Seanan McGuire on why she will not add rape to her stories to add “realism”

If you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you know my feelings about the way rape is used in most fiction. If you’re unaware or have forgotten, please click over to my post here, my post on ABW, and my post on Jeff Vandermeer’s blog about the subject.

The bottom line of each of those is that I really do not like it when authors decide to have their female (and it’s almost always female) characters raped for bullshit plot or character development “reasons”. The kind of writers who do this are generally not very good ones since they have to use cheap tricks in order to show that the female character is “strong” or the male character is “evil” or to wink and nod to any reader out there who might think that a female character could possibly ever get away with being smart and confident and badass without being taken down a peg.

I also get angry at this trope because I firmly believe that it contributes to rape culture in a big way. When the message from fiction is constantly that rape is inevitable, especially if you as a woman step outside of the box of what is acceptable, and that’s just how it is. Whenever I suggest that authors just NOT include rape as an inevitable consequence of being a woman in fiction, I get told that this is completely unrealistic.

Thus, I am not at all surprised that this happened to author Seanan McGuire:

Last night, I was asked—in so many words—when either Toby or one of the Price girls was finally going to be raped.

Not “if.” Not “do you think.” But “when,” and “finally.” Because it is a foregone conclusion, you see, that all women must be raped, especially when they have the gall to run around being protagonists all the damn time. I responded with confusion. The questioner provided a list of scenarios wherein these characters were “more than likely” to encounter sexual violence. These included Verity forgetting to change out of her tango uniform before going on patrol, Toby being cocky, and Sarah walking home from class alone[1]. Yes, even the ambush predator telepath with a “don’t notice me” field is inevitably getting raped.

When. Finally. Inevitably.

My response: “None of my protagonists are getting raped. I do not want to write that.”

Their response: “I thought you had respect for your work. That’s just unrealistic.”

Go and read the whole post, because everything that Seanan has to say in response to this nonsense is right on and should be read by every person ever, especially authors.

I’ve said this before and I will say it again: Writers, when you write fiction you get to create the world. Yes, even if are writing in the “real” world and not that of the speculative, you get to decide what happens to your characters and why. Spec writers in particular get to create stuff out of whole cloth, if they like. And more of them should choose not to bring rape into their narratives. Because if we want to create a world in which rape happens less, we need to show worlds where rape isn’t the inevitable consequence of being a woman.

Then maybe there won’t be readers out there who claim that no rape means a book is unrealistic. Because: really? Gross.

Footnotes

  1. Does it occur to anyone else that this person has thought way too much about the ways in which these characters may end up raped? If I were Seanan I would stay away from the fan fiction for a bit…[]

10 Better Choices For The Next Doctor Who Companion

10 Better Choices For The Next Doctor Who Companion

Yesterday the Doctor Who crew announced that they’d chosen the new Doctor Who companion that will take over from Karen Gillian and Arthur Darvill: Jenna-Louise Coleman. Moffat has heaped much praise upon Miss Coleman and said that her energy matches and even exceeds that of Matt Smith, so we should all rejoice.

Yet my first thought upon seeing her was: another young, white female? Really? That’s the best we can do?

I know nothing about Coleman and I have no reason to believe she’s not a good actress. So, nothing against her personally and all. This is more about the general banality of choice here. I shouldn’t expect much from Mr. Moffat given his track record — he did choose Matt Smith, after all — but is it so much to ask that a TV show about an 1100 year old time traveling alien be more than just the same old tired stuff all TV is about? Do we really need another young, white cis woman to compliment the young, white cis man at the center of the show?

Say what you will about Russell T. Davies (and I have said plenty in my time), he at least had the balls to change it up a bit when it came to companions. There were two companions of color on his watch, plus an omnisexual man, plus a woman with some years and experience on her.

Given the show’s penchant for picking actors and actresses from past episodes, I can think of 10 really good choices for companion that each bring things to the table we haven’t seen in a while and break the young, white, human female mold in different and interesting ways.

Madame Vastra and Jenny

Madame Vastra and Jenny

I’m starting with these two because I know so many people will agree. Moffat introduced them in “A Good Man Goes To War” and I’m pretty sure the entire fandom went nuts for them right away. They’re clearly lesbian, clearly in love, and would clearly bring some welcome snark and spark to the TARDIS. Especially because Vastra is all about not putting up with the Doctor’s bullshit. Yes, Jenny is a young, white female, I know. But this combo works so well. Plus she’s from our past and it’s been a while since the Doctor pulled a companion from sometime other than contemporary Earth. Vastra is non-human; again, something the show used to do and hasn’t yet since it came back. And with the whole lesbian thing we can finally leave behind the whole Girl Moons Over Doctor thing.

Canton Everett Delaware III

Canton Everett Delaware III

Any excuse to allow Mark Sheppard to take up more screen time on my TV is a good one, right? Beyond that, it seemed clear to me that when older Canton shows up in “The Impossible Astronaut” he had been through many more adventures with the Doctor than we saw. Why not add him to the TARDIS crew for a season? Let him bring the man he loves along (a gay black man from the 50’s in space? YES. Call Idris Elba).

Amara Karan

Amara Karan

When “The God Complex” first aired I remember a bunch of people said that they wished Rita hadn’t died because she’d make a fantastic companion. I wholeheartedly agreed. Just because Rita is dead doesn’t mean that Amara Karan can’t be a companion. It’s what happened with Freema, after all. She’s such a fantastic actress, just give her another great character and she’d be fabulous. Plus, she’s a woman of color. Honestly, the show needs to prove that Martha wasn’t just a token by being a little less white for no good reason.

Alonso Frame / Russell Tovey

Russell Tovey

Since we’ve seen Alonso twice now, I think he’s a good candidate to be a companion, but I’m not wedded to the character from “Voyage of the Damned”. Russell has a nice wide range and does crazy flustered really well. Maybe even better than Matt Smith. I don’t think he’d make a good solo companion, but perhaps teamed up with Amara or Lenora in a non-romantic way it could work. He’d also make a great alien with those big ears.

Lenora Crichlow

Lenora Crichlow

Ever since I saw Lenora in “Gridlock” I have loved her. I definitely don’t want to see her play the character from that episode as a companion, but someone new. As a Being Human fan it would give me no end of squeezing to see her and Russell Tovey as companions together, but that might just be too Brit-TV incestuous. Pair her up with Canton, maybe? Then you have a nice triad. An older guy to be sort of steady and reasonable, Matt being all muppety, and a younger woman to be the balance between them. Though, honestly, I’d love to see Lenora play someone 180 degrees from the roles I’ve seen her in so far.

Naoko Mori

Naoko Mori

I’ll say this up front: there’s no good reason why Torchwood’s Toshiko Sato is dead. Though I wouldn’t be down with them bringing that character back for Doctor Who, Naoko Mori should definitely get another chance at the Whoniverse. She’ll be the first Asian companion since the dude in the American movie. My only fear with her is that, once again, the writers will go for the easy stereotypes – shy, good at maths, bad at interpersonal relationships, computer wiz. Ugh. Naoko is so much better than all of that, as the show should be.

Clyde Langer (Daniel Anthony)

Clyde Langer

Bringing in someone from The Sarah Jane Adventures would tie the Whoniverse together even more. I like Luke, though I don’t think the whole innocent super genius thing would work all that well on Who, especially up against 11. Clyde is a different sort of person, and his personality would compliment Matt’s manicness well, I think. Plus you get the benefit of a person of color and someone who won’t be over-wowed by all the strangeness yet remain grounded.

Dichen Lachman

Dichen Lachman

Dichen slips in as a Whoniverse alum just barely since she had a small part in Torchwood: Miracle Day. However, my recommendation is not based on that. I had to watch every episode of Dollhouse so I could write about it. Despite the absolute torture of such a thing, I did notice that Dichen outdid most of her co-stars on a regular. One of the few good things about Dollhouse was watching her and Enver Gjokaj school everyone on how the whole new character every episode/scene thing was done. Not that most of them learned. I see her as a companion with a lot of mad energy. Or maybe even a Time Lady. Let’s rescue Romana from E-Space and revive her as a mixed-race woman of color!

Gina Torres

Gina Torres

This entrant right here is just some wish fulfillment. I’ve watched Gina Torres be a badass awesome lady through many a TV show, both good and bad. I say let’s bring that to the TARDIS’ doorstep and see what comes of it. She’s a woman comfortably above tweenage with some gravitas to her, has the body to do all the running necessary, won’t let the Doctor walk all over her or fall in love with him, and is probably comfortable destroying whole galaxies if you get in her way.

There you go: 10 awesome choices that aren’t the same old banal young, white female we’ve already been there and done.

Who would you add to the list?

Let’s Talk About Human Nature

Let's Talk About Human Nature

Specifically, the Doctor Who series 3 episodes “Human Nature/The Family of Blood”.

Those of you who read my Chicks Dig Time Lords essay know a bit about how I feel about this episode, specifically Martha in this episode, but I’ll give a small bit of explanation and background for those who don’t.

In this two-parter, the Doctor runs away from the Family because they want to capture him and feed off of his Time Lord essence. So he hides the Time Lord bit of him in a watch (aided by the TARDIS) and hen goes to live as a normal human for a bit so that they can’t find him. The species the Family belongs to apparently have a short lifespan, so the Doctor knows if he can just wait them out in hiding, they will eventually die.

So the Doctor becomes human and hides out in pre-WWI Britain as a teacher in a rich boys school. Martha is his companion, so she has to hide out, too. So she gets to be his maid. Since he brought her along with him to this job as a teacher (I think the explanation was that she was his family’s maid) she focuses most of her energy on caring for him, but is also made to do work around the school. At one point we see her cleaning floors with another maid she’s become friends with.

Then, of course, the Family shows up, stuff happens, big adventure[1].

I have a lot of problems with this episode.

  • For a long time I wondered what possible justification the Doctor had for taking Martha to this time period and this place on earth when he had, oh all of time and space to choose from?
  • People have pointed out that the Doctor did not choose the time and place, the TARDIS dd. Well, TARDIS: wtf? Still not okay[2].
  • It’s yet another example in a long list of examples where Martha is put into the Mammy role. I might have let it slide except it happens so often it’s a damn theme, and that’s really problematic.

There are a lot of different strings tying this all together. To start, this episode was based on a Doctor Who novel written by the dude who also wrote the script: Paul Cornell. Apparently RTD liked the book so much he asked Cornell to make an episode of it. But the book was written some time ago starring a different incarnation of the Doctor with a different (white) companion. And thus the companion’s role was very different in the book.

By doing this episode during season 3 Cornell and the creative team introduced a tricky element that wasn’t in the original. They did address race more than once, and that’s good. But they only addressed race in the more surface, basic ways while letting other deeper issues stand.

This is more complicated by the fact that I really like the episode overall. It’s well-written and the story itself is interesting and the dilemma the Doctor faces in the end is crunchy and thought-provoking. I’ve found myself wishing many times since watching it that they’d done this episode with a different companion, because obviously there just wasn’t enough deep thought about race to do it the way they did without being super problematic. Or, that’s the way it seems from the result.

So what precipitated this post? Over on Tumblr I reblogged something from Karnythia about this ep where people expressed their frustration with it. It’s the part where the nurse that the Human!Doctor has fallen in love with is talking to Martha, who reveals she is a (medical) doctor. The woman then says: “Women might train to be doctors, but hardly a scivvy and hardly one of your colour.”  Karnythia points out:

“Black women had been training to be doctors in the UK & the US for almost 40 years at this point. Were there a lot of them? No. But there was a lot of coverage of the ones who did succeed. If she knew women were training to be doctors, then she knew some of them were women of color.”

Perhaps she would have, but the writer and the creative team apparently did not[3].

That gives me a whole other reason to be mad at this episode.

As I said in my Chicks piece, I don’t think anyone was being intentionally racist here and it’s clear that some thought was given to race when they decided to do these episodes with Martha. That’s a good thing. But when you’re dealing with something as thorny as this, you can’t just put some thought into race. And as many people have pointed out, there is all kinds of just on the surface or just under the surface problems with race in the new Doctor Who[4].

These episodes are a source of great rage because of the lack of deep thought about race. For me, the rage is informed by that and by the knowledge that it could be such a good episode if not for this stuff.

And it all makes me realize I need top hop on getting this book started with Karnythia.

Footnotes

  1. If you want a full synopsis, check Wikipedia.[]
  2. In the world of the show that is bad enough. But I find it to be handwavy and bull on the part of the writer/creators/whoever came up with this idea. It looks like they’re trying to absolve the Doctor of responsibility here, and that’s a dick way to do so. Plus, it doesn’t fly for the TARDIS, either, as it’s been well established by this point that it has a consciousness, too.[]
  3. Or there’s another explanation. I think we may find out.[]
  4. The classic episodes, too, of course.[]

My Thoughts On The Latest #YesGayYA Developments

My Thoughts On The Latest #YesGayYA Developments

I meant to post this yesterday, but work things got in the way. Then the ever-wonderful Cleolinda posted the long, long post I was going to write and said everything I was going to say. So I’ll keep mine short. I suggest you click over to Cleolinda’s blog for the full story. Seriously.

A few days ago Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith wrote a guest post for the Genreville blog over at Publisher’s Weekly about their experience with an unnamed agent who asked them to make changes to their YA manuscript to erase the fact that a main POV character was gay. At least for the first book in the series. The pair went on to say that they’d heard that this thing with erasing gay characters in YA was something other authors experienced and thus they felt the need to write about it and bring the overall issue to light.

They did not name the agent or agency. They moved on from their specific example to the broader issue. They pointed out that this seemed to come from a concern over market forces rather than labeling anyone Homophobic or Gay Hating. If you don’t believe me, go read the original.

The post sparked a big conversation about the issue and I saw in the comments and on blogs and social networks that several other authors, published and not, talk their stories of having agents and/or editors tell them to remove gay characters from their YA.

Then Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, an agent with Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation, posted on Colleen Lindsay’s blog, The Swivet, outing her agency as the one in question (though claims she is not the specific agent in question) and essentially called Rachel and Sherwood liars. Under the guest post part, Colleen added this:

FACT: Both these writers already have their own agents. At least one of those agents reps YA books. So what does it say when the respective agents for both these well-established writers advise them to find a different agent for the book in question because neither of them wanted to rep it themselves?

It tells me that homophobia was most likely not the reason that this book has thus far not found representation.

And that made me see red because that just looks like a personal attack and an attempt to dismiss what Rachel and Sherwood said by saying that their book is no good. Further, on my Facebook page, Colleen claimed that she knew other agents who turned the book down because it had structural issues.

I like and respect Colleen a lot, but I’m calling bullshit on this. Though she says she didn’t mean for the above words to be an attack, that’s what it looks like. And, even if other agents passed on the book for structural reasons, that does not mean that the conversation as represented by Rachel and Sherwood didn’t happen. One does not preclude the other.

Putting that aside, at this point we’ve reached He Said/She Said, and it comes down to which side you believe. Stampfel-Volpe said that at no time did they say they wanted make the character not gay or take away references that he was gay in the book in question[1]. Rachel and Sherwood maintain that this is indeed what was said.

For my part, I believe Rachel and Sherwood. My main criteria being that my interactions with Rachel online and the interactions and friendships she has with people I know and trust do not lead me to believe she would lie in this way. I don’t know Sherwood well, but nothing I have ever heard from her good friends leads me to believe she would perpetuate a hoax for publicity or lie for profit.

Rose Fox of Genreville apparently felt the same way. Colleen mentions something about how the piece wasn’t fact checked, but how was that supposed to happen? The agency wasn’t named. And even though there are claims that the gossip identified the agency, the majority of us wouldn’t know without their self-outing. These are not the kind of “facts” that can be easily checked because the other party can say “That didn’t happen” and they could be lying just as easily as the authors. Rose used her judgment based on what she knows about the two women and, so far, I haven’t seen any reason for her to have doubted that.

Additionally, Stampfel-Volpe’s post is filled with the kind of red flags I see every day as an anti-prejudice activist. The tone is too defensive[2] and unconvincing. Plus, what exactly do you expect the agency to say? “Yes, we did that”? No. Hell no.

Think about it. If they did request the changes Rachel and Sherwood claim and did so because of market forces and such, they wouldn’t admit to it especially if they aren’t homophobic themselves. It’s just like the whole cover controversy with Justine Larbalestier’s Liar. I’m sure that her publishers are not racist people, but they put a non-black person on the cover of her book at first because they assumed that systemic racist attitudes would hurt sales. That is not something you want to admit in public, because it’s gross. It happens, though. We all know it happens. And thanks to #YesGayYA we know that the erasure of gay characters in YA happens, too. And it’s still gross.

No one wants to admit when they give in to prejudiced bullshit.

The other reason I just don’t believe Stampfel-Volpe is that she made this whole thing personal:

One of our agents is being used as a springboard for these authors to gain attention for their project. She is being exploited. But even worse, by basing their entire article on untruths, these authors have exploited the topic.

Someone explain to me how the agent in question is being exploited when he/she wasn’t named. Also, bringing a topic to light is not exploitative. The kind of people I see using language like that are the folks who try to tell me that by bringing up racism or “inventing” it when it’s not there, I am the one being racist. This is a classic defense. It may even be on the BINGO card. When I see people using this kind of language, I immediately distrust what they have to say. I’ve been on the receiving end of this too often to not recognize it.

I suggest you read the original Genreville post and the other excellent links at Cleolinda’s blog before you come down on one side or the other, especially if you don’t know any of the people involved. The readiness of some people to immediate jump to HOAX! based on absolutely nothing but one person’s word would astonish me if I didn’t already have plenty of experience watching people readily dismiss real prejudice that exists right in front of them as not-prejudice. It’s so much more comforting to think that someone is just a lying liar than that there’s a serious problem to tackle.

Tackling problems requires thought, effort, and often sacrifice. Who wants to deal with that?

Footnotes

  1. Edited to make things clearer. I didn’t read my original sentence a second time and should have. Thanks Helen.[]
  2. Especially the parts added by Colleen, who emphatically claims that the agent is a good friend and not homophobic, even though Rachel and Sherwood didn’t say he/she was. A person might not be personally homophobic, but still perpetuate the idea that mainstream readers are too homophobic to deal with gay charcaters. It’s a systemic problem, and one need not be personally prejudiced in order to bow to the system.[]

Gender Imbalance, Again. Mansplaining, Again. Bleh.

Gender Imbalance, Again. Mansplaining, Again. Bleh.

The latest entry in the Gender Imbalance Hall of Fame appears to be Solaris Rising: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction edited by Ian Whates. Of the 21 contributors there are 4 women[1].

You may facepalm now.

But, you see, the editor totally knows that this whole gender imbalance thing is a probem. This is why his other anthologies have more women in them! And that makes this all okay.

The thing is, as an editor, it’s almost inevitable (given the aforementioned imbalance) that you’re going to fall foul of somebody’s opinion somewhere. I’ve just released the TOC for Solaris Rising, an anthology I’ve been commissioned to produce for (you guessed it) Solaris. … Already the book has attracted a drearily predictable comment of “How’s that mistressworks thing goin’?” from Nick Mamatas. It’s strange, but last year when I released the anthology The Bitten Word (ten female authors, seven male), nobody accused me of being a feminist. Nor was gender commented on that June when I released Anniversaries (seven female authors, two male). I suspect that next month, when I release a new collection of stories by Liz Williams – A Glass of Shadow – with an intro by Tanith Lee and cover art by Anne Sudworth, no comment will be made then either, nor when I release the next NewCon Press anthology Dark Currents in 2012 – which looks set to once again feature more female contributors than male. The detractors are very selective, it seems.

Shorter Ian Whates: WHERE ARE MAH COOKIES?!!

Someone call the wahmbulance and pick this mansplaier off the ground before he hurts himself.

Footnotes

  1. Oh look, Paul DiFilippo is in it, too! That’s a sure sign of quality… /sarcasm[]

You People Are Out Of Your Goddamned Minds

You People Are Out Of Your Goddamned Minds

Can someone please explain to me how one makes the leap from “We no longer want to honor this person” to “Book burning and censorship“? You people do not even understand what censorship means, do you? And to this asshole who threw up the Heinlein quote: since when was WisCon ever a government or a church?

Do you people even read? Do you have brains that work in a logical manner? Or do you just simply wander through life parroting the things you read without any understanding or absorption of them?

Goddamn you stupid, ignorant troglodytes. I am ashamed to share a planet with you, much less a community.

Also, can I just point out that at no point has anyone said Elizabeth Moon can’t come to WisCon. At no point has anyone said that there can’t be a discussion about the issues raised by her post, with or without her. Hell, it’s WisCon, there is going to be a lot of fucking discussion. But I love how these useless wankers run right to that mission statement and declare that there obviously won’t be any of those things because… apparently because they’ve imagined it in their tiny minds.

Your tiny, dirty imagination has no bearing on actual fact. And, you know what, I am hella glad you all won’t be coming to WisCon. I wish you would refrain from coming to World Fantasy, Readercon, or any other con I happen to attend. People like you we don’t need. But thanks to the free speech you so loudly claim no one at WisCon has[1], you can spread your bullshit in public places and at public events. All the while whining about how you’re being oppressed.

I have reached a real breaking point with the cowards in this community. The sad, pathetic people who wish to stir up shit just for the sake of pageviews or getting well-known as crusader against people who think racism and sexism are bad[2]. I am tired of this utter bullshit that comes up Every. Single. Time.

The bottom line is this: you are wrong. You’re just wrong. Bigotry: is wrong. Elizabeth Moon: was wrong.

That doesn’t mean that things or people or ideas or thoughts can’t change. But this is immutable: Bigotry has no place at any con, and I can only be thankful that many of the people who run and attend WisCon work very hard to eliminate it from that one. And that starts by not honoring someone whose bigotry is not in question and who does not, apparently, feel she’s done anything wrong nor has shown any proclivity to dialogue that would lead to something valuable. Therefore, it was the right decision to remove her.

If you feel differently, then say so. But do it out in the open.

Footnotes

  1. Because of RaceFail, doncha know. It’s just so hard to be racist when all of your friends are totally against it![]
  2. I know people think the same thing about me — that I say what i do just to stir up shit and get attention. Because it’s so totally fun being an activist and working to eliminate racism and sexism. It is just too, too exciting feeling all the time like there is a giant group of people out there that thinks nasty thoughts about me, or wishes harm on me, or thinks I’m less than nothing because I’m a black person or a woman or queer or any combination thereof. I absolutely love that! And if I open my mouth even a little bit to say: Hey, that’s not cool, that is hurtful, that is fundamentally wrong, suddenly I am the problem? What even worse: I am not the only person in the community to whom this paragraph could apply.[]

My Thoughts On the Whole Katy Perry/Sesame Street Thing

My Thoughts On the Whole Katy Perry/Sesame Street Thing

Dear Outraged Parents,

If you think that your Sesame Street-watching toddlers do not know that: a) Breasts exist and b) Women have them, or if you think that seeing a woman’s cleavage will cause them to have inappropriately sexual thoughts instead of recognizing breasts as a source of sustenance (if they even notice that kind of thing at all) then:

You are doing something really, really wrong as parents.

You Know What I Wish?

You Know What I Wish?

I wish people would stop mischaracterizing what went on during RaceFail as mostly a bunch of name calling and ad hominem attacks online[1]. I really do. Why? Because that’s not how it was[2].

You know what else I wish? I wish people would quit using the scare quotes around the word fail when speaking of that time. And trotting out the fallacy of the Fail Fandom or referring to people who work for social justice within the SF community as the Fail Community. Why? Because that’s utter fucking bullshit[3].

Given how at least two people lately have rolled up with this kind of language only to then look at the conversation around MoonFail and say “Oh my, I am seeing a different side of things now!” elicits mixed feelings. I mean, yay that they see the inherent issues here. But the fact that they are still talking about how RaceFail was all just This Way or the Fail Community is usually wrong about these things and just picking on people makes me seriously want to throw hard, overbaked and burnt cookies at them until they cry.

When you dismiss all of the conversations that happened during RaceFail as one kind of thing and when you refer to a Fail Fandom, you are dismissing the very real problems we have in our community surrounding prejudice and the work people have done to eliminate that prejudice from said community. And taking a dismissive stance is just a punk move all around.

Maybe instead of holding on to your ideas of what RaceFail was and what we Fail activists do, you ought to step back and re-examine in light of what you see going on right now.

Footnotes

  1. Before you ask: Yes, I do realize that the person in that post is apologizing for making assumptions. Though I appreciate that, I don’t think that erases my overall point.[]
  2. I’m not going to say that every single person behaved well during RaceFail. But I have seen less evidence of widespread evil orc horde activity and more evidence people ignoring the bulk of the discussions in favor of keeping to the self-perpetuated myth that everyone on both sides were acting badly based on a small sampling or just one person/post. No. Just no.[]
  3. I got no qualifiers for this one. It’s bullshit.[]

MoonFail: Raising The Bar

MoonFail: Raising The Bar

I wanted to expand on some of what I said in my first post a few days ago about not settling for the bare minimum when it comes to charged discussions ignited by Elizabeth Moon’s post and the WisCon troika’s subsequent statement regarding it. I’ve been mulling over this for the past few days, but this post by committee member Piglet snapped things into focus. In particular, this line:

The bar for disinviting a Guest of Honor is much, much higher than the bar for inviting a GoH.  I can’t imagine (failure of imagination again, no doubt — nevertheless) circumstances under which I would support it.  Yes, even someone who verbally attacked my marginalizations in the interim between invitation & con.  Or, as Ms. Moon has done, those of my friends.

When I read that, my immediate thought was that this was not something I expect to hear from a WisCon committee member. And while I was feeling very wavery about whether Moon should be disinvited before, I now feel very strongly that she should.

My path here has been very similar to what Nora describes in this post:

For awhile I thought of this as a matter of professionalism, and the ineffectuality of a top-down gesture. But that letter makes it clear that what motivated the ConCom was not a concern for professionalism, or the desire to make the most effective protest. That letter makes it clear that the decision was made out of the usual fear of taking a hardline stand on principle, and the usual expectation that oppressed people will find some way to accommodate the bigots who hate them.

Further down, what she has to say here:

I think I’ve become too wedded to defending people like this. ::sigh:: Damn, I must be getting old. I’m always so grateful when I encounter people willing just to have these conversations… even if talking is all they do. I’m always so happy when they take a step… even if it’s nowhere near far enough, and even if they land on my foot in the process. In this sense I’m actually buying into Moon’s BS — specifically her resentment over having to make even the slightest effort to accommodate others’ differences and needs. It’s gotten to the point where I expect that resentment, and even plan for it. But I need to expect better of the people I call my friends.

echoes what Amal said in the post I pointed to either:

I’m grateful that [the ConCom doesn’t] see her words as anything less than hateful and damaging. I’m grateful for their dismay and their anger. But that gratitude should be telling. That gratitude is part of the problem. That gratitude is indicative of the fact that the status quo is so dire that I perceive basic human decency as Moon’s “bending over backwards,” and that some part of me was afraid that the ConCom would see no problem at all with what she said. After all, millions of Americans don’t.

I was okay with the ConCom’s statement because I was afraid there’d be no statement at all. I was okay with the ConCom’s statement because it didn’t sweep this under the rug, because they offered me something I could engage with. …that’s our purpose, of course. To be Makers of Points before we are people. To be valuable and acceptable additions to Moon’s commonweal. To be pattable on the head.

This is particularly appropriate given recent WisCon history. As I said, in the years I’ve been going to the con I’ve seen an increase in people of color and a definite change in attitude toward what counts as a “Feminist Issue”. Intersectionality is a higher priority, as well as an increase in awareness surrounding the needs of different WisCon-going groups[1]. But getting to that point wasn’t a smooth road. Those things had to be asked or fought for specifically, sometimes over the objections of people on the concom. It’s not all a happy, shiny family — nor would one expect it to be. It’s a community of people who have some interests and goals and ideas in common, but not all.

On these issues we are moving past (or have already moved past) the stage of things where basic human decency should be all we expect and should be grateful for. Oh no. Just acknowledging that what Moon had to say is wrong is not enough. Not at this point. Given that this con is built around a social justice issue and an incredibly important ideal and movement, it is shocking to see that attitude on display. The bar for disinviting a GoH is high? Sure it is. But is it high enough that you are willing to go back on what WisCon is about in order to bring in and honor someone who holds ideas that are antithetical to the very work this con is about?

WisCon isn’t just a convention of people who love science fiction and fantasy like, say, WorldCon or PhilCon or something. WisCon stands for something. WisCon is where you go when the sexism and prejudice at other cons becomes intolerable. WisCon is where you go when you realize that other cons aren’t going to disinvite their GoHs for saying/doing the most despicable things about/to homosexuals or women or immigrants or people of color or Jews or Muslims or or or.

People can shout all they want about how Elizabeth Moon is being honored for her fiction, but WisCon hasn’t always just been about the fiction. The conversations we have there, the issues we tackle, are not fictional or always concerning fiction. Or, when they are, they are also about how fiction affects and shapes our society and our opinions about each other. Why else would there be a panel about cultural appropriation? Not just for a bunch of people to talk about how it’s okay to appropriate as long as you write a good yarn, but because it’s important to acknowledge how the choices fiction writers make affect readers, which affects how readers think and view the world.

Someone feel free to correct me, but it seems that the bar for inviting a Guest of Honor to WisCon is that the person, in their life and in their fiction, embody what WisCon is about. What WisCon is about has changed over the years, and will continue to change (hopefully for the better). And before now I would have hoped that it did not stand for the kind of ignorant, bigoted ideas that Elizabeth Moon holds. I suspect that if the marginalizations Moon had attacked had been closer to Piglet’s her attitude about disinvitation would be different.

Because this con stands for something. Wanting to attend means something. This is not Joe Blow’s Con Of Stuff. This is not the con for being grateful just because people acknowledge bad things were said without actively fighting against bad things. It is no longer acceptable to simply be appalled. Being appalled is step one. Step two is doing what is in your power to change things for the better, to make a better world. Or, short of that, a better community.

Amal, again:

The precedent we should be worried about setting is not “blogging could get me disinvited from a convention as Guest of Honour.” The precedent we should be worried about setting is “some fans are worth more than others, and Muslims don’t matter enough to take a stand for.”

What kind of community do you want, WisCon committee? A community in which social justice and fighting prejudice stops at “That was a really terrible thing to say!”? Or, at least one that stops at that when it’s not YOUR marginalization that’s under attack?

Footnotes

  1. Including, but not limited to, people with disabilities, as one example[]

Why I Haven’t Posted About MoonFail Until Now

Why I Haven’t Posted About MoonFail Until Now

There are a few reasons why most of my reactions to Elizabeth Moon’s post and subsequent discussion and developments have been confined to Twitter and Facebook until now. The main one being that I haven’t had a lot of time for posting, and responding to stuff like that takes time. Lots of things going on at work, as always. Plus, what free time I have I am trying to fill with fiction writing.

But one of the big reasons has less to do with time constraints and more to do with the fact that I did not have to post. By have to, I mean that there wasn’t such silence, such unwillingness to tackle the issue by the SF community at large that I felt compelled to speak out. I no longer feel like mine is one of the few voices calling people out on shit like this.

It’s a good feeling, though bittersweet.

Not just for personal reasons. Yes, activism takes emotional tolls. But also because it means that there are more people using their voices, more people aware of these issues, more people who care, and more people willing to fight. Always a good thing.

None of us should feel alone. Like we’re yelling into the darkness yet no one cares. None of us should have to bear such heavy burdens.

And I’m really glad that the people I see speaking out are not just the groups Moon chose to be so ignorant about and hurtful toward. It’s all kind of people from all kinds of backgrounds being angry and saying: This. Is Wrong.

I will never stop being an activist. But it’s nice to know that I don’t have to be active all the time in order for someone to point these things out. It means things are changing for the better. Maybe slowly, by increments, but it’s happening.