The Extrahuman Union

Politics are the Heart of Science Fiction

Posted on: April 28, 2014

So, there is an article out there today saying that politics don’t belong in science fiction.

It’s by a guy (Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit) who is known mostly for writing mildly irritating things about politics. I know, I had no idea Instapundit was still around! That really brings me back, talking about him. Ah. Memories.

Anyway, I’m a political writer as well as a science fiction writer, so I took one look at this title and just rolled my eyes. Then I read the rest.

Here’s how it starts:

There was a time when science fiction was a place to explore new ideas, free of the conventional wisdom of staid, “mundane” society, a place where speculation replaced group think, and where writers as different as libertarian-leaning Robert Heinlein, and left-leaning Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke would share readers, magazines, and conventions.

Yes, in those days you could read books with cardboard characters by white guys from America AND Great Britain. How were there not literal wars in the aisles during conventions in 1968? The past was amazing.

But of course what Reynolds is actually irritated about is the sad treatment of Vox Day and Larry Correia, whose fans decided to troll the rest of us by nominating them, by intolerant liberals who, let’s face it, seriously can’t take a joke. “Purging the heretics” is how Reynolds refers to it. He also says that liberals have “colonized” science fiction. Yes! I know.

I just have to sigh, because here are these poor benighted souls getting attention from a national libertarian columnist in a national newspaper which has millions of readers all across the globe. I’m reminded of the endless parade of politicians and conservative celebrities who have been making the pilgrimage to Bundy Ranch. Conservatives are very good at using their power to present a united front against this vast army of liberals, some of whom may have blogs or Twitter accounts.

As for the headline itself and the premise behind the column: it’s laughable. Science fiction, not political? Have you actually read any science fiction, Mr. Reynolds?

Science fiction is inherently political. It always has been. Science fiction is, in many of its forms, about either the future we want to see, or the future we dread seeing.

The things we say about the future, about technology, about how humans grow and work and interact, all of that reflects on the world we live in today. Almost all science fiction books that I’ve read have had something to say about now, even if it’s something very quiet.

I write political books and stories. Sometimes the politics are more obvious, sometimes more subtle, but they are there. I can’t take the politics out of my stories; they’d be a lot lesser if I did that.

This struggle between various opposing camps in SFF fandom can’t be boiled down to the tired trope of “We are too politically divided these days, and it’s because of [insert name of political opponent here]!” This is about change, and about what happens when big sections of fandom who have been ignored for decades demand to be seen and heard.

It’s also about the future: we are trying to define the future we want to see. Sure, it’s political.

How can it not be?

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