Is Sci-Fi Racist? I dunno. How about ‘It’s Boring.’

13 Sep

What to make of this post on racism and sci-fi by Josh Finney. It sort of comes off as a threat:

“My first question? Is Barnett and company even aware of what speculative lit has achieved in a mere 200 years? Science fiction and all its permutations may not be perfect, but for a genre that was born out of the Age of Imperialism, it has been surprisingly progressive. Sexism, racism, even the transgender issue, sci-fi has often been the first to address them—and more often than not, in a positive light.”

And later on people who criticize sci-fi:

What these crusaders of “diversity” fail to realize is the chilling effect this rhetoric has. Why would any sane writer risk their career when it’s easier to play it safe and go with what is proven to sell?

In other words; sci-fi is progressive, until you criticize it, then it shrinks away and fails to be accepting. That we as the audience should do fine with an acceptable level of tolerance isn’t a new idea, in fact, it’s used in every single space of activist work. We won gay marriage? Great, let’s all keep quiet about gay working rights because otherwise it’ll have a “chilling effect.”

I say the chilling effect has already happened, but in the opposite direction. The chilling effect is on the high level monolithic group of writers and creators who believe that merely putting one “non-white” person in a side role is enough to fill some diversity quota.

That’s it, pack it up, let’s call it a day and not consider any other ideas.

Sci-fi writers, fantasy writers–any writers–you’re being criticized because people have a hope that you can do better. You can be better than half the population. You have an inquisitive core. Use it! It’s fine to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid.

If the whole of sci-fi as it stands collapses and digs the trenches around the white dude and dudette fiction, so be it, I think you’ll find there will be a slew of other writers who will stand up and take your place in order to give the people what they want.

The truth is a lot of sci-fi and fantasy is dull to me. I can’t watch more than three episodes of Game of Thrones without rolling my eyes at the white savior plot line coming to greet me again. It isn’t even because it’s white, it’s because I’ve seen it before, a million times, once even in 3D on a giant IMAX screen.

I’ll tell you what excites me now: Mass Effect’s same-sex romances in space and trans-humanism.

Janelle Monae’s Afro-futurist android concept albums.

Dune, yeah I still like Dune, and I’m aware it’s a tropey as hell sci-fi fantasy romp, but it has strange and exciting ideas around sociology and ecology. It’s written by a white guy too.

I don’t think the answer to any of this is to say “dig deeper” or “here’s a list of x writers” because this is less a five alarm fire and more of a sign of where we want to go.

Are you coming with us or are you staying put?

Update: Legend of Korra excites me too. A strong brown female protagonist living in an East Asian influenced fantasy world? Yes please. It’s also on tonight!


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