In the past I have occasionally said that I think science fiction is the most human of all genres. For me this is because pretty much every SF story had at its core “what it means to be human.” I probably stretch that a bit. I suppose an aficionado of any genre could make the same claim. Or an aficionado of any other form of art, too. But in the end I still think it’s true.
I’ve been thinking about this today because I took in a video from Youtuber today that did a remarkable job of placing the value of science fiction into context. That Youtuber is Beau of the Fifth Column. I’ve looked in on him on several occasions since falling into his channel. He’s an interesting person with interesting and informed takes on a lot of things. I recommend pretty much any of his many, many videos.
This one, however, is about science fiction and its place in the world.
The video touches on a few classic examples from the field, and its ideas resonates with me when it comes to how Beau contextualizes the purpose of my primary genre. Without doing so directly, it exposes the root of the whole Puppy fiasco from a few years back—a movement that, as you can tell from the never-ending twitter flares, continues to echo through the field today. It spends a little time on one of my “favorite” (meaning sarcastically, least favorite) things about the field—watching people read or watch something with some real meat to the bone, then miss the entire point. My go-to example of this behavior is how Men’s Rights Activists took Fight Club under their wing when by all rights the entire story is about the cost and dangers of toxic masculinity.
Fight Club is not really science fiction—or maybe it is, depending on your view, right? But Beau discusses this concept, using a different and more mainstream work of science fiction.
Sometimes I think it’s good to step back and think about what I’m doing.
There’s a serious collection of people I know who focus on raw entertainment value of fiction. I don’t want to discard that idea. For fiction to be absorbed at all, it has to be entertaining. But I think there is a bit of a game of three-card-Monty being performed when a writer says that all they are trying to do is to entertain. Perhaps those writers are simply trying to avoid the pressure that comes with putting themselves on the page. I don’t know. Maybe they are just ignoring that aspect of things in their discussion so that they can focus on having fun. It’s possible, anyway. It
Or perhaps they are actually trying to make a political point (like the Puppies were), and simply pretending that the raw adventure stories they push don’t in themselves actually have societal ideas in them.
Again, I don’t know.
But in the end, to me, stories mean something. When we get rid of the critical voice and let ourselves run on the page, the things that our stories mean come from somewhere inside us. To ignore that seems to me to be a bad idea.
It’s complicated, I suppose.
Maybe you agree with me. And maybe not.
Regardless, the video is a good watch.