Recently the Science Fiction community lost a couple more of its icons. Leonard Nimoy and Sir Terry Pratchett. I am not going to eulogize them here, it has been done many times by people who have a stronger connection and frankly, are better writers.
Instead I am going to talk about what their passing showed me, and our community. You see, while Nimoy didn’t have a beard they were a couple of the old bearded white men that a certain portion of SF is railing against. You didn’t see any of that during the period of mourning for these men. While I am certain the cultural taboo of speaking ill of the dead had something to do with it , I think a larger part of it was being honest with themselves.
You see, those who are against the old white men of SF aren’t actually against anyone alive, they are upset with the fictional old white men of their imaginations. Men like Pratchett who wrote well and entertained a generation aren’t their targets. It is the evil men who are keeping them from success who offend them.
What they cannot understand is that there are no evil bearded old white patriarchs holding them back. The evil must exist because they are unsuccessful and they have followed what they have been taught. All their lives they have heard from those in authority that if they toe the line they will have great success. They have toed the line and claimed the victimhood that goes with it.
Since this has not resulted in success there must be a reason. The by-laws of victimacy state that if they have done what they are told and have not been rewarded with great success it must be because of the evil man holding them down. For the last half century or more all evil has been vested in old white men. At least that is what the media and their teachers have taught them.
This is, of course easy to understand. What they can’t reconcile is actual people that they have admired are the ones they are vilifying. It is no problem to believe some older guy you know nothing about except that he disagrees with you on the internet is evil. It is much harder to see the hero of your beloved TV show as evil. So they mourn his passing without seeing the disconnect with reality.
Some of them actually understand this below their conscious minds so you see less of the attacks during the mourning period. Sadly enough many of them aren’t capable of ever seeing this about themselves. A few of them actually know what the truth is but, use the situation for purposes of manipulation. Those are quiet during this time for fear the legion of fans will literally tear them apart.
Sadly, we will be seeing a lot more of this soon. By the time an author has reached the iconic status of a Pratchett he is usually getting on in years. The success of a J.K.Rowling at a young age is the exception, not the rule.
My first con in a generation was Marcon about six years ago. Robert Asprin was to be the Guest of Honor, sadly he passed away the night before. I will be seeing David Drake at a con soon, he is in his 70s. Christopher Stasheff will be there too, he is also in his 70s. I could go down a list of names of great living SF authors and would mostly say the same. Even the younger big names are in their 50s and 60s, John Ringo and David Weber as examples. You see the same thing with actors. Connery, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Clooney, Streep, they are all getting long in the tooth. We shall be losing far too many of them far too soon.
It is a shame that we have to lose someone to be civil and honest, isn’t it?