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A Monday ramble

A reviewer implies “Please don’t read this terrific book”

Yesterday I stumbled upon an enthusiastic review of a new apocalyptic fantasy novel. The book sounded different and interesting.

I nearly stumbled back out again when the first words out of the reviewer’s keyboard were a snotty complaint about how too much SF and fantasy has historically been written by and for white men. The reviewer didn’t literally tell males and Caucasians not to read the new book, but might as well have.

The tale sounded terrific, though (once she finally started talking about, you know, the actual plot and characters instead identity politics), so I queued Trail of Lightning at the library.

And I wondered … What do people imagine they’re going to gain by kicking prospective readers in the balls? Seriously, how are snide, exclusionary remarks good for book sales or anything else?

Trail of Lightning sounds like a promising story from a promising new writer. The fact that Rebecca Roanhorse is a woman of complex racial identity whose novel is set in the Navajo homeland of the Four Corners ought simply to make it more interesting to any curious reader.

I haven’t read it yet so I don’t know. We’ll see.

But not one of the thousands of SF/F readers I’ve met would ever think, “I don’t want to read a book because it’s by a woman. Or by a mixed-race person. Or draws on Native American tradition.”

Most would, however, conclude, “I don’t want to be lectured at about my racial or sexual incorrectness.”

Here’s a chance to build bridges with storytelling, a chance to educate through entertainment. Instead writers and reviewers are constructing walls.

Unfortunately Roanhorse herself seems very much a part of the whole ‘you’re too white’ movement that has riven SF and fantasy. You guys who’ve been watching those controversies (which I haven’t, except from a distance) probably know more about that that I do.

None of those infamous white male SF/F authors ever said, “Only other white males should read my books.” Who benefits when female minority authors look down their noses at prospective fans who just happen to be a different race or sex?

It’s a damn shame that we can’t simply go in peace to enjoy good writing, wherever it may come from.

#WalkAway: Hope it becomes a movement

Could it be? A growing number of those who are supposedly “protected” by the PC/SJW left are beginning to catch on to how divisive and generally unwholesome that business is.

There’s a new #WalkAway trend by members of traditional left-wing constituencies who can’t stomach attacks on free speech, intolerance of differences, and being used as political pawns.

How big a movement, how strong a trend this is going to be, who knows? But it all began with a viral video posted by a handsome gay man who’s had enough.

Problem is, where are these bold dissenters going to walk TO after having walked away?

(H/T Wendy the Great.)

Some sanity from Canada

MJR sends three guidelines for politically crazed opponents to return to Planet Sanity.

Happy Independence Day!

Finally, because I hate being expected to perform expected blog rituals on expected occasions, I’ll join the smart crowd in wishing you …

Happy Independence Day, July 2!

And Happy Independence Day, again!


  1. Desertrat 1
    Desertrat 1 July 2, 2018 11:03 am

    I have found that some fiction is not as well done by women authors as by men. Hard-science science fiction is one example. And in general, the gals don’t do as well in dealing with guns and violence. That said, there’s a fair number of guys who don’t know nearly enough about guns to keep me from screaming in agony. 🙂

    All in all, though, if the yarn is–overall–a good tale, I’m unconcerned as to sex, race, politics, whatever, of the author.

    Read the blurb at Amazon. Appears interesting except I don’t care for magic.

  2. Bear
    Bear July 2, 2018 11:14 am

    “If a neutral judge can’t tell the difference between the arguments of a true Conservative and those of the Liberal trying to “pass” as a Conservative, then we can conclude that the Liberal does genuinely comprehend the Conservative point of view.

    “How many Liberals out there think they could seriously pass as Conservatives, and vice versa?”

    I’m neither Con nor Lib, but… A few years back, I did a parody “global warming” fundraiser and video. To put the video together, I took a bunch of leftist, “enviromentalist” talking points together, and deliberately made them so over the top that no sane person could possibly take it seriously. A well known science and environment site linked to it.

    The discussion is comments were… freaking amazing. I’d have to go back and count comments, but it seemed like at least two-thirds of the folks thought it was real. They couldn’t tell the difference between serious global warming types and someone pointedly making fun of them.

    Hell, some people were still arguing it after I ID myself and said it was a joke (and listed the clues in the video, which included links to that very web site).

  3. Claire
    Claire July 2, 2018 11:21 am

    “I have found that some fiction is not as well done by women authors as by men.”

    And vice versa. Can you picture some guy writing Pride and Prejudice or Uncle Tom’s Cabin?

    OTOH, we should be richer for a diversity of storytellers, not poorer.

  4. fred
    fred July 2, 2018 1:41 pm

    The only thing Ive ever noticed about an author was did I like it or not. You mean there is some other criteria????

  5. Joel
    Joel July 2, 2018 1:49 pm

    OTOH, we should be richer for a diversity of storytellers, not poorer.

    Unfortunately, “diversity” has been redefined to mean “‘Progressives’ of a multitude of races and genders.”

    These days the mainstream of science fiction seems to have decided that a diversity of actual viewpoints is a very bad thing – and if you want to cause a whole convention full of heart attacks, just go to the Hugo Awards and loudly say, “I have found that some fiction is not as well done by women authors as by men.” Those who don’t clutch their pearls and faint dead away will lynch you, while Vox Day and a handful of his homies sit in a far corner and golf clap.

  6. Mike
    Mike July 2, 2018 2:06 pm

    For a person to consider not reading a novel because of the gender or ethnicity of the author, well that’s just plain silly. This attitude closes so many doors to different viewpoints, it’s ridiculous. For me, it’s how well the first chapter grabs my attention.

  7. Joel
    Joel July 2, 2018 3:17 pm

    I don’t know how many readers do that, if any. I certainly agree with Claire that it’s absurd for a reviewer to presume to demand that white male readers avert their polluting gaze from pages sacredly scribbled upon by a writer of sanctified color and gender. In fact it kind of makes me mad.

  8. progunfred
    progunfred July 2, 2018 6:20 pm

    I agree, SF (strictly SF, men and machines, no stupid magic or dragons) is better by men. All the best dystopia novels are by women though. It’s the world building that is better. Men are all about war. Speaking of which…

    Ya know, history shows us what happens when white men get angry about something. Million man armies demolishing whole continents, single weapons that vaporize entire cities. Somebody should tell somebody to calm down.

  9. Joel
    Joel July 2, 2018 6:55 pm

    Wasn’t planning to take it quite that far, at least not for a first offense…

  10. Kurt
    Kurt July 2, 2018 11:00 pm

    Andre Norton
    Lois McMaster Bujold

    Those two are equal to Heinlein, and top Asimov and Clarke.

    Women can write good SF as well as any man…


  11. ellendra
    ellendra July 3, 2018 2:28 am

    I so seldom even look at the author’s name on a sci-fi book*, that it’s a little bizarre to see people wrapped up in identities. I don’t have the faintest idea what race or gender wrote most of the books on my shelf.

    (*Exceptions made for certain authors.)

  12. Gottabe Contrarian
    Gottabe Contrarian July 3, 2018 2:15 pm

    Sci-fi had been long overdue for some pushy diversity types to come in and shake things up. I remember reading Norman Spinrad’s “Agent of Chaos” (1967) because it was given a rave recommendation by some liberty-loving sort. The book covers multiple groups vying for control in the galaxy in the 23rd century and has many characters that come and go, speaking in that silly bad-sci-fi way. None of the characters are women. Not on the galactic Hegemonic council, not on either rebel force, not even bit parts or wives or lovers or daughters or nothing. This is never explained; it’s not like women vanished from the universe one day and this is a plot point. They just never are mentioned in the book. It’s just weird, but the sort of thing that apparently went unnoticed by the author, the editor, the publisher, and the fans at the time because of the weird boys club that sci fi was. It’s bound to improve the genre if it’s held to better standards than that.

  13. Claire
    Claire July 3, 2018 3:39 pm

    “It’s bound to improve the genre if it’s held to better standards than that.”

    You’re judging the entire SF genre by one author? Who wasn’t even one of its classic writers, but who was one of the attitudinal, non-mainstream “new wave” group that came along much later to shake things up and deliberately offend? And who was most active 40 years ago?

    But it’s true that the “golden age” of SF wasn’t so golden for female characters, who were mostly treated as accessories. I remember laughing and rolling my eyes at that crap clear back in the 1970s.

    But here’s the thing. The genre was ripe for change back then. And change it did. White male writers began broadening their social horizons. Women and minority authors began entering the field and by the 1980s — more than 30 years ago — many of them had become quite prominent.

    And you know what? Nobody objected. Nobody put roadblocks in their path. Nobody tried to keep them out. They were accepted and they enriched the fields of SF and fantasy. THIRTY YEARS AGO — and continuing.

    So the idea that modern SF has been some how unfair to women and minorities or is driven by white male sexism is just plain silly. And these people viewing themselves as pioneers are wrong; they’re actually latecomers.

    But wherever they fit in their chosen genre, my point stands: It is counterproductive to preemptively turn away prospective readers and fans because you don’t like their genetic makeup. It won’t earn you a broader audience. It won’t sell more books. It won’t build bridges. It just makes you look like a faux martyr to a cause that was actually won decades ago.

    Not to mention it confirms that the biggest racists and sexists in the room … aren’t the white men.

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