‘MERIT versus ‘Politics’ in Fiction
For a very long line, I stood as neutral in the Gamergate controversy and only recently did I discover the events occurring within the science fiction fandom and its responses to the group calling itself the Sad Puppies. The Puppies and Gamergate share a lot in common, they both stand for freedom of speech, expression and alterative perspectives but their are also subtle differences. The picture you see painted by the mainstream media is hardly true. After all one is a hash tag supported by those wanting better ethics in journalism. While, the Sad Puppies on the other hand, sees itself as challenging the increasingly politicised nature of science fiction. It does this by tackling current biases that may exclude a writer based purely on their politics or views. The interesting thing with Gamergate is that those using the tag will not always agree with each other and that’s a good thing. Debate is healthy and should be encouraged in my eyes.
However, the slander, and libel aimed at these individuals and the repetitive uses of derogatory terms like misogynist, seem to indicate that some on the other side of the coin do the exact opposite of advocating for equality called inclusive opposite side is very much exclusive, unafraid and more than willing to drag names through the political dirt in the name of agenda pushing. Those that shout loudest are always heard. Twitter has shown me how effective a hashtag can be, both in promotion and destruction.
How is it that we live in a time where gender is the dominating topic, and the white male is pushed into a grave and buried in it. I thought equality stood for, if anything the treatment of all ethnic groups respectfully. True equality would be difficult to achieve in regards to the world that we live in today, hence the fact that how well you do in life, is purely based on merit and your determination to succeed. There a plenty of stories where people at the bottom of the barrel have risen to the top. It’s a matter of thinking outside the box and sometimes taking risks. But the Sad Puppies campaign is evidence that free expression, and the position of writer is now under intense scrutiny. If you don’t fit the narrative of the other side, your work is not even worth their time.
I’ve read articles that deliberately aim at excluding authors based on gender and ethnicity. Seriously, what difference does gender actually make in the long run. I read stories based on what genre I like. I would never think to exclude an author based on politics, gender or skin colour. I will respect their work, as that is what they at the very least deserve.
My view is simple, look past the author when it comes to awards like the Hugo’s. Treat it as you would any story, judge it by merit, by character and by how well the world is weaved and revealed. Remember fiction is not reality. It is a ride, a fun experience. A chance to embrace a world, that is alien or even a reflection of our own. There will always be features in writing that stand out, such as the differing totalitarian visions of 1984 (Orwell) , Man In High Castle (Dick), and Metamorphosis (Kafka). The stories of science fiction dare to show us the reality of which we live in, and it’s not all sunshine and roses. The Void Trilogy (Hamilton), and Twisted Metal (Tony Ballantyne) deal with very interesting themes – alternate universe, the ability to shape one’s future, robots as a living organism and more. It’s what makes them exciting to read. Science Fiction is the realm of infinite possibility, and it should remain as such for future generations. I can’t understand why so many would rather brand an author, instead of giving them a chance. After all, Science Fiction in the end is for everyone, regardless of gender, politics, or ethnicity.