James May, who keeps posting here, is the gift that never stops giving. In one of his most recent posts, he insists once again that the SJW (social justice warrior) hordes are a menace to science fiction. So, in this essay, I will go through his points one at a time to show how ridiculous they are whether examined in part or (especially) as a whole.
Let’s start with his first two paragraphs:
“I don’t have to pretend anything. It’s not my imagination this crusading feminist movement exists nor that it’s baked into core SFF at every level as the new go-to ideological orthodoxy. In fact they do amount to squat. This is a very specific ideology that speaks a very specific faux-academic language and has very specific goals and issues. It is radical lesbian-centric racialized feminist to its core and its central bogey man is the straight white man.
“As an example, just the 5 ideologically same-page winners of the Nebulas last year alone outnumber the entire imaginary racially and sexually supremacist culture supposedly bound by a similar opposite number ideology from Burroughs in 1912 to Niven/Pournelle in 1974. There is no semantic or thematic ideology that binds Burroughs, Heinlein, Van Vogt, Asimov, Herbert, Zelazny and Niven into such a club. That is a matter of record, as is the non-fiction writings of those 5 2014 Nebula winners.”
The first thing to notice about this rant is that in the name of attacking a “crusading” movement which is an “ideological orthodoxy” that “speaks a very specific faux-academic language” James May immediately proceeds to…
Use crusading terminology which is ideologically orthodox and speaks a very specific faux-academic language: “It is radical lesbian-centric racialized feminist to its core.” That phrase is practically dripping Rush Limbaugh-speak.
He then informs us that all—yup, each and every one—of the 2014 Nebula winners were “ideologically same-page” which is a “matter of record.”
Wow. A dire menace, indeed.
By the way, the five Nebula winners last year were:
- Novel: Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
- Novella: “The Weight of the Sunrise”, by Vylar Kaftan
- Novelette: “The Waiting Stars”, by Aliette de Bodard
- Short Story: “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, by Rachel Swirsky
I’m not quite sure who James May is categorizing as the fifth horsewoman of the apocalypse, but I’ll assume he’s not objecting to the movie Gravity which won the Ray Bradbury Award. Although I will note that it’s highly suspicious that the movie stars a woman. Granted, Sandra Bullock is an Academy Award winner and a number of her movies have done very well at the box office. Still… why couldn’t they have made a man the central figure in the movie? Why the gratuitous choice of a female?
It’s suspicious, at least, and possibly further evidence that the dread radical lesbian-centric racialized feminist crusade has been at work here.
But, moving on, I’ll assume that James May’s objection is to Nalo Hopkinson winning the Andre Norton Award for Sister Mine. (Boy, you want to talk about an inflammatory radical lesbian-centric racialized feminist title!)
Here’s what’s most interesting, though. Having leveled the accusation, James May does absolutely nothing to substantiate it. He simply makes the assertion that all the winners are part of this “radical lesbian-centric racialized feminist” cabal and goes on his way.
This is quite typical of the anti-SJW crowd and it’s something George R.R. Martin has criticized a number of times. These people make sweeping generalizations at the drop of a hat and they paraphrase with wild abandon. Scrupulous documentation of their claims? Not so much.
Okay, moving on to his next paragraph:
“100% of the most important Hugo winners last year were all supporters of this cult. How do I know that? It’s easy. Their obsession with whites, men and heterosexuals together with equally odd phrases like “white privilege,” “white savior,” cis normative,” “neurotypical,” “rape culture” and much more mark their lingo as much as “gracias” marks Spanish. They stand out like a sore thumb and don’t even try and hide this stuff; quite the contrary. If you’re not reading their non-fiction comments it has nothing to do with people who are. This stuff is a simple matter of record.”
A simple matter of record which…
Again, James May feels no need to record.
In one of my former lives I was a TA in the history department at UCLA. In that capacity, I read and graded a lot of essays written by students in which they attempted, with greater or lesser success, to advance an historical proposition.
So far, James May’s essay advancing the proposition that science fiction as a genre—or at least its most prestigious awards—have been overwhelmed by a radical lesbian-centric racialized feminist crusade is getting an F. He’s made no attempt to substantiate a single one of his claims. Literally, not one.
But, finally, after the first three paragraphs of his tirade, he starts presenting concrete evidence. He begins by quoting from the two most recent presidents of SFWA (which, for those of you who don’t know, is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, an organization of F&SF writers).
“Hard as it to believe, somewhere right now, a white, straight male is explaining to a woman or POC (person of color) what they =really= meant.” – Steven Gould, science fiction (SF) author and president of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA)
“I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word ‘privilege,’ to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon.” – John Scalzi, SF author, winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, five time nominated, three time winner of the Hugo Award, Nebula Award nominee and president of the SFWA
James May apparently finds both of these statements outrageous and proof positive of the pervasive influence of the radical lesbian-centric racialized feminist crusade. Presidents of SFWA, no less! Oh, the power they wield…
I’ll start with the second statement, that of John Scalzi. Which:
- I agree with completely.
- Think is quite witty.
- And the truth of which James May himself is a perfect illustration.
Moving on to the statement of Steven Gould, I find myself in complete agreement with it also. All Steven is doing here is referring to the common—indeed, well-nigh ubiquitous—practice known as “mansplaining.”
What is “mansplaining”? As an accomplished mansplainer myself in my youth, I feel competent to address the subject. I will do so by using an incident from my own past.
Mansplaining has been around for, oh, a very long time. Way back in 1968 or thereabouts—almost half a century ago—I was sitting around a table in UCLA’s Student Union. One of the people at the table was a woman about my own age (21, at the time) named Ronnie. In the course of expounding on something or other, I happened to use the term “chicks” to refer to women.
Ronnie immediately objected to the term. Not stridently, but still firmly. She said she found it demeaning to women.
Immediately, my mansplaining reflex kicked in and I mansplained to her that the term “chick,” so far from being derogatory to women, was actually a term of jocular affection, much like referring to men as “guys.”
Ronnie got a stubborn look on her face and said she didn’t like it. Period.
At that point, thankfully, other reflexes kicked in. Because whatever else I’d imbibed from my parents, one of the things they’d taught me was what is called Good Manners. And when someone tells you that he or she doesn’t like being called something, it is simple Good Manners to cease and desist. It doesn’t matter what the “merits” of the issue might be. “Merits” are irrelevant. What’s really involved is basic decency and respect for another person.
The only people who don’t understand that are boors and oafs—that is to say, the very people Steven Gould is referring to in the quote.
I stopped using the term “chick” around Ronnie. And, quite soon, stopped using it altogether because upon inquiry I discover that a lot of women didn’t care for it either. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that Ronnie became a good friend and wound up marrying one of my close friends and roommates, to whom she is still married to this day. Perhaps that’s partly because he stopped using the term “chicks” also. Amazing how that works.
Since this seems astonishingly difficult for the James Mays of the world to understand, I will try to explain it by subtracting females, gays and lesbians, and people of color from the equation, because I suspect his hyper-alertness for any trace of the much-feared Political Correctness Gestapo may be clouding his judgment.
My friend and frequent co-author David Weber is male, white and straight. (And for good measure, he’s also politically conservative and a devout Methodist.) He prefers—for whatever peculiar reasons he may have—to be called “David.” I try my best to adhere to his wishes, simply because it’s his name and that’s what he wishes. See reference to “good manners” above.
Occasionally, I lapse and call him “Dave.” In my defense, there are way too many David and Daves in my life—three co-authors, Weber, Drake and Freer; an old friend (Dave McDonald), a relatively new friend and fellow author (David Coe), a brother-in-law, the list seems endless. It’s sometimes hard to keep them straight.
But here’s what I’ve never done. I’ve never mansplained to David that his first name should really be “Davey” because in my superior wisdom I have come to understand that he is intrinsically a “Davey.” Should he not—the author of the Honor Harrington series (okay, the protagonist is a damn woman but we’ll let that pass)—share a name with the bold frontiersman Davey Crockett rather than the effete and probably-influenced-by-radical-lesbian-centric-racialized feminists David Bowie?
No, no, Eric Flint knows best. David should be a Davey. And if he objects, then clearly he too is being influenced by the radical lesbian-centric racialized feminist crusade. (Sadly, there’s already a lot of evidence to that effect. Leaving aside the suspicious behavior involved in making a female the central figure in a series devoted to manly military action, there’s all the evidence scattered thought the rest of the series. Let’s start with the fact that the Queen of the Star Empire is, first, a queen; and second, she’s black. Why didn’t he pick a white guy, dammit?)
Steven Gould is also quite correct is saying that mansplaining is alive and well today. Indeed, at this very moment and for the past several years, we’ve all been presented with a splendid and very prominent case of mansplaining.
For some time now, Daniel Snyder, the billionaire owner of the Washington Redskins football team—and a boor and an oaf of the first order—has been mansplaining to American Indians that the term “redskins” is not derogatory to them as they so erroneously believe, but is instead a term of honor and respect.
All right, let’s move on and see if James May can come up with something better than taking exception to two statements which are completely accurate and non-objectionable.
Finally, we get to something that seems more substantial:
“SFF is, alas, dominated by white westerners” – Aliette de Bodard, science fiction and fantasy (SFF) author , five-time nominated, two-time winner of the Nebula Award and two-time nominee for the Hugo Award, SFWA member.”
Oh, the horror. Well, okay, the only horror is in the one word “alas.” The rest of the sentence—“SFF is dominated by white westerners”—is a simple statement of fact.
Why does de Bodard think “alas” needs to be added to the sentence? I have no idea—and since James May (typically for his crowd) always quotes out of context, I have no way of knowing. She may simply have been making a wisecrack, along the lines of the joke favored by many of my Latino friends: “Alas, poor Mexico. So far from God, so close to the United States.” I’ve always thought that was pretty witty, and since I know the history involved I don’t have any trouble understanding why a Mexican might feel that way. But I’ve run across people who are deeply offended by the joke since it fails to appreciate American Exceptionalism. (A term which has no coherent meaning except for serving its proponents as a general purpose Get Out Of Jail Free card. “It’s not America’s fault if we did X,Y, or Z. We’re exceptional. Rules don’t apply to us.”)
Alas, having been influenced by the radical lesbian-centric racialized feminist mindset myself—starting many years ago, at that—I have picked up the unmanly habit of trying to put myself in someone else’s position. On the other hand, maybe that’s part of the reason I sell a lot of books.
Moving on, we come to this outrage:
I’m increasingly less likely to pick up a book if it is another straight white dude story.” – Kate Elliot, Nebula-nominated SFF author and SFWA member
And this one, in a similar vein:
“Sunil Patel@ghostwritingcow It is no coincidence that my book review column features no white male authors. They can have EVERYWHERE ELSE.”
Um. As “outrages” go, these are pretty lame. Any reviewer has the right to review whichever author she wishes to. I wonder if James May is equally outraged by the fact that Soldier of Fortune magazine rarely (in fact, never, so far as I know) reviews romance novels.
But leaving that aside, the key issue here goes right to the heart of the whole dispute we’re having. What James May does, following the standard playbook of the anti-SJW crowd and at least some of the Sad Puppies, is go around and collect statements—almost always taken out of context—that he feels exhibit the outrageously radical lesbian-centric racialized feminist attitudes of the “Social Justice Warriors.”
In half the cases, from what I can tell, there isn’t anything outrageous about the comments anyway. But even if they were all “outrageous,” I repeat what I’ve been demanding since my first essay;
SO FUCKING WHAT?
The real issue is whether any of this amounts to anything beyond a tempest in a teapot. The fact that someone somewhere makes a jackass comment does not mean that either that person or the comment have any real significance to The Big Wide World. The claim James May has to substantiate is his claim that it does really matter. But he never makes any attempt to do so. He seems to think, as do all the people who share his stance, that it’s enough to simply quote an outrageous statement by somebody, somewhere, sometime, to prove that This Is A Really Big Deal.
No. It’s. Not. And I will substantiate my claim.
Let’s start with this last issue, concerning the unwillingness of some reviewers to review books written by white men, or at least their increasing reluctance to do so.
As a professional author, this is supposed to outrage me….
I very rarely get reviewed anyway, in much more prominent venues than the ones being managed by Kate Elliott and Sunil Patel. To the best of my knowledge, in a career that has now spanned almost two decades in the course of which I have published almost fifty novels and a fair amount of shorter fiction, I have gotten a total of two—count ‘em, two—major reviews in major SF magazines. (For the record, a review of Mother of Demons in SF Chronicle and a review of 1632 by Charles de Lint in The Magazine of F&SF.) Both of those reviews date back many years ago. There may be a few reviews I missed, but it can’t be many. For sure—I just checked their own data base—I have never gotten a review in Locus other than a few very short reviews by Carolyn Cushman a long time ago, mostly of some novels I co-authored with Mercedes Lackey. This, despite getting a large number of my novels on Locus’ own bestseller list.
So it goes. Nor is this peculiar to me. Many popular authors—not all, but many—don’t get reviewed in SF magazines or do so very rarely. (They do, however, get reviewed quite often in publishing trade journals like Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist and Kirkus. But while those have an effect on distributors and library buyers, they’re almost never read by the mass audience.) When I mentioned some time ago to Lee Modesitt that I’d never gotten a major Locus review, he nodded and told me he hadn’t gotten a review in something like fifteen years.
Why does that happen? The reasons are somewhat complicated but it’s a subject for another day. Just believe me when I say that it does.
And… who cares? My career does not depend on Locus reviews, or those in any other SF magazine or web site. It never has and it never will. That’s because all the SF magazines put together are so many—or rather, so few—very small fish in a very large pond. For every F&SF reader who’s heard of Locus, there are at least twenty or thirty who’ve heard of me. And there are at least a hundred who’ve heard of David Weber or Mercedes Lackey.
Meaning no offense to either Kate Elliott or Sunil Patel, I simply don’t care whether they review my work or not. So why am I supposed to be outraged by their attitudes? Especially when they have every right to hold that attitude and act on it.
This is just silly. Am I supposed to be outraged that Soldier of Fortune magazine has never reviewed any of my novels either, despite the fact that lots of my novels have lots and lots of really really manly action in them?
And don’t bother telling me that Soldier of Fortune doesn’t claim to review SF novels. I know that. But if that magazine has the right to delineate its intended subject matter and audience, then why doesn’t Kate Elliott or Sunil Patel?
As for the statements he quotes from two recent SFWA presidents…
Again, even if their statements had been outrageous—which they weren’t—so what? Is James May under the delusion that SFWA is a mighty organization that controls the careers of authors and whose presidents wield power unmatched since Tamerlane strode the stage of history?
If he does, he can check with John Scalzi or Steven Gould—or any previous president of SFWA going back to the ghost of the organization’s founder, Damon Knight. They will quickly disabuse him of the notion.
Okay, moving on. Let’s look at the next instance of outrageous SJWism.
“sounds like something a straight white cis dude does, secure that his position and privilege will always be there.” – Veronica Schanoes, Nebula nominated SFF author and SFWA member”
Ooooooh… Now this does look really juicy. There’s no question that Schanoes’ statement is saturated with radical-lesbian-centric-racialized-feminist-speak. Jeepers. When my eyes fell on “straight white cis dude” my head…
I’d say “my head almost exploded” but that’d be a bald-faced lie. Actually, I just laughed.
I’m going to stop here because after a while this gets to be a pointless exercise. The more posts James May and people who think the way he does put up here, the more something becomes blindingly obvious.
Is there anything in the world that does not upset them? I mean, Jesus H. Christ. How fucking insecure can you get?
The best James May can come up with is a handful of statements—okay, two handfuls—all of them taken out of context, and at least half of them statements that I have no problem with anyway. (And I can’t tell whether or not I would with the rest because context is actually important.)
What James May has completely failed to do is back up his central thesis, which is that “this crusading feminist movement” is “baked into core SFF at every level as the new go-to ideological orthodoxy.”
At every level? Really? Does that include the level of sales to the mass audience—which is far and away the most critical level there is? If so, then please explain the ongoing popularity of such “cis dude” (God, I love that term) white authors as Jim Butcher, David Weber, Raymond Feist, R.A. Salvatore, Brandon Sanderson, Terry Brooks, Neil Gaiman, John Ringo, Terry Pratchett, Kevin Anderson—oh, it’s a very long list. (And my apologies to any cis dude whom I overlooked.)
Not to mention John Scalzi, Larry Correia and, well, me.
It finally occurred to me to conduct an experiment. Since some people complain so loudly, constantly and angrily about the all-pervasive power and influence of the “social justice warriors” (aka SJWs) I decided to find these monstrous creatures.
So, this being the Age of the Internet, I searched for them on Google. And…
Made a fascinating discovery.
They seem to exist mostly in the minds of their enemies.
I’m not kidding—and you can do this experiment for yourselves. Right at home!
All you have to do is Google “social justice warriors.” Here’s what you’ll find:
Of the entries on the first few pages—I stopped somewhere in the middle of the fourth page—only one of them, so far as I could see, is clearly pro-SJW. Leaving aside several entries about a new game called “Social Justice Warriors,” most of the links are to sites which are hostile to “social justice warriors,” and some of them rabidly so. The most entertaining (to me, anyway; okay, sometimes I’m a little quirky) is a site that seems mostly devoted to “pick up” advice to (presumably young) men unsure of how to go about getting laid.
What stands out to me is that so far as I can tell most of the shrieking about “social justice warriors” comes from people who seem to have a level of insecurity and anxiety that can only be described as astronomical. (That’s a more polite way of saying “pathological.”) Let an author (hell, anyone) anywhere make a statement that in any way offends their oh-so-very-offendable sensibilities, and they immediately start screaming that they are being downtrodden by the SJW behemoth.
As I was about to post this essay, I saw that James May had just put up another post in my web site that, by God, did name more names. More than a dozen!
Okay… What the hell, once more into the breach.
Here’s May’s post, in its entirety, with my comments afterward:
Comment: Hugo nominated Skiffy and Fanty podcaster Cecily Kane: “The straight white dude perspective is basically the Dunning-Kruger effect apex of all civilization.”
John W. Campbell nominee two years running Requires Hate: “Beetori Sritruslow @talkinghive 9h9 hours ago It’s like white men literally don’t understand how anything works.”
SFF Convention Guest of Honor and Game Developer Brianna Wu: “Women seeking equality on one side. Vicious sexists on the other. White, cishet men with all the power, smiling as they decide what’s fair”
SFF author and blogger Amal El-Mohtar: “White people talking about how inclusive fandom used to be when there were fewer brown people & queers to make them uncomfortable.”
2016 WorldCon Guest of Honor Teresa Nielsen-Hayden: “I was being unfair to all the perfectly reasonable straight white guys out there.”
Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Award-winning SFF author Ken Liu: “‘authentic’ seems often to mean ‘what white people would approve'”
WisCon organizer and blogger K. Tempest Bradford: “You know, whiteness is a hell of a drug. It really is.”
SFF author Sunny Moraine on diversity: “If your writing is full of white men, it’s shitty writing.”
SF blogger, Readercon panelist Natalie Luhrs: “Man, so great seeing all these white dudes talking about how fucking awesome they are for standing up to G—-Gate.”
WisCon SF Convention organizer and panelist Jaymee Goh: “Seems lately every week is white stupidity week. And they complain about a month in a year!”
Reviewer at Lightspeed Magazine and writer Sunil Patel: “Curious: how many of you refuse to watch/read something if it’s about Yet Another Straight White Man?”
Reply from SFWA member and Nebula nominee Kate Elliott: “Same is true of books. I’m increasingly less likely to pick up a book if it is another straight white dude story.”
Second reply from another SFF fan: “I’m taking a yearlong break from books by men, full stop, and dramatically scaling back on stories about them.”
Last reply from SFWA member and review editor of SFF at Publisher’s Weekly Rose Fox: “Alas, my job doesn’t let me refuse.”
We have here a total of fourteen Outrageous Statements. Or, at least, Statements That James May Finds Outrageous. So let’s go through them.
First, we have to subtract the three statements that actually aren’t outrageous at all. Those are the statements by Teresa Nielsen-Hayden, Ken Liu and K. Tempest Bradford. Nielsen Hayden’s statements is an apology for perhaps being a bit over-the-top and acknowledging that the world has plenty of “perfectly reasonable straight white guys.”
How is this “outrageous”? It seems perfectly sensible to me—even commendatory, in that it indicates an ability to self-criticize which is sadly lacking in some other parties in this dispute. I will name no names. (But I could. Oh, yes, I really really could.)
Ken Liu’s statement (“‘authentic’ seems often to mean ‘what white people would approve'”) is also perfectly non-outrageous. My only criticism of it is that he’s being too narrow. I would have added that not only does “authentic” often seem to mean “what white people would approve” but so do such terms as “reasonable,” “un-biased,” “normal,” “classic” (does anyone remember that jackass TV announcer who recently remarked that Viola Davis was not “classically” attractive?)—oh, the list goes on and on.
Does this make me, as a straight white man, a “self-hater”?
Trust me, if I told my wife—or daughter—that I was a “self-hater” they’d fall down laughing. No, it just means I’m not an insecure jerk, that’s all. I don’t automatically get upset whenever someone criticizes common bad traits of white people or male people or straight people because I often agree with them.
Then, finally, there’s Bradford’s “outrageous” statement: “You know, whiteness is a hell of a drug. It really is.”
Yup, it sure is—as is belonging to any elite group in a society. In earlier times, nobility was a hell of a drug. As I and multiple co-authors have spent a fair time of time in the 1632 series depicting. In modern capitalist times, being wealthy is a hell of drug. If you don’t believe me, contemplate the public behavior of Paris Hilton—and even more, the behavior of her younger brother Conrad. (If you’ve forgotten the juicy details, here it is: http://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/celebrity/paris-hiltons-brother-conrad-hilton-charged-after-alleged-flight-ruckus-n299691).
So let’s start by subtracting those three perfectly reasonable statements. That leaves eleven Outrages. Of those, however, no fewer than eight of them—those by Cecily Kane, Brianna Wu, Amal El-Mohtar, Natalie Luhrs, Jaymee Goh, Sunil Patel, Kate Elliott and “another SFF fan”—are impossible to assess properly without knowing the context.
Which, as always, James May neglects to provide. He seems to think it’s enough to quote someone saying anything that seems to be negative toward white men or men in general (or sometimes all white people) to “prove” that they are “social justice warriors” and—this is the real laugh, as I’ll get to later—are really really really having a profoundly negative impact on science fiction awards.
For Pete’s sake, I’ve been known—and way more than once—to say negative things about a) white people; b) male people; c) straight people; d) any possible combination of the above. Sometimes my comments may have been a little uncalled-for—maybe; then again, maybe not—but if you put any of them in context I’d probably defend 99% of them. Maybe even one hundred percent of them.
Okay, so that brings us down to three Outrages that might be worth considering. Let’s start with the one by “John W. Campbell nominee two years running Requires Hate.” The statement itself actually belongs in the previous category, i.e., those that require context to assess properly. The statement is “It’s like white men literally don’t understand how anything works.” A statement which…
Hell, I’ve been known to mutter myself when confronted with a particularly egregious example of the White-Man-Deeply-Offended Syndrome. If you aren’t familiar with that syndrome, just go back and read all of James May’s posts. Most of them are classic illustrations of it.
The reason I decided it needed to be singled out isn’t the statement itself but the origin of it. “Requires Hate” has a rather notorious reputation, and it is indeed the case that a number of her statements are screwy at best. If you’re not familiar with the controversy surrounding her, let me introduce you to a magic word:
Moving on, the next possible really really outrageous statement is this one:
SFF author Sunny Moraine on diversity: “If your writing is full of white men, it’s shitty writing.”
This statement isn’t really outrageous. That’s because it’s too stupid to generate much in the way of outrage. In one short sentence, Sunny Moraine—whoever the hell she is, and we’ll get to that in a moment—has dismissed such novels as Tolstoy’s War and Peace, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick—not to mention the epic of Gilgamesh and Homer’s Iliad. If she thinks she can write better than that, have at it. But don’t anyone—especially her—hold your breath.
Finally—finally—we get to the only one of these fourteen “outrages” that amounts to a hill of beans. And it doesn’t actually amount to a hill of beans, but just to a little bitty pile of beans. That’s this one:
Last reply from SFWA member and review editor of SFF at Publisher’s Weekly Rose Fox: “Alas, my job doesn’t let me refuse.”
She was responding to the previous comments by Kate Elliott and “another SFF fan” to the effect that they are less likely (in the case of Elliott) or absolutely refuse for one year (in the case of “another SFF fan”) to read books about straight white men.
But why, you ask, have I singled out the comment from Rose Fox when I gave those by Kate Elliott and “another SFF fan” a pass and assigned them to the “need to know context” pile?
It’s because Elliott and “another SFF fan” are referring to their personal reading habits whereas Rose Fox mentioned those preferences in the context of referring to her actual job, which is that of being a reviewer for a trade journal. In other words, it’s conceivable that her attitude might be biasing her professional reviews.
I hasten to add that I have no reason to believe they actually are biasing them and I am making no accusations. I am simply bringing the issue up in order to demonstrate that…
Speaking of the relative sizes of hills and/or piles of beans…
James May has huffed and puffed and produced exactly one bean. A pinto bean, I believe. He has demonstrated that there may exist one (out of many, I might add) reviewers working for Publishers Weekly who might—might, mind you; there is no evidence of it—be biased in their reviews of works by straight white males.
Oh, the horror. On the other hand, given that I’m a straight white male author and I’ve gotten several starred reviews from Publishers Weekly—including of my best-known novel, 1632—I guess I’ll be able to go to sleep tonight without checking under my bed to see if a Social Justice Warrior Maniacally Anti-Cis Dude (God, I love that term) book reviewer is lurking there waiting to pounce and rend me to pieces.
All right, enough on the statements themselves. It’s now time to deal with the ultimate absurdity of James May’s argument. Let us suppose, for the moment, that each and every one of the fourteen Outrageous Statements that May cites were actually outrageous—and clearly so, regardless of context.
So. Fucking. What.
Who are the originators of these fourteen statements? In what sense do they constitute, either one or all, a Really Big Force in the world of science fiction awards?
Of the fourteen statement-makers (or should I call them Outragiosas?) only three of them have any real prominence in the world of science fiction: Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Ken Liu and Kate Elliott. And none of them, taken alone or together, is able to do more than exercise a moderate—I mean, really moderate—influence on people who vote for Hugo awards. (Or Nebula awards.)
Of the remaining eleven, leaving aside the Publishers Weekly reviewer, they’re either minor authors, podcasters, bloggers or local convention organizers—and two of them seem to have as their major “power source” the fact that they’ve been panelists at SF conventions.
Panelists? For Pete’s sake, every SF convention in the country usually has dozens of panelists, most of them people who are generally unknown outside of their local convention areas.
My point here is not to sneer at minor authors, podcasters, panelists, or any of the rest. Like almost every author, I was once a minor author myself. (Oh, and such a wee tiny minor author I was, too, for more years than I like to remember.) My point is simply that, objectively speaking, people in these positions are not the great shakers and movers in the world of SF awards. Insofar as anyone is—which is itself a dubious proposition. As a rule, people who vote for Hugo awards are not standing at attention before the reviewing podium at Nuremberg waiting for The Leader to tell them which way they must vote. My cat sneers at them for their lack of discipline.
Bah. Again and again, we get the same thing. One or another person generally aligned with or supportive of the Sad Puppies comes charging up with a fistful (sometimes two!) of quotes torn out of context from people most of whom—meaning no offense to anyone—nobody has ever heard of outside of their immediate friends and family. These quotes—many of them perfectly fine and most of them impossible to judge out of context—are then presented as “evidence” (sometimes even “proof”!) that the dreaded Social Justice Warriors are indeed a mighty and omnipresent force in the world of SF awards.
I’d say I was at a loss for words except that I’ve spent some time now demonstrating that, push comes to shove, I’m pretty much never at a loss for words. But I figure I’ve devoted enough words to the issue for the moment and will close by simply citing another magic phrase:
The scientific method. In which a hypothesis, having been advanced, is then subjected to empirical scrutiny. Sometimes known as “fact checking.”