Monday, June 3, 2013

Choose To Be Better

When I was very, very young, my father handed me a copy of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit. I looked at the relatively thick book in my hands, and then back at him.

"You cut up the cover," I said in mild horror. (It would take me until college to become halfways comfortable with marking my books.)

He nodded. "I want you to imagine the characters on your own. I don't want you to just look at the picture, I want you to do the work," he said, and left me to my reading. 

I shrugged it off and carried on as kids do, but in a lot of ways that set the tone for my future as a reader. 

From that time forward, my dad would give me books and expect me to discuss my thoughts with him. He gave me classics - Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Thoreau - but also more recent books from the likes of Heinlein, Orson Scott Card, and Madeleine L'Engle, just to name a few. After the first book, he never cut the cover out again. He set a high standard and expected me to reach it. So I did. 

Because of the breadth of material I was exposed to, I developed a passion for material I most likely never would have picked up on my own. My opinions didn't always align with my dad's (I ate up Heinlein, Card, and Twain, but couldn't stand Dickens, Thoreau, or L'Engle). When I was a teenager he grumbled that the only real fantasy was Tolkien and everything else was just derivative as he got out his wallet to pay for my copies of Marion Zimmer Bradley and Anne Rice.  We occasionally found common ground over books like Black Hawk Down and The Iliad.

So when I see a desperate attempt to keep scifi/fantasy as an old boys' club, I know the truth about what literary discourse can be. There's simply no reason that men can't choose to be considerate and welcoming of female science fiction fans. A Y chromosome doesn't imbue you with the analysis gene, and it's not a get out of jail free card. The men that endlessly defend their own sexism could choose not to defend it. They could choose to focus on women's opinions, rather than their appearances.

Choose to be better, SFWA.


  1. Ah. Yeah, I noticed a lot of scifi/fantasy guys are like that. They're only impressed by a woman's opinions if she's pretty. And none of those guys are pretty. It's just really sad.

    Your dad is cool.

  2. I think this is the case no matter what territory highly populated by men. I'm in the tech industry, and honestly, it's everywhere. Some areas are changing for the better, but oh too slow for me! :)

    1. I completely agree Diane. It's frustrating to see the Russell Davises of the world ( tell us to just accept it because we're only human and sexism is natural. I had 1000 WTF moments reading his article.