Linkspam, 5/31/13 Edition

fragOl by James Farr

fragOl by James Farr

And speaking of the SFWA Bulletin column as referenced in that last link–I managed to get my hands on a scan of the column in question. It’s every bit as bad as everyone says–and I figure that the only way to make things better is to shine a bright light on it so. I’m sharing. I’m not an SFWA member, but I have been contemplating joining as an affiliate member and these kinds of shenanigans make me wonder if it’s worth my time and effort. At this point, I’m leaning towards “no”.

Mike Resnick:
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Lady writers? Lady editors and publishers? NOPE, NO SEXISM HERE. Also, a lady totally told them it was okay to write this stuff and as everyone knows, one lady speaks for all ladies.

Barry N. Malzberg:
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Let me translate: “I don’t know who any of you lady complainers are and I don’t care. Censorship!”

Resnick:
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Translation: “Hey, romance novels sure have a lot of steamy covers! And they are clearly wank material for ladies! These lady complainers are hypocrites!”

Hey, Mike Resnick: If you knew anything about romance at all, you’d know that many readers are uncomfortable with those covers and say so quite often. And romance is about more than getting off, you ASSHOLE.

More Resnick:
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So 97% of Africa has the same culture? It’s all the same? Really? And you went to one region of Africa and think you can extrapolate to an entire continent from that?

Malzberg:
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It was at this point my husband started yelling at the computer when I let him take a look at this. Mostly incoherently because this doesn’t even follow. I thought men were supposed to be all logical and shit. Huh.

And finally, there’s this conclusion from Resnick. I can’t fucking believe he goes there. I really can’t.
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SFWA8

Oh, you want to read the whole thing? Click to embiggen. Or here’s an unedited OCR conversion (courtesy of Arachne Jericho).

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Comments

  1. Sunny Moraine says

    I got as far as “lady writers” before my irrational female-assigned rage-feelings took over and I was no longer able to discern anything clearly.

  2. Rosary says

    He sounds like Harold Bloom whining about feminist and African-American scholars in his book The Western Canon (1994) or as he called them The Schools of Resentment.

  3. says

    There is a category of SF people (writers, fans, whoever) who consider being an adult to be some kind of pejorative. That they imagine this speaks well of them and their opinions is dubious at best, but it particularly amuses me that they can hold this view simultaneously with bashing various supposed foibles of the young.

  4. says

    There must be some rule that defenders of sexist covers are required to bring up the covers of Romance novels – why else would they keep doing so when it so clearly disproves their argument?

    Because yes Romance covers have beefy, partly naked men on the cover. Sometimes. But, aside from the very valid point that Romance readers themselves complain about these covers, the fact is that Romance covers that focus on partly naked men alone, versus partly naked women or a partly naked man or woman together are EXTREMELY RARE. Much like the way that Maxim and Glamour both tend to feature women in various degrees of skimpy clothing.

    But no, any complaints about something they did must be about singling them out as bad people, and not a complaint about culture and their choice to go along with the not so respectful parts of it.

  5. says

    Hello, fundamental misunderstanding of what “censorship” actually means. I would point and laugh, but really, these people represent a professional writers’ organisation when they write in the Bulletin. Standards, please.

  6. --E says

    Jennygadget: Actually, there are lots of Romance covers that focus on the beefcake man alone. (Disclosure: I worked for Avon Books for 14 years.) But there are large differences between that and the cheesecake covers women often complain about:

    1. Romance novel men are never shown in illogical clothing. Bare-chested Highlander or pirate is something that could happen in history. Woman in “armor” that doesn’t cover any vital organs is nonsensical,* and clearly intended solely to show off her body for the gaze of the (presumably male) viewer.

    2. Men on Romance novel covers are bared for the specific intent of showing they are powerful. “Look at my manly man chest and mighty biceps, I am so strong and you should admire how awesomely strong and powerful I am.” Contrast with the subtext of most women on book covers, which often is “I am sexy sexytimes, here for the fucking and the looking-at. It’s all for you. Enjoy.” It’s not about her; it’s about the viewer’s projections onto her.

    3. What is being exposed? Your average Romance novel that has a sexy man at most shows a man’s bare chest. (There is the famous Johanna Lindsey cover from the 70s where they covered the man’s bare bottom with a “NYTimes Bestseller” starburst.) Basically, the men are wearing things they could legally wear in almost any public park on a summer day, and no one would think anything usual about it (allowing for anachronistic fashion). Whereas women on many fantasy novel covers are dressed in clothing almost no woman would actually wear in public if she was just wanting to be outside for a while.

    4. The posture. This hearkens back to #2. The men are posed to be powerful. The women are posed to be sexy. Possibly also powerful, but certainly to push out the butt or boobs or hips. The Hawkeye Initiative and Jim Hines’s cover pose challenges make this point crystal clear.

    5. Modern men do not suffer from thousands of years of cultural baggage telling them that their primary value is in how they look. Objectifying men, if it happens, is not the same thing as objectifying people who have been objectified all along. The men know they can go back to their real world and people will see them as people first and bodies second. Women do not have that knowledge.

    So the whole, “Men are made sexy on romance covers!” doesn’t need to be waved away with “But no, that doesn’t happen.” It can completely be countered with “Not in the same way AT ALL, YOU DELIBERATELY OBTUSE DUMBASS.”

    *Yes, illustrators in the 70s had a tendency to have, say, Conan in a loincloth. But clearly we weren’t supposed to interpret the loincloth as armor, rather just as clothes. And see point #2.

  7. says

    Also, the romance novels in question really can be considered to at least circle around (if not enter) the genre of soft-core porn. Just like (for example) anything written by John Norman. Soft core (and even more explicit) porn writing has its place, and I wouldn’t dream of censoring it. And it’s probably a good thing to label porn with exploitative covers so you know what you’re buying.

    Anyway, I used to enjoy books written by these guys, and I was happy in my ignorance. What a disappointment all around. The more I learn about the people behind the words, the less I want to be part of this subculture that’s been a major part of my life for over 40 years.

  8. says

    Actually, I think you’d be surprised at the heat level in some romances. You really cannot judge what sort of sexual content is in the book based on the cover. That’s one reason there is such a culture of recommendation in Romancelandia.

  9. Arlene C. Harris says

    thank you for posting the article screen shots. It makes it much easier to deflect the “you just selectively quoted/missed context” arguments to be able to point out the whole thing all together

    also, get a big sign that says FAIR USE in case Tweedledum and Tweedledumber decide to flag this for infringement. Because they totally sound like the kind of guys who’d do that just to, you know, show you your place or something.

  10. says

    The new Walton collection sounds like a companion to Among Others, in the same way that Helene Hanff’s Q’s Legacy is a companion to 84 Charing Cross Road, or that Pete Hamill’s Forever is a companion to his Downtown: My Manhattan (both are history of Manhattan, but one is fiction). I definitely want her book; it sounds like it could as easily be subtitled “The Books That Built Morwenna” (or, conversely and even better, Jo).

  11. says

    –E

    O.o

    I must have missed the part where I said “But no, that doesn’t happen.” And I’m pretty sure my pointing out that they tend to be paired with similarly clad women IS saying “Not in the same way AT ALL, YOU DELIBERATELY OBTUSE DUMBASS.”

    But whatev.

  12. legionseagle says

    With respect to your point about the blackface in the English traditional year, it’s worth noting that it’s a complicated situation (see details here: http://www.coconutters.co.uk/history.htm).

    There’s a real issue about how it’s perceived in 2013, certainly, but so far as one can tell it is NOT originally from the same root as the minstrel tradition; that is, the blackface doesn’t have an overt derivation from racial stereotypes (which would be obviously indefensible) but derives from a combination of mining in Lancashire (which was effectively ended by the Miners Strike of the 1980s) and the tradition of using soot and ash to disguise folk dancers to avoid reprisals, given the often ribald and satirical nature of ‘Guisers’ performances.

  13. says

    Thanks for the information–I didn’t have time to research it but wanted to note it as being there. It didn’t look like the same sort of thing as Zwarte Piet, to use another European example.

  14. says

    Oh, c’mon you young folks. This is being blow up totally out of proportion. Let me give you a lesson in history. Once upon a time, not very long ago, woman doctors and lawyers and etc., were so rare that when one said lawyer or doctor or whatever, you first assumed it was man. That’s just the way the world was forever.It wouldn’t even come into your mind that it might be a woman. Some professions did have gender assigned labels such as actress, authoress, etc. but not all of them did. Hence the need for adding lady in front of titles like doctor or lawyer. It filled a flaw in the English language. Lady lawyer was a term everybody used. It was beyond acceptable, it was necessary.

    I’m nearly 50 and I remember those days. Resnick and Malzberg and older than me. All three of us were brought up and taught the acceptable use of lady doctor. There’s nothing sexist about it’s use. It’s perfectly ordinary. Perhaps old fashioned, yes. But it’s not a sin that will dump one into the fiery pits of hell, like Orson Scott Card should be.

    Mike Resnick is a wonderful, jolly, light-hearted man. You couldn’t find a nicer guy if you tried. He’s done nothing wrong here, other than being old fashioned. Give the man a break.

  15. says

    I’m letting this through only so I can point and laugh.

    Also, nice attempt at silencing. It’s not going to work.

  16. legionseagle says

    I’m over fifty, I’m a woman and I’ve been a lawyer for the last twenty five years. At the time when I joined the profession 50% of the trainees joining at the same time were women. This didn’t stop there being sexist dickheads then – just as there are now – making a point of singling us out as “lady lawyers” but it wasn’t because we were rare or because the term was a necessary addition to the English language. It was because they wanted to single us out as different because they didn’t like the fact that we were there. And no – it wasn’t “acceptable”, it was tolerated because of systemic power possessed by the older lawyers doing it. I leave you to draw the parallel with current events for yourself.

  17. says

    As a woman, I don’t give anyone the power to “offend” me. Period. But, as a thinking human being living in 2013, chainmail bikinis and lingerie armor are kind of the laughing stock of artwork now. Sorry, Frank Frazetta. I found that stuff “neat” when I was in the 5th grade.

    I’m not in the 5th grade anymore.

  18. says

    David Greybeard: I’m not a young folk — I’m thirty-nine.

    But I can say that the Resnick and Malzberg attitude is embarrassing. I wince, and wish I wasn’t a science fiction fan.

    It’s okay to be a regressive sexist moron, I suppose, if you can’t help it. But if you go ahead and do so in public, you’re going to embarrass us all.

  19. says

    I think in Resnick and Malzberg’s eyes, we are young (I’m 38). From what I can tell, a good percentage of the people who have been angered by these regressive attitudes in the SFWA Bulletin (and elsewhere) are in their 30′s and 40′s.

    Not to say that folks who are younger aren’t outraged as well. But they don’t see SF/F fandom as it has been as relevant (and let’s be real: SFWA does a lot of good work for their members but it’s also a club for insiders). Because of this kind of regressive bullshit.

    And as has been pointed out as well, this kind of regressive bullshit also works to erase the work that’s been done by younger members to improve SFWA.

  20. tazlet says

    The way I remember it was that qualifying a professional title with the word ‘lady’ essentially informed the word that the holder of said title, and their work, was less valuable than if that title were held by a man. It was, and is, condescending. I’m 64, BTW, and I don’t need a history lesson from you.

  21. says

    Blackface doesn’t have the same racist connotations in Europe as in the US, because the racist minstrel show tradition is mainly an American thing. Until fairly recently (well into the 1990s, if not beyond), it was still common and accepted to have parts like Othello played by white actors in dark make-up, because there often were no black actors available. Winnetou, the legendary Apache chief from Karl May’s novels, has always been played by white actors on the screen and on stage.

    Plus, there are folk traditions in many places which involve what would be called blackface today, often linked to Christmas or carnival traditions. Examples are the various companions of St. Nicholas in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands or the Starsingers, kids dressed as the three wise men, in Catholic parts of Germany. These characters are obviously highly problematic to the modern eye and the more extreme, like the Zwarte Piet or Krampus, really need to be toned down.

  22. says

    I figured it was complicated, but I’m also American and I know the connotation here, so. I know I have friends for whom it would be upsetting to see no matter the context so I thought it was better to point out than not.

  23. DrMM says

    Would it do any good to point out that everyone on forums I go to assumes I am a male because I use the nickname DrMM until informed otherwise? And that part of the reason why I chose it was because I didn’t want to deal with creepers? And that while I’m not an M.D., I do work in the medical field and know ‘he’ is always the gender pronoun used when referring to a doctor when we only know their last name?

    Nahhh, probably not.

    But it’s still true.

  24. Heynonny says

    I’m a romance reader, and I’m not going to lie: I think the shirtless dudes on romance covers are meant to titillate me. I think they are objectified for me to look at and fantasize about. I agree that many types of idealized images of men (such as the covers of Conan books, and most male comic book and video game characters) are more about male power fantasies than female sexual fantasies, but I would argue that many modern romance novel covers seem more like the latter to me, especially when I’m increasingly seeing shirtless men alone and reclining, or shirtless men paired with clothed women.

    But the thing is, I’m not going to claim otherwise. I’m not going to say, “Oh, gentlemen romance writers and readers must feel completely comfortable in the genre. How could anyone feel offended by these lovely art pieces on the covers? Many of these covers were approved by gentleman editors and gentleman publishers, so clearly gentlemen have no problem with these images at all!”

    I think men have a right to feel uncomfortable with the images. I would also argue that in many cases, men are being objectified not just on the covers but often in the content of romance novels. Most of the romance novels I’ve read feature idealized men, men who are rich and powerful and handsome and have very few real flaws. I’ve more often seen flawed heroines than heroes in romance. But I’m not going to claim otherwise. I enjoy the genre very much, but I admit that it’s often unrealistic and not very welcoming to men. It’s possible to enjoy media while also openly acknowledging its problematic aspects. (Romance is also frequently unwelcoming to people of color, I would argue. Most of it is chock full of white people, which is a problem it often shares with science fiction/fantasy books. Mainstream romance is also overwhelmingly heteronormative, and many people are uncomfortable with its emphasis on marriage.)

    I think it’s the head-in-the-sand attitude that bothers me the most about the people who defend images of objectified women in the cultures of science fiction/fantasy, video games, and comic books. There are people who claim women are completely welcome in these hobbies, and then if someone complains that they’re not, and mentions the cheesecake art and the booth babes, they’re just like, “Nonsense! Many women enjoy these images, too. You are simply a prude who wants to censor us and ruin our fun.” At least they could admit that the images are problematic instead of getting defensive about it. It’s just frustrating when people think they can have it both ways, claiming that there’s no problem at all, then discarding any possible complaints as being oversensitive and unjustly accusatory.

    I mean, I can understand the response of getting defensive when someone is told they did or said something sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive, like the writers of the SFWA column did. It’s a natural response. But it’s not a productive response.

  25. says

    If you haven’t seen it, the post right before this one might interest you–we’re talking about liking problematic things, reader shame, etc. in a romance context. Some amazing comments (many of which are better than the post).

  26. says

    David, I’ve got a few years on you and even in the deep south, most of the men my age or older have dropped the “little lady” crap and moved on. Just because you were brought up when sexism was more tolerated doesn’t give you or Resnick and Mahlberg carte blanche to perpetuate and hold onto such attitude like some kind of adorable affectation of middle age. Mr. Resnick may be a fine friend and a good writer, but neither of those skills prohibit him from being dead wrong on the issue of sexism. If you can remember “those days”, then surely you can also remember that using gender as a way to differentiate levels of professional standing such as doctors, lawyers, and editors went out about the same time Jimmy Carter left office.

  27. legionseagle says

    It is a question which does get active discussion in English folk dance circles; on the one hand you have a Morris tradition where the adoption of ‘Guising (blacking up to conceal identity) is a defining element of the tradition, and then there is the issue about what people who aren’t in the folk dance field think when they look at it. In some respects, it’d probably be less sensitive if we still had an active mining tradition and if the circumstances in which we’d lost it hadn’t been so real and raw and personal, because it wouldn’t have the “keeping the flag flying” connotations of hanging on to a past that’s been brutally stripped away.

  28. Susan E says

    I am 63, and tazlet has it exactly right. Condescending. Especially the necessary “sarcastic” tone to the “lady” because of course a real lady sits on her hands and looks “pretty”. Not much better were the still “mailman” and “mailperson” so you’d know the so-called “mailperson” was female, LOL. I don’t think I’ve seen a column where someone seriously still used such a convention as “lady writer” or “lady editor” in a coon’s age.

  29. says

    I wasn’t sure what “coon’s age” meant so I looked it up and it apparently is meant to mean “long time” and predates the pejorative use of the word “coon” but does tend to make people uncomfortable (which is why I looked it up).

    Just a little pre-emptive clarification before I go to bed. Don’t want to wake up to a war in the comments.

  30. says

    Wow.
    What is it lately with men crying Stalin! Hitler! North Korea! when someone points out they should treat half the population with basic respect. Can they hear how irrational they sound?

  31. says

    Stand back! I’m going to be petty.

    I am an Old White Female, and I remember Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg having the same attitudes when they were Callow White Guys. Way to never grow up, boys.

    In this context, I note it’s been at least two decades since I’ve heard Andrea Dworkin used as a feminist bugaboo. She’s unlikely to weigh in on anyone’s choices, since she’s been dead for eight years.

  32. says

    I work at a library – and have for years – where I see (literally) hundreds of books flow in and out in an hour. Nearly half of these are romance books, including brand new, hot-off-the-press books every single day. I’d say at least 65% of these romance books have a picture of a naked guy – alone – on the cover…and that’s a conservative estimate.

    At the same time, I help hundreds of customers a month locate something to read. The vast majority of the female readers that I’ve talked with or overheard have been scintillated by the cover art of these “gorgeous men,” as they put it. All ages. All women. All looking for a hot read. Add in the collective decades of experience of my coworkers and the percentages of these romance readers stay very similar.

    The romance genre is about one thing, especially when it dips into eroticism: making women *feel* something (something sexy, more often than not). Trying to indicate that the genre – or its readers – don’t actually want that is like claiming that pornography users are not really interested in the sex.

  33. says

    I know many romance readers and writers who are not in it just for the sex scenes. I happen to be one of them–sure, the sex scenes were a draw when I first started reading the genre, but they certainly aren’t the reason I continue to read.

  34. says

    Jessica–I think you would really get a lot out of reading wonkomance.com (in addition to this fine website, and many others). I’m a contributor there (full disclosure), and we spend a lot of words understanding the appeals of romance. In addition, one of our contributors is Shelley Ann Clark, a librarian who has worked as a Reader’s Advisor in romance and has written in on the site about patron appeals in romance (her piece was called “Windows and Mirrors”). I think, too, there is a difference between excitement and conversation at the circulation desk over a new book and the full range of the appeals for the patron. I love that you help patrons find something new to read, and taking an opportunity to learn even more about those appeals for your patrons seems like it would be rewarding.

    Marketing romance has waxed and waned in its reliance on eroticism to sell books, and that marketing piece has various kinds of relationships to authors–many authors have very little relationship to how the book is packaged and marketed which may mean that the engine powering their writing is different than what is seen on the cover. This is all just to say, like everything else, all of these intersections are complex and complicated by issues within and without, by individual reader response and by external social and economic systems.

  35. says

    I think women readers get a LOT out of romance novels — validation, comfort, escapism, wish fulfillment and, yes, sexual content. “Feeling something sexy” without shame, in the context of a story that draws you in, is not a luxury women traditionally *had* with consumer media. But soap operas and romance novels both emerged to work with women on an emotional and sensual level, and then give them the whole package. What’s the chesty guy on the cover? An advertisement. Long before a flower or a set of cufflinks or a satin ribbon, that was how you knew: “This story is FOR ME.” Of course, from a societal standpoint, it’s equal parts shaming and signifying. “This story with a NEKKID MAN is for ME.” Gasp.

    If women only read romance for the sex and the guy on the cover, then Playgirl wouldn’t be an online-only magazine now, and Penthouse letters would suffice. Romance, IMHO, offers SO much more. Mostly acceptance.

  36. says

    65% of romance novels have a picture of a naked huy on the cover? Really? I invite readers to visit any romance website (http://harlequin.com, http://www.avonromance.com/, http://berkleyjoveauthors.com/, http://romance.simonandschuster.com/). It will take one click and five seconds to prove that assertion wrong.

    The “majority” of female readers are scintillated by the cover art? Look again at the cover art of the books in the links I provided and tell me how scintillating the covers of the best selling authors in the genre are. How scintillating are Nora Roberts covers, for example? Even the best selling *erotic* romance right now has very understated covers. Think of Sylvia Day covers or EL James. Those books are ertoic romance, but are cuff links scintillating? Covers are notoriously bad clues to the sexual content in romance novels. Finally, romance readers were early and avid adopters of ebooks. Have you looked at an ebook romance cover lately? Many of them have only the title and author. As others upthread have said, romance readers are divided on the question of beefcake covers. It is a controversial issue within the readership.

    On the claim that “the romance genre is about one thing.” Then you’ll have to explain why many of the best sellers have little to no sex in them. Harlequin medical line, inspirational, a lot of PNR romance… very little sex. You’ll also have to explain why on earth a reader who is just in it for the sex would read a 300 page novel for the 5-10% of the pages with sex on them. Women have easy and free access to porn and to erotica these days and don’t need to pay $9 and waste hours reading through hundreds of pages to find the sex.

    Romance readers, like SFF readers or mystery readers, read for a variety of reasons and this giant genre has a type of book for most readers’ tastes. Sure, one of those tastes is following a romantic couple into the bedroom, and reading about how the relationship develops sexually. I personally don’t understand why anyone, least of all a librarian, would want to judge any reader on her taste, whether she wants to read for sex scenes or not. I think generalizations like the ones in your comment are really unfortunate. But I’ll make one of my own: there is one thing that all romance readers want: to read a novel that focuses on the developing romantic relationship between two protagonists, and ends with a triumphant happily ever after.

  37. says

    And as a postscript: It seems to me that it isn’t the province of romance to make readers feel. This is the work of all fiction. It is the pathos and the ethos within the argument of writing. Your comment frames reading to feel within an assertion that reading to feel is somehow lesser, and when we’re talking about women reading, your argument’s assertions become dangerously sexist. I don’t think, actually, this *is* your assertion, because I acknowledge the frustration in this comment that I don’t think is coming from a place of actually believing women readers are lesser or what they read for is lesser or that an enterprise of mainly women authors and publishers and editors and agents are lesser. However, my main postscript is yes, of course–we read to feel. Authors write so that we do, deeply, and many sorts of feelings. And erotic experiences in fiction are not the province of romance, either. Just like other feelings don’t belong to other genres and fictions.

  38. Shelley says

    Hi Jessica!

    I’m a librarian who has worked in libraries in a variety of settings–wealthy Southern suburban, middle-class urban, neighborhoods in serious poverty– and I’m also a romance reader and writer.

    I find fairly often that our patrons either expect to encounter dismissiveness from library staff about their reading tastes, often because of the covers of the books they read, or they DO experience dismissiveness from library staff– usually staff who’ve never read romance or haven’t read it widely and are judging a book by its cover.

    The development of romance covers is actually a fascinating bit of marketing history, from the time when men were primary book-buyers for bookstores; but I’ll leave that aside for a moment (and note that part of the popularity of ereaders among romance readers is due to 1. being able to hide those awful covers and 2. not being shamed for their reading choices).

    What I think is important for every library employee to understand and invest in is that there are many different kinds of readers who read for many different reasons. Are you familiar with the RA concept of appeal terms? It’s a way of breaking down the appeal of a book, so that you can begin to see the commonalities in a reader’s profile and better recommend work to them. In the case of romance, certainly heat level is often one of the appeals, but it is far from the primary appeal for most readers. Often you’ll find that the HEA is the most important part for a romance reader. It’s so vital for us to not make assumptions about our readers, and to develop rapport with them, whatever they’re reading and whatever their taste. I also myself have been so embarrassed by perceived judgment because of a chesty romance cover that I’ve joked about how hot it is, when I’m really just sort of humiliated, as a coping mechanism. It’s amazing how our patrons can pick up on our dismissiveness even when we try not to show it, and how uncomfortable that can make them.

    I hope you’ll give the works of Joyce Saricks a read sometime– she really is the ultimate word in reader’s advisory, and taking a class with her really improved the way I interact with my patrons.

  39. says

    Just to add more anecdata to the discussion. I did a review of my Kobo bookshelf last night while watching NCIS for the nihilistic revenge violence. I could have looked in my larger Calibre Library but the romance novels I buy from Kobo are primarily mainstream publishers so the covers on the ebook are the same as the print book.

    I counted 169 Historical, PNR, UF, SFR, M/M, Romantic Suspense, Erotica, Contemporary romance books. The low number of contemporary books in my sample may skew the covers but I don’t think so, they tend to couples. My first cut assigned the 169 books to one of four categories:
    1. Woman Alone 37.27%
    2. Man Alone 21.89%
    3. Couples 19.52%
    4. Neutral (buildings, landscapes, comic, drawings, objects, 50Shades-style, figures in the distance, etc) 21.30%

    The largest figural representation is of a woman alone which suggests something of the role and importance of the heroine being represented as the point of engagement with the reader.

    I then reviewed the covers for nakedness. That is, can you see the whole of the torso from front or back or surmise nakedness from behind the drapery.
    1. Half-naked male torsos 12.42%
    2. Half-naked female torsos 4.73%

    So yes men are more likely than women to be naked on a romance genre book cover but of all romance book covers in my sample this is still a low number – 21 out of 169 books; a little more than a tenth in fact.

    There is an important discussion about gaze and objectification to be had in the ways bodies are presented and used in our genre. Male bodies in their beauty represent power and action as well as desire while female bodies are only desirable in their beauty. I think there is a lot going on in a romance novel cover that is not directly comparable to the SFF covers being critiqued.

  40. DrMM says

    Reading your comment (and some of the others responding to it) has me wondering if there’s a fundamental difference between the casual romance reader and the avid romance reader.

    I can easily see a casual romance reader choosing which book to read based solely on the cover since they would be much less likely to know which authors or genres of romance they like. In fact, since they have less experience of the genre in general, they could well be going through the initial titillation phase that most of us go through and choosing books with sexy covers because the sex is still the primary draw (weren’t most of us fascinated by the sex scenes when we started reading them and then gradually bored once we realize that there are only so many ways an author can write insert tab A into slot B). And perhaps I’m wrong here, but I would think casual romance readers would be much more likely to get their books at a library rather than making a financial investment in them, which may be why your experience is different than the rest of us commenting here.

    An avid romance reader who reads them regularly would make their choices based on their preferred genre(s) and authors. For them, the cover has nothing to do with it and, in fact, may make a book less appealing because it makes romance novels look like they’re all about the sex or because they’re still embarrassed to seen reading romance novels in public. And since romance novel sales soared with the introduction of the ebook, it’s hard not to assume a big part of it is because no one will see the silly covers. I also think that they’re more willing to purchase books and even if they don’t, they’re probably not going to ask a librarian for advice.

    And for the record, I skip 99% of the sex scenes in the romance novels I read (they’re frequently boring and I can find better written sex scenes in fanfic for free) and actually do read for the plot. In fact, I’d be perfectly happy if several authors I read skipped the sex scenes entirely. Stephanie Laurens, i do not need 100 pages of foreplay and sex in every single book you write. They are the same in every. single. book (in fact, so are your characters and even the plots have gotten stale — why do I still read you?) and I would not be surprised to hear you confess one day that you’ve plagiarized yourself without realizing it.

  41. DrMM says

    I should perhaps clarify one point here: I’m sure that there are plenty of avid romance readers for whom the sex remains one of the draws. However, I suspect that the more romance novels one reads, the less important the sex becomes until it’s only one of many factors that help us choose which books to read.

  42. Brad says

    Well how nice of them to display only the last of these columns. Would you care to show all the columns. The one that started the flame war? The first response? When you censor things like you do in this article, you only reinforce the idea that Resnick and Malzberg are right. My wife knows Resnick and we have known him personally for several decades. While he can be a boor and ass, like many successful writers, he has never conducted himself as a sexist misogynistic pig. So comparing the censorship you are displaying in the article to reality, I will go with reality.

  43. says

    I don’t have the rest of the articles. If someone wants to provide me with images, I will be MORE THAN HAPPY to post them. My not posting them is not censorship–you will note that this site is not run by a “them” but by ME. As a private individual and as someone with significantly less power in the speculative fiction community that Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg, I have no power to censor them. It’s not like I have an ongoing column in the SFWA Bulletin after all.

    Have a great day! xoxo

  44. says

    Is..is that mansplaining? Why, yes, I do believe it is. Pure, unadulterated — breathtaking in its arrogance. It almost rises to the level of Poe’s Law!

  45. Terry says

    @Natalie: Just to be clear. I’m a woman, in my 50′s, in the medical profession as well as a huge science fiction fan. A fan of male-driven domination fantasy, not so much. I found Resnick’s and Malzberg’s article not only insulting but deliberately obtuse. Trust me, it isn’t only younger women who find they beggar belief. My generation was the first to truly break out of our stereotypical roles, so to find the same stupid, misogynist attitudes (platitudes?) being put forward 50 years later is disheartening.

    When I graduated and walked onto a ward with my colleagues, the men were greeted with “Hello, Dr. and the women with “Nurse, I need you to do this.”. 50% of my graduating class were women. Today, over 50% of college degrees are completed by women. My daughters will have an easier time of it than I did and that’s to the good. It’s amusing to read that they characterize themselves as “Old White Guys” because that’s exactly how they come off.

  46. says

    @Terry: Thanks for commenting! I’ve had my age-ism pointed out and I am really sorry for assuming that all people over an arbitrary age feel as Resnick & Malzberg do–not all groups are a monolith and, of course, without all kinds of people we wouldn’t see even incremental progress. I hope things are easier for my nieces (ages 7 and 8) and easier yet for those who come after them.

  47. says

    I am amused (for values of amused which = were you always this self-righteous?), to see them railing against people with the idea that one can never be too strongly against people telling you to “shut up” (with, yanno, actual arguments about why what one is saying is; at best, problematic), by arguing ‘y’all need to shut up and less us be douchecanoes.”.

    With absolutely no sense of irony (nor, I suspect, actual reflection). They got their feelings hurt, and it’s our fault.

    Barry Goldwater was wrong, extremism in the defense of virtue can be a vice; esp. when there is every reason to be certain the clarity of virtue is in question.

  48. Michael says

    I am sickened by the sexism alive in our society today but i fail to see how the picture of that woman in the ‘armour’ could be considered sexist. did the people complaining about this picture also complain at the time of he-man for example? I fail to see the difference between the the image above and the image ive posted below. As a man i really dont find it offensive.

    http://images.fanpop.com/images/image_uploads/He-Man-Masters-of-the-Universe-he-man-604198_393_616.jpg

  49. Michael says

    that was my first post on this site so thanks for being so welcoming natalie but i wasnt trying to be trivial. i feel its a fair point. i think you will find that that is still how he-man would be portrayed today.

    i am only trying to say that i dont see a difference in the two images other than one is a man and one is a woman. now would you say that that picture of he-man was sexist towards men? im honestly not trying to be divisive. I just feel that the picture of the female is not in my opinion offensive.

  50. says

    @Michael: Okay, assuming that you are NOT a troll.

    I don’t believe a context-less image of He-Man would be appropriate for the cover of a professional publication.

    Ways that either image would be acceptable: if there was content in the magazine related to the cover. It could be a piece on the artist, the style of art, the evolution of fantasy art styles, or on the subject of the art. Context is important. To the best of my knowledge–as I do not receive the SFWA Bulletin–there was no context within the magazine for the cover image.

  51. Fred Davis says

    Just a quick note on the english blackface thing; Not only does blackface predate the 90s in britain, but it pretty much has been around in the UK as long as it has in america – it almost immediately made the transition across the atlantic, though never being too popular until, unsurprisingly, after windrush and the rise of far right neo-nazi groups like the National Front in reaction to immigrants so that by the 1970s there was even a regular weekly black and white minstrel show on TV. And though it started to die off in the 80s it was still quite common to see travelling blackface troupes performing at holidary campsites by the late 80s, so I’m not entirely surprised that there might be a few local rural performances of that crap around the country.

    You will find a few older neo-nazis and BNP types muttering about how it wasn’t racist it was really about the music, but it was really about the racism. The actual performances once you look past the racism were either really really surreal or based around bad comedians going “where’s muh watermelon mon” at each other while wearing silly costumes. It was never NOT racist in britain, and it really isn’t more complicated than “this is a throwback to darker, nastier times in contemporary british history common to bassackwards rural communities with no sense of decency and lots of racists in them”.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] #202 brought with it a “rebuttal” from Malzberg and Resnick, in which they used the words “censorship,” and “suppression,” and [...]

  2. [...] Radish Reviews recaps and posts screencaps here, so you can get an idea where to start and see for yourself. Mary Robinette Kowal has voiced her reaction to what went down regarding the most recent issue of the SFWA Bulletin over here. Please also see Jim Hines’ excellent collection of links. And current SFWA President John Scalzi’s statement. [...]

  3. [...] The Internet lit up this last week over an article in the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) official publication that provided a platform for some pretty sexist views. Fantasy writer and all-around awesome guy Jim Hines has done a good job creating a portal page to the reactions of the community. The Ferrett, a blogger I’ve been reading for more than a decade is on that list and has written what I feel is an erudite exploration of how yesterday’s allies can become part of today’s problem (he also provides a link to the offending article, which is near the bottom of this page). [...]

  4. [...] The SFWA Bulletin is a print-only publication, so it’s hard to find these articles, but Natalie at Radish Reviews has a .pdf of the last of the articles (which are a conversation between the two writers in question, along with some highlights. I tried [...]

  5. […] Until Natalie at Radish Reviews posted the scans, all of the previous commentary on the Bulletin‘s content was based on selective excerpting which had been re-typed by the critics; this made it all too easy to dismiss the critics’ concerns. One of Mike Resnick’s supporters even illustrated this train of thought in the comments to Natalie’s post: […]