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Growing up and what you can't unknow

2/18/14 01:59 am - Growing up and what you can't unknow

When you're young you usually don't have access to the authors of the creative work you enjoy. You're confronted with the work itself, and very limited set of critical tools to assess its merit. Mostly, do you enjoy it? Does it entertain you, and give you its duration's worth of escape? Does it leave you with a little something that you can take away from it, elevating those few hours that follow its consumption?

When you get a little older and you see enough similar stuff -- and maybe learn a little about the creative process, and a little bit about psychology and the science of human communication -- you start to see the patterns, the bits that are repeated, the things that stand for other things in a social context. You see each bit of stuff you take in as a part of a larger continuum of work with bits of it transmitted from work-to-author-to-work.

Then there's a stage when you start to learn about author's voice; that you learn that no matter the piece of art, *somebody* had to create it. You learn that these things don't stand alone, but that they're the output of some kind of creator, and you start to look for these creative people. Maybe you want to learn more about the meaning of a piece of work; maybe you want to create something yourself. Either way, you find the human that made the thing.

Often, these humans are pretty terrible. Not always, but there are no guarantees.

I don't want to say that this is disproportionately the case in Science-Fiction versus other genres, but SF authors aren't doing a lot to defend themselves. Part of the situation is that if you write SF, you have a tendency to see *ideas* as more valuable, in and of themselves, than the human experience, particularly the emotional experience. One insane idea that's caught vogue recently is that liberty and decency are mutually exclusive, and a swathe of jerks within the Science Fiction Writers of America (though not the current SFWA administration; rather, what seems to style itself as a sort of "disloyal opposition") has leapt to the idea that an association-wide sort of anti-harrassment policy is some sort of affront to what they see as a constitutional right to antagonize, dehumanize and belittle targeted groups within a private organization.

This isn't new, by any stretch of the imagination (even that of an SF fan). One can go back to Card, whose books lit my imagination on fire, and then began what looked like a rapid slide into incoherent, hysterical reactionary clownishness. One can go back further, to Hubbard, who has ruined life after life after life with a pseudoscience cult once he'd had a chance to inspire a generation of readers with his stories. It's not an inevitable correlation, but books that make your heart sing and your brain throb can be written by people with some terrible, terrible ideas.

When you're not young anymore, when you know enough about the world and the art that helps you give it meaning, you eventually learn that art comes from artists, and artists are human, and some humans are terrible. What you do with that knowledge is up to you. It certainly makes it a lot harder for me to enjoy their art. Maybe the trick is, to enjoy what you can, while you can, until you learn how it's made. Then walk away.
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