 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 02:47 PM:

I do think sf has gotten more polished in recent decades. This isn't obviously a problem.

Agreed. In fact, I'm a sucker for really good prose!

The irony is that what you, personally, seem to be complaining about is what the puppies mostly like, as far as I can tell. In particular, when you rail against the recent Benford/Niven novel... isn't that mostly the kind of thing they want more of? (Especially given that both Benford and Niven are politically conservative.)

I'm arguing that the Puppies might be pointing at something that's a real issue, which issue is essentially apolitical, but Puppy social/political skills are so awfully poor that they've failed completely to convey the actual nature of what they're concerned about. In other words, are the Puppies merely symptoms of some other problem?

Her assertion is more logical than the assertion that everyone that disagrees with current trends in SFF is racist, homophobic, sexist, demon-spawn...etc., etc.

I made a joke of it above, but I wonder if one of the barriers in communication when talking to a serious right-winger is that first, one must give the right kinds of assurances that one is not a communist, socialist, or other kind of liberal, and second, subtract the right-wingers anti-communist/socialist/liberal assurances; what's left* is the real conversation. Obviously this would involve cultural cues that outsiders don't understand.

*Oh shit! I said "left" better rant about SJWs for another couple minutes before I get to my point!

#133 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 03:01 PM:

#132 ::: Alex R.

I think there's a higher percentage of polished prose, but the notable difference is that there's much less really clunky prose.

#134 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 03:04 PM:

...the notable difference is that there's much less really clunky prose.

Agreed.

#135 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 03:45 PM:

Rail @ 117: And some, like the one this young woman was in, are downright abusive about it.

That's pretty much the group I was referring to when I wrote that some " . . . don't [cope] very well." What they largely don't cope with, in my opinion, is being forced to acknowledge that they aren't going to be very good at teaching SFF/creative writing. So they get abusive. It's nasty, and unjustified, and I sincerely hope that the young woman you are talking about found a more congenial program (or just found her own way). But the fact that there are still bad creative writing programs out there, and the occasional egotistical, narrow-minded creative writing instructors, doesn't really support the idea that "Academia as a whole dismisses SFF as worthless" all that well, really. At least, I don't think it does.

I'd also tend to agree with you about the "critical mass" of publications being part of the Academic Respectability of SFF on the literature side. The thing is, AT ONE TIME, even trying to publish a serious critical article (or propose a conference presentation, or make a course proposal) about an author like Bujold was grounds for being laughed out of the profession. That is no longer true. As several people have noted above, SFF courses are no longer uncommon; the works are being taken seriously as literature and as the subject of serious scholarship. To argue otherwise (not that I think you were, but I think that's part of Raymond's original point in the linked article) is to kind of miss the last 25-30 years of the history of Academia. At least.

As I said, I basically agree with you. I was just pointing out that talking about writers coming out of Academic creative writing programs was to limit the overall discussion in a slightly misleading way--because creative writing programs are themselves a fairly narrow slice of the Academy.

#136 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 04:26 PM:

Terry Karney @120, yeah, if you read a bunch of Raymond’s writing across various topics, you’ll notice that, when discussing any kind of argument that touches on politics, he puts on an air of trying to be neutral and above the fray, while actually siding with the right wing.

#137 ::: Jimbeaux D ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 04:43 PM:

Maternal grandad went work for southern railroad at age of 10. Black friend reminds me that these jobs were unavailable to black people. Grandad's union scale is the source of family wealth. Paternal grandad hitchhiked off of tenant sharecrop to join the Navy, also unavailable to black people at that time. My Dad was the first to get a college degree and became a public speaker as minister. He beat the southern accent out of me. Ain't was totally unacceptable in his house.

#138 ::: Zack ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 04:59 PM:

@132 I'm arguing that the Puppies might be pointing at something that's a real issue, which issue is essentially apolitical, but Puppy social/political skills are so awfully poor that they've failed completely to convey the actual nature of what they're concerned about. In other words, are the Puppies merely symptoms of some other problem?

So, before you read this, read the essay I wrote last year, "The literary merit of right-wing SF," dissecting why I considered none of that year's Puppy slate noms (and a couple more besides) to deserve even a nomination for the Hugo.

Now if I understand what you've been saying correctly, your candidate for the "other problem" amounts to a lack of, hm, let's call it grippingness, in blockbuster-headline SF novels recently. The je ne sais quoi that leads to being still awake at 4AM because you can't put the book down. You cited Seveneves as an example of this, and I bounced pretty hard off that one myself, so I think I know where you're coming from. (I didn't even attempt the other one; Niven lost all my interest circa Ringworld Throne.) You speculate that the Puppies are having this reaction as well, but they've misidentified its cause as (my caricature) "too many literary/girl/PoC/LGBT/pagan cooties," and then utterly failed to have any kind of useful conversation with the larger fannish community about this. And you'd hate to see the actual problem get lost in the shuffle. Is that an accurate summary of your position?

So, lemme just run down an incomplete list of SFnal things I've read lately that I couldn't put down and/or am jonesing for the next installment:

  • The Steerswoman series
  • The Three-Body Problem
  • Uprooted
  • Two Serpents Rise
  • Saga
  • California Bones
  • Kill Six Billion Demons
  • Binti (not yet out :-( )
  • The Golem and the Jinni
  • Held Close in Syllables of Light

I am prepared to defend the grippingness of any of the above on the field of honor (tho I will acknowledge that not all of them will be to everyone's taste). And it all stands up in literary terms; whether you're looking for Big Ideas or Sense of Wonder or Three-Dimensional Characters or Insights Into The Human Condition or Pushing The Limits Of The Form, you'll find it on that list. My point here is that you don't have to look very far afield from the bestsellers to find SF with both impeccable literachoor chops and impeccable storytelling chops.

However ... it's all got the cooties. If you cannot relate to characters who are not ☑white ☑male ☑Protestant ☑heterosexual ☑American ☑cisgender ☑Anglophone ☑neurotypical ☑Homo sapiens, for one reason or another none of the above will be for you.

Contrast the stuff on the Puppy slates, which reliably checks most if not all of those tickyboxes—sometimes they are Category IN SPACE, but I think we all know just how little that means. But they reliably don't tell a good story, and yet the Puppies reliably think they do. I can only conclude that the Puppies are not about good storytelling any more than that other group of ideological fellow travelers is about ethics in game journalism.

Rather, they want to go back to Pleasantville.

#139 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 05:18 PM:

...if you read a bunch of Raymond’s writing across various topics, you’ll notice that, when discussing any kind of argument that touches on politics, he puts on an air of trying to be neutral and above the fray, while actually siding with the right wing.

I have noticed this too, and called him out for it under another handle. (At this point, Making Light is the only place on the InterTubes where I use my real name.) The strategy of pretending to be neutral while working very hard to demolish arguments against his right-wing positions is, IMHO, pretty ugly.

However, I think Eric contributes to the debate because he gives us a sort of Rosetta stone, a gateway into Puppy-ish thinking that doesn't require decoding the absurd political positions and required Tea-Party style posturing. He's not necessarily correct, (except possibly in the style of a stopped clock) but he provides us with a couple ways to discuss the Puppyies' issues without first having to tediously explain about why John Scalzi isn't the Anti-Christ, and I think that's very valuable.

What I'd really like to do is have a debate about whether Science Fiction is stuck in a rut (or changing in a bad way) and what the influence of various social, educational, and political issues might be on any possible problems with the field, and to consider the issues of "deep norms" (if they exist) vs. what it would mean to expand the field's idea of what constitutes "real" science fiction, and maybe talk about whether "Literary Status Envy" is a real thing or not. Stuff like that!

But I'd like to do it without having to deal with Puppies or right-wing blowtards disguised as Libertarians,* and do it without having to deal with someone who believes that Teresa Nielsen Hayden wants to put them into an extermination camp.**

Unfortunately, this requires squaring the circle in one way or another, because most of the people who've been thinking about this stuff for more than five minutes have either drunk the Puppy Kool-Aid or are (as part and parcel of rejecting the Puppies) inclined to automatically reject any arguments which imply that the field is less than perfect and...

Life's too short, you know what I mean? Maybe after Sasquan we can have a discussion.

* There are two kinds of Liberatarians; those who don't understand that Ayn Rand was writing fiction, and those who don't understand that Heinlein was writing fiction.

** Why aren't these people under psychiatric care?

#140 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 05:31 PM:

Let's not go too far into conflating mental illness and the kinds of willful destructiveness that Hoyt et amici are performing on our community discourse. I wish that I could pretend they were mad rather than bad, but alas, I don't think that would be fair to either the mad or the bad*.

I point you at Sarah @99 for backup:

Please, if you would be so kind, I'm plenty crazy. Certified and medicated. It hasn't made me into someone like Hoyt. Yet. And hopefully never.

-----
* The dangerous to know are another matter.

#141 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 05:32 PM:

You speculate that the Puppies are having this reaction as well, but they've misidentified its cause as (my caricature) "too many literary/girl/PoC/LGBT/pagan cooties," and then utterly failed to have any kind of useful conversation with the larger fannish community about this. And you'd hate to see the actual problem get lost in the shuffle. Is that an accurate summary of your position?

Exactly.

Thank you for the way you asked your question. This is how good communication works!

The only amendment I would offer is about "blockbuster novels." I've read a couple short stories and one recent Hugo winner that I think suffered for one reason or another, but I'm not inclined to discuss them just yet. I will look out for stories on your list next time I head for the bookstore.

#142 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 05:39 PM:

Let's not go too far into conflating mental illness and the kinds of willful destructiveness that Hoyt et amici are performing on our community discourse.

I'm the child of a psychologist, and sometimes joke that "...the only people who are truly mentally ill are those who won't take their medication."

That being said... if someone writes in public that the editors of a Science Fiction publishing house want to put them in a concentration camp there is something deeply wrong with that person. That wrongness might be a matter of brain chemistry. It might be a matter of culture. It might be a matter of the brains "software" rather than hardware or wetware, but that person is deeply troubled one way or another, and I can't let it go.

#143 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 05:44 PM:

Or it might be that that person has chosen to break the norms of our society, because they think it will profit them, and because they don't think that the costs will be significant.

Like I said, I don't think it's the product of illness or weakness. I think this is genuine, chosen bad behavior, chew'd, swallow'd and digested.

#144 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 05:59 PM:

Alex R. @139: What I'd really like to do is have a debate about whether Science Fiction is stuck in a rut (or changing in a bad way) and what the influence of various social, educational, and political issues might be on any possible problems with the field, and to consider the issues of "deep norms" (if they exist) vs. what it would mean to expand the field's idea of what constitutes "real" science fiction, and maybe talk about whether "Literary Status Envy" is a real thing or not. Stuff like that!

I think that would be an interesting conversation! But as a point of data, the way you presented this idea, in this thread, was so viciously hostile to concepts I hold dear that I would not feel safe having it in this area, or with you. In fact, I spent a large portion of this afternoon talking myself down from profanity-laden responses that aren't at all appropriate to Making Light's cultural norms.

So if you do want to have this conversation, you might want to reconsider the ways in which you're bringing it up, and the conversations you would like to turn into that conversation instead.

#145 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 06:20 PM:

Zack @138: Let me build a logical chain a little more explicitly.

1. Some written works have a quality that you (and I; I agree with the parts of your list I have read) might call "grippingness" -- the story grabs you and you HAVE TO FINISH IT NOW.

2. None of the works submitted by the Puppies to this year's Hugo ballot possess this quality at all.

3. The Puppy-submitted works are, without exception, friendly to people uncomfortable with fiction that does not center white straight cis het patriarchativity, with a side of libertarianism-ish for flavor.

4. The Puppies say that what they select on first and foremost is gripping-ness.

What can be deduced from this system of axioms? Possibilities are two (to quote Rowan), in the simplest form:

A. The Puppies are lying about what they want in fiction, submitting things based purely on ideological qualities.

B. The Puppies find gripping-ness in the works they submitted, even though you and I can't see it, and are being entirely honest about what they like in fiction.

Please don't erase possibility B. Dashing to the conclusion that people you disagree with are obviously lying is despicable no matter who's doing it.

#146 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 06:35 PM:

Late to the party, but about degrees. It's my off-the-cuff observation that SF/F writers more often have science degrees, or at least did historically, if they had a degree at all. (Asimov, Clarke, Benford, Niven, Asaro, Haldeman for a few) Many of them had dual careers as scientists and engineers as well as writers. This may have changed as Creative Writing became a respectable major in college, but I doubt it.

I'm not a SF/F writer (I write occult/New Age/Pagan non-fiction) but while I have a degree, neither of my grandfathers were born in this country, both landed in NYC with the clothes on their backs. Both of my grandmothers were first generation, my maternal grandmother by only a few years. Both my parents had teaching degrees of the sort that were not equivalent to a BA, and could be gotten before WWII by agreeing to teach for X number of years in that state.

#147 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 08:01 PM:

I am just getting caught up after a 10-day cross-country trip, but before jumping into the conversation I'd like to check with Fade Manley about your concerns in # 144. Are you referring to the use of pejoratives that are also slang terms for mental illness? Because if that's not it, then I'm afraid your point has gone completely over my head.

#148 ::: Brad Handley ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 08:33 PM:

How can you be an editor and fail so badly with understanding English? NVM, you never got a GED or a Diploma.
Most = a majority.
It does not mean all but 1%.
It does not mean she was talking about you....

but you do have a reputation for being self centered and think everyone is talking about you.

And if you did any research like an author does, you would know she is speaking about editors she has encountered at many different publishing houses.

#149 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 08:56 PM:

I was wondering when they'd show up.

#150 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 09:16 PM:

#145: 1. Some written works have a quality that you (and I; I agree with the parts of your list I have read) might call "grippingness" -- the story grabs you and you HAVE TO FINISH IT NOW.

I don't think that's a property of the story, I think it's a property of *the story-reader pair*. The same story can grip some readers and not others. This creates a danger of confusing one's own tastes for "quality".

An eight-foot-tall genetically engineered super-soldier is eight feet tall regardless of who is measuring her, but whether or not she is a compelling character depends very much on who is reading about her. That's the distinction between objective and subjective properties, as I know and understand it.

I'm afraid this distinction, and which side of it grippingness falls on, has unpleasant consequences for your point 2.

On the other hand, taking point 3 and 4 together suggests a deduction about what properties of a story make it gripping *to certain readers*, i.e. similarity of the main character(s) to themselves and a lack of politics noticeably different from the reader's own.

If only politics the reader *disagrees* with are discordant and jarring (to them), then how is that different from an ideological test?

#151 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 09:21 PM:

Allen Beatty - No, I'm referring to the nasty insinuations about books that other people couldn't possibly have really liked, and the snide dig about balls vs. ovaries, all tied into a big bundle of blaming some supposed academic folks who are getting their girl cooties--or literary degree cooties, or whatever the variation on the bugbear destroying science fiction is today--over people's imaginary spaceships. And if there's anywhere that doesn't need a "Well, they kinda make a good point about those filthy lit majors corrupting our stalwart old-fashioned manly scifi" derail, it's a post full of people sharing fascinating stories about their varied family and educational backgrounds. Apparently only some educational backgrounds are sincere entry points into science fiction.

But the short version is that there's no point in my trying to deal in good faith with someone who, on disliking a book, decides that people who say they like that book must be lying.

#152 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 09:22 PM:

And, bother, Allan, after all that double-checking to edit out inflammatory statements, I misspelled your name. Sorry about that; I should know to copy-paste names by now.

#153 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 09:39 PM:

#127 - For me the most obvious example of this is Marge Piercy, who is sometimes touted as a science fiction writer. The problem is that in a dozen very subtle ways, her SFish work is not science fiction,

Can you expand a bit on why you think Marge Piercy doesn't count as a science fiction writer?

#154 ::: Dann ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 10:43 PM:

#122 ::: Terry Karney

Hi Terry,

There's so much passive-aggressive in that response that I don't know where to start.

How about an art director that said essentially what I said. Except “demon-spawn”. She never said “demon spawn”.

And apparently this is such a wide spread notion that a major national magazine was persuaded to repeated it. They ended up retracting the article and issuing an apology. Pity that they didn't put fact checking earlier in their publishing process.

There are, sadly, a lot of echo chambers. The anti-puppy chambers fairly resonate with the idea that everyone that believes that there are issues in SFF is racist, homophobic, etc., etc.

The puppy chambers can be equally dismissive, FWIW.

As for me, I do think SFF has suffered some lately. A lot of the short fiction (short story, novelette, novella) that I have read lately has paled in comparison with some of the anthologies of decades ago that I have been reading at the same time. And an unfortunate cross section of longer fiction seems to contain what I call “check box” writing; characters described down to the last molecule to ensure that diversity is explicitly represented yet none/few of those diverse factors have any real impact on the story.

I'm a huge fan of Heinlein's approach of either sneaking something in at the end (a la Juan Rico of the Philippines in Starship Troopers*) or just making a quick, blunt pass at it and leave the reader to work out the details (as in the heterodyne sexual antics in I Will Fear No Evil). Yup...Heinlein....gold standard of SFF, IMHO.

As luck would have it, I ran out of time for reading the Hugo nominated novels.

But I did get through all the shorter fiction. Again, I agree with the general assertion that there is a split between what fans read and what gets hailed as “great” SFF. But I am sorely disappointed with most of the Puppy related works in the short categories. If the “official” puppies really believe that there is better stuff out there, then maybe they should have nominated some of it??

B/R,
Dann

*As I understand it, John Scalzi has done something similar with Lock In.

#155 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2015, 11:01 PM:

154
The first thing you need to deal with is your assumption that there is an 'anti-puppy' side, with leaders and all that. There isn't one. But there are a lot of people are angry because their nominating ballots didn't count, and a lot more who joined to vote against the juvenile canines because they cheated.

The second thing you need to deal with is the idea that all the stuff you remember from the past is good - it's not all good, it's that you remember only the good stuff. (Do you really want to be stuck with only the books you liked when you were twelve?)

#156 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 12:15 AM:

NVM:

The burden of proof is on the person making the claim. Hoyt said "most": while that's a fuzzy term, it definitely means more than half. We have heard from several sf/f editors (as well as various other ML commenters) who did not go to college themselves, or who know that they have parents or grandparents who didn't.

If you're going to claim, given this discussion, that "most" sf/f editors come from families where ALL generations [sic] had gone to college as far back as they can remember, you should be prepared to give examples of those editors. Specifically, can you give more examples than the number of counterexamples already provided?

#157 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 12:44 AM:

Avram: Re yeah, if you read a bunch of Raymond’s writing across various topics, you’ll notice that, when discussing any kind of argument that touches on politics, he puts on an air of trying to be neutral and above the fray, while actually siding with the right wing.

It's a common style of argument, which seems to my (perhaps confirmationaly biased) experience, one which seem more common to those who claim to be "neutral" but are shown by conclusion; or whom/how they source for data tend to be on the right.

I would say it's perhaps that I spend my time in places so skewed to the left that "Conservatives" are afraid to show their actual beliefs, save that when I see someone chiming into a discussion and got see their other writings, I find bios/posts which make the same sorts of claims in places where they aren't outnumbered.

Which leads me to think either they see the world as full of persecuting leftists who have the power to harm them, or they can't find enough fellow travellers to feel comfortable admitting their actual beliefs.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about that.

#158 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 12:45 AM:

Alex R: However, I think Eric contributes to the debate because he gives us a sort of Rosetta stone, a gateway into Puppy-ish thinking that doesn't require decoding the absurd political positions and required Tea-Party style posturing.

Then I don't think he has the demotic script on the rock.

Seriously. When I read that essay (and I read it closely, going over passages several times to suss out the meaning) what I got was... SF used to be something it isn't and it's all the fault of people who don't write like they used to; because academics.

That was buried under a lot of vieled stuff defending the puppies in the guise of neutrality.

And I don't think "the people writing SF now aren't really cognizant of what it was" is what the puppies are about. By their own words it's not what their about. Both factions are (at this point) openly declaring it's a culture war (the rabid puppies never denied it). It's about rolling back the clock of social change; and keeping SFF "pure".

That's what they say. Dressing it up with (outdated) arguments that "academia" is anti-SF, and pretending Bujold, Bear, Scalzi, Patrick, Meecham, Brust, Leckie, Jemison, Older, Kowal, et alia (save Baen's staff/stable) are all "Academics" 1: doesn't change that and 2: is false on it's face.

#159 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 12:46 AM:

Brad Handley: I can see your degree wasn't in rhetoric.

#160 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 12:49 AM:

Dann: As opposed to your passive aggressive insuation that the claim you made was relevant to the people here? As opposed to the passive aggresive of not doing more than make a sweeping allegation?

As opposed to the passive aggressive of using singular claims about one person, by belated (and singular)reference; and misrepresented at that, as a way to bolster your tendentious statement.

As opposed to... well you get the point.

You can think I'm "passive aggressive" all you like, it doesn't change that what you said was mendacious in the extreme, and you deserved to be called on it.

As to the passive aggressive list of things you think missing. Whoop-ti-do. I like Heinlein's work [well until The Cat Who Walked Through Walls). He was also a swell person (and the time I spent with him was time well spent). But his work wasn't flawless. His themes were narrow, his subtleties tended to be blunt; or far too easy to miss (which is why, IMO both ST and TMIAHM are both much misunderstood, but that's a digression I'm not going into here).

And a genre which doesn't change, isn't part of a living tradition is like languages which aren't used in the day to day by people doing ordinary stuff... dead.

As Ricky Neslon sang, "If you gotta play at garden parties, I wish you a lotta luck
But if memories were all I sang, I rather drive a truck

#161 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 12:57 AM:

Fade Manley @ 151

Hi Fade, I believe we've had a quite egregious misunderstanding, quite possibly my fault.

For starters, I don't agree with Eric Raymond's position that college graduates who write Science Fiction suffer from Literary Status Envy and thereby ruin the field. However, I think it's an interesting position which is worthy of discussion.

The actual effect of college-level training on the field is, if nothing else, much more complex than Mr. Raymond imagines. He and I have some areas of agreement on this issue, but the overlap is nowhere near 100 percent. I think he's wrong, but he's wrong in interesting ways...

My ideal in this discussion is to bring in every opinion about problems with the SF field that don't involve the idea that John Scalzi is actually Joe Stalin in disguise (or something equally ridiculous.) I'm hoping that the people who inhabit Making Light, most of whom are better educated and more familiar with the field than myself will have useful and interesting comments from which I may learn.

As to the issue of "balls" vs. "ovaries" I certainly wouldn't want to be accused of leaving female organs out when referring to the kind of bravery or grit which is usually related to the idea of "ballsyness." I'm not saying the book DOESN'T have balls and DOES have ovaries. I'm saying the book DOESN'T have balls and also DOESN'T have ovaries. (You may need to read the preceeding sentence twice. Sorry.)

I'm also not accusing anyone of not liking a book, or of lying about their feelings. I'm saying that the book is kind of a dud. Not "nobody could like you," but "people might like you but I doubt anyone loves you," and even that is not a complete thought. There is a group of people who might legitimately love Bowl of Heaven (and the love might well be sincere) and that is that group of people who haven't yet read Ringworld or some similar story where a massive structure is explored. And even that is an oversimplification - I was challenging the staff of Tor books specifically, with their very deep knowledge of Science Fiction, to look me in the eyes and tell me they loved the book.

I should note that this reply is written in haste. If you still think I'm in any way hostile to you, please let me know and I'll be happy to comment further in hopes of reaching a happy understanding.

#162 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 01:02 AM:

161
The publishers need not love any given book. They're interested in books that people buy. (Or why else would 'Twilight' and '50 Shades' be out there? It's certainly not because of their quality, or because everyone at the publisher loves them.)

#163 ::: Jaime Lee Moyer (@jaimeleemoyer) ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 01:05 AM:

Seriously late to any party, but nine hours at my well heeled retail job kept me away. I read here often, comment once every few years. Sarah Hoyt and her ideas have prompted me to come out of lurkville.

Few things in life are seen as more literary or elite than poetry, and the editing I've done has mostly revolved around poetry. True, it was genre poetry, but the principle remains the same. I edited a Rhysling anthology one year, and I spent five years as poetry editor for an online zine.

Even worse, I write poetry myself. It was a nice gateway drug into writing fantasy novels full of female protagonists.

Full background disclosure: My parents, my grandparents (on both sides), my great grandparents, and great-great grandparents never went to high school. I was the first person in my immediate family to graduate from high school, and only the second person in a large extended family. I was the only one to go to college for any amount of time, and I had to drop out nine credits short of a degree due to lack of money.

My father was an offset pressman. I have waitresses, farmers and horse traders, oil rig workers and grist mill operators, pioneers, housewives and shop keepers in my background. Not a doctor, lawyer or professor in the lot.

I've done family history research for going on twenty years now, tracing my mother's family back to the mid-1700s, and my father's family to the 1820s. Dirt farmers, and pioneers eager to settle new places, are the norm.

The idea that anyone involved in editing on any level, or that writers of certain kinds of fiction, must come from generations of college educated elite is absurd. It also shows a serious lack of knowledge and understanding of this country's history. Dirt farmers and pioneer ancestors are the norm for almost everyone.

I've spent more hours than I care to count reading about the puppies, including their own words, and watching what's going on with a combination of horror, and the sick fascination normally reserved for train wrecks. Until now, any comments I've made were to friends in private.

But for some reason Ms. Hoyt's assumptions and projections have annoyed me to the point of saying so publicly. Which might be all the polite discourse I have in me after nine hours on my feet.

#164 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 01:06 AM:

Alex R: if what you want is a discussion about things you think should be talked about, the way to do it is to bring them up.

Tell us what you think the issues are, what you think the causes are, what you think that is doing to the field.

If you think it's harming SFF, then explain why.

But the stuff you pointed us to is so full of confused drivel, unsupported claims, evidence free conclusions, and dog-whistle terms as to poison the well.

If you want to start over, feel free, but please, give us your thoughts and ideas.

#165 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 01:26 AM:

Alex R: I'm also not accusing anyone of not liking a book, or of lying about their feelings. I'm saying that the book is kind of a dud. Not "nobody could like you," but "people might like you but I doubt anyone loves you," and even that is not a complete thought. There is a group of people who might legitimately love Bowl of Heaven (and the love might well be sincere) and that is that group of people who haven't yet read Ringworld or some similar story where a massive structure is explored. And even that is an oversimplification - I was challenging the staff of Tor books specifically, with their very deep knowledge of Science Fiction, to look me in the eyes and tell me they loved the book.

They shoudn't have to read Ringworld. The publishers don't care. They want to sell books. I've read some great SF. I've read some SF that might hold up on re-reading; which I thought was great at the time (Earth Times Two, comes to mind. YA, which I read ~1976. I suspect it's a perfectly creditable story, but going on 40 years of change [mine and the world's] have taken the bloom off the rose, though I can still recall the sensawunder it gave me then; down to details about the wind-chimes).

And the "There was a better version in the past doesn't convince me much, in part because we don't write about "The Future" so much as we write about what we see the present becoming.

Systemic Shock (Dean Ing ~1980) was about how the world was falling apart. It's a bit libertarian, a small bit anti-corporatist, a moderate bit anti-gov't overeach.

What it isn't is plausible today. Our underlying assumptions about how the world works are different. The bad guys don't seem plausible because the playing field is different. The corporations in that trilogy aren't powerful enough to be believed.

Looking back I can still read them, and enjoy them (well the third is a bit weak, but I digress), because I lived in that world. My little sister (a bit more than thirty years my junior) would bounce off them hard.

So what is it about the craft (not the subject matter) which you think is failing? How did that book fail to bring you in.

Ringworld... is a decent book. But those aren't Niven's best characters. The book tries to do too much. Lots of the plot points are sort of glossed, because the scope is huge. A lot of stuff is handwaved. I don't think it would get nominated for a Hugo today, not because it's a "bad" book, but because the reading public today demands more.

Look at Elizabeth Bear's "Promethean Age" books (of which I've read the first four, and in the chronological order, not order of publication). They have a huge scope (at the risk of spoilers the second two [publication order] are, fbeg bs n ergryyvat bs Cnenqvfr Ybfg, bayl Tbq vfa'g va gur cvpgher, At least that was my take.

Those two were high fantasy. They were a different version of Earth Times Two, where there were parallel worlds, each of which affected the other.

But they were different stories, and (it seems) people bought both.

I don't see the harm in that.

#166 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 02:10 AM:

But the stuff you pointed us to is so full of confused drivel, unsupported claims, evidence free conclusions, and dog-whistle terms as to poison the well.

I do get that. However, I also feel the need to give credit to the person who, at least in my experience, first discussed the issue. I could have simply rephrased Eric's arguments and let fly, but I would not have felt good about it. "Literary Status Envy" is Eric's phrase and Eric's concept. He deserves credit for the useful parts of the idea, and blame for the parts which are wrong or grossly oversimplified...

#167 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 02:17 AM:

The publishers need not love any given book. They're interested in books that people buy. (Or why else would 'Twilight' and '50 Shades' be out there? It's certainly not because of their quality, or because everyone at the publisher loves them.)

I do totally get that. There are very good commercial reasons for the purchase of certain books. But I also suspect that deep in the heart of whoever approved the purchase of _________, _______, and _______ the urge to shout, "Get this turd off my desk" was overwhelming. At least I hope it was!

All that being understood, I suspect there are many, many problems with science fiction which we can more productively discuss.

#168 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 02:21 AM:

Dann @154:
How about an art director that said essentially what I said. Except “demon-spawn”. She never said “demon spawn”.

And apparently this is such a wide spread notion that a major national magazine was persuaded to repeated it. They ended up retracting the article and issuing an apology. Pity that they didn't put fact checking earlier in their publishing process.

The Entertainment Weekly article* you're mentioning was published on April 6, while Irene Gallo's Facebook posting was on May 11.

So what you're missing in that narrative is the intervention of the Angel Islington Doctor, who clearly took Gallo's Facebook post back in time and handed it to a suitably impressionable intern. Which is the best part of the story! Talk about burying the lede...

Obtaining those dates took me 40 seconds of Googling. Speaking of fact-checking.

----
* Yes, it is a shame that they didn't fact-check, because the entire process of publish-and-retract missed the actual damning facts that would have made a much more incisive article. Fortunately, there have been many subsequent ones that have done a much better job, and only Puppies remember that one now.

#169 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 02:28 AM:

By the way, I am deliberately leaving Brad Handley @148 intact in all of its questionable glory. The petty malice and sloppy thinking it contains are a far better testament to shabbiness of the poster's contribution to the conversation than any refutation could possibly be.

#170 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 02:33 AM:

Alex R. @161: For starters, I don't agree with Eric Raymond's position that college graduates who write Science Fiction suffer from Literary Status Envy and thereby ruin the field. However, I think it's an interesting position which is worthy of discussion.

Why is it worth discussing?

If you don't agree with the position, what drives you to play devil's advocate for it? Why are you doing that here? What made you think that a thread where people were talking about their personal educational backgrounds and that of their families was a good time to say "Hey, let's talk about how this guy who hates some of those educational backgrounds makes some good points!"?

As to the issue of "balls" vs. "ovaries" I certainly wouldn't want to be accused of leaving female organs out when referring to the kind of bravery or grit which is usually related to the idea of "ballsyness."

I suggest next time starting with a phrase that's not wildly sexist, instead of leaving it in and then going "...but not in a sexist way!"

I'm also not accusing anyone of not liking a book, or of lying about their feelings. I'm saying that the book is kind of a dud. Not "nobody could like you," but "people might like you but I doubt anyone loves you," and even that is not a complete thought.

Well, your incomplete thought read a lot like accusing people of lying about their feelings. And your expanded version reads a lot like telling people that if they like something you don't like, it's because they haven't read the right books.

I tried to read Ringworld. I thought it was terrible. And yet I am fully willing to believe that you honestly liked it, and to accept that without demanding you read the books I liked better to show you why you shouldn't like Ringworld.

I was challenging the staff of Tor books specifically, with their very deep knowledge of Science Fiction, to look me in the eyes and tell me they loved the book.

That's not funny. That's hostile. You're doubling down on how liking a thing you don't like means people aren't properly informed in the field, and talking proudly about how you would demand people who are informed convince you of their honesty if they dare to disagree with your personal taste. This, after explaining that people who disagree with you just aren't well-read enough. You have the One True Taste and people have to justify feeling otherwise.

I am not going to play that game. And I'm still angry that you've brought it into this thread.

#171 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 02:44 AM:

Can you expand a bit on why you think Marge Piercy doesn't count as a science fiction writer?

I'm not sure I can. I read He, She and It around 25-years-ago at the urging of a long-ago girlfriend and never actually owned a copy of the book. My main memory of reading it was of noticing a sort of meta-clumsiness to the text and my frequently-repeated thought that Piercy was completely unfamiliar with any kind of science fiction. Perhaps I'd feel differently if I read it now, but the feeling of "she hasn't a clue about the field" is my main memory of reading the book.

I do think that she's a very good writer. IIRC the plotting, prose, characterization, etc., of the book was of a very high quality. It just didn't feel like Science Fiction. (I should note that by the time I read He, She, and It I'd read more female SF writers than I can conveniently count, and I never felt that Connie Willis, Diane Duane, or Ursula Le Guin wasn't an SF writer...)

Not much more to say on the subject, I guess.

#172 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 02:58 AM:

Alex R: I do get that. However, I also feel the need to give credit to the person who, at least in my experience, first discussed the issue. I could have simply rephrased Eric's arguments and let fly, but I would not have felt good about it. "Literary Status Envy" is Eric's phrase and Eric's concept. He deserves credit for the useful parts of the idea, and blame for the parts which are wrong or grossly oversimplified...


and


For starters, I don't agree with Eric Raymond's position that college graduates who write Science Fiction suffer from Literary Status Envy and thereby ruin the field. However, I think it's an interesting position which is worthy of discussion.


So what's the deal? You think it's rubbish, or it's so important it needs to be brought up, and his specific words are so prescious as to make us extract from the incohate mess that you found it in?

What, by the way, is so interesting about it? It's not as if he's the first person to make this general claim (and it's not a claim unique to our genre). As to the credit where credit is due, you could have paraphrased him, or quoted him; with link, rather than say, "go read this entire thing".

I don't want to believe you are acting in bad faith, but when it's only one part of a much larger whole; and a very small part at that, it makes me wonder why you pointed to something which (from my perspective) can't be divorced from the rest of the rambling; because it's a very small, and ill-defined part of the larger whole.

#173 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 04:37 AM:

I am not an editor, nor am I the son of an editor, but I am a reader plucking wild books.

Under "[father's] usual occupation," my birth certificate says "sorter and loader." My father worked (with his hands!) to put himself through college and then grad school while supporting a wife and way too many kids. Worked in a butcher shop and on loading docks at night, went to classes during the day, somehow didn't die of it.

His father died when my father was young. His mother used to silently pray at the dinner table (during the Depression) that no one else wanted the last bit of food, because she was starving but wouldn't take food from her children.

My mother was a nurse and worked (with her hands!) in both mental and ordinary hospitals. Her father took off when she was young, and from what I've heard it was the best thing he could have done for my mother and grandmother. My grandmother did clerical work her entire adult life. My mom finally got her Bachelor's degree the same year I did.

My parents saved for our college. They put us all the way through, tuition and books, and none of us have undergraduate student loans. But we are the first generation on either side of my family to be so privileged.

If I ever meet Sarah Hoyt (and I hope I will not), I expect I'll just sing the chorus of "Solidarity Forever" until she goes away. It's that or invite her to bite my SJW Marxist ass.

#174 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 05:45 AM:

My late father left school at fourteen, to work on the Liverpool buses at five shillings a week.

Although he lacked any formal education or qualifications, he had a life-long love of reading and learning. He became, among other things, a lay reader for the Church of England, and an export sales rep in the Middle and Far East, where he made a serious effort to understand the cultures he was dealing with. Some of his books on Chinese and Indian history, and on colonialism, and on theology, are still on the bookshelves now, and they're pretty challenging reading for a comparative dilettante like me.

He set out to grow and to learn, to expand his mind. He taught me the importance of clear thinking, of understanding one's own assumptions, of respect for the truth. He passed on to me that love of reading and learning.

My father never had a formal education. And he never had the luxury of despising one.

#175 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 08:23 AM:

My father, trading time for space, became
A man at fourteen. Gave up boyhood, got
A horse, and Queensland, which is not a lot
For boyhood hardly used. But all the same,
He took the bargain, and would always claim
The best of it. Depression then or not,
A drover was a king of space, and what
Was freedom but nobody else to blame?

That would have been the end, but for the war.
He went, came back, did five years school in one,
Then Varsity, on scholarship. Before
He did that, none of us. It wasn’t done
By coalminers or those who kept a store.
But all my dad’s kids went. And I’m his son.

#176 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 08:57 AM:

Dave Luckett #175: Wow.

#177 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 10:05 AM:

In my early morning reverie (before I rose from bed), I was pondering the idea of "deep form" in SF. It's rubbish.

What makes Coventry, or If This Goes on SFnal? That Heinlein wrote them. There is nothing fundamentally SFnal about the actual stories. But we call him an SF writer, and define what he wrote as SF.

What of Silverlock? I'd say it was SF fans liked it.

Wherein, I think, is the Puppies Problem (and the core issue of Raymond's complaint) modern SF fans don't like the stuff they are selling.

#178 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 10:23 AM:

#177 ::: Terry Karney

IIRC, those stories do have some sfnal elements. I think Coventry has a floater (for the main character to be able to bring in a huge amount of stuff) and a force field. If This Goes On has psychics and big screen tv (I'm less sure about the latter). Both have reliable psychological tests. Fairly similar stories could be written without the sfnal elements, but I think it's more fair to say that they're actually science fiction.

Also, do big social changes which aren't in our time line count as science fiction, especially if they're explicitly set in the future? Most people seem to think so.

Is Walton's Small Changes trilogy (alternate history where the British made a separate peace with the Nazis) science fiction? AFAIK, there's no new tech in them. I don't know whether they have much of a following among people who don't like science fiction.

Your question might overlap the idea of fantasy without magic-- Gormenghast and Swordspoint and such.

#179 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 10:27 AM:

Dave Luckett #175: That's stunning. And moving.

My parents were anxiously middle class. Collected antiques, listened to the opera. We didn't have enough money to subscribe to the New Yorker. Daddy was a minister, and my mother had to work because otherwise there wouldn't be enough money to keep us in shoes. All our clothes were hand-me-downs or came from Good Will. Ministers are paid in prestige, not, you know, actual money.

Grandparents: Dairy foreman, fisherman, housepainter (formerly the most unlucky lobsterman known to man, also did a stint in the merchant marines), and nurse.

I find it amusing to note that my family, the Nickersons, first came over to this country in the early 1600s. I can trace my ancestry back to numerous Mayflower pilgrims, including Patricia Mullins and John Alden. I could join the Mayflower Club were I so inclined. I also come from a very long line of farmers and fishermen. The farmers were dirt poor, the fishermen didn't even have dirt. Actually, since many of the farmers were "farming" in Nova Scotia, they didn't have much in the way of dirt, either. Poverty and religious crankiness run in the family.

I also find myself wondering at this glorification of the Working Man by, well, writers. Does Sarah Hoyt mine each word with her bare hands, laboring mightily to bring them to light, hammering them down upon the page with mighty thews and great physical effort? And does she not know any artists who paint, or make jewelry, or sculpt? So many weird false dichotomies.

#180 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 10:37 AM:

I've been wondering-- does being a housewife (or perhaps a housewife below a certain tech level) count as working with your hands?

#181 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 10:41 AM:

Nancy #180 - historically speaking, no, it doesn't because you don't get paid and that's what women do no matter what.
MOre modernly, sure, why not, it involves a lot of physical labour and isn't good for your skin.

#182 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 10:53 AM:

As McGuffins the floater is a widget. It could as easily have been a mule and a cart. Other than to provide more stuff to be taken from him it has no relevance to the story.

Same is, basically, true for Tunnel in the Sky. Change the portals to a sailing boat, have the kids shipwrecked on an island in the S. Pacific and the same story could have been told.

Psychics and psychology (the latter purported to be true, and used by Gov't) are (and were then) aspects of the world as it is (MMPR, Standford-Binet, polygraph machines).

Both of the latter were used in popular fiction of the time which weren't considered SFnal. Which is the point. We have Potter Stewart's definition of pornography in play.

And lots of people don't recognise the same things when they see them; because the "Deep Forms" we see referred to aren't about the stories, they are about the trappings. Which means they aren't forms at all.

#183 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 10:55 AM:

Nancy re housework: Depends, but mostly not. Farmer's wives, milkmaids, spinsters, all had elements which might have been counted... but absent remuneration were discounted.

Even with remuneration having a husband would often invalidate it as, "work".

#184 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 11:01 AM:

Terry, I'm not sure what you're trying to prove about science fiction. It may be that I just really like the trappings, but I think I'd be less likely to read those stories if the trappings were removed.

Also, part of what made Tunnel in the Sky the story that it was, was that so much formalized work went into preparing the teenagers. I can't think of any society which has done that.

#185 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 11:04 AM:

Nancy LebovitzAlso, do big social changes which aren't in our time line count as science fiction, especially if they're explicitly set in the future? Most people seem to think so.

But Raymond isn't talking about that when he says people today aren't "doing it right". He says the stories they write about futures not our own

And how do we know? What' the difference between the question of "realistic extrapolation from the present", since one could use the model to say that any number of attempts to predict the outcome of things like what happens when huge numbers of people have the whole of human knowledge in their pocket, or to predict the medium-term outcome of policy changes [e.g. PNAC] become SFnal, by virtue of being, "about the future".

That ends up coming back to intent. Am I writing a story to entertain (or to pose questions about how the world ought to be, relative to how it is), or am I actually trying to describe what I think will happen (e.g. the works of Karl Marx)?

Which again means "The Deep Forms" required to avoid "Literary Envy Syndrome" are still rubbish. Because what counts as SF is (as it always has been) is what the publisher puts on the cover.

#186 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 11:24 AM:

Nancy: What I'm saying is the trappings are often window dressing. That the complaints the puppies are making about SF aren't about content, but packaging. As Teresa says, Story Is.

How one tells it makes the difference between one genre and another; and how the writer is perceived/presented makes a huge difference in what the audience takes from it.

E.g. (though I am not trying to pick on Heinlein; but the SP/RP/Glory Days of Old school of REAL SF™ use him a lot, see above). Starship Troopers.

It's usually (esp. by its devotees) presented as a libertarian sort of novel. But the gov't presented has some seriously authoritarian aspects, some of which are taken right out of the methods of fascism and stalin era soviet communism.

The centerpiece of the book is History and Moral Philosophy. It's a mandatory course, worldwide, for teaching something. One need not pass, merely attend, and it's taught for (at least) one's entire HS period. Years of social indoctrination on the right way to think.

It's a sinecure for those who worked for the gov't. To become a member of the ruling class (which class we never see) one has to let oneself be enslaved by the gov't (an open ended enlistment, of not less than two years; without franchise, to get the vote).

To become an officer in the "Army" one has to take more H&MP, but this time passing is required. If you don't meet the philosophical standards of the state, you don't get a commission. Can't be a leader.

It's hard to believe that doesn't affect who gets voted for when the people in the system finally get the franchise.

And the system is violent, people who break the laws (which we never see in any other than an abstract way) are flogged, or hanged.

But the people who cheerlead the book don't see it that way. Why? Because they see Heinlein as a proponent of personal freedom, and so say his books must be about that too.

If Scalzi wrote the same story, I'll bet the same people hot for it now would be condemning it as a paean to social oppression.

Because we bring a lot to the table when we read a book; and what we take out of it is hugely influenced by that. So the Platonic Ideals being bruited are fundamentally flawed.

Like Socrates the problem with their argument of "what is SF" is that they have reified TRUTH and think there is some actual touchstone of Objective SF. There isn't.

Yes, I think Coventry, and If This Goes On, and The Handmaid's Tale are all SF. That was my point. They are SF because we say they are.

#187 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 11:28 AM:

Oh, ok-- you're arguing with Eric Raymond, and I'm not up for rereading his article.

Tentatively and from memory-- I might agree that there are deep forms of science fiction, but I'd define it much more widely than Eric does. I'd be starting from what people who read a lot of science fiction see as science fiction (recursive, but what can you do?), so I'd include a lot of depressing stuff from Bradbury and Kornbluth.

#188 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 11:29 AM:

Dave Luckett@175: Wow.

Diatryma@123: I don't think anyone's mentioned enslaved ancestors.

(Well, except in passing, in oldster's Socrates quote.) After reading Patrick's description of Radical Origins I was wondering how the "power of two" effect plays out against network effects in other populations. Most people in most of time wouldn't travel far from home, and the ancestral trees would tend to be pretty tangled and bushy, so you would be likely to see clumps like that (albeit not necessarily such interesting ones). Avoiding those clumps probably requires many ancestors to have traveled, over a period of time. One exception case I thought of was European noble families, working so hard to make sure that every ancestor would be illustrious; and another exception, pointed out by my spouse, was the way American slavery routinely ripped families apart and scattered them. I don't know that either case is less clumpy in practice; I have a sense that European noble families tended to have a preference for the same set of most-illustrious ancestors, which would ultimately narrow the selection again.

#189 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 11:30 AM:

Hoyt has combined, I think, anxieties of her own with a traditional fannish way of seeing SF which makes for an incoherent mess.

The general Puppy bugbear is a reasonably familiar one: they stand in the grand tradition of SF as "fiction for engineers" which goes hand in hand with Science students' / Engineers' looking down on "artsies" and has links to C.P. Snow's Two Cultures (except in reverse: Snow was reacting to the English tendency for humanities-formed individuals, who also made up the bulk of the upper classes, to look down on the sciences and be quite proud of their scientific illiteracy). From that point of view a perceived invasion of SFF by B.A.s, and especially English majors, is perceived as one of the things that has caused SFF to drift away from its Real Roots. To the degree that this is concerned about elites it is because the elites are perceived as being by and large artsies. (There are massive holes in this narrative, of course, especially on the fantasy side: Tolkien, Cabell (now there's an elite writer) and Leiber all fall firmly on the arts side (English language, classics, philosophy as majors); even on the SF side Bester (first winner of a Best Novel Hugo), Herbert (studied creative writing), Silverberg (English Literature) are examples of non-science background writers.)

Traditionally, though, SFF was happy to be allied with the graduates of places like MIT and Stanford (SAIL and SLAC, in particular), which are elite by any reasonable measure.

Hoyt has layered on top of this what seems to be a personal angst about class which goes beyond and cuts across the traditional alliances. Mixing the two together, and throwing in factors such as the right-wing approval of the Army but disapproval of government in general leads to the rather weird mixture of criteria which seems to be emerging from this conversation off in Puppyland.

#190 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 11:32 AM:

Also, part of what made Tunnel in the Sky the story that it was, was that so much formalized work went into preparing the teenagers. I can't think of any society which has done that.

Britain, for the Indian Civil Service, had a system which was somewhat like that. Kim Phiby's father (St. John Philby) had problems in his career because he didn't understand the cultural issues he was supposed to navigate, and so didn't progress as far, nor as fast, as he had been expected when he was in school in England.

The game changer in Tunnel in the Sky is that what was supposed to be a difficult, but not too difficult, Boy Scout test, lasted too long.

The Boy Scout Test for "Wilderness Survival" had (where/when I took it) a three day even in the woods, with nothing more than one was carrying on one's back. What I had for shelter was a small (maybe 4'x5') bit of tarp. Food I had little. Knowledge I had fair.

The point isn't that no-place has ever done such, it's not that the book isn't SF, it's that the form isn't essential. The trappings *are* what make it, which is what Raymond, et al. are denying

#191 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 11:36 AM:

I'm not arguing with Raymond, per se (one can't, there is not an actual argument to be found there), but rather with the idea he has tapped into; which seems central to the Puppy Mindset; as alluded to by the folks who were just passing through.

Since I'd been thinking about it, I decided to share.

#192 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 11:51 AM:

Does anyone besides me remember Randall Garrett's "Despoilers of the Golden Empire"? Published in Astounding in 1959, clearly intended to be read as SF.

Wikipedia summarizes the plot:

Na rkcrqvgvba sebz na vzcrevnyvfgvp phygher, yrq ol n zna uhatel sbe cbjre naq evpurf, naq nppbzcnavrq ol na "nqrcg bs gur Havirefny Nffrzoyl" (n obql bs zra nccneragyl va pbzzhavba jvgu n uvture cbjre) neevirf va n frevrf bs fuvcf, jvgu fbzr qvssvphygl — gur fuvcf ynaq sne sebz gurve vagraqrq qrfgvangvba, orvat "hafhvgrq gb ngzbfcurevp anivtngvba" — naq rapbhagre gur angvirf. Gubhtu gur angvirf ner pvivyvmrq naq pncnoyr bs zhfgrevat nezvrf va terng ahzore, gurve grpuabybtl vf vasrevbe gb gung bs gur vainqref. Qrfcvgr orvat srj va ahzore, ol thvyr naq gernpurel gur rkcrqvgvba vf yrq gb ivpgbel bire gur angvirf, phyzvangvat va gur pncgher bs gurve cevrfg-tbq-xvat.
Gvzr tbrf ol naq gur yrnqref pbafbyvqngr gurve tnvaf, bayl gb or haqbar ol cbyvgvpny znarhirevat sebz gubfr jub neevir yngre va gur pbadhrerq ynaqf. Gur yrnqre vf riraghnyyl nffnffvangrq ol gur fbaf bs n qrsrngrq eviny.
Gur svany yvar bs gur fgbel ernqf "Guhf qvrq Senapvfpb Cvmneeb, pbadhrebe bs Creh."

SF is what you make it.

#193 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 12:52 PM:

189
Science students' / Engineers' looking down on "artsies"

It's usually the other way around, in my experience: the lit students look down on science and engineering. (If you're in science and engineering, you don't get dumbed-down history or English classes.)

While my family includes a lot of engineers, we also have artists. I grew up with tools and with art on the walls (and it was abstract art).

#194 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 01:00 PM:

As the child of two social psychologists, both with PhDs, the implicit assumption was that everyone else in the world was crazy.

So, look, puppies! You actually got one!!

#195 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 01:14 PM:

re 177: I have over the years cynically described the genre as "the stuff published by SF publishers". And we let Doris Lessing in because she was cool about it. Which doesn't explain Silverlock, of course.

re 130: When I first saw the screed in question I was thinking, "well maybe immigration from Portugal explains her cluelessness." But I could never make that work.

There's no real point in me adding to the various anecdotes of social position or lack thereof. The one thing I would add, though, is that the marks of status being talked about are relatively new things. You don't have to go very far back in American history to where the college degree as we know it now was not the ticket that it is now. Indeed, the whole science college/engineering school thing is an invention of only the last century, and late in the game even then: for a long time West Point was basically the only engineering school in the country, so that George Meade's name was first made building lighthouses. I don't think that the "you need a college degree to do anything" idea is any much older than I am; it may well be younger. I find it hard to imagine that it predates WW II.

Well, one other thing. On some level it amazes me that conservatives make these so-far-out-of-step-with-reality claims when, after all, one of the big benefits of the internet is that it's easy to look these things up-- right at the very computer you're using to type your screed.

#196 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 01:15 PM:

PJ Evans @193:

It's usually the other way around, in my experience: the lit students look down on science and engineering. (If you're in science and engineering, you don't get dumbed-down history or English classes.)

I think the nature of the "looking down on" is different in the different directions, but that it's present for both (and of course neither is universal).

If an "artsy" individual looks down on science and engineering, in my experience it is more likely to take the form of pride in their own ignorance about something they consider irrelevant and unnecessary, boasting about how they don't understand numbers or have never once in all their lives needed to know anything about algebra. If a technically minded individual looks down on the humanities, in my experience it's more likely to take the form of scorn in the perceived ease of the fields (something which your comment about "dumbed down" classes plays into; yeah, I took lit courses along with some English majors when I was in college majoring in physics while the reverse was not true, but that's because the sciences tend to have more prerequisite classes (in some cases going back to the math that you need to have taken in high school to get started on the path), not because they're intrinsically more difficult or scientists are intrinsically smarter) or the practical applicability. And of course everyone notices the slights directed at them more than the ones their peers are directing at the other guys.

#197 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 01:36 PM:

196
My colleges had three levels of science classes. There was general physics and chemistry, then physics and chemistry for the biology students, and the classes for the non-majors. I took, at one point, botany for non-majors - the professor taught straight out of the text (and was bad at it), and the few weeks we had a TA doing it were the best part of the quarter. (The 'Sugar Shuffle'!)

I'm a crappy artist (minimal talent), but I recognize good stuff. I think my father had the eye for it and picked the pictures we had on the walls. (I loved the desert landscape on the wall in the dentist's lobby.)

#198 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 01:42 PM:

James #189: Gene Wolfe also on the literary side.

But if you look too far back, the modern genre emerges almost seamlessly from "adventure stories": Africa, Pellucidar, Barsoom, the Frozen Antarctic, The Dinosaur Age, whatever.

And in recent times, a new blurring: I recently saw a Hidden Jungle City book from Isabel Allende. Any number of post-apocalyptic tales on the mainstream shelves. "Thrillers" such as Michael Crichton. Half the YA shelves. Margot Adler, of course. Stephen King et several al (horror vs. fantasy can be a matter of tone or perspective). Of course, even in the prior generations there were J.G. Ballard, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut. (Care to guess which two of those are on the mainstream shelves in my bookstore?)

#199 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 01:51 PM:

I'd count Silverlock as fantasy-- magic works, and there's enough world-building to get by.

I wouldn't count the Alice books or The Phantom Tollbooth as fantasy, but I'm not sure I've got a defensible standard.

#200 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 01:59 PM:

re 193: At UMCP in my day engineering students were not allowed to take their basic non-math courses outside the engineering college except ENGL 101 (sophomore comp hadn't come along yet). They had their own special versions of the lower level humanities and social sciences courses. I can't tell from the college website the degree to which this is still true but I notice for instance that the MEs still have two "for engineers" course versions listed among the possible requirements.

#201 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 02:06 PM:

At my college, there were introductory versions of lit classes which the English majors skipped to take harder versions instead, while the science/polsci/music majors took the easy ones; it seemed like a fair parallel to the introductory science classes non-science majors took. Really, every field had its own intro courses mostly taken by majors outside of that field; the religious studies and music courses I took definitely weren't full of religious studies majors or music majors.

Everyone admired the biochem majors (hardest major in the college!), side-eyed the philosophy majors (would argue constantly with the profs in other classes), and otherwise...you know. Enjoyed their chosen major. Swapped if they didn't enjoy it. Asked friends from other majors for help when taking classes in that area. I didn't run into any sort of field-based sneering in any direction!

In college.

No, it wasn't until I joined fandom that I found people talking shit about liberal arts. Apparently if you want to study fiction, you're supposed to stay well away from enjoying reading it or writing it, because... well. Because? Never did quite figure out that part. It's part of why I go to so few conventions anymore. They're the only place I've ever been that people are so snide about my chosen fields of study.

#202 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 02:21 PM:

Prompted by what David Harmon said about the origins of the genre: I think it was Algis Budrys who claimed that the origins of fantasy and then sf are as a subgenre of children's literature.

That might connect with some of the puppy stuff seeming to be along the lines of, The golden age of science fiction is twelve, therefore everything in genre should be aimed at my remembered twelve-year-old self.

No adult themes like medical problems or paying taxes wanted. (Thank you, Bill Watterson.)

#203 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 02:22 PM:

Given some of the turns of conversation that have gone through around here, I should clarify that I give my version of the Which Majors Snub Others anecdote not to shake a fist at fandom, but to add another bit of data and to explain, perhaps, why I end up so very rapidly upset when places I feel comfortable in seem to be gesturing in that direction.

#204 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 02:29 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz@199: I wouldn't count the Alice books or The Phantom Tollbooth as fantasy, but I'm not sure I've got a defensible standard.

I think this part of the general idea that books with SF trappings might not "be" SF: SF is an ongoing conversation. Books written by people who are part of that conversation—having read a lot of SF, and/or writing for the existing pool of SF readers—generally come out differently than those that aren't. Readers who are part of that conversation will expect different things, and pick up different things, than those who aren't. It's an ongoing conversation, so the substance and the conventions have changed over time; and there are really lots of partially overlapping conversations going on now; but there are still things that feel to me like they're part of the conversation and others (that I also like) that don't. (Connecting very loosely back to Patrick, I'm pretty sure I heard him talking about exactly this at this past Vericon.)

Jo Walton had an interesting example of this with My Real Children. She calls it Science Fiction, and I read it that way, but she's been getting awards for it from non-SF sources that describe it completely differently. Readers coming from different genres/conversations pick up different things in it.

Someone with an actual background in literary theory (Fade Manley?) can probably supply the appropriate technical terms for this. The idea certainly isn't new with me, or with SF.

#205 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 02:30 PM:

I've never seen any good come out of any discussion about whether science looks down on the arts or vice versa. None. Ever. It's as unproductive as the "literary reading of SF" vs the "I just like it" cage match.

Can we not do this to one another? Particularly not when we're already edgy?


My current edge-case book for genre is not a skiffy-shaped book by a non-skiffy author*, but a book of questionable skiffiness by an author with a sound presence in the genre: Hild, by Nicola Griffith.

Is it? Isn't it? Do I care, really? Mostly I did when I was trying to figure out if I could nominate it for the Hugo.

-----
* Which, by the way, is not a good description of He, She, and It; Piercy also wrote Woman on the Edge of Time, which William Gibson has been quoted as calling the birthplace of cyberpunk.

#206 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 02:47 PM:

Vicki #202: I think it was Algis Budrys who claimed that the origins of fantasy and then sf are as a subgenre of children's literature.

Which pulls in Alice among others -- but I suspect the identification of such fantastic tales as "childrens literature" is itself a historical contingency; that line leads back to the Grimm Brothers, King Arthur & company, and mythology.

#207 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 03:03 PM:

Abi, first off, C. P. Snow.

Second, there are huge and known areas of crossover, most prominently that between some of the sciences and theology, which is also one that shows up strongly in SF.

Third, from my perspective the disdain tends to reflect most upon those who disdain.

#208 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 03:08 PM:

dotless ı @204: Ironically, I left literary analysis as a career direction long ago, in favor of another field even more prone to budget cuts. So I'm not up to date on the proper terminology for this sort of thing! But a useful word that comes up a lot in literary analysis that's not quite the same as "conversation" as it's being used here, but has some interesting overlap, is "discourse".

One of the main distinctions between the two is that a conversation has to be deliberate; discourse is something that happens whether you choose it or not. I can deliberately have a conversation with Heinlein and Leckie and Cherryh about military careers, in the fiction I write, but there are ways of speaking about military careers that I am participating in even if I'm not thinking about it in those terms.

C. Wingate @207: The disdain may in theory reflect most on those who disdain, but in practice it will make some of us unhappy and uncomfortable and less likely to participate in a discussion. So I am with abi on this one.

#209 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 03:30 PM:

C Wingate @207:

First of all, dropping CP Snow in like that without context comes across as a test: am I erudite enough to know what you mean without further explanation?

In case you're wondering, no, in point of fact, I am not, even with that thoughtful Wikipedia link. I don't know what you meant by it. But please think before you spell it out, because vide infra.

Second, crossover between what and what? With examples that would lead to interesting conversation?

Third, I'm the moderator in this conversation, and I said this discussion of intramural academic disdain is a toxic topic. That doesn't mean dig in and increase the animosity.

#210 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 03:45 PM:

C Wingate: Prior to the GI Bill of WW2 college was an entree to a number of social circles, which led to various levels of advantage to attending: with a concomitant exclusion to entrance of hoi polloi.

Sometime in the latter half of the 19th century various trade schools were founded as well as agricultural schools (e.g. my former partners Bachelor's Alma Mater, Cal Poly).

Certainly by WW2 it was seen as "A thing" or the GI Bill wouldn't have been thought of, much less so widely exploited.


Nancy: I'd count Silverlock as fantasy-- magic works, and there's enough world-building to get by.

That's sort of my point. Alice in Wonderland is more fantastic, in that the conceit of "The World of Letters" is more obviously purely fictive; moving it toward allegory, but its rarely considered to be SFF, same for wider understanding of Oz., and people don't treat Dante as fantasy, but Literature, even though in lots of ways it's the same story as Silverlock.

SF is what we say it is.

Vicki: Prompted by what David Harmon said about the origins of the genre: I think it was Algis Budrys who claimed that the origins of fantasy and then sf are as a subgenre of children's literature.

I can see that. I read The Water Babies as a kid, and it was as fantastic as anything I've read since. But I've never seen it mentioned much, it's an old "kids book" and as such seems mostly forgotten.

#211 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 03:49 PM:

I once was told that the person with the most artistic talent in my father's set of siblings was the one who became a doctor. (All of them, AFAICT, had some talent as artists. I've seen drawings by my youngest aunt, in the book she wrote about observing fish while diving.)
I don't think that the difference is so much between arts and sciences as in the ways that people use to express their imaginations.

(I don't have the creativity for engineering, either. But I do technician fine.)

#212 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 03:53 PM:

Terry Karney @ 210... SF is what we say it is.

Which is one reason why I nominated tv series "Halt and Catch Fire" last year for the Hugo's long-form dramatic presentation.

#213 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 04:15 PM:

#210 ::: Terry Karney

I can see the Divine Comedy and Silverlock as offering some of the same pleasures, but one is so orderly and the other is so chaotic that it's hard for me to put them in the same category. This being said, there's also Riverworld.

The Divine Comedy is the earliest example I know of for tight world-building. Other examples of careful world-building that's from before Tolkien?

#214 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 04:25 PM:

I don't know that I want to discuss it; I simply acknowledge it.

#215 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 04:34 PM:

As far as my pedigree: I had a mother, and a father, as so many do.

Sciences vs. The Arts: I've known plenty of well-rounded people, and some people on both sides who "never needed algebra" or "never read a book since college". I, too, prefer to encourage well-roundedness.

The Eternal Demise of SF: I think the doom level is "moderate." Sturgeon's Law applies as always.

#216 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 04:35 PM:

Well, there is the aforementioned Oz, as well as the Water Babies, Peter Pan, etc.

Wells "The Time Machine". Doyle's The Lost World.

#217 ::: Sarah E. ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 05:06 PM:

Jaime Lee Moyer @ #163: The idea that anyone involved in editing on any level, or that writers of certain kinds of fiction, must come from generations of college educated elite is absurd. It also shows a serious lack of knowledge and understanding of this country's history. Dirt farmers and pioneer ancestors are the norm for almost everyone.
It suddenly occurs to me that Hoyt’s argument is the reverse of the Oxfordian theory (AKA "Shakespeare couldn’t possibly have been educated enough to write those plays”), and I don’t find it any more convincing.

Terry Karney @ #165: Looking back I can still read them, and enjoy them (well the third is a bit weak, but I digress), because I lived in that world. My little sister (a bit more than thirty years my junior) would bounce off them hard.

Earlier today I read a blog post by a man who’d just read (or re-read) The Conjure Wife, and who liked it, but thought the central idea (all or most women are witches, and few or no men know this) too far-fetched. I suggested that in the 1940s, it would have been a pretty good metaphor for the division of labour, and the failure to recognize the contributions of emotional support/social networking skills to a couple’s success in their community. Granted, I’m not from that time period, but I’ve come to look at a lot of stuff through a feminist/social history lens, whereas I think he just saw it as a conspiracy-theory trope.

abi @ #205: Piercy also wrote Woman on the Edge of Time, which William Gibson has been quoted as calling the birthplace of cyberpunk.

If it’s the book I’m remembering, that’s a curious way to describe it. Is it because in the good version of the future, people use multiple levels of technology, depending on the situation?

#218 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 05:12 PM:

Terry Karney @210@ I loved The Water Babies! I think it was more popular in the UK than in the US? I've never forgotten Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby.

#219 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 05:23 PM:

Abi, I've tried about seven times now on this. I don't know how to interact with you without the expectation that you're going to lay a hostile interpretation on what I say.

#220 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 05:31 PM:

C Wingate @219:

Try being less terse and enigmatic for a while? Pick one thing to say and say it fully, as it appears to you, with allowances for the ways that other people may experience things differently. Offer your own personal experience as an axis of conversation. Go for depth rather than throwing two or three unembroidered notions in, at least until everyone's a little clearer on what your more enigmatic comments are likely to mean.

And when a mod says something, obey it. The comment about disdain when I'd asked us to stop digging into the topic didn't make me see the remainder of your comment in the best light.

#221 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 06:00 PM:

Abi, I'm with C. Wingate here. Maybe we're both just too old. Kinda like "Bing who?"

C. P. Snow used to be a major cultural figure, perhaps primarily in the UK. Best known for his novels about academic politics at Cambridge, he was a physical chemist by training and he tried to bridge the cultural gap between the sciences and the humanities. Can't say he had much success, judging from the course of this whole discussion.

I graduated from Harvard in '62, with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry. At that time, Harvard didn't give enough undergraduate courses in Chemistry to meet the American Chemical Society's criteria for certification. I was happy to be able to take courses in Old French, Indo-European Linguistics, Russian Literature, Drama, Constitutional Law, History of Drama, and a bunch of other things that weren't pre-professional. Those days are gone, and the modern university is almost totally career-oriented because money. (It's not just US; read almost any issue of London Review of Books to see what Thatcherite policies have done there.)

I don't have an easy answer, but the Sad and Rabid are a symptom, not a cause, of the cleavage between the Two Cultures.

#222 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 06:02 PM:

In SF&F, specifically.

#223 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 06:56 PM:

C. P. Snow, besides writing the Strangers and Brothers novels, may be best known to some here as the acknowledged inspiration (via The Two Cultures) for Flanders and Swann's "The Two Laws of Thermodynamics".

"Ah, H2SO4, Professor. Don't synthesize anything I wouldn't synthesize. And the reciprocal of Pi, your good wife?"

#224 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 07:08 PM:

First, my elitist credentials: I'm in the second generation in my family to finish high school.

I'd like to follow up on what dotless ı said at # 204 about SF being an ongoing conversation. When I read Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time I thought of it as SF. Mentioning this to some friends who were not SF readers, they were surprised at this because it did not have rocketships. What it does have is a character bouncing forward and backward in time, affording the author the opportunity to examine some important issues from a variety of perspectives that one person can't see in real life. Kurt Vonnegut used this same device, but he was more involved in the ongoing SF conversation, so apparently it is easier for many readers to see his books as SF.

Finally to Fade Manley, thanks for the clarification. And no worries about the spelling of my name—I hold with the primacy of the spoken word, so in an informal context like this I don't mind an alternate spelling unless it changes the pronunciation.

#225 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 09:22 PM:

Well, C.P. Snow sounds like he was probably a cool person and maybe I should check out some of his writing.

I come very much from the sciences side (started with a Physics major, ended up being seduced off my track by Biochem and Molecular Biology.) My husband very much from the arts side (English Major, specialized in Chaucer.) When we were courting I wrote him songs and poems (as a matter of fact my first overture was a love song I had written to him; I handed him the lyrics under another sheet of paper with the lyrics for one of my game-related songs that he had asked for. Then I spent about three days wondering if he had seen it before he wrote me a poem back. But it was the lowest-pressure way I could think of to let him know how I felt.)

When I found out he was writing his master's thesis on The Canterbury Tales I got a copy of it and read it so as to better understand what he had to say about it--I think that may have been a turning point in our courting; at any rate he seemed very touched. Though I suspect the translation I found in the second hand store might not have been very good...

He proofread my dissertation and I his. In both cases we were mainly second eyes on spelling and grammar, as neither of us understood the other's field.

So, you know, kind of long wandering way to say that each side has things to offer the other. But also an important part of my life-narrative and I've been enjoying all the family-history stuff I've been reading so far...

#226 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 11:48 PM:

Terry Karney @186, Nancy Lebovitz @184, et al: Those wishing to investigate the edge-cases of Trappings and Structure in the matter of defining SF might like to do a paired read of Nancy Kress' Beggars in Spain books with the mainstream thriller Jupiter's Daughter by Tom Hyman.

In both, the central McGuffin is that someone has invented and practicalized a process for putting a fertilized embryo in one end and having a specifically gene-modded and optimized embryo come out the OTHER end, and in both cases one marker of an Optimized Human is complete removal of the need to sleep.

Where they go from that basic premise and technological McGuffin are fascinatingly different. Hyman is clearly writing a modern technothriller, in the sort of vein of a cross between Dan Brown and Tom Clancy. Kress is writing specfic.

What strikes each author as most interesting or important to write about vary massively.

#227 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2015, 11:56 PM:

I think that Hild, which is phenomenal, is balanced by Nora Roberts'/JD Robb's In Death series. One is only questionably fantasy but written by a member of Us, and the other is definitely science fiction but written by a member of Definitely Them, We Hate Them, Ew. I think I'm going to keep them as edge cases for discussions of what is and is not whatever fine genre we're discussing. I think that the In Death books are more useful slash interesting in those discussions because they provide a neat parallax effect-- what does one particular bit of the fine genre we're discussing look like to someone who is not, to my knowledge, connected with a community devoted to it? Like having someone new read your writing, you discover what has been conveyed vs what was meant.

#228 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 12:10 AM:

Terry Karney @182, Nancy Lebovitz@184: For a Heinlein juvenile without any of the trappings of SF, read Kipling's Captains Courageous. It, and Kim, seem to me to be the books Heinlein was cribbing from in creating his juveniles.

#229 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 12:27 AM:

Correcting me, @226: Dan Brown and John Grisham, not Clancy. Clancy writes somewhat differently-flavored books. :->

#230 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 12:28 AM:

Theophylact @192: Yes. I remember it well.

C. Wingate @195: But Silverlock was published by an SF publisher, when it finally came out in paperback. There's a long history of hardbacks being published differently from paperbacks. (And it took over 15 years to go from hb to pb.)

#231 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 12:47 AM:

Tom: Oh yeah. I can see that (funny thing, I'm reading a book on Philby now, and that's why his family started calling him Kim: they were in India and one thing led to another association. It's a very interesting family I need to replace my copy of Treason in the Blood, which is about how he steered the Sauds to the US, rather than the British).

#232 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 12:47 AM:

Crud, the He in question was St. John Philby, not Kim.

#233 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 01:14 AM:

Alex R.: The conversation has moved on since, but I have a few half-formed thoughts in response to your answer -

1. While being in conversation with the rest of SF is a very iconic symptom of writing SF, I do not think the lack of that conversation renders a work non-SF if that work has other recognizable SF symptoms. Certainly the very first work of SF would have failed such a litmus test, as there would be no SF to have a conversation with.

2. I think "This didn't feel like SF to me; therefore, it isn't SF" is a perfectly valid opinion to have, but doesn't make a very convincing argument. It's kind of like "I didn't like this book, therefore it's a bad book".

3. I'm confused as to why you twice brought up other female SF writers who felt to you like SF writers. Are you worried that someone will accuse you of disqualifying Marge Piercy as a SF writer due to her gender? I haven't seen anyone suggesting that you might do so, but maybe I missed something.

#234 ::: 'As You Know' Bob ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 02:06 AM:

NPR's All Things Considered did a story this evening on the start of WorldCon, focusing on the Hugo catastrophe:

http://www.npr.org/2015/08/19/432910333/as-more-women-minorities-win-hugos-sad-puppies-blast-sci-fi-awards

Short, but they seem to have gotten the basics correct. They talk to Torgersen and Hurley. (Torgersen actually says that the Hugos have been given out lately on the basis of "affirmative action"....)

#235 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 03:10 AM:

Terry Karney @ 172

So what's the deal? You think it's rubbish, or it's so important it needs to be brought up, and his specific words are so prescious as to make us extract from the incohate mess that you found it in?

Sorry to take so long in answering, it's been one of those days and I think I'm getting sick. All that being said, I was aiming in three directions...

FIRST, I wanted to toss the idea out there and see what people said about it. I tend to bloviate if given the opportunity, so I thought I'd give a short version of Raymond's thoughts and see what others had to say.

SECOND, I have discussed some of these issues in great detail elsewhere - you can probably figure out where - but I am being a little coy so I can protect another online handle from association with my own name. (Making Light is the only place online where I still use my own name, and I long ago stopped using my full last name even here.)

THIRD, Given the strong feelings around the Puppies, I felt the need to carefully dip my toe in the water before discussing my own ideas of "what's wrong with science fiction" or whether there are deep norms (not "deep forms") and what those norms might be and all the rest of it. I am now carefully withdrawing my toe and putting my shoes back on, and I will be moving away from the water shortly... Maybe someone can start such a conversation in a month or two when everyone has had time to recover from the Hugos. Meanwhile, I'm preparing a post on my ancestry... ;)

#236 ::: Greg M. ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 04:27 AM:

Honestly, Alex, having written & attempted to post a long, irritated response to Eric Raymond's, uh, thoughts (which, in their latest incarnation, boiled down to the standard "OTHER PEOPLE NO LIKEZ STUFF I LIKEZ AND THIS IS BAD") you probably would've been better off *not* mentioning him and just bringing this up in an Open Thread. The folks at Making LIght, me included, will talk in good faith about anything under the sun (AND THEN YOU GET ADDICTED TO THE COMMENTS AND SPEND 3 HOURS READING THEM WHEN YOU SHOULD BE WRITING, not that I have personal experience w/ that)--ahem.

The one exception to that is bad faith arguments, and ER and so many others in that general area have been engaging in one LOOONG extended bad-faith argument, that ties are probably something to steer clear of.

Related note:
"I was challenging the staff of Tor books specifically, with their very deep knowledge of Science Fiction, to look me in the eyes and tell me they loved the book."
Awesome! Does this mean I am now on the staff of Tor books? When do I get my paycheck? Do I have to do weird and unsavory things involving Cthulhu for it? (Someone please say yes.)

#237 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 04:47 AM:

1. While being in conversation with the rest of SF is a very iconic symptom of writing SF, I do not think the lack of that conversation renders a work non-SF if that work has other recognizable SF symptoms. Certainly the very first work of SF would have failed such a litmus test, as there would be no SF to have a conversation with.

Obviously there is a difference between feeling and fact. My "feeling" that He, She, and It isn't Science Fiction does not a fact create. The most I could claim factually is that "...the book did not "feel" SF-ish." Where it actually falls is another matter, and I'm not up to making that judgement without (at least) rereading the book and consulting others. More importantly, I'm not sure a "factual" resolution of the question does us much good. The phenomenon of a book not feeling SF-ish is much more important IMHO than how we ultimately class the book.

I'd also note this is a matter of when the book was read. In 1990 I'm not sure the Marge Piercy was part of SF's conversation. Post Gibson's comment I suspect that she is very much part of the conversation and that might affect how the book feels, particularly if someone I've read recently made a He, She and It reference...

2. I think "This didn't feel like SF to me; therefore, it isn't SF" is a perfectly valid opinion to have, but doesn't make a very convincing argument. It's kind of like "I didn't like this book, therefore it's a bad book".

I'd certainly agree with you, and absent rereading the book and critiquing it - which isn't on my agenda - I think I need to concede the point, because I remember my reactions to the book far more than I remember the book itself, and I only remember a couple minor scenes.

I think the more interesting question is essentially a matter of statistics or privilege: How many people, and which people need to "feel" that a book isn't SF for it to be officially excluded? (This, by the way, is where the issue of Raymond's "deep norms" becomes interesting, at least to me. I'll note in passing that Raymond also called SF a conversation...)

3. I'm confused as to why you twice brought up other female SF writers who felt to you like SF writers. Are you worried that someone will accuse you of disqualifying Marge Piercy as a SF writer due to her gender? I haven't seen anyone suggesting that you might do so, but maybe I missed something.

Having suggested the I might have points of agreement with the Puppies, I didn't want to be misunderstood; I thought the issue worth a little extra effort.

#238 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 04:50 AM:

Honestly, Alex, having written & attempted to post a long, irritated response to Eric Raymond's, uh, thoughts

Save that text. I suspect that there will be a "post-Sasquan" blog entry from Eric, and you can mine your current response for material.

#239 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 04:53 AM:

Or you could just post it here; that would be good, clean fun!

#240 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 08:13 AM:

One of the things to remember is that college educations are far more common than they were a century ago. Here in the UK it's gone from around 5000 per year to maybe 400,000, according to one set of figures I saw recently.

It's debatable whether the overall quality matches. The number of school leavers going onto degree courses has doubled in the last forty years. I think you have at least to wonder.

This isn't the place to be cynical about degree courses (though it does keep them off the streets) but even creative writing runs up against a reality test.

Can you write books that sell?

Assuming that editors are the gatekeepers, I wonder if we're seeing a crude attempt to change the decision-making process from a talent-judgement to something based on a certificate, or membership of a certain in-crowd.

There are certainly reports in such places as Private Eye on bizarre payments to authors who don't sell well, but have some political or literary reputation. John Scalzi sells better than most politicians. But behaviour depends on there being authors who sell a lot, and the publishers are essentially using that income to buy reputation; I am not sure the Puppies realise that.

And Brad Torgerson has a degree? I can sort of see how it might be useful for the Army to set up the equivalence, so that people can be counted as qualified in this credentialised world, but, very obviously, it's not a qualification in writing fiction.

What the UK numbers do seem to mean is that a time is coming when good writers are likely to have a degree, but it won't have anything to do with being a good writer. It's more like saying a UPS driver has a proven ability to deliver on time.

I am not sure I want to hear the answers, but I wouldn't be surprised if the junior staff, the editors of the future, in today's publishing business, are more likely to have a degree than the current generation of editors. But, since everyone is more likely to have a degree, does that mean anything?

#241 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 09:34 AM:

Theophylact, #221: "[T]he Sad and Rabid are a symptom, not a cause, of the cleavage between [C. P. Snow's] Two Cultures."

Really not. One of the basic assumptions of Snow's argument was that there was a certain bedrock of good faith underlying the outlook of both of his mooted "cultures." Nothing like that kind of symmetry is going on here.

The trouble with much of the last hundred comments worth of discussion here is that some people are wedded to the idea that this particular food fight can somehow be redeemed, or healed, or gotten past, or made to yield valuable insights, if we can just see past the viciousness and loopy contra-factual assertions and tease out some small kernel of truth. This seems to me a fair description of Alex R.'s position.

I really don't think that this idea is correct. I think Abi's #143 is one of the most on-point observations posted in the last few days. Some people have "chosen to break the norms of our society, because they think it will profit them, and because they don't think that the costs will be significant." That's what happened here. The bad behavior that Alex R. wants us to set aside in order to gaze upon the small valid point he thinks is there? That bad behavior has been the point of the whole exercise. From the start this whole initiative has been about power. They think they don't have enough of it, and they want us to understand that they'll just keep crapping in the punchbowl until they get some. The message of their lies and crazy assertions isn't their nominal content. The message of their lies and crazy assertions is that we're being told to understand that we're dealing with people who are perfectly happy to continue emitting an unending stream of lies and crazy assertions. None of it has the remotest connection to C. P. Snow's thoughtful insights into the need to heal what he saw as a growing rift between the worldview of humanist intellectuals and the worldview of scientists and engineers.

What Alex R. is doing, what Theophylact's C. P. Snow comment comes out of, seems to me much like looking at a mugging and mournfully demanding that we see what it tells us about, I dunno, let's say "the modern rift between the secular and the sacramental sensibilities." A mugging doesn't tell us a thing about anything like that. It tells us that some people will do bad things to get what they want.

#242 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 09:40 AM:

(Then again, I seem to be one of the few people who read a widely-discussed "apology" by a certain person that appeared a couple of weeks ago -- an "apology" that revealed some appalling things this person had done -- and spotted it for what it really was: a detailed threat.

(The "apology" part was the sugar coat. The actual point of the exercise was to make it clear how far this person is willing to go. The aim was to modify the behavior of others. The exercise was successful.)

#243 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 10:27 AM:

C.S. Lewis commented that Snow did not seem clear about whether he meant the Arts (i.e. humanities) in university studies, or the creative arts. There are of course overlaps - the products of the creative arts are among the things that Arts students study - but they are not the same, and there is sometimes hostility between them as well.

I'm very doubtful of the idea that there are two cultures. There are lots of cultures, which sometimes overlap and sometimes diverge.

#244 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 10:55 AM:

What Alex R. is doing, what Theophylact's C. P. Snow comment comes out of, seems to me much like looking at a mugging and mournfully demanding that we see what it tells us about, I dunno, let's say "the modern rift between the secular and the sacramental sensibilities." A mugging doesn't tell us a thing about anything like that. It tells us that some people will do bad things to get what they want.

Patrick, I think you half-understand my feelings. I don't feel the slightest urge to be reconciled with Brad, Sarah, Larry, Wright, etc. If you'll recall our earlier discussions, I'm about as aggressively anti-Puppy as anyone can be, and in my opinion the Puppy leadership is about as ugly and corrupt as anyone can get - Nixon comes to mind.

But I've got no hate for the Eric Raymonds* of this world; the second or third tier followers who are having their dreams and/or prejudices** catered to as they're invited along for the ride by a bunch of Nixon-level sociopaths, and if having a discussion about the current weaknesses/changes in Science Fiction is a way reunite these folks with the rest of fandom, I think it's a good idea. (I think it's a good idea regardless, but apparently This Is Not The Time.)

* Eric Raymond has done, and continues to do, amazing things for the Open Source software movement. If you own a GPS it probably runs code which he wrote and makes available for free, and that's just the start of his contributions. I utterly despise the man's politics, and greatly admire him as both a programmer and philosopher about programming.

** Admitted ugly prejudices - not sure what to do about that.

#245 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 11:01 AM:

#240 ::: Dave Bell

"This isn't the place to be cynical about degree courses (though it does keep them off the streets) but even creative writing runs up against a reality test.

Can you write books that sell?"

I'm not sure that's the only reality test for fiction. The other goal is write things that people read and love.

Is there a culture structured like fanfic (no money or possibly little money but you know whether you have an audience) for litfic?

Patrick, I think that if the puppies had been operating in good faith, they would have developed their own award. For some reason, they've resisted the idea of having their own award.

This is a shame. As I said upthread, there are things to like about the older science fiction, and I would have been pleased to see more of that sort of thing.... but I can't see evidence that there's much of it anymore.

Lawrence Schoen has written some. I have no idea what he thinks about politics or the Hugos, but his buffalito stores are cheerful (haven't read the most recent one yet, which may be more serious) and inventive.

#246 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 11:05 AM:

Patrick at 241 & 242: totally agree with your point at 241. They are doing it because they can, and because they are enjoying the ruckus. They have all the nobility of 14 year old vandals with bricks.

Re the "apology" by someone who need not be named but his initials are probably L. A.: I really, really don't see the threat in the apology. If there's another apology I should be looking at, please do me the kindness to e-mail me and point me to it, since I do not want to hijack this thread.

#247 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 11:07 AM:

Taken as a set of people pursuing coordinated action, the Puppies have one of C.P. Snow's two cultures only as a cargo cult. They talk a lot about reason, but they are intensely irrational and subjective, actively hostile to unwelcome data, vigorously dishonest (and gleefully malicious about it), the whole deal. Their culture isn't science, it's grifters and marks.

They vigorously mock actual scientists and engineers who are doing what Snow wanted to encourage - taking on the depth of the arts and humanities as worthy of study, respect, and enjoyment. Dr. Catherine Asaro is just one of many who meet all the qualfiications they claim, and yet who earn just hateful derision.

#248 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 11:16 AM:

I think I see a difference between what the leaders want (awards and more exposure for their brands) and what the followers want (to force the world back into the forms of their youth, where certain people "knew their place" which was mostly not in SFF.)

What I don't see is how what the followers want (going by the appeals that persuaded the followers to spend money to boost the slate) is a good thing that SFF currently lacks and that we should all try for. Any part of it, really.

People are complicated; ESR can be good at programming and generous with the results without being right about the Puppies.

#249 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 11:58 AM:

I should have specified Puppy leaders in my last; I've got potent real-life distractions making me uncharitable toward others who waste opportunities to bring some happiness to the world.

#250 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 12:21 PM:

It is telling that, for a movement supposedly about what readers want, the leadership of the Puppies seems to be made up almost wholly of writers.

I made the first reference to C.P. Snow, and I meant it as a general pointer to the deeper past of part of the Sad Puppy matter, and of the recent flare-up of resentment against weirdly-defined elites in particular, but not as any close description of the current state of affairs.

Snow's analysis never entirely matched the US, in any case: the English gentleman's disdain for the sciences has never had as much traction in the US. And even the form dealt with by Snow has to be qualified: contemplating the sciences as "natural philosophy", or studying mathematics was always acceptable (except in those circles where intellectual achievement was considered suspect, the doggy, doggy few), as witness the prestige of the Cambridge Maths Tripos. The US had it's own splits as well, and there's no need (as abi emphasized) to get into that as a topic in itself, aside from acknowledging that it exists.

The Puppies' rhetoric takes a chasm between the arts and sciences as given (and unbridgeable), valorizes a subset of the sciences, and demonizes a subset of the arts. The Puppies' nominees' practice (except for that one article about stealth in space) does not, however, seem to be strongly about diamond-hard SF. The rhetoric is also strongly populist and in that way anti-elite, for populist values ranging from "the lurkers support me in e-mail" to "only the things we, the salt of the earth, enjoy are truly enjoyable and anyone else must be lying about enjoying other things". (One of the least attractive things about the Puppies is their refusal to believe that the people they see as the other side cannot be sincere in their liking for the things the Puppies decry.) Hoyt layers on top of that an explicit anti-elitism which seems to be grounded partly in American right-wing rhetoric and partly in her own anxieties.

#251 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 12:22 PM:

When we get down to discussing real people, I can think that the author of the linked post (the one discussing the educational and class origins of modern SF editors) is feeling that she is unfairly being dismissed because she doesn't have the right "pedigree" in terms of her degree and her university.

This is being hid in a veil of disdain, much like fox in the fable concluding that the grapes were sour anyway. Finding a reason for failure will never be quite as wonderful as having success. So the original author's happiness or satisfaction is not going to come from belaboring this point, whether in the abstract or in her specific case.

Sour grapes is an emotional self-protection mechanism, but it does cut the person off from those people who are able to get the grapes and enjoy them.

#252 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 01:12 PM:

Alex R: I don't know quite what to make of your semi-withdrawal from a field you established, nor quite what I think of your explanation for why you 1: brought it up, and 2: don't really want to talk about it. As I don't know you (resultant from a longish hiatus in my active participation in the commentariat), I shall defer judgement.

Obviously there is a difference between feeling and fact. My "feeling" that He, She, and It isn't Science Fiction does not a fact create. The most I could claim factually is that "...the book did not "feel" SF-ish." Where it actually falls is another matter, and I'm not up to making that judgement without (at least) rereading the book and consulting others. More importantly, I'm not sure a "factual" resolution of the question does us much good. The phenomenon of a book not feeling SF-ish is much more important IMHO than how we ultimately class the book.

It does make one fact, your dataset doesn't really want to call it SF. I don't think that's the real issue. The issue; the one you raised, is do *we* as a commnunity call something SF. Raymond, and the various depube canes argue not only that they do not, but *we* should not.

That is the crux of the argument being made: one of gatekeeping. I would say Raymond's version of it is worse than the Puppies. They merely argue that it ought to fit some set of forms. He is arguing not only that it fit a set of forms, but that large classes of peope are fundamentally incapable of working inside those forms. The implications of that are left as an exercise for the reader.


@239 Or you could just post it here; that would be good, clean fun!

For whom? Seriously, for whom? I suggest that it's not really that much fun for the community at large. This is just the newest iteration of a long line of such discussions, and Raymond's thougts not only suffer from being far from original, but poorly constructed,a and ill-presented. I don't really have a dog in his fight, and wonder at your eagerness to have us hash it out, when you say you aren't ready, yourself, to engage with the material you presented.

On a related note: "I was challenging the staff of Tor books specifically, with their very deep knowledge of Science Fiction, to look me in the eyes and tell me they loved the book."

No, you weren't. To do that you need to go to Tor, or write an open letter. This is the private blog of some people associated with Tor, and a comment section inhabited by their friends.

* Eric Raymond has done, and continues to do, amazing things for the Open Source software movement

None of which is relevant to what he is doing in the SF community. He may be a swell programmer, a magnanimous philanthropist, devoted adherent to (insert pet cause here). Those are not relevant to his actions there (any more than my good standing here is relevant to the work I did selling cutlery).

if having a discussion about the current weaknesses/changes in Science Fiction is a way reunite these folks with the rest of fandom, I think it's a good idea.

That if is being asked to carry a lot of water.

As Patrick said, the Puppie don't want to be reuinited wth the rest of fandom. They wan't to destroy fandom as it exists now. That is the stated agenda; of both the sad; and the rabid. It's why one of them, without any sense of shame, both tried sic the police on the convention, and felt that talking about it in public was a perfectly fine idea.

It's not (I think) that he expected the cops to raid the con in the interest of dragging someone off for psychiatric evaluation (which is an oddy Stalinist thing for a man of his political sentiments to engage in), it's that he wanted us to know that there were no ends he (and so The Puppies) aren't willing to go to in their efforts to make sure that our fun is destroyed because they don't like what we like.

There is no rapprochement one can expect with people of such a mindset, certainly not on so esoteric a topic as this; and given the givens, raising the subject here (where they are convinced the heart of the Cabal of Coniving SJW Exclusionists resides) isn't going to help. Because (IMO) anything which is seeded here will be rejected out of hand as corrupt at its source.

#253 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 02:01 PM:

Greg M. @236: Yes. (You're welcome. Always happy to help!)

Alex R. @237: Could you please note the author and comment number of the comment you're quoting text from? Not doing so means one has to do a Find to figure out who you're talking to, and muddies the aim of your commentary.

The phenomenon of a book not feeling SF-ish is much more important IMHO than how we ultimately class the book.

Important how, and to whom?

How many people, and which people need to "feel" that a book isn't SF for it to be officially excluded?

Who's the the excluding authority? Le Académie?

Dave Bell @240: since everyone is more likely to have a degree, does that mean anything?

Sort of like: some ridiculously high percentage of taxi drivers in Boulder have PhDs. Does that mean the taxi service should require applicants to have a PhD...?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @241: From the start this whole initiative has been about power.

More specifically, the Puppies seem to have this idea (which it sounds like Alex R. is buying into, at least by implication) that there's some Central Authority that needs to be "overthrown." Which makes their objectives orthogonal to the experience of the rest of fandom.

It tells us that some people will do bad things to get what they want.

I get the sense that they want to stage a palace coup, without realizing that there is no palace.

Alex R. @244: a way reunite these folks with the rest of fandom

This implies that there was a time when they were "in fandom"; again, this presupposes a degree of coherence in the community which, I think, is unsupported by history.

I think it's a good idea.

Why? Why does fandom need to be "united"? What does that look like? What advantage does that accrue, and to whom?

Alex R. @244: I don't feel the slightest urge to be reconciled with Brad, Sarah, Larry, Wright, etc.

I speculate that you're reacting to the conflict; and wish it could be replaced with peaceful coexistence. I'm right there with you. But I think the misapprehension is that anything needs to happen other than Certain People leaving off assaulting our collective practices and customs.

Nancy Lebovitz @245: they would have developed their own award. ... there are things to like about the older science fiction

Cat @248: to force the world back into the forms of their youth, where certain people "knew their place" which was mostly not in SFF.

I think there are at least five things going on here that are getting muddled together.

    Per Nancy above:

  1. The Puppies crave esteem, but (in the spirit of Groucho Marx) their own award that wouldn't suffice, because the approbation has to be exogenous to satisfy their need.
  2. The Puppies could aspire to writing of a quality that would garner the broader esteem, but they don't have the chops to manage it. They've mistaken lack of chops for liking the "wrong kind" of fiction.
  3. Quality fiction of the type of the best of classic SF is no longer being written much; it'd be cool if some were.
  4. Per Cat:

  5. The Puppies want to feel about SF they way they did when they were young. What they've missed is that, as much as SF has changed, so have they. (Cf. The Suck Fairy.)
  6. Society has shifted, so they can no longer claim the status they used to assume by default.

The whole thing has smooshed together in their minds into a big amorphous mass of "We want to matter and you won't let us, WAAAAAHHHH!"

So they're pitching a collective tantrum, and flailing about smashing things, instead of unpacking the problems and making focused efforts to address what's actually going on.

It's a collective case of "I'm cold; go put on a sweater." They're missing that their experience is theirs, and it's their responsibility to adjust; people who are not-them have their own experience, with an equally ghods-given right to it.

Cat, again: What I don't see is how what the followers want ... is a good thing that SFF currently lacks and that we should all try for.

It's not, any more than enabling an addict or an abuser will cure the addiction or end the abuse.

Their craving for power is also driven by a deep sense of self-disempowerment. Until they reach that awareness and claim their own power over their own experience, they're doomed to frustration. And the rest of us are just targets for mistreatment.

See also: James's last paragraph in @250.

Terry Karney @252: wonders at Alex R.'s eagerness to have us hash it out, when you say you aren't ready, yourself, to engage with the material you presented.

This snapped something into focus for me: Alex, I wonder if you're searching for the $Authority to decide Who's Right? What happens if you just choose/decide/assess what makes sense to you, Alex?

#254 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 05:41 PM:

re Patrick@241: I'm doubly regretting bringing up Snow because I think you're right: this has nothing to do with his ideas. And I'm having trouble figuring out what fantasy world it does come from. There's something of a trope where a fellow graduates from the right private school and goes to the right college (an Ivy or better still some place in the deep south with a writing program) and then ends up writing sensitive pieces for the New Yorker or editing modern novels at Random House. It does happen*, and maybe you can argue that Ian Ballantine fits the pattern, but he's been dead for two decades now. I really do have to insist that the trope has to be realized in reality, and of all the various offenders on any side of this the only person who fits it at all is Wright (St. John's College Annapolis, the "more liberal arts than thou" educational alternative). I'm pretty much coming to the conclusion that it's the result of "making BS up," or even "bald face lying."

*He was one year ahead of me in high school

#255 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 09:17 PM:

The thought struck me that if any treatment of social divisions from a few decades ago should be considered particularly relevant to the Puppies, and this particular aspect of them in particular, it wouldn't be Snow, but rather Hofstadter and The Paranoid Style in American Politics.

#256 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 09:49 PM:

Theophylact @ 221... the cleavage between the Two Cultures

What's that about cleavage?

#257 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2015, 10:35 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @246: Is there a culture structured like fanfic (no money or possibly little money but you know whether you have an audience) for litfic?

I was about to say "Yes, definitely!" and then realized that I wasn't sure how you were defining litfic or fanfic. So I withdraw the definitely and say "Probably!", depending on the definition of each. There's both fanfic for 'high' literature and pay-in-copies magazines for 'literary' short fiction, in any case.

I have a lot of strong feelings about corner-case fanfic, regardless; but I'm not sure if they're relevant to the question you're asking.

#258 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 01:11 AM:

Jacque #253

Are you asserting that #3 is true? Because I disagree strongly.

#259 ::: Brad Handley ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 01:13 AM:

#159 Terry,
Nope my degree was from a grandpa who was a professional card player in the 40s. He taught me that when you call someone on "Bull Shit" you call it plainly so every one at the table understands it. I think it was pretty plain.

#260 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 01:36 AM:

259
Yes, we can see you don't get it.

#261 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 01:38 AM:

Brad @259:

Oh, I think everyone understands your message.

Next question: can you contribute something interesting, engaging, and substantive to the conversation, or are you only here to stir shit?

#262 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 02:19 AM:

Sarah @258: I was trying to paraphrase Nancy's 245. I may have blown it.

#263 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 02:32 AM:

abi 261: or are you only here to stir shit?

And as we know, the one who stirs the shit gets to lick the spoon.

#264 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 03:31 AM:

I'd be much more interested in having a genuine conversation, to be honest. It seems to me to be such a waste of all of the resources that one must have to even get to the point of posting to the internet to use mind, hands, keyboard, language, and life experience merely to say, basically, "yah, boo".

Hey Brad, given that this is a SF community, have you read any good books lately? What were they and what did you like about them? What worked and what didn't?

I've just finished The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which was sold to me as "Like Firefly with a pacifist multispecies crew". That's not a bad description, and Chambers does an interesting job of using the different mores and standards of the different sentient species in contrast to one another. It didn't all work for me—there was one choice at the end that clunked rather than rang like a bell—but it was an enjoyable read with interesting characters in an interesting context. I'll probably reread it when I want that headspace again.

I also read The Mechanical, by Ian Tregellis. Basically, what would the world have looked like in the 1920's if the Dutch had invented alchemical golems in the Golden Age? Some meaty, thought-provoking stuff about freedom and slavery, free will and what makes a person, Catholicism and Calvinism, Descartes and Spinoza, but mostly shown rather than told, so if you want to just ride the plot, you certainly can. (Be warned that it's the start of a series, not a standalone work.)

#265 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 06:48 AM:

abi @264 I've heard good things about A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and am looking forward to reading it.

I recently read and enjoyed The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. I'm not usually a big fan of books that jump back and forward in time, but this one completely worked for me. Very much our own world, with the addition of a small group of people who are reborn into their same lives repeatedly - with the knowledge they've accumulated from previous iterations of that life. It's thought-provoking about what we do and do not control - plus, you want to see what Harry and his fellows are going to do about the reports coming back through time that the world is ending.

#266 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 07:31 AM:

#257 ::: Fade Manley

What I had in mind for litfic is what I think a lot of people mean by literary fiction-- fiction whose prototype is (some idea of?) the usual short story from the New Yorker-- there's a lot of close observation of emotional states and the contemporary world, and not much action. I think I've read some of those stories. I've definitely read some stories in the New Yorker and The Sun, but none of them stick in memory.

This is definitely not the complete range of what goes on in literature, but I think it's a fair account of the stereotype.

Has anyone else read How Fiction Works? I read about half of it (too much close analysis of books I'm not interested in), but it's got a fair amount about how the modern idea of literary fiction was constructed (a lot of it based of Flaubert, I think), and that a great deal of what's solidly considered literature doesn't match the specs of "literature".

For example, character development isn't actually required. Literature has fascinating monomaniacs like Ahab. For that matter I don't *think* Ishmael changes much, if at all (it's been a long time since I've read Moby Dick, and if he did, it wasn't foregrounded.

On the other side (not from How Fiction Works), Pynchon is considered a literary writer, but The Crying of Lot 49 is not the world as we know it. And there's always Borges.

I've occasionally seen something like the New Yorker influence in sf and liked it. Hard Landing by Budrys is a rather naturalistic account of some shipwrecked aliens figuring out how to live on earth. I was really impressed by Spin because it seemed like a great balance of big-ideas sf and a literary novel of character.

So, what I was thinking about when I said "Is there a culture structured like fanfic (no money or possibly little money but you know whether you have an audience) for litfic?", what I was thinking was whether there was a non-monetary subculture for people who read and write naturalistic fiction not directly based on other fiction, even though there's plenty of literary fiction which doesn't meet those specs.

#267 ::: TheophylaCT ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 09:41 AM:

Serge Broom @ #256: Sorry; I'm trying hard to keep abreast of this discussion.

#268 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 10:17 AM:

C. Wingate, #254: I was lucky enough to work briefly with Ian Ballantine on a couple of projects he brought to Tor in the late 1980s. And I was on the Well when John Seabrook was active there. I have no idea what "pattern" you think they "arguably" both fit, aside from both being white men who work(ed) with words. Ian didn't "edit modern novels for Random House" and he certainly didn't "write sensitive pieces for the New Yorker." In fact his entire career was about (1) bringing good work to mass audiences and (2) not giving a hoot whether it had any kind of elite-granted pedigree.

#269 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 12:40 PM:

abi @ #264:

The Mechanicals is on my to-read list (loaded onto my Kobo and all). At the moment, I am reading Probability Moon by Nancy Kress. I found it slightly hard, for the first few chapters, but once I had attuned mysef to the book, it seems to be passing by at pace, which is good.

Other recent reads are Angel Station by Walter Jon Williams, someone whose books seldom fail to surprise and frequently also delight.Saying that, I've only read his SFnal works, not his Age of Sail stuff.

#270 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 01:38 PM:

OtterB @265:

I've heard a lot of good things about The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August; it's definitely on my Gotta Get This Soon list.

(The person who described it to me, who is not in our community, talked about it in a way that made me recommend The Incrementalists. Having only read the latter and not the former, I can't yet tell whether this makes sense.)

Next up for me is either The House of Shattered Wings or Uprooted.

You see, I had a rather disastrously successful trip to my local English-language bookstore (the fantastic American Book Center in Amsterdam), and had the expensive pleasure of bumping into my friend Tiemen Zwaan there. He's their SF&F and YA buyer, and a terrifyingly gifted bookseller. So now my TBR pile has a fresh layer on it.

#271 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 03:55 PM:

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is an excellent book; its only flaw is the painful lack of women. I was disappointed by The Incrementalists.

Claire North has another book, called Touch, that is high on my list of books to try. She also has some urban fantasy under the name Kate Griffin. I really liked the first one in that series, A Madness of Angels, although it is nowhere near as refined as Harry August. It's fun.

Has anyone else read One Night in Sixes? That was a fine piece of weird west storytelling. I must pick up the sequel soon...

#272 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 04:01 PM:

re Patrick@268: I said "maybe" in Ballantine's case precisely because, not even knowing his first name, I was only looking at the stats, and even he was something of a weak fit (the London School of Economics?). I'm not terribly surprised that he didn't fit the pattern I laid out, but then, in any case, the point is that hardly anyone, maybe nobody in SF publishing or maybe even writing is someone who came there from any stereotype of how literary types get made.

#273 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 07:45 PM:

Nancy: Moby Dick happens to be one of my favorite books (and, IMO, it needs the "silly stuff about fish", no matter what the people who say it's a good book, "if you take out all the boring chapters about whaling", but I digress).

No, Ishmael isn't seen to change. It could be said this is because the book is told from the POV of "this is what happened to me" and he is putting his present self in his narrative of the past.

I tend to think that Melville is using him as a foil to discuss the nature of the human condition, and so there is no need to show development in him, because he's an embodiment of the Ideal Everyman; perhaps even a figure of what an "enlightened" person would be like.

If I were saying it was in the mode of Hesse's Siddhartha or Schmidt's Wayfarer (to have an SF example) the nature of coming to understanding isn't knowable, so Melville doesn't show the arrival, merely the essence.

But I'm not sure I would argue it falls in that category, even if the transcendentalists are on that end of the spectrum.

#274 ::: Gerald Fnord ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2015, 08:33 PM:

#89:

Hoyt's disdain for people whose families she believes have done very well for generations is straight out of an early '30s New Masses or Daily Worker. Then again, that's nothing new: Randism assumes the drama of Stalinism---producers and parasites and a terrible fate for The Wrong People---with merely an inversion of the casting, much as the movies' default version of Satanism is Cathlicism under a simple transform.

Who was it who said something like 'Anti-semitism is Marxism for the stupid.'? Well, the more respectable rightists know enough not to sound explicitly anti-Semitic, and perhaps aren't...but they sure can fit 'cosmopolitan coastal élites who think our food is crap' into those tried-and-true old tropes.

#275 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 04:10 AM:

Alex R @127, several others:

As a voracious reader of SFF for the last 38 years, I'm challenging the idea that SF is "in a rut" or somehow in decline. I see no evidence of this; quite the opposite. More SFF is being published now, and selling better, than any time since the early 80's. More importantly (at least to me) SFF is being read by a wider cross-section of the population than ever. Back in the Reagan era, I was a ghettoized nerd for reading SF and playing RPGs; today, 1/4 of the people on the bus pull out SF or fantasy novels when the wifi cuts off.

One thing I'll say: when I was 15, I would have cheerfully sold my soul to find a girl my age as into SFF as I was. Today, I have to shove the teenaged girls out of the way* in order to look for new releases. To me, this is what success looks like. We won! Everyone reads SFF now! It's respected.

I'll assert this despite the fact that my favorite sub-genre, Space Opera, is currently suffering somewhat of a down trend. Yeah, there's less space opera being published lately; partly that's because of the stagnation of the space program for two decades (90s and 00s); partly it's that there are so *many* sub-genres now and there's only so much room on the bookshelves. So I'll just console myself with the latest Seanan McGuire or Gail Carriger. Life is hard.

So if someone is going to claim that somehow SFF is suffering, there needs to be some fairly specific evidence. Because all of the evidence I see points to a third "golden age" of SFF.

(* not really, generally I clear my throat politely)

#276 ::: EAJ... ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 08:02 AM:

I won't be able to travel to Finland, but it's been exciting to see the enthusiasm for Helsinki's Worldcon bid among US fans and pros. So I was enjoying the happy tweets that followed this morning's announcement, until I came to this:

Well, that'll be interesting

Congratulations, Helsinki!

#277 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 08:47 AM:

One of the things about Moby Dick that would sit uneasily with most 20th-century readers is that it was a rather large book. But that is changing. The definition of "novel" used for the Hugo Awards is partly where it is for reasons of the book lengths of the time (there are other reasons), and when I was at school the long books I read were almost all by Dickens (and at the behest of a rather low-quality teacher).

Yes, there was The Lord of the Rings.

Then, for a long time, the limit was set by printing costs. The printing industry in the USA was set up for a particular physical size, and translated into 100,000 words, more or less, and there was a tendency to aim for that target so the product didn't look overpriced on the bookshop shelf. (And there were other reasons, but bigger books makes the spine more prominent.)

Now we have multi-volume epics, and huge single volumes, and e-books where the spine is irrelevant anyway.

I don't think Moby Dick is unusually long any more. I do wonder what a modern editor would make of the whaling scenes, but...

"Will, move that 'To be or not to be' stuff to the start of the play."

#278 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 08:56 AM:

Dave Bell: I think the whaling scenes are fine to the modern editor. The device of using some other activity to enage in philosophy is fairly widespread (if not always used to such singular, and lengthy, effect).

Some of it is pretty minor in presentation (Wax on, Wax off! from The Karate Kid), some of it rather longer (Barnes used it to a fairly hiigh degree in The Kundalini Equation).

So I suspect the question moves to, "Does this metaphor squick my audience too much to publish".

#279 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 12:36 PM:

EAJ @ 276: Some people always [metaphorically or otherwise] bring a skunk to a celebration.

#280 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 12:42 PM:

I wonder how Moby-Dick would work as a straight narrative with links to the infodumps. On the other hand, the sheer barrage of information works to show the reader the enormity of the thing, the surreality of life spent pursuing it, and the almost blasphemous techniques used to turn a vast living creature into saleable parts. I reread it every other year or so.

#281 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 12:51 PM:

I stand with Kim Stanley Robinson-- there's nothing wrong with essays in fiction, as long as they're good essays.

#282 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 02:26 PM:

re that tweet. He lives in Italy, so the "backyard" isn't as immediate as the publishing house being there makes it look.

#283 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 02:29 PM:

Jenny: I think it fails because the point of those dumps was to give him a framework for the human condition. E.g. I don't thinl the passage about clarifying sperm oil wasn't about the work required to break down the lumps, but that in shared labor people come together, and those who might not otherwise touch; were both equal, and their judgements of others were (for at least the time in question) suspended.

#284 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 02:32 PM:

I always thought that the infodump chapters were the best part of Moby-Dick. But I'm obviously* weird.

*I hang out here, don't I? ;)

#285 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 02:35 PM:

Crud, didn't finish my thought: So cutting those out doesn't ruin the book, merely creates a very different book. An adventure tale about monomania, rather than what I took away from it, which is that community requires some level of shared aim to survive, and that the tyranny which was the Pequod could function so long as the aims of the final authority weren't destructive.*

But inside that the comity of purpose was what Ishmael needed. Why he "goes to sea" when he is unhappy with his fellow man. Ashore he doesn't find that sense of shared purpose. Perhaps the failing is is, and he needs the limiting, liminal, qualities of shipboard life, perhaps the failure is society, which can't create it without hard limits (and The Pequod is metaphor for social mores).

That, at least, is a large part of what I take away from the book.


*one can also take a parable about how leaders/tyrants can convince people to pursue self-destructive ends

#286 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 02:44 PM:

"Metaphor."
- Drax the Destroyer

#287 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 02:56 PM:

I'm the same kind of weird as Mary Aileen, when it comes to the digressions in Moby Dick.... Digressions can be good. They show that the story and the setting have room enough and solidity enough to digress in, I guess.

#288 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 02:57 PM:

On ebook publishing in Europe...

Some enterprises were set up in EU countries with low tax rates on ebooks. The VAT system calculated the tax rate on where the ebook was delivered from. Luxembourg and Ireland are the bases for Amazon and Google because of the VAT rates.

And an e-book sale in a non-EU country would be liable for VAT at the rate in the buyer's country, just like physical goods in general. It added complications for US-based publishers thinking they could sell direct to Europe, if they held the rights.

France, Finland, and Italy have all been doing stuff on VAT and books which has led to cases in the European Court.

Meanwhile, the law changed on 1st January this year, and everyone pays VAT based on the place of delivery. This means Amazon will get a huge tax bill from the UK, but it also does nasty things to small traders.

There's a well-known person with a family history of dubious handling of tax affairs, owning a small publisher selling e-books from Europe. These things happen slowly, but I wouldn't be astonished if he decided to move his places of residence and business over the next couple of years. What he has done might even be perfectly lawful, but the increase in VAT due could be significant.1

Incidentally, eBay and Paypal in Europe have formally separated from each other. That may allow them more options to limit their tax liabilities in Europe.

1 If you're a trader, you claim back the VAT on what you buy for the business and pay the VAT you charge your customers. When the VAT on what you sell is low, the net result may be a payment to you. And a 10% cut of turnover is a huge fraction of the final profit,

#289 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 03:15 PM:

Terry, I and my brother can't imagine any of our English teachers saying something of the quality of what you write about Moby Dick. Maybe it's A-level stuff, but we both got good English Lit O-level grades by pretty much ignoring what our teachers had said. And some of the questions I answered were not even about the books we had formally read-in-class.

I took the English Language exam six months early, which was a bit of a surprise for me, and maybe the pass was a bit of a surprise for the teacher, but that did put me in the "clever" stream getting an English Lit biased course, and exposed me to Chaucer.

The English Lit exam was the last O-level I did, The next day I was at the County Show, in farmer's son mode, wondering between tractors whether answering the question on James Bond had been a good idea.

I also did a lot of wandering. A surprising number of people from around the country knew me. I have a feeling that such ancient experiences still affect me when I am at a Convention. I can still remember the traditional cattle markets and corn exchanges (One has become an office of Local Government, the other site is now a supermarket.

#290 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 03:28 PM:

In regard to digressions in books, am I the only one here who wanted to read the S. Morgenstern original because of William Goldman's descriptions of what he cut out?

#291 ::: EAJ... ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 03:51 PM:

D. Potter @ 279: I began to feel awful about having posted that almost immediately, both for having thrown a stink bomb into a garden party (or something) and for giving him some of the attention I'm sure he was hoping for, but I was away from my computer all morning and couldn't add an apology.

I'm at once revolted and fascinated by the Sad/Rabid/anti-SJW folk; like someone who keeps turning over rocks to see what's wriggling underneath, I can't stop myself from reading the posts and comments, even when I know I'll end up with a Who are you people? Don't you find it miserable living inside those heads after a while? headache.

I can't really understand how much pride a slate-nominated author who won a Hugo would be able to feel when looking at his or her rocket, anyway, knowing that many of the votes may have been cast by people who never read the work. I suppose that happened in Puppy-free years, too, people voting for the writer and not the work. But though I attended four Worldcons and rooted hard for favorite authors, I never nominated or voted because I hadn't had the opportunity to read widely enough to feel even close to qualified. (And I mostly crept around the convention centers in my introverted way, attending panels and once in a while working up the courage to speak to someone -- not, I'm sure, having anywhere near as much fun as people with a greater gift for social interaction, but enjoying myself nonetheless, and never dreaming of blaming anyone but myself for my not being included in whatever the cool kids were doing.)

Apologies again.

I really really really hope The Goblin Emperor wins.

#292 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 03:54 PM:

People always complain about the long descriptive feast scenes in Game of Thrones. The armor and outfit stuff as well, but the feasts most of all. I know that John Hodgman has stated several times, in essays and interviews and possibly on some podcasts, that he loves the meal descriptions. Loves what they say about the world, the subtle part of the story they tell. I feel the same way. The easiest one to point out is the difference between [Wbsserl'f naq Gbzzra'f](rot13) feasts. The difference in extravagance and tone is not just a reflection of the mood of the place at the time, it's a reflection on the characters' own personalities, and provides subtle and not-so-subtle clues about a lot of other things.

Similarly, my favorite parts of both Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett books are often the long worldbuilding digressions about restaurants or military battles or the physical laws of the universe, and those are my very favorite authors.

And yes, as a kid I did want to read the S. Morganstern original of the Princess Bride.

#293 ::: David Langford ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 03:59 PM:

#288 – Since Dave Bell has invoked the current European VAT nightmare for microbusinesses selling digital products ... I've been collecting relevant links for a while here.

#294 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 04:06 PM:

Buddha Buck: No.

#295 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 04:10 PM:

EAJ: I can't really understand how much pride a slate-nominated author who won a Hugo would be able to feel when looking at his or her rocket, anyway

Honestly... I don't think its about the work. It's about what they see as a culture war, so it's a battle trophy.

It may have started as an attempt, by some, to get their work recognised for merit, but that failed, and they moved on to this.

#296 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 04:44 PM:

Terry @295:

It's a battle trophy, or it's something they can display to impress people who don't know the background (someone might be impressed by to "this is the award for best science fiction story of the year" "the award" and "best" without knowing any of the history), or someone might expect it to increase the sales of their books. That can appeal either to someone who thinks of money as the ultimate way of keeping score, or someone who much more directly is thinking of the price of car repairs or a vacation.

#297 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 04:48 PM:

For at least some of the Puppies, any Hugos they get will matters as Hugos their enemies didn't get, too.

#298 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 05:22 PM:

@297 -- Bruce Baugh, if they do actually manage to get a rocket, should we call it "the dog in the manger award?"

#299 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 05:57 PM:

@291 I've seen at least one Puppy who, at least publicly, seems to have convinced himself that he really honestly deserves his nomination because, sure, there was some slate stuff, but his real true fans voted too! And he owes his nomination to them!

It's sad.

#300 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 06:00 PM:

299
Do the lurkers support him in e-mail, also?

#301 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 06:14 PM:

So far, I feel I can approve of the results of voting at Worldcon.

I hope I shall not be disappointed when I awake tomorrow.

I do remember when a novel by L. Ron Hubbard got a nomination, by questionable methods. I spent a happy evening at an Eastercon fuelled by the publicity budget of the publishing company, which my memory recalls as a commercial arm of a certain church. The liquid publicity material had the usual effects and may be said to be an equivocator in matters of lechery.

#302 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 06:29 PM:

Terry Karney at 295: "It's about what they see as a culture war, so it's a battle trophy."

Or else it's loot.

#303 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 07:31 PM:

It is one of the nicest bases (by my aesthetic) in quite some time.

#304 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 08:47 PM:

#300

Oh, I'm sure. Always faithful, those lurkers. smh

#305 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 08:49 PM:

#300 ::: P J Evans

Just as a general point, I have supported in email. I have been supported in email.

While there's no reason to believe any particular claim of having been supported in email, it does happen.

#306 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2015, 09:19 PM:

Nancy, I'm sure it does - but you know about 'the lurkers support me in e-mail' as a claim.

#307 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2015, 02:55 AM:

Uff-da. In the immortal words of Eloise, time to "fall over behind a hidden door."

#308 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2015, 03:30 AM:

The discussions about Moby Dick are reminding me of my wife's experience in college with it. She apologized to her professor for being unable to finish it, and had a very interesting conversation with him about why he loved it. He grew up in a mostly-dry country (I don't remember which one) far away from any oceans, and so the long descriptions of the sea were fascinating to him when he was young.

#309 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2015, 04:32 AM:

Brooks Moses @308

Another element of that angle on Moby Dick is that most American families came to the country by a sea voyage. Some of my ancestors may have walked to England after the last Ice Age, and now airliners have replaced ships, but does the US readership have a sense of a sea voyage as a passage between old and new?

#310 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2015, 01:06 PM:

Terry Karney @ #303:

It is a nice an solid base, with plenty of interesting angular bits (one of the bases was lurking by the crafts tables, where I have been demoing 3D printing when I haven't been taking lunch or WSFS business meetings, or occasionally attending panels).

#311 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2015, 02:18 PM:

I think it was seeing, and then reading, The Princess Bride that led me to watch and then read The Prisoner of Zenda and Rupert of Hentzau.

Oh, hey, I edit books sometimes, so I can tell education-related anecdotes now!

Mom's side has been genteel since 1605. Dad's was largely hard-life homesteaders in the South. Grand-Dad went to Harvard Law, but dropped out before completing a degree. He did various jobs while Grandma raised Dad and his siblings in cabins and tents until his fortunes took them to what we'd call houses.

One of Dad's uncles or great uncles went to college after he was eighty. Dad got a degree in music at Northwestern. He taught piano at colleges and privately, and played piano or organ for church, weddings, funerals, musicals, dinner theater, and pizza places, He did whatever he could to supplement what a musician earns, including a lot of hunting. We ate venison frequently. Once a year, he accompanied the county rodeo on a theater organ in the stands.

I'm in college right now. I was all set to finish my degree at the end of this year, but the kidney stone put paid to my plan to take the online Bio class and lab, so I'll have to try that again next summer. I'll be augmenting my two-year AA that got me employed from 1990 until we left Virginia. Nieces of mine will have degrees before I get this one. Thanks to Cathy's job, I get free tuition, so it was clearly time for me to get some of that sweet, sweet education.

That guy who wanted to know how to understand teenagers might try going back to college. The opportunity is there to observe them. Personally, I am somewhat reassured about the future when I pay attention to my fellow students. They don't meet any of the stereotypes. We like some of the same music. They're doing a fantastic job of dealing with the mess they are being handed.

Sorry, tired of cutting this down for now. [posh accent] I must go play the grand piano!

#312 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2015, 11:51 PM:

Ingvar: I may get to handle that hugo at some point. Matthew Dockery's wife is an acquaintance of mine.

I used to live with the maker's model for the LACon III Hugo, and I helped pack the bases for the LACon II Hugo (modelling clay and BBs, the bases were hollow ceramic rats).

Watching David Brin come up to me on the Lanai, "Terry, Terry: I WON A HUGO!!!!... Did you know the bases are filled with clay?"

"And BBs".

"Really?" (digs with his finger). Oh My!

Runs off, "hey,... did you know the Hugos are filled with clay AND BUCKSHOT!!!!"

#313 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2015, 12:30 AM:

Actually, the bases for 1984 used the smallest birdshot we could get, buckshot being too large. And white clay - polymer clay might have been a better choice, but I don't think it was easy to get then in quantity, at least not as cheaply as regular clay.

I had for a long time a couple of weights made from the small amount of the mixture left over, each slightly smaller than a small sausage patty.

#314 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2015, 01:39 AM:

PJ Evans: I know it wan't Buckshot (as I recall it was BB shot, No. 9 would be the smallest available, but BB is usually easier to get in bulk)

David wasn't really aware of the difference, and said buckshot (which, for those who don't know, is between.30 and .36 in).

#315 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2015, 02:07 AM:

My memory is saying #9 shot. (It was pretty small shot.) We got, IIRC, two 25-pound bags, and two ten-pound blocks of clay, and used about half - it was something like a pound and a half of shot to a pound of clay.
But it sure improved the balance on the awards!

#316 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2015, 02:10 AM:

Then your memory is probably better than mine.

It certainly did improve the balance.

#317 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2015, 02:17 AM:

316
probably helped by having been the person who got to go out to the stores for the stuff. (Also, mine tends to work better with sensory input: visual, mostly. Words, not so much. But carrying those bags of shot - oh yeah.)

#318 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2015, 11:12 AM:

I am coming late to the party, but it seems to me that Sarah Hoyt is doing a little bit of projecting here. What she's projecting is the argument in her head, in which she's the revolutionary knight in silver-bright armour, and her opponents are the wicked defenders of the Castle of High Cvltvre.

Now, if I go back to my grandparents, two were illiterate rural Jamaicans, one was a village miller in northwestern Spain, and one was the daughter of an impoverished aristocratic lawyer who had a knack for picking the wrong side in Spain's political struggles (he was a Carlist). Among other things, it means I am descended from eastern European Jews (via one of those illiterate rural Jamaicans, who converted to Christianity to marry the other), black Caribbean slaves and slaveowners, Spanish peasants, fishermen, and craftsmen, and one of the oldest aristocratic clans in Spain (which makes me, btw, both a descendant of Charlemagne, and about fifth cousin of the last fascist dictator in Europe). Please note that most of my ancestors worked with their hands. So did I as a farm boy in Jamaica from 1969 through 1975.

On my father's side of the family, I was one of the first to obtain a university degree (a couple of my cousins also did). Not on my mother's side (see aristocratic lawyer above) though, so I suppose I'm one of the elite. The fact that I used to carry a cutlass in my belt must be actual confirmation of that fact (plus, my name is not Jack Sparrow).

I'm also a second generation SF/F fan (my father's taste ran to Arthur Sellings and the British New Wave). I suspect that Ms Hoyt might do a double take at the idea of a Jamaican tv repairman in 1960s London being a reader of up-to-date SF, but that is a fact.

So, am I part of this magical elite? Or just another ordinary shlub who is outraged at the behaviour of the unpapertrained pups?

#319 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2015, 11:49 AM:

Terry Karney @314: BB is usually easier to get in bulk

Our beloved hardware store in Boulder, McGuckin's, used to have bulk shot, where you'd go dish out a ladel-full of whichever size you wanted from the bin. Now they have bags and bottles in (if memory serves) 1, 5, & 10lb increments. :-(

Hmph, say I.

#320 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2015, 12:17 PM:

Well, that makes 3 of us here who helped stuff the 1984 Hugo bases. Wonder if the Puppies mistook bases for ballots, and that's where their disgruntlement comes from?

Anyone else?

#321 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2015, 12:52 PM:

Tom Whitmore @320: All of your ballot are belong to us?

#322 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2015, 02:01 PM:

320
It would be about like the rest of their understanding of the Hugos.

I have the slideshow from 1984. Also. If you like pictures of rat-with-Hugo.

#323 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2015, 05:01 PM:

P J Evans: rat-with-Hugo.

*blink* I was at L.A.con II. One of my eternal regrets is not grabbing a bunch of the fannish fortunes left over from fortune cookies in the con suite....

#324 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2015, 05:14 PM:

Jacque, I missed those...probably because I don't think I ever even got to the consuite. I remember a nice view of the fireworks across the street, though.

#325 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2015, 06:16 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @318: From what I've read of the puppies' online statements (which, given that I've followed File 770 pretty closely since April, is a fair amount) they all engage constantly in huge amounts of projection. I go back and forth in my mind about whether they're aware they do it or not.

#326 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2015, 11:43 AM:

David Goldfarb #325: How else can they assure themselves that, in spite of a majority explicitly rejecting their posturing, they're the winners? Or, for that matter, that those who oppose them represent some sort of elite bend on overthrowing the world?

As I like to call it: The Jewish-Catholic-Black-Female-Gay-Lesbian-Transgender-Freemason-Communist Plot to Overthrow The World.

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