Archetypical WTFery

So I get home to a message from Sarah, and I quote: “I dare you to blog on this:

What can I say? Challenge accepted, of course.

My first reaction is pretty much, “I don’t exactly like to see the monoculture thing either”, followed by “but perhaps you’d like to tell me why some crappy writers who can’t imagine aliens or elves or dwarves or whatever as anything but a monoculture makes the humans (who usually get the ‘generalist’ role) bigots?” The next thing that hits me is that the person who wrote this article really, really has a bloody shallow understanding of people, archetypes and how they work. If there’s any anything resembling understanding going on at all.First, the quote that the author seems to think suggests that the humans are bigots:

Us humans, we can do anything. I can’t, for the life of me, remember the source of the quote, nor can I the quote itself, but on Star Trek, probably Deep Space Nine, there was a quote about humans that’s stuck with me. You take 10 Klingons, you’ve got 10 fierce warriors. 10 Ferengi, you’ve got 10 shrewd businessmen. 10 Romulans, 10 expert spies. But you take 10 humans, you don’t know *what* you’re dealing with. They could be anything.

Okay, that’s how the Star Trek races are put together. You add this forehead prosthetic, you get instant infusion of fierce warrior. Pointy ears and funny eyebrows gives you the logician. And so forth. It’s a freaking shortcut – and one the better scriptwriters in the various Star Trek franchise scripts played with in various ways. They didn’t push it too hard – they couldn’t – but they did show depths here and there, and different ranges.

Besides, just how much depth do you expect from something that’s written by a committee (the original scripts might not be, but what ends up being screened has gone through a bunch of people’s changes to make this less offensive, and show that “challenging” view because TV drama isn’t exactly cheap and the network executives are terrified of doing something that will tank the ratings). That’s why they use archetypes in the first place. It’s a nice easy visual cue to the viewer settling back after screaming at the latest round of idiot ads that they can expect this character to have these characteristics. There’s a limit to how much character development you can do in an hour timeslot that’s going to lose at least 1/3 of the time to ads. If the network execs aren’t letting you build character development over multiple episode arcs, you’ve got to use the quick methods – why else do you think heroes are usually cleaner and wearing lighter colors than the bad guys? Quick visual cue to who you’re supposed to side with.

Sure, like any shortcut it gets abused. Authors tend to abuse it for all it’s worth, particularly authors committing cast-of-thousands epics. It’s a heck of a lot easier for a fantasy author to have an Scots-analog culture and draw on the Scots archetypes for it than it is to build everything for that culture from the ground up for the sake of one scene where the hero is trying to negotiate a bed for the night. Just don’t make your leads archetypes. That’s all.

It’s not the case of the author’s response to the quote:

What you get is ten bigots. Because, see, humans, specifically the humans that wrote that script, look at ourselves as “people” and the other people, the ones with the pointy ears or the furry feet or the bony ridges on their foreheads, as “archetypes”

All people – and I’m going to go out on a limb here and include dwarves, elves, Klingons, Romulans, and yes, even dragons in this list – will classify everyone they meet. Depending on your experiences, your view of what “people” are is going to be wider or narrower. It will shift during your life, expanding as you meet. For all I know some of you folks on the other side of this screen are actually intelligent microbial swarms that communicate via smoke signals and have for some incomprehensible reason decided you like this blog. You’re still people because you’re interacting with the rest of us here by the same rules the rest of us follow. (Although if you are intelligent microbial swarms, you totally owe the Mad Genius Club a guest post because it would be awesome).

The shifting boundaries of what makes “people” does not mean humans are bigots. The human tendency to be amazing generalists and the large number of extremely specialized species out there suggests that yes, there may well be other intelligent species, and yes, it’s not at all unreasonable that some of them will have evolved to fill a specialized niche. Cultures do this too. Some are more generalists, other are more specialists. The generalists tend to be the “glue” that holds it all together so the specialists can push the boundaries and explore (and no, cultures in this sense are not the same as national boundaries. Some cross boundaries and others are among the many that exist inside a single city. Culture is neither race nor nationality: it’s a way of looking at the world that you absorb from those around you).

As for the authors “All X are…” comments, well, I’ve got to say if it took you this long to realize that there’s no way any of those statements can be true unless you make them circular (“all men are men”) or inclusive (“all men are human”), you can’t have done that much thinking. Because you’ve only got to look around and you can see that a statement like “all men are bastards” can’t possibly be true (for starters a good number of them were indeed born after their parents married).

The archetypes are there for a reason. The view of Scots as boozy, tight-fisted, kilted redheads got there because a hell of a lot of Scotsmen are all that. And with good reason, I might add: the way England raped Scotland over the years left a good chunk of the population desperately poor, and the desperately poor are going to hoard what they do have. When drink is cheap and the water quality is iffy (as was the case for much of Scotland’s history), drinking will happen. A lot. The redheads… they can thank the Vikings for that, and the kilts are a refinement of the clothing that used to be normal wear. That doesn’t mean there aren’t dapper, free-spending, teetotal Scotsmen out there. There just rarer than the other sort. And of course, there are Scots who cover the full range of human nature (just not all at once, and not all in the same person). But if you pick 10 random Scotsmen, chances are high you’ll get boozy, tight-fisted, and red-headed. If it’s the right time of year, and the right location you stand a pretty good chance of catching a kilt, too.

Just be careful about that. Your kilted Scotsman might have everything under it in perfect working order, and he won’t be too happy if you catch his kilt and not the rest of him.

120 thoughts on “Archetypical WTFery

  1. And of course Star Trek _never_ had individuals challenging their species stereotypes. ::sigh:: And little short guys can’t be Rangers, nor do many men get hired as wet nurses. Fortunately, in real life, PC occasionally hits real world barriers and bounces. Cause when they put racial quotas in sports, sports are going to suck.

    1. Usually I stop somewhere between “people are people” and “Murphy’s law is the only one without any known exceptions”

  2. What a great Rorschach blot of a post that turned out to be. Some people look at an inkblot and see a clown face, others see two nuns having sex with a Shetland pony on a rubber sheet.

    Why does the mention that humans are xenophobic bigots who view outsiders as something other than real people make folks so defensive? It’s merely a fact.

    You people are so wound up over SFWA WTF-ery that you’re drawn into a defensive circle and shooting at shadows.

    1. Why does the mention that humans are xenophobic bigots who view outsiders as something other than real people make folks so defensive? It’s merely a fact.


      Guessing this is more “satire.”

      1. Guessing this is more “satire.”

        No, it’s a comment on humanity.
        Does it make you uncomfortable? Mad? Sad? Why?

        1. No, it’s just wrong.

          Worse yet, it’s unsupported.

          In those cases where a case can be made for it, it’s been broadened beyond any utility; in those cases where it’s anything more than posturing, it’s not supported.

          But thanks so much for making it clear that you prefer to try to get emotional reactions and argue based on them over making a case.

          1. I think that it’s not wrong, but it’s also not complete. Yes, broadened beyond utility. As far as I can tell human beings exist within a paradox where we are simultaneously xenophobic and xenophilic. (If xenophilic is a word.) It’s in the same realm as fight or flight… we naturally respond in entirely opposite ways because both/either are likely to increase our survival.

            1. Yes, broadened beyond utility.

              That is another way to say “wrong.”

              Also a round-about way to say “bigoted,” actually. *Grin*

              Xenophilic is a word; I’ve seen it used to explain why people crave mates who are novel in one way or another– while still craving things that are familiar. Realistically, inside of the norm, both are misapplied. There’s just variations on desire for familiarity or novelty, without any special love for either.

            2. Example of “broad beyond utility”: the room had some light.

              Later, you find out that they meant “the room was slightly above zero light.”

              Still below the level where human eyes detect nothing, and you mind makes up movement, but there was TECHNICALLY some light there…..

          2. I’d love to have a conversation about Dunbar’s Number, why primitive societies’ terms for themselves almost always transliterate to “The People” while outsiders are not really seen as fully human, and the book Ordinary Men, but I’m thinking it probably wouldn’t be very productive,

            You go on thinking I’m a big liberal meanie who wants the EEOC to monitor the dramatis personae of fiction novels. Simple opinions of others make life easier. Perhaps if you just reduce them to what you think their opinions are, yes? 🙂

            1. I’d love to have a conversation about Dunbar’s Number, why primitive societies’ terms for themselves almost always transliterate to “The People” while outsiders are not really seen as fully human, and the book Ordinary Men, but I’m thinking it probably wouldn’t be very productive,

              Going off of the evidence, you have more fun assuming what the conversation would be.

              You go on thinking I’m a big liberal meanie who wants the EEOC to monitor the dramatis personae of fiction novels.

              Right now I think you’re just someone who enjoys poking sticks at creatures and then yelling that it was a “joke” if they growl back. Hardly unusual.

            2. Dunbar’s Number. Heh. Thought that sounded familiar- I’ve still not finished his article on that (too much work, not enough sleep). I may have issues with the general methodology I’ve encountered with most evolutionary psychologists, but that doesn’t make their work uninteresting.

              I’ve not read Ordinary Men either, but the back-flap precis seems familiar and plausible on the face of things- that “ordinary men” are capable of unparalleled evil- makes sense. Worth a look into.

              I believe the in-group/out-group thing that Dunbar’s Number references is more complicated (like oh so many things). Human beings seem hard-wired to classify things. We get family, extended family, tribe analogues, people who live nearby, people who look like us, and so on. Like Russian stacking dolls, except those who don’t fit in some category of “us” might be hostile and dangerous.

              Different as dangerous is another common thread. All Cretans are liars, therefore my hypothetical brother-in-law is a skeevy fellow, not like Joe Schmidlap, a good Appalachian boy, even if he does drink and is lazy. I may not understand Cretans (they talk in a funny accent, and I can’t speak their native language), I may hate my hypothetical brother-in-law, and this would qualify as bigotry: hate without much of a supporting reason. This fellow my sister hypothetically married fits into a category, Cretans, which I’m told are all violently allergic to truth. Maybe one day it will be “all Cretans are liars, except my brother-in-law, he’s still a bastard, but he’s *our* bastard.”

              Back to primitive societies, there’s several factors there. If we want to dial this way back to early modern humans, things like disease resistance competing against genetic bottlenecking come into play with band- and tribe-level interaction. Maybe those strange other folks were going to raid and steal all the women, kill all the men, too. Or just steal. Enough food stolen at subsistence level means starvation becomes a serious concern.

              Perhaps there is some genetic link between that and behavior. Given how often it occurs, it is possible- that would be a fascinating experiment to think on, too. If it is a learned behavior, there seem to be some strong supporting reasons for it (if we are too trusting of strangers, all sorts of bad things can happen). Kind of like swimming- if you don’t, and you are in water over your neck (and don’t float), you drown- but it’s probably not a genetically linked behavior in humans.

              Thanks, Miss Tam. Haven’t been down those paths of thought in years.

            3. Hmmm, I mentioned this in a comment on Sarah’s blog. Most people’s term for themselves translates as “The people” because that’s how the translators linked the concept to the English language. I suppose aliens could make the same observation and note how every human being, regardless of language, refers to his home planet as “Dirt.”

  3. Not to wander too far off into the geek woods, but in early D&D, humans were generalists because otherwise who would want to play them? The other races had unbalancing abilities — night vision, move silently, stat bonuses, and other unique racial abilities — that made it a disadvantage to play a human. But with those advantages came limited options. Humans could do less, but be more.

    Starting with 3rd edition, the designers worked harder to balance racial advantages with racial limitations. And surprise! Starting with 3rd edition, they lifted class and level limitations for races. It’s almost like they were designed for a reason, not just a prejudice.

    And I have to laugh that progressive Star Trek is now the target of progressive outrage. Their purges shall continue until there’s no one left to purge.

    1. I’ll second that about humans in D&D. First level character who can see in the dark? YEAH! Wait, he can only go to 10th level? Hmm… And still, a lot of players would decide, “Eh, I’m not likely to get that high, anyway. I’ll still play the half-elf.”

    2. Suggesting that Tamara is a “Progressive” or is suffering from “Progressive outrage” is, and this is no hyperbole, the most ludicrous thought a human being can possibly have. The point of the post that I took away from it is that tropes in our fiction reflect how we function as creatures. We have a limited amount of processing power, and pigeonholing and stereotyping help us come to conclusions quickly, from an evolutionary background where coming to a usually-correct conclusion faster than the other guy meant getting fed or getting dead.

      Hey, that one episode of Babylon 5 where each species on the station has a cultural exhibition, and they each have exactly one culture and one religion represented, and then the smarmy station commander introduces a hojillion people from culturally and religiously distinct places? Yeah. “We” are individuals, no two of us are alike. “You people” all look the same. Saying “all Centauri look and act the same” is coming from a similar place to “all y’all colored folks looks the same to me” and if the latter is bigotry, then the former is bigotry. You can recognize that without suffering from “progressive outrage”.

    3. And I have to laugh that progressive Star Trek is now the target of progressive outrage. Their purges shall continue until there’s no one left to purge.

      My, that is a mighty nice straw man you have built for yourself… it would be a damned shame if anything were to… whoops… there it went!

      Seriously. It is a mite hard to take anyone seriously who refers to Tam as a “progressive”. Unless, of course, that was some subtle joke you were attempting to make.

      1. If you are the one giving the beatings… do it until YOUR morale improves……

    4. Star Trek is looking downright right-wing compared to some of the stuff coming out today.

  4. On a more technical note, if you want to see examples of archetypes being badly overused, underused, and well used, look no farther than Delsartism.

    Delsartism is a stylized way of communicating emotions using gestures and poses. It was a good shortcut to communicate the actor’s emotions to the audience, but it became badly overused and dropped out of popularity. It had it’s heyday from the 1850’s to the 1930’s, but you can still see examples of it in modern movies and television shows today (mostly as satire, although some performances that won Oscars last year used Delsartist elements).

    While Delsartism is a purely visual archetype, you can pull a lot of parallels between it and using literary archetypes in writing.

    Some fun articles on Delsartism were written by a storyboard artist that I highly recommend:

    1. In order for a sarcastic essay to be effective, it must be broader and go farther than what it mocks. Otherwise it’s indistinguishable from its target. If she unintentionally wrote a post that sounds exactly like a Jim Hines guest post, it’s not our fault that we read it the way we read a Jim Hines guest post.

      The problem is that it’s impossible to go farther and be broader than a Jim Hines guest post. If anything, her post was less extreme than the typical rant about exclusion, representation, and otherness.

        1. Sarah, life doesn’t imitate the Onion. There are people out there using the Onion as an instruction manual.

      1. I would respectfully disagree, I thought her post brilliant on several levels. But I am a long time fan of the Queen of Snark. Pulled out of total context of her work it may not translate.

      1. Remind me to reread the whole thing some time when I’m awake. You may need to wait a few years.

    2. More like I should read the damn thing at a time when I’m actually awake. Oh, wait. That time does not exist. Ever. I may have missed the sarcasm because I was sleep-typing (something I do rather well, apparently because I don’t remember writing half of this).

      This may also be why I ladle the sarcasm on thick enough to bury people, come to think of it.

      Don’t mind me. I’m under-medicated due to a fuckup in the world’s best health care system. And yes, that is sarcasm.

      1. I probably screwed it up. See upthread: I’m on half-dose of my meds due to a screwup. I should be able to get back to Kate-normal over the weekend, since I now have a script and it should be ready for pickup tomorrow.

        Figured it was better to take them half as often rather than run out three days ago and go cold turkey.

  5. I think she was joking. I rather like her take.
    Personally, I think we need more fantasy creatures writing. To equalize things. I say we take over SFWA and demand it! 😛

    1. Absolutely. Arthropods are severely underrepresented. As are sapient bacteria swarms. On the gripping hand, there are far too many viruses. 😉

  6. As game play and role play go… almost any game anymore (the linked article and comments talked a whole lot about D&D) allows all races to have all roles. In practical terms this doesn’t improve anything, it makes the game and the game-world really boring. Not only do we lose the logic of requiring “warrior” classes to be large people for example, we lose the fun of transgression.

    Transgression is fun. Where have the gnomish monks gone? With no rules and no restrictions your character’s back story looses depth.

    Why is your dwarf in an adventure party with elves? Because she’s defying expectations, got tossed out of the caverns on her ear because she didn’t fit in. That she swings a double bladed ax with the best of them is irrelevant.

    1. c.f. Casanundra, the epic Dwarf lover. With ladders, many things are possible 😉

      And as far as the SF franchises go, let us give some sympathy to the true Queen of Battle, Logistics. Until we get cheap CGI actors, we have to use the human variety for aliens and there is only so much face putty you can use and still have a few hours in the day for your shoot.

      Hey, why are we living in a species desert, anyway? Why don’t the various sophont alien races come here and help out? And don’t whine about “unbreathable atmosphere” and “not enough silicon in the diet”. That’s just…privilege talking. I’m tired of living in a galactic ghetto!

      1. I adore Casanunda. Just totally not that way (looks around and hopes there are no signs of small ornately dressed men with stepladders).

  7. Her is the comment i left after reading _both_ of her posts. (Note I’ve been a Rennie, and long term con goer.)
    “Sarah, and others, reacted the way thay have for one reason. Referring back to your comment about “I quit going to con’s and rennfairs, for this reason.” Now, I admit that I don’t know you personally, so it could just be your style, but you come across as _very_ judgmental. The same “qualities” you condemn *all* fans and Rennies for having. Maybe it’s accidental, of just bad places, but I haven’t seen a lot of what you rail against. Yes, it’s there, but not in the pervasiveness you claim to have found.
    Of course, there are ‘authenticity Nazis’ in both, because they are so insecure that they find their validations in it. But, there is a difference between that, and pointing out genuine stupidities in behavior/plotting/dialogue. I quit watching Helix (on SYFY) after the fiest episode, for a good reason. _4_ “bridge over the chasm of disbelief” shattering events in *40 minutes.*
    Certainly, you’re accusing Sarah, and others, of the same things you are doing, doesn’t make your stand any better. Valid though it may have been at tone time.”
    As I said, it may just be here “style,” but she sounds like the people she’s complaining about. Except that she may not realize it.

          1. Ok, but I can’t see how that connection is made.

            Maybe it’s because you have to be in tune with the way she writes, but it certainly doesn’t sound like it from just reading the one post.

              1. I realize that was intended to help, but you have to back up WAYYYY further than that. I don’t get how this paragraph is intended as part of a joke”

                What you get is ten bigots. Because, see, humans, specifically the humans that wrote that script, look at ourselves as “people” and the other people, the ones with the pointy ears or the furry feet or the bony ridges on their foreheads, as “archetypes”.

                Like I said, maybe it’s because I’m not in tune with her style, but I can see NO way to interpret that (from plain text – voice inflection could do it) as anything other than a slam at the human race. Understand, I’ll take it on referral that it was a joke. I’m not going to claim it wasn’t , when people whose thinking I have respect for tell me that it is. What I’m saying is that I cannot see what basis to use to interpret it that way.

                1. It is a slam at small minded people, not the human race in general. If she was going to slam the entire human race, believe me, you’d know it. What she is slamming is the narrow minded focus of some people who cannot open their minds enough to grasp reality, so they create their own.

                  1. Based on this exchange elsewhere in this thread:

                    Tam: Why does the mention that humans are xenophobic bigots who view outsiders as something other than real people make folks so defensive? It’s merely a fact.

                    Foxfier: Guessing this is more “satire.”

                    Tam: No, it’s a comment on humanity.
                    Does it make you uncomfortable? Mad? Sad? Why?

                    I guess you’re wrong.

                    1. *sad* Oh, I’m sure it will be both, depending on what’s useful.

                      There’s a reason that “it’s just a joke” inspires rage in many sensible people.

                2. Read her for a while. Tam is pretty awesome, but to fully get that may require a slightly longer exposure. Most of what she writes is some sort of snark, so usually it’s best to approach everything from that angle.

                  1. I am sorry but I am with Wayne. She failed terribly if she was trying to write any sort of joke.

  8. Since I have no context, I can judge her post only by her post. Read any of Jim Hines’s recent guest posts on representation. Then read her post. It reads like just one more in the series.

            1. Uhh… does the title “Queen of Snark” not give you a clue?

              Frankly I don’t often read Tam, because like so many on the internet she has a good post every week or two, but I don’t have time to keep up with the one or two blogs I do follow, so I certainly don’t have time to surf around and find the ‘good’ posts on all the other ten cujillion blogs out there. But I would have thought that anybody who had followed MGC or Sarah’s blog, or Larry Corriera or Vox Day’s, etc. would have recognized Tam, even if they didn’t read her. And recognizing her realized that the Queen of snark writes..uh…snark.

              1. “But I would have thought that anybody who had followed MGC or Sarah’s blog, or Larry Corriera or Vox Day’s, etc. would have recognized Tam, even if they didn’t read her.”

                And you would be wrong. Blog following is not transitive.

          1. You might try actually making arguments, instead of asserting someone else is wrong.

            I don’t frequently agree with Shoemaker, but you make it way, way too appealing and give no reason for another reaction.

  9. Four scenarios…

    1. You walk down the street. A random stranger says, “Communism is okay.” Do you assume he’s an asshat who doesn’t know or care about the hundreds of millions of deaths? Or do you assume he’s mocking the asshats?

    2. You walk down the street. A wealthy entrepreneur whom you know to support freedom says “Communism is okay.” Same questions.

    3. You walk down a street where a mob of people swarms around chanting “Communism is great!” A random stranger passes by and says “Communism is okay.” Same questions.

    4. You walk down a street where a mob of people swarms around chanting “Communism is great!” A random stranger comes by and says, “Communism isn’t great, it’s AWESOME! We need to get rid of some kulaks and intellectuals and enemies of the state! It’s time to start breaking some eggs, because I want my fucking omelet! Who’s with me? Let’s go find some peasants! It’s never too early to start filling those mass graves!” Same questions.

    Maybe to a fan, her post sounded like scenario 2. Judging strictly by the post itself, it’s more like scenario 1; and in today’s environment, it’s a lot more like scenario 3. It certainly wasn’t scenario 4, where the sarcasm is obvious (I hope).

  10. I can’t say I *entirely* disagree with some of the points she’s making. But of course, this will probably get taken too far and turned into another PC crusade.

    1. Of course it will. They can’t survive without a crusade against injustice, and I’ve got to say this is a better choice than the ones they’ve been taking off the Onion.

  11. The idea that it’s bigotry is silly. It’s just easier to say Alien Race X are warriors than building an entire culture from the ground up. And depending on what you’re writing, that might be enough.

    1. Yep. You don’t need walk-on in a random scene to be anything more than an archetype.

      Besides, if you give the buggers more than that, they take over on you and demand major billing.

  12. I have to agree with Amanda on one point, because I argue from this perspective when people gripe about archetypes, sex, and violence in fiction and drama and I point to Shakespeare and Aeschylus. The use of Aristotilean stereotypes in fiction is a long-established practice because: check it out: Aristotle. Whining about it is not becoming. OTOH, there is a great deal of manifest laziness in world-building in fantasy, which is the point I tried to make in Tam’s comments.

      1. Heh. You’re not doing too bad. I think I was asleep when I wrote the post. I was certainly in Moses mode (open mouth, and the bullrushes).

    1. There’s a time and place for everything, including archetypes. Of course half these jokers don’t recognize when it is and when it isn’t. Myself explicitly included despite me being a proud co-holder of the Worst Person In the World award.

  13. I would suggest that everyone go back to the link and click on ‘profile’ Heinlein is one of her favorite authors. She lists herself as a gun nut and I think she just hasn’t read Monster Hunter’s International yet but would love it. She would like to see an Orc as a helo pilot. And would probably fall in love with the Elf Queen’s daughter who joined the MHI. I get the impression that’s the role she would love to play in real life. She and Larry could discuss pistol range etiquette for hours.
    I got the impression that she was playing off the Liberal Sociology Professors beginning class that starts with “What is a human, one of the weakest animals, fingernails instead of claws, etc. It’s a basic part of Liberal Arts studies, I think. The bigot that says, I’m better than you because even handicapped, I can do everything.

    In other words, I think we’re eating one of our own here.

    1. Ask Larry Correia if he knows her. Stand back. At one point there was a MHI shoulder patch on her sidebar. For bonus fun-points, ask Mad Mike about her.


      1. You know, one of these days I’ll do a deliberate devil’s advocate thing instead of hitting all the buttons accidentally.

        I think it goes with the software testing day job. I’m GOOD at hitting the wrong buttons accidentally.

    2. One more scenario… You make a really cool zombie costume. Your friends will love it. It’s such a perfect costume, and they know you’re such a joker.

      You walk into the street, wearing your costume. Unbeknownst to you, a horde of real zombies had been rampaging through this town. Some citizen takes a shotgun and blows your head off.

      It’s sad. You didn’t mean to do anything wrong. But do we really want to mock the citizen for shooting at a believable zombie without checking for a pulse first?

    3. Humans are badass. We just don’t look it… (It’s ALWAYS the quiet ones).

      (This round of insanity brought to you by… er. Nevermind)

      1. Humans *are* badass. At least, they are badass in any book I want to read. I haven’t read all that many of the Man-Kzin wars books but I recall the back cover blurb of the first one I ever saw… (paraphrasing because…) “What the Kzin didn’t realize is that the reason that humans had given up war was because they were so very very good at it.” That was the one with the first contact story where the Kzin (I’m likely misspelling that) attack an unarmed and vulnerable human ship… and die. Huh… maybe the quote I’m remembering was actually in that story. I donno.

        I mean… we wouldn’t be in this genre if we weren’t fascinated by the idea of aliens (or elves) and think that they are really really cool… and I suppose that takes us back to games and trying to find ways to keep everyone from picking “Jedi” as a class because the exotic loses its luster when it becomes, by definition, mundane. But what is really fun is when that is turned on its head and an author manages to make humans exotic. Another favorite story is “Cuckoo’s Egg” by Cherryh because the single human in it is treated as foreign and extremely dangerous

        1. Thing that annoys me:
          “generalist” IS a role.

          For mother’s sake, I filled it in most of my geek groups.

          You cannot possibly have a dedicated person for each and every role; if a group’s psychology promotes “be able to do at least a bit of everything,” then they are going to be more that than the average Klingon; if a group’s psychology promotes “think twenty steps ahead of everyone,” then theyr’e going to be more convoluted than the average non-Romulan. (Oh, gads, my spell check lost Romulan AGAIN!)

    4. She lists herself as a gun nut and I think she just hasn’t read Monster Hunter’s International yet…

      Well, I’m pretty sure I posted in the thread at (back when Larry and I were both on staff there) where the quote on the title page came from. And the dude who is quoted is a friend of mine in meatspace.

  14. This is weird; my Internets have collided.
    Tam is at least an acquaintance of Peter, close friends of Marco, and at least knows of Oleg (who has done book covers for Peter).
    Sarah is friends of Peter and must know of Oleg, Peter’s artist, and she mentioned Marco just the other day.
    All of the aforementioned have written about/mentioned David.
    But Sarah posts about a post someone named “Tam” wrote (she doesn’t know her?) and solicits a further response from “Kate” on “Tam’s” post, and Tam responds to “Sarah” indicating she doesn’t know _her_.
    And just yesterday:
    Ya’ll are hurting my head…. 😉

    1. I didn’t write a post about what Tam wrote. I sent it to Kate, not remembering she did not know of Tam and MIGHT NOT have any idea it was a joke. This was partly my fault, having forgotten we’re living in life-immitates-the-onion and so this COULD be a straight post. It’s not, but I forgot to give context. Also, I found it hilarious that Tam’s commenters thought it was about worldbuilding deficiencies and were discussing that very earnestly — but this is me. No, I actually don’t know Tam in real life, but she has commented on my blog.

      1. Peter and Oleg have both crashed on my couch more than once, and vice versa. I practically consider Marko to be kin; we roomed together for almost two years.

  15. Joke or serious, it’s still funny. At least in my opinion The writer demonstrates some nice understanding of the strategy: take a issue that’s got a grain of truth – stereotypes assumptions and lazy world building – and politicize it.

    Oh almost forgot, to Ms Paulk: You defend stereotyping! You defend stereotying! You’re bad and you should feel bad!

  16. What got me was that even when she explained to the right wingers that it was a joke, other commenter that knew her explained to them that she was just making a joke about the fact that it’s natural to be bigoted. But the Right wing GGH’s stayed totally anti because she used the word ‘bigot.’ and only a Liberal is allowed to use that word. Talk about PC from the Left, how about the Right Wing. Being a bigot is saying “hooray for me” Of course you’re going to stress your strengths. I would never step up to this keyboard if I didn’t think I was worthy and proud of my bigotry. Basically, she was showing the bigotry of the left wingers, because Star Trek was a left wing show that stressed how Liberal they were and they were showing themselves as bigots in public.
    Reading blogs keeps me from typing; otherwise, I’d add her.

  17. Umm- When Clancy and Mira have a negotiation on a Dragon World, she’s the judge and he’s her backup. The biggest, meanest and certainly toughest dragon on the planet. Her ruling is law and he will see to it. On a Cat Planet, you already know who’s the biggest, meanest Catman on the planet.

  18. Perhaps rule #1 of satire: don’t propose as satire something that was seriously, popularliy argued inside of the fandom you are “satirizing” over a decade a go.

    I had this argument back in about 98 or so on the Yahoo! boards.

    1. I think it depends on how fast they go… Although I like the Baskin-Robbins dessert planet for a break, myself. That sand just gets in the chainmail undies something fierce, but 31 flavors goes with everything. Hot fudge does get sloppy, though, I will grant you.

  19. Star Trek had a huge problem. Costs. It cost a lot of cash to do Aliens, so they limited what the writers could do. As a result, the only alien seen regularly was Spock.

    Then there’s laziness on the part of writers. Maybe all alien species who reach a level of intelligence equivalent to ours are generalists. Maybe. Most fiction doesn’t show them that way.

    Most fiction also ignores our own twisted psychology. Maybe humans aren’t really generalists. Maybe we just think we are.

    Of course we’d need to find the Microbial Swarm and ask. Too bad that’s going to take some time…


    1. In one of Allan Dean Foster’s book series, humanity is the savage warrior race. We suck at everything equally but we are damn good at war and one of only two species ever to gain space flight, nuclear bombs and still fight wars without nuking the whole planet. So that is one scifi series that argues man isn’t a generalist.

      1. Ah, I’d forgotten that series. Been years since I read it. Foster did a decent job of looking at things from a different viewpoint.

        Of course it’s damned hard to write about a species with an alien viewpoint, because the only aliens most of us are familiar with are dogs and cats, and neither is “intelligent” the way we are. Not that they aren’t intelligent in their own ways, but they aren’t as intelligent as humans, and they can’t communicate with us all that well, so understanding their psychology is difficult.


        1. The series, for the interested, is The Damned, and starts with A Call To Arms, then The Fakse Mirror, and I forget what the third book is. Foster says it’s an expansion of the ideas in what I think might have been his first pro short-story sale, With Friends Like These.

  20. Okay, this is requiring me to harken back to my college Psych101 class, (which is pretty frightening to begin with) But since we humans are prone to in-group-out-group bias even when those groups are randomly created from a larger fairly homogeneous group, nobody should get their panties in a twist over the idea that us will always be better than them even if them used to be us.

    disclaimer….I went to college a LOONG time ago so this may all have been discredited over a decade ago.

    In that case I default to my professors favorite saying which is “the masses will be a$$es”

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