Talked to an old friend today. The guy is not a serious fan of sff beyond watching Firefly and so forth. I tried to explain to him what all was going on… the way that basically no one would would even be seen talking to me online last January… to things changing in a number of surprising ways in the past few months. My friend wrote it all off as just a consequence of a steadily growing readership. And you know I’d buy that, too, if the coverage in NPR, Wired, and Popular Science had not been so over the top. I guess out in Normie land the press completely losing its shit over something utterly insignificant is not something that raises eyebrows. When I talk about the implications of the old paths to publication and legitimacy being increasingly irrelevant, he sees nothing unusual. Oh, he’d read somewhere that Amazon was putting Barnes and Noble out of business. Nothing to see there. It was a good reminder the extent to which I must sound like a mad man to normal people. And I may well be blowing a couple of things out of proportion lately. (Ahem.) BUT… I gotta say…. I still have to say…. This passive, “eh, times change” mentality is freaking retarded. I absolutely despise it. Maybe I’m wrong about a few things, fine. But there’s something about their thinking that conceives of the world as being a positively mundane place were ordinary rednecks like me can’f stumble into odd adventures and surprisingly bizarre opportunities. The implications of 40 years of science fiction being systematically memory holed…? Nothing to see here. The most influential author of the 20th century lapsed into obscurity…? Nothing to see here. Publishers no longer in the business of selling books and readers on the verge of outright revolt? Nothing to see here. Maybe if people had actually read some old science fiction they could imagine that there are ideas out there that have to be suppressed simply because they are inherently and fundamentally dangerous. We live in a time when a cartoon frog can change the course of an election and people still can’t imagine it. Assuming such ideas did actually exist, don’t you think strange things would necessarily happen to the guy that broke the story…? No…? Okay. A steadily growing readership and the influence that goes with it, that’s all it can be. Just another normal year on the internet here. Nothing to see. Move along.
Me for two years straight: “Man, this is going to be huge when this story breaks!”
People in real life: “Yeah, right. Whatever, man.”
Me right now: “Good gosh. I really think something is happening.”
People in real life: “Of course it would; duh!”
At some point you have to take the hive mind at face value. What would it have cost them to treat me like a legitimate voice in science fiction…? Answer: everything. People talk about how weird it was, how over the top. “Dude, he’s just some rpg blogger, seriously!?” You know what I mean? I think the most reasonable explanation is that they grasped that their relevance really was at stake. If anyone could get through and challenge the narrative, it would be the end of them. We were sitting there thinking all that time, “what in the devil is wrong with these people?!” But if you understand what was happening, it really does make sense. We crashed a party because it seemed like a fun thing to do, but they were fighting for their existence.
The thing that bugs me the most about all of this is that it took a handful of game bloggers to really go out and do something. But culture is everything. And “real writer” culture is utterly, irredeemably whipped. You go back and read the most cranky pants stuff out there that’s by people that have a foothold in the system and doggone, the number of hoops they are running themselves through to please people that hate them blows my mind. I’ve read their stuff for years and it’s just dumbfounding. Why are these people so insular? Why is it that they don’t seem to grasp how blogging even works? Hell, who are these people writing for?! It is nothing like the game blogging scene. With book bloggers, it’s like pulling teeth to get any of these people to talk about the sort of things we’re all supposed to be fans of in the first place. And god help you if you ever want them to link back to you and continue a conversation on their own blog. It’s like they’ve lost the plot… of reality! I don’t get. I never got it. I hope I don’t ever get it.
If I could give just one piece of advice to aspiring creators, it would be to follow your rage. Really, anything of value… anything smacking of truth or glory or vision, it was all being shabbily destroyed well before you were born. If it doesn’t make you angry, if it doesn’t cause you to be consumed with hate, then I can’t imagine that you have anything significant to contribute and should probably look into acquiring a different hobby.
So I should be happy that the pulp revolution is making some surprising gains over the past several months. I mean… just as one example, this conversation was freaking dead last year. I would find maybe two or four stale blog posts when I’d compare my stuff to what was already on the web. It felt like maybe five people were even talking to me– not counting the people throwing punches. Fast forward to today… you have something vaguely resembling what happened with the OSR going on in the book blogging scene.
It makes me angry, though. What I want people to realize is that this should be normal. Lovecraft had it. The Inklings had it. Gygax had it. But it was snuffed out somehow. Just how this was accomplished is absolutely critical for people to understand. And even my closest allies will struggle to accept that it happened.
These things don’t just happen, though– not anymore than that ideological diversity just magically evaporates overnight. There is a recipe people can implement to orchestrate these things. It doesn’t take very many people, really. It takes a whole lot of chumps and suckers, though.
And that boils my blood more than anything else. Not that someone would do this. But that so many people would let it happen. Because here is the dumbest thing that I’ve been told over the years:
“Derp. Conservatives just do not get involved in the arts or journalism or education. Guess all they care about is making money! Derpity derp derp!”
You hear this from actual conservatives, of course. This is how freaking stupid they are. I mean really. They’ll sit there and observe that there are practically no non-leftists in the culture business… and they act like it’s freaking inevitable. Talk about hook, line, and sinker!
Then there the people that are doing pretty good. They kept their head down until they could make it. Only then did they come out as perpetrators of mild WrongThink. But these sorts of people said nothing as the most critical culture wars of the decade went down. Oh, but they did come to the key players and let them know privately how important what they were doing was.
Thank you for your service, asshole. Man, what a big help!
And now that things are moving, people have the gall to tell me that I’m crazy for thinking that a handful of game bloggers could have made a difference in precipitating a significant shift in the culture.
Yes they did. Pulp revolution has moved the Overton window as well as just about anything going out there right now. It’s obvious that that would be the case in retrospect, but nobody saw this coming.
And now people are asking me why it is that I’m concerned when I hear more of the whole “eh, what’s it to us if someone wants to write bad fantasy…?” Well it is something if they take up our bandwidth. It is something if they are drowning out the good stuff. It is something if they are denouncing the classics and systematically attacking everything we like with the same tired criticism.
It’s a lack of fight that got everything this far gone to begin with. It’s a fighting spirit that changed the conversation. And we are not done fighting now.
As I put the finishing touches on my Appendix N project, I want to reiterate how surprised I am that the OSR has pretty well repudiated the subject matter. Given that I came out of game blogging, that I wanted to bring more people into game blogging, and that I would not even know about the topic without the OSR to begin with, I have to say that it especially surprises me. And yes, I am disappointed that the loudest voice within the OSR thought it a good idea to hammer me with the exact same bullshit that the apologists for the fantasy and science fiction establishment were trotting out at the time. I don’t remember anyone not already closely associated with me speaking up for me at the time, either. Not that I really expected some sort of “I am Spartacus” moment or anything. Even now that it doesn’t really matter anymore, I have to say that I still find it rather disappointing. I really did think better of the people writing and creating within that movement.
Yes there’s been a seachange. And yes, it is very recent. There was no book blogging culture remotely like this last year. It’s like that moment in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where the ice starts to melt. The “times change” people are going to be out in force to dismiss the significance of this, but I want to point out that there is a reason why this did not happen spontaneously alongside the much earlier proliferation of rpg blogs. What you’re seeing is facilitated by technology, but it is not a product of it.