Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Jones, Camoflage, and Gender Exploration

I'm mulling over the description by Onyx of Gwenyth Jones' book Life as "another gender exploration book."

What's meant, in modern SF, by a "gender exploration" book? Do we still need such things? Does the term mean anything more or different than women complaining about how rotten the world is because it has men in it, and how we all play such stereotyped roles, and how awful it is that gays aren't treated right in our society, and how a fantasy society would be so much better? (Or so much worse?)

Certainly back in the '80s, when gender exploration was a new thing in SF, I found them fascinating-- but perhaps it was just the novelty. Left Hand of Darkness is probably the prime examplar of a gender exploration book, but what is most interesting about it, looking back from a distance, is that how little it really is about gender exploration. In fact, it is remarkable how much LeGuin manages to avoid the main issues.

These days we have the Tiptree award to tell us what's good in the way of gender-exploration SF... but it seem a rather clouded oracle. I liked Joe Haldeman's book Camoflage quite a bit (except that I thought the love story at the end entirely unmotivated)-- but other than the trivial fact that his main character was a shape-changing alien who (over the course of the book) took both female and male forms, in what way did it explore gender?

Do we need gender exploration books any more? Do they have anything left to say to us?

187 Comments:

Anonymous widmanstatten said...

I might agree with you, accept for 1.) I've been reading a lot of popular science-level Evolutionary Biology books lately and 2.) Lawrence Summers proved conclusively that if New is the new black, then Old is the new New.

The nature vs. nurture debate has yet to be resolved. It goes through fads and cycles. Nurture is in this year, Nature is out that year. But the truth is, we don't know yet. We have yet to deconvolve the effects of Nurture sufficiently to really say: Yes. These are the "innate differences" between male and female brains, this is the circuitry that determines sexuality, these are the effects that those hormones have on aptitudes, behaviours, personalities, choices. All we have right now are generalizations -- and if Kinsey taught us anything with his badly skewed samples, it's that gender and sexuality don't lend themselves to generalizations. The variance is so much greater than the difference between the means, so much greater than anyone ever imagined.

Larry Summers is forcing male and female scientists and engineers, in fields which have nothing whatsoever to do with Psychology or Biology, to reconsider the possibility of Nature-derived differences. Here we go, all over again. Meanwhile, popular writers like Malcolm Gladwell are presenting evidence for another player, another powerful force of Nature: the seemingly bottomless capacity of the subconscious mind for discrimination.

As for Camouflage - I haven't read it. But I've seen at least one argument that Camouflage isn't really so much an exploration of gender as it is an exploration of gender cliches.

7:06 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

Camouflage is, by all accounts except those of this year’s Tiptree judges, a crappy example of a gender-exploration book. Consider reading some of the ones that don’t suck, and you’ll see how little it has to do with women complaining about the rottenness of a world with men in it.

In fact, come to think of it, not one of the Tiptree winners that I’ve read (about half a dozen of them) is about that.

The Tiptree jurors also tend to post extensive notes on both the “short lists”, if you want to see what they found interesting about them. Again, it rarely seems to be about that rotten old world of men. (One work by Sherri S. Tepper, for instance, which looks as though it might fall into that category, was dinged by a judge on the grounds that it “contracts and diminishes our understanding of gender.”)

So if you’re under the impression that’s what gender exploration in SF is about, then yeah, I’d say absolutely we still need such things.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous widmanstatten said...

That'd be "except for" not "accept for," up there in that first sentence. Curse those cursed spellchecker-proof homophones. Curses!

7:28 PM  
Blogger chance said...

For me, it's not even that explores gender cliches - it simply invoked them as part of the story as plot points.

If Haldeman had actually explored those stereotypes, delved into what it meant to be a man or a woman that embodied a stereotype of behavior, I probably would have found it an excellent choice.

As it is, the book left me feeling offended that the Tiptree jury chose it. Not just disappointed or feeling it wasn't a worthy choice, but offended.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

Having not read Camoflage, I won't comment on it, but as far as gender exploration, hell yes we need it. I would actually like to see more men talking about masculinity in a thoughtful, critical way.

I have this rant I go on about the Men's Movement and how cool it would be to have a group of men who could analyze and re-imagine masculinity the way the women's movement widened the definitions and roles of femininity. It's a pretty long speech, so I won't cover the whole thing here.

But I think that territory is so painful to so many people we can get a lot more good fiction out of it.

1:57 AM  
Anonymous widmanstatten said...

Long speech! Long speech! Long speech!

2:28 AM  
Blogger Kameron Hurley said...

Is this a rhetorical question?

I assume the primary writer being evoked with the statement "how rotten the world is because it has men in it," likely refers to Joanna Russ (of course, there's the famous Tiptree line from The Women Men Don't See "Women have no rights, Don, except what men allow us. Men are more aggressive and powerful, and they run the world. When the next real crisis upsets them, our so-called rights will vanish like—like that smoke. We'll be back where we always were: property. And whatever has gone wrong will be blamed on our freedom, like the fall of Rome was. You'll see.", so I suppose Tiptree must have been one of those man-haters, too, right? Or maybe she just foresaw a neoconservative American future. Not too far off the mark, some might one day say), in which case, I don't know that a fair reading of Russ has been had, but one interpreted by a biased (likely male - oh yea, I'm making assumptions) reader who was so offended about all of the complaints women had about how they were treated (by men and other women) that he got offended and threw the book across the room.

And I'd argue that "gender exploration" was "new" in the 70s, not the 80s. "The Left Hand of Darkness" came out in 1969/1970. The 80s was the era of Heinlein, in which women were great fuckbuddies ideal for covorting with men in multiple parings, but cardboard in the actual character as living-breathing-human sense.

Safe light, I absolutely agree that it'd be cool to see more people (men & women) exploring issues relating to masculinity as well - "gender" is *not* the synonym for "women" that so many people appear to think it is. When we talk about "exploring gender" and "gender cliches" it shouldn't be confined to "cliches about women."

There are a shitload of cliches and social mores ascribed to men as well, and I've met a shitload of men who find those roles incredibly stifling and don't believe that they fit into them at all.

Widmanstatten - I don't think that in the realm of SF, the nature vs. nurture debate we're always in the process of screaming about has much relevance. What I want to read are those writers who are able to push past current debate and go, "Well, fuck it. What if things were really different?"

What bone-headed Summers has to same about my ability to put 2 & 2 together because I have a uterus would be incredibly dull to put into a current SF story.

Why?

Cause that's right now. Cause that's the world I already live in. I already live in a place where fucktards make assumptions about who I am and what I can do based on the fact that I bleed once a month.

I've already seen these ideas about what the sex of a person means in regards to their social role in this society. I fucking live it every day. I've been told my womb makes me stupid a hundred thousand times from a hundred thousand different blowhards.

And it bores me.

I want somebody to think outside the box (and, as David pointed out, there are indeed writers who do this, and there's a great starting list there); I don't want to hear the same boring arguments about how men are "naturally" rapists and killers and women are "naturally" passive nurturers.

SF/F drew me because when I was younger I realized it was the best place to really explore how things could be different, the place where you could say, "Sure, things are this way now, but what would have to change/be conceptualized differently for things to *not* be this way?"

*That's* the challenge, that's the allure of the genre for me, taking me somewhere new where people can express themselves in alternate ways, where society can be shaped differently, where biology does *not* equal destiny... and never did.

That's why I love this genre, and that's why there will *always* be a place in SF for questioning what makes us human, and how our bodies and societies can transcend these rigidly defined categories: women and men, that aren't rigid at all in actual practice.

If you're not finding anything that challenges that, you've either not looked over the Tiptree selections, or there are not enough people writing it who are being published mainstream. In which case, there's either a dearth of writers thinking outside the box (a bit doubtful) or editors who aren't seeing something that speaks to them (true, though if you're looking for a place for your gender-bending, we've got Strange Horizons for that, in which case you can't blame your subject matter for rejections, only the quality of your story :) ).

Yea, we need more genderbending fiction, but it also may need a better marketing strategy -

Stories that fly too far outside the box often freak publishers out, because there's a deep fear that there's no market for it.

My suggestion?

Market it to women. Try tearing off the 14-year-old white male audience template and pushing the idea that SF/F is where you're gonna get to live outside the world of Larry Summers and the "girls are physically and mentally weak" world and enter, say, Buffyland.

Wow. That just might work (ha ha).

You may even interest a shitload of aforementioned guys who live outside the boxes, too.

But for better or worse, there's a reason that much of SF/F (some of the bestselling stuff) is considered a comfort food. It's conservative. It's token. It's Heinlein giving us polyamory but populating his work with female stick figures.

It reassures old ideals about what everybody's place is, and how the world works.

It's a dangerous place for a gosh-wow genre to be.

So, fuck it, what do gender-bending books and stories of the non-comfort kind have to say to us?

The same thing they said to Joanna Russ, the reason she started writing it:

"Things can be really different."

11:25 AM  
Blogger Johnny Dark said...

So what, then, is meant by "gender exploration"? And should I care?

11:29 AM  
Blogger Ellen Datlow said...

I think there's definitely a place for more sf that explores gender (novels and short stories) but I've disagreed with at least two of the Tiptrees in the past two years:

Light by M. John Harrison may be a wonderful sf novel but it's not about gender, no matter how its Tiptree judge defenders like to twist to twist their analysis.
Troll, while a fine novel, is also not about gender or gender relations (IMO).

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Leah Bobet` said...

Does the term mean anything more or different than women complaining about how rotten the world is because it has men in it,

Yes.

Do we need gender exploration books any more? Do they have anything left to say to us?

And yes.

It's quite a different enterprise to be a man or a woman now than when the roles were cut and dried. I imagine in some ways it was a lot harder, and it was a lot easier: men and women perhaps knew more what was expected of them by society, even if they didn't agree with those expectations. We're at a point right now where I think it's very hard for members of either gender to find a comfortable place for that component of their identity.

So yes, I think we need more gender exploration books. But the conversation, in my mind, has shifted.

12:53 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

So what, then, is meant by "gender exploration"?

Depends. To continue to pick on the Tiptree, each jury (and probably each juror) redefines it for themselves. If you want to try to figure out what it might mean to you, I'd suggest concentrating on the word exploration. Clearly, stories that don't say anything that hasn't been said a hundred times over the last twenty or thirty years (e.g., "Men suck!") aren't exploring anything.

Some of the things that I personally find interesting about gender, that I think SF might have something to say about, are:

- What people (men, women, neuter, transgendered, liberals, conservatives, religious, secular, Americans, Thais, our contemporaries, people dead for two thousand years...) think it means to be male or female, and why they think that.

- How meaningful the categories are and how much their meaning changes over time and from place to place.

- To what extent those aren't the only two meaningful categories.

- To what extent those categories have to do with biological sex.

- To what extent those categories have to do with sex in an erotic sense.

- How those categories -- and related categories like "gay" or straight" -- play out in different cultural contexts.

- How our interpretation of the way they play out in other cultures is shaped by our own cultural, geographical, and temporal biases.

- How unlikely it is that in a fantasy world like Mercedes Lackey's, "gay" and "straight" would be defined exactly as they are in a 20th-century liberal Western construction coming out of a specific history that dates back to Oscar Wilde and A.E. Housman. :)

That's just one, tightly coupled set of questions, and it's just my slice through it. There's plenty of other angles.

And should I care?

I don't know. How do you decide what you should care about?

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Bluejack said...

I am sympathetic with the original blog entry to a degree: there's a lot of trite political thinking that makes its way into print. Science Fiction -- along with the rest of the world -- had very little need for regurgitated party-line thinking, whether it's the stuff that Kameron Hurley hates, or whether it's liberal/radical/feminist thinking. But getting bored of simplistic politics won't make it go away, regrettably.

Now, as long as there are humans experiencing themselves, each other, and the world, there will be a need for insightful stories about all the facets of this experience, and its hard to argue that *anything* is more central to human experience than sex and gender. So, duh, of course stories that explore these aspects of life will *always* be needed.

Storytelling, in case you have forgotten, is not a scientific enterprise in which subject matter is solved and then put on the shelf to teach to future generations. Storytelling is an active, creative engagement with the lives we lead. We'll always do it, we'll always need it.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Johnny Dark said...

Kameron Hurley asks: Is this a rhetorical question?

Is that a rhetorical question?

I don't know; if you'd like to define "rhetorical question" as "a question intended to stimulate rhetoric", then, sure.

And I'd argue that "gender exploration" was "new" in the 70s, not the 80s. "The Left Hand of Darkness" came out in 1969/1970.

Well, I could go with that. I will still argue that Left Hand of Darkness really does remarkably little gender-examination. The gender examination comes with the pronoun-shifted rewrite of "Winter's King" that came out in LeGuin's collection The Wind's Twelve Quarters in 1975. That era also saw Walk to the End of the World (1974), and "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" (1976). So clearly the patterns for gender-examining fiction were indeed being laid down in the 70s. I'd say, though, that this trend moved from a few sui generis works to a common SF trope by the 1980s.

The 80s was the era of Heinlein, in which women were great fuckbuddies ideal for covorting with men in multiple parings, but cardboard in the actual

That's odd; everybody I know would say that Heinlein became unreadable as of I Will Fear No Evil in 1974; I can' t think of anybody who would call the 80s the era of Heinlein. The 80s was, however, the era when John Varley came onto the scene; and if you think of him as the right-born heir of Heinlein, your characterization might make sense. On the other hand, if you think of Varley as a trend-setter in the males-writing-complex-female-viewpoint-characters movement, it makes no sense.

My suggestion? Market it to women. Try tearing off the 14-year-old white male audience template... enter, say, Buffyland.

Wow, just what the world needs, more Buffy-clone writing in science fiction.

Buffy and Xena are leading-edge in the TV world, I guess. In the print world, it's old hat, retreading territory that print SF has trampled for decades. I'd put Lynn Abbey's Daughter of the Bright Moon as the book opening the floodgates of the Women-with-swords-kicking-ass movement, but the genre wasn't unknown before then (back to Robert E. Howard's Red Sonya of Rogatino ("The Shadow of the Vulture," 1934), although people associate the character more with the comics than with Howard's version.) And, god knows, the field is full of them now-- even the generic product military science fiction series features kick-ass female heros like Honor Harrington. Looking around as of 2005, I'd say that men warriors in SF are almost a dying breed.

[JD had written] And should I care?

David Moles answered: I don't know. How do you decide what you should care about?

By listening to you, of course.

3:45 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

Wow, just what the world needs, more Buffy-clone writing in science fiction.

Kameron was talking about audiences, not content. Don't be deliberately obtuse.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Johnny Dark said...

That wasn't clear from context. It doesn't affect my point: the "Buffy" audience is well and excessively (even obsessively) targetted by the existing sf product. "Buffyville" is BTDT, got the t-shirt.

4:33 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

the "Buffy" audience is well and excessively (even obsessively) targetted by the existing sf product

And the 14-year-old white male audience that Kameron was contrasting it with isn't?

Anyway, if by "sf" we mean "science fiction" (i.e., we're not counting fantasy novels with pastel covers and floppy-eyelashed unicorns), and by "product" we mean "books and stories", I'm not sure that's true.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Ellen Datlow said...

When I read Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness in the 70s it made me think more about gender and how "set" it is. So it certainly explores the idea of gender as far as I'm concerned. The idea that a person could change gender at will (or depending on some outside influence) was revolutionary.

Varley's female pov is not at all the point, what IS the point is a story like "Options," which enable humans to change their gender at will.

That's what exploring gender issues is about. How deeply these novels/stories go into the affects of changing gender is another issue entirely.

I'd also like to point out a very early treatment of gender issues by Chan Davis:
"It Walks in Beauty" first published in 1958.

http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/classics/classics_archive/davis/
Even though it may seem dated now, I think it still packs a wallop.

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Meghan McCarron said...

Okay. On the subject of "why do we need gender exploration" and its hidden, sister question "is this shit interesting? I don't think it's interesting. It's just a bunch of whiny women," let's take, for example, the Cabal. Your user name is Johnny Dark. It marks you as male (if you are not male, hey, way to go. but i would be surprised if you were such a woman and asking, why should I care? I find few women, not to mention queers, and certainly trannies, ask "why should I care about gender exploration?" But that's another issue).

Now, why did you chose something that marks you as male? Why didn't you chose something like Ebony Orchid or Little Black Dress? Your dick wouldn't fall off if you posted under such a name. (Nor would it suddenly find itself up some other guy's ass.) And why didn't you chose something neutral, like Oynx?

Because gender is more than about who's got what. Your maleness is a part of who you are, and it's something you constantly express and reinforce. And that expression shifts as cultures progress. Making some interesting grounds for speculation, and the fiction that uses it.

Great, you say. But why should I care?

Because gender identity is about power. You can say men and women are equal now. You can say gender is not rigid. To that I say, after stiffling a laugh, then why are women beautiful first and powerful second? Why are queers who push gender too far -- bull dykes, pretty-boy fags -- ridiculed at best? Why is gay marriage such a horrifying prospect, why are women much more likely than men to live in poverty -- or, conversely, why does buffy have such a huge and rabid following? Because there's nothing else out there like it. And there's a hunger for more.

Gender is at the center of all of those power struggles, and there's nothing better than a power struggle, a gray area, a conflict, to propel a work of fiction. That's why you should care. Many people aren't doing it right, or are doing it lazy. But we should pay attention, because some people do it right.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

Gender & power...

Oh, Meghan, I think things are so much worse than that. :)

[gets on soapbox]

Part of the reason that I want a real men's movement is that men's sexual identity is also a wildly constrained place to live.

Gender identity is a raw wound in most folks' psyches. That's part of the reason that stand-up comics all have a "the difference between men and women" routine.

Here's a few of the questions that I think we could profitably turn into gender identity fiction:

1) What does it do to a man's psyche to be bombarded with insincere sexual come-ons every time he walks past a magazine rack?

2) What is the price of a life of unearned deference?

3) Why is a woman wearing slacks trying to be comfortable when a man in a skirt clearly wants to be a woman?

The image of gender politics as a struggle between men and woman is toxic and must be overcome. Any real men's movement would be the natural ally of a women's movement, and serve as the completion of a deep cultural critique that's really only half finished now.

The women have done their bit. Femininity includes a much wider range of options than it was a generation or two back. But there's a *lot* of interesting work still needs doing.

[gets off soapbox]

7:16 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

Come, Johnny! Let us grasp our respective manhoods and and write deep, meaningful tales of the unexplored depths of male life!

Let us embrace our queer brothers in an A-frame non-sexual sort of way!

Let us tell those bastards who want us to get in touch with our inner warriors that we've cultivated enough violence already, and we'll be getitng in touch with our inner engineers and architects, thank you very much!

Seriously, I'll get a story to Ellen by, say, the middle of August on question 1 if you do question 2...

[grins]

7:29 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

Incorporated by reference:

Fool's Gold: Irate

Chrononautic Log: Moderation in all things: Liveblogging the Sex Panel

(FWIW, S.L., consider "also bad because of X" in place of "so much worse than Y". Like I said, there's plenty of angles, and while -- see above -- I'm totally down with yours, we haven't made enough progress to even look like trivializing Meghan's...)

7:32 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

David:

I take your point. Sorry, Meghan. Didn't mean to trivialize the power thing. Just wanted to say "yesh, and there's *another* cesspool on the other side..."

7:34 PM  
Blogger Kameron Hurley said...

WTF??

7:44 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

David:

In the chronautic log, which Ben was the Ben?

7:45 PM  
Blogger Kameron Hurley said...

Ben Rosenbaum.

It was a great panel.

7:52 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

I thought it might be.

I really have to meet him some day. I know a lot of the same people, but I've never breathed his air. It seems like everything the man says oozes sane...

7:54 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

Yeah, Ben can be scarily sane sometimes.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Johnny Dark said...

Ellen Datlow commented: Troll, while a fine novel, is also not about gender or gender relations

OK.

So, given that it doesn't seem to be Camoflage; and it doesn't seem to be Troll: A Love Story -- the two Tiptree winners this year-- then what is a good gender-exploration work of sf that's more recent that twenty years ago? And what's good about it?

8:32 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

I'm an avid fan of Kessel's "Stories for Men".

It dramatised male life under a matriarchy without being sentimental (either pro or con). It talked about the damage men do to one another and how we self-sacrifice (or maybe just self-harm) as part of our being "men" without copping an easy judgment.

But you may have noticed this men's movement hobby horse I'm riding.

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Meghan McCarron said...

Safelight. Honeybun. Can I call you honeybun?

I never meant to ignore the men. Men are great, and the moment the masculinity movement realizes the amount of priveledge it has, and needs to put aside, in order to get on the front lines with us chicks, kids, you are more than welcome.

Do you know why men can't wear skirts? Because it's symbolically putting away that priveledge, and presenting yourself in a demeanin (associated with the feminine) way. Should all "conscious" dudes wear skirts? No. But society "keeping you from doing that" is actually another manifestation of the rampant sexism against women, as well as men. Wearing a skirt is demeaning to men. Girly. You know why girly is an insult? Because girls, as a construct, are powerless. Weak. Uninteresting. A woman can wear pants because she's appropriating a symbol of power, with the underlying assumption of, who doesn't want to be a man? (and we were only recently allowed to do that) A man gets fun of for wearing a skirt because, well, -- who'd want to be like a girl?

Our culture values masculine power above all else. That's why Buffy is so refereshing, whereas so many other "women warriors" are less so -- she is fully a woman. And your "masculine power" is why you get those come-ons from the magazines, honeybun. Yes, it's overwhelming and kind of gross. I'm sorry. But guess what? I'm supposed to BE that come-on. I'm supposed to defer. (And I like girls. They could come on to me, however insincerely, no problem. But why would girls want another girl? ultimately, as most girl-on-girl proves, they like each other okay, but really crave the cock.)

So, is it hard to be a man? Yes. I imagine it's hard because you're human, but not supposed to have, you know, emotions. That leads to some wacky, unfortunate stuff. But at the same point, the best you can muster for men's struggles is "unearned defference"? I believe I cited "poverty." If you really want to help, you need to take a look at that deference, that priveledge, and make peace with the fact that, yes, you do have it better in terms of power within society. don't get defensive. dont' say but-but-but-. Look at it. Think about it. Then write.

PS: Ben Rosenbaum is great. But if you think I've got a lot to say, you should just imagine if he were posting here.

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Meghan McCarron said...

got a couple typos in that post. the punishment for quasi-secretly blogging from work. sorry about that. there's something in there that should be "demeaning" something else that should be "girl-on-girl porn." Anything else -- my apologies.

8:51 PM  
Anonymous widmanstatten said...

I thought the Fight Club references in "Stories for Men" were just cheesy. Fight Club was a truly wonderful movie, and the Tyler Durden in Kessel's work put a bad taste in my mouth.

A co-worker of mine just recommended Scott's Shadow Man and Gilman's Halfway Human for their treatment of gender fluidity and ambiguity.

Does Elizabeth Bear's "This Tragic Glass" count as gender exploration? I still sometimes find myself thinking about that one when I'm brushing my teeth.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

meaghan:

You may, of course, call me honeybun if you see fit. Because we have this funky power dynamic, I shan't take offense and shall in fact feel oddly flattered. (How shallow's that?)

But I think your analysis -- while accurate -- misses a couple things.

Let me hold forth (all of course under that caveat that it's just my opinion. I may be wrong). :)

You suggest:

Do you know why men can't wear skirts? Because it's symbolically putting away that priveledge, and presenting yourself in a demeanin (associated with the feminine) way.

Two things: First, power that restricts me (as a man) from doing whatever I damn well please is an odd and deeply suspect sort of power.

Second, actually it's not that people would think I was a girl, but that I was a queer. Any deviation from mainline, stoic masculine identity is punished whether it's in reference to women or not.

You also say:

If you really want to help, you need to take a look at that deference, that priveledge, and make peace with the fact that, yes, you do have it better in terms of power within society. don't get defensive. dont' say but-but-but-. Look at it. Think about it. Then write.

Righto. I'm on it. :)

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Meghan McCarron said...

That's the whole thing about priveledge, isn't it? It's not really any good for anyone. There's a price. But it's usually one people are willing to pay. Or don't know how to stop paying.

And I'm aware that no one would mistake you for a girl in a skirt, at least unless you're one of the few truly androgynous. Though you ought to ask yourself, outside of the "what are you hassles," which are shit-tastic but little more, why it's so bad to have people think you're gay, when you're on your writing quest. Because that's a part of this too, no?

Anyway I am done being political for the night(read: work is over). I'm going to go have myself an MIA dance party in my traffic-jammed car and eat some dumplings for dinner.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Ellen Datlow said...

Wildmanstatten:
I believe it does.



"Does Elizabeth Bear's "This Tragic Glass" count as gender exploration? I still sometimes find myself thinking about that one when I'm brushing my teeth."

10:46 PM  
Blogger Onyx said...

I think "Stories For Men" is one of the most important gender stories written in the last ten years. And I second Safelight. Gender exploration is going to be pretty limited if one gender never explores.

(Onyx, who worked fourteen hours today and still hasn't packed to leave tomorrow.)

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems to me one thing SF/F can do is ignore the current inequality paradigm entirely, but do it in the background--not as the point of a story at all. Which is actually more effective--take it as a given. Because as someone noted, it makes no sense in a fantasy or SF setting, necessarily, to preserve the inequality status quo anyway.

I agree with Ellen about a few of those Tiptree choices, btw. It might just mean the field isn't being adventurous enough right now?

JeffV

11:00 PM  
Blogger Ellen Datlow said...

JeffV,
I agree with you about using gender issues as background in order to make the point more subtley. I hate being preached at. To me, telling a good story comes first.

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Susan said...

what is a good gender-exploration work of sf that's more recent that twenty years ago? And what's good about it?

This is kind of a dark-horse nominee, but I'd suggest _Notable American Women_ by Ben Marcus. I'm only about halfway through it, and it's already one of the most disorienting books I've ever read, but pretty much the only thing I know for sure is that it's about gender relations. And it's weird and interesting.

1:40 AM  
Anonymous Susan said...

Also, I have to get this in...

What's meant, in modern SF, by a "gender exploration" book? Do we still need such things? Does the term mean anything more or different than women complaining about how rotten the world is because it has men in it, and how we all play such stereotyped roles, and how awful it is that gays aren't treated right in our society, and how a fantasy society would be so much better? (Or so much worse?)

Are you -daft-? Or just willfully ignorant?

1:42 AM  
Blogger Johnny Dark said...

Susan wrote: Are you -daft-? Or just willfully ignorant?

You should also keep open the possibility that I'm both.

--in this case, Onyx had used the phrase "gender exploration" book as if it were clear to everybody what was meant, and that the term was generally a term of approbation. I wanted to push on some of the unexamined assumptions a bit and see what's there.

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a little piece on gender and power; I hope you don't mind:

It's a dark, dreary afternoon in the playground, in a town far away. A little boy is crying; he's been beaten up on for the hundredth time. He just wants to be loved, and he'd like to be a pacifist, but they call it cowardice and beat him up all the more.
"Can't you stop this, Mrs Simpson," he asks her in class.The teacher smiles sympathetically, and explains that "Boys will be boys."
Oh dear...

One day a little girl is beaten, by a boy; the class await with baited breath. The teacher informs them the boy is a coward, and physical punishment is duly doled out. No more girls are beaten.
"Oh, to be a girl!" wails our tragic hero. The boy beside him overhears, the word is spread around and for the next five years he's beaten on for being queer (to the extent that he starts believing it himself). The teacher turns a blind eye, as she doesn't like that sort of thing.

Then one sunny day many years later, political correctness is discovered in a far off land. Our hero discovers he's heterosexual, reads Antonio Gramsci, concludes that Mrs Simpson was the ideological arm of a wartime state, and considers seeking her out and kicking her on the shin. Then he remembers he's a pacifist. And it's safe to be a pacifist, isn't it, now that war is over...

12:27 PM  
Blogger Kameron Hurley said...

Anon, dude, that's *so* not a spec. fic. story. It's a frickin personal anecdote. There's a difference. Again: we live that every day; it's not exploring anything new at all.

I'd also clarify: teachers let the "boys will be boys" mentality go when I was being harrassed in school, too (yep, a girl! And yea, I finally had to fight back to keep them from stealing my stuff), and many other girls like me (fraternity hijinks, much?).

I'm cool with the masculinity bandwagon - I think more men (and women) need to tackle it, but not at the expense of the other half of the world. When guys feel victimized, please keep in mind that men are socialized to beat up on men *and* women to prove dominance/masculinity/non-queerness, etc. Gaining physical power and "dominance" is also a way for men (and women) to evade "victim" status. It's certainly why I got interested in taking self-defense classes.

If we roll too much with men or women one way we forget we're talking about people, and socialized roles effect all of us. Spec. fic. is where you can figure out what the hell it "means" to be male, or female, or a man, or a woman, what it means when you strip away all of that, what makes you human. If you tear away our current setting, or current social template, if we were "allowed/able" to freely screw around with our own biology, how different would we be? Would we still be human? Why? What takes the place of violence in the dominance game if we eliminated it? Or is violence part of what makes us human? How closely tied are sex/violence? Is that purely cultural? Does it have to be?

This is the place where you can ask those question.

Otherwise, you're suffering a failure of the imagination (as Geoff Ryman once so blatantly said of my own work. I don't pretend to know what I'm doing, but I have an idea of where it could go).

1:03 PM  
Blogger Kameron Hurley said...

P.S. Oh, and Johnny? The above post probably pretty accurately covers the "why should I care?" question about "gender exploration fiction."

You should care because it shows you ways the world could be different. It opens up possibilities.

That's what this is all about.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Susan said...

I wanted to push on some of the unexamined assumptions a bit and see what's there.

That's fine, and that's a good thing to do. It's just that when you launch that kind of a query, you should probably do it with something a little more sophisticated than "women complaining about how rotten the world is because it has men in it." Otherwise it just looks like you're intellectually underpowered for the discussion at hand, and I'm going to do us all the favor of assuming that you aren't actually.

6:29 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

I wanted to push on some of the unexamined assumptions a bit and see what’s there.

All I can say is: Matthew 7:3.

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kameron you sound like you're ranting. Reading your comments is making my eyes bleed. Gender issues are important, but do we women have to discuss this with such angry tone? Our problems in the west are minimal compared to a lot of other countries or I should say, most other countries in the world.

Maybe it's time for another voice to be heard on the issue. One that doesn't come from a white, middle class privileged background. :)

1:02 AM  
Anonymous widmanstatten said...

Kameron: Regarding nature vs. nurture, I still see the "science" at the front of science fiction, and I appreciate it when authors demonstrate that they are minimally up-to-date on what's actually known before they go charging off into uncharted territory. A more nuanced discussion could only have a favorable effect on gender exploration in science fiction.

If you prefer "speculative," then let me ask you this: you would prefer to speculate from where to where?

You say that you would prefer to speculate completely outside of the nature/nurture box, because it bores you, because, frankly, you're sick and tired of hearing about it. Well, fair enough. Except here's the problem: We don't know the dimensions of the damn box. We don't know how big it is, the depth of its waters, the weight that it carries. We know a lot more about it then we did 20 years ago, but believe me, we don't know very much at all.

I believe the nature vs. nurture issue deserves at least lip service, that it is relevant here, because fundamentally it's somewhere near the core of every argument for or against feminism, for or against gay rights, and because WE DON'T KNOW. Therefore, any assertion about nature vs. nurture in a work of fiction is by definition speculative. (Though, like I said, it might be nice to see assertions which are bit more nuanced, instead of the same old same-old. Or, sure, so far out in left field that they really are exploring new ground. I absolutely have to grant you that.)

But I have a sneaking suspicion that no matter how far and wide you choose to send your gender explorations, someone will always be able point out the moment when you made an implicit assumption about the shape, size and contents of the nature/nurture box. I have a sneaking suspicion that that moment will always be located somewhere near the beginning of your speculative process, and the entire enterprise will always hinge upon it.

I mention Larry Summers because, loathesome though he may be, he represents something greater than himself: Summers respresents the zeitgeist. There will always be authors who can't not touch.

He also represents an opinion which I suspect is shared by a very, very large number of men, and even a surprising number of women. It's an inadequate, ignorant opinion based on false assumptions and outdated, often anecdotal information, but it's the implicit assumption which a great number of science fiction fans, readers, and even writers are carrying in with them. The tone of your first entry seems to indicate that you are entirely too familiar with the effects of this assumption.

3:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous--Whether Kameron is ranting or not, that element needs to be in the discussion. And to talk about how things are *worse* elsewhere...wow. Okay, so things are worse elsewhere. So...the crap that does happen here isn't worth talking about? It's acceptable? What a shitty way to view the world. It's kind of the we-don't-torture-our-prisoners-as-badly-as-the-other-side mentality the U.S. government has taken in the last few years.

As for the do you have to be so angry comment--*that* definitely pertains to this discussion, although not in the way you intend. Yeah, you women--you should be genteel and restrained and all. That's what you seem to be saying. What a crock.

JeffV

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A genteel and restained conversation was not my intention. I didn't think an angry position really helps any sort of discussion on feminism or rather gender exploration, which is not the same thing in my opinion. I thought the angry tone taken in that post so stereotypical that's it's almost laughable.

What I was alluding to with the "white middle class" statement is fact. The majority of SF is written from this point of view and in my opinion, it would be nice to hear another voice for a change. White middle class women have had the podium for a number of years now and while things certainly aren't perfect, it's a far cry from the experience a woman of colour has, which might warrant such an angry tone of voice.

And yes, it might be useful to explore gender issues on a global scale to put one's views in perspective (my own included).

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re this--

"What I was alluding to with the 'white middle class' statement is fact. The majority of SF is written from this point of view and in my opinion, it would be nice to hear another voice for a change. White middle class women have had the podium for a number of years now and while things certainly aren't perfect, it's a far cry from the experience a woman of colour has, which might warrant such an angry tone of voice."

That makes more sense. But I don't see the point of it applied to Kameron's comments. Either women of color will post or they won't. As will writers/readers from other areas than the West. In the meantime, should others *not* post because they aren't women of color?

But, yes, it would be nice to have as much diversity as possible, although if people keep posting anonymously, how do we know how diverse we are? LOL!

And what unique attributes do you, anon, bring to the discussion besides being from the other side of the pond? (Here we really begin to see how certain discussions can be harmed without the context of knowing, for example, who certain Dark Cabalists are or aren't. Or does that genderlessness actually help?)

JeffV

PS Is anyone else sick of anonymous people posting views that certainly wouldn't get them in trouble if they *had* posted their name beside them? If you're going to be anonymous, at least for chrissakes say something controversial. Otherwise, reveal yourself and we'll all go out for ice cream afterwards.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the anon dude who posted the silly story, Jeff. I'm not a published writer, and I've nothing of any real importance to say, so I don't feel I belong here; that's one of the reasons I didn't give a name. But I do like ice cream.

Best wishes,
David W.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

"I didn't think an angry position really helps any sort of discussion on feminism or rather gender exploration, which is not the same thing in my opinion."

Speaking as a white middle-class male here, but "Don't get angry" sounds like "Act more ladylike" to me. The only way to effect change is to get angry. If the position of women in the world--everywhere in the world--doesn't piss you off, what do you really have to contribute to a discussion on feminism (which may not be the same as gender exploration, but is certainly a big, important chunk of it)?

12:30 PM  
Blogger Johnny Dark said...

widmanstatten said: I mention Larry Summers because, loathesome though he may be, he represents something greater than himself: Summers respresents the zeitgeist.

Judging by the 50 tons of bricks that hit him, and the fact that as far as I can see he has had a few thousand people attack him and perhaps two people defend him in public, I would conclude that if he represents the zeitgeist, he does so by showing what it isn't.

I would defend him, but I don't actually agree with him, and he's a Harvard professor, he can defend himself. Also, I was bored with the discussion long ago.

Susan said It's just that when you launch that kind of a query, you should probably do it with something a little more sophisticated... Otherwise it just looks like you're intellectually underpowered for the discussion at hand

Oh, I expect I most undoubtably am.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Kameron Hurley said...

Dude, anon (david W), that was so cool how quickly that devolved into attacking my race and gender in order to invalidate my thoughts and opinions....

Sweeeet.

That was so awesomely stereotypically old-white-male!

And look, wow, by saying that I just invalidated everything you said, and everything said by any white male here, and because it's being said by a white male, it must just be silly and funny and not worth notice.

Wheeee!!!!!!!!!!!!

Snark aside, yes, I've already been in those gorgeous conversations where somebody says to me, "I think you're overreacting. Women in other countries have it way worse. I mean, women in Saudi Arabia aren't allowed to drive. Why are you complaining?"

Why?

Cause I think things can be *better.*

Why else would I be so publicly, angrily pissed off? I suppose if I'd used my gender-neutral name and blogger hadn't automatically shown my pic and I didn't talk about having a uterus, I would be seen as "assertive" instead of "angry."

So it goes.

Widmanstatten - I totally hear where you're coming from. "Right now" will certainly be the extrapolation starting point: my worry is in regards to "movements" of writers like the self-styled mundanes who wanted every far-future work to be completely "plausible" based absolutely scientifically on what we "know" right now.

As you pointed out, the problem with that is that the more we "know" the more we realize We Really Don't Know. I worry that science fiction will or could be seen as a genre that limits possibilities instead of one that's open to possibility.

That's a really big fear when I start hearing "men can't" or "women can't," being brought up in conversations regarding the state of SF.

Even in fantasy, you'll often get wild settings, wild creatures, and cool tech: but the social roles prescribed by gender will be more or less the same. The way the society is ordered will be around a default hetero nuclear family.

What I want to see (and write) is writing that pushes not only technology and gosh-bang-wow-look-how-fast-the-spaceship-goes, but the way we order our lives, our families, our identities (the best SF shows how technology can and does change these things).

And, unfortunately, if we take a rigid view of our bodies, of the way gender and social function are tied, and say "It's always been this way, it is this way, it will always be this way...." then we confine our possibilities to what science currently deems "the possible" ("the acceptable")instead of inspiring new young thinkers and scientists to go out and challenge the possible.

If it's already "established fact" that the world is flat, why bother going out and looking at it another way?

Likely, because you see things that don't "fit" with that, your own experience contradicts that, and you can imagine something different.

That's the starting point.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Kameron, I loved your post! I thought you answered me wonderfully, and I learned a lot from it. The critical comments were from some other anonymous, who is apparently female. I jumped in by mistake, as I thought Jeff was addressing me, as I am from "across the pond."
I've only made one post in this section, the little story. After realising that I'm not up to a seriously intellectual discussion, I decided to withdraw from this board and leave it to people who know what they're talking about. As I said, I've never even been published, Kameron, so I wouldn't have the arrogance to go on the attack.(Not that I want to.) Please accept my apology for this misunderstanding.

David W.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

Dave sez:

Speaking as a white middle-class male here, but "Don't get angry" sounds like "Act more ladylike" to me. The only way to effect change is to get angry.

Hrm. With that caveat that Kameron's posts didn't particularly ding me, I'm going to dissent here.

First off, while anger is a natural and potent emotion -- often justified -- it's actually only a so-so rhetorical device. Unless the audience can participate in the rage with you, its more alienating than persuasive (and it's never really *persuasive* so much as bonding the like-minded).

Second, if trying to express anger in terms that keep people engaged with the matter of the conflict at hand is lady-like, there's a whole bunch of men I'd like to see bein' more lady-like.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

First off, while anger is a natural and potent emotion -- often justified -- it's actually only a so-so rhetorical device. Unless the audience can participate in the rage with you, its more alienating than persuasive (and it's never really *persuasive* so much as bonding the like-minded).

Second, if trying to express anger in terms that keep people engaged with the matter of the conflict at hand is lady-like, there's a whole bunch of men I'd like to see bein' more lady-like.


Safelight, I'm not sure what you're responding to here. I wasn't extolling the merits of anger as a rhetorical device, only as a valid emotional starting point. I find it interesting that Kameron's anger is being attacked as "so stereotypical that's it's almost laughable" and a "rant" while our brave Anonymous's pathetic vignette on the sufferings of men is being given a pass. Perhaps it wasn't worth responding to, but that's another issue, and at least it was related to the topic at hand. If we're reduced to arguing about how to argue, this "discussion" has run into the ditch.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Johnny Dark said...

Anonymous "David W" wrote After realising that I'm not up to a seriously intellectual discussion, I decided to withdraw from this board and leave it to people who know what they're talking about.

Oh, don't go. I liked your little story. I was gonna rec it for a Nebula, but then suddenly realized that I can't, since I'm a fictional construct.

Safelight wrote: while anger is a natural and potent emotion -- often justified -- it's actually only a so-so rhetorical device

Yeah. I get bored with the angry young man thing. And updating that to angry young woman doesn't do much, either. Harlan Ellison seems to be able to use the "angry" bit and turn it into readable prose, but in other writers it tends to just be, well, boring in its sameness.

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Harlan Ellison seems to be able to use the "angry" bit and turn it into readable prose, but in other writers it tends to just be, well, boring in its sameness."

-readable prose, exactly my point.

If you can't make your point in a convincing way then why bother. It's otherwise a rant which does no good to the cause, in my opinion, and I say this from a white middle class stance, but one who's perhaps travelled around a bit and who sees the priviledged position we find ourselves in. In my mind, it's a position that requires us to be 'listeners' and 'encouragers', but how we encourage should not be done with violence and forcefulness.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Kameron Hurley said...

At risk of this thread getting hijacked by anonymous posters upset with my angry female whiteness, I'll ask that if you have any issues with my whiteness, my background (my academic background is in revolutionary movements and female revolutionaty fighters in particular: I spent a year and a half in South Africa working on my MA at the U of Kwa-Zulu Natal), my uterus, my use of the word "fuck," please take it up with me off-thread: kameron_hurley@hotmail.com

Otherwise, if the thread's come down to "let's attack white middle-class Kameron the angry feminist woman because she uses the word `fuck'" then the discussion of "is gender exploration in SF really neccessary" has totally broken down, and my intent was to join the discussion, not bring it to a standstill.

I recognize that strong opinion in the manner in which I express it isn't welcome, but if you need to take it up with me off-board, please do so.

My apologies for the devolution of the thread.

Cheers.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Johnny Dark said...

When you translate that into masculine dialect, "Hey, you don't like what I'm saying? Let's you and me take it up outside, right here, right now" is actually quite aggressive. You sure you're not a guy?

8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Johnny: You've just demonstrated to at least one reader that you have nothing to say. If you're going to be rude, dismissive, and then declare that anyone who gets angry at your rude dismissiveness is just being a big emotional woman, it really helps to have something to say.

The "Are you sure you're not a guy" post confirms it. It's unfortunate, really, as I can see some use in an anonymous blog that tells it like it is in the current fiction world. But Dark Cabal currently has all the literary depth, and inspires all the deep discussion, of a secret club of mid-schoolers who come up with a cool name for themselves and then spend all afternoon flicking boogers at the wall and talking about how girls have cooties.

Nice job.

You can call me Tacky, although frankly, the name suits you better right now...

11:40 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

When you translate that into masculine dialect, "Hey, you don't like what I'm saying? Let's you and me take it up outside, right here, right now" is actually quite aggressive. You sure you're not a guy?

Are you sure you're not 14 years old?

Really, if you're going to persist on this level, then you're not worth engaging.

1:45 AM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Of course we need more gender exploratory books and stories, and of course we need more sexuality exploratory books and stories. If we didn't need them, no one would be bitching about it. Well at least not as much as we do. It wouldn't be a question we ask at all, even rhetorically.

Well maybe that's not all true, either, but the question wouldn't come so easily to us if our ideas about gender and sexuality were already more sophisticated. As it is, there are pretty heavily defined ideas of gender and sexuality, even after a lot of the changes that have been made to those concepts.

Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness doesn't seem to resonate with modern, new generation readers as much perhaps because the questions she was asking in the book have been looked at more in the past thirty years, and perhaps because of books like hers.

But there are still many questions that need to be discussed. I haven't read either Troll or Camoflage, so I can't comment on either of them, but I've read a lot of so called Feminist books or gender bending literature, etc. And sexuality does correspond to this issue because it is tied into gender at a fundamental level. You can't seperate gender and sexuality without making humans a sexless category of creatures.

As to the nature/nuture debate. It does go back and forth, but what it comes down to is that it's both. I can't seperate the two. They are constantly interacting with each other, affecting and shaping the outcomes of a person's identity. Part of our sex and gender is inherent, we are born with various parts. But there is also many things that are constructed socially around sexual anatomy. How to talk, how to think, what to do in certain situations, etc. So it's both. But I think largely it's social constructs more than nature. Nature, if you ask me, is a gray area, and social norms dictate how people will tend to behave. But this is largely debatable and I don't really have the stamina to debate it.

In any case, more gender and sexuality exploring fiction can only be better. And I do think more men have to speak up about it also. And not just in that, I support the women's movement! way either. That's so sensitive new agey guy. Let's talk about who we are as men, and how we came to be that way, and how we can be something other than what we're taught to be as men. It's something that I think would unhinge some men (and some women) but also free others from concepts of the masculine and feminine that have dictated so many things, even down to how you walk, pronounce, and what you buy at the grocery store. It's something at the very fundamental core of our being, and because of that, it needs to be talked about more.

8:14 AM  
Blogger David Moles said...

Zakbar's on-topic post aside, this has got to be the most depressing discussion I've read in at least eight months.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Johnny Dark said...

anonymous commented: Johnny: You've just demonstrated to at least one reader that you have nothing to say. If you're going to be rude, dismissive, and then declare that anyone who gets angry at your rude dismissiveness is just being a big emotional woman, it really helps to have something to say.

A significant problem with a text-only, multi-party discussion like this (which is to say, pretty much every bulletin-board or usenet-like discussion) is that it gets easy to become confused about who said what. I don't believe that I have at any time "declared that anyone who gets angry at [my] rude dismissiveness is just being a big emotional woman". I did make a comment about the discussion triggered by "anonymous"'s post saying "do we women have to discuss this with such angry tone?", but I can't see any reasonable way to interpret that as dismissing somebody as a "big emotional woman."

I have learned, over the years, that text-only conversations tend to wash out all the cues that indicate any sort of subtlety, irony or humor, but really, don't you think that a post saying "are you sure you're not a guy?" in response to somebody who just characterized herself as "Kameron the angry feminist woman" has maybe a little bit of irony in it?

In the classical, perhaps even cliche, male culture, when a bar argument gets to the point where somebody utters the phrase "You and me, let's settle this outside", this is a cue that the person saying that wants to go outside and have a fist-fight. (Or, on the other hand, if the barkeep says "take it outside", he means, go fight outside, and not in my bar. As it happened, I'd just been reading a (non-fiction) book where the phrase was discussed.

I was amused that Kameron used nearly that exact wording. We are discussing gender exploration. I pointed out, in a way that should have been clearly somewhat ironic, that her wording was nearly the same as the words that say "let's go outside and fight" when used by a man. It seemed relevant to the topic to me.

...If you're going to be rude, dismissive...

I will admit to being rude. (What I'd intended was more like "confrontational", but if that reads as "rude" to you, I won't object). I have not been "dismissive," however, with the possible exception of being a bit "dismissive" about the concept that written SF needs to be more like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Susan said...

Why would you choose to be confrontational when you could instead have chosen to be thought-provoking?

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

because that's harder work...

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and not nearly as arch

1:36 PM  
Blogger Johnny Dark said...

You find nothing about this discussion thought provoking?

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Johnny, that's right. I didn't find anything in this discussion thought-provoking. I've had better discussions on gender exploration before, and you have ironically become what your post was meant to be about: another shallow rehash that quickly shut the door on any real discussion.

Not to say that no good points have been raised at all, but it's hard to have a good discussion when the people who own the blog are dragging it down.

And if you want to claim that your confrontational take-no-prisoners in-your-face style is what caused the few points of good discussion that were raised, you go right ahead and do that. It doesn't make you look any better, but at least it proves that there are smart folks elsewhere on the 'net who will come tell you you're an idiot when need be. If you really want the Dark Cabal's motto to be "We're the people who say dumb things that make other people come say smart things", that's certainly your call. I can't wait to see what kind of audience that draws in the long run.

As for your "ah, the limitations of the net, if only I had the skill to show that I was being ironic" defense, I'll simply note that lighthearted posts making fun of people who disagree with you only work when you're the person's friend, or when you've firmly established yourself as not a jerk. It didn't work. I leave it up to you to figure out why.

-Tacky

2:45 PM  
Blogger Qwui said...

I go away just for a week or so and when I get back there's a flame-war, and I didn't even start it!

Much as I enjoy a good flame-war, I wouldn't call Johnny's posts rude by my standards, and "confrontational?" Not in even in the same city. And Kameron's posts are "angry"? Not hardly. Mildly annoyed, at best. By net standards? Clear and reasonable.

Lighten up, players.

(I should post something that's actually inflammatory, just so you can see how a real troll behaves.)

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I have learned, over the years, that text-only conversations tend to wash out all the cues that indicate any sort of subtlety, irony or humor..."

Um, that's only true if you're not a very good writer.

I'm just sayin'.

3:26 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

You find nothing about this discussion thought provoking?

It provokes these thoughts:

There's something depressing about how quickly what was supposed to be a discussion of the need for gender exploration in SF degenerated into a tired old argument about How come you women are always so damn angry? that must date back to Mary Wollstonecraft, if not farther.

There's something even more depressing about how much less interested so many people -- including the person who raised the original question -- seem to be in in the original question than in that tired old argument.

Incorporated by reference: Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s Some things I know about moderating conversations in virtual space.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Susan said...

You find nothing about this discussion thought provoking?

I didn't say that, or if I did, it was unintentional. My question was simply, why did you set "confrontational" as your goal, as opposed to any number of other possible goals? ("thought-provoking", "witty", "insightful", "thoughful", to present a small sample of the possible options. It's not about what the post was or wasn't, it's about your stated goal.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Moles:

Yeah, okay--so why not try to redirect it instead of playing holier-than-thou. You're just as bad posting your sanctimonious bull.

Fluff

4:04 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

Hey, Fluff, Johnny asked the question. If it's bull, people are free to prove me wrong. Till then (and afterwards, for tht matter) it's not my job to moderate this blog.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Johnny Dark said...

Susan, your question was Why would you choose to be confrontational when you could instead have chosen to be thought-provoking?
My answer is that your words "instead of" creates a false dichotomy; it's possible to be both.

However, as several people have noted, the conversation has drifted away from literature, and is more or less dying out. In response to my queries several people volunteered titles that they suggested would be worth reading; and for good measure, David Moles posted links to some interesting other blogs, so I myself was happy with the results of the discussion. Other people apparently found it tedious, but as the net has it, YMMV.

-- by the way, one of the titles mentioned was in fact brought up by you: Notable American Women by Ben Marcus. At the time you said "I'm only about halfway through it." Have you finished it yet? Still recommend it?

6:16 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

And does anyone know how many of these comments we can have before it causes technical problems?

11:08 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:10 PM  
Blogger Safe Light said...

You know I really didn't mean to single Kameron out. Her posts are a whole lot less angry than, for example, Nick's were. That may just be that she wasn't actually abusive. :) And certainly I did my level best to tuck it & take it & stay civil with Nick.

There was a problem I ran into when I was in college that actually feeds into this conversation. I was one of the guys who was trying (with whatever success) to be a feminist and be open to a critique of masculinity and male privilage. And as a result, I got to hear a lot of analysis about how people like me were just terrible folks, and I have to admit there were times it was hard not to take it to heart.

The raving jerks who made it a point not to be open to that kind of critique never felt bad about it, becuse they didn't hear it.

The moral of the story being, I suppose, sometimes trying to be rational and approachable means you wind up carrying the load for the folks who aren't trying.

Sorry, Kameron. I didn't call Nick on his affect because it seemed pointless and I thought he wouldn't listen. I called you on yours because I thought it might be pointful, and you might. Hypocritical of me all the same.

(I'm also sorry that the first time I tried to post this I critically failed my remember names roll, but I am deeply grateful to blogspot for giving me the means to delete the f*cked up posts...)

11:51 PM  
Anonymous widmanstatten said...

To be fair, "How come you women are always so damn angry" was sort of built into the original question. Arguably, the degeneration of the discussion to an argument about feminism, even to an argument about how to have the argument, isn't entirely off-topic.

But for the record, Johnny D., I did always believe that you were in earnest, that you really did want to hear reasons for continuing with gender exploration. Though I doubt you wanted to weather so many personal attacks. (It is rather a lot like we dropped 50 tons of bricks on you, isn't it?)

Unfortunately, the Tiptree and gender exploration are deeply tied to the SF feminist movement. By writing "Do we really need any more of this stuff?" and "it's all just a bunch of women complaining about men, haven't we done that to death already?" you adopted not so much a confrontational tone as a dismissive one. If there's one thing feminists deeply resent, one thing which will call them out of the woodwork every time, it's dismissal. When you dismiss the validity of a movement driven in large part by feminism, when you dismiss a feminist contribution to the arts and sciences, then yes, of course they start shouting. If women do not immediately begin shouting when you are dismissing the voice they use to speak, then they risk natural selection.


So, um, is this conversation completely dead in the water? I wanted to say something about nuanced vs. extreme treatments of nature/nurture, but if the whole thing's cooked, I guess I'd better shut my trap.

I also re-read "Stories for Men," and I'd like to address those remarks. Especially since the Scion of Chance took the time to express profound irritation at people who cite movie adaptations in literature forums.

Er, as far as that goes, I knew about the book, but I was reluctant to cite something I hadn't actually read. I realized shortly after posting it that I should have just said "Fight Club" and left it at that, but you know. Hindsight, 20/20, all that.

Besides... once Palahniuk sold his story to the studios, isn't Tyler Durden the trademarked property of Fox? So if anyone wants to go suing anybody else for, say, copyright infringement, wouldn't it be the studios, not the author?

There is one other thing I still don't like about "Stories for Men," something I don't really want to let slip by unobserved. However, I'm worried that it would lead to another 30 flaming posts, and this conversation doesn't need another 30 flaming posts. (There's also the lingering worry that the author of the story could be among our masked cabalists.)

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Blogger chance said...

Especially since the Scion of Chance took the time to express profound irritation at people who cite movie adaptations in literature forums.

*g* I'm afraid that does rather irritate me. Mostly because it seems to leave Palahniak out of the equation, and ultimately Tyler Durden is his creation. (It's quite a good book and worth reading, I think.)

(Though I haven't read "Stories for Men" yet, but it's on my list since someone asked my opinion of it amd Light in reference to the Tiptree Award. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on it after I do.)

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Blogger Johnny Dark said...

Widmanstatten commented: There is one other thing I still don't like about "Stories for Men," something I don't really want to let slip by unobserved. However, I'm worried that it would lead to another 30 flaming posts

Well, 90 percent of the posts here weren't flaming; they were quite reasoned comments on the topic (and FWIW, like Qwui, I put Kameron's comments squarely in that category of "reasoned" and "on topic" .)

This thread is getting a bit long, so I think I may open a new one just to discuss some of the implications of "Stories for Men" and "The Matter of Segri."

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Blogger David Moles said...

Good plan.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous widmanstatten said...

*g* I'm afraid that does rather irritate me. Mostly because it seems to leave Palahniak out of the equation, and ultimately Tyler Durden is his creation. (It's quite a good book and worth reading, I think.)

*laughs* Yeah, I know. Durden's Palahniak's creation. If I'd somehow known I was going to be getting my stupid self up to my stupid eyeballs in a discussion involving Fight Club anytime in the near future, I certainly would have brought it along and read it on my last plane flight. Otherwise my excuses are: "day job" sucks up my evenings and late nights, slow reader, large reading list.

Let's see what we have on the DVD: here's Palahniak's name in small print on the very, very bottom of the back of the outer case. Inside material: ooo, here's a long quote by Palahniak, talking about how it was all stunts by his friends, long conversations they actually had, longing for a father. It's a quasi-conversation about the novel, and Palahniak does at least get the lion's share. Fox wasn't very thrilled about making it into a movie. They also discuss the how this was the first movie with violent impact after Columbine, how it became a magnet for moral punditry. "It is an inadmissable assault on personal decency, and on society itself" - london evening standard. "Why aren't there pickets here? Where is Cardinal O'Connor when we need him?" - overheard at premiere. Wow, that right there really does resonate with "Stories for Men," with the gathering of the cousins to discuss Durden's fate.

Given the last scene in the movie, I'm surprised we haven't heard more of the same since then.

Well, 90 percent of the posts here weren't flaming; I may open a thread just to discuss some of the implications of "Stories for Men" and "The Matter of Segri."

Alright, if that's what you think.... it would be nice to continue the discussion of men's gender exploration.

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One of the side effects of the Tiptree Award is that people *always* argue about whether or not the winning book or story "was about gender." Which means that people are a) reading the books, b) thinking aboput gender and c) arguing with other people about it, which means that even more people will read the books and think about gender.

And that means the award is fulfilling its mission.

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