Can I Just Say

Eighteen months and more on, a review I wrote for Strange Horizons is still capable of attracting ire.

(ETA: Oops. I missed this! More ire than I’d thought.)

And it’s not the only one. Two years on from this review, people still occasionally pop up to take (rather odd, by me) issue with it.

(Screencap source, from the blog of the same person who has some ire for the SH review. Post whence the screencap came, since edited.)

Oddly enough, no one’s taken me to task for – or even much seemed to notice – this review, wherein I deployed Grumpy Cat.

Not this Grumpy Cat:

But still, Grumpy Cat. (I haven’t .giffed a book review before.)

No one is outraged when I review an indie title by a little-known Canadian woman, and call it terrible.

But the outrage – shall we call it outrage? In some cases it seems stronger than mere affront – that has attached itself to those other reviews?

It is persistent, and expresses itself often in gendered ways.

That, by-the-by, is an observation, rather than a complaint. For myself, I won’t complain:* I’ve come to find it incredibly entertaining when my reviews – those reviews, since they seem to be the only ones which do – draw fire on grounds of their tone, or on some spurious lack of intellect or perception on my part.

No, seriously, mate. Tell me how I’m wrong on the internet again! Ask me if I know what words mean! Imply that I’m doing something for the attention – or because I’m jealous – or because I’m bored.

C’mon. Is that the best you can do?

(Look, I ain’t in this for your revolution. And I’m not in it for you, princess. I expect to be well paid. I’m in it for the money.)

I’ll be over here in my corner chuckling – and maybe quoting Merleau-Ponty: “In the last resort, the actions of others are, according to this theory, always understood through my own; the ‘one’ or the ‘we’ through the ‘I’.”

We must return to the social with which we are in contact by the mere fact of existing

I don’t want to talk about phenomenology, exactly. I do mean to mention perception. This discrepancy between reactions.

As an aside: it troubles me that one response to women who perceive, and upon perceiving object to, high levels of sexual objectification or sexual violence (explicit or implied), in novels and visual media, is a version of gaslighting.

It is odd, being a person who has opinions in public. Who is mostly having opinions in public because she is being paid to talk write them. But I’ve at times (“Admirals and Amazons: Women In Military Science Fiction” is perhaps the most striking example, although you can make a case for “Epic Fantasy Is Crushingly Conservative?”) gone out of my way to phrase those opinions in ways designed to provoke.

There’s no way to have a conversation if nobody answers, after all.

Every time you open your metaphorical mouth on the internet, you don’t just run the risk of annoying someone. Given sufficient exposure, you’re just about guaranteed that someone will be pissed off. There’s always the risk of lost connections, lost income… if you’re bolshy enough and unwilling to acknowledge their point of view, sometimes, lost friends.

Words are dangerous tools. They turn in your hand. They cut as well as comfort.

The same phrase can strike two different people three different ways.

After two years having opinions, many of them cranky, most of them feminist, I’m a little surprised not to have seen a rape threat yet. (Seen.) I know, or have heard of, too many people who have received them. (Even one would be too many.) And I wonder. What separates me from them? Just my good fortune?

Or is this another case where perceptions of legitimacy and authority, attention and protection, affect responses? I don’t have sufficient data to hypothesise –

But every time I write something in the least bit confronting, I wonder how long good fortune lasts. Because I knew going in that it’s improbable it should last forever.

That’s what makes the ire those reviews attract so entertaining. I judge! I hate! I condescend!

Oh, ire-stirred ones. You say that like it’s a bad thing.

But only, and only to, the text.

At least at first.

I couldn’t write either review better now. They’re solid, honest work. Better-constructed, if I’m being fair, than some of the reviews I’ve written this summer: there’s nothing like thesis deadlines for distraction.

I’ve learned a bit since about comment threads, and engaging, since. I’d like to think I could do that part better now.

I like to think… I couldn’t, of course. I have even less time on my hands.

Can I just say:

Support Strange Horizons’ fund drive.

*Mock, or state objection, perhaps.