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

And Again, SFWA

| 133 Comments

Note: In between the time I wrote this and the time I posted it, SFWA President Steve Gould released a statement to the effect that the thing the petition (see below) is designed to prevent was never going to happen. My point, however, is the nature of the discussion, so I’m posting this anyway.

 

I think to get involved in this latest SFWA kerfuffle is to demonstrate beyond doubt that one has no sense of priorities, no sense of self-preservation, and, in general, no life.  So, of course, here I go.

A petition is circulating concerning God-help-us-all the SFWA Bulletin.  Let’s start at the beginning: SFWA is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, an organization that is the butt of many jokes focusing on how little it does, but that, like a good super-hero, does its real work in the shadows.  I mean it–the SFWA Grievance Committee, for example, has solved innumerable problems for a lot of writers, and done so quietly and efficiently.  SFWA has provided money for health care to writers who otherwise would have been stuck.  And so on.  Generally, SFWA only appears to the public when someone is doing something stupid aimed at it, or it is doing something stupid.  This one might be both.

Several things happened a few issues ago in the SFWA Bulletin, a publication no one reads.  Many people felt that a number of things in recent issues had been offensive and degrading to women, and that feeling isn’t unreasonable. SFWA responded with a discussion of What To Do About It.  The idea was to come up with a sort of review board that would oversee what went into the Bulletin to prevent things that would be offensive to groups of members.  My immediate reaction was to wonder how anyone could object: I mean, it’s our organization, do we want it spewing, for example, overt racism?  Now, something in the back of my head was wondering, “But isn’t that the editor’s job?  Why do you need a separate committee for that?”  And, I’ll admit, the idea of a review board to watch out for Dangerous Politics in the Bulletin seems chillingly Orwellian.  But then, articles that leave huge sections of the membership feeling hurt, left out, and insulted don’t seem like such a good idea either.  Hell, I dunno.  This is where I am very proud of myself for never having put myself in the position of having to decide this kind of thing.

Others differed.  A guy named David Truesdale (amusingly, as I understand it, he isn’t a SFWA member) got up a petition.  When I first heard about it, my immediate reaction was to oppose the petition and support the decisions by the SFWA board, mostly on the simple basis of, “We really don’t want to make a bunch of our members feel like the organization doesn’t include them, and many were clearly feeling that way, and we need to do something about that.”  I made a snarky comment or two on Twitter about it.  There were a couple of versions of the petition.  The first draft of it was, to say the least, problematic.  There is a discussion of that here.

And that discussion is what has gotten me involved.  I mean, my initial reaction, as I said, was something like, “I don’t know, but I’m certainly more sympathetic to those opposed to the petition than the supporters.”  That lasted until fairly late yesterday evening when I read the entire discussion.

Here are some highlights:

This from a publisher: “all parties who have signed that petition can go ahead and recuse themselves from any projects (including paying ones) that I control.”

Yes, that happened.  A publisher just said, “If you express these opinions, you can’t get work.”  Does he have the right to make that decision?  Sure.  And I have the right to feel a chill down my spine when he does.  Worse, throughout the rest of the discussion, no one mentions being the least disturbed by it.

Will Shetterly writes: ‘strongly recommend reading the ACLU’s “What is censorship?” Here’s a bit from it:’ followed by a two paragraph quote. The reply is: “@Will Shetterly: You’re not welcome here. Please do not attempt to comment further.”  Again, you get to decide who comments on your page, and for all I know there is a history there; but I get to be disturbed by this response (and no other!) to a discussion of Free Speech by the ACLU.  In fact, that’s what convinced me to make my remarks here instead of there.

Also, en passant, while those on one side of the issue often seem confused about where the First Amendment does and doesn’t apply, those on the other side often seem to believe that the concept of Free Speech and Free Expression begins and ends with the First Amendment.  Though I am far from a free speech absolutist, I take issue with that belief.  News flash: Sometimes it is possible to do something wrong without breaking the law.

But let us return to the discussion.

There is some discussion along the lines of, “I signed the first, objectionable draft, but asked for changes,” “well then, why did you sign the first draft at all?”  This one is interesting.  The reply is an entirely valid answer to the question, “Why are you mad at me?” but says nothing at all useful about, “is the petition a good idea?”  There seems to be some confusion about this.

But what made me suddenly rub my eyes and go, “What the fuck?” was this exchange among four commenters:

Commenter A:”The members complained, overwhelmingly, about lack of oversight for the Bulletin, so the officers promise to take a more active role in overseeing production while a new editor gets started.”

Commenter B:”As for the outcry by an overwhelming group of SFWA members about the original BULLETIN items, my impression, subject to correction by someone closer to the workings of the organization than I am, is that it was a vocal minority that did the complaining, rather than any overwhelmingly large body.”

Commenter C [quoting Commenter B]:’“And if anyone here thinks that my objections to the appointment of a board of advance review constitutes my support for the publication of racist or sexist material in the BULLETIN or anywhere else, that person simply just doesn’t know me. ”

We’re inferring that not just from your objection to a board of advance review, but from other things you say, like this:

“As for the outcry by an overwhelming group of SFWA members about the original BULLETIN items, my impression, subject to correction by someone closer to the workings of the organization than I am, is that it was a vocal minority that did the complaining, rathe than any overwhelmingly large body.”’

Commenter D: ‘“As for the outcry by an overwhelming group of SFWA members about the original BULLETIN items, my impression, subject to correction by someone closer to the workings of the organization than I am, is that it was a vocal minority that did the complaining, rather than any overwhelmingly large body.”’

So if I am to understand you correctly, it is all right to be dismissive of the oppression or subjugation of a group if their numbers are small?’

There.  That.  WTF?

The level of confusion and disingenuousness here is astounding.  A makes the argument that an overwhelming number of members complained. B suggests that, perhaps, it was not an overwhelming number. C and D then turn this suggestion into support of oppression on the part of B (who, for the record, deserves props for being entirely reasonable and gentlemanly while being jumped on by all and sundry).

And then there was the guy who listed all the birth years of those who signed the petition, thus establishing that it was just a bunch of “dinosaurs.”  Heh.  Nothing offensive there.

Summation: I am not, at this point, signing the petition, because my only objection to SFWA’s policy is from my gut (that “Orwellian chill” I mentioned earlier), not from rational belief; and because I feel considerable sympathy for people who were offended by some things in the Bulletin; and because I recognize that the SFWA president and the board had to do something, and I’m not convinced that there was anything better they could have done; and because, in spite of my comments above about free speech, I’m not convinced that this is a free speech issue.

But the irrationality and personal attacks by many of those opposed to the petition both disgust me and make me deeply suspicious of their motives in all of this.

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

133 Comments

  1. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I am prone to that basic human rubbernecking instinct where when some manner of dramatic social trainwreck occurs I must stare at it until I feel I understand… and yeah, I’m pretty much with you on this. Although I would add, paraphrasing, “the irrationality and personal attacks by many of those *in favor of* the petition both disgust me and make me deeply suspicious of their motives in all of this, too.” I’ve seen a lot of mudslinging on the part of both sides that seems to have little relation to the substance of any action taken by anyone involved and more to do with the airing of existing ideological or personal grudges.

    … That said, I have also seen plenty of people being civil and reasonable, but I paid less attention to them because I found their arguments less entertaining. That is not an admission I’m proud of, but it seemed worthwhile to add it.

  2. While it is certainly true that “the concept of Free Speech and Free Expression” does not begin and end the First Amendment, apparent confusion among supposedly educated, knowledgeable people regarding where the First Amendment does and does not apply, and the invoking of it where it does not, makes me wary of the rest of their arguments.

  3. It’s probably worth noting here that the petition is protesting something that’s not actually in SFWA’s plans for the Bulletin, an issue which Steven Gould addresses over at SFWA’s site: http://www.sfwa.org/2014/02/presidential-statement-regarding-sfwa-bulletin/ So, yeah, there’s that.

  4. skzb

    “… That said, I have also seen plenty of people being civil and reasonable, but I paid less attention to them because I found their arguments less entertaining. That is not an admission I’m proud of, but it seemed worthwhile to add it.”

    That is a valid point, and I should probably have said something to that effect in the OP.

  5. skzb

    Kelly: I know. See note at the top. Thanks for the link.

  6. In a way, I suppose, the reasonable people seemed to deserve or demand less attention – their discussions were not full of belligerent wrongheadedness I felt the need to correct.

    I’m mulling over the relation between this feeling and modern TV newsmedia, but I suspect there’s a chicken-and-egg problem I’d find insoluble.

  7. Steven, I know the blog post you’re referring to, and honestly I think you’re doing quite a bit of cherry-picking of the comments. You neglect to note the following:

    The tone of the comments was far more civil and measured than you let on;

    “Commenter B” contradicted his own arguments more than once, and swiftly withdrew when he had this pointed out to him (politely) by at least one other commenter;

    The person who posted the ages was actually warned and discouraged about doing so by the proprietor of the blog, who specifically implied it was probably not a good idea to go down that particular road;

    Will Shetterly also made the following statement, which I believe is what actually got him booted: “There are two kinds of writers: those who do not believe in censorship of any kind, and those who do not believe in censoring the things they believe.As for people’s black friends, there’s no way I would drag mine into this nonsense. Why should we expose them to charges by identitarians of being race traitors?”

    I respect your position on this issue, believe it or not, and agree with it. What I disagree with is your attempt to vilify the point of view of one side by cherry picking a few statements and ignoring the whole. Not a sound way to back up one’s argument.

    In any event, in light of Gould’s statement it seems as if it’s a genuine teapot tempest, and that Truesdale may well have rookered his signatories byt goading them to speak out against something that does not actually exist.

    So I sgree with you that it was a monumental waste of time, as well. More’s the pity.

  8. What I find strange about Steve G’s post is he’s saying there’ll be an oversight board and nothing will change. I like Steve, and I realize his job is to be vaguely supportive of everyone while he drone-strikes civilians, I mean, promotes democracy, but I’m not sure he said anything there that should reassure anyone on either side.

    Ah, well. People who want to tell old writers how to remember the past will continue to scare me, but nothing I say will change their belief that silencing is the best tactic.

    As for my comment there, their blog, their rules, of course, but I kinda think they showed their take on silencing much better than I ever could have.

  9. skzb

    jbwhelan: Thank for the comment.

    “Steven, I know the blog post you’re referring to, and honestly I think you’re doing quite a bit of cherry-picking of the comments. You neglect to note the following:
    The tone of the comments was far more civil and measured than you let on;”

    I think I have to give you that. My reaction was pretty emotional and intense, but, on reflection, as you and Matt point out, there was a great deal of reasonable discussion.

    ‘“Commenter B” contradicted his own arguments more than once, and swiftly withdrew when he had this pointed out to him (politely) by at least one other commenter;’

    Let us agree to disagree on this one.

    “The person who posted the ages was actually warned and discouraged about doing so by the proprietor of the blog, who specifically implied it was probably not a good idea to go down that particular road;”

    That must have happened after I read it. I’m relieved, but the point remains that someone felt it appropriate to make that comment.

    ‘Will Shetterly also made the following statement, which I believe is what actually got him booted: “There are two kinds of writers: those who do not believe in censorship of any kind, and those who do not believe in censoring the things they believe.As for people’s black friends, there’s no way I would drag mine into this nonsense. Why should we expose them to charges by identitarians of being race traitors?”’

    You may be right; I’m not convinced.

    “I respect your position on this issue, believe it or not, and agree with it. What I disagree with is your attempt to vilify the point of view of one side by cherry picking a few statements and ignoring the whole. Not a sound way to back up one’s argument.”

    That’s valid. My intention had not been to tar everyone in that discussion with the same cliche, but rather to object to the things in that discussion I found particularly obnoxious, I hope I did not say or imply anything like, “You’re all wrong because these people who support your view are.” That was not what I was trying to communicate.

  10. I just re-read Steve G’s post. It may be he’s saying Scalzi’s interim group will disappear and he’ll resume the old set-up with the Prez as the editor’s final reviewer. I hope so.

  11. I suspect that Natalie’s response to Shetterly had much more to do with his mysterious attempt to shift the discussion to how black people have hurt his feelings than with his ACLU link.

  12. Steven, likewise thanks. I appreciate the dialogue, and I understand better what you’re trying to say. You did come across a bit broad-brushy above, so the clarification helps.

  13. Excuse me, Vinnie. Is Natalie black? Also, you do not want me to send my black friend to fight your black friend, because mine boxes.

    God, y’all are funny.

    I realize that thinking critically is difficult when you’ve accepted an ideology, but I was only trying to point out how silly it is to mock Truesdale for having black friends. The guy’s a conservative; I could mock him for many things if I thought mockery was a useful tactic. But I would never be the kind of racist who assumes all black people think alike and none of them could be friends with conservatives like Truesdale or socialists like me. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

  14. skzb

    Vinnie: “….how black people have hurt his feelings….” That wasn’t said. It’s crap and it’s offensive. Don’t do it on my blog again.

  15. Mr Brust,

    I appreciate your thoughtful write up on the ongoing discussions concerning the furor around the petition. I am not sure why I was one of those that apparently fell into the category of making you go WTF. Please allow me a chance to explain. I understand if you don’t want your site getting mired in this debate/discussion so feel free to not post this reply. I am simply trying to clarify want I think you may have misinterpreted or I may not have stated clearly enough.

    The first post indicated that an overwhelming number complained. This was countered by the second post (after indicating that they didn’t know for sure) that it was a vocal minority. (Incidentally, this was not the first time those that took offense were dismissed as a vocal minority or few in number). My response was simply that why should it matter the number of people that were offended? I choose the words oppress and subjugate intentionally and explained why in another response later on. Please allow me to explain.

    The initial cause of the tempest in the teapot was a discussion in the SFWA Bulletin that indicated women should act like Barbies and that the merits of a female editor were dependent on their ability to fill a swimsuit out nicely. I hope we can agree that that is vile and something that would be inappropriate for a professional journal.

    I have to feel that this type of discussion, in the official journal, could serve to make someone feel submissive or subservient, a lesser member of the group. After all these are two long time, well-known and respected names in the field. A just starting female writer may feel that (since it was in the official newsletter) this is what the organization as a whole felt. They may also have felt that they were subject to a harsh exercise of power, making them less a person. These feelings fall well in the range of the verbs oppress and subjugate. Yes, oppress and subjugate are harsh words but they were a counter to the dismissiveness that seemed to permeate the petition supporters side simply because a majority of members weren’t vocally offended. Amusingly, the actual signers of the petition, at this point, represent a vocal minority.

    Additionally,, the poster of the “vocal minority” comment that I responded too also had another where they listed some of the undersigned as “including Messrs Ellison, Spinrad, Gene Wolfe, Resnick, Malzberg, Benford, RS, etc., plus Nancy Kress, CJ Cherryh, Mercedes Lackey, and others, ” That pretty much highlights the second class status of commenter B when men receive an honorific while women don’t.

  16. And after all that time making sure I was saying what I wanted, I wcrew up the last sentence!

    should read
    That pretty much highlights the second class status commenter B has of women when men receive an honorific while women don’t.

  17. skzb

    Peter: Thank you for taking the time to explain. My issue lies here: “(Incidentally, this was not the first time those that took offense were dismissed as a vocal minority or few in number)” I saw nothing in “B”;s comment that indicated it was dismissive of anyone. It appeared to me as correction of fact along with a request for clarification if he was wrong.

    I read the exchange this way:

    “An overwhelming number objected to this.”
    “Well, actually, no, it wasn’t an overwhelming number.”
    “You are Bad Person ™ for claiming that it matters how many objected.”

    To which “B” did not, but easily could have replied, “if it didn’t matter, why did you bring it up?”

    Has this helped clarify why I had a problem with that exchange? Or there is a key element I’m missing?

  18. However you phrase it, it takes very selective attention and disregard for a great deal of history and context to think she was responding to his ACLU quote.

  19. Yep and I realize that what I was doing was aggregating elements from various threads on various blogs. I had grown tired of the “only a few”, a vocal minority”, a handful”
    being bandied about as to why their feelings of offense should be dismissed. I read the exchange differently and that is always the problem with written exchanges on blogs. As the reader you are putting the voice you are expecting to hear on what you are reading.

  20. skzb

    Peter: Yeah, I know. I do that.

  21. Which publisher said “If you express these opinions, you can’t get work”? The only publisher I’ve observed offering opinions is Neil Clarke, and, if he said it, I haven’t seen it, not in comment threads I’ve observed so far.

  22. “Which publisher said “If you express these opinions, you can’t get work”?”

    Steven Saus
    February 10, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    He has published a dozen or so books, some SF novels and others poetry.

    If he’s the only one that blacklists you, you still have some possibilities to publish. It would bother me if a lot of other publishers agreed to act together with him.

  23. Peter, I realize that we may be united in disliking Truesdale’s conservatism, but are people really upset that he didn’t include a “Mesdames”?

  24. Vinnie, I would like to thank you for your comment, because you got me thinking some more about the creepy determinism of identitarianism. When you mock people for having black friends, you are either:

    1. Implying they could not have black friends because no True Black Person would share their politics.

    2. Implying that their black friend is a race traitor or an Uncle Tom, because a True Black Person would not be friends with a white person who has those politics.

    Either choice is very odd if you think it’s wrong to mock people for their race, or if you think black people are human beings who have many opinions.

    It’s also sad because there’s a fact bougie black folks constantly overlook: In 2007, Pew Research found that barely 50% of blacks thought it was proper to speak of a single black race, and nearly 40% thought it was wrong. The divide happened pretty much along class lines, which is why bougie black folks ignore it. They talk of solidarity while they treat the black working class with the same neglect that white bougie folks treat the white working class.

    This is the hard truth: bougie black folks and bougie white folks are far more alike than different, no matter how much identitarians may fetishize blackness.

    I really need to unsubscribe from the comments there, though the most recent ones gave me another laugh. Ann Somerville is being praised for thinking Pete Seeger was a liberal. There are Trotskyists who dislike Seeger’s politics, but they all know he considered himself a communist. Since I’m banned there, do me a favor and share this quote of Seeger’s, which I quite admire: “I still call myself a communist, because communism is no more what Russia made of it than Christianity is what the churches make of it.”

  25. I read the blog comments.

    It looks to me like it’s two cultures that don’t tolerate each other very well. Maybe 98% of SFWA doesn’t agree with either side, I dunno what most of them think. But the “dinosaurs” condescend to the young aggressors. And the PC group thinks the sexual objectifiers should not exist at all.

    It’s just people who don’t get along.

    The specific points they argue about aren’t that important. The feminists are telling the bad guys that they are evil and they should not be allowed to express their opinions where decent people can hear them. If young women who write science fiction see that there are sexists in the world it will keep them from writing. If SFWA admits that some of its members are sexists that will destroy the organization’s reputation.

    I think the old guard is upset that a group they thought of as fringe — super-liberal lesbians etc who try to censor everybody else’s thinking — are actually being taken seriously when they say that old and respected science fiction writers are evil and must not be allowed to say what they think.

    Neither side thinks the other deserves to be catered to.

    I think it might be good for SFWA to maybe include a survey for members to fill out when they pay their dues or something. Things their members think should not be in the SFWA Bulletin. Like:

    1. Any mention of sexuality. There may be some Christian members who would prefer that.

    2. Any mention that same-sex sexuality exists. Maybe a majority of SFWA would prefer not to see that, who knows until you ask?

    3. Any evidence that anybody sexually objectifies anybody else.

    Etc.

    After they find out what the membership cares about, they can make better decisions. Maybe avoid anything that more than 1% disapproves of, or maybe 2%, or whatever they choose. But at least they’d have something to inform their decisions.

  26. Steve, yeah, I somehow missed the note—sorry about that. Was it there from the first iteration? Because, if it wasn’t, then I probably composed my comment and cross-posted it with the update. If it was there all along, I have no idea how I I didn’t see it.

    J. Thomas, SFWA did send out a survey to all members about the ongoing role of the Bulletin and their plans for change. I got mine Oct 9th of 2013. The changes in the Bulletin are in part guided by that survey which was filled out by the majority of the membership.

  27. skzb

    Kelly: It was there, but people often skip over things in italics, subconsciously expecting, “My thanks to my parents who supported my earliest blogging attempts, and Mrs Heineke, my fifth grade teacher, who taught me to spell “recidivism,” and to Summer Glau for the signed picture.”

  28. “SFWA did send out a survey to all members about the ongoing role of the Bulletin and their plans for change.”

    Kelly, did it ask people in any detail what they wanted to keep out of the Bulletin?

    I’m not a member myself. I tend to prefer multiple points of view, multicultural stuff, people who surprise me. Neither of these two sides are at all surprising so far. I don’t like it when I see people saying there’s only one right way to think and I’m getting that from both sides. One of them is far more militant, but that just means they think they’re strong.

    On the other hand, we don’t want people to be exposed to evil ideas, do we? So when a point of view is bad we must keep it from spreading, however we can by all means available to us up to and including genocide, poisoning wells, distributing radioactivity and even outright lies.

  29. A really funny comment on that board:

    “Compared to Pete Seeger (may he rest in peace) who was a die hard liberal and fighter for civil right until the day he died at 94, I suspect Curtis above (53) and Steven Brust (58) would appear a lot more regressive.”

    My guess what happened is that this person saw that skzb was kind of wishy-washy about the issue, so she decided he must be one of the bad guys.

    Similarly it might be that Wil got banned simply because he said something that sounded like he wasn’t completely on the right side. Like that it was OK not to publish the black lesbian’s name, so that implied there was something OK about the bad guy.

    Similarly the comment that writers who only want to censor certain publications believe in censorship.

    The quote from ACLU could have been interpreted as saying it was OK for the dinosaurs to speak up and organize in opposition to the private efforts to censor them.

    A generous interpretation would be that it was intended to point out that First Amendment rights don’t apply. But once somebody decides that Wil is one of The Enemy, they won’t give a generous interpretation.

    When it turns into all-out Us Versus Them, any attempt to be fair gets one or both sides to classify you as Them.

  30. “This from a publisher: “all parties who have signed that petition can go ahead and recuse themselves from any projects (including paying ones) that I control.”

    Yes, that happened. A publisher just said, “If you express these opinions, you can’t get work.” Does he have the right to make that decision? Sure. And I have the right to feel a chill down my spine when he does. Worse, throughout the rest of the discussion, no one mentions being the least disturbed by it.”

    Hey, that’s me! (Just scrolled up to see where someone else identified me as well, hi!)

    And you know what? Words have consequences. That petition – especially the first iteration – was problematic enough that I have no desire to be associated with them.

    My stance has almost certainly cost me some work and invitations as well from people who feel differently. There’s probably some people in this thread who are wondering about me.

    And that’s how free speech works.

    I’m honest enough to tell people where I stand, take the consequences, hold my convictions, and – this is probably the most important part – admit where I’m wrong.

    Two bits that y’all overlooked:

    1. That petition (and my reaction to it) is about professional behavior in a public space. The minimizing and marginalizing is the issue there. I publish dark fiction (among other things); let’s make sure we keep the distinction between fiction and professional behavior in public separate.

    2. You didn’t link to my personal appeal to Mike Resnick. I think that also puts some context in the discussion.

    http://ideatrash.net/2014/02/an-open-letter-to-mike-resnick-on.html

    Feel free to ask me questions about my policies or positions either here, or on my own blog, or e-mail.

    :: waves ::

  31. skzb

    Stevensaus: Thank you for the comment and the link.

  32. Will Shetterly:

    There’s an alternate interpretation to “But I have a black friend who agrees with me!” that you’re ignoring.

    Nobody is making assumptions about what the black friend is or thinks. The entire African American population is, as you rightly point out, not a monopoly, and I can readily believe that a person who says something that offends 7 out of 10 of the black people in the room can also be really good friends with one of the three not offended. (Or all three. And even one or two of the ones who were offended. Everyone has had a friend say something in their presence which makes them think “Really? You let that come out of your mouth? Really?” But for the purpose of this point, let’s keep it to the simple and typical example of “But X is my friend and s/he wasn’t offended”.)

    The problem lies with the person making the statement, not the person they are making the statement *about*. If 7 of 10 black people in a given room are offended by a comment, wielding the one who wasn’t *and* is your buddy as a bludgeon against the 7 is a way to claim their hurt is invalid and silence their argument. Maybe your friend has a thicker skin. Maybe there’s room for debate about how offensive the thing said was. OR, wild thought, maybe people are just not a monopoly. But the issue isn’t with “How dare some black person not agree with the majority of black people?” It’s “How dare this white dude try to tell me because someone else who isn’t me wasn’t offended I have no right to be offended?”

    And you can replace race with sex, or gender, or sexual orientation, or class, or a different cultural group, and the point remains, so if you continue to be sore or confused because of your own stance on race, try a reasonable substitution and see if it makes more sense.

  33. Pingback: SFWA – Almost as infuriating as Maischberger | Cora Buhlert

  34. Will (7:49pm) – Dave Truesdale is not Commenter B. Commenter B, a SFWA member, wrote–in support of the petition (as quoted):

    “A bunch of us, including Messrs Ellison, Spinrad, Gene Wolfe, Resnick, Malzberg, Benford, RS, etc., plus Nancy Kress, CJ Cherryh, Mercedes Lackey, and others, thought that a writers’ organization should not be repealing the First Amendment and have put together a petition objecting to this review board.”

    Now I’ll grant you that the sentence structure there makes putting “Mesdames” or “Mses.” or any honorific at all difficult, but that structure wasn’t forced on the aforereferenced Grand Master. But that Commenter B also stated:

    “As for the outcry by an overwhelming group of SFWA members about the original BULLETIN items, my impression, subject to correction by someone closer to the workings of the organization than I am, is that it was a vocal minority that did the complaining, rather than any overwhelmingly large body.”

    which does not jibe with Jim Hines’s contemporaneous round-up of non-anonymous commenters. So he comes across as misguided and uninformed at best. (Benefit of doubt is due, since he also has some well-known recent medical issues.)

    DT’s original cover letter also claims, “What began as an article is now a petition to halt the anti-First Amendment policy of Gould.” Who, as noted above, bears responsibility for what is published in any Bulletin during his term, and followed the votes of the SFWA membership in forming the committee.

    It is, at its best, a very strange argument, since it basically says that the SFWA President–who by the by-laws is responsible for the content of the Bulletin–should have no influence over what the editor publishes in the name of the organization she or he runs.

  35. “If you express these opinions, you can’t get work.”

    Or maybe the editor meant, “Anyone who would sign on to something I think is excrementally awful isn’t someone I want to do business with.” They are only responsible for their own publication(s). They don’t control every publication.

    The existence of FOX news and the Wall Street Journal makes clear that there are still plenty of large media outlets for people who think a little sexism is no big deal.

    Like anti-gay people refusing to buy Oreos after the “rainbow Oreo” ad, or racists boycotting Cheerios, someone of progressive ideology may refuse to buy work from someone they perceive to be opposed to their values.

    Refusing to do business with someone because their actions offend you is a time-honored way of being able to live with oneself and one’s conscience, and it is practiced by people across the entire political spectrum.

    If you find that chilling, I suggest you go find another planet to live on, because this one is overrun with humans and they do that shit all the time.

  36. Lenora Rose, how does it discount some to point out that others disagree? It only points out that there’s no universal agreement. As for the numbers, I’ve never subscribed to the notion that the most popular idea at any time is the right one because I remember when segregation was the popular choice in the South and when most Americans supported the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

    As for why any white person cites a black person, it’s because identitarians’ favorite form of ad hominem is to dismiss white men for being white men. I’m quite fond of quoting Thandeka and Adolph Reed Jr. precisely because identitarians can’t dismiss them as easily as they can dismiss me. Well, okay, they do dismiss them easily, but at least they’re not rude about it.

    As for being sore about my stance on race, I lost the last trace of my white guilt after I took the Project Implicit test for race. What I’m sad about is the way so many people think they can improve the world if they only get everyone else to subscribe to their speech code. But that’s a fight every generation must make, and if the would-be censors are winning for a while, that’ll change eventually.

    Possibly relevant: “U.S. Plummets in Global Press Freedom Rankings” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/josh-stearns/us-plummets-in-global-pre_b_4770182.html

  37. klhoughton, I didn’t count the number of folks in Hines’ post, but it looked like a vocal minority to me. Last I checked, SFWA had around 2000 members.

  38. “I’m honest enough to tell people where I stand, take the consequences, hold my convictions, and – this is probably the most important part – admit where I’m wrong.”

    Stevensaus, that looks like an honorable position to me.

    You talk about who you are willing to work with. You are not discussing getting every other publisher to go along in lockstep, with penalties on anybody who disagrees in a particular case. You don’t even have a big share of the market. If you managed a staff of 1000 editors and you said none of your people could do business with anybody you disapproved of I’d be more concerned.

    What if you ran a restaurant and you said you would only do business with people you approved of — either employees or customers — … and you only approve of whites. Would that be OK too? What if you only approved of conservatives and to get into your restaurant customers had to recite “Kennedy was an asshole and so is Clinton”?

    I feel like my own ideas about all this are unclear. Sometimes it’s OK for people to only cooperate with who they want to. Other times we need to get everybody to be tolerant and violate their own preferences by working with and/or for people they disapprove of. I don’t have it at all clear which times are which.

    But independent of my unclear big principles, I don’t see much danger from your personal stand this time.

  39. Will didn’t get booted because of anything he said on that thread. He got booted because he has a history at that blog. Natalie Luhrs has banned him.

    Out of 50+ commenters on that thread, he’s the only one who got booted. Natalie doesn’t ban a lot of people.

    Doug M.

  40. “Will didn’t get booted because of anything he said on that thread. He got booted because he has a history at that blog. Natalie Luhrs has banned him.”

    That makes sense. What he said looked entirely reasonable to me, not at all something to get banned over.

    But if he has a history of continuing to say reasonable things that people can’t find reasonable rebuttals to, so they get angrier and angrier at him, it makes perfect sense to ban him pre-emptively.

  41. Doug M., I have a lousy memory, so I did a google advanced search to see if that’s true, using both “shetterly” and “willshetterly”.

    And that appears to be the only post I’ve commented on. Do people just like to make wild guesses and assert they’re true? Oh, right. The internet.

    J. Thomas, thank you. I keep thinking social justice warriors are a cult because they keep acting like one. I should try disagreeing at a Scientology site to see how quickly they ban me.

  42. Feh. A version of my reply had links, so it went into moderation. Here’s the delinked version:

    Doug M., I have a lousy memory, so I did a google advanced search to see if that’s true, using both “shetterly” and “willshetterly”. That appears to be the only post I’ve commented on. Do people just like to make wild guesses and assert they’re true? Oh, right. The internet.

    J. Thomas, thank you. I keep thinking social justice warriors are a cult because they keep acting like one. I should try disagreeing at a Scientology site to see how quickly they ban me.

  43. It was I who published the list of signatories’ ages, and was duly spanked for it by Nathalie Luhrs and now by your good self.

    I feel somewhat defensive. The signers of the petition do not present themselves only as common-or-garden SFWA members or former members; they offer their credentials as “Nebula winner,” “Former SFWA President,”, etc. That is their right. But since those who chose to put their names to this initiative have themselves made the argument from authority, I don’t see what is so outrageous about running some elementary demographic analysis on them.

    I can see that older personalities who do not align with the petition could take away the impression that I wanted to imply that all older writers supported it. I did not; but I think it’s fair to make the point that the majority of those who did support it were born before the end of the second world war.

  44. My bad! I should have said, “Will Shetterly has a history with Natalie Luhrs”.

    Will has been kicked off a bunch of different fora over the years, from Vom Marlowe’s LJ to James Nicoll’s blog. But in this case, no, it wasn’t because of his comments on that blog — it was a pre-emptive strike based on previous interactions elsewhere.

    Doug M.

  45. @E “Refusing to do business with someone because their actions offend you is a time-honored way of being able to live with oneself and one’s conscience, and it is practiced by people across the entire political spectrum.”

    Yes, this. And it works the other way, too. I stopped submitting to OSC’s Intergalactic Medicine Show because I don’t want my name associated with his… and his is still on the masthead. Or for a less political example, with F+W Media because of some of their vanity press problems. (Reference: http://bit.ly/1iOqwFe )

    (Of course, I found the latter out *after* I queried Writer’s Digest about an article about vanity press scammers; it makes the curt rejection all the more amusing.)

  46. @JThomas:

    “What if you ran a restaurant and you said you would only do business with people you approved of — either employees or customers — … and you only approve of whites. Would that be OK too? What if you only approved of conservatives and to get into your restaurant customers had to recite “Kennedy was an asshole and so is Clinton”? ”

    The comparison is somewhat off. I’m saying I wouldn’t hire someone who wears a “God Hates Fags” button to work.

    I’ll gladly sell a book to bigots – the money goes to authors, which is something I think is A Good Thing.

    The more problematic part is – because of the nature of the Internets and work in this field – that “off the job” doesn’t really exist. It’s one of the reasons (and I later realized, a smart one) my dayjob employer asks we not list our employer on Facebook.

    Unfortunately for authors – unless you use a pen name – that doesn’t work.

    I don’t have a good answer for that, other than effectively saying “If you make it a big deal, then I will too.”

  47. Will,
    While looking at the comments on the site from which you were banned, I noticed a twitter comment from the owner:

    “I banned him bc of his history of arguing in bad faith & derailing elsewhere. This was apparently AWFUL.”

    So, basically hearsay, but, their site, their rules.

    As for the petition, itself, it seemed fairly odious in its writing and without purpose as it was a petition against something that wasn’t going to occur.

    I was also bemused at the thought of Steve being labeled a reactionary.

  48. I love the “apparently”. Facts are always irrelevant with them, but peer approval matters enormously. “Arguing in bad faith & derailing” is more cult-speak: If I argued in “good faith” and did not “derail”, I would be one of the saved rather than one of the sinners in their belief system. I think instead of calling them Orwellian, people call them Falwellian.

  49. Will, I wouldn’t say upset so much as showing a certain lack of respect. If you were on a panel and the introductions went, Mr Jones, Mr Smith, Mr Johnson and Will Shetterly. This would be disrespectful of you and indicative that the speaker did not feel you were entitled to the same level of respect. The fact that it was Messers A,B, and C and woman D, woman C and others, is pretty classless.

  50. Oh, as for the petition, I think the response demonstrates why the signers were concerned that a permanent review board was a real possibility. Did anyone who objected to the petition object to the idea of a review board? So long as Scalzi’s Task Force was in existence, it was perfectly reasonable for people to think it might become permanent.

  51. Peter, or it was hastily written. Or the artificial “Messers” was meant sarcastically and the men were the ones who were being belittled. We can play games with every word anyone utters, but at the end of the day, the evidence for Whorfism is weak. If I was a greater waster of time than I already am, I would go through some identitarian blogs playing word games to prove any silly thesis I wanted to.

  52. Hey, I’m commenter C. I think that you’re cherry-picking a lot. I could have listed a lot more reasons why I thought the signers of the petition were demonstrably supporting the inclusion of racist/sexist material, but (a) I had already done that upthread, and (b) others had already done that upthread, so I picked out one recent thing Silverberg had said, and indicated that this was not the only reason I had.

    If I can’t conclude that someone is in favor of circulating sexist material through the SFWA Bulletin when the original petition he signed straight out defends the original sexist material included in the Bulletin, when can I conclude it?

  53. @J Thomas
    I have to call you out as guilty of cherry picking and taking things out of context.

    You call out one post:
    “A really funny comment on that board:

    “Compared to Pete Seeger (may he rest in peace) who was a die hard liberal and fighter for civil right until the day he died at 94, I suspect Curtis above (53) and Steven Brust (58) would appear a lot more regressive.”

    My guess what happened is that this person saw that skzb was kind of wishy-washy about the issue, so she decided he must be one of the bad guys.”

    Here is the full context:
    ““I am not convinced that this is entirely due to age”

    Nor am I. Compared to Pete Seeger (may he rest in peace) who was a die hard liberal and fighter for civil right until the day he died at 94, I suspect Curtis above (53) and Steven Brust (58) would appear a lot more regressive. I’m 51, and disapprove of these shenanigans completely.

    Age and opinions on equality and representation are not that strongly correlated, especially among creative types. Minds can be open or closed, empty or full of thought, no matter how young or old the owner.”

    Why the author choose Steve Brust to include, I cannot comment on or speculate without simply making things up. You also acknowledge having no idea as to why but choose to input your own made up reason. You might have simply gone back to the other exchange and said, hey writer A, why did you add Steve Brust to the mix?

  54. “The comparison is somewhat off.”

    Definitely, stevensaus!

    My point is that what you are doing now looks fine to me, but the generalized principle behind it is at best incomplete. There are times and places where it doesn’t work, and I don’t know how to define those times and places.

    So right now do what you think is best and work out the details later. But there are details to work out which will bite you sometimes if you don’t get them straight. I can’t tell you the right answer in general, I don’t have it.

  55. Will, the people who say, “But I have a black friend and he wasn’t offended” ARE in the majority of the time trying to say “So I can discount all of you being offended” or even “So I think you’re manufacturing your outrage” not just “Look, someone disagrees. Can we have a discussion?”

    You seem to be assuming mentioning a minority friend is an argument in good faith when I have pretty much never seen it used that way. If it were, well, “Can we have a discussion?” is almost always a reasonable stance.

    And really, the number doesn’t matter, so forget majority rules. If three people are badly hurt and offended and four are not, the three who are hurt should STILL not be dismissed and waved off because “they aren’t, so you shouldn’t be.”

    And frankly, if anyone is trying to say that people of a kind should be behaving in a monopoly it is the person saying “But my black friend isn’t offended, so all of you shouldn’t be.”

    Nor, BTW, is “I have a black friend who” ever actually citing someone. The friend is rarely named, and rarely gets a chance to join the discussion, and rarely therefore speaks for themselves. If you are citing articles by respected sources in the various labour movements, that’s a whole other ball of wax. You’re probably A: Citing an attributing a researchable source, and B: Arguing in better faith.

    My experience of you in these discussions is that TNH is RIght to say that when you start posting this frequently it’s a warning signal in itself — but not that you argue in bad faith. You’re trying to be genuine and fair. Unfortunately, you tend to then attribute this good faith to people who are arguing in very bad faith but happen to partly agree with you.

  56. @Will:

    “I love the “apparently”. Facts are always irrelevant with them, but peer approval matters enormously. ”

    Doesn’t matter. Their site, their rules. Unless you’re suggesting that every newspaper editor must print every letter to the editor?

    “I think instead of calling them Orwellian, people call them Falwellian.”

    Since Falwell compared same-sex marriage to slavery (much as the original draft compared editorial oversight to slaves picking cotton)

  57. … picking cotton), I am still laughing so hard at the strained analogy that I hit enter by accident while replying.

  58. @J Thomas
    Since you make reference to “dinosaurs” and I was the only one who had used that word in the other forum, I am making the assumption that that is the reference you are referring to. If it is. you are again providing out of context and selective reading. If it is not, I apologize in advance.

    “There was an article by a bunch of writers stuck in time 50 years ago when a woman knew how to behave and her only value was in how she enabled REAL MEN to function even if that was only by looking good. Sorry to inform you but those days are dead and buried. Sadly, there are still some dinosaurs left roaming thinking that the only good a female editor is is how hot she is in a bikini. ”

    Dinosaurs was in no way a reference to the signers of the petition or their motivations but a direct reference to those who felt a professional journal was the proper forum for giggling about women parts.

    But of course, it makes your position better if you can claim that it was directed at everyone and look at those people feeling free to insult while at the same time having a thin skin.

    You then choose to characterize anyone who is opposed to this type of behavior in a professional environment as “super-liberal lesbians etc who try to censor everybody else’s thinking”

    [For full context of your remark – “I think the old guard is upset that a group they thought of as fringe — super-liberal lesbians etc who try to censor everybody else’s thinking — are actually being taken seriously when they say that old and respected science fiction writers are evil and must not be allowed to say what they think. “]

    You are not saying the old guard thinks of them as fringe but rather that the super-liberal lesbians, etc were thought to be only fringe.

    Your bias is showing, please have the decency to at least not try to hide as impartial. Incidentally, you might want to talk to anyone who works in any business and ask them if having that conversation within the workplace would be tolerated.

    You have shown yourself, at least on this issue, to cherry pick and misrepresent others’ positions.

  59. “Why the author choose Steve Brust to include, I cannot comment on or speculate without simply making things up. You also acknowledge having no idea as to why but choose to input your own made up reason. You might have simply gone back to the other exchange and said, hey writer A, why did you add Steve Brust to the mix?”

    Peter, I was not particularly interested in clearing it up. I just thought it was funny.

    The claim here, on this site, is that Pete Seeger and Steven Brust are (or were) both hardcore communists of different factions.

    The supposition that Seeger was a liberal and Brust used to be more liberal but has regressed, struck me as humorous.

    I didn’t have any big conclusion to draw from it except that people sometimes jump to conclusions. When I jumped to a conclusion about why somebody else jumped to a conclusion, it was only MOTS.

  60. @jthomas

    “My point is that what you are doing now looks fine to me, but the generalized principle behind it is at best incomplete. There are times and places where it doesn’t work, and I don’t know how to define those times and places.”

    You are absolutely correct – and that’s a feature, not a bug. Appealing to a rule means a lack of mindfulness – and that’s what gets us in this situation in the first place.

  61. Lenora Rose, I will not have my black friends belittled, so I will not drag them into a discussion. Anyone who knows me knows who they are, so if you think I don’t have any, meh. As for what’s meant when people mention black friends, it’s that they have black friends. Mocking them doesn’t change that. Well, unless they’re lying, but then you really ought to have evidence.

    Which is to say, it’s time to agree to disagree.

    As for the notion that the first person to be offended wins, no. I don’t buy that from evangelicals or Critical Race Theorists. Some people of all races are quick to take offense when their beliefs are not endorsed. If the matter’s not important, sure, change the subject and console them. But if the issue’s something like free speech, sorry. If I accepted their tactics, I would make up a name for it like Middle-class Tears. But it doesn’t need a name. It’s simply wrong.

  62. “Your bias is showing, please have the decency to at least not try to hide as impartial.”

    Peter, I feel impartial. I don’t much like either side, and I suspect without evidence that the majority of SFWA agrees with me.

    I enjoyed calling both sides names, and now you feel that I was wrong to use a name that you used against your enemies, and wrong to use the names I did against your friends.

    You have the right to be offended at anything you want to. But would you please lighten up? If you will only try to live in peace with these old geezers for a few more years, they’ll die off. Your side will win by default unless you get too many younger people upset at you.

    Well OK, I see that it’s good tactics. These ancients are so out of it they don’t understand that you’re winning so they make great examples of your power. And they’ll die and not hang around to tell people in coming decades how you mistreated them.

    But couldn’t you try to be nice to them because they’re old? Some of them were progressives in their day, they fought on the right side given what they had to work with. It could happen to you if you live long enough. People could accuse you of not having enough respect for suicide clubs and solipsists, and they could accuse you of believing you have some right to privacy. And they berate you at great length if you try to stand up for yourself, after you’re old and feeble.

    Of course they might do that even if you don’t do it, you can’t expect mercy just because you were merciful in your own day.

    Still, with luck you’ll be living among these people until they die. Why not look for a way to get along?

  63. Stevensaus, yes, I hate all Falwell represents. His tone was remarkably like yours in your letter to Resnick: simultaneously smug, threatening, and insulting because he believed he was righteously addressing sinners. Good luck with that.

  64. Doug M., no worries. I’ve had enough clashes with y’all that I know truth is the first casualty in any flamewar.

    Virgil Samms, don’t beat yourself up too much, because there is a small generational difference. Some of the people of my generation remember fighting very hard for the right for everyone to speak. Some of your generation have grown up being hurt by things others have said and have concluded that silencing the people they disagree with will make a better world.

  65. skzb

    I’m still seeing occurrences of a certain kind of argument here. No one else is commenting on it, so it may be unique to me, but it seems to come out a lot. It goes like this, “Kicking that person off your blog was based on hearsay and false impressions, so in my opinion you ought not to have done it.” “It’s my blog, my rules.” Or, “Attempting to silence a political opponent by putting him in fear of economic distress is ugly.” “My company, I can hire who I want.”

    Uh, yeah. The trouble is, that confuses the *right* to do something, with whether it is *okay* to do something. A lot of people seem to have trouble with this. Because someone has the right to do something says nothing, in a given case, about whether the person ought to exercise that right. In many cases, we feel we shouldn’t judge because we don’t know enough of the history, facts, or background. Okay, then say that. But to say, “He has the right to do that” is beside the point. Perhaps congress had the legal right to pass the Patriot Act; that does not change my opinion of it.

    Courtney Milan: Thank you for taking the time to reply. With all due respect, I was attempting to address what appears to me to be a false argument; I was not attempting to make the case that no other arguments could be made. Hmm. That’s muddled. Let’s see if I can clarify.

    I’m hearing something like this: “It was 80 degrees. The temperature rose by 10, so now it is 85.” “Uh, your arithmetic is wrong.” “The thermometer says it is 85, so my arithmatic was right.”

    In this case, there were clear conclusions drawn from the interaction I quoted. If there was other evidence for that conclusion, that that says nothing one way or the other about what I objected to. I may still be wrong, of course, but that is and was my perception.

  66. @j thomas
    Again, you choose to misrepresent what I said completely. Since your only point seems to be to stir the pot with misrepresentations and name calling that never occurred, it is not worth my effort to attempt to explain any position to you. You do not want to understand the position of either side instead delighting in making light of everyone else’s positions and opinions.

  67. “…and that’s a feature, not a bug. Appealing to a rule means a lack of mindfulness – and that’s what gets us in this situation in the first place.”

    And being able to say clearly how you think about it is also a feature. You may need to mindfully discard a clear view after it stops working, and it’s easier to see the flaw when you can be clear about it.

    I thought your explanation was clear and I agreed with your conclusion. But the same words could justify something I’m sure is evil. So there’s something deeper going on.

    When I look at it, it comes down to this:

    Sometimes people just don’t get along and they’re better off with some sort of apartheid which keeps them apart.

    Other times we need to find ways to live together even though in general people are assholes and they annoy each other.

    Maybe sometimes whole groups of people are so evil it’s best to kill them off.

    How do we decide which is which? Segregation in the US south was bad. Separate and very much unequal. Some places integration has gone badly too. Some places they just do not get along.

    I’m reminded of Katherine McLean’s wonderful novel _The Missing Man_ where society consisted largely of a whole lot of LARP communes and when a young adult was prosperous enough he shopped around for one where he fit in. People were encouraged to avoid other people’s communes unless it all stayed friendly.

  68. Will: You apparently failed to notice my point in your eagerness to say that you think i don’t think you have black friends. Which has NOTHING to do with the point. I said you cite actual articles by actual people, and display their words. You try to keep your own friends out of something because you respect them, that’s admirable.

    Other people say, “I have a black friend! S/he wasn’t offended.” and use that to SHUT DOWN anyone who dares accuse them of having said anything racist or clueless. Do you actually disagree that this happens? Sorry, I’ve seen it. In person. (Albeit with a First nations friend rather than black, but the point stands.)

    And again, because black./white racism gets you mixed up, rephrase it all with “gay” or or “Asian” instead of black if it makes it easier for you to see past your hang-ups.

    Nor did I say that “The first offended wins”. I said “If people are hurt, you don’t dismiss their pain, and you sure don’t do it by waving the flag of an anonymous ‘friend’ who disagrees with them.”

  69. J Thomas: Name me one instance where a group of people is evil enough to kill them off that doesn’t end up dragging innocent lives along with it.

    (Also, name anyone here who has said that except you.)

    That struck me as needlessly inflammatory.

  70. “Again, you choose to misrepresent what I said completely.”

    Peter, I don’t see that I chose to represent what you said at all.

    Like, people talked about dinosaurs in earlier SFWA kerfluffles. Even if nobody had, I might have, since it’s a typical stereotype for old people who don’t want to conform to modern mindsets. I wasn’t much thinking about you.

    “Since your only point seems to be to stir the pot with misrepresentations and name calling that never occurred, it is not worth my effort to attempt to explain any position to you.”

    Suit yourself. From observing you guys, my interpretation is that the details of how the SFWA Bulletin get published are not really the point. The point is that Mike Resnick’s *existence* offends. I’ll quote you as an example:

    “There was an article by a bunch of writers stuck in time 50 years ago when a woman knew how to behave and her only value was in how she enabled REAL MEN to function even if that was only by looking good. Sorry to inform you but those days are dead and buried. Sadly, there are still some dinosaurs left roaming….”

    So it will be a happier day when the dinosaurs are gone.

    It looks to me like arguing about the Bulletin is a sort of compromise, like it’s wrong to kill them but at least we can keep them from writing in the Bulletin where we have to look at it and it makes the public think we tolerate such things.

    Kind of like gun control enthusiasts want to ban guns but settle for mostly-useless registration, or anti-abortion enthusiasts settle for banning late-term abortions.

    On both sides the point is more to stoke the outrage than to actually accomplish anything much.

    Peter, your own point might be something far different. Maybe you want to make sure there’s a committee that oversees the Bulletin editor, or make sure that the bad guys can’t get away with making a petition about that committee, or something. If you’d like to explain your intention I’ll be happy to listen. If not that’s OK too. Nobody much cares what I think. I only want to reform society, and studying the leaves in this teapot might provide some insight.

  71. “J Thomas: Name me one instance where a group of people is evil enough to kill them off that doesn’t end up dragging innocent lives along with it.”

    God couldn’t do that in Sodom and Jesus said God couldn’t in the parable of the tares. I doubt I can. If you’re going to take that route you have to decide that the trade-off is that some innocent lives are worth it. And any time you try to kill a bunch of people there’s the chance you’ll wind up dead yourself. People who make that decision without taking that into account are being short-sighted.

    “(Also, name anyone here who has said that except you.)”

    Nobody. I just looked at the first two choices and there was a void that called out to me. There are usually more than two choices, and I hate to leave it at just two.

    Anyway, people have mostly discussed the Bulletin and who’s wronger. I may have missed it, but I think I’m the first to discuss whether we should try to get along with each other. I feel kind of sad about that.

  72. Lenora Rose, I see white men citing black friends when they’re speaking to identitarians who love ad hominem. So when those white men try to show that a sentiment is not limited to white men, their critics instead mock the notion they have friends who aren’t white. News at 11: mockers mock. Really, time to agree to disagree.

    And it may be time to unsubscribe to this thread, because the link to Scalzi’s post made me blog again.

  73. “Other people say, “I have a black friend! S/he wasn’t offended.” and use that to SHUT DOWN anyone who dares accuse them of having said anything racist or clueless.”

    And wasn’t the person who accused them of racism or cluelessness trying to shut them down?

    “I said “If people are hurt, you don’t dismiss their pain, and you sure don’t do it by waving the flag of an anonymous ‘friend’ who disagrees with them.””

    If you are arguing with a racist and you hurt his feelings, do you dismiss his pain?

    But then, bad guys don’t deserve to be the people they are, and so it’s OK to try to shut them down and dismiss their feelings etc.

  74. I’m unsubscribing to the comments here, so if there’s anything I should know, email me or leave a note at the blog.

    Peace to all.

  75. I have to say that from this side of the Pond it looks very silly, though obviously this may merely be an insular view.

    My daughter is a Medical Registrar; the international ‘Be Nice to the Medical Registrar’ week has just finished, presumably because the Olympics has started, but nevertheless tonight she will be the Med Reg for quite a large hospital in southern England. That means that she is responsible for the lives of every single medical patient in quite a large hospital, and if something goes wrong with a surgical patient which can’t be fixed by more surgery then she is responsible for their lives as well.

    And when she is making decisions which determine whether someone lives or dies, and giving orders to effect those decisions, someone who believes Barbie is a good role model for women could kill someone who might otherwise live. Likewise, someone who thinks her function is to look good in a swimsuit could also kill someone who might otherwise live.

    I do appreciate that people unaccustomed to life at the sharp end may not have got their brains into gear on this, but it does seem to me that there comes a point where you have to engage with reality; actions have consequences. And those consequences involve life or death for someone; if you need to be resuscitated then you really do not want a team who are ignoring the Med Reg because women are not supposed to give orders, or feel her swimsuit wearing rating negates her ability to haul someone back from under the wheels of the proverbial ten ton truck.

    It may be that you feel that your death is an acceptable price to pay for the defence of free speech, and that is a decision you are entirely free to make. But I don’t think that this has even occurred to you as a logical consequence of your position on the Barbie in a swimsuit front; I don’t for one moment imagine that you believe that women should be judged on the Barbie/swimsuit front, but I do think you have failed to think about the consequences of maintaining that this is about free speech. In reality it’s about life or death…

  76. skzb

    Stevie, your point is valid, but can easily be turned around. If your life is on the line, you don’t take time to insure that all language is inoffensive, and that the medical team has the proper diversity.

  77. This started – and still is – about standards of professional conduct within a professional organization.

    I argue that unprofessional behavior has no place in a professional organization.

    That rather makes all the rest of it moot, doesn’t it?

    But I’ll answer this as well:

    “Sometimes people just don’t get along and they’re better off with some sort of apartheid which keeps them apart.

    Other times we need to find ways to live together even though in general people are assholes and they annoy each other.

    Maybe sometimes whole groups of people are so evil it’s best to kill them off.

    How do we decide which is which? ”

    Ironically, I think Orson Scott Card articulated this best:

    “The difference between ramen and varelse is not in the creature judged, but in the creature judging. When we declare an alien species to be raman, it does not mean that they have passed a threshold of moral maturity. It means that we have.

    —Demosthenes, Letter to the Framlings”

    Mindfulness is not a bug. It’s a feature.

  78. @skzb:

    “Kicking that person off your blog was based on hearsay and false impressions, so in my opinion you ought not to have done it.” “It’s my blog, my rules.” Or, “Attempting to silence a political opponent by putting him in fear of economic distress is ugly.” “My company, I can hire who I want.””

    Words have consequences. As already noted, I have realized consequences (good and ill) of my own very loud-mouthed opinions.

    I know some authors and publishers who desperately stay out of such discussions because they wish to avoid any such issues, and practically never mention a political or social opinion. That’s their choice, and I respect that.

    I’m really not certain what you’re objecting to. Are you insisting that a publisher must publish all submitted manuscripts? That a newspaper must publish all letters to the editor? That employers must be okay with employees spewing political diatribes to customers while working?

  79. skzb

    stevensaus: “This started – and still is – about standards of professional conduct within a professional organization.”

    I’m not sure if I’m nitpicking here, or there is a substantive point, but: I think it is also about how one determines professional conduct, and how to achieve it, and what if anything must be sacrificed for it, and how to determine if such a sacrifice is worthwhile.

  80. skzb

    “I’m really not certain what you’re objecting to.”

    I hadn’t realized it was that complicated. But, “I don’t like your politics, so I will deprive you economically. Also, I will let others know of your politics and encourage them to deprive you economically. With luck, enough people will work together to deprive you of livelihood that it will make you respond. I hope that this will force you to change your politics from fear of economic deprivation. If not, then I hope it will silence you. If not, then I hope you will at least suffer.”

    Okay, in all of that, where do you draw the line? Where do you say, “This is a poor way to treat a fellow human being?” Where do you say, “I should not use threats and intimidation and economic sanctions against someone because of political differences.” Is there any point where you believe that doing so is wrong?

    Let me make it even simpler: How would you feel if one if the signers of that petition said, “I’m taking my name off the petition, because my livelihood depends on keeping silent on this issue?” Would you call that a win?

  81. It’s really hard to know where to draw the line.

    In general, since I have very little money, I spend it pretty selectively. If I find someone, or some company, is doing something that I find actively harmful, I prefer not to financially contribute to them doing so. I have friends that feel the same way, and it seems to me to be doing a disservice to them not to give them a heads-up. I prefer not to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t spend their money on, but I also see no reason to stay quiet about my own choices and the motives behind them.

    At what point does this become an aggressive act? And when someone else appears to be supporting something I believe is actively demeaning to others, that makes it harder for people to inhabit a certain space… am I not supposed to consider that aggression? At what point does it become self-defense for, say, women writers to deny money to people who make the SFWA a more unwelcoming space for women writers (which contributes to an environment in which they feel less free to participate in a community that may help them make the connections they could use to make more money…). It gets abstract (and I’m a writer but not a woman, so it may be *defense* for me but it’s sure not self-defense…).

    I’ve seen the discussion of boycotts on this blog before, and in the end, I had more questions than answers. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to be troubled about the economic implications this has for people. But concerns about speaking up in a hostile workplace damaging your ability to make a living… that’s something most of the women in my life have had to deal with. I’m inclined to say it’s someone else’s turn.

  82. skzb

    Matt: Yes, where to draw the line is the question. At one end is, “I will personally not shop at this grocery store chain because they sell grapes picked by scab labor, and thus work to break up the Migrant Worker’s Union.” At another end is, “I’m going to try to convince everyone to keep this person jobless because he’s believes things I’m against.” There is a whole lot of space in between those two. But I think the first question to ask one’s self is, “What is my victory condition?”

  83. I think most of us want to occupy a space somewhere in the middle – the space that’s most effective while still being humane. But finding a way to define where that is, even for ourselves, is tough, and getting other people to agree on the spot is even tougher. Which is not to say it’s not worthwhile.

    For myself, at the moment, all I can say is that I would think twice before dropping $10-20 on a paperback by any of the signatories on that list. I’d like to hear them talk about why they signed, and I don’t want to jump to conclusions. But if CJ Cherryh has a book I want for fifteen bucks, and an author not on that list has a book I want for fifteen bucks, I’m a little more likely to buy that second author’s book.

    … Although I have to say, that goes for pretty much everyone on the list but Gene Wolfe. I may frown, I may compose a critical Facebook message, but the day I hesitate more than a moment before shelling out for a new Gene Wolfe novel is still several controversial statements I disapprove of in the future. Does this make me something of a hypocrite? Yes.

  84. I somehow missed the last line of your comment when composing my response. That is an *excellent* question.

    For me, at the moment, the victory condition is simple: when I see evidence that the people involved in the petition have taken the time to understand the backlash against it. That’s nebulous, but not far-reaching – much like my own purchase hesitation. If I was taking a more concrete action I would set a more concrete goal.

    For example, I believe the last boycott discussion was about Orson Scott Card? My victory condition will be when he stops donating his money to anti-gay groups. Until he does, I won’t give him any of my money. If he had written a Superman title, I would have boycotted that specific title for as long as it ran. I would not have boycotted DC Comics as a company for this, but then, I don’t buy DC Comics already, because their editorial meddling has killed every storyline and erased every character I cared about. As I can’t not-buy the comics twice, I didn’t pondered to reflect too deeply about where I’d draw the line there. My last straw was some time ago, over issues more narrative than political.

  85. Skzb

    If you think my point is easily turned around then I haven’t expressed it properly, so I will try again.

    It isn’t about language or diversity in a team working together, it’s about the actions which spring from inbuilt assumptions about people’s gender, or race, or sexuality. Those inbuilt assumptions do derive from language, because language is the way in which humans build beliefs, which is why the mantra of ‘it’s free speech so it must always be right to defend it’ is so problematical; equally, the desire to protect people’s livelihoods is all very well right up to the point where it becomes ‘this incompetent surgeon must be allowed to carry on killing people because otherwise she’ll lose her job’.

    There has to be a line which is drawn somewhere, since otherwise we are in the position where we insist that we must ignore the number of resulting corpses for the greater good. It is very easy to dismiss the SFWA kerfuffle as mere words, but words are not only the way in which inbuilt assumptions are created, but also the only means we have to communicate with human beings who are not physically present, and therefore cannot be kicked in the goolies to express our dissent with their views.

    I am painfully aware of the irony involved in arguing with someone I consider to be a great writer about the importance of words; I feel, however, that you are minimising the damage that can be, and is, done with them. I am not suggesting that inbuilt assumptions cannot be altered; my daughter has worked really hard at finding ways of circumventing the fact that she looks extremely good in swimwear, and currently relies on the judicious application of the combination of terror and pizza for motivating the team.

    But she’s climbing a hill which doesn’t need to be there, and she never knows whether she’s going to be lumbered with a locum who thinks that Barbie really is the epitome of womanhood, which brings us back to the unfortunate reality of life or death depending on the sort of inbuilt assumptions exemplified in the original SFWA article…

  86. skzb

    No need to be embarrassed about that argument, it is one of my long-standing differences with, for example, many in what I call the pseudo-left. I agree that words have power. I also believe there are many who over-estimate that power compared to other things.

  87. Skzb

    I think that inbuilt assumptions about class are also profoundly important, but I live in a country where it is possible for a man who was a steward on a ship to go on, via the Labour movement, to become the Deputy Prime Minister; one of my daughter’s mentors is a great surgeon, who came from a family in which no-one had ever stayed in school after the age of 15, and was told by the careers teacher that he was deluded in thinking he could get into medical school.

    We have the NHS, which means that my daughter and her mentors will give everything they have in caring for every patient who walks, or is carried, into their hospitals; there’s no bill. This may seem like a drop in the ocean, in a society in which the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer, but for those people whose lives have been saved then it’s an important drop.

    This is so different to the US that I really don’t have the means to comment sensibly on the ways in which the class system works in the US; on this side of the pond I remain firmly of the view that money doesn’t talk, it swears …

  88. I looked at the comments on that blog too. Much as I sympathize with the idea that an organization should be free to control its own communications and dislike the retrogressive attitudes of some of the people behind this long-running dispute…. Well, anyway, the ganging-up mentality of many of the posters shredding any dissenters seemed similar to me that of ordinary mobs in many ways. Really, it looked like tribalism. Had there been physical proximate reality involved, I can almost imagine a Lord of the Flies sort of scenario developing.

    It seems like a big loss all around for everyone involved, those connected to the original and apparently appallingly offensive original petition, those milling around the revised version, and those marshaling their forces to descend on the petitioners. Can’t we all get along? Give peace a chance! Write books not petitions. Etc.

  89. skzb

    Miramon: Yeah, that pretty much nails it.

  90. “Mindfulness is not a bug. It’s a feature.”

    Stevensaus, I should point out that I don’t need you to agree with me, and I’m not here to tell you you’re wrong. I’m just interested.

    It looks to me like a whole lot of the SFWA discussion has been people demanding that other people come up with explanations for their behavior that will satisfy whoever’s doing the demanding. I’ve read that people use parts of their brains to come up with reasonable-sounding explanations for their decisions, after they decide. They don’t use those sections to inform their own decisions so much as to explain the decisions afterward. Clearly this is an important function. I say you don’t owe anybody an explanation — except of course that some people can punish you if you don’t.

    Mindfulness provides a sort of explanation on that level. Somebody tells you to justify a choice.
    “I was being mindful.”
    “But yesterday you had the exact same situation and you chose different.”
    “I was being mindful yesterday too.”

    Sometimes it can work to get people off your back. How well it works may have nothing at all to do with how mindful you were.

    Now put all that aside. You choose. Nobody else gets to decide how mindfully you chose. It’s something you want for yourself, an ideal you can choose to strive for. There are no guarantees, you can think you’re being mindful while ignoring the elephant in the room, but the attempt to be mindful is still noble.

    If you can say what you’re doing clearly enough to apply logic to it, that’s a sort of backup. The logic won’t get you anywhere without intuition first, at best it can find flaws. People can misuse it just like they can ignore their biases while thinking they’re being mindful. But it can help.

    When somebody else says “Hah! I caught you in a contradiction, that proves you’re wrong, wrong, wrong” they’re trying to apply THEIR logic to get power over you, that’s just more “you have to think my way” bullshit. But I say that checking your own logic can be a useful tool.

    Sorry to go on about this. You got me to think about it.

  91. “…language is the way in which humans build beliefs, which is why the mantra of ‘it’s free speech so it must always be right to defend it’ is so problematical;”

    If you have your thesis, and you suppress an antithesis, then it’s harder to get a synthesis.

    “It has been said that a heresy is the revenge of a forgotten truth. I say that every monstrous appearance or movement is the revenge of a strength or variety unused, of a vitality untapped in us. And it looks like a good year for monsters.” RA Lafferty

    “… equally, the desire to protect people’s livelihoods is all very well right up to the point where it becomes ‘this incompetent surgeon must be allowed to carry on killing people because otherwise she’ll lose her job’.”

    Over here we have rich people who, choosing a surgeon, want to look at his track record. And in response we have surgeons who refuse cases that are likely to die because they don’t want to drag down their statistics. At the extreme, a surgeon who only does surgery on people who are in perfect health is likely to have the best stats, if he accepts you that’s cause to question whether you need surgery after all. It’s hard to use statistics.

    I’d like to think that the medical staff knows who’s competent. But sometimes they’re subject to the same sorts of infighting that other organizations suffer.

    If it’s your job to decide which surgeon to fire then you have to choose. But often it isn’t easy. Except, if one of them disrupts the flow, gets people mad at him or disgusted at him etc, it makes sense to let him go. Whether or not he’s killing people, things will run smoother without him.

  92. “For myself, at the moment, all I can say is that I would think twice before dropping $10-20 on a paperback by any of the signatories on that list. I’d like to hear them talk about why they signed, and I don’t want to jump to conclusions. But if CJ Cherryh has a book I want for fifteen bucks, and an author not on that list has a book I want for fifteen bucks, I’m a little more likely to buy that second author’s book.”

    Matt, this is all deeply entwined around identities. “If you want to get along, go along.”

    People get into groups and they have to conform. It happens all over.

    Joanna Russ wrote powerfully about it. “If a man can resist the influences of his townsfolk, if she can cut free from the tyranny of neighborhood gossip, the world has no terrors for him; there is no second inquisition.”

    And then — I may not have the details straight but here’s how I heard it — she found a group of lesbians that truly accepted her. She joined them wholeheartedly. And then they started having self-criticism meetings. And at one of the meetings she cried and agreed that everything she’d written was sexist and anti-feminine and anti-lesbian and she would reform and never write anything again that didn’t meet with their approval. Because she wanted to belong, and somebody in the group had the power to take it all away….

    It can happen to anybody. Not that surprising that somebody might sign a petition for his friends first and try to get it changed second.

    To my way of thinking the good guys in this are the SFWA organizers who try to accomplish something good for the membership while being ground between two stones.

  93. J Thomas, it’s a motive I very much understand and am in sympathy with, to a certain extent. But I prefer not to guess motivations; they may have had many other reasons, up to and including complete agreement with the sentiments expressed in Truesdale’s rough draft, and I prefer not to speculate on what their interior motives may have been – a balance, I guess. I’m not going to assume the worst and condemn them, and I’m not going to make excuses for them, either. They’re all (as David Brin assured us) mature adults, capable of taking responsibility for their own words and actions one way or another – whether that means explaining themselves or simply stating they owe no explanations. I’m curious to hear what, if anything, they have to say, and while the uncertainty may have somewhat of a chilling effect on my purchases in the meantime, a single act free of context is not something I am likely to base a character judgment on.

    And I very much agree about the good guys. Kudos to the SFWA for being receptive and responsive to feedback, not losing their heads amidst dramatics, and generally behaving in a professional manner.

    … And pardon all the typos, if any have eluded me on my third editing pass. I think it’s time for me to get to bed.

  94. J Thomas

    Er, yes, however, if you are the person who needs to be resuscitated I suspect your desire for a synthesis would suddenly wane in favour of staying alive; the old saying about the prospect of being hanged at dawn clarifying the mind wonderfully does have some bearing on that point.

    People choose surgeons over here, as well. And there are running audits to look at outcomes: if the numbers look too good, or look too bad, then those auditors want explanations, for very obvious reasons. I can recall the first ever lung transplants into someone who had had his lungs superglued previously to his chest wall because of repeated pneumothoraxs; no one thought it could be done until his surgeon did it. I knew the patient because we’d been in hospital together a few times; he was a nice kid, and I think everyone on the ward was mentally willing him onwards, groaning when he had to go back to theatre for yet more hours, and finally pretty pleased when he pulled through.

    For that matter, I was the first person to have a stent inserted in my superior vena cava; putting stents into arteries is easy, putting stents into the great veins is very, very hard, and, since the only alternative was to crack my chest to remove the port induced thrombosis sitting in my superior vena cava, I was exceedingly grateful to the guy who did it. It was new, and not a risk free procedure, and if things had gone wrong he might have been heavily criticised; the classic surgical route would almost certainly have killed me, but it would have been the conservative option. He chose to accept the risk of criticism because he knew that I would almost certainly die if he didn’t.

    No solution is ever perfect; my daughter did her elective in a hospital in Manhatten because she wanted to see the highest of high tech medicine, and whilst she learned a great deal, and had a great time, she came back with great relief because it’s difficult when you come from a place where medical care is available to all, to go to a place where highly qualified people are spending hours doing things which could perfectly easily be done by competent nurses because the patient has good insurance, and not using those skills for people who really are in desperate need of it.

    For example, there are agreed protocols for the treatment of asthma; it’s a pretty straightforward flow chart, with clearly defined best practise routes, yet patients with good insurance might get 30 minutes of a highly qualified respiratory physician’s time, and patients with no insurance might get nothing at all until they presented in status asthmaticus at an ER somewhere, by which time it may be too late. I appreciate that might seem normal to people living in the US, but to someone like my daughter, trained in an English medical school, it was pretty horrifying…

  95. “Er, yes, however, if you are the person who needs to be resuscitated I suspect your desire for a synthesis would suddenly wane in favour of staying alive”

    Stevie, when it comes time to pick the best way to do things and make everybody do it that way, you want to actually know the best way first.

    Lots of people, usually, grab onto something they decide is the best way with utterly inadequate evidence. I suspect that part of the reason is that they feel uncomfortable to admit that nobody knows. And it might be connected to dominance issues — part of being dominant is saying that you’re right and the other guy is wrong, and having all your minions and allies agree.

    I would strongly prefer that approach not be used in medicine, but it appears to be central to the process.

    Now that big data is cheap, we’d do better to decide standard practice statistically. Track all cases. When someone reputable proposes an alternate treatment, let him try it on randomly-assigned patients until it becomes clear whether it’s an improvement. Don’t tell patients which treatment they are getting — it would unduly bother them, and if we actually knew which was better we would give them the better one.

    “It was new, and not a risk free procedure, and if things had gone wrong he might have been heavily criticised; the classic surgical route would almost certainly have killed me, but it would have been the conservative option.”

    This is absurd. If it’s true that the standard approach would almost certainly kill you, and he had an alternative that was only 3/4 likely to kill you, he takes a 3/4 chance of criticism for doing something that is unlikely to be much worse.

    It makes some sense to experiment on the people who’re going to die anyway because they have the least to lose. But sometimes this gives slower results. When the standard is 1% survival and the new version has 2% survival it takes a whole lot of deaths before you find out it’s better. Twice as good and a long time to find out, while people die. The fastest results come when there’s a 50% chance of a bad outcome.

    The trouble is, doing good statistics is hard. Much easier to simply decide you know the truth and suppress alternatives. After all, if you’re right then people will die while the proof comes in that you’re right. You save lives by not testing it. Since you know you’re right….

  96. “…highly qualified people are spending hours doing things which could perfectly easily be done by competent nurses because the patient has good insurance, and not using those skills for people who really are in desperate need of it.”

    I don’t like that either. It’s partly that this is one of our few methods for upward mobility. A relatively poor person can go to college and get a pre-med degree, and if he can stay in school and get perfect grades despite working on the side, he has a chance to get into a medical school. Then maybe 8 years later he comes out a million dollars in debt, and once he pays off the loans it’s clear sailing. Americans hate to get rid of one of the last chances for poor people to get rich. Also, many Americans have investments in insurance and pharma companies that would lose value if the system got reformed.

    Like the song goes,

    “If life was a thing that money could buuuuuuy,
    the rich would live, and the poor would diiiiiieeeee,
    All my troubles, long time passing.”

    I don’t think this approach is good for anybody apart from the wealth transfer, but a whole lot of people are scared we’d wind up with something even worse.

  97. J Thomas, I’m not going to disclose specific communications, but given that the Bulletin had suspended publication over issues that had offended a significant number of members, and that SFWA had been communicating with the membership in an ongoing manner over that, the questions that were there were more than adequate to determine if the organization wanted its trade magazine to return to the practices that had caused it to suspend publication or not.

    The context of the survey supplied plenty of guidance on the topics it queried. So, no, not specifically the exact questions you’re asking, but anyone with marginal awareness of the professional atmosphere in the field and moderate reading comprehension skills (assumed in an authors organization) knew what the survey was about.

    I haven’t seen the end tallies of the survey since I’m neither a board member nor a member of the Bulletin task force, but given that I know many on the board and that I believe that they sent the survey out to determine what the majority of the membership was interested in seeing in the Bulletin, I’m confident that the number of people who felt that the previous direction of the publication was a bad idea represented if not an absolute majority of the membership, certainly a majority of the responders. Further, I’ve seen it noted that a majority of the membership responded.

  98. http://storify.com/mmastertheone/ursulav-and-mcahogarth-play-with-honey-badgers

    I neither condone nor condemn this comic. Submitted for your consideration, only 🙂

  99. @ skzb

    “I’m not sure if I’m nitpicking here, or there is a substantive point, but: I think it is also about how one determines professional conduct, and how to achieve it, and what if anything must be sacrificed for it, and how to determine if such a sacrifice is worthwhile.”

    This is a straw man argument. I belong to other professional organizations, and it’s not an issue. It’s not an issue in other professional authorial organizations.

    The answer is simple: Respect for all member’s inherent self-worth.

    “I hadn’t realized it was that complicated. But, “I don’t like your politics, so I will deprive you economically. Also, I will let others know of your politics and encourage them to deprive you economically. ”

    Yes, that is an explicit feature of the free market. See: most every boycott ever.

    “Okay, in all of that, where do you draw the line? Where do you say, “This is a poor way to treat a fellow human being?” Where do you say, “I should not use threats and intimidation and economic sanctions against someone because of political differences.” Is there any point where you believe that doing so is wrong?”

    1. I do not expect to change anyone’s position. I can, however, expect for people to behave differently in a public and professional sphere.
    2. Why does the opinion of the person seeking employment trump the rights of the person hiring them? Are you seriously suggesting that I be forced to hire bigots because I disagree with them? Can I force you to publish whatever I write and pay me?
    3. There is a third thing you’re ignoring: I’m not the only game in town. If a bunch of authors want to go create Sexist Press, they can. So this “economic sanctions” bit is specious at best.

    “Let me make it even simpler: How would you feel if one if the signers of that petition said, “I’m taking my name off the petition, because my livelihood depends on keeping silent on this issue?” Would you call that a win?”

    I would say “I’m glad we can work together again,” and mean it. The letter to Mike Resnick I wrote says exactly that, and I meant it too.

  100. @JThomas

    I know I don’t have to convince you – but I’m also quite aware that there is a public audience, and I’m half writing to them as well.

    I obviously cannot speak for others in the “SFWA Discussion” – whether they’re members or not. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes not.

    You are correct that humans are excellent post-hoc justifiers. You are further correct that logic is a tool that is, at best, flawed. And a lot of the tools and language we use to increase empathy are quickly co-opted by those who utilize them to maximize their own agenda instead of empathy. Let me tell you, it’s painful to watch that happen.

    Which is why I chose the word “mindfulness” instead of logic. It requires awareness of the situation, and when external things don’t match your internal narrative, mindfulness demands that you try to figure out where the mismatch happened. It’s not about “winning” – it’s about *understanding*.

    It’s hard. It’s a process, and one that I still screw up on a regular basis. And it requires the ability to say “I screwed up,” and then trying to fix it.

  101. The conversation has moved on, and I will respect Will Shetterly’s departure and not continue to address the absent, but I *DO* have to take umbrage with one comment of J THomas’s:

    “If you are arguing with a racist and you hurt his feelings, do you dismiss his pain?

    But then, bad guys don’t deserve to be the people they are, and so it’s OK to try to shut them down and dismiss their feelings etc.”

    This is putting words in my mouth, and, as it happens, incorrect ones.

    I HAVE apologized to at least one person who said something prejudiced (out of cluelessness rather than actual ill intent) when I realised my response calling him out was excessive to the actual crime.

    I have also seen some people attacked for racism who have done substantial things to try and address representation and who treat people as equals, but who have had a moment of unfortunate phrasing or the like.

    My assumption is not that the people accused of a racist or sexist act are altogether racist or sexist. Usually i give as much benefit of the doubt that they are merely clueless or temporarily unthinking. Because we all are. (You should hear some of the stupid that came out of my mouth in the past, and may well in the future). HUmans are humans, and contain multitudes.

    And the only way to actually address this is to listen. On both sides. And not put words in the others’ mouth.

  102. Hey folks, I’ve got a bunch of projects on my plate, so I’m probably not going to follow this very closely from here on out. You’re more than welcome to contact me via e-mail (steven [at] alliterationink [ dotcom ]) or on Twitter, etc, if you have further questions about where I’m going with things as a publisher.

  103. Folks, I have other things on my plate I have to devote more attention to – you’re more than welcome to toss me an e-mail at steven [at] alliterationink [dotcom] if you have other questions about where I’m at as a publisher or to get further clarification.

    Have a great day!

  104. “I said “If people are hurt, you don’t dismiss their pain, and you sure don’t do it by waving the flag of an anonymous ‘friend’ who disagrees with them.””

    “If you are arguing with a racist and you hurt his feelings, do you dismiss his pain?

    But then, bad guys don’t deserve to be the people they are, and so it’s OK to try to shut them down and dismiss their feelings etc.”

    “This is putting words in my mouth, and, as it happens, incorrect ones.”

    I quoted you. Then I said something else. I don’t see that I put words in your mouth. What I quoted was what you said. What I said after that without quotes was not what you said.

    What I hear you say now is that at least one time you were calling somebody out for saying something prejudiced, and then you decided that you’d taken it too far and you apologized. And sometimes when they are accused of racism or sexism you try to give them the benefit of the doubt and suppose maybe they’re just clueless and they didn’t really mean it. Maybe I misunderstood you, but that’s how it sounded to me.

    And from there you said the only way to address it is to listen.

    I don’t want to tell you what to do. What you are already doing might be the best thing for somebody in your position to do. You might consider the possibility of actually listening. When people slip up and tell you what they think instead of give you the words you expect, rather than call them out you might notice what they actually have to say.

    People you call racists and sexists might have some legitimate concerns, that could be addressed. No guarantees, but listening could lead somewhere worth going.

  105. J Thomas

    There are times when striving for politeness is counter productive; for example when some idiot is exercising his God given right to believe that women should be like Barbie and not give orders when the orders relate to whether someone lives or dies. Occasionally it may merely be amusing; thus the male junior doctor, being addressed by another male junior doctor, frantically trying to convey by non-verbal means that the questions being addressed to him should, in fact, be addressed to the woman standing next to him because he has no clue as to the answers, whereas she does.

    You have posed a number of questions about the practise of medicine, all of which could be easily answered if you took some time to actually look stuff up. For example, strange as it may seem to you, modern medicine is knee deep in highly qualified statisticians; they don’t need your suggestions for trial design because it’s what they do for a living, and they are, unsurprisingly, a great deal better at it than you are. A quick trawl through leading medical journals, all of which provide at least some papers for free, would reveal that fact to you; doctors are trained to deal with statistics because otherwise they would be incapable of functioning effectively.

    It is not my job to provide you with information you can easily find yourself; you are not a baby and you do not need to be spoonfed. Or, to put it another way, I am not Barbie…

  106. Stevie, the situation might well be a lot better in Britain. Here, MDs typically do not understand statistics whatsoever, beyond getting adequate grades in a course. When medical researchers complete their experiments and go to a statistician to get statistical approval for their conclusions before they publish, and find their statistician does not give them the result they want, they look for a second and third opinion.

    In examples I looked at (not my own job but associates) for various cardiac procedures typically after 5 years or so it could be shown that despite promising early results the procedure did not on average result in any improvement — but in 5 years the procedure itself had been changed considerably, calling for a new study which would take 5 years or so….

    In recent years insurance companies have been willing to give sanitized data to medical researchers, allowing them room to do large cheap epidemiological studies with major limitations. This can be extended — rather than do relatively small limited studies before adopting a new procedure, we can continue those studies through the time that the procedure is in use, with data on every patient who receives it. Normally you wouldn’t do that because you’d prefer to control for variables that might distort the results. But when you test the whole population, those variables distort the results in precisely the correct way.

    Since you choose to be frank I will too. Sometimes you tell stories intended to make you look like an expert, which in fact show that you do not know what you are talking about. But you still maintain great confidence, as if you believe that you can bluff your way through anything even when people know.

    I have not called you on it because it did not seem important. If you tell a good story, science fiction writers might use the attitudes etc in a story, and nothing bad will come of it. Why make a fuss? But when you repeatedly express firm wrong opinions about topics I know, I find I do not believe you when you express your firm convictions about things I don’t know.

    Sometimes you come up with *interesting* ideas. I find those worth consideration whether or not you claim they are true. That’s valuable, and I read your comments looking for those. Thank you for contributing.

  107. @WS : “As for my comment there, their blog, their rules, of course, but I kinda think they showed their take on silencing much better than I ever could have”

    Yes, it’s interesting how they’re reassuring people on the one hand that said review committee will in no way censor or change content of the journal, and on the other hand trying to misrepresent, shout down or outright shame away critics.

    Let me suggest that this purely advisory committee might find itself packed with a self-selected sample who see their role as somewhat more than advisory should they find something objectionable – and will go out looking for something to object to.

  108. J thomas

    Sweetheart; I’ve been in more hospitals than you have had hot dinners; wihout the socialists who created the NHS I would have been dead a very, very long time ago.

    And you are citing stuff which underlines the fact that you haven’t a clue what you are talking about; if you haven’t realised by now that almost all trials start off by producing wonderful results, and then go rapidly downhill, then you have no understanding of the way in which the wonder drug, or the wonder procedure, may be enthusiastically promoted and taken up, only to be dropped once it is discovered that its fatally flawed.

    Oddly enough, I do not toss or turn on my pillow wondering what your opinion of me might be; for one thing my daughter, who has been working for the last 17 days and nights, came up to London, immensely pleased to spend some time at her old school’s career seminar to encourage women to take up medicine. Her hotspot was explaining to someone what a Med Reg does, only to greeted by the statement ‘But you’re House, aren’t you?’ Her response was that she was not an addict, but she really hoped that she had better interpersonal skills. But yes, the job is House. She’s really happy because she thinks she’s found a potential Med Reg…

  109. @peter: “The initial cause of the tempest in the teapot was a discussion in the SFWA Bulletin that indicated women should act like Barbies and that the merits of a female editor were dependent on their ability to fill a swimsuit out nicely. I hope we can agree that that is vile and something that would be inappropriate for a professional journal. ”

    Allow me to point out that you are conflating two separate articles by different authors.

    Further, while making no comment on the first article, I point out that the offending words in the second article which you characterize as stating “that the merits of a female editor were dependent on their ability to fill a swimsuit out nicely” can be read here:

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

    Malzberg first comments on Beatrice Mahaffey as “competent, unpretentious, and beauty pageant gorgeous … as photographs make quite clear.”

    and then Resnick goes on to comment that she “was incredibly generous with her time and reminiscences” before getting back to how she looked.

    I would suggest that characterizing these comments as stating that her merits were dependent on her looks is a complete fabrication.

    If you believe you are rightly criticizing M&R for sexist remarks, why do you feel you have to lie about what they actually said?

  110. skzb

    Phlebas: I would say exaggeration, not fabrication, and saying he lied is out of line. I’m letting your comment through, but you’re getting excessively inflammatory. A bland and deadly courtesy is more devastating, don’t you think? Please rein it in while you’re here. Thank you.

  111. “I’ve been in more hospitals than you have had hot dinners; wihout the socialists who created the NHS I would have been dead a very, very long time ago.”

    I get the impression you want to argue that you do indeed know what you’re talking about. And it looks like you figure that being a patient gives you competence at biostatistics.

    “if you haven’t realised by now that almost all trials start off by producing wonderful results, and then go rapidly downhill, then you have no understanding of the way in which the wonder drug, or the wonder procedure, may be enthusiastically promoted and taken up, only to be dropped once it is discovered that its fatally flawed.”

    Why would you think I think that? There’s more than one reason for it. One is that even when everything is done correctly, when you pass p=.05 around 5% of treatments that are no better at all will look good. Another is that people cheat, particularly when their livelihoods depend on good results. A third is that some treatments are truly good for a subset of cases, and if you can identify that subset you’ll know when the treatment is useful.

    My point which you ignored is that large-scale studies used to be prohibitively expensive, but now can include the whole population. We can find the results of a treatment *as it is done in practice* as opposed to a special program that involves extra attention, Hawthorne effect, etc. There’s still considerable expense involved, but it’s worth it.

    “Oddly enough, I do not toss or turn on my pillow wondering what your opinion of me might be”

    Of course not. I am glad that your self-esteem is not so fragile that I would be responsible for damaging it.

  112. Just popped back to skim things. I have more sympathy for Phlebas in this case, because I’ve seen a remarkable amount of mischaracterization of what Resnick and Malzberg actually said. Now, I agree that mischaracterization isn’t necessarily intentional lying, but I’ve been thinking about what hypocrisy actually is, given our current understanding of the neurochemistry of conforming. Are people who repeat a falsehood that they believe liars and hypocrites? Or do we need a more specific word to describe them? Most of the words that occur to me are useless because they imply the person is stupid, and conformity has nothing to do with intelligence. It’s just something most humans do. Becoming aware of this has increased my respect for people like Malcolm X, because most people in his position would’ve modified their belief in order to stay within the group, but he left NOI.

  113. Probably a lot of people didn’t read the original but only excerpts that made Resnick and Malzberg look particularly bad.

    Also, what difference did it make? There were a few words about competence etc, and then a lot of lines that could be connected to appearance. What is there to say really about editorial competence? The SFWA readership might have benefitted from an article about how a new author can tell how incompetent his editor is, and if she isn’t competent enough how to get a new one. But does it work that way? Steven King can probably get his choice of editors, but most writers had better work with the editor they have, barring extreme cases.

    The details weren’t that important because the charge was that they were sexually objectifying a woman. And they were, right? They talked about how beautiful she was. That’s wrong. Everybody knows it’s wrong to talk about how beautiful a woman is or was. You just don’t do that, and especially never in a professional publication. Right?

    It’s a good thing writers don’t get criticised for having characters who do sexual objectification.

    And then Resnick and Malzberg did not apologize. They were supposed to agree that their attackers were right and they themselves were wrong, and beg for forgiveness and promise never to do it again, like good self-criticism-session subjects. But they laughed it off and said they were OK and the attackers were wrong. When the criticisms got harsher they got defensive. And the general outlines of what’s happened since were predictable from there.

    So who’s right? Is it ever acceptable to objectify somebody? If so, when?

  114. Lingering on an editor’s appearance in a swimsuit certainly seems inappropriate to me. And I would say that whether it is *ever* appropriate to objectify someone is beyond the relevant scope of the discussion. To objectify a colleague in a professional publication is inappropriate. What other venues it might or might not be acceptable in isn’t really germane.

    (Wow, what a difference a single typo makes! I have now added the in- before appropriate where it’s supposed to be…)

  115. “To objectify a colleague in a professional publication is inappropriate.”

    There’s some room for human matters in professional publications. I remember one — people had collected memories of an important microbiologist who had recently died. One of them talked about a time he had accompanied the man back to a campus lab they had both taken classes in. A lab director of a previous generation had installed lab bench tops made of some volcanic material which was nearly indestructible, and now two generations later they were still there. He took the contributor to his old spot and showed him a place where the benchtop was marred, pretty much the only one in the room. “I did that!” he exclaimed and grinned.

    Another talked about his life — he started in Holland, and when he got a lab assistant job he proposed to his girlfriend and she accepted. Then they had to wait 7 years until he got a promotion before they could marry, it was very difficult for them and they were so happy when the day came.

    Certainly there’s some room in professional publications for talk about how things were in the old days. Probably better to leave out scandals, who was sleeping with who, who got divorced because of it, who was secretly homosexual, what sort of “political” infighting got people driven out of the community, etc.

    So in later years it would be best that people publishing about the old days leave out all mention of this current shameful affair.

    But why should historically-accurate objectifying be so bad?

    And there’s no reason not to expand the matter to when it’s OK to objectify. The question whether it’s OK to do it this time is embedded in the larger question and sometimes the larger questions are easier to answer than smaller ones out of context.

  116. I did not say that reminiscence was inappropriate. I did not say personal asides were inappropriate. I said that objectification was inappropriate. if you are unable to discern the difference, I am unsure how I can clarify it for you if the rest of the currently ongoing conversations have not.

    Objectifying: treating a person as an object. In this case, an object of sexual gratification. Why is it so bad? Because it is demeaning, especially in a professional publication, to discuss a human being primarily in terms of aesthetic or sensual appeal. We are more than our shape. We do not exist to please others. To be treated as if we do is offensive. Especially given the historical and ongoing disrespect towards women that contributes to the creation of numerous spaces where women’s essential humanity is diminished or dismissed as they are treated primarily as objects intended for male pleasure, it is bad behavior and it is unprofessional.

    There are *plenty* of reasons not to expand the matter, beginning with relevance and specificity. The question of whether it is ever okay to objectify someone is not the question we are facing. It is a dodge, a rhetorical diversion. To focus on the abstract and universal rather than the specific case, an instance at hand, It’s a reification fallacy, not to mention moving the goalposts, ignoratio elenchi, and potentially either a continuum fallacy or a fallacy of division. Quite simply, I do not need to know if in abstract philosophical principle it is *ever* okay to objectify someone when I can easily state reasons why it is not okay *here and now*. Nor does the abstract question interest me.

    This isn’t my blog, so it’s not my place to tell you to cut the horseshit. But hopefully Steve won’t object to me noting that you are spewing it.

  117. @JThomas: I’m with Matt, here. You’re creating straw man arguments by conflating several different things (not the least by conflating fiction and non-fiction).

    If you’re not trying to be a misleading and misdirecting troll, you are definitely really sounding like one. If that’s not how you meant to sound, perhaps you should reconsider what you’re saying.

    And that’s really the end-all-be-all of it.

    In a professional organization and professional writing you should err on the side of caution.

    And if that means you stop and consider that maybe that cover art – even if it’s satirical or a pastiche of an older, no longer appropriate style – could come across the wrong way, leading you to choose some different artwork… then that’s okay by me.

    And if that means that you cautiously avoid remarking on someone’s attractive appearance when talking about their writing and editing career because someone might take it the wrong way… then that’s okay by me.

    And if that means that when you screw up – because you will – that you mindfully say “I’m sorry I offended you” instead of trying to tell someone else their feelings are less important than your own… then that’s okay by me.

    And if you can’t understand why an author in a professional, non-fiction publication might need to consider the sensibilities of their audience… well, good luck with that in your writing career.

    And now I’m going to completely turn off the comment notifications. There really isn’t anything more to be said.

  118. “We do not exist to please others. To be treated as if we do is offensive.”

    Ah! So you go from there to saying that we should not tell others when we are pleased. I think that’s wrong. If you find someone’s behavior or appearance pleasing, that does not imply they exist to please you.

    Concerning sex and power relationships, it’s better that the one with more power not initiate sexual communication. If the one with less power initiates it, they can negotiate terms. But when the one with more power initiates, the other may feel threatened — there is too much they could lose. If they start it themselves and lose, it was their choice. Better if it isn’t imposed on them.

    But you want people in general not to tell others when they are pleased? I think you have taken it too far. You are asserting too much power yourself.

    “Especially given the historical and ongoing disrespect towards women that contributes to the creation of numerous spaces where women’s essential humanity is diminished or dismissed as they are treated primarily as objects intended for male pleasure, it is bad behavior and it is unprofessional.”

    Of course people who feel powerless try to grab as much as they possibly can. But just this once can’t you guys try to keep it in moderation?

  119. “So you go from there to saying that we should not tell others when we are pleased. ”

    That is not what I said, nor what anyone I have seen is criticizing these men for doing.

    “Of course people who feel powerless try to grab as much as they possibly can. But just this once can’t you guys try to keep it in moderation?”

    What the fuck? This statement is so loaded with assumptions and weird freight that I don’t begin to know how to dissect it. Where is a power grab going on? How is any measure being taken, if described as a power grab, “as much as it possibly can” be? What “guys” am I apparently part of, and what action am I taking that is not moderate?

    It is becoming clear to me that you are having a conversation which does not involve me and in which my words have not been invited to participate, despite being quoted. Please feel free to come back to the conversation the rest of us are having any time, but I’m increasingly disinterested in engaging when your replies continue to range farther and farther afield from what was said to you. As far as I can tell, you’ve lost the thread completely.

  120. “You’re creating straw man arguments by conflating several different things (not the least by conflating fiction and non-fiction).”

    Sorry, all my experience with professional journals is nonfiction. Maybe the rules should be different for professional fiction journals.

    “In a professional organization and professional writing you should err on the side of caution.”

    I take it back, I was involved in a caving newsletter which was not exactly nonfiction, and I observed somebody try to make a fanzine. Also there was a caving bulletin that was supposed to professional. The impression I got in every case was that it was hard to find sufficient quality material for each issue. The editor had to scramble to get stuff, particularly when it was free or low-pay.

    The caving bulletin had a cartoon they published each issue, about some Texas cavers who ran into flying-saucer aliens in caves etc. I didn’t think it was particularly well done but it was free. Some of the membership had exactly this sort of hissy-fit about it, they said it didn’t belong in a professional journal and it made the organization look bad. They dropped the cartoon and various people were upset that they dropped it. Some sort of small press thing offered to print it and I don’t know what happened from there.

    If my limited experience is any indication, the very best thing you can do to keep bad stuff out of your bulletin is to contribute good stuff that meets with your approval. The more good stuff they have, the less temptation to pad it with not-so-good stuff.

    You might contribute articles about ways for science fiction writers to make more money, supplementing Resnick’s series. If it looks useful I’m sure they’ll want it.

  121. “So you go from there to saying that we should not tell others when we are pleased. ”

    “That is not what I said, nor what anyone I have seen is criticizing these men for doing.”

    What did they do? What I saw was they talked about how pleased they were with this married woman. What did you see them do?

    “Where is a power grab going on?”

    You are not only telling *everybody* how they must behave, but also how they must think. Are you so thoroughly captured by your meme that you don’t even see yourself doing this?

    “As far as I can tell, you’ve lost the thread completely.”

    I’m interested in the implications of your ideology. You want to restrict the whole discussion to your comfort zone, where you are right and anybody who disagrees with you is wrong. That’s understandable, and nobody can require you to do anything else. If nobody here is interested in going beyond your script then I’ll just quietly do it by myself and maybe publish elsewhere. But you are not the only one who gets to define the agenda.

  122. Matt, I noticed that in your first post you said you didn’t have a dog in this fight and you were rubbernecking. But now it sounds like you have very decidedly picked a side to support.

    Would it be interesting for you to look back at how that happened?

  123. I came in with a firm *opinion*. But I’m not (yet) a member of the SFWA – no dog in the fight, no skin in the game, pick your metaphor. I have no stake in it.

    And I am sick of your trolling.

  124. @J Thomas: Also, what difference did it make? There were a few words about competence etc, and then a lot of lines that could be connected to appearance.

    Really? You don’t see any difference between someone stating that X was (a) a good editor and (b) good looking, and someone reporting their statement as saying X was only a good editor because she was good-looking?

    Really?

    So if, for example, you said Steven Brust was (a) a good writer and (b) white, you’d have no problem with me trumpeting all over the Internet that you thought Steven was a good writer only because he was white?

    You wouldn’t do something stupid like, say, get hot under the collar and post something inflammatory about people calling you a racist based on this misrepresentation?

  125. @J Thomas: “Objectifying: treating a person as an object. In this case, an object of sexual gratification. Why is it so bad? Because it is demeaning, especially in a professional publication, to discuss a human being primarily in terms of aesthetic or sensual appeal.

    Let’s be clear here – you’re talking about a situation where M&R

    (a) Knew a named individual professionally and personally, and had a longstanding and warm professional and personal relationship with her

    and

    (b) described her as “competent [and] unpretentious” and “incredibly generous with her time and reminiscences” BEFORE going on to (foolishly) talk about her looks?

    Is that correct?

  126. “You don’t see any difference between someone stating that X was (a) a good editor and (b) good looking, and someone reporting their statement as saying X was only a good editor because she was good-looking?”

    Yes, there’s a difference. They misrepresented Resnick and Malzburg.

    However, their complaint was that Resnick and Malzburg were the sort of despicable people who would talk about how beautiful a good friend was to them. And as far as I can tell, the same people who despised them for those articles would despise them just as much for talking about how good their friend looked in a sweater or a swimsuit, without any implication that this was what made her a good editor. What they actually did was sufficient to start a clusterfuck apart from the minor details. And refusing to apologize or crawl about their sealed it up and made it inevitably official.

    My guess is that it made no difference to the result. Because what they did and what they were, were unPC enough to get the results they got.

  127. “So if, for example, you said Steven Brust was (a) a good writer and (b) white, you’d have no problem with me trumpeting all over the Internet that you thought Steven was a good writer only because he was white?”

    15 years ago in Maryland, I knew a woman who had a really smart 12-year-old daughter. The daughter was being taught in school that you must never mention race. It just was not done.

    So we might be talking and she’d ask a question. “Who is Sammy David Jr?” And we’d say something like “He was an actor, and he helped open up acting for black actors” and she’d get all upset because we were racists.

    Now my own children do that. They take it in stride more, their parents are racists and it’s just how things are, because we might say that Trayvon Martin or Rodney King or Colin Powell is black.

    10 or 20 years from now that might have spread everywhere. And at that point if I say in print that somebody is white a whole bunch of people will tell me I can’t do that and I’m a racist. It might get to the point they’d be just as outraged that I mentioned race as they would if I actually said something race-supremacist.

    Right now that one isn’t as loaded, except for schoolchildren in Maryland and Virginia and maybe other places.

  128. “@J Thomas: “Objectifying: treating a person as an object. In this case, an object of sexual gratification. Why is it so bad? Because it is demeaning, especially in a professional publication, to discuss a human being primarily in terms of aesthetic or sensual appeal.””

    Phlebas, you’re quoting Matt Doyle here, not me. For myself, I think it’s sometimes demeaning and other times not. It depends on a bunch of other factors. Maybe being mindful will help us to tell the difference.

  129. “Phlebas, you’re quoting Matt Doyle here, not me”

    Sorry – mea culpa.

  130. “Sorry – mea culpa.”

    No harm done.

    I’ve been thinking about all this. Here’s some background:

    Once I met an old Austrian man who told me a story. He said when he was 17 years old, every day when he walked home from school he passed a neighbor’s land where there was an apple tree right beside the road. One afternoon he picked two ripe apples and ate them on the way home. But somebody saw him and reported him to the landowner, and the man called his father. He admitted to his father that he had stolen two apples. His father sent him to the man to discuss terms. He wound up working for the man every afternoon for a month. And then the man said, “Good. You have paid for the apples. You are not a thief after all.” And he never stole as much as an apple ever again.

    He explained to me that society is like a big blanket. Everybody who obeys the rules can snuggle up warm and cozy inside the blanket. But break the rules and then you are on the outside and nobody cares what happens to you. No blanket any more.

    Later an anthropologist told me that Austria is the type case for this idea. They have a sense that the rules are like a line marked around the acceptable. You can do anything you want as long as you stay within the line, but if you go outside of it then you have trouble. He contrasted it to various US subcultures, where there is an ideal you are supposed to get as close as you can to, and the more you deviate from the ideal the less status you have.

    I could see both of those here. Everybody who signed the petition is considered outside the line, worthy of disgust and boycott. Evil people who could possibly be redeemed. But the people who are inside the line don’t get a lot of diversity, they need to speak as one. They must strive to be closer to the ideal, and no matter how close they are already they can be criticized for not being closer.

    It seems to me that to further negative purposes — less sexism, less Objectivism, less objectificationism, fewer power plays etc — or positive purposes — more treating people as individuals, more honest communication sexually and otherwise, more equal relationships — we would do better to exclude fewer people. Show people methods that work to get what they want, show them the bad approaches don’t work as well. Deciding who’s evil can scare people into trying to conform, but is that really what’s wanted? Well, but subcultures spring up from perceived needs, and probably they mostly don’t get designed by anybody. Furthering purposes might be irrelevant to that. But still….

  131. J Thomas: “They must strive to be closer to the ideal, and no matter how close they are already they can be criticized for not being closer.

    Silly me – I’d assumed the SFWA was a professional association of writers rather than an ideological clique.

    Here’s what I predict happening with the “advisory committee”.

    – If it gets off the ground, it will be packed with “the right sort of people”. You can probably name half a dozen candidates right now.

    – It will not be allowed to contain “the wrong sort of people”. These people will include, strangely enough, the signatories to the petition. If C J Cherryh, Mercedes Lackey or Jerry Pournelle were to put their names forward, they would be “regretfully” declined for one reason or another.

    – It will become clear to the editor that the consensus advice of the “advisory” committee had better be followed, lest he/she experience the same sort of shitstorm that Malzburg and Resnick faced. It is highly probable that the members will let it be known that they’d be willing to take their disputes public if they and the editor disagreed, and now everyone knows that the actual facts bear little resemblance to the witch hunting that follows.

    – The editor will shrug and go along to avoid the aggro.

  132. “Silly me – I’d assumed the SFWA was a professional association of writers rather than an ideological clique.”

    Some members belong to various ideological cliques, and this particular one is feeling powerful just now.

    [….]
    “The editor will shrug and go along to avoid the aggro.”

    That’s usually the editor’s job. The other side of it though is that editors can only publish what they have available, and if there isn’t enough acceptable material then they have to try some of the marginally-acceptable stuff.

    And the fewer good editors are willing to take the job, the more they have to go with a marginal editor.

    Gregory Bateson gave the name “schismogenesis” to the process where organizations develop ideological disputes that require them to split into smaller ones. That might be what’s happening here.

  133. Pingback: Summarizing My Thoughts On Writing For A Professional Journal For A Professional Organization (For Reference) – ideatrash

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