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Laser Guns Can Save Us From The Anti-PC Brigade

2010 October 26
by Stephen B
A photo of a fan in a Star Wars Stormtrooper outfit, taken by David Kitchenham at

SF authors: Not clones. - photo by David Kitchenham, taken from

There’s been a lot of controversy in the world of Sci-fi books recently, over attitudes to both women and minorities.

A blogger for Apex Books called Gustavo Bondoni wrote this piece of trolling, misogynist racefail horseshit, ranting against positive discrimination and the “PC” police, etc. He was referring to those people who voiced an opinion on The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF being a mammoth book of only white male authors. No women, no minorities… all white, all men.

One of the people he’s complaining about is the glorious Catherynne M Valente, a fantasy and sci-fi author and editor, whose writing I love a whole lot. (I’ll get the recs out of the way: her World Fantasy Award nominated, Mythopoeic Award winning The Orphan’s Tales and Hugo nominated Palimpsest for starters). The small snag here being that Apex is the company she edits a magazine for, so people asked her opinions of his blogpost.

Now, there’s the old argument that if you’re pulling from the Golden Age of sci-fi, most authors WERE men. But this book isn’t only about that period, and the list of superb female SFF authors is long and mighty. CL Moore, Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Octavia Butler, Marge Piercy… (believe me, I could add 20 more names here with no effort). Much more if you include Fantasy as a genre alongside it. There are 3 female SF Grandmasters, and truly great female SF writing goes back a long way (it’s traditional to cite Mary Shelley for Frankenstein).

Besides, you shouldn’t mess with sci-fi nerds, they know math: one commenter on the Mammoth book post worked out that even if 3 out of 4 authors were white males, and the other 1 in 4 category contained *everyone* else, there was still only a 0.2% chance of all 21 stories being written by white guys. This wasn’t a case of “but it’s representative of there being genuinely no minorities in SF writing”. The chance of that being true is something like 0.2% depending on the actual ratios (you have to get up to 95% white males before it even hits 50/50).

So Bondoni wrote his deliberately baiting blogpost, trying to raise some controversy, and Cat Valente posted what she thought of it.

It turns out she’s tired and bored, but with more swearing:

I’m not saying “ignore the bully and he’ll go away.” Nope. Shred away. It’s what he wants, so he can continue to feel persecuted, and very likely keep believing that the mythical PC harpies are why he’s not a star of page and screen. It’s fun to feel persecuted – if you’re persecuted, it usually means you’re right, and at the mercy of wicked souls. It’s not actually fun to be persecuted, but if you can get that feeling while sitting at home with no one oppressing you? Profit.

He’s using us – because he knows he can’t get the internet crowds to look at him any other way, he simply calls us playground names. And that’s what the phrase PC is these days – name calling. No one who actually believes in not intentionally hurting other humans uses that phrase anymore. It’s pretty much solely used to insist that mobs of people who don’t look like the user are constantly beating down his door to force him to be nice. Poor f***ing baby. My heart bleeds for you, sweetheart.

I just wanted to give a little cheer, because I think her whole post is excellent.

Next time, Mr Bondoni, don’t pick a fight with the woman who responded to Elizabeth Moon’s astonishing anti-Muslim rant by dedicating the entire next issue of Apex magazine to only contain stories from Arab and Muslim writers. (That issue comes out soon, and I can’t wait).

Now, we could say that picking arguments over statistics and always demanding equal representation is too aggressive a behaviour, that it doesn’t help feminism or that we’d be better off just leaving losers like Bondoni alone. Cat’s point is that we’re all tired of it, we’ve all seen it before, and the arguments against positive discrimination (if that even applied here, which I don’t think it does) will keep coming from the poor oppressed traditional majority.

But when the comments to the original announcement of the ‘Mammoth book…’ themselves prove precisely why the fight isn’t over yet, I think I can find the energy to keep opposing.

Sci-fi should be a field where we can leave prejudices behind, especially those based on tradition and culture. It is the greatest genre for wiping away the assumptions that the ratio of power between genders should be the same as in the modern day, or that race or religion (or even money) have to divide people the way they do. I love sci-fi for this.

But it also contains its share of famously right-wing intolerant viewpoints, and that’s a reminder that even in this free and imaginative literary space we can’t stop pushing to improve things. I think Cat is right: hearing Bondoni’s arguments yet again is boring, and providing him with the drama he wants is pointless… but taking a stance against his views isn’t. We still hear people complaining about things being “too PC” daily, that fight is a long way from over yet.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Miranda permalink*
    October 26, 2010

    Sci-fi Rookie Editor Question!

    … What is a Sci Fi Grandmaster? How d’you get to become one? How many are there in the world? Is 3 a good number for female representation (as in, are there 6 in total, or 106?)

    Okay, that was four questions. Oops.

    But I am genuinely interested to know, because I know sweet FA about most sci-fi! I could google it, but maybe there are Other Rookies reading. :)

    • Stephen B permalink
      October 26, 2010

      It’s “an award given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. It is awarded to a living author for lifetime achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy.”

      27 given since 1975, but since they’re *lifetime* awards, the winners are heavily skewed by those who were around in the 50’s and 60’s (mostly men). Also to do with having an impact on the whole genre, so getting ANY women on there has been an achievement. 3 places (even if it’s only 1/9 the recipients) means that women are an integral part of sci-fi’s history.

      Full list here:

      All of which is different to the argument about the “Mammoth Book of…” because the short story field is much more equal. Fair enough women found it hard to win awards in the early days when Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke etc were all over it, but *short* fiction doesn’t have the same landscape at all.

      • Michael S permalink
        October 26, 2010

        I can only see two women’s names?

        Also, worth noting that it was less than one award per year in the early days which would further narrow the field.

        • Stephen B permalink
          October 26, 2010

          You’re probably missing Andre Norton :) But then, the ambiguous name was deliberate because she expected prejudice against a female author… other two were Ursula Le Guin (neverending love for that woman) and Anne McCaffrey.

          Yes, used to be only 6 max in a decade, changed now because the “must still be alive” rule was narrowing the field. To be honest, they’re only just past the stage of honouring the giants of modern SF, which certainly were mostly men (and Ursula).

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