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?