ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH!

Monday , 20, March 2017 33 Comments

Your Friendly Local Renegade Literary Critic administering some well-deserved literary criticism.

It’s Monday! Which can only mean one thing: DADDY WARPIG IS BACK TO WIN ENEMIES AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE!

Now, I make people mad. (You may not have noticed.) But, really, this isn’t my fault.

I’m such a polite and mild-mannered guy.

If me saying “Literary SF is a niche sub-category of Fantasy & Science Fiction that appeals to a smaller audience than stories of adventure and heroics.” makes you mad, that’s kinda on you. It’s true, and accept or deny it, it remains true nonetheless. Even if you love Lit SF, the statement continues to be true. Even if you love Lit SF stories that were deceptively marketed as Hard SF (or anything else), it’s still true.

Lit SF stories—obsessed with seriousness, acceptance as Literature, and what Literary souls misleadingly call “Realism”—are pretentious garbage. Love them or hate them, they remain the same: a niche sub-category of Fantasy & Science Fiction that appeals to a smaller audience than stories of adventure and heroics. Sell them as Hard SF, Epic Fantasy, or New Wave (and Lit F&SF has been sold as all three), they’re still garbage that poisons the genre they infest.

This world, and the people in it, love themselves some pride. They love feeling morally and mentally superior to others, and will pick even the smallest and stupidest distinctions to justify that.

Modern Literature is a genre of pride. It exists so stuffy and narcissistic professors, critics, and readers can gratify their pride by writing or championing works that Regular Joes—even highly intelligent and well read Regular Joes—find stultifying and dreary, the kind of stuff that Orson Scott Card sneers at as books designed to kill schoolchildren’s love of reading. (Lit F&SF at least has the edge here: F&SF is chock full of cool concepts and compelling ideas. It takes an exceptionally clueless berk to turn that into something soul killing.)

Any genre predicated on aggrandizing the author—whose primary purpose is making the author seem intelligent, erudite, or morally superior—is a genre of pride. And that’s the sole purpose of LitFic: making the author look good. The audience is an afterthought, their needs rarely considered, if ever.

People who sneer at heroics are writing Lit F&SF. People who say things like “stories of interplanetary imperialism and destruction” are “the stock in trade of the hack writer”, ditto. And people who loathe and despise Christianity and Christians are almost guaranteed to be peddling poisonous Lit F&SF, no matter what sub-genre they may claim to be writing in.

Being boring, preachy, and perverse is the entire point of these works—if they were exciting, adventuresome, and wholesome, anybody could like them, anybody would read them, so how could you feel superior to them? Only if they repel the audience can you claim you’re better than they who refuse to read these pretentious paeans to pointlessness and prurience.

The search for validation as “real art” is almost always driven by pride, driven by the need to appeal to the Literary or Artistic set for approval, and thus feel elevated and important. Ironically, despite claiming to be champions of an art form, every action Serious Writers / Artists take to Elevate The Art Form only degrades and damages it further. It corrupted cinema, it’s befouling video games, and it nearly destroyed Fantasy & Science Fiction.

The search for Literary Validity was the single greatest cause of the descent of traditionally published SF into the audience-repelling morass of preachy, perverted, and pretentious crap it is today.

Subversives are subtle, and they start out small. A hint of perversion here, a touch of Literary language there. But always, always they push for more and more, and their works grow ever-more degraded.

You may like their stuff, at least the earlier works before the rot became really obvious, and you almost certainly love the genre they are parasitizing. But just because a book has rocketships, neat aliens, or cool ideas doesn’t mean it’s good Sci-Fi. It may just be using the veneer of that which you love to wallpaper over something rotten, to trick you into loving that which is odious and poisonous.

“Realist” Lit SF can often be mistaken for Hard SF because its defenders claim the same virtues: realism and accuracy. They deliberately obfuscate the very real differences between the two.

Hard SF is not necessarily hostile to heroics, “Realistic” Lit SF always is. Hard SF is not necessarily hostile to adventure or action, “Realistic” Lit SF always is. Hard SF is not necessarily hostile to morality or Christianity, “Realistic” Lit SF, being a genre of pride, always is.

Works like this NEED to be criticized, NEED to be opposed, NEED to be exposed. Authors who write this garbage, ditto. And editors who published this trash (even if they were well-meaning but naive) likewise need be called to task. Even if it stings, even if you love the work, it must be done. This is what Literary Criticism is FOR.

So be nice to your Friendly Local Renegade Literary Critic. He may actually be targeting works or ideas that NEED evisceration.

Even if everyone else is convinced otherwise.


Jasyn Jones, better known as Daddy Warpig, is a host on the Geek Gab podcast, a regular on the Superversive SF livestreams, and blogs at Daddy Warpig’s House of Geekery. Check him out on Twitter.

33 Comments
  • NARoberts says:

    On the substance of this matter, we agree. I am not sure we agree on where the line between the valuable work and the garbage is, though.

    Some of us seem to want to put the Campbellians on the garbage side. I do not. I only want to put the pink slime on the garbage side.

    • Blume says:

      I would argue they wrote pink slime so your defense would be invalid. Or do you seriously defend stranger in a strange land and time enough for love?

      • NARoberts says:

        Its news to me that those were written under Campbell’s auspices. Anyway, I’ve never read them, and don’t need to, since they are touted as garbage.

        I will defend Asimov as a decent person and his work as entertaining and immensely clever.

        And others have praised Heinlein’s juveniles.

        If my defense was too broad, than I think your condemnation is also too broad.

        My own understanding tends to run thus: the pulp era was near-unreservedly good, from a values standpoint; the Cambelline age, (forties, fifties, perhaps part of the sixties) was still mostly decent, but not entirely, and near everything post-seventies was unwholesome, continuing worse and worse until the current day.

        • Blume says:

          I think the time idea related to the discussion is ridiculous. Is silver John no longer pulp because some of his stories were written after Campbell or Philip k. Dick no longer new wave because he started in the fifties? Did not Heinlein’s first story not show that he always embraced the ideas expressed in his later work? Does not the Campbellian Era comit all the sins listed under lit fiction by Jasyn?

          • NARoberts says:

            Does it really matter what his politics were?

            The only reason we have to complain about them is when he insinuates them into his writing.

            His first novel wasn’t even published because it was bad in exactly that way.

            Are you going to say that Jeffro and co. should never have praised “Have Spacesuit” on this blog?

            As for your other point: once again I think your condemnation is too broad. Do you really mean to throw out all the blue SF? Even Jasyn never called for that.

          • Blume says:

            You mistake me. I deny the Campbellian Era was blue. Vox retro actively included it because it lacked the romances he hated and focused more on the technical aspects than relational as Vox thought appropriate. But the truth is it was and has always been “realistic” literary science fiction. Clark disproves Christianity in childhoods end. Asimov mocks religion as the opiate of the masses in foundation. Multiple people have related how they were trying to copy Hemingway’s style. They were writing “realistic” literary science fiction and doing it on purpose. Heinlein’s juveniles aren’t even Campbellian under your rubric because he wrote those for Alice dagelish.

          • NARoberts says:

            Well, now I think your condemnation is not only too broad, it is too harsh as well.

            Now I must admit and disclose that Asimov is the only one of this era that I have read. Blue SF has never interested me enough to read it.

            I like Asimov, flaws and all. Wooden characters and all, sparse, un-enthralling prose and all. Because he had some really great ideas, great mysteries, plots, intrigues and reveals. He was good. He was also a good person, deeply aware of his own flaws.

            But I see him condemned out of hand here and elsewhere on CH. Asimov was a blue as it gets, and that is not a bad thing.

            You seem to be advocating a standard of purity that is impractical in my eyes. If the blues aren’t blue, what ISN’T pink slime? Are we to espouse so narrow a view as to claim that NOTHING but pulp has any value?

            I don’t advise forgiving the other Cambellines if they truly were rabid SJW’s who produced propaganda. But I know Asimov’s work and you can’t convince me that he was guilty in this way, so I would want more evidence before condemning those others.

            You seem to want to say “These writers believed these things and wrote this and that and are therefore condemned!”

            I want to say:

            “Despite their beliefs, real or imagined, they also wrote this and that other thing which we admire, and as such, should not be condemned.”

            Condemn the bad work, if you want; condemn the author personally, if you must. Perhaps you do them an injustice, but perhaps not.

            But we don’t want to become the new arbiters of purity. I am not the first to use these words here.

          • Blume says:

            Fair, I see your standard as no pink slime exists, if a writer’s non pink slime works excuse his pink slime.

            But let’s discuss Asimov. I am most familiar with his foundation series which I actually enjoyed. My condemnation arises from the chapters dealing with the fake religion created by the foundation to fool their gullible neighbors. It is created as tool and then discarded when no longer needed and it is implied only primitive and stupid people believe in religion and then grow out of it.

            Do you disagree with this and if not how do you defend asimov against the charge laid here by Jasyn of asimov writing “realistic” literary science fiction?

          • NARoberts says:

            That is not my standard. As I said, condemn them personally if you have proof of their unwholesome philosophies. I am not going to defend them if I know nothing to the contrary to offer in said defense.

            I’m not going to defend the man who wrote “Stranger,” certainly.

            I was under the impression that you wanted Heinlein classed as pink slime because of “Stranger” and the like. Fair enough. I have no reason to disagree. But you seem to be under the impression that I wanted Heinlein forgiven wholesale and baptized into our canon for “Spacesuit” or the like, which is not my argument. My desire is for us not to call “Spacesuit” pink slime because the author wrote “Stranger” (this is just an example because I have no others). This goes with my rubric of the pulp era being good, the Campbell era mixed, and the post-new-wave being pretty much all junk. You are saying the Campbell era was all bad. I am saying, hold on! Let’s pick through it and see before we start blogging about how awful it was.

            On Asimov. I cannot recall him belittling religion so openly with that plot. Superstition as an element of religion is not uncommon. Separating spirituality from mysticism is often hard work. This is the truth, nothing SJW about that.

            If the topic of superstition as an element of religion is taboo to us we would have to throw out Howard and Burroughs. Both used the trick of having their hero hide in the pagan idol and speak to the devotees through it, to scare and command them.

            In both instances the priests of the idol had been doing the same thing.

            The Foundationers likewise systematically built a “cult of the worship of technology” in their neighboring, more primitive, solar systems. This has nothing to do with religion, everything to do with superstition.

            Hell, Star Wars did it with the Ewoks worshiping C3PO. The trope of a clever charlatan taking over the loyalty of the superstitious by posing as a messenger of the divine is an adventure cliche as pulpy as it gets.

          • Blume says:

            A moment of trickery is not a millennium long plan of subterfuge. Tarzan doesn’t create the idol and teach the shaman the words to say. Foundation does. He doesnt talk about the backwards natives getting out of their need for religion

        • NARoberts says:

          “Tarzan doesn’t create the idol and teach the shaman the words to say.”

          Is the only issue that you seem to be bothered over that the charlatans who gull the superstitious are the sympathetic characters?

          TL;DR on my previous post. I don’t find the concept of a false religion being used to gain influence at all offensive in of itself.

          Nor do I recall any instance of Asimov “preaching” the woes of religion. If you have any particular passages that you think serve this purpose, tell me, I will look them up in my copy (or you can just quote them).

          • Blume says:

            I am saying they aren’t the same. Tarzan is sympathetic and the first set of enemies defeated by the foundation’s false religion is just as antagonistic and unsympathetic as the cannibals and degenerate men begiuled by Tarzan. You are right to call it a trope in the pulps that a villain dupes the common tunes and a hero stumbles upon the trick and uses it for his own gain. But it is not presented as the trope. It is presented as the progressive utopian ideal of the advancement of man. Which is the whole point of foundation. If it was the trope then you would be admitting Hari Seldon and the entire foundation and second foundation were the villians. Which is not how the story presents them.

  • Cameron says:

    I can swallow preachy message fiction if it’s done right.

    Alan Dean Foster’s “Midworld” from 1975 is essentially revenge porn for tree huggers, but it’s packaged in a nice, almost non-stop little 200-page adventure on one of Sci-Fi’s better world settings, so I recommend it without hesitation.

    Today’s authors couldn’t achieve the same thing without adding another 300 pages of tedious filler.

  • This lit stuff is what tempts me to get into award fights. Boosting the depressing-cynical-subversive LitSF as the face of the genre to outsiders has been a successful game for decades now. It’s been chasing potential book readers into fanfic, games, and anime.

    Which reminds me, I have to give some more thought to my Dragon ballot.

  • Declan Finn says:

    My problem is that I always thought of Honor Harrington as Lit SFF.

  • Anthony says:

    If me saying “Literary SF is a niche sub-category of Fantasy & Science Fiction that appeals to a smaller audience than stories of adventure and heroics.” makes you mad, that’s kinda on you.

    Well, gosh, if that’s really all you meant then we have nothing to argue about.

  • john silence says:

    We gotta get ’em definitions straight.

    Lafferty is Literature with capital L.
    Gene Wolfe is literature with capital L.
    Cordwainer Smith is literature with capital L.

    And they are all SF authors. And they have another thing in common, guess what it is…

    Hell, even leftard critics were agree on Wolfe, at very least. He is demanding, difficult Literature.

    Oh, and what about Dune? Literary SF of “interplanetary imperialism and destruction”.

    • Yes, they are difficult, but they also entertain. That is the point DW is making. LitSF is a contradiction in terms. It is neither literary, nor is it SF, that is entertaining.

      You don’t like Warpig’s posts? Don’t read ’em. We don’t NEED your opinions.

    • Nathan says:

      Typically, the most damaging school of literary thought to SFF is literary realism as promoted by Howells and successor movements. A school of thought where “nobody murders or debauches anybody else; there is no arson or pillage of any sort; there is no ghost, or a ravening beast, or a hair-breadth escape, or a shipwreck, or a monster of self-sacrifice, or a lady five thousand years old in the course of the whole story” is contradictory to science fiction and fantasy.

      • Cameron says:

        <>

        We really do need a better pejorative label for what DW is describing than “LitSF.” On its face it makes it sound like we disdain good writing and it requires too much explanation outside of #pulprevolution’s bubble (and even within it!).

        • Cameron says:

          “safe space SF&F”

          “award bait SF&F”

          “mundania”

          “checkmark SF&F”

          “-ism SF&F”

          “PCB.S.SF&F”

          Hey, I’m tryin’ here.

        • deuce says:

          I kinda like “-Ism SFF”. It gets to the heart of a lot of the things wrong with that brand/whatever. Short and sweet. It has a minus sign at the very beginning of the term to imply the inherent negativity of that SFF school of thought. Pretty good rhetoric. Plus, “-Ism” looks kinda alienish/exotic.

        • Blume says:

          Classic is what you mean when you say literary but trust me, Jasyn’s is the one in use when literary writer’s talk about their own genre. My wife is one.

        • PC Bushi says:

          Indeed. After reading all this I’m still not sure of what books and authors fall into the “LitSF” bin.

    • icewater says:

      Works of those authors speak for themselves. Neither Herbert nor Wolfe, to my knowledge, ever argued that their work is “genuine literature” and thus of higher intellectual and artistic merit to that of “regular” genre fiction authors.
      Pretentious Torite shitlibs are exact opposite, as they refuse to shut up about it while their actual writing is anything but.

      But yeah, we need another term for them and their “art”.

  • instasetting says:

    You don’t seem that offensive.

  • IMHO this is your best post. On point.

  • The Warpig charges forth! Bold, brash, tusks capped with steel to reinforce the points upon which he impales his foes! Driving all before him lest they take those tusks to their chests, or get trampled underneath steel-shod hooves, the Father of Battleswine strikes terror in the weak hearts of weak men with their weak minds.

    Excellent post.

  • B&N says:

    “Being boring, preachy, and perverse is the entire point of the Mainstream News Media—if they were exciting, adventuresome, and wholesome, anybody could like them, anybody would listen to them.”

    so true

  • You know it’s LitSF when the editorial review praising the work and gushing over how groundbreaking it was uses phrases like:

    “It cannot be said, however, that this is a rollicking good story.”

    “But the real question: is it fun to read?” is posed in a sober and serious tone, not as sarcasm. The review then goes on to answer than question with a resounding NO in the form of:

    “…sometimes difficult to reread with much enjoyment.” This is apparently code for the difficulty of rereading something you had to suffer reading in the first place. Because we reread things we don’t enjoy. USC Title 26 (the IRS code) would be another example.

    “…decades after its publication, one feels that those who chose it for the Hugo and Nebula awards were right to do so, for it truly does stand out as one of the great books of that era. It is immensely rich in timeless wisdom and insight.” (I’m going to borrow Cameron’s suggestion here and go with #AwardBaitSF&F)

    “…is science fiction for the thinking reader, and should be read attentively in order to properly savor the depth of insight and the subtleties of plot and character.” Right. That means, don’t let your mind wander at the unengaging and unimmersive storytelling, the unrelatable, unlikable characters and the WTF non-plot. If you do, you’re not a thinking reader. Got it?

    This review then goes on to say that it’s worth the pain of reading, even if just for the bragging rights of being able to say that you survived the ordeal. If you survive it and can make words that sound like it enlightened you as well, then you get goodthink bragging rights. This review is meant as PRAISE, not criticism, BTW. Seriously.

    Boring+pretentious=“L”iterature

    Boring+pretentious+spaceships/magic=“L”itSF

    Frankly, if someone used such phrases to praise my work I’d be sharpening my … um … pitchfork.

    Big “L” literary focuses on the prose. The style. The doublespeak. The literary genius behind the language that ignores the fact that you as a reader have among your choices, the ability to throw the book against a wall, and burn it. That is unless you’re a poor shmuck that’s being forced to read it to earn your literary spurs.

  • Jasyn Jones says:

    LitFic has been sold under many banners: Hard SF, Epic Fantasy, Steampunk, etc. It doesn’t mean ALL Hard SF is LitFic or ALL Epic Fantasy is LitFic, just that “Realist” LitFic people will use any label they can to peddle their poison. They are currently using “Lovecraftian”, “Pulp”, and “Heroic Fantasy” to peddle LitFic. It’s a lie.

    To be clear: I am not saying all Hard SF is LitFic, or all Steampunk, Epic Fantasy, whatever is LitFic. I don’t believe that, would never assert that. I’m not even asserting that MOST of those qualify, just that LitFic-ers have used those labels.

    It’s all about duping the audience into accepting their garbage by slathering it with the trappings or ideas from good works. They use their imaginations to make their poison seem sweet.

    Lead tastes sweet, which is why children ate lead paint chips, but it isn’t sugar, or even High Fructose Corn Syrup. It’s poison, no matter how sweet it tastes.

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