(I’m mirroring this post by Sarah A. Hoyt over at Otherwhere Gazette because, well, it needs to be said.)
You know, over this entire argument on who is or is not a fan as over the entire argument over what games should or shouldn’t be enjoyed (if you think that’s not what the entire #Gamergate kerfuffle is about you haven’t paid attention. It took about minus three seconds for the woman accused of corrupting journalists to come back with “you’re just stupid men who play games for escapism” or some such pronouncement), and the argument over what science fiction people should read (because for the SJW’s “value” means “supports my agenda) I keep finding the same two thoughts over and over and over (until it reels, the mind) in blogs posting on the controversies.
And by thoughts I mean… I’m not quite sure what I mean, because I don’t think anyone sane, or indeed anyone with room-temperature IQ can believe the arguments are about this.
Yet the comments come, again and again, on all these sites, almost verbatim.
The first one is “If by believing women, minorities and people of different sexual orientations are entitled to equal rights and equal treatments I want to destroy science fiction, then bring it on.”
The other is “You’re all just bigots, afraid of women/minorities/small furry animals writing/starring in science fiction and fantasy.” (I might have made up the furry animals thing.)
Of course I know what is happening, rhetorically speaking with the first one. This is a motte and bailey argument strategy.
The original Shackel paper is intended as a critique of post-modernism. Post-modernists sometimes say things like “reality is socially constructed”, and there’s an uncontroversially correct meaning there. We don’t experience the world directly, but through the categories and prejudices implicit to our society; for example, I might view a certain shade of bluish-green as blue, and someone raised in a different culture might view it as green. Okay.
Then post-modernists go on to say that if someone in a different culture thinks that the sun is light glinting off the horns of the Sky Ox, that’s just as real as our own culture’s theory that the sun is a mass of incandescent gas a great big nuclear furnace. If you challenge them, they’ll say that you’re denying reality is socially constructed, which means you’re clearly very naive and think you have perfect objectivity and the senses perceive reality directly.
The writers of the paper compare this to a form of medieval castle, where there would be a field of desirable and economically productive land called a bailey, and a big ugly tower in the middle called the motte. If you were a medieval lord, you would do most of your economic activity in the bailey and get rich. If an enemy approached, you would retreat to the motte and rain down arrows on the enemy until they gave up and went away. Then you would go back to the bailey, which is the place you wanted to be all along.
So the motte-and-bailey doctrine is when you make a bold, controversial statement. Then when somebody challenges you, you claim you were just making an obvious, uncontroversial statement, so you are clearly right and they are silly for challenging you. Then when the argument is over you go back to making the bold, controversial statement.
But that doesn’t explain the sheer weirdness of the second one. And when you think about the first it is also obviously strange, because what does wanting equal treatment for women and minorities have to do with making sure all the Hugos go to women, which is a patently Unequal treatment? (And no, it is not to compensate for women being discriminated against all along. I mean, I’m sorry, but that was always nonsensical on the face of it. How can anyone who thinks he or she is for “justice” want to punish present-day males who might otherwise deserve an award for the issues of SF 80 years ago? Or reward people who have never been discriminated against for “past discrimination” against other women who simply happened to share ONE physical characteristic with them? But all that aside, this rampant discrimination never happened. (http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/11/07/the-women-some-women-cant-see/ – and yes, I know that Kim Stanley Robinson is a man, and I think I got China Mieville out of there. A fan compiled this list and I was having keyboard/and/mouse issues, so some things I thought I’d x-ed out stayed in. Which doesn’t mean much as the overwhelming majority of these are still women and received awards well before the present anno domino.)
As for the second one it is … inexplicable. I mean, for all the sense it makes it might as well be written in Martian. No. I take that back. Some fictional Martians are very logical.
I mean, a lot of the people opposing the status quo in science fiction organizations/awards/traditional publishing are women. Toni Weisskopf and myself have got pilloried for “not being real women” precisely because of that.
More importantly the indie side is vibrant with women, quite a few of them my friends.
So what is the point of saying that we are afraid of women/people of color/differently gendered people?
If I were afraid of all of those I would have not only to cut relations with 90% of my friends, but I would have to run screaming when I brush my teeth in front of the mirror every morning. (Not that I haven’t considered fleeing, mind you. The morning is unkind to middle aged women.)
Surely these people can’t be so ivory-tower insulated that they think that the people opposing them, those great unwashed holding out for stories that are entertaining (whether or not they also contain a message) are all white males? For one, sad to say, most white male readers were run out of science fiction and fantasy long ago, probably in the eighties when I stopped reading SF/F because every straight male was a villain. (I came back to it. Most of the men never did.)
But then we come to their other argument, which comes out when they are really pressed: that until they started advocating for more women/minorities/differently gendered people/dragons [I might have made up dragons] in science fiction, all the main characters were buff white males who carried semi-nude women around for sport.
That one is a puzzler. I started reading science fiction in the late seventies, and for the life of me, I can’t imagine what they’re talking about.
Heinlein had all of the above, with the boxes neatly checked. And just about every “shocking” writer of the seventies had at least one bisexual/lesbian woman in there. The kind of pulpish literature they reference never really existed. Okay, I’m not an expert and maybe it did in the twenties or something. However, by the thirties and forties the covers might have aliens and scantily clad princesses, but the stories were meaty stuff, often far more meaty than the stuff being published today when they rely on stereotypes and preaching the accepted wisdom.)
Let’s see, off the top of my head:
1943 Clifford Simak, Hunch a blind man and his alien seeing eye dog have only a hunch that an epidemic of insanity stems from a million-year-old-war.
Okay, so perhaps the main character is a man, but he is clearly handicapped.
1931 Neil R. Jones “the Jameson Stalletile” begins a series of stories about a frozen astronaut whose brain is transplanted into a robot body.
So, what sex is a robot? I know! If only Jones had refused to use gender pronouns, we’d think he was all advanced and stuff, right?
Then there is CL More, a bonafide woman, among whose early accomplishments are the following, according to Wikipedia:
One of the most remarkable was the 1944 novella “No Woman Born,” which went on to be included in more than ten different science fiction anthologies including The Best of C. L. Moore.
Included in that collection were “Judgment Night” (first published in August and September 1943), the lush rendering of a future galactic empire with a sober meditation on the nature of power and its inevitable loss; “The Code” (July 1945), an homage to the classic Faust with modern theories and Lovecraftian dread; “Promised Land” (February 1950) and “Heir Apparent” (July 1950) both documenting the grim twisting that mankind must undergo in order to spread into the solar system; and “Paradise Street” (September 1950), a futuristic take on the Old West conflict between lone hunter and wilderness-taming settlers.
Then there are, oh, Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Connie Willis, Mercedes Lackey and a lot of other people whose book aren’t at my eye-level right now, all of whom apparently sprang into being in the last three years somehow creating a record for illustrious careers in science fiction.
So, yeah, of course – of COURSE – science fiction until recently was all scantily clad women and square jawed men and that is why we white fanboys (actually I paintchipped myself and the color I match is spun gold. As for boy… well, I checked. I still don’t have the essential accouterment) are now opposing the march of the SJW’s thought our beloved genre. It’s because we’re afraid of women and minorities in SF.
Look – I’ve looked over the evidence, and there’s only three explanations for the people posting this in the comments, particularly for posting it in every post they can, in almost the same words:
1- They are not now nor have ever been fans. In fact, they are too stupid to walk upright, and have never learned to read well enough to make it to the end of Horton Hears a Who. This is possible, if someone is typing their replies for them, or if they’re using some dictation software, but it doesn’t explain how they read the original post they’re replying to, or why they’re interested in these controversies.
2- They’re academic shills with absolutely no interest in science fiction. They descended from their lofty posts as assistant professors to enlighten us, the benighted, and they never even bothered to read the classics in the field, because they know what they contain.
While this could be true, why would college professors busy themselves over such a low-prestige endeavor as science fiction? Possible, but they sound so sincere, I’d rather not believe they’re Marxist Leninist shills who care nothing for what they’re talking about so long as it’s for the greater glory of the revolution.
3- They come from a parallel universe, where none of our greats ever lived. In that paltry and deprived world, SF really is all square jawed white men and scantily clad barbarian princesses. They have just crossed over to our world for help, and are confused by the controversy, interpreting it, of course, in light of their own world.
I think of these, #3 is almost certainly the truth. I suggest we render what assistance we can and send the poor things back to their own world, ASAP, loaded to the gills with Heinlein, Simak, CL More as well as the many fine women and men who wrote classical SF in our universe.
It’s the least we can do.