manifesta: (Battle Eyeliner)
ALSO EDITED TO ADD: Please read [personal profile] ephemere's post Patalim first. (Trigger warning for descriptions of violence.)  I just now ran across it and it is so, so much more eloquent and important. I tried to choose a quote that best encapsulates it, but you should really read the whole thing. Go on. This post will still be here when you get back.

Elizabeth Bear really, really should have gone away and thought long and hard before commenting.

Words associated with historical representations are not "mythologized."
my·thol·o·gize
To convert into myth; mythicize.
1. To construct or relate a myth.
2. To interpret or write about myths or mythology. #
The background behind "deathmarch" is real. There is nothing mythic about respecting the experiences of those who have been systematically dehumanized and slaughtered or the people who belong to one or more cultures scarred by those experiences.

While I do not equate "deathmarch" with gender, sexuality, or ethnic insults, they belong to the same spectrum of violence and reflect very similar attitudes. "Deathmarch" resides at the very end of that spectrum, but casual insults that enable some groups of people to marginalize other groups of people and wittle them down to lesser-than-human are at its start. Tell me: does choosing not to use "gay" as an insult mythologize the word? I ask because I have a feeling that people who will cheerfully defend the use of "deathmarch" would be less inclined to defend the use of less socially acceptable insults such as "gay," even  though those insults do not hold the same resonance as a term that implies large-scale murder.

Words have power. Pretending they don't have power, or shouldn't have power, only increases the power they do have--through ignorance. By using words related to marginalized groups' identities or experiences in such a casual context, we choose to erase and mythologize what those words represent.

From [personal profile] megwrites:
"Because what's a deathmarch to you, after all? Just a word for you to play with. Because it's not part of your history as a white citizen of the U.S. Because you don't look back and get to say "I don't know what nation any of my ancestors come from because they were rounded up, enslaved, had their names stripped, and became animals to those who bred, sold, and used them like property." Because nobody's ever rounded up your friends and neighbors and family members and shipped them like boxes or cattle to a place where they were intended to be worked to death or killed outright. Because nobody's ever come to you and said "sorry, this home you live in isn't yours, gotta go" and held a gun to you and make you walk from GEORGIA TO OKLAHOMA. Because your home, the place where you reside, has not seen active aggression from a foreign combatant in centuries. Because of course murder and torture and genocide are banal to you. They don't touch or affect you personally or culturally, so why shouldn't you play around with those words.

They don't hurt you after all. So why shouldn't you say "Soup Nazi" or "deathmarch" or any of those things. It isn't like it hurts you, and if it doesn't hurt you, it's obviously not important, is it?" #
Edited to add a few things and shuffle the post around for clarity. I apologize for any confusion.
manifesta: (Battle Eyeliner)

A new SF anthology is coming out titled "Before They Were Giants." Of the 15 contributing authors, only 1 is a woman.

[livejournal.com profile] cassiphone's periodic table of SF women:

"One of the most frustrating responses I heard to the ‘Before they were Giants’ discussion, itself the latest in a long line of TOC rows, was the kneejerk “but there just aren’t as many women who are giants in the field.”

"[...] Because of course there were women. And it’s time to stop and think about the fact that the majority of authors considered “giants” in the history of field are male. Is it really because their books were better? Because what they were saying was more important? Because more people were talking about them, critiquing them, being influenced by them? Are we absolutely certain that none of those things could have been affected by societal pressures other than the pure “quality” of the text?"
The editor of the anthology responded here. (Also indicates that nonwhite and LGBTQ authors were not considered.)

[livejournal.com profile] strangedave on the lack of female representation in SF anthologies. Apparently and a few others have been criticized for criticizing the lack of diversity.
"And we are still having this conversation in the SF field after at least 35 years. If just politely helping people become aware of the issue worked, we wouldn't still be talking about it. And yet, it keeps happening, again and again. People are still putting together anthologies without even thinking about gender as an issue — and the only way to make them think about the issue is to make sure it isn't thought of as just a nicety, just another thing to try and improve that fellow editors will give you hints about (like font choice, or cover layout), but rather as something that is a major mistake if you get it wrong, something that will attract not mild criticism but anger. Anger is entirely appropriate. No one should expect not to get publicly called on their big mistakes, rather we should all endeavour not to make them, and learn to handle them gracefully when we do (as, to his credit, Sutter largely has)."

When fail is put on the interwebs, I consider it free game. If it's relatively isolated incident that doesn't impact a ton of people, I might contact the author(s) privately or on their own site and address the issue there. But this is an anthology that we're talking about; it's going to be on physical bookshelves and it's going to impact people who will never run across the discussions that are happening right now on the internet. That anthology is not going to come with a disclaimer that apologizes for its silencing of nonwhite, LGBTQ, and female SF writers. And so if the only option availiable is to discuss its inherent privilege all over the internet, then that's what I intend to do.

For additional reading: A partial podcast transcript about the debacle.

manifesta: (Never Turn Down Tea)
In a guest post at The Rejectionist, Zetta Elliott applied Peggy McIntosh's Unpacking the Knapsack principles to the publishing industry.
"1. You can submit a manuscript and it will likely be judged by someone of your race—even at a multicultural press.


2. You can query a number of agents who have extensive experience selling manuscripts by authors (and to editors) who share your race.

3. You can be pretty sure that the book buyer in a large chain or indie bookstore is someone of your race.

4. You can be pretty sure that your book—if it’s lucky enough to get reviewed by the major outlets—will be assessed by someone of your race who operates with an appreciation of your culture’s particular literary tradition(s).

5. You can attend numerous children’s literature conferences with programming that reflects your interests and/or your culture, you can network with industry professionals who share your race, and otherwise feel comfortable as a member of the majority.

6. You can write about anyone who lives anywhere and be accepted by many as an extraordinarily creative person and/or an expert on topics outside of your lived experience."

And the list goes on.
manifesta: (An's Fury)
I apologize if this has already made its rounds through my Dwircle, but in case anyone's missed it, the wonderful [personal profile] ephemere wrote a beautiful, heart-wrenching response to Charles Tan's recent essay. There's so much of it that I want to quote, but as a white, privileged individual, I particularly appreciated this part:
"So (and I address this now to the theoretical audience of those on the other, privileged end of the inequality) if you, as a white person, are afraid of writing about us: then be afraid. Carry in your heart the fear of doing further injustice to a people into whose blood oppression has become so incorporated that our institutions and our media echo with the dual strains of self-loathing and adulation for those who are not us. Live with the anxiety of questioning your assumptions about a people that is not more American than America, not a race composed only of tourist guides and call-center agents and overseas foreign workers and shoe-crazy society matrons and celebrity politicians, not your "little brown brothers and sisters"; whose richness and diversity and pursuit of individual identity all too often escape the surface view to which most observers are confined. Confront your blind spots and your privilege in having the luxury of overlooking this inequality because you aren't disenfranchised by it. Cast away the viewpoints that tag our similarities as proof of the good points of the Philippines and relegate our differences to the status of "disadvantage" or "compensation for..." in those instances when you do choose to acknowledge that we aren't "just like you". Grasp the difficulty that comes with having to ask yourself whether you are condescending, whether you are offending beliefs that are not held without reason, whether you are perpetuating a mindset that plays at well-intentioned assistance while diminishing fundamental freedoms to choose our own goods. We've had 'well-intentioned assistance'; the Americans called it benevolent rule. Delve into our history, the blood of our politics and our wars; soak yourself in it, in the grit and the grime of our daily living, until you understand why we rage and why we have cut out our tongues."
I've written and re-written what I want to say here about a dozen times. As a white writer, I feel like [personal profile] ephemere has given an answer to an old question: whether white writers should write characters of color. A simple "yes" or "no" isn't good enough. Sitting with the fear, constantly challenging one's own privilege, acknowledge of one's inexpertise... self-awareness and respect... those aren't the this-or-that answers we often look for. The question is complicated, and so is the answer. Avoiding writing characters of color out of fear boils down to avoiding the fear, and is a privilege. As is writing characters of color without keeping that fear in the forefront, because I think that fear, that awareness mingled with accountability, is what is required to deconstruct privilege, and sweeping it under the bed does nothing toward that.
manifesta: (Dangerous)
It seems Bloomsbury publishing has fucked up yet again. They have whitewashed another cover.

Some of the comments make me wince--that this is shocking because they're "colorblind," that people simply don't notice covers, etc.--but the overall response, now that one has been galvanized, seems to be outrage. Even Jezebel has picked up on it.

There've been calls to boycott Bloomsbury, but boycotting buying the books doesn't just harm the publisher, it harms people who likely do not have much or any voice in the cover design process: the author, the agent, etc. One commenter summed it up well:

"See... this isn't so much a problem with Bloomsbury as it is most of the publishing world. What happens is that a cover artist will often get a little piece of the book, maybe a particular scene, and be asked to draw from that. It's often the same thing with someone writing the blurb for the back cover... they're given so little of the full product to work with that they'll get glaring obvious details wrong. Certainly Bloomsbury should have done a better job of getting the information to the right people, but they are by no means the only company to have this sort of problem."
This kind of racism--yes, you heard me--is not limited to a single publisher. It's a flaw of the industry because the industry perpetuates this short-cut bullshit, and our society 1. doesn't realize it and 2. effectively condones it through passive or active silence. One blogger made the statement that bloggers don't typically review books before they're published, but the author hosted a major web-based viral contest plus other contests where she gave away ARCs. This isn't an instance of "oops, teehee!" but a failure of the publisher to ensure that their covers accurately reflect the race of the character(s) in the book(s) and a failure of the people who have had a chance to read the book to call them out on it. I don't say this to point fingers, but to illustrate how white privilege operates. When publishers don't take the extra time to confirm and/or blatantly disregard the fact that the character being portrayed is NOT White, that's privilege. Being able to take a short-cut and assume the character is White, that's privilege. When reviewers either don't notice or don't make the connection between the character's race and the cover's inaccurate representation of that character's race, that's privilege.*

The author's response to the controversy is pending.

ETA: Here it is. Hmm.

*Which isn't to say that I haven't done the very same thing.**
**Which isn't to say that my having done so makes it any more justifiable or better.  
manifesta: (Default)
Jacqueline Carey revealed her cover for Namaah's Curse! I'm not sure what to think about it...



I would hazard that this cover stems from the Ch'in, or the pseudo-Asian culture in Carey's new Kushiel trilogy. Much criticism has been leveled at her stereotypical portrayal of Asian cultures, and I wonder if this cover is just another extension of such ignorance.
manifesta: (Black Jeweled Queen)
So. I wake up at 6:30AM so that our group can meet at 7:30AM in the clinic. After arranging the room to our specifications, we went into the back where the hidden camera equipment is located... and discovered that no one had brought a DVD. No DVD, no tape of the room, no data, no experiment. We had less than 15 minutes before participants would be arriving. One of our group members booked it to the other side of campus, bought two DVDs, and got back in 14. We set up, we're awesome, we're waiting for participants to arrive... and waiting...

Turns out our experiment wasn't posted online. Which meant that no one could even sign-up let alone arrive.

After all the stress, one of our group members burst into tears and had to leave. The rest of us tried to pull it together and rescheduled the experiment, which is now online and hopefully being signed-up for. The graduate TA was very kind and didn't look at all pissed off that we had just wasted her time. She even tried to help us find DVDs when we realized we didn't have any. We're going to buy her coffee in thanks and apology.


In contrast to last week's racefail, I stumbled onto The Advantages of Being a White Writer on Justine Larbalestier's blog. Not only is the entry itself is good, the comments are either well moderated or the general community of her blog is thoughtful and articulate.

As someone who's sick of the bullshit, I really appreciated her beginning statement:
"I know that the title of this post is going to lead to some comments insisting that it’s not true that white writers have any advantages and that many white people are just as oppressed as people of colour. I don’t want to have that conversation. So I’m going to oppress the white people who make those comments by deleting them. I don’t do it with any malice. I do it because I want to have a conversation about white privilege in publishing. We can have the discussion about class privilege and regional privilege and other kinds of privilege some other time. Those other privileges are very real. But I don’t want this discussion to turn into some kind of oppression Olympics."
Go read it; it touches on some points regarding the intersection of race, white privilege, and publishing that I hadn't thought of. I only wish more blogs were moderated this way.

I also really liked Larbalestier's On Hating Female Characters entry:
"Yet still readers call Isabelle (of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy) a “slut” and have crushes on Jace who’s much more slutty than Isabelle. What can we do to shift such sexist assumptions when they’re so deeply ingrained in so many of us? Because even when we write books that challenge such stereotypes, readers put them back into the text by reading Isabelle as a slut and Jace as Hotty McHott Hero."
And I think this comment said it well:
"Which is why no one has a problem with girls reading a book about a boy written by a girl (Harry Potter), but people think it’s cool and different if a boy reads a book about a girl written by a girl (Twilight). And why Nora Roberts is not the same household name as Stephen King."
manifesta: (Dangerous)
Nathan Bransford recently revisited one of his older posts on themes in queries.
"So you know how you spent four or more years in college learning about what books mean and how to analyze novels for hidden meaning, and where you learned that the best books are the ones with subtext upon which you can write a twenty page paper on the use of metaphor as an elucidation of the philosophical constructs of the protagonist's society?

Yeah. Forget all that."
I kept telling my English teachers in high school that Elie Wiesel's Night doesn't have as much symbology as they thought it did, but they never believed me. Here's my favorite part:
"...so don't tell me what your novel is about. Tell me what happens. And hopefully you've written a novel in which things actually do happen. Because I like novels where things happen. Happening is good."
In the past I have had pseudo-writer friends who think themselves quite literary and want to write stories about the struggles of humankind. And when I ask them about what happens in their book, they talk about the pain the MC endures, the major themes, and describes the plot in very, very vague terms. Which means they don't really describe the plot at all.

Not that themes are inherently bad. However, if the theme of the story isforbidden love, then the reader will pick up on itif you describe the story as "two star-crossed lovers fight to be together." This is a straight-forward explaination of what actually happens.


Over at Dear Author, today there's a special guest post on cultural appropriation. It's a really wonderful discussion on the intersection of culture, white privilege, and romance novels. I highly recommend reading the entire thing.
"Romance suffers from the same problem SF/F does. It’s very, very white. It would also seem that readers are far more okay with reading about vampires and werewolves and demons and angels than characters of colour. That is not okay. Think about what this means for a second. And imagine, if you will, being erased in stories or always in the background, a victim, evil, maybe the best friend or sidekick. . .but never the hero of your own story. This is what appropriation does to people of colour."
Unfortunately, I knew before clicking the link that there would be a ridiculous amount of racefail going down in the comments. I responded to a few in the thread, but here are some extra special gems:
Lisa: "What an annoying post. The only point of it that I can see is to try to make me feel guilty because I like to to read about white people in love. I’m sorry but I don’t have the energy to read with all my great sense of “white guilt” for the racial sins of the past, present and future."
You don't have the energy to read about your white privilege? If only nonwhites didn't have to live with your racism!
Amber: "And as a “white” person living in rural America, most of them DON’T apply to me."

Caligi: "My point is that these “white” romances don’t even represent white culture all that well either. I don’t totally accept the term “white privilege.” You think white people are really that different? White people are as diverse a group as Asians and black Americans. Some of us play the game and succeed in politics or business, and the rest of us are shut out."
The majority of the comments were insightful. However, there was at least one occasion when a person of color made a statement about racism and white privilege and was informed that they were off-topic.

There are days like today where I just want to walk away from other people's ignorance. Unfortunately, there are people who don't have the option to simply walk away.