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Today's Speculative Fiction Argument

Today's speculative fiction argument began with this table of contents:

Here are the contents of The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF edited by Mike Ashley.

1. "Out of the Sun" by Arthur C. Clarke
2. "The Pevatron Rats" by Stephen Baxter *
3. "The Edge of the Map" by Ian Creasey
4. "Cascade Point" by Timothy Zahn
5. "A Dance to Strange Musics" by Gregory Benford
6. "Palindromic" by Peter Crowther
7. "Castle in the Sky" by Robert Reed *
8. "The Hole in the Hole" by Terry Bisson
9. "Hotrider" by Keith Brooke
10. "Mother Grasshopper" by Michael Swanwick
11. "Waves and Smart Magma" by Paul Di Filippo *
12. "The Black Hole Passes" by John Varley
13. "The Peacock King" by Ted White & Larry McCombs
14. "Bridge" by James Blish
15. "Anhedonia" by Adam Roberts *
16. "Tiger Burning" by Alastair Reynolds
17. "The Width of the World" by Ian Watson
18. "Our Lady of the Sauropods" by Robert Silverberg
19. "Into the Miranda Rift" by G. David Nordley
20. "The Rest is Speculation" by Eric Brown *
21. "Vacuum States" by Geoffrey A. Landis

* = New story written for this anthology

You'll note, fairly quickly, the lack of female names in the book, followed, I imagine, by the lack of racial diversity.

Commentary began in the original post by Catherynne Valente, who wrote, "Wow...not a woman in the lot. Been awhile since I've run smack into that. My fragile female mind, she is...not exactly blown." Caitlin Kiernan followed with, "Not even one single female author. Seem, that's mindblowing." Charles Stross was fourth to leave a comment, and he said, "Bonkers. Nothing by James Tiptree Jr., Ursula le Guin, C. J. Cherryh, C. L. Moore, or (insert list here)? I note an interesting mixture of classics with rather newer, more obscure items ... where's Elizabeth Bear? Or -- Aaagh: fail!"

That went on for a bit, until Paul Di Filippo arrived and said:

Dear Friends of SF--

I generally steer clear of controversies in my senescense, having participated in more than my share as a card-carrying cyberpunk--but I simply cannot allow the unanimity of asinine comments on exhibit here to go unremarked-upon.

Every single commenter here seems to me to be committing a logical fallacy of tremendous dimension, one so big it distorts entire worldviews:


You know what: a potato field is not likely to contain corn plants. A pine forest might feature an oak or three, but be 99% pine trees. The Beatles were 4 white guys. Sonic Youth has no people of color! My ream of copy paper is all white, with no sheets of lettuce included!

Variety is great. Heterogeniety is great. Bias and prejudice suck. A genre--VIEWED AS A WHOLE--must feature a million different voices to be accurate and interesting.


A shiny coin if you can guess how it went after that?

"Paul, I'll see your asinine and raise you a fatuous."

"Paul, I completely disagree with your position."

"Dear Paul Di Filippo,

What the hell is wrong with you? I mean, I feel I could answer that question on my own (you're a man, you write SF, you have a vested interest in status quo and keeping things the way they are: to your benefit) but I'm really hoping that maybe this morning you woke up and took a FailPill or maybe hit your head on something or maybe just forgot to insert the hard drive that allows you to make logical comments and not sound like a completely out of touch, boorish, privileged jerk."

Personally, I thought the last was a bit uncool, given that Di Filippo has always struck me (on his blog and in his reviews and fiction) as a alright sort've guy, and hardly one who'd promote sexism, racism, or anything of the such. But then, you know, it's not like Tempest Bradford has ever been accused of being subtle.

From Jim Hines, in a post entitled, 'Here We Go Again':

Most of the frustration I’ve seen expressed over this sort of thing, my own included, comes from a very different place. My sentiment about the anthology wasn’t so much “This editor is a horribly sexist oppressive Nazi” as much as it was “Here we go again.” If you see this as an isolated incident, it might not feel like a big deal. If you see it as yet another white-male-dominated project in a long history of such, then it becomes more frustrating. As an isolated anthology it’s annoying; as a symptom of a larger and ongoing problem within the genre, it’s both discouraging and highly troubling.




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Aug. 5th, 2009 11:23 pm (UTC)
well, that's going to go poorly for him.

on the topic of the story, though, i'd be reluctant to make any personal claims on his thoughts, behaviour. the story doesn't sound like my kind of thing (robot sex toys based on pinnochio weren't ever going to be) but the other peices of read of his haven't been like that, for what it's worth.
Aug. 6th, 2009 09:37 am (UTC)
That's not going to end well...
Aug. 5th, 2009 12:55 pm (UTC)
Imagine James Patterson producing an all male edition of the Thriller anthology and when people criticized this, Andrew Vachss piped up with "expecting a collection to include a story by a gender which comprises half our potential audience is like putting cottage cheese in the fine wine section!" and perhaps John Sandford adding "women can't write hard suspense anyway because they're too concerned with storytelling".*

Not being connected to the mystery online communities I'm sure it goes on, but making it a high profile discussion is likely on the bottom of the to-do list below "Having Sara Paretsky give me a beat down."

Since women were early participants in the mystery/suspense genre and no one got sales cooties, an all boy collection, I suspect, would be less of a deal as it's not part of a big "here we go again" pattern. Plus mystery writers seem to spend more energy exploiting every niche market (I'm waiting for the historical mystery series set in 1990s Canada and starring Douglas Coupland), than annoying the readership with very public statements about how girls can't write.

*This is not to imply these guys think anything of the sort, just using examples of established names who wouldn't be dumb enough to say such things even if they did think it.

Edited at 2009-08-05 12:59 pm (UTC)
Aug. 5th, 2009 11:30 pm (UTC)
i dunno, man, is this discussion really that high profile? maybe if people like jk rowling and neil gaiman got into it, that'd make it so, but i suspect this'll just stay in some corner.
Aug. 5th, 2009 03:44 pm (UTC)
Paul Di Filippo has always struck me as an alright sort of guy who is a great writer and occasionally a bit of a sexist ass. In that 'some of my best friends are women, and they don't complain' sort of way (I know this recent example was all in fun, but it seemed that kind of joke, the sort that actually has some of his female friends rolling their eyes).

And there is nothing about being lectured on your logical fallacies by someone who is themselves committing a logical fallacy to make people riled up (all his examples show things were there is a clear an obvious causal role why the things are all the same, and half them use a sample space too small for significance anyway -- and the issue is not that the authors are all while males, but that it is all white males in a collection that is supposed to be selected on different criteria). As the very next poster points out.

But its actually a bit worse than that. If Di Filippo had followed his line of reasoning just that next step, he'd get the point - yes, perhaps white male only anthologies ARE like a pine forest that consists only of pine trees, in that the homogeneity is due to the prevailing climate, in that the SF climate strongly favours white men, due to institutionalised sexism in parts of the field.
Aug. 5th, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC)
yeah, if he had followed his example outwards, and seen it as a representation of a larger issue, he'd likely of seen what everyone was getting at. but, it seems, he did not, and it seems that he'll have to take a public beating--especially now that he compared those people to osama bin laden...
Aug. 5th, 2009 04:23 pm (UTC)
Same shit, different day.

I don't think an editor is under any obligation whatsoever to comply with Richard Nixon's affirmative action in government contracts mandate in the early 1970s. If they don't like it, don't buy it. There are plenty of anthos out there.

These whiners desperately need to get a life.
Aug. 6th, 2009 11:13 am (UTC)
"I don't think an editor is under any obligation whatsoever to comply with Richard Nixon's affirmative action in government contracts mandate in the early 1970s."

I don't either. Which is why the content list of this anthology is so puzzling.
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