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. @rcade:

    First, thanks for the heads up on the Jemisin collection. For some reason, I thought that was due in December. I’ve been waiting for that!

    Second, I belong to several private online groups and/or boards of varying sizes and the determiner is whether or not the group is open to the public generally or if you have to belong and must be added by mods. Any group, however large, where you need to request addition and be approved is private.

    I’m wary of groups over a certain size truly being “private” and moderate my own comments as a result, but it’s still a “private” group.

    Here in 8392, nothing is private from our feline overlords.

  2. I’ve been online (at bbses and ddials — anyone remember those?) since before the Internet was invented, and I learned very early on to never post anything that I wouldn’t want my mother, my spouse, my boss, my best friend AND my worst enemy to see. Doesn’t matter how private the forum is, you have to assume it will always get out.

    And this policy helps contribute to online civility, which is always a nice side effect.

  3. Sorry Bob, you’ve lost the plot.

    As a getting older lily white male fan, I did not find NKJ’s speech the least bit offensive.
    I wasn’t especially offended by RS’s theatrical lewdness form 2016 either, but it sure undermines his high horse

  4. Wait: The real racism is in pointing out racism? I don’t think so, any more than the true pyromaniacs are the ones who report fires.

    Remembering a boss once who grumbled that “it wouldn’t be so cold if they [his employees in the 40° greenhouse] didn’t complain about it.”

  5. @Lis:

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

    Tiptree said her name was James. Otherwise she just talked about herself and her life in gender-neutral terms, and never corrected anyone who assumed she was a man. For instance, when she talked about her childhood, she never said boy, she always said child.

    Silverberg said that in his opinion Austen wrote like a woman, and Hemingway and Tiptree wrote like men. This was his reading of the text.

    He had non-textual reasons as well, which I think Julie Phillips mentioned in passing in her Tiptree biography, but not with any emphasis that I would expect anyone to remember.

    I only glanced through the Tiptree/Silverberg correspondence (which, like all of Tiptree’s correspondence, was stored in my basement until I donated it to the University of Oregon), but some of it was intensely personal, as the two of them discussed their failed marriages. Silverberg, of course, thought he was talking to another guy. I imagine this was something Alice Sheldon had to be really careful about, to share her story as a spouse, not a wife.

    But — again, as I imagine, because I talked to neither party about this — this gave Silverberg even more reason to read Tiptree as male.

    Here’s something I wrote about, in my introduction to a Tiptree collection, Meet Me at Infinity. I received a lot of letters from James Tiptree, and then a lot of letters from Alli Sheldon. I also visited Alli in person, and talked with her on the phone frequently.

    When I got the Tiptree letters, I had to make up a voice for him that I heard as I read them. The Alli letters I heard in her own voice.

    When I reread those letters now, I still hear the imaginary Tiptree voice when I read “his” letters. Not a conscious decision, just the way it happens.

  6. Ken Hoyt said: “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.”

    I’ve posted a longer version of this explanation elsewhere that I can’t link to right now, but to sum up: If you equate disapproval of a white man with the death of a woman, you’re saying that the feelings of white men are as important as the lives of women. That’s rarely a good look. “Witch hunt” and “lynch mob” should never be used as metaphors for expressing disapproval of things a white dude has said unless actual physical violence is involved.

  7. I think back to my discomfort watching Silverberg leading the entire Hugo Award audience at Sasquan in mocking other folks religion as being on par with his sexist comments over the years. Talk about graceless.

  8. As a closeted gay teen in the deep South in the early 1970s, I was delighted to read books like “The Book of Skulls,” by Robert Silverberg, which contained real gay characters and showed them being open about it and other people dealing with it. I can still remember how much better I felt about myself after reading some of those books, and I’ll always be grateful to him. To call Silverberg a conservative is seriously to miss the mark.

    When I was listening to it, I also thought Jemisin’s acceptance speech was a bit too angry, just from a perspective of what’s effective from an activist standpoint (i.e. given a public platform, an activist wants to use it to try to win new support from people outside his/her group), but, given the history, I can totally understand why she’d want to vent at least a little bit. And the overwhelmingly positive audience response suggests that she made the right call. (I’m aware that I’ve grown a bit too cautious in my old age.)

    It’s sad if we’ve reached the point where no one can ever say, “I support your cause, but I think what you’re doing right now isn’t helping” without immediately being attacked as a bigot. More than once I can remember gently telling my straight friends (who worried that activism would prompt an anti-gay backlash), “I appreciate your concern, but I think we know what we’re doing.” Again, thinking like an activist, you really want to hold onto your friends and allies when you’re a small minority and your real enemies want to do away with you entirely.

  9. Any group, however large, where you need to request addition and be approved is private.

    I think that’s a flawed standard because it encourages people to say things they believe are private in some places that cannot reasonably be expected to stay private.

    A mailing list with 400 members inside the world of media and politics like JournoList shouldn’t be called private just because it’s members-only. Silverberg’s SF industry forum was large enough it shouldn’t be called private. A friends-only Facebook post on the wall of an author with 800 friends shouldn’t either.

    To pick a more ridiculous example, I just got added yesterday to the “private” editors forum of Curlie, the user-edited web directory that carries on the work of the Open Web Directory (Dmoz). The forum has 91,000 members.

  10. It’s sad if we’ve reached the point where no one can ever say, “I support your cause, but I think what you’re doing right now isn’t helping” without immediately being attacked as a bigot.

    If that’s what Silverberg was trying to say when he said NKJ “disprove[d] her own point by rehearsing the grievances of her people,” he did a piss-poor job of it.

  11. I think back to my discomfort watching Silverberg leading the entire Hugo Award audience at Sasquan in mocking other folks religion as being on par with his sexist comments over the years. Talk about graceless.

    Thank you for mentioning this, as I was trying to remember whether that was Silverberg and what the details were. Am I correct in recalling that he was trying to lead the audience in a jokey rendition of “Hare Krishna”? And doing a little dance? That was quite a WTF moment for me, and it was in the first Hugo award ceremony I ever watched.

  12. When I was listening to it, I also thought Jemisin’s acceptance speech was a bit too angry, just from a perspective of what’s effective from an activist standpoint (i.e. given a public platform, an activist wants to use it to try to win new support from people outside his/her group) …

    Why are you treating her like an activist pursuing a cause instead of a person telling her own story at a moment of great personal triumph? I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a white male author accepting a Hugo and thought of him as an activist who should be scored on how well he persuaded people to his viewpoint.

  13. Greg, you might be barking up the wrong tree here. If you had seen even some of he inappropriate comments posted to fictionmags, you would not have posted your reply, I suspect :p

  14. When saying “I support your cause, but I think what you’re doing right now isn’t helping,” context matters.

    Activist to activist teammate? Probably, sure, OK.

    Marginalized person to privileged ally? “You’re trying to help me, but what you’re doing isn’t actually helping.” Absolutely.

    But there are very, very few contexts in which it’s a good idea for a white man to tell a black woman (whether she is in activist mode or personal triumph mode) “You’re too angry.”

    Until it becomes rare for white people, especially white men, to take it upon themselves to monitor and judge the “appropriate” levels of anger expressed by black people, especially black women, just don’t do that.

  15. Lia on November 28, 2018 at 9:33 am said:

    Am I correct in recalling that he was trying to lead the audience in a jokey rendition of “Hare Krishna”? And doing a little dance?

    Yup.

  16. @Sean Wallace

    Greg, you might be barking up the wrong tree here. If you had seen even some of he inappropriate comments posted to fictionmags, you would not have posted your reply, I suspect :p

    That I haven’t seen, but I thought Silverberg didn’t participate in online forums. Do you have a link?

  17. Any group, however large, where you need to request addition and be approved is private.

    Based on that reasoning, both Metafilter and rpg.net are private groups. Are we supposed to think that if say, “jsalzi” posts something to Metafilter, then that’s off limits for commentary? I’m sorry, but that’s flat-out wrong.

    The thing though, is if one posts crap on a private server it’s still posting crap. The defense then devolves to “Well I shouldn’t have gotten caught.”

  18. I’ve seen reactions on Twitter from a couple of people who expressed disappointment that I posted Silverberg’s piece, or failed to deny a platform to his opinions.

    Speaking generally, this is a news site. News does not consist only of views I agree with.

    And I was surprised that the word “disappointed” had to do with allowing Silverberg’s opinions to be aired, whereas I expected to see that word coming from people who wondered why I would enable Bob to (in effect) dig a deeper hole. That was the part I had trouble with, personally.

    Someone had sent Bob links to or copies of items on this site (the ones linked in the post here, and evidently some of the comments) which he says he found “vile and disgusting, verging on libelous. and I was startled that you would let them appear.” It’s not my policy to allow “vile and disgusting” comments — but what that phrase brings to mind is the kind of thing Larry Correia writes about me on his blog, not the criticisms people have written here about Silverberg. Nevertheless, that’s how he felt. And if he thought it was fair that I should also allow him to make a defense in this space, I didn’t want to give him the impression I was “doubling down” by refusing to let him try.

  19. @rcade

    Why are you treating her like an activist pursuing a cause instead of a person telling her own story at a moment of great personal triumph?

    Note that I was merely describing my own reaction to her speech, not saying what she should have said. As a former activist, I always look at things related to civil rights through that lens. Viewed that way, I felt uneasy at first, but, given the audience reaction, I changed my mind (still viewing it through the same lens). Since my reservations about the speech only lasted a few minutes, I never had time to post them anywhere. 🙂

    Obviously there are other ways to respond to the speech. I’m merely describing how it affected me.

  20. Silverberg belongs to the fictionmags mailing list, which theses days consists of about two hundred members. It is a place where you can expound on anything magazine-related, new or old, with little moderation, if any. There have been some truly horrifying things posted to that group. :/

  21. @Mike Glyer:

    And I was surprised that the word “disappointed” had to do with allowing Silverberg’s opinions to be aired, whereas I expected to see that word coming from people who wondered why I would enable Bob to (in effect) dig a deeper hole. That was the part I had trouble with, personally.

    I thought very hard about that myself before addressing him in my comment. I wasn’t sure I wanted him to reply.

    On the other hand, he’s through with writing at the end of a long and distinguished career. What does he have to lose? Possibly he has zero fucks to give.

    And possibly he thinks he’s right, or at least not wrong, and will be judged so in time.

  22. @Mike

    I personally am glad you posted it, and here. While I may not agree with Silverberg’s response, being rather disappointed by it, having it available, and readable, is a good thing.

  23. I mean, if you’re going to police how, and to what degree, a black woman should show appropriate appreciation for the things she earned, you can at least SAY HER NAME.

    NKJ is a person, not an idea. Not an example.

    Black people don’t owe you gratitude.
    You didn’t give her that award. You didn’t allow her the privilege of participating.
    She earned it. Thus, you have no right to dictate how grateful she’s required to be in order to be deserving of it– a man that used his Hugo speech to tell a dick joke, lecturing a black womsn about respectful tone?

    She didn’t even have to thank anyone but herself, if that pleased her, you know. Because she got her that award, not some old white man who thinks black women owe them for allowing them success.

    Say her name.

  24. There have been some truly horrifying things posted to that group.

    Sean, you are using the passive voice here, merely implying that Silverberg is saying “some truly horrifying things.” If he is, please say so directly. If not, please say that.

  25. I see a lot of people saying that Silverberg is failing at defending himself from claims of racism. They are often doing so with care, pointing out his flaws but not exaggerating them.

    I see a surprising number of people (only about 2 here, but more elsewhere) who seem to think this translates to “strict binary thinking, you’re either with us or against us”, or a witch hunt in which every flawed person who says something stupid and racist is equated immediately with VD or with the sort of racists who shoot black people.

    I think the binary thinking is on the part of those defensive voices, who think all usages of the term racism mean only racism’s worst and most blatant bigots, and not the sort of unconscious or semi-conscious everyday knee jerk reactions displayed by … well, in this case, Silverberg.

    NOBODY who has said Silverberg is demonstrating his own racism has suggested he is as odious as Beale, never mind as vile as a person who has actually killed people over their race. He’s a conservative voice nowadays, whatever he was when younger, and he has a lot of bias and thinking left over from earlier ages which he has not bothered to update. (see also, as a less fraught example than racism, not bothering to read any new SF of the last 10+ years)

    __________________

    I definitely agree that posting his words is worthwhile, even if — or especially if — they fail at his intent.

    __________________________

  26. A note: Thank you for posting this, Mike. I think Robert’s clarification fell short of what he intended, but I do think it was important to post.

  27. Mike, I for one am glad you gave Silverbob a chance to air his point of view. (I’d say “his rebuttal” but in my opinion, it singularly fails as a rebuttal, or even an apology.)

    I personally think that his post demonstrates the First Rule of Holes (i.e.,“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”), but that’s on him, not on you.

    And as far as the binary racist/non-racist thing goes, I’m reminded of the song “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” from the play “Avenue Q”. LINK

    Which is to say, when one catches oneself being a little bit racist, one shouldn’t double down, but stop and rethink.

  28. Mike, you say Silverberg says he found comments published here “vile and disgusting, verging on libelous. and I was startled that you would let them appear.” Just consider what other old, white men have been saying to women and minorities ever since the internet began: “If you don’t like reading it, then you shouldn’t be on the internet. Suck it up and deal, princess.”

    So Bob, suck it up and deal.

    You don’t owe him a platform to continue his clueless racism and sexism. Nor are you obligated to police others’ opinions when they’re expressed in reaction to his actions. Freedom of speech doesn’t flow one-way from old white men to the rest of us. Once he’s finished showing us exactly how much of an ass he is, we’re completely free to reply, comment upon and discuss exactly how much of an ass he’s made of himself. That’s how freedom of speech works.

  29. Greg Hullender, when you say Silverberg can’t be called a conservative because he wrote a book that “contained real gay characters and showed them being open about it and other people dealing with it”, I fear you’re being unfair to conservatives.

  30. I think it must be very difficult to write a decent rebuttal — or apology — to a response of which you’ve seen very little, which I suppose is why so much of this is focused on a single comment on an unrelated issue. Silverberg might have acquitted himself better if he’d put some time and effort into listening first.

    It’s unfortunate that we’ve essentially been drawn into a “let’s you and them fight” by That Guy but that doesn’t make Silverberg’s response any better, so… *shrug*

    @Mike Glyer

    I’m glad you posted this. Silverberg made an egregious error, but he’s hardly descended to the point where no-platforming is appropriate, and you’re not responsible for hiding his attempts to keep digging the hole.

  31. Lenora Rose,
    Thank you, you said it better than I could. I don’t see anyone commenting here equating Silverberg with Beale. What I do see is a relatively careful response to Silverberg’s own words.

    Mike,
    Thank you for posting this. I think it is important to hear what Silverberg wanted to say. (Even if it seems to me that Silverberg is digging himself into a deeper hole.)

  32. There’s a significant difference between hosting and endorsing, and as this piece has done Silverberg no favours I don’t see how it can be seen as the latter.

  33. @Josh Jasper:

    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.

    I’d have taken that bet, and your money, even without emulating Sky Masterson (i.e., checking the data first). The text notes that one issue came out all-male; ISFDB shows that all of the others had at least one known-to-be-female sole author. (I’m not counting the Eisenstein collaborations, the stories by “Tiptree”, or a few cases that I’m not sure of.)

    @Ann Somerville: Goodwin’s declaration that Silverberg started the anti-anti-*ism petition is interesting, but all I see linked here has Truesdale’s name at the top. Do you have anything showing Silverberg behind/before those posts?

    @Hampus Eckerman: Well, if you hadn’t dismissed her win as part of “identity politics”, you might have had me there. Did he? Or did he say she made her speech about identity politics? There is a difference, even if “identity politics” has become short for “don’t give me the facts about how you’re still being hurt”. Has anyone pried open the net group in question (or at least gotten verification from someone else) to find out what Silverberg actually said, rather than what the walking disease quoted? (No, I haven’t been following in detail; I don’t have the spoons.) I wouldn’t be surprised if the remarks were chopped in repeating.

    @Bibliotropic:

    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.

    Now, yes; not necessarily then, when the writing and reading worlds were not balanced. Remember that the 1970’s were when a lot of women were first published, as JDN has noted in several tor.com posts. I do question whether Silverberg was being unbiased in choosing works, as the search of ISFDB shows that #’s 11 and 12 (completely edited by Randall according to the above remarks) had a higher fraction of female authors (33% and 31%) than any of Silverberg’s issues (SWAG average ~~15%); strangely, #1 looks like the highest at ~25% (depending on how a collaboration is counted).

    And @OGH: I also appreciate your putting this here.

  34. Mike, I appreciate your printing not only Silverberg’s screed, but the variety of responses, as well as dealing with the fallout.

    I personally think it’s better that it’s out in the open. After all, when my cat barfs I much prefer to to be out on the carpet, rather than under the bed.

  35. @Chip, Silverberg was very much involved with the petition, actually, per his comments on the Pretty Terrible blog, along with a few others. I can quote it: “I signed the first draft of the Truesdale statement because I wanted to indicate my support for the general idea of opposing pre-review of content for the SFWA magazine. But then Nancy Kress and I and several others spent four or five days revising the draft to eliminate material in it that we regarded as counterproductive or downright inflammatory.” There is more if you want to look it up.

  36. @Chip Hitchcock

    There were several unrabid people verifying the Silverberg post at the time, based on either having seen the post or seen it repeated by someone reliable.
    I think that if he’d been misquoted he’d have found a little bit of space in his screed to say so himself.

  37. Todd Mason: “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”

    You talk as if his reaction to N K Jemisin’s win was an isolated event, even though in 2014 he supported (and reportedly instigated) a petition seeking to entrench the dominance of straight white men in the SWFA, using a number of offensive (racist and sexist) and inaccurate arguments. He has considerable form in making racist and sexist comments as reported by many others.
    But if we pretend that his comment on Jemisin’s win was his only offence, it’s bad enough on its own to view him as racist and sexist.

    “I have not read the Jemison books. Perhaps they are wonderful works of science fiction deserving of Hugos every year from now on.”

    1. Can’t even be bothered spelling her name right, on the only occasion he apparently can bring himself to name her at all.
    2. ‘Perhaps’? He’s insinuating the books aren’t that good, and certainly he can’t be bothered reading them.

    “graceless and vulgar acceptance speech”

    ‘Vulgar’ from a man who thinks dick jokes are appropriate, and ‘graceless’ about a speech widely seen as funny, graceful and powerful. Silverberg holds women to a different standard to men, which is prima facie sexism

    “rehearsing the grievances of her people”

    Silverberg is not Madeline Kahn or Mel Brooks, and that shit isn’t funny unless you are. Also, making one black woman stand in for ‘her people’ is also damn racist, even if you think dismissing her lived experiences is somehow appropriate.

    “an expression of not seeing the speech as appropriate to the occasion”

    If he had just said that, then people might have been happy to agree to disagree. But the reason Beale’s vile minion skipped happily off to his master with the quote, is that it went well past that. If you can’t see why Beale was so delighted with Silverberg’s comment, then there’s no hope for you.

    “He didn’t say her awards were undeserved;” – yes, he did, actually.
    “he noted he didn’t have the experience to judge the work in question.” – because he couldn’t be bothered to read the work of the first author of any gender to win three Hugos in a road, and had no interest in seeking out or reading the opinions of those who had. I’m pretty certain if she had been as dismissive of his work as he was of hers, we would have seen the explosion from space.

    “I would consider an unfortunate turn of phrase in that private forum”

    The guy’s a writer. A richly rewarded, widely lauded writer who’s been doing it professionally longer than I’ve been alive. Don’t try to tell me he didn’t know exactly what he was saying and didn’t choose exactly the turn of phrase to deliver his precise feelings to his audience. That’s more insulting to him as a person and an artist than anything anyone else could come up with.

  38. @ Chip, yes, others reported the exact text Silverberg posted to the fictionmags mailing list, and shared it among a few people, with even one FM contributor confirming it to Nick Mamatas on his facebook account. So Silverberg did say all that, and actually more. However, there was a great upset within the list that someone had copied his post, word for word, and sent it to Vox Day, and after that a great deletion happened, including the comments to Nick’s journal. They were more embarrassed that it had gotten out and less to do with the content. Which says something. In any case there is literally no doubt about what was posted.

  39. @Cheryl S: “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.”

    He’s very much a product of his times, whose character remains unsullied by the gaze of self reflection in the face of changing societal norms. I’m more than half convinced that he is one of the “Twelve Rabid Weasels” Mary Robinette Kowal wrote about, regardless of how pleasant and charming he might be to folks in the right demographic, or even to everyone (to their face)

  40. @Sean Wallace
    Silverberg belongs to the fictionmags mailing list, which theses days consists of about two hundred members. It is a place where you can expound on anything magazine-related, new or old, with little moderation, if any. There have been some truly horrifying things posted to that group. :/

    Care to quote any of them?

  41. @JAA: “On the other hand, he’s through with writing at the end of a long and distinguished career. What does he have to lose? Possibly he has zero fucks to give.”

    If that were true, the post we’re all here responding to would not exist. One who gives no fucks does not bother issuing statements.

    @Ann Somerville: “The guy’s a writer. A richly rewarded, widely lauded writer who’s been doing it professionally longer than I’ve been alive. Don’t try to tell me he didn’t know exactly what he was saying and didn’t choose exactly the turn of phrase to deliver his precise feelings to his audience.”

    THIS.

    (And, as an aside to all, unrelated to any specific comment or person: It is both unnerving and something of a relief to (a) see a load of criticism come crashing down on someone with my name and (b) know that it’s NOT directed at ME.)

  42. Dear Mike,

    Before I read your comment, I had the same qualms about Bob’s piece that you did. It doesn’t do him any good. But it’s what he wanted and you didn’t run it with malice, so it’s his choice how he wants to manage his reputation.

    That said, since I’ve known Bob for 40-mumble years I’m going to address the rest of this comment directly to him…

    ~~~~

    Dear Bob,

    What in god’s effin’ name were you thinking? Have you lost your mind?! I can’t believe you don’t know better than to do something like this. But apparently you do not, so prepare for a boat load of fansplaining:

    1) Trial by Internet is NEVER a good idea. You will always lose. The least damaging course to take when something like this happens is to take your lumps and lay low, assuming that a carefully-crafted apology isn’t in the offing (more about that later). Your long rebuttal will not have changed any minds. All it does is keep the matter alive in people’s minds. How does that, in any way benefit you? If your reply is, “I got to tell my side of the story,” I repeat the question — how does that in any way benefit you? All you have done is prolong having the spotlight focused on you, and not in a way you want.

    2) That you said this “in private” is irrelevant. You know better, because you’ve been in fandom longer than I have, and anything you put into “print” anywhere, anytime, has the high potential of going public. Mimi Bradley said, over 40 years ago, “Never put anything in writing that you cannot afford to have read into a court record.”

    This is not a new Internet phenomenon. It went on in the heydays of paper APAs and correspondence by snail mail. People’s egregious comments (or comments that someone else thought were egregious) got outed. You know that. Why are you shocked, shocked you say, when it happens to you.

    In modern times, it is even more incomprehensibly naïve. When a semi-famous personage writes something to a “private” list of several hundred people, it will not stay private. It is irrelevant whether you (or anyone else) consider it unethical for it to been repeated in “public.”

    Trying to use private vs. public as a defense is a rhetorical version of “it wasn’t wrong of me to rob the candy store, what was wrong was that I got caught out at it.” See point one — you won’t come out of it looking any better.

    3) You didn’t write anything that would get you out of trouble, nothing like an apology or retraction or a walking-back. If you really want to play the private/public card to reduce your grief, then fall on your sword. Doesn’t matter if you believe it in your heart of hearts — if you’re trying to manage your reputation, fake sincerity. You’re a good writer; you can do that! You don’t make excuses for what you said, you don’t try to argue that it wasn’t meant for public consumption because all that’s saying is “This is the way I really feel, you just weren’t supposed to know it.”

    Instead you make every kind of apology you can think of. Hell, you even lie if you must — tell the people you had a hard day, your puppy died, you were in a terrible mood, you wrote-while-intoxicated, you very much regret what you said and if you could go back and change history and unsay it, you would.

    Everyone won’t forgive you and everyone won’t believe you, but some people will. Whereas your extended defense of what you said doesn’t do any of that. It’s all just “Hey, my thoughts about this were supposed to remain secret.”

    And finally, writer to writer…

    4) OMG, longissimus, non legi!!! if it weren’t for the fact that it’s well written (regardless of being cluelessly wrongheaded), I would swear you’d written it when you were inebriated, because you just go on and on and on and on like the drunk who won’t shut up. And I say this as a writer who has a lot of trouble not going on and on and on and on — viz. this comment!

    For Pete sakes, you know how to write for effect. This isn’t it. You took almost 1500 words to write what you could have said in less than 500 focus. Stick to the point. (And get into your ineffectual pissing match with Marta in private with her.)

    In terms of accomplishing anything like what you hoped it would, this is without question the very worst piece of writing I have ever seen out of you. The next time you wind yourself up into a high dudgeon, call a friend and have them talk you down.

    Sheesh.

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  43. Just for the record because nobody has noticed. In my defence of NK Jemisin’s Hugo speech AND Silverberg’s right to express a contrary opinion in private without friends of neo-fascists leaping into the fray in an attempt to undermine her achievement, I misspelled Ms Jemisin’s name. My apologies to her for this carelessness.

  44. I have to wonder, what is the point of all this advice to Silverberg about how he could have better covered his butt, er.. uhhum… “apologized” for his comments? He said what he meant, he’s basically reiterated the same thing here, and it’s nasty and patronizing (and racist) no matter how you slice it.

    If Mike wants to emphasize that his is a news site, he could *link to* a statement by Silverberg. The idea that he would directly host a furtherance of the man’s entitled and simultaneously ignorant grumpiness so that Silverberg wouldn’t feel unfairly chastised for his bad behavior seems a bit silly to me. (Sorry, Mike!)

    The basic argument by Silverberg appears to be “I wasn’t being racist/sexist, I just think this person who has had an entirely different experience than me in the field to which we both belong, which I personally have not bothered to learn about and understand–and which I see no reason to learn about and understand–should do things the way I think they should be done based on my entirely different experience, and to not follow my exact view on how things should be done just happens to involve things I would describe with words that I certainly never knew–no definitely I didn’t, how dare you assume–had negative connotations in the context of the treatment she and people like her have experienced at the hands of the community of readers and fellow authors. And also dick jokes are in no way as vulgar as being grumpy that everyone’s been treating you like shit for years.”

    And a lot of the people defending him also seem to be as proud of how ignorant they are about words and what they mean as he is despite the fact that Jemisin herself, and hundreds and thousands of fans and professionals in the field have been incredibly loud and visible in the last twenty years about the problems we’ve had with racism and sexism in the field. It’s impossible that he’s not heard of these discussions, and in fact I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him participate in them (usually on the wrong side to the shock of nobody who has been paying attention) not infrequently.

    To claim as a professional and much lauded writer that he wasn’t aware of how the words he used might be taken is almost as ridiculous as the idea that he didn’t mean them the way they were taken.

  45. @Charon D, Marta Randall is currently reissuing quite of bit of her work and you can find it on Amazon. She is working the third book of a second-world fantasy trilogy right how which features a feudal society undergoing rapid technological changes. The first two books are with her agent and I personally can’t wait until all three are out in the world.

  46. Clip Hitchcock:

    “? Or did he say she made her speech about identity politics?”

    No. He said that her speech disproved her point that her win wasn’t based on identity politics. Of course, he might have been misquoted, but afaik he has not made any statements on that point at all.

  47. For Pete sakes, you know how to write for effect. This isn’t it. You took almost 1500 words to write what you could have said in less than 500 focus. Stick to the point. (And get into your ineffectual pissing match with Marta in private with her.)

    This! This! This!

    Apart from that, I am not a great believer in apologising when you think you have done nothing wrong: but I also am a great believer in casting a hard eye on our behaviours and ask ourselves if we honestly have nothing to be sorry for. The fact that Silverberg is apparently embarrassed that his graceless comments got to the ears of the hoi polloi is proof enough to me that deep down he knows damn well that he said something shameful and an apology is owed.

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