Fiction’s and Real Life’s “Bad Guys” and Stereotyping

I’ve been thinking a lot about villains lately. Actually, this particular File 770 “Pixel Scroll” first brought the topic up in my mind. If you scroll down to item #4 “AUTUMN LEAVES” and to “Watchmen” just below that, you can read:

Oct. 20, 9 p.m., HBO
Confession: I know nothing about Watchmen. Never read the comic or saw the (polarizing) 2009 film. I had to pause many times while watching the pilot so I could look up characters and backstories on Wikipedia. With that said, I can’t wait to see more. Set 30 years after the comics, Watchmen takes place in a world where police hide their identities due to terrorist attacks and a long-dormant white supremacist group wants to start a race war. The show is expensive-looking but not hollow. There’s a humanity to the characters that is often lacking in comic book adaptations, due in large part to the exceptional cast, including Regina King, Jeremy Irons, and Don Johnson. Hardcore fans will have to make up their own minds, but this novice is intrigued. [emph. mine]

I know I wrote a blog post sometime ago about adult-oriented comic books and how they are now themed to emphasize social justice, but I can’t find it again. I do remember that, thanks to Donald Trump, most, if not all of the villains are straight white men, and specifically alt-right white supremacists.

No, I’m not defending racism, white supremacy, bigotry, or anything like that. My wife and children are Jewish, so I specifically take a dim view of antisemitism as well as other forms of prejudice and bigotry. Yes, some of my political views are unpopular to certain demographics but I don’t advocate for hate.

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In Response to “Toxic Fandom”

toxic

Found at knowyourmeme.com

Oh heck. I wasn’t going to comment on this here. Seriously. I admit, when I saw the title of the File 770 article Fandom, Entitlement and Toxicity I had a pretty good idea of what it was all about. When I saw the author was my old “friend” Hampus Eckerman (really, we’ve only had brief online encounters, but they were pretty unpleasant) I was sure of it.

Turns out I was wrong.

What Eckerman was really saying was that his “ownership” of certain characters and franchises, he focuses on “The Amazing Spider-Man” comic book, can lead us as fans to respond pretty badly at times when the creators of these pieces of work do something that rubs us the wrong way.

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One More Commentary on the Dragon Awards

dragon

Image found at DragonCon.org

I’m new to the whole hype over awards for science fiction and fantasy, well, ever since last year when I learned about the controversy involving the Hugos and the so-called Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies.

However, I’ve been paying attention to the Dragon Awards. Unlike most other awards of this type, anyone who has internet access can register for no cost and be able to vote for their favorite authors, books, television shows, and so forth (in other words we mere mortals). I even voted myself, but unlike others, the purpose of this blog post isn’t to share who I favored.

I discovered at least three other commentaries on the Dragons: File 770‘s Mike Glyer, Camestros Felapton‘s, an apparently associated blog which I’ve just started following, and Richard Paolinelli’s SciFiScribe.

They all had slightly different takes.

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Tiptree Award Name May Change (Here We Go Again)

light

Cover image from “Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home”

I read Alice Sheldon’s (pen name James Tiptree Jr) anthology of short stories Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home decades ago when I was a kid (all right, a young man) and recall thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve probably heard of the award named after her, but didn’t pay much attention until reading Mike Glyer’s pixel scroll this morning.

In this case, the award name may be changed due to a personal tragedy in Sheldon’s life. From Wikipedia:

Sheldon continued writing under the Tiptree pen name for another decade. The last years of her life were not happy ones, as her husband was a nearly blind invalid incapable of caring for himself, and she herself was suffering health issues caused by a lifetime of smoking. In 1976, then 60-year-old Sheldon wrote to a friend expressing her desire to end her own life while she was still able-bodied and active, but she was reluctant to act upon this intention, as Huntington would have no one to care for him, and she could not bring herself to kill him.

Eleven years later, on May 19, 1987, Sheldon finally carried through her plan—by shooting her husband in his sleep, followed by herself; she had telephoned her attorney after the first shooting to announce her actions. They were found dead, hand-in-hand in bed, in their Virginia home. According to biographer Julie Phillips, the suicide note Sheldon left was written years earlier and saved until needed. In an interview with Charles Platt in 1980, Sheldon spoke of her emotional problems and of her previous suicide attempts over the preceding 20 years.

The James Tiptree Jr. Award is given in her honor each year for a work of science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender. The award-winning science fiction authors Karen Joy Fowler and Pat Murphy created the award in February 1991. Novels such as Half Life by Shelley Jackson and Light by M. John Harrison have received the award.

At least one person commenting on File 770 had compassion, but who knows how many other people judge without understanding what Sheldon may have been going through (I still read 770 but choose not to comment there because of how I was recently treated by some of its other readers).

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The Sins of John W. Campbell Revisited

Author Jeannette Ng – image found at the Angry Robot website

Just for giggles, I revisited the comments at File 770‘s article Storm Over Campbell Award. As you may recall from my own wee missive Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award Acceptance Speech and Here We Go Again, Ms Ng, a fantasy writer based in the UK, was recently given the John W. Campbell award for best new writer, which she accepted, and then went on to point out Campbell’s terrific flaws, which included being a fascist.

There are now over 200 comments on Mike Glyer’s commentary on Ng and Campbell, and of course, they all damn Campbell, some even comparing him (more or less) to Mussolini. Further, one person said that anyone with even the tiniest hint of actually liking anything Campbell ever did is considered a fascist sympathizer. Really. I had heard of Campbell, but before this, I never had any idea about his political beliefs.

However, even according to Wikipedia, while he may or may not have been a fascist, he certainly was a racist.

His opinions go far beyond the occasional “joke in bad taste,” and many well known authors, including Michael Moorcock and Isaac Asimov, lambasted Campbell for his even then unpopular and heinous ideas.

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Are the Science Fiction “Culture Wars” Still Alive and Well?

dragon

Image found at DragonCon.org

I’ve tried to steer this blog away from the more controversial and/or political topics I’ve covered in the past, but then I read Richard Paloinelli’s missive Wikipedia or WikiPravda?. Richard and I share some similar viewpoints, but I lack many of the wounds and scars he’s received in the past, such as those attributed to Mike Glyer at the File 770 science fiction fanzine. I think I was contended with there exactly once. It actually impressed me, since relative to Glyer’s readership, I’m pretty much a nobody.

In the recent past, I’ve heard that Wikipedia, Patreon, and YouTube have been accused of attempting to shut out politically and socially conservative creative voices through censorship and defunding. Since I’m merely a consumer of Wikipedia and YouTube and wouldn’t know what to do with Patreon, I’ve had no personal experience, but on the other hand, I have no trouble believing they are all biased left, either.

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Amélie Wen Zhao’s Fantasy Novel “Blood Heir” Available November 2019!

blood heir

Cover art for the novel “Blood Heir” by Amélie Wen Zhao

If you read my February blog post “Blood Heir” and Social Justice (or is it vengeance) which echoed many other voices on the web, you’ll recall how author Amélie Wen Zhao was bullied on social media to pull her book Blood Heir from publication over what Slate.com author Aja Hoggatt called accusations of racism and being “anti-black”.

Tablet Magazine called her detractors a twitter mob composed of what’s been referred to as “YA Twitter:”

an online community composed of authors, editors, agents, reviewers, and readers that appears to skew significantly older than the actual readership for the popular genre of young adult fiction, which is roughly half teens and half adults.

The Tablet article goes on to say:

As Kat Rosenfield, a Tablet writer who is herself a published YA author, wrote in a deeply entertaining Vulture feature on The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter, in the summer of 2017, “Young-adult books are being targeted in intense social media callouts, draggings, and pile-ons—sometimes before anybody’s even read them.”

Even though the author defended herself and explained the cultural context (her own) that inspired her novel, she was dragged through the virtual gutters and intimidated into indefinitely delaying the release of her book. She’s an excellent example of having apologized when, objectively, she really didn’t do anything wrong except cross paths with the YA twitter “powers that be.”

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“The Great Escape” (1963): Why This Film Couldn’t Be Made Today

escape

Promotional poster for the 1963 film “The Great Escape”

This movie is firmly listed under “films we couldn’t make today” or “films we couldn’t make today unless we included a lot more diversity.”

The Great Escape (1963) is one of my all time favorite films. It features an all-star cast which includes Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, among many, many others. The film is based on a 1950 non-fiction book written by Paul Brickhill chronicling a firsthand account of the mass escape by British Commonwealth prisoners of war from German POW camp Stalag Luft III in Sagan (now Żagań, Poland).

The film is a highly fictionalized version of those events and made numerous compromises which departed from fact, including the addition of three Americans to the cast (McQueen, Garner, and Judson Taylor) to accommodate U.S. audiences.

Here’s the plot summary from imdb:

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A Little Fallout: Bias and the “Humanities”

fallout

Graphic depicting nuclear fallout – image credit unknown

Several days ago, I posted a link to my essay Concealment: Should I Have Used a Pen Name? in a private writers group on Facebook. The admin always holds links in mediation prior to approval. Usually the process takes a few minutes to an hour, but after a day went by, I figured I’d gone too far and he wasn’t going to approve it.

However, 24 hours later it appeared. Either he was too busy to approve of it prior to that time (doubtful, since he’d been active in the group all along), or he was pondering whether or not to approve it, maybe even consulting others.

Well, it was approved, and discussion in the group was pretty interesting and generally positive. That is, until this one, offered by an admin of another writers group to which I do not belong (and I don’t plan on asking to join):

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Blocked: When You Make a Hugo-Award Winning Author Upset on Twitter

blocked

Screen capture from twitter

Yesterday, I wrote and posted a book review of SF/F author N.K. Jemisin’s Hugo award-winning novel The Fifth Season, both here on my blog and on Amazon (considering Goodreads as well).

twitter

Screenshot from twitter

I then posted links of my review on twitter and in a private writer’s group on Facebook. As you can see by the accompanying screenshot, I included Ms. Jemisin’s twitter “handle” in the body of my message in case she might want to read the review (and what author doesn’t want to read reviews of their books?).

As an aside, before someone mentions it, I suppose I could be accused of “trolling” Jemisin…except I wasn’t. All I did was put @nkjemisin into the body of my tweet which also contained a link to my review of her novel. If I had put her handle as the very first word in the tweet, it would have gone straight to her and it would not have appeared in my twitter feed. I didn’t do that. I wasn’t exclusively “aiming” my tweet at her, though I certainly wouldn’t have minded if she saw it and read the review. I suppose she could have taken it the wrong way.

Now to continue:

I popped over to her twitter account just for the heck of it and gave it a brief read. I don’t recall the specific content. I was just curious.

This morning, I decided to post another tweet referencing my review. I do this several times in twitter since folks might miss it the first time or two. I decided to include Jemisin’s twitter name once more, and out of curiosity, visited her twitter account again. Lo and behold, I was blocked. What the heck? What happened in the last 22 hours or so?

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