I’ve been going back in forth about whether to blog on this. But, screw it, I have a mouth, and I’m known to shoot it off — why should this be any different?
My immediate reaction can, rather gleefully, be summed up with Twisted Sister:
My measured reaction is a little different. Let’s take this in steps.
In the Ecosphere Of Writers, I am plankton.
Here’s my writers’ cred:
- I’ve written one self-published novel, which has made about thirty-five bucks total. Mostly because I’m a hack, and partly because I’m just too lazy to constantly pimp myself (and for some strange reason, none of my friends are very good at gratuitously pimping my hack writing, either).(fn1) By the time I finish the second one and get that out, I expect both together to get me up to “this pays for a nice lunch.”
- I have written a half-dozen articles on medieval military history, two of which significantly inform the historiography, and one of which is an actual “bombshell.” I’m proud of that: if you want to address the questions I’ve addressed, you have to read, or at least be aware, of my work, or you’re out of touch. Nothing puffs up your ego like learning that you’ve become mandatory reading in a graduate program.
- I’ve written a slew of stuff for online gaming purposes, from item descriptions, to essays, to plotting, to “lore,” to various NPC in-character writing, not to mention simply running online events as a roleplayer, which means basically doing lots of impromptu dialogues. (This is relevant. “Gamer” and “Reader” isn’t quite the same field…unless you’re into rpgs, in which case there is heavy overlap and lots of it. You might be surprised at how many gamers spend time reading all the little vignettes that go into item histories and descriptions.).
What does this adds up to? SQUAT.
Any professional novelist, historian, or game-writer wildly exceeds my achievements in any of the three categories. If my opinion therefore has any merit (and this is dubious), it lies in the fact that I’ve done all three as an amateur, and professionals have either not stopped it, in some cases they’ve even encouraged more of it (though I’m probably still unpublishable as a novelist).
What we have going on with the Hugos has been described all over the place. It’s the fundamental phenomenon of the late 20th and early 21st centuries: the Degradation of Outmoded Institution.
Let me give you an example.
In the late 1990s I was attending a small academic conference in Lublin, Poland. There was a presentation in french on Mindaugas of Lithuania. It was boring. It was a general historiographic review where the salient points were so trite they made fruitcake look daring and edgy. The panel didn’t care for it either, which did help keep us awake. Because it’s very hard to be a young graduate student and stay asleep when the moderator asks the speaker “have you read a book on this subject which was published in the twentieth century?” — and he means it. I managed a few rare moments to slightly bond with a gorgeous fellow graduate student who was far too smart to associate with the likes of me(fn2) ..mostly because we both had to excuse ourselves from the session, as quietly as we could manage. You do that when you’re giggling uncontrollably in spite of your best efforts.
Scholars are serious, dammit. And very, very full of their own importance.
Later on, when we were at the “milling about drinking truly awful wine” phase (if you’ve been to one of these, or any mixer on the rubber-chicken circuit, you know what I’m talking about), prior to breaking, we were introduced to the gentleman who had presented.
“Do you know who I am?” He asked.
“No,” I replied, politely but with absolutely zero interest.
He was the Director of the Academy of Sciences in Moscow. And he wanted a little respect, dammit. In spite of the fact that his scholarship would have been barely acceptable as undergraduate work, and was, quite literally, “laugh you out of the room bad.” Now, if you’re in North America, and you don’t know who Mindaugas was, hey, no biggie. But this was East-Central Europe, and in ECE, Mindaugas is a bit of a big deal. Big enough that works had definitely been written on him in the 20th century. Neither was I particularly inclined to give some Sovok mad props for prospering as a communist political appointee, either (though as I gained more experience with that, older-and-more-experienced me(fn3) would have been more sympathetic and at least given the guy a chance).
The Director of the Academy of Sciences was used to being an Important Person, running an Important Institution. And the poor guy just couldn’t grok that he was the same guy, in the same place, but that the game had suddenly and radically changed. Moscow’s willingness to murder people, individually or wholesale, whenever that became convenient(fn4) no longer bought the man the international respect to which he’d become accustomed. Not Even in Poland.
It’s the 21st century. The old gatekeepers are losing power. In many cases they’re becoming hopeless retreads. Lately, the Culture Wars have gotten involved, because one set of Institutions losing power is that of the Cultural Left, which is explicitly fascist and totalitarian. When the personal is political, the personal is subject to political review. This gives rise to the celebration of Political Correctness. And batshit insanity like feeling deeply oppressed because you think “the male gaze” is actually a form of assault. Which, of course, for a person who accepts that position, posits anybody defending the right to look at a woman’s butt as some kind of horrific, mustache-twirling villain.(fn5)
These folks want a certain kind of inclusivity. I’m okay with that kind of inclusivity. I’m not trans-sexual. If I were, and I were tired of having to explain myself over and over to a society whose reactions range from “you’re sick” to “gender dysphoria would suck, I’m so glad I’m not you,” I’d be sick, too. Of mainstream society. Gee, thanks, buddy. Love you, too, and I’m not knocking out your teeth because I know you’re sincere and you mean well, even if you’re treating me like a category rather than a person.
(listens to the peanut gallery)
I can’t say that because I’m a regular old straight dude?
Sure I can. I have this thing called “empathy.” It’s a super-power, you should try it sometime.
Okay, back on topic. I’m theoretically transsexual. Don’t tell my wife. Where was I? Oh, yeah. I can totally grok a desire to see somebody, anybody, who’s like me portrayed as something other than a cardboard deviant villain. And not just in a hackneyed “here’s your Wise Old Indian or Black Man about to die in an action flick” kind of way, too. (Let’s go wayyyyy out on a limb and say “Vox Day is right, homosexuality is a birth defect.(fn6) ” Okay, not a popular view, but for purpose of argument,(fn6) what do you call a guy who treats people shabbily because of a birth defect, and is fixated on said defect, to the exclusion of the rest of the person in the equation? You call him an asshole, that’s what you call him.)
But I can’t totally subject my life to that understanding, either. And neither can I convince myself that this is the only viable lens through which to look at society. I’m not a cultural totalitarian, and neither do Cultural Totalitarians own the issue of basic human decency.
That’s why these people signed me for Two Minutes’ Hate on reddit. I’m obviously not with the program. The fact that I’ve actually stood on the metro station platform between victim and harm’s way, and most of these upper-middle-class members of the intelligentsia have never fought off anything more imposing than a keyboard or an internet troll doesn’t matter. Stray even a little bit, and you’re evil. Stray a LOT, and you’re beyond redemption. That’s how Institutions work.
So, Gamergate and the Hugos.
These people just can’t believe that they’re unrelated. And from their perspective, they’re right. It’s the same kind of bad person, doing the same kind of bad thing; holding the Institution accountable to its own words. (There may or may not have been death threats involved with Gamergate. Sadly, like the black gal who burnt crosses on her own front lawn a couple years back, these people are prone to create their own threat stories in order to make themselves look threatened and put-upon, so unfortunately it’s hard to know what can be taken at face value.) Institutions respond to the perceived authority of the person with whom they interact. Institutions are famously prone to treat the Little People like garbage, but to bend over and stick their butts in the air, breaking every rule they have, for Important People.
Worse than that, while the Institutions are perfectly happy to eat their own rules raw for Important People, they can’t quite handle the fact that they’re losing. To Little People. So they lash out, as Institutions always have. And they’re finding, to their horror, that neither their argumentation, nor their ad-hominem, nor even their blatant libel, is buying them the reactions they would have obtained twenty years previously. Even with Important People on Their Side weighing in.
It’s the Twilight of the Gods, and the barbarians are not at the gate: but they’ve knocked it in and are gleefully defacing the Palace Treasures.
I’d be deeply sympathetic, just like I am to the poor sap who knows nothing about economics or global politics and who looks back on the 50s and 60s as a wonderworld that would surely return if we would only put the same policies back in place. But they are Totalitarian Gods content to destroy the lives of those Little People who dare to speak up. So my sympathy is limited to those who’ve been played by the rhetoric. I have none for The Old Gods.
We don’t have to win at their game: society has outgrown them and their Institution is no longer of concern to us. The Lithuanian grad student no longer needs kow-tow to the Apparatchik.
Who needs Gatekeepers to the Palace, when we’re heading to the stars?
(fn1): Here. Go buy my novel. Nyaa nyaa. http://www.amazon.com/Malik-Pawn-Russ-Mitchell-ebook/dp/B006P76ESE
(fn2)Giedre Mickunaite, wherever you are, you’re still too way too cool for school.
(fn3) Notice that I didn’t say “wiser.”
(fn4) A certain sort of American reader will say “we’re just as bad.” Actually, it’s worse than that. U.S. foreign policy has often sucked bilge water through a cocktail straw. It’s often been morally indefensible. And as horrible as lots of US actions have been, we’re still not as bad. Hang out with the folks getting their citizenship and let them tell stories. You’ll get it.
(fn5) That would be yours truly. If I treated my wife the way rape-culture theory asserts that I must (nota bene: not “argues that I should”), she’d divorce me for emotional abandonment. She’s likes a world in which I express an interest in her ass whether or not she happens to be thinking of something completely different at the moment of expression. If I don’t look at an obviously gorgeous passerby, she get concerned for my well-being. This makes her the “wrong kind of woman,” whose opinion is not worthy of merit in politically-correct circles.
(fn6) Hey. No. Burst-of-reading-comprehension time. This is not my position. This is Vox Day’s position. I’m using it to make a point. I step on my own crank plenty, so if you’re going to hyperventilate, do it for something I actually say.