Via Patrick Nielsen Hayden: Chip Delany: "Introduction" to Robert A. Heinlein: Glory Road: "What distresses one about the Heinlein argument in general...
when it is presented in narrative form, is that it so frequently takes the form of a gentlemanly assertion: 'Just suppose the situation around X (war, race; what-have-you) were P, Q, and R; now under those conditions, wouldn’t behavior Y be logical and justified?'--where behavior Y just happens to be an extreme version of the most conservative, if not fascistic, program. Our argument is never with the truth value of Heinlein’s syllogism: Yes, if P, Q, and R were the case, then behavior Y would be pragmatically justifiable. Our argument is rather with the premises: Since P, Q, and R are not the situation of the present world, why continually pick fictional situations, bolstered by science-fictional distortions, to justify behavior that is patently inappropriate for the real world?
And Heinlein’s unerring ability to see precisely how the real world would have to be changed to make such conservative behavior appropriate begins to suggest that his repeated use of science fiction to this end represents what existentialist critics used to call “bad faith.” One assumes Heinlein’s answer to this argument is simply that the science-fictional parts of the distortion, at any rate, are possible in the future, if not probable; we must be prepared.
Well, Marx’s favorite novelist was Balzac—an avowed Royalist. And Heinlein is one of mine. A basic tenet of Heinlein’s philosophy has been quoted by Damon Knight in his fine introduction to the “Future History” stories (“Future History” is Campbell’s term, not Heinlein’s) The Past Through Tomorrow; this is a good place to set it out because it contours a good deal of the quibbling one is likely to get into over Heinlein’s “politics”:
When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, nor fission bombs, not anything—you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.
Heinlein and I might well quibble over what constitutes “hoodwinking,” or what one’s social responsibility to the “hoodwinked” is; still, if you put Heinlein’s statement up and asked me to sign, I would. Clearly, then, there is an agreement—a tribute to the man who, as much as any writer while I was growing up, taught me to argue with the accepted version.
The novel after Farnham’s Freehold was The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, which once again won for Heinlein the approbation of the general readership: it also won him his fourth Science Fiction Achievement Award, more informally known as the “Hugo,” at the 1967 World Science Fiction Convention. In the dozen years since Moon appeared it has come to be regarded by many as the novel expressing best Heinlein’s most characteristic strengths. Passionate and iconoclastic, it balances social portraiture with didacticism and headlong narrative in about equal measures. If one had not read any Heinlein at all—and I suppose that’s still possible—Moon makes a very good introduction if one wishes to catch him in his major mode.
My own feeling, however, is that to encounter Heinlein significantly, one must be prepared to take on the seven novels running from Double Star (1956) through The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966), as well as all the shorter works contained in The Past Through Tomorrow (copyright 1967; it contains stories and novels written between 1939 and 1962). Only then will we have a proper acquaintance with the writerly concerns and patterns that will allow us to appreciate fully what is deeply serious in the dozen “juvenile” novels, what is profoundly inventive in some of his more ephemeral earlier works, or what is patently authentic in the more recent didactic ones. This seems to me the only way to cut up the sky (or the ocean) Heinlein’s work makes over (or around) the whole of contemporary science fiction...
Patrick Nielsen Hayden (2005): Electrolite: New heights of prestige for the Nebula Award.: "Via World O’Crap, meet pundit Vox Day:
The mental pollution of feminism extends well beyond the question of great thinkers. Women do not write hard science fiction today because so few can hack the physics, so they either write romance novels in space about strong, beautiful, independent and intelligent but lonely women who finally fall in love with rugged men who love them just as they are, or stick to fantasy where they can make things up without getting hammered by critics holding triple Ph.D.s in molecular engineering, astrophysics and Chaucer.
More Vox Day, from a blog post headlined “The merits of anti-semitism”:
I’d never understood how the medieval kings found it so easy to get the common people to hate the Jews in their midst. But if those medieval Jewish leaders were anything like the idiots running the ADL, the ACLU and the Council of Jews, one can see where the idea of persecuting them would have held some appeal.
(Some background on Vox Day.)
Interestingly (in light of his remarks about Jews), Day is actually a “Christian libertarian” novelist named Theodore Beale.
Interestingly (in light of his remarks on female science fiction writers), what Day writes is science fiction.
Interestingly, the Science Fiction Writers of America, “not constrained by conventions and formulas… as open as the speculating human mind”, has rewarded Mr. Beale by making him one of the seven jurors for this year’s Nebula Award.
(More on the entertaining and prolific “Day”/Beale here and here.) (Props also to, uh, “Alameida”.)
Sumana Harihareswara: Making Light: Clarification: "'As a general rule of thumb...
...when we think our approach to something is politics-free, that generally means the politics are so normative as to be invisible.
I particularly like this phrasing. Thank you. I'm dealing with tyranny of structurelessness right now in my open source community and oh dear. Those nerds who came to our particular nerdisms hoping to escape ambiguity, collective action problems, status play, whatnot -- well, we didn't leave it behind. It's waiting when we show up anyplace that we make...
More directly on-topic: I've been trying to dig at my intuition for what particular blehness in an artwork or in the creator's other actions will cause me to change my behavior towards it (love it less if I've already read it, borrow instead of buy, abstain from reading, read but talk and think much more critically or quietly, etc.). I think I particularly feel ill-disposed to read a work if I have reason to believe the author thinks I'm a chump, scornworthy, especially because of my gender, ethnicity, or work ethic/style. There are authors whose writings imply that people like me exist to be NPCs, non-player characters. (I'm particularly thinking of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Paul Graham here.)
Kate Nepveu: Hugo nominations: disagreement, pleasure, agnosticism: "John Scalzi, who is (ahem, understatement)...
...no fan of Vox Day himself, is advocating against people refusing to read Vox Day or other works on this slate:
To paraphrase a point I made yesterday on Twitter, how terrible it would be if someone elbowed their way onto the Hugo list to make a political point, and all that happened was that their nominated work was judged solely by its artistic merits.... If you believe that these fellows pushed their way onto the list to make a political point, nothing will annoy them more than for their work to be considered fairly. It undermines their entire point. It doesn’t mean you give a work an award, if you find it lacking. But you treat it fairly.
And I disagree with John. Here's why:
Even putting aside things like reading brain—which I'll get to in a minute—it is perfectly moral, or ethical, or taking the high road, or good on whatever axis you want to consider, to refuse to honor the work of someone who has engaged in such hateful and actively threatening behavior as Vox Day. Period.
(ETA: and now the reading brain bit:) There are lots of reasons why people don't read things.... Me, if I know that someone holds views I find morally repugnant, or if I personally dislike them, etc., then I can't keep myself from looking for evidence of those disliked traits... so I don't even bother.... The way people read is so personal and because people make different moral and ethical discussions. So, no, I feel under no obligation to read Vox Day's work, under the guise of fairness or anything else, and neither should you....
The Wheel of Time, the fourteen-book epic fantasy series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, is nominated for Best Novel.... I didn't nominate it and I'm not voting for it, because frankly I don't think it deserves it.... The multiple books of wheel-spinning in the late-middle... and the incredibly poor way it handles its gender politics mean that as far as I'm concerned, it would be a nostalgia/tribute vote and not one on its merits....
There are some really exciting things.... Ancillary Justice is one of the most talked-about novels.... A blog post about erasure of women from history is nominated.... Sites I read regularly are nominated.... I've been nominating Abigail Nussbaum.... Liz Bourke and Mark Oshiro also do great work. And the Campbell Award nominees are, as best I can tell, at least 80% non-white-males....
I promised agnosticism.... I genuinely cannot find it in me to care whether the Hugos devolve into, as James Nicoll points out with characteristic brevity and asperity, political parties, or whether prior community norms about politicking prevail, or Vox Day et al. get bored, or whatever.... The Hugos aren't that big a teapot, at the end of the day, and if people want to self-identify with them and participate in the community that votes on them, great, they should do that, and if people don't, great, they should do that too.