By Words We Rise, By Words We Fall

There are a number of disparate things taking precedence in my mental space at this moment. They are all vying for primacy, which is why I am writing little here, and why other things are falling behind. I am, in fact, behind on reviews and articles alike, and have been trying to craft the last article (aside from some final touches) for the next issue of Sol Rising – which is currently behind for different reasons than the rest of the things to which I am tending.

I have been trying to craft the same article for at least a week and a half (tried it, discarded it, tried another tack, discarded it, tried another tack yesterday, couldn’t get past the vitriol … ). All the elements, and the approach I want, are there. But I could not find my way through to them. Then I read Catherynne M Valente’s article “On Usernames and Blame”, and what I needed to say fell into place.

I have been looking for the positive way forward on, and in, what I am at this moment trying to write, and Valente’s own working through what needed to be said has allowed me to find my way as well. This is fitting since I find in Valente’s works touchstones for language and meaning. Her novels, and her shorter fiction as well, have more than once cleared my head, and allowed me to find the words I, myself, needed. And now her words are doing so again.

The article (post, whatever) of Valente’s is a call for sanity, and calm, rational thought in the sea of vitriol and rage into which the speculative fiction segment of the internet has exploded in the last several weeks. This was building before the fallout from Genevieve Valentine’s harassment at Readercon hit (and if you want a list of all the relevant posts relating to the events and the fallout, BC Holmes has been compiling an almost unfathomably comprehensive listing of links here: http://blog.bcholmes.org/the-readercon-thing/), but that is the focal point around which everything erupted.

Lavie Tidhar’s very apt comments about steampunk fiction and culture were, I think, what started us down this path, because that was a statement about fandom (and the distrubing, reprehensible tolerance for intolerance and clique mentality, and the complimentary blinders to personal and cultural prejudices, that fandom breeds). And how fandom (big F, little f, whatever floats your boat … ) behaves (or, more accurately, doesn’t) is at the heart of this, and especially at the heart of the Readercon fallout:

I suspect as a community we are hurting in the light of learning that our sacred (read “safe”) spaces are no such thing, and that we are, as ever, fending off the bigots, the otherwise intolerant, and the fools two-fisted – only now we can’t pretend we aren’t anymore. Many basic assumptions about our happy, fannish community (and you have to wonder who was swallowing this horseshit in the first place) have been shattered. Witness the attacks on Genevieve Valentine that followed, and the apologist response (the following paraphrased because I’m not wading into that fucking cesspool again) – “his intentions were misunderstood/he just didn’t get that what he was doing was wrong”, “you women are so fucking sensitive”, “how are we (stalkers, creepers, ordinary people with our heads up our asses) to know when we’ve gone too far?”, and so very, very much worse.

And, of course, this shitstorm picked up speed in the wake of the Readercon board’s decision to change their own harassment policy mid-sentencing. Surprise, surprise (on all counts).

But the anger is not what will get us through this, nor help us find our way to change. Again, I say to you: calm, rational thought is required. Valente has found her way through, and to that place. So have many others, and I note that relatively few of the links on BC Holmes’ compiled list – last time I checked anyway – lead to harassment apologists.

Here is hoping the rest of us can follow in the footsteps of those who have moved past the vitriol.

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