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Posts Tagged ‘communication’

The Rabid Puppies have announced their 2017 agenda, and the Sads probably will soon if they haven’t already (I’m not paying that much attention), both dissing any modern, progressive SF, and the “Blue” side is pontificating about how the “Red” side is stuck in the 50s, and it’s pretty much the usual for what passes as society these days. And while, as I say, I haven’t been paying a lot of attention, it’s kind of hard to ignore completely if you spend any time at all on the net. So despite myself, I’ve come to a conclusion.

It’s not just the Puppies who need to be swatted on the nose with a newspaper, it’s all of you.

I am not taking sides here; this playground needs a teacher. If you kids can’t learn to sit together quietly and leave each other alone, the entire class is staying after school, soccer practice be damned.

Right-wing writers and fans–science fiction is growing up. Get over it. There’s plenty of room left for what you want to read; I know for a fact that you’ve gone out and started your own magazines and a publishing house (not to mention Baen). Good for you. Now stop complaining that the liberals are a bunch of lily-livered weaklings on the one hand, and that they’re bullying you on the other.*

Left-wing writers and fans–nobody ever said growing up meant you had to forget what it was like to be a kid. If you did, you wouldn’t read science fiction. Yeah, I know it’s not the juvenile lit all your friends think it is, but they do think that, and you have to live with the stigma. So stop acting so smug. And for heaven’s sake, when you take on the fans on the other side of the aisle, quit talking like you have a Master’s in literary criticism! (Even if you do–especially if you do.) Nobody understands you except other Ph.D. candidates,** and you’ll never get your point across if you’re condescending.

Which brings me to my point: Nobody is communicating. A writer friend told me long ago that “talking to somebody isn’t communication. Communication requires two people to talk to each other.” That doesn’t mean shouting back and forth, that isn’t communication. It requires speaking and listening.

If this is too hard for you, then be quiet. That’s all, just be quiet. Go about your lives and don’t bother anyone else. We all have our own problems, honest. Nobody needs to go out and find more.

And with all that time you’re not arguing, you could do something constructive, like lobby for the space program. There are a lot of other fans doing that, and you know what? Not all of them like the same books you do. But now you’ll have something you can communicate about.

 

*And leave the Hugos alone! You spend almost as much time decrying their relevance as you do trying to run them.

**I have a degree in English and I don’t understand what you’re saying half the time.

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Yeah, your parents tell you that “words will never hurt you,” but they lie. It’s a white lie, because they want to protect you, but it’s a lie and we all know it. Words are the most powerful weapon ever invented. The pen and the sword and all that.

In high school, I was one of those kids who sat in class and never said anything. I got good grades, but I never contributed much. My Government teacher, though, based your grade partly on classroom participation, and he made it clear you couldn’t do better than a C if you didn’t say something at least once a semester. So I did. Once a semester. You also had to do some kind of presentation. The most dreaded day on the calendar. I’ve blocked it out of my memory.

But one day the class was discussing capital punishment; the speaker labelled it “legalized murder.” I raised my hand to point out that “murder” is defined as an illegal act, so “legalized murder” was a misrepresentation (not that I spoke so well). The point was made and ignored pretty much immediately and discussion continued. So why do I remember this instance out of three years of high school experience? Because I was right, I was on point, but not simply about the definition of murder. I was trying to make a larger point that I didn’t even understand I was trying to make: words have power. Words define the debate, the debate informs opinion, opinions inform votes, and votes make policy. (I am editing my own words even as I write them, proving my point even if you can’t see it.)

I recently entered an on-line debate regarding a point of grammar. I took the position that the old rule, widely ignored for many years, was valid and breaking it was merely imprecise communication. I included a recent example that I believed supported me. I was pointedly accused of ignoring certain marginalized groups who might be “offended” by the rigorous application of the rule. I left the discussion because I while I was interested in debate, I had no taste for argument.

And yet, even this short exchange was educational. First, debating on-line is a fool’s game. It’s laughably easy for words to be misunderstood in face-to-face interactions, particularly if the subject is controversial. On line, you’re almost guaranteed to be misunderstood. Second, words matter. Even in a completely theoretical situation, the very idea that someone not even involved in the conversation (so far as one knows) could be offended can inflate into a debate and explode into an argument in the space of a few words. (One wonders what might have happened had I pursued my thesis in that Government class.)

Writers are used to reviewing and revising their work, often several times, before the public sees it. You would think that this example would inform our more mundane communications as well, at least on-line, if not act as a filter before we speak.

You would think so. But until we fully understand how powerful a weapon our words are, we are going to continue to shoot our mouths off.

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