So, yesterday, I happened across this little nugget of hotly contested opinion. I’m not going to argue Mr. Cook’s points because, (a) it’s an opinion piece and (b) I don’t care about what he does or doesn’t consider Science-Fiction. Just like I don’t care about what is or is not New Pulp or Lovecraftian Fiction or Steampunk or whatever other arbitrary genre classification tag you’ve got your teeth in.
That said, what follows is a disorganized mess of thoughts that I felt like sharing, because its my blog and I can delete it later if I feel like it.
If you want to spend your time defining the entirely arbitrary limits imposed upon your chosen genre by market forces outside of your control, rather than, say, adding to said genre, or enjoying the fruits of said genre, you go on with your bad self. More power to you. Do as thou wilt, said the bald-headed beast.
Here’s the thing though…the reason I link to Cook’s piece above, is that it is a picture-perfect example of what happens when someone says something innocuous, but says it like an asshole. Cook seems to be under the misapprehension that the people who disagree with him hate him because they dislike his opinion. He’s speaking up and sharing an unpopular belief, and they can’t stand him for it.
But that ain’t it. It’s because he came off as a bit of an asshole. See, arbitrary genre discussions ain’t got a lot of–whatchacall–importance. None of that shit matters, and most people know that, and keep it civil. It’s like arguing about sports teams, you know? You keep it civil, have a few beers and compare SEC rankings.
And then somebody says something stupid. Or, in this case, posts a piece about what is and what ain’t Science-Fiction in as dismissively generalizing a manner as possible, and then gets pre-emptively defensive about it in the closing paragraph. Because pre-emptive defensiveness is the sign of a man certain in the rectitude of his opinion.
In some discussions, on some topics, how you say shit is more important than what shit you is saying. Not all discussions, not all topics. Some stuff is too important to be polite about.
But some shit like this? About what books you don’t like, and how they ain’t nothing but girly novels, what with the dresses and the kissing and such, and if you disagree you’re an enemy of free expression? See, you can spit facts as blunt as you want. That up there I linked to? That ain’t a fact, it’s an opinion, which means it behoves the owner not to share it in an insulting and/or condescending manner (as I am now doing), if they expect civil discourse to result.
Because that’s the whole damn point about sharing an opinion on books or television shows or genres of said consumables–you want to talk about ’em, preferably with other people. Which means you don’t play the asshole card. If you have an opinion, people will disagree with it. That’s life.
And as I said, there are times and subjects where sulphur and thunder should permeate every paragraph, things that are too important to be nice about and ain’t, by any description, fun. Sometimes that shit even has to do with Science-Fiction and the like. When you’re dealing with misogyny and racism and such in the genre and the publishing business, pungency in tone is, from what I’ve witnessed, sadly necessary in order to alert people to the seriousness of that shit.
But talking, in general, about Science-Fiction and Fantasy and Gandalf and stuff? Talking about what defines a book as being of one genre or another? That IS supposed to be fun. If you invite a damn discussion about that kind of thing, don’t wuss out because people point out none of what you said made any goddamn sense, or tell you you’re wrong. You roll with it. You discuss. Maybe you change your mind, maybe you change theirs, maybe nothing happens except you kill an hour having a conversation like a goddamn adult.
And if you act like an asshole, don’t be surprised when you find that nobody wants to agree with you except other assholes.