Tag Archives: politics

Unpleasant Allegations, and a Response

A post by a woman alleging that she was emotionally abused by an SF/F author pseudonymized as “C” is making the rounds. Be warned: it’s long and pretty emotionally wrenching. (I have removed the link and the author’s identifying information out of concern for the post’s author.) The post was first made a couple of years ago and recently updated.

The information in the post suggests very strongly that “C” is China Miéville. (A few people have told me that the original post named him and included a link to his website, though I haven’t been able to personally verify that.) I asked him if he had any comment on the post. He replied:

When I met the writer several years ago, I liked and respected her greatly, and we were very briefly involved. I was in an open relationship with my partner, of which I made the writer fully aware. I quickly came to understand that I’d made wrong assumptions and errors of emotional responsibility. I regretted and apologized for these at the time, and subsequently. Much of what’s said in the piece, however, is simply untrue, and my interpretation of the events is very different.

I wrote to the post’s author asking if she wanted to make any further comment but have yet to get a response on the record. If I do, I’ll share it here.

My friend Liz W. provided some interesting context for Americans like me who aren’t familiar with the current UK political situation:

The SWP (Miéville’s party) is in the middle of tearing itself apart over its handling of rape allegations. Miéville has been one of the people pushing for them to get their act together and deal with them properly. A lot of rival groups would love to see the SWP break up – it’s a bit notorious in UK politics for its entryist tactics, opportunism and other antics, and of course the left is pretty prone to factionalism anyway – and some of them are now using the post as ammunition against him and the SWP in general (lots of identically-worded comments on various blog posts).

I can’t make any comment on the politics or people involved, nor do I have any way of knowing the truth of the allegations, but this context might be useful to those seeing the link and wondering what’s up with that.

Disclosure: I know China somewhat (he’s referred to us as “friends”, I’d say “friendly acquaintances”, but that’s one of those blurry lines), and don’t know the post’s author at all.

California and Nevada, Here I Come

Josh and I are heading to San Francisco tomorrow for a week of vacation before we go to Worldcon. I would like to pretend that Worldcon is a vacation, but at this point it’s as much of a professional event for me as it is a way to see friends and steal panel ideas for Readercon attend interesting program items.

If you’d like to meet me in person and tell me how awesome Genreville is, here’s where I’ll be before Worldcon:

Aug. 13, 7 p.m.: SF in SF

Aug. 16, 6:30 p.m.: The mp3 Experiment San Francisco (Josh and I will be among the blue shirts)

And at Worldcon:

Aug. 18, 2 p.m.: Kaffeeklatsch, room KK1

Come hang out, drink tea, and chat with me about books and reviewing and anything else you like!

Aug. 18, 8 p.m.: Fannish Origami Workshop, room KK1

Have some experience with origami? Come learn advanced origami patterns for aliens, spaceships, mythological creatures and more! Paper will be provided.

If you know a mountain from a valley and a squash from a sink, origamically speaking, please do come to this so I can feel justified in having spent Worldcon’s money on lots of pretty paper.

Aug. 19, 11 a.m.: Social Media for Writers (with Tee Morris, Tom Negrino, Cory Doctorow, and Brenda Cooper), room A03

Writers know the Internet, but not all writers take advantage of its full potential. With the evolution of Social Media, potential readers are only a click away. But what exactly is Social Media? At this panel, you will pick up the vocabulary and background of exactly what Social Media is, what it can do, and what it cannot do.

Every time Cory says “DRM” or “free”, take a drink. Every time I say “Don’t argue with reviews”, chug. If you know Tee, Tom, or Brenda, feel free to suggest more drinking game rules in the comments.

Aug. 20, 3 p.m.: The Paranormal as Metaphor (with Naamen Tilahun, Lucienne Diver, Carrie Vaughn, and Patricia Briggs), room A16

Paranormal fantasy, including urban fantasy and paranormal romance, is among the most popular genres within speculative fiction. One intriguing aspect of this type of fantasy is its role as a stealth route toward social commentary and change. What are the issues being examined and how effectively are the experiences of various groups presented?

Remember that post from a few months ago on why white men should refuse to be on panels of all white men? This panel as originally convened–a panel on paranormal metaphors for social issues!–was all white women. I emailed the Renovation program staff and said I wouldn’t be on it unless they made it more diverse. Somewhat to my surprise, this was actually effective, and I’m delighted that Naamen will be joining us. (I’m equally delighted that I didn’t have to make good on my threat, as I think I’m the token queer on the panel and diversity in that direction is important too.) The program item description has also been much improved. Kudos to the Renovation program staff for taking positive steps quickly and without defensiveness. And if you find yourself on a similarly un-diverse panel, I hope my positive experiences here will encourage you to speak up.

In addition to my official schedule, I expect to be at the Regency Tea Dance, at which PW reviewer and dance historian Susan de Guardiola will be teaching, and possibly at the Regency ball as well. (Incidentally, if you write anything set anywhere near the Victorian era, you should hire Susan to fact-check your work, because she is brilliant and eagle-eyed and ruthless.) I will also probably spend a lot of time in the bar because that’s where all the good convention stuff happens. Look for the white chick with fuzzy hair drinking her own weight in ginger ale and knitting baby clothes (all my friends are having babies all at once!).

Speaking of Worldcon, I just got a press release saying that the Hugo voter turnout set a record this year: “A record total of 2100 valid final ballots were cast, a 46.1% turnout, from voters in 33 countries. (The previous record set in 1980 was 1788 ballots cast.) Renovation also broke a record earlier this year when it received 1006 valid nominating ballots.” Well done, everyone who nominated and voted! Even those of you who voted for things I didn’t like.

With that, I’m signing off until August 24th, with two exceptions: next Monday I’ll be posting the extended version of our Q&A with the magnificent Maureen McHugh, and the following Saturday I’ll be liveblogging the Hugos (assuming I can get internet access from the convention center ballroom). I hope the coming weeks treat you kindly. See you on the flip side.

Constructing Reality

Benjamin Rosenbaum writes directly about the Amina Arraf hoax. Chally Kacelnik writes more indirectly about James Tiptree Jr. The comparison is instructive.

I’m a little surprised that I haven’t seen more fabulists writing about “Amina”. From a political standpoint, I certainly understand not wanting to give Tom MacMaster more airtime. From the standpoint of being part of a community of professional consensual hoaxsters, however, I think it’s an interesting case study in both the creating of an alternate reality and the consequences of duping your readers without their consent.

Sometimes when I’m reading anthologies, I get a few pages into each story and then I ask myself why I care about the characters and what they’re doing and what happens to them. The answer, almost always, is that I care because I go in wanting to care. I start out credulous. I’d rather go into every story wanting and hoping to buy in than skeptically hanging back and waiting to see whether it convinces me of its worth. Wanting to believe is, I think, a necessary quality in a spec fic reader. It is less desirable when one is reading political blogs, but probably not less common. We are raised from the cradle to believe what we read, to trust that writers are telling us the truth. More than that, we want to care. MacMaster made it very easy for us to care as he carefully invented a world that was just dangerous enough–but not too dangerous–for his plucky heroine.

Credulity only failed when her pluck and luck ran out. Perhaps, as lifelong readers, somewhere deep inside we understood where that story arc was leading; every sympathy-thief I’ve ever seen has been unmasked not when their readers stopped caring but when their readers cared too much. And après ça, le déluge of outrage and pain. We were told to believe, and we believed, and then it turned out we were believing lies! Where does that leave us? What is real, anymore? How can we know or trust anything at all?

I will go out on a limb and say that fans of a certain variety of speculative fiction–slipstream, interstitial fiction, magical realism, and the like–are perhaps better equipped than most to weather these moments when everything abruptly turns 90 degrees from what we thought was true. We have often visited these places where reality is uncertain (or is it? sometimes even the uncertainty is uncertain) and we’ve found ways to be comfortable there. We have exercised the readerly muscles that let us simultaneously accept and doubt what the author is telling us. Does that mean we’re less likely to be taken in by skilled hoaxsters? Probably not. But in the aftermath, we are in a peculiar way on familiar ground. We’re used to rugs being pulled out from under us. Where others are easily bruised, we have calluses. It still hurts, but we know this pain and we know it ebbs, and we know that eventually we can move on to the next story and the next potentially unreliable narrator.

There is a choice here, of course. I choose to be credulous. I choose to set aside my cynicism and sarcasm (when I can). I understand that this means coping with disappointment and betrayal from time to time. Others may make different choices. I mostly wanted to note that for those who continue along the path of frequent belief and occasional pain, reading fiction that centers on uncertainty can help to bolster us against those days when we are so rudely, shockingly reminded of how uncertain reality is, and how much we risk for the joy and privilege of believing what we read.

(A tip of the hat to Aishwarya S. for the link to Chally’s piece, which in turn led to Ben’s piece.)

Blogging Against Sexual Harrasment

Author Jim Hines is known on LiveJournal for his insightful discussions of feminist issues in the genre fiction world.  After hearing of a friend’s sexual harassment at a science fiction convention by an unnamed person working in the industry, he put together a resource for people who have been harassed by publishing house employees and want to report it.

Jim sensibly concludes that personal safety is paramount, and no one is obliged to complain if they feel unsafe and unsupported in doing so, but resources exist, and discussion of the topic with support from members of the industry might help a victim feel safe naming their harasser.

We hope this resource is of use to our readers, and that all of you work in whatever way you can to prevent harassment where you can, and help people who have been harassed.

Stand Back, I’m Going to Use Science!

PW reviewer James Nicoll noted this bit of what can charitably be described as science-ish research. Rose shared it with Improbable Research (an organization devoted to collecting odd, funny and thought inspiring tales of scientific research) here.

The authors decided to graph the political leanings of science fiction fans against how “hard” or “soft” the science was in the fiction they like.  It eventually goes on to this one amazing, tragic sentence:

If we make one little assumption, we can say something about the political orientations of the authors themselves. Let’s assume, “People like authors that have the same opinions they do.” This sounds reasonable.

The authors are associated with Harvard in some way that’s not quite clear, and the article was published in Analog Yearbook, in  1977. One of the authors, William Sims Bainbridge, teaches sociology as a part-time professor at George Mason University.  The other  appears to be a “global managing director for organizational effectiveness and management development services at the Hay Group in Philadelphia” by the name of Murray M. Dalziel (it’s possible he’s now the Director of the University of Liverpool’s Management School ).

We all have probably come to silly conclusions in our lives, and it seems that Bainbridge and Dalziel managed to recover gracefully and move into impressive careers.  Let’s hope they’re not supporting that “one little assumption” anymore, though.

The Politics of Twilight

At Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) brought up a very important issue: Team Edward or Team Jacob? Kagan dodged the question, leading me to wonder what exactly she thought an answer might reveal. I polled several friends and came up with the following list:

Education

Team Edward: “Welcome older and unconventional students and encourage them to socialize with their younger peers.” Team Jacob: “Encourage extracurricular educational opportunities, such as studying folk wisdom with local elders.”

The environment

Team Edward: “It’s our duty to serve as guardians of vulnerable wild creatures.” Team Jacob: “Preserve the forests and the unique species that inhabit them.”

Diplomacy

Team Edward: “We must never show vulnerability to our foes abroad.” Team Jacob: “It’s vital to collaborate across party lines and face our enemies together, even when we disagree on other important matters.”

The nanny state

Team Edward: “We believe in close surveillance for your protection.” Team Jacob: “We support gun control and the banning of unconventional ammunition.”

Racial issues

Team Edward: “Immigrants should be welcomed. We encourage minorities to preserve their unique cultures but also wholeheartedly support interracial relationships.” Team Jacob: “We must respect the rights, autonomy, and lands of Native Americans.”

Women’s issues

Team Edward: “We support a woman’s right to choose. Do anything necessary to save women’s lives.” Team Jacob: “Diligent pre- and post-natal care is imperative.”

Family values

Team Edward: “We strongly oppose sex before marriage.” Team Jacob: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Many thanks to Miriam Newman, Erin Galloway, and Gina Gagliano for invaluable assistance with this list. Feel free to chime in with other suggestions in the comments.