Monday, May 18, 2009

RaceFail '09 and FOC_U

As mentioned in the latest Heroes Roundtable, there's been some pretty acrimonious discussions online between some science-fiction authors and a group of fans on LiveJournal.

The affair has been dubbed RaceFail '09, and Seeking Avalon has a timeline of events here. Snacky at LiveJournal has one here. And there's another timeline with specific dates at the RaceFail Wiki.

As noted on Seeking Avalon, the debate began in January over the work of author Elizabeth Bear, specifically Blood & Iron. Eventually, fellow authors Will Shetterly, Emma Bull and Kathryn Cramer got involved, and the arguments degenerated to the point that peoples' real names were posted without their consent (though they were subsequently taken off the web).

In the wake of the controversy, another LJ community, has emerged, Fen Of Color United, aka FOC_U. (Fen, it should be noted, is a plural term for fans.) Here's what The Angry Black Woman wrote about the community and today's efforts, specifically:

As RaceFail 09 continues, it has become clear that there are those who are hellbent on marginalizing and silencing people of color. In the past few months, minorities have been denigrated by bigoted authors and publishers who have also asserted that Fen of Color are rare and pratically non-existent. Despite numerous discussions and attempts to enlighten on the fact that POCs are fans, writers, artists and just as integral to this genre as our white counterparts, we are continuously dismissed.

On Monday May 18, 2009, we are asking anyone who identifies as a POC/non-white to post this banner, their speculative short stories, artwork, poetry or simply write a post on their favorite fandom on their blogs as an act of protest to show we will not be silent or invisible. The day of protest is entitled Fen Of Color United or more aptly, FOC_U.

White allies can also show solidarity for this event by posting this banner and expressing the need for diversity and speaking out against the bigotry in the genre, through posts and/or their creative work as well.

In addition, a new community entitled FOC_U has been created. It’s designed to be a safespace for POCs/non-whites and white allies to discuss the issues pertaining to RaceFail and a place to counteract its destructive effects. And it’s also a fun place for everyone to also discuss their favorite fandoms. While memberships and posts are under moderation for the time being (until the community gets more established and input is welcomed), everyone is encouraged to join and make this a home.

You can help out by spreading the word and reposting this banner on your personal blog or creating one of your own if you’d like.

The gauntlet’s been thrown and I for one think it’s past time for us to take a stand and let our voices be heard, whether some people want to hear them or not.

Another LJ user, Oyceter, wrote about some of the bigger issues spinning out of the controversy:

Even though this started as RaceFail, it does not affect "just" race. For one, that assumes that people of color only suffer from a single oppression. Secondly, as many, many people have noted, outing can be threatening on many levels, and I would like to highlight that it can seriously harm women who are being sexually harrassed, GLBT people who are not out, POC who have been threatened, and etc. Media fandom is a safe space for some people. Again, this is something I never thought I would say, as it has proved time and again that it is not a safe space for all people. But in this particular case, it is more of a safe space than SF book fandom because of media fandom's lack of business deals and money-related matters, because of the general lack of ways to retaliate in the offline world. The act of outing comes out of the attempt to control conversation and thereby acts as an attempt to control the people having the conversation, and it comes from not just from two individuals trying to silence an anti-racist ally, but also from a community with more power in terms of gender and race.

WS and KC did not do this in a vacuum; they did it in an environment in which they could reasonably not fear many consequences (and as far as I can tell, they will not suffer consequences at all, save being banned from some blogs they probably never visited). They may not have knowingly taken advantage of this power, but they did regardless. And right now, that same environment's reaction is saying that it's ok.


Tablesaw said...

Love your work and the new site.

Also, welcome to RaceFail!

One note: The traditional plural of "fan" is "fen," not "fens" (

Arturo said...

Thanks for the kind words and the note -- correction made!