Apology & Circumstance

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    I am so exhausted right now – mentally, physically and psychologically – that I probably should not be writing anything..  No doubt I’ll use a wrong word or phrase, be unclear in my meaning, step on a toe (any toe, let alone the wrong one) and achieve the exact opposite of my intention.

    I take full responsibility for everything published on the Amazing Stories website, good, bad or indifferent, typos, bad links and all.

    While I do have the final say over what appears on the site, perhaps I should also mention that only those occasional posts that appear under the Editorial category and those regularly published under the News category are the “official” position of Amazing Stories.  Everything else published here are the opinions and thoughts of their individual authors.

    I exercise a very light touch.  Deliberately so, as I would like Amazing’s contributors to have the same degree of freedom of expression that they would enjoy if they were writing for their own blogs.

    The past week has found me unable to devote the usual amount of time I do in reading the posts prior to publication.  Last Wednesday I had to make emergency arrangements to fly to Florida when my father (recovering from major surgery for cancer) was taken to the ICU; medical details aside, I’ve almost lost him, twice, over a five day period.  In addition, the home care aide who had been taking care of my mother (who obviously is not doing well during all of this) had to go on vacation.

    I’ve spent the past week shuttling between hospital and my parent’s home, running errands, making meals, trying to coordinate contradictory medical information, handle my parent’s finances and legal matters, the fifty million phone calls that come in at all hours of the day and night and, in the short bits of time remaining, manage this site.

    I don’t like sharing these personal details.  It’s really no one else’s business but the family’s.  I do so only to explain, not to excuse.

    My circumstances have obviously affected my ability to handle the site properly, whatever that means, considering the huge amount of condemnation and complaint I’ve been subjected to since yesterday.

    I’ve been accused of cowardice for closing down discussion of Paul Cook’s article.  I don’t agree with the charge as the discussion had become nothing more than name-calling and I could see no purpose being served in allowing that to continue.

    I’ve been accused of striking a blow against diversity and to tell you the truth, that one really, really hurts, as I have been working very hard over the past several months to do everything I can to support diversity in all of its guises.  I’ve tried to give a voice to important issues and striven to assemble a broadly representative group of contributors.

    I honestly can’t say whether or not I would have published Paul’s article as is under different circumstances.  I’m incapable of judging objectively at this point;  I’m totally stressed, utterly exhausted and do not have the time available to sit back and think.  I know that’s not a satisfactory answer, but it’s all I can muster the energy for right now.

    I’d like to ask for a little indulgence  from you all considering my circumstances.  I return home tomorrow and expect that by Saturday I will have begun to sort things out.  By that time maybe I’ll have had a chance to figure things out and provide a coherent response and formulate whatever actions may be necessary, if any.

    In the meantime – my apologies for “striking a blow against diversity”.  That is absolutely not my intention here.  I’ll try to take a closer look at the area of intersection between encouraging diversity and the freedom of expression. My apologies for “cowardice” in the face of fire – but I don’t think it cowardly to discourage hateful rhetoric.  The comment policy here has always requested limiting discussion to the subject, not the individual.

    I hope this message provides some degree of explanation, however inadequate it may be.  It’s all I can offer right now.

    19 COMMENTS

    1. It seems including a Youtube link in my previous comment has left it in moderation limbo indefinitely, so I’ll repost it without the link:

      I was disappointed to find that comments had been closed on Mr. Cook’s article before I learned of its existence, because I wanted to make two — no, make that three — points:

      First, science fiction has almost always been a “big tent” category, encompassing everything from romance-in-a-future-setting (e.g., A Civil Campaign, whose primary plot focus is the courtship between the protagonists) to space opera (The Vor Game, whose plot spans all across the known galaxy and ends up being about the protagonist’s attempt to avert a galactic-scale war before it starts) to mystery-in-a-future-setting (Cetaganda, where the whole plot revolves around a murder mystery and discovering what secrets the murderer(s) was/were willing to kill to keep secret). I chose Bujold novels for all my illustrations to make a point: that by dismissing Bujold’s Vorkosigan series as “really at their core Romance novels”, Cook is missing quite a number of pieces of the big picture.

      Second, if Paul Cook doesn’t enjoy reading romance-in-a-future-setting, or mystery-in-a-future-setting, or space opera, that’s his right — but instead of trying to redefine the term “science fiction” to match the styles he prefers, he would have been better off coining a new term for the styles he prefers to read. I suggest “classic science fiction”, as that evokes the days of Asimov, Heinlein et al that Mr. Cook longs for, without denigrating the rest of the entires in the big-tent category.

      And finally, I have to say that I found Mr. Cook’s distaste for “romances in disguise”, as he put it, to be remarkably reminiscent of this scene from The Princess Bride:

      “What is this? Are you trying to trick me? Is this a kissing book?

      • I think that’s one of the two best response to the whole thing I’ve seen. (The other is Emma Bull’s, which she left on a post I made about this.) What video did you want to include? Give the name, and I’ll happily google it.

    2. My sympathies about your family. That’s far more important than riding herd on a website.

      I very much disagree with Mr. Cook, but can’t see how allowing him to post it, nor stopping comments when you judged that more heat than light were being generated, harms “diversity.”
      Quite the opposite. Diversity means that people are going to make pretty frivolous arguments in support of wrong-headed beliefs. The upside is that they can’t force *you* to either agree or go away.

      I do notice that accusations of harming an obvious good get thrown when folks don’t have any better arguments for why you should make those who disagree with them shut up.

    3. First of all Mr Davidson, I don’t think you need to apologize either.

      As for Mr Cook, I think he’s fallen for the very human tendency to believe “that if I like it, it’s good and if I dislike it, it’s bad”.

      To limit Science Fiction, Fantasy, etc to “only what I like” is a big mistake IMO.

      There is Science Fiction out there that I really dislike but it would be arrogant of me to say that it’s not “Real” Science Fiction.

      I think that’s the main reason that Mr. Cook got such hot response.

      Many SF/Fantasy readers are very independently minded and SF/Fantasy readers have a diversity of reading tastes.

      To be told that “our reading tastes” are completely wrong is going to provoke a strong reaction.

      Since, Mr. Cook showed a dislike for Romance SF, I’ll say that I’m not a big Romance fan but a good writer can/have make me enjoy a romantic sub-plot in their stories.

    4. And one more thing. I just read Mr. Cook’s reply to a critic in the other thread, wherein he claimed that Bujold is “operating well within a military sf tradition where nothing is lost in the end (except minor throwaway characters) and all is well.”

      If that’s Mr. Cook’s opinion, I suggest he find and read Bujold’s novelette Borders of Infinity, which can be found in the book by the same name. It’s been more than fifteen years since I read that story, but I can still feel the punch to the gut that she delivers in the final scene. All is well in the end? Not always, Mr. Cook. Not always.

    5. Because there are people who’re saying Cook’s dislike of fantasy and romance is misogynous (which seems as silly to me as saying a dislike of hard sf and horror is misandrous), I’d suggest that Cook do a post on the women writers he admires, like Sergeant.

      • I think what people were considering mysongynistic was the statement that some things he was denigrating were *only* of interest to women, which does come across a bit like “Ewww… Girl Cooties!!!” even if that’s not what he meant to say.
        Personally I didn’t even notice that issue (or a couple of others) because I got “all het up” about other specific elements.
        One theme I have noticed in both the comments that were made on the original article, & the offsite commentary, is that there is more objection to the presentation of Mr Cooks positions, than the positions themselves (I did not fall into this category though).

    6. Something else occurred to me. I’ve been recommending the Amazing Stories site to several young folks I mentor, pre-teens and early teens. My interest in science arose from my early interest in science fiction, and I think this site, with blogs covering reviews, art, excerpts, science fiction and science, and the dialogs these generate with like minded fans, is a great place to get them started.

      The enthusiastic back and forth of ideas and opinions that take place here can be stimulating and thought provoking to young people, even (and maybe especially) when they grow heated. I certainly want these young folks to see us as we are, but also at our best. While some might argue that an ongoing barrage of personal attacks is also “how we are” at times, I’d prefer this forum represent how the rest of us want to be seen by them.

    7. Where there’s true diversity, there’s diversity of thought. I disagree strongly with Cook’s take on those writers, but if he wants more Old School SciFi, it’s his right to say so.

    8. Seems you’re not to be blamed about anything. Amazing is a major effort and is coming across well. If you make some errors, who doesn’t? You should have more back-up, though.

    9. First, I hope your father is doing better and am glad that you had a safe journey. Please get some rest and take care of yourself first.

      Second, you are not “striking a blow against diversity.” On the contrary, you are actively pursuing diversity, of which I can personally attest, as you asked me to blog for Amazing Stories and have reached out, and asked me to reach out, as well, to the Black Science Fiction Society. You have more than 100 bloggers representing people from many walks of life, as Mr. Dalkin pointed out.

      I think you’re doing a great job, so don’t let the naysayers get to you. You just keep doing what you’re doing—a great job.

    10. Thank you, Mr. Dalkin, for pointing out so eloquently why so many of us truly appreciate
      Amazing Stories and what makes this site so special.

      When Hugo Gernsback set out long ago to provide fandom with “a new kind of fiction magazine! It is entirely new —entirely different—something that has never been done before,“ Amazing Stories became an immediate staple in the genre do in part to its devotion to diversity. However, Gernsback also admitted that “How good this magazine will be in the future is up to you,” the reader. Here we are, some 87 years in the future, and it still rings true today.

      Thank you, Mr. Davidson, for reviving Amazing Stories along with the unyielding foundations from which it was first built. It means a lot to fandom. It means a lot to me.

    11. I enjoyed Mr. Cook’s post and said as much in my comment. Didn’t expect the kerfuffle that followed but it certainly was spirited. As to your part, Steve, I thought you handled your job as a Mod quite well and now your responsibility as publisher must be weighed. I don’t envy you the task but the above post is certainly the step in the right direction. The only advise I can offer is take A moment and consider that YOU are the editorial voice of this site. Say what you need to say and let’s move on.

    12. You posted a gracious and professional editorial response, Steve. And I wholeheartedly agree with Gary, you have nothing to apologize for. As the publisher and editor of Amazing Stories, you’re the guy who’s responsible for maintaining the balance between open dialog, however animated, and inappropriate excesses on this site. The charge that you are “against diversity” (whatever that means in this case) is just silly on the face of it. There’s an old adage in leadership: you can’t govern to noise. Don’t mistake a few people’s rants for a widely held belief. It just ain’t so, no matter how loudly it’s asserted. Continue to stay above it all. Family illness is serious business, not some juvenile outrage over a blogger’s opinion. Keep up the great work.

    13. First Steve, I hope you have, and know you have, the support of the vast majority of users of Amazing Stories. I can not think of another site run in such an open, honest, direct and inclusive way. For what’s its worth, I’d also like to offer my support to you personally with all the troubles you are facing. Not that there is much, if anything, I can do, these thousands of miles away.

      Accusations of “striking a blow against diversity” ‘strike’ me as absurd in the extreme. Amusingly so. The voices of those so lost to ‘political correctness’ they have forgotten what ‘diversity’ means. Anyone who can make such an accusation hasn’t been reading Amazing Stories, or hasn’t understood what you have been doing.

      It seems to me that many people pride themselves on their ‘freedom’ and advocacy of ‘freedom of speech’, but don’t really mean it. That when it comes down to it, they absolutely don’t mean it. Only support the right to say things they agree with. But ‘freedom of speech’ is meaningless, isn’t freedom at all if it doesn’t extend to those with whom we disagree.

      What other genre site goes out of its way to include such a diversity of voices? Not just writers from different countries in the English speaking world. Amazing Stories features posts in Spanish and French, and will presumably be adding other languages as contributors come forward. Amazing Stories features the opinions of over 100 diverse bloggers of every race, female, male, straight, gay, able-bodied, disabled, those of various faiths and those of none. Some of them sometimes write things I disagree with. Surprise! What else would anyone want, a bland set of clones of ones’ own opinion?

      I’ve been astonished at the personal attacks on Paul Cook for expressing himself. Surely that is what blogging is all about? Self-expression. Polemic. Ideas. Opinions. If people don’t like a particular blogger they don’t need to read him or her, but there is absolutely no justification for making personal attacks on that person. Further, the opinions of any one blogger are no reflection on any of the other contributors to Amazing Stories.

      For several years I edited a website, the now defunct Film Music on the Web. I sought out contributors from as many places as I could. I had writers from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Pakistan, Greece and Spain. I see in Steve Davidson the same commitment to diversity and inclusively. One article containing views some people consider unpalatable does not diminish that commitment. Quite the contrary, it reinforces it, signifying that Amazing Stories is a home for debate across the full range of opinion when it comes to science fiction. Whatever we may individually think it may be.

      • I wanted to answer, but I think Gary has very well said it.
        Perhaps the only think extra is that I have seen this kind of reactions in some “mainstream” groups I participated and for some reason I have notice that there are several persons that are in all the groups only to make conflict, it is their way of existing, I guess. So they don’t care about discussing but to somehow say “Here I am!”. The best solution? Just to ignore them because attention is what they want.
        I hope your father is doing better and take care of yourself.

    14. As one of thos who was piling on (with, I feel, justification) Mr Cook, I cannot accept your apology, because you have nothing to apologise for.
      Whilst I have issues with what Mr Cook said, how he said it, & his claim of authority, I cannot claim that I myself was posting in a calm coherent manner (I know I considered using the term “frothing incoherence” to describe *my own composition process* for my posts, a number of times).

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