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"Let me take you back...back into time.
When the only people that existed were cave men...cave women...
Neanderthals...Troglodytes!"
-Jimmy Castor Bunch, "Troglodyte"

In the long-distant past when I was young, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth (or were they Cadillac Coupe DeVilles?) and times were so different we referred to them by different numbers -MCMLXIV, I believe it was- it was a proud and lonely thing to be a science fiction fan. Reading that "trashy Buck Rogers stuff" was definitely frowned upon by most right-thinking Americans, middlebrow and high-class alike, and the same was true of comic books, which were regarded as fodder for children and the immature. TV shows and movies with science-fiction plots and themes were few and far between, and SF fans, many of whom were, to be completely honest, more than a little socially retarded, tended to get together at small "conventions" where they could talk with other people who also read Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Herbert, and this disturbing young fellow Ellison. It was regarded as quite remarkable when the 1974 World Science Fiction Convention held in Washington topped four thousand people in its membership.

Yet even then, the changes in fandom were underway. A short-lived show on NBC, Star Trek, generated massive fan interest in people who had never heard of science fiction fandom. The Trek fans flooded into fandom, and in the first of a sadly repetitive series of dumb mistakes, fandom turned on these newcomers and made them aware that they were most certainly Not Welcome. Fandom's open and non-judgmental culture suddenly became harshly critical of "drobes" who ran around in Starfleet and Klingon uniforms they hadn't even made themselves, and Trekkies who seemingly had no other interest in SF outside the series. This was horseshit, of course; perhaps predictable horseshit, given that so many SF fans (as I mentioned previously) were more than a little lacking in social skills, but horseshit all the same. Trekkies were in many cases SF fans fired up by the campaigns to bring the show back, fans writing fanfic, fans writing fanzines to publish fanfic and fanart in, fans starting conventions to which bemused actors were invited and besieged by legions of fans seeking autographs. In short, fans doing fanac, but not in the Approved Manner or on the Approved Topics. And so Trek fandom and its conventions, for the most part, went its separate way from traditional literary SF fandom.

Not too long after the hordes of unwashed Trekkies had been successfully repelled from the ghetto, a fellow named George Lucas showed up at the Kansas City Worldcon in 1976, promoting a remake of Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress featuring starships, a courageous young farmboy with hidden psychic powers, a couple of amusing robots, two ancient masters of martial arts, and a brutal Galactic Empire. He got a warm reception, and a few years later millions of people around the world were flocking to see the movie we all know now as Star Wars. They, too, started showing up at science fiction conventions, and got the same warm reception shown to their older brothers and sisters the Trekkies, and they in turn started going to what were increasingly called media conventions. The media conventions, like the Trek conventions before them, were very different from the fan-run SF conventions that preceded them. More (if not most) of them were unabashedly for-profit, charged different membership rates with different levels of access to the guests, and sometimes seemed more like combination flea markets/autograph sessions, with some panels where the guests talked about the shows. And they drew tens of thousands of people, because after Hollywood saw the huge piles of money Lucas was making, they couldn't wait to launch a new Star Trek movie, a new Star Trek TV series, and all manner of TV shows and movies with science fiction themes. And lo, the fans of these shows and movies were likewise greeted with a cold shoulder by the Big Name Fans, Filthy Pros, and Secret Masters of Fandom.

At about the same time, role-playing games (Dungeons and Dragons, Traveller) exploded in popularity, followed not much later by collectible card games like Magic. For some reason, gamers had always fit better with traditional fandom, perhaps because so many of them were SF and fantasy fans to begin with, but after a while (perhaps around the time video games started becoming affordable and popular) they, too, started feeling less than welcome at regular SF conventions, and began going off to swell the crowds at GenCon and other conventions that were mostly about games and gaming.

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Is a trend becoming apparent to you? Here, let's add another ingredient to this mulligan stew. In 1997, while I and my wife at the time were mostly busy trying to raise our kids, the regional SF convention in Minneapolis, Minicon, was in crisis. Attendance had ballooned to over three thousand people, staff turnover and burnout were epidemic, and the fan club nominally responsible for running Minicon, MNSTF, had no real idea whether the con was making money, losing money, or investing it in beaver hat futures on the Medicine Hat Commodities Exchange. The MNSTF Board of Directors, wakened from their dogmatic slumber by all the hooting, hollering, carrying-on, shrieks of horror, and assorted gibbering, actually paid serious attention to various proposals regarding the upcoming Minicon. One proposal, advanced by Minicon veteran Victor Raymond, was to split the baby: have one Minicon dedicated to traditional SF fandom, and another at a different time which would be more of a Gathering of the Clans, a three-ring circus and big ol' party for media fans, anime fans, BDSM folk, and the other subcultures drawn to SF fandom, where being different wasn't automatically considered bad. Another proposal, which was the one MNSTF wound up going with, was called the High Resolution Minicon Proposal, and whatever its authors' original intentions, it was seen by most of Upper Midwest fandom as "Thanks for all the time and money you've sunk into Minicon over the years, you fringefans, but we're tired of you now, and you need to fuck right off." What became immediately apparent was that the vast majority of Minicon's attendance and staff had in fact been made up of those "fringefans" for quite some time, and in the years following the implementation of the HRMP, Minicon's attendance imploded to a low of about 400 people. Meanwhile, those fans who felt snubbed by the HRMP organized two other conventions: Marscon, more focused on media and gaming but still mainly an SF convention, and Convergence, essentially Minicon 2.0. So in the end, what Victor had campaigned for happened anyway, but instead of successfully managing the change and remaining the preeminent SF club in the upper Midwest, MNSTF dropped the ball and dwindled into obscurity, which their graying membership seems quite happy with. The same thing, with minor variations, also happened at Boskone and Disclave and other regional conventions, so I think it's reasonable to draw a few conclusions about SF Fandom in general from these examples.

Let's fast forward a few years. By now, everyone is familiar with the Sad Puppies story: Larry Correia noticed a drop in Worldcon attendance correlating with an increase in Hugo Awards to works of SF that weren't terribly successful in the marketplace, but were written by the Right People and tended to have the Right Characters expressing the Right Views. Over the next two years, he tested the hypothesis, encouraging his readers and friends to join Worldcon and vote. Membership numbers at Worldcon increased, votes for the Hugo increased, and in the third year of Sad Puppies, when massive numbers of people bought supporting memberships and nominated works by John Wright, Tom Kratman, Michael Williamson, and other authors considered "badthinkers" by defenders of the existing order - the same people, mind you, who had encouraged Larry to go out and get more people to join Worldcon if he felt it wasn't sufficiently reflective of the SF market- the backlash from people such as Patrick and Teresa Nielsen-Hayden, John Scalzi, David Gerrold, and various unhousebroken employees of Tor Books was vitriolic. The Sad Puppies (and their co-belligerents, the Rabid Puppies led by Vox Day) were libeled as racists, homophobes, neo-Nazis, misogynists and pretty much every politically correct insult in the book. In the end, despite the Puppy Kickers' hypocritical preaching against the evils of "slate voting", a bloc of 2500 voters chose "No Award" over any work nominated from the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies list - a list, mind you, that SP3 leader Brad Torgersen had not delivered from on high, but instead crowdsourced from anyone who wanted to suggest works worth nominating. Vox Day's Rabid Puppies list was almost identical to the SP list, but as far as anyone knows, it was a list he chose and distributed to the Dread Ilk. This massive "No Award" result, which doubled the number of such from the entire history of the Hugo Awards, was loudly cheered and celebrated by those in attendance at the Hugo Award banquet; this cheering was encouraged by MC David Gerrold, while thousands of fans around the world were subjected to this display of vile behavior thanks to the Internet.

Having read the preceding, should the results of SP3 have been a surprise to anyone? The people running WSFS and the people running local SF conventions are the same people who for the last fifty years have been mouthing off about "openness" and "tolerance" and "not being judgmental" while doing their best to run off "fringefans" at every opportunity instead of welcoming new chums and introducing them to the wider world of science fiction and fantasy. In order to join traditional fandom, you are only allowed to come in through one door, only allowed to read certain books, only allowed to express certain opinions. Then you can be accepted as a "true fan". Why would anyone in their right mind want to put themselves through that? It's a good question, and one which a lot of fans have answered by ignoring traditional fandom in favor of geek culture events such as the San Diego Comic Convention, Otakon, GenCon, and Dragon*Con. Some fans have signed up for Sad Puppies 4, hoping to recruit enough friends and allies to retake the Hugo Awards from the Sadducees and Pharisees who have controlled it (and increasingly, handed it out to those favored by Tor) for going on ten years.

In the long term, though, perhaps what fandom (as opposed to Fandom) needs to do is build up a fan organization that welcomes all fans of science fiction and fantasy, no matter what door they enter by. Fortunately, one already exists, and has existed since 1941: the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F). The dues are lower, there's more to do between conventions, and eventually, given enough time and members, what the membership of the N3F thinks about anime, books, comics, games, and movies may prove to be more important than what an insular group of graying old WSFS members think.

UPDATE: Okay, closing the comments now for two reasons. One, the vast majority of you seem intent on beating the dead Sasquan/Hugos horse, which was merely an example of the larger issue. Two, I'm not particularly interested in hosting that beating.

That having been said, thanks to lydy and dd_b for politely correcting me on stuff I got wrong about Diversicon and providing another POV on the whole HRMP kerfluffle, respectively. No thanks to nwhyte for accusing Brad Torgersen of shenanigans regarding the SP3 pre-nomination crowd-sourcing and insisting Brad prove his innocence after being called out. That's not how it works, Nick, and you should be adult enough to know better.

Comments

mauser
Oct. 19th, 2015 11:47 am (UTC)
Re: Nothing like the unknowledgable lecturing the fans
You seem to be confusing SP2, which was indeed about politics, with SP3, which was not. Brad's suggestions for nominees were widely dispersed about the political spectrum (While Vox's additions were not, but I don't expect you to make that distinction).

As for the puppies running unopposed, well, out of 16 categories, there were only 4 where they were unopposed, and most of those were minors. Again, look at the nomination data at the end of the Hugo Results. Unless you are innumerate, the facts there should disabuse you of these notions.

(For one thing, the puppies made a point of only voting for things they'd read, which might explain the 100% difference between the top Puppy novel and the lowest.)

"The number of nominators was rather up this last year. Those 2500 people, they were there."

No, they weren't. They did suddenly appear at the last moment, but they sure as hell didn't care about the nomination process, and they weren't there between the time the lists were announced and the nominations were voted on. There was plenty of time for them to get involved, but no, they appeared out of nowhere just in time to destroy the Hugos. There were more voters voting the No Award block then the entire nomination set. If 400-500 Sad Puppies voters are some kind of bloc, they are nothing compared to those arsonists who burned the whole thing down, rather than nominate.
lydy
Oct. 19th, 2015 12:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Nothing like the unknowledgable lecturing the fans
I see no particular reason to think that SP3 was hugely distinct from SP 2 or SP 1. They appeared to be roughly the same set of people, with roughly the same set of complaints. The fact that Torgersen chose to continue the name suggests a continuity of purpose and perspective, as well. I am perfectly capable of distinguishing between the Sads and the Rabids, but I think that the way it functioned was very much in the good cop/bad cop way. Whether or not this was intended, the actual outcome was that they strongly supported each other.

Unopposed? You mean, something other than a Puppy nominee got on the ballot? You are parsing the numbers in an interesting fashion, and still ignoring the fact that 80% of the ballot was Puppy nominees. 80%, from a 20% voting base. This is lopsided. I am not innumerate, and neither, I think, are you.

I very sincerely doubt that you can in any way prove that the Puppies only voted for things that they had read, although in many ways, that's hugely beside the point. If they only read what they were told to, then of course the only nominated things that they had read. Please note, I am not actually claiming that is the case, simply that your claim doesn't mean what you imply. Remember, we are talking about the nominating phase, not the award voting phase. And there is no reason to believe that the people who nominated other things hadn't read what they nominated, either. The difference is not who read what, it's the coordination of the voting, the leveraging of unanimity against more dispersed voting patterns.

One of the things that we know about the voting history of the past is that is very typical for many more people to vote in the award selection than in the nominating phase. The biggest reason for this appears to be that many people who take the Hugos seriously feel that they are not widely enough read in the field to nominate. This is probably a hold-over from the days when it was possible to keep up with the entire field, and various people made various claims about how well-read someone had to be in order to do a good job nominating. Even if those claims were ever true, they certainly aren't, now, because the field is too big. But people's reticence to nominate remains. Another known pattern is to let the nomination phase sort out a reading list, and then the voters read the short list, and vote. So a lot of people who don't nominate do vote, based on the short list. This year was really no different, in that regard.

There certainly were people who bought supporting memberships this year, once they saw the short list, because they didn't want their voice to be overridden by the Puppies. Many years in the past, I have been content with letting Worldcon members be my proxy for the Hugos. I viewed it as kind of an informal representative democracy, and they were my representatives. And I've been apathetic in other elections, too, when I felt that my vote wasn't really important to the outcome. This year, I wanted my voice to be heard, because it was clear that from the nominations that it was possible that the voting members of Worldcon would not represent me as they had in the past. I assume a lot of Puppy supporters did the same. If those voters "came out of thin air" it was because the Puppies created us. You all said you wanted more involvement. I got more involved.
mauser
Oct. 20th, 2015 07:10 am (UTC)
Re: Nothing like the unknowledgable lecturing the fans
"I see no particular reason to think that SP3 was hugely distinct from SP 2 or SP 1." In which case, you are being deliberately ignorant. The ignorance part can be fixed by oh, I dunno, reading Brad's post where he set out his goals for SP3 and how they were different from Larry's in SP2. But there's nothing I can do about the deliberation behind it.

If you are determined to be ignorant, there really isn't much point in trying to enlighten you, is there?

And again, regarding innumeracy, you complain about the nominations being lopsided, but they always have been. It's the nature of the beast, when you have hundreds of possibilities, most only get one or two votes, and fall well beneath the top 5 & 5% threshold for inclusion. As they have always said, with 10% of the electorate behind you, you control the nominations, and the folks from TOR have been doing that for the better part of a decade (The Best Editor - Long Form award was created because of PNH's campaign, and surprise, he and his fellow TOR editors have gotten most of them).

And again, you argue for unanimity that is clearly not there in the data released.

In any case, you should support the overarching goal of Sad Puppies 4, which is to get more people active and participating in the nomination process. Since the answer to clique voting is more voters.

When there were only 500 voters, a clique of 50 with hanger's on could control the Hugos (and apparently your options when the ballot came to you.). If we can keep 5000 people involved at all stages, the Hugos become a far more honest evaluation of the preferences of the field. A little controversy is a good thing.

And it certainly helps the convention's bottom line.
lydy
Oct. 20th, 2015 02:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Nothing like the unknowledgable lecturing the fans
So, the same people, with the same grievances, and the same somewhat aberrant view of the Hugo awards run a third campaign to nominate works to the Hugo ballot, and somehow I'm supposed to think that this effort is completely distinct and separate, with entirely different goals, from the previous two iterations, by the same name? This is calling a tail a leg territory, as far as I can tell.

What you are describing is not what I characterized as lopsided, but rather low voter participation. They are, each, problems, but they are different problems. It is true that low voter participation makes bloc voting easier, since you need fewer people in your bloc. But the usual situation is low voter participation and significantly diffuse nominations.

It does not require 100% lock step voting to get the result we saw, nor is anyone I know claiming such a thing happened. But as with most political parties, running a slate significantly leverages the power of the votes by concentrating on a few candidates.

Are you in favor of EPH? If not, why not?

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