Filibuster Freefall

Art tends to draw fringe personalities. Be they left-wing or right-wing, sexually liberated or restrictive, bearing funny ideas on everything from drugs to health care to the wearing of funny hats on Sundays, creative types usually have their ideas and stick to them. Usually, however, they manage to stay separate from the work, or if they're worked in, they're blended in a way that adds to the quality of the work or at least doesn't detract from the main thrill ride.

There are some cases, however, where a strange combination of the author's prestige, personal life, and political bent causes things to take a strong shift. Suddenly, you're cracking open the latest book in a rollicking fantasy series and there's a hundred page section on how people wearing funny hats on Sunday should be sentenced to death by firing squad. Where once there was flirting, things have gotten overtly bohemian and even hideously porny. Where once there was fun military action, there are now long sections on the moral failings of the Clinton Administration. Something has cracked, and the author has ended up firmly in Filibuster Freefall.

The phenomenon was first noted by author James Nicoll on the rec.arts.sf newsgroup (and we're actually citing him properly this time) and dubbed "The Brain Eater" in relation to authors Poul Anderson and James P. Hogan. It is a certain form of Protection from Editors which allows the author to freely enter Author Tract territory or spout off on their views without fear of repercussion. For interest of clarification, it does not apply to authors such as China Miéville or Ayn Rand, who have always discoursed on their political positions in their works (socialism and Objectivism respectively). For Filibuster Freefall to apply, the author has to have started off writing in a neutral, if slightly charged, manner before reaching a point where the messages are obviously being shouted in your ear to the exclusion of all else. As this is no doubt a charged topic, poster discretion is advised.

If this is limited to one work or series rather than the author's entire body of work, the work has suffered Issue Drift. This may be the reason for Seasonal Rot.


    open/close all folders 

  • This article from Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger seems to indicate that Gallagher (yes, he of the watermelon smashing) has fallen hard into this, with one of his recent shows focused on ranting against the French, women's lib, tattoos, and homosexuality (a lot in the latter case), with the show ending with Gallagher smashing a pie tin of something and screaming, "This is the China people and the queers!" Which makes one of the first steps in his decline from the public eye (a joke about burning flags, which "accidentally" came out as "fags") a lot Harsher in Hindsight.
  • '90s stand-up comics Dennis Miller and Janeane Garofalo. As noted here by Bob Chipman, while their politics were on opposite ends of the spectrum (conservative/libertarian in Miller's case, liberal in Garofalo's), they both followed nearly identical paths into this trope until, by the mid '00s, both of them had become political Talk Show hosts whose comedy work was unknown to anyone who was part of the millennial generation. Miller's turn in particular happened due to a shift in his politics; he asserts that 9/11 had caused him to become more right-wing politically. Garofalo, meanwhile, was known to be a fairly staunch left-winger as far back as her brief stint on Saturday Night Live, having left that show due to what she felt was a sexist environment behind the scenes.

    Comic Books 
  • One of the most famous examples in all of comics-dom, Cerebus the Aardvark. Starting as a look at the life of an aardvark hero and his brushes against society as a whole, the comic took a noticeable change in direction after author Dave Sim underwent a nasty divorce. From that point on, there was a lot of Abrahamic fiddling and angry rants about how anything with a vagina drains the warmth and creativity from the world.

    Comic Strips 
  • B.C. started as a gag strip about cavemen, then in Johnny Hart's later years, he stripped out most of the jokes in favour of anviltastic Christian themes. When he passed away in 2007, his grandchildren took a meat cleaver to the hardcore religious stuff and made it a gag strip again.

  • Piers Anthony's works have always had some sexual content. Then he started writing books like Bio of a Space Tyrant, where pre-pubescent girls knowingly consent to sex with adults. No-one was happy with this development, or if anybody was, they're not talking.
  • Dean Koontz used to have characters that had a wide variety of different opinions and viewpoints. Now, in recent works, all the protagonists will share Dean Koontz's opinions on things like bioethics, global warming, gun control, and evolution, while his villains will stand for things that Dean Koontz hates. The Taking is the most egregious as The Legions of Hell carry off everyone and everything Koontz finds personally offensive.
  • Orson Scott Card started tracking this way with essays condeming gay marriage and homosexuals in general. Then came Empire, which was about liberal terrorists attacking conservative military interests. Empire, as well as his essays, has somewhat colored Card's works, to the point that there was a fight over Shadow Complex because Card wrote Empire as a tie-in novel that ended up coming out before the game (the game itself was written by noted comic book writer Peter David). Card actually did suggest the decidedly hyper-conservative ideology of the Restoration for the game... then proceeded to make them liberal in the novel anyway. His thoughts on homosexuality are possibly seeping into his other work, such as in Hamlet's Father, where all of Hamlet's issues can be traced back to getting molested by his father, who also then molested around half of the play's cast as children, and then sent Hamlet on a revenge spree so they could all join the father in Hell (Card, however, claims there are no gay characters in "Hamlet's Father"—only pedophiles and damaged adults, but whether that's the truth or after-the-fact backtracking is a case of YMMV).
  • James P. Hogan's works started off with an anarcho-libertarian bend, but it eventually got to the point where he was writing entire stories supporting AIDS denialism, combined with a one-hundred-eighty-degree reversal of many of his previously strongly held viewpoints, mostly on quack science such as Velikovskiyan catastrophe theory and the integrity of the scientific establishment.
  • The Anita Blake series is another famous example of this. Unlike the Merry Gentry series (which pretty much started off as porn), the Blake series initially started as the adventures of a professional necromancer who alternatively hunted and enjoyed sexual tension with the creatures of the night. Then around book six, the sexy times got ramped up to the point where they devoured the book, leaving little space for the actual plot. Many consider the breaking point to be author Laurel K. Hamilton's divorce from her husband.
  • Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series began as a standard fantasy epic about a hero fighting his evil emperor father and other supernatural villains. After several books in this vein, Goodkind begins introducing Objectivist themes, turning the series in an Author Tract supporting the philosophy. The villains become thinly veiled caricatures of communists, socialists, liberals and pacifists, while the protagonist becomes an avatar of Objectivist beliefs. The shift in focus is emphasized when the protagonist occasionally has to explain why his new Objectivist beliefs contradict views he'd expressed earlier, before the free-fall.
  • John Norman's Gor novels were originally Sword & Sorcery potboilers firmly in the style of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but then his male-supremacist views came to the fore and took over the series.
  • It looks like Dan Simmons might have finally entered this territory. First came Olympos, where a Global Caliphate releases a virus to kill all Jews on Earth. A bit suspect, but no doubt a look at things spiraled out of control. Then came a short story posted on his website, wherein a time traveler came back from the future to warn Simmons about the creation of "Eurabia." That was more suspect, but hadn't made its way into his published works. And now there's Flashback, where among other dystopian themes, Europe has been taken over by a global caliphate and Islamic terror is widespread in the US, with the "Ground Zero mosque" seen as an impetus and most Americans engaging in "surrender tactics."
  • Robert A. Heinlein got into this territory toward the end of his career. Since his novels always tended to have lectures in them, it was mostly the weirdness of the filibusters that changed.
  • While John Ringo has never been shy about his militant libertarianism, the third Troy Rising novel, The Hot Gate, is basically a long condemnation of South American upper-class culture, and how they would rather risk death than do maintenance work on their shuttles (with a space battle at the end which proves the South Americans wrong about everything).
  • Tom Clancy always had a large conservative, America Saves the Day bent. However, after Clinton's election in 1992 his villains took a staggering swing to the Strawman Political spectrum. Highlights include a heroin-addicted hippie who deliberately sabotages a POW rescue mission (Without Remorse), an Animal Wrongs Group that want to massacre all of humanity to stop pollution (Rainbow Six), and an Amoral Attorney who tries to prosecute an Army Ranger for killing an armed terrorist during a raid to catch an Osama bin Laden Expy (Dead Or Alive). Executive Orders contains the worst filibuster however, when the plot stops dead for multiple pages so Clancy can rant about the complexity of the US Tax Code. Notably, the filibusters themselves deteriorate in quality; the hippie in Without Remorse is portrayed at least as idealistic and manipulated by Russian spies, despite his stupidity and narcissism, whilst by the later books the other characters do what they do seemingly because they are just bastards who hate freedom.
  • Most of John Grisham 's novels after The Pelican Brief are notorious for this, sometimes taking it up to 11. Many critics have said that Grisham's extreme left-wing political commentary on legal matters often detracts significantly from the plot in his later novels, to the point where some of them have been dismissed as propaganda.
  • Michael Crichton also suffered from this in his later books. It's most noticeable in State of Fear, where the plot takes a backseat to the frequent author filibusters in what is essentially a book-long denial of climate change. In fact, it literally ends with an essay where Crichton talks about his views directly, not even bothering to put them into the mouth of a character. His next book (and the final one published in his lifetime), Next, likewise ended with a section where he lectures about the laws regulating genetic engineering.
  • The fourth Maximum Ride novel takes a pretty sharp turn into environmentalism, with an Author Filibuster at the end that lasts several pages.
  • In The Amber Spyglass (Philip Pullman's third His Dark Materials book), the series's atheist bent becomes...less than subtle, to say the least.
  • H. G. Wells underwent this. As time went on, his works became more didactic and focused on Anvilicious themes about socialism and futurism. G. K. Chesterton famously described it as Wells having "sold his birthright for a pot of message."
  • In the last 30 pages of Johnny Got His Gun, author Dalton Trumbo seems to forget he was writing a novel about an incapacitated hospital resident and instead rambles in essay form on his opinion that war is bad.
  • Thomas Ligotti's works have always had a strong philosophical pessimist/anti-natalist subtext; from late nineties on, as he was suffering from major physical and mental health problems, it increasingly becomes the text of his stories, culminating in The Conspiracy Against the Human Race where he makes a comprehensive case for humanity to stop reproducing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a case of Tropes Are Not Bad, The Daily Show during the tenure of Jon Stewart is often regarded as a positive example of this. Starting out as a basic news parody program, the show took a turn towards political commentary in the wake of the 2000 US Presidential election and especially after 9/11. Far from derailing the show, this shift is often regarded as when the show came into its own, transforming from lighthearted fluff into a stinging satire of American politics and culture, one that helped make Stewart into a household name and the show into a destination where politicians and pundits would engage in actual (albeit still comedic) policy debate.

    Web Comics 
  • Better Days was a Furry Comic that started off as a story about the constant struggles of a family of anthropomorphic cats. While it did have some rather out there, strange themes (including an incest storyline), it was all Played for Drama and dealt with the fallout. Then, author Jay Naylor's Objectivist viewpoints took over the comic partway through, and main character Fisk Black went straight into God-Mode Sue territory as the one who acted as Naylor's mouthpiece. When the comic ended, Naylor created a Sequel Series called Original Life, which he promised would be Lighter and Softer compared to Better Days, but it went straight into the Objectivist themes again almost immediately, along with doses of the author's anti-religious viewpoints.
  • Sinfest shifted rather abruptly from adult-oriented gag-a-day humor (which nevertheless commented on a variety of political and social issues) to a hard-core second-wave feminist theme. The strip's creator Tatsuya Ishida also being a poster boy for Reclusive Artist, the reason for this change remains unknown.
  • David Willis made a conscious decision to include more LGBTQ characters in Shortpacked!, starting with Ethan realizing he was gay and Mike being "whatever you don't want (him) to be," giving Ultra-Car an asexual humanoid body, and culminating in making Robin and Leslie the Happily Married Alpha Couple and central characters. This continued with Dumbing of Age, which also included making several Walkyverse characters who were portrayed as or presumed straight explicitly gay or bi in DoA. He also expanded on Joyce's struggles reconciling her Black and White Morality fundamentalist Christian upbringing with the realities of the world outside that bubble (minus the alien invasions and interdimentional ninjas of It's Walky!, of course). For everyone who sees this as an unambiguous positive, there are those who see it as pushing a left-wing agenda and demonizing Christian values.
  • Tales of the Questor is an interesting example where this happened to a spin-off comic while surprisingly not touching the core comic. Tales of the Questor is a fantasy comic with Christian themes, but relatively light ones, an agenda promoting science over mere occultism, rational thinking, and a focus on a star who is heavily flawed. Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger has a relatively flawless protagonist, though still with a comical air, whose worst mistakes were caused by either ignorance, or just being put in a bad situation. That said, his biggest screw-up is one that he still loses sleep over. However, it also has as antagonists deconstructions of various concepts, moving from Star Trek, to The Cold Equations, to Space Pirates, to Warhammer. The third strip, the Probability Bomb, has, as an enemy, an insane mad scientst who wants to prove Evolution, since everyone knows Intelligent Design is the only option, that the Universe is clearly young, that Earth is only 6,000 years old...and includes a plan solved by libertarian economics.

    Western Animation 
  • South Park's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have always been known as fairly staunch libertarians politically and philosophically, but sometime in the '10s, political commentary began to take over the show. The tipping point for many viewers was season 19, which was built around a season-long Story Arc about Political Correctness Gone Mad (personified by the school's new principal) taking over the town, and which split the fanbase right down the middle. Some fans declared that Stone and Parker, after years of being the countercultural voice of Generation X, had finally "gotten old" and were doing little more than ranting at the politics of the millennial generation, while other fans loved season 19 for precisely that reason.

  • Eric S. Raymond, one of the pioneers of the open source software movement, is now arguably more (in)famous for the hard rightward swing he took in his politics after 9/11. A new version of his "Jargon File" (a repository of hacker culture that he helped write in the '70s and '80s) published in 2003 contained numerous changes to bring it more in line with Raymond's views, while his "Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto" that same year bashed all critics of the invasion of Iraq as being useful idiots for al-Qaeda. Between that and the increasingly flagrant sexism, bigotry, and crank views on science that showed up on his blog, much of the open source movement has come to view him as someone who's long since stopped having anything useful to say.

Alternative Title(s): The Brain Eater, Brain Eater