When I started my second career, (or my third, depending on how you look at it), my employer put me through an Apprenticeship program that included sending me half time to college to get a degree. Now the fact that Uncle Sam assured me when I retired that I had a BS in Physical Oceanography, with a specialty in Hydro acoustics was irrelevant. “Our system has you lock step through the degree with everyone else, you’ll do it our way” was the answer when I asked if I could test out. (it’s interesting to note that the same branch of Uncle Sam that insisted I had a degree now wanted me to get another one… but that’s a story for another time.)
“Well”, I thought, “any learning is useful” (that’s one of those myths I’m speaking of, we’ll come back to that later) “and they’re going to pay me to sit on my butt and go to school, so, SURE.” All of this leads me to be sitting in a classroom, inside the gates of a Naval Base, on Sep 21 2001 for the opening tirade of the person that will be my English Comp instructor for the next eight weeks.
When I say tirade, I’m not exaggerating. Under the cover of discussing the syllabus, the prof spent the next forty-five minutes going over the evils of western civilization, with an emphasis on how much we deserved 9/11 and maybe now we’ll be nicer to people, oh and informing us that not only are we required to meet all the style requirements for each paper, but all papers must be “Socially Relevant” which is to say that it must reflect the Prof’s politics. All of this, to 45 Vets and Retired Military, or the children of same. To say that this didn’t go over real well, is putting it kindly.
This same individual later assigned us several short stories to read and discuss the deeper meanings of… As the stories were in a college text book, there was a one to two page blurb after each story by the author, discussing the story. Our Prof (it’s important to note, a tenured professor) then proceeds to explain what the author was trying to say in the story… Trouble is, what the prof said the author meant doesn’t have any level of connection with what the AUTHOR says he or she meant.
At this point, I had had enough, and called the Prof out, saying “Excuse me, but that’s not what the author says they meant by the passage in question. Right here on page 39…”.
The Prof immediately replied that “Often, an author doesn’t know what they mean by something”.
“But, isn’t that the height of Hubris, to claim that you know more about what was written than the author of the piece?”
The prof then said “I don’t know what that word means.”
“Hubris, I don’t know what that word means.”
The tone of voice indicated that the prof was angry that I was using vocabulary the prof wasn’t familiar with. A full professor of English did not know what Hubris means. Chew on that for a moment. (For any in the audience, like oh say some of the dissenting voices that suffer from it, it means an excessive pride or arrogance beyond that justified by ability, taken to the point of sin).
So when I speak of “Social Justice Warriors” (SJWs) this is the sort of individual I’m speaking of. Now, let’s talk for just a little about SJWs, assumptions, and differences in reading comprehension.
My last post on Myths seems to have really irritated some folks, and I’ve been accused of all sorts of sins and deficits in character, morality, and personality. Most of which must have been based on reading “code words” that I didn’t even know the key to, because it’s certainly not something I actually wrote. It’s funny, I used to make a living out of pulling data, signals sent intentionally and unintentionally, out of background noise. I was VERY good at it. For decoding signals though, you need to be using the same key. These folks are definitely using a different code-book.
So let’s start from the beginning. (Oh, and let me be clear here, since this is another one of those translation issues, when I speak of “men” or “real men” what I am speaking of, is anyone of the species Homo Sapiens, that has admirable traits, traits worth emulating. It has nothing to do with race, color, creed, sex: identified or born, or sexual preference.)
One of the Biggest sets of myths in the America I grew up in, which is apparently either 1) not the same America the fore mentioned people grew up in, or 2) those folks received later training that supplanted those myths and placed some other set of values in their place, revolve around George Washington. These myths cover everything from the cherry tree incident (with the implied lesson: If you screw up, own it. Don’t lie to cover your ass, that’s not what men do) to George Washington turning down the offer of the Crown as King of The United States (with the implied lesson: Keep true to your principles, do what’s right, not what’s expedient) Are these and many other things about G. W. Myths? Well if they aren’t they come real damn close. Yes G.W. lived, fought in the French and Indian war, and the Revolutionary war, was the President of the United States, etc. But did he actually chop down a cherry tree? Who knows, and who cares? It’s what the left so lovingly calls “a teaching moment”, a tool that allows, through example, to demonstrate societal values. We could go on all day with the values that were inculcated in the America that I grew up in, and that my children, and my family grew up in, but this is a blog about Science Fiction, Fantasy, and general geekdom, so let’s see how this sort of thing relates to the group we’re calling our target audience. (if you came here from some other group, welcome, but if you don’t recognize all the references, ask, we’re not going to slow the class down)
The Beautiful Cedar Sanderson covered a fair part of this .
And the wonderful Sarah Hoyt hit it some more .
So I’m just going to hit a little of this. I once thought, and was taught as a truth (read myth) that no knowledge and no learning were ever wasted. (remember I said we would come back to this?) I’ve since come to the conclusion that sadly, that’s just not so… It seems that some forms of learning lead you to the conclusion of Social relativism. The idea that any society’s values are equal to any other society’s values, and there is really nothing to chose between them.
Well, I just don’t buy that. Take for instance something near to our current experience, the society advocated by ISIS. If you honestly believe that the society proposed by ISIS is just as valuable as the society advocated by western civilization (any western civilization) well, what the hell are you doing reading S/F? They ban that sort of thing. (Along with defenestrating people for the sin of being gay, cutting their throat for the sin of being Christian, or Japanese…) In short, you can wind up in a place where your acceptable values are at odds with your survival, and not be able to understand the internal conflict. That way lies societal suicide. But I digress.
Science fiction and Fantasy as promoted by the Sad Puppies movement looks for only a few things…
That the story be entertaining. You can be preachy if you can be entertaining at the same time, (I’ll allow that R.A.H most certainly got a little preachy at times, but never at the cost of entertainment. I’ll also allow that if the point you’re preaching over opposes my own, I require a slightly higher bar of entertainment. Hey I’m human, if you’re going to imply that I’m all screwed up, at least entertain me, and make the lesson one I’m willing to sit through.) Funny enough, that seems to be also what the most important award in literature awards based on. Which award you ask? Why the Benjamins of course…
That the game be strait (that means not rigged, it has nothing to do with the games sexual proclivities) To give “no award” rather than give an award to one of the most successful editors in modern S/F&F leads one to suspect that the game is crooked. When your darlings post recommended award slates, and no one bats an eye, but if an outsider (them) does the same you cause a hue and cry to shake the rafters… well, it makes the Sad puppies sad.
I don’t believe that we’re adverse to dystopian plots as a matter of course, cautionary tales certainly have their place, and some of the best were and are S/F&F, cough ORWELL cough (I just wish that less folks thought his books were text books on what to do, instead of cautionary tales of what not to do) but we prefer something with hope.
And basically we expect that science fiction will promote science, promote the advancement of humanity, and the improvement of the human condition. We expect our fantasy to be entertaining, and if it can show some basic truth of the human condition, great. All of this is doable, and in the past has been done. It was the standard, back when I fell in love with science fiction, and say what you will (and some of you have) about Campbell, he insisted on this, and got it. We were reading things that gave us hope, or warned us about the potential pitfalls of an action, and suggested an alternative. Some of this sort of work still exists. It can be found from a notable few publishers. What is being pushed by the big publishers (again with a few exceptions) is entire novels of navel staring, or the S/F&F equivalent of the Goth kid with all the cuts on his or her wrists. I feel sorry for him, but I certainly don’t want to spend hours in his world. Now I don’t care if you want to read it, and you are certainly welcome to it. But don’t require me to read it, and don’t make it the only thing I can find, or you’ll lose me to some other genre. The beauty of Indi publishing is that it ensures that all tastes are represented. Isn’t it odd that Indi novels aren’t eligible for awards?