I have shared my experiences with the Whiteness of science fiction on several occasions here on WARN and also on the podcast. I have also confessed to my embarrassment regarding my summer of "grokking", shame at discovering that Robert Heinlein was a white supremacist, and subsequently throwing his writing into the veritable dustbin of work to not be read for purposes other than strict critical inquiry, as opposed to pleasure or joy.
There is an alternative reality knowledge propaganda producing machine that sustains the White Right and the broader Right-wing Republican establishment in the United States and the West. I knew that white supremacist mass murderer Dylann Roof was radicalized by cyber racism.
But, I was surprised to learn that there may be some "science fiction" elements to Dylann Roof's sitting under the white supremacist hateful murderer learning tree.
One of the shadowy figures who appears to have influenced alleged Charleston killer Dylann Roof is Harold Covington, the founder of a white separatist movement and, within supremacist circles, an influential sci-fi author. Covington, the latest in a long line of rightwing sci-fi writers, has been linked to racist crimes in the past and this week called the massacre “a preview of coming attractions”...
Elizabeth Wheaton wrote about Covington in her book Codename Greenkil: The 1979 Greensboro Killings. “Covington was pretty much a minor player,” she told The Guardian. “He liked the Nazi image on the white power kinds of things, but he was kind of nerdy. Most of [the others] were country people or ex-military.”
“For all of his lacks, he does not lack the ability to turn a phrase,” said Wheaton. “He’s very articulate in presenting his message...”
Much of Covington’s influence on his followers comes from his novels, which are written in a style that reads like someone spilled a 50-gallon barrel of ethnic slurs all over a stack of early-draft Robert Heinlein novels. His choice of cultural icons dates his books considerably, even the recent ones, which are filled with up-to-the-minute references to Jane Fonda and Gilligan’s Island, but the author probably doesn’t care about these criticisms. The books are not primarily novels, anyway.
The Northwest novels “are not meant to be mere entertainment”, according to Covington’s website Northwest.org. “They are meant to be self-fulfilling prophecies. The author wishes to inspire the creation of a real Northwest American Republic, and his novels are filled with a great deal of sound practical advice about how to do it.”
There are five Northwest novels are all populated with similarly brave and heroic white men (“domestic terrorist-type dudes” in the words of Shane Ryan, the narrator of Covington’s A Distant Thunder), cruel, DW Griffith-style black people whose speech is written in dialect, and hand-wringing liberals who want nothing more than to stifle the right to free speech of (white) people who just want to secede from the US.
On this and related matters, great author, as well as smart, incisive voice, John Scalzi shared how:
Covington comes from a long line of rightwing US fantasists, though most are far less extreme. Where film and literary fiction and visual art tend to trend left, American sci-fi has a definite rightward bent, from libertarian deity Heinlein (widely praised by both his ideological detractors and his fans) to Ayn Rand,Orson Scott Card and beyond.
“Science fiction has always had a strain in it that has been conservative and libertarian and some combination of the two; that’s been kind of a prominent feature for a very long time,” said John Scalzi, president of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. “That in itself isn’t particularly problematic. Some of the most iconic writers in science fiction and fantasy have been conservative to libertarian. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them or the stories they tell. But like any group of people there are going to be folks whose politics are fairly fringe, and whatever comes out of their fringe is going to be fringe as well.”
Scalzi is currently the target of one of those fringe figures, the openly misogynist and racist sci-fi writer Vox Day whose logrolling campaign to include more white men and fewer women and minorities in the Hugo Awards has attracted ire across the political spectrum and from the current king of fantasy, George RR Martin.
It would seem that there could be an overlap between the "Sad Puppies" racially resentful white folks (and their pathetic black and brown racial Stockholm syndrome allies) and the more formal and open White Right. The Whiteness of science fiction is united in the post civil rights era by White Supremacy gross, ugly, more polite, in some ways unapologetic, dishonestly "colorblind", and in all of its other toxic ways.
As I shared on the RT network last Friday evening, Dylann Roof and other Right-wing domestic terrorists are weaponized by Fox News and the Right-wing hate media. Part of this training is not limited to explicit and formal political texts. Political lessons are also taught by many types of media such as music, film, art, video games, comic books, and other types of literature.
A quibble: Covington's work sounds more like speculative fiction than it does "science fiction" (the widely known white supremacist tract The Turner Diaries fits this model as well). Most science fiction is by definition speculative in nature; speculative fiction is not necessarily science fiction. Words and concepts are important; meanings and definitions matter.
People of conscience, intelligence, and who are committed to intellectual honesty should fight against their slippage...especially when such shifts obfuscate the truth instead of illuminating it.
A thought: I find it fascinating that the White Right has resorted to speculative fiction in order to live out its fantasies of white domination and the subordination of people of color. This means that the White Right and its open White Supremacists believe that they have lost the battle along the color line in the near to mid term, are fighting a type of counterinsurgency, and hope that history and the future will bend to them through victory in a longer war.
By comparison, there are anti-racist progressives, liberals, and others who believe that America's centuries-long regime of white supremacy still dominates the Age of Obama in the form of a slightly modified Jim and Jane Crow that has won by adapting itself to neoliberalism, corporate democracy, and superficial multiculturalism.
What a puzzle. Are they both right? Neither? Or each correct, but just in different ways?