So, it’s release day for Maven. (Kindle, Smashwords, B&N, and print)
I should be excited, muppet flailing around my house like a crazy person.
Instead, I am stuck in an endless loop of questioning what I’ve done in putting out a *gasp* Science Fiction Romance novel, alternating with being extremely angry at what I’ve been reading about the SF community lately.
First off, read this:
E. Catherine Tobler leaves the SFWA
This is essentially what started a whole mess of me ranting a whole bunch of WTFs at my computer.
And then I read this:
Stuart Sharp mansplaining SF Romance
Cue head explosion.
I just… I don’t know where to start with this total and complete bullshit. Yes, I knew going in that SF has been considered a “boy’s club” for longer than I’ve been alive. Yes, I am also aware that this is changing, but when you then read stuff like this:
Ann Aguirre talks about being a woman in SF
Oh hell no. Hell. No.
Ann Aguirre, someone much more established as a writer than I am, is being treated this way? In places where she’s been invited as a guest? To speak as an equal alongside other keyboard jockeys (who happen to have boy parts)? And she’s getting hate email as a result of speaking up about it? What? What? What planet am I on? Did I suddenly go back in time fifty years? Is this real life???
I. Am. Angry. I am angry at those men for treating her that way and I am angry for what I, personally, have let slide in the past when it came to how I was treated by my “peers”. True, I have not experienced the level of what many women have (I consider myself a lucky anomaly in this), but I have experienced it and could tell you stories that would make you think a little differently about some publishing “professionals”, or just regular old joes on the street. This is not unique to Science Fiction and Fantasy people. It’s endemic in the whole of society. And it sucks.
Because of this, because of this “boy’s club”, I have to sit here wondering if I’m up for the battle ahead when it comes to Maven. I’ve actually been thinking about this issue a lot lately, and long before this recent hubbub started. What I’m facing is not a battle only on the Science Fiction side, but on the Romance side as well. In organizing my book blog tour for the end of June, I’m finding myself on the defensive. I have to convince Romance readers who may view SFR as “Science Fiction? Like with aliens? Pass.” that my book is something they would probably really enjoy given the chance. There are no aliens. There are no space ships. Yes, there is science, but it’s accessible, not some foreign language only rocket scientists and geneticists can understand. It’s for everyone. And then I have to turn around and convince SF readers that it’s not all “touchy feely girly things” as well. Add this ingrained misogyny to the mix and wow, do I have a fight on my hands!
But back to the assertion that “women” who read SFR don’t know their Phillip K. Dick from a hole in the ground, or that the only thing about Doctor Who they find appealing is David Tennant’s hair. To this, I say “you know nothing, Jon Snow”. I grew up reading Science Fiction and Fantasy. I consumed the movies and TV shows like they were the oxygen I needed to survive. I count everything Douglas Adams ever wrote as some of my all-time favorite books in the world (even the Dirk Gently series) and A Wrinkle in Time is required reading for my kids. I would rather rip my own tongue out with pliers than tell my girls to stay away from having interests in certain things because “that’s for boys”. I let my 3-year-old son play dress up with his sisters at the same time he hauls legos around in a toy dump truck, because why not? Encouraging these things will make them more well-rounded individuals and less likely to crap all over someone else’s love for whatever that might be later on down the road. So when some Old Boy from 1969 wants to tell me I can’t write SciFi because I have ovaries? Oh yes. You go right ahead and throw that gauntlet, sir. We can meet with lightsabers at dawn and I promise you it won’t be a hand you’re missing when I’m done.
It’s encouraging to see most of the comments on these posts and on Facebook and Twitter are as full of “WTF?” as I feel about all of this. Still, I can’t help but notice some of those commenters are ones I personally have felt turn up their noses at me or my work. They are possibly unaware of this, but some likely are. I’ve balked at calling them out on it because I didn’t want to cause problems in the communities I belong to, but they should know that as of right now, I will no longer grant such reprieves. If you want to bring your misogyny to my playground, you’d best be prepared for the consequences. I will not be trampled on and will not allow wonderful writers like Ann Aguirre to be trampled on any more. I will not be silent. You shouldn’t be either, dear reader. Because we need to be LOUD.
Now pardon me while I scrape my gray matter off the ceiling.
Starla Huchton says
I also forgot to mention Heather Massey’s awesome post over at The Galaxy Express http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/2013/06/out-with-old-boys-club-in-with-new.html and C. E. Kilgore’s rebuttal to Mr. Sharp at Tracing the Stars http://cekilgore.com/self-publishing/genre-wars-why-is-sfr-the-outcast/ both definitely worth the read.
Stuart Sharp says
I think I should make a few points here. I’d like to start by apologising for any offence I’ve caused you.
I was trying to make a few general points about differences in approach between two genres that I’ve written in (and everyone who has commented so far seems to have ignored the part where my day job means I’ve written more SFR and romance than most people have. After probably seven or eight SFR novels and maybe twenty in total that could be considered romance in some form I feel that am legitimately entitled to comment on this genre).
The part I didn’t make clear, because I frankly wasn’t aware of some ongoing argument with SFR, was that this was originally intended to be about a particular type of romance author who jumps to whatever the next popular genre is and just seems to tack it on to what they always do. Although I’m lucky enough that my current clients all have a deep interest in their stories and fields, I worked for one of these in the past and it was that experience I was trying to get across here.
I wasn’t trying to talk about long standing SFR authors or authors with an established interest in sci-fi coming out with something in the romance field so much as I was trying to talk about the way romance in general seems almost to migrate from genre to genre. I can see that I made a very poor job of explaining that, and several other elements in there.
Please note that at the end, I do say that the originality of SFR probably represents a better definition of what sci-fi is about than the sort of tired rehash that shows up too much in SF. I didn’t make enough of it, because I was trying to argue the other way for rhetorical effect until the end, but that was the point that I was trying to build towards throughout the article. My aim was to show that ultimately, the changes brought about by SFR were likely to have a reinvigorating effect on SF.
I’m sorry to go on so long. If this were just a random genre war thing, I don’t think I’d care. The one part that is really starting to annoy me is the allegation of sexism here. I neither know nor care what idiots in the SFWA have done. I do know that a number of people have made the assumption that because I have dared to comment on romance, I’m commenting on women, and that when I talk about traditional SF authors, I’m talking about men. Neither of those things is true. My own experience demonstrates that it is possible for a man to write SFR and other romance, while I know many women who have written great SF. I was talking about genres.
By assuming that any attack on SFR is an attack on women (and it really wasn’t intended to be, even though I can see why it came off that way) aren’t many of these people guilty of exactly that kind of SF=men SFR=women attitude? The assumption that SFR=women and SF=men is fundamentally sexist, and it is certainly not one I made.
I’d offer my congratuations on the publication, but after all that, I imagine they’re the last thing you want. Still, good luck with it.
Starla Huchton says
Mr. Sharp, I actually appreciate your candor on this subject. I do accept your congratulations and luck in my new venture. Thank you.
After reading this comment I think maybe this is a case of some poorly expressed points in the original article? I did see that you’ve written some SFR or SF with romantic themes, but the tone of your piece came off as very derogatory to the genre as a whole. Saving the “but this could inject something new into SF” until the very last probably wasn’t going to have the effect you intended after stating “They certainly don’t get that Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep reference you made in chapter 3”. We all make mistakes in how we construct our thoughts for public consumption from time to time, so I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.
And you are probably correct in thinking that your timing of this piece is the reason you’re getting so much blowback now. Your article was actually the first in this whole mess that I read, which I followed up with C. E. Kilgore’s post, which linked me to the rest of the controversy. So, if I had this reaction from reading your post FIRST, I don’t think my initial reaction was what you intended to invoke. I may be in the minority with this reading order, though. But that you are attempting to go back and open a dialogue and explain what you did not adequately get across the first time does wonders for my opinion in this. Too often these days people are willing to drop emotional equivalents of nuclear bombs on the internet and then walk away, unapologetic and silent.
So, to that end, thank you for including your thoughts here. It is appreciated.
I sometimes think that the writers looking down on other writers (because of gender, race and other things that don’t mean a gorram thing when it comes to telling amazing stories) are forgetting about one thing.
I can flip between science-fiction, fantasy, YA, middle grade, horror, action, adventure and westerns because I want to. Are these writers also trying to say that readers are only allowed to like one type of book written by one type of person? To that I say… may their sales slip into oblivion and their names into obscurity, because I will never stop exploring ALL of these beautiful worlds. Well, unless the writer is a bully. I have no interest in supporting bullies. That’s a pretty reasonable caveat, and I hope more people follow it.
Starla Huchton says
I know exactly how you feel. Several times I’ve picked up a book only to discover something very unsavory about the author (Orson Scott Card, anyone?) later down the line. I immediately put those authors on a personal blacklist. I know this probably won’t hurt them too much down the line, but it’s what I can do for my part. I vote with my wallet.
Dirk Gently WAS my favourite.
You haven’t noticed it because the podcasting community isn’t prone to the exact same problems as the general SF literary community – which is another reason why the two communities don’t crossover as easily.
Starla Huchton says
Oh, I may have to disagree with you on the podcasting community being immune. If you’ll note my last paragraph there….
We can talk offline some time if you’re really curious, but it’s not something I’m going to address here.
Matthew Wayne Selznick says
“We can talk offline some time if you’re really curious, but it’s not something I’m going to address here.”
Why not? Didn’t you write that you weren’t going to be silent? The podcasting community (whatever that means) shouldn’t get to slide.
Starla Huchton says
Because I believe in second chances, Matthew. It’s my hope that in putting that comment there, as well as some of the blog post, it will cause people to look back and maybe re-evaluate some of our interactions. Perhaps I’m misguided in this, but I don’t believe in blasting specific people publicly. It never ends well for anyone involved, in my experience. Also, finding courage is a journey. And maybe some day I will. I see no point in that now, as I don’t want to detract from actual discussions on this topic, as opposed to finger-pointing.
Matthew Wayne Selznick says
I understand. I didn’t grok that “but they should know that as of right now, I will no longer grant such reprieves” wasn’t retroactive.
Some folks got lucky, I guess..! I hope they take their second chance to heart, with you and anyone else.
PS: the text on your two “notify” check boxes is white-on-white (invisible.)
Doc Coleman says
I’ve been trying to catch up on all this, since it blew up when I was sick and so VERY much was written very, very quickly. I finally finished reading this post today, after reading the associated pages linked to above, and had a very interesting conversation with my wife about the subject.
I think what we’re seeing here is not one particular attitude that is prevalent in the sci-fi community, but several different behaviors that end up pressing the same buttons. Most of these behaviors need to be corrected, but some of them aren’t necessarily bad, if you can understand them in context.
The biggest problem behavior I’m seeing here also happens to be the sneakiest one of the lot, and is largely responsible for turning a simple protest into a raging flame war. Specifically, this is the tendency of people (regardless of gender) to interpret the statement “x is not treated the same way as y” as “y should be treated better than x”. These two statements are NOT equivalent! When this happens, detractors typically attack the protester in the attempt to “take them down a peg or two” for their claims of superiority. Claims which, of course, they never made. All of which ignores that no one should be treated the way Ann Aguirre was treated by people who should have been her peers.
Another problem results when two behaviors collide. The first behavior is the typical con-goer’s feelings of “coming home” when they go to a con. In most cases, this feeling of belonging is good, but it can lead to a feeling of ownership over fandom or a particular con. The second behavior is the tendency in male society (societies in which all members are male) to use a hierarchy to establish status. This behavior presents as a tendency for males to challenge a newcomer to male society in order to determine if the newcomer is above or below them in the hierarchy. This is where most stupid male posturing comes from.
I think you can see where this is going. Your generic male con-goer “owns” the con because it feels like home to him. When he sees someone he doesn’t know, he assumes they are a newcomer and challenges them to establish status. Men will either understand these challenges, or blow them off, establishing either dominance or a refusal to associate. To women, this behavior is pointlessly aggressive and exclusionary. And highly insulting.
I’m not trying to excuse this kind of behavior, just point out what may be the cause of it. There are plenty of men who don’t present these problem behaviors, but we have no way of knowing if they are in the minority or the majority of attendees in particular cons. But even if 99% of men at cons know better, it is that 1% that gets noticed. All of us need to do what we can to educate that 1%.
I think I could continue to go on at length pointing out problem behaviors and their sources, but that would probably only muddy the discussion. We need to do what we can to improve the community, not try to point fingers, or punish transgressors. Their behavior needs to be addressed, but in a way that encourages them to change, not puts them on the defensive.
OK, enough of my ramble.
Matthew Wayne Selznick says
“Your generic male con-goer “owns” the con because it feels like home to him. When he sees someone he doesn’t know, he assumes they are a newcomer and challenges them to establish status. Men will either understand these challenges, or blow them off, establishing either dominance or a refusal to associate. To women, this behavior is pointlessly aggressive and exclusionary. And highly insulting.”
Territorial pissing is not restricted to males, at cons or anywhere else.
“…interpret the statement “x is not treated the same way as y” as “y should be treated better than x”. These two statements are NOT equivalent!”
I think you’re on-the-nose here, Doc.
Starla Huchton says
Okay. So I’ve stewed over this a bit, in order to collect my thoughts, and I think I’m ready to address this now.
1. When x= SF and y= SFR, no one is making the “y should be treated better than x” statement in regards to SFR. There’s been some “I like y better, personally, but x is cool too”, but what’s being discussed here is the feeling of “x should be treated better than y” felt by A LOT of SFR writers (or female writers in general). Saying they are postulating SFR should be put up on some sort of pedestal is insulting and makes me wonder why you might be defensive about this.
2. This “territorial” b.s.? Yeah, you put that out there and all of a sudden it becomes an excuse. Apologies will then become “I am SO sorry I offended your girly sensibilities, but, hey, this is the animal kingdom and it’s what we do.” So, no. I don’t buy it. Human beings have the capability to think through actions and see possible consequences of such. Saying “but… PSYCHOLOGY!” only provides them an excuse with which to wave away bad behavior. See also: hazing. Just because it’s tradition, does not make it right or acceptable in our current society. I refuse to entertain that idea. Frankly, I don’t care. Welcome to the human race. The context for sexism or misogyny doesn’t matter to me one whiff.
3. Assuming you are in the 99% of those “doing it right” while expounding on why these poor, misguided souls act this way actually made me chuckle. In my experience, your 99% is probably more like 50% (may be a high estimate). And what does this tell you? Basically, every time I interact with someone at a convention, or even among authors/podcasters in general, it’s a coin flip as to what I’m going to get (sometimes even with people I’m familiar with, not just new-to-me folks). I know several men that I am happy to interact with in a group, but I know better than to be alone with them anywhere. Do I feel unsafe somewhere like Balticon? No, not really, but that’s because I have become very situationally aware of who’s about and where I go.
4. I would love to hear your wife’s end of this conversation.
Doc Coleman says
Hmmm… It seems that in some ways I spoke too generally and failed to convey my meaning. But let me address your points…
1. Actually, I had been talking about the counter-response to women complaining about being treated as second class on con panels, not about the dissing that SFR has been taking. That was one of the thoughts I had originally cut, but I’ll supply it here.
You’re 100% right. The idea that SFR isn’t SF, or is somehow “less than” other forms of SF is total bullshit. In general, I don’t read books marketed as Romance. This is because I find the lot of them to be tired and formulaic. I also adhere to an older definition of Romance that doesn’t require a romance to be a love story. But that is my taste, and I wouldn’t deny anyone else the opportunity to read such books.
I think it is great that Romances are branching out into other genres! I think this is exactly what Romance needs to revitalize itself and attract readers such as myself who are not fond of the formula, and I think this also allows traditional Romance readers the opportunity to discover new genres that they may also enjoy.
I’m not sure why you feel my response was defensive. I was trying to point out behavior I saw that needs to be corrected. I was always taught that it is better to condemn the behavior and not the person. Obviously I didn’t convey that well. I shall have to think on this a bit.
2. Again, I wasn’t excusing anything, but trying to point out behavior that I feel needs to be corrected. It isn’t right, and just because people are conditioned to behave in a fashion doesn’t mean that they should behave in that fashion. People who exhibit this behavior need be called on it, and be encouraged to correct their behavior. I was trying to convey that message, but I seem to have failed. I do think that the context is important to understand in order to fix the problem.
3. I have no idea what the actual percentage might be. I don’t think there is any way to tell. Reality is that there is a whole spectrum of behavior and event he best fail to think at times and screw up.
The issue is still that enough people exhibit this rude behavior that it needs to be corrected. I think we all agree on that.
I *HOPE* that I behave in a more enlightened and socially responsible manner, but I am painfully aware of the fact that I still have social handicaps. I want people to call me on any rude behavior I may exhibit, because that helps me correct it and become a better person.
4. Generally speaking, she thought that I had some very good points about the source of some of the bad behavior demonstrated. I will ask her to post so you can hear it from her, but she isn’t very comfortable with writing. You may want to talk to her on skype or the phone.
I hope I’ve done a better job of conveying my thoughts this time.
Mr. Valentine says
One hole in your analysis, Doc, and it’s big enough to drive a convoy through: A simple admission that yes, prejudice exists in the SF community. And it’s ugly.
The phenomenon Anne and others have described can’t be conveniently explained away as nothing more than misunderstandings. Perhaps that isn’t your intent, but it sure sounds like that to me.
‘Territorial pissing’ = ‘boys will be boys’ — as though women simply don’t understand men? Bullshit. It equals ‘boys acting horribly’. Getting treated with disrespect isn’t a matter of misunderstanding the male psyche, at least not the male psyche that exists outside of caves. Is territorial pissing one of the behaviors that you think isn’t necessarily bad? It seems like it. Maybe I’m assuming this, and if so I apologize, but your statement made me feel, as a male con-goer, that I was being casually lumped in with a bunch of stupid, despicable cretins.
As for “x is not treated the same way as y” as “y should be treated better than x”, I’m not even sure what you’re getting at. Nowhere in Anne’s post did I hear even a hint that she felt x-chromosomes should be treated better than y-chromosomes. It’s about respect and equality, not superiority. So where are you coming from? It sounds as though you feel threatened by uppity female SF writers who make you feel inferior. Again, if I’m misunderstanding you I apologize, but man, I get the impression you’re doing some territorial pissing of your own here.
Doc Coleman says
Wow. I did a really bad job of communicating yesterday.
The point you are responding to is the exact opposite of the point I was trying to make. Let me see if I can be clearer now.
Territorial pissing = BAD! Must be stamped out! Has no place in modern society.
But, in order to fix a problem, you must identify the source of the problem. Doesn’t matter if it is human behavior, or a broken engine, if you don’t identify the source of the problem, you won’t get a fix, you’ll get more problems.
We’re not talking about immutable human nature here, but about cultural conditioning. Culture is something we CAN change.
As for the x and y arguments… YES! Anne is saying x=y, but I believe that many of the negative responses are from people who believe she is saying x>y. The negative responses are wrong because they are responding to something that was never said.
By the way, among my favorite Sci-Fi authors: Anne McCaffery, Wen Spencer, Julie Czerneda, Mur Lafferty, Mary Shelly. In what way am I threatened? HOW could I be threatened by other people telling great stories? Heck, I’m HERE because I support Starla’s writing. I hope to someday be as good as she is. I would gain nothing by trying to tear her, or any other writer down.
Why do you think I am defending the behavior I am condemning? I ask so I can improve my future communications.
Melisse Aires says
Starla–SFR does have a good community of fellow writers who understand the frustration the girl cooties mentality. Plus, what is wrong with girl cooties anyway? They are so sparkly. Some are even guys. And readers seem to be more and more interested, so I think the outlook for SFR writers is optimistic!
Photshop beckons. I’m gonna make a girl cootie!
Starla Huchton says
Thanks, Melisse. I’m finding the SFR community to be a wonderful and supportive place! My list of contacts has grown exponentially and it’s so AWESOME to see so many others in this genre facing the same dilemmas and still pushing forward (and with success)!
So once again, it’s ‘our’ fault we’re getting this aggressive response to our protests over blatant sexism? Once again, the girls have to play the peacemakers because it’s natural for a man to respond in this way if he feels threatened? But because we feel threatened, WE should back down? No. That might be true in the animal kingdom, but we’re supposed to be intelligent, reasoning beings who can think past such primitive reactions.