Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

A Few Remarks on Ann Somerville’s Comments at File770

I have gotten a great deal of feedback from the commentariat of File770, much of which I have answered in that venue. However, this particular set of remarks deserves I think some special attention. (And note that the opening bit there was part of my response to requests for me to explain what was so wrong with current science fiction and fantasy. I did make an effort to address that request here. It did not cause peoples’ heads to explode.)

Anyway, here is Ann Somerville’s comment:

“I am more interested in telling you what’s right about sff before 1980″

As a a writer, I’m frustrated and annoyed that somehow nothing I produce as a woman in the 21st century will have the value of stuff produced by white men while I was still a teenager.

I mean, I love me some Robert Silverberg and I just reread Shadrach in the Furnace with huge pleasure, but his dystopic future run from Ulan Bator is set in 2012! (presciently with a pope called Benedict) Are we supposed to only stick with books whose long distant future is now in our past? Books exploring space before we even landed on that moon? Speculations about inventions and the solar systems which we have now researched in glorious details and found the speculations can’t hold a patch on the amazing reality?

Are we to endlessly glorify war and military porn when our world is in the middle of world war 3?

And are we really supposed to have our tastes defined by someone who thinks Hitler is a role model for race relations?

I want stuff that talks to me about our world, the science we have now, the knowledge we have now and are seeking. I’m not going to get that from the Golden Age, and I’m not going to see much about the person I am in those books either.

I’ve read a lot of the classic books of SFF, and they were good. But they’re not *enough*. Bugger the nutty nuggets. Give me real food, and give me new books that explore where we are now, and where we can be, knowing what we know now.

My comment on this:

This is why I write. Ann Somerville is completely ignorant of the thing the she reflexively lashes out against here. She may not even know it.

In that first sentence, she has effectively erased Leigh Brackett from history. She seems to not be aware that the literary antecedents to Gamma World not only took an extreme anti-war stance, but also had strongly developed anti-racism themes (The entire post-apocalytic mutant adventure genre that I have enjoyed for so many years was in fact pioneered by Andre Norton in her first science fiction novel.) Finally, it appears that Ann Somerville is disqualifying Lovecraft by playing the Hitler card on him. But in spite of his wrongheaded beliefs, he did in fact succeed in having a tremendous impact on our tastes that continues to this day. His specter touches countless movies, games, and stories old and new. (She may be thinking of someone else there, but Lovecraft is the author I most often see compared to Hitler.)

Her characterization of the sort of classic fiction I’ve been writing about does not correspond to reality. And the sort of people that nitpick and cross examine my every utterance at File770 have nothing to say about it in the comments, either. Well if fandom is not too interested in setting the record straight on this, then I will do what I can in a venue where exploring these topics is actually welcome.

And no, I never said that anyone has to stop reading books from new authors. Acting like I did is utterly preposterous.


8 responses to “A Few Remarks on Ann Somerville’s Comments at File770

  1. Cirsova June 9, 2015 at 8:35 am

    As a a writer, I’m frustrated and annoyed that somehow nothing I produce as a dude in the 21st century will have the value of stuff produced by white women I read as a teenager. Damn Jane Yolen, Andre Norton, Ursula K. Leguin, Margaret Weis, and Anne McAffrey for setting the bar so high! I bet Balzac felt the same way about Ann Radcliffe.

    Seriously, though, that lady sounds like she doesn’t understand how literature works.
    She completely discounts important and influential contemporary women writers simply because her books aren’t moving inventory like J.k. Rowling.

    • jeffro June 9, 2015 at 8:41 am

      She will not surpass the grandmasters of the 20th century if she is not familiar with them. If she reads my series, she can learn in a few hours what took me a year to get up to speed on. It might even help her in her attempt to achieve artistic immortality. No, really…!

      • Cirsova June 9, 2015 at 8:53 am

        I’d like to think my writing has improved some from it.

        I guess what gobsmacks me is the arrogant attitude that her being deemed an important writer is a matter of fairness and social justice and not resultant of the quality of her body of work and its reception by the fans.

        People get to feeling entitled about a lot of silly things, but feeling entitled to being a writer as important as an established canon of significant authors from the past RIGHT NOW is about the silliest I’ve seen. I mean, she makes a few worthwhile points, but stuck in between that premise, the idea that we are fighting WW3 RIGHT NOW and ‘you guys are literally reading Hitler’ makes them very hard to take seriously.

        Until we’re living in a world where the technology is parity with that depicted in Star Trek, I don’t want to hear anything about exhausting the boundaries of golden age science fiction.

        [Jeffro: There are many things that I simply could not imagine before I started this. I am not alone in that. I want to be able to convey some of this gobsmacking mindblowing feeling to people that don’t know that they don’t know about it.]

      • Cirsova June 9, 2015 at 9:19 am

        Awww, man, and she played the Transphobe card on that beardy dude who likes the cartoon about the kung-fu guy who turns into a chick when he gets wet!

        [Jeffro: The sort of hostility that I find very difficult to subject myself to really does seem to be business as usual there. That same guy was after me about something I said a week or so ago… and yet, I do not actually feel the sort of schadenfreude I expect. I just feel… I dunno… sad for it all.]

      • Cirsova June 9, 2015 at 9:29 am

        There’s definitely a “Come bleed with us, the water’s fine!” vibe over there. Part of why I’d avoided writing about the Hugos for a bit was for fear of being linked over there. I’m over it now. I ain’ skeered.

        [Jeffro: They simply fail to offer any inducements for me to leave the opposing side. I mean I have to choose between living in a state of unending purgatory as a second class citizen or being treated like I’m Jayne Cobb in Canton or something. There’s just no contest. There are people among them that have common interests with me, sure. But the scene as a whole seems like it’d be hostile towards me regardless of who I associate with.]

  2. Jlv61560 June 9, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    Three things popped out from your extensive quote of her; 1) the only science fiction that matters is what SHE thinks is important. No one else is either entitled or welcome to an opinion…oh, and if you don’t agree, it’s undoubtedly because your some sort of cisgender, homophobic, white member of the patriarchy or something. It never ceases to amaze me just how intolerant the champions of tolerance always turn out to be; 2) the mindless contempt for all things military — typical of the uninformed “intelligentsia” which she obviously is a card carrying member of. Us military dudes are all completely evil…right up to the moment when it’s her skin on the line, then suddenly were that “thin red line of ‘eroes” that Kipling spoke about. Shortly thereafter, it’s back into the dustbin of history with us evil military types. And 3) since clearly anything written before she decided to take a hand (or is that a Jazz Hand?) and steer us all right isn’t worth reading, because she clearly didn’t bother to read any of it before launching her diatribe.

    I honestly don’t mind someone disagreeing with me, especially if they have a well thought-out rationale for doing so. Nor do I mind someone having a different taste in fiction. denouncing my taste in fiction based on nothing more than what she’s got, or carrying a metaphorical mattress around (or even a physical one, when it’s based on a lie) and shouting whatever the lefty buzzwords intended-to-disenfranchise-everyone-else of the day are, doesn’t impress me much.

  3. yacheritsi June 10, 2015 at 11:26 am

    I’m struck by the totalitarianism in her outlook. It’s not enough for you to like what you like and her to like what she likes. To her, you liking old works is a claim that she cannot produce anything valuable.

    “Are we to…”

    Who said “we”?

    “And are we really supposed to have our tastes defined by someone who…”

    By what mechanism would “we” have “our tastes” defined by someone else? A few essays about old books?

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