Thursday, June 5, 2014

Evil, Be Thou My Good

There's something I've hesitated to speak about, not so much because I'm afraid of career sabotage – although that is, to be sure, a matter that has crossed my mind more than once – but because I'm so small and unimportant that I risk making myself seem ridiculous.

Also, I have no interest in being an Internet culture warrior. You can count the number of my posts that have discussed politics or hot-button social issues on one hand, without using any fingers, even your thumb. Public backbiting is an easy way to generate hits – such a chimera is man! – but I just want to write.

To be perfectly blunt, I started this blog because I wanted a place where I could (a) jot down random musings to clarify my ideas, and (b) demonstrate to potential publishers that I'm capable of maintaining a web presence. First came the novel, then came the blog.

As I rewrote my novel it seemed a good idea to get some short stories published, as a way of getting my foot in the door and generating interest in my secondary world. This then became a place where I could do a little low-key self-promotion – connecting readers to my other stories and so forth. But my end goal is still to get my novel (currently called Dragonfly) published.

Am I revealing too much here?

Anyway, the point is, I'm not interested in debating politics on my blog. Heck, that's what Facebook is for. Why would I want to shoot down random strangers on the Internet when I can take out my aunts, cousins, and high school friends in front of all our mutual loved ones?

So I'm not going to start now. I'm simply going to state that I'm associating myself with the United Underworld Literary Movement, whose proposed manifesto (penned by the inestimable John C. Wright) may be found here. Its principles are threefold:
This new movement shall be one where the writer is allowed to put a message in his story, provided it entertains the reader, and provided he does not sabotage or ignore the story trying to shoehorn a message into it. Story telling comes first in stories. 
All stories will be judged on their merit, rather than on the skin color of the author or authoress. 
The writers are the servants of the readers, who are their patrons and patronesses. We are not the teachers, not the preachers, and not the parents and certainly not the masters of the readers. We are not social engineers with permission to manipulate the reader, nor subject them to indoctrination nor propaganda disguised as entertainment. 
In sum, the three ideas of the so-called reactionary Evil League of Evil is that that Science Fiction stories should be workmanlike, honest, and fun, and serve the reader rather than lecture, sucker-punch, subvert, or hector him. Stories should give the reader what he paid for.
A plan fiendish in all its intricacy! The movement is tied to Mr. Wright's proposed Space Princess Movement, to which I also subscribe, having pledged in my heart to place at least one space princess in a sequel to Dragonfly.

Mr. Wright goes on thusly:
Does that sound like a new literary movement? It is older than Homer.
When the first storyteller of prehistory standing outside the cave in the circle of light shed by that newly-invented dancing sky-flower called fire, and with wide gestures and daring words, while the shadows leaped,  astonished the youngsters of the clan with the deeds of the great hunt which happened that day, he used these tools of the trade. 
He told of the comedy of a spear thrown butt-first, the tragedy of a man trampled, the drama of the band of hunters aiding each other that the tribe might feast, that the tribe might live! And the youngsters with their eyes wide and mouths hanging round open listened in wonder. They were enchanted. 
And then, as twilight deepened into night and the stars looked on, the tale he told turned to the of the eldest grandfathers and great hunters long dead but living again in the constellations, chasing the raging boars and mighty mastodons and swift smilodons whose images were in the zodiac — that unknown and unnamed first storyteller told a tale of stars and eternal things. 
He told of the creation of the world, the kindling of the sun and moon, and how the High Spirit placed green trees and blue rivers in the mighty lap of the Earth. And he sang the names of their fathers and forefathers, and how the tribe was blessed in times long gone by the gods, and how these names and great deeds must never be forgotten, but told in turn to their sons and daughters. 
That first founder of my guild knew the three things any storyteller who is honest knows: A story is not a lecture nor a sermon; the storyteller puts the story first, not the storyteller; the storyteller serves rather than rules those who hear his tale.
Amen to that.

As of April, I'm eligible to join the SFWA. However, given recent developments, I have decided that, for the moment, my money would be better spent on a trip to the beach with my family. Which is too bad for them (the SFWA, I mean), because they miss out on diversifying themselves with Puerto Rican blood and autistic brain cells. If any of its representatives ever sees this humble post, and cares that I'm withholding my slender talents from its august ranks, they can reflect on the irony of that.

I've done diversity before. As a grad student I was supported for several years by a fellowship for minorities. I've never felt more isolated than I did at the fellowship conference, which was more like a religious retreat for a church I didn't belong to than a professional gathering. The price of "diversity" was ideological conformity. I have no wish to repeat the experience.

The SFWA can entertain themselves with defining the "right" and "wrong" types of stories or writers – I wish them much pleasure in the pursuit! – but they can count me out. Already one of my stories has been identified as the "wrong" kind on the blog of a major publisher. Since I don't seed my writing with statements about what I stand for and what I oppose, and (like Flannery O'Connor) reserve the right to write about grotesque people doing grotesque things, intending (though arguably with little success) to let the story speak for itself, I suppose it's really just a matter of time before I get in more trouble.

So, I'm "coming out" as a minor villain. Evil, be thou my Good.


  1. Well, that made my day. I need to read some of Wright's fiction.