Today the Vice Motherboard launched Terraform, a hub for publishing in their words "future fiction," or science fiction.
I wish Terraform the best. Want to give more exposure to SF stories? You have my support. Want to pay 20 cents a word? From the perspective of this SF author, you have my attention.
But unfortunately for Terraform, they attracted a different type of attention today with their manifesto, which stated that "there’s a distinct dearth of science fiction in its purest, arguably its original, form — short fiction — in the environment to which it seems best-suited. The internet."
I suppose this news came as a shock to the authors, editors and readers who have been enjoying and publishing online SF stories since the dawn of the internet.
This oversight irks me on a personal level because for many years I ran the Million Writers Award, which worked hard to highlight online fiction — including online SF stories. A number of SF stories won our top award over the years and an entire anthology of MWA SF/F stories was also released. Because of my work on the award it seems incredible to me that anyone could overlook pioneering online SF magazines like Sci Fiction, Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, among many, many others.
But perhaps the problem is I'm too much an insider to online science fiction. I play in the online SF sandpit so of course I know all the other sand-covered kids.
Asa Whitman announces as much in the Terraform comment section by stating that Terraform is doing the right thing in not acknowledging its online competition. After all, what new business mentions its competition when it opens? Whitman also adds that there's something wrong with Terraform having to recognize that the sandpit belongs to someone else before they can even play in the sand.
And if that was true, I'd be in total agreement.
But the problem isn't in Terraform having to say the sandpit belongs to someone else. The problem is that Terraform acted like the sandpit didn't even exist.
There is truth in Terraform's manifesto. They rightly point out that in our SF-obsessed world, SF stories are overlooked. This has long been an issue with the genre and if Terraform can help solve this problem, more power to them. And I don't want anyone to avoid playing in the SF sandbox because someone else thinks they own it. That should never be how literature works.
But when you ignore what came before in literature — which includes the publishing of that literature — you're not simply dismissing the work of generations of writers and fans. Which you are. No, you're also saying science fiction isn't important enough for you to study. That you don't want to know science fiction's strengths and weaknesses and loves and powers and its continuing hold on readers.
As an author, I often wish to build a new science fiction. But this wish doesn't come from a hatred or ignorance of SF — it comes from a deep love and knowledge of the genre. I know what SF is and because of that I dream deeply about the new heights it might one day achieve.
So best of luck to Terraform. I hope they reach all their SF dreams. But no one should ever pretend that any literary dream can be created by ignoring what that literature has already achieved.