Podcasting about the Hugos
Jack Graham (of Shabogan Grafitti) asked me Sunday morning if I could spare time to cut a podcast with him and Andrew Hickey (of Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!) on the Hugos. I could, as it happens. The results are here. Other than the frankly miserable subject matter, it was a good time, with the requisite meandering tangents and me probably talking over everybody because I’m a terrible person.
A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth.
These days, you can’t be sure.
The book has a spaceship on the cover, but is it really going to be a story about space exploration and pioneering derring-do? Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings?
There’s a sword-swinger on the cover, but is it really about knights battling dragons? Or are the dragons suddenly the good guys, and the sword-swingers are the oppressive colonizers of Dragon Land?
A planet, framed by a galactic backdrop. Could it be an actual bona fide space opera? Heroes and princesses and laser blasters? No, wait. It’s about sexism and the oppression of women.
Finally, a book with a painting of a person wearing a mechanized suit of armor! Holding a rifle! War story ahoy! Nope, wait. It’s actually about gay and transgender issues.
Or it could be about the evils of capitalism and the despotism of the wealthy.
Do you see what I am trying to say here?
Jack, Andrew, and I skewer this quote in a variety of ways, but none of us as succinctly and on-point as Jill, who, upon hearing it, observed that it is literally a grown man whining about how he just can’t reliably judge a book by its cover anymore.
In any case, here’s the podcast link again.
Oh yeah, and fuck the fascists.
April 7, 2015 @ 12:17 am
Apologies if I'm reiterating something you say in the podcast, which I will listen to soon, but my own reaction to the quote:
"A few decades ago". Like before Anne MacCaffery and Ursula K. LeGuin and Michael Moorcock and Terry Pratchett ruined everything. Remember 1955? Why isn't it 1955 now?
I just googled and Torgensen is only a couple of years older than me. He has never experienced the world he's nostalgic for.
April 7, 2015 @ 12:33 am
I just checked it out too: he's FOUR YEARS YOUNGER than me and I can't ever remember a time when book covers accurately reflected their contents more than half the time accurately. This is just someone complaining that those damn kids are on his lawn… when he's sitting in the park.
April 7, 2015 @ 2:03 am
Thankfully his kind were not around to edit the gloriously eclectic and often surprising New Adventures and 8th Doctor novels.
April 7, 2015 @ 2:33 am
This is what I thought such covers would contain when I was about six. (I used to love Starblazer!) As I got older the infinite possibilities of these genres counted for more. Not a good year to get a Hugo pack then…
Really crazy quote.. so much you could say about it and from extremely subjective stance. I seem to remember there were good and bad wizards in Middle Earth, good and bad elves… maybe sometimes something in between..
April 7, 2015 @ 2:43 am
You would think Robert Heinlein never existed.
I love Heinlein to death, but most of his stories were thinly veiled excuses to discuss his politics. And he was writing stories about transgendered experiences back in the 70s.
Hell, EC Comics was doing transgendered stories back in the 50s because that's when the science of changing sex became a reality and science fiction authors started exploring the idea.
The Torgensen quote sounds like the idiot brother of the "before Star Wars, science fiction was about discussing ideas" nonsense. As if science fiction has ever been one or the other. There's always been stories discussing serious issues and ideas, and there's always been high adventure. Declaring war on the one you don't like just reveals how little you've been paying attention to history.
April 7, 2015 @ 3:14 am
Same here. I've five years older than him and the political stuff was commonplace. As mentioned before, lots of people were actually annoyed that Star Wars had popularized more adventure oriented fare.
Conservative I may be, but I can see no rationale for a campaign whose underlying goal is the eradication of material supported by the Free Market. If you want more action-oriented fare, then bring it. You'll probably find the Free Market is more than happy to support it and if it proves popular enough, other people will happily copy what you're doing.
Odds are the industry moved away from that kind of thing for economic reasons rather than ideological ones. It's silly to blame the products which have successfully carved out a niche for themselves for your failure to find to an audience… not if you make yourself out to be the True Majority. Doing so only paints yourself as the Noisy Minority who doesn't understand why they keep failing.
April 7, 2015 @ 3:18 am
I'm pretty sure there's always been politics/satire/social commentary somewhere in SF, especially as the borders of these genres are porous anyway. Not that it has to be a straight choice between the kind of SF (was L. Ron Hubbard a proponent of it?) this quote is about and political genre fiction anyway. There are all kinds of other subjects and shades in between.
April 7, 2015 @ 3:24 am
I think you only need look at the short stories of Robert Heinlein to see how frequently he got his political stories published. I remember one of his was about how we desperately needed to decentralize the U.S. population in expectation of a nuclear war.
There's straight up no story in it, just a sermon with a "oh, no, we're too late" ending.
April 7, 2015 @ 3:40 am
April 7, 2015 @ 4:01 am
A thought which just occurred to me. In many ways, the 2015 Hugos are Starship Troopers (a political book which won a Hugo)… in which we have a serious discussion about how we prevent voters from destroying the system they're voting on 🙂
April 7, 2015 @ 4:04 am
Wasn't Heinlein the writer of -All You Zombies-, a story with an intersex protagonist?
April 7, 2015 @ 4:07 am
Another Heinlein bit. His first novel in 1939 (the unpublished For Us, The Living) largely consists of speeches advocating the Social Credit system. The same year, he published "Misfits", a short story translating the FDR Civilian Conservation Corps into space.
So, yeah, Heinlein has been writing purely political works since 1939.
April 7, 2015 @ 4:09 am
Heinlein is a weird cat. And not even George RR Martin is as obsessed with incest as he is. I forget when it first appears, but he was always arguing in favor of it.
Lazarus Long even has sex with his sex-changed clone.
April 7, 2015 @ 4:44 am
That settles it. Next time I'm asking Jill on the Shabcast instead of Phil.
April 7, 2015 @ 5:28 am
Oh for those bygone days of simple escapist sci-fi, before that wretched socialist Wells came along and spoiled everything with his metaphors of colonialism and class struggle…
April 7, 2015 @ 6:09 am
I would hope no one objects to a story which has political overtones. Science fiction is adept at illuminating important issues through a metaphoric lens. I personally site "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield" as a story which forever influenced me on race relations, helping me to reject the notion that one group is inherently superior just because they're currently atop the social ladder.
Sprinkle in some Ayn Rand and I arrived at the belief that we desperately need to make the long-term investment in raising groups, because great minds aren't limited to the privileged classes. And Heinlein helped me see that the people so desperate to see themselves as part of a superior class are usually quite inferior. Quality is where you find it and we need to do a much better job of seeking it out and encouraging it to grow.
But I think we can direct a bit of mockery at the "stories" which are little more than a political sermon, the likes of which Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein were a bit too happy to supply. They're rarely good.
Mind you, far too many conservatives seem to decry any story pursuing a liberal political agenda to only be about that political agenda, regardless of amount of story telling going on.
April 7, 2015 @ 6:39 am
"It used to be that when you saw a book with a neon pink poodle smoking a cigarette and holding a laser pistol, you knew you were in for a metatextual romp involving pastiches of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and George Lucas.
"These days you can't be sure."
April 7, 2015 @ 8:35 am
Damn H.G.Wells – ruining science fiction for everybody.
April 7, 2015 @ 9:34 am
Personally I blame PKD for spoiling the party when he won best novel in 1963, I mean there wasn't a single castle in the book. How long must we sling this shifting perception of 'reality' and Jungian constructs at our sci-fi kids?
April 7, 2015 @ 2:58 pm
I do disagree with the assertion in the podcast, or a possible implication of it, seemingly to the effect that if your story is consciously apolitical, or you want to be considered a political as a writer etc., you can't do this. You're implicitly endorsing the status quo by doing this, hence you're being political anyway.
It might work differently between individuals, groups and works of art, but I want to assert the right to be apolitical, to take no stance, and to live on that level if I so choose. Also, which may or may not be relevant here, I want to assert the right to be wrong. I am wary the idea that one must take a stance, take sides, become part of a group.
Of course, as far as works of art go, once they're out there they're open to criticism and analysis whatever the claims or avowed intentions of the author.
April 7, 2015 @ 6:03 pm
Philip, I'm posting this here, because I don't want my Twitter feed to blow up any more than it already has and the two words I'm about to say will guarantee that will happen.
Follow her and if things get too bad, use her block list. If GG really gets going, they'll cripple your Twitter feed.That's the easiest way to restore it to functionality… and they absolutely loathe it.
April 7, 2015 @ 6:05 pm
I refuse to use the blocklist until I experience for myself what the reaction to the tweet "The Super Nintendo Project, my magickal ritual to destroy Gamergate, launches today. link" is.
April 7, 2015 @ 6:06 pm
Honestly, I may undo all my blocks before I make that tweet, just so I can get the full effect and savor it.
April 7, 2015 @ 6:11 pm
Just making sure you know about it. From my lurking on their hashtag, you're not really any kind of focus; just one of their random outrages they use to keep the hashtag going.
April 7, 2015 @ 6:14 pm
That's my sense as well, yes.
Honestly, I'm just sort of curious what they do when an obvious madman begins a magical ritual to destroy them. It seems like a problem that's likely not covered in their standard trolling protocols.
April 7, 2015 @ 6:22 pm
That's pretty much the Ayy Team, a group of former Gaters who decided they were a bunch of whiny babies with a major stick up their ass and decided to start trolling them instead of the usual targets.
At one point they took over the Gamergate director at 8-chan, which was one of their rallying points.
April 9, 2015 @ 10:23 am
Jill is a genius.
April 9, 2015 @ 9:17 pm
[First, a point of order: no matter which publishing option I pick, I can't get the preview to show me as anything other than Anonymous. When available, I prefer using the Name/URL option when posting on Blogger-powered blogs.]
As ever, there are things I agree with, things I don't, and things I'm not informed enough to comment on. What makes this topic interesting is that good people have a range of opinions on how to interpret the situation and what ought to be done.
At 25:10, Kevin Anderson is included in a list of authors who apparently can't write. I want to challenge that, because I very much enjoyed the one Anderson novel I've read ("Climbing Olympus", 1994). It's not above criticism, and it's only one book so I can't comment on his imaginative repertoire, but it's a nicely-written little pageturner. For the record.
April 10, 2015 @ 8:59 am
Great podcast, good work guys.
April 10, 2015 @ 9:03 am
It's going to take me a while to get through all 104ish minutes of it, but so far I'm enjoying it too. I hope it doesn't trivialize the topic at hand if I remark that I'm finding Jack's voice particularly easy on the ears.
April 11, 2015 @ 12:24 pm
On the contrary, I think that is a vital issue.
April 13, 2015 @ 2:58 pm
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April 13, 2015 @ 3:42 pm
You're being rather rude.
April 13, 2015 @ 10:32 pm
Because the word "fuck" isn't "rude" enough?