I didn’t wanna do it. Really, I didn’t. But I’ve got a teething three-month-old, which leaves about *that* much creative juice. Oh, you can’t see that? Oh, sorry. (Actually, that’s probably a good thing, for any number of reasons) Well, I’m holding my index finger and thumb apart. At least, I’m told it’s apart, but it feels like together. I’m also told physics gets a little weird when you get that small. Anyway, we have a temporary solution to Wee Dave’s concerns over his molars (yeah: definitely my child, though I send Significant Dark Looks toward his Avo, who appears to have passed on some heredity-by-adoption I could have done without), and hopefully I’ll get to the prologue for Signals (a project most of you don’t yet know about. Hush, you’ll find out in good time) today. See, there’s this guy, and he’s from the Revolutionary War and he’s dead, but he’s kinda not, and he’s in a dimension that kinda-sorta-maybe feels like a giant 1940’s noir New York-L.A.-Chicago-New Orleans. Anyway, it’s complicated, and there are demons. Except they’re not really demons. So I hope to get to that today, probably after my grandparents’ dining set arrives.
Where was I? Right: I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to write about the Hugos, as there’s been a metric crap-ton written about them already. Cousin Kate (long story, turns out we’re family. Be afraid.) wrote an excellent summary of how the voting works. That was up yesterday, if you missed it. Despite having participated for a few years, I could never wrap my head around it. I agree with her conclusions: good for politics. Which should tell you all you need to know about WorldCon and the Hugos Awards these days. I agree with her other conclusion, about how the best reward is green and folds. It’s the reason I got into this whole
protituti-authorial gig in the first place. Well, that and my constitutional inability to fit neatly into corporate America (No, really: lengthy commutes make me break out in green skin and purple pants. It’s weird).
Larry Correia, Int’l Lord of Hate, Cismale Gendernormative Fascist, husband, father, and all-around great guy, put up his Aftermath to the Aftermath to the Hugos a couple of days ago, if you missed it. In it, he reiterates that the point wasn’t to win, but to expose the sham of a group of three thousand or so fans marching in lockstep (Aside: this is a rhetorical device used suggest that all of the WorldCon attendees/voters are more or less the same. It’s not true, as I know plenty of them. This, however, is an editorial piece, and I’m not pretending at objectivity, unlike those on the other side of this putative divide. See my authenticity, transparency, and honesty.) allegiance to a concept of scifi that seems to exclude the vast majority of the fanbase as a whole. For a worthy treatment of that last bit, see Brad Torgerson’s post mortem on the Sad Puppies 2 campaign. No, really: go read it. And the comments.
Which brings me to my point. This divide is killing science fiction fandom as we know it. It’s a microcosm of post-Marx politics, wherein you have no opponents, only enemies whose skulls you aren’t yet drinking from. This is a bit of problem in what is still, largely, a family affair. Seriously, we’re not all that different, despite the attempts to demonstrate that one side is composed of nothing but jackbooted theocrats, hoping in the dark hell of their spawning pits that this is the day they’ll get to crucify those people who choose to live differently, those who look different, and all those uppity women, too. Yes, even the female ones.
The cries of “Diversité! Egalité! Inclusivité!” are nigh deafening, just loud enough to cover the sound of editorial Guillotines chopping off the careers of those who speak out about the abuses of the system. If it wasn’t for indie (and Baen, who takes a remarkably American approach to selling the written word) I expect Brad, Larry, John C. Wright and the Most Hated Man in Science Fiction, the incorrigible Vox Day, himself (who, it should be noted, expressed a very gentlemanly response to coming in sixth out of five for that particular Hugo), would likely have to go back to their day jobs for all the quasi-public outcry. And character assassination, though I’ll get to that shortly.
I say quasi-, because outside of publishing and a certain subset of fandom, most people have no idea this conflict is even happening. Look, when I have to explain to avid readers how the publishing system works in order for them to understand why things are as odd as they are (and this – the Hugo controversy, the ongoing Amazon-Hachette wrangle, the combustibility of the Twitterverse, etc. – does looks strange to people who deal with madness-of-a-different-color every day), that should suggest to even the most partisan of my readers that our troubles amount to a pretty small hill of beans in this crazy world. Keep firmly in mind that readers go to a store, get a book, and read it. More these days, they’ll log onto Amazon, download a book, and read it. They certainly don’t ask pointed questions about the ethnic extraction of a given author, or what she thinks about the plight of the indigenous peoples of southeast Asia. They have little knowledge and less interest about the ins-and-outs of the publishing industry as a whole, beyond a vague, “huh, I wonder how that works?”
To paraphrase Sayre’s Law, “politics in the publishing industry is so vicious precisely because the stakes are so low.” When a minor celebrity – and outside of King, Rowling and a few others, authors are ALL minor celebrities, at best – gets accused of such things as beating his family, there might be a problem in the way you’re managing things, Science Fiction. This is arguably libel. Libel is bad. I may dislike a person personally and professionally, but it goes beyond the pale to suggest, just in passing, you understand, that I understand his wife had a couple of bruises on her arm at the grocery store the other day, and isn’t he such a big and angry man? This is the kind of rumor that can get families torn apart, under the watchful and well-armed eye of the government.
And that, right there, is the point of this whole screed. This kind of behavior is a rot. This rot is poisoning our family, and it’s poisoning scifi fandom. The outside world, when they notice us, is saying, “aren’t they the ones who can’t handle jokes? Who get all pissy when you mention Dark Vader (true story: I totally thought that was his name, when I was three) and don’t like football?” Consequently, despite all the press high-powered nerds have gotten over the past decade or so, with the continued rise of technology, and introduction of such freaking awesomeness as reactionless drives (I know, I know, still testing. I can hope, see?), handheld computing and carrying around a library on my touchscreen device (something I dreamed about as a kid), we’re still at the place of, “what’s with the funny-looking dice, nerds?” most of us experienced sometime in school.
This may sound like an appeal to unity. It’s not. If you want one, Toni Weisskopf wrote one back in March. I’m not that optimistic. I think the poison has gone too deep. I don’t expect scifi (or SF, or even SF/F: YMMV) to die, certainly. I do expect it to fragment. Given the accusations of sour grapes from one side, and collusion (not necessarily cheating, especially given Larry’s Aftermath post) from the other side, and the attending storm of angst and ill will, I expect fandom to fracture on ideological lines. Namely, those interested in art and literature, and those interested in having fun.
Which is really what this comes down to. Why are you part of this community? Is it for the sniping, the endless clever lines scoring points off of your “opponents?” Or is it a matter of enriching lives worn by the cares of the world? What are we, as a community, going to look like in a decade, two decades? Older, grayer and more tired, attending the same panels with the same panelists and the same tired, gray topics? Me, I’m in it for the money (Pipe down, you. You know who you are!), and that doesn’t happen without work, so I’m going to go do- oh, never mind: Wee Dave is complaining again.