(1) Today’s birthday boys:
Born 1866: H.G. Wells
Born 1912: Chuck Jones
Born 1947: Stephen King
Born 1950: Bill Murray
And as a bonus, also on This Day in History:
1937: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit published
(2) Grotesque parody news story of the day: “Game of Thrones Cast Murdered Following Emmy Victory”.
FANS of popular HBO fantasy series Game Of Thrones were this morning trying to get over last night’s shocking post-Emmy massacre, where virtually the entire cast and creative team were brutally murdered in cold blood.
… “One minute Peter Dinklage was standing with his Emmy and a big smile on his face, the next minute his head went sailing through the air,” said one eyewitness to what is now being referred to as the ‘Red Emmys’.
“Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner were stabbed through the heart, and the big lad who plays Sam got it in the neck. Even by Game of Thrones standards, it was fairly over the top”.
With so many members of the cast and crew slaughtered, fans are now fearing that next year’s season will focus mainly on Bran Stark as there’s basically nobody left at this stage.
(3) Constructed languages are the topic of a forthcoming documentary, Conlanging: The Art of Crafting Tongues .
Featuring an overview of the history of constructed languages up to and through the amazing creations and initiatives of those who actively invent new tongues today, this film tells the rich story that has expanded far beyond Tolkien’s “secret vice.” It’s being made by the people who know the craft intimately for language lovers and a general audience alike.
And All Things Linguistic has an interview with the creators of the documentary in the Conlangery #112 podcast.
(4) Add this to the list of “Han Solo in Carbonite” products — a huge vinyl sticker for your door.
(5) This year Gen Con featured another official beer, Drink Up and Prosper, from Sun King Brewing. According to the Indianapolis Star, not only was the brew available at the con, but it was put in cans and sold in stores.
This will be the fourth year the brewery has partnered with the world’s largest gaming convention, and the fourth beer brewed specifically for the event….
Previous beers included Froth of Khan (2014), Flagon Slayer (2013) and Ale of Destiny (2012).
(6) The Pittsburgh Pirates major league baseball team recently dressed up as superheroes “in the greatest baseball-themed comic book crossover of all-time.”
After the Pirates defeated the Dodgers, 4-3, the team dressed up as superheroes before boarding their flight to Colorado — like, for example, Superman with an expert hair curl hanging out with Bane that came complete with appropriate Zack Snyder lighting.
A squadron of Marvel’s cinematic heroes hung out with either a Na’vi or a really off-brand Nightcrawler: …
Costume selfie! (Via @El_Coffee on IG) pic.twitter.com/06VfkxqmZ1
— Pirates (@Pirates) September 21, 2015
(7) The Tor boycott continues to fade to invisibility as a news story. Here’s what I found searching Twitter for “Tor boycott” today.
PLEASE BOYCOTT THE #BBC TONIGHT. THEY WILL BE SHOWING A PROGRAMME AT 7.40PM (BST) GLORIFYING TERRORISM. THE DOC-TOR MUST BE EXTERMINATED!
— Ginger Dalek (@Ginger_Dalek) September 19, 2015
It was the hyphenated “Doc-Tor” that triggered the result.
(8) And by strange coincidence, Adam-Troy Castro has written some good advice in his new blog post, “Writers: The Long-Term Benefits of Not Being An Ass”.
For the vast majority of artists, being an asshole to the people who give you money is not a good career move. You are not indispensable unless you’re an eminence of such towering fame that they are willing to bend heaven and Earth to keep you. And sometimes not even then. Fame is fleeting.
So one guy I’m thinking of, who has come out and described himself as one of the greatest writers of his generation, who says that his work is reeking with literary virtues that any number of others would give their left tits to be even shelved next to, who has been abusing his publisher in public and attacking his editors as people and in general making himself a horse pill – I think he’s in for a surprise, sooner or later, probably sooner. Writers who can sell the number of copies he sells, or more, are not exactly thin on the ground, and the vast majority of them will not be rallying their readers to send hate mail.
But this is not about him. This is about you, the struggling artist. And to you I have some strong advice.
Be a sweetheart.
Be the kind of artist who, when dropping by the publishing house, brings cookies. Or if not cookies, then at least a warm smile and a gracious manner.
(9) The Clarion Foundation has received a $100,000 donation from a benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous. Clarion will use the donation to launch an endowment fund in support of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, held annually at UC San Diego.
Karen Joy Fowler, president of the Clarion Foundation, expressed profound appreciation for this generous gift. “This is tremendously important to all of us who have worked with, for, and on behalf of Clarion over the years. For us, the workshop is a labor of love. Having these funds in hand allows us to plan for the future in a way we’ve never been able to before. This gift provides a solid foundation on which we can build.”
“Our global civilization is now embarked on an unconstrained experiment in long-term sustainability, which we have to get right for the sake of the generations to come,” says Clarion Foundation Vice President Kim Stanley Robinson. “Science fiction stories, ranging from utopian to dystopian, are what we do now to imagine outcomes that help us evaluate our present practices. The Clarion workshop nurtures and trains writers to change the ways we think about the future, and it helps to connect the sciences and the arts at UC San Diego and around the world. We’re thrilled with this gift, which enables us to continue that crucial work.”
The Clarion Foundation partners with UCSD in the delivery of the workshop, with the foundation managing faculty selection and the admissions process and UCSD managing the six-week summer workshop. The foundation has annually conducted fundraising campaigns that allow it to provide about $12,000 in scholarships each year and to cover expenses.
(10) Aaron French compares horror traditions in “Past and Future: Esoteric and Exoteric Philosophy in Weird Fiction” on Nameless Digest.
As with everything else, the philosophy behind dark, weird, and horrific fiction has evolved over time. This philosophical evolution of horror fiction arguably began in earnest with Edgar Allan Poe – though Poe also nurtured a sense of romantic love, which conquers, as well as defeats, his harshest poetry, e.g. “Alone.” Bleaker still, and more callous in disregard of the human race, is H. P. Lovecraft, grandfather of the grim, who described his philosophical position as the following: “…by nature a skeptic and analyst… [I] settled early into my present general attitude of cynical materialism.”
….But if we turn our attention to the postmodern, a new speciation occurs in the writings of Thomas Ligotti, representing a philosophy so hopeless, malicious, and unorthodox that it gives readers pause, unintentionally flipping mental levers and bringing about unwelcome psychological changes.
(11) Here’s somebody else who has definitely flipped his mental levers — “Man angers neighbors by shining ‘alien’ fighting spotlights”:
Neighbors in the Virginia Road area of Hermitage said Arthur Brown, 78, shines the spotlights outside his foil-wrapped house at all hours of the day and night because he is afraid of extra-terrestrial attacks.
(12) From June of 1992, a YouTube clip from Arsenio Hall with guests William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, who are too funny. Shatner enters using a walker and a nurse pushes Nimoy in a wheelchair.
James H. Burns further comments:
Shatner and Nimoy even pitch their convention appearances at the Creation cons of my old pals, Gary Bermand and Adam Malin–
And most amazingly, Shatner talks about his hopes for Star Trek Seven, which he later helped turn into a pretty good Trek novel!
[Thanks to James H. Burns, Will R., Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rose Embolism.]
@Brian Z. And even if we conceded he’d “won” in some personal sense (I.e., perhaps he remembers there is right and wrong), you’d have to admit that’s about the most paltry victory imaginable. Hardly the inspiring stuff I take as a flavor of Human Wave.
No. The goal was not to make the Outer Party members feel bitter and broken. It was to control their minds, and eventually to control everyone’s minds. And they failed.
The cafe, the gin served without asking, the misremembered line “I sold you,” the tears, and then the torture, public confession, and execution that Winston imagines will follow, come straight from Rutherford in Chapter 7 of the first part. That’s not about Julia. The reason Winston imagines hearing the song is because he hasn’t been broken. Big Brother hasn’t won. Orwell took us to the next-to-last paragraph, and Winston was still fighting.
But in the final paragraph, when he’s heard that absurd propaganda report of the “greatest victory in human history” his will breaks, and he loves Big Brother. Why only then? Orwell didn’t tell us. Presumably he wanted us to think about it.
Then turn the page and keep reading. Orwell tricked us. Big Brother lost after all. It doesn’t say when the fall came, but it says that the 11th edition – that Winston was working on – was the final, failed edition.
On the Beach is good enough for what it is, but is the behavior of those characters particularly realistic? (Let’s not get into the science.) Probably Human Wavers would rather see humanity go down fighting, maybe working on a cure, searching for somewhere to escape to, absolutely anything but sitting around pruning their rose bushes. To be honest I sort of feel that way myself.
Hoyt’s manifesto never said experimental or even depressingly nihilistic novels are not allowed. Just a mild suggestion that if you want everyone to die at the end or whatever, maybe you could be thinking about having a good reason. I suppose there was such a reason, for On the Beach. But what, a year or two later? there was A Canticle for Leibowitz. Which is the better book? Which would you rather read today? And which do you think is a better inspiration for new writers?
Er, no. Three superpowers, remember? Three variants of Big Brother. The dicatator-for-life is dead, long live the dictator-for-life. Read the letter he wrote before writing 1984:
That’s not a world with one big brother and a host of great free nations fighting him. In fact, that’s the direct opposite to what he was envisioning, and that’s spelled out clearly in that letter.
That implied codicil you’re trying to read into 1984 isn’t a happy ending; it’s the same sentiment as the last line in Consider Pheblas. It’s the ultimate final insult to Winston; that his entire destruction and utter defeat, ultimately, meant nothing to anyone else anyway. It was lost, forgotten, utterly unnecessary, completely irrelevant on the larger stage.
@brian z. OK, so he fought until he didn’t fight anymore. Who doesn’t? Even if true, Smith remains a lame hero. His “heroism” amounts to not being able to forget he has a conscience. CS Lewis too the book to task in part because he found the characters mechanical, and I have to agree, at least as far as I recall. They exist to make the point that resistance is futile. This is not a Human Wavey thing to do. Big Brother falls not because of Smith or human agency of any kind but because of something like the mystical power of language. So why did we need to read the book, then?
Which brings us back to the question of what a non-Human Wave 1984 would have been. The daily life of a committed party worker just going about his business? Human Wave implies that such works exist, but most of us out here are having trouble imagining them. If 1984 is Human Wave, an awful lot of things would apparently fit the definition.
Third, realistic? That’s awfully subjective, and besides, we’re told the issue isn’t about being realistic. Fantasy is OK. The problem here is, they don’t accept that the question of whether to off yourself when facing a certain miserable death can be a “fight” too. It’s a political issue. Once again it appears to be not that there is a message but that there is the wrong message.
I don’t dispute Winston can be argued to be a hero in the most technical sense. I just don’t see how such an augment requires Human Wave to be made.
@Brian Z. His will breaks there because he sees it is futile to resist. He has done the very thing he hated so much when he did it to Rutherford–betrayed his conscience with Julia, even more personally this time–and he knows he will do it again as necessary. He knows he cannot beat the system.
Read it again. Of course Big Brother fell. The only point for debate is how soon the end came. Orwell wrote science fiction to ask “how hard would it be to make two plus two equal five?” His answer: “impossible.”
@Will R, is it “lame” to be ultimately unable to resist torture? A regime can’t fall because of an abstract “mystical power of language.” It falls when people use language. As Winston did.
I love the idea of CS Lewis complaining that someone’s characters are too mechanical. He’s the one to debate. In any case, Sarah Hoyt wasn’t giving writing advice to George Orwell. She was giving it to the recent crop of often self-published authors. Of course you can write an overambitious, highly experimental novel. And you are allowed to bite off more than you can chew. You can even fall flat on your face. Yes, Orwell’s novel is too dry. That is in no way due to his failings as a writer. He set an impossibly high bar and didn’t quite make it. Even then he knew that a novel without a good story is going to be a forgettable one. An Everyman determined to go down fighting despite the impossible odds is a good story and we didn’t forget it.
Was On the Beach a good story? For me: Meh. I barely remember reading it, whereas Canticle has been seared into my brain since I was twelve or thirteen.
@Brian Z. That’s exactly the thing. The reason I remember 1984 isn’t because of Winston. He’s a widget. He’s a lame hero because there’s nothing to him; he exists to illustrate a point (dare I say, to send a message?). Lewis sums my feelings up nicely:
I do remember 1984, though, which is part of the reason I think it refutes both Lewis and Hoyt when they insist that only likable, sympathetic characters who somehow triumph in the end can produce worthwhile stories (and yeah, I’m exaggerating their positions there, but less than I think it’s exaggerating to call Winston a successful hero, and I exaggerate because I’m still trying to find any solidity to the Human Wave argument).
As for On the Beach, I can enjoy it and applaud it without saying it’s better or more important than Canticle (it’s not). The question isn’t whether On the Beach is the greatest book ever–it’s whether On the Beach is bad because it’s not Human Wave–a statement Hoyt agreed with.
Brian, I’m not asking the following question again to be difficult, but because I am really trying to understand: What would a non-Human Wave 1984 look like in your mind? If I understood that, I might finally grasp what it is we’re talking about here.
‘A regime can’t fall because of an abstract “mystical power of language.” It falls when people use language. As Winston did.’
The question, though, as Human Wave seems to put it, is one of agency and human efficacy. Do we affect the outcome, or is it a fait accompli? As Orwell presents it, yes–it happens deterministically. It isn’t down to the daring or creativity or courage of the protagonists; it’s an inevitable outcome of a mechanical process–that language apparently cannot account for certain inherent human ideas (I will admit you have me thinking about this contradiction, at least, because I think it’s a cop-out on Orwell’s part–it really does seem to leave open the possibility that all the reasons he just told us Big Brother was able to successfully brainwash Winston weren’t actually true–but if they’re not, what power does the story have? Do I need to worry about this or not? I’m pretty sure I do.). But he also doesn’t give us much to go on in this regard as to how it’s supposed to have happened. Obviously it would have to involve human actors, but Winston will have made no contribution whatsoever. There is literally no evidence of his actions.
Look at it this way: In fact, Big Brother’s fall happens despite Winston, who as of the end is fully committed to the project. He has done nothing to hurt Big Brother at any point, which is the ultimate irony of his entire torture: Winston doesn’t matter one way or the other. That’s Human Wave? I just find it hard to believe.
You think it was a cop-out to give the book a happy ending because that doesn’t conform to what you think Orwell was saying. Don’t sell Winston short. His greatest achievement wasn’t deciding whether commas should be placed inside brackets, it was keeping an entire windowless floor of the Miniluv Ziggurat employed 24/7 tracking where he placed small motes of dust. What did Orwell say, those buildings had a thousand rooms? Don’t you think there were a thousand Winstons?
What bugged Lewis so much is that Orwell never saw much daylight between Hitler and the Pope. After Winston’s rapturous conversion, the Appendix might as well have been explaining the inevitable collapse of organized religion.
Orwell could write memorable, likable characters just fine. He fell down on the job because he wrote one that was too painfully autobiographical – Orwell was that minor bureaucratic functionary, and could have been that coward. If he hadn’t’ve done that, it wouldn’t be the same book. Correct. A non-Human Wave 1984 would have been one where the author didn’t put his heart into it. Yes, the novel has problems, and like an awful lot of science fiction from the forties handling characterization is one of them. But Lewis was being unfair. And I suspect jealous. Was That Hideous Strength the better book? Perhaps in some ways, but not so much that whole thing about scientists communing with angels and demons.
@Brian Z Well, I don’t think this was a happy ending even if I accept your read of it. If so, I mistake the point of tears in general.
Lewis also thought Orwell could write great characters–he praised Animal Farm by contrast to 1984.
I do think there is a very strong element of self-flagellation in 1984, and in fact, a criticism of British society as a whole. But societies failing to live up to their own moral standards…again, not super-inspired.
Finally, I think it was a cop-out because the whole point of the book till that moment had been that Big Brother’s techniques were effective. So much so that our hero enthusiastically embraces them at the last. And then I find out that in fact, they are not ultimately effective? Was it just Winston’s failure, then? He wasn’t strong enough? Either they are effective and the book means it’s pointless to resist, or they’re not effective, and Winston is a failure. Either way, not inspiring, and still not, that I can see, something that doesn’t make me want to swallow stoats.
The question, for me, remains: What, exactly, does Human Wave thinks makes someone want to swallow stoats if not this?
@Brian Z. I’ll just add–I think this is a great discussion. You’ve reminded me of a lot I’d forgotten or perhaps never realized about 1984. It’s an interesting argument. I just think staking it to Human Wave hurts rather than helps it.
@Brian Z. Oh, I’ll just add: one of the puppy points seems to be that meanings should be clear. If this many people are walking away from 1984 thinking it meant the opposite of what it meant (even the Hoytetariat is calling it a “cautionary tale”), then I’d say Orwell wasn’t terribly clear.
He was capable of great clarity, and this is part of my contention: that this book is muddy and depressing and morally ambiguous as part of its point. Again, something I take to be frowned upon in the puppy worldview.
“What, exactly, does Human Wave _think_ makes…”
But that’s not just your point, that’s what Orwell himself said, in writing, before writing the book, as being the problem he wanted to write about, that individuals were abandoning judgement for loyalty to a single leader (the whole rise of fascism that he was watching happen).
It takes a pretty high level of denial to turn around and say “I know the author literally said he meant X, but he really just meant Y, and if you read these selected words and ignore the rest, that’s obvious”…
Winston was as strong as any of us could hope to be. And of course it is a cautionary tale. In Hoyt’s words:
That is decent advice for new writers. There is a place for dystopia if there is a good reason for it. Orwell had one, do you? And at least Winston didn’t sit around waiting for Godot.
1984 was depressing. It was not morally ambiguous. And Will R, even in that Mad Genius post from a while back where Kate Paulk railed against lack of clarity, she held up Stephen R. Donaldson – for crying out loud – as someone who got things right. You don’t have to go cherry-picking the most colorful rhetorical missteps from a half-dozen author blogs and repackaging them as straw “puppy points.” There are other people here more than willing to do that job.
The whole idea of a dystopian book with a happy ending makes me depressed.
‘You don’t have to go cherry-picking the most colorful rhetorical missteps from a half-dozen author blogs and repackaging them as straw “puppy points.”‘
No wonder people get tired of trying. If I can’t be seen as having at least tried to understand, I can’t imagine who here could.
I think we’re really up against something now anyway. “So the reader doesn’t feel cheated” combined with “Waiting for Godot” made me think of something I just saw:
It’s a juvenile vision to think stories should “have a positive feeling” all the time. If nothing’s really at stake, why read? Oh, but let us pull on the fig leaf of “necessary.” Hah. So 1984 is good self-flagellation, like scourging yourself with a bundle of reeds before entering the sauna. Feels good, no, comrade?
If the 20th century wasn’t enough to justify Waiting for Godot, just what the hell would it take? Critiquing it that way seems to miss that there was a playwright.
Oh, but stories are supposed to be judged purely, on their own terms! And yet, we have the mysterious “necessary.” The “good reason.” Something external to the story.
That to me sounds like progress, because it sounds like the truth. You don’t like Godot because it prefers not to give you the satisfaction of a resolution. It doesn’t think you deserve it. It doesn’t admit there’s a consumer who warrants a happy ending. If this were a Cimmerian blog, somebody would probably mention a wahmbulance. Actually, I sympathize with you about your reaction to the horror of Godot. Which do you prefer?
“As strong as any of us could hope to be.” Yet again, I put it to you: that is clearly not the spirit of Hoyt’s manifesto, nor Correia’s nutty nuggets, nor Tron Guy’s awards without names.
Which bureau do I report to if I need to find out whether my reasons for dystopia are sufficient?
“Waiting for Hugo.” A neverending series brought to you by nogoodniks who just refuse to see The ObUnbelievablyObviousPoint because they want to take away all your fun. So, let’s get on with it, shall we?!
I went to see the Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart Waiting for Godot, but I had to leave at the intermission because the #%$£ing benches were doing their very best to ensure I wouldn’t be able to walk home (it was pre-wheelchair).
You haven’t been doing it so far, but veered in that direction with “puppy points.” Don’t double down just yet. Nobody said Orwell is “nutty nuggets.” What’s anything got to do with Tron Guy? I’m talking about Hoyt’s 2012 writing advice – and think you have been reading too much into it.
As I’m sure you realize, I like Godot just fine. I would probably not like a version of 1984 that went: The clocks were striking thirteen. Winston had seen a blank diary in a shop once, but he knew he was not supposed to buy stuff, and anyway had no pen. Not bothering to sit away from the telescreen, he wondered momentarily about that woman he had never spoken to, then tried to picture a scene from his childhood, but drew a blank. No tear streamed down his cheek. He did not move.
Eagleton quoting William James to bash George W. Bush – now that’s cherry picking. Since I’m in the middle of The Fifth Heart, I could of course instantly think of a late Victorian tragic novel – William James’s brother’s The Princess Casamassima. Know what happened to late Victorian tragic novels? They didn’t sell. Eagleton clearly isn’t a big Baen Books fan, but his counter-manifesto seems fine too. “Cheerfulness should not equal moral evasion. Don’t let your optimism be blind to nuance and distinction, or respond to everything in the same rigorously preprogrammed way – and so eliminate chance and contingency – but realize that the effect of substituting a cheerless ending with a jolly transformative note can be arresting.” Sounds good to me.
I can’t remember if it was Hugh Kenner or Frank Kermode – probably Kenner – who pointed out that since Beckett was in the French Resistance, the premise of waiting for a contact who may or may not ever show up would have been concrete rather than abstract for him.
@Jim They’re struggling at least as much as Winston is.
I think for those who have Brian Z muted he is a bit like the man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away
@Brian Z. “They didn’t sell.” The question of how to please a crowd is an entirely different one. If you want advice on what’s palatable, then yeah, don’t write absurdism. I thought we were talking about what is good.
1. Did you read anything of that column except for seeing that name in it?
2. Who cares what it was quoted for?
@Brian Z. Finally, since I’m not arguing just to argue, I’ll just say: it does seem I’m reading too much into it. By reading anything into it.
Right. That’s all Hoyt said. If you can find an audience for your absurdism, more power to you, and if you want to pay the bills, there is nothing wrong with being entertaining. Henry James would understand that, and in that respect at least I would tend to think Eagleton’s contention that his and his contemporaries’ work “lent support to the status quo… in its relentless insistence on upbeat endings” was a bit of a cheap shot.
I went and reread the last chapter and the appendix — the appendix being the part that implies the world of 1984 collapses, primarily by referring to Oceana in the past tense.
The last chapter is still one of the most depressing things I’ve ever read. As a teenager, though, I kind of missed how he clearly manages to love Big Brother because he’s drunk. But that’s also clearly why they give him the gin. The society makes a point of creating sad, broken cautionary tales rather than martyrs, and their techniques are perfectly effective to destroy any particular individual within the society and maintain social order.
To an extreme authoritarian, the preservation of social order is itself the ultimate good, and must surely therefore guarantee ultimate victory. But the society of Oceana isn’t actually more likely to survive either an invasion from without or disaster from within than a more free society. In fact, less, because it takes resources to maintain that order.
In other words, enormous human cost, no real benefit. A boot crushing a human face — the people who like to wear the boot will tell you that’s the best way to conduct a society, but while they’re busy stomping on faces, a more practical goal-oriented society is figuring out new ways to expand territory and feed people.
@Brian Z. What in existing sci-fi resembles the alternate 1984 you have described there? Because everything I hear is that it’s so rife that it requires organized movements and manifestos to combat.
@McJulie Exactly. I too was thinking last night about the sham of the Victory gin and the bar–it exists as theater, to remind you of what you’ve lost, what you can’t have in this world. It’s really a very cruel joke–even your place of solace is a mockery. You’re forced to go through the motions for the amusement of potentially no one at all. Why not just make everybody go home at dark and sit until morning?
Will R, right now I can’t go read that quote in the context of William James’ lectures on pragmatism. Offhand I’d suspect he was trying to justify to a room full of Boston Universalists why he spent so much time talking to ghosts at seances, so I wonder if Eagleton using it as a blanket criticism of feel-good Victorian literature isn’t a bit facile – but it’s interesting, when I get time to read it I’ll get back to you.
@Brian Z. If I recall my argumentation at all, you’ve dropped about four kinds of poison into the well there.
You know, I believe you that you think there’s a kind of heroism in Winston Smith. I do not buy that this is what Sarah Hoyt is talking about with Human Wave, despite her cursory approval of it as a “cautionary tale.” I can only even it see legalistically fitting her manifesto if I close one eye and kind of squint at it. Even then, it’s simply not the flavor I pick up from reading so much more of this than I ever wanted to. Clearly, we’re talking about derring-do and happy endings and fun and entertainment and family values, not grim tales of failure in which “heroism” amounts to being prohibited from forgetting that one regrets not saving one’s friends from the tyranny you serve.
The more we talk about this, the more like a bogeyman all of these criticisms seem to me. I simply can’t think of actual examples of the kind of thing that is alleged to be infesting our literature, these pointless, boring tales (which are somehow also vaguely immoral). Hoyt leaves those lines in there about necessity specifically because she wants the wiggle room not to have to disown the 1984s of the world, knowing that almost no one thinks of 1984 because of all the Dudley Dorights in it.
Let’s try this another way. So far, we have: On the Beach, not Human Wave (because of rose bush-pruning). Waiting for Godot, not Human Wave (because of waiting). 1984, Human Wave (because Winston fights till he doesn’t fight anymore). Maybe some more examples would help all us simpletons see the pattern here. Could you give us a few from each column?
If you didn’t want to endorse Terry Eagleton’s implication that a line from a William James lecture on spirituality was a blanket criticism of all Victorian authors, who wanted nothing more than to relentlessly uphold the societal status quo, you shouldn’t have brought it up. What were the other poisons again?
I still think 1984 had a message of hope and Godot would probably have made lousy SF, but I should have upped the ante: I think one of the greatest SF novels of all time, We Who Are About To by Joanna Russ (you know, the Baen author), is also pure Human Wave. But would you follow in her footsteps by writing another great book about someone stranded on a lifeless planet who kills all her crewmates including the children and then dies? No. The reason we’re arguing about the classics isn’t to decide which to produce carbon copies of and which to throw away. It isn’t to cast out the bogeymen infesting our genre. It’s to think about what worked for us and why.
Hoyt offered some thought-provoking advice to new writers. Why not take it in that spirit instead of talking as if Agents Paulk, Maynard, Correia and Beale from the Ministry of Pulp are coming to get you? Don’t be nihilistic for its own sake is not bad advice. Don’t be afraid to be entertaining and have an uplifting ending is not bad advice. Maybe it’s not strictly fair to Thomas Olde Heuvelt, who has the perfect right to murder the entire human race to signify the feeling of being upset about a Facebook update if he wants to, but the purpose of blogging a literary manifesto is just to start a conversation, possibly shake things up a little. In any case, even Terry Eagleton somehow found it in his heart to love that book where the blind happily regained their sight at the end, and I thought his suggestions were well taken too.