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Elizabeth Moon's citizenship entry

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Spent much of this morning reading comments on Elizabeth Moon's deeply unfortunate LJ entry about Islam.

I was saddened by that entry, partly because I recently became a fan of Moon's fiction, partly because I liked a lot of what I had read about and from her in various interviews and such, and partly (of course) because I hate to see people say stuff like that.

I was also disappointed that in the five days since Moon posted that entry, she hadn't posted any followup that I saw other than responses to the first few critical comments, in most of which she basically said “You're misreading what I wrote.” (I do approve of people taking some time off to think about stuff, but I'd rather see an “I'm taking some time off to think about this” note than a cessation of responses.)

I read maybe a third of the three pages' worth of comments, and I was going to link to some of those comments, because I thought various people (including Cat F, Nora J, Naomi K, Haddayr, Karen M, and plenty of others) said some particularly smart and compelling things in response.

But now I can't link to those comments, because Moon has deleted all the comments on that entry, with a note saying that “Whatever's been said has been said, and answered, and resaid, and reanswered.”

I still have the third page of comments open in my browser, along with a couple of other specific comments. I'll save those to disk; if anyone wants a copy of their own comment, let me know. (If it was on the first two pages, though, I don't think I can retrieve it.) If anyone has mirrored the whole set of comments, let me know and I'll link to the mirror.

Added later: there are big screencaps (images, not text) of page 2 and page 3 of the comments. And someone on Dreamwidth has a Word document of the whole thing.

In the meantime, here are a few quick links to other relevant items:

  • Excellent Venn diagram making very clear that the small number of people who attacked the WTC are (a) not the same as the 18 million American Muslims, and (b) not the same as the 1.5 billion other Muslims. (I found Ms. Moon's comment that “many” Muslims weren't involved particularly egregious; try almost all. It's possible “many” was intended as ironic understatement, but it didn't read that way to me.)
  • Two American Muslim women (Dinu Ahmed and Hena Ashraf) talk about Park51.
  • David M talks about Park51 and about Ms. Moon's post.
  • Shweta N objects to Ms. Moon's post; features a lengthy comments thread with good comments/discussion.
  • The World SF Blog linked to the original post (that's where I first heard about it), highlighting a few specific phrases from the second half. That entry also has a few comments, including one from Saladin A.
  • Nathaniel has reposted his comment that was deleted; this is one of the ones I particularly liked from the original comment thread.

10 Comments

Go as quickly as you can and do a Google search for the original entry, then click the link for "cached." I accessed at least the first page of now-deleted comments.


Well and it was particularly confusing because there was quite a bit of what she said about what makes a good citizen that I *agreed* with--and then it took this weird right turn into "Mosqueland" and was off with the tires squealing, weaving all over the road.

I've been reading her lj for about six months I think and it has mostly been interesting and reasonable. I'm not sure what happened there.

I'm saddened because I always thought well of her. It's not her job to live up to my ideals, of course, but still.



I read the post. I've read the entry three times. Folks DID misread the post and pull out the standard issue Failfandom Mob Attack playbook.

This Fail stuff has been going on for nearly . . . what? Three to five years now? The pattern is pretty clear.

Writer/fan/reader makes a comment, airs an opinion, an authentic opinion.

A member of the Fail faction finds it, mobilizes an Internet mob attack on the person in question.

If the person is a writer there are calls made to boycott their work.

It seems to me that rather than helping change the situation, all that is being accomplished by this strategy is polarizing people into two very distinct camps. Which is odd, that isn't the objective as I understand it.

I would also say, though it was deleted elsewhere, that there is a basic disagreement about what the problem is, particularly with regard to the definition of terms such as racism, sexism, any given phobia and the issue of white privilege.

Shweta Narayan was grousing at her blog (before she deleted the comment, to show that Elizabeth isn't the only one deleting comments) that she didn't understand why this sort of thing continued to happen.

It is a very simple, fundamental difference in terms of definitions.

The other part of the problem is that when one doesn't meet the defined standards held by the other side, the result is usually to start chucking perjoratives at them. In the case of those chasing after Elizabeth Moon, the perjorative of choice has been Islamophobe.

Here is the irony of it, Jed. I'm a published writer, a research consultant to a major novelist, a college history instructor and I've been a soldier. I always expected that the ability to express one's opinion would be tightly constrained in the military and as a college professor.

Yet I had far more freedom as a soldier and as a professor to say what I want to say.

I can't say that as a science fiction writer. We've become a community of blacklisters and thought police. A pretty sad state of affairs if you ask me.

And something worth fighting against.

Steven Francis Murphy
On the Outer Marches


Odd post indeed. And an even odder decision to delete mostly sensible, even insightful, comments. As Cat and others have pointed out, the post began sensibly enough (if a tad ominously, for me) then took this weird detour. Still, I suppose every one should be allowed a certain X number of bad-idea posts... Especially since Ms. Moon strikes me as someone who could be persuaded to change her mind.

@Steven: Not sure why you think the military and academia offers more freedom of expression. How many officers, in active duty, publicly speak out against army policy or the various wars or politics or anything? And other than a Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz or Noam Chomsky how many academics are willing to be public intellectuals? In contrast, a SF writer is an opinion waiting to be interviewed.

Anil Menon


When I was in the Army, if I aired an opinion to my peers, very rarely was there a penalty unless it was questioning the wisdom of an order at the time it was to be executed.

Otherwise, so long as I didn't talk to the Press (which I wouldn't have because I didn't and still don't trust them) I was fine.

In academia, which is where I work now, I can express an opinion to my peers, my students (though I refrain from editorializing because there seems to be far too much of that these days) about any given issue and chances are pretty good that nothing will happen to me.

As a science fiction writer, on the other hand, the lesson I have learned over the last ten years is pretty clear.

First, the community doesn't want to hear from people like me.

Second, the community most certainly doesn't want to hear an opinion that is right of center politically.

Third, if a writer expresses an opinion, such as Elizabeth Moon's opinion, and it fails to meet the litmus test among certain members fo the community then a call will be issued to take punitive action against that writer.

In the case of Elizabeth Moon, here is what I have seen already.

1. A call to uninvite her from the Wiscon GOH slot.
2. A call for a walkout on her speech if she is not invited.
3. Unrecommending fine novels like The Speed of Dark.
4. Nameless insults left at her blog calling her repulsive. At least she had the guts to sign her name to her comments, something I can not say for many in the Fail Community.

Similar behavior manifested itself during the Elizabeth Bear controversy over her use of the phrase "deathmarch." In fact, this has been going on for about five years now.

I believe in some instances, where the individual had a day job, some of the fail community took great trouble to send inflamatory material to the employers with malicious intent designed to get that person fired.

You know, I've had some negative experiences in my other careers but I have NEVER seen this behavior in the Army or in my college experience.

I find it objectionable and since Jed is a fiction editor at Strange Horizons I think I should ask this question.

Jed, do you support the call for a boycott of Moon's work?

I wonder what other short venue editors are supportive of a boycott?

Steven Francis Murphy
On the Outer Marches


I recommend that y'all not engage with S. F. Murphy, who has made a habit of posting snide and nasty comments about me here and elsewhere.


Anonymous: Thanks for the suggestion! I somehow hadn't thought of that. Tried it, and it worked; I now have a copy of the first page of comments, in case anyone wants 'em.

Cat and Anil: Thanks for the comments!


Jed: You're quite welcome :-)

I think the whole thing has kind of snowballed. I disagree with what she posted, but I was kind of hoping I could persuade her (or someone could persuade her) to take a second look at her assumptions.

I don't think it makes sense to uninvite her from a con over it, or to quit reading her work if you like it otherwise.


My previous interactions with Jed aside, the uninviting, the harassing and the boycott calls are what I have issues with. If folks want to disagree, that is their business.

That was what I was primarily addressing, aside from the hypocritical behavior of the ones who are screaming the loudest about this.


I love, respect and continually re-read Elizabeth Moon's work. I've probably read all her novels -- but never got my hands on her short story collectiion. Need to fix that.

I had not heard of this controversy in real time. Can see why some folks got upset, but this online flaming / cancelling her Wiscon appearance is way over the top.

I've always been impressed with her books' sophistication, savvy intelligence, great complex female characters, chewy plots that move, insight into command, wonderful values and heart. Her world building (cultures/politics/gender roles/military/technology] is exceptional. Love more Familias and Vatta.

Finally, if freedom of (and from) religion means anything, I think that the Islamic Center should be built at Park51 or nearby. If freedom of speech/thought means anything, reasonable people should be able to disagree. And I wish Ms. Moon all good things.


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