Dec 20, 2012

A open letter to Rob N. Stephenson

Dear Mr Stephenson,

I had the misfortune to stumble over your Rant and Rave (appended below) in the December  AurealisXpress, an otherwise wonderful newsletter published by the hard working folk in the Aurealis team.

I receive this newsletter as a paid up subscriber.

I want to express my severe disappointment in both the tone and the content of your missive and to respectively ask that if you should think to write something similar that you perhaps think again.

I am expressing my disappointment here on my blog for a number of reasons:

1) the Aurealis offices are closed

2) I prefer frank and open discussion

3) Aurealis does not maintain a forum in which to express these issues 

I am aware that you are somewhat of a longstanding fixture within the SF&F community, I even have a limited edition of one of your earlier works. 

None of which should protect you from criticism.

I have heard comments to the effect that, “oh that’s just Robert” or “I just skim over that section of the newsletter”, along with others by people who were similarly offended.

So to be frank and direct:

What possessed you to think that it was appropriate to post what it essentially a religious sermon, a defence of the origins of the Christian festival of Christmas in a newsletter of science fiction and fantasy, to grind a personal axe?

Has someone in the readership annoyed you? Is the Australian science fiction community full of historically illiterate atheists bent on taking your holy day away from Christians?

Not that I can tell.

Who within the AurealisXpress readership is this directed at?  If no one in particular, it’s verging on religious spam.

Philosophically I am opposed to your beliefs, but as long as you don’t seek to impose you beliefs or proselytise to me, I don’t really care - I’m here for the science fiction and fantasy content, even content that might be thematically religious (see below).

The readers of Aurealis are I presume intelligent, of mixed beliefs and traditions. Your missive treats them with contempt. Your letter is patronising in regards to your readers education, assumes that we are historically illiterate, and states the bleeding obvious.

Now all of you, eat some pudding and have a good lie down.

Really? Can I have a pat on the head with that sir?

Now before you take issue with me asking you to keep your religion to yourself.  I’m not actually.  I am asking you to direct you anger at historically illiterate zealots to the appropriate forum.

Or do what I do when religious zealots tweet that I shouldn’t be able to give presents because I don’t believe in Jesus Christ – ignore them.

Religious content I would have been more than happy with:

  • A Merry Christmas and god bless (because although I don’t believe, you do and your intention would have been sincere and heartfelt)
  • A link to some charities run by prominent SF&F writers - I do believe that Jim C Hines is running one right now. 
  • A howling at the injustice of the Hobbit being shown to Australians 12 days after everyone else in the world (yes I know Boxing day is our most profitable release date).

I attended a panel at the last Natcon on the subject of religion in SF & F, it was interesting and entertaining. It was good to get a perspective from deeply religious people about how they felt treated by writers and the community.  That sort of topic would be appropriate, something that starts a dialogue.

So with sincere respect, enjoy celebrating the birth of Christ.




  >>> Rob’s Rants and Raves <<<

by Robert N Stephenson

We chase each other into Christmas once again and I hear the same old rubbish about Christmas spirit and true meanings and I even hear the call that it is actually a pagan tradition.

Sorry guys, thus starteth the rave; in 330 AD there was no such thing as Christmas; there were of course hundreds of equinox type celebrations, but no actual Christmas. A group of Christians gathered in Rome and had a party on or about the 25th—no one really knows for sure. Why? Well, all the other Roman religions were having parties so they decided they'd have one to celebrate the birth of Jesus, which was fair enough. If it was good enough for Isis then it was good enough for them.

So in 330 AD the first Mass for Christ was held. Naturally, it was slow to take off and in these yearly celebrations there was no baby in a manger, no wise men and no inn to get rejected from—that rubbish was added later, much in the same way paganism added their version of Christmas, which was about 500 AD. 

So, before you go ranting and raving about the meaning of Christmas, try understanding what you are talking about first. And yes, I do wish you all a very hospitable Christmas in whatever version you want to hold onto. But if you are looking for people to blame for the name and the celebration then it really does belong to the Christians and no matter how much you try to rewrite history it will always be theirs.

Now all of you, eat some pudding and have a good lie down.


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