I don’t know if I can really claim to be a science fiction fan – I am not hard-core, at any rate. I have had my moments with particular authors in the genre, I’ve been to a couple of cons (Salt Lake City and Albuquerque – the con here in San Antonio costs too much at the door for my budget) – I have all of Blake’s 7 on VHS tape (taped from broadcast on Salt Lake City’s public TV station in the early 1990s), most of Babylon 5, and I have purchased every on of Lois McMaster Bujould’s Vorkosigan novels when and if they present themselves in paperback. Oh, and I really enjoy Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, but they’re not really science fiction – more fantasy with a wry twist. I watched Star Trek when it was originally broadcast – but who of the age that I am now didn’t, unless their parents were Luddites who wouldn’t have a TV in the house?
And Dad worked as a scientific sub-contractor for NASA, now and again. Something to do with circadian rhythms and space travel might possibly affect them, either positively or negatively, so –yes, science!
I guess I can say that I’m a kind of casual sympathizer; it’s not my own genre as a writer, but I dip into it now and again, and I have a writer friend or two of the online-variety who are a great deal more serious about science fiction. Because of this mild interest, I have been casually aware of the great SFWA bru-hah-hah of recent months, mentally crossing myself and thanking the deity that at least those who scribble historical fiction seem to be much less prone to epic fits of politically correctness and inclined to go off on witch hunts directed against those who offend. Or maybe they do – and I just don’t know; the only professional writer’s association that I belong to is the Texas Association of Authors – and they seem to be more about … well, promoting books, authors and local events. Whatever the current active leadership of the SFWA are epically pearl-clutching about, the TAA doesn’t seem to give a damn. But it’s a state organization, in a state which seems lately to be more focused on economic and societal realities, not every politically-correct momentary interest that appears, dancing across the intellectual horizon.
Anyway – (Yes, I do have a point and I am getting to it) following on the latest round of Savonarola-like fiery cleansing of those determined to be unclean from the holy halls of SWFA membership, there is a new and rather painful issue arising. Of course, I can appreciate the double or perhaps triple-strength irony of an organization which raised the holy banner of anti-sexual harassment and feminine empowerment on high, and whose members went on what amounted to a kind of Stalinist internet show-trial against those held to offend the most mightily … now discovering that Marion Zimmer Bradley – one of the most respected and feminist science fiction authors in their pantheon was complicit in child sexual abuse – by her husband at best interpretation, and herself at worst.
And that it was one of those weird open secrets among insiders and common knowledge among the inner circle – apparently – but just now breaking into the wider world of fans and readers. The freak-out is epic, and to me, rather personal. I very much enjoyed the Darkover novels, when I first discovered them in the early 80s, after coming off a tour in Greenland; cold, dark and very, very isolated – yes, I could relate to that. I even scribbled some fan-fic and submitted it for one of her anthologies. (Without any luck, I might add – she had stopped accepting fan-fic by the time I got around to it.) There is a certain amount of cognitive dissonance here, you would understand; a writer whose books I rather enjoyed and who had a good reputation for mentoring younger writers is revealed as having conducted herself in a manner quite the antithesis of the public persona. I am pretty certain that if I went back and re-read those books of hers which are still on my shelf that I would not enjoy them now nearly as much. Mind you, I don’t demand that writers whose books I enjoy have a perfectly blameless personal life and innocuous political opinions – but I do draw the line at child abuse.
Finally, there is the element of hypocrisy involved, one which I watch with a certain amount of glee – schadenfreude, even. The Social Justice Warrior element within SWFA, who went all Savonarola on Larry Correia, Vox Day, Orson Scott Card, and Sarah Hoyt, among others, for politically incorrect thought-crimes, ought to be just as righteously steamed about reverencing and/or enabling a pedophile and sexual abuser of their own child. Correct? No? Well, then – please explain why it’s bad when someone who disagrees with you on certain social or political fundamentals, but perfectly okey-dokey or at least excusable when someone whom you do agree with commits serious crimes. Ah, yes – another spectacular SWFA melt-down, resulting from the violent collision between reverencing a past honored member of the in-group, and application of their own rule-book.
I still haven’t made up my mind, though – if I ought to get rid of the Bradley books entirely. Maybe I should just put them in a box in the garage until I do make up my mind.
(Cross-posted at my book blog and at www.ncobrief.com)