So this SF editor, Mike Ashley, who I am sure means very well, puts out this anthology of SF.
The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction!
Except, as plenty of people notice, of the 21 stories he puts in his anthology, which he claims contains the finest stories ever, all are by not just guys, but white straight guys.
And, as ABW explains, in insightful and hilarious detail, uproar ensues, with those who object to this patriarchial SOP pointing out that writers of mind-blowing SF who aren't white straight guys exist, and Mike Ashley making not-helpful comments such as he doesn't know any stories by women or black people (or I guess by gay people) and he thought about looking around for some, but, you know, he didn't want to included women as tokens (because, you know, that's the only way girls can ever get into anthologies, as tokens, it's not as though we're actually decent writers) and women just don't write the sort of SF he was interested in (um, mindblowing?), they write that squishy stuff about feelings, not about, you know, science.
Other pro-status quo SF leapt also into the fray. Nothing wrong with this picture! These writers are fine writers! What's yo problem, bitch! Go write something else if you don't like how we do SF! This is writing, not politics!
Well. That is something, in my libertarian youth (yes, all right, I admit the dark secret to you: in my youth I was a libertarian. I blame Heinlein, who, in my youth, I was mad enamoured with) I also believed: that literature had nothing to do with politics. Indeed, in graduate school, I remember struggling with notion that all literature was political. I remember sitting in the library, reading my Intro to Graduate Studies text, which introduced that odd idea, the one which told me that any text which claimed to be without politics was simply ignorant of its politics -- was relying on its unmarked state, its priviliged ability to ignore its dominant position*.
"Bullshit," I remember grumbling. "Nothing I'm writing has anything to do with politics..."
Literature is political.
I do not say it is only political; but political is one of its modes.
Further, nothing Mike Ashley nor any of us do is without consequences. He acts, results acrue. Maybe it's no deal to him whether women or PoC or gay people are people who matter; to me it is. He has a position of power in the world of publishing. (Yes, that's what an editor is: someone with a position of power.) It's his job to know something about people writing in the world of SF, and not just about some of the white straight guys who are writing.
Here's what I do, every time, these days: I pick up an anthology, and I turn to the table of contents. If at least four of the stories aren't written by women, if there's not at least one PoC, I put the book back on the shelf.
See also this.
*Thus, in the recent RaceFail09 debate, some speakers scolded others for using aliases online, ignoring that those using their real names could do so because they spoke from a position of privilige: they had nothing much to fear, since they spoke from positions of power, whereas those of us who use aliases online frequently do so because we have a great deal to fear, and much at risk.
10 hours ago