Yikes, another blowup in the SF community


Oh boy, the bad boys are at it again. There was an online forum at Baen Books where, as such things happen, there was a wide-ranging and diverse discussion, which is usually a good thing…except that if the management of the forum is slack, it tends to slide into shabbier and shabbier conversation, and soon enough, it’s overwhelmed with shitposters. Honestly, have we learned nothing in the past couple of decades? If you don’t have rules, if you don’t have active management of the discussion, you inevitably end up with 4chan. And no one wants another 4chan.

A writer, Jason Sanford, blew the whistle on the shenanigans going on there. Remember, this is a site run by a professional publishing house; you’d expect some minimal level of decorum. Instead, they got this:

Baen’s Bar has also become well-known in the genre community as a place where racism, sexism, homophobia and general fascism continually pop up. For example, a Baen’s Bar user from India was nicknamed “The Swarthy Menace” on the forum by author Tom Kratman. People on the forum thought that was the height of clever humor.

Racist comments and innuendos frequently appear in many forum discussions. In a thread last year titled “Soft Civil War & Trump’s Army,” user Captrandy wrote that political conflicts in the USA could be solved if “all the angry and non angry white males should stop going to work for a month or so.” In another political thread, user Pugmak wrote “Simple competence has been declared white supremacy. Knowing how to do your job and expecting others to do likewise is now white supremacy and workplace oppression.”

And that’s just the beginning. Baen Books publishes a number of conservative writers, who have conservative fans, who were all fired up about the events on 6 January and started posting calls to political violence. They were the usual idiots, the usual gun-fondling fantasy warriors.

Returning to discussions on the pending second American Civil War, which appears to a favorite topic on the Bar, user Peke wrote on January 8, 2021, that “I can see a smallish force with good skills at explosive handling, bringing a large city to its knees just through a few well-placed booms at some of the points I mentioned.”

Fortunately, that topic caught the attention of moderators. That’s sarcasm on my part because a few posts after Peke’s comment a moderator named James S Cochrane responded to the pending civil war thread by saying “You aren’t seeing a lot of public commentary because all communications are insecure. But most of the former SpecOps people I know have gone quiet. People who trained for twenty years to lead insurgencies or put rounds on target at a mile plus. The Left has also driven off a lot of cops who couldn’t stomach their behavior, most major cities are seriously understaffed at this point.”

That’s right, it’s a moderated discussion board, but the moderators are also playing with their weaponry with one hand, while typing with the other.

The fallout from this unregulated keyboard militia running amok is that Toni Weisskopf, publisher at Baen Books, and nominal grown-up in charge of the circus, has had her Guest of Honor invitation to Worldcon retracted, and the forum has been shut down, at least temporarily. Sanford is getting harassed with death threats. The usual suspects — the various flavors of puppies — are outraged.

It seems to me that a reasonable action has been taken against irresponsible speech, though. It’s entirely fair to refuse to honor someone who is supposed to be in charge who has not been doing her duty, and has allowed a public space to turn into a cesspit. I haven’t seen any sensible defenses of the behavior that was allowed to flourish on Baen’s forum. I tried; here’s an author named Eric Flint who pointed out (probably correctly) that it was only a few bad actors who were saying the stupid stuff.

This is the “great menace of Baen’s Bar” that Sanford yaps about. A handful of people—okay, two handfuls, tops—most of whom you have never heard of, who spout absolute twaddle. Yes, a fair amount of it is violent-sounding twaddle, but the violence is of a masturbatory nature.

Then he goes on to say that Baen Books publishes stuff by some liberal, left wing authors. Again, I believe him. But no one has been claiming anything different. The problem is that you’ve got this double handful of people posting violent masturbatory twaddle, as he admits, and no one was doing anything about it. It’s a moderated board! Why not kick out the violently masturbating twaddlers and make the whole experience more pleasant and productive for everyone else? That’s the objection, that such garbage was allowed to fester, and whoever was supposed to be running the show wasn’t running the show. The argument that it was a tiny minority of troublemakers is irrelevant if the troublemakers were given free rein.

Imagine a bakery that is shut down by a health inspector who finds rats frolicking in the kitchen. Mr Flint is like the dedicated customer who argues that he really liked their croissants, they used the best ingredients, and there weren’t that many rat droppings in his food. Only a handful, OK, maybe two handfuls of rat turds in his flaky, buttery, delicious croissant, so why are you closing his favorite bakery and fining the owner? I’m not only going to question his reasoning, but his taste, when I suggest that maybe they’d be even better without all the rat poop.

Comments

  1. blf says

    Since a proper French croissant is around 50% butter by weight (not a joke!), two handfuls of rat turds would probably comprise the rest of the ingredients. Basically, this dedicated customer is eating laminated rat droppings. However, as he is presumably in the States, there may be significantly less butter is his so-called croissants, perhaps only 15% (according to some sites), which is not a croissant. It may not even be edible, which would fit in with the rat turds…

  2. kestrel says

    This is such a good point. I used to follow and post on This Other Forum, except that there were these two guys… As soon as I saw those two had posted on the thread I knew it was useless. As soon as they started it was all going to be “you’re a poopy head!” “no YOU’RE a poopy head!” all the way down. I was reading that forum to attempt to educate myself as well as partake in a community. It was hopeless. And as I gained further distance from the forum I realized I had always been deeply bothered by the rampant misogyny, which was a sort of underlying issue.

    Yes, we need rules. There are always going to be people who want to break the rules, but as long as they are strictly enforced, people who would be otherwise silent will feel OK about putting out their own point of view. This allows more people to participate. Not just the Noisy Few.

  3. says

    Same thing happened with the talk.origins newsgroup: a couple of loud, persistent idiots fire a volley, and then the whole group is consumed with fire and smoke and noise, and the idiots always emerge unscathed.

  4. microraptor says

    As someone who was bothered by the far-right violent masturbatory nature of some of Baen’s authors back when I was a conservative, I don’t find this surprising. Any forum dedicated to a a company that publishes stuff like John Ringo is naturally going to attract a lot of people who like the misogynistic, anti-Muslim, anti-government rhetoric such authors regularly sling around.

  5. gijoel says

    “You aren’t seeing a lot of public commentary because all communications are insecure. But most of the former SpecOps people I know have gone quiet. People who trained for twenty years to lead insurgencies or put rounds on target at a mile plus. The Left has also driven off a lot of cops who couldn’t stomach their behavior, most major cities are seriously understaffed at this point.

    Yeah, sure. Trump’s gonna send a tweet about the Great Storm any month now. None of these idiots understand what a civil war is.None of them think that they’ll get cut down by an unseen sniper, or killed via mortar round. None of these fat fucks think about how hungry they’ll get because the stores aren’t open, no one is delivering food to the supermarket anymore, or even growing food. None of these fuckers understand war. Talk to a Somali, or someone from Bosnia-Herzegovina, they’ll tell you what war is like.

  6. blf says

    gijoel@7, Claps! Spot on! Well said.

    I’d add that not only might they be shot, bombed, step on a mine, starve, die of infection, disease, thirst, starvation, lost of blood, or numerous other nasty or un-necessary causes, so might members of their families, their loved ones, and their friends.

  7. mcgruffalo says

    There’s a hundred people at the party, and only one of them is urinating on the buffet. Sure, the vast majority know how to behave in public, but there’s still piss on the sandwiches.

  8. blf says

    @9, That reminds me of a claim (not sure if its ever been reliably confirmed) that Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu once showed up at a state(?) dinner, drunk, tasted(? looked at?) the fresh oysters on the half shell — which, at the time, would very probably be very rare in Romania — declared they needed seasoning, and proceeding to urinate on them. (Whilst searching for confirmation, I discovered several sources claim he then raped a waitress; or that it was his son, Nicusor, who urinated and/or raped.)

  9. says

    Sadly, I know a fair number of the denizens at Baen’s Bar. Some of them have been clients.

    Their attitude is not uncommon among those who’ve never had to make targeting decisions on incomplete information, in accordance with the laws of war… and still have a conscience. It seems so much easier when those picky rules can just be neglected in favor of All That Is Right and Righteous. Leaving aside problematic heroes of The Movement (and that story is just about as surprising as finding gambling in Rick’s Casino, the one out back of Café Americaine… which, ironically, is only a couple of European-colonial “states” over), the fundamental problem is righteousness more than anything else. That should sound disturbingly familiar, going back to Usenet forums in the 1990s…

    I’m specifically not criticizing any particular authors, official people at Baen, or fans who post at Baen’s Bar as, umm, ignorant gits. (And neither confirming nor denying that any of my clients would fall into that group.) I’m only saying that plenty of ignorant gits are there. And for you ignorant gits: You don’t get to extol your patriotism and righteousness until you’ve had to put on a full service dress uniform and deliver a death notification on Christmas Day. Until then, you’re just pretentious poseurs and wannabes, dressing up with your costumes and toy guns.

    PS I have no blood on my hands. I was a commanding officer — I wore gloves.

  10. PaulBC says

    The last time I was friends with a lot of science fiction fans was in the 1980s, and I thought it was because of the relatively conservative state university we attended that so many of them were Pournelle-Niven fans and Heinlein worshippers with delusions of using violence to establish a libertarian utopia. I thought science fiction was more always more leftwing and had drifted yet further left. Certainly, I’d think so reading Iain M. Banks (or Octavia Butler, though I have to admit I have not read much Butler).

    Are you you saying there are still a lot of these assholes out there? I give up. Occasionally, I think it would be fun to hang out with fans again and even go to a con. But probably not.

  11. John Morales says

    PaulBC:

    I thought science fiction was more always more leftwing and had drifted yet further left.

    You have this idea that things can be characterised simply as either left-wing or its converse.

    Here’s an example of a better categorisation:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pournelle_chart

    BTW, I’m a science-fiction fan; that does not entail I am a joiner of fandom groups. When people talk about the X community, they typically mean those people who gather together under the umbrella of X, which is a subset of people who like or subscribe to X. The joiners.

  12. OptimalCynic says

    Eric Flint is a Union Uber Alles stalwart, the sort who defends union members to the hilt no matter what they’ve done. It’s no surprise that this attitude comes over to the people in his writing tribe too.

  13. says

    @14 Here’s some more reading for you:

    https://libcom.org/library/starship-stormtroopers-michael-moorcock

    “Starship Troopers (serialised in Astounding as was most of Heinlein’s fiction until the early sixties) was probably Heinlein’s last ‘straight’ sf serial for Campbell before he began his ‘serious’ books such as Farnham’s Freehold and Stranger in a Strange Land — taking the simplified characters of genre fiction and producing some of the most ludicrously unlikely people ever to appear in print. In Starship Troopers we find a slightly rebellious cadet gradually learning that wars are inevitable, that the army is always right, that his duty is to obey the rules and protect the human race against the alien menace. It is pure debased Ford out of Kipling and it set the pattern for Heinlein’s more ambitious paternalistic, xenophobic (but equally sentimental) stories which became for me steadily more hilarious until I realised with some surprise that people were taking them as seriously as they had taken, say, Atlas Shrugged a generation before — in hundreds of thousands!”

  14. chrislawson says

    PaulBC–

    There has always been a huge right-wing rump to science fiction. But the idea that it has become more left-wing in any meaningful sense is a fabrication by the Sad Puppies completely in keeping with the sort of ahistorical bullshit that makes them MAGA fans, too (remember back when America was Great?). Mary Shelley was an Enlightenment radical and HG Wells was a Fabian socialist — and their politics were critical ingredients of their work — so leftist science fiction goes all the way back to its earliest proponents.

  15. PaulBC says

    John Morale@15

    You have this idea that things can be characterised simply as either left-wing or its converse.

    Uh, not really. But the term makes a convenient shorthand. I realize we all contain multitudes.

    Also, I don’t think Jerry Pournelle’s D&D-style characterization really clears things up much. (I realize he came up with it before the Chaotic/Lawful, Good/Evil spectrum, but that makes it no less silly.)

  16. says

    There is so little uniformity to speculative fiction fandom that it’s really difficult to do other than snort with amusement at calling it “right wing,” “left wing,” or any other type of aspires-to-monoculture. It’s far more diverse than the Democratic Party. In 1968, when the Dixiecrat segregationists were still “honored members.”

    There’s even a long tradition of left-wing military science fiction, admittedly not from Baen. Commercially, The Forever War (serialized in Analog, then published in book form) is the earliest example most fans could point to, but it goes back to Wells and Verne and even earlier if one looks. It’s far from extinct, either.

  17. says

    PaulBC:

    Pournelle didn’t come up with that. He just took credit for imported work done in the 1920s in languages other than English.

  18. chrislawson says

    @17–

    Thanks for linking to that. I read it many years ago and it’s nice to be reminded of how well Moorcock pierced the politics of sf. My only quibble is he keeps lumping Asimov (who was definitely a bourgeoise reactionary) amongst the xenophobes and anti-Semites (which he definitely wasn’t). But that aside, it’s a great piece.

  19. PaulBC says

    Jaws@20 I am thinking less of the politics of the authors than of the people I knew who read them, which tended to be a lot less subtle and rather easy to characterize. I can see them fitting into this Baen discussion quite well.

    Actually, I started out liking Arthur C. Clarke… because uh, space and technology and a little mysticism thrown in. I later got a lot more interested in Philip K. Dick, which brought me back to my real roots anyway, before I started reading much, watching reruns of the Outer Limits and Twilight Zone. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin is also a big favorite of mine for this reason. I like her other works as well, but for different reasons.

    But I did read works like Ringworld, and the Mote in God’s Eye when I had more conservative friends. The ideas were cool, but it was always wrapped up in this heavily masculinized militaristic worldview. Some like Footfall were just military tales. What crap. I don’t read a lot of science fiction these days. I have read and liked Greg Egan. I met Rudy Rucker a couple of times and find his worldview fun, but his novels usually don’t do as much for me. Iain M. Banks is probably the best example of really cool far future with politics that don’t make me sick.

    Actually another author I just never really got at all was William Gibson. I don’t understand why he’s so great. He spends more time describing people’s zippers than advancing the story.

  20. PaulBC says

    Susan Montgomery@17 I read The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress a couple of years ago, having heard many references to it over the years. OMG, what a terrible work of sockpuppetry. I wanted to read about catapulting rocks at the earth from the moon, and instead was treated to a godawful libertarian treatise written in an extremely unlikely pidjin English. It wasn’t even entertaining. I think some Heinlein fans who weren’t in it for the militarism were in it for the group marriage ideas, but Heinlein also manages to make “polyamory” utterly repugnant. (I read Stranger in a Strange Land much longer ago and that was OK, but not brilliant. I still gag a little when people say “grok” as they often do in the tech world.)

  21. John Morales says

    Heinlein-bashing, heh.

    Paul: “Heinlein always considered himself a libertarian; in a letter to Judith Merril in 1967 (never sent) he said, “As for libertarian, I’ve been one all my life, a radical one. You might use the term ‘philosophical anarchist’ or ‘autarchist’ about me, but ‘libertarian’ is easier to define and fits well enough.”” (Wikipedia)

    Pournelle-bashing, too.

    Jaws, it was part of his Ph.D. dissertation, it’s got his name.

    Well, it’s appropriate, given the topic.

  22. PaulBC says

    John Morales@25 Libertarian to be sure, but did he ever consider himself a good writer? I pushed my way through The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress because I’m sure I had it on somebody’s good word at some point that “the ideas are interesting.” It is not an experience I intend to repeat. I mean, there are guilty pleasures (and that includes some Niven/Pournelle) but this was just crap. A decent writer might have made an entertaining story out of the premise and also conveyed the libertarianism. Actually, I found Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy a lot more engaging from a political standpoint (not to say realistic). I will grant that he wrote it decades later when the overall standards of writing were a lot higher.

    I would have to retry Stranger in a Strange Land to see if I at least find that entertaining, but I am pretty sure I have better uses for my time (though one might wonder given how much I spend posting here).

  23. PaulBC says

    Actually, even Ayn Rand qualifies as a guilty pleasure. I found The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged entertainment taken purely as potboilers. But is TMIAHM actually fun to read for anyone? I found it excrutiating.

  24. John Morales says

    I would have to retry Stranger in a Strange Land to see if I at least find that entertaining

    Because I like you, Paul, I suggest you do yourself a favour, and don’t.

    Instead, you may care to delectate on this thorough (and accurate) hit-piece:
    Modern Classics Summarized: Stranger In A Strange Land.

    And, since you asked “But is TMIAHM actually fun to read for anyone? I found it excrutiating.”, I tell you that I did (age of 14) and was thrilled and impressed, and recommended it to my friends. The line-marriage stuff was just local colour to me, it was the story and the ideas and the spirit I appreciated.

  25. lucifersbike says

    gijoel@7. QFT If I hadn’t had parents and in-laws who lived through the last World War (on opposite sides), I could always ask the Somali family next door, their Syrian friend or the Bosnians round the corner, and my son’s partner’s family (from Croatia), what they think about insurrection, civil wars, wars between nations, and nationalistic gun wankers.
    I’m relieved that I have never had to share their experiences, but glad I seem to have sufficient imagination and empathy to realise that war is an absolute evil.

  26. says

    John Morales @25:

    The work I’m referring to is three and four decades older than Pournelle’s dissertation. In short, he didn’t originate it, which is all I was saying.

  27. KG says

    John Morales@15,

    Pournelle’s chart is absurd, as one might expect. The epitome of a “classical anarchist” would be Petr Kropotkin, a distinguished natural scientist who wrote works (e.g. The Conquest of Bread, Fields, Factories and Workshops) dealing explicitly with the rational organization of a stateless society, while Max Stirnir (yes, I have read his very silly book, admittedly in translation) could not consistently admit to the existence of any standard of rationality by which his own acts could be judged, and had not the slightest interest in social progress.

  28. KG says

    you might use the term ‘philosophical anarchist’ – John Morales@21 quoting Heinlein on himself

    I’ve found it to be an invariable rule that anyone who describes themself as a “philosophical anarchist” is a pompous, self-obsessed, right-wing arsehole.

  29. John Morales says

    KG:

    I’ve found it to be an invariable rule that anyone who describes themself as a “philosophical anarchist” is a pompous, self-obsessed, right-wing arsehole.

    What’s your sample size? :)

    (Also: Kropotkin was, in any reasonable light, a “philosophical anarchist”, though I don’t know if he thus proclaimed himself; of course, his anarchism was communistic:
    “Anarchy leads to communism, and communism to anarchy, both alike being expressions of the predominant tendency in modern societies, the pursuit of equality. (Kropotkin 1892 [1995: 31])”)

  30. says

    Oh, yes, Moorcock! I started out reading the usual stuff, Asimov, Clarke, even a little Heinlein in the 1960s, and was only a little bothered by obsession with engineered perfectionism — give us enough power and we’ll make a perfect society — but didn’t get thoroughly sucked into SF until I discovered Moorcock and the British New Wave stuff. My big shift occurred when I was convalescing from an appendectomy that practically gutted me, and my dad brought home a couple of SF anthologies from the library to tide me over…and one of them was one of the New Worlds books. Radicalized me instantly, it did.

  31. says

    @24 I’ve read Starship Troopers and it felt like listening to a Warhammer 40k player giving a detailed recount of his favorite RP match. I’ve never read anything else from him so I can’t be sure, but I always got the suspicion that the references to “alternative lifestyles” was him desperately trying to be hip and edgy and all libertarian-like.

    As far as Ayn Rand goes, “guilty” is exactly the word I’d use. Taken as a whole, her protagonists all have the Luke Skywalker quality of being unappreciated geniuses whose hidden talents are unrecognized by society and whose potential greatness is denied by people who “just don’t understand, man”. That’s certainly caffeinated crack to an adolescent or someone wanting to indulge in self-pity for a while. But the only way to read Rand is to delude yourself that the rape scene in The Fountainhead was the Black-hanky, no-safewords consensual scene Rand tries (and abjetlt fails) to make it out as.

  32. says

    @24 I’ve read Starship Troopers and it felt like listening to a Warhammer 40k player giving a detailed recount of his favorite RP match. I’ve never read anything else from him so I can’t be sure, but I always got the suspicion that the references to “alternative lifestyles” was him desperately trying to be hip and edgy and all libertarian-like.

    As far as Ayn Rand goes, “guilty” is exactly the word I’d use. Taken as a whole, her protagonists all have the Luke Skywalker quality of being unappreciated geniuses whose hidden talents are unrecognized by society and whose potential greatness is denied by people who “just don’t understand, man”. That’s certainly caffeinated crack to an adolescent or someone wanting to indulge in self-pity for a while. But the only way to read Rand is to delude yourself that that one scene in The Fountainhead was the Black-hanky, no-safewords consensual scene Rand tries (and abjectly fails) to make it out as.

  33. raven says

    Honestly, have we learned nothing in the past couple of decades? If you don’t have rules, if you don’t have active management of the discussion, you inevitably end up with 4chan.

    That has been true since the internet was invented.
    Without troll control, they will always overrun and destroy any open forum.

    First a lot of Usenet was overrun.
    Then AOL.
    Yahoo.
    Any other forum they could get to.

  34. raven says

    The worst case of trolls I saw was a forum set up for patients of an autoimmune disease.
    This one is difficult to treat.
    It is also notable for a high suicide rate because of that and why the forum was set up.

    It wasn’t too long before trolls showed up.
    And started telling all the patients that…it was hopeless and they should all just commit suicide.
    This forum still exists but it is by invitation only and hard to find unless you are a patient.

    Most internet TV, radio, and written news no longer have comments after the articles.
    Because of trolls.
    Yahoo news stopped theirs.
    Invariably, the first comment would be about how the Covid-19 virus pandemic was a hoax.
    The second comment would be about how the Democrats are all commies.
    The third comment would be all about Democratic leaders being pedophiles who drink the blood of xian children.

    I didn’t know that about Baen books I do read a lot of SF and various genres of fantasy. Not a lot of it comes from Baen.
    I’m now a lot more likely to not read anything from them.
    If I want to see brain dead fascists rambling on about the Second Civil War and how white xian cis het males are the most oppressed minority in the USA (a quote from Marjorie Taylor Greene Crazy Georgia), I can just read Google News every day.

  35. felixmagister says

    What amuses me, in the intersection of conservatism and science fiction, are the perennial complaints that such and such a new iteration of Star Trek is “too political” while ignoring the fact that the original series, even apart from having a cast of characters that was intentionally designed to challenge racist assumptions, routinely featured episodes that addressed the issues of the day with all the subtlety (and all the finesses) of a sledge hammer.

  36. raven says

    Wannabe mass murderer troll

    “I can see a smallish force with good skills at explosive handling, bringing a large city to its knees just through a few well-placed booms at some of the points I mentioned.”

    That can happen.
    Timothy McVeigh did in in Oklahoma city and killed 168 people.
    The 9/11 World Trace Center terrorists killed 3,000.
    So what.

    We have terms that describe such people, mass murderers and terrorists among them.
    And people who we hire and pay to deal with them such as the police, FBI, DHS, NSA, National Guard etc..
    They are good at stopping a lot of these attacks before they happen.
    A lot of those “smallish force(s) with good skills at explosive handling” are now doing long sentences in prison.

  37. says

    The fundamental problem with these Righteous Rightwingers is that they demand that their policy preferences be uniformly, orthodoxly adopted by all… and that the initial proponents be celebrated as prophets, without paying (or even risking) with “their Lives, their fortunes, [or] their sacred Honor.” The irony that such a demand is utterly inconsistent with the conservative (and especially Austrian School) economic theory (“free markets are the only way to do anything, and moral hazard is just an illusion,” which sort of requires ignoring all of the foundational works on political economy due to their obsession with moral hazard as the reason to have the conversation in the first place) is beyond their comprehension.

    The demand is for what they want; they want it now; they’re entitled to it; there’s no possible alternative; so what’s not to like? And why should they be prepared to sacrifice for it, or pay anything (whether or not an “economic good”) for it?

  38. PaulBC says

    John Morales@33

    (The specific chart is his, the idea of a two-dimensional political space is not; also, can you guess why I chose that specific one when responding to Paul?)

    Uh, I’d “guess” it’s because you believe I consider political views to fall tidily on a one-dimensional spectrum. I grant that you called Pournelle’s chart “better” rather than “good” by any objective standard. (BTW, to get a sense of how rightwing my club was, Pournelle was our first guest of honor when we had our own science fiction con in the 80s.)

    A two-dimensional chart is not even “better” than a one-dimensional chart if it’s filled in absurdly. The classifications are vaguely stated, glib, and probably very wrong in particulars (as KG points out).

    But just to be clear, I don’t really believe there is a very useful left-right subdivision in politics, though I use these words as shorthand like nearly everyone else. Even my D&D-playing friends know you need at least 2 dimensions for alignment and 6 for attributes.

    Whatever multidimensional space in which political beliefs may be clustered, many of my friends in the 80s lay in a cluster to which I was an outlier then and remain so now, not because I have drifted. I haven’t even really budged, though I’m more comfortable with LGBTQ issues and more openly atheistic rather than “skeptical”. I’m about the same with respect to pacifism, social spending, and racism (though a lot more exposed to diversity in years since). My nightmare is that I’d get back in contact with my Reagan-loving manly-space-opera-loving friends and find they’ve been transformed into Trumpies. They probably have. I just don’t want to know.

  39. PaulBC says

    Jaws@43 I have noticed that today’s Republicans seem to have ended their love affair with the “marketplace of ideas.”

  40. anbheal says

    Your last paragraph, re rat droppings in the croissants, is great stuff. I mean, um, the rhetoric, not the rat shit.

  41. PaulBC says

    anbheal@46 I dunno, bat guano used to be in great demand for explosives and other applications, though maybe less so now with synthetic sources of nitrates. Would rat turds do in a pinch? “That’s some good shit you got there.”

  42. PaulBC says

    I also recall Primo Levi’s account “Nitrogen” in The Periodic Table where he naively believed he could find a Python owner to give away the excrement for free as raw material for a cosmetics application. They all knew how valuable it was already. The story is mentioned here. but I don’t know if it’s available online.

  43. KG says

    Kropotkin was, in any reasonable light, a “philosophical anarchist”, though I don’t know if he thus proclaimed himself – John Morales@34

    I’ll bet he didn’t, because he actually was an anarchist, and spent time in prison and in exile for his political activities. In self-descriptions such as Heinlein’s, “philosophical anarchist” means “I’m not really an anarchist, and I have an easy, privileged life, but I like people to think I’m edgy”.

  44. says

    PaulBC@45:

    Of course not. When there’s only one product on the market (their insistance that there’s only one reasonable alternative), there’s not much of a marketplace… or at least not much opportunity for arbitrage, the new foundational meme of the Republican Party. Which harkens back to mercantilism (not capitalism) and avoids all of those inconvenient Enlightenment-and-later political economists who built to intellectual foundations for what passes for “economics” these days, so we shouldn’t be surprised…

  45. whheydt says

    Since Starship Troopers has come up… a bit if diversion.

    Heinlein (as I hope most know, but I can’t be sure) was invalided out of Navy as an indirect cause of extremely severe sea-sickness. ST is, basically, a WW2 view of things. It includes, however, a rather enlightened–for the time–of one aspect of the US Navy up through WW2. To wit, the only job the Navy would give to Filipinos was Steward. Keep in mind that late in ST, Johnny Rico is asked at one point what language his family spoke at home and he replies, “Tagalog”. So Heinlein is pointing out the Navy’s stupidity in restricting Filipinos to one, specific, menial job, rather than making use of whatever talents an individual brings with him. Granted, it’s not a major plot element, but it is definitely there.

    What I usually tell people to do is read ST and then read The Forever War, which is–fundamentally to my mind–the Viet Nam War generations answer to ST.

  46. Owlmirror says

    Actually, PZ, the bakery analogy is off because authors have moderation rights in their own forums.

    So, the bakery is partitioned off and each baker has their own ovens, ingredients, and counters. Flint’s croissants are just fine, thank you, no problem at all, see? And the other bakers are also doing fine, for the most part. Scones, muffins, most of the other breads and bagels — all fine.

    But wait — the baker who does sourdough rye? Uh, yeah, everyone knows that he leaves out loaves for the rats, and puts the rat shit into his bread, and generally caters to the rats. Everyone knows to stay away from the sourdough rye, except for those with an inexplicable fondness for rat shit. And also the everything bagels. Not all of the other kinds of bagels; you’ll do fine with plain, onion, garlic, and cinnamon raisin. Yeah, the everything bagel baker just thinks that rat shit is part of “everything”. Everyone knows to stay away from “everything”.

    How dare anyone complain “Hey, the sourdough rye and everything bagels at Baen’s Bakery are full of rat shit!”? Baen’s Bakery is full of bakers that don’t attract rats and don’t put rat shit in their products! Why must you emphasize that it’s all one bakery!?

  47. Rob Grigjanis says

    whheydt @51: TFW is one of my favourite SF novels. I liked ST as a teen, but on rereading it as an adult I threw it against the wall after a few pages*. One rather striking difference is that ST glorifies war.

    However, ST did help inspire a great song. So not a complete loss.

    *Pretty much my reaction to any Heinlein novel.

  48. John Morales says

    Rob:

    One rather striking difference is that ST glorifies war.

    Arguable. It glorifies warriors and the military, but depicts war as a rather unpleasant and brutal thing, a crucible that builds character in those who choose to participate.

    Bill, the Galactic Hero is a better parody of it, IMO.

    Owlmirror, remember the Michael Nugent claims about this place?
    The claims about toxic commenters, and the lack of moderation?

  49. John Morales says

    Heh. Rob, if one glorifies medicine and doctors, does that entail that one perforce glorifies disease?

  50. John Morales says

    Let me help you grok, Rob.

    Doctors are the warriors, medicine is the military, war is the disease.

  51. Rob Grigjanis says

    I grok your non-answer, John. But it is still a non-answer. Does glorifying war entail portraying it as pleasant?

    But it”s apparent you’re playing another of your boring little word games, so à la prochaine.

  52. John Morales says

    Heh, Rob. I stated your assertion was arguable, and then you proceeded to argue with what you imagined was a rhetorical question about what you thought was my entire justification for a nuanced view.

    In short, since you were elliptical, so was I.

    Anyway, FWIW (Wikipedia):
    “Haldeman said that he disagreed with Starship Troopers because it “glorifies war” but added that “it’s a very well-crafted novel and I believe Heinlein was honest with it”.[6]

    The Forever War contains several parallels to Starship Troopers, including its setting and the powered armor that Heinlein’s novel first popularized. Commentators have described it as a reaction to Heinlein’s novel, a suggestion Haldeman denies; the two novels are very different in terms of their attitude towards the military. The Forever War does not depict war as a noble pursuit, with the sides clearly defined as good and evil; instead, the novel explores the dehumanizing effect of war, influenced by the real world context of the Vietnam War.[7]

    Heinlein wrote a letter to Haldeman, congratulating Haldeman on his Nebula Award; Haldeman has said that Heinlein’s letter “meant more than the award itself”.[8]”

    It is vaguely amusing how this thread has found a strange attractor in Heinlein-bashing, as if he were the embodiment of bad ideas in SF.

    The reality is that he was one of the so-called “big three”, back in the day, and a seminal influence in many sub-genres, and received many accolades He did go funny towards the end, but he had some rather serious health problems by then (including TIAs), with concomitant deleterious effects on his work.

    Now, he died in (checks) 1988, so to suggest he is what’s wrong with modern-day commenters at Baen forums is a bit of a stretch, IMO.

    Oh, BTW, a couple of things for Paul:
    1. As to the merits of his writing, as I noted, he had much success. For example (again, Wikipedia) “The Science Fiction Writers of America named Heinlein its first Grand Master in 1974”.
    2. re your #44 responding to my question to KG, the specific reason reason is you brought up his name earlier, so when I picked an example I used that one.

    Anyway, the topic here is how Baen is to be repudiated since they host a forum (Baen’s Bar) which reportedly “has also become well-known in the genre community as a place where racism, sexism, homophobia and general fascism continually pop up.”

    Yet here we are, discussing Heinlein. Truly, he still looms large in our minds! :)

  53. PaulBC says

    John Morales@60

    It is vaguely amusing how this thread has found a strange attractor in Heinlein-bashing, as if he were the embodiment of bad ideas in SF.

    As if!

    (At least he didn’t start a cult.)

  54. PaulBC says

    John Morales@60

    Now, he died in (checks) 1988

    And now you reminded me of the final indignity. When he died in 1988, Locus had prepared a cover to honor Clifford D. Simak. When Heinlein died later, they slapped a new one on top of it!. And the thing is, I always had a soft spot for Clifford D. Simak. His themes are a little repetitive, and sometimes (not always) religious, but Way Station remains one of my favorite science fiction novels, and shows Simak’s unique and very humane voice. I felt this way in 1988 too, and it pissed me off. (Yes, Heinlein was “bigger” but for fuck’s sake, they already had an obituary prepared.)

    Apparently Philip K. Dick enjoyed Heinlein’s hospitality as (longterm?) guest early in his career and did acknowledge Heinlein as a friend, though I cannot imagine two styles as different.

  55. PaulBC says

    John Morales@60

    “has also become well-known in the genre community as a place where racism, sexism, homophobia and general fascism continually pop up.”

    Yet here we are, discussing Heinlein.

    Yes, what a shocking and inexplicable segue.

    (Sorry about the triple post. Next time I will try to collect my thoughts first.)

  56. vucodlak says

    @ chigau (違う), 64
    That verse always reminds of the end of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, but the image of an obsessive and deeply twisted man quoting scripture as he’s being torn apart by hooked chains seems particularly apt for this thread.

    And now I want to reread The Hellbound Heart.

  57. Kagehi says

    Read a “lot” of stuff, including some sci fi, but I mostly gravitate towards fantasy (since it tends to allow for a greater range of things, and often requires at least “some” consideration of, “How do these other people function as a society, when they are not human”). I have to agree about a lot of older authors. Though, I suppose that if one looked at the time they stated writing in, and that includes Heinlein, one can see “societies” stupid ideas reflected in their attempts to present alternative life styles – like his flawed polyamory. But, maybe that is just giving too much credit. Still, it is often the case that even “new” ideas end up reflecting the times bad ones.

  58. says

    A more direct and perhaps useful analogy.
    Imagine the bakery was shut down because one or two local men liked to gather in the corner and jerk off every lunchtime.
    Just a few bad actors.
    We’re not talking about rats, after all. Though I can see why it’s easier to think of them as the internet’s version of inevitable vermin. They’re people, behaving in ways which would be entirely unacceptable in almost any other context. While the people nominally in charge of the space just look the other way.

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