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. Tempest’s post *really* got (willfully?) misread and reacted to accordingly.

    I’ve seen some white male authors who aren’t sad puppies who have taken her post as a direct challenge to their livelihood.

    All I read into her post is to add to one’s horizons with reading outside of the standard boundaries one falls into. I have no truck with the “I only read the best!” lines I keep seeing from the Puppies. How do you know its the best? Have you looked at what you do read? Are you that willfully blind to who you read? It seems facile to me to say that.

    FWIW, full disclaimer, since the Skiffy and Fanty Show podcast is focusing on women and non binary authors in genre this year, I’ve more or less already taken up her challenge and *am* mostly reading women this year already.

  2. Racists gonna Racist.

    Sexists gonna Sexist.

    As long as you agree with the racism or the sexism you will accept it…even defend it.

  3. Life is too short to read mediocre stories just because I “should”, whether that’s coming from the likes of Bradford or the likes of Correia.

  4. When you misrepresent bigotry against white, heterosexual, Christian men as a “recommendation to read works by women”, you set up a straw man that fails not only to refute, but even to address, sciphi’s point.

  5. misrepresent bigotry against white, heterosexual, Christian men which didn’t happen.

    Really, people – a mild suggestion to open your reading horizons should not be responded to as if she threatened to remove your manhood without anesthesia.

  6. Paul (above) has a point. I know people who write for a living, and most are white, middle-class men who are getting on. Should they stop writing for a year, and get jobs? This is a lot easer said than done even if you *do* think that’s a spendid idea.

  7. Bradford wrote: “Essentially: no straight, cis, white males. Cutting that one demographic out of my reading list greatly improved my enjoyment of reading short stories.”

    That is not an exhortation to broaden one’s horizons. It’s a call to exclude works by certain authors based solely on race, sex, sexual orientation, and creed.

    Confessing biases and negative stereotypes is a laudable exercise. Bradford and her supporters should go first.

  8. Firstly, there was no reading list. Any reading list was after she made edits to the post and was a specific reaction to the fact that her post read like a literary version of Adolf Hitler circa 1933 and she caught deserved flak over it. The entire post pre-edit was what was fisked at Larry’s. Secondly, had she just recommended said authors and urged others to read more like them, perhaps by regularly posting such lists, nobody would have given a damn. Instead she wants you to read only non-white/straight/male authors. This is stupid, not least because the melanin content or sexual orientation of most authors is not advertised anywhere and for many even gender is not certain. So to follow her suggestion one would have to limit one’s literary intake to authors who explicitly declare such things. At my most voracious, and not including nonfiction or things read for school, I read 280+ full length adult novels a year, only 30-50 of which being rereads. This presents a problem for any such idiocy. Thirdly she RAGEQUITS while reading. Seriously, that suggests a certain emotional instability if the average written word causes her to throw down what she’s reading.

    Also, Beavis and Butthead? Really. That comment shows you’ve not only never seen Beavis and Butthead but that you’ve managed to reach a paucity of metaphor.

  9. Brian Niemeier – If you’re reading only one sort of work, unless you actually plan on reading more, focusing on another sort of work will technically be exclusionary. A suggestion to “read more mysteries” usually means “read less science fiction.”

    Regarding “exclusionary biases,” what I find quite irritating with your side of the argument is how you assume that stuff written by straight white males (henceforth SWMs) is inherently of merit. Why, example, would a black woman like Bradford even identify with something written by a SWM? Moreover, if you actually look at the books recommended, you’ll see a hatful of award-winning books and (Umberto Ecco) a best-seller.

    But again, please keep whining about how Bradford is oppressing poor downtrodden white males. It’s very entertaining, in a “look at the naked guy who thinks he’s wearing clothes” sort of way.

  10. ” you assume that stuff written by straight white males … is inherently of merit.”

    LOL, who has said that, please provide a quote…

  11. Please, do continue the dance of explaining she’s not a bigot for exhorting people to exclude books from their reading list based solely on race, sexual/gender orientation, and genitalia.

    I’m sure the declaration of homogeneity of the experiences of white, heterosexual men is not in the least dismissive or problematic.

    At the very least, perhaps your efforts to gentle her narrative will keep you on the cool kids list for a bit longer.

  12. There is a strong element of self-parody in the demands to view Bradford in a certain character when people who chronically fob off others as “social justice warriors” start posting demands that they receive social justice for their identity group.

  13. Do you have some evidence that I chronically fob off others as “social justice warriors” or are you just exercising some assumptions?

    I’m making no demands for social justice, nor do I have an “identity group.” I find the concept antithetical to individual consideration, dehumanizing and shallow.

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

  14. Eamon: Did you not find your way to this discussion from, perhaps, the Mad Genius Club? In other words, from that or another online community with numerous posts and comments exhibiting a dismissive or hostile attitude to “social justice warriors”? And do you object when you find that being done? I thought not.

  15. “If you’re reading only one sort of work…focusing on another sort of work will technically be exclusionary.”

    Big of you to concede that Bradford’s proposal is exclusionary.

    “A suggestion to ‘read more mysteries’ usually means ‘read less science fiction.'”

    Is pruning your TBR pile based on authors’ race, sex, sexual orientation, and creed morally neutral?

    “…[W]hat I find quite irritating with your side of the argument is how you assume that stuff written by straight white males…is inherently of merit.”

    Your emotional state isn’t my responsibility. I should show gratitude where it’s due, though. Your obvious projection gave me a good chuckle.

    “Why…would a black woman like Bradford even identify with something written by a SWM?”

    Because they’re both human beings–which is also the only internally consistent argument against racism.

    “…[P]lease keep whining about how Bradford is oppressing poor downtrodden white males.”

    Only if you explain why it’s OK to discriminate against white males.

    “It’s very entertaining, in a ‘look at the naked guy who thinks he’s wearing clothes’ sort of way.”

    Entertaining? You just said you were irritated.

  16. My, you are full of the condescending asumptions today. No, I didn’t find my way over from MGC, though I do comment there.

    Despite your dismissive thoughts and the arrogance behind them, I do speak out there and elsewhere when I find people utilizing superficial characteristics to promote dismissal and bigotry of entire groups based on spurious associations.

    Do you base your mischaracterizations of me on evidence, or are you incapable of assessing individuals, instead being locked into stereotyping?

  17. Eamon: I’ve only enjoyed your acquaintance for a little over an hour. And yet from the moment I read “Please, do continue the dance of explaining…” I knew I was going to need my hip waders.

  18. Perhaps you have specific examples where hip waders might be of use, Mr. Glyer? Or are you satisfied with indicating I’m a liar without feeling any need for justification?

  19. Reading only X authors, or only non-X authors may make sense if you’re young or read only a half-dozen books a year.

    When you get to my age, you already have a list of things to read before you die, which could be any time. 🙂

    If you read a couple of hundred books a year, trying to make all the authors fit some rule is a lot more difficult.

    (And if you’re in book discussion groups, just throw the whole thing out the window.)

  20. So in less than two hours you’ve reached the limits of your rhetorical inventiveness? Claiming that someone has called you a liar?

  21. Did you have some other intention with the hip waders remark? Did you not intend to reference the common colloquial construct of bullshit deep enough to require waders?

    If so, please forgive, but I do not take your meaning.

    Or perhaps you’re under the misapprehension that implying someone’s statements are bullshit is not equivalent to calling them a liar?

  22. 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. But you may be able to convince me that you find it threatening. It may be the truth for you.

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

    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.

  24. Sheesh! Why all the brouhaha? I read what I feel like reading, and the proclivities (or lack of same) of the author(s) are of little interest to me, as long as he/she/they write well and tell good stories. Myself, I don’t like to be preached to — by authors or critics.

  25. “There is a strong element of self-parody…when people who chronically fob off others as ‘social justice warriors’ start posting demands that they receive social justice for their identity group.”

    Please explain why straight, white, Christian men shouldn’t receive social justice.

  26. I’d like to point out I wasn’t led to any particular conclusion by Larry’s original post. I thought the idea up earlier in the day I just didn’t have a chance to post anything till I did. Larry had posted by then so I linked to it.

    And I wasn’t seeking to ratify stupid bigoted advice, I was simply making fun of stupid bigoted advice by suggesting it wont work the way she wants. I’d encourage more people to read Sarah, Jagi and Cedar, they are great authors. I’d just never be dumb enough to suggest you should read more authors based on the colour of their skin or their type of genitals. I will leave that to the ideological children of the eugenicists and fascists.

    But thoughtless bigots are going to be thoughtless bigots, all we can really do it point and laugh at them.

  27. A similar challenge (read only women authors for a year) made me notice how male-heavy my bookshelves were. I’m too lazy to read *only* women authors (and there are some favorite authors of mine who are men that I don’t want to give up.) But I decided to make more of an effort to *seek out* women authors for a while.

    And in the process discovered Tamora Pierce, Ann Leckie, Katherine Eliska Kimbriel, Rosemary Kirsten and Helene Wecker, among others. I’m not sorry I did it.

    I think I will make an effort to seek out writers of color next. Jemisin is great and Barnes is fun, but I wonder who else is out there.

    Do I think straight white male authors will go out of business as a result? Hardly. It’s not like everybody in the country is going to quit reading them, and they already get more publicity and reviews on the average, so they’ll do fine. Let the puppies yelp.

  28. 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.

  29. Wow! Kerfuffle seems to be appropriate, if somewhat lighthearted nomenclature for this subject. After following all the various biases and political positions I still find myself reading (aand enjoying) some — not all — of Correia’s oeuvre. Regardless of his disagreeable personal attitude. Go figure.

  30. I’ve waited patiently for someone to answer the question at the heart of this controversy: ‘Why is it morally acceptable to discriminate against white, straight, Christian men?’

    I take the following as an implicit answer.

    “Do I think straight white male authors will go out of business as a result? Hardly. It’s not like everybody in the country is going to quit reading them, and they already get more publicity and reviews on the average, so they’ll do fine.”

    So it’s alright by Bradford and her supporters to discriminate based on race, sex, creed, and sexual orientation as long as members of the targeted demographic suffer only moderate financial hardship. Noted for the record.

  31. Brian: Your proposition is loony, that may be why nobody has taken it seriously.

    Bradford has the same right you have to read what she wants. Bradford has the same right you have to try and persuade people to read what she recommends.

    There is no discrimination involved because she has no legal power to make anybody do the things she recommends, or stop people from reading what they want.

  32. Taral Wayne: “I know people who write for a living, and most are white, middle-class men who are getting on. Should they stop writing for a year, and get jobs?”

    Maybe if 100% of people follow Bradford’s suggestion, which won’t be happening. But do those writers have an inherent right to be read and enjoyed by masses of readers? I think that nobody is really entitled to get me read their book. Focusing on something (and excluding something else) is a decision I can make for whatever reasons I want to.

    Brian Niemeier: “That is not an exhortation to broaden one’s horizons. It’s a call to exclude works by certain authors based solely on race, sex, sexual orientation, and creed.”

    That is, giving writers who belong to underrepredented and marginalized groups a better chance to find readers for a limited time. Reading something means not reading everything else.

    I won’ be participating in the challenge because a year is way too long for me, but maybe I’ll try a month sometime. I’m sorry for all the middle-class white writer dudes I will be putting out of business.

  33. You’ve nicely narrowed the definition of discrimination there, Mr. Glyer, is serves your purposes well.

    When did legal power to enforce become an element?

  34. I didn’t keep a precise List of books I read last year, but I’d guess that at least 80 % of them were “chicklit” mysteries written purportedly by women. So nu?

    Almost all of them have a strong female protagonist, usually in a heterosexual relationship (or trying to get into one) with a man, and about half of them include a “gay” (male or female) couple depicted amiably (like s-f writer F. M. Busby did back in the 1970s).

    I have no objection to Bradford’s suggestion, and in fact rather like it, but when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, … ummm.. I’m not about to spend my time investigating the the skincolor, gender, or in-bed activities of the authors of the books I read, thank you very much.

  35. Mike, this is someone who is literally challenging people to not read science fiction. Please tell me you’ve read Farhenheit 451. You know, the part where people willingly give up their books because of television and because they thought it was the smart thing to do? The right thing to do? The social thing to do?

    Yeah, its not the science fiction thing to do. You may not realize it, but you have a duty in your capacity as a long-time leading fanzine leader to, oh, I don’t know, defend the fan’s interest against the fanatical puritans like Bradford who are literally challenging us to stop reading “bad” types of science fiction.

    Come on, my good man and our gracious host. You stand for Bradbury more than anti-Bradbury, don’t you? Just a little? You aren’t really thinking of becoming a fireman, are you?

  36. I think I am only going to read books by straight white cis males who epitomizes the male viewpoint, like James Tiptree, Jr.

    Oh, dear….

  37. “Bradford has the same right you have to try and persuade people to read what she recommends.”

    I asked why Bradford is justified in advising people not to read books by white, straight, Christian male authors. Rephrasing my question as a premise isn’t an answer. It’s evasive question-begging.

    And you’re strawmanning again. The folks taking issue with Bradford’s challenge couldn’t care less about what books she recommends. We care that she’s advising people not to read books based solely on their authors’ race, sex, sexual orientation, and creed. The title of her piece is “I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year”. The mental acrobatics needed to reframe that as “Broaden Your Literary Horizons” would intimidate Cirque du Soleil.

    I’ll make this simple. Is Bradford–is *anyone* justified in advising readers to stop reading certain books based solely on the authors’ sex, race, sexual orientation, and creed? If so, why?

  38. Xdpaul: Love the eloquence of the comment but there’s science fiction on her recommended list.

    When I first learned about her article yesterday I figured she was mainly preaching to the choir. Little did I suspect her ability to pressure everyone’s ganglia in just the right place to produce the maximum amount of screaming.

  39. Brian: So far as I can tell you are using justification in the sense of “the reason why someone properly holds a belief.” Bradford herself offers justifications in the article you object to:

    • “Cutting that one demographic out of my reading list greatly improved my enjoyment of reading short stories.”
    • “Limiting myself in this way also made me aware of how often certain magazines published whole issues in which no women or POC authors made an appearance”
    • “I ended that year with a new understanding of what kind of fiction I enjoy most”

    She justifies her challenge on the basis of personal pleasure, increased awareness of publishing trends, and heightened self-understanding.

    Next are you going to complain that the challenge hasn’t been justified to you, in terms you’ve defined, that are agreeable to you? That you didn’t mean just any old justifications, but only ones that you value?

  40. I see the what-“about-the-MEN” crowd is out in force on this one…

    What bothers me, which nobody here has noticed, is the calendar aspect of this bigotry. Note that Bradfort appears to have a particular animus against *this year’s* books, as opposed to next year’s, or last year’s. How can she justify that? Why is it fair to treat 2015 books differently than 2014 books, or 2016 books? That’s TEMPORALISM, that is!

    But seriously, people. Suppose we *do* do this. The books by men will still be there when the challenge year is over.

    For that matter, if I didn’t read any science fiction by straight white cis men this year because I was too busy building a canoe and I didn’t read *any* science fiction this year, I suspect the reaction would be “that’s too bad, but the books will still be here when you have time.” Yet if I don’t read the exact same books for the exact same amount of time *because I am too busy reading books by women and minorities” suddenly that’s like burning books?

  41. @Cat.
    I am still preordering and buying fiction by men this year. I’m just focusing my reading on women and non binary authors. I’m already discovering and becoming more aware of authors whom I might not have tried, otherwise.
    This also might mean that most of my reviews skew, but whether my reviews actually affect sales is a whole other subject.

  42. Anyone demanding to know why Bradford finds so much cis/straight/white-male fiction offensive to the point of rage-quitting, read your own comments.

  43. I called it a dance earlier, increasingly apt, as everyone keeps prancing around the core issue and bringing mockery (subtle and not) and derision down on secondary and tertiary issues. Probably quaternary as well, but I’d have to check.

    I don’t actually care who reads what, or what focus someone wants to place on their reading for what time period. That’s not the core issue.

    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.

    Perhaps, like Mr. Glyer, others don’t find it threatening. Or perhaps they enjoy exercising exceedingly narrow definitions of things like discrimination and bigotry.

    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.

  44. Eamon said: “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.”

    So, Eamon, would you consider a college course where the entire curriculum’s reading list was 19th century French authors, or classical Latin authors, or Southern US authors to be bigoted? Let’s make it a high volume course, so that, for practical purposes, that’s all the fiction you’re reading for the duration unless you have severe insomnia.

    You have noted in all this sturm und drang that she’s not suggesting that this be a permanent change in anyone’s reading habits, right?

  45. 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.

    I noted, I don’t care how people want to narrow their focus, what they want to focus on in their reading. No issues with it.

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

    That’s all.

  46. @Eamon: Nice try, sincerely. Mad props for sticking with it despite the attempts at misdirection and humor at your expense.

    No one will here has, nor I suspect will, address the core issue because the moment that they do, they I’ll have to either defend, deny or interpret Bradford’s many, many racist and bigoted comments that are readily available and attributable. That is not to be borne.

    I doubt that there is much overlap between reading audiences for KTB and LC. Her proposition can’t possibly affect his sales. That he still addresses this isn’t out of a fear that his readers won’t buy one of his books for a year. Rather, he recognizes the danger of accepting the casual bigotry of KTB in the guise of ‘It’s good for you!’.

    All that said, the likelihood that you can change even one person’s opinion here, or at Whatever, or Pretty-Terrible, or Metafilter is about as high as the ability of KTB, or Scalzi, or Luhrs to change a corresponding opinion at MHI, or Torgensen’s or at According to Hoyt.

    The difference is that at the latter venues, you are not immediately classified by race, sex, gender and religion. To be clear, our host here hasn’t done that AFAICR, but it is routine in the comments and the hosts of the other blogs.

  47. Of course she has some science fiction on her list, Mike! It is what is on her forbidden list that should raise a flag for anyone who actually understood what Bradbury was writing. On her forbidden list is “wrong” science fiction.

    My words may be eloquent, but they are also accurate. She has formed a list of forbidden books (thus the negation sign over American Gods, as opposed to a plus sign over promoted books.)

    Of course she has reasons. It just happens that her reasons are the exact same reasons that Bradbury identified as stupid and pernicious ones that contribute to illiteracy and cultural decline.

    Anyone who defends Bradford’s act of willful ignorance and illiteracy advocates the same. No way around it.It is not controversial that she is incapable of reading fiction by men, because men terrify her. Plenty of women live their entire lives in abject terror of the written word. She has every right to be afraid and to shelter herself from the oppressive onslaught presented by such misogynist he-men as Neil Gaiman. But expecting others to follow her lead into science fiction ignorance should be called out by those who advocate science fiction.

    If I were to declare that I’m going to spend the next year avoiding reading Hugo winners, would you think I would become more of an authority on award-winning science fiction, or less?

    Bradford would have gotten better results by turning off her teevee for a year.

    What Bradford reads is her business. What science fiction fans read is ours, and anyone who cares about science fiction is doing the absolute right thing in telling this book-banning busybody scold to go pound sand.

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