Asking SF readers to try something new is asking for trouble

K. Tempest Bradford has a modest proposal for (science fiction) readers ot broaden our reading horizons:

The “Reading Only X Writers For A Year” a challenge is one every person who loves to read (and who loves to write) should take. You could, like Lilit Marcus, read only books by women or, like Sunili Govinnage, read only books by people of color. Or you could choose a different axis to focus on: books by trans men and women, books by people from outside the U.S. or in translation, books by people with disabilities.

Science fiction readers responded to this with the openmindedness and willingness to explore new things for which they’re kno-oh gods who am I kidding:

Recently I wrote a thing which brought all the trolls to the yard. I’m used to it, but I wondered what it would look like if I just started saving the hateful tweets people send me in one place. Hateful being attacks on me personally, name calling, threats, etc.

The repeated chorus of how racist or sexist it is to not read white male authors is followed by racist, sexist slurs is …precious. Horrifying but unsurprising to see the slurs, but do these people actualy understand “racist” and “sexist” have an actual meaning?

Sady Puppy wrangler Larry Correia contributed his own very special brand of stupid (from File 770):

But the ironic thing about that picture? Tempest is wearing a Dr. Who shirt. A TV show about a white man and his white female sidekick, created by some white men, with episodes written by… Neil Gaiman.

Never mind that the good Doctor has also had a black British sidekick, or regularly has had adventures with a lesbian lizard woman from the dawn of time and her companion, the idea that reading only writers of colour or only women for a year meaning that you swear off all white men is just so incredibly dumb that you hope Larry doesn’t believe it himself, but you fear he does.

Professional kulturkampfers like Correira of course have to oppose anything that smacks of enlightment, but is it really too much to ask from grownups to stop being so incredibly defensive and be open to new reading experiences?

WTF, have you even seen it?

One William Lehman wrote something stupid about Star Trek:

Say what you will about the SJW Glittery hoo ha crowd, they get this. I speculate that they get it because while we (the guys that grew up watching STOG and said “Hey those doors are COOL, how would you do that for real? Those communicators, could you do that?) went to engineering and hard science classes and started building the future that we wanted, the aforementioned individuals where going to the soft sciences (not real sciences at all in my NSHO) and studied how cultures work.

David Gerrold who, as you know Bob, was actually there at the time as one of the scriptwriters, slapped him down quickly:

I was there. I know what Gene Roddenberry envisioned. He went on at length about it in almost every meeting. He wasn’t about technology, he was about envisioning a world that works for everyone, with no one and nothing left out. Gene Roddenberry was one of the great Social Justice Warriors. You don’t get to claim him or his show as a shield of virtue for a cause he would have disdained.

Most of the stories we wrote were about social justice. “The Cloud Minders,” “A Taste Of Armageddon,” “Errand Of Mercy,” “The Apple,” “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” and so many more. We did stories that were about exploring the universe not just because we could build starships, but because we wanted to know who was out there, what was our place in the universe, and what could we learn from the other races out there?

A very Annie Hall moment:

Of course for those of us who paid attention to sf fandom during that time and long after, the idea of Star Trek of all things hold up as an example of hard science fiction ruined by the social justice warriors, is hilarious. Quite a few fans, the sort of people now screaming about SWJ’s, had no time for the series whatsoever while its fandom was literally run by their greatest enemy: women.

It’s all part of an inept kulturkampf of course, run by people with the barest connection to science fiction fandom as a sort of out of control offshoot of Republican fundraising. The worst part about it is that useful idiots like Lehman actually believe the nonsense they spout.

GamerGate will get somebody killed someday soon

This is horrifying:

Game developer Brianna Wu has been stalked, tormented, and harassed by GamerGate—the amorphous reactionary movement centered around video game journalism—for months now. But it’s never been as frightening as it was this weekend—when she watched a terrifying video made by a deranged fanatic who claims he crashed his car on the way to her home. “I’m worried my husband and I are going to die,” she tells me.

On the one hand it’s tempting to laugh at a wanker like “Jace Connors”, who embody all the stereotypes of the Internet Hard Man, up to and including saying was in the navy SEALS but still has to drive his mom’s car, but it becomes less funny if you’re the intended victim of this wackadoodle. A bit like ISIS has done in the Middle East, GamerGate is providing angry losers with an “ideal” to harass, threaten and possibly kill for, a direction for their rage. Most of it is sound and fury signifying nothing, but there only needs to be one loon who’s slightly better organised than “Connors” to create a tragedy.

And judging from this incident, it is not an idle worry. These people are tapping out of the same reservoir of rightwing anger that e.g. anti-abortion activists are drawing from. There are a lot of angry, confused young men who’ve latched on to GamerGate or similar causes in other parts of nerddom *cough* Sad Puppies *cough*, who are clearly comfortable with harassing women on Twitter in the worst possible ways and who are only one step away from continuing that harassment offline.

#MetalGate: you’re joking, right?

I saw some brief references to #MetalGate on Twitter before the weekend and assumed it was GamersGate loons trying to stir shit. I was right:

Similar to how “#Gamergate” was coined by Adam Baldwin while linking to videos about Zoe Quinn’s sex life, then famously retconned to actually be about ethics in journalism, the origins of #Metalgate seem to be unimportant. #Gamergate has established a template. Throw a hash in front of a word and a “-gate” behind it, and you send out a veritable Bat-Signal to thousands of angry people on the internet: “Social Justice Warriors are doing… something. We may not be clear on what they’re actually saying or doing, but they must be stopped.”

Proof once more, if any was needed, that GamersGate is just another rightwing kulturclash project, just another attempt by “South Park Republicans” and professional culture warriors to seem even vaguely relevant and use the fears and prejudices of unthinking white men to get some sort of rightwing cultural backlash going, gain some foothold in youth culture. Yes, it’s all sound and fury and rape threats that accomplishes nothing except the harassment of more women but hey, it beats working for a living.

So much for the inevitable truth of the market

Vox Day has been talking smack about John Scalzi and his sales again, you know the schtick: “nobody really likes him the real proof of a good writer is how well he sells all a conspiracy he’s on the bestseller list people like Larry Correira sell much better blah blah blah”. Funny thing that, according to John Walker in a comment at File 770:

Well, according to Bookscan Larry’s sales are in freefall. His first mm pb book sold some 51,000 copies, but that was back in 2009, which was an entire different publishing world, then. His latest book in mass market? 3500 copies, at best. He seems to be trading on past success,but honestly most of his books (and his compatriots) are selling poorly. Hoyt’s latest? 200 copies. Freer’s? 600 copies. If anything a lot of this is just knee-jerking on their part, and suggestive that perhaps they should figure out why their sales are plummeting, instead of picking on others for their misfortunes.


Worse, as Nick Mamatas shows in comments at James Nicoll’s, Sarah Hoyt isn’t doing well either, downright awful in fact:

231 copies for a book released in July by a mainstream publisher, by an author with a number of series and award nominations, and whose blog posts receive 100s of comments, is a big problem. But it doesn’t appear to be far from wrong, given the other available information.

The only possible conclusion you can draw from this is that all the rightwingers who like to hang around at Day’s, at Hoyt’s, like to talk a lot and give it all that with their circlejerks about how nobody likes all those politically correct gamma authors and it’s only the effeminate critics at whatever the latest target of their ire is who pretend they are popular, seem damn reluctant to acually, you know, buy the books of the authors that they supposedly support.

Rightwingers are moochers. They only wage culture war if it’s free or if they can get wingnut welfare for it, but actually spending money? Never.

If you don’t want to be judged by your words, shut up

Current SFWA president Steve Gould smack down its rightwing critics:

Just as SFWA doesn’t control what members and non-members say in non-SFWA spaces, it also doesn’t control what members and non-members say in response to members’ public comments, statements, essays, and blog posts. When persons say things in public that others find objectionable, it is likely they will receive criticism and objections. There is an odd misconception among some that Freedom of Speech includes freedom from the consequences of one’s speech and freedom from commentary on what one has said.

The idea that you be free to be a bigot, but that I shouldn’t be free to judge you on it is of course a cherished one amongst wingnuts, but not one we need to take seriously. Not even if it makes Glenn Reynolds cry, who I see is still up to the same old schtick I called him out on in the New York Times more than a decade ago. Being silent in the face of bigotry is a political choice.

Rather than give wingnuts the benefit of the doubt, try these

John Scalzi gets it wrong with the Hugos:

Please also keep in mind that even if you believe that the list is a cynical exercise, there are people and work on that list who may be well worth consideration, who may or may not have even known they were part of (or would have consented to) being part of a cynical exercise. Consider that you would be doing them (and the Hugos) a disservice to dismiss them out of hand. I’ve seen rumblings of people suggesting they’ll put everyone on the Correia/Day slate below “no award” no matter what, but if you’re doing that, you’re making these fellows’ alleged point for them. Again: Why do that? It’s nearly as easy to read a work (or at least, read as far as can) and decide it’s just not for you. And if it is for you, well. Surprise!

No, you can’t and shouldn’t attempt to judge books or stories on merit that are on the shortlist as a political gesture. You can’t take the politics away and any gesture at judging on “merit” is naive or disingenious. If you don’t want the Hugo to become yet another front in the rightwing war on culture, the only sane thing to do is reject any and all of these nominations. Pretending that doing anything else is value neutral or objective harms those this stunt was aimed at, the women, people of colour and others whom the initiators want to drive out of science fiction. As Rose Lemberg argues, doing so also marginalises yet again exactly those voices:

Also, conciliatory statements often have the effect of diverting the attention yet again (along with the accompanying social praise and support) from the marginalized voices to the power brokers, thus increasing the social capital of those who already have it, while marginalized voices go unpromoted and unsupported – unsupported often in context of vicious attacks from those who deny Diversity Age fans their personhood.

People like Vox Day and Larry Correia and, yes, John Scalzi already get too much attention and consideration just for being straight white males, with all the privileges that entails (something which Scalzi to his merit of course has long realised). Even being outraged at the Correia/Day stunt is once again talking about the same sort of people we always talk about, rather than the people we should be talking about more.

So who and what should we be talking about? Here are some suggestions for further reading:

Anything else that should be on this list?

Dutch rightwing politician thinks rape won’t make you pregnant

In a bid to show that Dutch (rightwing) politicians can be just as thick as their American counterparts, the leader of the SGP (the explicitly rightwing Christian party) argued that rape won’t make you pregnant:

‘Women seldom get pregnant as a result of rape and that is a fact,’ orthodox Christian party SGP leader Kees van der Staaij told a tv programme on Tuesday.

He was reacting to a question about the furore in the US around similar remarks made by Republican congressman Todd Akin.

Van der Staaij said rape is dreadful and recognises the huge consequences for the victims, but his party remains against abortion. ‘We are, under all circumstances, for the unborn life,’ he told the RTL programme.

The SGP has long been ignored and tolerated by Dutch politics as a whole, a principled party that stood for a largely neglected part of the Dutch population, the socalled bible belt. Their views may be old fashioned, even reactionary, but who cares, they’ll never get into government anyway. Which meant that for decades they’ve been able to e.g. get away with not giving women voting rights within the party, while recently, due to the minority rightwing government, it has had an undue influence on government policy in return for its support. So far this has luckily been minimal, but the mere fact that van der Staaij felt comfortable to utter these statements on public television shows the growing confidence of the party.

Be disappointed in Heinlein all over again

If there really was one taboo subject in the old Usenet days of discussing science fiction, it was doubting the genius of Robert Heinlein. there were always acolytes and fanboys aplenty to explain away the homophobia, misogyny or racism that cropped up again and again in his work, or excuse the flawed logic or inconsistencies that could be found in them. Times have changed though and as new generations of sf readers have grown up, Heinlein has lost much of his former prominence in science fiction. Which means there has been room to start seeing the real Heinlein, not the idealised picture his fans have build up around him.

Ironically, it’s the self same fans who are helping to tear this picture down, as they are the only ones dedicated enough to publish things like a never send letter to F. M. Busby about freedom and race relations (PDF, starts at page 68). It’s full of gems like this:

Nor do I feel responsible for the generally low state of the Negro—as one Negro friend pointed out to me; the lucky Negroes were the ones who were enslaved. Having traveled quite a bit in Africa, I know what she means. One thing is clear: Whether one speaks of technology or social institutions,
“civilization” was invented by us, not by the Negroes. As races, as cultures, we are five thousand years, about, ahead of them. Except for the culture, both institutions and technology, that they got from us, they would still be in the stone age, along with its slavery, cannibalism, tyranny, and utter lack of the concept we call “justice.”

Which is straight out of any angry white nerd’s rant against political correctness ever written. So when was it written? 1964.