Saturday, September 3, 2016

Quick Thoughts - With Liberals Like These Who Needs Conservatives?

Readers, I am tired. There is a part of me that wants only to revel in my love of SFF, to point out the stories that I think are amazing, to be thankful that I am have the opportunity to read so many great visions from so many talented writers. There are times when, safely ensconced in certain pockets of SFF, I can feel like the world isn't all that bad. And then I venture out of those pockets and…

I don't think being tired is really the worst thing. In some ways that's the price of doing business. Participating in SFF is something I want to do, and if it takes work then it's work that I feel is worth doing and that, for now at least, I can afford. I say this as I'm trying to plan a week's staycation from my day job and, hopefully, most of a week off from reviewing. Probably you won't notice a huge difference, because I'll still have review posts coming out, but hopefully I'll have all those scheduled ahead of time. But it's been a while since I've taken some time off and I feel that maybe it will help to energize me with regards to writing and reading and reviewing. We shall see. What I know is that between the US elections and SFF in general, I'm tired. Mostly, I'm tired of the way that the drama around both gets framed.

Let me be rather clear, here—we do not need conservatives. Or wait, maybe I should rephrase. We already have conservatives. They're called moderates. In the US right now, there are two main parties. The conservative party and the moderate party. To be clear—there is no progressive party (or there is, but not among the big two). People who aren't very good at thinking tend to think in binaries. Right or Left. Conservative or Progressive. Straight or Gay. White or Black. Male or Female. People who tend to think in a more complex way, either because they have to because they don't fit or because they're decent human beings, know that this is a shitty way of framing the world. This is why the only options people have so often is between bad and worse. Or between meh and oh-fuck-no. That people are calling SFF liberal is, frankly, laughable. How many fails does SFF have on a seemingly monthly basis? I read quite a bit of short SFF and let me tell you it's not overwhelmingly progressive. It's overwhelmingly moderate.

Yes, my rant-y thoughts today are brought to you courtesy of Tangent and special snowflakes and gah, really, a panel where one straight white guy told a panel of mostly other straight white guys how SFF was too liberal? Seriously, Clarkesworld and Fantasy & Science Fiction and Tor are not exactly pillars of extreme liberalism. Go read the recent Tor short stories and you'll see that some of them…are decidedly not liberal. Not that these are bad publications that put out nothing of merit. I love many of the stories that they produce. But they are solidly moderates. And of course they are—they're successful. They do publish some progressive stories. They also publish some conservative stories. And they publish a lot of stories somewhere in between the two.

So I just tried to watch The Murdoch Mysteries, and I feel this might illustrate some of my thoughts. It is a show that seeks to engage with "liberal" ideas. There is an episode about racism, and an episode about homosexuality, and an episode with an autistic character. And the characters from these groups are not shown as evil because of these things. But much more work goes into portraying the main character, a police officer in historical Toronto, as not racist, not homophobic, and not ablest, when he's a white straight Catholic cis-male police officer. More work goes into his feelings about maybe being prejudiced than go into trying to not actually be prejudiced. And in a show that I'm kinda thinking certain people would call "liberal," the main character lies to a black man to get him to confess to a murder as self defense (which Murdoch then reveals he can disprove which means that character will be executed). He pretends to be gay to entrap a gay man to get information for his investigation (information said man is beaten for and that leads to the suicide of another gay man and which, ultimately, has nothing to do with the investigation). In all of these episodes the marginalized characters are either victims or murderers. This is not a progressive show. This is a rather conservative show, though maybe not compared to the most conservative of media out there. But it's a show that probably considers itself an ally of marginalized groups for including these characters at all. And let's be honest, for some conservatives it's far too liberal a show for them. And..and with allies like that, who needs enemies?

The truth as far as I can find it is that we've never seen a truly progressive, liberal SFF. Some stories, yes. Some novels, yes. Some writers, yes. But not a systemically liberal landscape. Just like we've never seen a truly progressive, liberal government. So making the argument that conservatives are the true oppressed group is…well, to me it shows a willful lack of thinking and a determined effort not to self-examine. The truth as far as I can find it is that there is close to zero value to ideas that are currently framed as conservative because they are radically conservative. Of much more value in the sea of moderate conservatism that is dominant at the moment are the progressive voices. Those pushing for change, and change now. Those are the voices that see a future that is better, and a future where everyone can be safe and be heard. And that's the future I want to be a part of. Thanks for reading.

All the best,

Charles Payseur

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