First Thoughts on FORBIDDEN THOUGHTS

Others will no doubt post about more coherent thoughts about Superversive Press’s new anthology, FORBIDDEN THOUGHTS, but…here are mine:

Wow…it is so exciting to see something go from a glimmer of an idea to reality! And then see it fly off the shelves (electronically). Here’s how it happened:

About two years ago, a friend of mine wanted to put together a charity anthology for the Charlie Hebdo artists. She said, “Send me the most controversial thing you’ve ever written!”

Well, I don’t normally do controversial per se. But I sat down and prayed a bit to see what would come to me. I had just read Face-to-Face with Jesus by Samaa Habib, one of the best books I’ve ever read, and my mind was full of thoughts about her experience. So, I sat down and wrote the. most. controversial. story I was capable of conceiving.

The story is called “The Test of the Prophet”.

At first, I thought I’d done quite well. My mom immediately worried that it would get my shot, and my atheist Liberal friend called it hateful. But, my Muslim friend loved it and took it home to Pakistan to show her parents. (Life can be strange sometimes!)

By this time, however, I realized that the first anthology wasn’t going to fly. But I REALLY wanted to do something with my story. It was the best thing I had ever written.

But what can you do with a super controversial story in this age of safe spaces and trigger warnings?

Then, in the midst of the Sad Puppy fervor, I caught a glimmer of an answer. Jason Rennie, editor of Sci Phi Journal and the brilliant mind behind SuperverisveSF, suggested in the midst of a flurry of Sad Puppy emails, that the authors involved get together and do an anthology of anti-PC stories, kind of a modern Dangerous Visions–putting into story form all those thoughts that the SJWs don’t want people to think. Basically, doing what SF is supposed to do, posing difficult questions.

Those of us on the email chain decided on the title: Forbidden Thoughts.

I LOVED this idea. Here was my answer to what to do with my controversial story.

So, I kept on Jason about this, and I kept on the other authors. When a few were too busy to be able to fit writing a new short story into their schedule, I convinced them to submit incendiary blog posts.

So we now had a volume with stories by, among others, John, Nick Cole, Brian Niemeier, Josh Young, Brad Torgersen, Sarah Hoyt, and, a particularly delightful surprise for me, our young Marine fan friend, Pierce Oka. Plus, non fiction by Tom Kratman and Larry Correia submitted some of his original Sad Puppy posts–the thing that started it all!

But we still needed a Foreword.

Last winter, during one of our SuperversiveSF chats, we had invited the one reporter who reported truthfully on Sad Puppies, an amusing and irreverent fellow named Milo Yiannopoulos. Just as the chat was scheduled to begin, Milo was informed that he had been deverified on Twitter. This made it so that he was never able to attend our chat. He made it clear that he regretted this and kind of owed us.

So, I asked Jason to see if Milo would let us cash in our favor in the form of him writing the Foreword.

He did!

Milo wrote an excellent Foreword. We put the stories in order and voila! A delightfully thought-provoking volume that reminds me of the daring stories one found the pages of Science Fiction volumes in my youth.

There is one other delightful story that goes with this volume. Last summer, as we often do, we spent a week in Chincoteague. Our teen writer fan (some of you may have seen the victory dance she did when John won Dragon Award), asked if she and her family could join us, so we and the Freeman family spent a wonderful week together.

As I arrived on Chincoteague, I got an email from Jason informing me that he had read a submission by April, and it was really chilling. He thought it would work for Forbidden Thoughts. So, when April walked into the house we were renting for the week, I got to inform her that her first published piece would be in an anthology with John and I!

She was so stunned that she had to call me the next morning and ask me to explain it all again. Lol It was a delightful moment.

Now Forbidden thoughts is live! There will be an official Launch party with a live chat on Inauguration Day.

So, Politically-Correct friends, you might want to avoid this, but the rest of you, come join in the fun!!!

You are not supposed to read this book.
You are not supposed to think about reading this book.
In fact, just plain thinking at all is unacceptable.
You have been warned….

On Amazon!

(Print version coming. Probably by next week.)

Comments

 

The Difficulty with Political Diversity

At the last Worldcon, there was a panel whose title I liked, but which I did not want to attend because the panelists lacked diversity. The title of the panel was: “Ideology versus Politics in Science Fiction”. It caught my eye, because I follow politics closely. The description ended with a very good question, asking how politics might be represented in SF in an authentic way, whilst remaining interesting to readers. But then I saw who was on the panel. Whilst I had no objection to any specific individual, I thought there was a big problem with the panel’s composition. This was the panel:

  • Teresa Nielsen Hayden, moderator
  • Martin McGrath
  • Laurie Penny
  • Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Jon Courtenay Grimwood

I dislike labelling other people’s political beliefs. Political views can be complicated, and labels encourage unhelpful generalization. The left-right spectrum is a crude way to allocate beliefs to individuals, and people should speak for themselves. But for those of you who may be unfamiliar with some of the names listed, let me succinctly characterize their views in ways that I believe are fair to them. To do that, I will try to draw on facts about the individual, as opposed to anyone else’s opinions about them.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden is an American editor. She started a popular weblog described as “liberal to libertarian” per its Google entry.

Martin McGrath is a British academic. In a recent blog, he identified with the “task” facing the British Labour Party if it is to win in future.

Laurie Penny is a British political journalist. The name of her personal blog, Penny Red, is meant to signal her political sympathies.

Kim Stanley Robinson is an American author. When asked if he was a libertarian anarchist, he replied:

No, I am a green socialist, roughly. A utopian. I don’t like libertarianism as I understand it because it seems to keep private property, police, and other aspects of the current system, indeed it seems to keep capitalism.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood is a British author. I know least about his politics; his views may be the hardest to pigeon-hole. But after the British general election he tweeted that he lived in a “weird country” and that he was eating chocolate muffins as “compensation” for the result.

Given the facts, no reasonable person would dispute that all these people identify with the left-hand side of the political spectrum in their respective countries. That means none of them identify with the right, or even the current middle. But they were asked to discuss how to portray politics in a more authentic way. Does that not seem odd, if the goal was an impartial analysis of authenticity?

Last week I wrote some things that upset some people. Put very simply, I observed that American writers are more likely to win awards if the awards are decided by people who are mostly American, and who participate in conventions that are mostly held in America. I also believe that lefty writers are more likely to win awards if the awards are voted on by lefties who attend conventions where lefty speakers are preferred.

I have less data of relevance to the second observation. Hugo voters do not register their political affiliations, and it is harder to objectively determine a person’s politics than their nationality. But I struggle to see how these observations could be considered controversial. Substitute the word ‘Cambodia’ for ‘America’, or the word ‘Buddhist’ for ‘lefty’. The statements are true based on what we know about people in general, irrespective of the specific tribe they belong to. People vote for book awards according to taste. Their tastes are influenced by their experiences, and are manifest in the groups they choose to identify with.

For all the debate about awards and politics in SF, few have proposed good ideas for promoting polite conversation between them and us (or between us and them, depending on your point of view). That seems odd, because every single Worldcon has been hosted in a democratic country, meaning that the vast majority of Worldcon participants are familiar with cultures that encourage dialogue between political adversaries. We understand the point made by Churchill, when he said:

To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.

I think the next Worldcon should emulate the last one, by having a panel that overtly discusses politics in SF. But this time, a full range of opinions should be represented. If that occurred, the speakers might – there are no guarantees – demonstrate how it is possible to disagree without resorting to name-calling, tantrums, no-platforming, or any other shenanigans that seek to promote some by excluding others.

So then I wondered who would be on that panel, if I was given the task of selecting the speakers, and the omnipotence to ensure their willing participation. Kim Stanley Robinson would be a good choice, even though I was unhappy about last year’s panel. Brad Torgersen would be an obvious pick, if not detained by an actual war-war somewhere else.

However, I found my challenge was beyond me, or else I would have presented a list of names here. It is devilishly difficult to pick five people to intelligently and sincerely discuss how politics might be authentically represented in SF, whilst also reflecting a comprehensive range of political opinions. To get a good choice, you would have to select individuals who are passionate without being divisive, who are earnest and persuasive, who are knowledgeable and credible, and who play well with others, though you will strongly disagree with some of them. What do you think a truly balanced panel would look like? Not having a good answer to share, I am curious to learn from others.

Brad Torgersen talks about fear in SF

As the Hugo nomination announcement draws close Brad Torgersen has another post up detailing the concern and fear that so many in the SF field feel when they dare to express ungood opinions.

Sarah Hoyt did a bang-up job highlighting this in one of her recent blog posts. She talked about how she had to constantly watch herself: what she said, who she associated with, what signs she might give the editors or the other authors or even the fans that Sarah was the “wrong” kind of writer. I know what Sarah is talking about, on a very intimate level. Sarah’s not kidding. In fact, she’s almost being too nice about it. The field (of SF/F publishing and fandom) is soaked with fear. Moreso now than — I dare say — at any time in its history.

I think part of it comes from our general societal fear factor. Activists of all stripes have discovered that — through the magic of the internet — even very small fringe groups can make themselves appear more substantial, by crowd-sourcing their efforts and using Alinsky-style tactics to threaten and punish businesses, politicians, public figures, actors, musicians, comedians, writers, you name it. If there is somebody capable of being pissed off at a thing in this world, that somebody is (at this very moment) staging, or preparing to stage, a letter-writing campaign, a boycott, a comment thread mob, a twitter storm, or some other type of harassment designed to shut the target down. Force the target into the defensive posture. Make the target apologize, capitulate, scrape his belly, mewl for forgiveness, etc.

And the sad part is: this usually works. Folks know that behind every activist mob, there is the threat of a) bad publicity and b) a law suit. Folks don’t like either of those things. So if push comes to shove, a targeted business or individual will almost always try to give the plaintiffs what they want. Either in the form of superficial concessions, or worse yet, by converting and flying the plaintiffs’ own flag — See, world? We’ve changed! We’re one of the good guys now! Not like all these other evil people who’ve not seen the light! Forward, comrades!

Nobody is safe. Not in any area of our world. Witness the poor comet probe scientist who was mobbed and shamed into a tearful Soviet-style mea culpa by the so-called feminist activists — who were outraged that he had worn a loud bowling shirt with James Bond style women depicted in the print. Such a shirt would not have caused anyone to bat an eyelash 20 years ago. Now? Now, it’s a hanging offense.

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Brad Torgersen has some more Sad Puppies 3 News

It seems that not everybody is happy about the Sad Puppies project and Brad Torgersen has some thoughts about it.

I don’t usually take to fisking the comments of others in the field, but the recent words of Teresa Nielsen-Hayden simply demand it. Since my inception as a professional, I have made the case for an “open” system. No barriers. Not on writers, and not on fans. Publish, connect with your audience (for fun and profit!) and for God’s sake, no more gatekeeping of the “ghetto” that is the literary Science Fiction and Fantasy field. Writers are writers are writers, and fans are fans are fans. My reasoning along these lines is not original to me. Others were saying similar things ten-plus years ago. But now it’s gotten to the point that certain would-be gatekeepers have become so thoroughly convinced of their station — and so absolutely sure of your unworthiness to partake — that it’s time to stand up.

Sad Puppies 3 terrifies SMOF queen (and former TOR editor) Teresa Nielsen-Hayden because she knows that TruFans (the dyed-in-the-wool, insular, legacy group of fans who cluster about World Science Fiction Convention) are a dying breed. She knows that if enough glare is placed on the award (the Hugos) and enough “outside” fans (you and me and the rest of the universe) come to claim our place, then TruFans are done. Their relevance will be at an end. They had a good run, got big heads, decided they could begin trashing whomever they felt like, and now the mask is being cast off — at the end, when TruFans are imperiled by the harsh light of reality.

TNH: I should have been clearer. Those of us who love SF and love fandom know in our hearts that the Hugo is ours. One of the most upsetting things about the Sad Puppy campaigns is that they’re saying the Hugo shouldn’t belong to all of us, it should just belong to them.

This is a very Kafka-esq example of narrative-spinning. Sad Puppies 3 has always been about bringing new people to the Hugo process; from the very start. We never said the Hugo was ours, nor did we claim it should be ours. We claimed it belonged to no single person, nor any special group. It was (and is) the award of the field. Of all Science Fiction & Fantasy. It’s not Teresa’s personal property. It is not the property of the TruFans. Nor the SMOFs. Teresa is not even playing for the undecideds at this point, because this is pure dog-whistling for the other TruFen; the people who’ve convinced themselves that they (and they alone) are the only ones who can appreciate, love, or enjoy, SF/F. Teresa is telling a fairy tale for the morale of TruFans, because Teresa knows the cause is lost. The flame of the TruFen is dying. No more gatekeepers. No more SMOFs. No more big fish in small fishbowls. No more taste-making.

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Will Sad Puppies #3 destroy SF?

hugo_dilemma

Brad R. Torgersen explores this question in a recent blog post called, unsurprisingly, Why SAD PUPPIES 3 is going to destroy Science Fiction!. Have you read Brad’s new book, The Chaplain’s War? You should it is good.

Anyway, have a read of his article

It’s remarkable how fast word travels on the intarwebz these days. No sooner had I posted the (rather tame) announcement that SAD PUPPIES was coming back for a third go-around, than some people began carping about it. Which is to be expected. SAD PUPPIES breaks the rules. RULE #1: thou shalt not publicly campaign. Even though campaigning (in this award) has been done for many decades. RULE #2: thou shalt not publicly point out blind spots or biases in the voting body. Even though behind-closed-doors rage about these biases and blind spots has also been going on for decades — just not always about the same biases and blind spots. And lastly, RULE #3: thou shalt not publicly criticize Worldcon or “fandom” proper. Even though “fandom” (as an actual, coherent label for a specific body of people) hasn’t been applicable since the 1970s, nor has Worldcon actually represented the largest gathering of the largest body of consumer fans.

So . . . some personal opinions. Take ‘em or leave ‘em.

I could care less about Rule 1 and Rule 2, since these are endlessly violated anyway. Rules which are perpetually broken behind the curtain, are not actually rules. And if SAD PUPPIES is to be damned for breaking them, fine. At least we’re honest about what we’re doing. I don’t have much patience for people who aim an accusatory finger at us, then do precisely what we’re doing, just sneaky-like. Hypocrisy is hypocrisy, even when it dresses up in its Sunday best and has good table manners.

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Brad Torgersen on Free Speech

Brad Torgersen has an interesting essay up on Speech and Punishment. He covers the value of free speech, why it isn’t free and why, if you take it seriously, then you need to be willing to defend speech you find offensive. So many today seem to think the free speech “should have limits” but this is the same as saying you don’t believe in free speech and he also notes that far to many people are suggesting the staff at Charlie Hebdo “had it coming” and they “free speech” isn’t free of consequences. Funny how the same person that says that sort of thing usually gets quite incensed at such obvious victim blaming.

Give it a read

After reading Dave Freer’s piece, it seemed like today would be a good day to compose my own thoughts in kind. Not because the Charlie Hebdo massacre is singularly horrific, but because the massacre has peeled back (once again) the tinfoil wrapper on a notion I find particularly pernicious: that the artists and writers who died in the Charlie Hedbo office should have known better than to offend Muslims. Incite them. Cause them to get angry. Angry enough to kill. Which is a lot like saying, “You’re free to speak, but you’re not free from consequences!” Doubtless you’ve read or heard some variation on that one too? From people eager to see artists, writers, pundits, and speakers punished professionally for any number of politically correct sins?

Consider the case of Orson Scott Card, who is now the #1 supervillain in a bizarro world comic book called: GAY SUPER JUSTICE WARRIORS. Card’s been kicked off projects for expressing his beliefs. The companies who’ve hired (and then fired) Card, were bowing to pressure from protesters. The activists smugly tell us Card deserves it, because Card is a homophobe. Which is apparently worse than anything imaginable. So bad, that Card’s participation in the marketplace — as a creator — must be challenged. He must be shut out. Blacklisted. Made to economically suffer for his WRONG WRONG WRONG thoughts, which he wrongly believed he could commit to paper.

I mean, Card should have known better!

Consider the (in)famous Ayaan Hirsi Ali, notorious firebrand and critic of dangerous religious dogmatism; specifically, Islamist jihadist dogmatism. She’s had speaking engagements at colleges cancelled (by the colleges themselves) after complaints and protests against her were lodged. As with Card, or perhaps I should say, ironically also like Card, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is accused of being a “phobe.” (Remember: “phobe” is the worst thing ever!) In her case, it’s Islamophobia, which would seem to be code for, “Astute analysis which dares to call the death cult of Islamist jihadism a death cult.” (And if you need to figure out what makes “Islam” and “Islamism” two different things, I refer you here.)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali should have known better!

Freedom of speech really is the most difficult freedom to live with, because we keep finding ways to screw it up. If we’re not banning dirty words, we’re banning porn. If we’re not banning porn, we’re banning religious symbols and the ten commandments. If we’re not banning the ten commandments, we’re banning ist words filled with ism on our college campuses. We kick writers and artists off jobs. We had the Red Scare and McCarthyism. Actors and directors in Hollywood were put out of work for supposedly being commies. Sometimes, they were out of work for decades. It financially and professionally ruined them. We now enjoy the Politically Correct scare and Social Justice Warriors. Again, we see pressure to put people out of work. Ruin them professionally. Or worse. We see excuse-making for events like Charlie Hebdo: they should have known better!

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Sad Puppies 3!

Brad Torgersen has kicked off Sad Puppies 3, the what now appears to be annual, attempt to stir those decidedly unsuperversive members of he science fiction community by getting books they would never approve of on ideological grounds on the voting ballot.

As an exercise in making their heads explode, I heartily approve! I was blown away by the comments as more than a few people suggested nominating me for short form science fiction editor and nominating the first story I ever bought for Sci Phi Journal, Domo as a short story entry.

I will let Brad explain

The Hugo awards window (for 2015’s nominations) will be open soon. As one of Baen’s newest authors, I wanted to be be the first guy out of the gate with SAD PUPPIES 3. For those of you who don’t know what SAD PUPPIES is, it’s a (somewhat tongue in cheek) running effort to get stories, books, and people onto the Hugo ballot, who are entirely deserving, but who don’t usually get on the ballot. Largely because of the nomination and voting tendencies of World Science Fiction Convention, with its “fandom” community. In the last decade we’ve seen Hugo voting skew more and more toward literary (as opposed to entertainment) works. Some of these literary pieces barely have any science fictional or fantastic content in them. Likewise, we’ve seen the Hugo voting skew ideological, as Worldcon and fandom alike have tended to use the Hugos as an affirmative action award: giving Hugos because a writer or artist is (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) or because a given work features (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) characters.

Likewise, the Hugos tend to be a raw popularity contest, for all definitions of “popular” that include “Trending with Worldcon.” Which may or may not have anything whatsoever to do with actual sales success on the open market. And that was Correia’s original point: if the Hugos really are the preeminent award in SF/F how come the Hugos so often ignore works and people who are, in fact, successful ambassadors of the genre to the consumer world at large? What the heck is going on here?

So, SAD PUPPIES has tended to push back. Against the Worldcon fandom zeitgeist.

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