But first, a bit of context:
Among the left wing of the science fiction community, there is much consternation of late over the Hugo nomination of rightwing blogger Vox Day.
For example, the always fashionably politically correct Kate Nepveu writes:
“..it is perfectly moral, or ethical, or taking the high road, or good on whatever axis you want to consider, to refuse to honor the work of …Vox Day. Period…Me, if I know that someone holds views I find morally repugnant, or if I personally dislike them, etc., then I can't keep myself from looking for evidence of those disliked traits in the work, which is unfair to the work, and so I don't even bother…So, no, I feel under no obligation to read Vox Day's work, under the guise of fairness or anything else, and neither should you.”An "obligation to read"? Well, let's be careful about how we define "obligation". The average reader has no specific moral duty to deliberately read a work of fiction out of "a guise of fairness", if the work has no intrinsic artistic appeal. I don't read the books of Michael Moore because they're dumb, not because of Michael Moore's political persuasion.
On the other hand, though, it is reactionary to deliberately avoid a book one might otherwise read based on the fact that the author disagrees with one's cherished views on same-sex marriage, U.S. foreign policy, the proper role of government, or what have you. Therefore, I do read China Miéville (more on him in a moment), even though his political pronouncements suggest him to be either daft or a sociopath.
But some people are now calling for what amounts to selective ideological litmus tests. The aforementioned crowd (of which Kate Nepveu has long been a representative) is not only reactionary, but selective in its outrage: These folks have no trouble with horrendous beliefs that fall left of center (see below). However, viewpoints that run counter to a specific narrative on race, gender, and same-sex whatever-it-is-this-week are regarded as specially and uniquely inviolable.
Which brings us to Vox Day.
First, an obligatory disclaimer: I don't agree with all of Vox's conclusions on race, gender, and social issues. And I have no qualms with anyone out there refuting him. (In fact, I have publicly disagreed with Vox myself in the past--to the point where his followers once referred to me as a "progressive"--a term I naturally loathe.)
Let us remember, though, that these particular viewpoints are only one part of Vox Day's overall body of work and activity. And if Vox is sometimes wrong, he's also sometimes right. Vox Day is an often astute observer of economics and international relations. He is mostly correct about the effects of unfettered globalization. He deftly lays bare the sophistries of the self-important New Atheist community. Vox's blog posts on writing and publishing are not only insightful, but frequently devoid of any political rhetoric whatsoever.
And despite many attempts to marginalize him, his novels and short stories have acquired a respectable following--which is why Vox is now a Hugo nominee.
At the same time, some of Vox Day's conclusions regarding race and gender roles will give even conservatives like myself pause. My vision of conservatism is inclusive--not something that can only be achieved under a Gerousia of hand-picked white males.
My chief disagreement with the "boycott Vox" movement, though, is the premise that an author's views on these topics--and these topics alone--should constitute a litmus test. For as I shall explain below, this would constitute a highly selective litmus test.
(On at least one now overblown and notorious occasion, moreover, I suspect that Vox simply allowed his temper to override his better judgment. Vox--you should not have called NK Jemisin a "half-savage". You should have called her a racial opportunist. (A professional grievance monger, Jemisin even played the race card when she spoke in Australia, for goodness sake.))
Ideally, a literary community should include a broad spectrum of ideological leanings. It should resemble a bell curve, with the vast majority of participants somewhere near the middle, and a motley assortment of socialists, anarchists, and right-wingers on the fringes.
Ideological diversity apparently doesn't work in the atmosphere of political correctness and knee-jerk conformity enforced by the current and recent leadership of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Back in high school, these were the kids who decided to be "different" by slavishly mimicking each other. (Read the blog posts of Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, John Scalzi, Jim Hines, etc., and you'll find very little diversity of opinion. This is the "hive mindset" at its worst.)
If the objective is to ensure ideological innocuousness among writers and bloggers, then so be it. But the nattering busybodies of acceptable speech must apply this standard evenly.
Which brings us to China Miéville. China Miéville is an open advocate of Marxism. (This isn't an exaggeration or an epithet. Miéville regularly delivers Marxist propaganda in his writings and speeches.)
This offends me--to the same extent that Vox Day's views on homosexuality offend others. Marxism was responsible for more death and human misery in the 20th century than all the racism, sexism, and homophobia combined and multiplied by a factor of a thousand. Compared to the Communist Party of anyplace where communists successfully seized power, the Ku Klux Klan were rank amateurs. The KKK killed people one or two at a time; communists killed people by the millions.
In living memory, the ideology that China Miéville so smugly advocates is responsible for about 94 million deaths, including:
- 65 million in the People's Republic of China
- 20 million in the Soviet Union
- 2 million in Cambodia
- 2 million in North Korea
- 1.7 million in Africa
- 1.5 million in Afghanistan
- 1 million in the Communist states of Eastern Europe
- 1 million in Vietnam
- 150,000 in Latin America
(And the death toll of Marxism continues to increase in at least a few of the above places.)
Casual advocates of Marxism might have had their excuses in 1914. But given the preponderance of evidence since then, anyone who is a Marxist in 2014 is either idiotic, evil, or deliberately obtuse. (I'll give China Miéville the benefit of the doubt and put him in the latter category.)
So yes, by all means let's boycott Vox Day. But let's also boycott the science fiction/fantasy author who is a mouthpiece for an evil philosophy with the murders of 94 million on its books. (Yes, I'm talking about the bald guy with the faux-hip earring that looks like it was cadged from my grandfather's fishing tackle box.)
I'll join the boycott of Vox Day on the day that his rabid opponents also boycott the skinhead Marxist.
That much seems only fair.