I read a wide variety of information sources, including conservative and liberal news, social media, and blogging outlets, in an effort to stay informed. I find that no one bias tends to render the world as it truly exists (in my opinion), so I try to find a balance between them all.
Finding that balance isn’t easy, since the creators of these information sources don’t seem to want to understand any viewpoint that differs even slightly from their own.
Okay, that probably isn’t fair, but that’s how it seems as I do my reading.
I put an image at the top of this blog post to illustrate the relative biases of the significant news agencies (I don’t necessarily agree with the exact positioning of some of these “elements,” but overall, it’s a pretty good indicator).
Superversive: As a subversive work strives to bring about change by undermining from below, a superversive work strives to bring about change by inspiring from above.
The Superversive Literary Movement is devoted to fiction that shines a light into the darkness. It was started in 2014, inspired in part by Mr. Superversive himself, essayist extraordinaire, Tom Simon. The first Superversive Blog launched in September of 2014 with an opening essay by Mr. Simon himself. Others soon joined in, and that fall, publisher Jason Rennie started Superversive SF, the first blog entirely devoted to the budding movement.
That seems pretty benign. After all, who doesn’t like stories about the hero or heroine winning the day, vanquishing foes, and saving humanity, right? I know the trend in science fiction and fantasy since the 1970s has been more toward dystopian futures, probably because before that, there was more of an emphasis on a Utopian future where everything would be perfect (depending on your definition of “perfect”) or nearly so. But as I suggested above, there needs to be a balance in storytelling, because the world doesn’t exist based on one social/political bias or another (although certain communities or countries may be dominated by a specific bias).
However, not everyone seems to think being “superversive” is such a good idea, but let me back up a step or two.
Quite a number of posts on the SuperversiveSF blog aren’t exactly neutral, and in fact, they can be pretty critical of the general community of Science Fiction and Fantasy writers, as well as the associated conventions (Cons). I point you to Brian Neimeier’s post Culture War Field Manual and Declan Finn’s The John Ringo and ConCarolinas issue. Those are only examples of a larger body of content, and if you click those links and then read, you’ll see that there seems to be a war going on, and accusations that SF/Fantasy writers, as well as the larger entertainment industry (including film and even comic books) is indeed waging a war against politically and socially conservative writers, editors, and their publications.
But is this true? My guess (having not experienced it personally since I’m not published as a SF/F author) is “yes,” at least to a degree, but what baffles is why?
I mean, we write SF/F as a reflection of the world we live in. Those genres would be worthless if they didn’t let us comment on the world of the present. Star Trek (the original series as Roddenberry created it) is a perfect example, since merely populating the bridge of the Enterprise with women, an African-American communications officer, and an Asian-American helmsman in the mid-1960s when the show was produced, was a radical and enlightening move.
Limiting today’s SF/F publications and the writers of such to a single political and social bias seems to be a terrible injustice, because you create the illusion that the world only works one way or operates merely from a single viewpoint. Further, it creates the illusion that such a bias is the only, valid, viable lifestyle and perspective available and that, by definition, all other perspectives are invalid, undesirable, or (dare I say it? Yes, I will) evil.
I’m not suggesting that hardboiled Nazis and Holocaust deniers are the best folks to be providing our entertainment, but believe it or not, people who are politically and socially conservative as well as religious aren’t evil. They may be different from who you are, but that doesn’t mean they are automatically bigots, “haters,” or whoever you happen to feel threatened by.
I actually did try to reach out to one liberal (I have to assume this based on the content of his blog) SF/F writer named Jim C. Hines, largely because I found a few of the things he has written to be helpful, such as this commentary on Inkitt.
However, he doesn’t have very nice things to say about a SuperversiveSF author named Jon Del Arroz.
Now I’ve read a number of Mr. Del Arroz’s commentaries on the SuperverseSF blog, and while they seem to stop short of trolling (in my opinion), they can be pretty inflammatory. Granted, from his perspective, he’s being discriminated against by the SF/F community, presumably because of his political beliefs, but his response seems to be to push back and push back hard.
When you think someone doesn’t like you and your response is to not like them back, you are guaranteeing a war with no positive resolution.
I mentioned that I follow a wide variety of information sources, and thus, I tried to follow Mr. Hines’s as well, but I couldn’t find an option to do so on his blog. I emailed him through his Contact page a few months back asking how I could do so, but he never replied. I also signed up for his newsletter, but I never received an automated confirmation of this via email, nor have I received a newsletter.
Now in my imagination, I could conjure up a lot of reasons why I never heard back from him or started getting the newsletter. Occasionally emails are lost, and automated newsletter notifications can get fouled up. Also, if he’s busy (and he probably is), he may have either missed my email in his inbox, or chosen not to reply due to lack of bandwidth.
On the other hand, I did include the URL to this blog with my email. He could have followed the link, taken a look at my content and/or About page, decided he didn’t like the cut of my jib and blew me off. It’s also possible he only responds to a certain, select group of people known to him, so being an anonymous unknown, I could have fallen below his threshold of “worthy to be contacted” human beings (after all, actor Wil Wheaton has reviewed one of his books, so I guess that’s pretty significant – yes, that last bit was a tad snarky).
But in reality, I have no idea. In the absence of information, I can’t just assume Mr. Hines’s motives based on my perception of his social and political beliefs as I garner them from his blog. That means I can’t assume he did not respond to my email because he is prejudiced against how he may perceive my social, political, and religious beliefs (although there does seem to be significant evidence that there is plenty of liberal bias, if not outright hatred, of religious people based on the twitterati’s response to actor Chris Pratt saying he was praying for Kevin Smith after Smith’s recent heart attack).
Why am I writing this and why should you the reader care?
After many years of religious blogging, I’ve discovered two things. The first is that the religious blogosphere is a minefield, and that it is very easy to be attacked by both other religious people, and by those who oppose, actively dislike, or really, really hate religious people (particularly Christians and Jews).
The second is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
In real life and online, I have a variety of friends and associates, not just religious conservatives, but atheists and political and/or social liberals, as well as many folks along the continuum in-between (yes, there exists such a place). We get along in spite of our differences or maybe because of them. After all, when I need to have my reality checked, going to someone who thinks and believes like I do probably isn’t the best way to do that. Connecting with a few others who see things from a different angle helps me to determine whether or not I’m deluding myself.
I think the same can be said for a community or an industry, which brings me back to the big, bad world of Science Fiction/Fantasy writing and publishing.
By pushing the “Publish” button to this blog post, I may very well be ending my nascent career as a SF/F writer (I’m already published as the author of a number of textbooks and self-study books in the field of computing/IT for whatever that’s worth). After all, what I’ve written today could be perceived as being critical of both the Superversive movement (or at least some of their contributors) and those involved in more mainstream SF/F writing.
I hope that isn’t the case, because if it is, then it tells me that those involved on both sides of the aisle or wholly intolerant of anyone who is different from them. It would also tell me that intolerance isn’t born of just one social/political bias, but rather because it’s a human characteristic. We can all feel threatened by “the other,” and out of a sense of threat, anger and rejection are typically born.
I’ve sent out three short stories in response to open submission calls (no responses yet) and I’ve got another one I’m about to email. Am I wasting my time? Am I unworthy of being published because I’m over sixty years of age, white, male, cisgender, religious, and lean toward the more conservative end of the scale (my beliefs/perspectives are actually a lot more nuanced, so I may not fit into anyone’s pigeon hole very easily)?
I don’t know. Again, I hope not, because it would say something pretty uncomplimentary about both conservatives and liberals (and everyone else in-between) in the SF/F publishing industry.
I only want two things. The first is to enter into a dialog with a variety of authors/editors/publishers in SF/F, not just a sub-group based on politics and religion. I think that getting different folks to talk with each other and interact is a good thing, but sometimes I feel kind of alone in that wish.
The second thing I want is to be able to write good stories and (hopefully) have some of them published, so they can be read by a general audience, and not just those people who either follow or happen upon my blog. I’m not interested in writing for just a tiny group of adherents to a single perspective. Author Steven Barnes seems to believe that you can write good characters and good stories across barriers of race, gender, nationality, and religion, and I agree with him.
I don’t know if anyone will respond to this missive or if so, if those responses will be civil. Maybe those people I want to interact with will simply flip the “ignore” switch on my writing (such as it is) and my life, and deem me an undesirable. Admittedly, that’s pretty pessimistic, but sometimes that’s also life.
But like I said, at the end of the day, I just want to get to a place where I can write good stories and have others enjoy them. Not everything I create has a social, political, or religious message, but I do think those types of tales have a place, and occasionally, I dip a toe in those waters.
Oh, before someone says it, yes I’m aware that in the bad old days, the publishing industry, as well as other entertainment venues, was dominated by old, white men, but simply shifting the bias from one part of the spectrum to another goes not mean you are on the side of good, right, or diversity. If you want to be diverse, then keep some of the old, white men around and let everybody else have a voice, too. Otherwise, you’ll never achieve true equality.
I turn the floor over to anyone who wants to comment. If you choose to do so, you don’t have to agree with me, but I do ask that if you disagree, be polite about it. Thanks.