Scalzi is Wrong

Scalzi has written his own response to the K. Tempest Bradford article about how we should stop reading white, straight men for a year. Or rather, he’s written a response to all of the people who thought it was bullshit, such as myself, a straight white male author (Christian, even) trying to break into the business.

Scalzi says this:

As with many headlines, it’s an unnuanced take of what the article actually is about, which is, as I saw it, to have readers challenge themselves by mindfully reading within a group of authors they may not been reading much of before, to experience different writing and to gain perspective on defaults in the publishing world.

No, it isn’t. Here is exactly what it is about, quoted from the article itself:

Then I thought: What if I only read stories by a certain type of author? Instead of reading everything, I would only look at stories by women or people of color or LGBT writers. Essentially: no straight, cis, white males.

Cutting that one demographic out of my reading list greatly improved my enjoyment of reading short stories.

She is not recommending that readers challenge themselves by “mindfully reading within a group of authors they may not been reading much of before”. She is saying that you should “only read stories by a certain type of author”: anybody not a straight white male.

(How can you tell a guy is straight from his name anyway? I know people who have relatives with the same name as them. I know in at least one case one is gay and one isn’t.)

Let’s go back to Scalzi. He says he already reads a diverse group of authors, so this is not an issue for him. But, when asked if he’s good with somebody else cutting out straight white male authors:

But if someone else does, for a year? Well, you know. I generally support reading more and different authors. If digging down specifically into a group of authors you’ve previously neglected or who were swamped out by other authors means you leave other writing aside for a while, I think that’s fine. Readers don’t owe any particular author a sale or even a read; they also don’t owe that author a sale or a read at a particular time.

Of course they don’t. But look at why Bradford is recommending that people stop reading books by a certain demographic of author. It is because she is worried she will be offended when she reads their stories. This isn’t me reading between the lines. Here she is, in her own article:

Because every time I tried to get through a magazine, I would come across stories that I didn’t enjoy or that I actively hated or that offended me so much I rage-quit the issue. Go through enough of that, and you start to resist the idea of reading at all.

Then I thought: What if I only read stories by a certain type of author? Instead of reading everything, I would only look at stories by women or people of color or LGBT writers. Essentially: no straight, cis, white males.

In other words: Her default assumption is that straight white men are bigots. She also assumes that the majority of straight white men don’t actually earn the awards or sales they get. Once again, her, not me:

If the majority of books being held up and pronounced Good and Worthy are by white, straight, cis men, it’s easy to slip into thinking that most good and worthy books are by authors that fit that description.

And, of course, that’s bull.

“Slowly but surely, the world is noticing that ‘meritocracy’ in the arts and entertainment industries is as fictitious as Westeros,” Govinnage says.

“Hold on,” you say, “She’s not saying that those books aren’t good, only that the publishers and reviewers aren’t paying attention to good books by minorities/marginalized groups. Not the same thing, right?” Ah, but not so fast. She also said this earlier in the article:

But just as important was reading, reading, and reading a lot more. And I tried. But every time I thought about delving into one of the many science fiction and fantasy magazines at my disposal, or even reading compilations of the “best” stories that had been nominated for and/or won awards, my brain resisted.

Yep: Straight white males are winning too many awards, and thus she started assuming it was because of bigotry.

To get back to Scalzi:

Also, some things to be made clear:

1. Tempest here isn’t saying never read another book by a straight white cis male ever again in this life or any other, which is a thing that seems to be strangely overlooked, with regard to this suggestion of hers.

No, it isn’t. Contrary to Scalzi’s belief, when I read Larry Correia’s original fisking I was very clear on what her suggestion was. When I re-read the article firsthand after his fisking I was not surprised by any new information. She’s been represented perfectly well.

2. She’s also not saying The Official Year of Not Reading Straight White Cis Male Authors begins March 1 at which point no one will read anything by these dudes. She’s suggesting a general idea which may be done — or not! — at the individual reader’s convenience. Even if a large number of people endeavor to read diversely, it will be on their own schedule

I know this, since I’m not an idiot.

3. Are any of us under the illusion that Tempest’s suggestion will galvanize the entire reading population of the world?

No, because we’re not idiots.

Look, Scalzi has a lot more in his article, but it’s generally just more of the same. He’s very deliberately massaging Bradford’s words to paint her article in a better light. The bigotry doesn’t come from her specific suggestion, but the reasoning she gives behind it.

If you want to know exactly what the problem is though, I’ll give it to you right here, from one of Scalzi’s posters, Pedro Dias:

Yeah, I read the piece yesterday, and immediately went to the to-read shelf to make sure I was being a good boy.

And there is our entire point in a nutshell.

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