I blame it on the Puppies.
The Pulp Revolution started out as a reaction against them, did you know that? What started as a movement to bring sanity and good writing back to an SFF establishment that had been increasingly obviously been co-opted by bigoted cultists degenerated into a movement that focused on appearances, gave high praise to mediocre works, and generated more clicks through defensive blog posts about how great they were than through anything they actually created.
The Puppies generated a lot of hate for what they believed. They unveiled the hypocrisy at the heart of the establishment, in plain view for all to see. At the same time, they generated a lot of disappointment on their own side, the Sads for being ineffective and cliquish, the Rabids for being effective but effective at promoting works that really needed a lot more love from the editing hammer.
Around that time the Appendix N reviews came out. Jeffro reached for a book on the wall of the SFF library, pulled it halfway out, and opened the secret door to the treasure room. Those of us who were looking for the good SF that the Puppies had sworn was out there, here it was, glittering in the torchlight.
We found a world of great writing, great storytelling, innovative thoughts and ideas, that had lain fallow since the 1950s. It was like peeking into a parallel universe - we hadn't even imagined people who thought and wrote like that existed.
Our first urge was to read more; our second, to share what we'd found; our third, to write like the years between 1953 and 2016 just hadn't happened.
Fast-forward to 2018. I'm working on editing another pulprev anthology. I'm... let's call my viewpoint cautiously optimistic, about the future of the movement. The initial energy has subsided, some of us have been putting books on Kindle, I've been putting a lot of work into improving my own writing, and a post comes up on the Tweetdeck tab I leave open on #PulpRev, talking about defeatism.
Turns out there's been a bit of a kerfuffle on Jeffro's blog. Commenter with the username "Groffin" has laid down some harsh criticism of the movement. What stands out to me about Groffin's comment, poking out from between the blackpill, is this:
And for all your glorification of the insular and self-aggrandizing indie-literature circuit, you have no minds of comparable skill or prestige, and will not for years and years if ever.
That hits me where it hurts. We don't have writers like that. I'm far more optimistic than Groffin about our prospects, but the road to greatness is long and hard, and we don't get there just by saying we're getting there. I've been a critic of the Thought Method of Literature since before pulprev was a hashtag, and it *stings* to see how little effect that criticism has had.
For all the power of the initial upswell, the pulp revolution has become a movement that focuses on appearances, gives high praise to mediocre works, and generates more clicks through defensive blog posts about how great we are than through anything we actually create.
Don't believe me on defensive? Groffin stirred the hornet's nest. Jeffro, rather than responding directly, wrote a blog post showing off how dumb this guy must be! To think we're not winning! When I responded to Groffin's understandably irate response, Jeffro wrote a snarky comment on Google Plus about how mewling and cowardly I am to sympathize in any way with him. (he unfortunately forgot to tag me in this; I discovered it by accident while trying to track down Groffin)
When confronted, he told me the terrible truth about PulpRev:
The diminution of the term "pulp revolution" was motivated in part by a desire to mollify the people that were committed to not looking like a threat. The sort that is more or less okay with the status quo and which would not ever conceive of themselves as guerrillas or culture warriors.
Can you believe that? I can't, and I'm the one that coined the hashtag! No, seriously, track down the first time it was used on Twitter. I'd noticed divergence between the movement's G+ and Discord epicenters, but I'd had no idea they thought we were quislings.
Jeffro is upset that we are not prosecuting the revolution the way he does - by making snarky blog posts with screencaps of a hated enemy's hated comments so all our friends can come in and laugh with us. I'm not sure what the timetable for his revolution is, when they expect victory by, but they do seem to believe that winning and losing is affected by how much you say you are winning and losing.
I don't blame him for not understanding revolutions. He is a revolutionary by necessity. His hobby came under attack, and he is defending it. Should his hobby be restored, his revolution will end.
I am a revolutionary by nature.
It is part of the core of my being to find that which is rotten and cast it out, to find that which rules and is weak and replace it with that which can rule because it is strong. This is the true spirit of the critic, the cynic, the skeptic, to fight the power because it is the power, and because the power needs to be constantly proven to ensure it stays powerful.
My revolution will never end. I will always test, try, violently improve the things around me. I've placed this spirit in the service of God, America, and the Pulp Revolution.
I will *never* be satisfied by our output until it reaches those lofty heights. And how will it if we stifle our self-criticism? Another critical response that warranted its own Jeffro post came from The Practical Conservative, who believes it's impossible to join the movement now. He's wrong on that front, and it's easy to say he's wrong, but where he's not wrong is this:
I’ve read a lot of Castalia/PulpRev/Superversive stuff and paid for quite a few things and it sure looks like you’re not allowed to say meh about meh fiction because muh pulprev or whatever. Getting snarky about mediocre fiction is just replicating what mediocre SJWs do with less of their media platform and reach... I found a couple of really promising, decently selling authors via Castalia’s blog roundups of sci-fi and fantasy. But I also got burned multiple times by the promotion of crummy stuff as AH MAYYYYY ZINNNNNGGGGGG.
So is he wrong? Was he actually not reading crummy stuff? Is he actively trying to sabotage our movement by not liking what we write?
My people, my brothers and my sisters, he is right to not like what we write. We are in the early stages of this revolution. What we can write is still by and large a product of the late 20th century and not descended from the pulp greats. We cannot ever slack in finding our own flaws and fixing them so that not only our allies but our enemies can find no real fault in them.
Where did you think this revolution was headed? That we'd keep owning SJWs online and putting their "skulls" (stupid comments) on "pikes" (our blogs/feeds) until kingdom come? That we'd build a healthy group of writers and just read each others' stuff till we died of old age?
Our sacred task is to tear down the corrupt institutions that have taken over genre fiction, that have indeed segregated it from true or literary fiction, and to raise up great authors who know no boundary lines, not between fantasy and science fiction, not between genre and literary, not between religious and political, not constrained by mid-century politeness in the least. We're not just going to need people who write blogs and profitmax off Kindle whales, we're going to need armies of publishers, editors, critics, marketers, and everything in between.
Pulprev hasn't abandoned the revolution. It's acknowledged the revolution as something much larger, much more important than internet slapfights. You can stay in the mudpit if you want to. You can throw mud at people trying to build if you want to. I just want you to understand that you're not doing the actual revolution any favors.