Another Raucous SF Signal Mind Meld

Jeff VanderMeer • March 18th, 2009 @ 6:35 pm • Uncategorized

this time on taboos in the field.

A bit of Hal Duncan’s response:

The argument is bollocks. It’s a straw man argument belied by the reality. Paedophilia is abhorrent. Fascism is abhorrent. But if you tackle those subjects you’re more likely to be lauded for it than reviled for breaching the taboo — assuming you’re approaching them /as topics/ rather than just expressing some fucked-up personal freakery. If you do find it harder to get some Nazi kiddy porn story published, it’s going to be because of the ethics of /advocacy/, not a taboo that simply prescribes /representation/. It’s about /how/ you address those subjects, not /whether/ you address them at all. People berating you for writing Magic Negroes or Mandingos, Castrating Bitches or Depraved Faggots — that’s not censorship. Not being able to find a buyer for Nazi kiddy porn bullshit is not a free speech issue. The imperative being applied here is to treat the subject well, not to avoid it completely. It’s not about taboos.

And then, in the comments, from John Wright:

What you call taboo is a dike, that once held back the sea of foetid shit in which we now all wade. And the smug yet superficial people who call themselves bold for breaking taboos bemoan the fact that we don’t have enough porn in our lives, not enough polygamy or sadomasochism. There is no stopping point, once the dikes are down. Having developed a taste for shit, a delight for the scent, their hunger knows no satiation.


13 Responses to “Another Raucous SF Signal Mind Meld”

  1. Celsius1414 says:

    Phew. I’m exhausted just reading your summary. :)

  2. J M McDermott says:

    I read this SF Signal post after a long debate where (being a devilish imp) argued in favor of the religious right as a force for good in society.

    I’ve noticed that different people have different taboos. The homosexual is not nearly as taboo as DRM, unless you happen to be on the side to whom DRM is not taboo but homosexuality is.

  3. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Yes, but you know what? DRM will cease to be as much of a concern after the whole planet has gone to hell as the result of more pressing issues. Then rabid DRMers can battle it out with sticks and bones against the non-DRMers to their heart’s content…until the rest of us have to eat them.

  4. Andrew says:

    I do not understand what John Wright was getting at. That post does not read to me as if it has a coherent thesis.

  5. Zak Jarvis says:

    As someone who’s recently read some Petronius, I’d just like to start laughing at the idea that things were cleaner and nicer in the past.

    I’ll get back to you when I stop laughing.

  6. selfnoise says:

    Duncan’s right; if you actually have something interesting to say, you can write whatever you want. The lab of SF is a great place to explore things that make you or the reader uncomfortable. Thank God for writers like Sturgeon and Delany.

    The second excerpted comment is just silly.

  7. Nick Mamatas says:

    No mention of the taboo against writing too well, I see.

  8. DR Smith says:

    Wright is sort of the Glenn Beck of the SF literary world. I could just imagine him earnestly reciting that paragraph directly to a camera, while another one zooms in on his eyes so we can FEEL his outrage.

    If you don’t know what I’m talking about. . .

  9. Allen Parmenter says:

    I actually see something of the point in John Wright’s rant. I don’t oppose cussing and pornography and such. I am an adamant supporter of free speech. But I do often feel that people – stupid people, mind you – use their freedom of speech to spout nothing but offensive, souless, unimaginative bullshit. It wrecks the stage more competent breakers of taboos have to use. It also baits the religious right. Nothing wrong, of course, with putting the religous right in one’s cross hairs. But offending them when it is not neccessary merely puts fuel on their fascist fire. They are looking for excuses to put us down. So we should be wise in the ways we chose to offend them.

  10. jeff ford says:

    It seems to me that from the part that the religious right has played in contemporary American politics and society, quite a bit more offending is called for. At the present juncture I can’t think of an instance when it wouldn’t be necessary.

  11. Jesse Bullington says:

    I wonder if Wright typed “homosexuality” before deciding on polygamy and sadomasochism as less taboo examples of “sexual abomination.” Personally, I can’t think of the literary classic that wouldn’t be enlivened by a bit of the old in-out, but that’s probably just my devotion to intellectual dishonesty talking.

  12. KJ says:

    Ok to write about war — the slaughter of millions, even if they’re only orcs — but not about a bit of slap-and-fisting with one’s consenting, legally espoused catamites? Hmmm…

  13. Nick Mamatas says:

    Wright’s complaint about the elimination of taboos and subsequent social dislocation would not be published in most daily newspapers in the United States.

    Because of a taboo against publishing the word shit.

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