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netmouse: (Life)
I spent a little bit of time this week reading the comments on various Sad Puppies blog posts and articles. It was sometimes interesting, sometimes appalling, but mostly it was just kind of confusing.

Who do these people think are Social Justice Warriors, and why do they think Tor is their favorite publisher?

I mean, I know, SJW is mainly a derogatory term people use in order to dismiss and harass those who work for social justice as being too shrill and bullying to the people they criticize, and that it isn't a term people usually apply to *themselves*. And as such, 'SJWs' mostly represents an imagined group of "Leftist authoritarians" that are somehow repressing people on the Right. (One of my favorite comments, in a discussion of why some commenters were using melodramatic language that set up the Sad Puppies as though they were truly at war with leftist Hugo voters, was a sad puppy supporter saying, essentially, "They started it! What do you think the W in SJW stands for?" As though SJW was a self-applied term.)

But my first experience with 'SJW' being used to smear science fiction fans and activists was during Racefail '09, when The Man Who Shall Not be Named started using it to complain that the people who think race, class, disability, and gender, etc, are all intersecting problems and yes, racism is still a problem, were missing the Real Truth which is that it was all about class (and furthermore they were a bunch of snooty middle-class people who couldn't see that because of their own privilege and deranged liberal education, and also they were being mean).

If you actually were a participant (or interested observer) in Racefail '09, you may know that one of the main people who was sharply criticized by online masses of angry anti-racist activists was Teresa Nielsen Hayden, whose comment about there being more usernames than IP addresses in a Racefail discussion came across to many as an accusation that some real people who were up there possibly risking their future careers to express their personal truth despite the fact that powerful members of the establishment like Teresa were in the room were in fact sock puppets.

Now people supporting the puppies slates (which, in one way of looking at it, essentially encourage masses of real people to nominate for the Hugos like sock puppets) are calling Nielsen Hayden "The Queen of SJWs" in what has got to be one of the most ironic moves of the century. I mean, seriously. I can only imagine this history is part of why this is all rubbing Teresa so raw, and she has my sympathy. Because the people who are calling her that are so wrong it's not even funny, DESPITE the fact that there is not actually any such thing as an organized group of "Social Justice Warriors". If there were a group of people who were SFF SJWs, she would still not be its queen.

All of the supposed SJWs that I have seen under specific attack by puppies for participating in an alleged conspiracy, or whisper-campaign, to exclude right-wing writers from the Hugo Awards are white people. Have you noticed that? The Nielsen Haydens, John Scalzi, Jim C. Hines, Mary Robinette Kowal. Others by implication. And in fact, they pretty much have to be because the Worldcon attending, nominating, and voting population is skewed so older white fannish establishment that using the term "SJWs" in this whole debate is kind of ridiculous. At least, if you're looking for some kind of consistency with how the term was used in 2009 (perhaps that meaning has been superseded by how it was used in Gamergate? But no... the puppies insist there's no connection to Gamergate here.)

I mean, yes, Scalzi, Hines, the Nielsen Haydens, and Robinette Kowal are advocates for diversity in the field. And yes, Tor has published some diverse works and authors.

But when I think SJWs and SF, I think of the female writers (most of them people of color) who felt so harassed and targeted following Racefail '09 that more than half of them have essentially stopped blogging.

I think of activists like Kate Nepvue, whose open letter to white people in SFF Fandom is on my must-read list for smofs interested in promoting diversity, and who transforms good intentions into actual progress via the Con-or-Bust program to get fans of color to conventions -- NOTE: Con or Bust is even now gearing up for its annual fund-raising auction (items up for auction are being posted as they come in; bidding opens April 20th).

And when I think of Social Justice and SF, I think of the many authors who are participating in the We Need Diverse Books campaign. I think of editors like Sheree Renée Thomas, Nalo Hopkinson & Uppinder Mehan, Bill Campbell & Edward Austin Hall, Tobias S. Buckell, Alisa Krasnostein & Julia Rios, Walidah Imarisha & adrienne maree brown, Rose Fox & Daniel José Older, Mikki Kendall & Sofia Samatar, who are out there giving brothers, sisters, and the genderqueer a hand up, working hard to publish inclusive and transcendent works like Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond, Diverse Energies, Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, and Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History (and Long Hidden 2: coming next year!)

The publishers of these works are not Tor Books. They are Aspect - Warner Books, Arsenal Pulp Press, Rosarium Publishing, Tu Books, Twelfth Planet Press, ak press, and Crossed Genres Publications. And the main publisher I think of when I think social justice in SF is Aqueduct Press, which publishes the WisCon Chronicles and guest of honor speeches, and many other important collections, essays, and novels from marginalized and feminist perspectives and authors, including the very useful and highly recommended Writing the Other, by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward.

So perhaps it is appropriate that these campaigns about the Hugos have had nothing to do with these people, because they are not Social Justice Warriors, they are Social Justice Workers. But it still makes me want to laugh when I see a headline like "Social Justice Warriors Aren't So Tough When Even Sad Puppies Can beat Them". Because the rabid puppies of the world are not really going up against the people fighting the hardest for social justice in SF. Some of the people who are most visible to other white people, maybe. But as some of the articles I've read this week have alluded to, the groups of people you often hear from in campaigns like these are not necessarily the people who care the most -- they are the people who have the most free time. Usually, you know, white people. (Because, whoops, class and race do actually intersect in this country.)

So I want to laugh, but I also don't feel like laughing, because it's sad that the people fighting so hard for social justice are still so invisible on the national scene. That this debate that invokes the term "Social Justice Warrior" is still basically by or about white people, just like so much else in the dominant culture of SF and the country as a whole.

[And I want to acknowledge here that some people who supported the sad puppies campaign would not characterize their actions as anti-anyone so much as pro- more diverse participation in the Hugo Awards. But the anti-SJW presence in the campaigns and online discussions is definitely highly visible and, as you see above, lauded by the right-wing press.]

The social justice workers I mentioned above? They're mostly not party to this. And they are not really part of the fannish power elite who run and have historically nominated for or recommended works for the Hugo Awards. Perhaps they are too busy doing other amazing things. :)

(Or dealing with issues like cancer, like Mary Anne Mohanraj, who says her intro to the next WisCon Chronicles is basically an essay on how she wants social justice conversations to change in SF/F. Wouldn't that be nice?)

When their work is admired, it is because it is admirable. I highly recommend you check it out.

And while you're at it, please support the Carl Brandon Society, which is in need of both volunteers and funds. Thank you.
netmouse: Firefly, natch. (Big Damn Heroes)
This past weekend I spent Friday afternoon and Saturday evening at the Baltimore Book Festival, and I was really glad I went. Friday I was actually on my own (sans child!) because I was on a panel - Rosie stayed in extended care at preschool and then Brian left work a little early to pick her up. Saturday we all went together, though actually we did split up for a while so I could wander the festival a bit and then go chat with people all adult-like at the SFWA reception while Brian took Rosie to the Maryland Science Center.

Before my panel Friday was an awesome panel on the grassroots movement/organization We Need Diverse Books, moderated by Ellen Oh, and also featuring Justina Ireland, Caroline Richmond, and Karen Sandler. I tried to take a picture of Ellen but the shiny reflective part of the podium was just too bright from the high sun outside for my phone camera to compensate. I did get a picture of the rest of the panel though.

Besides talking about the organization and the need it is addressing, the authors also described their own and each other's books. They all sounded fascinating, but the one at the top of my reading list is now Prophecy, by Ellen Oh - Ancient Korean history for the win!

Other books and authors were also promoted, including Alayah Dawn Johnson's Love is the Drug, which comes out tomorrow! I am so excited about this book. Every book Alayah has written has been better than the previous one. Justina, who was on the panel, had read an ARC (Advanced Reader's Copy), and said it was about a flu epidemic. She reviewed it as terrific and chock full of fascinating cultural stuff about the black and inter-racial communities in Washington, DC -- that's where Alayah grew up, so of course she has the inside insight, and it's now part of the region I live in, so I'm excited to be able to learn more about it through an SF vehicle.

I myself had brought 5 copies of Alayah's hit from last year, The Summer Prince, because I wanted to talk about it in my panel, and I wanted it to be available at our book table in case people heard us talk about it and wanted to read it - it also got plugged at the previous panel, so that was great too. Alayah herself is living in Mexico right now and was unable to attend the book festival, but I understand she is planning to come to this side of the continent in November for the World Fantasy Convention.

My panel was on Writing About Social Justice in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Fellow panelist Fran Wilde stepped up to moderate, and thankfully also widened representation at the table to include someone non-white by inviting Justina Ireland to come back up and chat with us. "Widening the table' was an important component of how many of us viewed promoting social justice in SF. Besides me, Fran, and Justina, we had Alex Shvartsman, author of Explaining Cthulu to Grandma and other stories, who is also the editor of the comedic Unidentified Funny Objects series. Alex commented that as an editor he enjoys the opportunity to promote awareness of up-and-coming authors, by publishing them side-by-side with better-known names. In particular he mentioned local author James Beamon, whom I got to meet later at the SFWA reception. Rounding out the panel was Sunny Moraine, who has a story in the fabulous collection Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. In addition to 27 terrific stories, Long Hidden features this fabulous cover art by Julie Dillon:

I had a copy of it with me and there were more on sale at the SFWA table. I highly recommend it. I was also busy promoting the anthologies Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora and its sequel, Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, as well as the World Fantasy Award-winning novel Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, and Salsa Nocturna, a collection of stories by Daniel José Older. Alif the Unseen features hacktivists fighting a totalitarian government in the mideast, while Salsa Nocturna features a half-dead guy who both works for and bucks up against the power structure of the ghost Council in New York City, as well as several supporting characters that are latino, black, or both.

During the discussion, Fran asked us to give advice to writers writing about people different from themselves. I echoed something Justina had said on the earlier panel, which was to read books by authors from that culture, and recommended the Carl Brandon Society's website as a source of reading lists, and I also recommended Writing the Other, by Cynthia Ward and Nisi Shawl, which is so much like a workshop it includes homework for the reader. Sunny went on to affirm that Writing the Other is something every writer should read, and I too think it would be useful for anyone who aims to write about people -- there's a lot in it about just plain making characters full-bodied characters, in addition to whatever about them makes them Other to you.

Someone in the audience asked about where to find works by queer authors or featuring queer characters, and Sunny helped me plug the Outer Alliance, which is a QUILTBAG SF&F writer's group. I was totally blanking on specific projects to recommend, so was very thankful when Fran brought up the Kaleidoscope anthology. And of course, Long Hidden has some stories with queer protagonists (& authors) as well.

Fran asked us about writing social justice into futuristic science fiction, and I riffed off something Justina said -again- to suggest people make sure they consider the human cost of fielding a new technology. As an example I brought up the freeways in Michigan, and how the so-called "race riots" in the late 1960's were actually caused by how the freeways through Flint and Detroit were built through/on top of (and destroyed) successful black communities and commercial districts, and how we all enjoy the freeways now but few of us know that history and the social instability to which it contributed. Justina added that something similar happened here in Baltimore, so they had the same problems.

It was great meeting everyone, and all in all a great panel, IMHO. I even remembered to mention the upcoming anthology Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction From Social Justice Movements.

On the way back to my car later a young woman I passed told me "Good panel," and gave me a big thumbs-up, so maybe I'm not the only one who thought it went well. :)

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