Rachel Gutin Profile picture
Jul 17, 2019 35 tweets 11 min read Read on X
The third panel I attended at #Readercon was "The 21st Century Makeover of Class Struggles in SF/F" with @m_older, Sarah Smith, @catvalente, @CadwellTurnbull, and moderated by @TXWatson. So many good things got said! This thread will be a long one...
(Note: most comments will be paraphrases rather than quotes. If I think I got the words exactly, I'll put quotation marks around it. Otherwise, assume I may have rephrased a bit.)
During introductions, @m_older noted that traveling to and living in other places is a way to change your class without changing it.
From @m_older: As long as we have class, we have struggle - whether it's overt or not.
From Sarah: It's hard to write a myth without a hero, so we get a lot of exceptionalism in stories rather than ordinary people.
From @catvalente: When we're talking about science fiction, we're talking about a political fantasy.
More from @catvalente: Science fiction has post-scarcity societies which seem to grow from capitalism, and say there's only one class.
And another good point from @catvalente: In SF/F, we have heroes who've enough spare time to pursue a plot: nobility, or "nobility," or, at best, middle class.
From @catvalente: A lot of times, fairies stand in for the 1%. (Mentioned while talking about Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees, which she described as an economic fantasy about drug cartels.)
From @CadwellTurnbull: In a novel, you often have to pick a person or group to follow, but in history, it's seldom just a small group.
And @CadwellTurnbull also noted that The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin talks about movements. SF/F could explore movements, large groups of people bringing about change.
From @m_older: we treat aristocracy as if it's over, but it's not. So much of it translates into current society: customs and pretensions that have solidified. For example, having breakfast buffets at hotels.
Also from @m_older: We continue to be fascinated by royalty, and it continues to influence us and continues to influence economics.
From @catvalente: We've been convinced not just to cheerlead capitalism, but to cheerlead certain players within it. Like being encouraged to root for Avengers to beat Avatar at the box office. We've been encouraged to be complicit in our own oppression.
From Sarah: We look for capitalist heroes.
Some nonfiction book recs from Sarah: Stone Age Economics, and Deductions from the World War. (At least, I think I got those right...)
From @m_older: We consume a lot of content, and it affects how our brains mediate the world. We start to put narrative frames around what we see based on what we consume, and we imagine things into place, like heroes and romances. We need to be critical about what we consume.
Further thoughts on this from @m_older: Sometimes, what we imagine is truth, because so many others have imagined the same narrative.
From Sarah: You can take this clash of frames and bring them into one book.
From @catvalente: Stories we believe, we're motivated to bring into the world, like painting Elon Musk as a hero.
More from @catvalente: People compare Musk to Tony Stark because we want to live in a world where Iron Man will save the day. We know we don't have that in reality, so we throw narrative energy at people like Musk.
And some more from @catvalente: We're always looking for a clear story and a world we want to live in, so we invest that in unworthy people like Musk.
From @CadwellTurnbull: Our characters are always really good at what they do. The challenge is looking at normal people who have to find their own heroism in the face of something traumatic, asking questions, moving their lives a notch, asking the community for help.
From @m_older: There are small stories that disappear immediately, but we know there's heroism that goes on every day. (Not the things we view as heroic.)
@m_older Also from @m_older: Pregnancy is a heroic journey with pain and danger at the end, yet we ignore it as mundane and unremarkable.
More from @m_older: There's heroism in things like struggling to maintain families.
From @catvalente: There's nothing in life that class doesn't permeate, yet it often doesn't permeate SF/F.
More from @catvalente: Where SF/F shines: We can write the more "nutritious" stuff in a way that's fun, with vampires and robots. It's pizza with spinach on it. And people will remember it more too.
From @m_older: Fun is a highly underrated quality in literature. (An example of stories with heavy themes that are also fun: the Murderbot Diaries)
From Sarah: Even in a classless society, someone will have something better. (For example, they might have a better blueberry pie.)
From @catvalente: We might need to get away from worshipping merit. The punishment for not winning the contest shouldn't be abject poverty.
Also from @catvalente: People are tribal. Our teams are things like race, gender, sexuality. Why can't class be our team?
From @m_older: There are lots of ways to organize society. Our experience is a really short slice of history.
Also from @m_older: We can look at different kinds of incentives and imagine new ones. No society will be perfect, but we can still try to change it.
@m_older I misattributed something higher up in this thread. The following was from @CadwellTurnbull: We might need to get away from worshipping merit. The punishment for not winning the contest shouldn't be abject poverty. (Thanks to @catvalente for catching that!)

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More from @Rachel_Gutin

Dec 25, 2020
For those of us who aren’t celebrating Christmas, I would like to share a story:
In a small Jewish community on an outlying planet sits a museum. At its center, a narrow plinth. Upon the plinth, a boxy container, folded from heavy white paper, its edges charred. A wire handle across its top.

The label reads: In Commemoration of the Great Christmas Alliance
There is no further explanation posted, but ask any museum staff member, and they will tell you the tale of the time when Chinese food saved the Jews from boredom and despair, on the occasion of yet another Christmas.
Read 26 tweets
Sep 22, 2020
This Rosh Hashanah, my thoughts kept returning to a single story. It’s the story of a soul, newly arrived at the gates of Heaven And while I’m not sure I believe in a literal heaven, with an actual gate where angels stand guard, a story doesn’t have to be factual to be true.
So a woman arrives at the gates of Heaven. She is small of stature, but she stands tall before the imposing gates. A simple black robe hangs from her shoulders, and a lacy white collar adorns her neck. In her eyes, there is a gleam of steely determination.
In most stories, this is when the angels would stop her. They would ask her to prove she deserves a place in Heaven. But in this story, the angels step aside.
Read 15 tweets
Aug 23, 2020
After nearly five months at my parents’ house, I am finally back in my own apartment.

The first thing I unpacked: stuff that needed refrigeration.

Next: my laptop.

After that, books.

Here are all the books that spent time at my parents’ house. 39 books in three stacks, s...
And here are the books that I read while I was at my parents’ house: 26 books in two stacks, spi...
I also purchased a total of 18 books, 17 of which were shipped to my parents' house, and one of which I picked up while traveling.
Read 4 tweets
Aug 21, 2020
The eighth panel I attended at #ConZealand this year wasn’t technically a panel. It was a dialogue between @doctorow and @Ada_Palmer entitled “Corey Doctorow and Ada Palmer Discuss Censorship and Information Control”

I learned a lot from their conversation.
This thread will include some of the things the two of them said. I’m copying this over from my handwritten notes, so assume I’ve paraphrased unless I put something in quotes.
From @Ada_Palmer: Every time there’s new media technology, people worry about the new one and forget to censor older ones. Censorship focuses on the newest saturate media - and on where people get political information from.
Read 31 tweets
Aug 14, 2020
The seventh panel I attended at #ConZealand this year was “Justice in Science Fiction and Fantasy”, with @BrentCLambert, @AdriJjy, @MMSnodgrass, and Fred Lerner, moderated by @jennlyonsauthor.

This panel gave me a lot to think about.
This thread will include some of the things the panelists said. I’m copying this over from my handwritten notes, so assume I’ve paraphrased unless I put something in quotes.
The panelists began by listing pet peeves about how justice is handled in science fiction and fantasy:

@AdriJjy: I want more about societal institutions and systemic things rather than an individual. And I hate the bad guy getting redeemed by dying.
Read 32 tweets
Aug 13, 2020
The sixth panel I attended at #ConZealand this year was “Infinite Entangled Futures - Indigenous Voices in Conversation,” with @ShiningComic, @RoanhorseBex, @understatesmen and @toniwaiaroha, moderated by @sloanesloane.

This was a fascinating and enjoyable panel.
This thread will include some of the things the panelists said. I’m copying this over from my handwritten notes, so assume I’ve paraphrased unless I put something in quotes.
First, the panelists introduced themselves. Among other things, each shared which indigenous tribe they are a part of. Because most of these tribal names were unfamiliar to me, I didn’t know how to spell them, so I looked them up afterward on author websites and twitter.
Read 49 tweets

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