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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Then there was a big debate over whether Moon’s invitation should be withdrawn.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 Moon’s post, we have not rescinded her invitation to be a Guest of Honor, nor do we plan to do so.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.


October 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 12 Comments

Elizabeth Moon on Islam

We do prefer running positive stories than negative ones on this blog. But one of the aims of the World SF Blog is to highlight not just international speculative fiction, but attitudes in the wider world of SF on issues of race and religion.

So check out this rather extraordinary blog post by American science fiction writer Elizabeth Moon, this year’s guest-of-honour at Wiscon, the “world’s leading feminist science fiction convention”, in which she talks about, ostensibly, the building of a new mosque near the site of the Twin Towers (particularly interesting bits highlighted):

I know–I do not dispute–that many Muslims had nothing to do with the attacks, did not approve of them, would have stopped them if they could.  I do not dispute that there are moderate, even liberal, Muslims, that many Muslims have all the virtues of civilized persons and are admirable in all those ways.  I am totally, 100%, appalled at those who want to burn the Koran (which, by the way, I have read in English translation, with the same attention I’ve given to other holy books) or throw paint on mosques or beat up Muslims.  But Muslims fail to recognize how much forbearance they’ve had.  Schools in my area held consciousness-raising sessions for kids about not teasing children in Muslim-defined clothing…but not about not teasing Jewish children or racial minorities.  More law enforcement was dedicated to protecting mosques than synagogues–and synagogues are still targeted for vandalism.  What I heard, in my area, after 9/11, was not condemnation by local mosques of the attack–but an immediate cry for protection even before anything happened.   Our church, and many others (not, obviously all) already had in place a “peace and reconciliation” program that urged us to understand, forgive, pray for, not just innocent Muslims but the attackers themselves.   It sponsored a talk by a Muslim from a local mosque–but the talk was all about how wonderful Islam was–totally ignoring the historical roots of Islamic violence.

I can easily imagine how Muslims would react to my excusing the Crusades on the basis of Islamic aggression from 600 to 1000 C.E….(for instance, excusing the building of a church on the site of a mosque in Cordoba after the Reconquista by reminding them of the mosque built on the site of an important early Christian church in Antioch.)  So I don’t give that lecture to the innocent Muslims I come in contact with.  I would appreciate the same courtesy in return (and don’t get it.)   The same with other points of Islam that I find appalling (especially as a free woman) and totally against those basic principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution…I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship, on the grounds of their personal freedom.  It would be helpful to have them understand what they’re demanding of me and others–how much more they’re asking than giving.  It would be helpful for them to show more understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship in a non-Muslim country. – read the full post.


September 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 132 Comments


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