Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Uncle Timmy’

Uncle Timmy

This is a story about the nicest man in all of Fandom.

I first came to LibertyCon because it was a family reunion for family I’d never met before. Read more

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 Consequently, Uncle Timmy’s invitation was rescinded.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.

The full moon rose and the craziness came out

I swear this past week was straight out of The Twilight Zone. Or maybe we fell down the rabbit hole and took a sharp left into Bizarro Land. Whatever the case, not only have we seen a return to social media by members of the SJW clique and the GHHers but also another attack (at least a perceived one) on indie authors by the establishment. If it was a remnant of the full moon, it can go away now. I’m ready for sanity to finally find its way into the publishing world. Not that I’m holding my breath.

EDITED TO ADD: The craziness has just been compounded. It seems if you yell loud enough, concoms will cave, whether you have a valid point or not. The concom at Archon has announced it is withdrawing its invitation to Uncle Timmy to be Fan GoH because people had to go out and find a reason to object to him. Go, Crazies! In fact, go away. Far, far away.

Edited To ADD 2: Welcome to everyone coming over from Instapundit! Thanks for the link, Glenn.

Let’s start with the Nebulas. The winners were announced this past weekend. There had been some controversy going into the awards but it was nothing compared to the vitriol that has been present since the Hugo finalists were announced. Not that it stopped the SJWs and GHHers when it turned out that every winner was female. Oh the crowing and self-congratulatory tweets that hit the twitterverse. How happy they were that they managed to stuff the ballots so that no icky man won. Nothing I’ve seen showed anything about how the voters thought they’d voted for the best works nominated. Oh no, the agenda of making sure no icky, evil, smelly man won. Agenda over quality. Agenda over ability. Agenda rules all.

All hail the glitter!

Next up comes the current movement — which is really just a ripple in the ocean and hopefully will stay that way — to keep Uncle Timmy from honored as Fan Guest of Honor at Archon. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Uncle Timmy, he is the heart and soul of LibertyCon. But he is, gasp, male and is now being accused by some folks who are such precious little flowers that they can’t tell the difference between jokes sent in by other people and what Uncle Timmy actually believes. These folks fall into the class of people who want thought police. The ones who want to tell us what we can and can’t think and say, who we can and can’t insult. Of course, they can insult anyone and everyone they want but heaven forfend that they, themselves, should ever feel insulted, rightly or wrongly.

These folks have taken to Facebook to attempt to convince the Archon concom to remove Uncle Timmy from the proceedings. There is even a comment in the thread from someone who wants to put together posters to take to other cons with the offending quotes on it and recommending people avoid going to Archon as long as Uncle Timmy is being honored. If anyone dares try to point out the difference between Uncle Timmy the fan and Uncle Timmy the publisher, they are attacked for not toeing the line of right think. My suggestion? Go to this page and show your support for Uncle Timmy and all he has done, overall, for fandom.

Then there was the controversy coming out of the RT Booklover’s Convention this weekend. The first I saw of it was when I read Hugh Howey’s post about the mass signing at the end of the convention. The post was soon picked up and being echoed across the internet, especially the part about indie authors being referred to as “aspiring authors”. Since then, there have been more posts about the separation of the authors into two different rooms as well as the “aspiring author” comment. Let’s look at both because they are both issues.

First is separating traditionally published authors from indie authors. One of the best explanations — not that I agree with the thought process behind it — for what happened comes from Courtney Milan. She notes that the traditionally published authors had their books provided by a bookstore and that these books were returnable. The difference being that the indie authors had to provide their own books and they were, therefore, not returnable. So far, so good.

However, if I correctly remember what Ms. Milan said — and assuming her understanding of the process is correct — the bookstore providing the books demanded the separation of traditionally published authors from the indies. I have an issue with that sort of thing because many of those indies have books out that the bookstore could have ordered and stocked. So the “returnable” argument begins to fall flat. No, what I have a feeling happened is the bookstore, knowing that publishers are their key supplier, didn’t want to upset anyone on the traditional end of the business. So the decision was made to only stock books supplied by the “real” side of publishing.

Another issue I have with separating the authors this way is that the indies were not apparently told this was going to happen. Surely the bookstore — or whoever made the decision — told the concom early enough that they could have sent emails to the authors who had said they wanted to take part. One comment I’ve seen speculated that the indies weren’t told about the separation because the con didn’t want to risk the indies pulling out. If that’s the case, doesn’t that point to the power and growing popularity of indie titles? So why alienate them by separating them from the traditionally published authors? More importantly, why make it even more difficult for the con goers, many of whom wouldn’t know if an author is traditionally published or not, by splitting them into two rooms in a way that would make little sense to the average reader?

Let’s face it, folks. Most readers don’t have a clue about who publishes their favorite authors.

But of more concern is the contention that the authors were split between the traditionally published authors and “aspiring” authors. The con claims that the use of the term “aspiring authors” to describe the indies was a mistake made by one of their volunteers. That very well may be. But it still shows an problem, not only with the con and how its volunteers were trained but with the general perception many people still have of indies. The volunteers should have been instructed, and more than once, on what authors were in which room and why. They should have been given the definition of what and indie author is and that definition should have included examples showing how some of the best selling authors around right now either started out as indies or are hybrid authors who do both traditional and indie publishing.

Honest mistake or not, bookstore demand or not, RT Booklovers’ Convention has been damaged by what happened this year.

Frankly, it’s time for those running cons to understand that indie publishing isn’t the vanity press of years gone by. More importantly, the SJWs and GHHers need to get over themselves and start worrying about writing good books, books that people want to read, instead of enforcing their own political and social agendas. And now I’m going to get back to writing books where all I care about is writing a story readers want to read.