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Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Ones Who Walk Away from Fandom

by Brian Z on File 770
Justice! How is one to tell about justice? How describe the citizens of Fandom?

Some do not write vintage pulp, you see, though there is message. But we do not hear the words story first much any more. Prose has become obtuse. Given a description such as this some might make certain assumptions. Given a description such as this some might look next for a King, mounted on a splendid stallion and surrounded by his noble knights, or a snowy tavern with no spaceships. But there was no king. They did not use gendered pronouns, or foreshadow. They were not Stephen Donaldson. I do not know the rules and laws of their writing, but I suspect that they were singularly few. As they had strange plot and character, so they also got on without immersion, pacing, rhythm, and emotional payoff. Yet I repeat that these were not pulpy folk, not Charles Gannons, John Ringos, Eric Flints. They were no less fen than us. The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and instapundits, of considering message as something rather boring.

Do you believe? Do you accept the linkfests, the ceremony, the awards? No? Then let me describe one more thing.

In a basement under one of the public forums, or perhaps in the cellar of a blog, there is a bar. It has one door. A few sympathetic reviews seep in dustily between cracks in the boards. In one corner is a pile of schlock paperbacks with banal, cloying, smutty covers, sold through a rusty e-bookstore. A mere broom closet. In the bar a Sad is sitting. It could be a boy or a girl. The door is unlocked, but nobody will come.

They all know it is there, the citizens of Fandom. Some have read, others merely tweet about it. They all understand that the reputation of their genre, the wisdom of their bloggers, the trajectory of their authors, the complacence of their nominators, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend on the pup’s opuscular misery.

There might not even be a kind word spoken to the pup.

At times one of the younger fen who go to see the pup does not go home to weep or rage, does not, in fact, go home at all. Sometimes also an older fan falls silent for a day or two, and then leaves home. Each one goes alone. They walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back. The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the place with the Hugos. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Fandom.
It's more than a little amusing. And those who walk away are the wise ones, because, as it has been sung:

Never kick a dog
Because it's just a pup
You'd better run for cover when the pup grows up!

Labels: ,

31 Comments:

Blogger wrf3 May 30, 2015 11:32 AM  

With thanks to Ursula K. LeGuin.

Blogger JACIII May 30, 2015 11:41 AM  

Cover won't save the kicker if Sad pup's friends are Rabid.

Anonymous FriarBob May 30, 2015 11:46 AM  

Can anybody point out a SINGLE logical argument in the original post (from Brian)? It sure looks like nothing more than pure empty-headed rhetoric to me.

Blogger dc.sunsets May 30, 2015 11:47 AM  

Do these people actually think this way? How on Earth do they function, or survive at all?

Are they all living in their mom's basement?

Blogger Daniel May 30, 2015 11:59 AM  

If you are curious about Le Guin's original, we discussed it over at Castalia House some time ago.

Blogger darkdoc May 30, 2015 12:16 PM  

From the blog Daniel links:

That is also why the “utopia” of Omelas is so appealing to the narrator: there is no guilt.

One thing I know there is none of in Omelas is guilt.


Read the blog posting if you want more context.

I post this to suggest that guilt has such a bad reputation as a people spoiler, and so must be eliminated. LeGuin's story.

But, guilt is probably the most civilizing of all emotions, and deperately necessary for civilization to survive. Without it nothing is felt to be wrong, nothing is sin, nothing needs repentance. Look at the world today to see the dark results of that evil philosophy.

Blogger YIH May 30, 2015 12:20 PM  

''It was a dark and stormy night...''

Blogger Daniel May 30, 2015 12:30 PM  

The hilarious thing is that Brian Z puts fandom in the place of the corrupt, abusive and blissful child torture ring society that even Le Guinn condemned.

Blogger Jack Ward May 30, 2015 12:30 PM  

This mess, posted for comment and linked to, reminds me of a few nights ago when I tried, I really did you know, to read Flow. I want to be an informed voter, you know.
I could not get beyond about 10 pages though I might try again. Gads, its no wonder few are buying stuff like that. I cannot even begin to describe Flow. Just, don't waste any money on it.

Blogger VD May 30, 2015 12:34 PM  

The hilarious thing is that Brian Z puts fandom in the place of the corrupt, abusive and blissful child torture ring society that even Le Guinn condemned.

I doubt that is an accident. Brian Z appears to be modestly pro-Puppy.

Blogger Daniel May 30, 2015 12:49 PM  

I doubt it too. The SJWs at File 770 don't understand Omelas, so they don't understand that he just burned them to the ground. The Ones Who Scourged Omelas would be an interesting sequel...

Blogger Daniel May 30, 2015 12:59 PM  

One of the things that is easy for people to overlook in LeGuin's original is that the narrator clearly is NOT one who left, and therefore is a corrupt and complicit beneficiary of the sustaining child abuse. I have begun to suspect that the SJW narrative, that the Sad Puppies are wandering slowly toward an exile (possibly one that is happier than fandom) is a wish on their part. A wish not that the exiles are more contented for their own sake, but that they are happy enough far away that they are not nearby and gathering numbers and courage...and that they are not coming back to save the child and judge the violent.

The entire story is a prayer that The Ones Who Walked Away are NOT staging military operations just beyond the hill.

Racefail 09 was when the SJWs conquered Omelas, and thought that their reign of abuse would create utopia forever.

Blogger Alexander Thompson May 30, 2015 1:24 PM  

I always seem to post disagreeing stuff, but these types of posts really interest me. I don't read much sci fi but these pink tropes are everywhere, movies, television, video games, and comics. I always rejected then but never put together the details. Good to know I'm not the only one who felt put off.

Blogger Migly May 30, 2015 1:55 PM  

Vox Day: "I doubt that is an accident. Brian Z appears to be modestly pro-Puppy."

See, just because Vox rarely uses understatement doesn't mean it's not part of his toolkit....

Blogger Jack Ward May 30, 2015 2:01 PM  

Puppies walk away? Hmmm....don't know about that. Any puppy even thinking of walking away would probably have to deal with the SDLELE in his dreams or in person.

I doubt there are any Puppies that are so uncommitted as to walk away. Why walk away? This is all way too much fun.

For years we of the Ilk have stood by the Evil Lord and with the Evil Lord; in good times and even better times than that. And now? The payoff has come comrades, it has come.

Blogger Blume May 30, 2015 2:16 PM  

Jack the sad and rabid puppies had walked away. Just read the number of comments here, at mad genus and on monster hunter nation about the fans that had gotten out of scifi and are just now coming back. Some of us never left because we weren't knowledgeable about Fandom enough to see the child bit others did and told us and now we are fighting to free him while some of those who left have heard of our fight and are coming back to join in.

Blogger Cail Corishev May 30, 2015 3:33 PM  

I feel stupid, because I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about here except that it involves Sad Puppies somehow. Could someone translate into plain English for someone who thinks "fen" is another word for swamp?

Anonymous The other robot May 30, 2015 3:38 PM  

If you are curious about Le Guin's original, we discussed it over at Castalia House some time ago.

Perhaps she was just another Margaret Mead wanting to be tricked by the natives.

Anonymous Bob May 30, 2015 3:48 PM  

Once a devoted fan with bookshelves full of pocket books, Fantasy and Science Fiction monthlies, Analog, the entire hardback collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs "John Carter of Mars", E. E. "Doc" Smiths rip-roaring space epics, Heinleins "Glory Road" and many others.

I walked away years ago. Where I was headed was not a consideration of any sort.

The important thing was that I walked away.

All those books - all of them - are gone, given away, thrown away, except for the hardback collection of Burroughs. Why I have kept them is a mystery. I don't read them, but when I see them on the shelf, they remind of the time when sci-fi was full of adventure and excitement, a vehicle that I could use to explore the universe, without the need for a team of advisers and assistants and fellow adventurers or 100 pound ninja warrior princesses needed to give me advice, or save me, or save the day. I was the hero. That was sufficient,

When I walked away, I took nothing with me, other than a few memories of those enjoyable times when reading was fun.

Blogger Jack Ward May 30, 2015 4:33 PM  

OK Blume, I can allow that Puppies may have walked from what most sf had become ie, pink. I cannot accept that they are away for good. If it can be construed they 'walked' then it was to retrench and decide on strategy. Obviously, they are coming back in droves and are down for the struggle. Over 9K members at Sasquan now. That has to be a crap load of Pups and a few of the sjw's? If its mostly sjw then they deserved to win, though, what they would be winning is beyond me. Low book Sales? Good feelings having beat up on Pups and Vox? If that happens this year, why, we have next year and 2017 and beyond. Do they really think the Evil Lord of Hates minions are so shallow as to retire the field at the first setback?
Please.

Blogger John Wright May 30, 2015 6:42 PM  

"One of the things that is easy for people to overlook in LeGuin's original is that the narrator clearly is NOT one who left, and therefore is a corrupt and complicit beneficiary of the sustaining child abuse."

No; LeGuin elsewhere comments that the ones who walked away from Omelas go to found the anarchist utopia of Annares (from THE DISPOSSESSED).

The narrator in no way approves of Omelas. The point of the story is not subtle: the idea is the the happiness of society depends on the unhappiness of some victim group. This is one of the core ideas of Marxism, Anarchism, and other mad political heresies.

The point of the story, and it is not subtle, is that you yourself must walk away from any society that survives by injustice.

Blogger Daniel May 30, 2015 7:40 PM  

Precisely...Le Guin disapproves of the reigning state...but the only alternative she grants is to walk away. Submission, or cowardice. Pick one. The narrator wonders at those who walk away, but has no insight as to where they really go; only that it is better to walk away than to stay.

But she leaves out two very critical minority options; stay, and fight for the child, or go, regroup and return on a rescue mission, burning the abomination to the ground in the process.

Put another way...the narrator is Satu man saying Sauron is bad. That doesn't make the narrator good.

Le Guin's propaganda criticizes privilege AND glorifies cowardice.

Blogger Daniel May 30, 2015 7:49 PM  

I also agree that the narrator hates those who stay, but also see nothing to indicate that he is doing anything but pining for the "courage" to flee. In fact, that is what is unsubtle, that the narrator only speaks of "the Ones" as legends...and is therefore not among them.

Anonymous BigGaySteve May 30, 2015 10:03 PM  

That has to be a crap load of Pups and a few of the sjw's? If its mostly sjw then they deserved to win,

The other side has been giving "scholarships" for those who can not afford the equivalent of 4 packs of cigs. Unlike other leftist voting we can not complain if illegal aliens, those that don't speak English or the dead end up voting

Blogger The Overgrown Hobbit May 30, 2015 10:48 PM  

The entire story is a prayer that The Ones Who Walked Away are NOT staging military operations just beyond the hill.

I'd buy that vignette.

"If you walk away from Omelas you need to find your way to the Silk Road. It's dusty and dangerous and the people on speak no civil tongue, but the colors are as gay and the banners as bright as any that flew on the city left behind. Perhaps there will be others who walked away who can teach you this language.

If you find a caravan, and make your way to countries beyond the sunrise, you'll need to apprentice yourself to the men who know the secrets of the tufeng.

...

And then you return, you and the Brothers who walked away, with the fateful lightning, and swift swords, hauling the bombards that will breech the walls of Omelas and open the basement to the sun.

Blogger John Wright May 31, 2015 1:48 AM  

"Le Guin's propaganda criticizes privilege AND glorifies cowardice."

Well said.

I have an odd personal reason for enmity to this story. I once ran a role playing game where the player characters were utopia hunters, that is, supernatural beings sent out from paradise to destroy false utopias from various books and shows. Omelas was the first place they visited. The people described in the story, the Omelalets (or whatever) as the drugged up nudists who have orgies with bear, as described as being unarmed. So the player characters just walked in and rescued the child out of the broom closet. I figured no one in Omelas would raise a pinky to defend their system.

In my game, the retarded child afraid of mops was a baby angel, and a volunteer -- because the setup was so unrealistic, so stupid, that no one, not one mom, not one dad, not one little boy, could sneak into a house and open a closet?

Role playing games differ from stories because while a writer can make his characters act stupid and unrealistic to move the story lurching along, a moderator has to have a set up where he knows how the settings, props, nonplayer characters, and whole rest of the world will react if the players do any wise or unexpected thing. Role playing games make for much more realistic thought experiments, if the players are cunning.

The reason for my enmity is professional: Ursula Le Guin is a talented authoress, perhaps one of the most talented. But this short of hers was a meditation, and a lazy one. She did not think through the implications. I know, because, placing the dumb place onstage in my game, I had to jury rig a explanation to make it make sense.

One of my player characters thanked me after the session. She explained she had been forced to read that story in school, and angered her classmates because she had wanted to destroy it, and no one else did. She appreciated the vicarious wish fulfillment.

"Those who walk away..." my rugose cone. What would any real hero do?

The Galactic Patrol would have rayed them all to ashed for being zwilniks.

Sevarian the Lame would have had Omelasoi suffering the excruciation called Two Apricots, or perhaps defenestration, or he would urticate them.

Aragorn the Returned King would have had the city fathers put on trial as breakers of the king's peace and the laws of the Valar.

Paul Mu'ad-Dib would have had them burned as heretics, after extracting their moisture for the tribe.

Walk away, indeed!

As for Ben Grimm, well, "Those who Clobber Omelas" is a good title.

Blogger SciVo May 31, 2015 6:58 AM  

@Cail Corishev: I feel stupid, because I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about here except that it involves Sad Puppies somehow. Could someone translate into plain English for someone who thinks "fen" is another word for swamp?

I'm honestly a little baffled myself. If I understand correctly, he's saying that the Sads are necessary for the health of the community, yet should properly be ostracized.

Blogger William Hughes May 31, 2015 1:56 PM  

I am off to read Grey Lensman again. Wild Bill William's Asteroid Miner here I come! Always makes me feel good. And grudging admiration for the space pirates who overloaded their beam weapons to make irresistible primary beams at the expense of their own lives.

Blogger wrf3 May 31, 2015 2:59 PM  

John C. Wright wrote: The point of the story is not subtle: the idea is the the happiness of society depends on the unhappiness of some victim group. This is one of the core ideas of Marxism, Anarchism, and other mad political heresies.

No, it isn't. The idea is that a utopia that depends on the suffering of an innocent isn't a worthy utopia. This isn't about Marxism or Anarchism, LeGuin is taking aim squarely at Christianity.

The point of the story, and it is not subtle, is that you yourself must walk away from any society that survives by injustice.

Exactly. LeGuin is saying that we must walk away from Christianity. The broom closet into which no light enters? The Crucifixion when even Nature went dark. The two brooms? The two thieves on each side of Christ. Those who come to look? His Mother, disciples, soldiers, and bystanders. The rancid food? The sponge dipped in gall.

LeGuin changes things just enough so that the comparison to Christianity will be missed by casual readers. After all, Christians don't expect orgies in Heaven. But it's clear that LeGuin's Utopia based on the suffering of an innocent is a direct parallel to Heaven, which would be empty without the suffering of Christ.

LeGuin's story is even more brilliant, since it hoists some Christians by their own petards. From JCW, again: "Those who walk away..." my rugose cone." What would any real hero do?

LeGuin's answer is the same as God's "Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be your father, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." [2 Cor 6:17-18, NRSV].


Blogger The Overgrown Hobbit May 31, 2015 11:09 PM  

No wonder the Christians missed this one, just as they ignored Philip Pullman's stories. It's hard to take umbrage at a story insulting something unrecognizable as you.

Christ was a willing volunteer who knew what was coming and endured it anyway. And then he turned the closet inside out and backwards and invited everyone to walk through it with Him to eternal joy and bliss.

Are you sure Ms LeGuin is the source of that literary metaphor, because it requires a level of cluelessness completely beyond her.

Blogger Jayn S June 01, 2015 9:00 AM  

"Le Guin's propaganda criticizes privilege AND glorifies cowardice."

Well said.

I have an odd personal reason for enmity to this story. I once ran a role playing game where the player characters were utopia hunters, that is, supernatural beings sent out from paradise to destroy false utopias from various books and shows. Omelas was the first place they visited. ...
In my game, the retarded child afraid of mops was a baby angel, and a volunteer -- because the setup was so unrealistic, so stupid, that no one, not one mom, not one dad, not one little boy, could sneak into a house and open a closet?

Role playing games differ from stories because while a writer can make his characters act stupid and unrealistic to move the story lurching along, a moderator has to have a set up where he knows how the settings, props, nonplayer characters, and whole rest of the world will react if the players do any wise or unexpected thing. Role playing games make for much more realistic thought experiments, if the players are cunning.

The reason for my enmity is professional: Ursula Le Guin is a talented authoress, perhaps one of the most talented. But this short of hers was a meditation, and a lazy one. She did not think through the implications. I know, because, placing the dumb place onstage in my game, I had to jury rig a explanation to make it make sense."

I think the problem was that you wildly misunderstood the story. If you read it carefully, it's made quite clear that every inhabitant of Omelas who is told of the child is also aware that removing the child will cause the society to collapse, letting in everything the 'utopia' has carefully excluded from it - sucn as poverty and war, and the relentless exploitation of the weak by the strong that such things entails.

And honestly - poverty and war guarantees a plentiful supply of children exploited to an extent of misery quite comparable to that child in the closet, no? So taking that child from the closet will cause a multiplicity of suffering children, instead of just one. That would be cause for hesitation beyond simple stupidity and cowardice. We see by this that Le Guin's point of view renounces such things as Communist violent overthrow.

The true bravery in the story are those people who don't sink into complacent acceptance of the beauty and the ease of their lives. They do not turn on and destroy their society, knowing that doing so will only replace it with something worse.
So they turn away, give up the ease, and try to learn to build something 'unimaginable' - something better.

IMO, Omelas is Le Guin's storification of another great writer's words:

“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.”

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