Over the past few days, the blog posts, here and elsewhere, have been flying fast and furious (and no, the Justice Department did NOT send a bunch of fully-automatic assault blogs over the border to get a response from the drug-runner blogs, even if the Administration DOES want to control the Intarwebz. . . ) over what it means to be a Real Fan.
Now, mind you, I’ve been doing this long enough to remember the word “TruFan”, which was probably the beta version of the current class structure in Fandom.
That’s right, our Betters have declared, that there IS a class structure in Fandom. Ask Mike Glyer or Kevin Standlee. Apparently we need to read fanzines, be a member of a formal club, be a collector, filk, and do cosplay.
And that you are a fan “in proportion to the effort you make to attach yourself to fandom”
Well, thank you very much for laying out the requirements, that was mighty Privileged of you to do so.
And so I say in return: Check your everlovin’ Fandom Privilege. You’re a Fan if you say you’re a fan. Period. Full Stop. No check off the boxes, no “attaching yourself to fandom”. No Secret handshakes. Not even any Propeller Beanies. . .
I saw this back in the 1990s, when I was hitting cons up and down the East Coast Circuit: Disclave, Balticon, Philcon, Lunacon, Boskone. Hell, I was there for the Disclave Flood.
But even then, I saw it build: Litfen looking down their noses at Gamers, Mediafen, and even Filkers. Sure, trot Tom Smith out to open before the Masquerade, but the Filkroom ? Tiny room well away from the rest of the con. Heck, once, at Disclave, we were LITERALLY in the effing cellar.
And the problem today is STILL the Litfen looking down their noses at the rest of us unwashed Not True Fans. As File770’s Mike Glyer said himself:
“Hugo voters read text sf, unlike the vast majority of those “SF consumers” who are following genre movies, videos and TV.”
Mike: Check your Fandom Privilege. A lot of us read text SF. And find all too much of it to be unreadable message dreck. Brad Torgersen has the right of it, comparing the tastes of MOST of the SF audience (again, mostly us unwashed sorts) to breakfast cereal. We **WANT** that great Nutty Nuggets taste, the “sensawunder” that seems to be missing from the vast majority of the currently-celebrated “award-winning” SF.
Mike also asks about querying 50,000 random Trek fans, who wrote the last piece of short SF they had read. Again, Fandom Privilege. MOST “consumers” don’t know it’s there. It shows up on small-circulation fanzines, and small independent-press dead tree editions.
BUT. . . .it also shows up on Kindle. And that’s where the REAL growth in SF is, not in Traditional Publishing. Heck, there are authors who make a living ENTIRELY off Indie Publishing on the Amazon Platform.
Case in point: Christopher Nuttall, the hardest-working man in SF. He averages a book a MONTH or more, and makes a very nice living selling some serious hard-core SF. But, alas, he’s mostly digital, and thus doesn’t get noted by the literati.
Yet NOBODY publishing Indie seems to ever get the nod.
And then there’s the Hugo Privilege argument: If the Hugos are irrelevant, why are we concerned ??
I’ll TELL you why. To quote the Hugo Awards site itself:
“The Hugo Awards, to give them their full title, are awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy.”
Well, frankly, we’re not seeing a lot of Hugo Awards for excellence anymore. Years, really, DECADES ago, a Hugo was a guarantee of a good read. Something I’d come back to, on a slow Sunday afternoon, and read again. Or, in the case of media, watch again. I’d DISCOVERED a huge amount of new-to-me authors in those cheap “The Hugo Winners” collections that the Science Fiction Book Club used to sell. Before those books, I’d never HEARD of Larry Niven or Harlan Ellison (and still remember getting a signed permission slip to let me check an Ellison book out of the public library, back in 1972 or so. . .) or Poul Anderson, or a plethora of others. Many years later, through SFBC and Analog, I discovered others: Lois Bujold, Kim Stanley Robinson, Spider Robinson, and others.
Now I look at what the SFBC sells. . .and I don’t find a recent Hugo winner amongst them.
Wait, you say, the SFBC sells to the lowest common denominator? Yep, that’s us: the Great Unwashed.
Once again, check your Fandom Privilege. It’s getting old.
Other complaints are that sales don’t equal excellence. Mayhaps not, but isn’t that what the free market is for? Let’s face it, most of the past decade’s Hugo Winners have NOT been commercial successes.
And, I’m sorry, but acclaim without sales is kind of like getting kissed by your cousin. Authors have to eat, and the most direct measure of whether an author is getting read or not, is sales. Especially SERIES sales as an indicator.
And people cannot claim that “only some bookstores carry SF titles” anymore, not with Amazon out there. I used to be a book-a-week guy before eBooks and the Kindle platform: now it’s several books a week.
More importantly, at least as I see it, the true measure of excellence in fiction is re-readability. If I come back to a story or a book, again and again, it’s GOT to be good. I *STILL* go back and re-read Heinlein, even the Juveniles from the 1950s. Or Niven. Or Bujold.
But there are authors that I **USED** to re-read, and still re-read the older stuff, but the newer stuff . . . meh. I used to love reading Brin, his Uplift universe, and Scalzi, the Old Man’s War books, and Stross: loved the Laundry and the Eschaton books, and still pull out “Accellerando” when I need to stretch my brain around some new ideas. But their more recent stuff: again, meh.
The bottom line for ANY author, is this: Get Paid. If you’re not getting paid, and especially not getting paid enough to support yourself and your family off your works, then you’re NOT a successful author: you’re a hobbyist. ME, I prefer to spend my hard-earned dollars on craftsmen and women who put in their full efforts to deliver a superior product. And that holds for more than just books.
So I say to the Hugo “establishment”: Check your Fandom Privilege.
And in closing, I update an old fannish favorite:
“It’s a Proud and Lonely Thing to Be Not-A-Real-Fan”. . .
Postscript: Been thinking about Short SF. And realized something else: the reason so many people AREN’T exposed to Short SF, is that the magazines that carried it as a mainstay, have slowly been fading away.
When I was a kid, there were a number of pulp mags: Worlds of If, Galaxy, F&SF, Analog. Amazing was already fading (later, I learned there was a conflict with the fledgling SFWA at the time). Asimov’s appeared in 1977. And, Ghod help us all, Omni, starting in the late 1970s. . . .
Today: If and Galaxy first merged, and were gone. Amazing disappeared, and relaunched as a web zine. F&SF is now an every-other month mag, with circulation under 15K. Analog is still going strong, as is Asimov’s (circulation ~23K). Omni. . . .well, it was never all that good in the first place, but it died as well. And even e-subscribers likely started as pulp subscribers. I tried to FIND a copy of Analog at my local Narns and Boble, and at Books-a-Million. They had to ORDER it. . .
My point ? This probably says something about the Greying of Fandom. At the risk of being glib, for the vast majority, they simply don’t SEE short fiction any more, at least on a regular basis, because, with world-wide subscribers of 25K or less, it’s not even a ripple in the world’s information pond. . . .