From the content to the creator

The science fiction writer S. M. Stirling has a problem with his series centered around the Domination alternative history because readers often confuse the narrative of the alternative history for the author’s endorsement of its arc and philosophy. You see, the novels and stories depict a world where a quasi-Nazi ghoulishly Nietzschean race termed the Draka eventually rise to conquer the whole world. Similarly, the fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson has had problems with readers who are curious why he has sympathetic atheist characters, despite he himself being a devout Mormon.

Obviously, some writers focus on what they know and have experienced. Jhumpa Lahiri comes to mind. She has said that she has no plans to delve beyond the purview of her West Bengali story arcs. But other writers like to explore viewpoints which are startlingly novel and at variance with those of themselves. This is probably particularly true of speculative fiction. Part of being human is the ability to do this with varying levels of fluency.

It is important in any case not to confuse the writer with what they are writing about.

Some of the same applies to what I talk about on this blog. This is clear and obvious when I’m considering the selection coefficient of a novel allele. But what about the Iranian regime?

  1. I am not personally a fan of the regime.
  2. I also believe it is important to describe it accurately and in its own terms.

Some of the latter is for instrumental reasons: if you are to defeat the enemy you must understand it. Even in the early 9/11 years, this was clear, but many people resisted this attempt, as emotions were quite raw. Islamist radicals were viewed in almost metaphysical terms, as forces of nature, evil essences of the universe. The reality though is that they are embodied creatures with needs, wants, and delusions, just like any other.

Ultimately I’m generally pretty frank with my views on a topic if I have them and want to express them. I’m not being cryptic. In some cases, I don’t want to interject my own personal views (which most can infer or know in any case). In other cases, I don’t have a strong opinion.

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2 thoughts on “From the content to the creator

  1. A bougie Iranian woman my wife works with couldn’t keep her au pair because she kept getting home sick. Obviously Trump’s travel ban tremendously restricted things for them, but the idea that Iran is some sort of hell scape and ‘bad for wimmin’ is hilarious.

    It’d be interesting to look at some hard stats about Iranian-*Americans*. Are they particularly educated or is their chief intellectual contribution ‘JonTron’? I can’t help but fear that somewhere in Southern California, a failed rug salesman is rebranding himself an Iranian Ahmed Chalabi.

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  2. She couldn’t keep her homesick au pair? what a travesty. I suppose domestic childcare options are far more expensive than importing a slave immigrant labour. Yes, it’s definitely that dastardly Trumps fault.

    Iran isn’t homogeneous. Women from Gilan have more freedom than women from Qom. That said, I’d invite you to explain to the jailed women of the One Million Signatures campaign how “hilarious” you find their situation, or the My Stealthy Freedom posters about how their opposition to the compulsory hijab law is reactionary.

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