You Asked; I Answered

roflbotSo I got home from a weekend away and a surprising number of you have requested my thoughts on the SFWA petition, the forum re-posts, the libel suits, and the general wash of buffoonery that I missed while I was off the grid. I’ve read through the petition and here’s my takeaway:

“We miss the days when we could say whatever we wanted and people laughed and put up with it because we were elite and powerful and nobody dared object.”

I’ve read through the forum commentary as well. First, to be honest, I dropped from SFWA years ago, mostly because I found the secret forums to be awful to read. So many authors I had admired proved to have feet of clay, saying heinous things with apparent lack of remorse and complete equanimity. Given the way my own work was consistently marginalized, I decided the organization had little to offer other than dated attitudes and offensive remarks. I haven’t regretted letting my membership lapse. I haven’t missed finding barbs from people whose work I used to enjoy. That which was posted was about what I saw when I was a member, weighted by an inexplicable prejudice against youth and new ideas. Heavens forfend that people should treat one another with respect Period. That runs the gamut of race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, creed, etc. The people who shout the loudest against “political correctness” basically just want the old guard freedom to say horrendous things and to marginalize someone else without being made to feel bad for it. They cry censorship without having any real clue what the first amendment entails. Hint: it doesn’t apply to private organizations.

But anyone who’s stunned that the words they posted inside the secret clubhouse made it to the outside world? I suspect that person doesn’t understand the nature of the internet.

I’m not sure if this is the reaction you were looking for, dear readers, but for certain parties, this is business as usual. They dig and dig, never realizing they’re excavating their own graves with vitriol and bitterness, never acknowledging that their lack of relevance contributes to declining sales. Not all dinosaurs will become extinct in a catastrophic event. Some will just keep shouting into vacuum, puzzled as to why fewer and fewer people care about their message. Don’t we realize How Very Important They Are? Why, in the Old Days… Oh, right. In space, nobody can hear you whine.

And I’m out.

Let’s talk about sex, baby. And SF.

Perdition

Think about your favorite SF novels. Now consider how much sex takes place in them.

Think of your favorite SF films & TV shows. Is there more sex or less than the books?

I’m curious about this proscription, to be honest. Most of the SF I’ve read (with the exception of Heinlein) seems to operate on the assumption that human beings are divorced from their sex drives in the future. But at the same time, they don’t include it in the worldbuilding. Frex: The year is 2304. Natural reproduction has been eliminated. They all use robot nannies and live in bubbles. (Wow, that sounds like a really terrible dystopian actually.) No, the writers just don’t look at it, like it’s a creepy person singing and touching himself on the subway. I don’t want to read SF like that. I want to know how my heroes and heroines feel, what they’re looking for. I think this is a critical part of diversity in the genre, to be honest. If there’s no sex in SF, there can be no questions about sexual orientation. There should be gay men and lesbians in SF, and if you don’t at least nod at their sex lives, then you’re basically omitting them from the genre. I say balls to that. Action and plot are necessary, but for me it rings hollow without emotional development.

I’ve taken a lot of heat over the years for all kinds of things, but it especially seems to rile some readers up when they realize I’ve included sex scenes in my SF aka smut & filth. Let me state for the record: I don’t consider sex to be smut or filth, and it kind of aggravates me when it’s referred to that way. I’m really puzzled by certain aspects of American society, where casual violence is fine, but let loving, consensual sex enter the picture and suddenly it’s something we need to protest. That’s a different post, however, so back to SF. Why can’t there be sex and relationships and SF? Why does that suddenly make it something else, something other?

I’m opening the floor to talk about this now; I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ll give a random commenter a copy of Perdition.

+1 bonus entry: tell me who is the sexiest SF character ever & why.

In which a book pisses me off

So I’m writing about a book late at night, once again. Tonight, though, there’s no incoherent squee of joy. Instead I’m left with this inchoate sense of dissatisfaction, as though this novel had been a pepper pot into which the author hurled all the factors (s)he could conceive of, left it to broil for four hundred pages, and then just sort of stopped writing.

The writing wasn’t bad, although I wouldn’t call it inspired. (S)he had serviceable prose. The book in question was science fiction — and it reminded me once me why I don’t read more of it. Lisa Iriarte commented on one of my other posts that she was surprised not to see more SF titles on my “best of 2008 list”, given that I write it and all.

But you see, this is the problem.

I’m only going to talk about the book in general terms, but let me summarize. The ship was commissioned to go seek out a solution to earth’s population problems, so they set off. Once on the distant planet, things began to go badly wrong, etc. I felt, at times, that parallels were being drawn regarding the starfarers reactions to the natives they encountered, parallels that harked back to, say, Europeans meeting indigenous peoples or the way the British treated the people of India. And yet I thought such veiled observations made little sense in a SF novel because the world-building wasn’t done in such a way that it seemed reasonable to me that certain historical facts would still be fresh in mind.

The mission went vastly pear-shaped until by the end, I had no idea what they’d accomplished if anything. It was a messy, messy book, and left me annoyed that I’d wasted my time with it when I have so many other things to read. But someone had recommended this author to me (not one of you guys, don’t worry. It was someone from a SF convention, and I’m coming to realize that I have very particular tastes where SF is concerned. It takes a lot to please me. Lois McMaster Bujold does, Sharon Shinn does. Connie Willis does. As you can see, it’s an elite cadre.)

But that’s not the bulk of my gripe. Much was made of the sexual practices of these natives. The captain of the ship fornicated with two alien babes (Hello, Cap’n Kirk!) and yet by the end of the novel, both these poor chickies were dead while the captain rode off into the sunset. wtf

To which I can only respond with a resounding WTF? The message horrifies me. Women die for having sex. Men ride off into the sunset? Oh. No. You. Didn’t. This is the kind of shit that sets womenfolk back ten years. And you know, this isn’t failure of HEA outrage, either. For one thing, it’s SF and I understand that’s not guaranteed, but as a second point, neither relationship was fleshed out well enough for me to give a shit whether they came to a happy conclusion or not. But holy crap! They BOTH had to die? For suffering his penis in their hoo-has? I dunno what the point of this was in the book, but I totally missed any symbolism or profundity. I was too busy being revolted.

As this is Smart Bitch day, feel free to use this post to bitch about something, as I have. Go on, let it out. We’re here for you.

Perverted sci-fi to avoid

This thread tickles me. You can go read it for yourself by clicking the title of this post, but I’ll share the crucial bit.

I’m no prude, but I hate reading about sex in SF, especially when it’s pornographic or dirty. Am I alone in this, or do others hate it, too? Here is a small list of books which have had me wince, moan with disgust and temporarily throw the book down:
Dawning Shadow – Somtow Sucharitkul
Throne of Madness – Somtow Sucharitkul
Alien Years – Robert Silverberg
The World Inside – Robert Silverberg (THE worst book I’ve ever read)
Camouflage – Joe Haldeman
Cradle – Arthur C. Clarke & Gentry Lee
Ringworld Engineers – Larry Niven

Of these authors, Gentry Lee and Silverberg are the most perverted. I read reviews that Rama II (written with Gentry Lee)was perverted so I haven’t read that one. Anyone else has any more books to add and avoid?

I’m beyond astonished. Good grief, these books made him moan with disgust? *wide-eyed* But the funny bit is the addition of the word ‘temporarily’. You think he finished the books as a mercy read?

The first thing that occurs to me, however, is that sci-fi has long been the province of adolescent males. Understandably so, the genre offers tales of adventure without the added weight of mature relationships, which carry with them the danger of sexual contact.

*whispers* Coitus.

I’m madly curious as to what’s in these books that got them dubbed “pornographic”. It’s hard for me to imagine venerable authors like Silverberg and Clarke writing in a sweat-soaked frenzy to come up with something truly filthy, just for the sake of shocking this poor reader. Perhaps Silverberg and Clarke are dirty old men?

Heh. I must rebut!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cM53z_jwUbc]

In any event, it makes me wonder how ‘classic’ sf readers are going to respond to my work. The protagonist is a female — and not a man in a woman’s body, as some SF heroines seem to be. A real honest-to-God woman, complete with emotions and everything. Do you think people will complain that I’m smearing my girl cooties all over the purity of the genre?

We have our romance novels. Why must we write in other genres too?! SF should be a manly bastion without sex, emotion, or other squishy stuff, right? It should be solely devoted to killing aliens and flying ships and discovering new worlds. The male hero, if he ever had a relationship, should be alone now. Perhaps his wife died. Yeah, that works. That way, he’s had the sex, but readers aren’t confronted with the horrid reality of recreational coitus. (I said it again!)

Coitus.

So our lone wolf hero can sail away into the stars. Alone. Maybe he can have a robot as his sidekick. But not one who cusses, like Bender from Futurama. That would be dirty and perverted. And his adventures should always glorify violence, and show that the best way to solve a problem is with a ball-peen hammer. Or a laser pistol. Whatever. As long as something dies.

Why are emotional arcs and sexual content dubbed dirty / pornographic? American television is the same way. Insane levels of violence are permitted, but flash a little boob, and people freak out. It’s definitely a yin / yang sort of thing, but yin is seen as more deviant than passive these days. So tell me. Why do we celebrate a cult of death and destruction?