A log entry in the voyage of genre name looking for a genre

No, no, new topic tomorrow – finish old topic first.

There’s a Reddit discussion on the squeecore conversation: https://www.reddit.com/r/OutOfTheLoop/comments/s5mtre/whats_up_with_squeecore_and_superversive/

The Reddit discussion isn’t that interesting except that one of the comments there has since been endorsed by one of the Rite Gud podcasters promoting the idea.

“amazing that some random Redditor was able to understand and summarize the squeecore episode while a decade’s worth of Hugo winners decided it was impossible to parse” [screenshot

https://twitter.com/benedict_rs/status/1483130427275726853

Which is great because that makes it another point of triangulation in terms of what the people using the term think it means.

So here are the elements identified in the Reddit post:

  • It’s overwhelmingly preoccupied with setting up “Hell yeah!” “epic” moments rather than, say, organic character growth
  • Characters (or sometimes just the author) are extremely genre aware and constantly draw attention to the tropes of the story they occupy, without ever actually breaking the fourth wall. This genre-awareness usually isn’t used in any interesting way, and is fairly surface-level observation (i.e. red shirts, final girl, etc.)
  • Characters are extremely sarcastic and have a lot of lazy banter, because it’s easier to write for the author than “real jokes” or “real humor” (though the podcast, I would criticize, fails to define what that means)
  • Related to the last point: A huge discomfort with intense emotions; major emotional moments are undercut with “Whedonesque” interruptions like “Well that happened” to give a kind of glib distance from really fully experiencing the moment
  • Over-explanation of everything happening rather than leaving room for interpretation
  • Metaphors that fall apart after any scrutiny
  • A “neoliberal” preoccupation with making sure that everything works out for all the characters, often including converting the villains into allies
  • A huge preoccupation with mainstream pop culture references, but especially to movies and TV

[comment from _Gemini_Dream_ https://www.reddit.com/r/OutOfTheLoop/comments/s5mtre/whats_up_with_squeecore_and_superversive/ ]

I think this description does capture some of what was said in the podcast, particularly with the section on Chuck Wendig [I’m not saying it’s correct about Chuck Wendig because I haven’t read any. Simon McNeil’s analysis was clearer on the Wendig stuff].

If the above amounts to a delineation of what squeercore is then, OK that could be reasonably called a genre and I think it is easy to conclude it’s not a dominant one within the awards/buzz arena but is arguably an aspect of popular culture.


111 responses to “A log entry in the voyage of genre name looking for a genre”

  1. That doesn’t sound like a genre, but more like writing style choices used in several genres, including those that has nothing to do with SFF.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. There’s an essay by Egan from ages ago that seems somewhat relevant- it’s called “Burning the Motherhood Statement” (not sure if it is online).

    Like

  3. To me, this sounds more like a writing style (and one that definitely exists) than a genre. Because you could apply those stylistic choices to almost any genre and indeed, you find a similar tone in other genres. What used to be called “chick lit” often had a very similar tone.

    Ironically, Raquel Benedict or rather the Redditor also capture a lot of what always annoyed me about Joss Whedon’s writing (I was a Whedon skeptic, since before it was cool). Except for the abuse of “neoliberal” (What’s neoliberal about everything working out for the characters? Especially since everything does not work out for many people in purely neoliberal systems) this actually makes sense.

    Though Benedict and her guest are still railing against a particular writing style rather than against a whole subgenre and a Whedonesque style is far from universal, though Whedon did have a lot of influence on contemporary SFF writers, because Buffy, Angel and Firefly were considered the holy grail for a while.

    Though Whedon did not invent banter, snark and “Hell yeah” moments. You can find banter and snark in 1930s screwball comedies (not SFF) and banter, snark and “Hell yeah” moments in Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories, only that Leiber was a much better writer than Whedon. There’s also a lot of banter in older Marvel to the point that I’ve always suspected that this was where Whedon got it from, which is probably why he was such a good fit for the first Avengers movie.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Yeah, and besides snarky banter being a huge thing in comics as you say, it was also a huge thing in other popular entertainment that immediately preceded Buffy. Mulder and Sculley in The X-Files on the SFF genre side, not to mention tons of buddy cop/detective team stuff. And Buffy was also directly riffing on an extremely familiar earlier pop show involving both SFF ideas and detectives– so directly that the characters literally called themselves “the Scooby gang”.

      It wasn’t thought of as a particularly superhero-*movie*-related dialogue style until later because there weren’t so many superhero movies and they mostly didn’t involve teams.

      Liked by 2 people

        • Regarding Rockford’s clients, he and his cop buddy had this exchange once:

          Jimbo, where do you find these people?
          They seek me out.

          Whedon was just ripping off an endless supply of writers before him, most notably Stephen J. Cannell.

          Liked by 3 people

          • The regrettably unsuccessful Tenspeed and Brownshoe was full of snark. And opened each episode with Jeff Goldblum reading from hardboiled PI novels (a fictitious, wildly overwritten series).

            Liked by 3 people

            • I ADORED that show, and have been a Goldblum fan since then, in 1980. I think it was ahead of its time with the snark, which is why it failed.

              It greatly predates Whedon, but again, these squeecore people seem to be unaware of anything that far back in media history.

              (Met Cannell once. I did go all fangirl, so there ya go.)

              Like

    • As for “what’s neoliberal about everything working out for the characters”– based on the way extremely liberal (in the other sense of “a liberal quantity”) usage of “neoliberal” tends to be associated in US politics with an attitude of “the Democratic Party either is in cahoots with the right wing, or is useless because they don’t fight hard enough”, I suspect that the thought process here is “insufficiently leftist mainstream liberals are too accommodating to the enemy, therefore any fictional scenario in which a villain is redeemed in some way must be an attempt to make us think Mitch McConnell can be reasoned with.” I think that is a fantastically stupid analysis and maybe I’m unfairly ascribing it to Benedict, but I have seen others say basically the same thing with a straight face.

      Liked by 5 people

      • That may be a definition issue then, because in Europe “neoliberal” mostly means free market radical, i.e. closer to libertarian in the US.

        Like

        • That’s sort of what it means in this context but in the pro-corporate sense rather than the wing-nut wacky libertarian sense. i.e. Hilary Clinton can be called neoliberal because she’s pro-Wall Street (to a degree) rather than say Ron Paul

          Like

            • Not unlike how nearly every reference to “late-stage capitalism” in Internet discourse could be replaced by simply “capitalism” – since in most cases the speaker is rarely able to articulate the distinction, has only ever experienced the modern kind, and is just aiming for a vague connotation of “this corrupt world which I hope can’t endure.”

              Liked by 2 people

            • The truth is that Neoliberalism has a very technical definition with a very specific impact on the arts but the time it takes to extrapolate that definition properly is about the length of a small book. Happily such a small book exists in Mark Fiser’s Capitalist Realism which will help to elaborate some of the better ways in which “neoliberal” ideology affects culture with a specific focus on the academy but with broad applications.

              You’d note that I frequently cite Margaret Thatcher and Francis Fukuyama as representing a neoliberal ideology in the spheres of praxis and theory respectively – particularly Fukuyama’s older work, some of which he’s actually critiqued himself. However Fukuyama walking back his end of history stuff doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an ongoing and pervasive impact on fiction.

              I described it as being a future that is simply more present but with faster phones and screens with more pixels but generally it can be seen as a sense that there is no alternative, this is the final form of culture, and all that remains is to improve upon the underlying technology.

              This sense of historical inevitability is also overlayed onto the past in which technological innovation, in particular, is seen as being the engine of human history rather than more distributed social forces. Part of this is (ironically) a result of some disillusioned Marxists in the late 20th century giving up on revolution and going conservative (Christopher Hitchens was a popular exemplar of this trend but Paul Wolfowitz is an even stronger example) but what they retained is a sense of dialectical historical determinism that was, at the time, still treated in Marxism (it has since been largely abandoned). Basically they looked at the failure of the Social Democratic Compromise and decided that it was inevitable the Bourgeoisie should triumph so might as well join the winning side. But in the process they brought that language of inevitability into capitalist discourse.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Clarification – “better” here meaning more accurate rather than having a more favorable outcome. Not enough coffee yet.

              Like

            • I agree that there are SFF novels set in neoliberal worlds (more science fiction than fantasy). The Murderbot books seem to be set in a neoliberal universe, Finna by Nino Cipri, Jennifer Government by Max Barry, a lot of cyberpunk, Poul Anderson after the libertarian brain eater got to him. But it’s not a new phenomenon – some of Leigh Brackett’s stories from the 1940s would even fit – nor is it that all-encompassing. And much SFF set in neoliberal worlds is at leats surface critical of the system.

              But while some of the 2021 Hugo finalists are set in explicitly neoliberal systems, e.g. Murderbot, Finna, “The Pill”, “Helicopter Story”, “The Interdepency”, The City We Became to some degree, none of them endorse it. And I fail to see what is neoliberal about Piranesi, Black Sun, “The Mermaid Astronaut”, “Blood Like Metal in the Dark”, “Ring Shout”, the Lady Astronaut books, etc…

              Liked by 2 people

              • I’m not sure I’d call any of that “neoliberal.” It seems more like corporate anarchy to me. That is, the notion that you could eliminate government entirely but still have big corporations that run everything without actually becoming governments themselves. That’s the worst part of Murderbot. The corporations are deathly afraid of being sued, even though with no government to enforce court rulings, it’s hard to see why they’d care.

                Liked by 1 person

          • Wikipedia’s pocket history of the usage is consistent with my own memory of the ’90s: it emerged as a common pejorative term among US leftists basically in the context of Bill Clinton and NAFTA, the implication being that the Clinton faction of Democrats at the time were equivalent to right-wing regimes like Pinochet’s that used a lot of free-market rhetoric; Pinochet was certainly no liberal in the usual sense, but he was admired by the kind of right-wing libertarians who like to say “I’m a classical liberal”.

            While you’re right that no one was proudly labeling themselves with that term, Clinton and others at the time did like to talk about “Third Way” politics, and there was enough ideological overlap there that “neoliberal” started to be used broadly to include Third Way tendencies and anyone who didn’t repudiate them. Personally I think this has gotten way too fuzzy, I think a lot of younger people who talk as if the Democratic Party is still the party of Bill Clinton– and, sometimes, as if the ’70s were by contrast a golden age of fire-breathing radicalism in Washington– just aren’t familiar with what either of those decades were actually like. But I realize there may be a “get off my lawn” factor there.

            Liked by 2 people

            • I’m not sure it was used to make a direct comparison between Pinochet and Clinton. When Pinochet brought in the Chicago Boys it marked the emergence of a distinct ideology of Free Market Fundamentalism backed by state power that would form the basis of Regan/Thatcher politics.

              When things swung away from them in the 1990’s under Clinton and Blair, the notion of the untrammeled good of an unrestricted global free market, backed by Treaty, in the form of NAFTA/WTO etc, remained unchallenged by them, indeed was core to their politics. Instead they introduced socially liberal politics as a trade-off, the rise of gay rights and so on, while unions/workers rights etc. continued to decline. (It should be noted that there was, traditionally, often a distinct protectionist bent to their expression and that second wave feminism accompanied the rise of women in the workforce, often in part time and precarious positions, sometimes playing out as crudely sexist battles over craft union sinecures).

              For all that there were real social gains these were shaped by the imperatives of the so-called free market. Gay marriage was made legal, in the UK, by a Conservative government. This wasn’t contradictory. As the generations who came of age in the sixties and seventies they were more likely to be personally comfortable with gay lives and marriage is a socially conservative form. Some commenters have lamented the loss of the possibilities of a radical reshaping of relationships that its adoption produced. Free market conservatives could be happy with the idea because it represented assimilation through the adoption of traditional forms and made a free market argument for the liberation of the spending power of DINKY gay (male) couples while imposing social stability.

              Meanwhile social bonds and support structures in communities whose economic base was decimated under the free trade agreements continued to decline. This was deliberate policy under Thatcher/Reaganite ideology and the Neoliberal programs continuation, happily accepted, was seen as the cost of power in a world that had been shaped to make sure it could not be effectively challenged. Since, roughly, the Oil Crisis in the early 1970’s, the world has seen a massive increase in wealth inequality, driven by an even bigger redistribution of capital from manufacturing to purely financial instruments. This was the desired outcome of Neoliberalism, which sought a capitalism unopposed, and unburdened by the counter-balances of an organised working class and policies that aimed to create a social safety net (policies that themselves had been used to defuse radical opposition in previous eras).

              The extent to which Neoliberalism is a useful term is the extent to which we can use it to think about the last 50 years of so as a distinct phase of Capitalism with its own ideological currents. Its continued relevance is a matter of debate. I think we should try and hold ourselves open to the idea of an ambiguity: that we have simultaneously arrived at both the beginning of a new era, and the endgame of neoliberalism, as its contradictions irrupt into the political landscape. We can look at the sudden willingness of the right to use public spending as a blunt political tool .Its lack of any internal coherency (merely an attempt to buy public opinion) has meant it has co-existed with the continuation of austerity (itself Neoliberalism’s failed answer to the financial crisis) In fact both of these could be seen as the direct continuation of Neoliberalism’s only answer: the redistribution of wealth upwards and the handing over of the state (or its money) to capital.

              Consider, too, Trumps obsession with China and his keenness for protectionist threats. China’s emergence had come about from the drive to offshore manufacturing finding it’s home in a place utterly unconcerned with the beliefs of Western capital and perfectly willing to use Leninist economic policy as tool to secure the emergence of its own capitalist class. Neoliberal trade treaties, however were designed to render protectionism unfeasible. The adoption of a soft Neoliberalism by the center left meant it responded by feeble attempts to defend the neoliberal status quo of free trade, and as it effects could be seen to be driving the emergent right wing populism.

              We need to tread very carefully here: the tendency to blame or explain the emergence of that populism, in the form of Trump and Brexit, on the white working class and its discontents belies the facts of who actually voted for what. For all that the right is engaged in a populist feeding frenzy merrily tossing out culture scapegoats as bait to use the disenfranchisement, for which it has no answer, for its own aims, power in its own right, the left, and its inability to present a coherent alternative, can hardly escape blame.

              The Keynsian moves of Biden’s Build Back Better have foundered on the past compromise of the liberal (in the US sense) center’s wholesale swallowing of the notion of fiscal responsibility. Meanwhile on the other side trouble continues to brew. In the EU, the techno-centralism of its hereto dominant political parties have proved inadequate to the task of containing its own emergent far right, despite being founded on the principles of preventing that threat re-emerging. In the UK the shit-show of Brexit and the Johnson government shamble on, confronted only by an anemic opposition, lacking any answer as it clings to the Blairite remains in its quest for electability (which would result it the same failures in all likely hood). The Corbynite opposition having brought about its own defeat by the tendency of large parts of the British left to cling onto the politics, and tactics, of an even older era, unable to address the present expect through its grubby lens and largely preoccupied with the squalid internal politicking that have been its driver for the last 30 or more years.

              This is all very, vary far from its quoted usage. There is however, a feint, if corrupted, linkage, and one that has debarklesque shadings. In as much as any meaning can be discerned it seems to mostly be shorthand for “people I don’t want to like”. A cheap (culture war) jibe then. Much like Critical Race Theory has become the same spectre de jour, to wield against any hint of critical thinking, its a term largely, and deliberately, devoid of any real meaning. Instead it’s a replay of a similar tactic, one that attempts covertly lay the blame of Neoliberalisms failings on its opponents, in order to distract from its own complicity and lack of answers. It does so by pointing to the socially liberal accommodations under Clinton & Blair, pretending that these are the sole source of people’s problems, instead of acknowledging the effects of the Neoliberal economic policies to which they were hitched.

              No one should be saying these were bad things (though the was something of the line of the official Communist parties, and their ilk, in the west is response to feminism and gay liberation) but that doesn’t stop us acknowledging how they were shaped by the economic and political circumstances of their time. It bears paying close attention. It can be used to throw light on the confusing emergence, to outsiders, of so called Gender Critical Feminism, and its opposition to Trans Rights in the UK. Many see themselves as part of the traditions of 70’s feminism, though I suspect that a fair few were to late to that party. The Radical Feminism that arose, was utterly flawed in its contradictions (however understandable its emergence at the time might have been). Something that was frequently pointed out by their Socialist Feminist opponents at the time. The battle between them was fought over separatist lines, rather than philosophical ones, with Socialist feminism arguing for build links outside of the confines of feminism (it’s almost as if their should be a word for this. Intersect…no it escapes me). Tired of the patronising sexism that existed on the left, and indeed tired of men, period, separatism held sway.

              In the following decade as it played a major part in the emergence of the Green Common peace camp, and hence a genuinely radical politics. Those times are long gone and as people aged they started to become uncomfortable with the world changing around them as it slipped form their grasp. This was always going to most effect those who clung to the contradictions of essentialism, but could equally effect those who slide towards a personal conservatism was masked as previously radical beliefs went mainstream. For those who didn’t keep up, Gender Critical Feminism fulfills the psychological need to cling to a misconceived self image. For those who slid to the centre a means to blame young people for going to far (same as it ever was) and congratulate themselves on the sensiblism of old age, while still believing the the self-mythologized radicalism of their use. For others it was a means to cling onto that, to quash the cognitive dissonances of essentalism that emerged.

              (Anyway I’ve written far too much, and my child demands attention, or at least a streaming movie, so I shall fade away here. Perhaps I should have gotten my own blog ^H^H^H substack in any case).

              Like

    • Snarky banter, genre awareness and pop culture references are common in modern comics too. Which I don’t object to in principle but some writers have everyone bantering and all in the same rhythm. Or they have characters who are not particularly nerdy making knowing references to nerd stuff (something urban fantasy does too).

      Liked by 2 people

      • “Genre awareness” can be a step towards realism against (for example) zombie movies in which no one seems to have heard of zombies, etc. If real high school students teamed up to fight supernatural entities, it’s realistic for them to call themselves something like the “Scooby gang” or Kolshak

        Liked by 1 person

        • Agreed, but a character doesn’t have to reference zombie movies to know what zombies are and supposedly do.
          I don’t object to genre references per se but as they accumulate they all seem to come from a relatively limited pool; not everyone’s going to have the same references. For example I’ve seen occasional urban fantasy novels where the protagonist cracks jokes about the Evil Overlord List and I couldn’t buy they were nerdy enough to have ever heard of it.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Also agreed. It’s weird when characters have knowledge specific to a subculture that they have no apparent involvement in (Fred Clark, in his Slacktivist reviews of the Left Behind books, notes that adult characters who encounter the Rapture suddenly start talking like people who have been in evangelistic churches since childhood).

            Liked by 2 people

            • I’ve seen a couple of comics (and a bit too much news reporting) that assume the Rapture is some kind of basic Christian doctrine that even Catholics believe in. Plus (as Fred Clark also points out) assuming that it’s a “literal” Biblical interpretation.
              The weirdest was a militant anti-Catholic plot to have Nightcrawler become pope, then use gimmicked mass waifers to disintegrate millions of Catholics so it would look as if they’d all been raptured, which would prove Nightcrawler was the Antichrist. It was Chuck Austen’s writing so it made no more sense in the original.

              Liked by 3 people

            • That must have happened after I stopped reading the X-Men comics and this sort of nonsense reminds me why I stopped reading them.

              Never mind that I hate the flanderization of Nightcrawler. Yes, Nightcrawler is Catholic, though it took a few years after the introduction of the character for his religion to even come up. In later years, however, he become explicitly defined by his Catholicism to the exclusion of all other traits. Gone is the Nightcrawler of the 1970s and 1980s who loved swashbuckler movies, could fence with three blades, chased after girls a lot, was a former circus acrobat, best friends with Wolverine and German, though his grasp of the language with Marvel terrible.

              Liked by 1 person

        • I am almost certain I’ve read an urban fantasy story where the protagonist’s friends label themselves “we’re the Scooby gang, like in Buffy”. (It was probably the “Agents of Hel” series by Jacqueline Carey, but I’m not 100% certain.)

          And I’ve read horror stories that include lines like “we shouldn’t split up, that always goes badly in horror movies”. (I think “The Hollow Places” does that. The narrator there also references Narnia and other portal fantasies.)

          But yes, it’s very much a realism thing. If you write a story that’s supposed to be set in our world and our time, the people there will know the same popular culture as we readers do – they’ll know Harry Potter, and vampire stories, etc etc. It would be weird if they didn’t.

          Liked by 3 people

    • I think, by “neoliberal,” they mean “these here SJW types nowadays [ps we don’t know what ‘neoliberal’ actually means but it sounds better than ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’].”

      Liked by 1 person

    • Whedon doesn’t admit it in public, but it’s obvious from some of his references that he’s a fan of Blake’s 7– which as we all know was full of snarky banter.

      “I’m not stupid, I’m not expendable, and I’m not going.” Etc.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Okay, so Benedict is saying that _Gemini_Dream_ has captured the essence of what she means by “squeecore”.

    But if that’s the case, then that definition does not apply to the vast majority of Hugo Finalists in the last 5 years.

    So has Benedict even read any of those finalists, or is she just projecting what she thinks those works are about?

    (Hmmm, reminds me of some other people who hadn’t read the recent finalists, but made dramatic claims based on what they thought those finalists were about.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Honestly, it’s very clear that Benedict and Bolt haven’t really read any of the things they are talking about, because none of it– Scalzi, Wendig, recent Hugo nominees– even loosely fit the vague definitions. What they have read– and it’s obvious this is the actual source of their ire– are reactions to various modern works. Benedict has a section in the podcast where she rails about someone on Twitter promoting another writer’s story with a quote tweet saying “This is justice.”, talking about how she sees a lot what she ascribes as overselling the impact and value of the story. She is not upset about the story, but that someone else is giving it more value than she does.

      Thinking more about that moment, in the podcast, it’s very revealing. What she sees as the “dominant culture” has nothing to do with story content, but with the way stories are promoted and how excited fans are lifting them up. Similarly, their talk of how reference points for stories come from movies or TV rather than other books. Again, not a textual thing, but an element of promotion.

      Liked by 6 people

        • I guess the thing about enthusiastic fans lifting up what they love may be the true sticking point here, because Benedict and her clique apparently don’t have fans being that enthusiastic about their work,

          Liked by 3 people

          • I get the impression that they dislike the very idea of “enthusiastic fandom”, because the only acceptable reaction to fiction in public should be objective analysis of “how effective is this in working towards the destruction of capitalism and kyriarchy?”.

            Liked by 3 people

            • I’d propose an alternate and more charitable read that it isn’t enthusiasm that people in the left-camp have an issue much so much as the social structure underlying fandom. As an example, there’s plenty of enthusiasm for Gretchen Felker-Martin’s new book (I’m quite enthusiastic to read it) but a Gretchen Felker-Martin Fandom, as such, doesn’t exist since the people enthusiastic for her work don’t express that enthusiasm along the same avenues as a fandom.

              Like

              • Maybe – as in not a fandom with lots of shipping of fave characters and people posting character art etc? That’s true (as far as I’m aware – I’ve only looked superficially) but you don’t see a lot of that for, say, The Fifth Season either (that may change with a film adaptation and again I’m probably missing a massive swathe of fanfiction going on somewhere)

                I think in terms of what we might call “squee-marketing” I’m seeing elements of that in the promotion of Manhunt. eg “After a brutal accident entwines the three of them, this found family of survivors must navigate murderous TERFs, a sociopathic billionaire bunker brat, and awkward relationship dynamics—all while outrunning packs of feral men, and their own demons.”
                (https://bettysbiblioteca.blogspot.com/2022/01/arc-review-manhunt-gretchen-felker.html#more ) Key words there like “found family”. [Nothing wrong with that per-se and I think it confirms the marketing-hypothesis end of the squeecore debate]

                Liked by 1 person

            • But fanfic shipping fandom has always only been one aspect as fandom. It maybe a noisy and visible one, but there are plenty of fans who are just as enthusiastic and don’t write fanfic, ship characters, etc…

              Liked by 3 people

            • In relation to “social structure of fandom”, I get a feeling that Simon thinks “fandom” has degenerated into the kind of people whose fandom consists of queuing up for six hours to buy Funko Pops and rooting for the latest DC film to beat the Marvel film (or vice versa) in the box office figures like sports fans looking at a league table. Which is far from the truth, it’s just that the huge megacorp-owned fandoms are very visible and the geek news sites pander to that subgroup to sell ads.

              Liked by 3 people

      • Yes, I was thinking this. I haven’t read much Scalzi, other than his Star Wars trilogy (I have Wanderers sitting on my shelf but the subject matter – a pandemic – keeps putting me off starting), but other than his love of writing characters who banter, which I think is OK if they don’t *all* do it, this seems pretty unfair, and I’d say the same re Scalzi. He’s not a favourite of mine but he’s significantly better than this makes out.

        I would tend to agree that a lot of the problem is lazy marketing, which is not actually the authors’ fault.

        Liked by 1 person

      • @Marshall Ryan Maresca

        I think you’ve nailed it. It’s the squeeing they object to. And the term is derogatory to both the work and those who like it. They only feel like it’s taking over because some people are enthusiatic about something they aren’t interested in.

        Liked by 5 people

        • Note that this is essentially the same argument for the existence of “cancel culture.” “Too many people are liking/complaining about a thing I don’t like/would rather not hear complaints about! And they’re doing it where I can see/hear them, instead of having to do it in the privacy of their own homes! And people are actually paying attention to these NOBODIES!”

          Liked by 4 people

      • Based on a friend’s snarking on people “Squeeing” on works (and said person thinks that Rite Gud is 100% correct about what is “wrong” about SF today) I think you have the right of it here.

        Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a good question. In the pod cast she qualified what she said about the Hugos as most of them THAT SHE HAD READ were squeecore aside from Helicopter Story. So I assume several but not all but aside from the Lodestar finalists I’d genuinely struggle to identify one that fits the various criteria we’ve been offered.

      Liked by 3 people

    • The definition doesn’t even fit the books they listed in the podcast, such as The Goblin Emperor and A Memory Called Empire. What books does it fit, and particularly what Hugo winners, if the style is indeed dominant?

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Yeah, that doesn’t clarify things at all. Some of those points make me think of grimdark (like Joe Abercrombie and Steven Erikson) which I thought was the opposite of squeecore. And I don’t see a dominance of this.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It seems to me that the podcasters have been very unclear about what they mean. It’s looking deliberate. And I’ve lost any interest I had in their opinions because of that.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Agreed. It was very telling that they didn’t name any stories at all until the last five minutes of the second podcast.

      It’s also telling that the Goblin Emperor—one of the very few titles which they did, eventually, name—isn’t squeecore.

      Liked by 3 people

        • I had to go back to refresh my memory re: the earlier accounts. But yes, TGE has a marginalized protagonist who undergoes a transformative event, so there’s that.

          Liked by 2 people

          • So do Cinderella, David Copperfield and Anne Elliot, to name only three. So did Jesus, come to that. What use is that realization?
            If this is literary criticism, I don’t seem to be cut out for it.

            Liked by 3 people

  7. You could say most of these points about modern sitcoms. I did a quick check and Friends got 6 1/2 out of 8, Community gets 5 1/2 our of 8 and Big Bang Theory gets 6 1/2 out of 8. Would have been more but I don’t understand what Metaphors that fall apart after any scrutiny is supposed to mean – don’t all metaphors eventually fall apart, that’s why their metaphors?

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I’m wondering if we can torture this definition enough to describe some of Shakespeare’s plays as “Squeecore.” Maybe I’m just focused on the “lazy banter” part, thinking of bits of dialogue in (e.g.) Henry IV between Hal and Falstaff, or the Porter’s speech in Macbeth. Shakespeare always had material to entertain the “groundlings,” so maybe you could identify those bits as squeecore, if you worked at it.

    The objection, then, would be to a work that was 100% squeecore.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Having just watched Joel Cohen’s “Macbeth” two nights ago, I was briefly tempted to write a defense of how the Scottish Play fits all of the criteria above, but then I realized I have actual jobs and work to do. (Free starter though: Loads of over-explaining in that play, including lots of “I am slain!” and “I am dead!’ which Cohen thankfully cut, among other things.)

      Liked by 3 people

        • Not as far as I know. Whedon did an excellent Much Ado. Where can one find an As You Like it that he directed?

          Like

          • Yeah, Whedon did a Much Ado adaptation, which would also possibly be considered “squeecore” as these folks are trying to make up. I.e. romantic comedies, or more clearly, the idea of girl cooties, which also became the whining criticism of YA and YA SFF stories once YA had a big expansion from phenoms and bestsellers, a number of which had girl protagonists. There is a distinct anti-woman/teen girl strand running through all these things that isn’t entirely surprising, and a particular aim at WOC in the original podcast, which is sad.

            Mainly there’s the I don’t like coming of age stories complaint, which, fine, but we already have the term coming of age novel. Literary movements in any area of fiction occur when a group of authors deliberately or accidentally around the same time period are writing about the same themes, symbolism and content elements in similar writing styles and tones — many points of comparison and specific ones.

            So a plot point of a protagonist becoming empowered — not a lit movement. A writer having a style with characters being snarky and pop culture-ish — not a lit movement. A hero character to cheer for — not a lit movement. Grimdark, cyberpunk, steampunk, New Wave SF, New Weird — those were all lit movements with definable aspects and similarities, some of which later became broader sub-categories.

            YA itself is not a lit movement. It’s a market sub-category of books with teen protagonists in the children’s market and has a lot of different styles and themes in it. Saying that SFF is being dominated by YA SFF and that this is somehow a thematic and stylistic movement without being able to demonstrate what that style is except to say it’s coming of age stories — not a lit movement.

            And it’s the sort of complaints that YA authors have had to hear continually, whether doing SFF or not. That what they do isn’t real fiction, is simplistic, sappy, girly, too optimistic and idealistic, too romantic, too little sex, too much sex, too much adolescent angst in stories written for adolescents, too short, too drawn out, too queer-oriented, too mean to adults, too egotistical and heroic, too closed ended, too many platitudes, too much violence, too little violence, too gory, not gory enough and too nice to monsters, etc. In fact, this is all sounding like the online conversation that went around somewhat earlier complaining, wasn’t it, that protagonists in SFF stories were the ever rehashed concept of “Mary Sue,” and that this was a pernicious YA influence?

            And this gets back to the whining about the Marvelverse, where the mixing of comedy with the drama and action has worked to create an incredibly popular giant franchise, one that has routinely been denounced as hokey, facile, and above all juvenile (and too girlie because Captain Marvel, etc.) Real Adults like grim, depressed soap operas is apparently the pronouncement, and those are never trite and boring, no sirree.

            And that’s been aimed at Goblin Emperor, a non-YA book about a grown man considered inferior in his society despite his royal position who outwits his opponents not by gaining superpowers and/or beating others up in a war but by building a coalition of people whose skills he recognizes and empowers, like an effective leader. It’s got action but it’s part of the story’s focus on twisty political and diplomacy issues, which did annoy some who prefer more broody barbarian warriors wrecking stuff (something which author Addison/Monette is actually also very good at.)

            YA SFF is not influencing category (adult) SFF, just because it’s also popular. Adult SFF and comics have influenced YA — Wheel of Time, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, Shannara, thousands of stories with teen protagonists or sheltered adults who are cast into trouble and sometimes find out they have unexpected resources or destinies. It’s a staple in fantasy and common in SF and so it was logical that a lot of YA SFF stories written for teens would go with that idea.

            And the snarky, sarcastic thing? That’s the long influence of noir suspense — the wisecracking detective who gets slugged for mouthing off to the mob boss. It was picked up from modern 20th century suspense fiction by the comics, by many science fiction stories, by contemporary fantasy stories of monster hunters and epic fantasy stories that didn’t see the need to keep a more formal, bardic voice. And that wise-cracking noir sensibility leaked over into YA , moving from more meditative, dramatic works like Earthsea and Z for Zachariah to more contemporary suspense adventures that reflected movies and t.v. teens were watching. It’s not really a current aesthetic if it’s been around for decades.

            So this seems like more of the YA bashing we’ve had going on during the last twenty years. And it also is part of the trend of the last few years of positioning the Hugos as somehow the be all, end all representation of what’s importantly going on in SFF (which they are not) and that in undertaking that solemn imaginary duty, Hugo voters aren’t doing it right.

            And Shakespeare is thus totally squee — we just don’t get his pop culture references anymore.

            Liked by 2 people

  9. NB: squeecore should not be confused with Squeakor, the evil overlord in an all-rodent heroic fantasy series that I just made up.

    Liked by 8 people

  10. This is getting A) increasingly confused; and B) sounding like Snyder fans snargging on the Marvelverse for not being dramatic and gritty enough and the enthusiasm of fans for Marvel movies, plus the same for newer Star Wars properties and a side dollop of “I think most YA stories are icky wish fulfillment for girls” line. The objections to characters being snarky and pop cultural references is definitely the complaint we’ve had to deal with from anyone who has decided that the Marvelverse is Batman’s mortal enemy. And the earlier person becomes empowered gripe of the podcast seems aimed mainly at YA and its teen protagonists.

    Clearly this doesn’t have much to do with most Hugo nominees. I have read a fair amount of Wendig’s work, including Wanderers, and other than having some sarcastic joking characters, none of this particularly fits his stuff either and he’s not a marginalized author. And none of it fits N.K. Jemisin’s trilogy, which was the biggest thing to hit the Hugos in a decade. Nor does it fit Goblin Emperor at all.

    So squeecore seems to be an example of making a new insult and throwing it at anything or anyone these podcasters find irritating, then hoping it sticks somewhere.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. ISTM that the Redditor they’re claiming is so astute and brilliant (excuse me?) simply has the same muddled idea about genre vs. style vs. WTF they’re claiming today. And also maybe hasn’t read.

    Other than not liking capitalism and patriarchy, their arguments are exactly the same as Puppies’, and so are their hurt fee-fees.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m on record for pointing out that the puppies and the radical left getting ready to storm the gates of the genre inevitably dislike the same books, though they would never agree on anything else otherwise.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Tor’s dominance of award nominations is something that hasn’t been discussed quite as much, but that, too, appears to be a sore point with people who agree with Rite Gud.

    Liked by 3 people

    • If other companies had a robust web site that functions as a free magazine with short stories, novellas, and novelettes featured every month, Tor would have more competition. Uncanny and Clarkesworld do pretty well for themselves with their free availability as well.

      I don’t see Smash the Patriarchy and Oligarchy Press putting out free work that’s written and edited by good wordsmiths all the time.

      Funny that they think Tor is *insufficiently* SJW and Woke. If you’ve got the extreme left and right both mad at you, you must be doing something right.

      At a certain point, the left wing/right wing continuum becomes a circle.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Not to mention putting out traditionally published print novellas to be found in bookstores. I’m sure they’re not the only one, but they’re definitely doing it more than anyone else, and that created a major shift. It wasn’t that long ago that the conventional wisdom was, “If you want to win an award, write a novella, because you won’t have any competition.”

        Liked by 3 people

      • The funny thing for me always about Tor.com is that when the big publishers started trying to rev up online marketing and offerings (in the days of blogs,) I signed up for what were essentially email newsletters from them with new releases announcements so I could keep up with the books. And Tor was the absolutely worst one. The others made a stab at having book cover images, descriptions of titles, brief interviews with authors, etc. Tor’s were just one long list of typed book titles, no descriptions, no images, no news, etc. If I actually wanted to find out about the books, I had to go to Tor’s website (which was not yet folded into Macmillan) and awkwardly look each of the titles up. Once they were folded into Macmillan’s site and Macmillan updated their site for the times, that was an easier proposition.

        Then they sort of tried to make a Tor website that was loosely modelled after what HarperCollins was doing for its SFF imprints and part of it was going to be a blog with news about the whole SFF field and then maybe some short fiction, as well as the marketing announcements. And then within a couple of years that evolved into a full bore glossy online magazine with a lot of short fiction. And then they decided to start packaging some of the longer fiction works into print and audio editions, like a lot of the big magazines used to do in the old days. And then they turned that into a “new” imprint at Tor.

        So it’s funny to me that the publisher who was the worst at online marketing within about ten years became the best at it, but that’s what happens when you throw money at it. There’s nothing stopping the other big imprints from also doing online magazines (some of them started to do stuff like that fifteen years ago but seem to have mostly stopped,) or buying up one of the established online magazines like they used to do the print ones in the old days. But for whatever reason, they’ve ceded those avenues to Tor.

        And since Tor.com is also big enough to do a fair amount of film/t.v. coverage too, that lets Tor.com compete with other SFFmedia sites like io9 and such. It means they get more eyeballs than other online SFF fiction magazines that are just doing fiction or a SFF news site focused on written offerings like Locus. So it’s not just that it’s an online, free magazine for short fiction that can pay big authors. It’s a destination site for fandom for news, chats and short fiction fixes. It’s Netflix. Their dominance isn’t going to last forever, but it’s not a conspiracy either.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Absolutely none of this applies to The Goblin Emperor, which is one of the few works they explicitly labeled as squeecore, so I may, possibly, just a little, be moving back towards my uncharitable suggestion that they were deliberately vague in order to provoke discussion – nothing like vague taxonomy to get fandom talking – so they could then pick the bits they liked the best and claim they meant that all along.

    Liked by 3 people

        • That simply raises more questions — why did they list new works as good and not part of this imaginary current movement and decade old works as bad and leading examples of this imaginary current movement? Why list short stories as not “squee” and a bunch of past novels they’d heard of but hadn’t read as “squee”? Why castigate marginalized authors for doing the supposed trend but mainly list white cishet authors as the examples? Why, in a time of unprecedented adaptations of SFF books in film and t.v., do they complain about film and t.v. projects that aren’t adaptations of non-comics works and have little to do with written SFF, the area they’re claiming has a literary movement going that’s dominating the Hugos? Why say that they are trying to identify a cultural direction like New Wave SF when they don’t even know what the New Wave SF movement was by their own admission?

          You have a whole podcast to research and prepare and instead they had this hobbled together provoke list. Which looks an awful lot like they were simply trying to get the term “squeecore” up for online discussion rather than actually comment on written SFFH. Which again, I wouldn’t care if they didn’t try to pin it on marginalized authors as a problem that diversity was bringing to the table and the claim that those authors aren’t doing diversity right.

          I think this is a badly executed smoke and mirrors show, but it will have some legs, because bashing popular SFF works is a long time sport. Especially, as we know with the Puppies, if you go after the marginalized with it.

          Liked by 2 people

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: