I am not the first to use “kerfluffle” to describe this, but it’s definitely the correct word. Because holy crap has this blown up into a fully-grown kerfluffle, not a cute baby kerfluffle. (Apparently, this should be spelled “kerfuffle”, but I say it with that extra “l”) Since most of the people who read my blog don’t follow the Science Fiction & Fantasy (SFF) community blogs (I presume), I’m going to present this a bit differently than most of the other stuff I’ve seen. But I think this is important in a larger context than just the SFF community.
Since I’ve not been following a lot of blogs lately, I missed this when it started. My first encounter with someone referring to it was in N.K. Jemisin’s Guest of Honor speech for Continuum, which was posted in her blog and spread by many other SFF writers, especially people of color and women. Here’s a brief quote about the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) mess from the speech, although the speech as a whole is absolutely worth reading.
To summarize: two of the genre’s most venerable white male writers made some comments in a series of recent articles which have been decried as sexist and racist by most of the organization’s membership.
The articles in question were published in SFWA’s quarterly publication, “The Bulletin”. The SFWA Bulletin is a print-only publication, so it’s hard to find these articles, but Natalie at Radish Reviews has a .pdf of the last of the articles (which are a conversation between the two writers in question, along with some highlights. I tried to read this and judge for myself, but I had to stop less than a third of the way in. There are some things I just don’t subject myself to…
Trisha at the blog “Geeking Out About…” has a lovely post that explains some of how this built up and how some of it should have been handled to prevent it from getting to the point it did. It was nice for me, because it gave background and was very calm.
Jason Sanford explains that people telling you that you’re sexist and requesting that your offensive column be pulled from their PROFESSIONAL organization’s OFFICIAL publication in the future is not censorship. These guys are still free to publish all they want on their own blogs or whoever will publish them. You may have a right to your opinion and its expression, but you don’t have a right to be published in official stuff. And no one HAS to listen to you. I think he has another post somewhere on what was actually wrong with what they said, but this one is only on why this isn’t censorship.
Kate Milford’s blog post title really speaks for itself: “Kerfluffle Watch, SFWA Edition: Call Your Detractors Liberal Fascists, Lose the Argument”, which is really true for anything, not just this. She has an attitude similar to mine in many things: she wants to assume the best of people.
So, halfway through the rebuttal column, I had learned this much: the authors consider that either those who objected to the cover and dialogue in Issue 200 are at best stupid and at worst censorious. Resnick and Melzberg are also upset about the “anonymity” of those who complained, although ten minutes on Google would’ve given them ways to contact plenty of people eager to discuss their concerns—assuming they’re interested in discussion, and if I were still assuming good intentions, I’d presume they’d be pleased to do that. But by this point in my reading, I was no longer assuming good intentions.
E. Catherine Tobler is actually leaving the SFWA. I want to post a few quotes from her post, but please go read the whole thing!
On expecting an article (in #200) about female writers and editors to be of interest to a female writer and editor:
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.”
The next issue (#201), which was expected to address some of the issues that came up in the discussions from #200:
it included an article, written by another man, that told women to emulate Barbie, to “maintain our quiet dignity as a woman should.”
And the last straw, #202:
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.
I’m not familiar with her work, but it sounds like her loss will diminish the SFWA.
And finally, Seanan McGuire, who has not only an insightful post, but what may be the greatest quote of the whole fiasco (after explaining exactly what the objections are to the use of “lady author” and “lady editor”):
Does that seem like a lot to get out of the phrase “lady author”? It kinda is. But that’s what happens when the background radiation of your entire life is a combination of “men are normal, human, wonderful, admirable, talented, worth aspiring to,” and “bitches be crazy.”
Anyway, I hope this may be of some interest. I’m encouraged that I’m seeing more and more come up in the SFF community challenging the white, male, Euro-centric tendencies. There is so much out there for writers of speculative fiction to work with, we shouldn’t limit ourselves.