Those who would alter history would
do well to observe and learn from
those who are actually doing it.
Awards, Money and Writing, oh, My
by Sarah A. Hoyt
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Sometimes I’m thick like two four by fours nailed together.
It’s a very specialized form of stupidity, mind you. There is only one category of things I can’t seem to get easily. However that category is “Stupid sh*t people believe and do” which means it affects an awful lot of things in all areas of life.
This particular bit of “wait, what?” came in an epic facebook subthread on a David Weber post.
Oh, it was the usual we’ve seen over the years with a troll accusing Sad Puppies of racism, sexism, homophobia and us asking him what the hell sense that makes.
On the face of it it makes none. It wasn’t our intent, or what we set out to do, which in Larry’s case was deviously “proving the awards are biased by making the fools react and show their hand.” (Mission accomplished with the assterisk thing, the no award, and the changing the rules to make sure massed fans never have a voice louder than the inner clique. Well done indeed.) Brad Torgersen wanted to save the award from itself, and restore it to “a fan award.” He was thwarted by having people like Anderson and Butcher, who would have given the award new prestige shot down by the “no award” crowd. Me? I just wanted the award to mean something other than “terminally literary” (which these days also usually means terminally lefty) so maybe “award winner” could provide people with a to-read list. I thought this would be important going forward, in a mostly indie world, where it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.
And yet people on the left side of science fiction and those who’d been getting awards kept lobbying the same accusations against me and mine. Actually the lefty controlled organs still do. We’re seeing a late echo of this in attempts to ban people they deemed were “puppies” even those who weren’t, like David Weber. And most places including the wikipedia page on the subject propagate the lie that we were white supremacists, and against minorities, women and gays writing science fiction.
Note they don’t say winning the awards (that could be justified because we said we didn’t want you to win an award just because you fit a victimhood class, or even preferentially because you fit a victimhood class, but they were saying we didn’t want any of these people to write science fiction.)
This was the most absolute and complete nonsense. The Sad Puppies I knew, and who met, not in smoky backrooms, but usually in public on our blogs, though sometimes in a dashed emails when something weird came up, like accusations against us in main stream press were: Larry, who is half Portuguese and grew up dirt poor, and who looks more Portuguese than he is; Brad who is in an interracial marriage and who is so far to the left of me and such a bleeding heart liberal we call him the powder blue carebear; my friend Amanda Green, who yeah, is from Texas but holds something like four or five degrees and has traveled extensively and who has a lot more patience for claims of feminine victimhood than I do; and my friend Kate Paulk, born and raised in Australia and doing the best she can under severe illness (yes, she is differently abled, mother suckers. Very true in her case.) Then there’s me: Latin, first generation immigrant, none of the advantages, not even knowing how the field worked, or that you could meet publishers at conventions (Guys, I didn’t know there WERE conventions till five years after I started writing.)
Our levels of success are:
Larry is a bestseller, duh. A real one, not a “pushed” one. However let me assure you I have a huge number of bestseller friends and not one of them can get anyone published much less get a publisher to stop publishing anyone. ANY publisher.
Brad has one novel and any number of short stories published. Until SP he was “very promising newbie.” He ALSO has no power to get anyone published, much less fired from a publisher.
I’m a mid-list author who frankly since she came out of the closet politically has no hope of getting published anywhere but Baen and even Baen might look askance at my “respectability.” (Which is not a concern for bestsellers, but is for midlisters.) This doesn’t matter because there’s indie and I can make more there or at least I did in my one, very odd, indie novel. OTOH if the guys have no hope of affecting who is published or isn’t, much less do I.
As for Amanda and Kate, they are both indie authors. The worst they can do against your career is give you a very bad review. Since those are a dime a dozen in the field, that’s not exactly a ton of harm.
That’s why every time the left trotted out this accusation, and every time they brought it out, I felt like they were more idiotic than usual (which given the stew of undigested nineteenth century crap that makes up their so called philosophy was very idiotic indeed.) I mean, let’s suppose we were villains with the evil intentions they ascribed us. Were we also crazy? No? Then how did we think we could achieve our goals? And did we not notice it would keep all of us but Brad from publishing?
It wasn’t till the middle of the night (I’m on pred and I have a fever and the combination is… interesting) that I woke up realizing what they meant.
In my defense, the ideas are so twisty they could go down a corkscrew without touching the sides. They’re also so deeply ingrained and deep set that these people not only never examine them but assume that everyone is acting from the same bolus of undigested stupidity.
It starts with their being enormous racists.
Yes, I know they’ll deny it strenuously, but really, they are. They think they’re helping “minorities” and “the oppressed” by telling minorities and the oppressed how to think and feel, and by demanding “safe spaces” for people of other colors/orientations and for women, because you know, just being in the presence of other people oppresses them.
But other than their “benign” intentions the racism is there. They assume that people of color (any color, even my spun-gold) can’t compete with standard white people. They assume that women can’t compete with men. They assume that gay people are fragile flowers who’ll be destroyed by the wrong word.
Having made those INCREDIBLY PREJUDICED assumptions, they cast themselves in the role of heroes helping the poor “downtrodden.”
Of course this gives the usually white, usually upper class, usually female “helpers” and “allies” an extra dose of self-esteem, for being so caring and “heroic” and speaking truth to power. In fact they’re mostly speaking power to truth, that is they are the gatekeepers and authorities and standing in the way of anyone who would challenge their vision. They’re also virtue signaling to their buddies in the industry who suffer from EXACTLY the same illusions and prejudices.
They don’t realize they’re casting people as helpless victims because that gives them, the “saviors” a chance of posing as larger than life heroes. At least I hope to heaven they don’t realize it, and are just ASSUMING that of course minorities aren’t capable of anything by themselves. I hope and pray they’re doing all this WITHOUT EXAMINING THEIR ASSUMPTIONS. Note, in their heads they’re the good people, because they want to help the poor brownz (and gayz and womenz) people advance, not keep them in the dirt, where they’d stay without this help. (It’s the “where they’d stay without this help” that makes my middle fingers rise in reflex salute.)
At some level though they do realize it, because there is no one they love more than those who have nothing to offer but their victimhood. AND because the elite, gatekeeper lefties at some level realize that their assumptions are enormously racist, sexist and homophobic, the “allies” invented micro aggressions and “white privilege” and “invisible racism” to make themselves feel better. It’s not that they believe the people they want to help are inferior, none of it, it’s that the system is set against them and always will be. They give themselves away in the fact that these theoretical constructs of theirs can’t be falsified (if I experience “endemic racism” or micro aggressions you can’t falsify my experience. And if death camp survivors have white privilege, who doesn’t, really?) They also give themselves away by what they’re now calling “privilege” like being literate and having your parents read to you as a child. Oh, and most of all they give themselves away by hating with a bloody and purple passion anyone who falls under their parameters for oppressed and who says “no, thanks, I can do it alone.” Or “No worries, I don’t believe any of your stuff, and I think I’m as good as you are and can do as well. I don’t need safe rooms or protection.” They PARTICULARLY hate those minorities that MAKE it, like Larry. They love most of all those who let them “fight” on “their behalf.”
It’s not a new strategy. Many medieval kings used it believe it or not, deriving their power from the lowest class whom they told they were fighting for them against the emergent bourgeoisie. It was called the High and Low alliance and it didn’t come about because the king had a mad pash for the people, but because under the guise of being a kind and wise protector, he could keep his power over the nation, the big noblemen and the increasingly louder middle class.
So, oligarchs will do as oligarchs will do, right?
Which makes it no wonder that this “ally and protector” role is the one embraced by ALL the big publishing houses, the ones with power, the ones who can actually stop publishing people or stop pushing them or whatever, even in our diminished times. It is also embraced by all the bien pensant both in our field, in the news and in academia. This is like “most children of good families in Europe are communists.” These people are rich (mostly very white), went to prestigious universities, and are mostly wealthy. They are certainly powerful. When the tide of opinion turned against that, their way to retain power was to make themselves into “allies” and “protectors.” This is conscious at various levels to different ones of them. BUT they do know they are the good guys, helping the little people who’d be lost without them, right?
Right. So, along come the unwashed, nominating people they just like to read. And of course the left thinks we want to keep women and minorities from publishing. It’s obvious if you make their assumptions.
So, ignore that ALL their assumptions are bog-stupid and require a level of crazy that will have you thinkink you can psychically communicate with plants, and follow along.
1- Assumption one: minorities can’t actually write, not things anyone wants to read. Yes, I know they say that’s because the field, the world, the universe is racisss sexisss and homophobic, but the truth is that they think these are less than people with full agency. Because you know, if you have full agency and are as smart, on average as anyone else, you can change your writing style and focus to make it what people will buy. And yes, they’ll say that’s not “authentic” because that’s how they keep writers in the plantation. Yes, that was tried with me.
2- Assumption two: because they’ll never sell, the only way for minorities to make a living in SF/F is to have academic jobs. Look, I told you I was thick, didn’t I? I should have tweaked that when the third agent tried to push me into getting a university teaching job and writing less. Because I could already be teaching (languages) in college, and in fact that’s my fall-back job when we’re in trouble, it never occurred to me this was being suggested as the only-true-way for me to make a living from “writing sf/f”.
3- Assumption three: because everyone is racist (as the gatekeepers in fact are) there are people out to get these people simply for being different color etc.
4- Minorities and women can’t compete with white males in a field not ACTIVELY biased FOR them, and not biased to give awards for right genetics and right think. I want to note that while I reject the left’s assumptions UTTERLY, I reject this one UTTERLY AND VEHEMENTLY. Sure, I can’t beat every white male in my own field, but I can’t beat every woman either. However, I am better than a significant number of them, enough to know what’s holding me back is not my gender or the fact I can tan.
(This btw for the first time reconciles the fact that while giving all praise (and awards) to diversity the left in charge of publishing thinks that all minorities can write is narrow stuff relating to their own history and victimhood. “Authentic” in other words. They also discourage books with minority—of any kind—heroes.)
If you follow all those assumptions and you have some experience in Academia, you know that the left insists on giving awards on the basis of race, sex, etc, because that helps with university jobs. (To be fair most of them also work in academia.)
This means that by trying to remove the awards from going automatically to the oppressed ones (and their saintly allies) and making them compete in an open field with those evil white males we are making it impossible for them to make a living writing science fiction. So, by wanting awards to be actually meritocratic (a lot of people have also pulled their masks off by coming out AGAINST meritocracy.) we are evil racist, sexist, homophobes who want to keep the poor downtrodden from WRITING science fiction.
Ignored in all this is indie, of course, because you know, it doesn’t fit in the academic career plan.
Ignored in all this too is the fact that writers write. I wrote for 13 years (8 novels, five since published) uphill, both ways, without so much as a personalized rejection till year eight (for novels. For shorts I got a personalized rejection first time, then nothing for eight years.) I wrote even in times when I didn’t have the money for stamps to send the novels out. I wrote when I thought I’d never ever ever break in and that writing was just a weird hobby.
So, you know, you can’t keep anyone from writing. And with indie you can’t keep anyone from publishing. And the last thing I care about is the color of the hands that typed in the manuscript. Heck, I don’t even care about the color of characters, or their sex, or their orientation, or if they’re purple aliens. I care that they are interesting. Keep me reading, and I don’t even care if your worldbuilding shows you have no clue how a real economy works.
Anyway, problem solved. I figured out why they accuse us of this insanity. And it makes sense, if you buy into all their assumptions. Of course, if you buy all their assumptions you’re more than a few slices short of a loaf or exquisitely indoctrinated, or using their assumptions as a hustle, but never mind that. (And if you’re like me, it’s hard to control the rise of the middle fingers in response to the assumptions, but never mind that either.)
Now when they bring this stupidity up, we can confront them with the submerged part of their ideas, which, like an iceberg, are massive and dark.
And we can return to ignoring them and writing fiction (and some non fiction). Because you know, writers write. They don’t use fiction as a vehicle for a university job. It doesn’t really matter what color or sex the writers are or with whom they prefer to bump uglies. Writers write.
Some of us are so broken and so innocent we just want to tell stories and have them read.
And that’s what I’ll do.
This site may receive compensation if a product is purchased
through one of our partner or affiliate referral links. You
already know that, of course, but this is part of the FTC Disclosure
Policy found here. (Warning: this is a 2,359,896-byte 53-page PDF file!)