You may remember the uproar surrounding sexist and otherwise problematic content in the SFWA Bulletin from last summer (exhaustively chronicled here).
The SFWA promised to mend their ways and suspended the Bulletin until a new editor could be found (the old editor resigned over the uproar). They also came up with some guidelines to avoid problems like the ones that had led to the suspension of the magazine in the future. So far, so good, right?
Well, not so fast, because David Truesdale, who has been at the centre of genre controversies before, objects to what he believes will infringe on the free speech rights of the future editor of the SFWA Bulletin and has started a petition against what he considers politically correct censorship, though he apparently isn’t even a member of the SFWA. He also got a lot of well known SFF writers, including several whose books are found on my shelves, to sign it.
Natalie of Radish Reviews has a lengthy dissection of the petition as well as links to two drafts, the current draft and a previous draft full of racist and sexist crap. The comments are also illuminating, since one of the signatories shows up to defend signing the petition.
Bennett North also offers a dissection of the petition, while Rachel Acks points out that whatever one thinks of scantily clad women on magazine covers (and personally I don’t have much of an issue with the objectionable cover, though I find it rather retro and a tad silly), they really have no place on the cover of the official magazine of a professional organisation. Angela Highland and Sunny Moraine weigh in as well.
C.C. Finlay points out that editorial decisions are not in fact censorship and that the SFWA as a private organisation does not have to respect the free rights guaranteed by the US constitution in its own space. Indeed, I always find it very interesting that the very same people who have absolutely no issue with private companies censoring content that these people personally find objectionable such as erotic or GLBT content (see this post over at Pegasus Pulp), cry foul whenever a private entity decides not to honour their god-given right to spew racist, sexist and homophobic crap. Now I can understand the position of free speech absolutists who believe absolutely everybody should be free to say everything everywhere and who are opposed to censorship in any form. But those who believe that erotica is not free speech but sexist crap in the SFWA Bulletin is continue to boggle me.
Finally, at Crime and the Forces of Evil, Solarbird points out that the author of the petition not just misunderstands the nature of free speech, but that the petition itself is an unholy mess. Indeed, this was very much my impression as well. I mean, do you really need eleven pages full of back and forth e-mail correspondence with SFWA president Steven Gould, digressions to Andrew Hamilton and some stuff about black lesbian friends of Dave Truesdale, who may or may not exist, just to explain why you disagree with the editorial policy of the SFWA Bulletin? Indeed, a shorter petition would have almost been guaranteed to cause less offence and uproar.
But then the offence was the point, wasn’t it?
ETA: S.L. Huang is just tired of the whole thing. I can certainly sympathize.