So yesterday I went to Crunch Gym to take part in my first Cardio Sculpting class. The instructor was a handsome young man whose name was either Steven or Sven. I suspect Steven since he was black and most black mothers don’t go in for Swedish names, but it sounded like Sven. Sven did cruel and unusual things to that class, and I’m not entirely convinced that he likes humanity. I don’t much like humanity after that class, because I’m in a remarkable amount of pain today. Ow.
In line with my newfound distaste for humanity, I had an incredibly bitter thought this morning (as I creaked and groaned my way out of bed). Speculative fiction and the GOP: separated at birth?
Remove (most of) the hats, and this could be a panel audience at most of the SF cons I’ve been to. Add in a few more women, maybe, and the occasional child. But this is what I saw at Boskone, at Worldcon 4 or 5 years ago, and at Readercon. (Wiscon is better — mostly female, a wider color palette, broader range of sexual identity. Arisia was younger and kinkier. But Wiscon and Arisia are niche cons, deliberately targeting audiences that don’t feel comfortable at the general cons, so they’re probably not a good measure.) I’m planning to go to World Fantasy this year for the first time, so we’ll see if that’s any better. But really? I’m not expecting much of a difference.
I bring this up because I am convinced that the GOP is Dead Party Walking. Politics are secondary to this conclusion on my part; just look at that photo. Even the Washington Post noticed it and was like, WTF? The Republicans have basically given up on trying to diversify. Apparently they feel they don’t need it; they can do fine with the audience they’ve got. Worse, they don’t seem to see a problem with it. Their anti-immigration stance has lost them the extremely powerful Latino/a vote; none of them seem to care. Their anti-gay-marriage stance lost them the GLBT vote ages ago. The gloves have been off through this whole presidential campaign on the subject of race, but now they’re not even bothering to hide their contempt for middle/upper class people of color. I think Palin is a sign too: she’s another Ann Coulter demagogue, perfectly content to allow herself and her family to be used by the old white men in power, happy to deny other women the same freedoms she’s enjoyed. This is the only kind of woman the GOP seems to find acceptable.
And that photo is the result. It’s like they wanted it this way from the very beginning.
Now, here’s what gets me. Even if the GOP manages to get the White House and some seats in Congress in the next few years, they’re not going to be able to hold on to them unless they make some drastic changes to the political system of this country. Think about what America looks like, and what that image looks like. In less than 40 years, simple demographics will make the GOP as anachronistic as the Know-Nothings, and consigned to the same place in history. And their strategy for dealing with this long-term doom seems to be… fetch handbasket, climb in, chart course for Hell. I understand that the role of conservativism is to resist progress, but this is effing ridiculous.
But my ugly thought was this. SF is headed down the same dead-end path. There have been efforts to steer it elsewhere, yes, some with greater amounts of success than others. The appearance of new magazines that contain a more varied ToC than just “old white guy ad infinitum” makes me happy. The fact that book publishers — including my own — seem more willing to take a chance on female and PoC protagonists makes me happy too. But these are glacial changes, and dammit — the asteroid has already hit. We’re in the Brave New World. The warning signs are already here: the abysmal circulation numbers of the “Big Three”, the poor advances for book authors (yeah, OK, I know, but bear with me), the graying of the fandom, the successful poaching of our potential readership by the romance and YA markets. Yet though many people in the industry are worrying about this, discussing it, ranting about it, I still see almost no effort on the part of the influencers and the gatekeepers to make necessary changes. Hell, I still see many influencers and gatekeepers protesting that there’s no need to change. Everything’s fine. The handbasket won’t start burning until we’re actually in the Ninth Circle, so don’t sweat it.
The consequences of our failure to adapt will not be catastrophic. There’s lots of interest in SF subject matter out there. But those of us who produce that subject matter will have to move into other niches to do it, because the niche known as “the speculative fiction genre” will be gone.
That’s cool by me. I already write “novels with strong romantic elements” according to the RWA, so if I play my cards right, I can jump genres if the worst should occur. Been thinking about writing some YA, too. But where does that leave the other thousands of SF writers who do category science fiction and fantasy? All the young writers hoping to make a living in this genre? Those readers who don’t want strong romantic elements or plucky teenaged protagonists in their stuff? What will they do if genre SF dies?
And at my most bitter, I wonder if it’s already too late. I wonder if SF has traveled too far down the dead-end path; if we’ve already turned off too many potential non-old-white-guy readers with no hope of luring them back at this point. I’ve written off the GOP. Should I also write off SF?
(Photo gacked from Alas, A Blog.)