It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible

Apology, explanation and – oh well, it didn’t work…


Yesterday’s post, Home truths, was something of an experiment. As one commenter pointed out, my opinion of Asimov and Foundation are well-documented, and there’s little need to repeat it. But that fact, and the responses to Fabio Fernandes’ Mind Meld on the Russ Pledge on SF Signal yesterday and Cheryl Morgan’s post on the SFWA website on gender balance on 13 June, suggested a small test…

On two previous occasions on this blog I’ve made my thoughts on Asimov’s fiction plain, and both times I received around a month’s worth of hits in a single day. I was also on the receiving end of a number of threats and insults. One person even called me a “retarded nazi pedophile”. And all this for suggesting that Asimov is a rubbish writer and Foundation not a very good sf novel…

Then there’s the “mansplaining” on the Mind Meld and on Cheryl’s piece on the SFWA site. I covered some of the choicer ones here. A lot of male sf readers, it seems, turn combative when accused of sexism in their reading choices – despite an unwillingness to question those same choices.

So, it occurred to me, which of the above two would upset sf readers the most? After all, it takes a hell of an emotional investment in a book to call someone a “retarded nazi pedophile” for daring to slag it off. Would sf readers respond with such passion to being called sexist?

Sadly not. Most of the comments on my Home truths post are about Asimov.

But then, as someone pointed out, most readers of my blog already accept that most male sf readers are sexist. And my thoughts on the contribution of women in sf is also well-documented. For my experiment to have worked, it really needed a bigger pool of test subjects, ones that were ignorant of the women in sf debate – but unfortunately no one linked to it from reddit or fark.

So, sorry for the trollbait. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And it didn’t exactly prove what I wanted it to prove. It sort of did, but not really; and the results are probably tainted anyway. Ah well.


7 thoughts on “Apology, explanation and – oh well, it didn’t work…

  1. It’s true, I didn’t see the need to debate your second point. From where I’m looking, the comment threads you’ve mentioned and other discussions elsewhere kind of bear it out.

  2. I’m afraid on the issue of women in SF it’s hard to get a real scope of the real question instead of a lot of subjectivity. As a women who writes SF I do notice the lack of women in the lists and on the shelves. However, as a reader I also find it difficult to find women who write SF that I find particularly engaging.

    Is that because they aren’t published? or because they aren’t writing good enough SF? it’s a long debate. Or am I simply unconsciously biased against other women SF writers? I would hope not! Are male readers sexist? I am sure many are. Of course I have my own anecdotal evidence to say that not all are.

    On the original post question do you think that they will admit that they are? If we’re asking someone like VS Naipaul he would be happy to say that women can’t write anyway. I suspect that the majority of SF readers like to think themselves above such things and would find it even hard to admit to themselves that they are sexist let alone say it out loud.

    Anyway, I don’t think you have to apologise for getting the subject out there and trying to encourage a debate about an important issue or do an experiment.

  3. Here are my thoughts on SF and women, among other notions about the future of SF from a blog I wrote last year. I can’t seem to paste an excerpt into your mobile version from my iPad, Ian, so I’ll just leave the link for the curious.

  4. This is a somewhat random tangent: but, did you know that 4 of the 5 best novel 2011 Hugo nominations are women authors? And, 5 of the 6 nominations (and the eventual winner) for the 2010 Nebula for Best Novel were women as well?

  5. I think the Asimov statement is more likely to draw people’s ire because…it’s pretty clear, as a reader, whether or not it applies to you. If you like Asimov and he’s “Foundation” series, you’re going to take umbrance with someone criticising it so roundly.

    With the second statement, it’s quite easy to read it and think it doesn’t apply to you, even if it does. It’s easy to accept the assertion that the majority of male SF readers are sexist but believe yourself to be an exception.

    Personally, I have read SF by female authors although they are in a small minority. So it is easy to believe this statement doesn’t apply to me but I’ve read elsewhere on your blog your statement that even if you’ve read female SF, if they are in a minority, it indicates an unconscious bias. If you had phrased your second statement along these lines, you would probably have drawn a stronger reaction.

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