A book like Alice


Much, I am sure, to the vexation of the various juvenile canid haters, I was not carried away by an inflammation of the lungs this last week.

And it is a base canard to imply I was as sick as a dog. You’d have put down the dog as a kindness. (Yes, I have been reading Heyer again).

I was pretty crook, all-in-all. I’m not someone who takes to bed. I was a sick little kid and spent far too much of my youth confined to bed, telling myself stories. I’ve never spent more than half a day actually in a sick-bed since, not because I haven’t been sick, but because I’d rather be doing, even if it’s cling to things to keep upright. This last week I actually voluntarily took to bed for a few hours. Let’s put it this way: I’ve got an inkling as to why heroin was welcomed as a miracle drug for TB sufferers. Coughing a lot hurts (and I am an expert on this, with a lifetime’s experience). Anyway: we’re now trying yet another antibiotic, and there is a little improvement. I thought the whole point of getting pneumonia instead of the common cold was that you could treat pneumonia.

But coherent writing was a big ask. Sleeping was not on the cards, and nor was any kind of complex research reading.

It was comfort book time. Time for old friends. Heyer (I re-read ‘THE CORINTHIAN’), Diana Wynne Jones… I ended up re-reading Neville Shute’s ‘A TOWN LIKE ALICE’.

Heh. I can see our puppykicker friends breaking out the champagne already. “Ok, so he didn’t die. But we’ve finally got evidence he’s a raycisss and sexisss. We couldn’t find it in his books but he likes A TOWN LIKE ALICE. That’s full of sexist racist etc. etc.

Indeed. It’s ALSO full of late 1950 (the book was published in 1961). Like the Heyer, it is reasonably accurate in its reflection of the mores of its time. It is, when you factor when it was written, far, far less intolerant, sexist or racist than the stuff that got published by Tor or any of the other major Trad Publishing houses last year. A dispassionate alien reviewing the work would definitely see that. The reason is easy: No race, religion, group or culture or sex is singled out as wholly bereft of good, or uniformly evil or villainous. They’re portrayed as different, as individuals, some kind, some cruel, some operating according to values within their culture – but the author merely wrote them according to his perception, and didn’t add a judgement of values into it. That’s a lot more tolerant than modern fiction.

I’m sure that the average puppy-kicker would, however, accuse Shute of homophobia.

You see, there were no overtly homosexual characters. Not surprising in wartime Malaysia, in principally Muslim society, or even in the outback of Northern Queensland of 1950 (the book was set as starting about then). There would, no doubt, have been homosexuals. But it wasn’t obligatory then for them to be in every story, or to be heroes. In fact, of course, the author was just writing about reality. Overt homosexuality wasn’t common and in a Muslim society, or the rural outback, and had some nasty consequences if it was.

“But he should have written about that!”


“Because… because it would have been the right thing to do. He was a homophobe!”

Ah. The ‘if you didn’t address whatever our cause du jour is, long before it was a cause du jour, or we, or most of your readers even thought it important, you’re guilty’ fallacy. If I had a time machine to look into the future I’d probably… who am I kidding? Like the rest of you I’d see who won horse-races and what the right Lottery numbers to pick were. And if we could all do it, that would be worthless too.

Today’s books will suffer same ‘flaw’ – guaranteed. Why not save time and trouble and condemn them in advance? (Yes, it is that stupid and illogical. But the average SJW is.).

On the other hand, you might do something constructive with your time instead, and consider why this book sold millions of copies, why – despite being ‘not PC’ it continues to sell and be popular. As a writer, that’s important. For the record, it’s not my favorite Shute – that would go to “A FAR COUNTRY” which is about a Czech Doctor who served in the German army WW2 who is a post-war refugee, resettled in Australia, doing his obligatory time in a logging camp, a logging accident, and a man and a young woman choosing to do what has to be done – for someone else to whom they owe nothing – and which risks their hard-won safety. The book has much I identify with and agree with. I find a huge amount to identify with in the hero –and love about the heroine. If I’m not like that, that’s kind of who I’d like to be. It’s aspiration as well as identification.

That aspiration part is pretty important to readers – and is so often forgotten. The other aspect of course, is that it’s all a numbers game. We’re told, endlessly, that various little groups want their own ‘voices’ want to feel that they identify with the characters. That is perfectly true, even if it doesn’t stop me enjoying a book set in the Regency around members of the upper ten thousand, with whom I have little in common. But yes, it’s why I enjoy A TOWN LIKE ALICE, or A FAR COUNTRY. I have characters with similar values, interests, background and outlook to my own. Yes, the stories and settings are dated. But the people appeal. In general they’re solid, decent, kindly, generous people. People I’ve met and people I know.

I don’t begrudge the urban hipster gender-queer their books, their characters, who have values, interests, background and outlook which are quite different from mine. Just as I don’t live in Regency England or share much with the way of life in Heyer’s books but I still enjoy them, I might enjoy something well-written by someone I can’t identify with, with an alien outlook on life to mine. But you’re winning on points before I even look at the quality of the writing and caliber of the story if you’ve given me people and aspirations I can identify with.

Where everything falls apart in publishing, is that math is too hard, Barbie. You see they’ve been so busy catering for all these minorities, catching all these ‘new’ audiences… that they’ve lost sight of the numbers. What these new audiences want, often, was alienating to the old audience – which was at least 60% of the reading population – up to 95% in my ‘flyover country’ type of places. Actually these ‘new audiences’ often enjoyed nothing more than straight out denigration of the old. If you like, that was ‘aspirational’ to them.

The trouble with this is that the audience they stood to gain… was often a lot smaller than the one they had to lose to gain it. I’m kinda tempted to propose a new scale based on how many Star Wars Fans Chuck Wendig had to alienate to gain those outside the franchise’s fandom. I’d guess he was losing about a hundred for every one gained. So the author who came out as conservative to her largely left wing audience and lost 10 for every one she gained would have scale rating of a deci-wen. And the author who made 1000 for losing one would have a scale of 10 anti-wen…

The bottom line is that catering for small market segments – especially if you have a lot of competition for space in that segment, equals small sales. And while I’m all for them having books they identify with, if you’re going to run a profitable traditional publishing enterprise, you’re going to have to have a lot of books for people who come close to the median. You know, the standard villains of modern publishing. They deserve their own books just as much as the PoC or Gender-queer do. And that would PAY. And realistically if you’re going follow Penguin UK’s policy (It says new authors should reflect the UK population by 2025, “taking into account ethnicity, gender, sexuality, social mobility and disability”). I suspect they really, really haven’t thought this one through (math is too hard, Barbie) as an accurate reflection is going to have less books by selected minorities in proportion to how many there are of them. I mean ‘Heterosexual, vanilla, white’ actually really is most of the population. And yes, it’d work… if they reflected their politics, religion and culture, proportionally too. I think they thought noise equaled numbers. As this petition shows – as opposed to the loud shrieking harpy one demanding that the ConCarolinas chair be cast out into utter darkness for daring to not obey and ban wrongthinkers on the whim of the harpies – which has attracted a handful of signatures, some anonymous and mostly to heckle, perhaps 50 actual supporters — noise and PC status does not equal numbers. Not in this, and not in sales.




  1. I find it interesting how the conclusion drawn from the assumption “Population X customers will only buy media that is dominated by Population X characters” changes from “so media creators must include more Population X characters to pander to that market” to “so Population X is wrong and must change their tastes and buy media that is dominated by non-(Population X) characters” as the value of X changes.

    It seems as if “wanting characters who look like me” is a good thing when done by persons A, B, and C, but a bad thing when done by persons D, E, and F.

    And, for what it’s worth, I think the initial assumption is dead wrong. At the moment I am happily relistening to Ben Aaronovitch’s “Rivers Of London” series. I am a Midwestern American of Eastern European heritage and Ashkenazi genetics and yet I easily identify with a mixed race Londoner who grew up among expatriates from Sierra Leone.

    1. But persons D and F can just buy/watch the old stuff that was already produced! We need to promote only types A B and C until the total of all produced work in history matches current population percentages!!!

      Sigh, and I bet they don’t understand the real population percentages either.

      1. You’re telling me the average American isn’t a multiracial, bisexual, HIV-positive drug user who is facing discrimination by elderly WASP males in the publishing industry? Do you even know how ignorant you sound?

        1. Hey, check your privilege there. You forgot to mention that the average American is also genderqueer.

          You must be some kind of cisnormative fascist.

          1. I’m pretty sure everybody faces discrimination from WASP women in the publishing industry. Except maybe their classmates from The Correct Schools.

    2. I am a Canadian of Ukrainian descent. I’ve read one — exactly one — series which featured a Ukrainian-Canadian character, and that was Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry. Kay takes up a very small part of my book collection. When I’m reading, I’m looking for a window, not a mirror.

      1. When I’m reading, I’m looking for a window, not a mirror.

        I’m going to be quoting you. When I do (to my colleagues) do you want attribution? In a sane world that’d be de rigueur, but I don’t want to paint targets.

  2. The Penguin UK thing just boggles my mind. I think I’m going to buy more popcorn, sit back, and watch.

      1. I dunno, I view it as the literary equivalent of YouTube’s Fail Army, and I have a debilitating fondness for those videos. Especially if I’ve been editing all day.

      2. “Self inflicted wounds are painful, but less deserving of sympathy”. Ol’ Winnie the C

    1. I’m sure they’ve done the numbers themselves, and know their market better than we do.

      That’s what is most frightening about this, to me. It is easy to write off the management of a big company like Penguin as a bunch of half-wit bureaucrats who maxed-out the Peter Principle. But as I learned long ago in the gun control debate, generally these people are not stupid. They are -calculating- and playing all the angles.

      So when the Liberal Party chooses to pursue something utterly idiotic like a gun registry, which any fool can see cannot work, there’s a hidden agenda. Almost always money. In that case, two $billion tax dollars to spread around among all the computer contractors and etc. in Canada. Same thing with the windmills. It can’t work. But they did it. And they became quite rich doing it.

      What we have with Penguin UK is a response to the regulatory and business environment in Britannia right now. A large company, staffed by experienced people, thinks going SJW is the most expedient path for them. Despite their market research, which shows Normal outnumbers SJW 25/1.

      What the hell does that say about Britain? One thing it tells me, Penguin is getting more out of pushing propaganda than it is out of selling fiction. Might be money, might be safety. Bit of both?

        1. No kidding. And not particularly safe in your own home, either. Especially from larcenous dirtbags armed with anything from a screwdriver on up/

      1. Just look at the fine job the Brits did with their gun violence problem.
        Outright ban on nearly all handguns, severe restrictions on long arms, and apparently now the use of force in self defense can get you charged with a crime. Yet GB has something like five times the rate of violent crime as does the US (per 2010 UN crime statistics), and London is reporting more murders under investigation than is New York City.
        Funny thing is the real criminals still have guns, and the common layabouts are still so violent that the mayor of London is demanding a ban on the carrying of knives.
        Not to worry though, by 2015 there should be enough of the country under Sharia law that things will be put to rights under those kind and compassionate strictures.

        1. Sorry, meant 2025 though 2015 might me more correct in some parts of the UK based on what I’ve bee seeing in honest news reports.

      2. Objection! NO PUBLISHING HOUSE DOES NUMBERS or market surveys. I wish this weren’t true, but it is. Dave Freer and I about died when we found that out.
        No, it’s a “gentleman’s business” which means a social signaling business. They signal their “intelligence” and “virtue.” The thing is so convoluted they won’t know when they/if they’ll be paid. And it has little link to any particular business

        1. Nice handle, Sarah. ~:D

          No market research. Dayamn [say it like the Fresh Prince]

          Well, I could be wrong about them all being idiots. One does not normally find that much stupid in one place, is all I’m saying. Other than government, that is.

            1. we do not ask the market what it wants. These things are otiose in a niche.”

              Holy dingdongs, Batman: Mr. Munn, that means the gummint is LESS backward then and SJW converged company.

              I do focus groups. Every major project requires identifying the major community players and doing F.G. interviews. (Which are then ignored, mind you, but that’s a different problem.)

          1. Actually, here’s a primary source:

            Click to access 2013-14-Press-statement-final-website.pdf

            Ctrl+F and search for “otiose” and you’ll find the quote. It’s real.

            … Though apparently, the new CEO who took over in 2015 has actually reversed the company’s course and is starting to focus on games again, and they’ve brought out a lot of stuff that their fans are actually happy about. (Which, if true, would be a HUGE change from before: GW’s reputation in the past is to see their fans as sheep to be fleeced, rather than customers to be served.) So perhaps the company is getting better. We’ll see…

            1. Its a GREAT handle! Really rolls off the tongue, you know? “Why, just the other day I was talking to g2-56799a4506744a20844ec1aba9f974c4, and she said…”

              Bwaha! [running away now!]

        2. Somehow this does not surprise me in the least – that Big Publishing doesn’t have any clue regarding what their consumers want, as opposed to what Big Publishing is shoveling out there, willy nilly.

          Perhaps some of them are trying to get a clue and a handle on the tastes of the reading public, though. The prospect of the company going bankrupt has the power to concentrate attention of management, sometimes. Alan, the founder of the state-wide author association that I belong to has sent an email out to all the members: he has an invitation to talk face to face with the highest levels at Barnes & Noble. It seems that at least some of those in the organization are aware that B&N has been missing out on a whole lot of independent and small-press activity, due to their ingrained corporate preference for only dealing with the Established Big Publishers. Alan has been doing great work over the last seven years, in working with various regional retailers and civic organizations in getting the work of indy and small-press authors available. So – we’ll see what develops from this meeting.

          1. Maybe the Big Pub executives care more about what their peers (other upper class people, who went to the “right” schools, etc) think than about what their customers think.

            That theory is promoted on Instapundit, and it sure seems to match with the behavior of many companies…

    2. #MeToo! I’m boggled, but the piece on the BBC commenting on Lionel Shriver is also something that defies belief. It’s the indefensible attacking the indefensible. You really can’t make this shit up.

  3. I was going to mention the two petitions. Ours currently has roughly 3250, the other one has around 130.

    Now, everybody knows ALL about these petitions. The Usual Suspect blogs know about it, certainly, I was sewer-wading a little last night, came across some really choice bits of socialist boilerplate. My favorite (paraphrased and not attributed because screw you Lefties) was “freedom of speech does not mean you are free to be an asshole.” To which I replied, addressing the screen, “Actually my dear, that is -exactly- what it means.” The butt-hurt is strong with this one.

    Any sort of “unacceptable by polite society” speech is the entire point of having a right to say what you think. No one is going to like it, but they do not have the power to make you shut up. That’s the point of free speech.

    So, on the down side they’d really like to force all us square pegs into the nice round holes they’ve got waiting for us. The mallet is there, primed and ready to hammer us into sweet, sweet conformity.

    On the bright side we square pegs outnumber the sons of benches 25/1. Go ahead and swing that mallet, see what happens to you, bench.

    Twenty five to one, my friends. That is a number to conjure with. Show that to a marketing guy, or a vendor, see which side of that 25/1 he picks.

    Or she, nice young ladies do have businesses too sometimes. ~:D [Going for maximum offensiveness there, how am I doing?]

    1. Well, it’s always portrayed as tapping into this huge untapped market. And you know, I’m in favor of that. Hugely in favor of that. I come from the culture of the smorgasbord after all.

      So a smorgasbord! Bounty for everyone!

      The concept lost in the current idiocy is that there ought to be bounty for *everyone*. And well, the old finite pie doesn’t work that way, nor the “vegan inclusive” salad.

      (Seriously google “vegan inclusive salad meme.”)

      1. “Well, it’s always portrayed as tapping into this huge untapped market.”

        I’ve seen that said. There’s supposed to be this whole under-served market of not-white/cis/straight/male/normals that if we only wrote for them, they’d be all happy and they would buy everything.

        Which is a lie, on a couple of levels. First, there ain’t no such market. If there was, they’d be eating up the SJW work. But that stuff does not sell.

        The other lie is that we can’t have people writing stuff for the white/cis/straight/male/normal market. You know, the -real- market where people actually buy the books.

        Because it isn’t sufficient to have minority authors writing minority stories be published and marketed to the public. They also demand that the majority authors and stories NOT be published.

        There is also the issue of minority authors wandering off the reservation and writing what THEY want instead of the approved model. They are getting yelled at louder than anybody.

        1. There is demand for such fiction, even demand among the straight white protestant conservative male audience, just not such fiction written solely to fit the bureaucratic and social ticky boxes.

          I have a time and energy budget for fiction that offends my sensibilities, or doesn’t avoid hurting my feelings. I’m not going to spend that on stuff that was written by someone who wasn’t passionate. I don’t mean the coerced passion of a struggle session, or the societal manipulation passion of ‘raising consciousness’. The passion of really wanting to tell one story over another, driven by the fun of the story, rather than literary qualities.

          Guess what kind of fiction will be selected for by a bureaucratic initiative?

        2. I’m slightly leery of accidentally implying that current non-readers aren’t potential readers.

          But lordy what “they” offer would put an alcoholic off whiskey.

          Humans really aren’t different AT ALL at the fundamental level, at the place where primal desires exist. And the ideology of the “woke” folks denies all of it. Men don’t actually look at boobs or even *like* boobs. Nor conquering things. As if only Europeans ever really liked conquering anything or will respond to “colonialism” or the classic diaspora of humanity into the galaxy in science fiction. There is no primal human need to expand and fill the earth, that’s why when the ancient Siberians got to America they all stayed in Alaska…. No wait! They filled the ENTIRE CONTINENT from the tundra to the desert to the rain forests to the cloud forests to the very tip of Argentina.

          Little children like to dream of being kings and ultimate warriors and wizards and spaceship pilots and they don’t grow out of that because someone decides that “kings” is problematic. They just *don’t read*.

          1. As if only Europeans ever really liked conquering anything or will respond to “colonialism””

            Conversation recently:

            Son: (saying something about World War 2 that I missed because I’d been mostly out of the room)

            Housemate: No, that was the first World War, that era. And it was mostly Europe, because Europeans.

            Son: ‘Because Europeans’?

            Housemate: Yep. And guess whose fault WW2 mostly was too?

            Son: …Europeans?

            My husband sees my face; I’m wincing: He’s not exactly wrong, is he?

            Housemate: In a nutshell.

            Me: … No. Unfortunately.

            (Hubby’s of British descent, Housemate is of British-Indian Greek-Macedonian-and more descent.)

                  1. Waking up and seeing a phalanx of Greek pirates quietly walking up to town what be a good enough bowel laxative for me.

            1. Seriously, I’ve been thinking about this. Humans got to Fiji and Easter-fricking-Island for the love of gawd. And the current scolds find human migration “problematic” and inappropriate for adventure fiction.

              1. I’ve always found it to be part of nature – as in, nature as a whole. Animals migrate too, and adapt to new lands. Sometimes, not because they were brought there by themselves, but they adapt, or die.

                (I’m thinking of things like quaker parrots. South American birds. They sure survived well in northern climates!)

            2. Was Woodrow Wilson European? He gets most of the blame in my book, for setting up the conditions that allowed Germany to carry such a big grudge — which then let Hitler recruit so many angry young men and turn them into fanatically loyal followers whom he used to take power.

              1. Thing is, that is missing the influence of the Holodomor.

                Absent the Soviet Union, and with Woodrow Wilson, you do get another war. It isn’t clear that it is quite as crazy without the desperation of knowing, from German relatives living in the Ukraine, what the Soviets were doing there, and hence what they would be doing in Germany once they took over. And the Bavarian Soviet Socialist Republic meant that they knew Soviet takeover was a real possibility. Other things meant they knew it was a near certainty. The ‘wherever there are Germans, that is Germany’ stuff may well have had more to do with the Holodomor than the treaty of Versailles. The German politics behind the war, and hence the grand strategy, could well have been sane. It could well have had more and saner allies than Mussolini’s Italy.

                Absent Wilson, and with the Soviet Union, you would definitely get the desperation from the Holodomor and the radicalizing destabilizing influence on German politics of the communists. The question would be how the war ended, and what restrictions were in place. What alliances are possible? Could the Germans be on better terms with the Brits? Could the Germans openly rearm, hence start the war under conventional political leadership? Perhaps everyone was more tired from the war? Maybe the Germans aren’t paying any reparations? On the other hand, maybe one of the other belligerents got screwed over, and there is a different place for particularly insane politics to fester.

                Absent Wilson, there is a possibility but not a certainty that outside intervention strangles the Soviet Union in its cradle. (I may have a bunch of notes based on this for a third faction in GURPS Infinity.)

                1. Well, IIRC France had more to do with the “stick it to Germany” than Wilson.

                  Mind you, Wilson’s Utopian Views which may have been an influence within Germany to get rid of the Kaiser may have made France’s “stick it to Germany” much worse in German public opinion.

                  IE Wilson sounded like a “friend” to the Germans who overthrow the Kaiser but Wilson let France treat Germany like shit.

                  1. Absent American intervention, which isn’t necessarily a certainty without Wilson, France may not have been in a place to dictate terms. America intervening on the German side? Who can say?

                    1. That I’ll agree with.

                      I don’t like Wilson but I dislike “putting all the blame” on him when France’s attitude was a big part of the problem.

      2. I come from the culture of the smorgasbord

        Me, too: Wisconsin.

        Me: Mom, what’s a buffit?
        Mom: It’s buffey and French for smorgasbord.

        I don’t remember if there was any background laughter, but I’d bet on it.

        1. Remembering dinners at the Danish club with Grandpa Pete and the extended family. I think I stopped using “smorgasbord” sometime after college and moving to Kulifornia.

    2. I would point out that 12-15 of those 25 are gun owners and that the 25 also count nearly all former military in their ranks. On the other side of that split the common understanding seems to be that a firearm is some sort of magic wand, wave it about and everyone yields to your will. Says so right there in popular movies and television.
      So they get to swing that mallet, once.
      Shortly thereafter I predict a severe shortage of tar, feathers, and good hemp rope.

      1. They’ve been swinging at us our whole lives, Uncle Lar. I’ve got the scars to prove it, I’m sure you do too.

        The difference is they used to play by the Rules. Free speech, the appearance of a fair hearing at least, etc.

        Now they’re doubling down on that same bet they’ve been doubling down since the 1960s. Leverage, as they say, works both ways.

        1. They never played by those. It’s just that the media didn’t report their transgressions, phantom.
          That’s why they’re going so nuts. They are only doing what they always did but it’s NOT working.

          Sarah H.

          1. Thinking about what you said, Sarah. Its true they got away with murder for a long time, because headlock on the media. Agree that it is no longer working and they’re going nuts.

            But in the vein of following the money, George Soros for example is an old geezer. He can’t wait another 20 years for the Worker’s Paradise. He needs it -now-.

            1. speaking of, he has apparently been expressing regrets over the way things have been going recently for his effforts

              1. He can EXPRESS REGRETS, but the Soros-Bot doesn’t FEEL them.
                He cannot die too quickly.

                1. I’m still holding out that Antifa does something completely stupid, gets formally declared a terrorist organization, and his assets get frozen. I can dream, can’t I?

  4. Honestly, any time I see whining about representation it makes me want to make the entire cast straight white people.

    1. Why not, if it fits the story? Just have the story be much more than just flipping the bird at people.

      1. Oh, I agree. Letting my inner contrarian drive things has gotten me in trouble before.

    2. It wouldn’t matter if you had representation or not. Dave Freer wrote a mixed-race protagonist, with his grandma one of the strongest female characters I’d seen in writing – and said grandma was Australian Aborigine – and the ‘correct thinkers’ still are all ‘he’s a racist, misogynist blah blah bigot’ because wrong politics. Didn’t matter that everything made sense in story, and it fit so perfectly well.

      1. I’m sure they’re really white, down where it counts. What’s the Australian for “Oreo cookie”?

      2. In a better world that book would’ve been a Printz honor book at least. By their own virtue signalling standards AND the objective standards of the award as originally written.

        1. Since nobody holds the idiot-signaling crowd to their own standards… that’ll never happen. Objectivity or otherwise. They’ve jettisoned objectivity for screaming, so that’s out, listen and believe in place of proof and accountability, so…

  5. There are non-white readers, etc., out there. And they are reading stuff like a book about a between-jobs black Hollywood actress with big boobs and attitude, who finds herself chasing down a hit and run murderer. (Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett.) It’s full of political incorrectness, as most popular lit for black audiences usually is.

    If gay people want to read gay romances, they want to read funny ones or exciting ones, not a pot of message. If Wiccans want to read Wiccan inspirationals, they want to read something fun or exciting also.

    Nobody really wants to read the kale on broccoli special.

    They might put it on their coffee table, or read the review and the plot summary for reference. Maybe they’ll even skim until offended, if they have that kind of more-liberal-than-thou social circle. But they probably won’t read it.

    1. Why are the non-white readers “…reading stuff like a book about a between-jobs black Hollywood actress…” when I’m reading a literal rainbow of people, or species?

      Maybe that’s the difference between fen/SFF readers and Mundanes, and why the latter actually need A Protagonist Like Them (TM) to have fun. Fine by me, as long as I can have my reading fun, as well.

      But that would explain why the normies colonizing SF and gaming have been such a disaster. And not just because of horrible bigots yelling at us savages to put our pants on.

  6. Sense 8 was canceled for just this reason. We (me [Mark] and Mike) liked it. The production values are stunning, but it is definitely a “get woke, go broke” show. Mike just watched the finale. I was reading and said I’d watch it later. When it was over, he ranted about the last couple of seconds for hours. “That! That’s how you want people to remember this show?!?!” Apparently, it is a big f-you to the non-woke. I still don’t know what it is, but I said that when I watched it, when he got up to leave the room, I’d stop watching, too, to avoid it.

  7. The sort of funny thing is that most of the anti-puppy people don’t get the idea that “identify with” doesn’t have to mean “is my race/gender.” That they don’t get that is telling.

    1. Why are the non-white readers “…reading stuff like a book about a between-jobs black Hollywood actress…” when I’m reading a literal rainbow of people, or species?

      Maybe that’s the difference between fen/SFF readers and Mundanes, and why the latter actually need A Protagonist Like Them (TM) to have fun. Fine by me, as long as I can have my reading fun, as well.

      But that would explain why the normies colonizing SF and gaming have been such a disaster. And not just because of horrible bigots yelling at us savages to put our pants on.

  8. I can’t speak to novels, but in SFF short fiction (under 50,000 words), 10% of the stories published in 2017 (810 stories, 5.5 million words) featured significant LGBT characters. That doesn’t really seem like too much to me. (We posted an article about that on Rocket Stack Rank this week.)

    I wouldn’t expect stories to precisely mirror the frequency of minorities in the general population for a couple of reasons. First, this is SFF: the frequency of alien and elves in the general population is pretty low. 🙂 Second, an author may use a variety of types just to make it easier for readers to tell the characters apart. Third, most readers aren’t looking to read about someone just like them (especially in SFF). Not all the time anyway. It’s fun to read a story that lets you go somewhere different or be someone different.

    So you’d expect to see a mix of different types of people, even if a country is 80% white, simply because readers like variety. If that’s really true, it would make sense for a publisher to nudge an author to include a few characters who aren’t straight, white, men–strictly in the name of sales. I have no idea if anyone has actually measured this though.

    Where you do get hurt feelings is when (e.g.) gay characters are only allowed in stories if the gay person is a villain who conforms to stereotypes and ends up getting killed. Or if the only black people are brutal, and the only Asian people are cruel. That was standard 50 years ago, but I don’t think it’s been a big issue since the turn of the century.

    And I did some Google searches to see if anyone has ever complained that “A Town Like Alice” didn’t have any gay characters in it, and I couldn’t find anyone who did so.

    1. is all of that ‘published in 2017’ figure is newly published? How much indie is included?

    2. Greg, you’ve read Sarah’s books, right?

      In any case, I’ll start out by saying that I mostly agree with most of your points.

      On some of that “bad old days” I’m a bit skeptical. I suppose that if someone sifted through it all they could find bunches of examples of “the gay person is the villain”, but mostly you’d have to decide that the author was “dog whistling” gay because the villain was too well dressed, or subtly effeminate, or was faking loving the woman he was trying to steal the ranch from.

      Take the “implied” gay characters written by Georgette Heyer. A couple of the “dandies” were almost certainly NOT gay. But there were characters who very probably were. The ones I can think of, neither were villains, precisely. One was self-interested but trying to protect his family’s reputation and the other was a spy for the Home Office and an assassin. (She sometimes wrote “gothic”.)

      Heck, all those old authors *were* gay, weren’t they? That seems to be common now, claiming that some famous long-dead artist was homosexual. Which makes me want to ask, “So which is it?”

      I’ll give you “foreigners as villains” but will point out that this is universal across cultures, as anyone who’s watched foreign film knows.

      But I’ve heard far too much rewriting of literary history lately which mostly seems to rely on what someone finds it convenient to claim today, (and often claims that are opposite each other.) “These people were always the villain” seems mostly useful to explain why these people must never be the villain. And that doesn’t seem like a good way to approach writing good characters, interesting, conflicted, nor awesome characters.

      1. I agree that some folks are too quick to label a character in an old book or movie as gay/lesbian. I’ll give you my favorite example: were “Oscar and Pete” in Heinlein’s “Space Cadet” a gay couple? I find I hard to believe Heinlein really intended that, but it’s easy to make the argument if you try:

        1) Oscar has taken Pete under his wing and is extremely protective of him.
        2) Pete is content to let Oscar protect him.
        3) Oscar describes himself as a “woman hater.”
        4) Pete is from Ganymede (who was Zeus’s gay love interest; okay, that’s weak) 🙂
        5) Oscar talks with a lisp.
        6) Oscar talks about having had a broader experience than the other boys due to being older and having hung out on the docks on Venus.
        7) Oscar is from Venus, and to talk to the Venusians, he has to pretend to be female.

        So is it real? Probably not. There’s certainly no way to know for sure now. But it illustrates how easy it is to talk yourself into it.

        On the other hand, when a story features two men who are inseparable, live together, are “confirmed bachelors,” don’t mind having to share a bed, etc. then it gets hard to believe that the author wasn’t trying to say something.

        But the ones where the gay guy dies almost always feature a swishy lisping queen who flirts with the protagonist. In those stories (or movies), it’s pretty clear that the audience is supposed to despise the character and be happy (or even cheer) when he dies. Those pretty much went away in the 1990s because we complained about it, and eventually studios couldn’t get name actors to agree to be in movies like that. At the time, I don’t remember anyone trying to argue that the offensive characters weren’t meant to be gay.

        1. I have a couple of characters – mostly in the Luna City series, which in my mind are gay, or perhaps only asexual. I have deliberately not made anything of it because (mostly) it’s not the most important aspect of their character. It’s a relatively minor thing, but I will not make a point of it. Because they’re my characters, I like and respect most of them – and they are private people.

        2. People did used to sleep together… share a narrow bed in a boarding house with a stranger while traveling, for example. Depending on one’s economic state and point in time, sharing a room with a friend and sharing a bed might not raise too many eyebrows at all.

          We don’t put these details in historical fiction because modern readers freak right the heck out. Sort of like marrying a cousin, which has been entirely normal for most of history.

          Using passionate language and “making love” in correspondence was also not eyebrow raising or suspicious. How do we *know* this? Because being homosexual was “very bad” and women and men didn’t try to hide these things.

          The fact that we even question mentorship anymore sort of makes me angry. No one can have deep, loyal friendships anymore. Or hold hands. Or hug. Or take a young person under their wing. Every relationship becomes sexual.

          1. Totally agree…the “progressives” have ruined so many things in the West.

            On the other hand, when my wife was growing up in China, she would walk down the streets of her city, arm in arm with her girl friend, both of them munching on spicy chicken feet….just being friends.

            1. @TonyT So what stops you from walking down the street holding hands with your best friend? Or greeting your buddies with a hug and kiss on the cheek? Straight guys all over the world do both of those things.

              Is it nasty progressives who run up and call you names? Or threaten you? No, even if they got the wrong idea, the most they’d do is smile at you.

              Or if you write a story set in a world where guys are casually intimate, do you think it’ll be progressive readers and/or editors who reject it? Nope. It’ll be folks on your own side.

              If you really want to bring back chaste male intimacy, all you have to do is start doing it and being brave enough to stand up to anyone who tries to bully you over it. Do that, and I’ll cheer you on all the way.

              Uh, give your friends fair warning first, though. 🙂

              1. Sorry, it’s the progressives who view everything through the lenses of sex/who you screw and skin color.

              2. “Is it nasty progressives who run up and call you names?”

                Certainly they’re the ones who want to accuse conservatives of being secretly gay as an insult.

          2. every relationship becomes sexual

            You have no idea how much that pisses me off. It’s like they’ve forgotten that there are people who actually think with their brains, not their genitals.

            Or that there are non-sexual forms of love.

            I’m pretty convinced that the ‘all relationships are sexual’ crowd are pro-pedophile and pro-incest.

            1. Objectively pro-sexual-predation at least. Because spreading that expectation makes people vulnerable.

        3. Greg,
          Are you twelve? Or do you think the world came to being on the day of your birth?
          Heinlein wouldn’t think of a gay couple…. Oh, for the love of Bog, man. I grant you I never talked to him, but I got to know Ginny pretty well in her final years.
          Heinlein inhabited the NY artistic scene in the late twenties. And frankly those people made the hippie communes look like a church meeting. A lot of the ideas he let himself air in later books, when the publishers were no longer being outraged at strange stuff were with him from the beginning.
          You didn’t invent sex, Greg. Nor gayness. Nor gay characters. The “establishment” you’re fighting so bravely against hasn’t existed most places since the fifties. Publishing is holding a line (I know, I had novels rejected for having gay characters) that the public frankly doesn’t give a f*ck about. They care about fun characters, gay or straight. Unless it’s erotica, where tastes tend to be more personal.
          Tell you what, Greg. Come to Liberty con. Yes, it’s sold out. Yes, they told you we are racissss sexissss homophobic, despite the fact some of our very cherished regulars are gay couples. They’re nice folk, and good to talk to.
          Come and see. Visit on Friday night or Saturday night. We can drink and talk. You’re stuffing the world full of straw, and while it might make you feel like a brave hero, it’s scaring you and embittering you too.
          No one cares Greg. Even my very religious colleagues (it will surprise you most of us to the right of Lenin might be religious, but aren’t particularly literalists. And quite a few are atheists) will say stuff like “Homosexuality is a sin, but it’s not the worst sin.”
          No. One. Cares.
          Sure in the Portugal of my childhood, gay people were played for jokes and villains. Might still be. Latin with Moorish overtones left in the culture. Also a culture under stress and first national then international socialist. Unfree systems don’t cope well with differences and odds. Part of the reason I’m here.
          In AMERICA? No one cares. Not in the 34 years I’ve been here.

          1. That PFUI?

            Reminded me of the Rex Stout mysteries – with Archie and Nero. Can’t see any way to read it other than gay. The orchids? The compulsive girl-chasing Archie? The obsession with food, prepared Just So, by his in-house cook? The disdain of women?

            Don’t care. Didn’t, then. Good stories.

            1. As far as Nero Wolfe goes, why does EVERYTHING have to be sexual? There are other things in life after all, that people find important – and often, more important.

          2. I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make about Heinlein, but it doesn’t seem you read what I wrote very carefully. Or maybe I just didn’t express myself any better than you did. 🙂

            Eric and I actually will be in Chattanooga during Liberty Con for my niece’s wedding. I grew up in Chattanooga, which is where my family has been since before the Civil War. I even own a house there. I know quite a bit about fundamentalism and how it has evolved over the past half century. I’m not so sure you do, though.

            However, if you’d like to arrange to meet to chat, we’d be delighted. Send an e-mail to my hotmail address, which is greg_hullender and we can find a way to schedule it around the wedding.

            1. Her point is, don’t expect normal run-of-the-mill fundamentalist Christians at a *libertarian science fiction convention*. Except maybe outside, 30 years ago warning everyone how D&D is a tool of the devil.

        4. hen a story features two men who are inseparable, live together, are “confirmed bachelors,” don’t mind having to share a bed,

          You just described me and my best friend from library school. We’re not lesbians. 20th century prejudices are peculiar.

  9. don’t begrudge the urban hipster gender-queer their books, their characters, who have values, interests, background and outlook which are quite different from mine

    You might give Questionable Content, the webcomic, a try. That’s pretty much the paradigm, and it’s really sweet, and often funny. But it only works for me as A.U. because it’s a society of mules.

    It’s also funny how our tribe can find characters aspirational even if they don’t check the accidental ticky boxes: sex, skin colour, nationality, or even some of the more foundational ones, like who you love, or your vocation. But they (assume they’re not lying) cannot.

    That’s… hard to understand.

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