On Being Denounced, Again (Again)

Yesterday I came across a recent fanzine with a rather emphatic editorial about (and against) me, and my influence on the Hugo Awards and on science fiction and fantasy fandom in general. I posted a link to it on Twitter, and the editorial — and I — became the subject of much comment online. I was busy most of the day yesterday with business meetings and (because I’m in LA) driving to business meetings, so I didn’t have much to say about it. But I have a bit of time this morning to talk about some of the topics it brings up, so let me touch on a few of them.

1. First and most obviously, the author of the piece is perfectly within the bounds to have the opinion she has, even if she’s being mean to me, and even if I think the thesis of her argument and the general procedure of it is largely incorrect. I can take it, and I will remind people never to be an asshole on my behalf to anyone else, please, and thank you.

2. As it happens, I don’t regret winning the Fan Writer Hugo, not in the slightest, because I earned it fair and square, I love it was given to me by other fans, and it’s incredibly important to me as a member of the science fiction community. Nor do I think I broke that particular Hugo, in no small part because since I won it, no person has won it twice, and as such the award reflects a wide diversity of thought and expression in the science fiction community. I can’t take credit for that, of course, but I do like that it happened.

3. The Fan Writer Hugo, like the Hugos generally, are voted on by fans, or at least the subset of fans who have memberships at Worldcon; if this Hugo broke when I won it, it’s because the fans themselves decided it needed some breaking, and resetting. I was the beneficiary rather than the cause of that. We’ve seen over the years that the Hugo-voting fandom is notably resistant to people trying to game the awards for their own personal benefit, and this was true both before and after my Fan Writer win. I’m not sure why I would be an exception to that general principle; I’m not that special.

4. Likewise, as much as I would like to take credit for “breaking” the Hugos in general, inasmuch as that would mean I could say I was responsible for the Hugos of NK Jemisin, Cixin Liu, Ann Leckie, Kameron Hurley, Sarah Gailey, Mary Robinette Kowal, and apparently every other Hugo winner over the last decade or so — arguably one of the best decades in science fiction and fantasy — I’m deeply sad to say I cannot. One, the Hugos are not broken in the least, as even the most cursorial glance at the writers and works who have won the award in the last few years will tell you. Two, as others have cogently pointed out, placing the praise and/or blame on my shoulders erases the efforts of those who have more actively done the work, in the literature and in the fandom, to change the face of science fiction and fantasy.

5. What can I take credit (or blame) for, with regard to the Hugos? In what is no doubt a recurring theme in my professional life: For being in the right place in the right time. I came into the science fiction genre and fandom at a point when blogs and personal sites were blowing up in terms of attention and influence, and on my blog (hello!) I did in an amateur manner what I had done professionally for years: Wrote my opinion on things and wrote it on a very regular basis, and in an at least semi-engaging manner. This allowed me to make a bigger impact in the genre than many debut authors have done historically, even before my first book was published. These things made a difference for the award consideration of both my professional work (Old Man’s War being nominated for the Hugo out of the gate; me being nominated for and winning the Campbell) and for my fannish work (i.e., writing about the world of SF, among many other topics, here). I’m a good writer; I’m also lucky.

(And also, while we’re at it, I benefited from being straight from Central Casting for what many people would imagine a science fiction writer being, circa the turn of the century: A somewhat nerdy white dude with loud opinions and just enough personal charm not to be immediately punched in the face by others. I think there’s more to me than that, I should say, and I do try to use at least some of my luck and good fortune to benefit others. But I’m not ignorant that the Lowest Difficulty Setting worked for me then, and still does now.)

6. So why, over the last decade plus change, have certain people focused on me as the agent of change (and not necessarily a good one) with regard to the Hugos? After all, this latest editorial is not the first jeremiad about me on the subject; people will recall I was a frequent example from the Puppy Camp of Everything That Was Wrong in Science Fiction and Proof the Hugos Were Corrupt, etc.

Here are some of the reasons:

a) professional/personal dislike and/or jealousy;
unhappiness with inevitable change with fandom and the science fiction and fantasy community and genre generally and the need to find a single cause to blame it on;
c) ignorance (willful or otherwise) of the labor of other people (many of them not straight and/or white and/or male) to change the tenor of the SF/F community (and as a consequence, its awards);
d) a general lack of understanding that the SF/F community is a complex system and like most complex systems a single input or actor, in this case me, does not usually precipitate a wide system change on its own;
my privileged position in the community makes me an easy and acceptable target/strawman/scapegoat — no one’s exactly punching down when they go for me.

7. Speaking personally it’s weird — in a way that ranges from amusing to a little unsettling — to be cast as a radical agent in the house of contemporary science fiction and fantasy. Folks, I am, bluntly, as mainstream as science fiction gets: I’m a white dude writing largely conventional science fiction stories aimed directly for the middle of the market. It’s my whole remit, and the reason I have that silly long contract with Tor; implicit in that thing is the idea that I write books they can sell by the palletload. I think I write pretty good mainstream science fiction, mind you; I’m not going to have false modesty about that. I do what I do as well as anyone does it. But mainstream it is.

Likewise, as a mostly genial, mostly nerdy, mostly trying-to-be-decent person, I’m pretty much right in the middle of the SFF fandom bell curve. I certainly do have flaws, which I try to work on. But generally there’s not much about me that doesn’t suggest I would be a reasonably good fit into fandom and in science fiction and fantasy generally. Now, I admit that I’m looking from the inside; maybe I’m missing things, and I’m sure someone will tell me if I am. But as in other aspects of my life, I think how I present in science fiction and fantasy can pretty much be defined as “somewhat self-aware petit bourgeois.” I’m okay with this. I do think it makes me a poor example of disruption and radicalism, which is perhaps why people who see me as such sometimes appear to be confused about what my worst crimes actually are.

8. I get that science fiction and fantasy, and the community that grew around it, are changing, and that’s uncomfortable for some of the people whose self-identity is wrapped up in both of these things. I understand that I came around at a time when some of those changes started and kind of made a splash when I arrived, and that maybe it’s easy to confuse those splashes with the currents that were changing the genre. So I get that some folks will think of me as an agent of those changes, and some folks will blame me for them.

And, I don’t know. If it makes that change easier, or at least gives them someone they can point a finger at, then, fine. Point away. But on my end, I think I have an idea of my actual importance and influence in the community and the genre (and in its awards). It’s not zero, which is nice for me. But it’s not anywhere as much as I’m sometimes credited with. And I would just as soon that the work of others be acknowledged and credited appropriately.

Also: Change happens. In science fiction and fantasy, I think the change we’re having is a good — the field is better because it’s more inclusive and open to a wider experience and expression of what it means to love the genre and to be a fan. I’ve been in fandom now for sixteen years (since Torcon in 2003, which was my first science fiction convention, and where I met the first of the writers and fans that I now call friends), and even in those sixteen years those changes have been significant, and to my mind mostly positive. My personal expression of fandom is to be excited about what, and who, comes next, in the genre, in the community, and up on the stage, accepting Hugos.

112 Comments on “On Being Denounced, Again (Again)”

  1. Notes:

    1. Reminder that you should not just trash the author of the original essay; please address the points of the essay and refrain from attempting to use the author as a punching bag. I’ll appreciate it.

    2. Also to make it clear, other than noting the author of the essay and the Puppies both like to complain about me, I am making no other connection between the two.

    3. Don’t use this thread to re-hash That Puppy Incident in a general sense; stick with the relatively narrow discussion presented in the essay, please.

    4. Both essays, by the way? Fan writing.

  2. I’m happy if you just carry on doing what you have been doing. I like what you’ve done.

  3. Equating “fans” with “fandom,” as the author does, is so off-putting. There’s a substantial proportion of the sf audience who haven’t been (and won’t be) made welcome by a substantial proportion of traditional sf fandom (and a substantial proportion of older sf writers of the predictable hue and gender. It’s frankly not good for sf as a genre to be exclusionary in the way that a lot (though not all) of sf fandom has been. More power to fan masses and less to the secret masters of fandom, I say.

  4. Wonderful post. I think this one’s my favorite, and I couldn’t say exactly why. I’m happy and relieved for you that you, knowing who you are, don’t take other people’s explications of themselves as descriptions of you. (I could probably shoehorn “you” into that sentence a few more times.) Thanks for your writing and your presence online. I’ve enjoyed and benefited from both and appreciate having you around.

  5. Asynchronous communication is useful for airing grievances but rarely beneficial in resolving them. That said, I think your point 8 really gets at the heart of the argument: Correlation is not causation. You came around when change was happening. The author doesn’t like the change, so she’s blaming you for it. C’est la guerre.

  6. Note: The PDF you linked to is not copy-pastable. This one, from File770, is. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LnCD5QhszBGxQTcPXzNIoJfOWikyvO_W/view I find it handy to be able to quote the text I’m arguing with.

    This part of the essay seems to me to raise the crux issue.

    “The fandom whose name is busily disappearing, drowned out by those who say “my fandom” to mean their favorite TV show – not even the fans thereof, or love of same, but the show itself – and those who think that being a skiffy fan it isn’t materially different from collecting stamps or watching the game on telly with a few mates.”

    The whole essay, of course, is about the true fandom, but in this one the devil shows his foot. Rejoicing with your friends about the new (say) Supernatural episode isn’t *fandom*. Stanning Aziraphale isn’t fandom. Creating vids isn’t fandom. Talking about racial inclusion in the genre isn’t fandom. Fandom has to be performed in the way it has been performed for generations, or it isn’t fandom at all. In the aged circles I travel in, saying “My fandom is Evangelion” says “This is the corpus about which I’m obsessing, discussing with friends, consuming transformative media”. It doesn’t say “I only care about this show, not about discussing it.”

    It seems to me that this essay isn’t just Kids These Days. It’s that if you aren’t writing zines or attending conventions, you aren’t/can’t be in fandom. And of course the Fandom Is A Way Of Life vs Fandom Is Just A Goddamn Hobby debate is eternal.

    I will say, that the framing of “You collect beer coasters, I write fic” has been very useful to mainstreaming fandom. People have weird obsessive interests, and our particular weird obsessive interest has been mainstream for (at least) a couple of decades. Science fiction readers/watchers haven’t been oppressed nerds for years and years. We don’t need to band together against an unforgiving world; we are the unforgiving (wow, are we!) world.

  7. I found your blog a couple of years after I had read Old Man’s War. For some reason I hadn’t tired to locate authors online till a couple of years after I read it. Which is an amazing oversight on my part since I’ve spent the majority of my life working on technology to connect people to the Internet.

    To me your biggest influence has been introducing me to authors that I might not have found otherwise. Some of those authors I really enjoy. Some weren’t my thing. Either way I appreciate the introduction to interesting people who happen to be writers.

    I have always found it odd that the somehow the world selected John Scalzi to be the evil person causing change. There are many authors who are much farther to the left than you are. There are some pushing for changes that do worry me. Which is probably good, like you I benefit from playing on the easiest setting of life.

    Please keep enjoying your life. I hope that enjoyment continues to result in new books from you.

  8. I am rereading for the third time Old Man’s War and it is timeless and just as fun as the first time I read it. I tell you as you know that some writers may be sore for their lack of ability to muster anyone to read their books in the first place but your fans love to read your works over and again because your books ring true.

  9. So many questions, like: If the author didn’t care about the Hugos, why did they feel compelled to mention them 45 times in four page rant? Also, is there an official name for the legions of Scalzi groupies? Scalizians? Whatevers?

  10. Some Perspective:

    – John Fan Writing. OK.

    – John Fan Dancing. Not OK.

    That’s why Hugo Rules exist.

  11. I have been a fan of one for many years. Occasionally I have managed to get other people to read Scalzi. I don’t go to conventions. The one time I got to see Scalzi in Georgia, I did not interact with others. I drank my beer, listen, bought my books, got them signed, and left for home. In my world I am the most perfect fan. :-D

  12. I have three thoughts about her essay:
    1. She needs to go away and have a long lie down;
    2. She needs to reflect upon the fact that she is not, never was and never will be a gatekeeper of Fandom;
    3. She needs to retake her logic courses, because as previously noted, correlation is not causation. Magical thinking is not a good look for her.

    I have been a voracious reader of SFF since 1977. I’ve also never attended a Con, done any FANAC or even met other fans apart from a small group of Pratchett fans local to me who used to gather for what we called “mini-meets” in coffee shops way back in ancient history about 13 years ago because I’m a broken person who does very poorly in large groups of people. Yet I can still call myself a Fan, because Fandom is inclusive, not exclusive. She does not speak for me.

    I enjoy your books and your blogging because your style works for me. If it doesn’t work for her, that’s her problem, not your fault.

  13. Well, now I’m officially lost about what the hell “fan” means and what “fandom” is.

    Until recently, I would certainly have described my self as a “fan” of Our Gracious Host’s work, and a “fan” of the larger SF/F genre in a general way. With more fervent fan-ish appreciation of specific segments and even sub-segments of the genre. (Not usually fond of elves and magic, can be lured in by most milspec if it’s not written by grimly serious fascists, love “what ifs” about near-future tech, esp. biotech, and so on).

    Being somewhat aware of that, and sort of inclined to also appreciate various essays, blogs, articles, etc. about the genre and its various expressions, happy to binge on various video productions within the genre and proudly possessed of encyclopedic memories for minutiae in connection with particular favorites, as well as pleased to hang out and discuss said favorites with like-minded others, I would until today have said that I was part of “fandom” as well. Apparently, I’m not.

    Help me out here, fellow Whatever-ites. What ARE the entrance requirements for “True Fandom” that is being maliciously wrecked by Forces of Evil?

    Is there a minimum number of “cons” that must be attended? A certain qualifying specification for cosplay apparel in one’s closet? Money spent on themed gear? Passionate late-night arguments with or about Key Icons in the genre engaged in?

    I’m deeply, deeply sorry if my mild but consistent appreciation and my ongoing expressions of liking and encouragement for All The Wrong People/Things are part of the Tidal Wave of Destruction of True Fandom that is harshing the mellow of the Far More Worthy Fanbeings than myself. Abject apologies!

    Nah, not really.

    Keep writing, John. Ditto all the other authors I like. I’ll keep consuming your works.


    Can I still at least be a “fan”?

  14. Too gate-keeper-ish for my taste. One can certainly take issue with what an award ceremony uses for their definition. But at some point you either accept that a member-defined group gets to define collectively what it is or you become the person saying “this is not for you, go away.” If there’s anything that ought to define fandom it should be “you think this is awesome too? Come on in!” It’s massively failed at that many times in the past and often because of bigotry, but if that’s not the larger goal then I don’t know why anyone would want to be a part of fandom.

  15. Madame Hardy, I choked on the very same passage. Seemed to me the author has a very parochial view of what fandom constitutes, along with a blind dismissal of stamp collecting and sports viewing. Does she really think that Stamp Collecting cannot be A Way Of Life the way fandom is? That sports fandom can’t be? I’m related to a lot more ride-or-die Carolina fans than SFF fans.

  16. The internet is a strange place. Until I clicked on that link, I’d never heard of that magazine, and after reading all five pages of that essay, I found it difficult to make heads or tails of anything beyond the fact that its author is mad. As someone who really enjoys your books but doesn’t know much about the subculture surrounding authors or Hugos (aside from noting the nominations and winners for my books-to-read list), I gotta say, this essay might as well have been written in a foreign language.

    So, like, whatever. I enjoy your books. Thank you for writing.

  17. Wow, there is so much barely coherent bile in that ‘zine. At not just directed this way nut also aimed at Randall Munroe, Jim C. Hines (“Scalzi’s little pal”) and more.
    Who is Ulrika O’Brien? I’ve never heard of her.

  18. Your books contain what I loved best about sci-fi from folks like Heinlein and Herbert, without the pain. When I read your books, I get great adventures and innovative world building, without also getting misogyny and/or homophobia, etc.

    I can trust your books not to make me feel demeaned or less than as a person. Perhaps it doesn’t feel as radical for you because you wouldn’t be running into those painful spurs over your lifetime as a reader. From my perspective, though, it’s a pretty amazing change.

  19. More juicy quotes:

    “way (Scalzi marks his entry into fandom to a Detroit convention in 2005), to having a Hugo for fanac in three years, is incredible. Literally.”
    and this:
    “Some woman called Galen Dara won Best Fan Artist, a fact she cares so little about that she doesn’t even mention her Hugo in the awards list that she does have …”
    and this:
    “and then mounting a blog-based campaign to circumvent the spiritof the award by recruiting a bunch of fan-cultural outsiders who never previously nominated or voted in that category to do so –
    does that sound at all like a familiar pattern?”

    So. Kids These Days. There is one true fandom culture, and apparently most of the people I know as fans aren’t in it. And I’m in my seventh decade.

    BTW, John: Whatever/Wordpress is behaving oddly for me. I can make one comment authorizing via Twitter, and then for the next comment WordPress says I’m anonymous and have to provide an email address. (I am old enough that I reflexively type E-mail.) I’m having to log out and log in in an incognito window. I turned my adblocker off, just in case.

  20. This made me laugh out loud, “A somewhat nerdy white dude with loud opinions and just enough personal charm not to be immediately punched in the face by others.” To be fair you have about twice the charm you need to not get punched.
    Seriously, What you truly excel at is being engaging. You do it with the blog, with your tweets, and with your novels. It’s actually a pretty amazing gift, but I think it also leads to your criticism because it’s very intangible. Someone can have worked harder and even some how have objectively better writing, but if they don’t connect with the reader no one cares. I imagine it’s really frustrating to see you effortlessly connecting with readers (even the ones you piss off) because it is a lot harder to learn how to do that. I also know that it’s not as effortless as you make it look.

  21. A rule I’ve had throughout my multidecade, very casual fandom: anybody that unironically complains about “smof” (as the author does) desperately want to be acknowledged as one.

  22. OK, I’ll be honest, I couldn’t get through the entire editorial (perhaps, screed?) but it certainly feels that the author, as other have commented here, has gone towards the “this isn’t what *I* think fandom should be / is and is therefore wrong.” Perhaps a new category is now required to add to the biumverate of FIAWOL and FIJAGH, perhaps we need to introduce “FIAGO” (Fandom Is A Godd**ned Obsession)?”

    I’m not sure, based on the author’s comments, that I’d qualify as a “fan” anymore. I’ve been to one ‘con recently, most of my favorite SF authors are either dead or heading that way and haven’t written anything new in forever, and I *like* Scalzi’s writing along with (perhaps heresy?) Ringo, Weber, and Corriea. Way back when I first heard the terms FIAWOL / FIAJGH (Fallen Angels 1991) it seemed from that that fandom was very broadly accepting to all types of fans, casual, one genre, TV, or movie. Now, from having attended the ‘con in question last year (Dragon Con) I can say it certainly still seems that way, but if you went by the editorial, whoo boy!

    Frankly, if you use the dictionary definition of fan (a person who has a strong interest in or admiration for a particular person or thing.) then yeah, everyone can be a fan of *SOMETHING.* Scalzi is obviously a fan of both SF / Fantasy (witness his call outs of other authors and their works,) and a fan of ungodly burrito-type creations (still waiting to see the Smudge burrito!) I’m a fan of classic SF (Niven, Heinlein, Bradbury, Herbert,) newer SF (Scalzi, Weber, etc,) and other non-SF things (trains come to mind.) Does that make me “unclean?”

    OK, just realized I started rambling, so, signing off with:
    Fandom is what you enjoy and f*** what anyone else thinks, because you’re not alone.

  23. Oh dear. I know the author of that editorial personally, and I’ve often had major disagreements with her. I have also been an active member of the elitist sub-group of fandom which she represents, and on behalf of it I wish to apologize for the attitudes she expresses.

    I do bear some resentment when new fans come in and tell old-timers how WE should change our behavior and established customs to suit THEM, but this is different. We don’t own the Hugos, we never have, and by the standards she’s using, the Best Fan Writer Hugo was broken in 1968, so don’t worry about it.

  24. I may need a lie down. I didn’t understand the essay/rant. What really was the point? Is it possible that someone can write a work of sci-fi and still be a fan of other genre’s or writers? That seems logical to me. Therefore it would be possible for John (or Stephen King, Marcedes Lackey, et. al) to be both authors and fans. I am sure I missed a large very important aspect of the essay, maybe a nap or alcohol will help.

  25. I’m so old (and Californiaish) that I attended one or two meetings of the Elves, Gnomes, Leprechauns and Little People’s Chowder and Marching Society (I might have that wrong: I didn’t become a regular) in Berkeley back when UC was essentially free. I’ve been reading the stuff since before most of you were born. So here’s my Fannish Gatekeeping: If you call yourself a fan, you’re a fan. If you do fannish things, you should be eligible for appreciation of them. If John “Crowley” Scalzi is the Antichrist, maybe we’ll be OK after all.

  26. When I was active in fandom in the late 70s there was a handy term “faan” to describe those that believed Fandom Is A Way Of Life (FIAWOL) as opposed to those who held that Fandom Is Just A Goddamn Hobby (FIJAGH)–although I may have screwed that one up. At any rate, this disconnect is nothing new and, no offense, but Scalzi didn’t make it happen. Someone should be wailing about how the Internet destroyed APAs, but that would require explain what an APA is. And why or why doesn’t anyone do 4-color mimeographed fanzines anymore? Once the real ancient faans shuffle off, podcasters will be able to complain about all the new technology destroying the Internet.

  27. The essay in question is very retro, as in the fannish debates in the fifties and sixties about why the larger world/market didn’t appreciate the importance of science fiction. Except then it was all white boys. I have been reading and appreciating science fiction since I was a little tyke, and that attitude–recognize our worth but don’t mess with our world!–put me off what I will call formal fandom forever. And now it has done so again without my even dipping into today’s fanzines.

  28. For what it’s worth, you’re one of those writers whose books I only came to know about AFTER loving their essays or Twitter feed, so the whole premise of the essay seems really misplaced to me.

  29. Fireworks for the 4th! How fun!

    I’ve only really thought of myself as being in Fandom (sub: SF/F) since the early 70s, but I’ve seen enough of these explosions of self-righteous venom to be briefly amused by them. I think they end up being little pops of color in the stream of SF history.

    Thank you for ALL your writing, John. You manage to always sound fresh and interesting, even when revisiting the same subjects again & again – as a good journalist should.

    Also, TIL: rodomontade = rant.

  30. One of my favorite Stephen King quotes, from Christine – “Don’t let the shitters get you down.” Another fan-favorite author who has seemed to do, looking back, okay.

  31. It is in the nature of every subculture or field of interest that isn’t actually dying out (“So here I am, raging at the dying of the light”), that old timers will “increasingly find a bunch of total strangers” filling the ranks. C’est la vie.

  32. Some writers are a cut above the rest of us. I am a beginner compared to others. I believe what you have to say is forthright, and I respect your writing abilities. I haven’t read much of what you have written, but you clearly have talent to draw people your way. I respect the amount of followers, because yours are way out of sight compared to those I have noticed. So keep writing. Say what you mean, and don’t look back. A straight line is the shortest distance between two points. This is a Geometry verse I learned, and never forgot. Surely this applies to writing as well.

  33. “I’m not that special” … thanks for that laugh! ;-)

    It is exactly because you are a white, straight, mainstream, “petit-bourgeois” dude that your self-awareness and openess to difference is dangerous – who knows, it could be contagious…

  34. I don’t really agree with the substance of O’Brien’s article, and I could have done without the vitriolic tone, which felt hyperbolic and distracting.

    But I will say that I respect what is clearly a well-considered view. To my mind, the most damning indictment of the Sad Puppies wasn’t really their politics, or even their rhetoric: it was that so many of them didn’t appear to have actually thought their own positions through.

  35. Thornton Melon: [chuckling to his classmates] “Good teacher. He really seems to care. About what I have no idea.”

    Apparently, the author of the article is angry and wishes to resume a firefight that had petered out and allowed the Hugos, for whatever you might think of them in general or in particular, to move on. Goodbye to all that.

  36. If anything, Ulrika O’Brien was not gatekeeping *enough*. How can she call BEAM a fanzine, if it is viewable as a PDF? If it’s not photocopies of hand-drawn art stapled together it’s no ‘zine, as any True Fan should no. She should relegate herself and her interests to the Best Related Work category posthaste, and leave the Fanzine category pure.

    But seriously, that editorial was just bilious- if she had stuck to just complaining about Scalzi being the harbinger of the Fan Writer category changing that would be one thing, but instead it’s anger about everything that’s different about the (fan-voted) category being different than the way she remembers it being in the 90s. On the flipside, it got the fanzine thousands of views it wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, so…

  37. Kinda makes you wonder that if you’re not pissing off some people, somehow, you’re not doing something right. And when you are doing something right, in their eyes, what’s that mean for you? Guy can’t win for trying, eh?

  38. Did anyone else read past the initial tirade and see the lyrics O’Brien wrote to “FAAn Award Blues,” to the tune of Ben Harper’s “Burn One Down” ? If not, it’s on page 67, and some choice lyrics follow:

    “They gave an award to some lousy clown/So I’m gonna burn them down/Yes I’m gonna burn them down.”

    I think all future criticism should have to come in ballad form.

  39. I am mostly impressed by your ability in these situations to rise above it and sit beside it. I’d be so pissed I’d be shooting off fireworks in all directions (and not politely, either).

  40. In this particular case, the person’s position is not surprising to me, and also, she’s angry about something that happened more than a decade ago, so I don’t feel any sense of urgency about it.

  41. One of the advantages of being Old (at least IMHO) is that I can like whatever I like and just not care whether I qualify as a True Fan or whatever. I will say that I like SF/F–it’s one of the genres I read the most–but I would say that what might count as part of that genre has expanded mightily, and that’s for the better. I simply don’t understand what’s being defended, and, as a result, the whole rant sounds like sour grapes/jealousy. And it will affect my reading not even a little bit!

  42. She seems nice. And thank you for allowing me a look at BEAM – now I know I never, ever want to see it again. Incoherent self-absorbed rubbish.

  43. “The God Engines” *is* the exception that proves the rule, “John Scalzi writes mainstream SF.” You could do another one like that, and probably dozens of us would buy it.

  44. The BEAM 14 editorial sounds an awful lot like the discussions about inclusiveness at cons. The part about negatively judging worthiness of cosplayers, particularly women cosplayers. I don’t get fandom.

    As an aside, I’d like to point out that when I have my ad blocker on, your search icon disappears. I’ve been told this is a side effect of the “Block social media icons tracking” option. Which is an interesting side effect.

  45. I do have to give the author of that piece props for painting with such wonderful profanity, even though I find the premise to be laughable. She deserves recognition in some sort of “Best Use of Expletive” category especially in a field so few women excel in.

  46. Um, if anything, I’d think that John’s efforts to get the Hugo Voter Packet going would be what destroyed the Hugo’s, making it easier for people to actually read and judge the nominated works for themselves and not rely on just true fan’s opinions from fanzines.

    Also, I guess I am now personally responsible for preventing Scalzi from breaking the Hugos a year earlier when I neglected to buy a supporting membership for Nippon for myself and my SO and thus allowed Dave Langford to beat John Scalzi by one vote. If we had both participated, John would have won by one vote and Dave would have one less Hugo award cluttering up his shelves.

    If anything, it taught me that a single vote or two can make a difference and I have made sure we have participated in the Hugos ever since.

    And, yes, I have apologized to John for this, and he is fine with it.

  47. Interestingly cursorial is just workable in that sentence, but I suspect you mean cursory.

  48. uleaguehub, I agree with you 100%. I thought I knew what a fan was, but after reading that rant, I realized I simply cannot be a fan, for I don’t know any of the names, have only attended one con (for one day, because it was 15 minutes down the road from where I live, and because one John Scalzi was going to be on a panel), and I had to look up all of the jargon in the piece (“fanac”? neopros? huxter? not even sure I know what “fandom” means any longer.)

    Something that our host on this site will appreciate, O’Brien’s screed reminds me of the cultish behavior of music fans. I first encountered this phenomenon with two people I knew many, many years ago, when I was in high school. Rush’s “Moving Pictures” had been released. I liked the album — and it was my first introduction to Rush. I was told in no uncertain terms that 1) I could not be a fan of Rush because I did not know their back catalogue, and 2) Rush had sold out by making an album that was widely popular, and thus none of their new fans could be “true” fans of the band. This happened again with R.E.M. and “Out of Time”, and Chumbawamba and “Tubthumper”. (Those are the specific examples that leap to mind, but there have been more.) From high school to now, I scratch my head, thinking, “Don’t you want your favourite band to succeed? Don’t you want them to have a wider audience?” And I came to the realization that, in fact, the answer was, “No.”

    One of the many things I love about Whatever is that it is so evidently written by someone who loves the genre — it is written by a fan, in the best and widest sense, for fans, in the best and widest sense. And I rather pity people who think that the only way to be a true fan is to be an obsessive who casts people out of their cult. For the point of being a fan of something is to have that thing bring joy to your world, isn’t it?

  49. (Off-topic) There is an extremely faint picture of Scalzi that shows up behind all the comments on this blog. I always think it’s schmutz on my screen and try to clean it off.

  50. As I said elsewhere, a lot of that editorial hit the same notes with me as the younger generation of fans on Tumblr. These would be the younger generation of fans (14 – 24 year olds) who are basically proclaiming “anyone over 25 doesn’t belong in fandom”. It’s the same sort of “I want to claim this space for Me and My Friends and Nobody Else” thinking, and while it’s fully understandable in a bunch of teenagers and young adults who are busy trying to carve out a bit of space for themselves, it’s more than a touch sad in an adult who is presumably around the same age as myself (I’m 48) if not older.

    I stand by my previous suggestion: let’s get the Tumblr fanbrats and the writer of this editorial into a room, and they can all debate who “belongs” in fandom, and report back to the rest of us when they’ve thoroughly thrashed the question out.

  51. uleaguehub: You must be initiated into True Fandom by an existing, recognized True Fan, in person. No other path is acceptable. (Apparently.)

    nnethercote: Is *that* what it is? Yeah, I’m constantly scrolling to check if the schmutz is on my screen or in the page.

  52. After reading the comments on here I won’t bother reading the essay. I have loved SF as a genre since the early 70’s. This whole thing about fans and fandom is meaningless crap to me. You just keep writing stuff I want to read and that’s good enough for me. Besides, I’m just here for pics of the Scamperbeasts. Lol

  53. I do wonder about the risk of over-identification in fandom. Someone who has so much stock in their participation in “fandom’ can easily be upset by winds that shouldn’t buffer them. Its like the guy who is so upset his football team lost it ruins his whole weekend. People need to know that they have an identity outside of what they do, and who they assoicate with. It tends to help with perspective when your false idols (like what you thought fandom to be) dissapoint you.

    As one of my friends used to say, be happy when you are disullusioned because that means you are no longer believing in an illusion.

  54. I just finished “Old Man’s War” which I purchased because Amazon hucked it because I had purchased some sci/fantasy stuff from the old day’s and being 81 I was fascinated by the concept. I stated reading scifi/fantasy in ’48, dropped away from it ’56 for 10 years or so, and came back in dribs and drabs since then.. I was an avid collector and am now getting rid of all my mags replacing them with CD’s and DVD’s which I hope last longer than pulp paper. But I digress. I just wanted to say OM’sW was excellent space opera that could have been published in the 40’s and/or 50’s, the best of which was also very readable and enjoyable…. And that is what counts. If it doesn’t read well and isn’t enjoyable people will ignore it. All you fans and authors should remember that.

  55. No one, I think, has yet quoted the line of Ms. O’Brien’s that startled me most out of the whole essay:

    …if it regularly solicits money to support itself, it isn’t a fanzine.

    This requires a definition of the word “fanzine” that generations of fanfiction writers would not recognize in the slightest, starting with Star Trek and Man from U.N.C.L.E.fandom in the late ’60s and going forward right up to the point when the ‘Net essentially killed the printzine side of the fanfic community. As I recall my fannish history, most of the sort of commentary-driven zines from which Beam is descended didn’t charge anyone for copies for a variety of reasons largely having to do with their length (short), subject matter (ephemeral), and mode of distribution (handed out at cons). By contrast, virtually all fanfic printzines — which were as a class much thicker, were often distributed primarily by mail, and cost more to print — nearly always charged a price per copy designed specifically to recover the cost of printing and mailing. I own a few of these; h*ll, I’m *in* one of these.

    Then too, I wonder how Ms. O’Brien would apply her definition to one of the very small handful of wide-circulation zines still alive in print form, namely Xenofilkia — which is both very clearly a fanzine and charges an extremely modest rate to print-mail subscribers.

    I can only conclude that Ms. O’Brien’s definition of “fan” is itself narrower than she thinks it is.

  56. But once a year, like clockwork, the Fan Hugo short list comes out and somehow I can never quite avoid seeing it. When I do see it, I increasingly find a bunch of total strangers who’ve not visibly participated in fandom, and I see red all over again.

    This reads to me that nobody can be a fan unless they tick every single box the author (the gatekeeper) deems necessary to be a True Fan. Yeah nah not too impressed by that argument.

  57. @DHMCarver

    Quote: “From high school to now, I scratch my head, thinking, “Don’t you want your favourite band to succeed? Don’t you want them to have a wider audience?” And I came to the realization that, in fact, the answer was, “No.””

    Weirdly enough, this does make a kind of sense.
    What they (though I have to include me, I’m afraid) want isn’t just “their favorite band to succeed”, they want a continuation of what they think is the perfect music.
    So if the band deviates from that AND is successful, it means there will be less of the perfect stuff. Worse, if it (the “wrong” sound) becomes mainstream, it will mean even less of the “perfect” music – and that they’re “wrong” in liking something that is apparently not liked by the majority.

    (The same principle applies to other stuff as well, of course. For me, the realization came from Guild Wars 2. I loved GW1, but I’m not so hot on GW2. If GW2 is successful, it’ll mean no return to the GW1 mechanics…)

    Of course, just because there’s a logic to it, doesn’t mean it has to be sane!
    (Logic is subjective, unless it’s boolean.)

    (I hope this doesn’t end up as a double-post, had trouble logging in…)

  58. I just thought you were a flesh eating alien wearing a nerd suit. Now I know you are so much more.

  59. I think what surprised me the most from that essay was the dig at Galen Dara. What did Galen Dara ever do to you? It’s hard to say the essayist is punching down, since it seems like her own ‘zine isn’t the hugest platform either, but…come on.

    I can even see, kinda-sorta, the idea that fanwriter and fan-art categories should prohibit full-time professionals from being nominated. But, as far as I know, Galen still had a day job at the time. And while she makes art for clients, she also makes SFF art for fun, because she enjoys it. She’s absolutely underrated; I think her most memorable work was the cover of Catherynne Valente’s ‘The Future Is Blue,’ which I believe, iirc, wasn’t a Big 5 book and didn’t get super-huge sales / distribution (also very underrated!)

    Not to get off on too much of a tangent, but I think to me that snark showed, more than anything, that O’Brien doesn’t actually have a valid point buried in there anywhere. I was totally prepared to think, “ah, I see your point, but I disagree.” But… I *don’t* actually see her point. What changed? How was the change bad?

    I don’t get the impression that O’Brien is a conservative who dislikes diversity– she seems very anti-Puppy and somewhat anti-Heinlien (I think?) If she were, I think I’d understand. But I just literally don’t get her main point. I don’t know how anyone might refute it, although I think the discussion is really insightful, because at the end of the day I have no idea what it is.

    If fandom means “people create derivative works based on things they enjoy without making a profit,” and now it’s changing to include professionals, I can sort of get that frustration. Like, “pros already get the reward of money, and sometimes professional awards; can’t there be something that solely celebrates the creative fandom of amateurs?” I feel that! Not the hill I’m gonna die on, but, sure! Fan art, fan fiction, essays by non- professionals, these are valuable things.

    But if that’s the case, then why take shots at others who are financially struggling, or who have day jobs or are generally not “pros” who get the fan awards? By all means, that’s fair.

    Plus, I don’t think there’s good reason to discourage people who run non-paying ‘zines, podcasts, and semi-pro ‘zines to seek revenue if the option becomes available. Yes, amateur work is valuable… sometimes so valuable people start paying for it.

  60. John C. Bunnell: The editorial seems to have expressed itself badly, but if the author knows her traditional fannish history, and I think she does – though after some of the things in the editorial, I’m not so sure – by “solicits money” she doesn’t mean “charges a nominal price if someone requests a copy” because traditional fanzines did that. However, most copies were sent out gratis, either as a courtesy or in roughly-defined trade for the recipient’s fanzine. The distinction I think she’s trying to make is the one that is, or used to be, encoded in the Hugo rules distinguishing “fanzine” from “semiprozine”: a fanzine doesn’t solicit money so that the editor can make a living; it’s just a nominal amount to defray expenses, and not usually that much. So the kind of charging for a copy you describe is still compatible with fanzines. Again, what I’m describing here is the traditionalist view to which I believe Ulrika O’Brien subscribes.

  61. @John C Bunnell —

    Just a correction about the distribution methods of “traditional” fanzines, in the taxonomic lineage which leads to BEAM, the fanzine containing the essay in question:

    The principal distribution was via the post office. A fanzine publisher would generally have a mailing list of 100-500 fans. Lots of postage stamps would be affixed. As a community, we used to know an awful lot about postage rates and regulations. Prolific publishers with large mailing list might own a bulk mail permit.

    We used to receive a LOT of snail mail, both fanzines and letters.

  62. The words I am leaving out: the traditional pre-internet, pre-media fanzine world ran almost entirely as a gift economy.
    Fanzines were described as being “Available for The Usual,” which was a stock phrase which meant: Your fanzine in trade, or a letter of comment, or a contribution of text or art, or a few coins if you were a neofan and didn’t know what else to offer.

  63. Not reading the article. But if someone needs a scapegoat there are worse choices than Scalzi. This blog was one of my first sources when reconnecting with SF – via a link on Brad Delong’s blog, of all places. I started reading SF in the 50’s and while I adored it, in most of the ways that matter to me it’s become more interesting since then. Going to my first WorldCon this year. All John’s fault! (Well, no.)

  64. I stopped reading after yet another slap at people who are fen of TV shows, movies, podcasts, and anything that isn’t written SF that Madam Gatekeeper du Jour likes. It’s been going on ever since female Star Trek fen showed up at conventions in big numbers in the 1960’s, and I’m really, really tired of it.

    Also? I’ve been a fan since 1973, a congoer since 1978, I co-founded my college SF and fantasy society (still thriving 40 years later), and I’m *delighted* that women, non-whites, non-straights, and non-Americans are finally getting some attention from the Hugo voters. Way, way overdue.

  65. To be honest, when I read something like “But once a year, like clockwork, the Fan Hugo short list comes out and somehow I can never quite avoid seeing it. When I do see it, I increasingly find a bunch of total strangers who’ve not visibly participated in fandom, and I see red all over again,” my inner cynic translates that to “when I do see it, I don’t see my name on it, and I see red all over again.” Because fundamentally, it reads to me like someone who feels as though they have not been recognized by the wider community as they feel they deserve, and they’re cranky as a result.

  66. You know, if the argument she was making was that people who were eligible for the professional Hugos shouldn’t be eligible for the fan awards and vice versa, and the Worldcon committee screwed up when they failed to enforce that distinction, I think she’d have a reasonable argument. Not sure I’d agree with it, but I think it’s worth considering.

    Taking the path she did and arguing that all these people aren’t proper fans or members of fandom was ridiculous and just wrong. Unfortunately, she’s out of touch with a large segment of her own community nowadays. Her solution to correcting that problem is to remove everyone she doesn’t know from the community.

  67. After reading three pages and skipping through the rest I have decided I dont like fandom at all (at least if its like that).

  68. Wow! I just like Sci Fi and fantasy. All kinds. So confused by fan vs Fandom vs fans vs just people liking a show together vs……. Yada, yada🙃 Embracing change means life isn’t like “Ground Hog Day.” Geez, just move on people, and read/watch what you like, and enjoy the day. 🌈 I’ve enjoyed your books John, despite the fact that you are apparently some evil dude😮

  69. It’s odd. In many ways her criticisms reminded of the core criticism of the Puppy movement. When you stripped away all the racism, sexism, personal invectives, anger, entitlement, and envy in the Puppy movement there was a central core argument which was “The Hugos appear to be a somewhat democratic body with the majority’s will determining the winners, but that appearance is a facade. It is a plutocracy where an inner circle has an unusual amount of power determining the winners.” I don’t mean to endorse that belief, but I do think that belief was at the core of the puppy movement.

    Here the writers criticism, I think, fundamentally echo’s the Puppy criticism, but her conclusion is the opposite. At its core the criticism reads to me as the “Best Fandom Writer used to be largely determined by an inner circle of core fans who all knew each other and interacted with each other. Now, that award is largely going to the best semi-pro / pro writer with the best marketing outfit beyond his or her campaign for the award.” I don’t mean to endorse this view either, but I do believe it is fundamentally the Puppies’ view, i.e. for a long time the Hugo’s were highly influenced by an inner core, and now they are less so. In the Puppies case, they saw the inner core as a bad thing. In this case, she sees it as a good thing.

    Of course, the natural conclusion is it’s not John Scalzi who changed the Hugo’s but Vox Day. His campaigns to “democratize” some of the award categories inevitably led to a broadening of all the categories and a loss of control by all inner circles of the awards…. I don’t mean to endorse this conclusion either, but it is just as logical as it is Scalzi’s fault.

  70. I always took “fan writer” to mean they are on some level talking about the industry or genre as a whole, or talking about how a particular book fits in the genre as a whole.

    Someone with a blog consisting of pictures of cats and posts that advertise/market their own works isnt what i would call a “fan writer”, cause they are really writing about hawking their own works, not fandom in general.

    But having a following means one can override the norms of the determination of who wins fan writer one year since it is, ultimately, determined by a popularity contest. Ballot stuffing can be a problem when the voting size is small and a single author has a large following.

    J.k.Rowling has a large enough following that she could win “best new turnip twaddler” if the winner of turnip twaddling is determined by popular vote and there is usually only a thousand or so turnip growers who vote on the category. Rowling could win this even if Rowling never touched a turnip in her life. All she would have to do is post on her blog an open ended question about why so and so has won best turnip twaddler 5 years in a row, and isnt she eligible for the award too? Cue her hoard of fans who vote for her turnip twaddling award when she never touched a turnip.

    Then, when the people who actually know a thing or two about turnips complain that good turnips are losing out to store bought carrots by people with large followings, thise people with large followings wonder aloud to their large followings about how they followed the rules and the so called turnip experts are trying to be gatekeepers. And then their large followings reassure them, that, absolutely, they deserved the best turnip twaddler award.

  71. Well said, you do write pretty good mainstream science fiction. I like it.

  72. DB & Ken Josenhans: Further data gratefully received and accepted; I was better networked on the media side of fandom than on that sector of zines (and indeed, Xenofilkia‘s operational mode certainly reflects the “gift economy” to this day). But the fic zines couldn’t run that way, because the expense of producing even a mimeographed print run of a full-sized issue was just too high to float without something closer to a subscription model in play.

  73. I like your stories. I enjoy reading your books. I will continue to read your writings. I don’t know you. I have never met you. I would be willing to drink a beer with you if the chance ever came up. For perspective, that is more than I can say for our current president.

  74. @ Greg– that’s not a workable analogy for Scalzi, though. He writes about broad trends in SFF all the time. Not to mention hosting the ‘Big Idea’ series, where I (and, presumably, many other people) discovered many of my favorite SFF authors for the first time. I just finished reading ‘A Ship of Smoke and Steel’ and it was amazing– and I’d never would’ve heard of it without this blog. Likewise, ‘Too Like the Lightning’ by Ada Palmer, ‘Space Opera’ by Catherynne M. Valente, and ‘All Our Wrong Todays,’ were all books I took a chance on and enjoyed after reading about the idea– the challenging speculative element–the author wanted to draw out.

    That’s more of a contrabution to the conversation around SFF than anything in ‘Beam.’ And if the conversation is what makes the fandom, Scalzi absolutely deserved the best fan writer award when he won it. Not just because he followed the rules to the letter, but because his critical contribution to fandom is as relevant as his fiction. More relevant than O’Brien’s contribution. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with writing things that matter to fewer people; I’m sure fans of O’Brien’s critical writing find her thoughts and contributions important and deeply valuable, on a personal level. And that’s worthwhile!

    But reach matters. Breadth of impact matters. It’s great to reach a handful of people, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that reaching hundreds or thousands of people has more of an impact on a culture as a whole. It’s important to take that impact into consideration in a discussion on whose cultural criticism deserves awards.

  75. I started reading science fiction back in the early 60s, thanks to an unknown and probably now long-dead elementary school librarian who stocked the shelves with Heinlein’s juveniles, Asimov’s “Foundation” series, and a smattering of Clarke. That turned in a subscription to “Analog” and then to a life-long enjoyment of the genre. So am I a fan?

    I’e never attended a con, never joined any local groups, never done anything beyond enjoying the genre…and supporting it by buying lots and lots of books and magazines over the decades. Without fans like me I doubt there’d be a market large enough to sustain SFF publishing, both books and magazines.

    So for me, fandom doesn’t even rise to the level of a hobby–it’s an enjoyable pastime. I’m the guy who watches an occasional NFL game on a rainy Sunday, not the one with a basement rec room filled with sports memorabilia who drops thousands every year on season tickets and has a closet full of jerseys. But if you define being a fan so restrictive that only a very small percentage qualify, while I hope you enjoy your exclusive club you’ll also have to deal with the genre massively downsizing.

    I liked the comments above that compared SF fandom to liking a band. It’s great to latch onto a band before they’re popular and follow their rise, knowing lots of trivia. But you also have to accept that there will be many more who will like their music, buy their tracks, and be the base that keeps them going. True Springsteen fans might be offended that people who didn’t buy “Greetings From Asbury Park” back in 1973 call themselves fans. But if it wasn’t for the more casual fans who jumped on the bandwagon Bruce would be nothing more than a forgotten bar band singer with an obscure album or two that never got added to the digital catalogs.

  76. I can sympathize with the idea of people feeling left out that the thing they liked is changing. I feel that about at least two major franchises, and fantasy novels in general. There is no reason for the kind of invective we’re seeing though. I mean, things always change. I’d be a lot more charitable if it was just the things change and I don’t like it, rather than “these people” arrived and things changed and I hate them for it that I see a lot right now though. I don’t like the latter at all. I mean, I am glad i am seeing a lot more diversity in the afore unmentioned franchises, I just wish all the new people liked it the way I did, that is all. That is on me though, for having unrealistic expectations, not them.

    I wonder if the reason John gets so much hate is not because he is a non-mainstream writer who is forcing change, but because he is a mainstream writer and thus a symbol of how much the mainstream has changed away from what those detractors preferred?

  77. Some of the complaints in the essay, like if an artist is paid for their work and wins best fan artist that’s not right, are fair enough, though I think I disagree. However, how those complains are remotely connected to John is… a mystery. Also seems to assume that a fan writing award should reward years of work, not just the past year’s best, which is an odd view of an annual award. Lifetime achievement awards exist, the Hugo’s are not that.

    Glad to see your thoughts John, and I am very glad we have the current Hugo nominees and not the same fan writer winning 15 years in a row.

  78. Thirded on the analogy to liking a band.

    My most recent encounter with this was a discussion with a Star Wars fan upset about the new projects after Disney bought LucasFilm. His argument was almost literally ‘Disney should listen to and make its Star Wars projects for the hardcore fans, not the mainstream audience, because the hardcore fans were the ones who kept the franchise alive in the period between movie trilogies.’ No subtext, no implications, just the flat out declaration that hardcore fans were more important and were worth more than the mainstream audience and should be catered to.

    Which… I’m not sure what I found most annoying about that. The gatekeeping aspect? The snobbery? The sheer financial stupidity? The sense of entitlement? The refusal to acknowledge that the mainstream audience was what *made* Star Wars into a cultural phenomenon and therefore made the entire Expanded Universe possible? Whatever.

  79. Mr. Scalzi, if anything, you vastly improved the Hugos. I’ve been reading all the Hugo winners by year, and the selections have vastly improved since you got involved. Maybe all your doing, maybe not. It seems it takes quality work to win now and not being about who you know. Keep up the good work.

  80. John C. Bunnell: Y’r welcome. OK, the fiction zines are a different subculture with a different mode of operation and a reason for doing it that way. What the editorialist has trouble accepting is that these differing subcultures can be both parts of a larger culture called “fandom”. Fandom, for purposes of the Hugos, is anybody who wants to join the Worldcon and participate. The problem with the Puppies was that they spoke in terms of hijacking and taking it over. I don’t like it when my own people speak in those terms either. It’s not just our fandom and never was.

  81. +

    I apologize for any errors; I’m using a screen reader that does not allow me to catch certain things.

    Sigh. This is not unlike some of the complaints that have and continue to ooze from certain circles of academia; apparently, the old guard is less than pleased with the normalization of the teaching of “noncanonical” works penned by members of the LGBTQIA community, women, the disabled, and people of color. A lot of the lamentations and outrage seem to stem from the destabilization of narratives of white, male, intellectual and literary superiority; I’ve personally observed this phenomenon at faculty meetings, during which one or more of the “younger” faculty members (these people usually aren’t around to defend themselves) are dragged for daring to “canonize,” via their syllabi, those authors who are not part of the pantheon of literary patriarchs. I suspect that the chorus of “where have all the white guys gone?” has less to do with what students are learning than it does with the fact that the normalization of these works functions to undermine and problematize “taken-for-granted [beliefs] or [behaviors] about what is `appropriate’ or `inappropriate,’ `desirable’ or `undesirable, `good’ or ‘bad’” (Sellnow).

    I’m absolutely certain, certain, I tell you, that the whining is rooted in genuine distress over the perceived devaluation of the greats, rather than that these “younger” faculty members happen to enjoy full classes while the old guard face class closure due to low enrollment.
    Ultimately, and in my opinion, haters mean that you are kicking ass and making a name; keep up the good work!

  82. She writes fancy, don’t she?

    Before this article, I didn’t even know such an award existed. Seems like “much ado about nothing.”

  83. I just wrote a ridiculously lengthy (~1000 words) essay on all this before deciding no one wants to read that kind of word-dump in a comment thread. The tl;dp [post] version is that I think the highly idiosyncratic definitions of fan writing/art/zine by which Ms. O’Brien is operating are so far from the widely understood/accepted (and literal) meanings of the terms that the communication gap is basically unbridgeable. And the fact that the terms (and therefore what is awarded) got redefined out from under them is what her lot is whinging about. And I can even understand why they’re whinging; that must be pretty upsetting and aggravating.

    That doesn’t excuse her from being so obnoxious about it.

  84. I shared the confusion on what a “fan” was by the end of her editorial. My overwhelming sense was that I was reading a post by someone who got up that morning, mooched around the house a little and then said, “Oh, shit, I owe someone an editorial! Today!” Then, like Fox news dragging out the War of Christmas whenever they need to whip up outrage, said,”I know! I’ll bash Scalzi!”

    On a personal note, it disturbs me deeply that I can never remember what the acronym SMOF stands for and I have to look it up every single time.

  85. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as if she is somehow attempting to neologize the term fan in order to legitimate what reads, to me, at least, to be a revival of a dead, rotting, and wreaking gripe about a fraying velvet rope.

  86. Sarah Marie – I think it’s the exact opposite. It was neologized. It has been genericized. And some people have not been particularly gracious about it.

  87. (apologies for commenting twice in succession)

    So as not to be misunderstood: Ms. O’Brien and co. are the ones I am referring to as “not particularly gracious”.

  88. It’s his last name, I think. It’s perfect for someone shaking their fist and screaming, “Scalzi, you scum!” :)

    Fandom is an enormous, international, multi-pronged, on-going discussion of SFFH that takes place at conventions and events, film festivals, bookclubs, organizations and societies, fanzines, magazines, SFF category news media, review sections, libraries, parties, and every corner of the Web. And it has always covered all mediums of SFFH, from songs and costumes to written fiction and comics to games, plays, movies and t.v. Any fan who has any sense of the history of fandom should know that. And they should also know that no one has ever had any singular control of fandom — and never will.

    But within one’s own crowd of pals within fandom, people often feel special and with a status into which they vest their identity, as this woman has clearly done. Those who don’t feel welcomed and included by those same groups may form their own corners of fandom, which then may become bigger and more widely known, or they may simply call for change in various venues to include more people. This bewilders those in their own crowds and makes them feel less special/important and lower status (especially if they don’t feel they’ve gotten the recognition they believe they’ve earned for the time they chose to put in.) I am reminded of a conversation here years back about sexual harassment and Codes of Conduct for conventions, of people arguing that Fandom — conventions — welcomed them and gave them a home and so why is this a problem and having to try to remind them that their fan experience wasn’t everybody’s fan experience, that their fandom experience in the past wasn’t extended, welcoming and inclusive, to everyone just because it was to them. The we are fandom and we are therefore good assertions is a human trait but by and large it is not a positive one. It’s an artificial attempt at a fiefdom and at shutting down the conversation of fandom. And it’s a remarkable ignorance of the field and fandom’s own history to serve a romantic personal fiction.

    Someone who was a young fan in the 1990’s, excited to discover new, rising authors back then, is not going to know, as a middle-aged fan twenty years later, as many of the new, rising authors in the present day, especially as there are way more of them than were published before. There are way more magazines for SFFH in some ways now than there was in the 1990s, when the wholesale market that distributed the print magazines collapsed, magazines and fanzines that had run for decades winked out of existence and the Web was just getting going. The assertion that she doesn’t know the names of the “new” people like she did back when she was a new person and outlets were narrower as if it’s a problem rather than simply a logical act of time, that’s a temper tantrum, not a cultural assessment.

    It’s much the same complaint as fans have made who were new to fandom in the 1970s on dealing with the 1990’s expansion of cosplay, multi-media and pop culture conventions, decreased interest in short fiction, the development of online discussion forums and other shifts — including increased concern about sexual harassment at conventions, lack of POC inclusion in the field and many of the same issues being discussed in fandom right now. It used to be just us, who are all these new people, is something that is not accurate and based in reality of fandom and creative media. It’s a reaction to no longer feeling they’re the new, young blood, to feeling they have less status, a status they never actually had but simply confused with enthusiasm and hanging out with their friends and authors they liked. It’s a phantom pain. And unfortunately, it often tends to lead to bigoted discrimination and exclusion in an attempt to maintain the illusion, ruining new fans’ entry into avenues of fandom.

    So in that way, I guess I’m glad they go after Scalzi, the straight cis white guy. But the whining over fake status is like facing a massive, frothing river of fandom with a small rock. The water is just going to pass you by. More fun to swim in it with the rest of us.

  89. Susan,

    I’m glad you clarified, as I’d originally interpreted your reply to me as “fandom has been permeated by a faction of “ungracious” interlopers who like what they want to like and who blow through the velvet rope rather than asking nicely to be let in”
    That said, how are we in disagreement?

    Also, a quick hello to Kat Goodwin from a long time lurker!

  90. Sarah Marie,
    Yeah, the second the comment posted I realized that it was likely to be misinterpreted and that I’d better clarify before someone justifiably called me on it. Sorry about my poor phrasing. I’m trying to be concise, which is not my natural style. :)

    Ms. O’Brien & co. are operating with highly specialized definitions of fan, fan artist, fan writing, and fanzine which I think were the consensus definitions among the community that originated Worldcons and the Hugos. Since they neglected to make these idiosyncratic definitions part of the written WSFS Constitution (Hugo rules), people who came into Worldcon fandom not knowing them very reasonably proceeded over the years to nominate and vote based on the rules-as-written and the common-sense meanings of the terms therein. The formerly neologized terms (re?)acquired their straightforward meanings in Hugo context.

    So Ms. O’Brien is not neologizing now; she’s using neologisms from decades ago, basically out-of-date slang. That’s why some of her statements don’t seem to make sense. It’s not a new problem; I was equally bewildered by it back in the early 1980s.

  91. Well. So much has been said here, and most of it I agree with. I think I’ll just settle for thanking Ulrika O’Brien for making me aware of Galen Dara, an excellent artist who I hadn’t heard of before. Every cloud, silver lining and all that.

  92. Essentially, she’s deploying the long sense-collapsed definitions of fandom and fan in a war on collapsed definitions of fandom and fan. Sigh.

    At the risk of meeting the business end of the mallet, I’ll say that riding the puttering bandwagon of a hoarded of butthurt, elitist, squealing, stomping, breast-beating, self-proclaimed temple guardians, serving as a rhetorical appendage for said butthurt, elitist, squealing, stomping, breast-beating, self-proclaimed temple guardians, and mounting a tiresome attack on successful creators in order to earn “atta girls” from said butthurt, elitist, squealing, stomping, breast-beating, self-proclaimed temple guardians (I am willing to admit to possibly being dead wrong on this last one) are the pastimes of a sad and deeply delusional individual. This is especially true if the spewing is on behalf of those who can neither teach nor do marketable, popular, or quality work.

  93. That is “horde,” as in horde of zombies. It really does help to proofread more than once before posting.

  94. Sarah Marie: “Also, a quick hello to Kat Goodwin from a long time lurker!”

    Hello back!

    Susan: “I’m trying to be concise, which is not my natural style.”

    What is this concise of which you speak? :)

    The first winner of the Fan Writer Award was Alexei Panshin, an award-winning SF author and a professional critic who published several books of cultural SFF analysis, one of which with his wife won him another Hugo. He does not meet any of her criteria for who should win Fan Writer. So she’s not even mouthing the original consensus definitions of the founders of WorldCon and the Hugos for the category. And they’ve played with things around, adding the semiprozine category and creating an editor category and then a second editor category, etc. She’s more representing a separate faction that has “ideas” about how these things should be run in the Hugos and trying to present that as authority — status. I’ve never heard of her until this week and her claims of expertise are highly spurious, given that she’s misrepresented several facts.

    The pinnacle of her claims is that David Langford, also a SF author and able marketer, winning the award for eighteen years with a small crowd of the same circle of names for nominees, is somehow the award functioning properly and that Scalzi breaking that streak eleven years ago at the start of his fiction career somehow is a problem alteration. (Not that Ansible is not a treasure.) It’s not a highly specialized definition. It’s not a nod to tradition. It doesn’t make any coherent sense whatsoever. And that’s largely why the essay is getting attention — it’s a wild claim that contradicts itself and Hugo history.

  95. Kat,
    What is this concise of which you speak? :)

    Hah. Now I’m trying to avoid doing a deep-dive into ancient Hugo/fannish history because overall I’d rather rip off a toenail. Quoting you selectively below:

    The first winner of the Fan Writer Award was Alexei Panshin, an award-winning SF author and a professional critic who published several books of cultural SFF analysis, one of which with his wife won him another Hugo. He does not meet any of her criteria for who should win Fan Writer.

    Panshin was neither a published author nor a critic when he won the Fan Writer Hugo. That stuff came later. But that’s also a bit of a red herring, since I don’t think being a non-pro is or was the critical factor. The idea that one can be both fan and pro goes waaaaaaaaay back. I’m pretty sure Ms. O’Brien’s objection isn’t so much that Scalzi & others she particularly fusses about are/were pros so much as that by her definition they aren’t/weren’t fans. I think her intended/expected audience was so in-groupy that she didn’t bother making an argument that makes sense to anyone who doesn’t share (or at least understand) her underlying assumptions.

    So she’s not even mouthing the original consensus definitions of the founders of WorldCon and the Hugos for the category.

    I’m not so sure of that, but I keep hedging with “I think” because, well, I’m not sure, and I don’t have a burning desire to do the necessary research to make authoritative pronouncements either way. The underlying ideas certainly have been around for at least the almost-four-decades I’ve been paying occasional attention and are consistent with what I’ve heard folks from older generations say. They’re not just a reaction to the last 10-15 years of Hugos. And while she chooses to identify Scalzi as The Source Of All Evil, a quick skim through the Fan Writer and Fanzine shortlists shows the first cracks (from her perspective) that I can personally identify being 2002 and 1986, respectively.

    I’ve never heard of her until this week

    I’ve never met her in person that I’m aware of, but I’ve found her annoying online for ~20 years. :)

    It’s not a highly specialized definition. It’s not a nod to tradition. It doesn’t make any coherent sense whatsoever. And that’s largely why the essay is getting attention — it’s a wild claim that contradicts itself and Hugo history.

    I see how it makes sense from a certain perspective, which is not to say I agree with it. And I’m sufficiently oblivious that I’ve no idea how much attention it was getting before Scalzi blogged/tweeted about it.

  96. Some people seem to have way too much time on their hands. I stopped reading when the author started to talk about ‘real’ and ‘usurper’ fans*. That kind of thing is tedious and only reminds me of the bros at comics cons complaining about the presence of women (wearing costumes) who are not real fans either.

    In general, it takes a certain type of personality who likes the idea of gate-keeping. They are mostly the ones you keep your distance from at any social gathering. Anyway, these days SF is such a broad church it’s now generally defined as ‘SF and Fantasy**’, which makes people who want to have a go at gate-keeping*** look rather quaint – and needy.

    *Sorry, my terms: I forgot what the author called them precisely and I’m not going to give the article another click
    **With some including even horror
    ***Whether that’s by saying only X can be (a) true SF (fan) or that one person (or action) can spoil (or save?) SF

  97. The thing I was struck by, reading Ulrika’s screed, is how incredibly antique her complaints are. I have been hearing about filthy pros stealing rightfully earned faannish kudos since I first started in fandom, in 1981, and it was a long-standing, thoroughly hashed-out bit of tsuris at that point. In DW, someone pointed out that there was a great deal of Sturm and Drang about Ted White winning this same Hugo in 1968. (I was alive then, but I hadn’t yet learned to read.) Context matters, of course, and the fact that this is happening after the Puppies, and while the field is reveling in new voices. And yet, I think it is also useful to note that Urlika is, in fact, just prosecuting a war that is literally more than a half-century old. And she is bringing no new arguments to the table, that I can see, just a fair amount of bile against a specific person, OGH. I guess, in some ways, she is providing a living example of why the field has needed to change as it has, and why fandom, as a community, has needed to change, which it is in the process of doing. The fascinating thing, in some ways, is that she’s not even really kicking against the things that are new. She is actually just having a very old argument with different set dressing.