Sarah Hoyt holds forth her experience in the science fiction field, her conclusions, her resolve.
Remember as you read her words, this is the woman the Morlocks are trying to destroy. The fear she escaped is the fear into which our foes wish all writers and readers to be bound.
The lack of interesting science fiction, the inability of writers to make a living, or win awards, the sheer boring dreck infecting the field is not an illusion produced by your nostalgia nor is it some unaccountable and inexplicable loss of talent and imagination in our field.
It is a by product of the selection process publishers use to publicize books, and the gaming of the systems used to grant awards by a small “Inner Ring” of friends who watch each others’ backs, enforce a political conformity of political correctness, and hate everything you love, including robust, entertaining, and well written science fiction.
This is sobering reading:
I wanted to read science fiction … I still thought of myself as a science fiction geek. BUT I had trouble finding stuff to read.
t wasn’t just the politics in the books. To a certain extent it wasn’t the politics at all. I could take or leave politics and was really good at skimming past stupid stuff. If it had been politics I wouldn’t have run headlong into mystery. And it wasn’t the grey and dreary future that everyone assumed … was on its way. It wasn’t even the despondent “we can’t write about the far future because humans won’t resemble humans” (says who?) or the loony “We’re living in a science fiction world so what’s the point of writing sf?”
No, what chased me out was boredom. I realized that given the same subgenre, I could be reading two books at once and not realize I’d changed books.
The pattern was most obvious in the fantasy of mid eighties to the mid nineties. I remember going down a shelf at B & N desperately looking for something to read and getting annoyed at the blurbs. They were all the same — ALL OF THEM — young female magic user. Abusive father. Escape to magical society. Validation. Saves the world. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The science fiction was close enough, though by the early nineties we had the truly crazycakes feminist SF with “the women planet is really very peaceful” and various would be utopias with males “confined”. Since I like men and prefer the company of men, this left me cold. The ecological disaster left me equally cold. Everything was rusty and leaking, and everyone was living in a danker and less hopeful version of 1984, only in this case it was all the fault of eeevil capitalism and industry and if ONLY big Brother had been watching.
The sameness and a weird sense the writer hated the genre and was smirking at me while he wrote as in “Oh, so you want to dream of the future, you nasty little human. See what I do to your dreams” had me reading less and less science fiction and fantasy as time went on.
I became a professional writer sometime in the late nineties. And that’s when I found out that the game was rigged.
ten years ago, I lived in a state of fear. And the fact that my fear was real and serious is justified by that accusation to Brad, “You bad bad man, when you decided these people deserved awards, you didn’t TELL THEM you were putting them on a recommend list.”
I lived in fear because of the implied end of that sentence “And you knew that because you associated them with you, a known conservative, we would make their lives miserable and do our best to end their careers.”
And that, my friends is what I realized when I sold my first novel in the late 90s. Most Americans might not be that sensitive to the “climate” but I was. I had after all grown up in a socialist (at best, during the better times) country where to graduate you had to present the proper progressive front. I knew the signs and the hints and social positioning of “further left than thou.” For instance, my first SF cons, as an author, in the green room, I became aware that “a conservative” was a suitable, laughter inducing punchline for any joke; that all of them believed the Reagan years had set us on course to total dystopia; that the US was less enlightened/capable/free than anywhere else; that your average Republican or even non-Democrat voter was the equivalent of the Taliban.
As for Libertarians, I will to my dying day cherish the dinner I had with my then editor to whom I was describing a funny incident at MileHi where for reasons known only to Bob, I found myself in an argument with someone who wanted to ban the internal combustion engine. My editor perked up and (I swear I’m not making this up) said “Oh, a Libertarian.” At which point my husband squeezed my thigh hard enough to stop me answering. But yeah. That was a not uncommon idea of a libertarian. If it was completely insane and involved banning something, then it was a libertarian.
I once overheard the same editor talking to a colleague and saying that if she got submissions across her desk and they were – dropped and horrified voice – somewhat conservative she recommended they try Baen.
Which the other editor (from a different house) agreed with, because after all, they weren’t in the business of publishing conservative works.
This immediately put me on notice that in the field if you were a conservative (I presume libertarians were worse, or at least they seemed to induce more mouth foaming. And though I was solidly libertarian and – at the time – might have qualified as a Libertarian, I suspect if faced with my real positions they would have classed me as conservative, because my positions were self-obviously not left and that’s all it took.) there was only one house that would take you, and if what you wrote/wanted to write wasn’t accepted by then, then you were out of luck.
After that I lived in a state of fear
I imagine it was similar to living in one of the more unsavory periods of the Soviet Union. You saw these purges happen. Whisper-purges. You got the word that someone was “not quite the thing” or that they associated with so and so who associated with so and so who was a – dropped voice – conservative. Suddenly that person’s books weren’t being bought and somehow people would clear a circle around them, because, well, you know, if you’re seen with a – dropped voice – conservative they might think you’re one too. And then it’s off to Neverland with you.
I found a few other conservatives/libertarians (frankly, mostly libertarians) in the field, all living in the same state of gut clenching fear.