There have always been many reasons to be proud of reading and writing science fiction. But today we’re reminded of some of the best. Today, Election Day, when so much hangs in the balance and when America has a chance to re-define itself, we can see how that what was once a conservative genre is now looking toward a different future. Some examples:
I hope you will do the right thing, the just thing, and the moral thing when you vote, and that is to cast your vote against discrimination, against bigotry and against prejudice. You don’t have to approve of same-sex marriage to recognize that voting to take away a right already won is unjust and unfair. This vote matters, possibly more than other votes you have made so far. In times to come you’ll want to be able to say to your children that when you were asked to judge whether your fellow men and women deserved the same rights as others — rights they already had but which were in your power to take away — that you stood with them rather than against them, and in standing with them affirmed there was no “them,” only us.
If you are a Californian voter and you vote for Proposition 8, then I’m afraid it means you’re a bigot. You favour depriving a subset of the population of their civil rights, you are willing to vote for a measure that will destroy existing marriages, and you will refuse to honour marriage contracts acknowledged elsewhere in the world. And you’ve tacitly admitted that your own marriage does need protecting (which is kind of pathetic).
Yankees. I tell you what. You goof up, we’ll let you know.
— Elizabeth Bear photo-blogging the election
I also think that there are much bigger issues facing America, North America, and the world than this abortion thing. Leave Roe v. Wade alone and focus on important government initiatives like the economy, health care, the environment, schools, and infrastructure. There’s so much that needs to be fixed that it horrifies me that people would make abortion a bigger voting issue than affordable health insurance or climate change.
I’m sure there are more examples that I’m unaware of. (Let me know about them, will you?) But what strikes me about these is how concerned they are with pluralism, accountability, and Big Issues. They take a global perspective — even, in Ms. Bear’s case, where the content is local, but made global through technology that SF’s foremothers didn’t see coming. And marriage, which has been a litmus test of the future from Shelley on down through Heinlein and Farmer and LeGuin, is now seen as a right that we should fight for — despite its chequered past. It is not marriage that has evolved, but we, in our wish to extend equal rights to others. And for people like Liana K., the battle for reproductive rights (which still incites fervour in some areas) is considered already won, a necessary win that ensures a nation’s ability to tackle even larger problems.
Some of us (the lucky ones) are living in the future. We have freedoms that were unimaginable or even abhorrent to the people who helped create our field. Our sandbox is bigger and deeper and more people can play there than ever before. And that future belongs to people who, like Ursula K. LeGuin, believe that “It is above all by imagination that we achieve perception and compassion and hope.”