Generally, I stay out of Internet blurts, but when a fellow ‘professional’ chooses to air her views on my work quite so publicly I feel constrained to respond/defend myself (just as publicly) . Essentially, Mairghread Scott (whose work I’m only passingly familiar with, so I cannot and anyway would not comment on how qualified she is to sit in judgement of mine), has elected to retcon my take on the character Arcee (in Spotlight: Arcee, part of the IDW G1 continuity) in some fashion. Just for starters, I hate retconning. The idea of taking something firmly established as in-continuity (in the the issue itself and plentiful collections) and saying, ‘oh wait a minute – we didn’t mean that, we meant this’, is insulting both to the original creator(s) and the fans who shelled out the money to buy it in the first place. It’s almost like saying you wasted your money, sucker. But for Scott to  (wrongly) accuse me of apparently setting out to be offensive to women  is the kind of personal attack that really needs a response. Thankfully, I was spared having to break down the illogicality and blinkered assumption of Scott’s attack by a poster on the TFW2005 boards, who so eloquently redressed the balance. So thank you jenbot1980. I’ve reproduced your response below, in full. I don’t have your permission, so please contact me if you wish me to remove it and I will (same goes for TFW2005). But I really appreciated your distanced and measured (and well analysed) look at Spotlight: Arcee and my intentions behind it. Jenbot1980’s response follows, and you can look at Scott’s digressions in the TFW2005 thread here.

From TFW2005 boards:

<<Until now I’ve not registered on the boards, I’d been content to browse for news and enjoy the comics and toys without getting too involved. Earlier today my BF got quite irritated with this story and I’m afraid so did I because I’m a little tired of being spoken for. I think he was worried if he posted that his comments would be viewed a certain way which I thought was silly but then I read some other comments on this board and others so what follows is mainly from me but some is from both of us. A bigendered viewpoint if you will…

The issues I have with Furman’s choice is that we don’t exist in a vacuum and the suggestion that 1. women only exist in aberration

This would be a legitimate point were there any male TFs. Yes Arcee is an aberration and if they had made her male or if any other gendered robot were to appear it would be abnormal because they are WITHOUT GENDER. There is only one (presently) and she’s a she. Extrapolating the one instance of gender assignment in robots to “women only exist in aberration” is a totally pointless argument when men don’t exist AT ALL.

being a women is inherently traumatic

I’m sorry but this is so far from hitting the point at all. Being assigned a gender that you do not feel is the one you should have is traumatic as any transgender person could tell you. I’ve seen mixed reactions to this and while it isn’t directly relatable to a human issue there’s enough here to reflect in part that experience. As one of my best friends was born female but is transitioning to male I see neither sex as better or worse, the problem is feeling trapped. Yes Arcee was made female but the point is the thing that caused her trauma was the fact SHE WAS EXPERIMENTED AGAINST HER WILL. If they had made her male or female the result would have been the same. She was made a gender in a race of the GENDERLESS. To extrapolate that “being a woman is inherently traumatic” is to read into it something which is plainly not there. If anything it is a metaphor for gender confusion not something that is anti women. Where she a man the same issues would exist.

3. being a women has any correlation to mental illness are extremely upsetting.

But that isn’t the case. It is never said that she is mentally ill because she is female (and I’m disappointed anyone would make that leap), she experiences trauma by being made to feel different because she was artificially made different. The gender she was assigned is incidental to the nature of the offence. That she was assigned gender made her the way she is, not that she was made female. Again were “she” a “he” the story would play no differently. She isn’t really used to explore in any way what it means to be a woman, she is there to explore the CONCEPT of gender not to pursue an agenda about a PARTICULAR gender.

Do I think Furman was trying to make a statement about human women with Arcee’s origins? No. In fact, the largest share of blame lies with the tokenization of women in the brand in general. If Arcee was one of many women transformers and she became female in this manner, it would not be an issue for women writ large (although still troubling for the transgender community). It is because she is the ONLY women (and that this story ensures that she will ALWAYS BE the only woman) that Arcee’s story becomes untenable.

But that’s one more female TF than there is any male ones so again this argument is completely redundant. It actually misses the point completely. This is like arguing for more male or female sailing ships. They are referred to as she but they are not female. There is a very legitimate argument to be made in comics writ large but not in a comic that doesn’t have gender. There is no gender so arguing for one thing or another is totally pointless. You can make arguments where the fiction has established it early on like in the newer shows but its never really made sense in G1 and it makes no sense in the IDWverse at all where they are plainly devoid of gender. Any attempt to introduce more ACTUAL female characters (as opposed to FEMININE) is only going to require the introduction of male characters which is as redundant a pursuit. I have no desire to see male TFs either just to be quite clear. There might be ones that look male, female, like a wolf or whatever but that doesn’t mean they have to actually be those things. Were this any other continuity (Prime, Animated, etc) I don’t think either of us would care that much because there’s a certain amount of representation their already. But Windblade feels cobbled together by committee and pasted into a continuity where it doesn’t fit.

Hopefully John, James and I have come up with a way around this Gordian Knot that will satisfy the fan-base, but satisfying-or-no, the most immediate imperative is to ENSURE this story does not continue to keep women readers, fans and characters at arm’s length from the brand. I’ve often said that everyone should feel that they are allowed to like Transformers and it is my complete and utter privilege to take this next step to make that happen.

I fail to see how female readers have been in any way distanced by the brand because of genderless robots. I cannot become a truck but have not felt like that distances me from the brand. The number of female attendees at TF conventions increases all the time so I’m not entirely certain how what is already there is somehow insufficient. I have always loved TF as has my BF. He also liked She-Ra and I didn’t. I loved the boy Carebears and he didn’t like them at all. I like exactly what TF is, that’s WHY I LIKE IT. James’ run is being rightly lauded and it had been done by using metaphors not direct correlations. Cyclonus and Tailgate’s early relationship can be viewed as a metaphor for a domestic violence situation but it is not literally that. To view the characters as LITERALLY one gender or another and take that one thing to emphasise when they are robotic, millennia old, transforming, energon consuming non biological life forms is to needlessly pick one aspect of HUMAN existence and try and apply it over any other. I just cannot see a reason to create more of any gender to TFs in a continuity where genderless is the norm at all except for political reasons. I want more female representation in comic books and TV and film with HUMAN BEINGS in them, that’s where something needs done. Though even then I find myself slightly torn because honestly when a comic launches to a clear agenda the market never sustains it and the book gets pulled which sends the wrong message.

TLDR version: Arcee’s origin is offensive because we don’t have any other female origins to balance it. We’re working on it, stay tuned.

There aren’t any male origins to balance it so the argument is completely flawed. If how Arcee reacts to her situation is the problem then that is no more resolved by having another female character or even a hundred more. She is still going through what she is going through. If her situation is no longer a problem because there are more female characters then honestly too much has been read into Arcee to begin with. And realistically the perceived problem would be more readily resolved by having her accept her gender. So I really cannot get behind that justification at all.

PS To fans that still claim Transformers are asexual: Academically, you have legitimate standing, but practically, ask yourself this: Jazz has been voice by actors from three different races over the years. If, in the next video game, Jazz was voiced by a woman, would you feel the character had been changed at all? If so, you do not perceive Transformers to be asexual. If not, you are a rare, rare bird indeed.

If three different races made no difference why would a female voice? Let’s deal with this direct – a cartoon is somewhat reliant on a human being to provide the voice so its pretty much impossible to deliver a robot that doesn’t sound like one or the other. Generally the audience has come to be familiar with character sounding one way and that can mean people feeling jarred when one particular actor isn’t playing their favourite character any more, that’s nothing to do with gender. But if we’re really after genderless equality then why not lobby for Jazz to be played by a woman? Every NEW fiction it’s easier to place more female characters from the get-go, to have a better mix and have whatever you want (especially as there’s work to be done in making toys a bit more interchangeable) but in a G1 continuity where there have been established parameters forcing these aspects in are unwelcome. If you changed 1984 G1 Jazz to a woman voicing him/her yes it would jar because he’s been established with a male actor. But start a new show today and make him voiced by a female then sure, why not?

I pose the question back, if Arcee had been made male would there be the same reaction or reading into? Would Furman’s portrayal have been offensive then? If so then the issue is to do with the application of ANY gender and the resolution would never be the creation of MORE of ONE gender.

And I feel this is crucial, in the comics there is no voice, they can sound however you want them to sound. Yes there are pronoun issues but ultimately it comes down to the limitations of the reader and how jarring it is to use “it”. I’ve heard people say they hear a woman when they read Starscream, some say an effeminate sounding man and some that he only sounds like Chris Latta to them. For that matter I know a lot of people that just hear their own voice when they read. In a comic you hear what you want to hear. In a genderless society you are free to ascribe whatever you want to the character. Honestly if imagining Prowl speaking in a woman’s voice changes your perception of that character entirely then I would argue the problem is in the eye of the beholder. To me that’s Prowl. If it had been a character SOLELY defined by an animated medium then there’s maybe justification for that, as I’d struggle to imagine Blacharachnia with a male voice, but G1 has been defined more on the page than on the screen.

Surely the whole point of a science fiction concept such as a genderless race is to step outside of human prejudice and look at characters by what they do and not what gender they are? Arcee was unique and faced a unique problem which doesn’t directly correlate to either a typical human female problem or even a transgender or cisgender or any other situation that a human being may experience. But we can draw a fuzzy line to a wealth of human experience, or we can label it offensive and sexist and miss the point entirely.

I feel the point has been missed completely and while I’ve been happy to support Scott on BH because I was genuinely happy to support a female writer in TFdom even though I (we) haven’t actually enjoyed much of it, I won’t be doing the same here. I like myTF‘s like I like my coffee… Of no gender whatsoever.

Fair enough if you are a man or a woman and you want that represented but one of the things that annoys me is that I am somehow magically represented by the loudest voice. We are not all the same and we do not all desire sameness. I’ll tell you what I want to buy by buying it. And Hasbro won’t be getting any money for Windblade toys from me (us). I may have picked up the 1st issue had I not read the author’s statements but not now.>>



  1. JordanJ says:

    “I hate retconning. The idea of taking something firmly established as in-continuity (in the the issue itself and plentiful collections) and saying, ‘oh wait a minute – we didn’t mean that, we meant this’, is insulting both to the original creator(s) and the fans who shelled out the money to buy it in the first place. It’s almost like saying you wasted your money, sucker.”

    So were you forced to retcon G2 and Marvel UK stories with RG1 then?

  2. simon furman says:

    I take your point, but the issue of sidestepping or rather incorporating G2 in a new way was forced on us by RG1 being a continuation of the original 80-issue series, and not G2 #1-12.

  3. Franco says:

    SL Arcee, which is the most interesting take on Transformer Females I’ve ever read (or watched). The lack of logic in this new writer’s statements troubles me enough to keep me away from the related comics (I’ll stay at “an arm’s length from” this sort of retcons now and forever as they are based on shortsightedness).
    Of course I totally agree with jenbot1980’s reply, as he proved to understand perfectly mr. Furman’s work and intent.

  4. Tori says:

    I never understood why people found SL: Arcee offensive, because I enjoyed it when I read it back when it came out, and I had played with a similar sort of idea in a fanfiction. (Ironically, when I wrote that idea into a fic, it received gushing praise, yet when I saw feedback on SL: Arcee from those same people, it was all scornful and accusing Simon of being misogynistic etc) Plus, as a girl who is in to robots, I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of them having genders. They’re robots. They’re ALIEN robots. Why would they conform to human gender identities when they have no conceivable need to have developed them in their culture? Forcing any gender on them pisses me off, because it detracts from what this amazing imagined universe could be and instead pulls all the focus to LOOK AT THIS ROBOT SHE IS A WOMAN A WOMAN ROBOT WOWOWOW.
    Surely the point that these beings are agendered was proved in TF:Animated, when they got away with one of the characters actually being voiced by a computer.

    • Simian Trousers says:

      Are you honestly trying to argue that Transformers are agendered in Transformers: Animated, the continuity which includes a Blackarachnia, who was in a love triangle and who pretty much everyone except Sari thought was super-hot? And with the female Starscream clone who is explicitly referred to as ‘Starscream’s fembot clone’ by Optimus Prime.

      Not to mention that Perceptor’s computer voice was still male. Stephen Hawking may have a computerized voice, but he still uses one that’s meant to sound male. If you can’t tell the difference, just listen to Satisfaction by Benni Benassi.

  5. erian_d says:

    I understand what you’re saying, Simon. Good on you for politely explaining yourself to people instead of blocking comments and being a baby like certain other Transformers personalities *cough* Willis *cough*

  6. creaturesh says:

    I’m sorry, Mister Furman, but this whole thing reads as side-stepping and dishonest. The characters you refer to as genderless are clearly and unmistakably coded male, satisfying all the archetypes and societal markers. That’s how Hasbro had them designed, explicitly stating to your colleague Bob Budiansky that he was to write the initial batch of bios that started the whole franchise that as male, and to exclude the option of female characters.
    If these characters were, in fact, genderless, they would read a whole lot more androgynous. But what’s on paper is a typically male-centric, testosterone-filled (science fiction) war story, following all the pre-established, gendered markers.

    You can’t spend years upon years writing dudes and then turn around and claim that they are genderless when it suits you better. I can’t even rule out that you genuinely believe that this is how it works out, but… It just isn’t.

    • simon furman says:

      Where does it say (personal pronouns aside) that Transformers are male. I’d love to see the citation for the edict from Hasbro to Bob B that the whole franchise was to be male. The main trouble is, people are assigning the voices to them that appeared in the animated TV show. There are no ‘voices’ in comics. To me, all the characters speak in a unique Cybertronian way, and that ‘English’ is a learned function (a mimic). And you need to add to that that the IDW continuity is unique and of itself, which no connection to any animated TV show or early Hasbro edict (if such existed). I don’t exist in a vacuum. My stories are run by IDW editorial and Hasbro. So in that context, ‘we’ have every right to say (in the context of the IDW universe) that TFs are genderless. Why would you have gender anyway in a non reproductive race?

      • creaturesh says:

        Yes, you don’t exist in a vacuum. Neither does your writing. And that’s my point.

        Please don’t understate your own intelligence. You know very well that we live in a society where characters default to male. Open any book, tune into any TV show, select any movie or video game by random, and you will find the majority of characters to be male. Point at an animal with no obvious gender markers and people will default to “he” when talking about it. Draw a stickman, and people will default to “he” when talking about it. We live in an androcentric society with an androcentric narrative. Centuries upon centuries of patriarchy will do that.
        Now, that is certainly not your fault, but it is downright absurd to deny that this will have a profound effect on the way your stories are read. And make no mistake about it, the characters that you work with are coded with characteristics classically perceived as male. Even ignoring the clearly-gendered pronouns, they are generally broad-shouldered, have harsh facial features and engage in social interactions that are colored by how men are expected to act. The visual shorthand is coded male. The narrative shorthand is coded male. If you disagree, please provide examples of androgynous or feminine characters.

        you can’t use context as a shield when denying it where it is inconvenient to you. Dismissing the gender coding of the cartoon when that is the most prominent representation of the characters is downright absurd. Especially in a franchise like Transformers, the various depictions in each iteration influence and blend with each other. If Hasbro hadn’t wanted the characters to be gendered as male, why would they have cast every single one of them as voiced by men? And the fan poll that lead to the creation of Windblade offered “male” and “female” as gender options. Note the distinctive lack of a “totally genderless like all the other characters” box to tick.
        You can’t just ignore all of that and then turn around and claim that context matters. Facts are not pick-and-choose.

        To be honest, it saddens me that I even have to argue on that level with you. I have always looked up to you as huge influence, both on this franchise that I love so much and on my own perception of what constitutes good storytelling. To see you argue so dishonestly over a perceived attack that really was none is incredibly disappointing.

      • Jim Harbor says:

        “Where does it say (personal pronouns aside) that Transformers are male. I’d love to see the citation for the edict from Hasbro to Bob B that the whole franchise was to be male. ”

        Mr Furman, it is an honor to speak with you.

  7. Sidney B. says:

    “Do I think Furman was trying to make a statement about human women with Arcee’s origins? No.”

    Mr. Furman, I believe you are being a bit unfair to try and claim Mrs. Scott is accusing you of deliberately setting out to write an offensive origin when she clearly says that wasn’t what she feels was your intent.

    Rather, she acknowledges the unforeseen problems that have arisen from the origin’s interpretation, which cannot be denied. I don’t think anyone feels that you hate women, or that you wrote your origin story the way you did out of any sort of spite.

    I think perhaps you should take a distanced and measured look at your own reaction, because Scott was not attacking you, personally, and even took measures to say so.

    Especially when you take pains to rather disparagingly hang those apostrophes around her title of professional to vent your clear disdain.

    • simon furman says:

      But she still states that Spotlight Arcee is offensive to women. Which I take issue with anyway (for the reason jenbot1980 – a woman – points out so clearly). And that statement alone still tags me as a mysogynist, which I am not. So to take this as anything less than a personal attack is tough. And there’s another issue here. I’m used to the slings and arrows of writing for Transformers, and I accept the good with the bad from the fans. I’ve grown a very thick skin. But as comics pros, especially working on the same franchise for the same company, we’re not supposed to sling mud at each other. We need to be better than that, more respectful. More careful. The result, often, is this. However ‘carefully’ Mrs. Scott chose her words, the message was the same: Spotlight Arcee was some derogatory and misguided portrait of all women and we’re going to fix that.

      • lizwuzthere says:

        Mr. Furman I think you need to take a step back and realize that authors, especially ones in the mainstream, need to distance themselves from their work. An attack on your writing, as you say it is, is NOT an attack on you personally. Pointing out troublesome social implications of a work, whether intended or not, are not meant to comment on you as a person or your beliefs.

      • simon furman says:

        Generally i agree with you, and refrain from commenting on comments, good or bad. But this one differs. The phrase ‘is offensive to women’ is all-encompassing, and implies sexism or misogyny on my part. It’s not just Scott’s opinion, she’s applying it all women. So I do feel I need a response. And it’s writer to writer, within the same camp, so it feels personal, whether that was the intent or not.

      • Razorsaw says:

        Mr. Furman, positing that one or a group of people in an offended group is not offended means your work is not offensive to women is dishonest. Ms. Scott herself is a woman. There are many women who are offended speaking now. Why is jenbot1980’s position the only one you’re treating as valid?

      • simon furman says:

        Because it’s the only one that clearly (and correctly) describes what Spotlight: Arcee is really about. What was intended. Not how people (and I’m sure there plenty) have perceived it. I’m merely stating my side of the case, and that’s what jenbot1980 summed up so neatly.

      • Razorsaw says:

        It correctly identifies your intent for the story, but it doesn’t correctly identify the response someone should have to it at all. As a writer, you should acknowledge the power and influence your words have on others and that you cannot control how people react to your work. You also bear the responsibility of the social implications of your work. Even if one does not intend offense, it is still very very possible.

        And as far as the facts go… You are ignoring the societal and institutionalized factors involved in the way fiction is presented and constructed. Look at Data from Star Trek; he is a sexless being, but he is not a GENDERLESS being. He does not reproduce, but every aspect of his character exudes a sense of maleness.

        Most Transformers are the same way. Even when they were piloted mecha in the days of Diaclone before they were reimagined as living machines by Hasbro, they were designed to appear masculine.

  8. Someone says:

    You say her claiming you offended women was a personal attack…well i’m a woman, and I found the issue offensive. I found your 80’s comic with the strawman feminists offensive. I guess you can go make another comic about anyone who claims you might be offensive as more feminist harpies raining on your parade, but you should know that a lot of women really don’t like that you attempted to cut female robots out of IDW transformers, and are happy that a fan made poll is leading to the rectification of the issue. Not M. Scott, but a poll by the fandom. If you want to claim that “retconning” is offensive to the fans who paid money for the original fiction, you should take a closer look at exactly who dictated them in the first place. We wanted more women, Mr. Furman, Ms. Scott is merely carrying out our wishes.

    • simon furman says:

      And yet there are many women, jenbot1980 among them, who understand that Spotlight Arcee was not about ‘females’ at all, but about a genderless race and the price of tampering with that. Spotlight Arcee is analogous to Wolverine’s ‘origin’, in that someone is experimented on (violated) without their permission and that there are consequence to that action (including a kind of natural enough, given what’s been done, rage/berserker state). We’re in a strange situation with Arcee, because that character alone is ‘designed’ specifically to look ‘of a gender’. There’s no getting around it without a big redesign. When we set out to create the IDW-verse, we set out to create something that at once familiar and also completely new. We wanted Arcee in that universe and felt obliged to make some kind of statement about why her design is so overtly female.

      • Someone says:

        Women are not one monolithic enemy. You can have women that didn’t find it distasteful at the same time that many do find it distasteful. If a lot of people of a group are finding something downright offensive, there’s probably a problem, even if you can pick out a few on your side. Instead of going “but there’s one person who—,” maybe you should take a step back and admit that this issue is a point of contention within the fan community and that Ms. Scott was addressing it out of necessity. She didn’t do it out of nowhere to attack you, she was directly responding to fan concerns about the issue, since those concerns exist.

        And you never felt the need to make a statement about why some characters are so overtly male. Most of them are. If they were truly androgynous, they would be able to use a male or female voice actor in a hypothetical cartoon with no issue. Someone like MTMTE’s Tailgate or Trepan could easily use women as voice actors and it would fit as much as male voice actors. But if you’re telling me characters designs like Megatron could have a woman voice actor and the average person wouldn’t find it odd, you’re kidding yourself. If you couldn’t as comfortably refer to them as ‘she’ as you do ‘he’, they’re not genderless and merely using ‘he’ as a neutral pronoun. If you didn’t feel the need to explain why there are so many obviously male characters, it wasn’t really necessary to do it for Arcee.

        And even if you did want to explore why some look masculine and some characters look feminine, the way you cut off all options of other female transformers is the bigger issue. Even today you are referring to someone adding another as a retcon. Well if you hadn’t put up a wall that no one wanted, it wouldn’t have to be torn down.

      • hoodie22 says:

        you seem to refer back to jenbot’s comment a lot but she doesnt represents all women, and you have to accept the fact that while you didnt intended to be offensive, the issue came out offensive, we understand there was no malicious intent behind the issue but you gotta understand that you offended people, women, transgender people and others

      • Someone says:

        Excuse me, I meant *entity not enemy

  9. DJ_Convoy says:

    I’m sorry that, once again, someone affiliated with IDW feels the need to “fix” your work, Simon. I’m equally sorry that Ms Scott felt the need to attack you- if she didn’t like the story, there were a number of classier ways for her to say so.

    For what it’s worth, I enjoyed SL: Arcee for what it was.

  10. Psuede says:

    Doesn’t Furman realize there were originally supposed to be genders in Transformers. Heck, Ratchet was originally supposed to be female. When the writers showed this to Hasbro though, they told the writers to make them genderless (but with male pronouns and voice actors) not for story telling reasons, but for marketing reasons (i.e. boys boys boys!). Also Furman, you feel disrespected for “your” characters being retconned, but isn’t that exactly what you did with the females and other characters like Overlord in the first place? Of course, it’s alright when you do it. You absolutely changed Arcee, there’s no denying it. When she was established, her name was Arcee, and she had feminine pronouns. She wasn’t a loved iconic character suddenly changed for the whims of a group, she was her own character. She wasn’t a changed Prowl, or a butchered Jazz, she was Arcee. Frankly, I am not only mad at your baseless argument because it puts down glaringly obvious issues at play with the demographic your serving (women who ALSO threw money at characters they loved that you butchered), I am angry as a fan, for you have changed something that I and many people have grew up with. I realize now that you must be very insecure in your masculinity if you feel threatened by this, for all of the arguments presented here are reasonable.

    P.S. Before you dismiss my argument as that of a butthurt girl, I am a guy. Regardless, you should listen to females anyway. They’re people too.

    • simon furman says:

      There is the problem in a nutshell. We changed something you grew up with. But the IDW-verse is not what you grew up. None of the characters are, exactly. If I were to feature Arcee in RG1, then ‘she’ would be the character you remember. This is not that Arcee.

      • hoodie22 says:

        is not that you changed that, is that you made it in an offensive way, we dont mind changes,Roberts changed Chromedome and Rewind in a huge way and most of the fandom was glad with it, the Prime staff changed a lot of things too including Arcee and no one bothered, you have changed stuff and no one minded, because they were instances where it wasnt offensive or hurtful to people

      • Psuede says:

        First of all, I’m not angry because it’s different from what I grew up with. I love a whole plethora of Transformers universes (Animated, Prime, Video games, comics). What I’m angry about is your hypocrisy. First, you whine about how Mairghread Scott changed and retconned your stuff, when that was exactly what you did.
        Second, your argument that the IDW isn’t G1 is invalid, because the universe actually is G1 in comic form, kind of like how the IDW comic version of My Little Pony takes place in the same universe. Of course, there are little changes here and there, more evolutions to the storyline, and that’s what enables people like you to take creative liberties and change and expand things. Now that Mairghread is doing it though, it’s suddenly scandalous. I don’t know how new you are to Transformers, but you have to realize that change happens all the time, even within the same universe. You made your changes, now so will she.
        Finally, your professional manner is abhorrent. You’re making this whole deal about you, when it really is about the fans. You contributed to a product, and people bought it. Now it’s Mairghread’s turn. She was given the green light to do whatever she’s going to do, and if fans buy it, that’s what they want. You instead attack her and the fans (calling her “professional” in quotes, saying it’s the fan’s fault when they are offended). A few people who look into this issue point out that you act as if you’re not expecting critique and change to happen. This is not how you’re supposed yo act as a professional. Even I, a fan, who hated Beast Wars didn’t shut myself in a shell and admonish people for hating it or liking it, and you shouldn’t either. You also DEFINITELY shouldn’t be putting down people who’ve been offended. That’s not something even a decent human being does, much less a professional.
        P.S. Please leave a more thorough response, many people who I’ve discussed things with who can’t seem to get things don’t respond to or even read all of my commentary. I know that if you had, you would’ve realized that this problem isn’t so much of a “nutshell” after all.

  11. jerky says:

    yow, Simon I think you ought to re-read a few points!!
    I love your work in TFdom, I really do, so as an actual reader/fan of your work, opening your defense by bashing on someone’s professional career is pretty low. Mairg didn’t seem to take any aggressive stance against you or your work on the Arcee SL, concerning you or your character, rather the premise of the story in its context…Even I had to run through her words in that specific link a few times in case I missed something…(the tl;dr summation is the only place where I could find anything particularly direct, but she still only mentions the premise of the SL, no accusations of you particularly of “setting out to be offensive to women”).

    Two other writers were part of the retcon planning stages too. She was hired to do a job within a certain parameter (which I’m positive you’d have a greater understanding of with a long career in comics), and if she’s greenlit for this, then there’s probably a good reason for the change (whether that be a large number of readers taking offense or introducing a half-fan built character, or a little of both we’ll see).

    As an aside, I’m excited for the Windblade series (and especially for the artist!) I like having so much TF media running all at once, I’m OD’ing on giant space robots over here.

    I hope there will be more direct dialogue between you and Mairghread on this to hammer out what appears to be a bit of misunderstanding….

    • simon furman says:

      I reiterate what I said in an earlier reply. Mrs Scott chose her words very carefully. But I (and my work) was name-checked in the same breath as the sentence ‘offensive to women’. And I therefore feel I have every right to be annoyed at that. Because I feel she has mis-read/misunderstood the comic she’s taking issue with. There was plenty of fan backlash at the time of publication.Did I rise to any of that? No, because I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion, right or wrong. Just as Mrs Scott is entitled to her opinion. But she is a professional and she made it personal. However well she said it. And that’s something I would never do to a fellow professional, no matter what my feelings.

      • hoodie22 says:

        as several women were offended by that issue and the way you handled the character which you gotta admit it wasnt the right way to do so

      • Norbit says:

        No one is saying that you can’t be upset. What people are saying is that people (like me!) were offended for Spotlight: Arcee for REASONS, which Mairghread addressed in her post. Acting like other people’s opinions and feelings about your work are invalid because the weren’t the reactions you intended to get is pretty silly, not to mention not what I would expect out of someone who has been a professional writer longer than I’ve been alive. If the response that your writing evokes is not the one intended, ask yourself why that is. Seek out and read what people are saying – I can remember negative responses to Spotlight: Arcee dating back to 2009, which was when I first started getting interested in the comics as opposed to the shows and movies, and there’s a lot of great critiques and criticisms on TFW2005 and tumblr, the two sites I’ve been frequenting most often throughout this whole debacle. Just because not everyone hates it doesn’t mean there aren’t problems with it. There are, and many, many people have been saying them for years. This isn’t just some temporary annoyance that people got over with time, there are people who are just as pissed about Arcee’s backstory as the day they first read it back in 2008 (sometimes more, because they’ve learned more about women’s and trans* rights and/or because they recognized more elements of it they didn’t like). A large portion of your audience completely failed to get your intent, because it was poorly communicated and inherently offensive to boot (want to know why? maybe read some of the DOZENS of criticisms of Spotlight: Arcee I’ve read in the past few days alone). You’re not a bad writer, technically or in characterization; but that doesn’t absolve you from criticism or from writing some awful stuff. Accept that a) a lot of people really didn’t like Spotlight: Arcee b) their reasons for not liking it were not to personally spite you and c) Windblade is going to happen with or without your support – Hasbro wants her and Hasbro gets what it wants.

  12. Blaze says:

    If you don’t want to allow other writers an opportunity to improve on your stories, stop taking work on licensed properties. Transformers isn’t yours. You’re merely an extension of Hasbro’s marketing department.

    • simon furman says:

      That’s exactly right. I am merely an extension of Hasbro. Always have been. And Hasbro see/vet/approve all my storylines, without exception. In a way, that’s my safety net. Nothing I put out there hasn’t been through the finest of toothcombs.

  13. Blarkon says:

    Was going to give the new series a shot until I saw the authors comments. Won’t purchase them after reading those – which is probably detrimental to the author’s intent because not only do my son and nephew read what I’ve collected, my niece does as well.

    If the way you introduce yourselves to fans is to launch a personal attack on a previous author claiming his writing indicates a misogynist attitude, don’t expect all of them to be willing to bother giving your work any consideration whatsoever.

    • simon furman says:

      Thank you. This is really nub of it. Don’t launch one comic off a negative dig at another. The truth is, Mrs Scott is entitled and free to do whatever she wishes, if it’s with IDW and Hasbro’s blessing. And I was genuinely pleased for her and the Windblade comic. Then I got a name-check and it all changed.

      • Blarkon says:

        If I’ve enjoyed an authors work, and I then find their politics odious, I’ll separate the “art” from the “artist”. If instead I encounter the polemics first, I’ll simply bypass the art.

        If the author had let the work speak for itself, I would have judged it on its merits without attempting to deconstruct it as some sort of feminist polemic. That opportunity has been lost.

        Scott has allowed politics to trump narrative and in that at least one reliable sale has been lost.

  14. Karan Seraph says:

    I don’t know what you are all playing at; the perceived personal attacks and defense are only going to end up selling more toys and comics ( and popcorn).

    If Mr. Furman did hid personal best to deal with the minority of curvy she-pronouned characters the Brand gave him, can Ms. Scott do less?

    You guys (dudes, gals, ladies, people, etc.) want to continue the internet debates over the nature of characters none of us actually own? Hey, reap the whirlwind, my friends.

    Personally, I enjoy both Mr. Furman’s and Ms. Scott’s contributions and want this argument to be over….finished.

    • M.A. says:

      Thank you. While my view on all of this seems to be a mix of both sides, and I can see where both are coming from/their intent, this isn’t really going to go anywhere, and in a month or so this little spat will likely be forgotten by most of the fandom (though the rather sensitive topic of gender/equality/representation will flair up later on, as per usual). Heck, one of my fanon theories (just a passing thought, not an actual headcanon) is that the reason there are masculine pronouns being used is that either 1.) “he” may possibly have a different meaning to these guys, or 2.) just as I believe they are speaking in Neocybex despite the visually English dialog, I like to assume that their general Cybertronian pronoun translates as “he” to us, if that makes any sense. Again, this is just a casual theory that may justify the pronoun use in this continuity, even as I can see how it may not hold up all that well when put into a broader light and coupled with this franchise’s history. *shrugs* Maybe if another visually (well-known) “male” character had had a similar experiment done on them that turned them male, then maybe people wouldn’t feel so offended by what was done with Arcee.

  15. Spence says:

    Nowhere has Scott ever said she will be retconning your work. It’s just been suggested by a lot of people on popular forums. What Ms. Scott is doing is she’s making the addition of female characters by using her own reasons for their existence without touching the origin you crafted for Arcee. I hope that adds some perspective.

    • simon furman says:

      I have to read, given her dismissal of Arcee as ‘offensive to women’ that at best she’ll be sidestepping it entirely. Maybe I’m wrong. But the slant of the post(s) she made seemed to be… we’ll find a way around this, somehow.

      • invisiblemoose says:

        Well given that the only way that female characters can be introduced to the story is by unwillingly changing their gender by a madman who is presently trapped in a dead universe and there are people who would love to see characters like Elita One, Chromia etc introduced, is that really a bad thing per se?

  16. Spence says:

    Another thing, is that she had also explicitly stated that she does not believe that how you portrayed Arcee in her Spotlight was any indication towards a purposeful offence to women even stating her disgust towards people who assume that. I’m sorry to say this Simon but I think you’re coming about this all wrong, what Mairghread Scott is doing is creating a separate fembot origin in order to please the groups of fans that were unsatisfied with Arcee’s origin WITHOUT tampering with past fiction. I hope you and Ms. Scott can come to a better understanding of one another before another missile is fired.

    • simon furman says:

      And yet she still describes the issue as offensive to women, which I firmly state it’s not. Read what jenbot1980 has to say. She got it. Entirely. Others clearly did not. And again, for the record, as far as the IDW-verse goes, there is no ‘past fiction’ to tamper with. This is from the ground up. Starting with Infiltration #0. There’s nothing (that isn’t a jump back in time and published since 2005) before that.

      • Wow, it sure is mighty kind of you to tell all the womenfolk what is and isn’t offensive to them. Good thing they have a strong, intelligent man like you to do their thinking for them and tell them what their opinions should be.

      • simon furman says:

        You misunderstand me. If you believe Arcee Spotlight is offensive to you, fine. Nothing I can do about that. Except state the case for the contrary, which was my original intention for the story. Plenty of women don’t seem to have found the story offensive. So just as I can’t blanket claim it’s not offensive, neither can you claim it is. It is to you. I get that. I get that it is to others. Sorry you feel that way. But that was not (I repeat again) how it was conceived or intended.

      • Razorsaw says:

        Mr. Furman, no where does Ms. Scott say that’s what you intended. She is speaking of how it looks outside of the context of a single story. In fact, her write up goes to great pains to say that she is NOT trying to say you were trying to be offensive.

        Surely you are familiar with the concept of Death of the Author, yes? That is all Ms. Scott was attempting to apply to the situation.

      • “Plenty of women don’t seem to have found the story offensive.”

        Your argumentum ad populum changes nothing. “I’m not ___ist, because there are ____ who agree with me,” is an intellectually dishonest position taken by many, many people who make a habit of publishing or uttering racist, homophobic, misogynistic, transphobic, and xenophobic statements. When there are women telling you, “This is offensive,” the appropriate response is not, “But I found a woman or three who disagree with that, so you’re wrong.” Repeatedly insisting those women failed to “understand” what you wrote is not an appropriate response, either.

        “And yet there are many women, jenbot1980 among them, who understand…”
        “Because I feel she has mis-read/misunderstood…”
        “Read what jenbot1980 has to say. She got it. Entirely. Others clearly did not.”

        You’re being completely dismissive of those who would take offense to your story and writing them off as incapable of comprehending your words. Insisting women who were offended simply don’t “get it” while screaming “I’M NOT SEXIST!” is beyond disingenuous. And frankly, I find it difficult to believe you’ve lived to be your age without realizing the very real possibility of doing/saying/writing something sexist without intending for it to be sexist. You could have used this as an opportunity to learn WHY your story would be offensive, but you’re too busy telling everyone why they shouldn’t have been offended in the first place.

        And perhaps worst of all, you’re ignoring the context of what Scott said entirely. “Arcee’s origin is offensive because we don’t have any other female origins to balance it. We’re working on it, stay tuned.” She didn’t say, “Simon Furman wrote a sexist piece of trash that needs to be retconned out of existence,” nor did she say, “Spotlight Arcee was some derogatory and misguided portrait of all women and we’re going to fix that.” If anyone is failing to understand what’s been written, it’s you missing the, “because we don’t have any other female origins to balance it,” in her commentary.

      • Spence says:

        I’m aware that it’s from the ground up, and I am also well aware that IDW is it’s own continuity outside of that of the original comics and cartoons. But what I meant from “without tampering with past fiction” was that of the earlier fiction within the IDW story line, more specifically, Spotlight Arcee. When it comes down to Scott’s ideas for the addition of a “female” Cybertronian, it is in no way going against the idea that these beings are without sex or gender. The idea of a self-identifying female Cybertronian that still keeps it’s/his/her original biology as gendered neutral, in my opinion, manages to keep the original idea intact while still pleasing the readers who found the idea of a race identifying themselves entirely as ‘male’ to be jarring or even offensive.

        I don’t agree with Scott that what your interpretation had represented being female as traumatic, though when such a large amount of people are in fact offended by the imbalance, it just becomes one of those problems that is worth taking action on. And let’s face it, there had been a mass displeasure with what spotlight Arcee entailed, there have also been many articles and feminist posts describing the readers displeasure in the ideas expressed that go beyond your typical Transfan pandering. When there is an issue that’s created this much offense throughout the fandom, regardless if you agree or not, it becomes a necessity to ‘fix’ the mistake. Why I agree with Scott in this matter, isn’t because I feel that there should be more female transformers, but because she’s doing something to please the people offended by it without touching or changing any of the events in Spotlight Arcee, or any of your other work.

  17. Deborah says:

    I can’t honestly see how she is attacking you, though. She is just addressing the issues that arose because of SL:A, issues that many people were eager to see how she would handle. She is very careful to state that she doesn’t believe you had any negative intentions with your work, even stating that the biggest reason there are problems comes from something else entirely. It is thought out and respectful, and something that could be learned from.

  18. simon furman says:

    What I have learned is how two people can read the same thing and see it completely differently.

    • SmokedToast says:

      But heres the thing mr. Furman… it is offensive to some women. Women who’ve posted right here in your blog saying “yes, this offends me”. By saying it doesnt, you are dismissing these people in favor of -one- opinion. Yes there are a lot of people who arent offended… but they do not invalidate the people who are. The tone your responses have been set in seems like you think that they do and that is what is offending people now.

      • simon furman says:

        But as the author I’m saying it was not the intent. I can’t help or impact that people have read it that way. You either take my word for it or don’t. I’m just (re-) stating what the original intent was. For the record.

      • Bloodrose says:

        For crying out loud, the Bible is more offensive to some, than the comicbook we’re talking about. Grow a thicker skin people, noone wanted to hurt you!

    • Deborah says:

      Oh, for sure. One question I have, though, is how much value you put towards intent. Intent, while important, isn’t everything, and things can be problematic and insulting without ever being intended to. Unforseen complications can arise, complications that a good deal of people wanted to know just how they would be handled. Saying this wasn’t intended doesn’t make these issues go away.

  19. Bloodrose says:

    When did Roberts say negative things out loud, when he had a negative opinion of a collegue’s work, people? When did Barber? When did Simon?

    You would be pretty pissed off if any coworker of yours would say something like this to the public at a PR event: “We don’t really like what Yourownname did. It works in a vaacum, but sadly our company does’t work in a vaacum, so we are going to do something to make it right. Beacause what Yourownname did was offensive.”

    I don’t believe some of you guys.

  20. Dave Grew says:

    Simon, you have always been a legend to me since the days of the UK Transformers of the mid 1980’s that I grew up with. To throw the accusation that your Spotlight Arcee is offensive to women is just the claptrap I would expect to hear from someone like Ms Scott! Hopefully her unprofessionalism will come back to bite her in the arse (I hope and pray!!).

    • simon furman says:

      Hey, Dave (and all), please keep your replies and observations polite and respectful. I have no wish to make this a slanging match. I respect Mrs (or Ms) Scott, I just don’t agree with her or think she’s spoken wisely.

  21. Kpax says:

    This is provably the most immature reaction possible to someone’s criticism I ever seen. Frankly, that’s not something I was expecting fron a mature grow up person.

    You can’t assign male pronouns to a whole race of giant human aliens, have them behave 90% of the time like the standard human male and then claim that they’re genderless when it’s convenient for your arguments.

    If you are so entitled to not see why Arcee’s backstory is offensive to women then clearly you have a huger problem than not only someone criticizing your work.

  22. Ian G says:

    Yesterday I popped into the #97 script wrap to read the lastest batch of comments and my curiosity was picqued by this new, unexpected thread.

    By my own admission,I don’t know very much about the ongoing IDW TF’s universe so whether or not the retconned stuff is better/more socially relevant etc, I couldn’t possibly say but in my opinion, it’s also beside the point.

    It seems to me like a huge breach of etiquette to simply disqualify an established backstory because it is at odds with someone’s creative agenda.

    I remember very well Simon the trouble you went to in order to reconcile the Marvel UK material with it’s US counterpart and although I thought your stories were vastly superior, I’m still glad that you went to the effort of respecting the bigger picture because it was the right thing to do.

    • Norbit says:

      But as a poster above me said, it doesn’t sound like Scott is actually retconning Arcee’s backstory out of existence. She said, in her post critiquing Spotlight: Arcee, that the reason it was offensive was “because we don’t have any other female origins to balance it. We’re working on it” which sounds to me like she is adding more female origins to Transformers, such as Transformers who’ve encountered alien species and chosen female pronouns from their own prerogative, and perhaps writing it in that Arcee has made peace with herself and no longer finds her gender traumatic. To be honest, that would be okay by me. I’d have preferred Arcee to have had a different origin from the beginning so we wouldn’t have to work through this whole thing, but Spotlight: Arcee has been published, and I haven’t gotten the impression that Scott is totally writing it out of existence. Potentially tweaking it and making influence the current state of IDW Transformers (exactly like Roberts and Barber have done, may I add), yes, but not going “lol never happened sucks to suck furman”. I think she’s doing her best to navigate through a minefield of people with strong opinions about Transformers, women’s rights, and trans* rights and sometimes that means acknowledging that Spotlight: Arcee was not exactly a beacon of representation. Scott was critiquing Furman’s portrayal of Arcee, not demonizing him. If he thinks she insulted him, intentionally or otherwise, that’s something that should have been brought up between the two of them, not the internet at large.

      • Ian G says:

        I’ll conceed that my observation on the potential retconning was based on the general assumption that it needed to be- in order to accomadate the genesis and development of further female characters. If this is, as you suggest, probably not going to be the case then it ceases to be an issue as far as I’m concerned.

        On the larger topic, namely the handling of the Arcee character in her own spotlight issue, there can be no doubt that the narrative therein has caused a great deal of consternation and division amongst the IDW TF’s fanbase. A quick scroll through this comment section is proof enough of that. This feeling has obviously been present since the release of the aforementioned issue so the question has be; why has Mairghread Scott chosen now of all times to stir up the hornets nest?

        You profess that Simon should have contacted Scott privately on learning of her remarks, I contest that those remarks shouldn’t have been made public to begin with because despite your interpretation of them Norbit, I genuinely felt that reading-between-the-lines the connotations were highly negative. Accordingly, I don’t blame him for being upset or defending himself in public.

  23. TSMarker says:

    I hate to use a cliche here but – if it walks like a duck, if it acts like a duck, if it’s shaped like a duck, then it’s a duck. So if a robot acts like a male, thinks like a male, is voiced by a male, is written by a male, is marketed to males, is described by male pronouns, has all the societal markers of masculinity, is shaped like a male, then he’s a male. If woman write letters to say they’re offended, then they’re offended. One letter doesn’t change that fact. Saying these robots are genderless doesn’t change the facts.

    I can see why women would be offended by the ‘Arcee’ char in IDW. All stories somewhat reflect the thoughts and world of the writer. On THIS world, the worst thing a man can be called is a woman/pussy. And then , when a robot gets turning into one, by his male writer, guess what? It IS! And even the changed robot sees itself as an aberration. YOU might not see it that way, but when a woman does and writes about it, women are told that because one woman defends you, no woman is offended and “…I just don’t agree with her or think she’s spoken wisely.” it’s like being told they don’t matter. And – what do you think ‘wisely’ would have been? Completely agreeing with you?

    And – to be honest, as far as the gender thing is concerned? I felt Scooby Doo dealt with it a HECK of a lot better with Shaggy whining after he got into her body, “Daphne, don’t you ever eat?”. He just got a different body – his essential self remained the same – and all it left him was hungry. NOT a homicidal maniac. And all Fred wanted to do was see himself naked after he got over the initial shock.

    • simon furman says:

      I kind of feel like I’m repeating myself here, but this is the IDW-verse. It’s not the sum total of all other incarnations of Transformers, but its own unique take on the franchise. And in the IDW-verse we established a non-gender base for our robots. Which feels perfectly legitimate. Do we have to assume that Gort from The Day the World Stood Still is male because he looks vaguely man-shaped. He’s a robot. What about the Lost in Space robot. Voiced by a man. But male? He’s just called ‘robot’. Several Simpsons male characters are voiced by a woman. Does that make Bart a she? it’s a nonsense argument.

      • Razorsaw says:

        What pronoun do you use when you describe the LiS robot? Even if you say “it”, can you honestly say you’ve never once used or thought “he”?

      • TSMarker says:

        Only when you refer to one small aspect of Bart Simpson. His voice actor might be female, but even that is designed to be identified as a male youth. Bart Simpson IS male. He is by design, male. And I think this is the problem; looking at only one aspect to the discussion when it’s made of of many elements, many perspectives. The person who originally wrote about IDW Arcee was writing from the perspective of women who found the robot offensive. She was respectful and indeed, women have written that they found Arcee as such. Regardless of the universe, some women were offended in context of what seems to them a male dominated fantasy (in ALL universe versions) they want to be a part of, but get a story that tells them adding females just ruins it. Or making robots female is an evil thing. And please, this is also in context to women being seen as fake geek girls and being told they aren’t ‘saying it wisely’ when they bring up their grievances.

        And the examples you bring up – most of the bots you are referring to non-sentient beings who lack agency or ability to identify with others like them, they lack the ability to identify with any particular standard. Most kids aren’t going to say they idolize Gort or Robbie the robot, because they lacked agency. They aren’t cool. If you changed their programs or bodies, I doubt it would matter to them – they were just machines. And a male child will want to be Optimus Prime or Ultra Magnus – but not Starscream because he’s ‘too girly’ with his shrill voice and high heels.

      • Norbit says:

        Yes, the IDW-verse is its own unique take, with robots that were intended to read as genderless. However, as TSMarker said, they read as male. Primarily, they use male pronouns with zero objections (and yes, there are gender-neutral pronouns). I have less issue with the body-type thing because they’re robots. People by-and-large read these robots as men, but at the introduction of a woman, the genderless interpretation which was left half-built and largely neglected is suddenly sacrosanct, leaving aside that the poll Windblade came from had the options “male” and “female”. There was no “agender, like the REAL IDW Transfomers are,” because in their heart of hearts, no one really buys that. And if a male robot had won? I’ll bet my life there wouldn’t be any “but they’re GENDERLESS!!111!” outcry. It would be a non-issue, because this fandom (and a huge part of our society) reads male as default and genderless, and women as the additional hangers-on.

  24. Soooo, I’m coming in at the end of a very long list of comments.

    One of the things that the SL Arcee controversy reminded me of was a question put to a group of young-teen kids (somewhere in America, I suppose Google would know, I reblogged it on Tumblr earlier this year).

    Anyway, the girls were asked what they would do if they were turned male, and the comments were “be a firefighter”, “Be a policeman”, “play computer games”. The boys, with the same question put to them, had an overwhelming number of: “I would kill myself”, because the experience of being female was seen to be one of such abject horror that the only way out of that life would be ritual suicide.

    So I guess I can see where Scott is coming from, to WANT turn that around, and you were given that story, and you just happened to do what writers have always done and report from the front lines of the psyche, where being experimented on and being turned gendered and./or female would be absolutely traumatic in terms of the cultural assumptions of the day, rather than waking up and finding you had another – err – pair of hands, or your naughty bits had changed morphology and it was no big deal.

    Also there’s been a HUGE groundswell of opinion and visibility in topics of feminism and sex-positivity etc in the last 5 years, and SL Arcee kind of happened right in that moment before the movement really took off. Personally I see the story as being of it’s time, and it might be a lightning rod for criticising the idea of gender in the mid-naughties purely because it was such a mirror of the last prevailing attitudes.. I wouldn’t see any criticism of the topic being critical of yourself as a writer. TFs have always had a deep connection to the cultural attitudes of the time, from the early G1 being very influenced by the Cold War and so on. An Arcee retcon would be interesting from a generational perspective,and I can see why a negation of the previous character would be a part of that.

    Please excuse tl;dr. – Transformers are the mirror to life and culture, discuss.

    • Aventador says:

      Could you provide the link to that study please? .

    • TTT says:

      Response to Claire McKenna:

      The notorious gender-swapping study to which you refer is actually a bit more nuanced than many believe. “I would kill myself” was not the most common answer from boys contemplating life as women – in fact, only one boy gave that answer. Many boys were extremely alarmed at the thought of the swap, but voiced it in terms showing that they understood women had fewer opportunities or harsher social expectations than men did. Others seemed less disturbed. There were also many girls who were revolted by the thought of living as a boy, so. Also, the study was held no later than 1984 and possibly even earlier. You can read its direct findings here:

      Just for the sake of accuracy.

      Back on the main topic – I’m a man and I find SL Arcee to be highly degrading towards women. And, respectfully, it is baffling for people to act like the IDW Transformers are genderless just because before Arcee came along they were all the same. Their characteristics speak for themselves even without a contrasting counterpart. Here on Earth there are several reptile species that reproduce asexually: every specimen is female and they have cloned offspring. Just because there are no males of those species, never have been and never will be, does not weaken the diagnostic gender of all the females.

      • Bloodrose says:

        The writer made them genderless. That is stated in the story. It is not interpreted that way, it is that way. There is no IDW book yet that says otherwise. Maybe it will be changed in the future by other writers, but right now… you know… you are completely wrong.

      • TTT says:


        Author intent doesn’t matter, never has, and never will. There are so many cases of authors getting the property wrong, from the original Marvel comic saying the TFs evolved from naturally-occurring gears, to the ROTF movie saying the original 13 Primes were actually 7, that for anyone to suggest that author intent DOES matter in this franchise strongly suggests that they have only just started paying attention and have nothing legitimate to say.

        Then again, we are well in the realm of Johnny Come Lately kook fantasies here about how “Transformers are genderless,” an absurd lie that had no presence in this 30-year-old franchise until about two days ago.

  25. Justin says:

    Sometimes, it doesn’t “matter” what the intent was. Your intent was clearly not to offend women, but something about the story and the way it was told did in fact offend people (not just women). Nobody was calling you a misogynist, and it’s really sad to see such a defensive response as a result of it. Sometimes we do things with one intent, and the perception of that act is a negative one. Rather than say “But that’s not what I mean!” we should treat other perspectives with respect, consider their viewpoints, and try to judge our actions objectively in a greater context.

  26. Qing L says:

    Mr. Furman, I’ve been a fan of your work since the 80s. In the succeeding twenty-some years, I never expected to see a post and comments like the ones above from you.

    You have brought up Ms. Scott’s “name check” several times. However, if you read her post in detail, you’ll see that you are “name checked” only three times. Two mentions are actually in your defense, and in the third, your name is specifically mentioned not in association with offense (she takes pains to separate what she feels is Arcee’s offensive origin-by-committee and your employment with it), but rather with the word “upsetting”. More specifically, the sentence says your “choice” to make a “suggestion” was “upsetting”. She didn’t call you a misogynist, or even imply it; she just said that something she read made her feel upset.

    Also, do note that she wrote the post only after being hounded by people demanding to know what she thought of your work, what she was planning to do to the IDWverse, and indeed, what she thought she was doing at all. Already the subject of intense negative scrutiny, she simply answered a question whose very existence means that she is not alone in her feelings.

    Unfortunately, your reaction to this, a plight you yourself have suffered, has been to publicly announce that she is wrong to feel upset, and that she should have kept quiet about it.

    Feeling upset isn’t unprofessional. Perhaps expressing it in public might be seen as bad form, but even then, this eye-for-an-eye behavior is certainly worse. You could have simply contacted her (directly or via a mediator), or made a less angry or aggressive response, rather than this, which serves only to further enflame an already ugly Internet fandom shouting match – one that looks like it will smolder on for years.

    P.S.: The thing about inclusion is, if Jenbot1980 (who is fully entitled to her opinions) can claim that Ms. Scott doesn’t speak for all of us, then likewise, neither does Jenbot1980. Holding up her post as a reason why the TFverse is fully inclusive (or is indeed above human concepts of inclusion) is demonstrating the exact opposite. If, in a group, a person feels excluded, having someone else join you in telling them “you’re wrong!” doesn’t actually make that person feel any more included.

  27. Peter Hodgson says:

    I wonder what Mairghread Scott’s views are on Tales of the fallen #6 written by Chris Mowry for IDW? Also how come back during Simon’s US run he didn’t have Arcee turn up in #67, was he told to leave her out by Marvel editors – or not use her in the G2 series. Also one main thing with SL Arcee is that it set up the whole Jhiaxus story which has been ongoing.

  28. Van says:

    Mr. Furman, I do feel that your reaction is a bit overly defensive. However, I feel that in light of the reactions SL Arcee got, that I can understand why you react in this manner. Miss Scott barely gives SL Arcee’s intended story a few sentences of notice, calls it “interesting”, and then proceeds to tear it apart. When I looked at SL Arcee, I didn’t see it as offensive. I had to have someone specifically point out the “unfortunate implication” for me.

    What bothers me most is the fact that IDW is supposed to be the part of the franchise for the older audience who can handle and discuss these more serious issues. And it feels like everyone ignored the intent of SL Arcee entirely in favor of the controversy. I mean, if Arcee had been forced to be “male” instead, would the reaction had been even remotely as vitriolic? And again, what of the deeper issue of the forced change and the way such a thing can effect a person on a personal level? Why was the story as a whole ignored in favor of the sexist interpretation?

    Personally, I think Miss Scott could’ve just said she disagreed with how SL Arcee was done without going into such detail, or acting like she was going to sidestep/ignore what you wrote, and still got her message across that she wanted to try something different. I also think it’s unfair for people not to expect you to defend your work and your intent. That authorial intent is treated these days as being optional is more than a little aggravating, as a fellow writer who has aspirations of going professional in the future.

  29. Thunderwing says:

    Wow, where did all these angry women suddenly spring up from? I just came on here to try and find out some more information about the last couple of issues of ReGen one. I think a lot of people here should be paying Simon a lot more respect, it’s a fair bet that without his sterling writing back in the original Marvel UK/US Transformers run, they wouldn’t be half as popular as they are today. It was the Transformers comic adventures that I read when I was a kid, that made me genuinely care about a bunch of characters based on a toyline, that got me emotionally invested in the characters as an adult today – I can’t think of any other toy franchises that have had that lasting effect on me.

    So yeah, the current IDW run IS Simon’s legacy, so just bear that in mind before you decided to pen your next vitriolic comment about how he’s RUINED FOREVER the Transformers franchise with his tales of transgender robots.and his sexist agendas.

    • Simian Trousers says:

      You don’t need to have an agenda to be sexist. You don’t even have to be sexist to write material that reads as sexist. You just need to be oblivious to the potential issues surrounding what you’re writing.

      I’m not exactly surprised that a man, especially one in his 50s is unaware of the sexist implications of his writing. He’s privileged to live in a society that sees him as the default and female as aberrant. Did it ever occur to him until the issues with Spotlight: Arcee came to the fore to have one of the ‘genderless’ Transformers to be forcibly changed into a ‘male’? The issues with S:A would have been somewhat mitigated if Jhiaxus decided to create a matching set of ‘male’ and ‘female’ transformers, both equally traumatized by their experience. But only ‘femaleness’ was seen as something that needed to be singled out.

      I feel like everything wrong with Furman’s handling of the issue can be summed up with this quotation by him: “We wanted Arcee in that universe and felt obliged to make some kind of statement about why her design is so overtly female.”

      There was absolutely zero need for an explanation for her looking ‘overtly female’. Not it a universe where you have Transformers who also look overtly male, or overtly like cats and birds. IDW Arcee often isn’t even drawn to look that much different that other Transformers! What makes her overtly female? Curvy legs? Plenty of ‘genderless’ TFs have those, especially in current IDW runs. Having a bust? Plenty of ‘genderless’ TFs have busts that put hers to shame (looking at you, Shockwave). Is it that she’s pink? Pink is the color of energon. For a genderless species of Transformers, that means she’s the color of fuel or BLOOD to them. Is it the lipstick? Because nobody would have cried over an Arcee design without lipstick, I’m sure. So what exactly about Arcee was so overtly female that she needed to be completely othered from all the other ‘genderless’ Transformers, other than the fact that she classically was referred to as ‘she’ and other Transformers were classically referred to as ‘he’.

      And if you try to argue that “But everyone sees Arcee as a she!”… guess what! Everyone sees Optimus Prime and Megatron and Bumblebee and the vast majority of Transformers as he’s, except for those individuals who are too blind to realize that society seeing ‘male’ as the default doesn’t mean male-coded characters are genderless.

      So yeah. You know what might have been okay? Jhiaxus experimenting on Arcee in a way that traumatized ‘her’ (technically ‘him’ because in IDW ‘he’ is gender neutral’). What’s not okay was having Jhiaxus experiment on her and traumatize her in order to provide A COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY EXPLANATION FOR WHY SHE LOOKS THE WAY SHE DOES, while simultaneously trying to hammer up a ‘NO OTHER GIRLS ALLOWED’ sign on IDW canon.

      How does any of that NOT present the idea that women and anything that resembles women are WEIRD and OTHER? It’s easy enough for a woman to feel unwanted or weird in Transformer fandom without actual pieces of canon going ‘geez, there are robots that look like Earth animals, but… man! Having a genderless robot that looks kind of feminine is WAY TOO STRANGE not to need a convoluted explanation for!’

      Furman may be a talented author for a lot of things, but the writing of women and women’s issues is very much NOT one of them.

      • Deborah says:

        Everything I wanted to say, only better. Hit the nail right on the head with this one, Simian.
        This perceived need to justify Arcee’s existence at all, when maleness is accepted without question, is sexist from the start.

      • Someone says:

        That is a great response that gets across how I’ve always felt about all this in better words than I’ve managed. If they’re all genderless, then so are the “feminine” ones. If they’re “overtly female,” then how the hell is Megatron and anyone with the classic male form not “overtly male”?

    • invisiblemoose says:

      In case you didn’t notice, Thunderwing, there are a couple of angry men here too. Here is another angry man.

      Just because a person did a lot of good for transformers lord doesn’t place him above criticism. Simon spent a good number of years engineering stuff in Transformers that is getting a lot of attention these days, but that doesn’t mean that he cannot make some problematic stuff along the way, or that people cannot call him on it if they see it and are hurt/offended by it.

      What you are doing is derailing, especially when you consider your hyperbole. Nobody here has said Transformers are ~ruined forever~ and, as Simian Trousers pointed out, you don’t need an agenda to be sexist. If you have something to contribute to the actual issue rather than state Simon’s credentials as some kind of Get Out Of Jail Free card, please do so. 🙂

      • Thunderwing says:

        My hyperbole? There’s no hyperbole coming from me mate, I’m just saying it like it is. And I’m not issuing Simon with a ‘get out of jail free card’ because that would imply that he’s done something wrong – which he hasn’t. He wrote a story about a character being experimented on against their will which a small, but very vocal, minority are choosing to misinterpret as some kind of overt parable of sexism. We’re talking about a comic book, based on a kids toy line that was designed for boys in the 1980’s. Do you not think, bearing that in mind, that some of these arguments sound a tad ridiculous? I’m not in anyway intending to undermine women or deny that a prevalent sexist culture still exists in many parts of the world, but it’s just… we’re talking about Transformers for frigs sake, not the suffragettes. Let’s keep things in perspective.

      • invisiblemoose says:

        If you can show me where all these vitriolic comments are, that are saying Furman literally ruined Transformers forever and that he has an agenda of sexism and I’ll apologize and retract my accusation of hyperbole.

        Okay, it wasn’t a get out of jail free card. So why would you bring up his comic pedigree then? Why tell us to keep it in mind the next time we write one of our literally vitriolic comments?

        Also, did you notice that in your first comment you make this stirring post about how much Transformers means to you thanks to Simon Furman and how emotionally invested you are in the characters, and in your second comment you tell other people to get over it it’s just an eighties toy line?? Because I sure did.

      • Thunderwing says:

        Where did I tell people to ‘Just get over it?’ I think you’re putting words in my mouth there. The point I was making is that I’ve got a lot of love for the Transformers, thanks mainly to the original Marvel comics, but I’m still aware that they are just toys, and hence, not something to take too seriously. The reason I bring up his comic pedigree and mention about being mindful about vitriolic comments is because this is the kind of bollocks that liable to make him think ‘Sod it, I’ve had enough of these accusations and psychotic Transformers fans in general’ and if he does and he walks away from the Transformers comics, it’ll be a dark day for Transformers fans everywhere indeed.

      • invisiblemoose says:

        You didn’t literally say ‘get over it’, but if you weren’t meaning that when you told people that their complaints are ridiculous I don’t know what you thought you meant.

        The thing about stuff that you care about is that you want it to be better. And that means if you care about feminism then you want it to be inclusive and respectful.

        I see you haven’t bothered to clarify where these comments are. I’ll just assume you actually are using hyperbole, especially since you’re now heavily inferring that we’re also psychopathic as well. Stay classy.

      • Thunderwing says:


      • Thunderwing says:

        ,,, I take that back. I don’t want to appear disrespectful.

  30. Ed Pirrie says:

    Uncle Bob once wrote a story where Cloudburst visited a planet full of females and had to explain to their leader that gender did not exist for Cybertronians. This was the VERY FIRST Transformers continuity, and the one that most informs all that have followed, including Simon’s work. Simon has “trampled on” nothing. He has simply had to deal with a glaring inconsistency within the canon. He did so with the best of intentions, and how the reader ultimately decides they are going to interpret the work is not his responsibility. And make no mistake, when there is someone out there who can so eloquently dissect the true intent of the work without having to be told about it later, who gets it and can explain it, as is the case with this Jenbot; when the work has been in the public forum for literally years and has been as freely and intensely discussed as this issue has, then being offended by it *now*, when it has been plainly and repeatedly stated that the way you took it is definitely not the way it was meant, is most certainly your *choice*.
    Simon isn’t “focusing on one positive in order to justify all the negatives” or whatever else he has been accused of on this page. He is simply sharing the one voice that he feels best extrapolates on what he wanted to say with his work. He’s not saying “she gets it, so you’re wrong”, he’s saying “she gets it and explains as well as I can, and while I’m sorry you took it differently this IS what was intended”. He has, repeatedly, apologised for people misunderstanding his work, for any offense people have taken. I don’t understand what more anybody wants from him. To apologise for the work itself? He stands by it and that’s commendable, because he *did not set out to cause any ill*, and for all of the people who are in this thread claiming that they were offended by the work regardless of any offered justification, there are just as many people who GOT the work, were not offended and don’t have any proplem with it. And because it’s not a big deal for them, they don’t go online and argue about it. Being loud does not make one correct.

    • Karan Seraph says:

      I’m not sure it’s on topic to bring the Mechaniballs/Femax plot into this.

      Cloudburst and Landmine were Pretenders who were really robots in (disguise) shells shaped like human/organic males. (Except, apparently still pretty gigantic). And although I’m sure the toys didn’t have this feature: in the comic it was possible for the Pretender shell to remove parts of its apparent armor and basically look like a human guy in a T-shirt.

      So, they have to get these tasty crystals from Femax. On this sci-fi genre alien world they have a different society. These giant, sexually reproducing and gendered, humanoids live in a segregated society, in which males live a caveman-like existance in the wild, while females live in a fortified place with luxury, privelege, metal bikinis and really big swords.

      Anyone offended that robots dress as humans or males? Anyone outraged that the book includes scenes of a sexually-segregated society? IDK. But, our friendly neighborhood wiki jibes at the not-suggestive-at-all poses of chicks with swords. Mainly it seems to just be typical sci-fi fare with the whole social satire thing.

      Anyway, our Autobot, Pretender heroes get brought before the First-One for defiling the kingdom with maleness or something. Oh, but wait, they are well-spoken and apparently clean shaven, unlike males on Femax. Of course they need to be tested for worthiness with physical trials. Then the First One is all be my mate.

      Awkwardness ensues. It’s explained to her that where they are from (presumably meaning Cybertron) they have no males, females or mates. So yeah, the Pretenders will not be breeding with anyone on Femax.

      So, what this established was that Transformers, Pretender or otherwise, did not reproduce sexually.

      The story didn’t establish anything else about that continuity or any other continuity. Didn’t say gender did not exist (being separate from sex), didn’t say they had no interpersonal relationships, didn’t say they couldn’t feel attraction, didn’t say they had no alternate means of reproduction.

      (And didn’t dare touch the subject of how male-like these Pretenders may or may not seem or be stripped down to T-shirts and trousers.)

      The story did demonstrate how a Transformer could feel awkward when viewed in a sexual context, or in a sexual situation.

      IDK, or remember if the Pretenders were just made that way or were existing characters selected to be fit with shells. Like in the toy line Starscream was a Pretender. And some Pretenders had shells resembling monsters or skeleton samurai or whatever.

      The characters weren’t freaking out about it in either case.

      • Ed Pirrie says:

        With all due respect, a blow-by-blow synopsis of the story is irrelevant to the discussion. The point I’m making is that the gentleman who is most responsible for creating Transformers lore had already explicitly stated in-universe that sex and Transformers do not equate in any way, so anybody coming along and claiming that Simon has trampled on established continuity by treating the Cybertronians as a genderless society is doing so erroniously.
        Yes, the femaxian society is a very male-fantasy situation aimed at prepubescant boys and as such is not a flattering depiction of women. No argument there. But that doesn’t alter the fact that the opportunity was used to explicitly state that gender is as alien a concept to them as sentient ancient mechanoidal warriors whose entire essence of being is essentially a string of electronic code should be to us… and that Simon *is not reponsible* for this rule, and should not be held to account for following it.

      • Karan Seraph says:

        Yeah….we might be doing that Internet thing of mistaking tone of text communication. I don’t think we’re disagreeing much, though it ‘sounds’ like we might be.

        So, points taken. I’m not a person saying the “trampled on” thing. However, I might be confused about the use of “gender” vs. “sex” as used by some commenters to describe existing canon/continuities. I think in IDW the bots aren’t even supposed to have gender (or sex either) whereas in completely separate continuities it’s not really confirmed they have no gender, only that they have no sex. So, yeah, that’s why I question whether comparing some continuities is like the whole apples vs. oranges thing.

  31. Doming says:

    So, Mr. Furman. People are finding misogyny in your comics. How does it feel to have arrived? (Joking aside, finding sexism in comics has been a thing for a decade or so now. No real suprises that it is being found here.)

  32. Keith Cooper says:

    I think debates like this can be positive and necessary if Transformers ever wants to grow away from simply being a toy marketed mostly at boys and into a more serious science fiction franchise, but the reaction suggests that we’re not there yet. As a child reading Transformers, I probably didn’t bat an eyelid at boy/girl Transformers. When reading the comics or watching the cartoon I did identify the Transformers as being male because at a young age the notion of being genderless had not yet occurred to me and, well, the characters had male voices on TV and were being marketed directly at boys who were probably expected to associate them with male stereotypes. However, as an adult I find genderless robots to be far more fascinating. What James Roberts is doing in MTMTE with the conjunx endura relationship between Chromedome and Rewind is good, grown up, science fiction dealing with different societal questions. Introducing gender into that damages it because it is just reducing things back to human analogies. Male/female is a product of evolution on Earth, but some lifeforms on our planet even have three sexes, or can change sex at will. Transformers are alien robots. Even if they were biological aliens having them as just male or female would seem parochial and limited. Yet here we have Arcee, a ‘female’ in a race of beings with no gender. What do we do with her?

    The clash here I think shows that Transformers isn’t ready yet to be considered ‘serious’ science fiction, in the context of being positively thought-provoking. The TF community is still wedded to the male/female human stereotypes, like Windblade – a fan-committee made, Hasbro-mandated character being shoehorned into the IDW continuity regardless of whether it fits – despite the fact that we are talking about an alien species. Scott’s comments do not help take us away from this parochial human perspective and if I was Simon Furman I would be somewhat annoyed by it too and jenbot1980’s comments neatly sum up my own thoughts. I see what Scott is trying to say – that we can’t take Arcee’s origin just in a vacuum because we have to consider the history of sexism against women in our own culture – but seriously, can’t she give the reader a little more credit that we realise it is about alien robots on Cybertron and that we should not automatically attach sexist connotations to something where the norm in the context of the story is for the gender not to even exist and hence be irrelevant? Arcee’s problem isn’t that she is female, it is that she has gender at all, regardless of whether it is male or female. I think Scott would have a case if the entire Transformer race was made of males, but of course that is not the case (excepting hangovers in the designs of characters dating back from the beginning when Transformers was being marketed to boys; personally I’d love to see more non-humanoid designs, then we can really forget about gender analogies). Indeed, Arcee’s origin would seemingly not only rule out any more female Transformers but it also rules out *any* male Transformers at all. As a male, should I kick up a fuss that I am not being represented in modern day Transformers? Of course not. And to answer Scott, yes I wouldn’t have a problem if Jazz, Prowl or Megatron were to be voiced by a woman in the next show, as long as the use of a female voice is not to imply a specific gender.

    People forget that back in Infiltration we saw Bumblebee and Sunstreaker had female holo-matter avatars. It wasn’t suggested they were female characters, just that to the Transformers gender was not relevant to who they are. It is a shame that Hasbro, some fans and writers cannot do the same, but if that’s what they want then that’s fair enough.

    • Simian Trousers says:

      Guess who introduced gender into IDW canon, though? It was Simon Furman.

      A mature science fiction take on genderless robots would have been able to include both the characters that code as male by humans (ie. More of them than code as androgynous/genderless) AND characters that code as female (like Arcee) without making any sort of deal out it, or coming up with a complicated plot to explain the existence of a robot who kind of looks like a female human.

      That didn’t happen. Simon Furman singled out Transformers-who-look-kind-of-female as unique and othered them. As a result, we have a series that is a metaphorical sausage fest, because the vast majority of characters read as male to a human audience, and one character who is explicitly female due to convoluted reasons. Now Hasbro has realized that there is a desire among its fandom for more representation of female characters, and Scott has been handed the reigns to try and make that possible in a universe where Simon Furman has tried to make that impossible.

      I’m not sure how she’s going to do that. It may be done well, or it may not be done well. My solution would simply be to introduce characters who read ‘female’ in the same way most TF characters read as ‘male’ and make no sort of big deal out of it. They can even still use ‘he’ since that’s the gender neutral pronoun of choice. Voila! IDW TFs remain genderless, but women still get represented!

      And frankly, it’s downright insulting and incredibly ignorant of you, as a man, to pretend that you aren’t being represented in Transformers. Transformer is not, nor has ever been, a series involving truly genderless robots. Roberts and MTMTE have gotten the closest I’ve ever seen to TFs coming across as genderless, between his writing and Milne’s character designs, but even he has to deal with the highly gendered, male-targeted foundation laid down before him, which includes Furman’s run.

      • Keith Cooper says:

        Um, I wasn’t pretending that I wasn’t represented by Transformers so please read what I said again before accusing me of being ignorant. The point I was making was that just because there were no ‘male’ Transformers did not mean I didn’t feel represented – the idea would be lunacy. I poured scorn on the idea that there has to be male and female robots for us to identify with them. MTMTE has a large female following and there’s not a ‘female’ character among the cast (although there’s a romance).

      • Simian Trousers says:

        Of course you wouldn’t feel like you aren’t represented. But that’s because regardless of whether or not the majority of Transformers are biologically male in-universe, they are still essentially male characters.

        You’re working from a position where the media sees your gender as the ‘default’. You have the privilege of seeing male-coded characters as ‘genderless’ because male is considered the default and female is seen as ‘other’. Saying that you scorn the idea that there have to be male and female characters when you ignore the fact that the vast majority of Transformers are essentially male is, well, ignorant.

        Look at it this way: Someone decides to write a comic all about a race of aliens that look a lot like humans, based on pre-existing stories about these aliens. Unlike humans, these aliens are, in-universe, meant to be a ‘raceless’ species. They don’t have races, they’re all just green with blue hair!

        Only, all the members of this supposedly raceless species all seem to have features that basically make them look like palette-swamp white people (though there may be one or two cameos of characters who read more as Asian or black).

        And then there’s a storyline where a mad scientist takes one of the characters and decides to introduce ‘race’ to their species by altering this character from the DNA up to be darker skinned and have features associated with black people. The trauma process turns the character into a raging revenge-fueled psycho.

        Then a lot of people go “Wow, that story comes across as kind of racist and offensive…” and the writer responds “It’s not intended to be racist! This character just looked so overtly black that I needed to make a statement in-universe to explain it! This one commenter is black and she isn’t offended, therefore it isn’t offensive!”

        Never mind that most people wouldn’t have cared much if there was just more variety in the features of the characters that made them look more diverse than a race of white people. Never mind that this means that when the producers of the comic decide they need to diversify to better represent their reader-base it puts the new writers in an awkward situation for just introducing new characters that look more black or Asian or otherwise because the previous author hung a big sign over anything that doesn’t look white and said “THIS IS STRANGE AND DIFFERENT AND NEEDS TO BE EXPLAINED”.

        And if you can’t understand why a species of aliens that all look white aren’t ‘raceless’ in the context of the comic as a work of fiction in our world, then… well, I can’t help you. White people have the privilege to be ‘colorblind’ because they’re seen as default and their race rarely comes up in their day-to-day life. Men have the privilege to be ‘gender-blind’ because male is seen as the default and their gender is a lot less likely to be taken to task than for women (there’s no panic about ‘Fake Geek Guys’ in fandom).

        There is representation of male fans in Transformers out the wazoo (and throughout the majority of media). You have never lacked for decent representation of your gender in media in all your life. In IDW continuity there is currently ONE characters that represents all women. This, despite the fact that women make up ~50% of the human population. In this day and age that is simply not acceptable and I applaud Hasbro heartily for at least trying to improve that.

      • Keith Cooper says:

        You are making a lot of assumptions about me, and presumably Simon, in your argument. I do not ‘code’ them male because I am able to imagine genderless robots and do not need to fall back onto human stereotypes for them to make sense to me. I do not see male as the default gender or as being in any way superior, nor I am blind to the colour of one’s skin (not that it has anything to do with Transformers) and to make those assumptions about people you have never met is incredibly rude and is how I imagine Simon feels on the receiving end of Mairghread Scott’s comments. You are simply imagining that’s where I’m coming from in order to bolster your argument. Human genders are equal. Transformers, other than Arcee, do not have gender but now it feels as if one gender is being forced onto them.

        Tell me, would you be happy with a Transformer that is described as female but who looks like all the other regular bots, without any obvious female physicality like breasts, child-bearing hips, curves? Or do ‘fembots’ have to look like some mechanised ideal of human females as well, like Arcee and Windblade do? Because if it is the latter – which, btw, is what we are getting – then that is just playing up to a human stereotype and particularly a stereotypical male portrayal of what women should look like, and as a male I find those stereotypes offensive and do not want them in Transformers. But that’s what you are all arguing for.

        If Transformers have female voice actors, great. If some of them look more slender or curvy or display effeminate behaviour, then fine. Same for male voice actors and bulkier body plans or macho behaviour. I am all for that and honestly do not have a problem with it. But if we then start saying they are male or female based upon our personal expectations of what males and female should look or sound or act like, then that’s where I draw the line because it does not make sense in the context of the fictional universe. You can’t just include things ‘just because’. There has to be some kind of internal logic. If Transformers had evolved from a species of male and female biological beings, a bit like Gorlam Prime, then perhaps that would be a fictional explanation for genders and I would settle for that. But although Simon hinted at that possibility at the end of Revelation, it has not been followed up and James Roberts and John Barber seem to be taking it in a different direction, so in that context it does not make sense to have gender.

        The thing with Arcee is that since 1986, her defining trait has been that she’s female. If Simon wanted to include her in his stories, in a way that made sense in the universe he was putting together he either had to make her genderless (imagine the outcry then) or find a reason to explain why she is different. You might not like that reason from a story point-of-view, but the arguments that her origin is offensive because it makes it seem like being female is a negative is a misreading of the situation – Arcee’s problem is that she was given a gender full stop – it could have been male or female. As an aside, maybe Jhiaxus was more interested in making Arcee a female because females can reproduce, and given that we see Transformers are a dying race – look at the lengths Tyrest went to in order to create new Transformer life – there would be definite logic behind that, which gives more logic to the storyline.

        I do think we’re actually on the same page in some ways – we abhor sexism and think it has no place in Transformers. I’m sure Simon feels the same. Where we differ is how we think about Simon’s original Arcee story. When I read it it seemed clear, and Simon’s explanations have always been clear, that it was about having biological gender forced onto a mechanical genderless being – male or female, Arcee would not have liked it. I do think people labelling it as offensive or sexist are mis-reading it or are bringing their own backgrounds and cultural baggage to it and applying it to a situation where it should not apply.

      • Simian Trousers says:

        “Tell me, would you be happy with a Transformer that is described as female but who looks like all the other regular bots, without any obvious female physicality like breasts, child-bearing hips, curves?”

        Yes, yes I would be. There’s a reason a lot of women fans such of myself adore characters just as Strika, Airazor, and Override. Most women like to see a variety of different female characters (be they female or ‘female’) in the media they consume.

        The problem with you continuing to say that you see the IDW Transformers as genderless as they are in-continuity, because you do not need to fall back on human stereotypes, is that when viewed outside of their continuity… they do not come off as genderless. They’re basically like the opposite version of the Asari from Mass Effect.

        You still have the privilege of seeing these characters (made by guys for a target audience of guys who often look like guys and are referred to with male pronouns who the majority of fans and non-fans would identify as guys…) as genderless, as someone who’s never had to worry about representation, as your gender has always been represented. It’s not about you personally, it’s about recognizing the social context that you live in. It’s about recognizing that if IDW had been written using ‘she’ as their ‘genderless’ pronoun of choice, that a large portion of fandom would likely have thrown a fit. It’s about recognizing that Transformers that have stereotypically masculine builds can be seen as ‘genderless’, but a robot with a stereotypical female build is seen as ‘weird’ or ‘other’ because they’re too ‘overtly female’.

        “Arcee’s problem is that she was given a gender full stop – it could have been male or female.” Could have been. But wasn’t. Because only femaleness was strange enough to have to explain, and maleness was not. Many different people have many different reasons for disliking Furman’s work and finding it offensive. In my case, I find it offensive that it was felt that Arcee needed an explanation in the first place.

        It’s not as though I can’t see robots or aliens as genderless. I happily can, when they’re written that way! Like, the Geth/Legion in Mass Effect, for example. However, the only time I’ve ever gotten close to being able to read Transformers as at all genderless is in Roberts’s current run on MTMTE. Otherwise, while previous writers may have thought they were writing genderless TFs… they really, really weren’t.

        I do think your heart is in the right place, though, and that we possibly have similar visions of Transformers (ie. my perfect Transformers series would have a wide range of body types from masculine to feminine to completely inhuman, and then gender of voice actor would be assigned at random, and gendered pronouns would either be assigned randomly, or characters would swap gendered pronouns depending on what alien they happen to be interacting with, etc.). I just think you’re not entirely recognizing the social context that this issue exists in. Which is exactly what Scott was saying when she talked about Spotlight Arcee not existing in a vacuum.

        Every work of art exists within the context of the society it was created in, and ignoring that context when reviewing that work or arguing that social context SHOULD be ignored when reviewing a work is kind of silly. It’s the reason why many old works that would be considered racist or sexist if written in the modern day are given a pass, because they may have actually been progressive in the context that they were written.

  33. Tim says:

    Can Poochie just go back to his/her/its home planet already so we can get back to Regeneration One discussions

  34. Norbit says:

    Mr. Furman, I know that your intention was not to offend women and/or trans* people. However, intent is not magic (see and and people were offended. To a large number of people, you failed to communicate your intent, and instead, in their minds, wrote a story that hurt them, or frustrated them, or disgusted them, or any other number of negative verbs. People have brought this to your attention, and you say they have since the original publication of Spotlight: Arcee. Dismissing their very real feelings and interpretations because they weren’t what you expected or wanted hasn’t worked and isn’t working. To use an analogy, I find it hard to imagine that in all your years of life, you have never tried to compliment someone and confused words or failed to think about phrasing, and wound up saying something derogatory. I’ve done this, and I’ve had it happen to me. In no case did anyone intend offense, but what they said was offensive, and they apologized. If I or anyone else, upon realizing what we said ,had responded with “Well I was trying to compliment you, I don’t care about what it sounded like to you,” people would think we were jerks. What you wrote, and what you have said in this post and comment thread has offended people. Listen to them, please. You are blowing Mairghread Scott’s comments out of proportion, as if she is planning on retconning every aspect of your work on Transfomers in every series, and going to do her best villian laugh while she’s at it. Instead, she (and John Barber, and James Roberts, and presumably some other IDW and Hasbro people will have input along the way) will add more women in by some other origin and presumably leave Spotlight: Arcee and Arcee’s origin alone. Since you seem to feel very strongly about this, I would advise you to go speak to Mairghread privately via email or something of the like, and discuss your problems with her critique with her personally, instead of turning to the fandom at large.

    • Aventador says:

      Hasn’t she done the same thing? (I am talking about airing her opinion on social media). By stating her opinion publicly first rather than making a statement through the book, she did the same thing. Is she excused, but he’s not? He has a right to defend himself. The fandom turned on him also as a result of her words before he said anything here. Her answer to that fan that asked the question about Furman’s work should have been “I can’t answer that because we are colleagues and contracted in the same company.” When I read it, no matter how she felt, I felt that was unprofessional. So did others think that who I showed her response to. Even a former supervisor thought it was unprofessional! That is what it boils down to. Professionalism. No one seems to grasp that. This has nothing to do with having an opinion. When you work together, that is not cool.

      • Norbit says:

        But the thing is, I didn’t read that as an attack on him at all! She addressed a concern that was widespread through the fandom, and then Furman saw it and saw fit to question that she was a professional at all. Not that she ACTED professional – her credentials as a professional themselves. Anyways, Spotlight: Arcee was enough of an issue IMO, especially with all the issues dredged up by Windblade, that it would have had to be addressed by someone in the current creative team at some point. People would have seen it as a bold-faced attempt to dodge an issue if no-one had addressed it. And also? Expecting that none of your coworkers will ever critique your work is unreasonable. I mean, they should be blatantly rude to you! But saying that no one can voice a dissenting opinion on what you have done is just straight up unproductive, no matter what field you’re in. A different perspective on what you have done can be so, so enlightening. Yeah, sometimes you’ll feel stupid that you missed something obvious or upset that more people like your coworker’s idea than yours, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t both doing your job well.
        And in my opinion, it does not boil down to a discussion of professionalism. It boils down to people being rightfully offended and Furman refusing to acknowledge that his work is not in fact beyond criticism and he failed to communicate his intent to a significant portion of his readers.

      • invisiblemoose says:

        Well said, Norbit.

      • Ian G says:

        I agree Aventador and I don’t think that Simon Furman has been treated fairly by Scott or certain quarters of the TF community either.

        Although I still haven’t read Spotlight Arcee, I’m getting that the source of controversy stems from Arcee’s enforced feminisation at the hands of Jhiaxus. To be more specific that Arcee was converted from an asexual being into a female. The theme being having ones identity torn away.

        If I’ve got that bit right then the only problem I see is the handling of the aftermath. The anger and outrage at such a profound violation are a given but there is so much potential for Arcee to develop as a character as a result of this, has she? Perhaps even if Arcee herself wasn’t able to come to terms with her new form, maybe other TF’s who felt there was something amiss in themselves would be able to identify more readly with what it was upon seeing Arcee’s distinctly effeminate body. Perhaps questing for Jhiaxus’ technology to make it happen and in doing so, ultimately discovering the template of true male and female TF life.

        Okay so you can all see why I work in an industrial plant rather than as a scriptwriter lol but the point I’m labouring towards is that if you read something you don’t like then instead of getting angry, let it fire your imagination.

        To be perfectly candid I have found the aggressive nature of some of these posts shocking and embarrasing. It goes without saying that everyone is entitled to there own opinion with no exceptions but when you’re getting to the point of tarring somebody with the -ist brush over a Transformers story that is subject to interpretation?! That’s crazy and whatsmore potentially damaging to Simon’s professional reputation.

      • Aventador says:

        Norbit-her credentials mean nothing to me if she uses social media the way she did. I lose respect for people who do that to each other who work under the same roof. Simon has more credentials than she does and he even was a consultant on the 2007 Transformers film if you want to get like that. If you work for the same company, you don’t do that. There should be a social media clause in their contracts. Try criticizing your employer on Facebook, Twitter, of Tumblr and have one of your co-workers out you. You will be in the boss’s office the next day. You don’t do that. That is a big NO! Please understand that. As far as Arcee’s origins go, if this were such a big deal, people should have written to IDW in protest over it if they were that offended by it. People are just jumping on the bandwagon that is popular. How many of them are not really voicing what is not popular? How many people do that in real life with politics and other subjects because they want to be accepted by what they perceive as the norm and not “offend” anyone? That is human nature. I wasn’t even offended and I’m a woman. I didn’t even see it as a slight on women at all and I’m as independent and a feminist as they come. I just don’t believe in stepping on others to achieve equality. If we demanded that of a real mechanical alien race, they would just laugh in our faces and wonder what was wrong with us. You have to think outside the box also and outside of human egocentricity. Not every race, if we ever encounter them, will have just two genders. What if there is a race that has four or six? Or none? Have you ever thought of that?

  35. Rhinox says:

    Simon, if I may be so bold as to ask:

    What were your plans for Arcee (and perhaps others like her) in future TF Comic stories? Was the experiment by Jhiaxus something you had longer term plans for playing on? Perhaps an insight into your ideas behind SL: Arcee (and moving forward from it) might add interesting detail and aid in understanding for us.

    I completely understand if you’re not willing to disclose such information of course. As they say, if you’re good at something — never do it for free.

  36. Dan says:

    Generally I dislike retcons to but I think this one may be needed. I feel Arcee’s alterations was unnecessary, we never had any explanation for male and females why did we suddenly need one for Arcee? I remember in one issue Elita-1 shows up but don’t remember any backstory for her. We could’ve had an Arcee who wasn’t trans but still messed up by Jhiaxus. We could’ve had Arcee who would evoke a female personality, motherly but could still kick ass. My argument is that you yourself say gender is not needed, and you would be right, so why’d YOU introduce gender?

  37. Saeru says:

    I am a woman.

    I am a (now) long-time reader and long-time fan of Furman’s work. I’ve greatly enjoyed the foundation that he built and several of his more recent additions to the Transformers franchise. However, I have had to like Furman IN SPITE OF, not because of, Spotlight Arcee. As a biological female, it offended me. I’m just adding my name here because I think there’s a lot of arguing going on about whether it was offensive…and yes. It was. It was offensive to enough people to be a problem, whether or not that was the intent. With Furman, I don’t believe it was his intent.

    Sometimes we wound the most in our naivety, and I think that is what happened here.

    However, IDW is moving forward. They’ve chosen a woman writer and they have woman artists, and I for one am EXTREMELY excited to see how we progress from here. After reading this article, I am even MORE excited for Windblade, and if the comic is good I will be purchasing multiple copies to support this idea. I want to see more ‘feminine’ transformers–if not female transformers. If there is going to be one, there needs to be more. We CANT have a ‘token female’ in literature these days and have it be considered progressive.

    And for Transformers writers…Furman, Barber, Roberts, and Scott–if we are working on the assumption that Transformers are a-gendered than that is BRILLIANT. Please, lets do that. Lets give these characters feminine pronouns, and lets give them slender waists, and lets really embrace the idea that they are aliens and that their gender doesn’t matter. Lets do something new, even if that means leaving behind the old…because we can build upon the Legacy that we were given from here without destroying what has come before…and THAT is what I believe MS is out to do.

    What she needs right now, Furman, is your support….

    …Because I’m sure offending you was not her -intent.-

    Intent can be tricky like that.

  38. MARIABOT says:

    Mr Furman, please consider how this originated.

    On Scott’s blog, she was asked several questions about her view on Spotlight Arcee. After being emailed many of these questions, she answered a handfull.

    A fan poll creatd a fembot named Wingblade as a deluxe figure. Deluxe figures are in the comics now. Pack in incentives. Ms Scott was given the duties of writing a new female characters spotlight (which became a miniseries that would introduce more fembots).

    Your origin for Arcee wrote her into a corner for introducing more female characters, as per Hasbro and IDWs desire (Hasbro is heavily involved with IDW given the tie ins).

    M Scott notes that she wont ignore or retcon your spotlight. She is instead trying to showcase additional origins. This way, your work is unchanged and those who were offended can be pleased as well.

    Face facts, from its publishing, Spotlight Arcee was very polarizing. It wasnt The War Within or one of your other great stories. Scott addressed questions and criticisms. When prompted, she gave her view and opinion. This is the downside to writer/fan interaction.

    On a side note, Mariabot is named after my wife. My name is nick. It isnt hard to register a screename and pretend to be a woman. To see “Jenbot” register with TFW just to post a lengthy retort is something Id be skeptical of. Its all too perfect yknow? Transformers forums should be tied to Facebook accounts and show real names, like newsites, like the Huffington Post, are currently implementing.

    • Tori says:

      Okay, just because Jenbot’s post does not agree with your argument and the argument of the loud female fans doesn’t mean that she’s actually a man just pretending to be a chick. I’m a TF girl and I share Jenbot’s point of view. I actually find it more irritating that her identity is being questioned because of her viewpoint than anything else being discussed here, because it once again shows the ease with which the minority viewpoint can be erased or disregarded for no other reason than that it doesn’t fit with the “correct” argument. Because what you have basically just implied is that “Oh, Jenbot doesn’t think that SL: Arcee is offensive, she must be a man.”

      There are those of us girls who agree with what Jenbot so eloquently typed; we’re just not necessarily as vocal about it as those who took offense. Please don’t just assume that we’re men.

  39. M.A. says:

    I may not be one of the most articulated of people around here, but this post (and succeeding comments) sum up my feelings for this “gender” debate: This, and the fact that in this series, I cannot really see any of them (save Arcee now) as having a recognizably human gender, despite the pronouns. Other series, like Animated, Prime, G1, etc. I can play around with a bit, but for me, Transformers’ IDW run doesn’t have these guys as being “male” to me. Not even with their (what we humans see as) masculine forms, and there are plenty of them with softer lines and curves the one would associate with a woman’s (Trepan, Drift, Chromedome, Prowl; don’t evenget me started on the fact that the supposed “males” have had a long history of sporting chests that dwarf the “ladies”). While I can see the logic in both sides of this debate, this is just how I personally feel.

  40. Marcus Beagley says:

    Reading this post and the comments makes me sad. Like really sad. Simon’s always been a hero of mine. Infiltration #0 was one of the first transformers comics I picked up on a regular basis.

    There have been many TF writers over the years, but the only one who still brings a massive grin to my face and makes me feel that unique excitement I had during 2006 – 2008, is Simon.

    I’ve read his UK run 3 times now, and it’s still one of my favourites (along with the pre-costa part of IDW)

    I hate seeing the man, the legend reduced to this.

    Simon, if you read this, please don’t do a Don Fig and leave. No matter how much Scott’s words have hurt you, just remember, you were there at the start. You were asked by Bob Budiansky to take over the main US title. You were contacted by Dreamwave and given your own set of mini-series (WWI) and an ongoing (armada/energon). You were entrusted by IDW to build a universe from scratch and succeeded.

    Look how much your writing has influenced the direction of the franchise. Primus, the thirteen, the Creation Matrix, Wreckers etc etc

    Don’t let any of this knock you back….. Keep Writing!!!

  41. Hook Line and Sinker says:

    The simple fact of the matter is that thematically, Idw has been attempting to cater to an expanded audience lately. Well, I always wanted more fembots in Idw. But at the same time, the implications of Scott’s comments seem to be that what came before was “offensive” and now needs to be changed because of that in particular.

    Why is this potentially a very bad thing? Because of the possibility that this along with other types of “relationships”, “orientations” or whatever you want to call it which have recently emerged in the Idw verse are a sign of a new willingness to merely jettison established elements of the continuity in order to appease or to appeal to one group or another.

    Do we want this in comics? Do we want continuity and the very nature of the characters inhabiting it altered so that this or that person is not offended by the absence representation of their gender or relationships? In a comic about robots?

  42. Dave Grew says:

    Dont you just love it, Spotlight Arcee was released 4 or 5 years ago now, not one single complaint until one day some stupid woman with a probably chip on her shoulder decided to publicise her own twisted interpretation of this issue! If there was any issues here these would have been raised a very very long time ago when this Spotlight Arcee was first actually released. And now lo and behold a whole host of people decide to jump on the “Simon Furman is a sexist” bandwagon!! You should be ashamed the lot of you belittling the Godfather of Transformersdom!!!!

    • Marcus Beagley says:


      Bandwagon jumping is nothing new in this fandom. You’re basically talking to the X Factor generation, who are unable to form their own opinions. They merely latch onto whatever’s being complained about at the time, and will likely be contradicting themselves in 6 months time

      • Ian G says:

        Simon Furman has done unbelievable in the world of TF and the lack of respect in some of these replies (not strictly what they’re trying to get across) is shameful.

    • Simian Trousers says:

      If you think there were no complaints about Spotlight Arcee between when it was released and now, it’s probably because you weren’t looking at all. Because in the Transformers circles I run in, we’ve been criticizing it (and Furman’s habit of writing weird explanations for female Transfomers) for years.

      • Marcus Beagley says:

        So…. can you provide me with say 6 examples?

        1 from 2008, 1 from 2009, 2010, 11, 12 & 13.

        Let’s put some proof behind the argument

      • invisiblemoose says:

        Marcus, I can verify as someone who knows Simian Trousers for years we’ve freely talked about some of the problematic stuff in the Arcee Spotlight for a loooong time. But of course you want written evidence? Okay sure. – responses to the comic when it first came out!

        I’d link my own thoughts that I posted but honestly there were some unfortunate comments and I’d really rather not give htem more exposure to win an internet argument. Here’s someone who posted earlier this year, with links back to posts made in 2011 and 2012 (I think?) both of which have support from others. Here’s something I posted 7 months ago! And something posted 1 month ago, with responses!

        Was there anything else you needed answered with a basic internet search?

      • invisiblemoose says:

        Hmm, okay so my latest comment is now awaiting moderation! Perhaps it’s because there are links attached? I don’t know. Either way please be assured evidence of past discussions are forthcoming.

        I’m also going to point out here that I don’t necessarily agree with everything people have said, there could well be some problematic stuff posted. I simply dug up some links to prove that this was being discussed as per your request.

        Until then would you like to ask yourself why it is so important that you receive proof on this matter? Because it strikes me that you are trying to derail from the actual issue. Why should it matter if it was never discussed before now? If it’s an issue people consider offensive, we should discuss THAT, not how timely the reaction to it was.

      • Marcus Beagley says:

        Not all the comments seem to have reply buttons, so in case this goes into the wrong place, it’s in reply to invisiblemoose’s comment Jan 1st 21:15

        Why do I ask for proof?

        If a woman cries rape. Do we ask for proof or just take her word for it?

        There are too many people on the internet who throw around so called “facts” without backing them up.

        Seriously, if this has been such a hotly debated topic for the last 6 years, then you should be able to prove it to me like that *snaps fingers*

        You shouldn’t have to scavenge around for scraps of info for proof.

        Innocent until proven guilty

      • invisiblemoose says:

        It’s funny you should give that example, only by funny I mean ‘depressing as hell’ because 2% of rapes are faked and yet people still demand evidence and if a woman cannot provide it then she is a lying liar who is trying to drag some poor defenseless person’s name through the mud!

        Of course it’s also ‘funny’ because you’re comparing a feminist critique to a woman who lies about being raped which is a pretty crappy thing to do and thus makes it likely that you are a horrible person. Please submit evidence proving otherwise. *snaps fingers*

        I will once again ask you: WHY SHOULD IT MATTER IF IT WAS NOT DISCUSSED UNTIL NOW? Like, say nobody ever had a problem with this comic until five minutes ago when the Big Bad Mairghread found something offensive. And then, other people recognized she had a point and lended their voice to hers. If the argument is valid, why should the time it took to realize this even matter?

        Not that this is even what happened, it WAS discussed. And as I said, I HAVE POSTED LINKS AS EVIDENCE! It’s awaiting moderation which is why you cannot see it yet. Great reading skills there. In the meantime would you like to just google ‘Spotlight Arcee Offensive’ for evidence of people finding it offensive on the first page? Because that’s all I did last time and it gave me results as far back as 2008 on the first page.

      • Marcus Beagley says:

        Oh dear…. Scott, can I suggest you maybe take a deep breath. For a man in his 30s you are acting very childishly.

        Perhaps when you’ve calmed down a bit (seriously, caps lock achieves nothing) we can debate further.

        Until then, I suggest we just agree to disagree

      • invisiblemoose says:

        That’s cool bro, just delude yourself into thinking you’re taking the moral high road because I, uh, used capital letters.

        You’re still the person who made rape victims and demanded proof for something completely irrelevant in an attempt to derail the conversation… and then said I was the one acting immature.

    • invisiblemoose says:

      -complains about people who are belittling others
      -reduces the first female TF comic writer in nearly 3 decades to ‘some stupid woman with a probably chip on her shoulder’

      Nice priorities there.

    • creaturesh says:

      “Some stupid woman”
      I think that this phrasing really sums up the prevailing attitude in both the support for and the root of Simon Furman’s statement here.

  43. Andrew Richards says:

    Dave Grew comments like that is why Emily Davison made a drastic step for womens rights over a hundred years ago. Please respect Mr Furmans blog.

  44. JP says:

    In Babylon 5, one of the things that Richard Biggs stated was his proudest achievement was that his character was not written as African-American. His race, his gender, his religious beliefs were not relevant to the story and that *not* having his race ever be commented on was important. It does not deny that there is a problem in modern America (or the world as a whole), but there is power is showing a society at some point in the future where that distinction doesn’t matter, where we have moved beyond that definition. That was the powerful message.

    In Crusade, they cast Daniel Dae Kim as John Matheson and they asked him if he wanted to change his name to suit his ethnicity and he declined saying that “in the future these things shouldn’t matter”.

    In DS9 Captain Sisko’s racial background was only expressly referred to twice. Once in an episode that showed racial prejudice in 50’s America and the brutal consequences, but also the power of science fiction to move beyond people’s prejudices and misconceptions and ultimately showed a future where the distinctions of race, gender and sexual orientation are not an important prism through which people are judged.

    Now it is up to the observer to decide whether to take offence at those issues. Did Richard Biggs betray generations of struggle? Did Daniel Dae Kim offend Korean-Americans by denying his heritage? In both instances the writer was a white American by the way.

    To the best of my knowledge there was no outcry over these incidents (and there are a dozen more I could give as examples).

    Science Fiction (SF – for Science Fiction from here on in NOT Simon Furman) is relatable but it does not have to mirror society but *hold up a mirror TO society*. It’s wrong for a society to view gender as something to judge people by. Science fiction can exist in a vacuum, because it is can show us things beyond our own experience (or beyond common experience). By not acknowledging or directly mirroring what happens to us right now, right here is not disrespectful. It is not belittling. It *can* be no comment at all. Or it can be a comment to say to us the reader “Can you imagine a world where gender isn’t an issue?” “Can you imagine a world where gender is the abnormality?” That is something to be think about not just react to. Stepping outside our own worldview and prejudices and “vacuums” is exactly what the best SF does. We *should* look at it and say “how come that is different?”.

    I honestly believe that the gender of Arcee is a means to explore a SF concept and actually draw *more* attention to the fact that norm is *no* gender. Now it is possible to interpret that as a slight to the struggle of equality here and now. But it isn’t here. It isn’t now. It can also be possible to interpret significant offence to the notion that a white male is not capable of looking beyond gender and race in telling a story. The spirit of the story runs the risk in getting completely lost in the offence taken if we look at it purely through the focus of our own prejudices and sensitivities. I know some transgender and gender confused that were upset at the idea of forced gender, but then so is Arcee. It’s not about the gender assigned but being made to feel different or excluded or powerless. It is not, nor can it be because of the genderless robot society, a direct analogue to female, transgender, cisgender or human experience. The Cybertronian system of government, the lifestyle, the life expectancy, the abilities, pretty much anything in the IDW verse is not a direct or complete reflection of anything in human society, so why should this issue be?

    If offense is taken through misinterpretation then I’m firmly of the view that the person taking offense should recognise that and move on. I once told someone who was aggressive and looking for a physical fight to “go home”. I said that because he was going to achieve nothing by fighting. He asked me to repeat myself and I said it again adding “nothing is going to be served by what you’re doing”. Now it never even occurred to me at the time but he was not from the UK and asked what I said because I think he thought I was asking him to leave the country. With a mixed background myself I didn’t even consider the inference that could be taken from this ironically. Even in his furious state he understood with further explanation that what I said and what he first thought and what he took from it were not the same thing. Maybe someone had said that to him before, I don’t know. But if we were to censor every aspect of human language that could be taken offense to we would never speak at all, because we have to add in the sum of all human difficulty and struggle and hardship.

    Tolerance has to work both ways or it is not tolerance. Understanding is required. The examples I used right at the start are I hope an indication that not conforming to the here and now, not limiting ourselves to the vacuum of our own circumstances is not disrespectful to genuine and very important issues. The responses to the issue shows that it isn’t up to any individual to decide what is offensive to everyone from their own background. It is also genuinely saddening to see anyone being judged as being either hysterical or ignorant on the sole basis of being a man or a woman. To suggest that a woman would not be able to read Arcee and not take offense or that a man is incapable of thinking beyond his own view and experience is displaying a breath-taking amount of prejudice and preconception. Men can be fathers to daughters, husbands to their wives, boyfriends to their girlfriends, sons to their mothers. Is it so hard to imagine that they could not imagine the world their loved ones live in? It doesn’t prove that they can or can’t ultimately but to ignore the full experience and ability of a man to understand because they are a man is definitely a sexist statement.

    Writers write about worlds they have not visited, marriage breakdowns they have not gone through, written characters that were not their gender, race, religion or physical ability. I don’t believe that sameness is required for understanding. Wouldn’t the majority of able bodied people be outraged to see a non disable person parking in a disabled space? The fact that someone does not share your view does not mean that someone is ignorant, unsympathetic or stupid. I don’t have a problem imagining or reading about a race without gender, in SF it has been explored before. Or more than 2 genders. Or the concept of non-linear time. It’s hard to imagine, hard to see something beyond our experience but that’s precisely what makes SF worthwhile.

    Please *think* about what I’m saying, don’t just react to it. I can understand how anything that appears to slight women can elicit a fierce response because there are so many instances of demeaning and offensive words and deeds aimed at women. But here the sexist interpretation has to *be* interpreted, it isn’t in the text. Once the writer has confirmed that it wasn’t even in the subtext, the offense is now being taken against something that isn’t there. That doesn’t stop offence being taken but I genuinely don’t think it is the job of a writer to do any more for that individual beyond clarifying his or her position. You can interpret the Chromedome/Rewind relationship as a gay couple, as a man and a woman or as two genderless robots experiencing non-sexual love in what to many would seem like a true science fiction concept and to those who experience no sexual attraction but never the less feel love it may well resonate. Or you can decide that because Chromedome wants to escape his problems and that his partner was killed that the author assumes that homosexuals are weak or deserve to suffer. You would, I hope, know that was plainly not even close to the intention of the author. So what if someone takes that view, is offended by it? What would you expect to happen there? Do we decry the author because someone, ANYONE could take offence at this? Should that tale not have been told? Should that aspect not be explored? It cannot be for the author to fear the reaction of his or her words where no direct correlation to the events of our lives exists. Those words can be explained where people have misunderstood and/or misinterpreted but then there is nothing else to be done.

    But there *is* a direct statement that the story *is* offensive which has to be addressed, both by the party accused and by the source of those accusations. If something you had done was described by a colleague, *publically* as being racist no matter how many softening blows (“taken in isolation”…) would you really not react at all? Would you not be upset and want to explain?

    • invisiblemoose says:

      Science fiction DOES NOT EXIST IN A VACUUM. It’s a culture that is created by a society that is affected by the same culture. This can be verified by the multitude of product out there portraying women in the same skintight/revealing clothes and puts them in the same old cliche roles and the prevalence of white dudes everywhere.

      “Tolerance has to work both ways or it is not tolerance” is another way of telling oppressed groups that they aren’t allowed to be angry or upset about their oppression. In many cases this oppression takes the form of centuries worth of rape and murder.

      • Ed Pirrie says:

        With all due respect, I would recommend stepping away and rereading this with a calmer mind. It appears to me that you have responded to numerous posts here one after the other and become more and more frustrated with each response, and have then missed his point with your anger clouding you. The above post calls for reflection rather than reaction, and that definitely seems to have been skipped over here.

      • John Doe says:

        ““Tolerance has to work both ways or it is not tolerance” is another way of telling oppressed groups that they aren’t allowed to be angry or upset about their oppression.”

        What is it about the word “tolerance”, that suggests the oppressed aren’t allowed to have emotions? It sounds more like it’s describing a better course of *action*, rather than telling anybody how they ought to *feel* 🙂 Of course it’s understandable when members of historically oppressed groups are angry, or upset, but acting only with regard to those feelings won’t make the world a better place. Neither will seeing the world, and other people, only through the lense of those same feelings.

        I thought the IDW Arcee stuff sucked, by the way. Sorry Simon, because I love your work usually. I agree with the people who’ve said that if you think Transformers works best without the human concept of gender identities, then why did you give one of the characters a gender identity? However, all this means is that you wrote a story that I didn’t like. I feel very bad for you that you’re having these accusations of sexism thrown at you. It seems to me that you’ve been writing science fiction that looks beyond all this nonsense, and just sees the characters as individuals. They’re not put into boxes such as “strong = man”, and “caring = woman”. If people have read all your characters as belonging to some male gender, then it says more about how we encode these meanings at the point of reading, rather than what was intended by the author. The finger of blame should be pointed at society, which includes all of us, rather than at Simon Furman. And yes, I know perfectly well that the male personal pronoun is used, but what should he have done instead? Would it have been OK if he’d used “she” for everyone? The same goes for the original characters being quite obviously masculine, in appearance (because they were “boy’s toys”) There’s a debate to be had about all these things, but none of it is Simon Furman’s fault. Why are so few people giving him the benefit of the doubt, and wondering whether he might not be very much against sexist stereotyping… but that his writing is, by necessity, just as stuck within the trappings of social expectations, as the rest of us are.

        Some have said that it doesn’t matter what was intended. Of course it does. We have brains and we can try to understand what somebody else means. JP’s example about telling someone to “go home” explains this perfectly. Anyone can be offended, as a result of their own thoughts and feelings, then put the blame on another person for triggering that. But it isn’t the other person’s fault. It also isn’t the person having the emotional reaction who is to blame, exactly, but the onus should be on that person to consider whether being offended, and acting accordingly, is the best course of action. It would be impossible to avoid offending everyone, so it doesn’t make any sense to put the onus of avoiding offence on the author, as it would be expecting the impossible. This is really something that we ought to be discussing more, as a society: what it means to be offended, and who is responsible for managing the unpleasant feelings. It’s very important to mitigate the effects of bigotry, via laws against discrimination in the workplace, and public life… but we seem to have gotten lost along the way, and there’s now an expectation that people should be punished for accidentally triggering bad thoughts and feelings. Even when somebody can prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they meant no “-ism” to be conveyed, still they are censured, because “they should have known.” We all have the power to stop, think, and not be offended until we’re sure that there is a reason to be.

        I’d like to see more feminine looking Transformers, though. That could only be a good thing, and it would definitely help make the brand more inclusive to all kinds of people. The idea of “boy’s toys”, and “girl’s toys”, is an insidious thing. If Mairghread Scott had said that, and if that’s all she intends, then I would give her my full support (for what that’s worth.) But it would be really rather unfortunate if the great sci-fi, and social commentary, of a race of genderless individuals was thrown out. Even if IDW Arcee sucks (sorry again Simon!)

  45. John Doe says:

    PS, the smiley face in my above is different to what I’d expected. It looks like I’m laughing, whereas I meant to convey friendliness.

  46. simon furman says:

    Okay, so while I was toasting the New Year, this thread has gone has gone a little berserk. Thanks for all your comments, one way or the other, but I’m drawing a line in the sand here. Mairghread and I have spoken and ironed out the bumps. Let there be an end to this. And like I said before, I won’t tolerate outright rudeness. Dave Grew – please respect my wishes and do not post insults. That won’t be tolerated.

  47. simon furman says:

    That means no more posts here, please. Thanks. Let’s all move on now.

  48. simon furman says:

    I asked for no more comments here. PLEASE RESPECT MY WISHES.

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