Friday, February 26, 2010

thinking about working class science fiction and fantasy

I just finished 1632, and enjoyed it (with some reservations; see my quickie review at Goodreads). I read it because I heard it wasn't a typical Baen rightwing militaristic fantasy; the heroes include union members. In the afterword (not linked to, because it contains spoilers), Eric Flint said,
Part of the reason I chose to write this novel is because I am more than a little sick and tired of two characteristics of most modern fiction, including science fiction.

The first is that the common folk who built this country and keep it running—blue-collar workers, schoolteachers, farmers, and the like—hardly ever appear. If they figure at all, it is usually as spear carriers—or, more often than not, as a bastion of ignorance and bigotry. That is especially true of people from such rural areas as West Virginia. Hicks and hillbillies: a general, undifferentiated mass of darkness.
So, what examples of working class heroes can you think of in our genres? The first ones that occur to me are Mal Reynolds of Firefox/Serenity, Conan the Barbarian, and Zenna Henderson's characters in her stories of the People.

(Flint's second complaint is cynical fiction, which I think he means to be the opposite of optimistic fiction. Maybe I'll tackle that in a future post.)