BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What is happening to my fandom?!

I've been reading some blogs about the Hugo Awards' version of Gamergate, and am appalled by the vehemence of backlash against a diversified science ficition/fantasy (SFF) fandom. A Slate article quotes author Brad R. Torgersen as essentially saying true, classical SFF does not contain social commentary. From what I'm reading,  he, another author and their followers are put off by the literary quality of certain Hugo nominations, not to mention the inclusion of minority viewpoints. They seem to feel it belies the essential mindless pop appeal of 'true' SFF.

This is not factual, Captain.

 Where have these uber fanboys been living? H.G.Wells, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Spider Robinson, Gene Rodenberry...social science fiction isn't a new faction of the genre. It is its foundation. I am floored that anyone could be so blind to the use of science fiction to explore and address the topics of social injustice and inequality. Heinlein, for example, gave us many taboo topics to mull over. He addressed racism, sexual freedom, and individualism. The addition of writers and characters that expand those horizons is not a dilution of SFF's core qualities, but a logical and organic growth from the seeds planted by the masters and founders of our genre.  Not to mention, each of these authors certainly have a literary appeal. For as many pulp fiction-esque magazines they published or were published in, these men wrote well. Their books can be read as pure entertainment, but only a fool would walk away without some philosophical musings. I started reading their works in junior high; even at that age I knew their stories were meant to make me open my eyes and re-examine how I view life. But these men are not the only SFF influences in my life.
Can one say that the world of SFF is not richer for the works of Ursula LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Moon and CJ Cherryh? All of whom wrote epic space sagas. L.A. Banks' Vampire Huntress series is a masterpiece. It doesn't skimp on the action, while introducing a multitude of religions and ethnicities. It added a depth to the fight of good versus evil that I've never encountered before, or since. I welcome the addition of new voices and new perspectives. It gives us new dimensions and alternate universes to explore.
I'll leave you with this thought provoking clip from Stargate: SG1, where they quote Asimov:




7 comments:

  1. The idea that SFF could be tainted by doing more than presenting mindless pulp entertainment (nothing against that, I love me to read some pulp) strikes me as being just as *sorry* pig-headed a view as Spider Robinsons' vocal opinion that SF should keep away from F, sticking to pure "Science" concepts ... after all, as I see it a lot of brilliant SF wouldn't have gotten as widely read, I dare say, if it wasn't for if not outright Fantasy elements at least the liberties SF authors allowed themselves to take with scientific concepts - often stretching them into realms of pure, yes, fantasy.

    It would however, in my view, also do pulp-fiction a disservice to claim, as Torgersen seems to believe of it, that it can't (or shan’t) include social commentary as well.

    The inclusion of minority viewpoints.
    Now that's fun one to damn for any genre in literature, for hasn't it been a staple of writing practically since its invention to use the medium to present us with alternate viewpoints such as we may not be able get otherwise? And isn't this especially true for SF, where many a writer allowed us to imaginary (and their characters not seldom literally) slip for some amount of time into the skin of another?

    Not that I would hesitate to agree that the Hugo Awards may neglect entertainment value in their decision making - although I do wonder what those writers of serious "literature" may think about getting bundled up with the lowly speculative fiction writers, when claiming the Hugo nominations to become “to literary”. :)

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  2. I never understood the idea that SF and F shouldn't intermingle, and I hadn't heard that Spider Robison professed such a notion. That's particularly odd when you think about the Callahan series, which often mixed magic and science.

    And I'd say there's a good portion of literature authors who would shudder with distaste at being link in such a manner. At the same time, Ender's Game, The Hobbit and many other excellent SFF books are on the recommended reading lists of high schools and colleges. :) there's a place for all of it.

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    1. Ah, sorry, my bad it was Norman Spinrad (how did I come to Robinson from there? - I probably shouldn't write comments in the early morning) who said this in an interview - which stroke me as no less ironic as the only work I know by Spinrad is a less than Scientific satire to start with... (that still won a Hugo nomination I think)

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  3. So many people would like the world to fit into tiny little boxes neatly labelled, that's so sad... Hooray for diversity !!!

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  4. I agree with you wholeheartedly that much, even most, of SF/F has had a social or political aspect from the beginning, whether that was to challenge the status quo or support it. There was certainly a lot of sexism in early works - but there were also works that challenged sexism. Ditto racism, though I honestly can't recall any classic SF/F with a major POC character before Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea trilogy.

    I read some of the posts by these folks - the Sad Puppies (Torgersen and crew) and Rabid Puppies (Vox Day and crew.) Having read posts criticizing them by authors I really respect, I thought I ought to check out the original posts. The subtext I get from some of the group's comments and terminology (the use of SJWs, i.e. social justice warriors, as a pejorative, for example) is that they are upset that SFF is no longer dominated by white men, either as writers or as main characters. (Whether that's actually true or not is debatable.) Instead of being pleased that there's a lot more diversity among both writers and readers than there used to be, they feel left out and threatened by it.

    I gather some of the "puppies" are also upset that it's not all about the tech - the hard science - anymore. The thing is, it wasn't ever all about the science, as you point out so cogently in your post. SF/F has always raised social issues - not in every book or story, but in a lot of them.

    The whole situation is a mess, and the people who have hijacked the Hugos are IMO behaving like children who don't want to share the sandbox - or children who weren't invited to the party and therefore want to ruin it for everyone else. I am just so sad about and sickened by the whole thing.

    I've actually been working on a post of my own about this, and hope to have it finished in the next day or two.

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    1. Thanks. It is pretty sad to see things come this far. I'm seeing a lot of bad behavior on all sides, and now two authors have declined their nominations. What a horrible decision to make in the face of what should be an honor and joyful achievement.

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