...Why do we need stories? In the greater human sense, not in the bestseller, ZOMG Alan Moore is awesome sense. Storytelling is an essential human activity, a paleolithic one, hardwired into us. It's the campfire and the tribal circle, the shaman and the nomad. And while you could argue many motivations for this ritual act, I want to focus on one. One especially applicable to folklore, fairy tales, mythology--and therefore to fantasy and science fiction.Please read all of Valente's thoughts. I think I'll need to again.
Stories teach us how to survive. They tell us that our lives can be transcendent, that we can overcome almost anything, no matter how strange, that we can go into the black wood and come out again, that the witch can be burned up in her own oven, that we can find someone who fits a shoe, that the youngest, unloved child will find their way in the world, that those who suffer can become strong, can escape, can find their way into comfort and joy again...
...And when we see story after story that has no one like us in it, a book entirely without women, a TV show where white people speak Chinese but there are no Asians visible, a movie set in California without Hispanics, image after image of a world where everyone is straight, and when we are told that it's no big deal, really, there is no race in future societies, that it's not anyone's fault if all the characters are white, that's just how they are, in the pure authorial mind, that we have no sense of humor, that we are ganging up on people because we speak our minds, this is what we hear:
You do not have a right to live. There are no stories for you, to teach you how to survive, because the world would prefer you didn't. You don't get to be human, to understand your suffering or move beyond it. In the perfect future society, you do not exist. We who are colorblind, genderblind, sexualityblind would prefer not to see you even now. In the world we make in our heads, you have been obliterated--even better, you never were. You are incapable of transcendance. You are not worthy of the most essential of human behavior. If you are lucky, we will let you into our stories, and you can learn to be a whore, or someone's mother, or someone's slave, or someone's prey. That is all you are, so pay attention: this is what we want to teach you to be.
And when our protests are drowned out by a privileged few who insist that their stories are even more difficult than ours, even more hurtful, in fact just like ours but better because someone who looks like them is telling them, that their voices MUST be heard, that we are wrong to even bring up the subject, when they try to punish people for speaking out, when they tell us over and over that when they are done speaking, when they are done telling their stories to all the people who look just like them, so that people who look like them can learn to survive and be strong, maybe we can have the mic for a minute while the janitors who look like us are cleaning up, what they are saying is not literary theory.
It is eugenics.
And I'm thinking of all my friends who are bringing stories into the world.