by Doctor Science
What do they have in common? Nothing I can think of, except I've talked about both today and I'm copypasting my remarks here, for reference and so other people can chime in. Talk about books! It's one of my favorite things.
Redshirts by John Scalzi.
John Ringo decided to Explain It All To You: Understanding SJW logic and why it is destroying science fiction. He changed his mind and took down the post, but not quickly enough. Among his gems of wisdom:
To the Social Justice Warriors of Science Fiction publishing and fandom, the true and only purpose of science fiction is to promote increased equity in the arena of social justice.-- by that last sentence, Ringo means "voted to kick out Vox Day for using organizational resources to make grossly racist and insulting statements about other writers." Militant stuff, you see.
One clear example that I know of: Redshirts.
Redshirts by John Scalzi was a fairly banal Star Trek fan-fic that featured a cast of Security that as I was told (never read it) was a fair SJW cross-section.
John Scalzi, although a cis-male, has relentlessly promoted social justice in various venues including purging the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America of persons who oppose the militant social justice approach or were otherwise in the way of promoting social justice.
Anyway, Scalzi thought this was absurd:
It is, in fact probably the least racially/sexually diverse book I've written BECAUSE the characters were supposed to reflect a BAD show.In the subsequent discussion of Redshirts and how social justice-y it isn't, I commented:
Indeed, when the TV script for it was written, they CHANGED the sex of a couple of characters to make it more diverse! This is true.
So it really is a bad example of a Social Justice-y sort of book. Much worse, in fact, than my OMW series in general.
I spend a lot of time on tumblr, native habitat of SJWs — I'm told I'm really more of a Social Justice Druid, myself.
For me, Redshirts was a pitifully inadequate, even timorous take on an issue we spend a lot of time discussing on tumblr. The reality in the TV & movie industry is that characters who aren't SWMs are disproportionately redshirted, or fridged, or otherwise killed off for the sake of the SWM leads' manpain and "personal growth".
Most of the redshirts in Redshirts are SWMs, so the text completely avoids noticing how many classes of people, watching a show like this one, have to armor ourselves against identifying with the people who look like us — because the people who look like us are going to be killed, or raped, or otherwise end badly.
I'm really glad to hear that the TV series may be including more non-SWM redshirts, but I wonder if that means they're going to engage with issues of representation, with how it feels when having a certain identity means you're bound to die "for the sake of the story".
Meanwhile at Making Light, a discussion of the Hugo awards drifted into talk about C.S. Lewis. Kelly Jennings commented:
I recently taught Till We Have Faces in a class on Mythic Fiction, here in Northwest Arkansas. About a third of my students were Evangelical & Homeschooled Christians, and thus big fans of Lewis, since he was very nearly the only fantasy writer they had ever been allowed to read, growing up (or even yet, I suspect). The rest, though, were standard issue American young adults / returning students (Veterans and older women and laid-off workers).I replied:
All of which is to say -- nearly all of them, even many of the Evangelical students, disliked Till We Have Faces intensely.
I also didn't like it. While I can see what Lewis is after, it feels very much as though he is rigging the game in that novel, if you see what I mean -- manipulating the actions of the characters to achieve the outcome he desires.
I don't (that is) believe those characters would in fact act that way. I believe Lewis wants to say something about mortal love v. Holy Love*, and thus constructed a plot that would let him say that thing.
It feels like a dishonest book, is what I am saying, I guess.
How odd. I LOVE Till We Have Faces, it's my favorite Lewis by far.Kelly replied:
Why I love it (caveat: I haven't re-read it in 15-20 years): it's the *only* book I can think of which is really, truly about the "ugly princess", the one whom no-one *ever* thinks is beautiful, and who is never the object of anyone's desire.
Lewis really seems to understand, on a gut level, how defining beauty and its lack can be for women, how bitter and helpless it can make a woman feel.
See, that's one of the things I dislike most about the book.I replied:
For two reasons: (1) Yes, I know beauty is *supposed* to be the only thing that is important about a woman, but that is very much working from the Male Gaze, isn't it?
I mean, I know plenty of women who don't, in fact, have their lives ruined by their lack of beauty -- who have perfectly rich, valuable, and happy lives despite not being as lovely as the dawn.
And (2) I was also deeply annoyed that Lewis used the Queen's ugliness as both a symbol of her fallen soul *and* as the cause of her bitterness -- that is, it is her ugliness that makes her betray her sister: because she envies and hates her sister's beauty. So ugly women, you see, are wicked women. Only the beautiful woman is a good woman.
So I suppose what I mean is not that I dislike Lewis making an ugly woman his main character; I dislike what he then does with that main character.
I read it almost the opposite to you. Lewis didn't *make* the character "wicked", he started with a character who was supposed to be wicked and showed how she was human.
Lewis was writing fanfic, based on Cupid/Psyche (and any number of other myths & fairy tales). He asks the question, "why is the ugly sister always the bad one, and the beautiful sister the good one? How is that fair and right?"
Growing up (I was born in the mid-50s, so I'm probably a generation older than you) I felt this question *very* strongly and personally. It was a revelation to me to see a man who felt it, too.
What Till We Have Faces shows, for me, is Lewis saying that where men have the power and the Male Gaze is in fact a determining factor in women's lives -- a situation that seemed to me, as a child in the 60s, an accurate description of reality, not to mention accurate for historical reality -- ugly women become non-persons, and being a non-person is *bad* for people.
He's saying, suffering doesn't "ennoble" people, it doesn't make people better -- it *hurts*, and it keeps hurting, and the scars it leaves are actual impairments.
Orual isn't "wicked" (as the ugly sister is in a fairy tale or the original story), she's *hurt* and does the wrong thing in her pain. But she's also strong -- and her experience with suffering, her ability to keep going even though she's hurting, actually helps Psyche. Orual bears Psyche's pain and lightens her burden -- but Lewis doesn't show that making Orual's life all good and sweet.
Coincidentally, the only non-Puppy nominated for Best Pro Artist this year is last year's winner, Julie Dillon. I was surprised to learn that she's no relation to Leo & Diane, because the ethnic diversity of her models reminded me of theirs -- a rarity in SF/F, then and now.