Hobson versus the trolls…

I’m travelling tomorrow, and not to Wiscon (alas!) so I thought I’d see if a few of you might have time and wit available to shove a fiery-hot rhetorical poker of feminist logic up the hind ends of the trolls gathering on M.K. Hobson’s blog post about her Bustlepunk Manifesto.

I’ll explain, but in that roundabout fashion I sometimes use, because it has Been. A. Week. I couldn’t come straight at a thought right now unless it was covered in dark chocolate frosting.

Many years ago Canada decided to get a $1 coin, along the lines of the Susan B. Anthony, and they put a lovely bird called a loon on one side. As a result, many people call this coin the loon or, more popularly, the loonie.

This worked out reasonably well for someone (presumably the government and the Royal Canadian Mint) and in time they followed up this sterling bit of governance (yes, pun, hahaha) by deciding to go with a two dollar coin. And hey! Some folks speculated we’d call it the doubloon.

If you were me (or my wife) when that suggestion was floated, you went OMG. COOL. Doubloon, doubloon, doubloon. And could not be shut up about it. You would still use the term to this day, even though nobody knows what the hell you’re talking about.

Because the rest of Canada, you see, mistakenly refers to the thing as a toonie. Loonie. Toonie. No! I say! You are wrong! I don’t care if it rhymes, it’s not as elegant! Where’s the historical humor in that?

But I am outvoted. That’s what’s caught the public imagination and until I manage to achieve dominion over you all, toonie it is.

So why am I telling you this?

Some weeks ago I read THE HIDDEN GODDESS by M.K. Hobson for Tor.com, and when time came to write the review, I surfed over to her Bustlepunk Manifesto and refreshed my memory on a few points. Then I wrote the following:

Such books are the softer cousins of steampunk—historic romantic fantasies…

The review occasioned some squeeing over the book in the comments thread (because THE HIDDEN GODDESS rocks!) along with a lot of reaction that boiled down to “Another Punk, oh sigh.”

I’d seen this before. One of the last articles I wrote for Syfy was on the Stitchpunk animated feature 9, and the various other SkiffyPunk terms… what they meant and who was writing them. That article got a lot of the same reaction. Which, in my opinion, boils down to: “Stop calling it punk already! It’s a doubloon.”

We punk stuff in this genre. It happens. If you want it to stop, become cooler than the mutant love child of Doctorow and Scalzi and coin something catchier. That would make good use of the energy you currently spend griping about punk variations. And the weather.

Hobson has posted a thoughtful note today about that line of mine, “softer cousin of steampunk,” by way of mentioning how ‘softer’ in our culture tends to mean ‘girl cooties,’ and how to many a reader ‘girl’ still automatically means ‘lesser’. She wasn’t offended by what I’d said… it was just part of this lovely longer entry about some internet comments discussing the bustlepunk/toonie thing.

Now the comments have become trollage. As far as I can tell, the guys in this comments thread are now lambasting her for her tongue-in-cheek coining of ‘bustlepunk’ and accusing her of … well, of censoring them by letting them comment on her blog, and not politely. And marginalizing herself by acknowledging the feminine stuff in her work. They’ve also kindly letting us know, Dear, that sexism, in the world and in book publishing is so over.

A lot of the comments are entirely missing the point of her initial post, which was thoughtful and laden with good feminist content, stuff that’s well worth thinking about and discussing. Some responses on point would, I’m sure, be very appreciated by Hobson. Or hey–if you’re looking for a Memorial Weekend flamewar, just go with the fiery-hot implements I mentioned.

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About Alyx Dellamonica

After twenty-two years in Vancouver, B.C., I've recently moved to Toronto Ontario, where I make my living writing science fiction and fantasy; I also review books and teach writing online at UCLA. I'm a legally married lesbian, a coffee snob, and I wake up at an appallingly early hour.

3 Responses to Hobson versus the trolls…

  1. M.K. Hobson says:

    Back from walking the dog, and I find this lovely post waiting for me. Thank you. 🙂

    (By the way, I totally prefer “doubloon” myself.)


  2. Cory Gross says:

    Since I don’t believe in the Steampunk practice of being “polite” by talking trash about people in other forums rather than directly to them, here is my reply to Hobson about the persecution compex you accuse me of:

    “I missed replying to this, which I guess I should since apparently it’s going around that I’m a troll who thinks they’re being censored (but apparently some people aren’t trolls by responding to critics by dismissing them as sexist assholes). For the benefit of those who, despite Steampunkish verbosity, do not understand the English language, what I did was draw a conclusion from the statement that I should sit down and shut up and not comment on people personally insulting someone for making a perfectly valid critique. It struck me as hypocritical that I should be told to shut up for the outrage of expressing my opinion when the same person did not tell you to shut up for the outrage of expressing your opinion. But contrary to those whose reading comprehension is intermittent, no I don’t think I’m actually being censored. You’ve been quite good about letting turnabout be fair play, so thank you for that.”

    I will add that neither myself nor Perschon criticized the acknowledgement, even the celebration, of feminity in any female Steampunk author’s work. On the contrary, Perschon’s being “nonplussed” had to do with his fear that the label would marginalize that feminine voice. I’ve read criticisms by female fans to the same effect. It was this worry for which Hobson called him a “sexist asshole.” Nor did I say that sexism in the publishing world is over. What I said is that there is little evidence to suggest that female Steampunk writers, specifically, are being marginalized as a class and that Hobson’s invention of a “bogus marketing category” was her attempt to make a smaller pond for herself.

    Also, your analogy is off. It’s “Bustlepunk” and “Stitchpunk” and “Greenpunk” and “Dieselpunk” that are the “dubloon.” When people say “no more -punk,” what they are doing is rolling their eyes and saying “there goes Alyx again, trying to get everyone to call it a ‘dubloon’.”