Mary Robinette Kowal Offers Herself Up as a Useful Representative Example
Posted on February 17, 2014 Posted by John Scalzi 225 Comments
Of what? Of the sort of crap women get, all the time.
Mary doesn’t need me to defend her, and she hasn’t asked for my support. She has the latter anyway. Mary is without question one of the most competent people I know, and I know because I have worked with her directly, and did for years. Anyone who suggests she is other than competent is, bluntly, wrong. They also, bluntly, call into question their own ability to evaluate competence.
Likewise, anyone who would publicly characterize a woman who has reached the highest levels of two separate creative fields (puppeteering and speculative fiction), winning awards and acclaim in both, and who has offered up a significant amount of her personal time and effort to work on behalf of others in her fields as “no one you should have heard of, and no one you should concern yourself with” is so deeply and profoundly wrong that the only thing they should feel at such an appallingly ridiculous dismissal is shame.
How many more award nominations and wins does she have to have before she is somebody, I wonder? How many more books does she have to publish? How many more television shows does she have to work on? How many more years of unpaid, volunteer service to the trade organizations in her field does she have to offer? How many more years of abject, unambiguous and wholly undeserved contempt does she have to endure before she is allowed to be someone “you should have heard of”? Well, and of course, the answer is that for some people nothing she does will ever be enough. When you’ve decided such a woman is an “unperson,” then you will go out of your way to make sure other people see her that way too.
Mary Robinette Kowal is a wonderful writer whose works you all should read. She is an award winner in a happily competitive field. I speak from direct experience when I say that no one has given more of her time, effort and expertise on behalf of other science fiction and fantasy writers than she has, despite the fact that there have always been at least a few of those writers benefiting from her work who have treated her, well, poorly. I admire her immensely, as a writer, as a colleague and as a friend.
To those who call this incredibly competent, talented, lauded and laudable woman “no one you should have heard of” — Good god. You could not in this life or any other be more wrong about that. The woman in question is too gracious to say it. I, however, most emphatically am not.
Clearly the Mallet will be out for this one. Also, don’t be thinking I am unbiased here. Any nonsense about Mary specifically is going to get Malleted so very fast.
[Deleted because someone who characterizes sexist contempt directed to Mary as “nonsense” isn’t paying attention to what I’m saying in this piece. Think, Nathaniel, before you type –JS]
There seem to be a lot of bizarre anger issues out there.
I am, as always, full of awe and respect for MRK; she’s one of the reasons why I still want to join SFWA, once I’m qualified to do so.
The fact that anyone can look at events like this and talk about “nonsense from both sides” kinda boggles me. But then, there have always been a lot of people who believe the best way to deal with abuse is to quietly never respond to the abuse at all, and suffer in noble, dignified silence. So long as the abuse isn’t happening to them, of course.
If I could, I would hug you. Make no mistake, it would be an awkward hug that would most likely last juuuust a little too long, but still would be a hug born of gratitude for your support for this lady nonetheless.
[And this one is Malleted because it’s not on topic. The discussion is the entry, Nathaniel, not anything else. Sorry you’re being Malleted, but you’re being, I suspect unintentionally, nothing but a walking derail. You might want to sit this one out — JS]
I could not agree more strongly. And I also offer a mental hug your way, John Scalsi. Thank you so much for standing up on these issues.
I am quite happy to have heard of Mary Robinette Kowal. A damn good writer, who I’d very much like to meet someday, if only to tell her how much I enjoy her stories
[Deleted for responding to a deleted post. No worries, Fade, you can still comment – JS]
[Deleted for responding to deleted post – JS]
And let me second that if you haven’t read her books, you are totally missing out.
(My apologies for replying to a deleted comment — that was fast! But I should have waited to see if it would disappear as it so clearly deserved to.)
No worries, Mary.
I’m sure this isn’t how MRK would choose to get publicity, but I am grateful that this recent round of insanity led me to investigate her work and order a copy of Shades of Milk and Honey, which looks smart and fascinating.
Also, typo alert in John’s italics (how that elephant got in my italics I’ll never know): undeserved, not underserved.
Already fixed. Thanks!
The whole thing leaves me shaking my head although I find it interesting that, for the most part, the authors attacking Mary, I’ve either stopped reading years ago, or never heard of. The last decade or so of SF is filled with wonderful authors pushing the genre into new and interesting areas. It saddens me that the writers of my youth have formed up into a noxious old boys club.
Hurrah for MRK! She is the type of person who gives me hope for the future of our genre.
I think I want to spend money. What’s her best book?
It’s amazing to me how fast this has all gone nuclear. What should have been a no-brainer among adults (let’s pay attention to what we publish in our professional journal that it meets certain obvious criteria) was met with a Hulk-like explosion of misapplied First Amendment spleen and has now become an excuse for many folks to vent their personal stockpiles of neurotic dislikes of others, an opportunistic commando operation more expected from a He Man Woman Haters club mentality than from supposedly forward-looking, intellectually engaged, creatively gifted writer. The original problem was more or less caused by lack of attention but has now resulted in closet doors flying open and skeletons dancing in the hallways. it’s been said the Golden Age of SF is 12, but that was never intended to mean people should act like 12-year-olds. There is policy and then there is personal. People should learn the difference and act accordingly, that’s called being An Adult.
Thanks for this, John.
Also, another typo: “person time” should be “personal time”.
Paul – this whole thing leaves me shaking, period. That I still have to endure this crap, that I still have to read about others enduring this crap makes me angry. That a talented,accomplished, gracious woman is reduced to her looks and then dismissed because of them? Infuriating. Its great that so many are willing to step up and call out this behavior, and yet that anyone has to step up and call out this behavior? Infuriating.
Already fixed. Thanks!
Shades of Milk and Honet is a good place to start. (originally said Glamour in Glass but as Fade Manly notes below, Shades is the first book in the series).
Mark W. Tiedemann:
It’s certainly true that some people are looking at a general discussion as an opportunity to lash out at particular people they dislike. In the case of Mary, on the facts, it’s entirely unwarranted.
infinitefreetime, you should probably start at Shades of Milk and Honey, which is the first book of her series. I think the second is even better, but you’ll enjoy the subsequent books more if you’ve read the first. (And part of why I enjoy the later ones so much is that they acknowledge that a woman’s life doesn’t stop, or stop being interesting, once she’s Achieved Romance.)
The first time I heard anything about Mary was when she joined Writing Excuses, which I adore. She added insights into characterization I hadn’t even thought about, while also throwing a new element into the team dynamic that just keeps getting better and better.
Then I read one of her short stories during Hugo noms one year. “For Want of a Nail” was amazing, and it hands down had my vote.
I bought Shades of Milk and Honey for my girlfriend, because it was a genre she enjoyed… and then stole it back and read it myself because of her gushing over it. Yes I, who loathed the romance genre and Austen in particular in high school, read and enjoyed a regency romance.
She’s also become one of my favorite Audible narrators, and a constantly enlightening, and occasionally hilarious, person to follow on Twitter.
I was slack-jawed STUNNED when I heard someone, anyone, with what claimed to be a functioning brain called her an “unperson” and “incompetent.” My god. My everloving GOD what drugs was this person on? This is like calling Mars a star, or suggesting that the earth is not only flat but doesn’t even move through space!
While Scalzi and everyone else saying it is right, that she doesn’t need white knights and champions because she’s damn well capable of standing up for herself (as she has demonstrated on several occasions), it doesn’t keep me from wanting to join a mob and take care of people that can be so blind. If nothing else it would give me a chance to wear some truly snazzy armor.
I’ve requested Shades of Milk and Honey from the library. I’ve been looking for something new to read.
If I may, I wrote a bit about the primary flap and Not Getting It. Here’s the link, if you don’t mind http://marktiedemann.com/wordpress/?p=1867
IIRC, MRK’s novels are all currently sequels of one another, so you might wish to purchase the first, “Shades of Milk and Honey”.
[Deleted because it’s off-topic. Again, folks, the discussion is what in the entry, not a general discussion of the current blowup in the SF/F field. I will keep Malleting comments on such topics until it sinks in – JS]
it was funny; I had no idea she wrote SF. But I certainly had heard of her, because I’m a puppet geek; I docented for the Center for Puppetry Arts, and I’ve been building my own pieces for a few years, and have seen stuff that she’s done often enough to have her on my radar.
Somehow until this came up, though, I had never noticed the SF writing.
The problem with the ‘I’ve never heard of this person’ schtick being said *proudly* (about anyone with a Wikipedia page) is that what it really means is, ‘I’m ignorant’. I once read an article (pre-internet, I cannot for the life of me find it online) that was an interview in 1949 with a woman who had never heard of Hitler. Commentia like this always just makes me wonder what else the person in question has missed.
It’s fine not to have an encyclopedia of all mankind in your brains. It’s *stupid* to think that means the gaps in your knowledge don’t matter, and it saddens me that anyone who purports to be an SF writer thinks that’s an argument.
If Mary’s an Unperson, I will strive to be as caring an Unperson some day too.
I am not currently a published author, but hope to be one day. If this kind of bigotry is rampant in the publishing industry, is that not a good reason to support independent and self-published books? It will be harder for a “good old boys” network to lockout individuals if it is the readers that will decide who get’s noticed. Writers like Mary Robinette Kowal will get all the recognition they earn once we get the availablity to publishing opened to anyone willing to put their words out their for others to read.
Viva La Digital Revolution!!!
And this is why we can’t have nice things…
@ Arphaxad Per her own words, she doesn’t think this affected her contracts; she described him as a professional in that sphere, despite disliking her. I like to *think* that’s more the norm where these folks are concerned, rather than being the outlier.
I’m a bit of late to this, but I’ve been playing catch-up all morning. Not only is the purveyor of the comments he made about the competence of MRK clearly off base, but one of his most offensive posts compares her to his phobia about big scary dogs. This says FAR more about him than it does her…and for more than one reason. There is the obvious, that it is sexist, belittling, and designed to de-humanize her, but the more telling thing about it is that he admits his issues with MRK are the basis of a PHOBIA. By definition, phobias are irrational fears without basis in FACT OR CONTEXT.
As I said…it says more about him than her.
I am looking forward to deepening my exposure to MRK’s work and admire her all the more for the strength and determination she is showing in response to this horrible treatment of her as an author and as a person.
Arphaxad, it’s worth noting that MRK has three books published through a standard publisher, and has won awards for them. She’s not languishing unrecognized in obscurity somewhere; in fact, one reason the attacks on her are so surprising is because she is a recognized, published, award-winning author.
“It will be harder for a ‘good old boys’ network to lockout individuals if it is the readers that will decide who get’s noticed.”
It should be noted that Mary has published several books via Tor; any suggestion that an “old boy’s network” has impeded her ability to sell books or get noticed is an assertion without evidence.
Let’s not drag the discussion here into becoming another tired variation of “traditional- v. self- publishing.” It’s not on point and it’s really not in the least relevant to the discussion.
Mary Robinette Kowal’s books are FANTASTIC, and anyone who feels they shouldn’t be concerned with her work is not only a thundering idiot, they’re denying themselves some of the most delightful, original, beautifully crafted, emotionally powerful stuff the genre has to offer. The SCOPE of her written work is also noteworthy, spanning from Austenian fantasy in the Glamourist Histories to Blade Runner-esque sci-fi in “Kiss Me Twice.” And that’s not even touching on her puppeteering work, years of strong leadership in SFWA, and success as an audiobook reader of some of my favorite series.
Why do some people feel that because they disagree with someone politically, all of that person’s achievements are meaningless? I guess that’s the only way these cowardly cretins can handle feeling threatened by someone from the opposite sex refusing to fit into their antediluvian, obsolete worldview: pretend she’s obsolete instead. What fools.
I’m getting really tired of the idea that there’s some magical middle ground here between people engaging in misogynistic, racist, homophobic, etc., behavior and people calling out said behavior for what it is. The bottom line is that engaging in misogynistic, racist, homophobic, etc., behavior is inherently disrespectful from the word GO and there’s no middle ground to be had when arguing over whether or not someone deserves to be treated with basic respect because of their gender, race, sexual orientation, whatever. I’m sure the view from that fence affords some people a lovely feeling of getting to look down their noses at everyone, but the Golden Mean and False Equivalency fallacies really just need to DIAF and have their ashes sown with salt already. Because real harm is being done here and it sucks.
A classic overview of “the sort of crap women get, all the time” is Joanna Russ’s book, How to Suppress Women’s Writing. And worth re-reading in light of the dismissal of Mary Robinette Kowal’s work.
I’m a fan of MRK’s work on the Writing Excuses podcast. I am outraged in her behalf at the crap directed at her.
[Deleted for not being on topic, but I appreciate the need to get that off your chest, Greg — JS]
I haven’t read any of Mary Robinette Kowal’s books because they are not my thing but I have heard of them and have friends who adore them.
However, I want to talk about the hidden cost of being a volunteer for women. This crap isn’t limited to Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America organization. Any time a successful woman puts her name in the hat to be in charge of something she will piss off people. Angry people will retaliate with the most disgustingly sexist attacks that most guys really can’t believe until they blow up publicly like this. MRK explains that she has been dealing with this crap for years and was “expected” to laugh and respond professionally. WTF????
We are talking about volunteering tons of unpaid hours of labor only to be attacked, insulted, and slandered. This is one of the reasons that women have stayed off of the podiums, worked in the background, and kept our heads down. Then when we step up we are supposed to just “deal” with this abuse. The constant attacks and insults are exhausting, draining, and just too much drama.
I have so much respect for this woman who stepped up and helped run an organization while still working full time and being successful in her craft. In any volunteer organization the people who actually do the work are the few and the exhausted. The critics are never ending and they are always too busy attacking to actually do any of the darn work. So, Mary Robinette Kowal, from one volunteer to another, F*&@K them and keep up the great work!
I have added 2 new authors to my list of people who will make me need more bookcases because I have read their articles and like their writing. I know that articles are not necessarily the same style as the books will be but I at least have and idea of the quality of the work.
The more the narrow minded old boys network complain the more people object to these attitudes the more exposure these authors are getting. I guess it’s the silver lining to this.
MRK has addressed this herself, with (apparently) characteristic wryly apposite moderation. I say “apparently” because yes, I am one of those who hasn’t yet discovered her work and plans to be part of the little sales swell that this foofooraw is generating. I love how that works, don’t you?
What really interests me is the mechanics of a publisher’s employee feeling as though he and his fellow misogynists are somehow entitled to a “safe haven” for their thuggish immaturity.
It’s as if the little nest of roaches you keep smacking as it pops up in a new location every week (yep, laid poison under the sink… yep, behind the refrigerator… yep, in that crack in the baseboard…) suddenly started picketing you. Teeny-weeny signs saying “It’s OUR kitchen, too!” and “Unfair to vermin!”
Mary has steadfastly been part of the team working to remove nest after nest after nest (as have you, John, thanks!) but the roaches are persistent. And they believe they’re doing nothing “wrong.”
From an objective standpoint, in a vastly encompassing view of Human Nature and the Universe spread across all of time and space? Maybe repulsive misogyny has its place in evolution and isn’t “wrong” in a universe-shaking sense. Maybe.
But we’re all in this kitchen together.
Thank you to all who keep reminding the roaches they are not welcome.
And it goes without saying that Mary has my full support as a human being. And everything else that goes with that.
I have been dismayed watching the vitriol and complete disrespect emanating from some SciFi/Fantasy writers. I had, naively in retrospect, thought that the major writers in a field that is supposed to look to the future would be less bigoted/biased than the general population. I took the opportunity with one of the first kerfluffles I lurked through to gather a list of authors who were standing up for those beliefs I value (values such as women are actual people and all people should be treated with respect etc.) to gather a reading list of authors I wanted to try (and those to avoid) and to start following some of them on twitter, and the result has been an introduction to many insightful, well written books. I have not read any of Mary Robinette Kowal’s work but I’m adding her to my to read list right now. Thank you for this post.
TO my mind, the parallels between Mary and Jonathan Martin (the NFL player and target of the vile Richie Incognito) are quite apparent. You can’t excuse that behavior. You don’t excuse that behavior. No matter WHO the target is. And really, no matter how talented the target is, because the person is a human you should treat as a human.
To the guys who pop up whenever another one of these things comes out, saying oh I had no idea this was still going on, or oh I had no idea he was like that… This is the reason we have got to give up on the dignified silence response to bigotry. Because dignified silence allows people to go on having no idea. Enough was enough a long time ago. Imagine what amazing things could get done if we could just free up some of the bandwidth people like MRK have to devote to dealing with this kind of crap.
Have immediately acquired ‘Shades of Milk …’ and good grief! to people’s assiness.
Puppetry, podcast, audiobook narration, short stories, novels, volunteer work…what does it take for some people? I just went back to “evil robot monkey” and the story hit me again just as hard as ever. Mary, I think you scare people with your gifts.
My late father, who was as fond of his barnyard aphorisms as he was his Arkansas twang, always advised me the same way in situation like this: “Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”
MRK, I don’t know if I can imagine how comments like those affect you personally or how they’ll affect you professionally. But know that for every pig that says you’re a nobody, there are a hundred of us who love your work. Hell, I have a dozen times used “Evil Robot Monkey” as an infection vector to get people to read science fiction — though I’m always sure to warn them that it’s not all as good as that lovingly crafted short story.
MRK is certainly a class act. Five or so years ago I was in Oregon, and the gentleman driving me stopped at her house (by prearrangement) for dinner. We had never met, I’m not entirely sure if she was expecting extra company, and I’m terribly shy meeting new people. Still, she was a fantastic hostess and never once gave any sign that it was an imposition. And her books are fantastic, too!
This whole thing, on top of Friday’s Mary Beard article on the silencing of women’s voices in the London Review of Books, has me upset, angry and wondering what on earth it’s going to take for things to finally change.
I will make a point to check out MRK’s books. You also introduced me to Cherie Priest’s books a number of years back, which I have since enjoyed.
But just to throw a counterpoint in here: It seems to me that MRK, like you, Jim Hines, your archenemy, and Orson Scott Card, has chosen to involve herself in “The Great SF/F Debate about Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation”. (I recall her participation in Hines’ “pose-off” activity–which is mentioned in one of the hyperlinked posts.)
As you know, you have your online detractors–as do Hines, OSC, and your archenemy.
My point being this: When an author chooses to become a quasi-political activist, that author is going to draw detractors from the other side of the political fence. And those detractors frequently become nasty. It doesn’t matter whether the author is male, female, gay, straight, etc.
No one is making sexist jokes about Cherie Priest (also a woman)–because from what I can see, she mostly focuses on writing fiction, and stays out of the political back-and-forth.
Likewise, the gay lobby didn’t unite against OSC because he is a middle-aged white Mormon, but because he practically went out of his way to distinguish himself as an anti-same-sex marriage activist. While I do think that the campaign against OSC has become a bit of a witch hunt, I think one can also argue that he brought it on himself, at least to a certain degree. (What did the man expect, really, given the current political climate?)
Back to MRK: Are her detractors really saying mean things about her “because she is a woman”, or because of her outspoken partisan political positions? There are plenty of female SF/F writers (Naomi Novik also comes to mind) who have legions of male fans, and are basically ignored by the far right crowd.
There are, as you certainly know, many writers who steer clear of politics altogether, because it has a negative impact on their “brand”.
Unfortunately, when I think of MRK, my first thought is, “oh–that participant in the Hines pose-off”. When I think of Cherie Priest or Naomi Novik, I think about their books.
What can we conclude from this except that some sf fans (and authors) have not evolved since the imagined golden oldie years before JamesTiptree Jr.’s true identity was revealed to an incredulous fandom. I personally don’t understand how anyone can come out this side of the 20th century with all prejudices firmly intact, but that’s life in the bubble, I guess.
I strongly recommend the Writing Excuses podcast to anyone who is working towards being a published author or who dreams about being one. It’s full of intriguing content. And it will definitely make you want to read more of Mary, Brandon, Dan and Howard’s work. (Did I miss one?)
Sigh. I am tired of the “ignore the bullies and they will go away” mindset. Clearly doesn’t work, not in real school yards and not in organizations. And the bullies always react when they get back blow like they haven’t done anything wrong; everyone is picking on them because they used their ghod-given right to pick on someone. Sorry, karma is a you-know-what, and it will bite you in the butt in the long run over time. I’m just so sorry to see some writers whose writing I have admired over the years not thinking through things at best, and perhaps being at center folks I won’t like much in person. I enjoy Mary’s work, and have heard much about how much effort she has put into trying to keep SFWA running and trying to make it a more professional organization. Too bad the old boys network (which includes all sexes and all age groups, btw) is so focused on keeping away the girl and minority cooties that they can’t see how badly their old club house is deteriorating… Don’t be mistaken, folks, by thinking that it’s all ‘old dinosaurs.’ There are lots of younger ones out there with the same attitudes. People who seem to feel that because they were picked on / ghettoized in the past, that – instead of treating newcomers better than they were treated – seem to feel that instead they have the right to haze and harass the newcomers and the minorities far worse than what they ever were subjected to. Sad, sad, sad.
Sadly, some of SFF is not really about the future; it’s about putting the present (and sometime, the past) in future drag.
What strikes me – as somebody who has no personal acquaintance with MRK other than “the one time I saw her at a public even she was both gracious and wildly entertaining” – is that there are no real, concrete criticisms of MRK coming from the retros. There’s no “she threw a glass at Larry Niven’s head because he held a door for her!” or “she screamed at a conrunner for an hour straight because her GoH suite had Evian instead of Fiji water!” or “she can’t string a sentence together!” kind of stories that make you think, okay, I can see why somebody thinks she’s a terrible person. No, the criticism is that she doesn’t sufficiently cater to their dumbass views of white bro superiority, combined with impotent rage that she’s conventionally attractive and married, so their usual arsenal of fat-ugly-dyke-bitch rhetoric is of no use to them here.
It’s astonishing that the folks posting those words that got screen-capped (words about Mary etc) appear to honestly believe that their conversations are invisible to all except members of the forum. I mean, clearly they aren’t because I was able to read a bunch of it just by going over there and clicking around and I don’t have a login. There’s multiple mentions about a “snitch” and such, even in earlier threads from last year, which is what led me to this conclusion. Methinks they are confused how their own forum works.
Meanwhile, I’ve been listening to Mary and her co-horts on Writing Excuses this morning, instead of doing my work. Ah well!
Just dropping by to say that MRK is everything that I aspire to be in the SFF world!
you have to click through MRK’s page to her link to the dailydot.com page, but wow, the dailydot page is chock full of links and info and background of the whole damn mess, and the sheer magnitude of vitriol (there’s like a dozen links on the dailydot page) being thrown at people (and MRK specifically) just so a few people don’t have to acknowledge sexism, is mind boggling.
Back to MRK: Are her detractors really saying mean things about her “because she is a woman”, or because of her outspoken partisan political positions?
Normally, If it was about her political positions, they’d be more geared toward the positions.
But I think the detractors are effectively saying “We got nuthin'”, because their focus is on her competence and are so gender-linked.
(There is a segment of Card detractors that are like this, but I think it’s much, much smaller; far more of them are focussing on his actions and THEIR legitimacy).
I am glad to live at a moment in time when one of the responses to this type of nonsense is that it becomes a big stink that embarrasses the author of said nonsense. Those of us who have dealt with this sort of idiocy in professional or personal lives are not always comforted by the brouhaha, but I hope it shows that we are moving in the right direction, as a culture. Even if that movement is painful and torturously slow.
And thanks for the recommendation of _Shades of Milk and Honey_. I haven’t read MRK’s books until now — not for lack of interest but just because she’s been one of the dozens of authors I simply haven’t gotten around to yet — but it seems like a nice day to visit a bookstore.
@Todd: there’s an unsubtle difference between the rhetoric aimed at MRK and the rhetoric aimed at the other people you mentioned, including Our Gracious Host:
MRK didn’t just get attacked; she got dismissed as, effectively, a non-entity in SF/F. Jim Hines, Orson Scott Card, and Our Gracious Host may have been subject to attacks from various quarters, but the contemptuous dismissal of MRK is an insult of another order entirely.
Todd: My point being this: When an author chooses to become a quasi-political activist
MRK: Are her detractors really saying mean things about her “because she is a woman”, or because of her outspoken partisan political positions?
When the hell did “equality” become “partisan political positions”?
You’re framing this as “political” the exact same way people use “political correctness” as a perjorative: to change the subject from how they’re being bigots to how everyone else is ganging up on them “politically” to tyrannize them for being bigots.
I first came to Mary’s work through her first book, and then through reading her personal blog. We’ve now read her first two books out loud to our daughter (when she was 14/15) as part of her usual bedtime routine. The third is on our StoryTime list for reading soon. I’ve also served as a beta reader for a few things of hers, once again through her blog. Wonderful stuff – easy to see why she’s won awards.
When I saw the first hints of the firestorm yesterday, I looked at the thread that started it all. Seeing some of the names on the thread posts, I really hesitated to look at the posts themselves – I was fearful of being disappointed by authors I respected from years gone by. A few didn’t disappoint; the rest did. While I feel that everyone is entitled to their opinion, it is very disappointing to see those opinions that appear to be derived without benefit of any actual facts. This is certainly one of those cases.
“Are her detractors really saying mean things about her ‘because she is a woman’, or because of her outspoken partisan political positions?”
Leaving aside the loaded and highly contentious assertion that expecting to be treated equally and with respect is somehow an outspoken partisan political position, why would it have to be an “or” thing?
Beyond that, if we agree that things are being said about her that are beyond the pale, why does it matter? If you’re being sexist and denegrating, it is not mitigated by your impetus.
Todd, let me suggest for followups you try to stay tightly focused — meandering digressions here are likely to be off topic.
I’m not sure when “We should treat women decently” became a political issue — seems to be it’s simple fairness and politeness. And I am grateful for people such as Mary and our esteemed host who speak up when they perceive such unfairness in the way we treat each other. Your post boils down to “Don’t make waves,” which is fine if you’re rowing the Styx and a no-good way to live otherwise.
You folks say the nicest things. Thank you.
Whelp, guess who just bought two MRK books due to this crapfest? Yup! This commenter!
Wish there was an easy way to support more women that deal with these “sexism spikes.”
Are her detractors really saying mean things about her “because she is a woman”, or because of her outspoken partisan political positions?
Wow. I expect a higher class of false dilemma around these parts. Try this, Todd: because she is a woman with outspoken partisan political positions.
You’ve made it very clear that it’s your personal mission to be a sort of Social Justice Ravenous Bugblatter Beast, frantically insisting that everybody just shut up and pretend issues like bigotry and whitewashing don’t exist in SFF or the SFF community, because then those issues can’t see us and don’t exist. Such arguments are going to be less than convincing to people who actually are harmed by those issues.
Your arguments about other female authors boil down to “They keep their mouths shut like they’re supposed to.”
I am a bit uneasy comparing people to cockroaches. First of all, because it assumes that cockroaches are morally despicable, which they are not*, and secondly because it puts me too much in mind of what happened in Rwanda to people compared to cockroaches. People are people, even when they are vile, childish and hateful.
@Todd, in fact MRK has not been at all prominent in this particular incident. The venom seems to be directed at her because she let slip some time ago that when she was an SFWA official, it was a very small number of people, the same dozen or so, that caused her a disproportionate amount of grief. At the time I remember somebody mentioning that if *MRK* lost her patience with the Twelve Rabid Weasels**, then they must really have been something.
Regardless, the idea that because somebody has an opinion they have to expect hate mail and attacks based on their morals and physical appearence is, well, not helpful. Yes, it happens. But it tends to happen with such violence and in those precise terms to women in particular. Apart from what’shisname who has his particular obession for John, Scalzi only merited a brief contemptuous mention (“the people Scalzi has brought to the SFWA are an embarrassment to the gentre”, IIRC). But a woman who has had only a very tangential brush with this particular issue gets called incompetent, irrevelant, and a slut.
* they are, however, apparently disgusted by humans. I kid you not.
** OK, calling people weasels is also not nice but I find it less disturbing because it evokes a more cartoonish image, and also it made me laugh like a drain.
If the language used to denigrate a woman and her accomplishments is specifically sexist, as in this case, does it really matter whether the original motivation for attacking her was sexism?
But…but…she’s posed in “diaphanous white outfits” with her legs exposed! The horror!!
No really, that was a criticism some guy felt compelled to voice. It says volumes about the source.
More seriously, while I love her novels, MRK has also written some damn fine short fiction. That’s what she won the Hugo. And much of it is *very* different from the novels. Two of my faves are “Lady Astronaut of Mars” and “Kiss Me Twice.” And of course “For Want of a Nail” won the Hugo. You can get a good-sized free taste of her work online, both written & audio. Links @ http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com/fiction-collectio/online-fiction/
Todd, not only are you engaging in false equivalence of the highest order, you suggest that if you are not aware of misogynist attacks against other female authors, they do not happen. Using your example of Naomi Novik, I can state without hesitation this is not true; I’ve seen some truly awful things being said about Novik for the crime of being a woman in public with opinions. And I would venture to suggest that any exception you might muster up is an exception and that any woman existing in public who does not get vileness flung at her is both lucky and on a clock.
(From all possible points on whatever political spectrum you choose to use.)
Todd, unless you have actual knowledge that Cherie Priest and Naomi Novik have not received sexist online abuse, please do not make that assertion. This kind of crap is nearly ubiquitous towards any woman with the temerity to be noticed–for political opinions, for achieving too much notability, for simply existing online. Most women simply don’t speak out about it, for many of the reasons Ms. Kowal describes in her post.
@Scalzi, apologies for the double post, and please feel free to append this to my previous one.
@Todd, maybe your perception of MRK vs Cherie Priest shows that attacks on MRK have some effect. ‘Cause Ms. Priest hasn’t been a shrinking violet on the issue. But fewer people have gone off on her personally, or at least you haven’t encountered such attacks. Since no one’s railed against her, you figure she must be one of the “good” woman writers. Consider who you’re letting direct your perceptions.
Holy crap, Scalzi’s turned large and green. Watch out, trickster trolls …
I think the point you make about dinosaurs not being confined to older generations is important, because it’s a source of distraction; it’s remarkable how many people will suggest that there’s no need to worry over much because the old guard will inevitably die out, leaving us in a new and shining future.
It is also worth bearing in mind that at least some of the old guard aren’t dinosaurs at all; some of my daughter’s mentors are guys thirty years older than her, who have encouraged her from medical school onwards, whilst some of the garbage she gets is from guys junior to her who simply don’t like the fact that she is senior to them, because, you know, the usual suspects.
That is why it is so profoundly important to keep the spotlights on; the extraordinary hypocrisy revealed in this latest debacle where the anguished cries of Free Speech! Censorship! are rapidly displaced by I’m Suing Thousands for Saying Nasty Things! does need to be exposed for what it is.
Kudos to Mary Robinette Kowal for her willingness to step into the firing line on behalf of others; as John has noted she doesn’t need others to fight her battles for her, but the existence of those battles really needs to be out in the open if anything is to change…
I first read MRK’s comments today, then angrily purchased Shades of Milk and Honey by Kindle (1) to protest prejudiced assholes in my own little way, and (2) to see how she reads, since her response appeared so civilized I knew I must be missing something as a reader.
Hehe, now reading this thread, I’m assuming MRK’s sales will be spiking for the next few days. :-) On the other side, after this week’s revelations there are a half-dozen authors I won’t read anymore, as per their different forms of male-assness. Geez, we can be such jerks.
Not to say I’m not chauvinist, or at least very male. I love females in both mind and form; and while I know nothing of this Red Sonia problem, it does sound sexy to me; sorry if that offends. I have favorite female authors and have no idea about their ‘sexiness,’ if that helps any. However, that does not excuse me or anyone from being an, erm, a scuttling roach professionally. This reminds me of The Apartment (an ancient movie), where a real scum uses powers abusively.
The goings on here reminds me of the Michigan Daily’s recent flare-ups over racism. And I hale from Texas, not Michigan! I just like to rove around and see what’s on cusps here and there. BTW, feel sorry for all snowed-in folks up north. Hope it’s not cabin-fever that brings these things to boil.
When I started law school in 1978, I was so glad that the generation of women ahead of me had already solved — had vanquished — sexism. After all, 30% of my incoming law school class was comprised of women, so I wasn’t going to have professors telling me I was taking up a man’s space.
Thirty-five years later, after considerable experience with sexual harassment, sex discrimination and related crap in this profession, it is clear that the battle has barely begun. (actually, it was clear a very, very long time ago, as when (still in law school) I interviewed with a firm that told me women weren’t tough enough to be litigators). That said, it still shocks and appalls me that what’s happening to Mary is happening. The lack of common sense, much less human kindness, is disgusting, to put it mildly. I’m almost speechless with dismay that my beloved field of literature should be so littered with such foulness.
It’s been more than 50 years since Betty Friedan published her world-changing book, folks. It’s been longer than that since women got the right to vote. And it’s been nearly 50 years since discrimination against women became illegal. Can we please get with the program?!
annafdd @ February 17, 2014 at 12:44 pm
Good point on the Rwanda note. I am suitably chastened. Also amused to note that the “roach effect” cuts both ways. Now I will imagine the dialog differently– Not just “Light! Cheese it, guys, the hoomins!” but “EEEEEEEEYEW, those disgusting hoomins agin, GROSSI I’m SO outta here!”
Also, while comparing the repulsively thuggish misogynists under discussion to roaches may be unfair, it’s equally unfair to mustela nivalis and, indeed, to the whole mustelidae clan. We really must come up with some better, pithier terminology that does not denigrate any of our fellow living species sharing this earth OR derail this thread. Since there are many clever writers participating, I live in hope.
On a more serious note, however, upon reading the comments in this thread I’m somewhat encouraged by the extent to which the discussion here is not only relevant, it identifies the gravamen of the issue with pinpoint precision, in spite of the dedicated trollery attempting to obscure the principle with personalities and irrelevant side issues.
It’s the inequity. It’s the inequity based on GENDER. It’s the inequity based on gender manifested in a specific, textbook-classic Case in Point directed a specific individual. It doesn’t get much clearer than this.
@Bun – YES to all of this!!
Good on MRK! (Should probably justt program that into auto-complete at this point.)
The persistent undercurrent of fear in these attacks is telling, although not comforting, as frightened, bitter people sometimes do horribly destructive things. Also, in the telling of the story of the service dog, that it was HIS fear that was more important than the other person’s disability speaks volumes about privilege and worldview.
Also, much thanks to Corie for the heads-up on the Mary Beard LRB piece! Off to look that up now.
I (also) always protest prejudiced assholes by going out of my way to buy and read books by the authors being slandered. But this is the first time I realized I’m not alone, in fact, it seems there’s a whole lot of readers that will support slandered authors.
Sometimes I just love humanity. And now, to finish Alloy of the Law, so I can get started on Shades of Milk and Honey.
I’m not going to say anything about the vileness of the comments being levelled at Ms. Kowal. Other people, including Ms. Kowal and Mr. Scalzi, have said everything that I could possibly say on the issue. Besides, there’s no need for me to say anything – Ms. Kowal is *far* more capable of speaking on the issue than I am. I wouldn’t presume to open my big, random-internet-guy, mouth.
But I do want to say, as an SFF reader and fan… of *course* I’ve heard of Mary Robinette Kowal. And I’d think it bizarre for anyone claiming to be familiar with the genre not to have heard of her. The guy saying that no one should have heard of her, though? Well. Never heard of him.
Just goes to show, doesn’t it?
OMG! In one of those photos you can almost see one of her knees! *falls dramatically on fainting couch and fans self vigourously*
I’m Chris is not the only one who beat me to this, but seriously, I’ve heard of Ms. Kowal, Who the hell is this hat guy? Fedora something?
Mary Robinette Kowal accomplished in one friendly chat at Worldcon what my mother had tried for more than a decade to accomplish: she got me to read Austenesque fiction and LIKE it. (Prior to that point, I knew of her mostly through her work on Escape Pod). She’s a brilliant author and her versatility is astounding. Anyone claiming that no one ought to have heard of her only betrays their own ignorance, because heaven forfend that a woman actually have opinions *eyeroll* I’ve heard a lot of my favorite authors talk about this stuff (Seanan McGuire, in particular, has some very good things to say on the subject of gendered harassment), and it always disappoints me that this is still a thing that happens on a regular basis to female authors.
Having gotten death-and-other-threats… may I suggest, to those reading here, if you have anything at all nice to say about her, to do often. Her own website would probably be best, but here would probably work too.
The times I’ve met her, she’s been cheerful and friendly, causing me to smile whenever I recognized her later on.
I’ve met Mary only obliquely twice at Confusion. My immediate impression was, “damn, she’s hella competent.” Listening to her on Writing Excuses, reading her blog and tweets, seeing all she has done for the community, my admiration and respect has only gone upward from there. I feel sorry for anyone else who can’t see that because it’s quite damn obvious.
Thank you for, once again, pointing out and shooting down all the ridiculous sexist crap and defending people against it (in this case the indomitable and talented Mary). I just wish you didn’t have to!
I see Eric beat me too it; it’s time for all of us to re-read Joanna Russ’s Book, *How to Suppress Women’s Writing”… because apparently some folks are using it as a handbook.
I just rage-purchased ‘Glamour in Glass’ in solidarity with MRK – an lovely person and talented artist. This was just what I needed to get on with the next book in the series.
I used to be an enormous fan of Mary Robinette Kowal. Not so much since Writing Excuses decided to only allow people of color to apply for their writing retreat’s scholarship. I disagree with affirmative action, and hate it being used for anything. As far as the current flap goes, I think Mary brought the attention to herself but that the actual words being used against her are horrendous and unjust. There are plenty of ways to express that you disagree with someone without insulting them.
I have pre-ordered “Valour and Vanity.” I own the other three (and one of them she even signed for me – at a Scalzi reading!). In addition I am going to make a donation of time to a local women’s organization. It seems a much better response to this sort of idiocy than anything else I have pondered this morning.
Oh, and MRK is a very good writer. Not a fabulous, will be remembered for three centuries kind of writer, but very good. Which I can admit while not being a fan of her personal politics. I think the same about Orson Scott Card.
I’ve been following this saga with a sometimes amused, sometimes horrified attitude. But now I’m just confused, and perhaps some writer type could help clear things up. Prior to this, it was “internet outrage!” but this seems to have gone to a deeper place.
In my job, I have customers, and clients, and contacts, and people that I have to respond to and do business with, and most of them are pretty good people, but there’s always that *one guy* who has to be a massive pain in the ass. If I ever got on the internet and wrote a long missive about what a “non-person” that guy is and how incompetent he is and how much I hate them, etc… I’d get fired in about three seconds, and that would be two seconds too long.
So the person in question works for a business that depends on the productivity of people like MRK, and then spends his hours belittling her in public? Just as a pure business matter, how is that allowed to go on?
Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents. I love Mary. I find her to be one of the most interesting and incredibly wonderful people I’ve EVER had the privilege to have ANY interactions with. She is also one of the best writers of short fiction living and everyone should take note when she speaks or acts…
@ Jerome – Macmillan is shut due to Presidents’ Day.
I suspect Mr. Hat will be in HR by 9.01am tomorrow morning, which might not be a comfortable meeting for him. If I’d said what he said about a business contact, I’d be spending today updating my resume.
@ Timothy – obvious troll is obvious.
It’s a shame that an accomplished writer like MRK, an example for many writers like me, receives such disgusting insults about her competence, her work and her person. I believe many people like science fiction because it’s a genre that encourages to be open minded. But more important, we must not tolerate such a vile assault at a personal level.
Mrs.Mary Robinette Kowal, we have never met, but you have my support (as I’m sure you have the support of many more people).
That one had to present Mary as an “unperson” or be forced to have a personal Heel Realization. By reducing her to a “nothing”, he lessens her words (and the words of those that support her and agree with her). Then he can blow it all off as the prattling of ignorant nobodies. With that ‘dealt with’, he can go back to believing that he is a good person that couldn’t possibly be sexist in any way.
Unfortunately for him, he put his thoughts into words and those words onto the ‘net. Now far more than he and his fellows have seen them, forcing him to take drastic measures. His desperation has led him to attempt to intimidate those revealing those words with threats of lawsuits. Lawsuits that he has no intention of following through with. They’re a rhetorical baseball bat being waved around in a vaguely threatening fashion.
Since he has no real intention on filing those lawsuits, I predict that he’ll issue a few more threats. Then, sometime this week, he’ll issue an apology with just enough ‘official apology’ phrases that it looks to his supporters that he’s been forced by his boss to make it or lose his position. This will then be interpreted by the ‘Old Guard’ as proof that the ‘Youngs’ are getting them “censored”, and they’ll become even more entrenched. Why? Because they’re afraid. Despite writing of the future, they don’t handle change well anymore. Change has come to mean confusion for them. It means that the years of their youth and young adulthood are slipping farther and farther into the world’s past. In many cases, it’s become history, studied in schools. That frightens them. They’re also avoiding looking to closely at their own attitudes. If they did, they’d realize that the beliefs they’ve held to for so long are as innately wrong as Segregation. And that is something they can’t accept.
Wow, “unperson”, like “unwoman” and “unbaby”. Those guys make me quiver.
I dunno it matters that everyone else thinks MRK is peachy keen. I think the more significant thing here is that whenever someone dislikes some guy in the field they just dislike them. “Don’t care for him; he insulted a friend of mine for a cheap laugh once.” Boom, done, we move on – presuming it ever comes up.
When someone dislikes a woman, though, woo baby, look out for the airing of grievances and failings. Suddenly that person knows all the things that person claims to be and has examples for how they are sucking at it. They’re not just someone they dislike, they’re also irrelevant and not worth other people’s time.
Don – the comments went FAR beyond ‘i don’t like Mary’ and called into question her competence etc. That’s offensive bullshit and would be whether the target was male or female.
However, this kind of comment raises even more ire when it’s done by someone in a field with persistent issues regarding how it treats women and the barriers that it raises for women and not for men. That’s even MORE true when the professional organization representing the authors in SFF has had serious, blatant issues with overt sexism.
PS: Met Mary in Seattle when Scalzi was here for his Fuzzy nation tour. She *is* awesome.
While I’ve not yet had the privilege of meeting MRK in person, in *every single interaction* I’ve had with her online (having learned about her from Jay Lake and Our Esteemed Host), she’s been witty, charming, and clearly possessed of an epic sense of humor. Who else would turn her trademark travel woes into an online drinking game? Who else would tweet “Oh, that’s where I put that leg.”, without any context? Yeah, this is someone who falls firmly into the “glad I found out about her, because she’s awesome” category.
One thing she mentioned in her Twelve Angry Weasels post a while back bears repeating: we should not fall into the trap of trying to silence these guys. Let them shout their message from the mountaintops for all to hear. Let them storm off in a huff (“Good DAY, sir! I said, GOOD DAY!”) from organizations and associations. Let their own inability to adapt to the changing world be their undoing, if an undoing is to come. (It would be better, IMO, if instead of an undoing, they were able to learn something and maybe evolve a bit. No one is irredeemable unless they choose to be so.)
But at the same time, let’s not be silent ourselves. Call out the bad behavior, yes, but do so without violating Wheaton’s Law. This is how change happens — and since what we’re trying to change is an institutional-grade level of inequality, the way to do that is to promote equality. Yep, some toes will be trodden upon. But they’re toes that probably *need* to be trodden upon a bit. “C’mon, fellas: we can start with moving into the latter half of the 20th Century. And THEN we’ll work on getting you to the present day!”
There seems to be a confusion between “Don’t feed the trolls” and putting up with some truly offbase attacks because of some misguided need to pay one’s dues, or the expectation that you need to pay your dues by tolerating said attacks. “How dare you try to break into our world? You must put up with outrageous BS because you are [fill in the blank]” doesn’t fly.
I attended a post-WorldCon fan/pro party last year (I’m not mentioning names to protect my hosts and the person who invited me, as they were incredibly gracious, but if you’ve been into SF/F for a long time, you can probably make a few educated guesses as to whose party it might have been). I brought a bottle and some dessert, heard some good stories, learned some neat stuff about a couple of subjects I hadn’t thought much about before, and then the night took an odd turn as one of the other attendees started showing off pictures of the event. One of the first few pictures to come up was of MRK.
“Who’s that?” said someone.
“That’s Mary Robinette ‘How come I don’t get a Hugo’ Kowal,” said one of the other attendees. This individual has been in and out of the con scene for years and was at least peripherally involved in LoneStarCon 3, if memory serves. I may be wrong on that last, and that is another reason I am keeping people anonymous here.
The individual said this about MRK in a tone that clearly implied MRK was whining about not winning at some point. Had I been more vocal I might have said something because this was a direct lie about MRK. She had, on the eve of the Hugos, been informed that “Lady Astronaut of Mars” had been disqualified over an eligibility issue, and blogged about it at length because she was (understandably) annoyed that she had first been eligible, then not, and couldn’t really get a satisfactory answer as to why.
It had nothing to do with winning, or whining. It had everything to do with MRK wondering what had happened, and asking questions about it. And for some reason that was taken as whining. And I wondered then and now if this individual’s reaction would have been the same had the person asking the questions been, say, a longtime male fixture on the SF/F scene.
In other news, “Shades of Milk and Honey” is on my TBR pile. Looking forward to it.
Don may have lost control of his pronouns a bit. There are a couple of different ways his comment can be read.
One is that if someone says they dislike a male author, nobody reacts and we all move on. But if someone says they dislike a female author the internet falls on their head. This is one possible reading. I suspect it may be an incorrect reading.
Two is that if someone says they dislike a male author (or person) they often seem to be able to just limit it to personal dislike. But dislike of a female author (or person) seems to blow past a simple statement of dislike into allegations of incompetence, irrelevance and worthlessness. Which is in itself sexism. Men get, I don’t like him. Women get, she doesn’t deserve to be here.
I suspect that what Don was saying was two.
@Jerome – I worked in Hollywood for 7 years and if I EVER openly said anything about a director/actor/client the way that these people are saying things about one of their authors I’d be up a creek in no time. It’s like rule no. 1 of working in a politically charged business like filmmaking. You always put on the face of being nice and professional and a pleasure to work with.
I just don’t understand how anyone would think this was at all okay to do in a professional context – even if the comments weren’t sexist. I have definitely been in situations where I’ve said something that seemed completely innocuous but later turned out to be embarrassing to our company – enough to get a stern but friendly talking-to from the boss. That kind of stuff happens every now and then because people are people and nobody’s perfect. But this kind of outwardly hostile malice? Really? Is publishing just not as political a profession as I imagined it to be? I don’t understand, it’s such a no-brainer. I CERTAINLY wouldn’t be posting anything on the internet, even if I thought it was private.
Naturally, Mary Robinette Kowal’s work speaks for itself.
Luckily, Kowal also can speak for herself and does so very well.
I appreciate Kowal’s willingness to put the spotlight on this kind of behavior. Such a comprehensively stupid statement only sheds better light on what is really upsetting this particular band of trolls – that Ms Kowal is both a woman and too good to dismiss.
All the gold stars I have to give today to Ms Kowal for being so good that it makes people like this angry, for having it in her to be public about it and for writing a series I’ve really enjoyed reading.
My usual assumption is that the thing the woman should have done to be “someone you should have heard of” is slept with the person complaining. However, it’s important to realize this only works if she doesn’t sleep with many other people, otherwise she’s bad and it doesn’t count.
The reasons for which this standard of importance does not scale should be pretty obvious.
Just rage-ordered shades of milk and honey. It was on my ‘to check out’ list already but after all this, it skyrocketed to the top and is now on its way to me.
Following mrk on twitter and reading her blog I am in awe. She handles these shit storms with grace and dignity and continues to work to make things better despite said shit storms, no. Because of said shit storms.
MRK, you are not an ‘unperson’ by any stretch. Hopefully this latest round of lunacy is the last fight of a dying age. Heres hoping.
A new reader, an old follower.
Also, I just want to say that the exchange between uleaguehub and annafdd about the cockroaches thing was terrific. I love that annafdd was willing to challenge referring to people as roaches, and uleaguehub was open enough to consider her point instead of getting defensive and doubling down. This kind of exchange is a testament to the generally high quality of the commenting community on Scalzi’s blog – which is why I’ve started hanging around here.
“Author and puppeteer”, now that’s a combo you don’t see every day. Oddly I’d never heard of her until the current kerfuffle but now I find I’ve read a couple of her stories. I must grab one of her books.
She’s got a novelette just went up on Audible today if anyone is interested.
I own Shades of Milk and Honey and its sequels. I rejoice that these excellent works will be getting new readers as a result of this kerfuffle.
It’s important to remember that when someone says “this wouldn’t be nearly such an issue if women/blacks/gays/insert minority here would stop carping about it” what they actually mean is “I don’t want to hear about social justice issues that don’t negatively affect me, I’m fine with the status quo.”
‘Rage-purchase’ just became my Word of the Day! :D
I went through the same thought-trail regarding Don’s comment and also came to the conclusion that Interpretation #2 was the intended meaning.
[Deleted for trolling. Take your nonsense elsewhere, big boy – JS]
[Deleted for responding to troll. No worries, drachefly – JS]
I don’t think I’d realized she’d worked on LazyTown before this post led me to her Wikipedia page to go look up the TV show reference.
Also, any authors who have a chance should attend one of her readings; she’s a great example of someone who gets the various skills needed to actually perform a piece. A lot of authors — including some incredibly talented ones — just read their fiction as if they were presenting a scientific paper.
MUSCLES, in all caps no less. I guess we know where that’s coming from.
I went and read through a lot of the stuff on ssf.net last night and it was very discouraging. I expected that sort of juvenile crap from Pournelle, he’s being doing it for years, but really, that some in a professional position at a publisher could make such a public asshat of himself takes me aback.
Never read her, definitely going to now.
Anyone who pisses off the Jerk Brigade is worth a look. I’ve just ordered Shades of Milk and Honey on Amazon.
Beth: “I disagree with affirmative action,”
Not to derail too much, but I disagree with people who ignore statistical facts about discrimination in the system and scream about disadvantaged people getting some additional help to get around the obstacles they face and white (and male) folk do not.
Moving on to Ms. Kowal, Mr. Fedora seems to have an unhealthy and sexual fascination with her. He’s a contracts manager at her publisher. His company makes money selling her books. He trashed his house’s author, calling her nasty names, and also declaring her books that they sell to be worthless and that she does too much marketing to sell the books that his publisher makes money off of. On the Internet. There is nothing professional in that behavior. It indicates someone having a control problem, especially as he is then threatening to sue everyone who is linking to his words.
But it’s his detailed and scolding critiques of her clothing in personal photos shared on her blog and her appearances at conventions, his desire to paint those photographs as sexy bedroom shots by describing them as such, and the fact that he clearly was all over her blog looking at those photos and remembering them in detail that is exceedingly strange. He has no reason to have ever gone picture surfing on Ms. Kowal’s blog, so why did he? It’s one thing to dislike a person for their personality; it’s another to go searching for pictures of her in a perfectly opaque white day dress and describe it like she posed semi-nude. Macmillan deals with thousands of authors, and it is unlikely he’s had a lot of contact with her, so even if he doesn’t particularly think well of her, he has no reason to study her, declare her to give him the willies and drag her into a conversation that didn’t really involve her. For that matter, why was he in a side conversation on SFF.net at all? As a contracts manager for Tor and other SFF imprints, he should have diplomatically been staying well out of the SFWA debates, even if he’s a fan.Talking about any of Tor’s female authors in such a manner creates a hostile environment that discourages female authors from Tor and hurts the bottom line.
I’m sure that Ms. Kowal doesn’t want to get into any kind of feud with Mr. Fedora, although he seems to want to get into it with her. But it’s creeping the rest of us out.
@Jerome O’Neil;” “In my job… there’s always that *one guy* who has to be a massive pain in the ass. If I ever got on the internet and wrote a long missive about what a “non-person” that guy is and how incompetent he is and how much I hate them, etc… I’d get fired in about three seconds, and that would be two seconds too long.
So the person in question works for a business that depends on the productivity of people like MRK, and then spends his hours belittling her in public? Just as a pure business matter, how is that allowed to go on?”
This is something I’m wondering, too. This Fodera guy is yammering away like that, on a public website, about one of his company’s under-contract novelists… And his employer is perfectly okay with that???
The corporation that employs this guy isn’t anticipating embarrassing and absolutely needless problems because this employee is spouting off in public about his personal loathing (and his sexist attitudes to) one of the writer’s the company regularly does business with? His employer doesn’t think, “That potentially has a negative effect on this company’s business relationship with that novelist. Let’s suggest he keep his negative feelings about this writer private.”???
And it doesn’t occur to his employer that OTHER writers are going to look at this crap and think, “Maybe I don’t want to do business with that company, since they apparently think this kind of unprofessional garbage is perfectly okay.”
I mean… DO they think its okay? Or did they just not know. And since they probably WILL know after this (or are they deaf to this much internet noise about it?)… well, what next?
Long-winded way of saying I agree–the business ramifications of this guy’s unprofessional behavior seem clear… (Though they don’t currently appear clear to him. I see that rather than issuing a public apology to Ms. Robinette, he’s claiming he’s going to sue 1200 people for libel.)
Me, I’m astonished that wearing an evening gown to an (evening) awards ceremony is now somehow a terrible thing to do. Would he be happier if she’d worn jeans and a teeshirt? I suspect then he’d be saying something about how she was disrespecting the event, or some such thing.
I mean really? It’s terrible and bad and horrible and hypocritical to wear an EVENING GOWN? I bet he was ALL OVER all the men who wore nice suits or even (gasp) tuxedos. Oh, wait….
I too (finally) rage-bought “Shades of Milk and Honey” today. I note the irony that, since it’s a Macmillian book, I’m also paying Mr. Hat’s salary as well. Can’t win ’em all, I guess.
This whole week’s round of controversy has left me feeling profoundly sad. Like, how is it that I live in the same world as these people? What the hell is wrong with them?
I have the link to the “diaphanous white outfit, posing on a beach” photos. A word of warning though, before you click you may want to get the kids out of the room . . . they might worry about people sanity if they saw these after hearing about the uproar.
I’d love to see photos of the gowns she wore to ceremonies – if they are as provocative and revealing as these beach shots we can be pretty sure someone is advocating for burkas
Mary was wonderful as BayCon’s Writer Guest of Honor a few years back. I remember after the con, sitting with the staff, no longer being “on the clock” as GoH, as it were, but she was just as engaged with everyone. It was awesome.
I had some thoughts about premature optimization leading up to the train wreckery: http://deirdre.net/premature-optimization/
I read Mary’s entry, and while I used to be the sort of person who thought “If I ignore it, they’ll go away”, the fact is that most bullies do not simply “go away” until they are punched hard in their hog-like snouts several times.
Now, the internet has changed this, because their ugly snouts are hidden behind a clever pseudonym that can be deleted and changed at will.
So, what to do? Give an “attaboy/attagirl” to the snout-punchers? That seems hardly effective in ending bad behavior (in the short term, anyway). Punch a few snouts yourself? In my advanced age (46 ha!), I grow tired of that after a few good shots.
I’ve just decided to donate to a few causes that do good work that I support, and buy books by authors who I enjoy. I’ve never had the talent nor determination to be a writer, so I don’t really have much personal input into that industry. But, If someone acted like a bully in my presence at some kind of fan event, he’d get a sound dressing-down and perhaps an actual punch in his hog snout. (I might get my ass kicked, but I’ll have made my point.)
@Dela As John mentioned elsewhere, Macmillan is closed for the holiday. I don’t believe that a lack of response before tomorrow should be taken as indicative of approval.
Thanks to Kat Goodwin for putting her finger squarely on another aspect that was bothering me. I was afraid that maybe I just had my Squick-O-Meter set too high.
Kat Goodwin: “Macmillan deals with thousands of authors, and it is unlikely he’s had a lot of contact with her, …:
I agree wholeheartedly with your post. On this point, though, it seems likely that he has had contact with her, apart from his job at Macmillan. He is (or was?) a member of SWFA and served on a committee involving contracts and contributed to the effort to provide information and sample contracts that SWFA members would find useful. My impression from some of the statements he made in the infamous SFF.net thread is that his dislike of MRK stems from knowing her through SWFA, not through his work at Macmillan. Personality conflicts happen and personal dislike of another human being is no sin in my book, but the way in which he indulged in mockery and the ridiculous pearl-clutching over her perfectly normal clothing were way over the top, and I don’t give him a pass on any of it. Just adding some information that might throw a little light on why he singled her out–not necessarily in a stalkerish way but in the way some people do when they really really don’t like someone and look for the slightest opportunity to dump on that person, especially in gossiping among friends. I know I’ve mocked people in private whom I disliked. However, this was not friends having drinks in a bar someplace. It was in a public forum, and it was stupid and unprofessional. I do hope his employer takes note of his behavior.
Out of curiousity…
Since you were both SFWA officials at the same time, and you are familiar enough with hate mail to grade it,
Did you and MRK ever compare the hate mail you received, in terms of quantity or contents?
wow- what a week (and it is only Monday) Sue happy putz on Sunday, misogynistic idiots on Monday… I am waiting with inhaled and despondent breath for what Tuesday will bring. Sorry MRK for the Shiat you are having to deal with. Kudos to you Mr. Scalzi for being well… you. Keep up the good works.
One of my best memories of Renovation was seeing “Whatnot”. I don’t know MRK but I immediately knew one thing about her: she is one of those special individuals for whom the descriptor “creative” was, well, created. Sitting in the audience I was touched as I rarely have been, and I’ve been going to live theater since my early teens.
I was not at all surprised by the “I’ve never heard of her” and “she’s no one you should have heard of” exchange.
Ms. Robinette is steadily writing and publishing in the sf/f genre in book length and short fiction markets, she’s appearing regularly as a guest and speaker at sf/f conventions and workshops, and she’s won and been nominated for major sf/f awards in recent years as a writer and as a podcaster.
BUT… she does not participate on SFF.NET. So it’s not surprising tthat she is either unknown or unimportant to people in that crowd.
Because if you read the whole discussion and if you google the names of the 10-12 most active participants in it, as I did (it’s a long weekend and bad weather, so, yes, I had time on my hands), the two things that stand out about that group are: most of them have published very little or absolutely nothing for years; and many of them mention in the discussion that they dropped their SFWA membership years ago, or else that they’re still members but aren’t involved/engaged in the organization.
So I didn’t find a lack of familiarity with (or respect for) an actively publishing sf/f professional and SFWA volunteer seemed surprising in that group. As far as I can tell from looking up their resumes and reading (way too many of) their posts, for most of that group, their engagement with the genre in recent years seems to be almost exclusively chatting on sff.net.
Although quite a bit of personal, nasty, denigrating commentary occurred in tandem with dismissing Ms. Robinette as “no one,” I suspect you could name quite a few other people with current/active sf/f writing careers that include recent nominations and awards… about whom that crowd who would “who’s that?” and “no one.”
I remember picking up Shades of Milk and Honey after it came out, only knowing a little about it and MRK. It was so brilliant and elegant. I couldn’t wait for the next book to come out. Then I heard her on Writing Excuses, and everything she said was smart and funny and thoughtful.
I have been saddened for awhile by this disgusting argument that persists, that the only point of women in science fiction and fantasy is to be objectified, whether they are fictional or real. I applaud MKR for consistently being a powerful writer and champion of speculative fiction, despite the continued drama that she has received and certainly does not deserve.
Pardon the incredulous reaction to Mary Robinette Kowal and her gracious response to this nonsense but what’s ‘professional’ about dissing the talent? Mr. Fodera’s comments -at best- look like someone who is having a midlife meltdown. Whatever the personal feelings, one doesn’t take to the trades to trash customers/suppliers/content providers.
I have not read MRK but will make it a point to become familiar with her work… (just hit Amazon and book is spooled up in Kindle).
So what is it with SFWA and SFF?
Chris Ogilvie writes:
I didn’t interpret Fodera as saying that she isn’t well known, but rather that she shouldn’t be well known, and that it is wrong for her to be well known. That’s not at all the same thing.
I’ve heard of MRK because I read this blog and John writes about her every now and then. As a reader, I don’t think I would have heard of her until she turned up on the Hugo ballot for Kiss Me Twice. I know she’s had other nominations, and a win, but I wasn’t a Hugo voter before then, and I don’t read very much SF that is shorter than novel length. I’m guessing that I know a fair number of people who are familiar with the genre who may not have heard of her. SF is a big field.
I don’t normally seek out regency romance SF novels, but given the reviews I’ve seen here, perhaps I’ll give Shades of Milk and Honey a try. I liked A Civil Campaign. Unfortunately, the list of works that I ought to try is growing.
Setting aside my thoughts on MRK (whom I don’t know; apart from her various web presences: I have not read her work, nor [to the best of my knowledge] seen her puppetry, though I thrilled to see her getting to work with the CTW this coming year), I do recognise the dynamic she’s dealing with, and it does, sadly, relate to the political nature of her speech (though being apolitical is no defense against women being abused).
There was a piece on this by Mary Beard in the London Review of Books: The Public Voice of Women
In so many fora, internet, business, politics, women are told, “this is an affair for men, ‘go make me a sammich'”, and people (by and large) take that as an acceptable response. They make apology for it (“oh, he’s just an old timer”, “they don’t know what an expert she is on the subject”, “he’s just upset that she made him look bad”, etc.).
Fodera, and his compatriots, are trying to enforce the idea that women don’t count. That Mary Robinette Kowal has been able to not only do well in “the manly art of SF”, but has done well in the political aspects of that world is all the more appalling, and why (IMO) they are so specifically vituperative to her.
That so many of us are upset about it, speaks to a change in process. That more of us are willing to say, “No, being quiet won’t make it go away” tells me the change is taking root.
To add to that, one of the things Beard argues is that women who were active in the public sphere often got away with it by being seen as, “manly”, or androgynous: so MRK’s wearing clothing which makes it plain she is a woman puts her (in a different, but related way) into a more threatening role in that already targetted class (i.e. women who speak on matters outside their sphere), and so that becomes much more significant as a tool to be used against her in the attempt to diminish her qualifications to speak.
Mary is the single most gracious, professional, generous human being I’ve met in the SFF space. The amount of time and effort she puts in for the benefit of others–and at times at significant cost to herself–is extraordinary. I consider her a role model and am grateful to know her at all.
Mr. Fodera is so far off-base he’s practically in orbit.
I didn’t interpret Fodera as saying that she isn’t well known, but rather that she shouldn’t be well known, and that it is wrong for her to be well known.
I’m not sure that’s any better. Particularly in reference to a writer that his bosses is publishing.
As it is, as a book editor, Fodera makes a good contract specialist.
@Ambivalent in Tokyo “So what is it with SFWA and SFF?”
In my more optimistic moments, What I think is happening and is underlying that conversation on sff.net where Fodera put his foot in, is that SFWA and SFF going through a sea change. These convulsions appear to me to be the result of traditionalists having a hard time dealing with more modern attitudes (and mind you, there are “traditionalists” that are chronologically younger and those with “modern attitudes” who are chronologically older).
These attitudes regarding women and minorities have existed and been challenged to a lesser extent in the past. They’re being challenged to a larger extent now. People aren’t just rolling their eyes in private and passing on warnings from person to person, they’re challenging them in public. The existing missing stairs* are being pointed to out loud and some people really don’t like that.
This is, I hope, ultimately a Very Good Thing even though it’s painful right now.
* Missing Stair analogy since I can’t figure out how to do a proper hyperlink:
Oh I know why he singled her out — two reasons. One is that she was major staff at SFWA, and as a woman in that position, got a lot of guff and ruffled feathers. (It’s not the political speech; they don’t need political speech to go after a female, believe me.) The second was that she did, after her tenure at SFWA, complain about how a few stuck in the past “weasels” caused large difficulties in SFWA being able to move forward into the 21st century and were pretty abusive. She vented in general about these kinds of problems with these kinds of volunteer positions, without using names, and a number of folk have tried to drag her into the current conversation on that piece being evidence about how rabid leftist extremists will no doubt fill the review board and take over the Bulletin.
But that doesn’t explain why a contracts manager from Macmillan, however annoying he found her from an association with SFWA, would drag her into the conversation and dismiss her, Macmillan’s author, as a useless writer nobody should read in a public Internet venue. That’s basically crapping on his own job, not just her. And it doesn’t explain why he would ever need to go over to her blog and sift through her photos, remember what she was wearing in them, and declare it to be super sexy erotica which sounds utterly ridiculous if you look at the photos. It is entirely all too reminiscent of Mr. Peacock and that comics artist guy waxing on about teenage girl cosplayers at conventions who they believed were clearly trying to get them all hot and bothered, and how they weren’t so sexy but were just trying to take advantage of impressionable geek boys. And the booth models! They were the same, just trying to give them boners. Fedora describing a sexual view of the photos and saying that they almost made her attractive — it has a lot of the same ring to it. And it’s just as creepy.
This is an incident specific to a person, but it shows that the problem that male and female authors complained about at SFWA and with the Bulletin is a very real one — women authors continue to have their bodies constantly talked about, instead of being dealt with as professional authors like the men. That’s going to have to change if SFWA wants to survive.
I hadn’t heard of Mary Robinette Kowal before today. I didn’t know who she was before my facebook page started to (I would like to say ‘heave with’ but it was, shamefully barely a hiccup) with the bile from Sean Fodera. I’d never heard of him, either. But the former until recently unknown to me touched me. Ms Kowal, I don’t know if your books are my sort of thing but, boy oh boy, you sure are. Under this sort of sexist attack, we are told that we ought to be graceful, to be the better person. You are obviously the better person. But your anger! I read your anger in your blog post and I am furious alongside you. How dare he? How very dare he?! The ‘he’ will be forgotten by me in a few days, no doubt. But you? You I am glad to have heard of. Your words I am glad to have read.
Moments after reading this article, I happened to be browsing an introduction to Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary, and happened on a quote that seemed more than appropriate here (with Mary cast as Ambrose):
“Mark how my fame rings out in every zone,
A thousand critics shouting: ‘He’s unknown!'”
This seems to me to be a thread that has a likelihood of sprouting trolls overnight, so I’m closing it up for the evening and will open it up again in the morning after I wake up. Have a good night, everyone.
Update: Comments back on.
So I’m glad MRK is getting a small sales increase to counterbalance being treated like crap for no reason (Well, for reasons that are totally unfair anyway) but this misses something.
It is not about whether MRK’s books are great, it is about whether she is respected as a professional. Personally, I looked at her stuff because Scalzi is so effusive about her and her writing (the probably-just-professional crush is pretty obvious John :) ) and it lost me at Austenesque, but that is beside the point. She is a highly successful, award winning author and contributor to the US (and beyond) SF field based on her personal and professional merit. I’d love to support her, but more likely by buying a book for someone else than myself.
There are many professionals I respect but do not enjoy the output of. China Mieville, just as an example, I know people like his work, i respect that and him, I just can’t get through more than 3 pages. I wouldn’t go on some rant based on his chromosomal arrangement and other bizarre enmity as a result.
What i find shocking is that a senior member of a major publishing house not only held these opinions but was dumb enough to express them. I would assume if not, say, moral character, business sense would prevent this. By the logic of the publishing-crank that set this off, because there are pictures where I can, say, see JK Rowling’s decolletage, she is now and forever banned from commenting on any issue to do with gender or highlighting poor treatment of women.
What MRK is guilty of, as far as I can see, is being female and successful but not one of the vanishingly small number of women in the industry who are so big to have the shield against crap-flinging that a middle-weight male author would have. She deserves better. Not because she is good or you like her books, but because she is a professional and acts accordingly.
So yeah, the publisher guy appears to be somewhere on the misogynist scale, but worse, seems to be be making a massive professional mistake by spouting this bile rather than keeping it to themselves. I want to see if Macmillan respond or act on this. SF fans are a vocal and activist minority and women are hardly a small market for genre fiction in the modern world.
Another immediate rage-purchase here. It would be interesting to see how much of a sales bump MRK does see from this.
I follow a mix of blogs, on a lot of topics, including sci-fi, legal issues, skepticism, feminism. It was like watching a field of prairie dogs, as this topic popped up everywhere. Gotta love the interwebz … where previously misogynistic, racist dickwads had only a small audience, now the whole world can see just how special they are.
When faced with this sort of strange situation, I tend to turn to The Evil Overlord List, since
the weasel is clearly using that as a guide. Perhaps he should have considered more closely
item 34 “I will not turn into a snake. It never helps.”
I say the situation is strange because I read very little SF these days, and I’ve never read any
of Kowal’s books since their genre doesn’t interest me; but even _I_ have heard of her, and
know her to be a significant author in the field. So how come some publisher’s assistant,
whose whole career is involved with authors and their reputations and their saleability, thinks
she’s someone “no one should have heard of”?
Threatening to sue lots of people to suppress an Internet thread has been tried before,
admittedly unsuccessfully and by very stupid people, but saying openly that a widely-sold
author isn’t relevant to a publishing house is a whole new way of taking a shotgun to
There’s a definite trend in these sorts of comments and not just in the “traditionalist” elements of the SFF community. From this side of the pond, folks have already linked to pieces by and about Mary Beard (classical history, political opinions, female). I’d add the veritable shite-storm that Jack Monroe has gone through over here in the past few weeks as well (good food on a budget, political opinions, female).
There does seem to be something about ‘tinternet in particular that encourages people to forget basic politeness, never mind self-censorship. It’s still a young medium, so perhaps there’s a lot of learning still to be done. On the other hand, perhaps it’s good that these views, being openly expressed, can be openly challenged.
I’m wondering if there is a #macmillanwatch hashtag as we await their response. Because surely they have to respond.
Paul Norris: You’ve given me a good hook to hang a point that I think needs attention.
The Internet, in the broad sense of “networked communications”, is older than a lot of people realize. In particular it’s significantly older than the World Wide Web. The Web appeared at the start of the ’90s. But Usenet got underway in 1980, and e-mail goes back even further. It’s also important – very important, when it comes to SFWA history – to remember non-Internet, stand-alone networks like GEnie, which hosted SFWA (and general sf&f) forums starting in the mid-1980s. (If anyone has the exact year, please tip it in.)
Almost all of the signatories to Truesdale’s petition, and of the folks most actively hating on Mary, were active on GEnie in the years I read it. They are not babes in the woods when it comes to using networked communications; they’re veterans of it, who’ve been at it literally decades. Now, many of them have a very channeled sense of what to do with it, and have very little sense of what’s said and done outside certain specific enclaves. But they’re not noobs, and some of the clash we’re seeing here is the interaction of subcultures that are the opposite of new and evolving with ones that range more widely and are substantially more dynamic. For the old guard, this is part of a larger story of a long démarche.
Don’t know if it’s relevant, but MacMillan publishes their code of conduct on-line.
Good point, I just mailed Macmillan the following.
I would like to enquire whether the comments and behaviour of Sean Fodera, whose behaviour is noted here http://www.dailydot.com/lifestyle/sfwa-sexism-sci-fi-nebulas-mary-kowal/ and elsewhere online, is consistent with the code of conduct of Macmillan as posted online here http://us.macmillan.com/static/CodeOfConduct/MACMILLAN_CODE_OF_CONDUCT_US.pdf. In particular I wondered how you saw Mr Fodera’s behaviour in relation to the section in the code of conduct on “Maintaining a Fair Workplace”?
Beyond this, I am at a loss to understand how one of your staff can think it is wise to describe one of your award winning authors as an ‘unperson’. Even if there were any merit to this aggressively negative characterisation, this hardly seems to be how one of your fairly senior staff should behave with regards to one of your authors.
I doubt I will get a response, but ah well.
At my current job most of the people I work with a lot of young salespeople, most of them male. I can sadly testify that this guy’s basic attitude is well-represented in the younger generation.
Anyway, I am going to guy buy Shades of Milk and Honey at lunch today (or through the Kindle app if I can’t find it as my favorite local book store).
Fair point, Bruce.
I think what I’m trying (failing?) to articulate is that there are a lot of people who are more recent adopters and that it’s new as a *mass* media. While some of the “traditionalists” haven’t evolved, that new mass element both allows them to be challenged, but also runs the risk that the behaviour of these existing netizens might be seen as what’s acceptable. All the more reason then, to challenge them.
That relative newness is also a factor in that quite a few folks (both long established and recent adopters) don’t grasp either that they are communicating in a forum that is public or that there is a permanent record. In the UK, there’s been a rash of people up before the courts on various charges arising from Twitter comments – mostly made as a throwaway statement of the sort that might be uttered in the pub.
Forgot to mention above that I bought Shades and For Want of a Nail for my kindle last night. One thing Fodera does seem to have done here is brought in additional sales, albeit unintentionally.
I’d just like to point out that MRK herself is emphatically not calling for his firing, and says that while she knew he hated her, he always behaved professionally toward her in the workplace.
I also don’t think it’s a good idea for us to pressure the company, because if they do fire him he’ll become a martyr, and if they don’t some will attack them.
Not that sff.net is completely non-workplace, any more than WisCon is. I just think we should take MRK’s lead on solutions, since she’s the most-harmed party. I think we should respect her wishes rather than swoop in to cut his head off.
Of course, the minute she says DEPLOY DECAPITATORS all that changes. I think she would have said that if she meant it.
Thinking about the morning the folks in Macmillan’s communications department are probably having reminds me why I have a firm policy about turning down P.R. work.
Xopher +1. I think getting someone fired will only increase the cries of “Tyranny!” And given that MRK has said the man in question treated her professionally as far as his professional work relationship with her was concerned, pushing non-work comments into a firing offense is not how I’d want to go about it. It would seem that these guys have lost their fight as far as SFWA is concerned. Mr Gould’s new policy is intended to prevent sexist crap from making its way into SFWA media going forward.
There are alternatives other than ignoring and firing. I think it’s very important that MacMillian state publicly that this violated their code of conduct and will be handled appropriately. They can take steps other than firing, and they don’t have to make those steps public.
If Sean Fodera gets fired (or otherwise disciplined by his employer) the only person who will have “gotten” him so is himself.
As far as “pushing non-work comments into a firing” is a bit of a misdescription. A person who works for a publishing house made derogatory comments about one of their authors (including the comment that she doesn’t deserve/shouldn’t be “heard of” and is an “unperson”). There are some professions and/or situations in which there is no such thing as a “non-work comment” and this is one of them.
I have a mixed mind on what happens.
1: I don’t think calling for his removal is a good idea (from the political/tactical standpoint).
1a: I am ambivalent about making such decisions on that basis.
2: I should rather MacMillan does what needs to be done in light of what they think is proper; absent any significant outside pressure.
2a: Because I want a better idea of what MacMillan’s internal attitude is.
3: Based on that, I would like to encourage them to move in a direction I think such things should go.
You know what pisses me off most about all this?
It isn’t the insults from the forum. It isn’t even the blatant sexism of those insults; it is so heavily ingrained in our culture to attack a woman’s appearance and/or sexual behavior, in order to discredit her, or even as a vehicle to express one’s personal dislike of her, that shifting beyond that paradigm often takes actual work, not to mention a kind of meta-awareness that not all people are capable of.
(I would note how the poster under discussion went after both the author’s appearance and her sexual reputation simultaneously – ohmigod, was that her KNEE? I’m getting the vapors – for the record.)
Dude should know better, but you hear this kind of stuff all the time. If you’ve shifted beyond this paradigm, or if you spend most of your time in a micro-culture where this kind of talk is unacceptable and/or not part of the linguistic framework, an insult such as this one feels like a head-spinning non sequitur. But still, such is not the case for everyone.
So while the insults were galling, they are also sadly typical. Further, since the underpinning of this kind of pattern rests upon the cultural underpinnings that a woman’s worth is tied, in one way or another, to her (usually sexual) value as a man sees it, these are, from my perspective, merely textfarts in the cyberwind, useful only to point out a particularly irksome pattern of how the male gaze infiltrates the writing community (as well as most everything else).
That said, what bothers me most about this? It’s the revelation (news to me) that MRK received vitriolic hate emails from a number of *members of her professional organization* during her tenure as an officer.
I mean, *what*?
Could you imagine this happening to an officer of, say, an accounting or engineering board? A law review magazine? A dental association?
Well – maybe I could – but in what world is this kind of nonsense even remotely acceptable?
What massive streak of entitlement does someone need in order to even *come up with this idea*?
And that’s where I get enraged, and not just because I have also been through crap like this before. It’s that there are dudebros out there that, even unconsciously, leverage a woman’s feelings of safety and security to attempt to solve their conflicts with her, that this behavior is par for the course to the extent that it often doesn’t raise eyebrows (much less result in the social ostracism that it warrants), that it occurs in *professional organizations*, that the spotlight is always on the woman who receives such harassment instead of the contemptible slime who does this to her.
Because that’s what it’s all about, IMO. The author’s professional accomplishments, her literary award history, etc. speak for themselves, but shouldn’t be pertinent to the discussion. It’s not a question of who ought to be defending her, or how she ought be defended. It’s a question of why a defense is even remotely necessary – since she is not the party who deserves the burden of needing defending.
That is the least of the ways in which that person was a walking arsehole, but yeah… “Don’t shit where you eat” – or at least have the good sense to keep it to yourself – is a good call
Though, as John has pointed out on Twitter, TOR is part of Macmillian, but not every part of Macmillan is part of TOR.
Woof. I went through and did some reading on the SFF.net BBS. I’ve been a SFWA member for 25 years off and on, and was an active member back when we were on GEnie. You know, the dial-up modem BBS service. 9600 baud! Whoooooo — livin’ in the future!
So I did my trawl of the SFF.net BBS and…nearly every single one of those names was from the old SFRT days, and quite a few were patting themselves on the backs for their love of their old, familiar technology, and how they aren’t on the Facebooks/Twitters, what have you.
Science fiction writers, ladies and gentlemen.
SFWA has a serious case of disconnect, and I guess I just haven’t been paying attention because, y’know, LIFE. The older strata doesn’t want to be online or advance past a limited technology, and the newer, technologically advanced crew are bewildered and confused by these antics. In, again, SCIENCE FICTION writers.
And if it helps any, even back in those days we had our share of abusive users, and those names? ALSO VERY FAMILIAR. The admins had a private forum where we vented about them, to keep from venting AT them.
I’d say “some things never change”, but during last year’s sexism kerfuffle, one of the repeat offenders on SFRT finally got called out in public for his behavior. So some things do change. It just takes for frickin’ ever.
I see that Mr. Fodera has announced on sff.net that, on the advice of counsel, he is not saying anything else or responding to queries about this.
And the advice of counsel is the only sensible content I’ve seen on that sff.net discussion.
His counsel echos the advice of many for him to STFU. Or maybe that’s not so much advice as a wish.
Kara: If Sean Fodera gets fired (or otherwise disciplined by his employer) the only person who will have “gotten” him so is himself.
I don’t support the idea of people lobbying the company to fire the guy. The main reason being because MRK said he was professional to her in his work capacity. And I think the way work-place harrassment rules works is that she gets to say whether its harrassment or not. Not us.
All you said in reply was basically “I think he has it coming, so we can lobby all we want.”
So, I think we’ll just have to disagree on this.
@Greg: That’s not at all what I said.
Please read my words again. I’m not talking about “workplace harassment”. I’m not talking about what MRK thinks or doesn’t think. I’m talking about factually there are some careers where you don’t get to say things in public and have them not reflect on you professionally. SF decided, of his own free will, to say nasty things about one of his company’s authors.
This isn’t “workplace harassment” because there is not an employee/employer relationship here. Nor does MRK work for or with (in a co-worker situation), SF. What harassment there is or isn’t is up to MRK to choose to address, yes.
BUT. My comments were not about the harassment element of the situation. My comments were about the unprofessional behavior of a high level executive of a major corporation towards an asset of his corporation.
If he gets fired, then it is his fault and his fault alone. Do I think people should lobby for his dismissal? That’s up to them (I wouldn’t but that’s me). Do I think people have the right to let a publisher know that an executive in their company badmouthing one of their authors is offensive and unprofessional? Abso-freakin’-loutely.
@Greg – it doesn’t work like that at all. Not even close.
If Mr. Hat is determined to have breached internal policy, it doesn’t matter if MRK wants him fired or not, it’s Macmillins decision, which will be made in line with their policy. Same as if they decide he hasn’t breached and they keep him on.
It’s down to their HR group and internal counsel, who at the moment will be asking Mr, Hat, “Dude, WTF were you thinking? The internet just fell on your head. And, by extension, ours. Gee, thanks”
You don’t avoid the consequences of your actions by going “Look, she doesn’t think I should be fired, so I can stay employed, continuing harassing people, and only when someone objects do I lose my job.” That’s not how it works and opens up an employer to bigger lawsuits for allowing someone to continue harassing people when they have had prior reports of such behaviour.
I would think longevity and job performance will also be factors in almost any situation like this. Is Mr. Fodera someone who’s been there for 4 months or for 14 years? Is his HR record at the company prior to this incident one of consitently satisfactory/good performance reviews, or is there a history of reprimands and complaints in his file?
This incident may be handled differently depending on whether it involves a longtime, well-liked, reliable employee with an otherwise excellent track record at work… or a very different sort of employee entirely.
Greg: that was a misrepresentation of what Kara said.
I wasn’t trying to suggest that it is better or offering it as mitigation.
I was suggesting that a reaction of “How can you think she’s unknown?” was missing the point a bit.
Hmm, never bought any of her books. Think I’ll go do that.
Kara: My comments were about the unprofessional behavior of a high level executive of a major corporation towards an asset of his corporation.
And I don’t support the idea of people lobbying [major corporation] to get [high level executive] fired for [unprofessional behavior] towards MRK, especially when MRK hasn’t been calling for [high level executive] to be fired.
It would be one thing if a victim tried to address some problem but was stonewalled by the corporation and asked for public help. I might sign up to help that. But that’s not this situation. MRK isn’t asking for anyone to be fired, so I’m not going to take it upon myself to ask [major corporation] to fire the guy.
Chris: If Mr. Hat is determined to have breached internal policy, it doesn’t matter if MRK wants him fired or not, it’s Macmillins decision,
You go around and enforce internal corporate policies when they’re breached by their employees do you? If we want to talk about who is mischaracterizing whom, your characterization completely removes the part about people lobbying the company to enforce some internal policy on an employee.
I don’t have a problem with a company applying its internal policies to its employees. I just don’t support the idea of random people lobbying a company to enforce some internal policy on an employee, especially when the victims of the employees behavior did not call for the person to be fired.
I have never met her, but what I gather of MRK is that she is a talented, creative person with social capacities substantially better than most adults. If she’d needed or wanted help, I have no reason to believe she wouldn’t have asked for it.
One thing that I may have missed is why exactly she was constrained as an officer of SFWA to be forced to deal with harrassing emails from members. If anything, maybe SFWA might consider looking at whether it might want to add some policies for how its officers can better deal with harrassment from members.
Has MacMillan said anything?
I suspect that Mr. F’s meeting with counsel went something like this:
Because when you’re an elected officer, you actually have to deal with correspondence from the membership — and not just the stuff you find agreeable. And to be precise, Mary wasn’t talking about actionable harassment (which I’m sure she’d bin or refer to the Police and/or the sender’s ISP as applicable) but people who have issues around expressing dissent without being arseholy about it.
Can we please never refer to a human being as a corporate asset, especially in the context of that person being subject to toxic levels of dehumanizing abuse?
As as our host pointed out on Twitter yesterday, Tor is part of Macmillan, that does not mean every part of Macmillan is part of Tor. Anyway, in a sense, it’s beside the point whether or not Fodera has any direct dealings with MRK (or any other TOR author). It was obnoxious arseholery of the first water, full stop and period. And while I think someone above his pay grade needs to read Fodera the riot act, the larger point is him (and everyone else) cashing the reality cheque that being a geek with a penis is no longer a lifetime pass for being a a misogynistic arsebag in public.
So Mr. Hat is unprofessional (dissing another employee of his company) and ignorant (never heard of a very successful author in his genre?).
I’m kinda not surprised he claims not to have heard of her; he seems to spend all his time hanging out with stupid, hateful people and Mary is smart and wonderful.
So he’s misogynist and ableist… wonder what other -ist feelings he has?
I suspect that Macmillan will perform an internal investigation. When they determine that yes, he made those comments about someone a subdivision of Macmillan does business with, they will then determine how to discipline him. More than likely, they will consider this a single (but serious) incident and send him to HR for Sensitivity Training or something similar. A written apology, possibly posted publicly, will either precede or follow the training. His access to certain sites from his work computer will be restricted and his web activity monitored more closely. He’ll probably be warned that openly posting on a public forum as a representative of Macmillan carries a certain expectation of professional behavior, and if he continues to post as he has it could lead to his termination. There will probably be written reprimand placed in his employee file that will probably affect his chances of promotion and/or raises, at least for a few years.
This doesn’t prevent or hinder him using a sockpuppet account to continue posting, but if he’s caught continuing these kinds of comments, he’ll probably face that termination.
In summary, he’ll be disciplined but probably not fired.
Actually, it’s kind of important to refer to her as a corporate asset, for the simple reason that A) publishers don’t buy authors’ books nor do they employ authors — they invest in authors, thereby making them assets as business partners; and B) male authors are corporate assets too. The idea is that women are equally professional writers same as the men, not lesser creatures who couldn’t possibly be an asset worthy of real investment, like the men are. And in this context, it is Mr. Fedora’s devaluing her as an asset to the company that does employ him that is part and parcel of the discrimination of the comment. He’s saying that she isn’t worthy of being an asset to Macmillan’s fortunes because she’s female and she’s uppity, therefore unimportant.
It’s for this reason that it really doesn’t matter if several thousand people write angry letters to Tor or not. (Although anyone is perfectly within their free speech rights to send such letters.) Mr. Fedora has publicly failed at doing his job by attacking one of his company’s authors, and more specifically her books — Macmillan’s products — one of the assets he’s supposed to be supporting professionally if not privately. He’s attacked Macmillan and Tor, his employers. If he’d simply said that he found MRK difficult when she was an officer of SFWA, that would be one thing. You’re not required to get along or even like all of your company’s many authors, should you have contact with them in a professional context. But he went after her books, which are also Macmillan’s books, their investment. He hurt his company’s investment.
Now, this is book publishing, not a regular corporation. Book publishing is fairly idiosyncratic. And he’s in finance, fairly high up. So he’s not going to get fired over a loose mouthed comment. But he will be getting internal flack, because he messed up at his job. And everybody else, at least at Tor, is going to get warnings about “how we talk about our author/assets.” And it will blow over — but the atmosphere has been changed because instead of private sniping, there was an error in the public face of Macmillan that they would in future like to avoid. (And this is what was the objection to the Bulletin content — it was the public face of SFWA.) Mr. Fedora went and got himself a lawyer. Nobody else working for publishers wants to be in the position where they have to go get themselves a lawyer. So they are going to be a lot more careful about trashing their own female author/assets on the Internet. Mr. Fedora has just struck a blow for the very thing he’s against because he messed up his job.
Again, it’s important to note that MRK is NOT an employee of Macmillan. She’s a business partner of Macmillan. And as explained, Mr. Fedora is quite familiar with MRK and knows her work; he’s just claiming she’s a nobody in the profession, and her work not worth knowing. He could not logically claim not to have heard of her, since he’s the one who brought her up in the conversation, and also has visited her blog to see the pictures.
The reason Mr. Fedora dismissed Kowal’s work as not very important, no one you’re likely to have heard of, and poor at writing, is to devalue her opinion as a respected professional voice whose words should be considered. If she’s not respected, why would anyone listen to what she has to say over authors like Mike Resnick and Robert Silverberg, say, even though she was VP of SFWA, so she had to be painted as an author unworthy of respect. (And this beautifully illustrates the chief issue of contention with the Bulletin content — that sexualized content painted female members of SFWA as unworthy of respect compared to male authors to the public, in violation of SFWA’s own standards.) It’s a perfectly ordinary derailment and devaluing tactic which would have been unremarkable coming from your average SFF writer or fan. But this time it came from an employee of the company that publishes the writer’s books. So yeah, basically just really unprofessional/
I’ve been traveling with minimal Internet so missed the bulk of this blowup, but am outraged at this treatment of Mary — although not all _that_ surprised. There is no shortage of jerkwads in traditionally male dominated spheres of all varieties eager to spew their venom on any uppity women threatening their dominance. Kudos to Mary — who I met at ConFusion a couple of years — for remaining a class act in the midst of it all. I can only aspire to be as cool and relevant as she is. :)
cranapia: And to be precise, Mary wasn’t talking about actionable harassment …
Ah. That would make a considerable difference in what she could do about it.
As for lobbying [major corporation] to do something to [employee], when the victim of [employee’s] actions did not call for anything to be done: I think the rule that I’ve been slowly coming around to over the last few years is “be at least as forgiving as the victim”. I just never really put it to words before now, it was more a subconscious thing.
But I was thinking about why I was having the reaction I was having and what came up is all the people I’ve met over the years who’ve had horrendously terrible things done to them and had decided to forgive whoever it was that did it to them. It’s actually kind of shocking how statistically mundane it is to meet people who have been the victim of something that could be a capital crime in certain jurisdictions on the planet. The surprising ones are the ones who have forgiven what was done to them.
I know when I was young, I couldn’t understand that sort of thing at all. I wanted to fight the fight for them and extract whatever pound of flesh would be appropriate for the deed. But holding a grudge for someone who had let that grudge go never goes well. Somewhere along the line, I learned an interesting definition of the word forgiveness: to grant relief of payment of a debt. The debt was owed to them, not me, and if they had forgiven it, come to terms that it would never be repaid, and give up any notion of ever collecting it, then that was their choice. I can’t just take on collecting the debt, because they forgave the debt, they released it.
And what I used to do was try to collect on a debt owed to someone else that had taken the debt off their ledger. And that never went well.
So, if someone who is the victim of something and doesn’t want the pound of flesh I might think is owed them, I’ve been more recently trying to butt out of their bookkeeping. It isn’t a debt for me to collect on their behalf. If they’ve forgiven, it isn’t for me to extract payment on their behalf.
I had shifted a bit by the time Ann Coulter was attacking the 9/11 widows for criticizing Bush’s war on Iraq. The widows had paid the price of 9/11. They were the ones owed the debt, and they opposed a war of retribution against a country that had nothing to do with the attack. Coulter, and a lot of people on the right, wanted to collect on a debt that wasn’t owed to them and they were upset that the widows, the actual victims, didn’t cheer on their collection efforts. Truth was, Coulter and people like her wanted war not because of the widows; they were acting strictly out of their own fear and their own issues. I could see they were doing the sort of thing I might have done in my younger days and I could see it wasn’t working. Actually, I could see it was horribly wrong, but I don’t know if I could have explained it in any articulate sort of way back then.
I really hadn’t put it into words until just now. Why was I having the reaction I was having? to be at least as forgiving as the victim. And in this particular case, MRK seems to have forgiven any debt that I or others might otherwise assume is owed to her. At which point, the debt doesn’t transfer to me or anyone else to act as a collection agent on her behalf.
So, I had said “I don’t support the idea of people lobbying the company to fire the guy.” And until now, I wasn’t able to articulate exactly why. But I think I see it now. I prefer to try and follow the principle to be at least as forgiving as the victim. So, that’s good to know.
If she was asking for help to seek justice, lobby the company, or lobby SFWA, or some other action that might help bring some kind of justice to the thing, I could have supported that too. But as far as I can tell, she seems not to be carrying any debt around that she’s holding onto as needing payment. So, I’ll try to be at least as forgiving as her.
the rule not holding a grudge on someone else’s behalf is good. being as forgiving as the victim is good.
problem is, in a *VERY* real sense, Mary isn’t the only victim here.
every woman who has, does, or will publish/try to publish is. because of the specific TYPES of comments, because he [and those he was talking with] have been able to say things like this with no hint of any repercussions for SO FREAKING LONG, he not only thought it was acceptable to do so in a public forum under his legal name in a place associated with his career, but then felt justified in at least THREATENING to sue anyone who talked about it for libel.
we get this treatment all the time, everywhere, and every attack of this nature against ANY woman(and/or any other minority) is an attack again ALL of us.
*because it says “X people don’t matter — we can say whatever we want, they can’t stop us, and no one (who matters) will care”
*because it says we are powerless against what they say and do.
*because it says we we deserve them saying it, obviously we do, we brought it on ourselves for having the audacity to be in the field while also being women (and/or other minority)
*because it says we aren’t WORTH them NOT saying things like this.
If Mary — a highly accomplished creator, who is a writer, a puppeteer and voice-actor, who has won several awards and been nominated for MORE, who is highly professional and respected by so MANY in the field(s) — can be harassed and harangued by this guy, IN PUBLIC, about her clothing choices, that he can essentially imply that she’s “worthless” because of her clothing (that he can all but call her a slut, actually] , then what the hell hope do *THE REST OF US* have?
what does this say about OUR future?
what it tells *ME*, is that if i ever DO get published, then asshats like this will sit down and comb through everything they can find about me, and will feel that they have THE RIGHT to judge all aspects of my life — my personal life, my family life, my personal choices, whether or not i’m married, what that “means”, what i wear, where i wear it, how i wear it, what i’m doing when i wear, who i’m with when i wear it…
actually, i’m now reminding myself of a speech i gave about rape. think about your average news column about a rape: it talks about the victim, who she*+(1) was, where she was, who she was with, what she was doing, when she was there, why she was there, what she was wearing while she was there, how she was acting while there… it might even mention her past [she’s had X number of boyfriends! she was married/divorced! she was X age and never was married!] it will go on and on AND ON about the victim, about any and every detail it can find.
you know what’s missing from those rape reports?
no, i’m not saying Fodera raped Mary, that’s not at all what i mean — what i’m saying is, that there is the same sort of vibe in ALL sexualized attacks. and make no mistake, it WAS a sexualized attack, from the moment he started talking about her clothing and neckline and *gasp* showing her knees *SWOON*!
and attacks of that nature, horrific as they are for the person they are directed at, are ALSO attacks against all women (and/or any other minority) because it says, LOUDLY, “IF YOU ACT LIKE THE PERSON WE ARE CURRENTLY ATTACKING, WE WILL ALSO ATTACK YOU”.
and i’m damned sick of being threatened like this.
*+(1) She is used both for convience and because something like 90% of rapes are committed against women. it is NOT used because men “can’t be raped” or any BS like that — men can be, and ARE, raped, and it’s just as horrific and horrifying.
Greg: nothing Kara wrote indicated she wants us to try to get Fodera fired. You jumped to that conclusion and you went off on it. I really think you owe her an apology.
I wish I could say I rage-bought “Shades” as a reaction, but I think my overpowering sense of cynicism has swamped my ability to feel rage at this point. This kind of thing just keeps happening, and the kerfuffles keep kerfuffling and will continue to kerfuffle, and I find it hard to believe that getting angry is going to have much effect.
Great change rarely comes in like a hurricane, leveling all that offends us (no matter that we wish it would). It’s more like the breaking of waves, over and over again for ages that will wear down these deep-rooted dunes of stupidity. There will come a time when people like The Man In Question are seen as relics of a bygone age, but I don’t expect it to be anytime soon.
Then again, I never thought I’d see gay marriage in my lifetime, so I am a poor oracle indeed.
So no, I didn’t buy “Shades” as a rage-purchase. I bought it just to break my little wave on the shore and to let MRK know that there are more people on her side than against her.
That, and I keep hearing it’s really good. That would have been enough reason for me on its own.
Jeez – still? We’re still having to deal with “we don’t want girl-cooties in our treehouse?”
I’m not surprised by the fact that the Neanderthals in question were startled that they weren’t just taking among themselves, frankly: they seem too dumb to pour sand out of boot (with instructions on the heel).
I shall investigate “Shades…” both because of the recommendation and as a political act.
denelian: Mary isn’t the only victim here. every woman who has, does, or will publish/try to publish is. because of the specific TYPES of comments, because he … [has] been able to say things like this with no hint of any repercussions for SO FREAKING LONG
There is no individual wrong that cannot be reframed to argue that if we let people in general get away with this TYPE of wrong for so freaking long, then the ground will be littered with victims. And that reframe allows people to ignore the actual victim saying they don’t want the person’s head on a pike.
MRK was the direct victim of this bullshit. And she doesn’t want the guy fired. So, I’m going to try to be as forgiving about it as she is. YOu can do whatever you want about it. And you can justify it however you want to justify it. I’m just explaining where I’m coming from.
Semi-famous First Amendment lawyer Ken White has an article in which he takes Fodera severely to task on his threats to sue. He finds the threats egregious enough that he further offers to help those who Fodera actually sues to get high-quality pro-bono representation. I’ve been a reader of White’s site Popehat for a long time, and can tell you that when White calls for such representation, damned good lawyers show up.
So wow. I didn’t realize I’d cause such drama. :) Responding to a few people here in general:
I used the word “asset” very specifically not to dehumanize anyone. I used it specifically because MRK is not an employee or a vendor of the publishing house and therefore standard workplace rules of harassment don’t apply here.
I also used it because from a business standpoint, she *is* an asset just as is EVERY author published by them – male or female. And in that sense, referring to the people who are your assets as “not worthy of being known” is flat out stupid, no mater what their sex/gender/race.
From there, pretty much everything @Kat Goodwin said above in discussion of the topic. I would only be rehashing her words if I continued.
As far as “be as forgiving as the victim” … well again, someone else beat me to it and probably said it better. What @denelian said is exactly the point. MRK is the individual who is (currently) dealing with this kind of asshattery, but it affects all of us.
@Greg I’d like to comment on one thing you said:
“If she was asking for help to seek justice, lobby the company, or lobby SFWA, or some other action that might help bring some kind of justice to the thing, I could have supported that too. But as far as I can tell, she seems not to be carrying any debt around that she’s holding onto as needing payment. So, I’ll try to be at least as forgiving as her.”
I am assuming that you are a white male. (I could be way wrong, but at the very least male … correct?) From that position you can afford to be “at least as forgiving as her”. Because no one is ever going to go to your website and say “ooh, Greg wore shorts, so that makes him not worth listening to”. Me? I’ve already had people call my professionalism, my validity, my worthiness to speak into question because: I’m female, I have long hair, I dye my hair, I wear makeup, I favor skirts and dresses over pants, I wear high heels, I am gender-normative … add any number of things to that list. I cannot afford to ignore when a male in a position of power speaks out against a woman and declares her an unperson and not worth paying attention to – claiming it’s because she wears a certain type of clothing, but really it’s because she’s a female who has achieved some success and he’s a sexist asshat.
And aside from that, don’t make the mistake of assuming that not calling for his head on a platter is forgiveness. One can make a choice not to pursue a certain course without forgiving the idiot in question for his actions.
Hm. Seems like this discussion is leaching out into the wider world…
Kara: MRK is not an employee or a vendor of the publishing house and therefore standard workplace rules of harassment don’t apply here.
that’s highly unlikely to be true. almost every anti-sexual-harrassment training I’ve had always makes a point to say that an employee’s requirement to not harass isn’t limited to other employees. It includes customers, clients, business partners, and so on. It usually says that the policies are limited to work related stuff. This sometimes expands to “off hours” things like if everyone in the department goes down to the men-only club after hours to discuss business, then a woman has a potential discrimination claim because she can’t go discuss business with everyone else. I don’t know what this particular corporations policies are, but I’d think it extremely odd if they actually say the policy is limited strictly to employee-employee interactions.
standard rules against workplace harrassment would normally apply to business partners working with each other or a corporation working with an “asset”. In short, they should apply in this situation. If Mary doesn’t want to pursue it as a workplace harrassment thing, then that her choice, no one else’s.
really it’s because she’s a female who has achieved some success and he’s a sexist asshat.
Well, unless you’re going to hold someone to account for having sexist beliefs in their head, then the only alternative is to hold them to account for any sexist actions they commit. And if the only sexist actions they committed were against someone who forgave them, then what is left to hold them to account for?
don’t make the mistake of assuming that not calling for his head on a platter is forgiveness
I didn’t. I said I don’t support lobbying the corporation to get the guy fired because MRK has specifically stated she’s not trying to get the guy fired. I called that “forgiveness” as a shorthand. I said I try to be at least as forgiving as the victim. And the specifics of how that forgiveness shows up will vary across an entire spectrum. “forgiveness” is simply the way to say to what degree, if any, the victim has written off any debt owed them. Maybe they want an eye-for-an-eye. Maybe they want the person put in prison for hte rest of their life. Maybe they want the person fired and made peniless. Maybe they want the person to issue a formal apology. Maybe they don’t want anything. It’s all on the spectrum of how forgiving the person is or is not.
Just a note: My friend Lenore has just purchased all MRK’s books (in e-book form). She said “I probably would have checked her out sooner or later, because I’ve heard good things. This just pushed it up a bit.” She also commented, “Ordinarily I’d buy one book and check it out, but this time I decided to buy them all at once.” She cited wanting to contribute to a sales uptick directly attributable to these events.
@Greg. Saying that [random woman] is not worth listening to, is not worth knowing, is an unperson, is an hypocrite because she dresses a certain way is not just “committing sexist actions” against that one woman. It is a reflection of a held attitude about all women. It says “if any woman wears evening gowns, she is not allowed to call herself a feminist” and “if any woman wears a white dress on the beach and takes a picture of it, she is not worth listening to because her words are fake”. Just because this particular instance of public speech was directed towards one woman in particular does not make it any less the problem of women as a whole.
You clearly don’t get it and my (or anyone else) trying to explain it to you is not going to change your mind. You’re obviously not open to or willing to hear anything but your own words.
And as I pointed out, you are speaking from a position of privilege and declaring that no one else has a right to be offended by or act on SF’s words because YOU are not offended by them as they were not directed at YOU. And you are phrasing it in such as way as to position yourself as the better person because you have “chosen to be as forgiving”. All you’re doing is flaunting your privilege.
So moving on, I just bought the first 2 books in the series. All else aside, I’m a huge Austen fan and so I can’t wait to read these. I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of them before.
You or anyone else is freely welcome to rehash my words as much as you like because A) they won’t really be my words — you’ll express your thoughts your way; and B) there’s much more of a chance folks will read your words straight through than mine. :)
I think that the feeling most are feeling is sadness — that authors we like spouted sexist drivel in the Bulletin and then wouldn’t even consider what they said, that authors we like signed the petition, that Kowal got dragged into an attack by someone with a (rather creepy again) grudge, that we are now having to declare an insect army (although that’s a bit fun.) But aside from sadness, tolerance and anger, what that insect army represents is social pressure that changes the climate. And that’s something that none of these authors are going to singularly control (which is why the petition was silly in its concept, but maddening in its content.) There are bigger institutional issues here, as you know. And there are corporate issues, which deal with social pressure whether it is directly sent to them or not. Speech is free, but it’s not free of consequences. I don’t give up on these authors yet; it takes a fair amount to alienate me, but that’s not the same as forgiveness, as you pointed out.
Kowal’s work is, from all reports, very much in the sort of territory I enjoy (although I’m not a real picky reader,) and she’s been on my list for a bit. Time to move that up. (Speaking of which, after her “kerfluffle,” I bought and read Genevieve Valentine’s Mechanique. It’s easily one of my top titles for writing and unique characterization, and I’m eager to get her upcoming new one. So if nothing else, these issues do alert us to cool authors.)
Kara: You clearly don’t get it
I get what you’re saying. I just don’t agree with it. I said a few posts back that I think we’ll just have to disagree on this.
YOU are not offended by them as they were not directed at YOU.
It wasn’t “directed at” you either. It was directed at MRK. And she isn’t calling for the guy’s job. If it was important for you to honor who it was “directed at”, I’d think you’d pay more attention to how MRK is responding.
I think who it was “directed at” is more important than what I think or someone else thinks. That’s where the whole “be more forgiving than the victim” idea comes from. It was directed at MRK. She isn’t calling for the guy’s job. Why should I? Why should anyone else?
Just because this particular instance of public speech was directed towards one woman in particular does not make it any less the problem of women as a whole.
This appears to be the core of how we end up in different views. MRK was the target of this guy’s behavior. She suffered the worst of it. No one else has grounds to claim that what this guy did to MRK creates an equal-sized problem for them that needs to be rectified.
It’s like, Mandela forgave the guards who tortured him. If he forgave them, then no one else has claim to collect that debt.
Forgiving the guards, good. Making sure the guards can never treat another person that way, also good.
Greg, note that Mary’s response was to “offer herself up as a useful representative.” She specifically brought this up to note that it’s NOT just about her, that it IS the problem of other women too:
It wasn’t “directed at” you either. It was directed at MRK. And she isn’t calling for the guy’s job. If it was important for you to honor who it was “directed at”, I’d think you’d pay more attention to how MRK is responding.
Greg, then I suggest you take your own advice and pay attention to how MRK is responding. And I quote:
“Too many places, too many women, get this sort of unwelcome attention and commentary about what they were wearing but no one does anything. It’s always, “Laugh about it” or “Just shrug it off,” or “Ignore it and he’ll go away.”
I repeat (her words): No one does anything.
She doesn’t say “the recipient”. She doesn’t say “the victim”. She says “no one”.
If we don’t speak out against this kind of “unpersonning” when it happens by anyone towards anyone, then how are we any better than he is?
No one else has grounds to claim that what this guy did to MRK creates an equal-sized problem for them that needs to be rectified.
And by the way, that’s a privileged statement by a person of privilege. What “this guy did to MRK” and the fact that many people agreed with him, supported him, and cheered him on is a problem for all women. And yes, it needs to be rectified at an organizational level, at a corporate level, and at a societal level.
Until no man believes it’s ok to “unperson” a woman – any woman, not just MRK, because of what she wears or doesn’t wear, says or doesn’t say – then it is every thinking human being’s problem.
If you don’t think it’s yours, more power to you. Please go enjoy your privilege.
He has been arrogant and condescending, true. But the worst part of Greg’s trolling is his continued projection of his own opinions on MRK. It’s true that she has not addressed whether Fodera should be fired, or whether he should be forgiven. But Greg insists on twisting her response to claim she has openly and publicly forgiven Fodera. And worse, he has willfully ignored her words in order to minimize or outright dismiss the impact this case has on ALL of us. I’m just not comfortable with that.
Folks, allow me to suggest we’re wandering afield at this point. Let me also suggest that we don’t add any interpretation to Mary’s words other than what she’s explicitly said. Let me finally suggest that the current conversation is unlikely to make any of you happy, and maybe should be wrapped up. That includes you too, Greg.
John – feel free to delete if this isn’t helpful. I’ve found – as has Gary Farber – that linking to this particular blog post on Facebook is not allowed, apparently because it was suspected of linking to malware or the like. None of your other posts get this response, just this one. Just thought I would let you know.
I’ve heard of Mary, I just haven’t read any of her books…..looks like I need to check them out…Thanks, John.
Well and passionately said. I’ll be honest, anyone who dismisses *any peer* with the condescension with which Kowal was dismissed immediately paints themselves as inconsequential to me. MRK grows in my estimation merely because she was dismissed. Duh.
I <3 Mary's creative work. Thats all thats relevant to me.
That guy who said I shouldn’t have heard of MRK? … I’ve never heard of him.
May I ask for a recommendation, please? Which book of MRK’s would be a good start? Thanks in advance.
@fuzznose: Either some of the free fiction she has on her web site or “Shades of Milk and Honey” if you like Austenesque Fantasy of Manners.
Mark W. Tiedemann @February 17, 2014 at 10:58 am
I read the article to your blog that you wrote, and I felt the need to respond to something: “Welcome to Gor” is about the most chilling, unsettling three words I’ve read, and yet, it’s a disturbingly accurate assessment of how certain groups would like to see things.
Lee: Greg insists on twisting her response to claim she has openly and publicly forgiven Fodera
You complain of me twisting MRK’s words, and yet I *never* said she has “openly and publicly forgiven Fodera”. I said she isn’t publicly lobbying to get the guy fired, so I wouldn’t either, and that came out of my own personal rule I try to follow which is to be at least as forgiving as the victim. There’s quite a bit of twisting to get from what I said to your version.
I said to Kara two days ago that we could just agree to disagree on this. But at this point, it seems like there’s been two completely unrelated conversations going on with one huge misunderstanding between them. And I’m not even sure if we were ever talking about the same thing.
Apologies to John for taking his thread off the track. It really seemed like a short curve in the rails at the time. I had no idea it would end up *way* over here.
Mr. Scalzi – thanks for the post and the forum of discussion. And, for malletting. I come to your discussion through Kelly McCulllough, who noted the original FB post was shut down. I checked the pics Fodera commented on days ago, and was STUNNED to see she was ‘somewhat attractive’…..based on a pic that mainly displayed her…calves…? Feet? (disclosure, my feet are ugly enough that I can win arguements with my husband by taking my socks off). Mostly, as you are directly connected with SFWA, and have the grace to offer your support (and weather the ensuing sh!t-storm), I just wanted to thank you for highlighting WHY feminist issues are still…..everyone’s issues.
I’d like to thank Steve, who way back in the first unmalleted comment, gave the perfect explanation for this issue, as well as for several other that I do not understand. “There seem to be a lot of bizarre anger issues out there.” Yes there are and they all seem to live on the internet.
Greg, the thing is you’re saying a bunch of stuff like this: [Fedora’s action] wasn’t “directed at” you either… If it was important for you to honor who it was “directed at”, I’d think you’d pay more attention to how MRK is responding…She isn’t calling for the guy’s job. Why should I? Why should anyone else?
In simplest terms: it’s not yours to decide exactly what this blowup means or the precise scope of its effects. It is not on you to provide the definitive interpretation of MRK’s reaction nor to police others’ fidelity to what you believe is her preference.
I know from experience that it can seem like it’s yours to do so and that your specific takes on this event, MRK’s response, and what other peoples’ responses to that response ought to be (!!) are the correct or ‘objective’ ones. We live in a world that tells people like you and me this lie all the time.
But it is a lie.
I know also that you assert above that this ‘forgiveness’ rule you propose is a ‘personal’ rule for you, and that you’re not trying to impose that perspective on anyone else.
But in the quote above, you are trying to impose it. You are stating quite plainly that your interpretation is the only interpretation, and to dissent from it is foolish.
In reality, it is no one’s job to answer “why should anyone else,” nor – lest you claim you’re not actually seeking a response – is it appropriate for you to dismiss disagreement by phrasing the question rhetorically. Whether actively aggressive or passively so, this tendency to denounce the basic validity of any opinion dissenting from yours is hugely presumptuous, and makes it literally impossible for you to understand the perspectives of those with whom you’re arguing.
I suggest we all drop it and get back to the main point, which is not Greg’s opinion of anything.
Especially since it ended up just being an argument about a poor word choice.
Back on Topic: I haven’t yet, but I’m picking up a copy of MRK’s first book this evening.
Clearly not the first to say it, but so happy to learn about this author. I am a new fan of MRK thanks to this article. I particularly like that she uses Austen’s written vocabulary to affect her own word choice. It’s something that I wouldn’t have thought makes an impact before reading, but in retrospect, clearly does.
Then I’d like to apologize for my part in the misunderstandings and misreads, and for my reaction to it all. I’m happy to let it go and move on.
And with that in mind, I’ll offer a slightly left-field suggestion for an introduction to MRK: her Twitter feed. Speaking from a writer’s perspective, following other writers is a great way to develop and refine your style, by learning economy and brevity. And @MaryRobinette (like @scalzi and @neilhimself and more than I have time to name here) is one of the more entertaining feeds out there.
I’ve been an MRK fan for so long that it almost seems like I discovered her. Yeah, yeah, it was mostly because I read a lot of short form fiction, so it was mostly the various magazine editors (dead-tree and digital) who actually “discovered” her, but still, it was like knowing a band that no one else knows before they break big.
So not only are her novels great, but her short form fiction is excellent as well. She is among my admittedly very large list of favorite authors, and her novella “Kiss Me Twice” is one of my favorite short form works of the last few years (available online, though the formatting is not that great, at least using Chrome as a browser: http://www.asimovs.com/2011_06/exc_story1.shtml).
She also has a collection of her short works, Scenting the Dark, although it seems to be out-of-print, unfortunately. It’s also an older work, so it doesn’t have “Kiss Me Twice” or other recent works. I happened to snag a copy for about $10 several years back, but it looks like you can’t even find a used copy at Amazon for less than $85–and I ain’t selling mine! But if you happen to see an inexpensive copy somewhere, it’s well worth your time and money.
Great post! I don’t know MRK personally, but I enjoy her books. The forum postings about her were ridiculous. Even if they didn’t like her leadership style, the postings were unnecessarily vitriolic. Unperson? Implying that her modeling pictures were “slutty” when they weren’t in the slightest (and even if she HAD wanted to wear a metal bikini the poster seemed to be fantasizing about–her business, not theirs). And, of course, discussing her attractiveness, since it’s so relevant to her as a professional.
The forum posters were idiots for not realizing that, even if it had been a private forum, word gets out–and even bigger idiots for not comprehending what “public forum” means. They dug their own graves. Very, very unprofessional behavior.
Mark Tiedemann – This is a little late, but I loved your comment at 2/17 10:53 am. It deserves to become a Thing:
A Tiedemann Cascade: “The original problem was more or less caused by lack of attention but [its correction] resulted in closet doors flying open and skeletons dancing in the hallways.”
The image is especially apt because, since it is skeletons criticizing a very good author and Very Good Person, it is easy to see right through them.
Folks, I’m away until 3/3, so comments are being suspended for now.