It’s time for another installment of literary linking: food for thought, wherein I gather up articles of interest from the bookish blogosphere for our collective enjoyment. Do let me know your thoughts – I’m interested in your takes on these issues!
There’s a lot more silly gatekeeping in science fiction than there used to be. A lot of people are deeply invested in keeping other people from loving the things that they love. No, I don’t get it, either.
And so it’s now twice as important to say as loud as we can: Science fiction is for everybody. Science fiction is for anybody who cares about science and futurism, and wants to imagine how the world will be, or could be, different. Science fiction is the truest expression of the terrifying beauty of life in an age where we wear computers (and maybe soon, computers will wear us.) You can’t own any of this, or deny anybody else their right to be both passionate and critical. If your life has been touched by science, then science fiction is for you.
Certain ways of avoiding a childbirth scene in contemporary fiction have become almost predictable, as clichéd as the clothes scattered on the floor in a movie rated PG-13: the frantic car ride to the hospital, followed by a jump cut to the new baby; or the played-for-laughs episode of the laboring woman screaming at her clueless husband, followed by a jump cut to the new baby. What happened to what actually happens?
When Eleven Hours had been accepted for publication in the U.S. and my agent was shopping it abroad, a publisher that had taken one of my earlier books turned it down. “Sales and marketing did not feel confident they would know how to pitch it,” I was told. “It’s such a specific experience recounted here.”
Such a specific experience? You mean, one that billions of women have been through? Did not feel confident they would know to pitch it? The novel, as I saw it, was about the severe challenge to mind and body that childbirth is for a woman, just as combat is a severe challenge to the minds and bodies of men. Would any publisher ever claim that they wouldn’t know how to pitch a war narrative?
About six or seven months ago, Kirkus started identifying characters in children’s and teen books by identity and/or race—all the time. And it hasn’t been easy.
I realize that this is going against a centuries-old tradition in literature written in English, which from its inception has assumed that both audience and characters are white unless stated otherwise. From before it appeared on European maps, however, America has been a multicultural place, but when literature written in English arrived on its shores along with smallpox, it did not adjust to its new reality. Characters in the earliest American literature are assumed to be white unless they are savages, blackamoors, or any number of other dehumanizing words. Our literature was coded so that it was populated by people, that is to say white people, or nonhumans. We’ve gotten better, for the most part, but white is still our default, so now we have literature populated by people and Other people.
Unmaking the White Default – Kirkus Reviews
So I say, “I am a book editor.”
And then the someone new launches into a monologue on their pet hates about punctuation and grammar and what gets published in newspapers and magazines and how it’s all wrong because it’s not what they learned in school.
They are always – always – wrong.
They think that the rules they learned in school are the right rules for every occasion. I am a polite person, mostly, so I never ask them what year their teacher taught them this, and what year their teacher might have been taught this by their teacher, and what year that teacher’s teacher’s teacher might have been taught this. We are back in the 19th century by now. They think that fiction should follow the same rules as non-fiction. They have no idea about register, voice, tone, about how fiction works.
In recent years, scholars have tried to get to grips with the multinational, many-headed and endlessly generative industry that is 21st century Shakespeare. Influenced by economic globalization theory, some have described him as a symbol of what the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has termed “liquid modernity,” or a model of free-flowing cultural capital along the lines suggested by the anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu. Out of copyright, endlessly reinterpretable and reinventable, his plays and poems transcend languages and borders; they are owned by no one, which means that they can be owned by anyone. Much as it is impossible to estimate the cultural impact the works have had over the last four centuries, the amount of income they have generated surely defies calculation. And while some might find the notion of spinoffs in Klingon or Bardic merch (wind-up dolls, bath toys, dolls) cringeworthy, if it helps more people encounter these astonishing and piercing works of art—so what?