Sunday, June 02, 2013

What the market of ideas will bear

The Science Fiction Writers of America are having one of their periodic meltdowns. It reminds me of the way the Jacobins kept sending each other to the guillotine during the French Revolution.

This time it is over sexism in the organization's magazine. Two issues ago the SFWA Bulletin had a cover with an old-fashioned pulp-style chick in chain mail. That sent the PC Nazis into the usual frenzy. In this latest issue, two old-time authors, Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick, expressed some opinions - in a regular column they collaborate on  - about censorship and PC that seemed to be deliberately provocative. It seems to have been directly a result of the controversy over the chick in chain mail cover.

The editor of the magazine is gone, and the group has formed some sort of study group to mollify the usual suspects. I read my copy of the magazine today, and while - in my opinion - the comments by Malzberg and Resnick fall well within protected opinion, freedom of speech is a tenuous thing when your opinion is too far out of bounds of your audience. I don't know whether Malzberg and Resnick expected the blow back they got, but they should have.

Old timers remember when opinions could range as far to the right as to the left in public discourse, but practically speaking, the U.S. now is a socialist country and you get a lot less leeway when veering to the right than the left.

You just can't race so far ahead or away of your constituency. I favor the legalization of marijuana - even William F. Buckley came to the same conclusion before he died. But you won't see me advocate that position in my community newspaper, it's too at odds with public sentiment, at least here in East Texas.

Thankfully, with the formation of SASS, people like me who want a genre-related venue that explicitly eschews political views of all sorts have some place to go. It's hard to think of the SFWA as a literary group; it's more like a revolutionary socialist club made up of writers.

When I was in college, I could never tell the difference between all the Marxist factions and caucuses - Workers Labor, Democratic Socialists, Trotskyites, Stalinist, Moaists, and one and on. I suppose if I was interested in politics, I could join a political club today, but the fact is if you belong to the SFWA you belong to a political club. The hair-splitting and back stabbing is silly and useless.

The existence of SASS is a great comfort to me, because it gives me - and others - a place to meet and discuss the genre of fiction we love without having to pass political and cultural litmus tests.

This latest PC blowup in SFWA is irrelevant to literature.

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