One author’s viewpoint of the future, of society, of technology, of anything, in fact, should not preclude another’s view, or the views of a number of other authors. Nor should authors be condemned for whether they incorporate and impose a new or “better” view of matters such as gender, ethnicity, and social mores on a past society, or whether they fail to do that. What should be questioned is their accuracy in depicting the past as it was, and, if the work is F&SF, whether the society, technology, cultures, etc., they are depicting are workable and believable, and, also, for me, anyway, whether such a culture could actually evolve into what is persented.
Now, that doesn’t mean anyone has to like what an author does. I don’t particularly like the world of Game of Thrones, but as more than a few historians have pointed out, George R. R. Martin’s use of the War of the Roses as a model of sorts for his world certainly does capture the brutality and the almost total lack of morality rampant in that type of culture. I can admire the craft, but I don’t have to like the result.
That would seem obvious, or it should be, but it clearly isn’t to all too many in the F&SF field. Like it or not, in the past, and still in some societies, most positions of power and prestige and most of those in science were and are held by men, regardless of culture or ethnicity. This isn’t good for a great number of reasons, first and foremost being the fact that any society that does this is wasting at least half of its intelligence and abilities, if not a great deal more. But it did happen, and it continues to happen in some places, and likely will for a long time in others.
If an author wants to write in that kind of world, that’s his or her business, but that doesn’t mean that anyone should be required to like what such authors write or grant them awards. Nor does it mean that they should be denied readers or awards, either. Nor should it mean that writers who depict worlds with diverse populations and cultures should automatically expect readers or awards for merely pointing out what hasn’t yet happened in most societies, particularly if their talent in telling the story is submerged by the “message.” I understand this very well, since every so often some reader or reviewer critiques me for being too pedantic, and, in retrospect, at times I may have been. At other times, I suspect the readers and reviewers in question simply didn’t like considering what was behind what I wrote, but that’s a danger all writers face.
Readers largely buy what entertains them, and what entertains the bulk of readers bears less and less resemblance to reality [as I learned more than 20 years ago by publishing a very “real” book that was incredibly unpopular while watching authors who depicted the same milieu most unrealistically rake in millions]. Often what is entertaining not only has little accuracy in depicting human behavior, politics, and technology, etc., but also isn’t even that well-written, but it still sells.
Various literary awards aren’t all that much better in reflecting excellence, either, because they’re either popularity contests, as in the case of the F&SF Hugo awards, or they reflect the tastes of a small panel of judges, as in the World Fantasy Awards or the Pulitzer Prizes or even the Nobel Prize for literature. While such awards may reflect excellence, that view of excellence is highly influenced by the tastes of those doing the judging.
So…all the stone-throwing because authors do or don’t depict something in a given way seems to me irrelevant to how popular a book is or how technically and artistically good it may be.
But then, some people revel in throwing stones, either figuratively or actually.