|The SFF "Field"|
The mandarins of SF/F expend a lot of energy wrapping themselves in the flag of tolerance. But as any conservative can tell you, that tolerance runs pretty much one-way. A tolerance conversation (liberal to conservative) in SF/F often goes like this, “Hello, I am a tolerant caring compassionate liberal, and you’re not. You will sit there and politely listen to all of my ideas and theories, and not say a word. I will sit here and listen to all of your ideas and theories, and then I will explain to you why you’re a dirty bigot and a hater and an evil human being. We will both agree I am right, and you will apologize for being bad.”
That, dear friends, is how “tolerance” works in SF/F at this time.
I’ve discussed this at length with Orson Scott Card — he being well acquainted with the tolerance charade — and he says it didn’t used to be like this before 1980. Oh, to be sure, there were plenty of fans, authors, and editors on the left-wing side of the aisle. But it wasn’t so vindictive, nor so personal. You could sit at a table with conservatives, liberals, anarchists, libertarians, and have a rousing verbal melee of competing ideas, but at the end of it, you’d still be able to shake hands, and walk away comrades in the field. That began to change (perhaps not coincidentally) about the time Ronald Reagan took his seat in the Oval Office. Gradually, in dribs and drabs, the dominant left-wing culture of SF/F has traded in true tolerance, for a kind of totalitarian double-think 1984 version of tolerance — people and ideas labeled ‘intolerant’ don’t have to be tolerated. In 2016, with tender snowflakes floating around in SF/F like it’s a mild blizzard, anyone can be labeled ‘intolerant’ for any reason, logical or not. Because anyone can claim to be a Victim (caps v) and in the new vernacular of Social Justice Zealotry, the Victim is always right and always wins. Always.
|Not pictured: the mandarins of SFF|
Three or four years ago, a fellow author lamented — in a discrete conversation among mixed company — that she had to suppress and hide a significant portion of her identity, in order to avoid causing trouble in SF/F. Because she knew her religiously-couched beliefs about a hot-button political topic would make her persona non grata with fellow authors, and also editors. She was crying when she said it. She knew she was baring her soul to a potentially hostile audience. At the risk of using a shopworn phrase, I felt her pain. Quite deeply. About a dozen years ago, it became apparent to me that if I truly wanted to become a “player” in SF/F I would have to learn to mask my beliefs. Either hide them, or pretend (in the company of fellow professionals) that my beliefs were contra to what I actually think and feel. About economics. About how societies and human beings function. About God, and the immortality of human essence. About sex and sexuality. About any number of things. It would all have to be shoved far back into the closet, and kept there. Otherwise, I was going to piss off a lot of people.
A few years later, having broken into the field — and having also failed spectacularly to keep my trap shut — a trusted mentor engaged in what can only be described as an impromptu intervention. To his credit, all of his logic was business-sound: when you are open about your beliefs, you risk alienating part of your audience, as well as part of your professional cohort. So why talk about it? Isn’t the golden rule to never discuss religion or politics? Because this conversation almost always ends in disaster?
My mentor made excellent sense, then. He still makes excellent sense now. And if the field of SF/F were a field that abided the golden rule across the board I am quite sure I’d not feel the need to bang my pot to the extent that I’ve been banging it.No reasonable observer needs further proof of legacy SFF's decrepit state, and if this were even five years ago, I'd have nothing but sympathy for authors who are driven to tears when the SJWs with whom they surround themselves ostracize them for being anywhere to the right of Stalin.
But neither can a reasonable observer doubt that recent years have wrought deep, fundamental changes in the SFF landscape. Graduates of the final class of authors who learned that toiling in the short story market/tradpub slush pile to land a book deal with the Big
In Brad's comments, Castalia House blog editor Jeffro Johnson of Appendix N fame has clearly felt a disturbance in the CHORF side of the Force:
The typical journalist or editor today thinks that sff started in the seventies with Le Guinn and Delaney. People that want to talk “old school” generally go for the so-called “Big Three” of Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke with maybe Herbert and Bradbury thrown in. Just watch that WorldCon panel with the magazine editors– it’s not just boring, it’s mind-numbingly typical.
Within the field, complete ignorance of the sff canon is pretty much the norm and it gets worse the further to the left people are. Indeed, most serious leftists cannot read anything written before 1980 and have nothing substantive [to say] about the works.
But watch what happens when people read Burroughs and Brackett, Tubb, and Vance’s take on the ouevre. People get really excited about reading and writing! There’s a reason for that. It has to do with supply and demand and the fact that human nature has not changed in the past hundred years.
The next few years are going to be awesome for sff fans. There will be no restoration or reformation. What you’re going to see is an outright replacement. They thought they could transform sff into a tool for projecting the narrative. In reality, they’ve merely conceded it to us.Behold the gatekeepers' cries of terror as the Amazon.com Death Star emerges from hyperspace over Manhattan. Only this time, it's joined forces with the indie/Baen/Castalia Houe Rebel Alliance to obliterate an even more twisted and evil foe. Momentarily, and with startling suddenness, the CHORFs will be silenced and we shall have peace.
More importantly, the fans shall have something fun to read for a change.
In a comment on a related post, Tom Simon, essayist extraordinaire sums it up nicely, as is his wont:
Frankly, I don’t understand the people who are still clamouring to get into the mephitic temple of trad-pub SF. Evidently they haven’t read the big sign above the doorway:
Or the smaller message carved on the lintel:
ALL CASH ABANDON, YE WHO ENTER HERETo his credit, Brad also basically gets it.
Oh, to be sure, the split is mostly finished — or so I suspect. Having kicked almost all of the “bad” people out, and made it clear they have no interest in “pedestrian” science fiction or fantasy that does not tip its hat and bend its knee to the their odd little hyper-progressive, mega-pure, ultra-geek culture, the denizens of Trufandom are now having a torrid and incestuous romance with the Social Justice Zealots.
If either Baen or the indie market did not exist, normal fans and authors would be screwed.
Thankfully, both Baen and the indie market do exist.Indeed.
One small but highly significant clarification: indie isn't just an alternative to the old SFF field. It is a majority of the new SFF field. And judging by its rapid growth, it and nontraditional publishers like CH and Baen will soon be The Field.
If you want a foretaste of the fun, reader-centered future that nontraditional SFF authors are building right now, Check out the first two books in my fan favorite Soul Cycle series. Both books have made it into the top 20 in their respective Amazon categories, and Souldancer has been #1 in category and in the top 100 free eBooks overall.