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Posts tagged ‘fandom’

Social Cues in the Decoding of Current Events

Earlier in the week, I noticed, in a sort of vague, “oh, that’s what’s going on?” kind of way that there’s some truly epic foolishness being perpetrated. (I was a little bit distracted, as I assisted Mrs. Dave in bringing Working Title Pascoe into the world. Mommy and baby are doing fine, and everybody is tired. I may have said this before. That’s happening a lot, lately.) Jason brought it up first, that I saw. Amanda mentioned it, a bit. Kate hasn’t touched it, that I’ve seen. Probably safest for all involved. And Sarah is actively avoiding the subject, as she has books to finish. And if she goes anywhere near this one, progs will be feeling the impact sometime in the next decade or so. Weaponized wouldn’t even begin to describe it. The Int’l Lord of Hate and MadMike have both touched on this. Specifically. Incandescently.

Tim Bolgeo – Uncle Timmy to pretty much everybody – (and one of the biggest names in southern fandom) was stripped of an invitation to a particular convention because an as yet anonymous individual dug through archives of Tim’s e-zine, the Revenge of Humpday(I thought it was a newsletter. It’s not? But I find his ideas intriguing and wish to subscribe. Ah, well.) for something “offensive.” Great furor was raised, the Legion of the Perpetually Offended was marshaled and wailing and gnashing of teeth was brought before the concom. Consequently, Uncle Timmy’s invitation was rescinded. All this took about a day.

Look, this is right out of Larry’s Internet Arguing Checklist, arguably (hehe) the single most important guide to understanding how people are wrong on the interwebs. Right away, we have 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Then, the cowardly troll skipped 6 and 7 and jumped directly to 8. Since the claim of racism is more or less meaningless these days – as it’s applied by one faction to more or less everything any out-group person says or does – I almost wonder at why it’s even still used, let alone so thoroughly overused.

For this isn’t about racism, per se.

It’s about social cues, and how they’re utilized to separate sheep from goats. Tribalism is human nature. From the early early days when we likely did it as much by smell as by any other sense, we’ve worked pretty darn hard to figure out who is part of Us and who is part of Them. Race is an easy (and, frankly, illusory) cue, and – in the States, at least – becoming less and less useful as a means of discrimination. This is great, and doesn’t get celebrated nearly enough. Location has, historically, been a much bigger deal. Those folks from the next valley over are weird and do things differently than we do. Steely Dan, those great analysts of popular culture, got it exactly right in the lyrics of Barrytown:

And don’t think that I’m out of line
For speaking out for what is mine
I’d like to see you do just fine
But look at what you wear
And the way you cut your hair

It’s certain that the object of the song “ain’t from ’round here,” and that while the speaker is, well, liberal enough to tolerate their presence, he’s not going to go out of his way to actually interact with the object in a meaningful way. After all, he can “see by what you carry that you come from Barrytown.” You’re Them. Enemy, at least potentially, or historically.

The coward-in-fan’s-clothing who outted Uncle Timmy is doing the same thing, only far less honorably. This is a method the GHH Brigade and the LotPO have utilized again and again. Demonstrate that someone is Other. Make lots of noise about how evil this is (not dangerous, not bad, but evil) and then call up the specter of shunning to encourage the behavior they want. Mike Resnick is evil. OSC is evil. Tom Kratman is evil. Vox is evil. Larry is evil. Now, Uncle Timmy is evil. None of these have – so far as I know – killed anybody. The ones I know personally don’t torture small animals or children for fun. They haven’t actually advocated for genocide, outside of fiction or satire (and if you choose not to make those distinctions, think shame on yourself). And yet, a multitude have, on little to no evidence, called for violence to be done against them. At least have them ejected from “polite society.”
Odd, coming from people stridently advocating for greater diversity in fandom.

One thing we can learn from this is how societies work. As I said, and then left unsupported, this is about social cues. Progs, and their Marxist forebears, use certain shibboleths as cues of in-group-ness. Every group does that. Each tribe develops a jargon, and rituals, and we can use this to our advantage. In your writing, ensure your societies have certain pieces that distinguish them from everyone else around them. Part of this phenomenon is organic, and accretes over time. Sun-worshippers may demonstrate a penchant for gold jewelry and stone in fiery colors. A loose-knit community of asteroid miners may have a marked preference for certain brands, or a specific sublight drive technology. And always, a way of speaking that tells them that they’re part of the group.
Those are easily visible examples. More important, are demonstrated ways of thinking, and the behaviors that follow from them. Unquestioned (and often unquestionable) assumptions. “We do it this way because we’ve always done it this way.” The aqueduct brings water; why ever would we want to go to the trouble of building a windmill over the well? The beastmen swarm right after the harvest. Who knows why; the gods’ ways are inscrutable. We use the plasma torch to slag salvage; who wants to learn a different way of doing things? And when a stranger – or a home-grown Odd; often treated as more or less the same thing – suggests something different, or novel, the gates close.

In writing, this is ripe for conflict, which is what we want to keep the story moving along. Is the marshall going to try to strong-arm our protagonist out of town? Will the underdog faction of the local political scene enlist our hero as their champion? It’s the drive down the main drag of town and all eyes turn to follow, and all faces are closed to analysis.
Ultimately, this kind of behavior ossifies, and a community follows tradition for its own sake, which far outweighs other concerns. This appears time and again throughout history, often right before a particular polity enters a period of upheaval. Think about the Reformation, or of Western Rome’s crumble. We’re seeing a bit of that in our own time (it’s possible this process is more or less constant) as certain groups hold ways of thinking more sacred than ways of life.

What’s the upshot? For scifi fandom, it means self-identifying factions are going to grow more and more insular as time goes on. We’re seeing this, as they justify abominable treatment of individuals who have done nothing to deserve it (in fact, who have often done a great deal for fandom, both directly and indirectly) using in-group shibboleths and the thinnest of “evidence.” On an individual level, we can continue to make choices where we’ll spend our money and energy. I plan to have nothing to do with Archon, as they’ve demonstrated a distinct lack of honor and credibility.

For writing, we can continue to learn from history. Read broadly, and glean situations ripe for plot twists. Learn to understand human nature. Who, if not the author, knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Then twist the plot. Hard. Turn a portion of society against your hero. Make their road just that much harder: drop them into a situation in which they become the Other, the “ain’t from ’round here” fella. Set the social cues against them. What happens when a sun-god’s paladin follows an evildoer into a town full of earth-goddess devotees, and blends in? What does a star marshall do in the clannish society of asteroid miners several AU from the system primary? When she publicly insulted the first-among-equals kind of leader, who also happens to be her father/uncle/whatever.

And maybe, just maybe, apply that understanding of social cues and fraught situations to the less-logical-than-fiction “real” world. Inject some logic into the rampant foolishness.

In Which A Wall Of Text Is Wall of Texted

Apparently people don’t like being told they’re destructive assholes because Toni Weisskopf’s wonderful post on the way SF fandom is tearing itself apart because the precious little darlings can’t stand to have someone disagree with them has attracted some really special, special trolls.

So since I wasn’t going to give Mz Great Wall Of Text Link Whore the satisfaction of linking to her tripe, and the detailed deconstruction of said tripe took a long time and did its own Great Wall Of Text thingy, the entire critiquey-fisky-snark is here.

My comments are normal (as normal as I ever get, anyway). Hers are italicized. Oh, yeah, and I use a fair amount of emphasis snark.
Oh dear. And from a Sara too… It must be that ‘h’ at the end of the name that confers the awesome, because on the strength of this little ramble you really don’t rate a waft past the (non-existent) door of the Scary Sarah Club.

Now, onto your so-precious little ranty-poos.
This is nonsensical, ahistorical, and misleading. There WAS NEVER a point when SF did not engage with world politics. If you think that, you are simply ignorant.

Sweetie, there’s a difference between exploring the implications of current world politics and claiming someone else doesn’t have a place in your club because they disagree with you. Ripping a comment out of the context of… oh, what was that now? Oh yes, fighting over politics tearing what had been a reasonably close community (possibly an ersatz dysfunctional family, but let’s not quibble over that) apart. Now, SF fandom ends up having interesting effects on world politics, but they don’t happen because the fans are having political debates at their get-togethers. Every fan I know is there to get away from the real-world shit and just be him, her, or itself without any pressures.

To quote a post I wrote another time someone got their feathers all a-ruffle about being told they were behaving like an ass (because that’s really where this always starts…I’ve come to assume that any time someone uses the phrase “politically correct” what they are really doing is asserting their God-given right to act like a jerk):

Dear lord almighty. Projecting much? You clearly don’t understand that political correctness in every incarnation I’ve seen is nothing more than lipstick on the Newspeak pig. PC has never – and can’t engage the root cause it purports to be about. Banning “racist” words does not magically make a bigot less bigoted. The bigot just uses other words in public and more than that, starts to figure that the folks he’s bigoted against must be a bunch of useless wimps because they can’t handle a bit of mockery. If it gets really ridiculous, guess what? The bigot gets more bigoted. I’ve seen it happen. As soon as the bigot figures that nothing he, she, or it can do will be good enough for the authorities, he, she, or it (oh, hell with this. I’m portmanteauing it to s.h.it) figures whoever s.h.it’s bigoted against is in with the authorities to beat s.h.it down. Once we get there, a backlash is guaranteed.

“anyone who thinks that science fiction = escapist adventure stories, and (by implication) it’s just these modern blacks and wimmenfolk and gays who want to muck up your perfect Boy’s Life nostalgia genre…hasn’t really been paying attention.

I’d suggest you try making that statement to McCaffrey, Delaney, LeGuin, Zimmer Bradley… Only necromancy is an ugly habit and they’d probably all laugh at you anyway. Not only that, to characterize this debate as being about “modern blacks and wimmenfolk and gays who want to muck up your perfect Boy’s Life nostalgia genre” is misguided at best and salesman-speak (you know, lies) at worst. Nobody here is against blacks, wimminfolk, gays or anyone else of any color, orientation, religious persuasion or anything else writing SF or loving it or being involved in the fandom.

Nobody

What we don’t like is attempts to say we can’t have our Boy’s Own Adventures as well as the fancy-schmanzy stuff. There’s room for both, and we’re fine with that. We’ll mock what we don’t like – or I will because I’m a sarcastic bitch – but I’m never going to say it shouldn’t be written or published, or even that people can’t like it. I – like most of the folks here – just happen to prefer there to be a story with interesting characters (and I don’t give a flying fuck what skin color they have or what they choose to screw). Who wrote it doesn’t matter. They’ll still get my money whether they’re black, white, or sparkling vampires (I will however express doubts on the ability of sparkling vampires to write a story with interesting characters. However if one does and I like it, it gets my money).

Anyways, onwards and… er… not upwards.

The ‘Golden Age’ of science fiction was dominated by people who came of age during and shortly after World War II, many of whom grappled seriously with the implications of nuclear weapons, imperialism, racism, sexism, environmental destruction, political paranoia, and perpetual war. Heinlein (whose issues in other areas I could write a dissertation about, but won’t) wrote a story about sexual harassment on the job called ‘Delilah and the Space Rigger.’ It was published in 1948…when the propaganda push to get women out of the factory and back in the home was in full swing, and hardly anyone else had even heard of the concept. One of the stories in Science Fact/Fiction [a textbook published in the 70s], ‘Disappearing Act’ by Alfred Bester,was a ferocious indictment of militarism which began, ‘This one wasn’t the last war or a war to end war. They called it the War For the American Dream.’ That one was originally published in 1953. Judith Merril’s short story ‘That Only a Mother, ‘ published in 1948, has similar themes and was voted one of the best science fiction short stories of all time.

I’ve read these (a long time ago, I’ll admit). Shorter pieces can sometimes – particularly when written by the likes of Heinlein – get away with hammering readers with their Message. Novels can’t. And shorter pieces do better when they quietly slide the message in between your ribs while you’re caught up with the characters and plot. I’ve read more books than I can count and I own more books than I can count, but the fiction I’ve read that I keep coming back to does not hammer me with a Message. If I wanted that I’d read a bloody sermon. If you want to convince me of something, get me inside the head of someone who believes it.

I grant you that women, people of color, and sexual minorities are often culpable for the promulgation of such notions. However, we have been doing it for at least sixty years. That ship has already blasted off.”

Go home, paragraph. You’re drunk. Seriously, not only does this not make sense, there is no conceivable universe in which this makes sense. It’s a grab-bag of buzz-words designed for the feels not the meaning. If that’s what floats your boat, so be it, but don’t try to tell me it’s informative or educational. I’ll just laugh at you.

Note that I name-checked Heinlein. I’ve read quite a bit of Heinlein…but don’t worship him. Does that mean I “share your values” or not? But my main point here is that anyone who claims to know and revere classic SF authors and assert in the same breath that they didn’t engage with politics is not credible. And, as I wrote in the same post, the issue isn’t actually that Those People insist on being political and spoiling your pretty pristine optimistic visions of the future. It’s that they have political opinions which *differ from yours* and which make you uncomfortable, and have this terrible habit of making cogent arguments to which you are expected to respond, and also acting like they have as much right to read and write and comment on the genre as anybody.

So much fail, so little time… First, this is not the Reformed Church of Heinlein, Western Division. I am not, alas, a deaconess able to advocate that virginity of all sorts is a curable condition. Not yet, anyway.

Second and probably most important, you appear to have missed the entire point of the whole post. You know, the one about fandom tearing itself apart because politics? It doesn’t matter whether author X engaged with politics or not (personally I hope not, because politics is a dirty business at the best of times. I don’t like it. I sure as hell don’t want to get engaged to it). It matters whether readers can enjoy it whether they share those political views or not.

Third, apparently you’ve missed all the places where people here have commented about books they enjoyed and how they enjoyed said books despite disagreeing with the political opinions that leaked through said books. So, you’re not merely wrong, you’re gratuitously, childishly, and offensively wrong and the people who hang at According to Hoyt (and Mad Genius Club) are going to spank you for it – not because they disagree with you but because you went off half-cocked and didn’t do your research. Bad Sara. No cookies for you (yes, this is the Dark Side, and yes, we do have cookies. The cake is a lie, though).

I also think that for someone from Baen…which publishes people like Lois McMaster Bujold…to claim that they are somehow outsiders in the realm of SF publishing industry awards is so disingenuous as to be laughable. Tell me another one.

Oh, tut. I’d love to know where you get your alleged facts from, because I’ve heard them from the demon’s mouth, as it were. I have sat at conventions and heard editors from other houses talking about Baen as though the place was something you’d scrape off your shoe. I’ve heard the same editors discussion how they’re so very, very traumatized because they had to unfriend someone they knew from college because (the horror!) they discovered their old friend was (gasp!) conservative. I’ve also heard these same folks state how they drove a very high selling author from mainstream publishing because they didn’t like his themes or politics (I will name the author in question in the comments if asked – and I’ll also say for the record I find a fair chunk of said author’s work pretty nauseating myself. But he was selling and selling well. He still is, and he’s now getting a lot more than a measly 6% of his cover price, being independent (at least, the last time I looked). Oops.

Oh, yes. These are the people who claim Baen is all about right-wing lunatics (I’m sure Eric Flint would find that a fascinating description of him) and white supremacists (Presumably Larry Correia and of course Sarah Hoyt turned in their Wise Latino/Latina cards when they started with Baen) and racists (er… Just go to a Barfly range day some time. If it doesn’t scare the living crap out of you that these people are there. With – horrors! – guns… Including black, white, polka-dotted (accident with the paintbrush there), male, female, who the hell knows, straight, gay and everything in between in every combination imaginable (and some that shouldn’t be). Not that anyone cares because they’re having too much fun with the hardware.). If you’re going to go spouting the kool-aid, dear, at least check it for rat poison first.

I’m not going to bother with the troll-tastic link you added at the bottom of the Great Wall Of Text to boost your hit count, sweetie. Anyone who reads this far can scootch back to According to Hoyt and find it if they really want to give the poor widdle lonely twollie-wollie attention.