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#168631 - 12/03/18 03:03 PM Is There a Place in Publishing for Non-progressive
speedy2686 Offline

Registered: 05/24/17
Posts: 12
Loc: USA
Is There a Place in Publishing for Non-progressive Writers?
(Title line ran out of space)

At the time, I thought the Sad Puppies debacle was overblown and mostly ridiculous. I didn't pay a lot of attention. Since then, though, I've found several anecdotes and discussions that make me reconsider and wonder whether people who don't toe the progressive line can even make it in modern American publishing.

Maybe you've heard of Nick Cole. He previously had a contract with HarperVoyager and had put out a few books with them. As far as I know, none of his work was overtly political. When he wrote his s-f AI-kills-all-humans book, Ctrl-Alt-Revolt, his editor got "very offended," and shit-canned him.


According to Cole, the motivation for his AI genocide was the trigger. You can read his account of it here. The short version: The AI surreptitiously observes humanity, sees a woman on the world's most popular Bachelor-like reality show have an abortion to hide her infidelity, and the AI reasons that if humans are willing to eliminate their own offspring for threatening their interests, they would be willing to eliminate an AI for the same reason. They AI decides to strike first.

Frankly, it sounds like a cliché, but that's not the point. The point is that this element of the book so offended the editor that the author was summarily struck from the publishing schedule.

We only have Cole's version of events, but given that no counter narrative has been offered, combined with the currently divisive political climate, and the fact that publishing and media generally seems to be tilting left, I'm inclined to take Cole at his word.

Another case is that of NK Jemisin, the darling of SF/F at the moment. She practically makes the Sad Puppies' case for them. I first encountered her work in a college class. We read her debut, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I didn't think it was bad, but it wasn't my kind of book. I've since tried to re-read it, in an attempt to understand the appeal. I still don't think it's great, but I think Jemisin's idea of what the book is about explains exactly why it's so appealing, particularly to the left.

Most of you have read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which was my first attempt to examine rape culture in my long fiction. For all the Amn’s flaws, theirs is not a culture in which the first thing an enemy does to intimidate or control another person is to threaten them with reproductive or sexual violence. This is not the case in Yeine’s home culture, the Darre. Still, I showed the Darre merely for contrast; the story was primarily set in societies — the gods’, the Arameri microculture in Sky — in which rape could and did happen, but mostly as a consequence of something else (like slavery), and was not targeted specifically at women. (And the Amn will at least call a spade a spade. Among the Darre, rape is so normalized that they don’t even use the word.)

How does this make the Sad Puppies case? Their main gripe was what they saw as the favoring of "boring message fic" over stories that were just pure entertainment. Whether one agrees with the Sad Puppies case or not, Jemisin's own description of her debut novel definitely qualifies as "message fic." Boring is in the eye of the beholder. I, for one, would call it boring, but to be fair, I'm a bigger fan of science-fiction than of fantasy.

So, what's an aspiring writer to do?

#168632 - 12/05/18 02:50 PM Re: Is There a Place in Publishing for Non-progressive [Re: speedy2686]
Gilbert Offline

Registered: 10/10/05
Posts: 66
While on the subject of NKJ, I don't see the appeal of The Broken Earth trilogy which has won 3 Hugos and 1 Nebula. What am I missing?
#168633 - 12/06/18 12:53 PM Re: Is There a Place in Publishing for Non-progressive [Re: Gilbert]
jmill Online   content
Full Shrike

Registered: 04/01/06
Posts: 5581

If Mr. Cole is accurate about the reason the publisher dropped his book, that brings two things to mind: 1. I'm not surprised that publishing, centered in that bastion of left-wing thinking New York City, is being impacted by SJW style censorship, and 2. This story demonstrates the brittle rigidity of left-wingers.

That brittleness is the reason they double down constantly on censorship. They can't abide other viewpoints because those viewpoints might ultimately collapse their own rigid, normally unchallenged worldview, and that can't be allowed to happen.

Like all brittle systems, there is only one solution to prevent being shattered: reinforce, reinforce, reinforce - build ever thicker walls. Just keep adding layer after layer of stone, like a Medieval castle, to keep out those barbarian hordes (translation: alternate ideas). This inherent flaw is why left-wingers are enthralled and ultimately seduced by hive thinking. An anthill or a beehive cannot abide differentness. Every individual must do its job precisely, mindlessly, unceasingly to succeed, and there can be no innovation or ambition. That's why entrepreneurship and individualism and free speech are anathema to left-wingers.

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