Fiction’s and Real Life’s “Bad Guys” and Stereotyping

I’ve been thinking a lot about villains lately. Actually, this particular File 770 “Pixel Scroll” first brought the topic up in my mind. If you scroll down to item #4 “AUTUMN LEAVES” and to “Watchmen” just below that, you can read:

Oct. 20, 9 p.m., HBO
Confession: I know nothing about Watchmen. Never read the comic or saw the (polarizing) 2009 film. I had to pause many times while watching the pilot so I could look up characters and backstories on Wikipedia. With that said, I can’t wait to see more. Set 30 years after the comics, Watchmen takes place in a world where police hide their identities due to terrorist attacks and a long-dormant white supremacist group wants to start a race war. The show is expensive-looking but not hollow. There’s a humanity to the characters that is often lacking in comic book adaptations, due in large part to the exceptional cast, including Regina King, Jeremy Irons, and Don Johnson. Hardcore fans will have to make up their own minds, but this novice is intrigued. [emph. mine]

I know I wrote a blog post sometime ago about adult-oriented comic books and how they are now themed to emphasize social justice, but I can’t find it again. I do remember that, thanks to Donald Trump, most, if not all of the villains are straight white men, and specifically alt-right white supremacists.

No, I’m not defending racism, white supremacy, bigotry, or anything like that. My wife and children are Jewish, so I specifically take a dim view of antisemitism as well as other forms of prejudice and bigotry. Yes, some of my political views are unpopular to certain demographics but I don’t advocate for hate.

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Ashes of Avalon Revisited

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Undated photo of the late author Marion Zimmer Bradley, found at Wikipedia

I’ve been considering science fiction awards named after flawed human beings lately.

Of course, on my blog, this all started with Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award Acceptance Speech and Here We Go Again, and then continued into The Sins of John W. Campbell Revisited, Tiptree Award Name May Change (Here We Go Again), and here, and here, and so on.

Then, I saw today that someone has read an article I’d written last January called Out of the Ashes of Avalon. I had been exploring the serious allegations of child neglect and abuse leveled at beloved feminist fantasy author Marion Zimmer Bradley, as well as the fact that her husband was sentenced to prison for sexually abusing her daughter (and some say Bradley actively participated in that abuse).

What surprised me most wasn’t that Bradley was possibly (likely) capable of both failing to protect her minor age daughter and possibly sexually abusing her own child, but that there seemed to be some sort of debate between more conservative and more liberal participants and fans in SciFi as to whether this constituted any sort of “problem” with Bradley.

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Tiptree Award Name May Change (Here We Go Again)

light

Cover image from “Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home”

I read Alice Sheldon’s (pen name James Tiptree Jr) anthology of short stories Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home decades ago when I was a kid (all right, a young man) and recall thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve probably heard of the award named after her, but didn’t pay much attention until reading Mike Glyer’s pixel scroll this morning.

In this case, the award name may be changed due to a personal tragedy in Sheldon’s life. From Wikipedia:

Sheldon continued writing under the Tiptree pen name for another decade. The last years of her life were not happy ones, as her husband was a nearly blind invalid incapable of caring for himself, and she herself was suffering health issues caused by a lifetime of smoking. In 1976, then 60-year-old Sheldon wrote to a friend expressing her desire to end her own life while she was still able-bodied and active, but she was reluctant to act upon this intention, as Huntington would have no one to care for him, and she could not bring herself to kill him.

Eleven years later, on May 19, 1987, Sheldon finally carried through her plan—by shooting her husband in his sleep, followed by herself; she had telephoned her attorney after the first shooting to announce her actions. They were found dead, hand-in-hand in bed, in their Virginia home. According to biographer Julie Phillips, the suicide note Sheldon left was written years earlier and saved until needed. In an interview with Charles Platt in 1980, Sheldon spoke of her emotional problems and of her previous suicide attempts over the preceding 20 years.

The James Tiptree Jr. Award is given in her honor each year for a work of science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender. The award-winning science fiction authors Karen Joy Fowler and Pat Murphy created the award in February 1991. Novels such as Half Life by Shelley Jackson and Light by M. John Harrison have received the award.

At least one person commenting on File 770 had compassion, but who knows how many other people judge without understanding what Sheldon may have been going through (I still read 770 but choose not to comment there because of how I was recently treated by some of its other readers).

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