Sharing the Table
Copying over from FB for archival and ease-of-referencing purposes.
Disappointed by the Sturm und drang in response to the challenge Tempest made to read more diverse works this year. So pardon the tone and occasional sarcasm of the following, because it’s keeping me from headdesking into the Stone Age.
1.) She’s not ordering everyone to stop reading straight white men FOREVERZ!
2.) She’s not trying to take your livelihood away.
3.) Trust me, there are still plenty of people who will read you.
4.) Is it really that hard to share the spotlight a little?
5.) “She’s forcing us to read crap!” Oh god where do I even begin with that. I’ll just say that I’ve read astounding, beautiful, challenging work from all sorts of people…but a large amount of what gets published honestly sucks, and that’s true of all sorts of people, too. Nora Jemison and Robert Jackson Bennett are two of my all-time favorite authors. See, you CAN read all sorts! You won’t die from it! There’s good work everywhere!
Someone said that women and POC no longer have trouble getting published or getting representation. Bullshit. Just because someone hasn’t personally seen it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It exists. I see it all the time. I deal with it. My friends deal with it. Authors are still told to make their characters straight, white, abled, ‘normal’. The media consistently whitewashes and straightens the characters who make it to screen. Women are hounded, antagonized, erased, and judged on a level that would absolutely astound a lot of people. POC have it worse.
Look at GamerGate. Oh, that’s only gaming? *It’s been happening in sf for *years*, and the latest outbreak has people pointing out victims to GamerGate’s biggest bullies in an effort to censor them*. Right now, Milo Y, one of the worst people in GG, is digging into an sf author and writing an ‘expose’ on her. Several of GG’ poster children and enthusiasts are SF people. Does the name Vox Day ring any bells? Literal GamerGate poster child, and defended/lauded by a disturbing number of SF people still.
Publishing, and sf in particular, is changing. We have a richness and diversity unlike anything we’ve ever seen. But it’s the equivalent of inviting a very few authors to the table and throwing crumbs to the rest, then patting yourself on the back for being inclusive, but as soon as one of those authors at the table asks for the butter, yelling at them for being greedy and selfish.
I frequently disagree with the things Tempest says. I think that this challenge is unsustainable for me, given my job. I think it is a very smart challenge, and that it would have gone without notice if she’d framed it more softly. I think it would absolutely benefit some people to follow it to the letter. I think that the vast majority of people are going to continue reading what they want to read, but maybe a few will go out of their way to pick up more diverse reading. The number who will follow this to the letter of the law are negligible. (I will also note that, from a conversation I saw, Tempest herself was irritated by the title and picture the article was given. That was not her choice, and it poured gasoline on the fire of a good discussion.)
Yelling about discrimination and panic only drives people away, and makes them more likely to realize the necessity of things like this challenge. Neil Gaiman doesn’t have an issue with it, and he’s her example! Sure, he has much bigger numbers to absorb any lost readers, but please don’t make me explain statistics and probability here.
But hey, I understand fear. I understand that endless struggle to make it in this industry. I have 4 anthologies coming out this year, and I’m afraid that all of them will tank. But I support this challenge entirely, even though it technically doesn’t allow for my projects (I have a great deal of diversity, and I have straight white men. All sorts are awesome, but not challenge friendly!)
See? It’s okay to support other people, even at risk of losing a sale or two. (I’m launching a Kickstarter in the next few days, so I’m very aware of how much money I may be burning right now.)
So, genre. Grow up. Share your toys. Learn how to be graceful and generous. Learn how to read intelligently, since i’m seeing an awful lot of uncritical reading, lately (nuance, perspective, subtlety, reading between the lines…WE MAKE OUR LIVING WITH WORDS AND IF YOU CRY ABOUT A READER MISSING THE MYTHOPOEIC OVERTONES OF YOUR 200,000 EPIC YOU MAKE ME CRY WHEN YOU MISS THE OBVIOUS IN A 1000 WORD ARTICLE.). And for fuck’s sake, STOP it with the ‘reverse discrimination!!!!!11!!!’ cry.
It’s okay. Everything will be okay. Really. We’re not trying to shove you away from the table, we’re just asking for you to pass the butter.
And a couple of my comments, based on the discussion.
I also want to address the tone problem. There’s a tendency to require ‘the other’ to maintain a steady tone, a calm demeanor, and to never, ever get angry. Women who raise their voices are hysterical, POC are thuggish or ‘unmannered’. Wendig and Sykes have a loud, fun, wacky internet presence, and are loved for it, but a female, queer, or POC author who has *one* outburst, or makes a mildly incendiary post (like this one), gets piled on. Hell, I’ve been in that position, and I almost stopped posting because I had to qualify and quantify and apologize and downright neuter anything I posted to avoid being scolded. I still get scolded and mansplained a lot, but at least now I don’t fucking care (and part of that is because I just don’t fucking care anymore about any of it, and am getting very close to walking out of genre entirely…because hello, desensitization).
And if *I*, a bitchy, angry, stubborn, vindictive, violent, sadistic hellbeast of a dragon have that much trouble staying the course, imagine how many good, gentle people have just thrown in the towel and walked away?
We’re too angry and loud? Well, sorry, but maybe people should have started listening when we were being quiet and polite.
…I wish we could frame things like that. *But we’ve been writing about inclusion for YEARS, and it doesn’t make a dent*. See above, re tone-policing and arguments. I’d love to be friendly and polite and dignified. I LOVE geeking out with other fans about what I love.
But no one heard the quiet, polite requests for inclusion. As Tempest said, she writes about inclusion all the time. Have you seen those posts circulating through social media and causing tons of discussion and response? I haven’t, and I pay close attention to this sort of things.
Challenging the norm? That gets heard, and right now, being heard is absolutely, totally necessary.