Thursday, November 11, 2010

Moonfail: Or, Why I Look Forward to Being a Dinosaur

I've followed the whole crazy E. Moon debacle since September, and experienced much the same reaction others did to Moon's initial post. Some nodding along for awhile, raising eyebrows at a bit of the one-for-all view of citizenship, and then gaping at the bizarre turn it took with "Assimilate or you're just asking for what you get" rhetoric. And then it launched into something akin to, "You don't know how good you have it! We've been so tolerant! We could have thrown you all in concentration camps like we did to the Japanese!" (no, those are not direct quotes. Please read the link to the original post)


Yes, it was certainly weird, and if it had been an essay about feminism and how women should just assimilate into patriarchal culture if they didn't want to have stuff thrown at them, I think there would have been a stronger and clearer response from the Wiscon committee up front. But then, any big decision made by committee is an epically long, bitter, drawn-out process. It's why I don't like going to neighborhood committee meetings. You get the same kind of dynamic: one or two people ranting on about their own pet projects/beliefs, one or two people actually contributing something useful, and a silent minority slowly seething with resentment of the committee's incompetence while another half dozen people check what's happening on Facebook on their smart phones.

I'm pretty surprised the con had the guts to step up and recind Moon's GOH status.  You have to figure out who you are and what you stand for in order to do that. And you have to be willing to piss a lot of people off. People are worried about what this means for future GOH's. And they should worry. Because if you've got some intolerance built into you (and anybody who's been raised in a racist, misogynist, fearful, intolerant society like, you know, pretty much all of them, is going to have some), at some point it will leak out. And there will be some places you aren't honored at.

Big deal. Get over it.


Get over it.

I don't expect to be invited as a guest of honor by the Tea Party, either.

What hurts for Moon - and what worries many Wiscon-goers - is that it was their own community which they felt turned on them. When your community makes a leap forward and you don't... well, you get left behind. That's how it is.

Today's radicals are tomorrow's dinosaurs.

Yes, that's a good thing. I want tomorrow's society to be far more tolerant and progressive than I am with my in-built biases and knee-jerk misogyny (you have no idea how difficult it was to give Nyx female friends in the bel dame books. Or how weird it was to not make every token spear-carrier a guy. There are a lot of biases I had to be hyper-aware of, and on re-reading it now years after writing it, I can see a whole lot of misogyny in there. And let's not even get into the whole "holy war" thing. That's the subject of another post).

This wouldn't have happened five or ten years ago. For some reason it reminded me of when David Moles posted all those quotes from Harlan-apologists from the private SFWA boards to a public forum (David took this post down some time after the fact, but I found an old post regarding the issue by Gwenda). Back then, the big outrage was about the breach of privacy on an internet forum (even more laughable today, I know, with the Facebook privacy fiasco. Nothing on the internet is ever really private), not a backlash in response to the sexism of some of the public's most beloved SF/F authors.

In this case, of course, Moon posted her own thoughts to a public forum, so there was no one to blame for her comments but herself. And, true to her convictions, she stuck by them even after learning why others found them so appalling.Which, again, is fine. Nobody's saying you can't be a bigot. I say bigoted things all the time. But I shouldn't be suprised when somebody calls me on it. And - at the very least - I can sit down and think hard about why I'm being called out as a bigot, and re-think my position in light of new evidence and/or arguements against my position (a very good recent example of how a civil dialogue and rethinking is up here about Daniel Abraham's thoughts on rape in Urban Fantasy. Do read the comments. Anon really nails it in the line-by-line deconstruction. This is also something I'd like to tackle in another post).

Moon didn't do that. This is why, in large part, I think the invitation was rescinded. We're all bigots. What makes Wiscon cool is the fact that it's a space where we can talk about why we're bigots, and figure out ways to combat our skewed worldview.

Cons are notoriously bad at making controversial decisions, especially ones that have to do with pissing off their much-beloved writers. Much of Moonfail shows the strength of the LJ POC community and allies inside SF3. Fans decide what a con is and who should be honored. Wiscon wouldn't think to invite Orson Scott Card or Harlan Ellison, no matter how progressive they personally believe themselves to be (ahhh, sorry, let me stop laughing).

Wiscon is a political con. But, more specifically, Wiscon is a feminist con, not a con about combating racism and encouraging religious tolerance - even if the new mission statement makes a nod to that (it's been pointed out that the U.S.'s latest freak-out about Islam isn't racism, but intolerance of religion. If the two weren't linked, however, we wouldn't be seeing the 20% of Americans who fervently believe that our bi-racial president is a Muslim, despite all evidence to the contrary. Part of race and ethnicity is religion, culture. See anti-semitism. Racism and anti-semitism are taboo in most circles now, but it's now OK in a LOT of circles to spew hatred and fear of Muslims. The hilarious part about that is that this country was founded on religious tolerance).

I'd argue that everybody who attends Wiscon enjoys the idea that they're supporting diversity, but what we saw in the Moon fiasco is that when it comes down to critiquing one of their own, about half the Wiscon crowd will support the cause of feminism over racism and religious tolerance. Looking at the comments in the SF3 thread, this is pretty obvious. Wiscon is a feminist con, they say. Bigotry be damned.  So, in their view, Moon should still be honored at a con whose mission statement is, among other things, about eliminating racism and promoting peace, love, understanding and all that.

Sorry. That's not how change works. 

As one of the biggest racist, misogynist bigots I know (having grown up in a racist, misogynist culture I'm not sure how anybody can honestly say anything else), I recognize that I'll be among the writers who never goes to Wiscon as GOH. That's cool. And Moon and others who this will likely happen to in future should also be cool with it. It's not like there aren't plenty of other non-political cons who are going to honor you with a GOH invite. Just not Wiscon.

Wiscon made a stand for something. It let folks know what was acceptable and unacceptable in a GOH. Are they silencing anyone? Did they delete somebody's post? Bar Moon from coming to Wiscon all together? Of course not. They just said, in essence, "This is no longer someone who we see as supporting the mission of Wiscon."(though I do wish they had made a more clear statement of *why* the invite was rescinded, instead of just saying it was rescinded).

And, see, that's the deal, isn't it? In Serenity, the assassin chasing our heroes notes that in the perfect society he's building, there will be no place for him. His actions, he knows, will make his job - and killers like him - obsolete. In a a world where race and class and gender don't matter, we're all dinosaurs. And though I certainly hope that distant future looks more like the happy-go-lucky Star Trek universe than the fascist Firefly universe, I have to acknowledge that there's no place for me in it.

I hate to tell you this, kids, but think about all those "old folks" who we look at as being big bigots. Guess who those bigoted "old folks" are going to be in 30-40 years?

They will be us.

And you know what? If society's come so far that some of our most progressive people today are seen as tomorrow's bigoted assholes, I am cool with that. Because it means we've made some progress.

And that's the whole damn point of all this screaming and yelling and ranting and grief, isn't it?

2 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Daniel Abraham said...

This is also something I'd like to tackle in another post

Well, God, if you do, be gentle to a poor sinner. :)

Seriously, though, I'd be interested to hear what you think, and maybe talk it over, clarify some things. I'm not perfectly happy with how things went with Anon, and I haven't figured out how better to approach the conversation.

Kameron Hurley said...

Daniel - Actually, I was confounded by her anger at first (not being a fan of Urban Fantasy, and somewhat agreeing with your original thesis) until she posted the final line-by-line deconstruction of the original post and why it offended her. That one made a lot more sense, and I'll go into why in aforementioned post.

We're all just fumbling through this stuff together. It's nice to have spaces where we can have an actual dialogue.