Posted in Neural Spasm, Scribe's Scribbles

Is this really so bad?

We are living in an age, at least in some countries, where this image

SFWA_200coupled with an opinion piece with not enough PC jargon, is enough to have an editor resign.


Seeing a female barbarian in a chain mail bikini is so offensive to some people that the resulting controversy caused the edition’s editor to resign.

One forum contributor suggested that it wasn’t so much the chain mail and sword, but that she was wearing a bikini that was absurd. To which I posted the contrary opinion…

I realize my comments will be unpopular, but…

Is it really so much more absurd than so much of the other stuff that’s out there? I mean Conan fighting with only a loincloth? 100-year old vampires sleeping with 16-year old girls as a romance?  Magic? The bible? Middle-age male characters who are not balding?

Do you really want that we censor things just because they’re absurd? Because everything is absurd to someone. If no one had said anything about the cover, then it would have died away with no concern to anyone.

After all, is not everyone entitled to their opinion, their likes and dislikes, even if you disagree with them? Instead, this particlular controversy wastes a lot of time and energy for no real benefit and leads to greater censorship.

I’m all for developing diversity in writing, especially sci-fi, which can get locked into certain tropes. I think the genre can only benefit from more people with different backgrounds and interests being involved. But that needs to be done through developing new authors and fostering the interests of the new generation, male and female, not through censorship.

Something else you might consider (although by no means a reason against diversity), awareness of female issues and increasing the number of female authors/readers in a genre does not guarentee higher quality or greater social equality of the work. It just changes the tropes to favour female fantasies (like in Twilight, Hunger Games and almost every other popular YA series, where readership is dominated by females. Not to mention the romance genre–I’m not the only one who considers it emotional p*rn).

To another blog I suggested:

Regarding the SFWA bulletin cover. I can see the point of the complaints to some extent, but like Mike Resnik’s sentiment –> if you don’t like it, ignore it. I think society has changed enough that we should have room for all tastes, even those who like pictures of generic warrior women. I mean, how often do men complain, or start protests, over Mills and Boon covers? Books that almost always feature scantily-clad, buff men. How often do you see a realistic middle-aged man, complete with balding head and bulging belly, on a romance cover? Only if it’s a parody or some beauty and the beast trope.

This, in my opinion, is the real issue. Certain groups forcing one side of the issue on others. After all, this is the 200th issue of the bulletin. How many other issues feature scantily clad women / men? How many featured space ships, how many had aliens, or generic space cities? You can pick any topic you want to complain about [ed. issue #198 had a semi-nude humanoid child], but I don’t understand why people wouldn’t want to spend their time and energy on more important things.

If you don’t like a book’s cover, or the subject matter, vote with your wallet. If you think there isn’t enough female representation in science fiction, devote your time and energy to encouraging girls to develop an interest. You can’t force meaningful change in a few years, but you might succeed in a generation or two of properly focussed attention. By which time we’ll be complaining of generic male warriors and, as mentioned, the already overused trope of the girl who has to choose between two guys (I’m already sick of it… maybe I should start a campaign against objectivization of males in YA novels).

Because, as far as I see it, we are in the 21st century. That means we should have reached the stage where we can respect opinions and interests different from our own without getting offended. We can have informed discussions with those of contrary opinion without threatening harm to them.

Perhaps this is an ideal world I dream of (the news suggests this is the case), but it’s still an ideal I strive toward. I think what was most disheartening to me about this issue was that it was authors who caused it. Authors who depend on being able to express their own opinions without fear of censorship or ostracization by those with a different opinion. Yet many seem unable to offer others the same courtesy.

So yes, disagree with people, discuss you views, talk, debate, write editorials and forum entries. But in the end, everyone has a right to their opinion, and that’s all this represents, someone else’s, opinion.

Insight and longevity



I'm a writer, publisher, digital artist and web designer. As chief editor of Utility Fog Press I've been responsible for the publication of three anthologies.

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