MOST of the editors [in the SF field] came from families where ALL generations had gone to college as far as they remembered (kind of like my husband’s family. It amuses me that paternal grandad would have bowed and scraped and been speechless before my inlaws.) More than that, they’d gone to prestigious colleges. For 99% of them, if they had an ancestor who worked with his/her hands, it was buried in the mists of time.Hm, where shall I start?
Seriously. Seriously? I didn’t go to college. In fact, I didn’t graduate from high school, and I don’t have a GED. This is one of the more widely known facts about me, tbh. If you’re making generalizations like that about a set of people that has me in it…well, you just hate to see that kind of thing at this level of play.
Both of my parents went to college — Michigan State University. Both of them were the first people in the known history of their families to do so. I don’t make this assertion lightly. Thanks largely to the heroic efforts of relatives, I know the names, dates, and something of the lives of all 32 of my great-great-great grandparents, and I know the same for all but eight of my 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents. This gets us back to approximately the American Revolution. Not a college degree among them.
Let’s talk about how people like me don’t have an ancestor who “worked with his/her hands.” Leaving aside my own resume of youthful labor (day laborer, typesetter, printer’s flunky, scraper of paint off of aging Great Lakes freighters—that one was less than perfectly fun), there’s the fact that my father’s father was a factory worker in Detroit. His father was a farmer, as were all the Haydens before him back to the seventeenth century.
My mother’s father was a CPA and a shopkeeper. He came to Michigan from Kentucky with a backwoods accent so severe that he was literally incomprehensible to people there. His forebears were Appalachia through-and-through: hardscrabble, hard times.
As you can see, Sarah Hoyt is exactly right. My ancestors were generation upon generation of privileged scions of the Ivy League. Beth Meacham’s rural Ohio forebears were all Oxbridgeans; in fact, you couldn’t even show your face in 19th-century Newark, Ohio if you hadn’t published at least one article in a peer-reviewed journal of classical studies. Claire Eddy’s family in Hell’s Kitchen, of course, was composed entirely of high-society patrons of the arts; the entire career of George Balanchine would have been unthinkable without the support of Claire’s tavern-keeping, linoleum-installing relatives. And of course Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s dirt-farmer Mormon forebears contrived the artificial distinction between “literary” and “genre” fiction out of whole cloth, because monkey cucumber parliamentary archaeology. And other things that make just as much sense.