From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

In A Teapot: Wiki While You Work

I’ve had wiki stuff on the brain for the last couple of weeks. It started off when someone on the Carl Brandon Society mailing list pointed out that there isn’t a lot of information about people of color in SF and their works on Wikipedia. Major works by major authors either had stub articles or no articles at all, and there was a lot of work to be done in general. Many of us agreed, and a few set about attempting to correct this mistake by adding information.

This was bound to start some drama, even if just a little. Wikipedia is supposed to be a community effort, an encyclopedia where anyone can edit. But any sane person who has spent time there knows that for every article or category that’s ignored, there are there others lorded over by petty tyrants on a power trip. There are also a not insignificant number of people who are ignorant about race and actively hostile to non-whites. I discovered just a tiny slice of this mere hours after creating an account there, and not much has happened in the meantime to dissuade me from that initial impression.

Not that there are any greater number of prejudiced people on Wikipedia than there are in general, but the most vocal of them affect what pages and categories stay on the site and other important items of Wikipedia policy. They rear their ugly heads a lot on pages concerning African-Americans and other folks of the African Diaspora, and it’s rarely a pretty sight.

The Carl Brandon wiki-ers ran into this pretty soon after they started heavily editing, when a category they created–People of Color in SF–was nominated for deletion because:

Everyone has a skin colour it is an irrelevancy. …what on earth does it have to do with their fictional output. It maybe a subject of the work but that is different from the colour of the author.

Eventually this person got their wish and the category went bye-bye. This led to Carl Brandon members renewing their interest in having a CBS wiki, just as has an FSFWiki. I think this is a great idea for many reasons, not the least of which is the nastiness one often experiences on Wikipedia. That nastiness has a few things at its core. One being that some people have serious power issues and play them out in whatever venue allows them to–Wikipedia is an easy fiefdom to conquer, if one has the time and no life. Another being that American culture, the culture which many people contributing to the English language Wikipedia are steeped in, often devalues the contributions of women and minorities, but does so in a backhanded way: by claiming that their contributions shouldn’t be called out on the basis of race or gender or nationality, but instead thrown in with the “mainstream”, which just happens to be overwhelmingly populated by white males.

Hello, history, you seem to be repeating yourself!

The FeministSF and Carl Brandon wikis will probably not be as well known or have as much Google juice as Wikipedia, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be an excellent resource of information, and it doesn’t mean that they won’t influence what is considered notable and important on Wikipedia, should people decide to transfer what they find on these specialized wikis to the general one. But in order for either of these wikis to be good resources, they need data. Wikis get their data from people on the Internet. The community, if you will. This means you.

The Carl Brandon wiki isn’t up yet–right now it’s just an idea and a desire. But it won’t be long. The FSFWiki is up and there’s already a lot of information on it. Go there, search for your favorite female SF writers and see if they have an article. If not, make one. If it’s a stub, expand it. Search for books by female authors, or topics surrounding feminist SF. My current project is keeping the list of works and women eligible for 2009 awards updated. Help me out!

And if you have an account on Wikipedia (or even if you don’t), go poke around over there and improve some articles. Gozer knows we need more people there who care about disseminating information more than they care about being the King of Wikis.

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