The science fiction and fantasy community is divided by a long-standing culture war. On one side are the social justice warriors and their allies, who wish nothing more than to churn out thinly-disguised propaganda and shut down everyone who disagrees with them. On the other are PulpRev, Superversive, the Sad and Rabid Puppies and those who side with them, united in a singular purpose: to make SFF great again.
The old pulp tales were the literature of the masses. They were tales of high adventure and excitement; stories of distant worlds, exotic cultures and superscience; fiction filled with hope, courage, verve, heroism and, most of all, fun. Free from genre conventions and ideological shackles, writers were free to let their imaginations soar and entertain their readers. From this age came the cultural icons of the West: Conan the Cimmerian, John Carter of Mars, the Shadow, Jirel or Joiry. This age birthed the great writers of the modern SFF canon: Robert E Howard, Poul Anderson, Leigh Beckett, C L Moore. Cheap and cheerful, the pulps made reading enjoyable for everyone.
But, in the words of pulp advocate Jasyn Jones, “Every age of F&SF after the Pulps has been about less: less variety, less action & adventure, fewer heroics and less heroism. Less imagination. Less of all the things that make F&SF great.”
Today, when you look at modern SFF, you’ll see the same catch phrases: subversive, challenging dogmas, progressivism, inclusiveness, post-modern. They are codewords for ‘boring’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘contemptuous of the reader’.
To the social justice warrior, the personal is the political. Everything one does must in some way be linked to political activity–and the only acceptable politics is ‘progressivism’, ‘liberalism’ and other -isms of the day. Thus, social justice fiction can’t settle for being fiction; they must brainwash the reader into accepting the core tenants of social justice and denouncing everything else as doubleplusungood. To survive, SocJus must drown out everything that is not itself, and it must not tolerate dissent — never mind that it is the surest form of cultural suicide.
Marvel went full-blown social justice with its comics, employing everything from gender flips to race-switching to suddenly-queer characters. The Ghostbusters 2016 remake replaced the original cast with women and made that the sole selling point. The result: financial disaster.
It’s not enough for these social justice warriors to cram their ideology down their audience’s throats. They aim to destroy their competition through whisper campaigns, social exclusion and outright lies. Aided by cliquish editors and a horde of fellow travelers, they drown out non-believers by smearing them the labels of ‘discrimination’, ‘racist’, ‘sexist’ and other nonsense.
The Young Adult industry saw its latest controversy with SJWs attacking The Black Witch by cherry-picking selected passages and proclaiming the entire novel to be ableist and racist and other -ists. When the Sad Puppies campaign recommended a number of writers for the Hugo Awards, the mainstream media denounced it as a ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’ campaign by white supremacists to reserve the Hugo awards for white men — never mind that the founder, Larry Correia, is Portuguese, and that the Sad Puppies recommendations had far greater diversity of race, sex and politics than the past three decades of Hugo Award winners. I have myself been denounced as a ‘hard-core Puppy’ (and therefore racist and sexist) just because I wrote a blog post thanking my fans and editor for recommending one of my stories for the Hugos.
Social justice corrodes everything it touches. Today, there are precious few SFF books published within my lifetime that I can stand. Almost all of them come from two publishing houses–Baen and Castalia House–and all of them have one thing in common: they place the reader above politics.
This is where PulpRev and other groups come in.
PulpRev pays homage to the great masters of the past, figuring out what made their stories great and how to apply these lessons for future fiction. The Superversive movement wants to go one step further, creating fiction that is uplifts and builds up instead of degrading and tearing down. We come from many nations, represent both sides of the political spectrum, hail from a wide range of backgrounds, but we all believe in the same cause: to create entertaining SFF.
Social justice fiction is fatally flawed. It assumes that any fiction that does not explore and expound upon the cause du jour — minority representation, global warming, Strong Female Characters, anti-capitalism, anti-religion, LGBTQ — are fundamentally incomplete, daring so far as to say that creators who do not include these elements are saying that these things do not exist. SJWs overcompensate by making their fiction all about these causes and nothing else, leaving no room for everything else.
PulpRev recognizes that life is more than just these causes, that fiction isn’t simply about expounding a cause but about building worlds within worlds. Worlds of splendor and beauty and truth and reason, worlds populated by men and women and children and talking animals and monsters and spirits and demons and angels and gods, worlds that recreate the breath of your love and the dry heat of the summer sun and the crackling of dry leaves and the sticky sweat of an honest day’s work, worlds built on awe and wonder and courage and virtue even as they recognise lust and vice and sin and fear and naked evil. Worlds, in other words, that are worth living in.
And we take these worlds and cram them into our prose and offer them to our readers with hopes and prayers, believing that to someone, somewhere, these stories will chase away sadness, catalyse joy and inspire heroism.
You may not wish to declare for one side or another. PulpRev and Superversive will not denounce you if you do not join us. But understand that the SJWs will not leave you alone. To them, you are either ally or heretic, with no in-between. If you keep your head down you won’t be noticed. But if you speak about something that does not toe the party line, they will come for you. They don’t care what you did, be it mildly disagreeing with accusations of racism, praising books on the wrong slate, or daring to produce a story that does not conform exactingly to the agenda of the day.
You may not care about the culture war, but rest assured, the culture war cares about you.
The Dragon Awards are the next front in the culture war. Aiming to represent all of fandom, the Dragon Awards seek to recognise the best SFF of the previous year in wide-ranging genres and media. Here is an opportunity to recognise the creators whose mission is to make SFF great, while sending a message to the SocJus nominees that thinly-veiled propaganda is no longer welcome in the field.
Speaking only in my personal capacity, I would recommend the following:
Best Science Fiction Novel: The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier
Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal): A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day
Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel: Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright
Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz
Best Alternate History Novel: No Gods, Only Daimons by Kai Wai Cheah
Best Apocalyptic Novel: Codename: Unsub by Declan Finn and Allan Yoskowitz
Best Horror Novel: Live and Let Bite by Declan Finn
These nominees (myself included), are known members and allies of the PulpRev, Superversive and Puppies movements. Further, Jagi L. Lamplighter, author of Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamland, is also an early founder of the Superversive movement and was nominated for Best YA/middle grade novel. However, Brian Niemeier has very graciously offered to grant the award to her should he win. Thus, to prevent vote dilution, I would recommend voters to pick Swan Knight’s Son and The Secret Kings.
In addition, I must point out the nominees known to be affiliated with or are social justice warriors.
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa
Mass Effect: Andromeda by Bioware
Scalzi reportedly withdrew from the Award today, but if his name is still on the ballot, consider this a warning against him. The Collapsing Empire was so badly written that a hastily-written parody quickly outsold it on Amazon.
Jemisin is a racist who hates whites and denigrates fandom. Everything associated with Marvel Comics is tainted, and Ms. Marvel is no exception. Mass Effect: Andromeda is a buggy mess that was, and remains, critically panned for its game-breaking bugs and phony dialogue — and among its key developers was a white-hating racist more focused on SocJus than making a great game.
The culture war is not merely about left or right, liberators versus supremacists. It is about whether creators should place entertaining their audience above personal politics. PulpRev and Superversive prioritise the audience, SocJus prioritises politics. The former creates fantastic fiction, the latter overpriced propaganda. With your help, we can keep the momentum going and support the creators who respect the craft and you. Together, we can make SFF great again.