My word, the things that turn up in the referrer log!
I'm essentially a nobody in the world of fiction. Yes, I write, but I self-publish. I have a substantial number of readers -- about 100,000 readers, if I can believe my sales figures -- but as an "indie," I'm considered a non-entity by writers (and associations thereof) who've gone to press through the conventional route: i.e., through Pub World. So it surprises me to get attention from such sites as this, especially about a contretemps that's nearly a year old. Give it a glimpse if you have a strong stomach.
Remarkable, isn't it? All that vitriol. All those collectivist, gender-war-feminist tropes. All the hatred for Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg, two old men with long and distinguished careers behind them. And over what? It appears to concern the following mortal sins against political correctness:
- Referring to female writers and editors as "lady writers" and "lady editors;"
- Making note of how attractive one particular lady editor was / is.
These don't seem to me like hanging offenses. Yet the shrieking is still going on a year later. Nastiness aside, if viewed analytically, with attention to other developments in contemporary political discourse, it tells us quite a lot.
"The worst thing you can do to the liberals is to deprive them of their grievances." -- Bill Moyers, at the 1980 Democratic National Convention
Left-liberal / "progressive" politics -- I know, I know; it's neither genuinely liberal nor at all interested in progress -- is collectivist politics. Its core strategy is a strategy of division:
- Identify groups with a characteristic important to their identity;
- Search for interests that are common to the members of those groups;
- Elevate the incomplete satisfaction of those interests to group grievances;
- Even if wildly inappropriate, demand political remediation of those grievances.
Such groups can be assembled into a coalition that makes the Left politically formidable. It's allowed the Democrat Party to maintain major-party status despite the total and unconcealed failure of its policy prescriptions whenever and wherever they've been put into practice. But the failures have a weight of their own...a weight that presses upon the coalition in a fashion that can only be mitigated in one way:
Until the Left manages to seize totalitarian control of these United States, such "forbidding" will consist of the sort of vituperation and vilification the linked article exemplifies. The intent is clear enough: those who dare to offend against some Leftist mascot-group's grievances must be intimidated into abject apology and subsequent silence. The only voices permitted are those that are in perfect accord with the Left.
The process is greatly assisted by the tendency of persons with common occupations or avocations to assemble groups that can be taken over by persons with a political agenda. There's a form of Gresham's Law that functions here: A group that equally values its most civilized members and its most vitriolic members will soon possess a preponderance of the latter. The good, self-respecting members will disdain to remain among persons who hurl insults and epithets at them, leaving the group populated by only the insult-hurlers, plus a smattering of generally decent persons with inadequate self-respect.
The progression won't stop there. Such a group, now dominated by "the worst of the worst," will gradually fail to return an adequate "profit" -- in money, volunteer labor, prestige, fellowship, or anything else one might value -- to its members, most especially those who've taken control of it. The typical response to such enervation is for the leaders to strive to whip up the enthusiasm of the group by artificial means; i.e., to "keep the hate alive."
At this time, the viragoes who've agitated for a purge of the Science Fiction Writers of America, to rid it of naughty male language, and thus to extirpate naughty male thoughts, are attempting just that. Nor are they the only ones determined to forbid men to speak as they prefer.
"Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it." -- Syme, in George Orwell's 1984
We haven't had Newspeak fastened upon us quite yet, but we do have a great many shamans, quite a few would-be shamans, and no shortage of adjunct shamans who have taken to anathematizing one word after another. My irritation at such persons is the reason for many of the words and phrases I use commonly; it's vital to the continued freedom of speech and thought that they be defeated at this contest.
So it is with the SFWA viragoes. Whatever success they have in "cleansing" SFWA will prove self-defeating. If they persist, it will degenerate to a backwater, an occupationally-oriented sewing circle of gender-war-feminist self-and-mutual-congratulation that bears no relevance to science fiction, its quality, or its popularity. But that's all secondary to the core mission of keeping the hate alive.
The larger point should be obvious: Wherever they're found, such agitators must not be permitted to impose their preferred Newspeak on us "by the back door." Most important of all, I maintain that the whip-wielders are more interested in cementing themselves into power than they are with anyone's sense of grievance. The most important datum in this regard is the wholesale acceptance of female writers and editors in the genre by the only contingent that truly matters: paying customers.
If there were any authentic prejudice among genre consumers against "the ladies," they wouldn't be selling so many books. They wouldn't have come to dominate the shelves at Barnes & Noble. That alone is sufficient to demonstrate the vapidity of their grievance: The market has already deprived them of it.
Ultimately, the whole affair is about self-respect. If you have it, you'll avoid such persons, and the groups they dominate, without having to think about it. Inasmuch as it's a clear demonstration of Robert Conquest's Second Law of Politics, the implications could hardly be clearer: