Former SFWA president John Scalzi offers his extensive commentary on the SFWA situation via ten things about petitions and freedom of speech. Lots of good points there.
ETA: Apparently, one of the people whose posts on a public SFWA listserv are being quoted in one of the Daily Dot articles is now threatening to sue the author of said article and everybody who linked to or shared said article for “libel”. Uhm, I’ve got no words. Excerpt this: Some dude defends a petition against supposed censorship in the SFWA Bulletin by threatening to sue people who linked to stupid things he posted in a public forum for libel. The irony, it burns.
At Teleread, Paul St. John Mackintosh calls the petition “adolescent” and wonders what it means for the genre at large. Fraser Sherman also weighs in via this four part post.
Meanwhile, Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware is pointing out the good points and aspects of SFWA and why the organisation is relevant for writers of speculative fiction.
The German SFF blog Lake Hermanstadt has a summary of the whole SFWA brouhaha, full of delightful snark and rather direct language. The whole post is well worth reading (alas, only in German), but IMO the most important point is that apparently the motive behind this and similar uproars in the SF community is that way too many people are still looking for the Golden Age, while conveniently forgetting that it wasn’t always all that golden, particularly if you were not a straight white man.
Case in point:
At Adventures Fantastic, a blog devoted to fantasy, historical adventures and pulp, Keith West declares that he views the SFWA controversy mainly in terms of lack of respect for “the giants of the field”. He also feels the need to point out that while most of the signatories of the petition are well-known names in the genre, their critics are “nobodies” in his view.
Honestly, this “old people deserve respect, simply because they are old, and must not be criticized” view is something I simply don’t get. I didn’t get this as a teenager, when I was told that I shouldn’t call out bigotted elderly relatives and family friends on their bigotted crap, because they were old and besides, I shouldn’t upset family parties by talking about politics (for some reason, nobody seemed to have told the people who spouted bigotted crap that). Actually, this hasn’t changed much. I tend to dread family gatherings, simply because someone will inevitably spout bigotted crap about immigrants or foreigners or the unemployed or gays or people who don’t keep their gardens clean, while showing absolutely no awareness at all that what they are saying is not acceptable and that many, if not most people at the table will vehemently disagree. Nor did I get it when I was told as a teen that I absolutely must not criticise anything about postwar West Germany (or later united Germany), because the people who had built up the country were to be respected and admired. “Well, if they wanted gratitude and respect, then maybe they should’ve done a better fucking job”, I once screamed in frustration at someone who told me I had no right to criticise the ravages postwar architecture had left in my hometown.
So in short, I have never gotten this “Respect people because of what they did in the past” or “Respect them, because they are old” attitude. And that fact the petition was signed by many authors whose works I have read and enjoyed and admired over the years (and many I have never read or whose work put me off when I tried to read it) doesn’t mean that I cannot criticise the bloody petition itself.
If you want to be disillusioned some more at what writers you used to admire really think say, a Tumblr which posts excerpts from a public SFWA newsgroup has been put up. The depressing original can be found here. Lots of ranting about “young people today” and sexist remarks about Mary Robinette Kowal (who didn’t even say anything in this round of the debate, but apparently they are still miffed about her contribution to the last round) for daring to be female and have a body.
ETA II: Silvia Moreno-Garcia quotes some of the sexist remarks about Mary Robinette Kowal and also some pictures of Mary clad in gowns deemed inacceptable due to plunging necklines. Uhm, for a regency dress, that neckline is positively demure, since the necklines of real regency gowns could and did often plunge much lower, as this famous example shows.
By the way, while I have read and enjoyed many writers of the signatories of this petition, I haven’t actually read any of them recently with two exceptions (one a reprint of a book from the 1980s and one a story by an author with whom I share a TOC). But mostly, the people who signed this petition are authors I read as a teenager in the 1980s, i.e. over twenty years ago. Indeed, when I talked about the whole uproar with a non-fan, she asked me, “How do you know the signatories are old? Did they put their birthdate next to their signatures?” – “No, I know because many are fairly well-known writers and because I read some of their books twenty-five years ago and sometimes they weren’t even new back then.”
Meanwhile, Jim C. Hines tries to understand the POVs of some of the signatories of the petition by offering quotes from posts (mostly on Facebook, hence no links) in which said signatories explain why they signed the petition. Coincidentally, I just realised that I share (or will share, though I can’t talk about that yet) a TOC with not one but two of the signatories.
Finally, at the Mad Genius Club, a group blog by disgruntled rightwing writers who may well be mad, but definitely aren’t geniuses, Kate Paulk offers a rather unique take on the whole affair. First of all, Ms. Paulk apparently still hasn’t grasped just why Theodore Beale a.k.a. Vox Day was expelled from the SFWA (hint, it was not because of his failed run for president nor because of his political views, but because he decided to spew racist and sexist insults at fellow SFWA members via the official SFWA Twitter feed, which is a violation of the organisation’s statutes). Next, her post is brimming with sexist language about “glittery hoo-haas” (“hoo-haa” is apparently a weird euphemism for “vagina” used to people who can’t bear to use the proper term, because they feel it’s a dirty word) and “storm in a B-cup”, while completely forgetting that many of those who criticised the petition are cisgender men and therefore not in possession of a vagina, glittery or otherwise. As for the rest, I’m not really sure what her point is or if she even has one, though she mentions “lack of respect” for established writers and that she feels the SFWA is neglecting its actual objective of protecting writers from bad contracts (which may be the only sensible thing in the entire post).
And as if that article wasn’t bad enough, here is another goodie from the Mad Genius Club, not directly but indirectly related. In this one, Cedar Sanderson, who unironically refers to herself as a “Lady Writer” as well as a race and gender-blind reader, complains about how feminist women are destroying genre fiction, because the fact that some women are speaking out about sexism in the SFF community might induce potential (male) readers not to buy Ms. Sanderson’s novels, because those potential readers might fear that since Ms. Sanderson is female, her novel might be feminist “message fiction” with strong female characters.
Never mind that for every hypothetical (male) reader who refuses to buy a book by a female writer, because it might – gasp – contain feminism and female characters who are actually human, there is another reader who is explicitly looking for such books, I also wonder whether people like Larry Correia (who has remained silent on the current controversy – probably still too busy campaigning for Hugo nominations and getting his knickers in a twist about post-binary gender) or the Heinlein worshippers at the Mad Genius Club are aware how ironic their complaints about “message fiction” are. Because Larry Correia’s macho focussed urban fantasy with a liberal dose of gun porn is message fiction. Saint Heinlein’s writings were message fiction with a message so blatant that I couldn’t even tolerate it as a teenager. So apparently “message fiction” is only bad when it’s the other side that is doing the messaging.
Finally, about the “glittery hoo-haa” thing, if you were looking for something to label feminist SFWA critics with, wouldn’t “Vagina Dentata” be more appropriate? Because the silly term “glittery hoo-haa” brings to mind a woman who shaves off her pubic hair and applies glitter to her nether regions, because she assumes men will like her better that way, and not a man-hating straw feminist.
ETA III: The inevitable Sarah Hoyt had to weigh in as well with a post on how expelling Theodore Beale from SFWA is a precursor to genocide, which is Godwin’s Law taken to extremes. Oh yes, and she also screeches about straw communists (I can think of only three explicitly Communist/Socialist SFF writers and I’m not sure if any of them are SFWA members) and calls the critics of the petition and/or Theodore Beale “illiterate and uneducated”. In short, business as usual.