David Freer on Politics in SF

David Freer over at Mad Genius Club has an interesting essay up called The Winter of our discontent that is worth a read. He delves into the strange political realities found in publishing today and it is well worth the read. He also senses a change a foot and I hope he is right.

We’ve been cursed to live interesting times. Times in which we are assured there is a right side of history. Usually we’ve managed to get onto her wrong side, which is also her right side, it seems. It’s a very confusing situation, even if you’re not as dim-witted as moi, your local furry-pated simian.

The world is changing very fast. There is a sort of inverse law in this: when the King/President/Emperor/ Pope, the establishment politicos start telling you something is definitely going the way the PTB have been pushing it… You can bet the tide is running the other way. Historically the shrillness is inversely proportional to facts and the zeitgeist. When they tell you the sun never sets on British Empire (yes I know that meant it was around the world) it’s about to go down. When Neville Chamberlain tells you it’s peace in our time, you know that just ain’t going to be so. It’s obvious to anyone that economic and social factors are running us towards a change. History will be history, and although written by the victors (and later revised by the next victors), its sides will change. As a reaction to the Charlie Hebdo atrocities by Muslim terrorists… we have various Left wing SJW people telling us that it’s the victims fault and that really we need not to protect freedom of speech, but to stop nasty homophobic racists offending Muslims (who, um do quite well at homophobic racism, but it’s un-PC to point this out). And lo, some governments seem to be thinking about going along with them.

At which point someone of my acquaintance said ‘why don’t these lefties learn, instead of doubling down?’

My answer (and be patient, this does apply to writing), is that it’s actually not just lefties. It’s a power problem. At the moment, that’s pretty left wing. Those in power tend to be surrounded by sycophants, live in their little bubble. Some of course are devout believers in their own rightness. Others are just so used to winning without any effort always they’ve forgotten the possibility of losing. It’s been their way or the highway as long as they can remember. Nowhere has these been more true than in traditional publishing and among their camp-followers.

It started to change in socio-politics a while back. Looking back, 2007 was probably the apogee. In publishing it might have been two or three years later (publishing trails, it does not lead much). But there have been many canaries in the coal mines whose singing has gone silent in the last while. The key with pendulums is to remember the higher you push them, the harder they swing back.

I don’t really care where you sit on the political spectrum, what is happening in sf/fantasy needs the brakes put on that pendulum. Over the years there have been some great writers from across the spectrum, and we’re all poorer for losing that. Yet that’s exactly what has happened. I’d hard put to put an exact date on it, but when the Hugo and Nebula awards slipped over into being entirely left wing, and gradually further and further left-wing. Always remember: there is no concrete reason why SF/Fantasy (in English) readers should not largely reflect the reading population of the English first language countries. Now, there are some reasons why certain parts of that spectrum don’t read. They might be too dumb, or have cultural objections to it. But broadly speaking if readers do not reflect the demographics of the EFL countries… we need to know why. The writers are product of the readers, therefore they will always follow the reading trend. If it’s not there: you’re losing some great writers, and also the money their reader section represents. If you have to ‘lose’ anyone make sure it is a small group, but there is no real reason for that. It’s a numbers game for us readers (and for writers, as a result). If sf becomes more popular… there will be more of it, and more means more good stories will emerge. Which is something that everyone (regardless of creed, color, political persuasion or sexual orientation) who loves sf/fantasy should want. Political affiliation is something we know a lot about the numbers of supporters of. It isn’t 99% left, let alone hard left. Actually the hard-core supporters of either right or left are a minority, in roughly equal numbers, and there is a large ‘floating’ pool. As has been displayed, repeatedly, political parties can come from nowhere (Nazis, Communists both provide recent examples) and capture that floating pool. Centrists or ‘I don’t care or like any of the candidates’ win the majority of elections, except when they’re caught up by a sudden change. Yet this is not reflected in the awards for the last twenty years or so. They are ludicrously improbably all far left.

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