Now I’m Invisible

Over at Star Ship Sofa Jason Sanford has done a guest editorial talking about the Nebulas and Hugos. Sanford makes some excellent points about the way that the community is changing. New authors are coming through, and new technologies are being used to make fanzines. However, when he gets on to talking about fanzines, the same old forgetting happens. He mentions Ansible and File 770 (both edited by men). And then he goes on to talk about Electric Velocipede (also edited by a man), which he says is the first winner of Best Fanzine to be primarily published online. Now I know exactly how Maura felt on reading that issue of SFX.

48 thoughts on “Now I’m Invisible

  1. Yes. Last year when some mainstream news outlets were covering the popular podcast novelists, there was a definite lack of female mention. It stung. A bit.

    I sympathize.

  2. Damn – so I guess I won’t be *seeing* you at the weekend…

    And well, at least you already have the arguments ready to take on Mr Sanford and when he replies we will know if he falls under the heading of BFS (at least apologised and recognised the error) or SFX (moron)

  3. I stopped listening to them after their less than stellar response to the whole debacle with The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing Science Fiction…. They actually used the word hysterical to describe the female reader’s reactions – without even a glimmer of irony 🙁

  4. Hang on, didn’t you win the Hugo last year for Best Fan Writer?

    Are you kidding me?

    And if that is true about women being described as “hysterical” about the Mammoth Book of MaleMindblowing Science Fiction there is no point listening to that podcast any more.

    Oh those women, always wanting recognition for their work! (which is always automatically granted to men)

    /must control fist of death!

    1. I went a hunting as it’s been a while, it’s not on their main podcast, but their ‘Sofanauts’ discussion podcast from August 28 . It starts off with a discussion about writers chosen for Eclipse 2 and went onto the discussing ‘Mammoth-fail’
      The discussion starts at about 20 minutes in and gets progressively worse as the conversation goes on. Race issues arealso brought into it, and it isn’t pretty. It was one of the panelists (Damien G Walter) who used the word hystericism – not an actual word, I think he was aiming for either hysteria or hysterical – at 25.33 and absolutely
      nobody pulled him up on it.

      1. I’ve just been listening to that podcast and I think you are being a little harsh on them.

        Firstly MammothFAIL was nothing to do with gender and anthologies, it was about the removal of Native Americans from a book set in North America in ancient times. Mike Ashley’s book wasn’t mentioned at all.

        Second, the main thrust of the conversation was defending Jonathan Strahan against charges of having caved in to feminists because Eclipse 3 included more women writers than men. All of the participants were at pains to state that they believed the women writers whose stories had been chosen were there on merit, not because of a quota system.

        Tony does mention the term “race card” at one point, and that probably wasn’t wise, but he does so in a rather different way than normal. Usually the phrase “playing the race card” is used to dismiss the concerns of people of color who are complaining about being discriminated against. When Tony used the term in the show he was actually referring to white people complaining that Ted Chiang was only included in an anthology because of his race.

        When Damien used the word “hystericism” he was referring generally to the way in which FAIL debates degenerate on the Internet and end up being groups of extremists on both sides telling at each other, rather than constructive debate. He certainly didn’t apply it specifically to women. Indeed, as the debate was based around a man complaining bitterly that an editor was discriminating against men, it is more directly being applied to men. Having said that, it was a really dumb word to use in such a context because of its use as a put-down for women.

        The person who I thought should have been called out is Larry Santoro, who rambled on about wanting a world in which race and gender didn’t exist. That’s classic “I wish all these black/female/queer/disabled/etc. people would go away and stop complaining at me” stuff.

        While I’m fully supportive of Maura calling out people who produce work that ignores women altogether, or maybe has just one token woman in a mass of men, I’m rather wary of the sort of attitude that looks at an anthology and says, “OMG! There are 17 male authors and only 13 women, the editor must be really misogynist!!!”. I don’t think many people actually do that, but there’s a genuine fear amongst the community that an online hate mob will come after people if they accidentally offend some interest group.

        When it comes down to it, the important point is to change society so that it becomes more equitable and less bigoted. You can’t do that just by yelling at people. Yelling is very good at getting attention, but eventually you have to convince people of the rightness of your cause. You can’t do that if you treat every potential battle as something that has to be fought to the death with no ground given.

        In this particular case what I heard was one person being rather obtuse, a couple of people making bad choices of words, several people being afraid of flame wars, and a great deal of support for fine women writers, and for Ted Chiang. I don’t think that’s something worth boycotting the podcast for.

        1. [Shrugs] I suppose we all read things differently. As this podcast came out about a week after the kerfuffle about the mammoth book, I assumed one was connected to the other; my bad. I still found the tone of the conversation condescending, however, and I found that it was too dismissive of of both genderfail, and racefail. It made me feel uncomfortable listening to it, which is basically my litmus test when it comes to this sort of thing. I obviously have a lower tolerence level.

          I never mentioned boycotting it, nor did I ever encouraged anyone else to do so, it was a personal decision.

          1. Condescending? Yes, it was. They were condescending to a man who complained about being sexually discriminated against because an anthology contained more stories by women than by men. They were particularly condescending about the idea that a Ted Chiang story might have been included solely to fulfill a race quota. I think I might have been condescending about that too.

            Dismissive of genderfail and racefail? Possibly. They certainly gave the impression that such things were not always helpful. I can see why.

            For example, you came here with some accusations about Star Ship Sofa that I took seriously enough to bother to investigate. I gather that Tony Smith spent much of yesterday contacting people to find out if that podcast had indeed caused offense. As it turned out, I feel that your complaints were largely unjustified, and in part flat out wrong. Your response of “Shrugs” suggests that you don’t actually care whether what you said was justified or not. Behavior like that makes it very difficult for people like Maura and myself to be taken seriously.

          1. Ah, thank you. I haven’t read the book myself and didn’t pay much attention to the resulting FAILstorm. It is good to get the details right.

        2. Thanks for taking the time of investigate Cheryl. I certainly appreciate your dedication – I know that something as simple as listening to a podcast takes time, and you’re already busy.

          I did use the word *if* because I had not heard the podcast myself. I’m certainly very impressed with how the guys over on Star Ship Sofa have been conducting themselves in this discussion.

          1. Cheryl and Maura, thank you for your fair and even-handed approach on the question of The Sofanauts. As a listener to that podcast, I should mention that the guests represented themselves, and not Tony C. Smith or StarShipSofa, in their views. The show was meant to raise issues and begin conversations, but the dialogue continued in the podcast’s forums, where listeners (myself included) often disagreed with the panelists. Fruitful exchanges developed when listeners challenged the guests’ positions. In fact, I can note several times in which the forum discussions prompted a further exploration of the issues on following episodes of the podcast. I would encourage anyone who has objections to anything said by the guests to note them in the forums; they are still open to all and active.

            As someone who was a guest on this particular episode, I do want to apologize if in any way my words seemed dismissive of the GenderFAIL and RaceFAIL issues. I take these subjects seriously, and I recognize that these FAIL debates have raised awareness of key and lasting problems in the genre. My objection, if there was one, is simply that I would hope such discussions would become a springboard for action, and not just an end to themselves.

            If I may explain: at the time the MammothFAIL wave hit (just before this podcast segment was taped), I was in the final stages of completing a two-year project bringing together a multiethnic and multinational group of authors to contribute essays to a collection about Native America and genre fiction. While I was working to try, in my own modest way, to address the blind spot I saw in the genre regarding Native authors and Native literature, I watched this brief flare of controversy rise and then fall about a book not yet widely available or read (even by those taking part in the debate), and it seemed to embody my concerns about the ultimate helpfulness of this approach as an end to itself. In other words, it can be far easier to join a temporary controversy about a work that presumably got it wrong (especially if one doesn’t actually read and analyze the book in question) and leave it at that, than to seek out, support, and celebrate consistently those works that are getting it right — or to try and do better yourself.

            These are the things that I would have said, had I been faster on my feet and more prepared for the turn of the discussion on The Sofanauts. All of this is to say that I hope my failings as a guest do not reflect on Tony, on that podcast, or on StarShipSofa. I have been continually impressed with the integrity of SSS and the vision Tony has for it as an inclusive, respectful, and cutting-edge showcase for the best of SF.

  5. I won a Hugo in 2004 for Best Fanzine too. Five years before EV. John actually did something very notable – EV was the first fiction fanzine to win in a very long time. But first online? Not by a long way.

  6. I don’t know why people keep referring to EV as an online magazine. It’s a print magazine with a website. Sure they occasionally post fiction there, but that doesn’t make them an online magazine. If you ask John, he’ll say the same. It’s become fairly commonplace for a print magazine to reprint some of their stories online. That doesn’t make them an online magazine.

    One of the other things that bothered me about this was the way he blamed content and format on the criticism of EV’s Hugo win. I’ve been under the opinion that a lot of the criticism came from people who were upset that EV had paid content. That seems to be a big issue among the fanzines and hopefully one that can be addressed as the rules continue to be refined.

    1. This is complicated. The problem that EV had was that many of the traditional fanzine crowd had never heard of it. Because they think that they are the only people who vote, they immediately assumed that “ballot stuffing”, “campaigning” and the like were to blame. The fact that John published a whole lot of great stories that people enjoyed reading was lost on them.

      But ballot stuffing (which does happen) generally only results in unexpected nominations, not in unexpected victories. So when John won a new explanation was necessary. His online presence will have attracted attention. One of the excuses put forward for banning Emerald City from the Hugos was that it was “unfair” that a fanzine that was easily accessible to anyone with an Internet connection should compete against fanzines that have to be mailed to readers. The creation of neatly scuppered this, but the idea that online works have an “unfair” advantage in the Hugos is still hanging around, so anything that does well unexpectedly is likely to be viewed as an “online” publication, even if it only has the sort of web presence you describe.

  7. You. Are. Kidding. Me.

    Disappearing you? From the Hugos?

    Have we always been at war with Eastasia?

  8. That’s messed up.

    We’re you also the first one nominated that was primarily an eZine? I mean, EmCit certainly qualifies as a ground-breaker, and if it weren’t for it and Mimosa, I probably wouldn’t have started down the path that led me to do The Drink Tank and so on.


    1. I believe so, though I haven’t checked. I should note, however, that the first person to be nominated for online fan writing appears to have been Teresa Nielsen Hayden who got the nod in Best Fan Writer for writing on newsgroups.

      1. Yes, and it was because of her and fan writers such as Evelyn Leeper, I think, that we eventually amended the constitution to explicitly include “generally available electronic media” in the definition of Best Fan Writer. Before that, there were people who insisted that writing in newsgroups wasn’t sufficiently available enough compared to Good Old Paper Fanzines Like Ghu and Roscoe Intended. The arguments sound utterly foolish today, but were made in great seriousness at the time.

        1. Well, go back far enough, and there will be people with a lot of time in fandom and in fanzines, who don’t have access to the Internet and none of their friends do either. It makes sense, from their viewpoint, to consider the Internet “not very accessible”. And some of them will carry that attitude forward when the statistics no longer support it.

          It’s a bit like somebody who can’t read saying “books are all very well, but they’re not accessible to people like TV is”. And a poor person who can’t afford TV but goes to the library frequently will look at them very strangely.

  9. Cheryl, I am so sorry for not catching this and its unforgivable of me for allowing it to go out – I blame myself. It was a stupid mistake which I hold my hand up to. What you have done in winning Hugo awards is truly amazing. I have always looked up to you as a role model for what you have achieved within the SF field. I hope you will accept my complete apology on this matter?

    1. I have made enough editorial mistakes myself. I know what it is like. And given how much we’ve talking recently about the Hugos I’m sure it was a mistake, not anything deliberate. I wrote about it because it is the sort of mistake that men tend to make a lot. So thank you, no hard feelings, but do try not to do it again, OK? 🙂

  10. Cheryl: The mistake was mine. I was quite familiar with Emerald City back in the day, but because it has been gone for nearly 4 years I’d forgotten it was web-based. For some reason I misremembered it being a print fanzine, which is why I didn’t mention it. I apologize for not double-checking and for screwing that up.

    I’m working on correcting the editorial, and will mention EC as the first online winner. The greater point I was trying to make, though, was similar to the one you made above, that many people believe online fanzines “have an ‘unfair’ advantage in the Hugos.” It’s shocking how few online magazines win the fanzine Hugo, and that when one is up for the award so many people complain. While I love, it doesn’t take the place of a very good individual website for a fanzine.

    As for EV, while it is a print magazine, it’s online version is what I’d argue more people are familiar with. That’s why I mentioned it. IMHO, if it had relied solely on its print edition far fewer people would have read it, and I’m not sure it would have won. But that’s merely my opinion.

    1. Jason: Many thanks. As I have said elsewhere, I’m sure that this was just a mistake. You and Tony know me too well. But in the context of the other discussion we’ve been having here about men “forgetting” that women exist such a mistake seems all too depressingly part of a wider picture. I’m delighted to see that you are taking steps to rectify matters.

      With regard to EV, if you are re-recording the piece you might want to mention the ground-breaking work that it did do. I can’t remember another successful fanzine whose primary purpose was to publish fiction. I haven’t checked the records, but I’m fairly sure that John deserves a place in Hugo history for this.

      1. This is of course very marginal (and has even less to do with the Hugos in relation to fanzines), but Portti, published regularly since the early 1980s, is a fanzine that primarily publishes fiction. Usva is another fanzine that publishes fiction almost exclusively.

        These are of course of interest only to people who can read Finnish, but in our small fandom they definitely qualify as succesful (Portti has a distribution of a few thousand copies if memory serves) so I just thought I’d mention it.

      2. “With regard to EV, if you are re-recording the piece you might want to mention the ground-breaking work that it did do. I can’t remember another successful fanzine whose primary purpose was to publish fiction. I haven’t checked the records, but I’m fairly sure that John deserves a place in Hugo history for this.”

        Whereas I *have* checked the Hugo Long List (muahahahaha!) and it does appear that you’re correct. Some of the earlier titles I’ve never seen a copy of and know very little about, but the internet is surprisingly useful for research of this type. A special shout-out to Phil Stephensen-Payne, who seems determined to build a database of all magazines which have ever published fiction of any sort. (And thus we know that while both Amra and Erb-Dom published *some* fiction, it wasn’t a dominant part of the zines.)

    2. Don’t take this as a put-down of Emerald City, anyone…..but surely the honour of ‘first Hugo-winning online fanzine’ would be ANSIBLE? Yes, there are deadtree copies circulated, but it’s been available online since 1993.

      (And since history’s always better with footnotes, here’s one, from

      “Extended credits. My warm thanks to all the following: [snippage] Charles Stross put Ansible on the net for several months in 1993, until I succumbed to technology and could do so myself.”

      Not that I knew this from direct experience, mind you. I was still getting the deadtree version in the mail until sometime early this century.)

      1. Yes, there’s definitely a good argument for that. But when I used to point out to people that Ansible was available electronically just like Emerald City I would get told that it was a “real” fanzine because you could get paper copies if you were prepared to turn up at The Tun, or where ever else they were available. The fact that limited numbers of paper copies of Emerald City got distributed, initially at the Melbourne Science Fiction Club and later at BASFA, was apparently not relevant.

        I think the point is that, as Kevin noted on his LJ, Dave got “grandfathered in” because he started out publishing on paper.

  11. Not a problem. And again, my apologies.

    And I agree about EV. That’s why I mentioned some people having issues with their content (ie, that they publish fiction). John emailed me about calling EV primarily an online mag, so I’m also updating that. Not sure I’ll be able to go into depth on their great fiction–I’m mainly using them as an example of why fanzines should cross publish on the web. But if I can work it in I’ll do so. I’m trying to rerecord this before going to work, so I have a bit of a time crunch.

  12. Guess I’m not going to mention the EV fiction. In his email, John said people never had any concerns with EV’s content. I remember differently, but I don’t want to argue with him when my intention in mentioning EV (and now Emerald City) was to plug the great work that had already won the best fanzine Hugo.

    1. Fascinating. I got a huge amount of flak about Emerald City being “Sercon”, that is being about science fiction, rather than being about fandom. Maybe that’s one battle that has been comprehensively won. In which case it is doubtless time for people to start complaining about lack of SFnal content in some fanzines and for the whole cycle to repeat.

  13. It’s not like people have contacted me directly to discuss what they didn’t like about EV winning the Hugo last year.

    Thank you for the kinds words, Cheryl, and I’m sorry that you were overlooked. Of course, I’m not connected to Jason or Tony in any fashion, so I had little control over the situation.

    I do know that I miss Emerald City.

    1. I miss it too, John, but these days I have Clarkesworld to worry about. I look forward to seeing you are Hugo ceremonies in the future as we duke it out in Semiprozine. 🙂

  14. Meanwhile over in Trufen land, it’s not real if it wasn’t hand cranked on hand rolled papyrus! None of you are doing anything real you know!!!


    Sorry, couldn’t resist…

        1. And it’s just an old, worn-out canard unless someone finds evidence that there’s any truth to it. (It may have been the case sometime the previous century, but now? No.)

          1. Satire is dead then, I thought the hand rolled papyrus was a dead give away too.

            Still, I had a pretty vitrioloic discussion about both Cheryl and John Scalzi, in the fan lounge, in Montreal, with a Trufen regular who will remain nameless, who was loudly insistent that blogs and online formats weren’t “real” fanac.

            The amount of bile invected was impressive.

  15. “EV was the first fiction fanzine to win in a very long time”

    No all or primarily fiction fanzine has ever won a Best Fanzine Hugo before. No all or primarily fiction fanzine has ever been nominated for a Best Fanzine Hugo before.

    “The problem that EV had was that many of the traditional fanzine crowd had never heard of it. Because they think that they are the only people who vote”

    Most of the traditional fanzine crowd quit voting for the Hugos thirty years ago.

  16. Hmmmm. Comments can’t be nested more than five deep, it seems. This should properly be considered a response to Dave O’Neill’s post.

    1) Ah yes. Mock a group of people, and when someone objects to gross mischaracterisation, use “Can’t you take a joke?” as a riposte. I’m positively ROFLMAO.

    2) Surely you realise that “I was talking to an anonymous source who said ‘x’!!” carries as much weight in an argument as “My lurkers support me in e-mail.”

    3) Even so, making pronouncements about all of “fanzine fandom” on the basis of one person’s outbursts is similar to declaring Britain to be a nation of raving nutters on account of Nick Griffin.

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