The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Monday, November 02, 2009

Revenge of the Nerds

Facebook is so much fun. Had a series of messages with an old friend who used to be a managing editor at a major, major SF magazine, arguably the leader in the field. She asked if I'd had any problems with the magazine, and I said that we'd been frustrated that we couldn't get reviews for GREAT SKY WOMAN and SHADOW VALLEY. She said that she had recently attended an SF convention, and ran into a staffer on the magazine, and in conversation, the topic of the Publisher's "enemy list" came up...and I was on it.

Seems that years back, the former editor and the Publisher had a difficulty, and he was...hmmm. Let's say ungentlemanly about it. He was rude to her in front of me, and much like Hannibal Lector, I abhor discourtesy. Standing up for her was apparently the wrong move career-wise, and he refused to review my books from that point. My my. I won't say more, 'cause I can't without revealing identities, which is not my intent. Besides: most of you who are "in the loop" can probably guess the names anyway.

That's messed up, but human beings do crap like that, always have, and that's just the way it is. Pick your enemies carefully, children.

##

I got email from a man and his wife who complained that my proposal for the self-improvement project for men (still no title. "The Man Project"? 'Manhood: A Beginner's Guide"? Several interesting ones, but I want to make sure that they really fit both the project and my own personality.) included techniques to help Betas deal with Alphas. They maintained that such a thing isn't possible. I find that a little limited in thinking, but am actually happy to hear it: that means I know interesting stuff that some potential purchasers don't know. Money lies down those paths. Specialized knowledge is often valuable.

I won't comment now on the perspectives and techniques such Betas need, but there was another comment that I did want to put out. It was the comment that Alpha males can't marry Beta females. Not only do I disagree with this, but am of the opinion that much of "traditional" marriage was designed to create structures in which just this could happen. I'm not suggesting it at a model--I much prefer relationships between equals, "Soul Mate" unions. But I've simply seen too many long-lasting relationships between dominators and submissives, where at least from the outside, the situation seemed satisfactory to both partners. Not ecstatic, perhaps, but satisfactory.

And this is important, I think. If I'm right, and Alpha males have been able to marry Beta females, then we also have a need for Alpha females to find Beta males attractive. How to accomplish or increase this? I have no idea. But as more women fight their way to the workplace and up the power ladder, if Beta males sense that they will have LESS access to sex if women advance, they will fight like hell, back-stabbing every step of the way. I've seen it, and don't know what the answer is. Both Beta and Alpha females are attracted to Alpha males. Watch those Betas. Don't frighten them. If you do, they might not review your books.

##

ᅠAny opinions?

81 comments:

My Name Is Earl said...

>and he refused to review my books from that point.<

Better no review than a hatchet job cleverly masked to keep petty ulterior motives hidden.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"Pick your enemies carefully, children."

Better still not to leave enemies behind, as Machiavelli and Henry Cele's Shaka both recommended. Baring such lucky opportunities, indulge in equitable and satisfying tit-for-tat. I assume that magazine won't get any publicity or endorsements from you anymore.

Rona Fernandez said...

I think my husband would agree that i'm an alpha female and he a beta male (at least in the context of our relationship, if not most of the wider world). and i think he likes it. he's not a dominating presence out in the world, and he doesn't usually have a problem with that, and it gives him great satisfaction to support me in my work. of course, we have problems as any married couple does, but it seems to work for us. i also support him in his career, of course, by promoting him and talking him up to my clients. maybe it's just my particular network of friends/colleagues (progressive folks of color, mostly) but i think beta males are pretty hot! and judging from how many beta males i've dated in my lifetime, the feeling is mutual!

Dan Moran said...

If I'm right, and Alpha males have been able to marry Beta females, then we also have a need for Alpha females to find Beta males attractive

At least in my life I've known a lot more alpha men than alpha women. So at least theoretically, dominant women would have a larger group of dominant men to shop among ... assuming that dominant men in fact prefer dominant women. I'm not clear that's the case, either.

The longest relationship of my life, 12 years now, has been with a bitch alpha, and I use that phrase with all due respect. And I wouldn't trade it for anything, but some days, I look back on simpler relationships, where I was In Charge, a little wistfully.

Of course those women drove me batty too -- "what do you want to do with yourself? You don't know? A year's passed. You still don't know? Two years and you still don't know? Can I shoot myself now or do I have to wait another year?" -- the grass is greener on the side of the fence I'm on, these days. But that other grass tasted different.

Dan Moran said...

BTW, a while back I told a friend of mine that all men had daddy issues -- some of us from not having had one, and the rest of us from having had one....

As you go forward, I think (understandably) you may be prone to casting things through the eyes of a fatherless boy: how do I model this? But a lot of what you'll be dealing with is men who did model this ... and need to learn how to unmodel it.

Knowing how large a space my father has in my head (and seeing how large a space I have in my sons' heads) that might even be a bigger issue, for those men who got imprinted with a bad model.

Just a thought.

Mary said...

I'm NOT an alpha bitch, but all the same I am married to someone who would count as an alpha male. He ticks off on quite a few of the spots on your list. And within our relationship I work hard to make sure we work as a team instead of Alpha and Beta (of course, that's probably a sign of a beta when you have to do that).
But here are my reasons why this won't always be true.
In my family women tend to go from Betas to Alphas as they take on more responsibilities and they become more respected.
This year my "Alphaness" has increased. I became a mother, my own mother died, those things really called me to adulthood.

suzanne said...

"*snip*then we also have a need for Alpha females to find Beta males attractive. How to accomplish or increase this? I have no idea. But as more women fight their way to the workplace and up the power ladder,. . . "

I count myself as an Alpha woman
if we must use this terminology
but I duid not have any such
"fighting my way to the workkplace
and up the power ladder"
I say I am alpha
on the basis of passion and confidence
in my self and my actions
in all arenas of life experience

my helpmate just said
"I guess I'm a beta"
by these definitions
he's correct

I hate the terminology though
too simplistic

Anonymous said...

>If I'm right, and Alpha males have been able to marry Beta females, then we also have a need for Alpha females to find Beta males attractive. <

Not necessarily. The Alphas can just take multiple mates and the Betas can go without. There are many cultures where that is the norm. They tend to be pretty warlike as the it can be useful for the Alphas to ensure that lots of males die instead of sitting around being unhappy that they don't have a mate.

Dan Moran said...

Suzanne,

I pretty much agree with you on this one. I'm curious if you have a better term, though, to describe the sort of men Steve's talking about. He means (I think) the predators of the world ... who sometimes are good guys you end up working for. Leaders is close, but it doesn't carry the connotation of men who'll steal your lunch if you're not careful ....

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"men who'll steal your lunch if you're not careful"

Alphas often owe their success to their ability to shrewdly judge when ruthless, even unethical, action is required, and to act without reservation as necessity demands. The alpha's strength stems in no small measure from her/his ability to set aside moral qualms in favor of larger goals such as protecting loved ones, promoting beneficial causes and furthering their own long-term self interest.

Shady_Grady said...

Interesting.

Here are two links, one conservative, one more liberal that argue that the President's leadership style is more beta than alpha. The conservative one makes that case explicitly.

Obama's Leadership

Obama a Beta Male?

Shady_Grady said...


Alphas often owe their success to their ability to shrewdly judge when ruthless, even unethical, action is required, and to act without reservation as necessity demands. The alpha's strength stems in no small measure from her/his ability to set aside moral qualms in favor of larger goals such as protecting loved ones, promoting beneficial causes and furthering their own long-term self interest.


That sounds a lot like Nietzsche's Ubermensch. Do you see alpha/beta theory as similar to that or describing the same underlying reality?

I don't necessarily see "alpha's" (however defined) abilities as coming from setting aside moral qualms, in fact often much the opposite.

Shady_Grady said...

I don't think it is possible (en masse) for "Alpha" females to find "Beta" males attractive.

Most people of either gender are not Alpha anyway and yet seem to be able to find suitable partners.

suzanne said...

dan the only other term
I can come ujp with
on the spur of this moment
for alpha's is
"go-getters"

my Potemkin Village of a marriage
was definitely to an alpha male
and he was certainly quite willing to set aside morals and rules
made by others
to get what he wanted

give me a "beta" any day
over that!

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

As I understand it, in biology, the alpha is whoever the rest of the pack follows. That would make the President of the United States by definition an alpha, regardless of his style of leadership (I think "beta leadership" is a contradiction in terms). It also means that confident, cocky men who don't manage to translate their confidence and cockiness into actually being respected enough to be treated as leaders are actually betas, not alphas. (Gentle, easygoing men who have no interest in being leaders would of course also be betas.)

My husband's "alpha" in the sense that in social groups and volunteer activities he often takes the lead, and, because he's both big and vocal, would be "alpha" men sometimes treat him as the one they need to beat out to be top dog in the group. But he's "beta" in the sense that I'm the one who's making most of the money and the one who takes the lead in financial decisions.

I think few men, or women, really, are across the board alpha. Most of us are situationally alpha at most.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"Nietzsche's Ubermensch. Do you see alpha/beta theory as similar to that?"

I'm regretfully ignorant of Nietzsche. I rely largely on Machiavelli, who stressed the indispensability of ruthlessness for the preservation of Alpha's and their projects (ex: States). "Old Nic" also stressed the importance of wrapping unpleasantness in a palatable cloak and indulging in such judiciously and moderately. Ruthless must be tempered with moderation and directed rationally.

Machiavelli also spoke of Betas and how they reflect the Alpha's ability. In an particularly insightful passage inspired partly by Livy, he says (roughly from memory): "The surest indicator of a Prince's ability is that of his ministers". A able Alpha works and shines through collaboration and friendship with capable Betas, and shuns fawning, sycophantic omegas.

Shady_Grady said...

A review of a book discussing some similarities between Nietzsche and Maciavelli. There is also a discussion link.

Review


Discussion

Lobo said...

What about the Omegas?

It may sound flip, but it's a serious question. Especially with the Alpha/Beta paradigm, I imagine it would be hard to ignore the people whose lot in life is to be abused by the Alphas and the Betas (strangely appropriate to the blog title, eh?)

It seems to me that this is a group that is in desperate need of instruction on how to get out of the hole they've found themselves in.

B the II said...

maybe i'm late in the formulation, but i have a fundamental problem with the alpha/beta dichotomy. It leaves little ability for nuance, i'd like more of a gradient (5 levels maybe) or at least some acknowlegement of those that avoid these games/dichotomies

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