Yesterday I ranted about how badly-written a certain petition is. (It just offends me as a logician and a writer, yanno?) I thought I would leave it at that, because books to write, and there are lots of other people saying very intelligent things so I don’t have to (see below).
But there’s one thing I see coming up over and over that nobody else seems to be addressing, and it’s driving me crazy.
I’m seeing continual efforts in some corners to frame the issues of the past year as people overreacting to the “lady writer”/”lady editor” columns in the Bulletin and to (poor! victimized!) Resnick and Malzberg daring to call women beautiful. Those columns were, in my humble opinion, inappropriate for the publication, but the people calling them out as such were respectful and relatively muted. (As were the criticisms of the (also inappropriate) Bulletin cover and the (also inappropriate) Barbie column that happened in parallel.) There were eyerolls. There were sighs. The criticism I saw was polite and rather mild.
The thing that blew up the Internet was when Resnick and Malzberg decided to respond to those (respectful, muted) criticisms of their columns by scorching the fucking Earth. By calling their detractors “liberal fascists,” comparing their critics to Stalin and Mao, and making references to censorship and thought control. That was in the May 31 issue of the Bulletin, two issues and six months after the initial “lady writers” column.
That was not reasoned debate. That was a nuclear escalation of abusive, dehumanizing rhetoric against anyone who dared to disagree with them. And they did it in the publication of the professional organization that purported to represent a lot of those same people.
There’s a huge, huge difference between that and reasoned, relevant disagreement. There’s a chasm the size of the Mariana Trench between that and the respectful airing of differing political views.
Personally, I’m sorry it took something so extreme to bring change to the publication—like this link points out, the Bulletin is a trade publication and thus should strive for professionality and relevance to the needs of the members (why is this even a question?). But I strongly object to the reframing of history some people are endeavoring to make here. It’s disingenuous and it’s minimizing. It’s casting the people who called for change as (shocking! unreasonable!) overreactors to a bunch of friendly old guys who (gasp!) dared to fondly use the word “lady,” and that is not at all what happened.
Look, I’ve even provided this handy timeline for you to reference. Stop making shit up. Stop rewriting events to cast the people who disagree with you as the bad guys and the people you support as picked-on innocents who were just writing some innocuous column about women writers, doncha know. It’s not true. And as a rhetorical tactic, it’s disgusting.
If your points are worth making, you should be able to make them without falsifying history.
(Speaking personally: the initial “lady writers” and “lady editors” columns made me roll my eyes, not think Resnick/Malzberg/the editorial direction of the Bulletin needed to be reamed in the public square. It was the later column that brought that reaction. And I think the same was true of many other critics.)
Now for Links
There are lots of people writing really insightful, intelligent things. Have some links:
Silvia Moreno-Garcia compares the SFWA Bulletin to the trade publications of other professional organizations. “I’m not worried about censorship. I’m worried we are a joke.” (This makes me want to join RWA, even though I’ve never successfully written romance in my life.) Rachael Acks, whom I linked to yesterday, made a very similar point, and I continue to think it’s a good one.
A parody petition by Jim C. Hines, exhorting the president of RWA for more mantitty. “If you continue this Politically Correct censorship of mantitties, aren’t you creating a slippery slope that leads to DEATH PANELS?” (This made me LAUGH OUT LOUD. Several times. Applause, Jim!)
SFWA released as statement regarding the petition. “While this petition has not been formally presented to SFWA, I have seen versions and they express concerns for something that does not and will not exist […]” (In other words, someone who is not a member of SFWA circulated an inflammatory petition spearheading a charge against something that . . . was never real. Yup, that sounds about right.)
Gary Farber’s Facebook page has some discussion I’ve found fascinating, including by a lot of pros.
I also recommend reading the comments at Natalie Luhrs’ post, which I also recommended yesterday, and which remains the most comprehensive rundown of the entire situation.
(Parts of this blog post were originally written for the discussion over at Absolute Write and posted there.)