I’ve got something I need to get off my chest, so be advised, this is more me sharing my viewpoint on some things than it is anything. Naturally, that means that it is just my opinion, not law, and no one is required to agree with me, much less appreciate my viewpoint.
Still, this is my blog, and as such, a place for me to share my opinion. While I typically use it to talk about anime, share cat videos, short films I like, or just funny stuff I find on the internet, now and then, I do have something to say, besides rambling on about that book I had published.
Let me preface what is to come by admitting that while I do frequently visit a lot of geek friendly websites, I very rarely read the comments section, and almost never comment myself. Places like Tor.com, io9, The Mary Sue and so on are fun sites to visit to keep up with all that’s going on in the geeky world I love, but the comments section of each is, to be very broad and vague, not always a fun place to spend time.
There’s too much negativity, for the most part. Too many people that are far too eager to jump on someone and make them feel unwelcome. To me, geek culture is for everyone, and everyone is welcome. Because everyone is different, each person will have a different viewpoint, and different tolerance level for pretty much any given thing. When a comment community becomes closed to differing opinions, when it becomes insular, it is forsaking what makes geek culture so wonderful.
This applies to everyone, by the way. For every person spreading misogyny under the banner of GamerGate, there is someone else who is demanding others not enjoy pinup art, or whatever it is they disapprove of this week. At least GamerGate is consistent in what they hate, which isn’t a virtue by any means, just a fact.
It’s the idea that someone’s fun is wrong, and we have to tell them as much, as loudly and angrily as possible that keeps me away from the comments section on many of these sites. If you don’t like what someone said, don’t engage them. Denying them a means to grandstand is the best of way of taking power away from them.
Of course, this is the internet we’re talking about, and nobody ever holds back. Except me, apparently. Or rather, I keep my viewpoints confined to my own blog, where you have to go looking for them in order to be outraged by them. I’m a rather civil asshole in that regard.
For the record, I don’t agree with Gamergate. They are the living epitome of the old saying that if you go looking for something to be angry about, you will absolutely find it, even if it isn’t true. While I have no love of them or their attitude about things, I’m not partial to anyone who does the same thing, for any reason.
About the only place you’ll ever find me being frequently active in the comment section is Anime Evo, where civil discussion still reigns. Even when the members disagree about things, they do so respectfully, and without calling each other names. It’s refreshing. Now and then, I’m even active over at The Josei Next Door, but that’s because I have a mountain of respect for Dee, and even when I don’t agree with her, that respect never diminishes.
In fact, much of what I want to say here is about respect. Not just getting it, but giving it. Respect is something that seems to be getting lost in the internet world, and that bothers me a lot. Especially when I see it in the geek culture circles.
What finally motivated me to write this post was a comment at a geek friendly site recently, decrying the lack of realism in fantasy. The poster made a huge point about how any fantasy setting that doesn’t explain the system of magic it a way consistent with real world physics didn’t deserve to be read.
What really troubled me was the number of people who agreed.
If that’s the kind of fantasy you want to read, that’s fine. There’s plenty of room for that. Hell, I applaud you for knowing what you love. Just, ya know, maybe don’t be so quick to condemn everything that doesn’t fall into that extremely narrow category as being unfit for even the trash can.
The joy of the fantasy genre is that it is so wide in scope. You can do anything with it, and it still be true to the genre. Sci Fi has already been narrowed down to “hard” and “soft”, which I’ve found to be code for “good” and “shit”, respectively, by the self appointed gatekeepers of the genre. Let’s not do the same with fantasy.
The whole point of fantasy is that it can do anything. Be it hard realism, or wild adventure, there is room in the fantasy genre for anything that anyone might want. From dark explorations on the human condition, to allegory about social issues, to just silly fun, fantasy is an open door to the farthest reaches of the imagination, and should never be codified into set boundaries.
Yet, it is. The same self appointed gatekeepers of Sci Fi that have stripped the fun and wonder from that genre are turning their attention to fantasy, with a mind to reduce it to only that which can be proven. As much as this bothers me, it mostly makes me sad, for they seem to have forgotten what it is to experience true amazement.
Many major publishers have already abandoned the more free wheeling style of fantasy for the things that can be defined easily, but to see the reading community doing the same just makes feel sorry for them. Especially right now when we are seeing such a huge resurgence in Dungeons & Dragons, the very epitome of freewheeling fun.
Again, if you love hard fantasy, that’s fine. Not everyone has to. It doesn’t make them lesser fans, or less worthy of getting to read what they love. Respecting that is important.
No matter where you come from in the world, fantasy should be an open door to you. Everyone should be able to find someone they can identify with, without there needing to be a checkbox of things that must be included. That whole approach is the antithesis of fantasy. Just as surely as defining what fantasy is, and must be.
Yes, I am aware that much of Western fantasy has not been inclusive, but fantasy has never been restricted to Western writers. You can find fantasy writing everywhere and storytelling anywhere, from every culture, because in every culture, ever, there have been those with an unfettered imagination, who have captivated listeners and readers with their wild stories.
Celebrate how diverse the genre is. Search out those stories from other cultures and introduce others to them. Embrace the wide horizon that is fantasy.
For the love of it, though, don’t reduce it. Don’t diminish it. Don’t codify it. That kills what it is. It takes away from it, and ensures that there will be fewer stories in the future where the only limit is the imagination.
Fantasy is the last bastion of a free imagination. Let it be that. Especially when you don’t love it yourself.