N.K. Jemisin is the first author to win the Hugo for best novel three years in a row. These three best novel Hugos were not her first awards. Several years ago when she won another award, a person who has since became a notorious racist provacateur who happened to be an officer of the Science Fiction Writers of America at the time used the society’s official mailing list to send out racist and sexist comments (calling Jemisin, an African-American author, a “savage” was not the worst part of the comments). He was ousted from his position at the time, but subsequently from his own publishing house and blog he proceeded to rally people to harass Jemisin and every other non-white, non-male, non-straight science fiction/fantasy author he could identify who was getting positive attention.
So, when Jemisin won her third Best Novel Hugo in a row, she made some comments about the harassment campaign. Comments that the vast majority of people who saw the speech thought were funny and apt. They weren’t angry comments, they were triumphant. And she is hardly the first award winner to mention obstacles that had to be overcome in order to even be a nominee for the award.
But one member of the old guard of sf/f (Robert Silverberg) didn’t like the comments, and on a mailing list that he thought was private (but come on, hundreds of members!) he made comments that were racist, misogynist, dismissive, and hypocritical about Jemisin’s speech. He characterized her comments as vulgar, graceless, and angry. Which, as I commented above, is pretty rich from someone who used the speech at a previous Hugo award ceremony to make a long, elaborate (and worst of all, not funny) dick joke. Never mind the weird anti-semetic thing at another Hugo ceremony, nor sponsoring a weird conspiracy-theory petition about a sci fi organization a few years ago. Since these remarks came to light, various other professionals in the community came up with other examples of him being misogynist.
Further, while admitting that he had never read any of her stuff (despite being a Hugo voter who gets a free copy of each nominated work each year that most of the rest of us voters use to read before we cast our ballots), he indicated that he was skeptical that she deserved the awards.
Here’s the thing: if you are not a member of a marginalized community, and you tell a person in that community that they should tone down what they are saying about their own experience being discriminated against? You are guilty at the very least of mansplaining. Which, in case you don’t know means:
explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer.
Here’s the other thing: if you’re a long time Hugo awards participant but you can’t be bothered to check out the work of someone who has won several times recently, yet still feel entitled to opine on whether they deserve any of the awards, it’s time for you to hang up your hat and go out to pasture.
This has become part of the conversationn so many months later because Silverberg contacted the publisher of the fan news site, File 770, all upset because he thought some comments others had made about his comments were libelous. Let me state for the record that, as a person who has professionally been involved in libel cases and sat through long convoluted conversations with lawyers about libel, those comments aren’t anywhere close to libel. At all. But, because he felt that way, he demanded that the publisher post his 1500 word essay about racism and sexism to reply, and oh, my goodness, talk about being deep in a hole and deciding to dig yourself deeper!
A few words of advice: if you ever begin any paragraph with the phrase “I’m not racist” everything that comes after is a lie. It you say “I’m not sexist” again, that is a lie and everything that follows it is. But, even worse, if you try to defend yourself by saying, “Some of my best friends are…” You have just demonstrated that you are so deeply steeped in ignorance on the topic that you should be too ashamed to ever show your face in public again.
It is impossible to grow up in a society without absorbing that society’s racist, sexist, sectarian, and homophobic prejudices. The best any of us can hope for is to not be intentionally racist or sexist or homophobic; learn from our mistakes and keep trying to do better.
Silverberg hasn’t helped his cause with this essay. And besides the complete lack of awareness, another issue is the self-victimhood. He—and a lot of people defending him—make a big deal about how his original comments were made on a mailing list that he thought was private, and therefore he is the victim because his privacy was violated. First, let’s turn to Miss Manners on what one should do if something you said in private gets leaked to the public:
Admit your wrongdoing. Don’t try to blame it on being misheard, the vendetta of other people, or her paranoia. If you said the wrong thing and you were caught out, fess up – however painful it might be. Don’t put it off – do it right away, in private if you can.
It doesn’t matter if he thought it was a private conversation. It was bigoted commentary, period. And if his private comments become public, the only honorable thing to do is admit that what you said was wrong. Period.
I’ve blogged many times about bigots who don’t think they are bigots for all sorts of misguided reasons, including this one: the mistaken idea that if you don’t say it to someone’s face on purpose, somehow it isn’t racism/sexism/homophobia/whatever. You can’t claim to be an ally when you are trash talking the person behind their back. You can’t claim not to be a bigot when you are spouting bigoted things out of earshot of the people in question. How hard can it be to understand that?
Silverberg is an author whose work I have written positive things about. And I’m an old, white-bearded sf/f fan just like him. I understand that he sincerely thinks he’s the victim here. I also understand that he couldn’t be more wrong, and it just makes me feel a lot of pity for him and his ignorance.
But let’s try to close an a more upbeat note:
Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist – Avenue Q – Original Broadway Cast:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
There are some who would say this isn’t in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, and certainly not in line with advice I have often given people who are stuck: to just write the next word and keep moving. Since each time I have redone a scene I started from scratch, I think this counts as legitimate first draft activity. I’m not revising, see. And if someone thinks this is a form of cheating, well for years I was a member of the NaNoWriMo Rebels. The original rules specified that you not write a single word of the story before the stroke of midnight on October 31. So I was a rebel because I was usually trying to finish one of more works already in progress. So if my multiple tellings of the same (or substantially similar) scenes is cheating, I guess I’m a rebel again.On the other hand, there is a scene that is told twice which I intend to go into the book that way. The reader will first seen the end of a battle from the point of view of the main villain of the story, as he arrives when most of the fight is over and tries to figure out what’s happening. Then in the next chapter the reader will see the beginning of the battle from the point of view of one of the protagonists and learn quite a bit more. And I think it works quite well.
We’ll see what the readers think.
There is just so much weirdness in the world that I could comment on, but I don’t even know where to begin.
Cindy Hyde-Smith sent her daughter to a private school created to help white kids bypass integration – It’s the latest detail that gives context to the lynching “joke” from the US senator from Mississippi..
The liberal civility fetish explained:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Now this year we do have our small chest freezer, so storing a big bird is possible—but we had to start making an effort a bit over a week ago to cook dinners exclusively from things in the freezer and refrain from buying freezable-things we found on sale at the grocery store until we made enough room in the freezer for the turkey.
But I digress… I was looking for a small turkey, when I heard a voice nearby say, “Isn’t it a bit to early to be buying a turkey?” The person wasn’t talking to me, but rather to the woman who was with him. It appeared to be a small family of like a grandpa, grandma, a mom, and two children, and the grandpa-looking guy was the one questioning their search of the turkey bins. The subsequent conversation was quite amusing to overhear: grandma and mom told him Thanksgiving was just five days away, he argued, the kids got involved. He was absolutely certain that Thanksgiving is always the last Thursday in November. One of them had to show him their calendar on their phone before he believed then that Thanksgiving was this week. Then he said something along the lines that he had a lot less time to get the house ready for everyone coming over.
Anyway, I wasn’t quite as bad as he was, but it was just a week previous that both Michael and I had been shocked to realize Thanksgiving was less then two weeks away. It wasn’t that we didn’t know the holiday was the fourth Thursday, simply we didn’t quite realize that much of the month was already gone.
Tomorrow it is just the two of us for Thanksgiving. Despite trying to keep the menu small, I know we will have way too much food. Still, I’m looking forward to my turkey and stuffing and sweet potato pie and all the rest. And I’m feeling quite a bit less gloomy this year than the previous two holiday seasons. Many things in the world are still very messed up, but there is more than a glimmer of hope, now.
So, here are things I’m thankful for:
- my smart, kind, sexy, super capable, funny husband
- the people who turned out and voted bue
- people who laugh and fill the world with joy
- sci fi books that tell of wonderful futures
- people who help other people
- people—often from segments of society who are always told they don’t matter/should listen to their betters/et cetera—who ran for office large and small this year
- beautiful misty grey mornings
- people who make art or stories or music
- NaNoWriMo writing buddies
- modern medical science
- people who love
- living in the future
- tweety birds and kittens and puppies and tigers and otters
- people who keep striving in spite of it all
- my crazy, sometimes infuriating relatives who probably find me even more bewildering than I ever do them
- not having to spend the holiday with (especially) the most infuriating relatives again this year
- my sweet, clever, mega-competent, long-suffering husband (who definitely deserves to be on this list twice!)
- all my wonderful friends—who are talented, kind, giving, and clearly the most patient people in the world, because they put up with me even at my most dickish
Thank you, each and every one. And whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving or not, I hope you have a wonderful day full of blessings, because you deserve it
I don’t have to deal with that sort of thing this week because we’re staying home again this year. And I had a lot less of it to deal with last year because we stayed home for both holidays. I drove down twice during the season to see folks and drop off Christmas presents, so I did see a lot of the extended family, but it’s different when you aren’t sitting in one place for a long time either waiting for food to cook, or more people to arrive, or whatever.
Anyway, if I were to do something like this letter, it might go something like this:
Hello, cousin/aunt/cousin-in-law I only see at holiday gatherings! It’s been too long!
As a matter of fact, no, I don’t technically live in Seattle any more, I’ve moved to a small suburb called Shoreline.
No, I still take the bus to work. It’s only four miles further from the office than my old place. I would love to talk about our new neighborhood and all the things I’m growing in my–
Yes, I am still working in the same part of the telecommunications industry that I have been for the past 31 years.
Yes, you actually use the stuff we do every day. Our products are the servers that figure out where you phone is anytime you use maps, or need to call 9-1-1, and so forth.
I’m sorry to hear about your vague problem with your very cheap Android so-called smart phone that is almost certainly running a very outdated version of Android and is loading with bloatwear. I don’t do Android. At all. I’m an Apple user.
No, that is not an iPhone. It has the name of another company printed right there in very large type. I’m sorry the salesperson at the place you went to get a cheaper phone than you could buy from your carrier (after two other cheap phones died on you this year) lied to you. You should probably go somewhere else next time.
I’m sorry to hear about your vague computer problem on your super cheap very old Windows machine that is probably infested with more malware than actual software. Can’t really help you, as I said, I’m a Mac user. You should probably stop taking it to that guy who runs the combination Pawn Shop/Smoke Shop/Computer Repair Shop and go to the place my husband recommended last year.
Yes, I voted. No, I really don’t think we should talk about it.
Yes, as a matter of fact, I do still believe that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, just like his birth certificate said. And no, I’m not at all glad he’s gone. I’m really sad that voter suppression and Russian interference put a person who lost the popular vote into office.
Yes, yes, I completely agree we should change the topic. Did you see the Seahawks game two weeks ago?
Since the form of this thing is a flier you could hand out to people, I decided to leave out the many times that I wind up sitting very tight-lipped awkwardly listening to someone try to explain away some real world news with very very mangled Bible references. Or the latest quack medicine/magical Bible cure someone is trying for their vague physical ailments.
At least for the last five or six years everyone has realized that talking about anything related to their opposition to gay rights or transgender people isn’t a good idea. Please note that I have been out of the closet for over 26 years and they have all met (and all seem to really like) my husband who has been coming down with me to these things for 20 years, but it took this long to decide that maybe telling us some of those things to our faces isn’t polite dinner conversation.
I am going to miss not getting a taste of Mom’s Mistake Salad (it’s a concoction of pistachio pudding and pineapple and whipped cream and I don’t remember what, that seems to contain about a million grams of sugar per spoonful, so I can literally only have a few bites, but dang it is so, so, so good!) or share and compare anyone’s attempt at making Grandma’s Frozen Cranberry Salad—for a long time we thought the recipe was lost, so several of us came up with versions of our own; Mom found an index card with the official recipe hiding in one of Grandma’s photo albums. And then when she made it, it wasn’t quite what any of us remembered, confirming our suspicion that she did never made it the same way twice.
Since it is just the two of us, Michael and I are cooking a small turkey. We’ll have stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, my Great-grandma’s creamy savory sweet potatoes, sweet potato pie, cranberry sauce, and a relish tray that will have enough pickled foods and olives to feed about 30 people.
Oh! And I plan to make the Fiery Thanksgiving Manhattan again: Rye bourbon, sweet vermouth, orange bitters, and Tillen Farms’ Fire and Spice Maraschino Cherries. It will be divine!
There is a particularly pivotal scene that I have been having trouble with, and so far I have written it from three different viewpoints. In each one, I’ve also started the scene from a slightly different place. Between the second and third attempt at the scene, I flashed back, as it were, and wrote some possible set up scenes from various viewpoints of various characters getting ready for the event in question to try to figure out what wasn’t working in the scene itself.
Now, there was already part of my plan to write some different events in the book from multiple viewpoints. I show the villain coming into a situation that is already in motion and trying to deal with it. Then later I show the beginning of the sequence from the viewpoint of one of the protagonists, explaining some things that seem mysterious. There is similar thing where one of the protagonists comes in after some awful things have happened and is trying to pick up the pieces, then later I show what the villain actually did that led to the situation as this protagonist found it. That’s a specific dramatic ploy that isn’t the same thing as revisiting a scene multiple times from different viewpoints.
Anyway, it’s all valid first draft stuff. We always know that some of what we write is going to get cut later.
Completely unrelated to all of that, I wanted to note that last week we passed the 21st anniversary of my first husband’s death. This was one of the milder years, for me. Most years beginning a bit before my birthday (because I can’t think of my birthday without thinking of his, as our birthdays were only two days apart) through October and up until about the anniversary I tend to be more moody than usual and more susceptible to bouts of sadness and such. Three years ago it was a whole lot worse than average, last year it was a bit less bad than usual. I can never predict how it will go.
I really can’t say that it has steadily gotten better over the years. There have been years more than a decade ago where it was about as mild as this year. And then there are the really bad years.
I still think that part of why last year was better than usual was living in the new place. Every anniversary of Ray’s death before that, I was still living in the home we had shared when he died. So every day when I stepped out the front door I saw the climbing rose Ray had planted, for instance. There are still plenty of events and moments, and yes some things around the house, that remind me of him, but there are some things that used to recollect him that just are no longer here.
Thinking about this made me realize something that I haven’t been making a note of, however.
This week will be the twentieth anniversary of the first Thanksgiving that Michael and I celebrated together. I started to type that the coming Christmas will be the 21st, but that one is tricky. Michael was our friend before Ray died. And Michael dropped in several time in that December to check on me. So while the actual Christmas day I spent down in Oregon with my mom and relatives there, just before I went, Michael and I had a gift exchange. And though we weren’t yet officially dating at that point, at least one of my friends later told me that thought they had noticed we were already falling for each other.
I think I’m going to be a bit pedantic and say, since the first time we hung stocking together on Christmas Eve, slept under the same roof, and woke up together to find out what Santa had left in those stockings on Christmas morning was 20 years ago, that this year will be the twentieth anniversary.
Of course, a few weeks after Thanksgiving and more than a couple before Christmas, it will be our sixth wedding anniversary. Can’t forget that!