The People Who Sing Them Have No Social Conscience

So, I’m a little thrown off my stride today by receiving another e-mail from a reader who is of the opinion that, while okay, maybe not message fiction, but that I need to be more socially conscious in my writing, perhaps a bit less impractically utopian and touching on/incorporating a few of the real-world issues of the day, especially those ending in -ism.

Well, here’s why that’s not going to happen, said here so that I can use it as a FAQ for future reference.

Firstly, while it is often said by various people, especially in the critical sector, that the purpose of fiction in general and science fiction in general is to reflect on real life, I do not hold with that. (Yes, granted, I have fallen off the wagon once or twice.) A world should exist for its own sake and have its own issues arising from its internal logic, otherwise it lacks integrity. It may, in some ways, be applicable – in whatever people draw from it – to real life and its issues, but it shouldn’t be purposive in being it, or else it’s always somehow hollow.

Secondly, I am aware of the the various issues ending in -ism – and oh so many more that have not yet been granted such a word – and the pettiness, ugliness, and menial brutality deriving therefrom and perpetrated upon all sides. That’s the gloriously shitty monkey heritage of mankind, folks, and if you live on Earth, whether you grow six layers of callus, spend your days wrapping yourself in cotton wool, or plunge straight into the putrid mass, it’s virtually impossible not to have to acknowledge that it’s there. But I see no particular virtue in keeping my imagination there, too.

If I wanted to write poison, I’d be a journalist. If I wanted to read sewage, I’d follow the news. If you’re looking for worlds featuring the per-diem grotesqueries of human existence, you are shopping in the wrong store, and sorry to say, you always will be.

Because I am an impractical Utopian, and I do write in a universe where the protagonists’ culture, by and large, has escaped – or never had – our genetic and memetic/cultural impulses to be total bastards; in which life is good; people are happy and refrain, by and large, from being assholes to each other; Light and Dark (if not the rather fuzzier Good and Evil) are clearly defined; and the ethically, axiomatically, mathematically-wrong people who perpetrate those sorts of things exist largely to be punched in the face by the (metaphorical or literal) spacemagic fists of doom of bright, shining idealists, thereupon ceasing to be a problem. The literature of hope, and all that, and yes, also the literature of escapism. And proud of it. Sometimes people need to stop looking around and take a moment to look up.

Because, thirdly and in turn, if you can’t even imagine a better world, what damn chance have you ever got of building one?

8 thoughts on “The People Who Sing Them Have No Social Conscience

  1. i agree with your message entierly. not only is it just nice to see/read about nice things and stories, but we must see what the perfect wolrd looks like before we can get there. i will be quoting you on the looking up thing. i think to many people have given up on the wolrd ever being different to how it is now, or trying to shape it to how they would like it to be.

    on a related note, i was horrify to discover recently that my classmates feel that death is a neccesary part of life.

  2. I agree and assent with you in totality. As an ardent idealist-dreamer and firm believer of viable Utopia(and dedicated fan of Science/Utopian fictions), my opinion is just your opinion, and my heart is with you, and I will always love your world, both in good and bad times.

  3. Allow me to add some mass to the other side of the balance – some days I gently roll my eyes and smile at your transhumanist/atheist utopian fantasies. People who claim that your writing isn’t ‘socially conscious’ enough apparently haven’t read it very much, or well. But we might have different ideas of what ‘enough’ is in that context, those people and me.

    All that said – keep doing what you’re doing! It’s a fun read. I appreciate the rigor of how you develop your world and it’s denizens, and I look forward to your posts, especially the ‘life on a merchant freighter’ type stuff.

    • Thank you kindly, sir.

      Although I might quibble somewhat with “atheist”. Asupernaturalist, certainly, but there’s still divinity and religion, with a snifter of Shinto, a tot of Teilhard, and a pottle of Plato.

  4. Others have said what I’m thinking as well as I might, so I’ll just channel Ambassador Delenn here and say “abso-fragging-lutely, dammit!”

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