Please Read What I Wrote, Not What You Thought I Wrote

Just recently I received several comments which accused me of tying the word heterosexual to “close-minded” and equating those with a Christian or Islamic belief structure with being small-minded… or something to that effect… with the clear implication that I’m neither heterosexual nor of a Christian background… or fond of either. Because there are at least a few people who are reading what they want to read, rather than what I wrote, here are the apparently offending phrases:

…there are tens of millions of people who cannot conceive of, let alone accept, any sort of domestic arrangement besides a two-partner paternalistic, heterosexual union sanctioned by a religious body. There are possibly more than a hundred million who have no understanding of any theological system except those derived from European Christianity. Effectively, the vast majority of individuals from such backgrounds are self-alienated from science fiction and to a lesser degree from fantasy.

First, please note that I did not say that any and all heterosexuals were close-minded; I said that the majority of those who could not conceive of and accept a wider view of marriage were — despite the fact that history and culture have consistently demonstrated far more arrangements than the heterosexual model. Second, given that the United States has roughly three hundred million people, tens of millions do not represent a majority, although the polls I’ve seen indicate that people who reject all forms of marriage except the western heterosexual model indicate well over a hundred million in the USA. Third, I’d like to point out that I did not say that all of the individuals from such backgrounds were self-alienated; I said that a majority were. In that, the numbers don’t lie, because, compared to any segment of the population, F&SF readers comprise a very small percentage. Therefore, my point about the majority of individuals from such backgrounds being self-alienated from the field stands.

In addition, the facts should be fairly well-known that I am devoutly heterosexual, as my wife and former wives and numerous offspring would certainly attest, and come from strong Episcopalian background, which is certainly a branch of western Christianity, at least the last time I checked.

Now… why did I bring up this seemingly trivial set of complaints?

In the complaints, my words were not attacked — I was, and I was attacked for something that I didn’t even write, but for what people thought I wrote, because they either did not read carefully or could not. I’m a writer, and, if you as readers don’t like what I write, then you have the option of not reading my books and telling others why. That’s fair.

You can also misread what I wrote and tell others. That also happens, more than I or any other writer would like, but it’s part of being an author.

What bothers me about all of this is simple. I’m an author. I love words and strive to use them clearly and effectively, and so does every other author I know. Usually we succeed. Sometimes, we don’t, but not for lack of trying.

Is it really too much to ask someone to read what we wrote, rather than what they thought we wrote?

But then, I have to admit, when the Pope starts suggesting that Catholicism is the only”true” Christianity, we’ve got far bigger problems than someone misunderstanding what I wrote… yet I can’t help but feel that they’re all tied together, perhaps because of the hundreds of “true believers” I’ve met over my lifetime, I’ve found very few who were able to consider anything that conflicted with their beliefs impartially and thoughtfully, regardless of their level of intelligence. They just couldn’t, if you will, read what was written, but only what they thought was written.