Who are you to tell me I am not a fan?
I had sworn I wasn’t going to go off on a tirade this morning. I had sworn I was going to go at least one week without pointing out the depths of hypocrisy coming from those who attack the Sad Puppies because, gasp, those of us supporting it aren’t supporting the “right” sort of books. But there was no way I could let this latest showcase of idiocy go unchallenged.
A little background. Yesterday at The New Otherwhere Gazette, Patrick Richardson penned a post entitled “Not a real fan”. The basic gist of the post boils down to this. Someone had posited that you can’t be a real fan unless you go to a lot of cons and belief science fiction is “all about teaching us lessons” and not about making it fun. Since I know what Pat was responding to, he framed the other side’s position quite well and his post showed just how foolish their position happens to be.
Needless to say, it didn’t take long for File 770 to come back and claim that Pat was full of hot air and that, no, he wasn’t a fan. It doesn’t matter how many science fiction books he’s read. It doesn’t matter that he has seen and loved a ton of science fiction movies and television series. He can’t call himself a real fan because, well, I’ll let the denouncer’s own words say it. (Now, for those of you who don’t know File 770, it is Mike Glyer’s site where he does whatever he sees fit to advance cons, clubs and other such things.)
Glyer said that he turned to “File 770’s consultants on fannish purity” to decide if Pat’s failure to attend cons was enough to disqualify him from calling himself a fan. Now, it is possible Glyer was trying to be cute by calling using the term “consultants on fannish purity” but as I read the post, I got the feeling he really meant it. That, in and of itself, is enough to call into question anything he has to say from that point on. After all, who is he — and who are his so-called consultants — to determine who a fan is and who a fan is not? What’s next, they start putting limitations on who can attend cons because they aren’t “fan” enough to cross over the threshold into the wonderful world of local cons?
Still trying to be cute about his answer (yes, I’m giving him the shadow of a doubt but my patience with him is already wearing thin), Glyer posts that his consultants say Pat doesn’t qualify as a fan because he doesn’t belong to a club, he doesn’t read fanzines, he doesn’t collect science fiction action figures, etc., etc., etc.
Now, I get what Glyer is trying to do here. He is trying to show how foolish and ridiculous Pat’s comments were when he said that someone might not think he was a fan because he didn’t go to enough cons. The problem is, this approach has already undermined Glyer, especially considering the fact that someone has been saying just that. It seems Glyer would much rather poke fun at Pat than address the real issue and that, kind readers, is part of the problem. If you won’t even admit that such beliefs and behaviors exist, you allow them to continue and to pick up steam until fandom — the real fandom and not that artificial definition the SMOS want us to follow — rises up and revolts. Then things will get nasty and I, for one, am at the point where I will welcome the battle.
But Glyer wasn’t satisfied with just poking fun at Pat’s statement about cons. He had to go there. Yes, THERE. Instead of addressing an issue that is there for all to see, the issue that there is a camp that has publicly said it will try to ruin careers and lives of those writers who don’t fall in line with the cause du jour, that there are those who believe it is science fiction’s role to raise the social consciousness of readers whether they entertain the readers or not, he says Pat is simply afraid of not belonging.
So, what does Glyer say needs to be done?
You are a fan in proportion to the effort you make to attach yourself to fandom.
Wait, what? What the hell does that mean? His example is of a friend who attended every Worldcon meeting, speaking up and basically driving everyone crazy. Oookay. Without going into how they felt about his friend until the friend died, let’s look at this from one of Pat’s initial comments. He hasn’t done a lot of cons for financial reasons. Well, attending a lot of meetings for a con you can’t afford is how you make yourself part of fandom? Nope, that not only doesn’t make sense, it is ridiculous. For one thing, that example doesn’t take into account the financial hit — or the personal one — Pat or any other fan would take to attend such meetings. People work, have family obligations and, frankly, there are folks who simply aren’t meeting people. Hell, if you made going to meetings a requirement, you would instantly disqualify most con goers because they aren’t people persons and don’t do well in small groups. In larger groups they can thrive because they can blend into the background when needed.
You don’t need someone’s permission to be here.
Funny, that seems to fly in the face of the previous comment. You need to be involved but you don’t need permission to be there, assuming “there” is fandom. Am I the only one who sees the conflict here?
Then we get to the comments which quickly devolved from who is or is not a fan to attacking Sad Puppies and any proposed change to the Hugo voting rules. After all, why go with majority vote when things can be manipulated through Australian rules voting combined with the fact that the committee can throw out votes without reporting those votes or why they were thrown out? And folks wonder why there is a growing group of folks who are not happy with how the Hugos are decided.
But here is the comment that sent me over the edge:
Hugo voters read text sf, unlike the vast majority of those “SF consumers” who are following genre movies, videos and TV. So there’s that.
I don’t think Mr. Torgersen (and you could at least learn how to spell his name) really believes that if he surveyed 50,000 random people who saw the last Star Trek movie that more than a few could name any sf writer who’s had short fiction published in the past year. So his argument about Hugo voters being an irrelevant minority of the vast consumership is ultimately disingenuous.
I’m sorry, but this is complete and total BS. I doubt you could find 50,000 readers of SF novels who could name a sf writer who had published short fiction that year. Let’s face it, short fiction is not the big seller Glyer apparently would like it to be. And then there is the fact that there are a number of Hugo voters already announcing, with glee in fact, that they are not going to read any of the titles recommended by the Sad Puppies because those books must be evil and bad because, well, Sad Puppies. Does the fact that they may be able to say that someone penned short fiction make them a better fan than the consumer who goes to the movies and who reads but who can’t say if someone wrote a fracking short story?
And I do so love how Glyer’s followers were so quick to attack Pat, not because of what he said initially about how there are those who feel non-con goers are not far but because he is critical of the current manner in which Hugo winners are determined. You could put it down to thread drift but for one thing, Glyer never tried to pull it back to the initial issue nor did they try to address it when Pat tried to get it back. Instead, they were much happier showing their superiority, in their minds at least, over their knowledge of the Hugo winners and their own place in fandom.
Here is how I look at it. You are a fan if you like science fiction. Period. There is no requirement that you read a certain number of books or short stories. There is no requirement that you be able to name a certain number of authors who have published x-type or length of science fiction related works. It doesn’t matter if you like sf movies AND love sf books. What matters is that you are reading and enjoying. Heck, it doesn’t even matter what type of science fiction you like. What matters is that it is important to you and you are passionate about it in your own way.
The time has come that we quit having this false border between fans and fandom. The science fiction fan community is made up of many more folks who love science fiction but who have never been to more than a handful of cons. With the decline in the number of science fiction magazines, both pro and semi-pro over the years, you aren’t disqualified because you haven’t ever read Asimov’s or something else. Not everyone likes short fiction. Not everyone can afford to subscribe to such things and libraries don’t stock them like they used to.
Frankly, those who are so smug and hold their noses in the air when it comes to gaming and movies need to look down a bit and ask themselves why they think we are losing fans to those aspects of the genre. Part of it is because, guess what, games and movies are entertaining for the most part. There is still that sense of adventure, of man pulling himself up by the bootstraps and overcoming the obstacles. Yes, there are the dystopian, man is the root of all evil, but those are the exceptions and not the rule. Even the zombie movies and games have man struggling to overcome and to hold onto his humanity, something we are seeing all too infrequently right now from the traditional publishers (Baen excluded).
Am I a fan? Absolutely. But I have only been to a handful of cons. I don’t subscribe to any magazines because I am not a fan of short fiction. I don’t belong to clubs because I have other things to do with my time, like write and have a life. I read, on the average, at least half a dozen books or more a month, most of them sf. I game, not only because it relaxes me but because I enjoy the storylines on many of them. Something I get less and less from most trad published books. But I have been reading and watching science fiction for more than 50 years. I have watched, captivated, my imagination soaring, as the Gemini missions left the Earth. I took my little portable TV to school so we could watch the splashdowns. I gathered around the TV with my family to watch the first Moon landing and held my breath as I waited to see that first step out of the lunar landing module. But, by those who continue to cling to the leadership of “fandom” by the tips of their fingernails, I am not a fan because I’m not at every meeting and going to every con and not supporting the right sorts of books.
To them, I thumb my nose. To the rest of you, I say yes, we are fans. Now it is time to let the others know that they are not alone and we are not going to sit back and be quiet like good little children while our “betters” tell us what we should read and watch, because they know better than we do.