Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction => Fantasy Book & Author Discussion => Topic started by: AnneLyle on April 27, 2012, 01:25:55 PM

Title: R Scott Bakker
Post by: AnneLyle on April 27, 2012, 01:25:55 PM
Mods, feel free to (re)move this if inappropriate, but having read the book club threads (where most of the participants bailed on his novel) and seen some recent comments on Twitter, I thought this was worth bringing up.

Apparently Bakker claims to be a feminist, on the following (frankly bizarre) grounds:

1. The desire to rape is hard-coded into the male brain and therefore incurable.
2. Women must therefore resign themselves to dealing with this situation, not hope for sexual freedom and equality.
3. By bringing these "facts" to his readers' attention, Bakker is helping women and therefore a feminist.

All I can say is...WTF???

More here: http://fozmeadows.tumblr.com/post/21907076406/the-problem-of-r-scott-bakker (http://fozmeadows.tumblr.com/post/21907076406/the-problem-of-r-scott-bakker)

if you can bear to read more about his views...
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: graveyardhag on April 27, 2012, 01:47:51 PM
Wow.... WTF?!? indeed.
I feel compelled to click that link, lets see what I have to say after reading it...

ETA:
OK, read it. Oh boy. As a woman, I want to stay as far as possible away from that man as I can.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Louise on April 27, 2012, 02:11:26 PM
What is this I don't even....

Quote
1. The desire to rape is hard-coded into the male brain and therefore incurable.

So not only does he have a low estimation of women who want a better future, he seems to think all men are incapable of repressing their urges? And where is the basis for it being an "incurable part of the male brain"? The more I read this the more it sounds like an excuse and that's frankly quite scary, Mr. Bakker.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: xiagan on April 27, 2012, 03:12:14 PM
Well, it explains his writing, but that's the only halfway positive thing I can say about it.

If he really thinks and feels like that, it may be a good idea to put him in preventive custody. If his brain is as hard-coded as he believes it to be, it may be only a matter of time until he starts to act the way he thinks...
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Mark Lawrence on April 27, 2012, 03:33:20 PM
I've not read any of Bakker's books & I've only skimmed the top layer of the ongoing flame-war but the following items bear noting:

i) Bakker is locked in comment-list combat with very extreme individuals from the far right and from the extremes of feminist dogma. Much of what is said about him is filtered through these channels and is undoubtedly misrepresentation at best, and perhaps out-right lies in some cases. On the right he has detractors who think women are breeding machines and this should be enshrined in law. On the extreme feminist side we have an individual who seems to think that doing battle under the banner of anti-racism and anti-sexism allows them to be both racist and sexist whilst keeping up a litany of personal insults. Meh.

http://rsbakker.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/cross-eyed-crosshair-crossfire/ (http://rsbakker.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/cross-eyed-crosshair-crossfire/)

ii) I would bet a vast amount of money that Mr Bakker would not recognise the headline statements in this thread as his beliefs.

iii) He has a blog called The Three Pound Brain where he makes very reasoned posts that attract this vitriol from various extremes. He appears to be a calm, thoughtful, and very clever individual. It's easy to go there and have a read if you'd like to draw your own conclusions rather than have them handed to you by the people targetting him.


Note: None of this is an absolute claim regarding Bakker's views and I don't claim either to have a clear idea of what they are, just an impression which is at odds with the one presented here.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: AnneLyle on April 27, 2012, 04:01:52 PM
Here are Bakker's own words from a response to a comment on his own blog (quoted in the original article I linked to), so hardly a distortion:

"Depicting strong women, ‘magic exemptions,’ simply fuels the boot-strapping illusion that is strangling contemporary feminism: the assumption that the individual can overcome their social circumstances if they try-try-try and believe-believe-believe, and thus the tendency to hold the individual responsible for their exploitation."

He seems to me to be saying that it's foolish and misguided to portray strong women in fantasy because we're kidding ourselves that humans can ever rise above their violent instincts. By implication, his kind of fiction is the only sensible approach. This man is telling women what feminism should be about.

Again, W.T.F.

He's welcome to his opinion, but I think he's wrong. Or at least depressing. The blogger linked to accurately describes him as "nihilistic".
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Mark Lawrence on April 27, 2012, 04:41:09 PM
Here are Bakker's own words from a response to a comment on his own blog (quoted in the original article I linked to), so hardly a distortion:

"Depicting strong women, ‘magic exemptions,’ simply fuels the boot-strapping illusion that is strangling contemporary feminism: the assumption that the individual can overcome their social circumstances if they try-try-try and believe-believe-believe, and thus the tendency to hold the individual responsible for their exploitation."

He seems to me to be saying that it's foolish and misguided to portray strong women in fantasy because we're kidding ourselves that humans can ever rise above their violent instincts. By implication, his kind of fiction is the only sensible approach. This man is telling women what feminism should be about.

Again, W.T.F.

He's welcome to his opinion, but I think he's wrong. Or at least depressing. The blogger linked to accurately describes him as "nihilistic".

That seems a lot to draw from the passage quoted. He says 'social circumstances', you say 'violent instincts' ... where did that come from? He makes an observation about contemporary feminism ... you tell me the man is _telling_ women what feminism should be... I can't see it. As writers we should know that meaning is in the context - dissecting a single paragraph in isolation, divorced from its argument _and_ then apparently leaping from its words and assertations to whole new words and intents... might be overhasty.

Again - I don't know, you might be entirely correct in the large picture... but it's dangerous to throw down snippets and assert a broad opinion that guides their interpretation.

Nihilism? I don't know, but there are -isms and -isms  :)

In any case, I'm done defending someone I don't know over something I've not looked at in any detail. I would just invite people to look more closely.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Mazarkis on April 27, 2012, 08:24:50 PM
From the passage quoted in the article  you linked, it seems RSB is attempting to critique male sexuality more than feminism. Whether or not he does that successfully in Neuropath, I don't know, because I have not read it. I recently made a blog post about attacking difficult subjects (rape and misogyny would certainly fall into that category), and my position is that there is no reason an author should hold back from making such attempts. If they are unsuccessful, then lesson learned; but when successful it serves to elevate the genre.

I don't see why a man cannot claim to be a feminist. Men have every reason to want equality for a wife, sister(s), daughter(s), etc. But men come at it from a different direction, not being women.

At these times, in the United States at least, there are much worse things happening to the causes of women than a book someone might find objectionable.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: AnneLyle on April 27, 2012, 10:30:00 PM
I'm not saying men can't be feminists - I'm just not sure Bakker understands that what he writes in his fiction makes it very difficult for any woman to take his claims of feminism seriously. Admittedly I've not read his books, but the reactions in the reading club here make me think they are not female-friendly - and his own assertions about writing for a male audience back that up.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Mazarkis on April 27, 2012, 10:39:41 PM
It's interesting he considered his audience at all--I mostly write for myself :) But if he says he is targeting men in order to get them thinking (whether or not he is successful), I see no reason to think him insincere in the attempt. He wrote, "I always assume this reader is male . . ." He is referring to a specific reader for a specific point or issue? Not all readers? The ellipses show us there is stuff missing from the excerpt.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Nighteyes on April 27, 2012, 11:39:57 PM
Guess he has to attract attention to himself somehow considering by all accounts his books are as interesting as watching paint dry.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: AnneLyle on April 27, 2012, 11:57:24 PM
But if he says he is targeting men in order to get them thinking (whether or not he is successful), I see no reason to think him insincere in the attempt.

I don't think he is insincere - quite the opposite. I just don't think he grasps how badly such a strategy can backfire if it fails. Maybe he does, now he's been hauled over the coals for it - or maybe, like many people with a strong belief, he reacts to criticism by becoming more defensive and more entrenched in his views.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Funky Scarecrow on April 28, 2012, 01:12:13 AM
@Mazarkis I'm a man and I'm fine with the idea we can't call ourselves feminists, even if we believe - as I do - that it's one of the most important struggles of the 21st century. The best we can do is be feminist allies and feminist advocates. No matter how much we may try, we can never truly understand what it means to be a woman and live an entire life under the weight of cultural oppression that women do, both in western culture (where I think it's safe to say most members here reside) and beyond, so other than lending our support and making a conscious effort not to encourage regressive behaviours we have nothing to add to feminism as a movement. It's why I try not to glom onto the word feminist and call myself egalitarian instead.

Re R. Scott Bakker's work - I've only read The Darkness That Comes Before and it wasn't to my taste. I don't expect fantasy to be conciliatory, but I don't see the need for it to be a kick in the intellectual teeth either. I'm no prude, I rather enjoyed the utterly deranged Ass Goblins of Auschwitz by Cameron Pierce for example, but Darkness seemed to be going over ground covered with greater subtlety and depth by Le Guin, Russ, Butler and Atwood in the 60's, 70's and 80's. As with all things, your mileage may vary.

Re R. Scott Bakker and misogyny - I can only assume that Bakker doesn't subscribe to the notion of 'death of the author' and has fallen into the stake pit trap of attempting to prove innocence. I personally believe that intention is utterly irrelevant to interpretation. The author can never be there in the reader's head chivvying them along and pointing out the symbolic, thematic or structural intentions of a given passage or scene, so whatever interpretation a reader may take from a novel is completely valid. If lots of people 'misinterpret' a work, I would suggest that the author may perhaps consider that whatever their intention was, it has failed on enough counts for it to be worthwhile writing the work in question off as not entirely successful in the execution, dusting themselves down and trying again with something else. What would I know, though? Nothing I've ever written has been published and subjected to widespread dissection.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Mazarkis on April 28, 2012, 02:49:44 AM
I agree that if a writer fails in his/her attempt to address a serious issue, then it is a lesson learned; and if as you say many readers are missing the intent and seeing only offense, then it could perhaps be a failure indeed.* However, I don't feel that fear of failure should prevent an author from exploring issues.

You write, Funky Scarecrow, that "no matter how much we may try, we can never truly understand what it means to be a woman and live an entire life under the weight of cultural oppression that women do," and that may be true, but part of being a writer is attempting to have that empathy and attempting to put one's self in that role, exploring the implications and feeling the effects. Again, not every author is going to be successful and not every time, but it worries me that authors can be stained as misogynistic for such failures.

(Also--a man cannot be a woman, but that does not mean he cannot subscribe to feminist ideals.)

*Again--have not read it, so I cannot comment on RSB in particular.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Fellshot on April 28, 2012, 06:00:24 AM
A few points and then I will probably fade back into lurking again...

-I found Bakker's logic circular at best. Women are repressed because men cannot control their urges. Society cannot be changed by the individuals participating in them. Nothing can change... but men have to. Ummm, I might be misreading something somewhere, but that seems contradictory. Besides, society and culture are not static unchanging things and they never were to start with.

-IF THE EXCEPTIONAL INDIVIDUAL WHO CAN RISE ABOVE THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES IS "UNREALISTIC" THAN HAVE MORE OF THEM AROUND SO THAT THEY AREN'T SO EXCEPTIONAL. See? Fixed!  ;D

-There are a lot of women who fully understand the male gaze too. Guess what the big problem with the first essays critically detailing the male gaze was? The inability to theorize a female gaze. Hence a lot of work trying to figure out what a female gaze would entail ever since. More male gaze doing the same thing it has always done, isn't edgy or new. At all. Ever. Trying to claim that it is beneficial and helpful... what about having a guy see a woman as something other than a fleshy condom that should submit to his gaze?

-If a lot of people are giving someone the same criticism, then something got lost in the transition between what the author intended and what was written. I for one can't see how more portrayals of sexual violence could make male readers uncomfortable unless their sympathies and perspectives were firmly and irretrievably set with the victim of that sexual violence. Since adult men are sexually assaulted so rarely, I don't see how one can do that without a non-objectified female character or small children in the narrative.

-Also, a lot of people avoid calling themselves feminists because the term "feminist" has been used to summarily dismiss women's voices who would like egalitarian goals. Feminism isn't about things being at the expense of men. It's about making things better for everyone by not ignoring the other half of the human population with two X chromosomes.

Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: xiagan on April 28, 2012, 08:05:16 AM
The way he shows and treat women in the Darkness that comes before didn't bother me much (which doesn't mean I liked it) because it's fiction and if he feels that his plot needs a dark and archaic world then it's okay. There are books with darker worlds out there.

What does bother me is that he thinks all men in our real world are like the male characters in his book. There is a difference between the male gaze and 'rapability' (what a terrible word) he doesn't seem to be aware of.
With his intention to bring his male audience to be aware of their own dark self to he sounds more like a preacher of a fundamentalist religion than a fantasy author...
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: AnneLyle on April 28, 2012, 09:21:33 AM
Again, not every author is going to be successful and not every time, but it worries me that authors can be stained as misogynistic for such failures.

I agree that authors shouldn't be afraid to take on difficult subjects because of the risk of failure. I'm writing about a period rife with sexism, racism and homophobia, and it's a very difficult balancing act, trying to be true to the period withouts to offending modern sensibilities. I dare say some people will jump on the least failing on my part...

I find it difficult to feel sorry for Bakker, though, because he went into this knowing full well he was courting controversy, and that's exactly what he got. I feel he should stick to supporting real-world schemes that educate young men (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/teens/sexuality/in-the-age-of-internet-porn-teaching-boys-to-be-good-men/article2409690/) (link given in Bakker's own post), because his fiction doesn't seem to be achieving the desired effect. He's writing in a genre read by a lot of these young males who don't have the sophistication to understand his subtle message and could easily be misled into thinking the exact opposite of what he intends.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Mazarkis on April 28, 2012, 03:32:21 PM
I for one can't see how more portrayals of sexual violence could make male readers uncomfortable unless their sympathies and perspectives were firmly and irretrievably set with the victim of that sexual violence. Since adult men are sexually assaulted so rarely, I don't see how one can do that without a non-objectified female character or small children in the narrative.

I'm all for non-objectified female characters--and for emphasizing the damage of rape where it does appear in a narrative--but I do find it an extraordinary opinion that a male reader would be completely comfortable with rape scenes otherwise. That implies a default-rape culture, which is one of the things (from what I understand) people are angry with RSB for saying.

Quote
-Also, a lot of people avoid calling themselves feminists because the term "feminist" has been used to summarily dismiss women's voices who would like egalitarian goals. Feminism isn't about things being at the expense of men. It's about making things better for everyone by not ignoring the other half of the human population with two X chromosomes.

Agreed.

Quote
He's writing in a genre read by a lot of these young males who don't have the sophistication to understand his subtle message and could easily be misled into thinking the exact opposite of what he intends.

Well there is a problem there, indeed. There is always a tension between going where your instincts take you in a narrative and being conscious of the social milieu into which it will ultimately land. It's tricky.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Mazarkis on April 28, 2012, 03:35:51 PM
I'm not going to comment any longer on our various interpretations of the [apparently edited] excerpt from R Scott Bakker. I don't know why we all see something different in it, but since it is full of ellipses, I feel uncomfortable making further judgements. Also . . . never read Neuropath. :)
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Fellshot on April 28, 2012, 04:46:59 PM
I for one can't see how more portrayals of sexual violence could make male readers uncomfortable unless their sympathies and perspectives were firmly and irretrievably set with the victim of that sexual violence. Since adult men are sexually assaulted so rarely, I don't see how one can do that without a non-objectified female character or small children in the narrative.

I'm all for non-objectified female characters--and for emphasizing the damage of rape where it does appear in a narrative--but I do find it an extraordinary opinion that a male reader would be completely comfortable with rape scenes otherwise. That implies a default-rape culture, which is one of the things (from what I understand) people are angry with RSB for saying.

I probably should have preceded that with because Western culture in real life defaults to blaming rape victims over the age of 10 for the act perpetrated on their person ("she shouldn't have worn that dress," "why didn't she fight back," "she shouldn't have gotten so drunk," "if it's such a bad neighborhood, then why didn't she move out" etc.), you need to have someone in a narrative (male or female) whose sympathies and concerns are clearly for the welfare of the victim and sees the victim as a person.

Since Bakker is claiming that the default for men is to rape (rather insulting) and he excludes women from parts in the narrative (also insulting), and he's focusing on the "male gaze" with all of its dehumanizing objectification (really insulting), I don't see how he's doing anything other than perpetuating the problem.

My sincere apologies, I was unclear and writing at a rather late hour. :P

As an aside, one plus of this whole mess is that I will probably go dig up my copy of "Visual Pleasure and the Narrative Cinema" by Laura Mulvey and reread it in all it's dry, dusty, frustrating glory.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Silence on April 28, 2012, 06:04:54 PM
Having read both the post references at the start of this thread and the source later referenced further down, I don't see much of what's being laid at his door in the first actually present in what he says in the second. You could see it that way, but I think one would have to work at it. I suggest people read all the comments and responses and draw conclusions of their own.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Mazarkis on April 28, 2012, 07:01:03 PM
Quote
I probably should have preceded that with because Western culture in real life defaults to blaming rape victims over the age of 10 for the act perpetrated on their person ("she shouldn't have worn that dress," "why didn't she fight back," "she shouldn't have gotten so drunk," "if it's such a bad neighborhood, then why didn't she move out" etc.), you need to have someone in a narrative (male or female) whose sympathies and concerns are clearly for the welfare of the victim and sees the victim as a person.

Understood, but what I would fight in the political sphere is different from what I would fight in the artistic sphere. I am uncomfortable telling other authors they need to do anything. I know what I prefer to read, but that has little to do with what needs to be written. Points are made in a variety of ways through art, and to limit someone by saying, "if you have X you must have Y" is limiting to their expression.

Whether or not an author's point was made successfully is a different and fairer conversation than the one in which we decide upon aspects of the writer's character.

Quote
As an aside, one plus of this whole mess is that I will probably go dig up my copy of "Visual Pleasure and the Narrative Cinema" by Laura Mulvey and reread it in all it's dry, dusty, frustrating glory.
Enjoy!
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: AnneLyle on April 28, 2012, 08:46:13 PM
Whether or not an author's point was made successfully is a different and fairer conversation than the one in which we decide upon aspects of the writer's character.

Very true. I can understand why it's hard to separate the author from their work. Some authors are quite cerebral in their approach to fiction and like to play devil's advocate, but many others (myself included) can't help but put themselves on the page - and it's nigh impossible to distinguish the two purely from the text.

Worse still, both groups tend to assume that all writers are like them, and just can't understand the other side's reaction to their work. Which is why we need to have these conversations, regardless of the merits of the original confrontation that sparked the debate. I'm with E M Forster on this:

"How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?"

i.e. I tend to have to externalise my thoughts in order to analyse them. This is why I fill stacks of spiral-bound reporter's notebooks with my plot brainstorming...
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Mazarkis on April 28, 2012, 10:21:39 PM
I LOVE E.M. Forster!

Interesting. I think I might be a mix of those approaches. Not sure. I need to write it down & analyse :)
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Madness on October 07, 2013, 08:24:50 PM
Hi all,

Apologies for resurrecting this thread. However, I felt it best to post here rather than begin a new topic in error.

First off, having been involved in and read through a number of these types of contentions concerning Bakker, I'd like to thank ML and Mazarkis for their poignant counter-points to AnneLyle's careful considerations (oftentimes, better than those interlocutors who've been quoted in this thread themselves).

I'm doing my rounds pimping Bakker, so I apologize as well if this is considered spamming. I just thought I'd let the Bakker Fandom know of a semi-newish incarnation of The Second Apocalypse (http://www.second-apocalypse.com) fan-forum. Since the thread mostly centers around the genders issues tact, I'll also note the Bakker, Feminism, and Slavery (http://second-apocalypse.com/index.php?topic=466.0) thread there.

Cheers.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: AJDalton on October 08, 2013, 08:06:51 PM
R Scott Bakker divides opinion. It's very much a love/hate thing. He's well worth persevering with, however. His stories layer extremely well. The characters are well drawn, but the drawing of them is extremely drawn out... as they should be? It's this sort of philosophical conundrum that puts some readers off.

Me, I like his stuff, but would not hesitate to agree it can be hard going. I'd prefer something that was slightly too hard than slightly too easy. That's a matter of taste, of course.

Yes, there's a lot of darkness there too, but it's not gratuitous, I'd say. The treatment of women is poor, but there's a point being made at the same time. His work is extremely reflective, and highlights the poor treatment of women as much as anything else.

At the end of the day, the darkness might be too unremitting. A few more jokes might not have gone amiss, but somehow they'd have disrupted everything. They would have been facile, etc... albeit that I also enjoy a good dose of Gotrek and Felix. Long live the Black Library! Both 'high' and 'low' brow stuff influences my work... hopefully, the whole is greater than the sum of the diddly-doos, etc.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Madness on October 15, 2013, 08:24:07 PM
Thanks for the reply, Dalton.

I wanted to add that you have sold a book by posting here :). I'm tickled intrigued by your blogs and the reviews of your books.

Sounds like you and Bakker are putting tracks towards the same station.
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: AJDalton on October 16, 2013, 05:58:47 PM
Quite right too. You clearly have good taste and discernment... altho with a handle like 'Madness'...
Title: Re: R Scott Bakker
Post by: Madness on October 17, 2013, 02:28:53 PM
To be clear, I was 'Madness' long before 300 ruined my username forevermore ;).