Is SciFi Author/Editor Robert Silverberg Really Racist and Sexist (or has the internet once again lost its mind)?

robert silverberg

SF author/editor Robert Silverberg – 2005

If I hadn’t read a blog post at Superversive SF called The Cardinal Mistake With SJWs and Robert Silverberg, I probably wouldn’t be writing this.

First off, I’ll state for the record, that because I’m even mentioning Jon Del Arroz‘s (yes, he deliberately makes himself a lightning rod for controversy) name and daring to write something with a social and political perspective not shared (necessarily) by Democrats, leftists, and progressives (those words are not synonyms), that at least one person will be vocally upset with me here on my blog.

I suspect that a lot of other people who regularly read my fiction will simply not respond because A: they like me and what I write, and B: they think that I’m a nice enough guy not to be flamed for expressing unpopular opinions.

Thank you.

Anyway, I did read Del Arroz’s article which starts out:

Robert Silverberg, a science fiction legend who’s responsible for editing some of the greatest sci-fi anthologies and short fiction collections of all time, among having one of the biggest writing careers in sci-fi himself, had a private email list with a few friends over the summer. On the list, he made commentary about NK Jemisin’s Hugo Award speech, in which she riddled with identity politics like she does everything else. He thought something along the lines that it’s a shame that people seem to be voting based on identity and that instead of celebrating and enjoying that people cared about a story, she used the platform to launch into “muh racist”, like she always does. He lamented this is not good for sci-fi, and rightly so, because it’s not.

For those of you who may not know, Robert Silverberg is a legend in the world of authoring and editing science fiction with a career that spans six decades. He has won Four Hugo Awards, three Locus Awards, and six Nebula Awards. Suffice it to say, he comes with an exceptionally impressive set of credentials.

However, after the most recent Hugo Awards presented this year in San Jose at the rather contentious (according to some) WorldCon76, he went on a private online forum to state the following, as recorded at the File 770 blog:

At San Jose, the Best Novel Hugo went — for the third consecutive year — to a writer who used her acceptance speech to denounce those who had placed obstacles in her path stemming from her race and sex as she built her career, culminating in her brandishing her new Hugo as a weapon aimed at someone who had been particularly egregious in his attacks on her. Soon after the convention, I commented, in a private chat group, that I felt that her angry acceptance speech had been a graceless one, because I believe that Hugo acceptance speeches should be occasions for gratitude and pleasure, not angry statements that politicize what should be a happy ceremony. I said nothing about her race, her sex, or the quality of her books. My comment was aimed entirely at her use of the Hugo stage to launch a statement of anger.

I know more than a few people (including the aforementioned Mr. Del Arroz) who have been highly vocal about such awards being granted less for story quality, and more for presenting various progressive themes and various progressive authors (regardless of quality), so this sentiment isn’t unknown to me (and according to Mr. Silverberg’s own words, issues of race, sex, or quality were not a part of his private complaint).

Unfortunately, some unscrupulous member of the private forum chose to publish Mr. Silverberg’s comments on a publicly accessible online platform, and things degraded from there (in a world where the Christmas classic Baby, It’s Cold Outside and the song from the 1989 Disney film The Little Mermaid Kiss the Girl are sexist and promote a rape culture, and the Christmas movies Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer are racist and bigoted, pretty much anything can be considered offensive).

In an attempt to set the record straight, Mr. Silverberg went on File 770 and wrote the essay Racism and Sexism. Unfortunately, according to Mr. Del Arroz (I haven’t read most of the 200+ comments there yet, so I can’t speak to this directly), it went tragically wrong, and Silverberg’s reputation, at least among this group, shot downhill with a bullet.

I did scan some of the responses and, in part, one stated:

That doesn’t make everyone in America a capital-R racist. But it does mean that everyone who grew up in America should be checking their biases and assumptions on a regular basis, because it’s HARD to go against that level of societal programming, and so to some degree, despite ourselves, we all are likely to slip up to a greater or lesser extent.

I’m not excepting myself from this. For example, I’ve noticed that I get more nervous if a group of black men pass me on the sidewalk than if a group of white women do. I don’t make excuses for this; I know perfectly well that it isn’t fair to the black men, and that it’s because of the explicit warnings and the example set by her behavior that my mother gave me when I was a child half a century ago. And because I know this, I make a conscious effort to not change my behavior or affect, even if my heart rate is speeding up. I have no control over my heart rate, but I do have control over how I behave.

Well, according to that (and I may be exaggerating just a tad), 100% of all white American men are at least latently racist and must constantly be checking something or other before they open their mouths or put fingers to a keyboard “even in a private discussion group.” Now remember, Silverberg, who is Jewish, didn’t use any racist or sexist epithets AT ALL. His statement and its result is the moral equivalent of classic science fiction writer Gregory Benford having recently being evicted from a Con merely for using the word “honey” as emphasis to a statement he was making to a general audience.

jemisin

Screenshot of NK Jemisin from YouTube – Found at Vox.com

Now according to Del Arroz, Silverberg’s original statement had to do with the Hugo Award acceptance speech of NK Jemisin who is a woman and African-American science fiction author and psychologist, and whose works have won nine awards and been nominated for nineteen, which is pretty impressive.

Now science fiction has always been used to talk about current day political and social issues and to push the edge of controversy (without seeming to, which is probably the difference between classic and modern SF), so this is nothing new. However, to the best of my knowledge, Mr. Silverberg’s objection was against “weaponizing” (my term, not Mr. Silverberg’s) winning awards in an attempt to denounce various historical and current sources of oppression. Since Ms. Jemisin is obviously an over-the-top success, to the best of my ability to determine online, she’s doing pretty well these days. Maybe when accepting her most recent Hugo, she could have afforded to say, “I’d really like to thank all my fans for helping make my career an outstanding success (including my Patreon campaign).” Just a thought, and for all I know, she does say that in other venues.

However, according to Mr. Del Arroz’s opinion of Ms. Jemisin:

Of course, sci-fi elites like Jemisin herself replied with passive aggressive drivel like you would expect. The woman has a publishing contract solely because of her skin color, sells books solely because she whines about it, and wins awards solely so people can pat themselves on the back for it. It’s a joke. She’s used her race to create her entire career, and is one of the biggest race-baiting liars out there.

Wow! First of all, how can he possibly know all that? Secondly, in any objective fashion (that is, setting aside that she’s a woman, a person of color, and apparently socially and politically progressive), does her writing stand on its own? That is, if I didn’t know anything about her, including whether or not she is a “her” and I read any of her books, would I think they were not only good, but of award winning quality (and I’ve been reading science fiction since before Ms. Jemisin was born)?

I’ll answer that question in a minute.

Not too long ago, I read an article at Quartzy called Nine Sci-Fi Subgenres to Help You Understand the Future by Jay Owens. When you cut through all of the fluff, he’s basically saying, that if you write science fiction, and you don’t specifically include one or more of these progressive, leftist themes, your writing doesn’t matter, regardless of the quality of the story. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re a good storyteller anymore. It only matters if you fulfill some highly specific social/political imperative.

You can click on the link to find out what the nine subgenres are, and they’re not necessarily bad or invalid. In fact, writing well within these contexts could produce some very good stories (assuming the writing is good and doesn’t simply pander to a popular theme).

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, and especially my social/political commentaries, you know I don’t like being told what to do, how to speak, what to look like, how high to jump, just because an online pundit says I so. It doesn’t bring out the best in me.

Ever since my previous rants on WorldCon76 and the Hugos, I’ve wondered if these modern award-winning novels, short stories, and so on, really are as good or even so much better than those, say, created by Robert Silverberg back in the day?

I suppose the answer to that is largely subjective. For instance, right now, I’m trying to get through Elizabeth Bear‘s novel Chill, the second book in her “Jacob’s Ladder” series.

I checked the paperback out of my local public library (libraries are good) on a whim without realizing it was a “part two.” I think that could be why I’m having trouble grasping the environment she’s created and connecting with the characters.

Oh, Ms. Bear is also the recipient of eight awards, three of them being Hugos.

I’m going to continue to push through “Chill,” which has received proverbial rave reviews, to see if I can warm up to it, but it does give me an idea.

I’ve been meaning to “sample” recent Hugo award winning short stories and novels to see if they match up in quality to the memory of what I experienced as the good science fiction authoring of my youth. Ms. Jemisin’s Hugo award winning novel The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth Book 1) is available through my local library system. I’m adding it to my list and will write a review, both here and on Amazon, which I finish it.

I was briefly tempted to comment on File 770, but decided not to because A: I’m a nobody relative to the various luminaries that frequent that environment, B: because I have nothing to add (that I haven’t already said here), and C: I have no desire to (once again) be flamed because I’m male, old, white, cis-het (did I get that part right), conservative, religious, and don’t automatically consider myself wholly evil because of those characteristics.

I should probably never write missives like this one because people always complain, but on the other hand, I don’t feel like I should be muzzled either because social media pundits want only one voice to be heard (and it wouldn’t be mine). If you really, really want diversity in science fiction or any other venue, it’s not a matter of pushing out the “old” (white guys) and exclusively accepting only the “new” (everybody else), but making room at the same table for all voices. That’s not an unreasonable request.

delarroz

Jon Del Arroz – Illustration from his twitter account

Do I think that Robert Silverberg is a racist and a sexist? Given the fact that I can’t read his mind, I can’t know in an absolute sense. Given the comments of his I can read, and based on how I have historically defined racism and sexism, no, absolutely not. But then again, I don’t think I’m racist or sexist either, and I’m sure based on this wee essay, someone will disagree.

You know, if Silverberg and Jemisin sat down, just the two of them, at the same table over coffee or a couple of beers (or whatever beverage they agreed upon), maybe they’d find common ground, and who knows, they might even like each other. After all, they’re well known science fiction authors. I bet if they got away from all of the social media noise (including my blog), they’d actually get to relate to each other as human beings. I know. Shocking, right?

EDIT: I managed to find a transcript of NK Jemisin’s most recent Hugo Award acceptance speech. Since I can read faster than a person speaks (just about everyone can), I didn’t actually listen to the speech, so I couldn’t hear tone of voice or inflection, or see body language, but based on the language alone, it didn’t seem particularly angry. She took five minutes to relate what her experience has been like becoming a successful SF/F author. Granted, Silverberg is a SF luminary and I’m just an aging wannebee, but I probably wouldn’t have said “boo” in response to this speech. The only reason I’m commenting now is because, of how out of proportion I believe Silverberg’s comments have been taken. No, I still don’t believe he’s a racist or a sexist. I do believe he was speaking out of his decades long experience in the SF field, at the cons, receiving awards, and just being him. Unfortunately, the comments I’ve been going through at File 770 do not encourage me, but then, I haven’t gotten very far yet.

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15 thoughts on “Is SciFi Author/Editor Robert Silverberg Really Racist and Sexist (or has the internet once again lost its mind)?

  1. I skimmed this all, but yeah. I’m a Democrat atheist chick, but it annoys me that every effin thing has to be “weaponized” lately. Romance novels (something I lurve) are criticized for pandering to white hetero sexist blah de blah too. Well guess what? Zillions of white hetero women buy these things & like the fantasy of falling in luv with an English Duke. But there’s nothing stopping anyone from writing novels with black or Persian or Indian Princes and indeed there are some. There is also a ton of gay fiction too. But it is true that when you go to the romance section of a physical bookstore you will mostly find the hetero stuff. Why? Cuz that is what sells. Online, there’s more variety. But people still complain. 🙄

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    • The thing is, there’s room for fiction oriented in just about any way you can imagine. You don’t have to be one thing (either Democrat atheist chick or Independent religious guy) and have to only like an associate with just your own clan/tribe/whatever. That’s really my entire point.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Having grown up reading Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Norton to name a few, most of it from my Dad’s F&SF, Asimov, and Analog. That said, I don’t bother with the current Hugo material. I did read it for a few year, when I was actively voting. Very little of it was to my taste. In fact, many of the stories seemed to be nominated for reasons other than quality of story telling.

    Regrettably, making political statements from the award podium is becoming “the thing to do”. As long as we not only tolerate, but reward, such behavior, it will continue. 😦

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    • Agreed. Unfortunately, even if reasonable, measured people criticize what Silverberg referred to as an “angry acceptance speech had been a graceless one,” those people who seem to have control of the current state of science fiction and the larger publishing industry have the power to, at least in some cases, “punish” what you and I might consider the voice of reason. Just look what happened to Greg Benford after he innocently said just a single word that was construed as offensive.

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  3. If I like an author, it’s ONLY what they write, NOT (necessarily) them as a person after-all, I DON’T know them.

    It’s a sad thought, but I’ve found that the more I know about a person, the less I (generally) like them.

    In other words:
    It’s best not to know too much about anyone. It’s not likely that we will like “what’s (really) inside”. *** 😦

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    • I tend to agree that sometimes it’s necessary to disconnect what you know personally about an artist and their work. For example, last weekend, my son, grandson, and I went to see Ralph Breaks the Internet. It’s a sequel to a 2012 film, and was better than I expected.

      The next day, I found out that the character of Vanellope was voiced by Sarah Silverman. Ms. Silverman has made some pretty unsavory comments about Christians and abortion such as Pro-Life laws make me want to eat a fetus (both my Mom and my ex-daughter-in-law suffered from miscarriages, so losing a baby in the womb, regardless of how, is not an emotionally harmless event to make fun of).

      So in order to say that I still enjoyed the movie, I have to compartmentalize my opinion of Silverman and my feelings about the film.

      On the other hand, “Wonder Woman” actress Gal Gadot voiced the character of Shank, and I love both the artist and her character(s).

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  4. Okay, I read the comments on the File 770 blog post in question from November 27th, when Silverberg posted his commentary, and gave up somewhere in the middle of November 29th. They finally dwindle and stop on December 2nd, and more or less the conclusion, assuming you absolve Silverberg of “Klan-level” racism, is that he’s a product of his times (he’s over 80) and could not relate to the experience and motivation of Jemisin who is half his age.

    I did find out that someone from the online (and supposedly private, but not really) group where Silverberg originally made his comments, took that information and posted it on the website of Vox Day, whose real name is Theodore Beale. You can go to Beale’s blogspot, but once Silverberg’s words appeared there, it was instant “guilt by association,” since Mr. Beale has a reputation that is not to be admired (to put it mildly) and has argued online with Ms. Jemisin before, calling her some pretty uncomplimentary names.

    In reading some and scanning most of the comments on the File 770 blog post, I am again glad I chose not to weigh in, first off for the reasons I mentioned above, but also because some of those comments added dimension to the entire situation, as well as putting some portion of Silverberg’s past into context.

    There seems to be a sort of “Either/Or” involved on both sides of the issue, at least on social media, while a few of the people commenting did attempt to inject a sense of reality into what was being said (even if you disagree with what Silverberg said or how he said it, that doesn’t make him a fascist who burns crosses on the lawns of people of color).

    Anyway, I collected some of the comments, just a tiny sample really, and they are not randomly selected. I tried to select some of the more encouraging ones. If you want to read the whole list, find the link I put in the body of this blog post and have at it.

    COMMENTS BELOW:

    Ann Somerville: “Actually, the rise of facism is very strongly associated with rigid, bigoted thinking and a desire to undo a raft of social changes and improvements to the lot of those who are not white, straight, or cis-gendered males. Silverberg has copiously demonstrated both of these features, not that I think he is or am claiming he is a fascist.”

    But you do write that he has copiously demonstrated those retrograde tendencies; I don’t think that has remotely been demonstrated by his statements or his acts. I think he’s a conservative, but not a reactionary nor a fascist. I don’t think his statement about a speech in a discussion forum, with less than “hundreds” of members (not a misstatement I attribute to you, by the way), was an attempt to dismantle progress, so much as an expression of not seeing the speech as appropriate to the occasion. I’d disagree with that, and would not have used quite the same language he chose in that instance, in that private forum. But the denunciation of Silverberg has been akin to calling him Beale-esque, here and elsewhere. He didn’t say her awards were undeserved; he noted he didn’t have the experience to judge the work in question. He critiqued the speech with what I would consider an unfortunate turn of phrase in that private forum, which has led to no lack of insult to him as a person and an artist.

    Ken Hoyt: I think the problem with the internet now is that everything is heightened and there is no place for disagreements. You are either ALL IN are ALL OUT on any given subject, and everybody’s quick to denounce everybody. It really is turning into a witch hunt and it’s unfortunate.

    Here’s the paragraph where I type out for the 1000th time that I am a very liberal person, and that I agree with what Jemisin said, and I even sort of disagree with you Robert that it wasn’t her place to say it on the podium after winning, but I do not think you are a demon for saying so, I just disagree with you.

    Greg Hullender: As a closeted gay teen in the deep South in the early 1970s, I was delighted to read books like “The Book of Skulls,” by Robert Silverberg, which contained real gay characters and showed them being open about it and other people dealing with it. I can still remember how much better I felt about myself after reading some of those books, and I’ll always be grateful to him. To call Silverberg a conservative is seriously to miss the mark.

    When I was listening to it, I also thought Jemisin’s acceptance speech was a bit too angry, just from a perspective of what’s effective from an activist standpoint (i.e. given a public platform, an activist wants to use it to try to win new support from people outside his/her group), but, given the history, I can totally understand why she’d want to vent at least a little bit. And the overwhelmingly positive audience response suggests that she made the right call. (I’m aware that I’ve grown a bit too cautious in my old age.)

    It’s sad if we’ve reached the point where no one can ever say, “I support your cause, but I think what you’re doing right now isn’t helping” without immediately being attacked as a bigot. More than once I can remember gently telling my straight friends (who worried that activism would prompt an anti-gay backlash), “I appreciate your concern, but I think we know what we’re doing.” Again, thinking like an activist, you really want to hold onto your friends and allies when you’re a small minority and your real enemies want to do away with you entirely.

    Lenora Rose (in part): NOBODY who has said Silverberg is demonstrating his own racism has suggested he is as odious as Beale, never mind as vile as a person who has actually killed people over their race. He’s a conservative voice nowadays, whatever he was when younger, and he has a lot of bias and thinking left over from earlier ages which he has not bothered to update. (see also, as a less fraught example than racism, not bothering to read any new SF of the last 10+ years)

    Andy: Just for the record because nobody has noticed. In my defence of NK Jemisin’s Hugo speech AND Silverberg’s right to express a contrary opinion in private without friends of neo-fascists leaping into the fray in an attempt to undermine her achievement, I misspelled Ms Jemisin’s name. My apologies to her for this carelessness.

    Ctein: I am so very sick of the perpetually promulgated lie that being prejudiced is the same as being a mustache-twirling Incarnation of evil. It’s a lie promulgated by both extremes because it serves them each well and in opposition. The leftish motivation is obvious; on the right, it gives people who express prejudice cover by being able to respond with, “But I can’t be X, I am kind to orphans and children, work at a soup kitchen three days a week, and have never said an unkind word to any of my neighbors.” Since they are not a “bad person,” they obviously can’t be prejudiced.

    It’s not true, it’s never been true. Most of us who are prejudiced in one way or another — which happens to be MOST OF US — are not Disney villains, not even particularly bad persons. Until everyone accepts that, they’re living in a state of denial.

    Tha-tha-that’s all, folks.

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  5. Well, no, that’s not all. I went back and scrolled through File 770‘s collection of recent blog posts (they don’t truncate posts on their page, so it’s a lot of scrolling) and finally arrived at one I was interested in reading: Loscon 45 Incident: What Happened, and the Committee’s Update which discussed how SF author Gregory Benford was “perp walked” out of the con for a seemingly innocuous statement aimmed at no one in particular.

    I’m not going to relate everything they record. Click the link for that.

    Apparently though, Benford took some exception to N.K. Jemisin’s (remember her from above) use of science, or the lack thereof, which led to:

    Benford later told readers of David Weber’s Facebook page specifically, “I said, not to anyone in the room, ‘If you write sf honey, gotta get the science right.’”

    Though it’s my understanding that Benford wasn’t specifically addressing Jemisin (who wasn’t at the con) at the time. However that wasn’t Benford’s only “offense:”

    Isabel Schechter says, “In addition to the ‘honey’ comment, Greg also made another comment-when one of the panelists recommended a Latino author, Greg asked him to spell the name, and then asked again several times before giving up and saying that some or those ‘names have too many vowels.’ He made this comment several times.”

    However…

    Over Thanksgiving weekend at Loscon 45, code of conduct violations were alleged against Gregory Benford for a couple of statements he made on the “New Masters of Science Fiction” panel. Afterwards, a Loscon co-chair took the unprecedented step of removing Benford from the convention. However, this action bypassed Loscon’s incident process. The board of directors of LASFS, which owns Loscon, got involved…

    Sounds like somebody “Oops-ed”. However, the incident wasn’t ended with Benford’s eviction from the con. He issued this statement to LASFS on November 28th:

    At the 2018 Loscon there was an incident at a panel where someone took exception to something I said in general—which that someone took to be about a third party, who was not there. Things got heated. I left the room, not wanting to continue. Apparently that someone complained to the convention chairs and they over reacted. The chair has apologized to me and I accepted it gratefully. He and his co-chair were probably trying to do the right thing in these over-heated times. We all are, I trust. I have been attending Loscon since it began, and my first LASFS meeting was in 1963. I respect these enormously.

    People were upset by the way the chairs acted. Many later came up to me to say they were disturbed over it. They were more upset than I was. Since then, I’ve received vastly many emails, calls, Facebook posts, the lot. It’s exhausting. Things are fine with me now. I’m not upset. And I hope people will keep cooler heads in the future.

    I want to especially thank Craig Miller, John Hertz, Matthew Tepper, Harry Turtledove, Larry Niven, Steve Barnes, John DeChancie, Gordon van Gelder and Michelle Pincus for their help in dealing with this.

    At risk of being too professorial, I recommend reading:

    Understanding Victimhood Culture: An Interview with Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning.

    I haven’t read the article yet, but at least for me, it continues the original incident and may describe the dynamics behind this recent spate of “You offended me, you are evil” allegations. Okay, I know from some points of view, that last statement might seem like an exaggeration and maybe it offends something, but there’s got to be accountability going in both directions. Your being offended doesn’t necessarily give you or even a “con” the right to treat people like criminals when the worst, the very worst they might be guilty of is issuing a glib and perhaps slightly insensitive statement.

    This may well spawn another social commentary blogpost about the state of the SF/F industry, which is a subset of the larger and still easily offended entertainment industry. In the meantime, I recommend you read my recent piece of flash fiction The Man Who Would Be God which asks the question of whether or not going back in time and murdering Donald Trump’s Dad Fred when Fred was five years old is morally justifiable?

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  6. James said: First off, I’ll state for the record, that because I’m even mentioning Jon Del Arroz‘s (yes, he deliberately makes himself a lightning rod for controversy) name and daring to write something with a social and political perspective not shared (necessarily) by Democrats, leftists, and progressives (those words are not synonyms), that at least one person will be vocally upset with me here on my blog.

    For the record, since I have wondered out loud (so to speak) at the use of Jon Del Arroz as some kind of beacon here (at this site), I myself haven’t spoken up because Arroz makes himself a lightning rod — nor because this site’s author/owner (James) says things that don’t “necessarily” agree with people who don’t brand themselves as “the right” [although perversions and crimes make that possibility more likely] — but with firmer reasoning. If fiction is paramount, that’s one thing. Anything I’m saying is not about “sides” concerning sci fi publishing.

    Is it only making oneself a lightning rod [with no moral implications other than stirring up conflict or online or fiction convention arguments] to normalize a person of low character (and call him not only conservative but a “normal” conservative in one’s own camp)? Perhaps it is time that I face as a fact that those who embrace a label for themselves of being the right or conservative have ceded grounds against pedophilia. My speaking up means that I have not faced that or ceded it. I disagree with it. Yet I have to keep pointing it out, because the right that has left me behind (and which I cannot hold to) is happy to carry on.

    Because I can already hear it now, it is not a satisfactory “answer” to bluster about what one would supposedly do if he or she found their own child being abused. While wanting to do something if such were the case is a baseline, it doesn’t face the social need to go beyond that. And it doesn’t absolve one of the imperative not to minimize the existence of observations. The minimizing and distancing through ignoring only shows the lack of understanding that words have consequences in the real world — and that feelings about consequences don’t only matter when it’s someone you know directly or at functions about which one personally gives a hoot (for reasons of fun or financial gain or building of the ego through success).

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    • The above has nothing to do with Silverberg. It is about Del Arroz (as Del Arroz has been brought up repeatedly — and there was a link, the first time, that led to calling a pedophile apologist a normal conservative).

      I read your EDIT.

      So at least someone overreacted to her (the award winner),
      and at least someone overreacted to him (Silverberg).

      Of course, Del Arroz wanted to whip it up…
      … and yet that’s not the worst of it.

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      • I mentioned Del Arroz because he was the initial source of information about the whole Silverberg incident. As I got into it more, reading through the comments at File 770, I got a clearer picture of the whole affair, and while I still think the whole thing was blow way out of proportion (along with how Benford was treated at a recent “Con”), I can at least see the point of view of his detractors. I still think it ended up being a proverbial “tempest in a tea cup,” but then I don’t tend to always follow the majority opinion.

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  7. Much ado about nothing. A black person says something that sounds angry to some delicate White ears, and because the offended persons do not harbor “Klan-level” racism in their hearts, they feel entitled to whine endlessly about how they are being oppressed. The poor dears can’t even use the N-word anymore without having to endure the critical glances of liberals and their ilk.

    What really got me about your article was the umpteen dozen times you mentioned that people were being bashed for comments made in a PRIVATE SETTING, or in front of only small groups, as if those are not the PERFECT PLACES to discover a person’s true heart. I have had my heart broken more times than I can count when I have overheard the bigoted comments of white people I’d loved and respected like family, when they didn’t know I was near.

    The difference, as I see it, between people of color and women, and white men, is that the former group complains when they feel injured by the actions of White men, and white men cry when they feel the loss of the privilege (that they swear they don’t have), to lord over everyone else, to do exactly as they please, and to be free from the parasites who constantly pick their pockets because of some alleged institutional oppression. But then, not being a White male, what would I know?

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    • Thanks for commenting. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this whole situation where Silverberg made a statement online last summer and then, for some reason, finds it necessary to write a commentary about it six months later on File 770. He suggested in his essay that whatever the responses have been to his actions, they’ve been escalating over that time period, which, as you suggest (although about my comments and not anyone else’s), should have been much ado about nothing, or what I would call a tempest in a teapot.

      Robert Silverberg is 83 years old, just a little younger than my Mom. Given his generation and that he’s white (and whatever his life experiences have been), I don’t doubt he had no idea how to relate to NK Jemisin Hugo Award acceptance speech, so he responded out of his own experience. In mulling over the situation for the past few days, including all of the comments at File 770, I still think the worst I can say about Silverberg is that he was insensitive, but then again, I could be accused of the same thing just because I wrote this blog post.

      I know you were (probably) being sarcastic, but not all insensitive people are dying to use the N-word. My question is that, after six months or so (and I only became aware of Silverberg’s comments and the response to them five days ago), why is this still going on to the degree that Silverberg found it necessary to craft his missive?

      I should say that the comments on File 770 ended on December 2nd, and in reflection, I think after Silverberg’s initial comments last summer, he probably should have kept his mouth shut rather than (apparently) once again refuel the flames.

      Do people have a right to complain and protest when they’ve been wronged or perceive they’ve been wronged? Yes. Did NK Jemisin have the right to render an angry acceptance speech after her third Hugo win? Yes. Did Robert Silverberg have the right to disagree or otherwise believe she was being “graceless?” Yes, though I’ve had to conclude his opinion was based on his inability to experience he life journey or to empathize with it.

      It would be arrogant of me to believe that everyone has to agree with me or that I can’t make a mistake, and I don’t doubt you will continue to be angry with me as well based on whatever opinion you have of me. I write this blog (actually, this is true of just about everything I author) in part to process my thoughts and emotions about what I encounter and experience in my life, so this blog post was me processing. Writing and reading responses is how I learn, so thank you for adding something to what I am learning now.

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      • For the record, I am most decidedly NOT angry with you. The fact that you feel that I am is just proof of the over sensitivity I was talking about. It is the passive–aggressive form of the admonition to “Smile when you say that, boy.” I can even be angry with you if I like, and still not be a threat to you. (I wonder when ABM switched from meaning Anti Ballistic Missile to Angry Black Man?) I can even disagree with your positions on racial matters without being racist or anti White. The fact that I hold myself to mild sarcasm is another symptom if the toxic White privilege that shackles our society. (I see that even now I have chosen to say “White privilege” instead of the more accurate, but more charged and divisive term “White supremacy.”)

        The truth is, I respect your thoughtful examination of the issue, admire your even handedness and openness to, and acknowledgement of, other viewpoints, and largely agree with your conclusions. I would never have made it through your 7 volume epic post otherwise. I also understand that you too are a “product of your times”, OUR times, (A phrase which I have always looked at as a lame excuse for not changing with the times. My father is 90 and while amazed at the rapidity of change, has been able to keep up quite nicely.) Because of this, and in spite of explicitly asserting my respect, admiration, and agreement, I would not be at all surprised if the only take away from all I have said is, “How dare that black so-and-so call me a White supremacist!” (Please note, this last is said with a dry sense of humor, and without benefit of a “tongue-in-cheek emoji.)

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