However, knowing how not to do this sort of garbage accidentally doesn’t fix the problem of the willfully ignorant or bigoted. It doesn’t spare us McCaffrey’s ignorant homophobia or Card’s malignant homophobia and warmongering. It doesn’t save us from Rowling’s transphobia or Dahl’s antisemitism.
But it does make it a little easier to understand how people whose fundamental worldviews are so profoundly warped can nevertheless produce works with characters whose experiences and difficulties resonate with our own. They’re painting a picture. They just aren’t always understanding what they’re painting. Does the camera know what it captures?
The thing these four authors have in common is that they are or were adept and evocative storytellers. But there is nothing inherently benign about storytelling.
Storytelling is a blade. Blades can be used to cut down grain, cut food, or slit a throat. The blade doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective. And sometimes even the blades that are useful to us hurt us. Sometimes the dullest blades hurt the worst when they slip.
This sort of sharp yet accessible mini-essay is why I first came to Tumblr, and I miss seeing posts like this. I used to encounter them much more frequently, but the people I followed who were reblogging them tended to get caught up in the “queer is a slur” and “if you ship the wrong thing you’re a pedophile” discourses of 2018. Activity on Tumblr has declined since then, but I’m still finding interesting people doing interesting things as I scavenge the ruins.