This essay repeats much of the same themes or oh so taboo motifs that I covered in this article over here, although from a different angle or perspective entirely.
Samuel Delany is a well-known and award winning African-American SF writer, making a name for himself while still very young back in the 1960s. He has never been one to shy away from controversy and his experience of being black in America and in the SF scene, and it is in this vein that this article of his was published in the New York Review of Science Fiction in 1998.
In reading Delany’s piece one is struck by several things. Firstly how Delany’s blackness was and is keenly felt in the SF genre community as a whole, apart from and beyond what it means to be black in America in the late twentieth century. As such Delany remains a man apart. This was not his choice in the matter, it is forced upon him. In the SF genre community, even though common interests can translate to a shared rapport with other writers and fans, there is no getting away from the reality of race/ethnic relations in America. Even if anti-black racism is not overt or of the old-fashioned redneck variety, a confused dynamic, wincing and condescending attitudes and misunderstandings remain…
And yes the parallels with Jewry and anti-Semitism here are striking, even as science fiction in America (as with comics) is heavily Jewish (as Delany points out), especially in the 1960s. I expand on this point further down and why surface appearances can be deceiving.
In other words if Delany ever forgets the color of his skin, his peers, colleagues and the wider world will remind him of it, even without consciously intending to. And yes it is equally true of the Jew, if he forgets he is a Jew, an anti-Semitic society will set him straight very quickly.
One is struck by Delany’s precocity. He had written Babel 17 and arguably his best novel The Einstein Intersection by age 23. Delany is one of the few genuinely literary SF writers in a genre that is dominated by awful hack drivel. Then and now. Perhaps if Lawrence Durrell wrote science fiction, he would have written like Delany (or not!).
Yet it’s worth remarking on something that Delany would most probably not recognize or does not mention. The heavy number of Jewish folk in the US SF community (as heavy-weight writers, agents, editors and publishers back in the 60s and the prior Golden Age – Leinster, Tenn, Silverberg, Asimov, Ellison, Malzberg, Gernsback, Scott Meredith, Judith Merril, Alfred Bester and others) is misleading so far as their acceptance as Jews is concerned within the genre community itself. They were accepted, admired and respected for their various contributions to the genre. Their Jewishness was another matter. That is their Jewishness tended to be overlooked, minimized, downplayed. It speaks so much of the polite anti-Semitism in the genre community and in American society that several Jewish professionals in the genre field (and outside of it too of course) adopted goy pen names. It made things so much easier and was certainly understandable, even unavoidable. Grossman becomes Merril. Philip Klass becomes William Tenn. The famous and influential agent Scott Meredith was born Arthur Scott Feldman.
Anti-black racism and anti-Semitism have common dynamics, including a collective largely unconscious guilt in WASP America re their anti-black and anti-Semitic past (obviously with anti-black racism it has been more overt and hideous because of slavery). It is this shared guilt that continues to fuel both anti-black racism and anti-Semitism. That is both prejudices persist precisely because of the recognition of past prejudices, that remain raw wounds. WASP America can feel better about its history if we feel blacks and Jews ‘got what they deserved’, this justifies persistent negative stereotypes of both groups. Naturally this is an unconscious process. Today the anti-black racism and anti-Semitism have merely evolved in their dynamics and in their garb. They remain but in new guises that are not always recognized as such. This is a complex topic well beyond this single blog article and its purpose, so I do not expand on it too much here (hence the comments above are obviously simplifications, even gross simplifications). I focus on America here, but it applies far more extensively to the Western world as a whole of course.
However when it comes to anti-Semitism, the new guises – as I make clear in my ‘What this Blog is About’ article – take the form of dishonest, rabid and harebrained anti-Israelism and the associated psychopathology of anti-Zionism, in other words political anti-Semitism. Chillingly the last people to recognize this are the Jews themselves, especially the miseducated egg-headed elite, heavily conditioned to the liberal/Left worldview (which matters more to them than anything else, including ‘common sense’). These Jews naturally are to be found making their homes in academia, in the humanities, the professions, the entertainment industry, the media and the sciences alike. They are thus ever-present in the literary world (where Jews have always had a strong presence).
So the Jewish presence in science fiction has always been strong and remains so (carrying over from and in the wake of the strong Jewish literary bent and emphasis in Jewish education and upbringing). So let me stress that when I say Jewish presence in the speculative fiction genre field, as with the non-genre literary community in North America and the UK, the knee-jerk liberalism is as pervasive as it is deeply held among them. The liberal ideology über alles is in fact a mentality foremost with the heavily assimilated genre and non-genre Jewish professional, far more so than his or her Jewish identity, which ranks far lower down in priority and attention. Often enough – depending on the person – his Jewish identity barely registers, if at all. Where the Jewish genre person (and Jewry in general for that matter of course) differs from his or her African-American peers like Delaney, is the latter can never be truly assimilated or blindly camouflaged within wider American and Western society, whether the latter desire it or not. The reason is obvious – skin color. No matter how many degrees or PhDs or Armanis a black man may have, no matter his speech, his schooling or where he grew up, he is always black (short of a Michael Jackson freak transformation) and he knows it! He is always, as Delaney puts it, the negro, with all its historical connotations and associations. Always.
With the Jew it is actually not so, or not nearly so. A typical American/Canadian/British Jew is of European Ashkenazi background and is thus as white as any German or Swedish or British American. White as white. So the Jew can far more easily blend in and camouflage himself and his identity in the broader non-Jewish society. He may not look obviously Jewish and even if he does, it is not always obvious to Gentile people.
In fact arguably the majority of Gentile people in the West (especially in places where there are few Jews) do not recognize an obviously Jewish looking person as such. Jews can attest to this fact readily enough. As can I. Given so much inter-marriage between Jews and non-Jews, the ‘Jewish genes’ are naturally being further diluted over the generations.
The short of it is this – unlike a black man, a Jewish man (obviously without any religious garb including a kippah) can walk into an office building, a restaurant in a traditionally hostile-to-Jewry city like Vienna, Stockholm or Madrid and none would necessarily be the wiser to his Jewishness. He fits in, he may be assumed by the locals to be a tourist or businessman from North America or the UK, a foreigner but not a JEWISH foreigner. Simply a WESTERN foreigner. In other words somebody who is one of them. The black man never fits in to such a world. Not for a second. Yet as a consequence a black man can never fool himself so easily that he is accepted. Even if he goes out for a cup of coffee, a beer, the laundromat, his blackness goes with him.
Yet the Jew easily fools himself, a human enough trait. The truth is too terrible to bear, so he satisfies himself with appearances. Ah the Jew sits in a bar in Madrid, a restaurant in Seattle, people are warm and welcoming. His Jewishness does not bother them! The return of Judenhass in the form of anti-Israelism that is both rooted in old-fashioned Jew-hatred and spills over into it is something he prefers to ignore, at best. At worst and this is increasingly common, the anti-Semitic hatred is internalized and rationalized. What anti-Semitism? It is ony anti-Israelism.
This mantra is shockingly common, as common as it is harebrained. He does not see the obvious because the obvious is always the most difficult thing to see. His miseducation in smart alec cleverness only exacerbates the problem. His assimilation via his usually secular and exclusively Western/European ‘education’ (a problem in Israel too – yes really – but this is a whole other thing that I do not expand on in this article), the assault of media and ideology hostile to Jewry, a gentile social and work environment that he wraps himself in, removes him from his Jewish identity and authenticity. He is now Jewish In Name Only.
It matters not whether he has had a bar mitzvah, is circumcised, has a Jewish surname, even reads and speaks Hebrew for that matter and is familiar with Jewish myths, literature, history and the associated Jewish tragedies. He is lost, he has sold his birthright and he didn’t even know it. It makes life a lot easier of course, but only on the surface and there is always a price to pay. Always. I stress that this description of Diaspora English language Jewry applies shockingly to Israeli Jews themselves. They are so enamoured of the European culture that is their heritage, they cannot divorce and discriminate the good from the bad. Even after the Holocaust. Far too many among Diaspora and Israeli Jewry have taken the self-loathing from the shtetls to the suburbs of Los Angeles, New York, London and Tel Aviv. They didn’t ever chuck it overboard.
All this gets us to the point – the heavy presence of assimilated Jewry in science fiction is not any guarantee against firm and automatic opposition to anti-Semitism coming from their gentile peers. Au contraire, the very presence of heavily assimilated and predominantly liberal Jewry in science fiction all but guarantees a free pass to anti-Semitism as long as it takes the modern acceptable form; with all the cover sloganese, no matter how transparent and flimsy the disguises. It’s worse than that: many (certainly not all) liberal genre Jewry can be counted on to give such disingenuous new-anti-Semitism their stamp of approval, since such ‘Jews’ no more recognize the obvious bigotry here than their anti-Semitic Gentile peers. In other words, as it is in the wider world… .
The predominant reason is, aside from a desire just to get on with Gentiles (and even careerism) despite the latters’ prejudice, there is a shared ignorance of the Middle-East Reality. This ignorance – a complete cluelessness – goes hand in hand with liberal ideology and its ‘secular’ evangelists in the media, in education, the universities notably, NGOs and in the political sphere.
So despite lip service paid to combating or opposing anti-Semitic prejudice in and out of the genre community by Jewish genre writers, editors and the like, there is nothing really. Or nothing to write home about. Hence this blog.
Unless the new anti-Semitic prejudice is recognized for what it is and Jewish genre personalities publicize this fact, talk of not accepting anti-Semitism in genre ranks is not only meaningless, it is dishonest, evasive, hypocritical and cowardly. If a Jew does not even begin to recognize persistent and inflexible and heavily dishonest anti-Israelism and its twin: inflexible, persistent and staunch pro-Palestinianism in the West, for what it so clearly is… And in fact if such ‘Jewry’ even go so far as to endorse such disingenuous robotic mantras, slogans and disguises as anti-racism and ‘peace and justice’; then the absurd hypocrisy of it all goes beyond denial and ignorance and crosses over into neurotic self-loathing.
As such there are differences between the complex dynamics of anti-black racism and anti-Semitism within and without the genre community. This is especially so in our day and age when the political Left is horrendously anti-Semitic and yet pretend they are not. They are liberals see? When Delany wrote this article back in the 1960s this Judenhass was not the case as a whole among the American and Western Left in such a pervasively conspicuous and shrill political fashion (although certainly it was always there, it was merely on the backburner. Circa 1967 it has turned and grown considerably like a cancer). Naturally anti-black prejudice has evolved in its dynamics since Delany wrote that article likewise, although its fundamental tropes remain. The same can be said for anti-Semitism. Yet arguably the disingenuous Orwellian ‘progressive’ pretense that can be summed up as ‘Jew-hatred as anti-racism and anti-war’ is not surpassed for sheer harebrained madness in any other form of prejudice. One doubts Orwell and Kafka could have imagined it.
Let me make it more concrete – imagine an African or African-American SF fan blogger writing an article expressing his exasperation with how fellow African-Americans are some of his biggest critics when he seeks to confront and expose indisputable and extreme anti-black racism! It would be very difficult to imagine this of course. It’s not that there isn’t black self-loathing or Uncle Tom ingratiation with the Man, it’s that its dynamics take a different form to Jewish self-loathing and denialism of anti-Semitism. This is beyond the scope of this article to elucidate on in detail.
A reader’s response to such a hypothetical blog article by a black African blogger would be… ???! In other words sheer incomprehension.
However tragically with Jews, attacks on any Jew calling out anti-Semitism by Court Jews themselves – the latter desperate to prop up the status quo (as the latter are heavily invested in it, whether ideologically, emotionally, socially or financially or all of these) – are among the most vicious, extreme and disgraceful. For Court Jews have the most to lose and their defense is paper-thin and flimsy in the extreme. Hence their contemptuous anger at any Jew who dares to mention the obvious, and calls out the Judenhass in their midst for what it so clearly is.
Many liberals – Jews and Gentile alike – can be counted on to respond with incomprehension to this blog article of mine. Given the cretinism rampant in the genre community (read the archived articles at this blog with the caveat that the reader is outside of the idiot straight-jacketed liberal zeitgeist. This is necessary – at minimum – to recognize what I am getting at) and the wider world, this article will read like an introduction to advanced molecular biology or tensor calculus to most of the folk in the genre field. They suffer from a mental block. They simply do not understand at all. They cannot understand. They don’t want to face very ugly facts.
The point is we have no Delany among notable Jewry in the genre community. At least that is how it looks from here. That is there does not appear to be any Jewish genre professional publicly willing to call a spade a spade here re the ‘new’ anti-Semitism and its PERVASIVENESS in the genre community and the wider world (that would in principle include the public recognition that anti-Zionism is a cover for anti-Semitism. Martin Luther King Jr got that and expounded on it as eloquently as anybody ever has). They don’t have to name names within the genre community (although it wouldn’t hurt!), but to even call out the dishonest and ignorant harebrained anti-Israelism and anti-Zionism among the Left for the Jew-hatred that it is TODAY (I don’t mean back in the 1960s, 70s and 80s) is seemingly beyond all of them. Or almost all of them.
For to call a spade a spade here would mean first of all recognizing the mainstream Left’s Judenhass for what it is, and such Jewish genre folk are few and far between. Recognizing this is the first hurdle that the majority of Jewish genre people stumble at!! Even if they get over this hurdle, the next hurdle has to be faced and overcome. That is speaking out publicly. And that would mean earning the contempt and panicked resistance of the MAJORITY of their liberal peers and the desperate denials and even derision of the majority of their Jewish liberal genre peers at that!! Look at the contempt, the baseless and pathetic personal attacks heaped upon myself by a panicky Court Jewry. There is this transparent desperation to keep a lid on that can of worms, at all costs. At best.
That’s how bad it is. That’s how bad it’s gotten.
I am not naïve – I realize there are other factors too, one’s circle of acquaintances and colleagues, financial concerns may well weigh heavily here too and other things not unrelated, like one’s career in science fiction/speculative fiction itself!
Here is just a sampling of the commentary in response to Delaney’s essay on ‘racism and science fiction’:
Firstly a Google search on ‘racism and science fiction’ and ‘Samuel Delany’ got me no less than 363 000 hits!
Editor Kathryn Cramer (wife of very well-known editor David Hartwell), had something to say in response to Delany’s essay. Cramer is guilty of nothing less than extreme anti-Semitism, and NOBODY has anything to say about that (well other than myself).
Carol Borden at the Cultural Gutter.
A fair number of African-American bloggers/academics/writers and internet forum discussion groups… .
Well just go through Google and see for yourselves.
On ‘science fiction and anti-Semitism’, well just google that, and see what you get by comparison!
There is a bomb waiting to explode here in the genre community re the blanket taboo on even acknowledging the presence and very pervasiveness of anti-Semitism, especially in its liberal ‘progressive’ guises/disguises. Worse there is an additional scandal, the disgraceful role of genre Court Jewry in keeping a lid on all this, and so only exacerbating the problem. As in our wider society.
Whether this ‘bomb’ ever goes off…
Time will tell.
I for one have my doubts. Let me be frank, I do not see it ever coming from these run-of-the-mill liberal Jewish genre folk, even those ostensibly supportive of Israel; because it would mean having to question contemporary liberal ideology, and facing up to the disingenuous new (and old) anti-Semitism that is pervasive among the Western Left. Inter alia that would mean facing up to the anti-Semitism of the Obama administration itself (whether Obama is voted out of office or not in the coming week). And their liberal identity and allegiance means more to them than anything…
If anybody thinks I am being too harsh…
Well in response to this previous and very similarly themed article of mine, genre Jewish writer Adam-Troy Castro posted up a sincere reply at his webnews.sff.net bulletin board. It was a pleasant change of pace from the usual asinine responses I have gotten from a panicked and clearly scared Court Jewry. I appreciate it. However with that said, Castro’s response still missed the mark and did not address the deeper issues. In fact Holocaust Revisionist Dave Truesdale himself posted up a reply at Castro’s place on the web! with the most pathetic name-calling directed my way, ignoring the subject of the Holocaust altogether naturally. Liberal Jewish genre writer Chuck Rothman gave his support to Truesdale there, denying the latter was a Holocaust Revisionist (same linked article)! There was zero response to Truesdale’s priceless blather and Rothman’s for that matter (check for yourselves); instead a new topic was posted and discussion engaged in over a stupid remark by a… Republican politician. All the while ‘Benghazigate’ rages, perhaps the biggest, or one of the biggest and most cynically deceitful scandals of the Obama administration that goes right to the top, but no mind.
Oh yes and uh the non-responses to a Holocaust Revisionist Dave Truesdale posting up at Castro’s place on the web (it is Truesdale who gets in the last word), just an awkward silence… It only proves the point I make in the article that Adam-Troy Castro was responding to. Also it is interesting that China Mieville does get a mention amidst the banter over there re my blog, however nobody specifically condemns him as an anti-Semite neither. The closest anybody gets is a comment – intended in a negative and critical light – that he is an Arabist. True enough, however this is the furthest anybody is willing to go… Nobody (at Castro’s place on the web) is willing to go on record and actually state – especially in light of my series on Mieville – that Mieville is clearly anti-Semitic. Once again it only proves the point I made in the Valentine/Walling article and this one!