Be Thankful That Your Pablum is Exactly the Same Today as it Was Yesterday

I’ve decided to hop onto my swaybacked glue factory fodder and take a stab at the latest hot topic – Squeecore.

Camestros Felapton, Cora Buhlert, John Scalzi and numerous others are weighing in on the Rite Gud’s podcast about “squeecore”, the supposed dominant form of science fiction and fantasy that is dominating the field and driving all other forms out; or have resurrected the puppy argument more academically; or YA fiction is having inordinate influence on contemporary authors or Hard SF isn’t really Hard and the passage of time can turn good literature into bad literature or…


In fact, even those fine individuals, not excepting those responsible for the podcast, have missed the main point almost entirely.  This discussion is not about whether or not there is a dominant form of the genre, starting with the false divide between fantasy and science fiction (I can probably rattle off more works that confound that divide than I can purified examples of either).

The “core” of this discussion is whether or not we are going to treat this thing as a literary genre or as a marketed commodity.

If the latter, then, by all means, please keep on sub-dividing and sub-dividing and sub-dividing ad infinitum, until we have achieved saturation with each individual reader only ever exposed to some narrow set of data-mined criteria that insures that they will keep on buying the same things over and over and over, with creators stifled by real market gatekeeping (we can’t figure out what niche this thing fits into, therefore, we have no facility for marketing it)
(an aside: have you all noticed that “marketing”, as an activity, has successfully shifted its responsibility from “finding a market for a product” to “defining the product based on the already existing market”?) (Follow-up aside: This approach also insures that while profit can be more securely guaranteed, the possibilities of discovering the next new thing is almost completely eliminated.) I’m sure it will be a nice future for most – knowing in advance that your next read or watch is going to deliver to you precisely and exactly what you have demonstrated a preference for in the past. Your pablum will have the exact same color, temperature, consistency, aroma, texture and flavor this morning as it did yesterday and the day before, worlds never ending.

If, on the other hand, you think of science fiction and fantasy as the “literature of ideas” and the realm of speculating on possible futures (to reveal both their potentials and their dangers) and/or of models for exploring societies and politics and philosophies…if those are the things that attracted you to them in the beginning, than you will want to fight against this inexorable tide as much as possible, starting with resisting the urge to support sub-genrefication.  As a generalized descriptor of what you might find between the covers, sub-genres are fine…as PRESCRIPTOR for what a  work must contain, they are the fore shadowings of death.

Species adapt to fill every available niche within their environment, “available” generally referring to the taking advantage of all and every source of energy. They specialize and specialize and specialize, defining a narrower and narrower “habitat” that can sustain them, eventually losing their abilities to cross-fertilize. At which point they become very, very vulnerable to a single change within their environment.

We, as a “science fiction and fantasy species” are still able to cross-pollinate and interbreed with all of the other species within our genus (one could say that speculative literature is both very fertile and willing to fuck just about anything with at least two legs – our affairs with horror and western and mystery are legendary) and it is the very “muttish” nature of our species that keeps it robust, and healthy and adaptable.

The pressures from sources external to our genres are strong; they have all of the money, most of the influence and the largest audience…but it was rejection of the importance of those things that led to the creation of our community in the first place. All of those things are important, but at least within our community, they were not the MOST important. We didn’t and shouldn’t prioritize them over the art and the business of enjoying the art, discussing the art, critiquing the art, creating the art.

Kornbluth and Pohl warned us about this in their novel The Space Merchants. We should do what Bradbury suggested we do and heed their warning.

There are no “Fandoms”, there is only “Fandom”. Involvement is not a zero sum game that requires you to give up one franchise in favor of another, it is entirely possible to engage with both, and as many others as one wishes. We’re supposed to be about embracing the “new”, of seeking it out, even.  Definitions must be open-ended or they do not serve us well. If what we espouse is diversity and inclusiveness, why do we seem so hell bent on erect barricades?

As one famous character from a story that is a perfect exemplar of what is being discussed here once wrote in real life “A house divided can not stand.”

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