Pixel Scroll 9/14/16 A Trans-Atlantic Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Hurrah!

(1) VALUE OF SPECIAL THEME ISSUES. Neil Clarke has written a blog post, “Specials”, to discuss what he learned from a discussion he launched yesterday on Twitter.

So yesterday I took to Twitter to get an answer to a question I had about the value of special theme issues as a tool in addressing representation. It was driven in part by an incomplete editorial sitting on my desktop for a couple of months now…..

Here’s where I made a few mistakes:

  1. Assuming that the primary goal for these projects was long-term (as in taking a long time) or that there ever was just one. In fact, it appears as though in many of these cases, a goal was to spotlight a specific community or provide a safe entry point, not necessarily to focus on altering the landscape for the field or attract a permanent change in the slush pile for the magazine. Yes, some of these already had existing policies in place to monitor and maintain that specific branch of diversity. They were a celebration rather than a corrective measure, but hasn’t been the norm across the years….

What I learned:

  1. That there is a serious and demonstrable benefit to the theme projects, but not necessarily in direct service of the results I hoped for. I heard from a wide variety of people who had career-changing moments from their involvement in projects as ranging from anthologies, to Helix, to Escape Artists, and Lightspeed’s Destroy series. A common refrain was that it encouraged them to try, gave them a confidence boost when they needed it, made them feel like they belonged, and served as a stepping stone. That last one is a long-term thing. It might not be to the big scale of the long-term goal I was talking about, but it was certainly step in the right direction. There is something to be said to the qualitative safety element of these projects even if it doesn’t specifically raise to the level of changing the playing field on a bigger scale….

(2) VERBOSE VERISIMILITUDE. After these introductory paragraphs I found her stylistic demonstration to be deeply intriguing – Sarah A. Hoyt’s “The Quality of Description Should not be Strained” at Mad Genius Club. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The Quality of Description Should not be Strained, a Dialogue with Bill and Mike.

“Hey there buddy,” Mike said, as he came into the office, slamming the door behind him and making for the coffee maker like it was on fire and he had the only firehose on the planet.  “Why so glum?”

Bill blinked from where he sat at his desk, looking across him at the red spires dotting the desert landscape outside the office window.  “My writer’s group said I needed more description and sense of place,” he said.  “But then when I put in description, they told me I had stopped the action and given them indigestible infodumps.”

(3) INTERNET ANTIQUITY. While rhapsodizing yesterday about the 10-year anniversary of bacon cat and the 18th anniversary of Whatever, John Scalzi said:

It’s an interesting time to be doing a blog, still, because I think it’s safe to declare the Age of Blogging well and truly over, inasmuch as personal blogging as been superseded in nearly every way by social media, including Twitter (my favorite), Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and so on and so forth. I’m not planning on mourning blogs in general — as a phenomenon they had their moment and it was a relatively good one — but it is interesting to watch the blog tide recede, with just a few die-hards left to do them old-school, like I do.

Reading that, I thought no wonder I’ve really been in the swing of blogging this past year. I’m one of the great late-adopters, and seem to have timed my entry into the field perfectly. Had I waited a few moments longer blogs would have been extinct…

(4) OF COURSE NOBODY’S HAPPY. Aaron has penned a long and thoughtful post about slates and this year’s Hugos in “Biased Opinion: 2016 Hugo Awards Post-Mortem” at Dreaming of Other Worlds. This includes a category-by-category breakdown of the results. Filers actually started discussing this yesterday. I want to point even more people at it by including the link in today’s Scroll.

But why have the Pups erupted in paroxysms of rage when their candidates generally did so well in the final Hugo voting? The first reason is that, despite their claims that they were merely nominating and supporting what they felt were the “best” works, it seems that what they really wanted was for their political allies and personal cronies to win. The Puppy picks that won in 2016 were Nnedi Okorafor, Hao Jingfang, Neil Gaiman, Andy Weir, Abigail Larson, Mike Glyer, none of whom are beholden to the Pups in any way. In fact, one of the things that seems to have enraged the Pups is that Gaiman was insufficiently grateful to them for their support, calling them out on their bad behavior over the last couple of years with his acceptance speech. If supporting quality works was the primary goal of the Pups, then Gaiman’s stance wouldn’t matter to them one way or the other – they would be extolling the victory of The Sandman: Overture as a triumph of what they regard as good work.

(5) NEW BUNDLE. Now’s the time to pick up the New StoryBundle: Extreme Sci-Fi:

bundle_113_cover

For three weeks only, from September 14 through October 6, you can get five or ten DRM-free ebooks (your choice) ready for loading on any e-reading device you like. You decide what you want to pay. After that, this bundle will disappear forever.

The initial titles in the Extreme Sci-Fi Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • The Me and Elsie Chronicles by M. L. Buchman
  • Climbing Olympus by Kevin J. Anderson
  • Orphan – Giant Robot Planetary Competition: Book 1 by J.R. Murdock
  • Suave Rob’s Double-X Derring Do by J. Daniel Sawyer
  • Star Fall by Dean Wesley Smith

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus five more:

  • Away Games by Mike Resnick
  • Extremes by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Hadrian’s Flight by J. Daniel Sawyer
  • Risk Takers by Fiction River
  • Fairchild by Blaze Ward

We’ve got a classics, best-sellers, and four brand new books written especially for this bundle celebrating the human spirit. Inside, you’ll find dark tales of murder and intrigue, high-comic farce, young adult adventure, awe and wonder, rapture and redemption.

(6) JACK VANCE. Paul Weimer analyzes one of Jack Vance’s richly inventive fictional worlds in “Robinson Crusoe of Tschai: Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure Tetralogy”, posted at Tor.com.

Strange customs and societies, a hallmark of Vance’s fiction, populate (and almost overcrowd) the world. What is near-mandatory in one region of Tschai will get you killed in another. Anyone who despairs of planets in SF which feature all the same terrain and the same people have never visited Tschai. This variety and diversity is such that most people who encounter Reith and hear his story just think he’s from some corner of Tschai that they are unaware of, and probably crazy to boot.

(7) PASSENGER. NPR reports what it’s like to ride along in a self-driving Uber car.

Fourteen self-driving Ford Fusions idle in front of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh.

On each vehicle, dozens of stationary and spinning cameras collect 1.4 million distance measurements per second, guiding the car on its journey.

Beginning Wednesday, the cars will be deployed on Pittsburgh’s streets in a striking experiment by Uber to introduce self-driving technology to its passengers.

“For me this is really important,” says Anthony Levandowski, the head of Uber’s self-driving car team, “because I really believe that the most important things that computers are going to do in the next 10 years is drive cars.”

(8) LICENSE TO WRITE. Larry Correia says don’t be bullied: “Writers should be Cultural Appropriating all the Awesome Stuff”.

I’ve talked about Cultural Appropriation before, and why it is one of the most appallingly stupid ideas every foisted on the gullible in general, and even worse when used as a bludgeon against fiction authors.

First off, what is “Cultural Appropriation”?  From the linked talk:

The author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University who for the record is white, defines cultural appropriation as “taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorised use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.”

The part that got left out of that definition is that engaging in Cultural Appropriation is a grievous mortal sin that self-righteous busy bodies can then use to shame anyone they don’t like.

Look at that definition. Basically anything you use that comes from another culture is stealing. That is so patently absurd right out the gate that it is laughable. Anybody who has two working brain cells to rub together, who hasn’t been fully indoctrinated in the cult of social justice immediately realizes that sounds like utter bullshit.

If you know anything about the history of the world, you would know that it has been one long session of borrowing and stealing ideas from other people, going back to the dawn of civilization. Man, that cuneiform thing is pretty sweet. I’m going to steal writing. NOT OKAY! CULTURAL APPROPRIATION!

Everything was invented by somebody, and if it was awesome, it got used by somebody else. At some point in time thousands of years ago some sharp dude got sick of girding up his loins and invented pants. We’re all stealing from that guy. Damn you racists and your slacks.

In his customary swashbuckling style, he treats anyone’s concern about this issue as an absurd failure to comprehend how culture and the sharing of ideas works. That tone naturally makes people want to fire back on the same terms – whereas I wonder what everyone might say if he had expressed the same views in a persuasive structured argument.

One of Correia’s commenters implied that would look like Moshe Feder’s recent comment on Facebook.

MOSHE FEDER: I’ve always found “cultural appropriation” a weird concept. To me, it’s usually a progressive step toward a future in which humanity realizes that from a galactic point of view, we all share ONE culture — albeit a complex and varied one — the planetary culture developed by homo sapiens over tens of thousands of years. It was by this very so-called “appropriation” that fire, animal husbandry, agriculture, the wheel, and other crucial advances were spread to the benefit of all. Of course, there _are_ cases where CA is rude or inappropriate, as when you use it to mock or misrepresent other groups, and people of good will try to avoid those. But even those uses are protected by our free speech rights. (As are the protestations of those who resent such uses.) But all too often, complaints about cultural appropriation are another example of political correctness carried to the point of absurdity, the point at which it gives unscrupulous demagogues like Trump something they can look sensible for complaining about.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born September 14, 1914 — Clayton Moore, TV’s The Lone Ranger.
  • Born September 14, 1936 — Walter Koenig (age 80). He was 31 when he started Star Trek.

(10) SQUARE DEAL FOR NUMBER ONE FAN. Although the neighbors didn’t succeed in having Forry Ackerman’s last home designated a cultural landmark, the city may agree to name a Los Feliz neighborhood intersection in his honor. The Los Feliz Ledger has the story:

“Sci-Fi” Square: Beloved Local, Ackerman, Up for Honor.

The intersection of Franklin and Vermont avenues may soon be known as “Forrest J Ackerman Square,” thanks to an August motion by Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu (CD 4).

The square would honor Ackerman, a lifetime Angeleno best known for coining the term “sci-fi.”….

The notion of honoring Ackerman with a city square was first brought up at a March meeting of the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission, where a group called “Concerned Citizens of Los Feliz” tried and failed to gain historic status for a bungalow on Russell Avenue, which Ackerman called home for the final six years of his life.

Ackerman referred to the bungalow as his “Acker-Mini-Mansion,” in reference to the “Ackermansion,” his former home on Glendower Avenue in the Hollywood Hills.

(11) GEAR. Vox Day is thinking of doing some Dread Ilk merchandise. Here are the initial ideas.

I’m interested in knowing which designs are of most interest to the Ilk. So, here are a few random ideas; let me know which would be of the most interest to you, assuming that the designs are well-executed. Or if you have any other ideas, feel free to throw them out.

  • Evil Legion of Evil (member’s edition)
  • Evil Legion of Evil (Red Meat cartoon)
  • Vile Faceless Minion
  • Dread Ilk
  • Rabid Puppies 2015
  • Rabid Puppies 2016
  • Vox Day Che
  • Just Say N20 (Psykosonik lyrics on back)
  • Spacebunny (cartoon logo)
  • Supreme Dark Lord (Altar of Hate mask logo)
  • SJWAL cover
  • Cuckservative cover with 1790 law quote
  • That Red Dot On Your Chest Means My Daddy Is Watching
  • Castalia House logo “Restoring Science Fiction Since 2014”
  • There Will Be War
  • The Missionaries

(12) GAME SHOW. Steven H Silver is back with another stfnal Jeopardy! question:

A daily double in Awards. She bet $2400 and got it right on a total guess.

jeop-201690914

I’m sure all you Filers would have cashed that in.

(13) THE HONOR OF THE THING. John Scalzi confessed on Twitter:

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes  to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

252 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/14/16 A Trans-Atlantic Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Hurrah!

  1. Darren, it sounds like you’re saying no one can have reasonable objections to you being intentionally nasty and offensive to people who, doing no harm, dare to have religious beliefs you disagree with. Indeed, perhaps, just dare to have religious beliefs. For the sake of being offensive.

    The author of The Last Temptation of Christ had something thoughtful to say, and said it with intelligence and thought. It offended some didn’t offend others, and there was a lot of good discussion around the movie.

    If you just want to write something that will offend people, yes, you have the right to do that.

    And then other people have the right to tell you you’re acting like an ass. You don’t have any more right to demand respectful treatment than anyone else, and aren’t likely to receive more respect than you extend to others.

  2. So, you’re defending artistic license and an individual’s right to reject myth as fact? If so, I’m not going to disagree.

    (snip)

    But thinking people should not feel obligated to pretend to believe any- and everything merely to avoid giving offense? Sure.

    A big part of what informed my argument on this today is something that happened when the original JKR news came out–we (meaning File770, not you and I) were discussing the mention of skinwalkers, and someone (not a regular poster, not sure if he has commented much ever) jumped in to say basically that since discussing the subject is taboo among the Navajo, not only does JKR not have the right to use the idea in fiction, but we at File770 didn’t have the right to be discussing the concept. (Not an exact quote, see the last comment on this page.) I found the idea that outside parties must abide by the social taboos of other cultures while discussing them to be both silly and incredibly unreasonable.

    (BTW, looking at further comments on that scroll, it brings to mind something I’ve been wondering about lately–anybody know what’s up with Rev. Bob’s absence?)

  3. Darren, it sounds like you’re saying no one can have reasonable objections to you being intentionally nasty and offensive to people who, doing no harm, dare to have religious beliefs you disagree with. Indeed, perhaps, just dare to have religious beliefs. For the sake of being offensive.

    It may be subtle, but I believe that there is a difference between “intending to be offensive” and “not obligated to be respectful.” For instance, almost everyone would think that it is okay for me to write a story reinventing the mythological strongman Enkidu because there aren’t any followers of ancient Assyrian religion left to object to it. A few people would have a problem with me writing a story reinventing the mythological strongman Hercules because there are actually current worshipers of the Greek gods. But millions would have a problem with me writing a story reinventing the mythological strongman Samson because a large percentage of the world’s population believe in the connected religion and actually believe that Samson was a historical figure. Write three versions of a story with barely any changes at all except for names and a few background details, and you either have nobody offended, a handful of people offended, or a “holy crap, I think I need a bodyguard” number of people offended. So is the Enkidu story respectful, the Hercules story a little disrespectful, and the Samson story highly disrespectful?

  4. Darren, in both of the latter two cases, there’s an awful lot you could do with your story that need not be disrespectful, but yes, there’d be some possibility with the second, and more with the third, and in either case it wouldn’t necessarily be something you should have thought better of. But it could be.

    In the first case, I think you’d have to work hard to produce something offensive. Very hard. Because there’s no one left who cares about Enkidu except specialists in that mythology.

    But, in any case, the real point is, are you hurting real people, and why are you doing it? If you have something to say, and you’ve thought it through, go for it, while remembering that you may get a reaction that isn’t what you want.

    If you’re doing it for the lulz, though, you may get an even more negative reaction, from more people.

  5. @Darren Garrison – I found the idea that outside parties must abide by the social taboos of other cultures while discussing them to be both silly and incredibly unreasonable.

    I also thought it was silly, in the context of the Filer discussion. Not talking about skinwalkers in front of one of the families I grew up with, who were Navajo? Just polite. Also, I tend to view suspiciously anyone trying to shut down discussion of anything on behalf of a group they don’t belong to, which I think was the case with the attempt to silence discussion of skinwalkers.

    In other words, I don’t think there’s anything that shouldn’t be talked about, although there are situations where doing so is insensitive, inappropriate, uncalled for, etc.

    So is the Enkidu story respectful, the Hercules story a little disrespectful, and the Samson story highly disrespectful?

    I’m Catholic, but I don’t think I’m the best (straw?) believer to answer that, because I can’t imagine caring in any of those instances. However, if everything you know about Samson, because you can’t be arsed to even check Wikipedia, is from the Leonard Cohen song, then, yeah, it’s pretty disrespectful to write a story about Samson. Write a good story that doesn’t contradict anything in the written record (which is what Kazantzakis did with The Last Temptation of Christ) and the noisy fringe may object, but most people won’t.

    I’ve also noticed Rev. Bob’s absence and hope he’s okay. Stevie too.

  6. Darren Garrison: in that other thread, you will notice you were far from the only one who did not capitulate to that random demand.

    In that same thread, though, you have things like Red Wombat pointing out: “You have the right to do many things. Merely having the right, however, does not make something the good or kind or helpful thing to do.”

    Do you disagree?

  7. I’ve also noticed Rev. Bob’s absence and hope he’s okay. Stevie too.

    I’ve seen Stevie posting on Whatever fairly recently. (And never mind Rev. Bob–I see he was posting on Mobileread as recently as yesterday. He’s just abandoned us. Sob.) (And by “sob”, I mean “a crying sound”, not questioning his parentage.)

    Merely having the right, however, does not make something the good or kind or helpful thing to do.”

    Do you disagree?

    I disagree, in that I do not think “not being good or kind or helpful” is a good enough reason to not write something. It is okay to create things that aren’t for absolutely everyone, and it is okay to create things that aren’t liked by absolutely everyone. And it is okay to create things that some segment of humanity finds is offensive to their beliefs, without having to do the bow and scrape and beg for forgiveness ritual demanded by internet attack mobs.

  8. I did a sermon this summer titled “Juneteenth and the Mystery of the Missing Hymn”. One of my forebears in my religion, Julia Ward Howe, wrote probably the most famous song ever from our tradition, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. It’s not in our hymnal.

    So as I started researching why that was–I never found any hard evidence, so I had to speculate–I asked around among my co-religionists. One answer I got was that Howe, having become a peace activist, had renounced it. An intriguing suggestion which I believe is wishful thinking. To the end of her life, it was played to honor her at her public appearances. I found no evidence whatsoever that she ever renounced it. (Or apologized for it.) I didn’t do the sort of deep dive that a biographer would have, but I did read her memoir and the biographies I could find.

    That song gave great offense to many. It still gives offense today. And in its youth, it helped raise an army that brought death and destruction to my part of the country, ushering in the first modern war. And you know what? On balance, I’m okay with that. No apology needed. I’m glad none was given.

    So if that’s what you’re up against, there’s no more need to avoid offense as there would have been for Picasso to apologize for Guernica.

    And there’s my own implied Godwinning of the thread.

  9. Darren: But you seem to also be asserting that writing a lengthy thoughtful rumination on religion (Last Temptation), or a sharp satire thereon (Satanic Verses, Lamb), that offend some religious types from a mainstream and well-supported group, are ethically equivalent to doing the same thing without having bothered to research it, or doing it to a group lacking in representation, or both. You seem to be saying that offending ISIS (pretty solidly evil, and also pretty solidly in control of how their image appears to the world), offending the Catholic Church (A vast and strongly flawed organization with which I have a number of disagreements, but which has also done good, and which holds notable prestige and an image it has curated long and hard), and offending the Navajo (a group neither comprised of evildoers nor holding power, which has been misrepresented much more often than correctly represented, when not written out of the present entirely) are equally acceptable outcomes all equally deserving of being treated with “to hell with that”. You’re saying that it doesn’t matter if the motivation is sincere desire to express an uncommon perspective on faith, to skewer the doings of the most evil people in the world, to create a playground for fans, or just for giggles. Any art at all of any kind for any motivation is equally worthy and permissible with equally minimal consequences because “art”. Lastly, it seems you feel ANY apology or revision or reconsideration based on feedback from any group (See again Diane Duane) is equivalent to “bowing and scraping and begging for forgiveness” and surrendering to an internet mob.

    There is one way in which I agree, mildly; if a person wishes to publish any of the above and a publisher finds room for them, I do not wish the publication to be banned, especially by a government.

    It does not mean I cannot consider the person responsible for the blatantly egregiously horrible versions of this to be anything less than horrible, and the wilfully clueless to be any less wilfully clueless (Which is vastly worst than being unwittingly clueless. The unwitting learn.)

    It also doesn’t mean I feel it necessary to jump on the back of every person who writes anything offensive. Even potentially something offensive to ME, personally. Because there’s context. There’s always context. And not everything offensive to someone is equally offensive to everyone, or with equal reason behind its offensiveness.

  10. I disagree, in that I do not think “not being good or kind or helpful” is a good enough reason to not write something.

    EVER?

    I admit I prefer Abi Sutherland’s formulation of “smarter, wiser, or more joyful”. The key being the OR; not everything that makes us more joyful is smart or wise, not everything that makes us wiser is joyful. Et cetera.

  11. Quick link drop post because dogs must be walked, and I only started scrolling after doing some grading:

    The Anglo Saxons considered the Celts and Irish different races: if “race” wasn’t a socially constructed concept (which has REAL social implications for the stigmatized groups), it wouldn’t keep changing over time and across culture.

    Scholarship on medieval constructions of race exists: http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2006/08/on-medieval-race.html

    How the Irish Became White: https://www.amazon.com/Irish-Became-White-Routledge-Classics/dp/0415963095

  12. Quick p.s.: If “race” was as immutable as some claim, then the “one drop laws” would never have been necessary (but they existed for a reason–and oh yes, historians have shown how antiblack racism was constructed as a result of slavery, rather than pre-existing it, which a lot of people think is the case):

    http://parablemania.ektopos.com/archives/2011/09/scotus1drop.html

    https://www.amazon.com/Irish-Became-White-Routledge-Classics/dp/0415963095

  13. Darren: But you seem to also be asserting that writing a lengthy thoughtful rumination on religion (Last Temptation), or a sharp satire thereon (Satanic Verses, Lamb), that offend some religious types from a mainstream and well-supported group, are ethically equivalent to doing the same thing without having bothered to research it, or doing it to a group lacking in representation, or both.

    That’s because I think that the “poorly researched” part is a red herring. It appears to me that the people that consider things to be cultural appropriation aren’t looking to the depth of the research or the quality of the prose–they are complaining that anyone has the temerity to say something about a different culture without their approval.

    Lastly, it seems you feel ANY apology or revision or reconsideration based on feedback from any group (See again Diane Duane) is equivalent to “bowing and scraping and begging for forgiveness” and surrendering to an internet mob.

    No, I’m saying that you should only apologize if you are objectively wrong. For instance, if (given the mention of autism above) you wrote that autistic people were inherently prone to a much greater degree of violence than the general public, and a few hundred someones point you to statistics proving that you are wrong the proper thing to do is to address it and apologize. But you do not have to apologize for having an opinion that someone finds offensive (such as saying “wow, isn’t it zany that some people living today actually believe in that ‘skinwalker’ crap?”) Get a few hundred people complaining about that? Tough for them.

    (Here’s where I would embed this image, if images could be embedded.)

  14. When everything that has been said to outsiders by outsiders about a culture has been incorrect – so much so that it makes it hard for insiders in that culture to get their actual perspective published in turn – then yes, that culture will tend to say, “No, next time, you ask permission.”

    I recently attended an online workshop with Debbie Reese, and she said that actually, if you want to write about most Native American Nations, the nations themselves (who have websites) tend to have rules about how to approach them for interviews. Because fiction books that claimed to be correctly researched about such topics as adoption of Native children by outside families have actually *affected real world adoption policy*. And because, in lesser instances, depictions of Native Americans as lesser or different *in fiction* have also demonstrably increased instances of bullying by non-Natives, or alienation and depression by Natives.

    So Rowling’s work is a drop in the bucket. So you sneer at religion. There are still reasons why her cultural appropriation adds to an ongoing problem in a real way (more because of the size of her platform) and why your sneering “Who cares what those backwards people believe” and proclaiming against the injustice of talking about cultural appropriation does the opposite of redressing actual real world injustice.

    And nobody says you can’t believe, or even opine, that someone’s personal beliefs are hokum. I’ve encountered the demand to take seriously – as historical fact – one Native Canadian culture’s creation myth, and I consider taking it as historical fact equivalent to taking as fact the story of biblical Creation (Though less damaging, as First Nations creation myths don’t inform government policy). However, there’s a time and a place to say so, and it’s not while people are saying, “excuse me, you, with the platform, just trampled our beliefs, our history and our actual existance for the sake of adding a bit of detail to your website about British magic.”

  15. @ Heather Rose Jones

    Your SCA name was Tangwystl? Cool! My SCA name (after the Laurel Herald nuked Lindrael) was Myfanwy ferch Tangwystl.

    @ Darren Garrison,

    So I don’t get it. Everyone objecting to cultural appropriation has exactly the same right you are claiming to write what they want, exactly how they want to write it, and tell you to go to hell if you are offended. Whatever you expected the people you would tell to go to hell to do (Go away quietly, maybe? Drop the subject? Calm down and grow a thicker skin?) is what you should do next. Demonstrate for us.

  16. Quick link drop post because dogs must be walked

    Just make sure that you don’t get confused, walk the spice, and flow the dogs.

    The Anglo Saxons considered the Celts and Irish different races:

    And even today there are fractal definitions of race. For instance, I’d guess that approximately 99.9% of us of European descent wouldn’t know a Hutu from a Tutsi–both would just be “black.” But the Tutsi and Hutu can see enough differences in each other to make it worth slaughtering each other by the hundreds of thousands.

    (Personally, I wish that we saw races in terms of Y-chromosome haplogroups, just so that I could hear some redneck say “ain’t no daughter of mine gonna marry no E1b1a1a1f1a!”)

  17. Hey! Those rednecks are, god help me, my people! Dammit. But they are.

    I’m from South Carolina. They’re mine, too.

  18. Cultural appropriation shouldn’t be treated as overreacting by sensitive people. It’s a serious issue which hurts people. Good writers research their topics be it science, people, time periods.

    To hell with them is not only insensitive but it makes one a bad writer. One should expect criticism when one doesn’t research true life aspects of their book. Simply saying its fiction or SFF so it doesn’t have to match reality while borrowing from something real is illogical. It makes as much sense as writing a story on the moon and ignoring everything we know about the moon, space travel, science. Your book would be trashed by the press and readers. Currently, thanks to racism, screwing up on culture, less well known religions, or using stereotypes won’t get you skewered by critics but due to social changes readers and people from the culture may harshly criticize you.

    To complain about the movement criticizing lazy writing because it’s about marginalized people and their beliefs instead of science doesn’t look very rational to me.

  19. I’ve got no dog in this hunt, but my impression is that Darren is talking much more about stuff like this than he is stuff like Rowling.

    But I could be wrong.

  20. To complain about the movement criticizing lazy writing because it’s about marginalized people and their beliefs instead of science doesn’t look very rational to me.

    Again the red herring about lazy writing. But the idea of “cultural appropriation” is about using those concepts at all, not about how competently you do it. Or are you saying that if JKR had spent months in research about various Native American cultures and wrote 200 pages of alternate magical histories for dozens of them, rewriting mythologies in creative, intricate, and clever ways instead of just dashing off a half-assed barely-outline (as she actually did) she would not be accused of cultural appropriation? Because I believe that about as far as Homer Simpson can kick Coyote Johnny Cash.

  21. I’ve got no dog in this hunt, but my impression is that Darren is talking much more about stuff like this than he is stuff like Rowling.

    Yes, absolutely. I’ve actually linked that video on a scroll in the past. Also links about “cultural appropriation” of food (both of which types have new instances just this week. New dreadlocks kerfuffle. New food kerfuffle. (Foodfuffle?))

  22. Darren: I do believe she wouldn’t be accused of cultural appropriation by the same number of people.

    Some people will never be happy. Some people will knee-jerk accuse everyone of cultural appropriation. Some people, however, and I would even assert most of the people who have accused her, reserve their ire for the person who makes it absolutely clear that they really genuinely don’t give one little S*** what the people they’re appropriating have to say.

    Some jerks will never be happy even if I bend over backwards to be respectful, therefore I will disrespect and misrepresent and shamelessly borrow and misattribute the sane and decent ones who’d otherwise be on my side — this does not sound like a viable philosophy to me.

    (as for the pho one, a video by a white due talking about “how to eat pho” which people who eat pho pretty much daily say got itself badly wrong? How is that not at minimum misinformation and disrespect?)

  23. I disagree, in that I do not think “not being good or kind or helpful” is a good enough reason to not write something.

    EVER?

    I think how I feel about this depends on which way I turn it, or maybe what lens I use. If I take @Darren’s statement to be an objection to prior restraint and self-censorship for reasons of faintheartedness, as well as a vote for artistic integrity over social harmony, then, yeah, I agree and would apply it broadly as a principle, with the proviso that in many cases I tend to value people over principle (at least in my head; it doesn’t always work that way in practice).

    If it’s a clarion call for the right to be an asshole, cluelessly stomping on the traditions of everyone not exactly like him, then no. But I don’t think that’s what is being argued here.

  24. I take issue with the idea that one’s freedom to write ALWAYS trumps those issues. And not because I write faintheartedly. I write things that would actively offend large groups of people — I tend to HOPE that the people I’m offending are the racists and the sexists and the homophobes, the jerks and the extreme conservatives who make my sane-conservative relations feel they need to distance themselves from these a******s. (Note, those are not all one group, but several, often but not always with overlap.) And considering the death threats some people have gotten, no I don’t think writing the SJW line, as some of our local trolls would claim I’m doing, is doing the safe pandering path at all.

    But there ARE times and places and ways that being good and kind and helpful IS in fact the better, and even the braver and rarer path. Rowling chose the supposedly braver path of just writing what she writes, based on her own ideas. I think she’d have done the world a favour to try and be kind and helpful and talk to people before she left that crap out there, or at worst take down the problem until she could rewrite it into something better. I don’t think it would have been easy, either – she’d have had furious fans at having something pop up one day and disappear for months to get revised — and furious fans send death threats. And buy fewer books. And there’d always be a core of people who preserved those pages in screencaps and wayback who would insist forever that this was the real, untainted version.

    But in this case, I think pretending that leaving it as is somehow counts as a blow for artistic integrity over social harmony is missing something essential.

  25. Lenora Rose:

    Thank you for your very thoughtful comments.

    Tasha Turner:

    “Cultural appropriation shouldn’t be treated as overreacting by sensitive people. It’s a serious issue which hurts people. Good writers research their topics be it science, people, time periods.”

    I find it to be a bit of both. Some people are overreacting. Some people use it as an excuse to speak for minorities to which they don’t belong. And some people have good reasons to feel aggreived.

    I don’t think JK Rowling has to do any rewriting or anything. I would have been happier if she had done more research before. I would have been happier if she had made some kind of statement about how she likes to change tropes and myths around, but that she has full understanding for those that feel aggreived.

    If she had wished that all who reacted should just go to hell, I would have thought much much less of her.

  26. Darren:
    That’s because I think that the “poorly researched” part is a red herring. It appears to me that the people that consider things to be cultural appropriation aren’t looking to the depth of the research or the quality of the prose–they are complaining that anyone has the temerity to say something about a different culture without their approval.

    You are utterly, utterly wrong on this. The defining characteristic is the shallowness of the depiction. What’s disputed is which depictions are shallow, because critics disagree on the quality of things. (And, let’s be frank about this, people inside the cultures are likely to have an immensely different view about how shallow their own depiction is than people outside the culture, because the relative degrees of ignorance don’t tend to match. So it’s highly likely they’ll look like they’re complaining about something trivial or nonexistent to a fair number of people who are not from that background. Because the casual acceptance of shallow depiction and ignorance is the core of the problem.)

    In order to think the representation is bad, people first think part of the art is bad. Nobody says, “I’m really angry my culture was depicted so well, and in such an interesting piece of art,” or “It’s really harmful to people who look like me to be depicted with such intelligence and creativity,” or “You have no right to write about my culture with nuance and sensitivity.” That’s total nonsense. Quite the opposite, people from under-represented cultures are clamoring to see nuanced, intelligent representation of their culture and concerns in media. There’s a huge demand for it, and a lot of work being done on the benefits to children in particular to see their cultures represented. And, given how white authors dominate publishing, film, and television, it can’t be done without people making art about other cultures. There will be feedback when people think they’ve done it badly.

    I assure you, the white artists who genuinely care about researching and engaging knowledgeably with Asian, Black, and Native American culture don’t have a cultural appropriation problem, barring the occasional critic who just thinks it’s shallow, badly-made art. The Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon, made by a couple of white guys about a 100% Asian and Native American world, and widely praised by members of those cultures. The Beastie Boys, despite the career boost they got from systemic racism, widely respected. (And closer to home, Lauren Beukes writing black South African POVs.) If you’re making good art and have done enough work to understand the culture you’re depicting, you don’t have a cultural appropriation problem.

    There are no hordes of people running around attacking writers who “have the temerity to say anything”. There are just critics who think writers are so ignorant about their subject that they’re making things harder for people in that culture. And, honestly, post-internet, the bar for what’s considered ignorance has gone way up for parts of the audience, because direct exposure to people from other cultures has gone way up and so has the understanding of how bad depictions make their day-to-day life suck.

  27. This is a new idea and people are still working through it. I have no idea how much of what we say today will look silly in twenty years. Some of it will, though. I’m sure of that much. I only wish I knew which part. But that’s the price of admission.

  28. I watched an interesting documentary on the relationship between England and China, which included how China was presented and referenced, how Chinese and Chinese-influenced imagery was used in products, advertising, etc, including how that changed over time.

    One thing that stuck with me was that there were times when China was presented as new and exciting and exotic; and other times where China was presented essentially through ridicule – showing off the rising power of the British empire compared to the falling power of the Chinese one, so to speak … and doing so by, in current parlance, appropriating Chinese culture and holding it up to ridicule as a deliberate display of power.

    How someone depicts or otherwise interacts with a different culture than their own says a lot about them.

    One may also consider things like someone taking on and using the identifying marks of a culture, presenting themselves as part of that culture even though they did not, for example, grow up with it – someone wearing a particular culture’s distinctive clothing, for instance; if they just pick something that looks cool but without understanding the significance, for example, they will probable come across as uncaring and arrogant. Conversely, someone who might approach members of that culture, express an interest, and be invited and shown what to wear, what is appropriate, and why, may well be seen in a much more positive light.

    And regarding the general sentiment of “write about whatever you damn well please however you damn well please, and if some people don’t like it, to hell with them“: It’s absolutely a way that you can proceed, and nobody can stop you; but people will take your actions, your choices in this context, into account for the future, and in judging your character – this meme springs to mind as a possible outcome.

  29. someone wearing a particular culture’s distinctive clothing, for instance; if they just pick something that looks cool but without understanding the significance, for example, they will probable come across as uncaring and arrogant.

    And that is one of the silliest parts of the “cultural appropriation outrage” nonsense, I think. There is absolutely, positively no obligation whatsoever to know anything about the history of a piece of clothing other than “I think this looks cool.” Do you think that people should have to take a written test at the check-out counter (including an essay question on the European cultural appropriation of the silkworm) before they are allowed to buy their new shirt? Just as there is no obligation whatsoever to know anything about the history of a food other than “I like this.” And this isn’t “uncaring” or “arrogant”, this is–at worst–being incurious about superfluous, irrelevant details.

  30. @Darren,

    A lot of clothing – in particular the more colourful or decorated things – often have specific cultural significance, with symbolism included in colours, patterns, decorations, etc. And just saying “this looks cool, I like this and I’m going to wear it no matter the significance” is arrogant; and the fact that you so easily brush off any concerns is also arrogant. And while you are correct that nobody can force you to take any care at all in the messages you send by your actions, the meme I posted applies.

    Of course, you may also end up sending messages that are entirely different from what you intend, to those who understand that culture better than you care to do; consider for instance the various people who get a “cool” tattoo of Chinese characters, that end up saying things that are … not perhaps what the wearer might expect.

    But to give an example that may bring the point across a bit better: say that someone start wearing black robes with a white collar, a vaguely T-shaped decoration on chains around their neck, publicly snacks on small round wafers marked with an X-like shape, accompanying them with wine. Again, nobody can stop them from doing so … but it would be perfectly reasonable for Christians to opine that that person was acting like a bit of an idiot, appropriating certain Christian culture, specifically their ceremonial foods, garb, and symbolism, with no care for what they might mean.

    Also more generally: When you say “And this isn’t “uncaring” or “arrogant”, this is–at worst–being incurious about superfluous, irrelevant details“, that is in itself an example of your arrogance: you’re saying that you are the arbiter of what is or isn’t allowed to matter, by unilaterally declaring anything you don’t care about to be “superfluous, irrelevant details”. That’s the point, really: those things are neither superfluous nor irrelevant to the people who care about them. And your disregard for that, for those people and their opinions, is part of the problem.

  31. @Leonora Rose – I take issue with the idea that one’s freedom to write ALWAYS trumps those issues.

    I think you’re right to take issue with the ALWAYS part (and if it felt like I was poking at you or making assumptions about your process, I’m very sorry). The internet says that Dorothy L. Sayers was the source for this: “The first thing a principle does is kill someone,” which, stripped of murderous hyperbole, sounds like a pretty clear explanation of the potential impact of choosing principle over people.

    In the case of Rowling, I don’t think her missteps came from artistic integrity. Instead, they seem to be the result of poor research and cluelessness, perhaps with a side order of wanting to rope in something distinctly North American for the sake of verisimilitude. That’s just shoddy work and there’s no shield for that.

    For Kazantzakis, while he wasn’t religious, he was steeped in the stories of Jesus (something that is clear in many of his works) and with compassion and care, he imagined one last temptation. He wrote what he needed to write, and his book caused a lot of controversy. I can’t find it, probably because it predates the internet and wasn’t important enough to preserve, but years ago I read an impassioned, heartfelt cri de coeur that took the position that The Last Temptation should never have been written, that it was not only blasphemous but hateful and cruel and could never have been written by a believer. That is, I think, that era’s version of a vote against cultural appropriation.

    I suspect that and other similar objections to various artistic endeavours (Piss Christ, Mapplethorpe, every book ever banned) are probably what inform my thoughts about the conflict between art and social harmony. And I also think that kindness, sensitivity and empathy are good things.

  32. Cheryl S:

    That’s part of it exactly; there are times and places where something controversial *should* be made (or, if not should, at least the author’s reasoning in making it stands up to scrutiny and criticism) and times when maybe it wasn’t actually a good or defensible idea. (The Christian Inspirational Romance about a Jew and a guard in a concentration camp.)

    Seeing the entire concept that “maybe you should think this through and take other opinions into consideration when you create” dismissed as pandering, and the idea of not doing so being actively hurtful reduced to phrases like ” this is–at worst–being incurious about superfluous, irrelevant details”*– well, it rankles.

    * Yes, I am aware this specific sentence is about clothing, but it’s of a sufficient piece with Darren’s every other argument on this thread that I feel safe applying it across the board.

  33. Seeing the entire concept that “maybe you should think this through and take other opinions into consideration when you create” dismissed as pandering, and the idea of not doing so being actively hurtful reduced to phrases like ” this is–at worst–being incurious about superfluous, irrelevant details”*– well, it rankles.

    And the ideal of being able to create whatever form of media you want and if someone else doesn’t like it, they don’t have to consume it used to be one of the cornerstones of liberal thought. But now “liberalism” is beginning to look more like the Chinese Cultural Revolution or the Khmer Rouge. And that is what rankles me.

  34. @Darren Garrison,

    Just to check: You’re comparing suggestions that people might want to spend some thought and perhaps doing some research before picking something that they know little about or they might end up looking like an ass, to mass imprisonment and mass murder?

  35. Just to check: You’re comparing suggestions that people might want to spend some thought and perhaps doing some research before picking something that they know little about or they might end up looking like an ass, to mass imprisonment and mass murder?

    No, I’m comparing “attempting to crush all descent from the Approved Ideal Socially Progressive Culture” with “attempting to crush all descent from the Approved Ideal Socially Progressive Culture.”

    Once again you are using the “poor research” red herring about the “cultural appropriation” hysteria. I reject that misdirection utterly. It is very, very much a motte and bailey argument.

  36. dissent.

    And how many times do I have to acknowledge that there ARE circumstances where being offensive is the right choice before you stop claiming any disagreement with your absolutist position is itself absolutist?

  37. And once again with this wild idea that just because *some* people are always offended, not bothering to take steps to avoid offending normal people who aren’t oversensitive is *always* the correct course of action. Bah.

  38. Darren Garrison on September 18, 2016 at 11:04 am said:

    And the ideal of being able to create whatever form of media you want and if someone else doesn’t like it, they don’t have to consume it used to be one of the cornerstones of liberal thought.

    The idea of being able to CRITIQUE media in whatever way you choose and if the creator doesn’t like that, well then, tough – has also been one of the cornerstones of liberal thought. I don’t wholly agree with that either but one is part and parcel of the other.

  39. Holy shit. I have a very good friend who lost several family members in the Killing Fields. And also took exception to the portrayal of Asians in (I believe) Deadwood and Torchwood, among others I’m sure. They are not the same thing at all.

  40. @Darren Garrison,

    But nobody here is “attempting to crush all descent from the Approved Ideal Socially Progressive Culture” – so your analogy is utterly flawed. People here are simply point that if you do choose to do certain things, then you also have to accept certain responses.

    Actually, this is precisely the liberalism that you complain is missing: People are pointing out that if you want to avoid being on the receiving end of responses from offended people, you might want to try to avoid offending people. Nobody is saying “you must not offend people” – just pointing out that if you do things that are thoughtless, or deliberately ignoring that there might even be some meaning to something that you’re picking to use in some fashion, then some pushback is quite possible and in fact not unreasonable; and that if you want to avoid that pushback, there are ways to do that by being less arrogant, by not ignoring possible meanings you might not know about, etc.

    It just turns out that when people find a work offensive, they have other recourse beyond simply not consuming that work: they can also speak out about it, and that is what they’re doing! And by the way: the have the exact same right as you do, to write whatever they want about you, and if you find that offensive, then to hell with you, right?

  41. Darren Garrison:

    “But now “liberalism” is beginning to look more like the Chinese Cultural Revolution or the Khmer Rouge.”

    Yes, caring about others feelings is the same as genocide. Thank you for adding nuance to the conversation.

  42. @Darren Garrison – And the ideal of being able to create whatever form of media you want and if someone else doesn’t like it, they don’t have to consume it used to be one of the cornerstones of liberal thought.

    Eh. That was only true if it wasn’t your ox being gored. I think you’re positing a past that never existed except as an ideal and comparing it to a messy present, to the detriment of the latter.

    @Lenora Rose – Seeing the entire concept that “maybe you should think this through and take other opinions into consideration when you create” dismissed as pandering, and the idea of not doing so being actively hurtful reduced to phrases like ” this is–at worst–being incurious about superfluous, irrelevant details”*– well, it rankles.

    The entire argument for artistic nonchalance is without nuance, because it’s standing on a principle. Principles are not designed to examine the impact they have when applied to real people in real situations and neither are the arguments that stem from them. The argument against privileging a narrow view of artistic integrity over the people who might be harmed in the process is all about nuance and shading.

    Posed in opposition as competing ideas, I’m not sure that the two can really be reconciled, but in practice I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive.

  43. I would like to point out that Darren is not arguing from a liberal point of view. He is arguing for a conservative point of view where everyone should just shut up and accept what is published without any comments. That is arguing for a status quo, i.e conservatism.

  44. Hampus Eckerman: Wanting the opposition to shut up is not a left-right marker, but a totalitarian marker.

  45. Mike Glyer:

    “Wanting the opposition to shut up is not a left-right marker, but a totalitarian marker.”

    I can agree with that (I guess it would take a bit more than wanting though).

  46. So what is it when you want the people on your own side to shut up? I’ve heard enough millennial-bashing from a certain faction of my Hobson’s candidate’s supporters the last few days to make me think about voting third party. God only knows how actual millennials feel, but it can’t be good.

  47. From earlier in the current discussion, @Lenora Rose:

    Contrast that with Diane Duane. When told A Wizard Alone contained a depiction of autism that was, at best, at odds with how the autistic saw themselves, she talked to the community, did more research and rewrote the next edition of the book . you can still buy the original -it’s the only copy I have – it hasn’t been deleted. in fact, since the new edition is, AFAIK, only an ebook, the original might be easier to find. but she got kudos and praise and respect for listening and responding.

    I’m exceedingly pleased to hear that, having reread the original version of A Wizard Alone quite recently and wincing through a lot of it for that very reason. I’ll eventually hear the new version sometime Mark Oshiro gets to it–he’s reading through the Young Wizards series now–and I’ve been nervously anticipating the changes Duane made to it. I am glad to hear that she consciously set out to improve her portrayal of autism. Not surprised, mind; my impression of her has always been that she’s a fantastic, caring, thoughtful person in so many ways.

    I don’t want to jump fully into the current discussion, because I haven’t the energy, but I do want to mention the weird double-standard I’ve encountered where someone aggressively lectures you about something, and then, when you try to respond, shouts you down with “I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK!!!!” I feel like I’m seeing a related phenomenon here.

    Like, OK, if my attempting, through thoughtful care and research and application of empathy, to not give needless offense offends Darren so much, then maybe I should follow his advice and say, To hell with him? Or is the case of Darren’s being offended some kind of exception? Everyone should care what he thinks, despite that he has said he doesn’t care would others think and no one else should either?

  48. I’ve stayed out of this discussion since my first post because it doesn’t feel like Darren is engaging in honest discussion.

    All he’s done for pages is reiterate the same thing over and over again. If he repeats his argument enough times maybe it will become truth. Seen this used by all sorts of people. It doesn’t work.

    His acts and states privilege beats everyone else’s rights so shut up and suck it up buttercup.

    My silence does not mean I agree or have been beaten down. It means I’ve learned there is no point in having discussions with people who can’t see past their biases and privilege to the point they compare criticism or any suggestion they be thoughtful and take others feeling into account to censorship or genocidal dictatorships.

    To hell with Darren as he says.

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