You Asked; I Answered

roflbotSo I got home from a weekend away and a surprising number of you have requested my thoughts on the SFWA petition, the forum re-posts, the libel suits, and the general wash of buffoonery that I missed while I was off the grid. I’ve read through the petition and here’s my takeaway:

“We miss the days when we could say whatever we wanted and people laughed and put up with it because we were elite and powerful and nobody dared object.”

I’ve read through the forum commentary as well. First, to be honest, I dropped from SFWA years ago, mostly because I found the secret forums to be awful to read. So many authors I had admired proved to have feet of clay, saying heinous things with apparent lack of remorse and complete equanimity. Given the way my own work was consistently marginalized, I decided the organization had little to offer other than dated attitudes and offensive remarks. I haven’t regretted letting my membership lapse. I haven’t missed finding barbs from people whose work I used to enjoy. That which was posted was about what I saw when I was a member, weighted by an inexplicable prejudice against youth and new ideas. Heavens forfend that people should treat one another with respect Period. That runs the gamut of race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, creed, etc. The people who shout the loudest against “political correctness” basically just want the old guard freedom to say horrendous things and to marginalize someone else without being made to feel bad for it. They cry censorship without having any real clue what the first amendment entails. Hint: it doesn’t apply to private organizations.

But anyone who’s stunned that the words they posted inside the secret clubhouse made it to the outside world? I suspect that person doesn’t understand the nature of the internet.

I’m not sure if this is the reaction you were looking for, dear readers, but for certain parties, this is business as usual. They dig and dig, never realizing they’re excavating their own graves with vitriol and bitterness, never acknowledging that their lack of relevance contributes to declining sales. Not all dinosaurs will become extinct in a catastrophic event. Some will just keep shouting into vacuum, puzzled as to why fewer and fewer people care about their message. Don’t we realize How Very Important They Are? Why, in the Old Days… Oh, right. In space, nobody can hear you whine.

And I’m out.

This week in SF

So this week, two notable things happened. First, two dinosaurs went on a rampage.
dino
Granted, that didn’t happen this week, technically, but this is when the backlash occurred, first for the initial column that ran in the SFWA bulletin, and then there was the rebuttal, bemoaning the spate of anonymous complaints. dino2

I’m not anonymous. And I don’t think any of this is okay. This post is going to be anecdotal… because it needs to be. I’ve held my silence when I probably shouldn’t have. But I was in the minority, a woman writing SF, and I was afraid of career backlash. I was afraid of being excluded or losing opportunities if I didn’t play nice.

I don’t care about that anymore. If this means I don’t get into anthos or invited to parties, I don’t give a fuck. I care more about doing the right thing, about speaking out, so maybe other women who have had these experiences will do the same. If enough of us gather the courage to say, “Hey, look, this is NOT ALL RIGHT,” maybe the world will change. And if not, well, at least I stood up. I spoke. I didn’t sit quiet as a victim of sexism and let it happen.

In 2007, I sold my first book, Grimspace. It says it’s SF on the spine. I believe it to be SF, though it’s certainly written differently. I write in first person, present tense, and the protagonist is a woman with a woman’s thoughts, feelings, and sexual desires. But the book(s) take place in a rich, well-built science fiction world. There’s FTL travel and lots of planets to explore and aliens. Sounds like SF, right? Apparently not. And that’s the dismissive, occasionally scornful attitude I’ve received since 2008 when I made my first appearance as a professional in the SFF fandom.

At that con, I watched a respected male SF author get sloppy drunk and make women uncomfortable, fans and writers alike. I was one of them. I watched a respected SF writer break an elderly female fan’s heart by refusing to spend a minute talking with her. He was everything brusque, self-important, and rude. I consoled her afterward. I had a respected SF writer call me “girlie” and demand that I get him a coffee, before the panel we were on TOGETHER. When he realized I was not, in fact, his coffee girl, he didn’t apologize. And once we got into the panel, he refused to let me (or anyone else) speak. He interrupted me. He talked over me. He responded to questions that the audience asked me, when they asked me, by name, and he wouldn’t respond to the moderator, who was also female.

The panel was supposed to be about pseudonyms but he made it about how sad it was that the glory days were over. Point in fact, his wife participated more in the panel, by shouting out suggestions on what old stories he should tell next. If the panel had been called, “WHAT SF WAS LIKE IN 1969”, that would’ve been fine, I suppose, and I wouldn’t have been sitting there, feeling embarrassed, powerless, and ashamed, as I wasn’t born at that time.

I went home from that con feeling very sad and ashamed, because my colleagues had treated me like nothing, even though my book, Grimspace, sold out. There were over fifty copies in stock at BAMM, and I signed every last one of them. In fact, by the time my “formal” signing came along–with Sherrilyn Kenyon–they had none of my books left on the shelf. That was pretty cool. But despite good sales, I still felt bad.

Maybe it was a fluke, I thought. So I was excited when I found out I had been put on a SF panel at Comic-Con. I went, full of excitement and anticipation. But once I got there, I found more of the same. The moderator checked the pronunciation of the names of all male guests. (They were all male except me.) She did not ask me–and she got it wrong. Then in introducing me? She called me “the token female”. None of the male panelists objected; they were fine with it, apparently, and I was too new and scared to stand up for myself in a room full of men who were ex-military, who were actual rocket scientists, or worked for NASA. I wish I had. But I let them diminish me. I let it happen. I had a broken mic during the panel and nobody bothered to replace or fix it. The writer sharing his with me frequently took it away from me, or wouldn’t hand it over when I wished to speak. The male guests were dismissive and scornful of my work and my comments. I have seldom been so belittled or ashamed. By my peers. Why? My only difference is that I’m a woman and I’m writing SF the way I enjoy it. Maybe it wasn’t that bad, I thought. Maybe the audience didn’t notice. I was, frankly, on the verge of tears.

But then, David Brin, who was in the audience, came up to me. He shook my hand and said, “I liked what you had to say.”

The subtext I took from that was this: “Hey, sorry. Not all male SF writers are like this.”

So yeah. The audience noticed. I had slightly better experiences at WorldCon and ArmadilloCon, but I suspect it wasn’t as bad because I was roaming around with Sharon Shinn, who has more power and cachet than I had at that time. But I still encountered more than my share of fans, who dismissed my work. At that point, I was disheartened, and I stopped attending SFF cons entirely. I decided I’d rather spend my travel money otherwise. To quote my wonderful friend, Lauren Dane, “If I want to feel bad about myself, I’ll go swimsuit shopping.” My professional work shouldn’t be impacted by my gender, my appearance, my religion, my sexuality, my skin tone, or any other factor. The fact that it is? Makes me so very sad. I’ve had readers and writers stare at my rack instead of my face while “teaching” me how to suck eggs.

I’ve been fighting this battle for five years now.

And now, here’s the second thing: I’ve been made aware of a post (that I’m not linking to)  from a guy who is swinging at me again. Why? Because I’m getting my girl cooties all over his SF. He implies I’m incapable of grasping sophisticated SF references due to my gender–that I don’t actually write SF because it has women, sex, and feelings in it. I’m so tired and disheartened right now. The one bright spot was my experience at KeyCon in Canada, where I was not only made to feel welcome but valued. Not a single soul at the con questioned my credentials or my quality of fiction, due to what I don’t have in my pants.

But I’m still here. I’m still writing. You cannot shut me up. I will NOT SIT DOWN. I will not stand quietly by anymore. I am a woman. I write SF. And it’s not acceptable to treat me as anything less than an equal. I won’t stand for it. And I won’t get your fucking coffee.

—– ETA:

So this post has been up for a few hours now. It’s gotten some reads. And the hate mail has begun. Warning: some of them are fairly horrible & may be triggering.

Email 1:

“Dear Ann:

Quit your bitching. Obviously your work is drek or you couldn’t crank it out so fast. Who cares what anyone calls the crap you write? So fuck off and stop whining about equality. Shit is equal to shit.”

Email 2:

“Your such a cunt. You need a good cocking. That would give you something else to think about.”

Email 3:

“Its bitches like you that are ruining SF. Why cant you leave it to men who know what their doing?”

Email 4:

“You think you write SF? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. SF is about important issues and there is no filth. The men on those panels were right not to let you talk if this is the stupid shit you have to say.”

(All errors made by OP.)

I have proof that Wal-Mart is the devil

This is going to be long and ranty, so buckle up, children.

I had a lovely stay with the Bree half of Moira Rogers, and I did get to meet the Donna half more than once. She’s fabulous, as is her counterpart. Both their husbands are charming. I enjoyed myself immensely; that part of my trip to Alabama was fantastic. But I needed some alone time to really dig into this book. If interesting people are around, I want to chat, not work, so I removed myself to a hotel for the last few days I’m in town. At this point, you’re thinking it’s all roses, right?

Well, I was writing away today when I got an email from my husband. He tells me there’s a problem with the Peru trip; they require passports to be six months from expiration before they can book the trip. Do I want to miss a company-paid trip to Peru? HELL NO. Plus, I should / need to go to add detail to Shady Lady when I get copyedits back. This is not just a fun trip, though it will surely be that. Assuming I survive the hoop-jumping. So my passport only has four months left on it; it expires in December.

So I immediately use my Google-fu to find an agency that can expedite the order and get me a new passport next week. I find one that is recommended by Forbes magazine. (We leave on August 26th.) Don’t do this if you have any other choice, by the way. It costs an insane amount, on top of the governmental fees. But I am between the proverbial rock and a hard place today, so I start getting things together.

I should’ve known it was not gonna be like a hot knife through butter when it took me half an hour to print all the required forms and documents in the Holiday Inn business center. That was due to computer mess. Note to Holiday Inn, you should NOT buy E-Machines, seriously. These are the jankiest machines on the market.

So I finally get this stuff ready to go. It’s 4:30pm now, but I still need to get a passport photo taken. The agent at the front desk tells me that she thinks Wal-Mart does them, and there’s one right up the road. So I call the Wal-Mart to confirm. The woman on the phone assures me, “Yes, we do passport photos.” I ask, “Is there a certain cut-off time? Like before five or six?” Because I’m not sure how long it will take me to get there. She replies, “No, they do them until 9pm.”

I’m pleased. The cabbie is quick and prompt (later Randy will save my bacon). The Wal-Mart is, indeed, right up the road, so he drops me off, and I promise to call when I’m done. Thus, begins my descent into hell. It started slow. I went into the money center and got a money order. The line was long, but I did get the money order. (I have a checking account, but I literally have no printed checks. I use my debit card for everything or I just use Bank of America’s BillPayer to cut a check for me. So an agency that requires this form of payment, well, it has to be a money order.) I got the $200 MO, government fees for the passport, rush, and the passport card.

This taken care of, I go back to the photo center. Dear Mercy. Nobody was there. I waited 5-10 minutes before she came back and I asked to have a passport photo done. The clerk replied, “I don’t know how to do that.”

Utterly nonplussed, because I CALLED to confirm beforehand, I ask, “Well, can you call someone who does know?”

I wait another 10-15 minutes. The supervisor comes to the back, where I am waiting, once more alone. She says, “What’s wrong wit’ you?” (Awesome customer service by the way. I think she thought it was a complaint.)

I said, “I just need a passport photo taken and I was assured on the phone you could do it at this location until 9pm. Surely someone in the store has been trained. A manager?”

She then gets on the phone to call a manager. I wait another 10 minutes. The manager comes. “Nobody knows how to do this, ma’am, but the girl who is supposed to be working called in to say she’s running late and will be in at 6.”

It’s now 5:30 btw. So I’ve already been waiting close to 45 minutes. I say okay, what’s half an hour more at this point, and I go buy the blue pen I need to sign all the forms and eat supper at Subway. I read some of THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO on my Kindle. At 6:10, I reckon Ebony ought to be at work by now, so I go back to the photo center. Sadly, there is nobody there. Again. I wait until 6:45. She never comes. The manager never checks back on me. Nobody apologizes for my time or inconvenience. Shame on you, Wal-Mart! This is the one at 1600 Montclair Rd, Irondale, AL, btw. Feel free to boycott them. If they couldn’t serve me as promised, they should’ve done something to make up for the trouble I went to.

At this point, I give up. I look for other alternatives, because I must get these photos done today. I speak to a woman at Kinkos and she promises they can help me. I am not feeling hopeful. I call Randy, who comes to get me. We go to Kinkos but it’s almost 14 miles away. In a cab. So, yeah. You can imagine what that cost, there and back.

I do get the photos made. But I lost two hours of my work day, plus all that cabfare, because Wal-Mart is the devil. There are no words for how much I hate them right now.