Pretty much the only comment I’ll make here on the current SFWA shenanigans

Because dozens more people* are talking about and archiving it already. Nothing but admiration for folks who have the patience and blood pressure left to spend on this, but I can’t headdesk anymore. I need my head, and my desk, to write. Doing this pre-coffee, BTW, and hepped up on cold medicine, so brace yourself.

But here’s the thing: I am all about the First Amendment**. Most writers are. And if this current brave blow in defense of artistic expression had been actually about artistic expression, I might’ve been in their corner. If they’d gone to bat like this, poured out all this sturm und drang and all these Privileged Writer Tears, over the kinds of things the First Amendment was meant to protect — the voices of the minority; the rights of those who need to speak truth to power; subversive art, incisive journalism, political protest — then I would’ve signed the damn petition myself.

But context matters. Ethics matter. The guy initiating this petition has an extensive history of filling some of the most visible parts of the SFFsphere with his misogyny, homophobia, and other choice bigotries. He often wraps these ideas in anti-political-correctness freedom-fighting MURRICA flag-waving, but when it comes down to it, that’s what this petition is pushing for — this guy’s right to be a bigoted asshole, essentially unchallenged, in SFWA publications. Ditto a few other (mostly older, white, straight) guys’ right to do the same; this freedom to spout hate and fear and contempt for whole swaths of people is a privilege they once gleefully embraced, and they’re mad because it’s not the norm of professionalism anymore. They want it re-normalized. And by standing up not for artistic expression, but for the violent, exclusionary rhetoric that has made SFFdom such a hostile environment for many non-male non-straight non-white people, every signatory on that petition has basically laughed at the First Amendment. This has squat to do with freedom of expression. It’s about making sure the old (sorry, “The Old”) white guys get to talk how they want about the “furry pussies” and the “savages” and the “metrosexuals”, while making sure the targets of their vitriol STFU, waste energy defending their right to exist unobjectified, or leave the profession. That’s basically the opposite of what the First Amendment is supposed to do.

And yeah, I get that part of the problem here is that some of the petition’s signatories feel marginalized. Yet somehow Truesdale had a column in F&SF for years, and somehow Malzberg and Resnick had the SFWA Bulletin as a platform for years. And somehow lots of these signatories are bestsellers or former SFWA officers or have earned the highest awards in our genre, as the petition so-helpfully emphasized.

But you don’t get to claim marginalization when you’re at the center of a thing. You can’t endorse the efforts of bigots to establish a safe space for their bigotry, and then plausibly claim you’re not one of them. You don’t get to pretend that you’re in the demographic minority when you’re… not. And like I Tweeted yesterday before I had to go offline for some therapeutic Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer, you don’t get to pretend you’re being mistreated when really, you’re just being treated like your voice isn’t the only important one in the room anymore.

Oh, and — people who signed that petition: you want to know the real reason why you’re getting so much disrespect from the rest of the genre right now? It’s because you and your friends keep pulling shit like this while the rest of us are just trying to keep the lights on and put food on the table. It’s like Republicans passing bill after bill to fuck up reproductive health rights while the economy’s in the toilet; what the hell does this have to do with anything that matters? You got yours. You’re still getting it. You had every advantage in your favor, and you used the hell out of it. Good on you. But stop pitching shitfits just because the rest of us want a piece of the pie — the pie all of us helped to create — too.

Freedom of artistic expression does not trump good common sense, and at least a perceived modicum of morality (whether divinely inspired or by human agreement and consensus), or an innate sense of fundamental ethical awareness. -Dave Truesdale***

Yeah. Right.

* And that’s just one week.

** Despite the fact that the First Amendment has nothing to do with this situation, because SFWA’s not the government. The “spirit of the First Amendment”, right. Funny how they focus on the Amendment’s spirit of free expression but not its spirit of inclusivity, etc.

*** Hat-tip to Nick Mamatas, for reading through Truesdale’s stuff so I didn’t have to.

32 Responses »

  1. Great post I follow your blog and I never respond but will share or like on facebook. Thank you for intelligently responding to the ignorant and hateful few who seem to dominate the genre I love. I have enjoyed SCI FI and Fantasy for years since I first discovered D& D and comic books. I am 41 yrs old now and it’s refreshing to see people of color now involved in the creative process and I can see heroes who look like me. It’s sad that the good old boy network can’t seem to understand they are a dying breed and festering sore on an otherwise proud genre. Please keep up the good work and thanks again for representing the so called minorities well with class and grace.

  2. I kinda love it when you hand out the smackdown

  3. Pretty much. (That’s my Midwestern understatement for you.)

  4. Oh god yes, ALL OF THIS, but especially this:

    “But you don’t get to claim marginalization when you’re at the center of a thing. You can’t endorse the efforts of bigots to establish a safe space for their bigotry, and then plausibly claim you’re not one of them. You don’t get to pretend that you’re in the demographic minority when you’re… not. And like I Tweeted yesterday before I had to go offline for some therapeutic Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer, you don’t get to pretend you’re being mistreated when really, you’re just being treated like your voice isn’t the only important one in the room anymore.”

    Thank you.

  5. Tanya, my problem with the “editorial board policy” is a simple one. To claim that “of course, we won’t be censoring anyone,” is a red flag. No matter what criteria you use, you are censoring someone. Without absolute chaos, you have to. The problem is claiming that you won’t. I grew up in the deep South, around real racism an discrimination. The most apt comparison I can make is that it’s like comparing the Flu and the Black Plague, and saying. “Of course, they’re the same thing.”
    In 1969, I was told (by a co-worker, who was probably a fellow traveler of the Black Panthers). “If you’re in (Black pert of town), and someone hassles you, tel them you’re a friend of mine.” (Note: even though I tan heavily, I AM unmistakeably White.) That’s the equivalent of the Mafia saying about a (straight, by the book) cop, “Leave him alone.”
    Not that things are perfect, by any means. But, the hysterical attack on even the THOUGHT that someone maybe, sorta, might have said, something racist, _is_ some special kind of stupid. It proves that person is as intolerant, and hate filled, as they claim the “racist statement” is. I’ve been saying for nearly 50 years (and it’s been around long before that). “Take a *good* look at who is marching with you. If you don’t support their aims, and tactics, maybe you shouldn’t associate with them.”
    As a Christian, I was “Liberal” before it was the thing to be. To me, and those like me, it means to (using the Latin root), “to set free.” The current crop of “liberals” don’t want anyone to have freedom that *they* don’t approve of. In fact, the very notion of real freedom, is anathema to them. To criticize anyone, for misbehavior is wrong, as long as they aren’t the protected minority. The classical example is the statement. “Blacks can’t be racist/prejudiced.” HUH? I’ve had a Black apartment n=manager telling me. “You wouldn’t be comfortable living here.” If she had been White, and I were Black, there would be no question about the racism. Yet, she, being Black, “can’t be racist.” Welcome to the land of the Queen of Hearts.
    We are no longer allowed to criticize someone as incompetent, corrupt, or just plain poopy head stupid, because they are Black. No matter how strong the _objective_ evidence, it is “RACIST” to say it. A President (who was allegedly a Constitutional Law Professor), can say. “The law is what I want it to be.” He may be your dream president, but what happens when your _nightmare_ president uses the precedent?

  6. Everyone,

    I’mma just let Walter’s comment sit here and ferment awhile, so we can all appreciate the full bouquet of its myriad stupidities. The fact that it’s addressing a “Tanya” when none has spoken here suggests in itself that this is copypasta from other arguments on the subject, probably several people’s to judge by the incoherency of the whole. So no need to reply; just… appreciate.

    Also, Walter, you’re on permanent moderation. You can still post, but if I see another paste-up job like this, I won’t approve it, just FYI.

  7. Writing well — and having that writing appreciated — is the best revenge. They lose.

  8. As an extremely pasty white guy from a part of the South that’s so backwards it’s made national news over the past week, I have one thing to say about this blog post:

    HELL, yeah. Good on ya, and keep fighting the good fight.

    I can’t claim to have been in your shoes, but I fully agree with you. At least a dozen of the people who signed that loathsome petitions are people I’d frankly expected better of, and my estimation of the quality of their character has dropped as a result of that action. Either they have failed as people or they have failed as wordsmiths, and neither option makes them look especially good.

    I’ve been reading SF for about forty years, and attending conventions for maybe the last fifteen. I have noticed how rare it is to see nonwhite faces in those crowds, and every one I *do* see gives me hope that we’re becoming a little more inclusive. It’s a long road, and we’re only taking baby steps, but it feels like progress…

    …and then something like this petition happens. Or the uncovering of harassment at conventions. Or, in short, something else that The Good Ol’Boys laugh off with a hearty HAW HAW HAW, instead of seeing that it’s a problem that needs to be seriously addressed. And then it’s like all the progress has been undone, the community I used to enjoy being a part of suddenly looks like a bunch of damned cavemen, and I feel like giving up on the whole mess.

    But I can’t.

    Because that would mean letting the assholes win, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let those backward, entitled, frothing-in-their-own-privilege JERKS chase me out of this community. If they take offense at me calling them such, that’s fine by me; I am appalled by their behavior, and maybe the censure from someone who looks like them can be that one drop in the bucket that tips the scales.

    Like I said, I haven’t walked your path – but maybe I can at least help get some of the rocks out of the way.

  9. NKJ, you have said the true words far more eloquently than I ever could.

    My long-time co-author signed the petition. She does not speak for me. Her views are not mine.

  10. Let me translate.
    “I interpret free speech to mean I can be a jerk, but if you link to the mean things I have written, then I’ll sue you and everyone whole shared it.”

  11. A lot of racist people use the catchphrase “but non-white people can also be racist too!”
    Yes, we know that. However, I have heard or read it from so many racist people that when someone who isn’t racist use it I tend to wonder. Also, I tend to group those who abnormally hate people because of political, sport, gender, class, wage or religious differences with those who are racist – it all comes down to being scared of those who are different. Many who abnormally hate Obama may not be racist, but that doesn’t make it okay to hate someone because he wants to help a different social class more than yours.
    Walter, I have no idea if you have ever hated anyone for being different to you and I’m not trying to insinuate that you do, but just remember these words when defending someone’s right to be hateful for any reason. I label myself a progressive Christian, and I can never force myself to call any group of people who are different to me “them” or “they”, as it very soon leads to thinking that “they” are lesser, which leads to hate of those who are different.

  12. I’m from Australia, and I’m horrified to hear about this sort of stuff happening over in America. I kind of don’t want to follow the links and read more because I have a feeling it will just make my day worse…

    But imo they should just stop being idiots doing idiotic stuff, then you can direct all of your energy into writing more amazing books instead of worrying about them. I re-read a bit of The Killing Moon yesterday and was quickly reminded of how much I love your writing. :)

  13. Let me just say it: Walter, you’re a moron.

    There. Now that I’ve said what needed to be said about his abysmal blathering, let me point out that many Whites have no idea what racist means. They toss it around, act like they’re being pulled down from their pedestals, but the reality is that the playing field is rising and they’re going to have to put up or shut up.

    So instead, a few are trying to push the rising stars down and shut up the voices that are clamoring for good stories that feature (gasp) main characters who aren’t White, grey-eyed, black-haired men (OK, some are blue-eyed and brown- or blonde-haired — not quite all are John Carter of Mars), so they don’t have to compete with people who are different — and that includes us women too, no matter what color we are.

    I would like to think that a few who signed the petition (and I haven’t looked to see who has, I also write for a living and have a kid playing juniors hockey so I’m bleeding money, I don’t have time for that BS) did it out of ignorance of the true issues, not out of actual support of policies that make bad behavior acceptable.

    Honestly, any time you threaten the “good old boys” network, you’re going to get a backlash. If this is the best they can do, all I can do is laugh at their stupidity. For people who supposedly look to the future, they’re dredging up tactics from the past. Unsuccessful tactics because if they manage to drive out the new, rising stars of science fiction, they’re going to find themselves and their outdated organization floundering in the dust as the new, diverse organization rises like a phoenix from the ashes of the fire that they built themselves.

    And then it’s gonna be “How you like me now?” as they stand outside, faces pressed against the glass doors that once opened for them, and them alone…

  14. Sigh. “There’s no way I would ever want to rein in my racist, sexist comments voluntarily, so anywhere I can’t share them is forcibly censoring me!” If I rip my pants and am parading around showing my ass, somebody stopping me before I take that out in public isn’t censorship, it’s a genuine kindness.

  15. Man I wish I never opened Amazon. I picked up The Killing Moon during my son’s swimming championships and was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it is. What a drag it is to step into a dog doo pile of racism and political intolerance and insipid controversy. The idiotic argument by Felicity Savage about women having no place in fantasy? What the hell, I thought I was just reading books.

    Here is my thoughts on racism in science fiction & fantasy: Keep writing books I like and I will keep purchasing them.

  16. You did your part and more last year. It’s time for others to do their part now. Since I’m not SFWA and don’t have a voice there please rest assured I’ll do my (small) part by adding you and others fighting the good fight to future book buys. And space for that will be made by not buying books by anyone who signed that thing.

  17. So, the Emperor’s new clothes aren’t cutting it. Hmm. Like we give a shit.

    Say you were a member of a resistance group and all day long, all they do is gossip about each other and made snide comments about :them: and {those} people. You, fighting to stay alive under a repressive regime, how long would you stick around?

    Be known by your work and words.

  18. Morgyn,

    Huh?

  19. Hokay, I’ve got a few more “Huh” comments in the queue, and I think it’s time to close the comments on this post.

Dreamblood Book One:

The Killing Moon

The Killing Moon

Read Sample Chapter 1


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