The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

SFWA Bulletin Stuff: All I have are questions

| 107 Comments

If there’s anyone who doesn’t know what this is about, I envy you and will not provide you with any links. You’re happier not knowing. Smile, nod, and skip this post.

1. Some say that in their column in issue #201, Resnick and Malzberg concentrated on, or at least spent a lot of the time, discussing the attractiveness of certain women in the field.  Others say there was one brief passing mention of one woman being attractive.  I’d very much like to read that column; does anyone know where it can be found on line?

2. I recently came across the claim that some women who were new to the field were intimidated by older, more established writers who can destroy their careers.  Well, on the one hand, this is obviously nonsense: I’ve never heard of an editor who would accept, “This person pissed me off, don’t buy stories from her,” from any writer no matter how “established.”  But on the other hand, might there be the perception that established writers can destroy a new writer’s career? If so, then the intimidation is real, even if the established writers aren’t aware of it (a scary thought yo).  Anyone know how widespread that perception is?

3. R and M made the claim that “anonymous” people were attempting to “censor” them.  I’ve become convinced the anonymous part is just silly; I’ve yet to see a comment without a name attached. And various of us are debating what “censorship” means in different contexts. But what I haven’t seen is anyone who, before issue number #202, said that their column should be pulled, or that they ought not to have been permitted to say what they did in #201.  It is debatable whether, if that was said, it constitutes censorship; but I’d like to know if it was actually said, and, if so, by how many?

 

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

107 Comments

  1. Regarding yr. #3, what’s curious is a lot of people came out with their names after #202 was released–see Hines’ round-up. I wasn’t following this before, so I dunno how many people spoke to R&M before then, anonymously or otherwise.

    It’s also possible that R&M were bluring anonymous and pseudonymous.

  2. Steve –

    On #1, I haven’t seen it online in its entirety, alas. I need to dig through my bookshelves and boxes to see if I still have the original issue. If I do, I’ll scan it and post it.

    On #2, I think that among newbie writers (folks like me), there is a perception that the SF/F community is a bit of a “club”. There’s an us/them relationship that from the outside can be a bit intimidating, and so if we don’t yet know how things work or haven’t had much interaction with editors (i.e. if we’re newbie writers w/o experience), there’s a fear that established pros can damage newbie careers. I don’t necessarily think this is true (we can only damage our own careers, I think), but I’ve spoken to a lot of other newbie writers who have that fear/perception. Maybe this isn’t widespread, but in my experience it’s been pretty common.

    On #3, I don’t recall seeing public calls for the R/M Dialogue column to be pulled until after Issue #202. There was public criticism, there were public complaints, and those complaints mounted after the Red Sonja cover and the CJ Henderson article, but I don’t recall seeing calls for the column to be pulled until #202. In general, I think the criticism was relatively muted by comparison to the fury after #202. But I’m just speaking from my recollection here, and my memory may be faulty.

  3. skzb

    Chris: Thanks. The scan in particular would be much appreciated. And your answer to #2 gives me some food for thought.

  4. On #2, I am very skeptical that reputation (X is easy to work with; Y is a temperamental prima-donna; Z is a touchy trouble maker) plays no role in SF editorial decisions, or that reputation with editors is uncolored by reputation with fellow authors.

  5. If you skip down a few paragraphs, there’s a good account of our-story-until-now in this piece:

    http://www.morningstormbooks.com/2013/06/sexism-and-sfwa.html

    It looks like the first R&M article about “literary ladies” was in #199.

  6. FYI, there are also scans (as opposed to a typo-ridden OCR that hasn’t been proofread) at http://radishreviews.com/2013/05/31/linkspam-53113-edition/ I would really prefer that people link to that page instead of directly to the scans or the OCR.

    Chris, let me know if you get scans of previous columns & I’ll amend my post to link to them.

  7. Two further thoughts related to #2 occur to me:

    First:
    a) The borders between the populations of “established writers” and their editorial counterparts are very fluid (with many folks members of both populations).

    b) Established writers and editors are often friends (as they should be).

    c) Given those two points, it seems not an unreasonable fear (incorrect and born of inexperience/ignorance, maybe, but not unreasonable) that if an established writer is angered or offended, that established writer’s friends may likewise get angered/offended (either due to shared values, or from a sense of personal loyalty, etc.).

    d) If an editor/friend is angered/offended at the new writer, then it’s not unreasonable to expect that editor/friend to reject the new writer’s work out of hand: who wants to work with someone who angers/offends them?

    This creates a quasi-rational fear for the new writer that runs as follows: newbie writer steps on established writer’s toes –> established editor friends get pissed –> established editor friends squash newbie writer’s hopes and dreams.

    If this fear is as widespread as I suspect it might be, then that’s a rather pernicious and difficult perception to combat. I have no idea how to combat it, honestly, other than hoping established writers/editors “don’t punch down“.

    And second:
    Points (a) and (b) above also contribute to another – perhaps even more pernicious – perception issue: if an established writer makes a new writer feel unwelcome due to the values/opinions they espouse, then for a new writer who doesn’t personally know the individuals in question, it is reasonable to infer that the established writer’s (editor) friends share some (or all) of those values/opinions.

    It’s basically pattern recognition and pattern inference, and for new writers who don’t know anyone in the field, haven’t worked in the field, and whose only grasp of how the field works stems from reading blog posts / Twitter timelines on the subject, I don’t think such inference is unreasonable. And when you mix in a new writer’s frequent perception of their established writer “idols”? I think that makes for an explosive emotional mix.

    Damned if I know what the implications of all this are. I wish I did. I’m also not sure if a “solution” is even possible, or if it’s just a natural facet of human social interaction.

  8. Natalie – Will do. I won’t get home for another couple of hours, and there’s a high likelihood that the original issues are either boxed up (we’re in the process of moving), or have been thrown out. But if I find ’em, I’ll let you know. I think they would be a valuable addition to the conversation.

  9. skzb

    Scott: Thanks, but that’s from #202, which I’ve read. I’m looking for the one before it.

    Chris: That makes a lot of sense. Thanks.

  10. Sounds like a 4th Street workshop to me.

    Let me also say, from the outside looking in, that I have never heard such a discussion (about a new writer) from any of the experienced writers I know, and find it hard to believe that they would indulge in such.

  11. Regarding #1, while I don’t have an online version to hand, the references to attractiveness were mostly (but not entirely) focused on one editor in particular – but they were multiple, and well beyond “she was a very attractive woman” and into leering territory.

    Regarding #2, it’s definitely a real fear a lot of newer writers have. In most cases I don’t think it’s as explicit as “if I piss off Big Name X they’ll tell all the editors (or all the other editors) to have nothing to do with me and I’ll be RUINED FOREVER”, but I think there’s a (correct) awareness that this is a small and often insular community, and a lot of (possibly unjustified but not unreasonable) worry about making the wrong impressions or getting a bad reputation.

    If that translates for some people into a fear that pissing off the wrong person will mean they’ll never make another sale – well, come on, we’re *writers*. I’m pretty sure “given to worry that things out of our control will destroy our careers forever” is in the job description. The fact that it might not be a justifiable fear isn’t going to keep people from feeling that way.

    And as Vinnie said above, I’d be skeptical if someone claimed it played no role at all, conscious or unconscious – but I’m also pretty sure that the “too much of a jerk to work with” bar is set higher than a lot of newer writers believe it is. On the other hand, fear of ostracism is also a pretty big deal, especially for people without an established position in the community.

    Regarding #3, the reaction at the time to the “lady editors” article, from what I recall (and this matches my personal reaction as well) was mostly “this is annoying and retrograde; can we have columns about female editors/writers that focus on their professional accomplishments instead?” rather than “BURN IT TO THE GROUND AND SALT THE EARTH”.

    People (including myself) got a lot angrier over the “Barbie” article, and that revived some of the R/M criticism and I think tended to change the tone into a general “something needs to be done about the Bulletin” – but I remember more calls for editorial oversight than demands that anyone’s column be yanked or that anyone be banned from writing for the Bulletin forevermore. And for that matter, I still don’t see more than a few people calling for the Dialogues to go away – although I, and several other people I’ve seen commenting on the issue, would like to see it opened up to more perspectives and turned into a more general retrospective column, with, again, editorial oversight to hopefully keep the overall tone of it professional.

  12. Vinnie, if you get to be friends with some editors, they’ll eventually tell you horror stories about some of the writers they have to work with. But they continue to work with those writers because what matters is the quality of a writer’s work.

  13. “I am very skeptical that reputation (X is easy to work with; Y is a temperamental prima-donna; Z is a touchy trouble maker) plays no role in SF editorial decisions, or that reputation with editors is uncolored by reputation with fellow authors.”

    I attended a convention meeting with Orson Scott Card. He was pushing his writing course. At the table with him were several of his successful students who were writers, and several of his students who were editors.

    I got the strong impression that finishing his course would give a big in with the editors who had taken his course before becoming successful editors. They kind of talked like his graduates were a chummy group who looked out for each other.

    Nobody said that if you aggravated Card or some influential member of the group that they’d turn against you. I probably read that in. Maybe I read in some of the rest of it. They certainly presented themselves as a loyal group, but that doesn’t have to imply that it would affect careers.

  14. skzb

    Lisa: Thank you! You make good points about writers, careers, and fear. Any idea if there is a copy of the “Barbie” article online? Seems like I need to read that one, too, if I’m to be caught up.

  15. Hmm, I’m having trouble finding the whole “Barbie” article but here’s a jpeg of part of it. http://inkedhistorian.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/sfwabarbie.jpg

    Via http://carriecuinn.com/2013/04/04/barbie-burquas-april-fools-jokes-writers-advice-small-failures-hurt-us-in-big-ways/

    “The reason for Barbie’s unbelievable staying power, when every contemporary and wanna-be has fallen by the way-side is, she’s a nice girl. Let the Bratz girls dress like tramps and whores. Barbie never had any of that. Sure, there was a quick buck to be made going that route but it wasn’t for her. Barbie got her college degree, but she never acted as if it was something owed to her, or that Ken ever tried to deny her.

    She has always been a role model for young girls, and has remained popular with millions of them throughout their entire lives, because she maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should. “

  16. skzb

    Aliera: Yeek. “the way a woman should” is, well. My. I don’t know what to say.

  17. I think #2 can also manifest indirectly.

    For example, if a writer feels unwelcome in the genre community, they may be afraid of going to con’s or participating in the community (online or otherwise) for fear of being subjected to sexist behavior. Therefore, said writer may not make as many contacts/friends in the industry, get as much exposure, join writing groups, or find the help/support as other writers might. I think that’s a big deal.

    It’s a very real fear if you’ve regularly experienced discrimination or sexism in other parts of your life. So some people may choose “Its too difficult for me to deal with any more of this s*#t right now so I’m staying away.” And that is a shame…

  18. That “maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should“ bit is what inspired the “quiet bee-like dignity” in my twitter bio.

  19. @Jen Hee! Love it.

  20. Medievalist, I wish we had more context. Was he saying all women should behave like his concept of Barbie, or all writers should?

  21. “She has always been a role model for young girls […], because she maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should.”

    That suggests he’s talking specifically about women. Although whether he means all women or only the ones who wish to be successful writers is unclear.

  22. It suggests it, but it doesn’t necessarily say it. If I said Superman has always been a role model for young boys because he maintained a quiet dignity the way a man should, and I therefore recommended Superman as a model for all writers, I would be suggesting that I had both quirky notions about Superman and what a man should be, but I wouldn’t necessarily be sexist in applying that model to writers. I would just be quirky.

    But if I said all men should maintain a quiet dignity like Superman’s, I would be stating a gender preference.

    And frankly, most people state gender preferences. In the feminist community, it happens every time someone decides that the strong women on their side are the real feminists and the strong women who disagree with them are not. If having gender preferences is sexist, everyone who wants respect for their gender is sexist–especially including trans activists who want respect for the gender they feel is right for them.

    None of which is to deny that the guy has weird notions about Barbie. 🙂

  23. PS. What strikes me is the combination of “quiet dignity” and “the way a woman should”. My associations of “quiet dignity” are male as well as female: the Gregory Peck cowboy who is respectful and ready to do the right thing, for example. I did a quick google, and the phrase doesn’t seem gendered–it’s used to describe Jackie Robinson in one of the first hits.

    As for “the way a woman should”, that’s because he’s talking about girls and Barbie. It doesn’t necessarily mean he thinks men should not behave with quiet dignity.

    So I’d like a bit more context.

  24. The phrase “quiet dignity” is not an issue for me, though in theory one should say “like everyone should” or whatever, since “like a woman should” suggests that quiet dignity is somehow inappropriate for men.

    But what really sets off the sexism alert here is talking about “tramps and whores” in this context, not to mention the entire previous content of the piece, which is patronizing and bonoxious in tone.

  25. And by the way “bonoxious” is a typo, not a neologism. But on immature consideration, I like it anyway.

  26. It is a fine typo. And if I ever get a chance to read the rest of the article, I may agree with your interpretation.

    But to quibble a bit more with “like a woman should”, Barbie is a gendered toy. If Henderson had used G.I. Joe, he could’ve said “like a man should” and meant “like everyone should” when giving general advice to writers because he would’ve been extrapolating from a model originally intended for males.

    This is a fine example of why writers should try to be extremely precise. ‘Cause on the internet, you will be quoted out of context.

    Now I really want to read the article. What was its point supposed to be? A guy’s advice column for “lady writers”?

  27. “But what really sets off the sexism alert here is talking about “tramps and whores” in this context,”

    He was comparing Barbie with the Bratz dolls. I’m no expert but it did look to me like the Bratz dolls tended to display a sort of street-ho chic.

    I don’t understand exactly what he’s using Barbie as a metaphor for, but when he compares Barbie to Bratz the words seem to fit.

  28. We’re reaching for ways that this sentence:

    “She has always been a role model for young girls, and has remained popular with millions of them throughout their entire lives, because she maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should.”

    can be not-sexist? Really?

  29. I’ve seen too many things taken out of context. Steve and I were both misled about Marx’s take on the Civil War because of a site that had taken a quote out of context–fortunately, James Nicoll caught it, and I then read the article in its entirety. Since then, I try to avoid judging anyone based on a few sentences or paragraphs until I’m sure the larger piece is consistent with the snippet.

    Regarding that particular sentence, the first question to ask whether the writer thinks men should also maintain a quiet dignity. Many men do.

  30. If that’s the case then why not say so? “…the way [we all] should.” would have erased any doubt as to who the writer is speaking of or to. Even given that Barbie is a gendered toy, there’s no need to keep the comparison to women alone. I have a hard time believing that anyone who (presumably) writes for a living can’t think of a less offensive way to make a point.

    Then again, I frequently write things that later cause me to shove my foot in my mouth, so it could be that the statement was just embarrassingly ill-conceived.

  31. Professional writers are just like amateur ones: sometimes we miss something that seems obvious while we’re falling down the escalator.

    Mind you, if I ever get to read the article, I may agree it’s all kinds of sexist.

  32. I guess the widely quoted context consisting of more lauding of how wonderful Barbie is in comparison to tramps, whores and straw feminists seemed to make it pretty clear that this piece was about telling women how they should act, and that was to shut up, like Barbie.

    I don’t doubt that Mr. Henderson would say that men should have quiet dignity too. The thing is, if you believe that everybody should behave with quiet dignity, but the only ones you feel you should violate your own quiet dignity to browbeat about it are women, that kind of fits a fairly well-known pattern.

  33. Have you read the whole piece? Have you never seen a few paragraphs taken out of context to imply something that wasn’t meant? The guy doesn’t express himself the way you or I would. But if he was using a girl’s toy to suggest that everyone should strive for quiet dignity, he wasn’t being sexist. At least, not at that particular moment. Arguably, he was being enlightened by using a girl’s toy instead of G.I. Joe or Captain America. Was he doing that? I haven’t a clue, and I haven’t seen any evidence anyone else does, either.

  34. I have not read the whole piece. The most text I’ve been able to find lives here: http://carriecuinn.com/2013/04/04/barbie-burquas-april-fools-jokes-writers-advice-small-failures-hurt-us-in-big-ways/

    The idea that anybody is “being enlightened” through the use of casual slut-shaming and specifically, explicitly assigning the gender role of silence to women is fucking ridiculous.

  35. “Quite the pair of sweater-fillers….” Heh. Not sure if that’s worse for its inanity or its sexism, offhand.

    But I think that imaged excerpt is enough and more than enough, myself, to condemn and contemn it. Really, it makes me sick to hear anyone seriously lauding these cynically marketed brands like Barbie at all, much less in the context of this women-in-their-place sort of piece. The attribution of these bizarre sensibilities and attitudes to a chunk of injection-molded plastic is pretty bad, too. Mattel has a staff of analysts who determine how to spin this year’s model, not some kind of spiritual guide. And for pity’s sake, “core values”? For Barbie? You say those two words to me, I know you’re lying to me about something….

  36. Y’know, if Steve and I hadn’t been tricked so badly once, I would’ve agreed with you on first reading. The problem is the entire passage quoted is about the doll, and the point is to advise “quiet dignity”, perhaps to women, perhaps to writers. I can’t help but wonder if Henderson’s silence now is an attempt to practice what he was preaching.

    Yes, he mentions “sweater-fillers”. A great many feminist writers have pointed out that Barbie’s proportions are not realistic. Barbie was never supposed to be realistic; like most dolls, she was a 3D cartoon.

    People do assign sensibilities to symbols. I wouldn’t describe Barbie’s as “quiet dignity”, but if that’s what Henderson associates with the doll, that doesn’t seem sexist to me. If he associated compliance or subservience or getting paid less, then I’d damn him in a second.

    I googled “barbie core values” and the results are kinda interesting. This was written in 2004, when Bousquette was Mattel’s president:

    “”Barbie® has always been about fun, fashion and friends and those core values will not change,” Bousquette continued. “But, since girls’ interests evolve from year to year and sometimes even week to week, we knew Barbie® needed to change with them. From this point on, Barbie® will continue to evolve to reflect not only the brand’s core values, but what girls want today.””

    I dunno why I’m defending this so strongly. Maybe I just really believe in innocent until proven guilty. If I ever get to read the whole thing, I may happily join the folks who say to hang him high. I don’t think anyone’s wrong to wonder if he’s implying a sexual double-standard. I only think that so far, we have too little to be sure.

  37. I suppose it’s possible some larger context could change my mind, but I’m not sure what it would be. In the grand scheme of things, this whole thing is really an extremely small deal, but even so that Barbie page seems to convey a very warped point of view more suited to the 19th century than the 21st.

  38. Looking at some of the quotes, it’s hard for me to believe these guys didn’t know what they were getting into.

    People have sometimes accused me of being insensitive to cultural issues and using the wrong words, but a lot of this looks over-the-top to me.

    It might be that if you read the whole article it will have deeper meanings that negate the surface ones. But they had to know that short quotes would be enough to enrage a lot of people.

    Maybe they were playing Till Eulenspiegel. They see people talking like they’re multicultural, but those people start acting like bigots when somebody disagrees with *their* cultural assumptions violated. So Malzberg and Resnick sit back and go “Tisk, tisk, the natives are restless tonight, they think their heathen gods have been violated.”.

    Does that sound like Resnick? Malzberg?

    There really isn’t much difference between muslims who get outraged when they hear that the Prophet has been slandered versus feminists who notice somebody making sexist remarks. Except of course that the feminists are objectively right while the muslims are wrong. Apart from that it’s pretty similar.

    I could make halfhearted defenses of Malzberg etc. Like, if it’s OK for a lesbian to have a preference between femme and butch women, why can’t it be OK for men to appreciate femme or butch heterosexual women? But it’s not worth it. I’d only be joining them, being the lightning rod to prove to reasonable people that the lightning is unfair. And that’s not a very mature reaction to the lightning.

  39. I am unable to credit the hypothesis that Mr. Henderson was, having specifically described Barbie as a role model for girls, and advised women to emulate her, across the space of several paragraphs, without making any mention of how boys or men might have anything to learn from her, is also recommending Barbie as a role model for men.

    I am not saying “hang him high”. I am not conversant with anyone having said “hang him high”. To my knowledge, people are saying 1) dude, that’s really fucked up, C.J. Henderson; is it seriously too much to ask that you make an attempt to think of women as people rather than viewing them solely through the cookie-cutter lens of your archaic, bullshitty gender expectations? and 2) Jesus, what is going on with the Bulletin’s editorial that it literally cannot manage to stop insulting the shit out of every woman in SFWA month after month after month?

  40. Did Jim HInes insult the shit out of women? What percentage of the Bulletin do you want the editor to control? I keep wondering why people are focusing on the things that offended them and blaming the editor and/or SFWA for letting those writers express themselves while simultaneously ignoring the other writers in the magazine. By-lines matter.

  41. I don’t believe Jim Hines did so, no. Not that I have a lot of skin in the game, but I kind of expect the editorial staff of a professional organization’s journal to exercise control, if not necessarily iron-fisted micromanaging control, over 100% of the publication they are responsible for, and if some of their contributors are writing material that is over-the-top denigratory to a huge number of the members of that professional organization, to work on that actively as a problem to be addressed through that whole “editorial direction” thing that rumor has it exists as a thing between editors and writers.

    I expect that people are focusing their attention that way for the same reason that if a Perl developer newsletter I subscribed to contained five articles about Perl development and one article about how the Ku Klux Klan are just misunderstood heroes standing up for what it means to be a real American, my attention would be directed in a predictable fashion.

    This isn’t Open Forum For Random Idiots Pontificating Magazine we’re talking about here. The purpose of the SFWA Bulletin isn’t to make sure no dipshit who’s still living in Leave it to Beaver in his head is denied a distribution platform. It’s there to serve the professional needs of the organization’s members. And I don’t know about you, but I’m freshly aware that I have a professional need not to open up my professional publications and be told I should conduct myself according to the example of a fucking plastic toy legendary for its archaism and vacuity.

  42. I dunno. I wouldn’t feel terribly oppressed if Andre Norton said men or writers should behave like plastic cowboys. I’d just roll my eyes and move on.

  43. Dude, you do understand your position is not exactly the same as woman reading the equivalent shit, don’t you? It is a hell of a lot easier for a guy to laugh off a stupid remark about men, than for a woman to laugh off a stupid remark about women. I’m assuming you have enough basic empathy to understand that… I had some women whistle at me a few months ago, and was flattered, but I would not expect a woman who has to put up with catcalls and remarks all the time to react the same way to a wolf-whistle from men. Context and social circumstance matter.

  44. “It is a hell of a lot easier for a guy to laugh off a stupid remark about men, than for a woman to laugh off a stupid remark about women.”

    I’ve learned something. Or at least seen it in a better light.

    My natural first thought from all this was to figure that we have to live in a society where lots of cultures swirl together, so we have to accept that some people will express their cultural values and only try to hurt them for it when they intrude on our prerogatives.

    But then, consider Chile where people are trying to live in peace with the men who tortured and killed their relatives. Sometimes it’s hard.

    Sure,people are responsible for their reactions to stuff they don’t like, but it does no good to tell them that while they are outraged.

    It’s my place to tolerate people being intolerant, or at least notice carefully what results I want to achieve.

    It used to be that men could say all sorts of rude insensitive things and women couldn’t object. No wait, they could object. It just had to be in the general form of “there are ladies present and you are offending them”. It had to be in the context of the old system. Unequal rights and responsibilities.

    We no longer have customs to smooth things over, and we haven’t established who has what rights. Of course lots of women feel like they have the right not to be exposed to points of view they despise. They used to have that right, why should they lose it? So all that is understandable.

    What I’m wondering is what did Resnick and Malzberg etc want? The results are entirely predictable. Did they want to prove to their own satisfaction that they would be treated unfairly? Were they doing some sort of sociology experiment, where real people like their editor could get hurt? Did they hope to somehow change things, to get people to see things in a new way? So far it looks like they’ve mostly failed at that last, but maybe things are happening that don’t show up yet.

    When I get the chance I’ll look for things they’ve written recently about it to see if they explain.

  45. Dude, yes, context and social circumstance totally matter. The context and social circumstance here were some old people reminiscing in ways that have been deemed socially inappropriate by economically-privileged identitarians whose understanding of power was shaped by the schools of the upper-class. Sure, our genre has some sexist folks, but if you’re going to tell me that a group which embraced Leigh Brackett, Andre Norton, Ursula Le Guin, and Octavia Butler has been oppressing women and therefore the language of elderly male writers must be vetted, I’m gonna roll my eyes again. Do R & M have different politics and different rhetoric than many of us? Sure. Do they think women should be paid less than men or prevented in any way from having the same opportunities as men? I ain’t seen that. And even if they did, so what? They’re powerless–their opinions don’t shape anyone’s policies. If you want to rage at someone, rage at Obama, whose work continues the disproportionate punishment of women and folks of color because almost everyone, white and black, male and female, who started off on one side or other of the wealth gap has been trapped while that gap grows, thanks to the low level of class mobility for everyone in this country. The US is snooping on its citizens to a greater degree than ever before, and 67% of Democrats approve, apparently because it’s not being done under a Republican. The military is assassinating US citizens abroad under a review system that the Commander in Chief has not shared with the public. Yet fandom’s outrage culture is all about how oppressive it is to remember that an editor was both good at her job and physically attractive, Barbie was used as an example of “quiet dignity”, and a cover had a picture of a nearly-naked swordswoman instead of a nearly-naked swordsman.

    Ah, well. As the field brings in more and more academics, Sayre’s Law becomes more and more important to understanding it.

    /rant

  46. Here are the offensive parts of the first post. It’s a couple of snippets out of an 8 page article.

    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=8210832&postcount=27

    Various commenters said those weren’t so very bad, an apology and a promise never to do it again would have satisfied many of the complainers.

    People also got upset about an unrelated chainmail bikini picture and the Barbie article by CJHenderson.

    Apparently various people privately objected to R&M’s article, but got no promises they would be censored. Then they started objecting publicly.

    R&M then published a rebuttal, which got a whole lot more criticism. Again, if they had only apologized for their first article and promised to never do it again, they wouldn’t be the lightning rods and it would focus more on Henderson.

    Here are jpegs of the entire “censorship” article.

    http://radishreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SFWAPage1.jpg
    http://radishreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SFWAPage2.jpg
    http://radishreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SFWAPage3.jpg
    http://radishreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SFWAPage4.jpg
    http://radishreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SFWAPage5.jpg
    http://radishreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/SFWAPage6.jpg

    http://mikeresnick.com/?p=1593#comments

    ———————-
    Reader comment: Are you going to post the article that gave all those strong independent women authors the vapors? I’d rather like to see it.

    Resnick: Eventually. You’ll find that we had the termity to call Bea Mahaffey, a dear personal friend who edited Other Worlds 63 years ago, “beautiful”.
    ———————-

    Big uproar. Among seven blog posts I read about it written by women, three talked about their rapes and how they don’t want to read SFWA articles that bring that back.

    My own take on it: R&M offended people who were overripe to be offended, and then tried to argue back. They not only defended their right to talk in ways that made other people think they were sexists, they also sounded like they were social conservatives. They said some codewords that only conservatives use.

    They have no need to write unpaid articles for SFWA and can write whatever they want on their own blogs.

  47. Will,

    “How dare you have opinions about this issue, when you should only have opinions about more important unrelated issues that I get to choose” is always a distasteful argument.

    When it’s a fallback position from “Gosh, I dunno, shouldn’t everybody else wait to have an opinion until I have gotten around to researching the topic?” it starts looking disingenuous as well.

  48. Vinnie, I’m pretty sure that’s on all kinds of bingo cards. Of course you may have any opinion about anything you please—Red Wedding, OMG!

    What’s become clear about this particular kerfuffle is the outraged folks are convinced they know enough. I’m not invested in any of the examples–I’ve been mocking scale bikinis since Red Sonja got one–and the people who want the old guys silenced aren’t about to change their minds, so, yeah, I’m walking off muttering about priorities. I do think free speech trumps speech that upsets people, and dear fucking God has Obama continued to be the man Adolph Reed Jr. identified him as in 1996.

  49. skzb

    Vinnie: Thank you for your contribution. While I admit that reading the excerpts concerning Barbie I felt my gorge rise, I also do not consider it unreasonable for someone to want a full context before coming to a decision. Could Mr. Henderson have been using the quoted material as an example of objectionable thinking? I really, really doubt it; but I can’t get bent out of shape by someone wanting to be sure, either.

    I am also not seeing Will’s position as asking everyone else to wait before forming an opinion; I took as explaining why he was waiting. I may have missed something there.

    It seems to me that Will is suggesting the following: A group of highly privileged individuals are demanding that they be granted the privileges of any even more privileged group, while utterly ignoring issues affecting the overwhelming majority of people.

    I read your response, and some others, as, “That’s a pretty hypocritical thing to hear from someone who belongs to that even more privileged group.” One might also raise other objections: “You may be right, but after what just happened, now is not the time.” Maybe.

    But what this brings up is the question of motivation: Are those who hold Will’s position (one for which I have considerable sympathy, if not full agreement) trying to protect their privilege, or attempting to reduce that privilege by fighting for equality across all social boundaries? And then there is the effect, regardless of motivation: what will such arguments accomplish, aside from infuriating a lot of people?

    My point is, I would like to ask you, and others, to consider the matter in light of the possibility that Will’s goal is not to justify the inequality of women, but, rather, to help find a way to end all inequality.

    I do not doubt that we will find profound disagreements on how to go about that; but if we’re going to discuss it all, starting from assuming the best intentions, rather than the worst, seems useful.

  50. > Do R & M have different politics and different rhetoric than many of us? Sure. Do they think women should be paid less than men or prevented in any way from having the same opportunities as men? I ain’t seen that. And even if they did, so what? They’re powerless–their opinions don’t shape anyone’s polici

    We are talking about a professional publication. It should not insult half the potential members of the professional organization without a really good reason. And telling women they should be like Barbie is an insult – a much stronger insult than telling a man he should be like Stretch Armstrong. (That is where social context comes in). Especially when a publication has manged to insult women for several issues in a row, it does not have be physically kicking a woman to a curb or advocating lower payment per word for women to be an editorial failure. There was previous post on this blog about civility in rhetoric and discussion. I suppose there are times when a professional publication wants to insult its membership for shock value as part of an educational purposes. But the circumstances in which this makes sense is pretty rare, and I have yet to hear a convincing argument that this was one of them. The idea that the statement was aimed at both men and women, which seem unlikely, would not mitigate much if it were true. Words and rhetoric have connotations as well as denotations – and professional writers writing in a professional writer’s trade publication should expect to be held to a high standard in that regard There is no way that an article discussing the role of women which then uses Barbie and Bratz as metaphors, similes or analogies for proper and improper behavior is not going to be taken as aimed primarily at women. If they were not deliberately seeking to insult women who read their article then they are not very good at their craft as writers. And given their long history as damn good writers, I doubt this. My feeling is they are both too skilled not to follow an important rule of discourse: never be *unintentionally* rude.

  51. I don’t think anyone was trying to insult anyone until #202, when R & M decided to take on the word police and Scalzi approved their article.

    I don’t see any point in saying anything more about this: minds are as made up as they can possibly be. But to show you that the opinions of the offended women you’ve seen are not the only ones, you might look at Felicity Savage’s two comments on this post: http://elflands2ndcousin.com/2013/05/31/the-sfwa-bulletin-censorship-anonymity-and-representation/

  52. I looked. Actually I think more than two. But Chris gives good answer too.Again, this is a professional publication. Every submission is not printed. Articles get rejected and given kill fees or sent back for revision. It sounds like the editor (and yes she happens to be a woman) exercised poor editorial judgement. I don’t think calling for an editor to use decent editorial judgement is being the “word police” or censors.

  53. ‘Decent’ is a word long loved by people who want to police language.

    I’m a bit fascinated by the way people choose which women must be protected from ‘indecent’ language.

    And I’m especially fascinated by the way self-appointed protectors of women choose to blame Rabe, a woman with little power, rather than Scalzi, the man that she had to submit the articles to for approval.

  54. >‘Decent’ is a word long loved by people who want to police language.

    Not when used to describe editorial judgement. A bit different than accusing content of being indecent. I find it fascinating that you don’t think you have sufficient evidence to judge what went on in the magazine, but do think you have enough evidence to judge me?

    And the responsibility can’t only be Scalzi’s even if it ultimately is his. She chose what to submit to him. That is poor editorial judgement even if his was poor as well. She set the agenda. Not “little power”. And Scalzi’s term is almost gone. And he has taken responsibility. I find it fascinating that you are deferring judgement only on R& but not on their critics. I would think that your judgement on whether R&M are write or wrong would have some influence on whether you think their critics are right or wrong. Or does it work the other way? do you judge the right or wrong of a situation by your opinion of the participants in the controversy? Because if you are trying to be fair, then your opinion of me should not affect your judgement of controversy.

  55. I say that Will is morally consistent and pretty much everybody else who discusses this is morally inconsistent.

    However, there’s a moral clarity in sacrificing yourself for consistent moral ideals, but there’s also a sacrifice. It’s completely understandable that people don’t want to sacrifice themselves for free speech. It’s a noble ideal, but….

    Ideally, everybody should have the right to offend everybody else. In practice, usually nothing bad will happen to you if you offend the powerless, but when you offend people who can hurt you — very often they will.

    Very often when people used to feel powerless and now they have some power, they try to strike at people who offend them. It’s partly to assure themselves that they *can* do it. They can hurt people who offend them and get away with it. They are powerful now and they don’t *have* to put up with stuff. After they get settled in they get some tolerance. They can let little pipsqueaks say what they want to their faces, because it doesn’t make any difference. But at first they’re touchy.

    Is it right? No. What happens if you get in their way? They do their best to trample you to show themselves they can. Maybe they develop tolerance a little faster than they would if they hadn’t kicked you around. Does the world become a place with less censorship? Probably not. By the time they settle down somebody else will be just getting powerful enough to take their place.

    Should you stand up for free speech, when it’s decent people who want censorship? It depends.

    In general I think it’s good when people with different cultures talk it over and learn to understand each other. Then we can work things out better. So say we got some sexist man here to talk things over with. He is in fact a pimp. He says when a woman gets too uppity you need to bitchslap her and she’ll settle down. Wait a minute, do we want to understand his point of view? Isn’t it enough to just put him in jail? When he gets out, we can talk to him provided he apologises and reforms and never does anything sexist ever again. But until then, do we need to give him a forum? He’s wrong. He’s evil. There is nothing to discuss with him.

    If a whole lot of people feel the same about Resnick and Malzberg, what should a good, reasonable person do about it? One option is to tell them that they are doing censorship. But maybe a more practical response is to do nothing to attract their attention until after they get over it.

    “First they came for the Jews and nobody else said anything. So I spoke up and they came for me that same hour.”

  56. J Thomas,

    Could you define your terms a bit? You have asserted that “pretty much everybody” who has objected to the content in the Bulletin is engaging in censorship.

    Is all criticism censorship?

    If not, how could their objections have been expressed that would not have earned that accusation from you (and Mazlberg, and Resnik, and Shetterly)?

  57. Gar, I wasn’t judging you. I was thinking about a group that you seemed to be in, the people who think editors should impose what they think is “decent”.

    And your stronger defense of Scalzi is fascinating. He knew the articles were controversial. He had the power to kill an established column, which, so far as I’ve been able to determine, Rabe did not. When R & M were complaining about censorship, the editor took the article intended for #202 to Scalzi, the person who had the power to kill it or insist on changes. Scalzi approved it.

    I’ve been wondering if this blaming the woman with less authority and forgiving the man with more is classist, sexist, or both. I think it’s actually, or mostly, something else: A lot of people know and like Scalzi, so it’s easier to blame Rabe.

  58. Define terms? I’ll make a try at it.

    I said that pretty much everybody is morally inconsistent, not that everybody is doing censorship.

    It’s easier to be morally consistent when you only have one value. When you have two, sometimes they may conflict. Like, if you think you should speak out against bullies but you also should look out for your own neck, then when it’s a little puny bully you can speak out easily but when it’s a big strong bully then it gets harder to stay consistent….

    “Is all criticism censorship?”

    No, of course not.

    “If not, how could their objections have been expressed that would not have earned that accusation from you (and Mazlberg, and Resnik, and Shetterly)?”

    By just saying what they object to.

    When they add in that it’s a professional journal and the editor ought to censor things they don’t like, they are calling for censorship. At least that’s how I see it.

    Someplace else I said it isn’t really censorship if you’re just trying to keep somebody from being published one place, when there’s someplace else he could get published or he could self-pay to publish his own work. Now I think that’s wrong. It’s censorship either way.

    But maybe censorship isn’t always bad. What if it was a KKK member or neonazi spewing racist filth? What if it was an awful sexist or even somebody advocating that women be forced into prostitution? A radical muslim? A NAMBLA member? There are lots of people that most of us agree should not be allowed to talk to anybody. Put them in solitary until they change their minds.

    And publishers must do what their readers want. If a bunch of SFWA members want SFWA to censor somebody, that’s what they should do. They’re professionals, they are in business to do whatever their customers want, and if they have moral qualms they’re in the wrong business. It’s *unprofessional* of them to do what they think is right when the customers disagree. When you take a job you check your morals at the door.

    I have the impression Wil Shetterly feels it’s morally wrong for us to intimidate people into shutting up. Well, but people do that kind of thing *all the time*. If people stopped intimidating each other we’d have a completely different culture. And shouldn’t we be allowed to bribe people to do what we want? Sometimes the difference between intimidation and bribery is subtle.

    “Censor those bozos or I will not join SFWA.”
    “If you do what I want, I probably will join SFWA.”

    Just a matter of emphasis, of how you choose to think of it.

    People try to intimidate each other *a whole lot* and sometimes they back down and do it the other guy’s way and other times they don’t. We should carefully examine examples of both so we can learn better how to intimidate and how to resist intimidation.

    John Jay Chapman: “If a man can resist the influences of his townsfollk, if he can cut free from the tyranny of neighbourhood gossip, the world has no terrors for him; there is no second inquisition.”

  59. Vinnie and J Thomas, I did a post on censorship recently:

    http://shetterly.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-right-to-offend-is-heart-of-free.html

    I don’t think it’s wrong to intimidate people into shutting up, so long as you’re responding to speech with speech. I do think it’s wrong to demand that magazines make their editorial policies more restrictive. I think it’s extremely appropriate to impose subject guidelines on magazines–a mag for Democrats needn’t have anything from or about Republicans or socialists. And I’m comfortable with a house list of forbidden words, so long as writers know up-front that they have to use “n-word” instead of the actual word or can’t use any of Carlin’s seven dirty words.

    I do like that Chapman quote.

    And I hope SFWA will have a vote on whether the Bulletin should be edited with a heavier hand.

  60. Wil, I find I don’t disagree with you about anything, about what’s right.

    I do have some concerns about friction points.

    “I don’t think it’s wrong to intimidate people into shutting up, so long as you’re responding to speech with speech.”

    So if you and a bunch of others manage to shut down some sort of minority speech that’s OK? That seems more cynical than I expected of you, but I don’t really know you.

    “I do think it’s wrong to demand that magazines make their editorial policies more restrictive.”

    How about if both sides of the argument demand that magazines change editorial policies to suit them, and the magazine editor or owner or whoever chooses which to go with? Does that make it OK, like responding to speech with speech?

    Or is it not that they compete in the same arena but that they arrange to make things more public instead of less public? Or something else?

  61. “So if you and a bunch of others manage to shut down some sort of minority speech that’s OK?”

    Depends on what you mean by intimidation and speech, of course. I don’t mean threats or blackmail, and I have serious doubts about the chorus of ad hominem that always comes up in these kerfuffles. But everyone has a right to rant about what they’re concerned with, whether it’s men, women, white folks, black folks, cis folks, trans folks, etc. Being a socialist, I think that’s stupid, but everyone has a right to be stupid.

    I expect free speech to be messy. I follow the ACLU’s lead: everyone has a right to speak. No one gets to claim special snowflake status and demand that their targets be silenced or fired or censored.

    “the magazine editor or owner or whoever chooses which to go with?”

    See the ACLU rep’s comments about Clark University withdrawing Norman Finkelstein’s opportunity to speak: Censorship is legal when done by private agencies, but it is still a rejection of free speech.

  62. It’s certainly true that offensive speech is at the very heart of freedom. Any law that tries to restrict offensive speech might as well go ahead and enforce mandatory lobotomies on us all.

    Incidentally, the Russian parliament just passed that law, joining the growing crowd of monstrous thought-control states. Giving offense to a religion is now a crime. Makes you want to cry, really.

  63. I can only hope two religions manage to offend each other in such a way that the judge’s head explodes.

    My guess is that an atheist will be the first victim of that crime, but it’s worth remembering that the first victim of Canada’s Dworkinesque pornography law was a lesbian bookshop.

  64. Will, please don’t buy into Resnick/Malzburg’s line that’s it’s somehow about “protecting” women from particular words, for example “beautiful”. That is a willfully obtuse straw man and you’re many times as intelligent as is needed to figure out what it’s an intentional misparsing of and what purpose that misparsing serves.

    The point isn’t that women are delicate flowers who can’t handle Resnick, Malzburg, Henderson’s commentary existing. The point is that SFWA Bulletin is a *fucking insane* place for it to exist. This is the house organ of a professional organization the entire point of which is to HAVE ITS MEMBERS’ BACKS. Taking a chunk of that membership and shoving in their faces the most ridiculous, demeaning bullshit about themselves over and over is the exact opposite of having their backs.

    These sorts of opinions occurring in Maxim is fine sport for pointing and laughing at idiots, but doesn’t mean editorial hasn’t done its job or that those voices should be silenced. These sorts of opinions occuring in SFWA Bulletin is a problem that should have been fixed before they ever made it to press. I’m sure you’re completely consistent in your free-speech position and hold that if a Bulletin columnist stopped taking his meds and started writing exclusively about Mel Gibson type anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, well, by damn it’s his byline. So I’m sure it’s not *specifically* sexist speech you’re out to protect. Many of the rest of us have this consideration of appropriateness to venue, though.

    As far as Sayre’s Law goes, I could propose that we might be agitated about this particular issue because, unlike the Real Problems you propose we should exclusively concern ourselves with, this one is obviously solvable, and moreover obviously already should have been solved. So it inspires agitation both out of its obnoxiousness and out of the clearly justifiable hope that that agitation may accomplish something.

    And seriously, what does it say about your socialism if it can’t be bothered to fight easy fights that have a real impact on people’s quality of life right now?

  65. skzb

    Chaosprime: “And seriously, what does it say about your socialism if it can’t be bothered to fight easy fights that have a real impact on people’s quality of life right now?”

    If, as Marxists believe, the choices are between resolving the contradiction between private ownership and social production on the one hand, or the utter destruction of society and a descent into barbarism on the other, then the important fights are the ones that advance us toward resolving that contradiction.

    If, as Marxists believe, the only way to resolve that contradiction is by the working class becoming aware of its historic need to seize state power, then the fights that socialists ought to fight are the ones that 1)are necessary to the working class, and 2) are impossible for capitalism to grant (the technical term is “Transitional Demands.”)

    If, as Marxists believe, the demands of many elements of the contemporary feminist movement are for things that benefit only the upper, privileged layers of women, and are, furthermore, quite possible and even “easy” (as you say) for capitalism to grant, then these are particularly struggles not to become involved in as they lead in the direction of reformism, and ultimately, maintaining the state.

  66. “… these are particularly struggles not to become involved in as they lead in the direction of reformism, and ultimately, maintaining the state.”

    Back when the issue was to get rid of absolute monarchic power, in France the monarchy flaunted its power until the society collapsed. Many people died, and in the confusion we got Robespierre and later Napoleon. Meanwhile in Britain there were compromises, the revolution was maybe less destructive, and Britain wound up with an ineffectual nerfed monarchy that is basicly an expensive tourist attraction.

    Is the French case so much better than the British one?

    Reform does maintain the state, and sometimes it allows really significant improvements.

    If reform inevitably results in your enemies staying in control, parasitizing the culture and the economy, that’s bad. But if you can use reform to gradually nerf your enemies, that might actually be better. If it works.

    One big advantage of that approach is that you get to work for whatever improvements you think are desirable. You aren’t stuck trying to make things worse to hasten the collapse of the system. That’s a good thing. If it works.

    I don’t want to tell you what works. I don’t know. But before you push hard for seizing state power amid general catastrophe, try to make sure there’s no gentler way.

  67. skzb

    I’m a little confused about how the bloody, extended, brutal English Civil War can be considered gradually nerfing one’s enemies. I’m certain Charles I wouldn’t have seen it that way, nor would the Roundheads. Can you explain?

    In any case, however, the point of my remarks was to answer Chaosprime’s quite reasonable question, to wit, how can a socialist oppose easy fights that can be won? I’m pretty sure I answered it.

  68. So, okay. I have a lot of thoughts about that.

    One is that, if Marxism is a method and not a party platform, I don’t get how it can have prescribed conclusions.

    Another is that SFWA isn’t capitalism, SFWA is a voluntary association of producers of goods, and if revolution is in fact a historical inevitability (despite “historical inevitability” having every characteristic of a completely laughable concept on the face of it), I’d say that if we need anything in preparation for it, we need functional examples of voluntary organization that work well to meet actual humans’ needs. (Some of my thinking there specifically growing out of this conversation: https://twitter.com/chaosprime/status/334737540244451328.)

    Another is that I don’t think I have it in me to be other than a reformist, so I’m continually sad that that’s a bad thing. It’s just, y’know, my entire professional experience has been all about building, rebuilding, and managing complex systems, and absolutely all of it has taught me that 1) with some bravery and willingness to work like a motherfucker, those systems can be radically redesigned and improved, and 2) just trashing them and starting over is a great way to go from a project with problems to a dead project.

    Another is that I don’t think the life experience of women in SFWA is less worthy than than that of less privileged women.

    Another is that if the working class isn’t supposed to take state power for the sake of improving everybody’s lives (well, excepting those presently enjoying a standard of living that isn’t feasible to offer everybody, and who don’t consider living in an equitable society a superior trade), then why should we even care? And if that’s the point of the exercise, then refusing to pursue that point where it’s available *now* seems like intentionally amplifying human misery for the sake of accelerating the schedule of history, which strikes me as pretty fucking awful.

    My takeaway from The Dispossessed was that the only revolution worth having is a revolution in the way we treat each other, and therefore the means are the ends. That still makes a lot of sense to me.

    I’m really anxious about coming across antagonistic, but so many of these ideas seem just *bad* to me. And, well, the reason I care whether “reformist” is a dirty word or what “working class” means (a question I have become less sure of with every answer I’ve gotten) is that at some back-of-my-brain level, it’s always seemed like the Reds are the good guys. I keep trying to reconcile that and getting spun all the fuck around.

  69. skzb

    “One is that, if Marxism is a method and not a party platform, I don’t get how it can have prescribed conclusions.”

    Um…it is a method for arriving at conclusions. It doesn’t have prescribed conclusions; I was describing the conclusions arrived at using the method.

    Regarding SFWA: I was addressing only the question I quoted, not the entire issue. You asked a general question; I was attempting to answer it.

    The point of scientific socialism is not, “We should make a revolution because it’ll make life better for everyone.” It is, “We should make a revolution because if we don’t, we are, all of us, completely and utterly fucked.” You, of course, are welcome to disagree; but you ought to be clear that many of us believe that a revolution (and even more, a post-revolutionary period) is painful, and horrid, and generally no fun at all. Just “to make things better” is insufficient reason to go through it. Lack of any other option is. (Now, in passing, I happen to think it’ll make things better for everyone in the long run; but that isn’t the point.)

    tl;dr: If you accept the Marxist conclusion of the choice between socialism and the utter destruction of society, then we can discuss how to do what needs to be done. If you do not, then reformism is a very reasonable choice.

  70. Chaosprime, I’m running off, so you’re lucky enough to get a short response. (Joke! Not as funny as I wish it was.)

    I’m not convinced that a couple of old guys remembering an editor as competent and beautiful has a “real impact on people’s quality of life”. Does it diminish anyone’s pay? Lower the odds they’ll get a Nebula? Hurt the cause of gay marriage? What is the “real impact” here?

  71. skzb

    Will (as I abruptly switch sides): The “real impact” involves a lot of people suddenly feeling excluded and not valued and, in some measure, de-humanized. That’s real. Now, it is reasonable to ask about trade-offs, about whether the solution is, in fact, censorship, and, if so, what the negative effects of that are. There is much that can be discussed. But the question you raise here has a simple enough answer. Within the context of a professional organization, I think it matters how people feel, even if that isn’t all that matters.

    But I *still* really want to read the actual articles in #200 and #201 that started it all.

  72. “Um…it is a method for arriving at conclusions. It doesn’t have prescribed conclusions; I was describing the conclusions arrived at using the method.”

    Okay. But why are these *conclusions*? Why did we stop there, when they were arrived at a whole bunch of years ago with lots of data gathered since, instead of iterating continually the way I’m far enough into Anti-Duhring to see Engels propound as the core method of *everything*, not to mention reading you describe, both to my great agreement? It seems like we have a scientific methodology of continually refined approximation to truth in the left hand and unalterable articles of faith in the right hand. It bugs me a lot.

    “tl;dr: If you accept the Marxist conclusion of the choice between socialism and the utter destruction of society, then we can discuss how to do what needs to be done. If you do not, then reformism is a very reasonable choice.”

    Fair enough. I imagine I’ll have to keep reading and see if the results are reproducible.

  73. skzb

    Many years ago, using the methods of science, humanity came to the conclusion that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Since then, we have expanded our understanding of the universe by orders of magnitude, but that conclusion, so far, holds up. I think that is a reasonable analogy.

  74. Emotions are mental phenomena.

    Mental phenomena are an emergent, abstract way of conceptualizing neural phenomena.

    Neural phenomena are physical, which is to say material, phenomena.

    Therefore, emotional effects are part of the material conditions of one’s life.

  75. “Since then, we have expanded our understanding of the universe by orders of magnitude, but that conclusion, so far, holds up.”

    All right. Tabling the question of whether the original conclusions were sound, I’d just be wary of local minima. Like, you can have your equation tweaked such that if you increase n by 1, error increases, and if you decrease n by 1, error increases. So it looks like you’re in the right neighborhood and all you need to do is get more and more precise with your n. Which can lead to never discovering that your present error is twice what it’d be if you incremented n by 1000.

    (It’s the main problem with neural networks as pattern classifiers, if y’all be curious.)

  76. Hillclimbing! Another blast from the remote AI past.

  77. “I’m a little confused about how the bloody, extended, brutal English Civil War can be considered gradually nerfing one’s enemies.”

    After the English war, England had enough aristocrats left to restore them and gradually nerf them over hundreds of years. After the French Revolution, a whole lot of aristocrats and others were dead and Napoleon was basicly the new king. After Napoleon the French wound up with one king or another most of the time until 1870 with occasional bloodshed involved choosing which one, but they had limitations which the monarchists kept trying to remove. They gradually nerfed their aristocracy and their kings too. What good did their repeated revolutions and coups do them?

    “In any case, however, the point of my remarks was to answer Chaosprime’s quite reasonable question, to wit, how can a socialist oppose easy fights that can be won?”

    You did that very well and concisely too.

    I would suggest another reason — Feminists have reached the point that they have enough power to shut people up all by themselves. They are proud of that and each time they are successful it feels like a big victory. They don’t need a bunch of men to stand up for them. They don’t even like it, though they do appreciate men’s recognition of their power. So why intervene?

    It is enough to tell them “Oh, you stood up for yourself so well! You are defeating the patriarchy, and you convinced me that you’re right and the sexist men you defended yourself from are wrong.”.

  78. I don’t make noise about this kind of thing because I want to help women. I make noise about this kind of thing because I fucking hate bullies, and I especially hate smug, smarmy bullies with cutesy stories about how they’re wonderful fucking people and anyone who says differently is a terrorist.

  79. Chaosprime, I see how that could be fun.

    It looks to me like this one started out as R&M getting bullied. They were having fun talking about the old days, about SFWA history and fandom history etc, and they got anonymous complaints that they should be censored. As near as I can tell, it was about a few short mentions in an 8 page article. They went WTF and laughed it off. Their editor didn’t do anything and then the complaints went public and not anonymous and a lot of people piled on.

    The Barbie thing that somebody else did may have been a reaction to that. My guess is that the chain mail lbikini cover was unconnected, a random coincidence, but I don’t know. Then they got a whole hive of enraged responses.

    Their mistake was to complain about attempts to censor them rather than accept where the power was and apologize.

  80. “The “real impact” involves a lot of people suddenly feeling excluded and not valued and, in some measure, de-humanized.”

    That’s the message they got from Hines’ article? Or is his article irrelevant–only R & M count when trying to understand SFWA from the evidence in the Bulletin?

    Frankly, if I was HInes, I would be feeling like a complete nonentity right now. And that’s sad.

  81. If you punch me in the face five times, then give me a cupcake, I am not in fact okay with having been punched in the face five times because of the cupcake, and for that matter I’m probably going to be pretty deeply suspicious of the damn cupcake.

  82. Sure. But if I wave my arms five times where you see me, you don’t get to take my cupcake and tell me I meant to beat you up.

  83. Right. Since you, being in a position such that it is literally impossible to tell you to sit down and shut up because that is what people of your gender should do, in the exact same fashion that people of your gender in your culture have been pervasively and relentlessly told to sit down and shut up for untold years — what with how people of your gender in your culture have, contrariwise, been told to stand up and speak up — since you would have just shrugged off somebody telling you to sit down and shut up… well, then everybody else should too, right? It was just people waving their hands in the air! No need to listen to or credit anyone’s reports of their experience, given your superior understanding of what their experience should have been.

  84. Hmm. Is your argument that now it’s women’s turn to tell men to shut up based on their gender? Does that cycle ever win, or must it be fought until one side wins?

    Yes, I know you’re furious. This reminds of a news article I read long ago: a gang saw a kid making hand signs they didn’t recognize, but knew were dissing them, so they beat him up. Turned up the kid was deaf and had been signing to a friend. This is one of the lessons of life: what you infer is not necessarily what was implied.

    In your view, does the angriest group automatically win?

  85. No. My argument is 1) that nobody should open the house organ of a professional association they belong to and read a bunch of material shitting on them because of some irrelevant characteristic they have instead of supporting them as professionals, and they especially shouldn’t do so four months in a row with plenty of feedback given, and 2) that in a huge number of cases, if you actually make the effort it’s not even that hard to empathize with why somebody might legitimately experience material as shitting on them that wouldn’t bother you if it were directed toward you, if for some reason you really seriously can’t just take their word for it.

  86. Chaosprime, I don’t see anything there that would be useful to address again. Well, maybe this: my empathy is enormous. When some black folks wanted to get Huckleberry Finn out of libraries, I felt for them, because they were hurting something awful and thought they knew the solution.

    But wrong is wrong. Coffeeandink once noted that Critical Race Theory comes from real oppression. The Nation of Islam also comes from real oppression, but this does not mean all white people are the creation of an evil scientist named Yakub.

    A general question: Does anyone know how many women are in SFWA? And how many have quit because Scalzi gave his approval as Rabe’s overseer to, as Chaosprime put it, the Bulletin shitting on them?

  87. Seriously, editorial oversight is wrong?

  88. Depends on the nature of editorial oversight. Context matters.

    Hmm. That, perhaps, should go on the list of things that the literal mind does not understand.

  89. Does the untold-years-of-sit-down-and-shut-up context matter?

  90. Y’know, I’m now reminded of the old observation that religious groups who were persecuted in Europe came to North America so they could be the persecutors. And of defenders of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians who note that Jews suffered horribly in Europe. I would despair for humanity, if not for the fact that in studies of individuals who have been abused, only about 10%, if I remember correctly, go on to become abusers. I wish I knew what the pattern was for groups. At least Penn figured out that the proper response to persecution was tolerance.

    I’m also reminded that the notion that children bear the sins of their parents is actually refuted in the Bible, but not in identitarian ideology.

  91. God, Will. It isn’t about persecuting anybody for dusty crimes. The context is why an event that you can rationalize to yourself as insignificant isn’t. You’re looking at someone being poked in the ribs and saying, oh, well, who could get THAT upset about being poked once in the ribs? When that person has been poked in that exact place in their ribs once a minute since they learned to talk. That’s all.

    Also, I am not a fucking identitarian, and not everything is about the Identitarian Peril from the Internet Outrage Machine.

  92. I’ve been feeling a maxim coming on since this go-around began. Here’s the form it took in my latest tweet: “When you silence speech that offends you, you become the power that truth must be spoken to.”

    I’ve only noticed identitarians defending silencing folks to protect social identity groups before, but if you say you’re not one, that’s cool. This notion that all true women are upset by the Bulletin still seems odd to me, but hell, humans ain’t rational, and that includes me.

  93. PS. I’ve read Engel’s The Origin of the Family. I agree with him and Marx that oppression of women is the oldest oppression. I might’ve figured that out on my own before I read it; I honestly don’t remember. Women’s rights have been a concern of mine all my life. I am abso-fucking-lutely not saying women’s rights are insignificant. I am saying that the Bulletin has done nothing to set back the cause, but many of the people who are upset about it are illustrations of the reason why few Americans identify as feminist, even though most Americans support full equality: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/16/feminism-poll_n_3094917.html

  94. Anyway, it’s way past time to agree to disagree on this. My bad for staying in so long. Ciao!

  95. Steven Brust:

    Do not enter into political discourse without knowing what you want to accomplish and why, after which you can give some thought to how. ”Because he’s wrong,” is not a sufficient reason.

    I have improved my own understanding. That has to be my fallback goal because when I want to affect other people and get evidence that I have had a positive effect, usually that doesn’t happen.

    Here’s what I got.

    It does no good to reason with people who are in pain. If you tell them “You have no logical reason to feel pain, get over it” they will not get over it. For that matter it doesn’t do a lot of good to sympathize with them.

    They are not really open to discussion. They are in pain.

    Maybe mass movements come from a whole lot of individual experiences. Like, in Germany after WWI, people saw old people who had worked hard their whole lives lose their pensions and be reduced to charity in hard times. Schoolchildren saw beggars dead in the streets. They got the sense that no one would help Germans, they could not depend on anyone but themselves, that the world was against them. Lots of them became Nazis out of that, out of their suffering. (Of course they suffered a lot more later.)

    Lots of Jews were horrified by what the Germans did, and got the sense that no one would help Jews, they could no depend on anyone but themselves. Of course they didn’t have a lot of sympathy for arabs.

    And lots of women have been raped. It makes no sense to expect them to be reasonable about that. It affects them all the time. If a man disrespects them it reminds them of rape. Often if a man disagrees with them and doesn’t back down it reminds them of rape. If a man mentions being attracted to a woman it reminds them of rape.

    This is something to be aware of. Does it make sense to disapprove of them for it? No. That’s blaming the victim. Does it make sense to try to argue them out of it? No, that’s telling people who are in pain they shouldn’t be in pain.

    If you make allowances, you are being disrespectful and unequal.

    It’s just something to be aware of.

    There are Jews who try to make sure their children are as badly scarred by the Holocaust as they were. It’s part of who they are and they don’t want to give it up. Are they wrong to do that? Not my business. Maybe if they are always alert to the slightest sign of anti-semitism they can stamp it out before it spreads. A side effect is to feel more persecution than is actually there.

    And there are women who try to intensify their feelings of rape. A woman who has spent less than 100 hours of her life being raped, or even less than 10 hours, can learn to think of it as a rape culture where everything is about rape.

    What should you do if you are innocently writing away, and something you write reminds a woman about rape, and then a bunch of other women plus hangers-on agree with her, and they all get outraged at you? I don’t know. Don’t argue with them. Possibly you could try to understand what you did wrong, how you are so imbued with rape culture that you didn’t notice the evil you did, and profusely apologize? Likely there’s no way to get a good result. Sucks to be you.

    That’s where I stop. I have no moral stand about it. I haven’t picked anybody to blame. I would prefer some changes but I don’t know how to make them happen. I intend to be aware and see what else I notice.

  96. Will: Well, that’s a very wonderful epigram. See, though, I don’t think anybody involved should be silenced. Resnick and Malzburg and Henderson can be jackasses in their blogs or in Guns & Ammo or wherever all day long, and while it’s suboptimal for them to be jackasses, it’s fine, whatever. Their jackassery should not, however, be given the imprimatur of SFWA and put in front of its members where professional support should be. Which is why, as the link you provided notes, the relevant error isn’t with these guys, it’s with Bulletin editorial.

    And seriously, dude, there are plenty of categories of content you would have no problem with the Bulletin refraining from publishing because it’s not consonant with the mission of the publication. If Resnick and Malzburg turned in a column consisting of nothing but “gluble gluble gluble” repeated several hundred times, there’s no responsibility-to-publish there. And the main difference if they had done so is that that column would merely be irrelevant to the publication’s mission instead of actively harmful to it.

    The consistent moral principle you’re employing here is that if you see Internet Outrage Culture get mad about it, then Internet Outrage Culture MUST BE WRONG.

  97. I fully support Outrage Culture’s right to be outraged. I don’t support their belief that they they’ll make a better world by silencing everyone who doesn’t think and talk exactly like them. As for R&M’s column in the Bulletin, it’s always been a place for old guys to talk about their experiences and understanding of f&sf. How their latest pieces are any different than their previous ones, I dunno. Tell the editor it should be cancelled because it’s boring or you’d like to hear from other old writers, and I’ll fully support you. Try to impose an ideological speech code, and I won’t, even if I agree with everything in it.

    You do realize that far more people are aware of Bea Mahaffey’s importance in f&sf history now, thanks to R & M?

  98. “I don’t want to be bored by my professional publication” is a valid complaint, and “I don’t want to be attacked by my professional publication” is a horrific attempt to impose an ideological speech code, one which must be opposed with a bingo card full of bad arguments and relentless misrepresentations of interlocutors’ positions triangulated so as to in some way resemble those positions while still being self-evidently wrong and bad (because cribbing from Rush Limbaugh’s playbook is always a great way to earn people’s trust in your intellectual honesty). Got it.

  99. Oh, I should let this go, but: Let’s say you’re right that R&M shat on women and have badly crippled women’s hopes for equality in the genre. Did Hines? Really, an attack mag ain’t gonna give space to the other side. That’s what people who believe in dialogue rather than silencing do.

    I’ll do my very best (which ain’t all that great) to let you have the last word now.

  100. Again, several points neither true nor being argued. It isn’t that SFWA Bulletin is an “attack mag” that must be destroyed (nor that R&M crippled women’s hopes, which is neither true nor necessary for their material to be inappropriate to venue). If anybody thinks Jean Rabe or John Scalzi *wanted* the Bulletin to keep insulting women all the time, I haven’t read them talking about it (and moreover they probably actually are the mindless outrage-bots you’re seeing everywhere). I’m pretty sure “well-meaning and distressingly asleep-at-the-switch” is the consensus, and it’s certainly my interpretation.

  101. Of course, I don’t know why the hell I’m giving you a hard time when Theodore Beale is a person who exists. Yay, Real Problems?

    Oh, wait, yes I do. It’s because you’re better than this shit and he isn’t.

  102. The price of defending free speech is defending speech you despise. I’ll pay it.

  103. “As for R&M’s column in the Bulletin, it’s always been a place for old guys to talk about their experiences and understanding of f&sf. How their latest pieces are any different than their previous ones, I dunno.”

    Resnick has reprinted the first 3 of them on his own blog, and talks about reprinting the rest.
    http://mikeresnick.com/?p=1544#more-1544
    http://mikeresnick.com/?p=1558#more-1558
    http://mikeresnick.com/?p=1593#more-1593

    The first one is nominally about specialty press. They discuss small press in terms of how it affected the industry, and then what it’s good for, for writers.

    Resnick described some of his experience that I interpret as follows: The Resnick name will sell X number of books. When he edits anthologies or reprints old books, he’s likely to sell N reprints etc and X-N+I of his new books, where I << N. But his continued success as an author depends entirely on the new books. Selling N old books cuts into his current sales, cuts his advances, and potentially endangers his ability to continue publishing. So he wants to avoid that.

    But specialty press is a way that his most dedicated fans can get copies of his old work. Also he can send small numbers of his old work to foreign markets and pick up a little money without damaging current foreign sales.

    I don't know how sophisticated new SFWA members are about publishing, I can imagine that this sort of thing might be useful.

    The second one is partly about history of SF editing. Then they have a section brown-nosing Gardner Dubois, a current editor. Then a section by Resnick about how he put together anthologies. He would pick 15 established writers and 10 newcomers and invite them to send him stories, which he always bought after editing. "You talk to people at conventions, and on the computer networks, and the ones who run workshops, you don’t have any trouble finding good new writers." Then they talked about mediabooks.

    The third one goes on at some length about foreign sales. What to expect. What can go wrong. How to get attention in foreign markets, the kind of business decisions that can get a writer thousands of extra dollars. "Of course, you need an agent for foreign markets. …. If you’ve published a book domestically, however, and you don’t have an agent, the foreign markets would constitute the strongest reason to now get one (and with a creditable novel sale you’ll find it much easier, of course, than you would as an unpublished writer)."

    If most of the next sixty articles are like the first three, I would guess that R&M deserved to write for SFWA. But almost certainly now they will not, basicly because they randomly stumbled into the path of a juggernaut.

  104. ‘“I don’t want to be bored by my professional publication” is a valid complaint, and “I don’t want to be attacked by my professional publication” is a horrific attempt to impose an ideological speech code’

    What is our purpose in this conversation?

    Is it to determine whether the women (and hangers-on) who want R&M censored are right or wrong? I don’t see how that matters, because they are utterly uninterested in our opinions about whether they are right or wrong, apart from having more representatives of rape culture to get mad at. They know they are justified in everything they do because their enemies are evil.

    Is it to complain about R&M? That’s OK, everybody has the right to complain about everybody else.

    Is it to complain about people who complain about R&M? That’s OK, everybody has the right to complain about everybody else.

    Is it to argue about whether it’s OK to complain about people who complain about R&M? Infinite regress coming up, but it’s all OK.

    ‘“I don’t want to be bored by my professional publication” is a valid complaint….’

    Really, how many professional publications are not boring?
    http://www.maa.org/pubs/monthly_dec11_toc.html
    National Mining Association Week is boring, I promise you, but it’s for members only.
    All of the examples I found quickly are for members only. But I haven’t seen many that lack boring material.

    I can see how it would be embarrassing for a writer’s publication to be boring. The cobbler’s children have no shoes. But luckily it’s for members only.

    I remember an SCA king who, when faced with a complaint that one of his minions was doing a bad job, would first ask “Will you do better?” Maybe that applies. Who wants the job of SFWA Bulletin editor? There may be an opening….

    ‘“I don’t want to be attacked by my professional publication” is a horrific attempt to impose an ideological speech code’

    Well, but isn’t an attempt to impose an ideological speech code? Can any of us say it isn’t that attempt? There’s the question whether that’s a good thing or something horrific. But it doesn’t matter whether we think it’s a good thing, the people who are doing it have the clout to do it whether we like it or not. Unless a lot of SFWA members oppose them. Do I hear volunteers to pay their SFWA dues and say that R&M are OK? Who wants to take the heat with them? Stand up there against the wall, no blindfolds allowed.

    Is there anybody ready to tell SFWA to go ahead and publish these guys, when every word is like a dagger in the hearts of a whole lot of angry members? It’s like, every time they publish anything in SFWA a whole lot of women feel like they’re getting raped again. How many members want stand up and say they want that to keep happening?

    Well then, we have a philosophical issue. Is it OK to say that censorship is always bad, or should we all admit that sometimes censorship is right and proper?

    “Churchill: “Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?”
    Socialite: “My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course… ”
    Churchill: “Would you sleep with me for five pounds?”
    Socialite: “Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!”
    Churchill: “Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price”

    Wil says censorship is always bad. If sometimes it’s good, then we need to establish the price.

Leave a Reply