This essay discusses a number of confronting issues. As always comments are welcome but because of the subject matter I will moderate more heavily than normal. Comments on better ways that I could have discussed the issues below that are supportive of survivors of abuse are welcome. Vox Day has chosen to make these issues a football in his anti-Hugo game and consequently there is a danger when trying to discuss the issues raised in a more rational way that I can actually become complicit in his attempt to trivialize them as rhetorical gambits.
Having one publisher essentially cheat to get its works on the ballot, makes this category almost moot. There are four works I consider disqualified from my vote that are from Castalia house. Two are not unreasonable entries and the other two are simply extensions of Vox Day’s culture war. The most controversial of these is Daniel Eness’s ‘Safe Space as the Rape Room’ which takes an important subject and uses the writing style of a high school project. The more relevant bits deal with historical cases of child abuse by people either in or in some way related to science-fiction fandom. These read like a rehash of Wikipedia articles. The worst bits are extensions of Eness’s bosses ego e.g. a picture of John Scalzi in a dress – presumably because Vox is still working out his scalzi-angst.
That leaves* Moira Greyland’s piece.
This is an emotional confronting true story of her experience of abuse at the hands of her parents, Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Bradley, of course, was a notable science fiction/fantasy author and Walter Breen was a prominent figure in US SFF fandom.
Naturally this is a disturbing and deep piece of writing that will affect readers in many ways. I’m not sure it is possible to adequately review a personal testimony such as this. I shan’t quote it at length but one passage really stood out.
“As might be imagined, although my mother was perfectly well aware of my father’s crimes, and so was my “stepmother,” I was disbelieved almost up to the moment of his conviction, and discounted as “hysterical”.”
There are strong emotional and rational reasons for listening to people who are saying that they are being abused and believing them. Greyland points out how devastating it was that people just did not seem to listen.
More controversially Greyland goes on to describe her more recent move towards Christianity and her objections to same-sex marriage. Her arguments are not particularly convincing or well structured in this regard and she finishes with this observation.
“Naturally my perspective is very uncomfortable to the liberal people I was raised with: I am “allowed” to be a victim of molestation by both parents, and “allowed” to be a victim of rather hideous violence. I am, incredibly, NOT ALLOWED to blame their homosexuality for their absolute willingness to accept all sex at all times between all people.
But that is not going to slow me down one bit. I am going to keep right on speaking out. I have been silent for entirely too long. Gay “marriage” is nothing but a way to make children over in the image of their “parents” and in ten to thirty years, the survivors will speak out.”
Her point there conflates believing a person claims about their direct experiences and agreeing with their wider opinions about society or politics or their philosophical position.
So how to vote?
One approach would be to imagine that it is possible to divorce a work from its content but by that standard the piece is OK writing but is it particularly award worthy judged on some quasi-abstract notion of writing quality. However, the idea that this is a sensible way of judging a work of this kind is nonsensical. The essence of the essay is its emotional impact and its wider role as a discussion of society.
Yet how to judge Greyland’s essay within its full context? If we must consider context then we can hardly ignore that the essay is on the ballot for the express purpose of furthering Vox Day and the Alt-Right’s multiple (and confused) agendas. But their message is not Greyland’s message. Is there not value in voting for this essay if only to highlight that message that Greyland focuses on in the early part of the essay LISTEN AND BELIEVE what survivors of abuse are saying?
However judged on this basis Greyland’s piece also fails. Her attempt to conflate the issue of child-safety with opposition to same-sex marriage clearly does far more harm than good. Abuse occurs in all kinds of families and attempting to outlaw one kind of family does nothing positive towards child safety.
In addition as a message to fandom it is of limited affect. More worrisome is that through no fault of her own, Greyland’s essay is part of an attempt by the alt-right to push fandom backwards.
There are two aspects to this push by the alt-right. The first is the nature of the alt-right itself when it comes to the question of abuse, which I’ll discuss more generally below. The second is the common theme between this year’s Rabid Puppies and the more trad-right Sad Puppies of previous years. In both cases they appear to genuinely want to move fandom back to a supposed golden age – a golden age often personified by Robert Heinlein. Yet this age that they wish to return to is exactly the environment that via both Greyland’s essay and in the weaker work by Daniel Eness, that they claim was rife with abuse. The apparent contradiction is one they gloss over.
More generally, as I have discussed before, the alt-right pushes a toxic masculinity that often cast people (specifically women) who claim they have been abused as liars and/or out to defame or discredit an ‘innocent’ man. Vox Day’s ‘Alpha Game’ blog is a source of examples but also the people he promotes who appear to have a view of masculine sexuality that assumes the targets of the sexual interest are somehow there to satisfy the ‘alpha male’ without regard to their own desires or wishes. A recurring theme from Vox on ‘Alpha Game’ is that women are liars and that claims of rape or abuse are ways of attacking men. Rare examples of a false rape claim are cited as examples as if they are typical and the countering weight of the sheer scale of genuine claims are ignored (except when they can be exploited for demonizing refugees of course).
Beyond the most toxic swamps of the alt-right typified by Vox, the wider cloud of the internet right treat attempts to limit online abuse as an attack on their own freedom. Game companies who attempt to tone down sexualized representations of underage women characters are accused of censorship for example. More recently I documented how assorted right-leaning people were demonizing a whole raft of groups, including many groups involved in child-safety issues (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/some-groups-on-twitters-trust-safety-council/ ) because of their work with Twitter to attempt to limit online abuse…and because Feminist Frequency was also involved.
Intersecting between the hyper-misogynistic core and the wider right, is the objection to anti-harassment policies, codes of conduct and other safety policies in organizations or conventions or other groups. Such policies are portrayed as being inherently ‘SJW’ because they seek to limit the way some people seek to sexualize others in abusive and exploitative way. The objections are not nuanced or subtle despite the fact that these policies help protect children and young people from sexualized harassment and abuse.
None of the above is the fault of Moira Greyland, but if the notion is that the work should be judged as a message to fandom then the wider message becomes relevant and in this case, because of the alt-right co-opting this piece, the message becomes mixed up with the alt-right’s pro-abuse agenda. There are better ways to support survivors and to help child safety than to vote for Greyland’s piece. If on the other hand, we are to judge the work purely on its own merits it just isn’t something that I think is up to the quality for an award.
[Next category will be Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form]
*[Vox Day has stated that Castalia will be publishing something by Moira Greyland but there are no details. As the work under discussion was neither commissioned by or published by Castalia house, I’ll count it as not being a Castalia House publication but clearly an entry that is on the ballot primarily because of the Rabid slate]
[Deirdre Saoirse Moen’s 2014 piece on her correspondence with Moira Greyland is here http://deirdre.net/marion-zimmer-bradley-its-worse-than-i-knew/ and a 2014 interview with her brother Mark Greyland is here http://starfire-studio.com/markgreyland.html ]