Saturday, April 4, 2015

Oh Fandom ...

Oh Fandom ...

I've been reading SFF for a while, and recently started listening to and joining in the conversations about diversity, and you're making me sad right now.*

During these conversations, a few points have come up:

  • First, when you're looking at an institution, results matter more than intentions.
  • Second, diversity is hard, and when you're not getting diverse and interesting results you probably need to do more outreach.
Let's look at the last few years of the Hugos fandom, and in particular the downballot items where things like insularity are a lot more likely to show up.  Lots of the same names appearing over and over again.  Plenty of people and organizations that are "Hugo Darlings" which can be expected to place well in the Hugos even if they're not getting critical attention elsewhere.  Do we want to be diverse, in terms of voices, creators, and stories? Yes.  Are we succeeding in that? Eh, maybe.  Results matter more than intentions, and the results (again especially downballot) for the past years of Hugos are not signs of a healthy community.

Now it's easy to look at the Sad/Rabid Puppies this year and see some great explosion of awful, but really these guys are a symptom of the notion that diversity is hard.  They're not the only symptom of the past few years (lets go ahead and rehash the well-worn and familiar Hugo arguments), and they're not even the only symptoms this year.  Who's the 5th Fan Writer this year: someone who's claim to fame is most charitably a work of policing borders.  The best writer the non-Puppies could come up with is someone who's working on keeping up the borders and defining who's in and out.  

Diversity is hard.  Results matter.  When you're seeing uninteresting lists and the same sorts of people and voices showing up year after year after year, you probably need to do more outreach.  

I don't know how I'm going to vote this year.  I don't think it's my business to tell anyone else how they should react.  I do know that I'm going to keep voting on the Hugos for a while.  "Hugo Award Winner" meant a lot to me growing up.  Now, being able to participate in defining "the best" of this SFF community I'm falling more and more in love with is a wonderful thing! I got such pleasure out of passing around names and stories and books and participating in all of these conversations this year.  It was great! Thank you so much for that experience!

So fandom, let's work on getting a healthier Hugo voting community.  There are some wonderful people out there who fielded questions (and a certain amount of venting) from me and many other people about eligibility and categories.  Who built tools to help us make recommendations, discover great stories, and build our ballot.  I'd like to extend my thanks to those people.  Let me know how I can help you even more next year.

Maybe let's not be quite as happy when someone pops up to say "what's the latest kerfuffle?"  That's not really the sign of a healthy community.

Fandom, I love you.  I really do.  You've had me in tears of joy and laughter on multiple occasions recently.  Even the grumbles about award categories have a feel of love and warmth much of the time.  The joy and celebration of the Tiptree Award announcements this morning were great!  But let's look at the lists of nominees we've had recently, the number of nominators we've had recently, and the sorts of arguments we've been having recently.  There may be culture wars raging, and block voting may be a problem, but it's also just one of the symptoms of a way that our community isn't healthy.  So maybe we could build a bigger, healthier, more diverse community? Maybe?  

*Yes, this is prompted by the Hugo nominations, SP/RP wins, and the resulting fallout.  I'm going to assume that if you're here, you know what I'm talking about.  If not, google will probably help you find something elsewhere.

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