Taking Back the Future
June 14, 2012
Humanity was born out of the blood, the mud, and the beer of nature. As it were. We are creatures of the environment we find ourselves in and much of our presumptions about the world, much of nature, is formed of emergent systems. The fact that we’re social animals is an emergent system. However, we’ve risen above our natural organization, our natural programming, and we’ve moved past living purely on instinct and survival. Our primate ancestors figured out tools and society, and our ancestors laid down the foundations of our world. They did this using one very powerful technology that we, the progressive people of the world, need to take back and make our own. It’s a technology that’s been instrumental in all of us becoming part of the progressive, radical, and liberal movements that we come from.
That technology is the power of the story. That technology is narrative.
We are creatures of stories. We are defined by the stories we hear, the stories we tell, the stories we dismiss, and the stories we live. No matter what happens in your life, when you experience it those moments are transformed into scenes with narrative flow, narrative structure, and the timing of a born storyteller. This is part of what drives the dismissal of writers from a lot of people in society – anyone can write, anyone can tell stories. Anyone can because everyone does.
When we were young, those of us who are progressives now, we heard stories. We lived stories. We learned about hatred, abuse, oppression, and pain. We learned about the cost of happiness and the price of comfort. We learned about those who paid and those who didn’t. These stories, and the data and facts that are part of them, became the stories that we told when people asked why we said the things we said, did the things we did. Those stories were sanded down and joined together and became one big story about how there are people out there that are sacrificed on the altar of modern society for the privileges and the comforts of the few.
But without those stories, we would have never started the fight.
Now we’re seeing that same technology being used against us. We’re seeing the hatred and the distrust and the fear of The Few being turned into narratives. Stories stamped out of iron and rage, handed out to clueless footsoldiers who carve themselves in vicious effigy to protect their masters at their own expense. These people will eliminate their own livelihoods, destroy their own healthcare, sell out their own children and parents, eliminate the happiness and safety of their friends and family, and bury themselves in debt and despondency just to punish The Other. Whether that Other is Black, Female, Illegal, Gay, Poor, Trans*, Nonconforming, Radical, Progressive, Atheist, Lesbian, Brown, Muslim, Unemployed, Bisexual, Uneducated, or even simply Someone Else they will work tirelessly and give endlessly to fight the Other.
Why would they work so hard against these people? What has inspired all of this fear and hatred? What inspires all of this horrid work against anyone and everyone that isn’t them?
They’ve been told stories about The Other by The Few. They’ve been told that if they hold onto their traditions, their churches, their communities, and their hegemony then Everything Will Be Fine. They’ve been told that they’re exceptional and the past was better, greater than the future. They’ve been told that they’re fallen from divine favor and it’s the fault of The Other. They’ve been told these stories for so long and in so many different ways that we’ve started to internalize them. We’ve started to learn the fear and pain and hatred of ourselves so deeply that we believe it. That narrative forces us to crave validation by The Few, to conform to what they want, to show that they’re wrong about us because we’re just as good as they are. We crave independence from their authority by giving them the authority to determine if we can be independent. We meekly accept these narratives as truths rather than the stories that they are.
When we started fighting back and telling our own stories, we created the narratives we use to educate each other. To educate the people outside of our movements. We build stories out of the stories from before The Few found us and told us their stories, before The Few ruined our old stories. We build stories out of our history of pain and suffering. We build stories out of new elements and new functions and new systems that are independent of The Few. And we studiously avoid the stories of The Few because all of them are stories about oppressing us.
When the stories of The Few appear in new forms, in new places, even if it’s unintentional, we avoid them. We wave off the stories of The Few for reinforcing the narratives of The Few, for reinforcing oppression through ignoring marginalized groups, for ignoring those hated, feared, and attacked by the stories of The Few. I’m sure many of you are interested in a storytelling genre, a kind of movie, a particular social activity, or even a particular kind of food but you ignore it because of the narrative that The Few have told about us.
In this avoidance, we lend power to The Few.
It’s time that we sat town and pulled out the narratives of The Few, as many have done before, and hack them apart. It’s time that we deconstructed the narratives of The Few and then took what we wanted from them. It’s time that we spun progressive, equal, and mutually supportive narratives out of the carcasses of hatred left behind by Their stories. It’s time that we took back the future and made the stories about it ours.
Worried that the Space Opera is too white? Too affluent? Too religious? Too patriarchal? Let’s take it back.
Worried that Steampunk is too Anglocentric? Too myopic to the poor? Too apologizing about British history? Let’s take it back.
Worried that Fantasy is too sexist? Too problematic? Too racist? Let’s take it back.
Let’s take their stories, their narratives, their comfort zones and hack them. Let’s take the magic, the technology, the characters, the tropes and make them ours. It’s time for A More Equal Storytelling. It’s time that we demanded More Equal Storytellers. It’s time that we were free and conscientious to everyone while enabling everyone to tell all kinds of stories.
Let it be known that I’m a more equal storyteller. Let it be known that They are not allowed to determine my narratives and my stories anymore. That I’m in control of the stories I believe, the stories I tell, and the stories I live.
Will you join me?
Tagged: ableism, classism, contemporary fiction, equality, ethics, fantasy, feminism, narrative, narratives, racism, science fiction, sexism, social awareness, social justice, social justice theory, social theory, speculative fiction, steampunk, storytelling, writing