Tor Books: A Perspective

Tor Books: A Perspective

That bit of RaceFail I pointed to the other day in my open letter to Bujold has led to some good things (discussion, increased visibility, less foolishness) but has also re-animated the notion of just boycotting Tor Books and having done with it. This latest thing got started on by a Tor author after all.  Just another in a long line of disappointment coming from that particular corner of the world.

But I’d like to point something out.

Before I do, I’m going to mention the following things which may have some bearing on how you feel about what I’m going to say.  First, my blogging gig for starts this week (tomorrow, maybe, still need to polish that post). Second, Patrick Nielsen Hayden was one of my Clarion instructors. Third, I’ve been friends or acquaintances with various Tor editors (current and former) for many years now, including some involved with RaceFail. Fourth, a lot of my good friends are Tor authors.

That all said, I also have a lot of friends who are published by Tor’s competition and I have plenty of friends who work for Tor’s competition. Other than my blogging gig, I have no personal stake in Tor — no book of my own coming out, no book deal on the horizon. So that’s out of the way.

Here’s my thing about boycotting Tor: I don’t think it’s  good idea. I understand and fully respect the reasons why people want to do it.  That anger you feel about this shit going on? I feel it, too. You know I do.  However, refusing to buy all Tor books all the time doesn’t take a few key things into account.

Mainly that the editors involved in RaceFail are not all of the editors at Tor. Many of them are senior, have been at the company a long time, etc. but are not the ultimate and final gatekeepers of anything. The reason you don’t know about or hear from a lot of the others is that they either don’t have huge online presences (or any) or they are online but wisely do not perpetrate fail on a massive scale.

Some of these editors you don’t hear about or from are long-time employees or senior editors. Many of them are around my age, some younger, and there are always assistant editors around, too. Their ideas and ideals are probably in line with yours — I know for a fact some of them are. These are the editors at Tor that I care about. Whether they stay on at Tor forever and eventually become the senior editors in charge of everything or move on to other publishing companies, they are the future (if you’ll pardon the corny sentiment).

And, like I said, they have more sense than to engage in RaceFail activities. They’re off looking for good books to publish, instead.

The Tor editors and authors whose names keep cropping up in RaceFail are already associated with each other in my mind since they all seem to be part of a similar grouping. (Most of them.)  A lot are old school, a lot are fen. Also, a lot of these folks have known each other a long time. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things.  It’s just a marker that may indicate some similarities of thought, experience, and behavior. It’s not a good idea to assume that all or even most of the editors at Tor are old school fen who only publish old school fen.

On the author side of things, boycotting Tor books means not buying a lot of great fiction by POC or by authors who not only stood on our side during RaceFail but try to and succeed in creating fiction that reflects what they feel about race and culture and the importance of not erasing us from SFnal or fantasy worlds. These books and authors may not be in the majority. There aren’t any major publishers where they are, I think. And what do we do in the wider world where that’s true? We support those authors we can get behind and tell other people to as well.

A little while ago I talked bout making lists and why it’s important to do so. I still think so. Make a list, if you need to, of authors and editors who’ve disappointed or angered you. But also make a list of authors you want to support and support so hard those editors–regardless of their shortcomings–cannot ignore.

So that’s my perspective. I won’t say do not boycott Tor because the reasons for doing so are valid. The reasons for not doing so are valid, too. I am going to continue to support the Tor authors I feel are worth supporting, I’m going to continue in my friendships with Tor editors I think are awesome. All while recognizing that there is a lot some people need to answer for. But that’s everywhere. At least in this instance I feel there is enough good to counterbalance and eventually erase the bad.

Lists and Why We Make Them

Lists and Why We Make Them

Remember a couple of weeks ago when there was a lot of discussion and debate about Bridget McKennitt’s list of authors, etc. that she was boycotting due to RaceFail? Yeah, I’m a little late in posting my response to it. The subject has been marinating for a while and I finally have some time to sit and pound it out.

I can’t find it in myself to condemn Bridget for that list even though I don’t agree with everything about it — for instance, I don’t think all Tor books should be on the NO list, though I can certainly understand why she feels/felt that way. Still, I don’t think that what she did was so terrible because it’s what all of us do, we just don’t necessarily do it on the Internet.

By that I mean that we all make lists. Some of us keep our lists in our heads, some keep private notes, some make the items on their lists public individually. All of us have lists of writers, book series, TV series, directors, producers, actors, whatever and whoever that we refuse to deal with in the future for a variety of reasons. As a POC and as a woman I often have lists that specifically relate to sketchy crap around race or gender in the media I partake of. Though I may not have the list compiled in one post, anyone who reads my blog for a few months at a time will get a pretty good idea of who or what might be on that list. I have a pretty good idea of the lists of people I know well or read regularly.

My reasons for keeping certain authors on my list varies — sometimes it’s purely based on their fiction, sometimes on their actions in the world or words they utter or post on the Internet, and sometimes a combination of both.

Everyone does this. And there’s nothing wrong with it. At the basic level these lists help minimize the waste of money and time on things that are almost guaranteed to annoy, anger, or bore us. For POC, women, and other minorities there’s an extra layer — lists help us protect ourselves and each other. I may warn a black friend of mine off of a book series or author I know to be sketchy or problematic on race or even outright racist and offensive. Because why should another person waste their time or money just to be offended or deeply hurt?

This is probably at the center of my internal conflict — while I understand why some would see that list as a bad thing, as being similar to TNH’s assertion that she would be seeking out the real names behind the LJ handles for unknown reasons, as being kinda witchunty, I cannot separate the action of making such a list and posting it publicly from the cultural/social reasons for needing to make such lists. It’s not just about personally boycotting authors or companies you disagree with, it’s about warning other people that this author, this book, these people in power are not safe. When you’re a minority this is imperative, because there are so, so many unsafe places and we can’t avoid them all, but protecting ourselves even a little helps us get through life without ending up in the clocktower with a rifle.

Some thoughts on wikiwork

Some thoughts on wikiwork

A few days ago I posted an idea on my LJ related to RaceFail 09. I thought it might be a good idea to collect posts, links, connections, and commentary in a wiki. Wikis are quite good for that sort of thing. I got several responses and a lot of people brought up good points about whether it’s wise or even useful to have a separate wiki just for this. It would go well with an existing wiki, perhaps one dealing with race and cultural issues in SF fandom and the community.

That was actually my original thought, and where I really feel this would go best is a wiki for the Carl Brandon Society. Thing is, CBS doesn’t have a wiki yet. There’s been much interest expressed, but the snag is (as always) time and peoplepower. CBS is a volunteer effort and most of the people involved are very busy – passionate people tend to be.

I was glad to hear that there is an impetus to create a wiki on race and media fandom, which would go perfectly with CBS, I think. The thing is, I don’t want the RaceFail stuff to be the majority of the wiki to start. I feel like the inauguaration of such a wiki should be first and foremost a place of win as it gets established. Then bring in the fail as it relates.

Maybe I’m being silly on that point, though.

Liz Henry indicated that documenting RaceFail on the FeministSF wiki would not be outside of the scope of that project. And since that wiki has been in existence for a while it would seem less weird to me.

In a perfect world, here’s what I would like to happen:

For all of the POC and allies who so passionately wrote about, commented on, documented and provided moral support around RaceFail to contribute to putting together that section on the FeministSF Wiki. You don’t need to document everything – if everyone mainly stuck to the aspects they were involved in, we’d have a pretty complete history of it.

For those same people to get involved with the Carl Brandon Society in general and to volunteer to help do some initial work on that wiki. Again, if we get a lot of people doing small but significant chunks of work over time (no wiki is built in a day!) then we can build something really wonderful. I think that the web committee would agree that media fandom is just as important an aspect as the lit side of the community. It’s all connected.

Eventually, we can copy stuff about RaceFail 09 over to the CBS wiki.

On a related note, I was talking to Victor Raymond the other day about the possibility of having some cultural appropriation discussions of non-DOOM either on the CBS mailing list or the blog.

In a perfect world everyone would belong to Carl Brandon.

Wait, that didn’t sound right…