Sturgeon’s Law, Battlestar Galactica, and Feet of Clay
March 27, 2018
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Over at The Practical Conservative’s site, Jane Sand feverishly scrambles to prop up the embarrassingly stupid claim that is today known as Sturgeon’s Law:
As for your opinion regarding the stories of the 10’s through the 40’s being superior to those of the 70’s – well, that could be for an abundance of reasons. One might be that comparing the best of the harvest of 4 decades to the best of the harvest of ONE decade gives a slightly unfair advantage to the longer time period, with its benefit of longer evaluation and discussion in hindsight. Or, as you say, you might find the cultural difference of the Good Old Days to be more appealing to you than the latter ones.
According to Jeffro’s recent column, it’s because the writers of the later decades had the bad taste to DARE give the heros feet of clay. Apparently he prefers his heros to be flawless Marty Stus. He forgets what Oscar Wilde (a Dead White European Male writer par excellence, and a great fantasy writer to boot) said: “It is the feet of clay that make the gold of the image precious.”
First off, the quality of the average pulp story is quite surprising to most of us that end up going back to see for ourselves what things were actually like. I know people that only ever read, say, Robert Jordan’s Conan stories. When they go back and read Robert E. Howard they are astonished. I know people that are already hip to Lovecraft and Howard, but have never heard of Merritt. If you take Sturgeon’s Law for granted, there shouldn’t be too many more giants operating in the pulps this period… but Merritt is arguably superior to both. When you get done being blown away by C. L. Moore and Many Wade Wellman, it’s suddenly an open question as to how many superlative authors were actually frequenting the pages of the pulp magazines of the twenties and thirties..
And about this feet of clay thing…. I just watched a few episodes of the third season of the Battlestar Galactica reboot:
- Admiral Adama is about to get an award from the president for saving humanity. But… it turns out that before the war… he violated the neutral zone treaty they had with the Cylons. The genocide of his people is actually his fault!
- Cat is in the process of committing suicide by subjecting herself to too much radiation. There are plenty of pilots that could do the job and the fleet desperately needs pilots like her… but she is despairing because she lied about her identity to become a pilot. Worse… she was a criminal in the bad old days and she actually helped smuggle Cylons into key cities. The genocide of her people is actually her fault!
- Helo is head over heels in love with a Cylon. When Adama concocts a means to put an end to this mortal threat to humanity, he sabotages it. The then puts the fate of humanity at stake in an insane plan to get his half-human half daughter back from the Cylons.
- Apollo and Starbuck have the hots for each other. They are also married and cheating on their respective spouses. The writers then have Apollo’s wife rescue Starbuck from the Cylons.
This is not a matter of the writers giving each and every character feet of clay. These characters are head-to-toe iron mixed with miry clay. And there’s nothing DARING about any of it.
Where do you look if you’d like to have more of the gold, silver, and brass…? The answer right now is… in the crumbling pages of a battered old pulp magazine! (I recommend A. Merritt’s The Ship of Ishtar as a prime example of everything contemporary authors are incapable of doing.)