Campbell vs the New Wave, and Brad Torgersen

On Sarah Hoyt’s Mad Genius Club, Brad Torgersen, head of Sad Puppies 3, has an article on what
makes for good Hard SF, in his view.

Some of what he says, I have no problem with. For example, I *love* the Playground of the Imagination a la Niven. Yes, a double helping, please.

This, however, is something that I don’t:

Downbeat endings suck. They are ‘literary’ and some critics and aesthetes love them. But they suck. If you’re going to roast your characters in hell, at least give them a little silver lining at the end? Some kind of hope for a more positive outcome? Your readers will thank you.

Stories that demote humanity to being puny and insignificant, also suck. We may be small and/or not as advanced as other intelligent life in the universe, but we didn’t get to where we are now by being meaningless dullards. Humans are crafty and stubborn. Never say die. We should be reflected as such.

I do think that Torgersen is missing a large bet on a lot of stories. And I am not sure that Literary=downbeat=suck is an equation that works. HEA and HFA are fine and dandy, but those aren’t the only stories. Hell, look at Stephen Baxter’s Xeelee stories as an excellent counter example. I’m sure Baxter would be surprised to be called literary. And he definitely does not suck.

What strikes me from this article is how it fights the whole Campbell vs the New Wave argument that I’ve opined was at the heart of the Sad Puppies.. One of the File 770 group called him Neo-Campbell. So there you have it.

Torgersen post shows that SF fandom and authors are STILL fighting the New Wave conflict, decades later. The past isn’t dead, its not even past.

5 thoughts on “Campbell vs the New Wave, and Brad Torgersen”

  1. I’m rereading through Volume One of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and I’m wondering why Torgersen seems to think so many of these stories suck.

  2. So according to Torgerson if SF stories don’t end with rainbow unicorns and happily ever after life is bad and writers of such stories should be punished. Well, I hate to tell him but not all stories do end in happily ever after. Sometimes life just sucks, and I refuse to have stories about life’s suckage arbitrarily excluded because he doesn’t like them.

  3. What Torgersen said is obvious. People all over were unhappy when Matthew was killed off in Downton Abbey. People in England felt that it ruined Christmas. People all over were unhappy when Sansa Stark was raped.

    “Sometimes life just sucks, and I refuse to have stories about life’s suckage arbitrarily excluded because he doesn’t like them.”

    He is simply pointing out that most readers don’t like them.

  4. Wow, all this time I thought Torgersen was advocating for an SFF constituted by apolitical adventure stories of swashbuckling good fun, lovely spaceships and beautiful planets.

    When really it seems what he’s arguing for is the kind of stories that *he* likes, with a moral structure that conforms to his worldview.

    Who knew science fiction could be political?

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