-- In the most recent issue of Locus, estimable writer/critic/editor Gardner Dozois points to my short-short supervillain story Doctor Diablo Goes Through The Motions as one of the highlights thus far of this year's run of Strange Horizons. This pleases me greatly -- it feels like getting an A from that hard-ass professor whom you really, really want to impress.
-- My post-not-quite-apocalyptic middle east story, "The Faithful Soldier, Prompted" -- the only science fiction (as opposed to fantasy) story I've ever written -- will be a podcast on the Hugo-winning audio science fiction magazine Starship Sofa sometime in the near-ish future. Details soon.
-- A few people have asked me about Elizabeth Moon's recent comments about the scary, scary moozlims. I've said a bit about this elsewhere on the intrawebs, but I'd like to say a few more words here.
On the one hand, I couldn't be more tired of dealing with this sort of nonsense. My first reaction was to just ignore it. But, as one of the very few Muslim (of a deeply heterodox stripe) spec fic writers publishing today, I feel like I can't quite remain silent. As far as this specific situation goes: I don't know Moon personally, and have never read her novels. We're both members of the sfnovelists group, and she's been very generous with advice to newbie writers on that (private) email list, so her post was disappointing in the wake of that fact.
But, to be frank, I'm never really surprised when fear and hatred of Muslims rears its head. As an Arab/Muslim living in America, I've spent my entire life dealing with vicious stereotyping at the hands of individuals and mass culture alike, and witnessing very real hate crimes. I'm thoroughly convinced that Arab and Muslim life is pretty worthless to the average American,and that this was the case long before 9/11. The first Gulf War, which costs thousands and thousands of ordinary Iraqis their lives, is nostalgically remembered by most Americans as a practically bloodless video game war (because, y'know, hardly any REAL people [ie, Americans] died). The Clinton era, when 'we' bombed or invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, etc, etc, and a MILLION Iraqis died from US-pushed sanctions while Madeline Albright yawned, is remembered as an era of peace and prosperity. 9/11, when 3000 innocent human beings were murdered by vicious shitheads, still holds a place in most Americans' minds as an unprecedented, unmatchable tragedy which was the first act of America's back-and-forth with Islamic fundamentalists. This despite the fact that American foreign policy before and since has produced a Muslim body count that dwarfs that number -- and despite the fact that British and American foreign policy is the single biggest factor in the Wahabbis fuckheads getting into power in Saudi Arabia, Saddam getting into power in Iraq, and the Taliban getting into power in Afghanistan. Fear and hatred toward Muslims ensures the fact that, while our own healthcare, education system, national infrastructure, and employment prospects continue to go down the toilet, most Americans -- Dems as well as Republicans -- barely question a status quo in which trillions and trillions of our tax dollars go to funding an international war machine the likes of which the world has never seen. This despite the fact that, by the CIA's own estimation, there are at most a few hundred al qaeda fighters in Afghanistan and that US bombings are doing more to create new recruits than anything their own propaganda efforts ever could.
Given all of this, comments like Moon's never surprise me. The fact that people who don't know shit about the complex histories of Islam, their own bloodthirsty government, or misogyny and Christian fascism in their own society will continue to spew nonsense about 'madrasas' and 'sharia' and 'honor killings.' I'll continue to have to endure morons talking about my supposed obligation to denounce fundamentalism. For years to come I'll have to worry about which spaces and places are physically and psychically safe for me and my children. That hard knot of perpetual tension that comes from living in a society that hates me and my family will continue to tighten in my guts.
Which means I will continue to thank God for the decent, openminded people I've crossed paths with over the years. For that handful that DOES question that which should be questioned. For those who've made me and my family feel welcome. And -- to bring this bit of venting back to the genre world -- for the kind and even loving reception my writing has found in a sizable chunk of the F/SF community.
-- Finally, speaking of thanking God, my twins are a-growing quite nicely. I post pics to FB with some regularity, but I'm realizing that I have some LJ pals who don't use FB. So here, have a dose of That Which Keeps Me Sane (pics by the talented Ellen Wright):
It hurts like hell to be reminded that ignorance and bigotry are expected of the U.S., but thank you for the reminder, even so. I hope there are more decent, sensible people within these borders than it sometimes (often) seems.
My gosh they are adorable. And, yes, I can see that girl is going to be Trouble.
Thanks for the post. I was actually shocked by Moon's post, but I have the privilege of being shocked by things like that, because even though I hear these kind of comments all the time, and do try to push back, I yet have a stereotype of just who I expect to hear such words from (people who vote for Sarah Palin?) and unfortunately that stereotype isn't met that often. All too often, as you already know, people who I don't expect to hear such sentiments from, spout them.
By the way, I'm making a big campaign to get people out to WFC San Diego 2011, but only because that's the next one I hope to attend.
More than once I've left her and her brother lying the crib, each holding a toy, only to turn around and find him suddenly with zero toys, looking despondent, and her suddenly with two toys, looking quite pleased with herself. :)
"By the way, I'm making a big campaign to get people out to WFC San Diego 2011, but only because that's the next one I hope to attend."
There's a good chance I'll be at WFC in 2011 if I can swing it, since that'll be just before my book comes out.
I've been too tired to respond to the Moon controversy myself as my own babe has been battling chickenpox and that means long nights of sleepless itch and days of practicing zombiespeak. But a post has begun to form in the sludge that is my brain, and might meander it's way onto LJ later today.
Anyway, best to your folks and rest assured there are many, many of us out here who don't buy into the hate.
I am so sorry that you and yours have so much prejudice dumped on you. I can only hope that things improve, at least a little bit, by the time your (incredibly adorable) babies are old enough to understand such things.
I hope so, too, of course. But my kids are Black *and* Arab. Inevitably, some kid at school, or worse, some teacher, or *someone* is going to say or do something vicious and hurtful to them about who they are. And the thought of that...
Maybe a big problem is the press, between Al-Jazeera and Fox News, you'd think both Christians and Muslims were each born with horns and fangs. It's a bad thing, I think when the potential to exchange ideas, make friends, learn to understand anyone in the world better is clouded by our being led to believe that the worst of all of us, represent a modicum of any of us.
I think the press has exacerbated things. And sometimes you hear people regurgitating things that you KNOW came down the media pipeline ("'madrasa' means fundamentalist training camp'" "'Cordoba House' means 'victory mosque'"). Unlike many lefties, I don't think fox's actual news-news stories are much different than, say, cnn -- but their pundits are off-the-charts nuts. And while I suppose I understand why Americans assume Al-Jazeera is super biased, I think anyone who reads a few days worth of stories in Al-Jazeera English will find their general tenor to be similar to, say, the BBC.
I'm so pleased to see your comments here and elsewhere in response to Elizabeth Moon. It was like a get-out-of-jail-free card for me.
Right before I went to Worldcon, I got into a few online slinging matches about the "ground zero mosque," "banning the burqa" (which, really, I am quite fine with) and one thread on Scalzi's blog where folk wanted to cluck their tongues about how terrible it was that a shopkeeper might refuse to serve a muslim woman, but not get into any of the underlying issues including US foreign policy.
At the con, I went to a panel which was all about the internet and your online writer's persona, and Corey Doctorow asked the question, "do you have an online presence to tell people what your position is on a political issue, or do you have an online presence to promote your work?"
I decided I wanted to have an online presence to promote my work, and when I got back, I deleted half of the blog links in my favourites folder, and decided that whenever I saw a comment anywhere that made my blood boil, I would go and write a short story instead.
A day later, the US made a ridiculously ginormous arms deal with Saudi, and didn't I want to go back to Whatever and flame everyone, because it made me so mad to see them so ignorant and yapping about racism when their tax dollars are going straight towards building Wahhabi schools?
I went and wrote that short story. It's sitting in an envelope, all ready to post to the US.
Now I'm here, and thank you so much for being my voice.
Hm. Well, Doctorow's words are kind of weird, given how much he's linked his own fiction with his political beefs, and given how much he's used his online presence to push both. But I also take his point. I think I may need to take your approach for a while -- 1000 words of novel in every instance where I want to reply to some online insanity. I almost didn't write this post, because I need to focus on my fiction and this stuff takes a psychic and temporal toll. Today I'm with the kids all day while my wife chisels away at a work deadline, but I'm thinking tomorrow might have to be an offline, all-novel day.
You're telling the truth. It's good you are saying it.
The West does need to learn about others. Insularity and self-righteous self-centeredness are the results of long term prosperity acquired by imperial conquests. It's a human weakness to think oneself as the only one who counts.