The Short-Short WorldCon After Action Report
This is not the version that covers the business meeting. That will be written this weekend, when I should (assorted appendages crossed) be awake enough to do it justice. This version is more a collection of general impressions, all of them percolated with a stew of exhaustion and “zomg too many peoples!”.
Yes, I am an extreme introvert. Extreme to the level I routinely max out the introvert section of personality tests. I can engage in mental trickery to convince myself that being on panels is a kind of weird-ass chatting to my friends, but even that at small conventions leaves me drained after a few days of it.
WorldCon was… challenging. I spent a lot of my attendance time fighting the urge to get the heck away from all the people – despite the attendance being about standard for a WorldCon (for what it’s worth, US-based WorldCons seem to have been hovering in the 3500 to 4500 attendee range for years now – despite the increasing popularity of SF, despite new cons going from nothing to huge in a very short time frame, despite the largest ever WorldCon being the one that shared con-space and attendees with an early DragonCon (at about 10,000 if I remember correctly – DragonCon currently has around 70,000 attendees where the nicest thing one can say about WorldCon’s attendance numbers is that they’re… stable).
Anyway, that’s my problem to figure out.
First impression: where were the children? It’s been said the golden age of science fiction is late adolescence, but every time I ventured into the main part of the con (mostly the dealers area, to be honest) what I saw was predominantly older than me. I’m pushing fifty, people: I should not be one of the younger attendees. I’d guess from the people I saw that the average age would sit somewhere around my age, with a higher median and mode.
By comparison, the conventions I usually attend (LunaCon, RavenCon) and the one LibertyCon I’ve been to usually have a fair number of kids, mostly the children of fans. LibertyCon last year was possibly the youngest convention I’ve ever been to – that’s a convention which is building its future demographic. What will WorldCons do when their main cohort is too old to attend? They simply aren’t attracting enough younger people in to survive.
Next: dear $DEITY, the code of conduct. I understand the need to have something, because assholes will asshole and there needs to be a stick to beat them with when they won’t accept reasonable rebuke. Something with logic gaps a death star could fly through with room to maneuver, and then failing to follow the damn thing does not cut it, people. And yes, I happen to know damn well that Dave Truesdale did not do anything between the end of his panel and being expelled. Why? He was at Puppy Central, chatting with the rest of us there for the rest of the afternoon and evening. He sure as hell wasn’t looking at his phone.
Oh, and if your self-worth is so fragile that statements which make you uncomfortable, even excessively uncomfortable, can’t be borne, you really need to go back to the nursery where you belong until you’ve learn to adult like the rest of us. I could have made the exact same complaint dozens of times every day of the convention. Every time someone claimed “puppies” (usually undifferentiated) were out to destroy or “grief” WorldCon or the Hugos. At the utterly classless statements two of the winners had read for them. At the crass humor of the Hugo ceremony (which I personally didn’t mind, but come on, folks, some people do bring their children to these things – keep it to a PG rating for their parents sake. Nobody needs to explain to Junior why everyone is laughing about an older woman and a whip. Let Junior figure it out through the wonders of the internet when puberty starts moving into memory territory). I didn’t make any complaints for the simple reason that I’m an adult. Whining about someone being mean to me is what small children do. Adults prove by their behavior that they are not mean and that the whiners are the ones who are wrong.
And that leads me to my main observation: most – the overwhelming majority (I am nobly resisting the use of the word ‘vast’ here) – fans are decent, well-intentioned people being abused by a very small cadre of what could be described as hard-social-justice types. The abusers are using the fans’ desire to do what they believe is right to push an agenda that will destroy the field (take a look at the numbers in Dave’s post this week), destroy WorldCon (come on, it should have easily 5-figure attendance by now), and destroy the Hugo awards.
When I was reading the finalists, I gave my impressions as I saw them. I did not look at the names of the artists or authors until I’d finished. I wanted to review the works without any preconceptions attached. As works, at least two of the winners would not, in my view, have been finalists if their names had been something like “John Smith”. This damages the field in several ways – first, if the winners believe they won honestly, they don’t receive the extra polishing and learning they would have if they’d been honestly told their works weren’t up to scratch and told why. They don’t stretch themselves because they’re already winning and think they’re as good as it gets. Second, if they do realize what’s going on, they become bitter and suspect any praise while being desperate for evidence that they really did deserve something. And the biggest damage goes to everyone else: the more deserving people who don’t get the recognition and know that they’ve been passed over for a less deserving candidate; and the other people of that favored group who will never be regarded as equals because they aren’t ever treated as equals.
Think about it: if you carry a child everywhere and never let it try to get to what it wants, that child will never learn to walk. You teach them learned helplessness by trying to protect them from everything, and they never grow up and never stop draining you dry.
Of course, if you don’t really believe those people (whoever “those people” may be) can be as good as you, giving them an easy ride and telling them it’s because they’re special/disadvantaged/insert-plausible-feelgood-sounding-reason-here, you can keep them under your control damn near forever, especially if you also teach them that anyone who says different is evil and vile and wants to hurt them.
Using the good intentions of fans to accomplish this and treating them as your useful idiots to discard when you’ve got your victory (and you’re wondering why its falling apart in your hands – because people who think this way are invariably incapable of even maintaining anything, and building things might as well be another universe) is particularly nauseating because so many fans actually are “other”. You typically won’t find a bigger concentration of folks on the autism spectrum or with assorted mental illnesses or just plain eccentric outside a psychiatric ward.
I’m sure that really makes the social justice types feel good. They’re abusing the very people they claim to want to help, destroying those peoples’ hard-built safe spaces, and gloating about it.
No wonder so many fans are so terrified of bringing down the social justice wrath they’ll do damn near anything to prevent it.