One of the other subcultures I belong to, science fiction fandom, is currently being racked by a major controversy: prominent author Elizabeth Moon has just been dis-invited as the guest of honor at Wiscon, the preeminent feminist science fiction convention, because of this post she made on her blog. Many people within the science fiction community, mostly political leftists, decided on the basis of one post that Moon is anti-Islamic. So, to make a long story short, she is no longer the guest of honor at the preeminent feminist science fiction convention.
I remember talking to my friend Joan some years ago. Like me, Joan is a science fiction fan, a Unitarian Universalist, and a leftist. Joan and I were talking about our early science fiction reading. She said that she discovered one of Robert Heinlein’s novels during her adolescence, and after reading that one, she went on and read all the others she could find in the library. She completely disagreed with most of Heinlein’s political and moral philosophy, but she read his novels anyway. Why? Because he took ideas seriously, and because she enjoyed arguing with him while she read his books, and perhaps because almost no one else in her life wanted to discuss such topics.
This is precisely why I am a science fiction fan. This is why I have lunch every couple of months with Mike, my science fiction buddy since high school: we get together to talk about the books we have read, and the ideas in them. This is why I go to the occasional science fiction convention even though I dislike crowds and dislike being indoors for entire days: science fiction conventions are full of people who are very smart, and who affirm widely varying political and moral philosophies, and who love to talk about books and ideas. I love talking with smart articulate people who hold very different opinions and ideas than I do. (This, of course, is also why I am a Unitarian Universalist: although we are too homogeneous politically, I do love being able to argue with smart articulate people who are Deists, atheists, humanists, liberal Christians, Neopagans, mystics, etc., etc.) Wiscon was wrong to dis-invite Elizabeth Moon. Their action violates what to me is a basic precept of science fiction fandom, the lively exchange of ideas and arguments with people who hold very different ideas from oneself. It makes me sad.
It’s as if some Unitarian Universalist humanists didn’t allow people to say “God” in a worship service because that word bothered them; or as if some liberal Christian Unitarian Universalist refused to become part of a congregation that was “too humanist.” Oh wait, that does happen within Unitarian Universalism. Which also makes me very sad.