All the Colors of the Fannish Rainbow

So, commentor MikeJ linked to the awesome Guardian article about sf writer John Scalzi, his most persistent troll, and turning wingnut perversity to good use:

… John Scalzi is the author of several books, including the Old Man’s War series and Redshirts, published in the States by Tor and the UK by Gollancz. He’s also the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Fed up of being constantly targeted on his website by one particular individual and his followers, Scalzi decided to take action, pledging US$5 every time “the Racist Sexist Homophobic Dipshit in question posts an entry on his site in which he uses my name (or one of his adorable nicknames for me)”.

Scalzi put a ceiling on his “troll tip jar” of US$1,000, figuring that gave his bête noir 200 opportunities to abuse him over the coming year, and said he’d give the cash to four charities: RAINN, America’s largest anti-sexual violence organization; Emily’s List, dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women to office; the Human Rights Campaign, which works for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equal Rights; and NAACP: America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization.

A novel enough way to tackle the trolls, for sure, but what happened next was somewhat astonishing: Scalzi’s friends, Twitter followers and readers asked if they could jump in with pledges too. Many of his friends are high-profile authors and industry types – Will Wheaton, the actor who played Wesley Crusher in TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation, and a writer in his own right, was one of many who promised to match Scalzi’s US$1,000 pledge…

Read the whole thing, as they say, and be proud of the smart, generous people on our side of the argument.

Anyways, that led me to check out Scalzi’s blog, where I learned about the Con or Bust auction:

Authors and Others: Con or Bust Needs Auction Items
Con or Bust helps fans of color/non-white fans attend SFF cons. It’s administered by the Carl Brandon Society, a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction. Con or Bust isn’t a scholarship and isn’t limited by geography, type of con-goer, or con; its goal is simply to help fans of color go to SFF cons and be their own awesome selves. And with the money from last year’s annual online fundraising auction, plus some donations from cons, over the last twelve months Con or Bust was able to help 25 different people of color attend cons 28 times (three people received assistance twice), which I am very proud of…. Kate Nepveu

Here’s the Con or Bust website. I know some of you are sf/fantasy readers. Those of you who are or once were fans know that helping other fans attend sf conventions has a long history — the Trans Atlantic Fan Fund (TAFF) goes back to 1953, and the Down Under Fan Fund (DUFF) to 1970. I’m happy to see the communitarian tradition extended, even though it’s been many years since I planned my schedule around Autoclave and Midwestcon. I’m going to have to keep an eye on the Con or Bust auction (online Feb. 9 – 24), and maybe see if there are some fannish souvenirs I can donate.

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51 replies
  1. 1
    ruemara says:

    WTF? I’m a fan of color. Why didn’t I ever hear of this? I’m a fricking creator of color and I never get to go to a con. That being said, love the Scalzi.

  2. 2
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    Sci-Fi literature may be whiter than the general population, but I was kind of surprised when I realized how many blacks and latinos are a part of various geek subcultures and the American comics industry in particular (my sieve-like memory fails to come up with any names of course.) It’s also interesting how ‘genre fiction’ broke down racial barriers that mainstream culture didn’t: I Spy had Cosby as the first black TV actor billed equally with his white co-star (and win an emmy). Star Trek, of course, had the Kiss, so many of the great old comic artists were Jewish back when being Jewish meant much more discrimination. I’m sure there are more. It’s a pity that so many people associate sci-fi and fantasy with angry, bigoted proto-fascists. Not usually the case in my experience.

  3. 3
    ruemara says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    It’s a pity that so many people associate sci-fi and fantasy with angry, bigoted proto-fascists.

    They do? I like scifi and fantasy because it’s the only place where black people turn up, sound smart, get to be leaders and don’t rap. It’s amazing.

  4. 4
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @ruemara:

    Well, it’s something I’ve heard a lot on some lefty blogs. The stereotype is that of a white nerd who reads hack-and-slash fantasy or right-wing militaristic sci-fi as a way to back up their own hate for women, minorities, ‘moochers’ and so forth. I don’t think that sort of person is too common myself (obviously I’m a more liberal sci-fi/fantasy fan) but you usually get someone who assumes that’s the norm when the topic comes up.

  5. 5
    Anne Laurie says:

    @ruemara: Well, there’s an application, and you can explain to them how they can improve their outreach, too!

  6. 6
    piratedan says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: tbh the genre has some of those folks around as well, folks that have extrapolated the Campbellian ideal to an extreme and all… Yet, the genre does still thrive and is very much like a big tent these days with some of my favorite authors inhabiting serious and sundry positions along that socio-political scale. Good storytelling can come from anywhere imho, doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.

  7. 7
    Yutsano says:

    @ruemara: You realise, of course, you come to Seattle you better let us all know amirite? Sakura-con is the last weekend in March and it’s a blast!

  8. 8
    Bnut says:

    Old Man’s War is in my top 10 of best sci-fi novels of all time. Scalizi is the man, his blog is great.

  9. 9
    Yutsano says:

    @Bnut:

    A character can be seen reading the book in an episode of the science fiction television series Stargate Universe,[4] a shout-out to Scalzi in his role as creative consultant on the show.[5]

    Cuz, ya know, peep can’t get any cooler.

  10. 10
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    It’s a pity that so many people associate sci-fi and fantasy with angry, bigoted proto-fascists. Not usually the case in my experience.

    It could be pretty white-guy monolithic in the late 1970s/early 1980s (when I first discovered fandom). Guys who were used to having sf all to themselves were not happy when the “trekkies and libbers” showed up at their conventions. The racism was less obvious at the time, because most fans of color just didn’t bother showing up where they figured they wouldn’t be welcomed. And most of the gay male fans were deeply, deeply closeted (pre-AIDS) because “trufans” didn’t want to discuss any kind of sex if they could possibly avoid it. (“I come to conventions to get away from all that mundane biology crap!” one angry guy yelled at me. Five years later he showed up wearing a lambda pendant & was a lot calmer when we all went out to dinner.) Look up the history of WISCON sometime, if you want more details. I’m really glad things have improved, because it was not easy being a 17-year-old at her first long-dreamed-of Real SF Con and hearing people sneer, “Ghod, who lets these people in?”

  11. 11
    Bnut says:

    @Yutsano: Only way it would be cooler if it was seen read in an episode of Firefly.

  12. 12
    ruemara says:

    What’s funny is, one of the last comics I wrote was about being minority creative at a Con. And if I hadn’t shut down my hosting service, I’d show it to you, but I will say that Amber Benson and Sergio Aragones both liked it a lot. I get to say that because it’s true.

  13. 13
    Anne Laurie says:

    True story: During the early 1950s, my blue-collar, sf-reading dad occasionally socialized with the NYC sf fans he ran into at jazz clubs. In those halcyon pre-fatherhood days, Dad also owned an Indian motorcycle, which was still pretty outlaw.

    Fifteen years later, when I came back from a comic book convention with a flyer for an sf convention (Lunacon), dear old Dad figured he’d better do his paternal duty & provide fair warning:

    “I stopped hanging around with the sf fans because they weren’t as well-read as the jazz fans, and they had worse manners than the bikers. In fact, some of them weren’t as well-read as the bikers, and had even worse manners than the jazz fans!”

  14. 14
    Rosie Outlook says:

    While I hate to sound like the stereotypical American woman who thinks everything a man does is about wee wee size, I do think that this particular feud could be settled if Scalzi and the other guy just hired an impartial third party to…take some measurements.

    Scalzi must be a pretty Big Name–my phone did not attempt to substitute some random word for his name. I guess the true measure of having Arrived these days is when a spellchecker recognizes your name.

    Does anybody know how to turn off the spellcheck on an I phone?

  15. 15
    Yutsano says:

    @Bnut: Well that was Whedon’s baby, and Joss, for all his positives, doesn’t have a reputation for playing nice with others.

    I’m torturing myself with overworking. It’s fun!

  16. 16
    Anne Laurie says:

    @ruemara: Well, I’m impressed!

  17. 17

    @Rosie Outlook: If you think this is some sort of dick-waving contest, you’re not understanding what Scalzi is doing.

  18. 18
    Rosie Outlook says:

    @The prophet Nostradumbass: No, I understand his counterattack; I mean the root of the feud is a size contest.

  19. 19
    Joey Maloney says:

    The best thing about that article, is the way that (I presume) Scalzi prevailed on them not to link to Racist Sexist Homophobic Dumbass’ own site. No Grauniad traffic for you, jackoff!

    (The RSHD in question is Theodore Beale, a/k/a Vox Day, if anyone cares. No link for obvious reasons. And when it comes to Scalzi he is truly deranged and I don’t mean that as a term of art. I really believe he has some kind of disorder. Besides conservatism and penile hypotrophy, I mean.)

  20. 20
    MikeJ says:

    @Joey Maloney: I’ve read about him on Edroso’s site, but never actually read him. What could anyone have against Scalzi? He writes military fiction! I thought they loved that.

  21. 21
    Joey Maloney says:

    Well, it’s not RSHD military fiction. But beyond that I just think Scalzi has become the guy’s idée fixée.

  22. 22
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Why would people associate sci-fi/fantasy with bigots? I certainly don’t. Like you, I associate sci/fi/fantasy with Star Trek (racially integrated) and great multi-culti movies like The Matrix.

  23. 23
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Bnut: I haven’t read any of his novels (haven’t read novels in years), but he is an awesome blogger. And I love how he is aggressively and vocally anti-racism, anti-homophobia and anti-sexism. Obviously that’s why he’s drawn the ire of an out and out bigot.

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/201.....got-drive/

  24. 24
    Schlemizel says:

    I used the same technique a year or so ago against a troll that used to crap all over Johnathon Turley’s blog. She kept dragging abortion into every thread in a Westburo Baptist sort of way. After one particularly offensive post I posted that I was going to donate $5 to Planned Parenthood in her name every time she posted like that. I kept a running total and commented in each thread she dumped on how much PP was getting. I think it ended up costing me 60-70 bucks but she went away and has not come back. I’d like to think that I caused that but she never responded to those comments so I don’t know.

    When this thing with Scalzi & Vox Day first popped up I checked out the RHSD’s site – it is a sewer. I hope Scalzi crushes him.

  25. 25
    FonzieScheme says:

    @patrica kayden

    There’s a lot of conservatism in the SF community. Just because you don’t particularly associate the genre with it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, either on the production (e.g. Warhammer, Orson Scott Card, etc) or consumption (boothbabes, and the more mysogonistic side of geekdom) side. An old workmate of mine was heavily involved in the Chicago SF scene, introduced me to it, and the amount of reactionary manchildren in that area was quite startling to me. He is quite progressive, and caught a lot of flak for it for years.

    It seems like it’s getting a lot better recently, but it’s been lurking under the surface of the scene for a while so it might take a few more generational shifts to ease it out of the system.

  26. 26
    Schlemizel says:

    @MikeJ:

    Scalzi has written some awesome pieces on race, equality and on poverty in America and how the government helped him particularly overcome poverty’s damage. Oh, and a great piece about how being born white and male makes life easier even if you don’t recognize that it is.

    In the words of their role model, “They hates that

  27. 27
    Gregory says:

    Scalzi is awesome.

    He has also written on his blog about the difficulties some women have at cons with some male fans seeing them as objects to be hit on, and noted that a woman choosing to dress in costume isn’t an open invitation for all and sundry to leer. (Check his posts on “creepers.”)

    I’m happy Scalzi’s brilliant move attracted the notice and support it did, especially because it makes the RHSD look even more like an ass to an even wider audience. Nicely played, sir.

  28. 28
    Schlemizel says:

    BTW – those added donations? The total now stands at $50,000.

    Not only is that a great gift for the groups that will get the money it is emblematic of the support Scalzi has.

  29. 29
    Singular says:

    “Old Man’s War” is a complete and utter rip-off of Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War”. When I had finished it I checked the credits and Scalzi named a couple of authors who inspired him, but no mention of Haldeman. There is no way he didn’t read that book…

  30. 30
    J.D. Rhoades says:

    @Singular:

    “Old Man’s War” is a complete and utter rip-off of Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War”.

    No. Different premise, different themes, different questions.

    Unless you consider all military SF to be a ripoff of FW (a seminal work of the subgenre, to be sure, and of the genre in general).

  31. 31
    Schlemizel says:

    @Singular:

    I didn’t particularly care for OMW, it was derivative. It reminded me of Heinlein, which I think is what he was going for. Then there is “Fuzzy Nation” which is a sequel to “Little Fuzzy”, an H. Beam Piper novel from the early 60s.

    He has other stuff I think is better.

  32. 32
    jon says:

    @Singular: SciFi that seems like other SciFi? Has never happened before.

    I suppose next you’ll be telling me that Star Wars had things that seemed to have come from Dune which had things that Asimov and Bradbury did and that Moorcock did the whole swordsman with anger issues thing better. Meanwhile, some dusty bones in Babylon are spinning wildly at the idea that Chewbacca is totally Enkidu.

  33. 33
    J.D. Rhoades says:

    @Schlemizel:

    I enjoyed OMW a lot, but I think it was written more as pure entertainment (and to sell a metric shit-ton of copies, something which Scalzi is up-front and unapologetic about), while FW is Haldeman working out some of his own issues with the military and with war in general. IIRC, Haldeman’s a Vietnam vet.

    On an entertainment level, OMW and its sequels succeed admirably. I’ll give FW the edge as the more important book.

  34. 34
    Just Good Sense says:

    @Singular: Wrong. I know Scalzi. He never read The Forever War until after Old Man’s War was bought by Tor. You might as well say The Forever War is a complete and utter ripoff of Starship Troopers and Space Cadet.

  35. 35
    J.D. Rhoades says:

    @FonzieScheme:

    Don’t even get me started on John Ringo fans. Not Ringo himself, who I’ve only met briefly a few years ago and who seems like a nice enough guy (although I don’t think he quite got that mystery/thriller cons are…a little different from SF ones).

  36. 36
    Cassidy says:

    @J.D. Rhoades: Agree. Both books are very different.

    @Spaghetti Lee: It’s really not that bad. There are a lot of conservative and libertarian leaning types as writers, but they usually keep it to themselves until they come out and say something incredibly stupid about women and booth babes, etc.

    Politics isn’t really a big topic in the nerd world; people shy away from it and some forums are very strict about not discussing politics so that the culture stays inclusive. You can always tell, though. The bigger issue is the high levels of mysigyny, but I attribute that to poor social skills and repressed anger more than anything else. A lot of nerds are still mad about being mistreated in their youth and they’ll take it out on anyone. Heaven forbid a woman show up and insist on being treated like a persona nd fellow fan, but if she cosplays and is attractive, she’s a slutty booth babe who’s not a real nerd and just their for the attention.

  37. 37
    Schlemizel says:

    @J.D. Rhoades:

    OMW was a good read, I’m sorry that I did not make that clear. Just it was so Heinlein-like. I was a huge fan & read everything the guy ever wrote & some multiple times. But I find his attitudes about war & warrior society boring now.

    I have not read “Nation” yet but everything of Scalzi’s I have read has been entertaining even if, like OMW, I don’t think it is a great book.

  38. 38
    piratedan says:

    @J.D. Rhoades: agreed, Ringo has some very hard-core neocon fans (and tbh, his Kildar books are absolute wankery of the extreme that panders to that niche) but I found that a fair amount of his collaborative work (i.e. the Prince Roger and Looking Glass books) is fun stuff to read plus his Aldenata series is fun for those that like their military heroes cut from that Campbell cloth. The guy himself is a conservative but it doesn’t mean that he can’t play well with others and has done so in the past.

  39. 39
    Emma says:

    @Anne Laurie: Partly my experience too. I didn’t fit in with the crowd in the 70s and the crowd was very clannish. I still read the stuff by the shelf-full and I sometimes wonder what it could be to go and see the “new” world.

  40. 40
    gwangung says:

    Speaking about racism among fans…this is kinda jaw dropping.

  41. 41
    TooManyJens says:

    @J.D. Rhoades: If you haven’t read OH JOHN RINGO NO, including Ringo’s very menschy reaction, do. It’s a treat.

  42. 42
    Matt McIrvin says:

    Scalzi helped create this particular monster, by giving Beale an installment of his occasional “Big Idea” guest column.

    It was quite controversial at the time; Beale was a well-known idiot in the circle of Scalzi’s readers, and Scalzi got heavy criticism for it, but justified it as reaching across the aisle to people with political views he disagreed with. (Aaron Sorkin disease?) He may well be regretting it now.

  43. 43
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Cassidy:

    Politics isn’t really a big topic in the nerd world; people shy away from it and some forums are very strict about not discussing politics so that the culture stays inclusive.

    And yet, print SF probably has the most political axe-grinding in it of any of the genres.

  44. 44
    jon says:

    @gwangung: I find it most awesome that her name is Chaka Cumberbatch. She should get into conventions just because of her name alone.

    And haters can hate it, but that’s what they do anyway. Fuck ’em.

  45. 45
    Ted & Hellen says:

    Will Wheaton is a horrible, horrendously bad actor.

    Having Will Wheaton on “our” side is not a plus.

    Carry on.

  46. 46
    Singular says:

    @jon:

    Sigh. I’m not saying any of those things. And as others have pointed out, “complete and utter rip-off” was obviously far too strong. But anyone who doesn’t see far more than a passing similarity between the two books hasn’t read them.

    And, fair enough, Starship Troopers. However, you could switch Haldeman’s fighting suits with Scalzi’s engineered bodies without missing a beat, along with the whole learning curve that came with them.

  47. 47
    Hob says:

    @Singular: I have read them both and I don’t see it. The similarities are 1. they’re in the army, 2. they get cool special weapons, 3. some of them sleep together and 4. some of them question what they’re fighting for; 1 & 2 describe all military SF ever, 3 & 4 describe 90% of military SF after Heinlein. Old Man’s War doesn’t have the time dilation/social change focus of The Forever War, and its portrayal of the alien enemy is just about the opposite of Haldeman’s in that they’re fighting a lot of different wars against diverse aliens whose motives are pretty well understood, not one endless conflict against a faceless horde that turns out to have been a total misunderstanding.

  48. 48
    MC Simon Milligan says:

    Ultimately enjoyable but somewhat derivative and lacking nuance or depth. Goes for Scalzi’s fiction and his politics.

  49. 49
    Johnny Coelacanth says:

    @Ted & Hellen: “Having Will Wheaton on “our” side is not a plus.”

    Your mother’s a whore.

  50. 50
    Halloween Jack says:

    1) Trying to suggest some sort of equivalence between John Scalzi and Theodore Beale is ludicrous. Scalzi is a successful writer and the current president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and Beale is the writer of books that no one reads, the composer of music that no one listened to, and has worked on videogames that no one has played. He also “designed” a computer mouse with eighteen, count ’em, buttons. It’s quite likely that he wouldn’t have a Wikipedia page without his direct intervention (if you look on the Talk page, Wikipedia staff have several times warned an editor named “XDay” of his conflicts of interest). Most of his delusions of grandeur (or even adequacy) come from having WND as a soapbox.

    2. Both Haldeman and Scalzi wrote their books in direct reaction to Starship Troopers, as have a number of military SF writers. Saying that ““Old Man’s War” is a complete and utter rip-off of Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War”” isn’t even a very good troll, because it just makes you sound like your reading comprehension skills are severely subpar.

    3. There are quite a few conservative SF writers, of various varieties. Aside from OSC’s rampant-bordering-on-hysterical homophobia, there’s Dan Simmons’ Islamophobia and a few other lesser writers stumbling around the wingnutosphere.

    4. Trying to pick on Wil Wheaton? Good grief. Go after Joss Whedon, I dare ya.

  51. 51
    Singular says:

    @Hob: Leaving aside everything else that apparently happens in all military SF, the two tales are about an old man’s fucking war :)

    Okay, I’m wrong. On another note, “The Forever War” has just about the best ending ever. When he gets the letter from Marygay I just choke up.

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