The Cult Of The New And Its Destruction Of Culture

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Here’s a topic I haven’t really touched before, but it’s relevant to the way that culture has been systematically destroyed by a certain group over the last few decades. I’ve seen it discussed elsewhere as “the cult of the new” — where it’s driven by this near thoughtless consumerism of I NEED THE NEW THING NOW!, ignoring everything and anything that’s dated by even a few months, discarding as if it were irrelevant.

This topic struck me in a very personal way today, when I was personally attacked on Twitter by a group (which isn’t abnormal) for the crime of advocating for my forthcoming book, For Steam And Country. What was shocking about it and what got to me wasn’t the attacks, but a certain attack on one of the most revered authors in science fiction history, and one of the most prominent feminists ever to grace the field, one Anne McCaffrey.

It started because I was talking to a Tordotcom reviewer. A Hugo Nominated Fanzine writer chimed in to tell me how irrelevant I am by referencing my last novel, how she looked up “Rescue Run” and found that there was “nothing in sci-fi that returned on a google search”.

I corrected, of course, stating not only is there my extremely highly regarded, award nominated and well-reviewed book, but that I chose the title intentionally as an homage to the late great Anne McCaffrey, who wrote a book by the same name. This work was demeaned by her first as “it’s only a short story” (It’s a novella, actually) and this person who is nominated for the Hugo Award for fanzine work, retorted to that by calling Anne Mccaffrey “old and irrelevant.”

Let me stop right there.

As of my tracking, and I do track this, Anne McCaffrey has 63 published short stories in major SF magazines and a whopping 93 novels. I know this because i have all of them in their first print edition on a beautiful shelf in my living room on display.  McCaffrey wrote on psionics, wrote on genetic manipulation of animals in terraforming, in transplanting human brains into ship computer systems, on strange alien species such as sentient blades of grass. She not only did that but transcended genre with a lot of fantasy and romance books as well. She was not only “a woman science fiction author” as Tor likes to complain as late as today that there’s not enough love for, but THE woman science fiction author for decades. She is looked up to and revered by millions for her work in the genre. I can scarce think of someone more inspiring or relevant for that matter.

And of Hugos? This fanzine writer who writes self-described “feminist” commentary on science fiction is attacking the first woman ever to win the award! For shame! It boggles my mind to see this kind of lack of reverence for her.

Then there’s the fanzine element of this person’s nominations. Fanzines were originally created as content for Star Trek — but Pern in the 70s-80s was one of the biggest concepts out there for fanzines. Fanzines arguably wouldn’t exist without Pern fandom, in homage to Anne McCaffrey. Everything that this hugo nominated commentator does is built on the backs of what she’s dismissing out of hand.

As I’m writing this she followed up by saying “I love Anne McCaffrey as much as the next person who grew up not knowing any better.” Knowing any better? It’s so sad to see this lack of regard for her– no OUR betters and elders that I’m truly heartbroken.

And it comes down to the Cult of the New. Because Anne is no longer with us (may God have mercy on her eternal soul!), there’s nothing “new” about Anne’s work. It’s from an age past, something to be forgotten by the current cultural elite that want to erase history. Older works are things to read “before we knew better” to them. To them, our elders are people to be put into old folks home and forgotten about so they don’t disturb us, rather than revered as they should be. As a consequence, there’s no respect for true greatness because the great works are discarded.

Tor wrote an article on space opera today for their space opera week wondering why no one talks about Leigh Brackett, CL Moore and Andre Norton. Is it because they’re anti-woman? the author posited. No, it’s because of this, the lack of care for anything that didn’t drop to stands this week.

It’s horrible. And this is why the Hugo Awards are in such a tarnished state in a nutshell. Who in Science Fiction would want to be associated with that?  This is another reason why our fandom is dying. We need serious reform not just in the big publishing houses and markets — but in our souls.

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25 thoughts on “The Cult Of The New And Its Destruction Of Culture

  1. The mind boggles. I’ll take “old and irrelevant” over what passes for new, cutting-edge, and relevant any day. I tried Pern in jr high, but it wasn’t my thing. I enjoyed the Dinosaur Planet books; that was in high school. Maybe it’s time to give McCaffery another try.

  2. Pingback: New Is Best--Not, The Degradation of Anne McCaffreySuperversiveSF

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  4. I always list Norton and McCaffrey in every list I do of Sci-Fi giants! Yes, they were amongst the first I read, but I also *kept* reading and RE-reading!

    As the history maxim states, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
    Well, those that ignore the legends and elders in any aspect will be doomed to obscurity, or worse, themselves.

  5. Kindle sales rank for Dragonflightby Anne McCaffrey, published in July, 1968: #15,909

    Kindle sales rank for The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley, published February 7, 2017: #19,870

    Kindle sales rank for Tor — sorry, I mean Hugo Award nominee Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, published May 10, 2016: #19,018

    That pretty well sums up the situation, I think. 🙂

    I mean, I suppose congratulations are in order Palmer and Hurley for writing something that sells nearly as well as a fifty year old book (one which most fans already own, at that), but I’m not going go along with the pretense that they’re exerting any actual influence on the field.

      • “I’m okay with that”

        You’re not the one claiming McCaffrey is “old and irrelevant”, though. Quite the contrary. 🙂

        As it happens, McCaffrey’s fifty year old book outsells all but one of the books on her “Spring Reading List” Twitter post.

        I think this word “irrelevant” does not mean what she thinks it means.

  6. I’ve read a lot of McCaffrey’s work and I enjoyed her writing. More, I think than Heinlein or Foster. It certainly seems crass for a wet-behind-the-ears whippersnapper to be treating her writing with disrespect.

  7. You don’t have to be a fan of McCaffrey to admit she still exerts an influence on the field. Can’t stand the woman’s writing, but you don’t last as long in the field as she without inspiring a far few imitators at least.

    Also, there’s a certain type of writer that does everything they can to tear down their forerunners in the hopes that people will believe them when they claim to be ‘first!’ or groundbreaking. It’s a pretty sad tactic, but that’s part of what we’re seeing with Tordotcom. They belittle previous women authors so that they can claim to break down doors that Brackett and Norton and Moore busted, blew-up, and set fire to fifty+ years ago.

  8. Heh. The Hugo Nominated Fanzine Writer and her pals want to be the ones who are First!, blaze new trails, discover new worlds, create something original which will be remembered for ages.

    Then they get told that, sorry, all of that was already done, several times over, by the previous generations.

    Wannabe trailblazers have a temper tantrum and try to make up excuses why it doesn’t matter.

    Somebody somewhere used the image of these kids pushing open the castle doors and crowing how they now have conquered it, the first to get inside the men’s club it used to be, then when they go inside their grandmothers and mothers are there, having a nice chat around the table while having tea, and when they notice the kids they ask if the newcomers would like to join them. 😀

  9. Demoralization at work. The old must be forgotten, lest we keep touch with who we are and become difficult to mold into who they want us to be.

  10. “This fanzine writer who writes self-described “feminist” commentary on science fiction is attacking the first woman ever to win the award!”

    Well, yes-but: McCaffrey’s stories let the women fall in LOVE! Lessa decides that loving and supporting her man (in actually saving the planet!) is her rightful choice, not shouldering F’lar out of her way and doing it herself! Killashandra’s ‘arc’ leads her BACK into love and support — she doesn’t take over! Helva finds love and partnership — NOT control of a subordinate partner! And on and on.

    McCaffrey’s appeal to this once-young girl’s had always been a ‘righting’ of the universe!

    And yes, truly and deeply hypnotic! My first-ever read of Dragon Flight was when I was working as an ambulance dispatcher in college. I was SO far away (on Pern, actually!) that the crew, which was teasing me and trying to get my attention, actually came over and touched my shoulder! (Startled me out of the book!) I had (completely unconsciously, and it was a surprise to myself!) ‘set’ myself so that the only thing that would pull me from the book was the emergency line ringing.

  11. ” Fanzines were originally created as content for Star Trek — but Pern in the 70s-80s was one of the biggest concepts out there for fanzines. Fanzines arguably wouldn’t exist without Pern fandom, in homage to Anne McCaffrey.”

    Not really. The word fanzine was invented in the 40s, but that was only putting a word on something that already existed. I think the first fanzine was Novae Terrae from the middle 1930s.

    • Fair enough. The explosion in popularity of them in more modern form the 70s-80s is more what I was referring to. Take this as retraction!

  12. Chronological snobbery is a plague on “modern” thinking.

    I first realized it, though not its term, in the 1980s when I opined that I preferred listening to classic rock stations over the “pop” ones because the rock stations did not put expiration dates on their music. “Pop music is as disposable as diapers and nearly as ephemeral,” became my response. Soon, that sort of snobbery creeped elsewhere: into education (as the classics were deemed no longer relevant), literature, etc.

    In the years 2002-2006, U.S. television shows like “I Love the 80s” tore down the three decades that came prior. I wondered if there was going to be a subversive VH1 show called “I Love the ‘I Love’ Shows of the Last Decade” sometime between 2010-2019 tearing down the people that featured on it.

    Owen Barfield (via C.S. Lewis’ popularization of chronological snobbery) and G.K. Chesterton (“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”) are just two of my go-to sources for defending the works of the past, regardless of age.

    Dismissing Anne McCaffrey because of the era in which she lived or because of the age of her works is lazy and ignorant.

  13. I just bought Star Realms: Rescue One because L Jagi Lamplight Wright mentioned it….I also went to SF Bluestocking blog–meh. I will give it a chance, but I’m not crazy about intellectual snobs.

  14. If your world is dominated by squirrels racing across the lawn or the latest noisy dog tracking mud around, it’s easy to think the tree sheltering them or the earth supporting you aren’t part of the scene.

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