Hi, my name is Cedar, and I’m about the least likely fannish sort you’re likely to meet around here. This is, I think, relevant to the recent imbroglio over the Hugo Awards. Last year for the first year I paid my money and I voted. This year, again, I am nominating and voting. But here’s the thing. I only discovered Fandom about ten years ago, attended my first con three years ago, and although I fly out today to a convention, I don’t plan to attend many in person.
If you look at the chart Gray Rinehart drew up, I do actually fall into the E group. And I really liked what he has to say about this, he puts it much more elegantly than I could. “If we believe in science fiction and fantasy as worthy art forms, capable of helping us examine the human condition and cope with change in ways that other entertainments do not, then it seems that enlarging our community would be a good thing both from a pragmatic viewpoint — more customers can support more content producers — and from the standpoint of wanting to impact the world around us. To that end, encouraging people to support the World Science Fiction Convention and participate in nominating and voting for the field’s most prestigious award should be a good thing. I cannot think of a good reason for anyone to prefer for the field and its flagship award to be small and insular.”
So here’s the thing. I came to Fandom through my encounters with Baen’s Bar. I discovered it by accident, when I was looking for something, anything, to read. I was stuck at home, and the internet was my only outlet. I’ve never been a social butterfly, but books are meat and drink to me. I realized very quickly that there were people Like Me out there, and this was amazing. I’ve never before met a group of people who I could have conversations like that with. Talk about anything, and everything, and not have to explain myself and if I had questions, I could ask and they didn’t make me feel stupid. And gosh, the people who read as much as I did. I could finally come out of the closet as a voracious reader and not feel shamed about the nights where I chose a book over sleep.
So it confused and pained me when I stepped outside that community, and discovered that the overall fandom was full of cliques and snobs. Others have compared it to high school, but I wouldn’t know, not being a normally-educated American. I do know that it puzzles me. Why would you say that you just want to be inclusive, but you don’t want to include some people. So… people like me, say, who like Baen. We’re not welcome. One of the reasons I don’t want to go to many cons is that I worry about people who will know I’m a huge Baen supporter and will attack me for it.
And this is the so-called inclusive group. The ones who want to keep the ‘wrong people’ at arm’s length. Frankly, I’d say the heck with them, I’m going to hang out with my friends, make new ones, and find a happier crowd to be with, except… Except I’m a mother. I see what my kids like, and they like SFF (along with other things, but they are influenced by me). So I’d love for them to grow up, find a place like the Baen’s Bar, where they can fit into a rich community of people who can talk to them and make them feel at home. These are my people, and I have learned that I can recognize a group of them at a distance. It’s not about skin color, gender, it’s that ineffable fannish oddity that makes a convention look the way it does. I walked into an unfamiliar con a day early last year, and knew immediately who the other early arrivals were. At the college I attend, I can pick out, after a little observation, the geeky types that I want to talk to. It’s not about the externals, it’s about the minds.
And here is where the groups that are lobbying for ‘inclusive’ when they really mean ‘no one is allowed that isn’t like us’ fall down. The reason I have to fight for my daughters to feel comfortable expressing their inner geek? That I tend to dress and act ‘dane when I’m at school, and it takes me some time to identify fellow geeks? These people. They want to be able to label everyone, and keep them in tidy boxes, but we don’t fit into boxes, and we don’t like them putting people in boxes. Tomorrow I fly off to Life, the Universe, and Everything, and I will hang out with my people. Not white, black, or purple-polka dotted, not male, female, or ‘check other’ but the beautiful minds of my people. Creative, odd, and connected by a common fanaticism that makes them all fans.