In which I commence the obligatory counter fisk of Larry Correia’s woeful take of the Fireside report.
For the story so far read the links below:
So in response to Fireside report, Larry Correia wrote one of his fisks, cheered on by Vox Day and JCW. I say ‘in response to’ but actually his Larrysplainin’ is to this second account from The Verge: http://www.theverge.com/2016/8/4/12374306/science-fiction-diversity-numbers-fireside-report
So, do remember as we wander through Larry’s piece that he may not have a clue what he is talking about. Quotes from Larry will be bold and preceded by “LARRY” so you know that it is Larry. Other quotes won’t say “LARRY”.
LARRY: After reading this defeatist garbage I figured I needed to say something.
It isn’t clear what he thinks is garbage here, the Verge story or the Fireside report itself. I doubt Larry is sure either. What he means by ‘defeatist’ is unclear either – he thinks this is something analogous to a war but against whom we can only guess.
Either way, the Fireside Report clearly isn’t garbage – it is thoughtful and they’ve done some solid work in attempting to collate relevant data. Is it perfect? Good grief, no. How could it be? But some knowledge is always better than none.
As for defeatist, no, it isn’t that either. It is disappointing that collectively we haven’t gone further but Fireside haven’t reacted to this report as a defeat but rather as a call to action. They have responded by looking at positive action they can take.
Helpful life hint for Larry #1: Identifying and talking about problems isn’t defeatist. It is common sense. It’s how you iteratively make things better.
Back to Larry:
LARRY: I originally saw this article on author Chris Nuttal’s page, and in the resulting discussion a bunch of authors went through the many possible flaws in this survey (including some black authors who pointed out they never put their race on a query letter). Chris goes into it in detail here https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/08/06/race-fail-again/
Yeah, it really does look like you didn’t read the report and have launched off on a half-baked Larrysplainin’ without doing the basic reading. Yes, not knowing who is and who isn’t black is one of the issues with the data and it is an issue that they point out in the study.
This data was not entirely self-reported, as the task of contacting the authors in the magazines measured was too daunting. Self-reported data was used whenever possible, but such data was not always findable or clear — for example, no biographical information could be found for two authors in Strange Horizons, and Daily Science Fiction had a larger handful of authors for whom that was the case. We assume that there is probably at least one false positive and/or false negative. We doubt that these existed in such numbers as to unduly dilute the study.
And this makes a lot of sense. For the basic thrust of the report’s conclusion to be wrong, we have to assume there are a lot more false negatives than false positives. That is possible but if we take out Daily Science Fiction (which is definitely an unusual outlet and adds disproportionately to the total) you get a similar percentage.
Having said that, I would have liked it if the data had been clearer about numbers in terms of Black, Not-Black and Unknown.
Helpful life hint for Larry #2: If you are going to write about a study READ the methodology. OK, that sounds wonky but seriously, if you don’t know what the people did then you only end up looking daft when you comment on what they should have done.
LARRY: Basically, there were supposedly 38 stories published by black authors in sci-fi magazines (a plodding dinosaur medium, but I’ll get to that) but how many stories were submitted by black authors?
If only I’d pointed out that life hint to Larry earlier! You are right, we don’t know how many were submitted. This is why the writers of the report say:
…we don’t have access to submission-rate data concerning race and ethnicity either overall or by individual magazine…
What that means is we don’t know where the bias arises or in which proportions. Of course, what you can do is ask somebody. Which is what Fireside did. Here is N. K. Jemisin:
When you’re saying that there is an under-representation, understand that it comes from both ends. It’s coming from people who are fed up with and don’t expect to see themselves in traditional publishing, which is an issue. That is definitely an issue, because the under-representation has led to a thriving parallel market among other things. Just understand that there are some folks who aren’t trying.
The weird thing is why Larry thinks this is such a clever rebuttal. After all the under-representation is large whether it comes from rejections or whether it comes from black authors not submitting.
The point is that Larry prefers to think of racism only in terms of cartoon racism and simple discrimination that is overt and conscious. Furthermore, Larry prefers to believe that this kind of cartoon racism is minimal or perhaps non-existent. So for Larry, the only thing that matters is dismissing the possibility that black authors are being actively rejected by cartoon racists.
I say ‘cartoon racists’ because of the disconnect with reality in the model of racism we see discussed by Larry and Brad et al. Of course, actual overt racists are no cartoon. Nor are they some rare species – Vox Day is the obvious example, whose racism extends even to people of Southern European ancestry like Larry.
Larry, of course, is one of the many anti-Trump supporting conservatives who were blindsided by Trump’s popularity among GOP voters. Having spent decades willfully pretending overt racism wasn’t real, the rise of an overt racist who commanded large supporter among fellow conservatives was a surprise.
Yet this minimalisation of racism is endemic in the more libertarian-leaning right and it enables the more overt racism of Trumpism. In the individualist mindset, people have lower incomes or a lack of economic success because either they haven’t tried hard enough or the government is taxing them too much. In that model, systemic inequality has to be denied and overt racism is supposed to be a problem that vanishes by the blessing of capitalism.
LARRY: but hey, let’s hurry, assume the system is rigged, impossible, and have a giant freak out about racism, because getting published isn’t hard enough already.
Despite appearances, Larry is not being ironic. Yes, he is being sarcastic but the irony is going wooosshhhh right over his head. On the basis of barely anything at all (retroactively not liking how he felt at Worldcon after getting nominated for a Campbell) Larry felt a freak out about firstly the ‘literati’ being biased against him, unknown European reviewers being biased against him and then SJWs being biased against and goodness knows who else, was not only warranted but required a three-year campaign of shouty mudslinging and slating. OK, irony and emotional consistency are not why you would go and read Larry’s blog but…
…what was that last bit? “because getting published isn’t hard enough already” huh? How is being concerned about some people NOT getting published going to make it harder to get published? Maybe he’ll tell us later but I can’t help thinking that Larry is thinking of somebody other than black authors…
LARRY: If fifty million black authors submitted stories, he’d have a point. Without comparative rejection rates those numbers are meaningless.
Ugh, no Larry and you’ve done that bit already. It isn’t meaningless it just means we can’t know at which point the bias is. Seriously, this isn’t that hard.
LARRY: I know there is bias in publishing. Some unconscious, as in you deviate too far from their groupthink monoculture, and they wouldn’t read that trash, and only they know what sells. And some conscious, as in you didn’t kiss sufficient ass, or they just plain hate your guts.
You see Larry is capable of conceptualising more subtle forms of bias. It isn’t that he can’t imagine it, it’s just that he tends to see it as a bias against him rather than other people. I guess as well he hasn’t connected the dots between this attitude in the quote and the obey-the-market attitude explained by Brad. I suspect he sees them as diametric opposites.
LARRY: Ironically, if there is a bias against black authors, just keep in mind that the vast majority of the publishing industry works out of ultra-liberal Manhattan, and is overwhelmingly run by Caring Liberals Who Are Never Racist EVAR, and by golly, they’ll tell you so.
A whole series of straw men stacked like rhetorical dominoes!
- The vast majority…except the report is on short fiction and many of the magazines aren’t part of traditional publishing but things like semiprozines. Of course, it wouldn’t be Larry without a rant about trad-publishing but he hasn’t actually read the report and so is off flailing at the wrong target. But we will follow him.
- Ultra-liberal…whatever that means. This is the distant horizon problem that people on ideological fringes often have. The centre is so far away that they can’t distinguish it from anything on the other side of it. So Manhattan can’t be just to the left of Larry it has to be ‘ultra-liberal’. Ah yes, Manhattan the home of Wall Street is some communard utopia manned by boiler-suited comrades. We’ve left reality people and wandered into the fever-dream map of America.
- Who are Never Racist EVAR…and the last straw Manhattan Communard topples over. The whole point of pointing out the issues with systemic racism is exactly that NOBODY is never racist. The crew of Fireside aren’t racist in Larry’s sense but what they have done is used data to identify that unwittingly their approach has racist outcomes (possibly). They are actually pointing that out.
Helpful life hint for Larry #3: Do your homework. Seriously, it’s good advice even after you’ve left school.
We aren’t out of the woods yet, though. Larry still has to prove how lefty publishing is:
LARRY: How politically slanted is this business? Check this out. Go down and click on Publishing. http://verdantlabs.com/politics_of_professions/ Book Publishing is so overwhelmingly left wing and my side so statistically insignificant, that we don’t show up on the diagram.
Hmm Verdant labs data hey! Why that looks familiar! Oh, I looked at over a year ago here https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2015/06/03/more-petunias-some-extra-data/
Notice how Larry’s data standards have declined suddenly. Is the data one guy or twenty companies? No way of telling. Of course what we do know is that one of the big players in publishing is NewsCorp owned by Mr Rupert Murdoch – not know for his “ultra liberal” views.
But it really is even more nonsensical than that, aside from NOT THE ACTUAL GROUP WE ARE DISCUSSING (remember) the idea that contributing to the Democrats is particularly leftwing is also laughable. The current REPUBLICAN candidate for President (a man so right wing that Larry can’t support him but Vox Day can) has contributed money to Democrats before, as has his son.
Dave Freer went down a similar rabbit hole previously. Party identification data in the US is of limited use and contribution data is even worse and more often related to time and place than the ideology of the contributor.
Anyway, let’s try and get back on track. Larry makes a few points where he doesn’t disagree with the Verge article. When it gets to them saying this:
Barriers for specific groups of people hurts the field as a whole by blocking new voices and styles from reaching a wider audience.
Larry says this:
LARRY: Funny, when I said that same thing years ago I was the bad guy. 🙂
No, when you tried to get yourself awarded a prize people said you were the bad guy. The above was just your rationalisation for trying to force the issue. The Puppy slates helped force new voices and new styles off the Hugo Ballot. Worse, your pal Brad Torgersen and other puppies specifically complained about too many new style things being nominated. You headed up a campaign AGAINST new styles in preference to more traditional SF. Really, Larry it wasn’t THAT long ago, you can’t have forgotten already.
Helpful life hint for Larry #4: Don’t confuse your actions with your motives.
Larry then gets himself further confused:
LARRY: First, if you’re a “person of color” (which always blows me away how that is cool now but Colored Person is a slur) most of your readers don’t care. No. Really. The vast majority of people who read do so to be entertained. Adventure, comedy, tragedy, whatever. Make them happy or make them cry, you’re doing your job. Only a tiny percentage of whiny white guilt liberals buy books based upon the author’s race.
This is based on Larry’s much more robust survey of the field that consists of him telling his fans what to think. Oddly, it isn’t even the worst or most patronising bit of advice Larry has to give. I’m just including it because for Fireside Larry demands greater rigour in survey technique because presumably, they don’t have Larry’s psychic power to read everybody’s mind in one giant go.
Also, Larry is puzzled by how words work. Can’t explain now Larry, It would take way too long and it might involve you having to listen to other people.
Anyway, Larry offers some advice to a guy he knows who is just starting out and who is black. Well, if he is your friend that I guess he is OK with taking advice from you. Everybody else? Zoiks. You might want to first establish that Larry has grasped what the issue at hand is because based on this blog post he is likely to give you a whole heap of bad advice about something else that he didn’t understand in the first place.
LARRY: So don’t be “an author of color”. Be an author. Period. Technically, I’m an author of color (warm beige according to these Home Depot paint chips) but that’s fucking stupid. I’m telling stories for the mass market, not for some little narrow band of humanity that happens to fit my socioeconomic-cultural-ethnic-religious-sexual oriented background.
Actually be whatever you want to be and if you do want to be “an author of color” then know that shouldn’t force you into a narrow band of humanity. Also look at what Larry DOES not what he SAYS. There is usually a substantial mismatch between the two. Does Larry try to meekly keep aspects of his background secondary to his writing? Not remotely and why should he? Larry makes a big deal of his Portuguese descent and his Mormon religion and his gun enthusiasm because they are part of his identity and he certainly doesn’t keep that identity somehow separate from his writing. Heck, Owen Pitt, the hero of his breakout novel is practically a Larry-clone.
Luckily Larry lives in this America and not the dystopian one imagined by the man he promoted, Vox Day. In Vox Day’s America, one Donald Trump is trying to make reality, it is only people of English descent that matter. Vox regards the 19th/early 20th-century immigration policies that allowed in more immigrants from Southern Catholic European countries like Italy, Spain or Portugal as a corrupting influence on America.
So actually, three cheers for Larry. I very much support the fact that you celebrate your heritage and build it into your work and let everybody know that it is part of who you are as an author.
He then quotes the article:
“The advice to write “what the market wants” is code for white characters and white stories.
LARRY: Owen Z. Pitt, not white. Ashok Vadal, not white. Yet somehow I’m a successful author and my core fan base is as red state, meat and potatoes, flag waving, clinging to our god and guns, regular America as it gets.
“What the market wants” is not code for White Stories (whatever the fuck that gibberish is supposed to mean). The market wants to be entertained. They want to have fun. They want emotion. They want to get sucked in because they can’t put the book down and stay up way too late reading. They want rousing stories. They want heroes and villains. They want characters they can cheer for. If you think all that only belongs to white people, fuck off, racist.
Larry, you have a serious reading comprehension problem right there. You are confusing an actual state of affairs (what will actually sell) with institutional biases. You can’t claim not to believe they exist because you were complaining about them a few paragraphs ago. Sorry, I forgot you only believe in them if you think they are biases against conservative men. But you are an SFF author, right? You have an imagination. Just close your eyes and imagine that all those conspiracies and CHORFs and SJW gatekeepers you moan about aren’t biased against you but a biased in favour of some sappy middle-of-the-road white male America.
Yes, the ‘market’ wants to be entertained but it actually takes effort to push things away from what is perceived as safe. Yes, your novels have some diversity to them and people buy them. But you know what? That didn’t happen over night. People did that. People who were writing before you did that and most of them had to struggle to do it.
You now live in a world where people will read stories with more diverse characters but not so long ago, the diversity in your books would have been seen as radical or even provocative. And yes, some Larry-like person would have been lecturing you on being too preachy or too politically correct – and that person would have been a bit of an arse now wouldn’t they?
But way to go, intentionally misunderstanding it that so you could knock over a different strawman.
LARRY:That white guilt claptrap is silly. Do you really think that writing is the only career where not having free time, resources, and the ability to network holds you back? How about, uh, let’s say EVERY OTHER CAREER too.
I am quite certain the black population of America is very, very well aware that such things can hold people back in any career. It is why racism impacts across all aspects of the economy. It is why we say racism is SYSTEMIC. It is why the impact of racism is GENERATIONAL. It is why there are huge disparities in wealth and health and prospects across America.
That doesn’t mean that only middle-class people have any hope of becoming authors but it does mean that it is much easier. Nor does ‘easier’ mean ‘easy’. There are multiple barriers no matter what route you take and education, social networks, economic security all help. Talent obviously helps a lot too as does drive.
Racism cuts into each of those. Because the impact of racism is systemic and generational and in America also geographic, it cuts into educational prospects, social networks beyond your ethnic group and cuts deeply into economic security. On top of that are the more immediate impacts of racism which add extra barriers to whatever you might be doing.
It isn’t ‘defeatist’ to point that out. We shouldn’t be fatalistic about it but we certainly shouldn’t accept it or pretend, as Larry seems to be doing, that it is just a matter of working hard.
Back to Larry:
LARRY: This article is focused on sci-fi magazines, but they are a relic of an earlier time. I think most of them have gone out of business. This article says they looked at 63 sci-fi magazines. I was shocked there were that many. I’ve sold around 30 pieces of short fiction, and I could only think of like half a dozen sci-fi magazines off the top of my head
Imagine a face-palm gif at this point. I’m too busy face-palming to find one. Yes, after goodness knows how many off-topic ramblings, Larry catches on to the fact that this is about magazines.
Larry can only think of half-a-dozen. This is rather like me being able to only think of half a dozen types of gun. In both cases, it is a measure of our mutual ignorance and f-all to do with the size of the field.
Yes, Larry, there are LOTS of magazines. Some professional, some fanzines some semi-pro. Remember when you and Brad tried to set yourselves up as the gatekeepers of fandom and everybody pointed out you were utterly clueless? Yes? You are demonstrating why.
Anybody who has followed the Puppies would only ready know by now that their grasp of short fiction and short fiction outlets is very limited. Maybe at this point, Larry might spot that he actually has very little understanding of any aspect of the topic he has been talking about?
LARRY: This is a fantastic time to be an author. In the olden days, if a handful of gatekeepers didn’t like you, you were boned. For a long time, unless you were a superstar, there was basically one mainstream publishing house that didn’t give a damn about their author’s personal politics. Luckily, Indy and self-pub have changed the market dramatically.
Except Larry, the Fireside report was including independent magazines and the issue isn’t ‘personal politics’ but ethnicity. I don’t know, maybe Larry struggles to see the difference and sees being black as being the same as choosing to be a conservative.
Perhaps it is too late to hope that Larry might realise that his long rant about mainstream publishing of books has little to do with independent publishing of short fiction or that ‘go Indy’ is not much of a solution to a problem with independent magazines.
LARRY: I got rejected a hundred times. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because my last name has double Rs and too many vowels, but if I wanted to be a big pussy about it I could have added racism to the giant list of challenges all aspiring authors face, just to make the process seem extra daunting and insurmountable.
Instead of adding a known problem to the list, taking it seriously and helping do something about it, you belittled people trying to make things better, called them politically-correct or SJWs and went on a three-year long tantrum claiming that the biggest things on that list were being conservative or liking guns. In fact, you KEEP claiming that is a big thing on the list – except when you claim Twitter is out to get you.
Weird you didn’t take your own advice when it comes to people you most identify with but for black people, you think it might just be a bit too all off-putting for them if people take racism seriously? Are you saying your rants about political bias were actually an attempt to make writing look ‘extra daunting and insurmountable’ to conservatives? If so…um, good job, maybe? That is one freaky giant SJW-double-bluff, agent-comrade Correia!
But you know what IS off-putting to people trying to make it in the business? When they have to put up with racist shit from the people you promote. Whether it is Brad Torgersen dismissing people as ‘affirmative action’ picks, pretending that they didn’t struggle just as hard if not harder to get where they are. Or whether it is your friend Vox Day saying of one of the most stunning writers I’ve read this decade “She’s the token African-American. She’s a diversity totem.” Or whether it is you repeatedly dismissing anybody trying to do stuff that IN NO WAY HARMS YOU OR YOUR CAREER but will boost the chances of people who have been repeatedly discriminated against.
I don’t know what bugs Larry so much about this but bug him it does. What I do know is Republicans and conservatives who were not overt racists have been saying similar things for years and [wow, who would have believed it!] they now find that their party has been hijacked by the outright bigots they’ve spent years making excuses for.