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bear by san

March 2017



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rengeek superbard! _ strangepowers

you could hardly even see him in all that chrome

In which Richard K. Morgan blogs, so I don't have to.

Yeah, what he said.


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Holy shit!

Do you think I can get him to have my blog babies?
I'm going to find out if I can send him a box of chocolates, via our mutual editor. *g*

Seriously, guys. Quit the infighting over which branch of SFF is worthy to save the world, and write some goddamned stories that will give a few people joy and comfort and maybe even a modicum of enlightenment.

De-Lurking, Argumentatively

Hi there. I've been reading you for a couple of months, since one of my LJ friends hipped me to your blog about Leonard Cohen. I haven't yet read any of your fiction (unless you've published short stuff in Analog or Asimov's), but you're on my agenda.

Anyway, I just thought I ought to identify myself before I started to argue with you.

I confess that I didn't read all of Morgan's piece. In fact, I stopped at the following, in part because I thought he really missed point, and especially because his site doesn't seem to permit comments. So you're stuck with mine.

Skip across the tracks to the world of crime fiction for a while, and you don't see this shit going on.

What I want to say to Richard K. Morgan, is that "the world of crime fiction" doesn't have the silly battles he describes because the world of crime fiction doesn't matter.

Crime fiction is a sub-set of popular fiction, of evanescent entertainment. Though there may be some exceptions to the rule, as a genre, it doesn't aspire to be anything more than entertainment.

SF is different. Right or wrong, SF does, and historically has, seek to engage, and to change, the world as it is in the here and now.

I never believed Heinlein (or was it Spider Robinson who originated the phrase?) when he claimed to be doing nothing but competing for his readers' beer money? Particularly in Heinlein's case, he was writing fiction that he thought mattered. He was not only trying to describe the world in which he lived, he was also trying, with his words, to change it.

And your blogs suggest to me that you are trying to do the same thing. You're writing about those aspects of life, of humanity, that you think matters (feminism and sustainable politics, for example). As Morgan said (and as your livejournal suggests), it seems to me you are writing for yourself, not for some theoretical "market". You are trying to change the world through the only means a writer has, through your words and your thoughts.

And in so doing, you're taking a position in the larger argument going on in the science fiction world.

Long story short: even though I hadn't until now even heard the terms, "consolatory", or "new weird", and even though I always thought the us vs. them battles between the "new wave" and whatever-it-was that came before were kind of silly (because, as a 13 year-old boy, I loved Clarke and Delany), the fact of those battles suggested there was something going on, that SF mattered.

The specifics of the battles may be purile, but I think the fact the battles are happening at all suggests that SF still matters. Unlike Crime Fiction, SF is more than merely a "genre", more than a slot primed to ingest the beer-money of mere consumers.

It's an argument, a debate; it's not a genre of entertainment, but rather a forum from which new ideas can take flight.

Ahem. I'll stop now.

Re: De-Lurking, Argumentatively

What I want to say to Richard K. Morgan, is that "the world of crime fiction" doesn't have the silly battles he describes because the world of crime fiction doesn't matter.

Crime fiction is a sub-set of popular fiction, of evanescent entertainment. Though there may be some exceptions to the rule, as a genre, it doesn't aspire to be anything more than entertainment.

Tell that to James Ellroy. *g*
Someone else linked to it, right after I'd read an interview with someone (before the changeover) in which the writer, flush with triumph for a first novel that became a best seller, trumpets that he doesn't write That Crap, he writes for intelligent people.

It makes me sigh, because every novel is That Crap to someone. And every writer is trying to be intelligent. (Or if I'm wrong, name someone who says, "I think I'll just write stupid, I mean who cares?")

I would love to see fellow writers promise we're not going to slang That Crap. Whatever "That Crap" might be.
I have a hard time not slanging Waiting for Godot and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but it's because I really do feel as if the respective authors are seeing how far they can push me before I point out that the emperor's clothing isn't. *g*

And there's stuff I don't like to read. But you know what?

Somebody else does.

I get so very tired of this self-aggrandizing egoboo so many people in SFF put out about how SF is the Literature of Ideas and Going to Save the World.

I suspect, if Morgan is right about the crime writers being nicer to each other, it's not because they don't think their books have any social value. It's because their egos don't need quite as much propping up as ours do, down here in the really really disregarded trenches.

Edited at 2008-05-02 04:26 am (UTC)
Now, THAT is a great article.
This was a really interesting article that I think made a lot of solid points. More than truly exploring the cause of some of this stuff (because really, what's the value of pointing fingers), it called for us to be more tolerant of one another's diverse interests and to just start reading and writing the stuff that we love so that we can all just worry about having fun again. I'm behind that 100%!
I've found myself thrust into the role of family speaker for the dead, and my grandfather's declining health is starting to haunt me with the need to figure out some kind of adequate memorial. He's a fascinating guy: Marine in WWII, welder, autoworker, and made the most amazing works of art that were nothing like the harsh realities of the rest of his life.

So I figure a fitting tribute would be about half traditional workmanlike eulogy, and then I'd sing a couple songs that don't have much to do with a funeral. Right now I'm leaning towards David Wilcox "Young Man Dies" and "...it looked just like the Batmobile...".
great big wheels and painted steel....

Yeah. There are worse eulogies.
Exactly. Telling an artist "should" is a foolish and possibly evil act.

There is no should in art.
Excellent piece, and I thoroughly agree. Especially after some of the recent convo on the boards. (And yes, I know I came closest to saying, "Well, your subgenre sucks, so nyah!" I did try to make the point about there being room for all of it, though.)
But what on earth is "Mundane SF"? (Well, he kind of defined it, but can anyone give me an example?) Or "New Weird"? I feel severely out of the loop. The only current new-ish trend in SF I know about is all this Singularity stuff (I'm not sure what it's known as, that's just what I call it), Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow and such folk.
Oh, you don't want to pay any attention to that singularity stuff; it's so late-1990s!
As interesting as this is, which is very, I think there is a huge difference between a writer who is enjoyable and one who is not - regardless of supposed genre.

I know Verner Vinge is supposed to be a great writer, for instance, but I could not get through Rainbow's End. However, I will be trying A Fire Upon The Deep at one point.

I do prefer certain subjects in my scifi; like transhumanism and exploration; but a good, readable tale is good, readable tale. I also enjoy mash-ups - I'm reading the Retrieval Artist series right now, and I do so enjoy a police procedural (speaking of crime fiction).

But yes, Morgan is correct - the infighting has to stop.

First Against the Wall...

I've always suspected most SF folks, deep in their darkest hearts, wanted to be revolutionaries or Balkan warlords. Unable to fulfill their subconscious dreams of taking La Revolucion to the streets, AK-47 raised high, enemies scattering under Molotov cocktails, they settle for creating meaningless factions within genre literature and fight it out verbally.

The results are pretty similar: Lots of chaos, collateral damage and a whole bunch of refugees streaming out of the war zone.

Having a philosophy behind your writing is a lovely thing. Holding a jihad to enforce your philosophy on others... not so lovely.
WRT infighting--something my (Baptist, Republican) grandmother once said about Baptists (and on another occasion, about Democrats): You have to remember, they're like cats--you think from the noise you hear they're fighting, but really they're multiplying."

Of course, sometimes it really is self-destructive, cannibalistic auto-immolation.
He asks at one point, "Why does this happen?" and my guess would be...a sense of entitlement.

In other 'fringe' communities that I have been a part of, fan and otherwise, there is this tendency for people to feel a sense of entitlement about things. I suspect it's because in claiming these communities to be their own, it gives them a sense of indentity and therefore they feel some ownership about them. So again, therefore, they feel some control over the community. Also, in indentifing strongly with these communities, anything that they do that these people disagree with, is suddenly a personal issue because they feel it will reflect poorly upon themselves.

If that makes sense. I reread this and realise that I haven't put this as well as I might have.

It's also funny that he mentions the whole 'New Wave versus the Golden Era" thingy. Since I was nine or something when I began reading SF and have amusing memories of being shocked at reading the little byline commentaries between Ellison and Asimov at the time.
All those sub-genres are confoozling me.

I think I'll just stick to trying to tell interesting stories with shiny characters and let my subconscious handle any themes it deems appropriate.

I like my idea that I think just might be space opera. The concept that Mundane SF is all there should be seems imagination-crippling.

Of course, that can be said of all "X is all there should be and Y is just (insert derogatory comment here)" statements, I suspect.
pretty much.
What is Morgan talking about?

"You just don't see this thrashing, squabbling more-valid-than-thou posturing among crime readers or writers. You don't see the back-biting, you don't see the antagonistic comparisons, you don't see the defensive factionalism, and you don't see the rage."

As nihilistic_kid points out, this assertion comes from an outsider unfamiliar with the community he cites. He gives several examples saying: "When was the last time a World Fantasy Award juror publicly quit because a book was just too thematically awful to be considered a fantasy?"

To his examples, I'd say go read Ed McBain's "Fat Ollie's Book" which takes a long veiled jab at many authors and mystry trends, including a clear piss take on the Professor character by Andrew Vachss.

Overall however, infighting is clearly uniquely abhorrent behavior which only afflects SF. Why, those folks over in the mainstream and academia rarely have any dustups or scandals! And poets - their communal harmony is legendary!

Why can't today's writers show the same decorum and respect that Mark Twain displayed when he wrote about James Fenimore Cooper? That Samuel Clemens, he really understood community building!
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