I've been watching the aftermath of the Dragon Awards announcement with considerable interest, and have come to an inescapable conclusion: the "true fen" know very little about the rest of us.
They assume, for example, that we haven't read a lot of science fiction simply because we don't know a lot about World Con and its operations. But, of course, as Jeff Duntemann notes in a post published Monday, fandom suffered a schism forty years ago over the influx of Trekkies and gamers -- and has never recovered. The consequence? There are plenty of voracious readers of science fiction out there who have no connection to World Con whatsoever. Consider my own fannish biography: I've been a fan of science fiction (and, to a lesser extent, fantasy) since I was a child thanks to my father, who used a portion of his Naval Academy stipend to amass a library of science fiction works that I was eventually allowed to pillage. I've been attending science fiction conventions off and on since my early teens (and continuously since 2004), and I've spoken on quite a few panels tackling both books and media with a fantastic bent. Hell, I've even worked at cons before; from 2007 to 2015, I volunteered to help run the Science Fiction Literature track at Dragon Con, and I plan to return to that post once again in 2017. There's no way - at least, no honest way - to claim that I'm not actually a fan. But until this summer, I had never once been to a World Con. My only exposures to Fandom with a capital F were the tantalizing anecdotes Isaac Asimov included in his Hugo anthologies (which, I'm sad to say, seem to bear little resemblance to the World Cons of today).
This mistake the "true fen" have made - i.e., conflating lack of knowledge of World Con with lack of knowledge of SFF - has led, it would appear, to some very amusing confusions. For instance, said "true fen" have had trouble believing that indie authors and micro-publishers would ever cross our radar -- I guess because we're just too ignorant to be plugged into this recent evolution of the field.
Ha. Ha ha ha. HEE HEE HEE. Ahem. Sorry for that moment of laughter, but this is simply too rich. We actually know quite a bit about micro-publishers and the indie market because a lot of us are indie or fusion authors and are on record lauding - and, often, defending - that market. Who's been criticizing SFWA for the glacial way in which it has adapted its rules to indie SFF? Who's been tracking the data regarding indie's growth -- and the Big 5's simultaneous loss of market share?
As has been discussed on this blog many times before, the "true fen" have also swallowed many lies about us and our motives and thus refuse to take us at our word. This leads to some hilarious moments of hypocrisy. When this interview with Kate Paulk was posted, for one, the "true fen" were absolutely convinced she was either clueless or lying. Their response, in essence, was, "Shut up, woman. You're too stupid to know what you think. Only we know what you actually think." If Kate were an intersectional feminist bemoaning the lack of diversity in the fandom and had received such a response, cries of "mansplaining" would've echoed across the hills.
The misinformation surrounding the Sad Puppies has also emboldened fraudsters. This week, one such character flooded the official Dragon Con Facebook group with claims that Brad Torgersen, Chris Maddox and other Puppies had threatened him in private Facebook messages because he was attacking our movement. Of course, Facebook can see our chat logs, so if violent threats had actually been sent by our supporters and were subsequently reported to the powers that be, the accused would've been suspended days ago. I wonder why that didn't actually happen? Could it be that this gentleman was making it all up and was certain he would be believed?
I don't think every fan with anti-Puppy sentiments is this bound and determined to delegitimatize our complaints -- but the ones who are have very big megaphones. This means, then, that if we want to reach across the aisle and actually start some productive conversations, we're going to have to get much louder. I believe, at this point, that simply participating in the nomination and voting rounds of the Hugo Awards is a fruitless gesture. Should we continue compiling recommendation lists? Absolutely; awards or no, such lists will still be informative. But beyond that effort, we also need to start writing MOAR blog posts: posts that tackle "issues in fandom" from our perspective and, more importantly, posts about the books that excite us. Early next month, I'm going to participate in a blog tour for an indie author who, shortly, is releasing a science fiction novel with Catholic themes. Why not start doing this for other authors we adore? And why not have blog tours for issues as well?
Let's lift up our voices and be heard.