Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fisking Tor's Racist Counter

Liz Bourke is my favorite punching bag at Tor.  Why? Because she is such a tool, it's not even funny.

I've gone a few rounds with her before, on women in military science fiction, and on strong women characters.  The short version is that she never learns.

And then there's this piece of stupid.
There’s a counter in my head. Imagine a tiny recording demon, making marks in its ledger, constantly alert.
Yes, but he's not an accountant, otherwise your economic theory would be better.
There’s a counter in my head, and I can’t turn it off.
When it goes off, will your head explode?
It counts women present in a narrative. It counts people who aren’t men. It counts queer representation. It counts—although somewhat less strictly, due to the blinkers of its upbringing—the presence of people who aren’t white, or who aren’t able-bodied. It counts up roles. It compares and contrasts roles. It counts incidences where things follow a trend, and where they diverge. It recognises patterns. Dead women. Sexual objects. Motivating objects. Objectified. Tragic queerness. Queerness-as-a-phase. Women sidelined. Elided. Present but only significant for how they relate to a white able-bodied cisgender man.
And I'm certain that your random emphasis of words doesn't at all help.

If you're only reading books with white male protagonists ... maybe you should read some Baen books. Sarah Hoyt, Larry Correia, or John Ringo's Princess of Wands. I find Kratman's Amazon Legion an interesting concept for women in military scifi.

How about a nice Honor Harrington?

Hey! I got it! You should watch Ender's Game, because there were multiple Indian and Muslim characters in that one, and as we all know, those two make up 2 billion people on planet Earth. Go what Ender's Game.

In short, I guess you should stop reading Tor, huh?
It counts whose story gets to be told, and by whom.
Uh huh ... so you're spending time doing intricate research on the backgrounds of the author, so you know everything about their personal life, so you can make sure that the correct author is writing the correct people?

Are you terminally brain damaged?
It counts opportunities to include people.

And opportunities to include people NOT TAKEN.
Uh ... huh ... So, in short, you're a literary critic who wouldn't know how to write a book if a creative writing course bit you on the ass, but you know how to write books better than the author, because you have all the checklists of who should be included and where they could have been shoehorned in. Screw the needs of the story, or what makes sense, you want the "right" amount of numbers.

Lady ... you are so screwed up in the head I'm not even certain where to start.

Now, wait, I'm sorry, you mean that you can't read a story and just enjoy it? Are you truly that brain damaged?

And, yeah, the Italics? It's starting to come off as histrionic.
The tiny recording demon isn’t a new development, exactly. I’ve been counting since before I started writing Sleeps With Monsters—that kind of counting is how I ended up writing this column, after all.
And that tells me more than I ever wanted to know about Tor's editorial policy, thank you.
The fact I can’t turn it off? That’s new, from the last four years. The analysis is instinctive, at this point: some of it happens below the level of conscious thought.
Hint: If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Maybe you should stop immersing yourself in Social Justice Whining BS every day, and perhaps your little demon can get an exorcism.
Last week I wrote a column on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 
I'm almost afraid to see what comes next.
It’s a film that exceeded my expectations, because my expectations for the portrayal of women and “minorities” (only a minority depending on where you stand) in Hollywood is, from experience, so low. 
Uh huh... so how was the writing? The dialogue? The plot? The pacing? The acting? The special effects? The music? In fact, how would it fit in with your image of Star Wars?

In fact, how about you act like it was an ACTUAL STAR WARS MOVIE?
Hell, my expectations are low across the board, not just from Hollywood. I’ve read—or at least started—more science fiction by blokes in the last five months than I had in the preceding five years, I think, and the recording demon did a lot of scribbling.
You're one of those people who wanted to boycott white male authors, aren't you?
It is very frustrating. I’m very frustrated. I’m a bit sick of being the angry feminist in the room, to be honest: sick of being required to justify and explain why I’m angry. It irks the s**t out of me. And I know that most of the time? Most of these novels’ readers don’t even notice unless someone points it out to them. Much less care.
Let me understand. You're an angry person who is angry about being angry, because other person aren't angry about what you're angry about all the time ... do I have that right?
The 1:2 or 1:3 (depending on how you’re counting) women:men proportion in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (and the fact that Finn is a black man) made a bunch of bigots angry. One in three, at best, people. One in three is not even parity.
Actually, the bigots I found were annoyed at the morons making such a big freaking deal about how OOOH, WE HAVE A BLACK PERSON! AND A WOMAN!  That is what most of those "bigots" were pissed off at.

Also, parity is needed because ... why? We don't have parity in real life (eg: blacks in the US are about 15% of the population, hardly 1.3).
But the resistance to anything like parity is obvious, and loud, even among people who would no doubt consider themselves well-meaning. 
Really? There is now active resistance to parity. Really?  Praytell, madam, what evidence have ye of this resistance? And why is it futile.
Last week’s post only pointed out the ways in which the characterisation of men and women in Star Wars: The Force Awakens differed: pointed out that one in three is not parity, and that this can’t really be hailed as a sign of any true egalitarian approach.

The comments were entirely predictable. There were the comments that claimed complaints would be made if a woman had played the Evil General, comments that complained that counting was the worst form of criticism, the comment that complained about Carrie Fisher’s aging, the comments that offered the solution of just don’t spend your money on it, the comments that said why don’t you go make your own, the comment that claimed not to care about the proportion of women on screen or in texts, the comments that expressed puzzlement at any criticism of the female characters in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the comments that claimed it wasn’t an equality issue but a quality-of-writing issue, the comments that implied having a woman in the Force-sensitive hero role ought to outweigh any possible criticism…

The comments were entirely predictable, and I owe the moderation team here drinks. And doubtless will again, because I want to take those comments as a ready-made case study in people who don’t have to notice or care don’t notice or care.
I'm sure you blackmail the moderation team to delete comments often, especially when anyone disagrees with you, Madam Bourke. From what I can tell, SOP on your blog is to basically delete any comments that don't bow down and offer to wash your feet.

And of course, notice, these are the "predictable" reactions, but she doesn't bother to answer or address any of them. Just that they are predictable, and therefore stupid. I wonder if this fits into her "patterns" she was talking about before.  Sorry, I mean patterns!

Once more, you're angry because people aren't angry about what you're angry about.  Have you considered that you might be the problem here? It hasn't, has it? Maybe it's Star Wars, we want to see aliens with laser swords.

How about aliens, Miss Bourke, have you counted how many aliens their were? Were there enough aliens on screen for you? Come on, you counted, didn't you? If you didn't, why weren't you? Why didn't you care about the aliens, Bourke? Why do you hate aliens so much? Didn't you notice? Didn't you care? What about the aliens?
When you have easy access to food, when you know in your bones you are unlikely to ever go hungry for long, hunger is a theoretical concept. It’s not serious.
Mreh? What? When did this become a food blog?
Hunger isn’t an inescapable part of your world. You’re not so used to it that it doesn’t even hurt, that all you feel is tired, exhausted, worn down.
Again, why food?

Also, you haven't been to Staten Island lately, have you? There are still hurricane Sandy victims who would like some food.
The world produces enough food that no one ought to be hungry. But the distorting effects of privilege and capital, access and opportunity, mean some of us can gorge ourselves on a surfeit while others starve to death.
Actually, it's mostly a matter of warlords, dictators, and corrupt regimes that prevent the food and services from going where they need to go.  But you don't count details like that, do you?

And what does this have to do with the price of Kindles on Amazon?
You think hunger is too extreme a metaphor for artistic representation? Perhaps it is. But food feeds the body, and art feeds the soul. (Or imagination, or spirit.)
I already know you lack imagination. So what?
Artistic under-representation is a kind of imaginative malnutrition: there’s just enough to keep you hoping, and never quite enough to satisfy.
Under-representation is malnutrition.  So... what? Are blacks B-12? Are women vitamin C? Will Rey keep us from getting scurvy? Come now, let's get this straight. Surely we can come up with some rubric for you.
I count, and I analyse, because gathering information is the first step in articulating a critique.
It's also the first sign of someone suffering from OCD.

Also, gathering relevant data is the first step in a critique. You've just spent the equivalent of writing an entire article on the lens flares in the new Star Trek films, which doesn't even rate a paragraph, unless you're making fun of it. Do to an entire article on such an insignificant portion of the film is parody.

You know, like you.
You look for patterns in the data. You see how they fit together. You see structures, and how they maintain themselves.
Noooo, actually, everything you just talked about could fall under "three-act structure" of a story, or maybe how many cliche's are used, or maybe even how the writing flows. But this? No. This is just being a schlub.
Those entirely predictable comments are part of a pattern that supports the consistent under-representation of people who aren’t straight white able-bodied cisgender men.
So, poking holes in your argument equals racism and sexism. And ... what? Because they poke holes in your argument, they must therefore be racist and sexist, and are thus unworthy of countering?
Each separate instance is only a point on a line, but together? Together they’re the voice that makes it harder for the rest of us to speak and be heard.
And yet, I can still hear you talking. No one has muzzled your sorry behind. So what?
I can’t stop counting. If I didn’t count, I couldn’t point you to the reasons why I’m so very, so viscerally, irked.
Wait, I'm sorry, I thought you hated the fact that you counted. You didn't like counting. You didn't want to count. Counting ruined your enjoyment of everything ever.

But now you must count, in order to show us why you're irked.
But when I do count… You’re doing it wrong. You’re counting the wrong things. Numbers don’t matter. These numbers represent progress, so why are you still criticising? There are mitigating circumstances! The numbers aren’t the whole story!
Funny, the only time I thought Numbers were the whole story was on MathNet or segments on Sesame Street.
The numbers are the story I can show you. The numbers are the story that can be verified by an independent count.
The numbers are not a story. There is no joy in a checklist. There is no story in a checklist. A checklist is just a checklist. This isn't a story you're telling me. In fact, you haven't told me a story. You've just told me that you're angry, and that, you're angry about being angry.
And the numbers, across the board, make it very easy to exceed my expectations.
Your expectations are a 1:1 ratio of everything.  You would have us make certain that there was one of everything on screen, even if it made no sense to the story.  1% of the planet Earth is homosexual, but you would make certain that the ratio was 1;1 on screen, wouldn't you?

As I said before, go watch Ender's Game, it at least has the right amount of racial mix for you, if nothing else. Go count them.
When it’s no longer so easy—may I live to see the day!—I can only hope my recording demon will toddle off back to hell for a long and fruitful retirement.
You first.

The sad thing, Liz, is that you do not care about the quality or writing or the content of the media, you only care about the color of skin and what are people's dangly bits..

You can't enjoy anything, can you, Liz? I'm sure you go into a comedy club and count how many people who have been offended.

Well, guess what, Liz, we don't care. We want to enjoy our book, or our movie, and no, this crap isn't important.


  1. I'd argue that since "race is a culture" and related, FN-2187 is not black. Flint just became human, even.

    Not even going into the differences between SW race cultures and ours, but... I'm Spanish. Got a friend in the States who was adopted by Mexican immigrants. Culturally, he's more Latino than I'll ever be. Genetically, none at all.

    But, of course, if it becomes a "tick the box" racial diversity thingie. Frankly, it almost looks like they shied from going against the SW juggernaut and call the zampolits. Because they would have been eviscerated.

    Take care.

  2. Touche, Mr. Finn! I'm curious if you'll get any kind of response from Miss Bourke... but I have to say I doubt it.

  3. Check FN #1, the dedication:

  4. Note that the earlier one is dedicated to Irene Gallo, who is even more highly positioned on my perpetual shit list than Liz Bourke. Liz is merely stupid. Irene Gallo is a liar, which is much, much worse.

  5. Note that the earlier one is dedicated to Irene Gallo, who is even more highly positioned on my perpetual shit list than Liz Bourke. Liz is merely stupid. Irene Gallo is a liar, which is much, much worse.

    1. No argument, sir. Bourke is all sorts of special snowflakes, up one side and down another.

      Gallo, on the other hand, should probably be taken out for libel, perhaps even slander -- she PERSONALLY knows two of the people she maligned, so there would be no excuse on her part. Bourke is just ... sigh, such a schlub.

  6. Checklist storytelling.

    How very exciting.

    See, if I had something going off in my head that I couldn't control, I'd see a doctor. Or a priest. But that's just me.

    1. Yes, she should be exorcised, shouldn't she? Oy.


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