My job isn’t being relevant

Someone has again scratched a pet peeve of mine, that old pseudo-literary bugbear “relevance.”  As in, SF is losing it, and it better get some quick or else be declared “irrelevant.”  This is a bit of an oversimplification of the essay by Jetse de Vries, Should SF Die? But it pretty much encapsulates my problem with the statements made therein:

My viewpoint is that SF is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and that lack of relevance can be attributed to developments and trends already mentioned in the points above, and SF’s unwillingness to really engage with the here-and-now.

We go from there, to a laundry list of SF’s faults, and ultimately ending at a conclusion pretty close to that of the Mundane SF movement.  We end with the admonition that:

SF does handle urgent, near-future topics like climate change, pollution, environmental degradation, overpopulation, biodiversity loss and more. However, it almost exclusively shows how things will go from bad to worse to worst, and almost never comes up with the merest hint of a proposal to a solution.

Boil it down and it comes to the value judgement that SF has a proper purpose that amounts to something other than producing a good story well told. To which I say, bollocks.  I think it comes from a deep-seated insecurity that dates from the primordial days of the pulps and continues to the present day, from people who work in the genre but are deeply embarrassed about doing so.  This need to justify some perceived deficit or immaturity in the genre is behind the desire to say to all the literary snobs “this is important, it has a purpose!”

All of which makes me scratch my head and say WTF?  I’m sure that other genres have their impulses to validate themselves, but in SF it seems particularly strident and, at times, pathologically arrogant.  While Romance critics strive to point out, rightly, that their genre can have the same literary merit as any fiction,  I’ve never heard anyone assert that Romance must try to save the world or die trying.  Must a Horror novel be “relevant”? Is The Road a lesser novel because it offers no solutions?  Is it less relevant, less deserving of literary attention?

While the post has some points, primarily about failures of vision on the racial and cultural front, and  those can be ascribed to either endemic cultural prejudices (which infect all media and genres to some degree, and should probably be addressed in that context) or bad writing (which is just bad writing) which isn’t a SFnal problem, but a general literary and artistic one.

When it comes down to sales, it all depends on how you define SF.  If you define it solely as stuff with SF on the spine, sales may be dropping.  If you add in all the spillover into other genres; YA, Romance, Thriller, and even Literary fiction (see Michael Chabon), the news isn’t even close to dire.

So to answer the post’s question, Should SF die?

I’d like to see you try and kill it, it will kick your ass.

10 things to worry about for the coming year

Enough with the holiday cheer.  Here’s a list of ten things that I’m getting paranoid about for the coming year.

  1. The Obama administration has modified a long-standing executive order so now agents of Interpol have full diplomatic immunity.  i.e. We have now a class of law enforcement in this country beyond any rules of search and seizure, Miranda, or any of those annoying due-process concerns.
  2. The head of the IPCC (the agency responsible for UN climate change policy) has a cosmically massive conflict of interest, as he stands to make a few billion on carbon trading schemes.
  3. If the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement doesn’t scare you, the fact that it’s being negotiated in secret should.
  4. Not only are we hemorrhaging money, it’s not even going where it’s supposedly needed.
  5. Then there’s the fact we’re giving a blank check to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac because they did such a good job before.
  6. Apparently the only lessons we learned from 9/11 were the wrong ones.
  7. If they slipped this in, what other incompetence awaits us?
  8. History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.
  9. Apparently, Predator drones are hackable.
  10. This guy is still in control of the economy.

Crazy Authors Continued. . .

More inappropriate author behavior from Candice Sams from the ever-growing comment thread on Amazon. Here an enterprising commenter found an interesting plea on her Facebook page. (And here’s an LJ post with the full text in case Amazon deep-sixes the original comment.) So here we have someone pulling a reverse Deborah MacGillivray, piling on a reviewer and then calling out the internet stormtroopers to game Amazon. What follows is her Facebook plea, with my commentary in red.

Hi all,

If you have the time or the inclination…might I prevail upon you for a small favor?
Would you please click on the link that I’ve inserted…go over to Amazon.com and just click YES under… the helpful reviews left by amazon reviewers, Harriet Klausner, C. Roberts and Tammie King (these are wonderful ladies who first gave me a chance when I started writing about thirteen years ago and I cannot thank them enough). [What is with this woman and ellipses? I thought I had an ellipsis problem, but three random ellipses in the same paragraph? And since when do reviewers “give you a chance?” That’s the sort of acknowledgment one usually gives the people who buy your book.]

These lovely reviewers left very kind remarks but were undercut by two individuals who are known as hit-and-run reviewers (reviewers calling themselves BBB and LB Taylor). [So not only do negative reviews reflect badly on the book, they are undercutting poor Harriet Klausner. Coming soon, Amazon reviewer cage matches.] These two people repeatedly give very poor rankings on books; they’ve done this many, many times. [A guy in the comment thread actually did an analysis of LB Taylor and the rankings of those reviews fall on a pretty nice (and flat) bell curve.] Continue reading “Crazy Authors Continued. . .”

Self-Imploding Authors, just add crazy

I’m late to this party, but when I found it via Making Light I couldn’t resist blogging about it:

Candace Sams, author of Electra Galaxy’s Mr. Interstellar Feller (mass-market paperback, Dorchester/Love Spell), has exploded all over a comment thread on Amazon. She’s posting as Niteflyr One, but the comment thread has her ID’d as the author as of comment #8.

Head’s up, newbie writers, it is a bad idea to comment on reviews of your work.  It’s a really bad idea to start a flame war over your work.  The following is on page #2 of 26(!) pages of comments:

NOTE TO READERS: authors leave themselves open for attack by having their work posted for sale…they hope that if there’s anything engaging about the books, someone might say so. They hope that if others don’t like the books, they will find a more tactful, professional and mature way to express themselves. They (the authors) hope that so-called reviewers (often shameful people who abuse the power Amazon provides) will not directly try to keep the author from making a living.

That is only a short little segment of a tirade where our author decides to rant and insult her audience.  Always a smooth move.  You know, if you are this insecure and thin skinned, maybe you should find another line of work.  But, as I said, page #2. Hasn’t slowed down a bit by #4:

Because, that’s the way the business works in some New York venues. Only the highest paid authors won’t have their manuscripts ripped apart by some editors. As to my bad author behavior…I’m getting a lot of email telling me to stand my ground…from people who ARE buying my books.

Lady, an editor “ripping apart” your manuscript is a sign you have a sucktastic editor.  And, if your fans told you to jump off a bridge. . . Continue reading “Self-Imploding Authors, just add crazy”