Along with writers, fans, and readers like you and me, The Ada Initiative
has been changing SFF for the better. I've been a fan of SFF for about 25 years and an active convention panelist/attendee for the past five, and I am quite confident in saying that the last five years, painful and tense as they often have been, have shown a lot of changes for the better in SFF.
Part of that is due to the high-profile work of SFF authors like N.K. Jemisin and Mary Robinette Kowal, and part of it is due to the work of the Ada Initiative, and part of it's due to people like you and me. I'm thrilled and proud to be an Ada Initiative advisor, and with the support of SFF readers and fans like you
, TAI and all of us can continue to make SFF a more welcoming, more diverse and safer space for everyone.
I've had a front-row seat to some of the highest-profile events in SFF in 2014 around these issues. I was at Wiscon when N.K. Jemisin gave her latest fantastic Guest of Honor speech
; I was ushering for the Hugos in London when Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice
became the first novel to sweep all the major awards in the same year, female creators in general triumphed, and the "sad puppy" slate got kicked to the curb. When Nora finished her speech in Madison, everyone in the room including me was ready to stand up and follow her into battle; what we didn't realize was that, in the aftermath of the Wiscon concom's first Jim Frenkel decision, we'd be fighting ourselves.
Make no mistake about it; it's not easy to work against harassment, whether as a high-profile author or critic receiving rape and death threats, a non-profit organization working to support women in open culture, technology, and stuff, or as an individual fan at a convention trying to overcome the weight of social conditioning to ask if someone else is okay or needs help. This is where an organization like TAI can and does provide much-needed backup, by publishing posts on best practices such as the "managerial model" of handling harassment incidents swiftly and safely
, by providing models for conference Codes of Conduct, and also by making mistakes, acknowledging them, and moving on.
The Ada Initiative has a fantastic track record over the last four years, but it's also made some decisions that have turned out to be the wrong ones; what makes me happy to be associated with TAI is that the organization has done its best to learn from those mistakes
, and has gone on to have record-breaking successes in its efforts
. TAI gives me hope that an organization like Wiscon, my first and favorite SFF convention, can learn from its own missteps and live up to its own feminist ideals. Authors like Nora Jemisin have also sometimes made missteps
in their efforts to represent a wider range of people in their work, but their willingness both to make the attempt in the first place and to fail better next time, and to discuss all these things publicly, gives me not just faith, but confidence in the fact that they will--and that their next books will be anything but boring rehashes of predictable tropes.
Human perfectibility is an article of faith in a lot of science fiction, but as the TAI history of anti-harassment in SFF
mentions, the spring and summer of 2014 was enough to shake any comfortable sense of progress on these issues having been made. In particular, the announcement of this year's Hugo nominees made a lot of people, including me, really wonder to what extent our fellow SFF readers and con-goers recognized not just the right to participate, but the basic humanity of those of us calling for safer spaces and more representative fiction. But I was beyond heartened in London when, at the biggest and most international Worldcon to date, the "sad puppy" slate was overwhelmingly rejected and female creators got some of the credit they so richly deserved in fields from best new writer to best editor to best professional artist to best novel.
And the thing about the Hugos? They were decided by the biggest electorate on record, and that electorate overwhelmingly voted in favor of more representative SFF
. If that isn't an affirmation of the fact that we're headed in the right direction, as difficult as the road to get there has been and will be, I don't know what is. Though there's certainly a small group of people in SFF who really would like to go back to 1959, there are many more people who would like to read better, more interesting books, and many more people who would like to see a safer, more respectful, and more representative SFF fandom. In this case, our reach really does not exceed our grasp.
One of the many ways to bring that about is to give to the Ada Initiative right now
! TAI's annual fundraiser runs from now through 8 October 2014, and though it's too late to receive a free copy of N. K. Jemisin's The Killing Moon
for a $128 donation (you should totally read it anyway, it's great), you can still get a selection of lovely Ada Initiative stickers, including the awesome "Not Afraid to Say the F-Word" ones, signed books by Mary Robinette Kowal, and the satisfaction of taking the opportunity to support the work of TAI and authors like Kowal, Jemisin, and many others who have written SFF outside mainstream white male experiences and who have stood up to demand a safer SFF community.