A Response to a Rebuttal

  • by Gitabushi

This is a response to this rebuttal to the piece I wrote recently.

monster men

First, I seem to be good at offending people with my opinions, and that wasn’t my intent.  What seems to have come across is me saying “These types of stories, including Pulp Rev, are bad stories.”

In fact, my point was that I used to see them as bad stories, but I’ve come to realize that they are actually good stories that just don’t do it for me.  And that’s okay.

Second, I actually *like* Campbellian SF.  I can’t say “Campbell did nothing wrong,” because a quick glance at his wikipedia entry shows that later in life, he got into pseudoscience and alienated many of his best writers.

But I like his demand that writers write an alien that thinks as well as a human, but differently than a human.  And I guess I also kind of agree with his insistence that writers “rise above the mire of Pulp,” except that I really don’t think I’m quite as dismissive of Pulp as Campbell was.

I mean (third), if I thought Pulp is an inferior story form, I should be able to prove it by churning out tons of pulp stories.  But I recognize I can’t, because Pulp is written better than Campbell (or the literati in general of the time) gives it credit for.

I can’t write anything that matches A Princess of Mars, but I don’t want to. I didn’t really like the first few Barsoom novels.  The change is now I recognize those are good stories, I just don’t like them.

The first Barsoom story I actually enjoyed was Chessmen of Mars.  It explored a little bit of human nature in several aspects, including someone breaking away from a coercive society, the problem of fame/desirability in a woman and how it impacts romantic pursuit of her.

When I read Conan or John Carter stories, I don’t have any urge to write like that.

But, again, this doesn’t make them bad.

A good example is REH’s “The Frost Giant’s Daughter.”  It is filled with lush descriptions. You feel Conan’s desire and determination. You feel the chill.  But ultimately, nothing happens in the story.

Nothing really happens in “The Queen of the Black Coast,” either.  I mean, a bunch of stuff does happen, but it’s like a SitCom: after everything happens, Conan ends up where he started before he met Belit, and hasn’t really learned anything.

In most Conan stories, the only thing Conan “learns” is confirmation of his cynicism toward civilization, that so-called barbarians have more honor and are thus more trustworthy than the machinations and deceptions of sophisticated city dwellers.

But those both have been criticized as not being as well-plotted as “The Black Stranger.”  But even there, while it is a well-written story, I’m left somewhat unmoved. There’s a lot of action, there is clearly a plot, but ultimately, nothing is learned and Conan doesn’t grow in any perceptible way.

 

So what *do* I like?

I guess I like Campbellian fiction. In contrast to the people who say Hard SF is garbage, say that Campbell ruined SF, or those who say nothing written after 1980 (or was it 1970? Or 1960? I don’t remember) is any good, I *like* quite a bit of 1980s SF and Fantasy. There’s a lot of Leftist garbage influencing SF&F in the 60s and 70s…no one hates Heinlein’s later works (including Stranger in a Strange Land) more than I do.

But I see that as the fault of those writers who lost the science as they wrote social science fiction.

I am still moved by Haldeman’s “The Forever War,” and consider it one of my favorite books.  There is a great deal of wise insight into the human experience.  I also really appreciate many of Haldeman’s short stories, particularly those collected in “Dealing in Futures.”  But I don’t like many of his other works, because of the influence of Leftist ideology on his writing.

But that’s okay. I don’t reject The Forever War because I dislike most of the rest of his writing.  I just point to The Forever War as a great book, because there is insight and chaaracter growth. (although, at heart, it is more of a Milieu story than a Character story).

The key point is: I’m re-reading “Cyteen,” and while I’m enjoying the crap out of it and reading slowly so I can digest every nuance, I’m also somewhat inwardly seething because I *want* to write like that, and I don’t think I can, I’m afraid I never will be able to, and I don’t even know how to work towards making a half-way decent attempt.

And in trying to explain, I’ve probably offended other people. I apologize unreservedly.

I’m just trying to understand my own likes and dislikes, and thinking out loud, in hopes that it helps other people understand themselves better.

2 thoughts on “A Response to a Rebuttal

  1. I think the issue is you say “I haven’t been able to get much into PulpRev because as much as I want to support it, too many of the stories seem to be merely wish fulfillment: the main character succeeds because they are heroes…because it is much easier to succeed on paper than in real life,” and here you seem to imply that you were referring specifically to old pulp stories, but that doesn’t really address your other original statement “A Pulp Rev story most likely wouldn’t have Han, it would just have Luke doing Marty Stu things until he blows up the Death Star because he can fly better than anyone else.”

    So, you have a lot of writers thinking right now that you’re saying that you think they’re writing bad Marty Stu stories, because you specifically refer to the group, but you haven’t actually given any examples–then when asked to do so, the only stories you really point to are Robert E. Howard’s. I think this is why people are mad.

    I mean, I understand why you wouldn’t want to get specific–some of these people are friends. There have been books/stories written by people in our circle that I haven’t enjoyed at all or couldn’t finish–I haven’t called them out because many are by friends and it’s easier to be quietly disappointed by things that others are enjoying, but if I did say something, I especially wouldn’t do so in a way that vaguely implied that everything coming out of a scene was bad in a very specific way.

    The recent drama with the Hard SF Bros and some of the fall-out of that is a big part of why we explicitly distance the fiction we publish from the PulpRev–if we publish an author that considers themself to be part of the group, that’s fine, but our publishing something doesn’t draft someone into a group or a movement; as such, and given that we know you’re a fan of a lot of what we publish [and we appreciate the support!], I can be fairly confident that you weren’t referring to us or much of what tend to put out.

    Anyway, I just wanted to try to explain WHY some people are mad right now and why you’re getting flak for that first post. Not trying to call you out or shame you or anything like that [promise!]. I hope your absence from twitter has led to positive changes in your life, as I can only imagine that being away from that hellish black hole can. Take care of yourself, Gita!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t mind taking flak, because it’s okay for people to disagree. I just really didn’t *intend* it as a controversial post, and felt regret that it hurt some people.

    However, I agree with everything you said. I should have expected it would mash some fingers and step on some toes, and I should have been more careful.

    I think there *might* be a little bit of a chip on my shoulder that Campbell gets held up as the SF Anti-Christ so often (by which exaggeration reveals how much it bothers me), as well as still bearing the scars of the declaration “anything written after 1980 is garbage”, when that’s the era all my favorite stories were written.

    I *think* there is something to be gained from discussing why I love so much what others hate so much, and vice versa, if we could do it without value judgments or hurt feelings, but what we like is too visceral, too much a part of our identity, no?

    Ah, well. I’ll try to learn something from all this.

    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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