To Thine Own Self Be True
In light of yesterday’s post by Jason about the whole WorldCon thing, and conversations I’ve had with friends recently, in addition to learning more about the history of Fandom: Breendoggle, the rampant child molestation at cons, Kramer of DragonCon… I have not seen the seedy underbelly of the big, old cons myself. My con experiences have been few, and fun, and that’s when it hit me.
I’m not a Fan.
Furthermore, I don’t want to be a Fan. I shudder at the idea of meeting a SMOF – those jerks attacked my friends, and when I joined the fight, came after me and my family. I stepped back to protect my children, and in doing so, gained some perspective. Not only do I not want to be a part of their club – never did, when it comes down to it – but I object to the notion that authors have to join with these despicable types in order to succeed. No. A thousand times no. I reject that utterly.
Statistically speaking, WorldCon should be irrelevant. A few years back it was running a membership of, say, five thousand. Compare that to DragonCon or GenCon, both easily ten times that size with surplusage. But you don’t hear the political yapping from the bigger cons. They don’t want or need that: they are happy to just have people coming to have fun and let their geek flags fly. If I didn’t have serious issues with crowds I’d already have been going to them. But now? Cons are not a path to author success. That might have been true once upon a time. It was the way to meet like-minded folks in person (as revolting as that concept is when you pair it with what we know about Breen and Delaney and Zimmer Bradley) and it was a way to network with the gatekeepers of the publishing houses – editors, agents, and the other apparatchiks of a now-dying industry.
If I want to reach a few thousand people, I can write this article (Hi! to all the readers I know are out there). I can post on my own blog. I can interact with fans on social media. I like my fans. They are fun, irreverent, and sometimes enthusiastic about my work. My marketing ploy for my books has always been slow and understated. I don’t like being marketed at, myself. Being on social media while an author runs around smacking their books in people’s faces like a dead fish is anathema to me. Furthermore, I have control of my own work. I am not submitting myself to an editor who might require sexual favors of me before she will publish my book. Or submitting my books to agents who reject them out of hand because of what my politics might be. I can remain independent. I might not get the push a publisher can give, but frankly, most of these authors don’t get push. They think they will. I’ve seen posts by authors talking in glowing terms about how they are partners with their publishers and get so much help from them… and then turn right around and post begging for reads and reviews because they aren’t selling.
It’s hard work, to be Indie. But it’s honest work. It’s rewarding, and you don’t have to scrub the slime off your soul at the end of every day.
If you’re wondering about my revulsion, I suggest you read Moira Greyland Peat’s The Last Closet. It is a difficult read. I am not a fan of trigger warnings when they are misused, but this book requires one: if you are a survivor of abuse, go slowly. Be careful. I am a survivor, and this is an excruciatingly difficult read for content. On the other hand, seeing Moira through the book, and getting to know her, I am inspired and amazed by the strength she has, the resilience to come back from the depths of very hell and become a functional adult. It is through her eyes, and those of a good friend who cannot yet speak in public, that I have been exposed to the underbelly of Fandom. And I refuse to have anything to do with it.
But not all Fans… you are going to say. No, not all. But enough that I don’t know who to trust, and I know that WorldCon is full of bullies. I don’t need to know more than that. That’s enough.
But the culture war… some have said to me. Meh. You know that thing about throwing pearls before swine? Look, sense and sensibility: pearls. SMOF and Fandom? You got it. I have a family to take care of. Maybe when I don’t have hostages to fortune I can pick up a lance and tilt at windmills. Until then, I’ll keep writing essays intended to help the young and the inquisitive to have food for thought, and thus nourish their brains rather than accept the pap force-fed to them by the establishment. I’ll keep writing the stuff I wished I had been able to find when I was a young mother, and a homemaker, as recherché as the Fen might find that commitment in an era of neo-feminists. These are my weapons in the Culture War. Words, but words for the seekers, not the iron-bound who have long ago turned their faces from truth, and who seek to dehumanize any who cross their paths and whims.
I’m no genius, despite my inclusion in this club. I am, however, mad. I am a Mad Writer, whose life is words, and those words are my weapons. My fiction is for fun, my essays are for comfort and aid. I have no desire to be a Fan. I certainly am not going to willingly submit to another abusive relationship. If you’re there, and you want out, let’s talk. You can do it. You’re stronger than you realize. It’s taken me years to regain confidence that was once second-nature. I’m still scarred and always will be. It can be done. And there are those of us who will help, with no expectation of anything in return. Just to see you standing on your own two feet, independent. To be your own self. That’s all we want from you.