August 5th, 2009


Diversity in ToCs

Here's a really awesome post in Tempest Bradford's blog about the issue of diversity in science fictional anthologies.

To wit: when anthologies like this hit the Internets and we look at the TOC it’s very easy to notice that there are no women. It is therefore very easy to comment on and get angry about this fact.It is also easy for editors to come along and address only this exclusion, usually by saying “I didn’t pay attention to the bylines” and “women don’t write the kind of stories I was looking for” or “I don’t want to include them just as tokens”. Because at that point editors can pass it off as taste, and not even one based on gender, but on types of fiction.


When one notices that these anthologies also don’t include any writers of color, either male or female, that complicates the issue, doesn’t it?

The same mindset is at work in both cases. It’s not “women/POC don’t write the kind of stories I was looking for,” it’s: I only like/read/understand/connect to/care for stories about white, male concerns.

That is a problem. Because SF, be it mammoth or mindblowing or sciencey, is not just about white, male concerns.

Which I think kinda nails it on the head really really succinctly. Because the bit in the whole "taste" debate that I have been mulling over and trying to digest is the idea that writing about people, being character focused or indeed concentrating on telling a story about life, is somehow not science fiction, is considered to be some different kind of story/genre in which no "plot" is needed or is not as "valid" in some way. When really, when someone says to me that they don't like stories that women write because they're not plot- or idea-driven and are more about (female) characters, aren't they really saying, "I'm not interested in reading about people" or more so ... "I'm not interested in reading about people who are not me"? Which I spose, in a history of a genre where only the people who were very much like white males, actually got published, up until now, they kind of got around it by assuming that science fiction was the kind of material that white men wrote rather than the material white men wrote only being one part of science fiction.

What always strikes me as odd is science fiction is about ideas, it's about crossing new frontiers, exploring the great beyond, finding the Other and seeing what it might be like, meeting new species and trying to communicate, taking technology to the next conclusion. Playing around. Experimenting. Trying new things. Being different. Being unique. Opening our minds.

And yet ... and yet and yet and yet ... the rest of us are still not allowed to play. Not really. And because we don't conform :)

The post by Bradford came after the announcement of the TOC for the Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF. In which there is no female nor person of colour within it. Scroll down to Paul Di Filippo's comment, partially quoted below:

Every single commenter here seems to me to be committing a logical fallacy of tremendous dimension, one so big it distorts entire worldviews:


I think we can argue the above angle, when like we get at least one instance of representation occurring.


Female empowerment - it used to be called feminism

Whilst I was writing the last post, a really interesting link to a post about rape arrived in my inbox from a friend.

The way men and women interact on a daily basis is the way they interact when rape occurs. The social dynamics we see at play between men and women are the same social dynamics that cause men to feel rape is okay, and women to feel they have no right to object. And if you accept those social interactions as normal and appropriate in your day to day life, there is absolutely no reason you should be shocked that rape occurs without screaming, without fighting, without bruising, without provocation, and without prosecution. Behavior exists on a continuum. Rape doesn’t inhabit its own little corner of the world, where everything is suddenly all different now. The behavior you accept today is the behavior that becomes rape tomorrow. And you very well might accept it then, too.

and this:

For anybody who has ever watched the gendered social interactions of women — watched a woman get browbeaten into accepting attention she doesn’t want, watched a woman get interrupted while speaking, watched a woman deny she is upset at being insulted in public, watched a woman get grabbed because of what she was wearing, watched a woman stop arguing — and said and done nothing, you never have the right to ever ask, “Why didn’t she fight back?”

She didn’t fight back because you told her not to. Ever. Ever. You told her that was okay, and necessary, and right.

You didn’t give her a caveat. You didn’t say, “Unless…” You said, “Good for you, shutting up and backing down 99% of the time. Too bad that 1% of the time makes you a fucking whore who deserved it.”

And funnily enough, this is precisely where my head is at right now. Ok well, not precisely. But I'll explain. Recently I found myself in a situation that is familiar, detestable and one I usually put my head in the sand over. It's the situation where I find myself not liking the way something is going and I want to say, "stop I want to get off!" My personal history with interacting with people is to not say anything because the other person is happy and tripping along unsuspectingly. And if I just don't mention it, I can squelch the feeling of discomfort. Sure I can. I really really really hate telling someone the one thing they don't want to hear. I am NOT the person to come and ask if you look fat in that dress. I am not the person to come and ask if you smell, or if people don't like you or if you were a total asshole in that meeting. One of the aspects of my personality is to smooth things over and make people feel comfortable about themselves. And telling them what they don't want to hear goes against that.

And that overwrites how I feel in a situation. And if I told you all the times I fucking wished I'd spoken up and said that something was not ok, you'd be appalled. Am I a woman, therefore, who has been in sexual encounters of questionable consent? Yes.

One of the things that I have grappled with in the aftermath of the end of my relationship with the ex is ... How the fuck did I get here? Even last night, as I was working through my CD collection and finding music I just love more than anything, and haven't played in years and years, I was trying to understand how I got to a point where I put someone else and what they wanted/liked over my own joy and happiness.

The process back from something like that doesn't happen in a day or a year. And it happens with each new encounter you have with each person. This changing of personal behaviour. And for me, this reasserting of my own personal boundaries. Of stating what they are, first to myself, then to others and then to actually enforcing them. Three steps which I normally massively fail across.

I recently had an interaction with someone where the way they made me feel, because of the words they were using, was upsetting to me. It took me a while to muster up the bravery to turn around and express that. And at first I did it softly and perhaps not clearly enough, and the words were not heard. And then, as it continued I needed to voice it more firmly. And then more resolutely. And at that point, the person was quite taken aback, didn't know where I was coming from, hadn't intended it that way and was I guess hurt that they were seen that way. This would be the head on encounter with the thing I most try to avoid - the repurcussion of having gone against the grain. What became interesting though was normally, if I get to this point in an encounter, I would apologise to smooth it over and let it go. But see, I wasn't really in the wrong here. I spoke up and said how I feel. I felt bad - belittled, talked down to, incorrect assumptions were being made about who I am and then at this point, after having expressed how I felt, I continued to feel unheard and unseen. Because the other person seemed more concerned that they were being misrepresented and wanted to have their case heard about how my own interpretations of the interaction were wrong. The interchange felt like the other person wanted me to cross the line and give them a hug to make them feel better without them ever having remotely considered doing the same to me, when I had voiced being the hurt party, first.

The whole incident was a complete miscommunication in that the other person never understand what I was saying and never ever demonstrated differently and then suggested that we agree to disagree. Normally I would have crossed the line and made it all better. It's what I do. And I would have swallowed the fact that I had said, "hey you made me feel bad here" and then moved on. I'd have given the other person a free pass to say that it's ok to hurt my feelings, not apologise, not resolve to do better or differently next time simply because they didn't get what I was expressing.

But I've been thinking a lot about this enforcing of boundaries. This not getting into situations where there are "understandings about behaviour" that I am not comfortable with and being in relationships, of any kind, where my skin crawls and my stomach churns but my face is plastered with a nice sunny smile. Cause it's bullshit and not fucking real. And I decided I'd rather be single that do that shit again. And if someone can't understand what I am communicating, then they don't get me. End of.

Maybe this encounter was over something silly, or small. But as the conversation continued, I realised it was the principle of the dialogue - the way it worked, and how people don't really know how to deal with women when they stand up and say no. Or speak out about something that maybe normally noone ever did. It became about the fact that I had set a boundary - speaking to me in a particular way was not cool. And once the boundary was set, there was no way I was picking it up and moving it for someone else. And it was interesting to watch what happens when you just don't play.

Because when you take the behaviour of "when you do play" and you say ok, well this is small, I'll let it slide, when do you move across the spectrum to when it's not small and you should no longer play? And when do other people pick up the signals about when not to push forward for what *they want from you*? I said earlier I had been in situations of questionable consent sexually, that's a plural I'm using too. And if I talked about it, which I don't want to, I would tell you that it comes down to the fact that I don't enforce my boundaries. Ever. Society would say that's a "technicality" yeah? When you feel bullied or coerced by someone who is not a stranger or an enemy, technicality comes into play.

But for me, I met someone earlier this year who blew my mind. About a bunch of things. And showed me that the idea of "technicality" is bullshit. I realised I had never ever before spent time with a man who actually *saw me*. Saw who I am, in every moment that he spent with me. Saw when I was happy or sad or uncomfortable. And actually *looked* to see me. People come into your life for all sorts of reasons and they might stay a day or a lifetime but the lessons they teach you are no less valuable the shorter the stay. And this friend taught me that I should not settle for anything less from the people I am with, friends and lovers. That I should not accept less than *being seen*.

And that has changed the way I interact with the world. And even when it's a small thing about being seen or heard, it represents a much bigger spectrum. And next time, and every other time, I will enforce my own boundaries, because noone else will ever enforce or abide by them unless I do.

Horn Spotting!

genrereviews posted a review of Horn by Peter M Ball.


I like the comic book stylings on the cover. It's different, and well put together, and imagine my astonishment when I realize the artwork is emphasizing the toughness of the chick rather than her various feminine assets. Colour me impressed! What's really catching my attention, though, is the unicorn skeleton in the background. Hey, what's that all about? Perhaps I should check this out. (And indeed I did, hence the review. Yeah.)

In a lot of ways, Horn sticks pretty close to what have become the standards of urban fantasy. ... On the other hand... dude, the underaged victim has been raped to death by a
unicorn in a nasty snuff film.

Obviously, this is one dark and twisted story. I spent awhile trying to figure out how to review this one, because the dark elements are so unexpected it spun my head around. It's not the sort of thing I could recommend to anyone, but odds are good if you read "unicorn" and "rape" in the same sentence and instead of having your brain explode, you thought "wow, that sounds really interesting and original," this is probably something you should be looking deeper into, because a premise like this one isn't something you're going to come across again.

Copies of Horn are available from Twelfth Planet Press, Pulp Fiction and Fantastic Planet.


some final closing thoughts for the day

1. I own a lot more soundtrack albums than I would have thought I did.

2. Tossed one toiletry item out. Culled another 2 CDs. Digitised yet more CDs. Cooked dinner ... not quite a fail.

3. Noone is all bad or all good. And it's good to remember that.

4. Novellas are long. They don't get shorter when putting off editing them.