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Friday, June 19, 2020

Status Update: 19 June 2020

Obviously. things here at Rampant Loon Press are not going quite as planned. Ironic to note that I wrote such an optimistic post about our June book release schedule on May 23rd, just two days before...

The world has changed. Were he alive now, Heinlein might have declared this to be the beginning of the Crazy Years. As I watched the real-time live coverage on local TV of the looting and burning of places I knew very well from my younger years, I kept thinking of kristallnacht. For a few days and nights the trouble came uncomfortably close to where we live now—

Then the storm blew over, sweeping off to other cities, and things here returned to some semblance of normal. We came through unscathed. Other people I know were not so lucky. If you know me personally and want to talk about it you can email or IM me, but I have nothing further to say about it in any public forum.

This to me is the single most disturbing consequence of these events. In the past not-quite-four weeks the culture has undergone a shift that measured on the Richter scale. People now are afraid to talk. Writers are afraid to write. Self-censorship is everywhere and constant. Questions are not being asked and ideas not being put forth, for fear of inadvertently revealing that one has committed some heinous and unforgivable thoughtcrime.

Even here in our own little domain of science fiction and fantasy, the realm of escapist entertainment, the self-proclaimed “literature of ideas,” where supposedly no vision is too dangerous to be written down and shared with others—the genre that gave the world 1984 and the very idea of ‘thoughtcrime’ in the first place, for God’s sake!—I know of writers who have suddenly become afraid to express themselves, for fear of attracting the attention of those who seem to think they’ve been given a mandate to attack the Four Olds.

I will be blunt. For a few days there we did consider the possibility that the world had become too crazy, and that there was no longer any point in publishing science fiction in a culture that seemed to be hell-bent on rushing headlong to combine the worst features of 1984, Mad Max, and RoboCop, topped off with a large helping of Judge Dredd. Fortunately the temptation passed, and we’re now back to going ahead with our production plans, albeit yet another month later, dammit.

Eric tells me what I really need to focus on now is on sharply defining the Stupefying Stories brand, making it clear what we hope to deliver to readers and what exactly our vision of science fiction is. I’ve always been too much of a literary omnivore to do that, but it’s finally time I did. In the days and weeks ahead I will be writing and posting a lot more about what SF/F means to me and where I think it fits into our contemporary popular culture, as well as inviting in more guest commentators. It’s entirely possible that in so doing, we may publish some ideas that might begin to whisper at the possibility of being thoughtcrime.

If you’re the sort who is easily triggered: you have been warned.

—Bruce Bethke, Stupefying Stories

P.S. I replaced the first photo in this post, of the devastated burned-out landscape that is now Lake Street in Minneapolis, with a stock photo from a 2007 riot in Paris, as Minnesota Public Radio has blocked our cross-linking to their article, “Unbelievable Devastation: 1 Dead as Floyd protests boil over again.” Guess I shouldn’t have skipped Pledge Week. If you want to see the photo I originally wanted to use, click the link to the MPR site.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this -- I fully concur with your analysis of the situation. Here in the UK things are equally crazy, and I fear for the future of democracy. Thanks for showing me I am not alone!

Unknown said...

Hmmm... rather than fear of speaking and self-censorship, I'm seeing the opposite. I'm seeing people from all walks of life (writers included) finally addressing the racism systemic in American culture in a more open and frank way than ever before. To be sure, from a terrible act all kinds of things are pouring out... some of those things include hate and fear. But others, the ones I've been trying to focus on, include unprecedented drives to understand and change for the better.

Anonymous said...

Hang in there, Bruce. These are tough times for anyone who believes in free speech for all and rejects mob mentality.

ray p daley said...

Keep doing what you do, Bruce. I need open markets to sub to. Plus, I'm writing some strange stuff these days, you might get something you like enough to buy!

Mark Keigley said...

I actually deleted about 11 pages of my latest WIP because it was too much society reordering and not enough story. I hope what I replace it with is worth it...