(Note: I’ve listed links to other posts on this topic at the end.)
That said, there are a few things I’ll address:
1) I’m utterly baffled by the difficulty certain members of this community have with understanding what the First Amendment means. We went over this in depth in my senior year of high school (everyone had to take a semester of government), so it was never a confusion for me: the First Amendment only applies to the government interfering with speech. In any other instance in which speech is hindered, the crime isn’t in preventing one’s speech, but something else entirely. Libel perhaps. Or maybe someone tied you down and forced you to write something against your will (like in Misery). All illegal because you’re committing other forms of crime. But it’s not illegal for me to tell anyone they can’t write for my blog. It’s my blog. It’s my space. If you were to ask me why I was censoring you by not letting you write for my blog, my only response would be: fuck off.
And the SFWA is a private organization with its own rules, and one of those rules says the President handles publications. So if the President wants to change the Bulletin to a fishing journal, he or she can do that. Granted, I think it would be utterly stupid to do something like that, but so be it. That wouldn’t be censorship either. Even so, as C.C. Finlay has made clear all over the place, the changes coming to the Bulletin were requested by the majority of members, and one of those requests was basically “not publishing things that alienate segments of the community.” You know, because the Bulletin is supposed to serve the members at large, not some subset of people who don’t particularly care if they offend other people with their words. And if a good portion of people are offended by the content (legitimately offended, not “I’m offended because your offense means I can’t be offensive anymore,” which is total bullshit), then it makes sense to change things.
Imagine, if you will (because you are probably a fan of SF/F and are fully capable of using your imagination), a situation where the Bulletin published an article in which one of the authors said Mormons aren’t real Christians (in seriousness, not as a reference to a work or something). Can you imagine how many Mormons would be offended by this? I know a few. I’m sure some Mormon members of this organization would be offended, too. And wouldn’t it go without saying that maybe we shouldn’t publish something in a journal about writing advice and market tips and professionalism that basically shits on other people, or at least makes others feel like they’ve been shit on (since individual perspectives vary)?
Seems logical to me.
It’s about respect, which I’ve already talked about.
2) I’m likewise baffled that Robert Silverberg admitted to signing the offensive, early version of the petition, even while admitting that he didn’t like what was in it. How am I to take this man’s judgment seriously? I don’t sign a loan contract if line 57 says “once a month, you will submit for experimental radiation tests to grow an alien tumor out of your rectum” and then say, “Well, but you’re going to change that part, right?” The petition isn’t legally binding, obviously, but I still don’t understand the defense. Either you agree with it as it is, or you don’t. And if you don’t…well, don’t sign it.
I should also note that the original version of the petition is precisely the problem with this whole conversation: here’s the point <0>……………………………………….and here’s them <X>.
They don’t get it. In case you missed that part.
3) The petition makes this strange claim that the Bulletin is becoming politicized (it’s politically correct, oh noes), but I fail to see how removing things that have nothing to do with the theme of the Bulletin and intentionally making the content more inclusive is anything but apolitical. The Bulletin isn’t a place to voice your political opinions anyway, so why should it make any effort to become a sandbox for those opinions which piss off a huge portion of the electorate and the people who actually care about this field? It doesn’t cost anyone anything not to be a rude dick in a professional journal (and, yes, that’s what this comes down to). Why would you *need* to voice an opinion about gay marriage or whether you think some members are fascists when that’s not the point of the Bulletin anyway?
This isn’t about politics. Well, OK, outside of the Bulletin, it’s about politics on some level, though I’m inclined as a crazy liberal raised by a lesbian mother ninja to think that inclusiveness is apolitical in nature. But the Bulletin isn’t about politics. That’s not it’s purpose. That’s not what SFWA’s members want it to address. So this is a non-issue.
However, I also understand the frustration. For me, the issue with Resnick/Malzberg’s column is no longer “there was sexism in there,” which, in my mind, is fairly weak tea in comparison to, say Theodore Beale (Vox Day, who has since been removed from the SFWA), but rather the behavior demonstrated in that final column. To receive a lot of criticism from a wide body of individuals and to simply discount it is one thing, but to then use a professional organization’s professional publication to lob an attack on those people is callous at best, petty and horrendously unprofessional at worst. This is not the kind of behavior one expects to find in the pages of a professional journal, nor is it the kind of thing I expect from two respected individuals in this field.
I think the sexism aspect is important, but what bothers me most, then and now, is the complete unwillingness to recognize and acknowledge that what we say and do has a real impact on other people, and that you should listen to those you’ve harmed so you can do better next time. That, for me, is the root of all of the frustration. It’s not that there’s soft sexism in the SFWA from time to time. It’s not that Resnick and Malzberg said some boneheaded things. It’s that they said them, were criticized for it, and showed not only that they didn’t give a shit, but also that they had no respect for any differing opinions on the matter and would rather double down than give ground. This is why these fights keep happening. It’s about, as I said the other day (see one of the links above), respect. When it comes down to it, the respect a lot of people in this community are asking for costs us next to nothing to give. It shouldn’t be this hard to get or give it…
And on that note, I think I’ll shut up now.
P.S.: One last thing: I realize this post is focused in one specific direction — Resnick, Malzberg, Silverberg, etc. On the subject of respect, etc., I think it is fair to say that there are lines that can be crossed on either side, and that some of those crossings on my side (or what I perceive to be my side) don’t actually help further the discussion and can sometimes hinder what should otherwise be a simple movement towards respect. I’ve thought a lot about this, but I’ve yet to put together a cogent argument about it. Part of the reason I haven’t has to do with my concern about tone arguments, which I can get to another time.
- “The Tiresome Fringe of SFWA: the Gift That Keeps On Giving” by S.L. Huang (on why one should at least make an intelligent argument in favor of an opposite opinion)
- “an embarrassing stumble towards irrelevancy” from Crime and the Forces of Evil
- “(Mostly) Non-SF blogger endorses PC self-censorship of certain SFWA writers” by Larry from OF Blog of the Fallen (w/ a heavy side of snark)
- “You only hate boobs because you hate freedom” by Rachel Acks
- “Objectifying women is not a constitutional right” by Bennett North
- “The SFWA Shuffle: Is It About Respect?” by Ferrett Steinmetz (on the rejection of seniority)
- Gary Farber on David Brin’s “Adult” and “Terrorism” Comments
- “Oversight, Looking Under” by Andrew Barton (on how getting too close can sometimes bite you in the toosh)
- “Would You Like Some Tits With Your Guild” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
- “POLITICAL CENSORSHIP: A helpful guide to whether or not it’s happening to you” by Sunny Moraine
- “Can We Please Not Rewrite History, Folks? (More on the SFWA Petition, and Links.)” by S.L. Huang
- “My Petition to an Organization I Don’t Actually Belong To” by Jim C. Hines
- Here’s a comment from Ilona Gordon on institutional bias in the SFWA and why she won’t join (on C.C. Finlay’s FB page)
- Here’s a timeline of last year’s SFWA controversies by S.L. Huang
- “Editing and Censorship” by Elizabeth Barrette
- “19th Nervous Breakdown? 34th Kerfluffle? SFWA and the Petition” by Steve Davidson
- C.C. Finlay on the controversy and the difference between censorship and editing (FB)
- “Controversial e-mail inflames sexism debate in sci-fi community” by Aja Romano (The Daily Dot)
- “Ten Things About Petitions and Freedom of Speech” by John Scalzi
- “On Petitions and Flame Wars: My Thoughts About SFWA and Change” by Victoria Strauss (Writer Beware)
- “Final Thoughts on Petitiongate” by Jim C. Hines
- “SFWA Explodes IV: The Revenge of SFWA” by Angela Highland
- “Word for the Day: Wanksplaining” by Deirdre Saoirse Moen
- “Again? Really!?” by Adventures Fantastic
- “Ironically although this post discusses SFWA, I’m not tagging it for the SFWA Twitter feed” and “Now as to the merits of the SFWA arguments” by Fraser Sherman
- “SFWA Hiring Guidelines Imply Editorial Censorship” on SFF Chronicles (multiple authors)
- “Why the SFWA Shoutback Matters” by Juliet E. McKenna