“Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone.
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.” ― Adam Lindsay Gordon
If there’s one thing that’s central to Australia, my upbringing in South Africa, and the books I love, it’s the battler.
The guy who is just too damn obstinate, brave, hell, maybe even stupid to accept he’s beaten. Who takes on odds fifty or fifty thousand to one and…
Probably gets knocked flat. And gets up again and tries again. It’s a frontier thing, I think. Kowtowing to authority (no matter who that authority is) is good for civilized long settled places, crowded environments. Out where I am at home, and among people still close to that, authority is product of respect, which needs be earned, and that you keep up earning it. Expecting people to pull their weight, handle their own trouble, and, yep, be there when other people take a hammering to lend a hand.
It’s not about winning (or losing). It’s about the battle and how you fight that defines the heroes and the villains. For Australians and New Zealanders, that’s almost defined by Gallipoli (and with Anzac Day coming up on Saturday, it’s much in my mind.).
And the average battler hasn’t got much, but he’s got a sense of humor, and the little bastard just won’t stay down. A man who fought his own way up… or even started with a few advantages and fought up from that, he’s a winner. Even if he dies broke and by his own hand.
Some of the Americans of my acquaintance seem to see things the same way. Others: One of the big cultural differences seems to be that winning (or being rich, powerful – the markers of winning in a large group, where otherwise they might not know you were a winner) is more important. Even if you did nothing but inherit that money or get your success handed to you on a platter, you’re still a hero to them. For myself, speaking as an ignorant outsider, looking in, I see this rooted in the East Coast urbanites – where kowtowing and accepting the dictates authority fit in with ‘long civilized, crowded environments’. I’m – like most sf/fantasy writers, mildly nuts (all right. Completely nuts. More than two fruitcakes and a healthy snack-pack) – and my particular insanity is that primates don’t do well in too crowded environments. Behavior you’d never see in the wild — from cannibalism to baby-killing happens when you pack monkeys too closely, even if they have plenty of food and the right temperature to thrive. What we – monkeys like me, and humans in particular are really, really good at is thriving in new and harsh environments, which your (not my) hairlessness and lack of skill at brachiating can make pretty tough. You could almost think humans were designed to be a colonist species… and biologist terms that’s what they are. Generalists, who don’t climb as well as well as monkeys, but run faster. Don’t run as fast as antelope, but keep it up for longer. Don’t bite as well as leopards but throw rocks and sticks better etc. And mostly, think. Question, test limits, explore. Exhibit curiosity.
Don’t just accept.
And yeah, when I start looking at books I identify with, authors I want to read again… those are actually the key features. (I honestly don’t care what color, sex or who they enjoy having sex with, my heroes are. If that becomes what the book is about, rather than how that individual battles those or other problems, you’ve lost me. I don’t care how good your prose is or how wonderful someone else thinks you are. Even Locus or your mummy.)
Which is worth keeping in mind when you’re writing. Well, if you’re writing for jokers like me.
It’s been interesting to see how this has spun in the little circus that has been the Hugo Awards this year. The big guys, Nielsen Hayden, Stross, GRRM, Scalzi – you know wealthy, powerful white men who have won huge numbers of Hugo Nominations and indeed awards, are up in arms because some rag-tag bunch of uppity little battlers who’d never been there before, from across the social, political, racial and sexual spectrum got nominated, instead of a narrower group they approve of – including… just by chance, themselves and friends, many of whom who have multiple prior noms and awards. It’s taken away diversity and these nominees want women and ‘PoC’ (‘People of Color’ which bizarrely is not offensive, but ‘Colored People’ is just vile. It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?)to suffer. Of course these rich, powerful white men are feminists and oppose racism. Are they leading the charge because they think white men are just naturally better at it?
Look, all we’ve really got is making fun of the bastards. I feel kind of guilty sometimes because it is so easy, but hell’s teeth, they’ve brought enough weight to bear against us. I’m kind of losing count at the rent-a-hit journalism (a plainly very ethical field, full of honest honorable folk) informing us we’re all rich white men oppressing everyone and winding the clock back. Is it daylight savings over there already?
Still, I’m glad to be learning my place from David Gerrold. I’d never have guessed that I was one of the little people otherwise. I just thought I was a short stroppy little bastard. But yeah, the puppies, nominees, organizers, supporters… we’re little people. Little people have to have decency, honor, play fair and above all play by the rules. Any possible deviation from the above is cause for them to be pushed into outer darkness, deprived of work, tarred with every libel and possibly to be sentenced to reading the Guardian or NYT until their eyes bleed (it doesn’t take long). Important people – like David Gerrold, and Patrick Nielsen Hayden aren’t little people. They’re important. Different. Special. So David can – while he’s going to be MC-ing the awards — attempt to manipulate and bias voting against certain nominees, and that’s just fine. If our positions were reversed I’d be the scum of the earth for abusing my position, but it’s just fine if you’re not a little person. So long as you little people understand your place it’ll all be wonderful. For David anyway. And Patrick, while the nominees are under embargo, will virulently deride the fact that the puppies did something legal… but just ungenteel and vilely unacceptable and deserving any abuse anyone feels like – in the same post as being completely unconcerned about giving away that he knew the names of the non-puppies Novel noms, and that the puppies had got three novel noms. That’s breaking the rules, the people who informed him broke the rules, and in case you hadn’t worked it out either the Hugo administrators had to have leaked (against the rules, and unfair, but the fact he stated 3 Puppies not 4 says they probably weren’t guilty) or he had to know who he expected to get nominated, have them tell him they hadn’t (unethical), and know that no one else had a chance. Curiously, because he’s not a little person none of his sycophants have asked him he could know, or criticized his unethical behavior. But don’t blame them, guys. They’re not stupid like me. They know their place and that rules and decent behavior are for little people. That’s why on ‘Making Light’ someone encouraged people to post fake derogatory reviews on Amazon for Puppy nominees. Because you can do that if you’re not a little person. And sure enough, regulars from there and Jim Hines Blog set off to do as they were instructed. But it’s Okay, they were just targeting little people.
Grin. If I keep shrinking at this rate I’ll be a Nome. “I reckon… I reckon we should eat his rat.” (Thanks Sir Pterry).
And GRRM wants us to have a separate but equal Military sf Hugo award. To make us feel included. I wonder if we’ll get our own water fountains too. You have to laugh.
But the heat did get too much for some of the nominees. Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet withdrew. Look, don’t blame them. It’s been really hard standing up to the stream of libels, abuse and constant pressure from people who don’t seem to regard us, or our families as human. We know that – given their influence (they can get major newspapers across the world to spit bile, they still control at least 80% of traditional publishing, and majorly distribution, most of review and publicity) they can trash careers. They could well make someone commit suicide, wreck marriages and hurt children. They’re trying. And they’ll dance celebrate doing so. It’s been telling that the leadership (and followers) of the Puppies – Sad and Rabid… have all shown “Kindness in another’s trouble” coming out strongly against any form of punishment or even criticism of Kloos and Bellet. It stands like stone – especially when contrasted Patrick Nielsen Hayden who is happy to leave the Hugo Administrators (or the editors and/or authors Leckie and Addison (Monette)) to be assumed possibly guilty of misconduct rather be a man of integrity and honor. If he said just how he knew who the Novel category noms were when they were under embargo, it would clear the names of the innocent. He’s not worried about their trouble. They’re little people. And how he’s dealt with his own… well, he informed us (in comments under a post by David Gerrold – who was showing us how to be a non-partisan statesman (by important people rules) that Tor’s sales were up. Which makes Publisher’s Weekly and Bookscan liars too (they say the SF Trad sales are down. A lot. Do you think Tor are different? Really?), alongside Correia, Torgersen and Vox Day (by important people rules). Odd, isn’t it, that even the man they accuse of being the great Satan behaved in a manner an order of magnitude more honorably. I don’t think Vox Day could get better recruiting sergeants than these guys if he paid them a thousand bucks a person they sent his way.
I’m adding my own, small voice to that (remember I’m nome size. One of the little people). Don’t take it out on Tor Books authors in general. Many authors are battlers too, and it’s hard to find a trad publisher. It’s very intimidating and difficult to strike out on your own, and go independent. Yes, there are few authors who have been loud and angry at the very existence of the puppies. Who told us that we’re all racist sexist Mormon men and that those of you voted for them are stupid rednecks. Shrug. That’s them. You know who those are. But please leave the rest to write books and survive as best as they can. Don’t take it out on Kloos and Bellet. Let them be. It’s a war. Some people fall. When you’re on target, you absorb a lot of flak.
What you need to do instead is nurture and support the living. Join Sasquan if you can afford it, and make your voice heard. Yes, you’re only a ‘little person’ like me. But a vote is a vote… and it’s no smaller than anyone else’s vote.
If, like me (you know, I’ve been told I’m one of those rich white frat boys, not a battler) Forty bucks is just too much to justify taking out of the family budget. (I’m not whinging: We live well, there’s just not a lot of cash spare right now. It’s my target when the Smashwords payment comes in.) and you want to support MGC Nominees you could consider buying an e-book from one of us.
And Moi. I’ve got a new one – a novella -56 pages out today. The picture’s a link.
I hope next year you’ll all consider putting it up for a Hugo. Nah, I don’t think it’s Zelazny or what I would consider deserving nom winning material (okay it’s better than some in the last few years, but set me a challenge, guys. ‘If you were a Stegosaurus’ isn’t my idea of entertainment. I’m at least entertainment. For me.) but it has the sheer delight of poking ‘Important people’ in the nether regions with a really sharp stick. From below, of course. With puns, and mockery. It’s about as politically incorrect as is possible in one story, while actually treating everyone (except possibly bankers), as humans. Well. undead. Um. As individuals to be judged on their merits. And height.
Yeah, the hero is a dwarf. A little person.
And seriously, I’ve been at the book-or-meal situation. If that’s pushing the boat too far, please just support us, let us know. It all helps.
Of course if you love the behavior of important people and can’t afford to support Sasquan, buy their books. They’re a lot more expensive. But they’re important. They can and will do their best to rid you of those troublesome battlers.
But will they stand like stone?