Thursday, June 3, 2021

Science Fiction Doesn't Exist [Part I: Fantastic Nothings]

With the roaring '20s returning, albeit in a very different sense than the one from a century prior, so too is our genre fiction returning to the halcyon days when it was at its most popular. Of course, it is being spearheaded by creators outside the old system, but it is still a reality nonetheless. Right now is the most exciting time it has been to be a creator for decades.

But what happened to genre fiction for it to lose so much relevance and popularity over one single century? Why did it slip in popularity and relevance to begin with? Why did it sink so low the extent that it is now the lowest selling segment of the entire fiction market? Those are good questions, and ones that I wish to explore over the next few weeks.

It's been a long time since we've looked in on the subject of Fandom and the history of genre stories from the modern age. There have been reasons for this. Mostly my non-fiction efforts have gone elsewhere (including the bestselling Pulp Mindset), and I'm still working on too many other projects in the meantime. However, I also hadn't done much in this series due to not knowing if there was more in the way of fertile ground to cover on the subject. How many times can you say and show that Fandom ruined everything? How many times can you point out that OldPub is dying because of them? At this point, you'd have to be blind not to see it.

Well, I'm not so sure that is as important as showing how it was done, especially today when just about every hobby and subculture is being swarmed by poseurs attempting to deconstruct and boil everything into a flavorless mush for mass consumption. But it isn't just being made for mindless consumption--it is being made with propaganda in mind. Every piece of fiction in the mainstream appears to be the dumbest and most blunt attempt at social engineering possible, and everyone knows it now. You can see a movie poster or read a plot synopsis and guess every "twist" that's going to happen before it does. The old system simply has no more gas left.

Would you believe me if I said this destructive anti-art mentality had its roots from a much earlier time period? Not only that, it was just as unsuccessful as the current attempt to shape your thoughts and beliefs is. It was so unsuccessful that said segment of Fandom is currently in danger of extinction as book chains close and audiences turn their nose at corporate book formulas. OldPub is not going to be around that much longer.

Let us give them a mercy-killing today.

In our first series we looked at Sam Lundwall's Science Fiction: An Illustrated History, a book that was an attempt to frame a narrative that has aged as well as spoiled milk. The book contained a lot of dumb claims and genre elitism to sift through, but at its core was a work that had its uses. In the follow-up series, I took a gander at Ron Goulart's far superior Cheap Thrills, a tome on the history of pulp magazines from Frank Munsey to their disappearance in the 1950s. Though both were ostensibly about the same subject, they shared almost nothing of their content between them, with the former offering many falsehoods and outright lies that had to be corrected by the latter, even though Mr. Goulart's work released first.

So if they are both histories then why do they not share the same interest in the subject that the other does? Why does it feel like there is tension underlaying all of this? That is simply because there is. Goulart's book was describing a tradition--Lundwall's was attempting to frame a new one. And reading them both makes it clear who had the agenda and who just dealt in facts.

The conclusion to such a discrepancy in views is clear. You already know who is telling the truth. You've been lied to about the pulps your entire life, and it was because you weren't allowed to have stories like them anymore. Your fiction had to be taken away from you--because it was evil and immoral. That's more or less why gatekeepers emerged from the fringes of Fandom in the first place. Black is white and white is black and the only reason you don't understand it is because you haven't been educated right. Your superiors will now do your thinking for you.

While it is true I could spend another series simply tearing Fandom apart, I would much rather focus on the deceptive nature they revel in. That is what this new series will be focusing on: a group of people who decided they were the Kings and Queens of Fiction, who not only have no clothes but are the equivalent of the escaped mental patient who openly declares he is Queen Elizabeth and the true successor to the English crown.

That might sound like an exaggeration, but just wait and see.

So it only stands to reason that this time I would go over Sam Lundwall's earlier book (written before he was even in his thirties) from 1969, here translated and expanded on by the original author in English for 1971. OldPub really wanted you to read this book, apparently. It is called Science Fiction: What It's All About, an attempt to do what fandom has been doing since the beginning of their ever-obnoxious letter-writing fanclubs--defining what this mess even is and why it totally isn't made-up nonsense duct-taped together like bad pipes about to burst.

Given that I still see arguments over this ridiculous genre definition dodgeball on social media to this day (No, friend, "Science Fiction is about Science; Fantasy is about Fantasy" is not a definition) on what makes this non-existent genre special from every other literary genre, despite being the lowest selling segment by far and the least claim to define itself, I'd have to say the book failed before I read the first page. No one is going to write that book that will successfully describe the "genre" because it just can't be done. It shouldn't take over a hundred years to define a genre, unless it doesn't actually exist in the first place. That's because it doesn't--it was completely fabricated, which is why the definition changes every other day depending on who wants to boost their ego this week. It was created by people who hate adventure fiction and tradition, which means it has no foundations. If that sounds controversial then just wait and see. We have a lot to cover.

Before we start, let me talk about genre definition, because too many authors are enamored with outdated bookstore categories that have provably not worked out too well, given how many people they've chased away from their profession within a mere century. Clinging to things that don't work, and have never worked, is a recipe for failure, as abysmal genre sales show. Sounds very scientific, doesn't it?

A genre is a category that defines what your audience wants out of the story in as simple as terms as possible. Your genre definition has to be one that explains the core of what you're doing in as few words as possible, in order for the new and ignorant incoming audience to be able to understand what they are getting into. You should do this with a single word, like every other genre that has ever existed does. The more simplistic, the more clear, and the more accessible, it becomes to those interested. It also allows creators clarity on what potential audiences might want from their work. This is how definitions work and what makes them important.

Should you doubt this definition, let us look into the most popular genres. How concocted are their titles?

  • Romance is a story about a romance plot.
  • Mystery is a story about a mystery plot.
  • Horror is a story about a horror plot.
  • Action is a story about an action plot.
  • Adventure is a story about an adventure plot.
  • Non-fiction is about a non-fiction account.
  • Biographies are about biographies.

This is straightforward, easy to understand. the entire genre and the experience you are getting out of it can be described in a single word. This is because it is meant to be as clear as possible to patrons. This is the way it is supposed to be. It is also what makes them clear definitions to this day that absolutely no one argues over.

They don't argue about them because they work.

But then you will have fandom wonks come in with the following:

  • Science Fiction is a story about a science plot.
  • Fantasy is a story about a fantasy plot.

If you can't see why this doesn't work then you need to take off your Fandom cap and look at it from someone who has never looked at a bookshelf before. If you do then you will see that neither of those terms describe any of it.

This is because they weren't made for audiences: they were made for Fandom. The term "Science Fiction & Fantasy" has an express purpose, and it isn't about the stories themselves.

What does any of the above even mean? The terms "science" and "fantasy" are completely nebulous and arbitrary. They are even wrong if we are going to talk on a base level. John Carter teleports to Mars by magic. Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and space opera as a whole is full of scientifically impossible things. Venus is uninhabitable, so now Leigh Brackett's stories must change genre. This is completely stupid. No other genre works this way--because this isn't how genres work. If the genre isn't eternal then it isn't true.

Guess what? It isn't true.

So when these now outdated stories "change" genre, what do they become? Fantasy? What does "fantasy" even mean? Fantasy is a vague nebulous floating term, usually used as a pejorative to describe stories certain cultists deem as inferior to their preferred, objectively superior correct science stories. Don't deny it. If you say you haven't seen it happen then you have not been paying attention. What you probably don't know is that the cultists created those terms for that exact reason. They were attempting to draw dividing lines on purpose.

"Fantasy" doesn't actually describe anything at all, and neither does the term "Science" tell you anything. The reason the terms exist is because 20th century materialists, purveyors of a philosophy no one really believes in anymore, designed the terms to frame their cult around. This is why the terms do not make sense and why they have to relation to any other genre. The people who made them up built their terms on shifting sand.

A genre has to do something no other genre does, otherwise it's not a genre. "Science" is not exclusive to any genre, and neither is the vague concept of "fantasy," whatever that means. They don't describe anything aside from the terrible tastes of materialists with small imaginations and even smaller souls. Robinson Crusoe is "Science Fiction" if you look at it hard enough, but that's not the focus of the tale--it is an adventure story. But we pick and choose what gets put in that hallowed category depending on what can be used as a tool to advance physicism worship. Judging a definition by the amount of hyper-focus on material science over immaterial spirit is completely nonsensical. Especially when you are overriding the genre the audience actually cares about: which is adventure. Why are we sitting on one successful genre to prop up one based on an outdated ideology that no one really believes in anymore? It's madness.

There is no other "genre" that works on such stupid premises of selecting stories for inclusion. This is because these categories are ready-made for gatekeepers who wish to fetishize their own works above others. Nowhere in any of this mess is the potential audience taken into account, by the way. None of this tells any of them what this means. This is because it isn't made for them. It was created by a club to enshrine themselves and give each other awards and pats on the back.

If we were being honest, there are much simpler terms we could use. How hard you fight against them probably decides how enamored you are with failed 20th century book store terms that work against the audience. And why would you when the old terms clearly do not work and never have? Perhaps have another duel on social media, if you must, but it would be better to just move on.

You simply call these categories Mythic Fiction and Futuristic Fiction. There you go: one word terms that get to the heart of what the stories are meant to inspire in the reader's soul. You do this without the intentional baggage physicists imposed on them.

I will even describe them using the above criteria:

  • Futuristic fiction is a story about a futuristic plot.
  • Mythic fiction is a story about a mythic plot.

No needless dodgeball terms for elitists that detest their audience, no pointless subgenre titles that make even less sense to patch up holes in your leaky boat, no cordoning off ideas due to levels of materialism included, and one sentence definitions to make them more welcome to newcomers. It's all very simple and easy to understand.

You know what these stories are meant to do right out of the box. Now ask yourself why these weren't the terms originally used or decided upon. There isn't actually a good reason for it, just that Fandom had goals of their own. And I'm going to show you what those goals were.

I expect tremendous kickback from the openminded set for the above suggestion. We must keeping using outdated terms that don't work and have never worked, of course. It's very important to the cliques and upholding a tradition built on uprooting traditions. The 20th century is over, and was a failure, but we must cling to it regardless. This is how progress works, I suppose.

All that aside, the point is that the original terms were always controversial, never even solidifying during the heyday of fandom back in the 1960s. This book's very existence is proof of that. How much longer do we have to do this back and forth? Apparently, forever.

Enough of this. Let us finally get into the thick of it.

As Lundwall begins his book about his non-existent genre, he supplies three quotes as to what said "genre" is. His intent is to highlight them before proving them wrong in his work, but I will go over them myself before we properly begin. I think it is important to give a slight bit of context to their time periods and showing just how little things have changed over the last century.

Boy, for a supposedly progressive genre, it sure doesn't change much.

SCIENCE FICTION: Three definitions: 
 "Science fiction is a branch of fantasy identifiable by the fact that it eases the 'willing suspension of disbelief on the part of its readers by utilizing an atmosphere of scientific credibility for its imaginative speculations in physical science, space, time, social science and philosophy." — Sam Moskowitz

Already wrong by modern dodgeball definitions from the experts on social media. And they clearly would know better than Sam Moskowitz would. Assuming these experts even know who he is, of course. Sam Moskowitz was around during the pulp days when the soon-to-be made up boxes of genres hadn't been crafted yet. His assessment fits the term Futuristic Fiction better, given that none of the above is impossible to have in a so-called "Fantasy" story, since they aren't genre exclusive intents or themes in either "half" of this monstrosity. Given that the term has never made sense, he gave it a good attempt.

It doesn't quite gel, though. Nonetheless, I respect his attempt.

"Science fiction is what you find on the shelves in the library marked science fiction." — George Hay

"Mystery is what you find on a shelf entitled mystery."
"Oh, those are stories about mysteries?"
"Oh, thanks."

"Science fiction is what you find on a shelf entitled Science fiction."
"Stories about science fiction? Like science that doesn't exist?
"Yes, but also no."
"So, it's fantastical?"
"Fantasy writers wish!"
"Fantasy writers? What's fantasy?"
"Sit down, I think I've got an hour to explain this to you."

Think outside of your cliques and tastes, and look at this from an outsider perspective. The longer it takes to describe a definition, the worse it is. The goal should be clarity. This is literally why we have definitions to begin with.

"Science fiction doesn't exist." — Brian W. Aldiss

Got it in one. A descriptor that needs a convoluted descriptor is a bad descriptor.

So these are the three terms that should be the forefront of your mind as we go through the book ahead of us. The fact that the work starts with three different definitions, all wildly different, when no other genre does this, should be telling enough as to how confusing this all is. Now, from our skeptical or ignorant perspective, we must sit and wait for Mr. Lundwall to explain to us just what this fantastical nothing is all about! Judging from past experience, it should be quite a treat.

We shall start this series off with the first chapter, since this entry is already long enough. As much as I'd like to keep going, we'll be here all day otherwise. There is a lot to go through.

He begins his own definition with a quote from futuristic fiction author Fredric Brown:

"After the last atomic war, Earth was dead; nothing grew, nothing lived. The last man sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door . . . "

It's a good hook, I'll admit. I'd be eager to see where this story about the future goes. Lundwall then continues:

"I do not say that this is the archetype of all science fiction, or even that it is typical of the genre as such; but I can safely assert that if anything can be said to constitute the heart of the field, call it Sense-of-Wonder or whatever you wish, it must be found somewhere in those three sentences."

That's just good writing, though. Brown has a setup, a setting, and a hook, all in three lines. This is great craft. It isn't exclusive to any genre, that's just what good writing should do, especially if you're dealing in the short fiction format. Noir-style stories do this particularly well, given their sharp and direct sentences intended to hook into the reader. But it isn't a writing technique exclusive to any genre. Adventure fiction is just the best at it. 

In fact, the above quote could work in a noir-style story, and more or less already has many times over the years. Unfortunately, it doesn't provide a very good example for a "unique" approach deserving of its own genre.

He provides another example from Bishop John Wilkins' novel entitled A Discourse: Concerning a New World and Another Planet, from 1638:

"Yet I do seriously, and upon good Grounds, affirm it possible to make a Flying Chariot, in which a man may sit, and give such a motion unto it, as shall convey him through the Air. And this perhaps might be made large enough to carry divers Men at the same time, together with Food for their Viaticum, and Commodities for Traffique. So that nonwithstanding all these seeming impossibilities, 'tis likely enough, that there may be means invented of Journeying to the Moone. And how happy shall they be that are first successful in this attempt."

The future sounds like a wild place. I'd like to visit it.

Mr. Lundwall continues:

"This might be called the We-told-you-so-didn't-we science fiction. The third example is of a somewhat later date, and if the earlier samples did not evoke the specific feeling of Sense-of-Wonder, perhaps this one will."

So it is loser fiction? This is an interesting way to put it, since it would explain why it is so repellent to normal people. I'm not so certain anyone would want to claim this genre definition for themselves, though. If you do, I suggest calling your stories loser fiction instead. That would be wild to see on store shelves and it would be very funny.

As for his third definition, he uses . . . Lord Dunsany, of all people. The Hoard of the Gibbelins from 1912, in particular. I can already hear modern fanatics screaming in the distance, rattling their keyboards in protest.

"The principal characters of this story are by science fiction aficionados fondly referred to as BEM's, or Bug-Eyed Monsters; hostilely inclined creatures of some disagreeable land, often green and decidedly slimy. The BEM's belong to the sf arsenal in the same degree as the old faithful ray guns and the space ships, and even though they nowadays only seldom twine their tentacles around the beautiful (and seminude) heroine's attractive figure, as the noble space-hero raises his trusty atomic blaster somewhere in the background, they still prosper in blissful abandon in the branch of sf that is known as Fantasy and Sword & Sorcery. It is the old fairy tale all over again, complete with the dragon and the milksop princess and the magic sword and the bags of tax-free gold. The above example is from Lord Dunsany's short story The Hoard of the Gibbelins (1912), which is a moral story with an unusually credible ending; the monsters devour the hero. The most well-known representative for this branch of science fiction is otherwise. J. R. R. Tolkien's mighty trilogy The Fellowship of the Ring, which contains all the time-honored ingredients, including BEM's, called Orcs. They are small, malignant and guaranteed atrocious."

Monster stories are ones that go back through fairy tales and Gothic Horror, it's one of the oldest types of storytelling subjects there is. They are usually meant to be framed around cautionary tales, so it is no wonder when protagonists are killed in them. Horror does that a lot, too. Mostly because horror can be intertwined with any other genre effectively. It depends on the usage.

But this also doesn't form a unique genre definition.

As for Tolkien's Ring trilogy being a "monster" story, I would partially agree. Sauron is the villain, and wouldn't be out of place in any horror story, being both frightening and massively intimidating, but the story's focus is not on Sauron. It is on the struggle of good to overcome wicked and seemingly insurmountable evil with your back against the wall. Orcs are enemies, not the point of the story. Tolkien was shaping a mythic fiction piece, not a slasher story.

At the end of the day, it's all adventure fiction.

But going on Lundwall's definition, this is all "Science Fiction" instead. So why are their arguments today that now none of this is "real" "Science Fiction" from online experts? I'd say this is a gotcha, but that would assume modern "experts" even know what their predecessors actually believed. This is one absolutely botched "tradition," isn't it?

Questions do remain, however. Why did this definition change, and who decided it should? Who gets to lecture plebeians online of what the real definitions are? Why do smug people swallow ever-changing definitions without acknowledging that they are doing it?

Who is in charge here, anyway?

Oh, right. People who hate you.

"Now the friend of order and discipline might ask how a literary genre with the pretentious name of science fiction can contain such disparate elements as space-flight and fire-breathing dragons. Where is the logic? And, above all, the definition of the genre?"

Precisely, Mr. Lundwall. Where is the completely fabricated by materialists "Hard SF" and "Science Fantasy" definitions brought about by unrelated fanatics years after the fact? I expect to be lectured via the same made-up talking points created by unthinking drones over your explanations! Perhaps if we split it up into more useless undefined subgenres then the audience will grow. It hasn't worked in well over 100 years, and never has to begin with, but surely it'll work this time. That's science.

The reason there isn't any definition, is because it's completely fabricated. None of the above definitions hold together to form a cohesive genre. This is why you get vapid subgenre titles to explain away stories that don't fit into the right boxes as the years go on and their sense of imagination shrinks with it. None of this is real.

This all happens because certain people with platforms given to them by their allies establish new definitions that they have no authority over. They need to get this imaginative fiction back in line and in a straitjacket. Just because you put a title on a bookshelf or a keyword into a search engine does not mean reality suddenly shifts to your whims. There is still no concrete genre definition near a century later for a very good reason. We should accept why this is the case.

You will never have a definition for "Science Fiction" or "Fantasy," because neither of them actually exist.

"The melancholy fact is that there does not exist any unitary definitions of the genre. Or rather, there exists about as many perfectly valid definitions as there are readers of what I here for simplicity's sake call science fiction. (For myself, I would prefer the term Speculative Fiction as being more descriptive.) The sf buffs present in this connection certain resemblances to a select club where the venerable old men in the reading room have sat and slept in their moldering easy-chairs since the early twenties, with Amazing Stories and Astounding SF over their white heads; this is the Old Guard, which reads their science fiction with the emphasis on science, expecting nothing in the way of purely literary merits and, consequently, getting nothing of that land. Every deviation from the rule of scientific accuracy is a scathing sin against all decency."

Yes, Fandom sets the terms, not normal people. We already know this. The difference is now they keep Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke, where their Bible should be. The names change, but the principle stays the same: Fetishize your favorite at the expense of everything else. And the expense has led to fairly obvious results.

It goes without saying that none of these people look at any of this objectively. All they ever wanted was to enshrine their preferred fiction in a glass case to be lorded over everyone else. It takes a good bit of insanity to think such people are self-aware enough to construct a genre definition around their childish worship of niche stories. But that's exactly what they did.

He then goes on to describe other disparate groups in this crowd, such as space opera readers (which today has been replaced by "military sf") and weird writers.

"Right by, one can discern the Horror-lovers with their blood-curdling Weird Tales and H. P. Lovecraft. European members of this group might be more fond of E. T. A. Hoffmann. They are a small and persecuted minority, far from loved by the Amazing readers."

As the quote goes: "The more things change . . ."

Deliberately pigeonholing yourself and rejecting stories that don't follow correct material dogma doesn't sound so openminded to me. Why does it need to be categorized the correct way in order to have value? Take a gander at social media, though. The grown children still do this very thing to this day. Nothing has actually changed.

Keep in mind Lovecraft's influence on western culture at large while then considering how Fandom sees him like the above quote, then remember that these are the people whose definitions you still use to this day. They reject reality to substitute their own, and then call it science.

Much the same is afforded to Sword & Sorcery type stories in a later passage. Boy, Fandom really hates a lot of good things! Perhaps we should reconsider using their definitions to describe things they look down on.

"The group of social reformers sit by the bar, where they exchange views on the future overpopulation, the food crisis, environment pollution, the goal of Humanity etc., anxiously watched by the H. G. Wells phalanx which stands somewhere between the reading room and the bar and doesn't know exactly where they belong."

At the head of the table, apparently. This is the lowest selling group of the lot by far and has always been, and now they run the whole show. The popularity of the "genre" sunk into the abyss during the 1940s as a result of their seizing control of a "genre" whose definition they made up. Now you have a world where futuristic and mythic stories sell by the buckets in every other medium except in written fiction, particularly in OldPub.

That is simply embarrassing.

It takes talent to screw up this badly. It also takes much delusion to continue listening to people who lead your industry off a cliff. And yet here we are.

Ask yourself how and why that was allowed to happen. Then ask why you vociferously defend this group at every opportunity and prevent any change to their damaging ways. Why should you respect a tradition that prides itself on destroying tradition?

They aren't even self-aware enough to release it when this irony stares them in the face.

"The "New Wave" advocates keep themselves company out in the cloak-room. This is a collection of bearded and long-haired persons who experiment with new literary forms; they are loud and bothersome and do not have deference for anything, not even for the founder of the club, old Uncle Hugo Gernsback, and they are regarded with deep distrust by all other members. Some of them are said to be supported financially by the Establishment. The members of the science fiction community are deeply worried."

With that, I'm going to guess this is confirmation the "New Wave" set weren't feds. The "Establishment" of genre fiction fought hard to keep "New Wave" out because they weren't sciencing correctly like good little materialists. The "Establishment" of OldPub, the government, the new world order, or what have you, wouldn't bother to infiltrate this sad circle of losers because you are already doing their work for them by sewing divisions between faith and reason, the intangible and the tangible, and science and fantasy: where there never used to be divides before. This is why the genre term "Science Fiction & Fantasy" actually exists. It is meant to enshrine this very division that has ruined so much modern thought. This despite the fact the divide it is based on a branch of physicism philosophy that doesn't really exist anymore outside of a few grey-haired Baby Boomers still in academia.

You are doing the Modernist Establishment's work for them by pedaling their subversive messaging and antisocial behavior by using terms like this. Why in the world would they need to infiltrate anything? You willingly slashed the neck of your fanclub yourself in order to achieve "credibility" by upper class hedonists who have none to give.

If anything, the "Establishment" would want "New Wave" destroyed for attempting to break that artificial barrier between the intangible and tangible.

Oh right, they did want them destroyed. Whoops.

"And yet all those factions and branches are only different sides of the same coin, and the division into branches is the unhappy consequence of the labeling that the genre was subjected to around the turn of the century."

And it's still unlabeled today, because materialists and their ever-changing modernist values can't make up their minds as to what this mess even is. Genres are based on unchanging, eternal ideas. Vague terminology that changes every couple of years is the opposite of this. Not to mention a fad philosophical idea of existence that few people even believe anymore. For a "genre" that is meant to be progressive it is by far the most outdated and irrelevant one. It fails at its own game.

But then we get to the meat of it. This is what Mr. Lundwall believes we should base our definition of Science Fiction on, emphasis mine:

"The great classic in this field was Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward 2000-1887, which was a worldwide bestseller in 1880 and immediately was followed by a flood of plagiarisms. Bellamy's novel gave words to the hopes and dreams of an unprivileged and suffering lower class, seeking their Utopia in socialism, telling, in fact, more about the world of 1887 than about the highly improbable Utopia of the year 2000. It was, essentially, a pamphlet, not a novel in our sense."

The basis of "Science Fiction" is propaganda. He just admitted it.

It's a "story" about how we can fix the world through correct thoughts and ideas. Essentially, Mr. Lundwall is advocating for propaganda, message over story. The goal of fiction, according to Mr. Lundwall is to be a religion, not to entertain or uplift the reader. Your job as a writer is to correct bad thoughts in stupid people, not communicate to them or connect audience and artist. He is literally advocating for the opposite intent of art.

In other words, this supposed genre is actually anti-art and entertainment. No wonder it doesn't sell!

In contrast, here is Hugo Gernsback's similar sort of story:

"Gernsback's crude imitation (Ralph 124C 41+) was neither. There was science, but a science without meaning, coulisses without depth and without the slightest hint of contemporary significance. And whereas Looking Backward immediately catapulted into world fame, Ralph stayed in the science fiction field, which Gernsback made into a specialized literature."

In other words, it wasn't propaganda so it doesn't count. This is his deciding factor.

The reason Gernsback eventually hit with the audience the way Looking Backward never has and never will is because he appreciated science for what it was, a tool, and not how he could use it to shape other people's psychology. This is very dangerous to those who need the genre to be message fiction and secular scripture. Such filth must not be allowed to live.

Believe it or not, normal people can tell when a story is meant to tell them how to think. They do not react well to it because the writer is making assumptions about the reader they can't possibly know. The writer is essentially displaying their ego on their sleeve in an attempt to correct strangers they don't understand. It is preaching towards people who aren't there to be preached to. This is why the "genre" has no relation to reality. It doesn't understand it on a base level.

The fact of the matter is that you have not lived your reader's life or experienced what they have. You do not know what they have considered or not considered, tried or have not tried, or what trials and tribulations they have gone through. It is akin to a teenager writing a book about how soldiers are coldblooded inhuman cogs in a machine who love stomping their fascist boots down on innocent babies . . . and then handing it to a veteran to read. Do you understand the incredible arrogance and stupidity behind such a thing? And yet this is what these writers do with every work they write.

So no, pamphlets disguised as stories do not constitute a genre definition. They aren't even stories. They're thinly veiled utopian nonsense. They're actually worse than pamphlets; pamphlets are at least more honest about what they're trying to indoctrinate you into.

Lundwall then talks about Amazing Stories, emphasis mine:

"Considerably less interest was devoted to the literary merits; the plot could be unlikely and downright absurd, the characters stereotyped; nothing mattered as long as the imagination was kept within what was right and proper. The ray guns came (carefully checked by experts in physics and electronics), the fair heroine got into position, more slender and scantily dressed than ever before, and the BEM's of the Andromeda nebula started-up their gyroscope ships and prepared to participate in the common joy. The youthful readers of Amazing sighed with happiness, but there were others not quite that positive toward the phenomenon."

I probably couldn't laugh harder without blowing out a lung.

Yes, the imagination is what matters most in any story. I've already explained the point of "cliched" pulp heroes and damsels in distress many times before, and why they are necessary to stir wonder and unite the readership under a common banner, but the implication in the above passage is that wonder matters more than originality, which wasn't quite the case. It just matters more. Originality without wonder is how you get stories with convoluted sentence structure that end up being about nothing more than masturbation, literally and figuratively. This sort of story is objectively more worthless than even the hackiest piece that ran in Amazing Stories, because at least the pulp story entertains on a base level of pro-social content.

You see, Gernsback used adventure pulp stories as a framework to highlight scientific (and not-so-scientific) ideas that he wanted to present to readers. He wasn't interested in posting political dogma and Mr. Lundwall and his kind hated that this audience was being catered to, so they seized control and forced the audience to not have those stories. They needed reeducation.

They always leave this bit out when talking about the "evolution" of their fabricated genre, but it is one that needs to be called what it is. The majority of the reading audience was deliberately chased away after the pulp Golden Age of the '20s and '30s. Lundwall's heroes decided audiences should either submit to the social conditioning, or walk away. Either way, they were not allowed to have their adventure stories anymore.

Therefore, the normal people left, fanatics took over, and now the "genre" is dead. Even still, every now and then some cultist buys the Amazing Stories or Weird Tales name in order to wrap their own subversive slop in and sell it under a brand that has no relevance to anyone but other cultists. They are essentially doing a victory lap around normal folks. Very in-character for this scene.

Well, you deserve to not have stories you want, because these people need to teach you the correct way to think about the world instead. you need your way of thinking readjusted. Now that I think about it, maybe that's why so many actually use their fabricated genre definitions to begin with. Eerie. All the more reason to abandon them.

Imagine how different things would be if people like this were the ones gatekept out instead? Would the climate for adventure stories be better? I think the current burgeoning scene of NewPub can give you an idea that it would.

Lundwall then describes something an American columnist named Bernard De Voto wrote in 1939. Yes, that is a curious year. Seems people were trying really hard in the late '30s to construct a negative aura around adventure fiction.

"This besotted nonsense is from the group of magazines known as the science pulps, which deals with both the World and the Universe of Tomorrow and, as our items show, take no great pleasure in either . . . The science discussed is idiotic beyond any possibility of exaggeration, but the point is that in this kind of fiction the bending of light or Heisenberg's formula is equivalent to the sheriff of the horse opera fanning his gun, the heroine of the sex pulp taking off her dress."

Journalists were still that unimaginative back in 1939. Isn't it bizarre that people with no real ability for suspension of disbelief outside modern philosophies are somehow the authority on the wonder of imagination stories? It is almost enough to make you think this is deliberate.

He shouldn't have worried, though. Within a year, the audience would be getting the correct fiction they didn't want and would never buy. Though, let's be honest, the journalist wrote the above passage and then never picked up a genre story again. None of these people ever do. They just don't want normal people to have escapism or any sense of fun.

Lundwall goes on:

"The "idiotic science" that De Voto lamented over was the numerous stories dealing with landings on the Moon, atomic bombs, satellites and other absurdities."

How absurd. I can't imagine any of those things, can you?

I've gotten to the point where I judge how carefully to listen to someone on the subject of fiction after I hear their opinions on the pulp magazines. This is for the very good reason that you will either tell me if you've bothered to read any before offering an opinion or if you understand why normal people liked the stories without having to thumb your nose at them. As it stands, most anyone in Fandom cannot do this, because they set themselves up as an elite class over the sheep.

This unearned ego is a curious phenomenon, too. The industry is comprised of small, unpopular, and unknowledgeable, cliques, and yet they believe they are gods walking among mortal men. This is why they are incapable of connecting with larger audiences: they don't understand normal people. Why should they? Normal people are supposed to be bowing to them.

I just recently looked over interviews for authors into the new shambling corpse version of Weird Tales, and just about every interview contained some sort of insult aimed at the old magazine. Why in the world would I ever want to read stories from people who don't understand their own history or audience tastes?

To Fandom, it's always a small world, after all.

Certainly someone I expect to understand and know how to follow a tradition.

It's mystery cult behavior all the way down. Uproot the old ways for new ways to make a path for the Modern and obviously correct thinking. As if the level of success this industry has shows anyone in charge of it knows what they are doing. This is the history of this supposed "genre" and it is enshrined in nothing but failure.

If you have nothing positive to say about your roots, then you have nothing valuable to contribute to the present. Your work is destined to be less than a curious footnote when the age shifts. All people will be able to see are dated clich├ęs and jargon. That's not very forward-thinking!

And to this day, the pulps are still disparaged. Especially by those with no capacity for imagination and who don't understand wonder. And would you know it, imagination is something Fandom has in short supply.

"When one speaks about the origins of modem science fiction, one should keep this American development in mind. Gernsback separated speculative fiction from mainstream literature, put the emphasis on the scientific aspects and endowed it with a designation not too different from the one already in use. Science fiction appeared. The name was not new in any respect; the exact literary translation, naturve-tenskaplig roman, was used in a Swedish science fiction magazine as early as 1916, and while Gernsback probably never had heard about this illustrious magazine, much less its designation of the genre, he could not have failed to be familiar with the widely used term scientific romances."

Gernsback didn't do anything new or out there. He just told adventure stories with futuristic scientific gadgets at the forefront. Fable and fairy tales not unlike, you know, tradition set in centuries before he came around. He was just ingenious enough to use the framework to tell his stories and not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Unlike the rest of Fandom.

Just because he wasn't following mainstream literature, which no one with actual taste has considered readable for well over a century at this point, doesn't mean he was an aberration on tradition. This is because he was not.

Gernsback's biggest fault was science fetishism and letting obsessives take over after him to wipe out his legacy. That, and being stingy with paying writers. Giving his audience what he wanted? That's not a fault. That's literally what his job is supposed to be.

And as for the above Swedish magazine? It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what idea or term is used first by who if no one heard or saw them do it. That isn't how influence works. This just feels like sour grapes from a Swede who has it in for Americans, which Lundwall absolutely does. Not to mention that the term "romance" is quite laughable, since utterly no one in the genre after the pulps wrote anything in the stratosphere of romance. Yes, even in the traditional definition. They ejected that with the rest of the canon for debauchery and pornography.

"In order to make some semblance of order in the definitions, science fiction was divided into two general branches: on one hand sf as such, which principally deals with man and his relation to scientific and sociological innovations, probable physical occurrences like catastrophes etc., and on the other hand fantasy, where the scientific side is removed and the logic is constructed to suit the idea—e.g. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring trilogy, which is rigorously logical within its own compass, even though elves, dwarfs, fire-breathing dragons, giants and malignant magicians hardly belong to the physical reality such as we see it."

I hope you see the game for what it is now. The above quote just spelled it out for you.

This is all just a materialist puppet show. Please notice the sleight of hand going on. It's an attempt to frame story content by materialist quotient, which is not a category that existed prior to the 20th century. In essence, in order to be considered true "Science Fiction," your story cannot have anything outside of physicism in the content, even though it wouldn't change the core of your story or the general themes of adventure. This is a frame based on an assumed branch of philosophy being true, and it is one few people believed back then or believe now. It's bunk.

For instance, what if Robert Heinlein's The Moon is Harsh Mistress were exactly the same book in every way, but there was a subplot in between chapters of ghosts bemoaning their deaths during the Crazy Years. Would the story now become a whole other genre? Why would that be the case when the rest of the story is exactly the same? Why should Materialist suppositions be enough to give a genre definition? Why should it do that when it has never worked that way in any other era of existence?

And who gave them the right to construct these categories over better ones?

This isn't a "genre" worth fighting for. It's one worth putting a bullet in the head of. The entire structure is built on a philosophical foundation that is the anti-thesis of all fiction that came before it. No one has been able to agree on genre definitions because they, at heart, do not believe in the core argument "Science Fiction" even makes about reality. This is quite fascinating, if weird.

What if Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End were exactly the same story, but the aliens were instead from another realm that came through via magic portals. What would be the functional difference to what happens? Why would it now be another genre? The themes are exactly the same.

What if Asimov's Foundation had a wizard instead of a mule, but the rest was left unchanged. It would be the exact same story. But now it is no longer "believable" to a certain philosophical branch which means the genre must now change. But why does this philosophical branch get a say in the story's categorization?

Again, no other genre works like this. Not a single one.

The only reason you would think the above comparisons transformed into different genres would be if you had a pure materialist view of the world and believe wonder itself has hard limits that should be segregated into categories. Because this isn't what stories used to be before the wasteland known as the 20th century. It's ahistorical.

A futuristic story remains unchanged by elements of the fantastical or scientific progress, because it's just a story about a possible future. It isn't a term set up by materialists to gatekeep their stolen playground from ideas outside of one selected philosophy. The future is limitless: you can do anything.

A mythic story remains unchanged by elements of scientific knowledge because it is a myth, larger than life. To gatekeep such things out of the genre you are left with endlessly regurgitated tropes and an escalation in baser ideas and urges that eventually ends in nihilism. This is the exact opposite of what a wonder story is.

The issue is that those created terms of "Fantasy" and "Science Fiction" from the 20th century are deliberately loaded. They divide wonder and possibility into hermitically sealed chambers that must never intersect, because Fandom says so. This is why the "genre" is dead: because it isn't based on reality, but preference. You need to move beyond all of this if you wish to affix change.

The following passage only makes sense if you are an unimaginative 20th century thinker who deliberately puts ceilings over your ideas, emphasis mine:

"A simplified definition would be that the author of a "straight" science fiction story proceeds from (or alleges to proceed from) known facts, developed in a credible way, whereas the author of a fantasy story starts with an idea and builds a world around it. The question of whether a certain story of imagination is a fantasy or a science fiction work would depend upon the device the author uses to explain his projected or unreal world. If he uses the gimmick or device of saying: "This is a logical or probable assumption based upon known science, which is going to develop from known science or from investigations of areas not yet quite explored but suspected," then one could call it science fiction. But if he asks the reader to suspend his disbelief simply because of the fun of it, in other words, just to say: "Here is a fairy tale I'm going to tell you," then it is fantasy. It could actually be the same story."

Jargon all the way down, but there's nothing at the bottom.

As I said, all of this is tortured materialist nonsense, basing rules off a worldview a good chunk of writers and readers do not actually possess, especially not today. It's not a descriptor, it's a successful smokescreen. In order for these terms to work, you have to put a cap on wonder and possibility, which is supposed to be the exact opposite purpose of imagination to begin with. And yet that is exactly why the terms exist!

"Science Fiction" doesn't exist. "Fantasy" doesn't exist. They are loaded filter words that have no use outside of a forgotten time and place that has long since passed us by, and even then their past usefulness is highly questionable as we look back on their lack of success. The era of OldPub is over. It is time for new ways.

We no longer need limits on imagination. We never did. In contrast, here is what Lundwall says about fantastic stories, emphasis mine:

"Many fantastic stories and novels these days are set upon another world inhabited by people, and if the author of a particular work was to start off by saying, "There is a world in space inhabited by people, and the natural laws of this world are somewhat different from ours, and they are magical," one could, generally speaking, say that this is fantasy. But if he says, "Here is this world,"—and it is the same story—leaving implications that this is the result of a colonization experiment from Earth of a thousand or two thousand or ten thousand years before, then it would suddenly become a science fiction story, because the reader has got a basis for suspending his disbelief. This could really happen, somewhere, somewhen. Fantasy is taking the author on his word, science fiction is taking him in on a logical assumption. He explains something in a logical way."

See, "logical" is a subjective term being applied to a piece of fiction: something that isn't real and is therefore not "logical" by definition. And, once again: no other genre in existence works this way. You do not need to follow an outdated philosophical school of thought to write a basic romance story, for instance. you just write a story where two people fall in love. The above mess isn't a genre, it's a shit test.

There is nothing "illogical" about the concept of ghosts, aliens, hollow earths, goblins, or planet smashers, unless you are looking at them from one specific, limited, and, frankly, myopic worldview from one period of history. It is a framework that only exists in mid-20th century thought, a very limited one. Heck, with the current popularity of space opera video games and superhero movies, this chassis doesn't even exist now. We have left this era in the dust.

This is like the horse-carriage driver chiding the walking man for being outdated at the same moment a taxi passes them both by. The one who looks more ridiculous is not that man who forsook transportation to begin with.

Good luck if you want to find a horse-carriage today, but walking will never go out of style.

"So much for the difference between science fiction and fantasy. It is really the old fairy tale once again, using the symbols of today—or, as the case may be, the never-never lands of myths—to give entertainment as well as comments to contemporary or suspected processes. Science fiction/ fantasy is really not so much a literary genre as a point of view. We live in a scientific age, thus the emphasis on science. The renewed interest in mysticism and metaphysics, as exemplified in works by Hermann Hesse and the "New Wave" authors of science fiction is now challenging the scientific aspect, but though the forms might change, in the end it is all the same thing. Science fiction of today is -neither particularly scientific, nor a specific literary genre, but designations are needed, so for simplicity's sake let's call it science fiction."

Or we won't. There is no reason to. We don't live in the 20th century anymore when this narrow and tired interpretation of reality was Trojan-horsed to fashion a holy ground to secular types. It was never an honest attempt at a genre: it was an attempt at control.

The way "Science Fiction" is described here by Lundwall is less of a genre, and more as a religion. We live in a dark age of arrogance, superstition, and cultism, all fostered about by people who attempt to use science as a bludgeon against their betters. All of this was formed from the 20th century "scientific" age. We can see the results of this mentality just about everywhere today, and it has more than worn out its welcome.

A cult of science is all well and good for those of us who want pale imitation of real religions, but what about those of us who want stories? How does any of this mess help normal people understand this mess as a genre?

The answer is that it doesn't.

"And why does one read this particular literature? There are lots of theories about what constitutes an avid reader of science fiction, from the extremely flattering (inside the sf fandom) to indulgence or condescension (from the in-appreciative outsider). Exactly what this Something is, no one has succeeded in finding yet, even though the phenomenon has been given a name: Sense of Wonder. If you have Sense of Wonder, then you can appreciate science fiction. This obviously doesn't clarify matters much; however, I can say why I personally read it."

If this seems like the literal inverse of everything he has spent the last several points arguing then you'd be forgiven for being confused.

Because the truth is the complete opposite. His definition of "sense of wonder" is completely different from what was once considered a story of wonder, and he uses his modern, concocted, and now horrendously out of date, version of wonder as an ingredient in this non-existent genre that is more of a lifestyle than it is fiction. They have usurped the word for their own use by coopting the lush fields of adventure fiction.

What is baffling is how this materialist framework was batted around without being contested for over three quarters of a century. It was just blindly accepted. Not a very skeptical bunch for a group that prides itself on skepticism. Even though they can't find a definition, they've created a term to nebulously describe their own philosophy and how to gatekeep it.

It was a good trick, I suppose. But it's time has run out.

"When I started to read science fiction seriously, about twenty years ago, it seemed to be offering a subversive thing, the prospect of change. Changes recur constantly in science fiction: changes in our environment, our future, our attitudes. No matter what you do, or how much you try to hold back the forces of amelioration, things are going to change. Now, the idea of change is deeply subversive to the Establishment, it must always be, and I think this is where H. G. Wells was subversive, this is why, in fact, he has never been really accepted into English literature. What he said was, in effect, that never mind whether it is going to be better or worse, it is going to be different."

I don't even know where to begin with this statement, since it is so backwards one might as well be looking at it from a mirror to make sense of it. Everything Mr. Lundwall said is completely and utterly wrong and based on suppositions welded to his time and place. The passage of time has revealed this puppet show for what it is.

The god of "Change" is about as real as the flying spaghetti monster, and just as juvenile. The current Establishment of genre fiction in OldPub has been hawking the same inverted tales of heroism and hopeless futures since the 20th century. Sure, they are resistant to "change," but only the change that requires giving the audience what they actually want. Change for the sake of change, is infantile. In a business, you should only be making changes when your business is failing, and keeping a steady course when it is not. This is the exact opposite of what the Establishment of OldPub does and has done since the late '30s. And this is why they are dying.

His entire 20th century worldview simply isn't reality.

Who cares if Wells is accepted into "English Literature" which is a field controlled by hedonists and degenerates worse than even OldPub is? He was never accepted because by that point literature was obsessed with sentence structure and meta-idiocy all framed around stories about how life is meaningless. Nobody cares how many meanings a sentence has when all the meanings are about orgasms. There is a good reason normal people left literature behind well over a century ago. It didn't reflect who they were or what they wanted. And yet Fandom desperately wants to sit their chairs at that table, to this day.

Tricking artistes into thinking they were high priests was probably one of the worst things romanticists gave the world. And in a scene basing itself off of physicism, of all things? It's even more embarrassing. No one is ever going to build a statue in your honor. you write adventure fiction. Just accept it so we can move on from this tired game.

Change is a meaningless thing to strive for, because, as the saying goes: the more things change; the more they stay the same. If there is a better example of this principle than OldPub then I have yet to see it.

"This is, in my opinion, what makes the science fiction point of view different and makes it stand apart from mainstream literature, indeed the quality that makes it recognizable regardless of the literary form in which it is presented, be it that of the traditional fairy tale, the thriller, the religious allegory, the action story or what have you. Science fiction's strength has always been in its ideas, not in its forms, and the merits of the genre lie not in its paraphernalia of rockets, machines and distant worlds but in the message that nothing, absolutely nothing can be taken for granted, and that we always must be prepared for changes, both in our attitudes and in our environment. There has been a widespread notion that science fiction, according to its name, should predominantly deal with the technological hardware of future civilizations, and in Hugo Gernsback's time this was probably true—but Ralph 124C 41+ was written sixty years ago, and the science fiction field has not exactly stood still since then."

Science Fiction is not a genre of "Ideas" because that infers that there are no other genres that have them, which is a egregiously ignorant thing to argue. It's also undeservedly arrogant and oblivious to the fact that this is not what categorizes genres. It in fact does not have anything that sticks out, because it isn't a genre at all. It's a recluse clubhouse for materialists to put their feet up on their enemies. It's a den of weasels.

Think about the name "Science Fiction & Fantasy" and how it is framed to deliberately put materialism in one camp and everything else in another. Outside of the hardcore material-obsessed perspective of the 20th century, this view is not only outdated, but it is completely nonsensical and irrelevant to anyone capable of seeing the writing on the wall. This was a name not chosen to properly represent what people want to read (they would be called more descriptive terms like the above Mythic and Futuristic Fiction, if they were), they were meant for people of a specific worldview to announce their superiority over others. The term is philosophy, not a genre. And it's an outdated one, at that.

Here's the truth: we don't live in the 20th century anymore.

This book was first written over fifty years ago, and the field described within its pages is dead. It's ruled by a small cadre of out of touch urbanite publishers and their corporate-backed writing workshops headed by personally-picked clique members. This is what their "genre" has lead to. It's a clubhouse, like it was always meant to be.

All they do is push the sort of fiction Mr. Lundwall wanted, and it has killed their industry. If it wasn't propped up by the "Establishment" it would have blown away like dead weeds in the wind by now. Give it time as that's still in the very near future.

Things have changed, but they never changed in his direction, because his direction is anti-human and incorrect. We went from having hero stories the public loved, into glorified cult pamphlets that no one reads, to going back to hero stories in NewPub. His way is wrong, our way is right. We can now see this game for what it is.

Truth wins in the end.

"It isn't really science fiction's business to describe what science is going to find," Frederik Pohl said in the introduction to his Ninth Galaxy Reader anthology (1965). "It is much more science fiction's business to try to say what the human race will make of it all. In fact, this is the thing —the one thing, maybe the only thing—that science fiction does better than any other tool available to hand. It gives us a look at consequences. And does it superbly."

It's not "Science Fiction's" business to do anything but be literary masturbation for antisocial nerds at the expense of dwindling audiences and shrinking store shelf space. It was, in fact, so bad at predicting the future that it couldn't imagine a way to grow its customer base or save OldPub from death. In fact, the opposite happened.

An industry priding itself on future prediction couldn't even predict its own irrelevance and death. Embarrassing stuff.

"At its best, science fiction fills this function, and does it well. The ray gun-and-monster branch's contribution to this end is usually small, but no one is pretending that all science fiction is great literature. Ninety percent of all science fiction is crud, the sf writer Theodore Sturgeon once said; but, on the other hand, ninety percent of everything is crud!"

Sturgeon's Law is a cope made by people who realized the majority of their own works were junk and needed to find an excuse to justify destroying and usurping the way things were. This way they can explain away failing as often as they do by saying that everybody is just as bad.

No, no one is as bad at failure as they are.

Most things are not, in fact, junk. There are plenty of things I don't enjoy that have objective value, as well as many things I like that clearly do have some value to them, otherwise I couldn't like them. Even bad movies such as Miami Connection have value to them, since despite being poorly made contains far healthier themes than Fandom's prized stories. The only people who believe most things are junk are people who have narrow taste and wish to excuse their small world by pretending everything they do not enjoy must be garbage. This is a cover, not reality.

This is a worldview of a small-souled bugman who has shallow tastes and cannot enjoy anything lower than his version of perfection without sneering down at his inferiors with an irony-drenched grin. It's a way for losers to prop themselves up and make themselves feel better about their own failures. In essence, Sturgeon's Law doesn't exist. It's nothing but a cope for the unconfident.

And of course Mr. Lundwall would frame it in a way to say it is the pulp-inspired material that is the 90% trash and his own subversive garbage that is the 10% good. That must be why H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard are household names and nothing from the 1940s is remembered by anyone except baby boomers and no one else. Isn't it convenient how their own favorite law works out in Fandom's favor?

Except reality doesn't work that way. What a surprise.

Boy, this book is off to a fantastic start, isn't it?

And that is it for our first part of our new series. One chapter down, ten to go. Truth be told, I'm not sure what more I could add to future instalments of this series, but I'm going to continue regardless. Several readers have asked if I would continue to cover material like this, so I will. Nonetheless, I think it is fair to say that Mr. Lundwall and I have absolutely nothing in common. We do not see fiction, or reality, in the same way, at all.

Nonetheless, since art is defined by connection, it is still important to see the links we share. Who knows where this all might lead, in the end? That is what makes this worth it.

This post merely covered the first chapter. I didn't even mention Fandom darling Donald Wollheim's introduction which lavishes intense praise on this young man who is the future of the field. Obviously, the intent behind this book was to show the new direction all the hip kids were destined to go in. Lundwall wasn't even thirty when he first wrote this book, and it shows. But this work was supposed to be a hint that he and his kind were the "future" of the genre. From what we learned in the intervening years, it is these self-hating westerners and subversives that led their "genre" into the gutter. Death by progress. How ironic.

This is because they created an artificial construct to house their ideology, not a genre. There is no such thing as "Science Fiction" and there is no such genre as "Fantasy" either. These terms were created to establish an ideological divide and control over wonder stories while pushing out normal people and audiences. Just from this one chapter alone, you can tell that this assertion is the truth.

And next time we're going to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Until then, stop watching the skies and go to Church already. It'll do you much good to put things in their proper place. Build a future worth living in, not living in a past of failed ideas.

We can, and will, have much better.


  1. That point you made about most things not being junk is a great, and in hindsight, obvious observation. Funny that you should mention Miami Connection, which is the movie that made me realize I objectively like a lot of bad movies better than virtually anything that's been released in the last 15 years. Miami Connection, in particular, is at its core a story about the importance of friendship and self-improvement. It's goofy and ridiculous, but the filmmaker's intensity and desire to uplift and entertain his audience shines through - contrast that with the contempt the typical bugman interchangeable franchise has for much of his potential audience.

    Anyway, thanks, and looking forward to the next one!

    1. Yes, when we covered Miami Connection on Cannon Cruisers we had to struggle with how to rate it since, beyond it's technical faults adding to the weirdness, it's just such a great experience with a wholesome core theme that anyone can get behind. We had a blast watching it, unironically. I can't in good conscience label something that successful at entertaining its audience worthless when that was its goal to begin with.

      Thanks for reading!

    2. Agreed. An eye-opening read. Mr. Cowan is to be commended

      Think of the 80/20 rule that anyone can perceive in business, clubs; in drunk-driving and crime stats etc., such that 80% of the problems are caused by 20% of the people. Conversely, 80% of the really outstanding contributions, ditto.

      Which means, as Mr. Cowen pointed out, Sturgeon's Excuse must be fake. Eighty-percent of everything is actually pretty good, and some of that is actually wonderful.

      Except, maybe... What about completely-failed communities, institutions, and people? Imagine a now-mentally-, morally- and socially-crippled addict in the gutter: Isn't 80% of *his* everything trash?


    3. That is a good point. When taking these sorts of laws one should consider the source. The Fandom clique, for instance, had a very good reason for wanting the 90/10 rule to be true. However, simply looking it over it is conveniently the work they detest on a moral level that is the 10% of crud.

      That's just too convenient.

  2. I admit to having been an SF/F snob in my youth. I'm one of those who'd visit the chain book store in the mall (both store and mall are gone now, btw) and rage against the injustice of having science fiction and fantasy books in the same area. How dare they defile my precious genre by mixing it with THAT junk!?

    Of course it's a damn silly idea. They are in fact one in the same. The only difference is in one, the magic is called technology.

    In the Foundation trilogy for instance, the Mule IS a wizard. Asimov tries to sciencify the thing by invoking "psychic" powers (which John W Campbell was a BIG believer in), but really, it's as magical as any spell cast by Gandalf. The Force has the same validity as the Vulcan mind meld or Sauron's ring of power.

    Funny thing about Wells. His most lasting stuff only works as pulpish sci fi. No one would make a 100 million dollar War of the Worlds movie that wasn't a straight adventure story, because no one would pay to see a War of the Worlds that was just social commentary on 19th century imperialism. There really aren't enough convention going Tru-fans to support the ghetto they've built for themselves.

    1. No one remembers Wells for his nonfiction, which makes it doubly weird when social engineering types look to him as an inspiration. That isn't what he's known for to the general public, at all.

  3. Looking forward to discussing Mythic and Futuristic fiction with you and the rest!

  4. You've substituted Lundwell for Lundwall throughout the text.

  5. Really excellent. It solves so many of the "why so many (including myself) read SF&F" and why I
    tgey stopped and started again with Indy publishing. It explains the breakout YA sales phenomenon of the oughts, and how it is currently being strangled. We like adventure fiction.

    But I did not have the word for what I wanted to say, and pace Dr. Elgin, that meant I doddled around, wasting everyone's time trying to express a thing. She thought it was patriarchy*, making it so a woman bored her interlocutor senseless trying to get across an important or necessary concept. But the phenomenon is real.

    First They come for our words.

    (*Based on your article it could plausibly be a Plot of the Gynarchy, since both Romance and Mystery genres primarily sell to women.)

    1. The words clicked for me due to all the discussions people online had been having recently about genre labels. For the life of me I couldn't figure out just why this particular one bothered me, but now I know.

      Thanks for reading!

    2. Now I want to read more about the YA genre and how it's being strangled. There was some really good stuff being published in it for a while, but it all got samey and depraved, so I gave up reading it.

    3. I would assume much the same thing happened. Gatekeeping editors got in control and decided "formulas" you needed to hit to fall into a genre to gain maximum sales.

      Unfortunately, that never works. It only ever ends up strangling new ideas in the crib.

  6. I like your ideas for alternative terms.

    I do see a mild weakness in “futuristic” in that it could apply to any number of futuristic items: could have savages in the future or high-tech gizmos set in the near present or past. Though generally when you say “futuristic” it has the right connotations so probably fine. Maybe “Technologic”? Though tech is too narrow, again too focused on material things.
    Mythic is fine. Though a quibbler could argue about the scope implications of mythic.

    However, I’ve never been one to quibble about that kind of thing or care much for genre boundaries. If it’s a good story it’s a good story. End of story.
    I think the other reason the “sci-fi”/ “fantasy” / “futuristic” / “mythic” genres are weaker is that they describe the setting more than the plot--mystery, romance, horror, action are all plots and could be part of the genres under discussion.
    There are some typos like pedaling instead of peddling and I think one or two other near-homophone swaps.

    While it may be true that 90% of things aren't junk, I have had good success applying that metric to amateur works and those infected by P.C. (In the case of modern pop culture as it slides into pop-and-death-cult-land, it’s more like 99%+ junk.)
    In a healthy society, most is probably not junk but it won’t be truly great either. (How many rock and roll songs or how many books really shape your life or you actually want to revisit again and again?)
    A milder version of the rule still applies even to the greats, like Beethoven—90% is fine, 10% is amazing. So the majority isn’t junk but it isn’t nearly as good. Only truly exceptional people make almost everything amazing, and the less-good works from such often fall out of the public imagination or are lost to time, bettering the ratio.
    (Wrote this before seeing Overgrown Hobbit's and your remarks that discuss this further.)
    There are useful distinctions between quality storytelling and quality production, or a quality plot with cheesy elements and a quality plot with quality elements, but today’s unfortunate tendency to write off everything not PC enough as “not quality” or claim something is “low quality” and therefore should be dismissed obscures the issue and renders talking about quality loaded.

    A couple notes:
    I usually associate "Fandom" with people ridiculously obsessed with something, not the poseurs trying to take that thing over. However, you've used the term that way here before, especially because poseurs have done their best to make that its meaning.

    While I'm sure your irritation is directed more at the poseurs, P.C. Nazis, and people not bright enough to know the difference between a good book and trash, it did feel to me like your irritation was spilling over to the readers of the blog too. And one thing I like about this blog in general is that it saves the irritation for the Pop/Death Cult and doesn't sound as strident as some. I can only take strident so long.

    1. To be perfectly honest, this book is an exceedingly stupid piece of work and I'm not going to be very nice to it throughout the rest of this series. You might be feeling some of that shining through here, but it's not something I'm going to bother hiding since anyone who reads this blog--or really anyone who isn't a media cultist who stumbles upon it--is going to understand why it's so very moronic.

      But fair is fair. I'll be sure to make sure the target of criticism is more obvious in future instalments.

    2. Sorry for the late reply. That is quite reasonable.

      I actually enjoy takedowns of stupid material (such as Wright's Star Wars: The Last Straw, and The Hobbit, or the Desolation of Tolkien).

  7. I've been mulling over this blog for a few days, now. Had to drop back in and let you know how much I've enjoyed it, and how I can't wait for the rest. I've read your previous blog series, with whatshisname's book from the 70s, multiple times. I find it endlessly fascinating. I'm quietly writing my own pulp action/romance series over here, and I know tradpub wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. Dave Farland says that scifi/fantasy should be called Wonder Fiction. This term pleases me, and my mashup of scifi magitech, superheroes, and fantasy magic definitely falls under Wonder.

    1. Yes, if we wish to reach new people we're going to have to shift our idea and conception of what we write about. Old ideas and industries that have run out of gas simply aren't going to take us very far anymore.

      Thanks for reading!

  8. "I expect tremendous kickback from the openminded set for the above suggestion."

    Calling the genres Futurism and Mythic are fine with me. But I want your opinion on the names of sub-genres: If I pick up a "future war" story, now called MilSF, or a "Dystopia" story, those names seem descriptive to me. Do such subgenre titles have any ulterior motive? I assume any literary movement that tries to start its own genre, such as the infamous "Mundane SF" is not really a genre, but has an ulterior motive for the name.

    1. I think subgenre titles are mostly just fine as they are. "Sword & Sorcery" for instance is very descriptive in what it is about.

      Terms like "Science Fantasy" however was just made by sticks in the mud to file works neither camp of the old divide want put in their preferred category.