So, we’re here again, still fighting a phony war between people who live in the real world, respect each other, have hope for the future, consider the impact of their words and actions, and generally want to make a positive contribution; and…some dickheads.
It’s a particularly pernicious war, in that every battle seems inconclusive, every engagement results in stalemate and entrenchment, and any breakthrough seems to be met with an even bigger backlash. It’s hard to see if anyone is winning, only the casualties, and therefore it can be hard to see the point. But it’s not about winning, it’s about progress. It’s not about defeating the “enemy”, it’s about securing the future we want to see (and as much of the present as we can get, as well).
This is not a war being fought just in genre circles, by any means, but it’s no surprise that it has a particularly strong resonance within a community concerned with literature that is, and has always been, about the human condition, whether in an imagined past, present, or future. These are not just “stories” – no stories are – and anyone who claims such a nonsense is being willfully ignorant.
Willful ignorance is indeed a large part of the problem. Lessons are out there to be learned, but people are refusing to listen. Or, they are choosing to listen to dickheads who are enabling their ignorance – and, in the worst cases, weaponising it.
It’s bad enough to see this in the wider world, but all the more astounding that it can happen within the community that, apparently, grew up reading the same “stories” about heroes and villains, about good and evil, about dystopias and utopias, about potential and pitfalls…and somehow miss the messages that are there, for me, in black and white.
So, why not just feel pity and move on?
Well, we all know why, unfortunately. These are not mere academic debates or teacup storms in online fora. The issues at play here have real-world consequences for people, not just in the mental fatigue of waking up in the trenches every day, but in the ability to have a viable career in a genre they love and contribute wonderfully to, or simply to live their life as they deserve to, free of fear and harassment.
Some of us wake up with only the barest knowledge the war is going on. Sure, you might hear the echo of artillery from over the horizon, or have to duck into a bomb shelter now and then, but life goes on much as normal (though, admittedly, normal is never normal these days). We can check the dispatches if we want, but nobody is lobbing grenades our way. It’s a nice position to be in, and certainly nobody should feel obligated to enlist if they haven’t the spoons for the fight, but neither can we leave the fighting to those who have no choice but to be on the front lines.
I wish I could abandon the war metaphor. I wish I could see this another way. Neither do I want this to become a real war. I don’t wish for the destruction of my enemy, I just wish he’d go away, contemplate his actions, perhaps look around him at the ground he’s fighting for, and realise that it’s not the idyllic fatherland that he thinks it is.
Look, I’ve tried not to go into specifics, but here are a few points:
- Diversity is not a zero-sum game, nor an assault on white men.
- Racism and sexism are about power, and therefore there is no “reverse”.
- Nobody* is trying to ban your problematic faves; there are no sacred cows.
- “No platforming” is not censorship.
- Women, POC, LBGTQ+ authors exist in SFF, and write awesome books. (Fans, too.)
- “Political correctness” is not the quashing of debate, it means the debate is over; people don’t have to listen to your shitty opinions because they have thoroughly examined and rejected them already; it’s now on you to do the same.
- Privilege is a thing, and if you can’t grasp that, it’s probably because you’re up to your neck in it. It’s also not your “fault”, unless you refuse to acknowledge it.
- The world should but a safe space, and creating pockets of safety is no bad thing.
- Harassment, of any kind, is never acceptable. This includes “trolling”.
Apparently there are people out there who do not understand these things, but the good news is that it’s never been easier to educate oneself. I’ve tried to help in the education offensive – if not for the people in the debate, then for those around it – but it amounts to repeating the same self-evident truths over and over again, and at the end of the day, it’s not my responsibility (nor anyone else’s) to show anyone the error of their ways.
Seems clear to me that, while the war is worth fighting, the individual battles may not be. If people want to remain willfully ignorant, they can do so outside the community, until they learn. I know a lot of people have got here faster than me, but there we are.
(Maybe SFF has some answers. When trenches cease to work, you can always build a huge fucking wall. Or, if you want to be sure, there’s always the Ripley option…)
Right, this has gone on too long already.
* OK, some people are trying to ban things, but a lot fewer people than generally get accused of it. Don’t believe anything you read in the Daily Mail.