Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Taking An Ethical Stand

with 36 comments

Last month a new groupblog appeared, the intriguing titled Science Fiction and Fantasy Ethics. The people involved were a motley bunch and it wasn’t at all clear how the title would relate to the content. The mission statement is more than a little vague:

Our mission is to celebrate everything positive, funky and exciting in the Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror Universe! The SFFE is a core platform, a hub of authors who have banded together with the aim of celebrating all that is positive in genre fiction. We aim to make an ethical stand, to do what is right and leave cynicism and negativity at the door. We aim to concentrate on what makes us smile, what entertains us, and what brings light and joy to our SF, fantasy and horror worlds. That’s not to say there is no place for criticism— there’s plenty bad in the world. However, this little digital corner is a place for positive progression. Somewhere you will (hopefully) come if you want to smile and be entertained.

So their “ethical stand” appears to be to cheerlead things they like and ignore things they don’t. Fair enough. However, it is also implies the things they like are breezy upbeat numbers that bring a smile to the face. This from a group that includes Conrad Williams, a writer not well known for his happy-clappy fiction. Is this just another (and slightly unlikely) iteration of the positive SF movement?

I’m not the only person confused by this. Today’s Mind Meld poses these question to the group: Why do you think there is an imbalance towards a negative futuristic outlook? How did we get here and how has this affected the genre? Can you give some examples of positive/upbeat ideas in your genre? The answers are by no means uniform. At the end Andy Remic, founder of the group, tries to shed some light on the situation (and the name):

I believe there is a new wave coming. A new wave of positive genre fiction, as can be seen in de Vries Shine anthology, but also a positive movement in the industry and community. I believe there’s a lot of people out there sick of the constant whining and moaning and tearing down – after all, it’s much easier to destroy than create. That’s why myself, and so many other brilliant authors, are involved with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Ethics project (the SFFE) because we want to promote a positive attitude in the industry, and make and ethical stand against the constant poison and vitriol which, I think, has been invading and escalating for a long time. I chose the name “Ethics” not because I wanted to explore the ethical contexts of novels or films, but because I wanted to make an ethical stand against the motherfuckers who, to my mind, are systematically ruining the SFFH genres. In short, I wanted to do what I believed was intrinsically, morally, ethically and intuitively right. I want to celebrate everything that is good in SFFH, because it’s all subjective, right?? – and, hopefully, we can lead by positive example.

So the obvious question is: who are the motherfuckers?

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Written by Martin

3 June 2009 at 12:44

36 Responses

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  1. Is it not a variant on the line espoused by Richard Morgan about the bitchyness of genre discussion?

    Jonathan M

    3 June 2009 at 13:27

  2. I don’t know. From bitch to motherfucker seems like an escalation, as does the claim that these people are “systematically ruining the SFFH genres”. I need details or examples or something to help me understand just what the problem is.

    Martin

    3 June 2009 at 13:52

  3. “That’s why myself, and so many other brilliant authors,” is a nice line in oxymoron.
    Or, I dunno, somethingmoron.

    Anyhow, carry on SFFE. I’ll be elsewhere.

    Peter Hollo

    3 June 2009 at 15:59

  4. Yawn. Yep. Here we go…

    Andy Remic

    3 June 2009 at 16:07

  5. Andy, it seems to me that Martin is asking a serious question, and he’s not the only one confused by this. A lot of people are puzzled by who is “systematically ruining the genres” and how, and I for one would really appreciate some clarification and examples.

    Dave Schwartz

    3 June 2009 at 17:18

  6. We are out to promote the positive. Some people are out to promote the negative. We don’t do that. Simple.

    But hey, sure Dave, no problem. Email me your full contact details and I will respond directly. I kinda have a problem with people hiding behind anonymous internet connections. If you need to read the mission statement, visit the sit at http://www.sffethics.wordpress.com, and of course, please feel free to chat with any of the “motley crew” at any convention or book signing you find us at. Cheers, Andy Remic :-)

    andyremic

    3 June 2009 at 17:44

  7. Maybe Andy should wait til he’s not so tired, perhaps even have a little nap, before answering Dave’s question.

    Adam Roberts

    3 June 2009 at 17:48

  8. Seconding Dave S: there are two major things about SFFE that seem pretty confusing. First, how does “ethics” get equated with “optimism”? Secondly, specifically for Andy R, who exactly are the people who are ruining the genres, and how? I can’t see that these are anything other than legitimate good-faith questions.

    Graham Sleight

    3 June 2009 at 19:10

  9. Huh. Andy R’s response to Dave S didn’t show up when I posted. That said, I’m not sure I understand how Dave, posting as he is under his real name and linking to his LJ, is “hiding behind an anonymous internet connection”.

    Graham

    3 June 2009 at 19:54

  10. The comment was in the moderation queue and I was out which is why you didn’t see it. I too am puzzled about this as everyone in this thread is using their real name and linking to further personal information about themselves.

    My question was sincere and I would still like an answer. Am I to assume that I am a motherfucker?

    Martin

    3 June 2009 at 20:19

  11. Ah. Never attribute to conspiracy what you could attribute to technological wossname.

    Graham Sleight

    3 June 2009 at 20:24

  12. Yeah, I am failing to see how asking someone to clarify a remark calling an unspecified group of people motherfuckers for doing some unspecified harm is a strange request, and also not sure how someone posting under their full name with a link to their blog is hiding behind an anonymous internet connection.

    Liz

    3 June 2009 at 20:47

  13. I am pretty sure that I am one of those motherfuckers, or at least that’s what I was told when I addressed the subject last fall.

    Kathryn Cramer

    3 June 2009 at 20:49

  14. Martin – just trying to do something positive here. If you wish to assume you are a motherfucker, go right ahead, but I didn’t have you in mind when I wrote that; I was thinking of several forums and an organisation I really cannot name. I think the SFFE site is self explanatory. If you don’t like it – which you guys obviously don’t – then it’s not for me to debate it here. This is my last post here, because it’s one of those situations which I cannot win; nor would want to. If you wish to see our positive reviews and articles, and attempts to help upcoming writers with advice on the industry, then visit the collaborative SFFE site. If you don’t, then no problem. If you want me to answer a specific question, email me. If not, no problem. If you want to meet for a beer, drop me a line ;-) I’m not as bad an ogre as you lot think. If not – again, no problem. Is it so bad to want to do something positive in the industry? I guess it is :-(

    Andy Remic

    3 June 2009 at 21:05

  15. Um? As others have said, I’m hardly anonymous here. The most conspicuous anonymites are the alleged motherfuckers committing unspecified crimes against the genre. Your position and that of your movement are far from self-explanatory. If I were feeling charitable I might interpret your unwillingness to clarify as a reluctance to “name names,” but I’m not sure how charitable I’m feeling at the moment. Perhaps you would prefer that no one other than your cohorts understand what the hell you’re talking about, but I can’t see how that’s going to give your manifesto any more credibility.

    Dave Schwartz

    3 June 2009 at 21:19

  16. Couldn’t agree more Martin – that’s a really clear exposition of the confusing nature of this “ethical stand”. This fuzzily implied connection between ethics and optimimism isn’t simply obscure – it’s actually quite agressive (and insulting) towards those of us who are sceptical about the notion of prescribed optimism in storytelling.

    I’m not sure why you are getting so angry Andy R: you’ve been asked some pretty direct and specific questions about the purpose of the SFFE group. And there *is* a need for some clarification here. We really must be told who the motherfuckers are (or at least what they have DONE) if we’re to understand the purpose and value of your initiative (and, as Martin says, whether it goes beyond a restatement of the positive sf position.

    Kathryn, on the basis of your blog, if you are one of the motherfuckers, I hope I’m in the same parade and carrying a banner…

    (Apologies for typos – I can’t find my reading glasses).

    Andy Hedgecock

    3 June 2009 at 23:40

  17. I’m not fully in agreement with them, but you’d have to be particularly dense to not comprehend what they’re doing and why. I guess it’ll no doubt receive self-important (delusional?) rebuttals, but – just like bad TV – if you don’t like it, don’t watch. Simple!

    David

    4 June 2009 at 06:45

  18. To be honest, I doubt you’d be smart enough to fuck your own hand let alone anyone’s mother.

    Simon

    4 June 2009 at 10:07

  19. To be fair, I can see what he’s getting at. I think the ‘ethics’ thing is a combination of two separate ideas. Firstly, the de Vriesian call for more positive SF content and secondly, Morgan’s call for more positivity in the discussion of SF content.

    However, I think it’s a cultural thing rather than a problem with individuals so I’m not sure where the motherfuckers fit in. I’m sure that everyone who has commented here has turned their nose up at some things, but I would suggest that that’s down to the fact that SFFH is a collection of sub-genres all catering to people with very different tastes and if you throw all of these people together into one cultural space you’re bound to have conflict.

    Also, as was the case with Morgan’s similar complaint, I’m not totally sure why this should be problematic. A lot of people do get on, a lot of stuff gets written about genre and people still produce fanzines, websites and conventions. I’m not sure why people should be more positive. More discussion is better but I’m not sure that that discussion needs to be limited to one character rather than another.

    Jonathan M

    4 June 2009 at 11:18

  20. ‘Ethics’ – Remic keeps using that word, and I’m not sure it means what he thinks it means!

    At any rate, if it is ethical to not say anything at all if you can’t think of anything nice to say, count me out; IMNSHO, taking genre seriously means not coddling bad or sub-par books with unwontedly positive reviews, as much as it does giving excellent or good books their due. I’m all in favour of, when assessing a book, attempting to take into account what an author may have been trying to do – but I’ve no interest in giving them a pass when it doesn’t work on the basis that it was a noble effort and hey, let’s all just get along.

    Not all books are aimed at all readers; but that doesn’t mean that all readers shouldn’t be able to read them and talk about them, even so.

    Nic Clarke

    4 June 2009 at 11:31

  21. To be clear, I look forward to reading Jetse de Vries’s book, but find it irritating that in the advance PR the shine people seem to need to find enemies for the cause of Optimism. I think most people would _like_ to be more optimistic about the future.

    Kathryn Cramer

    4 June 2009 at 11:32

  22. Again, to be fair Kathryn, this type of backlash also happened with the Mundane SF movement. In fact, I remember a withering put-down of the manifesto by Rucker in the NYRSF. If you say “I think we should do more of X” then by definition you’re saying that there’s some kind of problem with not-X.

    The cyberpunk movement were perfectly happy making enemies of a number of SF big beasts. It’s in the nature of movements, particularly quasi-political ones.

    The yardstick should ultimately be the new site’s output not Andy R’s words about it. If they are in the business of putting out positive reviews for terrible books then they’ll get what they deserve.

    Jonathan M

    4 June 2009 at 12:33

  23. Yes Jonathan but by whose authority is a book terrible, yours? Your last comment underlines why this is being done.

    ME Staton

    4 June 2009 at 12:53

  24. Clearly someone should start a group blog called “Science Fiction and Fantasy Motherfuckers”, solely for the purpose of giving negative reviews to books, on the grounds that there is too much soft-soaping going on and someone has to steer the poor, innocent readers away from the crap books.

    Nick

    4 June 2009 at 13:03

  25. It already exists. It’s called Amazon.

    Kathryn Cramer

    4 June 2009 at 13:06

  26. Yes Jonathan but by whose authority is a book terrible, yours? Your last comment underlines why this is being done.

    I’m confused. SFFE is happening because some reviewers have appropriated the authority to decide which book is good or bad, but isn’t that what all reviewers do? If you post a positive review of a book Jonathan reviewed negatively, aren’t you claiming the same authority you’ve just denied to Jonathan?

    Abigail

    4 June 2009 at 13:16

  27. [...] Martin notes the Science Fiction and Fantasy Ethics group blog. Its mission: “To promote positive reviews of books, movies and comics.” I see nothing wrong with this. [...]

  28. Abigail, I think what Kathryn is saying rather too kindly is that some people like to believe that their circle-jerk gang is better than the rest, which is usually accompanied by putting down some books and refusing to look at the good. If only they knew that such things are meaningless on the internet: that anyone’s review has equal weighting. But they don’t realise this because they’re still engaged in mutual masturbation.

    I think that’s what she was trying to say, although I could be wrong.

    David

    4 June 2009 at 15:37

  29. Having been on the receiving end of this sort of thing I just wonder what people expect with it being the Internet? People disagree. People like different books. Not really a surprise is it David?

    Mark

    4 June 2009 at 15:45

  30. One small clarification from my side, in answer to Kathryn Cramer:

    “To be clear, I look forward to reading Jetse de Vries’s book,”

    Thanks for that, Kathryn.

    “…but find it irritating that in the advance PR the shine people seem to need to find enemies for the cause of Optimism.”

    The SFF Ethics group and blog is Andy Remic’s brainchild. They are *not* the shine people — basically, there is only one ‘shine anthology’ person, and that’s me — and are also not the advance PR for my anthology.

    Andy Remic asked me to join the SFFEthics group a few weeks ago, explaining that “this project aims to be a hub of all that is good and wholesome in these genres – the sort of positive novels, films and video games that fire the soul and, at a basic and wholesome level, entertain.”

    Which was (and is) fine by me, and I decided to join. I was (and am) unhappy with the ‘ethics’ moniker, voiced my misgivings in the group, but the majority decided to run with it anyway.

    Just to say that this is a group, with Andy Remic as main editor, which I joined a bit later in the game, and over which I have minimal (if any) influence.

    I applaud the original goal (as quoted above), but I am not looking for *enemies* to the cause of optimism, rather the contrary: I am trying to get people interested in it by setting a positive example, not by alienating them.

    The “stand against the motherfuckers who, to my mind are systemetically ruining the SFFH genres” is from Andy Remic, not from me. That was never my intent when I joined SFFE (nor did anybody tell me it would be), and if that is what SFFE will be doing then I will leave the group.

    For now I’ll take a jaundiced look on how things develop (and I always try to keep a dialogue going), but I am not happy with how SFFE’s first days after the launch went, so far.

    “I think most people would _like_ to be more optimistic about the future.”

    Kathryn, I couldn’t agree more.

    Jetse

    4 June 2009 at 17:28

  31. I’ve a hunch that I might be one of the motherfuckers to which reference has been made. It’s just a hunch, mind.

    So, let’s say, you read The Eyes of Argon and you love it; you’re gripped, thrilled, moved and inspired. Then you read a review that says ‘The Eyes of Argon is terribly bad stuff.’ Do you then

    (a) (like Mark) say to yourself: a different opinion to mine, how interesting, let a thousand flowers bloom and a thousand schools of thought contend, one feature of great art is that it provokes a diversity of responses. Or

    (b) say to yourself: the review, by calling this book crap, is saying that my taste in books is crap which is tantamount to calling me a big crappy crap-crap. Nobody calls me a big crap-crap and gets away with it. Where does this motherfucker get off calling people big crap-craps like this? Why can’t s/he keep their offensive opinions to themselves?

    But of course it goes without saying that reviewers respond to the book they have read, not to the idea in their heads of the sort of people who like the book they have just read. Apart from me, I mean. Obviously when I review, I do so specifically to mock the value-systems and worth of people who read. People like you, sir. And you madam.

    Adam Roberts

    4 June 2009 at 17:29

  32. Thanks, for the clarification, Jetse.

    (Now if only I can find out how to join the group Jeff VanderMeer mentions, M@therf*ckers Who Object to the Use of Hammers! (Mwouh!).

    Kathryn Cramer

    4 June 2009 at 17:42

  33. [...] Martin Lewis asks who are the motherfuckers? [...]

  34. [...] with Remic himself and at least one other SFFE contributor in attendance, in the comments to this post by Martin Lewis. What you can’t do is read an entry on SFFE itself titled “Some [...]

  35. [...] good new memories: I remember toasting, with the other motherfuckers, the health of Andy Remic, for bringing us together; I remember conversations in the bar with many people, particularly the discussion with [...]

  36. [...] worst novels I’ve read and shares the three insurmountable flaws Jared identifies. These are:enjoy poking the hornets’ nests but because it got me thinking about the fantasy blogosphere. After reading the Pornokitch review I [...]


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