Here’s a bizarre little story. In 2013, ten percent of a major science fiction / fantasy organization votes for a man who later turns out to be organizing neo-fascists and miscellaneous hate groups. The organization later ignores a complaint about the man sending extreme hate speech over an official Twitter feed, and then takes ten weeks of debate before it decides to expel him. In 2014, a publishing company is started by this man — in Finland, of all places. In 2015, a rather surprising number of people are mobilized to take an action that shakes the science fiction / fantasy community — a hijacking of the Hugo Award nominations.
I’m not using the name of the person here partly because everybody’s sick of talking and thinking about it, partly because the person has already too much publicity, and partly because the person appears to be using that publicity to draw fascists to his site. You can certainly google it, but in the words of author Amal El-Mohtar, only do it “if your day is suffering from a surfeit of happiness and sunshine.”
But I will give the context: for the last three years, a group called the “Sad Puppies” have published a slate of candidates to be nominated for the Hugo Awards, in protest against what they see as the “establishment.” This year, though, somebody else jumped on board with a “Rabid Puppies” slate, almost identical to the “Sad Puppies” one and made a call-out to the Gamergate folks. (That somebody is the same one who was expelled for hate speeech.) Now, some of the awards are populated exclusively by Sad Puppy and/or Rabid Puppy nominations.
So I got curious about the Rabid Puppies story. For such an organized action to succeed suggests to me that somebody has money they’re throwing around for some purpose beyond their stated goals.
So that’s how I accidentally started reading a blog I never would otherwise. And oh, my. It’s kind of like somebody went to the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, and decided to see how many varieties of hate speech they could include.
But I let’s go back a minute. I said neo-fascist, and here’s why. It’s an excerpt from the blog, in a section on how to submit to the publishing house.
It doesn’t say, “Hello, fascists, come join our publishing house!” But it’s suspiciously close.
The first full sentence here is a question addressed to the owner of the publishing house, and the second is the answer. With some help from Google Translate and a friend knowledgeable about fascism, I got the general gist. “How do Italians see the core difference between Nazism and Italian Fascism, beyond the added-on race stuff?” “I don’t believe this question is appropriate here, but in any case, I recommend such-and-so book by such-and-so author.”
Such-and-so book explains that the failure of the glorious leadership of Mussolini and co. was caused not only by military defeat but also by the supporters not being wholly committed to the cause.
It would be a bit dodgy to go calling somebody a neo-fascist for a statement like this, so I didn’t. But there’s more. Here’s a secondhand account of some holocaust-denial, ethnic cleansing hate speech that is no longer online.
And here’s some more hate speech commentary on a terrorist attack in which actual children were actually killed. This is from August 10, 2013.
These other groups, they’re not just mucking around in the field of books. No, they’re trying to ban immigrants of color, they’re hoping for a medical “solution” for homosexuality, they’re beating their wives at home. There are some real-world consequences for these views, which is exactly why hate speech is illegal.
And of course, fascism in its “Golden Age” was all about military and killing and all.
As you might expect, I quite naturally felt a bit alarmed at the thought of organized neo-fascism in the science fiction and fantasy community.
Fortunately, author N.K. Jemison calmed me down somewhat by giving some historical perspective. See, I was thinking of fascism in science fiction as this new thing that’s popping up, but really, it’s just an attempt to return to business as usual, to the “Golden Age of Science Fiction.”
“Straight white men have dominated the speculative literary field for the past few decades; their dominance is now going the way of the dinosaur; most are OK with that but a few (and their non-straight-white-guy supporters) are desperately trying to figure out how to bring things back to the way they were.”
So, I was thinking, it’s a garden-variety conservative backlash. But I disagreed, thinking, It’s a neo-fascist backlash, which is different. With all the hate speech going around, someone could get hurt!
But then I kept reading and came across this:
“Which I guess is why I’ve recently had to add some new entries to the file of death and rape threats I’ve already gotten over the years (pretty much since around the time I started publishing professionally, if you’re wondering).”
So I had to smack myself in the head for forgetting all the violence that is routinely being done to people of color, and once again for forgetting it while my Facebook feed is full of stories of people who “just happened” to have their spines break while in police custody.
But then I thought, “That’s racism and violence, not fascism,” because there is a line that divides fascism from other things. So then I had to ask, “What exactly is that line?”
And also, “How do you figure out where a person stands in relation to that line?”
One might wonder, “If somebody ends up accidentally supporting a neo-fascist, what’s their next step? Do they step back carefully, double down, or sit comfortably in a state of denial?” I think it would be fair to ask such a person: “Do you oppose fascism, support fascism, or are you neutral on fascism?”
(And yes, of course nobody can be neutral on fascism.)
Or I could just wait until the next thing happens, whatever this is, because this is an organized attack on feminists of all sorts, and see who sides with whom, and add 2016 to the title of this blog post.
So then the question became, “How do you counter fascism in science fiction and fantasy?”
And that was too big a topic for me to address before lunch, so I’ll just finish up with another couple quotes by N.K. Jemison:
“. . . all this anger and discussion reflects a struggle for the soul of the organization, which is in turn reflective of a greater struggle for the soul of the genre, and that overall struggle taking place globally.”
“SFF is going to become more diverse, with women and people of color taking their place as equals within its hierarchies, whether the scared white manly men want it to or not.** Nothing can stop this now; it’s inevitable.”
Oh yes, and the one action I’m going to take after all this research? Read a good book. I have three new authors on my “to-read shelf” — N.K. Jemison, Charlie Stross, and Philip Sandifer.
(Note: I edited this on 5/5/2015 and again on 5/7/2015 to include a little more context & details.)