Christian A. Young's Dimlight Archive

I Didn’t Start The War on Science Fiction

Some weeks it seems like I can't walk across my own living room without tripping over some new moment of !fail in the genre. This weeks glittering gem: "The War on Science Fiction and Marvin Minsky."

Now, before I go on, it bears pointing out that the blogger -- who believes "technology is the key to defeating feminism" -- is the sort of man who feels threatened now that the dominant-heterosexual-breadwinner-in-charge-of-his-women-and-children model of masculinity is no longer the only game in town. When men are made to share the cultural mic in a proportionate, appropriate way, he lashes out at women and declares that he is being oppressed.

In short, this man is a gutless, whinging wingnut. His opinions should by rights be beneath the notice of sane (or at least observant) people anywhere. Even ignoring the batshit rhetoric, his post is so riddled with half-truths and inaccuracies (Dirk Benedict's personal butthurt notwithstanding) that debunking him almost a waste of time.


And yet, while his screed is the kind of tripe that I ought to be able to dismiss out of hand -- like so -- his attitude is something that I keep seeing played out in the industry. (See Also: the aforementioned !fail problem.)

That writers who are not white, male, heterosexual, or cisgendered have to work twice as hard as writers who are (just like everywhere else) isn't exactly a secret. You only have to look as far as a certain anthology, or consider the matter of gender bias where certain awards are concerned, and...

Well, to be frank, if we're not being That Guy, many of us are certainly walking in his footsteps. The writers I know, read, and listen to are still complaining that it's harder to sell books with female protagonists because the industry thinks 'boys won't read girls, but girls will read boys.' There's still fallout from Amazon!fail. Queer writers, writers of color, and women writers often see their books pigeonholed based on content, who they are, or both. I can't count the times I've heard women writers talking about using a pseudonym or initials.

This isn't a zero-sum game, people. The LeGuins, Atwoods, and Butlers writing in the genre haven't diluted it, nor have the Captain Jacks and Kara Thraces diminished it. It's the small-minded men who throw little tantrums when confronted by the possibility of having to work and succeed according to their merits rather than the privilege afforded them by their masculinity that make us smaller.

It's a ridiculous lack of imagination that locks people and characters out, and if one boy fails to be inspired by a hero of science fiction because she happens to sport a pair of breasts, or he happens to like kissing other men?

Well, he's probably not somebody I'd want my friends' kids to be an astronaut with when they grow up anyway.

1 Women have written science fiction as long as it's existed; Captain Jack Harkness was created by a married heterosexual man; the SyFy name change happened on Dave Howe's watch, not Bonnie Hammer's, though the WWE came to the channel while Hammer was President of the channel; and Captain Kirk was doing aliens long before Captain Jack, so drop the shock-horror act, Techie-boy.

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  1. You seem to have misunderstood a very basic point.

    His screed, simplistic as it was was directed at science fiction in the modern visual mediums. And I have to agree with him that , in trying to capture the Twilight fanbase the “syfy” channel has not only dumbed down its shows, but also alienated quite a bit of its male fanbase. Luckily the new shows are for the most part bombing, but since this seems to be an ideological crusade not one based on fan demographics I wonder just how long they will continue to try?

    He wasn’t saying women couldn’t write good science fiction or shouldn’t be involved with it simply because he pointed out that more males then females seem to be interested in the genre.

    Quite frankly, if all you’ve got is a misreading of his argument and a bunch of shaming language it doesn’t speak very well for you.

  2. Actually, no, I haven’t.

    The original post at The Spearhead is the sort of obvious misogynist tripe that hardly bears a serious response beyond slack-jawed shock. I’m not interested in debunking him directly. I was pretty clear about that. However, since you’d clearly like to discuss it, I’ll touch on his points below.

    What I am interested in and concerned about is that while I have yet to personally encounter a person spouting this kind of rank misogyny (and homophobia) within the genre and the publishing industry, the underlying idea that women and LGBTQ people are somehow less good, and that stories that include them are not equal to stories about men is still pervasive in a less overt way.

    In pointing to someone who is roundly Being That Guy and then pointing to the ways that we ourselves are still Being That Guy, I am asking people who read and write in speculative fiction to stop for a minute and self-check.

    Now, to go back to the original post, the author attempts to make the following points:

    “Science fiction is a very male form of fiction.”

    Hogwash. Science fiction has been subject to cultural mores, but women were among the pioneers of the genre, and many classics of the genre include them in more than a token way. The OP is perpetuating a faulty stereotype.

    “Science fiction traditionally is about men doing things, inventing new technologies, exploring new worlds, making new scientific discoveries, terraforming planets, etc.”

    Again, hogwash. Science fiction is broader than that. Those elements set the stage, and can drive the plot, but the story isn’t in the thrusters. The story is in the people, and what they do with the thrusters, or what happens to them when the thrusters fail, and what happens next. Even in hard SF, you still need people and their relationships with one another. Even in a film like Moon, where the cast is so, so limited, it’s the human element that’s necessary to make it a story.

    – SyFy is at war with science fiction

    Probably the only valid point in the whole article until the OP tries to pin the blame on women.

    SyFy’s failed to deliver for years. Their execs don’t take their customer base seriously, and because they want to expand market share by adding a hodgepodge of mainstream or near-mainstream programming. They lack a basic faith in the genre, and their constant contempt for their own potential consumer base has been obvious since the 1990s.

    – Doctor Who/RTD’s Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Gay Agenda

    I stand by my previous debunking on account of the fact that the OP is revealing himself as a homophobic wingnut who can’t get his facts straight. Captain Jack is from the far future and does aliens! GASP! ALERT STARFLEET! SOMEONE HAS BORROWED KIRK’S SCHTICK!

    While we’re on the subject, though, points deducted for the stereotypes about fan fiction and slash fiction.

    So yeah, I stand by my position. I’m sorry you don’t think it speaks well of me to take offense at misogyny and homophobia, or blaming women for ruining the genre. Reading more of the OP’s blog, though, he seems to blame women for an awful lot of things…

  3. That nutter’s post is so full of Freudian issues I don’t even know where to start.

    In any case – great post!