It’s time to shut down all science fiction-related conventions. They are obviously dens of pure racist, sexist, homophobic iniquity. Frankly, it is very, very hard to read this tale of SJW-on-SJW woe without shedding a tear or three. Of pure schadenfreudesque amusement:
On Friday night, at a room party in the main hotel, my partner Baize was sexually and racially harassed by someone attending the same dance party: Liz Gooch. At multiple points during the evening, she gestured behind him as if she were going to grab his butt. She kept referring to it as his “juicy booty.” She danced around him and told me to “not let this sweet piece of chocolate go.” Despite that our body language clearly showed discomfort, Liz would not stop harassing either of us. We had to move to another side of the room, and we eventually told the person running the party what she was doing. We both considered that perhaps she had been so forward and gross because she was drunk, but I had multiple interactions with Liz Gooch when she was sober following that night. The next morning, she was leaving an elevator as I was getting in a different one. She turned around and made a number of sexual gestures while pointing at Baize, which including kissing faces, winks, and licking her lips in an exaggerated manner.
On Sunday afternoon, I was the moderator on a panel titled, “Erasure is Not Equality.” This panel was specifically about the erasure of people of color in historical fiction, fantasy, and other genres. I was the only person on the panel who was not white. Furthermore, not one person on the panel seemed to understand the point of the panel, which was to talk about erasure. Instead, the conversation teetered between self-righteous back-patting and flat-out racism. Within the first five minutes of the start of the panel, I brought up a topic for us to discuss: how “historical accuracy” is often poorly used as a defense of the erasure of people of color. One panelist, Chris Gerrib, then began to talk about how people misunderstood history. The “Indian” people in Central America were already busy “killing each other” by the time the Spaniards arrived. When I asked for clarification, Gerrib confirmed that he believed that the Spaniards were “unfairly blamed” for the genocide of the indigenous cultures in Central America. I was so horrified by his continued talk of this ahistorical point that, after very little conversation, I asked that we change topic.
This set a tone for the remainder of the panel, which was easily the worst panel I have ever been a part of. All three of the white panelists confidently stated things that were simply not true; each of them kept saying “Indian” when they actually meant Native American or indigenous; every few minutes, more than half the audience was viscerally horrified by what the other panelists said. At one point, Jan Gephardt derailed the panel into talking about women instead of race and said that she was “happy to see any sort of women, like black or white or green.” Gerrib then chimed in with, “Or purple.” She also responded to a lengthy point that myself and an audience member made about the physical and emotional injury that can come from experiencing racism by reminding us that “racism is not real” because race “is just a social construct.” During a different conversation about how many authors mistakenly blur the line between different cultural groups, Chris Gerrib jokingly said, “Did you know that the Japanese aren’t the same as the Chinese?” Jan’s response? The Japanese and Chinese just think they’re different in their heads. She heavily implied that they were mistaken in this belief.
Holly Messinger, a ConQuesT staff member, was also on the panel. She spent a great deal of time talking only about her own work, repeating the message that she had read “five books on Indians” and that she had written her first black character, who kept the white character “sane.” She stated at one point that she was “terrified” about the response her book would get because people would get “mad” about her writing an “Indian” character. When I asked for clarification – specifically, was she worried about getting representation wrong? – she told the room that she had no concern about that. She’d read five books about “Indians.” She was concerned that people of color would misinterpret her.
There were many more incidents on this panel, and I could not recount them all here. The panel ended on a sour note, too. Baize spoke up and pointed out that part of the problem with erasure was that there was only one person of color on a panel about race. Holly Messinger shot back, “Well, we’re in the Midwest.” I left the panel feeling drained and numb. If you were at ConQuesT that weekend and you wondered why Closing Ceremonies started late, it’s my fault. I dashed up to my hotel room to cry because I felt so triggered, rejected, and alone. I’ve been on uncomfortable panels, but this was unique. The entire panel was argumentative; my questions as moderator were constantly avoided or ignored; anything I tried to state was fought or dismissed or contradicted. It was exhausting.
On the plus side, reading this was considerably more entertaining than the entire Best Novel shortlist for the Nebula Award:
- Raising Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
- The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
- Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
- The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu (Saga)
- Uprooted, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
- Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, Lawrence M. Schoen (Tor)
- Updraft, Fran Wilde (Tor)
The Nebula Award is so predictable now that Chaos Horizon nailed all seven of seven before they were announced. Here’s what I predicted would be in the awards mix back in December, prior to reading any of them, and based on nothing but who the author is.
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
- Ancillary Mercy by Anne Leckie (Orbit)
- Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (Tor)
- The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
They ought to just change the name of the Nebulas to the Science Fiction Affirmative Action Awards for Women and Minorities Who Don’t Write Good.