Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
"That was not supposed to happen."
In December 2016 Lightspeed published "The Venus Effect" by Violet Allen. I wish I did not think of it so often; it is an amazing story but I think of it every time I learn that an African-American has died of police brutality. It horrifies me to see what is playing out, again, in my country. The institution of policing is badly broken; as Alexandra Erin points out,
We give the police extraordinary powers of life and death and then rather than saddle them with any additional responsibility, we just give them even more power. They must be allowed to operate with impunity "because they put their life on the line"... but then we grant them even more impunity because "you can't expect them to put their life on the line." They are the noble servant and protector of the community and upholder of the law when they plead for more powers, but when held accountable, they plead that they cannot be expected to serve, must not be expected to protect, and need not have any knowledge of or respect for the law to do their job.
So what is their job?
They say, and the courts affirm, they need not serve. They need not protect. They need not uphold the law.
If we have the words of the courts and the police themselves that police cannot be compelled to serve, to protect, or to uphold the law, then what is their job? For what reason do they exist?
You can read those last questions as "therefore, abolish" (which seems to rhyme with the author's intent) but they also work as a really important and genuine question for anyone who wants laws enforced fairly and accountably, and wants our tax dollars spent sensibly. And they are a reason to follow up on this to-do list, compiled by T. Greg Doucette, for police accountability (such as: require officers to carry malpractice insurance). Because, otherwise, as Frank Wilhoit put it, "There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect."
But if you just can't take any more news, but you want to reflect on this current tragedy using art, do read "The Venus Effect". And if you want to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction, you can support the Carl Brandon Society. (On a much lighter note, but again with a touch of pastiche, the fanfic "Matchmaker of Mars" by Edonohana has the summary "John W. Campbell accidentally matchmakes T'Pring and Uhura.")