“Don’t ever become a pessimist… a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events.” – Robert A. Heinlein
What is Human Wave?
Human Wave is a literary movement bubbling up just under the radar. Though the powers that be try their best to suppress it, rebels, mad men, outlaws, thought criminals and other degenerates can be found whispering the treasonous words ‘Human Wave’ in the dark and hidden places of the world.
Like many movements, it began from a humble origin which served as a flashpoint for a greater movement lurking just below the surface of the literary world. In this case, it was a single comment on a threat at Sarah Hoyt’s blog, According to Hoyt. Commenter and author Sabrina Chase made the following comment:
I want to start a new literary movement! I call my sf, half-jokingly, “two-fisted tales of space adventure” but I’m sure the marketing folks wouldn’t approve. Maybe “human-optimistic”? The credo being:
– humans are not inherently evil.
– Using technology to survive is a good thing.
– Nature is stupid( but big and persistent. )
– It’s fun to win
– Science is cool.
– War is hell, but it sure answers the question “How are you gonna stop me from eating your face?”
– the laws of physics trump good intentions or membership in a grievance group
And stuff like that. Then we can proudly proclaim we are THEM and people who want to have a sensawunda experience can look for our books.
Sarah Hoyt quickly suggested ‘Human Wave’ and before these two wonderful women could come to their senses or walk down from the cliff, a new literary movement was born! Quite a few definitions of Human Wave have been thrown against the wall. My personal favorite was written by Charlie Martin in a post called ‘Timshel’. I will humbly excerpt the relevant parts here:
It is thus, in the spirit of timshel, that we reclaim our birthright: as science fiction and fantasy writers; as writers; as human, sentient, beings. We stake our claims, not as commandments — for we do not believe that any person can rightfully command another — but by claiming our right to reject the commandments of the Establishment.
Timshel. Thou mayest write fiction that has no higher purpose than to entertain, to entrance, to free the reader from their current life in order to experience another. And we believe, in fact, that fiction can have no higher purpose.
Timshel. Thou mayest choose characters and their characteristics with no other consideration than story alone. Race, gender, sex, species, organic or inorganic or pure thought form, your characters are your creations. It is your right and your privilege, as writer, to create lesbian starship captains of color; but it is equally your right to create muscular male captains who play baseball as a hobby, if you care to.
Timshel. Thou mayest write of dark worlds or light. Thou mayest write happy endings or sad. Thou mayest write any damn thing you please, and expect it to be judged on its merit as story alone, not on its political inclinations. Or yours.
Timshel. Thou mayest write to convey an intellectual, moral, or ethical message, and in fact we feel that all fiction, by its nature, conveys some intellectual, moral, or ethical message. But your fiction will be judged, first of all, as fiction, not for its impeccable morals or the conformity of its political position with someone else’s standard. And you may find that your message is so objectionable that people no longer buy your fiction, forcing you into that least good of all possible worlds, the real job.
That’s the biz, sweetheart.
This powerful idea, this yearning for positive, exciting, expansionist, human-friendly science fiction and fantasy caught hold of nearly everyone that was exposed to it. Aren’t you sick of nihilism? Aren’t you sick of hipsters saying everything and everyone sucks? Aren’t you tired of grey goo writing? “in which characters of indeterminate moral status move in a landscape of indeterminate importance towards goals that will leave no one better or worse off”. I’ve had enough of living in a grey depressing world of heroes who are never heroic and villains who are simply misunderstood and abused. I’m ready for the positive, the exciting, the adventurous, the inspiring, the uplifting. Aren’t you? Aren’t we all?