Is Science Fiction Getting More Conservative?
Two legends and two newcomers weigh in.
January 25, 2011 - 12:00 am
Correia, author of the excellent Monster Hunter International books, said sci-fi writers are increasingly unafraid to speak out.
“I don’t really know if there are more of us or if we have just become less shy about it,” he said. “The publishing industry is primarily based out of Manhattan, which I’ve been led to believe is a completely paved island that doesn’t even have any shooting ranges. Of course us conservative types from fly-over country are going to seem odd to them. I’ve heard some real horror stories from other writers about the way they’ve been treated because of their personal politics.”
Correia also noted that most of the bad reviews he’s gotten have been from people who apparently objected to his politics.
“I’m primarily known as a contemporary fantasy author rather than a sci-fi author,” he said. “I’m usually writing about our current world with some fantastical elements thrown in.”
“I often get lumped into the genre ‘urban fantasy’,” he said. “Apparently, in urban fantasy it is really odd to have a main character who is a gun-loving, anti-authoritarian, stay-off-my-lawn libertarian accountant, who ends of working for a group of Alabama contractors that are constantly being harassed by petty regulations even while trying to kill monsters. I’ve received many negative reviews from people who don’t think it is realistic that I show the government as lumbering and bureaucratic at best, and cold-bloodedly ruthless at worst. This tells me that these reviewers have never worked with the government in real life. Ironically, every really scathing review I’ve gotten has felt the need to mention my personal politics.”
Dr. Pournelle cautioned that any discussion of an ideological drift would have to account for writers like Stanislaw Lem. While basically “socialist,” they thought that “individual liberty was a good thing,” if not always “easily achieved.” Norman Spinrad, for instance, “has always been for liberty, while embracing socialist economic ideas and often rather radical social beliefs.”
Like Dr. Pournelle, Col. Kratman — perhaps best known for his collaborations with John Ringo and his solo work such as A Desert Called Peace — was not entirely certain there has been a drift to the right, but perhaps for different reasons.
“I’m not sure that’s the way to describe it. If there has been such a drift,” he said, “I sense — and it’s only a sense — that it’s been more of a drift away from socialist Utopian science fiction. The whys of the thing are probably rather complex,” he warned, “and my understanding of them, such as it is, is no doubt colored and clouded by my being very America-centric.”
“Still,” he went on, “surely the collapse of communism in the former USSR, and the revelation of communist crimes so starkly that only loons can deny them — and rejection of the reality while retaining the name in China — have something to do with it.” For Kratman, “previous generations of heavily left-wing sci-fi have probably motivated some conservative writers.”
Motivated him? “No, not so much. I tend to take my motivation from leftist thought outside of science fiction, though I admit to urinating on the glib sci-fi staple of monocultural, unified, peaceful planets wherever possible. We probably ought not discount the growing and obvious failure of the social democratic state and liberalism-slash-progressivism, either.”
As for the future of science fiction, Pournelle submitted that “science fiction will always be just a bit out of the mainstream of political thought.”