**Sometimes it is tough for writers. You just don’t know how it is. In addition to having a steadily more illiterate audience every year, I mean, that is to say, people who don’t read books. People who have forgotten the past, to the extent that nostalgia becomes what they had for breakfast, we have this thing called "political correctness".
Now in the world of science fiction, writers have to pay attention to what’s going on around them, because science fiction is the only 100% hopeful fiction. That is to say, inherent in the form is, "There will be a tomorrow". If you read a science fiction story, it says, "This will happen tomorrow". Now that’s very positive, that’s very pragmatic, "We’ll be here tomorrow. We may be unhappy, we may be all living like maggots, but we’ll be here." So that means it’s 100% positive.
Artistic freedom, thus, becomes something that might be a little troublesome. Because we deal in allegory, because we deal in the ideas that are not exactly what they are today, but they seem to be about something that we know today, and yet they’re tomorrow’s idea. The Jesse Helms’s of the world, the Phyllis Shlafly’s of the world, the Pat Buchanan’s of the world, the Skinheads of the world, find science fiction very, very, very troubling. And they want you to be "politically correct". That is to say, you are not allowed to insult anyone. You can’t have a character who is an unpleasant woman, you can’t have an unpleasant person who has a deformity. Everybody has to be terrific.
Let me tell you a story. This truly happened. A few years ago, I got a letter. I get a lot of mail, as a writer of matters fantastic and as a critic of the field, I get a lot of mail, and they are filled with opinions. Everybody has opinions: I have them, you have them. And we are all told from the moment we open our eyes, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Well, that’s horsepuckey, of course. We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions. Without research, without background, without understanding, it’s nothing. It’s just bibble-babble. It’s like a **** in a wind tunnel folks. So, I get opinions.
And I get a letter one day from a guy, we’ll call him Mr. Johnson. And Mr. Johnson says, (in whiny voice) "You are always writing stories in which midgets are villians."
Now, footnote here: When you get one of these letters, they don’t always, they don’t say something rational like, "In this story you did it or that story you did it". It’s always, "You always did it".
So I went back through 1100 published stories; I found two stories with midgets in them, one of whom was the hero. So this guy writes me, and he says, "I am 3 foot tall, and we don’t like being called midgets, we like being called ‘little people’ ".
Well I thought about this letter for a while, this political correctness being a problem, and I really am concerned about it, and I thought about it…
And I thought about it…
And I thought about it…
And finally I wrote him back a letter and I said, "Dear Mr. Johnson, I am 5’5". I’m a ‘little person’. You’re a midget!"
From Sci-Fi Buzz, episode unknown
Publishing Rights to 'Harlan Ellison's Watching' copyright 1996 the Killimanjaro Corporation.