Now there’s a question for you.
My feeling is that fantasy is ideally situated to do just that. Moreover, SFF has a better chance of making a point with the very people who need to think deeply about these kind of issues.
Let’s face it, people from, let’s say, the backstreets of XYZ, who practise discrimination, or who live influenced by baseless prejudices, aren’t going to read too many novels that point out how stupid the backstreets people of XYZ are. But they may read – and possibly learn – from reading about the characters from, say, Upper Fantasia. I know that reading LeGuin’s “Left Hand of Darkness” opened my eyes to gender discrimination.
What do you think?
And if you think sff does have a role to play – which does it better? Fantasy or SF?
Or am I being naive? Do the folk who need to have their eyes opened the most, read the least? After all, we have the religious right refusing to let their kids read anything – like Harry Potter – that doesn’t preach their narrow view of the world. In other words, there are stacks of people out there who are terrified of reading anything which might expand their world view because their belief is so weak they think it is easily subverted. There are even some religious fanatics here in Malaysia who think that stepping foot in the house of someone of another faith during their festivals will somehow weaken their own faith. Huh? Have they any idea how ridiculous that makes their own faith appear?
Or do people who have closed minds not “get” it even if they do read a book that tackles problems of prejudice and racial or gender discrimination, simply because they don’t recognise themselves?
I have tried to look at some of these problems, even as I try never to allow my own pet themes to diminish a great story.
In The Isles of Glory trilogy I deal with the dismaying similarities between different forms of extremism (religious and environmental and racial); the importance of balance in politics; what makes a truly “good” religious person; how too much power is dangerous etc, etc.
In The Mirage Makers trilogy I look more at cultural differences and adaptation; how we are all moulded by our upbringing and the more subtle forms of prejudice – and how one culture does not have the “best” of everything. Of how we need to see that other peoples’ way of life can be just as valid as our own, even if it is substantially different.
I’m off tomorrow, so chat on folk. I’ll be back.