Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

It’s Not Just Planetary Romance

I was explaining to a group of people the other day the implications of the Appendix N Generation Gap, and they just  flat out didn’t believe it was even a thing. “So what if a few crazy people can’t bring themselves to read even Ray Bradbury anymore? Who cares if some science fiction author can’t recommend C. L. Moore to people, right?”

But note the similarity between this:

Readers want to able to put themselves in a book, and they want to relate to the characters (hence why we need diverse books). And if they can’t relate to the books, they’re just not going to read them.

And this:

It’s traumatizing to sit in Core classes. We are looking at history through the lens of these powerful, white men. I have no power or agency as a black woman, so where do I fit in?

Maybe the trends in science fiction really aren’t that big a deal. After all, my son’s reading Robert E. Howard– and I can read all the Edgar Rice Burroughs I want right off of Project Gutenberg for free. There’s no Fireman on my doorstep looking to burn my decaying paperbacks.

But the fact is… right now, even conservatives are paying big bucks to have their children steeped in an environment where the idea that “people want to read books about characters they can relate to” is applied not just to things like replacing H. P. Lovecraft’s bust with (perhaps) one of Octavia Butler. No, people are suggesting that Ovid be replaced with Toni Morrison.

The culture wars going on within science fiction are merely an echo of a battle that’s been going on within higher education for decades now. And the issues are not just coming from a few crazy people on the sidelines. They are in fact mainstream.

And when college administrators are faced with these things, their instinct is to apologize and make concessions to the campus crybullies. This may not be the end of Western Civilization. But it is the end of the prestige colleges and universities have enjoyed for generations.

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19 responses to “It’s Not Just Planetary Romance

  1. jlv61560 November 22, 2015 at 7:57 am

    What I think is happening is that the lunatic fringe of the left has begun to jump the shark, much like the lunatic fringe of right wing did 20 years ago. The inevitable swing of the pendulum against that sort of behavior can only be accelerated by the steadily spreading instances of it.

    • jeffro November 22, 2015 at 8:36 am

      The Moral Majority was not anything like this invasive. For one thing, conservative/traditional type people were not in control of academia, education, or journalism. Oh sure, there was a very crazy Satanist scare with the daycare centers and D&D. But it was a mere spasm in comparison to the education-media complex of today.

  2. Sky November 22, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Whether or not you believe it was justified, the purge of communists and leftists during the second red scare more closely mimics what is happening today, just a reversal of roles. We could get in the weeds to clarify the difference between the leftists of old and the leftists today (it is a wide chasm). But regardless the point Jlv is trying to make is valid. Coming back into the time frame he mentioned, when it comes down to it I am sure if the Moral Majority had its way a great deal of my life and choices would be limited. Is that in the service of a better society? Depends on who you ask. I am not a moral relativist but sometimes I wonder if my enemy’s enemy is really my friend. At the very least we can all agree that we live in interesting times. And we can all agree that there are forces out there doing everything they can to pilot our beloved genres into the side of a mountain. Not by writing want they want, there is always room for that, but by trying to control what others create and rewrite history.

    • jeffro November 22, 2015 at 10:54 am

      What I know about the Red Scare comes more from Arthur Miller than it does from anything like real history. That narrative is so powerful and so effective that people reflexively think that they have to concede ground to SJW’s in order to show everyone that they have not become them. It’s paralyzing us, both on the college campus and in Islam’s war against the west.

      As far as what to do, I’m not really that sort of pundit. But the fact that resistance on both fronts is unthinkable… that is something that needs looking into. I don’t think people are actually thinking this stuff through.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool November 22, 2015 at 6:33 pm

      The French Terror was pretty horrific, but Napoleon was probably as far as it got into covert expansionism.

      Imperial Russia inherited the Byzantine intrigue culture, but their focus on Russian welfare limited the sphere of their meddling. About the worst they might’ve done would be the possibility they were behind the Black Hand hit.

      Soviet intelligence was driven by cultural and political factors. They could not consider any part of the world to be outside of their sphere of influence. It would have been suicidal to defend the idea of only moderately or even minimally intervening in the internal affairs of another country. As such, they could not be in anything but a state of warfare with the Constitution of the United States of America.

      During and after the Civil War, Lincoln and the Radical Republicans did a number of things to combat the Confederates, and the die hard pro-Confederate revanchists. To include the suspension of Habeas Corpus, and the Iron-Clad Loyalty oath. These have parallels with actions taken against communists, who were adhering to Soviet intelligence, which was in a de facto state of war with the USA.

      A consistent person can hold one of two positions. One is to say that purging communists from certain types of employment was legitimate legally and morally. The other is to be an apologist for the segregationists.

      Sky, why are you an apologist for the segregationists? Is it because you are white supremacist?

      • Sky November 24, 2015 at 8:12 pm

        Not quite sure I follow you. I am happy with the handsome mug that greets me in the mirror each morning which by today’s standards probably makes me a white supremacist. Because I am white. That’s probably not what you mean though.

    • Cirsova November 23, 2015 at 9:48 am

      The problem with Red Scare comparisons was that there really WERE communist infiltrators in the highest levels of power, buying and brokering influence in both Congress and the White House and the US Communist party actually DID answer directly to Moscow. Of course now that we have all of the evidence from the old KGB files that vindicate people like McCarthy, we get the old “it was so long ago and far away that it doesn’t matter that there actually were communist spies everywhere, besides McCarthy was an asshole”, and people are still being shamed for having correctly thought that Russian spies were presenting an existential threat to American security. So what’s going on now is more of a case of what happens when the communists and leftists have gone unchecked in academia and are now, wait for it, creating an existential threat to American security through creation of youth brigades loyal, if not to party, to ideology.

      • jeffro November 23, 2015 at 10:05 am

        And the conventional wisdom is, that if we try to stand up to these people we become them.

        But you know, we are so tolerant and open minded, we will pay these people to indoctrinate our children into thought policing everyone and everything. Because firing them en masse is tantamont to becoming the Einsatzgruppen. (?!)

        It’s like… we have to bankroll these people and make concessions to them in order to show everyone how awesome our Enlightment values are.

      • Cirsova November 23, 2015 at 10:08 am

        It’s like ideology-welfare or foreign aid. “Your country/ideology is so terrible and ruined we feel so bad for you that we will help prop it up because it cannot stand on its own.”

      • Cirsova November 23, 2015 at 10:12 am

        If you have time between essential SFF reading, I highly recommend Paul Kengor’s “Dupes”; it’s probably one of the best books ever written about Communism’s 100 year covert war against the US in politics and academia.

  3. almostoldschool November 22, 2015 at 11:06 am

    I’ve never been a woman or a cyborg or a samurai or a creature from Procyon (or a Christian for that matter), yet somehow I am able to read works with those as main characters and “see” the world through the viewpoints of those characters… maybe we RPGers just have our brains trained better to try to adopt the viewpoints of someone other than ourselves? (Although isn’t that the WHOLE POINT of reading fiction, to experience something OTHER than our own viewpoints?)

  4. BobtheRegisterredFool November 22, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    It is like the college thing. These can maybe trace their ancestry back to Aristotle or Socrates.

    I am not an Ancient Hellenic Ionic man. If I can only connect to intellectual fore-bearers exactly like myself, me going to college is appropriating from others. My ancestry must have had some sort of ancient intellectual tradition.

    If I want to use Western Civilization, I’ve got to admit that I flat out do not care who is related to whom by blood.

    • Cirsova November 23, 2015 at 9:51 am

      Man, remember when the whole “rhetoric is the domain of the white man, so let’s not penalize debate teams that rap, swear and use the N word at competitions” happened?

  5. Bz November 22, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    Students originating from Western civilization should likewise be taught from those Western sources, so give them Ovid and leave Toni Morrison to the others. Yet for some reason I get the feeling that the point about identification was not so sincerely held, but was instead discarded once it had pried the curriculum open.

  6. Trimegistus November 23, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    The columnist and blogger James Lileks has noted a similar disconnect in TV and movies. In several of his pieces he points out that there’s a lot more difference between TV shows made in 1965 and 1975 than between shows made in 1975 and 2015.

    The social shift in the Sixties wasn’t just music and sex. In literature there was more of a lag, since writers are long-lived. I think the shift in SF and fantasy began when writers from the Sixties generation became editors themselves, beginning in the 1980s.

    • jeffro November 23, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      The real turning point for me is John Wayne. There was a time when he’d get the girl in the end no matter how ludicrous the plot had to be to bring it about. “Fish and bicycle” feminism fairly well put an end to that type of story. The James T. Kirk type romances were very consistent over the course of the 20th century… and then it just stops.

      And as for the literature lag… I remember I took a hiatus from science fiction after Isaac Asimov died.

  7. Justinian Herzog May 18, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    As a member of the far (former anarchist) left, the recent Tumblrina/SJW thing is a natural product of the blogosphere entering its second generation. Whereas media criticism used to be for people that were engaged in active scholarship of a genre, or actively creating peices within a genre, the 2nd generation blogosphere is meta upon meta, it’s an echo chamber or criticism of an echo chamber (what they’ve pulled you into doing).

    I grew up reading Andre Norton and Asimov because they were around and available, Star Guard had a weird edge of . Norton’s works aren’t fading into obscurity because they’re too teen-boy oriented, they’re fading because her estate is in dispute and it’s impossible to republish most of them, because sane copyright laws that would put her in the public domain don’t exist.

    Work of merit is still going to be its own thing, with its own idiosyncracies. Kids are still going to read what’s good, and read less of what people force them to read. While social activism through literature curricula has been a thing for a long time, the reason that To Kill a Mockingbird has outlived Uncle Tom’s Cabin — indeed, why it’s simply regarded as GOOD is because it is.

    Maybe it got on kids’ reading radar for other reasons, because social activists ‘forced’ it there, but it’s stayed, and everything else has passed.

    So too will the wave of SJA/Tublrina-ism pass.
    You write well and are a good critic.
    I think you’re wasting your time getting bogged down in meta-criticism.

  8. Pingback: Science Fiction’s Invasion | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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