Let me cut right to the chase. Damien Walter is a liar.
Don’t worry, I’ll go through the whole thing, but let’s get the important stuff out of the way for the TL/DR crowd.
In another incredibly ignorant yet smug article from the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/aug/29/space-opera-new-guardians-of-the-galaxy-ancillary-justice Damien said the following:
Baen’s chief editor Toni Weisskopf went so far as to issue a diatribe against any and all sci-fi that did not pander to this conservative agenda.
Cite it, Damien. Cite where Toni Weisskopf ever said that. If you can’t provide a cite of where she said that, then you are a liar and you should issue a retraction and an apology.
Here, let me help you. Here is Toni’s “diatribe”. http://accordingtohoyt.com/2014/03/10/the-problem-of-engagement-a-guest-post-by-toni-weisskopf/ People can read it and judge for themselves.
So where is the part about pandering to a conservative agenda?
Damien can’t quote it, because it only exists in his head.
The problem isn’t just that Damien is a liar, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that he is also extremely lazy (I suppose that is to be expected from somebody who is collecting “book welfare” from the state). Rather than find a real quote from Toni he simply took John Scalzi’s version of what Toni said and used it instead. The problem there is that Scalzi’s post misconstruing Toni’s essay was obvious bullshit.
Damien has done the same thing with me twice now, where he “quoted” things I never said. Instead of using my own words against me, he used Jim Hines’ version of what I said instead. And because Damien is lazy and a liar, when he got called on it he then took to Twitter and asked his followers to go through everything I’d ever written to find examples of racism, homophobia, or misogyny after he’d already made up the quotes. Of course, the crowd sourced witch hunt came up with nothing.
Because basically Damien sucks at everything.
If Damien wasn’t so incredibly lazy when it came to building straw versions of his ideological opponents a cursory Google search would have shown why that particular accusation against Toni Weisskopf is nonsense. It must be kind of hard to pander to a conservative agenda when she publishes authors from all over the political spectrum.
In her supposedly conservative diatribe she mentions the fan community of 1632, which was started by Eric Flint, who is a card carrying communist. And Eric isn’t some coffee shop wannabe in a beret, typing on his iMac, sipping a latte, and trying to impress stupid chicks by quoting Marx. He was a labor union organizer who went down to Alabama to try and get the steel workers to strike in the days where that sort of thing could get you beaten to death. I disagree with damned near everything Eric Flint believes in, but I respect the man for arguing and debating his beliefs. Eric Flint may be a Trotskyite, but he isn’t a mealy mouthed liar like Damien.
Yet Eric Flint is one of Baen’s most prolific and successful authors. You know, if Toni actually only cared about pandering to a conservative agenda that doesn’t really explain why she publishes authors I know are politically left like Mercedes Lackey, Stoney Compton, Sharon Lee, or Steve Miller. I think Sharon blocked me on Facebook after a discussion about abortion. If I remember right Lois Bujold is a democrat. Baen just picked up a David Coe series, and David is a democrat (and great guy and excellent author). Elizabeth Moon—despite blowing WisCon’s mind by saying maybe, just maybe militant Islamists are telling the truth when they say they want to kill us—is a hard core feminist.
Since we’re talking about Baen mil-SF it is kind of hard to ignore David Drake, who is one of the big dogs of the genre, and newsflash, Damien, he’s not exactly a right winger.
I have no idea what the politics are of Jody Lynn Nye, Catherine Asaro, Steve White, Mark Van Name, Frank Chadwick, Robert Conroy, Chuck Gannon, or a whole bunch of others are because frankly it never came up.
On the other hand, Baen publishes me (International Lord of Hate), Mike Williamson (libertarian), Sarah Hoyt (libertarian), Tom Kratman (republican), Dave Freer (not sure what party actually since he doesn’t live in the US) and John Ringo (?) And seriously on the question mark. I’m not actually sure, and I’ve had some good political discussions with Ringo. He’s got way more depth to his outlook than his critics give him credit for. And we just signed Brad Torgersen (moderate republican). And sorry, Brad, by my standards you are moderate.
Wow, look at Toni go with all that right wing pandering! It is almost like she doesn’t care about an author’s politics, but only if they entertain their audience and sell books or something crazy like that!
Toni doesn’t pander to a conservative agenda, the only pandering involved is the pandering to fans by giving them what they want to read. Unless by “conservative” Damien actually means old fashioned values like reading should be fun then by all means, Toni continue to pander away! But to the Damiens of the world allowing any speech that dissents from proper goodthink is horrible and must be stopped at all costs. If that means libeling innocent people, then it is justified. I only wish he wasn’t so damned bad at it.
My response is going to be longer than Damien’s original article because of Alberto Brandolini’s Bullshit Asymmetry Principle:
As you can see, it has already taken 800 words to go over everything that is wrong in a single Damien Walter sentence. Damien’s bullshit is so dense that perhaps it is a good thing he’s too lazy and screwed up to actually finish a book. If such a thing were to exist it would probably create a black hole of suck and destroy the whole world. Hang on… Does anyone know if the British government is paying Damien to write a book, or to NOT write a book? If that’s the case, the British have been protecting us all from a novel of Clampsian proportions. Thank you, David Cameron! I take back all those things I said about your shitty healthcare system and the fact your per capita GDP is equivalent to Mississippi’s.
Because life is too short to go through everything that Damien gets wrong in a single article, I’ll stick to the highlights. He is in italics, I’m in bold.
Space Opera strikes up again for a new era
From Guardians of the Galaxy to Ancillary Justice, sci-fi is returning to alien worlds where distinctly earthly, political dramas play out
He starts out with a picture of Robonaut for some reason. I’ve lifted weights with Robonaut, and you sir, are no Robonaut.
Science fiction is not a genre. The most successful literary tradition of the 20th century is as impossible to neatly categorise as the alien life forms it sometimes imagines.
Actually, it is a genre according to the definition of the word genre, and more importantly it is a genre because genre exists so bookstores know where to shelve things. Damien would know this if he’d ever actually tried to pitch or sell a book.
But “sci-fi” does contain genres. The rigorous scientific speculation of Hard SF. The techno-cynicism of Cyberpunk, or its halfwit cousin Steampunk.
Fuck you. Steampunk is awesome.
The pulp fictions ofPlanetary romance and the dark visions of the sci-fi Post-Apocalypse.
Those would be sub-genres. Shit, dude, go on Amazon once in a while or something at least.
These genres flow in and out of fashion like the solar winds.
Groan. That’s not even how… Shit. Never mind.
After years condemned to the outer darkness of secondhand bookshops, Space Opera is once again exciting the imagination of sci-fi fans.
What ignorant tripe. One recurring theme with these Damien articles is that he doesn’t actually know much about the subject he’s being paid to write about. I get the impression that Damien really hasn’t read much. He’s blissfully unaware of what is out there, what has been published, what is actually popular, and what has sold well. It wouldn’t be a big deal if he wasn’t so smug about it. I truly hope the Guardian isn’t paying Damien for these columns. I hope he’s like an intern or something.
Space Opera hasn’t been consigned to the secondhand shops. Space Opera has been selling really well for a really long time.
At the box office Guardians of the Galaxy has resurrected the kind of camp space adventure made popular by Flash Gordon
What about Star Wars? What about the hundreds of Star Wars tie in novels? I seem to recall that some of the bestselling novels of the last few years were from Halo and Mass Effect. Not to mention Ender’s Game was a massive continual bestseller for decades before the movie. He’ll go on to bash Baen Books, but Space Opera has been Baen’s bread and butter since the mid 1980s. Hell, Firefly was Space Opera.
Still haven’t gotten around to reading that, but I seem to recall an article talking about how the author said she’d sold a total of 30k copies so far, so don’t make the mistake of mixing up “award winning” with “popular” (as we’ve seen, they are not mutually exclusive, but certainly aren’t synonyms). 30k is solid midlist, especially on a first book, but it is tiny in the grand scheme of things.
Stories of space exploration have never lacked popularity
Uh… Didn’t Damien just say they were consigned to outer darkness and used book stores… My hell, does the Guardian even edit these things?
In the early 20th century when it was still possible to think space might be crowded with alien civilisations, stories like EE “Doc” Smith‘s Lensman series were immensely popular. But as we probed the reality of outer space we found only infinities of inert matter and a barren solar system.
Meanwhile, the much maligned Baen Books is publishing books by actual NASA rocket scientist Les Johnson that make space exploration exciting again.
Mars was not striated with canals hiding the lost civilisation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter stories. There were no secret messages from the makers of the universe encoded in the transcendental number Pi and no signals game from a distant star welcoming us to the United Federation of Planets. It seemed we were alone, and the edgy possibility that space opera stories might reflect the un-glimpsed reality of outer space gave way to the blunt realisation that these were fantasies, plain and simple.
Damien is a sad little man sorely lacking in imagination. The only truly speculative thing I’ve ever seen Damien get really enthusiastic about is deviating from sexual norms. And for the record, I don’t know or care what Damien’s orientation is, though I’m willing to bet when the act is over there is a lot of weeping involved.
Far from showing us the universe, space opera reflected and amplified our earthly conflicts. Star Trek presented itself as a utopian future, but it was a utopia complete with blunt racial caricatures of America’s enemies as Soviet Klingons and inscrutable oriental Romulans
Anybody want to ruin Damien’s day and inform him what Gene Roddenberry’s politics were?
This bit is funny though, because a constant thing with the Damiens of the world is that everything you enjoyed is somehow racist. Just like how last week GenCon was racist, and the week before Guardians of the Galaxy was racist. Now you know that the show that dared to have a black female bridge crew main character in the 1960s was super racist and you’re a bad person because of it.
Libertarian author Robert Heinlein used space opera to play out his militarist social fantasies in novels like Starship Troopers
And he also used Stranger in a Strange Land to play out a strange hippy fantasy… Sometimes I wonder if these Heinlein bashers ever actually read any of Heinlein’s stuff? Heinlein wrote everything and he did it with style.
Isaac Asimov‘s Foundation series made science the ultimate saviour of humankind, its only hope against the irrational forces of human nature, a fantasy Richard Dawkins would certainly appreciate.
I know when I go to browse the Barnes & Noble and pick up a new book my first worry is if a bossy atheist who looks like Hermione Granger would enjoy it.
Our inter-galactic future, it seemed, would repeat the brutal empires, futile warfare and oppressive social structures of the past, but on a grander scale.
He says, totally without irony, as he demands that sci-fi preach about today’s sexual issues and late 1800s economic theory.
It was resistance to this idea that inspired a very different kind of space opera. Led by British writers influenced by the earlier New Wave, the New Space Opera explicitly challenged the politics of the genre. M John Harrison’s The Centauri Device depicted the future as a hyper-capitalist nightmare, an absurdist satire of western materialism inflated to a galactic scale. Iain M Banks’s most famous creation, the Culture, is a galaxy spanning egalitarian society, the complete opposite of the militaristic fantasies of much space opera, and a big part of the joy in reading his novels is watching the fun-loving hippies with guns overpower one brutal galactic empire after another.
How to write a Damien Walter Column in 3 Easy Steps:
- Come up with some half assed premise.
- Read the synopsis of various famous books on Wikipedia.
- Lie about somebody who actually has readers to get traffic.
Now comes the paragraph where he ripped on Toni.
Today space opera is a battlefield for competing fantasies of the future.
Huh? I think he means that authors, when they create an imaginary future, must be making a statement about competing ideologies today. Well, first that is demonstrably false because we can quickly come up with a couple hundred examples where that isn’t true, and second if it really was a battlefield, my side is the one that sells more books. So we win. Yay.
As America plunged in to renewed militarism after 9/11, sci-fi books again began to mirror real-world wars.
Notice. Lots of pasting Wiki synopsis earlier, but no examples to back this one up at all. Since this is the Baen paragraph, off the top of my head the only thing I can think of Caliphate.
Baen books specialises in works of “military SF” that, behind their appalling prose styles and laughable retro cover designs, speak to a right-wing readership who can recognise the enemies of America even when they are disguised as cannibal lizard aliens.
Wow… That’s a lot of bullshit crammed in that there click bait, but I’ll do my best.
- Earlier genre doesn’t exist, except then it does, then he gets to another sub-genre and feels the need to put “military SF” in quotes as if it is somehow made up. Pretty sure it actually exists. Military SF is basically Space Opera with military themes or setting, though it can also be very hard sci-fi depending on how it is written.
- Baen makes serious bank off of Mil-SF. Remember that bit earlier about the award winner selling 30 thousand copies? To put that number in perspective I’m a relative nobody, award loser, and I think we’ve given away more free promo copies of my books than that, I’m that still isn’t enough to make a statistical blip in the numbers. John Ringo, David Drake, and David Weber have each sold millions of copies. Mil-SF is extremely popular.
- Millions of copies, Damien, millions. Soak it up. :)
- Appalling prose styles? That’s a pretty broad brush to paint with there, Mr. Fashionable Solar Winds of the Competing Fantasies of the Future. But since the only things Damien has ever released have been some angsty short fiction that read like a high school creative writing class assignment he’s certainly the dude I’d take professional writing advice from.
- I never thought of Lois Bujold or Ben Bova as having appalling prose styles. Chuck Gannon just won the Compton Crook Award and he’s an English professor. I can just imagine Toni’s edits in the margins “Make this more appalling!”
- My understanding is that Damien has been working on his first novel for four years now and has a grant from the British government, so he’s collecting book welfare and yet still manages to talk shit about writers who actually put their stuff out there. What a sad little man.
- Aspiring authors, get this through your head. Cover art serves one purpose, and one purpose only, to get potential customers interested long enough to pick up the book to read the back cover blurb. In the internet age that means the thumb nail image needs to be interesting enough to click on. That’s what covers are for. Baen covers are distinct, the fan base knows what to look for, and the books sell extremely well.
- The cover of my last novel was a big purple demon and a big muscled guy punching each other in the face surrounded by monsters in test tubes and shattering glass. Was it over the top? Oh, hell yeah. Retro-outlandish? Perhaps. And during release week I had the #1 audibook in the country, #1 fantasy eBook on Amazon, and BookScan had me as the #2 bestselling fantasy losing only to Outlander while everybody was super excited about it ending up on Showtime. Mission accomplished.
- Book covers aren’t for Social Justice. If there is a hot chick on my cover, my first concern isn’t if Jim Hines is going to try and contort his pasty white body into that pose, it is going to be if the cover is going to pop on the shelves and draw the customer’s eye. I’d wrap all the hot chick’s chainmail bikinis in gold foil if I could get away with it.
- Book covers aren’t modern art exhibits. If Damien ever manages to sell a book, he can feel free to get as artsy fartsy as he wants, and I’m willing to bet that my book with fire breathing monsters and buffed people with guns on the cover sells a hundred times as many copies.
- Wait a second, is a snooty book critic actually admitting to judging books by their covers?
- If we’re selling this many books, then we can’t hardly be limited to just a hard right wing audience, unless of course, there are far more right wingers out there reading books than left wingers… But that thought is just too terrifying for Damien to contemplate.
- The only Baen book series I can think of with cannibal alien lizards would be Ringo’s Posleen invasion series, except the first book came out before 9-11. And John based the Posleen on the Mongol horde. I don’t remember the part where America fought the Genghis Khan. Harry Turtledove had militaristic lizard aliens invade during WW2, but that series started in the mid 90s, and it wasn’t from Baen.
- I’ve seen a bunch of comments on the FB thread where people are trying to figure out what the hell series Damien is taking about but I don’t think Damien actually reads books. That might expose him to dangerous badthink. He’s better off sticking to the Wikipedia synopses.
- Sadly for Damien, no matter how awesome he thinks his prose is, and the fact he writes for a major newspaper, the most widely read he’s ever been in his life is when I quote him on this blog.
Baen’s chief editor Toni Weisskopf went so far as to issue a diatribe against any and all sci-fi that did not pander to this conservative agenda.
Already covered why that was crap. And honest truth, Toni isn’t exactly a fire breathing right winger. She’s pretty calm, flexible, doesn’t really care what anyone does, and likes just about everyone. I wasn’t going to bother with any more of Damien’s inane articles but then he had to go and talk smack about my friend.
So the success of a novel like Ancillary Justice unfolds against a background of ongoing political strife within space opera. Anne Leckie’s novel builds upon foundations laid by Ursula Le Guin and Iain M Banks among others. Her vision of the future is one where empires rule the galaxy, but Ancillary Justice is an overt critique of the ways that power is used and abused. It continues the tradition of feminist writing withinscience fiction, famously adapting its pronoun usage as the central character struggles to understand the alien concept of binary gender.
I still haven’t read Ancillary Justice so have no comment on the book, but Leckie might want to talk to Damien about him continually touting her as an example though. Damien’s endorsement is like an anti-plug.
This battle for the political high ground, while it is often petty, is far from unhealthy.
Interesting. The last time he talked about a battle within sci-fi it was SUPER UNHEALTHY when my side actually bothered to show up for once. http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/06/02/fisking-the-guardians-village-idiot-part-1/
The future science fiction has forecast and helped to shape, the future we are now deeply enmeshed in, is a profoundly political place.
Yeah… Judging by that line I’m betting Damien is straight up going to blow us away with his mad prose skilz.
That today’s science fiction writers engage with, reflect on, and fight over that future is a sign of an artform in fine health.
Yet in the same article Damien condemns a publishing house that actually has a politically diverse group of authors, but which puts reader enjoyment first, and is commercially successful. Then he makes it worse by attacking the character of its publisher. Toni Weisskopf is a true professional, and a pleasure to work with. She has spent countless hours developing new talent and also promoting and rereleasing old talent, all because she is a hard core, long time scifi and fantasy fan, and truly loves this stuff.
There’s a reason liars got the lowest circle in Dante’s hell.
EDIT! Damien engaged on Facebook. He tried to play semantic games, but I drew him out and finally got him to admit to libeling Toni Weisskopf. Check it out:
He admits that’s not what she said, but how he FELT, but that’s okay, because his column is opinion. This guy is seriously dumber than I suspected.