Saturday, June 7, 2014

Conflict, What is it good for?

Absolutely Everything.

Take the June special edition of Lightspeed for example.  Entitled Women Destroy Science Fiction, this super issue is packed with amazing stories from female only authors.  There are also non-fiction articles, essays from the issue's many authors, and an editorial written by a team of five women.  Within its pages you will find talented examples of women contributing to science fiction.  Ironically enough, you will also find examples of women claiming they aren't accepted in the genre.  Hence the conflict.
Why am I writing about it?  Because my, rather recent, voluntary participation at Tangent Online led the editor, Dave Truesdale, to request me and the rest of his unpaid staff to perform a special review, one worthy of such a super issue.  Being male, something I'm not ashamed of by the way, I was asked only to review the author essays and/or non-fiction articles.  Dave requested all the fiction be reviewed by his female staff.  I recently read and reviewed a story by Seanan McGuire in John Joseph Adam's weird western anthology, Dead Man's Hand, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I volunteered to review her essay, which I found to be optimistic for the future of women in science fiction.
Afterward, Dave requested I personally review the issue's editorial.  He hand picked me, another male, and two females from his staff to provide what he aimed to be a balanced review.  Suffice it to say, I was flattered.  I only recently joined the staff at Tangent Online and don't think too highly of my skills as a reviewer just yet, give me time, I'm a Marine, it doesn't take long for us to excel, or, at least, to think we do.  Then apprehension set in.  More conflict.  I worried how wise it would be for an as yet unpublished male author to weigh in on such a controversial topic as sexism.  But I've never shied away from sticking my neck out.  I'm a Marine.  It's kinda what we do.
After reading the editorial, I decided to review the first section, Christie Yant's section, who also had a thought provoking and entertaining story in Dead Man's Hand.  Whereas I found McGuire's essay optimistic, I found Yant's editorial pessimistic and reviewed it accordingly.  You can read my review and those of the others at Tangent Online's special review issue, and do read Women Destroy Science Fiction what ever your feelings are.  The stories are well worth it.
So why am I writing about it?  Because I learned something, or perhaps realized it again in a profound way.  You see, when the review posted it took no time at all for such a contentious article to spread, and for all manner of things to be said about it.  I quickly learned the mother of conflict is perception.
Have you ever realized how much time and effort it takes to create something, anything, and how easy it is to destroy it.  Most of the universe works this way, but perception is the exception to the rule.  It takes precious little effort, none at all really, for someone to perceive something, to get an impression, form an opinion.  It takes an infinite amount of time and energy to destroy, or even change, that perception.
That was my profound take away from all this as I read countless examples of people perceiving the review a certain way and those who wrote it futilely attempting to explain themselves.  Indeed, it does not escape my attention that I too perceived Yant's editorial a certain way, right or wrong.
So is there sexism in science fiction?  Is Yant an extreme feminist?  Am I a male chauvinist?  The answer is Hell No!, Not Really, Maybe, A Little Bit Yeah, and Hell Yes! because it's all someone's perception.  They're all going to be different, but that's what is so great about perception.  IT BREEDS CONFLICT.
So conflict, What is it good for?  Absolutely everything.  Why?  Because conflict makes the world go round.  Conflict makes things interesting.  It powers argument.  It excites interest.  Everyone benefits from conflict.  Thanks to my review, my name is being thrown around, a lot.  One person, Amal El-Mohtar, who, in 2011, was nominated for a Nebula Award--the holy grail of science fiction, wrote a long and admirable counter argument dedicated solely to my review of Yant's editorial.  Hardly anyone had ever heard of me before.
So who benefited the most from the contentious Women Destroy Science Fiction?  John Joseph Adams, the editor of Lightspeed magazine.  His special June issue is selling of the charts.