1:41 p.m. August 16, 2013

Playing the Orson Scott Card

Famed sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card's in the news again, and not for the coming Ender's Game movie or rampant homophobia. No, this time he's worried Obama's recruiting street gangs.

Laughable, yes, but the racist undertones are impossible to miss, and it represents a real and rarely mentioned far-right underbelly that's been there throughout sci-fi's tangled history. The Science Fiction Writers of America were recently involved in major rows over sexism and racism, in the process kicking out a member who'd used the SFWA Twitter feed to link to a blog post that called black writer NK Jemisin a "half-savage."

This has some political effects too, as the same subculture ties into a larger faction on the American far right that sees scientific advancement as a way to stave off or even crush social and economic change. Usually this is framed as in defense of "natural law" (in this case that translates as "keeping it awesome to be an old straight white guy"). Remember Newt Gingrich's love of moon bases, and his otherwise inexplicable rep as an "ideas candidate" and you're on target.

Jerry Pournelle, dean of the sci-fi far-right, briefly advised LA Mayor Sam Yorty's notoriously racist 1969 campaign, and shilled for a number of noxious causes over the years. This shouldn't be a surprise: Pournelle's stuff is full of fantasias about massacring leftists and defending gated communities.

Pournelle shows up more recently as part of a group advising Homeland Security. In 2008 he shared one of these discussions that with his longtime collaborator, oil heir Larry Niven. Niven's advice for a better future was to spread fake rumors about hospitals so Latinos wouldn't use them.

Lovely stuff. It looks like at long last there's finally a serious backlash.

Back channel chatter

  1. The link to Niven and Pournelle's lovely discussion got garbled, so here it is, readers:

    http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2008/March/Pages/ScienceFictionMavensOfferFarOutHomelandSecurityAdvice.aspx