Tribalism in SF – Sanford Begley
Humans are a tribal species. We all have tribes we belong to and resonate with. That doesn’t mean the tribe is monolithic for us, just that those in various tribes have similar views on various subjects. For example I fit into the MilSf tribe rather handily. i like the genre and communicate well with most of the tribe members. While most of us will read some varying amount of social consciousness SF we are not driven by its precepts. If the social consciousness drowns out the story we are unhappy. Similarly if the gun geeking that can be a part of MilSF overpowers the story line it will drive away the social conscious readers.
The problem then becomes how much is too much. It really depends on how powerful the story is. Speaking for myself the social consciousness in Scalzi’s Old Mans War was more than covered by the gripping nature of the MilSF elements. I know others who felt his message got in the way. Joe halderman’s Forever War actually had more message but had fewer people bothered by the messaging. On the other end of the scale we have If You Were A Dinosaur My love. Which was all message and not even remotely SF by my standards. Those of my tribe use it as an example of what is wrong with the other tribe.
The problem with this is that tribes have traditionally gone to war over differences. We in SF are little different. The ones who favor hardware and story are engaged in a long running battle with those who favor message. The war has had gruesome casualties. Any number of authors have been driven to other genres, even quit writing rather than engage. Neither side seems to be able to read what the other side actually writes. We filter through our own prejudices and don’t necessarily even understand what the other side is saying. This leads to a well known author on the Social side printing what are, in effect, flat out lies about what an editor on the MilSF side wrote in an editorial, The authors fan base rallied behind him. They all claim that the lies he wrote were what the editor said rather than reading what she said and seeing the truth.
Similarly I have seen bloggers on the MilSF side read objections from the social side and go on the attack. not because the person on the social side actually said anything that wasn’t true, simply because the blogger interpreted things in the worst possible light.
The sad thing is that except for the extremists on either side, neither is right or wrong, simply different. This is seriously exacerbated by a small but vicious and vocal minority on one side that attacks everything said by the other and flat out lies constantly. Besmirching the name and reputation of others, even on their own side that will not Kowtow to their radical stance.
What i would like to see on a daily basis is for both sides to reach out and try to find common ground. We will never agree, but we should remember that we have a common enemy. The Mundanes may overrun both tribes some day if we can’t join together. We all mourned the passing of Spock. I wish we could remember our common grounds without the loss of more of our own.