Dear Mr. Truesdale,
I am not sure you will remember me. You were the first — the only — editor to call me about a story submission. You wanted to talk about how much you liked the story and how you would do your best to recommend that it be published, but you could make no guarantees because the story contained romance. Romance and SF made for a hard and complicated blend, you said, and went on to tell me why. I, a relatively new writer in the publishing world, listened.
And I thought, maybe this is what editors do. But goodness, what a lot of work, to call every writer — so that couldn’t be. Why single me out? I decided it’s because you really did like my story, despite the fact that you dismantled it in the course of a conversation. I was thrilled and heartbroken all at once. Ah, writing!
In my fourteen years of writing, no other editor has ever called me. No other editor has so thoroughly taken my fiction apart.
When I saw the links to the Tangent reviews of Women Destroy Science Fiction, I was wary and when I read the reviews, I was disappointed. It has been a long year — from last Memorial Day’s dialogues about The Bulletin (#200 specifically, but the increase of sexist content in other recent issues as well), to the release of WDSF this month (and improvements to SFWA’s Bulletin!). It’s been a long year of hard conversations, but of consistent conversations, of trying to make a dent, a crack, in a thick stone wall. And with the arrival of WDSF, it felt as though something had been accomplished.
And then you joined the conversation, and went on to say how foolish the entire thing was, dismantling it much as you had my long-ago story, and that
Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but one might think that if racism or sexism is as deeply rooted in SF as some would like you to think, that after 40 years I would have seen or heard something personally.
Maybe you’ve been lucky?
If you haven’t experienced racism, there is no question you have been lucky.
If you haven’t experienced sexism, there is no question you have been lucky.
As John Scalzi wrote, you are playing the game on the easiest level, white male.
Countless others have not been so lucky, and who are you to dismiss their personal experiences? How dare any editor or reviewer dismiss the personal essays contained within WDSF,when they have not known the same experience. We spoke from our hearts, we shared our view on the genre and were told — oh, how we were told — that our view was wrong.
That our personal experiences were wrong.
That one hundred and nine women were simply crying WOLF where no wolf exists.
It’s not the first time. Given how this year has gone, it won’t be the last.
And this perhaps proves why Women Destroy Science Fiction was so necessary after all. You, who unknowingly had a hand in building this wall we are trying to tear down, will never hear the cries of those on the other side. You are too deeply entrenched — you would have seen or heard something personally after all.
You would have seen.
You would have heard.
But you aren’t listening. And you aren’t looking.
In the old Loony-Toons, when Wile E. Coyote looks, and realizes nothing is as he thinks, that his view is wrong and he is screwed and has no idea how to say “I’m sorry, Road Runner, let’s make this better,” he plummets to the ground, right?
I dare you to actually look.
I dare you.
Things I have learned since that long-ago phone call from you:
- SF containing romance is regularly dismissed
- When men write about getting the girl at the end of a story, she’s a just reward, not “romance”
- Sexism and racism don’t happen if white men don’t see it
- People will shit on beautiful things others make every single time
- Shit does not eliminate the beauty
- Shit does not erase the beauty from history
- I am an awesome, capable writer
- I am an awesome, capable editor
- And that nothing — nothing — you or anyone says will stop this sea change in genre
Other smart people talking about this:
Dave Truesdale Explains It All, by Natalie Luhrs
Women Destroying Science Fiction: Texts in Conversation, by Amal El-Mohtar
The Shrill Sound of Not Shutting Up, by Rachael Acks