Science fiction, gaming, and men who need to grow up

The first books I remember reading were science fiction. I was already watching TV shows like Star Trek and Space: 1999, and went way over the edge when Star Wars came out. After that I started reading scifi comic books and Star Trek and Star Wars novelizations. (I wouldn’t discover Doctor Who until I was 14 or 15, by which point I was well and truly a fanboy.)

Credit goes to my mother for altering my course a bit. She put Heinlein and Asimov in my hands when I was a kid, and from there I started reading their novels, discovered Frank Herbert’s Dune, and then sometime in my teens I hit the mother lode: C.J. Cherryh. I first read the Chanur series and later went back and tried to figure out Cyteen, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it. (I need to try again.) Then I read LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven and The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, and after that there was no turning back.

Except, at some point, I guess I did turn back. I started reading mainstream fiction; I got into high school, and AP English class had me reading Fitzgerald and Brontë and Steinbeck and Austen. When I got to college, I finally figured out the gay thing, and that opened up a whole ‘nother genre of literature. I kept watching science fiction movies and TV shows, but it slipped out of first place in my reading. I’ve come back to it lately, mostly through YA—Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Across the Universe—but also through writers like Margaret Atwood and Cormac McCarthy. And I’m remembering why I love science fiction. And I’m writing it.

This is the part of the blog entry where Buffy Summers would say “You have ‘but’ face.”

But (see? There it is!) I’ve read a few things lately that make me, well, they make me wonder what the hell is wrong with  men in science fiction, both the writers and the fans.

First there’s this: “Why You’re Wrong about A Female Doctor Who“—specifically, the comments. Yes, I know, I know: never read the comments. It’s like the Internet Prime Directive, and I broke it, and like when Janeway breaks the Temporal Prime Directive, all sorts of bad stuff happens.

Then there’s the whole dust-up among the Science Fiction Writers of America and the recent poor choices made in their newsletter. For the record, that link is to a compendium much of the backlash. The debacle is so bad even AdWeek took note. (I think this is my favorite response to the whole thing.)

And then, somewhat tangentially related, is this. And I don’t normally see the need to do this, but hell in a handbag, trigger warning for misogyny and sexist speech galore.

It’s all enough to make me check my watch and see if it’s actually the twenty-first century.

Part of me doesn’t want to believe we still need to have this discussion in this day and age, but that part gets overruled by the prevailing evidence and all the stories I hear from friends who are women, period, not just writers and fans of scifi, fantasy, and gaming. You’d like to think that the genre could move past its pervy teen-boy and Shatner-spoofing get-a-life vibe, but then these things happen and you think, yeah, not so much.

(Of course, in the process of reading all this it was impossible not to encounter the usual grab bag of homophobia and racism as well, because hey, why not triple your pleasure?)

What’s the answer? I don’t know, but I’m glad that a lot of people are calling out the men involved—because it’s really sad when a forward-looking genre is represented by people whose thinking is so backward.