This has been a crazy week.
My husband Mark and I run our own business creating directories for the queer community, which in turn means we get our own health care coverage on the individual market. On Friday morning, we watched in abject fear as the US government came *this close* to taking a step which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would have increased our monthly payments by 20% a year for each of the next eight years.
Despite the two GOP women who stood against the bill and John McCain’s last minute vote, we’re by no means out of the woods on this. The market may still be destabilized by the actions of the current administration.
I’m telling y’all this not so that you’ll feel sorry for me, but to point out how precarious and unpredictable our lives are these days. A few years ago, Mark and I weren’t allowed to get married, and there are still some places where we don’t dare go as a gay couple. Although we have made great strides these last twenty years, bigotry has reared its ugly head once again in our society.
Which brings me back to writing. I and many of my peers write science fiction or fantasy, stories which take place in worlds separated from ours by space and/or time. For a long time, especially while the arc of history seemed to be bending our way, I’d hear folks say that we shouldn’t be writing bigotry into our stories, that we needed to show a future or alternate society where being queer no longer mattered. One where we were all judged on our own merits, not because we were gay or trans or black or rich or poor. Our fiction should be aspirational, folks would say, providing a slice of hope for what could be.
The parallel argument was that surely future generations wouldn’t be saddled by the same bigotry, and that to include homophobia and racism and the like in these stories was anachronistic, like writing a story in 2017 where people still use pay phones.
The argument kinda made sense to me at the time, and I still really love the aspirational aspect of it. There’s nothing wrong with writing about a more egalitarian society than ours in your stories.
But now I have started to wonder if we will ever be free of bigotry and phobia, or if it will always be with us, either just under the surface or alive and well in the public sphere. Certainly the events of the last two years show us it’s not dead. if anything, it has become newly resurgent.
Do we as authors need to stand up and shine a light on it through our work, mirroring it back to our readers? Do we have a responsibility to keep this conversation alive in the public dialogue, to make our readers think about it and how we might tackle humanity’s dark nature in its latest iteration?
What do you think? As queer speculative fiction writers, should our works be aspirational? Or should they be more gritty and “real” when it comes to the challenges we face today? Is there room for both? As a writer, what are you doing these days in your own writing?