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"There was never a call for suppression. There was a call for respect."
June 4, 2013 11:45 AM   Subscribe

"So. I get it. The world used to agree with you. You used to be able to say things like, “I really like those lady writers in this industry, especially in swimsuits!” and your fellow writers, editors, agents, and other assorted colleagues would all wink and grin and agree with you, and Asimov would go around pinching women’s asses, and it was so cool!" -- Kameron Hurley is not amused by the ongoing sexism problems in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America or the idea that criticism of this is censorship.

The problems arose with the SFWA's quarterly magazine, in the regular column written by Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick. E. Catherine Tobler has a good summing up in her open lettre to the SFWA:
It began with issue #200 of the Bulletin—all right, #199 if we want to get technical. It began with the Resnick and Malzberg Dialogues, a long-time feature of the publication. It began when two men sat down to have a dialogue about editors and writers of the female gender.
[...]
I found a dialogue that seemed more focused on how these “lady editors” and “lady writers” looked in bathing suits, and that they were “beauty pageant beautiful” or a “knock out.” I am certain no condescension was intended with the use of “lady,” but as the dialogues went on, I felt the word carried a certain tone—perhaps that was a fiction of my own making. As I listened to these two men talk about lady editors and writers they had known, I grew uneasy. Something wasn’t right.
[...]
The editorial staff (headed by a woman) vowed to improve, to seek more membership input. Issue #201 was little better—it included an article, written by another man, that told women to emulate Barbie, to “maintain our quiet dignity as a woman should.”
[...]
Issue #202 brought with it a “rebuttal” from Malzberg and Resnick, in which they used the words “censorship,” and “suppression,” and “ban.” In which they said those who complained about their article were anonymous to them, that the SFWA forum had become “the arena for difference.” Was it members who objected to “apparent sexism,” or was it a larger, darker, more hostile and threatening thing that wanted to suppress their dialogues?
[...]
In all the complaints that were voiced, there was never a call for censorship. There was never a call for suppression. There was a call for respect.
As the controversy grew, the SFWA has announced a task force to look at these problems:
In response to this and previous feedback from members about recent issues of the Bulletin, I have authorized the formation of a task force to look at the Bulletin and to determine how the publication needs to proceed from this point in order to be a valuable and useful part of the SFWA member experience.
Furthermore, the SFWA's outgoing president, John Scalzi (of this parish) has unreservedly apologised for these problems in an open lettre to the membership:
That begins with recognizing the problem. And here is the problem: SFWA, through the last few issues of the Bulletin, has offended many of our own members.

As president of the organization, I apologize to those members.
If you want to read more, much more about all this Jim Hines has a link roundup. For those curious about the article that kicked all this off, Radish Reviews has excerpts and scans of it (scroll down).
posted by MartinWisse (285 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Lady" writers and editors? For pity's sake.

I was going to say Malzberg at least has the excuse of being like 130 years old. But google shows me he's only 10 years older than Resnick (who I guess I thought was younger since he started publishing in the 90s) and they're both in my dad's generation. Given that, I shouldn't be that surprised by the "lady" bit, given how much I grit my teeth when talking to my dad about things, especially women in positions of authority, except I guess that one expects more from those in a field one identifies with.

People with embarrassing and outdated social views who get called on it turn into whiny babies REALLY fast.
posted by aught at 11:55 AM on June 4, 2013 [41 favorites]


to “maintain our quiet dignity as a woman should.”

WHAAAAAT? Please tell me this is satire. I can't seem to find the full text, but it seems so blatantly out-dated and sexist that it has to be satire, right?
posted by lunasol at 11:58 AM on June 4, 2013


People with embarrassing and outdated social views who get called on it turn into whiny babies REALLY fast.

moar favorites, blink tag, marquee lights.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:02 PM on June 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


The editorial staff (headed by a woman) vowed to improve, to seek more membership input. Issue #201 was little better—it included an article, written by another man, that told women to emulate Barbie, to “maintain our quiet dignity as a woman should.”

I'm gonna go ahead and assume this issue #201 came out in like 1963, right?
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:03 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


From Hurley's piece:

Folks, we have to grin and bear it in an organization where 48 people voted for an organizational president who wanted to disenfranchise half the electorate. Women’s right to vote.


Can someone fill in that backstory?
posted by tyllwin at 12:04 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


My dad is from the frikkin' stone age and even he doesn't talk about women in his profession (engineering) this way. He just asks for competence from any engineer, male or female.

How is it that a group of people who are supposed to be all about forward thinking and looking at the ways society might evolve in the future can't keep it as simple as that?
posted by LN at 12:05 PM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Apparently it's censorship to not get a joint opinion piece in the SFWA bulletin. We are all being censored. And if you don't have this piece, your complaints about it are all anonymous, even if you've written it under your own name.

As I have said privately, I have issues with Scalzi's apology. (Though I appreciate the speed and candour.)

Other people say it seems like there's equivocation, but that's not how I read it. I read it as him saying "the buck stops here" and also being unwilling to throw anyone else under the bus. Those are both really noble ideals. But you can say "the buck stops here" and sometimes, actually the buck has stopped somewhere else altogether, and especially when you're leaving in a month, it seems too easy to take all the responsibility. If it isn't actually your responsibility, though, that can prevent real solutions being found.

I expect the -- only slightly male-dominated -- task force will be taking into account actual responsibilities.
posted by jeather at 12:05 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I guess that it's pretty obvious to point out the irony of people who's vocation is to think about the future but are painfully stuck in the past.
posted by octothorpe at 12:06 PM on June 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


Folks, we have to grin and bear it in an organization where 48 people voted for an organizational president who wanted to disenfranchise half the electorate. Women’s right to vote.

Vox Day, who believes (among other things) that women shouldn't have the right to vote, ran for SFWA president. Apparently he got 48 votes. He posted about this twice.
posted by jeather at 12:07 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


SmackDown: Feminists vs. The Grouchy Old Guys.
posted by sammyo at 12:07 PM on June 4, 2013


JScalzi has been pretty classy throughout this, but yeeeeesh.
posted by Artw at 12:09 PM on June 4, 2013


jeather: "He posted about this twice."

(peruses posts)

'Now, if you will please take the rest of the feminist fascists who believe romance novels in space, necrobestiality, and rehashed Regency romances are science fiction with you, thus permitting the real SF writers to get on with the business of writing actual science fiction...'

what
posted by jquinby at 12:10 PM on June 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


Vox Day: ...but it should be abundantly clear that none of these four men could get break into publication today, that their perspectives are intrinsically offensive, and none of them would be able to successfully navigate the maze of scalzied manboobs and feminist fascists who have infiltrated the genre and now control the editorial gates at the professional magazines and publishing houses.

Well... that was unpleasant.

Although I find the process of trying to parse "... to successfully navigate the maze of scalzied manboobs and feminist fascists" strangely thrilling.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:14 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This tweet by Patrick Nielsen Hayden sums things up perfectly. In particular, something is mentioned in brief in the first link that has been personally quite painful for me--especially since the gift of his Foundation Trilogy by one relative, and the discarding of that copy as "trash" by another, figures heavily in my early emotional history--to come to grips with: Isaac Asimov's history of sexual assault.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:14 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I looked for the text that includes the Barbie quote because I thought it had to be ironic or something, but it's actually even worse (and more bizarre) in context:
The reason for Barbie's unbelievable staying power, when every contemporary and wanna-be has fallen by the way-side is, she's a nice girl. Let the Bratz girls dress like tramps and whores. Barbie never had any of that. Sure, there was a quick buck to be made going that route but it wasn't for her. Barbie got her college degree, but she never acted as if it was something owed to her, or that Ken ever tried to deny her.

She has always been a role model for young girls, and has remained popular with millions of them throughout their entire lives, because she maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should.

posted by brain_drain at 12:14 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Obviously it hasn't sunk in:

me saying what I want (no matter how stupid or un-informed) is VALUABLE FREE SPEECH.

Other people telling me what a moron I am is CENSORSHIP.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:15 PM on June 4, 2013 [37 favorites]


WHAAAAAT? Please tell me this is satire. I can't seem to find the full text, but it seems so blatantly out-dated and sexist that it has to be satire, right?

I haven't managed to find the full text (which is from an article written by CJ Henderson, apparently), but no, it doesn't seem to be satire. From this blog post, here's at least a longer excerpt:
“…Barbie has always been long-legged and tiny-waisted, perfectly proportioned in every way with dazzling blue eyes, terrific hair and, oh right, quite the pair of sweater-fillers as well. But, that is not who she is… …Sure, it’s easy to be happy and smile all the time when you’re blessed with perfect looks.

…The reason for Barbie’s unbelievable staying power, when every contemporary and wanna-be has fallen by the way-side is, she’s a nice girl. Let the Bratz girls dress like tramps and whores. Barbie never had any of that. Sure, there was a quick buck to be made going that route but it wasn’t for her. Barbie got her college degree, but she never acted as if it was something owed to her, or that Ken ever tried to deny her.

She has always been a role model for young girls, and has remained popular with millions of them throughout their entire lives, because she maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should.
"
posted by cjelli at 12:16 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


How is it that a group of people who are supposed to be all about forward thinking and looking at the ways society might evolve in the future can't keep it as simple as that?

A lot of science fiction is re-hashing history and reliving ancient glories with a fancy new backdrop - they are dissatisfied with the way society is, so they imagine a future where it goes back to the way they imagine it was, only with cool new toys. Some science fiction and fantasy writers can be shockingly reactionary.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:17 PM on June 4, 2013 [28 favorites]


Wait -- this all happened last month?

Let it not be said that even asshole sci-fi authors can't make you feel like you've experienced time travel!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:18 PM on June 4, 2013 [27 favorites]


I know I shouldn't be surprised anymore but I still had to do a double take when I realized this wasn't like 30 years ago or something
posted by Blasdelb at 12:19 PM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


If Scalzi (who I generally like and enjoy his fiction) truly wanted to apologize for this, he could start by summarily firing Malzburg and Reznick. Today. Now.

And I'm an American white male who loves sci fi. This bullshit should have no place in my favorite genre of fiction.
posted by Inkoate at 12:21 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, Vox Day. I remember him from back in the ancient warblogging days of yore. What an unpleasantness to see him crawl back out of the mists of time after so long.

So let's see, what is he saying about all this, then?

now she wants to put limits on the opinions expressed by the old lions of the field

Heh. "Old lions." There's always some creepy father-figure hero worship going on with this sort, isn't there?
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:22 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, sadly science fiction and science fiction fandom has a long standing sexism problem, both systemic and because of dinosaurs like Resnick and Malzberg. The SFWA in general has often been a somewhat conservative, even reactionary organisation; iirc the main reason John Scalzi ran for its presidency in the first place was to change some of this.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:22 PM on June 4, 2013


Isaac Asimov's history of sexual assault.

The past is a shitty country.
posted by Artw at 12:23 PM on June 4, 2013 [22 favorites]


Heh. "Old lions." There's always some creepy father-figure hero worship going on with this sort, isn't there?

That may be a typo for "old loins."

The bizarre thing to me is that Day is only 45. His blog reads like it was written by someone twent years older, at least.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:25 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've been realizing something more and more is an essential truth of geek culture as it currently exists.

As Gore Vidal once said of the Puritans, that they didn't leave England to escape persecution but to find a country in which they could freely persecute others, geek culture seems to often focus on finding ways to exclude others and wrapping them in its own persecution complex. Fuck the boys club.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:25 PM on June 4, 2013 [56 favorites]


dhartung, you got the wrong link.

Having found the actual cover of issue 200 of the Journal of the SWFA it's not exactly progressive. Although I think I had a copy of Dragon from the 80's with pretty much the same cover.
posted by GuyZero at 12:26 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, Issue 200 had a controversial cover, hmm. I wonder what the cover was; how bad could it possibly be?

TBH coming to it after all this started the cover itself registered only as "mildly crappy" to me - bearing in mind I'm in comics and when a cover is awful there it is staggeringly awful - but as ever it's the response to being called on that which is the truly terrible thing.
posted by Artw at 12:27 PM on June 4, 2013


Mike Resnick: I’d say that just about every other cover [in the romance section] shows a man’s bare torso, lean and muscular, usually with a few more abs than Nature tends to provide. The man’s head is rarely portrayed. Clearly these are erotic covers, designed to get a certain readership’s pulse pounding.

This fills me with rage. (And it's sad about Malzberg - I was just reading some of Joanna Russ's early reviews in A Country You Have Never Seen and she thought highly of some of his work.)

It fills me with rage because it says clearly "science fiction is for [straight] men, that's why we objectify women in it, you women (who are also all straight) go off over there and read romance novels, that's what is for you. And don't come around here complaining about objectification, since we all know that you're off over there looking at 'erotic' pictures of Fabio".

Leaving aside all the other stuff - balance of power, the fact that women looking at men doesn't have the same social meaning as men looking at women, etc - it really, really frosts me to see that deep down, this creeper (and his accomplices) basically don't think that women are real readers of science fiction.
posted by Frowner at 12:27 PM on June 4, 2013 [30 favorites]


Although I think I had a copy of Dragon from the 80's with pretty much the same cover.

Heh. I thoughT "AD&D module cover".
posted by Artw at 12:27 PM on June 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Geez, it's the Bulletin of the SFWA, not the Journal.
posted by GuyZero at 12:28 PM on June 4, 2013


If Scalzi (who I generally like and enjoy his fiction) truly wanted to apologize for this, he could start by summarily firing Malzburg and Reznick. Today. Now.

Given that Reznick and Malzburg are not employed by Scalzi, this is impossible. A quick perusal of the bylaws states that it requires a unanimous vote of the officers of SWFA to remove them from membership.

Well, to remove Reznick. Malzburg apparently isn't an active member.
posted by eriko at 12:29 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


JScalzi has been pretty classy throughout this

Hmm. I've found his "here's my public statement, comments are off" updates on Whatever to smack rather of stonewalling. Although more charitably they could be read as "I've been handed a shit sandwich and it's going to take a while to digest it".

FWIW, Vox Day is the he-who-must-not-be-named "gamma rabbit" troll that Scalzi neatly turned into a charity fundraiser.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:30 PM on June 4, 2013


I would assume that removing them from SFWA membership (which people are not requesting) is not required from removing them from having a column in the bulletin (which people are), as there appear to be many members who do not actually have columns.
posted by jeather at 12:31 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


You want comments ON? What the fuck are you, a sadist?
posted by Artw at 12:33 PM on June 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


The bizarre thing to me is that Day is only 45. His blog reads like it was written by someone twent years older, at least.

His blog reads like someone who wishes he was 20 years older, and thus had decades of blithely exerting male privilege before it became unseemly in some circles.

I think some sci-fi readers may labor under an incorrect assumption that because their genre encourages imagining alternate societies and the repercussions of those societal choices, sci-fi writers are willing and able to question and reject some of real-life society's prejudices. But some sci-fi writers have used this as an excuse to promote other types of exploitation (the Walter Breen debate -- as in, why should there have been one? -- springs to mind) or cry discrimination when called on their bullshit.

(Also, as a reader, I am saddened by the Resnick stupidity, because I have always enjoyed the "Alternate [Whatever]" anthologies he edited. I strongly recommend that folks who love reading fictions of alternate histories find these, especially "Alternate Kennedys" and "Alternate Outlaws.")
posted by sobell at 12:33 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


All of these people need to read more Heinlein. That'll sort 'em out.
posted by Decani at 12:34 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hmm. I've found his "here's my public statement, comments are off" updates on Whatever to smack rather of stonewalling.

Yeeeaaaaah unfortunately I probably would have made the same decision. The comments on that article would NOT be pretty, judging from past TEH LADIEZ RUIN EVERYTHING flameouts in the geek world. I would lay money that the majority of the commenters would not be weighing in to support his conclusion that SFWA did anything wrong.

On preview: what Artw said.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:35 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw this unfolding over the past few days, and could only hang my head and sigh. Unfuckingbelievable. And what is UP with all the enragingly sexist things going on lately?
posted by rmd1023 at 12:36 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Halloween Jack: " Isaac Asimov's history of sexual assault."

Yeah. Nothing new there.

jeather: " Vox Day, who believes (among other things) that women shouldn't have the right to vote, ran for SFWA president. Apparently he got 48 votes. He posted about this twice."

what the fucking fuck?
posted by zarq at 12:36 PM on June 4, 2013


I've found his "here's my public statement, comments are off" updates on Whatever to smack rather of stonewalling.

When posting a SFWA matter on Whatever, Scalzi has always disabled comments and pointed people to the SFWA website to reply. The statement is also published on SFWA's site with comments enabled.

Similar -- when he was doing movie reviews for some website that I can't remember, he'd turn off comments on Whatever and say "comment over there." He basically wants all the comments to land in one place.
posted by eriko at 12:41 PM on June 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


If Scalzi (who I generally like and enjoy his fiction) truly wanted to apologize for this, he could start by summarily firing Malzburg and Reznick. Today. Now.

Well, Scalzi as outgoing president who leaves at the end of the month is in a bit of a pickle. I'm not sure he can actually "fire" those two from their column in the first place, or whether that's up to the editor and I can also understand that he wants to be careful about doing anything drastic without first consulting the people who will be stuck with this mess in a little while.

Hence the task force. The SFWA leadership at least does seem to be horrified with what happened, even if they dropped the ball in the first place. I think at the moment they're making sure to cross all the i's and dot all the t's, get legal advice if necessary and trying to find a way to defuse the situation in such a way that both the critics are satisfied but without losing the dinosaur contigent.

This may be an idle hope and you could argue the SFWA does need to lose some of the more unrepentent sexists and value their female members more than these douches.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:41 PM on June 4, 2013


Scalzi ALWAYS shuts off the comments for SFWA posts on Whatever - even for the most benign matters.

Vox Day and his followers have been in full panty-twist ever since Scalzi made his post on White Male Privelege. I mean they lost their shit in a way that made non-book Game of Thrones viewers look tame. The fact that John is adept at turning their rants on his site into things like Gamma Rabbit and such just drives them insane.
posted by Ber at 12:43 PM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Apparently he got 48 votes

Oh, the "gamma rabbit" nutcase! Thanks for explaining.

He got 48 votes, huh?

I'll try real hard to be charitable, and pretend they might have been intended as votes for "screw you, none of the above," or "where are my damn reading glasses?"
posted by tyllwin at 12:43 PM on June 4, 2013


Well, Scalzi as outgoing president who leaves at the end of the month is in a bit of a pickle. I'm not sure he can actually "fire" those two from their column in the first place, or whether that's up to the editor and I can also understand that he wants to be careful about doing anything drastic without first consulting the people who will be stuck with this mess in a little while.

Could be worse, could be DragonCON.
posted by Artw at 12:45 PM on June 4, 2013


Regarding Scalzi, don't forget that any statement he might make about this would be seen as commenting in his official capacity, so it's understandable he'd switch off comments on his blog for this. so as to not get drawn in a possible clusterfsck. He has to make a post because his readers expect it and he has such a huge audience, but I suspect he won't comment much on this other than with these official statements.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:45 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, Scalzi as outgoing president who leaves at the end of the month is in a bit of a pickle.

I think this is one reason for the (IMHO wise) decision to let Rachel Swirsky, SWFA's VP, take point on this issue, in consultation with Steven Gould, who's the President Elect. That way, there's continuity in handling when the board shifts membership at the start of July, since Steven will then take office and Rachel will continue as VP.
posted by eriko at 12:48 PM on June 4, 2013


Huh, I never thought of Asimov as an ass-pincher. Plenty of SF authors, to be sure, maybe even most of them* -- but Asimov was all grandfatherly and sexless and dignified and shit, wasn't he?

I mean I wouldn't have ever called him progressive, his female characters were basically male characters who'd somehow accidentally got an "s" on their pronoun, but that's better than having them act like bubbleheads or princesses or realdolls...

Next you'll be telling me Arthur Clarke was a horndog too. (Please don't tell me Arthur Clarke was a horndog.)

* (I recently made a major nostalgia investment at a library book sale, picked up dozens of SF paperbacks I used to love as a teenager but lost somewhere along the way into adulthood, and have been honestly shocked at how, well, unbelievably sexist most of them are. I mean really, really bad; like how did I not notice this even as a teenager levels of bad. Not just the obvious ones like Heinlein and Piers Anthony, I'm talking about authors for whom that rap never crossed my mind -- most recently Philip Jose Farmer and Fred Pohl, both of whom I'm now kind of retroactively embarrassed to have read in the first place. I've been seriously considering whether I ought to just toss the rest of the pile unread before I spoil any more of my memories.)
posted by ook at 12:48 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Next you'll be telling me Arthur Clarke was a horndog too. (Please don't tell me Arthur Clarke was a horndog.)

Do you really want to know?
posted by Artw at 12:49 PM on June 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


but Asimov was all grandfatherly and sexless and dignified and shit, wasn't he?

Not if you ever read the little asides and introductions to his stories; the guy was a randy melon farmer even in print.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:49 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ber: " Vox Day and his followers have been in full panty-twist ever since Scalzi made his post on White Male Privelege. I mean they lost their shit in a way that made non-book Game of Thrones viewers look tame. The fact that John is adept at turning their rants on his site into things like Gamma Rabbit and such just drives them insane."

Last year, Day posted this to WorldNetDaily: (emphasis mine)
There can be little doubt that Cameron’s opinion of UKIP is but a pale shadow of the U.S. bifactional ruling party’s hatred and contempt for white Americans who still hold to traditional values, believe in their constitutional liberties and derive their sense of identity from historical America. They mock the secessionist petitioners in Texas and other states, celebrate the infestation of even the smallest American heartland towns by African, Asian and Aztec cultures, and engage in ruthless doublethink as they worship at the altar of a false and entirely nonexistent equality.

posted by zarq at 12:49 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


dhartung, you got the wrong link.

Ouch, yes I did. The one I thought I was pasting was this one, which has two, uh, re-interpretations of the cover.
posted by dhartung at 12:50 PM on June 4, 2013


There's a reason Arthur Clarke holed up in Colombo for decades.
posted by thecjm at 12:50 PM on June 4, 2013


I've found his "here's my public statement, comments are off" updates on Whatever to smack rather of stonewalling.

John Scalzi's track record as a human being strongly inclines me to give him the benefit of the doubt in reading that unambiguous apology and taking-of-responsibility as sincere. I agree that the apology is insufficient in itself, but I don't think his calling for a task force is a smokescreen. It sounds to me like the ponderous rolling out of the bureaucratic heavy artillery.

On the assumption metafilter's own jscalzi ends up reading this thread at some point: dude. Ugh. If it helps, know that there are a lot of people out there who trust you to clean this up.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:50 PM on June 4, 2013 [21 favorites]


Asimov was all grandfatherly and sexless and dignified and shit, wasn't he?

Uh, not...so much?

Quote Wikipedia:
"Particularly in his later years, Asimov to some extent cultivated an image of himself as an amiable lecher. In 1971, as a response to the popularity of sexual guidebooks such as The Sensuous Woman (by "J") and The Sensuous Man (by "M"), Asimov published The Sensuous Dirty Old Man under the byline "Dr. 'A'" (although his full name was printed on the paperback edition, first published 1972)."
posted by cjelli at 12:54 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


but Asimov was all grandfatherly and sexless and dignified and shit, wasn't he?

Not if you ever read the little asides and introductions to his stories; the guy was a randy melon farmer even in print.


Isaac Asimov, author of The Sensuous Dirty Old Man.
posted by Artw at 12:54 PM on June 4, 2013


ook: "Huh, I never thought of Asimov as an ass-pincher. Plenty of SF authors, to be sure, maybe even most of them* -- but Asimov was all grandfatherly and sexless and dignified and shit, wasn't he? "

My mother asked him to autograph some books once. He wrote short, cool notes to young me in three "How Did We Find Out About" books and then an unbelievably filthy limerick in her Foundation series omnibus.

He was known for being a complete horndog, yes. Clarke was not. (At least not that I know of.)
posted by zarq at 12:54 PM on June 4, 2013


celebrate the infestation of even the smallest American heartland towns by African, Asian and Aztec cultures

Aztec? Really?
posted by octothorpe at 12:55 PM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Scalzi ALWAYS shuts off the comments for SFWA posts on Whatever - even for the most benign matters.

Yes, and I think that's a good policy. But there has been some overlap in the past, most recently on issues around publisher contracts where I believe there were near-concurrent "here's a shitty publisher contract" posts on Whatever and "here's a statement on eligible markets" emails from SFWA.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:55 PM on June 4, 2013


I got my renewal notice for SFWA in my email the other day. But between this and the recent empublicing of the YA/MG SiG (an experimental group previously housed on a private list-serve, which was, for the last year, only open to those of us who have published in those genres--largely because dudes in wider SF culture are often asses to us--which has now been forced open to all) I'm seriously considering not renewing. It feels like I'm not wanted there, honestly. People wonder why SF is graying. Well, here you go.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:56 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fuck. That's it, I have to go invent time travel now so I can go back to 1983 and talk myself into finding better role models.
posted by ook at 12:56 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Asimov even had a whole book of Lecherous Limericks. Although all of limerick books were fairly filthy; that's just the only one that was up-front about it.
posted by cjelli at 12:57 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have essentially given up on having these fights online. They go around and around, usually nothing changes, and then I spend two months feeling bad and hating the world. In this particular case, I blogged about it, but I also wrote John Scalzi a "me too" note-- because I had faith that John would actually help implement a change.

Overall, I don't have that expectation for most SF/Fantasy outlets, be they organizations or conventions or whatnot. That second Resnick and Malzberg never should have happened at all (not that the first one or the Barbie article should have either, but you can't fix a mistake until a mistake is made,) but it's nice to see the establishment take this stuff seriously for once.
posted by headspace at 12:57 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


/wonders if he is eligible for SWFA so he can ostentatiously not join.
posted by Artw at 12:59 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


He was known for being a complete horndog, yes. Clarke was not. (At least not that I know of.)

Gay, some accusations of immproprietry with the houseboy, nothing really came of it.
posted by Artw at 1:01 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Next you'll be telling me Arthur Clarke was a horndog too. (Please don't tell me Arthur Clarke was a horndog.)

Ooh, don't do any Google searches on this. It leads to an increasingly depressing rabbit hole.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:03 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Aztec? Really?

The guy's an unreformed pro-medievalist. You need to think like Ignatius J. Reilly:

"The honorable Spanish vanquished Islam and ejected the Jews from the whole of the Iberian peninsula! To call them "Hispanic" is an insult to the honored European legacy of their Most Catholic Majesties Ferdinand and Isabella. Clearly, it is therefore the fearsome Aztek Empire on the march that is to blame for scary brown people in my town."
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:04 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


+1 on Scalizi's comment discretion: any SF author who can't predict that leaving comments turned on would produce a worthless signal:noise ratio is in the wrong line of work.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:04 PM on June 4, 2013


Bunny Ultramod: " Ooh, don't do any Google searches on this. It leads to an increasingly depressing rabbit hole."

But was Clarke a horndog or not?
posted by zarq at 1:05 PM on June 4, 2013


From Anne McCaffrey: A Life with Dragons (p. 115):
They met a few weeks later at Boskone, the Boston science fiction convention. Isaac had been asked to present the E. E. Doc Smith Award. Somewhat maudlin, he addressed the crowd, saying, "Right now, among all my societies, it is you — and science fiction — whose good opinion I require. I want you to love me, love me, love me, or I will die." Loudly, from the back of the room, Anne [McCaffrey] yelled, "Live, Tinker Bell!" to the crowd's laughter. To even more laughter, Isaac replied, "Five minutes alone with you and I'll prove that I'm no Tinker Bell!" Their rather public fliteration did, however, have a basis in reality. It was at this Boskone that Isaac got his rather more than five minutes and satisfactorily proved himself to be "no Tinker Bell."
Of course, they were both married at the time.
posted by Nomyte at 1:05 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


More of a Behind the Hugo Rocket situation, I think.
posted by Artw at 1:06 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Artw: " Gay, some accusations of immproprietry with the houseboy, nothing really came of it."

Yeah, I remember at least a couple of people said that's why he had moved to Sri Lanka.
posted by zarq at 1:06 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still want to join the SFWA (once I'm eligible... working on it, working on it).

The Barbie thing enrages me. The whole dialogue about "lady editors" and "lady writers" depresses me. And I certainly understand feeling excluded and silenced. But I'd much rather join the discussion than just go be an outsider officially. Maybe I'm just overly optimistic, but I think that the more diverse the SFWA (and other such groups) are, the more likely they are to find ways to improve.
posted by lriG rorriM at 1:08 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


They met a few weeks later at Boskone, the Boston science fiction convention. Isaac had been asked to present the E. E. Doc Smith Award. Somewhat maudlin, he addressed the crowd, saying, "Right now, among all my societies, it is you — and science fiction — whose good opinion I require. I want you to love me, love me, love me, or I will die." Loudly, from the back of the room, Anne [McCaffrey] yelled, "Live, Tinker Bell!" to the crowd's laughter. To even more laughter, Isaac replied, "Five minutes alone with you and I'll prove that I'm no Tinker Bell!" Their rather public fliteration did, however, have a basis in reality. It was at this Boskone that Isaac got his rather more than five minutes and satisfactorily proved himself to be "no Tinker Bell."


Is this a generational thing? Or a subcultural thing? Obviously, a critical mass of people, including women, found this sort of anecdote daring, earthy, funny - the kind of story that reflects well on the teller. (Since I assume that McCaffrey told this story to the biographer!) And there's a whole tone and style to the anecdote which is, yes, science fictional - as much as "the door dilated" or "the red sun rose, the blue sun set" though for a different purpose. You can certainly find similar anecdotes throughout various SF memoirs from the fifties through the nineties.

And yet, all I can think is "ew, why are you telling me this?" And I don't think any of my SFnal buddies - ranging in age from their twenties to their early fifties - would feel any differently. I mean, yuckers.

In fact, far from making the teller seem urbane and sexually sophisticated and so on, it makes me think that everyone involved was kind of gross and had poor judgment.
posted by Frowner at 1:15 PM on June 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


I had never heard of Vox Day before this (and did not realize that he's the nutjob troll with the huge crush on Scalzi)... but now that I have heard of him, and had the displeasure of reading a couple of his blog entries, I know not to waste my time on him any further. So at least one good thing came out of this big ugly kerfuffle.
posted by palomar at 1:17 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was surprised to see this because SFWA under Scalzi has been the kind of professional organization I respect, but not that surprised, because science fiction has always had these reactionary old goats.

I was a member, and let my membership lapse in the thick of the economic crisis when I was underemployed, and just never have gotten around to renewing it. Now I'm thinking of rejoining so there's a slightly higher proportion of lady editors in the ranks.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:22 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this a generational thing? Or a subcultural thing?

Both I think. There was this whole generation of men that embraced sexual liberation but not so much womens lib and science fiction fandom was always somewhat more open to sexual experimentation. So you get lots of smutty wannabe funny remarks and lots of groping.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:23 PM on June 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


All of these people need to read more Heinlein. That'll sort 'em out.

How about no.
posted by kmz at 1:26 PM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


fliteration

Noun. The process of flirting repeatedly, each time imagining that you're slightly closer to the goal.
posted by Nomyte at 1:29 PM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


It bummed me out when I learned Bradbury was a bigot.
posted by basicchannel at 1:29 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Heh. HP Lovecraft fan here. Shit happens.
posted by Artw at 1:30 PM on June 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


~...celebrate the infestation of even the smallest American heartland towns by African, Asian and Aztec cultures

~Aztec? Really?


Just thank your stars he didn't just call them all "mud people" and leave it at that.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:30 PM on June 4, 2013


The statement is also published on SFWA's site with comments enabled.

Excellent, lets see what thought-provoking response to Scalzi's statement have been posted.
Jayson C.
You will never change my fantasy world. That is why it’s called FANTASY. My male barbarians run around in loincloth, smashing FANTASY monsters to bits. Not all my female FANTASY characters are scantily clad, but many are. Nothing wrong with it. F A N T A S Y.
Jayson, don't forget to mail me a postcard from your fantasy world. I hear the stamps, featuring a giant cock clad in scale mail, are quite collectible.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:31 PM on June 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


If Scalzi (who I generally like and enjoy his fiction) truly wanted to apologize for this, he could start by summarily firing Malzburg and Reznick. Today. Now.

Well, Scalzi as outgoing president who leaves at the end of the month is in a bit of a pickle.

I think this is one reason for the (IMHO wise) decision to let Rachel Swirsky, SWFA's VP, take point on this issue...


Oh lord yes...he should definitely let a woman clean up his mess. That's what they're for, right? Plus, it has the added bonus of leaving Ms. Swirsky with the coveted role of 'Bad Guy' while he walks away, smelling of roses. It's win-win! :D
posted by sexyrobot at 1:31 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It bummed me out when I learned Bradbury was a bigot.

Pretty much everyone born in 1920 was a bigot unfortunately.
posted by GuyZero at 1:31 PM on June 4, 2013


it might help put the curtness of scalzi's remarks in context to know that he was on a plane when twitter exploded with this and that he was returning from three weeks straight on the road. a few hours before this post he had written this :
After three weeks, more than a dozen events/appearances, and having signed my name in books at least a couple of thousand times, I am on my way home.
[...]
You shouldn’t expect too much from me here in the next couple of days. I’ll be mostly busy reconnecting with wife, family and pets, and sleeping. Mostly sleeping. I’ll be back in the full swing of things Monday, I would expect.
but, then he got off the plane and realized he had work to do and got to it. i think he's done a good job responding and i think the task force is a good idea for the reasons that eriko laid out.
posted by nadawi at 1:32 PM on June 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


Pretty much everyone born in 1920 was a bigot unfortunately.

My grandmother was born in 1916 and fought for minority ethnic rights her entire life.
posted by KathrynT at 1:34 PM on June 4, 2013 [44 favorites]


In July 1992, Mattel released Teen Talk Barbie, which spoke a number of phrases including "Will we ever have enough clothes?", "I love shopping!", and "Wanna have a pizza party?" Each doll was programmed to say four out of 270 possible phrases, so that no two dolls were likely to be the same. One of these 270 phrases was "Math class is tough!" (often misquoted as "Math is hard"). Although only about 1.5% of all the dolls sold said the phrase, it led to criticism from the American Association of University Women. In October 1992 Mattel announced that Teen Talk Barbie would no longer say the phrase, and offered a swap to anyone who owned a doll that did. (wikipedia)
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:34 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh lord yes...he should definitely let a woman clean up his mess. That's what they're for, right? Plus, it has the added bonus of leaving Ms. Swirsky with the coveted role of 'Bad Guy' while he walks away, smelling of roses. It's win-win! :D

Wow, that's an incredibly uncharitable spin.
posted by palomar at 1:35 PM on June 4, 2013 [21 favorites]


It bummed me out when I learned Bradbury was a bigot.

FUCK there goes another one
posted by ook at 1:35 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


he should definitely let a woman clean up his mess. That's what they're for, right?

having a woman VP (who is staying in place between a presidential shift that is happening in 4 weeks) spearhead the committee who are looking into overreaching policy changes is not even remotely scalzi making her his maid and fall guy.
posted by nadawi at 1:37 PM on June 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


Nothing wrong with Piers Anthony though, right?
posted by fleacircus at 1:38 PM on June 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Nothing wrong with Piers Anthony though, right?

Not as long as you never wear panties.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:39 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


There was this whole generation of men that embraced sexual liberation but not so much womens lib...

Oh god, this. It has been a real problem that a huge percentage of a generation or two of men took "sexual liberation" to mean "great, I can get more sex (and nothing else will change)." As it turns out, "getting sex" from people you don't bother to see as fully human is not as great as it sounded on paper....
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:40 PM on June 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


I just remembered why I don't read books with pictures of girls wearing titty armor on the cover. Gross.
posted by Teakettle at 1:42 PM on June 4, 2013


Wow, Vox Day, that's a nutcase I hadn't heard about before. I just needed to scroll down a screen or two to find a blog post praising Greece's Golden Dawn and saying stuff like "There is going to be war. In Europe, it will be the European nationalists against the globalists and their African and Muslim jannisaries."

So, yeah, I've seen quite enough of that.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:44 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It bummed me out when I learned Bradbury was a bigot.

FUCK there goes another one


We can all agree that L. Ron Hubbard was a sterling human being and a model of progressive thought, though, right?
posted by COBRA! at 1:44 PM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh god, this. It has been a real problem that a huge percentage of a generation or two of men took "sexual liberation" to mean "great, I can get more sex (and nothing else will change)."

Yeah, and oh my god the boiling cauldron of resentment they end up with when that "getting more sex" thing doesn't pan out like they thought it would...
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:44 PM on June 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


celebrate the infestation of even the smallest American heartland towns by African, Asian and Aztec cultures

Aztec? Really?


Oh man, looks like he's an Azatlan Conspiracist. That is some hardcore racist nuttery. From the link:

While American news media, other than a couple of stories by the Associated Press, has largely ignored the issue of Aztlan, or Republic of the North, Mexican news media has reported dozens of stories in which President Fox repeatedly refers to the American Southwest as belonging to Mexico, and is soon to be reunited.

It's actually kind of reassuring (though still enraging) that hardcore woman-hating (and gay-hating, etc.) is more and more the province of guys like this.
posted by emjaybee at 1:44 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


he should definitely let a woman clean up his mess. That's what they're for, right?

OK, I know I am joining in a pile-on, but this is a ridiculous statement. Yeah, he should let the incoming people deal with it, because they are going to have to deal with it anyway. I just stepped down from a quasi-administrative position, and we had a couple of complicated problems arise in the last few weeks of my term, and you bet I let the new team (two men, in this case) take lead on it -- I dealt with the elements that were appropriate for me to immediately address (while consulting with them frequently to make sure that we transitioned well), but I let them set the tone of the response because, otherwise, I would make a complex situation worse by arrogantly putting my fingerprints all over it and forcing them to follow my lead into their term.

This is how trading off power works.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:45 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well this just goes to show that women have no sense of humour.
posted by surrendering monkey at 1:45 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


My grandmother was born in 1916 and fought for minority ethnic rights her entire life.

Too bad she didn't see fit to submit a few stories to Astounding Science Fiction.
posted by GuyZero at 1:46 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well this just goes to show that women have no sense of humour.

It's because it won't fit into our titty armor.
posted by elizardbits at 1:48 PM on June 4, 2013 [57 favorites]


It's because it won't fit into our titty armor.

Seriously! If these damn mini armored loin cloths just had pockets, we could fit at least a dozen rape jokes and some extra male-centered sexual liberation!
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:49 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Now I really want to see a well-made line of bras produced under the name Titty Armor. I want it bad.
posted by palomar at 1:50 PM on June 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


thigh holsters though
posted by elizardbits at 1:50 PM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's because it won't fit into our titty armor.

And when we wade into battle in our titty armor, we get killed, due to stupid things like physics.
posted by lriG rorriM at 1:51 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just remembered why I don't read books with pictures of girls wearing titty armor on the cover.

Kindle.
posted by Artw at 1:52 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whenever people start abandoning institutions that disappoint them, it's only that much easier for those institutions to fill up with people who will ensure they only deliver more disappointments in the future. I'd say now's the time for qualified people who are (rightly) offended by this stuff to sign up for, not abandon, the SFWA--particularly since it's clear the current leadership genuinely wants to clean house and could use the help. Organizations like this are most effectively pressured to change by their own membership. And the necessity for the existence of the organization itself is indisputable.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:52 PM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'd say now's the time for qualified people who are (rightly) offended by this stuff to sign up for, not abandon, the SFWA

What's funny is that the reactionary cranks would read this as confirmation of their belief that feminists want to infiltrate the SFWA so they can destroy it from within. And by "funny" I mean "weird and depressing."
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:54 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Too bad she didn't see fit to submit a few stories to Astounding Science Fiction.

Yeah, she was too busy getting her Ph.D. in History with 4 children at home.
posted by KathrynT at 1:56 PM on June 4, 2013 [33 favorites]


Your grandmother sounds awesome.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:57 PM on June 4, 2013 [20 favorites]


Whenever people start abandoning institutions that disappoint them, it's only that much easier for those institutions to fill up with people who will ensure they only deliver more disappointments in the future.

Yes. I don't want the SFWA to become a stagnant pool of yuck. And while organizations like Broad Universe are awesome and definitely do great things, they are not necessarily the same great things.
posted by lriG rorriM at 1:57 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Frank Herbert? Philip K. Dick?

Asimov I can forgive, because as brilliant an imaginer as he was, his fiction style was always rooted in a very 50sesque narrative pattern which had specific roles for men and women that weren't flattering to either. Both his Robot and his Foundation series get into some really skeevy territory, especially the last two books of Foundation where his hero escapes a ball-busting female Mayor to fly around space and have sex with various women and it turns out his choice to have sex with all of them is crucial to saving the universe or something. His sexism was pretty straightforward Old White Guy Sexism, harassment included. Which sucks, but hey.
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:57 PM on June 4, 2013


Whenever people start abandoning institutions that disappoint them, it's only that much easier for those institutions to fill up with people who will ensure they only deliver more disappointments in the future.

Maybe you start not to care about that. Maybe you start to say "fuck it, there are plenty of writers organizations that won't send me sexist dreck in the mail."

I mean, really, why should we have to expose ourselves to this kind of loathsomeness on a quarterly basis?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:59 PM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


"There is going to be war. In Europe, it will be the European nationalists against the globalists and their African and Muslim jannisaries."
Yeah, Vox is going to war with his flaming sword.

Vox was a big hit with the original warblogger crowd. Had a regular column at WorldNet, used to troll the shit out of the Nielsen-Hayden's blogs. Hadn't heard much of him since his daddy jumped bail and threatened the life of a Federal judge.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:59 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thomas Disch? Samuel Delany?
posted by drezdn at 2:01 PM on June 4, 2013


I really liked Malzberg's Engines of the Night (substantially expanded in Breakfast in the Ruins which I haven't read) and Herovit's World and "Gather in the Hall of the Planets" (which can be found in The Passage of the Light, and I'm grateful for his editing of The Science Fiction of Mark Clifton, an important figure in fifties sf, now only barely remembered for having co-written an early Hugo-winning novel. And I really liked Resnick's "One Perfect Morning, with Jackals" and some of his alternate history like what's collected in The Other Teddy Roosevelts.

And I won't regret the SFWA Bulletin axing their column.

I'll try real hard to be charitable, and pretend they might have been intended as votes for "screw you, none of the above," or "where are my damn reading glasses?"

or "encouraging this guy is more entertaining than free cable" or "this guy getting any votes will drive people nuts HEE HEE" or, or pretty much anything, however problematic, that isn't "I look forward to the improvements this guy will make in how SFWA is run" because that's just too horrible to contemplate.
posted by Zed at 2:09 PM on June 4, 2013


Frowner: "In fact, far from making the teller seem urbane and sexually sophisticated and so on, it makes me think that everyone involved was kind of gross and had poor judgment."

If everyone involved was happy and having fun and enjoying themselves, why should it be gross to you?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:09 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


James Tiptree, Jr.?


Heh.
posted by joannemerriam at 2:10 PM on June 4, 2013 [26 favorites]


I mean, really, why should we have to expose ourselves to this kind of loathsomeness on a quarterly basis?

Well, of course, you shouldn't. And that's why it's important to keep holding SFWA leadership's feet to the fire--but just leaving the organization actually takes the pressure off to reform it. Then, when eventually even good guys like Scalzi throw in the towel, SFWA doesn't just fade away like its former members might have hoped--it just grows more and more loathsome by lowering its standards enough to attract even more bigots under its new leadership. That's part of how so many of our public institutions ended up in the terrible shape they're in.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:12 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


While that's no doubt true, saulgoodman, I get sick and tired of paying to be part of a professional organization, then spending all my time fighting the unprofessional behavior in it. I already have a job, which is writing. I have to advocate for my own rights within my profession, and I will never stop doing that.

But I assure you, no one is paying me to spend massive amounts of time advocating for my own rights in a totally voluntary organization that should be serving me and not the other way around.

Whether my desire to walk away from the dickbag calling me Barbie is going to improve the organization or not, ditching both definitely improves MY mood and overall wellbeing.
posted by headspace at 2:17 PM on June 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


There was always an overtone of abhorrence of the profane and corrupting in the misogyny of the SF of the Golden Age, I thought-- as if the exploration of space and the future were to be entrusted only to a pure and sanctified fraternity that could only be soiled and degraded by contact with the feminine, much less any actual females-- coupled with with a huge double helping of classical Freudian castration anxiety and an associated terror of the maternal.

Heinlein was one of the worst offenders, both in his juveniles, such as Podkayne of Mars, and his adult fiction, where in Farnham's Freehold, for example, he makes Farnham's wife complicit in their son's actual castration, after which she keeps her son as essentially a pet.
posted by jamjam at 2:20 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


If everyone involved was happy and having fun and enjoying themselves, why should it be gross to you?

Ah, that question was precisely what I was trying to get at! Why does it seem gross? Because it does - not the sex, the anecdote and the style of telling - and I think that sort of nudge-nudge SF sex anecdote (which, as I say, recurs a lot - I think there's one or two in Judith Merrill's memoir, and she was as feminist as they come) is well over into squick territory for a lot of people. Again, I emphasize that what is gross is not the sex but the specific telling of the story, and the idea that the story reflects well on the teller.

Honestly, I don't care about Anne McCaffrey having it off with Isaac Asimov - I'm interested in the social and rhetorical shifts which make that story, so harmless and presumably charming in, say, 1975, kind of blecchy now.

Also, the ways in which the yuck factor is entwined with sexism - I don't think that sexism and less tolerance of misogyny are sufficient to explain the yuck factor, though, since there are plenty of these lol-nudge-wink-sex anecdotes by women not especially noted for being anti-feminist.

Off the top of my head, actually, I'd suggest that precisely because it's no longer so transgressive/life-affirming!/sophisticated to talk about sex, stories that foreground the life-affirming/lol-he-was-no-Tinkerbell approach to sex seem dated and TMI. It's not punk rock anymore, that is.
posted by Frowner at 2:22 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Remember, these guys are getting really old and society progresses one funeral at a time.
posted by Justinian at 2:22 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Frowner: "Also, the ways in which the yuck factor is entwined with sexism - I don't think that sexism and less tolerance of misogyny are sufficient to explain the yuck factor, though, since there are plenty of these lol-nudge-wink-sex anecdotes by women not especially noted for being anti-feminist."

The thing is, I'm not sure your yuck reaction is all that universal, even if it had happened today. It's a pretty obvious piece of public flirting between two famous people who knew each other. If it had been unwelcome on either side, it would be different, but it was clearly not, and I suspect Asimov already knew that before he responded.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:26 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think that's probably true in this very specific instance, but much of Asimov's behavior was extremely inappropriate towards women he did not know at all.
posted by Justinian at 2:27 PM on June 4, 2013


Justinian: "I think that's probably true in this very specific instance, but much of Asimov's behavior was extremely inappropriate towards women he did not know at all"

No argument from me there.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:35 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


People, let me clue you in on something - authors are total shits! If you see someone and think he's nice or she's got it together, either they're a terrible writer or they're pretending to be nice so they can molest you or vomit on you or steal your candlesticks or something like that.
posted by Mister_A at 2:35 PM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]



I have essentially given up on having these fights online. They go around and around, usually nothing changes, and then I spend two months feeling bad and hating the world.

It's worse than that -- they go around and a round in a feedback loop, getting worse with each cycle. This started with Malzberg saying:

"She was competent, unpretentious, and beauty pageant gorgeous … as photographs make quite clear."

It's sexist by the standards of the 2013 intelligentsia, but it's not horrific. I might say as much of a man "competent, unpretentious, and devilishly handsome" and it would pass unnoticed. It's sexist not because it's inherently hateful or oppressive, but just because it misses the fact that women and men have different histories of being kept down, and bringing up a woman's looks has different baggage.

He could have gracefully backed off. It would have been easy. There were a dozen ways he could apologize and move on. But no. No, it has to go through several loops of people taking offense and people doubling down.

Christ! Apologize! No one expects you to be perfect, just not to be an asshole. We know you didn't grow up in a vacuum. Stop trying to pretend you're the one magical human without sin. This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by tyllwin at 2:37 PM on June 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


People, let me clue you in on something - authors are total shits! If you see someone and think he's nice or she's got it together, either they're a terrible writer or they're pretending to be nice so they can molest you or vomit on you or steal your candlesticks or something like that.

But GRRM looks so jovial and friendly!
posted by Artw at 2:42 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Heinlein wrote many novels and his female characters fit a wide range of "types." Some ok by modern standards, others pretty bad. Even those considered progressive at the time their books were published were flawed, written through the prism of a self-admitted privileged white, male American.

As with most sci-fi, his works are both a product of the time in which they were written and of the writer's own attitudes.
posted by zarq at 2:43 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


People, let me clue you in on something - authors are total shits! If you see someone and think he's nice or she's got it together, either they're a terrible writer or they're pretending to be nice so they can molest you or vomit on you or steal your candlesticks or something like that.

Come on now. Some of us just want to sponge a free dinner from you!
posted by headspace at 2:43 PM on June 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


Ursula Vernon's blog post about the original debacle is worth reading.

The followup, however... I shall quote:

"John Scalzi said, somewhat ruefully, on Twitter that this is what he gets for thinking that the last month of his tenure as SFWA president would be quiet.

I told him that he had tempted the Fannish Misogyny Fairy with such thoughts.

He said he wanted to see an illustration."

C&C warning on the "illustration" link. For serious.
posted by sourcequench at 2:52 PM on June 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


TBH of all the criticisms of late Heinlein you could make calling it anti-sex is the weirdest, with it's profusion of polyamory, chain weddings and other excuses for old men in dodgy relationships with young women.
posted by Artw at 2:53 PM on June 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


> The thing is, I'm not sure your yuck reaction is all that universal, even if it had happened today. It's a pretty obvious piece of public flirting between two famous people who knew each other. If it had been unwelcome on either side, it would be different, but it was clearly not, and I suspect Asimov already knew that before he responded.

For me, the anecdote and the telling of the anecdote cross over from "salty tales" into "weird tales" because of the embellishment that Asimov's rejoinder prompted louder laughter (because it carries the air of "he showed you up good, uppity female Anne McCaffrey!"). Also, because Asimov's witty response is basically "Yeah, then I'll have sex with you!" And finally, because the narrator overstrains in efforts to highlight Asimov's manly-man virility to the reader. It feels to me about as gauche to talk about how "Asimov's still got!" as it does to talk about McCaffrey's writing by describing her hips and bosom. Not to mention that I personally take the Tinker Bell comment to target Asimov's maudlin sentimentality, whereas the narrator takes it as an attempt to emasculate him, leading to his efforts to reassert his egregious virility.
posted by Nomyte at 3:01 PM on June 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


But GRRM looks so jovial and friendly!

He bought me brunch once, which was decent.

Also, I know of more authors who have been vomited on and stolen from than who have vomited on others or stolen from them. So there is that.

Not that authors aren't people and therefore capable of the usual range of jerkishness.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:02 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I bet he secretly put spiders in it.
posted by Artw at 3:07 PM on June 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


That's just how it goes, though. The response always gets more laughter, and if there'd been a third, more laughter still. I don't think there's too much to read into that.

Quayle: Something something Jack Kennedy. *applause*
Benson: You, sir, are no Jack Kennedy. *Applause*
Moderator: That was uncalled for, Senator. *APPLAUSE*

Or

Dickenson: Something something Englishman. *applause*
Franklin: Calling me an Englishman is like calling a steer a bull. He's thankful for the honor, but he'd rather have back what is rightfully his. *Laughter*
Dickenson: When did he notice it was missing? *LAUGHTER*
posted by BeeDo at 3:09 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's a minor point, but it was Quayle, not the moderator, who objected that Bentsen's remark was uncalled for. The moderator just suggested people hold their applause.
posted by cortex at 3:12 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Although I know about his history, Ferrett Steinmetz makes an interesting point.
But it’s time to stop thinking like the world froze when someone complimented you in 1982 and that “Achievement Unlocked” pop-up dinged in your brain. You’ve got more work to do. You’ve got to see that calling them “lady editors” is actually diminishing them, that women in chainmail bikinis may be a long tradition but so are grinning Negro lawn jockeys, that your pro-African writings were progressive in 1980 but look like a TRS-80 now, that there is a subtle difference between “censorship” and “saying such monstrously unpopular things that nobody wants to talk to you.”
Because, yes: although we considered Buffy really progressive and feminist when it came out, it's -- well, still pretty good compared to network tv today, but also filled with all sorts of problems with weird kinds of misogyny (not to mention the racism). Standards change.
posted by jeather at 3:12 PM on June 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


I have essentially given up on having these fights online. They go around and around, usually nothing changes, and then I spend two months feeling bad and hating the world.

It's worse than that -- they go around and a round in a feedback loop, getting worse with each cycle.


I hang out in the NerdSpace at the intersection of technology, gaming, & science fiction. We seem to have the sexism talk almost weekly (in one space or another) and I can't help but wonder what sort of effect these conversations & feedback loops are having on the generation of girls just coming up. 20 years ago, I was a wide-eyed 20 year old trying to figure out my future.

For the most part, these conversations are a good and necessary part of social change. They create awareness which not only lets women know they aren't alone/crazy when something happens to them, but it lets people see examples of the problem and, if applicable, how it was solved. And was that a good solution or a bad one. But social change is messy and complicated... and people feel the need to take sides. And it can get really really really ugly. (see: the harassment of Anita Sarkeesian)

I am not opposed to the discussions and debates. I don't even mind having them over and over and over and over again. But I am 40. And I am in this world. If I was 20, I'm not sure I'd want anything to do with it. At all.

A friend's daughter is in her sophomore year in a very good tech program (robotics, I think). She recently decided to switch to a business major. The reasoning: it's a more flexible degree, she can get a job in any field. She'll still have some sort of techy minor and will keep up with her coding so she can always go into that if she wants, but this way she can be a project manager! This was all presented as a Very Good Thing: Look at how my daughter is growing into an awesome and responsible woman.

And that is awesome! So happy. But... sad! I just see this super bright girl who always loved solving complex puzzles through code looking to project management as her best career path. And I can't help but think that all of our talking about sexism in tech and gaming and sf is part of the reason why.

When I was growing up, there was not a single doubt in my mind that I could do & be anything. Then I went to college and started seeing the world and thought: I can do & be anything but there's going to be some bullshit I'm going to have to deal with. I was a sociology major. I took a lot of women's studies course. They made me jaded, but nothing like what 20 year old girls have access to today. If I wasn't as much of a dreamer and had a more practical head on my shoulders, I'd run towards the more "girl friendly" career paths. Why take the risk - especially in this economy? Sure, it might be less fulfilling and not exactly what I want to do, but it can still be exciting.

The problem isn't that we're having these conversations. Clearly, we need to have them. But it's about the balance of the conversations. When the women in the game community started tweeting about #1reasonwhy (about sexism) they balanced it with #1reasontobe. That was fantastic. We need more of that. Not only because it shows the girls planning their future that it can and will be totally amazing, but it keeps all of our spirits high and highlights to the sexist jerks that we're not just "a bunch of whiners"... that we do have passion, that we do get it, that we are a part of the club.
posted by imbri at 3:25 PM on June 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


lriG rorriM: I don't want the SFWA to become a stagnant pool of yuck.

I hate to break this to you but SFWA has been a stagnant pile of yuck for a looooong time. One of the most savagely disillusioning periods of my life was my wife's brief membership back in the 1980's.
posted by localroger at 3:26 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


But I am 40. And I am in this world. If I was 20, I'm not sure I'd want anything to do with it. At all.

I really think that idealism, and youth, and the sheer amount of progress we HAVE made will guarantee that strong young women will continue the fight even when we're too battered to have it ourselves.

Now I feel super seriously rocking chair old, but I mean that. I marched on Washington I don't know how many times when I was young. Now I write letters to congress. The marches still happen, with fierce regularity.

Each generation makes the next step that the previous generation made possible. Some people are never going to step into the fray. But I truly believe that some people always will, and they'll fight as long as they have the strength to do it.
posted by headspace at 3:46 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, she was too busy getting her Ph.D. in History with 4 children at home.

That is a *really* specific area of history to focus on!
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:46 PM on June 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


Maybe you start not to care about that. Maybe you start to say "fuck it, there are plenty of writers organizations that won't send me sexist dreck in the mail."

Is there such a beast that could realistically rise to replace the SFWA? And quickly?

Sometimes euthanasia is the best course of action.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:51 PM on June 4, 2013


re: Vox Day

If you happen to be into the genre, it might behoove you to know that ol' Voxy was a member of early 90s techno/industrial band Psykosonik.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 4:02 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


bringing up a woman's looks has different baggage
And ever-changing baggage, even. At one point in the not-too-distant past, anticipating the "smart women aren't pretty" stereotype and preemptively countering it would have been an anti-sexist thing to do.
posted by roystgnr at 4:04 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there such a beast that could realistically rise to replace the SFWA? And quickly?

Dear RWA: Enclosed is my latest scientific romance...
posted by Zed at 4:08 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am not opposed to the discussions and debates. I don't even mind having them over and over and over and over again. But I am 40. And I am in this world. If I was 20, I'm not sure I'd want anything to do with it. At all.

It is still hard, but not as hard as when this stuff was happening but no one would acknowledge it. If I were a girl going into robotics, I would be able to find communities online of women who supported me, or at least find out who the women in my field might be. 20 years ago, I would have been completely alone.

Someone asked upthread why all this stuff is happening now. Well, it's probably not that more stuff is happening, but it is happening more loudly, more openly, and with more men being allies.

And that is freaking out the other people, the ones who don't want women to gain parity. For whatever twisted reasons. They see other men, even men they respected, call them on sexist shit. And they are panicking, because they are losing.

But of course a rattlesnake can still bite after you cut off it's head, so shit still happens. That snake, though; he's on the way out.
posted by emjaybee at 4:09 PM on June 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


re: Vox Day

If you happen to be into the genre, it might behoove you to know that ol' Voxy was a member of early 90s techno/industrial band Psykosonik.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 4:02 PM on June 4 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


I knew that fucking name rang a bell. Man, he was pretty craptastic even back then. It's so weird because there were like one or two "decent" songs, but the rest was utter dreck.

It also did not age well. Probably because they were so het up on trying to be as cutting edge as they could with computer music in the 90's and it all ends up sounding like presets and bad midi programming, simply because they could.
posted by daq at 4:18 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow, what a complete lack of reflection, self awareness, and empathy.

From the "rebuttal," (which as near as I can tell isn't an actual rebuttal in the sense that it addresses the criticism, but more a free form whining session because somebody criticized them):

If they get away with censoring that, can you imagine what comes next? I'm
pretty sure Joe Stalin could imagine it. Of course Schicklgruber the painter could
imagine it. Even Chairman Mao could imagine it.


Having people criticize your comfort at leering about members of your profession in public is in no way comparable to being killed, imprisoned, or tortured. You're not that important.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:18 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've read both volumes of Asimov's giant autobiography a couple of times and I've come away with the impression that we was a lecher and an opportunistic philanderer and something of a homophobe, and that this was not uncommon or surprising in that era and community of science fiction writing. I too was legitimately surprised that the quotes in the original post were from recently and not from the 50s. I assumed that those attitudes have mostly evolved into the "Reddit Men's Rights Group" type of attitude.

Shows what I know.
posted by themanwho at 4:39 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Show me a male writer who judges female writers in his field by how they look in swimsuits and I'll show you a man who judges other male writers by their penis size (while never revealing his own).
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:48 PM on June 4, 2013


It is still hard, but not as hard as when this stuff was happening but no one would acknowledge it.

And it's not as hard as when this type of discourse-- completely equivalent to the Barbie's Quiet Dignity thing-- were not just found in backwater bulletins but in hugely popular columns in the daily paper and in every magazine. And in Disney cartoons. And sitcoms. And television dramas. And commercials.

You get the idea. The Voices of Authority that I grew up with-- and back in the day, with three TV channels and a thriving, important, essential print media industry, those voices really were authoritative and the media allowed them powerful platforms-- regularly pronounced on Women and Women's Proper Place, and you could open any newspaper to find Women's Libbers being excoriated over unreasonable demands such as equal pay or access to education or legislation to prohibit the firing of pregnant women or making illegal the banning of women from professions. So yeah, it has gotten better. The very University campus where I sit now used to host something called the Godiva Ride, sponsored by the Engineering Department, where a naked woman would ride a horse across campus. This only ended after 1989 after the École Polytechnique Massacre, and even then it was defended and fought for by a number of the male faculty as being a glorious tradition. But it's history now. So slowly things can change. It is my full expectation that the SFWA will get its shit together and make its bulletin relevant, or else go under. Let's hope for the former.
posted by jokeefe at 4:53 PM on June 4, 2013


FUCK there goes another one

Well, ook, as long as we're smashing icons, you know that Card has his GAY HATE knob turned to 11?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:20 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Aztec? Really?

It's basically an underhanded way of saying "Mexican, but not, you know the White ones."
posted by Panjandrum at 5:53 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Panjandrum: "> It's basically an underhanded way of saying "Mexican, but not, you know the White ones.""

Yeah, it occurred to me about an hour ago that it was a way of making it about race instead of language/culture. I'm pretty slow in picking these dog whistle messages.
posted by octothorpe at 6:04 PM on June 4, 2013


> There was always an overtone of abhorrence of the profane and corrupting in the misogyny of the SF of the Golden Age

The ironic failing of that era is the authors could somehow envision multiple methods of faster than light travel, global terraforming projects, hyper-intelligent AIs, and a fantastical array of alien species, but struggled to transcend the gender framework of their day. So Dyson Spheres end up being more plausible than a woman with goals beyond being a cloistered housewife whose chief preoccupations are man-pleasing and make-up. I'm willing to think it's improved, but there's still a distressing amount of sci-fi that finds massive technological revolutions easier to imagine than even more modest cultural transformations.

Of course, C. J. Henderson and Vox Day are both fantasy writers so the point is moot. It does make their shittiness more understandable; fantasy is an almost intrinsically reactionary genre.
posted by Panjandrum at 6:14 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, fantasy used to be an almost intrinsically reactionary genre. The last 20 years have changed it dramatically.
posted by Justinian at 6:18 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Reading science fiction was one of the factors that made me a feminist. I especially remember reading Ursula K. Le Guin's The Word for World Is Forest when I was a young teen and having something click inside my head about oppression.

Getting to know fandom was a total culture shock for me. I grew up in Iceland and I didn't know any other SF readers growing up so I sort of extrapolated my experience outwards. I thought that being a technological progressive meant that you'd be socially progressive. Even though I'd read a lot of sexist SF, I assumed that things had gotten better (I mostly read older SF because that was what was available to me, new SF was hard to come by and often had to be special ordered).

Even though it's been a long while since I got to know just how retrograde SF fandom can be, there's still a part of me that really feels that, dammit, people who're into science fiction should be better about imagining themselves into different kinds of people. Heck, I even learned the word and concept "empathy" from SF.
posted by Kattullus at 6:35 PM on June 4, 2013 [19 favorites]


As a teen in the eighties, I LOVED science fiction, but a) I cringed, and felt ashamed and resentful at all the depictions of women and all the expectations heaped on them by most SF writers and b) had literally NO ONE to talk to about it -- most of my female friends thought it was dorky, and the boys I knew who liked it were either hostile and dismissive or tried to get into my pants. First I hid my books, and then I gave up altogether. So I am THRILLED that this debate is even taking place and I think things are INFINITELY better than they were back then. If I had had only one or two other voices out there saying, "yes, that is fucked up," what a difference it would have made.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:45 PM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Kattullus - same here. Ursula K. Le Guin has become one of my biggest inspirations. Probably my favorite author of the last 10 years is Kelly Link. There's so much more going on out there than the old, wheezing boys club. We have to keep eyes on the good and push aside the ones that evolution has passed by.
posted by Celsius1414 at 6:49 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think there are a lot of legitimate problems with lechy old authors (if memory serves, Niven is particularly gross), but I don't think referencing someone as a "lady writer" is a bad thing. It's used to differentiate between "ladies" and "women", from people of a certain age/culture, so it actually /is/ intended as a gesture of respect to those referenced.
posted by corb at 6:53 PM on June 4, 2013


There's so much more going on out there than the old, wheezing boys club.

For example the James Tiptree award, which is a great way to find out about some fantastic authors. If you like short stories, the anthologies are well worth getting.

It's used to differentiate between "ladies" and "women", from people of a certain age/culture, so it actually /is/ intended as a gesture of respect to those referenced.

The problem is that nobody ever seems to talk about gentleman authors, or gentlemen editors. It's the assumption that the profession is masculine and so the fact that they're women must be explained every time.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:57 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


it actually /is/ intended as a gesture of respect to those referenced.

Well, I'll accept that the word "lady" instead of "woman" or "female" is intended respectfully, but contrasting "lady authors" with "authors" (aka the normal ones) is not respectful. I admit that I don't know if R&M usually call them "man/male authors", but I'm willing to bet they don't.
posted by jeather at 7:02 PM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Also, a lot depends on context. To take an extreme example, in then context of the House of Lords, addressing someone as Lady is a mark of respect, but in the context of a conversation about female writers and editors who are also judged by their appearance, it just serves to separate them from male writers and editors.
posted by Kattullus at 7:02 PM on June 4, 2013


The big problem with SF is that while SF is about looking toward the future, for most writers it's about looking toward the future from the point in time where they became interested in SF. So for Asimov and Clarke, SF was always looking forward from the glory days of physics in the 1930's, and that culture. For Heinlein and a lot of others it was looking forward more from 1945. For others it was looking forward from a more amorphous 1950's-60's-ish postwar boom period, and for still others like both the conservative Niven and Pournelle and the "New Wavers" like Bester it was looking forward from the 1960's. I myself am guilty of looking forward from the early 1980's even today.

There is also the fact that SF people tend to be attracted to their vocation very early, so they fix their attitudes at earlier ages than other authors might making them a bit more atavistic then other authors their same age and their peer groups when they did so are more high school than grad school for the same reason so more juvenilia yay.

And SFWA is a small organization with some (at least social) seniority benefits, so the geezers living in their future past from 1970 or earlier have a lot of pull. If you try to take some average of all SF writers it's always going to look strangely atavistic.
posted by localroger at 7:03 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


The problem is that nobody ever seems to talk about gentleman authors

Apparently, rather few classic sci fi authors were gentlemen.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:05 PM on June 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


It never fails to sadden me that it's not the LeGuins or the Kelly Links that have the biggest, most active fandoms. It seems that the best and most progressive writing somehow gets compartmentalized in people's minds from the cesspool of genre fiction as a whole.
posted by Nomyte at 7:08 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


It seems that the best and most progressive writing somehow gets compartmentalized in people's minds from the cesspool of genre fiction as a whole.

Well, it is really different, in a lot of ways. When I read "progressive" science fiction writers, I always feel like I'm being hit over the head with "This Is How Society Should Be". And it just doesn't feel like a really good yarn. I've tried ones that have been recommended to me - NK Jemison, China Mieville, etc - but I've always found them either really boring or just missing in key components of story.

Whereas the Asimovs and Heinleins and Resnicks of the world do write from their viewpoint, it feels like they care less about actually influencing your political opinion. They're writing from their ideology, but you can take it or leave it. It seems with some of the more "progressive" writers, they feel like they've failed if you walk away still believing the things you believed when you came in.
posted by corb at 7:15 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm willing to believe that their use of "Lady" here is intended as courteous and respectful of women, by their (30 year old, at least) standards. If they'd left it there, it wouldn't have been so bad, they'd be more like "Of a different generation, but basically trying".

But then they went off the deep end and fucked everything up.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:16 PM on June 4, 2013


Well, ook, as long as we're smashing icons, you know that Card has his GAY HATE knob turned to 11?

TOTALLY BLINDSIDED BY THIS now to change the subject the guy who wrote those Gor books he was pretty well adjusted right
posted by ook at 7:17 PM on June 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


It's used to differentiate between "ladies" and "women", from people of a certain age/culture

I'll admit that I'm probably not the right age, but when you frame things that way it sounds like the underlying assumption is that women are kind of gross and unpleasant and vulgar. Especially in light of the fact that, as Gygesringtone points out, this distinction rarely seemed necessary for men.
posted by Serf at 7:17 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


You say "it just doesn't feel like a really good yarn," I say "challenges the reader to go beyond themselves." Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. This is the same conversation as the one about the "realism" of the violence in Martin's Song of Ice and Fire. Why does the writing of retrograde authors make for "a good yarn"? Does it make for "a good yarn" for all their readers equally, or only a specific subset? Which one? Why?

Or, hey, same argument as this guy in the comment.
posted by Nomyte at 7:28 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whereas the Asimovs and Heinleins and Resnicks of the world do write from their viewpoint, it feels like they care less about actually influencing your political opinion.

Asimov and Resnick I'll give you (although I haven't read much Resnick, so I don't know), but Heinlein? He's all about influencing political opinion His long expository speeches are 10 pages shorter than Ayn Rand's but, Time Enough For Love was an sermon on free love (at least if you're a male. If you're a female you still get to enjoy it, but personality other than being allowed to occasionally 'mouth off,' well you can forget that). Oh, and don't even get me started on "The Weapon Shops of Ishtar," or "The Man Who Sold the Moon", both of which I like, but may as well be titled "Why my beliefs rock." I mean, I get it's easier to enjoy a church service you agree with, but at some point you have to admit that the hymnal in your hand isn't a bunch of pop tunes.

Le Guin and Tiptree have their messages too, but as at least they give parables, not sermons (Seriously though, if you haven't read anything by Tiptree, you're really missing out).
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:39 PM on June 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


Lady in this context is condescending and akin to the dog walking on its hind legs analogy: surprising that it's done at all and not expected to be done well.
posted by brujita at 7:54 PM on June 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


The problem with using "lady" as a term of respect is the implication that some quality of lady-ness makes some women more worthy of respect than others and that the person using the term is qualified to make that distinction.
posted by prize bull octorok at 8:07 PM on June 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


TOTALLY BLINDSIDED BY THIS now to change the subject the guy who wrote those Gor books he was pretty well adjusted right

That's the spirit! Now go read some stuff by James Hogan, because he NEVER EVER succumbed to the Brain Eater.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:32 PM on June 4, 2013


When I read "progressive" science fiction writers, I always feel like I'm being hit over the head with "This Is How Society Should Be". And it just doesn't feel like a really good yarn.

A good dose of Ken MacLeod (a libertarian commie) will cure that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:35 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


TOTALLY BLINDSIDED BY THIS now to change the subject the guy who wrote those Gor books he was pretty well adjusted right

John Norman. He's a professor of philosophy, and knows damn well he's writing fetish porn for consenting adults who are into that sort of thing. He seems guilty of taking his work waaaaay too seriously, but even that's likely an act to tweak the reader of the interview and differentiate his person from his persona.

So, in this thread we have learned that the guy who wrote the Gor novels is a reasoned and intelligent student of the human condition, and that Isaac Asimov was a horn dog who couldn't keep his hands to himself.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:46 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now I'm picturing Asimov as a sort of science fiction Austin Powers.
posted by octothorpe at 8:52 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Speaking of picturing Asimov -- thanks to this thread, I learned that Young Asimov (c. 1965) had no sideburns. I had always presumed they were just there, from childhood on.
posted by cjelli at 9:26 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I read "progressive" science fiction writers, I always feel like I'm being hit over the head with "This Is How Society Should Be". And it just doesn't feel like a really good yarn.

If you haven't already tried him, Iain M. Banks is worth a shot.

To be fair though, I find reading "conservative" science fiction writers a similar experience - a constant feeling of the author putting on a show of "this is the ideal."
posted by never used baby shoes at 9:59 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Banks is pretty plain that The Culture is the society he wants to live in.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:14 PM on June 4, 2013


Fair enough - when I have trouble sleeping, I'm thinking about living in it myself. Usually completely relaxes me.
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:18 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you haven't already tried him, Iain M. Banks is worth a shot.

Agreed!

Start with 'Consider Phlebas'. You'll like it - it's the story of a young freedom-fighter desperately battling a technologically advanced culture which is using artificial intelligences to plan its military strategy.

When I read "progressive" science fiction writers, I always feel like I'm being hit over the head with "This Is How Society Should Be". And it just doesn't feel like a really good yarn. I've tried ones that have been recommended to me - NK Jemison, China Mieville, etc - but I've always found them either really boring or just missing in key components of story.

Well, Jemison and Mieville are generally showing us a dystopia based on exaggerations of nasty stuff people do to each other. They're going to beat down the protagonist a bit and be all grim-dark. Which tends not to fun. Watching folk from a flourishing egalitarian culture do the "let's go on an adventure/thwart evil!" bit tends to be more fun.

A good dose of Ken MacLeod (a libertarian commie) will cure that.

What I like about MacLeod is he doesn't have the standard "Plucky communitarian/libertarian battles the nasty strawman with oppressive political views", so much as something like "well-rendered anarco-socialist and capitalist have to cooperate to deal with an out-of-context problem".

The only problem I have with reading him is that every time I do so, I realize how little I know about politics and recent world history.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:36 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Start with 'Consider Phlebas'. You'll like it - it's the story of a young freedom-fighter desperately battling a technologically advanced culture which is using artificial intelligences to plan its military strategy.

Tee hee hee!
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:12 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the same conversation as the one about the "realism" of the violence in Martin's Song of Ice and Fire. Why does the writing of retrograde authors make for "a good yarn"? Does it make for "a good yarn" for all their readers equally, or only a specific subset? Which one? Why?

I think the two debates are pretty different.

Leaving the TV series aside (the producers have readily admitted ramping up nudity, etc. - there are real issues there), the main discussion around the sexual and other and violence in the books is around whether either can be considered excessive and too hard to take, and not around whether either represents dehumanisation of real people and a big part of Martin's audience. One of the strengths of the books (one that the TV series has at times struggled to replicate) is that Martin never presents the victims of violence or sexual exploitation as "redshirts" or "collateral damage" - violence and exploitation always have real consequences. That's a break from much old-school SF and fantasy, where minor characters' - especially female characters' - suffering and deaths are often essentially treated as background noise.

When I read "progressive" science fiction writers, I always feel like I'm being hit over the head with "This Is How Society Should Be". And it just doesn't feel like a really good yarn. I've tried ones that have been recommended to me - NK Jemison, China Mieville, etc - but I've always found them either really boring or just missing in key components of story.

This is a really weird comment: not only do the two authors cited have little in common, there is no "movement" that can be said to link their works (or their politics in all but the most general terms) together. I can see disliking either or both for whatever reason, but to decide that they constitute representatives of "progressive SF" is essentially saying that "progressive sf" = either "Everything that isn't pure space opera written since 1990" or "Everything written by anyone who wouldn't have been happy about Asimov pinching random women's behinds at cons."
posted by Wylla at 11:16 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


At my first or second sf convention, in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I found a big comfy armchair and chilled out there for a while, watching people go by, trying to work up my nerve to strike up a conversation with a fellow attendee. At one point this guy occupied the armchair across from me. I've never been more glad to be a wallflower because he started calling out unsolicited remarks to various women passing by. Damned if I can remember how the remarks began -- I think they were typical comments about the women's looks -- but they all ended with, "...or I'll kiss ya!" in a jokey-serious invitation-threat kind of tone. His whole presentation repelled me. And fascinated me, this 40ish-50ish guy's demands for unfamiliar women to pay him attention, via... whatthefuck?... kindergarten taunts. I figured he must be overcompensating for being unsuccessful, socially inept, and generally self-loathing.

Then some men came by to fetch him somewhere. I got up too, for a session on getting your writing published. I walked into the room. There he was on the stage, part of the panel. The "...or I'll kiss ya!" guy. Mike Resnick.

I still remember his book Santiago and short story, "Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge," fondly. Too bad about his personality.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:21 PM on June 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


...the main discussion around the sexual and other and violence in the books is around whether either can be considered excessive and too hard to take, and not around whether either represents dehumanisation of real people and a big part of Martin's audience.

That may be the main topic in some conversations, but it's not what I meant. I meant the facile objection that rape'n'violence are a crucial part of the books because they are "realistic" (for some value of realistic in a high fantasy novel), and "taking out" these realistic elements would make the story conspicuously bad.

I think this is exactly parallel to facile claims that a story is a "rip-roaring yarn" or whatever until you go and start "adding all that progressive stuff to it."

Both of these rhetorical positions basically say "Here's some unsavory stuff that makes a story good. I like good stories, and you can't object to that. And what makes a story good is that unsavory stuff, which I obviously don't like for its own sake."
posted by Nomyte at 12:19 AM on June 5, 2013


I meant the facile objection that rape'n'violence are a crucial part of the books because they are "realistic" (for some value of realistic in a high fantasy novel), and "taking out" these realistic elements would make the story conspicuously bad.

I'm sure that there are some versions of that argument that are facile, but in the main , people making the "realism" argument in this case are doing so to say "Lots of high fantasy novels are full of sexual and other violence in the form of largely offstage wars or the rapes/deaths of entirely un-valued, faceless characters. In this case, there is a realistic level of both violence and real-character suffering related to that violence, which is one of the book's strengths." The value of "realistic" here comes from the fact that most "high/celtic" fantasy draws implicitly or explicitly on an idealised Northern European Dark/Middle Ages. When people praise Martin's "realism" they usually mean that he kept the Northern European Dark/Middle Ages but left out the idealisation. The strength of the books (and the TV series when it gets the books right, which isn't close to always) is that once you've read them, it's impossible to read other high fantasies with faceless torture or rape victims/prostitutes/civilian casualties/redshirts/dead peasants and see that "unrealistic" depiction of violence quite as casually.

That's very different than the argument that casual dehumanisation of female characters (often by male characters spouting arguments clearly in the authorial voice about the limited value of women in general) or any other retrograde characteristic of the early pulps is what makes a "good story" or a "rip roaring yarn".

(Martin isn't the only writer who does this sort of thing well - Martin's the example you used, but it could just as well have been Nnedi Okorafor, who's had the same accusations of violence for violence's sake thrown at her for Who Fears Death?, for example.)
posted by Wylla at 1:29 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, fantasy used to be an almost intrinsically reactionary genre. The last 20 years have changed it dramatically.

Perhaps, because, to reverse the review quote about Perdido Street Station, we live in the timeline where Lord of the Rings, rather than the Gormenghast trilogy was the most influential work in the genre.

Not that I have a dog in that fight, or anything.

There is also rather an exception in Moorcock:
"Utopian fiction has been predominantly reactionary in one form or another (as well as being predominantly dull) since it began. Most of it warns the world of 'decadence' in its contemporaries and the alternatives are usually authoritarian and sweeping -- not to say simple-minded. A look at the books on sale to Cienfuegos customers shows the same old list of Lovecraft and Rand, Heinlein and Niven, beloved of so many people who would be horrified to be accused of subscribing to the Daily Telegraph or belonging to the Monday Club and yet are reading with every sign of satisfaction views by writers who would make Telegraph editorials look like the work of Bakunin and Monday Club members sound like spokesmen for the Paris Commune."
{aside}
He's also apparently currently working on a biography of Mervyn Peake & Maeve Gilmore. Which is a Good Thing.
{/aside}
posted by titus-g at 2:07 AM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


To be fair though, I find reading "conservative" science fiction writers a similar experience - a constant feeling of the author putting on a show of "this is the ideal."

Yeah, I could certainly see that - I know for example David Weber and the Honor Harrington books are one of the examples I could think of with that, and as someone mentioned above, Heinlein definitely tells stories of the ideal world he wants to live in. I think the difference, for me, tends to be in a really subjective feelings of what it feels like the author is trying to tell you. Ie: is the author hoping the books will change your real-life feelings about politics? Or are they putting their politics in for masturbatory self-indulgence? Personally, I find the former more irritating than the latter, because it feels like the focus of their stories goes from telling a good story to fighting the good fight.

This may, however, just be the difference in the public faces of both and particularly the public faces of SF writers these days - where more progressive writers do a lot of interviews about what they are trying to do for society with their writing, where more conservative ones seem not to be trying as hard.
posted by corb at 3:12 AM on June 5, 2013


This may, however, just be the difference in the public faces of both and particularly the public faces of SF writers these days - where more progressive writers do a lot of interviews about what they are trying to do for society with their writing, where more conservative ones seem not to be trying as hard.

Conservative writers don't have to try so hard, because defending the status quo is always easier than trying to change it. It's harder to see the political choices made and being made in the world as it is right now, so any assumptions carried over from it into your fiction will strike people not as you making these same choices, but just reality.

On the other hand, there are plenty of conservative, reactionary writers who do spent a lot of time telling us "what they are trying to do for society with their writing"; Jerry Pournelle for example, back in the seventies, Orson Scott Card, John C. Wright currently and of course the granddaddy of them all, Heinlein throughout his career.

On the gripping hand, as you say this sort of thing is also largely subjective and dependent on the reader's point of view. Myself, being somewhat on the leftist side of things (and recognising some of the stuff a Mieville or MacLeod put in their novels), I have no problem with their more explicitely political books, yet at the same time the vast majority of sf novels I read are more on the centrist or rightwing side of things. I'm currently reading a lot of mil-sf (Elizabeth Moon, Tanya Huff, Linnea Sinclair) and that has an inherent rightwing/conservative bias. Unless it's too obnoxious/intrusive (Weber! Pournelle's The Mercenary) I have no problems with this.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:06 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Heinlein was NOT apolitical. Starship Troopers alone debunks that idea. Most of his longer novels include several essays on politics, including Friday, Time Enough For Love and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. His nonfic, posthumously published Tramp Royale is also filled with real-world political observations.
posted by zarq at 4:26 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, the long-running ListServ devoted to Iain Banks, The Culture, used to have an ongoing debate: "Was Horza a git?"

One man's freedom fighter...
posted by zarq at 4:28 AM on June 5, 2013


Conservative writers don't have to try so hard, because defending the status quo is always easier than trying to change it

I can see that, actually - but more than that, I can see where it just wouldn't seem as urgent. Ie, they're not necessarily writing to change people's minds, because they figure that the people who are reading them already have their minds "in the right place" or are more predisposed to. They're writing to pander, which is different than writing to change.

For example, I hate to go back to David Weber, but it's freshest in my mind - in the books, from what I remember, they were always fighting space enemies, but the real enemy was always the books equivalent of liberals, in their equivalent of Congress, who kept cutting military funding and trying to stop the war. I remember it because I found it jarring, but even then, it never seemed in there as a way to convince people that Liberal Congressmembers Are The Enemy, but more as a liberals-suck-amirite? for those who already would presumably agree. Like political fanservice.

And I think that goes back to the topic in terms of these old SF guys - they're not writing to change people's minds into sexist thinking, they're doing the "we love women amirite?" brotherhood thing. But I think it's a mistake to view it as disrespect aimed at women writers.

I have an Army buddy from Te-jas who is mindbogglingly, astoundingly, shitty to women with the exception of those he served with or respects for other reasons. And he always, to a point, calls us "ladies" and the others "women" to differentiate us. You are the good ones! You are the ones I respect! When he talks about us, he will talk about us being beautiful - whether or not it is true - because in his mind, that is one of the highest compliments you can pay a woman, and he loves us, so he pays us in the currency he thinks we will value. Because it is the currency society values. "Women" get called "hot" (or variants on that that are less family appropriate). It would not be unheard of for him to call a "lady" "beauty-pageant gorgeous" or something like that. He will be flirtacious, but always stop short of where it might be considered disrespectful. It is the Barbie proposition all over. Barbie is a good girl. Lady writers are good girls.

I think of him when I think of these writers, because I think that is a better model for how they are reacting. I do think they genuinely value their women writers, that they view them as part of the gang. And thus, they are afforded both the not-women status - thus "ladies" - but also, they are fiercely defensive of them. So they pay them in the currency they have been taught women value. They talk about how beautiful they are. They call for kisses, or talk about swimsuits, but stop short of actual vulgar propositions.

And I think that is where these things get ugly. Because the male writers are trying to be good, to shower their women writers with love. And when they get met with the calls for their head, the calls of sexism, they are blindsided - because they were not trying to be disrespectful, they were trying to be affectionate, and they were met with rejection. Which means that those ladies weren't actually in the honorary brotherhood, which means that they weren't actually ladies, right?

If things want to change, I do think it has to come from a place of accepting good intentions. Calls for these guys to be fired are totally wrong - but it wouldn't be bad to say, hey, this is not the currency I value, these days. If you want to love me, talk about how brilliant I am and I will still code it as you being loyal. My Texas friend, for example, no longer talks about me being beautiful when he wants to compliment me, because I've ribbed him out of that and made it clear that I don't take it as the highest compliment he can give. Now it's compliments that may or may not be honest, but at least are focused on my qualities. And it wasn't hard to get him to change that at all.

But the problem is I think bigger than just the respect or lack thereof that is given specifically to women writers, right? Women in particular are good at lending a hand backwards, to lifting others up. So I think most of the calls are because they don't like that dichotomy - which is a different thing to erase. But it's not being erased by saying, "You're insulting me." And it's a way bigger problem.
posted by corb at 4:55 AM on June 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


So they pay them in the currency they have been taught women value.

No, they're using they currency other men have taught them have value when referring to women. There is a big difference.

Now it's compliments that may or may not be honest, but at least are focused on my qualities. And I think that is where these things get ugly. Because the male writers are trying to be good, to shower their women writers with love.

Don't you see this is the other side of the same coin? This guy is complimenting you out of some courtly formula where he is the beneficent superior, doling out praise, not acknowledging anything particular about you as a person (based on the "may or may not be honest" part).

This is a big part of why such reflexively sexist behavior in men raised with "traditional" notions of how to deal with women -- very much like calling a professional woman a "lady" -- is weird and crazy and offensive. That's not love the Texan is showering you with, it's a sad shadow of lust.
posted by aught at 6:04 AM on June 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


Women in particular are good at lending a hand backwards, to lifting others up. So I think most of the calls are because they don't like that dichotomy - which is a different thing to erase. But it's not being erased by saying, "You're insulting me."

Yeah, it shouldn't really be women's job to look after us poor men. We're adult human beings, we should be able to empathize and navigate social norms on our own, it's one of the few things we have going for us as a species. Which is why "you're insulting me" is a perfectly reasonable response to unintentional offense.

Most of his longer novels include several essays on politics.

The least believable part of the Lazarus Long books is that anyone that gives so many long speeches about "here's what's right, because one time...." could actually have time to do any of the things he talks about having done. Even someone who's functionally immortal.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:09 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Was Horza a git?

Oh, we all know that...
posted by Artw at 6:15 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think maybe Heinlein was just trying ideas out for size with things like Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress more than people give him credit for. That said, Once big chunks of his work get detached from their context and published as pamphlets you've got to wonder a little.
posted by Artw at 6:22 AM on June 5, 2013


I have the opposite problem with the current crop of politically progressive fantasy writers. They just seem unrealistically pessimistic about social change. Miéville is particularly prone to making things go awry for no good reason. Admittedly, had I grown up in England, I'd be pretty pessimistic about things ever getting better.
posted by Kattullus at 6:47 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


After this I'm done in the thread for awhile, promise.

Ya know, one thing that I wanted to mention earlier, but got distracted, is how much I like Scalzi's apology. That right there is should be the template for official apologies, assuming of course the officials actually do take meaningful positive action to address the situation:

(Bad thing) happened, it was bad, sorry. I should have done (part of job) to prevent it, sorry. To fix the problem, I've done (manful positive action that's already been started) and am seeking input from (people effected and outside groups) about further improvements. Once again Sorry.

I think maybe Heinlein was just trying ideas out for size with things like Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress more than people give him credit for.

Maybe, I just find it odd that he's been brought up once as someone who's not an old school sci-author with weird issues about women, and another time as someone who doesn't try and convert you to his world view.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:48 AM on June 5, 2013


When I read "progressive" science fiction writers, I always feel like I'm being hit over the head with "This Is How Society Should Be". And it just doesn't feel like a really good yarn.

Like some others, I feel the same way about Pournelle and L. Neil Smith (who came to mind immediately). Want to be hit over the head with How Society Should Be, pick up Smith.

Generally, tho, I feel like science-fiction in general tends to be a message driven genre. The creation of desirable or undesirable futures is implicitly didactic and, IME, at least, the number of science fiction writers who can dramatize their didacticism isn't high.

I do think they genuinely value their women writers, that they view them as part of the gang. And thus, they are afforded both the not-women status - thus "ladies" - but also, they are fiercely defensive of them.

This is a description of pets, not people.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:52 AM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


That said, Once big chunks of his work get detached from their context...

My most memorable Heinlein moment was when I ran out of a particularly expensive medicine for chronic asthma in college, the very week I was kicked off my parents' health insurance plan for being too old. I was reading the Cat Who Walked Through Walls, and he spent a few chapters explaining to me, where I was looking at a future of choosing to pay the electricity bill or the pharmacy bill, that socialized medicine was evil, and those who couldn't afford to pay for expensive healthcare didn't deserve it.

The book bounced off the wall, and I lost all interest in reading anything else of his.

Before then, I thought the cruel societies he was describing in Starship Troopers and Harsh Mistress were allegories, or explorations of dystopia... nope. He really thinks the world should work that way, where you have to pay for every breath of air, and die if you can't.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:55 AM on June 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


I have the opposite problem with the current crop of politically progressive fantasy writers. They just seem unrealistically pessimistic about social change. Miéville is particularly prone to making things go awry for no good reason.

I was certain he was a right-wing Tory until I read his bio on wikipedia - anything remotely resembling a progressive political movement dies a futile death after making everything worse.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:05 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Deathstalker guy's not a creep, is he? Because I liked those books.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:12 AM on June 5, 2013


But I think it's a mistake to view it as disrespect aimed at women writers.

Intentional disrespect, maybe not. Unintentional disrespect, though -- that's what it is.

I have an Army buddy from Te-jas who is mindbogglingly, astoundingly, shitty to women with the exception of those he served with or respects for other reasons. And he always, to a point, calls us "ladies" and the others "women" to differentiate us. You are the good ones! You are the ones I respect!


"Women suck! Except you. You're special. You're so special, it's like you're as good as a MAN."

I'm sure he has other qualities, but this isn't even particularly respectful of the women he doesn't hate.

When he talks about us, he will talk about us being beautiful - whether or not it is true - because in his mind, that is one of the highest compliments you can pay a woman, and he loves us, so he pays us in the currency he thinks we will value.

He thinks you value false compliments? If you asked him not to call you beautiful, would he do it because he respects you and wants to "pay" you in a currency that you actually value, or would that automatically remove you from his list of ladies he respects?

(I don't necessarily expect you to answer about this specific person.)

I do think they genuinely value their women writers, that they view them as part of the gang. And thus, they are afforded both the not-women status - thus "ladies" - but also, they are fiercely defensive of them. So they pay them in the currency they have been taught women value. They talk about how beautiful they are.

Well, now they've been taught that women don't value being told how pretty they are in totally irrelevant contexts. The question is, will they actually change, or do they care more about being allowed to call women pretty whenever they want, whatever the women want?

Calls for these guys to be fired are totally wrong

Why? Why is it wrong to say, look, these guys who wrote something sexist, then doubled down on sexism when called on it, and who haven't actually apologised since, we don't want them to have a column in the official bulletin? Even if they mean well. Lots of people mean well. Not all of them are given columns.
posted by jeather at 7:19 AM on June 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


I keep trying to think of a "but John Ringo's still okay, right?" joke and can't figure out how to even start.
posted by cortex at 7:24 AM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


I keep trying to think of a "but John Ringo's still okay, right?" joke and can't figure out how to even start.

Didn't he get shot by Wyatt Earp?
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:29 AM on June 5, 2013


John Ringo's still okay, right? Because I really like Yellow Submarine.
posted by Kattullus at 7:35 AM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Women suck! Except you. You're special. You're so special, it's like you're as good as a MAN."

Oh, yeah, totally - that's a thing, though I would argue the ladies/women differentiation is its own thing in and of itself. But what I'm saying is, I think people are arguing this in a way that is completely opposed to what's actually going on.

Dude says something duderific involving exalting woman above other women.
Female person(s) rightly perceives it as denigrating women who are not-her, and says: "You're being insulting (to me)"
Dude is confused, because he has specifically not been insulting to that individual woman. He would probably be willing to change, but just can't get there from there.

Whereas a more accurate, though longer explanation, would be, "Even if you are not insulting me, I feel empathy with other women who are not me, and so when you exalt me over other women, it really upsets me, because I'm aware that you think badly of them." And that is a harder explanation, and it involves something that they may not be willing to change. It's somewhat akin to the "Even though I'm not X Ethnicity, I still find it offensive when you say that" line.

But again, there's a difference, I think, between insult and offense, and talking about the former is only clouding the latter.
posted by corb at 7:35 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I keep trying to think of a "but John Ringo's still okay, right?" joke and can't figure out how to even start.

Whats-his-name that wrote The Lord of the Swastika is still okay, right?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:48 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey, the outfits from that book make *awesome* cosplay! It said so in the critical analysis after the main text!
posted by rmd1023 at 8:27 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have been thinking about corb's statement, the discussion spawned by it, I kind of agree with corb. From my pov, "conservative" sf writers tend to be "Dude, we are fucking awesome, aren't we?". While "progressive" sf writers are all "Oppression sucks. Let me show how much. In graphic detail." And are way to fond of "Rocks fall, everyone dies". I don't want read that because it's depressing. I prefer books were characters are being awesome, although I can' t read conservative sf now because the attendant sexism, conservative politics, etc. get on my last nerve.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:36 AM on June 5, 2013


How is it that a group of people who are supposed to be all about forward thinking and looking at the ways society might evolve in the future can't keep it as simple as that?

Still thinking about all this - I am not sure that's what some of the old-school science fiction actually is.

In many cases it was (still is for some current writers) something more like "manly adventure enabled by speculative technical progress" (rockets get you to the moon the way steamships got Sir Edmund to India to climb Mt Everest). Sometimes, to people with different mindsets, that looked like speculation about future changes in society, and effects on real people, or opened up ways of thinking that allowed other writers to shift their focus from the manly man to his surroundings, but very often traditional science fiction was about how that One Capable Man is the most important thing, which really is very old school (as in going back to the epics of antiquity).
posted by aught at 8:38 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


when someone focuses on a woman being a lady and looking good in a swimsuit, especially in a professional setting, the complaint is not that they're insulting all other women because they've exalted that one. they've insulted that one by reinforcing that she's a pet, an underling, someone to be showered with praise instead of mutual respect. there's a reason you won't find these guys talking about especially liking their gentlemen peers when they're in swim trunks.

i don't really have a lot of sympathy for these poor blind-sighted men who are being asked to treat half the population as equals instead of as eye candy that might kiss them.
posted by nadawi at 8:42 AM on June 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


Oh, John Ringo, no!

Am I naive in thinking that people like John Ringo don't actually quite believe what they right?

I hope it's more meta-fantasy rather than their real opinions. Or at least it is comforting to feel this. It's so over the top that even though I'm sure he's a dinosaur, it's hard to conceive that there isn't a bit of wink-wink there.
posted by jclarkin at 8:43 AM on June 5, 2013


John Ringo's still okay, right? Because I really like Yellow Submarine.

Oh, Kattullus, no!
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:50 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


[O]ne thing that I wanted to mention earlier, but got distracted, is how much I like Scalzi's apology. That right there is should be the template for official apologies, assuming of course the officials actually do take meaningful positive action to address the situation:
(Bad thing) happened, it was bad, sorry. I should have done (part of job) to prevent it, sorry. To fix the problem, I've done (manful positive action that's already been started) and am seeking input from (people effected and outside groups) about further improvements. Once again Sorry.
That actually pretty much is the template Scalzi himself proposed so "that the apology will be understood as genuine."

I doubt he realized when he wrote that post in April that he'd need to use the form himself so soon. Scalzli's been a prominent voice for inclusiveness and against sexism in fandom in general and science fiction in particular, so I have no doubt it's meant in good faith, and that more importantly, the acknowledgment of error is sincere.
posted by Gelatin at 10:03 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Someone mentioned Niven upthread. We already know some of his work is sexist, but did he ever behave poorly towards women at cons the way Asimov or Ellison did?
posted by zarq at 10:04 AM on June 5, 2013


Zarq, my report on Niven was not taken from the sexism in his works. I had a personal unpleasant run-in with him at Balticon a few years back. I don't know if he behaved publicly awfully to women, but certainly he did so privately. It wasn't grabby, and I don't recall exactly what he said, but I remember very clearly the moment of murderous rage that rose up in me. For what that's worth.
posted by corb at 10:09 AM on June 5, 2013


*not that I had or would have had any intentions of acting on that, I feel obliged to explain.
posted by corb at 10:10 AM on June 5, 2013


That's disgusting. I'm so sorry that happened to you. :(

I was just wondering. I don't remember hearing anything about his public behavior.
posted by zarq at 10:26 AM on June 5, 2013


M.G. Lord's take on Heinlein:
Given Heinlein's apparently feminist ideas, you'd think he would be enshrined as a champion of women's rights. And had he stopped writing with his young-adult novels, he most likely would have been. But the sexual revolution took a toll on him, tainting some of his post-1970 novels with a dated lasciviousness and impairing his ability to create three-dimensional women. In Heinlein's earliest stories - the ones in which lady scientists used their initials - Heinlein eroticized his women. But the prim conventions of 1950's fiction precluded doing this explicitly. By the 1980's, however, he felt licensed to reveal more - or, in the case of Friday, to describe sexual experiences from a woman's point of view. Friday is an "Artificial Person"; she was conceived in vitro and brought to term in an incubator, which in the book's fictive world is a terrible stigma. To today's AIDS-conscious reader, however, Friday bears a worse stigma: she is a brazen disease vector, recklessly promiscuous, with a bizarre weakness for male engineers. (Heinlein trained as an engineer.) This gives unintended meaning to the idea of Artificial Person; Friday exists only as a mouthpiece. Heinlein has so thoroughly objectified her that her subjectivity falls flat.

posted by zarq at 10:29 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The book bounced off the wall, and I lost all interest in reading anything else of his.

Same thing happened to me with Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, with the assertion by one of the characters that rape was usually (always?) the woman's fault. And I was a big Heinlein fan as a teenager.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:35 AM on June 5, 2013


John Ringo's still okay, right? Because I really like Yellow Submarine.

Tom Kratman's still okay right? Because I'd hate to think his sensitive and moving portrayal of how Israeli soldiers could reconcile with rejuvenated Waffen SS veterans in the face of alien invasion is phony.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:48 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dammit, Martin, I had almost managed to completely forget that Tom Kratman existed.
posted by Justinian at 10:54 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


From my pov, "conservative" sf writers tend to be "Dude, we are fucking awesome, aren't we?". While "progressive" sf writers are all "Oppression sucks. Let me show how much. In graphic detail."

That is not the only flavor of progressive writer. At least if you count LeGuin. By and large, although horrible things happen in her books, there is usually some kind of hope, though it's never something you get to by direct approach.

Her stories about the history between Yeowe and Werel, one a planet populated by former slaves and one populated by their former masters, are very good about this. She does not shy away from the horrors that come with centuries of enslavement, or the ways that revolutionaries betray each other and themselves, but she still manages to make you believe in the possibility of peace and change.
posted by emjaybee at 11:06 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rachel Swirsky flips the "lady editor" dialogue.
posted by lriG rorriM at 11:16 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dude says something duderific involving exalting woman above other women.
Female person(s) rightly perceives it as denigrating women who are not-her, and says: "You're being insulting (to me)"
Dude is confused, because he has specifically not been insulting to that individual woman.


Saying "you're so good, it's like you're not even a woman" is pretty much insulting her as well. Even if it isn't intended as in insult to that particular woman. But intent isn't magic, including when it comes from men who are saying sexist stuff.


E. Catherine Tobler, one of the people leaving the SFWA, has further thoughts:
President Scalzi admits in his response that he did not read the Resnick/Malzberg piece before it went to press. Despite knowing there was a problem raised beginning with issue #200. Despite the considerable conversation on SFWA’s member forums. Despite all things, this issue was still not reviewed before being published. And its editor, Jean Rabe, appears to have been comfortable enough to a) solicit a response from these gentlemen and b) to run it as she appears to have received it. The Bulletin paid 8 cents a word (funds supplied by, I presume, SFWA membership dues) for six pages wherein members who complained were called fascists, among other things. The editor saw no problem and the president didn’t read it.

[...]

There is a time and place for all conversations. If you want to talk about how someone looks in swimsuit, more power to you — but I say the place for that conversation is not in the middle of an editorial where you are discussing this same person’s editorial ability/history
posted by jeather at 11:20 AM on June 5, 2013


Given Heinlein's apparently feminist ideas, you'd think he would be enshrined as a champion of women's rights. And had he stopped writing with his young-adult novels, he most likely would have been.

umm... no. There is one good thing in Heinlein's portrayal of women: women are as smart and capable as men. Which in ways makes the bad thing even worse: despite being as smart and capable as men, women should subjugate themselves to men, because that's just the natural order, and any woman who doesn't (or any man who has subjugated himself to a woman) is a bad person and will come to a bad end. And there was plenty of that on display before the last of the juveniles in 1958.

I think Heinlein comes across worse than his contemporaries among men writing sf because at least he was sometimes trying to give women more interesting, active roles than just the occasional B-plot romantic interest, so the screwy parts were more on display. (This isn't acting as apologist for Heinlein, just noting that I suspect many others would also have put disturbing screwy stuff on display if they'd tried to give women more of a role in their stories.)
posted by Zed at 11:21 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rachel Swirsky flips the "lady editor" dialogue.

ha! Oh, I hope one of these dudebros uses one of those as a book blurb someday...
posted by Zed at 11:24 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zed, I kind of love all of these. I mean really.
"Boy writer John Scalzi wrote charming space adventures that supplemented serious work by writers like Bujold and Bear."
or
"Dude novelist Lavie Tidhar wrote stories with strong, active male protagonists, who worked alongside their female counterparts."
Those are totally blurb worthy!
posted by lriG rorriM at 11:28 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


When I was younger I gave Heinlein a pass solely because of Hazel Stone in "The Rolling Stones". And then I read his adult stuff, and couldn't give him a pass anymore. Especially due to Friday. I mean, ick!
posted by happyroach at 1:07 PM on June 5, 2013


> There is also the fact that SF people tend to be attracted to their vocation very early, so they fix their attitudes at earlier ages than other authors might making them a bit more atavistic then other authors their same age

That's a very insightful comment, and I thought I'd thought all the thoughts about this stuff it was possible to think. Kudos.

> I think maybe Heinlein was just trying ideas out for size with things like Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress more than people give him credit for.

Well, sure he was trying ideas out—that's what sf writers do—but on the other hand, I'm pretty sure he truly believed all the right-wing militarist stuff that makes him hard for me to read now (as opposed to Asimov's terrible prose, which mostly makes him impossible for me to read).
posted by languagehat at 2:21 PM on June 5, 2013


"The ironic failing of that era is the authors could somehow envision multiple methods of faster than light travel, global terraforming projects, hyper-intelligent AIs, and a fantastical array of alien species, but struggled to transcend the gender framework of their day."

I know! Re-read the Martian Chronicles last year and that's just what I thought!
posted by glasseyes at 3:05 PM on June 5, 2013


Jean, Rabe, the editor of the Bulletin, has resigned.
posted by jokeefe at 3:14 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I might be more fair to Heinlein for a minute, Zed and zarq, it's that he does feel that women can be as smart and capable as men -- but he also believes they think the same way and want the same things. I don't think this was entirely unusual as a sort of fellow-traveler feminist position in those days, e.g. much of what was espoused as the reformed Playboy Philosophy of the 1970s on, and I think was somewhat exemplified by a couple of the character interchanges in (if I may be indulged further, as this is non-genre) Tootsie -- where Julie (Jessica Lange) tells Dorothy (Dustin Hoffman, in female persona) "Sometimes I wish a man would just come up to me and say, let's skip all this dating and relationship bullshit and fuck" -- but when Michael (Hoffman in male persona) actually tries it, she throws her drink in his face. And further when Sandy (Teri Garr) has to angrily set boundaries with Michael and dump him, saying "I never said I love you, I don't care about I love you! I read "The Second Sex", I read "The Cinderella Complex", I'm responsible for my own orgasms, I don't care! I just don't like to be lied to!" Basically, that men tried to think for a while that the sexual revolution would make women just like men in getting sex and handling relationships, something practical and nerdy-negotiable rather than mushy and emotional and problematic. The trouble is, Tootsie came out in 1982, and thus marked a point where men were in fact realizing that women wanted more out of life than being able to non-committally, non-dramatically fit tab A into slot B, and that was thirty years ago.

corb, I do hope you realize that when you say things like "If things want to change, I do think it has to come from a place of accepting good intentions" you're essentially acting as an apologist. The fact of the matter is that these men still believe, in 2013, that objectifying women is OK, as long as they mean well by it. That's ... archaic. If they really respect women, and in particular these women, then they should have the courage as men to grow up and recognize how erroneous their outlook and expression are and pledge to work to fix that. It's not enough to have good intentions. That's pretty much the equivalent of "Well, Jefferson loved his slaves, and may have really loved some of them" as a way of excusing his being a slave-owner. Maybe, once, it was enough to project your neuroses onto the "battle of the sexes" (ugh) in this way, but really, this should be a more enlightened time -- and the challenge is that this isn't an era when women who are part of the community are rare birds who are to be applauded (and backhandedly complimented for putting up with male BS), it's an era when women have every right to demand equal and respectful treatment on their own terms. That's what these guys just don't seem to be able to wrap their heads around.

Regarding Rabe: it seems she may be taking the fall. I hope not. What needs to happen is that any future evaluation of women in the industry not be undertaken by two tone-deaf blinking-in-the-headlights coots using last century's language. I suppose that's on her to some extent, but the feature seems to predate her tenure, so maybe she didn't feel it was hers to mess with. It would be nice if someone would have at least recognized the limitations of viewpoint here and done some outreach -- admission of non-expertise should be no crime.
posted by dhartung at 7:26 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Teeny derail here, but...

...that John Norman interview Slap*Happy linked is fascinating. There is much in there that I find myself forced to agree with, especially when he speaks of writing for truth instead of success. I have my own experience with that.

But for someone whose vision is an iconic expression of BDSM fantasy, the man has no fucking clue about BDSM. It's like he has these free-floating images in his head and he bravely writes about them because they are some weird inner truth, but he's never bothered to connect those images to anything in real life, even for the most part in play. He has neither any connection nor any interest in connections to people who attempt to apply his theories IRL or who are deep fans.

For decades I have hated him because the shift he was obviously permitted by the new editors when he switched publishers at Gor #8 made him seem like a truly misogynist asshole. Now it turns out he is almost the opposite of what I thought, saying
Some men, I gather, dislike women, and enjoy hurting them. That makes no sense to me. Women are wonderful, and precious. It is a delight to own one; why would one hurt her? What would be the point of that, mere sadistic pleasure?
...revealing that he has no understanding whatsoever that masochism is a real thing, and that one might hurt her because creating extreme feelings can be a whole art form especially appreciated by the recipient of those feelings.

He accelerated his series into extremes of betrayal and callousness because he did not understand that there is an intersection between fantasy and real feelings at all. And what is especially amazing is that this guy wrote a fucking how-to manual for "Imaginative Sex."

So yes a very smart guy and not nearly the jerk I've thought he was since 1985. But wow he needs to read something written since 1981 about real-life S&M.
posted by localroger at 7:34 PM on June 5, 2013


I don't think that Jean Rabe was necessarily derelict in continuing the column. There may well have been good reasons to keep it going. But, given that the problems with the column started three issues beforehand, and that she didn't seem to even read the column that responded to the criticisms before it went to press, I think she failed in her job.

I'm interested that neither Resnick nor Malzberg has responded publicly, though Resnick does make a dismissive comment in his blog. Though that answers "does this particular man have good intent?" fairly conclusively. (No.)

If you're more curious about Vox Day's interesting attitudes about women ("I do believe women should have the same legal rights and protections afforded to unborn children. There is no contradiction there. You see, I don't believe that unborn children should be given the right to vote or permitted to murder other unborn children either."), he's given advice to a young woman studying engineering.
posted by jeather at 5:22 AM on June 6, 2013


localroger: I found that equally fascinating. Not often you get to read something so carefully nuanced and clearly intelligent and completely batshit wrong all at the same time.

(Also the "Houseplants of Gor" in the comments is totally worth the price of admission)
posted by ook at 5:34 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact of the matter is that these men still believe, in 2013, that objectifying women is OK, as long as they mean well by it. That's ... archaic.

I'm thinking really hard about how to phrase this, and I apologize to anyone I might inadvertently offend, because it is really not my intention to do so.

I think that "how women want to be treated" is far from a universality. I believe that there are some women who do not want to be objectified, while there are also others that do. There are some women who want to be treated purely as equals, and some women who want to be petted. I have been both of these women in my life, so these aren't theoreticals for me. I may even contain portions of both of these women now. And so I think that it's hard to dictate how men should, universally, act, towards women, because of these differences.

My family culture is slightly different than some. I learned that a woman must be beautiful at all times - that she must, to paraphrase Wilde, have all her serious requests denied, and all whims gratified. I learned that men must be outwardly deferred to, and secretly thwarted. (My favorite humorous advice was on how to hide the money so my future husband wouldn't drink it all away and spend it on his friends) That the most important job a woman could ever have would be a husband and children - not that she couldn't do other jobs, she could do anything, but no matter what she did, family (and a good marriage, that could provide for said family) would come first. That education was nice for its own sake, but mostly a vehicle to meet and marry a better class of men. This isn't something distant and historical - this is something I learned as I was raised.

But then my family was poor, and there were no sons to make things better, and I had to take what I then - I'm not going to tell the year, but it was relatively recently - viewed as a man's place in the world. And I did it well, and I encountered other women who were feminists, and I had a lot of other ideas about what women's roles were or could be, and became a rip-roaring fighty feminist with Ideas and Actions.

But a conflicted rip-roaring fighty feminist.

I don't like people complimenting me on beauty now, because it is not something I work at or particularly value at the moment. But there have been times in my life where I would have strongly valued those compliments - even from co-workers - because I would have believed that one of a woman's highest values came from her ability to make a good marriage. And because I would have strongly believed that the "best" men married beautiful women. And because I worked hard at it - so incredibly hard - to fit into the societal standards of beauty. And so a man complimenting me on my beauty - a successful, powerful man - would have said, "Yes, you are brilliant and we compliment you on your competence, but we also give you the highest accolade that we can, which is to tell you that you are a worthy woman and worthy of a good marriage and a good life. We are hinting that we, we successful, powerful men, would marry you ourselves if the situations were different." And I would have been grateful.

Just because I don't feel that way now does not invalidate how I felt then. And it also doesn't mean that, in 2013, there aren't women today who feel today who I would have felt then. And I would be willing to speculate that they exist particularly in the older generation*, which these men tend to surround themselves with. They're not socializing with younger people - they are old lions, and they lick their wounds in solitude with the exception of trivial interactions. And with these women, these men may in fact be doing something that they would be grateful for. In fact, with this discussion of a long-ago woman editor, we don't know that she wouldn't have been grateful for the compliment. We don't know how she would have felt. They may have been paying her a tribute they knew she would have appreciated.

I don't know what the solution is - obviously a lot of people, now including myself, do not want to be treated like that, even if some people do. The best I can think of is essentially allowing for a kind of code-switching. "Yes, this language may be fine for certain individuals, but in absence of those individuals, you must use this language instead." I'm not sure. I genuinely don't know the answer. But I do know that the answer can't be as simple as "It's 2013, yo!"

* I also believe this exists in largely insular immigrant communities, but I didn't note that above because I doubt these guys have significant exchanges there.
posted by corb at 6:37 AM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


you can say "this is not how you treat women(people) when you're in a professional capacity" and still allow for all the multitudes of how women want to be treated. just because some women want to be petted and complimented on their looks doesn't make it a good argument for including those things in a writers' organization bulletin. i like to be smacked around and talked dirty to by my husband - i'm still going to object if a coworker hits me and calls me a slut.
posted by nadawi at 9:53 AM on June 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


"It's 2013, yo. This language may be fine for certain individuals in certain situations, but in the absence of those individuals in those situations, you should take more care."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:04 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unpacking all the baggage we have about physical beauty and compliments in general and all is fine, and definitely a worthy pursuit. But I still think it's pretty straight-forward that when a couple of professionals are allegedly talking about a woman's work and contribution to the field, in a professional publication for a professional writer's association, it's inappropriate for them to compliment her on her physical appearance.
posted by lriG rorriM at 10:14 AM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yup, it's about context.
Socially and/or in private, women can desire to be just objectified as they want, and they can appreciate physical compliments as much as they choose - socially and/or in private. However, when women are being referenced in a professional context as colleagues BY colleagues - the professional obligation is to reference them as exactly that.
Anything else isn't courtly or complimentary or however you choose to slice it. It's RUDE. And discourteous. And deeply, denigratingly, unprofessional.

And if, thirty years after Tootsie, you still haven't worked that one out, it ain't on me to accommodate you in your discourtesy.
posted by tabubilgirl at 10:24 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, corb, I think you've got a point that Resnick & Malzberg are of a generation where, by those standards, they were being complimentary to the ladies in question, or very mildly risque at worst.

And I think you've got a point that it's entirely possible that women of their generation (and some in later generations) would view their remarks as complimentary.

But the thing is, I think they are socializing with younger people - they go to conventions, Resnick's got a blog, they seem to be active on the SFWA forums. And more importantly, they're still active writers, so they're undoubtedly regularly working with younger people, and I'd be willing to bet that some of them are women. So I don't think they're necessarily all that isolated from people who would be likely to disagree with their attitudes towards women. (Not to mention the men and women their own age who would disagree with them.)

Anecdata time: My dad's about their age, and I'm sure he's got a lot of the same attitudes and perspectives and beliefs (ex. the "Women Drivers!!" email he sent me a few years ago, which was a bunch of pics of various implausibly or outrageously wrecked cars). He's completely retired now, but he spent most of his career as an engineer with [Mega-Engineering Corp] and then went into semi-retirement teaching math/physics/engineering at various colleges. But even with having spent pretty much his entire life smack in the middle of White Older Male World, our culture in general has changed enough that he understands that it's one thing to say stuff like that in private, but it is now inappropriate to do so in public, and it's especially inappropriate to do so in a professional publication, like the SFWA bulletin.

He may not like it, but he understands that our culture's perception of publicly appropriate behavior has changed. And if my introverted socially-awkward engineer same-age dad can grasp that, why can't these guys?

Two possible answers:

1) Resnick & Malzberg (and CJ Henderson of the Barbie comment) are being, essentially, willfully ignorant and egotistical. They may vaguely recognize that the culture has changed, but they don't care - they had a grand old time behaving this way in the 50's through the 70's, and all the changes since then have been a bunch of nonsense that they don't have to take seriously.

And/or 2) SF fandom and the SF professional community have been existing in an isolated bubble of sexism of uncommon strength and for such a long time that they are now 20 years behind the rest of our culture when it comes to acceptable public behavior. This is more than a little ironic when an awful lot of fans & writers and other professionals seem to like to think of themselves as Advanced Thinkers; they read & write SF because their imaginations can't be constrained by the ordinary, mundane concerns and concepts of mysteries or thrillers or mainstream novels.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:43 AM on June 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


these men still believe, in 2013, that objectifying women is OK, as long as they mean well by it.

Good intentions do not make everything OK. But I think there's still a difference. Someone who has good intentions is someone you can at least talk to. It's much easier to move someone from a position of good intentions + bad execution ("ladies can be just as good at a job as men!") to a position of right action than to move someone with bad intentions ("women shouldn't be allowed to vote.") If you are interested in practical change you can't treat those people the same.
posted by tyllwin at 4:08 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Future of The Bulletin
posted by homunculus at 4:44 PM on June 6, 2013


a call for vox day to be expelled from the sfwa for racist attacks
posted by nadawi at 9:44 AM on June 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


closer to the topic - Four Step Plan for Moving Ahead with the Bulletin
posted by nadawi at 10:33 AM on June 13, 2013


Reading Vox Day, I was starting to say, "Well, maybe he just really hates NK Jemisin" and then I got to the "Africans haven't had enough time to be civilized" and just kind of went WHAT.
posted by corb at 10:55 AM on June 13, 2013


read more vox day if you feel he's being reasonable. he absolutely feels like men are superior to women (like, in a scientific, provable sense), that African, Asian and "Aztec" cultures are less civilized (and thus, owed less consideration than whites), and a whole host of other utterly wrong headed positions.
posted by nadawi at 11:15 AM on June 13, 2013


Yeah, I begin to think I have been fortunate in not having heard of him really before now.
posted by corb at 11:24 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Though it is almost certainly true that Vox Day doesn't actually use the words misogynist, racist or anti-Semite when he describes himself, and I'll believe that although he does argue that women shouldn't have the right to vote, he has not made any active efforts towards this goal.

I still cannot believe that 10% of the voters voted for him for SFWA president. Just because he doesn't call himself a racist misogynist doesn't mean the terms are inaccurate.
posted by jeather at 11:50 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow. That poor man, having to carry such a pendulously overwhelming White Man's Burden in a world of mud-people and harridans.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:55 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


:( i don't really love it when we repeat someone's slurs. i realize now i did it too with "aztecs" (which i regret) but still don't love it, even jokingly...
posted by nadawi at 12:07 PM on June 13, 2013


Coincidentally, our own jscalzi just happened to announce today that he's matching pledges up to $1000 to the Carl Brandon Society (promotes awareness in the sf&f field) of issues of race or Octavia Butler scholarship (for people of color attending one of the Clarion Writers Workshops.) Several people have come forward to match further donations.
posted by Zed at 12:17 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wowzer. Teddy's gotten even crazier since I was last acquainted with him.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:19 PM on June 13, 2013


nadawi: You're right. Sorry about that.

The con I attend most reliably is Arisia, and I've been really enjoying the greater programming focus on diversity and race issues happening there over the past few years. The Carl Brandon Society is usually there. They're good folks. Yay jscalzi! What a nice thing to do for NO PARTICULAR REASON AT ALL JUST BECAUSE. :)
posted by rmd1023 at 12:58 PM on June 13, 2013


Vox Day sounds like the name of an asshole Mary Sue character in a libertarian screed, so that's appropriate really.
posted by Artw at 1:20 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some screencaps from the private SFF.net SFWA forums, including an odd explanation of why someone wanted people to vote for Vox Day.
posted by jeather at 4:58 AM on July 2, 2013


Is there room in SFWA for a racist, misogynist writer? One who seemd to delight in piecing people off at every turn?

It's all about maintaining troll diversity, people.
posted by Artw at 7:12 AM on July 2, 2013


an odd explanation of why someone wanted people to vote for Vox Day.

spoiler: turns out there IS a cabal.
posted by Zed at 7:13 AM on July 2, 2013


Also, I understand much, much better why there are people just giving up on SFWA altogether.
posted by Zed at 7:32 AM on July 2, 2013


I actually didn't understand the "vote for Vox Day because we can kick him out" argument in the slightest. But there it was, being presented as an actual strategy.
posted by jeather at 7:58 AM on July 2, 2013


This all smells very late 80s/early 90s Usenet.
posted by Artw at 9:29 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


This all smells very late 80s/early 90s Usenet.

Except there doesn't seem to be a killfile.
posted by aught at 11:14 AM on July 2, 2013


spoiler: turns out there IS a cabal.

Not so much of a spoiler: Jerry Pournelle's an ass.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:44 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I actually didn't understand the "vote for Vox Day because we can kick him out" argument in the slightest. But there it was, being presented as an actual strategy.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Literature is a long game. Do you like my trenchcoat?
posted by Zed at 1:53 PM on July 2, 2013


The specfriction posts tipped me over into definitely not renewing my SFWA membership. I like Steve Gould, but so far the association's only reaction has been to tsk tsk whoever is leaking the posts. The leaked posts are not the problem. Hateful misogyny on forums funded by my money are the problem. Not giving them another check. Nope.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:37 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


But trolls need playhouses! You're oppressing them by not paying for that!
posted by Artw at 2:42 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The sad thing is, people are ACTUALLY MAKING THAT ARGUMENT. When I saw that, my head just about exploded.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:51 PM on July 2, 2013


Hey, congratulations on your novel's upcoming publication PhoBWanKenobi!
posted by jokeefe at 3:20 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thank you, jokeefe!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:50 PM on July 2, 2013


PhoB, what is the SFWA actually supposed to do for you? As far as I can tell it sets up awesome things for the entire internet to snark about, but presumably it's supposed to be useful also?

(Frankly, the specfric posts seem much less bad than the bulletin stuff was.)

I'm planning to preorder if ever it shows up on Kobo, which has a weird love-hate relationship with the idea of preorders.
posted by jeather at 4:26 PM on July 2, 2013


Supposedly they can help you out in the event of a contract dispute. Once upon a time, members were eligible for insurance through the association, but those days are long gone. Plus they fund stuff like the writer beware blog.

I was excited about the networking aspects--stuff like the SFWA reception, plus the possibility of schmoozing with old pros on forums. The problem is that . . . well, a lot of these old pros seem really old. And sexist. And out of touch. There are other internet forums where I can connect with other authors--scads of them, in fact--and I've been doing fine schmoozing on my own at cons and such.

A lot of it for me, I think, was that I really wanted to be eligible to join because it would mean that I had reached a specific level of professionalization (you need one novel sale or three pro short story sales). But now that I've done it I've realized that it's not really the best use of my money, no matter how tempting the tax deduction.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:34 PM on July 2, 2013


Dear Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA, please shut the fuck up.

I know you value your freedom of speech. Good on you. However there are 1788 other members of SFWA who also value their freedom of speech and manage to exercise it without being raging assholes.

You are professional writers, so should know the power of words. I therefore must assume that you are deliberately being provocative and trying to set things on fire because you enjoy watching a flamewar.

There are 1788 other members who don’t. Scratch that… there are 1752 because some people just quit because of you.

posted by Artw at 10:06 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Dear Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA, please shut the fuck up.

oh, DAAAY-um.
posted by Zed at 11:43 AM on July 3, 2013


Supposedly they can help you out in the event of a contract dispute. Once upon a time, members were eligible for insurance through the association, but those days are long gone. Plus they fund stuff like the writer beware blog.

And the emergency medical fund has really done a lot of good for some writers in very tough circumstances.
posted by Zed at 11:51 AM on July 3, 2013


Dear Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA, please shut the fuck up.

I just came across that because of wandering through links posted in this thread and I roared with laughter. Good on her!
posted by rtha at 12:36 PM on July 3, 2013


Making Light links to the Twelve Rabid Weasels post and notes:
It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with organizational politics, or with human beings for that matter, that almost nobody in SFWA will have any problem immediately recognizing who Mary is talking about.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:39 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Heinlein? He's all about influencing political opinion His long expository speeches are 10 pages shorter than Ayn Rand's but, Time Enough For Love was an sermon on free love ...Oh, and don't even get me started on "The Weapon Shops of Ishtar," or "The Man Who Sold the Moon", both of which I like, but may as well be titled "Why my beliefs rock."

That's as may be, but A.E. van Vogt wrote The Weapons Shops of Isher. There was a recurring character named Ishtar in the Future History.

I am sorry, I know it's been a month but nobody said anything.
posted by gingerest at 10:28 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


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