Another Day at the Kerfuffle Factory

K. Tempest Bradford thought it was so great that Sunli Govinnage spent a year reading only non-white authors, as reported in The Guardian, that Bradford told readers at XOJANE “I Challenge You To Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors For One Year” and suggested 18 books from women, writers of color, or translated from another language, they can read instead.

The “Reading Only X Writers For A Year” a challenge is one every person who loves to read (and who loves to write) should take. You could, like Lilit Marcus, read only books by women or, like Sunili Govinnage, read only books by people of color. Or you could choose a different axis to focus on: books by trans men and women, books by people from outside the U.S. or in translation, books by people with disabilities.

After a year of that, the next challenge would be to seek out books about or with characters that represent a marginalized identity or experience by any author. In addition to the identities listed above, I suggest: non-Christian religions or faiths, working class or poor, and asexual (as a start).

My feeling is — if that’s what someone wants to do, have a ball.

I wouldn’t even make a comment except for this…

Something about Bradford’s article stuck in Larry Correia’s craw and provoked him to write “The Social Justice Warrior Racist Reading Challenge, A Fisking” which, excluding the quotes, contains 2,830 of his own words for which he did not GET PAID!

K. Tempest Bradshaw phot from XOJANE.

K. Tempest Bradshaw photo from XOJANE.

A rigorous piece of writing it isn’t. The very first thing he attempts is to interpret a photo accompanying Bradford’s post as though it’s evidence she’s not a credible writer about diversity. (Boldface in original.)

But the ironic thing about that picture? Tempest is wearing a Dr. Who shirt. A TV show about a white man and his white female sidekick, created by some white men, with episodes written by… Neil Gaiman.

Because how could someone advocate not reading white people for a year while wearing… I’m sorry, is there even a point here?

Correia also indulges in ad hominem (when doesn’t he?) dissecting her personality and family background. He begins —

From what I’ve heard about Tempest, she grew up in a rich family. Luckily one of my readers copy and pasted some stuff from her bio into the comments.

Yeah, that was lucky. Larry barely has time to trash Bradford (“I know when I think of marginalized lives, I think of mooching off your rich friends while playing tourist”) — his time is certainly too valuable to spend learning about her.

Although Correia is right about Bradford’s track record of playing a prominent role in controversies. That trait doesn’t ordinarily gain a person much sympathy. Yet reading Correia brought to mind the line about H.R. Haldeman in All The President’s Men: “You’ve got people feeling sorry for him and I didn’t think that was possible.” A raging bull response to an innocuous reading list will do that. The feeling only intensifies after seeing the abuse she’s received from others on Twitter.

And what about the children? Correia set a bad example for Sciphi, an impressionable blogger at Superversive SF, who saw that post and felt compelled to write down his own set of thoughts, worthy of Beavis & Butthead, “Take the SJW reader challenge today!”

So in the spirit of taking this challenge seriously, I will be making an effort to avoid such writers and see what it does for my outlook. So I guess I should make a list of authors that are “acceptable” to read because they aren’t “cis white het males” to make it easier for anybody that wants to join me.

And darned if that list doesn’t include five writers for the Mad Genius Club (Sarah Hoyt and Cedar Sanderson among them) plus a cast of favorites including Larry Correia and Vox Day – won’t Bradford be surprised to find she’s recommending them. Malicious obedience is certainly one tool for belittling an idea but, like the ruby slippers, it has to be handled verrry carefully. When your mockery of a recommendation to read works by women is followed by a recommendation to read works by women, then you’ve actually ratified the original advice.

80 thoughts on “Another Day at the Kerfuffle Factory

  1. @Ratseal, thanks.

    I can only let my comments stand with as much clarity as I can muster.

    Everyone else is responsible for the state of their own minds.

  2. Eamon J. Cole: “Pointless misdirection, Paul. Focusing on 19th century French authors is not calling for the exclusion of people based solely on race, sexual/gender orientation, and genitalia. It’s narrowing the focus to 19th century French authors.”

    If you check what the French literary scene was like in 19th century, you can certainly make the sarcastic point that it is indeed about excluding people based on race and genitalia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_French-language_authors#Nineteenth_century

    The landscape of science fiction and fantasy in 2015 is arguably more diverse, but there’s still room for improvement, and that is want Bradford wants.

  3. @Spacefaring Kitten, I cannot presume to know what Bradford wants, I can only work from what she says.

  4. “that is want Bradford wants”…

    LOL, I seriously doubt that a person who rants to exclude perspectives with which she disagrees, a person who “RAGEQUITs” upon such exposure, a person that advocates and creates segregated spaces within fandom, wants “more diverse” science fiction and fantasy.

  5. @TW,

    In fairness, like all of the left K.T values diversity provided it is literally “skin deep”.

    The diversity that matters, diversity of ideas, is of no interest to her. You can’t expect her to have to deal with Double Plus Ungood Think. How will she ever cope without getting the fainting vapours?

  6. Eamon: While working on some way to advance the discussion I entertained an idea similar to Paul’s (mine was going to be 19th century Russian novelists) but set it aside because it doesn’t meet the question head-on. Analyzing the shortcomings of that comparison led me to other ideas.

    For example, I remembered in the field of tax law there are penalties with civil and criminal counterparts where the same behavior is only criminal if there a specific intent to violate the law.

    That made me wonder what condition is needed to transform mere list-making into discrimination.

    Merriam-Webster defines discrimination as —

    : the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people

    So, this has to be done unfairly. And the definition of unfair?

    : marked by injustice, partiality, or deception

    Are there examples from Bradford’s article that you associate with these definitions?

  7. Ultimately, I think this whole debate comes down to a difference in opinion as to why we read. Some of us read for fun: as an escape from the daily onslaught of politics and problems in the world. Those of us with that world view tend to look down on the idea of being told to avoid authors based for reasons of politics. Others seeks to read in order to engage with the world and its issues and have no problem taking part in literary esclusion experiments. These two worldviews (escapist and realist) are pretty diametrically opposed and when they bump up against each other like they did here, sparks will fly.

  8. Can’t speak for him, Mike, but Bradford’s screed is a textbook example of partiality.

    That’s the problem. Her finger-wagging, discriminatory partiality and ragequittery belongs safely among Bradbury’s worriers.

    “A book is a loaded gun in the house next door…Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?”

  9. Yes, Mr. Glyer. The title. And the concept embodied in the rest of the article that excluding people based solely on their race, sexual/gender orientation and genitalia is not only acceptable but laudable.

    I find the idea not only unjust, but repugnant.

    It’s also disturbing to see a trend to redefine repugnant behaviors so to allow some individuals a pass while holding others accountable.

    As an aside, I’m unclear on your intent with the phrase “mere list making.” If Bradford had only put forth a list of her suggested reading we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    Since she instead called for the exclusion of people based solely on their race, sexual/gender orientation and genitalia I find “mere list making” baffling at best.

    This conversation is not about mere list making, it’s about bigotry and the continued defense of it.

  10. I didn’t make the referent clear enough: it was Paul’s list of 19th century French novelists I had in mind.

    “It’s also disturbing to see a trend to redefine repugnant behaviors…”

    I thought if I introduced the actual definitions you might try to put up some evidence from Bradford’s article. Something more specific than “the title” and “the rest of the article.” Something that looks like a conversation, not a drumbeat repetition of your conclusion.

  11. When I have returned home I will return to the article and pull specific references. Though, I do believe the title is a specific enough reference without further elucidation.

    Give me an hour or so, and I’ll draft another reply.

    I fear it will still contain the drumbeat.

  12. I think our host is just playing advocate here, but we all need a little controversy in our lives.

    So I’ll contribute to the language nitpicking.

    Mr. Glyer’s definition of discrimination is:

    “the practice of UNFAIRLY treating a person or group of people DIFFERENTLY from other people or groups of people.”

    From Ms. Bradford’s article:

    “Cutting that one demographic out of my reading list greatly improved my enjoyment of reading short stories…And if I do decide to read one by a new to me author who appears to be a straight, white, cis male, it’s usually because I trust the editor…”

    …So. This should be obvious, but I’ll spell the reasoning out anyway:

    * She assumes she’ll dislike stories based on the author’s pigment and genitals.

    * Pigment and genitals don’t dictate an author’s writing style, ability, or worldview.

    * Rejecting those stories therefore has no rational basis.

    * Thus, she is “unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people”, as per Mr. Glyer’s definition.

    You get the same result when you go back and define the words used in the definition. Mr. Glyer’s definition of “unfair” includes “partiality”, which loops right back. (“an unfair tendency to treat one person, group, or thing better than another”)

    / language nitpicking

  13. “Some of us read for fun: as an escape from the daily onslaught of politics and problems in the world. Those of us with that world view tend to look down on the idea of being told to avoid authors based for reasons of politics. Others seeks to read in order to engage with the world and its issues and have no problem taking part in literary esclusion experiments. These two worldviews (escapist and realist) are pretty diametrically opposed”

    K. Tempest Bradford IS actually advocating escapism. She’s more escapist than Larry Correia could ever hope to be.

    Instead of MERELY escaping to fantasylands like Correia does, K. Tempest Bradford is escaping to fantasylands exclusively written by people with characteristics she likes.

    You might say that K. Tempest Bradford is indulging in meta-escapism. She’s removed all traces of the real-world demographics that annoy her.

    It’s like somebody who only reads Sword and Sorcery books written by actual barbarian swordsmen.

  14. “I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year”

    A call to exclude authors based solely on their race, sexual/gender orientation and genitalia.

    “Essentially: no straight, cis, white males.”

    A repeat of the call.

    “And if I do decide to read one by a new-to-me author who appears to be a straight, white, cis male, it’s usually because I trust the editor and the magazine.”

    This one has been handled ably by a previous commenter, but I’ll add that underlying the assumption that she’ll dislike stories based on race, sexual/gender orientation and genitalia is the implied homogeneity of all “straight, white, cis male” authors.

    The dismissal of the perspectives of a group of people based on such characteristics does strike me as unfair. I find it no more fair that she homogenizes the experiences of her favored categories as well.

    The repeated use of such referents to exclude authors from a reading list is simple bigotry.

  15. Eamon: “@Spacefaring Kitten, I cannot presume to know what Bradford wants, I can only work from what she says.”

    As do I, but I guess I have read more of her stuff than you, and with a more positive mindset. I don’t have access to her thoughts, though. She explains her reasoning further in John Scalzi’s blog, for example.

    TW: “LOL, I seriously doubt that a person who rants to exclude perspectives with which she disagrees — wants “more diverse” science fiction and fantasy.”

    Trying to get exposure for writers from diverse backgrounds who write SFF with characters from diverse backgrounds equals more diversity in SFF in my mind.

    Mike Kerpan: “Ultimately, I think this whole debate comes down to a difference in opinion as to why we read. Some of us read for fun.”

    I think there’s an element of fun in wanting to read less books that are more likely to treat people such as yourself stereotypically. You’re probably right about different people reading with different mindsets, though.

  16. This inspires me. From now on I am only going to read authors in the ultimate minority. The ones that maintain a healthy BMI. The rest of the genre doesnt speak to me.

  17. FYI,
    On her own blog, Tempest has a follow up post:
    “Let’s Talk About “Comfort Zones””
    http://tempest.fluidartist.com/lets-talk-about-comfort-zones/

    FWIW, Eamon, it seems you are of the “SJWs are the real racists/Reverse racism Sad Puppies are strictly egalitarian/We’re the real diversity” school of thought that Kate Paulk, Sarah Hoyt and company subscribe to. As such, with those starting principles, of course anything Tempest has to say is going to come off to you as bigotry and nothing anyone can say could convince you otherwise.

  18. You can generalize only so much before it turns around and bites you.

    I’ve read thousands of books, but it never occurred to me to read them because the author was black or gay or Jewish. I read books because I was interested in a topic, an award winner or it was recommended.
    And many of the writers I like are black, white, Jewish, extremely Christian, Vedanta oriented…I think there are a few atheists in the mix too. Do I get brownie points for not realizing this situation?

    Someone must have illusions of diversity lacking. Maybe this kind of foolish pigeon holing comes from reading too much science fiction.

  19. Paul, do you have some evidence you’d like to offer to substantiate your dismissal?

    Perhaps you can pull a quote from me where I’ve mentioned anything of the sort, or in fact have brought forth anything other than Bradford’s own bald statement?

    Do not presume to know my starting principles, Paul.

    It’s not necessary. I’ve stated my principles clearly enough in this thread.

    For instance (this one might really be of help to you on this topic):

    “..nor do I have an ‘identity group.’ I find the concept antithetical to individual consideration, dehumanizing and shallow.”

    You could take from that my expectation that someone might address the merits of my argument, and avoid trying to dismiss me via association.

    We also find this:

    “What I am doing is recognizing bigoted behavior regardless of source.”

    Also, this:

    “I do find the classification and dismissal of groups of people based solely on superficial characteristics problematic for a culture and society. I find the encouragement of such bigotry not only problematic but detrimental to the ideals I strive for as a member of the society, and an impediment to its growth.

    Whether or not I find it personally threatening is irrelevant to my decision to stand against it.”

    I know you saw this one:

    “The core issue is bigotry. Calling for the exclusion of authors from reading lists, for whatever time period, based solely on race, sexual/gender orientation, and genitalia.”

    You may have missed this one:

    “I have issues with calling for the exclusion of people based solely on race, sexual/gender orientation, and genitalia.”

    Just for clarification on the topic, let’s cover this one:

    ” I cannot presume to know what Bradford wants, I can only work from what she says.”

    There’s this:

    “…the concept embodied in the rest of the article that excluding people based solely on their race, sexual/gender orientation and genitalia is not only acceptable but laudable.

    I find the idea not only unjust, but repugnant.”

    Finally:

    “The dismissal of the perspectives of a group of people based on such characteristics does strike me as unfair. I find it no more fair that she homogenizes the experiences of her favored categories as well.

    The repeated use of such referents to exclude authors from a reading list is simple bigotry.”

    Can you point me to the references to SJW’s as real racists, anywhere I said something silly like “reverse racism,” the thinnest mention of Sad Puppies, or supporting quotes I pulled from Mrs. Hoyt or Mrs. Paulk?

    Or are you aiming to force an identity on me so you can dismiss me without addressing the core issue?

    Let me finish up with this refresher:

    “In any event, in the joy of mocking those silly folks across the way you’re excusing bigotry. No sly, snide or snarkish remarks will obscure it.”

  20. Eamon, I will concede that you’ve won this rhetorical round and retire from the field.

  21. The issue is not that Bradford has said “You should read more books by non-whites and non-straight men”. That’s a somewhat reasonable thing to ask, if you believe that people with those characteristics will have different experiences and will better be able to relate those experiences in their stories (that’s debatable, but there’s likely some truth to it). The issue is that Bradford has said “You should stop reading books by straight white males.”

    What would the reaction be if Vox Day were to say “You should stop reading books by non-whites, women, and non-straight men for a year. You’ll find a wealth of great stories and broaden your perspectives. And if you’re a white man, you’ll find that these authors really resonate with you.”? How is Tempest’s article any different?

  22. Partiality: When I posted the definitions of “discrimination” and “unfair” (with its aspects of injustice, partiality or deception) it was not long before a commenter jumped on “partiality.” However, in the context of fandom, partiality is a norm, not an abuse.

    Advocacy of one’s favorite fiction (films, TV, etc.) and lobbying for more of it is not just a privilege of fanwriters who discuss sf, it’s one of their main pastimes. Even dismissing whole subgenres and categories of writers tends to be considered fair game – I don’t mean that doing so is uncontroversial. But doing so doesn’t attract accusations of immorality.

    How Bradford divides the sheep from the goats in her challenge is done in thoroughly subjective terms based on her reading experiences. Her “ragequit” is just a hipper version of “I wanted to throw that book across the room.” Disliking some kinds of work and seeking out other kinds of work is an expression of partiality that is par for the course.

    The reciprocity test: If we flip the script and presume somebody wrote, “I Challenge You To Stop Reading Straight Black Authors For A Year” I would say “WTF?” not “Who cares.” So there’s that.

    Threat assessment: Why is my reaction inconsistent? Because I don’t envision snarky challenges that exclude straight white men as likely to drive any of them from the field, especially ones writing military sf or warrior fantasies whose initials are LC, no matter how loudly and at what length he goes on insulting and abusing Bradford.

    As H.L. Mencken said, in this world the only sensible thing to do is sit in the brewery and drink beer, but every now and then he was seized with the irresistible urge to rush out and break a bottle over someone’s head. Sometimes I see a blog post and light up with a deeply philosophical “Oh, yeah?”

  23. Like you, Mr. Glyer, I do not expect this challenge or others like it to drive the excluded demographic from the field.

    I just don’t believe we fight clearly harmful bigotry, bigotry with readily recognizable consequences, by ignoring bigotry the consequences of which we do not readily discern.

    In fact, you may have noted, I’m passionate in my objection.

  24. Does this woman seriously believe that “Our fates are not in our stars bun in ourselves” applies only to white guys?

  25. A male romance writer posts in his blog, ““I Challenge You to Stop Reading Female Romance Authors for One Year”

    Offensive?

    Yes? No? Maybe?

    This statement has all the same features that Bradford’s does:

    * It’s from a marginalized voice within a literary genre (a MUCH larger genre than science fiction, by the way).

    * In fact, men’s voices in romance are *even more marginalized* than Bradford’s voice is in SF. Although 10-20% of romance readers are men (and 50% of people who fall in love are men), male romance writers are forced to use female pen names unless they’re named Sparks. They don’t receive awards from the overwhelmingly female membership of the Romance Writers of America (RWA). Few of their books are bestsellers. Nobody hears about them. Almost all of their editors (80%+) are women. And they have been known to complain that they’re excluded from professional writing discussions on the basis of their sex.

    * If you accept that different demographics bring different perspectives, then surely male writers would bring a different perspective to romance.

    * A call to stop reading female romance authors — like Bradford’s call to stop reading male SF authors — is unlikely to actually harm the target group’s sales.

    So, offensive or not? What says the File 770 community?

  26. You can make basically the same argument about the statement “I Challenge You to Stop Reading Female YA Authors for One Year”, since women also predominate in YA publishing.

  27. Mike Glyer:

    “Well, I think that was my response to such conversational markers as your high diction and tetchiness. Add to that, what you described as a “declaration of homogeneity of the experiences of white, heterosexual men” is something I didn’t find threatening.”

    “Eamon J. Cole”:

    “Ah, so you chose to assume, and further imply, I was a liar based on the way I use the language?

    “Now that I’m at a machine with more facility than my phone I’ll address the point about my diction.

    “I am using a formal tone and striving for unambiguous clarity because I’m a stranger here. As such, I cannot rely on an established identity and attendant philosophy to lead to accurate interpretations.

    “I tend to do this with each new community I visit, I find it reduces the need for someone to come along and explain what I really meant.”

    High diction and tetchiness?

    Mike, you’re being spoofed. Who else on Earth writes this way in this day and age but Marty Cantor?

  28. “What would the reaction be if Vox Day were to say “You should stop reading books by non-whites, women, and non-straight men for a year. You’ll find a wealth of great stories and broaden your perspectives. And if you’re a white man, you’ll find that these authors really resonate with you.”?”

    I suppose I might have been tempted, but it’s too obvious and K. Tempest Bradford is too trivial to even bother mocking. Seriously, who cares?

    “Why is my reaction inconsistent?”

    Hey, at least you admit it. Full credit for that. But Mike, I suspect the real reason it doesn’t upset you is the same reason I can’t be bothered and Scalzi says “Eh”. She’s too trivial for anyone to care one way or the other. If I say it, it matters. If Scalzi says it, it matters. If Delaney says it, the same. Her? Not so much.

  29. @TANSTAAFL

    A rational person would agree both statements are identical and are identically problematic.

    But a man (Especially a white man) can never win the oppression Olympics so daring to suggest such a thing would be wrong according to the obvious mental illness brigade (In my experience).

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