I’ve been reading brutal satire lately. It feels like cleansing my palate, brushing off cobwebs, struggling out of a too-tight sweater that was given me by an easily-wounded elderly relative who’s been here for an extended visit… OK, that metaphor got a little out of control. But it’s how I feel when I pick up something like Lightning Rods or The Sellout.
After spending years reading SFF, my jaw drops when I pick up something like this. She didn’t just say that! Did he really — holy crap!
Then I go to google, expecting a hundred reviews calling out these books for sexism, racism, general problematicality, and find nothing. The folks who put every SFF novel, comic book or movie under a social justice microscope have nothing to say about these books. It is as if I’ve stepped into an alternate universe with completely different standards.
I suppose this is the nature of genre. Someone who picks up a romance with a soft-focus cover would not be pleased to find Lightning Rods between the covers. But SFF has always advertised itself as the freewheeling exploration of ideas, the genre that boldly goes where no-one has gone before. We puff out our chests and say Look at our bad-assitude! Our intellectuality! Our courage and innovation! when in fact right now most of our critical voices seem more focused on reshaping the field into a moral niche market.
I like moral niche markets. I own all of George MacDonald’s novels in two versions. Maybe I’ll be happier with the state of current SFF now that I’ve realized that’s what it is.