Monday, June 30, 2014

I need to learn to apologize quickly

At zumba today, it seemed like a woman was crowding me who had more room on the other side of her—it's fairly common for dancers to drift a bit as they try to follow the leader, especially on new moves. So I asked if she could move over a little. She gave me a look, then moved a little. Afterward, I said I was sorry if I made her self-conscious. She said she was offended because she hadn't wanted to crowd the person on the other side of her. I was surprised by "offended"—Minnesotans aren't known for being quick to take offense, so it surprises me when someone in Minneapolis goes right there. I said something vague about these things being challenging when it's crowded as she walked off.

But I had touched on one of the American taboos, body space. I had implied that she was encroaching on mine by asking her if she could move over a little. When she said she was offended, I should've just said immediately I was sorry, that I had thought she had more room and I was mistaken. Because really, what does it matter? In this case, the goal isn't to be right. It's just to be able to get along when the class is crowded.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pedophiles like science fiction: More on fanfic's child porn problem and Samuel R. Delany

"I read the NAMBLA [Bulletin] fairly regularly and I think it is one of the most intelligent discussions of sexuality I've ever found. I think before you start judging what NAMBLA is about, expose yourself to it and see what it is really about. What the issues they are really talking about, and deal with what's really there rather than this demonized notion of guys running about trying to screw little boys. I would have been so much happier as an adolescent if NAMBLA had been around when I was 9, 10, 11, 12, 13." — Samuel R. Delany, Queer Desires Forum, New York City, June 25, 1994.

At NAMBLA's site, Linda Frankel's Beyond Bounds: Intergenerational Relationships in Science Fiction and Fantasy begins by asking "Why read or write science fiction and fantasy?" Her answer boils down to "Because that's where the stories about adults having sex with children are."

There's anecdotal evidence that pedophiles often like science fiction. TrekToday's "Articles on Pedophile Star Trek Fans Ignite Controversy" says members of the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit "stick by their claim that the vast majority of people that they bust seem to have an obsession with sci-fi. And that most of them seem to really like Star Trek."

At The Arcane Archive - Crowley and Paederasty, Cat Yronwode wrote,
Walter Breen was eventually convicted of child sex abuse by testimony taken from parents in the local coin collecting community, not in fandom ... Another former NAMBLA member and close friend of Breen's was the Bay Area science fiction fan and "free love" exponent Jefferson Poland, a.k.a Jefferson Fuck Poland, a.k.a. Jefferson Clitlick Poland. He too was convicted of child sex abuse and spent time in the slammer. He is now a registered sex offender, forbidden from consorting with children. No, i cannot personally vouch for the fact that every member of NAMBLA is a child sex abuser...but i knew both of those men personally -- and they both were. Their cohort Sandy Cutrell -- by which i mean all three were good friends -- was also a member of Bay Area science fiction fandom in the 1960s. He may not have been a member of NAMBLA, but if not, probably only because his interest was the sexual abuse of *girl* children. He admitted his entire sorry history to me in the mid-1980s, and explained that friends of his had barred him from their house because he gave their young daughter comic books as a bribe so that she would sit on his face. Needless to say, i did not take this confession lightly and i told him he was unwelcome in my house as well. My point: here i knew three Bay Area sex abusers in the 1960s, two convicted and one self-confessed, of whom all three were members of science fiction fandom...
A major fanfic site, Archive of Our Own, formed in 2007 when LiveJournal began cracking down on child porn. They currently offer 242 works under Pedophilia and 133 under Chan. The distinction is explained in Mark J. McLelland's The World of Yaoi: The Internet, Censorship and the Global “Boys’ Love” Fandom:
While most yaoi deals with older teen-age characters, a subgenre of yaoi known as shōtakon (Shōtaro56 Complex – a play on rorikon or Lolita Complex) specializes in stories about and depictions of the sexual adventures of younger boys. In the English-language fandom, these stories are often designated ‘chan fics,’ –chan being a diminutive suffix commonly appended to children’s names in Japanese.
My suspicion is that chan, like most porn, breaks down into two broad categories:

  • Erotic art: Art intended to have an erotic effect.
  • Grotesque art: Art intended to disturb.

For an artist, these are both valid intentions. The Nude Maja and Guernica are equally great art.



Humans being humans, one person's erotic art is another person's grotesque art, and vice versa. Humans being humans, people may make erotic art and grotesque art purely from a wish to experiment.

But at some point, the difference between an experiment and an obsession begins to become clear. A teenager's experiment in yaoi or chan is likely to mean less than an adult's indulgence. McLelland suggests that child porn produced by and for women is significantly different than child porn produced by and for men. I would've been inclined to accept that argument until recently, but after reading Marion Zimmer Bradley's testimony and thinking about other female child abusers, I'm skeptical.

Ultimately, porn is porn, made by and for humans. The great majority of people who indulge in any form of porn are able to separate fantasy from reality. Just as no one should assume people who like rape porn want to rape or be raped, no one should assume people who like child porn want to abuse children.

But it's also right to wonder what underlies an obsession.

NAMBLA's goal is to eliminate the age of consent so adults may legally have sex with children. Now, I'm going to say something that will be obvious to most people and impossible to grasp by the sort of intellectual who does not let reality interfere with a beloved theory: Adults should be concerned about the safety of children around NAMBLA supporters. If someone supported a group that wanted to legalize kicking dogs, it would be right to be concerned about dogs in that person's presence.

This is not an argument for censorship—I fully support the ACLU's defense of NAMBLA. As noted in ACLU Statement on Defending Free Speech of Unpopular Organizations, "In representing NAMBLA today, our Massachusetts affiliate does not advocate sexual relationships between adults and children." Everyone should have the right to try to change the law.

But free speech includes the right to inform attendees at all-ages conventions that a NAMBLA supporter will be in attendance. Yaoi-Con wisely requires all attendees to be at least 18 years old. They know that what is fantasy for most of their fans may not be fantasy for all of them. What Walter Breen, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Edward Kramer did cannot be undone, so lessons must be learned from their crimes to ensure that the science fiction community will never be a safe haven for people who wish to engage in sex with children.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fanfic has a child porn problem, and more about Samuel R. Delany

In response to Liz Williams: journal - Abusive behaviour, I said on her Facebook page:
Did Frenkel grope? It's important that charges be precise. That's why I'm reluctant to assume anything about Delany based only on his writing—and yet, it's also why I'd want parents to know what he's supported.
I've been thinking about what parents should know about the people around their kids. The long list includes NAMBLA members, Ku Klux Klan members, Nazi Party members, Nation of Islam members, and people who carry concealed weapons. All are legal. None automatically means something bad will happen to a kid. But a parent should know these things before deciding who to trust with their children. (ETA: I would trust my kid around someone who I thought knew how to handle weapons. I realize that's not true for everyone.)

I wish Delany would clarify what he meant when he spoke about NAMBLA. He was a boy who wanted to have sex with men. I was a boy who wanted to have sex with women, and if there had been an organization to support Tea and Sympathy / Hot Teacher relationships, I might speak in its favor if I knew exactly what it advocated. I followed Liz Williams' link to a NAMBLA page that says nothing about what they think the age of consent should be. Rather dishonestly, they quote Oscar Wilde, though Wilde spoke of young men, not boys, and began his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas when Douglas was about twenty-one.

People have wondered why Delany's support for NAMBLA has not been scrutinized before this. Part of the answer has to be that many of the fans who agitate online for what they think is social justice are writers and readers of child porn about Harry Potter and other fictional children.

During Racefail 09, when I and several others were accused of outing Coffeeandink, even though she was using her legal name on public posts on her LJ at the time, people wondered why pseudonymity was suddenly important to her. Two answers were proposed:

1. After she participated in the doxxing of Zathlazip, she decided she should be able to claim pseudonymity in case members of her community turned on her.

2. She did not want to become known as part of a community that wrote child porn.

She gave an answer a few months after Racefail 09: “I am mostly just fighting a losing battle to prevent my mother from finding my LJ via Google.”

However, Coffeeandink did not mention that she has defended erotica about children. LiveJournal users fight erotic 'Harry Potter' deletions - CNET quotes her:
"The policy makes LJ an unwelcoming environment for sexual expression and experimentation, which is a change; in the past, LJ has been a valuable environment for many groups who are expressing, experimenting with, or identifying as non-normative sexualities to speak free of constraints which are often backed by patriarchical [sic], racist, classist, or heterosexist behavioral norms," another user, who goes by the moniker "coffeeandink," wrote in a recent entry.
To be very clear, we're not talking about illegal activity in Delany's or anyone else's case. As noted by ScottyMacEsq at What is the law concerning fanfiction writing w/ nc- 17 rating:
Fictional writings generally are protected under the constitution. While child pornography is generally without First Amendment protection, the United States Supreme Court held last year that imaginary depictions of child erotica cannot be criminalized because their creation ""records no crime and creates no victim."" That case, Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, declared the federal Child Pornography Prevention Act unconstitutional, in large part because it criminalized the creation of ""virtual pornography"" involving youthful images. There's no such law for textual depictions, but Constitutional protections would extend to such works.
But we are talking about writing that creeps me out.

And we may have the reason why people who eroticize children don't criticize Delany for doing the same thing.

My take on their writing is this: Write what you please. I don't have to read it. Support whatever cause you please. I don't have to support it. But if I had children, I would want a good reason to think they would be safe around anyone who enjoyed child porn.

ETA: Just left this comment at Facebook:
I may need to clarify on my post that I know not all fanfic is erotica, and that what is erotica is not all child porn. And I don't doubt there are people who write child porn who would never consider indulging in it—most people know the difference between having a fantasy and acting on it. But after some thought, I think the people who want writers like Delany to clarify their position are not being unreasonable.
Related: What unites Natalie Luhrs, Avalon's Willow, and Vox Day (a post that began as The art is not the artist #4: Samuel R. Delany)

Pedophiles like science fiction: More on fanfic's child porn problem and Samuel R. Delany

ETA: I did a little googling to see what's said about fanfic and child porn. My google fu may be weak, because I haven't found much that's interesting yet, but I did see this tweet:
ETA: it's all one thing: a conversation with Samuel R. Delany

quote: socialism, race, and gender in 1904

"The emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex." —the Socialist Party of Great Britain's founding charter, 1904

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What unites Natalie Luhrs, Avalon's Willow, and Vox Day (a post that began as The art is not the artist #4: Samuel R. Delany)

In the last few days, I've noticed three members of the science fiction and fantasy community indulging in smears by association. They all begin with references to the pedophile Walter Breen.

1

Vox Day at The complicit silence: "As for those attempting to distinguish between the confirmed child molesters Bradley, Breen, and Kramer, and the SFWA Grand Master Samuel Delany, this raises the obvious question: has Mr. Delany actually denied ever having had any sexual involvement with underage boys? Has anyone from SFWA ever asked the known NAMBLA supporter about it? Or is this simply more silent complicity on the part of SFWA?"

Let me be clear here: NAMBLA creeps me out. I believe adults have a right to consensual activity, but children are not capable of meaningful consent because adults are more powerful than they are. Their fear of adults and their desire to please adults are easily abused by predators like Breen and Kramer.

But I also believe people should be judged for their deeds, not their thoughts. Just as men and women who write fantasies about rape should not be accused of wanting to rape or be raped in reality—a point that should be especially important to many fanfic writers—people with fantasies that creep me out should not be accused of enacting those fantasies simply because they've written about them. I agree with Ann Somerville's response to a commenter who referred to “Chip Delany supporting a pedophile-rights group”:
...you don’t mention that Delany also says “I would have been so much happier as an adolescent if NAMBLA had been around when I was 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.”

There’s no suggestion anywhere that Delany is/was a child molester, and in the relevant quote, is speaking as himself as a child, not as an adult man attracted to children. Since he’s gay, it’s likely he’s talking about his attractions to men/males when he was young, when he was likely to be trying to make sense of this socially ‘unacceptable’ desire.

So why do you choose to elide Delany with MZB? NAMBLA is abhorrent and I question Delany’s judgement in supporting their views (if he’s been accurately quoted), but to suggest he has assaulted or molested children is really quite horrible.
Vox Day claims to be a Christian, so he should remember Jesus's words about glass houses. If someone goes through his writing and implies he did something he wrote about, he will have no grounds to complain.

That said, I agree with another point Vox Day makes: It is odd that SFWA expelled him for responding to N. K. Jemisin's insults with insults, but did not expel Ed Kramer.

As for Delany, if you haven't read him and love science fiction, read Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection, and the short stories originally collected in Driftglass. His work takes a different turn after that, but where it goes does not affect what was written before.

Speaking about Hollywood, James M. Cain said, "People tell me, don’t you care what they’ve done to your book? I tell them, they haven’t done anything to my book. It’s right there on the shelf." That truth applies to far more than movie adaptations. William S. Burroughs killed his wife, but killing her did not change a word of anything he had written. Whether you approve or disapprove of Delany's personal life, his work is what it is and always will be.

2

Natalie Luhrs at Silence is Complicity: "These social fallacies and the ability of predators to exploit them is what enables the Walter Breens and Ed Kramers and Jim Frenkels and René Wallings to get away with it for years and decades."

Genevieve Valentine's account of her encounter with Walling is at Readercon: The Bad and the Ugly. Elise Matthesen's account of her encounter with Frenkel is at How to Report Sexual Harassment. Though Luhrs links Walling and Frenkel to pedophiles, in both cases, the men were hitting on adult women. To use the language of an earlier age, they were behaving like cads. In that time, a woman would have been applauded for giving them a forceful slap that would make explicit her rejection of their attentions. Today, when some men believe "no" only means "try again", there's a lot to be said for reviving the slap.

But whatever you may think of Walling and Frenkel, nothing justifies casually associating them with pedophiles.

3

Avalon's Willow at Cause I'm a little 'WTF' that there are things people don't know by now rants about fourteen writers, including me, in a list that begins with a reference to Breen:

1. MZB supported her husband’s pedophilia and on occasion recruited for him.
That appears to be the only objectively true thing in her list. She associates the rest of her targets with pedophiles because they disagreed with her or her friends. Avalon's Willow is an identitarian—she believes men and white people may disagree with women and people of color who are not identitarians (which includes socialists like Adolph Reed Jr. and the Rev. Thandeka, and conservatives like Michelle Malkin and Herman Cain), but men and white people who disagree with identitarian women and people of color are racist or sexist. It's not logical, but it has the interior consistency of any belief system.

Defending the other writers on Avalon's Willow list would be easy, but it would also drag them through more abuse from identitarians, so I'll only address the charge that comes closest to me:

4. Emma Bull is married to Wankerface Shitsallot and is aware of his racism, creepinest and violence against non-white women and young girls and says and does nothing. In fact makes excuses for him and herself that they’re both from another era.
Now, I'm not aware that Emma has ever made an excuse for me. We do not share a mind. I think we have been happily married for over thirty years because we respect each other's right to disagree. I could say many things in praise of Emma, but in discussions of racism and sexism, I think these are the most relevant points: Any serious discussion of gender issues in our genre will include Bone Dance; any serious discussion of interracial romance will include War for the Oaks, and any serious discussion of fantasies set in places where the most common skin color is brown will include the Liavek anthologies.

As for me, when I read what Avalon's Willow said, I had three reactions in about thirty seconds:

1. Wankerface Shitsallot? *grin* When I was a boy and my family was part of the civil rights struggle in the South, the children of the Ku Klux Klan insulted me by saying things like "Shitterly's a niggerlover!" It hurt at first, because bullying and mobbing is especially hard to understand when you're a child, but now I hear insults and only pity people who think abusing others will improve the world.

2. "creepinest and violence against non-white women and young girls?" What the hell? Who have I ever been creepy with? Who have I ever been violent with? When have I targeted non-white women or young girls? Since she says this in a list that starts with a mention of pedophilia, her accusations are slander. Should I sue her?

3. "creepinest and violence against non-white women and young girls?" Oh! To her, "creepinest and violence" means I disagree in public comment sections with identitarians, "non-white women" means I disagree with people like her when I also disagree with white women like Coffeeandink and identitarian men of all hues. The "young girls" must refer to adult identitarian bloggers like Deepad who was in college during Racefail 09.

To answer the charge that I'm racist and sexist and generally otherist, here's my life in two pictures:

In 1964, I was part of a desegregation march in Florida:

me and my brother

In 2012, I worked a booth at the Minnesota State Fair in support of gay marriage:

me and Emma

In the years between those pictures, I wrote the first comic book series about a black female superhero that was published by a major comics company, a fantasy novel about a dark-skinned man traveling among pale-skinned people, and a semi-autobiographical fantasy that Ellen Kushner called "A masterwork. A particularly American magic realism that touches the heart of race and childhood in our country; it's 100 Years of Solitude for an entire generation of American Baby Boomers, and deserves the widest possible audience." The feministsf wiki said my “work features strong women characters and people of color”.

Yet when Racefail 09 occurred, people like Avalon's Willow made me wonder if I was racist in some meaningful way, so I took Project Implicit's test for race. When it said that I, like a large minority of white people, have "a slight automatic preference for African American compared to European American", I realized that the identitarian love of calling anyone who disagrees with them a racist is just another example of people with hammers treating the rest of us like nails.

Ah, well. Avalon's Willow and her friends follow Derrick Bell in their understanding of race and power. I prefer Malcolm X after he left Elijah Muhammad's cult, the Nation of Islam. Here are two quotes that identitarians would do well to ponder:

"I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think that it will be based upon the color of the skin." —Malcolm X / El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." —Malcolm X / El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

Belief systems can make believers have trouble seeing what's literal and what's metaphorical, so I'll spell out the second quote: So long as no one's committed physical violence against you, be peaceful and respect everyone.

Related: Fanfic has a child porn problem, and more about Samuel R. Delany

Pedophiles like science fiction: More on fanfic's child porn problem and Samuel R. Delany

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An identitarian defense of honor killings shows the limit of identitarian "free" speech

The contradictions of identitarianism are on display in the Festival of Dangerous Ideas cancels a speech titled “Honour killings are morally justified”. The scheduled speaker, Uthman Badar, said:
Overwhelmingly, those who condemn ‘honour killings’ are based in the liberal democracies of the West. The accuser and moral judge is the secular (white) westerner and the accused is the oriental other; the powerful condemn the powerless. By taking a particular cultural view of honour, some killings are condemned whilst others are celebrated. In turn, the act becomes a symbol of everything that is allegedly wrong with the other culture.
Nothing in his quote is inaccurate, though I believe there's more opposition to honor killings in the East than Badar does. We can't know because where there's no free speech, people's opinions can't be known.

But my point is this: Badar's use of common identitarian rhetoric may be why he was silenced rather than debated—a debate would've resulted in questioning the neoliberal assumptions about whiteness, orientalism, and cultural imperialism.

To my mind, the scariest quote from the article is not by Badar, who draws a conclusion that can be easily refuted, but by one of the people who helped silence him:
Writer and filmmaker Laura Scrivano wrote, “You forfeit your right to free speech when you impinge on the rights of half of the world’s population to live free, and without fear.”
There is no right to free speech that can be forfeited. When you cannot say something that offends someone else, speech is not a right—it's not even a privilege. 

ETA: Lest you condemn Badar, this bit from the cancellation of the speech matters:
It is clear from the public reaction that the title has given the wrong impression of what Mr Badar intended to discuss. Neither Mr Badar, the St James Ethics Centre, nor Sydney Opera House in any way advocates honour killings or condones any form of violence against women.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The art is not the artist #3: Forrest Carter/Asa Earl Carter

Note: I posted my review of The Education of Little Tree a few years ago, but it seems appropriate in my "art is not the artist" series, so I'm posting it again, with a bit of a foreword:

I was focusing on the book, not the artist, when I wrote this review, so I didn't even mention the name of the author, Asa Earl Carter, who wrote as Forrest Carter. In a discussion at The Education of Little Fraud | MetaFilter a few months after I wrote this review, I said,
I keep thinking it's wrong to assume that Forrest Carter and Asa Carter are the same person. Yes, some people take new names to avoid responsibility for the past, but others take them to reflect significant changes in their lives (see Malcolm Little becoming Malcolm X, who then became El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and regretted his older "blindness" about race). 
Uh, I'm not claiming Forrest Carter completely transcended his past. But he still wrote a book that made many people of many races agree that racism sucks, and there's no evidence that he did it cynically. Frankly, I don't think he could do it cynically. Writing what you don't believe is close to impossible.
And later in that discussion:
...the question of redemption fascinates me. Forrest Carter wanted to cast off being Asa Carter as desperately as he could.
According to this, "In 1958, Carter himself quit the Klan group he had founded after shooting two members in a dispute over finances."
It also has this: "Although Mr. Carter, who wrote four books, failed to address the issue of his bigotry publicly, Mr. Friedenberg said he believed that "his apology was in his literature." For example, he said, the handful of blacks and Jews in his books are depicted sympathetically. "The bad guys are almost, without fail, rich whites, politicians and phony preachers," Mr. Friedenberg said."
I would love to read Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s "'Authenticity', or the Lesson of Little Tree" from the New York Times Book Review, because it sounds like Gates does an interesting job of talking about whether a work is still valid as fiction when you had thought it was fact.
There's a strong attack on Carter's lack of research here, but I wonder if the writer is failing to recognize that bands in tribes can have different accents and use different words. For example, he says the "Carterism" for "crow" is "Ka-gu," but the Cherokee word is "Ko-ga," and ditto for "Awi usdi" versus A-wi-us-di", which sounds to me like "you say potatoe, I say potatah." It may be that to damn Carter's inaccuracy, the writer is just trying a little harder than necessary.
A review of The Education of Little Tree


I'd heard about The Education of Little Tree for ages, but everyone said it was wonderful, so I avoided it—I have little stomach for "wonderful" books. Then I heard it was racist and Oprah had disowned it, so I got curious: How could a racist write a book that many people of many races would love? Writers can write from perspectives that are not their own, but that calls for empathy, and racists have little empathy for anyone they do not identify with.

Still, it stayed low on my priorities until I saw it on a "Do not read! Racist!" list. So I read it.

I looked hard for the racism. Most of the characters are Cherokee. They're good people. Only one black shows up in a very minor role, but he's good people. A Jew shows up, and he's good people. Some of the whites are not good people, and some of them are. The book isn't racist in its depictions of races.

Now, it has no good people who identify as Christian and several bad ones who do, so the book may be racist against the Christian race. But some of the good people in it seem to be Christian. Given the setting, it's extremely likely they are. I don't think any Christian who gets Christianity would be upset by its portrayal of Christian hypocrites.

But it may be racist in one way: none of the greedy people are good people. The store owner is decent, but there's a general sense that the race of greedy people screw up life for the rest of us.

Which may be why Oprah decided to disavow this book. If you're a Christian living in a fifty million dollar mansion, you might be glad to denounce a book that suggests rich people are part of the problem.

I don't know how accurate this book is. I've lived in the Deep South, and I've lived next to an Ojibway reservation in Ontario, and I didn't see anything that was insulting to southerners or Indians. If you're hoping to learn about Cherokee ways, this is not a good book to read—it's about a kid and his grandparents who live in the mountains, far from other people. But if you're hoping to learn that Indians are good people who were horribly treated by whites, this is a fine book to read. I can't do better than the Atlantic's reviewer: "“Some of it is sad, some of it is hilarious, some of it is unbelievable, and all of it is charming.”

Sherman Alexie said, "Little Tree is a lovely little book, and I sometimes wonder if it is an act of romantic atonement by a guilt-ridden White supremacist, but ultimately I think it is the racial hypocrisy of a White supremacist." I think Alexie's a great writer, but he over-estimates the literary abilities of white supremacists. It's true the characters are idealized, but the list of books with idealized characters is long: some stories are realistic, and some are romanticized. The Education of Little Tree is drawn with broad strokes, but so is The Boondocks.

I recommend Christina Berry's write-up about the controversy at All Things Cherokee: The Story Behind The Education of Little Tree. She concludes,

Leni Riefenstahl's photographs and films were pro-Nazi and promoted themes of racial purity and eugenics. But despite that, she was a talented filmmaker and photographer. At what point do we separate the art from the artist, the work from its context? The Education of Little Tree is a great book. I was moved to tears the first time I read it, and when I first learned of the author's past I was angry and hurt, but I still like the book.

I would argue that the book has actually made an incredibly positive impact. It wasn't long ago that books and films filled with blatant sterotypes of savage Indians (played by white actors in red paint) was the norm. The mere fact that this title has generated so much debate and discussion regarding the plight of Indians in American popular culture is a positive step forward. Personally, I think that this is a great book, both for the themes of culture and life that the author himself addresses, and for the heated historical and cultural debate which has grown out of it.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The art is not the artist #2: George Orwell on Salvador Dali


From George Orwell's "Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali":
One ought to be able to hold in one's head simultaneously the two facts that Dali is a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being. The one does not invalidate or, in a sense, affect the other. The first thing that we demand of a wall is that it shall stand up. If it stands up, it is a good wall, and the question of what purpose it serves is separable from that. And yet even the best wall in the world deserves to be pulled down if it surrounds a concentration camp. In the same way it should be possible to say, ‘This is a good book or a good picture, and it ought to be burned by the public hangman.’ Unless one can say that, at least in imagination, one is shirking the implications of the fact that an artist is also a citizen and a human being.

Not, of course, that Dali's autobiography, or his pictures, ought to be suppressed. Short of the dirty postcards that used to be sold in Mediterranean seaport towns, it is doubtful policy to suppress anything, and Dali's fantasies probably cast useful light on the decay of capitalist civilisation. But what he clearly needs is diagnosis. The question is not so much what he is as why he is like that. It ought not to be in doubt that his is a diseased intelligence, probably not much altered by his alleged conversion, since genuine penitents, or people who have returned to sanity, do not flaunt their past vices in that complacent way. He is a symptom of the world's illness. The important thing is not to denounce him as a cad who ought to be horsewhipped, or to defend him as a genius who ought not to be questioned, but to find out why he exhibits that particular set of aberrations.
I've been thinking about this essay and moral art and the art of bad people for a few days now. Orwell focuses on Dali's more repugnant images; he doesn't say anything about the innocuous ones, like the melting clocks that I loved so much as a boy. I like to think he'd agree that liking some of an artist's work does not oblige you to like it all.
Source via r_a_g_s comments on Marion Zimmer Bradley was a child abuser - says her own daughter.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The art is not the artist #1: Marion Zimmer Bradley and Richard Dadd

Regarding Marion Zimmer Bradley was a child abuser - says her own daughter « TeleRead: While the charges against Marion Zimmer Bradley may very well be 100% true, it's still possible that she's innocent. This does not mean anyone's lying. False memory syndrome has resulted in children mistakenly but sincerely accusing their parents and guardians in the past; see Chris French: False memories of sexual abuse | Science | theguardian.com.

If the charges are true, remember that the art is not the artist. Richard Dadd murdered his father, but his paintings of fairies are still fascinating.


Most importantly, if MZB was a child abuser, her work will not make you a child abuser, just as Dadd's paintings will not make you believe in fairies.

Having a balanced view of anyone may be impossible, but we are all a mixture of good and bad. The best we do does not negate the worst, just as the worst does not negate the best. It's fine to enjoy what's good and reject what's not.

And if you can't do that, that's fine, too.

LATER: If you wonder what I think is true, I'm inclined to believe her children. I see no parallels with the case that made me aware of false memory syndrome, the McMartin preschool trial, and there's no doubt about Walter H. Breen's crimes. Most relevantly, Marion Zimmer Bradley's own testimony is damning: Marion Zimmer Bradley: In Her Own Words.

ETA: Moira Stern Greyland's Amazon review of Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Greek Love.

SFF community reeling after Marion Zimmer Bradley's daughter accuses her of abuse | Books | theguardian.com

Related: What unites Natalie Luhrs, Avalon's Willow, and Vox Day (a post that began as The art is not the artist #4: Samuel R. Delany)

Fanfic has a child porn problem, and more about Samuel R. Delany

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

On Reparations, by Adolph Reed

From On Reparations, by Adolph Reed
...reparations talk is rooted in a different kind of politics, a politics of elite-brokerage and entreaty to the ruling class and its official conscience, the philanthropic foundations, for racial side- payments. Robinson makes this appeal unambiguously: "Until America's white ruling class accepts the fact that the book never closes on massive unredressed social wrongs, America can have no future as one people." Lest there be any doubt about the limited social vision that makes such an entreaty plausible, he brushes away the deepest foundations of American inequality: "Lamentably, there will always be poverty." His beef is that black Americans are statistically overrepresented at the bottom. It is significant as well that Jim Forman's 1969 demand was crafted at a conference funded and organized by liberal religious foundations. This is a protest politics that depends on the good will of those who hold power. By definition, it is not equipped to challenge existing relations of power and distribution other than marginally, with token gestures. 
There's a more insidious dynamic at work in this politics as well, which helps to understand why the reparations idea suddenly has spread so widely through mainstream political discourse. We are in one of those rare moments in American history -- like the 1880s and 1890s and the Great Depression -- when common circumstances of economic and social insecurity have strengthened the potential for building broad solidarity across race, gender and other identities around shared concerns of daily life, concerns that only the minority of comfortable and well-off can dismiss in favor of monuments and apologies and a politics of psychobabble. Concerns like access to quality health care, the right to a decent and dignified livelihood, affordable housing, quality education for all. These are objectives that can be pursued effectively only by struggling to unite a wide section of the American population who experience those concerns most acutely, the substantial majority of this population who have lost those essential social benefits or live in fear of losing them. And isn't it interesting that at such a moment the corporate-dominated opinion-shaping media discover and project a demand for racially defined reparations that cuts precisely against building such solidarity?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Walt Disney: a union-buster, but not quite as racist as I thought

God, I want to see the Robeson version of Song of the South. Hmm. With Bertolt Brecht writing and directing.

From Walt Disney -- prince or toad? - Los Angeles Times:
Walt anticipated these criticisms and actually went to great lengths to make the film as racially sensitive as he could. He hired a Jewish left-wing screenwriter, Maurice Rapf, to do a draft of the script because, as he told Rapf, "You're against Uncle Tomism and you're a radical." Before signing Baskett, he approached the black actor, singer and leftist activist Paul Robeson to play Remus and asked him to review the script. And he sent the script to a number of black notables for comment, including the actress Hattie McDaniel; the secretary of the NAACP, Walter White; and, via his friend producer Walter Wanger, Howard University scholar Alvin Locke. Walt even did something that he had done on no previous film: He invited White to the studio to work on revisions with him. White begged off, saying he was too busy. In short, Walt did everything he could plausibly do to get input from the black community. The usually peremptory man was anything but peremptory here. 
Yet Walt was more politically obtuse than he was racially obtuse. When the film opened, he was stunned by the firestorm of protest from African Americans who thought it was condescending and demeaning, among them Walter White, who complained to the New York Times that the black-white relationships in the film were a "distortion of facts." Former admirers, like the producer Billy Rose, condemned Walt as well. One group, the Theatre Chapter of the National Negro Congress, picketed theaters where the film was shown. Walt came to blame the black actor Clarence Muse, ironically one of those he had solicited for suggestions. Muse, he said, had wanted the role of Remus, and when he didn't get it, he turned to black newspapers to attack the film. 
But remarkably for a man who took everything personally, this disappointment did not sour Walt on race relations the way the strike had soured him on unions. He successfully fought to get Baskett an honorary Oscar when Baskett fell seriously ill shortly after the film's release, and he was especially solicitous to Baskett's family. 
Moreover, his later live-action films typically promoted racial tolerance, and he was much more sympathetic to Native Americans than most of his contemporaries.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Worship our awesome gender-inclusive editorizing!

I was thinking about the ongoing uproar in fandom over gender-proportionality in anthologies, and it made me wonder how Emma and I did with the Liavek anthologies. I just checked the line-up for the first volume:
Badu's Luck - Emma Bull
The Green Rabbit from S'Rian - Gene Wolfe
Ancient Curses - Patricia C. Wrede
Birth Luck - Nancy Kress
An Act of Contrition - Steven Brust
The Inn of the Demon Camel - Jane Yolen
The Hands of the Artist - Kara Dalkey
The Green Cat - Pamela Dean
A Coincidence of Birth - Megan Lindholm
Bound Things - Will Shetterly
The Fortune Maker - Barry B. Longyear
That's right. Seven women, four men. And until today, I never thought about what the gender line-up was, and I wouldn't have been surprised if it'd been the other way around.

Worship us, champions of gender diversity. Emma and I fucking rock, and we didn't even know it.

Yeah, it's a very white line-up, but we invited several writers of color—Emma and I were major Delany and Butler fanboys then. Ain't our fault they didn't have time to squeeze in stories for newbie editors. Charles Saunders gave us a story for the second volume, which was sweet.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I'll claim credit for calling the casting of Aquaman

I left this comment at Jason Momoa Reportedly Confirmed to Be Batman v. Superman's Aquaman: "DC does not have a shortage of white guys. Or of blond white guys. I'm especially pleased by the choice because a couple of years ago, I did a "if I rebooted DC" blog post in which I said I would make Aquaman Polynesian. This isn't quite that, but they are making the King of the Seas someone who's from an island in the biggest sea."

That post: if I rebooted the DC universe

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Reparations: two 50-word stories

Reparations: Logistics

Forty acres and a mule were promised, but freed slaves only won the freedom to sell their sweat themselves. Eight score and ten years later, the US promised all African-Americans would be paid reparations.

The next day, all white Americans amended their census forms from white to black.

Reparations: Consequences

When white Americans amended their race on the census, a new announcement came. Reparations would be based on the race on the previous census. Even descendants of black slaveowners would be paid. The two-thirds of the poor who were white would not.

The next day, the race war began.

Dance video: Dexter & Heriberto Performance, I Prefer You—Etta James. bluesSHOUT! 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

a little Voltaire

I was a bit saddened when I learned that my favorite Voltaire quote was actually written by a biographer, but I also love this, which is his:
"Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too."
—Voltaire, Essay on Tolerance
And here's a nice, very short piece by him: Voltaire, Freedom of Thought (1765)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

dance video: Ceo Dancers - Ezinne Asinugo Covers Awilo Longomba - BUNDELELE

For writers who mock the ignorant questions and comments they get

On Facebook, someone linked to If Strangers Talked to Everybody like They Talk to Writers, an amusing article that made me smile, but also made me respond like this:
It's funny, but face it: if you do something unusual, people will think it's unusual. Most of the questions and comments we get are very well-meant. Frankly, there's not a writer alive for whom being able to write is not a privilege, and whining about your privilege is always sad. Yes, in this case, that privilege means a lot of us are living below the poverty line, but we're still doing the art we want to do, and that's a privilege. Whine about your paycheck, not about people being surprised you're a writer, sez moi.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A question about my Witch Blood and Game of Thrones' "The Watchers on the Wall"

Without being spoilery here, at the end of the most recent Game of Thrones, I realized that, in very broad strokes, George and I did something similar: a small group of people are trapped in a fortress against an overwhelming force, and one person decides he must solve the problem on his own.

Now, I'm not saying George got the idea from me. I have no idea if he read Witch Blood, and if he did, he made that particular plot element into something uniquely his own. What I suspect is George and I both got the idea from something else, maybe a cowboy movie, maybe a French Foreign Legion story. So I'm curious. Does anyone know where that plot comes from?

Another reason to think the American people are better than their leaders

On polls, Americans are usually more progressive than either the Dems or the Repubs, which makes sense, because both parties are run by the rich and wealth is conservative. One exception used to be the death penalty, which a majority of Americans favored. Not anymore: New Low in Preference for the Death Penalty - ABC News: "A majority of Americans favor life imprisonment without parole over the death penalty for convicted murderers, a first in ABC News/Washington Post polls. Given a choice between the two options, 52 percent pick life in prison as the preferred punishment, while 42 percent favor the death penalty – the fewest in polls dating back 15 years."

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Dance video of the day: Parov Stelar - All Night (JSM)

On "freeze peach": Do people who mock free speech deserve it? Plus Frederick Douglass!

My heart says no, but there's a reason humans have minds, and my mind says yes, rights belong to those who reject them, too.

A note for people who know so little of the principle of free speech that they think mocking it as "freeze peach" is funny: The First Amendment covers the legal principle, but the moral principle is always greater than the law. You have a legal right to try to get people fired or blacklisted for saying what they think, but you have a moral obligation to defend them, no matter how reprehensible you may think their words.

I highly recommend Frederick Douglass's "A Plea for Free Speech". He talks about—but does not use the phrase—the heckler's veto being used to silence speakers. A few bits:

"These gentlemen brought their respect for the law with them and proclaimed it loudly while in the very act of breaking the law. Theirs was the law of slavery. The law of free speech and the law for the protection of public meetings they trampled under foot, while they greatly magnified the law of slavery."

"Even here in Boston, and among the friends of freedom, we hear two voices: one denouncing the mob that broke up our meeting on Monday as a base and cowardly outrage; and another, deprecating and regretting the holding of such a meeting, by such men, at such a time. We are told that the meeting was ill-timed, and the parties to it unwise."

"To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker."

It's short. Read it all.

Friday, June 6, 2014

About George Orwell's list that he gave to a friend who worked for the British Foreign Office’s Information Research Department (IRD)

Some socialists hate Orwell. Some hate him because they like totalitarianism so long as they get to be the totalitarians. Some hate him because 1984 and Animal Farm have been used by capitalists as arguments against socialism rather than totalitarianism, but capitalists will spin anything to their benefit. And some hate him because they think he was an informant, no different than the people who gave names to the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Ask them about "Orwell's list", and they'll have few details. But there's a very good account of what happened in Orwell’s List by Timothy Garton Ash. I recommend it all, but if you're impatient, the short answer is "it's complicated" and the long answer boils down to "he shouldn't have done it, but he was lonely and a babe asked him to, and it was only about jobs for the IRD, which he supported as a tool for opposing Stalinism, and no one suffered from his list, and he shouldn't have done it, but he was lonely and a babe asked him to."

Was he anti-semitic and homophobic? Depends on what you mean by the words. Marx and Engels could be called anti-semitic and homophobic, but that has nothing to do with whether their work has value. When the argument against writers is that they weren't saints, the only proper response is an eyeroll.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Today's thing that makes a writer's day: Kind words from a gay reader

Over on Facebook, where I said, "I've been paying too much attention to bad things lately, so I'm going to pay attention to good ones for a while", I just got this comment: "thanks for your inclusion of a gay character in your young adult fiction works, Elsewhere and Nevernever, and for having the other characters accept and defend him. As a young gay man I was pretty happy to see that...You can chalk that up as one good thing!"

I always grin when I say that when I write fantasy, I just write what I know, but it's true. I've had openly gay friends since I was fifteen. Why would I leave them out of my work?

Is racism rising in fandom?

Annalee Newitz posted Fantasy Writer N.K. Jemisin Explains the Rise of Racism in Fandom at io9. Jemisin quotes an old essay of Delany's in which he said the genre was less racist than the world at large, but when the genre's racial mix reflects the US, so will its racism.

What Jemisin misses is that the US is less racist. Gallup found that 4% of Americans approved of marriage between blacks and whites in 1958, while 77% approved by 2007, and Obama won more of the white vote than any Democrat since Carter. To say that fandom has become more racist suggests the awards won by Octavia ButlerSamuel R. DelanyNalo HopkinsonNnedi Okorafor, and Jemisin's own nominations and Locus Award are irrelevant, or are tokenism, or indicate some sort of pandering to whites by those black writers. There is a clichéd response in these cases that the black person had to be twice as good as the white, but Butler, Delany, Hopkinson, Okorafor, and Jemisin all went to excellent schools, and how do you argue that Parable of the Talents is twice as good as A Deepness in the Sky, or Babel-17 and The Einstein Intersection are twice as good as The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Lord of Light, or that The Kingdom of Gods fell a little short of being twice as good as Among Others?

Yet Jemisin claims the genre strangles the careers of black writers at birth, and black folks at Wiscon need their own version of the Underground Railway's secret rooms where they may hide from the whites who would harm them. If this seems silly to you, you need to brush up on your Critical Race Theory.

If you wonder about black people who want to be the voice of blackness for middle class white people, Adolph Reed Jr.'s "What are the drums saying, Booker?" is still relevant. Reed focuses on Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, and Henry Louis Gates, but he says a little about bell hooks, too. I quoted some of it at Adolph Reed on bell hooks, Cornell West, and other public black intellectuals.

Related:

Reclaiming Civility

Miscellaneous facts about the history of women in F&SF

Relevant to every discussion of sexism in f&sf

Damien Walter wants to be Neo

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

woman warriors of the day: a female sheriff and a blacksmith

Since I'm not sure I have a theme for my "women kicking butt" posts, I'm not sure these two comics are exceptions, but I grant they don't break the traditional models for women when they were published. But they bend them.

"Sheriff Sal's Last Stand", from Western Love Trails #7, is at Pappy's Golden Age Comics: A sheriff’s place is in the home. My favorite page:


The ending is very 1950s. I'll say no more. But the ending of “Love’s Last Stand” from Cowboy Love #28 doesn't address whether she keeps her job after marrying: "Pappy's Golden Age Comics: “I’ll be hornswoggled!” The lady blacksmith and the tall cowboy. Her only butt-kicking is the basic one of doing a "man's job", but that's a fine one, and the best heroic men respect it, as seen here:


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Call the Midwife and Princess Jellyfish—our Netflix recommendations

Emma and I just finished Princess Jellyfish, which we loved, and just saw the first episode of Call the Midwife, which we also loved, even though Emma's attitude toward babies is about the same as her attitude toward monkeys. All I can really say about either show is try one and see what you think.

woman warrior of the day: Roza Miletić

From Military History and Wars: Which warrior was the most dangerous in single combat in the history of the world? - Quora:

Croatian war of independence 1991-5, a grandma (Roza Miletić) captures an intact Serbian T-55 tank with live crew with plenty of ammo still available to them. Beating an empty steel oil drum with a stick she managed to scare the crew into thinking there was high caliber anti tank guns operating against them. The crew got out of the tank and lined up hands raised and once they realized dear old grandma was alone they proceeded to climb back on the tank, to which granny fired a burst out of her Romanian make ak-47 into the air (her only weapon). The crew realized the jig is up and surrendered again. The leather tanker helmet was claimed by the granny as a trophy after this "action". The event was all over the news.

Is she manly enough for ya? lol



On a more serious note the best warrior is the one that was able to walk away no matter what.

Further references:

  1. Roza Miletić
  2. Baku Rozu nakon 20 godina nazvao srpski pilot kojeg je bila zarobila

Monday, June 2, 2014

Not all men, not all rich people, not all Japanese, not all Jews or Muslims...

If you're new to the #NotAllMen development in the gender wars, try Not All Men: A Brief History of Every Dude’s Favorite Argument | TIME.

When I talk about socialism, I'm sometimes met with "You hate rich people" or "not all rich people". By the logic of #notallmen, I should respond by mocking them.

But that response tells me I've failed to communicate. If I don't think all rich people are the same, I need to be clearer. The failure is not with the listener. Even if the listeners are too committed to an ideology to hear what I'm trying to say, even if they believe Satan or Xenu is really at work, the failure is still mine if I can't make it clear that I like many rich people, and when I criticize capitalism, I'm speaking about a system, not about people. It's my obligation to make my meaning clear.

Now, identitarians tend to think the rules for speaking to and about the socially privileged are different, so let's take some examples.

In Japan, Japanese people have the greatest social privilege. Yet if I say something that makes a Japanese person respond, "Not all Japanese," I've been unclear—unless, of course, I'm a bigot who thinks all Japanese people are alike.

In Israel, Jews have the greatest social privilege, and in Morocco, Muslims do. Yet if I say something that makes a Jew respond, "Not all Jews," or a Muslim respond, "Not all Muslims," I've been unclear—unless, of course, I'm a bigot who thinks all Jews or Muslims are alike.

If I say something about women that makes a woman respond, "Not all women," mocking her would suggest—

Ah, well, A generalization about people tells you nothing about people in general, but it tells you everything about a generalizer.