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Are people going insane?

No, seriously, did I miss a new disease? Was there a plague and I missed the notification? I've been a bit busy, and with Geldof's Live 8 thing, it's quite easy that a disease ravaging the speculative fiction scene might have passed me by. If you haven't seen this disease, it's called We Are Art and We Are Movement. Perhaps there's a connection between the two. Maybe not. But this morning, surfing the blogsphere, I discovered that Maureen McHugh had finally given up her Onyx name, and about six billion blogs were all discussing how Speculative Fiction could be Art (or isn't Art) and that Genre Did Not Matter and Dogs Bark and so on and so forth, while a sword and sorcery zine gave yet another movement, The New Edge. Sure, it's not as catchy as Mundane SF, and doesn't have Geoff Ryman's name against it to give a bit of credibility (Ryman is an excellent author), but by fuck, it suggests that you should have exotic settings, a sense of wonder, high energy story telling, and a hard boiled tone. I immediately thought of poor Philip Marlowe saying, "I was wearing my brown leather breeches, with a chain mail shirt, belt and display sword,, black socks and black boots, polished up. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well dressed mercenary ought to be. I was calling on four hundred pounds of gold."

It feels like everyone around me has caught a disease, and fuck it people, you need to find a cure. I can handle one or two essays about how speculative fiction isn't seen as art but really is (or alternatively is mistaken as art occasionally but isn't and you're putting too much thought into this), and I can handle a manifesto once a year, maybe, but this is getting out of hand. Sure, there are some people who don't know what the words speculative fiction mean, and sure, there are some people who don't like science fiction or whatever sub genre, and some people who think it's nothing but big spaceships and elves and Tolkien and Asimov and whatever. But so what? I don't like romance novels. They're just not my thing. But do I think romance novels can't be art? No. I don't think about romance novels. I don't care about romance novels, so I don't spend any time thinking about how they're shit or good. If I see one, I avoid it. If there's a movie, I don't go. And you know what, I suspect the people who don't care about speculative fiction... don't care. Which means they're not reading the blogs and essays and manifestos that are produced within the speculative fiction scene.

So, here's a new trick. Try it.

If you have the urge to write about how speculative gets no respect, and how any genre be art, and how you're a legitimate person and all that stuff... writing a fucking story. Don't tell the world about. Shut the fuck up! Write a fucking story! I know what you're thinking, but stop! Don't think, "But, Ben, if we don't have this conversation--" No. Shut up. Don't have this conversation. Go away and write a fucking story. Mix genres. Write things that are difficult to sell. Take time out and be difficult to sell. Spend five years submitting your story. Have ten people read it. Do that. Write the story. Don't begin a blog post with, "Speculative fiction is just as valid as any other genre." Of course it fucking is. Are you retarded? Only retards think it isn't, and it's about time we stopped writing for those people. The audience isn't out there drooling and saying, "Science fiction is stuuuu-pid," and then laughing and buying the material.

So you get the urge, write the fiction.

If you have a manifesto, same deal. If you're thinking, "What we need is a manifesto to get away from the continual infantilism of the genre," then go away and write some fucking fiction that does this. Then spend, oh, I dunno, ten years submitting it, more if you're writing sword and sorcery and want it in a good market. Spend that time. Pray to your Gods that it will work. Burn an effigy of those writers who disgust you. Do whatever it takes for you to get your new fangled fiction out there.

Just stop talking in circles, for fucks sake!

Comments

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catvalente
Jul. 7th, 2005 05:52 am (UTC)
Jesus, every single one of these new movements has "a raw and hardboiled tone" as their goal. Which means a. they're all the same movement and b. none of them speak to me anyway.

Too bad I'm too busy actually baking books to write a manifesto.
benpeek
Jul. 7th, 2005 05:58 am (UTC)
the hard boiled tone is ridiculous in so many ways. so many. assuming that anyone actually does this, all that'll happen is a whole heap of badly written hard boiled things. which makes me break out in a rash, man. and not one of them fun with the kids rashes.

you could always write a manifesto book. you're a quicker writer than me, you could knock the manifesto disguised as a novel but really a manifesto don'tchuaknow book in a week ;)
(no subject) - catvalente - Jul. 7th, 2005 05:59 am (UTC) - Expand
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benpeek
Jul. 7th, 2005 06:09 am (UTC)
aren't you meant to be writing a novel?
nihilistic_kid
Jul. 7th, 2005 06:13 am (UTC)
We Are Art?

Exactly where are you seeing this??

All I've been seeing lately is "We Are Not Art. Art Is For Faggots." That's the fundament of this new metamovement of hard-boiled movements.
benpeek
Jul. 7th, 2005 06:24 am (UTC)
off the top of my head, i saw lain making links to genre stories than can art this morning. plus there was some of it on ninebelow's, though this is at the same time linked to his conversation that most of spec fic is shit. which strikes me as just being the opposite side of the We Are Art conversation. We Are Art. We Are Not Art. It's all the same noise to me nowadays.
(no subject) - nihilistic_kid - Jul. 7th, 2005 06:30 am (UTC) - Expand
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benpeek
Jul. 7th, 2005 06:25 am (UTC)
you should just post more pictures of marilyn monroe.
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benpeek
Jul. 7th, 2005 06:39 am (UTC)
now, don't you feel better?
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ex_benpayne119
Jul. 7th, 2005 06:46 am (UTC)
Hey, I like manifestos... nine times out of ten they're better than the fiction they inspire....

benpeek
Jul. 7th, 2005 06:49 am (UTC)
i'm not against manifestos. if you're thinking i don't like the occasional manifesto, you're wrong. but man... how many have there been this year?
deborahb
Jul. 7th, 2005 07:42 am (UTC)
Heh heh heh.

Oi, freedom of speech, pal! I think people should be allowed to discuss genre & art for as looooooong as they (we) like. Man, it is so much more interesting than conversations about 'This morning I got up, showered, wrote, had a glass of juice, contemplated my mortality, wrote...'

I like the debate on topics like this PARTLY AND EXACTLY because there is no possible resolution.

BTW, SF is dead.
benpeek
Jul. 7th, 2005 07:44 am (UTC)
freedom of speech is over rated, i tell you. but, more along the lines, i think i discovered i have a threshold. i feel much better after ranting a bit, though.

and yes, sf is dead. buy the shirt.

you know, i sold another of those shirts this month.
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mevennen
Jul. 7th, 2005 08:17 am (UTC)
I've missed out on all this. I've obviously been hanging out in the online equivalent of some old gents' boozer where everyone wears flat caps and talks about whippet racing, rather than the cool, edgy wine bars of virtual Soho.

However, I'm unfortunately too busy writing to read any of this stuff, let alone add to it. I've already taken the piss out of poor China far too much over the New Weird thing.

BTW, Geoff is pretty scathing about the Mundanes issue and labels generally; i think he feels it's something that was slapped on him rather than something to which he specifically adhered.
benpeek
Jul. 7th, 2005 01:05 pm (UTC)
that's interesting relating to ryman. from what i understand, he wrote the mundane one, and then a bunch of people got behind it and have basically championed it. oddly enough, i haven't heard anyone talk about his work in relation to it--but that said, i've avoided all the manifesto related conversations (and i'm thinking of those dank dark virtual bars in the boonies for all conversations now). i can see how he'd think it was slapped on him, though, since the general feel i've been left with is that it's his thing.
(no subject) - tanaise - Jul. 11th, 2005 05:09 am (UTC) - Expand
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ashamel
Jul. 7th, 2005 08:18 am (UTC)
If you read a lot of blogs and other non-fiction pieces by people interested in SF, then surely you'll read a lot of non-fiction about SF.

Just seems to me.

I tend to ignore it all myself, but maybe I'm just out of touch. That would explain some stuff, actually.
benpeek
Jul. 7th, 2005 01:06 pm (UTC)
it's mainly the manifesto stuff, i think. plus, i think i felt the urge to have a got rant and say fuck a lot. it always does me a world of good, it does, yes.
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ex_hestia
Jul. 7th, 2005 08:42 am (UTC)
Funny. I keep running into industry types getting befuddled by their first encounters with fanfiction.
benpeek
Jul. 7th, 2005 01:07 pm (UTC)
that must be painful.

i like telling kids about slash fan fic. that's my favourite thing to do.
kylaw
Jul. 7th, 2005 09:20 am (UTC)
Ben, I find your fantasy Phillip Marlowe strangely inspiring.

BTW, is that movie you're in titled "Footy Legend?" If so, I just turned down a day's work on it because I'm already taking leave that week to attend Continuum.
benpeek
Jul. 7th, 2005 01:08 pm (UTC)
hey, yeah, that is the film. was it the sixteenth for the date? it's a shame you won't be there. we could've gone out and been treated poorly together!
mariness
Jul. 7th, 2005 12:06 pm (UTC)
You crush me with your dismissal of the romance genre. Just crush me.

As a punishment, I assign you to finish telling us this Philip Marlowe story. You can't give us a hard-boiled mercenary calling on four hundred pounds of gold and just leave it there. Wrong, just wrong.

benpeek
Jul. 7th, 2005 01:09 pm (UTC)
the marlowe story basically writes itself. for example, if you read the big sleep, and then change every modern reference to a fantasy one, you're ninety percent there.

at the end, however, marlowe fights a dragon.
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(no subject) - benpeek - Jul. 7th, 2005 11:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
farklebarkle
Jul. 8th, 2005 04:32 pm (UTC)
I disagree--there aren't nearly enough manifestos out there. Everyone must know what I think about The State of Horror. Time to post!
benpeek
Jul. 9th, 2005 12:26 am (UTC)
fabulous
sclerotic_rings
Jul. 8th, 2005 11:01 pm (UTC)
You know, if I'd read your justifiable primal scream fifteen years ago, my life would have turned out very different. Or maybe not: after all, it's always easier to write essays about how things should be changed than it is to make that change, and if I'd realized that I'm actually a pretty shitty writer, a lot of magazines wouldn't have been polluted with my gibberish. Well, better to quit writing late than never...
benpeek
Jul. 9th, 2005 12:33 am (UTC)
are you sure you don't want to continue until you hit the porn industry in desperation? i'm looking forward to all the plastic, myself.
(no subject) - sclerotic_rings - Jul. 11th, 2005 02:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Jul. 12th, 2005 06:13 am (UTC) - Expand
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