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Events, Publishing

Right then, how about those Hugo awards?

As y’all know already, Worldcon this year saw the conclusion–for now–of this year’s Puppy slate voting. Dara’s documented her reaction to the results over here, so I’m not going to recap what she said. Go read her directly!

I will, meanwhile, note that Natalie Luhrs put up this recap of what the Hugos would have been like if the slate voting hadn’t occurred. In particular, like Dara, I weep for how Avatar: The Legend of Korra came so close to getting onto the ballot.

But I must also call attention to what the Best Novel voting might have looked like. I was intrigued by City of Stairs when I first saw it getting promoted on, and I very definitely enjoyed Lock In, as I reported earlier this year. I feel that if Mr. Scalzi had made the ballot, I would have had a much harder time deciding between his book, Ancillary Justice, and The Three-Body Problem. As it stands, I will be upping the priority on checking out City of Stairs.

Speaking of Mr. Scalzi, he had commentary (short and pithy as well as longer and yet still pretty pithy) on the matter. It will surprise none of you that I pretty much agree with what he has to say. I would also like to call attention to Mary Robinette Kowal’s excellent commentary, while I’m at it.

Because here’s the thing: as the Mary Sue reported, while the Puppies were not as blatant a presence at Worldcon as I feared, they were nonetheless there. And some asshat thought it was funny to leave an anonymous flyer purporting to be from SFWA on the freebie table–a flyer which was brimming with racism and transphobia.

Needless to say–or at least, it ought to be needless to say–I do not find this funny. I do not find it worthy of the SF/F genre, or of civilized persons in general.

And next year, although I am not yet convinced I actually want to set foot in Kansas Missouri even for a Worldcon, I will be getting a supporting membership to MidAmeriCon at minimum. Because this year has demonstrated to me in no uncertain terms that my continued participation in the Hugo voting process is important. I’m just one small voice and one small vote.

But those votes add up. And the wisdom of Ambassador Kosh notwithstanding, this one small pebble will do her part to redirect the avalanche.

ETA: Editing because Kansas City is in Missouri, not Kansas. Derp. That said, my commentary still stands as I am not particularly convinced I want to set foot in Missouri, either!


Thoughts on toxic bigotry

I was going to point and laugh at the Puppies some more today, after seeing this post yesterday reporting that they’ve called for an official boycott of Tor. Now, I am NOT pleased with Tom Doherty’s throwing Irene Gallo under the bus the way he did–but on the other hand, several of my top favorite authors are published by Tor, and I’m fully cognizant of how trying to boycott an entire publisher pretty much only hurts the authors involved. Dara has additional commentary about why this boycott is doomed to fail, and me, I feel some solidarity with Mr. Hines: “I’m disinclined to acquiesce to his request.”

But then the Charleston news exploded over Twitter last night, and suddenly pointing and laughing at Puppies seems rather less important.

Except for this: there’s a thing that the Puppies brouhaha has in common with Charleston, with Ferguson, with Baltimore, with the pool party in Texas, and with every other horrific shooting this country has experienced in the last few years.

That thing is toxic bigotry.

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads people to sniff that SF novels with non-white people on the cover are clearly “message fiction” and aren’t as deserving of awards as books with white people on the cover. That exiles those books to minority-only sections of bookstores, thereby gutting those books’ chances of actually selling in reasonable numbers.

The kind of toxic bigotry that also erases non-white protagonists from covers and whitewashes characters, in the name of trying to make them sell better to white people.

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads people to believe it’s somehow okay to hurl screamingly racist insults under the aegis of an official genre author organization, and then to get pissy when that organization boots their ass out. Pissy enough to then turn around and orchestrate sabotage of the most revered award in that genre.

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads people to believe it’s somehow okay to bitch about non-white people showing up at a science fiction convention–because maybe, y’know, they like science fiction–because they preface their remarks with “There’s no way to say this without sounding racist…”

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads school systems to believe that it’s okay to teach their children that black slaves were “happy”.

The kind of toxic bigotry that leads otherwise rational people to feel threatened because somebody who doesn’t look like them lives near them. Or works with them. Or gets elected to political office, including the White House.

The kind of toxic bigotry that would rather destroy any chance of poor Americans getting health care they desperately need than allow a black President to succeed at something. Especially if the poor Americans in question are also black.

The kind of toxic bigotry that consistently vilifies black victims of shootings in the media, while at the same time refusing to call a white supremacist shooter what he is: a murdering racist terrorist.

The kind of toxic bigotry that can lead a young man to invade a house of worship for the express purpose of killing people who don’t look like him.

It’s all bigotry. It’s all toxic. The only difference between all of these examples is degree–whether the victims are only a little scarred by the acid or have been pushed into a roiling pit of it. It all still causes pain. And when you have to deal with an existence of constant little scars, eventually, it’s just as bad as being pushed into the pit.

And it needs to stop.

I saw this tweet on Twitter this morning:

CAN DO. I denounce it, and the culture that has allowed it to take place. And I will also say these names: Rev. Clementa Pinckney and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. For them, and for the rest of the victims in Charleston, I denounce the ugly act of racism that has caused them to lose their lives.

Toxic bigotry kills.

And it needs to stop.


Additional shots fired in the Puppy Wars

I’d say that I’d thought the Puppy brouhaha had died down some, but I’d be lying. In the last couple weeks it had retreated from a roiling boil down to a disgruntled simmer, with a notable spike of activity prompted by Jim Hines posting a roundup of actual Puppy quotes in an attempt to document his sources.

And then this got posted: A Message from Tom Doherty to Our Readers and Authors. I managed to miss this blowing up over this past weekend, and didn’t know anything about it until I saw James Nicoll posting about it. He in turn linked off to Kameron Hurley (The Revolution of Self-Righteous Dickery will Not Be Moderated) and Chuck Wendig (I Stand by Irene Gallo), both of whom are, in short, decidedly unamused.

This morning, I’m seeing Dear Author (Wednesday News: Tor v. Irene Gallo, Warner Bros. v Friends fans, social benefits of birth control, and a language tree) and the Mary Sue (Tor Condemns Creative Director Irene Gallo for Posting About the Rabid/Sick Puppies on Her Personal Facebook) both posting about this. They’re not amused either.

Me, I’m looking at this and feeling like I ought to say something. And I’m honestly stumped as to what. Because I’m feeling a lot of what Hurley posts about–i.e., the endless cycle of having to defend oneself over and over and over and over again, to seemingly no avail. I’m feeling a considerable amount of rage fatigue, particularly during a week that’s already gone out of its way to ramp up my blood pressure, thanks to Paypal.

And yet. Because Hurley’s also right in that things need to keep getting said, I’m going to say this in response to her and Wendig’s links, as well as Dear Author’s and the Mary Sue’s: cosigned.

And for the love of all sanity, if you go and look at the Tor link, stay out of the comments.

ETA: Dara has words of her own on this topic.

So does Jessica Price on tumblr.


Public service announcement

Dara points out over here that amongst the Puppy crowd, who cry out for a return to the good old days of science fiction when they didn’t have to be uncomfortable with their reading, a principle complaint is that you literally cannot judge a book by its cover. That they are getting ambushed by SURPRISE GAY! or SURPRISE TRANSGENDER ISSUES! or SURPRISE GENDER EQUALITY! that is not clearly called out on the cover. Dara calls out, quite correctly, that this is supremely hypocritical from a crowd that also points and laughs at the concepts of trigger warnings and safe spaces.

On a related note, on his post Guided by the Beauty of their Weapons, Phillip Sandifer delivers an exquisite smackdown of why this is shockingly ignorant of the history of the genre. Challenging political and religious and social questions have been part of science fiction since its inception, and you can’t exactly ignore this, even if you happen to disagree with the questions that current prominent works are raising.

Me, I’ll just note this for the sake of anybody who might be blindsided by any of my titles. For official reference, books by me contain the following, in no particular order:

Women in positions of power. Who will often talk to each other, about things above and beyond the men in the cast.

Characters of color, often also in positions of power, and who will in fact survive to the end of the book.

Love stories. For values of ‘love story’ meaning that why yes, I’m likely to have primary characters who will in fact fall in love, and who are very likely to actually talk about their feelings with each other like grown-ups do, and who are also very likely to do heroic things for each other in the name of said love. Also, there will be smooching.

Queer people. Who are just as capable as the straight people of having loving, committed relationships, and who will also survive to the end of the story, and who will not be shoehorned into “they’re villains because they’re queer” or “they will become figures of tragedy and lose their loved ones because they’re queer.”

Characters who represent multiple religions and who nevertheless somehow manage to peacefully coexist right out of the gate, or who eventually FIND a way to peacefully coexist after their religious preconceptions have been challenged. When multiple religions are represented in a plot, characters on all sides will be explored.

Persons who find themselves troubled by one or more of these elements in a story are hitherto advised to look elsewhere for their reading.

This concludes today’s public service announcement.


The latest in the Puppy wars

I was telling friends online yesterday, re: George R.R. Martin’s lengthy posts on the Puppy Wars, that I have a lot of sympathy for his cranky-old-man, oh-for-fucks-sake-you-children weariness with the whole affair. If anybody’s entitled to any “IN MY DAY” speeches, it’s definitely Martin. He is the ancient dragon, rousing himself with angry rumbles, to respond to the hordes of gnomes raising a ruckus outside his cave–and he isn’t terribly particular about which gnomes started the fight, or which ones look tastier.

But now even the dragon is wary of the eventual outcome of this debacle, and I have to say, I have a hard time finding any flaws with his reasoning.

I have an equally hard time not being depressed about it, particularly after seeing one of his commenters raging about “romance novels in space” and “bodice-rippers” and “vomit”. Martin, in his dragonish wisdom, roared at him to go away.

But the gnome got his words out anyway. The blow was delivered. And it’s just yet another example of the kinds of blows raining down upon those of us who are getting derided as “social justice warriors”. Women–all too often the ones getting snarled at for writing “romance novels in space” (for definitions of “romance novels” meaning “anything with a woman’s name on the cover, or with a female lead character, or women who serve any function in the story above and beyond being love interest for a man”). Queers and queer allies–getting snarled at for writing “filthy sodomy”, or even just getting angry demands about “why does this particular character have to be gay?! Why is this important to the story?!”, as if having a gay character in the story at all requires special plot-based justification. Writers of color–whose works have to struggle to get filed under SF/F AT ALL. Or writers who are writing non-white protagonists–who find their characters whitewashed on the covers.

And gods help you if you actually match more than one of these categories at the same time.

We’re the ones being accused of “destroying science fiction”. If we say “look, I’m not going to read anything else by person X ever again because of his or her public behavior”, we get sneered at for not being able to separate the art from the artist. And now we’re also the ones being threatened that, should we choose to vote “NO AWARD” on any category in the Hugos this year, that the other pack of gnomes will gleefully destroy that category and make sure that no award is awarded in it ever again.

Look. I can intellectually allow for the possibility that somebody with whom I disagree, politically or religiously, is capable of writing a good book. Maybe even a great one. There are a whole hell of a lot of people who loved Ender’s Game, after all. But that doesn’t mean I’m obligated to actually read that book. You know why?

Because I see exactly zero leeway out of the other pack of gnomes that the same is true for us. All it takes is one pair of women showing affection on camera–even if it’s just holding hands while they walk off into the spirit world–to get them shrieking about destroying a show. All it takes is one important supporting character shown on camera to be gay for no other reason than because the character is gay to get an author challenged on her character decisions. You never see anybody going “but why is this character heterosexual?! Why is this important to the story?!”

In a genre perfectly happy to accept elves, dragons, and aliens, I see none of that other pack of gnomes being willing to stop and go “hey, maybe this story that stars a woman, or a person of color, or a queer person, is still actually a pretty cool story“. Write out swaths of a Star Trek novel in Klingon? Awesome? Put Spanish into it? BLASPHEMY! How is that fair?

I don’t see those other gnomes willing to say that “I like this particular type of SF, and it’s okay if other folks like other types of SF, it’s all good, we’re all fandom.”

Here’s another thing I’m willing to agree to. Even before the Puppies debacle erupted, there has been concern in fandom that the Hugos are not truly representative of all that the genre has to offer. I’ve seen concerns about whether the Hugos belong to Worldcon, or to all of fandom. I’ve seen the Hugos called a popularity contest. All of these are legitimate arguments to make, particularly given that what makes a particular act of creativity “good” is so often a very subjective experience. Sure, there are some objective standards you can use to judge whether a writer is in command of his or her craft–use of language, coherency of plot structure, etc. But you can have novel A and novel B that both show that a writer can meet those objective standards, and you will still have readers with wildly different reactions. And those wildly different reactions are going to still reflect themselves in any awards campaign that builds its list of nominations by polling the opinions of fandom. If that list is coming in from only a tiny subset of fandom, I agree, this is a problem.

I can’t speak for any other gnome in this bloody, rancorous campaign. But as for myself, I agree that there needs to be room at the table for all. Even the gnomes I don’t agree with. These issues about the Hugos are issues that need to be discussed.

But, as I saw Mr. Martin himself point out, there is a big difference between asking for a seat at the table–and overturning the table so nobody else can sit down.

Right now, all the chairs are on fire.

Me, I want a fire extinguisher.

Final note: There have been a lot of developments in the last twenty-four hours on this mess, including Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos backing out of their nominations, and Connie Willis declining to be a presenter. I will be making a point of checking out Bellet and Kloos’s works, particularly Kloos, even though he writes military SF and I don’t normally read that. I will also be bumping Willis further up my To Read queue, to support them all with what had to be extremely difficult decisions.

Meanwhile, Dara has a roundup post of links of interest over here.


Thoughts on extremism

As y’all might guess, I’ve been reading a lot on the PuppyGate controversy, including some attempts from moderate voices to call for civil discourse on both sides–and some very justified pointing out that no matter where you are in this particular brouhaha, death threats, harassment, and personal attacks are never acceptable. I would like to emphasize that. I don’t like to think that people on the liberal/progressive end of the spectrum might stoop to such tactics, but I do have to admit to the possibility that such a thing could happen. We are all human, and none of us are immune to the urge to post in anger.

However, there is one point here that I want to address, and that is this: there is no civil discourse, no “agree to disagree”, when one side of an issue is attacking the other side on extremist grounds.

Cases in point:

If you are anti-queer because your religious beliefs dictate that queer people are filthy sodomites, and you actively support or work in favor of legislation that enables discrimination against queer people, there’s no way a pro-queer person can have civil discourse with that. There’s just not. There is nothing polite or civil that a queer person or queer ally can say to someone who not only fervently believes that someone is going to hell because they’re in love with a person the same sex as they are, but who is also prone to associating queer people with pedophilia or incest or bestiality.

If you’re convinced that the only proper response to feminists is to deluge their online presences with rape and death threats, there is nothing polite or civil that a feminist can say in response to that.

If you are convinced that your religion is the One True Religion, and you are dead set on driving anyone who practices some other religion out of your neighborhood, city, or state, there is nothing polite or civil that practitioners of those religions should have to say to you.

If your only answer to people who aren’t the same color as you or who speak the same language you do is to scream at them to go back where they came from or to learn to speak English (or whatever your local language happens to be), sorry, those other people are not obligated to be polite and courteous to you.

Because here’s the thing.

People who are extremists don’t want to hear your dissent. They will dismiss you if you try to be polite about it. If you express your dissent in more forceful terms, you will be attacked. You will be accused of being the real racist/sexist/bigot, even if all you say is “Look, this is wrong and it needs to stop.”

To bring this back around to the whole Puppies issue–in reading a bunch of George R.R. Martin’s posts and quite a few of the comments on them, I’ve been seeing conservative claims that liberal extremists are attacking them. Notably, I’ve seen Martin responding to Correira’s claims that he has been bullied and harassed for his beliefs.

I am not in a position to judge the veracity of Mr. Correira’s claims, and I’m not going to try to do so here. But I will say this. If there are liberal extremists stooping to the same tactics I describe above, then yes, that is wrong and that needs to stop. Likewise, I would also like to express my agreement with Mr. Martin’s own assertion–that if the conservative side of this whole mess really wants to have civil discourse and work towards a resolution, then we need to see some solid action on their part. We need to see some denunciation of racist, sexist, political, ideological, and religious extremism.

For my part, I will say that I very much appreciate my Christian friends who are willing to stand up and say, “No, actually, acts of extremism in the name of Christ are still wrong and you are shaming our religion, stop it.”

Likewise, acts of extremism in the name of defending SF/F–from whatever you think it needs defending from–are also wrong. They are unworthy of the literature of ideas, and they need to stop. Whether you are liberal, conservative, or anywhere in between.

But I must also emphasize–I’m still not going to be cordial, civil, or polite to people who want to deny my right to exist. To have autonomy over who I choose to marry and how I conduct my health choices. To write stories that can be taken seriously, and not dismissed out of hand just because there’s an obviously female name on the cover.

To, in short, kick me out of the clubhouse.

Civility on all sides presupposes that all sides agree that they have the right to be there. Civility means that all sides are willing to support each other’s presences, and that they’re not going to turn around and exult over terrorizing the other side when their backs are turned. Civility means that if you’re called out on doing something bigoted, you don’t automatically lash back and scream, “I’m not the bigot, you’re the bigot.”

And right now, I ain’t holding my breath that this is going to happen.


Meanwhile, over in the Puppy pound

Dara’s been keeping a sharp eye on the Hugos brouhaha the past few days. This past Saturday, she put up this report on how certain individuals apparently took it personally that they were being criticized for the behavior of certain other persons in their little coterie. Dara rightly calls this bullshit, because it is–because the Puppies recruited Day into their ranks. And they recruited the GamerGate crowd. And now they’re complaining and claiming that they have no control over the behavior of the “wild wolf” Day.

Sorry, but no. You don’t get to recruit the likes of Day into your ranks and then complain when people call you out on it. It is not only disingenuous, it’s also cowardly.

But of course that wasn’t all, either. Dara’s got another report up this morning, following up on the previous–in which it is declared that people who would vote NO AWARD rather than the Sad Puppies slate are not only assholes, they are also Leninist Communists. (Or Nazis, according to another commenter! So the people the Puppies don’t like are Nazis AND Communists!) Phrases like “cuddly pink fluffy cudgel of political correctness” and “flaming rage nozzles of tolerance” get thrown around. (Because apparently “tolerance” is a dirty word.)

Mr. Torgersen apparently also feels that people who support Chick-Fil-A are “heroes”, and that supporting a corporation known for blatant homophobia is the act of “free people”.

I’ve seen other posts in which larger names in the genre are calling for civility. George R.R. Martin and Mary Robinette Kowal are trying to do their part to fight the fires. Noble efforts on both their parts, and I particularly applaud Kowal for not only being willing to provide people supporting memberships to Worldcon, but specifically also recusing herself from any Hugo nominations next year. Likewise, I applaud those who are matching Kowal’s efforts and trying to broaden the pool of supporting memberships being offered to fans on tight budgets.

I’m all for civility. I’m for the ideal of SFdom being welcoming to all within its ranks. We are supposed to be the literature of ideas, after all, and ideas cannot thrive in an atmosphere of stagnation. We need to have our ideas challenged, and in order to do that, we need diversity in the ranks.

But here’s the thing–when some of those ranks are on record as not wanting women, people of color, or people of alternative sexualities in the clubhouse, when they specifically go out of their way to fight against such persons being included, and when they shriek that all who would stand in their way are Nazis and Communists and “Social Justice Warriors” and “CHORFs” and whatever other derogatory terms they dream up… my civility is spent. So are my tolerance and sympathy.

Politically disagreeing with me is one thing. Going out of your way to fight against my existence is another thing entirely.

Tolerance goes only so far. It presumes that all parties are at least willing to accept each other’s presence in the clubhouse. But this? This is spiteful little boys throwing tantrums that the girls and the black kids and the queer kids are in the clubhouse now too, and they want some of the punch and pie.

And hey. Pie is tasty. But we don’t have to fight over the pie. There is enough for all, people.

But if you want a slice of the pie, stop throwing tantrums. And stop trying to push the other kids back out of the clubhouse. It’s unworthy of children above the age of six, never mind grown men. It’s unworthy of the literature of ideas.

And it needs to stop.

In closing, here, instead of a Sad Puppy, I offer this Happy Kitten instead.

So Happy!

So Happy!