For several months now I have been encouraging the SF community to submit guest editorials on subjects that they believe will be of interest to the community.
Until the other day, I’d had no takers on that offer.
I don’t intend to publish guest editorials on subjects that go beyond the pale; there’s no home here to advocate for Nazism or cannibalism, nor for other similar subjects.
There is room, however, for opinions that are odds with what I perceive to be the general editorial policy of this site, which can essentially be summed up as “Fannish Liberalism”.
Our community has, of late, been subjected to a great deal of cross talk regarding fannish institutions, our cultural imperatives and what it means to be a fan. Some of that hot air has been fallout from similar ‘discussions’ going on in society at large, some of it has been unique to fandom.
A major characteristic of much of that talk has been its reliance on buzz words, personal insults, stereotyping and the serving up of red meat for one’s base.
This is discussion, for lack of a better word, that widens the divide rather than contributing to understanding.
It is my hope that by providing a platform where fans with differing views can express themselves, we might all begin to find avenues for a more meaningful type of dialogue.
I have no doubt that from time to time, some of the views expressed here will not appeal to the majority of Amazing Stories’ readers. However, when that is the case, I urge everyone to remember that without meaningful dialogue, there can be no understanding. Knowing where someone comes from provides opportunities to address potential misunderstanding. Fandom has, in the past, managed to reconcile some pretty irreconcilable issues by remaining engaged, respectful, mature and open. I hope that we can maintain that tradition here.
With all that being said, the views expressed in these guest editorials are not necessarily the views of, nor necessarily endorsed by, me, the staff or any of our contributors.
If you wish to comment, please do so by addressing the arguments and not the individual advancing them. Thank you. Steve Davidson, Publisher.
Delegitimizing Opinions by Chris Nuttall
One of the more unpleasant aspects of political (and related) discussions over the last ten years or so is the rise of what I call ‘delegitimizing attacks.’ These attacks do not actually challenge a speaker’s words, but the speaker himself. Therefore, a person who dislikes Obama can be branded as racist and a person who dislikes Hilary Clinton can be attacked as sexist. And really, who wants to listen to a racist or a sexist? The speaker is branded and thus his opinions are render illegitimate.
We saw this quite a bit during the Sad Puppy campaigns. The ‘Sad Puppies’ were branded a bunch of white men, even though it required literally no more than five minutes on Google to prove that this was not the case. Instead of trying to disprove the Puppy case, the Puppy-Kickers tried to delegitimize the Sad Puppies.
There was a time when such tactics were reserved for internet trolls. Now, they are everywhere. And I think I speak for everyone when I say I am sick of them.
It is the nature of such attacks that they provoke resentment, contempt and eventually hatred from their targets. They make no attempt to engage with the target, they make no attempt to convince the target that he or she is wrong; indeed, they do not even recognise that there is – quite literally – room enough for everyone. There is no attempt to understand where the target is coming from, merely an attempt to smear the target. And thus discourse continues to fall into the toilet.
I was not impressed. Indeed, my original response was merely to dismiss it. The writer appeared to start out with the assumption that he needed to attack everyone who disagreed with him, rather than try to convince people to agree with him. Strong language, a take-no-prisoners approach and a vast number of buzzwords, half of which I would have to look up if I couldn’t guess at the meaning from context.
The problem with this article – and a number of others along the same lines – is that it assumes the worst of everyone who disagrees with the writer. That people who object, for example, to a Black Hermione are doing it because they’re racists, rather than rolling their eyes at how Hermione’s constant portrayal as white (in seven books, eight movies and umpteen tie-in thingies) has suddenly been ret-conned into her being black. Or that people who object to black stormtroopers are doing it because they’re racists, rather than fan-boys who know that clones look alike. Or …
I have not watched Luke Cage or Jessica Jones. I have no idea if the social commentary is timely or cringe-worthy awful as Aliens of London/World War Three. But it seems to me that, if you happen to believe that Black Lives Matter is nothing more than a gang of racist thugs, getting away with everything because of the colour of their skin, you’re not going to be too keen to read comics that suggest they’re the good guys. And while there is an entire subset of Hurt/Comfort stories in fan fiction, not everyone wants to read them. People watch TV shows (or read books or comics or whatever) to be entertained. They don’t want, as a general rule, to wallow in misery.
But how dare people complain?
That is the question the OP asks. And he doesn’t come up with an answer.
The OP states that social commentary has been part of SF for a long time. And he’s right, at least to some extent. But social commentary has to be handled gingerly, like a live hand grenade. Heinlein’s subtle commentary throughout Starship Troopers, and the reveal at the end, is far better, far more fitting, than much of what we see today.
People do make a lot of noise – as the OP says – about ‘characters of colour.’ The problem, as I see it, is that many such characters are not people, they’re gimmicks.
Ben Sisko, James Rhodes, Jon Stewart, Agent J and Peter Grant have three things in common – they’re all black, they’re all men and they’re all people. They are all well-rounded characters, all largely invented from whole cloth rather than being created to replace popular characters in the name of diversity. They are not standard-bearers for a whole community, they are not perfect Mary Sues created by fearful writers; they are people! Rhodes and Stewart might have followed other characters (Tony Stark and Hal Jordon, respectively) but they still work. They have grown into characters in their own right.
I don’t this is true of many of the newer ‘characters of diversity.’
With the exception of Kamala Khan, who I think has grown into a real person, I haven’t really been impressed by some of the newcomers. Miles Morelos couldn’t live up to Peter Parker; Female Thor is far too political; I’m not holding out hope for the new Iron Man (Women?) either.
You, reading this, might disagree. And you know what? It’s ok to disagree!
But readers and viewers want to be entertained. They don’t want, perhaps, to tune into a TV show and watch a poorly-done analogy with the Iraq War. Or Black Lives Matter. Or any other issue of importance. They want exploding starships, action and adventure … they want to feel that they can relax, not endure preaching.
And when they don’t get entertainment, they complain.
The writers and publishers are free to believe, if they wish, that anyone who has a complaint has it because they are evil, because there is something intrinsically wrong with them. And they are even free to believe that this invalidates their opinions. But they cannot pretend to be surprised, therefore, as sales continue to fall …
Because if you treat your customers as your enemies, your customers will just go away.
Chris Nuttall is a former contributor to Amazing Stories. He requested that we not link to his website or blog in order to maintain focus on the issues raised.
Chris suggested that the Featured Image for this post should be War Machine because “War Machine is cool”. We agree.