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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Women Destroy SF

I must confess that I am rather enjoying the way in which my original assertion from 2005 has now become an established meme in the science fiction community.  Sure, they intend it in an ironic way, but the publication will almost certainly provide additional supporting evidence for my hypothesis that women have destroyed the SF/F literary subgenre by feminizing it.
Women Destroy SF — Special Issue

September 5, 2013 — It could be said that women invented science fiction; after all, Mary Shelley wrote what is considered by many to be the first science fiction novel (Frankenstein). Yet some readers seem to have this funny idea that women don’t–or can’t–write science fiction. Some have even gone so far as to accuse women of destroying science fiction with their girl cooties.

So to help prove how silly that notion is, Lightspeed is proud to announce that in 2014 we’ll be publishing a “Women Destroy SF” special issue, with a guest editor at the helm. More details to come soon, so watch this space!
I tend to suspect it is going to confirm the notion rather than prove how silly it is, but we shall await the evidence before judging it. I would also point out that the problem isn't the girl cooties per se, but rather, the strong female preference for writing thinly disguised romance that is then sold as science fiction to men who are perfectly aware of the bait-and-switch. It's not that women can't write excellent fiction. They can, they have, and they do. But most women who are sufficiently solitary-minded to write are too didactic, too self-obsessed, too bitter about their low SMV value, and too little interested in science or any other intellectual concepts to successfully write in a literary format that is first and foremost driven by ideas.

As it happens, the publishing situation is actually much more dire and the destruction caused by women is considerably more widespread than many people imagine.

Consider this: as of 10 November, I have sold or given away 26,092 Selenoth books on Amazon alone in the last 11 months. Those are books that women at not one, but two, mainstream publishers were instrumental in declining to publish, and as a result, those books have not appeared in a single bookstore anywhere in the world.

Now, think about the multiplier effect of a major publisher's distribution channel compared to that of a small independent, electronic-only publisher?  Even if it is only 5x, that likely would have been enough to put A Throne of Bones in the top 5 percent of best-selling fantasy.  (This may be why the bestselling author who wrote to me said: "I very much found myself wondering what would have happened had it been published by a large house with a marketing campaign behind it.") And all the time spent reading those 26 thousand books, which was not inconsiderable, is time that was obviously not spent reading the various offerings of the mainstream publishers.

More importantly, the money that would have been spent on the nonexistent "multiplier books" was mostly not spent on other science fiction and fantasy novels, but was instead spent on the wide variety of other non-literary options available to the sort of men who make up the books' primary market. And I am far from the only male-oriented writer who was shut out by the SF/F gatekeepers in favor of the scalzified material. This means that there a very good case to be made that women have not only destroyed science fiction, but have also contributed significantly to the lower profits of the publishing industry as well as the ongoing collapse of the chain and local bookstores.

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89 Comments:

Blogger Francis W. Porretto November 16, 2013 6:07 AM  

"I would also point out that the problem isn't the girl cooties, but rather, the strong female preference for writing thinly disguised romance then trying to sell it as science fiction to men who are aware of the bait-and-switch."

You're treading on rather swampy ground here. While I too disdain, generally, bait-and-switch tactics of the sort to which you allude, there are some gaping gaps in your position as implied by the above statement:

1. Are you prepared to state that an SF story should not have any romantic elements in it? If not, what are you prepared to say, distinctly and definitively, about the admixture of romantic elements into an SF novel?

2. Whatever your opinion on question 1, are you prepared to offer a "template" for an SF story, in terms of allowed and disallowed plot elements, motifs, character types, stylistic choices, and so forth? If not, doesn't the whole contretemps come down to divergent tastes?

3. If we retreat from the intensive, and traditionally frustrating, effort to create a bright-line definition of what SF is (and therefore, what it is not), are you willing to give us an extensive -- i.e., by example and tabulation -- approach to distinguishing it from other genres?

In closing: Pub World -- i.e., the conventional publishing houses and their support structures -- are oriented to the market in a way more terrifying than most persons are aware. (I say that as one who gave up trying to batter my way through their gates some time ago.) They cannot know beforehand whether a book will attract a sufficient audience to be profitable. There's simply no good way to probe that question, which is what gives rise to the editors' maxim "Give us the same, but different." By implication, their receptivity to the sort of SF/romance hybrid you deplore must be satisfying the empirical test of profitability. No matter what that might say about the shifting tastes of readers who shop at the SF shelf, that vindicates both the decisions of the writers and the judgment of the publishers rather conclusively.

Anonymous VD November 16, 2013 6:26 AM  

I don't think so, Francis. Allow me to answer your questions.

1. No. Yes, to the extent that a novel that is primarily focused on romance and contains neither intellectual speculation nor science should not be considered a science fiction novel. Unless you are willing to go so far as to deny the existence of literary genres and sub-genres, you are indulging in little more than rhetorical hand-waving. It is not at all difficult to discern the difference between a science fiction novel like Frank Herbert's Dune, a romance novel like Danielle Steele's Matters of the Heart, a thriller like Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity, and a mystery like Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.

2. No. And no, it does not all come down to divergent tastes. Genres are observably distinct and one would have to be a complete fool to deny it. Now, cross-genre books do exist, but the point is that they are a mongrel literature, they are cross-genre rather than pure.

3. You are simply incorrect here. The publishers are not profit-driven, as evidenced by their continued failure to pursue very profitable markets. You are confusing the motives of the publishing company with the motives of their decision-making employees, which are entirely different, and in some cases, in direct opposition. Neither of the two decisions to which I referred had anything to do with profit; both publishers knew that picking up the books would be very profitable for them. That's why they were talking to me in the first place.

As I've previously noted, I will have to get to around 100k sales+downloads per year before the profit motive will begin to overwhelm the ideological one. The gatekeepers are ideological and short-sighted, but they're not completely insane.

that vindicates both the decisions of the writers and the judgment of the publishers rather conclusively.

First, note that your logic is circular, as you suggest that whatever the publishers publish must be the optimal decision by virtue of their deciding to publish it. Second, that is obviously false when the writers are getting increasingly smaller advances while the publishers are selling fewer and fewer new books.

Anonymous Aeoli November 16, 2013 6:32 AM  

New around here?

Blogger Francis W. Porretto November 16, 2013 6:53 AM  

There's quite a lot of outright balderdash in your reply, Vox, but rather than take up your server space, I'll address it at Liberty's Torch. It does make for a lively conversation; I'll give you that much.

Anonymous VD November 16, 2013 6:57 AM  

There's quite a lot of outright balderdash in your reply, Vox

Empty words, Francis. Especially since you're quite clearly ignoring the observable fact of an industry in decline. The change in the publishers' demographics isn't the sole culprit, of course, but it is a not-insignificant factor. Anyhow, provide the link and I'll be happy to read it.

Anonymous PhillipGeorge(c)2013 November 16, 2013 7:13 AM  

Your definitions of SF seem narrow VD. First there was Darwin and then came the IPCC.

SF is by far the most widely published genre of literature. Just glance at "Wrong, why experts keep failing us". These days fiction and peer reviewed papers are in lock step.

Everything/ everything is an epistemological undertaking. Which thoughts are one's own is too disturbing for most folks I suspect. And did women really leave the kitchen? With a job at a publishing house that might really be just working a different line of cup cakes. Little sweet treaties for the mental digest.

Or are they women at all? Persona non grata? Perhaps they are just Morlocks in drag, or was Darwin and honorary woman?

Suggest the problem is really finding men with the chests CS Lewis found wanting.

Anonymous jm November 16, 2013 7:36 AM  

Ann?

Anonymous Carlotta November 16, 2013 7:40 AM  

According to Wiki

"The study of women within science fiction in the last decades of the 20th century has been driven in part by the feminist and gay liberation movements, and has included strands of the various related and spin-off movements, such as gender studies and queer theory. In the 1970s, a number of events began to focus on women in fandom, professional science fiction, and as characters. In 1974, Pamela Sargent published an influential anthology, Women of Wonder: Science Fiction Stories by Women, About Women -- the first of many anthologies to come that focused on women or gender rules.
Additionally, movement among writers concerned with feminism and gender roles sprang up, leading to a genre of "feminist science fiction including Joanna Russ' 1975 The Female Man, Samuel R. Delany's 1976 Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia, and Marge Piercy's 1976 Woman on the Edge of Time.
The 1970s also saw a vibrant gay liberation movement, which made its presence known in science fiction,[20] with gay/lesbian and gay/lesbian-friendly panels at conventions and articles in fanzines; gay/lesbian content increasingly present in the fiction itself; the gay/lesbian bookstore "A Different Light", which took its name from Elizabeth A. Lynn's novel of the same name;[21][22] and a focus on GLBT issues in the pages of feminist publications."

Can we consider two things?
1. Feminist and homosexual activist ruin everything.
2. Everything will be ok soon because feminist and homosexual activist organizations are made up of feminist and homosexual activists.....and they ruin everything.

Also for consideration, the following lament.

"If you think that SF and F are free of this bias, think again. The cover of our own SFWA Bulletin (the 2013 Spring issue that just arrived) only lists articles by male authors. Meanwhile inside the magazine, there are no less than forty-three cover images of novels by male authors as opposed to five by female authors. (One of those five was clipped in such a way as the name of the author was removed from the image.) In the Fall of 2012 issue, the numbers were male: twenty, female: twelve--and that was in an issue that highlighted female SFF authors. Reviewers of the women-centered anthology The Other Half of the Sky praise the "female protagonists ... just as incredible and compelling as their male counterparts." How long will we have to go on proving this point?"

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2013/03/off-the-map-women-in-science-a.html



They are trying to right a horrible wrong. Check your tri-racial, male privilege.






Anonymous VD November 16, 2013 7:41 AM  

No, Francis is not Ann Morgan. In addition to posting far too few comments, he hasn't been a drama queen or complained about being bullied at school 30 years ago.

Anonymous VD November 16, 2013 7:46 AM  

Reviewers of the women-centered anthology The Other Half of the Sky praise the "female protagonists ... just as incredible and compelling as their male counterparts." How long will we have to go on proving this point?"

Only as long as it takes to square the circle or prove that 2+2=37. Look, no one is saying they shouldn't be permitted to write that crap or to publish it if they can find someone dumb enough to do so, only that they shouldn't be especially surprised to discover that most SF readers don't want to read what simple isn't actual SF.

It's always the same story. Idiots trying to make people do what the idiots want rather than permitting people to do what they want. Whether it is the Fed, the Obama administration, or some shoggoths in a New York City publisher's office, it's always the same old song: "why won't you just do what I want you to do?"

Anonymous VryeDenker November 16, 2013 7:55 AM  

Isn't Lightspeed a porn network?

Anonymous Idle Spectator November 16, 2013 8:02 AM  

And I am far from the only male-oriented writer who was shut out by the SF/F gatekeepers in favor of the scalzified mafia.

Fixed.

Anonymous lucius November 16, 2013 8:05 AM  

It's not just SF. I bought the Mystery Writers of America anthology "Mystery Box." I haven't read mystery in a while and wanted to know where the genre is at. The stories were dreadful. Not poorly written. The stories themselves were disgusting. And apparently, like SF, mystery is not about mystery but about the feelings of the characters. In the lead story, the weak male protagonist sounds like a lesbian. Yet women complain that men can't write female characters? The bitchy women's suffrage PI saves the day. The whodunnit was easily guessed and didn't seem to matter to the author who treated it with disdain. It read like chick lit with a murder.

Unfortunately, I kept reading. The next story concerned a hard charging reporter slut who discovered the older alpha who banged her 50 shades of whore had been the murderer. Not that the murder mattered. She left town having discovered something about herself.

And it just got worse. The final depridation was a male author forcing the reader into the head of a sympathetic character who was revealed at the end to be a pedophilic murderer. WTF. That qualifies as mental abuse.

Blogger LP 999/Eliza November 16, 2013 8:10 AM  

Women don't do STEM(g)'s very well. Few do.

Emo, romance trainwrecks are not SF.

Leave SF to men.

Blogger Doom November 16, 2013 8:10 AM  

Saying women have destroyed anything is like saying children have taken over the gaming world. While, in my opinion, both have some merit toward debate, not in the way it would seem.

Women couldn't fight their way in any front door, or any door, to save their lives. Weak, almost pathetically, of mind, body, and spirit, save in their place, which is beyond the men who have made the world work for them. They have to be allowed in, then facilitated. The ones who have wrought ruination are men. Lesser men, men with the eye on the bottom *cough* line, foolish or stupid men... matters little. It has been men who have ruined SF/F. That they used women to do it also matters little.

Put a noose over your head, step off a stool, and complain that a woman made you do it. But don't look to me for belief or sympathy. Just don't hold it against me if I go through your pockets for small change.

Anonymous Lucius November 16, 2013 8:18 AM  

Nora Roberts always included fantasy themes but her books weren't fantasy. That's the difference. Imagine Roberts breaking in today as a fantasy writer and you get an idea about the problem. Great writer. Not fantasy.

SF declines because of breaking genre elements like eschewing happy endings. If the genre betrays reader expectations, readers will be more wary of buying a book.

Blogger buzzardist November 16, 2013 8:26 AM  

Maybe the problem, then, isn't so much with women writing science fiction, and is more with women in power at publishing houses. Science fiction isn't being destroyed because women are writing material that they pass off as science fiction; it's being destroyed because female editors at publishing houses are making idiotic, solipsistic decisions to publish what titillates their own nether regions rather than what sells to a broader audience that includes men.

Anonymous Idle Spectator November 16, 2013 8:28 AM  

Only as long as it takes to square the circle

In 1882, the task was proven to be impossible, as a consequence of the Lindemann–Weierstrass theorem which proves that pi (π) is a transcendental, rather than an algebraic irrational number; that is, it is not the root of any polynomial with rational coefficients. It had been known for some decades before then that the construction would be impossible if pi were transcendental, but pi was not proven transcendental until 1882. Approximate squaring to any given non-perfect accuracy, in contrast, is possible in a finite number of steps, since there are rational numbers arbitrarily close to π.

Well there goes that idea.

or prove that 2+2=37.

Now there's something I can get behind.

Define + as your binary operator function of addition where + : S x S ---> S.
In example, (3,5) |---> 8 is the same thing as saying 3 + 5 = 8, and 3, 5, and 8 are elements in set S.

Now consider a set K defined as {2, 37}. Define a partial constant function binary operator +* on K, where +* : K x K ---> K.

Except take the domain of +* to only be the subset of K as {2}, to make it partial. And take everything as mapping to 37, to make it constant. So (2,2) |---> 37 or 2 + 2 = 37.

That took less than an hour. Now apologize. Yeah. That's right. Apologize.

Anonymous MrGreenMan November 16, 2013 8:40 AM  

It's funny to see a new commenter roll in, sound and fury signifying nothing, and then try to piggy-back Vox Popoli traffic so that we can see more sputum.

Mr. Porretto, when it has less of science element than Farscape, it's not science fiction. When the story can be transported to any New York coffee shop without having any impact on the plot, or it's all about some magic, special girl getting her magic, special guy, it's a romance thinly disguised as a fantasy or science fiction story.

Being charitable, I will note that your excessive fixation on providing the purity of science fiction or fantasy literature is only one way to read "writing thinly disguised romance that is then sold as science fiction", and not a particularly good one. It does let you set yourself up as the victim, the put upon, the challenger to mean ole Vox, defining purity of science fiction as white guys and trying to keep everyone out of his fort. It must be fun being the victim of a mean old censor.

But let's take a far easier one - what is romance? Because, if something checks the boxes on being a romance, and happens to have an opening sentence "The characters are knee-high dwarves who fetishize elbows and live on the dark moon Areola", it's still a romance story in drag. Quite happily, there's a definition from the Romance Writers of America (reproduced here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romance_novel):

According to the Romance Writers of America, the main plot of a romance novel must revolve around the two people as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a relationship together. Both the conflict and the climax of the novel should be directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship although the novel can also contain subplots that do not specifically relate to the main characters' romantic love. Furthermore, a romance novel must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending." Others, including Leslie Gelbman, a president of the Berkley Group, define the genre more simply, stating only that a romance must make the "romantic relationship between the hero and the heroine ... the core of the book."

So, people who write what are inherently love stories - no matter how freaky; they can be woman-on-seal, woman-on-self, woman-on-orc, woman-on-geek, because the stupid fashion of the age is to always make the woman the active agent - and then dress them up with some handful of symbols or tropes appropriated from Star Wars or Star Trek or Lord of the Rings, like maybe it's all about their love story, but they happen to be elves - this is a romance masquerading as something else. When the plot is always the strong, exceptional, smart-tough-and-amazingly-dexterous heroine eventually learning to love herself while discovering her fulfillment through romantic love, it's a bait-and-switch, and it's really boring as well.

Your idea that middle-management women make decisions for profit motive, not personal petty reasons, is laughable. Do you get into the corporate world? A great example of this "profit" motive was the study in the late 1990s of buying behavior of middle-level ad buyers at major corporations. Fox News had more viewers than CNN, but CNN maintained higher profitability per ad slot, because the mid-level ad buyers - who were mostly female, because women get to middle management and stagnate - were not interested in taking the ad spots from Fox News, but were ideologically aligned with CNN, and so - profit motive be damned, cost savings be damned - they were going to buy from their friends, even if it cost more money.

Anonymous VD November 16, 2013 8:42 AM  

Science fiction isn't being destroyed because women are writing material that they pass off as science fiction; it's being destroyed because female editors at publishing houses are making idiotic, solipsistic decisions to publish what titillates their own nether regions rather than what sells to a broader audience that includes men.

Well, yes. Obviously both aspects are necessary. It's not the fault of the writers that the editors want to publish tedious non-genre crap in the genre. But it is their fault that they write what they write.

Blogger hadley November 16, 2013 8:57 AM  

Why can't they have a pink SF shelf and a blue SF shelf at Borders?

The girls will get what they want and not have to delve into science/engineering, and I would get what I want without having to wallow in werewolf/dragon/elf lust.

Anonymous VD November 16, 2013 8:59 AM  

Why can't they have a pink SF shelf and a blue SF shelf at Borders?

Because it would be embarrassing to see how little the pink shelves sold. Remember, the old Blue SF still outsells new Pink SF. It's like the NBA propping up the WNBA... except all the new games are WNBA.

Anonymous Goober November 16, 2013 9:02 AM  

Mr. Shelley wrote Frankenstein

Anonymous VD November 16, 2013 9:09 AM  

I very much doubt it:

"In 1818 when Frankenstein was first published anonymously, with a preface by Percy Bysshe Shelley, most reviewers assumed he had written it himself, except for those who suspected that it was written by someone even less experienced than he, perhaps the daughter of a famous novelist, as Mary Shelley was. Marks of inexperience can be found on every page. There are three narrators: Thomas Walton, Victor Frankenstein and the monster himself. The three of them, including the inarticulate monster, speak in paragraphs, with the same tendency to proliferating parallel clauses and phrases and the occasional theatrical ejaculation. The climactic ponts of the action remain undescribed, usually because the abnormally sensitive male narrator has fainted or fled or become deathly sick. The narrative has more loose ends than a grass skirt."

It reads much more like a woman's novel, especially with the feminine narrator.

Anonymous Darth Toolpodicus November 16, 2013 9:10 AM  

And the proof starts out with:

"(re) Define + as your binary operator function of addition where + : S x S ---> S. "

Anonymous Salt November 16, 2013 9:12 AM  

SF/F needs a good douching, putting reality on it all. A small Orc army of all men fighting limp wrist feminized male elves while one enterprising midget Troll female services both sides with her exotic traveling Cat House. She uses her profits to finance both sides, maintaining her income stream and providing gainful employment for all the females of the Realm.

Blogger Carnivore November 16, 2013 9:21 AM  

@lucius
It's not just SF. I bought the Mystery Writers of America anthology "Mystery Box." I haven't read mystery in a while and wanted to know where the genre is at. The stories were dreadful.

This. Same here. I used to enjoy mystery, crime & detective novels in my younger days and recently came back to the genres via my local library - fortunately - since it would have been a waste of money had I purchased the crap that currently passes for mystery and crime. I then checked out some older novels to refresh my memory and, sure enough, the difference was astounding - even with novels not that old - e.g. the first few Spensers from the early 70's.

Anonymous Idle Spectator November 16, 2013 9:32 AM  

And the proof starts out with: "(re) Define + as your binary operator function of addition where + : S x S ---> S."

That's why we make sure to distinguish between + and +* there. That's the classic definition of a plus sign for addition. The one you see everyday in elementary school, just more formal. Really I didn't need the + at all, I just added it at the beginning to give people who look at numbers and want to shit their pants a way of following along.

Anonymous Idle Spectator November 16, 2013 9:44 AM  

But if you really, really want to, say redefine notation +* as +. "I never said which plus sign!" For the lulz, of course.

Anonymous Henry10th November 16, 2013 9:55 AM  

My Sci Fi consumption consists of mainly alternate history, time travel and the odd classic here and there. I have no problem finding what I want. But here's my question.

Don't publishers publish what they think they can sell? And then, based on what has and has not sold (authors and genre-wise), alter the kind of books they publish?

What I'm asking is, if "female Sci Fi" doesn't sell, why would a publisher continue to publish it?

Is Sci Fi being treated as a subsidized genre by publishers in which any loss from publishing choices is written on for so as to promote a certain kind of Sci Fi?

And as for your work, what were the reasons that larger publishers turned it down for larger, store wide distribution?

Anonymous daddynichol November 16, 2013 10:07 AM  

The Pox Vay syndrome.

Anonymous Mike43 November 16, 2013 10:11 AM  

"Nora Roberts always included fantasy themes but her books weren't fantasy."

So, what do you make of her Eve Dallas series. She writes those under the name J.D. Robb. I've read a couple, and once Dallas got hitched, it seemed to settle down to a decent sci-fi crime thriller. Alot of moaning and groaning, but the stories seem okay.

Anonymous The other skeptic November 16, 2013 10:15 AM  

So to help prove how silly that notion is, Lightspeed is proud to announce that in 2014 we’ll be publishing a “Women Destroy SF” special issue, with a guest editor at the helm. More details to come soon, so watch this space!

Another publisher whose books I will not bother with.

The narrative has more loose ends than a grass skirt.

You didn't point out who wrote it. That Germaine Greer wrote that is interesting.

Anonymous The other skeptic November 16, 2013 10:19 AM  

Why is someone from Bangalore reporting on what is purely a US phenomenon

Anonymous Darth Toolpodicus November 16, 2013 10:20 AM  

"That's why we make sure to distinguish between + and +* there. That's the classic definition of a plus sign for addition."

Indeed, though again, moving away from the natural number operation implied by "+" to include set theory generalization is in fact a redefinition of terms. Mathematical semantics.

Anonymous Lucius November 16, 2013 10:32 AM  

@Mike43
I always took JD Robb to be romance first, future/SF second. I liked the books that I read from Robb. She's a good storyteller. But the reason I liked them was because I knew what to expect. They were exactly what I was then in the mood for.
Genre has to do with reader expectations. When an author takes a dump on those expectations with a wink and a nod toward the literatti (ie Lev Grossman), it destroys the usefulness of the genre, since genre is all about marketing categories.

So we have to cede SF to the scalzied just as we've ceded the word marriage to teh geys. It just doesn't mean what they think it means.

Anonymous The other skeptic November 16, 2013 10:34 AM  

More Women Ruin Everything

He is a sexual predator screamed the 24-year-old woman.

Blogger Jordan179 November 16, 2013 10:35 AM  

I think it's more accurate to say that radical feminism destroys science-fiction, and indeed every genre it touches. Compare Joanna Russ with Andre Norton. Both women, but the first wrote painful drivel and the second stirring adventures. The difference is that Russ was a radical feminist, Norton an equity feminist. This meant that Russ wrote her male characters as weak, evil or both; Norton could write admirable and sympathetic characters of both sexes.

Anonymous Godfrey November 16, 2013 10:39 AM  

Will the follow up article be entitled?

Insecure effeminate males with deep seated father issues destroy SF

Anonymous AmyJ November 16, 2013 10:41 AM  

"1. Are you prepared to state that an SF story should not have any romantic elements in it? If not, what are you prepared to say, distinctly and definitively, about the admixture of romantic elements into an SF novel?"

I don't think I've ever seen anyone here state that SF should never have romance or that romance in a story in general is bad. Romance isn't the issue at all: it's making romance the point of the story and - more often than not - using sci-fi backdrops to disguise bodice rippers. Looking at classic sci-fi novels, what romance there is is ancillary to the story; it's part of the bigger picture and does not detract from the main story as a whole. Current sci-fi written by women, however, makes romance the bigger picture. It is the thrust (hehe) of the plot, what drives everything the heroine does within the story, and is not at all compelling to those who wish to read actual science fiction.

All you have to do is look at any online library catalog under science fiction/fantasy and browse the cover art. What's being published in that category now IS romance; it's just mislabeled because it has space or werewolves in it.

Anonymous Idle Spectator November 16, 2013 10:42 AM  

Indeed, though again, moving away from the natural number operation implied by "+" to include set theory generalization is in fact a redefinition of terms.

The natural numbers are a set. And I don't need + to be a natural number operation. It works just as well with real and complex numbers. Hell, complex has a plus sign in it for every n in C.

Mathematical semantics.

Don't smite the Idle, hate the game. And your Wrathful God.

Blogger Jordan179 November 16, 2013 10:44 AM  

Um, the main problem with your takedown of Frankenstein is that -- though many of your points are accurate -- it is still read today for PLEASURE and it founded the whole science-fiction horror genre, thus inspiring many other and in some cases better books. What's more, it actually addressed the main question at the core of all science-fiction horror and did so well: namely, does the danger from transcendent scientific advance come from Divine limits or from the flaws of specific humans.

As for your specific character points, Mary Shelley was after all a teenage girl in love with her rather feminized husband (*), and using him as her example of masculinity (seriously, if you read some of her biographical notes about Percy, especially after his death, you'll realize that she essentially had a tremendous crush on him that never ever went away). So, yeah -- your points stand about the way Victor Frankenstein was constantly fainting (though he was after all being pursued by a ruthless transhuman Implacable Man who -- unlike the later movie version, was frighteningly intelligent as well as immortal and almost indestructible, which has to be scary). But then, how many men, women or for that matter cute teenage girls manage to write a best-selling classic genre-founder as their FIRST NOVEL? So I'd cut Mary some slack here!

===
(*)
Who despite all this was something of a rake, which shows one not to take surface feminization of a man too seriously!

Blogger Jordan179 November 16, 2013 10:51 AM  

AmyJ said:

Romance isn't the issue at all: it's making romance the point of the story and - more often than not - using sci-fi backdrops to disguise bodice rippers.

Agreed, though I'll point out that a lot of Interwar Era science-fiction were Westerns, spy stories or horror stories using sci-fi backdrops, and some of Drake and Weber's stories are historical military or naval stories using sci-fi backdrops (however both of the writers I named also explore serious science-fictional considerations in their worlds). So this is hardly a new thing: the only really new thing is the focus on romance as the genre to be science-fictionalized.

I find sf romance far less annoying than radical feminist sf, however. Indeed, sf romance if done well can also be good science fiction. Consider Lois McMaster Bujold's A Civil Campaign, which is essentially a romance novel with several plot points which could only happen in a world with a biological technology superior to our own: Miles' rivalry with his clone-brother Mark, the Vor lady who becomes a Vor lord and finds romance with one of the Kudelka sisters, and the development of the butter bugs. And each of these has the social implications of the science well and truly thought out, too.

Anonymous Harsh November 16, 2013 10:54 AM  

3. If we retreat from the intensive, and traditionally frustrating, effort to create a bright-line definition of what SF is (and therefore, what it is not), are you willing to give us an extensive -- i.e., by example and tabulation -- approach to distinguishing it from other genres?

That's easy. SF literature should appeal to SF readers. (If you're going to use circular logic, so am I.)

Anonymous Darth Toolpodicus November 16, 2013 11:14 AM  

Don't get me wrong Idle, thanks for making me think about set theory on a Saturday I'm spending in the lab at work...

"The natural numbers are a set. And I don't need + to be a natural number operation. It works just as well with real and complex numbers. "

Obviously.

Just as obviously: taking the common usage of an operator which is quite reasonably implied in the original construct and pedantically applying an extended usage not implied in the original is in fact a re-definition of terms.

Not hatin' the game.

Anonymous Anonymous November 16, 2013 11:14 AM  

I think I've seen the Vorkosigan books discussed positively here, and they certainly contain romance. So we're not opposed to women SF writers putting romance in their stories. We're just opposed to bad writers dressing up their personal fantasies with spaceships and lasers and calling it science fiction. We're also opposed to the powers-that-be in the industry trying to shut out male writers who don't try to write for the female portion of the audience.

Could Ender's Game find a publisher today? It has only two female characters of note, and while Valentine might pass the Strong Female Role test, Petra sure wouldn't. Some editor would at least cut the line about how there aren't many girls in Battle School because they just don't have what it takes.

Anonymous Anthony Walsh November 16, 2013 12:06 PM  

@Carlotta

"Check your Blah, Blah, Blah privilege"

"Good" job spreading the Left's memes...

A.W.

Anonymous The other skeptic November 16, 2013 12:15 PM  

It is amusing that Shelley is referred to as she in this relevant article.

Anonymous The other skeptic November 16, 2013 12:32 PM  

Maybe Obama's sons should be taught the love of modern SciFi.

Anonymous FP November 16, 2013 12:42 PM  

I went into a local new/used bookstore the other day, a new branch they had opened up recently in an old Borders store that closed two years ago. Not a great selection yet but I had to laugh as I went through the sci-fi section. On the opposite side of one row they had a "Paranormal Romance" section. Seems like a good term for chick romance sci-fi/fantasy.

Blogger Jordan179 November 16, 2013 12:46 PM  

Carlotta said:

Check your tri-racial, male privilege.

You do know that's a null argument, about as meaningful as if you had written "Check your hoop-doopy ga-ZEEGA!"

So I refute you utterly with

Boingy-BOINGY-Whoop-whoop-whoop!

Anonymous Josh November 16, 2013 12:49 PM  

"Check your Blah, Blah, Blah privilege"

"Good" job spreading the Left's memes...

You do know that's a null argument, about as meaningful as if you had written "Check your hoop-doopy ga-ZEEGA!"

So I refute you utterly with

Boingy-BOINGY-Whoop-whoop-whoop!


She's joking, you morons

Anonymous cheddarman November 16, 2013 1:17 PM  

vox,

I think emasculated men like scalzi and their company of fem-shoggoths will refine the genre in a way they cannot imagine.

They will cause masculine authors like you, Kratman, and others to pass through a refiners fire. You will come out the other end harder and better, more able to write compelling stores that they could never write.

sincerely

cheddarman

Anonymous Zippy November 16, 2013 1:53 PM  

Somebody referred to the Vorkosigan series; I'm curious if Vox thinks Lois Bujold helped ruin SF. On the one hand, those books definitely do have a strong romantic element to them -- Shards of Honor is a love story, and there's a fair amount of romantic stuff in later Miles books.

But there is also real sfnal content, and the science isn't incidental.

Thoughts?

Anonymous BG November 16, 2013 2:03 PM  

I have sold or given away 26,092 Selenoth books on Amazon alone in the last 11 months. Those are books that women at not one, but two, mainstream publishers were instrumental in declining to publish, and as a result, those books have not appeared in a single bookstore anywhere in the world.


This number is skewed high. The short stories would never have appeared in a book store unless in a collection or as part of ATOB / SE

Blogger El Borak November 16, 2013 2:09 PM  

Josh: She's joking, you morons

Exactly. In leftist circles "Tri-Racial" generally qualifies for a Matthew Shepard diversity award, a Hugo, and an oppression triple word score on the winner's chosen play in Words with Friends with Benefits.

"Then do not be too eager to deal out mockery in judgement. For even the very wise cannot grok all satire."
-- Gandalf

Anonymous Heh November 16, 2013 3:08 PM  

Oh the hilarity.

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/fporretto

Observe:
1. Gamma who admits his low SMV ("short, bald, homely, has bad acne and crooked teeth") -- which is obvious from the photo anyway.
2. "Wife and stepdaughters" suggests he married a divorcee and was unable to sire any children of his own.
3. Refers to himself by the girl's name "Fran".
4. Several books are clearly gamma spank fantasies ("He was a divorced, middle-aged computer genius. She was a young, tight-bodied software engineer ").

Is it any surprise at all that this creature came here to white knight, but lacked the courage even to stay here and fight?

Anonymous Josh November 16, 2013 3:20 PM  

Oh the hilarity.

Plus he has 4 cats

Anonymous Jack Amok November 16, 2013 3:44 PM  

The people arguing with Vox in this thread appear to have learned too many big words and not enough small ones. I can't read their posts without imagining them looking down their blue noses and sniffing disdainfully. Too many Literature classes, I guess.

Anonymous VD November 16, 2013 4:09 PM  

I'm curious if Vox thinks Lois Bujold helped ruin SF. On the one hand, those books definitely do have a strong romantic element to them -- Shards of Honor is a love story, and there's a fair amount of romantic stuff in later Miles books.

No, I don't think so. On the other hand, I don't think her books merit the panoply of awards they have received either even though I rather like them. They're good, they're entertaining, but they're not great. I've been to her house; her mantle looked like a spaceport and that was prior to some of her more recent awards.

But she is a very, very nice woman, she's a good writer, and one could not possibly begrudge her any of the success she has had. One reason for it, I think, is that she is still writing more or less in the old SF tradition; she bridges the gap between Blue SF and Pink SF. So real SF readers read and enjoy her work, while the "professionals" are also willing to honor her for her strong female characters and romance elements.

SF would be much better off if it had followed Bujold's lead rather than LeGuin's and spanned the sexes rather than rejecting the male for the female.

Anonymous Josh November 16, 2013 4:12 PM  

SF would be much better off if it had followed Bujold's lead rather than LeGuin's and spanned the sexes rather than rejecting the male for the female.

Eventually, though, if the gammas keep giving awards to the girl writers, they will finally sleep with them...

Anonymous tiredofitall November 16, 2013 5:14 PM  

"Will the follow up article be entitled? Insecure effeminate males with deep seated father issues destroy SF" - Godfrey

Gee, an entire article on Scalzi, Hines, and the rest of the scalzied manboobs at SFWA? Don't you think that'll give them a swelled head?

Anonymous Anthony Walsh November 16, 2013 5:37 PM  

Don't you think that'll give them a swelled head?

Gosh, it's really too late for that... Those are the establishment, right?

A.W.

Anonymous The other skeptic November 16, 2013 5:40 PM  

Mary Shelley's wikipedia page suggests that she wrote many novels, which would tend to disagree with those who claim that Frankenstein was her only work.

Anonymous Anthony Walsh November 16, 2013 5:47 PM  

Well, I just noticed some comments of my own have been deleted. Talk about those going for respect over honour! There is no way the Right has a resurgence with such emphasis on controlled opposition!

FaceBook and other sites which allow freer dialogue are obviously the place to go for movement oriented individuals.

Good day and God keep you!

A.W.

Anonymous VD November 16, 2013 6:00 PM  

Well, I just noticed some comments of my own have been deleted.

That's because you weren't following the rules. Deal with it.

Anonymous kh123 November 16, 2013 6:00 PM  

Spam trap. Would explain why some and not all, without notice.

Anonymous kh123 November 16, 2013 6:00 PM  

....Ah, nevermind.

Anonymous FUBAR Nation Ben November 16, 2013 6:26 PM  

I just finished the latest Star Wars book "Outcast" and I agree completely: strong, independent Jedi Knight woman having a romance with the head of the Imperial Remnant. And this was written by a man!

Episode 7 is going to be a disaster.

Blogger Rseven Rocket November 16, 2013 6:33 PM  

Romanticism is a Victorian and feminist scam designed to defraud men.

Blogger Rseven Rocket November 16, 2013 6:39 PM  

If there is a fictional work that depicts "romantic actions" realistically, it's grand theft auto five

Anonymous The other skeptic November 16, 2013 9:12 PM  

Oprah has a final solution for Racism.

Anonymous Carlotta November 16, 2013 9:52 PM  

@AW
That comment is soooo funny.
Check your male privilege too.
Lol.

Anonymous Carlotta November 16, 2013 9:58 PM  

She's joking, you morons

@ Josh

Lol. Shh. Dont tell them. They really feel like they are giving me a whatfor the poor dears.

Blogger mmaier2112 November 16, 2013 11:24 PM  

@ Walsh: WTF was that?

Anonymous Josh November 16, 2013 11:32 PM  

@ Walsh: WTF was that?

Apparently a butthurt white nationalist who's new to the blog

Anonymous Shut Up, Josh November 16, 2013 11:37 PM  

Dude, white nationalism is a major part of this blog. You and Walsh ought to be joined at the hip. Gig 'em!

Anonymous VD November 17, 2013 4:00 AM  

Mr. Walsh, so long as you insist on referring to me as anything besides Vox or VD here, your comments will be deleted. It is not necessary to continue to demonstrate the fact that you have mastered the use of Wikipedia

Anonymous VD November 17, 2013 4:02 AM  

I just finished the latest Star Wars book "Outcast" and I agree completely: strong, independent Jedi Knight woman having a romance with the head of the Imperial Remnant. And this was written by a man!

Ye cats. That's always the process. Men start feeling they have to cater to women. And women always cater to women. And that's all she wrote....

Anonymous Idle Spectator November 17, 2013 5:43 AM  

Just as obviously: taking the common usage of an operator which is quite reasonably implied in the original construct and pedantically applying an extended usage not implied in the original is in fact a re-definition of terms.

Partial functions, constant functions, sets, and binary operators are already all defined terms. 2 is used the same way, 37 is used the same way, and the = is the same.

I didn't extend anything, I merely restricted the domain (partial instead of total) and range (constant instead of variable) on the same defined + sign. The domain and range terms have exactly the same definition though.

In other words, nothing has been redefined, there's merely a very special case when 2 + 2 = 37.


I'm bad like that sometimes. So very bad...

Blogger Brad Andrews November 17, 2013 6:01 AM  

I find I have been purchasing some older books for my Kindle to reread or read for the first time, rather than newer ones. Though the selection of newer ones seems week. That could be because a romance theme is not that compelling to me....

Blogger Glen Filthie November 17, 2013 7:25 AM  

I am having a dog fight with this with Francis over at Liberty's Torch about this. Either he is too smart for me and is making a point I am too dumb to grasp...or he is an idiot polishing a turd for reasons unknown.

Unfortunately for me I suspect the former...

This might be worth another post, Vox. The kids off the short bus are getting confused.

Blogger Brad Andrews November 17, 2013 9:04 AM  

Part of his problems is he seems to buy into the "its all completely about money" theory, ignoring the power of ideology. At least that was my read on it and the basis for much of my limited interaction there. (If it makes it out of review of course.)

Not possible to have much of a conversation though with heavy moderation in that format.

Blogger Brad Andrews November 17, 2013 9:07 AM  

It also seems that anyone disagreeing there will now be labeled as a VD acolyte. That is a good way to stifle any disagreement.

I am many things, but I don't think I am an acolyte to anyone but my triune Lord!

Anonymous Anonymous November 17, 2013 12:35 PM  

> Those are books that women at not one, but two, mainstream publishers were instrumental in declining to publish,

Well, an obvious counterpoint would be that Messrs. Kratman, Corriea, Ringo et al. manage to get published by Baen despite their distinctly non-feminine literary attributes, why didn't you give them a shout?

Anonymous SixtusVIth November 17, 2013 2:37 PM  

In the WND column Vox links in the first sentence, he mentions this:

Charlotte Allen’s thesis that feminism destroys female intellects

I've never heard of this woman and Googling gives me a list of feminist complaints. Is there someone who can give me the title or even a link to the essay(s) where she spells this out? Thanks.

Blogger Brad Andrews November 17, 2013 11:07 PM  

Not possible to have much of a conversation at all there at all it seems. Mine didn't make it through. Ah well, off my list to look at.

He is driven by ideology and can't accept that publishers might be as well....

Blogger Tom Kratman November 17, 2013 11:23 PM  

SIxtus, try this: http://www.earlyentrancefoundation.org/peep/articles/2005/feministfatale.html

Anonymous MadFoot November 22, 2013 4:56 AM  

First off, Lightspeed and JJA stating this Bullshit is really condescending and hypocritical. Another Liberal Example of pretending you are out for somebody else more then you are for yourself(which is the classic example of who not to trust)

In this democratic and Capitalist society. Everyone goes where the money is. If women are not strong in the SF field and have to constantly whine about it. then there is no one better to blame then yourself. Tell the girls to put down those romance and y/a books and buy female science fiction books. If every woman in america did so by the end of this year. Then next year there would be 10 times the SF Female Writers. and if you(women) did this for three years in a row. The field would be 95% female.

But you want equality without working for it. You want to blame others sexes(which is sexist by the way) and do your booo hooo party and then white liberals kiss your ass and tell you the evil white male is keeping you down hahahaha.

Go F Yourself with a Big Black Dildo and jump off a roof while you're at it.

I am so sick of people pointing fingers and expecting entitlements.

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