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07:51 pm: Culture War Post 4: The War Over Archetypes!

Subversive Literary Movement

Forth in our series of articles of Speculative Fiction meets Jung as viewed through the work of Ruth Johnston in her new book: Re-modeling the Mind: Personality in Balance.

 

remodelingcover

 

SF Culture Posts 

 

Part One: What Forces Drive the SF Culture War?

Part Two: Optimistic in the Night Land

Part Three: If You Had Introverted Intuition, My Love

 

Part Four: The War of Archetypes

Q: We've talked about how an individual personality sees the world and how this influences stories, which reflect how we see the world. However, it's a big jump from individuals to groups large enough to sway the votes in a competition like the Hugos. Are you suggesting that everyone who sided one way or the other has the same personality?

A: No, it's tempting but I can't go as far as saying that. If the connection between personality and belief framework was as simple as that, we'd have figured it out long ago. I think what happens is that some leaders and influencers in thought and culture do have a particular cast of personality, and the belief framework they create really does reflect just how they see the world. But other people have many different reasons to subscribe to the belief framework. Certainly, when their own personality also sees the world that way, they're very likely to feel like the framework is just plain true, and that finding it is like coming home. But they can also have different ways of processing the world, and yet be nudged toward this belief framework by their own experiences and fears. And then the sense of group membership takes over; we identify with a group of people and adopt their belief framework, and after that, it just seems right. I think this is true for any split of factions, and I'd say it's true of myself and the people who agree with me—I don't mean it as a hostile way of talking about some "other."

 

Q:  Belief framework is an interesting concept. Can you give more specifics in this case?

A: There's a very strident battle in the wider American culture right now over the basic meaning of being human: does the archetypal image of "man" or "woman" have any real meaning? Is it biological and factual truth, or is it a cultural belief that is limiting our options and making many people unhappy to the point of killing themselves?

The culture war over "gender" has been especially bad in the last two years. You know it started out as about job equality for women, then it shifted to ending exclusion and discrimination against gay people, but lately it is going much farther. If marriage is the same whether a man marries a woman or another man, then in a sense, being a man or a woman is just an external accident, like having a birthmark or blonde hair. What really counts is who you are inside, not how you look on the outside. The next logical step is transgender, the idea that you can shift from man to woman at will, regardless of what you were born. As we write this piece, there are news stories about the federal government ruling that any man who identifies as a woman must be given unrestricted access to women's locker rooms and bathrooms, and a few days ago, voters in Houston rejected a proposed city law to that same effect. I've read any number of opinion pieces that say "gender is a construct," and that you are a man or woman only to the extent that you believe it inside.

I see this battle as a war over the importance or reality of archetypes. As I laid out in previous conversations, Introverted Sensing (part of the A combination) sees the world in terms of visual archetypes, while Introverted Intuition (part of the B combination) suspects that visual appearances may be false fronts or masks. Introverted Intuition is searching for some truer truth that's hidden behind appearances. So at heart, I think the culture war going on around us is a battle for which archetype is better. I call it the Battle of the Archetypes in my own mind. Which is more important, the appearance of being a man or a woman, or the idea that your identity can be different from your appearance?

Because archetypal ideas are part of our animal instinct, our sense of what makes the world right and safe, the war over gender issues always has a layer of fear to it. When I read things about why we should accept whatever gender someone feels they are, there's usually an argument about how people will die if we don't. They will commit suicide, or they will be beaten up by gangs. It's not just an argument, there are news stories linked to show that this very thing has already been happening. The argument goes that we need to make these changes so that people won't die tragically. If you resist and oppose change, then either you don't realize that people are dying, or you don't care, or in your own small way, you're participating in killing them. And if you aren't actually killing them, then you're helping keep them vulnerable by denying their reality a full place at society's table. So it's not an academic dispute, it's felt to be about life and death, good and evil. There's a call to action: which side are you going to take, the side of hate and death, or our side?

On the other side, there's a numerical majority of people in all places and times who feel that Man and Woman are very deep concepts that can't be wished away, nor should they be. If we became interchangeable Humans, there would be dangers that we can't quite imagine now. Retooling obvious reality is like burning your house down just to see what happens. Men and Women have key roles in maintaining the generations of mankind and they each have ways to guard against various evils. It's okay for individuals to be "different," but we must hold onto the archetypal ideas of who we are. Anyone who wants to blur or erase the boundaries between archetypal roles is actively dangerous, perhaps as an individual, but certainly as a force against stable human society.

 

Q: So the group that is interested in exploring gender roles and seeing them as less restrictive probably loves books like Ancillary Justice or Left Hand of Darkness, which do just that. In fact, it was probably a major factor in Ancillary Justice winning the Hugo in 2014.

A: If there's one thing the two sides in the Hugo controversy agree on, it's that the most important thing about Ancillary Justice is not the story itself but the way it used pronouns to obscure gender. Everyone is "she" until the narrator has a reason to identify male or female. It's explained in the story as just part of the narrator's native language which, like Chinese and Turkish, doesn't specify gender in a normal sentence. The narrator, writing in English, is forced to make gender choices in every sentence, so instead just uses "she" for everyone. But I had to read some of the story to understand the thing about language, because when people talk about Ancillary Justice, they elevate the single pronoun to such importance that it's like the story was really just about obscuring gender. If they liked the story, it's because at last we're disrupting mental assumptions that gender will always be visible. If they didn't like the story, it's because obscuring gender became more important than whatever was happening.

So that's a great example of the wider culture battle interfering in science fiction and crowning a winner in what might otherwise just be a dispute about literary taste. Once it's connected to the wider question of how we, in real life, see men and women, then it's about life and death, good and evil. It's like they're saying, "If you don't like this story, maybe it's because you want to suppress the "'other'." Those who didn't like the story respond in defensiveness: "well maybe if you like the story, it's because you care more about message! You just want to disrupt society." Now it's no longer about literary taste, it's about hurting people or destroying the culture, and things "just got real," as they say. There are pre-existing political sides to take, and these sides are ready to swing into action even if they don't care about science fiction or fantasy.

 

Q: One thing I've been wondering a lot is why the Sad Puppies are always being called "straight white males" or even "white supremacists." If you look at the works they promoted, and at the people who were doing the promoting, you'll see women as well as men, and plenty of people who aren't of Anglo-Saxon descent. But every time the Sad Puppies said "this is really about stories," the mainstream antagonists said "you're just saying that to cover up that you're actually suppressing non-white, women, or gay people."

A: That's the very point that started me thinking about archetypes and personality. As we've said, I'm an outsider to fandom. But watching this from a distance, I noticed the vehement insistence among the mainstream publishers that it was about race and gender identity. Not just insistence, but vehement, at times highly emotional, insistence. A core idea in my personality theory is that parts of our minds are organized around inborn ideas of what a safe world looks like. When I see such vehemence, I suspect that at least some of the people actually feel, deep in their minds, that safety is being challenged. It's not just "politics" to them, and if you use that word, they'll get mad. Because it's really about whether we'll live in a world that allows us to define who we are, or one that does the defining for us. The people who feel most strongly about transgender and same-sex marriage have their own reasons to fear a world that defines us.

When you already have a strong fear, it's very hard to believe that something isn't connected to it. And with this particular set of fears, Introverted Intuition is a driving force. It is always suspicious that someone is trying to cover things up so that we can't see what's really going on. It easily falls into believing conspiracy theories (though on the other side, someone with that kind of Intuition could be just as hotly against conspiracy theories). All you need is for someone to suggest that "Gamergate and straight white men are trying to hold onto power" and anyone with this belief framework will instantly feel the truth of it. From that point on, any protestations to the contrary are just so much rubbish and self-deception.

When I look at the Sad Puppies, I don't see straight white men, but I do see leaders who have personalities that value human role archetypes. Their books don't try to confuse roles like hero and villain or man and woman. They have what I've been calling the A combination, in which Intuition is willing to believe anything, but Sensing is deeply tied to roles. When they attack "message fiction," they are not attacking fiction with any message, but rather the fiction that has the anti-archetypal message.

 

Q: These ideas are fascinating. I think, for the first time, I an put into words some of the differences between the A and B, at least in our SF field, that even I, who have sympathy for both points of view, had not seen before.

To the A's, who believe that, say gender roles, may be flexible, but that they have a certain amount of objective truth to them, the concept that they are fluid seems, both unpleasant and–more importantly–uninteresting. So when they see a story about this issue, to them it is as if the author picked that subject so as to stick a finger into their eye, to flaunt a message that the As have already rejected.

But to the B's, to whom the subject of how flexible these roles may be is fascinating, a story exploring these roles is science fiction, i.e. it is the exploration of unknowns, an investigation of what if's, just like other science fiction.

 My big question, however, is: Is there any way to solve this mess? If we look at it as based in personality, as you're suggesting, what do we gain? Can this approach help us build bridges between the A’s and the B’s?

A: The first step has to be gaining some understanding of how the other side sees itself, as you just pointed out. What makes the 2015 Hugo antagonism so interesting is that nobody even agrees on what is at stake. How can you solve a problem that isn't definable?

So as you pointed out, you can now see that people who value Ancillary Justice's gender-obscuring language really believe that it's probing a fascinating idea. They want to find ways to downplay and exclude simple appearances, whether it's male/female or just not being a T. Rex. This becomes a proposition you can debate: is appearance and identity a valid part of science fiction, or is it an avenue of speculation that's heading in some new genre direction? That's a problem that can be solved, where hating Larry Correia isn't.

One of the cultural problems we're up against is that the outside culture has already made some decisions about what's good or bad: "if you don't think Caitlin Jenner is a woman, you're bad. You're clinging to the old archetype of Male and that harms a person. Your precious archetype is harmful." Much would be gained if the archetype-busting viewpoint could grudgingly admit that human role archetypes are not always oppressive or harmful. When I claim that some personalities have archetypes built in as instinctive knowledge, and that this is morally neutral, I am flying in the face of what's generally called PC culture. It may be that many people just can't go that far. Their own instinctive fear of archetypes (masks! false fronts!) may block the generosity required to say "okay, you have a different way of being virtuous or kind, one that doesn't require ditching archetypal roles. You're not harmful."

Another huge cultural problem I see is that the word "fear" has been turned into something we're ashamed of. We're generally okay with saying we're afraid of cancer or severe snowstorms, but the idea of an internal fear has been converted into an accusation. Someone who beats up a gay man is a homophobe: he fears alternative sexuality. In this way fear became a code word for something bad, especially if I say that it's a fear you're not fully conscious of. It feels like I'm calling you a stupid noob.

But that idea has to be thrown out completely. The way I talk about personality in Re-Modeling the Mind, every personality is organized around innate fears; we all have inborn templates we can't do without. The "fear" I'm talking about is an existential fear that if you do or permit certain things, bad stuff will happen. If the center doesn't hold, we'll have chaos. If you don't have fears like that, then you don't have a conscience, and nothing personal but I'll lock my doors when you're around.

When we don't recognize our own existential fears, then we assume that our viewpoint is identical to objective fact. (I think my saying this is going to sound to some people like I'm saying "morality is relative." I don't mean that. If you want a fuller explanation, please read my book!) It's basic common sense to sort out misunderstandings before accepting a declaration of war. Then at least the battles and debates can be meaningful.

So, Jagi, let me ask you a question now…

Ruth Q: Do you think that the 2015 Hugos will prompt some debate about the nature of science fiction? One science fiction fan pointed out to me that the Golden Age stories were written in the shadow of the nuclear threat and the race to the moon, so they tended to explore how technology can save us or turn on us. Our time is posing different questions, such as "what is the meaning of civilization?" Will the meaning of science fiction change with the times?

Jagi A: This is an ever-ongoing debate in our field. People have many interesting takes and what one person will allow is science fiction, another person distinguishes as fantasy, magical-realism, or some other genre. Though, often, nowadays, when we say Science Fiction, we really mean science fiction and fantasy. The two genres used to be in different sections of the bookstore, back when I worked at the now-defunct Walden Books, years ago. But there was so much confusion about where to put certain books—and therefore, for customers, where to look for them to buy them—due to the overlap, that, basically, they are the same genre today.

But it is true that when science fiction was young, technology was new and there was a sense that science could do anything, that it could solve any problem. Therefore, science fiction was by its basic nature a hope-filled fields. Not that all stories were hopeful. Many were cautionary tales about science going awry, but the underpinnings of hope were there—both in the field and, more importantly in our culture.

Nowadays, very few people still believe that science is the answer to all problems. So, hope is now not an intrinsic part of the field. Thus, we have a larger disconnect between those who came to it for the hope and those who came for the exploration of “what if”, but not necessarily a hopeful “what if”.

I hope that answers your questions, Ruth.

***

In closing, thank you all for reading. Ruth and I urge our readers to send us their questions, comments, major dilemmas, as well as objections to any part of this series you think is half-baked, as my father would have said. If we get enough responses, we can do a 5th post highlighting readers’ thoughts about the series.

 

Comments

For more of Ruth’s work:

Re-modeling the Mind: Personality in Balance

Ruth’s extremely interesting site on the Middle Ages: All Things Medieval

Ruth’s excellent book on Beowulf

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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Comments

From:Fail Burton
Date:November 13th, 2015 10:15 am (UTC)

Part Four: The War of Archetypes

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In regards to the SFF community this divide consists of one side saying straight white men are immoral (See: award nominees "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love," "Selkie Stories Are For Losers," "Wakulla Springs," "The Weight of the Sunrise," etc. plus 5,000 Tweets) and those straight white men telling them to take a hike. That is because the default ideology (whether most of them know it or not) of SFF's social justice crusaders is Third Wave Feminism, a thing which bitterly opposes men, heterosexuality and "whiteness." The heart and soul of Third Wave Feminism is the idea a more androgynous sexual spectrum was stolen away by men in pre-history and "compulsory heterosexuality" (Adrienne Rich, Judith Butler) put in it's place - like a cowbird. What else would you expect of a lesbian ideology but to offer an historic and scientific argument for its own normality and the depravity of binary sexuality and family? In lesbian ideology, the way back to the garden so to speak, is mostly wrapped up in a linguistic pronoun war (Monique Wittig, Judith Butler). That is because the Butlerian theory of "performative gender" stipulates that words change perception and so too reality itself. Since reproductive heterosexuality is said to be a "fiction," (Butler) it is simply a matter of deconstructing that fiction which continually anticipates and reproduces itself by linguistic repetition. Interrupt that reiteration and all is well - peace and love emerge, and moar lesbians!

That brings us to Ancillary Justice and why it was promoted. It was promoted for the same reason soda pop is: not because it tastes the best but because it profits the company. The pronoun wars profits this gay feminist ideology; end of story. Bruce Baugh at 770 is claiming he did his "due diligence" regarding the reviews of AJ and that Ruth should be "feel embarrassed" for not doing hers. Baugh is telling a falsehood. I followed the promotion of AJ in real time. There is no doubt it was hyped because of the pronouns. Whether they are an important part of AJ's plot is neither here nor there. If anything, SFF's third wave feminists hyping a relatively minor part of the story because it plays into political lesbianism makes our argument even stronger.

Probably only a small minority of the social justice crowd knows the origins of this pronoun war, but then every religion has its priests to point the way, doesn't it? And the original early reviews of AJ certainly did that. The month AJ was released you have self-declared "genderqueer," the Hugo-nominated Foz ("[redacted] the gender binary") Meadows' review of AJ at the Hugo-winning A Dribble of Ink promoting AJ for a Hugo. That same month gay feminist Liz Bourke at TorCom declares AJ one of the "best space opera novels ever," because pronouns. In Feb. gay feminist Alex ("cis scum") MacFarlane critiques AJ at TorCom according to gender considerations. AJ author Ann Leckie brings us back to the beginning of this comment. She once wrote a post about an allegorical restaurant where most "white cis dudes" randomly punch non-whites, women and gays.
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From:arhyalon
Date:November 13th, 2015 12:48 pm (UTC)

Re: Part Four: The War of Archetypes

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Thanks for the additional background.

Funny that someone would object to Ruth's take, given that she clearly states that she is not a member of the genre and was just discussing people's reactions. I thought she seemed friendly to AJ.

But Ruth and I are both less than impressed with the single pronoun thing, because Ruth studies Turkish and I interact with Chinese. Turkish has a neutral pronoun, and Chinese ONLY has a neutral pronoun.

It often makes me smile sadly when people seem to think a new pronoun would help...yeah, because the Chinese have such a long, long history of gender equality.

Oh...wait...

;-)
From:Fail Burton
Date:November 13th, 2015 02:59 pm (UTC)

Re: Part Four: The War of Archetypes

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Leckie herself once retweeted a review of her novel which starts off the second paragraph "The first thing that really grabbed me about Ancillary Justice was the use of she/her as the 'neutral' pronouns..." And there is no one more feminist than Justin Landon at TorCom. In a post there about why he was voting for AJ for the Hugo he wrote "Search the web for reviews of Ancillary Justice and odds are that all of them comment on pronouns."

The people at 770 love to keep dishonestly saying we are saying the novel is about pronouns. We are not saying that. We are saying it was promoted that way, and it was. The reason social justice crusaders are angry is now that more factual information has come out on how and why that process happened they're embarrassed but won't back off. I don't get it. Why gush over the pronoun thing for a year and more and then suddenly pretend it never happened? It reminds me of the scores of quotes of them publicly promoting affirmative action and then when someone objects they pretend that never happened too. They say we're racists who can't imagine the stories won on merit. Well if they believe that themselves, why all the affirmative action comments? You can never win with these folks, not even with actual quotes.
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From:arhyalon
Date:November 13th, 2015 04:53 pm (UTC)

Re: Part Four: The War of Archetypes

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Thanks...and yes, they were all about the pronouns...until they're not.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 13th, 2015 06:04 pm (UTC)

Re: Part Four: The War of Archetypes

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Turkish also has only a gender-neutral pronoun, "o." There is no way to tell "He loves her" from "She loves him" without further clarification in context.
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From:yamamanama
Date:November 14th, 2015 02:31 am (UTC)

Re: Part Four: The War of Archetypes

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All Uralic, all Turkic, and all Austronesian languages are genderless.
From:Gregory Hullender
Date:November 13th, 2015 05:47 pm (UTC)

Interesting Ideas

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I learned about these posts from the comments in File770, so I took the time to read all four of them myself. I think the File770 folks overreacted to the one sentence:

"If there's one thing the two sides in the Hugo controversy agree on, it's that the most important thing about Ancillary Justice is not the story itself but the way it used pronouns to obscure gender."

In fact, only the puppies believe that; the "other side" vehemently denies it. However, that's just a single mistake, and I don't think it invalidates Ruth's arguments.

I do think the A/B dichotomy that Ruth talks about dates to the "New Wave" movement of the 1960s and 70s. It's not something recent.

That assumes I'm understanding her, of course. Here's how I'm reading it:

A: happy imagining all sorts of changes to society via science and technology as long as basic human nature remains the same.

B: Uninterested in (or hostile to) big changes caused by science and technology, but very interested in imagining changes to human nature.

Is that accurate? If so, there's an adage (from Marianne Moor) that seems apropos: you can either have "real toads in imaginary gardens or imaginary toads in real gardens." That is, you can tell a story with people we're familiar with in a novel environment or you can tell about novel kinds of people in a familiar environment, but you can't usually get away with imaginary toads in imaginary gardens.

If that's the case, then the truth is that SF fans have been able to enjoy both types of stories since the 1960s. Both types are regularly printed in modern magazines and both types regularly win awards. The puppies are simply a group that insists that only the A-type stories are really SF, that claims that most fans agree with them, and that believes that the only reason B-type stories ever get printed (much less win awards) is due to a conspiracy.

Most fans insist that there are not "two sides" in this conflict because there is no group advocating for B-type stories only. People are angry with the puppies because they sabotaged the 2015 Hugo Awards, not because of the type of stories they like.
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From:arhyalon
Date:November 13th, 2015 06:27 pm (UTC)

Re: Interesting Ideas

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Thank you very much for this fascinating comment! I see the Puppy/non-Puppy issue slightly differently, but not in any way that particularly weighs on the topic of discussion.

That being said, I LOVED the quote you quoted about toads. That is excellent and could be very useful in an upcoming series of articles I hope to write.

In general, I agree with most of what you say here. Thanks!!
From:Gregory Hullender
Date:November 14th, 2015 12:16 am (UTC)

Re: Interesting Ideas

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So did I correctly understand Ruth's ideas?

I'll confess that the post you made on File770 about the difficulty of her personal circumstances touched my heart, so I took the time to read all four parts carefully out of respect for her effort.
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From:arhyalon
Date:November 14th, 2015 02:01 am (UTC)

Re: Interesting Ideas

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Thank you so much, Sir! I think you summed her ideas up rather well. She really has no dog (pardon the pun) in the Sad Puppy issue. She wrote these to see if any of her insights about Jung could help us in the SF field understand each other.

Her situation is actually worse than I said. Two years ago, she suffered the worst personal tragedy anyone I know personally has ever suffered, but she bravely soldiers on.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read her articles!!!
From:Fail Burton
Date:November 13th, 2015 09:50 pm (UTC)

Re: Interesting Ideas

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The "puppies" have nothing to do with the pronoun thing one way or the other. They didn't write Ancillary Justice; they're simply reading actual quotes from reviews and critiques by fans of the book. Belief has nothing to do with it. Reading quotes is not a faith-based act.

And I'll say this again: linguistic "genderblindness" has a specific ideological origin completely consistent with all the other politically lesbian promoted stuff about "rape culture," "misogyny," "patriarchy," and "white male privilege." "Genderblindness" is the cure for "compulsory heterosexuality." Given the blanketing of SFF with third wave feminism, the idea a woman who uses terms like "cis" in a pejorative sense came up with this idea independently does requires a dump truck full of faith.

If you doubt me just read Jagger Gills introduction to her own book which critiques Judith Butler's Gender Trouble. It's all there and it reads just like witchcraft. If one chants incantations and stick pins in wigs then gender magically transforms. There's your belief, passed off as post-structuralist anthropology, linguistics and other hoodoo.

Boil, boil, witch's trouble
My pronouns are... etc.
From:Fail Burton
Date:November 13th, 2015 09:59 pm (UTC)

Re: Interesting Ideas

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Sorry, that's Gill Jagger. It's called Judith Butler: Sexual Politics, Social Change and the Power of the Performative.
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From:arhyalon
Date:November 13th, 2015 10:21 pm (UTC)

Re: Interesting Ideas

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Thanks. ;-)
From:Gregory Hullender
Date:November 13th, 2015 11:30 pm (UTC)

Re: Interesting Ideas

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I'm sure there are people who believe the things you're talking about, but they're a lunatic fringe. You credit them with way more influence than they really have.
From:Fail Burton
Date:November 14th, 2015 01:32 am (UTC)

Re: Interesting Ideas

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You have not made a case for what I credit them with as far as influence nor why, but I will tell you. My interest is in SFF only. These ideologues certainly control the SFWA and its Nebula Awards and I would say have almost as much influence at WorldCon and the Hugos. Some webzines are purpose built from the ground up to embrace this ideology, such as Lightspeed, Strange Horizons and Uncanny. They have an outsize influence at other conventions and awards as well. They basically dominate what used to be the old core of SFF fandom.

As for Ancillary Justice, that is an easy question. At the end of the day, ask yourself if people drink Coca Cola because it is the best or has a large advertising budget which targets a demographic. AJ was not a grass roots movement like Andy Weir's The Martian but was promoted by the right people to the right crowd.

Outside what I agree is a cult of fringe lunatics, The Martian stomped AJ in the Goodreads vote by 30,000 to 3,000, with AJ finishing in 12th place. Along with all the other documentation, that is extremely strong circumstantial proof AJ appealed to a political mindset as opposed to The Martian which appealed to art for art's sake.

And what's the point of all this? It proves this cult is more interested in its ideological fantasies about the straight white male than it is in SFF. It sees SFF as nothing more than a conveyance for Third Wave Feminist thought. If craftsmanship is no longer a priority, then the work will suffer under such a regime by default. It is not a question of messaging either. It is a question of whether such messaging is overt, obvious and boring propaganda or a messaging that is more speculative in a neutral, hidden, principled and more entertaining sense that appeals to all humanity's triumphs and failures rather than demonizing half the people on Earth in silly anti-male, anti-white revenge fantasies.

I am not interested in reading SFF that is an analogy to what a neo-Nazi or the KKK would produce, with me as the eternal central villain. Nobility and lack of it is where you find it, not a static thing embedded in race and sex. That used to be the lesson of old SF. No more.
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