The Church Of Bob

There are the beginnings of a promising SFF fandom TOD developing over at Scalzi’s joint, for those who have spare popcorn lying around.

Categories: arts & entertainment, culture wars, ethics & philosophy

Tags: , , ,

15 replies

  1. (Posting here because the comments are off over there)
    As a lapsed Heinleinian myself (I’ve read his stuff, but it was years ago, and I’m really not interested in re-reading it at this point, even if I could find it in all the boxes of books), I tend to find the wholesale deification of the guy slightly worrying. I mean, yeah, he wrote good stuff for the era, and he was good and prolific. But so was Isaac Asimov, and so too were most of the other greats of the so-called “golden age”. And each of them were problematic in their own ways. If you’re a creative person, there’s bound to be something problematic about you to the correct set of people. In Asimov’s case, the problematic bit was his attitude toward women; in Heinlein’s case, the problematic bit (for me at least) was his politics (as someone who has lived their entire life outside the USA, I reserve the right to criticise the USA without being berated for being “unpatriotic”).
    But then, I came to science fiction and fantasy in the 1980s – Heinlein was still alive and writing for most of the time I was reading his stuff (I finally burned out on Heinlein in about 1989 – 1990, when I discovered Pratchett). These days? I’d probably recommend the full cut of “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Starship Troopers” to any new reader who wanted to know about his stuff (and explain both of those books were written around the same time – work on “Stranger” was paused for “Troopers”); but I’d also be recommending they find a good impartial history of the USA around the time these books were written (the late 1950s to early 1970s), because they are both very definitely products of a particular time and a particular culture and a particular mindset.
    That said: I tend to find it hard to really classify myself as a fan of science fiction and fantasy these days anyway, because science fiction and fantasy fandom largely seems to define itself as being that body of people (usually resident in the USA and of middle-class or greater income) who are able to afford to attend the big conventions, particularly Worldcon. I’m an Australian on a low income; I can’t even afford to attend the few conventions which happen here in my home city. I certainly haven’t been able to attend the AusCons when they’ve happened (in Melbourne). So do I actually count as a fan? Does anyone from outside the US count as a fan?
    It strikes me as a very US-centric sort of tribalism, and it’s profoundly off-putting in a lot of ways.
    I’m certainly part of the market for science fiction and fantasy novels (when I have money, that’s the genre I purchase books from). But I’m not necessarily part of fandom. The two terms aren’t necessarily equivalent. If it ever becomes necessary that they are equivalent, I’ll probably have walked away long since, because I can’t afford the trappings. The fandom which defines itself through its trappings, and its rituals and its conventions and its infighting is not the fandom I’m part of. I’m part of the fandom which defines itself through a shared interest in a subject, irrespective of whether or not I’ve actually met anyone else who talks about it face to face.

    • Some of this particular social drama seems to stem in part from an Old Guard vs New Wave conflict, and in particular the changes to what was a very US-centric fandom now that the internet has extended the way fans connect and organise on a more global level. An Old Guard of writers and SMOFs who were centred around physical meetups in major US cities and early geek-elite BBS groups are now feeling more than a little sidelined by swathes of new fans who don’t share the same cultural background, who don’t necessarily attend cons in person and who don’t necessarily feel the same awe for the Founding Fans.
      I must admit I’m tempted to invest in a supporting membership for LonCon 2014 even though I can’t afford to attend – for GBP25/USD40 it seems reasonable value in order to have some participation at a distance.

      This does not entitle the member to attend the convention, but is for anybody else who wishes to receive all the publications and vote in the Hugo Awards and/or site selection.

      Of course it’s exactly these sort of changes in how fandom is organising its outreach which is changing the landscape of fandom in ways that some Old Wave SMoFs are resenting/repudiating.
      Changes in the ways that people connect and organise are always going to sideline the older ways of connecting and organising, and some of those who had status as facilitators of the old ways aren’t going to want to be just another adopter of the new ways, because then they lose status. Hey, my blog used to regularly get dozens of comments on most posts, but then lots of people moved on to connecting via social media rather than via blogs. I could get huffy about that, or I can just continue to do what I do for those who appreciate it without resenting the times a-changing.

  2. I think you get the same dynamic in any ‘institution’ which lasts for long enough. New people bring their own ideas of what the ‘institution’ means, and have their own seminal experiences of it, which might be quite different from those of the older participants.
    I’ve always been more of an F than SF person, myself, which may be a personal preference, but has certainly never been helped by the invisibility of women in the older ‘Boy’s Own’ style SF. I just gave up trying with that stuff after a while. There are too many other awesome things out there with convenient me-shaped slots in their universes. And Heinlein has always squicked me out. Although, to be fair, that may not have been helped by the time I spent going out with a mad Heinlein fan who, I suspect, was largely attracted to me because of my resemblance to a Heinlein character…

  3. Brain not working tonight. I meant to add that, like Megpie, I have always gazed from afar upon that con-going, zine-swapping fandom that seems like the one true fandom. I hovered around the fringes of it for a while when I was a student, but never really got sucked into the depths.

  4. Heinlein helped me come to the conclusion I would be happier reading SF written by women.
    I have him to thank for Vonda N McIntyre and Ursula LeGuin.
    So he’s awesome in that regard.
    I think it’s tremendous progress that a woman is the one saying “All of you are not proper SF fans.” I am waiting for a woman gamer to do so now.

    • BTW, it appears that the kickoff for Weisskopf’s post in the first place was probably vodiferous outrage from the “Baen Bar” forum regarding the debacle over Loncon inviting Jonathon Ross to present the Hugo Awards, and how much of that fallout was driven by a Twitterstorm, and they’re cranky that conrunners are listening and responding to real-time feedback on the internet instead of manfully standing by their decisions, dammit.
      This is the best post I’ve read so far on the @wossy debacle, mildly bewildered (but also aware that there is an ancient pattern) how one woman who only addressed one tweet to @wossy directly has been cast as the leading Twitter-bully directly responsible for Ross withdrawing as presenter.

  5. @tigtog – there’s a good discussion of that incident at The Radish, along with a heap of links to other good discussions.

    • angharad, that’s a great link, thanks.

      • Just read a very interesting comment over at Scalzi’s which introduces a concept worth noodling on: individual and collective “What The Hell?!?” Ratings (WTHR) and how they change over time and how that changes groups/organisations over time.

        Everyone has a different threshold of “what the hell”. That’s called being human in a wide ranging society. But the issue is this: it’s not your job as the family-what’s-gathered to decide what the level of George’s or Sandy’s or Amanda’s or Jim’s what-the-hell rating *is*. Neither is it their job to change their WTHR so as to encompass your goings-on.
        What’s going on in SF fandom so far as I see it right now is that the Majority’s WTHR has shifted. Old Uncle Bob and Grampa Isaac, while appreciated for the work they’ve done in the past aren’t looked at with quite the same mystique, and the actions they took aren’t tolerated as family foibles any more, people are asking to say what’s not allowable under their WTHR, and when that’s ignored, they’re have interventions, and when that doesn’t work to have rules, and when THEY don’t work, to ask the Oldsters please, to leave.
        It’s not the end of the world. It’s not a hate on for those who want the old clubhouse to stay just the same. It’s people being people.

        It’s a long comment doing quite a bit of unpacking, and seems relevant to a lot of social justice work generally. I’m probably going to adopt mutable/evolving WTHRs as a 101-level framing tool.

        [W]hen people see [you act in a way that makes their WTHR go off], and call you on it, then there are two take aways:
        One- Something is wrong. Applying Occam, the simplest answer seems to be “if someone isn’t treated with basic human dignity it’s WRONG.” Which means what’s wrong isn’t the complaints and impetus for change, it’s having left the situation for so long that the complaints etc are NEEDED.
        Two- If your actions/words/whatever make people’s WTHR go off, then consider, honestly and sincerely, that THEY are not the problem, YOU are not the problem. (Personal hobbyhorse. I try very very hard not to say a person is the problem, because a person is an infinitely changeable being.) Your ACTIONS/WORDS/WHATEVER are. And yes, this means that when you leave your backyard, and go to person b’s and act as usual you might indeed end up looking like an ass. Hopefully there’s a way to work things out. Usually with reasonable persons, there is.

  6. Hey there, just popping in to let you know I saw your reply. I’m out to work in an hour or so, but I’ll be around to discuss things.

  7. Sorry it took so long to get back around here, What in particular were you wanting to ask about?

    • Hi CanuckistaniJohn, right now I’m mostly interested in tips for burning this bronchitis out of my body with a range of household thermonuclear devices.
      IIRC, I was wondering how the idea for the WTHR came to you in the first place.

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