Burn the Witch! Swarm Cyber-Shaming in Science Fiction

I have a tremendous amount of fondness for the science fiction community, both professionals and fans. The SF community was boundless in their generosity and support for me and my family in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and Dara, the boys, and I have all benefitted from the friendships we’ve formed at dozens of conventions and bookstore events over the past decade.

But I feel compelled to point out, or at least suggest, that a vocal and very cyber-visible portion of the SF pro and fan community have not been covering themselves in glory recently. In fact, they have been acting like a mob. A cyber-mob. And a mob is an ugly thing.

Unfortunately, the worst harm to the target of criticism comes not from individual critiques (which vary greatly in their quality of argument; many critiques that I’ve come across do not rely upon any familiarity with the source documents of the controversy at all, merely upon commentary derived from those documents and unsubstantiated assumptions about authorial intent). Individual critiques at least come from individuals, persons who can be responded to and perhaps even persuaded that the critique target’s intentions were not so malign/evil after all. Rather, the worst harm comes from the aggregated mass of such critiques, which tends to snowball, and which unfortunately has snowballed, from the members-only online discussion forums of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America to hundreds, if not thousands, of personal blog posts, Facebook posts, and Twitter tweets, and finally to such mainstream publications as Britain’s Guardian newspaper and Slate, the online magazine, which are read by millions who most likely otherwise would have no notion whatsoever of flaring controversies inside the insular subculture of science fiction writers and fans. Once such critiques reach a critical mass and begin snowballing in this way, they become a creature out of the control of any individual actor. This is how reputations are irreparably damaged and careers are thrown off the rails, if not destroyed.

Did the original criticizers want this to happen? In an attempt to be charitable and fair, I will assume that many, if not most, did not. They wanted to make their displeasure known; some wanted to provoke changes which they felt needed to be made in SFWA and its management of the SFWA Bulletin. Some of the criticizers, however, caught up in the adrenaline rush provided by participation in a large group expression of shared moral outrage, are undoubtedly pleased at whatever lasting harm might be done to Barry N. Malzberg and Mike Resnick, the authors of the articles which prompted the online firestorm, and Jean Rabe, the former editor of the Bulletin who commissioned the articles (and who has since resigned her position under pressure).

A bit of self-disclosure: I’ve met Mike Resnick on a couple of occasions at conventions (and I bought some magazines once from him on eBay, too). During our brief conversations, he was cordial, sensible, and seemed to be paying attention to what I had to say (which was either about the writing biz or our shared friendship with Barry). Barry Malzberg, on the other hand, has been a close friend of mine for the past ten years. He has been tremendously gracious and generous during our long correspondence. I have visited him and his wife at their home in New Jersey. Most striking to me have been the reactions of other SF professionals when I’ve mentioned my friendship with Barry. A number of them have shared accounts with me of how Barry reached out to them during low points in their writing or editing careers or personal lives, and how his encouragement, support, and assistance had made a great, positive difference for them. Barry has never discussed any of this with me. But it seems as though if the field of science fiction has a secret saint, that person is Barry Malzberg.

I came late to this particular controversy. This storm has been gathering strength for the past seven months, since the distribution in November, 2012 of issue 200 of the SFWA Bulletin to about 2,000 SFWA members, subscribers, and a thousand or so readers who purchase their copies from a newsstand or bookstore. But the brouhaha truly began blowing up online in late May of this year, after distribution of issue 202 of the Bulletin. I’ve been a SFWA member for the past ten years, so I receive the Bulletin every three months as a perk of my membership. Mike and Barry have been contributing a regular column to the magazine, the Resnick/Malzberg Dialogues, since 1998. The column generally consists of the two of them, both old science fiction pro writers whose careers in the field date back to the late 1960s (Barry won the first ever John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1973, and Mike was the Guest of Honor at the most recent WorldCon, Chicon 7), bantering back and forth on issues of current import to the publishing world or its science fiction and fantasy corner (such as the emergence of small presses or self-publishing), matters of writerly advice (how to best find an agent or decipher a publishing contract), or surveys of various aspects of the history of the science fiction field (such as the history of women science fiction and fantasy authors and women editors and publishers in the SF field… the stealth minefield onto which they blithely trod in issues 199 and 200 of the SFWA Bulletin). I usually make it a habit to read the newest Resnick/Malzberg Dialogue as soon as I receive my copy of the Bulletin. But starting with issue 199 (the Fall, 2012 issue), my copies of the Bulletin began accumulating on my nightstand, waiting to be read, pushed down on my reading list by big, thick Russian novels and various research books.

It wasn’t until this week that I glanced at the Locus Online website to catch up on SF news and book reviews (I’d also been neglecting both the print and online versions of Locus) and saw a link to the Guardian Online article that I reference above, entitled “Science fiction authors attack sexism in row over SFWA magazine”. Reading it, I learned that Mike and Barry were at the center of an online controversy over alleged sexism in SFWA, which focused both on several of their recent columns and the cover to issue 200 of the Bulletin, which featured an iconic image of a barbarian woman warrior/goddess in a chainmail bikini, brandishing her bloody sword over the corpse of a Frost Giant. The article provided a link to an online roundup of commentary from dozens of science fiction professionals, would-be professionals, and fans. Perusing this long selection of snippets, seventy-six of them at last count, I noted the following epithets being applied to Mike and Barry or to their words: unprofessional (the kindest of the lot), wankers, regressive, outdated, condescending, sources of “sexist douchebaggery,” “misogynistic, irrelevant dinosaurs,” “old men yelling at clouds,” “majority men in power,” “hideous, backwards, and strangely atavistic,” “blithering nincompoops,” antiquated, “deeply offensive,” “at best stupid and at worst censorious,” “sexist dippery,” gross, “never ending stream of sexism,” shitty, prehistoric, and, perhaps most colorful, “giant space dicks.” Also linked to on this list was a charming blog post entitled, “Dear Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick: Fuck You. Signed, Rachael Acks” (which, incidentally, is the #3 search result of 187,000 results when you type in the words Barry Malzberg into Google’s search bar).

Holy bejezzus, I thought to myself as I read through this list. What did Mike and Barry do? Had they gone all Westboro Baptist Church in one of their recent columns?

I went home that night and dug my most recent four issues, all previously unread, of the Bulletin out of my “to be read” pile. And I read all four Resnick/Malzberg Dialogues in order (the Dialogue from issue 201 plays no part in the brouhaha).

Never in my forty-eight years have I witnessed such an immense chasm yawning between an inciting incident and the level of vitriol it inspired.

Let me provide a bit of background. In their fifteen years of writing Dialogues together (I’ve read about three-quarters of their columns), Mike and Barry have developed a comfortable, familiar, semi-comedic shtick, complete with complementary personas (Mike is the can-do, look-on-the-bright-side face of the duo, whereas Barry typically luxuriates in his role as the Eeyore of science fiction). Both gentlemen are in their seventies and have been around the block many, many times, so quite a few of their columns, particularly the retrospective, survey-of-the-field entries, have a “those were the days” sensibility to them. They strive to share with their readers a feel for what it might’ve been like to belly up to the bar at the 1975 WorldCon and eavesdrop on the shop talk and gossip of some of the “old pros.” I readily admit that I eat this kind of stuff up; I’m a buff for any in-depth history of the field, replete as it is with such colorful personalities and their exploits, and I’ve happily devoured Barry’s, Fred Pohl’s, Jack Williamson’s, and Damon Knight’s memoirs over the years. Mike’s and Barry’s sensibilities in their columns cannot be fully appreciated unless one understands that they were both fans before they ever became professionals. They love science fiction and its traditions, and they are passionate about it. Having both been active in the field, either as aficionados or as pros (frequently as both), for going on fifty-five years, they have a wealth of personally experienced or second-hand anecdotes to share, and they delight in doing so. When writing their surveys of the field, whether they are focusing on writers, editors, publishers, agents, or artists from the Golden Age of SF to the present day, they try to insert some colorful anecdotes about each notable they discuss, in order to flesh out the personalities of oftentimes obscure, forgotten, and/or long-dead figures. Barry, in particular, has dedicated a large chunk of his career to attempts to rescue beloved predecessors from the darkness of obscurity (see the essays in his The Engines of the Night, Breakfast in the Ruins, The End of Summer: Science Fiction of the Fifties, The Science Fiction of Kris Neville, The Science Fiction of Mark Clifton, and Neglected Visions). Both men enjoy gossip, the sort of stories which used to be (and maybe still are) traded back and forth at convention bars, and given the tangled, intertwined personal histories of many major figures in the field (multiple tomes have been written about the love lives and swapped spouses of the Futurians, just to cite one example), there is a lot of old gossip to share. (And in case you consider this a strike against them, please ponder the high percentage of even the highest-toned literary biography which is composed of what is actually well-sourced gossip.)

The editor of the Bulletin, Jean Rabe, asked Barry and Mike to write a column or two on the history of women in science fiction. This request resulted in two columns, published in issues 199 and 200, entitled “Literary Ladies: Part One” (focusing on writers) and “Literary Ladies: Part Two” (focusing on editors and publishers). One of the pair (I suspect it is Mike) has a longstanding weakness for alliteration; thus, the “LL” of “Literary Ladies.” In accordance with the titles of the articles, Mike and Barry frequently (but by no means exclusively) refer to their subjects as “lady writers,” “lady editors,” or “lady publishers” (there are a few “lady agents” mentioned, too).

This use of “lady” as a modifying adjective is one of the primary complaints the legions of critics online have hurled at Mike and Barry, a main plank in their contention that the pair are “reactionary, shitty, prehistoric, misogynistic, giant space dicks” (to mash up just a few of the pejoratives I’ve quoted in the list above). Now, maybe it’s just me, but I have never encountered the use of the word “lady” as a pejorative or even as having a negative connotation. At least when I was growing up, it was a compliment, a label for those of the female gender to aspire to. Is the word a bit old-fashioned? Sure. Does it have a bit of a musty smell about it? A case could certainly be made. Is it mean-spirited? Hell, no.

And that’s before we even get to the actual content of these two articles. Barry and Mike praise their pantheons of women writers, editors, and publishers to the skies! They idolize many of them. Far from giving them condescending pats on the head, they fully recognize the daunting social handicaps these women faced in the professional world of publishing prior to the 1980s and cite them as enterprising, talented, and incredibly driven pioneers. There are no snide put-downs in these articles; there are no put-downs at all. These articles were labors of love. Mike and Barry knew that some of the women they’d be discussing would be familiar to the Bulletin readership, but that many would not be (particularly the women editors of such magazines as Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, and Fantastic from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s). Even I, a pretty well-read amateur historian of the field, found myself encountering personalities of whom I had no prior knowledge. Mike and Barry did a service for both their readership and for many otherwise forgotten notables in our field, women who they state had as big an impact on the evolution of science fiction and fantasy in America as John W. Campbell, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Robert Heinlein did. (And, as has been said about Ginger Rogers when comparing her skills to those of her partner Fred Astaire, they did it dancing backwards.)

The other sin laid upon the heads of Mike and Barry regarding their “Literary Ladies” articles is that they mentioned the physical attractiveness of some of their subjects. In sharing an second-hand anecdote about how one of the few women editors of the 1950s had prompted many women to join a previously all-male Cincinnati, Ohio fan organization, Mike mentioned the editor, briefly the only female participant in the club, had looked quite beautiful in a bikini at the hotel pool of a local convention – causing the wives of the male fans to join the club in order to keep an eye on their husbands! The original teller of the anecdote was the wife of one of those male fans, who told Mike that the editor, later a close friend, had earned the wife’s everlasting gratitude for sucking her into fandom. Reading it, I’m sure Mike intended it to be an amusing and endearing anecdote, a window into the world of SF fandom (and the larger society) of the 1950s. For many readers, apparently, it didn’t come off that way. But I’m judging the man on what I reason his intentions to have been, and I firmly believe intentions must be given weight in situations such as this one, which come down to one subjective experience versus another.

In another instance, Barry comments on the physical beauty of a woman editor from the 1920s and 1930s, a woman he only knows from her photographs and from the body of work she left behind. Again, I see his comments as an attempt to add a third dimension (I could say “flesh out” or “add skin and sinew to the bones,” but I would risk being misinterpreted, wouldn’t I?) to an otherwise dry recitation of the woman’s accomplishments in the early SF field. I have shared Barry’s experience in having surprising beauty leap out at me from a vintage photograph, beauty which could not be cloaked by the alien or frumpy (to me) clothing, makeup, and hairstyles of the era. Some people are exceptionally beautiful, and it is noteworthy, even when writing about writers (or editors). Nearly all accounts of Jack Kerouac’s career dwell upon his magnetic, athletic handsomeness as a young man, and how iconic photographs of him have helped to build his enduring mystique. Somewhat similarly, Franz Kafka’s striking appearance and demeanor, preserved in a handful of photographs and reminiscences of his contemporaries, have been grist for the mills of dozens of biographers. Kafka’s last lover, the Czech writer, editor, and social activist Milena Jesenka’, was a beautiful woman; her biographer and friend, Margarete Buber-Neumann, wrote extensively about Milena’s beauty and the effect it had upon the people (men and women) around her, and how she suffered from her beauty’s degradation in the German concentration camp where she perished.

The last set of complaints about Mike and Barry have to do with their column from issue 202 of the Bulletin, entitled “Talk Radio Redux.” This column was a response, an obviously emotional one, to the sorts of criticism (see my summary above) which had begun filtering back to them regarding their two columns on “Literary Ladies,” criticism with which revulsion of the woman warrior cover to issue 200 had gotten conflated. This set of complaints focuses on Mike’s using the words “censorship” or “attempted censorship” when referring to the feedback and actions of some of the readership and to Barry’s use of the term “liberal fascist.”

“Liberal fascist” is a term that has its origin in (or at least can trace its popularization to) Jonah Goldberg’s 2009 book, Liberal Fascism: the Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Change. The book is an account of the influence that certain aspects of Woodrow Wilson-era Progressivism (the ancestor of today’s Progressive movement), such as promotion of eugenics, an emphasis on the growth of state power and control of the state over key industries during times of state-declared emergency, and proto-environmentalism/nature worship, had on the various flavors of European fascism which developed and flourished during the 1920s and 1930s. The book also makes note that, in contrast with the commonly held belief that fascism was a rightwing movement, Benito Mussolini and the German and Austrian founders of the National Socialist Workers’ Party saw themselves as men of the Left, emerging from and expanding upon the Socialist tradition in a way separate from (and opposed to) Communism.

Personally, I think Barry was a little off in his use of the term “liberal fascist,” although I understand the emotion behind his use of the words. Fascists are defined in part by their intentions and efforts to use the powers of the state to silence opposing viewpoints. None of Barry’s and Mike’s critics have tried to do that (although perhaps some may fantasize about it). Similarly, Mike was imprecise when he used the word “censorship.” Censorship implies either the use of state power to silence an individual or the actions of an entity with economic power over an individual (such as the individual’s publisher) to block or change that individual’s expressions, under threat of economic penalty. Again, none of Mike’s and Barry’s critics are in a position to be censors. What they have been doing, however, does have its roots in an authoritarian tradition separate from, although related to, fascism. Mike and Barry have been mau-maued. Mau-mauing (a term popularized by Tom Wolfe in his 1970 account of the New Left of the 1960s, Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers) is a form of intimidation through widespread social shaming, ostracism, confrontation, and (either implied or explicit) threats. Although it is associated with the New Left, it has its origins in the standard operating procedures of the Old Left, when Communist parties in the Soviet Union and throughout the West utilized self-criticism and group criticism sessions to enforce groupthink and to stamp out nonconforming ideas and ideologies. (Many former American Communists of the 1930s listed the 180 degree turn from “Hitler is our mortal enemy” to “Hitler is our ally” following the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and their horror at the reeducation sessions which ensued as crucial to their break with the Party.) Saul Alinsky, in his Rules for Radicals, listed as Rule #12, “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it,” an endorsement of the technique of mau-mauing. Numerous American universities, both public and private, now staffed by professors and administrators who often have ties to or have been influenced by the New Left, have instituted speech codes which explicitly define certain forms of student speech and expression as being outside the bounds of permissible activity on campus, subjecting offenders to administrative penalties up to expulsion (a move to institutionalize and bureaucratize mau-mauing, pushing it towards what could be formally defined as censorship). Coincidentally, the same years which have witnessed the emergency of speech codes on many campuses have also witnessed an accelerated symbiosis between the pro SF community and academia (in that greater numbers of SF/fantasy writers have as day jobs teaching at the post-high school level, and SF literature and film has become an increasingly respectable and popular subject of university courses).

Given the prevalence of academic jargon from Cultural Studies or other Studies departments in their comments, I imagine a goodly number of the criticizers on the SWFA discussion boards and the broader Internet are either university instructors or possessors of an advanced degree from one of those programs. For many individuals under the age of forty who have been through the university system, mau-mauing may seem normative, or at least unremarkable. They have seen it at work through divestment campaigns of various kinds (divestment from Israeli companies or U.S. companies which provide goods to Israel which might be used in security operations against Palestinians, or from companies involved in fossil fuel production, or from companies connected to certain figures active on the Right, such as the Koch brothers) and through shout-downs and other disruptions of speakers invited to campus whose backgrounds or viewpoints are contrary to those favored by student activists.

Many of the criticizers may not consciously realize that they are mau-mauing Mike and Barry, but mau-mauing is what they are engaged in. Some commentators have pointed out the criticism is not censorship. True; but in this instance, rather irrelevant. Other commentators have stated that freedom of speech does not imply a right to a paid platform (such as that enjoyed until now by Barry and Mike with their quarterly columns for the Bulletin). Again – true, but irrelevant. For what the protesters either seek to do or end up abetting is not censorship, but what can be called shunning and shaming, an application of a radioactive aura to these two men which will make not only the future editors of the Bulletin but also editors at other periodicals and publishing houses, organizers of conventions, literary prize juries, and media outlets shy away from wanting any connection with these two and their works. Remember, this story has now broken out into mainstream outlets such as Salon and the Guardian; people who previously had never heard of Mike Resnick or Barry Malzberg or any of their books will now have their initial (and most likely only) impression of them branded with a scarlet “S” for “Sexist,” as detrimental a negative label in our time as “Adulterer” was in the time of the Puritans. As Barry himself stated in the column “Talk Radio Redux,” the most potent form of censorship is self-censorship, the type that occurs in a writer’s head before he or she sets fingers to keyboard. The mau-mauers, consciously or not, are using Mike and Barry as cautionary examples – “Look what we’ve been able to do to the reputations of a WorldCon Guest of Honor and to a man who has written close to a hundred novels and over 250 short stories, several nominated for Hugo or Nebula Awards. If we could do this to them, what do you think we could do to you if you commit ThoughtCrime?”

The virtually thoughtless piling on is perhaps the most appalling. So many of the criticizers whose comments I have come across admit they haven’t even read the columns in question. Once the ball of shunning and shaming got rolling, hundreds of onlookers, alerted by social media, jumped on the bandwagon, attracted by the enticing glow of participating in shared moral outrage. Moral preening is on overload; industry professionals and would-be professionals frantically signal to each other that they are right-thinkers. According to the mau-mauers, Mike and Barry did not merely misspeak (miswrite?); they did not have decent-enough intentions which were ruined by Paleolithic habits and blinkered upbringings; they are morally suspect, malign and vicious and evil. It’s burn the witch! all over again, but this time on a pyre of blog posts and Tweets.

I mentioned before that I completely understand the vehemence of Barry’s reaction to all this. One sadly ironic aspect of this brouhaha is that Barry is a lifelong man of the Left. He was staunchly antiwar during the Vietnam era (see early stories such as “Final War”), and his dream president was (and remains) Eugene McCarthy. I fully believe, based on his writings about Alice Sheldon and Judith Merril, that Barry considers himself a feminist, and an avid one. Condemnation from one’s “own side” always burns hotter in one’s craw than condemnation from “the other guys,” which can be easily rationalized away; just as criticism (especially when viewed as unfair) from one’s own family hurts much worse than criticism from relative strangers. Forty years ago (and in all the years since), Barry was a fierce advocate of the New Wave in science fiction, whose practitioners (with the sole exception of R. A. Lafferty) were all politically aligned with the Left, as opposed to old-timers such as John W. Campbell and Robert Heinlein. Now Barry must feel as though the children of the Revolution are eating their elders (as so frequently happens, it seems).

You still don’t think swarm cyber-shaming is a genuine phenomenon? Here’s a statistic for you. As of this afternoon (June 19, 2013), typing in the three words, Barry Malzberg sexist, into the Google search bar produces 807,000 results (oddly enough, far more than the 187,000 results you get in you only type in two words, Barry Malzberg). In contrast, typing in the author’s name and the title of his best known novel, Beyond Apollo, winner of the first John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, produces 41,000 results.

Folks, this is insane.

I do not believe there was any conspiracy to do this to Barry and Mike. I believe this smear started on a small scale and then grew like mutant kudzu in the echo chambers of the web. Now the smear has metastasized into a Frankenstein’s monster which has escaped the control of any individual or organization; with that much mud out there, no amount of counter-narrative will ever wash it away.

One of the cruelest knives shoved into Barry’s back was the alteration of his Wikipedia entry. Now, thanks to an anonymous interloper with a baleful lack of perspective, more text is given over to this current incident (a full paragraph) than is devoted to Barry’s considerable and award-nominated nonfiction work (no mention at all). Whoever performed this small act of vandalism (also done to Mike’s entry) is a lout and a bully.

Unfortunately, this is not the first instance of swarm cyber-shaming in the science fiction community, and I fear it will not be the last (what produces results tends to get repeated). The first eruption was that which surrounded Orson Scott Card when he publicly affirmed tenets of his religion, Mormonism, concerning homosexuality. Recently, his swarmers attempted to shame/pressure DC Comics into never hiring Card again, after he did a work-for-hire story for a DC Comics anthology. “RaceFail” was the tag applied to a 2009 online dustup regarding various professionals’ comments on, and then comments on the comments, and then comments on the comments on the comments about the handling of racial issues and identity in science fiction. In 2010, we had WisCon, the renowned feminist science fiction convention, disinvite award-winning author Elizabeth Moon as their Guest of Honor due to comments she made on her blog about the surprising forbearance non-Muslim Americans have shown their Muslim fellow residents in the years since September 11, 2001 (as opposed to the myth of a rising tide of Islamophobia in the U.S.). And now we have this… Old FogeyFail? I was very disappointed to see on the list of Barry’s and Mike’s most vocal condemners a very prominent editor for a very big imprint who complained bitterly in 2009 about his unfair treatment at the hands of fans and fellow pros after he made some comments about the RaceFail affair; his wife (another prominent SF pro) got on various message boards to scold the scolds for going after her husband and contributing to his depression. Now, obviously a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, this same editor seeks to reestablish his bona fides with the mau-mauers by doing unto Barry and Mike what was done unto him. Shame on you, sir.

From the website Judaism 101:

A Chasidic tale vividly illustrates the danger of improper speech: A man went about the community telling malicious lies about the rabbi. Later, he realized the wrong he had done, and began to feel remorse. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything he could to make amends. The rabbi told the man, “Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds.” The man thought this was a strange request, but it was a simple enough task, and he did it gladly. When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had done it, the rabbi said, “Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers.”

I’ve warned my fellow writers and creators about too blithely plunging into online controversies, dropping their pants on social media, and wearing their political affiliations as neon tattoos. Why risk alienating half your potential audience? I also said that one must pick one’s battles carefully; issues and situations may arise which outweigh one’s potential financial/career interests, and which one can avoid engaging in only at the risk of one’s self-worth.

For me, this is such an issue. Barry Malzberg is a friend; more than that, he is a profoundly decent and kind human being. I cannot stand idle while this good man’s reputation is unjustly tarnished. The old saying is that bad speech can only be combatted with good speech. As I wrote above, I fear that in this Internet Age, the mud gets replicated so fast and so incessantly that it can never be washed away. I’ve gone on much longer than I originally intended, wanting to wash away as much mud as I can. My washcloth is small, unfortunately. But it won’t go unused.

Update on June 22, 2013: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, which brought in so many new readers. I apologize that I haven’t been able to respond to each of the comments. My main computer is in the shop, and the boys are begging me to take them swimming. If you’d like to support Barry, his most recent book of essays, Breakfast in the Ruins, is excellent, a fantastic read for anyone with an interest in the science fiction or mystery fields. Also, Mike and Barry have collected many of their Dialogue columns into a book called The Business of Science Fiction.

Update #2 on June 24, 2013: The Los Angeles Review of Books features this very detailed, incisive review of The Very Best of Barry N. Malzberg, which has just been released… a compendium of what Barry considers the best of his more than 350 short stories. Along with Breakfast in the Ruins and The Passage of the Light: the Recursive Science Fiction of Barry N. Malzberg, this new collection is an essential introduction to Barry’s huge body of work.


  1. punkrocker1991 says:

    Very well said, Mr Fox.

    • Andrew says:

      Thank you for visiting and for reading. If you can, and if you’re of a mind to, please try to make an effort to spread this information out and help clear some of the mud off Mike’s and Barry’s reputations. I’d sure appreciate it!

  2. Another Male. says:

    Well thought, and well written. Can’t see it picking up much traction, though. You’ve got one Y chromosome too many, I suspect.

    • Andrew says:

      Thank you for your support. This whole nasty situation is doing a bad number on Barry (who’s still recovering from a knee replacement surgery and a broken hip, by the way). I wish I could invent a vacuum cleaner that would travel the Internet and suction up all the dirt that’s been unjustly thrown at this exceptionally kind and decent man.

  3. Well said words. I am astonished at the vitriol being spewed and the second and third hand lynch mob clambouring on the virtual band wagon. Quite honestly, it’s sick.

    • Andrew says:

      Alexandra, thank you for dropping by and for taking the time to comment. I agree with everything you say. I can’t recall ever witnessing a bigger chasm between an inciting incident (the original two articles) and the condemnations which followed. It is as though Mike and Barry were caught eating babies, and baby seals for dessert.

      • Indeed, Andrew, I believe the knee-jerk reaction of some is out of context to the whole, and that very few have bothered to really see all this from as many sides as possible. And hurtling abuse at people from the anonymity of the net just raises my hackles. We too experience part of this furoe over on The Story Hub, as some took great exception to an article written by one of our Staff Writers, that left a few of us speechless.

      • Well no, they were not caught eating baby seals. But they did demonstrate that they do not understand the viewpoint of women writers, which is that they wish to be seen as writers first and foremost, and they did demonstrate their desire to ignore that issue and all of its ramifications.

        It is a shame, of course, that we who have been insulted by their behavior have often expressed our sense of injury in ways that surprise and shock you. But that’s the way it goes. The message is not so much in the dictionary meaning of the words you have read, as it is in the expressed emotion; anger, disgust, and sick-and-tired-of-the-same-old shit.

        • Andrew says:

          “… they do not understand the viewpoint of women writers, which is that they wish to be seen as writers first and foremost…”

          Please recall that Mike and Barry were requested by their editor, Jean Rabe, to write a pair of columns that specifically focused on the accomplishments of women writers, editors, and publishers throughout the history of the science fiction/fantasy field. Their articles weren’t about writers of science fantasy (in which case, it would have been odd for the authors to single out, say, Anne McCaffrey as a “lady writer” or “woman writer”) or about editors of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (in which case, it might have been tone-deaf to single out, say, Kristine Kathryn Rusch as a “lady editor” or “woman editor”). The context of the columns should be taken into consideration. Was it a bad idea for the editor to request a pair of column which singled out women professionals in the field? I don’t think so; I found them to be of great interest, because prior to the 1980s, at least, given the demographics of the SF readership and the societal level of participation of women in professions outside of teaching, nursing, etc., women writers/editors/publishers were unusual and thus rather special.

          But we’re going around and around and around on this. I’ve found that most folks who have paused to leave comments here are talking past those with whom they don’t agree. I doubt that many minds have been changed even a wee bit. The only thing I would ask at this point is that observers not be so quick to assume ill will and malign intentions on the behalf of those whose words cause offense. Sometimes the ill will and malign intentions are overwhelmingly obvious (and are not denied by the words’ originators). But in this case, the original intention was to honor and remember, with affection. That such intentions were so misconstrued on the part of many of their initial critics is what produced the vehemence of Mike’s and Barry’s response in issue 202 of The Bulletin; I don’t feel the two men did themselves any favors with that final column, but as I explained in my post, I understand where those emotions came from.

        • One more time: they were writing about women writers–as opposed to men writers–because they had been asked to write an article highlighting the often underrated accomplishments of women writers. Which is what they did. Sorry that you find praising women so offensive.

  4. Got this from Jack Dann; I agree with your careful analysis. Why I read the books, & tend to pay little attention to much else (so didnt know about this brouhaha). Certainly think very highly of Malzberg’s great early work. Yes, ‘Literary Ladies’ was a bit tone deaf (& paying any attention to Jonah Goldberg is a big mistake), but, yes, Malzberg has long admired good writing, & when it’s by a woman has stated so. The whole thing is sad, & I’ll stay away from it all, & just go read another good book.

  5. As a woman, I have been shocked and horrified by the vitriol spewed at these two men who were doing nothing more than attempting to elevate awareness of women in the industry. The females – I will not elevate them to ladies – and their cohorts disgust me, and they are doing more to set back the cause they espouse than they are to elevate it. I do hope that Mr. Resnick and Mr. Malzburg will emerge from this with their reputations restored, and I plan to seek out and buy works I might not have done otherwise in support. SWFA has fallen into the category of avoid at all costs for me, a newly minted author. They need to stop and consider that they are cutting themselves off at the knees.

    • Andrew says:

      Good on you. If you’re looking for books by Barry to pick up, you can’t go wrong with Breakfast in the Ruins, which collects all the essays from his 1980 classic, The Engines of the Night: Science Fiction in the ’80s, and adds a whole bunch of more recent material. I read Barry’s essays over and over again, getting more out of them each reading.

  6. I was on a panel with Mike Resnick at a Philcon (I blush to say I forget if it was 2009 or 2010). He struck me as a thoughtful, pleasant and amusing man. Also, he once bought a cover for the SFWA bulletin from me and paid promptly. All signs of good character :D. I think people say things on the Internet they would never say in person, and I am sorry that Mr. Resnick and Mr. Malzburg had to be the recipients of so much vitriol over some imaginary version of themselves.

  7. An FYI on one part of your post.

    The problem isn’t so much with the noun lady; it’s using lady as an adjective. At that point, whatever is being described becomes less real. The editor is no longer a real editor; she’s only a lady editor. The Governor is no longer a real governor, she’s just a lady Governor.

    It’s related to the dog reciting Shakespeare. The amazing thing is not that the dog does so well, but that it does so at all. The use of lady as an adjective says much the same thing – it’s amazing she does it at all – it’s really too much to expect her to do it well.

    That’s why many people view this phrasing as an insult (and in some people’s mouths, it’s a real and intentional one). It can be a nasty, disguised way of saying someone is second rate and can’t hope to be better, to be real.

    I hope this helps.

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Margaret,

      I understand where you’re coming from. I would hope that you and other folks who share this viewpoint (and it is a viewpoint, one of many possible viewpoints) would also try to understand where Mike and Barry were coming from. Their columns tend towards playfulness; I explained in my article about their weakness for aliteration, which is where the “Literary Ladies” title came from. Their use of “lady” as an adjective was a playful reflection of their alliterative title. That’s all. I understand that you don’t see it that way. But in a situation like this, intentions matter. The context of the articles (near worshipful of the women described) should make it clear that neither gentleman had any intention of belittling the subjects of their articles.

      • With all due respect – and I do respect your point of view, I have no time for irrational dogpiles – intentions matter, to be sure, but not everyone is privy to intentions. You happen to have a personal relationship to the men who were in conversation here – they said what they said, and you interpret it in the context of their being very nice people and your friends so of course they were not out to get anyone’s goat – but the point is, they DID. And not everyone knows them or knows their “intentions” – and all those strangers have to go on are the actual words on the page, as it were. And as all of us who frequent the Internet know it is sometimes difficult to convey “playfulness” on the printed page or the scrreen – remarks that may have been dismissed as merely playful if someone had heard them delivered orally, on a panel perhaps at a con, come across quite differently when seen in black and white without any emotional context and subtext to back them up. When someone whom you do not know comes across as being patronising and denigrating – oh, the “lady” writers! they’re not really important enough to take seriously! – you respond to the words, and not the intent behind them which someone else who might know the author of those words might infer from that specialist background knowledge. What I get from your article is a rebuke for the dogpile, which is fine, but also a veneer of apologist “but they are NICE PEOPLE! Stop being SO MEAN TO THEM”. They’re big boys and they were wearing their big boy pants when they engaged in their conversation. Now they should own that conversation, and they should also accept the simple fact that there were people out there – withou the “they are nice guys” context – who reacted to that conversation in a way they had every right to react to something like that. By saying “we did not like how this made us feel”, by saying that there was an implication – intended or not – that they were being patronised. A writer of any caliber, let alone writers of Resnick and Malzberg’s stature, ought to realise that words have (sometimes unintended) consequences. The best way to handle this, perhaps, would be a response from the two individuals at the center fo the storm – and a response which gravitates towards “we screwed this up, we’ll try to do better next time” rather than “we’re sorry you took it THAT way”. The latter, which is what your article too is doing, is basically throwing the responsibility on the readers and the listeners rather than on the perpetrators of the deed who consider themselves – or have friends like you consider them – as “too big to fail”, too nice to “mean” it, etc. They said it, they own it, people took exception, they have to live with that. Not continue to justify it.

        • Andrew says:

          Alma, thank you for taking the time to lay out your thoughts. I still think that the WHOLE content of the articles matter… a reader who might be taken aback by the use of the term “lady” as an adjective, I feel, should have been able to get a sense of the writers’ intentions by taking into account what they were saying about their subjects. They identified them as heroes, extraordinarily high achievers, and shapers of the field. A better response from those who were put off by the use of “lady” could’ve been (rather than the name calling and reputation smearing which ensued) an email or letter to the Bulletin along the lines of, “Guys, thanks for the heartfelt tribute to these pioneering women, but you might’ve missed the mark some with some of your language. Whether you meant it or not, some of it came across as kind of belittling and patronizing. You might want to keep that in mind the next time you address the subject matter.” I think a better default position to start with is to assume decent intentions but faulty execution. What happened was a presumption of malign intent, which ended up snowballing, and which resulted in bruised feeling (and damaged reps) all around.

        • Dave in Georgia says:

          Alma, you wrote a thoughtful explanation. The problem is a bunch of people who are looking to be offended who don’t seem to be capable of critical thought.

          Our institutions of higher learning have turned into indoctrination centers who do an absolutely abysmal job of teaching people nuanced thinking.

          What’s going on is “political correctness,” a Marxist concept that consists entirely of telling anyone you disagree with to shut up and sit down because they’re…they’re…e-e-e-e-evil because they don’t think exactly like you do.

          Mr. Resnick and Mr. Malzberg are old fashioned gentlemen, who never even considered that referring to women as “ladies” could be taken as a slam.

          Shame on those who took it that way. And shame on those who continue these mindless, barbaric attacks on two of SF’s finest writers and citizens.

          • Marturion says:

            The 4th sentence nails it. I suggest that their detractors are guilty of “presentism”–judging the the past with out its context using current standards. If they were “hip” to current pc trends perhaps they would referred to the “Literary Ladies” as “Wonderful Wymyn” or some such nonsense.

        • Hopalong says:

          And maybe you can just get over it and realize that it didn’t hurt you. Grow up.

        • winston says:

          Let me see if I get this straight. The two individuals in question are being subjected to a vitriolic attack because they used the term “Literary Ladies”, an offense that you deem of the utmost seriousness. Because words matter, right? Somehow I doubt that you derive the slightest joy from life at all. You seem utterly miserable. Life is not so dire and all those dreaded words that you live in constant fear of do not have anywhere near the insidious impact that you laughably imagine. There is just no sense of proportion or levity or even reality in your whole mindset. And let’s be honest. It’s not that you care in the slightest about decency or empathy, but that you are a small-minded thug attempting to intimidate and censor by labeling and branding. To be honest the biggest bigot is you. Face up to it. You throw terms like sexist and bigot around indiscriminately and unjustly. You comport yourself like a mindless fascist. So someone used a term you didn’t like. And you reacted with hysteria. It’s your own abuse of language that should raise the most concern.

          • oh, for the love of MARY, please read what I said. Nowhere did I EVER get frothy about the use of the term “literary ladies” which is not something that would have even registered on my radar. (In fact, nowehere di d I get frothy at all. it’s just the slew of replies here that seem to excel at raising the froth factor, really.) The point that I raised is the use of the word “lady” as a qualifier where that is not necessary or called for – differentiating “Real” editors from “lady” editors, as though there is a measurable difference between the two by the simple virtue of the presence of the second X chromosome. If someone is an editor than they’re an editor – I have never seen the word qualified in any way when the presupposition was that the editor in question was a man. My ONLY point was the use of the word “lady” as an adjective – as I pointed out elsewhere, my books have plenty of characters who might be ladies but they don’t have “lady characters” as opposed to “non-lady” (read: male, by default) characters. Can’t we just let a human being stand up and be counted rather than underlining the fact that one half of the human race needs their gender proactively pointed out before they can be discussed…? And by the way, apropos your own respons – if you think I reacted with “hysteria” you have no idea whatsoever what that word means.

          • Winston says:

            @Alma Alexander-On the contrary, I am perfectly well acquainted with hysteria. This type of hysteria is actually commonplace within the hyper-PC community. It’s virtually religious because the idea is equivalent to flushing out heresy.. The mechanism is to react not to the use of terminology itself (as you say, the use of the term “Literary Ladies” in the context of an article about women SF authors is nothing to pay attention to), but to the supposed hidden mindset that this reveals. What’s important is to express not merely dislike of a choice of words but revulsion at the alleged subconscious bigotry that this supposedly shows. Then the matter becomes the need to reeducate the offending writer/speaker while showcasing your own supposedly more enlightened viewpoint. That you are of course the more morally enlightened is an article of faith. To reach this point however an extraordinary twisting of meanings and the fascistic attribution of heretical thinking has to take place. Witch burning. I’d say hysteria is a fair description.

          • Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

            @Alma Alexander

            The point that I raised is the use of the word “lady” as a qualifier where that is not necessary or called for – differentiating “Real” editors from “lady” editors, as though there is a measurable difference between the two by the simple virtue of the presence of the second X chromosome.

            Except, you know, they were writing specifically about female editors because they were asked to write specifically about female editors. Not editors – female editors. It’s like being asked to write a piece about “white culture” or “black culture” and then being taken to task for implying whites or blacks have no real culture.

            Now, they could have called them “females” – but to some, that seems ruder than “ladies”. “Women” would have been better still, but still a bit lyrically clumsy.

        • Lamont Cranston III says:

          Ahhh, victim blaming…

        • jack burton says:

          “Do it our way or else…”

        • C. Moss says:

          Dear Ms. Alexander: thank you for your thoughts. Question: were you clacking your knitting needles before, after, or while you were shouting “guillotine!” Don’t feel threatened, you’re clearly a doubleplusgood duckspeaker! Down with Goldstein!! (Or Goldberg, as the case may be.)

        • Black Betty says:

          Great. Enter the speech nazi. Or do you prefer language fascist? It’s ok for you and your buddies to go online and ruin the lives of others. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t doesn’t affect you. Or does it?

          I mean, what if the people here decided to swarm you? What if everyone here decided YOU were a horrible person for what you did to those two men and decided to go after you? What if they went out and gathered the entirety of their social networks and declared WAR on you?

          You may be a nice person, but we don’t know that. And with all due respect, actions have consequences. Not so much so much fun when the target’s on YOUR back, is it? But hey, you’re a big girl. Put on your lady pants.

          • Andrew says:

            Black Betty, thanks for coming by and leaving your thoughts. I’d just ask that you refrain from name-calling in future posts. All it does is raise everybody’s blood pressure. There’s been too much name-calling on the part of the original mau-mauers; I’d prefer not to add to the toxic stew.

          • Radical Suburbanite says:

            Well Betty, we can at least thank Alma for using her real name. I know whose books I won’t be buying…

        • Stan Smith says:

          Alma, it’s interesting that you bring up the impossibility of judging “intentions” and then go right ahead and castigate Resnick and Malzberg for their “intentions” in using “lady” as an adjective…implying that it’s pejorative and not playful. How in the world would you know? It’s classic projection. YOU find “lady” pejorative, so naturally EVERYONE ELSE does, right? I for one have never considered “lady” as demeaning or belittling in any way. Why would you?

          “The word lady is a civil term of respect for a woman, specifically the female equivalent to gentleman or lord, and in many contexts a term for any adult woman.”

          Belittling? Really?

        • “. . . throwing the responsibility on the readers and the listeners . . .”

          Sometimes that’s exactly where it belongs. I am shocked – shocked — at how many people are so quick to take offense, especially when none is offered. It seems to be a career for some. Even when offense is manifestly offered, patience and measured response bespeak better character.

          OK, so Resnick’s and Malzberg’s response also seemed out of proportion, but to what? The volume and vitriol of those who were piling on — especially those who had not read the articles — were orders of magnitude greater than any putative harm done by the authors. If they felt genuinely hurt from the articles, then they should feel enormous empathy for them, being on the receiving end of a seemingly endless stream of hate mail.

          Just sayin’.

    • Bob says:

      The problem isn’t so much with the noun lady; it’s using lady as an adjective. At that point, whatever is being described becomes less real. The editor is no longer a real editor; she’s only a lady editor.

      From my perspective you’re either trying to put lipstick on a pig with a post-hoc rationalization or your mastery of English grammar is lacking. I suspect the former, underhanded motives because you come on here and you insult the readers with an explanation which fails to make a case.

      The title of the piece was ““Literary Ladies: Part One”

      Ladies is not an adjective here.

      Your claim that they diminish an editor (noun) by calling her a lady editor doesn’t map over to Literary Lady, for using the adjective “literary” to add more information to the noun “lady” doesn’t diminish her status as a lady .The use of the adjective “literary” is complementary rather than derogatory. “President Obama is an accomplished author, a literary man, a man of letters.” You see everyone, that’s an insult worth attacking me for. Or do you go through life by following some perverse logic where an adjective which is complementary to men is viewed by you as an insult to women?

      You owe these men an apology for your shoddy reasoning.

      • Helen Hall says:

        It’s your reasoning that is shoddy. To be a strict parallel, you would need to refer to a male writer such as President Obama as “a literary gentleman”, with all the baggage of “he’s just playing at it”, “just doing it for fun” that that entails. Ladies and gentlemen didn’t need to work; whatever they did, they did it as amateurs. It was an amusing pastime. To a modern professional woman, it’s insulting to compare her to a dilettante amateur.

        • Jonathan says:

          I don’t see it that way, Helen. I view both Ladies and Gentlemen as people of good conduct, manners, and reason. Therefore, my father is a gentleman, and he has worked throughout his adulthood. My mother is a lady, and she has also worked for many years (now retired). The word ‘lady’ has a positive connotation to me.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      And is the use of the adjective “lady” by someone over seventy years old worth annihilating his career and forever tarring him with the modern version of the Scarlet Letter?

    • tomdperkins says:

      “At that point, whatever is being described becomes less real.”

      I’d ask what you are pretending you mean by that, but this next paragraph makes it clear:

      “It’s related to…do it well.”

      Every pejorative aspect of the use of the word lady which you give it here, is what you have given it here, what you are presuming, and I’ve no doubt what you’ve been spoonfed it by some Foucault worshiping language prof.

      Consider the undifferentiated mass of humanity, any might be doing any job well or badly. The use of gentleman or lady describes roughly one half or another of them, it doesn’t say, ahem, word one about whether they are doing it well or not.

      When speaking of a person doing a job which is or has been primarily the occupation of a gender, to signify a person is of the other gender and doing that job is to differentiate them from the mass humanity and those so commonly occupied to a particular degree. There is nothing in and of itself of the dog reciting Shakespeare to it, you need to produce evidence that is how they meant it for such criticisms to have any validity.

      While stereotypes of roles and personas, obedience to them, and respect for them all have a just place in society, speeding interaction and reducing the stress and energy expenditure associated with taking the time to treat everyone as a individual–[i]what you are doing here is espousing the use of a stereotype to destroy three people[/i] without any evidence given it is deserved.

      Your apologia for the grotesquerie made known to me by Mr. Fox, is itself the same, grotesque.

    • Michaele J says:

      I had better specify that I am a woman or I will be accused of being blinded to the obvious by my gender. But I do NOT agree that the word lady, whether it be an adjective or a noun, is a belittling term. I admit there are sexists out there who may use it as such, but in those mouths any word (even a gender neutral word) when used to describe a woman is derogatory. The interpretation of it is such is product of the reader’s prejudices. Insecure or embittered women often blame sexism for their own fears and failures. Connie Willis does not mind being called a lady. To repeat the designation ‘lady’ in an article which is–at the request of a female editor (or is it belittling to say the editor was female?)–specifically presenting female accomplishments (thus, tacitly comparing them to male accomplishments) is normal. While it is true that readers do not have access to a writer’s intentions, they are responsible for letting the filter of their own agendum maliciously distort plain words. As Mr. Fox, pointed out repeatedly, there is nothing in the column but respect and praise–which is, unfortunately, insufficient for the feminists.

  8. soulshear says:

    I am tremendously grateful for this post, as through blogs and Twitter I watched this conflagration explode in real time and felt helpless. My intro to speculative fiction was via the anthologies of the 60’s and 70’s; Barry’s inclusion was standard practice, and I marveled at his craftsmanship with words. I could make a compelling case of how fiction from this era has been marginalized in so many ways, and this is one more piece of evidence. As I am not a member of SFWA, I have not read the initial “offensive” dialogue, and I’m curious; does Barry mention the contemptible treatment his co-edited 1974 anthology “Final Stage” received at the hands of an insensitive editor/publisher, who happened to be female? My experience is that he has been quite gracious, considering stories by giants of the field were butchered behind his back, and without author consent. Finally, my memory of Barry in 1979’s “Wonder Makers” interview is that of a man consumed by a sense of failure and prone to self-flagellation for his perceived limitations as a writer. I cannot envision him taking this well, and you are a very thoughtful friend for rising to his defense. If you can share these sentiments with Barry, and that he is well-remembered by this lifetime fan, I would be deeply appreciative.

    • Andrew says:

      Thank you very much for your thoughts. I’ll certainly share your comments with Barry; I’ve already mentioned to him in email the gratifying support he’s been receiving in the comments posted on my blog today. Regarding your question about Final Stage, neither Barry nor Mike said a critical word about any of the women they discussed in their two articles. The tone of the articles (and this is what helps make this controversy so jaw-droppingly astounding) is worshipful, clearly written by two men who (a) as SF fans, adored and appreciated the work of these women; and (b) as SF pros, are profoundly grateful to their women predecessors for the contributions to the development, growth, and maturation of the field. All their jokiness aside (and both guys love puns and alliterations, which helped get them into the hot soup they’re in), that was the tone. These two articles were labors and love; love letters, in fact. The articles have been posted online in various forums; go seek them out and see if what I state isn’t the honest truth.

  9. deb hall says:

    Maybe I’m old fashioned… but I don’t see anything wrong with the terms they used to describe the ladies. Too many people get wrapped up in their own issues and interpret based on small pieces of information. I do believe there is out there those people who seek to drive society by their use of language about a topic. But this is ridiculousness at its worst.

  10. Good thoughtful comments. I have been only peripherally aware of this dustup, and have therefore refrained from offering thoughts of my own, but I will say — cautiously, as I have not read the original Malzberg/Resnick pieces nor most of the online commentary — that I think your account sounds most fair and reasonable.

    I understand why terms like “lady writers” might instinctively raise hackles, especially (as you suggest) in readers less familiar with the histories of the two writers and the tone of their SFWA Bulletin columns. (I cringe every time I hear the University of Tennessee’s women’s sports teams referred to as the “Lady Vols.” Most schools have dropped these antiquated sexist forms, but there are a few where tradition continues to trump sense.) Yet it seems clear that the outcry over the SFWA Bulletin columns went way too far, and too fast. The best bet is that Malzberg and Resnick make an unfortunate rhetorical choice, intended to sound knowingly playful with their terminology and missed the mark. The fact that they are both older white men made it less likely that readers would give them the benefit of the doubt.

    I think, for instance, of a song by Neko Case called “Lady Pilot” — I don’t believe anyone has raised a ruckus over her use of the “lady” epithet there, and rightly not. The song’s lyrics are, in standard Case fashion, striking and evocative but resistant to definitive literal interpretation, so they offer no unambiguous clues to her intent, but it’s clear enough from her tone and her body of work in general that she’s playing with the terminology, possibly even winking at the way it was once used to marginalize the accomplishments of women who ventured into any traditionally male activity. “We’ve got a lady pilot,” Case sings. “She’s not afraid to die.” Similarly, in 1999 we published a story by Kelly Link on the e-zine Event Horizon called “The Girl Detective” and no issue arose. The story alludes broadly to Nancy Drew, and as in the Neko Case song there’s a sense of multi-layered reflection on the epithet “girl” – reflections whose implications are difficult to tease out precisely, but which cannot be mistaken for rebarbative sexism or even unfortunate tone deafeness.

    Case and Link are women of a younger generation; their work, their public personae, and their professional and social positioning all (correctly) encouraged a presumption that they were deploying this charged terminology in a sensitive and reflective manner. In fact, the works themselves – the song and the story – made this clear on their own; it would take a remarkably dull-witted reader to find simple thoughtless sexism in either one.

    So it’s clear that the terminology on its own need not indicate unreconstructed gender attitudes. Knowing something of the two men in this specific instance makes it far more likely that they were guilty of miscalculation at the worst – they didn’t manage to make their stance clear to many readers, and so their use of the “lady” epithet sounded wrong to many ears. If the outrage hadn’t spread so far, so quickly, and so indiscriminately around the net, it might have been possible for Malzberg and Resnick – or the SFWA Bulletin editor – to make clear that they had used the epithet in full awareness of its historical role as a tool of oppression, that they had believed they could use it with a kind of playful irony (in columns celebrating the achievements of women SF writers and women SF writers, many of them not well known today), and that they regretted the fact that they had miscalculated or failed to convey this ironic sense to readers. That should have, and could have, been that.

    I’ve gone on much longer than I’d intended. I do hope that those who know Malzberg and Resnick well – people such as yourself – manage to put out some of the fires, that people take a closer look at what those columns actually say, and also at the long histories of the two men, and thus arrive at a more charitable interpretation of their intentions.

    One final note unrelated to the Malzberg/Resnick troubles: I disagree with your characterization of divestment campaigns as a form of mau-mauing. The campaigns against apartheid-era South Africa and today against fossil fuel companies are not aimed at squashing unpopular opinions – at shutting people up – but at pressing powerful groups to change what the campaigners see as dramatically antisocial behavior – or at the very least at refusing to take part in that behavior by providing investment funding for it. You may disagree with the assessment that fossil fuel companies (or some other target) are engaged in severely objectionable activities, but I don’t think you can equate attempts by certain groups to withdraw their capital, or the capital of organizations with which they’re associated, from companies, industries, or regimes they believe are harmful with the sort of groupthink shoutdown of mau-mauing.

    • Andrew says:

      Robert, thanks for taking the time to share so many interesting and thought-provoking points.

    • Dougger says:

      The term “Lady” is not an epithet. Quite the contrary.

      • I used the term “epithet” not in the sense of “a disparaging word or phrase” but in the sense of “a characterizing word or phrase accompanying the name of a person or thing” — that is, in the way that “wily” in “the wily Odysseus” is termed an epithet in The Odyssey.

    • tomdperkins says:

      “Most schools have dropped these antiquated sexist forms, but there are a few where tradition continues to trump sense.”

      I don’t suppose you realize you picked up a torch to participate in the mau-mauing. The word is not antiquated or sexist.

      “The best bet is that Malzberg and Resnick make an unfortunate rhetorical choice, intended to sound knowingly playful with their terminology and missed the mark.

      Nothing unfortunate about it.

      “So it’s clear that the terminology on its own need not indicate unreconstructed gender attitudes.”

      It’s clear anyone who thinks such perfectly unobjectionable–to the fair minded and honest–terminology might indicate any such unreconstructed attitudes has already taken a side in this argument, by standing with the “reasonableness” of the rabid critics interpretation. There’s nothing reasonable about it. To concede they have any validity is to give whole argument to them. The whole of their worldview is a castle built on a cloud, and to endorse their view of language is to get out on the cloud with them, even if you think you are a moderating influence.

      Divestment campaigns may not be mau-mauing, but their reasonableness cannot be held apart from the moral or scientific rigor which drives them; for the fossil fuel campaigns, the moral and mental vacuum behind them is obvious. The scientists who claim human economic activity RE fossil fuels, is having a demonstrable and regrettable effect on the globe, increasing* the normally seen post glacial temperature rise to any variably awful degree…it is a certainty their conjecture was a hoax entire. They parody themselves effortlessly, guilelessly asserting that same temperature measuring system (which despite it’s clear artifact inducing faults) was good enough to prove their point when it’s measurements supported them, is now entirely inadequate when it gives the lie to their fraud.

      *And an increase is all their models allowed for…additional and catastrophic warming…their hypothesis has failed when they begin to say it was always about climate change. It’s fifteen years on with no statistically significant warming, and there is yet more carbon, their models are falsified.

      They don’t even know what they don’t know, and lie to our faces saying they know the whole of it, and say we should cut our own throats to prevent the myth they’ve invented.

      The global warming hoax and this mau-mauing of these two people are all part and parcel of the drive of the left, of the “Progressive”, of the children of the error of Rousseau to control society, they imagining themselves to be proper philosopher kings.

      Now (not saying it’s the only time) for the sake of showing they have the power to declare the word “lady” an insult (East-Asia, Eurasia, next?), and the visible success of throwing these three people under the bus, the mob lurches this way.

      Ultimately, they’ll need to be mown down by rhetorical or literal grapeshot, or they’ll lurch over everyone…

      Dare I say a word in it’s original usage, yes, I dare. I still have my rope, lantern, and pole, and I do not have the shivers. I tremble with rage at the dying of the light, at the effrontery of those proud of killing it.

      …Everyone not also moaning their tune will be a faggot for the bonfire of their vanity.

      • Well, obviously I don’t agree with you on a number of points.

        I do think that the use of the modifier “lady” very frequently functions as a dismissive in the way that critics of Malzberg and Resnick claim. We don’t say “gentleman writer” or “male writer” as a matter of course — “writer” is thought to be sufficient when we’re speaking about a man, and the inclination to highlight the subject’s gender when we’re speaking of a woman has historically served to marginalize, deprecate, and ghettoize the work and achievements of women. Many people — women and men — have rightly become sensitive to this effect.

        I disagree entirely that to recognize any degree of reasonableness or correctness on the part of the critics is to cede the whole issue to them. One can and should acknowledge such things in one’s opponents when they occur — indeed, that’s the only reasonable and civilized course. The all-or-nothing stance you advocate smacks to me of the same sort of ideological rigidity that has driven the most egregious reactions to the Malzberg/Resnick columns.

        And, while I think it’s entirely beside the point and don’t wish to derail the conversation here, I feel compelled to say that I wholeheartedly disagree with your characterization of the climate change debate and the scientific evidence indicating a significant contribution from human industrial activity. Let’s not argue about it now — it’ll be a lot clearer who’s right in a couple of decades, when New York City is building a sea wall to keep Wall Street above water.

        • Mudz says:

          If women are offended by being called ladies, tell them to man up. How’s that for gender dismissive? 🙂

          • I’m all for people having a bit thicker skins, on all sides of every debate. I’m all for keeping the tone down enough to allow for reasonable discussion and for keeping the scale of any given problem in perspective. I think the post by FeministFist is a case study in wild overreaction and hyperbolic rhetoric that does no one — not even the poster’s own cause — any good.

            But I think the responses of some of those upset by the “PC Fascists” are just as extreme, unhinged, and wrongheaded. Maybe it’s time for these folks to “man up”, to have the guts to recognize the long history of oppression of women and the many ways in which seemingly innocent things like habitual vocabulary and popular expressions contribute to a hostile and repressive environment. Take your phase “man up” for example — why is it alright to characterize courage, determination, firmness of purpose and a willingness to take responsibility as distinctly male virtues? Our language is full of stuff like this. We talk about someone “having the balls”, we use the term “pussy” as a synonym for “wimp”. (Hell, the very word “virtue” derives from the Latin word for “man.”) Why wouldn’t women feel oppressed by the constant message being sent by these terms and phrases — that women are weak, unreliable, whiny, and cowardly, while men are strong, steady, stoical and brave?

            In this case, it’s not a question of being offended by being called ladies. It’s about the attachment of a gender descriptor to a generic noun — as in “lady editor,” “lady writer”, “lady lawyer”, etc.

            “Lady” in this context has a dismissive, diminishing function — it has had that function historically, and so people (men such as myself, as well as women) have become sensitive to it. It’s a little bit like — not exactly, let me emphasize that — a little bit like the use of the term “boy” for a black man. You can argue all you want that the term “boy” has no inherently insulting meaning — just as “lady” doesn’t have to be meant in a dismissive way — but you’d be historically and culturally deaf not to recognize that describing a black man as a “boy” is going to be offensive, and justifiably so. Context matters, and there are all sorts of words that are inoffensive in one context but problematic in others.

            That’s what’s going on here — many people understand that tacking the word “lady” onto a noun was often a means of separating and dismissing the accomplishments and abilities of women. A “lady tennis player” was taken less seriously than a male tennis player, and the adjective “lady” served to emphasize this difference, to insist on and reinforce it. Tacking on “lady” was one of the ways that a male-dominated culture dealt with the entry of women into roles traditionally closed to them — men could no longer completely shut women out of most jobs, or sports, etc., but they could dismiss and devalue women by emphasizing everywhere and always their gender as opposed to their role or activity. This is just a fact. Perhaps not everyone who used terms like “lady editor” meant to devalue editors who were women vis a vis editors who were men, but for many people it was a means of insisting on male superiority.

            Over time, people sensitive to this problem have insisted on different terminology — today, only the least loaded terms are considered acceptable when its necessary to indicate gender, e.g. “women editors” or “female athletes”. This process has paralleled the evolution of racial terminology — where once “negro” or “colored” were widely used (and considered vastly preferable to other terms), those words are no longer considered appropriate, and if Malzberg and Resnick had written a column about “Literary Negroes” there would have been a massive (and justifiable) uproar and far, far less willingness to defend their choice of words.

            As I said in my initial response, I actually believe that Malzberg and Resnick intended no denigration in their use of the term “lady”. I think they assumed that their views on gender equality were widely known, that they could adopt the terminology in a playful way (indeed, that using it might even highlight the misogyny that the women they were celebrating faced in their own times), that they were speaking to a room full of people who knew them and their social sympathies and so would never mistake their use of the term as an indication of misogyny or belittlement on their parts. But they were wrong — at this point, SFWA is full of younger writers who may know little or nothing about Malzberg and Resnick, and who therefore have no way of judging their choice of words in the context of their long careers and history of supporting women writers and editors, and gender equality in general. I don’t think you can blame those people for objecting to the terminology — I only think you can blame them for going way too far, for hurling abuse and calumny without (in most cases) even reading the original columns at issue, and for losing all sense of perspective.

            In short, no, I don’t think they should just “man up” and accept the continuing casual deployment of sexist vocabulary, which rains down on them from all sides. But they do need to maintain a sense of proportion, look at the full context, and not leap to wild conclusions.

        • OK, I can’t resist. The guard is asleep in front of the TV.

          What will you think when, in a couple of decades, NYC doesn’t have to build that seawall? You seem convinced it will happen, but nature has a way of surprising us and teaching us a little humility.

          Just askin’.

          • Robert Killheffer says:

            Yeah, nature sure taught those dinosaurs a little humility, didn’t she?

          • Robert Killheffer says:

            But, to answer your question as if you actually cared to hear the response, I’m not 100% convinced that NYC will have to build a seawall, nor even that any similarly dramatic responses to climate change will necessarily come about. There’s a chance that the trends of the past several decades are just some sort of blip which will reverse or stabilize themselves in short order, and there’s a chance that the vastly complex systems of the planet will absorb or counteract any anthropogenic factors in ways we cannot foresee, and spare us from severe climate consequences. There’s no absolute certainty in any of this — or indeed in just about anything at all. But if it’s not 100% certain that we’re facing some dire disruptions of the global climate, it’s much less so that the unpredictability of nature will somehow bail us out.

      • Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

        The scientists who claim human economic activity RE fossil fuels, is having a demonstrable and regrettable effect on the globe, increasing* the normally seen post glacial temperature rise to any variably awful degree…it is a certainty their conjecture was a hoax entire.


        Then you will be able to make a fortune putting your money where your mouth is. After all, the insurance industry seems to think climate change is very real, and is responding accordingly.


        If you really think that climate change isn’t happening, why don’t you try opening up a fund to provide insurance to flood prone or coastal areas – you’ll be able to charge more than normal since no-one else wants to insure these places.

        Or are you going to claim that climate change has nothing to do with human activity, pretending that it has nothing to do with atmospheric carbon dioxide rising from 280 to 380 ppm over the last 150 years with the 13C/12C ratio changing as fossil fuels release gas?

        Go on, Tom – explain to us why you aren’t putting your money where your mouth is. You must know better than the insurance companies, right?

        • Andrew says:

          Dear commenters, we are sort of veering off into the weeds here, aren’t we? Not that I don’t appreciate a hearty discussion (and you are keeping it civil, thankfully).

  11. […] Andrew Fox on Cyber-Swarming and Shaming Rate this:Share this:StumbleUponDiggRedditTwitterLike this:Like Loading… Blog Update ← The Right to Nothing […]

  12. Brian says:

    And the long knives will be turned on you in 3… 2… 1… >.<

  13. Mike P says:

    I was disappointed by not surprised to see John Scalzi’s response. He seems to have no backbone at all.

  14. Jack says:

    They didn’t stick to the narrative. That is their sin. And now make them pay. Imagine what is happening to all of the people who are going to vote in Amnesty. Again.

    I wish I was 65 and not just 52. I will likely live to about 70. I don’t care too. I do not understand why our elected …I can’t call them representatives, lemmings are doing what they are doing.

    They are killing this country.

    As for Resnik and Malzberg, Those people damning you? Those are the people you voted for in the last two elections. Elections have consequences. Nothing those people have done or said can really hurt you.

    But every policy that you supported by voting the way you did will hurt me. I hope you have a long time to consider your lives. I hope you live 50 more years so you can see that what you have advocated for leads to.

  15. Paul A'Barge says:

    Ah. Attractiveness? Here’s Rachel Acks:

    Ephesians 5:11 … look it up.

  16. TonyG says:

    Personally I’ve always thought that the point of this outrageously outrageous outrage has been to make the writer feel better about themselves than addressing any actual problems in the original commentary.

    Anyway, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you for providing some insight into both these gentlemen. I have read many of Mike’s books but not Barry’s, an oversight I’ll try to address shortly.

    Like yourself and many of the commentators I find it incredibly interesting when you hear the background to the names that you’ve read. I once had the opportunity to chat with Jerry Pournelle in his capacity as a tech journalist at a conference I was working at. He told several stories about Robert Heinlein and his wife as friends of his. in 20 years of working conferences that is still one of the top experiences I’ve had.

    Thank you again for taking the time to write such a detailed response to the “crisis”.

  17. etoipi says:

    “Reading it, I learned that Mike and Barry were at the center of an online controversy over alleged sexism in SFWA”

    Is there some reason this, the what the article is actually about, comes in the middle of the seventh paragraph after rambling on about non-sense that I had to skim just to keep from closing the page due to non-interest?

  18. etoipi says:

    And it gets worse. The next paragraph is a long rambling thing. Get to the point if you actually want people to read what you’ve written. This will also make your writing clearer.

  19. Lee says:

    Mike Resnick wrote Birthright. People who shuns Birthright for any reason are only hurting themselves. If they avoid his works for such a nonsensical and artificially fabricated reason, that’s really sad.

    These members of the Perpetual Outrage Brigade need to read They’d Rather Be Right. I am equally certain that #1) none of them have ever heard of that book, and #2) they’d find something offensive. Maybe the name of the machine…

  20. Dawnfire says:

    These are the same sorts of small-minded creatures who backed the Inquisition, cheered Bull Connor, and marched in Nuremburg; in a desperate search for assurance and moral authority, they latch onto the loudest and most prevalent ideology and set about burning heretics, blinded to their crimes by an impenetrable sense of self-righteousness. They’ve always been there. But the Internet has increased their reach and magnified the effects.

  21. Eric Z says:

    Sci-Fi being only a tertiary or quaternary interest of mine, I’m not sure how wide a play this book got among Sci-Fi crowds, but I seem to be citing it all the time now: Jaron Lanier’s “You Are Not A Gadget” http://tinyurl.com/lkj7wk9

    In it, Internet pioneer Jaron Lanier explores how, basically, our culture is turning to shit because of the Internet, and not in the way Luddites and parents anticipated. Anonymity, hives of self-righteousness, Web 2.0, and the increasingly short-attention span has turned most “speakers” into idiots who shoot comments in near-total ignorance and sometimes even apathy of the subject matter, but nonetheless in total certitude and scorn. This is born not out of engagement with a topic but a reactionary reflex stemming from emotions provoked by a headline or a sentence.

    The increasingly digital media means this dreck from the “digital lynch mob” becomes a kind of reality. As all words look alike short of spelling or grammatical errors, quantity generally rules, even though the overwhelming majority of comments on any site of prominence of any kind nowadays are made with a level of engagement that would get a person’s driver’s license revoked if they were found to be intelligent to begin with.

  22. 1banjo says:

    Let’s see how much you like the taste of hob-nail boots, enabler!

  23. I went to a lot of cons in the 70s and knew some authors (including George RR Martin in his salad days). There were cruel and obsessive fans back then (mainly swarming around Harlan Ellison, who loved to bait them), but the heresy-hunters had eclectic intellectual and social deficiencies. But while my back was turned fandom has become as lockstep leftist as a university humanities department! This fanatical political correctness is antithetical to everything SF is about – it is disgusting.

    It’s a damn shame you should have to try to reason with humorless scolds like Alma, who are implacable enemies of everything that doesn’t adhere to their suffocating little rules. I am so glad I gafiated.

  24. htom says:

    I’ve read too much about this, especially for being neither a member or a subscriber. Now I understand, I think. At least a little. Thank you. You’d think a bunch of writers would understand that inferring is different than implying, and that there can be horrid consequences from leaping to accusations from that confusion of viewpoint and motive. This reminds me of Sen. Boxer objecting to being called “Ma’am” by Army Brigader General Michael Walsh. It’s almost like the less the actual sin (if any), the more uproar there is.

  25. Kevin says:

    I had not heard of this “controversy” before, but I thank you for your thoughtful commentary. I can’t claim to know these men personally, but they’re both professionals who have contributed a lot to SF over the years, and it is painful to see them become the Emanuel Goldsteins for the latest Internet version of the Two Minutes Hate. I somewhat appreciate the comments of those who try to sympathize with the perpetrators of this, but if they have their way the SF community will be a far, far poorer place. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go answer some questions relating to my latest thoughtcrime (i.e., possession of a Dire Straits CD containing the song “Lady Writer”).

  26. The Grey Man says:

    Woman, man, mother and father are all mere facts of biology. Being a lady, gentleman, mom or dad are choices.

    A woman is any adult female human. When I, or similar dinosaurs, describe someone as a “lady”, it signifies the subject is a woman, and one the writer respects. Is that such a bad thing?

  27. Joshua Hendrick says:

    I think what happened to these two men is definitely deplorable, and if I come across any of my acquaintances commenting negatively on this subject, I’ll be sure to point them this way to read an excellent defense. I personally have come to the position that any time I read of someone being supposedly an evil sexist pig.. I assume that individual is being slandered and expect there is a mob behind the claims. Such is the culture today.

    But I really have to hope that these men will also look around them, see how their chosen groups are treating them, and think about the culture that they have encouraged, ie Feminism and Leftism. Feminazi is a term for a reason. It saddens me to hear of such destructive envious bullying (this is true envy at work, envy which seeks to destroy those who have success, a predictable fruit of teaching that denigrates those who are successful in business and achieve wealth). But it fits with the culture today – it is a result of leftist/liberal education that neither teaches critical thinking, nor logic, nor rhetoric, nor the value and proper use of puns and wordplay. Those things have little value for the modern left, so it becomes easy for the culture to run immoral crusades in the name of leftist ‘morality’. Disgusting, but also somewhat predictable. After all, as a pastor I know has pointed out, it is not whether you worship and have morals, but which/what. Feminism worships women, denigrates men, and does its best to attack and demean men whenever possible, even if that means attacking men on their own side. There is a new moralism in america, it is the Left. Its moral courts are, being manmade, impossible to justify oneself in front of. If accused, there is no trial, just crucifixion. I hope authors like these will rally, but also reexamine their own presuppositions. Perhaps they may see that what has happened is the offspring of what they themselves believe.

    But the Judeo-Christian model, if our country can recover it, would do much to help remove such tendencies from the culture, especially since it is the strictly Christian way to assume innocence until proven guilty. There was far less actual witch-hunting in the Salem witch trial days, than there is going on today in the supposedly enlightened West.

    I also have to disagree with another commentator – Mr. Killheffer. I think mau-mauing is most definitely what is going on against energy companies and others who are targets of the modern Left. Those bullying tactics to destroy a company and the livelihoods of all those who work for it, just because certain individuals dislike the activities of said corporation, are wicked in the extreme and cause much hardship. They have no place in a truly civilized society. Peaceful protest, and better yet, developing corporate alternatives which actually produce alternatives that satisfy the desires of these individuals, without the use of tax dollars and laws to legislate companies out of business, are the way of true progress. Bullying and destructive envious pressure tactics are a shame to those who claim the name Progressive.

    I hope in all this that the damage to these two men from their own is not insurmountable, and that their careers are able to continue unhindered.

    • Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

      But the Judeo-Christian model, if our country can recover it, would do much to help remove such tendencies from the culture, especially since it is the strictly Christian way to assume innocence until proven guilty. There was far less actual witch-hunting in the Salem witch trial days, than there is going on today in the supposedly enlightened West.

      Resnick and Malzberg were not burned at a stake, hung, or pressed to death. Nor do the politically correct drag anyone behind a car for being homophobic, or lynch white people who have sex with blacks, or put people to death for their religious beliefs.

      You’ll pardon me if I take calls for a more Christian culture as an answer to witch hunts with a grain of salt.

  28. Jonathan says:

    It’s good to find a man who will stand.

    Mr. Fox, please count me among your admirers and, as of five minutes from now if I can figure out how to get your books shipped to me, a customer.

    (Not sure if I’m into Fat White Vampires, but what the hell – I’ll give it a shot …)

  29. newscaper says:

    I attended a private college in upstarted NY in the mid 80s and remember the waves of trendy causes sweeping campuses: in rapid succession it seemed we had ‘numeric freeze,’ aka unilateral disarmament in effect, the homeless, and divestment from South Africa. I think mau-mauing is approximately correct – not so much against the ultimate targets of the protests but rather uni admins and even other students who were considered insufficiently enlightened and in need of pressuring/shaming to conform.
    Of course the claims of thoughtfulness, deep concern and greater moral stature were undercut by the transparent focus on keeping up with the fashionable cause du jour coming from the west coast or some of the Ivy’s.

    Keep up the good fight.

  30. Matt says:

    I’ve seen an awful lot of the “hivemind” bully mentality over the last few years, in virtually every corner of the internet. It is a tremendously ugly, brutish thing, with a capacity for harm far out of scale to what it should have.

  31. Micha Elyi says:

    Now, maybe it’s just me, but I have never encountered the use of the word “lady” as a pejorative or even as having a negative connotation.
    –Andrew Fox

    “Lady” is deeply resented by doctrinaire feminists. It is the inverse of the feminist resentment of so-called “slut shaming”. Many of us who lived during the 1960s and ’70s are aware of that. The rest of you probably have to take Women’s Studies classes to find out. Or read books written by feminists.

  32. CGT says:

    I’m not a member of SFWA, but other writing orgs. When I saw the dust up, the first thing I went to do is read the columns. Apparently, an uncommon reponse? As a woman writer in my 40s, who has at times suffered genuine discrimination, I found myself not only un-offended by the columns, but disappointed. I’m disappointed that even noticing people’s manifold, fascinating differences has become verboten among those who describe things for a living. (Maybe a list should be issued of correct terms and subject matter–that’ll improve formulaism.) I’m disappointed that another once-idiosyncratic world of genuinely imaginative artists seems to have grown herdlike, in lockstep with its own “cool kids” who decide the taste for everyone. Shunned is the word I’ve been using for what’s happened, too. I can’t think of a more boring scene than head-nodding with panderers and the self-righteous, but it’s too dangerous to be genuine when mobs slaver for heretics. If this is what a group has to offer (and I really fear other orgs I belong to may trend this way), I wish I could instead jump back 50 years to chat with some of those iconoclastic, brain-bending oddballs who’d never think to co-opt my right to figure out for myself how to take them (or not).

  33. This is an excellent excuse for me to go find some Malzberg on Amazon and buy it. May these herd animals end up chasing him all the way to the bank.

  34. Gilligan says:

    As you mentioned in your article and as is evident from several of the respondents, the criticism of Malzberg and Resnick seems to have a distinctly academic tone. My theory is that by now a whole lot of people have each spent tens of thousands of dollars to receive degrees in Womyn’s Studies or other Lit Crit type fields which train them specifically to engage in this type of analysis. It is a skill with no practical application and degrees of that type do not make the degree holders particularly attractive to employers so the people who spent several years and a whole lot of money obtaining them are understandably bitter. They also have a lot of time to respond on the internet since they tend to be either unemployed or underemployed.

    I am certain that Barry Malzberg feels bad to be given the same kind of sewage tsunami that was unleashed on Sarah Palin by a lot of the same people. People of the left are always surprised when they are found guilty of thoughtcrime and stood against the wall. Perhaps he could have a talk with David Horowitz, a man of his generation and background who also experienced an uncomfortable experience of being shunned from the tribe. If nothing else, reading Horowitz’ book “Radical Son” might help him understand what is going on.

  35. […] we’re not gathered here today to talk about that. You can read all about it at writer Andrew Fox’s […]

  36. […] Fox discusses the principal political weapon of the Western Left, and its mobilization against political […]

  37. Fail Burton says:

    In 1975, in the introduction to “The Best of C.L. Moore,” veteran SF author Lester del Rey wrote:

    “I sat in the audience at a World Science Fiction Convention banquet, listening to Forrest J. Ackerman announce a special award that was about to be presented to a writer. As is customary, Ackerman was saving the name of the recipient for the climax. But he mentioned a story called “Shambleau” and never got to finish his speech. As one, the 2,000 people in the audience came instantly to their feet in unanimous tribute—clapping, shouting, and craning to see a gracious and lovely lady blushingly accept the applause. Many in that audience had never read the story. But everyone knew about it. And everyone knew that Catherine Moore was one of the finest writers of all time in the field of science fiction.”

    Does that sound like a community that disdains women?

  38. While I sympathize with Resnick and Malzberg — indeed, greatly, as I’ve been a target of the same sort of collectivist vitriol — this is what comes of being a “joiner.” Occupational associations of all sorts are prone to this sort of effect. All such groups deteriorate over time (“Any organization not explicitly right-wing will over time become left-wing.” — Robert Conquest’s First Law). The only remedy is flight…or never joining in the first place.

    The hidden truth behind the matter is that all formally organized groups, regardless of their overt purpose, are political in nature, and will ultimately be “taken over” by those whose foremost priority is power. As those persons are innately hostile to dissent and criticism, they will use such power as they acquire to suppress those things, by whatever means are expedient. When codes of personal ethics cease to constrain them, nothing remains to inhibit them from doing so. And so we get our present age.

    • Rivrdog says:

      You left out an important concern, sir.

      People are “joiners” becacause they lack self-confidence. On the occasion of finding one’s hidden store of self-confidence, the desire for “joining” immediately vanishes.

  39. Chas C-Q says:

    I followed a link to here from Instapundit. It has been a long while since I paid any attention to the science fiction community as such. This is the first I’ve seen about the controversy, and I have not yet read any of the matter to which you refer.

    My first and still uppermost thought: have any of the women who were mentioned in the Malzberg / Resnick columns that started this brouhaha come to their defense; and to what effect?

    • Michaele J says:

      The lady editor who looked so good in a bathing suit has been dead for thirty years. But during her life time, she heard the story told about how good she looked in the suit, and how the other ladies reacted. She laughed.

  40. Jocon307 says:

    You should really name that editor you mentioned. The only way these people will be stopped is if they are held accountable.

    This piece is excellent, thank you for tying so many things together in it. I’m sorry for your friends.

    I’m sorry, but the Left really is despicable, they seek only to destroy. I think they won’t be happy until they remove every last shred of joy from life.

  41. J. Locke says:

    It’s actually a part of American culture now, both Left and Right but more noticeable on the Left, to be so ready to be offended. It is as if people are looking are searching for a pretext to express some kind of outrage. Well, that which is rewarded gets repeated. Unfortunately, as carefully thought out and written as this piece is, I doubt it will get much traction because of your friendship with the two gentlemen in question. But put on a smile and keep hammering away, it’s really the only thing any of us can do.

  42. Lee Reynolds says:

    This is why I am a conservative.

    Take a good and long look at the actions and behaviors described in this article folks, and remember them. This. is. what. evil. looks. like.

    • “Not being nice” is not what evil looks like. Denying public support to our elders, denying women personal autonomy over their own bodily functions, denying civil rights and disenfranchising the poor– those things are evil.

      • Stan Smith says:

        Those who insist on remaining perpetual victims by allowing mere words to injure them will continue to be perpetual victims. It is unseemly. Your actions will determine who you are, not the words that describe you.

  43. Excellent essay. Hopefully, it will bring some logic, sense and sanity to this matter. Alas, politically correct feminists (and others) will hunt down what they consider heresy with the ferocity of a Medieval Bishop hunting heresy. But with this brilliant essay, Andrew, you will now be a target of the heresy hunters too

  44. AnyMeansNecessary says:

    Are you married? I bet you are a fraud like this guy:

    • jamesworrad says:

      Oh dear. I wrote the blog Anymeansnecessary links to. The idea of it was, I used the same methods of argumentation that Vox Day used to ‘prove’ NK Jemesin was a savage subhuman to ‘prove’ Vox Day’s wife was entirely imaginary. I even explain as much in the last paragraph. I haven’t encountered a Vox Day fan yet who has ever worked this out. Ever. Even when they have read the entire article.

      The only succor I can take from this is that perhaps, just perhaps, one of these has taken the post literally and somehow been convinced by its argument, thus ultimately hitting VD in the wallet (which is more than a thousand online witch hunts have done).

      • Andrew says:

        Dear James, as the old Saturday Night Live character “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer” used to say, “Your words, sir, they confuse me…” However, I appreciate any attention to my little ol’ blog, so thanks much!

  45. AnyMeansNecessary says:

    Do you happan to live in Eupope or other places wirh sensible commonsense speech controls? then what you just wrote is hate speech, and you will be dealt with like this: https://twitter.com/KariSperring/status/347053440779816960

  46. Weatherly says:

    Thank you, Andrew.

  47. Scott_K says:

    “Why risk alienating half your potential audience?” They have done exactly that.

    I’ve been an SF fan since age 10, when I picked up a copy of Heinlein’s “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel” from – ironically – my childhood church’s library. (As Spider says, “God is an iron”. SF put me on the path to atheism.)

    I read quickly, and daily. I finish the average size paperback in 3-4 days, thus 75-100 books per year. Both Malzberg & Resnick are on my “buy anything they write” list.

    The names listed on Hines’ “Roundup” are now on my “actively avoid” list.

    (Incidentally, I just bought “The Good Humor Man” from Amazon, and I hope that “The End of Daze” will be available soon in dead tree or e-book form.)

    • Radical Suburbanite says:

      Same here. I’ve been a relatively high profile reviewer (my *known* pseudonym is different than my handle here) and I absolutely won’t review anyone on that list anymore. I’ve deleted my previous reviews after this kerfuffle. This whole thing is obscene.

  48. Karen Myers says:

    Well said. The complete absence of any restraint in online discourse is a reflection of the death of manners as a whole. Shameful behavior on the part of the mau-mau crowd. Despicable.

  49. Your post puts this side of things into words better than a lot of others I’ve read lately. Thanks for putting out there.

    Watching all of this, I keep finding myself comparing the SFWA membership’s reaction to the words of Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick to Hollywood’s reaction to the actions of Roman Polanski. Maybe that’s apples and oranges, but my mind keeps coming back to that. Honestly, I’m not sure which group the comparison makes look worse.

    P.S. Jules Duchon is great, memorable character, by the way. Always wanted to tell you that.

    • “Thanks for putting *it* out there,” I mean. That’s what I got for commenting with only one cup of coffee in me…

    • Wait a minute. Polanski had sex with a drugged-up 13-year-old girl who still, through the haze of the drugs, told him “no no no”. The man has made some great films, but what he did to that girl was no matter of unfortunate vocabulary or political incorrectness. If you’re going to put what Malzberg and Resnick did in the same category, that’s pretty bad news for Malzberg and Resnick.

      • I’m not putting Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg in the same category as Polanski, not by any means. Like you say, what Polanski did was incredibly, horribly worse. The point I was trying to make is that the reaction from Hollywood artists to what Polanski did was (and still is) a fraction of the vitriol and condemnation I’ve been seeing directed at Resnick and Malzberg, but if you only knew the rhetoric and accusations being thrown at these two writers recently, a person could probably come away thinking they had done something of Polanski-level or worse. It’s as huge an overreaction toward Resnick and Malzberg as it’s always been an underreaction toward Polanski. That’s what struck me as interesting, and I honestly still don’t know who to think worse of, the kind of fellow artists who essentially give someone like Polanski a pass for an actual crime or the kind of fellow writers who go on essentially a witch hunt against two men who don’t deserve it because of a disagreement over wording. It was a comment on the people going after Resnick and Malzberg. Sorry if my wording left some confusion about that.

  50. SPQR says:

    Well said, Andrew. You would think that a group supposedly in existence to support authors would have some sort of reverence for the freedom of speech – and engage in substantive debate about ideas. But the irony seems to escape them. And I even still had some vestiges of hope that Scalzi would demonstrate some practical leadership.

    Those last hopes are quite dispelled.

  51. Ostar says:

    As a male who grew up reading SF in the 60’s, I can remember back as a kid noticing the dearth of female writers. It didn’t matter to me – I read every Andre Norton book I could get my hands on, for example. But this was not a situation specific to SF, of course. Women had higher barriers to entry in most every field, due to those already in it protecting their turf.

    Now, it’s like the Who song: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” It’s in many ways a sign of insecurity – no perceived challenge to the ability of those in the field, even historical, can be tolerated. In many ways, modern feminism has morphed into an even more controlling and oppressing version of the social conventions it was trying to fix and replace.

    I’ll have to qualify this I suppose – feminism was generally a needed and appropriate movement in modern times. But after mostly achieving its goals, it became the new orthodoxy, the dominant cultural mindset. Power is a heady thing to those who have it.

    Barry and Mike unfortunately are what happens when you appear (even if you aren’t) to challenge the new orthodoxy. I’m sure they would rightly call themselves feminists, but they didn’t leave modern feminism – modern feminism left them behind.

    • TBlakely says:

      Not that I’m disputing your main point but a lack of women writers of SF in the 60s probably had more to do with far far fewer being interested in writing SF than men. People assume that if there isn’t a 50/50 split in representation in professions of race/gender then is must be due to discrimination. Not that there hasn’t been such discrimination but people rarely factor in participation rates which in most cases has a far larger impact for why some professions are ‘unbalanced’ compared to others. And yes, I’m aware of the ‘feedback’ impact of discrimination but I suspect it’s effect is much less than those who propose quotas and affirmative policies to compensate.

  52. Cambias says:

    This whole affair made me seriously wonder if I should bother to renew my SFWA membership. This is no small matter for me: I spent years working hard to qualify. I was extremely proud the day I joined.

    Now? Disgust and disappointment are my main emotions. Is this was SFWA has become? Why should I remain a member of a group which apparently exists to enforce some kind of pointless, petty ideological correctness?

  53. Tracy Coyle says:

    An author (Malzberg/Resnick) writes about a couple holding hands in a beautiful garden. A reader (Ms Alexander is a good representative of this group) believes all green flowers are symbols of hate, evil and all nefariousness. The Author, in using a picture of a garden ’causes’ the reader to fill in the garden with green flowers. Despite the Author’s words proclaiming the beauty of the garden and the endearment of the couple, the Reader only sees evil and hatred.

    The Author: the garden is beautiful
    The Reader: green flowers are evil
    The Author: I never suggested green flowers
    The Reader: every garden is full of green flowers – you should know that…and every green flower is a symbol of hate…

    In filing the garden with their own hate, the Readers accuse the Authors of promoting hate when there was no such intent. I don’t know if it is dishonesty or delusion but the Reader’s opinions are clearly inane and useless. They are demanding their view of the garden is the only reasonable one when there is no ‘reasonableness’ in their point of view. Unfortunately, their screeching is loud and attracting the attention of the rest of their meerkat bretheren.

  54. […] can get very ugly when the Left starts to eat its own: The virtually thoughtless piling on is perhaps the most appalling. So many of the criticizers […]

  55. Seebs says:

    I think you are perhaps underestimating the significance of the context — that this is not just one particular article, but a long-running pattern of things throughout this field and many other fields, and the Bulletin’s position as a Who We Are And What We Want To Be marker for the industry.

    It’s perhaps true that people are taking this further than maybe they should, but there are only so many times I can see harmful behavior dismissed with “oh, it was meant in fun”.

    Honestly, I was sort of on the fence before the response (in issue 202). The response, however, was fundamentally dishonest; it portrayed attackers as anonymous (they weren’t), and mischaracterized the complaints. It did not show any sign of a sincere attempt to even comprehend the complaints, but rather, was a dismissive and defensive counterattack.

    And to some extent, I think your post runs into this also; reading it, I get the feeling that you are very upset that your friends have been attacked, but nothing in it communicates to me that you have given serious consideration to the possibility that what your friends did was a thing that should have been attacked.

    Maybe Barry Malzberg is a “decent human being”. But even decent human beings have blind spots. I suspect that if you knew many of the critics personally, and didn’t know about this particular brouhaha, you’d be quite convinced that they were fundamentally decent human beings, too. So if they’re wrong, then that means that a fundamentally decent human being can do a thing you find abhorrent. Well, yes. That happens. It happens a lot.

    Your halo effect is showing.

    And as to whether the original article was offensive: I put it to you that if the vast majority of the women I’ve talked to who have read the article found it offensive, it is possible that there is a way in which it is offensive. For a long time, I thought people were overstating the case about sexism in reviews. I thought this until someone showed me a set of actual reviews of recent musical releases, in which they’d gender-swapped the reviews, assigning reviews of albums by female musicians to albums by male musicians, and vice versa.

    And suddenly I realized: Yes, there is a gigantic discrepancy here, only because it’s always there I never noticed it. And the way these swapped reviews focused on the physical qualities of the men, not their voices or performances or writing, was eerie and creepy.

    The fact that the reviews idolized and praised the “lady editors” and “lady writers” does not change the fact that the reviews treated them as a special case, emphasizing the gap between them and “ediotrs” and “writers”. Yes, it’s true, you can be amazed by someone’s appearance in a vintage photo. But no one writing about Cosmos would pause to talk about Sagan’s attractiveness, whether or not it really jumped out at them, because it’s totally irrelevant to the work. Because, see, Sagan’s not female, so we understand his career in terms of his work, not in terms how how he’d look in a swimsuit.

    I thought this stuff was crazy for a long time, but now I think it’s actually real. I think your friends, like most men (me included), have a giant blind spot here. And I think you have that same blind spot, amplified by the halo effect — you know your friend is good people and can’t handle people saying he’s done something bad.

    I think you will find it rewarding to apply Miller’s Law here: To understand a communication, you must first assume that it is true, and then consider what it could be true of.

    • Andrew says:

      Sir, all I would ask in this case (and in cases like it) is a sense of proportionality. Did the two men mean to offend? No. Any fair-minded assessment of the two articles would have to allow that they meant to praise and to honor. As for your contention that the articles treated their subjects as “special cases,” well, of course — they were asked by their editor to focus on the subject of women in science fiction, and, given the state of society back then, until the 1970s, at least, any woman making a living and a fine reputation in the field of science fiction writing and publishing WAS a “special case.” Your statement that all the women you’ve spoken to personally have found the articles offensive may (you must admit) involve selection bias. Take a gander at the women commenters on this article for, perhaps, an opposite instance of selection bias. Finally, I simply don’t believe that the cover to issue 200 of the SFWA Bulletin, the Malzberg/Resnick articles, and that one other (the gentleman who unfortunately selected Barbie as a metaphor for how SF professionals can greatly change their output and modes of activity while still holding fast to their essential core personalities) reflect some rising tide of anti-women sentiment in the field. Any glance at publishing statistics broken out by gender, examination of the readership broken out by gender, and appraisal of who the gatekeepers currently are broken out by gender would show that today, right now, is the best time ever for women to be working in the field of fantastic literature.

    • geokstr says:

      Would you consider it possible that you have more than one “blind spot”, besides failing to look at something from the feminist point of view?

      From your comment, I deduce you are on the political left. I’ll bet you hold such hysterical and uninformed views as you decry here about those on the opposite side, and, regardless, are not bashful about voicing them either.

    • AnyMeansNecessary says:

      Andrew Fox suffers from False Consciousness. This blind spot must be dealt with via immediate re-education. You will see the light, one way or another. Report ASAP to Room 101 of the Ministry of Love.

    • Fail Burton says:

      Did anything Malzberg or Resnick say rise to the level of hate speech, prosecutable say, in Canada? No. Did any of the responses? Yes. SFWA member Jim Hines linked to at least a half dozen that used phrases like “old white men” as if their race was part of the problem. Hines has linked to and supports a blog called “Angry Black Woman.” In the “About” section, it says, “white people fear us.” The woman who created that blog, K. Tempest Bradford and another named Jaymee Goh, oversaw the organization of a racially segregated “safer space” and dinner at WisCon, the feminist science fiction convention. “Safer” from who? Goh, recently Tweeted “Seems lately every week is white stupidity week. And they complain about a month in a year!” and that white people are “sourdough-faced.” I see a problem here, and it sure as heck isn’t Malzberg and Resnick. Both woman openly promote SF literature by race alone. Had Malzberg and Resnick done any of the things I’ve mentioned, then you really would’ve seen some crying.

  56. Michaele J says:

    Alas, I must agree wholeheartedly that the witch-hunt mentality is still with us (doubtless, genetic in origin). I do have one teeny, tiny little nit: Mike did not say the lady editor looked great in a bikini. The incident in question took place before bikinis were ‘invented’. He said she looked great in her swimsuit, which (as I happen to know, because I belong to CFG) was not even a two-piece, but a one-piece suit.

  57. geokstr says:

    This phenomenon is whole lot bigger than SciFi, I’m afraid. Welcome to the political world of the average conservative, Andrew.

    We’ve been subjected to Alinsky tactics and Cloward and Piven strategies for the last 50 years. It’s not only the blog commenters either, attacks on individuals are echoed and amplified by a media that wants to destroy anyone on the right. They care not whether what they say is true or false, or might totally destroy the lives of their targets. In fact, that’s their goal.

    Palin is a great example. She has been subjected to the most vicious attack campaign I’ve ever seen in my 5 decades of following politics and it continues to this day. Not only her, but her entire family, including her special needs child, have been relentlessly mocked on national TV, and had hundreds of “news” stories written about them that were filled with lies and falsehoods. Limbaugh is another, and the vast majority of his most vile critics have never even listened to him. Both have had “quotes” attributed to them that were made up out of whole cloth, or edited and twisted beyond recognition. Entire despicable stories about them have also been made up and gone viral. Despite all being proven totally false, they will live in the narratives of the left forever as “truth”.

    Not just them, but any prominent conservative, particularly minorities and women, whom the left believes they own: Cruz, West, Thomas, Ben Carson, Haley, Martinez, Bachmann, Miguel Estrada, et al. They are not allowed to stray from the plantation.

    This tendency to attack without facts or even knowing anything about the targets except that they don’t agree with you is a hallmark of the left, and it’s everywhere. Pick any book by any conservative, then go to Amazon and look at the reviews. You will find that among the first reviews will always be several filled with vitriol aimed at the author, written too soon for them to have even read the book. One “reviewer” has over one hundred fifty of such critiques.

    The worst part is that this divisiveness is being actively pushed by the current administration. Remember, Obama is a “community organizer, a position invented by Alinsky, for whom “organize” was a euphemism for “revolution”.

    This will not end well.

    I’m a lifelong atheist, and all I can say is “God help us.”

  58. […] Francis Porretto makes the sadly effortless connection to SF fandom and the current dustup. I bought some Barry Malzberg novels and essays on Amazon to support the poor guy. Breakfast in the Ruins looks fascinating, and I’m already enjoying the hell out of Galaxies, which is just fucking awesome. How did I not know of this book before? I shall quote Michael Battaglia’s Amazon review below the fold. […]

  59. I’m afraid this kind of thing has been the norm in Sci Fi fandom for quite some time. Last month on a Star Trek fan board (where I’ve commented for about a decade) I posted about the tragic case of a college coed who was being held hostage by a burglar and who was accidentally shot and killed by a policeman. I was immediately pounced, chastised, and derided as a sexist for using the word “coed”. I explained that its the common term, used even in the headlines of the LA Times, NY Times, and other publications. If a reporter did try to use the phrase ‘female undergraduate college student’ in a headline, the editor would replace it with ‘coed’ and save 31 characters.

    But the pack was on the hunt, having found a target, so I explained the etymology and origin of the term and that argued that contrary to their assumptions, it isn’t know to carry negative connotations – otherwise the mainstream press wouldn’t use it. The pack piled on, and I humorously suggested the thread be retitled “coed etymology” because not a single comment concerned the news story about a girl who tragically died, they were all just slamming the use of a widely accepted word, whose innocence I was defending. So of course they banned me. It is par for the course.

    Arguing intent, logic, and reason, backed up by dictionaries, authors, journalists, and other references just angers the mob even more, perhaps because winning the argument would establish that they are either wrong or irrational, whereas a crescendo of outrage reinforces their belief that they retain the moral high ground and are correctly punishing an evil-doer. It’s hard to make any headway against “He must’ve done something heinous or I wouldn’t be in this lynch mob!”

    What I find most ironic is that science fiction fans should be the most open minded about different perspectives, and especially stylistic writing (like the use of “lady”), but all too often what I observe is just vicious mob mentality enforcing knee jerk group think. I don’t know if that applies to the more conservative fans since there are hardly any left where I used to frequent (they get banned quickly unless they’re very, very careful), but it certainly is the norm in a lot of the forums.

    • It’s even worse than most casual onlookers can imagine. Feminist harridans have pilloried me for adhering to the old convention that the generic singular pronouns are he, his, and him. I pointed out that no less a figure than Ursula Leguin does the same. It made no difference.

      To the Left, all things are political. Militant feminism is a component of the hard-Left coalition, and like all forms of Leftism, regards any organized group of any sort as an opportunity to seek power.

      The sole path toward peace, for an individual, lies in avoiding organized groups. That can be difficult, especially as regards resisting the lure of occupationally relevant and advantageous groups. Nevertheless!

    • Very true. We could use some Internet jujitsu and just start posting links to all the times Obama has referred to Michelle, his daughters, or the California AG as beautiful ladies – and then beat him down as a racist, sexist, backwards misogynist pig who should be banned from public discourse, and see which knee jerk reaction is stronger in these bomb throwing shamers. But that would be too easy.

      In sci-fi terms,”They broke missile lock and it’s reacquiring the wrong target! Hit the abort! Hit self-destruct!’

  60. Raymund Eich says:

    Glenn “instapundit” Reynolds had a good suggestion. If you want to support Messrs. Maltzberg and Resnick, buy their books.

    Further, let me suggest buying an independent or small press edition, not one from a big NYC publisher. First, they’ll get a bigger royalty from a Rosetta Books or ISFiC Press sale than from a Big Six sale.

    Second, the Big Six, being giant corporations, are risk averse. They don’t want bad press. Even if they saw a spike in Maltzberg and Resnick’s sales, they might decide it’s not worth the hassle to publish their next books. (that this might create openings for books by the moral dogpilers is ultimately why the moral dogpilers are doing it). A small press is more likely to stick to its vision against this cultural Maoism.

  61. jc says:

    Well written and well reasoned. Glenn Reynolds sent me here, but you, sir, now have your site bookmarked

  62. FeministFist says:

    This post is just sick. “Just words” says Mr. Fox, the writer. We know it’s more than words. We know that hateful speech from Maltzberg and Resnick adds to rape-culture. We know their words CAUSE RAPE. Yet you sweep it under the rug because “they’re a couple nice guys” in your humble — yet obviously bigoted — opinion. Say that to every woman harassed or raped across American by strangers, her husband or her date. As far as I’m concerned, Andrew Fox should be accounted amongst Maltzberg, Resnick, Vox Day, Orson Scott Card, John C. Wright and other homophobic, misogynist pro-rapist, and racist hatemongers. Your kind are NOT welcome in SFWA or society for that matter.

    • Andrew says:

      I’m approving this post in an effort (assuming this isn’t a false flag post… not entirely sure of that; the vehemence truly seems deranged, more of a parody than a genuine, honest expression of a viewpoint) to let readers of my article have a first-hand taste of what I’m talking about. Are you a troll? Or are you for real?

    • Cambias says:

      Got the gas chamber all warmed up and ready, haven’t you?

    • Michaele J says:

      Interesting that any attempt to answer FeministFist comes up as a reply to Cambias. (Or am I to assume you are the same person?) Since she (FF) has somehow protected herself from replies (how gutless!) I have to suppose she will not read any that do get through. So I suppose it is pointless to answer and yet I feel I have to try. Can you hear yourself? You denounce the ‘just words’ argument with words more vitriolic than any that were previously launched. You have not even read this column carefully, let alone the column in question, if you can describe the writers in question as ‘homophobic’ or ‘pro-rapist’. And no one who can describe anyone in the language you have just used is entitled to refer to anyone else as a ‘hate-monger’. You are frightening in your stew of self-destructive bitterness, and you do need professional help

      • Cambias says:

        I’m certainly not the same person as Ms. Fist. I expect if we were to come into contact it would result in a huge flash of gamma radiation.

        • My apologies, Cambias. I didn’t really think you were the same person, but the software kept insisting that you were. (It’s hard to track individuals through some of these lengthy posts.) I am sure you–unlike FF–are a rational person.

    • Dave in Georgia says:


      In re your post, I’m assuming the first five words are referring to the rest of the drivel that follows.

  63. soulshear says:

    The woman repeatedly referred to as “the editor in a swimsuit/bikini” by both supporters and detractors of Resnick/ Malzberg is Bea Mahaffey. During her tenure as a SF editor in the 1950s, Mahaffey was able to publish stories that pushed the genre into more adult, socially-conscious tales. Whatever your feelings are about the initial dialogue, Resnick and Malzberg honored this woman’s important contributions to the field by at least referring to her by name – which is more than I can say for the vast majority of those who have criticized their choice of words.

  64. richard40 says:

    These idiots are complaining about a sci fi magazine issue that had some scantily clad women in barbarian costumes. You have got to be kidding. Have any of these PC complainers ever been to a real sci fi convention, and seen the legions of gals there dressed up in Klingon custumes, leaving very little to hide. And have they ever heard of the long running prime time series, Xena Warrier Princess, and the countless warrier women in Sci fi films. I am sick of these PC Fascists, probably in wymens studies departments, dictating culture to the rest of us.

    • It’s worse than womyn’s studies, Richard40. The campus is these days near totalitarian monoculture with speech codes to silence any dissent, or activist groups that even physically attack ‘heretics.’. And when people leave campus, they take those attitudes with them. Look at the Obama’s administration behavior not merely with the leakers like Snowdon, but with the Tea Party groups.

      This incident is a sign of something very dangerous that has been infecting our society for a long, long time.

      I got a nice look at this ugliness at the latest Arisia at a panel about problematic figures in SF. (The origin came from an African woman winning the Lovecraft Prize. Lovecraft was a screaming racist, even by the standards f the 1920s.) The panel parroted all the PC shibboleths, but they stru8ck me as being very small minded. They refused to acknowledge that societal attitudes can change and insisted that someone from the day when Woodrow Wilson was president hold the precise same opinions on all things as the MLA.

  65. […] 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 […]

  66. Cloudbuster says:

    I remember back in the mid-80s when I was in journalism school at OSU, I was in the newsroom one day when I drew the ire of one of these humorless types, a young black women, when, seeing a photo of a local street vendor on the editor’s desk, I made the admittedly flippant comment to the editor “Who’s the fat, black lady?”

    Remember in these days we still had hard-boiled journalism professors. Mine at the time was a curmudgeonly Australian who had a deep distrust of flowery language and weasel words. If someone was fat, you called them “fat,” in his book, not “a person of extraordinary largeness.” And, boy, this woman was fat. It wasn’t the kind of thing you’d miss.

    The young humorless woman was standing nearby when I made the comment and rounded on me in anger. “What did you just say?”

    At the time, I didn’t have a ready retort — I just dismissively shrugged her off, which was good enough, I guess. I certainly didn’t apologize. But later, I thought about the three main words of my statement: “fat,” “black,” and “lady.” Fat was objectively true. As was black — and this was in a period when black was not considered perjorative. I think it still isn’t, unless a leftist wants to give you a hard time. I realized that the only word in my sentence that was open to interpretation was “lady.”

    I decided that should I ever find myself in such a position again, I would not refer to such a person as a “fat, black lady.” I will quite objectively refer to the person as a “fat, black, female.” That will solve everything. “Lady” is clearly the sort of word we can’t say in polite society. I recognized that 25 years ago!

  67. Tagore Smith says:

    Thanks for writing this. My grandfather was prominent in fandom back in the 40s and 50s, and I grew up hearing a lot of stories about that time. A number of the old luminaries were family friends. Speaking of physical beauty, my grandmother was a very beautiful woman, and a very well-known SF writer who I won’t name here, but who was closely associated with one of the women you mention in this article, developed a strong and obvious infatuation with her. There was a lot of drinking at the conventions in those days, and some unpleasantness occurred, if you’ll forgive me a euphemism.

    This is a funny story, at a remove of 60 years, but it is also part of the story of the people involved, and to some small degree a part of the story of who I am, and how I got here. It is also incomprehensible without the understanding that beauty is a remarkably important characteristic, and often most so in a young woman. To make that fact out of bounds is to erase something of them, and to some small degree something of me. To say nothing of all the other stories, not just from the antiquity of the 50s, but from the present, you will have to efface in order to ignore this stubborn fact.

    It is still astonishing to me that movements can go so quickly from saying “Hey, not everyone is like you, and those unlike you should be entitled to their stories” to saying “Hey, you should not be as you are, and your stories should be erased.”

    If you’ll forgive me a bit of heteronormatavism and an infelicity, the dynamic between men and women is fraught. But I am not going to allow the (loaded language quite intentional) harpies of academe and Jezebel to erase me.

    I will continue to objectify women, because it is simply my nature to see a beautiful woman in the street and be attracted to her, even if I do nothing about it. I will be secretly pleased when women objectify me in that fashion, though I get less meaningful glances as I get older. I will continue to value the women I am close to and love for a variety of things, including their physical beauty. I will continue to flirt shamelessly, because I like to flirt, and it seems to me that most women do too. I will be fey, not dour, because I will die soon enough.

    I am not by nature a shamer, but I think the shamers in this case should be shamed, at least a little bit. If you begin from a movement that is intended to expand what people can express about their nature and potential and wind up attacking 70-year old men for engaging in a bit of very mild nostalgia and self-expression, suffused with love and respect for the women they are memorializing, you have become what you ostensibly intended to oppose.

    • Andrew says:

      Thank you for such a personal and eloquent statement of the themes I tried expressing in my original article. I appreciate your stopping by.

  68. Tom West says:

    I consider the level of vitriol rather out of line based on their comments. I see the incident as two older men revealing themselves to be somewhat progressive for the culture in which they grew up which puts them well behind the modern standards in terms of treatment of women.

    However, two things:

    (1) I’m male. I don’t have a lifetime of major and minor discrimination incidents to overlook as I watch the two men get a platform to echo attitudes towards women that are probably 30-40 years out of date, all in the organization’s *official* publication. So any attempt on my part to pass judgement on the anger of women who were offended carries more than a hint of “let them eat cake” about it.

    (2) In my opinion, the real mistake was on the part of the editor of the Bulletin (who I believe has since resigned). My great-aunt is a sweet, good-hearted, old lady, but I would never give her an official print platform. She is a product of her time, and the times have changed. What she has to say is no longer fit for a publication where her remarks would be devoid of the context in which she grew up.

    • DHM says:

      Agism, it seems, is just fine. And since I am a woman, is it okay for me to say that I find it ludicrous to take offense at the articles in question?

      • Andrew says:

        It seems okay to me, certainly. But some folks might think I am disqualified to assert my agreement with your judgment on this matter, since I belong to the same ethnic/gender group as the persons being mau-maued and thus cannot lay claim to any objectivity, trapped as I am in the amber of my group membership.

  69. This piece by Stephen Marche has some smart things to say about crowds, Twitter, and the internet:


    I think some of the comments are applicable to this case.

    Thanks for posting this article, Andy.

    —Gordon V.G.

    • Andrew says:

      Gordon, always wonderful to hear from you, in any forum. Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment. I’ll definitely check out that article you link to. Take good care.

    • Andrew says:

      Just read that Stephen Marche article. It is very timely, and quite relevant to the topic at hand. Thanks for sharing it.

  70. perlhaqr says:

    It would be quibbling about minutiae of definitions to argue whether what the Outraged are doing constitutes Censorship(tm), but I think it’s safe to say that they are definitely indulging a censorious impulse in their moblike behaviour.

  71. Stan Smith says:

    The company I worked for for 30 years at one time had “service award ceremonies” to honor people who had been employed for over 10 years (in 5-year increments). We made videos highlighting the events of each 5-year period, and invited employees to be interviewed regarding their experiences “back in the day.” I was privileged to be the interviewer. One of my subjects was a woman (I certainly can’t say “lady,” can I?) who had been an executive secretary for 30 years or so. When asked the question “What was your most interesting moment?” the woman proceeded to relate the experience of having been chased around the office by her boss, whose carnal intentions were not welcomed. We—the crew and I—were astounded that something like that had happened, and how the boss she had described could possibly be currently a VP of the company, let alone still employed! We asked “What did you do?” and she replied, “Oh, I just slapped him and told him to get back to work. That kind of thing happened all the time, and we just told those little boys we wouldn’t stand for it. We put them in their place.” That LADY had no need of feminism. She knew how to take care of herself.

    Have none of these people read “Lysistrata”?

    • Well, yeah, she knew how to take care of herself — fortunately. Many other women in similar situations did not. All of them — those who could shut the sexual harassers down and those who could not — needed feminism in order to create a world in which they do not have to shut them down, a world in which men like the one she described are fired and possibly prosecuted, a world in which the workplace environment (indeed, all environments) are free of the outrageous behavior she and other women had to put up with. We’re not there yet, but we’re a heck of a lot closer thanks to the efforts of feminists, both female and male.

      • Andrew says:

        Robert, I would toss out there that there are feminists and then there are feminists. There are feminists who support equal opportunity for persons of any gender and who do not countenance boorish or threatening behavior. Then there are feminists who shriek to the high heavens that the use of “lady” as an adjective is a mortal wound to their sacred honor and that the utilizers of such terminology should be hounded from polite society. I think there’s a difference there between two modes of thinking (and not just a difference of degree, but of kind).

        • I agree that there are some very stark differences of philosophy, style, and intent along the spectrum labeled “feminist”. And I would agree that, at one far end, you can find the kind of troubling behavior and patterns of thought that characterize the extremes of any ideology — including, as you’ve said, the practice of mau-mauing and a fascist-style determination to impose harsh punishments on any who disagree with the agenda in any way.

          On the other hand, as I’ve made clear in other posts here, I don’t actually think that the objection to the use of “lady” as an adjective is extreme or absurd. I believe that it has been employed as a means of dismissing and devaluing female participation in traditionally male activities, and I think that, based on that historical reality, we should avoid the use of the term even when no such demeaning intent is present. It simply conjures too many painful and objectionable incidents from the past (and present) to be employed neutrally.

          As I’ve also made clear, I agree wholeheartedly with you that the extremes of criticism that have been launched at Malzberg and Resnick over this are entirely unacceptable and unjustified. Their error was relatively minor, and readers should have taken a more charitable approach in voicing their objections. On the other hand, the “defense” Malzberg and Resnick wrote made things much worse — they could have taken the high road, acknowledged the problems with a term like “lady editors”, offered an apology and an explanation of their intentions. They could have made the entirely reasonable arguments that have since been offered on their behalf by you and others. It’s hard to do that in the face of a storm of abuse, but it would have served them far better than venting their irritation.

          It’s all a real shame. There’s an important conversation to be had here, which the vitriol has made nearly impossible.

      • Stan Smith says:

        Robert, I have two daughters, so I’m pretty aware of the world’s problems for women. You say “Fortunately, she knew how to take care of herself–others did not. Why not? Feminists are always demanding that women be treated as “equals,” yet complain that they’re “oppressed” when someone uses a “belittling” word to describe them. I always told my daughters not to react like “a 1950’s science fiction woman” — you k now, the kind who can’t do anything if she breaks a heel, or who swoons at the first sign of danger.

        If you are going to demand equality, act like you deserve it, not someone who constantly needs “protection.” That’s for the “ladies,” no?

        • But equality includes equal freedom from abuse and harassment. If women happen to be the ones being chased around desks by their randy male bosses, that means they are not experiencing equal treatment in the workplace. Male employees don’t have to deal with all the implications of sexual harassment, from the daily hassle to the fear of losing a job to the very real risk of rape. So insisting on changes in such circumstances is not a plea for special protection, it’s an insistence on equality.

          Moreover, measures taken against things like workplace sexual harassment are structured in a way that’s gender blind — they are rules that apply to all, not special protections for women only.

          I’m all in favor of encouraging women — of encouraging everyone — to stand up for themselves, as you’re doing with your daughters. But one way of doing so is to point out systematic forms of mistreatment, and to demand systematic changes. I don’t think it’s right to insist that the only acceptable form of self-defense is on an individual basis against individual examples of misbehavior. Sometimes the general climate has to be adjusted so that instances of misbehavior become less frequent, and incur greater penalties than the occasional slap.

          This is the principle behind complaints about the use of “lady” as an adjective. It has been used to discount female abilities and accomplishment, to defend a system of male privilege and assumed superiority. Allowing it to be used thus — having a thicker skin or whatever — allows the systematic discrimination to continue. It leaves pervasive social attitudes in place, unchallenged. Objecting to its use isn’t a request for special protection — it’s a demand for equal treatment. It’s a recognition that people rarely if ever think it necessary to indicate the gender of an editor, lawyer, or astronaut if the person in question is male, and that stressing gender when speaking of a female editor, lawyer, etc. reinforces the historical presumption that most editors, lawyers, etc. are male. Objectors are asking that we take measures to strip words of their historically gendered connotations — that’s not a plea for special protection, but for equal treatment.

          The fact is that women continue to face an array of discriminatory practices and abusive behaviors that men simply don’t have to contend with.** Check out this heart-wrenching account by Genevieve Valentine. It’s not enough to teach our daughters to “deal with it” — we won’t have equal treatment until women no longer face the kind of pervasive mistreatment that still exists in our society.

          **Or face only with much greater infrequency, and usually with less severe consequences. Tough guys may push a nerdy guy around sometimes, intimidate him, even rob him or beat him up. Once in a while this goes all the way to severe injury or even death. And that is horrible, and deserves to be address. But this happens much much less often than women face groping on subways and buses, sexual and physical assault by co-workers and family members and male partners, exclusion from promotion, professional associations, panel discussions, etc. Unfortunately, there’s just no comparison.

          • Tracy Coyle says:

            Amazing how much of your ‘reasonable expectations’ for a safe workplace involve making sure people think and act in ways that are acceptable to one group or another – and yes, I support workplace rules that prevent the ACTIONS of others from interfering with the liberty of others – but there is no right to be free from offense. Of course you might suggest that no one is imposing ‘thought policing’, yet, as words reflect thought and those words are considered an offense, the underlying thought is also the offense.

            The only workspace that I have ever seen ‘free of offense’ is one that is monolithic in thought. There is no ‘equality’ and there can never be such in a world where each of us is an individual with unique capabilities and experiences. Equality before the law has been hijacked and distorted beyond all meaning to equality of experiencial outcome.

            There are people in this world that are rude, obnoxious, ignorant, incompetent and mendacious – to demand they be treated ‘equally’ is to deny reality. I oppose equal treatment because there is no equal performance. Rules that affect specific behavior can be established to create a civil society – ie, no chasing fellow employees around desks demanding sexual favors without creating a ‘no leering at the buxom babe or chiseled hunk’.

            Such little steps into tyranny seem so ‘reasonable’….

          • I find your comments rather baffling. Nowhere did I suggest that workplace rules — or enforceable rules in any other context — should govern thoughts or even words. Nowhere did I suggest that anyone has the right to be shielded from all possiblity offense, nor that equal treatment ought to be equated with “equality of experiential outcome.” You are pummeling a classic straw man.

            As far as my arguments about the use of the term “lady” as a modifier go, I am not advocating the imposition of a rule governing this. I am merely explaining why many people find it offensive — not claiming that we (as I am among them) have a right to be absolutely free of such offense.

            But the same is true for those who would employ such terminology. They have the right to say or write things which may offend others, but they do not have the right to be shielded from outcry and condemnation. I am not advocating the censorship of offensive phrasings, nor the fining or jailing of those who employ it. I’m in favor of free and open debate — which is exactly what’s going on in this forum.

        • The link in my previous post did not come through. For Genevieve Valentine’s essay on the everyday harassment most women endure, go to http://www.genevievevalentine.com/2013/06/dealing-with-it/.

          • Tagore Smith says:

            I’m not sure this is as one-sided as you think it. What Valentine describes is very mild compared to a lot of what I had to deal with when I was younger. The difference is that young men don’t generally talk about these things, because it would be disastrous for them to admit that they happened- women simply have more latitude in this respect. Men are loathe to talk about them twenty years after the fact. But I could tell you a few harrowing tales, and lots of tales that are mild as Valentine’s are.

            I think the main point here is that there is no connection between what Malzberg and Resnick wrote and the fact that people are often as unpleasant as they can get away with being. On the other hand, the hounds baying for M&R are being pretty unpleasant. Let’s not divert attention from that.

            Robert, Andrew might call you reasonable, because your tone is civil. I am not going to agree with him, because I know that it is possible to write things both dishonest and unpleasant in a civil manner, and I think you have done so.

            You can quibble with the wording of M&R’s article, and point out that they are old guys who write in an old style- fine. But they have (and I think you admit this) been subjected to an incomprehensibly violent response. Your posts have more than a whiff of short-skirted victim-shaming about them.

  72. Michael says:

    I would strongly suggest many of the people here get to know the “witch hunters” and why they reacted so strongly. They are intelligent, established women who wouldn’t get angry for no reason.

    Also, most of the vitriol was directed to their “liberal fascist” counter-diatribe after a more milder offended response to the “lady editors” article, something what was highly unprofessional. Very few people here seem to realize this. Among other things, anyone who uses the term “liberal fascist” doesn’t know the meaning of either word.

    And for those of you who are going so far as to belittle them for getting offended, consider that you may also be adding to the problem, whether or not you agree with the offensive terms the responders used. These women see you (and those two) as the bullies.

    • There’s quite a bit of collectivism in your comment, Michael. While some of the females to whom you refer might be intelligent, established, and so forth, the behavior of the “witch hunters” reflects little intelligence, less courtesy, and still less hard sense.

      From your comments about “the problem,” I’d guess that the originating incident strikes you differently from us “anti-witch-hunting” types. (I’m on the far side of the matter from virtually everyone, but I’m used to that.) It appears to me that the techniques applicable to comprehending the affair are two: 1) Parental; and 2) Political.

      When my stepdaughters got into a tussle over something, we’d send them to neutral corners and ask them, “Who owns the problem?” Who was it who decided to start the fight, and why?

      “The problem” here clearly belongs to the vitriolic females who deluged Resnick and Malzberg with obscenity-laced vituperation for their employment of the word “lady.” There’s a lot that can be said about this, but it all begins with a single observation: To be called a lady has always been a compliment, never an insult nor a denigration. So objectively, they had zero justification for taking offense — and quite a lot of them knew it.

      The tactics the “witch hunters” deployed in response were, by the standards of polite discourse, utterly unacceptable. They were most explicitly intended to shock, offend, wound…and silence. These are the methods of censorship employed by brownshirts who not yet ready to use violence. They’re quite familiar to those of us who spend significant time in the political trenches, where pretenses of mortal offense are considered coin of the realm and victimist ranting is commonplace in response. It follows that men of good will must not accept them — indeed, that we must rebuff them vigorously, both for the sake of maintaining a standard of courtesy and for the preservation of our own dignity as well.

      There’s a kind of Gresham’s Law at work: Badly behaved group members drive out well behaved ones. The badly behaved here are the vitriolic females; they’re making the group inhospitable to persons of better decorum. Should they get away with their transgressions, they’ll return with new and worse ones. If the group is to be saved, they must be either disciplined or expelled. Unfortunately, the disciplining they’ve received here is of a rather mild sort, probably too mild to have the necessary chastising effect.

      I predict that SFWA is in for worse before any sort of stability returns. Far too many persons are prone to accepting protests of offense taken as both legitimate and sincere when no ground for offense exists, and immediately apologizing. That’s by far the worst response…but in our current, victimism-drenched milieu, it’s likely to be the dominant one.

    • Michaele J says:

      MIchael, you say we should “get to know the “witch hunters”” i. e, that we should take the trouble to review their point of view and try to understand where they are coming from. But you did not trouble to ‘get to know’, i.e.. understand–or even read–the point of view they are objecting to. And neither did they. That’s the problem.

  73. jayrblanc says:

    So, you think that the upset was caused because they called Editors “Ladies”, and talked a little about how one they knew looked good in a swim suit.

    Well, if you think that is the cause and root of the mess, then obviously your good friends are blameless…

    However, if instead it were that if a couple of writers were asked to write about Female Editors in the history of SFF, then wrote an article that mainly focused on how there were a lot of attractive looking ladies working as editors, you might consider that they had *strongly missed the point of what they were asked to do*. And then that article came in an edition of the magazine with a throwback 1960s babe in chainmail bikini cover…

    Now, even then, they only got some mild critisisim, and requests for the magazine not to have chain-mail bikini babes on the cover again. In fact, Resnick and Malzberg were the side show, it was the cover that people were mainly complaining about, they mentioned the column about “bikini wearing lady editors” as a just the ‘old male attitudes’ icing.

    How Resnick and Malzberg reacted to the criticism is where they trod in dog mess, and tracked it through the living room. In a follow up article, intentionally solicited with request to defend the choice of magazine cover, they openly mocked and derided those they accused of “Censorship” for complaining about it. Resnick and Malzberg called them “Liberal-Fascists”, derided the feminists for dare trying to squash their free spirited expression, and commanded them to shut up and never infringe on their right to have a column in a magazine.

    They forgot for a moment that they were not throwing around some comments in a bar with friends, but responding to criticism in the public facing magazine of a trade association. They forgot that their right to free speech is no more or less valid than the right to free speech in opposition. They forgot where the lines are in civil discourse.

    They blithely plunged into controversies, dropped their pants in the trade press, and wore their political affiliations as neon tattoos.

    What did they think the reaction would be?

  74. NelC (@NelC) says:

    The thing is, as any old-school gentleman should know, if someone is insulted by something one has said or done, the genteel action is to apologise. Not provide excuses, not double down on the behaviour that triggered the complaint, not claim that the insulted person is of no significance to oneself, nor ascribing their wounded feelings to whatever feature of the modern world most disgruntles one; nothing but an apology is necessary.

  75. Stan Smith says:

    NelC, that would indeed make sense if the “insult” had any basis in other than mis-reading what one had written in the first place. How in heaven’s name did the term “lady” become demeaning? It’s a misperception on the part of feminists who insist that deference for any reason is an insult….like the women who glare at me for opening a door for them, instead of appreciating the common courtesy. Funny, I’ve rarely had a door opened for me by a woman.

    Why is that?

  76. Ms. Irony says:

    I know this. If I ever get called a “Liberal Fascist” in the future… I’ll prove the accusor wrong by pursuing censorship, screaming slogans, marching around with flags and banners, pushing my fundamentalist ideology down people’s throats, etc.. Yeah, that’ll prove ’em wrong.

    On the flip side, get called a “lady” and I’ll act the same way.

  77. […] (who has since withdrawn from the debate) linked in the comments to my previous post, namely Andrew Fox complaining about “swarm cyber-shaming”, which he likens to witch burning (co…. Andrew Fox is apparently a fan of the Malzberg/Resnick column and doesn’t quite get the […]

  78. KeithM says:

    There’s a new summary up of the timeline of all these events at http://www.slhuang.com/blog/2013/07/02/a-timeline-of-the-2013-sfwa-controversies/.

    One thing to note, for all the people breathing the rarefied air of their self-declared moral high ground concerning the ravening hordes out to strike down free speech is that the outrage didn’t hit because of what Resnick and Malzberg wrote originally: it exploded when they reacted like jackasses and self-righteous people came in to tell us all that the people who became upset because they acted like jackasses should be more civil and not point out that they were acting like jackasses. Because…something something free speech.

    • Andrew says:

      Hi, Keith. Thanks for dropping by and for providing the link. I’d say S.L. Huang’s choice of titles for his or her post says volumes about its authoritativeness: “An Incomplete, Admittedly Biased Timeline.” His or her words, not mine.

  79. Andrew says:

    Note to McIrony: I sent your post to the trash. Re-posting the entirety of someone else’s commentary, particularly commentary with profanity both in its title and text and full of ad homenim attacks, isn’t kosher here. It doesn’t matter that the commentary comes from a well-known professional in the field; she didn’t do herself any favors with that post and only made herself look juvenile, petty, and potty-mouthed. Yours has been only one of two comments I’ve had to trash, the other being from the opposite POV and nothing more than an attempt to incite.

  80. Fail Burton says:

    There is a very simple solution here that will cut through bias and taking a “side.” Establish who it is in the SFF community who is writing non-fiction – Tweets, blogs, articles – obsessively (daily to once a week) about humans as identities. The identities can be Jews, blacks, whites, men, women, Latinos, Muslim, etc. Then, identify who it is who attaches negative characteristics to those groups virtually 100% of the time. It is not rocket science to do this. Let this principle take you where it will, to friend or foe, white person of black, man or woman. Then, ostracize and marginalize these people right out of the community. The people least willing to abide by this very fair way to identify hate speech are the problem children. Kick ’em out. And keep in mind, SFF isn’t the Dept. of Justice or the NAACP or the United Nations.

    • Andrew says:

      FB,we put ourselves in the company of the mau-mauers when we aim to ostracize and marginalize. This is a community whose purpose is expression. Let folks express themselves as they will. Ultimately, the market will decide whose expressions are remunerated. A very well-known and highly awarded SF author has expressed opinions in at least one interview that are in accordance with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Did I find this offensive? Yes. Will I buy his newest book, in which he so gleefully portrays “the Jews” as the villains? Certainly not. Will I read his earlier, classic novels that had absolutely nothing to do with evil Jews? Sure, because there is great value in those books.

      • Fail Burton says:

        I disagree. First of all, when people violate their own stated principles and use notions such as “justice” as a platform for hate speech, that is not merely the opposite side of an opinion, it is not he said, she said, it is wrong, and in this case, it is hate speech. Secondly, as you say, there is plenty of room for one to express themselves inside their literature. As for myself, I will not be reading any SF by David Duke or neo-Nazis anytime soon, and I certainly don’t see that as making me a neo-Nazi if I help to ostracize them, no more so than fighting Nazis in WW II made us Nazis. In recent years, the Southern Poverty Law Center has marginalized the KKK and neo-Nazis by suing them into the ground, to my great delight. That also does not make them KKK. There are limits. We all know where hate speech leads when it is allowed to flourish in the mainstream rather than kicked to the side of the road. It is nice to imagine we are simply strong enough to survive that, but we are not. There are times it gets to the point it needs to be beaten back. Planes don’t fly themselves into skyscrapers nor Jews volunteer for sad train rides. Nip this in the bud. I am tired of being the focus of blame for the failure of others based on nothing more than my appearance. The Anti-Defamation League exists for a reason; they’re not waiting either. In any event, if we all agree on a single principle, where would the problem be. We all agree on law, and we put people in jail.

  81. Raijin says:

    This is all so very nice and pleasant but I would just like to point out that the side calling for civility isn’t the side that is getting the death and rape threats. Have ever so pleasant a day mulling that over.

  82. Raijin says:

    I should additionally point out– the reason I’m commenting today was because this post was linked from another post that was written recently. If you don’t want to continue this discussion, I can certainly understand that.

  83. “8 Female Characters In Literature Who Deserve Their Own Damn Books”

    “Books give readers the unparalleled opportunity to assume the perspective of someone other than themselves, Amanda Scherker says at Hufff Post Books.

    But in assuming the perspective of one character, the reader is often denied the chance to explore the internal joys and woes of other characters in the story. We’d argue that literature is bursting with female characters who deserve stories of their own.

    Here are eight female characters who definitely deserve their own books.”


    Why not just say “8 Characters In Literature Who Deserve Their Own Damn Books” and leave out “Female”? Is the irony here obvious or am I missing the mark?

    • Andrew says:

      Stephen, thanks for sharing that link to the Alma Alexander article. I’m glad you brought it to my attention and to my readers’ attention. Appreciate your taking the time!

  84. […] while Andrew Fox excoriates the recent attempt of the SFWA’s pinkshirted stormtroopers to mau-mau their feminist forebears in considerable […]

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