(WARNING: Neepery, not directly about Hugos, but somewhat related. Also it is about me observing other people observing me, so there’s a whole lot of me in this post. So: Ego alert. Also, it’s long, because I wanted to get out in one place. Skip it if you just don’t care. I don’t mind! Really!)
Over on Facebook at the moment, and as a subset of a larger discussion, there’s a conversational thread about why so many dudes (and it is largely dudes, and dudes of a certain sort and political persuasion) have such a rabid dislike of me, both as a writer and as a human being.
Naturally, I have thoughts on this, based on years of personal observation, so below you’ll find my hypotheses on why I am so widely disliked by a certain type of dude. These hypotheses are mix and match: Not all will apply to everyone.
1. Because I’m an asshole. Gotta put this one in here, and have to put it up top, because indeed, I like pretty much everyone in the world can be a complete asshole from time to time. Depending on who you are (and my opinion of you), you may see my asshole side more often than others do. I do, for various reasons, some systematic and some relating specifically to me, have the luxury of being able to get away with being an asshole more frequently than some other people can or would. So when the mood strikes me, I often have the ability to go ahead and be one.
Disclaimers, now: I try not to be an asshole nearly all of the time, and the mood doesn’t strike me very much in any event, especially as I get older and the amount of fucks I have to give about this sort of nonsense decreases over time. I particularly try to be sensitive to being an asshole to people I see having less power than I do, structurally speaking (i.e., that whole “punch down” thing). I also try very hard not to lead with the asshole card, or to be the first asshole on the scene.
But I don’t always succeed, and also and independently, from time to time I decide that me being an asshole is a thing I need to do. In that situation, if I’m being an asshole in your direction, you’re perfectly justified in disliking me. I’m okay with you disliking me. I may even want you to dislike me. Because it likely amuses me, and because I think it’s what you rate. Some people deserve a thumb in the eye.
2. Because they’re assholes. Which a significant number of them are, for various reasons, including, apparently, some of them making a calculated decision that being a jerk is a viable marketing tactic. They’ve decided, apparently, to address an untapped “asshole” sales demographic. This is a bold strategy and we’ll have to see how it works out for them. Personally I suspect the number of people enticed by an “all asshole, all the time” public relations strategy is smaller than one might suspect. But it’s not my career, and if it gives them joy, then fine.
In which case disliking me is just part and parcel of being a professional asshole. I’m a nice big target, and there’s apparently an estimation that being seen in opposition to me, or framing one’s self as one of my hopeful nemeses, conveys certain marketing advantages. It’s sort of an unpleasant variation of starfucking. I am also skeptical of this as a viable marketing strategy, in part because generally speaking when I’m aware of it being attempted, I don’t address the starfucker directly anymore. It’s fine if they want to play that game; I don’t have to participate. Which sort of lowers its strategy value, in my opinion. But again, if it gives them joy, well, whatever.
3. Because of my politics. Many of the dudes who dislike me have politics that range from reactionary conservative to bourgeois fascist, accompanied by social positions that range from outdated to bigoted (there’s a strong correlation between those political and social positions, mind you, and probable causation as well). I’m no model liberal or progressive, to be sure, but my positions, social and political, are sufficiently left of their own that a) they see me as a useful foil, b) I am in their estimation a leader of a larger, and further left, social/political movement that they created in their heads as a threat to their own largely reactionary, somewhat bigoted way of life. In this case it helps that I’m a well-off straight white man, since using me as a target means they get to deflect criticism of a bigoted worldview.
It also means that they see me as an affirmative-action beneficiary of the non-existent political and social movement that they’ve created inside their heads, which they also think runs things in the science fiction and fantasy genre, which it does not, because, again, it doesn’t actually exist outside their heads. If it did, in the manner in which they seem to believe it does I, as a well-off straight white man, would be an extraordinarily unlikely candidate for their approbation when it came to sales and awards. The fact that they appear to think I am an excellent candidate for this approbation is a significant tell about their own worldview, i.e., that even an alleged social/political movement celebrating/ordering diversity requires a well-off straight white man as a figurehead.
Related to this:
4. Because I should be with them and I’m not. I’m a well-off straight white man who writes military science fiction (among other things); if you look at the stats, the correlation between these categories and “socially/politically conservative” is pretty high. That I’m not socially or politically conservative is apparently a source of confusion and upset for some. Likewise, I’m a well-off straight white man who is a loudmouth on the Internet and who writes about poverty and inequality and who has been unapologetically for things like same-sex marriage and the right of women to have total reproductive control of their own bodies, and has used his influence in his field to speak against harassment, and for diversity. Which is also apparently not what I should be doing.
That I am doing these things, and that I don’t have the expected politics for my easily-slottable demographic, is confounding — and also, if you’re the sort of person who gets upset about these things, suggests possibly that I am a traitor to well-off-ness, and straightness, and whiteness, and man-ness, all of which have, apparently, very specific conditions of being, of which I may not actually meet. Hold that thought, we’ll get back to it.
5. Because I’m successful: Despite not slotting in how I should socially or politically, and not receiving the imprimatur of the folk who apparently believe they have the ability to decide who and what is really science fiction and what is not, I’ve nevertheless done very well in my field, while others doing similar things (and doing it better, in their opinion), are not doing as well as I am. This clearly isn’t fair or right.
Obviously, the fact that I am doing better than some others despite my inauthentic nature means that I am a beneficiary of manufactured success, either at the hands of the social/political movement they’ve created inside their head which does not actually exist, or by the manipulations of my publisher, who for some reason has decided that tying itself to a writer who doesn’t sell, to the tune of millions of dollars and more than a dozen books, is a valid and solid commercial strategy. Which, of course, just makes the detractors even more annoyed.
All of this combines to the following:
6. Because I’m not a real man. My political and social positions, and my success which must obviously not be real, mean that I’m not an actual man man. I’m not an alpha male. I’m a beta or even a gamma, a submissive tool of women, in cowering awe of real men, and probably gay, because being gay is the worst possible thing for a man to be, and one that is, is hardly deserving to be called a man at all.
Note well the strategy here: When a man who does not meet these fellows’ requirements for manhood nevertheless succeeds — and succeeds in a field they have claimed as their own stomping ground — the play is de-masculinize him (by their silly definition of “masculine”) as much and as quickly as possible. In other words, they try to demote that man. They’re trying to demote me from manhood, because manhood, in this formulation, is really the only thing that matters.
This, unsurprisingly, leads to the next reason they dislike me:
7. Because they can’t actually do anything to me. In point of fact, I can’t be demoted by them, either out of my manhood, or out of any other advantage I have. After all their blathering and whining and conspiracy theories and nasty mean awful snarkings, they have changed precisely nothing. Look, I’ve been on the receiving end of this nonsense literally for years, and none of it — none of it — has ever made a single material difference in how I’ve led my life, how my career has advanced, or how I do my work on a day-to-day basis. Nobody cares. Literally no one cares.
When faced with this sort of general impotence, the response appears to be: Try harder. Well, again: I wish them joy. It won’t matter to me.
8. Because of envy. This one is pretty obvious in some specific cases. I’ve been pretty successful despite being a mewling coward of a gamma, whereas some of them have been notably unsuccessful at nearly everything they’ve done despite being awesome supergeniuses who are always thinking sixteen steps ahead, so tremble when I walk amongst you, puny humans. To which my response is: I’m sorry your life has turned out so poorly for you, but this is not really my problem, and also, I wish you would stop trying to make it my problem.
9. Because I refused to recognize that they were right about something that one time, or several times. This is also specific to a couple of people who thought they were pretty good with that whole arguing thing, and were making points that were clearly self-evidently correct, and were non-plussed when I noted that they were not self-evident, and also, they couldn’t argue their way out of a paper bag. Clearly in these cases the problem was not their positions or their inability to elucidate them in a coherent manner, but that I was mean. Unsurprisingly, people who think they are right about most things more often than not appear to hold long grudges against people who point out they’re often not right, and not right more often than they would like.
10. Because of tribal identification. At this point there’s simply a small cadre of people who have decided that the world is against them — or have decided that it’s a smart career move to convince other people that the world is against them — and moved to hook in a bunch of other like-minded folks to create a tribe. When doing something like this, it’s nice to have something for the tribe to exercise their daily two-minute hate against. For this cadre, at this moment, these things include a non-existent political and social movement they’ve created in their heads, the awards this non-existent political and social movement supposedly control, and me, as a titular icon of this non-existent political and social movement.
If you’ve been convinced to join this tribe, this is great — you’ve been pointed in a particular direction, given your instructions, and now all you have to do is follow the steps. That the steps are silly, based on nonsense and are, in the case of me at the very least, liable to effect nothing, is almost aside the point. The point is: membership. Belonging. And something to hate, or at least dislike.
And again: If it gives these people joy to dislike me, it’s no skin off my nose. I’ll be doing my own thing. I do think it’s sad, however. I hope eventually they decide that they have better things to do. There are, indeed, so many other, better, things to do with one’s life. Let’s hope they figure out what those things might be.