I have been debating what to say on a number of deep issues that have been rocking the writing world that I love so well, and today I think I'm ready to give one a shot because yet more controversy has freshly hit the blogosphere with thoughtful posts by The Book Smugglers, John Scalzi's Whatever and Foz Meadows on issues such as Toni Weisskopf, SciFi legitimacy and fandom.
Science Fiction: Writers & Fandoms
ala BONE, Smith, Sniegoski & Sakai
I love science fiction. I have long admired science fiction writers. I watch science fiction movies. I have entire shelves dedicated to my favorite science fiction books. And--oh yeah--I write science fiction stories. Yet I can say that I have felt little love from the science fiction community when I started this wild ride back in the day. Every time I have attended a con or reader event, I have come away with at least one experience that left a burned and blackened bitten tongue in my mouth. Every time I debated whether to join SFWA, something incredibly stupid hit the fan and I felt defeated before I'd even begun. (Full timeline of recently buffoonery thoughtfully provided by SL Huang here.) And yet...and yet...there are several writers in the SFWA community who are struggling with this, too, and others who have reached out and stand tall, fighting the good fight, allies together in this strange war against Otherness which seems so at odds with the whole concept of science fiction that it makes my brain ache. I want to do something. I want to be part of the change. And yet...and yet...stuff like this happens. So while I'm all for joining the Insect Army, the argument that change can only come from within is 100% wrong. Change can come from the outside, too--but it has to come from action.**
And that brings us to Jonathan Ross and Loncon.
To be fair, I didn't know "Wossy's" schtick, but I was familiar with his name and controversial antics, which is--to be fair--nothing new in the world of celebrity gossip. When I heard that he had been chosen to host the Hugos, I Googled the name just to be sure I was thinking of the same guy. Yep. My Twitter feed filled with outcry and concern and, most importantly, included a post about the conference organizer who stepped down in protest (after she completed her remaining obligations, both things I find to be markers of good character). And while there was a lot of good discussion, (and a lot of bad discussion), I was raised believing that inside every complaint there is a request and a request should be made to someone who can *do* something about it. Venting to let off steam and take comfort in your friends has its place, but I find what is most effective is taking pen to paper or, in this case, fingers to keys. So I wrote one tweet for the cause:
@dawnmetcalf Re: Jonathan Ross hosting the Hugos?!? Read & respond: fjm.livejournal.com/1290060.html #insectarmy
I was passing along the link that Farah Mendlesohn, former Loncon Division head, had provided as an email on her post so that concerned citizens could contact the correct party, should they wish to do so. (I figured many of my followers and friends might wish to do so.) I walked the talk and wrote a letter outlining this simple point: I was not interested in debating whether or not Wossy was a "legitimate" SciFi fan nor whether he was good for publicity or even if this was a purposeful move on the parts of the conference organizers, given all the preparation that had been done prior to the announcement to brace for impact. I couldn't claim to know whether Wossy would pull out his particular brand of "humor" to shame, ridicule or belittle those in attendance because, despite being science fiction fans, we cannot see into the future. HOWEVER, what I *could* say is that given the current climate of our changing community, one that is struggling to be inclusive and reach out to those feeling marginalized, ignored or abused on both sides of the Pond, I thought that someone like Mr. Ross was an incredibly poor choice given where we are as a community at this time. In fact, since the guy volunteered to do this, it wasn't too hard to retract or explain and since he hadn't expected the storm that came on despite the fact that those who extended the invitation must have suspected such a thing would happen, I considered that a poor way to conduct business and a poor way to treat anyone. Period. (Note I am not saying that the SciFi community, Hugo award nominees or interested fans didn't have EVERY RIGHT to voice their dismay--I sure did!--but it was a terrible thing for Loncon to do in the first place to Ms. Mendlesohn, Mr. Ross, and everyone involved.) This whole thing illustrates one of the very things that is currently purple and bruised; it points the finger squarely at the obvious fact that the "higher ups" seem to be completely out of touch with what is happening all around them and insults their participants with their--at best, ignorance, or, at worst, derision. We're not "anonymous insects" or "fuggheads," (and isn't it dismissively infantile to resort to name-calling?), but people trying to stand for change while others want us to sit down, talk nicely and shut up. I think Seanan McGuire put it best when she said, "The dinosaurs are dying off. I am proud to be part of the comet." (If I wasn't a huge fan of hers before, I sure as heck am now!)
(P.S. Because Ursula Vernon is friggin awesome!)
Which brings me back to fandom.
Who gets to be a "real fan" reminds me of the whole stupidity around who gets to be a "real geek girl." And despite the fact that I really love all that the gals say in this video, I still want to stand up and scream I DO NOT HAVE TO PROVE MYSELF TO YOU OR ANYONE! Do I think a "real fan" has to have read the SciFi "classics" as defined by anyone, even the white male majority? No. Do I think there is value in reading classic SciFi? Hell, yes! But that's the job of academics, not fandoms. A real fan's only job is to love their geekery of choice with all their happy little heart and when another real fan meets them and learns that they're excited about the very same stuff can say, "Hey, have you read [X]? Oh, you haven't?! Well, I think you'll LOVE it!" End sentence. Word of Mouth is still our biggest seller, both as writers and readers. As an English Major I get the value in reading the classics, following the roots of where our modern storytelling comes from, learning the geneaology of your favorite genres and discovering where the movements began can be a great source of fun for those who are interested, but as a fan? A fan's a fan because they love something that inspires and moves them. Nothing more required. You got a smile on your face? You're in this club.
And that's what I want from my SciFi community because a smile is universal--it has no race or color or sexual orientation or gender or religion or socio-economic strata--and it doesn't even need to have a reason to be. You like science fiction? I *love* science fiction! Let's talk until the wee hours and write like fiends.
How hard is that, really?
Nothing to Prove by Geek Girls & the Doubleclicks
** By the way, I'm not trying to blow smoke, here. I had a classmate who was the first Eagle Scout to come out to the Boy Scouts and publicly take them to court back in the 80's. We stood by him and attended lectures, petitioned, protested and I swore that no son of mine would ever be in the Boy Scouts as long as they had such a policy. As a private organization they could certainly be as bigoted as they pleased, but they should not get any government support nor would they get any support from me. I kept petitioning. I kept writing letters. It's been 30 years and change is happening from keeping the pressure on. I am not a boy nor a Boy Scout, a Scout leader, a Scout mom or have anything to do with the Boy Scouts, but I *did* care enough to take a stand for change.