Follow Friday Five: Barbara Jane Reyes, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Dr. Adrienne Keene, Alice Wong, Gay YA

#SFWAPro

I realize that I’ve been lucky to know some incredibly talented people in publishing, at all stages of their careers. People that you should be familiar with, too. For at least the next few months, I’ve set up regular posts to go out on Fridays (coinciding the with the popular #FollowFriday movement on Twitter) to highlight people and projects I want you to know more about.

Last week, I recommended: Fran Wilde, A.C. Wise, Jeff VanderMeer, Wes Chu, and Don Pizarro.

This week? Barbara Jane Reyes, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Dr. Adrienne Keene, Alice Wong,  and the Gay YA project.

It’s not enough to say we want more diversity in SFF, or genre fiction, or literature — we have to actually seek out and read authors and educators who write from a perspective that isn’t “middle-class white suburban America”. Today’s Follow Five can help you to do that.

Barbara Jane Reyes is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow, award-winning author of numerous poetry chapbooks, and professor of Filipina American Literature. She was born in Manila, and raised in the SF Bay Area, where she got a B.A. in Ethnic Studies (U.C. Berkeley) and a M.F.A. from San Francisco State.

Reyes is constantly working to increase readership of Filipino — particularly Filipina — authors. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Philippine American Writers and Artists (PAWA), is an adjunct professor at University of San Francisco’s Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program, and co-editor of Doveglion Press. She’s given numerous readings, lectures, and interviews (you can find some of them on her YouTube channel here), and she regularly writes comprehensive blog posts detailing authors, lit movements, and cultural history. For example, she’s recently shared several lists of Filipina American Lit Authors that should be required reading not just for students of Filipin@ authors, not just for literary students, but for readers in general.

Filipina American Literature Reading Recommendations: List 1 | List 2 | List 3 | List 4 | List 5

You can find her online at barbarajanereyes.com and on Twitter @bjanepr

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a Mexican-Canadian author and editor whose creations include Innsmouth MagazineInnsmouth Free Press, and The Jewish Mexican Literary Review (with Lavie Tidhar). She also co-edits The Dark with Sean Wallace. She was also the original fiction editor for People of Colour Destroy Horror, a special issue of Nightmare Magazine. As editor, her anthology She Walks in Shadows — highlighting Lovecraft’s mostly-ignored female characters — was nominated for a World Fantasy Award this year. As an author, she’s published dozens of short stories since 2006, and has two collections out now. Her novels (Signal to Noise, 2015, and Certain Dark Things, 2016) focus on the supernatural from a Mexican perspective, and have been widely praised.

Moreno-Garcia has long been a fan, and scholar, of horror — including exploring and expanding on the work of HP Lovecraft. (In fact, her 2016 MA thesis is available online: “Magna Mater: Women and Eugenic Thought in the Work of H.P. Lovecraft” and has my vote for a “Best Related Work” Hugo next year.) Her Strange Horizons article on the history of Mexican Science Fiction is a must read — though I wish it were longer — and her Fantasy Magazine article on Pre-Columbian Cultures in Film recommends work you probably would never have heard of otherwise.

Start with those three pieces of nonfiction, move on to Moreno-Garcia’s stories and novels, and then keep an eye out for anything she publishes as as an editor.

You can find her online at silviamoreno-garcia.com and on Twitter @silviamg

Dr. Adrienne Keene is the writer behind “Native Appropriations“, professor of Native Studies, and member of the a Cherokee Nation. Hers is a tireless voice, active online (particularly Twitter), discussing and dissecting stereotypes of indigenous peoples. She frequently highlights cultural appropriation, and shares news stories you probably missed. On the Native Appropriations site, she writes long posts which thoughtfully and kindly — often, much more kindly than we deserve — explain in detail exactly what’s wrong with the lack of Native representation in Hamilton, or why polls claiming Native people don’t mind racist sports team names are probably very wrong.

In short, she educates the public. If you’re wondering whether she’s constantly the target of abuse and harassment for that effort, the answer is yes. Yes, racist white dudes flood her mentions on the regular, defending their team mascots, and entitled white women active insist on their right to dismiss critiques of their “native-inspired” Coachella headdresses. Keene educates us anyway.

You can find her online at Native Appropriations and on Twitter @NativeApprops

Alice Wong is a writer and activist, and founder of the  Project. She shares and discusses news to foster a greater understanding about the intersection of disability stories, culture, politics, public perception, and the individual people living with the experience of disability.

Wong is an organizer of , to encourage discussion of disability issues during the 2016 election season (which is still ongoing), writes curricula for home care providers and caregivers, and is a Staff Research Associate for the Community Living Policy Center. Her Twitter is full of insightful conversation about the variety of barriers faced by people living with disability, and their struggles against institutional ableism — and she contributes greatly to the discussion.

Wong also a contributor to The Nerds of Color and Model View Culture, so you know I’m following her for those things, too. (Geeks of the world, unite!)

You can find her online at disabilityvisibilityproject.com and on Twitter @SFdirewolf

The Gay YA project isn’t a person, but is an excellent source of news, information, and discussion about QUILTBAG+ characters in YA novels. They host a book club, share links, point writers at agents who are open to repping diverse authors, and moderate Twitter chats on various related topics. If you write YA, want to read YA, or are involved in any other aspect of publishing and want to stay on top of current trends in fiction, follow Gay YA. (So, basically, anyone who reads and/or writes. Yes, this means you.)

You can find them online at gayya.org and on Twitter at @thegayYA

10 Seemingly Polite (But Actually Racist As F*ck) Things You Need To Stop Saying To People You’ve Just Met

  1. Where are you from? Unless you’re prepared to respond to “I’m from Cleveland” with “You must be happy the Cavs got LeBron back”, do not ask this question of people you’ve just met. Why not? Because in America, the people who get asked that question are almost always people of color, and answering with the name of a US city usually gets “Ok, but where were you born?” as a response. The implication is that if you’re not white, you’re automatically not from here, you must be from somewhere else. The one exception to this is black people, who are usually assumed to be African-American (even if they’re not) because of course we know where they came from, right?
  2. Do you have an American name? If the person you are talking to was born in America or later became a citizen of the United States, their name is their American name. They are American. Even if they’re not, no one is issued an “American name” when they get their passport stamped at the airport on their way into the country. What you’re really saying here is “Do you have a more white-sounding name because I’m not going to bother to learn how to pronounce yours.”
  3. What ethnicity are you? Unless you’re taking a census poll, you do not need to know this when you meet someone. (As a white person, I have never, not once, in my life, been asked what my ethnicity is, even though pale-skinned people are not from the same hegemonious group somewhere in Europe.) If it’s relevant to the conversation, they’ll probably volunteer it. If they don’t, it’s either not relevant, or they may not want you to know.
  4. [greeting them in a foreign language] Unless you know for a fact the person’s ethnicity, place of birth, country they grew up in, and that they speak the language you’re attempting to use on them, AND THEY’VE TOLD YOU THEY ARE FINE WITH YOU SPEAKING TO THEM IN THIS WAY, do not do this. You’re most likely going to be wrong about either the language their ancestors spoke or that person’s ability to speak it, so you’re going to look like an idiot; worse, you’re starting off the conversation with proof you’ve both racially profiled and stereotyped that person, all at once.
  5. Who’s baby is this? when the infant in question is not the exact same skin tone as the adult you’re asking. Really want to be a jackass? Follow up them telling you, “Oh, she’s mine” with “Aww, is she adopted?”
  6. Your jacket/jewelry/outfit is so interesting/pretty/cool, is that from your home country? You know who rarely gets asked something they’re wearing is from their “home country”? White people. But, white people wear “ethnic looking” stuff all of the time. Mexican embroidery on peasant tops, Native American imagery on jewelry, Asiatic dragons on practically everything, and yet, few people ask about it with the idea that it’s somehow representing something specific to that white person. People of color get asked because they’re the other, they’re different, they’re foreign… even when they’re not. (Or do you just not ask white people about the origin of their clothes because you already know it’s appropriation?)
  7. Your hair is so complex/interesting/unusual — it must take a long time to do. Translation: you don’t have white people hair, your life must be hard. I’m so glad I have easy hair.
  8. Your hair is really pretty like that (when the person has a Western/American hairstyle that they don’t always wear). Translation: you made your hair look like white people hair, good job! You’re more acceptable to me now.
  9. What do your parents think of you being/working/living here? If you’re at a strip club, perhaps asking a dancer that question is reasonable — there’s a common misconception that erotic dancers are doing something immoral, and so, maybe their parents wouldn’t like their job. But it’s probably still the wrong thing to ask. When you’re asking it of a person of color, you’re signaling to them that you think it’s weird they’re there. You’re saying that you wouldn’t expect someone like them to have that job, or be in that place, and by phrasing it as a question about their parents, you’re trying to put a polite veneer on excluding them from what you think is “normal” for that place.
  10. Oh, do you know Bob Chu? He’s my neighbor/coworker/employee of a place that I go to. Pro tip: people of the same ethnicity do not automatically all know each other. Even people of the same ethnicity who are all in the same town, or all attending the same convention, do not know each other. By asking this, you’re letting the person know you aren’t going to remember anything about them except their ethnicity, and to you, all of those people are interchangeable and connected. Good job, jackass!

 

Chinoiserie is just another way that racism sells fiction.

I saw a comment on a Facebook thread which asked, “why do we have so many Japanese and Chinese science-fiction protagonists and authors featured, and fewer Indian ones?”

My response, built off my many years studying the history of art, and speculative fiction, along with my experience in the industry as a writer and publisher, and conversations I’ve had with many, many, authors and readers:

Because Chinese/Japanese authors and stories fall into the currently acceptable version of the same recurring Chinoiserie* that Western audiences have been buying since the 1600s. It’s Orientalism, really; the idea that certain kinds of Asian culture/fiction or writers of specific Asian descent share an aesthetic which is more “delicate”, more “refined”, more “exotic”, than Western styles but not too much so. We’re allowing an archetype (of that highly educated, polite, non-politcal, poetic, Asian, the one who would have counted up on your gold on his abacus or played soft music for you while another one poured a perfect cup of tea) to be bought, promoted, and win awards because it makes us (the Western, white, “us”) feel more diverse, while still not being threatened. Some Koreans or Singaporeans are okay, depending on the tale. That’s why only a certain kind of story is being bought by most publishers right now. The other type of Asians, the ones writing about the culture and stories of people from the Philippines, Vietnam, India (especially outside the cities), Laos, and so on — well, that feels too “tribal” to most Westerners. Too “other”. Too much like Mexican or African stories, and so it doesn’t get published.

Look at the award lists for the Hugo, Nebula, Andre Norton, Campbell, or even the Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards… where Asians are nominated or win, what percentage are Chinese/Japanese? Can you think of an author of Asian descent who’s won a major SFF award who wasn’t Chinese or Japanese? (The few Asian authors we’ve lauded, that I can think of, are either Korean, which most Westerners think of as China-lite, or are women, because we expect them to be more delicate, more respectful, more graceful, more Oriental, and so, more acceptable.)

The long-form winner of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Award was translated from Chinese in 2013. And 2012. Including it’s inaugural year, 2011, no Asian work was even on the long list that wasn’t Chinese or Japanese. No Asian author has won, or made the shortlist for, the Best Novel Hugo, but we’ve recognized white authors writing about China: McHugh’s China Mountain Zhang, Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt, for example.

Look at the sort of stories we read, buy, and will only accept from even authors who aren’t of Chinese or Japanese descent: retold Chinese myths, dragon/carp/phoenix tales, Emperors, concubines and geisha, martial artists… We buy imagery that includes tea ceremonies and lotuses, cherry blossoms and samurai swords, jade, silk, kimono, brush-painted letters, origami, rice paper screens. Set it in the future, set it in space, retell it in the Singularity, sure, but it’s got to hold on to that classic Chinese sensibility. (Firefly, anyone?)

As the objects which were originally prized made their way, as descriptions or depictions of those objects, into art and literature, that commodity fetishism eventually (and now) implied cultural and historical significance into the imagined lives of those objects — and by extension, those people. After all, Chinoiserie was about collecting the “curios” of a place when importing the people (as servants, slaves, exotic mistresses) wasn’t always affordable.

I’m not saying that those authors don’t deserve to be recognized. Of course they do. It’s so rare we give out the big SFF awards to anyone who isn’t white that pretty much every one else is a victory for diversity. Yay! But let’s not kid ourselves that we’re truly celebrating the range of humanity.

I can’t blame the Asian authors, who try to write other things and get told it won’t sell, or who submit other types of stories only to have them rejected in favor of the “popular” tropes. I can blame the readers who don’t look for anything more, or worse, don’t realize their error when they assume this is what all Asian fiction must be like. I can blame the publishers who profit off racism by catering to this illusion.

But instead of looking for who to blame, I’d ask you to seek out those who’re getting it right by writing and publishing more than the expected/accept tropes. Find stories about American-born Asians who’re struggling with the disconnect between their middle-class life here, and their grandfather’s upbringing in a jungle. Find stories about Mongolian settlers raising lizard-horse hybrids on a faraway planet, or Cambodian techs programming a new utopia. Seek out Sri Lankan authors, and Filipinos, and Laotian. (Start here. Or here. Or here. Or here.)

They’re out there, and they’re amazing.

* Not sure what Chinoiserie is? It’s defined as “a style in art (as in decoration) reflecting Chinese qualities or motifs; also :  an object or decoration in this style” and “reflecting fanciful and poetic notions of China”. This is a Google image search on the term; here’s the Getty’s 2004 exhibit “Imaging the Orient“. Read “Chinoiserie is Clearly French for ‘Hella Tacky’“, this post about Anna May Wong/Chinoiserie in 1920’s Film, “Imperial Glaze on China“, for a quick perspective. For a longer read, check out Ma, Sheng-mei, Deathly embrace: Orientalism and the Asian American identity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

“A key point: chinoiserie as not just a european appropriation and adulteration of chinese imagery and artistry, but also a form that is produced by chinese people/chinese-americans to appeal to and satisfy the palates of whites. chinoiserie also relies on stereotyping china and on racializing art forms.” – notes in a diasporic tongue

Bringing Lovecraft’s Mythos into the future, again. (Or, hey, I wrote a story!)

A handsome boy delivered glasses of chilled water to our table, singing out, “Hydration!” as he slid one in front of each of us. They were always lovely, the ones who served our food and smiled as they took our coats.

I watched him walk away as Marc sighed heavily.

“You do look feverish,” Hassa said, concerned. “You’re sweating.”

“You should notify medical,” Elda added.

“Yes, I think …” Marc paused, putting a hand to his forehead. “I think I’ll go there now.” He lurched to his feet and left, bumping into our handler as he passed her. She looked shaken but managed to get our meal on the table in the right order. Her long hair was brushed straight and bound behind her head with a black bow. I thought about my own hair, cropped close to my head, the way it had been for years. Data processor chic; we all wore it this way.

“He’s gone to medical,” I said when I realized she was still standing at our table, Marc’s food on her tray, a lost look on her face. “You can take that back to the kitchen.” She smiled then, brightly, and retreated.

Mid-shift break never feels as if it’s long enough.

I settled into my couch, removing the cover from my data jack and slipping the transfer cable inside. The world fell away, and my real life came back into focus.

As I was unpacking the last file for the day, a vid with partial frame loss, a message flashed: my Architect advising me that I was needed on the University project. Marc’s project. I put the vid aside and sent her a reply, questioning.

“We have two processors out with illness,” she answered back. “Is anything in your queue a priority?”

“No, I’m clear to transfer,” I thought back at her, and she changed my queue with a quick “Thank you.” File attached. Info for the University. I put it aside for the next day, cleaned up my video, and placed it with the rest of its mates.

I wish I could say that I had some premonition of what was coming, but I slept dreamlessly and woke up refreshed. We have pills for that.

My cyber-Mythos story, “CL3ANS3”, is now available as part of the Eldritch Chrome anthology, out from Chaosium. This is one of two stories I sold to the same pair of editors in early 2012 (the other, “No Hand To Turn The Key”, is a clockpunk/Mythos mashup I wrote in January 2011, which will appear in Steampunk Cthulhu. I don’t have a release date for it but it should be out sometime this year).

I love getting to use Lovecraft’s universe and monsters to make something new, without the racism, misogyny, or Protestant morality endemic to his writing. Sex, especially, seeps into my Mythos tales – I can’t seem to stop making them naughty and exciting in a way poor old Lovecraft would certainly not approve of. “CL3ANS3” is definite dirty; it’s meant to be wrong, the kind of sexy that makes you want to scrub off your thoughts after you have them. It’s been long enough since I put the words down that I think I’m a better writer now, but this story was fun to write. I hope it’s still fun to read, in a creepy sort of way.

Taking out the bad parts of Lovecraft isn’t enough, though, and I tried to go further. The narrator of this story is as featureless as possible, without identifiable race or gender, to allow all readers to find a little of themselves in this character. In this future, anyone can be tempted by the darkness seeping in. I’d like to think the Elder Gods, should they ever come for us, wouldn’t discriminate at all.

Dear (Jackass) Just because I’m a woman, don’t assume I’m talking about women all the damn time.

Dear Jackass,

When I talk about increasing diversity, or problematic tropes, or the state of publishing today, you always assume I’m talking about women.

If I say, “using alien space hookers in your story is a tired old trope that came out of a time when SF writers hid their racism by attributing negative stereotypes to aliens instead of non-whites”, you assume I’m upset that you portrayed women as prostitutes.

If I say publishing should use blind submissions, because it’s been proven to increase the diversity of authors, you assume I want quotas for women.

If I say your space opera movie about a platoon of soldiers fighting alien bugs isn’t diverse enough considering the source material, you point out the two white women who play supporting roles.

Yes, having women in a book or film that is otherwise populated by men is slightly more diverse than one where there are only men. And yes, because I am a woman, I would like to see myself in some of the characters portrayed in my fiction. But you do know that “diversity” means more than slapping breasts on a white guy and thinking you’ve satasified me, right? Why should science fiction, of all genres–the one where we talk about the future and human potential and evolution of both man and machine–be struggling so hard to find acceptance for anyone who doesn’t look like Casper Van Dien*?

You want to use prostitution in your SF as a way to talk about the problematic roles forced on women by the men in their lives? Sure, go ahead. I’ve done it myself. But make the hookers human and let the aliens have some positive characteristics for once.

You want to write a novel about an army of clones serving their God-Emperor as he fights to expand the Empire? Okay, fine. But do they need to be clones of Jason Statham? Base your soldiers off the best fighters and athletes on the planet right now, since that’s what anyone actually building a clone army would do. Chances are your future scientists are going to pick people like Michael Jordan, Haile Gebrselassie, Paula Radcliffe, Jet Li, Christiane Justino, Ji-Hyun Park…

And diversity in publishing means picking the best writing regardless of who submits it, which is what blind submissions gives you. It’s not about setting a quota for how many of what kind of people you “must” let in. It’s about making sure the door is wide open for everyone in the first place.

I don’t want to less women in SF. More would be better, since twice as many strong female characters who aren’t there just to serve as a romantic interest for the main character would be, let’s see, carry the 4… About 1% of the fictional people in SF. I think we can handle a few more without the universe collapsing. But that’s not the whole of the problem, so increasing the number of white women in your book isn’t the whole of the solution.

Do me a favor. If you could, from now on, pick one character in your otherwise-white story and make them a person of color, that would be a great start. Just make sure that every time you write a story, at least one person is something other than the straight/white/male default. If you have 10 or more characters in your story, make another one of them QUILTBAG, too. Two people out of ten. That’s all I’m asking. Even if your story is only 20% more diverse than it was before, IT’S BETTER THAN IT WAS BEFORE, because it more accurately reflects the world we live in and the future we’re going to live in.

If everyone writing SF got 20% more accurate than they are right now, you couldn’t say we’re ruining SF with our calls for diversity, could you?

* I swear, if they make another Starship Troopers movie where Johnny Rico isn’t a Filipino or at least an Asian living in Brazil, I will set something on fire.

“Give Me The Banjo” 2011

I like a lot of different kinds of music. Different styles for different moods. In general, though, I like my piano lively instead ponderous, prefer fiddle music to violin classics. And a fine trumpet player has always moved me. While the banjo doesn’t catch my breath in the same way, I always thought of it as a fun instrument. Quick and clever, requiring a lot of skill and dexterity–I appreciate the technique. Plus I grew up with a fair amount of bluegrass; one of my mom’s best friends was, and still is, a bluegrass fiddler (you can watch a video of her band here).

So when I saw that “Give Me The Banjo” was streaming on Netflix, I threw it on. I am a sucker for both documentaries and American music history. Background music, I thought, while I got other things done. It turned out to be too good to half-watch, and I ended up putting everything else aside. 6 minutes into the movie, it was clear that they meant to truly explore the banjo’s history, with this introduction:

You can’t talk about the history of the banjo if you can’t talk about racism, slavery, misogyny, appropriation, exploitation–all of the things that run counter to what we love about the banjo. – Greg Adams, Ethnomusicologist

Then straight into clips from a minstrel show. Blackface. Newspapers proclaiming a “Much-Admired Nigger Melodist” was playing. The white Southerner, Joe Sweeney, who learned the banjo from his black neighbor, and then took both the knowledge of how to build one and his neighbor’s music with him to New York. Turning an African folk instrument into a white American musical staple. “Elevating” the instrument with fancier building designs, reinventing the music into the new “classic” style… purposely reminding audiences that they’d stolen from the people they considered themselves better than, with a style of music they called “Coon Songs”… This look at the past is simultaneously embarrassing and enlightening.

The interviews with experts–historians, musicians, and banjo builders–along with photos, songbooks, and recordings of the popular musicians from different eras, make this a documentary worth watching if you care at all about musical history, or the racial and cultural history of the US. (Even if the banjo itself doesn’t matter to you.) Steve Martin gives excellent narration, and they’ve got an impressive breadth of interviewees. Find the movie here: Give Me the Banjo (83 min.)

Wishing Never Changed A Damn Thing

I haven’t posted about the ongoing SFWA controversy in depth because I looked at the initial outcry, and the immediate response of some SFWA members, who stood up in the Forum* to say, “This has to change,” and I thought we were making progress. Over the course of a couple of days, the President made a statement, the previous editor stepped down, and a task force was formed to revise the Bulletin into a publication we could be proud of. I felt that if I publicly agitated for change the way that I was doing so privately, it would further distract from all of the great work that SFWA has done and is doing, and it would imply that the matter wasn’t being handled internally–and that wouldn’t have been true.

I’m proud of the changes we’ve made lately, which include not only moving to a higher standard of both content and writing in our official publication, but also creating guidelines for the official @SFWAauthors Twitter feed (which reposts member blogs), expanding the volunteer database, creating an archive project to collect historical materials, and more. I’m happy to see dozens of people step up and say, “I’ll help make this better,” by offering suggestions, volunteering their time, and being part of the discussion. I am most satisfied that when I stood up and took on tasks that needed doing–I answered questions about editing and magazine management even as the discussion turned to defending the old and attacking the new, I asked for volunteers for the next phase of the Bulletin, created and curated a list of those names and suggestions for the task force, and I wrote the first draft of a diversity statement for the Board to consider–there were people who didn’t just leave me to do it on my own, as I’ve seen in other organizations. Rachel Swirsky supported my efforts, Jim C. Hines ran his red pen over the diversity statement to help cut it down to a more manageable size, Cat Rambo and Mary Robinette Kowal stepped in to keep the conversation calm when it threatened to get negative, and a dozen people emailed me privately to encourage, ask questions, and offer their own opinions. I appreciate all of that.

But I was wrong when I thought I could do my part quietly, and things would get better from there.

For every good thing we’ve done to improve SFWA this month, there is another jackass trying to take it away. In our private space (which cannot be quoted from) I’ve had certain people not just disagree with me but were deeply offended that I would dare to tell them things must change, even when I’m saying that based on the obvious outpouring of sentiment from members and non-members alike. I’m allowed to express an opinion, sure, but I’m not well known enough, not “Big Name” enough, to decide anything. I’ve been told I must want something, that I’m only complaining about the previous iteration of the Bulletin because I wanted the old editor fired so I can take her job. I’ve been accused of being involved in a plot of force out the old guard of SFWA. I’ve been dismissed for being a woman, because that fact somehow explains away my opinions as emotional, and therefore ignorable.

I’ve gotten emails about how I don’t understand real sexism, because I wasn’t around in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s.** How if I were the editor, I would have made exactly the same choices, because otherwise I’d have lost my job. (Fact time: No, would have edited the material presented to me in a professional way, even if it meant losing my job. Because, standards, that’s why. Also, according to those in charge at SFWA, the idea that they’d have policed the Bulletin in a sexist and/or racist way is a totally unfounded rumor, and they’re working to prevent anything like that from happening.) I’ve been told I was making a fuss just to get attention, as if there’s nothing else about me anyone else would pay attention to. I’ve gotten emails telling me to shut the fuck up, telling me that I’m nothing and no one and need to go away while I still can, before I make too much noise, get too much attention, and then I’ll see what happens to women like me.

Because I commented in a private discussion about the need for stricter editorial standards. And did so while being a woman.

But at least I wasn’t making those comments in public, for the most part. And at least I wasn’t doing so while black. Because then this would happen:

Jemisin has it wrong; it is not that I, and others, do not view her as human, (although genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens), it is that we simply do not view her as being fully civilized for the obvious historical reason that she is not.

and

those self-defense laws have been put in place to let whites defend their lives and their property from people, like her, who are half-savages engaged in attacking them.

and

there is no evidence to be found anywhere on the planet that a society of NK Jemisins is capable of building an advanced civilization, or even successfully maintaining one without significant external support from those white males.  If one considers that it took my English and German ancestors more than one thousand years to become fully civilized after their first contact with advanced Greco-Roman civilization, it should be patently obvious that it is illogical to imagine, let alone insist, that Africans have somehow managed to do the same in less than half the time at a greater geographic distance.  These things take time.

and

Jemisin clearly does not understand that her dishonest call for “reconciliation” and even more diversity within SF/F is tantamount to a call for its decline into irrelevance.

All courtesy of Theodore Beale, writing as Vox Day. For those who don’t know, Beale is an active member of SFWA, and even ran for President this year. Though he repeatedly says things like women are ruining SF, except for those few who write like men, or women shouldn’t be allowed to vote, or women should be ignored entirely if they’re not attractive, not to mention his views on people of color (as evidenced above, and elsewhere in his public site), he still managed to get roughly 10% of the vote.

That’s the genre community for you, right there. But we ignore trolls like him, right? That’s what I’ve been seeing all day. Ignore him. Ignore his post. Don’t read the comments. Stay off the Internet for an hour until the unpleasantness passes.

You know what? Fuck that. Go read his post (it’s linked above). Read the comments. See the vile things that get said out in the open in 2013. See what happens when we speak up about it. Don’t hide your head in the sand and pretend it’s happening to someone else and you don’t need to worry about it. Hey, I’m white, what do I care, right? No, it doesn’t work that way. Nothing gets better when we pretend everything is at acceptable levels of okay.

Yeah, maybe it’s giving the trolls attention for a few minutes, and maybe people like Beale revel in the muck they create. But on the other hand, that’s a convenient excuse to ignore it, isn’t it? You can tell yourself you’re doing the right thing by taking away Beale’s power over five minutes of your time, but you’re also saying that you’re not willing to spend five minutes to find out how NK Jemisin is being attacked, how women and PoC are being characterized and treated in the genre community, and you’re not willing to get angry for five minutes.

But if we don’t get angry, what will motivate us to do anything about it? We can wish that things were different, but the truth remains:

Wishing never changed a damn thing.

Note: the wonderful Amal El-Mohtar posted a reasoned, polite, letter to SFWA, calling for Beale’s expulsion, and current President John Scalzi is matching funds for people donating to the Carl Brandon Society, or the Octavia E. Butler memorial scholarship.

ETA: Today and tomorrow, I’m donating 100% of the sales of Dagan Books ebooks to the Carl Brandon Society. See the list of books here.

* the private discussion board for SFWA members.

** For the record, I’ve been involved in the genre community since I moved to San Francisco at 18–that would be in 1991. I’ve been a fan of SF (never was much of a fantasy reader) and horror since I was a little girl. I read the Grand Masters of science fiction when I was a kid; I’ve got paperbacks of Heinlein’s work–all of his work–on my shelf now. So, I’m not someone who doesn’t appreciate or know the founding works of American SF. I went to cons and parties with some of those guys, 20 years ago, and if you want to know what sexism was like in genre in the 90s, I can tell you. I’m not coming to genre in 2013 with no knowledge of what happened before. I’m coming to it, well aware of its past, and willing to be here anyway.

When We Think Different is Brave

I use Pinterest for a couple of reasons. It’s a think-ahead, a place to put ideas for things I want to own, because I tend not to be an impulse shopper. I like to know that if I’m spending my money it’s on something I’ve wanted for awhile, not just to fill a void at that particular moment. I use it to collect book covers I like, so that I can be inspired when I’m designing. There are recipes for drinks and food, some of which I’ve tried. There are also reference boards, with links to info on types of shoes or knife blades or the fancier ways to knot a tie.

While it isn’t the sum of human existence, it is an example of something I’ve been pondering for a while.

I’ve noticed that a lot of writers curate collections of “characters”. Photo reference for costume, inspiration for writing–there’s nothing wrong with the idea, on the surface. I have boards of images for reference. I’ve been collecting one for my Mythos noir story, so that I can get the prices, clothes, cars, and buildings right when I write. Visual models are great for adding true detail to a story when you’re no longer (or never were) in that time or place.

The problem is, many of these boards are filled with women or people of color, and labeled things like “fierce female characters” (or “fabulous”, or “tough” or “strong”–something implying they’re acting in a way that the bulk of the population wouldn’t). When the images are of women in armor, appropriate (or not) to their native land, then okay, an armored up person of either gender, of any race, is pretty fierce. They’re ready for battle, and as long as we’re not talking about chainmail bikinis or something like this*, it’s a segment of the population I think we can rightly label as impressive.

But what about a woman wearing a traditional hat, the same as any other woman in her part of the world? How about one standing outside, smoking a cigarette? Or a little girl standing in front of a bed? How about a woman who is laughing, carrying a baby, or the thousands of other images you find labeled the same way?

What makes all of these women similar is that they are doing perfectly normal things, without being afraid to do them. And we think of that as “special” and “strong”, because we expect women and people of color to be afraid, to blend in, to be unseen and therefore not making a target of themselves. Anyone acting differently, even if it is to simply be themselves in an unflashy but unafraid way, well, we call that “brave”. We decide that it’s fierce and strong and bold. We mean it in a good way, don’t we? We’re proud of their courage, we salute the fact that they’re not just bowing down… but that’s because there’s still an expectation that they should.

It’s a tough situation because as long as there are people who oppress anyone who stands out, then it can take bravery to be different. But we shouldn’t be encouraging a world where that’s true. And we definitely shouldn’t be writing new worlds where that stupid idea gets perpetuated.

Start with this: stop collecting pictures of women or people of color under the banner of “brave”, if you don’t know their story. Instead, give them accurate labels. Write down the real reason that photo moved you. “Woman wearing a hat I would never wear” or “little girl wearing a dress that took her mother hours to make, far more than my mom would spend on me” or “I wish I was brave enough to wear those earrings without being afraid someone would laugh”. At least then you’re admitting what you really think, and giving yourself–and others–a chance to consider that truth.

Note: I left out the women athletes, actresses, artists, musicians, or activists–people who we know something about. Though it’s more accurate to call someone strong when you know their personality, my point was about incorrectly labeling images without context. You want to say Joan Crawford, Frida Kahlo, Sigourney Weaver, Octavia Butler, Hazel Ying Lee, Bessie Coleman, or Elsa Avila are strong? Yes, I’m sure that they are. But we know they accomplished things that most people–regardless of gender or race–don’t ever do.

*Not “viking woman”, as the tag I found it under said, but Skyrim cosplay. In case that wasn’t obvious.

Fuck You, Weird Tales

Dear Jackass Weird Tales,

I know you got a lot of criticism when you got sold to Marvin Kaye, and let go of Ann VanderMeer as editor, but it didn’t come from me. I was open to the idea that you were going to steer the fiction content of your magazine in a direction that harkened back to the older days of weird. More pulp, new pulp, and old pulp – less new weird interstitial strangeness.

Well, okay, I happen to love interstitial strangeness but I am an old-school pulp girl too. Bring on Cthulhu! I thought. I’m the woman that publishes Cthulhurotica after all. I have a subscription to Weird Tales and planned to renew it.

And then you had to defend Saving The Pearls: Revealing Eden as some sort of ironic anti-racist literary monument, when in fact it’s poorly-written fetishization of the black man that reads – seriously – as if it were scifi written by a white plantation owner’s wife in the 1800s, back when you were still warned not to get too close to the black bucks lest they be overcome by your white beauty and ravage you. (Here’s a good review of it)

It’s not just racist, it’s astoundingly, shockingly, absurdly racist. It’s cruel to defend such a book as simply being too complex for detractors to understand. It’s horrid to suggest that we should all read it more carefully, as if the fault lay in ourselves for just not “getting it”.

It’s insulting to people of color, who are portrayed as vile, evil, angry sex objects who all secretly want to love/fuck the pure white woman (except, of course, for the “black bitch” who’s jealous). It’s insulting to white people who date people of color because they happen to be wonderful people, not just an acquisition based on their skin tone. It’s insulting to women who choose their partners for anything other than social standing.

And it’s more than insulting to the teen girls it’s marketed toward. How dare the author try to teach children and young adults that they should want to be any version of any character from this disgusting tale?

Plus it’s bad writing. And, no matter how you analyze it, it’s not weird fiction, that thing you’re supposed to be getting back to.

I hope that she paid you, Weird Tales. I hope she paid you very well, enough to make up for my subscription (which you’ll never get again) and all of the other lost income from readers and advertisers. That’s the beautiful thing about living in a capitalist society, WT: you’re free to say whatever you like, and we’re free to disagree with you by choosing not to give you our money any more.

In closing, fuck you Weird Tales. I’m done.

– Carrie Cuinn

PS. For more, read NK Jemisin’s better post on the subject

Racism is Stupid

Recently a post about hipster racism has been going around, and if you haven’t read it, you should. The bottom line is that ironic racism is still racism, just slightly more likely to have dressed from a combination of products sold on Etsy.

Part of that is white people making jokes about people of color who they care about out of some idiotic belief that they must not be racist because they know/love/fuck/live with a person of color. *headdesk*

Racism, in all forms, is stupid, and everyone just needs to fucking stop it.

But, of course, I can say that, right? I’m a white person, so I’ve been protected by white privilege, so what would I know? To some extent, that is true. I am extremely white. I have red hair and freckles. I can’t even tan (though everyone else in my family does; it’s weird). My white privilege means that the one time I was pulled over by a police officer for blowing through a stop sign, I was given a warning. It means that I have walked through one of the poorest neigborhoods in Oakland, while on drugs, and jaywalked in front of a cop, who yelled, “Watch out for cars!”. At 3 am. It means that no matter how poor or uneducated I was (I lived in that neighborhood at the time, and worse ones after), people never told me that I couldn’t make something better of myself.

I’m not speaking as someone who was personally affected by a lot of racism. I am someone who got a free pass when a lot of other people I love and admire didn’t. So if I, who am not being repressed by racism, can tell you it’s stupid and useless and wrong, will that matter to you? Will it mean more to you than hearing it from a person of color?

To a racist, yeah, it will. How stupid is that?

But maybe you think that because I am so very white, it doesn’t really affect me, so I can say “don’t be racist” and it’s not that important. I’m just being trendy or something.

The thing is, racism does affect me, everyday, because I see it everyday, and it affects the people that I love.

My grandpa Joe was black. He and my (white, red-haired, Irish) grandma Helen loved each other very much. Before they both passed away, I got to see that, and it would become fundamental in shaping what I thought love was. The good kind of love that I’m still not sure I’m ever going to find.

Joe was kind and – normal. He wasn’t a “black guy”, he was my grandpa Joe, who just happened to be black. One of my nephews (I have more than one sister) has a dad who’s half black and half Chinese. Some of my best friends, including a guy who has been my friend, consistently, for 17 years, have been Filipino.

This fact doesn’t make me cool, or open-minded, or some kind of special. It just makes me not stupid. I’m not stupid enough to believe that human beings are divided by something as arbitrary as the color of your skin. We have grown to fill this whole planet, we have lived in a variety of climates, and some of us show the difference in skin tone that comes from having ancestors who mastered a certain spot on the Earth. That’s all it means.

This way of splitting up the world into groups, so that we can decide who we’re better than, and these jokes and comments and advertising and every other little way that we pass judgment on different colors of people … It’s all so stupid.

More than that, it hurts. It hurts me to see people that I respect being insulted or dismissed or patronized because they’re not white. It hurts those people who have to face prejudice every day for something they were born with. (No one gets to pick for themselves what color their skin is or who their parents are!) And it hurts us, as a global society, to still be fighting each other over this arbitrary classification.

So please, stop being stupid.

For those of you reading this and thinking, “Oh good for you, Carrie,” don’t. It doesn’t take much for me to take a stand on this, I know that. What you should do is to take a moment to redefine the people around you. All of those little labels we have in our heads? Rewrite them. Stop thinking of your black neighbor or your Asian coworker or the Hispanic woman in the PTA. And for fuck sake, stop describing people that way. Find another label.

Think of them as Bob who has the amazing rose bushes next door, or Jimmy who drinks four cups of coffee a day or Paula who’s allergic to dogs. Something about who they are as people. Because no matter what color you or I or anyone else is, we’re all the same. We’re all people.

Do that, and then I can start thinking of you as someone who isn’t stupid.

Please.