H II Regions, 21 August 2012
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SF: The Marx’t Generation
Very interesting albeit brief post by Tyler Cowen last week, concerning morality on blogs. While he is referencing economics blogs, the dimensions implied seem relevant to what I’m doing here. This ties into larger concerns of communication: how can we communicate effectively in a partisan world, how can we change each other’s minds?
Cosmic Vinegar wears its political and economic opinions on its sleeve.
A lot of writers, while not specifically arguing with me, take issue with the concept of “free art.” These writers want to be paid for their work–they want the recognition and the livelihood. My issue isn’t with either of those goals, I want people to read my work and I like eating, too. Nor are my concerns specifically with the hegemony of the major publishing houses. My argument is thus: modern capitalism is imperialism. It distorts incentives, enslaves people to commodities and debt, weakens workers’ rights, and imposes and reinforces an unnatural hierarchy across humanity.
But all the writers who defend their paycheck-seeking frequently sow doubts in my mind, about what I’m doing with Cosmic Vinegar and what I hope to gain from writing in general. To help understand this, reading an essay about a queer SFF analytic book and this review of a specific article within the book can begin to illuminate our topic. Queer analysis has a long tradition and helps frame my mission within a larger sense of “working from within.”
For example, from the review: “[The article is] a good piece on the ways that we read, and the value of reading for subtext”. This suggests that how we read is important in addition to what we read. Then, from the essay: “Being concerned with systems, the SF genre brings to the fore the importance of the system in the production of subjectivity.” Taking these two quotes, we understand we have an art that provokes discussion about the way we think, and a genre that provokes discussion about the systems we create. At a basic level, that is the entirety of human civilization: Having thoughts and adapting the world to these thoughts.
What stands out to me the most from these essays is the sense that they are not interested in studying overt queerness, i.e. queer characters living in a queer-friendly world, but they are interested in studying how the subtext in the stories reveals the relationship between queerness and our thoughts & systems. Through these analyses, they create space for queer identities and queer discussion. This, to me, is their value–and also the value of Cosmic Vinegar. By conducting post-capitalist and Marxist critiques of SF stories, we are creating space for post-capitalist views and beliefs. Despite the recognition and livelihood I want, I’d rather sacrifice my time to develop methods of seeing beyond the commodity-exchange that dominates art today.
Many of us understand and fight against the inequalities present in our world–but our art fails to do so. Primarily it fails through unimaginative storytelling, and secondarily it fails through traditional publishing methods. If you say the system is flawed and then funnel that message through the system, what is your true message?
But back to Cowen’s point. How do I convince more people of this? With moralizing or analysis? I don’t think it comes down to an either/or. You must use both moralizing and analysis to sway opinions (or as I would prefer to call it: rhetoric and facts). The problem is few people want to listen to someone with different opinions anymore.
What Matters More Than This
Recently came across the blog of Jay Lake, who is publicly blogging his fight against cancer. Most recent health updates can be found here from last week. Emotional stuff, I commend him for the honesty on display. We all must face our mortality at some point, sadly some of us earlier than others (Lake is 48). I have a particularly tough time with this concept and experience panic attacks whenever I get too far into the thoughts. Reading his fight is strengthening, however, and makes me wonder if I might do the same when my time comes.