I awoke this morning to a grand murmuring that rumbled through the ether. I knew, immediately, that something must be amiss in the gentle realms of Genre. A disturbance in MA, if you will. Abruptly, I pounced from the soft cocoon of my bed, bursting with purpose, and took my dog out to go to the bathroom. Then opened up a can of wet food for her, which prompted the cats to come begging for their share. Once that was taken care of, I pulled up facebook because, frankly, I didn’t want to think about the fact that I should be getting ready for work.
That’s when the hubbub over the Resnick and Malzberg Dialogues in the SFWA Bulletin hit me in the face. I’m not a member and do not receive this publication, so I cannot speak to the articles themselves and only have experience of them from the viewpoint of those offended. The gist, however, seems to be that the two gentlemen were attempting cheeky nostalgia about the good ol’ days when you could talk about fellow professionals as if they were pieces of meat, so long as those fellow professionals had vaginas. Since, again, I have only experienced a single side of the issue, I cannot speak to the complaints and I’ll keep my damn mouth shut on that for the moment.
I can, however, speak to the responses to both this and any expression in the artistic world that centers around demeaning or devaluing the art or the artist (or the impression that such an act has occurred) based on superficial details unrelated to the art itself.
There is always the gut response to complain. Or to “get the bastards”. Maybe, as has been suggested, we should not allow people who say or do such things in our clubhouses anymore. I, however, tend to defer to Penny Arcade’s Tycho Brahe on this one:
The answer is always more art; the corollary to that is the answer is never less art. If you start to think that less art is the answer, start over. That’s not the side you want to be on. The problem isn’t that people create or enjoy offensive work. The problem is that so many people believe that culture is something other people create, the sole domain of some anonymized other, so they never put their hat in the ring. That even with a computer in your pocket connected to an instantaneous global network, no-one can hear you. When you believe that, really believe it, the devil dances in hell.
I’ve been through this fight before. In Hardcore, when people misread Minor Threat’s “Guilty of Being White” and the term skinhead became considered synonymous with Neo-Nazi instead of broke ass homeless kids who shaved their head to keep from getting lice. In Black Metal, when National Socialist Black Metal raised its ugly head. It’s still ongoing in the world of sludge metal, where some still assume that racism and antiquated nationalism are a necessary part of southern pride. And horror. Don’t get me started on horror. Hell, there was awhile that I lived the straight-edge lifestyle, but did not want to be associated with the misogyny, egotism and violence I saw associated with that scene.
In every one of those situations, there were both verbal and physical fights as well as the attempt to kick the bastards out. None of those worked, and usually emboldened them to take on the mantle of the victim. But then, something beautiful began to happen in every one of those situations: people in the scene that did not agree with how a minority was allowing them all to be portrayed made a point to create more art that portrayed the scene the way they felt it should be portrayed. Hippy Black Metal bands like Wolves in the Throne Room and organizations like S.H.A.R.P. and the Conscientious Straight Edge movement and films like American Psycho (while the book was written by a man, Mary Harron’s stamp gives the story an level of depth and breadth the book lacked) that dissect the sexism in slasher films in an erudite and literate as well as joyous fashion.
This did not get rid of the “bad guys”, but it does show that they are a minority or at least that their ideas are not monolithic through the scene. More importantly, it created some really fucking cool ass art. I can’t think of a better way to stick it to people you disagree with.
I’m wondering why, while all these people are complaining, dropping out of the SFWA or telling the patriarchs to keep their antiquated ideas to themselves, I haven’t heard of anything being submitted to run counter to this. How about a similar dialogue between two women who lived on the receiving end of this behavior? Even better, why not flip the tables and write something up talking about them in the same manner? That last one would be awesome.
We’ve already recognized that, if we want to deal with the prevalence of white male characters in the genre, we have to create more stories with vital, honest characters of other types and stripes. The same applies here. Let's get to making some culture!