Category: RaceFail (page 1 of 2)

More on Moon at Wiscon: UPDATED 10/4

Since the WisCon ConCom released their statement on the issue, there have been several important posts written about the situation, and I hope you’ll read through them:

What I want by Nisi Shawl

Thoughts on Elizabeth Moon and the Wiscon ConCom’s Response by Tithenai

Elizabeth Moon, Wiscon, and the Responsibility of Dissent by Nojojojo

radix by Hermetic


After reading the new essays I’ve listed below, I can’t help but change my mind: Moon should be disinvited, outright, and I’m ashamed it took me this long, and reading this much hurt, for me to come to that conclusion. I’ll be sending another email to the WisCon Concom, making the request that she be removed.

WisCon and what we mean when we talk about institutionalized power by Yeloson

Wiscon + Moon + Things Certain People Do by Seeking Avalon’s Willow

Walking Back by Nojojojo

Raising the Bar by K. Tempest Bradford (These other two posts of Tempest’s are also really, really worth reading)

Over the weekend, I also spoke with a source I trust who told me that this is only one more example they’ve seen firsthand of lousy, bigoted behavior on Moon’s behalf over the last several years. I’ll still be attending, as I want to support Nisi in her time of celebration, because I loved the Tiptree-award-winning Filter House, because her book Writing the Other was a tremendous help to me in writing my own books, and for even more reasons that’ll eventually become clear. But damn, WisCon. You’d really better shape up. There are an increasing number of attendees on the verge of letting you die on the vine for this kind of behavior. I’ve got a reason to go this year, but unless I see some evidence that’ll change my mind, it may be my last.

Elizabeth Moon: Overdue

On the anniversary of 9/11, author Elizabeth Moon wrote a blogpost that started out sounding like a decent essay on citizenship and responsibility but quickly devolved into what can best be described as Islamophobia. This makes me sad on so many levels, because I’d always seen Moon held up by writers I respect as being a bastion of intellect and common sense in troubled times. I was looking forward to reading her books, especially Speed of Dark, which was recommended to me by several people I respect. Now I think I must apply Cat Valente’s fuckmuppet principle. (It goes without saying that I disagree with the sum total of Moon’s post, and fully support the building of the Park51 cultural center in its currently planned location.)

Several other authors have written profoundly important essays on their reaction to Moon’s post, and I want to recommend these four especially:

Dissimilation by shweta_narayan

All Right. by shvetufae

…the native peoples had the most troubles with the immigrants… by sanguinity

Non-violence for thee but not for me by sajia

(hat tip to both delux-vivens and asim for the links)

As usual, I agree wholeheartedly with the ever-wise Woodrow Hill, in his posts here here and here. I’m still torn on whether Moon should remain as Guest of Honor at Wiscon, as I feel her comments go directly against the grain of everything that convention stands for (though the tradition has been to have two GoHs per con, I think Nisi Shawl could GoH Solo quite handily), but I do hope that if she’s kept on, we can use the occasion of her appearance as grounds for a lot of discussion and education, and have emailed the ConCom with that same request. Without an apology, I can’t see myself sticking around for her GoH speech, though. Which is, again, a pity, because last year’s from Mary Ann Mohanraj was one of the most memorable speeches I’ve ever heard in my life.

Dang, SF. Get it together.

A voice for Neli

The next time somebody has the audacity to claim that we’re “post-racial” now as a society, point them to this heartbreaking story about a young black man with autism who was arrested for sitting on the grass, and imprisoned and roughed up for eleven days.


Rotten Tomatoes on the Avatar: The Last Airbender movie. Paul would like to point out that Marmaduke is currently scored twice as high, at a still-abysmal 10% fresh.

Also, These other articles are worth reading.

Compare and contrast

This post


This one.

I’m posting these because I’ve said similar things to those that trochai expressed in his essay, even as recently as this last weekend at WisCon. I needed a good reality check on processing, and who to process around. Processing needs to happen, yes. But processing needs to happen in appropriate places, and around appropriate people, and one really needs to take a good hard look at the processing as it’s happening, because even as it’s coming out of your mouth you’re realizing why it’s going wrong, and why you need to process more. Most of the reason for my lack of posting this past year is because I’ve been processing a lot. Some conversations at WisCon I participated in this year made me realize I’ve still got a lot of processing left to go — I’m finding that I learn a hell of a lot from people’s silences — but also that I’m making progress. So yeah. Processing my processing.

Why I won’t be watching either Avatar movie

There are currently two movies with the word “Avatar” in the title: The first just won three Oscars and ranks as the highest grossing film of all time, and the second is on the way. The current blockbuster can best be summed up as “Dances with Smurfs,” and I don’t really have much more to say about it because I haven’t seen it and probably never will, but the upcoming movie strikes very close to my heart.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is the single best animated series I’ve ever seen. It was created for kids aged 6-11, but it reduced both Paul and I to tears on multiple occasions, and we watched several discs straight through, nonstop, because we were utterly captivated by the story. The writing is that good. The characters are that good. The setting is that good.

And the setting is what makes the series so truly unique. It’s set in a mythical land, but not the usual Celtoid McEurope we’re used to seeing in thousands of other fantasies. The land, its peoples, and its history are all based on different Asian countries, along with Greenland Inuit culture. It’s a rare and beautiful demonstration of “appropriate cultural appropriation” — where two white guys created an outstanding work of storytelling art that’s set entirely in non-European cultures, and told it with research, empathy, and effort.

So. You’d think I’d be thrilled about the movie, right? Wrong.

The movie producers have gone out of their way to strip out the definitively Asian influences, starting with the cast. In a stunning display of modern yellowface, the movie team cast white kids as the three heroes, and Dev Patel, the former star of Slumdog Millionaire as Prince Zuko, who serves as the villain for the first two-thirds of the series. They also stripped out the authentic Chinese script that serves as the written language for all four nations, replacing it instead with fake mystical writing. The costumes, the backgrounds, the nations’ very identities, all the details that make the series a tribute to Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Tibetan and Inuit cultures are gone in favor of hollow, generic Hollywood artifice.

The movie action figures — which are, of course, white to reflect the new cast — only compound the problem. Sure, I can finally get a Katara now, but she looks absolutely nothing whatsoever like the strong, annoying, motherly, fierce, Inuit character I fell so much in love with. (This is actually the one place where the original Nickelodeon series really falls down hard: you can buy a zillion Aang action figures, a whole bunch of Zukos, a good-sized handful of Sokkas, and even get multiple figures of minor characters like King Bumi, Admiral Zhao, and even that loser Jet. But how about the girls? You know, fifty percent of the original team? Nothing. Zero. Oh wait, I take that back. Since I started writing this post, you can now get a plush Katara dollie. ‘Cause girls love dollies, right? Seriously, I would kill for a Toph action figure for my cube, to put next to Nausicaa and Steelheart and Gran’ma Ben in my Hall of Kickass Cartoon Women.)

It’s a huge betrayal, and A:TLA fans haven’t been taking it lying down. Ever since the first casting call went out, sites like and Aang Ain’t White have been leading the protests. Even Roger Ebert weighed in against the casting choice.

Unfortunately, however, Hollywood isn’t taking the protests lying down, either. First, movie producers ignored and returned over 200 protest letters, then Viacom censored’s t-shirts on Zazzle, and the latest insult comes from Facebook, who shut down the Racebending group. I guess they must feel threatened by a bunch of fans peacefully, civilly and articulately protesting an unfair casting choice, as opposed to all the other questionable groups they permit. (ETA: The group’s been restored [amidst further protest, of course]).

All this is just another example of the danger of a single story, and if you only click on one link in this post, make it this one. What a sad big-screen debut for such a wonderful series. No matter how awesome the special effects are (and I don’t doubt they will be amazing), no amount of fancy CG can make up for the lousy changes the movie producers made to the original, and the spectacle just simply isn’t worth the betrayal.

I should have linked to this sooner, but —

— Kudos to Pam Noles for this post, responding to an interview with Kevin O’Neill. I realize the possible hypocrisy of me criticizing Kevin O’Neill in this instance, given that my last story also contains a racist doll, but at least I don’t deny that when the automaton was created it definitely had racist overtones, regardless of how many other ways it was used or how else it contributed to scientific discovery.

It also bears mentioning that in her earlier essays, Pam never said “Don’t use the Golliwog.” What she did say is this:

As I’ve said before, writing is research, empathy and effort; anything in the world is on deck as potential source material. But if you’re going to take on something as culturally loaded as blackface or minstrelsy, a footnote needs to be included – you’ve got to have your A-Game on. Like dealing with a select few other extremely thorny topics, this is not something one should go into without awareness. If you are a current day person choosing to toy with this construct, going into it with scant knowledge of or ignoring the big picture, is so unwise. If you choose to work with this trope willfully blind and you screw it up, you deserve whatever level of invective comes your way. You must proceed with awareness.

And this is why I love Pam’s big beautiful brain so much.

I know I’ve linked to it before, but it’s worth the redundancy: go read her full series of essays on the Golliwog in the Black Dossier.

Nora K. Jemisin tells it like it is

Remember that N.K. Jemisin post I linked to a couple days ago? Livejournaler Delux-Vivens linked to one of Jemisin’s later comments that I hadn’t seen, and I want to make note of it, because I think it’s a really excellent rebuttal to “The Tone Argument“:

Yes, I think the “quiet reasoning” would’ve been missed without the “angry” posts. But I’m putting scare quotes around these for two reasons a) because the “quiet reasoning” posts were angry too; very likely every cogent and persuasive post you saw was written by someone trembling with fury and struggling to be coherent. And b) because I don’t recall seeing a single “angry” post that didn’t make a reasonable point…


As for the danger of alienating people with good intentions — well, one of the things that I learned from RaceFail (and also from general experience) was that people with good intentions are the ones to fear most. The overt racists are easy to deal with. You can spot them coming a mile away. But the well-intentioned people are scarier. They might not intend harm, but in most cases they haven’t thought about all the racist (and other “-ist”) messages they’ve absorbed from society. They haven’t done the basic groundwork necessary to purge themselves of that passively-absorbed “-ism”. So they say the most incredibly hurtful, self-absorbed, and utterly useless things, then compound the problem by getting upset when they’re called on it. I liken these people to sleeper agents — they seem OK at first, but then they suddenly “activate” and stab you in the back, and then they come out of their fugue and freak because there’s blood on their hands and they don’t know how it got there and they refuse to accept that they’re the ones who put it there, OMG, OMG. Meanwhile, you’re on the floor bleeding out, unnoticed because of their histrionics.

I oughtn’t quote the whole comment here, but you should really go read the response in its entirety — and read this similar post as well. It’s yet more proof that Ms. Jemisin is a really smart and very talented writer, and gives you all the more reason to go buy her book. Not convinced yet? She has three sample chapters online at her blog.

A year later

Well, it’s been a year since RaceFail started. It’s been a rather difficult time for me; I’ve been uncharacteristically quiet because I’ve been learning an awful lot about myself (and my own work) that I’m still processing through. This isn’t a moment for feeling particularly good about that, for reasons that Avalon’s Willow and Deepa point out in their excellent posts — but there is reason for hope, and I’ll let N.K. Jemisin explain why.

Link dump

I read all three of these articles within about a 12-hour span. They all kind of tie in to the same theme, so I’m grouping them together:

“Fuck Them”: Times Critic On Hollywood, Women, & Why Romantic Comedies Suck (h/t to Rich Watson for this one)

Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants

Marvel’s Girl Comics Announced — The lineup sounds great, and I’ll most likely be picking up the series to support all my friends and acquaintances in the book… but dang, I’m with Johanna on this one:

I dream of a day when a comic created only by women doesn’t get tagged with a stupid title like Marvel’s Girl Comics. In fact, I dream of a time when it’s not even special enough to remark upon, instead of being some kind of attention-getting stunt that ends up resembling a plea for charity. “Please pay attention to us — look! we’re letting the women do superheroes!” But we’re not there yet, still.

Also, I saw two good articles describing hipster racism today, in regards to crafters. Anyone who’s stood within earshot of me knows that I’m all in favor of both DIY projects and art-for-art’s-sake — but these articles serve as a reminder that art (including your art’s “branding” and your own self-presentation) doesn’t exist in a societal vacuum. In addition to being responsible to our “artistic vision” or “muse” or whatever hackneyed metaphor we use to describe our inspiration, artists have to consider how our art affects those who receive it, no matter how cute or clever we think we’re being. (And yes, I’m feeling especially pricked by this article, because I used to think stuff like this was cute and funny, until I started looking at it with a more critical eye. So now it is my duty to spread The Gospel of Pants.)

RaceFail Meta

For those of you who skipped RaceFail 09 (and all its subsequent iterations, including MammothFail and EllisonFail, amongst others), Transformative Works and Cultures has an online symposium featuring a number of RaceFail participants. It’s a meta discussion (a discussion about the discussion), but unlike previous meta, this one is less about the what and who and more about the why and how — it outlines a lot of the types of reactions and arguments, and explains why they’re either successful or stupid and irritating. Or both. As such, it’s still a very good read even if you don’t know any of the writers or have anything invested in SF or media fandom.

So go. Read. I met (or heard speak) all of the contributors at WisCon this year, and was very impressed by each of them.

A link post.

Some people think AmazonFail was just a glitch, and that everyone overreacted. Some people don’t.

Woodrow “Asim” Hill wrote a very thoughtful entry on the torture memos, which sums up how I feel. In the comments, someone linked to this blog, written by a former military interrogator. I thought this post was especially worth reading, but most of his recent entries are very educational.

This post touches on why most of my post-RaceFail blogging has been linking to other articles. I am reading a lot of books and articles lately, but I don’t feel like my analysis would add anything — would most likely detract from it, in fact — so better the authors’ words on the subject than mine.

The Radical and the Republican, by James Oakes, is a really great book. Highly recommended.

Easter in Orange County is a long essay about suburban culture and Jewish identity, but it’s definitely worth your time to read. Alas, a Blog is turning out to be one of my favorite reads, lately. Hereville Barry Deutsch’s graphic novel (aka Ampersand, the primary blogger at Alas) and it’s also quite a good read.

Good Essay, on “Everyone’s a little bit racist”

From N.K. Jemisin (aka nojojo) over at Alas, a Blog.

On the term “Of Color”

I did some ego-surfing the other day, and in the process, saw some critique of my use of the terms “Persons of Color” and “Readers of Color” — someone even said they found the terms “despicable”.

So I thought I should probably post about why I started using these terms; they were new to me as well, as of a couple of months ago, but they were the accepted terminology used by the majority of writers during the Cultural Appropriation Debate that then spiraled into RaceFail 09, so I used the terms I was presented with.

Here’s a good explanation, from the The American Heritage&reg Book of English Usage:

Dissatisfaction with the implications of nonwhite as a racial label has contributed to the revival of the phrase person of color or similar terms, such as woman of color, based on the same construction. In effect, person of color stands nonwhite on its head, substituting a positive for a negative. Furthermore, the almost exclusive association in American English of colored with black—that is, with Americans of African descent—does not carry over to terms formed with “of color.” Indeed, the somewhat artificial sound of person of color serves to emphasize that something other than colored person is probably intended, so that when Jesse Jackson proclaims that “These are profound tendencies which strike at the middle class as well as the poor, at whites as well as people of color,” he is encouraging his audience to think more inclusively than if he had juxtaposed white with black. In this light, the term person of color and its related forms are welcome additions to the vocabulary of race and ethnicity.

There’s plenty of discussion in regards to this, so I’m keeping my ears open, and trying to be more aware of preferred terminology going forward, as well.

Lori Phanachone

From the Sioux City Journal:

Lori Phanachone is a member of the National Honor Society, has a 3.9 grade point average and ranks seventh in the senior class of about 119 at Storm Lake High School.

But school officials have told her she is considered to be illiterate based on her refusal to satisfactorily complete the English Language Development Assessment, a test she says is demeaning and racist.

On Wednesday, Phanachone finished serving three days of in-school suspension for what school administrators say is insubordination. She faces another three days for continuing her silent protest with a second refusal to take the test. According to a written statement presented to her Wednesday, Phanachone said, she could be suspended again and then expelled for a fourth refusal.

“Mr. Ruleaux (assistant principal Beau Ruleaux) told me I was ‘no Rosa Parks’ — that I should give up because I would not succeed in my protest,” Phanachone said.

The school district’s curriculum coordinator, Lori Porsche, said taking the test is mandatory because Phanachone indicated on her school registration that English was not the first language spoken in her home. Her parents are Laotian and still speak little English.

Phanachone, who was born in California and lived in upstate New York before moving to Storm Lake with her family in 2006, said she has never been enrolled in any English Language Learning or English as a Second Language program.

“Someone told me I should have put English as my first language when I registered for school,” Phanachone said. “But I refused. I will not deny who I am. And I will not disrespect my culture or my mother.”

Source article.

Here’s the contact info for the high school if you feel moved to protest.

Certainly observant, isn’t he?

So you may have noticed that there’s another page up this week.

In light of the overwhelming response from my readers, I’ve decided to keep the Clockwork Game archives online and run the remainder of the first chapter of the book. As things go along, I’ll add links and additional information to the footnotes and bibliography to help make up for what I consider gaps in my storytelling. After that — I’m still not sure, but after some very positive reviews from people whose opinions I trust, and a lot more heavy thinking, I’m reconsidering my stance on permanently ending the book. Let’s call it a hiatus for now; the end of the first chapter’s a good stopping point. In any event, I need to pull back and do a lot more reading and researching, then re-evaluate the first half of the book to see if it’s something I can fix to better match the much darker tone of the second half.

It’s not that I don’t want to discuss the ugly parts of history, or cover them over. Just the opposite, in fact: the problem I have with the script is that I’m don’t show enough of the ugliness of the time. I’ve unintentionally left issues unaddressed — important issues — like the fact that Kempelen was in charge of resettling areas of the Banat taken back from the Ottomans, that 18th century Europeans appropriated Turkish culture for both its stylishness and mysteriousness, and that the Austrian Empire was still at war with the Ottoman Empire, all of which undoubtedly contributed to Kempelen’s decision to dress the automaton as he did. Painting it as “just an automaton” — not presenting enough information about the cultural baggage surrounding its design in favor of a light story focusing only on man versus machine — now seems disingenuous to me. That’s the “framing within historical context” I’ve been talking about. I’m not sure if I can get enough of that information into the first half of the book as it stands now, at least not without redrawing huge chunks of it. I’m also not well-versed on these topics yet — not enough to make changes to the script until I’ve had the chance to better inform myself and become more confident in my understanding of the political and social pressures at play — and to get to that point, I’ve got to put the book on hold.

I also want to sincerely thank everyone who took the time and effort to comment or send email, with both positive and negative feedback. I had no idea that Clockwork Game had so many passionate, caring, intelligent readers — it’s meant so much to hear all your responses. Creating a webcomic is a high-wire act, and it’s humbling to discover there are so many people holding the net below me.

Because a call has gone out for accountability

I must side with the Readers of Color in this argument. I may not categorically agree with everything that has been said — every person participating is an individual, after all — but since I am already involved, it would be disingenuous for me not to publicly state where I stand.

However, I don’t feel comfortable saying anything more than this publicly right now, because I am working through a great deal of my own issues in private, trying to make tangible, lasting changes within myself by reading, listening and learning.

How not to behave after seeing Slumdog Millionaire

Via BossyMarmalade. I’m sending you there because I just don’t know what else to say about stuff like this.

I think I’ll be reading the book this movie’s based on, instead of seeing the movie.

More links to think about

Ciderpress’ profoundly important essay on being someone else’s “learning experience”.

A comment from that post, on being thanked for your oppression.

Another impressive post by Deepa D., followed by a tremendous set of quotes and poems and videos and song lyrics.

A comment from that post, on the “Fail Better” quotation I used earlier.

Comparing these links with my previous posts only highlights how much I still have to learn. This iteration of the Cultural Appropriation Debate ended with a whole lot of hurting, and little of it mine, save for the sting of self-recognition when other White people were acting like jackasses. Not acknowledging others’ hurt while leaving my last public statement on the matter essentially as oh wow I’m learning so much is a pretty lousy thing to do. Thank you, writers, for your bravery and honesty, and for taking the time and energy and personal risk in putting posts like these out there. Your work is so very important.

One more.

I was going to link to a few more posts, but Rydra_Wong pretty much has it covered, so if you want to keep following this discussion, just go on over there. Anything I have to add is only going to be tertiary metatext at this time, and my time’s a lot better spent working on my own issues than commenting on anybody else’s.

Reading list from the library: Orientalism by Edward Said and Osman’s Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire. Any other suggestions are welcome.

Older posts

© 2019 JanerBlog.

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑