Update on the Recent Unpleasantness

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.
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June 24, 2013

RABID JUNGLE CAT LOVES HER NEW BED

I’ve been tweeting a lot of these links but it seems like it would be a good idea to collect them all into a post that way I can find them all again. I love Twitter but it certainly has its limitations–and one of those is finding anything after a while.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt has basically turned himself  (screencap) into a parody (screencap). I have never seen someone so intent on getting the last word while refusing to actually engage with anyone who doesn’t agree with him. It is not possible for anyone who disagrees with him to be polite or civil enough.

He doesn’t believe we have responded “appropriately” to his call for civility:

It’s funny how a few people keep reacting to my posts as if I have not responded appropriately. I suppose they expect an apology. But why apologize? I should apologize to them that THEY misconstrued and misinterpreted my words? I should apologize to them that they spread lies, half-truths and rumors about me to publishers and others? That they passive aggressively tweeted insults or snide remarks to me all week? That they set about insulting my character and more–all behavior which, I might note, is the very thing I point out it not the appropriate response to disagreement in my post calling for civil attempts at serious dialogue on discrimination and related issues.

I believe this is called the “you’re interrogating the text from the wrong perspective” defense. I am not the only one who sees the whopping irony here, right? That he’s criticizing those of use speaking out about racism and sexism in our community as being inappropriate while holding himself above all criticisms? Who the hell died and made you King of Discourse, Bryan Thomas Schmidt? Or was there a vote and I missed it? And incidentally–those who are disagreeing with you have names. Maybe you should try using them. That is: if you actually are interested in dialogue.

In addition, he’s clearly not read #sffcivility. Because if he had, he would realize that it’s not about making nice. Not at all. And taking credit for Kate Elliott’s work in getting the hashtag going while never acknowledging her is, honestly, disgusting. And pretty typical if you take a look at some of his other posts (specifically the one about harassment at conventions).

And really, that’s all I have to say because Bryan Thomas Schmidt isn’t worth any more of my time. I have books to read and essays to write.

In other news, Andrew Fox compares  people speaking out about sexism and racism to a mob and a bunch of bullies and Bill Quick decides that SFWA stands for something other than Science Fiction Writers of America and then there’s this nasty little bit of dismissiveness. Trigger warnings on all these links–both for the posts and the comments.

Mike Resnick apparently emailed Theodore Beale and digs in (screencap, also trigger warnings because Theodore Beale)and I think it says a lot about Resnick that he thinks Beale’s cesspool of a site is the best place to make a public statement on this. I’ll note that commenters over at James Nicoll’s LiveJournal seem to believe that Resnick was likely not making a public statement–which, if true, is naive as all get out on his part. I certainly would not expect Theodore Beale to keep such an email in confidence. Not when it can be used as a weapon. Edit: The text quoted above appeared in the comments of a previous post (link found here). So it was a public statement.

Speaking of public statements, I am not sure if the people posting to sff.people.sanders are unaware that it’s a public newsgroup or not because there’s been some very interesting things said over there. First Brad Torgerson reveals that Resnick and Malzberg were aware that their column in issue 202 of the SFWA Bulletin would be the equivalent of blowing up a munitions dump  (screencap) and then Jean Rabe claims that they were cleared by John Scalzi to do so (screencap). Incidentally, William Sanders has essentially shut down the topic (screencap) and stated that he’s going to start deleting posts (screencap).

And on the side of incivility, Jim Hines has two thoughts, but they’re important ones.

Amal El-Mohtar talks a bit about her decision to call for the expulsion of Theodore Beale publicly.

Cora Buhlert has also been doing a wonderful job with keeping up with various bits of the conversation–her most recent post in her Girl Cooties series highlights a number of pieces that I missed, including one from Rafael R. Piñero which I found very heartening to read.

Racism 101 draws a crucial distinction between free speech, control, and consequences:

People that say things like, “So much for freedom of speech” or “I have freedom of speech, I can say anything I want” in reaction to someone else’s use of the same freedom are not talking about freedom, rights or even liberty. Although, they always try to couch it as such.

No, what these people are talking about is control. They are usually people who’ve never been told that their voice wasn’t important, valued or wanted. Therefore, when they say something bigoted and someone speaks out against it, they are enraged not by what they claim as “Loss of freedom” but instead that they (and like minded people) are not the only persons allowed to have said freedoms.

And finally, Alex Dally MacFarlane talks about making bigots unwelcome in SFWA:

I’m sick of an organisation in which bigots feel welcome. I’m sick of forums in which bigots feel welcome, while anyone else is warned right from the start to steer clear. I’m sick of the fact that Beale’s language was not universally condemned, that reaching a unanimous decision to kick him out of SFWA is not proving to be easy. I’m sick of bigots having no consequences for their actions, while people speaking up in support of the people they hurt are harassed, upset and afraid. I’m sick of soft-footing in bigots’ favour.


I want an organisation in which bigotry is unwelcome. Otherwise it’s worthless.

I see no purpose in demanding less.

I would like to expand upon MacFarlane’s statement and say that I would like the SFF community as a whole to be a place where bigotry is unwelcome–and make no mistake, what we have been so very uncivil about is bigotry. We’re not talking about differences in opinion over what kind of technobabble is best to use in your space opera or if aliens really would come with both exoskeletons and tentacles: we’re talking about whether or not POC and women are equal and valued members of the SFF community or not.

To say that they are not–as many people have done, both directly and indirectly–is bigotry.

And it should not be tolerated.

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17 Comments

  1. Beth

    I’m not sure why BTS thinks anyone is demanding an apology from him. (Why should we?) I do wish he would engage honestly in the real discussion, and not that pretend one he’s holding inside his head.

  2. Natalie

    @Beth: I’m certainly not demanding he apologize. I agree with you–I wish he would engage honestly and with actual people instead of the strawpeople he’s set up inside his head. Gloating about how you’ve won the argument when you haven’t bothered to actually argue with anyone is laughable, at best.

  3. Rafael

    Fox column starts of as “reasonable” but then he talks about Jonah Goldberg’s book with what I assume is a straight face and then devolves into a political screed against liberal and academia that have nothing to do with the subject and he lost me.

  4. Natalie

    @Rafael: I find that it helps to have this open in another tab while reading some of these links (I am done being nice or polite).

  5. jennygadget

    Reading through sff.people.sanders (because I’m a masochist), it appears that “consent” and “appropriate venues” are concepts many posters there struggle with.

  6. Natalie

    @jennygadget: Have you encountered the “bonobo hugs” yet? /shudders

  7. Rafael

    @Natalie: ROFL! And then I managed to track down the response to the critics by these “gentlemen” (which Fox defends against the “mob”) and I have to say, well done boys, you turned a simple controversy, a perfect chance to discuss some serious and prescient topics into an all out attack on your critics for well being critical. Just because you sent something to Jerry Falwell and he did not respond (I doubt he ever actually read it) doesn’t give you a get out of the doghouse free card.

  8. Cora

    Did you see? BTS actually commented on my blog.

  9. Beth Bernobich

    @Cora: Interesting. I hope you don’t mind, but I posted a reply. I don’t want to debate him in your blog–that would be rude, I think, and probably pointless–but I wanted to say a couple things directly to him. (Since he’s blocked me from his website.) I won’t follow up.

  10. Michal

    Quoted from Beale:

    It is not a coincidence that the vast majority of SFWA members who Mr. Resnick describes as “screamers” are complete nonentities in the field, most of whom have published little more than the bare minimum to qualify for membership.

    The latter half of the quote being a perfect description of Mr. Beale himself.

    The amount of stupid on display in many of the above links is almost mesmerizing.

  11. Athena Andreadis

    It’s astonishing that even now, in SFF and the larger society, we need to have conversations about whether all humans are human — and that some still trot out “arguments” of civility (or along the lines “My best friend/wife/etc, who is a woman/POC, agrees with me!”)

  12. Alan DeNiro

    Thanks for doing all the legwork for compiling this all together.

  13. Natalie

    @Rafael: Some people have a hard time being criticized–Resnick and Malzberg have been around long enough that they believe their years of service to the genre should insulate them from criticism. Ferrett Steinmetz has a great post on this very subject.

    @Cora: I did see! I am done beating my head against that particular brick wall, though.

    @Michal: What I find even more mesmerizing is that they think they’re so smart and can’t allow for the possibility that they may be wrong. If that kind of confidence comes with that degree of willful misunderstanding/ignorance, I think I’d much rather stay unsure of myself.

    @Athena Andreadis: It is astonishing. And sad.

    @Alan DeNiro: You’re welcome. Link-collection is one of my magic powers, apparently.

  14. Cora

    Beth, no, I don’t mind you commenting on my blog. Loved “Passion Play” BTW.
    I did post a “No flame wars here, please” reminder in my own comments, but that’s just a preemptive measure.

  15. Beth

    @Cora: I’m so glad you enjoyed “Passion Play.” *makes happy writer sounds*

  16. Laura Resnick

    “”Mike Resnick apparently emailed Theodore Beale and digs in (screencap, also trigger warnings because Theodore Beale)and I think it says a lot about Resnick that he thinks Beale’s cesspool of a site is the best place to make a public statement on this.””

    He didn’t email Beale, and he wasn’t choosing Beale’s (I agree) cesspool of a site to make a public statement on this.

    My father’s google-alert picked up that =my= name was being dragged through the sewage of La Beale’s blog in relation to this flamewar. My dad has vehemently not wanted this mess to involve his family or friends, and he posted this reply to that effect on that blog in a string of comments being made about -me- there. It is the only reason he posted there.

    Beale then transferred the comment to a more prominent spot, for whatever reason.

  17. Natalie

    @Laura Resnick: As I noted in my edit later in the same paragraph. Thank you for the clarification, it is appreciated!

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