In August, a blogger and book critic, acrackedmoon, reviewed an interview by speculative fiction writer R. Scott Bakker. She did so from a feminist angle and, from this perspective, found the fellow and his politics deficient.
Six months later, the science fiction community has caught a case of the hysterics.
For a chronology, I refer you to Requires Only That You Hate – the blog that started the ruckus:
You will have heard of the Bakker brouhaha, if you are here. Let’s have a chronology:
- Requires Only That You Hate – R. Scott Bakker: Prince of Misogyny – dated 16 August 2011
- R. Scott Bakker – Sweet Manna - dated 16 August 2011
- R. Scott Bakker - Misanthropology 101 – dated 1 February 2012
- R. Scott Bakker - Requires Only Haidt – dated 6 February 2012
- R. Scott Bakker - The Halftime Show – dated 10 February 2012
- R. Scott Bakker - That Empty Place – dated 16 February 2012
- Peter Watts – In Vicarious Defense of R. Scott Bakker – dated 16 February 2012
- R. Scott Bakker – Um, does anybody got a mint? – dated 18 February 2012
I’ve never read Watts’ or Bakker’s books. I’ve only recently started reading Requires Only That You Hate. I know that I’ll be seeing Watts at conventions. I’ll probably never meet acrackedmoon.
Should she ever read my novel, I suspect she’ll find it wanting.
But who knows? It’s not up to me to speak or think on her behalf and she’s doesn’t require it. The lady can take care of herself in an internet knife fight. She’s chopping heads. I’m just wading through the blood.
What I need to speak to –because I am a straight white male who shares an occupation and community with these authors and one could, from that, reasonably believe my silence is a form of approval or, worse, the sort of cowardice, born from ambition, that I patently loathe– is how she is being spoken to.
I do not approve. I think it’s fucked up.
Peter Watts expressed some doubts about calling acrackedmoon “a rabid animal” and called her that anyway. I’m not going to pretend to have any doubts about calling Mr. Watts a scoundrel and a fucking goof.
And I don’t need to read his books to do so.
You see, I just don’t know what else to call a man — a straight, white man, like myself– who would refer to a woman of colour as an animal. That he would do so, while defending his friend from a charge of sexism means he must be fucking stupid. That he tries to defend it makes him exceptionally shit-headed.
I guess we won’t be friends. The loss pains me.
Without exception, I have found acrackedmoon’s criticisms of works I have read to be valid. That’s not to say I’m always in total agreement with her. I think the political interpretation of work can be limited. But all criticism, from whatever angle, is limited. As is writing.
I’ve reviewed and been reviewed. It is, as they say, easier to fight the bull from the bleachers. But that’s not to say that it’s easy. Critics are still fighting the bull and they are important. They enter into a serious dialogue with art. They’re readers.
Books do not exist without readers.
I do not mean as consumers. I mean the art does not live without people reading it. It does not become important without people discussing it.
Outside of what they’ve written, authors cannot and should not direct the interpretation of their own works or the conversation about it. Their intent and personality is irrelevant. There is no reason to bring forth character witnesses.
If I should ever have to bring forth character witnesses to defend my books, I’m good and fucked. Even my friends can hardly stand me. It doesn’t matter.
What I think has happened here –at heart– is that writers are arguing that their interpretation is the most important one. This position is noxious. It’s marketing.
This position is made combustible by the addition of race and gender. Because now these authors have moved on to assert their control over the conversation about these elements in their work.
How dare anyone who doesn’t even know them find fault with their politics and hurt their sales?
They’re defensive. It’s inappropriate.
Far from being a rabid animal, acrackedmoon is an excellent and perceptive critic. Her point of view is not only reasonable, it’s important. Voices like hers are too rarely heard in a community that still thinks Tolkien’s racism is in the magical realm of maybe or that Orson Scott Card is anything but a homophobic hack whose greatest work is a defence of genocide.
Instead of people just shutting up and listening, using her observations to improve their writing, here’s what we get:
1. Motherfuckers pretending that she’s a troll.
There is nothing in her work that indicates that she’s trolling. Her posts are well thought out and angry. If people need her anger explained, they need only look at their own reaction to it.
That shit makes me angry too.
Am I a troll for being so? If so, you’re a fucking goat. And get off my bridge.
2. Motherfuckers calling her race and/or sex into question.
Many people are saying that acrackedmoon may not be a Thai lesbian at all. The perversity of this is beyond me. What difference does it make?
She says she’s a Thai lesbian. Even if she’s not, I’d rather take her at her word and be wrong than attempt to take away someone’s race and sexual orientation to defend my work.
To do so without evidence is insane.
3. Motherfuckers calling her names.
Commenters, left unmoderated by the authors in question, have engaged in all the usual shit about how she must be ugly and worse. Addressing that is, frankly, beneath my dignity. Try as I might, I cannot think like a toad.
But for science fiction authors to refer to her as “a rabid animal” or as “The Dude” is revolting. I should not have to explain why but here we are . . .
White people are not allowed, under any circumstances, to call people of colour animals, let alone rabid ones, and straight people are not allowed to call lesbians “The Dude.” These are deeply hurtful terms that not only attack an individual but a whole class of people.
You want to know how you look and sound when you do that?
If she was a gay man, would you call her The Lady or Miss?
I wouldn’t think so but, then again, I wouldn’t think professional writers would call her the things they have. Like they don’t know the power and meaning of words.
And if you think you can justify it, I wish my Nan was still alive so that I might introduce you to her. I’d take great pleasure in watching her slap the shit out of your dumb ass.
Then she could read your post about a Thai woman, done in the style of a god-damn nature show, and beat your ass again.
Swear to God, a big problem with the internet is that you can’t roll it up and hit people with it.
4. The overall tone motherfuckers are taking.
The general position adopted by these authors is that they are reasonable, open-minded gentlemen trying to deal with a shrieking, hysterical harpy. It’s as if they shake their heads, look at each other, jerk their thumb in her direction and say: “Crazy dames, I’ll never get ‘em.”
And that’s before they start using words like ‘primitive’ and ‘tribal’ and ‘animal.’
They’re acting so scientific. So rational. Meanwhile, they’re portraying acrackedmoon as engaged in some sort of in-group building, us versus them, exercise in tribalism.
I reject their so-called science. It’s little more than intellectual posturing. A bloated and pompous defence of the indefensible.
I was unsurprised to see a commenter bring up the half-baked and pseudo-scientific musings of Watson on race to attack ‘political correctness’ or, as I like to call it, decent manners.
I was a little more surprised to see . . .
5. Motherfuckers pretending they have no bigotry.
Or, in the case of Bakker, pretending his biogotry of choice is misandry. That is, he’s biased towards women. He loves them. All of them. They’re just adorable.
Invoking misandry has all the weight of “I love equality so when’s white history month?”
So let’s put his patronizing claim aside. Most of this seems to be people taking umbrage with being called bigots. The narrative has escaped their control. Panic ensues.
I don’t know why folks can’t just be straight about their bigotry. We all have prejudices . We are not perfect. I have them. These writers have them. I’m sure acrackedmoon has them.
Pretending we don’t is to close our eyes. We have to accept that we do, be honest about them –make them visible to ourselves through our art– and, once we gain awareness, try to check them.
When other people check them for us, the best response is not to launch into a hysterical defence of our good character. The best defence is to forget about defence. Just listen and think about it and try to be better.
Maybe say thank you.
Having prejudice is entirely human. So is attempting to do better
Do better, motherfuckers.
Because, as things stand, you’re embarrassing yourself, you’re embarrassing me and I’m ashamed to even share a skin colour, let alone a profession or community, with you.
The white man does have a burden. It’s you.