Theodore Beale is the Donald Trump of Science Fiction

Last year, during the lead up to the Hugos, I wrote a post about how this was more important than just a rocketship. Here, read a bit of it for context.

One of the things about fiction in general, and even more so with SFF, is that it tends to reflect the zeitgeist of the culture. For instance, during the “golden age” of SF, the United States, and much of the world, was focused on space. When you look at fiction of that era, it tends to be dominated by space exploration. During the Cold War, we saw a lot of post-apocalyptic worlds that were nuclear wastelands. Now? When we see post-apocalyptic worlds it’s because of a climate disaster.In addition to reflecting environmental concerns, the awards also reflect what is important to the voters. Not just in the books that they vote for, but also in the books that they choose to read. In recent years, people have become aware of the imbalance in representation in SFF and are seeking to address it.

This is happening in other fields as well — science, gaming, film, politics… but we are always most aware of an issue in our own community. So when people are seeking out books by underrepresented populations they are doing so because it’s important to their close community and also in the larger society.

Historically, every time there’s an advance in the rights of a disenfranchised group, whether that’s women’s lib or desegregation, there’s a corresponding pushback by the dominant group because it feels like it is losing power.

 

"If Americans can find the courage to consciously reject the myth of the melting pot and expel the Mexicans from the American Southwest, the Arabs from Detroit and the Somalis from Minneapolis, they can reclaim their traditional white Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture. This is highly improbable because so many descendants of that culture have rejected it in favor of the vibrancy of diversity..." Theodore BealeAt the time, the idea that Donald Trump would be a serious front-runner for the Republican party was the fodder for jokes. It would never happen. But… if anyone was paying attention to what was happening in SFF, it should have been clear that the Rabid Puppies represented the same xenophobic, white supremacist drive that is giving Trump power.

Let me tell you, I’m terrified of the elections this year.

We’ve been writing dystopian novels as warnings for years. The Hunger Games? Reality Television as politics… not so far fetched right now, is it?

So let me be clear. The fight that is going on in SFF for inclusion is not small. It is not petty. It is a reflection of a much bigger problem, and if we, as a community, don’t start paying attention and trying to change the larger culture then we know how this will end.

The first place to start making those changes is in our own house. So what I want you to do is to think about what you can do to make SFF a more inclusive place and then do it.

11 Responses

  1. Damian Trasler

    My wife told me last night that she had been talking with our daughters about the changing perception of gender roles in the house (since they have been brought up with me at home and my wife having a career) and she pointed out that the kids’ grandparents would have found it somewhat shameful for a man to have the wage earned by his wife. My kids said they felt this was unfair to men, to have the expectation of society weigh upon them.
    While I was proud of them for examining the issue from all sides, I was also disappointed. Yes, some men have a tough lot, but the chief inequality is towards women. Until THAT gets fixed, other issues in the gender equality debate have to wait.
    In the same way, there are some (very few) valid points made by the various foaming-at-the-mouth Republican candidates, but they are all made while ignoring the much wider and more important issues.
    Viewing the American election circus from the outside is a terrifying process. I really, really hope the voting public come out in force with their heads screwed on right.

  2. Ian Miller

    Dear Mary,

    I do want to say that as a conservative, I think Donald Trump and most of his proposed policies (so far as they are policies and not ridiculous slogans) is a vile, evil man with no integrity. We may not agree on the best way forward in science fiction and fantasy creation and fandom, but I do condemn Trump and his supporter’s racism, corruption, and utter lack of respect for anything but their own importance.

    Ian

  3. Lee

    One thing I think can safely be said, whether about society as a whole or our little corner of it: the best way forward is NOT to try to turn back the clock. That trick never works.

  4. Burt Abreu

    I didn’t know of Theodore Beale but you raise good points and I have been very concerned over the years as the rhetoric has been cranked up. The enemies of our way of life are not the wild-eyed fanatics people fear, who will drag us from our homes to the town square to behead us. They are those who use fear, wealth and influence to assert a disproportionate power over others, promote extreme or narrow agendas and who are able to short circuit our collective will.

    Know what the saddest part is? They are only able to do this because we haven’t been involved enough. There is a saying in Spanish “camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente” meaning ‘the shrimp who falls asleep, is washed away by the current’.

    Time for the shrimp to wake up.

  5. James Dixon

    > Let me tell you, I’m terrified of the elections this year

    Good. You should be. You should always have been. Deciding who directs the power of the most powerful organization in the world should be a terrifying prospect.

    If more people felt that way, maybe they would realize that it’s become too powerful and work to scale it back.

    Then it wouldn’t matter as much who was elected President.

  6. Yamamanama

    Actually, I think this is more like the alternate world depicted in The Iron Dream, in which Hitler became a fifth-rate fantasy writer instead of a dictator.

  7. Craig C.

    Let me tell you, Jessica and I are scared, too! We cannot believe the Republican party this year a very scary crowd. And some of them have no problem with the KKK and/or throwing around hate speech against minorities – even those who have been Americans for multiple generations. Why are people buying into this crap?

    1. Burt Abreu

      People buy into because for a lot of reasons, but at the root of most of those reasons, I believe, is a flaw in our wiring. Our primitive mind – the dominant mind for the largest portion of our species existence- is built to survive. Part of that survival mechanism makes us distrustful of those who are different. It’s the only explanation I can see for why so many otherwise ‘good’ people, educated and not, from all ethnic, philosophical, religious and social backgrounds can justify the behavior I see when they feel threatened in any way. Usually the claims and fears they express are so far-fetched as to boggle the mind and make you wonder how the hell they can really believe what they are saying. There may even be a group response, like Prairie Dogs sounding a warning and everyone runs. It’s contagious and it is total insanity most of the time. Some people do rise above it (witness those who defied ‘their own kind’ to help slaves, stand against racism and so on) but a surprising number of moral, well educated, ‘civilized’ people who should know better turn into ravening lunatics and are ready to curtail the rights and freedoms of ‘the other’ even to the point of violence.

  8. Lou Sytsma

    As a Canadian peering into US politics, I never thought the fictional character of Greg Stillson would come to life. Very scary.

    John Oliver did this great piece:

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