Science Fiction Repair Shop: Those Who Do Not Curate The Present Are Condemned To Repeat The Past Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2014-08-29 14:00:00 No comments

Matt Lees has a fine little video in which he talks about (among other things) the way the gaming industry has become cyclically insular. Teenage boys who play games aimed mainly at them grow up and become part of an industry where they create video games aimed at ... teenage boys.

Sound like another cultural sphere we talk about here a lot? It sure did to me.

SF has long had the same problem, where "the same angry isolative white male nerds [are] pushing out everyone else to the point of stagnation", as my friend Eric Frederiksen put it. He uses the word isolative deliberately here — in the sense of people who shut out others, shut themselves in, and create a whole set of cultural shibboleths where only those who flash the same gang signs are welcomed in. ("When you decline to create or to curate a culture in your spaces, you’re responsible for what spawns in the vacuum," as Leigh Alexander put it on Gamasutra.)

To my mind, the biggest problem with having reductive, mediocre, self-seeking creators creating reductive, mediocre, self-seeking work is not just that the work itself is so mediocre, or that it creates a market where there are so few genuine choices. It is in how it impoverishes the present and future generations of creators, by giving them fewer examples to draw on or aspire to. A few get lucky: they either look into the past, where the self-selection of history conveniently presents them with a few winners, or look outside the field entirely to sustain themselves on other kinds of nutrition. (I ended up walking both of those paths myself.)

I'm not just talking about the works created as being uninspiring, though, but the creators themselves being uninspiring. If people look at the field and are grossed out by the kinds of people getting the attention and winning the accolades (ahem, Vox Day), they're likely to think the whole rat race simply isn't worth running if people like that are the ones coming out the other side of the maze with a chlorophyll gumball clenched in their teeth.

When people talk about making SF more "inclusive", or doing the same for any creative field that isn't known for its inclusiveness, we generally mean the kinds of people that populate the field, but we should think about that in terms greater than just gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity; we should also think about it in terms of class and profession and life circumstances. My analogy for this is how Hollywood in its early years tended to have people coming in from all over the map: there was no "film school" in those days, save for the Film School of Hard Knocks. As the system became more formalized, the kinds of people being admitted into the system — or seeking admittance — narrowed correspondingly, and the range of perspectives also narrowed.

SF has opened up a bit in the last few years, and that's heartening. We're now seeing more work done by, and being taken more seriously from, people who previously had no voice or felt they had nothing to give to the field. I think that's a good part of how SF can be made less self-consciously self-selecting, because the more SF presents its readers with a sense of possibilities — and not just as abstract homilies, but concrete invitations to participate in the making of those possibilities — the more it will actually have something to say.

Tags: Science Fiction Repair Shop science fiction sociology tolerance