Monday, March 20, 2017

Pernicious special pleading.

I stumbled across something irritating in the National Post. This isn't surprising, but as it was about science fiction and writing, I looked into it.

Fireside Fiction owner and editor Brian White outlined a systematic structure of racial biases that have been built into the larger sci-fi publishing community.
"The advice to write 'what the market wants' is code for white characters and white stories," he wrote in his editorial, also arguing that black authors leave the field due to the lack of opportunities, while "subtle biases" continue to proliferate on a wide scale.

Making news when there isn't any, 101: take any issue and add "race" to it. Instant news story. Colour me bored.
But I looked up his editorial anyway, and found this:

Fiction, we have a problem.
Structural, institutional, personal, universal.
We all know this. We do. We don't need numbers to see that, like everywhere in our society, marginalization of black people is still a huge problem in publishing. Specifically, as outlined here in Fireside's special report, we see that marginalization in short fiction magazines and their online equivalents. These same problems persist across publishing, but our study is focused on the world Fireside lives and breathes in: the speculative short fiction market.
We don't need the numbers to know that racism is a problem in our field. But we have them.

Oh, there's numbers. Whee.

So I looked into that a bit. To my eye its the usual crap, because the study authors do not know how many black authors submitted work, they don't know how many went independent on Amazon instead, and they don't know the criteria the publishers use in choosing submissions. They don't really know much of anything. Plus, their analysis seems a bit thin.

Besides which, I am a science fiction author. I have submitted work. I haven't even been turned down yet, I just haven't heard back. What I have to show for a couple of years of solid work is zippo. I will be going indy for my next work.

I don't have anything to blame for my failure so far. Nobody knows who I am, after all. I'll admit to being a bit weird in person, but nobody can tell when I hide behind a keyboard.

My explanation for it is:

A) I'm nobody in the industry, with zero track record. Who's going to take a risk on that? Only a publishing house that has money set aside for test-flying new talent. With the industry in a downturn, the new talent is going to have to be pretty damn special.

B) The publishing industry is in a downturn. Bookstores are closing left and right. is kicking sand in their faces and then eating their lunch.

C) Social Justice Warriors are running New York and Chicago publishing houses these days. They're running Hollywood too. They're also running Marvel and DC comics.

D) I'm a new writer. My stores are probably not Super Duper enough to leap up off the page and grab the slush reader by their nose.

That's what's going on, from my perspective. Black authors aren't getting published? Boo hoo, neither am I. It ain't because you are black. Try harder.

But then something interesting popped up. I read this bit here:

We strive to be honest, open, up-front and straightforward, which is why when we received an odd email last week, we declined to engage with it beyond what we posted publicly.
Tonight, the author of that email made good on their promise and published their report, albeit still pseudonymously. After just a few hours of getting some pretty valid critique on twitter, citing "receiving threats," they decided to take it down.
Well, we think that's a shame—now that they've published it, their work should be available for the rest of our community to refer to and to engage with. So we've taken the liberty of copying their original Medium post, and pasting it in here.

Somebody posted a rebuttal to the bad study? Then they had to take it down, because they got threats? Now I'm interested.

Then I remembered a while ago there was another of these "studies" that claimed to show black authors were not getting published because racism, so I looked that one up again.

A final note: We know that some usual suspects will attempt to invalidate what we've captured by claiming that our analysis lacks rigor, or our methodology was faulty. This is a smokescreen that these individuals use to hide the fact that they are against making the speculative fiction publishing space inclusive and respectful to black writers–all writers, really–and their work. Using assumed (and faulty) scientific expertise to attack the experiences of marginalized people is not a new tactic, and one that is frequently used by these groups in an attempt to maintain the oppressive systems that they believe should solely benefit them. They will never admit that fact so we are making it plain here.
This report is not for those people.

Again, this was a terrible study. This one the authors come right out and tell us all we better shut up if we don't agree 100%. To be fair to the first study, they only heavily imply doubters are racist, they don't come out and say so.

That appears to be where we are at right now, ladies and gentlemen. You put out some dodgy statistics, and then call down the wrath of the mob upon your opponents.


The Doubting Phantom

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