2016/02/01

Sad Puppies: Lords Temporal and Spiritual


Last time, we talked about the drastic changes currently underway in sci-fi fandom, and the media that are driving those changes.

People with their fingers on the pulse of fandom have observed that SF is becoming more tribalistic. They're right.

Due to the dominance of movies, TV shows, video games, and even eBooks, today's geeks are having a much more homogeneous SF experience than fans did back when print was king.

As a result, sci-fi has swept the world in a bloodless revolution. Today fans can gather by the hundreds of thousands at mega-conventions like Gen Con, Dragon Con, and the San Diego Comic Con with not a scintilla of conflict. We are one friggin' huge happy tribe.

If sci-fi has broken into the mainstream and allowed millions of nerds to party together in relative peace and harmony, then where's the much-hyped friction coming from?


Enter the Inhibitors
Hugo-nominated author Mike Flynn has written about how people will fall into one of three broad categories when faced with change.

Resistance to Change
Innovators will champion a new idea just for the sake of novelty. They drive change, but their motives aren't always selfless. They could be narcissists, or on the make for a fast buck.

Conservatives will consent to change, but not until they have reasonable proof of success. Some are true skeptics. Some are hardliners. Some just have cold feet.

Inhibitors will not agree to make changes under any circumstances. However convincing the innovators' logic, and however sound the conservatives' data, the inhibitor's mantra is "No!"

It's worth considering the three demographics that Flynn says make up the inhibitors' ranks:

  • Monopolists who resent any challenge to their perceived rights and status.
  • Die-hards who have said the opposite for so long that they can no longer back down without losing face.
  • Traditionalists who like the old ways just because they are the old ways. 

Caveat: it's vital to note the context of this post, which is technological advancements in entertainment media. It's also worth pointing out that different people can be different types at varying times and in response to various kinds of change.

For example, when it comes to morality I'm definitely a traditionalist inhibitor. That's because if history has proven anything, it's that change has killed, and will kill, everyone.

Yet as our good friend Dr. McLuhan informs us, technology is morally neutral in and of itself. Applications of technology can be morally good or bad, but a light bulb has no content.

I took a conservative approach to eBook technology and self-publishing in general. I was traditionally published first and only went indie when hard evidence indicated that it was the smarter move.

Nonetheless, there are still those who are beholden to the big NYC publishers and their obsolete business model. Interestingly, these folks' behavior perfectly fits the classic inhibitor profiles.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Monopolists who resent any challenge to their perceived rights and status.

John Scalzi
Die-hards who have said the opposite for so long that they can no longer back down without losing face.

David Gerrold
Traditionalists who like the old ways just because they are the old ways. 

All of the controversy, tantrums, and libel over Sad Puppies can be chalked up to big fish in the shrinking legacy publishing pond who are standing athwart inevitable industry changes, desperately flailing their arms, and yelling "STOP!"


What can Puppies do against such reckless hate?
The lies told about the leaders and allies of Sad Puppies have been so numerous and so absurd that picking the most ridiculous lie in the bunch is like spotting the fattest maggot wriggling on a dead horse.

But a close second to Arthur Chu's risible attempt to disqualify Brad Torgersen as a racist is the accusation, repeated in the mainstream media with Goebbels-like bombast and frequency, that SP's goal was the politicization of the Hugo Awards.

As the story thus far shows, not only are claims of Puppies injecting politics into the awards the diametric opposite of the truth, politics is just a red herring in this whole controversy--a fig leaf used to conceal the CHORFs' fear of change and to justify their attacks on the agents of change.

What must Sad Puppies do to overcome their unprincipled opposition and make fandom safe for what the CHORFs denounce as "Wrongfans" having "Wrongfun"?

The answer is: nothing.

Given that the CHORF phenomenon is an atavistic reaction to inevitable changes in fandom driven by inexorable advances in technology, we needn't take any specific action to defeat them. Just as new theories ultimately triumph when the prior generation of scientists die off, SF will continue to thrive and grow long after the last CHORF's demise.

There is, however, a far more pressing reason to keep engaging with the SF mainstream; to keep telling our stories.


SF authors work for the fans.
Tolkien rightly said that the only reason to tell a story is to tell a story, i.e. the purpose of storytelling is entertainment. This is the true credo of Sad Puppies.

Storytelling to make a political point to the detriment of fun is what the Puppies have always been steadfastly against. An author's publisher is not his boss. His readers are.

Luckily, the growing sense of community spreading throughout fandom is bringing together a number of sub-tribes who are vocally dedicated to the principle of Fun First.

"Author" and "authority" come from the same Latin root for the admiration and obedience due to great personages by virtue of their mighty deeds. The European nobility descended from those who helped to hold society together in the chaos after Rome's fall.

Prominent figures have arisen to lead their tribes through the upheavals currently transforming fandom. Some of them have been lauded with titles befitting their work on the fans' behalf.


The Evil Legion of Evil
In sum, the three ideas of the so-called reactionary Evil League of Evil are that that Science Fiction stories should be workmanlike, honest, and fun. Stories should serve the reader rather than lecture, sucker-punch, subvert, or hector him. Stories should give the reader what he paid for.
--John C. Wright, Grand Inquisitor of the Evil Legion of Evil

Supreme Dark Lord
Vox Day, Supreme Dark Lord
A modern-day Renaissance man as accomplished as he is controversial. Vox's publications include works of science fiction and fantasy, as well as economics, political philosophy, Christian apologetics, and more. His incendiary online persona--purportedly adopted in response to unprovoked attacks by Tor SF Manager Patrick Nielsen Hayden--facilitates Vox's preferred rhetorical style of "counter-punching".

Vox has also edited numerous Hugo-nominated works and has been nominated for Hugo awards as both an author and an editor. The SDL has found success in several fields besides publishing, including the music and video game industries.

Though the title of Supreme Dark Lord was bestowed by John C. Wright as a rather playful gesture, the degree of loyalty that Vox inspires in his readers gives one pause to consider its implications. Hundreds of Vile Faceless Minions currently serve at his command. Their efforts proved effective enough to ensure an SP/RP sweep of last year's Hugo nominations and secure a Best Novel win for The Three Body Problem. Much speculation surrounds what Vox will do next.


Larry Correia International Lord of Hate
Larry Correia, International Lord of Hate
Outstanding accomplishment in multiple fields seems to be a condition of ELoE membership.

Not only is Larry Correia a best selling author, Hugo nominee, and Audie Award winner, he has pursued successful careers in accounting and machine gun sales. In addition to the ELoE, he is also a member of G.I. Joe.

Larry started Sad Puppies to prove the bias exercised by an influential Hugo voting clique against out-group authors. He took up the mantle of the International Lord of Hate in mockery of detractors who hurled baseless accusations of bigotry against him.

Having been vindicated for three consecutive years, the ILoH has retired from Sad Puppies to focus on writing kick-ass urban and epic fantasy for Baen Books.


Sarah Hoyt
Sarah Hoyt, Beautiful but Evil Space Princess
The purpose of this is to create a new 'idea' in science fiction, a new way to look at the genre.  Properly observed (and I’ve observed it) I think the genre should be a way to play with possible futures, with possible outcomes, with possible ideas.  The wonder of science fiction lays in the open possibility.
--Sarah Hoyt
An American author originally from Portugal, Sarah Hoyt writes both traditionally and independently published science fiction. Among her many accomplishments, she is a card-carrying Mensa member and a Prometheus Award winner. She is a co-organizer of Sad Puppies 4.

Sarah has founded a literary movement known as Human Wave which aims to maximize authorial freedom and cultivate SF's sense of wonder.


John C. Wright, Grand Inquisitor
By all accounts, one of the best living authors of science fiction. Mr. Wright was formerly published by Tor Books, but his works now appear, by his choice, predominantly through Castalia House. He is a Nebula Award nominee and has a record six Hugo nominations.

Like his fellow ELoE members, SF writing isn't Mr. Wright's first career. Unlike them, he failed at his first two careers. It's chilling to imagine what the world would have lost had he succeeded.

A lifelong philosopher and relatively recent convert to Christianity, Mr. Wright's thoughts on science fiction are too copious to list here, but his Hugo-nominated collection of essays is a good place to start.


The Superversive SF Movement
What, then, can we do, those of us who are not Progressives? We cannot fight subversion by its own methods; that only makes the hole deeper. But if subversion means ‘turning from below’, there can be such a thing as turning from above. We have nothing to gain by digging a bigger hole, but we can build right over it. It seems natural enough to me to invent a new word for this by changing part of the old one; so I call it superversion.
--Tom Simon
Tom Simon
Though the Evil Legion of Evil boasts one of the greatest working science fiction authors among its members, the Superversives have perhaps the greatest essayist currently writing in the English language: Tom Simon.

Mr. Simon, a Canadian independent author, coined the term "superversive" and defined it in a landmark essay. Superversive SF turns the tables on subversive celebrations of lies, evil, and ugliness by overturning them from above with truth, goodness, and beauty.

"...[C]ourage is the essential quality of a superversive story: not the dumb, dull fortitude that passively endures in the face of suffering, but the courage that allows the character to take action – to risk becoming a hero."

Superversive science fiction has much in common with, and is a natural ally to, Human Wave SF.


Jason Rennie
A Hugo-nominated podcaster and the editor of Sci Phi Journal, Jason has risen to leadership in the Superversive movement. He carries out his editing duties and moderates the Superversive Livestreams from his home in Australia.


L. Jagi Lamplighter-Wright
A superb author of SFF short stories and novels (and the editor of my book), Jagi is a leading public voice and a tireless behind-the-scenes organizer of the Superversive SF movement.

In the venerable tradition of chivalric diplomacy, Mrs. Wright's marriage to Mr. Wright cements the Superversive-ELoE alliance.


These are just a few of the authors who are working hard to ensure that SF remains open to truth, beauty, endless possibility, and most of all, fun.

The future of the fictional future is looking bright.

8 comments:

  1. I dunno about the only, or even necessarily primary, purpose of telling a story being entertainment. Sentence and Solas, after all. Entertainment is only half the story, and "Fun First" is just hedonism. For the other half, allow me to quote Mary Catelli (hat tip Tom Simon): "Fiction can educate intellectually, but that is not its main purpose, which is to educate and regulate the sentiments. If you can wiggle it in, an argument that shows that courage is good is good, but first and foremost, what a work of fiction should do is show that courage is admirable."

    The search for some sort of metaphysically neutral pure entertainment is doomed to failure. Paraphrasing from a post on liberalism by Zippy Catholic: "But in reality the choice isn’t between metaphysically neutral [stories] and metaphysically “opinionated” [stories]. The choice is between [a story] that is self aware enough to know that it is opinionated and [a story] lacking that self awareness. This is true at all scopes and levels of abstraction.

    In faux-neutral liberal [stories] that lack this self-awareness, metaphysical bias still drives what is [written]. It is just necessarily sociopathic."

    Mr. Wright's expanded requirements, including not just fun but also honest and workmanlike, are more suitable. As a pedant, I'd appreciate a more explicit nod to the ultimate end of cultivating virtue, but a good case could be made that that's implicit in honesty.

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    1. Hedonism isn't "Fun First", but "Fun Alone"--confusing uti and frui.

      I agree with Catelli and Zippy, as the quote from Mr. Wright suggests. The tension comes from a lack of context.

      Tolkien was talking about the storyteller's motivation; not the story's metaphysical content. Few storytellers have surpassed him in extolling courage.

      As Mr. Wright has said, you can find the moral of any story by looking at the winning behavior.

      So yes, the search for a metaphysically neutral story is doomed. It follows therefore that a storyteller needn't set out to teach a moral for his story to have one.

      The question of sociopathy depends on the story's objective moral character.

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    2. "Fun first" to me means making the story connect (in essence: making it entertaining) with the reader before anything else.

      The point of any piece of art is to connect.

      If you're deliberately creating art that flips over tables or puts yourself above the audience, then you're no longer connecting. You're throwing a tantrum, or lecturing. Maybe both.

      That's why a lot of people don't read literature or modern Science Fiction anymore. I, on the other hand, have some Doc Savage and an A. Merritt book on my to-read pile. Hedonistic? Sure, if heroes who fight against darkness with courage and valor is considered hedonistic, then all stories are worthless as a whole.

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    3. Exactly. Art is indeed useless in the sense of not being a servile activity.

      We perform servile labor to obtain the time and resources needed for leisure, which Josef Pieper called the basis of civilization.

      Delete
  2. Wonderful analysis.

    Really shines a spotlight on the irony of the progressives, comfortable with the vast sweep of media territory they now control, regressively trying to halt change. Meanwhile, it is the conservatives pushing for deep changes in the culture.

    This amuses me no end.

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    1. Thank you, and well said.

      Nearly all of the current social upheavals stem from the fact that yesterday's subversives are today's establishment, have been the establishment for two generations, and have no idea how to wield power for any other purpose than tearing down civilization.

      The Morlocks only gained their monopoly on the levers of cultural power recently, and only because the normal people who'd built the universities, Hollywood, etc. abdicated without a fight.

      Our task is to rebuild what they destroyed.

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  3. You've hit a very important point here. I have several friends to whom I've actually described the entire Sad Puppies affair as "a power struggle between old publishing and new publishing."

    On one level, I think the conventional Sad Puppies narrative is completely true. On another level, I think you can very much sum it up the way I did above - and the way you're hinting at in this article.

    As much as I hate to admit it, I've found very much through life that people's ideology correlates very highly with their perception of how various current power struggles will benefit them.

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    1. "a power struggle between old publishing and new publishing."
      Now that's an effective tagline! The SP organizers should make you a PR consultant.

      "On one level, I think the conventional Sad Puppies narrative is completely true."
      Sure. Events can be understood on many polyvalent, non-contradictory levels.

      "I've found very much through life that people's ideology correlates very highly with their perception of how various current power struggles will benefit them."
      It's difficult to get someone to believe something when his salary depends upon him not believing it.

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