Because it sure has offended some folks. There’s a major row going on within SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) right now over two things. One is this cover, to which many objected on the grounds that it’s sexist, has no place on the cover of a writer’s group’s publication, that it’s offensive to some members of the group, and so forth. (For the record, I am not and never have been a member of SFWA.)
It seems that Red Sonja-esque women in chain mail bikinis have no place in modern fantasy, at least as far as a certain segment of SFWA is concerned. SFWA purports to speak for a diversity of writers, which means sooner or later one subset will be offended by something. The question is to what extent does one person’s perceived right to be free from offending material infringe on someone else’s right of free speech or expression.
The other, and bigger, stink is over the Resnick-Malzberg Dialogues. This is a feature that has been running in the bulletin for years. Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg discuss various aspects of science fiction culture and history. Having lived through so much of the field’s history and having made some of it themselves, it’s always been a favorite feature of mine. (In case you’re wondering, the Bulletin isn’t restricted to members; anyone can buy a subscription. I’ve never subscribed, but I used to pick it up when it was available on the newsstand.)
The controversy started out with a two part discussion about female writers and editors in the past. Only they used a horribly offensive term….”lady”. And commented on how beautiful at least one woman editor was. I’ve not read this part of the Dialogues, so I can only go by what I’ve seen online in response to it. I don’t know how patronizing the use of the word “lady” was, so I’m not going to comment on it, at least not yet. If anyone would would be willing to send me either a hard copy or a scan of these two Dialogues, I would be quite appreciative. Resnick and Malzberg published a rebuttal (in this very issue, IIRC). They didn’t apologize; they defended themselves against what they viewed as censorship. I have read their response. It’s available here if you scroll down, along with links to many posts in which the author is offended at their rebuttal.
The response set off an even greater uproar, with many people using the word “assholes”. A lot. Yes, you read that correctly. A number of people are calling Resnick and Malzberg, two of the most acclaimed writers and editors in the field, assholes. Among other things. Much of what I’ve read (which isn’t everything) seems to consist of people offended that Resnick and Malzberg aren’t apologizing but standing their ground. One member has resigned over it. Outgoing SFWA President John Scalzi has issued an apology. I’m still trying to figure out just how much of a tempest in a tea pot this is, not having read the original articles. If I can, I’ll comment on it. I might anyway if I can’t get copies of the original Dialogues, but I’m going to try to go to the original sources.
Until then, I’m curious about the cover, which I view as a separate (although related) controversy to Resnick and Malzberg’s comments. This blog has a different demographic than SFWA. I think that’s a fair statement. What do you think? Is there anything wrong with the cover? Should it not have been printed on the Bulletin?