Posts Tagged ‘fandom’

Back in my day, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth in steam-powered chariots and Venus was still considered potentially viable off-world real estate, running an SF convention was a relatively simple affair. (Note emphasis on “relatively.” That doesn’t mean it was easy. I helped on two, acting as the chair of the second. I had already decided that I would never do such a thing again long before the current crop of kerfuffles grew up. Now? Now I think you have to be insane to want to run a convention.

When I wanted my con to be forward-thinking, I invented the idea of a gun-free convention. Cosplay with guns (not that “cosplay” had been coined yet) was very popular, although there had been reports of some problems with too-realistic props that made the police nervous. For specific reasons that honestly escape me now, I decided that our convention would sport a “no-weapons” policy. No weapons, no how. We got some vague reports of complaints, but nobody tried to test our resolve by bringing in a contraband toy, and although I was far too busy to notice at the time, the after-action reports said that everyone had a good time.

Of course, that was before the Internet.

Now, anything you do is susceptible to being broadcast world-wide in seconds. Millions of people who would never even consider coming to your convention can comment on (or argue about) your choices. If we tried imposing that policy today, the roof would fly off.

But there are many other, new, considerations that we didn’t have: Codes of conduct (going beyond just not bringing a weapon), anti-harassment policies, safe spaces, accessibility issues (we had a one-story convention space)…and now, the piece de resistance, civil rights lawsuits. An author is suing Worldcon because he says he was banned solely for his political affiliations. It is not my intent to discuss the merits of that case here, merely to point out that we have crossed a line: If you want to put on a convention, your liability insurance now has to include coverage for legal fees. (Even back then we were smart enough to incorporate, but this suit seeks personal liability.)

I don’t know what it costs to put on even a small con these days, let alone a Worldcon, but I do know that every new wrinkle adds to the expense. And legal fees are a very large wrinkle. Not to mention what a lawsuit does to your credit rating and your precious free time.

Maybe this is an anomaly; I hope so. But in our society, I cannot believe it. So what’s going to happen? Fewer conventions? More overseas Worldcons? I’ll tell you what isn’t going to happen: More reasoned dialogue. More unity of purpose on issues that affect us fans. We’re supposed to be looking toward the future, people, and I don’t think this is the future we want.

Ironically, those who support this lawsuit claim they just want to bring “fun” back to science fiction. It may be that there is a valid reason to drag your fellow fans into court, but I can tell you, without fear of contradiction, it won’t be fun.



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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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Warning: This concerns the recurring fiasco of who/what/how/why we vote for the Hugo Awards. (At this point I’m not even sure exactly why people are fighting over it.) If you don’t care about the Hugos, then (a) good for you, and (b) see you next time. But if you do care, or if you are honestly confused, then perhaps the following will prove of some benefit.

Five Reasons Why the Hugo Kerfuffle is Like the Presidential Election.

1) It’s come down to people calling each other names. (Okay, the Hugo fight started that way.) Hugo partisans have called each other neo-Nazis, Social Justice Warriors, homophobes, liberals, and other terms I won’t repeat here. Even spouses have come in for insult (on both sides). In the election debates, people call each other neo-Nazis, closet liberals, RINOs, and small-handed. Even spouses have come in for insult (on both sides).

2) The Hugos are haunted by the specter of an outsider who has expressed his desire to burn the entire program to the ground. The election is haunted by the specter of at least one candidate who threatens by his very presence to burn his party’s entire program to the ground.

3) The Sad Puppies brag that they brought thousands of new voters to the Hugos last year. Donald Trump brags that he has brought millions of new voters to his party. Whether either of their successes proves long-term remains to be seen.

4) Last year, the “No Award” avalanche lead to threats that many will boycott the awards this year. This year, the idea that certain candidates may not receive their parties’ respective nominations have lead to threats that voters will boycott the general election.

5) The Hugo controversy has pitted fandom against itself, creating fissures and scars that may require decades to heal, if ever. The election controversy is splitting the American public against itself, revealing fissures and scars that have not healed in centuries, and may never do so.

6) Bonus! Both the Hugo controversy and the election are being conducted in the most childish, self-destructive, and futile manner possible. People screaming epithets at each other has never solved an issue. It only leads to violence, which leads to more violence, which leads to five years of bloodshed from Fort Sumter to Appomattox.

I have a solution. It’s very simple: Calm down. Use your indoor voices. Behave like adults. Set an example for your children that your parents would be proud of.

Because if you don’t, I’m going to have to start sending people to bed without supper. And nobody wants that.

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It being that time of year (in both worlds), I find it natural to wonder (because I have a very unhealthy imagination) whether it would behoove us all to restructure the Hugos to be more like the college football championship playoff series, and if so, how one would do so. (If you don’t give a short-circuited lightsaber for football, do not despair, all will be made clear.)

In football (generally speaking), all of the eligible teams in the country are ranked on a weekly basis by a committee of knowledgable and influential football pros/fans which considers win/loss records and strength of schedule. At the end of the season, four teams are picked for the play-offs, which take place in two stages: the semi-finals and the championship. Simple. In the Hugos, eligible works are nominated by members of the Worldcons (present and immediately past), and five or six reach the ballot, where the winner is selected by a system so convoluted that several (secret) master’s (of fandom) degrees have been awarded for papers explaining it.

The football playoff system is the result of decades of trying to determine a fair way to pick a champion, and although in its infancy, seems to be working. The Hugo system is the result of decades of the same process without significant difficulty, until recently when it seems not to be working. You can see the similarities. A playoff system is a good solution for both.

Witness the advantages (for the Hugos and fandom): A committee of knowledgable pros and fans sifts through all 10,000 possible nominees every year as they are published, and rates them monthly. Think of the time savings for the rest of us! Who would bother to read a story that has no realistic chance of winning? At the end of the Hugo season, a final list of four is published in each category, which constitutes the Hugo ballot. “Okay,” you’re saying about now, “that only replaces fan nominations with a selection committee. How is this better?” To which I reply, “Wait. There’s more.”

The fans do not vote for the stories on the Hugo ballot. There is no vote.

Each author is allowed to select one main character from  his story. Each such character is then inserted into a playoff round against a character from another story in the same category. (Yes, this only works for fiction, but it could work for Best Editor and Best Artist, too, and we could televise it.) Those characters then compete on the basis of pre-selected criteria, such as Depth of Characterization, Likability, and Character Growth. The semi-final winners would then face each other and the ultimate victor would receive the Hugo.

Think of the fun we could all have by comparing stats every week. Think of the arguments over All-time Best in the area of Thematic Relevance. The mind reels.

And the sponsorships! “The Apple Hugos.” “The Blizzard Entertainment Hugo Pre-Show.” With that kind of money, the Worldcon (presented by Bank of America) wouldn’t even need to charge for memberships!

Over the years, certain authors will be seen to attract more lucrative sponsorships, and, naturally, they will receive more nominations. More nominations = more sponsorship money = cheaper Worldcons. Meanwhile, we would be able to argue to our hearts’ content with no responsibility to vote. What could be more American?


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With all the storm und drang that has rained down since the Hugos, I could have ranted about the outcome and the various parties reactions for at least 400 words. But I don’t want to. I want to talk about something completely different and totally insignificant. Thus, my humble offerings of things you can say about fans (or anyone else, if you’re talking to fans) who just don’t have enough rocket fuel to quite reach the Moon.

He’s so dumb, he couldn’t find a robot on an episode of Futurama.

He’s so dumb, he likes to go jogging alone on the Nostromo.

He’s so dumb, he keeps volunteering for away missions.

He’s so dumb, he told Cyclops, “Take off those glasses so I can hit you.”

He’s so dumb, he challenged the Flash to a duel.

He’s so dumb, he thinks those really weren’t the droids he was looking for.

He’s so dumb, he bought a house in Haven.

He’s so dumb, he thinks The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is Fifty Shades of Gray with werewolves.

He’s so dumb, he sold a life insurance policy to a Stark.

He’s so dumb, he went to Mount Doom for the skiing.

And (mercifully) last but not least…

He’s so dumb, he went to Doctor Who for a physical and now he doesn’t know when he got it done.

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This will probably be my last blog before the Hugos, or at least likely my last blog about the Hugos before the Hugos, if that counts for anything. It’s also the saddest.

I have heard more than one person say that he/she is worried about attending the Hugo ceremony. Some people have admitted to being afraid to attend the ceremony. And some have written off the ceremony and plan to spend the time in a pub down the street.

What the hell?

It’s an award ceremony, not a war zone. You’re going to be watching Hugo rockets being given out, not RPGs being launched. What is going on?

The Sad Puppies, that’s what–or more likely, the Rabid Puppies. There is a tangible fear that someone will take the Hugos way too seriously (or rather, that they’re already taking the awards way too seriously), and will express himself in a hostile or even dangerous way. Now I doubt that anything is going to happen, but I can see the point. Partisans on both sides have used, on occasion, violent rhetoric to express themselves. Lou Antonelli called the Spokane police to report David Gerrold as a possible threat to public safety. (He did later apologize and retract his letter.) Is it any wonder people worry?

There has been some speculation that the Hugos have been broken, that this feud has caused an irreconcilable rift in fandom. But there have been feuds before, and they’ve faded away. Were there to be violence, or even a disruption of the ceremony, that would break the Hugos, and create a wound that would never fade away. I hope that these fears are unfounded.

I still have faith that fandom remembers that this is all a hobby. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to be scary.

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Why, it’s the Sad Puppies, of course.

This post may cause the same furor amongst fans of high-brow soap operas as the Puppies have amongst fans of high-brow SF, but I’m willing to be the martyr for this cause (of which as far as I know I am the only member). I believe that the Puppies have performed a service, the same service as Downton Abbey has for PBS, and I (unlike some involved in that other controversy) mean to prove my theory.

First, PBS has achieved unheard-of viewership the past few years. This is provably because of Downton Abbey. Membership for Sasquan has set a new record, and Hugo voting is roughly 40% higher than the average of previous years. This is undoubtedly due to the Puppies (and reaction thereto).

Second, although PBS is best known for science programs and televised opera, Downton Abbey is, as pointed out above, really a dressed-up soap opera. It’s not high-falutin’ literary entertainment, despite the setting and the clothes and the acting. It’s all that, but mostly it’s fun. And if the message slips in that the upper and lower classes are not that different, well, at least it doesn’t get in the way of the story. The Puppy slate isn’t high-falutin’ literary entertainment, either; that’s not a criticism, that’s their selling point. And if a message slips in that overwhelms the story (Hugo nominations, *cough, cough*), well, we can just ignore that, because fun is the real message.

Finally, both Downton Abbey and the Sad Puppies represent what happens when conservative values run head-on into a changing world. Like Lord Robert, the Puppies rail against progressivism, and like him, they believe they have won their share of victories. Both have managed to seem small-minded in doing so.

Unfortunately, we know Downton Abbey is soon to end. Whether the Puppies follow suit remains to be seen. But their work (in both cases) has already been done: Their respective platforms have enjoyed unprecedented public exposure and interest. Given conservatives’ disdain for PBS, the Puppies may well not like the comparison, but then again, they’ve been compared to worse.

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