So, Larry Correia wrote a fantastically dickish blog post about Alex Dally MacFarlane’s post on Tor.com in regards to the default gender binary represented in mainstream SF literature. The post in question involved Alex making the incredibly revolutionary1 observation that transwomen and transmen, you know, exist. As well as other people who do not conform to the strict, aggressively Leave It To Beaver-ish gender binary that’s still presented as the default. And it’s time to get away from that being the default. And hey, there have already been works written that touch on the issue, so let’s discuss those and then move forward. (Alex, if you ever happen to read this, I hope I have not misrepresented your position overmuch in my rather flippant summary.)
Jim Hines, bless him from his shiny head to his sofa-marrying heart2, possesses such intestinal fortitude and abundance of spare time that he’s done a point by point take down of Correia’s post.
My normal inclination here is to have the same response as I had to John C. Wright and his wall of misogy-text, namely: would you get a load of this fuckin’ guy. But there are a few things that are bothering me particularly, though. In short:
- Correia spends the whole time calling Alex “he” in his original post. (Alex isn’t a man.
It takes exactly one google search or two clicks to double check that.[ETA] Her bio is literally at the bottom of her post. What kind of fucking laziness does this take?) I actually went and looked at Correia’s blog to see if he corrected himself, and he did… kinda? Somewhere in the word salad of this long response to Jim he corrects himself on Alex being “she,” airily dismisses it as a mistake and says he further doesn’t care anyway BECAUSE IDEAS NOT PEOPLE. Perhaps at this point misrepresenting someone’s gender feels like a drop in the ocean of douchery, and that’s the excuse for not taking two seconds to type out the word ‘sorry.’ But it’s a damn pathetic excuse.
- Seriously, what is with the dog whistle liberal versus conservative culture war bullshit framing? Perhaps this is bothering me more than normal because in my offline life, I just had a strong reminder that being conscious of gender identification isn’t a default liberal versus conservative issue, it’s a not being a douchebag issue.
- Correia’s thesis as written seems to be that (a) straw Alex wants all books to be nothing but non-standard characters and there will be checklists nothing but checklists forever, (b) this would make everything a preachy issue book (presumably because straw Alex does not care about story?), therefore (c) that would destroy the genre of science fiction.
- The “I don’t like thing X, therefore if you write thing X IT WILL DESTROY THE GENRE,” line has gotten so common that I believe it deserves its own name. It’s like an appeal to consequences and appeal to tradition got together and had an ugly, whiny baby. Any suggestions? The best I’ve got is Appeal to Destruction, and that’s admittedly tepid.
- Correia keeps coming back to story being the most important thing. I don’t think there’s any halfway decent writer who would argue the point that story is where it’s at. So where the fuck is this disconnect? How does what Alex actually said in any way preclude the primacy of story? How does even making a conscious effort to write non-default characters equal preachy issue book? Is there some kind of mathematical proof I’m missing out on here that shows the number of transgender or genderqueer characters is inversely proportional to the amount of story and/or fun?
- Geeze, dude, leave some straw men for the rest of us. Seriously. Worldwide shortage.
- Cisgender hetero guy with enormous biceps kills vampires and then must face their sire in a world-shattering showdown versus Transwoman with slightly less enormous biceps kills vampires then must face their sire in a world-shattering showdown would both be driven by the same basic story. Each would be distinct because, say, for option B you’d have to consider how the heroine’s status as trans would effect her interactions with other characters and all of their choices–yet in the end it’s still about some badass killing a shitload of vampires and saving the world.
- I do not tend to buy books that promise to preach at me. But you know what I will go out of my way to buy? Books with female protagonists. Books with explicitly bisexual protagonists. Because like all human beings, I’m an egocentric jerk and I enjoy being able to see people like me in stories, saving the world and doing other badass shit. [ETA: I would hope this goes without saying, but you never know. I want good and interesting books with the aforementioned and following. Books with excellent story, which very much do exist when combined with “non-default” main characters. Yeesh.] But you know what else I’ll go out of my way to buy? Books with genderqueer protagonists. Books with non-white protagonists. Books with protagonists from cultures other than my own. Why? Because I want to imagine things outside of myself as well. And imagining ye olde heterosexual white dude? We all basically know how to put those shoes on mentally before we can tie our literal shoelaces in the real world.
1 – Mmm, sarcasm italics. How I have missed you.
2 – Some of the comments on Jim’s post are gold.