Going through my unread issues of The Weekly Standard, I found this piece on the war within the science fiction writers world. If you read Vox Day regularly, you probably know all about it. I’m not a regular reader of his site so most of it was a mystery to me until I stumbled upon this article. It seems to cover the issue well enough, but I’m by no means an expert on the topic.
Not that long ago, if you’d spun a dystopian yarn about some future society where culture wars were so pervasive that nobody could enjoy reading a novel without first approving of the author’s politics, it would have been almost too fantastical to be believed. But within the insular world of science fiction, that future is becoming a reality.
One of the things that makes me nuts about members of the Professional Right is that they accept all of the premises put forth by the CML. One of those is that the past never really happened. In this case, Mark Hemingway is shocked, shocked! to learn that fiction has been politicized. Yet, that happened a long time ago with serious fiction, which is why no one reads it.
The schism over the Hugo Awards is aesthetic as well as political. For some time now, a handful of stars in the science fiction firmament—notably popular author John Scalzi and some polarizing editors associated with Tor, arguably the most influential publisher—have been pushing to elevate the genre by embracing certain literary and political themes. Critics contend that in practice this means an overabundance of “message fiction” where, say, encounters with an alien civilization become leaden metaphors for gay rights and other politically correct themes. The fans opposed to this want science fiction to stay focused on story-telling and adventure—and they are annoyed by the attempt to banish cherished genre conventions, such as book covers with buxom babes and musclebound heroes.
The literary crowd counters that the science fiction traditionalists are a bunch of white male retrogrades. There’s some truth to at least part of that characterization—a 2011 reader poll by the Guardian produced a list of the 500 most beloved works of science fiction. Just 18 were written by women.
The only area of fiction with a male audience is sci-fi/fantasy. So-called serious fiction was taken over lunatics and feminists to the point where it has no audience outside of the academy. The fiction that sells best is the rape fantasy stuff popular with middle-aged white women. Otherwise, fiction for men is mostly aimed at harmless weirdos who prefer to be the female character in on-line games.
That’s why the lunatics are making war on sci-fi and fantasy fiction. They sense this group of white males are weak and can be bullied. After all, a guy who gets beat up for wearing his Frodo costume to school is not going to push back against the heavy weights of the genre. At least that’s the assumption. It’s why the cult has made a fetish of bullying, by the way. They want it as their exclusive tool for socializing children.
Correia has a large and loyal blog audience, so he decided to mobilize it to start openly campaigning for a slate of Hugo Awards nominees. Correia called his campaign the “Sad Puppies,” because “boring message fiction is the leading cause of Puppy Related Sadness.” As his tone suggests, Correia didn’t set out to game the awards. He described what he was doing this way:
1. I said a chunk of the Hugo voters are biased toward the left, and put the author’s politics far ahead of the quality of the work. Those openly on the right are sabotaged. This
2. So I got some right wingers on the ballot.
3. The biased voters immediately got all outraged and mobilized to do exactly what I said they’d do.
4. Point made.
After two years of organizing a Sad Puppies slate with mixed results, Correia handed the effort off to Torgersen this year. The third Sad Puppies campaign dominated the Hugo ballot, causing no end of consternation and drawing a surprising amount of media attention to the internecine battles of the science fiction world. Almost none of that coverage was fair. The headline at Entertainment Weekly was typical: “Hugo Award nominations fall victim to misogynistic, racist voting campaign.” And the correction eventually appended to the article was a doozy:
After misinterpreting reports in other news publications, EW published an unfair and inaccurate depiction of the Sad Puppies voting slate, which does, in fact, include many women and writers of color. As Sad Puppies’ Brad Torgersen explained to EW, the slate includes both women and non-caucasian writers, including Rajnar Vajra, Larry Correia, Annie Bellet, Kary English, Toni Weisskopf, Ann Sowards, Megan Gray, Sheila Gilbert, Jennifer Brozek, Cedar Sanderson, and Amanda Green.
Torgersen answered critics calling him racist in part by posting a photo of himself with his black wife and mixed-race children. For that he was attacked by Salon and Daily Beast columnist Arthur Chu, who called Torgersen’s wife and kids a “shield” for his latent racism.
The error people make when fighting the Cult is to assume they can “prove” them wrong. In the process, they end up letting the Cult shape the debate. In this case, by conceding that racism is germane, Torgersen let the focus shift from the lunatics trashing the Hugo Awards to whether or not he is a racist.
You can never win playing defense. Instead, he needed to ignore the charge and return fire, maybe finding a way to insinuate that one of his critics likes to dress up as Hitler or drives a candy van to local schools.
The key is to turn the tools of Progressives around on them. Use the passive voice and use the false choice method. “Some people are saying that [fill in name of critic] has a history of intolerant remarks. That they are always forcing their extreme values on others. I reject that sort of name calling and prefer to address what they did….”
But, that requires two things we rarely see outside the Cult. One is an understanding of the enemy. Mark Steyn is probably the only mainstream guy to get it and fight it. His fight with the voodoo wing of science remains a debate about Michael Mann’s intellectual integrity, because Steyn never stops talking about it.
The other missing piece is the desire to win. In the culture war, we have one side trying to impose their strange new religion on society. The other side just wants to be left alone. The attackers never stop attacking because they define winning as converting the unfaithful. It’s what keeps Jehovah’s Witnesses going. Everyone else thinks “winning” is avoiding a fight with the Cult.
Unfortunately, combating accusations of racism and sexism has been difficult because the Sad Puppies have been unfairly conflated with an unaffiliated group calling itself the “Rabid Puppies.” The Rabid Puppies are led by a polarizing writer and video game designer named Vox Day who does hold racist opinions and managed to score a few Hugo nominations for some writers who so lack merit their appearance on the ballot seems to have no other explanation than electioneering.
Even more troubling is the Rabid Puppies slate had some of the same nominees, and this association caused one writer, Marko Kloos, to withdraw his name from the ballot. “I have no issue with Larry [Correia] or the Sad Puppies. I’m pulling out of the Hugo process solely because Vox Day also included me on his ‘Rabid Puppies’ slate, and his RP crowd provided the necessary weight to the ballot to put me on the shortlist. I think Vox Day is a [expletive] of the first order, and I don’t want any association with him,” said Kloos.
This is why the Cult always wins. Vox Day and his people are a little nuts, for sure, but racist? I’m at a loss to think of anything he has written that a normal person would call racist. Even if he is a member of the Klan, so what? The debate is not over his fidelity to the every changing standards of racial harmony. The debate is over the Cult’s war on science fiction.
But, that’s the fundamental problem with the Professional Right. They all have a big picture of Neville Chamberlain hanging over their bed. They truly believe that if they sacrifice enough of their own to the Cult of Modern Liberalism, they will achieve peace. It’s why Churchill knew he had to get rid of Chamberlain. You can never win with these guys on your side. It’s why the Cult of Modern Liberalism wins every battle.