Unfortunately, the science fiction fantasy genre gets plagued with controversies all too often. It’s a very connected community and when lameness drops, it spreads fast. The latest one involved the SFWA Bulletin, that’s the newsletter for the Science Fiction Writers of America. I’m not a member, but it’s something I aspire to.
Honestly, I tend to skim over the controversies sometimes. Writing and the SF community is supposed to be fun and enjoyment for me. I’m not naive enough to think I’ll get to quit my day job even if I sell my novel tomorrow, so writing isn’t putting a roof over my family’s head and food on my kiddo’s plate. Those are the things I’m going to care about first. I make no secret that I really hate my day job so my day’s stress is usually used up by the time I hit my 9am break. That doesn’t leave me with a lot of patience for controversies involving shortsighted jerks.
This latest SF crapstorm was so big and so exceptionally douchey, it’s impossible to be remotely tapped into the community and miss it. The parts I read about started with the SFWA Bulletin having a rather sexist cover (chainmail bikinis in the middle of the frozen north). Some people were rightfully annoyed that a professional organization dropped all this sexist imagery over one of its very visible faces. Then some cranky old white guys put a rebuttal in the latest issue that was first in the wave of exceptional douchiness.
It’s a very dated attitude and all quite unfortunate that it’s something that needs dealing with in this day and age. Jim Hines compiled a not-quite-comprehensive list of the issue and responses. John Scalzi as outgoing president of SFWA made an official statement owning up to the faults that happened on his watch and how to fix the rift going forward.
As a generic white (now) middle class guy (seriously, ancestors go back to the Mayflower, doesn’t get much whiter or American than that) sometimes I feel like I’m not supposed to have or talk about my opinions because some great mass of other white guys says what all white guys are supposed to say. “Oh but your a white guy, you’re not oppressed.” I can’t speak with the emotional knowledge of experience for anyone’s life but mine. Logically knowing the kinds of (insert thing)-ist behavior other people have to deal with that I don’t necessarily have to experience will never be the same as the person who has to deal with it on the wrong end. I don’t define myself as a white guy, I define myself as Mike. And while that may be one of the most generic English names on earth, I define myself as an individual and not some writhing subset of humanity that makes opinions for me.
This individual says “Fuck all that noise. Follow Wheton’s Law. Don’t be a dick.”
Look, sometimes it amazes me that the SF community can’t evolve past the racist, sexist, xenophobic, insert the -ism of your choice behaviors. I was lucky enough to grow up in a household with thousands of books. I think they insulated my home more than the walls did. I started reading my parent’s SF books when I was ten or eleven and never even had to bother buying my own until I was in college. I still read their books sometimes. There was only one qualification to being read in my household was being awesome. It didn’t matter who you were. An unproven name just defined what shelf a book was alphabetized on, it didn’t define your worth as a writer. Writing defined the writer. I grew up with Mercedes Lackley, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Katherine Kerr just as much as I grew up with Tolkein, Zelazny and David Weber. It frustrates the crap out of me that people use anything other than talent as a way to define writers. . This is a genre that defines itself as forward looking. The science fiction side of things in particular has been doing social commentary disguised as other things for decades. It isn’t the bread and butter of our genre, it’s the frickin meat and potatoes.
I want to sell my novel and become a part of the grand tradition of the genre based off how good I am, not someone’s preconceived notion of me and damnit I’m going to apply those same principals to the books I read and the authors I respect. I do my damnedest to start everyone I come across in life on a level playing field. I’m not perfect. No one is. Anyone who thinks they are is probably a tool. And believe me, there are plenty of things people can and often do to drop that opinion of them like a fucking rock really fast. Driving like an ass. Loud cell phone conversations in public. Driving with loud cell phone conversations. They make me hate you a little bit. What you are will never be a part of my opinions of you. Who you are and the things that you do are the only things that will alter my opinion of you. And if I’m buying books, my opinion of you as a person effects my decision even less because I don’t actually have to hang out with the author I’m reading. Talent is all that should matter in a writing community.
I don’t read authors like Madeline Ashby or Seanan McGuire or Cherie Priest because they’re women. I picked up their books because they were highly recommended by the community and sounded great. I don’t read Wes Chu or Saladin Ahmed because they’re minorities. I read them because they wrote the stuff I want to read. I praise these authors not because they’re different than me, but because they are fucking fantastic. I strive to be like them and be part of their ranks.
I let this sit around in my head thinking it can’t be good to kneejerk reactions to anything. I figured some proper thought organization was in order. But fuck me I’m getting real agitated typing about the crap going on in the community. You can tell by all the swears. I swear like a fucking sailor in my real life but try to keep it off the blog. But I’m not. Cause of agitation. And that’s a good thing. I should be agitated and upset by this. Go click through some of the links on that Jim Hines page. More people need to be pissed that kind of crap is going on. It shouldn’t be fucking tolerated. Read some of these women’s stories and the dumbassery they’ve had to put up with. It’s embarrassing and enraging and I don’t even know any of these people personally. It’s just horrible. And it’s not just women that have to put up with crap. I read an author on twitter that’s mega frigging talented question if he wants to go to a con in Texas because he’s not sure if he’d feel safe as a minority.
A small segment of the community (out of touch people with hateful -isms) is harassing a large part of the community (women and minorities and anyone else under the broad spectrum of “different”). It’s horrible and embarrassing and pisses in the pool for everyone. There’s room in the pool for everyone. If you don’t want to share, go off to the corner, that one with none of the nice water jets where all the crud gathers that no one skims. You’re the crud no one skims. We should skim you away, but we don’t because we’re trying to be nice and inclusive to everyone even though you’re all assholes. Eventually we’ll get tired of the crud and skim you away and toss you over the fence where we don’t even have to look at you. You’ll be dismissed from the pool where everyone else will get to play without you.
Being quiet because white guys aren’t supposed to talk about issues that hose women or minorities or LGBT (which is a awkward acronym to type btw) is not a helpful attitude. It lets the hosing continue. Assholes make a lot of noise. All the regular joes need to yell back at the assholes along side all the people who were wronged and drown out the assholes. The SF community has a lot of good going for it. I want to add some good to it. I hope the community can grow and somehow come out the other end of the mess a better, stronger community. This long litany, liberally sprinkled with swears is intended as volume on the side of good.
Blarg. I need to go to my happy place. It’s a novel I’m writing.
About a couple women. That happen to be pirates and welders, fighters and artists. Who occasionally smooch men and occasionally fucking punch them. Who are just like the men in my book. Because we’re all people damnit.