Author’s Note: This is the first part of an ongoing series. My intent is not to bring attention to myself nor to any particular party. You’ll notice I speak here in generalities. I refuse to participate in the same witch hunting that is ruining our online communities. My intent is to raise awareness of the inherent problems of public shaming so that we ALL may back away from the practice. You can find part 2 here, part 3 here, and part 4 here.
Since Donald Trump won the US election, liberal social justice warriors have doubled down on their hysterics, which makes public life a nightmare for the rest of us. This has been especially apparent in the genre fiction circles I run in.
Just in the past 30 days alone I’ve seen a conservative author and publisher banished from Facebook for a month after someone reported a Led Zeppelin album cover as obscene that had been sitting in his photo book for ages.
But it’s not only the banning from social media for posting mainstream album art that’s troubling, but also the way in which the writing community attacked the author and the album art as being grotesque and obscene because the imagery contained naked children in a non-sexual manner.
I’ve seen a prominent fiction cover artist friend condemned as personally transphobic because of a political protest picture he drew showing Mike Pence wearing a dress and makeup as he cried.
And another author summarily excommunicated from a genre fiction community for refusing to edit a set of travel blogs about his recent experience at an industry convention which focused on a crush he developed on a female author there.
The self-censorship and the fear that self-censorship creates in the community has stifled, choked and ultimately, in this author’s opinion, killed small press genre fiction. It’s no secret that next to no one is making money writing fiction outside of a few key markets. But the horror, sci fi, and bizarro writing communities were booming only a few short years ago.
From around 2008-2012 there was a HUGE wave of successful small press authors as one of the largest publishers of genre fiction, Leisure books, closed its doors. But as political correctness and the witch hunts that inevitably followed became more and more frequent, the creativity and content of genre fiction suffered.
Sci Fi has been embroiled in the very public Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies Hugo award controversy over the last several years. Lovecraftian horror saw its godfather, H.P. Lovecraft (who has been dead 80 years,) have his likeness removed from the World Fantasy award bust. But the social justice erosion hasn’t ended there.
Extreme horror and offensive bizarro have all but vanished from the marketplace because authors are too scared of being publicly shamed and excommunicated from their circles to pursue the more edgy and controversial content once celebrated by fans.
And without the edge and bite of the more extreme stuff, the rest of genre fiction looks bland, tame and boring in comparison. Sales have fallen off and writers are finding it harder and harder to justify the long hours behind their computers without any sort of financial benefit.
Social Justice has now bulldozed through video games, comic books, music, fiction, politics, indie filmmaking, Youtube channels and anywhere else creative people dare to express free thought and free expression.
Will the Brexit movement and Donald Trump’s conservative sweep of American politics swing the pendulum back toward a climate more favorable and conducive to creative freedom? No. We’ve just let the damn Christians out of the penalty box to fight us from the other side.
And that is a world I truly fear. Genre fiction is dead. May whatever fresh hell comes next sting gently and take us away in the quiet of the night.