I was watching the epic melt-down on twitter, with some bemusement. Oh, there is a fair amount of ‘why would I care?’ It was never my playground, and probably never will be (I am davefreersf for what it is worth). But seriously, ‘if you don’t like what someone says, block them’, seemed fairly intuitive to me.
I worked out what the problem was eventually. Their fear was not that THEY might have to read things they did not like or disagreed with. No, that was irrelevant. The problem was OTHERS might read that material. And they, the self-appointed arbiters of what was good and right and could be agreed with, and what was evil and nasty and should attacked and pilloried… didn’t get to decide FOR those others. Why, they were weak-minded and might be swayed… It’s a very supremacist outlook. Ordinary people – not themselves – are untermench, unable to make up their own minds, needing to be led.
We always see ourselves as, well, fairly close to the center of what people are, and assume they work and think as we do — even those of us who can work out this is not true. You might believe, or even know that you’re in the top 10% intellectually, but you still believe other people will do as you do, and be as you are. So: ergo, we may conclude that they would try and control people and assume that everyone else — were they free to do so, would do likewise. Of course, for someone like me, I assume that everyone would resent any attempt at control, either exerting it, or being subject to it. ‘Leave me alone’ might just about be my motto.
One can also suspect that… they expect those in control to align with themselves, or assume they will be in control. Hmm. I recall an excellent sf short about the day of complete control – where the controllers themselves were controlled by those whom they controlled (William Tenn/Philip Klass, The Servant Problem). I doubt they even realize they are being controlled.
Ah well, ‘a rebel I came, and I am still the same’. People are going to be wrong. I know I am from time-to-time. People will do amazingly stupid things. Hell, I certainly have done and will do. But I too expect people to work the same way I do. I expect them to be logical, I expect them to weigh facts, risks and consequences (such as if you allow complete control to one… shall we say faction, whose ground constantly changes, how can you be logically sure you will always fit on that ground? Harvey Weinstein thought he did.). It’s always a shock to me when I find that logic was out to lunch and they never thought about consequence, just did something. The whole twitter melt-down was based on never thinking, logically, that it was unlikely they would always be in control, and it might wise to set things up so that everything — from book-sales to social position — did not depend on being un-opposed and supported by those in control.
Twitter has always been quite ineffectual, saleswise – the number of ‘followers’ translating poorly into sales for writers – well me anyway, but I gather it was fairly abysmal, generally. One has to wonder how much of that was bots, and fake followers boosting numbers but not sales, and how much of that was architecture. Facebook – I know I am being throttled, but it still gets me some sales. After all, people who like me or my work are likely to be on my friends list. If this was allowed to operate organically… some people would sell a lot. Perhaps, instead of control actual interest will be allowed to function. That could have some interesting outcomes.
Organic growth not been something that traditional publishing has ever invested much in, either using or understanding. The reason is not hard to see, besides doctrine and control: It is very very hard to predict. Even with monumental push some things fail. How much worse for an editor who depends on ‘getting it right’ (and a book doing exceptionally well, when you thought it wouldn’t, is nearly as much of problem as the other way around. You are being paid to get it right.) Unsurprisingly, while in their control, books often do. And then they get into areas not under their control… and heaven knows. Seriously, it is hard. I suspect editors who were successful (before it became all politics and push) were those whose taste aligned with a lot of readers. It went pear-shaped when they expected readers to align with their tastes.
There are two things I expect of the next few years (beside tight times) 1) expect the establishment (at the moment, very left wing) to lose control of the levers of control, and where they don’t lose control, for them to stop working. 2)Writers who are successful will align themselves to the tastes and situations of a reasonably large number of readers — and manage to convey this to them.
But I believe the days of push and control are losing ground. It’ll always work on some people, but I believe it has been pushed too hard, too far.