(wip) the author’s worldview matters

pho4cexa

Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:27:33 -0400

There’s been a lot of ink spilt over whether it is ethical (yes), or effective (sometimes), to boycott a work (of art, fiction, software, etc.) in response to its authors’ politics.

Regardless of the answers to those questions, I think you should feel comfortable in avoiding that work anyway, because it is probably not that good.

Science, fiction, art, technology, software, and other works all risk major flaws when authors cling to biases, and that’s reason enough to avoid them.

Authors with shitty politics are more likely to produce shitty work.

Enhance

The reflection in the eyeglasses of the person across the street. Zoom in on it. Again. Enhance.

Zoom and Enhance,” popularized by CSI, is a widely panned trope. Why is it so annoying?

When the viewer realizes that the author doesn’t comprehend the universe it can quickly shatter the viewer’s suspension of disbelief, ruining the story.

This is especially true when their work is one of fiction, where they present a story set in a universe entirely of their own invention. Unconscious biases and misinformation gets presented as matter-of-fact natural laws of physics.

The suspension of disbelief is shattered when it becomes apparent that an author

Heinlein

Lots of people love Heinlein. Stranger in a Strange Land was interesting, especially considering the era in which it was written. But he makes sockpuppets out of his female characters and mary-sues himself into his work. Gross.

John Scalzi’s work is better than Orson Scott Card’s.

Charles Stross’ work is some of the best I have ever read. (GlassHouse)

Sense8

I unabashedly love Sense8, a television series produced by Netflix and written by the Waichowskis. It presents its diverse protagonists in a novel and unique way: as humans, not carnival exhibits, with agency, telling the story from their perspectives. I can’t help but be enthralled. Even as a boring-ass white cishet American dude with a boatload of privilege and a sheltered childhood but no tattoos or fashion sense, I still find Sense8 both enthralling and liberating. “People of different countries, colors, cultures, sexualities, and gender expressions exist, and that’s not just okay but great, but they’re more simliar to you than they are different,” it dares to suggest.

I hope that the more we expose sheltered people, like me of years ago, to works like these, the more liberal and accepting our society will become.

So, I conclude, the converse of my thesis is true: authors with good and positive worldviews produce good fiction.

Examples: Charles Stross (GlassHouse), John Scalzi, various webcomics (Computer Love, Unicorn Jelly, oglaf, Job Satisfaction).

Not even all about terrible people – even people who aren’t belligerent haters but simply have no context for the subject they’re writing about, or who have been sheltered from human diversity.

The presentation of the weird: from my perspective, or from theirs.

Eich and Mozilla

There was a lot of discussion over whether it was appropriate for Mozilla to promote Brendan Eich to CTO due to his support of anti-gay legislation. (It’s not in Mozilla’s best interests, because they’ll lose the support of the community.) Is it ethical or effective for us to boycott Mozilla products if they had kept Eich on as CTO? (Yes.) But my position on that is not the point here.

My point is: a Mozilla with Eich at the helm is more likely to produce shitty work, doing things that harm the sinful minority to please the normal godly majority: “real name” policies, ignorance of diversity and inclusiveness, etc.

Honeybees

A person’s social environment changes how they view the world, influences the questions they ask, and how they interpret their observations

The story of how we discovered the honeybee has sex is a very good demonstration

At every step along the way, we can show that the social environment of the observers kept them from seeing things that are obvious to us today.

The social environment of the time kept the society from accepting some rather obvious observations.

@BugQuestions’ Twitter thread (2018-01-20)

FOMO

One of the strongest impulses to waste my money on bad work by nasty people is the Fear Of Missing Out:

I want to be able to join in the discussion when it’s what all my friends are talking about.

I want to understand the references when other works call back to it.

But there’s no reason to waste several hours of your life on Ender’s Game when you could be binging Sense8 instead.

Perhaps a good defense against this feeling is to queue up a long list of works that you want to consume, from known good creators. That’s also an opportunity to try on less-popular authors (filtered to those with good politics) who are still struggling to make their names known.

References