Theft and the 1%

14 Comments

Warrior
I’m always inspired by the comments people leave at the blogs. A couple back, I got into a short discussion with poster Hoocott on colonial attitudes about theft in the first couple of Tarzan novels. This might sound like neo-left carping, but actually these attitudes are still around is some quarters, so I think it’s appropriate to have a deeper look.Thanks also for Jeffro Johnson for bringing up the subject.

Tarzan of the Apes and The Return of Tarzan were published just after the turn of the 20th century, so they’re pretty dated by now—like H.G. Wells or Jules Verne. However, they’re also a sort of charming look at life and attitudes in the late 19th early 20th centuries when people still traveled on steamships and Africa was The Dark Continent. For anyone who hasn’t read them, these first couple of novels were Romantic adventure (with a capital R). Romanticism was a trend during the Industrial Revolution when everyone yearned for simpler times. This led to the myth that we could somehow “return to nature” and glorified the “noble savage” who still lived life in the wild. I might come back to this sometime later, but right now I want to look at some of the attitudes, especially about theft.

In The Return of Tarzan, Tarzan is lost off a ship and ends up back in Africa where he takes up with an African tribe called the Waziri. He is captured by the degenerate beast men of the lost city of Opar, and during his escape, finds their lost treasury filled with gold ingots. Tarzan has been out into the world, so he recognizes this for what it is. He goes back with some of the Waziri warriors and steals about 20 ingots @40 pounds each=$15,155,200 (at today’s prices). Contrary to what Hoocott said in the comments, I can’t see anywhere that he meant to share this with the Waziri. He didn’t take it to the village, but instead hid it in the jungle.

Keep in mind that modern interpretations will often try to fix this—it’s clearly theft and he uses it to set himself and Jane up with an estate in London. I didn’t blink at this as a kid, and I think a lot of readers still won’t. However, if you consider, it’s right out of Cortez and Pizzaro’s colonial playbook—find naïve native tribe, steal gold, retire to a nice villa in Spain. So why do people still accept this? Why not ban the book because it glorifies theft?

Answer: Because it’s how the 1% still does business. You know who they are, the ultra-rich 1% that owns 99% of the wealth in the world? Since we’ve just elected one of them as President of the US, it’s nice to have a look at this attitude. The 1% doesn’t believe in working for wealth; instead, they believe that it should be “captured” through actions like business deals, tax loopholes and influencing government policy. If you’d like to follow up with further reading, look for The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions (1899) by Thorstein Veblen.

The big way to for the 1% to capture wealth during the Bush administration looked to be through war profiteering. We’ll have to see how it develops during the next four years.

Advertisements

Taking the week off

Leave a comment

turkey-clip-art-MTLKerBTaA happy Thanksgiving holiday feast for those in the US! I’ll be back next week, well-stuffed with turkey. Safe travels to everyone!

Has the Hugo Turned into an Affirmative Action Award?

2 Comments

FeatherPenClipArt
Another point that came up during the recent discussion at File 770 was how the Hugo Award winners are now regarded. There was commentary on this well before the 2016 awards cycle. For example, various bloggers have noted that the awards are increasingly dominated by women and minorities. In 2015 Brad Torgersen posted his  view of this trend, which is that the Hugos are being used as an “affirmative action award”. For anyone vague on what that means, affirmative action is defined as “an action or policy favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination.” The fact that anyone sees it this way is another suggestion (see previous blog) that the award voting has become politically motivated. Of course, any reasonable exchange on the idea is impossible. As one poster at File 770 noted, it is “inherently racist” to discuss the results in this way.

This is not to suggest that the winning works are not deserving. The makeup of the SFF community has clearly changed over the more than a century that SFF has been recognized as a genre. This means that readers’ tastes have changed, as well. I tend to lean progressive, and I love the interesting and creative elements that diverse authors bring to the genre. I reviewed all the winners this year and pointed out deserving elements well before the awards were given (as well as undeserving ones). However, the political squabble tends to obscure the positives. For an idea of how the response to this year’s awards went, check this exchange on Twitter.

Because of the virulence of the politics, no one these days can be sure whether they’ve won a Hugo Award based on the quality of the works or because of the politics. It looks to be a damaging experience. The Twitter exchange is another example of Internet bullying of someone who had little to do with allocation of the awards. Regardless of the Hugo committee’s efforts, you have to admit the Puppies are now right about a taint in the awards system.

Note: Mike Glyer has asked me to note that discussions that take place at File 770 don’t necessarily represent his personal views.

Politics and Hugo Wins

26 Comments

55327_girl-writing_md
Before disappearing, I was involved in another interesting discussion at File 770. It’s pretty cold now, but I think it warrants at least a couple of blog posts. The debate was about what effect the political maneuvering related to the Sad/Rabid Puppies slates has had on who wins a Hugo Award and how people see the results.

The first point that stood out for me is that posters at File 770 seem to consider the nomination slates as a political move by the Sad/Rabid Puppies, but don’t consider countervotes like “No Award” as a political response. This is part of characterizing the Puppies as a loony, sexist, racist fringe who are only trying to sabotage the Hugo Award because they are angry about diversity, while everyone else is an “organic voter,” presumably focused only on the quality of the work. This isn’t only language used at File 770, but also on various other blog and analysis sites. It seems a curious idea to me that a counter to a political strategy isn’t itself a political strategy. Hm. Something’s wrong there.

In the wake of the recent election, it’s hard to miss the clash of ideologies that went on—Clinton veering hard left versus Trump channeling the alt-right. The interesting thing is that a day after the popular vote showed 47.7% for Clinton and 47.5% for Trump (with presumably some ballots not yet counted). To those on either the conservative or liberal side who think they are a majority, it just ain’t so. Also, the fact that the polls were so far wrong shows that shutting down the opposition can produce a surprise that comes back to bite you in the butt.

And how does that apply to the SFF community? If we accept that the clash of ideologies we’ve just seen in the US election is also playing out in other segments of society, it’s likely that the Sad/Rabid Puppies are representing a valid social/political argument in their complaints about SFF publishers and the SFF awards system. This is quite probably a response to extremism on the left, as described by the various manifestos put out by the Puppies. So what does that make the political reaction from the SFF community? Is it about shutting down the discussion with a club of moral censure? About refusing to listen to heartfelt concerns because they run counter to the reigning ideology?

Shouldn’t we be looking at that roughly 50/50 split that Clinton and Trump achieved in the electorate an applying it to the conflict within the SFF community? Wouldn’t it be helpful if the community were to move a little more toward the center?

Note: Mike Glyer has asked me to note that discussions that take place at File 770 don’t necessarily represent his personal views.

Thanks for your support!

2 Comments

Orion,_battle_spaceshipWhile I was out on hiatus, my short story “Only a Signal Shown” (9/16 Perihelion SF) has appeared on the Nebula Reading List. It now has four recommendations. I need to thank everyone for reading, for publishing great reviews and for supporting the story on the list. I also need to thank the editors at PerihelionSF for their initial confidence in the story. An author is only a voice in the wilderness without his or her readers. Thank you for putting the story up there.

I’m especially proud of this one because it’s hard SF and idea-driven. It’s my take on what hard SF should be like, and I have gotten comments that it reads like a classic hard SF story, even though the ideas are current and original. I’ve also gotten requests for a sequel, which is likely to be a tall order. If you’ve missed the story, you can still read it at Perihelion SF. If you’re a SFWA member, you can also add to the recommendations on the Nebula Reading List. Thanks again!

Thoughts on the Election

3 Comments

flag-clip-art-bcyEppqcLSince I see a lot of other bloggers checking in on this topic, maybe it’s time I put together something in response. This week we’re living in a brand new world. The US voters have given everyone a dose of how reality works. They passed over an experienced, highly qualified candidate for president and chose someone with no political experience and very little apparent aptitude for the office, based on…what?

That’s the burning question of the hour, of course. The campaigns have been very vitriolic, which nobody liked. Besides that, the candidates have represented the two rising ideologies of this decade, the new left on the one side and the angry alt-right on the other. Clinton started out fairly moderate, but veered further left to pick up Sanders’ followers—if you’ve forgotten, he’s the man who promised free college tuition and free health care to all. That made Clinton more extreme. On the other hand, Trump pretty much exemplified the standard for the alt-right, not caring a whit if he came across racist or sexist, as long as he won the point. He attacked Clinton as “crooked” while characterizing his own questionable activities as “brilliant business strategy.” So why did the voters pick him?

I have a sneaky idea it’s to give the Republican Party complete control of the executive and legislative branches of government. Congress has spent the last eight years being obstructionist, so now let’s see what they’ve got. Trump promised to fix things. Let’s see how it goes.

%d bloggers like this: