Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More on Class

I did some posting on my blog yesterday, then ran a couple of errands and then came home and went to sleep. I got more than twelve hours and woke up this morning relaxed, a wonderful feeling, then lay in bed and thought about social class. The more I thought about it, the more complex it seemed.

It would be interesting to do the class panel with someone from another country -- England, for example -- where class is more obvious. You open your mouth and people can peg you.

Are the English able to avoid our confusion on the issue?

I know one thing with certainty. One should not ask the panelists to talk about their class backgrounds. It wastes time that should be spent talking about science fiction. We don't do panels on race which are devoted to how black each of the panelists feel him or herself to be. (I have third cousins who are black... I like jazz a lot... Some of my best friends...)

I initially felt one should also not try to define the working class, because this also pulls the panel off topic. But it's hard to talk about treatments of the working class in SF, if one has no idea what the working class is; and Americans really do not.

Maybe the answer is to talk about class in SF, rather than the working class. Then we could talk about what kinds of people and jobs are shown, without getting hung up on definitions.


Blogger Unknown said...

I attended the Working Class Characters panel you refer to here, together with my wife. We both are from working class backgrounds and I write, while Sue does artwork. We had high expectations for that panel. In spite of having worked for many years in factories, a steel mill, driving cab, etc., and growing up in a mining/lumbering town, I find creating working class characters I am satisfied with challenging. I am defining the working class a little more narrowly than you perhaps.

We both found the panel discussion frustrating--it didn't seem very focused, especially not on characters in science fiction.
And while many working class people end up in the military, it is a different situation. There are many scifi characters in the military.
One thing I did think of as a result of the panel, was how often scifi writers seem to replace the working class with robots. It's something I feel I should try to analyze a bit, but have only had a few preliminary thoughts on so far... Paul Bietila

6:20 PM  
Blogger robert wood said...

I was at the panel as well and it was frustrating and scattered. From a practical standpoint, it seemed that the panels that had a common framework had some of the best discussions. I think that the desire to return SF would help, and you could even go farther by framing the conversation within certain texts (ie class in the works of Heinlein and Niven, or Butler, or some other combination.) This would take out a lot of the randomness and disconnectedness of the conversation. There would be some kind of common referent to allow conversation. This is something that could even be sent out ahead of time so that folks could look back at the works in question to contribute to the conversation.
I also strongly agree with the tediousness of biography. In strong works, self-reflection can be an amazing form epistemological reflection, but too often it becomes a mode of navel gazing.
Last, I was amazed how quickly the working class was raced as white in the conversation. This seems to be an implicit acceptance of the Nixon cultural framework of identity that has returned with enthusiasm.
Anyways, it would be interesting to return to next year.

3:17 PM  
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