#BaenAwardStories

Let’s see what the PC crowd is up to these days…

It turns out that Baen Books has announced a short fiction contest. As if that insult wasn’t terrible enough, it’s also the case that Larry Correia will be a judge:

Judging will be by the Baen editorial staff, with final entries also being judged by Larry Correia.

As you may imagine, such unbearable state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue uncontested. What will the PC crowd do to save us all from such outrage, then?

In case anyone is lost: Baen, of course, is a publisher that, according to wikipedia, emphasizes space opera, hard science fiction, military science fiction, and fantasy. Baen is a publishing company and not a political party, and it publishes writers of all political leanings (I have seen Eric Flint cited as an example of this because of his far-left politics, but I would be extremely surprised if we couldn’t find all parts of the political spectrum among the authors, if I cared to investigate, which I don’t). However, I believe there is a correlation between being a fan of some of those subgenres and having conservative political ideas. For that reason, the PC crowd hate even the idea of that editorial existing.

Therefore, if said publisher announces a fiction contest, and if Correia, another favorite of the PC crowd, is involved, you can’t really expect the PC crowd not to react, can you?

The response took the form of a wave of twitter posts, appropriating the hashtag #BaenAwardStories to mock and parody the genre tropes that books from this publisher allegedly abuse. Some examples to get the idea:

“Let me grasp your laser rifle, battle brother.” Said the space marine, failing to notice his own subtext. #BaenAwardStories

 

The Survivalist. One white geek male’s quest to move out of his sisters basement. #BaenAwardStories

 

Frag had conquered many in space war. He was drinking scotch. “I hate life,” he snarled. Ten hookers appeared. He sighed. #BaenAwardStories

Now, I find some of this stuff funny, since I think that looking at things with a sense of humor is healthy. It is made less funny by the knowledge that the motivation here is not to have a good time or to make fun of the kind of fiction you yourself like (which is particularly healthy, in my opinion). The motivation is ridiculing the people who do not share your opinions or like the same kind of things you do. Micro-aggressions, anyone?

Still, little harm done. This is the internet, after all. Jerks are everywhere and the PC crowd certainly has no monopoly on that. You don’t have to look at jerks if you don’t want to. I didn’t find anything worth commenting on here. It’s just business as usual.

But still, some people must have criticized it, because there has been this response, which is probably the most funny thing in this whole thing, because people’s endless capacity of self-justification is always amusing:

Golly! Just when you think you’ve plumbed the depths of the thin-skinnedness of blokes in the SFF world, they still manage to surprise you by taking the hump at a bit of light-hearted fun, in this case the #BaenAwardStories twitter convo. And I can’t help wondering if the fact that the people having the fun were predominantly women and they were having it at the expense of the red-blooded end of the SFF world, MilSF in general and Baen Books in particular, contributed something to the over-the-top reaction. There obviously is something very threatening about women making jokes; probably because it’s too difficult to write them off as “over-emotional” “hysterical” or “too invested”.

So, how come you are the victims here if you are the only ones acting like jerks? That’s fine, have your fun however you like. I couldn’t care less. But really, this is now a matter of gender discrimination?

I would be the first to agree that complaining because people make inconsiderate jokes in the internet is absurd. It’s what people do. However, come on! The thin-skinnedness? A bit of light-hearted fun? But weren’t you the ones having a fit and insulting Jonathan Ross all over the internet and declaring him unfit to host the Hugo Awards ceremony because he once, in his decades-long career as a humorist, made a fat joke? Weren’t you the ones who said you didn’t feel safe attending if Ross was allowed to be there? Weren’t you the ones who said you didn’t even needed any objective reason to harass Ross, because you were just talking about your feelings? I’m confused here. Are you the only ones with feelings? By the same standard, shouldn’t now those who like what you call “the red-blooded end of the SFF world” feel unsafe to attend a convention if you are present? Respect goes both ways, you know.

Notice also in the blog post I linked to how the PC crowd turns against their own if the dare deviate in the slightest from their political orthodoxy. In this case, it’s Jim C. Hines, a usually respected member of the crowd in spite of being white and male (perhaps his sexual orientation is wrong too, but I refuse to investigate whether he has said anything about it, I just couldn’t care less). He said in twitter:

I’ve certainly had issues with individuals associated w/Baen, but I’m not sure why their contest justifies nastiness at the whole publisher.

Well, you are right, but you know how it is, Mr. Hines. Mobs are ugly things. Even when we agree with them, we have to be aware that once fed and grown, they will not be stopped by what we would regard as decency.

 

Domestic Violence: Does John Scalzi get it?

John Scalzi twits about domestic violence:

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Focusing on men instead of on aggressors like that is very politically correct, but the thing is that I don’t actually disagree with what Scalzi is saying here. After all, it is true that the domestic violence is committed by men significantly more often than by women, and I would certainly agree that the fact that we men are not often the victims does not mean that it’s not our problem. When he says that not all men but certainly too many of them are guilty of this violence he is clearly right, since even one would be too many. If anything, I would disagree with the only twit pictured that is not from Mr. Scalzi, since Molly Lewis gets carried away by her enthusiasm when she says that “ALL women have been menaced by men” (the caps are hers), unless she’s saying that in some kind of methaphorical way.

Anyway, I’m not disputing what Scalzi is saying here. It does bother me a bit, however, the insistence on putting the focus on men in general instead of on aggressors. OK, most aggressors are men, but there is a significant number of female aggressors too (actually, the numbers might much be closer than most people believe, but let’s not get into that debate: I fully accept that men are more likely to be aggressors). However, I, who have never committed a violent act towards anybody (I did get into a fight with another boy in grade school, but it was a very subdued affair just involving some shoving, and I was very relieved when it ended relatively fast -with me losing-), and who have never threatened anybody, do not appreciate being put in the category of potential aggressors, just because of my gender.

You know, that I dislike the excesses of political correctness does not mean I don’t agree with many of the issues that the PC-crowd defends. For example, there’s the stop-and-frisk practices of some police departments, where people of color (let’s use the PC term, even if the rest of the human population is not transparent) are stopped and searched because they are judged as more likely to be carrying weapons or illegal substances because of the color of their skin. People who defend those practices say, rightly, that the practice is efficient because a person of color is actually more likely to be carrying a weapon or illegal substances. In spite of that, I disagree strongly with the practice, because it unfairly targets a group of people because of their race, and this unfair treatment humiliates them.

Is it OK then to humiliate me by treating me as part of a group of potential abusers, just because I happen to be male? I am not and will never be an aggressor.

The PC-crowd would argue that the difference here is that I’m part of a privileged group (white men), while the victims of stop-and-frisk policies are part of a group that has a history of being discriminated against. They truly do have a point here. I honestly agree that targeting people of color as a group is worse than targeting men. However, is doing any of those things necessary? Can’t we just by default treat people with respect, regardless of their gender, race or sexual orientation, unless they actually do something to lose our respect? It’s not like we can’t talk strongly against domestic violence and about the need to get involved without resorting to that.

I’m just stating my opinion here, though. I don’t dispute in any way anyone’s right to speak in those terms, if they feel they have to. I’m not easily offended just because someone sees things differently.

 

The term “political correctness” is not politically-correct!

You might be surprised to learn that just using the term “political correctness” marks you as an ignorant ass or as a bigot. John Scalzi explains:

8. “Political Correctness” is a catchphrase which today means one of two things. The first is, “I have done no substantial thinking on this topic in at least twenty years and therefore anything I say past this point cannot be treated with any seriousness.” The second is “It is more important for me to continue my ingrained bigotry than it is for you not to be denigrated or offended by my bigotry, because I am lazy and do not wish to be bothered.” If in fact you do not intend to convey either of these two things, you should not use, nor sign on to a document which uses, the phrase “political correctness.”

Because, you see, anything done in the name of political correctness is right, and you can’t criticize it, no matter what. To make sure you don’t criticize it, you are not even allowed to use the term.

So, we can’t even talk about it? Don’t lose hope! Neil Gaiman comes to the rescue with a politically-correct alternative:

I started imagining a world in which we replaced the phrase “politically correct” wherever we could with “treating other people with respect”, and it made me smile.

Now we have a word that we are allowed to use, thanks to Mr. Gaiman. Unfortunately, although it’s true that originally “political correctness” grows out of a laudable desire to “treat people with respect”,  the fact remains that both concepts are not the same. Gaiman, being a writer, must know this, but sometimes you have to love political correctness more than language, and it does have the advantage of making it impossible to criticize the excesses of the PC crowd. As Gaiman himself notes:

I know what you’re thinking now. You’re thinking “Oh my god, that’s treating other people with respect gone mad!”

Yes, that doesn’t sound right. It’s a pity we are not allowed to say “political correctness” without being bigots.

The morale here is that you are not allowed to criticize political correctness run amok, because political correctness is good by definition and therefore it cannot run amok.

This makes me wonder what Mr. Gaiman thinks now, after the whole Jonathan Ross “Hugo debacle”. If you are not aware of the facts, you can get up to date here. On Neil Gaiman’s recommendation, his friend Jonathan Ross was invited to host the Hugo ceremony at the 2014 Worldcon. He generously accepted because he loves the genre and was willing to promote it for free, and because Neil Gaiman had asked him.  However, for no good reason the chronically-outraged PC crowd was outraged and he and his family were subjected to an unjustified wave of verbal abuse on the social networks. Seeing no need to put up with the abuse, he immediately withdrew.

Neil Gaiman was appalled. I guess that since he can’t use the term “political correctness” he can’t really criticize it, but he did imply he was ashamed of being part of the SF&F community:

I have won Hugo Awards, and I am incredibly proud of all of them; I’ve hosted the Hugo Awards ceremony, and I was honoured to have been permitted to be part of that tradition; I know that SF is a family, and like all families, has disagreements, fallings out. I’ve been going to Worldcons since 1987. And I know that these things heal in time.

 

But I’ve taken off the Hugo nominee pin that I’ve worn proudly on my lapel since my Doctor Who episode, The Doctor’s Wifewon the Hugo in September 2012, and, for now, I’ve put it away.

Perhaps he understands now that “political correctness” is not the same as “treating other people with respect”.

This is a pity, because Ross would have been an excellent host. We just can’t have nice things in this house!

Jim C. Hines on “writing the other”

Jim C. Hines seems like a nice guy (maybe I should say nice person, to avoid accusations of sexism), but man, he sure is a source of entertainment. I’m not talking about his fiction, since I have not yet read any of it and therefore I have no opinion, but about his politically-correct views.

Here, for example, he educates us about diversity in fiction, cultural appropriation and writing the other. He does that even though, as he says:

coming to the straight white guy for any sort of authoritative answer about appropriation is all kinds of problematic. 

You see, even though his opinions are all the right ones, politically correct and all, they are still not worth much, because he is a straight white guy.

Anyway, even though he is only a straight white man, we can still learn something here:

It’s important to write about characters and cultures that are different from our own

It depends, I’d say. If we are going to write about the future and our society is becoming increasingly diverse, it does make sense by default to make our future society diverse, unless there is a reason for it not being diverse. However, if we are writing about medieval Europe, then by default it makes sense not to have so much diversity, depending on the exact time and place.

If we are writing, let’s say, fantasy inspired on medieval Europe, then we have more latitude. It’s fantasy, after all, we can do what we want. I would not blame a writer who chose to be true to the historical inspiration of the setting, though.

If our setting is a boys’ boarding school, then it might make sense to have few or no female characters, just like it might make sense to have few or no male characters if our setting is a nunnery.

But let’s not lose our focus with side arguments. Let’s say you write about characters and cultures that are different about yours. Let’s say your main character is a black woman, and that she is lesbian or transgendered (or transgender, because it seems transgendered is not politically correct for whatever reason). Let’s say you write about her respectfully and showing sensibility. Then you are doing the right thing, and no one will dispute your political correctness, right?

Wrong.

You are probably guilty of appropriation. Jim C. Hines explains:

When I was speaking about diversity and appropriation at the conference, one of the things that came to mind was Kevin Smith’s movie Chasing Amy. I remember years ago talking to a bisexual friend who was upset by the movie. Among other things, she said, “He’s trying to tell our stories.”

So, you see, you should tell stories about people who are not like you, but at the same time you should not tell their stories.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I guess that if you happen to be white, male and heterosexual you should just not write.

Why this blog?

I see so many instances of political correctness run amok in speculative fiction that I can’t resist making fun of it.

This does not mean I dislike political correctness, since at its core there’s a healthy desire to respect people. No one should be mocked or disrespected because of their race, gender or sexual orientation. It’s just not nice. Treat people like you would like to be treated.

However, even good things can be taken to ridiculous extremes. Doris Lessing, a writer so progressive that she even won a Nobel Prize, explained it perfectly:

Does Political Correctness have a good side? Yes, it does, for it makes us re-examine attitudes, and that is always useful. The trouble is that, with all popular movements, the lunatic fringe so quickly ceases to be a fringe, the tail begins to wag the dog. For every woman or man who is quietly and sensibly using the idea to examine our assumptions, there are 20 rabble-rousers whose real motive is desire for power over others, no less rabble-rousers because they see themselves as anti-racists or feminists or whatever.