So my friend and fellow Wyrdsmith, Eleanor Arnason, decided to re-post Tempest's challenge on her Facebook as a test, just to see what kind of response she'd get.
Third or fourth comment? So offensive I'm not even sure I can re-print it here. Since I don't know how to do an "under the cut" in blogspot, let's just say he suggested that as a "reward" for reading books on this list he should get to "haz" sexual acts performed on him by women. (The haz particularly felt... offensive, because clearly he felt this made his comment cutesy, ala a LOL cat.) Then the discussion honestly turned into a recommended list of straight, white, male, cis writers.
Similarly, yesterday I came across someone in my feed who I won't name because I don't believe in the "call out" culture, but who got very four-letter word-y about this challenge because he claimed "this sort of thing takes food off my plate."
*takes deep breaths*
Seriously, folks, take a chill pill. Do you actually know a single person who has committed to doing this (besides, presumably, Tempest herself)? Secondly, even if twenty or a hundred people agreed to do it for a whole year, do you really think this is going to so negatively impact your sales that YOU WILL STARVE?
Seriously? Starve? HYPERBOLE MUCH?
Don't [bleeping] lie. Most published science fiction writers I know have a day job--because it's already so impossible to make a living writing. Everybody knows that. If you're one of the lucky ones who can actually afford to stay home and be a full-time writer, I am SO NOT CRYING ANY TEARS FOR YOU. Because if you're doing that well? 10 less people reading your book in the year is not going to impact your career that much.
Thus, I honestly don't understand being threatened by this. Most of us have a limited book budget. Many of us have any number of reasons why we choose to buy the books we do (leading one in our house? Nothing to do with the gender of the author. The biggest factor is: Is it on deep discount from Amazon.com??) Even though I've given myself a reading "task" this year, so far I've only BOUGHT one of the books on the list (because it randomly came up on one of those 99 cent deals on Amazon.com). All of the rest have come out of the library.
You [bleep]ers weren't getting my [bleeping] money, anyway.
I say this as someone whose career ended because of poor sales, okay? I'm not saying this out of spite. I know exactly how hard it is to make a living as a science fiction writer BECAUSE I'VE ALREADY FAILED SPECTACULARLY AT IT.
Yeah, the financial aspects of being a writer are enough to make anyone want to swear like a sailor. But this is a problem that affects ALL writers, regardless of age, race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or any other factor. I *do* tend to think that women, PoC, queer and other writers have a much harder time getting reviews and marketing budgets, but I have never seen actual figures proving this... so let's just leave that off the table for the moment. Let's just even leave off the table the fact that when a person screams about this, it's not Tempest that's making me not want to buy their books, it's they themselves. Let's also leave off the table that the most infuriating part of this is that I have to put up with sexualized abuse just because someone suggested that people consider reading outside of their comfort zone for a year.
There's a reason I don't normally get involved in these kinds of internet "discussions;" it's to protect my sanity.
And my faith in humanity.
I'm eternally grateful to *my* Facebook friends (and my friends here and elsewhere that I discussed this) that we managed, for the most part, to have reasoned discourse. We got passionate and fiery and strident, but it was all done with (apparently) a surprising amount of respect. Thank you. You all remind me that it's possible to be passionate, but remain civil.
I found out a few days ago that these call outs and fails have driven at least one promising writer from our ranks. I wouldn't be surprised if it breaks a few more. Many of those driven away by this hostility might be the women, queers, and PoC that we so desperately need in our ranks, too. But my friend was "just" a straight, white guy who got tired of being placed in the crossfire even as he was trying desperately to be an ally.
We've got to stop this.
There's something broken on the Internet. Something disgusting and horrible that we saw exploding into the light during things like #gamergate. It's something that's making people, like the one paraphrased above, go from zero to sexualized abuse in sixty seconds. It's something that's threatening women's lives (so that it's no wonder there's a similarly ugly backlash towards less-marginalized people.)
C'mon. We're better than all this.
We're supposed to be imaginers of the future. Can't we imagine a place where there is room for everyone and that one person's success does not diminish another's?
Edited to add: Eleanor has deleted the comment, if you go looking for it, it's no longer there. "Can Haz" guy? Be thankful. Eleanor just spared you some backlash, I imagine, from those who would have hunted you down (who, while I felt free to respond to it here, publicly, do not condone. It's not cool to go after people, people. Full stop. This is not a one-way message.) Also, I posted this image:
to Tumblr and a woman felt the need to private e-mail me and share her disapproval. Did I really like that? She thought I was better than that. To which I was like... ..... .... NOPE. Not today, my friend, not today.
Can we just not?