Discovering Your Favorite Authors Are Misogynists

The harassment of women in geek, tech, science, and other circles has many people taking a closer look at the sexism all around us. Thanks to this newfound awareness, I’m discovering, to my discomfort, that some of my favorite authors are actually misogynists.

tg-bookshelf

Books chez Guidry. Wish I had a misogyny detector, like a Geiger counter.

It’s a disturbing feeling when you realize all those hazy fond memories of curling up in a tree with a book and an apple (because that’s how Jo March reads, dammit, and I didn’t have access to a convenient garret with worn sofa) are contaminated by the fact that those authors, when they were writing those books, touring the con circuits, answering fan mail, were also being what today I’d term total creeper asshats. It’s even more disturbing when you realize this is still going on, and might be getting worse.

Heinlein, I should have known better. It’s right there in his books. But I was a kid and way more fascinated by the computer Mycroft in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress to realize the implications of Time Enough For Love. For the record, I also thought “a man who does not exist” in the Knight Rider opening credits referred to K.I.T.T., not Michael Knight. So I was a teenage idiot, apparently.

But… surely not Asimov. He was shy around women, so I’d heard. There were hardly any in his books and those who were present were almost asexual, like Susan Calvin. And anyway, I was only there for the robots.

Second childhood copy of The Caves Of Steel. I wore the cover off the first one.

And then, quite recently, I find out about this. Oh, no, Isaac, not you too! Can I ever read The Caves Of Steel again without feeling your ghostly hands on my ass?

It’s not fun, doing a web search for “<favorite author> misogynist” but it certainly is illuminating. I’m afraid to know what would happen if I were to type “<favorite author> racist” or “<favorite author> homophobe” or “<favorite author> total creeper asshat who just harassed female author XYZ last week at convention blah-blah-blah”.

I’m not sure I can re-read some of these writers’ books without misogyny leaping out at me like bold italic text. I know I’d have a hard time with Lazarus Long (fist in the face seems appropriate). But is it there in less expected places? Do I want to find out?

And then… there’s my own writing. I recently described my mental crossroads over recent sexist SFWA incidents and what I should do as a fantasy fiction writer. Is the misogyny there, too? Am I secretly a privileged cisgendered idiot who can’t even keep the misogyny out of her own stories? I submitted one recently and afterwards was wracked with guilt that it might be misogynistic. Ugh! I dread getting the rejection: “This thing is a piece of sexist tripe and don’t ever darken our doorstep again.”

I am going to go cry in my Valdemar now.

If you’re interested here are some of the other folks talking about sexism and speculative fiction…

 

 

My Love Affair With The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

Today’s the anniversary of the first Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy radio show. How did you first become enamored with that wholly remarkable book?

I discovered Hitchhiker’s in the library of the stodgy girls’ school I attended. Think Catholic school, minus the Catholic but plus plus on the plaid uniforms. As you can guess, the library was dull enough to bring a tear to Giles’s eye (but a bit short on demonology texts for his tastes, I’d imagine). There were the obligatory copies of Emily Dickenson, a bust of Margaret Mead on the table, inspirational “reading is FUNdamental” posters on the walls.

And, way in the back, a whole shelf of science fiction.

Somebody in that school was a serious closet SF fan. It was like a hidden message for future likeminded students, a little cache of bliss among fifty-year-old copies of Great Expectations*. Besides Hitchhiker’s, there was Asimov’s The Caves Of Steel which introduced me to his Robots novels, some Heinlein juveniles including Podkayne of Mars – as well as Stranger In A Strange Land, which proves no real librarian ever looked at that shelf or they would have spirited such naughty tomes away from the innocent eyes of us young ladies.

I’d already become addicted to SFF through Star Trek, Buck Rogers, and the original Battlestar Galactica. Finding Hitchhiker’s was like a fresh delivery of lemon-soaked paper napkins. The library card filled with my initials. I went out and bought what was then a trilogy, in both book and audio form. I could quote parts from memory. My stodgy school became accustomed to the girl who wandered around muttering about Frogstar Fighters. They called me a nerd, but I didn’t care. The fact that somebody had written a bestselling series like Hitchhiker’s proved that I wasn’t the only one who thought science fiction was fun.

I must have discovered Doctor Who and Hitchhiker’s Guide around the same time (insert irony here), because I can’t remember which one I fell in love with first. I do remember that we didn’t get the Douglas Adams episodes for ages thanks to the ridiculous policies of our local PBS station, so by the time I saw The Pirate Planet I was already addicted to Hitchhiker’s. Part of the allure was the quintessential Britishness of it, during the 1980s when everything British was kewl. (I was am also a huge Duran Duran fan, which probably contributed to my infatuation.)

But there was something special about Hitchhiker’s. You couldn’t read it and not laugh your ass off. It was the perfect diversion because it was so ridiculous, so witty, and so British. The latter, as I discovered, doesn’t really translate. I bought a foreign language copy in France, in which Zaphod becomes Zippy Bibicy (as in, BBC) and Ford Prefect is Ford Escort because apparently that’s funnier in French. It just wasn’t the same. As Mickey Smith comments in the Doctor Who episode The Chrismas Invasion (which itself is an homage to Hitchhiker’s), if the world was ending the British would have tea. That’s a very Hitchhiker’s sentiment.

Over thirty years later, Hitchhiker’s has become such a part of our culture here in the U.S. that you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t know the meaning of the number 42 or the phrase “Don’t Panic!” Take some time today to celebrate The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, before that Frogstar Fighter Class D comes to get you.

* Don’t get me wrong. I like classic literature, just not Dickens. I’m more of your Mark Twain type. Sorry, Vincent.