Over the last few years, there have been doctrinal ructions over “purity of genre” in the SF/F world, with definite gendered and racialized intent, not coincidentally as those other than white males have become both visible and visibly successful in SF/F.
Romantic/erotic, relationship, and/or community themes apparently corrupt “hard SF” — particularly if the folks writing them are women, people of color, GLBT folks. Let’s not forget that “genre” and “gender” are two faces of the same thing: subdivisions of the world, often on arbitrary lines.
(An aside: “hard SF” is conveniently defined as physics-and-engineering-based. Biological sciences somehow don’t count, methinks because such luminaries as Joan Slonczewski, Lois McMaster Bujold, et al, are inconveniently gendered. As someone who actually read Hawking & Ellis, I’m going to say that the complexity and terrifying potential of biology–self replicating molecules, y’all!–far outstrips anything I wrestled with in mathematical cosmology.)
In following this uproar, I started following the writers who spoke up about the contempt with which themes of relationship were met in the mainstream SF world. I hesitate to call it a “community” except in the sense of community represented by the medieval church, contemporary academia, or Machiavelli’s Florence: a cutthroat city-state riven by violent internal strife, with the greater weight of said strife falling on the less privileged.
I first had a try at this theme in considering the question of happy endings back in December 2011. I have a lot of colleagues who consider themselves proud members of Team Romance, among them my buddy Devin Harnois and the incomparable space-opera writer Ann Aguirre. Aguire I began following because of her speaking out on the contempt for women in SF; I bought Grimspace, the first of the five-volume Sirantha Jax series, and I was hooked.
Other writers I started following around that time include (to name only the ones that come to mind right now): Ann Leckie, Genevieve Valentine, Seanan McGuire, Aliette de Bodard, Yoon Ha Lee, N. K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Kris Rusch (as a fiction writer–she’s also a brilliant nonfiction mentor as the author of The Freelancer’s Survival Guide). I was already a devotee of such classic writers as Lois McMaster Bujold (to whom I owe the insight about the word “genre”), Octavia Butler, Joanna Russ, Tananarive Due, all of whom have influenced the way I think about other cultures.
Devin Harnois, my NaNoWriMo buddy since 2008, steered me gently but inexorably toward the left wing of Team Romance. As I got more active on Twitter, I met the good folks of Queer Romance Month, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’ve also gotten involved with the organizers of #BlackWritersChat and #BlackComicsChat and met some wonderful young fanartists and comic-book artists.
The title of this series, of course, is a riff on a very-well-known love story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who somehow does not get classified as One of Those Fluffheads From Romancelandia.
Part 1 will appear next Monday, and will discuss three brilliant studies of relationship, obligation, conflict, trust, and love. Per my notes for a manifesto, I’m going to talk about what I learned about world-building, relationships, and culture from these three worlds.
- Aliette de Bodard. On a Red Station, Drifting
- Alexis Hall. There Will Be Phlogiston
- Julio Alexi Genao. When You Were Pixels
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