Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Amy J. Ransom doesn't play fair in the May NYRSF

David G. Hartwell, the reviews and features editor for The New York Review of Science Fiction, tells me my rebuttal to American academic Amy J. Ransom can't appear in print until three months from now, long after the end of the Worldcon in Montreal, and so I'm posting it here:

Amy J. Ransom's frame for her article in the May 2009 NYRSF is just plain silly (as is the article's title, which is, in part: "SFQ: More than Just a Hobby"). She leads with a reference to my blog posting that enumerated significant Canadian-SF anniversaries occurring in 2009 (and then mangled the URL of the entry so no one could consult it easily), then posits a supposed "companion" list for French-Canadian SF: the 13th anniversary of this, the 21st anniversary of that, the 16th of something else, another 13th, and the 11th of yet one more thing.

But every year is the anniversary of each preceding year. I had shown — within hours of its selection as a venue — why a Worldcon in Canada (not just in Montreal), in 2009, on the 30th, 25th, and 20th anniversaries of signal events in the history of Canadian SF, was appropriate. If I could have cherry-picked, as she did, from all of history (the 6th anniversary of this, the 17th of that), I could have produced a much longer list.

Ransom wrongly characterizes my list as being solely about English Canadian SF. Three of my eight anniversaries have significant French Canadian components: the first and all subsequent volumes (including the one I co-edited) of the Tesseracts anthology series; the founding of the bilingual national writers association SF Canada; and the gathering together of French and English writers that was ConText.

Still, Ransom is deliberately unfair in failing to mention that in a comment to my own blog posting I also listed three significant French-Canadian anniversaries, including the only two significant ones — that is, those ending in a zero or five — that Ransom herself mentions, plus one she missed.

And her conclusion (and the basis for part of the title), quoting six words selectively from what I said seven years ago, to wit, "French-Canadian sf is a hobby," and then asking but failing to answer the question of whether on a per capita basis there really are more Anglo-Canadian SF writers doing this for a living, is specious.

First, what I actually said, in response to interviewer Steven H. Silver's question, was much fuller: "English-Canadian SF can be a profession: people like me, Spider Robinson, William Gibson, Karl Schroeder, and Julie Czerneda do it for a living. French-Canadian SF is a hobby; there's just no way you can do it as your principal undertaking in life. It's got more in common with poetry — a labor of love, often, to be sure, producing exceptionally fine work, but confined to small presses, and read, to be honest, by only a few hundred people."

To my list above, one could add, among others, Nalo Hopkinson, Karin Lowachee, Kenneth Oppel, Jo Walton, Peter Watts, and Robert Charles Wilson — and that's before starting to include the fantasists who sometimes work in SF (Tanya Huff, Dave Duncan, etc.). Leaving hanging a question the answer to which is obvious and pretending instead that it's a profound poser is not argumentation, it's deception — and Ransom does no one a service by it.

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