Yokels Abroad

In case you guys haven’t got a feel for it, I grew up in a village where being cosmopolitan wasn’t exactly a plus.  The thing to do was to do things like your ancestors had always done.

At the same time, stifled by this, a lot of “intellectuals” by which you should read “village kids who did well enough in their examinations to attend high school (let alone college) in the city often identified not with their homeland but with some foreign country.  (Yes, I went through this phase.  England, because my brother preferred France.  There are traces left of it in my fascination with English history and my turn of phrase.)

It wasn’t just the village, either.  This was pretty common all over the country. In fact in college I found people whose chosen allegiance was to Germany or Russia.  (The last ones were special snowflakes indeed.  Like the guy who signed up for Russian to read Marx in his original language.  Rolls eyes.)

Part of this of course is the inverse issue that America has.  Portugal is a tiny country.  On my dad’s globe the entire country was the size of the tip of my five-year-old fingernail (I remember being very disappointed.)  You can’t swing a cat without a passport.  And part of it is that it is a stagnant country, dozing and dreaming of past glories.  Almost all the advanced scholarship, from mathematics to language (even Portuguese.  The greatest Portuguese linguists are German) takes place abroad.  To get to a high level of studies you MUST learn a foreign language.

Now the more sophisticated of us who fell prey to this might have a country of allegiance of the heart, might love the language and read the books and magazines, but we did not commit social solecisms.  My love for England came from a love of the language, a love of Shakespeare, a love of Austen.  It did not come from a desire to lord it over my fellow villagers.  The one mistake I committed after coming back from the states was wearing shorts outside the house, and that didn’t brand me as “lording it over” but as an impudent hussy, which all the village women assumed I was anyway, gallivanting to foreign parts on my own.  Fortunately they were way too scared of mom (and particularly grandma) to give vent to the venom and contented themselves with inventing more boyfriends for me than anyone could have at the same time, or even serially.

But other people did what was obviously not a mistake, but an attempt to signal “I’ve been elsewhere.”  So you got the young man who had visited South America briefly and came back to the village shop and ordered Montserrat cigarettes.  He was henceforth known not by his name, surname or even family nickname, but as “Montserrat.” (Look, the cigarettes were right there, behind the counter, and you could see they had the two brands that were available in Portugal at the time.)I understand he’s now a local politician.

The culmination of this was speaking a foreign language in public.  Because my husband is not very tall and is dark haired, as recently as ten years ago when we visited, people make rude remarks to the tune of “they’re just speaking English to given themselves airs.”  Not in the village, where it’s well known that Dan is either an Italian I met in Germany (please don’t even ask.  I’d gone to Germany last before my marriage, and as everyone knows all Germans are tall and blond, so…) or a guy who works in a bakery the next village over.  I think they’ve gotten over that one, though, since I’m obviously living abroad and the guy isn’t and is clearly married to someone else.  (If you were a village baker, my love.)  But when we’re in downtown Porto, they often make jokes and laugh at the assumption we’re “giving ourselves airs.”  This is worse when I’m with younger son, who looks more Portuguese than I do.

Needless to say speaking a language in public that your fellow-citizens don’t understand is in my opinion not good manners, unless you have a good reason.  (I’m not sure practicing older boy’s French is a good reason, but the times we’ve done it we’ve been fairly isolated.)

So I understand the pseudo-sophistication that comes from loving “every land but your own.”

In the united states, though, this is overlaid with something weirder.  Because we have the opposite syndrome of Portugal.  We’re very big, and most of the scholarship (unless it’s in the latest branch of Marxism) comes from America.  The future, as it were, is forged here.

So while the same class of idiots — overeducated and under employed — here is obsessed with “foreign parts” and somehow convinced they’re subtly better than our habits customs and behavior (bah.  They don’t have anything in Europe that we don’t have bigger and better in Nowhere Kansas.  At least in the ways of creature comforts) even if what they have to come up with is the equivalent of “they know better ways of splitting a bean to feed ten people” but also, in a curious and bizarre way the people who think this way are the greatest American chauvinists and the only real ones I’ve found in present day America.

They will, absolutely and without hesitation believe that what is wrong with any foreign country has its origin in American actions (usually, such the provincial tribalism of such people in a Republican president.)  Part of this, of course, is that maleducation at American universities, teaches them fixed pie economics.  They presume, that is, that for us to be rich someone else must be poor.

G-d only knows why they think German public places — to pick a place at random — tend to have no water fountains.  I’m going to guess it’s either their sainted care for the environment or that somehow America hoards all water.  Or something.

To me this form of reasoning is particularly ridiculous because I’ve seen it applied to Portugal.  In the US people who aren’t absolutely sure where Portugal is will lecture me about how of course I came here because we were so poor (not by the time I came here.  Also, not really.  I came here because I fell in love with my husband and the country, though not in that order) and how our poverty results from the American tariff act of 1982 or some equally asinine nonsense.

Portugal is poor because it has never fully shaken off the Roman prejudices and form of government.  Portuguese institutions and public officials (not all of course, but as a system) tend to be corrupt, it was for a long time under a paternalistic form of government that, yes, was national socialism (without a racial component, though, because, well, Portugal).  The Roman prejudices, which Heinlein noted in his visit to South America, present as inheriting or being naturally rich is better than to work for a living.  Socially, you can’t let your compatriots see you working like a dog.  (In the North this is confused in that there is some English culture rubbing off and people like my dad manage to mingle opprobrium and admiration when they say “I’ve never seen anyone work like him.” Portuguese are capable of an untold amount of work and dedication, which they usually reveal while safely living abroad and hidden from censorious eyes.

However, there’s very little in those two factors that America had anything to do with.

Still some Portuguese — mostly those on the left — believe it too.  It’s convenient.  They really have no clue how screwed up the country is, because they’ve never been anywhere else.  So they will say that the reason Portugal didn’t invent its own computer was that if they’d tried America would have penalized them on rice imports.  (Heaven only knows where THAT theory came from.)  And yes, even at 16 I gave the rough side of my tongue to the idiot.  I don’t think — correct me if I’m wrong — that IBM which was butt of his rage has anything to do with rice imports in Portugal.

However, it is always easier to blame someone else.  And to be fair, particularly in Europe, a certain amount of resentment at the US is normal.  America has a disproportionate footprint in the world, both because it was the only giant standing after WWII and because it has a huge entertainment footprint.  Which means a lot of the anti-Americanism is fostered by our own yokels abroad.

Our yokels abroad to an extent behave just as the yokels who’d visited Venezuela or Argentina and came back to the village telling amazing tales of their two weeks abroad.

There are the outright stupid, like the idiot who told me that socialism must be great, look at all those wonderful buildings in Europe.  (Headdeskheaddeskheaddesk)  Apparently under the impression that Chairman Louis XVI was responsible for the Louvre.  (I tell you guys, those d*mn time travelers.) Or that having built wonderful monuments is the mark of a just and equitable regime.  (Though to be fair, communism joins to its other amazing characteristics an uncanny incompetence in the building trade.  The further you slide from social democracy to socialism to communism the more likely you are to find newly built buildings crumbling and/or architecture so ugly it makes you want to slit your wrists looking at it.)

Then there are the “Smarter than Havelock-cat” lot (mind you, Havey has three brain cells, one for eating, one for sleeping and one for cadging scritches.)  They will tell me the French or Swedish or whatever system must be better because AS TOURISTS while visiting they saw how  people have a lot more free time and security.  They miss the frustrations of day to day living, which frankly the citizens don’t realize are there, and therefore don’t realize how much better/easier life is in the States.

(One thing we do really well is provide everyday comforts and the ability to buy whatever strikes your fancy at the moment.  This might be stupid, and the yokels who’ve been abroad will scream “greedy” but often it’s neither, it’s something totally off beat one in a 1000 people need. And you can find it, easily, particularly now in the age of Amazon, a unique American development.)

You see, there is a trade off not just between security and innovation but between security and comfort.  Systems designed to make life safe from surprises are, by definition, hostile to innovation and competition. The Scandinavian countries, in burdening employers with regulations designed to smooth out employees lives also made it almost impossible for entrepreneurs and non-corporations to survive, thereby stifling the fountain of innovation, for instance.

It is important to remember all this as our economic lives become more interconnected.  In watching the economic follies out there (yes, yes, this WILL end in blood, duh.  But not everywhere, and there is a chance however slim that in the end sanity prevails) one can’t help but go “Who in heaven’s name thought it was a good idea to trust economic reports from a communist regime that controls everything that comes out of it?”  And then one remembers.  Maleducated yokels.

These are the same people who run around the net lecturing us on the virtues of things they never experienced — like communism — but about which they’ve read.  Because they think — being yokels, of course — that other countries function exactly as the US and that their priorities and “control” of information is the the same.  Also, inexplicably, that people abroad know more about the US than people in the US.  So when French or Scandinavians lecture them on how in the US we’re much worse off, it never occurs to our yokels to go “Wait? Wut?  How do you know that?” No.  They nod their little pinheads and go “Oh, yes, of course.  Because I’ve been there on vacation and–”  (In fact, if you talk to foreigners in web forums the “reporting” they get about the US is not only wrong but hilariously so.  For instance, people without insurance are routinely left untreated in our emergency room.  Yep.  Sure thing bob.  Because see, their governments have a vested interest in supporting socialism, which gives them power, and in keeping them on the farm without seeing Paree.)

But our yokels swallow all that without chewing on it, because, well, someone is saying it who lives there, and they must know.  It never occurs to them that to “know” something is better than the US people have to see both ends, and see both ends from the same perspective of the workaday world.

(There is a book I’ve been meaning to buy called A House In Portugal.  I don’t know if it flatters Portugal — or rather, I know it does, just not how truthfully.  I mean, let’s face it, Portugal has some awesome aspects, it’s in the daily life meets bureaucracy thing that it falls flat on its face — because it was a bestseller there.  It’s the story of an American woman renovating a house in Portugal.  My brother gave me to understand it has to do with the strange paths to licenses and the bribes to acquire materials, etc.  Don’t know if it’s true, but mean to buy it and read it when I have time.)

And this is how we end up with people who are convinced that all cultures are equally valid, except the US is equally evil.  And they must protect poor little communists from “slurs” (or as an unspeakable ignorant *sshole put it, “people who think communism is the worst regime ever should be pushed out of airplanes.”  Because he’s read books.  Books, I tell you.  Or more likely watched movies, or maybe cartoons.  And he’s been assured that greed and the evils of capitalism are much worse than being assigned a job where you pretend to work and they pretend to pay you.  Said idiot should contemplate the joke add that P. J. O’Rourke reported from the waning days of the Soviet Union “Want to trade Moscow state apartment for sleeping bag on the streets of New York City.”)

The thing to do to such posturing morons (of which my field has an overabundance) is to point and laugh and do the equivalent of sticking their stupidity to them as a tag that the village did when it nicknamed Montserrat.  (I am not understand, suggesting that anyone should be nicknamed Chicom.  Oh, whatever.  I know what you guys are.  Do as as conscience dictates.)

However, they are far more dangerous, because America isn’t Portugal.  While people living in both are basically as ignorant of abroad and what it really is like (well, not so much in Portugal now, where people are better off and travel is more affordable.  Again, you need a passport to swing a cat and the cat needs a passport to bite your *ss in revenge) the Portuguese footprint in the world is minimal right now.

There is no way that Portuguese yokels misapprehending the wonders of … oh, I don’t know, having to pay for all your water in Germany, can write scholarly papers that will make yokels in every other country decide this is da bomb.

There is no way Portuguese yokels deciding IBM is why their rice is so expensive, will write anti-IBM (is IBM even still a thing) screeds that will convince the rest of the world that IBM is teh evil that outranks all evils.

BUT American Yokels, because of America’s disproportionate footprint in the world can do just that.  And, in an increasingly interconnected world, that brings the risk of serious mistakes.  Like, believing that Iranian leaders think just as we do and aren’t really serious about this bringing back the Imam thing and the end of the world.  Or like believing the reports from a communist dictatorship.  Or–  you can fill in the blanks, right?

So we need to stop maleducating people and treating stupid opinions as though they deserved some sort of respect.

Just Montserrat them.

Interview with Cathy Young — part 2

*So in March? April? Cathy young interviewed me about the Hugos, and I gave her my trademark long answers.  Her article is up now, but she’d graciously agreed to letting me post my original answers when it came out, so here it is (not a verification thing, she’s okay, even if she is a journalist.;)  I thought you might want to see it, is all.*

(4) Do you think Sad Puppies is also a backlash (and I don’t mean that in a negative sense) against the dominance of “social justice” activists in blog and social media discussions in the science fiction fandom, and the resulting intellectual climate?

I don’t think it’s so much a backlash as a great freeing from shackles. As I documented in my blog posts starting with “He Beats Me But He’s My Publisher” there was a great climate of fear in publishing. This is because the publishers had all the power, the writers’ none. I’ve seen friends fired for no reason any sane person could divine, and it was often a whispering campaign or being seen with the wrong person.

Social Justice infected that structure because the structure was rotten and ready for whisper campaigns and top-down dominance by a handful of people who held the reins not just of whether you’d be published, but whether you’d make it to the shelves or not. I.e. whether your career would be able to continue or flourish.

If you look at (particularly the women) the names allowed to flourish, they all proclaim themselves not just as people of the left, but people who take some pretty extremist positions on the left. Take K. Tempest Bradford who made a vow to read no white males for a year. Imagine that someone said “I will not read females of color for a year”. The backlash would be howlingly insane. But what she said? It was met with laudatory comments about reading “the other”.

The problem is that in this climate, you’re not reading the other. You’re reading people of various external characteristics or orientations, who all write from the same soft (or hard) left perspective.

I for one believe you should judge a book and whether it challenges you or not from the pov of what’s in the author’s mind not between his/her legs.

The problem I have with social justice is not that it’s insurgent, but that it’s reactionary and boring. I was taught this stuff in school and I’m over 50 years old. Granted, Portugal was a little “advanced” in that respect, but all the same.

So, the climate has been stifling because we all depended on this small number of like-thinking people in NYC. Now with the possibility of going indie (and I have friends published only indie making six figures) that restriction is gone. What you’re seeing is not a backlash, it’s the Berlin wall coming down.

I’ve before used the image of Lloyd Biggle Jr.’s great novel The Still Small Voice of Trumpets. In it artists formerly revered get banished and mutilated at the capricious command of a cruel king. In the end the hero finds a way to bring them back. The hero is not named Bezos. Strangely.

(5) Is there any merit to feminist critiques of how sci-fi/fantasy has traditionally portrayed women? Any thoughts on Kameron Hurley’s Hugo-winning “We Have Always Fought” essay?

Will I be penalized if I roll my eyes? There is this strange tendency among the Social Justice Warriors to behave as though they were fighting a “straw science fiction” that never existed. The truth is that, given the restrictions on women’s lives before being freed from some of our biological constraints by contraceptives, science fiction was one of the more accepting/enlightened fields ever for a woman to work in.

Consider the Hugo Award was instituted in 53, and that Marion Zimmer Bradley, with a distinctly female name was nominated in 63, (a year after I was born, btw.) You can say she didn’t win, but she was up against strong competition, i.e. The Man In The High Castle.

And 64 saw Andre Norton nominated, while in 1970 Ursula K. LeGuinn won.

But isn’t this proof of discrimination, you’ll say. Note all the years with no female nominee. The fact is that the field at its inception was incredibly… well, geeky. In the same way that engineering classes start over half female and end with a handful of geeks, very upset there aren’t any more girls (my younger son is going through this) the field started as a geek-mathematician-engineer fest. My husband loves Flatland, and apparently so did Heinlein. To me it’s a story without characters, a sort of Mathematical Wank.

I’m not saying some women aren’t capable of/interested in “mathematical wank.” My friend Kate Paulk is.

The fact is it took women who were interested to draw other women in, by degrees, kind of like fish learning to work on land. For a while there the emphasis was on “Science” fiction, which meant that you had a lot of socially gauche geeks, which means you had to have very strange women to first penetrate those circles. (Is a strange woman, but not that strange.)

By 1970 you had maybe one third of the writers as female.

This, btw, doesn’t mean women weren’t properly depicted in science fiction. Take in account that very few people but geek males were the heroes up through the fifties, and the women are actually amazingly depicted. There are female lensmen. More importantly, even when depicted as love interest or wife, the women are often the strongest character. I was reminded of this when reading again Way Station by Clifford Simak. One of the women is a deaf mute mountain girl, but she is the redeemer the universe has been waiting for. The other woman is literally a Pygmalion creation, a dream made real, and yet she is the one who sees clearly enough to end the unequal relationship with the hero, which he lacks the strength to break.

The much maligned Robert A. Heinlein had women spaceship captains, women engineers, women heroes.

If I have a complaint about golden age women it is that they tend to be glorified by golden age men. This is partly the geek effect. Most geeks I know adore women, and adore them even more if they take an interest in their pursuits. I recently – at fifty two, overweight, graying – found myself the hot babe at a space symposium because I have exactly the same interests as those men and am willing to work on the math at which I’m wretchedly bad. (Or good. I get theoretical math very easily, I’m just digit dyslexic and transpose digits in calculation, which is maddening.)

By the time I came into the field in the late nineties, most of the new writers’ were women. This is partly economic, because writing no longer pays enough for the primary income earner something that like it or hate it our society tends to assign to men.

I expect that will change as people can make a living from indie, but since the awards lag the actual achievement – i.e. people who are at the top of their game not beginners tend to get the awards – I’d expect a plethora of women winners for the next few years.

Kameron Hurley’s essay. I went and read it when you asked this question.

The essay is rather baffling. It’s sort of the same “fighting a past that never existed” combined with a strange belief in “narrative” which means the author must have imbibed a good deal of post-modernism.

She compares women being depicted in stories in relation to men to llamas being depicted as carnivorous. This is a bit insane, as llamas have never been carnivorous cannibals, but women have moved in relation to men (and men in relation to women) for millennia or, that is, forever. It is what we call “being the same species” and “obeying reproductive imperatives.”

She also seems to believe we should depict people as thousands of genders, which is when my head hit the keyboard (this is bad. I have a Y imprinted on my forehead, now.)

I view this type of thinking as a sort of cognitive disorder, that demands that every little widget be in a little can with the label perfectly matching the contents.

At the proliferation of “other” genders and sexual orientations, I made a mildly annoyed comment on facebook, (I think referring to “Searching” – as an orientation for adults.) I was told I was lucky I’d always known my “gender.” As it happens it made me cackle, because I’m one of those women who used to be called tomboys and of course underwent the usual doubts in adolescence. (Except for the fact Mr. Hormone came calling and I really like boys.) A lot of people still tend to identify me as lesbian, in interaction. However this doesn’t make me “Searching” or even “bi.” I am female and I like men. The end. Gender allows for infinite statistical variation within it, and each individual has a distressing tendency to be individual, a concept Hurley doesn’t seem to be able to fully comprehend. She wants a label, by gum. Many, many labels, so each individual can be a group, even if the group has one member.

In the same way her call for writing women completely divorced from men, and then this will happen baffles me, as I can not decide whether she’s calling for species extinction, or whether she thinks she can with story alone rewrite millions of years of evolutionary history.

It’s the sort of pseudo-feminist, pseudo-intellectual games that college professors adore, but which will never make any sense for real people in the real world.

As for women fighting: what kind of impoverished lore and history did she learn that she thinks she’s making a profound statement? From Judith in the Old Testament, through Bodicca, through the various warrior queens, including but not limited to Matilda and Elizabeth I, I fail to see the shocking part of this. History tends to mention only noble women fighting, but if you study a little closer, you find that women followed their husband’s to war and yes, had some role in the fighting even if it was capturing escaped enemy; women defended citadels while their men marched off, sometimes with notable valor. And women often became heroes though not often through the means of going off to battle. (Some, sure, but our upper body strength is a limiting factor for most. Genetics are what they are.) For instance one of my personal heroines, learned in grade school in Portugal was the Baker of Aljubarrota. I’m too lazy to google the official details (probably available, since she was a national heroine) but while her town was under siege by the Spaniards, (I think) she took the little remaining flour and kept bread baking continuously, while the wind blew the smell of warm bread to the enemy camp. Then she set up behind the bakery door in the outer wall, and as each enemy came in she killed him with the oven-shovel. Her assistants whisked the corpse out of sight, rinse and repeat. She is credited with killing hundreds of men and ending the siege.

Now, did the fact that she fought invalidate the fact that she was some man’s daughter and possibly even some man’s sister, some man’s wife and some man’s mother? Why should it? Why should women be one-dimensional?

The whole construction of the essay is puerile.

(6) Is “politically correct” dominance in SF/fantasy really as bad as you suggest? In a recent blogpost, you mentioned a time in the 1990s when every single novel on the fantasy shelf at B & N was in the “young female magic user with abusive father figure” mold. I have to say I found that rather surprising — what about Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, Sword of Truth? IIRC, those were the big fantasy hits of the ’90s and none of them fit that pattern. Also, is “peaceful matriarchal utopia” fiction all that common? I know about Sheri Tepper’s books and the Holdfast Chronicles, but it hardly seems a huge wave. 

Okay, on the first one – I didn’t even view it as a politically correct thing, though let’s not forget the nineties was the time when a lot of the stores changed the History section to “Herstory.”

I am at a loss as to why people expect me to remember books I didn’t buy twenty years ago. However, some of the books I did buy with that pattern and enjoy despite that pattern were Mercedes Lackey’s fantasies that I want to say had bird names as titles. (I could be wrong. I haven’t re-read them in a long time, and everything is packed. See also how I’m still on pain pills. Much better, but they leave weird holes in my mind.) A lot of the McCaffrey’s also had the same pattern, though hers were science fiction (even if with a fantasy mouth-feel. Oh, and there was a reason for overbearing patriarchy in her roughly medieval world.) I want to say there was also a successful one by Elizabeth Moon, but I hesitate because I don’t remember clearly when books came out.

The point of that anecdote in the post, though, wasn’t what was being written or sold at the time. It was more what was available to me at the time, as the anecdote involved my walking away from the field for a time.

If this was in the mid-to late 90s, i.e. just before I gave up on Barnes and Noble and sf/f altogether, it is important to note that Barnes and Noble was stocking according to the decisions of the tri-state manager. This meant someone in Kansas decided what books I could find in Colorado Springs. These were usually (though at that time not always) the books pushed by the publisher because the tri-state manager was a business man not a reader. (And it was the beginning of what we see now happening to the chains. They could undermine mom and pop’s due to deep discounts on books, but their lack of variety eventually ate them alive.)

By that time my local Barnes and Noble had three shelves devoted to sf/f and the vast majority of these was taken up with media tie-ins, which I don’t read because being abnormal I don’t watch TV/movies. Half of the remaining one third, in those days when reprints still happened were either novels I wouldn’t read (See where my tastes aren’t normal. I MIGHT have read The Wheel of Time if I got desperate enough, but if the audience were all like me it wouldn’t have been a bestseller. I simply could never get into heroic fantasy. I’ll read it if nothing else is available, but I also read the back of shampoo bottles) novels I had read such as, if I’m not misremembering, Lackey, MacCaffrey and the excellent Wizard series by Simon Hawke. I was looking at novels I hadn’t read, which might have been 12 or so that had been stocked in that store. And they were all Lackey/MacCaffrey pale immitations.

This is not so much a “politically correct” thing, except in the sense that a certain group-think that all men were oppressive seemed to have set in among middle aged boomer women. At the time it got me raw because I bore easily. If one of them had had an abusive mother for a change, I’d probably have bought it.

How much of this was the restriction of NY publisher group think, I don’t know. I will note that when I first started writing I had a science fiction novel with a seriously broken, borderline psychopathic male hero. I could never sell it. I heard he was “hateful” and “evil.” HOWEVER when I wrote the main character of Darkship Thieves as a female with basically the same personality, not only didn’t I have issues selling it (granted to Baen) but until I came out of the political closet no reviewer had those problems with the character. This is personal experience, and of course it fits my own internal narrative, but it’s hard to avoid the suspicion the reason there were no evil mothers/sisters is because it shocked the sensibilities of the NY establishment and their attempt to establish a “narrative” of women as always good.

Speaking of which, in terms of peaceful female planets, you forgot Suzy McKee Charnas and Suzette Haden Algin. Heck, the trend is so relevant it has a wickipedia page, here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-gender_world?hc_location=ufi

It is also in TV tropes.

Enlightened Matriarchy – A more benevolent or enlightened rule than patriarchy. A form of non-sexual Author Appeal for certain feminist writers, especially second-wave feminists in the 1970s. On its way to being a Dead Horse Trope, at least for the more extreme versions, as well.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Matriarchy .

 

And it is often the background (together with an imagined pre-historic matriarchy for which there is no evidence and plenty of contrary evidence) for books that aren’t about “women planets” such as the work of Anne Rice.

Frankly being asked to provide examples of both of these – and I’ve had comments demanding this on my blog out of the blue – was one of those indications that a strange twitter storm was going on where the other side had decided to treat my anecdotes about my experience of the field as social history and were demanding footnotes. It was also bizarre, as neither of these trends is secret (no, not even the one of abused-by-father magic users.) It was like being asked to prove that elephant bells were once a thing. Didn’t people wear miniskirts, instead?

And in case this libertarian writer needs to say so, I don’t want to silence either of these trends. It’s the fact that the opposite doesn’t exist, that there is no peaceful and beautiful planet of the men (well, maybe Ethan of Athos – tongue planted in cheek, though Bujold did not make it a hell hole, which is innovative) that is telling of political correctness in the field.

After all, men as well as women can be peaceful or war like. Or, to quote Kameron Hurley, “We have always fought.”

Now is this the writers, or the gatekeepers? I’d guess the gatekeepers, of which reviewers and awards are part.

(7) Getting back to Sad Puppies: I hate to bring up the Vox Day issue, and I know that he’s not part of Sad Puppies per se, but he is perceived as a SP ally (and he’s the publisher of some of the SP authors). Do you think having a perceived connection to Vox lends ammunition to those who want to depict Sad Puppies as a backlash against women, gays, and racial diversity in sci-fi? I’ve seen some of your posts on the subject and I know you’re strongly opposed to the idea that people should be “disavowed” for having the wrong political opinions. Are there any opinions that should be legitimately considered beyond the pale? (Not to Godwin this question, but pro-Nazi sentiment would be one obvious example; or, for instance, approval of slavery.) 

This is somewhat of a mis-reading of my position. I have no problems at all with people being disavowed for having stupid opinions. I have problems with their being kicked out of a professional association for having unpalatable opinions.

In other words, the organization’s goal is not to assure “correct thinking in science fiction” but to work with publishers on improving the writers’ lot. I know for a fact we had members who were jailed for murder, something much worse than thought crime. They weren’t forbidden from joining/kicked out for this crime, nor should they be.

If members of the organization had merely told Vox he was bad, evil and they were telling everyone he was a poopy head, that would be entirely in keeping. And if in pursuance of its function of improving the lot of SF writers, the organization had put out a memo saying “We strongly disagree with Vox’s stated opinions on—” Meh. I wouldn’t care. He is a grown man and says what he thinks, and he knows there will be consequences. Mind you, I’d like to see them say the same about misandrist speech, but that’s not within the abilities of the “elite” in our field at the moment.

Opinions beyond the pale? Absolutely. I consider a lot of them beyond the pale, and so do any number of people.

Forbidden, though? No.

Look, free speech needs no protection when it’s about loving puppies and butterflies. In the same way, say speech “empowering” women and slagging men doesn’t need protection in SF/F. It brings rewards in terms of the person being applauded for courage. I suspect in Imperial Rome speech talking about the awesome power of the Emperor didn’t need protection, either. It’s when you actually do speak truth (or lies, but dissidence, at any rate) to power that you need to be protected. A Roman saying the emperor was just a man who had bunions and bad skin would need protection (which he didn’t have, since free speech was not part of the Roman culture.)

For an example, I find it absolutely appalling there is (or was a few years ago) a group of writers known as “the young communists club” (all about ten years younger than I, but never mind.) Why would you knowingly proclaim allegiance to a system of belief that has caused 100 million deaths around the world? It appalled me more that this affiliation was lauded on various reviews.

Should it be forbidden? Oh, heck no. It’s appalling, as is Nazism or promoting slavery. However, if you forbid that speech, what will you forbid next? And also, isn’t it better for horrible speech to be out in the open where it can be refuted?

I’d argue that America where Mein Kampf isn’t illegal has fewer problems with Neo-Nazis than European countries where it is. (This is just a feeling, from talking to friends. I can’t provide statistics.)

More importantly when I was twelve and ranting about how this or that should be forbidden, my brother who is ten years older asked me “And who decides?” That was when I realized authorities that could forbid things were ALSO only human and therefore could decide things I didn’t agree with. I still haven’t solved this conundrum and therefore will stay on the side of having things – speech included – as free as possible.

On association with Vox: that is an association carefully implied and cultivated by the anti-sad puppy side in the Hugos. After all Entertainment Weekly, The Guardian and the New Republic, not to mention the repulsive Daily Kos all pounded that little drum.

Look, it’s predictable. After all, they can’t in any other way substantiate their racist/sexist/homophobic slurs. Larry Correia is technically and certainly culturally of Portuguese descent. Brad is in an interracial marriage, and even idiots have to laugh at the idea he chose to do this and having a mixed race daughter to disguise his deep racism. I often have gay protagonists (no idea why) and consequently about as many gay fans as Mercedes Lackey, a lot of whom write to me and become at least distance-friends. Half of our slate was female. Some of them were other races/orientations. They weren’t picked because of this, it just happened.

But the end result is that the only way they can justify their unhinged attacks is to tie us to Vox. Now, did Vox help with this by commissioning a similar logo to the Sad Puppies one? No. Did he help with this by copying part of our slate (not hard to do since Brad assembled it in public)? No.

I will even admit there was a sort of rapprochement, not this year but last year, in which he was nice to us because we defended him against SFWA (at least in his understanding.) He asked for review copies of my indie book, for ex, and gave it to followers of his to review. (I have no idea how that shook out, as by the time the reviews were done, I’d taken a look at his blog and decided this was something I didn’t want to be associated with.)

I have no idea if his positions are shock-jockey efforts or his real beliefs. I don’t want to know.

I don’t know what he means to do with the Hugos. I don’t want to know.

We have no more way of controlling him than the other side does. Arguably they unleashed him by kicking him out of SFWA.

My answer to cries of “if you don’t want to be tied to him, stop Vox” is “not my circus, not my monkeys.” I refuse to respond to “let’s you and him fight.” My answer to Vox and anti-Vox is “A plague on both your houses.”

Meanwhile the sane ones among us (well, sane for science fiction) will continue trying to save the Hugos and the image of written SF/F in the world at large.

Right now, for me at least, that passes to getting as many fans to get supporting memberships as possible, so that a wider opinion prevails.

And I’m looking forward to the Hugo nominee packets that will include Kevin J. Anderson, Jim Butcher and Liu Cixin. I’m getting better, and expect to put the health problems of the last few years behind me. I’m already concentrating better and longer, and have undertaken reading some half-forgotten classics, but will move to new stuff soon, and these books will be a great treat. I expect to be quite delightfully stumped as for who should get my vote.

Interview with Cathy Young, Part One

*So in March? April? Cathy young interviewed me about the Hugos, and I gave her my trademark long answers.  Her article is up now, but she’d graciously agreed to letting me post my original answers when it came out, so here it is (not a verification thing, she’s okay, even if she is a journalist.;)  I thought you might want to see it, is all.*

(1) Were you/are you directly involved with the Sad Puppies project, or are you simply a supporter?

I’m a friend of Brad’s and Larry’s and have taken part in a sort of free-floating email discussion of the Hugosplosion since the first one when Larry was doing it for a joke. There was then the second when he set out to prove that people of the wrong opinions/wrong views couldn’t win the Hugo.

That second one included two of my works on the suggested slate. They didn’t make it, partly because I didn’t even mention it to my fans (or at least not the short stories.) And I didn’t mention the short story because I had no idea it was suggested. (It wasn’t one of my best. It’s almost fanfic for my Shifter world.)

Here I must interject that I’ve been very ill for about two years (more, but the very only the last two years) which brought my reading and, unfortunately, my writing to a halt. So some of those emails (and the participants vary because it’s not a conspiracy and people keep adding/dropping people, including friends and spouses) I merely skimmed. I got enough to get Larry’s point, and I defended him from some of the crazy accusations, such as that he was buying votes. BUT I wasn’t participating very actively. I neither nominated nor voted last year, because for a free-lancer health difficulties mean money difficulties, as you probably know, yourself.

When discussion came around to this year, Larry said he’d proved what he wanted last year, and was not running a slate this year. It was mooted that I should. By that time, I knew I’d likely need major-ish (turned out far more major and explained my issues) surgery early in the year. So Brad volunteered. His goal was not the same as Larry. His goal was to reclaim the Hugo as a brand of “something people will want to read.”

Unfortunately, though I bought a supporting membership this year, I didn’t even nominate, because I was dealing with health crisis from December onward, as well as a house move. This will make my answers to some of these questions fairly odd. (Not helped by the fact I’m still in recovery.) Sorry.

(2) What do you think Sad Puppies was primarily a response to: stories getting Hugo nominations/wins for reasons of ideology rather than merit? Or, conversely, worthy sci-fi/fantasy literature not getting nominated because of ideology? Or both? Can you give me some examples of stories or books that you believe won/got nominated undeservedly (other than “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”), and ones that were unfairly excluded?

I can’t speak for the rest of the participants. This is a centerless movement, a lot like the Tea Parties. I know Brad’s goal is to “restore” the awards, and also that Brad is well to the left of me. In Portuguese classification terms, which since it’s all left provides greater amplitude of dividing the left into segments, I’d say Brad is a social democrat. This means he has no objections to the politics in the winners, only to ineptitude.

Now that I think about it, I also have very little objection to the politics (save when they’re predictably boring.) Most of my objection to recent wins of the Hugo doesn’t even rest in If You Were A Dinosaur My Love being nominated. I hate that story because of how it portrays “every man working class” in America (and yes, I know it’s been said this “rough bar” isn’t working class. Because, you know, the Harvard Faculty bar is truly dangerous. I mean, I don’t know about your area, but in every place I’ve lived in the true underclass doesn’t congregate in bars. Flophouses and crackhouses [we had one down the street twenty years ago], maybe, not bars.) Heck, how it portrays every man working class anywhere. My grandfathers were both carpenters and my mom’s brothers were in the trades. It didn’t make them raging bigots, even if one of them had a crude sense of humor.

But it wasn’t what I call the Dinosaur Abomination nor even the fact that for years I haven’t been able to use the Hugo as a guide for what to read that convinced me something had gone very wrong. No, it was Red Shirts win. I’m sorry, that book is at best bad fanfic, and yet it got the honor of being “the best of the year” against, if I remember the year correctly an excellent (ie better than normal) Lois McMaster Bujold book.

I know you’re going to say taste can’t be argued, and this is true, but it prompted me to start looking more closely at the awards, and what I found and had already known at the back of my head, is best encapsulated in my friend Dave Freer’s words, back at Mad Genius Club:

“I used to be a member of SFWA. I used to get the Nebula nominations notifications. They were fascinating, pre 2010… because they listed the names of those who voted for them.

Guess what?

It was all the same names. Jim got nominated by Joe, Mary, Sally, and Charlie. And Charlie got nominated by Jim, Joe, Mary and Sally. And next year lo and behold! Mary got nominated by… yeah, you guessed it. Jim, Joe, Sally and Charlie. And yes, many of the names now screaming in outrage about the ‘evil’ puppies… are the same names. This is not a lie, or conjecture. It’s a fact. Well known, well established and one you can verify. The process is called log-rolling, it’s incestuous, unfair and a very very poor measure of quality.”

I had in fact been advised in workshops to aim to compete in the less “packed” categories where you could more or less buy the award for a couple thousand dollars by buying memberships for friends and family. I THINK – I never engaged in the game – novella was one of the least packed. Ten years ago I had a friend who won at least a short-story award by buying a lot of memberships. (And no, I’m not going to give a name.)

Now, all is fair in publishing and publicity, but when the award bills itself as “the best” in the field, people are going to think the rest is worse/more of the same, and it will turn away new/naïve readers who don’t like the limited selection.

It is in the interest of my livelihood to ensure that the science fiction genre thrives again in books as it does right now in movies and games. You see, I’m a libertarian and not as altruistic as Brad who is a boy scout. I just want to ensure we’re not eating our seed corn.

(3) Following up on (2): I’ve seen the argument (I believe from George R.R. Martin) that last year’s Hugo finalists for best novel were good old adventure stories rather than “message” tracts, and that this shows the Sad Puppy complaints are baseless. Any comment on that?

See the part above where I said I hadn’t had much ability to concentrate on long reads the last two years. However, when Ancillary Justice was praised to the skies and when half of my readers thought it was pretty good, I downloaded the sample from Amazon.

It does show a certain amount of talent. It also has the thumbprints of a first book. The pacing seemed off to me, as did the cueing of where/when the reader is. I chose not to read the rest. In online discussions I keep hearing the story referred to as “a ripping yarn” and “Just good space opera” but two things lead me to believe this is wrong. Even its supporters say “the story gets good after page 40” which if you ever took a fiction writing course is sort of like saying “But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” Second, what I’ll call the pronoun gimmick. The character expresses herself in a language that has only the feminine pronoun, even though the characters have two genders like other humans. This causes a distancing of the reader, in that you keep trying to figure out if this “she” has an innie or an outie. It’s human. You want to visualize the characters. This would be justified if it impacts the plot and so I wouldn’t say anything, if the author herself hadn’t said that there is no plot reason for that “gimmick.” I will not hold her to the words of her fans, who seem to think it’s fitting “payback” for English having the male as default. But they miss that English (indeed, all indo-European tongues) only has the male pronoun as default when the gender is not determined, such as when seeing someone in a fog or talking about someone in the abstract. (I bet they’re the sort of people who think History is His Story. Sigh.)

As for the others, Charles’ Stross does sound like space opera, but until I read the actual book, I can’t tell you if it is, or just a vast tract against capitalism. Mira Grant’s sounds like a horror novel of the aliens within kind (again, not something I can comment on for sure unless/until I read the novel) and well, the Wheel of Time is the Wheel of Time. I’m not particularly enthused by vast heroic fantasy epics, preferring contemporary or historical parallel world novels. I might have read the first few books back in the mists of time before Noah built the arc, but I don’t remember it.

I have read (actually listened to, which makes the attention span and concentration thing easier) Warbound and like it, because it’s a painstakingly built parallel world with intriguing rules and intriguing characters (and no, I don’t like ALL of my friends’ writing. It’s a curse in this field to love someone to death and not be able to read their books. But I like this one [And MHI, natch – not in the answer, because not nominated.)

However, even reading the other descriptions, one boggles at “Why Ancillary Justice” with known flaws and from a less experienced storyteller?

Taste, of course, but how representative is that taste? Hard to tell when only a miniscule group voted on the award.

Offensitivity – Cedar Sanderson

Offensitivity  – Cedar Sanderson

I started out my research for this post looking for the one right word that summed up what I was going to explain. Surely I remembered that there was a psychological term for the people who get a rush out of attacking other people when instigated and when it could be done at little to no risk of harm to themselves? I asked friends, and we all mulled it over… turns out, no, there isn’t a single word. Although the one that Berkeley Breathed invented back in 1982 or thereabouts works nicely for the topic I was addressing.

offensitivity50

I’m talking about the herd mentality, otherwise known as Mob mentality, a phrase first used and described in Mackay’s Memoirs of the Extraordinary Popular Delusions and Madness of Crowds. In this sort of behavior, we see people do things they would never dream of doing to another person on an individual basis. “Groups can generate a sense of emotional excitement, which can lead to the provocation of behaviors that a person would not typically engage in if alone.” Tamara Avant goes on to explain the kinds of people you will find acting in this way, “The greater individuals feel like they identify with a group, the greater the pressures for them to conform and de-individuate become.” And finally, in the list of reasons people begin to herd, we find that they include when “we are surrounded by like-minded people, and/or when emotions are aroused.”

So we find that “As humans, we have instinctual responses that are exacerbated by group influences. What we might not do as individuals we may do as part of a group.  People may lose control of their usual inhibitions, as their mentality becomes that of the group.” In the age of the internet, this may not lead to violence as it did with the witch hunts, but the possibility of shattered lives is still a clear danger, and one that you cannot escape from, seemingly, as internet lynch mobs spring up globally in response to imagined slights.

For that is what I was thinking of when I went looking for the word I wanted. People who hop on a bandwagon because of the mental mechanism that rewards their righteous indignation with a burst of dopamine. It’s addictive, as any athlete will tell you. It’s an all-natural high, a rush, and once you’ve figured out how easy it is to get, you go after more. Humans are clever monkeys in some ways, and in others they never take the time to figure out why they act the way they do.

One of the theories surrounding the actions taken during the Salem Witch Trials sheds some light on the new era of internet mobs, where the ducking and hanging is virtual rather than literal. Dr. Brian Pavlac writes, “Witch accusers acted on a psychological need to blame others for their own personal problems. Drawing on functionalist anthropology, psychology and post-modernist criticism, supporters of this theory argue that witch hunts were therapeutically beneficial for society, since they defined what was right and wrong and rid society of its troublesome marginalized folk, like the old and the poor.”

Feeling some lack in their own lives, then, leads people into following internet trolls. Let’s define a troll, shall we? Psychology Today has this to say: “An Internet troll is someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation. Often, in fact, it seems like there is no real purpose behind their comments except to upset everyone else involved. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response.”  The article goes on to quote from a study performed by Buckels, et. al ” “Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!”

Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sadists. Keep that in mind as I explore a couple of recent outbreaks of internet lynch mobs.  These centered around people who were attacked for ‘misconstrued’ words, attacked by people who were seeking to take offense in order to generate controversy and propagate their own causes. Hence I plan to lead off with Tim Hunt and only use Sarah Hoyt as support material, along with Matt Taylor and possibly one or two other cases. In all of those, you have an agent provocateur who was then joined by an internet mob in a witch hunt.

In all of these cases, once the blood was in the water, the mob fell into a predictable feeding frenzy. Due to the mechanism of dopamine release, which then leads from an autonomous bodily function  and that turns the internet mob into unthinking predators seeking instinctively to harm, rather than employing intelligence and reason in assessing the target of their rages. in the case of Tim Hunt, a single tweet, which contained some half-truths mixed with made-up (lies, if that’s not plain enough) statements purporting to be quotes, started the lynch mob on their crusade that would lead to his career being irrevocably destroyed, despite the whole matter having been revealed to be a baseless calumny.

In the excellent Commentary Magazine article which sparked my interest in writing about this messy situation, Jonathan Foreman explains why it didn’t matter that the tweets and initial news reports were revealed to be falsehoods. “That’s because for anyone with an ax to grind about gender equality or sexism in science, this was one of those stories that the tabloids used to label (jestingly for the most part) “too good to check.” For politically committed editors and reporters, a story that is too good to check is one that perfectly confirms their suspicions and prejudices about those they consider the enemy.” If you will recall, one of the motivations of a mob is to react to the arousal of their emotions, and gender equality is a push-button topic in this modern era, whether it is a valid concern in the developed nations, or not. And to bring this back to the title of my post, the people who made it their job to destroy Tim Hunt?

The coup de grâce came in July with Mensch’s release of a short recording from the luncheon. One can clearly hear applause and laughter in the room as Hunt ends his speech. Apparently out of a hundred guests from around the world, most of them women, the only people who were offended by Hunt’s remarks were a handful of British and American science writers, all of whom happen to be diversity obsessives.

Hunt experienced in less than two months’ time something similar to the process of denunciation, destruction, and rehabilitation that the main character in Milan Kundera’s autobiographical novel The Joke (1967) endured over a period of many years. Set in Stalinist Czechoslovakia, The Joke tells the story of Ludvik, a student who sends a jesting postcard to his girlfriend that concludes with the words “Long Live Trotsky.” Ludvik is actually an enthusiastic supporter of the relatively new Communist regime, but that doesn’t prevent him from being denounced, expelled from college, expelled from the Party, and then sent off to a labor battalion. Ludvik is too young and naive to understand that totalitarian systems have very limited tolerance for humor and see it as dangerous and subversive. Perhaps Hunt was too old and naive to realize that the worlds of science, education, and “science journalism” are policed by people who are not exactly totalitarians but whose obsession with “correct” language and thought is incompatible with humor and intellectual freedom.

It is a phenomenon that combines modern ideology with quasi-Victorian notions of “respectable” behavior and feminine fragility. For these witch-hunters, there can be no toleration of “inappropriate” speech by the contemporary equivalent of “Society.” The wrong kind of joke, breed of joke-teller, or even the wrong political opinion, moreover, creates a “hostile environment” that supposedly intimidates the sensitive victim to such a degree that she cannot function on an equal level.

I highly recommend that you read the full article. It is lengthy, but it will serve as an excellent primer on what the internet witch hunts looks like, and how it literally cannot be stopped with the truth. I do like Foreman’s term of Diversity Obsessive, as that is a perfect way to look at what happened to Matt Taylor, who wore a shirt that a rabid feminist objected to. Note that his boss, who was female, and co-workers, many of whom were female, had no problem with a ‘lucky shirt’ he had worn on previous occasions. The reporter who cornered him for an impromptu interview – he was not expecting to be on television that day – had nothing to say about his shirt. Instead, a blogger half a world away took the time to screencap him from a brief video, blow the screenshot up, and proceed to be loudly offended on the internet. Which led to the man being bullied into public tears as he broke down and apologized for the shirt his good friend – also a woman – had made for him.

Because reality does not matter to the internet mob. Case in point, where MR Kowal accused fellow author Sarah Hoyt of using an ethnic slur.The word she said was a slur? ChiCom, a commonly used abbreviation of Chinese Communist. Since ChiCom is used to differentiate between fellow Chinese factions of differing ideology, ethic is more than just a stretch, it’s a flat-out fabrication. When pressed, MR Kowal then insisted that she had found in one source that the term was held to be derogatory. She ignored the multiple other sources that are more reputable, and do not do more than define the term as I have above. Instead, with less academic prowess than a first-year college student, she insisted that her source was the right one, and led a small mob in denouncing the confused Latina lady whose first language was not English, as racist.

I have no real answers for how best to cope if one is confronted by these kinds of witch hunts. It is clear that the de-individuation of the mob leads to a dehumanizing and instinctive reaction, fueled by the dopamine release they find from the arousal of emotions. While confronted individually, the members of the mob would likely be willing to listen to reason, as a herd, they are no longer rational, interested in seeking the truth, or able to be reasoned with. Confrontation with the truth only leads to more accusations, often of unrelated and imagined sins the mob demands expiation for, without ever stopping to explain what would redeem the target individual. Furthermore, the mobs are egged on and ignited by trolls, who feed off the results to satisfy their own sadism. Fueling the mob energizes the troll to new heights as they scent blood in the water.

It is said that an argument on the internet is not for the benefit of either side – the one in the right will never win, and the troll will never admit they were wrong – but for the bystanders. The important distinction then becomes: at what point are you fighting with a foe who is psychopathic, and willing to do literally anything to cause you harm? There is no point in debate with the mentally ill, and they can harm you. Be aware, and be wary. Know that it doesn’t matter what you say, the grievance seekers will find something they can use to gain the attention they so desperately seek.

The DERP goes on

UPDATE: This is not for an audio book, it’s just a reading.  Yes, I’m tense, I HATE reading.  I have a Yeti microphone.  What I don’t have is a file converter.  My computer recording goes to wma, which WordPress won’t let me upload.  So I used an online converter to mp3.  The original file is if anything too loud.  SIGH.  If anyone knows a safe-to-download converter, tell me.

I was trying to test this before letting ya’ll try it.  yes, I know it’s stupid, but I can’t stand to hear to MY OWN voice.  Hey, I’m a writer.  I’m allowed to be a little derp.

Tell me if you can hear it.  If not, I shall take down and replace.

Something Is Rotten In Goldport

It was a bright and stormy night.  Moonlight glinted off the snow-packed streets, sparkled from the falling flakes, and found an echo in the strings of lights around parking lots, in the lights around lightpoles, and in the light shining from the windows of a diner in Downtown Goldport.

Though the area had recently started on the upswing of gentrification,only that one diner at the corner of Fairfax and Pride was open during what would become known as the New Year’s Blizzard of 2015, the worst in Colorado history.

People inside wore snow boots and draped a multitude of jackets and coats on the back of chairs and booths.  There was no motorized traffic except for emergency vehicles.

Behind the counter a very young man was cooking on a vast industrial range.  A bandana confined his long black hair.  His T-shirt had a picture of a dragon in the back and the words “I rise above.”

One of the waiters, an Asian man, wore a similar t-shirt with a red dragon and the inscription “burn them all”.

Suddenly from deserted parking lot there was a sound of something heavy hitting.  Something say of the rough tonnage of an airliner, but more… meaty.

A young woman yelled from near the back door.  “I can’t believe this.”

Okay, this is written on the fly and is NOT (repeat not) shifters canon.  However, if any of you want to finish this story, just remember it ends with “we’ll never speak of this again.”  Have fun.

I’ve Been To The Desert On A Horse With No Name

And what a long, strange trip it’s been.

And yes, when I heard those in Portugal as a kid I had NO clue they were about drug use.  Heck, it took a lot for me to realize Phillip K. Dick’s novels had drug use.  Yes, I was an innocent little snowflake.

Now considerably less innocent.

So, let’s talk fandom.  I like you guys, obviously.  In fact, I like all of my fans.

I’ve reached the level of name recognition where people embarrass me in my “normal” life, tm.  Like, I’ll be buying something and someone will see the name on my card and say “are you the Sarah Hoyt who–?”  Sometimes it’s for the blog, sometimes is for the books, but every time the person is sweet, polite, nay nice.  Very often they look as normal as everyone else, though they might be Odd and there are often tells for that.

I’ve met fans while at the grocery store, I’ve met fans while having the dishwasher repaired, I’ve met fans while trying to rescue a kitten, I’ve met fans at the laundromat when our washer broke, I’ve met fans when one of the neighborhood power cords frayed, I met fans while checking in to a hotel for a weekend away with my husband, I’ve met fans while having a dress pinned for alterations, and I’ve met fans at the museum.  They seem, by and large, to be well adjusted, normal people with lives and families.

And then there is fandom.  No, no, not truefans, but… close enough.  the people who live, breathe and live for science fiction.  A not inconsiderable cross section of it includes authors, including, alas yours truly.

Sometime ago I was reading the bio of someone who had been a communist early on and who started turning around when he realized “everyone in this room is some nice family’s tragedy.”

Raises hand.  By definition, having married abroad and being very, very weird for a Portuguese chick, I was a burden/puzzle to my family.  A lot of my friends are in the same bandwagon as is a significant section of fandom, possibly including most people here.

Here’s the thing: we were picked on, we stuck out, we had trouble as kids or teens or even young adults.  And we picked ourselves up, turned ourselves around.  Our families might still look aside and say “oh, him,” or “we don’t talk about her” when our names are mentioned, (well, my family turned around when I won a prize, because, hey, other people didn’t think I was crazy.  But all the same.) but we are okay, REALLY.  Most of us have families.  Most of us have jobs.  Most of us are happy and have gotten over the crap we got as teens, except for, of course, preparing our kids to withstand similar onslaught.

I even “get” my family, really.  I mean I had the grades to do anything I wanted (there) and I chose to marry someone (not rich) and move here, and be a writer.  That’s crazy level behavior.  Except I’m okay with it.  I could use more money, but it’s what the Great Move of 2015 was all about.  If we can sell and buy smaller not only do we save money in mortgage, but in heating, cooling.  And time in cleaning.  Now maybe the gambit won’t pay off, but we’re trying.

But apparently there are some people among the really involved fandom who have bigger problems than that.  This is all I’m going to say: I never expected/expect to win a Hugo.  Hell, I never expect to win any awards.  The Prometheus was a shock. I write for me and my fans not for the award.

I didn’t pay much attention — other than avoiding Hugo-winning books like the plague (unless they were written by Connie Willis.) — until they emptied the whole slop pot over Larry with Sad Puppies II.  I hope I’m not falling prey to what Dorothy Grant calls the Myths of Friendship, but I come from a highly tribal culture, in which friendship is a sacred bond.  When you attack my friend, viciously and without any foundation, I’m going to get involved.  Which led to my saying I’d carry SP III, then I got ill and Brad took over and what they did to Brad who is considerably to the left of me and honestly one of the best people I know–

Well.  I thought I was prepared.

I was not prepared for the infantile award show, the cheering of no award and nothing NOTHING could prepare me for the assterisks.

To the science fiction establishment — I’ll help run SP IV because I’d already told Kate Paulk I would help her (she has a full time job and other stuff we don’t need to/I’m not permitted to discuss here.) — if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t even be involving myself in this anymore.  And if you think that’s because you won, you’re wrong.

If I hadn’t fallen in love with Simak and Heinlein, with Bradbury and Asimov at an early age, if I didn’t have fans who love my worlds, and if I didn’t have one of those obligations you can never pay back to Baen, I’d be dusting my sandals and walking away from science fiction and fantasy as one day I walked away from Portugal, as much as I had at one time loved it.  It can be done.  And that show pretending to be representative of my profession and my field gave me a really bit incentive to do it.

I want you to reflect on this.  I love science fiction (and fantasy, but that will always be second.)  I always have.  I kept reading it through the arid years when I had to scrounge the entire bookstore to find ONE book worth reading.  I’ve bought books — some of them by people involved in that sorry spectacle on Saturday — when I didn’t have money for food.

If you drive me out, yeah, your power and the power of your little clique will be safe.  Indeed. BUT IF YOU DRIVE ME OUT YOU’RE DRIVING OUT YOUR BUYING PUBLIC.

About 20 years ago, I had this suspicion that most small sf magazines (guidelines: read us and see what we like) were kept afloat by people desperate for that first sale, that most big name name magazines had about 1/2 subscription from would be writers, and that most sf/f books that didn’t break out of the niche were bought ONLY by people hoping to sell to the publishing house.

I don’t know how accurate that is.  It was just a gut feeling.  And I never seemed to run into any enthusiasm for the books themselves, only for either the writer (if you were currying favor with such) or the book as “what are they buying now” signal.

Then I started working for Baen 12 years ago, and my first few weeks on the bar, I think I actually said, “So this is where the book lovers went.”

There are tons of people who don’t even write, but read.  Avid readers, who know the history of the field and like discussing THE BOOKS.

But they weren’t involved in that sad spectacle last week.  In fact most of us are still shaking our heads at it.

Which brings me to: congratulations.  You probably achieved at least half of your objective — to drive out the people who don’t think/act like you and aren’t part of your groups.  It is heartily to be hoped you won’t live to regret it, but don’t bet on it.

So, the show over, and once I’d gotten over being both mad and sad but mostly sad, we started discussing (Kate and Amanda and I) operational details for next year.  Stuff like how many noms, where do we get recommends, do all three of us have to read something before we recommend it, and oh, yeah, logo? patches? t-shirts?  Incredibly threatening stuff like that, you know?  Since Kate, Amanda and I routinely PM and send each other scads of emails everyday (otherwise known as being ‘thick as thieves’) including on all important topics such as “that cute thing the cat did yesterday”, it barely rose above the ambient noise.

So imagine our surprise when Kate got hacked on facebook, not once, not twice but three times in a 24 hour period and her account started spamming sunglass adds.  Coincidence?  I don’t know guys.  One time, maybe.  But three times, when Kate has pretty d*mn good security?  Bah.

Then Mary Robinette Kowal went after me for being racist by using Chicom.  (Which she somehow still thinks I applied to Cixin Liu — partly because she can’t convince herself he’s not a good communist.  I mean, I have no idea what he is.  He lives in China, so there is a minimum of compliance required of him.  But I know the book was among other things a blistering denunciation of the Cultural Revolution.  And besides, grammatically, I was clearly NOT REFERRING TO HIM.)

She also cherry-picked the ONE dictionary that said it was “derogatory” to claim it’s racist.  This is what’s known as “battle space preparation, I guess.”  Stupid one.  In fact, part of what has been shocking to me is the utter level of stupidity in these attacks.  Guys, when I last dealt with socialists and communists, they were brighter than this.  But I guess it takes being a fanatic to be a true believer after the fall of the SovUnion (Oh, look, another racial slur.  I’m fairly sure it must be one, since it’s a contraction.)  Also, there is such a thing as 3rd generation blight in would-be revolutionary movements.  The first are original thinkers, striking out against the establishment, but by the fourth you have the good boys and girls who just follow what they were told, with no more thought than baby duckling following momma.  This for some reason results in people so dumb that they could give fifteenth generation inbred nobility a run for their money.  Part of why you get hellholes like Cuba and North Korea.  (Yeah, yeah, I know, racist.  But then what isn’t.)

So, Mary Three Names gave me an “apology” which I think would convince a toddler.  A lot of “I forgive you little brown girl for not knowing the word is racist” — I might have paraphrased, but read the original here — and I refuse to accept her kind condescension and whitesplaining.  I’d like to serve warning, though I normally don’t brag about it because I think it correlates poorly to things like building a decent cabinet or managing your finances, that I do have a Mensa card somewhere in the moving boxes and even if I don’t find it and have to renew to post it, you should realize that I AM NEITHER STUPID NOR BORN YESTERDAY.  She manages to claim I “introduced her to a new ethnic slur” yet she wasn’t calling me racist (“I did not have relations with that connotative meaning”) and also that she knows the meaning better than I and all dictionaries out there (derogatory doesn’t mean towards race) and also, reasons, including I’m sure her milky white complexion and liberal-privilege.  Seriously?  That is your go to game?  And your followers are of this caliber?

“@MaryRobinette Offense is defined by the person at whom the comment/slur is directed. Intention isn’t…
twitter.com|By Jack Teng (Author)

Yes, indeed.  He goes on to say intention isn’t important.  So if I use the word, say “potato” and you decide it refers to you and your sub-race or whatever, I’m immediately using a racist slur?

Ah, yeah, no.  That’s not even a logical fallacy.  It’s a stompy foot fallacy from entitled, privileged totalitarians, aka a Red Queen fallacy.  Hint, she was not the hero of the book, okay.  (Oh, and also she wasn’t Native American, just in case you are/decide to play that stupid.)
In fact, I’d like to explain Curds and Whey Mary that the words “racist” and “ethnic slur” also have undergone a change in meaning.  As a linguist (check it, madame) I’m very sensitive to these shifts.  Now it means “I’m winning an argument with a dumb ass so called liberal, but really leftist who is trying to shut me up.”  You know how these things go.  It’s a living language.
Would you believe me I’m not so much angry as disbelieving?  Yeah I’ll make her the butt of everyone’s ridicule if she keeps attacking me and mine (Chill, I found a way to do it that won’t even consume that much time) BUT what upsets me most is the level of “thinking” and “discussion” on display from people who are professionals in my field.
Look, I grew up in a village where you might be poor as churchmice (not true, those were richer) but your curtains are ironed and mended, and your doorstep is VERY VERY VERY clean.  Even if there’s nothing on the table past the curtains.
Metaphorically speaking, this past week our genre in the person of award winning authors, has been hanging out ragged curtains covered in grease stains.  Because they’ve been displaying a lack of understanding of English and even social behavior that would stun middle schoolers.
In signs of hope, some of the opponents of puppies are displaying SOME awareness.  Just like in the mid-78 or so you couldn’t find anyone who had voted for Jimmah Carter, now suddenly, after all the public bragging about not reading any Puppy-nominated books, after the websites for Noah Ward, you can’t find a single leftist who voted Noah Ward without reading.  I’d say this calls for an audit.  I mean, all those non-existing people, voting in a block, it’s like our precincts where more people voted than live there, right?
In other words, I don’t believe them, but at least they have the self-awareness to know they did wrong or at least that other people are shocked at their behavior.
Okay — with all this, I’ve been kind of unsettled.  I”ve also been battling the mother of all auto-immune attacks, that had me literally with raw flesh all over my arms, my back and my belly.  Now this might not seem too bad (some of you saw me with a bad attack at Liberty con a few years back.  Multiply that by 10) but it comes with asthma and joint pains, which means it’s very tiring and makes it hard to concentrate.
Notwithstanding that, I’ve finished the Black Tide Antho Short (Do No Harm)  and am trying to finish Green Eggs and Spam and Thy Mother’s Sins which are overdue.
Then I’ll finish Darkship Revenge and Witch’s Daughter, in whichever order, or possibly at same time.
Right now, I’m going to have some coffee.  And maybe later today there will be zoo, if the Mathematician can leave the taxes be long enough.  Who knows?
Or maybe we’ll do that tomorrow, because we have to go to Denver to see a friend.
Meanwhile maybe some boxes will get unpacked.  And maybe I’ll find time to curl with cats and a good (or even so so) book.
Because at the end of all this, the books are what matters.  The books and the stories.  That’s what brought me into the genre, and it’s the last thread holding me onto it. I must remember that.

Fauxtrage

So, in this post, I said this:

I don’t mean I wish a different set of books/stories had won.  That is only to the extent that the DELIBERATE and PARTISAN slighting of such unexceptionable luminaries as Kevin J. Anderson and Jim Butcher (Yes, yes Three Body Problem.  Well, I didn’t find it worth it, but I bet you half the people who voted for it voted either under the illusion they were favoring Chicoms OR as a slam against the puppies.But quite beyond that the block voting for the clumsy Ancillary “but pronouns” would have won first place if it weren’t Australian Rules) is a blot on the face of our genre and makes me sigh and roll my eyes.

Fully expecting the MASSIVE and AMAZING brains on the other side would come back and tell me Ancillary Pronoun is a great novel, a work of genius, a… blah, blah, blah, to which I would answer with the respect I reserve for leftist lectures, which are the same things they ALWAYS say:

I’ll spring awake at the first original thought, I swear.

For the record, I was wrong.  They DID surprise me.  They went past boring lecture and way past stupid and to full potato.

Mary Three Names, whom I don’t mean to impugn, because it’s becoming clear to me that she has an impairment that prevents her from understanding written language but has nonetheless managed to win three Hugos,

Well done, Mary. That must have taken effort.

leapt to a conclusion probably caused by her impairment and decided “Chicom” was a racial insult.

11933473_10153681687662994_3838355761728418713_nNow, I understand some of the younger people and those who didn’t grow up in Europe during the cold war might NOT know that Chicom is a contraction of Chinese and Communist.  Not a racial slur under any way or form, but a way of specifying these were CHINESE communists, you know, not Russian Communists or Feminist Communists (you know, Mary, Femcoms, you might know some) or any other form of the repulsive ideology.

Now, faced with this cogent accusation, this was my reaction:

And this was my fans’ reaction:

And being the restrained and sweet people they are, a lot of my fans hit twitter and did this at Mary.

Look at the funny woman who thinks Chicom is racist!

At which point — I swear I’m not making this up, Mary said she’d looked Chicom up in “Dictionary.com.”

Are you kidding me?

This is the point at which I started to suspect some intellectual/developmental impairment might be present, even though one would never suspect it from her status in the field.

And then I went to dictionary.com and looked up Chicom.

Chicom
[chahy-kom]

noun
1.
Slang: Disparaging. a contemptuous term used to refer to a Communist Chinese.
2.
a grenade or other weapon manufactured in Communist China.
adjective
3.
of or relating to the People’s Republic of China.
Usage note
Though the term was originally an official military abbreviation, the derogatory slang use originated during the Vietnam War.

“derogatory” apparently to Mary means “racist.”

Wow. You don’t have a very large vocabulary, do you?

I will assume this is lack of comprehension of the reading word is due to some sort of language-processing issue, and NOT to the fact that she assumed that NO one could use a derogatory term for this nice, jolly chap:

But you know, one can’t help thinking — just a little — that before launching a crazy accusation based on her possible misreading of “Chicom” as a slur, she would have wanted to — oh, I don’t know — look it up in other locations.

You know,the free dictionary or  wikipedia, or Merriam Webster or Abbreviations.com or the cross-word dictionary or even, GASP Democratic Underground. WHO FAIL TO LIST CHICOM AS “DEROGATORY” (NO I DON’T KNOW WHERE DICTIONARY.COM GOT THAT EITHER.)

No, Mary was so absolutely SURE I couldn’t possibly have referred to these nice, jolly fellows in what dictionary.com (and only them) defines as a derogatory way,

Now that I know of her impairment, I’ll spell it out again.  Chicom does NOT refer to these people:

Chinese people!

It refers to people who approve of this:

A lot of the people who approve of the regime who did THIS are Western intellectuals, most of them white and exquisitely “educated.”

Now that we have that clear, let’s move on.  You’d think faced with the fact she jumped to conclusions, Mary would have said “Oh, sorry, my bad, I assumed.”  I didn’t even require an apology from her because on her side an apology is viewed as a sign of weakness and a reason to pounce, so of course, she’d never do it.  And also, of course, since I disagree with her and don’t like communists I’m Satan.  So, no, I didn’t expect an apology.  What I didn’t expect was that she would go past potato to full turnip.

A recent photo of Mary Three Names.

But yeah, she decided to double down on stupid.  AND to call in her FOLLOWERS.  Starting with Arthur Chu who started AT full potato.

A recent picture of Arthur Chu, best known for winning some game show which apparently gives him recognition enough to write for Salon and the Daily Beast. Apparently they thought that a good memory equals intelligence.

He jumped into the fray with the mental acumen we’ve come to expect from him:

You’re right, Arthur Chu. We can’t make you up. If you didn’t exist we’d have to invent you. No, wait, no one would believe that load of dumbassery if you didn’t exist.

Let’s take it from the beginning — no I didn’t make it up — go look in any dictionary.  And second, no, it’s not a slur according to most places, you know:

You know,the free dictionary or  wikipedia, or Merriam Webster or Abbreviations.com or the cross-word dictionary or even, GASP Democratic Underground.

I guess dictionary.com thinks it’s “derogatory” to speak disapprovingly of people who DO this:

And I guess Arthur Chu thinks it’s mean to call murderers… Chicoms?

That’s all I’m going to say. That’s cold people. You mean you don’t disapprove of the Cultural Revolution, the Great Leap Forward, the Tienanmen massacre and everything else the Chicoms have done? You want me to be RESPECTFUL and not DEROGATORY of them? Whoa.

BUT beyond that, let’s look at what the revered and intellectual Chu had to say:

To smear WHO? Did I say Cixin Liu was a Chicom? Please read my paragraph again. Feel free to move your lips and follow along with your finger.

What I said was:

but I bet you half the people who voted for it voted either under the illusion they were favoring Chicoms OR as a slam against the puppies.

That is I said — let me repeat it SLOWLY — that you idiots in voting for the three body problem thought you were voting for Chicoms.  The use of “illusion” should tell you I don’t think so.  Tell me what part of this smears Cixin Liu?  Was he perhaps your primary education teacher and responsible for your reading comprehension?

No.  As the Author of the Three Body Problem, he knows damn well that he had to battle official disapproval in a country that’s far from free, just to be allowed to dream.

Since the book is set during the Cultural Revolution and portrays the problems of doing science under a dictatorial and murderous regime, it’s not exactly kind to Chicoms.  You know, these guys:

YOU THINK THE BOOK APPROVES OF CHICOMS? DID YOU READ THE BOOK?

In fact, at this point I must confess part of what turned me off from the book is that I’ve read a lot about that time period — and the French Terror, and the Stalinist Terror, and — and there is a certain dread of reading more about it.  It HURTS to read about that much death and destruction and pure evil. (Beyond the fact that I am not crazy for hard sci fi unless I’m in the mood.) Lots of my friends loved The Three Body Problem. ( As did Vox, but I guess we won’t hold that against the book.)

But you?  If you think Chicom is a derogatory term or applies IN ANY WAY to Cixin Liu (beyond the necessary to survive in his homeland?), DID YOU READ HIS BOOK?  Or, you know, were you just being asshats?  Or didn’t you vote for it?  Or, given the mull you made of what I said, are you in fact illiterate?

If you have reading difficulties, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions. And you shouldn’t make fools of yourselves all over twitter.

Because,you know, then you lead your followers who are, if possible even dumber (or perhaps more trusting) than the fabled brain consortium of Arthur Chu and Mary Three Names to say crazy sh*t like this:

“Alyssa Wong @crashwong · 2h2 hours ago
Dear Sarah Hoyt,
Don’t call anyone a Chicom. It’s not clever, funny, or cute.
Any admiration I had for you has burnt.”

Dear Alyssa Wong, FUNNY?  CUTE? what in HELL do you think I’d find funny or cute about this?

The Cultural Revolution in full glory.

I wasn’t making FUN of Chicom.  I was pointing out that people like Chu and Kowal and their camp followers just might be stupid enough to think Chicoms are cool and quite capable of voting for a book VOX DAY RECOMMENDED because they thought it was a paean to Chicoms.

And yes, I know, now they’re going to say I shouldn’t make fun of Alyssa Wong.  That’s nice.  You shouldn’t lie to ignorant babies like her who are STUPID ENOUGH TO BELIEVE YOU.  I bet she never read my original post, either.

But since writing is hard too, I have a really hard time convincing myself that someone literate enough to write books, like Mary Three Names CAN be so dumb as to misinterpret THIS:

but I bet you half the people who voted for it voted either under the illusion they were favoring Chicoms OR as a slam against the puppies.

(BTW, Miss Wong, for the reading impaired, the only people that paragraph calls Chicoms?  Are the Chicoms.  You know, Mao and company.  Seriously.  Parse it.  I didn’t even call the idiots who thought it was Chicom and voted for it because of that Chicoms.  I wouldn’t call even idiots something that bad.)

I also don’t believe a MERELY stupid person would go all over twitter proclaiming that someone is racist without checking more than one source. Or accidentally pick, first time out, the only source that calls this word “derogatory.”  That’s a hell of a draw, Mary Three Names.  Hell of a draw.  You should buy the lottery.

I believe in fact that you were attempting to do battle space preparation for the coming Hugo award contest.

11889448_1145875835429433_3787911293098758337_nDear Mary Three Names — Arthur Chu MIGHT be dumb enough to not have understood what I wrote, but you’re not — this meant you’re willing to slander someone’s reputation over this:

And power.

You’re willing to connive, lie to the ignorant and pretend to be a total idiot, FOR THE CHANCE AT A PLASTIC ROCKET. And for a chance to continue controlling who gets the plastic rocket. Because striving for it in the normal, meritocratic way is beneath you, Mary.
Congratulations, Mary. This man would have been proud of you. He too thought he was more equal than others:

Granted your evil is tiny compared to his, but the general attitudes are the same.

As for me, and the other people you have slandered, attacked and smeared in your quest for power, over the last few years, I have one thing to tell you.

Every time you think of a clever slander, every time you’re ready to twist someone’s words, every time you’re ready to attack, because your shriveled little soul needs power to make you think you’re relevant? JUST SHUT UP.

Write your books, enjoy the admiration of your followers and leave me and mine alone.

Because if you don’t, you might make me pay enough attention to you to find a way to retaliate and trust me when I say this: if I have to give up my writing time to deal with your idiocy, I’ll get really creative about it, Mary.

Metaphorically, of course. But trust me, you really, really, really will not enjoy it.

And now, having dealt with the sort of mind that slanders all Chinese with the title of Chicom  by claiming it’s their race I’m insulting? The type of mind who would try to destroy someone because the someone talks back to her?

Because, Mary, using a reference to a regime that massacred millions of humans to slander someone with “racism” — that’s not funny or cute, and you’ve totally lost any admiration I might have had for you.

Also, any claim to the benefit of the doubt. You might think you’re cute and endearing, but at your age it won’t wash.  It’s time to grow up now.

Right now my annoyance at you is outweighed by my wish to write. I’ve only half-engaged you.  Notice I’m not on twitter, because I have books to write and the cat fights of the sorority BORE me. I only hear of your shenanigans through my fans.

But you could get my full attention if you continue with the Fauxtrage.  You could get my FULL attention to your pathologically manipulative utterances.  You could get me to become your biggest un-fan.  Sure, it will burn my career because I won’t have time to write, but when I’m done, you’ll be the laughing stock of the world.

Because, Mary, darling, in your social media presence? you’re not clever nor cute.  Most of the time you’re at best pedestrian.

And before you scream “stalk” or “dox” — Mary, Mary, you’re not that stupid, are you? — No, I just mean take your tweets and SHOW them to people.  People outside your circle.  You know, like what you do to me and others.  Only in your case I won’t have to twist their meaning.  Because, Mary, you’re amazing.  And not in a good way.

Like, remember when you called legends of Science Fiction and wished they would die?  Yeah, Mary.  The internet never forgets.

Be told!

UPDATE: Mary Three Names (Good Lord woman, don’t you know that’s a cartoon villain?) is protesting in an unapproved comment that I didn’t let her “apology” yesterday out of moderation.  I didn’t because it starts with a lie “I didn’t call you racist.”  This means either in Three Name Land “ethnic slur” has a different meaning from in everyone else’s or she’s a disingenuous serpent.  (Any bets, guys?)  OR she thinks she can get away with semantic games here.  “I didn’t call you ‘racist-racist'”  I don’t approve posts that START with this kind of sh*t anymore than I approve the ones that start with obscenities.  However since she INSISTS I’m tempted.  What say you guys?

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: I’ve approved it.  Lord what tripe.  She absolves me for not knowing it was racist.  I challenge her to show a post not by her followers implying it was in any way racist.  Dictionary.com says it’s derogatory because they’d like us to be respectful of commies, of course.

And Mary Curds and Whey, way to whitesplain to this tan immigrant.  Well done.  Patronizing returned to sender.

Pointless Discrimination – Christopher Nuttall

Pointless Discrimination – Christopher Nuttall

 I’m going to start with a question and I would like you to consider it carefully before answering.

Is discrimination ever a good thing?

I suspect that most people will say, in a kneejerk response, no. And they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. Irrational discrimination is always wrong. But there is also such a thing as rational discrimination.

Consider the following example. You’re the manager of a mid-sized swimming pool. You have to hire someone to serve as a ladies changing room supervisor and you have a choice of four candidates; a straight man, a gay man, a straight woman and a lesbian. They are equal in every way, save for their gender and sexual orientation. Which one do you pick?

Unless you want to be arrested, sued or simply lose customers, you’ll go for the straight woman. She’s the only rational candidate for the post.

Ok, maybe that’s too strong an example. What about this? You’re the boss of a small computer company, faced with a choice between two candidates. One is a middle-aged white man with 20 years of experience, the other is a newly-graduated black woman with high marks, but no actual experience? Which one do you pick?

You go for the man, of course. You’re a small company. You can’t afford the time to train up a newcomer, no matter how much promise she shows. A person with 20 years of experience will probably be far more useful than a newcomer. He’s the only rational candidate for the post.

Here’s a third example. You’re the manager of a greasy fast food eatery. You have five male candidates, two of whom happen to be black, for a beginner-level opening in flipping burgers, pouring shakes and asking if anyone wants fries with their meal. Again, there’s nothing else separating them from the other three. Which one do you pick?

Any of them, of course. Skin colour has no bearing on their ability to do the job. Choosing a candidate purely because he’s white or black is an irrational choice.

My point is this. If you happen to be searching for someone to do a job, you look for the ability to do the job. Sometimes, those abilities are inherent; the straight woman of the first example has an edge because of how she was born. At other times, those abilities will grow and develop; the graduate of the second example, assuming she stays in the field, will eventually have 20 years of experience of her own.

(At this point, of course, we run into an issue I had when I was job hunting myself. You need experience to get a job – and the only way to get experience is to get a job. Why not offer the young graduate a chance? To which the manager might reply “we’re here to run a company, not offer chances. Why should we take a loss – and we will – just because someone who knows nothing about running a company feels we should?”)

Ok, you may ask. What is the point of this?

There’s an argument going on (it flares up from time to time) that suggests we should choose our reading based on the author’s skin colour, gender, sexuality, nationality, etc. You’ve probably seen quite a few articles insisting that straight white authors are horrible people who are forcing people of colour out of the marketplace …

To which I reply; hogwash!

Be honest with me here. How many of you actually know the skin colour of your favourite authors? More to the point, how many of you actually care?

I don’t, not really. I’ve met a few authors, seen Facebook pictures of others, but I can’t say I know what the vast majority of my favourites look like. All that matters to me is how they perform on relevant issues – and, where writing is concerned, it’s the ability to tell a good story in the genres I enjoy. Nothing else is important.

The only kind of ‘diversity’ that matters in the writing world is the sub-division of ‘literature’ into genres. A science-fiction writer is very different from a romance writer. Someone who is a fan of one genre may not be a fan of others. That does not mean that a writer who writes romance is a lousy writer, merely someone who has failed to capture a science-fiction fan.

The number of readers who make up the writing world is vast. Even JK Rowling hasn’t managed to sell a book to everyone, let alone win total approval for her books. There isn’t a book in existence that doesn’t have both a devoted fan and someone who wouldn’t lower themselves to use it for toilet paper. A writer doesn’t have to sell a book to even 1% of the total reading population to make a good living – and smart writers accept, right from the start, that not everyone likes their work.

I do not believe that gender, sexuality, sex colour or religion makes any real difference to the writing world. The only thing that matters is that they are good writers.

The suggestion that the publishing industry should be more ‘diverse’ is both harmful and pointless. It is harmful because it suggests, very strongly, that ‘non-white-male’ authors cannot get published without assistance. It is pointless because non-genre diversity simply doesn’t matter to writing. A ‘non-white-male’ author who gets published through any form of so-called positive discrimination, as opposed to writing skill, is in for a nasty shock when the book starts receiving independent reviews. As I’ve said before, the definition of success is success. Awards don’t matter, plaudits don’t matter … all that matters is satisfied customers.

Is the publishing industry reluctant to publish books by ‘non-white-male’ authors? I don’t think that’s actually true, but the recent changes in the industry render it pointless. There’s nothing stopping each and every ‘non-white-male’ author publishing their own books on Amazon Kindle or any other self-publishing platform, nor is there anything stopping them from changing their pen-name to ‘John Smith’ and not including a photograph. If they genuinely believe it’s a problem, they could hide their sex, race or religion. They would be judged by nothing apart from their writing.

Or, of course, they could hold competitions that only ‘non-white-male’ authors are allowed to enter, thus cutting down the number of entrants and making it dependent on factors that have nothing to do with writing …

… Which isn’t a real victory. But anyone who wants to host one of those contests has anything, but the interests of the writing world at heart.

Race to the Bottom

So I was going to write a post about what I started calling Science Fiction’s Great Divorce a complicated and therefore long-delayed post, but, so, this happened on twitter.

 “Mary Robinette Kowal @MaryRobinette · 12h12 hours ago Thank you to Sarah Hoyt, for introducing me to “Chicom,” which was an ethnic slur I didn’t know.”

And here is the screenshot, as apparently the tweet has gone down the memory hole, or at least some can’t find it (I don’t respond for the tech competency of my minions.)

11933473_10153681687662994_3838355761728418713_n

Now, a word of explanation for those of us who don’t speak a foreign language, learned as an adult fluently.  Those of us who do have special “head boxes” for things like swear words or ethnic slurs.  This is because those words have a strong charge that we don’t FEEL because it was not “forbidden” as a kid, so we need to wall them off extra strongly.  (For instance, the words d*mn and h*ll are not swear words in Portuguese and I have to watch myself not to use them in casual conversation.)

So when I read the above I went to box marked slurs and the only thing I could figure was that I MIGHT on FB have said something intemperate about the Chicago con com.  I have no idea why I would, since they’ve never done me any harm, but in the heated post sad display at the Hugos someone might have said something and I might have blasted.  (Am Latin.  Have temper.)

So I posted this:

Dear Ms. Mary Three Names, what in HELL are you talking about? How could I introduce you to a word whose meaning I don’t KNOW, slur or not? Perhaps you should take a powder and swoon already. Mary Three Names: “Mary Robinette Kowal @MaryRobinette · 12h12 hours ago Thank you to Sarah Hoyt, for introducing me to “Chicom,” which was an ethnic slur I didn’t know.”

Which in village terms is the equivalent of jumping to the middle of the street hitting my left hand with the back of the right.  (A gesture for which mom would spank heck out of me, so I presume it’s simulated copulation?  No one ever told me.)

Then people in comments mentioned I’d used it on my post on burning down the hugos, and I realized that dumb bunny (Sorry, but all presumption of intelligent but misinformed just went out the window) thought that Chicom — as in Chinese communist, a common term to distinguish them from the RUSSIAN COMMUNISTS in Europe (often referred to as the Sovs when I was young) was suddenly a “racist slur.”

I added this to my post, so it was clear the multiply Hugo-nominated and I think three time Hugo Winner Mary wasn’t a liar, merely addled:
UPDATE: My attention has been called to the fact that I used the word in a post. I used it exactly as “Chinese Communist” — when I read it was an ethnic slur, mind went blank as I don’t know the word as an “ethnic slur.” (Yes I have compartments for words in my head. Probably the result of being ESL. Never mind.)

And yep, when I’m hit with something like this, I’ll come up blank, just like I’ll blank out if I’m talking to mom on the phone in Portuguese and Marshall speaks to me in English, which happened just yesterday.  I have to ask mom to hold, cover the phone and ask Marsh to repeat, because until I change “the tape in my head” (yep, dating myself) I don’t understand English.  My husband got used to what he calls “changing tapes” lag when I’m in Portugal and surrounded by family gabbing in Portuguese.  He addresses me, or just calls my name, then waits till I “change tapes.”  Then repeats.

BUT anyway, it highly amuses me that I’m now racist for referring to Chinese communists.

I guess it’s the narrative now.  I MUST be racist, because otherwise they would have no reason to hate my attempt at disrupting their just-so club.  To put this in perspective, this is akin to an all-white club rejecting a Latin member and accusing them of being racist against Chinese.  VERY good.   Slow clap.  One doesn’t know whether to admire them for their inventiveness or their shamelessness.

One does know that one stands ready to expose every one of their attempts to take things out of context and be insane.  Because one is JUST that helpful.  Also because I learned my art of argument in the village, watching the fishwives.  (Smacks left hand with back of right.)  So, (puts hands on hips) be aware.  One thing my grandma taught me is that the more one bows, the more one exposes one’s *ss, so I’m not bowing and not submitting to your idiotic slurs.  One advises you to stop now, if you know what’s good for you.  Or do carry on.  It will be good for a laugh.

AND if they’re as funny as this, they’ll be pure comedy gold.

Yes, guys, I’m racist because I oppose communism.  Sing it with me “I am racist against an ideology that’s not an inborn characteristic, but the characteristic of those choosing to throw their lot in with a movement that, to date, has killed 100 million people and stands ready to continue its work.”

Yes, Mary Three Names.  I’m totes racist against communists.  The miasma of the yawning graves filled by communism makes me gag too hard to tolerate them.  I’m racist against fascists too.  And any others who would keep humanity in chains.

It’s just the sort of b*tch I am.  You got me.