Unless you’re a sci-fi/fantasy fan, you’ve never heard of her. If you are a sci-fi/fantasy, you still might not have. Moon is a prolific and well-regarded writer, but it’s possible to consider yourself well-read in the genre without waiting breathlessly for her next publication. You can’t say she’s a pioneer of women sci-fi authors — Ursula K. LeGuin and Andre Morton beat her and Lois McMaster Bujold by a generation. Still, she was among the first to present strong female characters with military bearing and tactical competence. (She herself was a Vietnam-era Marine Corps officer.)
I haven’t avoided her, but I say with some embarrassment that I never got around to reading any of Moon’s novels. I’m sure I’ve read her short fiction in the digests, but nothing stands out for me.
So ordinarily, if Elizabeth Moon were to say something stupid, it wouldn’t effect me and I’d probably never even know about it. But we live in the internet age and she has a blog.
My introduction to Moon’s writing, then, is an off-the-cuff posting about how people in her community have gone far out of their way in recent years to be nice to Muslims — essentially to avoid even the appearance of hostility toward a minority that is being demonized. I’m not going to reprint her words or even link to her blog, because her comments are best forgotten. Suffice to say, Moon comes across as a well-intentioned but clueless and condescending matron from middle America. Guess what: She is a mom who’s active in her smallish city(McAllen, Texas, about the same size as my native Allentown, Pa.). And, yes, she comes across as clueless and condescending in this post.
But it’s one post. She has written 30 novels and about as many short stories in the past 25 years, winning the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein and Compton Crook awards. (Hmm, maybe I should give her books a chance.)
So how did this post even come to my attention when a quarter century of critical acclaim wasn’t enough?
Because it’s gone viral.
People who pride themselves on being tolerant and understanding have been pillorying her on their own blogs, on Twitter and on Facebook. These include a number whose opinions I broadly respect and whom I personally adore. Although I haven’t taken the time (and won’t) to verify this, I’m told that comments on Moon’s blog have prompted the author to dig in, doubling down on her unsupportable position. But isn’t that a natural, human reaction? When you’re under attack, don’t you defend yourself? Moon’s original comments weren’t intended to be taken personally, and yet they were. Maybe the same could be said about the responses: People were attacking Moon’s stance, not the person herself, but she took it the wrong way and things just spun out of control.
I would remind my fellow genre fans that blogging is not a natural act for someone who’s used to having beta readers, editors, proofreaders and reviewers comb through her work before it sees daylight (or, for high-end ebooks, backlight). Also, remember that we writers are are considered by some to be artists — we’re supposed to elicit a strong response. And even the most brilliant of us occasionally miscalibrates our words or takes a position that, had we thought about it or bounced it off someone else before committing to it, would’ve reconsidered.
Everybody, please give Elizabeth Moon the space and time to walk back her untenable statements.
In the meantime, I hope you don’t do or say anything stupid yourself. Your friends might never forgive you.