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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The yellow art of pygmies

Sarah Hoyt explains both the short-term triumph of the SJW pygmies and their eventual return to insignificance, particularly in science fiction:
No elite that is as schizophrenic as they are can long stay in power. Their narrative being so anti-reality requires those seeking to join them to abase themselves to such a degree (like some gang members who have to commit a heinous murder to join) that the only the most craven will do so. These are also, for whatever reason, often not the most competent at whatever the field is.

They’re not often, like Chelsea Clinton, so guppy-stupid that even all the attempts to advance them and hand them “accomplishments” for existing fall flat (as did her career in TV.) But as generations go by and each generation picks the new luminaries based ONLY on loyalty to the party line, the quality of performance and competence keeps going down.

Take New Wave in our field. Its practitioners often held strange views of life, strange enough to repel the hoi polloi and those who bought the bulk of the books, but by and large, I challenge you to read them and not see the craftsmanship and the talent (with a few exceptions, of course.)

However those who came after them were a little less talented and trained. This was the period back in the nineties when I considered myself fortunate for finding writers who weren’t actively off-putting, and could only ever find one or two that I considered to rise above . And the current crop of establishment darlings, particularly the young ones (again with one or two exceptions) are cringingly bad or at the very best cringingly trite (which would be endurable without the encomiums to their Earth shattering originality.) Even the establishment can find no better reason to shower awards on them than the oft-repeated claims of vague discrimination and saying that women are overdue for recognition.

Like any elite that is incompetent at what its supposed to do, this means that they create a crisis that invites their replacement. In science fiction, where I’m concentrating because I know it better, (though arguably parallel processes are taking place in all other fields) they might have tottered on another generation or two, with each selling less, until the advances for first novels were zero and publication meant nothing except to the academics who need publication.

Fortunately Kindle intervened. Because indie publishing came into a vacuum and served underserved readers, it’s blooming against the wilting of traditional publishing.
The New Wave writers were intentionally pissing on their forebears, but in the process they were creating yellow art in the snow. Their work was, of course, ephemeral, insignificant, and devoid of any meaningful commentary on the human condition or long-term value, but the pictures were pretty enough until the snow melted, at least if you ignored how they'd been created.

Their descendants only saw that their forebears were urinating, and quite wrongly concluded, "hey, I can do that!" They promptly did the literary equivalent of unzipping, cutting loose, and shouting "look at me, I can haz pee!" Or in the case of McRapey, "look at me, I can haz blow job! Because ground forces!"

The diversity crowd is even more pathetic. They can't even manage the literary equivalent of unzipping first, instead they just wet their pants then give each other awards for their incontinence, crowing: "I is womyn! I is black! I is queer! I make water too!" And, as John C. Wright notes, they actually take pride and pleasure in taking their golden autoshowers:
If you are looking at a landscape covered with a thin gruel the hue of oatmeal, gray, tasteless, neither cold nor hot, dripping over telegraph wires, leafless trees, dusty lanes empty of traffic, collapsed houses, and the corpse of a small dog, and seeing a group of deformed pygmies and midgets decreeing immense victories and accomplishments in the fields of civic engineering and architecture, you would assume them to be an enemy of whoever once lived in the now ruined landscape. You would not assume they lived in that landscape and wanted it gray. And your assumption would be wrong.
There are few things that I find more amusing than looking at the Amazon rankings for the award-winning SF novels of the recent past and comparing them to the winners from 30 years before. Guess which novel was published in 2013 and is the most-awarded novel in science fiction history, and which one was published nearly 50 years ago.
  1. Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,910 Paid in Kindle Store
  2. Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,757 Paid in Kindle Store
Book 1 is Ancillary Justice, "a story about pronouns and modern feminist piety, utterly unimaginative and bland". Book 2 is Dune, "a story about messianic politics, ecology, expanded consciousness, genetic destiny and the role of man in the universe."

And just because I am a cruelty artist:
  1. Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,680 Paid in Kindle Store
  2. Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,115 Paid in Kindle Store
One is the recently published sequel to the landmark, award-winning novel, that was described by one enthusiast as "the most important book Orbit has published in ages." The other is the recently published Victoria: A Novel of 4th Generation War.

Mrs. Hoyt is absolutely correct about the pygmies' poor long-term prospects. No one outside their weird little cult wants to bathe in their stinking urine.

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69 Comments:

Blogger Nate November 25, 2014 8:14 AM  

The funny thing is...

"the most important book Orbit has published in ages."

That may actually be correct. Given how bad Orbit books are.

Anonymous Stephen J. November 25, 2014 8:27 AM  

I'm even more oblivious than most fans; who *are* the authors of the New Wave? To me it was always just, "Is it about aliens, other planets and/or the future? Then it's SF."

Anonymous Daniel November 25, 2014 8:38 AM  

The New Wave were the first Silent Generation (born between the wars) authors, who believed it was crucial for the genre to "turn its back on space." Delany, Zelazny, Le Guin...but it was mostly populated by Baby Boomers.

Anonymous DrTorch November 25, 2014 8:38 AM  

Nice metaphor. I'll probably steal that at some point.

Anonymous bw November 25, 2014 8:39 AM  

The problem is the size of that cult, and that it is given every propaganda and State and Inc. advantage for being the cult that it is. Purposefully.
They despise Nature and are not real human beings. They are the real (not phony alien) Greys, truly alien in most every way.

Anonymous AlteredFate November 25, 2014 8:46 AM  

Whoever said that the best defense against SJWs that an organization has is to demand competence and excellence from their employees definitely hit the mark. Incompetence and mediocrity is the hallmark of these "pygmies," that and the pride they take in having accomplished nothing of real value.

Blogger Dystopic November 25, 2014 9:46 AM  

A friend of mine recommended a Star Trek novel some time ago. As a child, Star Trek was interesting to me. With age, however, it became clear that the franchise was declining (if, indeed, it was ever decent in the first place). My friend is rather intelligent, a high-functioning midwit, and on occasion he has provided some palatable recommendations. So against my better judgement, I read the book.

It was atrocious. I finished the book for precisely the same reason traffic on the freeway slows to a crawl to observe the terrifying consequences of a multi-car accident. Captain Picard spends most of the story crying. Seriously. The commanding officer of the flagship is a sniveling toad. Half of the story was spent discussing the personal feelings of the main characters. The only interesting part (related to the Borg and their origins) -- the part that, no doubt, interested my friend -- took up about a 15 pages. That moderately decent work was overshadowed by 300+ pages of emotional sewage. Part of the story, quite literally, discussed the prejudice and discrimination cyborgs faced. The women were strong and empowered, the men... well, Captain Picard and with his sobbing was, perhaps, the strongest of them. It read like a SJW wet dream.

The book reminded me why Star Trek disappeared off my Science Fiction radar by the time I was 12. I reread City Beyond Time just to excise the taste of the book from my brain. The juxtaposition of Gamma trash with well-written, thought-provoking fiction could not be more apparent to me.

Pissing in the snow, indeed.

Blogger John Wright November 25, 2014 9:48 AM  

The New Wave would like to claim Zelazny and LeGuin as one of their own, but, alas for them, the New Wave movement was spearheaded by Michael Moorcock and his New Worlds magazine.

Michael Moorcock, J. G. Ballard and Brian Aldiss were British socialists and Marxists who rejected individualism, linear exposition, happy endings, scientific rigor. They were trying to copy William S Burroughs.

So, no. Zelazny was not in the New Wave. Whether Ursula K LeGuin was or not is a matter of debate, but nothing in her oeuvre, at least known to me, follows the tropes of New Wave, but she is an anti-individualist unscientific socialist anarchist.

Anonymous Stilicho November 25, 2014 9:58 AM  

So, no. Zelazny was not in the New Wave.

Agreed. If anything, Zelazny was an incurable romantic. Nothing like that among the new wavers.

Anonymous Grendal November 25, 2014 10:02 AM  

You have the correct rank for Victoria, but Ancillary Sword is #2079 Paid in Kindle Store.

Anonymous The Individual November 25, 2014 10:04 AM  

anarchist

So, not ALL bad.

Anonymous Bah November 25, 2014 10:12 AM  

Whoever said that the best defense against SJWs that an organization has is to demand competence and excellence from their employees definitely hit the mark.

Not a very good defense, unfortunately. In the American workplace today, there is no end to the amount of incompetence and poor performance an organization simply has to endure in order to avoid harassment from the SJW.

Blogger richard w comerford November 25, 2014 10:13 AM  

Spoiled:

When I was a boy, back in the early Dark Ages, I was terribly spoiled. I read books like Starship Troopers and Men, Martians and Machines. I would save up my pennies (for you youngsters a penny is an ancient form of hard currency); and buy SF books in cheap paperback (Again, for your youngsters a paperback is not a machine produced by Amazon, Apple or their competitors.) I would then lend them out, get them back and reread them.

However things started going downhill in the mid Dark Ages and I stopped purchasing SF. However Mr. Wright recommended the SF of our host. I, with the greatest reluctance, purchased the first in his series of space opera. I then purchased the rest of the series, one after another, over a 2-week period.

Buy why? Our host is not another Shakespeare. But he tells an actual story - with a moral in it. His characters are also firmly rooted in human nature. They act like men and women are supposed to act, and have so acted since Adam and Eve left the Garden.

I sometimes think the terrible mainstream SF currently produced is part of an assault on human nature, a thumbing of the nose, if you will, at Almighty God.

God bless

Richard W Comerford

Blogger John Wright November 25, 2014 10:29 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Anonymous I Have No Keyboard And I Must Comment November 25, 2014 10:32 AM  

The Hugo and Nebula award winning fiction isn't hidden away. There are plenty of used book stores that contain hardbacks from the 70's, 80's, 90's of Hugo and Nebula winners. It's not difficult to find them, read them, and evaluate them.

Plotline, story, dialog, character develoment, etc. are all things that junior college creative writing classes attempt to teach, but anyone with even a slightly above average IQ can figure some of it out on their own. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Read SF from the Gernsback era, from the 50's and 60's, then read modern pink SF. Contrast and compare.

There's yellow stains in the books from the 80's on. But don't take Hoyt's word for it or Vox's word for it or the word of some combox weenie like me, run and find out. PIck samples of the older work and the newer work, and see for yourself.

Just wash up afterwards.

Anonymous Bobby Trosclair November 25, 2014 10:37 AM  

There were some writers among the New Wave movement who were, of an older generation and were not uniformly leftist, but were interested in using the newly popular tropes of literary experimentation - Gene Wolfe, who was old enough to have fought in the Korean war, an whose talent was and is staggering, and R.A. Lafferty, a WWII vet, who is attracting increasing critical attention and reappraisal nowadays. were both political conservatives who were also distinguished by their Catholic outlooks on life. Out of all the rococo literary experimentation of that era, I suspect their works are among those that have survived the test of time. Mr. Wright is a worthy heir.

Blogger Bob Wallace November 25, 2014 10:40 AM  

"Zelazny, LeGuin, Michael Moorcock, J. G. Ballard and Brian Aldiss."

Good, bad, horrible, horrible, horrible.

Anonymous Wyrd November 25, 2014 10:47 AM  

I can't stand the majority of Moorcock's work, but I still have a soft-spot for his Elric and Corum stories. The man can write some decent sword-and-sorcery but that's about it.

Blogger Cataline Sergius November 25, 2014 10:54 AM  

So, no. Zelazny was not in the New Wave.

Oh good lord no. Zelazny is still quite brilliantly readable. A Night in the Lonesome October is an annual treat for me at Halloween.

Anonymous I Have No Keyboard And I Must Comment November 25, 2014 10:55 AM  

When SF stopped being storytelling featuring fallible people and started to become a crude form of brainwashing featuring cardboard cutout Bad Men and cardboard cutout Good People, with the obvious purpose of pushing the SJW campaign of the week, then it went into decline.

I don't need to plop money on the counter to have my intelligence insulted. I can get that for free just about anywhere. In fact it's increasingly difficult to avoid.

Blogger Cataline Sergius November 25, 2014 11:11 AM  

No elite that is as schizophrenic as they are can long stay in power. Their narrative being so anti-reality...

Twitter, much to my complete surprise, has actually done us a service.

The SJWs and their forerunners were heavily, heavily filtered by the mainstream media.

If you read a Time magazine article on Andrea Dworkin for example you would only find out that she was an ardent feminist, who favored abortion. Rather than an insane feminist who publicly advocated incest to help break down the family unit.

Twitter has completely removed the MSM filter from the SJWs. There is nothing at this point covering the end of the sewage pipe that is their mental process. There is nothing standing in between the first impressions of a functional, sane and rational person and the absurd, chimerical insanity of the SJWs.

It turns out that one hundred forty four characters is all it takes to reveal a movement's deepest character.

Blogger automatthew November 25, 2014 11:12 AM  

R.A. Lafferty, a WWII vet, who is attracting increasing critical attention and reappraisal nowadays.

A group of admirers has just published a magazine about Lafferty and his work. They hope to make it a semi-annual publication. It's available as a free PDF and as a POD from Amazon. Physical quality of the paperback is high, as is the quality of the content.

Anonymous Cail Corishev November 25, 2014 11:17 AM  

So, no. Zelazny was not in the New Wave.

I wondered about that. Amber doesn't fit, but I haven't read that much of his other stuff. But when I read the Wikipedia page about it, he's the only author there that I read back in the day, though I recognize some of the other names. Made me wonder if they stuck him in there to raise the class a bit. Sure enough, near the bottom of the page, it calls him "transitional" and says some don't consider him New Wave at all.

Anonymous Geoff November 25, 2014 11:31 AM  

Not that VD would care but I'm about half way through Victoria and I'm thoroughly enjoying so far.

Anonymous Corvinus November 25, 2014 11:34 AM  

Take New Wave in our field. Its practitioners often held strange views of life, strange enough to repel the hoi polloi and those who bought the bulk of the books, but by and large, I challenge you to read them and not see the craftsmanship and the talent (with a few exceptions, of course.)

However those who came after them were a little less talented and trained. This was the period back in the nineties when I considered myself fortunate for finding writers who weren’t actively off-putting, and could only ever find one or two that I considered to rise above . And the current crop of establishment darlings, particularly the young ones (again with one or two exceptions) are cringingly bad or at the very best cringingly trite (which would be endurable without the encomiums to their Earth shattering originality.) Even the establishment can find no better reason to shower awards on them than the oft-repeated claims of vague discrimination and saying that women are overdue for recognition.

Like any elite that is incompetent at what its supposed to do, this means that they create a crisis that invites their replacement.


I think the same thing has been happening in academia since the 1960s. You don't really see any dangerously destructive high-IQ people along the lines of Marx or Gramsci or the Frankfurt School around anymore. But, "I can haz Global Warming grantz! Yaaayy!"

I'm beginning to suspect that white liberal SJW dysgenics and Idiocratization is a real phenomenon.

Anonymous Daniel November 25, 2014 11:35 AM  

So, no. Zelazny was not in the New Wave.

And here is where over-segmentation becomes a problem. There is no "New Wave manifesto", and although Zelazny very clearly distanced himself from the categorization because of its co-option by Cultural Marxists, I can't possibly imagine Doorways in the Sand as something that stands outside of the New Wave movement in its judgement. I can't imagine his standards of poetry being accepted as anything but "too flowery" by the paying markets of the 1950s. The early tastes of the New Wave allowed for story, as long as it demonstrated beauty in a non-pulp writing style (beauty - or its counterfeit - was the stalking horse of the New Wave SJWs - a tool by which to pry interest away from truth, but that's a whole other essay.)

The defining quality of New Wave is not its politics, but its emphasis on experimentation and elimination of the traditional pillars of science fiction. Now, it is entirely unsurprising that such an intended mysticism would be co-opted and shaped by the usual degraders, but New Wave, unlike its wholly infertile daughters, was a cluster of the last grapes on the vine. There was some juice left in it.

So although it contains a flotilla of literary nonsense (and Le Guin most definitely rode its waves - the Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is without doubt a New Wave parable) it also included the beautiful mystics like Dick and Zelazny who had no designs on "subverting" the genre but only in finding good story in Weird.

Let the New Wave claim Zelazny - if that's the only one that they have who has stood the test of time, it is no different than letting New Yorkers believe they live in the greatest city in the world because they don't know any better.

Anonymous Steve November 25, 2014 11:36 AM  

I was thinking of trying my hand at writing some award-winning science fiction. I've come up with a few concepts:

Starship Social Workers - the Terran Federation's elite social justice warriors deploy from the peaceship Matriarchy Rex to shower the natives of planet Mogadishisota with government space-cheese and Obamacommunicators. Hilarity ensues.

The Space Vagina Monologues - A mysterious entity known as V'gna has entered the solar system, spreading chaos as it broadcasts a message that only the extinct subspecies of hominid known as "men" can understand and demanding to meet "The D". Can Lesbiwomynkind save the planet? No.

Ancillary Penis - Don Palzi is a 6ft 2 badass Space Marine with a problem. A penis problem. Can he find his penis?

Anonymous Stilicho November 25, 2014 11:43 AM  

beauty - or its counterfeit - was the stalking horse of the New Wave SJWs

Not beauty, rather subjective aesthetic taste for its own sake.

Blogger wrf3 November 25, 2014 11:49 AM  

automatthew

Thanks for the Lafferty link. A distinctive voice; a fantastic author.

Anonymous Pseudotsuga November 25, 2014 11:51 AM  

Steve: I think that your story "The Space Vagina Monologues" has already been published. That's Tiptree's (a psuedonym used by a female writer) story "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" It was a Nebula winner in 1977 (explicit sexual content, just so you know before letting your 10 year old read it).
But that's a good example of Pink Rot. It certainly presses the "what if?" button, but what the button lights up is basically "we don't need men, and the world would be just without them, as long as we have enough sperm samples for fresh genetic crosses."

Anonymous I Have No Keyboard And I Must Comment November 25, 2014 12:00 PM  

Good example, Pseudotsuga, but Russ's The Female Man was published earlier. Reproduction in lesboland was done via some hocus pocus involving fusing ova to produce baby girls.

Pink Rot forsooth.

Blogger Shibes Meadow November 25, 2014 12:03 PM  

John Brunner, the best of the New Wave, was a Brit and a socialist -- a one-two punch that usually means Unreadability. But despite his cultural bias towards Gloom & Doom and his unfortunate politics, Brunner was a genuine humanitarian. It shows through in all his works, but most particularly in his Hugo- winning Stand On Zanzibar (Doubleday, 1968), which I consider to be the best science fiction novel ever written. In that book, Brunner makes plain his disdain for racism, militarism, etc., but always on the basis of his belief in the dignity of the human person. In Zanzibar, Brunner paints as Bad Things eugenics, affirmative action hiring, American foreign interventionism, and abortion. That's right, kids -- Stand On Zanzibar contains a strong pro-life message. Add to this Brunner's startling prescience (he nails MTV, the 24-hour news cycle, the man-hating feminist SJW movement, and much more) and the sheer craftsmanship evident in his prose and you have a book that succeeds not just as New Wave SF, nor only as SF, but as a genuine work of art. Brunner is the John dos Passos of science fiction, and an author I would recommend to anyone who likes a good read.

Anonymous Daniel November 25, 2014 12:04 PM  

Don't get me wrong, general references to New Wave as being on balance chock-full of ephemeral radiation that made it more possible for the degradation and dilution of the market are correct: Moorcock was a monster with too much influence over the genre for its own good. The fact that A Canticle for Leibowitz precedes the New Wave proves that style was clearly welcome in science fiction, and that space and rocket ships were always a stereotype of the genre, but not fully representative.

I think what marks New Wave distinctly is an adherence to modernism, and therein lies its limitations: it was not only not full of new images, but a glorious heap of shattered images from the past, but, worst of all, susceptible to the inevitable cancer of post-modernism.

That's its gravest sin. That it contained 90% pop-idiots and 10% good-to-great storytellers is nothing unique to the genre. The fact that its generally shared principles built-in a self-destruct mechanism is what made it so ruinous.

Don't tell me that Zelazny's romanticism was anti-modernist, or that Amber, with its multiple and self-creating worlds does not stand among the best strokes of the Modernist sensibility. And ultimately, that's what New Wave included: Science Fiction with a sad and sober dose of Ezra Pound.

Anonymous Daniel November 25, 2014 12:09 PM  

Not beauty, rather subjective aesthetic taste for its own sake.

Yes, and yet Ubik, which is why I allow for the possibility that true beauty, at least in New Wave's early days, may not have been encouraged, but it was at least allowed.

It is forbidden today among the white-washed tombs of the Establishment.

Blogger Nate November 25, 2014 12:13 PM  

"Don't tell me that Zelazny's romanticism was anti-modernist, or that Amber, with its multiple and self-creating worlds does not stand among the best strokes of the Modernist sensibility. And ultimately, that's what New Wave included: Science Fiction with a sad and sober dose of Ezra Pound."


The assertion that this idiocy should be lumped on Roger's door is absolute lunacy.

Anonymous Daniel November 25, 2014 12:15 PM  

Are you suggesting that Zelazny is anti-modernist, Nate?

Anonymous Steve November 25, 2014 12:23 PM  

Pseudotsuga - I read that book! Many years ago, as a young teenager, when the only science fiction I could get my hands on was in the public library.

I remember thinking "what the fuuu..." as the mad lesbo cloning plot unfolded.

That would have been written when second wave feminism was at its apoapsis, and crazy ideas like that were in vogue among certain circles.

The craziest part of that book was the idea of a few thousand lesbians maintaining any sort of technological civilisation. At best it'd be some sort of totalitarian communist village that would quickly be devoured by wild animals and arguments over who gets to wear the strapon.

Anonymous Anonymous November 25, 2014 12:24 PM  

automatthew

I also thank you for the Lafferty link. Glad he is finally getting his due. He was always my hands-down favorite.

FNG

Anonymous Harsh November 25, 2014 12:24 PM  

I recently re-read Dune and my god, what a great novel. It's amazing how well it's held up over five decades, how you get something new out of it with each reading. Will people be reading Old Man's War or (snort) Redshirts fifty years from now?

Anonymous Daniel November 25, 2014 12:33 PM  

Let me put it this way: the best of the New Wave -

PKD
Roger Zelazny

Hell, let's throw in T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis as literary forefathers, just to be clear what we are talking about here.

All of them recognized the problem of "watered down Modernism" and operated in a rearguard defense of the supernatural, whether they staked claim to actually doing so or not...but they all did it within the conventions and "boundary pushing" of Modernism itself.

In other words, they were men of the times who could navigate the cultural tropes perfectly naturally (in the case of PKD and Zelazny - the tropes and expectations of New Wave) while maintaining the integrity of the Truth as they best understood it.

I mean, you can discard New Wave, and the Fabians, and Mundanes and all the rest as political movements all you want, because literary movements as political vehicles are, at heart, craven things worthy of a painful death.

But at the same time, writers don't write in a vacuum. The New Wave was good for Zelazny's book sales, likely to the dismay of its flagbearers, but A Rose for Ecclesiastes hits all the marks of Modernism, so you can't tell me that Zelazny's forays into experimental science fiction could not have possibly been Modernistic. If they were Modernistic, they can therefore be classified as more New Wave than pulp.

I've got no problem separating the New Wave "movement" from New Wave science fiction. The intentional movement is the usual bunk, but the genre itself had some gems despite its overall built-in obsolescence.

Anonymous Daniel November 25, 2014 12:36 PM  

Will people be reading Old Man's War or (snort) Redshirts fifty years from now?

Dude, they aren't reading Redshirts now. My library has two copies and they are never checked out. Dune, Chronicles of Amber, all copies of Ender's Game, and Starship Troopers are all on a (seemingly) permanent waiting list.

Anonymous Jack Amok November 25, 2014 12:43 PM  

I think the same thing has been happening in academia since the 1960s. You don't really see any dangerously destructive high-IQ people along the lines of Marx or Gramsci or the Frankfurt School around anymore. But, "I can haz Global Warming grantz! Yaaayy!"

Yes. Entryism does require the first entrants to get in under the old rules, which usually require general competence and occasional excellence, rather than the new rules, which only require having the same politics as the folks running the place. Hence the decline...

Anonymous Jack Amok November 25, 2014 12:44 PM  

Dude, they aren't reading Redshirts now.

Thanks for a laugh to get the work day started!

Blogger John Wright November 25, 2014 1:00 PM  

@ Cail Corishev

"I wondered about [whether Zelazny was or was not New Wave] Amber doesn't fit, but I haven't read that much of his other stuff. "

Take it from me. I have read all his novels, all his major short stories. He used a lyrical and improvisational mode of writing, but it was not the jarring experimental mode of William S Burroughs and his imitators Moorcock, Disch, Ballard. He did not eschew happy endings, and technology was not always the bad guy, and his stories were 'linear' with beginning and middle and end, but he did experiment with the order of presentation in an experimental way (DOORWAYS IN THE SAND, or TODAY WE CHOSE FACES)

In sum, Zelazny was what New Wave could have been, had it honored rather than rebelled against real science fiction storytelling principles.

In other words, Zelazny is what New Wave would have been had New Wave been good, rather than being New Wave.

Anonymous rho November 25, 2014 1:02 PM  

Dude, they aren't reading Redshirts now. My library has two copies and they are never checked out. Dune, Chronicles of Amber, all copies of Ender's Game, and Starship Troopers are all on a (seemingly) permanent waiting list.

ENDER'S GAME still comes up as a bestselling SF novel on book lists. Over the years I've handed out maybe a half dozen copies myself to kids who I thought should read it.

Blogger John Wright November 25, 2014 1:03 PM  

I will second the motion for reading STAND ON ZANZIBAR by John Brunner. I had not realized that was considered 'New Wave'.

My opinion of the New Wave movement moves up a notch if Brunner's book is on it.

Anonymous Cail Corishev November 25, 2014 1:22 PM  

In sum, Zelazny was what New Wave could have been, had it honored rather than rebelled against real science fiction storytelling principles.

Thank you. I may now better understand what New Wave is, from that short comment, than from reading the entire Wikipedia page on it.

I have This Immortal (Hugo winner) here in my unread pile. Any opinions on how New Wavey that is?

Anonymous I Have No Keyboard And I Must Comment November 25, 2014 1:26 PM  

Brunner was of the Silent generation along with other writers of the 1960's.

Stand on Zanzibar was and still is an interesting read that I'd agree was part of New Wave SF. However it is probably Brunner's best and frankly it is a bit dated; incest is so passe' now. Jagged Orbit used a clever writing device, but frankly being lectured on race relations by a snooty Brit becomes tedious after about 40 chapters or so. The Sheep Look Up was tediously predictable, as well as technophobic, Shockwave rider did not quite work out as a story, Squares of the City was an interesting read but dated kind of fast, and Total Eclipse managed to be boring, predictable, trite and cliched.

No question that Brunner was prolific and inventive. But the whole neo-Luddite, Club of Rome stuff got tedious after a while. Maybe it was daring and bold in the 70's, but now it's not.

Which supports the OT. Brunner's attempts to write in very different styles in order to evoke certain mental states in the reader, bringing in then-taboo sex scenes, even his ignorant rants on race, all were fairly novel. Those who blindly attempt to follow his tracks without a clue who Dos Passos was or why Brunner was obsessed with supersonic transports are just cookbooking, or maybe cargo-culting, not actuallly breaking new ground or boldly challenging the status quo.

Because New Wavish SF became the status quo. Were someone to consciously copy Jack Williamson's various styles now, they would be challenging the status quote.

Anonymous Daniel November 25, 2014 1:31 PM  

In sum, Zelazny was what New Wave could have been, had it honored rather than rebelled against real science fiction storytelling principles.

In other words, Zelazny is what New Wave would have been had New Wave been good, rather than being New Wave.


Well played. Still I very much see New Wave as a general liberal victim of entryism versus another movement such as the Fabian Society, which was really organized. I mean, they had meetings and such. New Wave only had its would-be masters, and they did a bang-up job of producing the now unreadable, outdated and storyless garbage...but Jeff Sutton tried his hand at New Wave (yes, to the detriment of his gifts as a storyteller and idea man), so I don't think the concepts of literary experimentation inherent in New Wave books are enough to condemn every book associated with the genre.

Anonymous Dumb founded November 25, 2014 1:49 PM  

Ancilliary Penis seems to be around #20xx paid in Kindle store.

Did you mean another title?

Blogger John Wright November 25, 2014 2:10 PM  

"I don't think the concepts of literary experimentation inherent in New Wave books are enough to condemn every book associated with the genre."

It depends on the definition of the term. If by 'New Wave' we mean experimental SF that copied modern literary fashions, then yes, you are correct. If by 'New Wave' we mean a worldview that included experimental SF and modern literary forms and included other elements of their worldview, such as socialism, anti-individualism, nihilism, then, no, you are not correct.

But I have no way of showing which definition is closer to reality. It depends on which writers you consider to be the core of the New Wave:

I say the New Wave was mainly Moorcock, Ballard, Disch, perhaps Joanna Russ, and other writers less clearly and openly connected with it, like Ursula K LeGuin, then the socialist and anti-science absurdist nihilism is a core part of the New Wave.

If you say the New Wave was mainly Zelazny and Ursula K LeGuin, and that Moorcock and the Anglos were less clearly connected with it, the stylistic elements, the 'jazz improvisation' and the nonlinear writing style, are the main part of the New Wave, and the nihilism is secondary.

So, it depends on your definition.

Blogger John Wright November 25, 2014 2:17 PM  

I have no opinion as to how 'New Wave' Call Me Conrad/THIS IMMORTAL is. You have to be familiar with Greek mythology to get all the references.

Myself, I would recommend LORD OF LIGHT as his best work, but even his mediocre work (TODAY WE CHOSE FACES or TO DIE IN ITALBAR) is better than most writers' best work. Myself, I am fond of ROADMARKS and CREATURES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS. And a NIGHT IN A LONESOME OCTOBER is one of his better works.

In fact, the only Zelazny book I did not like were his second group of Amber books, the ones starring Merlin. They are so bad compared to his 'Philip Marlowe meets Christopher Marlowe' books starring Corwin that I cannot even stand to read summaries of these works.

Blogger Nate November 25, 2014 2:32 PM  

I am trying to remember that time that Zelazny wrote a harlequin romance in space...

Blogger Doom November 25, 2014 2:36 PM  

It doesn't stop with literature. Look at political figures, academics, pop "culture", clergy... Take your pick, really. It's all doomed, thankfully. The more I think about it the more I am drawn to the notions of Sodom and Gomorrah. No angels will be needed this time. Though I am hoping that any who look back longingly are turned to salt. We'll need cattle licks.

Anonymous VD November 25, 2014 3:25 PM  

I would recommend LORD OF LIGHT as his best work.

Seconded.

In fact, the only Zelazny book I did not like were his second group of Amber books, the ones starring Merlin.

I don't recall them being that bad, although I have to admit that I never bothered to re-read them. They struck me as unfocused and somewhat phoned-in.



Anonymous Cail Corishev November 25, 2014 3:41 PM  

They struck me as unfocused and somewhat phoned-in.

Definitely unfocused. The Corwin series is tight: there's the Pattern at one end and Chaos at the other, with Shadow in between, and those of royal blood can manipulate it. Simple and clear. Then for Merlin suddenly there are other powerful houses, and magic rings that beat everything they had before, and AI, and it's just a mess. I've actually read that series twice, because enough years elapsed that I started to think, "It couldn't have been that bad." And I like the Merlin character, and it starts pretty well, but by the fourth book he's going on those stream-of-consciousness Shadow-journeys that I'd swear last for 50 pages....

Thanks for the recommendations on Lord of Light. I think I have that one around here too.

Anonymous DrTorch November 25, 2014 3:55 PM  

I think the same thing has been happening in academia since the 1960s. You don't really see any dangerously destructive high-IQ people along the lines of Marx or Gramsci or the Frankfurt School around anymore. But, "I can haz Global Warming grantz! Yaaayy!"

Definitely. I'm often stunned at the lack of ability, and certainly the lack of breadth of scholarship, when I deal with academicians these days.

OpenID Daddy Warpig November 25, 2014 4:04 PM  

I just want to make sure these assholes don't do it to gaming (tabletop and video), as well.

Blogger Dave Freer November 25, 2014 4:13 PM  

Cail Corishev - I would, amid close competition, rate This Immortal as my second favorite Zelazny, with Lord of Light (which was one the five books I took for my year as a conscript, which turned into two years - any author whose books can survive fifty re-readings, and still get read every few years after that is exceptional, layered and complex. What is different about Zelazny that I struggled in vain to imitate, is that he was easy to read too. You didn't need the the thoughtful subtext and lyrical passages. It's a good story, which carries the rest effortlessly. And it is inclined to make you think rather than dictate). While a grasp of the relevant mythology is always good with Zelazny, (and as an inept student of human myth and legend, I can tell you he did it well) it's just a good story. And if the requirements of 'New Wave' are turning your back on space, casting humans (particularly white male ones) as the obligatory villains, and a misery-end then This Immortal fails New Wave entirely on all counts.

Blogger Dave Freer November 25, 2014 4:19 PM  

Oh and if I had to go off to another two years of lots of boredom-and-brief-periods-when-you-long to-be-bored, I'd take Zelazny again, but leave Dune behind and take one of Mr Wright's books instead. (Dune is great book, just not on the 20th re-read.)

Anonymous Comrade Questions November 25, 2014 5:58 PM  

Who's going to read Victoria in 2016?

Anonymous kh123 November 25, 2014 6:12 PM  

Who's going to remember the greatest pen in all of Micturia in 5 minutes.

Anonymous Comrade Questions November 25, 2014 7:54 PM  

Amazon rankings are so ephemeral that they really don't matter.

Anonymous REG November 25, 2014 8:36 PM  

Picked up "Have spacesuit, will travel" at a garage sale recently. Reread Robert Heinlein, enjoyed it as much today as when I was a kid. Good writers continue to be good to read. Funny enough, change some of the expressions to modern and he could fit in as a new writer with a fresh and interesting style in the bookstores. That is until they discovered he wasn't a Liberal. Then, he would be condemned to the 'Evil, Evil, group.

Anonymous Bobby Trosclair November 26, 2014 12:07 AM  

I always enjoyed Zelazny's work (met him once), and still think DAMNATION ALLEY was quite good. The film that was "adapted" from it was possibly the worst adaptation of a novel, ever. The hero in the novel was Hell Tanner, the last Hell's Angel on earth, and should have been played by a big bad-ass like William Smith. In the movie, he became pretty-boy Jan Michael Vincent, an Air Force officer.

LORD OF LIGHT was optioned for film, but unfortunately, the producer was a CIA front. If you've seen the film "Argo," about the CIA operation to rescue Americans who escaped from the Iranian seizure our embassy and were given sanctuary in the Canadian embassy. The CIA, working with academy award-winning make-up artist John Chamber ("Planet of the Apes") helped them escape by creating a fake Hollywood production company, which optioned Zelazny's LORD OF LIGHT (called "Argo" in the film.

Zelanzy never had much luck with film adaptations, I guess.

Blogger Ron November 26, 2014 5:39 AM  

@Steve

I was thinking of trying my hand at writing some award-winning science fiction. I've come up with a few concepts:

Starship Social Workers - the Terran Federation's elite social justice warriors deploy from the peaceship Matriarchy Rex to shower the natives of planet Mogadishisota with government space-cheese and Obamacommunicators. Hilarity ensues.

The Space Vagina Monologues - A mysterious entity known as V'gna has entered the solar system, spreading chaos as it broadcasts a message that only the extinct subspecies of hominid known as "men" can understand and demanding to meet "The D". Can Lesbiwomynkind save the planet? No.

Ancillary Penis - Don Palzi is a 6ft 2 badass Space Marine with a problem. A penis problem. Can he find his penis?


That was hillarious. I'd actually give those a read.

Anonymous Shut up rabbit November 26, 2014 8:51 AM  

Can he find his penis?
It's over there in that other space marine's mouth. He's so bad ass that his whole tour of duty consists of calling on favor's owed...to wit....

Anonymous Shut up rabbit November 26, 2014 8:52 AM  

calling in

Anonymous Bruce November 26, 2014 1:16 PM  

In fairness to the Merlin series and all the super power magic he deals with, he is Merlin THE Magician. Corwin is valor made flesh and his life is one long fight scene, so yes, different characters, different stories. I liked the first two Corwin books best, and then Random's story, and the short stories. I'd rate the last three Corwin books and the Merlin books as about even.

Hoping VD will combine his 'vampires who feed on aborted babies' idea with a character who's got in a lot of fights and liked it and some 'inside gaming' stuff.

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