The luminous Sarah Hoyt has an entertaining and insightful diatribe here on the phenomena which we might call “My Elves Are Different” — wherein Hoyt hears with disgust the moral preening of some lady novelist pretending to be daring and original just where the writing is most trite and predictable. http://accordingtohoyt.com/2014/03/21/were-the-pinnacle-of-civilization-just-like-everyone-else/
Here is the main contention of her article:
It struck me for the first time a few years ago on that Tor symposium on Heinlein that humans – perhaps all humans – have a necessity to view history as a ladder and themselves – or their generation, their kind, their club, their kin – at its pinnacle [….] What I’ve seen is that when material civilization and objective markers of achievement have marched backwards, we tend to compensate with moral preening.
[...] the people who object to “male dominated science fiction” – these people are not in fact comparing themselves to any science fiction that exists or existed.
[...] And yet, today, women can without a trace of irony make the following statements, (I’ve heard them, in panels) – my novel is totally different. It has a strong female main character. (No, really? Astound us. Is there a strong male character that’s not legacy still being published? In recent years?) and “I’m not like all those old pulp science fiction novels. I care about ideas and what they mean to people.” (You mean, like whether an ant-like civilization would be preferable to human; or what happens when a supercomputer runs the world; or what happens when a cloud becomes intelligent; or the complexities of rebuilding a civilization built on the Catholic church after a nuclear holocaust; or whether our dreams exist in another dimension; or – Those pulp non-ideas?)
[...] Do they really believe this? Are they so devoid of knowledge of the field that they believe that all that lies behind there is cartoon-like sci fi, not even rising to the level of Star Trek?
[...] Will studying the masters fix the problem? Probably not.
My comment: Brava! Well said!
I would not dream of disagreeing with anything Sarah Hoyt says here, but I would venture to suggest, albeit with hesitant deference, that she does not go far enough. She does not dig deep enough to identify the roots of this particular weed. It is not innocent human folly on the part of her lady space-fiction novelist quoted, nor a mere lapse of judgment.
Let us take as granted at the outset that Mrs Hoyt is correct that studying the masters will not correct the outrageous nature of the falsehood believed here by the lady space-fiction novelist (whom, for the sake of convenience, we will refer hereafter by the invented name of Miss Floriferous Quoin Mugwump of Asperity, Oregon).
I agree wholeheartedly with Mrs Hoyt. But I go beyond her by saying no study of any form of fact whatever will have any influence on the worldview of Miss Mugwump whatsoever: hers is a worldview is designed not to react to facts.
Is there any doubt whatsoever what is the worldview of Sarah Hoyt’s lady space-fiction novelist? Miss Mugwump is a Politically Correct modern Liberal.
Miss Mugwump believes that all prior novelists were too craven to pen a strong female character, and that the early magazine writers were barren of ideas significant to people for one reason only: Political Correctness encourages, nay, it requires a false-to-facts belief, founded on nothing but illusion and wishful thinking, which promotes self-flattery, and allows for self-congratulation and moral preening.
Mugwump would be too shy to say that she is prettier than Helen of Troy, nor that her books are better written than Shakespeare; but she is oddly not too shy to say that she serves the cause of feminine equality as no woman ever before, or the cause of bringing the enlightenment of significant ideas to the benighted.
In reality, boasting oneself to be prettier than Helen or wittier than Shakespeare is no less absurd than boasting oneself to be a more female sci-fi writer than Leigh Brackett or Ursula K Le Guin, or penning female characters stronger than C.L.Moore’s Jirel of Joiry or Asimov’s Bayta Darell, or more pointedly, Jael Reasoner from Joanna Russ.
(For those of you keeping track, Jael is from the 70′s, over forty years past; Beyta is from 50′s, over sixty years past, Jirel is from 30′s, over seventy. I do not want to tell you what year Britomart or Camilla, Penelope or Deborah hail from. Strong female main characters did not begin with Miss Mugwump, unless she is older than Spencer, Virgil, Homer and Moses.)
But here, in the madness in the mind of Miss Mugwump, she is willing to say the third boast, about her moral superiority, but not the first two, a physical or mental superiority. Why is that?
Allow me to propose that there is one overarching theory, let us call it the Universal Field Theory of Madness, to explain the Politically Correct mind-set of the Modern Liberal.
I suggest that there is a certain philosophy (or antiphilosophy) called Political Correctness, technically called Nihilism, which has crept like some vast amoeboid slime from the torture hells of Lenin to the ivory towers of Academia, from thence sloshing into the poppy field of literature and the swamp of popular entertainment and now runs along main street of our common conversation like an open sewer.