by Issue Editor Isaac Bell
If you’re reading this, then you’re a member of a minority. You’re a fan of science fiction, or fantasy, or speculative fiction in general (and just knowing the latter term marks you as a member of an even smaller group). Despite the wide popularity of shows and movies we might claim as “ours,” people who consider themselves fans of these genres are seen as a separate group.
It’s a truism that small groups can expose rifts over minor issues. Do you read all kinds of speculative fiction? Maybe you only read hard science fiction short stories, or big bullet-stopping high fantasy series. Maybe you think that your favorite genre is more worthy of respect than others. Fans like us always end up having the debate about which books, which shows, and which movies really meet our standards of quality.
These kinds of debates are harmless. Does it matter if a friend prefers Babylon 5 over Star Trek: Deep Space Nine? No, probably not. Yet we should not believe that all of our debates are minor squabbles about favorite starship captains. Speculative fiction, at its best, helps us see our strengths and flaws. One of these flaws is tribalism. Some of us are “normal,” some are “different.” We think that people aren’t all interested in what comes out of the imaginations of people with different skin colors, who speak different languages, who live in different countries. And there’s the idea, which I personally reject, that science fiction is a genre which should belong to men.
According to Wikipedia, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America organization has about 1,800 members. Recently, the SFWA Bulletin included articles written by men who made what can be charitably called ill-advised comments about female editors and writers. While some commentators have said that the uproar over these articles was overblown, considering the small circulation of the Bulletin. Others, such as our Scholarly Editor, Kathy Kitts, PhD, argue that this incident is just part of an overall culture of sexism in the science fiction community. It is hard to argue with her facts, even if you might want to argue about the motives behind these problems.
Since this controversy drew the attention of the community of speculative fiction fans, there have been many things written on the topic. Many publishers big and small have felt the need to state whether they care about an author’s gender (or, one assumes, any other demographic category our society bothers to notice). Our Fiction Editor, Douglas McKinney, has also made certain that the editorial stance of Ad Astra is clear: we just want to hear from people who have something to say.
Allow me, as the Editor of James Gunn’s Ad Astra, to further clarify our official goals for this magazine.
We care passionately about who you are. We care if you’re a woman writing hard science fiction, you’re an African-American writing fantasy, or you’re from China and sharing your imagination in a language foreign to you. We care because you have something to say, all of you—just as we do. Everyone has a story to tell, a poem to share, something to research and learn more about.
We want to hear from you. We don’t care about your tribal affiliations—you can love vampires or nanotech, you can consider comics high art or low entertainment, and you can be completely different from anyone on the editorial board. In fact, I personally prefer it. Challenge what we might consider normal.
Be the voices seldom heard. Tell us the things we do not know. Ignore anyone who tells you otherwise.