09 August, 2009

On Reading and Stands

So after the whole TOC of Mindblowing Sci-Fi sans people of colour and women, I was having an interesting discussion with a friend of mine. I said, I will now never buy a novel of Paul di Filippo's, or any anthology where he is a contributor. I said it for the same reason I will not buy anything that Orson Scott Card has written: These men are aresholes, and I do not want to support an arsehole in any way, shape or form.

But, said my friend, just because he's (and by this stage we were talking about Card) a homophobic areshole, that doesn't affect his ability to write good stories. Are you saying his stories are bad?

I said: I will not comment on the quality of the writing, because I have never read it, so I can't.

He replies: But what if they're really good?

I don't care, I said, I will not buy any of his books, ever.

You realise you could be missing out on a lot of great fiction, right?

Yes, I do. But even if his work is fantastic, there are plenty of other fantastic authors who don't write bullshit stuff on the internet. If I can't take a stand, then what's the point of having these feelings?

This conversation has got me thinking. Should we really give authors a free pass because their work is good? Can we really say "Yes, he's an arsehole and I hate that, but I loved Ender's Game!"? I don't know if you can, but I sure as hell can't. I can't make that separation between an authors person and an authors work. I am a writer (though not a professional one) so I know that who we are inevitably creeps into what we do. And if we don't say now "This isn't good enough", when will it ever be said?

On a related note, he was also of the opinion that women just didn't write mindblowing sci-fi. Apparently it's not fast-paced enough, and delas with too much character and feeling (I heard that twice in one day, and argh!). Eventually, I managed to convince him that he was an idiot by saying "Exactly who's definition of mindblowing are you working on? Yours? Why can't it be mine?".
I also said that, being a white male, he was less likely to immediately notice these discrepancies when they happened. "So your one of those feminists who thinks that men can't have an opinion?"
No, I never said that. I said you were less likely to immediately notice because it doesn't affect you in the same way.

I have been known to throw the privilege argument out when I frustrated and upset and can't think of anything to say. And the person I did it to has since told me why that hurt him, and I have apologised and we have a new understanding. But this was clearly not one of those times. Especially since I specifically said "That doesn't mean you can't have an opinion, or that your opinion is less valid, just that you're less likely to immediately notice".

I have another post brewing about the definition of feminism, but that will have to wait, because LM and I are going shopping.

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