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Learn Hexadecimal

The War on Science Fiction and Infantile Assholes

with 15 comments

Today, I read something hilarious.

Apparently, science fiction is “very male”.

In fact, the entire opening paragraph of that post is a masterpiece of tragicomedy. I’ll quote it here:

Science fiction is a very male form of fiction. Considerably more men than women are interested in reading and watching science fiction. This is no surprise. Science fiction traditionally is about men doing things, inventing new technologies, exploring new worlds, making new scientific discoveries, terraforming planets, etc. Many men working in the fields of science, engineering, and technology have cited science fiction (such as the original Star Trek) for inspiring them when they were boys to establish careers in these fields.

Now, the thing is, when I read that I expected it to be the opening paragraph of a very different post. (I should learn to pay more attention to the author tagline on blog entries.) The fact that somebody could think male-dominated, male-centric sci-fi is somehow a good thing still strikes me as more than slightly fucked. So listen up, Pro-male/Anti-feminist Tech: this is the post that might have been.

Science fiction is traditionally very male-dominated. No, let me rephrase: science fiction is traditionally dominated by straight white able-bodied neurotypical conventionally “normal”-looking cis men, the same people who dominate every other fucking thing in our culture. Am I bitter? Yes. Why? I fulfil quite a few of those criteria; I’m welcome in the sci-fi club.

The thing is, science fiction should be a genre full of stories that explore what-ifs, that shake the status quo, that offer us glimpses of many possible futures and let us see our own lives from strange new angles. It should be wonderful: evoking wonder. It should be awesome: evoking awe. It should be new and exciting. It should be about the human experience, and maybe the nonhuman experience too.

Straight white &c &c male stories aren’t anything new. We’ve got bucketloads of them. They don’t, as a rule, make me wonder about anything except why the standard selection of protagonists in this field has to be so goddamn limited. And when yet another story about Heterosexual Cisgender Able Boringface McWhitepants manages to catch my attention, it’s because the author is good enough to write something that grabs me in spite of their uninspired choice of main character.

And it’s not as though there aren’t any women or queer folk or people of colour writing and reading and producing and starring in sci-fi. To a significant extent, this “no girls allowed” status quo exists largely in the minds of the Het Cis Able McWhitepants readers and writers and editors who think that sci-fi is and always has been and always should be their special little sandbox. But it’s a dangerous beast all the same, because some of the people who think this way have the power to decide what gets published in their particular sand castles.

So let’s welcome all of the human experience to science fiction, not just the straight white able et cetera male experience. We need Octavia Butler’s Lauren Olamina. We need Lois Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan. We need KJ Parker’s Ziani Vaatzes. We need Elizabeth Moon’s Ofelia. We need Samuel R. Delany’s Rydra Wong. We need Isaac Asimov’s Susan Calvin. We need Jack Harkness and Toshiko Sato. We need Kara Thrace and Felix Gaeta. We need Charles Xavier. We need Nyota Uhura. And we need more people like them, not less.

As an aside: that website is called “the Spearhead”. Really. Hyuk, hyuk.


Written by Learn Hexadecimal

October 13, 2009 at 4:26 pm

15 Responses

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  1. […] this isn’t really news, as there have already been at least eight wonderful rebuttals across the blogosphere, and some good ole sarcasm.  And, normally, I […]

  2. That was probably the best rebuttal to the original article I’ve read. I couldn’t agree with you more. Trying to make science fiction more homogenous is completely counter-intuitive to what the genre is. The original article was very disconcerting and I had hoped it wasn’t the general opinion. Thank-you for responding to “The War on Science Fiction and Marvin Minsky” with such a fantastic piece.

    Lesbos McWhitepants

    October 14, 2009 at 2:04 pm

  3. total agreement. One jerkwad even thought Norton was a bad writer. Probably defined her that way because she was female.

    B. Ross Ashley

    October 14, 2009 at 5:35 pm

  4. Amusing read, but… if you think that science fiction is “about straight white guys”, then you kinda miss the point.

    Science fiction has most often been about social commentary. Often using aliens to comment on human social issues.

    Ignore that, and it seems to me that you ignore the whole point.

    Requiring that the protagonist(s) be gender/race/etc. normed has always struck me as the most _boring_ SF. “I don’t care about the story, or the meta-issues. Does it meet my PC checklist.”

    And frankly, the best stories often ignore the very assumption you’re attacking – that it is there, is because you (the reader) imposes it on the story. The author’s not to blame at that point – you, the reader, are.


    October 14, 2009 at 6:43 pm

  5. Dear Mr. Chuckles,

    It isn’t about “PC checklists”, it’s about SF as a genre reflecting the worldview and meta-issues of white, heterosexual, cisgendered, neurotypical, able-bodied men. It’s about complaining that those other people are ruining their poor genre by having characters that have emotions (because emotions are something women, and maybe gay men, do?) or by addressing racial issues from the POV of a POC or– well you get the point. Basically it’s about diversity and how it’s lacking in SF.


    October 14, 2009 at 7:27 pm

  6. Chuckles:

    Somebody here is missing a point, all right, but it’s not me.

    There is no checklist. The question I ask myself is, what about this story makes it interesting?

    What about these characters makes them interesting? Do they have a perspective that’s different from mine? How is it different? What can I learn from that?

    There’s not a lot I can learn from the straight white sane cis male perspective, because it’s a perspective that’s very close to my own. There’s not a lot anybody can learn from it, because if there was, they’d have learned it already; this culture is fucking saturated in it.

    I’m not sure what assumption you think I’m attacking, exactly, but if you mean the assumption that Mr. Assorted Privilege McWhitepants is the default perspective, I have news for you: ignoring that assumption does not make it go away. It is everywhere, whether you like it or not. There is no way to get rid of it.

    It’s in Larry Niven’s Known Space, where Earth has allegedly achieved gender equality but I can name two species off the top of my head whose females are nonsentient. It’s in Card’s Ender books, where the Battle School supposedly takes all the genius children of the world, and yet has an apparent gender ratio of roughly one hundred to one. It’s in every single book that doesn’t include any gay characters (or transgendered characters, or characters of colour) because the author just didn’t think of it. It’s in every book that doesn’t include any because the author did think of it and decided he didn’t want any of those people cluttering up his story. It’s in the pronoun I just used so casually to describe a hypothetical science fiction author.

    Are you getting a word picture here?

    Learn Hexadecimal

    October 14, 2009 at 7:56 pm

  7. And yet despite all this blither blather at no time did the author of the original piece say that women shouldn’t write science fiction as the post was directed at the visual mediums. And of ALL the criticisms I’ve seen over the past two days this is the only one wherein the author was accussed of only wanting white kids to play in his sandbox.

    My God, I can’t believe all the clueless asshats. The current “syfy” channel line up sucks. Enuff said.


    October 15, 2009 at 7:50 am

  8. You know what I think is funny is that the “authors” of today (and the author of this post) all do the same thing they accuse the spearhead author of doing. One is questionably guilty of trying to push “mcwhitepants”(racism right here, just so you know) while the other is pushing everything other than that. Forcing a show to include other groups is just as bad as forcing other groups out. After all is said and done you end up with a piece of crap that just feels labored and uninspired. The same can be said about BSG, it feels like the bastard child of star wars and the OC. Mixing the genres equally is impossible so the work comes out the awful bastard child it is doomed to forever be.


    October 15, 2009 at 8:52 am

  9. Haven’t I seen you around the original post, Clarence? I’m charmed to see that you haven’t grown a serviceable substitute for a clue since then.

    I will use small words: This post is not just about what’s wrong with that post. This post is about what’s wrong with the science fiction industry as a whole. In print and in video.

    BusterCross, you’re spewing false equivalencies like a fire hose. Please educate yourself posthaste.

    It should tell you something that I managed to come across a smackdown of your tired little argument through a cursory Google of “racism 101”. And the thing it should tell you is that not only are you wrong, you are wrong in exactly the same way as millions of people have been wrong before you.

    Learn Hexadecimal

    October 15, 2009 at 10:59 am

  10. So making decisions based on race and gender isn’t racist or sexist? News to me.


    October 15, 2009 at 3:28 pm

  11. I know you’re trying to be ironic, but that statement is in fact almost literally true. You forgot a qualifier: making decisions based on race and gender isn’t necessarily racist or sexist. It depends on the relative distribution of privilege between the person making the decision and the people affected by it.

    Learn Hexadecimal

    October 15, 2009 at 3:32 pm

  12. Learn Hexadecimal:

    This post is just the big whine-fest that I’ve seen in science fiction since I started reading it as a child. Next, I’m certain you’ll try to lecture me on “intersectionality”. You added nothing useful to the discussion there, and you’ve added nothing useful to the comment discussion here, nor to the arguments on the web about the post there. Accusing the original poster of being racist is par for your ilk. Whining that because the chief demographic that reads/writes and watches most science fiction is a bit over represented has been done for nearly fifty years total now. Tough cookies. I predict most of the “syfy” shows will falter as they seem to already be doing. Trying to play “more enlightened then thou” is a tired sctick little self-hating man. Regardless, your tastes aren’t the norm and aren’t the way forward if one wishes maximum demographic saturation which is what quite a few people assure me its really all about. I’m not sure I believe them though, when I look at your post here. It seems that to some people it always will be about race, sex, and what one does with one’s genitals rather than the science and story parts of things.


    October 15, 2009 at 3:48 pm

  13. Clarence, I have a challenge for you.

    Read this post. Then read all the comments. Word by word, carefully, so you don’t miss anything. Try to figure out what I’m actually saying, instead of glancing over my comments and then addressing your responses to a figment of your underdeveloped imagination.

    Learn Hexadecimal

    October 15, 2009 at 4:19 pm

  14. I am always a bit curious as to why one can always find a few men rushing to condemn fair criticism from another man concerning the emasculation of entertainment.

    Well, another one of our writers has his opinion, and he has come to a similar conclusion and taken it a step farther.


    October 19, 2009 at 10:42 am

  15. Welmer, the reason you can find us rushing to condemn ridiculous—I mean, fair—criticism concerning the emasculation of entertainment is because we realize that “emasculation” as a concept is void. Worse than that, it’s actively harmful.

    The idea of “emasculation” takes it as a given that masculine is better than feminine. I don’t like concepts that depend on vile falsehoods for their very existence. It’s a personal preference.

    Learn Hexadecimal

    October 19, 2009 at 10:52 am

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