This is an expanded summary of what I said on Twitter (see under @roselemberg).
Regarding various ongoing conversations in the SFF field, I see, from all sides, multiple references to the speakers’ ages (‘the Young’, ‘children’, the ‘Old’, ‘the Old Guard’, ‘they will die off’) that make me uncomfortable. I am convinced that these labels are unhelpful in both describing and understanding the processes of change in which we participate and which we are witnessing.
I’d like to replace the word “old” with the word “hegemonic”. What we are seeing is not the “old” versus the”young”, but power brokers reluctant to share that power with those who, for various reasons (age not being one) have not been in hegemonic positions. Nobody is asking the power brokers to give up the power – just to share it. I believe that’s what the backlash is about.
Using “old” or “young” to describe the various sides of this debate is not just inaccurate, it is hurtful. It hurts because it misrepresents that people of various ages are on both sides of this. Young people can and do align with the hegemonic positions; people in their teens, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and beyond are working for greater diversity and more equal power-sharing in the field. Moreover, those positions are often not binary. There is great intersectionality in both power and its lack.
A very large issue I have with the label “olds” is that it overlooks that we – the non-hegemonic people of various stripes – also have elders. I do not want to ignore our roots, our trailblazers. What we are seeing is not a generational shift but the cumulative work of generations gaining momentum in the now. This momentum brings with it a shift towards greater acceptance of diversity and sharing of power. While generational trends are certainly there, that’s not what it is about at the core, as I see it.
I am also, to put it mildly, not keen on the “die-off” sentiment. I wish the power brokers would get it and share freely. It is not impossible. It has happened, and will continue happening.
On the other hand, power hierarchies tend to self-perpetuate. Which is why waiting for the current power brokers to “die off” is useless. Expecting for any power hierarchy to not self-perpetuate after the expected “die-off” is as futile as politely asking for the power.
Rethinking, reframing, and remaking the power structures; expanding discourse; having painful conversations and learning from them; forming alliances; empowering diverse voices through opportunities, including publishing opportunities (the more lucrative, the better); establishing venues; creating and maintaining our spaces; fighting for safety in our spaces; and of course, creating works of art and disseminating them – while upholding others – is how I see this change happening.
At its core, the change I hope for empowers and expands our field, enriches everyone who participates in it regardless of age and other variables. This change is already well underway.