A Teachable Moment

Ok, we’re not sure what “a teachable moment” means, exactly, but it’s an Americanism and we loves Americanisms. As James Gunn so helpfully pointed out, American science fiction is the base line against which all the other fantastic literatures in languages other than English must be measured.

No, seriously. Apparently it was the idea that Elizabeth Moon could be invited to Wiscon not as a guest-of-honour but to be educated, a little like a child being sent to summer school, and there was a lot of behind-the-scene discussion about it and the other guest-of-honour, Nisi Shawl, talked to Elizabeth Moon, though we’re not quite sure about what. Shawl said:

Part of my reluctance to go into detail stems from the fact that Elizabeth Moon will be calling me again, in about a month, when I hope to have the time to go return to the matter more fully. Note that this “teachable moment” is arranged around my schedule. And that it’s taking place before the con.

I hope that after our second talk Elizabeth Moon will have things to say to the community at large, and apologies to deliver. And that’s not just a rhetorical formula I’m mouthing; based on what she has already said to me privately, I really do actually have hope on that score. I really do.

So, very cloak-and-dagger stuff.  Very Dumas, if you like. Moon, of course, has been silent about the matter ever since deleting the 500 comments on her blog. So we don’t know what she thinks.

Then there was a big debate over whether Moon’s invitation should be withdrawn. Apparently the convention organisers weren’t that keen on doing that. In fact, they said:

Even though we strongly disavow these elements of Ms. Moon’s post, we have not rescinded her invitation to be a Guest of Honor, nor do we plan to do so. The WisCon planning committee selected Ms. Moon earlier this year based on her past work and our feeling that she would make a positive contribution to WisCon. After extensive conversation in recent days, and having spoken directly with Ms. Moon on the subject, we continue to believe that her presence will contribute to the Con.

Then there was a lot more stuff and N.K. Jemisin ended up quitting Wiscon in protest:

On the WisCon concom’s mailing list, I was honest with the folks there about my feelings: that bringing a bigot to WisCon as Guest of Honor was counter to the con’s feminist mission, not to mention a slap in the face to a whole bunch of people. I advocated for her GoHship to be rescinded because of this — and I also said that if she came to the con, I planned to participate in protest efforts already being discussed among WisCon’s former and current attendees (e.g., turning my back on her during her GoH speech, challenging her when she’s on panels). For this, I got verbally slapped by several other concom members with accusations of being abusive, unreasonable, too emotional, hysterical, and worse. I got into a particular battle with one woman who, when I pointed out that second-wave feminism was inadequate for dealing with this issue and it should be considered from a third-wave intersectional perspective, proceeded to try and inform me about how much second-wave feminism had done for me, and the poor black, Irish, and American Indian women who are my immediate ancestors.

Leaving aside the mind-boggling ignorance of statements like this, I was seeing another dynamic at work. All kinds of irrelevant points got brought up during this period: one guy wanted to discuss WisCon’s future in light of the advent of the internet (I don’t even know), another wanted to revisit the PoC safe space and whether it should exist (yeah, I know), and so on. Basically, WisCon’s concom wanted to talk about something, anything, other than the cranky, stinking elephant in the room.

Then things got quiet for awhile, as the concom exhausted itself and we waited for… something. I wasn’t sure what. But when two weeks passed in silence, it seemed clear that the Troika had had plenty of time to hear from the WisCon membership, and was either not going to change its mind or was simply waiting for the member rage to blow over. So, annoyed by this, and still pissed off over the Racism 101 reactions I’d encountered on the concom — I kept thinking, didn’t any of these people actually attend any of WisCon’s panels? — I sent a note to one of the Troika members with whom I was familiar, and let her know I was quitting in protest. She let me know about the SF3 organization’s resolution in favor of rescinding Moon’s GoHship… but also let me know that it didn’t really mean anything. In point of fact, that resolution had been passed almost two weeks before (nobody bothered to make it public), and nothing had happened since. It was a pretty, but empty, gesture.

And then, today, a notice has been posted on the Wiscon parent site (an organisation called the SF3) that simply said: “SF3 has withdrawn the invitation to Elizabeth Moon to attend WisCon 35 as guest of honor.”

So, to be honest, we’re not quite sure why she was disinvited – was it because of her statements, or because of public pressure, or because of sunspot activity? Hard to tell.

Meanwhile, Moon’s response (ok, we’re only inferring that), was on her blog:

Last night, well after dark, the squirrels were still at it.   This morning, before dawn, the squirrels were at it again.   They beat the early birds out of bed.  They prefer this side of the house when they’re in the mood, and although it’s sometimes fun to watch them flirting their tails and chasing each other up and down trees and turning somersaults (however many are in the mood at the time)   they make enough noise to be disruptive.  Both vocally and in the noise they make rushing around or falling ka-thump! on the water tank (which, when not full, booms like a big drum) and rustling in the leaves.

I wish they’d just go on and get it over with.   They won’t, of course.  They’re going to be leaping, running, chasing and being chased until the last pair finally give up sometime in December.  (Ah.  The first bird just spoke up–a blue jay.  And that pair of squirrels is now silent (or much farther away.   Back to work.)

Quite poignant, really.

Anyway. We really weren’t going to comment on this beyond our initial post, but the sad reality is that that single post generated more hits on this site than anything else we’ve been posting for two years. When we posted about French author Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud recently, do you think anyone read it? When we posted on Islamic steampunk, or a new manifesto for Islamic science fiction, do you think it got the same amount of hits? Or our recent exclusive interview with Indian author Samit Basu?

Which, to me, is the real tragedy. What Moon proved is that there is more interest in the negative comments of a single American writer, than there is in the entire body of work of a mass of international writers. Which is what this blog is about. It’s not about Moon, or Gunn, or whether the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) will ever give another woman writer a Grand Master Award (3 out of 27, at the last count).

So, if you come to this post because you wanted to follow the last bit of controversy surrounding Moon – I like MoonGate myself for it, as a name, but you can pick your own! – why not stick around? Check out some of the other hundreds of posts? Try a short story highlight, or an interview, or look at some of our other original content? Check out Arabic science fiction. Or African science fiction. Check out what’s happening in the Philippines. Or France. We don’t mind which!

Or pick up a copy of The Apex Book of World SF. We’re having a sale on. If memory serves, there are a couple of Muslim writers there and, really, you could do worse than check them out. Let’s all have a teachable moment! Who knows, it could be fun.



12 thoughts on “A Teachable Moment

  1. Hello, mr. Tidhar.

    I think that the reaction to Elizabeth Moon’s public bigotry is so strong because finally the readers of this type of literature are mature enough to do it.

    There are some great Romanian writers, like Mircea Eliade, who were never allowed to forget the bigotry and anti-semitic actions that they took. And you know, here, even if you choose to read Eliade’s History of Religious Beliefs, or his love novel Maitreyi, or his fantastic stories, you know from the beginning who’s ideas you are reading: a bigot and a anti-semit. No, his books are not “forbidden” nor burned publicly, but we all know… I can go now to the nearest bookshop and buy a 2010 or 2009 edition of Eliade’s complete works, luxury volumes, and I bet that the forward written by one of our most esteemed critics mentions his political views – sending a message like, this is a very talented writer, he can present his ideas in the most charming way, but do NOT forget that he is a bigot and anti-semit. And children/youngsters are informed about it, because he wrote many YA books. Even in the Film&Theatre University I worked as a student on plays written by all the great Romanian writers (including plays by Mihail Sebastian, the Jew writer persecuted by the same organization defended by Eliade) but we never worked on an Eliade play. His plays were all in the library, but we never worked on them.

    I’m sorry for the rant and my use of English, but you mentioned how tragic it seems to you that the aftermath of the Moongate generates more activity that other articles here. But many of the articles you mention sound a little like trivia, while the Moongate looks more like a serious problem.

  2. Just for the record, I’ve been following this blog on LJ since just about the beginning, but I’m typically not the type to comment on everything I read. I just want to take a moment to let you know that you’re doing great work! Keeps a rural southern guy like me in touch a little bit with the larger world out there. Thanks for that! Oh! And I think our interview is up over on Fantasy now… 🙂

  3. Just wanted to let you know that I put this blog in my feed reader because of the posts about Islamic science fiction, and I’d tabbed the posts to read with better attention later and then not gotten to them, so thanks for reminding me!

  4. You’re doing a great job. I read the blog regularly. I look forward to it.
    I own The Apex Book of SF and it really is fantastic.

    I’ll create a link on the Immersion Press page to this site. Hopefully, whatever traffic we get will also come your way.

    Keep up the good work. You are a useful website and you are doing great things here!!!!

  5. Thanks–this post really was a “teachable moment” for me, and holds the promise of many more. I look forward to discovering more international works and writers here in future.

  6. What Moon also proved is the utter ignorance of those who responded to her. I love the idea that “Islam” is now a race, such that attacking it is “racism”. I howled with laughter at that one … Thank you for making my day.

  7. Just so you know, this blog is like a gateway drug to awesome.

    I just thought I’d come in to leave a little love.

  8. wow… talk about an extreme over reaction.. and these people say Moon is intolerant??

    Will there also be a book burning in the parking lot at Wiscon?

  9. Lavie: I love the World SF Blog, but it seems like you set up a falsehood here. You didn’t just blog about Moon, you also tweeted extensively about Moon. Indeed, you, I believe, tweeted more extensively about her than you did about any blog post you published here. Correct me if I am wrong.

    Also, I love this blog but the squirrel jab above is sophomoric and not worthy of you. Truly.


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