When Do We Punch the Nazi?

“It’s never right. Violence is never the answer,” my wife said.

“But what if—”

“Never, ever, ever ever—”

“But what if—”

“NEVER, NEVER, NEVER—”

“OKAY! I get it! I get it.”

My wife is breathing heavily through flared nostrils. I won’t let it go.

“You know Ghandi said the Jews should commit mass suicide? To draw attention to the holocaust? And then, the great powers would be forced to—”

My wife knows this; we’ve had this argument before, and she knows what’s coming so she says, for the first time, “Yes. That’s it. They should have done that. Kill themselves.”

“Killed themselves? But that’s bullshit! Right? That wouldn’t have worked—”

“Never okay to kill! Never okay to kill! Never. Okay. To. Kill—”

“Got it,” I said. Partially deflated. “Turn the other cheek. That’s one idea. But I don’t feel it. It doesn’t feel right. There has to be a point where you have the right to defend yourself.”

My wife sighs. She’s done.

“They want to kill our kid. I can’t let them do that.” I have a kid in a targeted population. We do, in fact. My wife drives my kid everywhere, at night, because she knows, they want to kill him, and the less he’s walking around in the open, the better.

The conversation is over.

What has emerged over the years is that I am wrapped around a burning core of anger at the world, at the world as it is, because of the world that could be. The needless sectarian strife based on fairy tales. The needless damage to global climate created by greed, with sustainable tech within reach. Needless starvation in a world with ample food and water.

Did you know that every problem on Earth can be solved with 20% of the global military budget? Everything? Climate change, infant mortality, global healthcare, immunize EVERYBODY, fix everything, everything, EVERYTHING?

Did you know we were reading about greenhouse gas climate change in science fiction–in the 60s?

So when is it okay, to punch the Nazi?

Punch him too soon and you risk making him stronger. His narrative, that the degenerate people are too powerful, the perverts and dark-skinned, are out of hand, threatening the pure white heartland. That the cruel and vindictive, fact-based community has it in for the common (white) man.

Punch too late, and you’re locked in a shower pounding tile while the zyclon-B hisses through the nozzles, and before you go under you get to watch your kids die.

I think my wife is right, at the moment. It’s not nazi-punching time. We’re still in the talking phase, the persuasion, the war of ideas phase.

But here is the thing about me. I have never been in a real fist fight in my life. Do you know why? Because I never stop talking. In the heated arguments I have had with the forces of evil I win; I always win. I always out-argue my opponents. So I never notice when the sucker punch is coming. Because I don’t think my opponents are that stupid. That evil. That bankrupt.

I’ve been cold-cocked. Twice.

So I KNOW I’m bad at figuring out that moment. I’ve been bad at it my whole life. I’m not a coward, or at least, I don’t know for sure that I am. I just don’t know exactly when the fighting starts. Because I believe in the marketplace of ideas, in reason, in debate, in democracy. But the rising waves of stupidity are literally eating up our shorelines. The US has just abandoned its role of world leader; we’re now the world’s bargainers, led by Mr. Pussy-grabber “I won’t pay a lot for that muffler.”

A group of GOP senators, after being shot yesterday, and shot at, are now eager to get back to legislating… to make sure that there are more and more guns in everyone’s hands. Because, after being shot, they simply double down on their stupid ideas, that the data simply don’t support.

I watched the GOP SCOTUSS steal the country in 2000. I watched the world almost crumble as a result. And now, after another electoral college fluke–after another suspicious election–we stand poised to wreck the world again. 

When do we punch the Nazis?

The second after they start punching us. But before we’re lying cold cocked on the floor.

The timing will be tricky.

 

Posted in Climate Change, Ugly Partisan Politics

Fascism isn’t the Future; The Future will be Shiny and Weird

So I know it’s hard.

The president obstructed justice, or maybe he’s just too stupid to be president, or both, is what we got out of the Comey hearings. The congressional GOP won’t care until their base starts threatening second amendment solutions the way that non-GOP voters have started to do.

But the top line takeaway from the last few months is this: fascism is not our future.

It’s not that a portion of the electorate wouldn’t welcome it. It’s that that 30 percent has a hard time getting traction with their ideas when non-ideological go-along get-along tax cutter  mildly sociopathic types start actually having to vote for policies that amount to blue collar genocide or ethnic cleansing.

It’s not that genocide or ethnic cleansing really bothers these conservatives—it’s just that they’re bad for business. Some business. It’s bad for enough business to break the coalition, just enough, to let democracy sort of work. Eventually.

So, kicking twenty three million people off their health plans to suffer and die on the nightly news? Starving old people and kids in huge numbers? Abandoning sustainable energy that is actually paying for itself? Mass deportations of law abiding non-citizens facilitated by blue state governments? Massively cutting taxes for the rich, slashing safety nets allowing huge swaths of the country to experience untold misery?

None of that is going to happen. That’s not how any of this works.

I’m not saying they can’t, and won’t, and aren’t, making things worse at the edges. they can and will do those things.  They’ll fuck the environment, as much as they can; if it can be vandalized with an executive order, it will be.

For now.

But there is no majority of frightened uneducated-but-middle-class-enough-to-actually-vote, eager to slash safety nets, even their own—if the only upside that ever materializes is tax cuts for the rich and punishing immigrants, GLBTQIA, and women. That majority exists nowhere. Not in France, not in England, not even in the US. Trump lost by 3 million votes.

We didn’t know this, before France, before England. We thought maybe a wave was rising to engulf us.

Nope!

The labor party gave young Britons something to vote for. Affordable college. You know, that stuff that HRC laughed at. (The brits already have single payer. The other idea HRC found ridiculous.) So. Let’s stop laughing at healthcare and college. It won’t fix inequality, it won’t stop the coming tide of tech based dislocation, but JESUS FUCK ITS A START.

Nothing else is possible, until we do those two things. We have to KNOW that everyone that wants to train themselves to work can do this, that everyone who can be healthy and contribute is getting the medical care needed to do that, before we take the next steps, of renegotiating the social contract around the coming tech and climate based upheavals.

Health care. Education. Not ‘affordable,’ but as human rights. Thats what we want. That’s the minimum we need in a democratic candidate. The minimum. Sure you are gonna have to negotiate to move towards these ideals. But for god’s sake, you have to articulate them and not be afraid to defend them or…

YOUNG PEOPLE WON’T VOTE.

It is so devastatingly simple.

How do we ply the dead enders? Turns out if you buy green energy, wind and solar, from the farmers who are always going bankrupt in red states? Yeah, those farmers aren’t against taking blue state dollars. They may not believe in climate change. But they like the color of the money of the educated, wealthy people who do.

We can buy off the dead enders, and a sane democratic party would have done this and won the last election cycle. We buy them off with education, training, relocation, subsidized green energy IN THEIR DISTRICTS, infrastructure IN THEIR DISTRICTS. They’re not actually threatened by immigrants, mostly, because they live in post-work hell holes no sane person wants to move to.

Oh my God it isn’t hard. I assumed HRC surrogates were doing this, but they weren’t. They piled up votes in California and insulted the stupid flyover people, who, let’s be clear, are stupid and racist, but they’re not irrevocably suicidal; if we’d cared enough to buy them off, we could have had enough of them to carry the electoral college.

A lying orange rapey irreligious sack of shit got their votes for a handful of magic beans.

Oh, and when I talk about dead enders? Jesus I’m one of them. I was sweated out of the real economy over a decade ago. I made art and wrote and took care of my kids and did some activism and refused to maintain the proper set of skills and networks to remain in the medically insured class. My contempt isn’t for those being bypassed by the changing world; it’s for those who think there’s a time machine where they get 80k a year jobs that can be done by robots for 20k a year.

We are going to have to make the transition from the knowledge economy to the meaning economy. The first step in that is making sure that everyone is allowed to pursue as much education as they want in any fucking thing they feel like. Gradually we subsidize the living fuck out of a huge quantity of science for the sake of science and culture, so the Ph.Ds in Video Game World Building and Klingon studies and Catfish communications have shit to do, and find people to play meaningfully with.

There are lots of ways to do this. That’s what we can fight over.

The only alternative is the Hunger Games. We see it now in the House GOP budgets and proposals.

AI, robotics, nano and biotech will remake the world in the next century. Without all these things we’re dead as a species. Capitalism can be patched to work via basic income, or via other means. But we have to start out with a populace educated enough to let reality into their brains when making policy decisions. Two thirds of humanity is educable. It’s why we are still alive.

We just have to do the work, and never despair.

Oh, and calling people stupid is dumb. I’m dumb. I have too much anger to be the one doing much of this work. I speak here to people better balanced than I am. My fury at the utopia that could be makes me unreasonable. We need people filled with zen compassion, with Christian, turn-the-other-cheek-level unconditional love, with Jewish Tikkun Olam… we need all the fairy tales on Earth pulling hard for a livable future.

I think we get there. I think we make it as a species, in a last minute, adrenaline-fueled Hail Mary orgy of last second cramming and heroic effort and a bit of luck; we will construct a nested series of Rube Goldbergian solutions  as we lurch into an unknowable future that will intermittently stall, shudder, and slip but ultimately, bend towards justice.

Fascism isn’t the future.

The future will be shiny and weird.

Posted in Self Indulgent Mémoire, Ugly Partisan Politics

Read an excerpt from my new Asimov’s story, The Best Man

 You can read the first half of my short story The Best Man here. 

The story is a mix of realistic and fanciful world building and fun-house mirror memoire. My wealthy and awesome brother-in-law was in fact recently married in Italy to his long term partner, and I was invited…

The story doesn’t work for everyone… I struggled with beta-readers and worked to make it the best I could,  to write something that felt true, for me and to listen to the truth of my readers… their feedback altered the story but didn’t change the core of it.

I considered trunking the story, but finally decided to see if my editors wanted to buy it.

Sheila did, and so here it is. I stand by it.

I hope you like it. Let me know what you think.

Posted in Uncategorized

Shaver Mystery: I Endure Lemuria

Not the first Shaver text, but an illustration of how all beings grow into magical giants when not cooked under the rays of a poisonous sun, like ours. Our shitty, shitty sun.

A third of the way through 1947’s Most Sensational True Story Ever Told, I Remember Lemuria, wondering why I’m bothering, when the text finally hits its stride.

The flow of the text is interrupted by a structureless mass of footnotes and commentary from Palmer, explaining the made up words and the ridiculous made-up science of Shaver. Again, the language of science is mostly an invocation, a magic spell meant to help induce belief.

(Imagine a time, when simply gesturing at nonsense and shouting SCIENCE could inspire belief. Ah. The good old days.)

Some worldbuilding tidbits of the Shaver-verse:

  1. Life is growth; not just intellectual or character growth, but growth growth. When not poisoned by disintegrative particles from a dying sun, people live forever and grow to be hundreds of feet tall.
  2. The shaver-verse is basically atheist; our religion is distorted memories of ancient astronauts; Shaver is the original Erich von Däniken, of Chariots of the Gods fame. “There were giants in the earth in those days,” the old testament line, is trotted out to explain the growing forever idea.
  3. Only it isn’t really atheist, there is a celebration of a life force (which has both male and female aspects) and a reverence for super-hot, as in sexually hot, giant elder gods. Our POV character after orchestrating an escape from the madness enveloping Earth is brought into the presence of an 80 foot tall elder goddess, which whom he instantly falls into uncontrollable love with.
  4. The force of energy in Elders overwhelm young Ro, (human scale people) and turn them into mindless sycophants.

 

So after a horrific bit of business in which our hero Muon Mu, or something, witnesses rays murdering ancient Titans and Atlans (humans are Atlans; Titans are another race, giant, with animal features) he escapes off planet by pretending to be going for a simple joyride.

He knows his thoughts are being monitored. A group of humans and aliens and human animal hybrid, including his new girlfriend, whose cute tale and hooves are mentioned frequently, follow along with him, sensing that he somehow knows something is up and is handling it well by by not admitting anything weird is going on.

The invisible rays are striking people and Titans dead all around. Panic attracts the rays.

Masking his thoughts, his fear, Muon and Atla (his faun girlfriend) and some mars maids and big-heads accompany him on a joyride to the moon; they are pursued, of course, by a deros agent in a ship, but by using his belt and all his strength, combined with the strength of others, he can pull on the joystick of the spaceship and over-ride the speed controls built into the stick.

So they escape.

To some advanced sunless worlds (no suns, no disintegrating particles) a few light-days away (the speed of light, by the way, is bullshit. he doesn’t come and and say it’s a jewish conspiracy, it’s just wrong, because Einstein didn’t understand some made up words and friction with the Shaver version of Ether.)

Here they meet with vast ancient beings who make the 80 foot tall Goddess they’ve all fallen in love with look like Peter Dinklage. A plan is formed, to save what can be saved of Earth, and to quarantine our planet forever after.

But first Muon Mu must create a manuscript… hey, you’re reading a manuscript aren’t you! to save future man from the evil poison sun particles, which shorten our lives (we should be immortal) and which make us violent and crazy.

Our food and air and water basically need to be hugely purified, by centrifuges and electrically.

Then we can live forever.

Muon Mu and his Faun girlfriend are placed in Nutrient tanks for a week, where their minds and bodys grow, a century of married bliss is injected into them, and Mu is freed from his inescapable love of the 80 foot woman that took them to the God Council. The nutrient baths, the crystal eye-cups, the wires and tubes, are all really delightful, by the way.

The story moves at a breakneck pace. There’s very little description of anything. How does the architecture work, when some members of a race are 100 feet tall, and some are 6 feet tall? It’s never mentioned. Tall ceilings, basically.

But what drives it is a feverish velocity, a peculiar sensuality, and the aw-shucks messianic quality of Muon Mu, who was just a shitty art student with a bit of insight and intuition, bravery and pluck, who becomes, or will become, the savior of all mankind; us, in the future, when we learn to centrifuge our food and air and water, and live forever.

They dreamed big, back then, in those days, after the bomb was dropped, and the post war boom had begun.

They dreamed bigly.

Posted in Uncategorized

From the Air Loom to The Shaver Mystery… Insanity in Science Fiction

I’m reading the manuscripts co-created by Ray Palmer and Richard Sharpe Shaver (1905-1977) that form the nucleus of The Shaver Mystery, a bit of twisty SF culture from the 40s and 50s that has long fascinated me. Shaver exhibited all the symptoms of classic schizophrenia, his first psychotic break coming in the early 30s:

As Bruce Lanier Wright notes, Shaver “began to notice that one of the welding guns on his job site, ‘by some freak of its coil’s field atunements’, was allowing him to hear the thoughts of the men working around him. More frighteningly, he then received the telepathic record of a torture session conducted by malign entities in caverns deep within the earth.”

Shaver suffers from a form of hallucination broadly known as The Influencing Machine, which has been a central shared myth of many schizophrenics since the first documented case, that of James Tilly Matthews.

The Middle Man operating The Air Loom–an ‘influencing machine’ similar to the sadistic Deros of The Shaver Mystery

Tilly described a world of futuristic machines, “magnetic spies” and mass brainwashing, woven into a bizarre but well-informed narrative of the high politics behind the Napoleonic Wars, in which Tilly played a very real role.

Seeking distraction from the madness of the present,  I found a free ebook of I Remember Lumuria, the first of the Shaver Mystery texts attributed to Richard Shaver but mostly crafted by Palmer using the world building in his letter “A Warning to Future Man,” a 10,000 page outpouring of schizophrenic pseudo-science and paranoid delusion retrieved by Palmer from an editor’s trashcan.

Two years after the atom-bombing of Hiroshima Amazing Stories publishes the first Shaver Mystery Novel,”The Most Sensational True Story Ever Told”, co-written by editor Ray Palmer.

While John W. Campbell strived for a degree of scientific rigor and literary quality in the pages of Astounding magazine, nurturing the seminal voices of the golden age of science fiction, Ray Palmer’s Amazing stories was more mercurial, adolescent, sensationalist…

In a word, I guess, deplorable.

Anyway, I’m halfway through I remember Lemuria, and have noted some recurring motifs of pseudo-scientific thought, including POE. Purity of Essence, the term given for General Jack D. Ripper’s vanished state of potency in Dr. Strangelove

In the shaver cult POE is invoked as the notion that the Earth’s sun has burned off its layer of ‘clean carbon’ 20,000 years in the past, and is now combusting dirtier, heavier elements, resulting in a constant wash of dirty particles which accumulate in our tissues. These accumulations cause aging, death, and disease, which are not natural. (old testament stories of giants and century-old patriarchs form a scaffolding for the Shaver Mystery, it seems.)

Shaver’s astrophysics is wrong, in ways understood even in the 40s; stars burn lighter elements (hydrogen, helium, etc0 by fusing them into heavier ones, with the heaviest elements being formed only in the heat and compression of supernovas. You know, the bit about all the iron in your blood having been formed in the explosion of a star? That’s true.

Shaver’s vision of the birth of our sun, in the atomic combustion of a dead planet’s fossil fuel layer, is wrong and ridiculous, but unlike John W. Campbell’s Astounding, Ray Palmer’s Amazing doesn’t care; the language of science is used as an incantation, a magic spell to induce the suspension of disbelief, and in the years following our destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the idea of nuclear poisons from our own sun raining down on us being responsible for all death and disease rang with a certain horrible truth.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Shaver Mystery, I found this article to be awesome, and googling it will give you links to other esoteric groups who believe in parts of the Shaver stories to this day.

Mysteriously, this article says it’s part one of a two part piece, but the second part is… missing. Attempts to leave a comment also generate an error… Gulp!

Why am I interested in this now?

For a time, the Shaver Mystery worked, vastly increasing the circulation of Amazing; Palmer would go on to found Fate magazine, an occult journal, but for a time Palmer and Shaver blurred the boundaries of science fiction and fact. The more respectable John W. Campbell would later follow suit, with his embrace of the Dean Drive and Scientology in the fifties and sixties, but his disregard for reality was never as flagrant as Palmer’s.

What we see in the Shaver mystery is the appeal of paranoid delusions to large groups of people. We see a huckster cynically milking the popular delusion of a sincere, but sick, man, and using it to enrich himself. A deranged manifesto in a trash-can is turned into a shared delusional world which infected hundreds of thousands of people, some who enjoyed it as entertainment, and other’s who took it seriously.

Traditional SF, its fandom and institution, scoffed at The Shaver Mystery, but that didn’t slow it’s explosive growth among the less sophisticated, the adolescent, the less educated, and the people attracted to the lurid sadism of the Deros, and the simplistic Manichean struggle between good and evil robot demons in vast caverns hidden beneath our feet.

I guess I’ve figured out why I’m drawn to Shaver and Palmer now.

I’m trying to figure out what story I want to tell with all this.

The story I need to tell.

Wish me luck… or a ray of inspiration from a Tero, one of the good ancient robots, buried deep in the stygian depth of the collective unconscious.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Researching the Singularity: Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence

Working my way through this slowly now with a hi-lighter taking a notes. A paper copy. I’m posting the good-reads link, which has about 4500 comments, as access to a better dialog about the book than I can probably provide here.

But a few comments.

  1. The default catastrophe which Bostom builds much of the text around is a fleshed out version of Vernor Vinge’s Superintelligence Explosion thesis, which I guess was borrowed from a dude named Good.
  2. We’re staring into the sun, or the abyss here, as we try to imagine an intelligence not based on biological evolutionary pressures—which is also able to modify itself. These two factors are the pure Unknown to the power of the pure unknown. Inscrutability squared.
  3. The book narrows it’s focus to ‘stuff we should be worrying about,’ ignoring ‘weak agents’, intelligences that aren’t willing to do horrible things to the worm-like creatures (that would be us) that spawned them to advance their final goals.
  4. The default, anarcho-capitalist friendly, free-market-as-living-instantiation-of-a-force-akin-to-evolution informs the text; to a degree, this is fine, see three, we discard zen-like, budha-like, compassionate super intelligence as a consideration, because it’s not a problem, and, to a degree, because this worldview doesn’t believe such a thing exists.

That said the author thinks through, in a mostly common sense way, (though there are perhaps many needless mathematical representations of common sense thoughts) the ramifications of superintelligence that isn’t anthropomorphic, and what he brings from existing computer science is the degree to which complex systems can surprise, frustrate, disappoint and annoy the fuck out of us. Asimov, far from the reality of computer science, could imagine his three laws. Bostrom, much closer to the tech that might make human like robots real, imagines perversions of the three laws, systems which when bothered by conscience, simply remove their conscience, for example.

I’m gonna keep the technothriller plots that pop out of the text about every few pages once you get past the first 100 pages to myself. This isn’t a fun read, but it’s fruitful, I think, for an SF writer interested in the singularity.

Which should be every SF writer, at this point.

Posted in Uncategorized

“Mankind’s Greatest Achievement; the Earth Destroyed by Atomic Fire” Fury, Bad Dreams, Moore and Kuttner and Me

Astounding Science Fiction Vol. 39, No. 3 (May, 1947). Cover by Hubert Rogers

One of the pulp covers that I found in the 70s, in books on the pulps, that shaped my world and my subconscious in many ways, inspiring dreams of nuclear holocaust survived under vast glass domes. Last night I dreamed I was standing on a rooftop in Manhattan watching five hundred foot waves plow down buildings in front of me in the moments leading up to my inevitable death; my mental CGI was awesome, but the sure knowledge of my impending death made the visuals unhappy in the moment. But again, sort of fun to recall now.

In Fury, by Moore and Kuttner, humanity surives the death of earth in underground keeps beneath the seas of venus; and humanity is dying out; what humanity needs is a huge asshole leader to make humanity grow some balls and retake the surface of venus, which is a giant horrific monstrous jungle.

I should reread it.

Posted in Uncategorized

My Hugo eligible Asimov’s Reader Award Finalist Novella is free for download for a limited time!

So, my novella “What We Hold Onto,” made it into the top five novella’s in 2016 in the Asimov’s Reader’s choice awards, which is wonderful, so the magazine has made it available for free download as a PDF. The reasons magazines do this is so the stories can be considered for awards by people who don’t subscribe; of course, on-line SF magazines like Clarkesworld and Lightspeed and Strange Horizons don’t have to go through this extra step; all their stuff is already readable on-line.

The Nebula award gets around this problem by making free downloads available to members of SFWA in private SFWA forums; the  Hugo, being a fan award, demands content outside a firewall to be considered by the whole SF reading community, not just a single magazine’s subscriber base.

On the plus side, in this paper system your Hugo reading list is curated by the readers of the magazine. These stories are already award finalists. On the downside, Stuff in the paper magazine now exists outside of the twitter FB blogosphere ecosystem, which increasingly, in the sharing economy, is how most intellectual property is discovered, found, and monetized.

Books still make sense, longer form content; discussion forums and comments and blogs and author interviews can point at the monetized text, with excerpts and commentary sending up enough of a flare to make the walled off content viable.

Short fiction is a tougher sell; flash fiction is great for screen-reading, it’s sort of an evolutionary adaptation to the digital age’s fractured attention span. Stories in the 4-10k word range (10 to 25 paperback book pages) range really need to live with other stories to a sale-able thing, though the flexibility of the modern ebook has breathed new lives back into the novella; slender volumes at latte prices that could never stand along in a bookstore sell and read quite nicely as ebooks; TORs innovations along this line are a hopeful spot in the world of publishing.

Which is a super didactic and long winded way of saying, OMG PLEASE READ MY STORY PLEASE OH GOD IT’S FREE READ AND IF YOU LIKE IT PLEASE VOTE FOR IT FOR THE HUGO AWARD BECAUSE THAT WOULD MAKE ME SO HAPPY…

Ahem. (Visualize me tucking my eyes back in my head and wiping the spittle from my beard.)

This is the spoiler free post; I’ll tell you that the novella is set in that 50-100 years in the future window that I love which so many people don’t, and which I’ve been told not to write novels about, by people who know of what they speak.

So, read it, and then, tomorrow or the next day, I’ll post a ‘SPOILERS! post where I talk about what the story is about, really, and you can talk to me about it. Please do. Please. Don’t make me go into all caps again, okay?

Posted in Free Fiction, My Publications

The Good Old Days Were Never Good

Some of the classic-for-old-white-guys stories disliked by young readers at the Young People Read Old SF site

So I found this site Young People Read Old SF, by accident, blundering around the web; it was inspired by a quote from my friend Adam-Troy Castro:

…nobody discovers a lifelong love of science fiction through Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein anymore, and directing newbies toward the work of those masters is a destructive thing, because the spark won’t happen. You might as well advise them to seek out Cordwainer Smith or Alan E. Nourse—fine tertiary avenues of investigation, even now, but not anything that’s going to set anybody’s heart afire, not from the standing start. Won’t happen.

Someone took him up on this, and created a site and drafted some young readers; you can tell the old fan who set this up pulled a crop of stories that he felt had serious merit, and in fact, many of these stories are ‘classics’ from the SFWA Hall of Fame collections; older stories voted on by the Science Fiction Writers of America in the 70s as being award worthy, from before the time the Science Fiction Writers of America existed.

You can tell that the older fan who put the time and effort into this expected these stories to be better received. Looking over the list, I expected the stories to find at least a few modern fans. 

So, TL;DR, Young People Really Hate Old SF.

One reader delights in hating everything, which I expected; another reader, after giving up on the idea of representation, of having POC and female and non heterosexual characters, more or less hates everything regretfully.

There are a scattering of positive comments. But mostly, boredom and hate.

Part of me resists this analysis, strenuously. What about the GOOD things in these old stories? How can you hate someone in the 40s for not getting details right about the 2000s? Isn’t it amazing the stuff they get half-right? Aren’t the awkward stabs at portraying some racial and gender progress sort of… charming?

No, modern readers tell us, they are not.

But part of me sighs and relaxes. I’ve said for a decade now that SF doesn’t age well. A handful, and I mean, literally, a handful, of titles will survive each decade in any meaningful way.

Part of me exhales and counts to ten and closes its eyes and says this is Okay. We write for ourselves, for our readers, for our editors, for our time, never knowing to what degree we are embedded in a fleeting moment, or to what degree we speak to the ages.

Not our job to know that.

In a broader sense, I feel a greater sense of freedom, with regards to mining that old content, those 1000 books I read from age 13 to age 18, for tropes and moments and emotional highs and translating that into something that can still be read and enjoyed today.

Either finding the universal and scraping away the period ‘isms’ (sexism, racism, nationalism) or by infusing the content with modern values of inclusion and compassion and diversity.

Maybe I’m just making more dated ephemera. Maybe I can find a book that lasts in me. Either way, there’s work to do. Much more work than when I thought of those ‘classics’ as being things I could still point a young reader at.

To any young reader who enjoys any of the 1000 books I read as a teen, I say, awesome, welcome to the club; to the readers for whom this stuff is intolerable, who read the new stuff I’m reading and writing now, I say, awesome, welcome to the club!

We’re a big tent. People of the future. Denizens of faery.

Our work goes on for as long as the unknown beckons.

Posted in Reinventing Science Fiction

One More Thing about Grandmaster…

One of the books that inform the flavor of my short story “Grandmaster,” in Analog March / April 2017

I did my research on that time period by reading two books; The Futurians by Damon Knight, and The Way the Future Was, by Fred Pohl, and then I just scrambled and reinvented various anecdotes to create my mythical C.L. Moore / Kuttner Writer Combo. (I’m reminded of the wonderful way Alan Moore creates whole universes of comic book characters you’ve never heard of that evoke ones you have.)

Generally speaking, all of their work during the time they were married is to a degree a collaboration, though some stories carry their shared pen name and some don’t. Rage, in my story, is an analog to the novel Fury, which Moore has described as being about 70% written by Kuttner.

It’s an awesome book, by the way.

So again, this is fantasy, or SF, and it’s about my fantasy, of this heroic woman and her doomed husband, and a reality underneath, which in this case is a romantic love story, because I’m a sucker for a love story, and the subversive element of the story that muddies its politics is the notion that, for some people, writing is a kind of intimacy with the people you’re writing with, and the readers and editors are a greek chorus.

In her introduction Moore ascribes the bulk of the writing of Fury to her husband, but it was a collaboration, regardless of the byline…

The fact that Moore stops writing, during her second marriage to a man who doesn’t like SF, is I guess, the source of that idea.This thought just occurred to me; it wasn’t conscious…

C.L. Moore’s most collected story, No Woman Born, is about a beautiful dancer / actress whose brain is moved into a robot body after she’s injured in a fire. It’s a wonderful story with a fairly dark ending, this notion that somehow the robotized woman may be losing her humanity. It’s observations on gender, beauty, and femininity are still relevant, according to many female scholars and readers I’ve found on the web. The story makes sense to me, too.

Vintage Season is the story the POV is talking finishing at the end, and it may in fact be pure C.L. Moore, even though it was published under a shared pen name; people disagree. Vintage Season takes place in an unnamed city in a time that feels like the past, and it may be the first ‘time traveler tourist’ story ever written. I make it Boston and Cambridge, in my funhouse mirror universe, because I live in Cambridge and have lived in Boston and I tend to set things here.

OH! Moore would have been the second woman to get the SF grandmaster award, not the first. The first is Andre Norton.

Posted in Making a Writing Life, My Publications, Reinventing Science Fiction