John Scalzi over at his blog whatever posted an essay in response to this blog post. Like Scalzi I would urge you to go read the pose and then come back to my thoughts.
While Scalzi addressed the idea of taking back SF conventions, award, and SF culture in general, I am more interested in the whole concept of the right myths to be telling.
Mr. Lehman seemed to be supporting a stand that principle American myths in SF were being undermined by ‘enemies’ and that it was important that the right myths be told, and written.
I agree with him utterly that myths are one of the primary definitions of a culture. Understand their myths and you have gone a long way to understanding them. Myths are also critical in the transmission of culture across generations. So there we are again in agreement.
What he seems to miss in my opinion is just how fluid myths are. They are never the same from tale to tale and their alteration, divergence, and mutations is part of what drives changes in culture. He speaks of the cowboy myth, one that was born of dime novels and expanded upon my film and television. I wonder which cowboy myths are the right ones? The Roy Rogers, white hates and black hats, never shoot anyone in the back, always tell the truth cowboys? Perhaps the gritty people are no good and you cannot depend on them myth of ‘High Noon?’ Or maybe the violent, murdering butchers of ‘Unforgiven?’ just within the cowboy myth and over a few short decades the meaning changed and the truth as I see it is that there is no ‘correct’ or ‘right’ cowboy myth. All of them speak to something about America and its people, all of them speak to the changes that she endured and continues to endure.
Myths change the people and people change the myths. It is a feedback loop of a dynamic unstable system. Science-fiction myuths used to be something else, but they changed as new voice came in, added their own experiences, as the culture changed and elevated myths that better spoke to them as that time. It is a constant process. It is not one driven because some people went to mechanical engineering school while others plotted and planned in social engineering schools. SF is a business first and what you see on the shelves today is a result of the market demanding it be there. (I speak of course concerning the traditionally published, outside of that everything in the world is available.)
There is no perfect set of SF myths and stories anymore than there are for cowboys or knights. Trying to restrict it top a perfect set a platonic ideal of what SF is about is as futile as reducing a motion picture to a singe perfect frame and insisting that only that frame need be viewed.
New voices will always come in, they will always bring in new idea, some will be accepted, some will not. Some old ideas will endure, others will fade. It is the nature of culture to change.