Sunday, August 28, 2011

Class Issues in Science Fiction and Fantasy

A panel at Armadillocon. Will Shetterly, moderator; Joe Lansdale, Scott Lynch, Marshall Maresca.

Marshall Maresca offered my favorite moment. He said his wife, who is from Mexico City, once said everyone there had servants, and he had to point out that was mathematically impossible.

The panel was a lot of fun, partly because Joe was very willing to talk about his childhood and what he learned about people's expectations of a guy with a southern working class accent. Scott talked about how his desire to write about con artists in a fantasy setting lead him into writing about class. I'm sure there were a few mentions about class and literature, but the focus seemed to be more about people's experience with class in the US and how to write about class. Since I was the moderator, I tried to ask questions rather than make statements.

Though I'm not sure what we accomplished, I thought the panel was big fun, and the audience seemed to enjoy it. My lesson from this panel is to start off being prepared for trouble: I noted in my opening statement that cons have been doing race and gender panels for decades, but class is a new subject that is sometimes characterized as the US's last taboo, so if anyone wanted to leave the panel, they were welcome to. I think my seriousness made it easier for people to say, Dude, we know the subject is dangerous; now let's run with it.

Because I suspect there are readers who will note that this panel consisted of four men who look white, I'll add what I pointed out to Marshall when he offered his reservations about being a good person to speak about class: Marx and Engels were middle class white guys. It isn't what you are that matters in class issues; it's what you do.