I recently wandered by one of those photo booths at the mall, and I wondered out loud why anyone still used them when selfies were so prevalent. A friend told me that people still liked to pile into them and take picture. I opined that people were becoming real narcissists, and my friend asked: “What, you just noticed?”
(Allow me to take the high ground here and say that I do not take selfies. Allow me to be honest and say the reason is that I don’t have a phone that can take selfies. But since the ends justify the means, I’m still the guy who doesn’t take selfies.)
It reminded me, in a very roundabout way, of the Hugo controversy. According to the complaints of the Sad Puppies, the Hugos have become an award more concerned with the form of the story, rather than the story. Or worse, they believe that the artist has taken precedence over the art, that it’s more about who (or what) you are than what you’ve done.
Let’s look at it another way. It seems the thing now (besides selfies) is tattoos. (Yeah, I’m too old for tattoos. Get over it.) You choose it, you commission it, it says something. But here’s my question. Because you chose the thing that represents you, your message, and had it put on your body, does that make you an artist? Or does it make you art?
Are other people looking at the Michael Jackson tat on your shoulder and thinking, “Gee, that hot girl is really into Michael Jackson,” or are they thinking, “Gee, that’s a great drawing of Michael Jackson”? Are you the message or the medium?
Selfies. Facebook tags. Is it better for people see you, or to hear you? Do you get a tattoo to make a statement, or to be one? Do you want to write a great story, or be called a great writer? Which is better? Is there a right answer?
I don’t know. You don’t know. I’m not sure there is a right answer. You might as well ask, “What is Art?” You’d likely create less controversy.
Let’s get back to SF. The Sad Puppies would say that SF needs to keep pushing outward, breaking through the new barriers out there that keep us from realizing our species’ full potential. They say the story is all and it doesn’t matter who writes them. Others would say that SF needs to push inward, to break through the old barriers inside us that keep us from realizing our full human potential. They say that new, different voices are necessary because they bring new viewpoints. And yet others would claim that neither one matters, because self-promotion is the greatest goal and how you achieve it is irrelevant. In this world, if you don’t make a name for yourself, nobody’s going to do it for you.
I guess as long as you keep pushing yourself, that’s progress. How you define “progress” is up to you.