Recently, a number of events have convinced me that speculative fiction writers must embrace change, no matter how painful. Change is inevitable, and it’s foolish to act as if everything is set in stone. Indeed, if we are to be true to ourselves as speculative fiction (SF/fantasy) writers, we NEED to ask the perennial question “what if?” for the development of fiction. And that also needs to come into our personal spheres to some extent as we interact with others different from ourselves. We need to stop doing things “the way we’ve always done it.” We need to have dialogues.
Dialogues. Not shouting matches. Not mistakenly accepting silence as compliance. Not listening to other voices by willfully ignoring or trying to drown them out. These behaviors only lead to more of the same. Whether we like it or not, change is occurring daily. Better, instead, to ask what if I were Person A or B? What if I were older/younger? What is important to them? What if someone needs mentoring? Am I doing enough to think in a speculative manner as writer and colleague?
Lest anyone decry me as abandoning the history of speculative fiction, I teach speculative literature. I know the importance of Gernsback, Knight, Blish, and others. Having both a history MA and writing MFA, I understand the backdrop of events the genre spoke to and against. I am not advocating ignoring that history. It’s good to know where the genre came from, to see its past to extrapolate its potential future. But clinging to vestiges of the past is dangerous. Other writers with different experiences need to be at the table as equals, informing and enriching the genre and human experience as a whole. Indeed, they will say “what if?” and not fear the answers.