Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dick Lit

I've been in a sci-fi writer's group for over a year and garnered some awesome friends who are eagle-eyed readers, thoughtful critics and open-minded ... normal folk.

Awhile back, I had to temporarily run the writer's group by myself. It was fun at first but after a couple of less-than-great meetings, I started to feel psychically drained.

There's something about the genre of science fiction, aka speculative fiction, which seems to bring a specific type of crazy out enforce. They're almost always white and male and anywhere from Baby Boomer old to Millennial twentysomething.

At the meetings, a predictable scene plays out. A guy (usually wearing mis-matched fleece and khakis) shows up with a slightly creepy smile on his face clutching some tome he has self-published. He'll eagerly tell everyone he spent $5,000 getting it published (an amount equal to a nice used car).

I've yet to see one of these self-published novels that looked good enough that I'd actually pick it up in a bookstore. Usually the cover is glossy, the paperback is over sized and there's some lurid color scheme surrounding a title that over uses all the words they tell you to never use like: space, death, god, stars, love or alien.

Mr. Self Published has brought it to show everybody he's serious about this writing thing, it's not just a hobby! Depending upon his level of crazy, the guy will either tell us the basic plot ("it's about a guy who travels thru time with the help of aliens to rescue the space program from mind-reading CIA agents disguised as runway models"). Or if he's really nuts, he'll smile coyly and tell you it can't be summed up, you must read the entire 750-page doorstop.

During the meetings, we bounce around the room doing an impromptu meet-n-greet where everybody will give their first name, mention what they're reading and what they're working on. Usually Mr. Self Published will interrupt with snarky remarks so the whole process takes twice as long as normal.

About 30 minutes in, maybe while we're talking about "World War Z", Harry Harrison or the next comicon, Mr. Self Published will pick a fight. He'll snicker loudly at the meek college girl who says she loves Terry Brooks and is writing her own fantasy story. Or someone will say something about Ursula LeGuin and he'll pipe in with "Oh, the feminazi ... I mean feminist writer".

Or if he's like the winner I dealt with, he'll take the discussion of post-apocalyptic sci-fi (something both Margaret Atwood and Cormac McCarthy have dabbled in) to interject his theory on human extinction and why using nuclear weapons in the Middle East is a cool idea! The fur will start to fly and then Mr. Self Published will gloat, safe in his delusion of superiority, 'cos ya know, he already wrote a book predicting all this.

These freaks like to attack women authors, even roaring successes like Joanne Rowling.

I have yet to meet one of these trolls who did not use the slur chick lit; which is applied to any novel, play, script or short story ever published by a writer with a vagina. Don't expect Mr. Self Published to actually have read anything by a female author. He's way too busy and women authors just don't interest him! (This includes everyone from Joan Didion to Virginia Woolf). Mr. Self Published and his ilk are the reason why women's literature programs were invented.

I've coined a new phrase for this group of socially stunted bigots. (DISCLAIMER: as usual this applies only to some men, not all 4 billion of you.)

Dick Lit.

I define it as sci-fi or speculative fiction that has several specific elements.

Dick lit must adhere to the uber-geek norms for science fiction already set down by their favorite homophobic, misogynistic authors. It must have a machine, it must involve the hard sciences and it must involve space in some way like the launching of a futuristic space ship (think: erection).

Dick lit must have an average-looking male protagonist who is deeply misunderstood by everyone around him. A hero who everyone has failed to recognize as a genius (every cardboard character Michael Crichton ever invented).

Dick lit must have a female character (nothing but dudes would be gay), possibly extra terrestrial or part cat, who is overtly feminine and exotically beautiful in a sort of dominatrix way but who, weirdly, recognizes the genius in the story's hero and either strives to help him in an appropriately subservient fashion or, works against him since all girls are duplicitous.

At some point in the story, the female character, despite her extraterrestrial-ness or over-powering wiles, will get stuck, lost, arrested, kidnapped, gagged, brain sucked, encased in dry ice or put into a chemically-induced coma. Then, surprise, the misunderstood genius hero will come to her rescue. This will happen because from birth, we are all read stories and taught that women are people whom things happen to and men are people who do things.

Dick lit has to have action because stories where people just sit around and talk are lame, like most books women authors write. Those are just people sitting around and talking, right?

Dick lit can have sex scenes as long as they’re non-sentimental and brief, because damn it, the hero has work to do! He can’t be bangin’ intergalactic babes all day like Capt. Kirk. And there should be some weird distancing aspect to these sex scenes like sex with zombies or sex with She-Rah the raging lesbian from planet nine so if the hero has to break things off with her, it’s okay because he’s not emotionally attached, it was just random humping like on that video game, Grand Theft Auto.

Finally, the hero has either some sort of special power or a special machine for kicking ass (think: getting back at anyone who picked on the author in school).

I strongly urge every female reader and author out there to start using this cool new pop culture term at any given opportunity. Like if your boyfriend starts rambling about Peter Parker’s special powers in Spiderman, interrupt him by saying “Oh, you mean like dick lit!” Or if he begins to rant about how they got the warp drive configuration in the new Star Trek flick wrong, say: “Dude, that’s such a dick lit thing to say!”


Jammer said...

I like it! Although, I think it sort of sinks to their level.

Like most attempts to turn idiots' language against them, the problem is that you're naming a specific thing, and the idiots using "chick lit" are being reductive.

It only works if you're being reductive. For example: "Death Tax" or "Pro-Life."

Hijacking language requires it be parroted by idiots who don't make basic distinctions among ideas. You mean a rocketship can symbolize an erection! Go away, you college freak!

Have you seen Steven Colbert's "Tek Jansen" stuff? It's a great send-up of Dick Lit.

Sadly, as with most of my best ideas, when I Google it, someone else has thought of it already:

Anonymous said...

this is excellant! I will incorporate to my vernacular! and let's see if I can get others to read this :)

Janet said...

Heh. Yeah. I believe at our last meetup, it took the social defective 5 minutes to pounce upon the opportunity to use the term chick lit. I think we weren't even doing introductions yet, we were just talking about different authors.