Quote of the Day

From the pen of Gene Wolfe:

Science fiction’s fictional people are hard to make believable because they are likely to be remote from the writer’s experience. Who has known a Martian? A starship captain? A woman who has published scientific articles intended to prove that she is not a human being? If the writer cannot empathize with people who do not yet exist – and may never exist – he must stay out of science fiction.

My comment:

These is a second sort of person who must stay out of science fiction, or so I would offer: the critic who cannot comprehend a writer who empathizes with people who do not yet exist has no business pretending to be a judge of works in the genre.

The next time a termagant scolds you for having the wrong quota of minorities in a work of science fiction, one the grounds that you, the author, are a member of the wrong race or sex or background to be allowed to portray them, then the complaint assumes no author should or could portray anything beyond his own background: which, in other words, renders all of science fiction null and void.

By this logic, Verne may not write about Polish or Hindu submarine captains, because he is not one, nor about American gun manufacturers lofting an astronaut-bearing shell to the Moon; nor may Wells write about Martians, Lunarians or Morlocks because he is not one, nor about albino scientists who turn invisible, nor beast-men created by French mad scientists.

Only C.S. Lewis can write about travelling to Mars or Venus and meeting Sorns and the Green Lady and other souls created by Maleldil, because he himself is a creation of that same Creator.

And if you are going to tote up the minorities in an author’s work in order to denounce him to the Thought Police, at least take the time to get the race of the author’s characters correct.

In my personal case, the political correctness critics have been particularly incorrect. For example, here one zealously politically correct critic anathematizes yours truly for having Menelaus Montrose be White; whereas here another critic holds forth the unintentionally hillarious speculation that in COUNT TO A TRILLION, “one of the major characters is nicknamed Blackie, apparently because he’s Black.”

For the record, Menelaus Montrose, who describes himself as ‘purebred Tex-Mex’ is a meszito, a mix of Mexican and American Indian, and who voices contempt against ‘the Anglos’, whom he calls ‘blondies.’

Blondies live in the Northwest of the balkanized North America of the future. The other minorities mentioned in the text are the Nisei from Japan-controled California, the Mormons from the Salt Lake Meglopolis, and the Cathars from the radioactive ruins of New York.

I wrote under the assumption that science fiction readers, who are famed for having flexible imaginations, might be able to conceive a future where the racial divisions and biases were different from those current today. Political correctness ossifies that flexibility and sterilizes that ability to conceive.

Also, for the record, Ximen del Azarchel is originally from the occupied terratories in Andalusia, hence his race is ‘Dhimmi’, what we would currently call Spanish. He is actually lighter skinned than Meany, and handsomer. He is called ‘Blackie’ (as is everyone I have ever heard bear the nickname) because of his jet-black hair and dark eyes. He is also a black-hearted scoundrel of the first water.

A science fiction reader well read in the field will, of course, recognize these two characters as homages to Richard Seaton and ‘Blackie’ Du Quesne from SKYLARK OF SPACE.

Whether or no critics not well read in the field should be holding forth their opinion is a open to debate. An ignoramus or a novice might have useful insights nonetheless. Whether or not a critic should libel a book he has not read is not.