The SFWA has experienced a vile, public meltdown.
Not a newsflash, but I feel as though I’m admitting this happened now as I write about it. I’ve been following the SFWA developments for a few weeks and since the infamous petition, the situation has only escalated.
It’s hard for me to speak about this, because I’m not a SFWA member. I’m not anywhere near the US and honestly, it just hurts me to see this happen in the first place. It plays with all my buttons and I’ve been restricting myself from offering my thoughts, because they would be far from civil on the matter.
I thought, however, that maybe things aren’t as bad, then a mainstream news source picked up on the scandal and that was that – we were not self-contained anymore. This is how the genre and the field would be known to the general public and it was something I initially lamented on Facebook when Zachary Jernigan first shared it.
Because the literature we write people do not take seriously. I distinctly remember an incident in university four years ago, when a colleague of mine expressed her disappointment when I’d told her I don’t like reading crime fiction and non-fiction, but rather spend time with works as far removed from reality as possible. Her words, “How can someone so smart say that.”
Speculative fiction is still a joke, still silly and still something small kids and teenagers read. That’s not going to change when what we make headlines with is sexism, racism and forms of cultural oppression. I’ve always thought we’re a forward thinking group, which has banded as a means to do what we love – something that the mainstream mostly doesn’t get or respect.
That’s the narrative I piece from many writers within the community that it’s embarrassing in 2014 to have a person point a finger at an accomplished writer and exclaim that she can’t be a feminist because she wears dresses. The author in question is Mary Robinette Kowal, who has addressed the comment and given herself as ‘a useful representative example’ of just how bad the issue with sexism within the industry really is. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has nailed the issue on the head in a post as well, so I won’t go into that, because the attack against Kowal makes my blood boil.
Conversation about women and other minorities in the community has been going on since I can remember paying attention, but I feel as though the tipping point is now. It feel as though the community can go somewhere after this one hit the fans. At least that’s how I see it.
The meltdown HAD to happen now. And it had to be as UGLY.
The more embarrassing the scandal is and the harder the people who oppress, belittle and lash out are hit, the faster we can actually work on making a difference.
Because it’s not just about old, white guys. It’s not just about the Resnicks and Foderas who have nests in high branches.
It’s about ideas. It’s about internalizing behaviors and attitudes, which ultimately cause for the vicious cycle to continue.
Which brings me to the second reason I’m writing this is because I have seen people saying ‘oh well, it doesn’t matter, we just need to wait for the dinosaurs to die off and it’ll all be fine.’ Unfortunately this isn’t going to work. If it did, these rows wouldn’t keep recurring.
Having read getting on for 200 SF books over 2012-2013 as a Clarke Award judge, I found a range of attitudes from socially conservative/sexist/veiled-racist to adventurous, progressive, informed and thought-provoking social commentary. There was absolutely no correlation between the age and gender of the author and the presence of outdated or offensive ideas. Some of the worst offenders were younger men and women. Some of the best work was written by middle-aged and older white men, for whom age and experience had brought perspective and insight.
Yes, we can wait for the dinosaurs to die off. But they leave a legacy for those that look up to them – ideas, beliefs and behavioral patterns, which make sure sexism, racism, discrimination and vitriol are inherited down the line.
The work ahead of us is unpleasant. But we have to let the puss out from the wound. Stare at the ugliness, because we can’t have members abuse other members of our community.
Think about it. Talk about it. Go on to fix it.