Sunday, December 05, 2004

World-Wide Traffic and Critics Blog

Posted by Trent Walters at 8:47 AM
So far, apart from those already mentioned, traffic to the site has been lapping in waves from Geoff's interview, a handful of small blogs, a Portuguese-language science fiction mail group, a fan group that calls themselves Trufen, a fan site called sf-f.org (which offers basically a less insightful parroting of David Moles--see below), and a Finnish website that the best translation I can get is:
"Bulletin: Mundane SF maailmanlaajuisessa plexus: Is period finish hiljaiselo and unveil secular Mundanen Maailmanvalloitussuunnitelma! Vaviskaa!!!"

I wish I understood what they were saying--whether they're critizing or embracing. Why would I want to know what the critics are saying? Most folk are afraid of criticism. No doubt with some good reason. Basically, I'm offering people who don't want to think for themselves a way to pick out an argument of choice, often parroting other people's ideas--no matter how ill-informed--in order to support their world-view.

A good sharp critique you can build on, is useful, is crucial, is beneficial to helping both sides of an argument understand one another. But vitriol and personal opinions are pretty useless. As Sturgeon said, "90% of everything is crud."

Probably the most extensive discussion happened over on David Moles' weblog although a few are mostly opining. David Moles speculates a little wildly on our motivation (speculating on people's motives is usually a rather risky prospect without referring to the subtextual language)--"xenophobia.... writing imitation Kim Stanley Robinson novels.... a distorted echo of SF’s chronic mainstream envy...."

His best criticism is "why not take it farther? Why not eliminate some of the other SF motifs that they explicitly embrace, like nano and VR...?"

It's interesting how some read the manifesto and immediately understand what Geoff was up to, despite his not explicitly spelling it out. Intelligence is not the difference unless it's a very peculiar sort of intelligence, for Moles is often insightful in his blog, and in a sense, he did intuit our "shed[ding] 'all improbable or unknowable speculation about the past or the future'.” So in effect he answered his own questions: some tropes are more probable than others.

But then he does admit the reason for his own bias: "I’ve just decided that, in my own writing, it’s time to try, for a while, SF without constraints." All good writing has its own set of constraints, and no doubt David knows this. He's probably referring to using any trope. By all means.

He finishes open-spiritedly: "In the mean time, I wish them luck." Thanks, David. To you and your many projects as well.

Kathy Sedia writes, "I don't think tropes should be confused with what the story is about." Yes and no. It is possible to use a trope and not pay attention to the significance of such a trope. One may mean to use a trope as a metaphoric thread of one's thematic tapestry, but one's use of an accepted trope comes prepackaged with assumptions, which can be as ugly as implied racism.

Jed Hartman is supportive of the manifesto but, as always, offers an insightful critique: "I am amused that they include nanotech and VR as allowable technologies, given how near-universally unrealistically those technologies are portrayed in sf." This is quite true. Neal Stephenson, as someone on the Asimov's board pointed out, is Mundane by not using improbable tropes but uses probable tropes improbably, so at best he falls into the gray area of Mundanity: One can be Mundane in subject matter or in theme, though obviously we'd prefer both.

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