In Praise of Debate

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 14 - 2009

On the World SF News Blog, Lavie Tidhar has an editorial up that encourages debate in the speculative fiction field, using as a jumping-off point the recent controversy sparked by John Ottinger’s now-deleted post.  Here’s an excerpt:

The problem with Ottinger’s post was not (or not only) his argument, but his desire to halt debate. His call to “shut up!” is unfortunate, and his removing of the original post regrettable. I don’t believe in shutting up (as my long-suffering wife-to-be will tell you), and I believe open debate is essential to all literature, and that the science fiction field could only benefit from talking about such things.

I’d like to address one particular point that seems to crop up again and again in this debate. It is to do with the nature of “Story”. Here is a quote from a blogger responding to a similar discussion over on (fantasy author) Jim C. Hines’ blog:

An editor can only choose from submitted stories. You do not necessarily know the race or even gender of an author, based on name alone.

Followed by:

I don’t think stories should be set on a quota of so many stories from white, Hispanic, etcetera, but on the quality of the fiction presented, and editor/reader appeal.

Now, quality is an interesting word. In a reply to Ottinger’s original post, for instance, someone made the argument that submissions should be anonymous, therefore removing the identity of the writer from consideration and focusing only on “the story”.

Story. Quality.

I find that interesting. This approach – which I see crop quite often in this debate – confuses me. Does “Story” exist in a sort of deep-space vacuum, an entity entirely divorced from culture, background, heritage, identity? Or does Story default to a specific set of parameters – the elusive “Quality” the commentator is talking about? And what would such a default be?

Read the rest of the article here.

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