There has been much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments* in recent months (though it at times seems more like years) over the SFWA bulletin. Lines seem drawn pretty firmly, with one side screaming about what they see as the violation of their right to free speech in favor of political correctness and the other screaming about sexism and a lack of professionalism. You’ve seen the blog posts and the emails and the recent petition started byDave Truesdale. I won’t go through it all again.
I feel strongly that there are several people in the Science Fiction and Fantasy communities who need to come to terms with the fact that the world is no longer an old white boys' club anymore and that their fiction, publications and attitudes should reflect that. I also feel strongly that we should be wary of being overly rigid in our defense and support of those who have been wronged by past and current actions, especially if it ends up meaning that people are too afraid of offending someone to say anything meaningful.
But no one needs another goddamn voice screaming out their opinion on this. Especially not someone who isn’t even a part of the organization in question.
Instead, what concerns me here is the way people on both sides are dealing with this argument. Like too many issues with politics and anything in regards to the “culture war” (god, do I hate that term), we’ve got two predesignated trenches filled with angry people lobbing verbal grenades at each other over an open field. Neither side moving enough to even hear explosions that their side did not create. End result: no progress for anyone.
For those of you like Mr. Truesdale, several of whom helped to make these genres what they are today and whom all of us respect incredibly, I am hearing a bit too much “you can’t tell me what I can and cannot say or what I can and cannot do.” This seems to be happening without any willingness to look at what is being said or done and whether those things are harming others. Please note that I do not say “offend”, as I tend to enjoy offending people. Harming, however, is a tad dickish and should be curtailed. It does not help your cause when you use terms like “political correctness”, when they are terms that have been used too often as shields for bigoted assholes (“preserving our heritage” is another to watch out for). Most of you are better than that and can articulate your thoughts without relying on such trite crutches anyways.
From those on the other side, many of whom are helping to expand this fiction I adore into marvelous unforeseen realms, the cries seem to be a pretty unanimous “sexist, bigotted asshats need to shut up and apologize right now!” Again, this is often immediate, knee jerk and without much real and deliberate consideration of whether or not actual harm is being done and whether or not your own approach is causing harm instead of helping. Too often, even the more reasoned and thought out approaches have a very condescending feel to them. This whole “it isn’t the olden days anymore, grampa, and you need to catch up with the times” tone comes across snotty, arrogant and self important. Again, you are professionals with words who generally do not speak to your readers as if they are idiots who could not possibly know as much as you what is best for the world. It makes me sad that so many of you are not using that talent here.
I don’t think I am alone in having been attracted to the speculative genres because they always seemed to be limitless in possibility. I still hold that they are and I still hold that the same goes for those who create them. I’d just like to see these raging, overly dramatic arguments turn into discussions that could do some good for the community and the art that I damn well know we all love.
*I apologize for the seeming one-sided presentation of rants here, but I had a rather hard time finding people who sided against the SFWA in this matter. Please feel free to send me any links that would help balance this out.