What’s Your Story? – David Pascoe
I was about five when it happened. The first time, at least. I was minding my own business (maybe building something with my *meager* store of Legos, maybe ignoring my little sister. Probably both) when the Pop Dave put a strange and archaic object into the now-ancient (and quite defunct) device. Within moments, my conscious mind was ripped from my body and transport through time and space to a galaxy far, far away. I was no longer not-yet-kilteDave. I was a young moisture farmer on the run from the Empire! I was a budding, young Jedi with my father’s
laserswordlightsaber, and the galaxy’s most evil man chasing me. Later on, I was member of the Captain’s away team (that job didn’t last very long).
After I learned to read – and got a library card – things really took off. I can’t remember all the times some kooky old guy told me I was the Chosen One, destined to topple the Dark Lord from his Dark Tower in the middle of his Dark Land. (Except for all the times the Dark Lord was a Dark Lady: hey, equal opportunity tyrant-remover, me.) I remember being a free trader, plying the spaceways. At least until the pirate attack that left half my crew dead. I’ve been a Terran Marine on strange planets, facing attack from without and mutiny from within. I’ve been a young girl, just learning about magic. I’ve been an ancient cyborg, working toward reacquainting a lost colony with the greater universe using meager resources and great wit. I’ve even done time as a clever spy, trying to keep the world from flying into a war nobody can afford, using only my cunning and charm. I’ve been a gold miner, a castaway, a stowaway, a gunslinger, a lawman, and outlaw, a scofflaw, a law-breaker, a conman, a thief, a rogue, a scoundrel, a marine, a sailor, an airman, a spaceman, a spacewoman, a space-something, and that barely scratches the surface of the people and roles books have opened to me.
I’m not bringing this up to boast about what I’ve read, or how much (not in this crowd), so much as to illustrate the depth to which reading science fiction and fantasy has informed my understanding of reality. I’ve learned about the structure – if not necessarily the attitude – of the Roman legions. I’ve learned about human nature, and how to read it. I’ve picked up tricks of leadership, and practiced observation of ethics and politics that began with my reading of scifi. And, of necessity, the voices (and attitudes) of the authors I’ve read have informed my attitudes toward same.
Makes me glad I read a bunch of libertarians and crypto-libertarians in my early life (though they fight in my head with the feudalists. Darnit, fantasy).
I’m going to venture into dangerous territory, here, and start generalizing (just a little bit). As an Odd, and usually not knowing any better, the content of the stories I’ve digested has come to shape by understanding of reality, per the above. From that, I’m going to guess (here’s the thin ice part) that most Odds are at least somewhat similar. Consequently – and I’m cutting a lot of shorts, here – the folks in the thick of the traditional publishing world have become acculturated to the stories that they grew up consuming.
Except instead of heroic work, they grew up imbibing, and digesting in, less … less freeing stories. Oh, sure, the Sexual Revolution promised freedom, along with the Age of Aquarius, but the legacy of those seems to be more a matter of anarchy (freedom of a sort, though mostly to die. Alone. In the rain) than freedom to thrive. And then there was the New Wave (chronologically they were more or less concurrent, though I expect the scifi fans had better parties), and its legacy of lit-ra-chewer (nose-inna-air) and literary “importance,” which has cast a pall over genre fiction into the present day. Through it all winds the taint of cultural Marxism.
And that’s the mindset operant in traditional publishing, and to an extent in the culture in general. Collective rights and responsibilities, but also merged (bizarrely) with the American mythos. Case in point: they believe they’re the little guy, fighting the Man for their piece of the American Dream. It’s a toxic brew, especially with the admixture of intersectionalist identity politics, as they are convinced they’re in the right. After all, there actually was a time when they were (more or less) powerless. It’s just that that particular time was decades ago, and now they hold the reins. Except … except in their minds. Or they simply justify their abuses by making a villain out of those who (however inadvertently) create genuine paths to freedom.
There’s a lot of cuts I’m shorting, in large part using the shared jargon of our particular in-group. The next step is usually a “and now go thou, and do likewise.” Only, I’ve been thinking on it, and I’m not sure there’s much to be done that we aren’t already doing. Those who aren’t writers, read. (subliminaladvertising*read our books*subliminaladvertising) And pass that on to someone who heretofore hasn’t read. Or play games that uplift the soul. Or make things, engage in citizen science, learn skills, do something to loosen the grip of the powers that be.
Those of us who create stories keep doing so, and making them Human Wave, or Superversive, or whatever label we choose to apply, but we tap those worlds where people are heroic. Where the little guy (or gal, leave us not be discriminatory based on base plumbing attachments, after all) stands up to evil. Motives surely won’t be pure, after all, they’re still human, but somewhere in there they’re doing the right thing because it’s the right thing. And most of all, let them be fun. We’re not preaching; we’re entertaining. It’s more important.