I’ve got things to say. Head’s up, I’m pissed, so this will probably contain four-letter words and the general tone is, admittedly, quite salty. You’ve been warned. Also, this will be long, so if you decide to proceed, get comfortable first.
A few days ago (Monday, Jan. 15, to be exact), I came home from work. I caught up on my email and made my typical online rounds before I set myself up to do some editing. Well, when I went over on Twitter, I saw a few genre authors of the male persuasion (I’d say a handful of them) sharing a Venn diagram, which you’ve probably seen if you’ve been on Twitter. My first reaction was my typical one when I see something that baffles me. I basically rolled my eyes and moved on. Then, within about five minutes two of my female genre author friends sent me private messages linking to two different tweets, from two different male genre authors containing the graph. They were both outraged, and their basic messages to me were, “I’m so fed up with this shit.”
At that point, I decided to take a closer look, and I saw what they were so upset about. Long story short, that’s when I nabbed the graph and said, “Folks, you do know that more than one female fantasy author exists, right?”
And thus a Twitter storm was born.
Generally, I make a pretty focused effort on staying clear of drama, and I didn’t think through my reaction. It was just that: a reaction. I saw that image passed around, and then I had irate author friends I admire and respect angrily venting me about it (rightfully so) and I just reacted. You know, people react to shit. That’s what we do.
Now, Monday kept going. I’m busy. I worked the day job, then I had to work the freelance editing job. I’ve got two deadlines heading my direction with the intensity of freight trains, and I poured myself into my editing work. I lost the thread of this internet thing. I turned off twitter and focused on my clients. I knew the graph was turning into a Thing, but I don’t think I realized just how big of a Thing it was. Guys, I’m just me. I run an easy to overlook reviewer website on this dusty corner of the internet. I’m used to saying things and being seen by like twenty people. I am no Chuck Wendig. I do not speak and know my voice will reach tons of people.
So about 9 pm rolls around, and a friend of mine had done some good ol’ fashioned googling about the graph. She discovered that it originated in 2015, created by a friend of mine, Mark Lawrence. Mark apparently created this graph as a reaction to another graph, and he’d asked twitter/various online outlets for suggested authors to put on it. Then, he makes a specific note in his post that he wants more female authors to put on the list.
Context helps, and this is the one mistake I made. I should have done the research before I tweeted the graph. That’s my bad. I’ve admitted that just about all over the internet, and I’ve tweeted and posted the links adding context to the graph all over the place.
I will not, however, say that tweeting the graph was a mistake, because it wasn’t, and I stand by doing it. That absolutely is a hill I am willing to die on. I will get into why in a minute.
By the time I checked back into the online stuff, it was late at night, and I had this added context, but I realized it was pretty pointless to delete my original tweet because it had taken on a life of its own, as these things do.
Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon. Around 1 pm my time I got a private message on Facebook from someone I’m not friends with, who had a cartoon avatar and a profile that is just about as private as you can get. This individual called me an ignorant bitch and basically discussed how “liberal bitches” like myself are destroying literature as we know it.
I kind of snorted and ignored it because, whatever. Dude can be pissed, that’s his prerogative. I don’t feed trolls, so I didn’t reply.
Then about twenty minutes later I got another message of a similar vein from a gentleman that is in two of the genre groups I was also in on Facebook. His was a bit angrier, and at that point, my email dinged.
So I head over to my email, and I had a message sitting there from an email account that was (no joke) JohnDoe(insert a string of numbers here) at Hotmail dot com. He didn’t leave a name, but his message basically said what the others said. I’m an ignorant bitch and it’s “libtards” like myself who are destroying the world as we know it. He knows that I have a family that I care about things, and maybe he needs to destroy the things I love to teach me my lesson.
At this point, I decided to circle my wagon of one (wow, this is a terrible analogy) around myself. I left both of those genre groups on facebook because I worried that people were tracking me through them or something weird. I tinkered with my Facebook privacy settings, purged some people from my friends list, deleted twitter from my phone and logged out of it, and decided to give myself time to think.
John Doe sent me three other messages, each a bit more graphic than the last.
John Doe, you can go ahead and fuck yourself.
I talked about this a little on Twitter last night, but I’ve stayed pretty silent other than that. I’ve been pretty overwhelmed by the supportive outpouring of both friends and strangers, and I completely appreciate that.
Now, I’m going to talk about the graph itself, and various reasons/ramblings/whatever that I feel needs to be said.
I said above that tweeting that graph wasn’t a mistake. Now, not having the context of its creation was, but the graph itself exists. I have no idea how lifecycles of the internet work. I don’t know why a graph created in 2015 was resurrected on Twitter on Monday in 2018. I certainly didn’t do it. While people are poo-pooing my lack of research (and yes, that was a problem on my end. I’m salty, but I am sorry I didn’t do due diligence.), I can point the finger to all those male genre authors who tweeted the graph before I did, and ask why the hell didn’t any of them research it? So as long as that’s the fault in this situation, I think it can rest on more than just my shoulders.
Secondly, people have a right to react to stuff. You, I, your neighbor, Donald Trump, the Dalai Lama, we all have our own right to see stuff and react to it. That’s part of what comes with having a brain. Now, regardless of the fact that this graph is three years old, it gained traction, and it gained it fast.
Because this three-year-old graph still resonates in our community today, because the issue of representation is (drum roll, please) STILL AN ISSUE. Seeing a list of popular white dude fantasy authors…. And Robin Hobb, a woman who has a notoriously gender-neutral pseudonym, isn’t really that abnormal to many of us. We’ve been inundated by What to Read While You Wait for Game of Thrones lists, populated by mostly white, male genre authors, for example.
If this graphic didn’t represent a feeling that is deeply seated and simmering in our genre community, it wouldn’t have gained the traction it did. So, should I have figured out the back story before I tweeted? Sure, but if this diagram didn’t represent a problem that was just as valid in 2015 as it is today, then it would have fallen flat instead of becoming a firestorm. If representation and diversity wasn’t still an issue we need to fight for and address in our community, then this diagram wouldn’t have mattered. As it is, perhaps it’s three years old, but it’s representative of a larger conversation that we need to have, and I, for one, am glad that I could play some small part of raising that conversation to the forefront in this genre that I love so much.
And aside from all of this, can we step back a moment and think about how wacked it is that someone asked for fantasy author suggestions, and the ones they got were all white guys….and Robin Hobb? I mean, really, just bask in that, and while you’re basking, please realize that this isn’t a phenomenon relegated to 2015. It happens on Best Of and Year End lists all the time. It also highlights why this graph struck such a raw nerve with so many of us.
Not only was it almost completely devoid of women, but it lacks people of color, LGBTQ, disabled authors, and whatever other kinds of non-white-dude-authors you really can shake a stick at. For a community as (often) forward thinking and diverse as ours, this is unacceptable. So yes, it was created in 2015, but it’s still relevant today, and it deserves a meaningful conversation. As someone on Twitter said, you can’t make a rainbow with just one color. This genre isn’t owned by white male authors, and if that fact ruffles the feathers of John Doe and his ilk, well, that’s too damn bad, isn’t it?
To summarize: Sorry for not doing the research. I’m not sorry for passing on the graph. And go fuck yourself John Doe.
Now, on to another point: This whole threatening someone who you don’t agree with nonsense.
So, I say, “Folks, you do know that more than one female fantasy author exists, right?” and I’m getting threatened, but the dudes who passed this diagram around before I ever got my hands on it are okay? I’m just trying to understand the standard here.
I mean, lack of context or not, and my admitted fault with not doing research aside, does anyone really ever deserve threats? (In case you’re wondering, the answer here is NO.)
And what am I supposed to say in response here? “Dear John Doe, I’m terribly sorry that I had the audacity to point out the fact that women write stuff and that we deserve recognition for doing so?” What is the proper way for me to apologize to dear old John, a man who is too scared to use his own name to threaten people? Should I bow and scrape?
Are you kidding me?
Because, brass taxes here, folks, I’m not sorry for pointing out that women write, and I’m not sorry that there is a firestorm on Twitter right now demanding that women get their due. We can go ahead and put that in bold and underline it a few times, just for extra effect. No amount of internet threats from a troll hiding behind a keyboard is going to change the simple fact that women do stuff, and we deserve to be recognized for that stuff we do.
The internet is a powerful place. It can connect and educate people in wonderful ways, but it can also make us forget that there are PEOPLE on the other side of that screen. People with families and friends and lives outside of Twitter. It’s easy to say hateful, hurtful things online, harder to say it to someone’s face.
I got a private message today from someone in the community who I will not name to preserve her anonymity. She said she’s been getting threatening email, texts, and phone calls for months now. She said that no one has come to her door yet, and finished by pointing out that it’s one thing to say these things from behind a screen, and another to do it to someone’s face. She isn’t afraid.
And I’ve decided I’m not going to be afraid, either, and I’m not going to hide.
We forget that people exist on the other side of these screens we are glued to.
Nobody deserves to be threatened for having an opinion. Nobody deserves to be threatened, period. End of discussion.
Now, I fully expect this to blow over within the next few days. By Monday no one will remember this happened and I’ll go back to being the person who says things to twenty people who listen.
In the meantime, this is what happened, my reactions to it, and my insights.
And fuck you, John Doe.