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Dealing with bigotry: an SF response

So apropos of one of my earlier posts, we’ve had another Incident in the SF community.

In a nutshell, the editor of a prominent fiction magazine sent a rejection letter to a hopeful writer which contained some blatantly bigoted statements against Muslims. The letter got out, a shitstorm erupted; the editor acted even more unprofessional, and a very un-fun time was had by all.

This isn’t the first time that members of the SF community have shown their ass, and it won’t be the last. However, it was the first time that I’ve seen a large group of writers — including myself — make an organized collective response. The full story is here at our new site, Transcriptase. This makes me very happy.


(I often get asked why I bother with science fiction and fantasy. Aren’t there other, better ways in which I can use my writing talent to improve the world? Aren’t there more important battlegrounds for the fight against oppression? As my mother once told me, “Why don’t you write something black?”

What it all boils down to is this: we have a future too. [Hell, we own the future.] We have a past that’s worth exploring. Our dreams and lore are just as potent, and just as worthy of sharing, as everyone else’s. When I write science fiction and fantasy, I am writing “something black.”

So this is why.)

33 thoughts on “Dealing with bigotry: an SF response”

  1. daomadan says:

    Wow. I’m speechless. The guy just keeps digging a bigger hole with everything he says or does on his site.

    I’ll have to add Transcriptase to my reading list though. Looks great. :)

  2. Carole McDonnell says:

    Ah me! What an idiot! The SF world seems to be made up of the old guard who are holding on to male whiteness but there are others who really are open. One editor sent back a story of mine saying it was all about race and pretty much gave me a smackdown. The other editor –whom i assume was white– loved it. So there is hope yet. -C

  3. Foxessa says:

    And before this month of sillies concludes, there is another break out by Big Man on SF campos — Orson Scott Card’s now widely broadcast rant against same sex marriages and civil rights for gays that he’d written for the Mormon Times.

    Maybe it’s their age? The guys have prostate troubles and thus trouble maintaining those all signifcant to the state of the universe erections, so they really, really are annoyed with the Others that they perceive as having no erectile dysfunction?

    I don’t know, of course. But SF is a speculative field, soze I speculates (not to be confused with that speculum!).

    Love, C.

  4. Shannon says:

    Seeing things like what Sander’s said and some of the reactions have kept me personally fairly far away from SF and associated communities. I really like the Transcriptase site thanks for doing it and putting it up for me to see.

  5. JupiterPluvius says:

    I love the site, and the statements, and the whole enterprise. Y’all rule.

  6. A. says:

    I wonder if Fandom Wank or any of those like communities are having fun with this.

    Or Unfunny Business.

  7. Bene Gesserit Witch says:

    I’d heard about this but hadn’t actually sat down and read the letter and the rest–it’s like playing Bigot Bingo. Suffice it to say that I’m not going anywhere near Helix if that man’s in charge.

    Kudos for you and the rest of the writers at Transcriptase. The world needs more ‘pantiwadulous’ people.

  8. opit says:

    Too much MSM white supremacist idjit in this guy for me. WTF is he doing dealing with people trying not to be ‘hidebound’ ?
    At that, your ‘ sci-fi is for blacks’ is to snort. Time was – briefly – it seemed that intensity of tan and sexual role were not the important criteria for deciding if someone was worth listening to.
    See if these aren’t closer to being to your ‘taste’.

  9. Ico says:

    Carole, a smackdown for a story being about race? *eyeroll* I guess the editor wanted you to write about something more “universal” like a boy becoming a man, or some such. ‘Cause race — well, that’s not something all of us have, now is it? Hardly worth exploring in fiction.

    Grrr. This whole idea of what is worthy — that a story exploring a (white kid) coming of age is always accepted as a standard, but a story about race is “only about race” — and gets sidelined into African American lit or some other sub-genre — it’s all such BS.

  10. says:

    Thank you for blowing the trumpet about this!

    {raised fist}


  11. artistatheart says:

    Let’s continue to shine the light in these dark places. Reading this is giving me the same vibes over the Amanda Marcotte/BrownFemiPower appropriation and denial saga and Seal press.

  12. Sam says:

    From the letter
    “You did a good job of exploring the worm-brained mentality of those people – at the end we still don’t really understand it, but then no one from the civilized world ever can – and I was pleased to see that you didn’t engage in the typical error of trying to make this evil bastard sympathetic, or give him human qualities.”

    Wow, that’s not only really hateful, it’s really shitty writing advice, too. Is he actually telling the writer that they should try NOT to flesh out their characters?

  13. Crys T says:

    “I was pleased to see that you didn’t engage in the typical error of trying to make this evil bastard sympathetic, or give him human qualities.”

    Because terrorists aren’t human. Or something.

    With that sort of mentality so prevalent, is anyone surprised that the situation between “Us” & “The Terrorists” is getting worse rather than better?

  14. teamowens313 says:

    All I can say is thank God I found your site (via Electronic Village top listings). I am a HUGE sci-fi fan, and a strong, strong believer that more of us should get into that field of writing. Can anyone say Olivia Butler…? Man…

    Anyway, all our fiction does not – and damned sure should not – be all revolution all black power consciousness all the damned time. Hell, haven’t we been fighting for freedom? So can we start acting like it then?


  15. dcmoviegirl says:

    Is there any way these authors can enforce some legal retribution for this?

    ESPECIALLY if the fee was not in the original contract?

  16. Smileee34 says:

    What he is really trying to say is”Don’t u blacks know ur place”……..

  17. Ged says:

    This is a key part of the cultural dialogue. They just don’t understand when we refuse to stay in the box they have made for us.

  18. Susie says:

    What he is really trying to say is”Don’t u blacks know ur place”…

    He’s much more global than that. It’s, “Don’t you non-white males know your place?” I mean, here he is, nice enough even to consider including these bizarre, abnormal people in his beautiful publication, and they have the nerve to talk back to him. Well, he’ll show them. His ass. In technicolor.

    WTG, editor guy!

  19. Susie says:

    Ooops, just realized I expressed myself badly. Of course, the guy was a jerk to both male and female writers. I was meaning that he seems to feel that he himself is the norm, and anyone who differs from him stands outside that. But I shouldn’t have written something that might imply that it was only women he was being offensive to.

    Oh, and by the way, am I the only person who thinks the word “pantywadulous” skates a little close to homophobic?

  20. Susie says:

    Okay, another correction: I’ve just discovered, through looking at other blogs on the topic (I don’t know anything about the S.F. world myself), that the editor in question isn’t white (although no one mentions what his race/ethnicity actually is). So I guess that reveals a certain amount of what I’d have to call racism on my part, in that I don’t expect this kind of assholery from people who aren’t white, which is, when all is said and done, a prejudice. The fact that I’m white myself may or may not mitigate this. Now I have to go think about this until I give myself a headache.

  21. soltrane says:

    props to you for writing science fiction. the idea that the only writing that pertains to race is the explicitly sociological is mistaken. we need more black authorship of the future. we imagine and create as well. i admire writers of color who can utilize modes of writing other than non-fiction (octavia butler, zora neale hurston) to communicate a still powerful, race-conscious message.

    much respect

  22. nojojojo says:


    The editor is part white and part Cherokee. But just as a woman can internalize sexism and become an enabler/supporter of gender discrimination, I think it’s perfectly possible for someone who’s a member of an oppressed group to participate in another group’s oppression.

  23. Susie says:

    I think it’s perfectly possible for someone who’s a member of an oppressed group to participate in another group’s oppression.

    Oh, certainly — I mean, that’s what’s happening here, clearly. Meanwhile, I’m wondering about my own thinking that lead me to assume that if someone was being racist, it must mean they’re white. I sort of don’t know what to think about it, because it’s technically a racist assumption, but in honesty I don’t feel guilty or wrong about it. I suppose someone could accuse me of being a self-hating white person, but I like me just fine, actually; I just have a somewhat saddening tendency to be a bit suspicious of my co-Caucasians.

  24. dianne says:

    To my fellow Science Fiction lover above, I believe you are thinking of Octavia (not Olivia) Butler. She was gone too soon and is sorely missed. I only point this out on the chance someone reading here is new to her & tries to find her work. We’d both want them to find her.

    And not to derail here, but to Susie – as a part Cherokee/part white person, I can sadly tell you that all of my people can do racism quite well. The Cherokee and some other eastern tribes were slave-owners. The Cherokee had previosuly welcomed descendants of their freed slaves as part of the tribe but recently made moves to undo this. I am usually proud of who I am (even if many people don’t see me as what I am) but we can be embarassingly good at imitating our oppressors.

    End tangent….

  25. Megan Smith says:

    I think it’s great that you express your love of SF through writing and critiquing. As you say, the future is ours as well.

    Keep up the great work.


  26. Imagynne says:

    Man, that is something-fucking-else. Well done to the people who can calmly strip away and comment on the layers of fucked-up-ness, as the only thing I can do is sputter incoherently.

  27. A. says:

    I’m reading through a few Sanders’s rebuttals – he comes off as being a sophomoric and juvenile prick.

    Threatening legal action because someone said something that he didn’t like over the internet? My ass. He made a comment referring to an ENTIRE ethnicity of people, and now he wants to talk about his feelings and bring legalities into it?

    That’s a pussy move right here.

  28. steelgrrrlmai says:

    Wait, what? He’s part cherokee? Isn’t every white person who gets called on their racist shit part Cherokee? Is he enrolled? Was he raised in the culture and traditions, or was he raised in the mainstream, anglo-american culture? What part of him is Cherokee? His pinky, his nostrils or his left buttcheek? Really, what part?

    I get so freaking sick of people trying to identify as one of us to try and weasel out of paying what they owe for their bad behavior. It has to stop.
    A Thoroughly Disgusted NDN.

  29. Katie says:

    A ?what? move?

  30. dianne says:


    I know what you are saying – it is BS to say “I can’t be racist – I am part Cherokee,” which, in of of itself, shows ignorance of Cherokee history. But I feel the need to point out –

    If one’s grandmother/great grandmother married a white man, she was de facto considered to be of his “race.” And it usually meant she lived where he lived and adopted his culture – at least, publicly. It can make proof of legitimacy difficult.

    Doesn’t change the reality that this man is a jerk…regardless of his possible heritage.

  31. Jeff says:

    Thirding Octavia Butler. In light of the “It’s niot metaphor; it’s murder” link you posted, I’d be interested in the thoughts on “Fledgling”. (That’s one book they’ll never make into a movie!) I liked it (until the plot structure broke down in the last third), but I was VERY uncomfortable with the main character’s [apparent] age.

    In general, though I loved Butler’s work, and agree that she was taken from us far too soon.

  32. nojojojo says:

    Whoa. Been out of the loop a few days; lookit all the messages! Some group replies:


    AFAIK, Sanders is “real” (part) Cherokee, and not one of the recent add-ons who discovered s/he had a Cherokee great grandmother’s cousin’s nephew’s best friend when Indian gambling casinos started getting popular. He’s claimed that identity for years and his fiction has at times reflected his heritage, though I’ll admit I haven’t read much of it (did read a story of his in a Native American SF anthology, Tales from the Great Turtle.).


    ::puts on guest mod hat:: Please scroll up, click on “The Rules”, and notice the one about no gendered slurs. Of which the p-word is one, unless you’re using it to refer to a species of willow tree. I see that there are other writers in this thread; if you’re having trouble coming up with a suitable word to describe Mr. Sanders, please put out a call for non-gendered synonyms and I’m sure they’d help you out. Here’s a few to get you started: weak. Punk-ass. Cheapshit. Pathetic. Cowardly.

    Everyone, join the fun!


    I’m a huge fan of Octavia Butler, and will probably one day write a long paean of praise to her on this site. Fledgling was probably my least favorite of her books short of Clay’s Ark, though, for a couple of reasons: a) I hate vampire stories, b) I also think the plot rambled and was weakest when they put the protagonist “on trial”, which took up way too much of the book, and c) I really didn’t like her love interest, who was creepy. I didn’t have that much of a problem with the protag’s age, mostly because Butler has done young/young-looking love before — the protag of Mind of My Mind, for example, was a late-teen girl if I recall; she ended up being one of the most ass-kickingest characters I’ve ever seen, very much the predator and not the prey. I think Butler does this deliberately to play with the concepts of strength/weakness; she seems to like reversing traditional expectations of gender (e.g., girls are weaker), youth/innocence, even body size. So it works given the way she does it.

  33. Big Man says:

    Damn, this stuff is everywhere. I read a whole bunch of other blogs and comments from that Sanders dude, and things just got much worse. He used the term “sheet heads” in a letter. Right there, you lose the benefit of the doubt forever. That’s how it works.

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