Feb 172015
  February 17, 2015

There’s been some arguing in the science fiction and fantasy literary community in the last few years that a very small group of people think is very important. That the larger group of fans neither notice nor care about this is lost on those who believe that everyone is watching and what they do will determine the future.

The argument may be about societal shifts in race and gender, or it may be about politics. It most often appears as racist outbursts from a group calling themselves Sad Puppies becauseā€¦ well, they give a kind of reason but I’m thinking it’s because someone had a very white puppy when he was a kid.

I’ve avoided this ruckus for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that I’m not a well-known or even not-so-well-known author. But a recent post (here) just struck me as unintentionally funny, and I just can’t ignore funny. John Scalzi has already framed his own reply (here), which makes mine a bit silly since the number of people who will read his is astronomically higher than those who will read mine, but then, I have a different take on it, and besides, I’m tired of doing the work I’m supposed to be doing.

The post is by one William Lehman, who appears to be just about as famous as I am. He calls for his followers to “take back” the sci-fi conventions fromā€¦well, from some vague group that he doesn’t like that apparently have an agenda of not giving him the appreciation he is certain he deserves. The closest I can get to sense in this is that he is a manly-manā€”a geeky, hard science, manly-manā€”and that those not giving him awards are feminized, soft-science, wimpy sorts. I’d say pinko-commie would be implied, but does anyone actually say that any more? I will grant you, my interpretation comes from reading other diatribes by Sad Puppies that tend to dwell on how the white man is being kept down.

Scalzi looks at what he can find as arguments and attempts to refute them. But I don’t think this is about arguments. This is a man-off, 1960s style. Lehman wants to be a manly-man, and those darn women-types are stopping the spread of manliness. Becauseā€¦westerns and George Washington and myths.


I’m game. Let’s play.

I’m a white male, and getting to be an old white male, and I don’t apologize for it, or for most anything. I was raised by a marine, and spent a large amount of my childhood playing soldiers, stalking other children with guns or laying out strategies with armies of plastic warriors. I also played on train trestles, leaping off one side into the creek only when the train reached the far side. I also got in my share of fights, with a grey front tooth and a scar in my scalp as reminders. i.e., a pretty good boy-to-manly-man childhood. I watched a lot of war films and cheered. I also read: Wells, Verne, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Niven. (Authors that count to Sad Puppies.) I did the sports thing in high school and then went on to study physics and math at university. Physics, not psychology. Physics, that thing that is the height of the hard sciences. I do recall teasing the soft-scientists a bit. Also recall teasing the engineers for pretty much the same reasonā€¦engineering is soft compared to physics. Not that I didn’t learn to build things. I worked out how to make a nuclear bomb (it really is surprisingly easy). I think that counts. Oh, and I did quite well with girls, which I believe is the number one most manliest-man thing. I dated many, was rarely without, and married a girl who both modeled and won contests for her beauty and sex appeal. She had other attributes, but they are irrelevant to our man-off. And I use the world “girl,” which I think gets me another point.

So, if that doesn’t win me that manly-man thing, it at least puts me in the same man-centered, testosterone-fueled, manly-man sphere as Mr. Lehman.

And if I may take a moment to raise my geek cred, I am a director at a convention. If we go by size, and word it “fan-run” so we can unfairly ignore Comic-con, I am a director at THE convention. It doesn’t get bigger. Now I don’t run the literary side. I do film. But I do communicate with those who run the literary panels, and I assure you, they don’t sit around dwelling on how to be a culture warrior. Really, most of the time is spent saying “OK, I’ve got this celebrity guest, and that celebrity guest. How can I get them both into this block when they want to be signing autographs at that time?”

That makes me a geeky, hard-science, manly-man. And now, here’s the thingā€”if I may address Mr. Lehman directlyā€”the point that you missed: Manly-menā€¦they don’t whine. They don’t complain about how other people don’t appreciate them. They don’t pout when they donā€™t get awards. Oh, and they don’t have role-models, and rarely heroes (you know, like gun-slingers). You talk about the myth of the cowboy, but your cowboy wouldn’t be out there with his six shooter; he’d be sulking because the rest of the town didn’t give him a super-sheriff coffee mug. In your version, the silent Pale Rider would come to town, and then in the third act, instead of shooting anyone, would just start talking and talking about how no one realizes how cool he is. And I don’t think you understand the myths. A western gunman is not something you want to be. That’s a main part of the myth.

I’m trying to remember the Robert Heinlein story that featured a man’s-man warrior sort, who was really grumpy that no one would tell him how swell he was. I can’t seem to. Huh. Wonder why?

So, from one Manly-man to another (who’s not looking quite as manly as he should), here are a few rules and suggestions. Fear is not manly. Stop being afraid of women. Really. Be nice to them and they won’t bite you. Stop being afraid of non-Caucasians. They don’t bite either. And stop whining. You want more he-man science fiction? Write some. Don’t complain. Don’t whine. Don’t pout. Write. And if what you write is really, really good, maybe you will get some of that not-so-manly attention you seem to crave. Of course, not giving a fuck would be manlier.

For me, I don’t give a fuck about much. Truly, I care about very little now. Life will do that to you. You’ll learn about that when you grow up. But I do care about the Nebula and the Hugo awards. I really do. And next time I read a nice article about them, I don’t want to run across your whining. It sounds wimpy. Nor do I want to see anything from wimpy puppies. Stop being a wimp and man-up.