Science Fiction Is Trash
No one is going to read this but after reading this story I had to. Well, that’s a lie. I didn’t read the story. I read about 1/5 of the story. That’s all I could handle.
The story is “That Which Stands Tends Towards Free Fall” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew and it’s phenomenally terrible. You may like it. A lot of people seem to appreciate her work. It’s absolutely everything that’s wrong with writing in general in 2016.
Look at how purple all that writing is. How super-dense it is. And for what result? Look…
Too close to home, but . . . “They were always going to take it.” And no doubt the Filipino administration had few choices. Those old air bases were always going to be an excuse, one day, semi-territory already. A treaty will have been rarefied, promising that once America has seized victory, the archipelago nation will be spared, enriched. Elevated. There is a feudal directness to America these days. War flenses the flab of pretension and sears away all diplomacy, leaving behind the marrow of true intent and character. “Manila isn’t any sort of threat.”
This is one where in copying it over I hesitated in my criticism but looking over it again the traits of overwriting that are clearer in her straight-ahead descriptions re-appear here. We’ve spent a lot of words here to say ‘America is a conquering nation’ and there’s no greater effect from the rest of the words. We haven’t been told anything that we didn’t know. Whether the Filipino administration had choices or not is not central to the passage and neither are the air bases. The fact that they’re only mentioned as an afterthought shows that none of the details brought up here are particularly important. They’re wistful musings.
Then you have the way she chops up the sentences which I find incredibly hackneyed. It’s a crude device and nothing more. Look ‘the archipelago nation will be spared, enriched. Elevated.’ Where is the rhythm there? There’s no break in thought, there’s no reason either to pile on the verbs or to introduce all that punctuation. It’s heavy for no reason. Further, what do any of those things even entail? It will be spared from…? war? How does that make it enriched? How will that elevate it? Putting them together implies that they follow, that the Americans will push all these things forward, but they don’t follow. And yes, I understand that perhaps that is the point of the passage but my point is that, even if she was trying to put that across, she already achieved that earlier in the story. She’s achieving nothing new with this sentence. She’s given no interesting rhythm or wordplay. It’s a dead exercise in pretension.
The part that made me run away from this piece screaming in horror was the sex scene. When I initially read it, especially after reading the hamfisted ‘women only’ military setting and misreading the author’s name as Benjamin, I was like ‘oh of course this was written by a dude’. It’s gross. I don’t mean that it describes sex. What makes it gross is that it treats sex without any realism. It is both incredibly heavy in that the sex scene is just a device for these two characters who don’t even appear to like one another until this point, and extremely light in that there isn’t even a mention of sexual desire until it happens. The barest bit is Rinthira’s efforts to make herself frumpy but, in the end, it’s she who goes to the colonel. Without being seduced. Without being called on. Why? Not explained. It’s just time for sex in the story so we can find out that they’re actually more cordial and also about some plot stuff. Play some fucking Parcheesi.
These are gigantic issues that are fucking everywhere in science fiction. When I went to read up on the author, though, what I found shocked me even more. I’m not talking about how she’s probably a disgusting troll, as this Daily Dot piece shows. I’m talking about how being ‘in the club’ is such a gigantic part of these people’s success. Everything that goes on in this piece relates to people’s standing within SF/F circles. So if you want to know how all this shit gets perpetuated, there you go. It’s people only publishing others they know, these others having developed in a closed system working on the voices of hundreds of mediocre writers who ultimately pass judgment on whether or not X piece is worth publishing. Do you understand how fucking backwards that is?