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The future will not be the past

I want to be really clear about something. I am an atheist. I care deeply about the atheist movement. I’m also an angry anti-theist, and I want to see religion kicked off its pedestal. I’m also a scientist, and think reason and evidence and scientific thought aren’t just good ideas, but the best ideas humanity has ever had, and also the essential ideas that we need for survival and progress. I want a strong atheist movement, because that’s how these ideas will get advanced into the mainstream. We’re not going to conquer the world by scattering into a rabble of divided loners.

But there’s another aspect to expanding and broadening the atheist movement. It’s got to change. I’m a developmental and evolutionary biologist — we’re all about the continuous change. If you think growth means just taking an existing nucleus and making it bigger, keeping everything the same and just engulfing everything else into a homogeneous blob, you’re making a huge mistake. We’re in adapt-or-die mode right now and all the time. Stasis is death. Change is life. Get used to it.

So I was reading this essay about WorldCon, the science fiction convention, and it struck me that this is the same situation atheism faces. It’s the same damn thing every time and everywhere. It’s all fine to cheer the future, but you also have to embrace the changes.

Let me put it another way. The demographic shifts faced by WorldCon’s largest customer segment are the same ones faced by the Republican Party. Let that sink in for a minute. Really let it marinate. These are the same people who cheered me when I talked about Canada’s healthcare plan, and applauded Mark Van Name when he blamed rape culture for America’s ills. They want to be progressive, but they’re being blindsided by the very same demographic shifts afflicting the most conservative elements of contemporary society, for exactly the same reason: they haven’t taken the issue seriously. This is why there isn’t a Hugo for Young Adult novels. Because God forbid we reward the writers who transform young genre readers into lifelong customers at a time when even Bruce Sterling says the future will be about old people staring at the sky in puzzlement and horror.

The future? Right now. There are a lot of people within atheism staring at the new kids in puzzlement and horror. They don’t have penises, their skin isn’t pasty white, their hair isn’t graying — what weird aliens are these? What do you mean, they don’t consider the constitutional separation of church and state the only cause worth fighting for? How dare they threaten to change my movement, the movement I have contributed so much to, the movement that is supposed to cater to my needs?

I sympathize. Some of them don’t even idolize science, and they actually dare to criticize the actions taken in the name of science. Don’t they realize the movement must be entirely about science?

Oh, wait. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe there are other non-scientific goals that are also worth pursuing, and that doesn’t mean we have to abandon science — I can still be an advocate for it myself — but it does mean I don’t get to remake everyone into a clone of me.

I will not sniff indignantly at that. If I want to promote my personal goals within atheism, that’s fine — but I will be most effective at that if I fit them within a complex and diverse framework, rather than trying to reshape every other individual within this movement into my likeness.

And that’s how I win. Not by demanding homogeneity, but by plugging into a growing environment with broader scope, by letting my ideas piggy-back on a dynamic and evolving and successful system — a movement that appeals to more and more people. I am a gene, I proliferate best by fitting well within a genome.

The atheist movement is that genome. We make it grow by making it flexible and powerful and diverse. That essay on WorldCon illustrates the alternatives.

The last time I was at Anime North, a bunch of kids in cosplay brought out an amp, plugged it in, and started to jam in the parking lot. In another lot, more kids put together their own kaiju battle, doing slo-mo fights to J-rock and -rap. It was great. I was with a bunch of very happy people who didn’t give a fuck about jetpacks. Worldcon may be about the future, but it doesn’t have the future. Remember, Worldcon organizers all over the world: memento mori. And what will be left will be either a dwindling crowd of increasingly conservative elements, or a thriving community of people who are actively engaged in using network culture to bring about a better, more enjoyable world.

I don’t want to be a part of a “dwindling crowd of increasingly conservative elements”! That sounds awful. I’m not a fan of J-rock, either, but I don’t have to be — all I have to do is make room for it (or whatever the atheist equivalent is) and respect the people who enjoy it. No problem. And they have to make room for me, old white guy, or you, young black woman, or you, middle-aged Asian dude, or you, enthusiastic little kid with the toy rocket, or you, teenaged goth girl, or you, whoever you may be. And the more inclusive we are, the more we grow.

And if you can’t grasp that, if you think you need a sub-group to serve you and want to kick novelty to the curb, then you are the old deadwood holding back the movement, and you need to be sloughed away.

Comments

  1. frankb says

    We see this throughout the SciFi world. The old guard were running the conventions like Icon, Demicon, Convergence, Minicon, Arcon, and Marscon. But our children and their friends are getting involved. Anime Iowa is huge and we need to attract all those young people into SciFi.

  2. whheydt says

    I can’t speak to WorldCon, which is run by a different committee each year, but the regional gaming convention that I’m involved with has been seeing demographic shifts for years, and I’m all for it.

    I was just counting the women on the committee and corporation from memory. Five of 13 corp. members are women, and seven of the committee (of less than 20) are women, and two of those are our youngest committee members, one graduated from college just this year. (Our two oldest committee members are over 70, for comparison, and one of those is a woman. We have a pretty broad range, though I’ll agree that it’s weighted to high end.)

    As I run ConReg, I see the shift on a continuing basis. We get more minorities (though not as many as I’d like to see at the con) and more women (bear in mind, this is a table top gaming con…a traditionally male–*young* male, at that–domain) every year, and I’m happy to see that.

    While we are generally dependent for program items to what people submit to us, the con activities (particularly games) changes over time, especially as fads for particular games come and go. We still make occasional jokes about the year that Magic: The Gathering took over the con, and while that has faded to a lower level of activity, we still schedule it.

    I suppose what it comes down to is this… If you want more of what you think is important to take place at cons, submit program items for that aspect yourself. Basically, turn your ideas into program entries by doing it yourself. If cons don’t get program submissions, they won’t–because they by and large can’t–schedule those topics and activities.

    If that doesn’t work for you, then get going, form a committee, line up a venue and guests of honor and make a bid to run WorldCon (or your regional SF Con) yourself. Then*you* get to pick the program.

  3. David Wilford says

    About the YA Hugo proposal, I’m not convinced it would work given that those members of Worldcon who are eligible to vote on it aren’t young adults. I think you’d have to have a process more like the Newbery or Caldecott awards, and I don’t think that would really work in the context of the current Hugo process.

  4. whheydt says

    Correction to my previous post…I miscounted. It’s 6 women (of 13 total) in the corporation, and 8 on the committee.

  5. Blondin says

    I’d give you a standing ovation for that speech if I wasn’t sitting at my computer, PZ.

    VIVA LA DISPARITY!

  6. says

    @David Wilford. I think that’s pessimistic. The Nebula Awards (administered by the members of the SFWA) have the “Andre Norton Award For Young Adult Science Fiction And Fantasy Book”. The members of the SFWA are hardly going to be young adults, yet they have managed to thoughtfully consider the future of SF and acted appropriately.

  7. David Wilford says

    @Lou Doench, SFWA is a professional organization of science fiction and fantasy writers and ordinary fans of SF&F aren’t involved in their award process. The Hugo awards on the other hand are a popular vote and a different animal.

  8. robertschenck says

    Does that mean, for example, including muslim feminists as speakers at revived Atheism-con, or as leaders within an intersectional atheism/secularist movement? I’m just thinking about comments I’ve read here and there from muslim feminists who sometimes actively reject secularism, because from their viewpoint, the secular orgs do nothing for them, while the religious ones can be progressive and aid feminism.

  9. says

    Twenty years ago I remember watching the Cincinnati area RPG and wargaming communities implode as the old guard calcified and the new blood scattered to the winds. It was a combination of conservative “get off my lawn” grouchiness at the new wave of gamers who were less interested in old school D&D dungeon crawls or WWII micro-armor, as well as a failure on the part of those in charge of organizations to admit younger folks into the leadership structure. Eventually there simply weren’t enough warm bodies to keep Tri-State Con or Wrath of Con going. A big part of that was the failure of the old guard to adapt to changes in our environment and their similar failure to pass on their expertise to the next generation.

  10. hillaryrettig says

    I credit early exposure to science fiction with helping me embrace the idea of change, but reading your excellent post, PZ, it now occurs to me that reading sf as an outsider (woman) is a fundamentally different experience than reading it as one of the in-group (white male).

    As an outsider you have to question what your role is or will be, or even invent a role if you don’t like the one Heinlein, say, postulates for you.

    As an insider you just get to sit back and enjoy a vision of the future where you and your needs remain primary.

    Maybe this partially explains the many “rational” atheists who so vehemently and irrationally defend their privilege.

  11. says

    David Wilford @9:

    Young adult means suitable for younger readers. It does not mean unsuitable for older readers. Plenty of readers who are legally adults read YA, in part because it does, on average, a much better job of being inclusive. Adults wouldn’t be advocating for the category to be included if they didn’t want to vote in it. They’re demanding change because they see books they love overlooked by an old guard that mistakes an inclusive description for an exclusive one. “Me? Read YA? Never!”

  12. says

    davidwilford, I agree. There are difficulties associated with making changes, and it would take some reorganization and rethinking to effect change. I don’t mean to downplay that at all — it’s often hard to change.

    But it’s the difference between

    1. “It’s hard, we can’t change.”

    and

    2. “It’s hard, we’re going to have to work hard to change.”

    Don’t be #1, is what I’m saying. Be #2.

  13. David Wilford says

    Stephanie Zvan @14:

    Some older readers do read YA, and a few of them do vote for the Hugos. But what distinguishes a novel eligible for a YA award from a novel eligible for a Best Novel? Take Ursula LeGuin’s YA series Powers, Voices, and Gifts. How do you decide if they’re fish or fowl to older SF readers? A YA award to my mind needs to be based on how young readers like it, not older readers. I don’t how you could have a YA Hugo that would really be one given the current Hugo process.

  14. says

    Oddly enough, I was talking to some friends this week about WorldCon: it is coming to Spokane in 2015, and a lot of the people who put on various conventions in Washington State will be involved in its planning and running.

    Apparently, despite technically being a different committee every year, there remains a small core of people who are ALWAYS involved and who ALWAYS get their way on how WorldCon operates. Innovation is frowned upon and major changes are actively discouraged because We Have Always Done It This Way. The result is that, yes, the convention is largely the same every year. My own experience is that this is an endemic attitude, where people stop planning and start trying to recreate the rose-colored glories of past cons. I am starting to realize that atheist conventions are no different.

    Gardening is a lot of work, but if we want to feed people, we need to prune, weed, till and plant seeds. It won’t do us any good to rely on a single aging apple tree that is dying for lack basic maintenance, but that seems to be what a lot of people want.

  15. says

    @PZ Myers #15 – Or as I’ve always heard it put: be the change you want. No matter how difficult it may be, things aren’t going to get better until you start working to make things better.

  16. says

    @ Dave Willford

    I’m not convinced it would work given that those members of Worldcon who are eligible to vote on it aren’t young adults.

    Bullshit! You seems to be dismissing “Young Adult” as “not worth my time to read.” Maybe you should venture outside your comfort zone and read some? You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.

    Besides, the years I voted on the Hugos, I made it a point to read and watch every single entry. That is also the case with everyone I know who votes there. (Anecdotal, but indicative.)

    While I do consider some parts of the Hugo Award process to be quite hidebound, the assumption that it won’t work because adults never, ever read YA works and so could not possibly have an opinion on it, is just silly.

  17. Randomfactor says

    So very much yes.

    BTW, I attended WorldCon 1984 across from Disneyland. You young whippersnappers have no respect for tradition.

  18. says

    David Wilford: you’re digging in your heels. The question is, how do you broaden the range of appeal of the Hugos to encompass a growing YA market? Do you refuse to acknowledge it and keep doing the same thing, do you just throw YA books in the same category as other novel, do you create a new category, do you ask YA authors and readers what they’d like to do? I’m saying the only bad choice is the first one, the refusal to recognize a changing environment and adapt to it.

    I don’t know the answer. I’m not even trying to make a specific point about a genre of science fiction. I’m trying to get across a broader concern: welcoming change.

  19. says

    It seems to me if there is to be an atheist movement it has to be going somewhere. What kind of future do people want? I’d like one different than the current status quo.

    If there’s no goal beyond being a social club it runs the risk of becoming a fossil, with the Old Guard expending their energies keeping the ‘wrong sort of people’ out. Defending one’s turf or privileges isn’t a way forward – it’s merely reactionary.

    The comparison to the current Republican Party in the US is apt: their ‘future’ is all about a return to an imaginary Golden Age.

    The real world is diverse, and being able to adapt to the real world will be the test of many such organizations. A willingness to embrace that reality is a much-needed quality.

  20. says

    David Wilford @ 16:

    Oh, well, if you don’t know how to do it, it obviously can’t be done. Because right now, everyone votes in every category after having read everything in that category and being fans of all the categories indiscriminately.

    Also, older adults are not some separate species from young adults. They were once young adults themselves.

  21. David Wilford says

    Gwynnd, for me it’s about whether or not a YA Hugo would be a YA for Adults or a YA for children. IMO, we really don’t need two Hugo Awards for Best Novel.

  22. says

    Also, any organization that can add an award for best podcast can manage to figure out how to add another award for a neglected genre of their central medium, if they want to figure out how.

  23. says

    The conservative elements seem to break down into two groups. The first group (Jamy Ian Swiss type people) fights against what they perceive to be forced expansion. Their answer is, “that’s something else — it doesn’t belong in the skeptic/atheist/whatever movement”. The second group (Stephen Novella type people) doesn’t seem to perceive that they’re being usurped or forced into anything. Their answer is, “that’s fine, there’s room for all sorts of stuff, but here’s where I want to keep my particular focus”.

    I don’t feel like this second group needs to be “sloughed away”. They’re never going to be pushing social justice issues directly, but they’re also not going to be working against them by saying and doing misogynistic or racist things. And they can sometimes be indirectly helpful. If, for example, someone’s focus is science-based medicine, there’s room for talking about things like socioeconomic disparity in treatments and things like that.

  24. David Wilford says

    Stephanie Zvan @ 23:

    My question to you is this: what is the award for and is the process for selecting it going to produce the desired result? That’s why I mentioned the Newbury and Caldecott awards in my initial post on the subject.

  25. says

    David Wilford @27:

    You’re asking me what the award is intended to do–after you say it can’t be done? Why are the people arguing for the award saying they want it? If you don’t know what they want, why are you arguing that there’s no way they can get it? (I know what my personal answer would be, but I’m not a WorldCon member.)

    Really, that’s almost as silly as asking me to predict whether a process that hasn’t been developed yet will succeed. Not only is the question meaningless, but it assumes that once the process is put in place, it can’t be tweaked to fix any problems.

  26. says

    Asher Kay: I have no problem with your second group either. I’d love to be in an atheist movement that let me focus on evolutionary biology…but I can’t while regressive elements insist that part of our audience are second class citizens. Not everyone has to be active in social justice, or science, or medicine — it’s fine that we have diverse interests, except when you’ve got a subset howling that Subject X is Forbidden or Divisive or Mission Creep or Feminist.

  27. David Wilford says

    Stephanie Zvan @29:

    So what’s your personal answer with respect to a YA Hugo award? You don’t have to be a Worldcon member to have one.

  28. says

    David Wilford @31:

    Nuh-uh. I asked you questions. Answer those, then maybe we can have a friendly chat. Otherwise, I just see you deflecting from questions you don’t want to answer.

  29. David Wilford says

    PZ, all I’m saying is that I’m not sure the Hugo awards as they’re currently constituted can do a fair job of giving an award for YA fiction. I’d rather not give an award at all than give a half-assed one.

  30. David Wilford says

    Stephanie Zvan, a YA Hugo would be for best YA fiction. My point is whether a general readership of adults can fairly decide what YA work is best for young adults. That’s my personal take on the subject. I’m not expecting you to have to review what those who have opposed creating such an award before you can tell me what your own personal take on the subject is.

  31. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @PZ:

    This is my favorite post of yours in quite some time. Well done.

  32. says

    David Wilford @37:

    My comment 29 starts with three questions. As the comment is addressed to you, I did, in fact, ask them of you. You then followed up on the parenthetical statement that followed the questions. You may now answer them instead.

  33. David Wilford says

    Stephanie Zvan @ 38:

    First question: the YA award is presumably given to the best YA work of the given year. I don’t think a general adult readership is going to be the best pool to draw on for determining what work is best for young adults. What I think you’ll get is the YA work that adults liked best.

    Second question: the supporter of such an award want to honor the best YA work.

    Third question: I’ve already said why I think there’s a problem with it, given how the Hugo voting process currently works.

  34. says

    Thanks, chigau, but meh. He seemed like a decent demonstration of why and how change is obstructed, but if you feel it’s off-topic here, there’s no point in continuing with him. I’ll just end this here instead.

  35. David Wilford says

    chigau @ 39, I disagree. PZ’s made an explicit reference to what Stephanie Zvan and I are discussing in his post, and has even discussed it himself in the comments.

  36. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    WRT Hugos for YA books specifically, I have heard an argument that the creation of such a category would be to ghettoize YA further – it would be a dismissive headpat of the “yes, very nice, now go away the grownups are talking” variety. Instead, the groups who make this argument suggest eliminating altogether the “best book” category and replacing it with two: “best YA” and “best non-YA,” with equivalent prizes and swagger. Basically, cast YA and non-YA as equivalently valuable aspects of F/SF literature, rather than imply that YA is a “lesser” form.

    I’m not entirely sold on this argument, but I must admit that it has some merit.

  37. anuran says

    In other words, you’ve adopted exactly the ideas that you poo-poohed and dismissed a couple weeks ago “Mere Atheism”, working on what unites rather than what divides us and acknowledging that lack of belief in gods doesn’t have to come from being a professional scientist.

    Glad to see you’ve come around. It wasn’t that hard, was it?

  38. says

    I don’t how you could have a YA Hugo that would really be one given the current Hugo process.

    Do you think it is a problem with the current Hugo process or the current Hugo voters?

    Because I don’t see how the first could possibly be a problem, whereas the introduction of the category is exactly intended to change the second.

  39. chigau (カオス) says

    David Wilford #42
    A mention is not quite the same as two commenters playing ‘did not – did too’.

  40. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    A commenter over on the article that PZ linked to points out that even if young people are asked to vote for the YA Hugo, the nominations would still be made by older people, and said older people are likely to nominate YA-with-crossover-appeal. So the nomination process would also need tweaking.

  41. David Wilford says

    aaronpound @ 46:

    I think it’s a problem given the current Hugo process. I think you’d end up with very adult-appealing works winning YA Hugo awards, because the process is one where adult members of Worldcon vote on the Hugos.

  42. says

    YA is a publishing category, not a set in stone different kind of beast from fantasy or sci-fi. Why precisely would it be so impossible to have a Hugo category for books published in that category? Do you think we actual middle aged people can’t or don’t read YA?

    Here’s a hint – an indie bookstore owner once told me that she thought some of the best fiction writing today was being done in YA because the themes had to be mature, while the vocabulary and sentence structure had to be at a 9th to 10th grade reading level. It is a whole lot harder to write to that reading level than to write at a “college” level (apart from technical vocabulary, which is not actually a requirement for most fiction). The Economist, favorite news magazine of highly educated wonks everywhere, is written at a 6th to 7th grade reading level.

    Nice job, though, insisting that middle aged people have forgotten how to read straightforward narrative prose.

  43. pHred says

    Actually you do realize that the Newberry had trouble for *years* over the fact that most kids, in fact, have been hating the Newberry award wining books. For that matter so have lots of adults
    http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2008/dec/19/newbery-medal-children-elitism though I am sure you can find others. Librarians were taking polls on this issue – it was a big deal.

    Having a popularly voted young adult book actually seems like an excellent idea and a wonderful way of potentially encouraging young adults to read. I really don’t buy the argument that a Hugo style award would end up choosing worse books then the panels of experts were.

    Amazingly – lots of the people I know read the books that their kids are reading and listen to their children’s options on the book. As long as the result is not to create a YA corner, this could be excellent.

  44. ceesays says

    like the hugo awards are anything but a populist vote anyway

    and suddenly that’s terrible because the book involved is YA? come on. I read YA. The best YA book I read this year is Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, and I’m old enough that I could read it to my theoretical grandkids. It’s fantastic. I’m hoping that it’s a series. I cannot wait to get back into that world.

    every year there’s a hugo vote for films like Harry Potter, as if J.K. Rowling were going to come fetch herself a spaceship, so why resist best speculative YA novel?

  45. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Middle-aged people can – and do – read YA, but the point is that YA is for young people. And the teenage-and-younger set may well look for a different set of attributes in their literature – which means that a book that is YA but has crossover appeal can be very different from a YA book that does not have that crossover appeal. That has very little to do with the quality of the writing – but everything to do with how it is constructed, the plot, the characters, etc.

    There are some truly great YA works that I loved to pieces as a kid. But I now can’t read them – not because they’re bad or poorly written, but because I’m not 14 any more. I am not mentally, emotionally, or psychologically a teenager, so things written for someone of that state in mind do not necessarily reach me. They can – many do – and when they do that is amazing. But if something made for young people should be judged by its own audience.

  46. David Wilford says

    @ 51:

    I’m old enough to remember when most SF wasn’t written to a high-school level, and to be sure a lot of it was pretty good, like the Heinlein juveniles. Adults can and do read plenty of straightforward narrative prose too, but let’s be aware to that mature adults bring a different set of experiences to what they read than a young adult does.

  47. David Wilford says

    pHred @ 52:

    Juried awards have their own set of issues if the jury itself has problems. At least the librarians gave them some feedback about their choices.

    Perhaps the best thing to do is worry less about awards and more about helping kids read. It’s not as if they really care about awards all that much.

  48. khms says

    @hillaryrettig:

    it now occurs to me that reading sf as an outsider (woman) is a fundamentally different experience than reading it as one of the in-group (white male).

    As an outsider you have to question what your role is or will be, or even invent a role if you don’t like the one Heinlein, say, postulates for you.

    As an insider you just get to sit back and enjoy a vision of the future where you and your needs remain primary.

    It seems to me it’s more complicated than that. By your first characterization, I sound like in-group (white male). On the other hand, by your second characterization, I suddenly sound like out-group – while Heinlein can certainly be plenty thought-provoking, I’ll claim that he’s shit for just picking a role model.

    Of course, I never went to a SF con the same as I never went to an atheism con, or even (in both cases) had a membership in any organized group. I’m not much of a joiner.

    There’s a saying that there are two kinds of people: those who claim there are two kinds of people, and the others.

    And let me just get on record that I’m fine with diversity, so long as people don’t keep their mind so open their brain falls out – which, of course, is a diagnosis different people apply quite differently. For me, that would include stuff like homeopathy or young creationism or reptile aliens under the Denver airport, to name a few. Stuff where I think minimal diligence should be enough to convince people that that is garbage. (Well, I might tolerate those in a fantasy story, so long as it’s clear it’s not just the author’s personal beliefs.)

  49. Becca Stareyes says

    I thought some of the push to award a YA Hugo was to get young adults attending Worldcons which would have let them nominate and vote in the Hugos. So once the award got going, there would be the target reader input in ‘what are awesome YA books being published’*, though it wouldn’t be exclusive — on the other hand, the YA readers probably read more books in the category than the average Hugo nominator.

    * Other problems being discussed include that while a Worldcon membership is a doable expense for many adults, it’s not so cheap for teens and college students (among others). OTOH, it was noted that there already is a con discount for those under 18, so a ‘teen/student membership’ would be a lot easier to pass muster than for any other group with low amounts of disposable income.

  50. pHred says

    David Wilford @56

    Perhaps the best thing to do is worry less about awards and more about helping kids read. It’s not as if they really care about awards all that much.

    I agree with this – but the thing about the awards is that it increases the exposure of the book – It gets ordered for the school or public library. More teachers will assign the book to students. That kind of thing. There are documented increases in sales.

    I think if the mechanics can be worked out, there is niche here that could be filled. It would not have the same market impact as a Newbery but still would have a chance at making these books more accessible, which is what I am interested in.

  51. says

    … and I have no idea how I got ‘Norman Kordon’ from ‘Gordon Korman’. Rare example of typed spoonerism? Um… what?

    (/Stares at fingers suspiciously…)

  52. smhll says

    Jumping back to the original topic.

    I think being able to respond constructively to criticism and to change is very adaptive. I understand the pull of conservative forces and thinking “hey, things are great the way they are”, but I believe adapting and evolving will develop something better.

    Thanks for making me think!

  53. F [is for failure to emerge] says

    Hi Dave

    I don’t how you could have a YA Hugo that would really be one given the current Hugo process.

    The idea is that the process would change given whatever example. Or, an addition is made.

  54. Scr... Archivist says

    PZ, this is a good post. I especially appreciate your description of why social change is easier to bring about with a movement than without one.

    I do have a question, though. It seems that a lot of the atheists and skeptics who are currently against change are not really all that old. And some of the most vociferous FTB commenters defending egalitarianism seem to me to be Boomers, and thus over 52.

    Are you sure that age is one of the factors at play?

    I’m thinking that a better lens might be some people’s sense of entitlement. Maybe some young and relatively-young people believe that they are heirs to a legacy. And this sense of entitlement causes them to see new people, and especially new kinds of people, as outsiders threatening their inheritance. Some of this expectation might come from unexamined recognition that they look like the founders, and the outsiders don’t, so it would be simply weird to see “the wrong kind of people” running things.

    Meanwhile, many of the outsiders coming into atheism and skepticism might be motivated to keep it open to people like themselves, that is, other outsiders and neophytes. For them, bringing in new people to share the legacy reinforces it, makes the (lack of) belief more socially-accepted across society, and broadens the talent pool for leadership in our organizations.

    The latter are expanding the legacy of those who came before, but are seen by some as diluting or despoiling the inheritance of those waiting to take over from the dying generation that just happens to look much like their wannabe heirs.

    If I’m right, I also wonder what this will mean as established organizations are passed on to new generations. Will the bickering heirs tear them apart, like bitter, spoiled siblings?

    I’m just brainstorming, though.

  55. pHred says

    Thanks for the links – I am supposed to be writing a homework assignment right now, so I will check them out in my copious spare time.

  56. says

    Stephanie Zvan:

    “Me? Read YA? Never!”

    Gaah, such an attitude. They are seriously missing out, and have no idea. The day you can’t lose yourself in a book and just have fun, well, that’s a bad damn day. I’m 55, and still immersed in Rick Riordan’s halfblood series. I loved the latest book and I’m looking forward to the next one. My bookshelves are liberally sprinkled with YA fiction and nonfiction, and I don’t have sprogs or grandsprogs.

  57. says

    David Wilford:

    Perhaps the best thing to do is worry less about awards and more about helping kids read. It’s not as if they really care about awards all that much.

    Actually, a lot of kids do care about awards. When I was growing up, kids avidly followed the Newbery Medal books, and that medal also means libraries will get those books, and they help to get more kids involved in reading.

    Also, awards lend a specific credence and legitimacy to kids. It informs them that yes, they are important, that what they think is important, and what they read is important. It also lets YA authors know that what they do matters.

    Throughout this thread, you’ve been playing the grumpy person shaking their fist on the lawn. It might help to open your own mind first, and think of the possibilities inherent in change, rather than assigning them to the ‘pointless dream’ category.

  58. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    It’s not entirely on topic, but the Lounge is at the moment in the middle of some serious talk that I don’t want to disturb with silly questions… so:
    Is The Mortal Instruments series any good? They’re YA fantasy with a movie currently out. I haven’t seen it, and would rather just read the books if they are interesting.

  59. hillaryrettig says

    @moarscienceplz

    Thanks for asking! It’s not so much about sf that speaks to me as a woman so much as sf that doesn’t deprecate women and their needs and experiences. Given that the culture itself is still so sexist, that’s a tall order. Also, I’m not really up to speed on contemporary sf, so while I think those authors are out there I couldn’t really name many.

    However my current favorite author is Joan Slonczewski. She is extraordinary both in her writing and also her politics. A Door Into Ocean depicts the conflict between a patriarchal, capitalist, warmongering society and an anarchic, nonviolent, feminist one, and has everything in it (Nebula and Campbell Award winner).

    I feel this blog should give her more play, esp. as she is a biology professor (Kenyon) who also actively speaks out against creationism.

  60. hillaryrettig says

    @khms 57 Sure I was oversimplifying. Many early sf authors, for example, were Jewish, which in the 1940s and 1950s was a somewhat marginalized group. And the sf community and technical people in general were pretty marginalized groups.

  61. says

    @PZ #30

    except when you’ve got a subset howling that Subject X is Forbidden or Divisive or Mission Creep or Feminist

    Yes. We were talking a while back on another blog (maybe Stephanie’s) about how this distinction is not stressed often enough. People have their own areas of focus that suit their interests, temperaments and abilities, and that’s great. But *everyone* has a responsibility to address the issues within the community itself.

  62. says

    I completely agree with Esteleth’s point about the Newbury medal winners lately. i’ve read about 3/4 of the total medal and honor Newbury books since the prize’s beginnings, and the jury seems to be on a massive “deal with really serious big hairy-scary topics, and not in a fun way” kick for the last 15 years. I’m 50 and have read plenty of serious downer literature and I’ve found some of the Newbury books tough going (these tend to be the books I’ve never once heard a kid say anything good about, strangely enough). On the other hand, a book like The Graveyard Book (Gaiman) or A Single Shard (Park) can excite kids about things like exploring old cemeteries or galleries of case after case of medieval Korean celadon pottery, which is an incredible and quirky delight.

    And again, reading level and thematic complexity are totally separate things. Maybe having a voting system in which votes by voters under 25 were weighted would help fix the problem of some themes not resonating with older readers…

  63. says

    Beatrice:

    Is The Mortal Instruments series any good?

    I haven’t picked them up because the reviews have been wildly uneven, and there’s been a *lot* of comparison to the whole Twilight mess, which killed any potential interest. I can recommend Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, wholeheartedly. Those are great fun.

  64. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Thanks for the agreement, but the one who brought up the Newbury’s was totally pHred…

    Some of the Newbury stuff – as well as other children’s literature prizes/hoopla-in-general – seems to be adults going on about what young’uns should like. Not “my studies of child psychology indicate that children are likely to find XYZ appealing,” but “harumph those kids don’t know what’s best for them and I do.” I don’t see it being much different from adults in yesteryear going on about “improving” books – books you read because you learn an Important Lesson™and not because you find it enjoyable.

  65. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    I was a wee sprog – twelve – when the first Harry Potter book landed. Being as I was right in the key age demographic, I picked them up (IIRC, I got Vol. 1 as a Christmas gift in ’97) and promptly devoured them. In fact, I read Vol. 4 in an afternoon, much to the consternation of my parents (and fury: I was supposed to be packing for a trip).

    I remember adults being very concerned before ’97 about how children weren’t interested in reading and how literacy rates in the under-ten cohort were supposedly falling for the first time in like ever.

    And then Harry Potter appeared and I had a huge blowup fight with my sister (aged nine in ’97) over which one of us got to read each book first (this fight was only solved when my parents agreed to bend their “one copy of each book in the house, you can share” rule).

    And I also remember parents being concerned about the books – both religious parents being worried about the books’ content (ZOMG WITCHCRAFT SATANIC!!!!) and parents in general voicing worry about violence and dark themes (which makes the “dark and edgy” recent Newbury stuff seem very odd, KWIM?).

    But I do remember hearing my mother argue with a woman at church (the type of person who thinks that what other people are doing is her business). This woman demanded if my parents had read them. My mother said she had, and didn’t have a problem with them. This woman then said something that still shocks me as a comment about a children’s novel:

    But…don’t you think they’re rather juvenile?

    Snobbery is what a lot of it is.

  66. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Wait, hold up. I just had a lightbulb.

    The “dark and edgy” Newbury trend started about fifteen years ago or so, right? Around 1998, 1999?

    How much of it is adults looking at the over-the-top popularity of Harry Potter and concluding that what it was the children who were reading it so voraciously were loving was the darkness?

  67. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Ms Daisy Cutter,

    Well then.
    I see a trend there, with a second fanfic writer making some serious profit from other people’s work.
    If anything, I might download her original plagiarization then. It won’t make her any money, and I have to admit to being a bit curious since I read HP fanfics. (But haven’t even heard of this one, strangely, since it’s apparently (in)famous)

    Thanks for the recommendations, Caine.

  68. says

    Esteleth:

    I was a wee sprog – twelve – when the first Harry Potter book landed.

    Geez, you whippersnapper. I was 40 in ’98, when the first book appeared in the U.S. I hadn’t intended to read it, or any of the subsequent books, but the absolute froth various xians were in over the books grabbed my interest, so…

    I have all the books, which I loved, and all the movies, most of which I liked.

  69. David Wilford says

    Caine @ 70:

    Back when I was a kid it wasn’t the Newbery winners I read, it was books like these:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jl-incrowd/3038455469/in/set-72157601903080963

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jl-incrowd/2246327391/in/set-72157601903080963

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jl-incrowd/2455318490/in/set-72157601903080963

    Thanks to the Scholastic Book Club for all the fond memories.

    I’m not against giving props and awards to YA SF at all, BTW. I don’t think the current Hugo awards are a good way to do that.

  70. says

    Esteleth:

    How much of it is adults looking at the over-the-top popularity of Harry Potter and concluding that what it was the children who were reading it so voraciously were loving was the darkness?

    You know, that’s so stupid it’s probably right. It’s what too many adults would conclude. I never saw the Potter series as overarching dark, more as a metaphor for all the shit in reality that we all get to deal with as we grow up, along with the need to take responsibility, even those times when we so don’t want to do so.

    Adults really shouldn’t have any problems grokking that. There’s nothing wrong with happy, fun books or adventures for the YA crowd, but just because some of them choose to deal with the fact that yes, bad shit can and will happen, shouldn’t be over-interpreted or over analysed.

  71. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Caine:

    Geez, you whippersnapper.

    Remember the Reagan presidency?

    I was born the day (literally, I was born on Inauguration Day) the second half began. I remember dimly the Clinton election, but that’s because my class at school had a faux election. I remember that the ballot said “Billy Clinton.”

  72. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    What strikes me about the Harry Potter series is that – for all its imperfections (and I suppose it says something about me that the things that bug me the most was how JK Rowling doesn’t know how genetics works) it doesn’t talk down to the kids. The series can be read by eight year olds and eighty-year-olds and each will get something out of it – but while some things will whizz over the heads of kids, it isn’t patronizing.

  73. says

    Esteleth:

    it isn’t patronizing.

    No, it isn’t. The characters have agency, which I so appreciate, because I get very upset when I read books in which kids don’t have the agency they should. I think this is where a lot of adults end up seriously fucking up when reviewing books, or considering awards, etc.

    I’d much rather see award panels dealing with YA books populated with at least half of the panel composed of actual young peoples themselves.

  74. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    That’s one of the things that Gaiman did well in The Graveyard Book. Bod (and the girl, whose name I’m forgetting) are preteens and talk like preteens. Granted, Bod’s vocabulary is a bit outdated, but then his adult role models all died before 1930 or so (his parents are Victorians, IIRC). But his way of expressing himself, his thought processes, all say “preteen” to me.

    Many times, I read a story that features a child and I’m stuck saying, “My, what a mature nine-year-old” or whatnot. Sometimes it is a plausible level of maturity – but all-too-frequently it is not.

  75. ksen says

    COMBAT ACCOMODATIONISM

    We stand for active ideological struggle because it is the weapon for ensuring unity within Pharyngula and the secular organizations in the interest of our fight. Every Atheist and secularist should take up this weapon.

    But accomodationism rejects ideological struggle and stands for unprincipled peace, thus giving rise to a decadent, Philistine attitude and bringing about rational degeneration in certain units and individuals in Pharyngula and the secular organizations.

    Accomodationism manifests itself in various ways.

    To let things slide for the sake of peace and friendship when a person has clearly gone wrong, and refrain from principled argument because he is an old acquaintance, a fellow townsman, a schoolmate, a close friend, a loved one, an old colleague or old subordinate. Or to touch on the matter lightly instead of going into it thoroughly, so as to keep on good terms. The result is that both the organization and the individual are harmed. This is one type of accomodationism.

    To indulge in irresponsible criticism in private instead of actively putting forward one’s suggestions to the organization. To say nothing to people to their faces but to gossip behind their backs, or to say nothing at a meeting but to gossip afterwards. To show no regard at all for the principles of collective life but to follow one’s own inclination. This is a second type.

    To let things drift if they do not affect one personally; to say as little as possible while knowing perfectly well what is wrong, to be worldly wise and play safe and seek only to avoid blame. This is a third type.

    Not to obey orders but to give pride of place to one’s own opinions. To demand special consideration from the organization but to reject its discipline. This is a fourth type.

    To indulge in personal attacks, pick quarrels, vent personal spite or seek revenge instead of entering into an argument and struggling against incorrect views for the sake of unity or progress or getting the work done properly. This is a fifth type.

    To hear incorrect views without rebutting them and even to hear superstitious remarks without reporting them, but instead to take them calmly as if nothing had happened. This is a sixth type.

    To be among the masses and fail to conduct propaganda and agitation or speak at meetings or conduct investigations and inquiries among them, and instead to be indifferent to them and show no concern for their well-being, forgetting that one is an Atheist and behaving as if one were an ordinary believer. This is a seventh type.

    To see someone diminishing the rationality of the masses and yet not feel indignant, or dissuade or stop him or reason with him, but to allow him to continue. This is an eighth type.

    To work half-heartedly without a definite plan or direction; to work perfunctorily and muddle along–”So long as one remains a monk, one goes on tolling the bell.” This is a ninth type.

    To regard oneself as having rendered great service to Reason, to pride oneself on being a veteran, to disdain minor assignments while being quite unequal to major tasks, to be slipshod in work and slack in study. This is a tenth type.

    To be aware of one’s own mistakes and yet make no attempt to correct them, taking an accomodating attitude towards oneself. This is an eleventh type.

    We could name more. But these eleven are the principal types.

    They are all manifestations of accomodationism.

    Accomodationism is extremely harmful in a secular collective. It is a corrosive which eats away unity, undermines cohesion, causes apathy and creates dissension. It robs the secular ranks of compact organization and strict discipline, prevents policies from being carried through and alienates secular organizations from the masses which Pharyngula leads. It is an extremely bad tendency.

    Accomodationism stems from ingrained religious privilege, it places interpersonal interests first and the interests of Reason second, and this gives rise to ideological, political and organizational accomodationism.

    People who are accomodationists look upon the principles of methodological materialism as abstract dogma. They approve of methodological materialism, but are not prepared to practice it or to practice it in full; they are not prepared to replace their accomodationism by methodological materialism. These people have their methodological materialism, but they have their accomodationism as well–they talk methodological materialism but practice accomodationism; they apply methodological materialism to others but accomodationism to themselves. They keep both kinds of goods in stock and find a use for each. This is how the minds of certain people work.

    Accomodationism is a manifestation of opportunism and conflicts fundamentally with methodological materialism. It is negative and objectively has the effect of helping theism; that is why theists welcome its preservation in our midst. Such being its nature, there should be no place for it in the ranks of secularism.

    We must use methodological materialism, which is positive in spirit, to overcome accomodationism, which is negative. An Atheist should have largeness of mind and he should be staunch and active, looking upon the interests of Reason as his very life and subordinating his personal interests to those of Reason; always and everywhere he should adhere to principle and wage a tireless struggle against all incorrect ideas and actions, so as to consolidate the collective life of Pharyngula and strengthen the ties between Pharyngula and the masses; he should be more concerned about Pharyngula and the masses than about any private person, and more concerned about others than about himself. Only thus can he be considered an Atheist.

    All loyal, honest, active and upright Atheists must unite to oppose the accomdationist tendencies shown by certain people among us, and set them on the right path. This is one of the tasks on our ideological front.

  76. cicely says

    Wait, hold up. I just had a lightbulb.
     
    The “dark and edgy” Newbury trend started about fifteen years ago or so, right? Around 1998, 1999?
     
    How much of it is adults looking at the over-the-top popularity of Harry Potter and concluding that what it was the children who were reading it so voraciously were loving was the darkness?

    Possibly also affected by the [TV Tropes Warning!]Dark Age of Comic Books?
    -

    Geez, you whippersnapper. I was 40 in ’98, when the first book appeared in the U.S. I hadn’t intended to read it, or any of the subsequent books, but the absolute froth various xians were in over the books grabbed my interest, so…

    Me, too!
    :)
    -

    Remember the Reagan presidency?

    I do. Like having crystal-clear memories of a nightmare.
    I was aghast when I started seeing “Reagan Republican” tee shirts on young people in their teens and twenties, a couple of election cycles ago.
    -

  77. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Um.
    ksen’s masterpiece up there is Combat Liberalism (link) with accomodationism as liberalism, Pharyngula as The Party, methodological materialism playing Marxism and so on.

    So… Harry Potter. I read all the books, yeah.

  78. says

    Monitor Note: Ksen, this is not the appropriate place for your comment. There are two open threads on Pharyngula, which would be the place to do this. I suggest Thunderdome. Please do not post this again in threads which are discussing a specific subject. Please take any subsequent discussion of Ksen’s post to Thunderdome. Thank you.

  79. says

    Yes, David, I’m aware of Heinlein’s juvies. I still am grossed out by the idea of naming a YA award after him.

    Esteleth:

    Not “my studies of child psychology indicate that children are likely to find XYZ appealing,” but “harumph those kids don’t know what’s best for them and I do.” I don’t see it being much different from adults in yesteryear going on about “improving” books – books you read because you learn an Important Lesson™and not because you find it enjoyable.

    To me, they bear a rather ironic resemblance to the lit-fic snobs who dismiss all “genre fiction” as lightweight.

    Beatrice: It’s one of those situations that’s infamous in Some Corners Of The Web, but if you don’t frequent them you might never have heard of it.

    ksen: How cute, you can do a search and replace!

  80. says

    Yes, David, I’m aware of Heinlein’s juvies. I still am grossed out by the idea of naming a YA award after him.

    Esteleth:

    Not “my studies of child psychology indicate that children are likely to find XYZ appealing,” but “harumph those kids don’t know what’s best for them and I do.” I don’t see it being much different from adults in yesteryear going on about “improving” books – books you read because you learn an Important Lesson™and not because you find it enjoyable.

    To me, they bear a rather ironic resemblance to the lit-fic snobs who dismiss all “genre fiction” as lightweight.

    Beatrice: It’s one of those situations that’s infamous in Some Corners Of The Web, but if you don’t frequent them you might never have heard of it.

    ksen: Awww, you’ve mastered search and replace! **headpat**

  81. chigau (カオス) says

    oooh
    We’re meant to fight accommodationism.
    I thought it was a particularly belligerent kind of accommodationism.

  82. says

    Daisy:

    I just posted twice, and both my comments seem to have vanished into the ether.

    Shit. Did you have links in them? 5 links per post is the limit, but sometimes certain links trigger the spam trap and they disappear into the spam or moderation filter. Sometimes, using tinyurl will help get a link through.

    If you can’t get them to post again, holler, and I’ll ask PZ to see if he can fish them out.

  83. says

    Hi, Caine – no, actually, there were no links at all in this one. Let me try it again:

    Yes, David, I’m aware of Heinlein’s juvies. I still am grossed out by the idea of naming a YA award after him.

    Esteleth:

    Not “my studies of child psychology indicate that children are likely to find XYZ appealing,” but “harumph those kids don’t know what’s best for them and I do.” I don’t see it being much different from adults in yesteryear going on about “improving” books – books you read because you learn an Important Lesson™and not because you find it enjoyable.

    To me, they bear a rather ironic resemblance to the lit-fic snobs who dismiss all “genre fiction” as lightweight.

    Beatrice: It’s one of those situations that’s infamous in Some Corners Of The Web, but if you don’t frequent them you might never have heard of it.

  84. says

    Daisy:

    Hi, Caine – nope, no links in this one. I just tried posting it again and got nowhere. Also no words I could possibly think of that might trigger a spam trap.

    Yeah, none of us know the mysteries to the spam trap words. I’ll send a flair up, see if they can be recovered.

  85. says

    Ksen:

    @Caine, Do you want me to repost the whole thing over there?

    If you want your post to be seen and discussed, yes. I have requested that PZ move it, but that could take ages, so go ahead and do it, if you like.

  86. says

    cicely@96

    Possibly also affected by theDark Age of Comic Books?

    I think that they’re all part of a greater zeitgiest. ‘Darker and Edgier was very, very in throughout the mid to late 90s and over into the new millenium.

  87. Vicki says

    Also, there is already a Robert A. Heinlein Award, for works that inspire human space exploration (their wording). The field already has two awards named for John Campbell.

    Also, the SFWA (the writers’ group that gives the Nebula) gives an Andre Norton Award for YA or middle grade science fiction or fantasy.

    The field is not short of awards, though there are certainly plenty of good sf and fantasy writers who haven’t had awards named for them, even if we limit the pool of potential honorees to dead writers (though the Arthur Clarke Award was established in Clarke’s lifetime).

  88. says

    I do not have an easy tool for moving a comment from one thread to another, so don’t ask.

    I just popped a few comments from spam queue purgatory, don’t ask me why akismet does this random things, either.

  89. says

    SallyStrange:

    Set in a steam-punk-ish distant future (post-apocalyptic, but waaay post) where cities are mobile and “municipal Darwinism” rules the day.

    That sounds all manner of fun, I’ll check them out. Thank you.

  90. says

    Oh, right. All…the power. I forgot. Yes, I have that. ALL THE POWER.

    Which is why I kill myself teaching all day at a small college in the middle of the prairie.

  91. says

    PZ:

    Oh, right. All…the power. I forgot. Yes, I have that. ALL THE POWER.

    Which is why I kill myself teaching all day at a small college in the middle of the prairie.

    You do make this worshipping you as a god business difficult. Sounds like a long, tough day.

  92. says

    I look forward to hearing your reaction, Caine! Especially as the Predator Cities series involves a heroine who is morally ambiguous and not conventionally attractive, yet is involved in a love story whose arc crosses all four books. :)

  93. says

    SallyStrange:

    I look forward to hearing your reaction, Caine! Especially as the Predator Cities series involves a heroine who is morally ambiguous and not conventionally attractive, yet is involved in a love story whose arc crosses all four books. :)

    That makes it all the more awesome. I get so tired of the standard romance tropes, and in particular, the oh-so-good lookin’ tropes. Fuck, they are tiresome. Most people don’t end up being stone gorgeous, and most people at least have moments of moral ambiguity, too.

  94. says

    David #49

    I think it’s a problem given the current Hugo process. I think you’d end up with very adult-appealing works winning YA Hugo awards, because the process is one where adult members of Worldcon vote on the Hugos.

    I think you are confused. Your problem is not with the process, but rather with the voters. Right now the voters skew older, because that’s who attend the Worldcon. The idea behind including a category for YA works is that the Worldcon would be relevant for younger fans, and they would be more likely to attend. The idea behind a YA Hugo award is, in part, to change the demographics of the Worldcon attendees.

    Of course, other things would have to change as well, like maybe not having twelve panels on Robert E. Howard and instead spreading the time and space used for those panels around some topics that the majority of people younger than 40 might take some serious interest in.

  95. says

    aaronpound:

    Of course, other things would have to change as well, like maybe not having twelve panels on Robert E. Howard and instead spreading the time and space used for those panels around some topics that the majority of people younger than 40 might take some serious interest in.

    So agreed. It’s difficult as it is to try and find more diversity, especially in the sci fi / fantasy genres, let alone the YA genres.

  96. ksen says

    OpposableThumbs:

    So, ksen, what do you feel about typing while high?

    Why are you making fun of my glaucoma?

  97. opposablethumbs says

    Apologies, Caine, I posted my earlier comment without refreshing. The T-dome would certainly be a better place for this.

  98. pHred says

    It must have been a killer Friday in academia. I got out of my last class feeling like I had been run over by a steamroller. I haven’t been able to catch up on everying yet.

    The darkness thing inYA and children’s literature goes back before Harry Potter got really big. A friend of mine was working in the public library system and she had too kids in school. We often ended up reading what her sons were reading for school and noticed this trend where it felt like any book considered “literature” had to have deaths in it. It when from losing Old Yeller to losing best friends, neighbors and family for no clear purpose other then exploring mature themes – as if kids need arbitrary book induced pain. Lots of the books being assigned were awful things to read. And they wondered why reading rates were dropping. Duh.
    BTW thanks for the link to “the dog always gets it” I would thank you by name and comment number but I am doing this on a iPhone with my daughter sleeping on my arm. I can’t scroll in this position. Apologies.

    Thanks too for suggestions. I love reading childrens books when I am stressed. So I end up reading lots of them. We love Danny Dragonbreath books they are really light and short but wonderfully funny with great art. The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a ship of her own making was quite good too. I have Larklight and will probably read it next. I would type more but I am finding this a bit of a nightmare on my phone.

  99. pHred says

    Sorry if that came out as gibberish. I won’t try to comment anymore until there is blood circulating in my arms again.

  100. says

    pHred, you’re fine, phones are a pain in the arse to use when posting.

    I’ve started Mortal Engines, and I am enjoying it. The concept of predator cities is an intriguing one, all though my first impulse is “holy fuck, that’s awful!”.

  101. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I would type more but I am finding this a bit of a nightmare on my phone.

    Posting from my iPad isn’t quick and easy either. Much prefer a real keyboard.

  102. pHred says

    By this point in the day I can’t seem to stop touching the wrong thing on a touch screen. One of the rooms I am teaching in this semester has a”Smart Board” which I have discovered will mess up if my sleeve or hair brushes against it. I miss chalkboards :(

    I think I will get Mortal Engines too. It sounds interesting.

  103. says

    Caine – it is awful – it’s a deliberate send-up of social Darwinism. That’s my impression, anyway. It’s not supposed to be wonderful. Cool, yes, but troubling.

    Non-spoilery background for folks: at some point in the past in the Predator Cities universe, someone had the bright idea of putting cities on wheels, at the time it was to escape raiders and such. Then, they had the idea of adding jaws–literal jaws with which the cities would scoop other cities into their guts, where the houses and infrastructure would be broken down and the raw materials recycled, the inhabitants captured, enslaved, or killed.

    We often ended up reading what her sons were reading for school and noticed this trend where it felt like any book considered “literature” had to have deaths in it. It when from losing Old Yeller to losing best friends, neighbors and family for no clear purpose other then exploring mature themes – as if kids need arbitrary book induced pain. Lots of the books being assigned were awful things to read. And they wondered why reading rates were dropping. Duh.

    Indeed. Did I really NEED to read one depressing John Steinbeck novel EVERY YEAR from 9th through 12th grade?

  104. RFW says

    The problem of aging memberships in avocational groups is pervasive, no matter what the subject of the groups. I’ve seen a number of local (Victoria, BC) garden clubs slowly wither away because the old farts were quite satisfied with one another’s company and failed to notice that the group as a whole was aging just as fast as the membership.

    There comes a point where this process cannot be reversed: what young person wants to get involved with a bunch of tottery old gray hairs? Once this happens, it’s downhill the rest of the way.

    There’s also the issue that what interested earlier generations doesn’t interest today’s younger crowd in the least. Whether it’s growing gigantic disbud chrysanthemums or reading SF from around 1960, today’s up and coming folks find both a deadly bore.

    You can’t cure this problem, but if you belong to a club that may be in the early stages, insist that the membership person report every year what the average age of the membership is, complete with graph so the trend is obvious even to the thickest.

    Defintions: “young” – under fifty; “old fart” – over 65. “geezer” – over 70.

  105. says

    SallyStrange:

    Caine – it is awful – it’s a deliberate send-up of social Darwinism.

    Oh yes, that’s clear as a bell. It is troubling, however, it does hold true to the reality of humans – we can become thoroughly accustomed to the most awful things, and not bat an eyelash. It’s quite easy to see the value of a mobile city in the midst of upheavals like earthquakes, glaciers and all that, and it’s as easy to see people deciding to corrupt that value. I am liking the characters Hester Shaw, Anna Fang and Tom Natsworthy.

  106. cicely says

    Dalillama:

    I think that they’re all part of a greater zeitgiest. ‘Darker and Edgier was very, very in throughout the mid to late 90s and over into the new millenium.

    I think you’re right, though I think the dark-and-gritty atmosphere of Batman in ’89 and (on TV) The Flash in ’90 should be included.
    And anti-heroes became very popular.
    -

  107. kreativekaos says

    I’m also a scientist, and think reason and evidence and scientific thought aren’t just good ideas, but the best ideas humanity has ever had, and also the essential ideas that we need for survival and progress.–PZ Myers

    Agree,..but don’t leave out art, music, literature, (the humanities in general)–they’re the other half of the human equation.

  108. Nick Gotts says

    David Wilford@126
    Some LeGuin I haven’t read or even heard of! Thanks.

    I haven’t read Mortal Engines either, but the idea of mobile cities isn’t new – I wonder if anything is derived from James Blish’s Cities in Flight series, in which cities roam the galaxy rather than the earth. I’ve just seen a copy with a critical introduction in a second-hand bookshop, and am hesitating about whether to buy it – the series is interesting but badly flawed, and I’m trying to reduce the amount of printed paper I own! Kim Stanley Robinson also has a moving city – on Mercury – in his recent 2312.

  109. says

    Nick:

    I haven’t read Mortal Engines either, but the idea of mobile cities isn’t new

    No, it isn’t new, but that isn’t the focus of Mortal Engines, it’s predator cities and Municipal Darwinism. I just finished it. Hell of a read, I’m getting the second book now. Also, he has two new books in the series.

  110. tbtabby says

    This reminds me of why I don’t count myself among the “hardcore’ video gaming crowd. They seem far more interested in complaining about the new blood, telling them that they have no taste in games, that they don’t REALLY appreciate quality because they didn’t grow up playing 8-bit games, and that they’re only interested in it because it’s a fad and will soon grow bored with it and move on to the next fad, thus killing the video game industry. You have to have a severe lack of self-awareness to think that: every gamer was a newbie once, after all, and the industry needs to attract new customers because development costs are rising and the core base is shrinking. If they got what they wanted, the industry would crash harder as companies who can’t afford to make big-budget games for a tiny niche audience start folding. But these self-proclaimed “core gamers” don’t seem to care much about that, only about equating everything new and different with societal decay and claiming they’re “looking past the hype.” If that’s what being a core gamer is all about, then I wear the moniker of “casual gamer” with pride.

  111. pHred says

    In my day you had to carve your own dice out of ivory you wrestled from a bear and use an abacus to work out your next move and when we gamed you had to go up hill, both ways!

    Yep, I never liked that either – video games, board games, RPGs

    Man – I only made it though 4 chapters before I sacked out.

  112. says

    Speaking of the Predator Cities books, I am seriously annoyed that the character of Shrike had his name changed to Grike in the U.S. books. FFS, I wish publishers would get hit with the cluestick already. Trying to convert everything into stupid Amlish is unnecessary, and no, it’s not a crime for readers to figure out that there’s a whole world out there, most of which doesn’t speak the same language as you do.

  113. kittehserf says

    Caine @150 – outstanding example I recall in this genre being Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone. Sorceror’s Stone? Really? You’re that ignorant/insular/incapable of looking things up or think all your readers are, USian publishers? My eyes rolled so hard they nearly fell out.

  114. says

    Kittehserf @ 151, oh, I know. I rolled my eyes so hard over that my spine almost popped out. Seriously? The Philosopher’s Stone was just too much? Aaauuggh. You tend to come across information unfamiliar to you in books. That would be one of the reasons people read them.

  115. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Kittehserf, Caine,

    Agreeing with you on the ridiculousness of “translating” from BE into AE, but you reminded me of something else. F&SF books can also be really hard to translate into other languages. Just imagine how much readers of Discworld books translated into pretty much any language lose. They may not know it, but I doubt even an incredibly skilled translator would manage to save every joke and nuance.

  116. says

    Beatrice, yes, I’ve thought about that. There are a number of books I’ve wished that I could read in the original language, because no matter how good the translation is, you know you’re losing something, somewhere. One of those books is Suskind’s Das Parfum. I can speak and read a little German, but not enough to handle a whole book, and back in the day, when I was reading Perfume, as electrifying as it was, I couldn’t help thinking that there was a great deal I was missing because I couldn’t read the original.

  117. Sparky Lurkdragon says

    tbtabby @ 148 – Agreed. Gamers in general have a lot of cleanup to do in the fandom, and newbie-bashing is one of the really absurd bits. Or even looking down noses at oldbies who aren’t, perhaps, as skilled. Someone shouldn’t have to be the best player ever to be welcomed. I think that’s where a lot of the vitriol against tool-assisted speedruns comes from, too.

    I love my obnoxiously hard challenge games. I also love strategy guides. Not to mention savestates, when used as logical checkpoints that certain older games didn’t believe in (Alisia Dragoon, I love you, but your last level is way too long). Or sometimes just to save frustration when I’m playing for an audience.