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Off On A Tangent: F&SF Style
by Dave Truesdale

Adrienne Martini, Don Imus, and Locus Online
Sexism and Responsible Journalism
 

Solidarity and the Philip K. Dick Award

April sucks.

Each and every year, I promise that April will be different. This will finally be the April that my driveway isn't covered in wind-blown pamphlets handed out door to door by the local feminist chapter equivalent of The Watchtower, dirty snow, and Virginia Slim butts until May, that the switch from normal time to holy daylight savings time will relieve my S.A.D. condition, that I will finally get exactly what I want for my birthday, which is to stop feeling so fucking old. If I don't actually get any of these things, I will at least practice my heavy breathing and let all of it not bother me. In the meantime, there's porn.

I was so very, very close this year. With age comes wisdom (and gray hair and ear-hair, frankly, but I'm letting that go.) Then those bastards who are organizing this year's Philip K. Dick Award announced the nominees. Now I just want to bite someone.

Did you notice anything about the ballot? About how very vagina-heavy the ballot is? I have no doubt that Budz and Ballantyne are wonderful writers and stand-up guys but asking them to represent approximately 50 percent of the population is akin to asking a pair of Beagles to represent all furry mammals that we love as household pets.

Don't get me wrong—Beagles are great. Love them. There is more to the canine genus than Beagles, however, and our lives would be poorer if we didn't also note the Mexican Hairless, the Afghan Hound, and the Irish Wolfhound. After all (to further abuse the metaphor), furry feline household pets get a thorough representation on the ballot, with Long-hair and Short-hair and other professionally bred pussies all turning up. For example, the long-haired LaPerm pussy is an exceptional combination of curly hair and affection. The long-haired Selkirk Rex is covered with a downy, curly coat with every little hair arranged in ringlets that lie close to the body. For short-haired pussy lovers there is the Bombay, which loves to play and is highly confident yet gentle. For our friends in the UK we have the British Shorthair, which is best described as good-natured, calm, loyal, intelligent, reserved, loving, tranquil, dignified and affectionate. And (if I may intrude with my own personal favorite short-haired pussy) we have the Burmese, which loves warm laps and enjoys cuddling up in bed, either under the covers or on top of its favorite people.

And, yet, dogs just get the pair of Beagles. Sad.

Which isn't to say that the five furry pussies on the ballot (out of the seven nominees) are unworthy. Robson and Hoffman always turn in solid works that scratch that hard to reach speculative itch. Elizabeth Bear's Carnival has been receiving blogosphere raves. I can't speak from personal experience on these titles simply because I've spent more of my reading time this year reading books like Blindsight and Rainbows End, both of which turned up on the Hugo final ballot. (And if you are looking for an awards list that better captures the genre's canines that ballot would be a good place to start.)

But to extrapolate from the two books on the overwhelmingly white, pussy-laden PKD ballot that I have read, this year's contenders are a solid pussy pride of tail-twitchin' novels.

*     *     *

Now that I've had my fun, I'd like to get serious for a moment. First, however, you might wish to read the original piece from which my satirical parody was drawn (brought into the glare of the public spotlight and a much wider SF audience by Mark R. Kelly, publisher and editor of Locus Online on Saturday, April 7th, 2007). The URL is:

http://www.bookslut.com/specfic_floozy/2007_04_010912.php

I found Adrienne Martini's little rant to be factually inaccurate, foul-mouthed, insulting, and sexist.

Martini displays her total ignorance of the Hugo nominating process by placing the blame on the Japanese, who merely announced the nominees. She calls them "bastards." In fact, it is the voting members of the worldcon—the fans—who determine the final Hugo ballot. In my direct experience, the Japanese are the kindest, friendliest, most enthusiastic SF fans in the world. Adrienne Martini owes them a huge apology.

Martini cleverly employs her little "flora and fauna" metaphor quite innocently at first sight; then, later in her comments, uses it to call the "white males" on the ballot "animals." One needn't read between the lines to glim her obvious feelings, they are crystal clear.

Martini attempts to discuss the five nominees in the novel category though she only admits to having read one.

To recap:

1) Adrienne Martini hasn't a clue as to how the Hugo nominating process works.
2) Because of this ignorance she uses foul language to insult the Japanese hosts of this year's worldcon by calling them "bastards."
3) She employs a metaphor in able to call the "white males" on the ballot "animals." This is an angry, sexist remark.
4) She pretends to discuss the novel nominees having read only one of them. Major error, once again showing her complete ignorance and incompetence to discuss such a topic.

With a freedom-of-speech issue staring us squarely in the face, I proclaim that Adrienne Martini has the right to make as big a jackass of herself as she wants to at Bookslut.com. I still think she owes the Japanese hosts of this year's worldcon a major public apology, but . . .

My problem is with the publisher and/or editors of Bookslut.com. Do they condone blatant, conscious, calculated sexist slurs against men in their magazine? Is this what their feminist ideology is part and parcel of?

There happens to be something called responsible journalism. Ask Don Imus, formerly of MSNBC. Imus recently mouthed off in his usual flip, sarcastic manner that has gained him wide popularity over the past thirty or so years. He said the predominantly African-American members of the Rutger's women's basketball team looked like "nappy-headed hos." That it was incontrovertibly a horrible thing to say goes without question. This was a highly irresponsible comment for him to make—even though it was opinion, as opposed to fact/reporting the news. That he should in some way be punished goes without saying. The question many still debate is whether he should have been fired from MSNBC rather than the initially proposed two-week suspension without pay . . . and then be fired from his long-running CBS radio show, which NBC simultaneously broadcast on their cable television network MSNBC.

There were several reasons MSNBC put forth for firing Imus (advertising loss had to be high on the list; Proctor and Gamble's canceling of their advertising cost MSNBC half a million alone). The most important and deciding factor (at least publicly) was that MSNBC's "integrity" was at stake. Without its respect and reputation, their high-ranking spokesman said, it didn't matter how fairly or accurately or honestly they otherwise ran their operation. So MSNBC, as the gatekeepers of their own enterprise, said so long to Don Imus. Details of this unfortunate incident will be argued and debated, pro and con, for some time to come, but when push came to shove, they feel they acted responsibly by canceling his television simulcast immediately.

As the supposedly responsible gatekeepers of Bookslut.com, did its editor(s) act responsibly by bringing to the pages of their online magazine a crude, ignorant, sexist rant against men—that was wrong in its basic facts, and insulting to the Japanese worldcon hosts? With what I hope was added humor to make the point, I basically reversed exactly what Adrienne Martini wrote in her Bookslut column. Would anyone in their right mind have read what I wrote above (taking it at face value as if published as a serious piece of commentary) and not taken strong issue with it? I guarantee you that I would have been flayed alive by the feminist crowd, and just about everyone else. And rightly so.

So where is the protest now against Adrienne Martini and those otherwise responsible for content at Bookslut.com? Where is the outrage against Adrienne Martini's idiotic sexist craziness?

Or is there a double standard at work here.

That Mark Kelly at Locus Online provided us the opportunity to view Ms. Martini's hardcore sexism is, in the larger picture, a good thing. But now that we are aware not only of her anti-male bias and how it colors her "reviewing," and we are also now cognizant of her poor journalistic skills in her failure at least to acquaint herself with the fundamental basics of the nomination process of the award she so cavalierly insults—not to mention the fine, hard-working Japanese worldcon committee she calls "bastards," I wonder if Mark Kelly will continue to see any value in her chauvinistic diatribes as of real interest, or value, to Locus Online's SF readership.

I hope not.

If Bookslut.com has no responsible editorial guidelines, then let's hope Locus Online does.

April 12, 2007

*     *     *

Dave Truesdale began the short fiction review magazine Tangent in 1993. Since then, it has been honored with 4 Hugo nominations and 1 World Fantasy Award nomination. For several years in the 1990s, he was deeply involved with the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and in 1998 was a World Fantasy Award judge. He edited the Bulletin of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1999-2002. Tangent Online can be found at www.tangentonline.com.


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National Lampoon, Jan 1973  
Remember when National Lampoon said "If you don't buy this magazine, we'll kill this dog."? Well, we don't have anything comparable planned for Mr. Truesdale, but since this column represents our first foray into Web-only publishing, we've decided thus: as long as one person uses the PayPal link below to buy a subscription, we'll continue running the column.

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