Earthquakes and Arguments

Had my first earthquake the other night. Em reckoned it was maybe 3 on the Richter Scale, but I don't have the necessary experience to pass judgement. It was like a gentle rocking motion, entirely silent, for seven or eight seconds. There was something weirdly comforting about it, as if the Gods of the Continental Drift were rocking me to my sleep.

Anyway: Richard Morgan, another Glasgow author, recently posted online an essay originally written for an anthology in which he decries the SF field for its infighting and general bitchiness. I can well understand some of his bewilderment given that he arrived on the scene, convention and community-wise, relatively recently.

"... I'm still a relative novice in this place. I mean, I've always read SF and Fantasy, for the reason I guess most people read anything -- because I like it. But before the publication of my first novel, five years ago, I knew next to nothing about SF fandom, had never attended a con in my life, and was quite unaware there might be anything to warrant the wielding of such savage rhetorical weaponry. So I was a bit (actually a lot) taken aback to see these squabbles arising, and even more taken aback to learn that this kind of back-biting is nothing new in the genre. Trawl back through the short history of SF and you can see the exact same bitching and lekking oneupmanship set loose time and time again. New Wave writers lambast and laugh at their predecessors from the so-called Golden Age. Individual authors ally or square up to each other with ludicrous intensity. Lots of furious lit. crit. goes flying this way and that. Splat! Pow! Blood on the dancefloor. Oh, but the times, they are a-changing -- here comes the hard-SF revival to "take back" the genre, to barricade themselves in the genre cabin with their technophilic faith and new frontier spirit and hold off the weirdos for a while. Then cyberpunk kicks down the door all over again, proclaims itself dangerous and subversive (but over here, in this corner, some New Wave purists scoff).

And so it goes, drearily onward until we wind up squabbling all over again about how cool and cutting edge and unlike other fantasy writers we are in the New Weird, or more recently how hopelessly wrong and dangerously irresponsible anyone is if they're writing Faster than Light drives into their SF, or (see above) how goddamn fucking militant, humorless, and annoying anyone is who says it's off base to write FTL into ...

So forth."

I have great sympathy for what Richard says, yet at the same time I'm not sure I agree one hundred per cent. Now, I admit to openly dissing 'high' fantasy on this blog, although at the same time I made it clear it was purely a matter of personal taste; for a lot of people an interest in SF has gone hand in hand with an interest in fiction of the Tolkien/Elric/White Gold Wielder variety - just not me. In that respect, maybe I'm one of the guilty ones.

But still, I can't help feeling that all this posturing, infighting, and declarations of intent are the signs of a healthy genre. The reason people are arguing with each other is because they're passionate about what they believe in. I don't know that I'd necessarily prefer it if those same people were instead dispassionate about SF. If people weren't announcing manifestos, having flame-wars with each other and generally having wildly varying ideas about what sf is or isn't ... it would be kind of boring.

Wouldn't it?

To me, I'd say all the bitchiness is a sign that things aren't nearly so moribund within the genre as some have claimed. I'm not saying the arguments and fighting are always healthy, or necessarily mature; but I am saying it feels more alive than some genteel, mannered alternative. At least the way things are, it feels like people give a damn.
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