You Know What I Wish?

You Know What I Wish?

I wish people would stop mischaracterizing what went on during RaceFail as mostly a bunch of name calling and ad hominem attacks online1. I really do. Why? Because that’s not how it was2.

You know what else I wish? I wish people would quit using the scare quotes around the word fail when speaking of that time. And trotting out the fallacy of the Fail Fandom or referring to people who work for social justice within the SF community as the Fail Community. Why? Because that’s utter fucking bullshit3.

Given how at least two people lately have rolled up with this kind of language only to then look at the conversation around MoonFail and say “Oh my, I am seeing a different side of things now!” elicits mixed feelings. I mean, yay that they see the inherent issues here. But the fact that they are still talking about how RaceFail was all just This Way or the Fail Community is usually wrong about these things and just picking on people makes me seriously want to throw hard, overbaked and burnt cookies at them until they cry.

When you dismiss all of the conversations that happened during RaceFail as one kind of thing and when you refer to a Fail Fandom, you are dismissing the very real problems we have in our community surrounding prejudice and the work people have done to eliminate that prejudice from said community. And taking a dismissive stance is just a punk move all around.

Maybe instead of holding on to your ideas of what RaceFail was and what we Fail activists do, you ought to step back and re-examine in light of what you see going on right now.


  1. Before you ask: Yes, I do realize that the person in that post is apologizing for making assumptions. Though I appreciate that, I don’t think that erases my overall point. []
  2. I’m not going to say that every single person behaved well during RaceFail. But I have seen less evidence of widespread evil orc horde activity and more evidence people ignoring the bulk of the discussions in favor of keeping to the self-perpetuated myth that everyone on both sides were acting badly based on a small sampling or just one person/post. No. Just no. []
  3. I got no qualifiers for this one. It’s bullshit. []

26 thoughts on “You Know What I Wish?

  1. Actually, Tempest, on another note entirely, I’d like to ask your advice relating to a matter of writing. I’m posting it here to steer clear of any more recent threads.

    However, I’m concerned that if I just put it up here, you and/or others may assume that I’m just trying to stir up trouble. So in the interests of everyone’s sensibilities, I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss it with you off-board. If you’re amenable to it, please drop me a note at If not, that’s fine; I won’t bring it up again.


  2. Just thought I’d pop in again to say that I agree with Craig and others here. The terminology is an enormous attempt to distract from the actual issue at hand. My friend and I (together we host a podcast called The Skiffy and Fanty Show) actually did a kind of deconstruction of the arguments being made on the link that Ms. Bradford has pointed to by pointing to my blog (at least, that’s what I assume she was doing). Even the comments in the linked page above have been somewhat illuminating.

    In case anyone is interested, the episode where we talk about Murphy’s argument at length (and the hypocrisy too, no less) is #20.


  3. The whole PC horde “Fail Nazi” thing is a giant derail. I love how these folks never address the content (i.e., racism) and turn it into a free speech issue. You know, if Elizabeth Moon or John C. Wright or Orson Scott Card were being censored by the government, I’d have their back.

  4. I saw the phrase “Fail Nazi” and my head exploded.

    I just… WHAT? REALLY? I know I shouldn’t be shocked! BUT I AM.

    And now I have to clean brains off the keyboard, damn it.

  5. I’m somewhat confused as to why I’m being linked here in relation to scare quotes. I never used them. The term you’ve indicated was taken directly from the post I was linking. They’re S. F. Murphy’s words, not mine (the sentence says as much). That’s why I put them in quotes. He uses it as a negative. I prefer not to use the term at all for that reason (not anymore, anyway).

    Or am I misunderstanding what you were trying to say in linking to my blog?

    1. The scare quotes thing is more of a general problem than something specific to your blog. You’ll note that the actual words linking to your blog are: Fail Fandom.

      1. Yeah, I just couldn’t get my head far enough out of the ether to comprehend. Thank you for the clarification. That makes sense now.

  6. “I wish people would stop mischaracterizing what went on during RaceFail as mostly a bunch of name calling and ad hominem attacks online”

    Yes, but then they’d have to actually take what was said seriously. Or failing (zing!) that, admit when they dont have the appropriate comprehension tools to do that.

  7. On the front cover of a purple edition of Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance that my parents used to own, there was a blurb “This book will change your life”.

    That book didn’t. But some books have. I am a very words-orientated person: things I read have changed my life, my way of thinking, made me see things in a different light. Once in a while something comes along that just upsides me – switches my whole way of thinking about something into a different paradigm.

    Racefail 2009 did that for me. I count it as one of the handful of reading experiences that have been the most intellectually and emotionally exciting and dizzying of my life.

    I’m white, originally Christian/now atheist, from a mostly-white mostly-Christian country, and when I was a kid growing up I think I even remember the first black person I ever saw, when I was 7 or 8. I have white privilege coming out my ears, and Racefail 2009 was like the experience of one of my closest friends coming out to me as trans after I’d known her for nearly ten years: it was like the first time I read a novel with a lesbian couple at its centre and my writerly soul grasped for the first time that this was possible; like reading Man Made Language and understanding that I didn’t have to write sexist English: like having the world turned upside down on me and emptied out.

    I tried to say something about this at a session I attended at the Worldcon in Montreal, and probably said it very badly, because it sounds like I think Racefail was all about my white arse: and it wasn’t, and that was what was so great about it. It was like I imagine a colour-blind person would feel like if suddenly their inability to perceive was taken away from them and they saw for the first time that’s what you mean by red, and green, and blue…

    Please don’t think I’m trying to claim “Racefail 2009 fixed my white privilege!” Racefail 2009 made me feel for the first time that I had a grasp on what my white privilege is.

    1. Racefail 2009 made me feel for the first time that I had a grasp on what my white privilege is.

      This. So much this. Though it’s not that I never felt I had a grasp on my privilege before… I totally did feel that way. RaceFail knocked the floor out from under me and made me realize there was another level below that, and so now while I feel like I’ve got a handle on things I’m aware, from past experience, of the extreme likelihood that there’s a whole ‘nother level below this one.

  8. I’ve presented a couple of times on a stylistic analysis of color-blind rhetorics in some of the racefail posts, and am working on developing a large corpus stylistics project (essentially a methodology that involves doing full scale analysis of large body of text with help of free linguistic programs, involving a number of researchers–part of this will involve grant writing for a collaborative/lab oriented project).

    Anyway, academic gobbledygook aside, I’ve probably read more of the posts and comment threads in Racefail and more often and recently than most others, and the accusations that what went on was nothing but name calling by “Failfandom” is not only inaccurate but ignores all the name calling by the anti-anti-racists who were throwing quite a few epithets around!. And still, the majority of text was not name-calling; that’s just what seems to stick in people’s minds.

  9. I’ve seen several references to FailFandom of late as well, and it drives me bonkers. I know I personally would prefer it if folks I have previously respected would prove not to have feet of clay. I’m not anxiously salivating for the next Fail. (And Elizabeth Moon was on my LJ f-list until the day she deleted the comments. I had liked and enjoyed her work in the past, although I suspect I’ll be reading it more critically in the future.) Some of my favourite authors behaved problematically during this time, and I found the whole experience to be painful, if filled with learning and new perspectives.

    The same folks angrily fulminating about FailFandom don’t seem to notice that there’s a bit of a pattern: somebody makes a problematic statement, somebody else calls them on it and explains why it’s problematic, and then the first somebody either retrenches or deletes the discussion or both. I’ve seen this pattern over and over and it makes me sad, because it can so easily be broken just by taking a few minutes to consider the arguements and treating the folks who bring them up with consideration. I remember way back when, when Scalzi characterised RaceFail 09 as people flinging spittle on LiveJournal, and you and Justine Larbalestier as well as a number of other folks (including me) pointed out that the discussion was very valuable, worth having, and that it wasn’t just one discussion and had many points of entry. He was willing to reconsider his stance and furthermore, willing to cede his soapbox to Mary Ann Mohanraj.

  10. I’m with you all. I don’t have anything else to add except an underline and an exclamation point or two.

  11. Well, you know when folks roll in and give the benefit of the doubt to privilege (or, in some circles, “white supremacy”) over say, people calling it out…

    Maybe they could do well with reading MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which seems to have eluded most folks when they go on about what does and doesn’t constitute anti-racist work, and the strange notion that white supremacy can be ended by worrying about the fee-fee’s of the privileged.

  12. It’s like a giant metaphor for how certain people deal with anyone who isn’t just like them, in a way! “I don’t understand it and it’s scary so I’m going to handwave and walk away HA.”

  13. You know what I wish? I wish these no-name writers would stop trying to build their reputations by raging against “Fail Fandom” or the PC hordes or the evil anti-racists or whatever liberal bugaboos they’ve decided to rail against. So many of them seem to be doing it these days that somebody, somewhere must’ve suggested that this is a good way to raise one’s profile and suck up to certain editors. Or something. I don’t know, but when they do it for such blatantly self-serving purposes, I become far less inclined to listen to them, let alone buy their (usually poorly-reasoned) arguments.

    And this re Rydra and the imaginary boycotts. Another reason I don’t buy their arguments; these people are constantly arguing with strawmen and jumping at shadows.

    1. Seriously. There’s a dude over on the Jim Hains post talking to Hines “as a fellow professional” (though he was the one who called social justice blogger poo flingers). I’d never heard of him. He doesn’t have a wiki article, and some googling has him as getting a few sci fi shorts published. Good for him, but… “fellow professional”? Really?

      Most of the people railing against “failnazis” seem to be about the same level.

    2. “I wish these no-name writers would stop trying to build their reputations by raging against ‘Fail Fandom’ or the PC hordes or the evil anti-racists or whatever liberal bugaboos they’ve decided to rail against.”

      Hell yes.

  14. I… just … WTF is with the imaginary boycotts, in any case?

    I’ve seen one guy suggesting a boycott of Wiscon, an idea which nobody seems to be taking very seriously; I’ve seen a bunch of people saying they’ll be choosing not to buy Moon’s books again. Which is not in fact the same as an organized “boycott”. It’s, you know, consumers choosing how they spend their money. I think this is commonly known as “capitalism”.

    There wasn’t a “boycott” during previous rounds of RaceFail, and — unless I’ve missed something major — there isn’t one now.

  15. Hear hear. It’s a continuum, people, not isolated events, and there is a bigger picture.

    And it all just links back into the assumptions of witch hunts and ignorance of tone arguments, in one big cycle. Both of which you (Tempest) have put firmly in their places before.

  16. It’s all about revisionist history, because jebuslug forbid anyone be forced to step out of their comfort zone, or (for instance) realize that their dear friends behaved Very Badly Indeed.

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