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Day in the Life of an Idiot

The Journal of Lyda Morehouse


April 27th, 2015

Hugo on the Brain and the Nature of Fandom @ 09:04 am


Catherynne M. Valente has weighed in on the Puppies and the Hugos this morning (edited to add: apparently this came out awhile ago but was being passed around FB yesterday). I haven't read all the words because I'm suffering a bit of Hugo neepery burnout. That doesn't mean I've stopped thinking about it. In fact, I'm having some thoughts about it that are probably... I'm not sure what, but no one on my "side" is talking about it as far as I can tell.

Obviously, everything about what the SP/RP did to this year's Hugo was wrong with wrong sauce. But, I've been thinking a lot about why anyone sympathize with them, ever, under any circumstances. I don't think it's as simple as a lot of people want to paint it. It's super-easy to decide the whole lot of them are racist (and in Beale/Vox's case, that's not at all unfounded.) But, if that were the only motivator, I don't see how they'd have quite as much traction. Okay, maybe I'm being naive here. Clearly race relations are broken in the US, so maybe that's enough to fuel this kind of thing... but, okay, really? I just want to talk about ANOTHER aspect.

In Larry Correia's back and forth with George R. R. Martin, Martin vehemently denies that there are 'cool kids' in SF/F. He's wrong. Because, of course there are. Whenever you get a group of people together, cliques happen. That's just the nature of humanity and group dynamics.

Correia whines a lot about feeling shut out, and, while I think it all amounts to a load of man pain, I actually sympathize with him a little, on a basic human level.

I GET feeling left out of that inner circle, particularly at somewhere as huge as a WorldCON. I spent all of 1998 Baltimore WorldCON feeling like I was forever just one step from the parties everyone was talking about the next day. You'd go to a panel the next morning and hear Gardner Dozois laughing about how Warren Lapine shot a pickle out his nose (or visa versa) and I'd think: What? Where? When? How come *I* wasn't invited!??

Baltimore, it should be noted, was particularly egregious that year because of some corkage law or other that messed up how and where alcohol could be served and so there were A LOT of rumors of "secret pro parities" where the free beer flowed freely. I was also, it turned out, just on the verge of making my first pro sale, but not there yet.*

But, this happened to me once I was established, too. In fact, the WorldCON I felt the worst at was the most recent ChiCON in 2012, when I had, what, fourteen books under my belt? I was on paneling and, therefor, very much part of the "in" crowd. I also got my very first ever invitation to a secret pro party (a party I later referred to as the f*cking boat) which was a cruise on the Chicago canals/out into Lake Michigan hosted by Random House (which was not even my publisher.) I have never felt more uncool, than I did at that WorldCON, despite everything, and it all had to do with the fact that my career was starting to sour. But, regardless, I felt left out and all the things that Correia complains about (except no one shouted at me that I was a liar and a misogynist, perhaps for obvious reasons. Though honestly? I might have believed everyone hated me, my mood was so foul. I felt very picked on during the one panel I was on, because it was about serial fiction and all my series had failed.)

Okay, so you see? We all feel this.

It's especially maddening when you're just starting out, because you finally broke in only to find that there's still barriers to being in the spotlight, and we ALL want to be in the spotlight.

Look, we're all divas. Correia is just saying out loud what lot of us feel: boo hoo, it's NOT all about me! (Pro tip: most of us don't say it out loud, because we realize how whiny and self-centered it makes us look.)

BUT... yes, okay? I actually sympathize a little with this. To say there aren't cool kid cliques is disingenuous too. There just are.

Also, this feeling of being shut out of WorldCON culture something that has happened to people on the left, too. Not that long ago (but apparently outside of the collective memory), there was a huge controversy around the London WorldCON about a cliquish inner circle of white guys (and GRRM is even pictured!)

Here's the thing I want to say about this: con culture is a thing. It's a thing everyone needs to learn how to negotiate.

I've even talked about this idea before on this blog because I came across someone on Twitter complaining about feeling left out/unwelcomed at a con. The thing I said to that person (who was decidedly on the left), is that we're all responsible for our own con experience. It's not the con's job to make you feel welcome. You have to learn the culture of cons and figure out how to fit in. Some conventions even have panels on the opening days ABOUT how to make inroads and make friends and be involved in a way that will let you leave the con feeling like you were part of it in a positive way. I was lucky because we have a lot of local cons to "practice" on, some of them are HUGE, so you can get something very akin to a WorldCON experience. I know for a fact that I bounced in and out of the first con I ever attended, which was a WisCON: 1984, when Elizabeth A. Lynn was one of the Guests of Honor.

I did that con and maybe hit an early MiniCON and thought, "Eh, not much for me here." It wasn't until much later when I was starting a writing career did I go back and really work to make in-roads by volunteering for panelling, etc.

TBF, the local fan scene is such that you did have to kind of know the right people or at least be known to them. I somehow got on Eric Heideman's radar, and that was panelling for me for life.

So, fandom as insider-y? Hella yeah.

Does it mean the Hugos are broken? I don't think so. Yeah, it's possible they've been out of touch, if only because WorldCON members are aging, etc., but as Cheryl Morgan talks about in her take on Puppygate-Winners and Losers, in many ways the Puppies have brought a renewed interest in the Hugos that you couldn't have bought and paid for, if you'd tried.




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*Out of curiosity, I went to see which WorldCONs I've attended and they are: 1998 BucCONeer (Baltimore), 2000 ChiCON (Chicago), 2004 NoreasCON (Boston), and 2012 ChiCON (Chicago).
 
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From:seawasp
Date:April 27th, 2015 04:16 pm (UTC)
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Basically... yes. The Puppies' real mistake was in thinking the proper way to address what they saw as a problem was to use a loophole in the voting to force voting to go their way. They didn't want to do what you ALWAYS have to do when trying to enter a decades-long established community: become PART of the community.

Because that takes time, and effort, and more time. You don't get treated like an insider just because you happened to finally qualify on ONE of the dimensions of "insider-dom"; you have to, as they say, "pay your dues", and if (like many of the Puppies) you've got characteristics that are strongly different from the community, your dues-paying may take longer.

I've attended... um... four conventions that would probably qualify as in the same literary-SF vein as Worldcon: the Worldcon in Boston back in 2004(? or was it 2003?), Boskone 13 back in 1976, Astronomicon, and Lunacon. And despite being GoH at Lunacon, I don't really think of myself as at all "inside". I haven't come near to participating in the community enough.
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From:lyda222
Date:April 27th, 2015 05:38 pm (UTC)
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Dues paying, that's it exactly.

And it's a bleep-ton of work and it never ends. You can slip out for a year or two and sometimes have to build the whole damn thing up again and that's frustrating and time-consuming, and yeah.

Mostly, I wanted to acknowledge the fact that Correia isn't wrong when he complains about insider-ness. I wanted to, even though I'm on no one's radar ever, reach across the aisle, as it were, and say, "Yeah, I hear ya, bro." There is nothing else the two of is would ever agree on, but I do think WorldCONs can feel very... overwhelming.

Also? I didn't talk about this, but I've also attended a con as an award nominee (Norwescon 2014 in SeaTac) and felt very adrift. I ended up meeting some people who made the whole experience AWESOME, however. It really only, sometimes, takes one positive experience to turn the whole thing around. TBF, I'm extroverted, so I don't doubt that I just walked up to Minister Faust and introduced myself and told him we should hang out. We were both nominees, and that made it so much easier to just say, "Hey, I know no one here. You?"

But so many of us are introverted nerds. It makes this whole thing that much more complicated. Because sometimes people "snubbing" you, I've learned, is actually just poor social skills.

Anyway, yeah, I always think of myself as a medium sized fish in a small pond. I live in the same town as Lois McMaster Bujold and one that's close to where Neil Gaiman lives, so I can't say I'm even a big fish in a little pond. But, I've been kicking around this community a long time now. I'm probably an insider to some degree or another. (Still not cool, though.) ;-)
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From:seawasp
Date:April 27th, 2015 06:02 pm (UTC)
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Any insider-ness I have is from my Usenet existence, which goes back to the late 80s-early 90s and made me a familiar name to a number of people who ARE insiders and recognize "Sea Wasp" even if they have to occasionally think to connect that to "Ryk Spoor". Being a Baen author and thus in a group the Puppies tend to assume is on THEIR side actually makes this kerfluffle acutely painful for me.

The one Worldcon I went to was interesting. I suspect Larry and some of the others went there subconsciously, or maybe even consciously, expecting that now that they were Published Authors and even Nominated, they'd be instantly welcomed into the Inner Circle because, well, published authors are special.

I didn't have that expectation at all, not once I'd pinged Worldcon and found that, unlike other conventions I'd been to, they had no interest in adding a new author to their program. I realized this was a completely different level of convention, and looking at the guest list I recognized that I'd have a long, long ways to go before I'd be even able to be admitted to the clubhouse.

Instead I wandered around, looked in at some interesting panels, ended up participating in ways that were fun for me and I hope others there, got to shake Silverberg's hand and get him to sign LVC, actually meet Lawrence Watt-Evans, and see the Doc Smith exhibit. And came away knowing that this was a community that I could join if I had the time and money to attend and participate enough, but that I probably never would. And that was okay.
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From:bibliofile
Date:April 30th, 2015 08:02 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I too hadn't realized quite the range of program participants available to a worldcon until I was on the outer fringes of program planning for one of the Chicons.

Usenet -- and other online platforms (up to & including LJ & Dreamwidth; I'm not sure about Tumblr) helped raise my comfort levels at conventions by just having more of an idea of who the heck everyone was. Especially when people made their LJ user icons known on their badges!

These days I avoid worldcons because they're just too big for me: There are so many people that everyone seems to use their "big city-walking" face, ignoring everyone else as a way to survive. None of the "we're all fans and we're here, hooray" thing at all. Though cell phones at least make it easier to find any people I want to see.
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From:haikujaguar
Date:April 27th, 2015 06:12 pm (UTC)
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Thank you for saying 'well, what if the reason they have traction is that there's something else going on there'.

I am very tired of hearing it's all in my head. :,
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From:lyda222
Date:April 27th, 2015 10:14 pm (UTC)
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:-(

Sorry to hear you're getting such flack.
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From:lyda222
Date:April 27th, 2015 10:14 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, anime panels at cons, in general, often make my head hurt. I go to an Anime con once a year (Anime Detour) and... the panels are often fairly worthless. I've enjoyed ones that are basically: "What's new this year" but I'm often baffled by the ones where the panelists are cosplaying and IN CHARACTER. I... yes, and I feel like anime fans have a different approach to panels in general that I can't quite even grok.

But, yes, you should totally join panels where you can. I mean, I think that seawasp above is right; WorldCONs are notoriously hard to get on panels. I offered myself at the Boston WorldCON, but even with two or three books out at that time, it was explained to me that I just wasn't that important. Which was fine, honestly, because there are other reasons to go to a WorldCON. For me, it was that my new editor was going to be there and I can honestly say that being at that WorldCON SAVED MY CAREER (because bonding with John Morgan, my editor, lead to the creation of Tate Hallaway.) I also met my agent there for one of the only times I've ever talked to her face-to-face. So, you know, WorldCONs can be good, too.

But yeah, sorry we missed each other! Are you going to go to MidAmericaCON (next year's Hugo?)

Day in the Life of an Idiot

The Journal of Lyda Morehouse