In his blog on the subject, Stross quotes from his student critic, “My main point is that you as an author shouldn’t write non-fiction topics on what you truly do not know about.” Stross responds, not very patiently, that this kind of credentialsm is pointless on the topic of space colonization, because it’s only an imaginary activity.

Stross’ exchange has echoes of the Ann Rice essay I recently featured. Rice has this to say on the subject:

“There are forces at work in the book world that want to control fiction writing in terms of who ‘has a right’ to write about what…Some argue that white novelists have no right to write about people of colour; and Christians should not write novels involving Jews or topics involving Jews.”

Given Stross’ experience, I guess we’d better add space colonization to the list of contentious topics.

Charlie Jane Anders checks in on the subject in a 2013 article for io9. Anders discusses 10 myths about SF, including the one where you have to have an advanced degree in some hard science in order to write science fiction. Since it’s her job as a writer for the magazine to be savvy about trends, we can expect she’s put her finger on a real issue with science fiction—which is that not that many people feel really qualified to write it. Worse, magazine editors these days likely feel unqualified to evaluate it. Nobody much seems to value the science part anyway, so why shouldn’t they just go with sentimental favorites instead?