I was raised to say that I’m sorry. I’ll bet you were, too, if you’re a woman. It might have been a little different. Maybe it wasn’t. See? I just did it again: prevaricating. I waffled because I didn’t want to offend you. We have different experiences of the same thing: being raised by humans.

If someone knocks into you at the store, do you apologize? I do. I was raised that way. But listen, buddy, you took up the whole isle, stopped in the middle, made me wait or ask you to move and then, when you started forward again, you hit me. I said sorry. But I’m not sorry.

notsorryWomen get a bad rap in the gaming and SFF industries, but this year women swept the Nebula’s novel, novelette, short story, etc. categories. Maybe that was publicity blow-back. “We recognize women write, and they write science fiction.” Maybe it wasn’t. They were some amazing books who should have won, for certain. Still when I write a novel, part of the critique I receive is about technology in my work. Why do we have to know about the computers? Just get on with the people. I’m sorry. No. I’m not sorry. That’s what’s interesting to me: people interacting with the computer and furthering their own goals through computer use.

When writing the sentences for the man I picked to pass on the Liebster to, I started a paragraph, “I’m sorry I didn’t ask what your favorite color is. I don’t have party conversation in me.” I’m not sorry.

I left a book reading 20 minutes into the main speaker because the casual sexism bored me. The other men reading were wonderful, I’m buying their books. I’ve read John Updike, Steven King, Richard K. Morgan, and many, many other literary men. I roll my eyes as their character discover a woman has breasts and lips, and then they get on to the plot. I had another appointment and was late because I made time to run out to the reading. On facebook I said, “I’m sorry I left before the author finished his piece, but …” then I explained my point of view. I’m not sorry.

A neighbor wanted us to slow down when we pass her house. The 19 mph in the 25 straightaway was just too fast. I get that. Her kids play in her driveway. So we agreed to make a point to slow down, but when she asked she said, “I hadn’t wanted to say anything, but could you slow down?” She was raised to apologize for her opinion and for asking for things. You can see it in the sentence. We are a little different, but I don’t think she’s sorry.

Many middle class women are taught to smile and speak gently while explaining what they need or what bothers them. I’m not surprised that I can have a man call me unspeakable names, either directly or through comparison, and still smile and say, “Well. We’ve all got our opinions, haven’t we?” Sarcasm and back-handed passive aggressive training in response to the constant need to apologize for feelings is a completely different post. I live is Seattle, these things I understand well.

Most of the women I critique-partner with write YA or urban fantasy. They thought the use of computers, and most explicitly that the computers failings or using the computer might be a plot point in my stories. They thought it wasn’t relate-able. They don’t read science fiction. (They classified mine as hard-science, but thematically I don’t write hard science.) Men who read my work find the computers a point of plot and propulsion in space. I’m sorry, but the computers are fine.

The point is this: I approached a group of professional male friends about the “I’m sorry.” They said they’ve never seen it except in the admins. The female engineers and policy makers don’t apologize for making a request. I’m sorry, but that’s a revelation.

And, really, I’m not sorry.

Hello

I’m KariAnn, and I write science fiction with computers. I’m not sorry.

Update:
Upon first publishing this blog post, a male critique partner pointed out that if the descriptions of women in the majority of traditional science fiction made my eyes roll, then I was too sensitive. Seeing that he made not comment upon the rest of this blog post or the issue I raised, I doubt that is the case.