Addressing The Problem™

We’re well into our second decade of Science Fiction & Fantasy publishing tying itself up in knots over The Problem™. You’re no doubt aware of The Problem™ yourself. How could you not be? A monolithic wall of text (stretching into the stratosphere) has been erected, concerning The Problem™ and if you’re so dense as to be unaware of The Problem™ then clearly you are part of The Problem™.

Still, for the sake of review, let’s go over it again.

The Problem™ — according to those who’ve made it their business to fight The Problem™:

SF/F publishing is dominated by demographic W. Demographics X, Y, and Z are underrepresented. This is obviously because demographic W is prejudiced, and therefore excluding X, Y, and Z. Therefore demographic W is on the hot seat for making SF/F into a W-only club. So, what can obligatorily concerned, properly progressive members of W do to be more inclusive and celebratory of X, Y, Z, and also A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, and the ever-fabulous Q?

The chief problem with typical analysis of The Problem™ is that it fails to ask a very important question: wence the readership? Editors and authors are not birthed whole-cloth from the dust of the earth. They always begin as readers first. I repeat: editors and authors always begin as readers first. There is no author, nor editor, in the business of Science Fiction & Fantasy literature, who did not start out as a reader. Usually, in childhood and/or adolescence. 99.999% of all professionals began life (in the field) as avid fans of some sort, whether they were laser-focused on a specific author, or a specific sub-genre, or omnivorous cosmopolitans who imbibed everything the field had to offer. Thus, to understand a dearth (or surfeit?) of any demographic, within SF/F publishing, you have to go all the way back to the beginning.

Which kids are reading, and what, and why?

Thus, how many kids from underrepresented demographics, grew up in households where fiction reading was a common and encouraged form of entertainment? And out of that number, how many gravitated to SF/F explicitly?

Because it is entertainment we’re talking about, and where entertainment is concerned, De Gustibus can be an iron law.

The progressive conceit is that kids from underrepresented demographics don’t read SF/F because these children never “see” themselves enough — not in the characters, nor the stories, nor the ranks of authors and professionals. This argument always strikes me as particularly strange — for Science Fiction & Fantasy — since a great heap of SF/F (past, and present) has concerned itself with crawling around inside the heads of people and creatures who are decidedly different from the creators, as well as the audience. No sector of entertainment literature has devoted more time to examining Difference (note the caps) than SF/F. And even if you take the postmodernist deconstructionist approach (“All fiction is simply allegory for the sake of present-tense social and political commentary!”) you still find that SF/F has gone out of its way to explore the lives and thoughts of the marginalized, the alien, and the outcast.

In other words, this is a field that bends over backwards to put Difference front-and-center.

So, what else might be going on? Besides a subtle or unconscious plot on the part of demographic W, to exclude or marginalize the other letters of the alphabet? Especially when publishing is an enterprise that does not require any prospective professional participant to wear his (or her, or their) demographics on his (or her, or their) sleeve?

1) Kids are busy doing other things. This has been especially true since the invention of the television. The number of explicitly youth-focused, youth-oriented passtimes has exploded over the past 70 years. If it’s not music, it’s video games. If it’s not video games, it’s sports. If it’s not sports, it’s texting and chatting. If it’s not texting and chatting, it’s movies and series. And so on, and so forth. In any representative population sample of pre-teens and teens, you’re liable to lose 65% (or more) of that collective attention span, to entertainment that does not involve reading prose on a page.

2) Kids get their SF/F in other forms. This is a huge blind spot for that sector of SF/F literature that considers itself “true fandom” and which regards all other forms of SF/F — outside of literature — to be subsidiary or subervient. Since the late 1970s, the amount of televised and silver screen SF/F has increased dramatically, thanks to the birth of the Star Wars franchise; as proof-of-concept that spec-fictional content was a massive money-maker. Since then, studios cannot not churn out enough SF/F. Look at the big list of Top 25 all-time silver screen earners, and at least 22 of them are explicitly SF/F in some form. Throw in Japanese animation, and modern story-driven video games, and you’re staring at the greatest part of your average english-language teen’s spec-fictional diet. Movies, TV, anime, and games. That’s it. (S)he may not feel the need to seek out books or other forms of spec-fictional prose, simply because there is a universe of (often spectacular and enjoyable) spec-fictional content readily available — long before (s)he has to crack open a book.

3) Kids who are reading, may only be reading what is popular, or familiar. This is one of the great resentments among almost all spec-fictional scribblers: it’s not fair that movie or TV tie-in books, or the latest J.K. Rowling novel, soak up a vast (disproportionately vast?) number of reader dollars — which may or may not trickle down to the rest of us toiling in the salt mines. Scratch an author or editor taking aim at The Problem™ and you will almost always discover someone who is equally unhappy with the fact that Harry Potter or some other magical Fantasy doorstop series are co-occupying the Amazon bestseller rankings, versus this month’s latest “confrontational” pan-African indigenous perspectives gender-queer anthology — from AngryWymyn Press. (Click to donate to their patreon!)

4) Speaking of which, can we please (finally!) admit that what interests and fascinates your typical Intersectional Oppression Studies undergrad — at Oregon Coast University — is not necessarily what interests a majority of reading teens and pre-teens? No, not even the teens and pre-teens from marginalized demographics. Because not every X nor Y nor Z (nor even every Q) teen or pre-teen spends his/her/their time gazing endlessly at his/her/their navel. Thus, if the number of spec-fictional authors coming into the field from an Intersectional Oppression Studies background is large, the number of readers this pool might be directly speaking to, is pretty damned small. And no, scolding isn’t a great way to gin up audience enthusiasm. You can whip a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Especially the young, who will smell a moral sermon a mile away, and immediately run in the opposite direction.

Of course, that’s just the first layer of the cake.

Assuming a sufficiently large number of marginalized youth can be attracted to reading SF/F how many of them are going to be interested enough to want to publish? To edit? To log the long, hard hours of practice necessary to reach entry-level proficiency? There are 101 easier, more direct routes to money, as well as fame. Devoting that much time and energy to getting good at SF/F takes a special kind of maniacal obtuseness — that only those of us with a fatal fascination for spec-fic are cursed to have.

Then, assuming a sufficiently large number of marginalized entry-level SF/F pros can be slapped together, how do we know which markets this body is submitting to? What kind of books or stories? Unless we’re dealing with a university or subsidy press (click to donate to the patreon!!) said publisher has to be in the business to do business. This means keeping at least one eye on the marketplace. And the marketplace is notoriously immune to being guilt-tripped into coughing up its dollars for an entertainment product being proffered like a kelp shake from a Whole Foods organic health bar. “Because it’s good for you!” may not necessarily be a winning sales pitch. In fact, it’s usually a horrible sales pitch. Calling the audience names, when they won’t follow the carrot or the stick, is also a horrible sales pitch. The audience wants to have a good time. Period. Non-subsidy prose publishing has to be accountable to this fact. Thus the endless tug-o-war between art and commerce. Between what is deemed “worthy” by the cognoscenti, and what is actually worthwhile to the consumer public.

Okay, so, we’ve tunneled through reader and author origins, the matter of ideology versus economy, and at last come to the ugly worm at the bottom of the Tequila bottle: are SF/F’s editors actually racist? Sexist? Homophobic? Transphobic? Yadda yadda?

Consider the fact that the total number of spec-fictional editors and publishers are self-styled progressives and liberals — by a gargantuan, wide margin — and it’s a head-scratcher. These are the people who go out of their way to broadcast to the universe that they are on The Right Side of History. They will spare no expense supporting the monthly flavor of Disenfranchised Artist. They are extremely proud to be left-wing, and they will haughtily declare their allegiance to progressive economic and political ideas.

And this is the body of people who are scheming — intentionally, or unintentionally — to keep the Other (note the caps) out of SF/F?

This is a field given over almost entirely to the progressive “side” of the ideological landscape. Thus when progressives attack the field for margnializing or excluding X, Y, or Z demographics, it’s a bit like watching a man pick up a hammer and smash his own thumb — because the thumb had it coming. In calling out the field (over and over and over) for failing to be sufficiently supportive and inclusive, progressives are essentially indicting themselves in a self-conspiracy — of the left hand working against the other left hand.

So, the latest rumbles about The Problem™ are another example of the ouroboros eating its own tail. And with each successive bite, the entire thing shrinks just that much more. Until the whole point of SF/F — to have fun! — seems to be overshadowed by a nasty process of the field collectively and eternally attacking itself, for this or that failure; according to whichever flavor of Oppression Theory is popular this year.

And we’ve not even touched the fact that short fiction — the subsector of spec-fictional prose specifically cited in The Verge’s link — is a micro-economy, compared to novels. I should know. I do much of my work in short SF/F prose. It is the nichest of niche markets. A somewhat zombiefied relic of the Pulp Era, when almost all spec-fictional prose was being done in serial format, for the pre-television magazines of the time.

I mean, seriously, put your politics aside for a minute, and check it out:

● Of the total number of children in the english-language world, how many of them read prose for entertainment?

● Of the total number of pre-teen and teen readers in the english-language world, how many of them will fall in love with SF/F as a preferred genre?

● Of the total number of children who read SF/F, how many of them grow up to decide to try their hand at writing, editing, or publishing?

● Of the total number of people who try their hand at SF/F writing, editing, or publishing, how many of them will actually put in the years to be any good at it?

● Of the total number of people who are any good at SF/F writing, editing, or publishing, how many of them will focus on a microscopic slice of the marketing landscape, in the form of short fiction?

● And of the total number of people who are proficient pros in SF/F short fiction, how many of those are from what might be deemed marginalized or disenfranchised demographics?

● And of the total number of people who are not marginalized, but who are proficient pros in SF/F short fiction, how many of them are actually engaged in discrimination against their fellows? Either consciously, or unconsciously?

Especially when (as noted at the start) nobody is required to wear his/her/their demographics on his/her/their sleeve. This is not like a screen test, nor a panel audition. The editor is not casting based on appearance. The editor is (usually) working from a standpoint of taste, combined with knowing what the audience (for his/her/their magazine or venue) wants, along with perhaps a bit of angling at the critics and the awards mavens.

And angling at the critics and awards mavens favors marginalized demographics! Does anyone seriously suspect the people behind Lightspeed or Asimov’s or Clarkesworld or TOR.COM have a problem with the disenfranchised? Of any type or description? What universe did you warp in from?

The SF/F short-fic editors in this universe — with their fingers on the pulse of the awards — know that featuring authors/stories from disenfranchised groups, is a huge plus. Among the cognoscenti. They all drink from the same ideological trough. It’s “sexy” for a publication to hang a sign on the demographically challenged. In fact, markets like TOR.COM will pay top dollar for stories from non-W authors, spread across the whole of the alphabet. And TOR.COM will loudly beam this news to the publishing world at large, “We’re TOR.COM, and we’re progressive; just look at our menagerie of other-than-W authors we publish!”

So, I have a tough time believing that the supposed dearth of other-than-W authors publishing in the short fic markets, is a matter of prejudice.

But I’m just an evil conservative. I keep banging my pot about fun and merit. I don’t have a patreon. I think stories should earn the consumer’s time and money. I don’t believe the purpose of storytelling in SF/F is to “confront” the audience, nor make the reader squirm. That’s a nouveau-lit academic sentiment that’s migrated over to the field since the advent of the New Wave — when Sense-O-Wonder began to collapse inside a Schwarzschild Radius of social critique and victim narratives, all competing against themselves.

Is it any wonder that Science Fiction — in prose form — continues to fight a rear-guard action against marketplace irrelevancy?

Fixating endlessly on The Problem™ is, to my mind, very much like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It doesn’t matter what tune you make the orchestra play, the ship’s still going down. Having struck the iceberg of Social Justice zealotry, people seem to want to rip the hole open even wider. Then they have the nerve to act shocked when there aren’t enough life boats.

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117 thoughts on “Addressing The Problem™

  1. I am also reminded of the stories that bubble up every few years or some enterprising poet, or short fiction writer, etc. publishing something under an explicitly non-Anglo pen name, as a way of gathering extra attention to the work.

    It seems to me that such would not be the case, if it didn’t work.

    Then again, Hollywood is massively liberal as well, and has time and again shown themselves to actually, genuinely *be* sexist and racist, so perhaps publishing really is too, they just disguise it with all the shouting about representation.

  2. The X, Y, Z bickering in Hollywood really is interesting, when you consider the fact that they are all — with rare exception — lifer Democrats, who preen and strut their “progressivism” at every opportunity. It’s a bit like watching Hillary Clinton run right over the top of Bernie, then demand that Bernie voters be “loyal” and vote for Hillary. Y’all better not get uppity, now!

  3. I think that part of the issue with Hollywood is that it’s second-hand racism of the sort where decisions are made because of what the execs imagine in their little pea-brains about those horrible racist people in Kansas. At least that’s the nicest interpretation I can come up with. The other possibility is that the film industry is steeped in first-hand racism such that they themselves can’t enjoy movies about someone unlike themselves.

    Huh… I wonder if that’s where the calls to read things that make you uncomfortable come from. The Verge author mentioned that as well. We’re supposed to publish and read stories we don’t like, that make us uncomfortable. Except for a judgmental screed, how is a story (or film) from a slightly different, or even wholly different, world experience anything other than fascinating?

    Particularly in science fiction and fantasy that feeling of otherness is something that the best authors work really hard to include.

  4. The problem isn’t that the Cogs want to see more of the rest of the alphabet, the problem is that they really just want all of W to be dead. They hate W, they want W gone, the existence of W shows what a failure they believe themselves to be.
    It’s not about giving others ‘equal voice’ because it never has been. It’s about getting rid of W now and forever. Otherwise they wouldn’t be spending 90 percent of their time cutting down W, they’d be spending 100 percent of their time building up the others.

  5. So if I understand you correctly (and I suspect I don’t) the reason why you and Larry and Dave et al. think there are so few right-leaning editors/publishers etc in the big publishing houses is because right-leaning kids just aren’t into SF? Interesting hypothesis.

  6. I was wondering when the first Kicker with reading comprehension issues would show up.

  7. So, assuming you reject this thoery Camel, your position is that traditional piblishing is at the same time bigoted against women, minorities, *and* anyone not left wing.

    It would fit my perceptions of progressives.

  8. Consider the fact that the total number of spec-fictional editors and publishers are self-styled progressives and liberals — by a gargantuan, wide margin — and it’s a head-scratcher. These are the people who go out of their way to broadcast to the universe that they are on The Right Side of History. They will spare no expense supporting the monthly flavor of Disenfranchised Artist. They are extremely proud to be left-wing, and they will haughtily declare their allegiance to progressive economic and political ideas.

    And this is the body of people who are scheming — intentionally, or unintentionally — to keep the Other (note the caps) out of SF/F?

    *wicked grin* You know, Brad, you have a point there. The largely liberal publishing industry is yelling at itself that it is too (insertwhatever)ist and that needs to change – and thus is unwittingly declaring that they *are* the Problem and that *they are whatever-ist.* And thus, are part of the Problem.

    And here they reveal another one of their bigoted conceits. They think that whatever Poor Disenfranchised Group isn’t smart enough to notice that, because they’re too busy declaring that The Problem will be overthrown, and the same Problematic Industry is giving PDG-member a leg up in the industry by giving them Preference over the ‘boring redneck plebes of taste’ – provided they’ll speak their trained phrases and follow the same ‘religion’ strictly, of course.

    Sure they’ll have few properly indoctrinated PDG members they’ll trot out to the spotlight like the showponies they are, neighing and prancing as trained, but the majority see past the resentment still lies in the simple truth that the majority of the Industry is seen as their own Self Declared Problem, thus anyone who has been boxed into PDGs who actually wants to write the kinds of stories they loved and enjoyed as readers is further discouraged from entering the Industry Game: They might be PDG, but they’re not wanting to write the stories the Problematic Industry wants PDGs to write, and even if they get a foot in because of their being a PDG, it’s no guarantee they’ll get the same fete and promotion as the PDG who does follow the cleared pathways already prepared.

    Funny that.

    It’s also funny how these same progscogineti both disdain and crave the success from ‘other media which steal our ‘rightful’ audience away from us’ – movies, games (really, gaming is where the megabux is at) – they WANT their books and beloved PDG-stories to be made into Blockbuster Movies with game tie ins, because that SCREAMS success like nothing else. BUT WAAAH the ones that get the most viewers are the *snarrrrrrllll!!!* ‘lowbrow’ superhero flicks like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not this *gasp and gesture* beautiful, word-paintingly crafted agony of literCHUUURE that shows – oh Christ, I can’t maintain that, it hurts my head too much – the travails of the author insert making horrible choices and bad decisions and yet getting away with it and succeeding because Author Insert Designated Hero is a magical PDG who MUST SUCCEED because Destiny Says So.

    Then again I’m sure they’re bitter about the success of Twilight and 50 Shades, but their bitterness blinds them to the reasons for that explosive success: those stories found an audience, which the pogscogineti disdain and pretend doesn’t exist: the readers and viewers who want to escape their reality for a little while, and indulge in harmless fantasy for entertainment.

  9. //Jared A. on August 5, 2016 at 6:14 pm said:

    So, assuming you reject this thoery Camel, your position is that traditional piblishing is at the same time bigoted against women, minorities, *and* anyone not left wing.//

    I’d reject the claim that publishing is particularly left wing. I think Brad/Larry theory that systemic discrimination both does and doesn’t exist and is both a major issue and not an issue at all simultaneously as obviously absurd.

  10. //Brad R. Torgersen on August 5, 2016 at 5:41 pm said:

    Dear Cameltoe, we all know you’re just here for the trololololoz, fingers crossed behind your back — an unserious jester from Pravda 770.//

    An insightful argument as always Brad.

  11. “The other possibility is that the film industry is steeped in first-hand racism such that they themselves can’t enjoy movies about someone unlike themselves.”

    Yes. I’ll give you an example. When I was dispatching a security shift in the tonier parts of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, one of our customers would repeatedly call us to report a suspicious black man in the driveway of an enjoining house.

    It was her neighbor Eddie Murphy.

    Another client called to report a suspicious black man in his own driveway. It was his son in law.

    And you should have seen those neighborhoods in the Rodney King riots. It was like the evacuation of Kuwait, just a long line of Mercedes, Rolls and Bentleys heading for the airport…

  12. 1) Among those young ‘uns reading SF/F, it appears (anecdotally from my limited observations) they are heavily into ‘graphic novels’ and manga more than the fuddy duddy pages of words without pictures.

    2) I read somewhere (can’t remember off the top of my head where now, nor how long ago) that one of the reasons Hollywood studios prefer white actors/actresses to those with more melanin content is because it’s easier to sell whites to an international market. If true, I guess the international market is racist as well.

  13. Nailed it, Brad. You tore it to shreds. That straw man is utterly annihilated.

    However, of the four “SJW blindspots” you mention I have never seen anybody disagree with you:

    1) Kids are busy doing other things.
    2) Kids get their SF/F in other forms.
    3) Kids who are reading, may only be reading what is popular, or familiar.
    4) Speaking of which, can we please (finally!) admit that what interests and fascinates your typical Intersectional Oppression Studies undergrad — at Oregon Coast University — is not necessarily what interests a majority of reading teens and pre-teens?

    True, true, true, true. That’s how it is. I acknowledge that. Can I now go back to reading, celebrating and awarding the SFF that I personally like the most?

  14. Having read the linked article, all I can do is shake my head at the insanity on display.

    1) “The advice to write “what the market wants” is code for white characters and white stories.

    I don’t really believe that, but for the sake of argument let’s assume it’s true. If your purpose in writing is to get paid, you write what sells. Why would a serious author deliberately write something that has a narrow market appeal. If what they keep telling us is true, that people will only read stories about people almost exactly like themselves, and poor inner city youths who keep dissing school aren’t likely to pick up a copy of your magazine; why would you write something for that market when there is a much larger market of white kids (who apparently aren’t on welfare and are flush with cash) who do read?

    2) The opportunities to network, like six-week writing workshops or weeklong conventions, are really only open to those with the means to miss work.”

    I’m not aware of too many people who can afford to miss 6 weeks of work without pay. The only reason I’ve seen new mothers take that kind of time off is because their husbands (I know, how horrible they aren’t single mothers living on the dole) are working .

    Also, unless these workshops are free, someone is going to have to pony up the fee to attend, and likely a hotel too unless it’s in their home town or know someone close by to crash with.

    3) noted that some authors that might have otherwise published through traditional markets have found other outlets for their work.

    OMG! The Free Market at work? No, never. It’s always been a racist conspiracy by The Man to keep the melanin rich and those without dangly bits (as well as those with dangly bits who like to pretend they don’t) from achieving independence.

    4) Justina Ireland noted that the solution is simple: “Acquire short fiction by black authors, especially fiction that challenges your comfort.”

    I haven’t attempted to submit any of my stuff to an actual publisher. Is really a check box for race on the submittal form? Seems like an odd thing to have in my opinion. I usually don’t care what the background of the author is as long as they can tell a good story. For years I had no idea Andre Norton, James Tiptree, CJ Cherryh and Morgan Llywelyn were women. They just told awesome stories.

    Also, I have to wonder what exactly she means by comfort. Things that are new to me challenge my comfort. However things that I find morally reprehensible don’t challenge my comfort so much as make me want to turn the pages into toilet paper. I have no problem reading about a black man or an asian woman, or some indigenous society. But I really don’t care to read about someone continually sodomizing another person. Heck, in most stories the sex simply gets in the way of the story and would be better off without it there. I’ve read two J.A. Jance novels. I have no desire to ever revisit her stories featuring JP Beaumont simply because there were way too many pages devoted to him having sex with some chick he just met. My mother, who got me into reading, won’t read any of Caleb Carr’s novels because she finds them too gory. There is a decided difference between ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘objectionable’. It’s different for everyone, but there are often broad categories that some people just won’t read.

    5) making sure that the magazine market gets to a point where their portfolio of authors matches that of the country’s demographics.

    Well hell, does that mean more men need to be writing urban fantasy, young adult and romance so that the demographics are matched? Maybe we need more men writing for Cosmopolitan as well. I’m sure making half the articles about sports, cars, beer, cigars and how to pick up chicks will play well with their currently established clientele. I know the readers of Sports Illustrated are just dying to read about how to put on lipstick and how to deal with a yeast infection. I know there aren’t enough articles about the importance of castrating the young bulls in your herd.

    Or, instead of trying to check off all the demographics boxes it might just be a good idea to know your readers and what they are likely to enjoy. I’m betting there might even be a way to get feedback from your readers. Maybe you could solicit letters to the editor about what they liked and didn’t like. In this digital age, you could probably even get their email addresses and ask them to fill out an online survey. Something like that just might let you know what your readers are likely to buy.

  15. Y’know I don’t think they ever think about why their ‘poor ethnically deprived kids’ don’t read ‘their stuff’ nevermind if those groups read overall.

    I mean even I have stories from my mother how she wasn’t ‘cool’ amongst her peers because she liked classical music (which was derided as funeral music) and enjoyed reading ‘boring stuff’. Hell why go that far back? A teacher told my father to his face the reason why I was getting bullied and beaten up on a regular basis was because I ‘wasn’t normal.’ When he asked her what she meant by that she retorted that I preferred to read during recess instead of running and playing. Dad responded that they were the abnormal ones for thinking beating up a girl for liking reading was acceptable and that the kids who didn’t like to read were inferior for having no love for learning. This was in West Germany. Teacher was very white and yes the reasons behind all the bullying were purely racist. (The bullying from the children stopped after I proved I wasn’t going to stop fighting back and they decided I wasn’t ‘weak like the others’).

    That wasn’t the only time my love for books was a source of my ‘abnormal’ status in school social circles. High school back in my own home country of the Philippines was no better and in some cases I considered worse. Having been abroad was a source of jealousy; my love for reading was considered by the more catty of my peers as my showing off. When one of the teachers pets tried to get me seriously hurt by having me fall on my ass as I sat down and his yanking the chair from beneath me in the hopes I would spill freshly boiled soup all over myself I responded by chasing him through the school with the chair and throwing it at him since he wanted the fucking chair so much. The subsequent investigation got him suspended and the teacher he and friends were favorites of was furious with me, saying I was in the wrong for not doing the things they liked to do and not being more Filipina – that I read too much, revealed my intelligence too much for a girl and that I didn’t fit in. I asked her why her darlings didn’t try to read more or why was it considered ‘wrong’ for a girl to be ‘too smart’. Her response was that books were boring and because it meant that I would intimidate Filipino guys too much. She didn’t like the reply I gave that clearly her favorites were too unintelligent to appreciate literature and if Filipino mens egoes couldn’t handle an intelligent woman then why would I want a Filipino man when I could find a handsome foreigner who could appreciate my brains as well as my beauty? Also if being too smart disqualified me from being ‘Filipina’ then I rather not be considered one if that made her feel better. Clearly I my Dad’s daughter. (he was furious when I told him about what she said but proud that I stood my ground.)

    (My own homeroom teacher was nearby and she was trying not to laugh at the futility of the other teacher trying to cross brains with me. SHE was supportive of what I said – and she liked how I took apart the other teacher’s ‘not Filipina enough’. I couldn’t dissuade her from reporting the other teacher to the principal for a dressing down. My friends and I heard his roaring across the school.)

    Anyway looping back to the original point after the examples given – culture has plenty to do with whether or not the youth will read. My love of reading was not a black mark on my social acceptability card when I was in East Germany or when I was in college in the Philippines. It was in Paris because the African and Middle Eastern children felt I was trying to put myself above them – acting white, specifically – because I read in English. Being uninterested in knowledge as they were (it was a ‘white’ thing, also weirdly considered ‘effeminate’ for them to do well in school) they didn’t believe me when I told them that the Philippines was bilingual. (I was the only Filipino in that school and students both native French and foreign would ask me how we wrote and if we wrote right to left.) There was a strong undercurrent of ‘we don’t have to be here we’ll be living off the dole anyway because the French government owes us money but we have to be so we get that cash.’ I heard that echoed from the French teachers, who complained the Chinese learned enough French to get by then work in their shops in Chinatown, the rest were here for public funding. (At least the Chinese worked, which made them slightly less aggravating from their point of view.) Now that school is in a Zones Urbaines Sensibles last I checked, so really, if the ‘Problematic Industry’ were going to be honest and look besides the ‘kids are doing other things’ list Brad made, they’ll come up against culture and mindsets they ‘aren’t allowed to criticize because it would be racist.’

  16. Adding to my comment above: it doesn’t have to be just about ethnic culture, because the ‘reading is not cool and for nerds’ is rather obviously cross cultural. The ‘reading is not cool/is for the rich’ general attitude in the Philippines changed when books became more available, and more importantly, cheaper, instead of having to order through stores that would import specific books for you and charge a premium. (Book stores dedicated to books, as opposed to the mostly-office supplies-with-some-shelves-of-books era of National Bookstore being more widespread was also a plus.)

    Reading in general, I should note, has changed in ‘coolness’ ever since Harry Potter – because that’s when reading STOPPED being ‘nerdy’ and reading fiction was more socially acceptable for kids. I appreciate Harry Potter for that; and I’m glad the movies exist, because at least, on a personal level, when I told my son the moves were based off of books (instead of a movie tie in, like he originally assumed) he wanted to read them. So movie tie in books are – and I probably am somewhat minor in opinion in this regard – not ‘bad’ for that reason alone. Similarly game tie in books. I’m all for kids and young adults getting into reading – whether it be through video games or movies or RPG rulebooks.

  17. I read SF/F because my father read SF/F. He read it because his father read it. Before that, it was called something else. And, of course, my son read SF/F.

    As a kid, I didn’t read Leigh Brackett because she was a woman, and I didn’t read Frank Yerby because he was Black. I read them because they wrote absorbing novels. That’s the dark underbelly of the Problem. Progressive SF/F is as dull as a butter knife.

    Being honest, I did want to meet Brackett’s fictional women, and I read Yerby’s historicals at least partly for the sex scenes. I had no idea they were Romance novels.

    When I quit SFWA and walked away from both Fandom and SF/F publishing, I figured I was retiring from SF/F the same way I retired from IT. But then there was Amazon. I’m not doing any marketing, but readers are finding me, albeit in small numbers. Since I write for myself, and always have, it doesn’t matter.

    Love your blog. Hoyt’s too.

  18. Until I got involved with the interwebz / FB I was lucky if I knew an author was still alive, much less their race or politics… most of the readers i know are still at that level, they do not CARE how the author identifies if the story is good… and all three of my sons are the same way… to them author information is mostly just an advertisement, except about Dave Freer, they think he would make a great Uncle to have…. Y’all just keep doing what you’re doing….

  19. “4) Speaking of which, can we please (finally!) admit that what interests and fascinates your typical Intersectional Oppression Studies undergrad — at Oregon Coast University — is not necessarily what interests a majority of reading teens and pre-teens?”

    I never bookmark stuff, which is a problem. Reading articles about encouraging kids and young people of color to read is always interesting. There was a video promoting a program designed for that some time ago and what I noticed was the black woman who ran it, besides being very well educated and an educator, explained during the course of it all that her daughter read Artemis Fowl (sp?) and that the books usually recommended to black kids by teachers, the books on the shelves, were books about being black or about racism. They weren’t *adventures*. In order to get an adventure, in order to escape to a fantastic world, her daughter read books about a white boy.

    All of us. I mean *ALL* of us can identify with that, right? The books teachers usually recommend are almost invariably awful. The stuff they put in front of kids in school are usually some “improving” literature about drug addiction or sexual abuse or racism or about children being really horrible to other children. This is why we love science fiction. This is why when we discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs or Heinlein or David Eddings it was like discovering an escape hatch to an amazing place. When we read about quests and princesses or spaceships. Be it Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or, for younger ones, Captain Underpants! it’s not about some dreadfully important and *uncomfortable* social truth. The classic stories, the Boxcar Children or Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys or any of those other books with their scrubbed clean cherubic white faces weren’t about *white*, they were about children solving real crimes or otherwise taking control of their lives and succeeding at their endeavors.

    Video games are about how powerful you are. If you’re first-person-shooting, killing dragons, or playing an MBA game. Of course young people love to pretend they are powerful. The same people insisting that “uncomfortable” science fiction be published for our own good, will explain how video game power fantasies are *bad*.

    And teachers will still hand a black child a book… “Here, read a book about how helpless it is to be you…”

  20. Yes, it’s very telling that so much “empowerment” consists of telling people how powerless they are.

  21. Camestros: “So if I understand you correctly (and I suspect I don’t)”
    I must congratulate you. For once you got something right first time. You are quite correct: you don’t. This is the normal situation, and then we waste a great deal of effort explaining it in short words – which wastes our time and you don’t need. Try reading instead of skimming until offended. I know this is a total change in mindset, but it will change your world.
    Read this slowly and carefully – it is quote from the above post by Brad. It will stop you wasting our time further because then you will understand:

    “Which kids are reading, and what, and why?

    Thus, how many kids from underrepresented demographics, grew up in households where fiction reading was a common and encouraged form of entertainment? And out of that number, how many gravitated to SF/F explicitly?”

    It is not prescribing an answer. It is asking question. One which should be asked.

    Now you say: “I’d reject the claim that publishing is particularly left wing.”

    It is a matter of financially verifiable fact, actually, that they are. The US keeps donor records of the professions of donor to political parties ) so on that basis we can say that in publishing the percentage of donations going to anyone but the left is less than 0.5% – as the figures are rounded to whole numbers and ‘publishing’ = 100% left. Cash is an honest measure. Talk is cheap.) So: traditional publishing’s financial support goes to more than 99.5% left wing – a section of society that 26% of the population self-identify as.

    If you have proof – numbers, verifiable to the contrary that they aren’t left wing – do show us.

    It is somewhat more complicated but it is possible to establish that the remaining 74% actually do read, (and do read science fiction). However for the above situation in publishing to simply flow from the demographics of readers you would have to demonstrate that number drawn from 74% of the population was less 0.5% of the readers. That’s simply ridiculous. You have to face reality – it’s discrimination, plain and simple – and that has a price for publishing as it becomes more widely known… Which returns to something I have said many times: Traditional publishing and the authors they pick need customers from that 74%. more than writers from the 74% need customers from 26% (who are actively encouraged to avoid us anyway) now that we are able to bypass the left-wing publishing establishment. If i lost every left wing reader tomorrow I doubt I’d be down 5%. I can live with that. If Joe Average Trad Pub left wing author lost every moderate or right wing reader – what percentage would that be? Most of them (and many I know well, and I know about how hard it is to survive for them, now.) couldn’t survive 5% let alone 25%. Ideally, both sides would put aside their differences and make a stronger market, which would support more books and more authors, and more readers. However, the writers and editors from 74% have no interest – and see no benefit – in helping you along or making any concessions. We’ve done so in the past, and lo… at least 99.5% left wing editors. Basically, your side needs to change or you will destroy yourselves. Good luck. They are conservative in extreme (which is really very funny).

  22. I think there really are people who can’t enjoy a story (or enjoy it much less) if “they” aren’t in it. I think that kind of person is the sort who will be drawn to race-and-intersectional theory in college.

    Which theory tells them that anything that doesn’t have them “in it” cannot be enjoyed.

    And round and round it goes.

    If you’re any kind of reasonable reader of SF&F it’s the feedback loop from Hell.

    Like most evils, it would be risable if it weren’t for the lives and careers destroyed in its wake.

  23. “If Joe Average Trad Pub left wing author lost every moderate or right wing reader – what percentage would that be? Most of them (and many I know well, and I know about how hard it is to survive for them, now.) couldn’t survive 5% let alone 25%.”

    That’s why SJW John Scalzi is now publicly claiming to be a “Rockefeller Republican”. He’s worried he won’t be able to sell enough books to his shrinking left-wing readership, so he’s trying to move right again before he puts Tor Books underwater and they “renegotiate” his contract.

    It’s also why Castalia’s growth is not only consistent, but picking up speed. We don’t give a fragment of a fornication for the 26 percent. We neither want nor need them.

  24. Camestros, I can say that most, if not all the editors in Traditional publishing SF/F are very left wing. How do I know that? From 20 odd years of being the odd one out at Lunacon, the nYC region SF/F con. Going to that con is an experience in left wing immersion mostly generated by the very same editors you are saying are right wing. I’ve heard ALL of them, for long periods of time. There’s never been a hint of any thinking other than whatever the Narrative is at that time. If you want to see what groupthink or no thinking is at the current time those editors are a good place to start. How they can actually do their jobs with all the virtue signaling they do is beyond me. The Hugos aren’t a cause, they are an effect of the rot.

  25. So wait, you’re basically arguing that everything is fine and the market regulates SF. So there’s no problem, people get what they want. And I fundamentally disagree with your point that SF should entertain, not challenge. Why not both? I was recently reading some adventury Arthur C. Clarke. I got kinda bored with that so I switched to Octavia Butler. I’ll probably get a bit tired of that as well, and I’ll go for some mindbending psychodelics of Philip K. Dick. And then I’ll probably move to some rockets woo! space opera. It’s not necessarily so that people like only the One True Kind of SF. People like different things and are happiest when they can experience different things. Reading SF doesn’t prevent anybody from reading Dostoyevsky, why should there be a problem at even smaller scale, that reading X SF prewents you from reading W SF and vice versa?

  26. Trivia: because the Writers who write X are so uniformly-terrible. They’ve been coddled and hyped far beyond their genuine talent for writing because of their status as X, and that alone. Most of the time, they show no true talent for it, and no originality of their own rather than recontextualising W with X protagonist to prove their Ressentiment towards talent, achievement and popularity is due to reasons other than them being bad writers who fail to engage the majority of readers who interact with them.

    There’s no difference between GenderFluidQueerSpaceAlien of Marginalised Racial Background and the boring Christian Archie Comics put out in the 1970’s by spire, or the 80’s band Stryper, throwing out bibles in concerts. You can try to disguise a moral lecture as entertainment all you want, but the majority of readers can recognise it for exactly what it is: a harangue from a bitter, hateful person.

    I went to buy my nephew the Harry Potter play the other week. I went to all of the department stores and bookshops in my city but it as sold out everywhere. The weird thing I noticed: besides Game Of Thrones and HP, there were no science fiction or fantasy books anywhere in the department stores. Thrillers, Romance Novels, Detective, Military all had spaces and multiple titles by different authors. No science fiction or fantasy at all.

    I thought the traditional bookshops would be better, but no. No dedicated SF or Fantasy section in any of the stores. At the last store I went to, there was a section labelled ‘Paranormal’ in huge letters, with ‘Science Fiction and Fantasy’ underneath it in much smaller type. However, the shelves were full of what I think of as Buffy Fanfiction: Beautiful and Strong Girl in Urban Setting discovers she’s a ‘Chosen One’ Demon / Vampire / Werewolf Fighter and possibly has sex with an extremely handsome member of the enemy. The only other thing I could see being considered Science Fiction-ish were ‘The Hunger Games’ books.

    I was shocked: two genres that used to dominate space in the bookstores have been completely erased from the public sphere. How on earth did this happen? All I could think of was this: they’re simply matching the demands of the market.

    I found one other lonely SF book – outside the store, in the markdown bin to distract the shoplifters from entering the store – out of visual sight of the staff. One sad and lonely copy of Corey Doctorows ‘Little Brother’.

    As a last resort, I went to the tabletop gaming / D&D store that has existed in my town since about 1982. It had moved a couple of years back from the main street into a small arcade up the cheaper-rent section of town. As I approached, I realised the store was empty. A sign on the door thanking patrons for their business for all these years.

    Thanks, Social Justice. SF&F has a long road ahead of it to become culturally-relevant again.

  27. In my opinion – Scalzi is a weather-cock, a well oiled one, that responds to smallest breeze. If I were the rest of them, I’d notice. But he’s facing a ‘fooled me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me’ situation. I won’t buy his books, or believe him again. I think there are quite a few once-customers who’ve said ‘never again’ and mean it.

  28. I don’t need “Scalzi”, “well oiled” and “cock” together in the same sentence, thank you very much. 😛

  29. “So, what can obligatorily concerned, properly progressive members of W do to be more inclusive and celebratory of X, Y, Z, and also A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, and the ever-fabulous Q?”

    You clearly left out R, S and T. This is obviously intentional and proves that you are indeed everything we call you because these demographics are known co-conspirators with A, C and I, if you get what I mean. (*dog whistle*)

    So I… *ahem* we can now disregard everything you or anyone else we don’t like says.

    Q.E.D.LGBTXYZ /S

  30. I would like to point out that not all fiction written by Left-leaning authors, or even all Left-leaning fiction is necessarily message fiction. Charles Stross’ Laundry Files series, for example, is very much written from a Leftist perspective. However, the focus is on the story, not on promoting a particular agenda. (And the fact that the government bureaucracy that the characters work for is shown to be comically inefficient doesn’t hurt.)

    Nor is all fiction written by non-White, non-Straight, non-Male authors, or that contains non-White, non-Straight, and non-Male characters necessarily message fiction.

  31. We mustn’t fail to address the oft-overlooked injustice of Ableism. As we speak, traditional publishers are letting scores of differently abled persons slip through the cracks.

    How many functionally illiterate and incurably psychotic authors are writing for Tor Books? We must petition Tor to make these marginalized groups’ representation reflect their percentage of the US populace.

  32. So wait, you’re basically arguing that everything is fine and the market regulates SF.

    We’re arguing that there’s a deliberate attempt to distort the market, and that because of this, science fiction as a genre is undergoing problems. Because books are a luxury good, it is possible that faced with unmet needs, people that would have formerly bought SF books (like me) are buying something else instead. The push to make science fiction superficially diverse (or, more accurately, to make it politically uniform) is driving many readers away, and the new demand predicted by people arguing that SF needs to be more diverse hasn’t emerged.

    Women are the primary consumers of fiction. Science Fiction is one of the few remaining genres that men still read more than women. We could draw one of three conclusions from this:
    1) Other genres are biased against men.
    2) That males are more drawn to science fiction is a natural result of genres shifting toward different reader interests. There’s nothing wrong with different groups of people preferring different genres of books. As other genres become more dominated by women, more men will shift to the remaining genres.
    3) Science fiction is biased against women.
    Only 3 gets any traction. Yet the logic behind 1 and 3 is identical.

    A free market in books would see books evaluated entirely on their merit as Science Fiction, not on the diversity or politics of their authors, and evaluated by all Science Fiction fans, not a self-selecting subgroup. That this isn’t the case is a primary reason that science fiction literature is in decline.

  33. I love when somebody shows up in the comments, deliberately obtuse and says “So what you’re saying is…” and then it is a bunch of bullshit that you didn’t say. 🙂

    For Cameltoe, because that is easier to remember than his made up name, so when Larry says conservatives are underrepresented in publishing, that must mean we don’t read, pile of straw:

    -I never said there aren’t conservative readers. Book sales prove that there are.
    -I never said there aren’t conservative authors. There are lots. A handful can get away with being open about it.
    -I did say the publishing industry has a massive left wing bias. That is born out by everybody who has ever worked in it, every survey where conservatives come up as statistically insignificant, and is pretty much expected for an industry which has been historically located in Manhattan.
    -Why that last one? Why aren’t these conservative readers and writers making the jump to publishing houses? Because most of us would rather suck start a shotgun than live in Manhattan, and the people doing the interviews are overwhelmingly liberal.
    -That said, I do know some conservatives in the publishing industry, but they have to keep their heads down and their opinions to themselves because they work in an industry with monolithic group think. And I’ve been told this in person, at BEA and at industry dinner parties in NYC. Usually in a whisper, because that’s not the crowd where you want to be identified as somebody who gave money to Mitt Romney.

    Wow. Look at all that response to one little line of bullshit. And that demonstrates why I retired from Sad Puppying. Because it doesn’t matter what you actually say, because these dense assholes will just ignore it and make something up.

  34. IMHO political uniformity — commanded obedience to a dogmatic, increasingly culturally marxist paradigm — is going to ruin SF/F as a brand label. Frankly, it already has ruined SF/F as a brand label, in the minds of many readers. I’ve gotten many, many dozens of reader letters from old-time fans who’ve more or less echoed each other: we stopped reading SF/F because we got tired of the liber-progressive-left sermonizing and the lack of actual fun, so it’s nice to see people are trying to bring the fun back, sans hectoring and lecturing. Alas, some of the most influential people in the business not only view the monoculturalization of SF/F as a net plus, they want to keep refining the filters so that even minor deviations from the acceptable party line(s) are met with severe repercussions: shunning, shaming, the closing of social and economic doors, etc.

  35. I did say the publishing industry has a massive left wing bias. That is born out by everybody who has ever worked in it, every survey where conservatives come up as statistically insignificant, and is pretty much expected for an industry which has been historically located in Manhattan.

    The publishing industry is disproportionately white for the exact same reason it’s disproportionately liberal: it’s a bastion of upper-middle class blue-tribe people, who are disproportionately white. This is the same reason academia is disproportionately white and liberal. With both the publishing industry and academia, we’re told that it’s vitally important for people to be exposed to different opinions. So the people in power in both look to bring in more superficially diverse people, all of whom have the exact same upper-middle class blue-tribe values. Meanwhile, looking at ideological diversity, both academia and publishing get more and more uniform.

  36. Brad – shockingly, Google provides some answers to your questions.

    Of the total number of children in the english-language world, how many of them read prose for entertainment? 51% of US kids age 6-17 are currently reading a book for fun. That’s 30 million. (Readership from here, demographics from my calculator and Google US census data.)

    Of the total number of pre-teen and teen readers in the english-language world, how many of them will fall in love with SF/F as a preferred genre? Well, Publishers Weekly noted in 2014 juvenile SF sold 45 million copies.

    Again, demographics say blacks are 12% of the population, so that 30 million kids should be 3.6 million readers. Seems plenty enough raw material to yield more than 1.8 % of the authorship (38 / 2036).

    But in truth, Brad, you miss the point of the Verge article. The point is not that publishers are secretly running around in white bedsheets. The point is that there is an unconscious bias. It’s the same bias that says a novel starring a male military chaplain’s assistant is “good SF” and a novel starring an artificial intelligence that can’t tell male from female so defaults to female is “bad SF” or “preachy.”

  37. *Some* is the right word to use when calling those answers.

    There are glaring gaps in those numbers – for one you are assuming that SF/F readership breaks down evenly along cultural and racial lines, which is about as silly as me assuming that Romance readership breaks down evenly along gender lines.

    30 million kids and teens reading? Okay.
    45 million SF kids books sold? All right, though I do have to wonder how much they take indie into account, given the arcane and outdated methods a lot of book sales are tracked with, including New York Times, Bookscan, and PW.

    What are you basing the assumption that those two together means all 30 million read SF/F? Because you are, otherwise you using 3.6 million as your assumed Black Kid/Teen readership makes no sense.

    Where are your numbers for the average percentage of readers who try to be authors? How about how many try but just honestly suck at it? Or get discouraged? Or simply get unlucky?

    In other words: Objection, facts not in evidence.

    Of course, I can pull numbers out of the air too.

    Let’s be a little more realistic, and assume half of those youth readers actually do prefer SF/F. I’ll even assume that 12% of them are Black. 1.8 million. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that One percent of them want to become authors, as opposed to game designers, artists, accountants, and so forth. 18,000. Let’s assume 90% of those who try give it up before they get to be any good. (The semi-canonical million words written) 1800. Rejection rates are *across the board* seem to be astoundingly high. A quick search shows agents reject 96% of potentials. They then have to shop their client around, etc. etc. For the purposes of this argument let’s use it for general rejection of aspiring authors.

    That takes us all the way down to 72.

    Seventy-two potential published authors, who happen to be black, that are currently now between the ages of 6 and 17. So even then they won’t all be starting to write at the same time. If we break it up by year that gives us 6 potential new SF/F Black authors each year. Of course authors write for more than one year, but suddenly that 38 doesn’t seem so outrageous.

    And I didn’t even factor in the problem that just about anybody who is primarily writing short fiction needs some other form of income because you basically cannot make a living at it.

  38. @ Jared A. – That takes us all the way down to 72… 6 potential new SF/F Black authors each year and what’s the average productive career of a writer? 10 years? 20? With even 10 years, that’s 60 authors, and every short story writer I know cranks out more than one short per year.

  39. Talk about missing the forest for the trees.

    Adult Science Fiction sales declined 7%. Adult Fantasy sales declined 13%. Meanwhile, Graphic Novel sales rose 13%. (The only other category of adult fiction to increase sales was Westerns). Young adult Science Fiction / Fantasy books have been massive sellers for years, yet it hasn’t translated into increased sales for Adult books. That’s kind of the point, here.

    It would, of course, help to actually have numbers and facts relevant to the discussion. The linked article provides some, though not the ones quoted. How does juvenile science fiction / fantasy outsell adult science fiction / fantasy by margins of three or four to one? Why does the article go on to think that it is important to point out “the games/activities/hobbies segment had a 33% unit rise in 2014, led by a large number of blockbuster Minecraft titles that were joined by solid performances of Lego and sticker books”, and are those kids going to go on to read, or are they going to go on to play games? (And that’s not getting into the issues with the 38 / 2036 number, pointed out in detail on Larry’s blog).

    The unasked questions are, of course, what are the juvenile authors doing that the adult authors aren’t? Are they minorities? What’s the demographics of their readers, especially the new ones? Are the increased sales actually related to an influx of readers, or merely more interesting titles being sold to the same demographics?

  40. Somehow I knew you’d fixate on the the length of career portion of my hypothetical.

    I could point out that the article itself posits that there is a lack of minority writers presently, and that I was talking about potential writers some 10 years in the future, (given the average ‘break-in’ age of 30 I’ve seen reported many times) but really that doesn’t matter much.

    The point about your numbers being hogwash stands, as does the point that we simply don’t know the answer to a lot of the important questions around this issue.

  41. Oh, good – Chris is back. Hooray, etc.

    But in truth, Brad, you miss the point of the Verge article. The point is not that publishers are secretly running around in white bedsheets. The point is that there is an unconscious bias. It’s the same bias that says a novel starring a male military chaplain’s assistant is “good SF” and a novel starring an artificial intelligence that can’t tell male from female so defaults to female is “bad SF” or “preachy.”

    No. A novel starring a male military chaplain’s assistant isn’t “good SF”, nor is a novel starring an artificial intelligence that can’t tell male from female — so defaults to female — is “bad SF”. The question is, are these novels entertaining? Do they make the reader stay up way past any sensible bed time because the reader just has to see what happens next? Or do they make the reader yawn, turn the light out and go to bed?

    For some, the first novel will keep them up; for others, the second. And there are those who will find both to be absorbing, engrossing, entertaining and other superlatives, just as there are people who will look at both of them and be “Meh, whatever.”

    However, in the end, what counts is how well do they sell? One individual person’s taste, one way or the other, doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, but the aggregate of individual tastes is reflected in how they sell. I put it to you that if the novel about the chaplain’s assistant is selling 15 copies for every one about the AI that finds gender confusing, then the first is, by any objective measure, the better work.

    Now, is the first or second “literature”? Or rather, “Literature”? I couldn’t tell you. I will say this, though. Shakespeare’s work is, today, considered “Literature”, with a capital L. But from everything I’ve read about him and his plays in his lifetime, he would be considered a ‘hack’. He wrote what the play-goers wanted to see; he followed the money. And, as nearly as I can tell, without the slightest sense of shame in so doing. So. A hundred years from now, which of these novels will be considered “Literature” is a question I don’t think either of us can answer. I’m willing to bet the answer will surprise at least one of us, though.

  42. Chris Gerrib – you’re too short for this ride. “Again, demographics say blacks are 12% of the population, so that 30 million kids should be 3.6 million readers.” Demographics ALSO give figures for the unemployed, the Amish, the various religions, and political affiliations. With a little effort you can derive figures for the mentally subnormal, the average child, etc etc. Do you have ANY supporting evidence that their number of young readers is the same per 10 000 of these groups (I’m too lazy to go looking but actually there is evidence that does differ markedly by sex and income of the family, and by education). Do you have any indication of the preferred genre of the subgroups? (for your contention to be true the child of an Amish couple would read almost exactly genre proportions as the child of inner city Vancouver Asians which is exactly the same as red-necks from Louisiana… Which nearly as implausible as your contention.)

  43. Quite honestly, this is about par for the course for Chris Gerrib, who does his reach into statistics to try ‘show’ he’s ‘more right’ than you. It helps muddy the waters by superficially ‘showing’ that he’s ‘more factual’ but in fact he’s smudging the info and tilting what he claims the data says in his favor. Ergo, cherry picking.

  44. “How many functionally illiterate and incurably psychotic authors are writing for Tor Books?” They’re all writing for Castalia House, apparently.

  45. Yep, it’s Clamps. Hyperfocus on something Shadowdancer wrote: check! take swipes at Vox Day or Castalia House, check! Hasn’t mocked Larry’s career, but I’m sure the superstalker can get to it fairly quickly.

    And I am not surprised. Once Gerrib showed up it always seems to be a matter of time before Clamps showed up as well.

  46. [fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart]

    I AM BACK TO LURVE YOU ALL!

  47. Maybe if you didn’t make an attempt to sound intelligent but came off sounding like one of the gangsters from Kiss Me, Kate, I wouldn’t be hyperfocused on progscogineti.

  48. The problem is that none of you right-wingers can actually write anything worth a shit.

  49. Funny, I seem to remember seeing a new ruling that visiting websites that have explicitly told you that you are unwelcome is illegal.

    I personally can remember three or four times you’ve been banned from here, yet you keep coming back.

    Do you want to go for a two-fer of people getting you off the hook for crimes out of pity?

  50. Oh, yes indeed, the right wingers will *never* be able to write prose anywhere near as unimaginable as this:

    Nocturne, chapter 1

    one: i still think she’s nice
    “Shall we dance?” Marciana said to me. She was in a long dress of a shining sea blue, tiny sparkling amethysts, icy gynoecium at the center of lacy petals, liquid silver leggings, knee-high black boots and elbow-length black gloves with gold buttons, a pewter bracelet. We were in a spacious room with aureate morning sunlight streaming through dusty windows that revealed carious industrial brick buildings, illuminating the dust-covered once polished wooden floor, the plaster walls, the motes of dust dancing to a waltz in twinkling piano and soft strings and wafting flute that came from nowhere.
    “Huh? What about Ava?”
    She laughed, tambura’s silver chiming. “You’re still worried about what that waif thinks? She doesn’t love you anymore.” She smiled, mischievous and playful, with a cruel streak running deep.
    “You really are beautiful,” I told her. “Had I known you’d grow up to be this beautiful, I never would have abandoned you. You’re all I have now.”

    I left to a side tunnel with still-moving great machinery, slightly decaying and rusted, covered with red-orange and the green patina caused by centuries of running water. The floor was stone tiles covered with palustrial green muck and oxidized iron flakes. This place smelled of industry, there was a slow thrumming sound, a distant and almost imperceptible murmuring that sounded strangely mechanical.

    The window in the great hall now overlooked a spiral galaxy and its protean satellite galaxies amongst a sunless void. Marciana stood by my side, in a backless twilight-blue dress scintillating with beads of condensed starlight, butterflies of many sizes and many colors fluttering around her.

    “Wake up, please. We need to keep moving and I’m worried they’ll find us. Wake up.” No lilt to her voice.
    “Huh?” I uttered, still woozy from my sleep in a pipe barely large enough for the three of us, very cramped and uncomfortable but we could keep each other warm and dry, with dried leaves replacing the water that once flowed through it. I wondered where it led, if where it led could keep us safe. The world outside and all around us was gray and chilly, everything was empty, the bustle of Mediolanum replaced with the terrible silence of the snowscapes. Clouds shrouded the sallow sun, darker blots floated like lunar maria.
    Marciana was looking down on me, kneeling, careful not to cram her foot in Ava’s face.
    “What do you think of me?” I asked her.
    “I think you’re pleasant, but a very distant and veiled person sometimes, nowadays. I miss those days when we were children. And I wish… I wish our friendship had blossomed into something more. Why do you ask?”
    “Because… oh, forget it.”
    “How about me?” She gave a coquettish flutter of her eyelashes. “What do you think of me?”
    “I think you try too hard to be accepted.”
    “I think that sounds more like Ava.”
    “That’s nothing like Ava,” I laughed, crawling out of the pipe. “She’s an idealist, and others’ opinions be damned. The only thing she really wants is to be loved.”
    “I suppose. She only seems to think about herself. You know, despite everything, I still think she’s nice. You still,” she paused. “You still have feelings for her, don’t you?”
    “She’s run away on me twice and tried to cheat on me. But I’m still madly in love with her.”
    “Huh, what?” Ava groaned, got up and sat down on the opening. “I never did fuck that guy, you know. Even if I did, it’s not cheating.”
    “I did. With Marciana, I mean. We both regret it. We weren’t really in love. I’m sorry, Ava.”
    “Why be sorry? Fuck who you want to. I don’t care. See this?” she asked, showing me a few snowflakes that fell in her hand. “This is my love for you.” The snowflakes melted away in a puff of her warm breath.

    Everything was gray and white. White drifted down from the battleship gray skies and settled on gray dead trees and gray ashy ground from summer fires strewn with dried needles. There was an ice storm recently, the scintillations rainbow and beautiful and out of place in the desolate lunar landscape.

    A patrol of armed and armored men in greatcoats and balaclavas approached our hiding spot, sharp-edged black against winter’s endless white, one of them with the green, white, and blue tricolor, with only a simple black rune, of Pannonia waving behind him. They stopped, and there was only the sound of our heartbeats and the wind. They continued on their patrol.

    “They could have seen us, killed us. We were lucky,” Marciana murmured.
    “They weren’t looking for anyone. If they were, we’d be dead,” I said. My heart was still thumping, my hands were shaking, and I felt like I was going to vomit.
    “Have we crossed in to Pannonia?” Ava asked, stuttering from fear or from the cold.
    “We can’t be. I was expecting something a lot more fortified to keep Pannonians in and outside ideas out.” I said, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Pannonia left any markings of its border hidden in the snow so they’d have an excuse to hold foreigners ransom or execute us in the capital after one of the Magisterium’s prolocutors delivers a speech about the importance of a Pannonia pure of Muslims, monsters, and parasites. “What does the Synod want here?”
    “They’ve had an interest in Bharuka, offered to purchase the territory and quell the insurgencies. Salomea declined, but the war’s going badly and we have a new regime that might be willing to sell Bharuka. Quelling the insurgencies, well, words like that coming from the Synod’s mouthpieces in the Magisterium, I’m not sure I like that,” Marciana said.
    “Let’s not go this way,” Ava said, her teeth chattering, her voice cracking.
    “I think they wanted to be seen.” They were saying this is Pannonian territory, go no further.

  51. Nice to see that Clamos very quickly loses it and shows off all his behavioral ticks that it’s him. At no point does he try to deny it either.

    That’s why it took him three days to deny that he wasn’t gay after inadvertently claiming he was so he could try claim people in the discussion were homophobic in his usual tangled manner.

  52. “I personally can remember three or four times you’ve been banned from here, yet you keep coming back.”

    More than a dozen, by my count.

  53. At that the situation changed rapidly. The assistant’s tailoring came up and took control of the space, carefully inhibiting any electromagnetic activity except its own. The lights went out. The wire jockey’s signal went bottom-up. The agents found that their tailoring had quit. Six and a half thousand resident nanocameras, drifting in the air like fish semen, all burned out at once. What would they have recorded? Some silvery, mucoid blurs connecting different parts of the room, which, upon analysis, would turn out to be the signature of a single woman moving at abnormal speeds. Each contact she made slowed her down for a fraction of a second, partly resolving this image, freezing her in a curious half-turn; or looking over her shoulder into the upper corner of the room; or with her head at an inhuman angle, face transfigured by a radiant smile.
    From Empty Space from M. John Harrison

    Way better than
    “Gourry…” Sylphiel’s eyes filled with tears. Having a witness was an ancient tradition, a tradition so old it was archaic. A witness was supposed to back up a man’s claim of proposal if anyone questioned it. To have a Ryuzoku as a witness, and one with Milgazia’s stature, could mean that no one could question the engagement, or challenge it.
    and
    “The dead goblin didn’t have any answers for him, and the gaping mouth gaping loosely open made it look about as stupid as Forex was feeling”
    or
    . . . so that the clickity-clackity noise filled Shar’s small NASA office.
    The framed photo Shar used to keep—of her wedding day, with Jason—was now absent from the desk’s corner.

    She’d let him off easy. It hadn’t been an acrimonious separation. One day he’d come home to discover that Shar was moving closer to work. A tiny studio apartment, with easy public transit options, for getting to and from the NASA office.

    “We can figure this out,” Jason had said, his face flushed.

    “It’s not about figuring it out,” Shar had told him gently. “It’s about us going in different directions. We’ve been going in different directions for a long time. We can’t keep beating around the bush, or pretend that everything is just going to be alright. It’s not that I don’t love you, Jason. It’s that I don’t think loving you is enough anymore.”

    He hadn’t argued with her much. Which essentially cemented her hunch that she’d been right about how tenuous their affection had become. He’d increasingly had his world—focused on his dream of the country house, far from the NASA office. And Shar had had her world—pushing forward on the building of new machines, new ships, and new technology; all designed to grow and foster the tiny, fledgling colony that was budding on the surface of Mars.

    Shar’s little office was covered in high-resolution color printouts of digital photos from the colony. Unless Shar had known better, she might have suspected that they came from Utah or New Mexico. The rocks and soil stretched dryly in every direction, with an orange sky that faded to red and purple when the sun went down. Shar watched every digital movie that the colonists could send back. She spent hours talking to the people from crews which had returned. Some of them were friends from the original Wanderer mission. Others were just getting back from their first assignment. The colony wasn’t ready yet for year-round habitation. But with Shar’s help, it would be soon.

    Shar leaned back in her thin-profile wheelchair, and watched the three-dimensional machining animation on her screen. In the span of thirty seconds, a five-hour printing and milling process played out, quick-time. She examined the finished product, swiveling it around on the screen, using her fingertips.

    If ever the colony was going to survive unaided—in case something interrupted the supply line from Earth—they were going to need to be able to build replacement parts by themselves. The automated manufacturing units being planned for the newer missions were supposed to be able to fashion almost any part of any shape, from any refined material. Even solid steel. Every colony component that could break or wear out, was going to have to be programmed into the databases on those units. Then the units were going to have to be tested relentlessly, to be sure they worked as they were meant to.

    To include being able to manufacture the parts to replace the units themselves if it came down to it.

    Satisfied with her work, Shar closed the animation and put her computer on standby. It was only a little bit after ten at night. The cafeteria was closed, but she could go get some sandwiches from the twenty-four-hour desk, which had a refrigerator constantly stocked with cold foods—for the staff who often needed to eat at odd times.

    She brought her hands down onto the familiar hoop grips on the sides of her chair’s two wheels . .
    That last one, by the way, is the first, and last, work of fiction by Brad Torgersen that I will ever read.

  54. Especially compared to Clamps, where it is nigh impossible to even figure out any of the w’s: Who, what, where, when, or why.

    Clamps makes stream of consciousness works seem downright regimented in comparison.

    Does it burn you up, Clamps, deep down, to know that you’ve driven at least dozens – that I am *personally* aware of, the number is likely much higher – of sales towards people you hate, that your incessant inane blatherings have actually accomplished nothing but to serve as free marketing for them?

  55. Though I would also point out that you’ve here admitted to not reading Brad’s stuff beyond a single story, which means you are judging work you don’t actually know anything about.

    Funny that.

  56. Y’know, I’m expecting him to start quoting Sparrowind eventually. But to this day all he can use as an example is an old piece of Slayers fanfiction I wrote when I was a teenager. Something he can’t even say what he finds ‘wrong’ with. He just wants everyone to take his condemnation of the quoted works as Word of God ‘it sucks, even though I can’t explain why you should think that.’

    Seriously though, even though it’s completely out of context, that paragraph tells enough of a story for the reader to figure out what happened in the previous scene, tells a bit about the world the characters inhabit, and that the much respected character being asked to perform an ancient tradition isn’t human. He pays me the compliment of holding it -fanfiction! – up against a professionally published book for comparison. If this is the SJW idea of trying to show the world how crap we are at writing, we’ve got some good advertisement for free.

    There should be a list of books, works and authors that Clamps thinks is shit and right-wing and posted around. ^_^ So far, we have: Larry Correia, our wonderful host Brad Torgersen, myself (R.K. Modena), Sarah Hoyt, Dave Freer, Kate Paulk, Chris Chupik, Tom Knighton, Declan Finn, Jason Cordova (well, everyone in Mad Genius Club)… he probably also hates Nick Cole for having been held up by Larry some time back and is likely to also have Jim Butcher in his hatesink for writing something for the MHI anthology…

    Man, I’m in fantastic company. “List of authors that Clamps hates.”

  57. You were planning to buy another copy of The Chaplain’s War and A Throne Of Bones along with a shitty fanfiction that isn’t actually being sold anywhere?

  58. No, Clamps, but you, you personally, are responsible for me reading Monster Hunter International. You tried to hold up your writing (specifically first paragraphs) as inherently superior to Larry’s stuff. So I read your first paragraph. And I read MHI’s first. The contrast only served to show how awesome his first paragraph is, and I bought an electronic copy on the spot.

    Brad’s work I’ve been following since before he was a pro, so that isn’t anything to do with you. I haven’t read anything of Vox’s besides the short that was Hugo nominated. I thought it good, but not precisely my type. I will likely try more of his stuff later, when I have time. He’s certainly far better than you are. I also bought Tom Knighton’s stuff because of you. Then you factor in the copies my brother has bought.

    Let’s see: Six Monster Hunter Books, Two Dead Six, Three Grim Noir, Son of the Black Sword (so far) x 2
    Tom’s Three

    That’s 27 sales, just between my brother and I.

    Oh, wait. That doesn’t count the physical copies I’ve gotten of Larry’s stuff so he could sign it. My brother has them all as well.

    50 book sales, just from you.

    In fact, I’m still forgetting one. Years back I read John C. Wright’s Titan’s of Chaos trilogy, and loved it, but they were library copies and I forgot who the author was. You are responsible for me finding his work again, which resulted in my picking up copies of that trilogy plus his recent outstanding Iron Chamber of Memory.

    I’m at more than 50 books, Clamps, and I’m only counting two people. How many dozens have you influenced to buy things from people you hate?

    Heck, I almost feel like I need to sincerely thank you, since one of the first long conversations I had with my now wife was about how awesome Larry’s books are. I don’t know how things would have turned out differently if we hadn’t bonded over that.

    You, sir, are the worst Troll ever, bringing happiness and enjoyment where you try to sow discord and misery.

    Well, I suppose you have your own misery to content yourself with.

  59. I know, right? And the fact that he’s using published works to somehow ‘prove’ a single paragraph of a fanfic that I haven’t touched since oh maybe 2004? is ‘better’ – I’m quite complimented, since it’s comparing apples to pumpkins. Also, I still get emails to this day that ask me if I will ever finish the story, please finish it, it’s one of the best character driven AU pair fanfics they’ve ever read.

  60. On a totally different topic, Shadowdancer, does your STO fleet still have room in your Armada? (Assuming you are still playing, of course)

  61. Yes! We most certainly do =) Apathy Squadron has room for members. As for playing I just logged in right before I saw this message. I am on Starbase 39-Sierra instance 1. Toon name is Shadowdancer. If you’re around, message me.

  62. I’m not planning to ever buy Sparrowind unless it shows up in a library sale or if it’s being sold in a box of books that also includes Rumors of Spring, Views From The Oldest House, Saraband of Lost Time, A Mask For The General, and Wheel of the Winds.

    But going by the preview of Sparrowind, it’s very bland and generic. There are a bunch of things wrong with it. Dagrons can innately read anything written by other sentient creatures. I guess having the other dagrons dismissing the scrolls as junk and Sparrowind making an effort to actually learn how to read was a missed opportunity. Also, using “human language.” I don’t know if you know this but humans speak multiple languages and even an illiterate troglodyte could see that there’s a difference between அவர், சில மீதமுள்ள மக்கள் வெளியே தள்ளப்பட்டார் அது சுற்று ஒரு சுவர் கட்டப்பட்ட பிறகு யாரும் பூனைகள் தவிர இனிமேல் அங்கு வாழ என்று தனது உயிலில் அது திரும்பவியலாததாகவும் தெளிவாக்கியது இறந்தார். and Тэр хэдхэн үлдсэн хүмүүст албадан үүн дугуй нь хана барьж, дараа нь нэг ч муур бусад үүнээс хойш энд амьдарч байсан нь түүний хүсэл энэ нь эргэлт буцалтгүйгээр тодорхой болгож, нас барсан байна.
    I don’t really understand how he can have a knack for fishing if his vision is so bad he can’t tell the difference between a sheep and a rock. I don’t know if you know this, but water refracts light more than air does and fish blend in with their surroundings more so than sheep do. 100 meters is twice the height of a tulip tree. His effective hunting range is still outside the range of any generic fantasyland weaponry. And dagrons aren’t easy to kill according to pretty much every dagron folk tale out there, so I don’t see why it matters if Sparrowind has to hunt from only 100 m.

    As for “Having a witness was an ancient tradition, a tradition so old it was archaic,” just look at it. If you said “Having a witness was an ancient tradition,” instead, it would be merely bland.

  63. So… basically your complaint is that she isn’t following all the tired cliche rules for dragons? And that she’s smart enough to imagine fishing by senses other than sight?

    I could go on, but basically you’re beclowning yourself again.

  64. My point is that the story doesn’t follow its own internal logic or the logic of flying animals the size of tyrannosaurs. Bad vision for dragons still gives them an effective hunting range far out of a bow or crossbow’s range.

    The thing about Sparrowind making the effort to understand artifacts dismissed as junk by the other dragons instead of just giving dragons an innate ability to read every other language is just a lack of insight on Shadowdancer’s part.

  65. And even if all your complaints are right it is still far, far, far better than that verbal splatter you call writing.

    So why do you keep torturing yourself by coming where you aren’t wanted – risking criminal charges, at that?

  66. Good question. You’d think after one visit from the authorities, he’d show some discretion . . .

  67. I’d imagine I’m right. I don’t know, I’m never going to buy Sparrowind. The Reluctant Dragon is better anyway and in the public domain to boot.

  68. I am certain the CHORFs are proud — proud! — to have a man like Clamps on their side.

    Clamps, take a powder. Any further outbursts of intellectual flatulence from you, in this thread, and I will summarily delete everything you’ve labored to type today. It will appear as if the room is arguing with nobody.

    Oh, wait, they are arguing with nobody.

  69. Right after he admits he hasn’t bought it thus hasn’t read, Clamps mentions something that’s only in the book, which involves crossbow or bow range. In fact he mentions enough details about the book that only someone who read it would know – especially about a scene that’s much later in the book.

    Sparrowind is, at present, for purchase only.

    As for what he imagines, let’s not go there. It’s not really something we should subject ourselves to.

  70. Not to mention him thinking a crossbow as a range of less than 100m.

    oops, mentioned it.

  71. Man, I am so happy I found all of you guys. Sometimes I feel like I’m alone stuck in a world of insanity. Bah!!!

    The real question I want to ask. Who reads short story sff magazines. I feel that the market is so small. I don’t know one person outside blogs and reddit that reads Analog, Asimov, or any of the other ones. The original article has something like 60 something publications. Where are they? I can barely name 5. These people live in a delusional world.

  72. I find it interesting how it is Accepted Wisdom that conservative writers can’t write for crap, but Baen not only manages to stay in business, but the conservative authors that publish through them continue to write books.
    All I have to do is think back to the John Ringo Monster Hunter International book I just read (devoured?) in one sitting, in one day, because he, as usual, had me hooked inside the first few pages.
    Riiiight, conservatives can’t write. They sure can sell themselves some books, though.

  73. Yes, your logic is sound; however, logic, as well as evidence and reason, have been shown to be instruments of western cultural oppression. QED, we’re wrong, they’re right, and we must be shouted down and tolerantly excluded.

  74. The marvelous aspect of the Problem Fixation as described here is that behind all the agitation and hand-wringing of the SJWs — is there any need to spell that acronym out? Didn’t think so — lies the firm conviction, utterly unsupported by logic or evidence, that you can whip the horse into drinking…and moreover, that he’ll smile and whinny his thanks to you for showing him the Way.

    Well, True Believers gonna Truly Believe, and there’s little to nothing to be done about it.

  75. So they imagine themselves to be the Ori, teaching the way of Origin, and all unbelievers must be destroyed if they do not convert? (Gee, that sounds familiar…) Except, SJWs don’t have the otherworldly powers, and like the Ori are selling a falsehood in order to scam – or terrify – people into worshiping them – which they, like the SJWs, feed on.

    (Why yes, I’m on the last season of Stargate SG-1. Then we’ll watch Atlantis. Universe never happened.)

  76. Regarding point #2, when my local SF organization was hosting the Wordlcon, I was a regular at their meetings. I suggested, repeatedly that they get a table to hand out literature at the local anime con which is held in the spring. My suggestion was poo-pooed. And because I was not an officer I was not allowed to man a table myself. I did get some fliers and place them around, but even so…

    Now, this was when the convention they hosted had panels on the “Graying of Fandom” where they asked where they young fen were. They were and are at the anime cons. And folks, that was the last year that anime con was smaller than Worldcon.

  77. a novel starring an artificial intelligence that can’t tell male from female so defaults to female is “bad SF” or “preachy.”

    Mostly it makes no damn sense.

    The AI in question had access to the medical and personnel files of the crew.
    Therefore, it had access to the little box where the crew member (or licensed medical tech) would mark M or F (or N or H, if we’re being inclusive)
    Therefore it knew based on the medical records whether a given crew member was male or female and did not have to rely on social cues or whatever to figure it out.

    So it doesn’t matter that the AI was so poorly-programmed that it couldn’t tell male from female, because it already knew the sex of whatever crew member it talked to based on the crew member’s records.

    Quite frankly the story would have been better if all the characters in the universe had been females, and reproduced by gene-splicing.

    Or if the AI had to pause to look up a crew member’s records, every time it talked to someone, in order to use the proper pronoun. That has comedic potential.

  78. I’m not even a professional statistician and even I, looking at the original Excel spreadsheet listing their stats, can see gaping holes in their methodology. What is the proportion of stories *submitted* by Black authors to those accepted? What is the corresponding submissions-vs.-publications breakdown for all other demographics (Hispanic/Latino, Asian, European vs. North American)? What is the size of their “unable to verify author background” segment? And most damning of all, why concentrate on the ethnic background of the *author* when it is the *characters* who are most visible and most likely to contribute to the social-improvement effect that is believed will be the result of such increased diversity emphasis?

    Of all things, I’m reminded most of a gag from The Big Bang Theory, where Leonard and Howard are trying very hard to think of outreach efforts to get girls more interested in science and technology, and challenge the scornfully disinterested Sheldon to come up with a better idea. Interestingly, Sheldon takes two seconds and actually does so, by pointing out that every idea Leonard and Howard had makes the same mistake: they’ve been targeting female students already at the high school and university level, by which time academic interests tend to be set and fixed, and should concentrate on students still in elementary school if they want to provoke interest. This strikes me as much the same issue: the increase-diversity crowd are making the mistake of trying to change by force an audience and market already set in its adult cycle, and would be much better served by reaching out to differing groups of the next generation through the channels available and best suited to those groups and that generation. That way the market can change organically as the new audience arises. The problem, of course, is that this takes far greater time and effort than simply berating editors.

    (Which is not to say that the occasional berating isn’t merited, or that cycles can’t be broken at various points. But berating is like any other tactic: when overused, it loses effectiveness.)

  79. “So it doesn’t matter that the AI was so poorly-programmed that it couldn’t tell male from female….”

    I actually thought that this was meant to represent a linguistic rather than conceptual problem: it wasn’t that Breq (the AI in question) didn’t know or couldn’t tell the biological difference, but that the language in which she thought (Imperial Radch) had no gendered pronouns, and that the use of the feminine default was an artifact of the standardized Radch-to-English translation.

    As an idea I actually thought this was rather clever; it fell down in execution, for me, simply because by making me have to stop and figure out in my own mind the sex of every other character Breq met (a tic for me), reading the story simply became too much work for me, and I wasn’t getting enough enjoyment to compensate. (It also rubbed me the wrong way simply because it felt like something of a Statement — “See, This Is What It Feels Like When the Standard Language ‘Default’ Excludes You” — but that may just be me being oversensitive.)

  80. Brad, the way that you keep hitting homeruns (Larry, too) leads me to think that you’ve missed your opimal income career: baseball player.

    Leigh Brackett a woman? Frank Yerby black? Who knew? Why should I have cared?

  81. A white author writing about black heroes is asking to be vilified for cultural appropriation. The only way to win is not to play their game.

  82. Yeah, I’ve been to regional cons where they have had ‘Graying of fandom’ programming, and then i went to Dragon Con.

  83. Well, crap. I forgot to format the above as a quote from Camestros and this blog appears to have an alarming lack of editing features….

  84. it fell down in execution … by making me have to stop and figure out in my own mind the sex of every other character Breq met

    I tried that for the first few paragraphs, then I gave up. “Okay, everybody’s female and all of them are lesbians that reproduce by gene-splicing. Done.” That had the unfortunate side effect of making the penis festival on that one planet a lot more shocking than if should have been. “Wait, they have men here? Where did that come from?”

    I realize it was supposed to convey a linguistic point, but it failed miserably. Even languages with no gendered pronouns have built-in ways of distinguishing between male and female speakers and sentence-objects.

  85. RJSchwarz wrote: “A white author writing about black heroes is asking to be vilified for cultural appropriation. The only way to win is not to play their game.”

    Uh oh…I’m hosed. My Writers of the Future volume IX story “The Witchin’ Man” (from 1992, I think) is exactly that! The main character is a young black slave boy in Virginia– and not only am I non-black, I have never been to Virginia, and I have certainly never been a slave (nor descended from any.)
    I can recall what I was thinking as I first typed up that story. There was nothing in my mind about being inclusive, or bucking trends, or any of that nonsense. Mostly I was thinking about the atmospherics of the prose, while playing in the 19th century Southern US world of Faulkner and Twain, and how to write the setting and characters in a way that made sense. The story came over any meta-critical appeals to an audience or existing problem of representation.

  86. Jared. WARN people next time you post something like that. Gave me a headache trying to read it

    And Clamps, SD’s stuff merely needs minor editing to be perfectly comprehensible.

    Sample A
    “Gourry…” Sylphiel’s eyes filled with tears. Having a witness was an ancient tradition, a tradition so old its origins were lost in time. A witness was needed to back up a man’s claim of proposal in case anyone questioned it. To have a Ryuzoku as a witness, and one with Milgazia’s stature, would mean that no one could question the engagement, or challenge it.

    Sample B
    “The dead goblin didn’t have any answers for him, and its loosely gaping mouth made it look about as stupid as Forex was feeling”

    There you go, minor editing and it scans much better. As for Torgersen’s stuff, it reads perfectly well, although stylistically the dash’s aren’t to my preference.

    Your stuff though, needs a metric shitton of editing and would become unrecognizable afterwards.

    Regarding Sparrowind
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_vision#Water_birds
    Presumably he can see well through the refraction and know fish are in that area but is still nearsighted enough that he needs to correct in the last 30 meters of his dive or so in order to actually catch them. Which wouldn’t do jack shit for being able to tell the difference between a sheep and a rock.
    As for the language thing, plenty of fantasies have dragons as inherently magic. 3.5 D&D dragons are born knowing 1-2 languages, no learning necessary. She’s certainly not the only author whose had a race able to understand all languages. Hell, 1st ed D&D thieves who reached all of 3rd level automatically understand 80% of languages. No learning necessary.

  87. “Okay, everybody’s female and all of them are lesbians that reproduce by gene-splicing. Done.”

    Clever idea! It wouldn’t have worked for me because I would have found that just *too* difficult to suspend my disbelief for — I know, I know, what kind of SF fan am I? — but it shows that not all criticism of the book is due solely to the pronoun gimmick.

  88. Why, thank you, Ravenshrike! I appreciate your speaking up in my defense, especially in such a cogent and logically done argument. I don’t know if you’ve encountered him before, but we have had the unfortunate experience of having a few years of dealing with him. So we’re used to Clamps insulting my work (as well as him insulting everyone else’s work.) He’s been stalking me for years because he feels I shouldn’t have the opinions and politics I have ‘as an Asian woman.’ As such, nothing I do (or, for the matter, anyone else whose politics don’t line up with his), make or say will ever be ‘good’ or ‘worth anything’ in his opinion – and it has nothing to do with the actual works he bitches about. Clamps doesn’t have a grasp about most things – basic physics, communication, how to write, science in general, reality… actually, pretty much nearly everything, he has an imaginary grasp of. So his attempts at ‘logic’ to prove his point are laughable and easily picked apart – as you showed. (Nearsightedness doesn’t mean you can’t figure out refraction after all…)

    I wish that was just me being mean, but that’s how he is. He regularly tells people who make a living at writing that they suck at writing while proudly claiming he will not read their work or more than the free sample, tells scientists they don’t know their field (some of those writers he insults are also scientists) and so on, without really any evidence to back him up.

    Heck, he’s arguing about the existence of dragons in a fantasy setting being ‘unrealistic.’ Most of the folks who’ve already had experience with him no longer bother trying to argue with him, and just proceed to mock him. He’s been banned from so many blogs because of his behavior, and he’ll just circumvent it by making a new name.But he’s easily identifiable because of his behavior, and his behavior is a fantastic object example of SJWism.

    I formulated Sparrowind’s nearsightedness in much the same way I myself am very nearsighted; so I would do things like remove my glasses and look a great distance in order to have a better idea of how limiting this would be for a swiftly flying creature. I used to also have ponds of koi, which I used to enjoy watching even without my glasses if I sat next to the pond, so from personal experience I know it wouldn’t be an issue for him. Fish in a river or a stream under his paws is well within Sparrowind’s range of sight!

    I have a reason for Humans and their language, but because it’s a big spoiler, I’d rather not say what it is.

    Sample B isn’t one of mine though. It’s someone else’s, likely Vox Day’s?

    Anyway, again… thanks!

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