Reading this comment today, about her Hugo award for blogging, Kameron Hurley mentioned how surprised she was to be awarded due to the passion and intensity of her posts given that Sci-Fi/Fantasy critics, publishers, etc are very resistant to change. Having not read her blog before today, I can presume that this is because of a counter-cultural perspective of airing the frustrations with her peers when they conform to formula stories; afraid to break out of the mould.
I read this with some astonishment, honestly, because here we are, delving into stories, ideas, other worlds and so on – looking for an escape, looking for ourselves, finding something different but also familiar; running far away, yet finding ourselves back home as well. But we can’t have too much of that because, well, dear readers, it better be marketable and sellable, lucrative, growth-earning-ratio-to-some-economist-term-I-never-really-studied-this-field-much. GAH! Are you kidding me? This is the world(s) I’m living (traveling across space/time continuum) in?! It sounds like the start of a joke, “So there’s this Science Fiction author whose afraid of change and new things and risk and the unknown . . .”
Yea, we have a name for those folks – they’re called “Serious Writers” and they don’t do genre fiction, they work in the normal routine of life, forging it into the next Great American Novel. I know, I know, there are many daring Serious authors. Working their non-genre spellcraft of prose bending into the staid, suburban life that still transports you across moonbeams and sunsets without being magical or otherworldly but still feeling as though they are.
Gosh folks, if there were ever more patent evidence that humans have a problem with change across all cultures, borders, organizations, clubs, institutions, departments, villages and mud huts, you couldn’t find it in more pristine representation than the SF/F group that can’t quite seem to find new ideas to make money from. The department I work in, the church I go to, the town I live in, the state legislature I vote for – all of these places are juggling unwieldy lumps of uncertainty as they move into the future from a known past and it creates fear. Each of these looks outwardly brave and inwardly frightened with varying degrees of capability to face the same old, same ‘ol.
Yet, perhaps for Ms. Hurley’s industry, that’s the newest change of all. Perhaps by her award, as she acknowledges, SF/F has begun to look at itself and found something unexpected. Writers who are bold enough to look hard at themselves, each other, their writing, the state of their market and platform, call it like it is, do something about it and move on.
The fear of losing what we’ve known, whether it be profits, accolades, readers, or the plain comfort of none of these – just your own voice on its own page – melts away when we finally embrace the change that cannot be stopped anyway. There you find the bracing cold freshness of new horizons; unknown places devoured by ready audiences sated from a hunger they didn’t know was there.
I long to be found in awkwardly new places brimming with risks both grand and bawdy. If I had the capacity to write them myself, I would. Perhaps someday, I will.