Tim S. suggests that my complaints about male SF might need to be limited to straight male SF. As far as I know, we don’t have enough gay men writing SF, though I know many wonderful fans who are gay men. Maybe the writers are here, but I’m not finding them. Are there gay men writing good SF? Who are they?
Women and SF
This is an earlier post from Eleanor Arnason’s blog.
So I agree. But I also notice that I am more likely to read women than men SF writers. I currently have Andrea Hairston’s novel and Nalo Hopkinson’s new book and feel as if it’s my birthday. So many goodies!
When I moved the last time, I went through my books and got rid of books I didn’t want to pack and unpack. There are now no male SF writers left except Delany, Kim Stanley Robinson, Iain M. Banks and one book by Avram Davidson.
I wonder if it’s possible that SF may divide the way mysteries have. “Cosies” (mysteries in the tradition of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers) are mostly read by women. Thrillers are mostly read by men. Obviously, some mysteries have a mixed audience. But I have noticed that I tend to read mysteries by women writers; and I avoid anything that looks like a thriller. I suspect it will be full of pointless violence, most likely directed toward women. Who needs that crap? At one point, the Star Tribune had two mystery reviewers, because the audiences were so different. And I suspect the woman reviewer didn’t want to read thrillers; and the male reviewer didn’t want to read cosies.
There are some fine and intelligent male SF writers, but too much SF by men strikes me as obsessed with hardware or violence or intellectual games; and too much of it does not seem to deal with the big and real issues that humanity faces.
For some reason that I don’t entirely understand, male gayness is a threat to the power structure in this society. It need not be. Ancient Greece was able to combine gayness with oppression of women, class oppression and slavery. But here and now, the patriarchy sees gayness — at least when it’s out of the closet — as a terrible threat to its existence.
Out gay men are living in a society where prejudice, social oppression and violence are not abstractions which they can safely ignore. If they are true to themselves when they write, they are going to be challenging the status quo.
I don’t think women write better SF because of hormones. I think it’s because women are looking at society critically, questioning the status quo and arguing for a better world; and they are doing this because of their history of experiencing oppression and fighting against oppression.
(I rewrote this after I posted it, and it’s mostly new from this point on. I felt it was too much like a manifesto. It’s hard to talk about modern America without sounding like a manifesto.)
Gay writers and minority writers are in the same situation as women. Some members of oppressed groups identify with the oppressor and believe — strange as it seems to me — that there is a place set for them at the great, white, straight, Christian, rich folks’ table. Or, as a gay friend of Patrick’s told him, they believe if they are very good and well behaved and obedient, they will be forgiven for being gay.
But the people I admire realize that they cannot tell the stories they want to tell — and express the feelings they want to express — if they are obedient. Their truth is not the same as the oppressor’s truth. When I wrote this post originally I mentioned James Baldwin and Samuel R. Delany as writers who spoke their own, personal truth. I can mention them again.
For me, the truths of people who are in conflict with the status quo are more interesting than the truths of people who fit in. Which I guess is why I’m interested in seeing more science fiction by gay men. Though the straight guys who are fascinated by very large, hard equipment and neat ideas based on contemporary physics should — of course — keep writing. Let a hundred schools contend, and a thousand flowers bloom.