The Incredible Shrinking Blog

One month ago, I said, “I hope the April Summation will follow in a few days and I’ll catch up completely before too long but technical difficulties may slow me down…I’m going to be messing around with a new laptop and, depending on how it goes, I may not be very productive for awhile.”

Well, since I’d previously avoided stuff like UEFI and GPT, I got to learn about that and, because I don’t think it was even an issue the last time it would have come up, I got to learn about “Secure Boot,” for three examples, but I actually got the system installed just fine and am the proud operator of a bouncing baby Slackware-current Linux system on my new HP laptop.[1]

Rather than any installation problem, what initially caused the extended delay was that I realized all my files, scripts, and more were horribly disorganized and out of date. Getting the system just exactly perfect has been much more tedious and is taking longer than expected, especially as other things seem to keep coming up. I’m still not 100% there, but the bulk of it is done.

While I was doing this, I was discouraged from rushing back to do reviews by the John W. Campbell business. In many ways (especially socioeconomic) I’m a pretty liberal guy, but I have next to no patience with “political correctness” or historical “revisionism” or any number of the other manifestations of “theory” prevalent these days. This has always been a drag on my enjoyment of current SF and contributed to the burnout I was feeling which led to my falling behind in March, but I felt like I was ready to get back on the horse and was making good progress catching up (having read all but the selectively reviewed zines through June) until I couldn’t avoid the laptop problem anymore. And while I was doing that, we got the Awards Formerly Known As Campbell. While the attack was vulgar and ignorant, it was also irrelevant to short SF. However, people who are relevant to short SF and should know better have not only failed to be voices of reason but have added to the unreason. It just underscores that I signed up to read a body of literature with a significant emphasis on creative ideas and positive visions of futures with technologically and rationally advanced natures and what I’ve been reading is mostly a subgenre of LGB,eTc. fiction[2] which is populated by Orwellian erasers of the giants whose shoulders they stand upon insofar as they are SF at all (or Wile E. Coyotes sawing off the limb they sit on). The great Katherine MacLean died recently. One guess as to who published her first story in 1949. One guess as to who published Asimov and Heinlein’s earliest, most influential work. One guess as to who published people as politically diverse as Poul Anderson and Mack Reynolds. One guess as to who elevated the genre from largely BEMs and blasters to a body of largely serious science-based speculative fiction with room for the occasional BEM and blaster both through his writing and his editing. No, I do not agree with everything he said on issues other than SF and it would probably be more accurate to say I agree with very little. But guess what – I don’t agree with much of what anyone says and I’m surprised (and dismayed) at people who do find others to be in lockstep with. I do think that he was one of the greatest editors of all time (when most of today’s editors can’t even present their authors as having a basic grasp of grammar and spelling) and every SF fan should hold him in their hearts as someone who helped make the field great.

So. You may have noticed my blog is not the blog it used to be. Well, “cancel culture” is the thing, right? I’m supposed to object to things on ideological grounds, rewrite history, make unpleasantness disappear, and not promote anything that’s not completely in accordance with the One True Way of Thought (which is My Way), right? So here it is.[3]

It’s ironic. As a lover of the unpopular field of print science fiction and the even less popular field of short SF, I made the promotion of contemporary short SF the purpose of this blog, only to have to admit that short SF has become unpopular for very good reasons and I now wish to do anything but promote it. From now on, this blog will focus on tomorrow through the past. Anything written in the 20th century will be covered and certainly not everything from the present century will be excluded but will be rare. More non-science-fiction items will probably also make their appearance. Because the nature of this blog has changed so radically, I expect the always modest interest in it to plummet, much like current magazines’ circulation figures, but I hope some people will continue to visit. If not, it’s still a price I’m willing to pay. I was just on a mistaken mission based on the notion that short/current science fiction was unjustly overlooked and still merited promotion when, really, it does not. There are great stories out there but not very many of them make it into professional anthologies, even fewer win awards, and the percentage of them is too small to make finding them on an unpaid basis worthwhile for any but the most fanatical. There are few, if any, magazines that I would even remotely consider subscribing to and, while I have always honestly praised the individual stories I saw as good and ignored or disapproved of those I saw as bad, how can I honestly continue to promote the current field at all with that fact staring back at me?

I want to say with crystal clarity that this is not “about” the Campbell thing and not even about the response of some people to it but it’s just the last straw from a systemic malaise in “SF” that has long been repelling me, like so many others, from the field and finally made me decide to abandon it in its current zeitgeist.


[1] It’s also the last HP laptop I will ever buy for several reasons. Also, running -current isn’t ideal – I haven’t run it in years and I’d rather have installed a release-version like the Slack 14.2 I was running on the previous laptop but, since Slack’s been living up to its name and hasn’t had an actual release in over three years, I doubted it would have worked on a new machine.

[2] I have recommended several good-to-superb pieces of fiction including or focusing on these characters or issues. I just feel these themes occupy fiction disproportionately and often eclipse any emphasis on true scientific (or even fantastic) speculation and/or are often inauthentically obligatory. It just really feels to me that, in genre terms, the tail is often wagging the dog.

[3] It pains me to have wasted a significant percentage of several years of my life (I’ve deleted 93.6% of this blog and J-Sun-Space, which contained some reviews going back to 2012, has been completely deleted, though I may bring some reviews of classics from it to this blog) and it pains me that recommendations of a few great stories by innocent people have been caught up in this, along with the comments a few people took their time and effort to write which were attached to posts which I’ve deleted. Similarly, it’s unfortunate some good sites which promote current SF aren’t on my sidebar and that my banner, which was designed by an ezine editor, has gone away.

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13 thoughts on “The Incredible Shrinking Blog

  1. “While I was doing this, I was discouraged from rushing back to do reviews by the John W. Campbell business. In many ways (especially socioeconomic) I’m a pretty liberal guy, but I have next to no patience with “political correctness” or historical “revisionism” or any number of the other manifestations of “theory” prevalent these days.”

    Yep, me too, and I agree with everything else you have said. I spent about three weeks trying to write a post about the events and various ghastly behaviours I saw before giving up. At least I had a moment of schadenfreude there when the gang of arsonists that had been running amok in the field suddenly realised that they were living in the semi-detached house (Tiptree award) next door to one they were burning down.
    I hope you restore your old reviews–even if you don’t want to continue with new material, it would be a shame to have all that work unavailable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jason, just wanted you to know that many people share your opinion that the SFF field has turned to crap in the last few years. Myself, I quit reading in about 2014 and started writing instead. It takes longer, but at least the stories come out the way I want. Maybe not always the way I expect, as the characters seem to have their own ideas how things are going to go. Six books in now, its still fun.

    So I encourage you to have a try at making the stories yourself. The stupid ones you can hide in a drawer like I do, the fun ones you can sell. Enjoy a good story and get paid too, its a pretty good deal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Enjoy a good story and get paid too, its a pretty good deal.” Reminds me of Heinlein selling a story and asking, “How long has this racket been going on?” 🙂 Thanks for the advice and I may take it, though I definitely need to get back to reading some of the classics I haven’t had time for during the past few years.

      Like

  3. Agree but regret loss of so much insightful commentary. Restore it!
    This too shall pass… I’ve seen such tides rush in and wash out. This one will be even faster.
    BTW on Berserkers I never read those stories but after my Galactic Center series and stories see the threads. & never talked to Fred about it either! Sigh…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m all in favor of a site that reviews old scifi; I still like to obsess over Heinlein et al. But I have to say that deleting years of work from your blog just feels like a tantrum. And if you’ve been into short sci fi then can I suggest that you start awarding a Campbell award of your own for the stories that ring your bell? Sounds like you’ve been doing most of the work already. Plus — if you’re just looking for stories that might be candidates for your Campbell award then you can skip all of the stuff that you consider to be too SJW to merit consideration. That should cut down on your work load.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t see it as a tantrum. I simply no longer like the idea of promoting these magazines and would feel bad every time the site stats showed hits going from this blog to those places, no matter how few. Far from a tantrum, it’s a calculated “business decision.” I just don’t want to “patronize those establishments” or aid them in any direct way.

      As far as the personal Campbell award, I didn’t focus on authors on this site so much as stories and did produce a couple of “Year’s Best” posts where I selected a “virtual anthology” of the best stories I read that year. My issue isn’t with the awards (which I haven’t really cared about for a long time) but with the “rejection” speeches that have become popular, are endorsed by editors and anthologists, and which contribute to the destructive redefinition of a field I loved.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment and suggestions.

      Like

  5. I hear you. The kids (I’m going to call them kids) are really annoying right now. But I temper my reaction with the memory of my youth during the Sixties and Seventies when the New Left was being just as stupidly, ass backwardly judgemental about things they had no clue about. Somehow, back then, I was okay with with the dumb assery that was all around me. I could nod when anarchists spouted off about free everything. I was only mildly upset when the Weathermen cheered American casualties in Vietnam. My point is that, yes, the kids are all full of themselves and think that they’re authorized to pass judgement over everyone and everything but they’ll get over themselves eventually just like we did. I just hate to see you dump a lot of good work over their temporary dumb assery. That’s my whole point.

    Like

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