The ever entertaining Josh Young has been at it again, exploring why Superversive SF is needed now more than ever and why it matters. Why the bleak nihilism of the pink shirts, their “realism” misses the point. This excerpt from On the Superversive: A Science Fiction Credo gives you a feel for what he is driving at
“Meaning” doesn’t necessarily have a point to it, incidentally. There doesn’t have to be a moment of “He died so that we could live!” But compare the death of Macross/Robotech‘s Roy Fokker and Firefly/Serenity‘s Wash. Roy’s death, meaningless and stupid, came in the middle of a war, and narratively, told us this show wasn’t going to promise us that our heroes would make it out unscathed. Wash’s death came randomly and pointlessly, during a moment of relief and without context, just to remind us that Joss Whedon likes to make us cry.
Thing is, even in all these dark stories, I want heroes, light, and hope. One of the things that Jagi and the Superversive folk is the pointless nihilism of literature. There’s a sense you get, reading a lot of modern lit, that life sucks and nothing has meaning. Nothing will ever have meaning. (Jagi talks about Steinbeck, whom I have not read, but I got the cliffnotes version of while watching The Middle. It matched Jagi’s experience.) Even if I didn’t already prefer my stories to have spaceships and laser guns, that sort of thing would drive me away from mainstream lit.
Some folks would claim it’s escapism, that the nihilism of mainstream lit is the reality– and, well, I won’t spoil it for you, but read Jagi’s entry. She has some things to say about that. As a Christian and a seminarian I have to remind you that it is far, indeed from the truth. Our book tells us that things are dire and deadly and will get worse, but that, in the end there is triumph, does it not?
It’s an interesting thing, and I keep trying to get a handle on it: but in a lot of ways, science fiction and theology feel very much the same when you dive into them. They scratch the same itch, as it were, and in a lot of ways, that itch is to have the truth of hope reinforced in us.
That’s not to say that there’s not SF that shares the nihilism of mainstream lit. There is. I remember, for example, reading M. John Harrison’s Light, which Neil Gaiman recommended as a stunning space opera and, in my memory, lives mostly as a story about people with weird issues masturbating.