Not the affirmative action you meant, not the history you’re making

So many people have said so many good things about the Hugo Awards debacle in the past few days. I haven’t said much myself because a) I’ve got a book to write, and b) I don’t really care. I mean, I do care about the Hugos; this is a respectable award, which as George R. R. Martin wisely points out has value because the people of Worldcon over the decades have worked their asses off to build its value. Unlike GRRM I think the contributions to that value actually go beyond Worldcon; it’s also been built up by the librarians who buy extra copies of the Hugo nominees and winners for circulation (I definitely noticed a bump after my Hugo noms), and the bookstore staff who create Hugo displays, and the reviewers who rave or rant about them. This whole mess is a sad and ridiculous appropriation of all that work, by people who for the most part haven’t spent day one on a Worldcon committee, or done anything else of the like. But this isn’t exactly the first venerable SFF institution that Those People have attempted to shit all over, so at this point I’m inured to their “inflammatory” tactics. If a toddler throws enough red-faced tantrums, you eventually learn to just corral them somewhere so they don’t hurt themselves or anyone else, read a book ’til they’re done screaming, then pick up their mess and move on.

There’s really only one point that I feel like making here, specifically about Brad Torgersen’s little “Affirmative Action” whinge (located here, thanks to many others for reading his site so I didn’t have to):

Along the way we fairly skewered the concept of literary affirmative action — that works and authors should be judged on the basis of author or character demographics and box-checking, not the audience’s enjoyment of the prose…

Others (see the Book Riot link up top for an example) have rightly pointed out the inherent bigotry of this statement. It’s pretty implicit: underrepresented writers couldn’t possibly just be good enough to have earned awards on the merits of their writing, so the only reason they’ve gotten nominated is because they’re [check a box]. Most people only mean underrepresented writers when they say things like this, note; the possibility of white male writers being nominated or awarded just because they’re white and male never seems to occur to them. So it’s certainly possible that Torgersen is also trying to snub white men here… while simultaneously gloating over the nearly all-straight-white-male ballot that he and his buddies have successfully foisted on us. Yeah. No. He means women and brown people and gay people.

But anyone who says things like this has no idea what the actual fuck “affirmative action” really is.

See, in America we often forget that the various initiatives which made up the capital-A Affirmative Action program were based on policies and procedures that have always existed for white men. That was the point, actually, to make everybody equal not by eliminating the best benefits of American society, but by spreading them around so that more than a few groups of people could enjoy them. College admissions programs that took race into consideration were designed to emulate the legacy system — which has almost entirely benefited well-off white men throughout the history of American higher education. The GI Bill, which purposefully excluded generations of black veterans until relatively recently, was the model for race-based college scholarship and financial aid programs. The pitiful, inadequate Section 8 program (made for the poor, but the poor are disproportionately people of color) was a weak counterbalance to generations of governmental American housing policy which gave free land and subsidized mortgages to middle-class white people, and which literally preyed upon everyone else. (Still does.) And so on, and so on. Capital-A Affirmative Action has been a drop in the bucket compared to the lower-case affirmative action bestowed upon het white guys since, well, colonization.

SFFdom has not been immune to this societal tendency to give straight white guys more, treat them more kindly, eagerly open doors to them that are firmly shut against others. For every John W. Campbell who openly refused to publish black or woman protagonists (and who’s got an award named after him, yeah), there were likely a few dozen other editors who did the same thing quietly — thus effectively reserving publication spots for white men, or those writing white men. White male authors get more reviews (written mostly by white male reviewers), and have a better chance of prominent ones in places like the New York Times Book Review, even though women and people of color buy more books. Women in the business side of the genre get publicly shamed for… well, existing, while white men can be sexual predators or white supremacists and still end up on awards juries or editorial staffs, unquestioned. White protagonists are proudly exhibited on book covers and in the lead roles of films, with little fear of “brownwashing”; male protagonists are rarely sidelined so that a non-male supporting character can be showcased instead; straight-white-male-centric stories, like Tarzan being the awesomest person on the African continent and endless iterations of “let’s go subdue the natives (in space)” have been granted such pride of place in this genre that for years it was nearly impossible to get widely published writing anything else. These are our legacy admits, our GI benefits (but only for some GIs), our governors standing in the schoolhouse door. This is the way it’s always been, until very very very recently.

And just as Abigail Fisher complained only about the 5 black/Latin@ students who beat her out for a seat at U of T but not the 42 white people who did the same, most people in this genre don’t notice the imbalances. They don’t realize that the massive overrepresentation of straight white men in this genre might have an artificial component; they perceive the overrepresentation as normalcy, and assume those men got there strictly on merit. Texas is majority-minority; the number of white kids who got into U of T was waaaay disproportionate to the population. But Fisher clearly believed that white people are supposed to get into good colleges, by dint of their whiteness — so even though other white kids got in with weaker scores, Fisher was only upset about the brown ones. Only those people didn’t belong. Only they “stole” something that she felt entitled to, and decided to try and take back. She saw the Affirmative Action, but not the affirmative action. (And really, there was no Affirmative Action involved in her case. She was just mediocre.)

Brad Torgersen sees Affirmative Action where only the most minimal efforts at redressing the imbalance exist. He ignores the actual affirmative action which has kept this genre — and this country — mired in a virtual caste system since its inception. But hilariously, he and his cronies have resorted to a lesser version of the very same tactics that his forbears used to defend their hoarded privileges — like enlisting the aid of violent bigots, and blatantly hamstringing processes intended to be fair.

Affirmative action has been at work in SFFdom pretty much since its inception — just not the kind that Brad Torgersen is talking about. And when the various Puppies say they want to take us all back to a golden age of history, it’s clear they haven’t actually studied history… or they might realize they’re replicating some of its ugliest episodes.

And man, sometimes Tumblr just has the best timing:

(ETA for typos, including John Campbell’s name, which I always get mixed up with Joseph Campbell’s, dammit.)

53 thoughts on “Not the affirmative action you meant, not the history you’re making”

  1. Thank you! I often struggle to articulate why “reverse racism/discrimination” is not a thing, and you put it very perfectly. Also, is anyone else supper amused they called themselves sad puppies?

  2. Brad Torgersen sees Affirmative Action where only the most minimal efforts at redressing the imbalance exist.

    That may be true – but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong to see Affirmative Action, because people are openly talking about Affirmative Action, about deliberately trying to read and nominate books by POC, with the ‘by POC’ coming first before anything else. People can disagree, and obviously Torgensen and you would, about whether that ‘imbalance redressing’ is a good thing, but that doesn’t make the things that he has noticed unreal.

  3. Army Sergeant, sure, it’s real. But you left off the other half of the statement that you quoted — he doesn’t see (or ignores) the favoritism shown to white male authors, and the exclusion of non-white-male authors, as also affirmative action. That’s real, too. So to complain about the handful of “read books by PoC!” initiatives out there, but not (say) the hundreds of “best SFF” lists that have come out over the years with nothing but white male authors showcased — effectively making them “read SFF by white guys!” pushes — is disingenuous at best. At worst, it reveals a whole shitpile of bigoted assumptions underlying the complaint.

  4. It seems to me that Social Darwinism, while it never disappeared, is resurging strongly, where anything off the while androcentric norm is considered naturally supposed to have to struggle to evolve and let’s not do anything about that. There’s little recognition that it’s not natural.

  5. Army Sergeant, I am curious on what grounds do you rest the implied contention that people who seek out or recommend books based on qualifications besides overall quality are ignoring quality? You might say that quality is not mentioned, or not mentioned first, but maybe the reaon it goes without saying is… it goes without saying.

    I mean, if I took to Twitter and said “Any book recs?”, you’d understand that I mean “recommend me a book you think I would like, that you think would be worth my time.” You would never in a million years think that because I did not specify GOOD books, I don’t care about that, would you?

    Same thing if I qualified it in other ways. I could say I want fantasy book recs, military SF book recs, alternate history young adult book recs, and you would understand that questions of quality (or at least, taste) are already implicitly included in the very concept of the recommendation.

    I could be a Sad Puppy asking for more rayguns and explosions and you would still implicitly understand that I would prefer GOOD stories about such to poorly written ones, yes?

    So why do Sad Puppies hearing similar requests/recommendations assume that the basic nature of a recommendation is somehow going out the window? I’m curious.

  6. Since Sad Puppies won the slate of Hugo awards nominations.
    Liberals, tolerant, etc, have to win next year or the year after that with “Get out to vote.” messages.
    If there is to much failure then there would probably have to another Hugo-like award made for Women and Black writers.
    Also the Liberal faction has to put more people into the WSFS meeting which has over 90% white men, remember that old white men discussion last year.

  7. I get so annoyed by people’s misunderstanding of what affirmative action is/should be.

    I worked for years in the human resources department at a state university that employed over 15,000 people. I got to take part in both evaluating and policing our Equal Employment Opportunity policy. The idea was never to try to force any hiring manager to check a box. The idea was to try to balance the playing field as much as possible.

    For underrepresented jobs (jobs where the university’s current employee statistics didn’t match up with the statistics of the available hiring pool), job postings had to be listed externally and couldn’t be filled internally. They had to be posted twice as long before interviews could begin. We worked with hiring managers to advertise in different places and to try to build as diverse a pool of applicants as possible.

    Affirmative action isn’t about handing out consolation prizes to check-marks. It’s about trying as hard as you can to make sure everyone has an equal chance to get in the door.

  8. I have literally nothing to add to this beyond “it is awesome” and “you are awesome” and “I am thinking of making a small but tasteful shrine in your honor”. :)

  9. D. Coleman,


    First, the Worldcon committees have nothing to do with who gets nominated, and you’re insulting them by implying they would game the Hugos in that way. Or else you really just don’t understand how the whole process works.

    Second, what you’re suggesting is precisely what people have been doing for all the years of the Hugos’ existence: urging people to vote for the best works they can find, suggesting specific works if they’re enjoyable, suggesting overlooked works if they were good enough. That was having an impact, which is why the last few years have showcased more women and PoC and other underrepresented groups.

    That success is why the Puppies have lost their shit. And because simply “getting out the vote” from among the usual Hugo voters wasn’t working for them, they called in the GG posse. They literally had to reach out to an outsider hate group to win because they couldn’t manage it on their own. That’s pathetic, but the Puppy campaigns have proven by these tactics that they don’t give a shit about getting the best works awarded; they really just want to stomp all over what little progress has been made to make the awards represent all the creativity of SFFdom, rather than just that of a small group. They just want to shit all over years of hundreds of people’s work.

    Well, they got their wish. And now there’s no reason for “Liberals, tolerant, etc” to try and compete for an award that has been effectively made worthless. Why would we? Who the hell wants a prize covered in shit? Word will spread about what’s happened. Libraries will stop stocking the Hugo nominees and winners; reviewers will start ignoring them; the awards will become a laughingstock. Only a fool would want them at that point. See, you can game an awards vote, but you cannot change the genre by doing so. You can only tarnish one of its symbols to the point that people discard it… and keep moving in the direction of diversity.

    I do think the awards can possibly be salvaged; I suspect the awards committee is working on a way to revise the rules even now. But if they don’t succeed? ::shrug:: There are other awards. Ones that will still be worth something in the future.

    ETA: …And that’s apart from your rather vile suggestion that the award be fissioned along demographic lines. Really? You want a White Men’s Hugo and a Black Women’s Hugo and so forth? Segregation now, segregation forever, huh? Guess we know what corner of the internet you hang out in.

  10. The Tumblr reminds me of:

    More pointedly a story in Robin DiAngelo’s paper:

    “I am a white woman. I am standing beside a black woman. We are facing a group of white people who are seated in front of us. We are in their workplace, and have been hired by their employer to lead them in a dialogue about race. The room is filled with tension and charged with hostility. I have just presented a definition of racism that includes the acknowledgment that whites hold social and institutional power over people of color. A white man is pounding his fist on the table. His face is red and he is furious. As he pounds he yells, “White people have been discriminated against for 25 years! A white person can’t get a job anymore!” I look around the room and see 40 employed people, all white. There are no people of color in this workplace. Something is happening here, and it isn’t based in the racial reality of the workplace. I am feeling unnerved by this man’s disconnection with that reality, and his lack of sensitivity to the impact this is having on my cofacilitator, the only person of color in the room. Why is this white man so angry? Why is he being so careless about the impact of his anger? Why are all the other white people either sitting in silent agreement with him or tuning out? We have, after all, only articulated a definition of racism. … White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress.”

  11. I swear I read a comment, on one blog or another discussing the current Hugo nominations, that said something to the effect of “there was one story on the ballot another year that I *just know* was nominated for political reasons; it was a good story, I read it myself and enjoyed it, but that’s not why it was nominated.” The commented absolutely could not consider the likelihood that lots of readers and enjoyed it, and put it on their nominations ballots, and that’s how it made the list. No, a work that struck said commenter as having political implications had to have been nominated for political reasons. I just … who thinks that way?

  12. I’m bookmarking this, as it’s an eloquent discussion of a very real problem that too many people don’t see–the complete blindness to how tilted the playing field has been and is throughout the history of the US many other countries. I’m guessing that many who have lived with a tilt that benefits them all their lives are just blind to it. But I sure wish there was a way to open eyes to the issue without causing turf-scorching, punitive tantrums like the SP fiasco.

  13. Being in the last few weeks of a master’s program (along with juggling kids, relocations and other fun life events), I have not had the pleasure of reading your latest book. I have read your others, and at the time I remarked that the writing was stellar and some of the best fantasy I have read. If the worlds of science-fiction and fantasy are a reflection of the society in which we live, this year’s events certainly echo the desire for some to live in fear and hatred while others choose hope and progress. Thank you for being an excellent writer and modeling true strength of character. Here’s to social justice!

  14. Ohhh, so that’s what’s going on with the Hugos. I’d seen a brief post about it somewhere… The Passive Voice I think…but didn’t have time to disentangle what was going on.

    This is a really helpful explanation on affirmative action, and in particular on the ways it gets willfully misrepresented. Definitely filing this one away for later referencing!

  15. I think the Hugos will survive all the Puppies can do. We’re already seeing a massive response from convention-going fans, and other interested parties such as librarians, to join up and vote this year and to get more involved in nominations next year.

    I also have great confidence in the SMOFs and their ability to beat those trying to game the system in the long run.

    One way or another, I am sure we will find ways to recognise great work such as yours.

  16. I think that people would fight to get the Hugos the way they want or to be neutral (which happened a few times in history not now with the Sad Puppies or the Liberals or the 1960s God impacts the world stories.).
    Even if the Hugo is covered with shit it’s still the venerable award that could be cleaned of shit for a few years before some “social engineering or we must keep this in our demographics etc.” puts a little shit on it.

    I have seen movie awards and movie channels, books, comic books be made for Black people and other groups when the mainstream award is felt hopeless for the demographic to win, Black people are big on this with the Oscars.

    The awards can be salvaged for a few years before another group rises up and pushes their social engineering work on the Hugos.

    So far most Hugo award books I have read I have disliked. So even if their was a Hugo award for “Plaid Gerbils* I would not care.

    I am also sure the awards committee is working on this problem, but I don’t think what they make will happen until 2016-2017.

    I just noticed the Sad Puppies issue a month ago so this is my third post on it. I dwell I am a Black American conservative guy group a small group in Fandom.

    *If someone uses the Plaid Gerbils line I want credit for it,

  17. nm,

    Yes, that would be indicative of the racial assumptions the speaker was making. To them, because the author of that story was from a group assumed to be inferior, there was just no way it could have resonated with enough people to get on the ballot. The same happens with Affirmative Action — people, usually racist white people, simply assume that the people of color or women hired/let into college are inferior and don’t belong there, even though they usually do, and even though the person making the assumption usually doesn’t. You can infer a lot about the racial attitudes of people who throw around Affirmative Action as a pejorative.

  18. D. Coleman,

    The “covered in shit” was figurative, D. In reality there would be no washing the Hugos off — they would have become the Blatantly Bigoted and Backed Up By Abusive Thugs SFF Awards. The majority of the genre would simply abandon them. Remember, SFF is mostly liberal or at least libertarian at its core; they’re just not going to be interested in awards run by violent fascists. Go check out the #NewHugoCategories hashtag on Twitter right now. People are laughing at these Hugos. The process of abandonment has already begun.

    And there’s no need for PoC or women to assume that they cannot win a mainstream award, because that’s been happening. It’ll just happen somewhere other than the Hugos.

  19. I agree that Affirmative Action should happen in the world and has helped Black Americans immensely. I am for this because it helped me to get into college.

    I don’t believe people will abandon the Hugo, your side will use the same voting process that Sad Puppies did and will win, SP did this against complaints and apathy but I think your group has more people, more votes and will win in 2016.

    As for me, Ill just read science fiction/fantasy that I enjoy, Ill read a Hugo nominee this year and next year and probably dislike them and wonder why do I suffer myself to do this. Oh and will enjoy the rants of Kratzburg and two of the people who are against anti harassment policy.
    If you go to my Facebook page I the guy that stands out on the left.

  20. I have had some arguments in recent days over the idea of rule changes to the Hugo voting system, and some well meaning people have disagreed with me on the grounds that changing the rules would create an “elitist” class of voters that would ruin the unique relationship the Hugos have with fandom, and they make this argument under the assumption that this whole kerfuffle will just blow over in a couple of years and everything will go back to normal. But history does not support this position. As Arthur Chu points out in his recent Salon article on the controversy, the practice we in the internet age call “freeping” was going on long before the internet was invented. The example Mr. Chu uses is the debacle over the construction of the Washington Monument – in which fringe anti-immigrant zealots flooded the open source organization charged with funding the monument, simply because the Pope was one of the contributors. Construction was held up by these nutters for 40 years until the government finally stepped in to fix it. Mr. Chu’s point is that democracy doesn’t democratize itself. Democratic institutions have to defend themselves from fringe elements who seek to hijack the process to create the illusion that they represent a plurality.
    I care about the Hugos too. As Ms. Jemisin and others have pointed out, the prestige of the awards was built by the hard work of people across the entire spectrum of fandom and of the industry that we support – from Worldcon committee members down to booksellers and libraries and fanzines and so on. For me the Hugos are important not only because I want to see the best works in imaginative fiction rewarded, but because when curious non-fans ask me what books I can recommend to spur their interest in genre fiction, I can usually point to the Hugo awards and say “that’s the best place to start.” The nominees aren’t always my choices for the best books and stories, but I also don’t expect every person who asks me for a book recommendation to have tastes identical to mine.
    The Hugos are also important to me because as an annual voter, I often get to read books I wouldn’t have otherwise read. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was one of these books. I’d heard of it before the Hugo nominations came out that year, but at the time I hadn’t read an epic fantasy novel since junior high school. The David Eddings/Terry Brooks types that dominated the genre back then didn’t speak to my maturing literary interests. Before it’s Hugo nomination I had no reason to think The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms would be any different, but now Ms. Jemisin has been added to the roster of authors whose works I always read, and also there are a number of other epic fantasy authors who I now read regularly as well.
    Rule changes to the Hugos are long overdue. The institution of the Hugos managed to survive far longer than it had any right to on the good faith assumptions of its regular constituency. It was a beautiful thing while it lasted, but those days are gone now. The zealots in the sad puppy bloc will not give up until they’ve run the institution into the ground, or their voices are diluted to an irrelevance befitting their tiny, mediocre mouse hole in the cellar wall of fandom.
    Procedural changes are necessary, but as many have pointed out, doing so is a drawn out process. Even if the ball got rolling today, it takes two years for any changes to go into effect, so it would be nice to see the authors and fans who are invested in the Hugo award tradition to spend the next two voting cycles(or more, if necessary) actively engaging the larger fan community at various cons and public appearances, educating them on the issues and the stakes involved, and encouraging them to become Hugo voters themselves. Not for the purpose of creating some alternative slate for everyone to bloc vote on, but in the hope that greater participation by fandom at large will neutralize the puppies attempts to pass their slate off as representing the best of what our genre has to offer.
    BTW – There are plenty of conservative SFF authors who produce quality work as worthy of consideration as any. None of them are the people behind the Sad Puppies movement (and yes, I’ve read books by Torgersen, Correia, Wright, Vox Day, et all. so I’m not just making assumptions here).

  21. The belief in a “meritocracy” must be among the weirdest religious beliefs out there. The firm belief that there isn’t only 1 person who’s “objectively best”, but that also other people can objectively determine who that is.
    Especially when talking about literature.
    Usually, every person nominated for the Hugo would be more than worthy of winning it. And for every person nominated there are certainly 10 or 100 who would equally merit a nomination.
    There is no “objective” list of top 10 stories/authors/editors/whatever and you simply count down to ten. There is more like a very vague bar you have to jump and the rest depends on who gets noticed. Which is where those guys got their affirmative action. And now people are actively paying attention to books by people who don’t get the benefit of the permanent spotlight. And look and behold, they find works of high quality written by people who are not white guys. Works that are not “objectively best” because that doesn’t exist, but works that are worthy.
    The “puppies” have greatly shaped my reading list over the last years. Whoever was their object of hate du jour turned out to be a talented author with interesting stories to tell.

  22. So I’m no fan of the Puppies and what happened here, but I have a slightly different interpretation than the one you offer:

    > So it’s certainly possible that Torgersen is also trying to snub white men here… while simultaneously gloating over the nearly all-straight-white-male ballot that he and his buddies have successfully foisted on us. Yeah. No. He means women and brown people and gay people.

    I suspect what Torgersen actually means is that people now approach non-white, non-male authors with a certain bias: that a work X would get less recognition had it been written by a white male than other demographics because people are overcompensating for historical under-representation.

  23. Kroms,

    Oh, I had the same interpretation. Torgersen and his ilk clearly feel that a few years of “Hey, pay some attention to the women and the brown people” is overcompensating for decades upon decades of quiet (or overt) “we don’t publish women and brown people”. Note the gifset at the bottom of the post: this is how one thinks when a heavily-slanted playing field is perceived as level, and normal. It’s “water is running uphill” thinking — the blithe assumption that white men are supposed to dominate awards and such, because they always have, and so even the slightest whiff of other people getting attention that they “shouldn’t” feels impossible and wrong (or “affirmative action”) and must be fought tooth and nail. This is a way of thinking that some of us also call “racist” and “sexist”, because it reinforces the power of white men at the expense of others.

    Y’know the really ironic thing? The Nebulas lately have tended to be a good bellweather for what’s going to pop up on the Hugo ballot. They don’t parallel completely, but the books getting the most buzz do tend to show up in both places; that’s what happened to me the year The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms got nominated for both. This year I put in a vote for VanderMeer’s Annihilation, myself; I think it was fucking amazing. It was also the book getting the most buzz in SFWA circles, as were a bunch of other works by white guys; they’re not exactly underrepresented on the Neb ballot, after all. I’ve read a lot of those works and they’re amazing So I suspect this mess has cut a whole bunch of white men whose books are amazing from the Hugos, in favor of white men who are ideologically acceptable regardless of their writing caliber. Because to the Puppies and their supporters, better a mediocre white guy than even the best drop of water run uphill.

    Racism hurts everybody.

  24. NKJemisin,

    Ha, it’s always fascinating how, because of our different backgrounds/experiences, people interpret differently.

    Maybe I’m optimistic to the point of naivete (and, like you, I haven’t read Torgersen’s post), but I wonder if they’re just worried people are completely overlooking the literature and only voting for the artist; that, in other words, in people’s rush to overcompensate for underrepresentation, the statistics are all that really matter. And that they don’t want that.

    I could be wrong. And I completely see your take on it. And besides, they’re pushing for stuff that reflects their own views.

    But I’m reluctant to immediately label Torgersen and co. (excepting Vox Day) racists. It’s a big stamp. You can’t wash that off if you use it wrong.

    This whole thing is such an unnecessary mess. :(

  25. Why do you call Daddy Warpig a ‘violent bigot’ without evidence? It’s a hell of an accusation to make against someone and you provide nothing to back it up.

    This wanton slander of people for the crime of disagreement is what’s earned you the backlash you now face in the Hugos, not a hatred of women and minorities, but you are all so convinced of your own moral righteousness that you convince yourselves anyone opposed to you must be a moustache-twirling villain.

    Until you can understand why people oppose you, and what grounds they oppose you on, we will be locked in place and the stand off over the Hugos will continue.

  26. Kroms,

    Statistics have nothing to do with the Puppies’ stance. (And since when has art been beholden to statistics first and foremost?) Much of what they are declaring as fact is actually a conjuration borne out of paranoia, or something; there is no conspiracy to exclude conservatives from the Hugos, and no conspiracy to promote undeserving women and PoC, and in fact there has been no significant rise in the number of “boring” literary works which won, though it’s frankly difficult to establish such a thing objectively in the first place. Lots of people over the past few days have pointed out the giant logic flaws in their reasoning. Maybe you should go read those, rather than trying to convince me not to call someone racist.

    And speaking of that… I’m not sure what else to call it when someone treats a playing field that is heavily imbalanced in favor of white men as a good and normal thing which is to be defended and made more imbalanced at all costs. If supporting the historical, artificial dominance of white men isn’t racism and sexism, what is it?

    I’m also not sure what to call it when people react to the presence of non-white non-men on ballots by suggesting that those people could not possibly have made it for the quality of their work. The insinuation that women and people of color are inherently, always inferior — if that’s not racism and sexism, what is it?

    And I’m really not sure what to call it when the ballot which results from the Puppies’ efforts is now dominated by a man who has called for the violent overthrow of the US if gay marriage is ever federalized; a man who has repeatedly expressed disgust for the mere existence of queer people and independent women; and a man who praises honor killings, marital rape, and who has declared the mere presence of people like me to be harmful to SFF because we are “savage.”

    Torgersen and co support this. They’ve praised this ballot. They would rather have these people win Hugos, with works that most of SFFdom is calling mediocre, than entertain the idea that some women and PoC might be better writers and deserve attention.

    If you’re not willing to call someone a bigot (not just racist, thanks) after all that, then your definition of bigotry is so rarefied as to be useless.

  27. Dr. Skew,

    Because he recruited Gamergate (the violent bigots I was actually referring to). As it said in the post. C’mon, keep up.

  28. > Maybe you should go read those, rather than trying to convince me not to call someone racist.

    Oh, I’m not! I’m just reluctant to do it myself. You make a compelling argument, but “racist” is such a big thing to stamp on a person I’m still hesitant because I’ve been wrong before. Thanks for your patience with me; I’m just trying to get better insight into this.

    I completely, 100% see your POV on this. Just a little less willing to pull the trigger.

    > If you’re not willing to call someone a bigot (not just racist, thanks) after all that

    It is weird they were so annoyed at a perceived liberal slant.

    I understand that they wanted more light shed on the things they considered worth talking about (which is normal)…but then they went ahead and gamed the system to made sure that happened (which isn’t). As if their own experiences (all white, male) were the ones worth relating.

    Still. Big stamp.

    Apart from that, I’m with you.

  29. Although:

    > And I’m really not sure what to call it when the ballot which results from the Puppies’ efforts is now dominated by a man who has called for the violent overthrow of the US if gay marriage is ever federalized; a man who has repeatedly expressed disgust for the mere existence of queer people and independent women; and a man who praises honor killings, marital rape, and who has declared the mere presence of people like me to be harmful to SFF because we are “savage.”

    So maybe the label isn’t uncalled-for.

  30. Kroms,

    The problem is, we live in a society which — due to the fact that racism is our status quo — treats calling someone a racist as worse than doing something racist. The only way to repair that society is to stop accepting that status quo, and call racism what it is when we see it. I am personally uninterested in tiptoeing around the feelings of people who have insulted me and everyone like me, purposefully excluded people like me for no reason other than that I don’t fit into their (bigoted) ideology, and who are striving to create an environment in which I should live in fear. That’s wrong, and I don’t see any reason to avoid calling it wrong, or stating why it’s wrong. If they’ve earned the big stamp, that’s on them, not me.

  31. Haha but I’m not in the States! I’m a Levantine Arab, currently residing in Jordan. Anyway, point taken.

  32. I will admit, I don’t see the #newHugocategories as the beginning of an abandonment of the Hugos so much as a part of the healing process of a group which has been traumatized. They are treating the Puppies’ philosophy and rhetoric as a literal absurdity, something so far out of the realms of believability as to be laughable. In some ways, I think it’s the only way to engage with them. Arguing with them accords their value system a legitimacy it cannot earn on its own merits. Laughing at them tells them you think they’re a joke.

  33. John,

    You raise a good point. To me the hashtag doesn’t show disrespect for the Hugos as they have been, but it definitely feels like disrespect for what the Puppies are trying to do to them — which could become disrespect for the awards themselves if the Puppies manage to permanently ruin them. But you’re right in that we’re not at that point yet.

  34. nkjemisin,
    Thank you for posting your thoughts. I have been attempting to keep up with this latest Hugo controversy (and its hard to keep up with for someone who doesn’t attend conventions or read the mountains of blog posts and comments generated just in the last few weeks) and your post is helpful given your past interaction with Vox Day. Since he keeps bringing up that he is labeled a bigot/racist based on your previous interactions with you in particular. Yesterday he posted a laundry list of accusations (I won’t post the link unless you think it should be here). He brings up a quote from discussion you had back in 2012 regarding Heinlein where you stated “Heinlein was racist as *fuck*”. I believe that the quote was directly related to your reading of Farnham’s Freehold (which I don’t think I have read myself, though I have ready many other of his novels).

    Did you ever provide a more lengthy breakdown on why you believe that Heinlein was racist (perhaps a review or list of elements from the novel that you find racist)? From other discussions of Heinlein and racism, I have always heard Farnham’s Freehold described as satire and his attempt to show that “Racism hurts everybody” in all of its various forms. Please excuse if you have already answered this somewhere else (at least google didn’t make it easy to find the answer). I think it would be helpful for those of us that don’t really know the entire history of what is involved behind that quote that VD likes to throw around constantly.

  35. D. Coleman:

    I suggest you Google the following and educate yourself about the people who saw the hierarchies, inequalities and marginalization in the WorldCon/Hugo process *decades* ago and decided to do something about it–not try to game the process, but to build their own awards, communities, etc.

    The Tiptree Award
    The Carl Brandon Society
    The Lambda Awards

    One of the ironies about the Rapid/Sad Puppies laments about how liberal/social justice/etc. the Hugos have been is that many of the most radical social justice warriors (yes, we wear out glittery hoo hahs proudly in the Secret Feminist Cabal) deserted Worldcon and the Hugos years ago–or never attended–and have been supporting these OTHER awards.

    Do they get the attention the Hugos get? Nope. But that sort of proves our point.

    (And please notice that neither Tiptree or Carl Brandon restrict awards based on the identities of the authors.)

    I am getting grumpy at all the people who are not only ignorant as fuck about the history here, but cannot be arsed to google it.

  36. Pingback: Hey, Book World: Sexism is Way Bigger Than the Hugos | WIRED

  37. “thanks to many others for reading his site so I didn’t have to”

    And that’s where the remains of your credibility expired.

  38. Nick,

    I have no particular interest in anything VD/TB says about me. As for my Heinlein comments, you’re welcome to read them for yourself; the search bar is on the right. I’m not exactly the only person to say he was racist, though — Google it and you’ll find plenty of opinions to that end. (I’m rather fond of this one for the line, “Farnham’s Freehold is an anti-racist novel only a Klansman could love.”)

  39. Pingback: Dance The Linkspam Away (17 April 2015) | Geek Feminism Blog

  40. This white male buys and loves your books. Strong points above, but I wish you didn’t have to make them and could spend more of your time creating those brilliant worlds of yours.

  41. By the way, this quote: “The problem is, we live in a society which — due to the fact that racism is our status quo — treats calling someone a racist as worse than doing something racist. The only way to repair that society is to stop accepting that status quo, and call racism what it is when we see it. I am personally uninterested in tiptoeing around the feelings of people who have insulted me and everyone like me, purposefully excluded people like me for no reason other than that I don’t fit into their (bigoted) ideology, and who are striving to create an environment in which I should live in fear. That’s wrong, and I don’t see any reason to avoid calling it wrong, or stating why it’s wrong. If they’ve earned the big stamp, that’s on them, not me.”

    is so powerful and so elegantly expressed I’m quoting it with attribution any time I hear someone complain about someone being called racist. I thought you should be aware of the positive impression it made. :)

  42. Sorry I was away I did not think I’d get more than one reply. I did not know wiz con was a break off and I barely heard of the lambda awards. Do we as intellectual black americans really live in fear, or just talk that way to be noticed by the mob.
    I believe however th sp vs sjw battles play out the sjws will win because of numbers though it probably won’t be resolved until 2017. Probably the puppies will make their own award.

  43. I realize this is a bit late, but it is in response to Dr. Skew’s question (which I think is disingenuous) about Daddy Warpig. I would suggest that Warpig himself being a violent bigot (even though a careful reading shows that your words aren’t being applied directly to Warpig) can be determined independently of the call to Gamergate.

    In the snapshotted tweets on Making Light, Daddy Warpig likens “SJWs” to a disease, and GamerGate to “white blood cells” This dehumanizing tactic reminded me a disturbing essay I read some years ago:

    The Psychosomatic Source of Culture
    In my monograph, Hitler’s Ideology (1975) and several recent on-line publications, “Nationalism, Nazism, Genocide” and “Ideology, Perception and Genocide”, I present an analysis of recurring images and metaphors that appear in Hitler’s writings and speeches. Based on this analysis, I conclude that Hitler’s ideology possessed a coherent structure revolving around the idea of Germany as an organism and Jews as pathogenic micro-organisms whose continued presence within the body politic could lead to its demise. Genocide grew out of the logic contained within this ideological fantasy.

    I think that the author brings up some disturbing trends in fascist rhetoric, and the tendency in that rhetoric to dehumanize perceived enemies of the state, and to liken them to diseases to be cured.

    ObSF: See also Agent Smith’s monologue in The Matrix.

  44. In fact, it is strange that “writers racists” want to receive the award, named in honor of the Jewish publisher. And doubly strange that these “writers racists” represent a people with Mexican and Italian roots. What Ku Klux Klan was talking about Mexicans and Italians?

    These statements – just a reaction to the excessive tolerance policy. If a black shout about violation of their rights, then we must be prepared to ensure that scream and white. And it will give the most absurd and most running idea.

    Anyway, these “puppies” You did good publicity. But like, chauvinistic white men will not buy the romantic fantasy and emancipated women will not buy the hard men action.

  45. Pingback: on “Puppygate” and challenging our default assumptions | SHANNON ROHANE

  46. Petyan, I only published your post because a) after several days of staring at it, I decided it probably wasn’t bot-generated spam, and b) I do, however, suspect it might be the product of some kind of machine translation. If b), then this is actually a kind of fascinating performance art: hateful bullshit that sounds like gibberish even when a veneer of clear language on top, somehow sounds exactly the same with the language stripped away, and the gibberish laid bare. Fascinating. Brava/o.

  47. Pingback: J is for N. K. Jemisin |

  48. Pingback: The Enemies of Imagination: genre fiction and me | Achilles, Powder & Lead

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