ATTACK OF THE LIBERAL FASCISTS
So we’ve discovered something here at the PLC; no posting schedule pretty much means no posts. And that’s not cool. So we’re going back to the old schedule.
Oh SFWA. (If you don’t know about the whole Bulletin #200, #201, #202 fiasco, let SL Huang fill you in, and then go splash around in this nice link roundup of reactions and rebuttals collected by lovely Jim C. Hines.)
Ever since I realized I wanted to be a professional writer, I wanted to join SFWA. On the mercenary side, a SFWA membership meant that I’d get to skip the slush pile. (I don’t know if that’s actually true, that’s just the word on the street). But, more importantly, a SFWA membership held symbolic meaning for me, as an Official Stamp of Approval. Congratulations, you’re a professional.
(Due to vagaries of The Rules, both my highest paying sale and my highest profile sale Don’t Count For Reasons. So, as I am not exactly prolific, I have spent a disgustingly long time thinking “I just need one more sale” and then making that sale… and finding out the finish line got moved on me again.)
So I’ve been watching The Bulletin bullshit play out and for me it’s very much
I mean, I’ve been to enough cons and seen enough bad behavior from folks with “pro” stickers on their badges to have already guessed that yeah, SFWA is not the magical utopia I thought it would be when I was but a wee lass. But the utter lack of embarrassment on the part of (most of) the major players here is just…it’s just madness. It’s crazy talk. And, for the most part, the complete (deliberate?) failure of understanding of what sort of change is actually being requested by all the liberal fascists like myself is just…
I think it is best said here by Foz Meadows:
It’s not censorship we want. It’s a change in your perceptions. Not self-censorship, which implies your original attitudes are simply repressed and waiting to bubble over: actual change, so that when you hear women say ‘please don’t depict us in chainmail bikinis, it’s demeaning and awful and contributes to terrible stereotypes that still demonstrably affect our treatment within SFF communities’, you respond with sympathy and respect.
Now, I really like outgoing SFWA president John Scalzi. I just saw him speak at Phoenix Comicon and he was absolutely wonderful; but to hear him speechify his well-known and loved post Who Gets to Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants to Be in his spotlight panel and then, the very next weekend, read his apologies for having failed the community for Mr. Peacockean reasons… is, well, cognitive dissonance, I am in you.
I know Scalzi didn’t write any of the stupid things that were published, I think his apology is sincere, and I appreciate his attempts to address the issue. But it’s also disheartening. So disheartening. And for me the biggest take away from his post is that he doesn’t read The Bulletin. He didn’t read the columns before approving them. One wonders if the editor he defends, Jean Rabe did either. And it is nice but not remotely true of him to imply she has no part in this. Isn’t that a huge problem? I think it is.
So, to the rather dramatically named Task Force Scalzi has deputized, whom I cannot contact because I am not a member of SFWA, but a mere fan with opinions, here’s what might buff up my tarnished idol.
I would like to see column space given to other people. I mean, who are Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick anyway? This question is only semi-rhetorical. I have never in my life heard anyone get excited over the new Malzberg or Resnick book coming out. So let’s look.
Resnick I’m pretty familiar with, at least by name. He’s prolific as hell. He has gotten more Hugo nominations than any other writer living or dead. Which tells you he’s popular in certain circles. If I’ve read something by Resnick I do not recall it. If I’ve ever met a fan of his work, they never shared that tidbit with me. But he’s popular as hell. In certain circles.
Malzberg’s work I will admit I have no working knowledge of. This is probably not my fault as his last novel came out in 1982. He still gets short fiction out pretty regularly, and it is highly likely I’ve read something of his and again, just don’t remember it. I’ve never heard anyone discuss his work, and I hang with some serious nerds.
So these are two older gentlemen who have hustled ass (to lazily paraphrase what they wrote in The Bulletin: we wrote porn in the Seventies! And edited grimy tabloids!), and now sit on thrones built out of old connections and friendships. They’re hustlers. Which I don’t actually mean in a derogatory manner, God knows I could use some hustle or I wouldn’t have spent years pining over a stupid SFWA membership that I’m not too sure I want anymore. But there you are.
Are Malzberg and Resnick’s opinions relevant to the working professional, here in the year of 2013? I think these gentlemen have revealed themselves to not be as forward-thinking as a science fiction writers ought to be, and I don’t understand why they should continue to be given the same platform. It would not be censorship to cut their column, any more than it is censorship when I get a rejection letter. There’s a whole internet out there for them to say whatever they like, and be heard just fine.
I also don’t understand why the editor, Jean Rabe should stay on in her current position. Scalzi defends her quite a bit in his apology, and hey, it’s good that she got The Bulletin back on a regular publishing schedule, (how sad that this is the measuring stick of success) but The Bulletin is still a paper dinosaur, that apparently no one reads until it prints something that is just too stupid to ignore.
There are some who think Rabe purposefully aired the controversial material for publicity reasons. But The Bulletin is a trade magazine. I don’t see Architects’ Journal or Dental Tribune International telling their female readers they should aspire to be like Barbie. SFWA is not a member of the Kardashian clan. Not all press is good press. I think this was a series of gaffes. Really inscrutably bad gaffes.
And lastly, let’s not forget CJ Henderson, the man behind the revolting Barbie column. CJ Henderson has not gotten NEARLY the heat he should have for his drivel, probably because it came out between the original Malzberg/Resnick column of nonsense and their ill-conceived rebuttal to the criticism from their peers.
It is bad enough to read old men rating the hotness levels of various writers and editors and then getting indignant about being called out on it. It is gross, but you can almost sort of see how those two have gotten to the point of thinking that they’ve earned the right to be gross. But I certainly do not need to hear how I ought to behave from some useless putz on top of it. Excuse me but I am not particularly interested in “maintaining a quiet dignity the way a woman should.”
So yes, proceed gently or roughly, O Noble Task Force. But get rid of these people. Demote or terminate. Allowing them to stay on in the exact same capacity is implicitly agreeing with them. What to put in instead of all these delightful pages of ramblings about the good old days? How about things that the modern professional writer would find useful? Things that would encourage people to actually read The Bulletin? Peter V. Brett has many cromulent suggestions.
Anyway, it would be a start.