The Real Problem In SFF

The big problem in SFF is defined in Steven Den Beste’s comment here.

When I’m looking for escapism, the last thing I want is for it to preach to me.

While I’m squealing a bit that Steve likes something I wrote he’s got to the center of the whole issues with the current state of science fiction.  I’ve heard variations of that sentiment many times from people who’ve more or less given  up on traditional science fiction. Watching the Hugo Awards last night, it’s not hard to understand why. The pettiness of the in crowd even when they win is incredible.  Even when they are supposed to be having fun they aren’t unless they are poking at people.

What they can’t see is what they are doing.  The don’t talk to real people outside their clique and they don’t even see what they have done to themselves. They’ve managed to take a genre that was once colorful, diverse and innovative and turn into something that is dull, bland and rather sordid.

The big problem in SFF is not the Sad Puppies, or the Chorfs.  Both of those groups are symptom of a bigger problem.  The big problem is monoculture.  This guy explains some of the reasons why.

We’ve come to an era of corporatism with professional managers from the Ivy Covered Snob Factories moving people around in bureaucratic companies marching in lockstep with the administrative state.  This Adam Smith quote sums it up perfectly.

The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it.
He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.” — Adam Smith

Human beings are not chess pieces and in order for the bureaucracy to do it’s  job it needs to whip them into the correct forms through coercive measures.  The most important thing the bureaucracy must prevent is an great upwelling of creativity and innovation.  Creativity and innovation create chaos and gets people to act outside the moves they are supposed to have.

The problem is that in an entertainment industry white bread is death.  Human being require fresh stimuli and If one venue can’t deliver it, well they will go somewhere else. That can become a real problem if your media is suddenly losing all it’s sales.  That’s what’s happening in SFF.  Along with most of the media. Instead of diversity to meet a bunch of different interests the big five are pushing stuff that meets their interests. And getting hammered for blandness.

Monocultures are bland and uninteresting.  They are the surprise free scenario, the packaged result, The game won by the statistical best.  Formula 1 racing is a good example.  Except for the last two years where Mercedes gained a technical advantage it was pretty bland racing.  Now it’s pretty bland racing  where Mercedes owns the podium.  The big problem is that everything in Formula 1 is wrapped in bureaucracy.  So many rules. Especially about testing the cars before racing.  The engineers in Formula 1 just don’t get the time to test out their stuff before it gets on the track.   And the rules change every year, so it’s almost impossible  to build up experience.  Most other types of racing seem to be the same way and that’s a shame.

The same thing has been driving the GamerGate controversy in gaming. A bunch of SJW types  are trying to inflict new rules on game developers and reshape the medium into their desires.  As well as being openly contemptuous of their customers.  Of course that hasn’t worked out well as the corruption of the gaming media was exposed and the gaming media simultaneously gave their customers the middle finger.  Said gamers promptly told the media’s advertisers that they would stop buying from said advertisers if they continued to advertise in certain venues and the advertisers, not being as stupid as the media types pulled the advertising.

This seems to have happened to just about every form of entertainment out there.   Rather than relying on creative instinct and risking “failure” the people in entertainment focus group everything and create by committee.  Which probably makes sense to the corporate bureaucrat types who seem to run everything these days, but tends to create environments where real creativity gets stifled.

It’s bureaucracies that like monoculture.  In fact, if you see monoculture and rampant dysfunction you can bet there’s a bureaucracy around somewhere. Bureaucrats do not like surprises.  A black swan really ruins a bureaucrat’s view of how everything should work. The big five in publishing are all bureaucracies and behave like them, starving ideas and creativity.  And starving the people who create the content they rely on.  After all there always another aspiring writer. Another interchangeable body that can be plugged into a hole.  And every book is just like every other book, right?

Add literary status envy to the mix and it’s on to the road to perdition. From the way they present themselves it’s obvious that they are far more concerned with their status games than with the readers.  It’s as if they have gotten so caught up in the minutia of their jobs, internal politics playing status games that they have forgotten how to provide the entertainment we deserve and expect for our hard earned dollars(yen, pounds, Euros, Rubles, and everything else too).

It’s gotten to the point that SF publishing had gotten like Chinese Communist propaganda posters.  All made to a template and used to drive a political narrative.  Now you might get some great stories out of this, just like you some great pictures out of the propaganda template, but you are limited by the template and have to distort your creativity to it.

There comes a time in a free society when you have to decide whether you give yourself to the message or to the craft.  The problem with giving yourself to the message is that the message consumes you. Everything you create has to be about the message.  That’s not a profitable way to continue.  90% of any market doesn’t care about the message, no matter how much it’s pushed.  No matter how big you try to make it seem

Look at “global warming.”  For most the last thirty years a clique of experts and publicists with the help of many in government have tried to convince the public that the sky would burn.  The public has been bombarded endlessly with articles, speeches, movies and books ceaselessly and yet what is the result?  People remain skeptical and frankly don’t really care. They will play along with the fanatics just to keep them quiet, but honestly just want to get on with their lives.  The message doesn’t sell.

Dafydd Ab Hugh posted about the message issue and corporatism five years or so ago, so the issues were deeper than the Sad Puppies or the Hugo awards. It’s amazing how quickly things have evolved even in the last five years.  Of course the evolution and the resultant loss of the ability to man the gates has not been good for the corporate drones at the big six. The economics have changed and thus the diversity of stuff being produced has too.

Science fiction has always had it’s liberal elements and authors, but Progressivism as not allowed to get in the way of the story.  HG Wells isn’t remembered for his Progressive and fascist politics(he coined the term “liberal Fascism”) but for his creative and mind blowing stories. That’s something the current powers that be have lost.

As Sarah puts it no more “grey goo.”  It’s time to breakout of the blandness that corporatism seems to have forced on us.  Why does everything have to  be pastel or earth tones.  Give us bold characters, well defined worlds in bold colors.  Give us people who live lives, not chess pieces pushed around to fit the current politically correct narrative.  Science fiction used to be about being outside the box, not checking boxes.

As Steve said at the top this post, we don’t want to be preached at when we are looking to leave the real world outside for a while.  We just want to be entertained and maybe get some mind blowing ideas from time to time. It would be nice to see new talent from time to time.  We want well crafted stories in well thought out worlds. We don’t want thinly disguised porn spouting off the latest lefty political massage fad larded over with groupthink and the latest inside baseball we have no concerns about.

We want to look up at the stars, not down at somebody’s nether regions. We don’t want the story to be a lightly wrapped SF element around a badly written introspection of a fish. That’s what the BEST of SFF has become?  No wonder they are giving wooden buttholes as participation trophies.  I honestly think that the powers that be in SFF think that their OWN stuff is crap. The shame of it all is that they gave those buttholes to the people who are trying to create something that isn’t crap.

Because if the SFF community does not produce something that large numbers of people want to actually read, the SFF community will fail and die.  Rather than face that fact, rather than heed the warning of those of us who actually have talked to people about SFF and seen the disgust and boredom the SFF community has chosen to shout down the Cassandras and ignore the Trojan horses in the room.  That’s the real problem in SFF today, as the Hugo show so amply demonstrated.

Here’s Steve again with some INTERESTING comments.  Comments that everybody in traditional publishing should see.

Some Hugo wrap ups as they show up. Be prepared to throw up with most of them. This section will be updated with new links as I see them.


Milo at Brietbart:



NPR doing damage to what little is left of their credibility.

The Mary Sue:


The guardian:

The Federalist:


Donald Trump, really?

IO9 on what the Hugos should have been.  Really?

La Times:


Outer places:





Liberty news now:

The stranger:

Christian science monitor:




The Bookseller:




Black Trident Media.

Arthur Chu in Salon:

Real Clear Politics:

It’s heating up.

Dave Freer:

John Wright:



Novel ninja:

Tom Knighton:

Black Gate:

this resonates with me because I’ve felt many of the same things, the inclination to keep my mouth shut, my opinions to myself and my head down.  That was a mistake.

Chicks On The Right:



The Liberty Zone:

Otherwhere Gazette:

File 770:

Demonstrating yet again, that even in victory, the puppy kickers, don’t get the point and are still classless jerks.

You know, for all the celebrating, Frank Wu isn’t acting as if they won anything.

As for olive branches, the puppy kickers sort worked very hard to burn those last weekend.

curlywoof  weighs in.

Peter Grant:

Jagi Lamplighter, who apparently did not understand what was going on at the awards and had a mostly good time:

Honey Badgers podcast with Kate, Sarah and Brad.

Kate Paulk:

Sanford Begley:

The big question almost everybody is asking;”What will Vox do?”

Scalzi, for completeness.

Another Blogger who doesn’t get it.

Your nerd is showing:

A great essay from Ken Burnside:

Mary Robinette Kowal:

Ann Leckie:

A video:


Hood Ornaments  apparently work for fake Hugo awards.

Walt Boyes has some VERY good points here.

Of course he’s pointing out the whole issue that got the Sad Puppies campaigns started in the first place.  For all the moralizing, all the nasty stuff we’ve seen, it’s been about keeping the incestuous relations between the small clique of industry insiders and activist truefen.

When you bring in professional “electioneers” to make things more complicated simply to ensure that you win an essentially useless award you’ve lost ALL sense of perspective:

The Escapist on The Night Science Fiction’s Biggest Award Burned

The Hugo Awards.

For more on the dysfunctional economy click Here or on the tag below.


  1. dougirvin · August 24, 2015

    Only jailers oppose escapism.In fiction or otherwise.


    • jccarlton · August 24, 2015

      The problem is that far too many people see themselves as jailors in one way or another.


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  3. Doug Johnson · August 29, 2015

    To say the Sad Puppies are about imposing a monoculture is ignorant. You do not find calls for exclusivity and exclusion in the posts of Larry Correia or other Puppy leaders. To the contrary, it’s all about prying open a closed system. And a quick look at the authors and themes of past Hugo nominees provides ample evidence of just that.

    The “Puppy Kickers” OPENLY call for the exclusion of views they disagree with. That they would rather burn down the Hugos than be exposed to these views is the ultimate expression of their mindset.

    Putting yourself above the fray and saying a pox on both their houses may give you warm fuzzies, but you’re not informed and you’re not helping here.


    • jccarlton · August 29, 2015

      I think that Larry, Brad or Sarah would be surprised that I considered myself above the fray. As for monoculture, I wasn’t talking about the sad puppies doing that, I was talking about the traditional publishers going in that direction, which is what happens when corporations get big. They lose creative energy and talent to bureaucratic malaise. They also crowd out or acquire smaller more creative outfits and the proceed to stifle the energy of the acquisition. That’s something I’ve seen form the inside and one of the main themes of this blog.


  4. kcom1 · August 29, 2015

    I honestly haven’t read Science Fiction in a long time. Can you give a concrete example of a typicaI type of story nowadays that is problematic? What happens, what’s the plot? I feel like I don’t really understand this issue well or what the complaints are but I have read enough to believe that there is a problem.


    • jccarlton · August 29, 2015

      This years Hugo winner, “The World Turned Upside Down.” is a perfect example.


  5. el diablo loco poco · August 29, 2015

    Seems like the folks honoring Noah Ward sensed the existential threat. The fact that so many mainstream SJW publications rallied to their aid proves the original Puppie Premise. Then the Borg collective chose to honor Noah Ward in five categories, and those Borg drones present cheered him to victory. All to the pipers tune played in the background by Vox Day.

    What could be sweeter?

    The ‘h’ugo has been owned by CHORF’s since the mid 1980’s. Dr Who wins a ‘h’ugo? WTF? So ‘h’ugo award has been a fairly reliable barometer of “this will be trash” for almost as long. The only surprise in any of this is that any of the outcomes surprised anyone.

    Queue Mr Cash:
    I fell into a burnin’ ring of fire
    I went down, down, down
    And the flames went higher,
    And it burns, burns, burns,
    The ring of fire, the ring of fire.


    • Edohiguma · August 29, 2015

      Looking at the last season Dr Who is already down the sewer. It was terrible, and it wasn’t the new Doctor’s fault. Capaldi did what he could with what he was given, but the writing was complete and utter trash, the jokes were unfunny and Moffat’s constant bashing of soldiers (combined with complete disregard for established Doctor lore (UNIT is one of the Doctor’s closest allies on Earth)) was shameful.

      Heck, look at what they did with the Master. I don’t mind him coming back as a woman, but the way they did it was just utterly bad. The Master lost all his genius and was turned into a total trollop just for the sake of “Oh look, we can be diverse!”


      • jccarlton · August 29, 2015

        One thing I’m going to try to do for Sad Puppies 4 is look for short form dramatic SF outside the normal TV show stuff. There’s some great SF short films out there that nobody seems to notice and stuff from place other than Hollywood and the BBC. It really deserves more notice.


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  7. Edohiguma · August 29, 2015

    I would argue that there is nothing wrong with written scifi overall.

    Look into German, French or Japanese publications. They are all rolling. Let’s take the largest and longest running written scifi series in the world, Perry Rhodan (a German series rolling since 1961), which has no issues with any of this. Similar in Japan or France.

    Yes, Perry Rhodan, the character, is a tall, white American male. But the series has had everything in those 50+ years it’s been running. The cast of heroes and villains includes literally everything under the sun.

    The notion of “wrongfans” and “rightfans”, together with what can only be described as fascism coming from blind adherence to political correctness, is an American invention and plaguing only American or English speaking publications.

    Hopefully it will remained contained to those.


    • jccarlton · August 29, 2015

      I know that SF in other countries is doing well. On the other hand the people doing the stifling here in the angloshphere work for multinational corporations with seemingly unlimited greed and always looking for expansion. It’s great that Perry Rhodan is still going. but keep an eye on the new stuff and what gets put out.


  8. Phokion · September 4, 2015

    Well put. Superbly well put.


  9. penneyvanderbilt · September 25, 2015

    Reblogged this on KCJones.


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  12. jccarlton · January 10, 2017

    Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:

    Reblogging because I got a refer from a ghost, or at least from Chizumatic.

    Liked by 1 person

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