So much for fairness

I know I’m late but it’s with good reason. I’ve spent much of the last 24 hours debating whether or not to write this particular post. I finally decided that I would because it points out yet again how so many of the so-called reviewers (and all too many vocal writers) are putting their politically correct spin on what is “good” or “bad” when it comes to books. Maybe part of the reason this resonates so much with me is I’m about to finish my first science fiction novel. Part of it is definitely because the reviewer’s bias is showing. But a big part is because I’m tired of people thinking we, as readers, have to be hit over the head with a “message” that advances their own agenda.

I’ll start by noting that the germs for this post were planted earlier when a so-called “journalist” writing for the Guardian called out Larry Correia, putting words into Larry’s mouth that Larry never said. I’m not going to defend Larry here because he can defend himself much better, and much more entertainingly, than I can. However, it was interesting that the article, with its attack on Larry, came out around the time the Hugo slate was being narrowed down. Hmm, if I believed in coincidences — or conspiracies — I’d say someone had an agenda he was trying to further.

But what really got me going was a post by Chuck Gannon on Facebook yesterday about a negative review he’d received for his book, Fire with Fire. Gannon was more amused and bemused by the review and the commenters on his thread had a lot of fun with it. Why? Because it was obvious from the first paragraph the review was going to be a hatchet job. Curious, I followed the link provided by Gannon and then dug a little deeper. Imagine my surprise when I found that the book had been reviewed twice on the originating site, nine days apart.

The first review, posted on April 3rd, isn’t too bad. It’s clear the reviewer didn’t like the book and didn’t like the way it was written. There are complaints about comma splices even (which is funny considering the state of punctuation and grammar in most novels these days. It’s doubly funny considering Gannon is a multiple Fulbright Scholar and a lit professor.) But this wasn’t the review Gannon had linked to. I found it only because I was trying to find out just who the person was who had such a problem with the book, Gannon and the fact he wasn’t falling lockstep into line with all the rest of the lemmings racing toward the edge of the politically correct cliff.

The second review, posted on April 12th, was more in your face with the PC BS and it soon became clear a member of the glittery hoohah club had written it. It is also obvious from the third sentence that it is written by the same person as the first. Why? Because there is that comment about the questionable punctuation again. Until then, the only thing we know is that the reviewer just didn’t think Gannon’s book was “up to snuff”.  But, to give you an idea of just where the reviewer falls in the spectrum, consider this comment: Fire with Fire felt like it was included in the nominees because it’s a museum piece of a certain era of SFF,  and a concession to the angry greybeards who make up a key demographic in the Nebula voters.

Angry greybeards, huh?

Concession, huh?

Funny that. The reviewer is the one who seems angry.  I won’t go into the lack of bias in the review or reviewer, who happens to think it appropriate in reviewing the book to bring up the SFWA infighting and to hurl not so veiled insults at Gannon’s publisher, Toni Weisskopf, for not falling into step with the “right think” side.

It gets better. In a supposed review of Gannon’s book turns into an attack on Heinlein. The reviewer hates Heinlein. She doesn’t know why and muses that maybe she ought to go back into his books and try to figure it out. But she hasn’t — and probably won’t — but she hates Heinlein and that brings her back to Gannon’s book. She admits she should have seen earlier that the book was influenced by Heinlein. Why? Because of the cover. What?!? She can now tell what a book is like, what writers influenced the author, by the cover? Wow. That’s really a cool power she has, especially when you consider how often a book’s cover has absolutely nothing to do with what the book is actually about. I would have thought she might have been clued in about the book by simply looking at who the publisher happened to be. Baen. You know Baen, the “evil” epicenter of all things Correia, Ringo, Kratman, Hoyt and Torgersen.

But it appears that Baen is the bastion of gate-guarding, making sure all the kids get the hand-stamp of Heinlein on their way in the door.” 

All right, I’ve quit laughing and will try to finish this post. I don’t know what is more hysterical: the claim that Baen is gate-guarding when you consider what is coming out of the other publishing houses (Oh, wait, that’s the lockstep crap so it’s okay. Sorry. My bad.) or the fact that, with the exception of Bujold, the reviewer thinks all Baen puts out is Heinleinesque science fiction. Eric Flint and others would certainly be surprised to know they fall into the evil political spectrum that is Heinlein.

All this is, I guess, my way of saying that if you want to review a book, review the book. That was done in the first post. The blogger should have left it at that. To come back in and then attack the book because you don’t like what the publisher said and you don’t like the fact it appears to be Heinleinesque and you hate Heinlein even if you don’t know why you do — psst, could it be because all the “cool kids” have said you should and you haven’t taken time to read and think for yourself? — doesn’t help your cause. What it has done is sell more books for Gannon. Why? Because you’ve made those of us who do like Heinlein curious about what Gannon wrote. So, on behalf of all of us who like a good book that doesn’t hit us over the head with the current politically correct statement of the day, thank you.

Edited to add: Welcome everyone who has come over from Monster Hunter Nation. Thanks to Larry Correia for the link and everyone here at MGC bows down to Larry, International Lord of Hate 😉

 

 

88 Comments

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88 responses to “So much for fairness

  1. It’s odd, but “Fire With Fire” was better edited than anything else I’ve seen out there right now, including multiple NYT best-sellers. I think the GHH brigade is mobilizing, but hasn’t reached full activation yet (I can tell because the Usual Suspects haven’t made any sort of statement yet).

    • Nathan

      Is Tor worried about the Hugos?

      In all seriousness, though, this is not the first time that the GHH has co-opted the idea of defying the gatekeepers from indie. Pretty slick move, but it falls apart when you take a look at it. This is the same crowd that purged an author from the SFWA, makes pronouncements about what people should and shouldn’t write from a major publisher’s website, and uses shaming to try to silence any dissent. Yet a house that publishes 3-4 new titles a month and is already the subject of two-minute hate is the gatekeeper for the genre?

      • SBP

        This is the Nebula, though, right? Only members of the SFWA get to vote on that one, so it’s even more meaningless than the Hugo has become.

        Me, I’m looking forward to the day when the whole “awards” schtick devolves into Scalzi, the Nielsen Haydens, and “Foz” Meadows voting awards to each other.

        • Until then, I will keep watching and snickering as Larry’s Sad Puppies keep the GHHers scurrying around trying to figure out how to purge sf of all us wrong thinking folks.

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          What? It isn’t that already?

          • SBP

            Not quite, but getting there. Given that you often see the majority of F&SF best-seller slots on Amazon taken up by indie books, and that the SFWA is dead-set against allowing the writers of indie trash in their clubhouse (because they’re “inclusive” that way)…how can “awards” that exclude most of the books that actual readers enjoy count for anything?

            That said, I’d love to see Correia’s slate take some of the Hugos in London. The bitter tears of the GHHs would be delicious.

      • And how are the GHH defying the “gatekeepers”? Why, by standing in front of the gate and making sure none of those gatekeeping buggers get through, of course!

        And that’s the rub: the GHH (and those who kowtow to them) are the biggest gatekeepers around. Just ask Jonathan Ross.

        • Yep. The “review” just shows that they are trying to move the goal posts and change definitions. What other course is open to them when their previous tactics have failed so badly? They may be the ones winning most of the awards but authors like Larry are laughing all the way to the bank because they write books we want to read.

      • Nathan, we never said they made sense 😉

        I think this shows just how desperate they are to find new arguments to support their position. I am still shaking my head over the idea of Baen as a “gatekeeper”, especially when you consider just how the other publishers, especially the Big 5 have thrust themselves into that role for years.

    • I think you’re right, Jason. Either that or the usual suspects have figured out that Larry and others aren’t going to lay down and let them get away with their BS.

  2. Christopher M. Chupik

    “Baen is the bastion of gate-guarding” is one of the funniest things I’ve read all month.

    • I’d say all year, but that’s just me 😉

    • Expendable Henchman

      Actually, Baen is guarding the gates. They’re keeping the facist barbarians out who want to ban wrong-think by monopolizing all the publishing houses.

      They’re making money, but I’m pretty sure Terri has some real works of hate in her email archive by now. She’s a woman, and appears not to engage in public debate.

      In other words, the perfect target for cowards to attack. I hope she’s making money by the metric ton.

      • So true but you and I are using a different definition for guarding the gates, or at least a different tone, that the reviewer was. Baen guards them from poorly written, non-entertaining books with the goal of giving its readers books they want to buy and read, not just once but many times. More than that, they publish books we recommend to our friends and family. The other side guards the gates against that sort of wrong-think, choosing instead to publish books to “educate” us, whether we want it or not.

  3. Insectress

    _Fire With Fire_ is a really good book by a really nice guy. I love the inter-galactic political intrigue and the Human machinations within that frame and within the Human governments.

    • And the great things to come at which he’s only just hinted. The follow-ups are on the to-purchase-RIGHTNAOW list. And yes, Chuck is a delightful human being. Wonderfully erudite. Meet him if you have the opportunity.

      • Insectress

        I have had the pleasure of meeting Chuck, and he is a wonderful man to talk with.

        The follow-up is on my “eat-Ramen-to-afford” list.

  4. robfornow

    The review of the review and Insectress have caused me to buy a book from an unknown (until now) writer. Please convey my thanks to the whining idiot who prompted this article.

  5. To some people Fairness means “you must agree with me”. [Frown]

  6. Eric Flint and others would certainly be surprised to know they fall into the evil political spectrum that is Heinlein.

    Eric Flint does fall within the Heinlein political spectrum. He is just happens to be in the early part of the spectrum. 😉

    Having said that, I wonder if the GHH set can be so blind as to ignore how much projection is going on.

    • Ori, I know but, from their point of view, Heinlein had only one spectrum — ultra conservative. Funny how they keep spouting that same BS and yet admit they either haven’t read him or have only read one or two books and not samples from the span of his writing career.

      And, btw, they don’t project. Just ask them and they’ll tell you so.

    • bearcat

      I was going to point out that Flint was early Heinlein (but you beat me to it) and Williamson was late Heinlein, so Baen is covering all its Heinleinesque bases.

    • Funny thing about Heinlein: for the GHH and SJW crowd, he is the very embodiment of the cismale gendernormative patriarchy… yet he was one of the first authors to write stories (commercially successful stories) about gender-swapping characters. “Slipstick” Libby being a prime example.

      I think that’s one of the real reasons GHHs and SJWs despise Heinlein so much: his writing broke down the very same taboos they rail against today. Not only that, Heinlein did it at a time when those taboos still had teeth (teeth, hell: fangs and claws!). They weren’t the paper tigers they are today.

      So I’m certain that it must grind their gears to no end that Heinlein, with all his very un-PC views, was a far better social justice warrior than they ever could be. And the hoo-has in his stories? They had steel in their spines and far better things to do than sit around and apply glitter. It’s no wonder they hate him.

  7. I really wish I could see any comments that have been returned to the reviewer but it seem you have to be registered to see them. No thanks.

    • There are none at this time. In fact, I saw no responses to any of her posts.

      • The responses I saw were to the original link off of Chuck’s FB post. Sorry, I didn’t link to it and am away from where I have access to it.

      • Wyldkat

        Correction, there are responses to some of her other posts, just none to the 1st or 2nd on this topic.

        Interestingly when I went to see if I post by an acquaintance was showing, the second post was missing. 404 error and isn’t showing on the home page. Hmmm. I wonder why?

    • Wyldkat

      Dup post. Sorry.

  8. sanfordbegley

    What I find endlessly fascinating is that my casual observation of Chuck Gannon indicates that he is just as liberal as you would expect a Lit professor to be. While I hate seeing it happen to a nice guy with whom I simply have political differences the whole concept of the progressives eating their own makes me want to fire up the popcorn popper

    • chuck gannon

      I suspect you don’t know many art/humanity profs v well, Sanford? Compared to my former peers, I was a veritable Reagan or Goldwater!

      • sanfordbegley

        I know far too many 🙂 Rightist for a lit professor is still left for the mainstream 🙂

        • chuck gannon

          I think you’d find my attitude about the military space foreign affairs and entitlement without work issues still somewhat right even outside the academy. We should chat. . .

          • sanfordbegley

            As a small l libertarian I think we would have many points of agreement. I was not attempting to belittle you as a leftist BTW. I simply am amused that the fatr left cannot abide anyone on their side thinking.

  9. OK, so if we are PC, and especially if we have a GHH, we can 1) write a review based on what we assume the book would say if it were the kind of book we’re afraid it is, 2) review the book based on the politics implied by the cover art, 3) review the book based on who the publisher is, because everyone knows that Baen never publishes “real” SFF, all without ever opening the book more than a page or two to get a character name (if we must). This is almost as easy as making snakes out of clay! 🙂

    • Jim McCoy

      Something about comparing Leftists to snakes makes me smile. I’m not sure why exactly, but it works.

    • bearcat

      We probably need to read the blurb on the back* if we want to write an “in-depth” review though.

      *Actually read a review a while back were the reviewer not only obviously based their review entirely on the blurb, without reading the book, but actually used multiple quotes, from the blurb, in their review.

      • LOL. I’ve had a couple like that and each time I had to wonder why they bothered writing a review if they couldn’t be bothered to read anything more than the blurb — and that they did badly.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        What kind of idiot thinks the blurb has anything to do with the book?

        One Barbara Hambly book had a blurb that might have turned me off of the book.

        Oh, I purchased the Barbara Hambly book anyway and enjoyed it.

        It was _Bride of the Rat God_. [Smile]

        • You’d be surprised, Paul, about the number of folks who think the blurb should be an exact representation of the book. An Amazon reviewer was very upset with Wedding Bell Blues, my first book under the Ellie Ferguson pen name, because something mentioned in the blurb wasn’t a major plot point in the book. Worse, it was a three word clause she wanted to be a major plot point and she was very upset with me because it wasn’t there.

        • bearcat

          Well I for one, think it should. But I don’t write reviews based off of it, either.

  10. Old Griz

    I liked the book despite Gannon’s liberal politics. Why must corporations automatically be evil? That’s the problem with the GHH crowd. One slight turn from doctrine and you are a heretic.

    • chuck gannon

      Griz, many thanx for the kind words. One question though: what in the book constitutes liberal politics, in your opinion?if its the corporations, you’ll notice that there is a major distinction made between corporations that still actually make things, the industrials, and the ” others.” About those “others”, Suffice it to say that I’ve worked in both the television industry and at the service of finance and oil companies.

      • Large companies, at least the ones Dan worked for, INTERNALLY worked like a cross between ancient Rome and Soviet Russia. BUT my problem with corporations as villains is that I’ve seen how er… up their own behinds they are.

        • chuck gannon

          Not all. (Shiver) Not all. I was filming on the floor of Goldman Sachs’ international debt exchange and refinance arm the day of the Mexico city earthquake. Their chilling actions and astoundingly smooth lies were quite polished and effective and even more casual than street shootings I have seen in Sao Paolo.

      • Zippy

        Oil companies don’t make things? Sucking oil (or natural gas) out of the ground, transporting it, refining it, and then transporting it to the end-user is a capital-intensive task. The enterprises involved in doing it will, of necessity, be large.

        My problem with the whole EvilCo trope is that nearly all corporatist abuses occur with the aid of the state. In terms of raw physical power, the Boise Police Department probably outguns Exxon Mobil.

        • In terms of raw physical power, the Boise Police Department probably outguns Exxon Mobil.

          A surprising number of Leftists have problems grasping this. I once got into an argument with someone who was claiming that India had no power to punish anyone at Union Carbide for the Bhopal disaster because Union Carbide would simply hire mercenaries to take its executives out in helicopters. The poster refused to believe that India is a Regional Great Power, and disposes of a large military including ample numbers of supersonic jet fighter aircraft, and thus could easily defeat any such incursion.

          Seriously, it’s like they hear “corporation” and “Third World” and immediately imagine elite airmobile death squads for the former and ragged peasants with rifles for the latter.

  11. I was once accused of ruining the Baen brand with militant feminism. And I suppose I could be considered a militant feminist in that I was in the military and am female, but it isn’t a label I’ve ever applied to myself. Baen Books is entirely too robust of a publishing house to be ‘ruined’ by publishing writers with a spectrum of political viewpoints. But some people are going to read all kinds of extra stuff into a story. I like it best when they read in really good stuff that they love, but it isn’t controllable. ::shrug::

    • Zippy

      Nah, the militant feminism that would REALLY ruin Baen would be a novel or series about a female military leader of unusual personal integrity who was adept at martial arts, shooting, sword-fighting, and space combat. Particularly if she inspired intense loyalty among her subordinates, and if the senior political leaders of her society were also female.

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  13. She admits she should have seen earlier that the book was influenced by Heinlein. Why? Because of the cover. What?!? She can now tell what a book is like, what writers influenced the author, by the cover? Wow. That’s really a cool power she has, especially when you consider how often a book’s cover has absolutely nothing to do with what the book is actually about.

    Now the interesting thing about her claim is that one of the first things I learned about selecting science fiction books was “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” because especially in the 1970’s (when I was an older child to mid-teenager), science fiction and fantasy book covers had even less relationship to the content than they do now (and they don’t have that much relationship to the content than they do now). In other words, if we are to take her statement as truthful, she is admitting to a degree of naivete regarding literary appreciation that I outgrew before I was in my teens.

    So why is she reviewing books anyway? Why not just give the job to some random 12 year old?

    • As I said, I would have thought she’d have figured it out because it was a Baen book. That would make more sense than saying she should have known from the cover. But even then, it’s a false statement because Baen publishes authors from across the political spectrum.

      • bearcat

        If she would have looked at the cover she would have seen the Baen logo, thereby realizing it was influenced by Heinlein.

    • Expendable Henchman

      I’ve noticed that leftists seem to judge practically everything by it’s cover. And I certainly mean cover in many senses.

      It occurs to me that a great many of them are so lacking in depth of character that ‘cover’ is all they have, and no doubt assume the same of all others.

      Others of that ilk seem to have nothing *but* depth to their character, to the point that they obstruct the free flow of sewage going about it’s proper and necessary business.

  14. I’ve been reading what Jim Baen was editing since 1975 or so when I discovered Galaxy Magazine. As far as I can tell in almost forty years of reading stuff Baen edited or published the only gate guarding he or Toni have done is that the stories be well written enough that people want to read them. If the ideas are mind blowing and it sells well, that’s just a bonus. I am certain that Baen didn’t care what his authors’ political credentials were.

    • John, agreed. Of course, publishing books the people actually want to read is also bad. The GHHers have said so. We are supposed to educate and inform, not entertain. Oh, and we have to educate and inform according to the scripture of SFWA. Otherwise, we risk being excommunicated. ;-p

  15. Who’s with me on the Space Viking Sagas anthology? If you’re curious it’s in the thread of Torg’s post about the review.

  16. masgramondou

    Oddly enough this second review seems to have disappeared down memory lane on the original site. I’m sure that’s an accident and it will be restored promptly. In the mean time, it seems the nice Mr Google has saved a copy – http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:lqyA_UAG0bwJ:soapboxing.net/2014/04/so-that-explains-that-fire-with-fire.html+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

  17. masgramondou

    BTW the whole last paragraph in the 2nd review is a scream:

    Which brings me back to Fire with Fire. I should have seen before that a good part of my irritation with everything about that book leads back to Heinlein’s influence. The cover should have been enough to situate it solidly in that milieu, but hey, I was on vacation. My revelation of the Heinleinishiesqueitude explains certain things: the prose (which I find truly mortifying) is a stylistic choice, not just poor writing for its own sake. (Though, it could be argued that writing poorly and then figleafing it as homage is iffy.) But it appears that Baen is the bastion of gate-guarding, making sure all the kids get the hand-stamp of Heinlein on their way in the door. Well beloved writers of mine, such as Lois McMaster Bujold, have found much success at Baen, so I’m not trying to intimate that there’s nothing at the imprint worth reading. But given the statements of the publisher, it makes total sense that I’d try to jump the rope, as I always have. There’s more than one door into the clubhouse, thank all the gods.

    For someone who bitches about grammar the utter lack of grammar in the first sentence is amusing.
    Then there’s the bit about the cover. I don’t understand why being on vacation would have anything to do with one’s evaluation of the cover or not, or why the cover situates the book solidily in the milieu of Heinlein things.
    Heinleinishiesqueitude is a word that took me a while to parse, possibly because it has a misspelling in it. And this is where I realize that I probably don’t speak the same dialect of English that this person does; or at least, if I do then that quote about “you keep using that word I do not think it means what you think it means” applies.

    And there are all the mixed metaphors. Bastions are very rarely gate-guarders because they are “an angular structure projecting outward from the curtain wall of an artillery fortification” and if gate guarders (keepers would surely be a more usual word) do stamp your hand with “Heinlein as you pass through the door then how does jumping over a rope help you? I mean that just makes you a nasty queue-jumper because you still get stymied by the wall (or possibly bastion).

    • You are a baaaaaaad man — and we love you for it.

      But yeah, I loved the grammar errors, especially after the complaints about comma splices, etc.

      • bearcat

        How do you splice a comma, anyways? And why would you want to, they’re not that expensive, I’d just get rid of the broken one and type in a new comma.

    • I love the bit about How she hates hates hates the Heinlein influence — but then describes Lois McMaster Bujold as one of her “well-beloved” writers. Uh, Bujold has obviously read Heinlein and been influenced by him. Now, she isn’t writing Heinlein pastiche novels or some such. But he’s definitely an influence.

  18. Pingback: A Marvel from A.D. 801702 | John C. Wright's Journal

  19. Second review link is now 404.

  20. masgramondou

    For those that haven’t read it, John C Wright’s post is a marvel of a putdown. Read it and weep at your inability to insult in such a magnificent fashion.

    http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/04/a-marvel-from-a-d-801702/

    I may even forgive him for him for his calumnies about the English

    • Expendable Henchman

      It’s my opinion that a great deal of Britian’s (and Europe’s) problems today are a direct result of two horrible wars killing off far too many of those who believed in things worth fighting and dying for.

    • bearcat

      “And where does a creature who sold his manhood for a mess of pottage without pride find the gall to snarl and bark at real men? ”

      Does the fact that this line immediately made me picture a snarling poofy teacup poodle, make me a bad man?

  21. lelnet

    You know…it must be kinda gratifying for RAH that, even when he’s been dead more than a quarter of a century, people’s feelings about him are still so overwhelmingly strong that they can completely derail the reviewing of books that have nothing at all to do with him.

    Anyone who can have that kind of effect as a 26 year-old corpse has powerful evidence of a life very, VERY well-lived. 🙂

  22. Funny, although I didn’t use a fine-toothed comb, I read the passage quoted in the first review that the reviewer complained contained comma splices. All I saw to quibble with was a colon used where a semi-colon would have been better. *shrugs* Some people see only what they want to see, I guess. (OTOH, I deplore comma splices myself. It’s the sign of a lazy writer, and it doesn’t matter if an “appeal to authority”–“Fullbright Scholar”–is made in a writer’s behalf. But then, I deplore ANY grammar error that does not directly further the story or character development, and ALWAYS pan authors for misusing words. *meh* If they want my money, they’d better have the chops.)

    The first review was hilarious, though, for more reasons than one. I assume the writer prefers “narrow, frail” hands in the characters of books she reads, for example. Men ought rightly to be effeminate, after all, and “wide, strong hand[s]” simply do not fit her apparently preferred emasculated male stereotype.

    Unfortunately, the link to the second review is broken–it may have been removed–so I’ll accept your characterization of it, since your characterization of the first one seemed fair.

  23. BTW, I’m very glad this happened and was brought to my attention here, since, although I had read a couple of books Charles Gannon has written with others, I had somehow missed his one. Just bought it from Baen for download. Thanks!

    (BTW, Eglish prof, Fullbright Scholar, etc., or not, I’ll undoubtedly correct any grammar and punctuation errors I find annoying–that is, errors that do not have a direct, positive effect on moving the story forward or in character development. Some characters are just meant to be seen as illiterate, for example, and word misuses, grammar errors and suchlike in their dialog are acceptable. That’s one reason I prefer buying directly from Baen. Html copies are easy to correct. *shrugs* It’s a quirk. I don’t hound authors and publishers about such mistakes, but when I re-read a book, I prefer to do it without annoying distractions. :-))

  24. *meh* I hate my own typos. (But at least I’m not asking for your money. :-))

  25. And in what may be crowning irony of this entire episode, Fire With Fire has won the Compton Crook Award 2014. it is arguably one of the awards least susceptible to influence of any kind. It is a purely popular reader award.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compton_Crook_Award.