LSE is a wasting disease. It invades the brains of writers of SF and other genres, progressively damaging their ability to tell entertaining stories until all they can write is unpleasant gray goo fit only for consumption by lit majors. One of the principal sequelae of the disease is plunging sales.
If you are a writer or an aspiring writer, you owe it to yourself to learn the symptoms of LSE so you can seek treatment should you contract it. If you love a writer or aspiring writer, be alert for the signs; victims often fail to recognize their condition until the degeneration has passed the critical point beyond which no recovery is possible. You may have to stage an intervention.
Here are some clinical indicators of LSE:
1. Evinces desire to be considered “serious artist”.
2. Idea content is absent or limited to politicized social criticism.
3. Heroism does not occur except as anti-heroic mockery.
4. All major characters are psychologically damaged.
5. Wordage devoted to any character’s interior monologues exceeds wordage in same character’s dialog.
6. Repeated character torture, especially of the self-destructive variety.
7. Inability to write an unambiguously happy ending. In advanced cases, the ability to write any ending at all may be lost.
8. Stronger craving for a Nebula than a Hugo. (Outside SF: approval of fellow genre authors more valued than that of fans.)
9. Spelling name without capital letters.
10. Plot is smothered under an inchoate cloud of characterization.
11. Persistent commission of heavy-handed allegory.
12. All sense of humor or perspective vanishes from writing, replaced (if at all) by hip irony.
13. Characters do not experience joy, hope, or autonomy except as transient falsehoods to be mocked.
14. No moment of conceptual breakthrough in story. (Outside SF: lack of respect for genre aims and values.)
If you have three or more of these symptoms, step away from your keyboard before another innocent reader is harmed. Immerse yourself in retro space opera (or your non-SF genre’s equivalent) until you understand what it got right that you are doing wrong. And, get over yourself.
(Thread is open for more symptoms. Try to keep politics out of it; that would be a different “Warning signs of being a political tool” list.)