|Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2003 - 10:30 pm: |
Now I argue with lots of dipshits, and with lots of intelligent people. The latter, I do to learn things. For the former, I only bother if they are broadcasting a form of misinformation that could harm others, for example, a defense of various POD vanity publishing schemes. I don't care if Person X wants to throw their money away, but cooking up numbers, pointing to Whitman, and lying about one's sales so that Person Y might give it a shot is a no go.
Luckily, most dipshits spout nonsense that can not have any direct negative effects on anyone else. One such dipshit, Dave Trusdale of Tangent Online. His recent editorial, Idiocy from the SFnal Left argues that...well, it is hard to say. The essay fails to make sufficient internal sense to actually be considered an argument. He seems to be complaining that people are writing SF that he doesn't like because the characters in it either have too many feelings, or too many of the column inches in the story are taken up with the feelings. Offering no examples of either stories or authors, he blames pinkos and uppity broads for this.
He also whines that someone disagrees with the notion that SF is "the literature of ideas," a term he insists only SF qualifies for. Someone wake Milan Kundera. Anyway, he goes on to blame "Feeling over Thinking. Typical liberal literary agenda at its most ridiculous. And fueled by the same leftist political agenda that crept into SF in the early 70s, but now run amok."
Hoomnah whahuhuh? I dunno either. It does take a certain talent to create an utterance with more errors than words, I'll grant him that. It is especially funny that he references Nineteen Eighty-Four a couple of paragraphs later. Let's not tell him when it was written or where Orwell fell on the political spectrum.
So, Trusdale is a dipshit. He's a dipshit who thinks that the left wants to destroy thinking and adventures and Big Ideas -- which I guess were agenda items at the CP fraction meetings various Futurians attended back in the day -- and are only interested in artsy-fartsy literary experimentation and winky-winky stuff, which probably explains why Baby Jesus killed R. A. Lafferty for impertinence.
What amazes me is that he gets attention. I found the links on write-hemisphere.com, went to the tangent-online newsgroup and all sorts of people were arguing him. His responses boiled down to "It's my opinion, so it's my opinion!" and a refusal to define what he meant by "the literature of ideas." And yet people were hammering away, as if they've been paid by some charity for retarded adults. And they did last year, when he complained about that story where the lady goes to live with the apes. He also suggested that leading editors buy stories out of pity after the New Yorker rejects them.
Why has this man become some sort of blowhard blackhole, where sense enters but never leaves? How have so many people been sucked into his gravity field? The website sucks. The reviews are utterly valueless -- am I supposed to tear out the bad stories in an issue of a magazine before reading it? Half the reviews don't even review the story, but just summarize it in the way the CIA must write things down for the president ("The man wearing the beret is evil. So is the Iraqi dictator..."). Trusdale doesn't seem to have written anything interesting or, you know, coherent either. How did he manage to crawl onto a soapbox and stay there for several years?
We must know the secret of his Dipshit Power.
|Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2003 - 03:05 am: |
Somebody please shoot Jeff VanderMeer and the like for not pandering exclusively to sf fandom nazis. If you say it's sf (or something like sf), then they want it done their way; if you say it isn't, then you're a no-good traitor to the genre.
Night Shade Books
|Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2003 - 04:04 am: |
Well, he's got some points, right and wrong. Frankly, I'd be interested in seeing the Dorsey essay as well, because the "Literature of Passion" just sounds stupid.
He's got a point on one issue: If the story has no fantastic or sfnal ideas, well, it isn't really fantasy/sf anymore is it?
He's also sorely mistaken on another point. He seems to think that every single anthology coming out these days is a Leviathan/Polyphony/etc, when in fact those anthos were created because hardly anyone was publishing that kind of material.
What I want to know is this: what the hell has the Left or Right got to do with whether or not people should be writing cross-genre fiction?
|Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2003 - 05:56 am: |
He's got a point on one issue: If the story has no fantastic or sfnal ideas, well, it isn't really fantasy/sf anymore is it?
Correct. But it isn't fraud nor is it Communist conspiracy for an SF magazine to occasionally publish a story like that if they think their readers would dig it because of who wrote it or how it is written. The interviews, science articles, and book reviews in magazines aren't SF either, yet nobody's head has exploded...yet.
He seems to think that every single anthology coming out these days is a Leviathan/Polyphony/etc
Even funnier is that idea that someone would decide to read SF, find one of these magazine's instead of the far more widely available Analog/Asimov's/F&SF/Realms and once reading the pages and finding commie literature inside, would be forever traumatized and never read any SF rag again.
Clearly something must be done! I'm thinking warning labels like "Content May Sap Vital Fluids."
|Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2003 - 06:17 am: |
Yeah, he does have a point there. But isn't that, like, obvious?
"What I want to know is this: what the hell has the Left or Right got to do with whether or not people should be writing cross-genre fiction?"
Resentment about the people who "ruined" the genre back in the 60s?
Really, what's the point of whining about the corruption of a genre that a reactionary elite still insists on controlling and isolating against all common sense? Genres evolve, whether people like it or not. And for god's sake, isn't there room for everyone? What the hell is stopping Trusdale from promoting the sf that he *does* like?
I've taken part in this argument so many times, I find it both boring and annoying, even slightly depressing. And yet, why can't I resist the temptation? ;)
|Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2003 - 06:24 am: |
> Clearly something must be done! I'm thinking warning labels like "Content May Sap Vital Fluids."
No need. Pretty soon, all commie sf writers will be dead and their books burnt under the PATRIOT III act.
|Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2003 - 09:19 am: |
Looks like Truesdale's trying to drum up some traffic at his Tangent newsgroup. Maybe if they actually posted some frickin' REVIEWS he'd have something worthwhile to talk about.
As for his argument, seems like it's a case of nostalgia on his part for the good ol' days of SF. Sorry, dude, but the world has caught up to SF. SF has to evolve, or it'll go the way of the western.
|Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2003 - 11:17 pm: |
Good heads-up, Nick. I followed your pointing finger to Trusdale's article, and I think your anger is not only justified, but also commendable.
It might be amusing to think that Trusdale does not associate manipulative sentimentality (his "feeling") with the political right (or right-wing SF authors such as Robert "Starship Troopers" Heinlein), were it not for the fact that some minor assholes are going to read his words and take them to heart.
I suppose he doesn't consider the jingoism of the forties and fifties or the rampant juvenile sexism of pulp SF to have anything to do with feeling, either. Right. Feeling only crept into SF when women started burning their bras.
I tried to find some way to respond on the website, but naturally, they are not interested in comments from readers. They are merely providing a service. One of the problems with the Internet: very little reciprocity or accountability. Wait, that's two problems.
|Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2003 - 11:19 pm: |
This guy’s article is a mess… I don’t know where to begin… weather with the Ditto head rhetoric (he keeps referring to his readers as “friends”, alla “SF is the Literature of Ideas, _friends_…” or his invoking of the right wing boogey men “Feminists” and “PC-Police.”
I think there should be some kind recognized rhetorical guide (Kind of like the use-net rule of flaming… If you call somebody a nazi, you automatically loose the argument…) -- if you invoke “Feminism” or “Pc-ness” with broad negative strokes (“But then the feminists went too far for awhile there, didn't they?” or “The insidious PC ‘movement’ if you will, for one”) to try and make a point, you automatically loose all credibility… If you want credibility, use real examples, from the real world… not some made-up boogey men…
So… This conservative pundit is trying to invoke some kind of left wing conspiracy (“And I blame the liberals, the Left, for wanting to concentrate on "feelings" and "character" in SF…”), much the same way Anne C. and her ilk blame “The Left” for all things bad in the world.
Never mind the fact that this dichotomy that he is suggesting (characters and feelings vs The IDEA) is false – it is achingly funny that this conservative rhetoric is being used to suggest that “the left”, rather then “the right” is in favor of squelching “Ideas of change” in SF (or anywhere).
This is one problem I have with most shrill, reactionary “conservatives”… they don’t really have any idea of the social/political/historical significance of conservatism, and “The Right”. Lets see… Conservatives are traditionally AGAINST social, political and religious change… yet, in this gentleman’s mind, there is some left wing conspiracy that is trying to make SF literature… yes…(wait for it)… more conservative.
Only a ditto head, or a neo-conservative could come up with this twisted logic (Or somebody in desperate need of attention.). Lets go out and build more straw men to burn down?!? Please. I’m with you Nick… I have better things to do. Who the hell bothers to pay attention to this stuff? It is the rantings of a very confused person who obviously is trying to work out their persecution issues in a public forum.
|Posted on Friday, September 12, 2003 - 04:36 am: |
I came across the editorial on The Third Alternative message board the other day and thought it was hilarious. Reading Trusdale's follow up comments is even better fun:
Thanks for the link, Nick!
|Posted on Friday, September 12, 2003 - 09:00 am: |
Jeremy, I agree with you about the historically-blinkered Right ("they don’t really have any idea of the social/political/historical significance of conservatism"). But it's a more endemic failure of imagination and logic, I think, and one which unfortunately does not bother to confine itself to right-wing nutcases like Truesdale. It is an argument I have with my more liberal friends all the time when I describe myself as "conservative." They instantly assume I'm Neo-con or reactionary. No, I just don't care to abandon principles of solid governance in favor of situational ethics. Try putting that across in most conversations about politics, though, and you'll get a few seconds of chirping crickets and open mouths, after which the argument will continue as if you'd said nothing, each side spouting its favorite ungrounded dogma.
Truesdale's approach is clearly in line with that of many other Americans on both sides of the political fence. To wit, from the discussion thread Martin thoughtfully provided: Truesdale, in reponse to a charge of broad-brushing and over-generalization -- "Since Ms. Dorsey chose to throw in feminism and gender-related stuff in her essay, so did I. So what's your beef? If you think I was scattershot, then so was she. :-)." In other words, "She hit me first!" This is a push-me-shove-you mentality which reverses the spiral of dialectics, dragging political argument down into a childish spewing of blandly predictable and logically-empty claims.
And Truesdale's sense of audience only makes his argument worse: “But then the feminists went too far for awhile there, didn't they?” What are we supposed to answer? "Uh, yup-yup, I'm with you a hunnert and ten percent." The frightening thing is that many of his readers -- or at least, the readers for whose eyes the "editorial" is aimed -- will answer just so. He is playing on political commonplace, and he is scoring hits somewhere.
What amazes me, and what I briefly noted in my previous post, is that anyone could look seriously and closely at the Jingo technophilia of hard SF and NOT see a literature of "feeling." Perhaps the stories don't speak of human relationships or emotions, but the chest-swelling pride of can-do American know-how is there in heavy strokes of red, white, and blue. Is patriotism -- or its evil cousin, chauvinism -- no longer a feeling? And to sacrifice the psychology of "character" to the needs of propaganda is about the most sentimental thing I can imagine.
|Posted on Friday, September 12, 2003 - 09:29 am: |
Glad you enjoyed (or is that "enjoyed") the glimpse into Trusdale's little mind there Neal. I feel the need to say I wasn't angry, just bemused.
I also found Trusdale's rhetorical tactics very odd: referring to his readers as "friends" who would naturally be opposed to the dilution of SF, in spite of the fact that some of the Prime Diluters (frex, Jay Lake) are among his volunteer reviewers.
You'll have to excuse me now, I'm busy appending the sentence "And then aliens landed and destroyed the planet" to all the stories in Rick Moody's Demonology. Take THAT, science fiction!
|Posted on Friday, September 12, 2003 - 07:11 pm: |
Nick: "I feel the need to say I wasn't angry, just bemused."
I envy you, then. I've seen Truesdale's sort of non-argument often enough that it no longer bemuses me, and that's what makes me angry. Such prattle in public should cause its source such severe embarrassment that actual physical agony ensues. Instead, it is becoming the norm, and those who employ it are pointing to their right to editorialize (absent ethics) or worse, the short attention span or general stupidity of the public.
|Posted on Wednesday, September 17, 2003 - 09:15 pm: |
And in the one-down-a-billion to go department, Trusdale pulled the plug on his little website after being assailed by the logic of many posters in his newsgroup. Of course what's a dipshit without a final shit fit? To wit, he wrote in this post:
I am not being paid to listen to this drivel, therefore I quit. I'm tired of people who think a blank canvas shows something that isn't there, and tries to defend such an absurd proposition. I am tired of listening to those who don't like "outrageous" SF, I am tired of wannabe writers and editors who have to ask what the traditional literary mainstream is, and why it is different than SF. I am tired of editors running out and out mainstream stories in their SF magazines. I'm tired of little ideas in SF especially when the stories are really mainstream stories anyway. I'm tired of the timidity and blandness of most magazine fiction. And I'm very tired of people trying to convince me that SF isn't the literature of ideas. I'm not being paid to listen to this drivel, so I quit.
The wannabes drove him out. Hurray for wannabes!
I'm also reminded of a show of all blank canvases a local museum held about a decade ago. The interesting thing was how very different all those canvases were.
|Posted on Wednesday, September 17, 2003 - 11:47 pm: |
Well, I'm certainly not going to cheer Tangent to the grave. I disagree STRONGLY with Truesdale's views on what SF should be, but the fact remains that Tangent Online performs an infinitely valuable service to the field with its short fiction reviews, something that can only be found in a couple of other places. (Even those places, such as Locus and bestsf.net, generally only stick to the major magazines, while Tangent reviews pretty much everything.)
With Bluejack's decision to pull the plug on his short fiction reviews as well, this means that fans have lost two of the best review sites on the web in a week's span.
|Posted on Thursday, September 18, 2003 - 04:25 am: |
However, there are still print publications, such as The Fix, and this will soon have a web presence.
|Posted on Thursday, September 18, 2003 - 07:30 am: |
but the fact remains that Tangent Online performs an infinitely valuable service to the field with its short fiction reviews
Really? How is this service invaluable? The reviews in Tangent are tiny capsules, often doing nothing more than summarizing the stories. Unlike hardcover and trade paperpback books, there is no real impetus on the part of readers to read reviews before choosing to buy a magazine, if only because every issue of every magazine ever can be reviewed with one word: "uneven." Some stories are better than others. Finally, most of the reviewers were emerging writers with no particular critical skills
Tangent was asking folks for $5 a year to get early access to its reviews. Very, very few people ever subscribed. Thus, its own readers didn't think the service was invaluable, or even worth 0.014 cents a day. It's main goal, as far as we can tell from the results, was to give a self-satisfied and fairly loathesome BNF a soapbox and a bludgeon, and to enable certain obsessive compulsives in their drive to list and categorize the short fiction from several magazines.
|Posted on Thursday, September 18, 2003 - 08:54 am: |
"The reviews in Tangent are tiny capsules, often doing nothing more than summarizing the stories."
It's true that some of the reviews were of lesser quality than others, but they were getting better every year.
"Unlike hardcover and trade paperpback books, there is no real impetus on the part of readers to read reviews before choosing to buy a magazine, if only because every issue of every magazine ever can be reviewed with one word: "uneven." Some stories are better than others."
Yes, but Tangent was good at providing an overall feel for the magazines. If I was ever on the fence about subscribing to something, Tangent always helped me make a decision.
"Finally, most of the reviewers were emerging writers with no particular critical skills"
I'd say "some", rather than "most." But it's all subjective.
"Tangent was asking folks for $5 a year to get early access to its reviews. Very, very few people ever subscribed."
I can't speak for others, but it was well worth the $5 to me. The reason they don't have many subscribers is probably attributable to the fact that old reviews are posted to the site after two weeks, anyway.
"It's main goal, as far as we can tell from the results, was to give a self-satisfied and fairly loathesome BNF a soapbox and a bludgeon, and to enable certain obsessive compulsives in their drive to list and categorize the short fiction from several magazines."
Why you gotta be so snarky? If you disagree with him, that's one thing (hell, I disagree with him, too), but surely you realize that blanket statements like "All Tangent readers are obsessive-compulsive freaks" don't really tell the whole story.
|Posted on Thursday, September 18, 2003 - 09:52 am: |
And surely you realize that if you put a set of quotes around a statement like "All Tangent readers are obsessive-compulsive freaks" you might want to sure I actually said it, or anything like it.
But as far as the particulars, which Tangent reviewers had significant critical skills? A few, sure. Most? No. Most had nothing going. It's not that hard to go through the list and see who has chops.
As far as a feel for a magazine -- wouldn't buying a single issue do much much more? Seems to me it would. Seriously, what did Tangent do that that cannot?
I'm still not seeing invaluable service here. I see a catering to a vanishingly small audience.
|Posted on Thursday, September 18, 2003 - 12:52 pm: |
Okay, here's what you actually said:
"Thus, its own readers didn't think the service was invaluable, or even worth 0.014 cents a day. It's main goal, as far as we can tell from the results, was to give a self-satisfied and fairly loathesome BNF a soapbox and a bludgeon, and to enable certain obsessive compulsives in their drive to list and categorize the short fiction from several magazines."
First, you make a blanket statement that Tangent's readers don't think the service is valuable. I'm a Tangent reader; I got my money's worth. If their newsgroup is any indication, so did Ellen Datlow, Eileen Gunn, Gordon Van Gelder, Lois Tilton, Jay Lake, Matt Jarpe, Bluejack, and numerous others.
The second part of your sentence states that Tangent's purpose is to give Dave Trusdale a soapbox and to enable certain obsessive-compulsives (I took that to mean its readers) to list contents of magazines. If you DIDN'T mean its readers by that last part, what did you mean?
You also said:
"As far as a feel for a magazine -- wouldn't buying a single issue do much much more? Seems to me it would. Seriously, what did Tangent do that that cannot?"
For some people, yes. But I live out in the sticks of Alabama and don't really have access to individual issues of many magazines, and most of the magazines' websites require buying a subscription. (Those that actually do sell single issues invariably require a credit card, which I don't have.)
So I STILL say it provides an invaluable service, to me and to quite a few others.
|Posted on Thursday, September 18, 2003 - 08:39 pm: |
It seems that if Trusdale wants to stir the shit by saying that "feminists" and "Liberals" are ruining SF, and then is surprised when he gets a lot of heated feedback... so much so that he feels compelled to shut down the site... well -- He must not believe in his comments, or his product very much. Not sure how much of a loss to the community this is.
|Posted on Friday, September 19, 2003 - 01:24 am: |
"Valuable" and "invaluable" are not synonyms. Invaluable means "priceless." Is Tangent really priceless? Would you sell everything you have to keep it going? Kill a man? Invade a country? Do these all sound ridiculous to you? Good, then we are agreed. The service is not invaluable.
The price some readers seem to be willing to pay is -- enough time and energy to write a post on a private ng, though we should really consider this fractional; many people just reflexively respond to the sort of public shit fit Trusdale threw with pleas for peace and harmony.
There is also a difference between some readers and all readers. You also shouldn't staple in words like "freaks" to a statement.
If you would like to buy single issues of small press magazine, allow me to suggest www.projectpulp.com
|Posted on Friday, September 19, 2003 - 07:19 am: |
Jeremy: "It seems that if Trusdale wants to stir the shit by saying that "feminists" and "Liberals" are ruining SF, and then is surprised when he gets a lot of heated feedback..." (etc.)
Judging from Truesdale's approach to argument in the self-satisfied screed he wrote, and from his increasing defensiveness on the Tangents discussion board, I don't think he was looking for actual discussion, and I would be surprised if he took seriously the notion that anyone could disagree with him. It seemed to me he was acting as cheerleader for a confirmed POV which failed, in large measure, to materialize for him when he wanted it. Instead, he found himself shaking his pom-poms in the face of the Visitors section. How embarrassing.
This kind of lack of awareness that an opposing view exists (or at least that anyone out there takes it seriously) is rampant in America on the Right and the so-called Left, and it is made only more popular by arrogant political shock-jocks like Michael Savage, combative TV flacks like Bill O'Reilly, sophomoric assholes like Al Franken, and the infotainment industry's ramping-up of the hostility of political debate. Truesdale was merely following the example of these worthies, and under different circumstances, before a different crowd, would likely have been hailed as a hero. After all, grabbing a bully pulpit and assailing a gagged majority with a barrage of horseshit is considered courageous these days. Even "fair and balanced."
So good riddance to Truesdale? Perhaps, perhaps not. But he was only a symptom. The disease is still killing us.
|Posted on Friday, September 19, 2003 - 01:26 pm: |
I can't really disagree with anything you said, Neal... with the possible exception of characterizing Al Franken as being the opposite side of the same coin as BIll O'reilly or Micheal Savage.
Granted, comedians like Franken ARE goaded by the political climate you describe to use grandiose, bombastic rhetoric that “right-wing-talking-heads” use. I would characterize this as irony, rather than being a sophomoric asshole... (but you say potatoe...)
The nature of political debate in this country has been debased by the infotainment complex... It’s sad to see this mentality seep into what is supposed to be intellectual debate about literature and the arts, though perhaps it is inevitable.
|Posted on Friday, September 19, 2003 - 10:47 pm: |
Jeremy, re: Franken -- "I would characterize this as irony, rather than being a sophomoric asshole... (but you say potatoe...)"
With all due respect, it's more insidious than that. What Franken has shown himself to know about politics would probably fit on my thumbnail. What he has shown himself to know about ethics isn't worth devoting even that much space to. And it is a common dodge for smart-ass political naifs to invoke "irony." So postmodern. But what they know of irony... Well, we'd best not go there.
Franken isn't doing this for the sake of comedy,much less irony. He's doing it for the same low reasons the Right is doing it. And that's not irony. It's bad ethics, plain and simple. Tell the truth and tell it cold, or step away from the pulpit. Franken can't handle that because he's just not smart enough. There are liberal politicos who are, but they don't strike the pose America's so-called Left requires, so they're outside the frame. What is needed is a reevaluation of the Left, and a rededication to argument -- real argument -- in American politics.
|Posted on Friday, September 19, 2003 - 10:56 pm: |
Given that Franken, unlike Savage and the rest is a comedian and comedy writer, I would have to give your telepathy helmet a whirl before agreeing with you about his motivations, Neal.
|Posted on Saturday, September 20, 2003 - 11:12 am: |
It seems to me Franken wrote for years on Saturday Night Live, and very rarely did he engage in political humor, and when he did, it was no more overtly partisan then Leno or Letterman (i.e. it wasn’t partisan at all). His first book skewered Rush Limbaugh (a blowhard who set himself up on a pedestal, just waiting to be knocked off). The latest book seems to be more of the same -- attacking people in comedic ways because they have put themselves out in the public space.
Anyway, you may charge Al Franken with being juvenile, and not knowing anything about politics (He seems to know a bit more then most, sadly), but he's NOT a politician, nor is he a political commentator... He's a comedian. There is nothing post-modern about his use of rhetoric. Aping someone else’s speech patterns to make a point is ironic. Use of irony is a long respected form of comedy that goes back to the ancient Greeks. It has NOTHING to do with Post-Modernism.
While I agree with you on the points about the nature of the debate as presented by the media-infotainment-complex (yeah, I said that with a straight face) you have to admit/recognize that The game is being played vigorously by the voices on the right. The people on the left have been playing by a different set of rules for the last 15 years, and getting their asses kicked. (witness the 2000 presidential election, where Al Gore was SAVAGED by journalists and political comentators, while they gave bush, and his numerous liabilites a free pass, for example)
If you think that it has been an even match, with both "sides" given equal access to the meida, and both "sides" filled with equal amounts of bile and hatred I think you are living in a different world then the rest of us.
Name me one person on the left who is given access to the media that has EVER spewed the kind of bile and hatred that issues from the right... find me one liberal media figure out there who has called for peoples death, or suggested other people are “Bad Americans,” because they disagree with their political views.
There is only one side shoveling hatred and fear in this country. The Media plays it up like it is a football game, and furthers the problem.
Your attacks on Al Franken, for, ostensibly, being a bad comedian, suggest that you are not seeing the forest through the trees.
Please keep in mind. I am not attacking you. I am suggesting to you that for the last 20 years, I have listened to the media, and very rarely heard my view point represented… not from politicians… not from talk radio, not from talking head political commentators… not from anybody, except maybe comedians. Can you say the same?
For example. During the build up to the Iraq war, where were the voices that represented the people who were against the war? Studies of broadcast talk shows indicated that 96% of the guests during the 3 months before the war were pro-war. 4% were anti-war. Given that polls indicated 40-45% of the country (based on polls by Fox, etc) was in fact against the war, where was the representation? Its not like these views represented a fringe minority - but if you rely on the Media-Infotainment-complex you might believe that only the lunatic fringe was anti-war.
Why does the Media-Infotainment-complex only allow comedians to talk about these issues, while it stifles journalists, political commentators, and politicians that talk about these same things? Your response to Al Franken illustrates why this is a canny decision by the corporate forces that benefit from pro-business legislation and regulation.
You ARE being sold something… Are you buying?
|Posted on Saturday, September 20, 2003 - 11:51 pm: |
Jeremy (on Al Franken): "He's a comedian. There is nothing post-modern about his use of rhetoric. Aping someone else’s speech patterns to make a point is ironic. Use of irony is a long respected form of comedy that goes back to the ancient Greeks. It has NOTHING to do with Post-Modernism."
I know what irony is, and it isn't what Franken is doing. If you want to take this back to the Greeks, the eiron was someone who pretended not to know that he was ranking his opponent. He played stupid, as in the tradition of "signifying" among African-Americans, or the Washichu stories of the western Native Americans. Franken is not an eiron; he is, like most pundits on the both sides of the political fence, an alazon. His arrogance proves him to be so. And that's the Greek angle.
As for the postmodern angle, Franken falls quite neatly into the net. He waves irony (or others wave it for him) as some kind of license for a rant. This is preaching to the choir. It is precisely the same non-productive rhetoric as that practiced on the Right by such figures as Michael Savage. And it gets us nowhere.
Jeremy: "you have to admit/recognize that The game is being played vigorously by the voices on the right. The people on the left have been playing by a different set of rules for the last 15 years"
I have to admit no such thing. Both sides are equally culpable. This is not a question of who lied first.
Jeremy: "Name me one person on the left who is given access to the media that has EVER spewed the kind of bile and hatred that issues from the right..."
Are you arguing for the right to spew bile and hatred from the so-called Left? Is this one of those "He hit me first" approaches? If not, your objection seems irrelevant.
Jeremy: "Your attacks on Al Franken, for, ostensibly, being a bad comedian, suggest that you are not seeing the forest through the trees."
My attacks on Franken are not, ostensibly or otherwise, for being a bad comedian. They are for being a bad political commentator, which he is, however wildly we wave the flag of irony. And your singling out of Franken for salvation from among the gaggle of jerk-offs I mentioned tells me a little something about the selective nature of your definition of comedy/irony. Franken is no more nor less an entertainer than (e.g.) the reprehensible Michael Savage. And until we stop making arbitrary exemptions for our ill-mannered friends, we can never hope to find political consensus.
Jeremy: "Blah, blah, blah... Can you say the same?"
Who do you think you're talking to, and what do you assume you know about him? I suggest you review some of my previous posts on this discussion board before presuming to know my political views.
Jeremy: "Your response to Al Franken illustrates why this is a canny decision by the corporate forces that benefit from pro-business legislation and regulation."
You might want to talk with the folks at Harvard who underwrote Franken's book before making that rather wild accusation. And my response to Franken is based on his shitty rhetoric, not his political views. Again, read my posts before you presume to know my politics.
|Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 06:57 am: |
Both sides are equally culpable
This makes the assumption that both sides are even arguing. If Franken and various other defenders of Bill Clinton are the left, this clearly isn't so. If you mean someone else, like, say, Noam Chomsky, I have to say I'm unaware of a history of fatuous zingers.
|Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 07:00 am: |
Clarification: If Franken and various other defenders of Bill Clinton are what you mean by the left (you've been saying, but not defining "so-called Left") then this clearly isn't so as the Democratic and Republican parties in practice have zero substantive disagreements about how to rule the country.
|Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 08:58 am: |
Nick, by "both sides," I mean the self-enforced partisan stalemate between GOP and Dems in this country, and the bootless floorshow which so often descends to mutual name-calling and accusations of one side or the other controlling media. Conspiracy Theory Lite.
You're absolutely right; they aren't arguing, and yet the silly tug-of-war rages on, and the furor of it promotes the illusion that substantive debate lies at the heart of the fracas. No such thing. It's a clown show, a distraction, and a waste of public energy.
One example: How many times must we hear our political leaders accused of malfeasance before we stop playing Whack-a-Mole and begin talking about changes to the structure of the system? Cheney still holds over 400 thousand options in Haliburton, though the shares are well-rinsed through a charitable trust. He continues to receive deferred salary from that company, from the single largest beneficiary of the war in Iraq, a war whose rationale he helped to sell. This isn't only a local problem; it's structural. But no structural change is in the offing from either side of the thin dime of American political culture. In fact, it isn't even on the radar. Instead, we play push-me-shove-you to determine which party will gain the right to abuse the frozen structure of the system next. It's disgusting.
And by so-called Left, I mean precisely the frail phantom of bourgeois liberalism which pointedly excludes folks like Chomsky (and Nader, for that matter). I've made similar remarks on other threads on this board, but perhaps I should not assume that other readers are as omnivorous as myself, or that my byline has any claim to stand out in someone's memory. But I think you suss my point: a country which considers Noam Chomsky too fringe to be a serious player has no Left to speak of. Your choices are Vanilla or Vanilla-with-Sprinkles.
|Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 09:30 am: |
I don't mean to get heated, or accuse you of anything, or to assume anything about your politics.
In your last post, you say.
>And your singling out of Franken for salvation from among the gaggle of jerk-offs I mentioned tells me a little something about the selective nature of your definition of comedy/irony.
Your original post mentioned only one "left wing jerk-off" -- Franken. I agreed with most of what you said, except for your characterization of Franken. I singled him out because it appeared to be the only thing in your original post I did not agree with. I saw no mention of Micheal Moore, or Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, or any other progressive media figure.
I am not assuming anything about your political views... I'm simply saying that we perceive the same problem, but see different causes for it.
Correct me if I'm wrong... You seem to be saying that both "sides" are to blame for the current ugly state of politics. This is a mass simplification, I know -- but relatively accurate?
I am trying to say (poorly, I know) that the source of the problem transcends "sides". The rise of corporate and moneyed influence in politics transcends sides... both parties get the majority of their funding from the same corporate donars who expect quid-pro-quo. Witness the Telcom reform act, the Banking Reform act, the deregulation of the thrift industry(and the resulting S&L bailout), the deregulation of the airlines in the 80's, followed by a huge airline bailout package in 2001, and The FCC rules change this year. All of this legislation/deregulation and many others has been bought and paid for by the corporate players that benefited, and BOTH SIDES of the aisle have been shamelessly feeding at the trough.
Bread and circus? Our political debate has been turned into circus, which conveniently distracts us from who is pulling the strings. Your focus on the personalities in your posts, (specifically Franken) seems to me, to be missing the point. I do not blame media personalities for the rise in corporate power, nor the media’s dumbing down of the political debate. As much as I despise Mike Savage or Rush, I realize they are only cogs in a much bigger machine. Who gives them access to the political debate? Who legitimizes them? Oddly enough, the same people who benefited from the proposed FCC rules changes.
Finally, you characterize Al Franken as political commentator -- something I flat out disagree with. As for harvard underwriting his book, you miss my point... regardless who published, or paid for the research, Franken has a very high profile in the media... he is invited onto political talk shows etc. Where are the progressive political scientists, Economists, and politicians on these TV and radio talk shows? They are not there. Only Comedians are allowed to represent the progressive left in high profile ways in the mass-media-political arena.
Anyway, we still have the right to disagree in this country (Until the VICTORY Act is passed, I suppose) so I will respectfully stop bugging you about our divergent views on Al Franken, and weather he is a comedian, ala Jay Leno, or he is a demagogue like Mike Savage.
Keep up the good fight,
|Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 09:49 am: |
From your last post, I can see that we are even closer to agreeing on the issues, and I have merely been splitting hairs. My apologies for being a bore.
Rather than continue on that path... Do you see any solutions to the problems you point out in your last post? I feel that massive electoral reform, followed by massive media regulation is the only realistic way of getting out from under the problems that you site.
Is this possible? Or is armed revolution the only way to through off the yoke of the corporate oppressor? Or am I totally off base, and it is not the influence of money that is the cause of the problem, but rather, a indolent, uncaring, fat & happy electorate that doesn’t mind getting the shaft as long as they have 500+ channels to surf? Do things have to get really bad before they get better?
|Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 10:35 am: |
But I think you suss my point: a country which considers Noam Chomsky too fringe to be a serious player has no Left to speak of. Your choices are Vanilla or Vanilla-with-Sprinkles.
Ah okay. Very good. Carry on then
|Posted on Monday, September 22, 2003 - 06:28 am: |
back to tangent for a second...
when i read that truesdale might pull the plug on tangent online, i admit, i gave a sigh of relief. the editor's argument that sf/f *must* have a speculative element is hard to dispute, but too often truesdale and his reviewers use it as the sole litmust test in reviewing a story. so a non-SF story appeared in an SF magazine. oh. my. god. no.
really, is tangent either valuable *or* necessary? reviewing every single sf/f story out there doesn't mean much if all you're offering readers is the obsessive-neurotic genre-taxonomy debate (it's science fantasy! no, it's urban fantasy! it's contemporary urban fantasy! no, wait, i mean, it's science fantasy! -repeat ad nauseum-). clear-cutting tangent might make room for pithier review sites, and the genre would be better served as a result.
then again, maybe i've just got truesdale fatigue. maybe if he gets a good managing editor, truesdale can step aside and tangent might become a meatier document.
|Posted on Monday, September 22, 2003 - 08:36 am: |
Jeremy: "Do you see any solutions to the problems you point out in your last post? I feel that massive electoral reform, followed by massive media regulation is the only realistic way of getting out from under the problems that you site."
There are probably a bewildering number of solutions to the problems of dumbed-down and sexed-up political chatter. Regulation is certainly one path, but I would want much public debate before such regulation was enacted. Quite frankly, I don't trust my government to work against its own interests, and a retarded level of political discussion certainly aids the interests of those in the Big Two political parties. As does low voter turnout, biased media, and the winner-take-all electoral system. I'm afraid I'm just not willing to hand the government a loaded pistol and expect them to shoot themselves in the leg without first turning the pistol on me. Call it paranoia if you like, but we've all been burned before.
Part of my rationale for posting what I posted is that I don't believe I have all the right answers. Unlike the pundits I listed, and hundreds more besides, I actually want to hear what the other sides (note the plural) have to say. The greatest damage the two-party pissing contest causes is to fool people into believing that GOP versus Dem is not only a real choice (it isn't), but the only choice. And even otherwise intelligent people get sucked into this trap. You yourself, in your rejoinder to my post, seem to have assumed that because I cracked on Franken, I must be from the political right. It's a false assumption, and one far too many Americans have been conditioned to make.
Solutions? How about paths toward solutions?
1. Make the public aware of the alternatives to corporate media, and make corporate media pay for that awareness. They want to shelter their dog-and-pony-show behind the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution? Fine. But respect the spirit of that amendment, which is that free political expression is crucial to the health of a participatory form of government. Media companies, large and small, must be held accountable to the spirit of the First Amendment. How we go about achieving this end should be the result of deliberative argument among all sides of the issue, and it should be argument which is held publicly and beholden to no corporate or institutional funding. And for the record, I hold public broadcasting in as low esteem as I hold the various privately-held media corporations.
2. While we're at it, I want open and readable disclosure of all funding media companies receive. I want more open discussion of the roles publishers play in editorial decisions. I want to know whether the four-inch column in the Science and Technology section is really just advertisement for a sponsor selling the technology being covered. I want a written rationale for the editorial choices a media outlet makes. And I want breaches of ethics in mass media punished, and punished harshly.
3. Most importantly, I want education in logic and ethics mandatory from the fourth grade onward, and I want it for free, and I want it right goddamn now. I want a generation of Americans who are aware not only of their choices, but of the real consequences of their choices. I want Americans who refuse to believe that "fairness" means simply the presentation of two extremes. I want Americans who view argument as something other than a boring squabble or a shouting match, and who will put their feet down and shoo the likes of Franken and Savage off the stage as a waste of time, and who will hold accountable the corporate and institutional powers who inflicted such pabulum on them in the first place. Until we achieve such an American generation, everything else will have to wait. But make no mistake: we must achieve it soon. We are drifting into very dangerous waters when even a sizable minority of our electorate giggles at bad faith and loose ethics. We need education; we need open and sophisticated argument; and we need a generation which insists upon both.
We don't need Big Brother to achieve this, and we don't need half-educated party flacks in the media saving us from our own stupidity by spinning our news. What we need is to spank our institutions, both public and private, and make them call us "Daddy."
|Posted on Monday, September 22, 2003 - 08:50 am: |
Trusdale has intervened in other reviews before, adding his own little notes to review copy, so I doubt he'd be able to keep his fingers out of the pie even with a managing editor.
After all, he can't even stay true to his own public announcement that he was quitting. Why should he be believed about anything else?
tobias s buckell
|Posted on Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - 08:51 pm: |
Hi, thought I'd drop in for a bit :-)
Nick wrote: "Finally, most of the reviewers were emerging writers with no particular critical skills"
TB: Yeah, but people like Jay Lake, Catherine Asaro, Rich Horton, Steven Silver and others for the site have pitched in to do reviews. Dave Kirtley and Paul Melko are both emerging writers who I wouldn't exactly say have no particular review skills, but the encouragment seems to be more towards summary because that is how all the other reviews have been, since the only mandate or mission statement to come out from Dave has been 'to review everything,' at which point quantity becomes more of a focus than incisive criticism. I make no claims or don't care which is better, that's how that leaned.
Tangent was asking folks for $5 a year to get early access to its reviews. Very, very few people ever subscribed.
Depends on your definition. Tangent has over 300 subscribers last I checked before I quit. I thought that was pretty good for what it was.
At $2 a year minimum (the original pay scheme) we got almost double that. We jumped to $5 after I consulted with Fictionwise and some business people and fixed that price in b/c it was the average price people paid when I had opened the site with the $2 minimum. Renewals tapered off.
Recently I tried twice to explain to Dave that if we returned to the $2 minimum we could significantly enhance our readership and from all indications increase net income. We could then maybe move to offer reviewers a very small stipend and work up from there, but I never got a reply.
I also never got a reply on a mission statement that would allow me to understand what his goals with Tangent where and how I could support them better, but that never came in. I was pretty bummed with all the arguing online, because I felt it detracted from any reviews or forward motion on Tangent itself, so as of about 6-9 months ago I started trying to find a replacement so I could bug out.
Nick wrote: "Trusdale has intervened in other reviews before, adding his own little notes to review copy, so I doubt he'd be able to keep his fingers out of the pie even with a managing editor. "
Sadly probably true. That incident distressed me and led me to believe Tangent was no longer about promoting new authors, or trying to cover the field, but about Dave's opinions and his newsgroup rants. Dave may or may not be like this for real, but the public persona of Tangent has been negatively impacted either way, and so in practice have to agree.
All this said, I still think a Tangent-like zine would be a big benefit. But the negativity on all sides to anything like this has truly astounded little old me, who thought at the beginning that it would be worth spending 3 months of my life while living on a part time salary to learn how to create a database backed website to enable all this simply because I believed the idea of Tangent was really cool.
Bummer is it is always easier for people to tear down than build up, and ever since that initial spurt of demonic energy I put into it, it's been a sapping influence on my life both from online detractors, personal encounters, the animosity Dave has engendered and given back.
However I'm always here for input/questions.
-Tobias S. Buckell (former web-dude)
|Posted on Wednesday, September 24, 2003 - 11:10 pm: |
Hi Toby, thanks for chiming in. I certainly wasn't putting Jay Lake and Rich Horton in the "no particular critical skills" category, and you're right to give them shout outs. However, even the good reviewers were hamstrung by the capsule summary system.
What benefits do you think would be gained by a Tangent-like zine? The only folks I can see truly benefiting it would be the short story writers themselves, and that traditionally is not the target audience of a review venue.
|Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2003 - 07:10 am: |
the question of tangent's target audience is interesting, nick, and i'll be curious to hear tobias' take. i would bet that the vast majority of those 300 subscribers that tobias mentioned were editors, writers, clarion/odyssey grads, etc. as you say, who else needs it enough to pay for it?
that's the mess that truesdale found himself in, i bet: for the true fan, he wanted a catalog of all genre short fiction, but instead found tangent catering to writers working the fringe of sf/f/h who needed the semblance of recognition that tangent afforded them.
truesdale's target audience shifted (or clarified itself) and he didn't like the "change" to the genre that he perceived.
i dunno. just talking out my ass probably.
|Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2003 - 04:29 pm: |
I think it's true that there's been a noticable shift in the genre, especially in the short forms, a blurring of the lines, in the last ten years. Not just with newer writers, but older ones who, maybe, submit things they wouldn't have thought would have a chance before.
Dave Truesdale, ten years ago, was very hospitable to my writing when it was being criticized as 'non-genre'.
Getting old is a scary business.
|Posted on Friday, September 26, 2003 - 09:09 am: |
if you start out as a young crank of an editor, i guess you eventually turn into an old crank with a gun shooting at young literary types who try to cut across your lawn.
|Posted on Friday, September 26, 2003 - 12:04 pm: |
Sometimes I wonder what is the worth of any endeavour that brings attention to the works of any particular work? Why review any novels or short fiction at all?
I think the potential of Tangent would be to illustrate where the new talent is, what is brewing, and where you can find it.
This has the twofold purpose of promoting interesting and/or new writers and their venues, and of directing readers to these places. This is good for both sides.
Unfortunatly that did not really quite work out that way.
I wonder if Barth is pretty close to an element of the truth that keeps causing these flame wars. The membership of Tangent is actually more diverse than he mentioned (there are a surprising number of 'names' and many of the top editors were given free subs that they do use), but a large number are new writers as Barth mentioned.
The newsgroup attracts many of these new writers (subbers or not).
I personally find it amusing that so many people in SF are bemoaning the greying of SF and wondering why there are so few young writers/readers.
I wonder if the kinds of prickliness we see around these days about 'pure' or 'real' SF have anything to do with it? Dunno. But arguments of purity really don't fly with my sort of mixed blood background, whether in SF or race I'm dimly inclined to take it seriously in any manner, as purity of anything causes serious inbreeding and failure of the line in question, to extend a metaphore.
I could also be talking out of my ass as well :-)
|Posted on Friday, September 26, 2003 - 12:35 pm: |
Well the main reason one reviews books is so that readers don't spend $20 on a lump of crap. Reviewing is a service provided to the reading classes. Book pages in papers have been shrinking or vanishing along with an understanding that some newspapers and magazines appeal primarily to non-book readers; they no longer need the service so the column inches are used for J-Lo and Ben, or racing forms. I'm speaking as an occasional book reviewer for the Village Voice at the moment.
This is also why most papers and mainstream magazines don't review mass market paperbacks. Few commodities that cost under $10 are reviewed, because those are impulse purchases. They'll either be bought or not bought anyway.
In my eyes, magazines are much the same as small-ticket commodities: either an occasional purchase from the newsstand based as much as the change one has in one's pocket, or one is a subscriber and is going to read the magazine whether some yutz three weeks after the fact tells you whether it is horrible or not.
Highlighting new writers? But surely reviewing every story in Analog, Asimov's, and F&SF will lead to most of the virtual ink being taken up reviewing at least established journeymen authors, and some big names.
A widely read set of critics writing up a series of profiles of new writers who come across their radar screens (bluejack seemed to approach this) would do far better than reviewing everything in two-sentence capsules.
|Posted on Friday, September 26, 2003 - 09:57 pm: |
One of the causes of the French Revolution and, at nearer hand, the turmoil of the '60's, was a large, aware, young generation in a structure that was unable to accomodate it. There are lots of good young writers and some who are very good indeed. Because of the writing programs and the internet, they are much better trained, much more sophisticated, about markets than their earlier equivilants.
It's interesting that the Tangent newsgroup became a battlefield not at the instigation of the young writers but the old ones.
One of the useful functions that Tangent served was to make one aware of what was coming out. The review part of it kind of got in the way.
|Posted on Friday, September 26, 2003 - 10:30 pm: |
I'd like to think that as an old crank of an editor I'm still pretty open to new writers. I've always kept a broad definition of the kinds of fiction I'll publish in whatever venue I'm working.
|Posted on Friday, September 26, 2003 - 10:42 pm: |
Hmm, I don't think "new writer," "young writer" and "writer of a new sort of fiction" always map as cleanly as is being implied so far.
I also don't think the Tangent newsgroup became a battleground because of the writers at all. I think Dave Trusdale managed that well enough acting alone. A number of the threads I read were Trusdale against The World, with a few folks trying to moderate the discussion by examining both sides. There were rarely any firebrands other than Tru arguing on his side of things. If anything, people were far too polite, far too happy to whatever bowl of shit he was serving, and over and over.
|Posted on Friday, September 26, 2003 - 11:46 pm: |
Ellen: I think the editors, you and Gordon anyway, have been open to new writers(too open to those god-damn boundary-jumping kids, if you ask me).
Nick: My recollection of the summer before last was that Dave had plenty of allies. I haven't visited the Tangent board since then and don't know how it is now.
You are absolutely correct - there is no clean, clear definition between old and new (as there never is in these matters) The signature fight, after all, involved Karen Joy Fowler who, while wonderful, is not new.
|Posted on Saturday, September 27, 2003 - 09:11 am: |
Rick: Thanks for the support
Dave was also excercised over a Robert Reed story.
|Posted on Saturday, September 27, 2003 - 09:50 am: |
Rick, there were certainly people who agreed with Trusdale that the Fowler story was not SF (and IIRC, Fowler was one of them!) but that was it -- I don't think anyone else was accusing Ellen of fraud for publishing the story, for example, or attacking Fowler's story out of explicit castration anxiety in the way Tru was.
Ditto the Robert Reed story and his insistence that it was a "pity sale" to Van Gelder because The New Yorker rejected it.
|Posted on Saturday, September 27, 2003 - 11:07 am: |
Nick, as I said at the time I never thought the Fowler was sf. Rather that it is fantasy that relates to sf. And you're right I believe that it was only Dave who wanted to drum me out of the sf/f genre for publishing it and other suspect stories.
To me it's obvious that the Reed story is a fantasy. I don't see bereaved men going around building mile long sleeping women in the side of mountains too often...
|Posted on Saturday, September 27, 2003 - 11:23 am: |
Yeah, I heard about the Reed affair only afterwards. No motive but madness explains it.
Something to remember about Tangent is that 12 years ago, short fiction simply did not get reviewed. Not like now when a story in a 'zine can get half a dozen reviews - some of them even worthwhile.
|Posted on Saturday, September 27, 2003 - 12:07 pm: |
I was using SF in the big catch-all sense. I'm sure most people can't go off to live with gorillas, Tarzan-style. I thought it was fantasy too.
I don't see bereaved men going around building mile long sleeping women in the side of mountains too often...
And certainly not overnight, unless John Deere started selling nanotractor sawrms!
|Posted on Saturday, September 27, 2003 - 12:10 pm: |
As a short story editor I very much appreciate reviews of the what I publish and so the idea of Tangent is very important to me. I do think the longer critical pieces they occasionally run (fiction by Starlight or something) are often excellent. However, I became less and less impressed by the reviewers and reviews of online markets. Even the positive ones read like elementary school book reports and were useless to readers.
I appreciate the reviews by Rich Horton and Nick Gevers in Locus, even if I don't always agree with them. And The Fix out of the UK is also an important venue for short fiction reviews.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 30, 2003 - 08:56 am: |
on "new" writers
we might be vague in defining what that means but consider the source. while fowler's story may have been the lightning rod for truesdale's apoplexy last summer, his most recent essay swings cross-hairs over "the new crop of kids writing today."
i don't know what/who DT means since clearly this "new crop" is already an established product, about a decade old as rick suggested earlier.
|Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 10:12 am: |
It's more a question of style. In that way it's like the 'New Wave' controversy of th late '60's. Which was resolved in the minds of a lot of the 'Old Wavers' when a bunch of Hugos and Nebulas went to some quite uninovative books by some older brand name writers.