Monday, October 19, 2015

Challenging Comfortable Fictions, Part III: A Fandom Committed to Destroying Itself

(Part I | Part II)

In two earlier posts, I have done my best to explain how recent fandom-based kerfluffles have looked from the Sad Puppy side of the aisle. First, I detailed our rejection of the fannish left's oversimplified "white privilege" narrative, which ignores both fandom's specific context (in which the power brokers are overwhelmingly arrayed against us) and the backgrounds of real-life Puppies (of whom many are not "white cis-het men"). Second, I went on to describe our approach to the question of quality -- an approach that embraces science fiction's history as genre fiction despised by the literati and doesn't attempt to placate the hidebound clerisy at the expense of pure audience enjoyment.

Based on the discussions that have arisen in fandom over the past few days, the time has evidently come to address the different variations of the outsider claim. In simple terms, there are a lot of people out there insisting that we just don't belong here -- that we're not true science fiction fans because we haven't read the right books, attended the right conventions, or hobnobbed with the right people and consequently have no right to "intrude" upon the Hugos and seek to influence their results. Apologies again for the cussing, but it's all complete horseshit. 

Let's leave aside the many, many posts penned by Puppies (for example, my own personal fanifesto) that display their lifelong fannish bonafides. While such posts do utterly explode the assertion that we don't care or are not knowledgeable, they also, unfortunately, implicitly accept the CHORF-backed premise that such declarations are necessary before anyone can join the debate. They aren't. How, after all, are we supposed to refresh the fandom with new blood if we demand people present extensive fannish resumes before they can express their honest opinions? Fans have to start somewhere; if fandom were a healthy entity, its members would recognize this reality and would seek to welcome the newbies, not judge them on the nature of their entry points. "You like Star Trek, eh? Have you tried this book?" "You're into Halo? Cool! I know of a science fiction story you might really enjoy..."

But, of course, fandom is not a healthy entity. It is, in fact, a self-immolating cult of elitist hypocrisy. For people who claim to love the poor and disadvantaged so very, very much, the Anti-Puppies seem unusually fond of throwing up class-based barriers to participation in their spaces. People who have the time and the financial resources to attend World Con - or any other con - on a regular basis are people who are comfortably middle class with nice, stable, flexible jobs that allow them time off to pursue their hobbies. (Either that or they're the sorts who aren't fussed by crappy credit ratings. I suppose that's possible too.) They are, to put it bluntly, hideously privileged.  They are not at all like my father, for instance, who spent years away from his family on deployment before he'd gathered the experience necessary to retire from the Navy and enjoy the settled existence that makes attending cons feasible. The upshot? Limiting the pool of "worthy" commentators to those who attend conventions limits the pool to the well-off and/or well-connected. So too does limiting that pool to those with high-flying academic credentials, for who else has the ability to pay for those increasingly expensive degrees?   

No -- being a fan is not brain surgery and requires no special license. You don't have to take any tests or master any secret handshakes. You just have to like science fiction and fantasy and consume it on a regular basis. Unlike Heaven, fandom doesn't have a single entrance.

ETA: Welcome, Instapundit readers. For further reading, I also recommend Amazing Stories: Run by an Amazing Asshole at The Declination


  1. Two thumbs up... very good observation of a really pathetic situation. I decided a long time ago to vote for my favorite authors with the best ballot I could think of. My dollars. If I really like their stuff, like Ringo, or Drake, Stirling and yes.. Larry.. I happily pimp it. The Hugos died for me about 15 years ago.

  2. I have been reading and enjoying science fiction since the early 1950's. I've been to a couple of conventions, but other than that, I am not a gung ho fan, no fanzines, no letters to the editor, I just read the stuff.
    The Sad Puppies/Hugo kefuffle did reach my level. Unfortunately I haven't found an objective description of the sides (two? three? more) or what the issues are. So it's hard for me to say much about it.
    The really sad thing about it is nobody is writing science fiction any more. We have a bunch of Tolkien wannabe's who are not in, and never will be in, Tolkien's class. We got some YA writers who aren't bad. But we don't have any science fiction, in the classic sense of a story set in a believable future, with a decent protagonist, set a real challenge to overcome, in a setting of technology rather than magic. Which is surprising given the immense popularity of Star Wars, which is science fiction of the space opera flavor and Firefly, which is pure space opera.

  3. I don't care whether it's a believable future, just whether the author tells a good story and it hangs together without clunkers. Suspension of disbelief works for me. Or, perhaps, I should ask what you, Dstarr, consider a "believable" future. We may define that differently.

  4. Seriously, this is not a new problem. Organized literary SF fandom in the Nineties was oppressively insular, creaking, and ancient. All the interesting fandom occurred elsewhere, on the fringes, where people could still do novel stuff away from all the ossified fossils and their dead-eyed stepford children. The only real difference now is that there's been an influx of younger, aggressive trolls who have figured out the social-anxiety vulnerability of the stepford children and *their* children, and have parasitized the mouldering old hulk.

  5. Believable future. A future that could conceivably come from the present that we know. A future where farmers plow the land with unicorns, and mail is delivered by owls, is not believable. A post atomic war future (Canticle for Leibowitz, Star Man's Son), a future of interstellar exploration, (Star Trek) or interstellar war (Lensman) is believable.

  6. Thanks for your tenacity in setting straight the record. I predict that in a few years, the truth will be stuffed down the memory hole and SJWs will be claiming they were the ones No Awarded by those wicked Puppies. Keep up the good work.