Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Big Difference Between Us And Them

Today I'd like to talk about something that I see as important. What the fuck else is new, right? But in all seriousness, this needs to be addressed because I see it as being one of the defining differences between the people in the Pulp Revolution and those we oppose. And I'm not talking about the friendly sparring that occasionally happens in-camp with the Superversives. No, I'm talking about those who have defamed what is best in SFFH, who have torn down the monuments to the geniuses that brought us to where we are today, those who have devalued and defrauded those giants on whose shoulders we and they stand atop.

I'd like to talk about the big difference between Us and Them.

There is a crucial video that everyone should see, and if you haven't already I'll attempt to embed it below.

There we go. Fucking Blogger actually let me do it this time. Wonderful. Now, if you haven't seen this video yet, then you need to. This was put together by two friends of mine, Azu Rayn/Dan Wolfgang, and That Darn Pooka The Ququ. The research is impeccable, and if you delve into the description on YouTube you'll find a wealth of sources that I'm going to be archiving at the bottom of this post so that they should not disappear and all Dan's work be for nought should the video get pulled or whatever.

This video brings several things to light, but one of the most important, in my insanely biased and arrogant opinion, is this quote from In Search of Wonder by Damon Knight:

"Howard's tales lack the [L. Sprague] de Camp verisimilitude - [Robert E.] Howard never tried, or never tried intelligently, to give his preposterous saga the ring of truth - but they have something that de Camp's stories lack; a vividness, a color, a dream-dust sparkle, even when they're most insulting to the rational mind. Howard had the maniac's advantage of believing whatever he wrote; de Camp is too wise to believe wholeheartedly in anything. ... All the great fantasies, I suppose, have been written by emotionally crippled men. Howard was a recluse and a man so morbidly attached to his mother that when she died he committed suicide; [H. P.] Lovecraft had enough phobias and eccentricities for nine; Merritt was chinless, bald, and shaped like a shmoo. The trouble with Conan is that the human race never has produced and never could produce such a man, and sane writers know it; therefore the sick writers have a monopoly of him."

This is what I want to address. I know that the quote is a bit long, but bear with me, I'm not going to be fisking the entire thing.

Now look at this quote and read it. Really fucking read it. Read it twice, if you have to. Now I've heard of Damon Knight, although I've never read a story he's written, but I know for a fact that his personal contribution to SFFH literature has nothing on the people he's describing. Setting Merritt aside (I'll leave it to people like Alexander from Cirsova to defend him, as I haven't read anything by him), Robert E. Howard's stories are still very much alive today, and have recently got movies. Solomon Kane has a comic book, and his contribution to the speculative fiction genre goes above and beyond many other writers combined. His stories still influence people to this day, albeit in a stilted and shrunken format via influencing various generations of influencers.

Lovecraft is no different. Steven King himself still praises Lovecraft's work (with a nod to the fact that he was oh so terrible and racist and sexist to make sure he stays on the good side of the fucking shark tank of ideological purity he's immersed himself in). Lovecraft is, quite literally, the father of modern horror. People continue to ape him without understanding him, and his works are ubiquitous among horror fans. Howard Phillips Lovecraft is quite possibly the most influential horror author in the history of mankind, whatever his personal foibles may have been.

And I'm sure Merritt's works are more than influential enough to stand next to Damon Knight's works and knock them down a peg or three, I just haven't read any Merritt at the moment, so I can't say for absolute certain. But I'm pretty damn sure given the praise he gets from people I know who have read him.

What this all boils down to is that Damon Knight, and by extension the people who follow The Futurians and other social justice/communist cults like them in speculative fiction, are inferior writers.

And they damn well fucking know it.

 Their work will never be as good, reach as many people, connect with so many readers, inspire so many authors/filmmakers/rpg makers/etc etc ad infinitum as the people that he maligns.

And let's not pretend that his opinions expressed in this quote are rare among the current crop of speculative fiction authors. These people frequently malign Howard, Lovecraft, Burroughs, Merritt, and a multitude of other pulp authors who made the genre what it was before Tolkien took over. They understand this, and because they are incapable of finding the will, the power, the drive within themselves to improve their own writing and bring it up to the level of these giants on whose feet they spit, they attempt to tear them down and bring them down to the level these shitmongers exist upon.

Just to give you a recent example so you know I'm not pulling your leg on these attitudes being popular nowadays, here's a quote from an interview with Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, creators and writers of the popular podcast Welcome To Night Vale:

 "I actually hate Lovecraft, both personally and for his writing. I don’t think anyone can deny that he was a shitty person. His whole “cosmic horror” thing mainly came out of his intense racism. And I think that, on a prose level, he was also a deeply shitty writer. I mean his stuff his almost unreadable for me. That said, I think he was brilliant on an idea level, and that’s definitely where we connect with him. Our Lovecraft book, for me, is a way of leaving behind all vestiges of his writing, including the stupid names of his gods, while keeping the brilliance of his unnerving ideas and images. Night Vale is often called Lovecraftian, but we never consciously chose to make it that way. I just think Lovecraft, awful writer that he was, has had such an impact on modern horror and science fiction that it’s impossible to work in that field without using some of the ideas he generated. Which kind of annoys me, but I respect the old racist bastard all the same."


Look at this bit of the Damon Knight quote in particular:

"Howard's tales lack the [L. Sprague] de Camp verisimilitude - [Robert E.] Howard never tried, or never tried intelligently, to give his preposterous saga the ring of truth - but they have something that de Camp's stories lack; a vividness, a color, a dream-dust sparkle, even when they're most insulting to the rational mind. Howard had the maniac's advantage of believing whatever he wrote; de Camp is too wise to believe wholeheartedly in anything. 

Here we see the fundamental problem. de Camp, for all the deserved credits he has, is nowhere near as influential as Howard. It's not even kind of close. But the real problem is this "verisimilitude" he praises de Camp for. Even in his tearing down of Howard, he knows and admits that Howard is the superior author. And this isn't meant to shit on de Camp. This is about Damon Knight and what he knows and hates about himself, de Camp, and all who would attempt to subvert the mighty legacy of Robert Howard.

He admits very clearly that Howard's stories, despite lacking truthfulness, despite lacking verisimilitude, despite lacking all these high-minded ideals about portraying the truth of virtually anything, are more entertaining and better stories, "even when they're most insulting to the rational mind." Because that's the thing these fucking people don't get and will never get.

It doesn't matter whether the story is rational, or makes sense within conventional understanding, or has "verisimilitude."

What really and truly matters to readers, and here we all understand that the readers decide what is JUSTICE, is FUN.

FUN is the most important thing. Howard's stories had it. de Camp and Knight's stories didn't. That's why they're footnotes at the ass-end of speculative fiction, and Howard and Lovecraft are grandmasters of the craft who've gone on to influence more people than they could ever dream of.

But this (finally, damn, can I bloviate more?) brings me to the point of this little post. Or not so little, at this point. The Difference that I was talking about.

What you see in this quote by Damon Knight, and in his modern contemporary Fink, is unbridled, unmitigated, unabashed pretension. He is so far up in his own ass that he can't even see the light of day anymore. He is so concerned with being taken seriously that he's completely lost the plot about what matters, and that is the fun of the story. Howard was a "maniac" who obviously believed everything he wrote. There is no other explanation that Howard believed his stories were true, because how can one entertain that kind of fantasy without being a madman?

The obvious answer is that rational people can differentiate between reality and fantasy. For example, I don't believe in "true love." I don't think it's a real thing, but I am absolutely a hopeless romantic. I adore love stories, I like to see the guy and girl hook up, I like the idea of love, even if I know intellectually that it's a complete fantasy. Whether you agree with me about love or not, the principle remains the same. I can accept and enjoy concepts that I intellectually know or believe to be false. I can immerse myself in stories that center themselves around them, because I haven't forgot how to have fun, despite the fact that I'm an alcoholic, cynical hermit who's given up on humanity at large.

Damon Knight is proposing "rationality" over fun, "verisimilitude" over ridiculousness, "truth in storytelling" over having a good time. What this leads to is a complete stifling of the creative impulse.

If that sounds a bit much to you, stick around, I got a million of em.

The creative impulse, the will to write, in my experience, thrives on the ability to imagine the impossible. Without the impossible, speculative fiction is bereft of meaning, because the entire point of the genre is to imagine something that couldn't possibly happen and write about "what would happen if it could." The COULD is the biggest and most important part of that. Even for the more hard sf people who stick to our current understanding of physics and whatnot have that one little element of magic, that one thing that's impossible. Whether it be faster than light travel, or some strange alien race, or some other thing, the whiff of the impossible is present in all good speculative fiction stories. Be it fantasy, science fiction, or horror, all of it has that one Thing That Cannot Be, and that is what sets speculative fiction apart from other genres.

And that, I think, is what separates the Pulp Revolution from other revolutions and movements in speculative fiction literature.

We embrace the absurd.

We laud the laughable.

We rejoice in that which defies rationality.

We have absolutely no pretensions.

We're not concerned with accuracy, or verisimilitude, or being "sane". The insane is our home ground, and we find fertile land there. We don't care how we are seen by the "sane authors" or "serious fans". We are writing stories that appeal to that sense of wonder, that lust for the impossible, that yearning for the fantastical that all humans have on some level.

We straight don't give a fuck what other people think of us.

We do what we want to, which is following in the tradition of Burroughs, Howard, Lovecraft, Merritt, and other grandmasters of the genre. We have looked at these great men and women (because yes, shockingly enough women were apart of the canon of speculative fiction before Sword of Shannara and they deserve to be honored alongside the men), we have seen what made their stories not only good fun but popular in their time, and we have taken serious notes.

We are not concerned with being "taken seriously." As a matter of fact, we don't want to be taken seriously.

If they don't take us seriously then we're free to continue operating and undermining the structure that they've spent decades building. If they don't take us seriously then we are free to destroy them in due time. We're undertaking siege warfare, here, and the longer they think we're some throwback movement not worth mentioning, the more free time we have to write and continue to subvert them by simply being the superior writers that we actually are.

Because I'll be quite honest, I talk with a lot of people in the Pulp Revolution scene on a personal level. We're ALL nervous and unsure of ourselves. I was until I got the feedback on my contribution to Misha Burnett's anthology, and got told that my submission to Cirsova Magazine was exactly what he was looking for. Jon Del Arroz is nervous about For Steam & Country, and his other writings that will be coming soon because someone that good just can't help himself. And I haven't talked with him about it but I'd wager a guess that even Brian Niemeier is nervous about the new short story he just released, as well as his upcoming book being published by Castalia House.

Again, this is that difference. We are humble. They aren't.

And I completely realize that this is very arrogant of me to say, and contradicting my own point. But if I have to contradict the point in order to make it, then by Edgar Rice Burroughs I'll be the fucking bad guy. And if my stories are shit then I deserve what I get.

But the difference between the Pulp Revolution crowd, from Russel Newquist, to Declann Finn, to Jon Mollison, to me, to Brian Niemeier, to Rawle Nyanzi, and god only knows how many others, is that one baseline of humbleness.

They're not sure of their abilities.

The establishment people are convinced they're god's gift to writing.

Well, here's what I'm convinced of.

The Pulp Revolution crew is the best group of writers on the planet right now. And yes, I so arrogantly include myself in their ranks given that I've published some of my own stories. But every story I read by a Pulp Revolution person, or published by them in the case of Cirsova Magazine, is absolutely mind blowing. If not in execution then in conception. Their ideas, at the very least (and I mean baseline absolute very least), are orders of magnitude better than the schlock I see coming out of the Big 5, or indeed smaller publications that have given themselves over to this kind of communist bent within storytelling.

These people are good writers. Or, at least, have the immense potential to be.

And this humility, this lack of pretension, is a big factor in their superiority. Because they are superior. But they do not think highly of themselves. They do not think they're God's Gift To Speculative Fiction. They do not prize rationality and verisimilitude over a fun damn story.

And that is why we will succeed where other pulp revival/revolution movements have failed.

Our stories are, to put it simply, more fun.

We walk in the footsteps and stand atop the shoulders of grandmasters, whom we pay the utmost respect and seek to divine their formulas and the reasons for their success. We learn what made their stories so appealing to such a wide range of people, and we apply these lessons to our own work, with help from our friends and fellow enthusiasts.

This will lead us to success. This will lead our revolution to the heights once enjoyed by TradPub. These pretentious fucks who think they're God's Gift To Speculative Fiction shall be ground under the millstone of Fun Stories.

Our stories have the potential to bring people back to speculative fiction. We can recreate the success and story quality of the pulps. We just have to keep writing, keep blogging, keep tweeting, keep hammering the fuck away. These people who think they are so much better than plebs like us have no idea that the guillotine of the market is licking its lips while staring at their necks.

So go forth and write.

And drop all pretensions.

It will serve you in good stead, if history is any indicator.

And without further ado, here is the reproduction of Azu Rayn/Dan Wolfgang's intensive research that went into The Ideological Conquest of Science Fiction Literature:

‘Real Gamers’ Are Freaking Out Because a New Indie Game Was Named ‘Best Ever’
Shocking: The Classic Video Games That We Didn’t Know Were Problematic Until Now:
“The Legend of Zelda” is classist, sexist and racist: Blow has been Struck Against Puppy Related Sadness:
The Walls Are Falling Down:
Chen Visits the Vet:
Anti-Pulp Revolutions:
This is why we need the #AltFurry
MidAmeriCon (1976) Worldcon - Alfred Bester interview:
Breakfast in the Ruins, by Barry Malzberg:
Mutation or Death:
Sorry, Sad Puppies: Science Fiction Has Always Been Political:
The Futurians and the 1939 World Science Fiction Convention:
The Great Exclusion Act of 1939:
Unite or Fie!
Castalia House: In Search Of Wonder:
Damon Knight's Conan review:
The Unauthorized Lord of the Rings:
@PatrickRothfuss tweet:
@seananmcguire tweets:
Ballantine Adult Fantasy:
How Thor Power Hammered Publishing:
George RR Martin revolutionised how people think about fantasy:
The Pulp Magazine Archive:

Appendix N: A Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons:
Before The Golden Age, Book 1, by Isaac Asimov:
Breakfast In The Ruins, by Barry N. Malzberg:
The Futurians, by Damon Knight:
In Search of Wonder, by Damon Knight:

Video Credits:
Alfred Bester:
Damon Knight:
Yuri Bezmenov:

Fred Pohl:
Damon Knight:
Donald A Wollheim:
Larry T. Shaw:
Robert A. W. Lowndes:

All of these links appear to work from copypasting from YouTube. If any don't, let me know and I'll go get the actual link and fix the post. Thank you for your time, and Go Forth And Write.


  1. Solomon Kane got its own movie too. Nice budget, wasn't awful.

  2. I can't help but imagine that Damon Knight simply didn't understand the writing process.

    In his mind, Howard must be crazy because he believed in his stories, and only the sane are smart enough to stand at a distance from their works with their noses upturned. The sane know that fantasy is artificial. You can only enjoy a story if you know you're above the material and can stand at a distance from it.

    But that's wrong.

    When a writer engages in writing, of course they believe it. They believe it at that moment of writing it down. They have that window to the world of their characters and that clear picture of exactly what they're putting to paper. That's the best part of fantasy. Putting down those big ideas in a way to get them across to others. Sincerity is what makes stories genuine and connects with readers.

    Knight was someone who looked at storytelling as a pure utilitarian task of sliding post A into slot B, painting the sides, and walking away from it without even looking at what is even being built. As long as post A isn't too long, and the paint isn't green, then everything's copacetic.

    But at least he admitted the stories were good. Those Nightvale guys sound far too bitter and hateful for my taste.

  3. The Nightvale guy is right on one point. HP's whole cosmic horror is based on racism. I think HP's defenders need to accept that fact and engage it critically from an alternative critical window not tinged with 20th century critical theory.

    HP was an anglophile who feared the degradation of his world through outside cultural influence. His writing is horror and it reflects his fear. But so what? Was he wrong? In 21st century London Englishmen are a minority and honor killings, acid attacks, and jihad is the new normal. Parts of Paris look more like Burka filled Kabul than the Paris of his time.

  4. The better question is why should we care? The only question is whether his writing was good. I don't agree with some of his politics any more than I agree with the shitlib-morlocks. Difference is that Lovecraft could actually write an entertaining story, rather than propaganda.

  5. Nice work, Mr. Fear.

    I think you nailed it; Pretension and Envy drive these low-talent snipes. They cannot stop themselves from pissing on the shoes of their betters because they know their own work will never match the stories written by the greats.

    Thanks for the post.