Discussion Dept Vol. 1: Heinlein, Vietnam Drinking Games, Sony, and Stupid Arguments About SF

Leave a comment

Every once in a while I feel like complaining about a few things instead of engaging the issues in a more sustained manner.  Usually I don’t blog about such complaints (which sometimes aren’t complaints so much as confusions or general “mehness”).

And that’s why I’ve created the Complaint Department Discussion Department feature:  to give me a little space to complain or babble about a few things without sustained thought (or to point out stupid things people say and do in the SF/F community).

Here goes:

Complaint #1 — Connie Willis and the Heinlein Award
She won it.  Alright.  That’s fine.  I haven’t read most of her work (though Jason Sanford tells me her latest novels aren’t very good).  But then you read the mission statement of the Heinlein Award and the red flags go up:  “For outstanding published works of science fiction and technical writings to inspire the human exploration of space.”

I’m sorry?  What do Blackout or All Clear have to do with that?  Nothing, you say?  Then why did she win this particular award?  That’s like giving a major league baseball player an award for MVP in the Superbowl.    He might be a great athlete, but the award is way outside his field.

Does anyone have any insight on this?  Did Willis write a short story set in space that changed the SF game or something?

Complaint #2 — The SF Writer Vietnam Drinking Game
Here’s how it works:

  • Name as many science fiction or fantasy writers from before the 1980s in two minutes.
  • Compare your list to the image provided below.  
  • For every person you named who is on the left, take a shot.  
  • For every person on the right that you should have named, take a shot.  
  • For every person on the left whose presence you are shocked by, take a shot.
You see where this is going, right?  Drink yourself into such a terrible stupor that the below image is wiped from your mind forever…

Complaint #3 — Sony to Ban Users Who Refuse to Waive Right to Sue
Because no corporation is immune to acting like a total and utter dickhole, Sony is apparently making it a requirement to waive your right to sue them if there is a security breach. If you don’t sign the new ToS? You get banned.

That’s right: you will not be allowed to use their system unless you agree not to sue them in the event that your credit card and other sensitive information are acquired because their security system wasn’t good enough to fend off hackers. Who wants to bet that in a few years they’ll stop putting so much money into security?

Thanks, Sony. You’ve just lost a customer for life.

(Note: The new ToS does allow you to go through arbitration, but this is done via an arbitrator selected by Sony. How many red flags does someone in HR need at Sony to realize this is a really dickhole idea?)

Complaint #4 — Science Fiction is About the Future
You know, that stupid argument that people make about SF that completely handicaps the genre by claiming it is about something it can’t fulfill, no matter how good the writer may be.  I’ve babbled about this topic before.  In two parts.  I don’t deny that a lot of the classic SF authors (and perhaps most of them today) believed they were predicting the fortune by writing SF, but using that as a basis for saying that the genre is about extrapolation (as opposed to saying extrapolation is sometimes a part of the form) is sort of like saying you buy your friend’s argument when he says “I only eat apples” while munching on an orange.

SF is always about the present (with rare exception — and, as we know, exceptions prove the rule).  This annoying focus on extrapolation does nothing but make the genre look like a silly game of “guess who.”  Who cares if jetpacks came true?  We got space shuttles, advanced medical technology, and smart phones instead.  Who cares whether a prediction is “accurate?”  Asking such questions seems absurd to me.  The future is unattainable the further you move away from the now.  Let’s worry about realistic stuff, like what tomorrow will look like and how we can make it better.  You don’t need SF to do that for you.


That’s what I’ve got.  What about you? What has been bugging you this week?

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

Leave a Reply