The inclusiveness question, plus extras

The inclusiveness debate seems to be gathering pace to become the current blazing topic of the sf-nal blogosphere. I’m keeping my mouth shut quite firmly – not because of any particular shameful or virtuous opinions that I feel I should hide from view, but because I believe that in these sorts of situations, if you feel you have nothing original or constructive to say, you’re best off keeping your lip buttoned. Jonathan McCalmont has a good overview of the situation, however.

I mean, I can see there’s a male/white/Western/Anglicised bias in sf, but I have no idea how the hell we should go about changing that situation. I’m not even sure if it can be done purposefully, either – I think it may be one of those things that can only change slowly over time as generations succeed each other. It puts me in mind of a quote from Poincaré, talking about the way that scientific theories and ideas tend to stay in currency while their progenitors are still around:

“Science advances … funeral by funeral.”


Talking of views dissenting from the canon, I thoroughly enjoyed the channelled ire of Liz Henry taking the freshly-fueled chainsaw of feminism to the old wood of Anne McCaffery’s Pern novels:

“The main thing Lessa seems to do in her capacity as Weyrwoman is to serve food. She’s always deftly serving F’lar’s dinner. She pours the klah during important meetings. She clears the table a lot too, and rings for food. Which appears magically from a dumbwaiter from the Lower Caverns where all the slutty kitchen women live. You could go through the book and mark up all her waitress moments.”

I cut my sf-nal teeth on those books, but you don’t read from a very critical perspective at eight years old. Hindsight is a curious thing.

And talking of feminism and diversity in sf, Cecilia Tan has reposted an old interview she did with Octavia Butler, which is well worth the time it takes to read:

What do you think is going to happen to the human race in the next millennium?

Pretty much what is happening now. Why should anything different happen? There will be technological innovations and biological innovations, but things will be essentially how they are. The future is not some mystical magical place. The future is moment to moment. Thirty years ago we didn’t have the computers we do now, but we’re still doing the same things.

Meaning, even if the power grid collapses on January first, human beings are still going to be pretty much the same.

The human being is essentially lazy.”

Smart lady; I must read some of her books soon. Or rather, I’ll add her to the ever expanding list of authors I must pay attention to – a list that grows in inverse proportion to the amount of time I have available for reading things I want to read. *Sigh*

One thought on “The inclusiveness question, plus extras”

  1. Hey, I was drawn here by the namecheck but have to say I got a good laugh out of the comments about Lessa’s ‘waitress moments’–thanks for the pointer.

    I guess it’s an indication of how much has changed that stuff that used to seem progressive now seems backward. Have you watched any old Star Trek lately? Okay, the original TV show was campy and all, but I love the story Whoopi Goldberg tells about her Uhura Aha moment, when she ran to get her family to come see there was a black woman on TV who wasn’t a maid or serving food. But then you watch the Star Trek movie where Kirstie Alley plays Savik, and my god, how baldly sexist is it the way they treat her character? All the men are like “Did she change her hair?” and then when she ‘pilots’ the Enterprise out of dock they are all nervous about her being a “woman driver.” (Despite the fact that all she does is give the command to the helmsman anyway…!!) Someone thought that was acceptable humor at the time, I guess…

    I read those Pern books when young and impressionable, along with a lot of Marion Zimmer Bradley, which was certainly considered forward-thinking for its time. But I wonder if I read “Hawkmistress!” now, what I’d think. I still have it on the shelf…

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