Silly Revolutions and Heat Death

3 March 2001

Memo to New Wave science fiction writers:

Some of you have written amazing stuff, both back in the Sixties and today. For that, I respect you. But please keep in mind one simple thing: you are now the Establishment. I know this is something people who rebelled in the Sixties have a hard time understanding, but you do not get ultimate rebel credentials for a single decade of excess, especially when that decade ended thirty years ago. Do you wonder why we sneer at your hippie brethren, who drive deathtrap SUVs and vote for Gore because third party candidates are a "waste?" Look at yourselves. Look at science fiction. A lot of what is wrong with the genre, you did. A lot of what is right with the genre was from somebody else. Sure, it's good for you now. Ask yourselves if it would have been as good for you if it had been the status quo when you were 20. But even if you won't stoop to that degree of self-examination, please maintain your own dignity to the extent that you do not pretend to be Young Turks any more. It's embarrassing to those of us who have to watch.

Cc: Cyberpunk writers, replacing "Sixties" with "Eighties" and "hippie" with "punk," cutting the phrase "for Gore because third party candidates are a 'waste.'"

I think what really scares me about this decade in science fiction is that we seem to be due for another Revolution. Don't get me wrong -- I respect folks like Zelazny and Silverberg and Phil Dick, and they were all New Wavers to one degree or another. And Neuromancer and the other early cyberpunk stuff was also really awesome. But I am afraid of a Movement. A lot of the people out there who look to be writing the best science fiction don't seem to be part of any movement to me. Nancy Kress, Octavia Butler, Joe Haldeman, C. J. Cherryh, Sarah Zettel, Neal Stephenson...and those are just the folks who are coming to mind right now who are pretty surely SF. Maybe they're just going to start signing manifestos any minute now, but I think all of them are established enough to be past that. They just write good stuff. That's what I'd like to do. On the other hand, there's a lot of stuff that I think is wrong wrong wrong with SF right now.

On the other hand, fantasy doesn't seem to have ever had a Revolution, and sometimes I think it needs one. Something needs to make all the TSR-or-equivalent readers look up and say, "Oh, yeah, I guess there is something that can be fantasy besides quest, magical item, and pseudo-Tolkien world-building." It's not that nobody's writing it. It's that even a site like SF Site lists George Martin's latest as the best read of the year. I don't have a problem with people who just like to read fantasy epics -- if they know what else is out there. But it seems like a lot of fantasy readers get into epics after someone gives them The Lord of the Rings, and they never leave that little ghetto. All of a sudden readers who claim that "mundanes" are closed-minded aren't thinking past the next orc battle. And that can't be good.

I have a big problem with Dungeons and Dragons. I think it sucks young readers into a grave danger: reading books from TSR.

TSR is so easy to pick on, I probably should quit. But I actually knew a guy in college who tried to tell me that he was better-read than I in SF and fantasy, because he had read everything TSR had ever published, whereas I could not say the same for Tor or DAW or Baen or any given publisher.

In other news, it's a big day today: my folks' anniversary. Twenty-eight years. For those of you who are no good at math, that's officially A Long Time. Sometimes I think that this day should be named, "Yay! My Dad's Not A Jerk!" Day. (I can say better things about my parents than this, and I often do. Give me a minute to explain.) See, when I was a little kid, even up into high school, marriages looked pretty darn static. My parents were married. Pretty much everybody else's parents were married, too. I knew a couple of people whose parents were divorced, but they had "always" been divorced. So divorce existed, it just didn't happen.

Then I got to college and found out how statistically anomalous this really was. I knew the numbers before, but I started meeting the numbers, so to speak, and it all came to a head in my Writing Fiction studio. We were critiquing a piece that had a young character in it who was traveling to spend some time with her father; her parents had divorced. And the rest of the class was discussing this character's reactions to the divorce, and they kept saying things like, "Well, when my dad left us, I thought that...." and "When my dad left my mom and me, we had trouble with...." It got to the point where I looked around the room and demanded, "Am I the only one here whose dad is not a jerk?" I was met with silence, and finally one guy said, "Well, I thought my dad was kind of bad, but it sounds like everybody else had it a lot worse." In other words, yeah. I was. The professor, the father of a two-year-old, looked a little ill.

Thankfully, I can come up with lots of fathers who are not jerks. A few of my friends are falling into that category (congrats again, Chris and Daph!). I'm just a tiny bit worried about a society wherein a large fraction of the people associate "father" with "total ass."

I'm hoping to get some more novel work done this evening. This afternoon we went up to Berkeley and, among other things, I got to meet the infamous Karen and the equally infamous Par-with-two-dots and Tot. Karen does the best job of anyone I've ever run into of balancing being totally into her brand new kid and still having a brain and an ability to converse. And the Tot prefers the heat death of the universe to the Big Crunch. This is an important thing to know about a person. Also went to Au Coquelet and The Other Change of Hobbit. Yay! And got to spend time with Tim and Timprov. Yay!

Timprov and Mark are both feeling yucky tonight. I'm trying not to fuss, because it doesn't really help anybody. But I feel like I should be able to Do Something. Ah, the tribulations of an alpha female.

One last thing: if you sent me e-mail yesterday, it may not have gotten here. My mail should be working fine now, so...try again, please, unless you already told me about it!

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