Tuesday News: The SFF and Speech Edition
Traditionally, “hard” SF is taken to mean that the story tries to violate known scientific facts as little as possible, once the central premise (usually counter to scientific facts) has been chosen. This is how authors get away with FTL travel and werewolves. The definition sounds obvious but it has two corollaries that many SF authors forget to the serious detriment of their work.
The first is that the worldbuilding must be internally consistent within each secondary universe. If you envision a planet circling a double sun system, you must work out its orbit and how the orbit affects the planet’s geology and hence its ecosystems. If you show a life form with five sexes, you must present a coherent picture of their biological and social interactions. Too, randomness and arbitrary outcomes (often the case with sloppily constructed worlds and lazy plot-resolution devices) are not only boring, but also anxiety-inducing: human brains seek patterns automatically and lack of persuasive explanations makes them go literally into loops. –Starship Reckless
Yes, change is incredibly terrifying, and there will be pushback and threats and dudes on the internet loudly declaring that you are a big vagina as if that is the worst possible thing a human being can be. But this is not yet Nazi-occupied France, my friends.
Are there ramifications for speaking up? Sure. Muting people can get tedious. But you’re still more likely to be hit by a bus than shivved by a sobbing internet mob.
We are made of tougher stuff than we can ever imagine. –Kameron Hurley
Martin’s basic argument is that death and rape threats, and related speech, should not be tolerated, and that it flourishes in environments where there is no check in the form of strong dissenting voices. He calls on both the left and the right to check this kind of speech, and in many ways he helped me understand my own thinking on the issue at this point. Namely that I still believe that the best antidote to bad speech is more speech, but in order to have more speech, you have to have an environment in which that other speech can be heard. In a public square, everyone must be there in person and stand up for/behind their words. Online, though, that is not the case, and I think this is where the argument for moderation becomes really important to the cultivation of safe discussion spaces. Of course, what feels safe for some people won’t feel safe for others, which highlights the importance of many different spaces, but we definitely seem to be at a point where no moderation means likely self-destruction.
Are there any limits to free speech?
That’s a question I have been pondering a lot of late, as the storms of Puppygate swirl all around me. My own politics are liberal… which means I lean left, but not way over to the fringe left. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to dissent, all of that has always been central to my political attitudes. The freedom of the artist to create should be absolute. I have always been against censorship, silencing, McCarthyism. (The McCarthy period, a particular fascination of mine, was one of the blackest eras in American history. The Time of the Toad, Dalton Trumbo called it; Trumbo was one of its victims). . . .
Of late, I have begun to fear that the Time of the Toad has returned. Only this time, thanks to the internet, the Toad is much larger. This Toad is Tsathoggua, for all you Lovecraft fans out there. And this toad is so huge and monstrous and venomous, and seems to have so many friends and fans and worshippers, that it has begun to shake even my long-held fervent belief in the sanctity of free speech… and the basic decency of human beings. –Not a Blog
I am focusing on building — on creation, on doing work — because it is what I can do. There was a time when I had more energy to write posts ripping racist arguments to shreds, critiquing oppressive power structures. No longer. But, truly, this work is no less difficult, requires no less courage — in fact, it requires more. I say this to the voices in my head telling me I have gone soft and weak, and to voices I have seen saying that to put one’s nose to the grindstone is to acquiesce to silence, a form of surrender. But this is my form of speaking out; this is my resistance. Every time I sit down to create art or to try and cobble some sentences or lines together, that is my battle. To create, to build, to love; this isn’t soft. I think of Perelandra manifest: “fiery, sharp, bright and ruthless, ready to kill, ready to die, outspeeding light…” I believe in love. As shield and sword, as song, as revolution and resistance, as defiance. –Awitin Mo