Monday, April 16, 2018

Revisiting an Old Battle: Keep Your R out of my SF

The other day I was perusing old posts for some specific info when I stumbled on the blog below from nearly five years ago. I read it, sat back, and thought. "Whoa! I'd forgotten about that heated old SFR vs SF battle."

For the sake of nostalgia (and because I'm plain flat broke on blog ideas this week) I decided to repost this oldie. I still think it makes some valid points on the old SF vs. SFR debate -- and, in retrospect how books written by women are sometimes (often) discounted and scorned as substandard by certain individuals. Sort of a watered-down literary world version of the #metoo movement, isn't it? But I have to add the caveat that it's not just woman writing SFR, especially in more recent years.

Here's the old commentary:

Other than a few comments and one short blog, I've remained pretty quiet on this topic. That's not because it doesn't pain and irritate and sometimes outrage me--believe me, it does. It's just that I'm okay with letting people express opinions that are completely other-side-of-the-universe different from my own.

Freedom of speech is one of the rights we've always (maybe until recent years) prided ourselves on having in this country. When I was young, we were taught to respect, and even consider [gasp!] opinions expressed by others that didn't fit our personal outlook. There was a time when the general feeling was "everyone is entitled to their opinion" though these days that seems to have morphed into "everyone is entitled to my opinion."

This "Keep your Romance out of my Sci-Fi!" group seems to be a banner-waving minority who'd like to champion that school of thought. But, IMHO, some may be simply using the topic to enhance their stats.

Case in point:

There's a difference between freedom to express your opinion and intentionally inciting a reaction. This is why I am choosing to talk about one specific "opinion piece" without including a link. I'd like to state my own opinion of the motivation behind it without feeding that particular fire.

This past week we were treated to yet another strongly worded argument on keeping Romance out of Sci-Fi, and an equally strong push back, which was immediately labeled as being an attack on an author who has a right to express his opinion. (In other words, he has a right to express his opinion, but no one has a right to pin his hide to the wall in an articulate rebuttal.)

In my mind, this wasn't an opinion piece, this was a very sad attempt to stir the pot and feed off the controversy for the sake of hit count. The article was meant to incite, not promote discussion, which became painfully clear by the closing words and the subsequent threats to "turn off the comments." And this is why I don't feel this post was really about stating and defending his opinion at all, it was simply a blatant form of manipulation.

I'm going to avoid direct quotes from the author unless necessary, but let me paraphrase some of the statements made in the article:
  • Some authors who started off writing "true" Science Fiction soon outed themselves by including Romance and that made it unworthy of being called Science Fiction.
  • "Not true" Science Fiction contains elements that only women find interesting, like "military dress, palace intrigue, gossiping, and whispering in the corridors." [A debunking of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold].
  • "Not true" Science Fiction novels that includes Romance lack necessary tension. [A discrediting of the Sharon Lee/Stephen Miller Liaden Universe series.]
  • Steampunk is declared a Fantasy sub-genre, because the author has no interest in reading about "zombies, fancy dress balls, smooching warriors, or star-lit dinners..." 

The author closes by claiming he has now, "of course," offended everyone by stating his opinion. Which, judging from his provoking conclusion, was the whole point. Let's stir the pot by insulting some of the most beloved Science Fiction [with Romance] series because they contain elements that don't fit his personal narrow-minded definition of the genre. After all, everyone is entitled to HIS opinion--especially when making such bald, condescending statements will up the site's traffic count and generate a deluge of public backlash. Woohoo! Let's poke the tiger!

So let's look at Science Fiction and Romance debate in a different way--beyond stat-grabbing, beyond personal likes or dislikes, and beyond a futile attempt to defend the "purity" of one small segment of a genre that is fading from the reading public's interest.

Here's my view (like it or not, it's your choice):

>  Science Fiction and Romance are soul mates.

>  Science Fiction is about exploration and discovery. So is Romance.

>  Science Fiction is about looking at situations in new ways and adapting to changing times. So is Romance.

>  Science Fiction is about being inventive, spontaneous and pushing the envelope. So is Romance.

>  Science Fiction is about being forward-thinking and embracing the possibilities. So is Romance.

>  Romance not only belongs in Science Fiction, it shares the same DNA.

So if you think exploring the future, other dimensions or emerging technology isn't tied to romance, you're entitled to think that, I suppose. But there's a growing reading public who vigorously disagrees. And ultimately it's the readers--not the authors, bloggers, reviewers or publishing houses--who will decide what is and isn't Science Fiction.

I rest my case. Please feel free to make yours.

~~ * ~~
Huh. We lived -- and are still living -- in interesting times. I don't know that SFR has garnered any more respect some five years later, but it seems the efforts to stifle the genre have at least cooled somewhat in more recent years.  
Have a great week.

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Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.