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bear by san

March 2017



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"Decapitation hazard, everybody!"

A confession: Father, I have sinned.

The last time I read a Pat Cadigan story was in 2005, and it was a reprint. I can't actually remember the last time I read a short story by Kristine Katherine Rusch, Robert Silverberg, or Gregory Benford.

(DISCLAIMER: I went climbing outdoors today--and, despite the trembling in my limbs, because climbing outdoors is terrifying, I sent two 5.2 and a 5.6--and I am currently consuming my second vodka martini, and dinner was English muffins with PB&J, so please issue me the Warren Ellis exclusion for anything here commented, as it may be typed under the influence of (a) booze or (b) a Mythbusters marathon.

ALSO: ETA: in this post, I'm specifically talking about short fiction, and I'm speaking of and as a writer of short fiction engaged in a conversation with other short fiction, not as a consumer of same.)

Anyway, I had an epiphany while reading the ToC of the 2007 Year's Best Science Fiction. Which basically amounted to-- "oh."

We don't read them. And they don't read us.

Well, really. I wonder when the last time was that Bob Silverberg read a story by Benjamin Rosenbaum, David Moles, or Yoon Ha Lee?

See, I'm thinking I'm on to something here. There's a generation gap in SFF; we're having different conversations, the Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers, and Generation X. And as the Millennials (really, guys, this Gen Y thing has to stop: grant the kids their own identity) enter the genre, they too will be having their own argument.

And some of that argument is reflected in how we talk about things. As an illustrative but nonexclusive example: for the oldest generation of SFF writers still producing, it was edgy to talk about gender at all. For the Boomers, it was edgy to put girls in the roles traditionally assigned to boys. For my generation it's edgy to put boys in girls' roles, but that's a game that results in critical and reader huh?!, at least so far.

For the Millennials? Gender roles are so 1999, baby. Get over it.

[19:16] matociquala: I love Mythbusters.
[19:16] matociquala: Adam to 15th-dan ninjitsu blackbelt: "Would you come back to the lab and do some of this on high speed camera?"
[19:16] matociquala: 15th-dan ninjitsu blackbelt: "Oh, yeah, be glad to."
[19:17] leahbobet: they have ninjas.
[19:17] matociquala: Adam has a better job than I do.
[19:17] matociquala: Yes
[19:17] leahbobet: I want ninjas.
[19:17] matociquala: They are testing ninja myths
[19:17] leahbobet: are there pirates?
[19:18] matociquala: They did pirates another time.
[19:18] leahbobet: no, for Pirates vs. Ninjas.
[19:18] leahbobet: you can tell who would actually win.
[19:18] matociquala: maybe in season 14
[19:19] matociquala: Grant Imihara: "Decapitation hazard, everybody!"
[19:19] leahbobet: better job than mine.
[19:20] matociquala: Mythbusters have a really good job.
[19:20] matociquala: And I have the best job in the world.
[19:20] leahbobet: mine would be better if it was "Writer and part-time Mythbuster".
[19:21] matociquala: writer and part-time ninja!


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I've seen that episode! And the Bujinkan is the school I study under!

I joke about being a ninja all the time, but secretly in the open, I'm in training. (That I can call the style budo taijutsu helps.)
Although I think you have a point, I'm not sure where I fit into it. In some ways I am part of the previous generation (I certainly do read stories by Rusch and Benford and Bear, maybe not so much with the Silverberg) but I think I'm part of the same literary generation as you and jaylake (and I certainly do read stories by you guys). Maybe it's just because I'm older than the other members of my cadre? I was 40 when I published my first story.
I read stories by the older generations when I was younger, but these days... I tend to lean towards what I see as breaking new ground.

I wonder where the genre is going, not where it has been.

Weird, innit?

(pass the martini, pls, kthx)

I prefer pirates to ninjas.
Total ninjas here.
i read everything i can get my hands on. i wonder what generation i am.
You're an editor. I think it's different.

I work my ass off to to read now, and it wasn't like that when I wasn't writing 4-8 hours/day. Now I read because I know I need to keep an eye on the genre, I need to know what's going on, I have stuff to keep up on.

Then, I read for pleasure, and I read two novels a day.

I can't do that anymore, because that story energy goes to writing. That makes me a little sad.
.... Yeah.

Well, I'm about to reread Bone Dance. So you can fear me at your leisure. ;-)

Just a Thought

The following is an opinion . . . some of it verifiable . . . some of it strictly navel contemplation:

It’s just a guess, but I’d bet that production requires an increase in motivation the more laps one takes around the track. When you’ve done it all, and possess the trophies on the wall to prove it, wanting to do something probably becomes more important then having to do something. Starting out, a writer will more then likely have more stories bouncing around in their cranium then they can possibly translate to the written word. The craving to put it all into a readable/sharable format will be almost overwhelming. Once the author has a decent size bibliography, some of that hunger will have been satiated -- probably not completely but enough so that selectivity and motivation come into play when choosing to write any particular story. Add that to the age of the storyteller, inertia increasing with each turn of the calendar page, and I can see how someone like SilverBob can be very selective in which projects he chooses to attempt. Still, I’d be willing to bet the farm that these folk write and write every day -- a delightful habit that I’m trying to acquire.

I wonder how much publications could answer some of this conundrum. It would be interesting to have a study, complete with demographics, on the reading habits of fen. Is there a generational difference in where they read their fiction choices? To wit: what percentage of each age group read shorts from just anthologies, printed magazines, e-zines, or other formats? Those that mix and match formats: how much of each is read per age group? Then correlate it to the generation of the authors in each format. If Haldeman, Resnick, and Rusch sell primarily to the “in-print” publications, who are the people reading that format? Compare that to Jay Lake, Eugie Foster, and Nick Mamatas. The likelihood that there is an appreciable difference will probably be closer to one then zero.

Fortunately, SF/F is fast approaching the “who cares?” limit for gender differences. There is still some bias but I believe it is diminishing. As a for instance, check out the genders of the leading editors: mostly female. How about the top award winner (per the LOCUS list): numero uno -- Ursula K. LeGuin (followed closely by Connie Willis). If asked to choose a top ten list of authors, how many lists would be all female or all male? Probably very few. Check out the past presidents of SFWA for the last decade or so -- and that doesn’t include all the female writers who contribute so much to that organization. Females are here to stay, and often lead the way, in all aspects of SF/F -- including the dreaded hard-science fiction.
because climbing outdoors is awesome

Fixed that minor typo for you. *grin*
Alas. If only.

I really don't like it.

The meat puppet is sure I'm going to make it die.

And then when I get to the top, no endorphin cookie, just a momentary surge of relief because I'm not dead, apparently.)
Gen-X was the band Billy Idol was in when he was 15.

And for the oldest SF writers today, gender was probably a term in grammar, not sociology.

I don't know what generation I'm in, though I'm your age. I've read Benford but I'm not a fan.

I hadn't read anything by Kristine Katherine Rusch before I read her Hugo-nominated novella, but I really liked it--in fact, I voted for it. I had no idea what generation she was, I just thought it was a moving story.

On the other hand, I don't know what generation Michael Swanwick is in (Wikipedia says he's four years younger than my father, though), but I remember you commenting that he was a big name to be up against for the Hugo. I liked his story just fine, but to be honest, it did the least for me of the short story nominees. "Tideline" was far and away my favorite. (Please don't think I'm sucking up; I'm being completely honest here.)

The thing is, again, "Tideline" was the most moving story of the bunch for me (though I also found "Distant Replay" sweet, and I guess Resnick would count as the older generation). So regardless of the generation, I don't care about this or that theme or trope, what I'm looking for is a story that moves me.


On the topic of gender-bending, this is a topic of great interest to me, because I don't feel like I fit into the traditional gender role assigned to me. I'm a nurturer, I like to cook, I do most of the housework, I love kids. I'm sensitive and artistic and affectionate and gentle. I've always rejected the notion that traditional gender roles are the natural order of things, though that notion seems to be regaining currency in the culture at large. There are all these scientific studies showing that boys are just this way and girls are just that way, and to me the flaws in the studies seem glaringly obvious--you just can't have a control group when you're studying people. As a father who's tried to insulate his daughters from traditional gender typing, I have been pained to discover how ineffectual I've been, because unless I go live in a cave, I can't keep pop culture from inculcating its messages in them. My girls hardly ever watch TV, but someone else will give them Barbies, or they'll go to school and internalize the idea that boys build and girls cook. So studying kids proves nothing because regardless of the intentions of the parents, the culture will teach them some lessons with such subtlety that we don't always even realize it's happening.

So anyway, long story short. I'm not a very mannish man, and I think we should send the message that that's okay. Even if we could prove that traditional roles are the natural order of things, my response would be, "So what?" It may be normal, but there will always be the exceptions, and there's no reason why we should stigmatize outliers. It should be okay for kids to grow into the people they're going to be.

So I'm interested in the idea of fiction that subverts those traditional roles/stereotypes. I stumbled across this list of gender-bending sci-fi (http://www.glbtfantasy.com/?section=lists&sub=sfgender), and, to tell you the truth, I was a bit disappointed. I see gender-bending stories about aliens with multiple sexes, but very few about humans. Those that are about humans are homosexual. That's great, but if we imply that the only exceptions to gender roles are homosexuals, aren't we in a way reinforcing the normalcy of those roles? If all gay men are effeminate and all lesbian women are butch, doesn't that reinforce this sense of duality? What about the manly gay men, or the unmanly straight ones, or the straight women who don't follow traditional women's roles?

Aw, crap, now I've rambled and ranted all over your blog, and to what end? I don't know. I know I'd like to write fiction that subverts those stereotypes. I'd like to read fiction that subverts them. If generation is not about your age but about when you get published, then I guess I might not be in your generation, but I do share in that fascination with gender roles. (Ironically, the YA novel I'm peddling around right now doesn't touch on that at all, but I guess you can't hit all the themes that interest you with every work.)

well, I think that part of the reason that authors may tend to read other authors of the same generation is cultural or emotional relevance.

So yes.
As a Millenial myself, I smiled at that last sentence.

'Cause yeah. That's what I'm seeing in people around me. (I have an educated friend, a few years my senior, who honestly thought that full gender equality was written into the Constitution.) Girls do boy things, boys do girl things, and my generation seems less concerned about calling things "boy" and "girl" at all.

Which does lead me to wonder what our arguments will be.
Gen X here, born in 1967, female engineer etc etc. What I've seen is a pretty wide range in reactions to me, and it's not always grouped by age. Sometimes it's by geographic region, sometimes by experiences people have had, sometimes by a host of other factors. Also, I've seen change within people; for example to same grandfather who didn't think my mom needed a college education because she'd "only go and get married" never once hinted that I would need less education or might make different career choices than my brother.

So yeah, I think these last few generations have been spread across a wide shift. But I do know that parents of young children are still finding gender roles imposed on their children, even while they try to shield them from those. The order may be rapidly fadin', but it's not over yet.
I realized after Terry Bisson and I started SF in SF that most of our guests were of an earlier generation (understandable, because most of them were Terry's friends), and that even though we first held the readings in a college, we didn't get very many people in their twenties (or even thirties), which surprised me. I'm not very particular as to who I read beyond whether I think it will be a good story, but when I check with what my friends are reading I've noticed a definite gap based on their age.
I think you are on to something there. At least you explain my SF/Fantasy reading behavior pretty well (it's completely different with Horror, but that's got a lot to do with the state that genre is in).
Sure, when I was younger (I'm 31 now) I read Silverberg and Benford, too, but when you're mostly reading library books, you'll read anything of vague interest you get your hands on.
I feel there is a palpable difference in sensibilities between writers of different generations - someone like Benford doesn't have much to say to me.
And yet, it's not a universal thing, because Carol Emshwiler does have things to say to me, and I love her stuff.

I find I read more widely before I was writing so much--now, I read my peers, and a few respected older authors, and I think I know why. It's because I read my friends' short stories, and I read short stories that my friends tell me are good. And there are a few older authors whose stuff I will go out of the way to find. I assume when there are a significant number of newer authors (I'm still in the bottom tear, newness-wise) I will probably find a few of those who are must-reads.

(I'm only talking about writers and short stories here, for the time being.)
Saturday night public intoxication, with pontificating and/or pondering. It seemed like a natural. And hey! You're on lj again?

Want a vodka martini? I have the good olives.
I'm not sure what my reading trajectory means, if anything: as in, I started reading sff over 30 years ago, when Le Guin and Delany were pretty much the new thing, read around the field a lot - though initially I was pretty much dependent upon public libraries I discovered the import booksellers relatively early on - and found out what I did and didn't like. There was a good period (or so it looks in retrospect - I may be remembering the good stuff and not the dry spells) during the 80s and maybe up to the early 90s of The Kind of Thing That oursin Likes - and Reclusive Cult Author and I swapping books back and forth and making discoveries. And then there was a period which I will politely describe as fallow, in which RCA and I would stand in the basement of New Worlds going 'Whadda load of crap' except for new stuff coming along by authors we'd already established as We Like This. And then there started up to be new and exciting work coming along again (though I still observe a lot of stuff on the new books shelf in Forbidden Planet that has me yawning or going WTF). But this is all mediated through my personal filters and other people would surely see very different periodisation and heights and depths.
Absolutely. In fact, that's kind of what I'm talking about.

I grew up reading Beagle and Tolkien and the New Wave, because it was what my mom liked, and on my own I moved onto the Scribblies--and so it's had a profound effect on my style, I imagine.

You gotta grab what you love.

In the 80s and 90s, I was reading a lot of graphic novels, actually.

Perfect explanation why i will never sell any fiction. I am like five generations behind at this point and sinking fast.


Two points.. At about the time you were born, approx Dangerous Visions, it was possible for one person to have read all of SF. Or at least to have read one book by all the novelists. Now? Forget it.

There was no fantasy back then, per se, for example. And what there was was almost all by the English, except for Peter S. Beagle.

No there is no possible way to read all the next stuff and go back and read all the classics. And i think that most of the gensters (ha!) don't read actual books. They get their SF from DVD's. At least that's what i get from reading i09.com

Second point. As everybody, not just the SF community gets more self referential and (insert polite way of saying "Insulated from the Nitty gritty of street life" here) the the arts the produce become more esoteric and abstract. This is not a bad thing, don't flame me, please.

But things happen to me, in my tri-racial neighborhood everyday, that are real and funny and really interesting, but which i could never have published in any forum in America, no matter how open they think they are.

I can't even give you examples with out being called a racist. Which bores me.

So that's my take.

Gender roles, schmender roles. I got people here stealing the plums of of neighbor's trees to have something to to eat. I could go on, but i have probably pissed a bunch of people off already, sorry.

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