Racism and Sexism

By Robert Silverberg: It’s folly to think that denials can ever catch up with falsehoods and distortions, and so up till now I have refrained from attempting to defend myself against the accusations that have been aimed at me since shortly after the San Jose Worldcon.  But now the situation has reached a new level of unreality that leads me to break my silence.

At San Jose, the Best Novel Hugo went — for the third consecutive year — to a writer who used her acceptance speech to denounce those who had placed obstacles in her path stemming from her race and sex as she built her career, culminating in her brandishing her new Hugo as a weapon aimed at someone who had been particularly egregious in his attacks on her.  Soon after the convention, I commented, in a private chat group, that I felt that her angry acceptance speech had been a graceless one, because I believe that Hugo acceptance speeches should be occasions for gratitude and pleasure, not angry statements that politicize what should be a happy ceremony.  I said nothing about her race, her sex, or the quality of her books.  My comment was aimed entirely at her use of the Hugo stage to launch a statement of anger.

I would not presume to comment on her experience of having had racist and sexist obstacles placed in her career path.  I have no doubt that she did face such challenges, and I’m sure the pain created by them still lingers.  I in no way intended to add to that pain.  However, it seemed to me that this writer, after an unprecedented three-Hugo sweep and considerable career success otherwise, had triumphed over whatever obstacles were placed in her path and need not have used the Hugo platform to protest past mistreatment.

An unscrupulous member of our chat group illicitly posted my comment on the web site of someone who has indeed devoted himself to harsh racist attacks on this and other writers, and from that moment on — guilt by association, I suppose — I was denounced on the Internet as a racist, a sexist, and perhaps a lot of other dire things.  (I do not participate in social media and all I know of what is being said about me has come from third parties.)

I am not a racist.  I am not a sexist.  In a career spanning many decades, I have generally been known among my colleagues and in fandom for my professionalism, my courtesy to people great and small, and my helpfulness.  And, though I hesitate to evoke a version of the old anti-Semitic cliche, “Some of my best friends are Jews,” I have in fact maintained warm friendships with several of the (very few) black science fiction writers of my era, and I have numerous friends of the other sex as well, who can testify that the epithets that have been hurled at me are undeserved.

Now Marta Randall, a friend of many years’ standing, has asserted in File 770** that I have a history of sexism as an editor stretching back over the years, declaring that when she and I were co-editors of the annual anthology NEW DIMENSIONS she had proposed an all-female issue of the book, and I had threatened to remove my name from it if she did.

I have no recollection of this episode.  I think that editors have the privilege of excluding any group they wish from their anthologies — men, women, Jews, Christians, Bulgarians, atheists, whatever.  I don’t think that’s a particularly good idea, though, except where the anthology’s intent is one of special pleading — as, for instance, an anthology intended to demonstrate the excellence of Canadian science fiction and therefore limited only to Canadian writers.  (But Jack Dann’s two WANDERING STARS anthologies, limited to stories on Jewish themes, included four stories by writers who were not themselves Jewish.)

NEW DIMENSIONS, which I edited for ten years, was intended to provide the best in science fiction as I understood “best.”  I had no intention of judging submissions by any standard except literary quality: I paid no attention to the race or color of the authors who sent me stories.  In fact the first issue of NEW DIMENSIONS had four stories by women in it, and most of the others had at least two or three female contributors, with the lone exception of the fourth issue, which had none.  I see no evidence here of systematic editorial discrimination against women.

Eventually I wearied of the work involved in editing NEW DIMENSIONS, and, since Marta Randall had been a frequent contributor (four stories in the ten issues) and her novels then were being published by Pocket Books, which was also the publisher of NEW DIMENSIONS, I suggested to Marta and her Pocket Books editor, David Hartwell, that she take my place as editor of the anthology.  To help maintain the book’s commercial viability, I suggested a three-book transition: the eleventh issue would list Robert Silverberg and Marta Randall as editors, the twelfth would be billed as “Edited by Marta Randall and Robert Silverberg,” and from the thirteenth issue on she would be listed as the sole editor.  This proposal was accepted and Marta was given a three-book contract.  I was not a party to the contract and was co-editor in name only; she picked all the stories and did all the other editorial work.  Issues eleven and twelve duly appeared with the editors’ names listed as agreed.  She had three stories by women in the eleventh issue and three in the twelfth, about the same male/female ratio as I had maintained during my editorial tenure.  I understand that the thirteenth issue was prepared and then canceled before publication, for reasons that I don’t know.

As I said, I have no recollection of Marta’s having suggested an all-female issue.  If she had, I probably would have said that I didn’t think it was a wise thing to do, since NEW DIMENSIONS had established itself over a decade as a generalized anthology without any special agenda other than to publish good science fiction, and this would have broken its continuity of policy.  I would have said the same thing if she had proposed an all-male issue, an all-Uzbek issue, an all-fantasy issue, or any other kind of all-anything issue, because I wanted ND to remain something recognizably like what it had been under my auspices.  I think the book would have died otherwise.  This does not make me a sexist.  I would not in any case have threatened to remove my name from the book — an empty threat, since under the terms of the original arrangement my name was already due to be removed as of the third issue she would edit.

As for my alleged lifetime of sexism, I offer as evidence an anthology I edited called THE CRYSTAL SHIP, published in 1976 by Thomas Nelson.  This was an instance when I chose deliberately to construct a book with all-female contributors, in order to make a specific point about the changing nature of the science-fiction field.  It contains three original novellas, commissioned by me, by Joan D. Vinge, Vonda N. McIntyre, and…Marta Randall.  You will notice that all three are women, and in my introduction to the book I observed that although for a long time there had been only a handful of female science-fiction writers, the 1970s had seen an abundance of them appear. “Which is all to the good,” I wrote. “Men and women are different not merely in physical appearance; they receive different cultural training from earliest childhood, and their ways of interpreting experience, of human situations, of perceiving the universe, often differ in ways growing directly out of those differences….Science fiction is no longer so universally unisexual, for which let us rejoice.  To be female is, I think, neither better nor worse than to be male, but it is different, it is beyond doubt different, and the difference has value for us all.”

These are not, I think, the words of a sexist.  Nor can anyone produce evidence of my alleged racism.  I have lived on into an age where it is terribly easy to offend people, intentionally or accidentally, and the Internet makes it possible for them to register their state of offendedness all over the world.  But I am troubled by the Internet comments of people who do not know me, have misread my statement on the Hugo event, and attribute to me beliefs that I do not hold.


Endnote: ** Silverberg refers to Pixel Scroll 11/17/18 which linked to Adam-Troy Castro’s post on Facebook and also ran a screencap of Marta Randall’s comment on Adam-Troy Castro’s post.

208 thoughts on “Racism and Sexism

  1. IIRC, I saw a review of ND 13 somewhere and the intended contents were exceptionally good. The stories reviewed all went on to be published elsewhere after the book was canceled.

    Had it been published, it would have been quite extraordinary.

  2. His first paragraph undermines, though does not eliminate, my inclination to believe he means well.

    If he didn’t want to do the “some of my best friends are…” thing, he should have just not done it.

    He perhaps need a greater awareness that he has no real understanding of Jemisin’s experience. I’m further moved to point out that, in fact, people are allowed to celebrate their triumphs over obstacles, and not required to pretend the obstacles didn’t exist, so as not to discomfit people who may have, even unintentionally and without awareness, contributed to those obstacles.

    I don’t doubt that he’s no worse than others of his age and background, and better than most. But he is, though it may not seem significant to him, the one who described James Tiptree Jr’s writing as “ineluctably masculine.”

    Right before her gender was revealed.

    More compelling is that the remark was made in private, and repeated on Teddy’s site without his consent. I do seriously believe that we are all allowed to say tasteless and rude things in private, among those we know best, who know us in more than one dimension.

    But. Seriously.

    Considering how extreme the oppression and discrimination has been, and how recently it has started to break down significantly, and what the backlash to that has been, I do think Mr. Silverberg could be a little more gracious about someone who has prevailed in spite of all that, to openly celebrate–and to wave that Hugo in the faces of Teddy and his ilk.

    Also, it would do him no harm to realize that people of different backgrounds can grow up with wildly different levels of how much emotion they are comfortable expressing publicly. God knows my Irish, French, and Sicilian kin all managed to get along!

    Even at wakes and funerals, where limits were tested the most. 😉

  3. I’ve been a fan of Robert Silverberg’s work for decades. Perhaps the first SF book I read was his juvenile (as they were referred to then, now YA) LOST RACE OF MARS. His work ranges from his earliest space operas full of slam-bang action to the many innovative works he gave us later on, especially in the late sixties and early seventies, such as THE WORLD INSIDE, HAWKSBILL STATION, DYING INSIDE, TOWER OF GLASS, and countless others. Throughout all of his best works, I was impressed by his detailed characterizations and insight into human nature.

    Those insights, however, have failed him now. He also doesn’t seem to realize he’s not the Worldcon Speech Czar.

    This is a field filled to bursting with stories of square-jawed heroes valiantly fighting to survive alien incursions, dystopias, worldwide environmental catastrophes, and other threats. But Silverberg is unimpressed by Jemisin’s real-world struggles agains sexism and racism.

    My assumption here is that Silverberg’s life, compared to Jemisin’s, has been one of relative privilege. Certainly Silverberg has endured tragedies in his life — the death of loved ones, divorce, a home destroyed by fire. But he’s gotten to make his living as a writer all his life and I’m certain that during his rise in the field he never had to endure racial or sexual prejudice.

    I’m also sure he’s never been called an “educated but ignorant savage,” as Jemisin infamously was by the same vile internet commenter who found Silverberg’s comments delicious enough that he quoted them.

    Jemisin said it herself: “…SFF is a microcosm of the wider world, in no way rarefied from the world’s pettiness or prejudice.”

    Jemisin’s speech was far from being graceless. Yes, it demonstrated anger, but that anger was earned, and was where her speech discovered its grace. Anyone who hasn’t seen it should watch it; it’s even better seen and heard than read. I’ve supplied a link below.

    I’m still a fan of Silverberg’s work and expect to re-read with great enjoyment many of his stories and novels in years to come. But he must realize that the SF field is, indeed, going through a time of changes, both in the content of its stories and who gets to write those stories.

  4. “Soon after the convention, I commented, in a private chat group, that I felt that her angry acceptance speech had been a graceless one, because I believe that Hugo acceptance speeches should be occasions for gratitude and pleasure, not angry statements that politicize what should be a happy ceremony. I said nothing about her race, her sex, or the quality of her books. My comment was aimed entirely at her use of the Hugo stage to launch a statement of anger”

    So Silverberg reckons N.K. Jemisin was winning wrong? When Silverberg himself hasn’t been imbuing the Hugo ceremonies with grace (citing the example of his off-colour commentary in the lead-up to the awarding of the Best Novel Hugo)?

    Seems to me that he is applying a double standard here.

  5. I was one of many people in the audience who stood and cheered for Jemisin. The people I was sitting next to did not and instead crossed their arms. From conversation, I found them to be lovely people. I didn’t question their particular reasons for not applauding wildly, just assigned to them various possible motivations. Didn’t like angry black women. Thought the speech was inappropriate. Something unknown triggered their disapproval. Wound up with eh, probably lacking in sufficient empathy to really feel the rage and the triumph with which a brilliant woman answered the world around her.

    Silverberg gets the same weighing in the balance as probably a lovely person who didn’t go anything like far enough in his understanding of those who aren’t like him before passing judgment.

  6. @Soon Lee: Thanks. I really have a hard time listening to speeches on video. It’s like opera on the radio–not for me.

    @Robert Silverberg: Your remarks left me with the impression she’d singled someone out recognizably, possibly by name. I might–and I might not, depending on the specifics–be bothered by that. But that’s not the case, unless the transcript is prepared remarks and not verbatim, or it’s a story well-known (but not to me).

  7. As noted above, using a “some of my best friends are” as your defense, is simply just not going to work in this day and age. Truthfully it never has passed muster, nowadays it’s more visibly seen for what it is.

    Yes, Jemisin’s speech was angry. She earned the right to express that anger and expressed it effectively. I’m sorry Mr. Silverberg feels that this violates the tone of the Hugos, but given the history of the Hugo’s, given Jemisin’s history…it felt right. Proper. Good.

  8. @John A Arkansawyer,

    The transcript is verbatim apart from a few pauses to laugh/chuckle*. And at one point she also said, “Stop texting me” out loud which was not in the text; she was reading her speech from her phone & well-wishers kept sending her messages of congratulations & interrupting her flow.

    *In the speech there was yes, anger at those who put her down, but there was also joy at winning the Hugo.

  9. I can’t help but notice that there is at least one, um, “error of fact” in this post:

    Marta Randall, a friend of many years’ standing, has asserted […] that when she and I were co-editors of the annual anthology NEW DIMENSIONS she had proposed an all-female issue of the book, and I had threatened to remove my name from it if she did.

    The relevant Facebook comment says something quite different:

    [Silverberg], after all, is the man who told me when I took over editorship of New Dimensions that if my title page had only women’s names on it, he’d remove his name from the anthology.

    Marta didn’t claim that she proposed such a lineup. She didn’t even claim that she ever wanted to do so. Rather, she claimed that she was preemptively warned not to do so.

  10. I’m an old white guy. I do not agree with Mr. Silverberg when he calls Ms. Jemisin’s speech “graceless” It actually strikes me as exuberant, funny, angry, charming, breathless, heartfelt and very much tied to the nature of her work.

    Mr. Silverberg expressed his opinion in private and had it leaked without his knowledge or consent. He’s now defending himself against accusations he deems inaccurate, untrue and unfair.

    I do not have to agree with his opinion of this speech to feel that he has, to some degree, a legitimate cause to consider remarks being made about him now as unreasonable as others consider his remarks about Ms. Jemisin’s speech to be.

    One can be wrong about the nature and appropriateness of a speech without being sexist or racist. Sexism and racism are evil and insidious. Silverberg’s remarks, while out of touch with the situation and the times, do not merit some of the accusations aimed in his direction.

    Meanwhile, those who created the furor by leaking private thoughts and then exposing them to the wider world for the scrutiny that informs our world now are getting what they most probably hoped would happened-a circus, at Silverberg’s expense.

    I hope, at the very least, Robert Silverberg has learned that, nowadays, there are no “private” forums or remarks.

    This is never a problem here in 0522, where staying alive takes so much of our time and effort that it makes giving speeches and critiquing them extremely rare events.

  11. Just another in a long line of old white dudes who are wondering why people are making such a big deal about things nobody cared about and they didn’t know or care about back when they were still important active contributors instead of basking in dimming glory that no one’s as impressed with as they used to be anyway.

  12. Bless his heart.

    Even in 2469, we’re still ticked at him. NK Jemisin is the Voice of her Age.

  13. “As I said, I have no recollection of Marta’s having suggested an all-female issue. If she had, I probably would have said that I didn’t think it was a wise thing to do, since NEW DIMENSIONS had established itself over a decade as a generalized anthology without any special agenda.”

    Straight white men seem to have a near instinctive need to deny he existence of generalized agendas inherent in the status quo.

    But I’d be willing to bet that there had “coincidentally” been all male issues. More than once. More than twice. Probably many times. Often enough that if it was really a coincidence there ought to have coincidentally been an all woman issue.

  14. 1) Tone deaf,

    2) Doubles down on their racism and sexism,

    3) Seven out of twelve paragraphs have been spent gaslighting Marta Randall, who is not the subject of the original complaint.

  15. I’m looking forward to reading more of Jemisen’s work in the future — although I wasn’t terribly crazy about Broken Earth I read some of it, and I’m glad she wrote it. I’m also going to have to check out more of Marta Randall’s work, and if she were to publish something new I’d buy it in a red hot minute. I guess that means it’ll probably take me even longer to get around to reading old science fiction from the golden-age-of-whatever that’s probably full of retro sensibilities and dudes smoking cigarettes in spaceships with tailfins and stuff like that.

    Well, except for Sheckley. I’ll always have time for Sheckley.

  16. Thank you Dave for posting Jemisin’s speech, I had read it but not listened to it. I must say that Silverberg must have a very low tolerance for anger if that speech upset him so much. It wasn’t graceless. Graceless is voicing petty and spiteful comments about a colleague whose work you have not read but deem not worthy of a Hugo, and especially graceless if you do it among those you assume to be like minded people. Jemisin was inspiring, touching, giddy, funny and real.
    And her novels are full of wonder and heartbreak and love and thought and they deserved each of the Hugos they won.

  17. I hope, at the very least, Robert Silverberg has learned that, nowadays, there are no “private” forums or remarks.

    Of course, when you are caught saying regrettable things in what you thought was a private forum, it is partly your fault because you should know there are no private forums, and partly your fault because you thought regrettable things and then you wrote them down and then you sent them off for others to read.

  18. John A Arkansawyer on November 27, 2018 at 5:50 pm said:
    I’m curious what was said about some particular individual and who that individual was and have no patience for watching speeches. Is there a transcript?

    I don’t think Jemisin was referring to one single person, but to be sure Teddy VD got himself kicked out of the SFWA because he used his membership to tweet a series of abominable and quite racist things about Jemisin.

  19. In one of his first responses, or maybe it was part of the original comment itself – I’m too lazy to try to find it now, he said in his defense that he hadn’t even read the books in question.
    The last three Hugo winners.
    Following that, I saw no reason to pay any attention to his remarks, and really still don’t.

  20. As I’ve said before, my perception of Silverberg’s judgement and essential decency was severely damaged by his role in promulgating Dave Truesdale’s idiotic and deeply unpleasant petition against imaginary censorship in the SWFA bulletin.

    Kate Goodwin, in response to my comment at Camestros’s blog, said

    He didn’t “respond” to the Bulletin petition — he CREATED the petition about a complete and utter non-problem that was basically a weird conservative conspiracy theory about SFWA. He got the nasty guy to do it who wasn’t even a current member of SFWA, accepted it as an anti-feminist screed that made no sense, and got several of his famous friends to sign on to the thing while they clearly never had read it.

    I say this with regret, because I adore his writing, but Silverberg the person is an unpleasant, rigid, bigoted man, and at this point, I give no damns at all whether his feelings are hurt or his pride injured because he’s given people many reasons to know his true character.

    [Add me to the list of people who wanted to stand up and cheer as they listened to Jemisin’s speech. I made the husband listen to it too – and he thought it was funny and clever, and the furthest thing from ‘graceless’ one could imagine]

  21. So the other weekend I was in New Orleans to watch the WFTDA Championships at the UNO Lakefront Arena. I had the full weekend package, but I brought the wrong day’s ticket printout Friday morning, so I had to run down to the box office to have them print me the right one so I could get in.

    While I was waiting for my situation to resolve, I heard the following sentence spoken: “So are you here picking cotton, or do you live here?”

    Startled, I turned and saw an elderly white man addressing a black man working security. The black man was also startled. “Excuse me?”

    “I said, are you here picking cotton, or do you live here?” The white man seemed very pleased with himself, as though he had just told a hilarious joke. “It’s a southern saying.”

    “A racist southern saying,” I snapped.

    The white man sputtered, “It’s not racist!” and suchlike things which I didn’t bother acknowledging. I collected my tickets and returned to the venue for the Denver/Texas game.

    And that, right there, is about the length of time over which I’m willing to listen to a white man denying that the racist thing he said could possibly be racist because he’s not a racist, he didn’t mean anything racist by it, therefore he couldn’t possibly have committed racism.

  22. That speech wasn’t angry, it was triumphant. A triumph over every creep who tried to hold her down. I am not surprised that it annoyed purple who value “civility” over honesty.

    Honestly, I’d have a bit more sympathy for Silverberg, if he hadn’t signed onto and vigorously defended the Truesdale SFWA petition. He was willing to defend the “right” of people to put racist and sexist screeds in a professional magazine. And that was only four years ago, in 2014.

    So I’m not surprised, by any of this. He really seems to have a pattern with saying things in “private” and then digging deeper.

  23. N. K. Jemisin and Robert Silverberg have a common adversary in Theodore Beale. I should think most of us share this opinion and lack of enthusiasm for Beale, some toady clown of whose decided to “leak” Silverberg’s comment on a forum where members agree not to spread the opinions or sensitive factual statements of members without that member’s permission. (Openly available facts, such as the Very easily checked tables of contents of NEW DIMENSIONS volumes/issues, thanks to the ISFDB and Contento/LOCUS indices, are less problematic, and thus make a weak basis for grandstanding here or elsewhere.)

    One can disagree with someone else about various matters without damning them or insisting that their opinion makes them The Equivalent of Beale, whose only joy seems to be in writing crazy bullshit to stir up reaction. Or even the Equivalent of various others, who have shown they can make a misunderstanding or an error that much worse by chest-beating and throwing out babies and other household relatives with the bathwater. If you are not X, you must be Y thinking is what results in the creeping fascism and might as well be fascism around the world…could be useful not to further it.

  24. I should say, because most people would have no reason to know it, that Robert Silverberg was friends with James Tiptree, was one of the people she immediately wrote to when she was admitting to her true identity, and he and Alice Sheldon maintained their friendly correspondence afterward.

    I think too much is made of Silverberg’s “ineluctably male” comment about Tiptree’s writing, as if somehow he was more wrong than all the rest of us who believed that Tiptree was a man. Silverberg was just the one who was easiest to quote.

    It shouldn’t be said that “Silverberg was WRONG about Tiptree.” It should be said that “Most people were wrong about Tiptree, as evidenced by Silverberg’s introduction to Tiptree’s second book, Warm Worlds and Otherwise.”

  25. Two years before calling N.K. Jemisin’s speech “graceless and vulgar,” Robert Silverberg used the Hugo Awards stage to tell an extended joke about the dick sizes of several famous SF writers. He gave himself license to be funny and vulgar but holds a history-making female writer of color to a much more strict set of rules.

    In this response, Silverberg neither apologizes to Jemisin nor does her the courtesy of using her name. I think that’s an apt example of the blindspot he’s been demonstrating towards her and her achievements. Since he admitted he hasn’t read her books (and reportedly hasn’t read any current SF for a decade), Silverberg should stop playing the Grumpy Old Man on His Lawn act by crapping on the success of current writers. It diminishes him.

    Silverberg also mischaracterizes her speech. She wasn’t “brandishing her new Hugo as a weapon aimed at someone who had been particularly egregious in his attacks on her.” Her metaphor was a finger, not a weapon, and it was aimed non-specifically at everybody who dismissed her achievements and worthiness and called her successes “identity politics.”

    Silverberg:

    I said nothing about her race, her sex, or the quality of her books.

    This is false. In his original comment he called her win “identity politics,” which is quite obviously a reference to her race and a complete dismissal of her worthiness as a winner. (More specifically, he said that “she insisted that she had not won because of ‘identity politics’ and proceeded to disprove her own point by rehearsing the grievances of her people,” which is a roundabout way of calling her achievement “identity politics.”)

    @Lis Carey:

    More compelling is that the remark was made in private, and repeated on Teddy’s site without his consent.

    He made the remark to an online chat group with hundreds of subscribers. I would not call that private.

    I’ve been a huge fan of Silverberg for a long time but I’m glad he’s catching hell for his comment about Jemisin. It was a racist and shitty thing to say about a great writer hours after her terrific achievement, and it doesn’t stop being racist and shitty just because a white nationalist twerp revealed it to the world when Silverberg didn’t want it revealed.

  26. “One can disagree with someone else about various matters without damning them or insisting that their opinion makes them The Equivalent of Beale.”

    Todd, no one seems to be doing that.

    “If you are not X, you must be Y thinking is what results in the creeping fascism and might as well be fascism around the world.”

    Actually, the rise of facism is very strongly associated with rigid, bigoted thinking and a desire to undo a raft of social changes and improvements to the lot of those who are not white, straight, or cis-gendered males. Silverberg has copiously demonstrated both of these features, not that I think he is or am claiming he is a fascist.

    However, if he keeps coming out with racist and sexist remarks in private and public (and attempting to deflect criticism in this weak manner, then he can be fairly judged Y (a man with too many racist and sexist opinions for the comfort of more liberally minded people) and not X, the nice, kindly, non-bigoted guardian of the genre he likes to present himself as.

    Making that assessment is no more fascism than if I said a person who cannot drive, is a non-driver.

  27. So, New Dimensions 4 was an all-male issue, but this was only natural because the magazine was about quality. But an all-female issue would have been a very bad idea.

    No sexism here. At all.

  28. @rcade

    In this response, Silverberg neither apologizes to Jemisin nor does her the courtesy of using her name.

    You know, the name thing really struck me as well for some reason. Literally avoiding addressing the issue. He doesn’t appear to realise that – at bare minimum – what he did by insulting a fellow pro in that manner is what was graceless, angry, and vulgar, not anything Jemisin said.

  29. Ann Somerville: “Actually, the rise of facism is very strongly associated with rigid, bigoted thinking and a desire to undo a raft of social changes and improvements to the lot of those who are not white, straight, or cis-gendered males. Silverberg has copiously demonstrated both of these features, not that I think he is or am claiming he is a fascist.”

    But you do write that he has copiously demonstrated those retrograde tendencies; I don’t think that has remotely been demonstrated by his statements or his acts. I think he’s a conservative, but not a reactionary nor a fascist. I don’t think his statement about a speech in a discussion forum, with less than “hundreds” of members (not a misstatement I attribute to you, by the way), was an attempt to dismantle progress, so much as an expression of not seeing the speech as appropriate to the occasion. I’d disagree with that, and would not have used quite the same language he chose in that instance, in that private forum. But the denunciation of Silverberg has been akin to calling him Beale-esque, here and elsewhere. He didn’t say her awards were undeserved; he noted he didn’t have the experience to judge the work in question. He critiqued the speech with what I would consider an unfortunate turn of phrase in that private forum, which has led to no lack of insult to him as a person and an artist.

  30. I find his unwillingness to use Jemisin’s name a really disturbing way of disparaging and denigrating her. 1400 words — and not once granting her the courtesy of acknowledging her existence as an individual with a name.

    I absolutely understand the impulse to defend oneself against claims that one does not perceive to be fair. But we are not the best judges of how our words and actions appear to others, and intent does not magically erase effect. It would have behooved Silverberg to run his letter past one of the POC with whom he has warm friendships for their advice before sending it to Mike to post. If anything, he has made himself look even worse with this. 😐

  31. NK Jemison deserves her Hugos and to make her acceptance speech in whatever manner she deems appropriate. People who choose not to go public on opinions but express them in a private capacity in a closed group deserve not to be immediately associated with the neo-facist who, in an attempt to undermine Ms Jemison, spreads those opinions in a context explicitly designed to stir up a fire. And regarding the (in)famous comment about Tiptree/Sheldon, mentioned above, we were ALL wrong.

  32. I think the problem with the internet now is that everything is heightened and there is no place for disagreements. You are either ALL IN are ALL OUT on any given subject, and everybody’s quick to denounce everybody. It really is turning into a witch hunt and it’s unfortunate.

    Here’s the paragraph where I type out for the 1000th time that I am a very liberal person, and that I agree with what Jemisin said, and I even sort of disagree with you Robert that it wasn’t her place to say it on the podium after winning, but I do not think you are a demon for saying so, I just disagree with you.

  33. The only black and non-black distinctions that I care about are the letters on the pages of good (science fiction) books.

    As far as I am concerned, the people who complain about racism – often seeing racism where there is no racism – are the biggest racists themselves.

    In a racist culture – such as that of the USA – no party is blameless.

  34. “However, it seemed to me that this writer, after an unprecedented three-Hugo sweep and considerable career success otherwise, had triumphed over whatever obstacles were placed in her path and need not have used the Hugo platform to protest past mistreatment.”

    Well, if you hadn’t dismissed her win as part of “identity politics”, you might have had me there. Instead you proved her point that some people will never accept her because who she was born as.

    While I do have some sympathy for people being allowed to flap at the mouth in private company (we do not have to be charitable all the time), this statement kind of punctures the rest of your “explanation”. Of course never an apology.

  35. Comments!

    1) Have no other Hugo winners ever talked about the obstacles they’ve overcome to get where they are today? Even if they’ve won multiple awards? Have they always just talked solely about how great things are now?

    2) Winning something, even winning something multiple times, does not erase a systemic problem. That’s like the old argument of saying that there was no racism in the US while Obama was president, because Obama was black. It doesn’t work that way.

    3) Having some female contributors in an anthology does not mean one gets to escape accusations of promoting institutionalized sexism. Mentioning the number of stories written by women doesn’t actually mean much when you don’t list the number written by men. Was it 4 stories written by women and 4 by men? Okay, then that’s equal representation. Was it 4 stories written by women and 10 by men? Then there’s an imbalance that needs addressing.

    4) Your words about the value of women and their different experiences are good words. However, you can’t just claim that those are not the words of someone with sexist views, just because they’re promoting women. Orson Scott Card wrote an entire book with a strong theme of how you can’t judge other groups by your own group’s standards, and yet is still strongly bigoted. I am not saying that because he was hypocritical, then so are you, but I am saying that your logic is faulty.

    5) You have not lived into an age where it is terribly easy to offend people. You have lived into an age where it is just as easy to offend people as it ever was, but now it’s easier for those offended parties to voice their offense and call others out on offensive behaviour.

  36. @Jeff Smith–

    I think too much is made of Silverberg’s “ineluctably male” comment about Tiptree’s writing, as if somehow he was more wrong than all the rest of us who believed that Tiptree was a man. Silverberg was just the one who was easiest to quote.

    It shouldn’t be said that “Silverberg was WRONG about Tiptree.” It should be said that “Most people were wrong about Tiptree, as evidenced by Silverberg’s introduction to Tiptree’s second book, Warm Worlds and Otherwise.”

    Uh, no.

    Most people assumed Tiptree was Male because that’s what Tiptree said.

    Silverberg is the one who, when questions started to be raised, said, not “why would I doubt what Tiptree says?” but that Tiptree couldn’t be female because his prose was “ineluctably masculine ”

    Damned right he gets judged for that, especially when he’s engaged in actively reminding us of his blind spots.

    And even in 3112, we have not forgotten!

  37. @John A Arkansawyer

    Personally I’d say that in both cases any expectations of privacy were naive at best.

    I’d accept an argument that someone in a non-public setting might express opinions more hastily, or more bluntly, than if they knew the world was listening, but however the opinions are expressed they at least have to own the sentiment behind them.

  38. @OGH Thanks very much publishing this. I appreciate Mr. Silverberg’s fiction (in general) and his perspective (specifically).

    Regards,
    Dann
    “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!” – Samuel Adams

  39. I would not presume to comment on her experience of having had racist and sexist obstacles placed in her career path. I have no doubt that she did face such challenges, and I’m sure the pain created by them still lingers. I in no way intended to add to that pain. However, it seemed to me that this writer, after an unprecedented three-Hugo sweep and considerable career success otherwise, had triumphed over whatever obstacles were placed in her path and need not have used the Hugo platform to protest past mistreatment.

    This section, right here illustrates the pernicious Angry Black Woman lie. It glosses over the “obstacles” (i.e., open racist drivel spewed by both Puppy factions) and makes it seem Jemisin sound ungrateful and angry for no reason at all. A four-star example of gaslighting racism.

  40. One does not get to claim that one is neither racist nor sexist when they are busy proving how racist and sexist they are in their claim of defence.

    Silverberg may have had many good ideas decades ago. I enjoyed the Lord Valentine books for their diverse characters and vast setting, but in the years since the suck fairy visited them. Like his books, Silverberg is a product of his times, and those times are long past. If he really wants an example of ‘graceless’, he needs to look no farther than this heaping pile of garbage he thinks is a proper response to the controversy he himself created.

  41. @Craig Laurance Gidney: “It glosses over the “obstacles” (i.e., open racist drivel spewed by both Puppy factions)”

    That is an odd way to characterize what Jemisin said. She specifies editors, panelists, and a writer. It’s the editors who stand out to me.

    If publicly insults by a noted scumbag was an obstacle compared to fighting for her first book’s integrity, I’d think she’d’ve mentioned it.

    I do wonder if he gave Harlan Ellison the same advice about bad editors. If he did, it sure didn’t take–and I’m glad about that.

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