I’ve been reading.
If you’ve been reading this blog you may recall that my 2023 plan to dig into some vintage science fiction was something I coined the three buck book club, and was the result of some thrifty used book shopping and a notion that half-a-century old science fiction might be worth a second read.
Or in my case, a first read.
I wasn’t particularly wrong.
And my reading has introduced me to a small stack of novels that (chosen by literal chance and randomness) I would never have encountered in any mainstream way.
But it has also introduced a new problem.
Old books are full of old ideas.
I guess I knew this, but I didn’t think it would punch me in the gut so firmly as it has.
I’m on my second novel of the project and so far I’m two for two on some very misogynistic protagonist characters and a solid one hundred percent for some cringe-worthy bits of colonial-bent racism.
These books are products of their time.
But their time in the past had a few ideas that are probably — certainly — not worth dragging into the present.
Sunlight in Cleansing
Thus, I find my role here a little muddled.
At one end I could turn this into a kind of, to borrow a politically charged idea, “woke witch hunt” against decades-gone authors who had the misfortune to be randomly plucked from used-bookstore obscurity by some guy looking for something cheap to read.
On the other end, I (as a middle-aged Caucasian man in a position of privilege) could articulate that perhaps it isn’t my place to talk and write about that particular aspect of these books and focus on the stories they tell.
An yet there is a tangled mess here that isn’t so easy to unravel.
I tend to think that discussion and education are pretty good solvents for bad ideas.
I can’t undo what these folks thought, believed or wrote. I can’t change the fact that uncountable numbers of cornball science fiction books still exist on shelves around the world filled with deeply rooted concepts that today would bin those stories before they made it past an agent. I can’t change any of that.
I can acknowledge it. I can call it out. I can make sure that as I pry open their dusty covers and look for the bits of vintage treasure inside that I also try to make sure everyone understands that there is some rot in there too.
Inevitably someone else is going to find copy of these books, and if they are anything like me google the title and read or watch what comes up. And there on the screen is my article, my video…
What would you want them to know?