The changing of the guard in the early 2000s and the euthanization of the reactionary Sad Puppy movement in the early 2010s should have ushered in a new era of speculative fiction, an era of creative freedom and experimentation.
It did not.
Instead of welcoming and mentoring a new generation of authors from all walks of life, the current publishing establishment primarily supports friends who can afford to attend the same costly private workshops, MFA programs, and industry galas. This pay-to-play model hurts any writer without economic privilege, but it hits oppressed people particularly hard, since people of marginalized backgrounds are statistically less likely to be affluent than their white, cisgender, heterosexual counterparts.
Like any gated community, speculative fiction ruthlessly polices its entrances. Any new writer who breaks into the scene without paying the gatekeeper, either in cash or in flattery, is treated with suspicion and marked “unsafe.” Any new writer who dares to challenge readers sees their work denounced as “harmful”—a 21st century euphemism for degenerate art–and is chased out of the community with harassment and abuse. Ironically, this cruelty is often inflicted by the very same people who were similarly attacked by the Rabid Puppies just a few years ago.
Given this authoritarian restriction of expression, is it any wonder that the genre has narrowed and stagnated? Why innovate, when innovation carries so much risk and so little reward?
Speculative fiction has stopped experimenting with style; instead, the short stories that attract buzz and acclaim are astonishingly similar to each other in tone, structure, and theme.
Speculative fiction has stopped looking to the future or showing us new worlds; instead it rehashes old stories and reiterates dusty debates about red shirts and final girls and Omelas, like Miss Havisham in a moth-eaten Starfleet uniform.
Speculative fiction is not living up to its potential. Speculative fiction could be so much more than it is, if the community’s leaders would only give it room to breathe.
To challenge the suffocating, stultifying order of contemporary speculative fiction, we present an indisputable list of demands we are calling the Rite Gud Manifesto:
Speculative fiction must be free to explore difficult subjects.
Speculative fiction must be free to shock, disturb, sadden, and disgust readers.
Speculative fiction must be free to experiment with form and style.
Speculative fiction must be free to hold negative space.
Speculative fiction must be free to ask questions without answers.
Speculative fiction must be free to speak for itself rather than serving as an accessory to the author’s personal brand identity.
Speculative fiction must be free to exist for its own sake.
Speculative fiction must be free to face stylistic critique rather than serving purely as a litmus test for the artist’s perceived moral purity.
Speculative fiction must be free to explore sexuality.
Speculative fiction must be free to succeed even if the author hasn’t had the privilege to attend costly networking events like Clarion, Odyssey, Viable Paradise, MFA programs, or cons.
Speculative fiction must be free to shun didacticism.
Speculative fiction must be free to treat readers like adults.
Speculative fiction must be free of corporate control.
Speculative fiction must be free to thrive outside of fandom.
Speculative fiction must be free to reflect the full range of marginalized people’s lives without sanitizing their experiences to protect the delicate sensibilities of privileged readers.
About Rite Gud: Raquel S. Benedict is an author, appearing in Fantasy and Science Fiction and Gardner Dozois’ The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of The Year’s Best Science Fiction. Matt Keeley, founder of Kittysneezes, is producing Rite Gud for KS Media, LLC. Rite Gud is a Kittysneezes production. If you have questions, comments and concerns, email ritegud – at – kittysneezes – dot – com. Rite Gud is also on Patreon, at patreon.com/ritegud. Patrons receive access to the official Kittysneezes Discord, exclusive episodes, critiques and more.