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Why I Don’t Post Much About Politics At The Moment

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Hickey on July 27, 2014

Before the 2010 election, and for a couple of years afterward, I used to post here a lot on political topics. Since about 2012, though, I’ve barely talked about politics except in the most abstract manner (things like my Liberal Future series, which I do intend to continue).
The reason for this is simple. My political views are all about anger, and wanting to change the things that make me angry. I’m angry about poverty, about the treatment of minority groups and women, about the erosion of civil liberties, about the lack of democracy in this country, about the way London is an evil vampiric force sucking all the attention and power from the rest of the country, about generational inequalities, about rentier capitalism… basically, I’m angry about a lot of stuff.
This means that I am, occasionally, quite articulate when it comes to talking about bad things happening in politics. I’m a fairly decent attack dog, if occasionally so strident that I push people away, but I’ve found that I’ve managed to change quite a few people’s minds on a few important points.
What I’m no good at is talking about good stuff. My reaction to same-sex marriage finally being allowed is, simply, “good”. That’s it. That’s all I have to say about the subject. It’s a very obviously good thing, and I’m glad we finally did it.
This means I am no good at celebrating achievements, I’m only good at pushing for more.
Under normal circumstances this would be fine, but the Liberal Democrats, the party I think is, despite many obvious flaws, still the best vehicle in British politics for advancing towards the kind of society I want to live in, are the minor partner in a coalition government right now.
That government has done a few very good things (all brought in by the Liberal Democrats) and quite a few very bad things (mostly ideas from the Conservatives, some things that any government would do right now because they’re at the centre of the Overton window despite being ludicrous, and one or two bad ideas from the Liberal Democrats because nobody’s right all the time). To my mind, the current government is not much better — but certainly no worse — than any of the other governments of my lifetime, and so it makes me angry at about the same rate as the others have. However, this government is *extremely* unpopular, at least among people I know (who tend to be leftish).
This leaves me with three alternatives:
I could take a panglossian tone, accentuate the positive, and post constant reminders about how tractor production has increased 4%. This would be insulting to my readers and a waste of my time.
I could attack the current government. This would be counterproductive. Everyone reading this blog knows every bad thing the government is accused of doing (many of which are even real). You don’t need me to tell you about them, and me ranting and raving about the bad things the current government has done might well turn even more people away from the Liberal Democrats. Certainly Labour supporters could use anything I posted — “See? Even a Lib Dem thinks that X, Y, and Z were stupid” — while leaving out the fact that X was a Tory policy and Y and Z are both things Labour committed to as well. It would also give the impression that the constant attacks on the Liberal Democrats are justified, when for the most part they simply are not.
Or I could just talk about something else.

Now for the first couple of years of this government, I still had things to say, because lies were being told on a regular basis by the Labour party. I don’t mean differences of opinion, but many outright lies were being reported as fact in the Guardian, and so I could usefully turn my anger against them. But as the election has got closer and Labour have realised they might have to work with us next year, that’s mostly died off. Sadly, the effects are still lasting, and I still regularly get abuse, threats of violence, and even death threats, as do most people who dare to publicly admit to being Lib Dems and who aren’t completely sheltered from the general public.

But what I want to say is this: Don’t think that my lack of posts means that I care less about those issues. Rather, while we are in government, there are better methods to change things than shouting about it on my blog. When I get angry about something this government does, as I’m in a democratic party, there are avenues I can explore to try and fix it (sometimes it even works).

Those who follow me on Twitter will also know that I regularly froth at the mouth there. The difference is that my Twitter account is locked — it’s where I vent semi-privately, and only a relatively small number of people can see what I say there, and I trust those people, even when they’re not supporters of the same party, to be sensible enough to understand the difference between an angry tweet and an attack on the party itself.

But put simply, when other parties get it wrong, I scream publicly because I have no other recourse. When the Lib Dems get it wrong, I work within the party to make sure they get it right in future. And I don’t tend to write about when anyone gets it right.

One reason I’ll be finishing the Liberal Future series, though, is to say “these are the principles I do stand for, and this is why I think that the Liberal Democrats are still the best party to advance those principles”.

But as I said in 2010, I do not support the current government, but I *do* support the Liberal Democrats within the current government. That still stands…

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A Sweary Rant About Political Discussion

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Hickey on July 20, 2014

I posted a link to Tim Farron’s rather good speech on Tumblr yesterday. Someone who’d been following me there for a few weeks posted Standard Aggressive Rant Number Five in response (take the couple of lines saying Thatcher wasn’t utterly evil out of the context of a speech that says she was wrong about everything important, in damaging, harmful ways that will take decades to fix, and use that to “prove” that Lib Dems are “really” evil, heartless bastards who deserve to be shot). I posted this in response, and thought it worth posting here too:

As a general note, if you’re going to reply to one of my political posts by calling me “hateful”, “on the side of evil”, and say I deserve to be shot, and your reason for this is that a single paragraph near the beginning of a speech I link to says some mildly positive things about Thatcher while the entire rest of the speech says things like:

Her economic solutions were wrong and have had a lasting and damaging impact – handing control over our major utilities to foreign investors and poorly regulated oligopolies, abdicating responsibility for managing our economy at all, weakening the infrastructure that underpins our economy and weakening and dividing our society.

My argument is that the post 1979 consensus should now be considered dead. It doesn’t need an FDP-style rebrand, it needs a decent burial.

Beveridge’s consensus was ambitious, the consensus of Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron is unambitious. It says that government cannot make the difference, it says that all we can do to help business is to back out – that all that businesses need is the free for all of Beecroft, that all our economy needs is another inflated south east housing boom, that our infrastructure needs will be met by unaccountable monopolies doing it in their own good time.

That consensus has failed, utterly.

The Thatcher / Reagan economic experiment surely should have died at the collapse of the banks in 2008, yet somehow that corpse is still twitching. The financial crisis was the clear physical proof that the economic experiment that supplanted the Beveridge consensus had failed utterly.

But don’t misunderstand me, the Thatcherite consensus that Cameron sustains and Miliband has no answer to, has been demonstrated to have failed not just in the crash of 2008 and the poverty, misery and inequality it has inflicted, but also in the absence of so much of the infrastructure we need to plan for the future. Lets just be honest and acknowledge that we still have pathetic rail links, a massive housing shortage, a massive skills shortage, laughable broadband connectivity, an appalling energy crisis and the ultimate crisis of climate change. The Thatcherite consensus has damaged our society and it has weakened our economy. Conservatives have often talked about their admiration of Victorian values – if only they really did admire those values, because Victorian values included ambition to build an infrastructure, to create a transport, communications and logistics backbone to our economy, to make a difference, to see a problem and not worry about whether fixing it would fit with your ideology, but to just get on and fix it.

And where the whole piece is about how Thatcher and her ideological successors were completely, utterly, wrong, then you can just fuck off.

I have spent much of the last four years dealing with abuse and, in several cases, actual death threats, from people with whom I would agree on at least 80% of individual political issues, because the way I choose to fight for those issues is in a party that works within the system and has to compromise (and yes, to my mind, compromises far too much and too often). I note that the “revolutionaries” and “progressives” who do this never do so to supporters of the Labour party, a party that for much of my adult life was led by actual war criminals and still has many on its front benches, or to supporters of the SWP, a party full of rape apologists.

Everyone working for political change has to make compromises, and it is entirely right to question those compromises, to debate them, to argue over them, and to say that others have compromised too much. It is utterly wrong to use abuse and threats to try and silence those who’ve made different compromises.

And even if it would have me, I’d want no part of a revolution that was so committed to ideological purity that anyone who disagreed with it was called “evil” and told they’d be “put up against the wall”. Should there ever be the danger of such a revolution, in fact, I would be proud to volunteer to be the very first up against the wall, because I wouldn’t want to live in a world which didn’t tolerate honest disagreement.

So fuck you if you want to use abuse and threats as the first recourse in political discussion. Fuck you if you want to kill me and people like me, or even people who disagree with me in every way. Fuck you if you put ideological purity ahead of making a real difference in people’s lives.

When my revolution comes, you’ll be given a far worse punishment than being put up against the wall. You’ll be given complete freedom of speech, but so will people you disagree with, and there’ll be nothing you can do about it.

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The Liberal Future: Direct Democracy vs Representative Democracy

Posted in politics by Andrew Hickey on July 2, 2014

This is something I’ve talked about here before, but only in comments, and it’s a subject that keeps coming up, so I thought I’d better make it a main post.

My single biggest political issue, the one I care about more than any other, is making Britain’s democracy something closer to functional. If we could get the constitutional changes I want — freedom of speech, proper federal assemblies for the English regions, increased devolution to Scotland and Wales, a fully-elected second chamber, no monarchy (or no role whatsoever for the monarchy in the lawmaking process, at the very least), no involvement of the Church in government, and every level of government elected by STV (or AV in the case of single-member roles like the Mayor of London), I would gladly let my political opponents have everything their own way, on every issue, for a full Parliament, because a properly working democracy can fix any problem, no matter how severe, while with a broken one like we have now it’s impossible to fix any of the major problems facing our economy, our environment, and our society.

So why, if democracy is so important to me (and the fact that the two major parties have spent this entire Parliament blocking those reforms while the Lib Dems have spent the entire Parliament fighting for them is, more than anything else, why I stay in the party despite any problems I have with the current government — it’s proof that they really are still better than the rest) why do I find the whole concept of referendums somewhat repellent?

There are many reasons, but it boils down to the same reason why I think that representative democracy is a real solution to many of our problems. It’s that I think people giving their informed opinions can only end up making the world a better place.

Most of us don’t have a real understanding of most of the business of government. I certainly don’t.  There are issues — constitutional issues, civil liberties, technological issues, LGBT+ rights, copyright law — where I have very strong opinions based on serious long-term study of the facts and ideas in question. There are other issues — health, education, economic equality, the environment — where I have some idea of what kind of outcome I’d like to see, but no idea which of several competing policies might bring about those outcomes. And there are yet others — most economic issues, most foreign policy — where I simply don’t have a clue.

I suspect this is the case for 95% of people, or more. The areas that we know about may be vastly different, but everyone cares about some political issue enough to have an informed opinion about it, and everyone has blind spots where they’re clueless.

Now, in a referendum, the chances of any individual actually having a clue about that particular issue are small — and as we’ve seen with both the AV referendum and the Scottish independence referendum, the campaigns generate so much more heat than light that it’s effectively impossible for an ordinary voter to educate herself on the subject once a campaign has started. This means that in a referendum, noise swamps signal, and the chance of getting the “right” answer (where “right” is the one that will actually make most people happiest, or that most people would choose had they all the facts, or however you want to define it) is no better than chance.

This might suggest that democracy itself is fundamentally flawed, were it not for the fact that we have representatives.

For all that professional politicians are a despised class, they are people who are paid to spend all their working lives becoming experts on every aspect of governance at their level (that not all of them do so is partly due to the stupid system we have). Where they don’t have the expertise themselves, they defer to colleagues — in the same party so at least theoretically sharing the same values — who do. So in a representative democracy, such as I’d like to see (and, to the extent that we have one, in our present system), legislation is made by people who know what they’re talking about on every issue — something most of us (who have jobs that involve things other than knowing about every detail of politics) don’t have the time or inclination for.

So surely, then, this means that we should just have rule by our betters, and not bother with elections at all, if people don’t know as much as the politicians?

No — and this is the important bit about representative democracy, but it’s the bit that gets ignored, or glossed over, or not explained properly when we talk about this — because representative democracy is a great way of cancelling out ignorance and getting only the right answers out. It’s not a perfect way, but it’s very good.

Say you, I, and a neighbour all lived in the constituency of Hornsey & Wood Green (which I’ve picked for the example because it has one of the better current MPs), and we all have very different areas of knowledge. My big issue is democratic reform, yours is equality for LGBT+ people, and our neighbour’s is ending female genital mutilation.

I look at the candidates, see that Lynne Featherstone is good on democratic reform, and vote for her. You look at the candidates, see that Lynne Featherstone was one of the main people responsible for bringing in same-sex marriage, and vote for her. Our neighbour looks at the candidates, sees that Lynne Featherstone is campaigning to end FGM in developing countries, and votes for her. If a candidate is good on all our individual issues (and on schools, on health, on taxation, and on whatever other issues people in the area care about) then all the people who know about those areas can vote for her.

The result is that I know that the candidate I vote for is good on the areas I care about, and assume she will be good on the other issues, because she’s paid to investigate them all (and she obviously comes to the same conclusions I do where we’ve got the same information). But if I’m wrong in that assumption — if she’s very good on civil liberties but lousy on education, say — then all the people who care about education will vote for someone else.

This means that in a properly functioning representative democracy, what you end up with is a result that is better than any individual voter would have come up with, because it presumes everyone is competent in the areas that they care about, and that their competencies reinforce each other and cancel out their incompetencies. Someone who is good on most issues will be more likely to get elected than someone who is only good on one or two. Referendums, on the other hand, presume that everyone is equally competent at everything, which is dangerous nonsense.

Direct democracy is a tool for demagogues. Representative democracy is a tool for the people. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

So, The Sad Puppies Then: Part The Final — What’s Happening Now

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Hickey on June 24, 2014

(NB, this is written on not enough sleep, so my apologies if it’s gibberish…)

OK, so to recap, what we’ve established so far:

  • Science fiction grew up from two traditions, the Menippean satire and pulp fiction, which both have a different set of criteria on which they should be judged than does conventional ‘literary’ fiction.
  • In part because of this, Libertarianism became far more prevalent in SF fandom than in the general population.
  • A large proportion (though by no means all) of self-described Libertarians in fandom are actually right-wing authoritarians.
  • Right-wing authoritarians are, in general, likely to tend toward writing and reading the pulpier side of SF, in particular military SF.

But two things in the late 60s and early 70s had a huge effect, one that’s still being felt in SF fandom to this day.

First, a large number of authors rose to prominence, some of whom had a background writing for pulps, but also including many who didn’t, who all got grouped under the name “the New Wave”, although most of them were doing different things from each other. The one thing that these authors all had in common was that they were trying to write SF that worked as SF but which also worked, or tried to, by the criteria of conventional lit-fic. They incorporated at least some modernist advances in prose style, and they tried to write characters that were more like real people than the ciphers of Asimov or the omnicapable manly men of Heinlein. The two Harlan Ellison-edited collections, Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions, are probably the best guide to this wave of writers.

For a while, these writers were extremely controversial within SF fandom, as young turks always are, and some of them built reputations in part by picking fights with the respected elder statesmen of the community. This group tended to be more left-wing , more feminist, and more open in general to the cultural changes in the world at large than the bulk of the SF “community”.

But these people were, for the most part, absorbed into the SF community without a problem. This generation of writers, while they may have laughed at the older writers’ hackneyed prose styles, still respected them (Asimov, for example, wrote the preface for Dangerous Visions).

But there was another, parallel, SF fandom growing — what became known as “media fandom”.

In particular, at the same time as the New Wave writers were gaining in popularity, a huge community, with its own conventions and fanzines, was starting up around Star Trek. This community, which at first had almost nothing to do with the group that thought of itself as SF fandom, was dominated by women, rather than by men, was more interested in radically reworking the text than in paying homage to it, and (crucially) was far more interested in character interaction than in the other aspects of the show.

As SF media became massively popular in the late 70s, these two fandoms collided, producing the SF fandom that we have today. And those media fans (and the people like them in two successive generations) preferred the work of the New Wave writers and their successors to the pulpy works preferred by Libertarian types.

For a long time this situation was fine for everyone, in large part because of a longstanding fandom rule that you don’t talk about politics within fandom (which actually had the effect of meaning “you don’t challenge whatever bigoted nonsense the old white man in front of you is spouting”). But the Internet has brought those tensions to the fore.

A lot of SF fandom now takes place on blogs, on Tumblrs, and (yes, still) on LiveJournals, and the Tumblr Social Justice Warrior mindset is, in large part, the mindset of a few generations of women and LGBT+ people who have felt marginalised in the SF fandom community. Those people have realised that actually, the opinions held by the loudest voices are not the opinions of the whole group, and may not even be the opinions of a majority of it. They are also writing stories of the kind they like — ones that are more about the interaction between the characters than anything else, and that feature characters like themselves, who aren’t necessarily cis white straight able-bodied men who like guns.

And this has caused a huge problem in fandom, because these two groups share neither politics nor tastes, and the vicious arguments around politics that have taken place have led a lot of people to believe that “the other side” are promoting books (by, for example, voting for them in the Hugos), because the authors share their politics.

The authoritarian military-SF people say “no-one could really like all that whiny messagey shit that doesn’t even have a good story and is full of token minorities to be PC, they’re just saying they do because they share the author’s politics and are her LiveJournal friends”. The Tumblr social justice crowd, in turn, say “no-one with a brain could really like this macho bullshit just rehashing a sixty-year-old Heinlein story that wasn’t even any good the first time. How about writing something with some, you know, characters?”

And the right wing, at the moment, are arguing that Heinlein couldn’t win a Hugo today. And they think this is horribly unfair, because obviously Heinlein was one of the all-time greats.

I think they’re right that Heinlein wouldn’t win a Hugo today, but completely wrong about the reasons. I think people are voting for the kind of book that they like, and that the kind of books that Heinlein liked are not the kind of book the majority of SF fans (who vote in the Hugos) like any more.

The right wing are seeing a lot of books that they consider truly great books, books with all the virtues they appreciate most, being unsuccessful, and so it must be because of the author’s politics, right? Those are good books.

Now, people on both sides say that they are not biased, that they would read books by the other side’s writers “if they’d just write a good story”, but both sides see the other side as liars.

I don’t think they are. I think that, genuinely, when people on one side write a story in the style that the other side like, the other side accept it. John Scalzi, a very-soft-left liberalish writer, started his career as a military-SF Heinlein pasticheur, and was loved despite his politics by most of the right. It’s only since he published Redshirts, a satire that plays with various modernist and postmodernist tricks to do some mildly interesting metafictional stuff, that he has become a whipping boy for them (uncoincidentally, that’s the book of his that is by far my personal favourite of those I’ve read).

Likewise, most of the Social Justice Warrior types I know (in my own age cohort, mid thirties), really liked the first few years of the comic Fables, written by the most right-wing person in mainstream comics, but which had a relatively diverse cast and was driven by character interaction.

I think we have two groups here who just disagree fundamentally about what “a good book” really is.

But the right-wingers, in particular, feel under attack (one of the characteristics of a right-wing authoritarian is that they always feel under attack) and feel like their sacred traditions of Heinleinian stuff are also under attack. And they are convinced it’s entirely politically motivated.

And so this year, the writer Larry Correia (who has been nominated for awards in the past, but never won, for his brand of pulpy gun-fetishist monster-hunter story, but who is very commercially successful) wanted to prove that there is an evil leftist conspiracy to stop right-wingers’ books winning, that people would really like these “good stories” if they just gave them a try, and that they were good enough to win Hugos.

So Correia put together a slate of right-wing stories, posted it on his blog, and suggested that his fans all buy supporting memberships of Loncon so they could nominate them, and vote for them, for Hugo awards.

Now, this would have been absolutely fine many authors, Scalzi for example, post telling people which books of theirs are eligible for Hugos. Some also say “hey, check out these books by my friends, too, I think they’re pretty great and you might want to nominate them”. This is all perfectly OK.

But what Correia did was to troll the awards. He added a story by Theodore “Vox Day” Beale, a vicious, racist, sexist, homophobic bigot who has defended throwing acid into feminists’ faces. The story in question also has no merit by any standards, neither the pulp storytelling ones nor the litfic ones, and its sales numbers before the award shortlists were announced strongly suggest that more people nominated it than had read it.

He did this, one presumes, so that he then has an out. If his book, or those of his friends, do by some miracle win, it means that he’s right — people do like “good stories” when they see them. But if they don’t… well, it’s because they nominated “Vox Day”, so people were just voting politically, and he’s right, people do vote on authors’ politics rather than on whether books are any good or not.

And this is why, throughout the SF fandom blogosphere, there has been a huge amount of anger as to how to deal with this. The Hugo Awards have been politicised — precisely because Correia thought they were already politicised — and trolled to “prove” two contradictory points.

There has been a lot of upset about this being a sign that “our community” is splitting, but personally I think a split in the “community” would be a good thing, because it isn’t one community, but two, with a small amount of overlap. Someone like Correia, a hardline right-winger who writes about manly men with guns, has nothing in common with, say, Seanan McGuire, who writes stories with female protagonists with lots of interiority and runs the SF Squeecast. The fact that both their books are shelved under “science fiction & fantasy” is far more a historical curiosity than any sign of them being anything alike.

But unless and until such a split happens, the resentment, anger, and politicisation will continue.

So now (well, once I get back from seeing the Beach Boys in London tonight and tomorrow), I can get back to writing about the actual books…

So, The Sad Puppies, Then: 3 of 4 — “Libertarian” Authoritarians And Pulp

Posted in Uncategorized by Andrew Hickey on June 22, 2014

So, before we get to the actual point of this — the uproar in science fiction fandom about a number of books nominated for the Hugo Awards — let’s have a look at the list of libertarian policy positions supported by libertarian SF fandom I talked about last time :

  • Government is the only enemy of liberty, or the only one worth bothering with
  • “An armed society is a polite society” — guns make people behave
  • Securing the borders is one of only two legitimate functions of government
  • “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” — economics is a zero-sum game, and if you’re giving someone government welfare handouts, you must be taking them from someone else, who actually earned them.

Now, the interesting thing about that list is that it’s not the list of policy positions you would come up with if you looked at any of the attempts by Libertarians to get their ideas into mainstream discourse. If you were to, say, read Reason magazine for a year, or watch every episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit, or any of the other venues in which Libertarian ideas are presented to the public, these would not be the ideas that would be harped on.

The reason for this is that Libertarianism is, like all political ideologies, a coalition, and self-described Libertarians fall into two very different groups.

The first group, the people who actually vote for the Libertarian Party, were discovered by the researcher Jonathan Haidt to be essentially small-l liberals who don’t care much about other people. That’s not an oversimplification — Haidt found that people’s moral and political views can be described by six factors: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. On all of them except “care”, the Libertarians were much closer to liberals than to conservatives, but on “care” they cared far less than conservatives, who cared less than liberals.

(That’s not necessarily a value judgement, by the way — it could be argued, though I think wrongly, that liberals let sentimentality get in the way of actually thinking with a clear head).

So the people who promote Libertarianism are, for the most part, promoting ideas that sound sensible to liberals, until they get to the occasional economic idea that just sounds wrong to non-Libertarians.

But most of the self-described Libertarians in SF fandom don’t vote for the Libertarian Party. Rather they’re independents who lean Republican, or they are actual Republicans, who use “Libertarian” as a label for the wing of the party they support, rather in the same way that Ken Clarke might describe himself as “on the liberal wing of the Conservative Party”.  And those people are rather different.

They are, for the most part, people who fit into the group identified by Robert Altermeyer in his research (summarised in his book The Authoritarians, which everyone should read). Altermeyer, like Haidt, found that people can be grouped into predictable clusters based on their answers to a relatively small number of questions, and one large group he called Right-Wing Authoritarians (yes, I know that the idea of a Libertarian Authoritarian sounds like an oxymoron…).

These people are, according to Altermeyer, those with three personality traits that they have in much higher degree than anyone else — authoritarian submission (following leaders, and believing that it’s right to follow leaders), authoritarian aggression (a dislike of the unlike, an aggression towards members of groups designated “other” by the leaders), and conventionalism (adhering to rigid norms and belief that others should follow those norms).

Now, at first glance, that sounds like the opposite of Libertarianism. Rigid conformity? Following leaders? That’s hardly the stuff of freedom-lovers, is it?

But look again at that list of policies. For a group of people whose main motivators are wanting to stick with the in-group and keep out the out-group, “securing the borders” and “an armed society is a polite society” sound very, very good.

So the RWAs in SF fandom for the most part gravitated towards Libertarianism.  But there are two other things that attracted them into specific areas.

The first was subject matter. RWAs are, as you might expect, big fans of the military, and so they quickly turned Heinlein’s libertarian-tinged stories about space militaries (notably Starship Troopers) into a whole genre, imaginatively known as “military science fiction”, about Space Marines In Space Doing Space Marine Stuff.  There are whole publishers (Baen Books is the most prominent) who publish almost nothing but “military science fiction”, usually along with a bit of military fantasy (the same stories but with orcs instead of aliens).

Not all military SF writers are RWAs, of course (John Scalzi, for example, whose Old Man’s War series is a conscious pastiche of Heinlein at his most militaristic, is a slightly-left-of-centre moderate liberal), and almost every SF writer has tried writing one or two military SF stories, but a huge number of them are. (Also, for some reason, a lot of military SF writers seem to be Mormon).

The other thing they gravitate to, again unsurprisingly, is the traditional pulp mode of storytelling. Not only is “conventional” an entirely good thing for RWAs, but the traditional pulp storyline (a baddy enters a community of good but weak people, and a goody who is stronger than those people defeats the baddy, where the baddy can be anything from an alien invasion fleet to the bandits raiding the village) dramatises perfectly the RWA view — there are people like us, good people, and there are bad forces out there that want to destroy the good people, and the good people need a strong man to protect them.

So in SF fandom there is a large group of people who are self-described Libertarians, but very much on the conservative end of that spectrum. Those people — or the in-group with which they identify — have been part of SF fandom since there’s been such a thing. They’ve never been the main group, but they’ve been a large and respected contingent within it. And both as writers and readers, they prefer pulpy fiction about tough men overcoming overwhelming odds to get the girl and save the planet.

But this contingent are now angry…


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