Pathetic Politically Correct idiocy reached its nadir (so far) with SF writer Elizabeth Moon’s admittedly feckless and clumsy comments in 2010.
The genre community is so overrun by PC geeks, so oversensitive to the perceived misplacement of any word or phrase used by any writer or editor who dares cross the line it would seem set by the genre’s thought police, hewing it would appear to the line set by the likes of the Guardian ruling classes and NPR listeners stateside. There is a very selective and greatly exaggerated outrage and sensitivity to any perceived slight against fashionable grievance groups. It all smacks of so much desperation, denial and immaturity.
Before I touch on the Elizabeth Moon affair, much has been made of the William Sanders kerfluffle from when he was editor of the semi-prozine Helix. It related to the contents of a rejection letter he sent to a wannabe-writer in 2008. Wannabe-writer then leaked the contents on the web. Kerfluffle resulted.
If you don’t know about it you can google it. The reaction to that was major, some genre writers even started their own website ‘Transcriptase’ distancing themselves from Sanders.
The gist of it is that these outraged writers would have no more professional relationship with Sanders in the future, that is in his capacity as editor of Helix. They put up their stories and poety at Transcriptase instead of Helix. Sanders responded in an extensive interview in four parts here. It remains his definitive word on that whole controversy. Conversations with a mean old bastard.
People can make up their own minds on that Sanders kerfluffle, I have no comment directly on any of that, except to say this…
The comment of Sanders that initiated such sound and fury, in my opinion was feckless, insensitive and crudely put. Nothing more, nothing less. More than I can say for the Transcriptase crowd who frankly make moutains out of speed bumps. Likewise I did not care for those defending knee-jerk Sanders’s clumsily put comment (including at the now defunct Asimov’s Forum where the wannabe writer was wrongly and shrilly condemned for spilling the contents of the rejection letter on his blog. I agree with SF writer Tobias Buckell here that wannabe writer had every right to do that. That doesn’t mean I agree with Buckell on everything else relating to this kerfluffle, but his point here is reasonable), and misunderstanding Sanders’s intent and meaning in the process – going by Sanders’s clarification and comments in the interview linked to above. That would include much of the over-the-top commentary (that also missed the point) at the Asimov’s Forum by the likes of Tangent editor Dave Truesdale, and a few others. This Forum has very recently shut down - April 8th 2011 - and so the thread is no longer accessible.
There was also – before that – the storm in a teacup over the ‘Dan Simmons April Message’ from 2006. There was outrage among the self-appointed Thought Police in Science Fiction over Simmons’s remarks at his blog/website – related via a short time travel story. You can read the original frankly prescient story here. If you are the type who reads the Guardian religiously and “think” accordingly, steer clear.
It was made implicit by some genre fans in response to the above (you can google it if so interested) that Simmons was at best a redneck idiot, at worst a fascist or crypto-fascist and bigot for daring to express an opinion not approved by The NY Times, the BBC, The Nation, The Guardian, NPR and the other Cultural and Moral Relativist Thought Police of our Age. Simmons’s knowledge of the pertinent history here is considered irrelevant by the know-nothing twits in the genre who couldn’t think for themselves if their lives depended on it, and in a very real sense their and our lives do depend on it. There was nothing remotely bigoted about Simmons’s April Message, any more than James Morrow’s and Christopher Priest’s fiction exposing the excesses of the Christian Church – the Inquisitions and witch-hunts – are bigoted. To the genre’s self-appointed Thought Police (in this case the fans) though, historical facts about Islam and its dogma are bigoted, historical facts about Christianity and its dogma are not.
Then far more recently, in 2010 we had the Elizabeth Moon affair. You want to talk a mountain out of a molehill. It made the Sanders/Transcriptase kerfluffle seem reasonable and temperate by comparison. Many in the genre community’s collective ‘brains’ fell out with this one. Assuming they ever had any brains to start with, which is debatable. This is where the selective moral outrage – much ado about nothing – reached its nadir in the genre community.
Writer Elizabeth Moon, a middle-of-the-road moderate Democrat type it appears, dared to say some mild critical things about uh you know the Islam/ist community and its tense and antagonistic relationship with the West at her blog on the anniversary of 9-11. As a result she was actually disinvited as GoH at a SF convention in Wisconsin. One or two of her comments (as I put it on the pertinent Asimov’s Forum thread mentioned further down) are certainly clumsily and fecklessly put. Makes one wince a bit. Nothing more than that, nothing less than that.
As my namesake Lawrence Person put it at his blog http://www.battleswarmblog.com/?p=2744:
“So America’s main feminist science fiction dis-invited a Guest of Honor they had already extended an invitation to (which you just don’t do) for the crime of speaking out against radical Islam, the greatest threat to woman’s freedom in the 21st century. And Elizabeth Moon isn’t Mark Steyn or Ann Coulter; my impression from talking to her is that she’s probably best described as a moderate Democrat. And I suspect anyone from outside the suffocating confines of FailFandom are likely to find very little in her original essay to justify this self-indulgent orgy of wailing and rending of garments the FailFandom brigade greeted it with.”
You can read the SHOCKED AND OUTRAGED commentary from many fans in the genre community to Moon’s remarks at this blog. It is the blog of genre author and editor Lavie Tidhar and genre writer and fan Charles Tan.
Let’s see if Lavie Tidhar (a Jewish Israeli) ever has anything to say about the forthcoming revelations of base and extreme anti-Semitism from genre figures from this blog, at his own blog shall we? I say that because he got the whole blog thread above started with his post where he wrote in part:
We do prefer running positive stories than negative ones on this blog. But one of the aims of the World SF Blog is to highlight not just international speculative fiction, but attitudes in the wider world of SF on issues of race and religion.
So check out this rather extraordinary blog post by American science fiction writer Elizabeth Moon, this year’s guest-of-honour at Wiscon, the “world’s leading feminist science fiction convention”, in which she talks about, ostensibly, the building of a new mosque near the site of the Twin Towers..
Time will tell but I won’t be holding my breath…
Or how about here for even more outrage, self-righteous and tiresome blather. They’re SHOCKED SHOCKED I tell you and make sure the world knows about it.
It got worse. Catherynne M. Valente, editor at the online Apex Magazine – a magazine of imaginative fiction – is just so offended and SHOCKED SHOCKED I tell you that she brought out a special Muslim issue through Apex. Again from the Tidhar and Tan blog. The comments are largely PC folderol in spades.
I even started a thread at the Asimov’s Discussion Forum mocking Valente over her special Apex Mag Muslim issue. “Apex Mag announces Muslim Issue Not Satire” (thread no longer accessible because of the Asimov’s Forum shutdown)
As I wrote at the pertinent Asimov’s Forum thread:
…I think Valente and for that matter the majority of SF editors, writers and the like who think just like her, ought to try and organise the next SF world Con for Riyadh Saudi Arabia. I don’t know what the Saudi position is on contemporary Western science fiction (actually I kinda do know but I’m being facetious). I can’t see it being too friendly, especially with that strong secular bent that Western SF has to it, and women are not routinely portrayed as cattle – to give milk, food and give birth, in fact they are routinely heroic, and think and act for themselves on a par with the men. And there is a fair bit of sex and sexual innuendo in SF, and then there are all those Jewish writers and editors oops I can see a few problems for this con in Riyadh – no Jews allowed in Saudi Arabia for one. So quite a few writers and editors won’t be able to go, maybe Valente can get them special permits. Then again, one doesn’t see Valente and for that matter all the writers who attacked Moon (and there have been a few – usual suspects) ever putting their money where their mouth is. Although a SF con in Riyadh would allow Valente to garb herself in a burqua, along with her fellow female liberals, so in love with the RoP – I for one would love to see the photos. So make sure the name tags are real big because there is no way we are otherwise going to be able to tell Valente apart from … all the other liberal feminist writers, fans and editors. Actually the more I think about it the more I think this is a great idea, Apex can issue their special Muslim issue at the premier con in the heart and birthplace of Islam itself – Saudi Arabia (a marketing coup for sure) – walking the walk, not just talking the talk. That way they will really shut up those right-wing tea party Palin supporting bible thumping Limbaugh lovin’ redneck Islamophobes who want to turn America into a Christian citadel like uh myself [I am being sarcastic here obviously - red wolf] and put us in our place. That will show us up! It will indeed, so please Valente, next con Riyadh yeah?
The special Muslim issue is here.
There is a good reason that I start with the mention of the Sanders, Simmons and Moon incidents. All were made into major kerfluffles – all shock and horror – within the dense genre community whose opinions in the main appear in lockstep with the post-modernist self-loathing narrative of the pseudo-intellectual elites who dominate the media, governments, NGOs and universities. Well why expect otherwise?
Compare and contrast the ridiculous blow-up over these affairs with the disgusting blatant anti-Semitism from a fair few in the genre community that saw very little if any public outrage at all. The most obvious case in point – SF writer James P Hogan (1941-2010) openly made it clear he was a hardcore Holocaust Denier at his own blog/bulletin board associated with his website in two seperate posts.
Firstly in a posted commentary entitled ‘Free Speech Hypocrisy’ posted on 22 February 2006
Hogan praised the most notorious hardcore Holocaust Deniers – David Irving, Arthur Butz, Mark Weber – as truth-tellers to power. Also a later blog post/essay entitled “Here’s to you Ernst Zundel, a lonely voice of courage” posted on 20th March 2010, a few months before Hogan passed away. Zundel was a notorious Holocaust Denier.
As Hogan put it in this latter post (and it’s quoted on his Wiki page), Hogan wrote of the Holocaust: “claims that are wildly fantastic, mutually contradictory, and defy common sense and often physical possibility.” James Hogan’s Wiki page references both these blog posts, the “Free speech hypocrisy” post from 2006 and the “Here’s to you Ernst Zundel..” post from 2010. Hogan’s hardcore Holocaust Denial is in other words very easy to verify via his Wiki page.
Hogan was known as a Holocaust Denier among a fair few writers in the genre community even before he went public with his views. See SF writer Michael Burstein’s commentary upon Hogan’s passing here
So what was the PUBLIC response among the movers and shakers in the genre community (and remember there are a lot of Jewish writers, editors, publishers, agents, fans in science fiction) to Hogan PROUDLY going PUBLIC with his Holocaust DENIAL with his post in 2006 and his follow-up post from 2010, a few months before his death?
Can you guess? Yes it was a deafening silence.
I heard nothing publicly from any genre writer/editor/publisher – Jewish or not – in the aftermath of Hogan outing himself as a Holocaust Denier. NADA ZILCH RIEN NOTHING. Not from any Jewish SF blogger, no call for any conference disinvites to Hogan etc, nothing. No website or blog or statement put together by outraged Jewish SF writers, nothing (I did see one or two bloggers condemning Hogan, but this came from non-genre people). Well nothing I discovered at any rate. Burstein wrote his piece shortly after Hogan died.
In other words, if the genre community had a real problem with Hogan’s Holocaust Denial, they kept it to themselves. The public silence from Jewish genre figures (and I especially count those who blog and have no problem covering political affairs and gossip) was notable.
One wonders what an anti-Semitic genre writer or notable has to do, to get some *public* attention from Jewish genre figures? Obviously Holocaust Denial is not enough, so then I guess blaming Jews for wars à la Mel Gibson, or calling ‘em Christ killers who control the world’s precious mineral supplies à la Hugo Chavez won’t result in so much as a peep from ‘em. I think only if a genre writer/editor was to openly call for another Holocaust of Jewry, MAYBE one or two Jewish genre folk might express some outrage publicly. Then again maybe not.
How many of those who expressed outrage publicly at Sanders’s and Moon’s commentary had boo to say about Hogan publicly when he outed himself – unambiguously – as a Holocaust Denier? No I am not equating the former and latter morally and ethically at all. Not even remotely. Beyond orders of magnitude in difference. That’s just my point.
Private outrage – behind the scenes – counts for nothing. The deafening silence on Hogan’s Holocaust Denial in the public sphere by those in the genre who pretend to take offense at racism within the genre community (real or imagined – ie the hysterical responses to the Moon blog post in particular), while Hogan was alive (and since his death) speaks volumes. Pathetic. Hogan was a best-selling SF writer. He was not a minor writer with a few published stories in some obscure periodicals, in which case – who would care? He was a major SF writer.
This is worse than a double standard. Even if you think Sanders and Moon crossed a line, it cannot be compared to the extreme odious bigotry that defines Holocaust Denial. They are orders of magnitude removed from one another. Yet it is the former that so gets the genre Thought Police’s knickers in a twist, the latter ho hum, not so much… In fact in the latter case, it really was basically nothing at all. Hardly a peep. Harlan Ellison’s ‘fire-sale’ of his Hogan collection (at his blog forum) was pretty much it, among the genre professionals.
Forthcoming is a series of posts that are humdingers of Hogan proportions, and in fact Hogan’s passing last year was to act as a catalyst for all this. This is a very real exposé…
Forthcoming post: Introduction to a several part series ‘Asimov’s Forum and Der Stürmer – Can You Tell The Difference? On the banality of Holocaust Revisionism’ alternatively titled ‘Alice in Wonderland as interpreted by David Duke & Louis Farrakhan’.