Tag Archives: sci fi culture wars

My last sci fi culture war post

June 22 2015 – Time for me to move on and get cracking on the Clarion West writeathon! Over the last few months I’ve been blogging about a sci fi culture war declared by a creepy weirdo. All the drama and excitement is still going on, and I’m probably gong to continue to be interested in it and writing about it. But dear readers, I’ll spare you any future posts. If I have anything else to say, I’ll just edit one of the earlier posts or append my thoughts to this blog post.

Here’s a summary of what I’ve written so far.

The bizarre story of how sci fi fandom reacted when a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Amercia called a fellow author a half-naked savage and followed it up with more hate speech: Neo-fascism in science fiction, 2013-2015.

Some follow-up thoughts I had on the concept of political correctness, including my general opinions and the history of the term as one-percenter propaganda.

A suggestion on how to deal with hate speech of the kind the sci fi community has been facing.

 

A look at how the culture wars might affect TOR Books.

That’s all!

6/22/2015 Update – Very happy to see that the TOR boycott has been countered by a book-buying campaign.

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Oh, that’s bad news for sci fi publishing

So there are some culture wars going on in the world of sci fi book publishing, and by culture wars, I mean that a neo-fascist with influence has openly declared war on feminists and dragged all kinds of people from all ideological stripes into it. What happened yesterday is all-around bad news for readers and writers of sci fi.

Some context: we’re in the throes of a controversy over Hugo ballot nominations. A group of conservatives who have been complaining about anti-conservative bias in sci fi publishing have been putting together slates of mostly conservative authors. They called it the “Sad Puppy” slate. For the first two years, it included nominations in several categories. This year, though, it included so many nominations in so many categories that it almost entirely pushed out non-Puppy nominations.

There have been many accusations and a lot of outrage, but this wasn’t necessarily the intent of the Sad Puppies. The Puppy nominations swept the ballot in part because Vox Day, owner of the new publisher Castalia House, put out his own Rabid Puppies slate the very next day, which had considerable overlap with the Sad Puppies slate, and then made a call out to Gamergaters to pay the thirty bucks or so to make nominations. (As it turns out, only the Sad Puppies nominations that were also on the Rabid Puppies slate made it onto the final ballot.) If you give Sad Puppies the benefit of the doubt, their movement was co-opted by Day.

As part of the general atmosphere of accusations and outrage, an editor at Tor books made a Facebook comment that was broadly taken to slander all Puppy supporters and authors. Ordinarily, it would have gone unremarked and unnoticed by almost everybody and dropped out of the Facebook feed, as such things do . . .

. . . except that Day saw fit to take a screen capture and release it several weeks later, thereby re-igniting the firestorm.

To make a long story short, Tor — which publishes a wide variety of conservative and other works — is now facing a boycott. It was called by Day, and also by others. (To his credit, Larry Correia, the original Sad Puppies slate-maker, has asked people not to boycott Tor. Thank you for that.)

Day went farther than this. He wrote:

. . . if Ms. Gallo and Mr. Nielsen Hayden are still employed by Tor Books in 2016, I will not nominate any books published by Tor Books for any awards. . . . I am the leader of the Rabid Puppies, I do speak for them, and I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that they will follow my lead in this regard. I am not concerned about whether the boycott is “successful” or not. The simple fact is that if Macmillan is at all interested in the long-term success of Tor Books, it will jettison both Ms Gallo and Mr. Nielsen Hayden . . .

In chess terms, this is what would be called a “fork.” If Gallo and Hayden are fired, many progressives will be angry and stop buying Tor books. On the other hand, if Gallo and Hayden are not fired, Tor also faces a boycott, plus a threat to take away Hugo nominations — which is a credible one, since Day swept the nominations this year.

Either way, Tor’s hurt, and who loses out? The readers.

Meanwhile, who benefits? Vox Day, who openly spouts hate speech of every flavor, and the publishing house he runs. That’s creepy.

The other bad news? Day is likely to keep on with his war, distracting authors fro the important job of writing and readers from the important job of reading.

Anyhow, I went ahead and ordered a book from Tor, The Goblin Emporer by Katherine Addison. New author, hope I like her!

Further reading

For a firsthand look at Vox Day’s most extreme views, without the noxiousness of going to his blog, try the google search:

“Vox Day” site:http://wehuntedthemammoth.com/

For more on the Tor boycott, including who supports it and who doesn’t, visit “The Hammer of Tor 6/19

For more on the overlap between the Sad and Rabid Puppy slates, visit this post from the ComixMix website.

Hate speech not welcome

At my kid’s school, there’s an assembly every Monday morning. A student is given the honor of reading the school expectations, which are posted conspicuously:

I use respectful language. I am in the right place at the right time. I keep my body in my personal space. I move safely on school grounds. I care for school property in a responsible way. I am considerate and respectful of others.

And there’s a sign (from the Safe Schools Coalition) that I see when I walk in the door of the school. It says,

“Degrading racial, ethnic, sexist or homophobic remarks not welcome here. RESPECT the differences.”

The message simple and clear. Our community tries hard to follow it. The call for consideration and respect protects everybody. The sign on the door makes a call out to groups that are protected from hate speech because of historic and continuing oppression. We don’t do a perfect job, but when something goes awry, we are much better equipped to handle the situation because we are all on the same page.

There is broad-based agreement at our school that these are legitimate social expectations, for practical reasons. None of us want our kids to come in from recess with bloody noses and scraped knees.

Until recently, I would have thought there was broad-based agreement within the science fiction and fantasy community as well. However, recent dramas have shown this is not so. There are a sizable number of people who think it’s perfectly fine to make degrading racial, ethnic, sexist or homophobic remarks — but that it’s not okay for a community to try to stop them. There is also a backlash against people the extreme right wing are calling “Social Justice Warriors.”

This by itself is not so surprising to me. What’s surprising is that middle-of-the-road people seem to be going along with them to some extent. Why?

Well, for one thing, the phrase “political correctness” has made a comeback. That phrase is vague and muddles the conversation about what is okay to say and what isn’t. (In a recent post, I suggested there was a reason for that: the millions of dollars that conservative philanthropies have thrown into think tanks and other propaganda efforts.)

The phrase “political correctness” also hides a critical distinction between the kinds of people who use it and the reasons they use it. Some people use it maliciously and nefariously, to cover up or defend hate speech. Others use it sincerely, out of frustration that they don’t feel free to express opinions that do not rise to the level of harrassing, discriminatory, or hate speech.

There’s a need for the science fiction and fantasy community to come up with clear expectations for speech and fair consequences if they are violated. And these expectations should treat hate speech differently than other kinds. I’m not talking censorship here. I’m talking about a community setting standards for itself.

What happens if we don’t? Well, at the moment, somebody’s job is at stake (Irene Gallo) over some comments that she made. Here are the comments:

There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.

Her employer, the major SF/F publisher Tor, is being financially threatened by a boycott if she is not fired. The reasoning behind the call for firing is that conservatives have been fired for their public comments, so she should too.

But what’s not mentioned is that some of the firings conservatives are complaining about involved degrading racial, ethnic, sexist or homophobic remarks. If that’s not even mentioned, then as a community how can we possibly set consequences that most people think are fair?

We’re now in a situation that’s bad for everyone, including Tor. If she’s fired, Tor will face a boycott from the left. If she’s not fired, Tor will face a boycott from the extreme right.

Tor’s response was perhaps the best they could do under the circumstances to appease both groups. But there’s something that bugs me. A lot.

In short, we seek out and publish a diverse and wide ranging group of books. We are in the business of finding great stories and promoting literature and are not about promoting a political agenda

There’s that little political correctness complaint again. What political agenda is he talking about? Gallo criticized the Puppies for being openly racist, misogynist, and homophobic. So her political agenda is what?

More important, though, the political agenda of the Puppies is off limits for discussion here. I kind of get that Tor would want to avoid a discussion that would alienate many of its customers. But the discussion needs to happen somewhere, or rather, in as many venues as possible. And it needs to include an acknowledgement that hate speech is not welcome.

As a community, science fiction and fantasy authors, readers, and editors can and should set standards for discourse. The work on that has already begun, but it looks like there’s a long way to go.

For Further Reading 

A balanced post about complaints of political correctness by blogger and cartoonist Amptoons, “Chait Criticizes Exactly The Kind Of Speech We Should Want More Of”.) This post also has an excellent list of links at the end.

From blogger Julian Sanchez, a post from a leftist about the mistakes the left is making when it comes to political correctness, “Chait Speech.”

From the ADA Initiative website, a post about anti-harassment speech that is being done, “Conference anti-harassment work in SF&F, 2014 edition: N. K. Jemisin’s speech, Hugo battles, Frenkel saga & more”.

A blog post by Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag about the Puppies, “The ongoing Hugo mess comes to haunt me again. . .” This is coming from a fan perspective and is written in lively prose.

Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) anti-harassment policies and social media policies on discriminatory speech.

And finally, the Safe Schools Coalition, which created the “Respect the Differences” Sign.

from http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org/

from safeschoolscoalition.org

Neo-fascism in science fiction, 2013 to 2015

DSC00443

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.

coded fascism

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.

From http://mediamatters.org/blog/2010/05/11/wnds-vox-day-on-reclaiming-traditional-white-an/164574

From mediamatters.org, 5/11/2010

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.

example of hate speech

Other stuff on the blog is calling out to Finnish fascists and other groups, as has been mentioned by authors Charlie Stross and Philip Sandifer.

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.”

As Jemison explains back in 2013,

“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.”

and

“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.)