Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

“…to the exclusion of all emotional experience”

May 29th, 2013

This morning, a post from last summer on women and hard SF got resurrected in my twitter stream. The title: Being male is not a prerequisite for hard SF.” Well, duh?

Written by Damien Walter, and published in The Guardian, the piece begins:

Despite protestations to the contrary, hard SF is a boys’ club that is undermining its own potential by resisting the contributions of women writers.

It goes on to say:

Women writers are more than welcome in hard SF, assuming they have a background in the hard sciences and value hard logic to the exclusion of all emotional experience.

Wait…what? All my hard SF novels have just been insulted! By this definition, we must conclude that there is no emotion in my work. Shame on me. And there seems to be an implied corollary that men wouldn’t read my books if there were any emotion to be found in them — which is not remotely my experience.

Update: Comments here and on twitter have made me realize that these quotes I’ve picked are leading to a misunderstanding. There is a tired old meme that says hard SF is emotionless writing. Damien is taking this meme as truth. He’s not advocating emotionless writing; he’s railing against it. So my first objection to the piece is that I simply don’t agree that hard SF is emotionless writing. But Damien says that it is, and goes on to say that the work of women is accepted by hard SF readers if it values “hard logic to the exclusion of all emotional experience.” I feel my work has been accepted as hard SF, but I don’t feel it’s devoid of emotion — so I find the argument quite insulting on multiple levels.

The tone of the piece seems intended to provoke a reaction — “hard SF” is redefined as “chauvinist SF” and on we go from there — so it’s successful in that.

I’ve been working on my own post on hard SF. I guess I should finish that up and publish.

Posted on: Wednesday, May 29th, 2013 at 9:28 am
Categories: Meanderings.

4 Responses to ““…to the exclusion of all emotional experience””

  1. Paul (@princejvstin) Says:

    Yes, you should 🙂 I’d love your opinion to be put out there, and to see others engaged with it.

  2. Peter Hollo Says:

    Yes please! I love your hard sf, and was pretty annoyed at Damien’s assertions both on twitter and in that article (which could have had some very good points to make about women and (hard) sf). He’s a smart guy, but seems to have some blind spots, or as you say, maybe he’s just out to provoke a reaction.

  3. Glen Says:

    Emotions are _central_ to being human, the very foundations of our intellect. Logic may trip us up, humans may lie, but emotions never do. And this guy wants to remove them from SF (or any other artistic effort)??? It sounds like he’s dreadfully out-of-control, doesn’t like or trust his own and suppresses them. It will be news when he discovers that such suppression is a whack-a-mole kind of game, and he’ll be on the losing end.

  4. Linda Says:

    Paul, I’m going to pull the post out again, and go over it, hopefully today.

    Peter, thank you! I’ve been hearing so many absurd, sweeping statements about SF lately it’s finally starting to bother me.

    Glen, thank you. Your comment clarified a couple of comments on twitter yesterday that left me scratching my head. See the update in the piece. To emphasize, Damien is not objecting to emotional writing. Instead he has employed the tired old meme that hard SF IS emotional writing (a meme I strenuously object to) and therefore any woman whose work has been accepted as hard SF must be writing fiction devoid of emotion.