The schisms that run through SF/F, both among authors and among reviewers/readers, puzzle me. True, lately these fault lines seem to break along Conservative/Liberal lines, but there have been other lines in the past, and there will be others in the future. Still, it’s puzzling because the genre has enormous scope, and there’s plenty of room for any and all types of Specfic, from Libertarian-minded Military Fantasy to Socialist-minded Weird Fiction, from hardcore Grimdark to lighter fare, from “message fiction” (I realize this is a bit of a loaded term, but I can’t think of anything to use that’s not even more loaded) to standard issue Romantic Fantasy, from Hard Sci-fi to Space Opera, from Epic to Urban to Steampunk to Sword and Sorcery to whatever floats your boat.
As far as I’m concerned, the wider the scope and the more variable the voices in Specfic, the better. Why? Because a broad scope and many voices mean readers with an appetite for Specfic are more likely to find something they like. And since I think Specfic broadens the imagination and teaches us to dream big — important things for we otherwise tiny, short-lived humans spinning along on a big rock — I’m happy to see ever more readers brought into the fold because they can finally find something they love that sparks their imagination.
Sales, of course, are a different question. But we’re lucky to have a tool that will answer that question — the market. Opinions about what will or won’t sell are ridiculous. The answer is knowable. The market will tell us.
In the end, one can’t manufacture an audience with good intentions or a sincerely held belief that the kind of fiction one loves will sell like crazy and in so doing validate one’s social/political/cultural views. Nor can one quash an audience by referring to something contemptuously as “message fiction,” or “violence porn.” Either a story speaks to people in some way or it doesn’t. In general we’ll know if it does or not because the market will give us evidence.
So write what you love! And read what you love! But don’t confuse what speaks to you or aligns with your views as objectively good, and label everything that doesn’t speak to you or align with your views as objectively bad. Almost certainly the work that doesn’t speak to you (and is at odds with your social/cultural/political views) speaks to someone else, perhaps MANY someone elses, and that’s what it’s all about. In any event, we’ll know how many readers it speaks to because the market will tell us. But whatever you love to write and whatever you love to read, keep in mind that Specfic is (or ought to be) a big damned tent. 🙂