Friday, March 25, 2005

What the Hell *is* This?

I suppose I would take stuff posted at Tangent more seriously if they actually proofread their work. As it is, I merely choke on my coffee, as good old Dave clambers up on his pulpit yet again. If you're going to post this blather from the most inane of the back-to-old-school-SF blatherers ("When men were men and women were green!), at least edit him into some semblance of coherence:

Politcal [sic] Correctness (and in the case of the instance written about in Silverberg's column, the fallout from Political Correctness, but that's another essay), has run amuck. Now, it seems, an active imagination and artistic freedom are under siege by those on the Left who have the power to punish us for what we think, and it ain't those mean old, uneducated, bible-thumping, red-state bubbas who are to blame. It is those on the Left, often-called the Elite Left—those who believe, in their heart-of-hearts, that they know what is best for us, that we are incapable of making our own decisions..

Much as he will berate short SF writers in this column about being unable to think for themselves, which is why he - an illustrious, well-read, uber-published writer - will tell SF short story writers what to think and what to write about:


The best part about this bit is that it comes right after his introduction, in which the author insists that he's not "left" or "right" but shares a mixture of political views.. you know, like every other person in America. He then goes on to remind us that there is, however, a Liberal Elite working at Keeping Him Down.

I want a T-shirt:


All of which led me to wonder if SF is going soft these days.

The same way his erection's going, apparently, which is why he's so pissed off.

One doesn't often see hard-edged political stories in short SF anymore—at least not many of them in the past twenty, twenty-five years or so.

Umm... is he part of the same genreverse I am? Wasn't there just a big story that came out extrapolating what a neo-conservative America of the future would be like? I guess that one doesn't count... being about a conservative America and all.

We'll see the occasional story dealing with gender (a very tired theme these days, as more often than not a predictable Left/liberal agenda is espoused, but not really, dispassionately explored; the agenda is so predictable as to make for comfortable reading for those in the choir, but also terribly boring as SF—or as Judy Merril had it in the '50's—Speculative Fiction. Occasionally, we'll see something by way of satire (humorous, as in Esther Friesner's "Johnny Beansprout" from the July, 2004 F&SF; or darker, as in some of Terry Bisson's or James Morrow's short work), but they are too far and few between, when taken as a percentage of the tonnage of short sf/f foisted on readers today. Most of which deals with character interaction, or the feelings of characters, or how they feel about whatever milquetoast situation lazy authors choose to put them in (yet another essay).

SF is talking too much about women and their feelings. Men, as we all know, don't have feelings. So only women write about feelings. And only women are interested in gender roles. Men are just naturally manly - unless they're James Morrow, who's an amazing writer and so is allowed to admit that men might have feelings. Though that still makes Dave uncomfortable.

Everyone knows women aren't real people anyway. They should stop writing about themselves. And stop writing about men. And men need to stop writing about gender-conflicted men, too.

Men should only write about fishing.

In space.

I'm sorry, where is that happening? Must be in the work of all those pesky non-humor-writing Women Writers. Like, who, Leguin? Show me all the softy gender-speaking young women preaching touchy-feely writing as SF. Shit knows that if we're talking about gender - you know, conceptions of being, say, human (that's female and male, you fucktard) - that we must not be writing real SF anymore, huh?

It's as if much of today's short sf has become metrosexualized, a term I'll co-opt from one coined to label the metro-sexual male.

At this point, I go into cardiac arrest and must stop reading this column. Who's in charge of Tangent?

Oh, this one's good, too:

Sometimes I have this unnerving and spine-chilling thought that too much short SF today is naught but metrosexualized SF.

Truly, spine-chilling. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

There's a dearth of imagination on any real, cutting-edge level today.

I don't think Dave reads books.

No, really, I don't. I don't think he's ever gotten past a couple of shelves at the local Borders.

Do I even need to mention that he uses "he" as the default pronoun throughout? I wonder what women readers think? Is he speaking for *all* male readers when he asks if they're scratching their male heads trying to figure out what to think about a story? I certainly get the feeling that he's only actually talking to male writers. And funny women, of course, who write funny stories about gender. That's pretty cutting edge, right?

Ballard had it 99% right. Switch his "ultra-conservative" government for "ultra-liberal" and we pretty much are living what many on the Left are preaching today. Individual rights trump everything, all the time, regardless of the effect on society as a whole. And how timely is the line about the mentally ill being left to their own devices, in light of the Terry Schiavvo case in the news. Ballard puts Nostradamus to shame.

Wow. Did you know you were living in a country run by an "ultra-liberal" government? Fooled me!

What a mess!


The overall point of bringing up Silverberg's column, Ballard's forgotten story, and my own comments, is perhaps to strike a spark in today's short sf/f writers. Not just in a political sense of awareness, and what isn't being written about very much anymore, but more importantly not to forget the story. If you're not writing about much of anything, it doesn't matter how well "nothing" is written.

Though, in the case of this column, being well-written might have helped.

What a fucktard.

4 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

"those on the Left who have the power to punish us for what we think"

Wow, it's a superpower I didn't even know about!

The use of the term "gender" in things like this is so disingenuous- it's first cousin to the use of the term "urban" in, say, "urban music". "Gender" becomes a verbal proxy under which offensive things can be said about women, or speech about women can be described as "having an agenda", or the whole idea of discussing concepts of sex/gender (and attendant power structures and preconceptions) can be described as "tired". In the same way, "urban" often is used to do the same about black people, especially in the context of music (though the derivation of "urban" for those purposes and its history are different, of course).

It's funnier still to read that sort of abuse of language in an article which complains about political correctness! Much of the objection to PC (such as that nebulous concept is ever actually nailed down enough to be discussed) is to its abuse of language. But there's a very good case to be made that the way "gender" is used here constitutes a PC of the right. The hand is really tipped when he invokes "gender" to get people to stop writing certain things, precisely the same charge he makes above that about "PC" of the left. 

Posted by Brendan

Anonymous said...

He's fucktard.

But, yes, the co-option of "PC" language in order to "spin" what would now be considered something very like bigoted, intolerat speech ("We write too much about gender" as code for "Women write too much about themselves and their *feelings*. We should have less women writers and/or writing about women and their experiences") really bugs me. Obviously, he's not the first to do it, but he's the most annoying of the blowhards in the SF circles to do it.

His bullshit just keeps coming up. It's a talking heads issue: throw some inane blowhard up there to spout-off half-conceived bullshit that pisses everyone else off, so your site gets more hits/more discussion, instead of actually putting up a good, thought-out piece by somebody who's well-read and fucking informed about the field and what's come out in the last 5 years.

It's not that I would have even minded so much if the dumbass could actually string two coherent sentences together. As it stands, it's just a huge mess of meaningless meandering, a masturbatory fantasy where he can ejaculate on all of that pesky "not real SF" fiction he seems to hate so much.

And to end it with a plea to genre writers to write "good" stories! (Good stories being, of course, only what *he* would think of as good) What a load of patronizing drivel.  

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

It is ever thus. Change is hard for the old fashioned prelates who have held the keys to the kingdom for a very long time. It was the same with country music 50 years ago. No women really broke through until Pasty Cline. Ditto for women flddlers & jazz and Blues players 50 years before that. SF is such a very strange place. It's frontier fiction of a certain limited type.

But even in deep space there is emotion. There's families. There's even been women. So far as we know there's yet to be one battle, no exchange of hostilities and in a half a century of exploration not a single human killed by hostile acts. [Yes, DARPA's working on the military side as we speak]. The SF form is often just an extension of the Western, and as you well realize and comprehend all too often a poor conception at that.  

Posted by VJ

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