What a long, strange trip it’s been, my friends.
I’ve spent the past five days in the gorgeous wilderness of southern Oregon with my good friend Chris Crawford and his wife Kathy, catching up on my rest, hiking, and working on the next two books in my WAVE series (as M. J. Locke! Coming soon! Well, OK; in a year or three). Before much more time passed, I wanted to respond to the people who requested the video or a transcript of my speech.
The 2015 Hugo Awards are now online, in four parts. My acceptance is at 2:11:30, near the end of Part 2.
Here is the transcript:
Tonight, I honor Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Tricia Sullivan, Athena Andreadis, Rachel Manija Brown, Kari Sperring, Liz Williams, Hesychasm, Cindy Pon, and the many others targeted for abuse, whose experiences I documented in my report last fall. They’re great writers and bloggers—read their works!
Thanks go to those who stood up for them: Tade Thompson, Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Pat Cadigan, Sherwood Smith, and Nalo Hopkinson. Read their works too!
Thanks also to those who helped me with my research behind the scenes. You know who you are, and we wouldn’t be here with you, either. Thanks to George RR Martin, who boosted me for this award, and to all who voted for me.
I wrote my report out of love for this community. Out of a rejection of abusive behavior and the language of hate. There’s room for all of us here. But there is no middle ground between “we belong here” and “no you don’t,” which is what I hear when people disrespect members of our community. I believe we must find non-toxic ways to discuss our conflicting points of view. I plan to keep working toward that, in ways true to my own values and lived experiences. And I hope you all will, too. Science fiction and fantasy literature is our common bond and our common legacy. It belongs to all of us. Those who deny that do great harm.
I see our conflict as a reflection of a much larger societal struggle, as Robert Silverberg referred to, and I stand with people from marginalized groups who seek simply to be seen as fully human. Black lives matter. Thank you.
This past year has been brutal, for so many of us. In a conversation recently, a friend asked me what my primary communities of identity were, and at the question I felt a great upwelling of grief. The two communities I love most have been so fraught. It feels awful to be at odds with those with whom I have so much else in common. My fellow progressives and I have been beleaguered and under assault, simply because we are (as the Puppies’ actions have made very clear) the Wrong Sorts of People, and I put the progressive community under further strain with my report. It was absolutely necessary. But it wasn’t fun.
After such a painful journey, the Hugo awards came as a big validation. SFF fandom Gets It. They delivered a clear message. What the Puppies did was wrong. Their ballot-stuffing effort was an act of contempt, pure and simple. They tried to brand everyone who disagreed with them as this absurd caricature of progressive thought, creating a false binary out of a large, politically and demographically diverse group of people.
Conservatism isn’t intrinsically racist or sexist or other-ist. At its heart, the conservative belief system rests on a desire for stability and the preservation of one’s heritage. And there are many things I want to preserve about our SFF legacy. But when the status quo is infused with unfair power differentials—enforced through unexamined biases, prejudice, and stereotyping of people whose reality they don’t see—then those aspects of the status quo must go.
The science is clear, and it backs up the claims of social-justice advocates. White supremacy, patriarchy, and ableism are real, as are other forms of prejudice, and those attitudes are deeply destructive to equality, democracy, and fair play. The farther away you get on the Venn diagram from the white, male, straight, cis-gendered, slender, and physically or mentally able/ normative identities, the tougher you have it. These cultural biases, burned deep into our psyches, with all their various manifestations across the world, have done great harm to many, many people.
(And if you truly believe you have no biases, and don’t believe all this social-justice crap, then I challenge you to take the Harvard Implicit Association Test for yourself. See how you fare, in association tests of gender, sexuality, race, size, age, and other metrics.)
Those who voted for me stood up also against weaponizing social-justice concepts and using them for personal gain. I was deeply grateful—particularly when those votes came from the progressive community, because it came at a personal cost, surrounded as we are by those who deny the truth of our claims of bias that harm us, some of whom have tried to use my report to deny that reality.
And frankly, anger belongs in the cause of social justice; yes: anger is an appropriate response to abuse. Resistance; yes. Civil disobedience. Without these, we wouldn’t live in a world in which women have the vote. I am a feminist out of deep gratitude for the women who fought to enfranchise us. I support Black Lives Matter, because parents shouldn’t have to worry that their kids are going to be killed when they go to the corner store for Skittles, or get slammed to the pavement with a knee in the back for going swimming. People shouldn’t have to worry about being arrested (and later found dead) for changing lanes while black.
Protest has brought important and necessary change around the world. To foster change, we must make people uncomfortable. Confronting one’s biases doesn’t happen without a good, long look in the mirror. And it isn’t fair, because those who enforce the status quo don’t need to make anyone uncomfortable, or challenge their biases—whereas those of us trying to effect change do. And so, simply by trying to point out these biases, we often get cast as bad guys, as caricatures of who we really are. It sucks, to be offered the choice between accepting our chains by pretending they aren’t there, to avoid making others uncomfortable, or to be seen as disruptive—as monstrous—for pointing them out.
A kind of despair can set in. A voice in the back of our minds tells us if we must be cast as monsters, so be it: since we can’t have justice, we might as well tear the walls of the world down. But the price of following that path is too high. At best, we end up simply swapping out the people at the top of the oppression pyramid; at worst, we end up amid smoking ruin. I want to find another path. One in which we tell truths that must be told, with room for people to have a change of heart. To learn and grow.
The fact is, it’s not any one person’s fault that these oppressive structures we inhabit exist, and no one person can solve it alone, no matter how much individual privilege we have. The biases and prejudices we hold and their impacts are a tragedy-of-the-commons problem, and therefore the solution must be a collective one. We must act together. We must build coalitions across our intersectional divides. We must settle on fair community norms. And the global SFF community is well-positioned in this effort. Storytelling—especially science fiction and fantasy literature—is all about imagining the improbable. And studies show that people who read fiction for pleasure have, by and large, higher social intelligence and greater capacity for empathy than others. Reading teaches us to care about others, no matter how different their appearances and customs may be from our own.
I have hope that we can learn to overcome our biases. The Hugo outcomes themselves spoke volumes to me, but there was more. One friend of mine, for instance, attended the Writing Diverse Characters panel. Later she told me that it was standing-room-only. And it was not merely women, people of color, LGBTQI people, and other marginalized groups, who might be expected to attend out of personal interest, but also many, many men, from the young to the old. The room was brimming with nerdy, whiskered white guys who were there not to argue or mansplain or whitesplain, but simply to listen and learn. Some might not understand or agree with all the concepts of social justice; some might not know the language we have developed through years of study and dialogue or know where they’re tripping up when they do… but they’re open-minded. Curious. Willing to explore. Those are my people, too.
In the end, we don’t win this struggle with hate. We win it with curiosity, joy, honesty, persistence, resistance, and love.
#RequiresLove (h/t Nalo)