August 23, 2019, 02:37:51 PM

Author Topic: R Scott Bakker  (Read 10570 times)

Offline AnneLyle

R Scott Bakker
« 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

if you can bear to read more about his views...
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline graveyardhag

Re: R Scott Bakker
« Reply #1 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.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2012, 02:05:43 PM by graveyardhag »
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Offline Louise

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Re: R Scott Bakker
« Reply #2 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.

Offline xiagan

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Re: R Scott Bakker
« Reply #3 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...
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Offline Mark Lawrence

Re: R Scott Bakker
« Reply #4 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/

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.

Offline AnneLyle

Re: R Scott Bakker
« Reply #5 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".
« Last Edit: April 27, 2012, 04:06:19 PM by AnneLyle »
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline Mark Lawrence

Re: R Scott Bakker
« Reply #6 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.

Offline Mazarkis

Re: R Scott Bakker
« Reply #7 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.

Offline AnneLyle

Re: R Scott Bakker
« Reply #8 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.
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline Mazarkis

Re: R Scott Bakker
« Reply #9 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.

Offline Nighteyes

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Re: R Scott Bakker
« Reply #10 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.
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Offline AnneLyle

Re: R Scott Bakker
« Reply #11 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.
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline Funky Scarecrow

Re: R Scott Bakker
« Reply #12 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.
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Offline Mazarkis

Re: R Scott Bakker
« Reply #13 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.

Offline Fellshot

Re: R Scott Bakker
« Reply #14 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.