This is a post that’s treading a lot of old ground, but all the recent stuff going on in the world of Science Fiction and Fantasy (and speculative genre fiction as a whole) made me think about it again. All this genre fiction is phenomenally racist and comes from places of phenomenal racism. Yeah exceptions, but look at the whole of it. Old days it was a bunch of white dudes patting themselves on the back for writing thinly disguised social commentaries that made themselves feel smart. Now it’s white dudes and white chicks doing the same shit and not really saying anything. It’s this big joke that no one is actually in on. The genre is filled to the gills with people high on their own supply of white liberal bullshit.
Think about different races of fantasy/sci fi characters. Note how absurdly monolithic they all are, not just in appearance, but in cultures and motivations. Note how that’s how they deal with their ideas on racism. It’s always some white people coming into contact with aliens of some sort and they make a bunch of allusions to superficial conflicts and racism is bad, except for when it’s necessary because those aliens are uniformly out for blood and murder.
It’s no real secret, but that’s how white people view race relations. All of us different monsters are monolithic in appearance and approach to life. We’re not nearly as good as the default humans and our complaints are minor and could be easily fixed with some nice white intervention. We either desperately need help, or are too angry and need to be killed off or otherwise controlled in some way. The most we’ll get is a seemingly advanced society that is secretly even MORE awful at it’s core than the white people who come in to fix the problem could have ever realized. These magic alien societies are always corrupt. Unless they’re super white elves (shout out to Pratchett again for being awesomer than all his peers on that) who are more white and more pure than even the humans could hope to be.
I actually have a decently low tolerance for this kind of story telling because I didn’t grow up reading this stuff. I read crime fiction and military thrillers. There were always people of color around in those books. All the big genre heavyweights are ultra conservative pro guns pro military anti non white people white men, and yet, their books were a million times more inclusive. Looking back, now that I’ve spent so much of the last eight to ten years reading the Science Fiction/Fantasy stuff it is staggering how different the worlds are.
The reason is that on the whole, political thrillers, military thrillers, action suspense, spy novels and all that stuff over there doesn’t pat itself on the back. The people I talked to about those books growing up weren’t doing dances of joy about how progressive they were. They knew they weren’t. Dudes had guns strapped to guns strapped onto cannons on the back of their ford trucks. They didn’t give two shits about the idea of inclusiveness or any of that liberal nonsense. Their social commentary was blunt and the ideas didn’t match up with mine at all, really, but somehow it all felt less offensive. It was less skeevy that what seems to have been going on in SFF for the past sixty or so years.
David Palmer wasn’t president to make some sort of political statement. He was president cause Dennis Haysbert was cool. Did Jack Bauer single handedly reduce the Arab-American population by half? Probably, and that’s fucked up. Thing is, no one is talking about how progressive a character Jack Bauer is. There aren’t legions of Jack Bauer fans talking about how Sunrow and Cochran (the show creators) are so feminist friendly and so forward thinking on issues of race. So when I say “it’s kinda fucked up how Jack killed Curtis and we quickly ran out of Black CTU agents” I’m met with a much less violent form of resistance. They get regular defensive because of race issues. Often times there’s a “Oh shit! I didn’t even notice.” There’s push back, but it isn’t the same as this conversation.
“How come there are no Chinese people in this future where everyone speaks Chinese?”
“Oh, Joss probably did that on purpose as some sort of statement”
“What kind of statement? I’m too lazy to find Chinese actors to put in my tv show that I deliberately set in a universe where Chinese is the only language spoken other than English?”
“Why you bringing race into this? The show is brilliant. I’m sure there was a reason.”
“No. You just think everything is racist. The show is full of black people, why aren’t you happy with that, you’re not even Asian.”
“Cause the show takes place in a world where everyone speaks Chinese, and yet.”
*Other person angrily walks away*
I’ve gotten more angry comebacks for talking about race issues the SFF/Super hero stuff than I ever got for talking about race issues in the generic Action Adventure/Thriller worlds. It comes down to the white liberal problem. It’s so hard for people who pride themselves on being forward thinking to be told they aren’t, or at least aren’t as forward thinking as they think they are. I mean. James Patterson is out here killing you guys. David Simon is making you folks look silly.
I think it’s time for everyone involved in SFF to take a step back. Stop congratulating yourselves on barely doing shit other genres have done before, and sometimes better. Not just writers and editors, but fans too. Especially the fans. Figure this shit out. You’re not nearly as good as you think you are, and it’s high time you recognized it. At your big stage you guys cheered on a stalker and dared anyone to say something. You’re a joke. You can spit as much game as you like about doing big shit, but we don’t believe you. You need more people.