A Small Commentary on Politics, Religion, and Science Fiction

controversy

What discussing religion online is like sometimes

The other day I came across a “rant” written last year by Arthur Chu at Salon.com called Sci-fi’s right-wing backlash: Never doubt that a small group of deranged trolls can ruin anything (even the Hugo Awards) which caused me to think (well, I think anyway, but this article initiated a specific set of thoughts).

While I can see how the Hugo awards may not generally represent the entire body of science fiction readers in the world (and I suspect many or most awards are manipulated one way or the other), if I’m reading Chu correctly, he seems to think that all science fiction (and maybe all products of the entire entertainment industry) should and must represent a socially and politically liberal world view.

If that’s true, then my response is “why?”.

Here’s the most relevant statement Chu made:

I will point out that if you look at the Hugo Awards’ slate for this year you’ll see a record-breaking six nominations for John C. Wright, including three out of five of the best novella nominations being stories written by Wright.

Wright, a man so essential to the state of science fiction in 2015 that he doesn’t have a single bestseller, he’s signed with a micro-publisher based in Finland with a total of eight authors on its roster, and I’m the only person I know in real life who’s heard of him. Mainly because I hate-follow his incredible rants about how everything from the Syfy Network to “The Legend of Korra” is too gay for him to tolerate.

I’ve never met Wright. I’ve never even exchanged emails with him. I think I left a comment on one of his blog posts once, but he never responded.

The impression I get from reading or watching most fiction is that the creators of these works seem to have the idea that their version of the world, which espouses a progressive ideology, represents the world as it really is (or should be).

Except it doesn’t, if for no other reason, than there aren’t people like me in it. I take that back. There are people who are supposed to be like me, but they’re generally either incredibly ignorant or utterly evil.

In a previous blog post I quoted science fiction author Orson Scott Card from an interview he gave to Writing-World.com. Here’s the quote again:

In our culture, intellectuals have become so uniformly a-religious or anti-religious that our fiction, with few exceptions, depicts religious people in only two ways: the followers are ignorant and stupid and easily fooled, and the leaders are exploitative and cynical, manipulating others’ faith for their private benefit.

I know some people who fit those descriptions. But they are in a tiny minority. Most religious people I know are smart, well-educated, independent-minded, stubborn, honest, and generous — at least as much so as the average intellectual, and usually more.

I happen to agree with Card on this. One of the special advantages science fiction has is the ability to explore the world we live in, turning our social, political, and religious ideas and beliefs inside out and upside down while, on the surface, pretending we’re talking about aliens, robots, or people living in a parallel dimension.

It’s a great way to talk about ourselves without actually saying so.

But that only works if you are free to represent all different points of view rather than only what is being supported by popular social and news media. Mr. Chu is perfectly free to disagree with Mr. Wright, with how the Hugo awards are administered, and with the conservative political perspective in general, but that doesn’t mean he or the perspectives he represents, should be the only form of fictional literature in existence.

Or hasn’t Chu read George Orwell’s famous cautionary tale 1984?

Some years ago, I read Joe Haldeman’s novel The Accidental Time Machine. I read it because I remembered really liking his novels The Forever War and Mindbridge.

But I had read those novels before I became a person of faith. As a person of faith, I read Haldeman’s “Time Machine” novel and discovered its focus was to totally debase Christianity.

I don’t think of myself as a traditional Christian as my writings on one of my other blogspots will attest, but it looked as if Haldeman went out of his way to make Christians look like buffoons. There didn’t seem to be any other point to his writing that novel.

I decided not to read his works again.

Don’t get me wrong, Haldeman has every right to his opinions and beliefs (so do Chu, Wright, and everyone else), and he can write popular science fiction novels representing them to his heart’s content. I just don’t have to waste my time reading them.

I think there’s room in the world of fiction for all different kinds of opinions and viewpoints. This isn’t just a liberal’s world, it’s everybody’s world.

I do agree with Chu that if any award that is supposed to identify the best science fiction novel, short story, or new talent in any given year, the basis for making those decisions should be objective. Otherwise, it can be rigged. If the Hugos are unfair as Chu suggests and the vast majority of science fiction readers either don’t know or don’t care, then it can give certain authors an inequitable advantage.

However, I wonder if Chu would be complaining so loudly if the Hugos were slanted to favor liberal science fiction writers. Are his knickers in a knot because the Hugos are biased, or because he believes they’re biased toward politically, socially, and religiously conservative authors?

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