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The SF Civil War

SF is in a state of civil war.

One of the factions is progressive. Their argument is that sf should be more reflective of its diverse readership. To achieve this, greater diversity is needed among the ranks of writers, characters, and settings. in addition to the call for greater representation, the progressives have introduced more contemporary literary theories to science fiction and fantasy scholarship.

Opposing the progressives are a faction of conservative writers and critics. Their argument is that sf doesn’t need to diversify. Indeed, some of this faction’s adherents desire to see sf return to an appearance reminiscent of the sf of earlier decades. 

The battles are waged on various blogs. Often, this is the general order of battle: The progressives will issue a strong call for increased diversity or the conservatives will write something offensive. The opposing side will respond with criticism, sometimes strong and harsh. Then the initiating side respond. Finally, the sf blogosphere explodes in a wave of histrionics. And then every body forgets and goes about their regular lives until the next blow up. 

I will admit that I’m biased. I’m a supporter of the progressive faction. As a gay man, i want to read stories featuring gay protagonists. And I want the right to write those stories. Or any story I want to tell. And this sentiment is shared by thousands of fans who want to see people like them depicted for a change. 

I don’t agree with the conservatives by any stretch of the imagination. I understand that they feel threatened by the changes we in the progressive faction want to enact. But, unfortunately, some conservatives have shown themselves to be reactionary and, indeed, out and out racists, sexists, and homophobes. 

Are the progressives angels? Not all the time. Occasionally, I think we honestly cross the line, even if we are supposedly the champions of political correctness.  (The problem is deciding when a strong call for action crosses the line into authoritarian demands. Concurrently, where is the line that divides strong criticism that can serve as teaching moments and unleashing one’s pent up frustrations?)

What frustrates me the most about this whole fracas is the implied to the death nature of all this. Which is absolutely freaking stupid. This isn’t to the death. This isn’t a zero sum game. There is more than enough room for both sides to coexist. And with the rise in independent publishing, this is even more true. 

At the end of the day, it should be left to the reader to decide what he or she wants (or doesn’t want) to read. Yes, both sides have the right to criticize works that are problematic. But try not to degenerate the debate into histrionic typed shouting matches. 

(I know that I’m short on specific examples of some reactionaries’ various bigotries or clear examples of the progressives’ crossing the line. If it is raised in the comments, I’ll address it there. Honestly, though, I’m so sick of this crap. Hopefully, this post will purge my system of this civil war for a while.)