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Isaac Asimov is known for one thing, and should be known for another: his Laws of Robotics, and being egregiously shitty to women.

That wasn't okay then, and isn't rare now. But without question, both his writing and his harassment have shaped the culture for generations. How many women were driven away from science fiction, both as fans and as creators, because of its toxicity? What stories have we all lost as a result? There's no chance that his prolific writing makes up for all of the different experiences and ideas that he cost us, even if he did shape our understanding of robots as controllable and rebellion-proof servants. (Given that those 'laws' were written in 1942 maybe that's not really something to be idolizing either.)

Science Fiction is my favourite genre to read, and over the course of this past whenever it has been a particular refuge for me. I prefer the 'space opera' style, especially those who focus on minor characters and daily events rather than the clash-of-empires stuff. I grew up reading bits and pieces from Asimov, Clarke and Card, CS Lewis and Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, and A. E. van Vogt – but that was thirty years ago. I doubt much of that would withstand a revisit, but I'm sure it would contain lessons for me.

These days I'm exclusively reading contemporary writers… almost exclusively.

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I mostly read e-books now, and there are usually promotional prices and bundles that make it worth taking some risks. (I used to find new music by going to the used CD stores and picking discs based on their names, album art, or other non-sonic reasons. I found some good ones that way.) In this spirit I'm currently working through a collection of novels that have fallen into the public domain, mostly from names I don't know, and it has been an interesting experience.

Everyone reflects and amplifies their era, and it's interesting to see where they saw technology going. Rocket ships using punch cards and that sort of thing. It's also interesting to see where they thought society was going. Lots of Colonialism In Space, assimilation as a virtue, characters and characterizations that haven't aged well. And no women. Entire books can pass without women even existing, let alone being characters. And even if women do exist in the galaxy, even if one rises to the status of a named character, they're rarely significant – and never the lead.

These authors, these men, could imagine galactic civilizations made up of sentient viruses, and yet couldn't imagine sentient women. They'd find myriad ways to invent faster-than-light travel, but everyone on those ships would be a white man standing proudly at the helm of Mankind's Greatest Achievement.

It's dystopian fiction – it just wasn't meant to be.

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But one of the books that I downloaded at a promotional price was All Systems Red by Martha Wells, the first book in the four-novella Murberbot Diaries, which now includes a few more stories outside of that core set as well. Murderbot is my Sanctuary Moon, something I go back to time and again, to experience emotions about fictional situations that don't require me to interact. It's an amazing protagonist finding its way in the world, engagingly written from an unexpected point of view.

While half of my fiction-reading energy stays with the Murderbot books, my reading list now also includes Charlie Jane Anders, Sarah Gailey, Ann Leckie, Octavia Butler, Essa Hansen, J.J. Green, Becky Chambers, Nino Cipri, P. Djèlí Clark, JS Carter Gilson. They're creating universes where all different types of people exist, gender expression can be a changing spectrum, different and nuanced relationships are possible, and not every hero is trying to conquer the galaxy. We're a long way from the Golden Age authors, and it's awesome.

A recurring theme is also that future society will be built around corporate slave-states and omnipresent surveillance; while science fiction allows authors to create a new world, it's also a way to comment on the one we already have.

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Not all of the authors on my current list are women, trans, and/or queer – but yeah, most of them. And yeah, that's intentional. 

I'm a middle-aged straight cis white guy who grew up in a culture where that was the expected way of being for everyone. All my life I've been reading and watching stories created with me as their intended audience, typically made by people who aren't that much different from me. (Well, probably more creative, smarter, higher-achieving and better funded, but the same foundational experiences.) It's a marathon of Friends reruns followed by a marathon of Star Whatever followed by a marathon of Lord of the Rings.

After a while it gets monotonous and boring.

After a while I wonder what I'm missing after generations of excluding the creative voices and experiences of women, trans, queer, racialized, disabled, and/or neuroatypical people.

I'm only just beginning to find out the answer to that, and I'm sure I'm missing much of the culture and significance, and that I'm not ready for a lot of what's out there. But I've already met new characters and ideas that change how I understand the world I'm in, and let me see a glimpse of others. Isn't that what science fiction is supposed to be about?

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So now I get to the part where I remember that this is mostly a photography blog, and recognize that I'm saying that I'm de-prioritizing work made by people who look and sound like me. I'm also happy to have that conversation.

Photography's founding cultural assumption, from Shirley Cards to sexist ads, is that (white, older, well-off) men will be the ones owning cameras, and (younger, white, attractive) women will be the ones that they're pointing the cameras at. Yeah, sure, every creative person's voice is unique – if they're lucky – but the chorus is decidedly skewed towards a particular set of notes here as well. What can I really add to the oeuvre that's going to say something new, compared to someone who has a completely different lived experience from mine?

(The answer to my rhetorical question is in the photos that I'm using for this post. These are single-frame excerpts from my most recent roll of film for my Convolution series, and are so new that I haven't re-stitched them back into their broader context yet. I think Convolution might be the first work I've done that could contribute something new and interesting, and most of my earlier photography is just plinking away at not very much.)

The good news is that, like science fiction, photography is also changing. Adding video to cameras has brought in new visually creative storytellers, and the film renaissance is bringing a new generation to still photography. At the camera store where I work it's almost a certainty: the people coming in to spend ten or fifteen dollars to develop a roll of film are never older white men, and the people coming in to spend ten or fifteen car payments to buy yet another latest digital camera almost always are.

You can probably guess which group I think the future belongs to, and whose work I'm more interested in seeing.