Author Topic: If big themes like sexuality in SF can't be discussed on this forum  (Read 29254 times)

Balu

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then what's the point of it?




Heradel

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The objection was not to a discussion of sexuality in SF, but rather it was to the point that a minority orientation was being over-represented. And even then, it was more that the point was being made in such a way that seemed hostile to said minority. Sexuality is a fine theme, and one worthy of much discussion, in many genres, including SF. And it can be freely discussed here, but not in ways that are or do appear to be intolerant.

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Scattercat

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Yeah, that six-page thread on Spar totally doesn't exist at all.  Obviously this forum is repressing free speech, which is completely applicable to a privately-owned online venue.



DKT

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Said discussion on sex in SF and literature can be found here (all six pages of it - some of us actually really, really like talking about sex).

Knock yourself out  ;)


tinygaia

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Said discussion on sex in SF and literature can be found here (all six pages of it - some of us actually really, really like talking about sex).

That's the most entertaining thing I've read in days. ElePal is my new hero.



ElectricPaladin

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Said discussion on sex in SF and literature can be found here (all six pages of it - some of us actually really, really like talking about sex).

That's the most entertaining thing I've read in days. ElePal is my new hero.

Thanks! I do my best.

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eytanz

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Let me make it absolutely clear, as the EP forum moderator, that big themes like sexuality in SF can be discussed in this forum, and indeed are very welcome here. If anyone thinks that the other thread was closed because of that theme, they were obviously not paying attention. Indeed, as I said in my post closing that topic, the goal of locking it was not to shut out any opinion, but because the tone of that particular conversation was not conducive to actual discussion.

However, that said, let me make one more thing clear - if I lock a thread, for any reason, it is not appropriate to open another thread to protest that decision in any of the three EP forums. If you do wish to protest a decision by me, then you should send me a PM. I promise that I take PMs seriously (and indeed, I invited people to do so in the other thread). If you have sent a PM and feel unsatisfied with my response, or if you feel that you have a grievance that must be absolutely dealt with publicly, the place to do that is the metachat forums.

That said, I've decided to leave this thread in the "About EP" forum, because it contains useful suggestions for threads on the topic of sex and sexuality in SF. Any further discussion of moderation policy will be split off into metachat, however.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2011, 11:10:07 AM by eytanz »



Balu

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And it can be freely discussed here, but not in ways that are or do appear to be intolerant.

Which is ridiculous. Anything can appear to be intolerant. If I was crazy enough it might appear to me that you're all ganging up on me because I'm Jewish.

Would that mean that you should nod meekly and agree with whatever I say? After all, if you didn't you would appear to be intolerant.

But that lesbian thread was interesting for all kinds of other reasons too. Consider the level of self-righteous over reaction on display. In many places you get a similar sort of nonsense from people who are repressing their homosexuality. Could it be that people here have that same locker room mentality because they are repressing their homophobia instead?

And is that (as I believe) progress?
« Last Edit: March 03, 2011, 02:38:41 PM by Balu »



Balu

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Obviously this forum is repressing free speech, which is completely applicable to a privately-owned online venue.

It is if you want said privately-owned online venue to be something more than six guys agreeing with each other.



ElectricPaladin

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Look, right now we're all just pissing into the dark (whistling in the wind? I dunno...). We have no facts. All this started when I said "it seems to me that stories about gay/lesbian - especially lesbian - characters get a lot of one-line negativity" but I don't have any real facts to back me up. I don't have the time to go through all the back threads and reread every thread about a story that features homosexual characters and see. If someone who isn't as busy as I am would like to do that, I'd welcome the injection of reality into this conversation.

That said (and I'm going to put this in bold, because it's important), nobody ever objected to stories about gay characters receiving negative feedback. Of course stories about gay characters should receive negative feedback! All stories should receive both positive and negative feedback - that's the point of a feedback forum! If you can find me a post that contradicts me here, I'd be happy to eat one of my hats. Or possibly Balu's hat.

What bothered me and others was the character of the feedback. There's useful negative feedback - "I thought this story was too thematically cluttered," "I didn't like the way the author wrote dialogue," "I couldn't connect to the narrator" - and then there's feedback that is useless and kind of suspect. Feedback that seems to express some kind of bias, like "there are so many stories about lesbians on this podcast! I'm ready to stop listening," "it's so boring to read something that turns someone else on," and "yawn."

I think the moderators - this is conjecture - were reacting to the negativity by closing the thread because they want to keep the forums a welcoming place to gay listeners. Let's be honest here - when a thread starts comparing lesbians to T-Rexs it may have crossed a line. Remember that in addition to a privately-owned venue, this is a venue for discussing stories. Other neat discussions are gravy. If the gravy gets too fatty, we may cut it from our diet for the sake of our hearts.

Or something. I think my metaphor left.

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eytanz

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Ok, I'm going to be explicit about this because I'm losing my patience.

The previous thread was closed for two reasons.

- The first is that the original poster's comments were not about a particular story but a critique of editorial policy which specifically requested that a certain group be represented less (electricpaladin says this in a bit more detail in the post just about this one, if anyone doesn't understand what I mean). EA does not make editorial decisions based on quotas of particular population, either in a positive ("we must include more lesbians!") or a negative ("we must not include so many lesbians!") way, and this policy is not up for debate.

- The second reason is the response to the original poster started out reasonable but shifted to people just piling on mockery. That was actually the bigger issue of the two as far as I was concerned. The original poster got his answers from the editors, and there was no need for anyone else to continue going on on the topic.

And since people seem to want to continue to debate this, this topic has been relocated to metachat.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2011, 04:17:33 PM by eytanz »



Heradel

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And it can be freely discussed here, but not in ways that are or do appear to be intolerant.

Which is ridiculous. Anything can appear to be intolerant. If I was crazy enough it might appear to me that you're all ganging up on me because I'm Jewish.

Would that mean that you should nod meekly and agree with whatever I say? After all, if you didn't you would appear to be intolerant.

But that lesbian thread was interesting for all kinds of other reasons too. Consider the level of self-righteous over reaction on display. In many places you get a similar sort of nonsense from people who are repressing their homosexuality. Could it be that people here have that same locker room mentality because they are repressing their homophobia instead?

And is that (as I believe) progress?

Well, I put appear because it's an online forum, and we can't look into the minds of all of the posters and divine their true heart. All we have is the text of the posts, and what we all read into them. Look, the poster that started this whole ball rolling has insisted to me that there was no hostile intent, and I take them at their word. The forums are meant to be a welcoming place for everyone, and that means that we need to curb speech that could make it unwelcoming to certain groups.

My day job is in journalism, I am a huge fan of the 1st amendment. The balancing act between free speech and being open and welcoming is a very tricky one. This case involved sexuality, but if someone was being anti-semitic or attacking conservative Christians we would step in.

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Scattercat

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Oh, for pity's sake, are we really going to rehash the "You have to tolerate intolerance or else you're intolerant" crap?  The other thread had a really unfortunate opening post that was basically complaining about too many icky gay people and accusing the editors of somehow favoring lesbians over other groups because they appeared in a statistically appropriate number of stories.  It was closed because of people like me unable to resist making fun of the poor sap who inadvertently posted a really demeaning diatribe against gay people. 

This thread is just a stunt because Internet Libertarians can't handle the idea of trolls being told to sit down and shut up.  (To clarify, I'm the troll here.)  Turning "This thread is getting really negative and everything that needs to be said has been said" into "You can't discuss sexuality or disagree with the orthodoxy" displays a near-pathological need to rebel against perceived authority.  Get over it, please.



Listener

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I think everything goes through cycles. Right now we're in a cycle where there's been several stories close together with lesbian protagonists. The cycle will end, as all cycles do.

I too noticed it, but... eh... (a) I write my own fair share of stories about lesbians (and have had two published) so I don't have any stones to throw here (even if I wanted to, which I don't) and (b) I'm not the editor. If I don't like a story, I won't listen to it, or I'll just comment on it on the forums.

However, I also had problems with two of the last lesbian-protagonist stories that ran on EP, for different reasons. Neither was related to sexual orientation. With one, I just didn't care about the characters, and with the other I was unhappy with the resolution. But if a person doesn't like a story, s/he might search for more reasons not to like it, or make spurious connections such as "I didn't like the last five stories I read with lesbian protagonists; therefore, I don't like stories with lesbian protagonists."

Over on Podcastle during this period, don't forget, we had "The Bear in the Cable-Knit Sweater", which featured a cast of gay men.

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Balu

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Oh, for pity's sake, are we really going to rehash the "You have to tolerate intolerance or else you're intolerant" crap?  The other thread had a really unfortunate opening post that was basically complaining about too many icky gay people and accusing the editors of somehow favoring lesbians over other groups because they appeared in a statistically appropriate number of stories.

Nobody has said anything about 'icky gay people' apart from your good self.

All that guy said was that the statistically improbable amount of lesbians on EP makes it tough for him to maintain his suspension of disbelief. I don't share his sensitivities but I know what he means. There was an author I had to stop reading a few years back because she kept using the word 'simply'. It's no big deal but after a while it becomes as irritating as a dripping tap.




Balu

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I think everything goes through cycles. Right now we're in a cycle where there's been several stories close together with lesbian protagonists. The cycle will end, as all cycles do.

I too noticed it, but... eh... (a) I write my own fair share of stories about lesbians (and have had two published) so I don't have any stones to throw here (even if I wanted to, which I don't) and (b) I'm not the editor. If I don't like a story, I won't listen to it, or I'll just comment on it on the forums.

However, I also had problems with two of the last lesbian-protagonist stories that ran on EP, for different reasons. Neither was related to sexual orientation. With one, I just didn't care about the characters, and with the other I was unhappy with the resolution. But if a person doesn't like a story, s/he might search for more reasons not to like it, or make spurious connections such as "I didn't like the last five stories I read with lesbian protagonists; therefore, I don't like stories with lesbian protagonists."

It strikes me that some authors slap on a coat of gay as an alternative to creating a naturally colourful character.

This is especially obvious when you think about authors who don't take this lazy way out. Jeschonek's Bear in a Cable Knit Sweater was great because the character was gay and a lot of other things besides.

In other stories I get the feeling that gay is the character and that's that.

« Last Edit: March 03, 2011, 10:07:50 PM by Balu »



ElectricPaladin

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I think everything goes through cycles. Right now we're in a cycle where there's been several stories close together with lesbian protagonists. The cycle will end, as all cycles do.

I too noticed it, but... eh... (a) I write my own fair share of stories about lesbians (and have had two published) so I don't have any stones to throw here (even if I wanted to, which I don't) and (b) I'm not the editor. If I don't like a story, I won't listen to it, or I'll just comment on it on the forums.

However, I also had problems with two of the last lesbian-protagonist stories that ran on EP, for different reasons. Neither was related to sexual orientation. With one, I just didn't care about the characters, and with the other I was unhappy with the resolution. But if a person doesn't like a story, s/he might search for more reasons not to like it, or make spurious connections such as "I didn't like the last five stories I read with lesbian protagonists; therefore, I don't like stories with lesbian protagonists."

It strikes me that some authors slap on a coat of gay as an alternative to creating a naturally colourful character.

This is especially obvious when you think about authors who don't, like Jeschonek. Stories like Bear in a Cable Knit Sweater are great because the character is gay rather than gay being the character.

See, that was the problem with the original thread. Nobody said that. There was a lack of deep, genuine critique and a wealth of vague, shallow, and suspiciously irrelevant critique.

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Scattercat

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The merits of the original post are not really relevant to this thread.  The original thread's complaints ("Too many lesbians") were thoroughly answered ("It's not purposeful.  We don't buy stories based on the presence or absence of a given sexuality" and "You notice gay characters because gay is 'weird' to you, but it's not 'weird' to others.  Complaining about too many gay characters would be like complaining about too many straight characters.") 

The mods shut down that thread because everyone was piling on the OP for making a not-very-useful point in a really bad way that more or less boiled down to "Gay people ew."  You made this thread to complain about that thread getting shut down, and you accused the mods of stifling free discourse and negating the ability of opposing viewpoints to express themselves.  This is blatant nonsense and required you to ignore or misread repeated statements from the forum moderators and editorial staff.

Ergo, what?  Also, stop strawmanning the place up.



NoraReed

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But that lesbian thread was interesting for all kinds of other reasons too. Consider the level of self-righteous over reaction on display. In many places you get a similar sort of nonsense from people who are repressing their homosexuality. Could it be that people here have that same locker room mentality because they are repressing their homophobia instead?

I was reacting that way because I'm sick of dealing with homophobic and sexist bullshit everywhere I go on the internet, including "tolerant" and "progressive" places, both from people who can't look past homosexuality to see that those people are a whole person and from people who tell me I'm getting hysterical every time I don't bother to spare their feelings every time I point out that they're being misogynistic.

See also "You're just being overemotional" and "You're just oversensitive" in Derailing For Dummies for more information, and keep in mind that those of us who feel strongly about this issue deal with your shit all the time and that nothing you say is original. Like, imagine your name is Dora, and every time you meet someone new they make a Dora the Explorer joke, and you're really fucking sick of it. Well, dealing with people who say things like "I'm not homophobic but I don't want to see (gay people doing whatever)" or "Geez you're overreacting so much to X" whenever we state our opinions is kind of like that, only our opinions are deeply held beliefs that we've spent significant time refining (I read a shitload of feminist blogs and basically majored in feminism).

For another comparison, it's sort of like being a biologist or paleontologist who is constantly surrounded by young earth creationists. And they are expected to explain their scientific background to every person who questions them. And when they get frustrated they are told they are hysterical.

Or, to put it differently:



Balu

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The merits of the original post are not really relevant to this thread.  The original thread's complaints were thoroughly answered

The problem was that the central observation ( if 5% of the general population are lesbians, why are 10% of EP's protagonists lesbians?) wasn't addressed.

It could be that lesbians are seen as avante garde and therefore more science fictiony. It could be that slapping on a coat of gay is seen as a way to brighten up dull characters. It could be that the editor just likes reading about lesbians. Or it could be something else entirely.

The problem is that, rather than think, a bunch of nervous people started desperately trying to prove how unhomophobic they were.



ElectricPaladin

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See also "You're just being overemotional" and "You're just oversensitive" in Derailing For Dummies for more information, and keep in mind that those of us who feel strongly about this issue deal with your shit all the time and that nothing you say is original. Like, imagine your name is Dora, and every time you meet someone new they make a Dora the Explorer joke, and you're really fucking sick of it. Well, dealing with people who say things like "I'm not homophobic but I don't want to see (gay people doing whatever)" or "Geez you're overreacting so much to X" whenever we state our opinions is kind of like that, only our opinions are deeply held beliefs that we've spent significant time refining (I read a shitload of feminist blogs and basically majored in feminism).

Because we're being all frank and stuff, I'm going to be contrarian and say that I've never found this argument very helpful. Frankly, I've always found it more than a little derailing, itself. I fail to see how it's helpful to tell someone "I'm so sick of your shit that I can't be bothered to talk to you." It's a totally valid place to be, emotionally, but I don't see how it contributes to the discourse. Your opinions are deeply held beliefs... but so are his, and mine, and Scattercat's, and almost every other person who has been on earth for any significant length of time past the end of adolescence. Saying "I majored in this" and "I've thought about this a lot" as though it meant that another's opinions are invalid doesn't accomplish anything, it just puts people on the defensive.

Or, think about it this way: I (like everyone else) once held a lot of opinions that I don't anymore. I (again, like everyone else) changed my mind because of the people I encountered. I had a open mind, and they had open mouths. If they'd said "shut up, you're wrong, and I don't have time for your well-intentioned but ignorant bullshit" I'd probably still be a much bigger jerk than I am today.

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eytanz

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I'm a bit confused here, electricpaladin - are you responding to what Norareed said or to the manner in which she said it? She was being extremely confrontational, which, while justifiable, is also not particularly helpful. But what she said did not seem very problematic to me.



ElectricPaladin

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I'm a bit confused here, electricpaladin - are you responding to what Norareed said or to the manner in which she said it? She was being extremely confrontational, which, while justifiable, is also not particularly helpful. But what she said did not seem very problematic to me.

How so? I think I made it pretty clear what I found problematic about her statement; I'm eager to hear how you disagree with me.

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eytanz

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I just don't see it; "you're overreacting" isn't a deeply set belief, it's a dismissal of someone else's opinion. Her point about how many times she's heard it is somewhat orthogonal to her main point; it was just as dismissive the first time she heard it.



Scattercat

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I'm a bit confused here, electricpaladin - are you responding to what Norareed said or to the manner in which she said it? She was being extremely confrontational, which, while justifiable, is also not particularly helpful. But what she said did not seem very problematic to me.

I think ElecPal was basically saying that while it's understandable that someone would get testy after a daily barrage of the same nonsense, it still doesn't help to actually be testy at people.  That is, it's an explanation, but not much of a justification.

@Balu - I see no reason why 5% of the population can't have 10% of the starring roles in a particular subsection of stories.  Couple of things:  First, this is a trend, not an editorial policy.  Things run in streaks.  Recall the numbers from the original thread; a similar percentage of stories in the same time period were by Tim Pratt, and another significant percentage involved goats.  Stuff happens and it's not always smooth grade-school style turn-taking.  Second, ten percent is still a tiny fraction of the total amount of stories, and any claim that such a trend involves a dominant or overpowering amount is nonsense on the face of it.  This is why everyone assumed that the OP had some... other issues at stake, since while others might have noticed an uptick in the trend of lesbian protagonists, it didn't bother them particularly.

If a given story uses a gay character as shock value only, then you can certainly point out that story and say, "Hey, this character here has no traits other than being gay.  What gives?"  The presence of a 10% lesbian quotient is irrelevant to that discussion in any particular story.  If this podcast featured nothing BUT lesbian protagonists, it would STILL be irrelevant, because BEING GAY IS NOT A WEIRD OR NOTEWORTHY THING.  The only reason a character's sexuality should be raised as a criticism against a story is if that sexuality is used in a lazy or exploitative manner.  Make your case on individual stories.  The editors have ALL reassured you that there is no particular policy or political statement intended in the upward-trending percentage of lesbian protagonists, and basically the only reason to keep arguing at this point is because you've got some sort of weird axe to grind with people of different sexualities or if you think that there's some bizarre conspiracy at play.