The Wagging Tail of Thanks

Being as I am MGC’s Thursday writer, I usually wind up writing something about Thanksgiving. It’s rather expected, me living in the USA and all, and particularly meaningful this year, not least because this is my first Thanksgiving as a citizen.

The last two days have demonstrated one of the other things I’m very thankful for: I am unutterably thankful that I am no longer the leader of Sad Puppies.

It was a very valuable experience, and I learned a lot (some of it not the kind of thing one reports openly in public, since a non-stop stream of profanity tends to be off-putting and scares the cats), but it was so far out of my comfort zone I damn near lost the poor thing.

Let’s see… To start with, I’m not a leader. I’m not a follower, either. I just do my thing and if other people like it good for them. I’m also not prepared to sit back and complain when I can step up and do something about a situation which is how I got myself into this in the first place.

I’m the world’s worst marketer. I mentioned in the comments of Amanda’s post that when I die the world’s net marketing ability will increase.

I’m also about as introverted as it’s possible to get; and horribly, cripplingly shy. (Shut up, you. The Internet is different). Frankly, it was terrifying to stand up in front of a probably-hostile audience at the WSFS Business Meeting and say what I felt had to be said. I’m surprised it wasn’t obvious that I was shaking.

Hosting a suite was also new territory for me, and bloody intimidating territory at that. I’m the one who sees a party and heads in the other direction, so semi-permanent open house from the close of the Business Meeting until whenever? That’s hard.

I’m thankful – immensely thankful – that I went ahead and did all these things despite them looking to me like massive cliffs (with overhangs) before I started. I’m also thankful that I was able to make some new friends in the process and learn more about what goes on behind the scenes. And that, yes, most of those I interacted with were people. Fans, of the small-f variety who simply wanted to enjoy their genre (I will admit to taking a little extra care to not get too close to those I knew were rather more… shall we say doctrinaire?).

Above all, I’m thankful that my goals proved to be achievable and that I did make a lot of progress in the places I thought needed movement.

My goals were never to “fight” anyone. I’m not good at that, and it would just look like the lies spread by the uber-doctrinaire were true. More than that, argumentative, political screeds instead of talking about great books wouldn’t achieve one of my main goals, which was to appeal to the people who have been quietly wondering what’s going on, but believed what they were told because that’s all they’ve heard. Not everyone goes chasing contrary perspectives on Facebook, and not everyone has the time or the energy to look past the sound-bite. Being open, honest, straightforward, and doing exactly what I said I’d do made it obvious that there was no generic “puppies”. Standing up at the business meeting and making my point respectfully and politely made it clear I wasn’t trying to destroy the Hugo Awards, even if others there had different ideas about what the best path forward might be.

I saw that policy bear fruit over the course of the four days of meetings: the first day it wasn’t uncommon for references to be simply to “puppies”. By the final day, many more speakers were prepared to make the distinction between Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, and accepted that the two groups had different goals (despite liking a lot of the same works).

I also wanted to build a list of recommendations – science fiction and fantasy that readers here (and anyone else who chose to participate) thought was awesome. There’s a lot of new stuff published all the time: the only reliable way to find the good stuff is (as it always has been) a combination of reading it yourself and word of mouth. I personally found some wonderful work I would never have looked at without the recommendations, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what bubbles up through Sarah’s list.

So can we please all quit bitching over what’s past, appreciate the good things we’ve got in the present, and work towards improving the future.

31 Comments

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31 responses to “The Wagging Tail of Thanks

  1. Congratulations on joining the roll call of citizens and I hope you have a great thanksgiving day.

    John Kraft

  2. We enjoyed meeting you. 🙂 And Rob and Tully and Dave, and everyone else. 🙂

    Of course, this introverted person had a huge advantage in that I could go home every night. 😀

    • Happy Thanksgiving! We really appreciated your efforts, Kate. It was the right voice and tone at the right time. We also enjoyed getting to meet so many “old friends” for the first time at WorldCon.

      • Kate Paulk

        Happy Thanksgiving!

        It was great to meet you guys and get to know you as something more than just commenters on the Internet.

    • Kate Paulk

      Oh, yes, that’s a massive advantage to an introvert. You can go off and decompress.

      I was so tired when I got home.

  3. Way to go on putting yourself out there, Kate. It’s hard. When I first spoke to a class (as a visitor) about 20 years ago I read my talk and just about had an out of body experience. Also, they had laptops and were typing as I talked. It was pretty much terrifying. But you get used to it. I now speak from powerpoint slides or a little list which has 5 illegible things jotted down onto it. If you want to or have to you can get used to it. Eventually.

    Also, it’s very nice to have you as part of the country! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Kate Paulk

      Thank you!

      Yeah, it was terrifying, but I was more confident about speaking out after the first time and getting a relatively encouraging response (some agreement, some disagreement, but most of it respectful). All told it was the kind of experience you might not necessarily *enjoy* but teaches you a heck of a lot.

  4. I can imagine the stress. The few science fiction conventions that I have attended have been excruciating white-knuckle affairs. If I ever go to another one I am going first make a vest from an old office carpet protector mat–points outward–to discourage strangers from embracing me. (Because saying, “I am not comfortable with being hugged,” doesn’t work. Everyone thinks that they are the sole exception. They aren’t.)

    So I appreciate the effort it took you to helm the SPs. However. I think it was a job worth doing, and done well. I agree that you were not there to fight, you were there to politely deliver another pallet load of rope, which the Worldcon committee gleefully used to hang themselves.

    You did good, and while the Dragon Awards are the culmination of a large number of factors, and work by a lot of people, I think that you should take some comfort in the part you played in their creation.

    • Re. hugs. I’ve learned that especially with gentlemen in loose-fitting shirts, it’s best to let them initiate, since I don’t want to accidentally out someone with a CCHL. They know how to embrace casually without printing.

      • I just don’t want to be in intimate contact with people I don’t know. When did that become an unreasonable attitude?

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Sounds quite reasonable to me.

        • Not sure. I’m not really “huggy” unless I know folks pretty well.

        • Alan

          Different group cultures deal with it different ways – I play a lot in the
          SCA, which is pretty “huggy” at least in the Pacific NW. And I have to push myself to accept well-intentioned hugs from people I don’t know well. But I’ve found that quickly putting one (or both) hands out for a warm handshake works often enough to keep hug-stress from building up much.

      • Randy Wilde

        since I don’t want to accidentally out someone with a CCHL

        Maybe they’re just happy to see you?

        (sorry, couldn’t resist the opening)

    • Kate Paulk

      Thank you.

      I’m not a hugger myself, but I was raised by a family of them, so when I’m with huggy friends I do my best to reciprocate, so I sympathize with you. Not everyone wants physical contact outside intimate friendship (and in some cases not then).

      I’ve gotten rather good at figuring out if someone I’m getting to know is a huggy or not, and adjusting my responses accordingly. The huggy types tend not to get that it makes other folk uncomfortable, and we not-so-huggy can miss that the huggies can think we don’t like them if we don’t respond in kind.

      • I don’t really care if people think I don’t like them. What bothers me is when people (and it is usually women) hear me say, “Please don’t touch me” and go ahead and embrace me anyway. Usually with a laugh and a “Oh, I hug everybody” like it’s funny that I am upset by strangers invading my personal space. I have a choice, I can either grit my teeth and endure it, or I can throat-punch an unarmed woman and then I look like the bad guy.

        • Kate Paulk

          Ugh. That’s just wrong.

        • Randy Wilde

          You can always point out that if the situation were reversed it would be called sexual harassment (if not assault). 😉

        • I can understand completely.

          I’m not overly touchy-feely myself but I’ve had to adapt. Most of the women in my Eastern Star chapters are huggers so I’ve had to get accustom to it. The men, thankfully are usually fine with a handshake.

          I have to know someone fairly well, usually kith and kin level, before I initiate a hug, so rest assured if we were to ever meet in person, I’ll be the one just outside arms reach offering a smile and a friendly handshake.

  5. Luke

    With the wooden arseholes, I went rabid.
    But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to engage in backbench sniping. I respect that Kate poured her heart and soul into her effort. Sure, I disagree with some of her decisions, but they were her decisions to make.
    Second guessing those decisions with the benefit of hindsight is a bit cheap. (OK, my stance of “burn it down, salt the earth” was made before the campaign. But that’s why I didn’t join the SP for the campaign.)

    • Kate Paulk

      I figured the assterisks weren’t representative of the broader fan community, and honestly, that was more or less what I discovered. People whose only source of information is the hard-line SJWs are going to believe them and try to make them happy because mostly they want to do what’s right.

      But I don’t blame you for deciding there was nothing left in that boat. You’re not the only one, and I can be too forgiving.

      Time will tell what’s right (although I personally suspect the answer is “yes” – a mix of conciliatory and confrontation from different people may be the best way forward)

  6. Happy Thanksgiving! I liked your logical, reasoned, campaign. That it showed the foaming lunatics for what they were was a bonus. Plus all you Master Puppies have brought out authors I hadn’t tried, so I consider it a win in more than one way..

    • Kate Paulk

      It’s kind of hard to believe someone is an evil ___ist and out to destroy you when that person is talking to you and actually agreeing with you about some things.

  7. A more generic Thanksgiving comment over on ATH – but a specific one here. I am thankful this year for a Kate Paulk – and that she finally officially became my fellow citizen this year. (Kate, you’ve really been been one for many, many years – but now you’re “documented.”)

    • Kate Paulk

      Heh. Thank you. Realizing that I was an American born in the wrong place took me a little while, but once I figured it out, getting documented was the natural choice.

  8. As I mentioned over at Sarah’s, I am but a wretched Canadian so my Thanksgiving has been and gone a while ago. Thanks to Kate for her magnificent effort running Sad Puppies Four. I consider myself better off for having participated. Great job, well done.

  9. Welcome and hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving too!