Linkspam, 8/9/13 Edition

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.
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August 9, 2013

Girl Fading

Girl Fading (via)

Okay, then there’s this sequence of links and they all feel interrelated somehow (a couple of them are directly in response to each other) but I’m not sure I can articulate why. But I’m going to try!

First, Justin Landon wrote a post about conventions and how he doesn’t find them particularly interesting because he doesn’t think the panels are particularly good due to the preponderance of aspiring writers in the community.  He seems to be advocating that conventions be more selective at who they invite to be on programming and limit themselves to people with solid publication histories.  From my perspective, that’s a great way to ensure that a lot of fascinating people are never heard.

Landon also doesn’t seem to think that blogging is writing–I disagree. What I do here is writing.  And what he does is writing, too. Commentary and criticism are important–there’s more to talk about than just how to craft stories that people want to read. Often people who read the genre but who do not write in it are in a better place to see larger trends or problems than people who are immersed in the trend or problem.

He also takes a few cheap shots at short fiction venues, which he claims are a dying breed. If he means in print, then I’ll possibly concede the point–but there are many online short fiction markets and it is there, I would argue, that the most interesting work being done in speculative fiction is happening in many of these markets. Ultimately, Landon seems to be arguing that a minimum standard should be created and applied to convention programming and I’m afraid I simply can’t agree. I’m not saying that there should be no discretion when it comes to panelists, but I think creating a standard for eligibility that is anything but “Will this person be a good person to have on programming?” is ill-advised.

Jonathan McCalmont has a really interesting response to Landon’s post and I especially would like to highlight the second half  in which he discusses the problems of reviewing and how the word “fan” carries a fairly heavy load these days, especially in speculative fiction fandom, as spec fic fans are among the worst when it comes to status checking and gatekeeping. It also has the wonderfully alliterative phrase “This plague of professional positivity is profoundly problematic,” too.

In fact, this gatekeeping has, perhaps, reached a new low: there is going to be a proposal put forth at the 2013 Worldcon Business Meeting to remove the Best Fanzine, Best Fan Writer, and Best Fan Artist Hugo categories from the WSFS Constitution. The reasoning for this is simultaneously laughable and infuriating: essentially, a small group of people who have particular ideas about what a fan work is and are upset that “traditional” fan works and writers aren’t winning all of these Hugos anymore and don’t think anyone else should, either. In other words: those people who do their writing online are fundamentally different from those who use a photocopier and the postal service–or who publish as PDF and email out.

This is nonsense. Is it really so awful when someone who isn’t a traditionally published novelist is on convention programming?  And does it really matter the way in which the fan publishes when it comes to the fan Hugos?

Both of these issues trouble me, especially in light of all the recent discussions about sexism and racism in the speculative fiction field–do we really want to, as a community, put up more barriers to participation and recognition than there already are?

And finally, here’s a wonderful short animated film. Many, many thanks to Brie for alerting me to it.

Borrowed Light from Olivia Huynh on Vimeo.

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6 Comments

  1. Julia

    One thing I find frustrating is the assumption that, as a fan, my dream is to be a published writer (comic artist, etc.). I have no interest in doing so. I’ve also heard from two authors that they interpret elaborate cosplay as an attempt to get into “the industry.” Which……no.

    The screening method for panelists should be based on things like knowledge of the subject, are they interesting/good panelists, etc. Hrmph.

  2. Natalie Luhrs

    @Julia: I have very little desire to publish fiction professionally (non-fiction, on the other hand…). Fannish activity is, in and of itself, worthwhile. Which then begs the question of why do there need to be fan Hugos… 😉

    I agree completely on your panelist criteria–if they know about the subject and if they’re either reasonably entertaining or a good moderator/leader, then that’s good enough for me. You shouldn’t have to be credentialed in any other way.

  3. --E

    Yeesh, sometimes I think that professional writers are are the WORST panelists. Because the skills to write a professional-quality story novel, and the skills to talk knowledgeably, interestingly, and generously (with your copanelists) about a topic, are orthagonal. One set has nothing whatsoever to do with the other.

  4. Rosary

    To be fair “Science Fiction’s Invisible Women” is using both Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller for the opening picture, and it’s from a recent production of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I think it’s supposed to point out the irony that science-fiction is a genre whose origins begin with a woman, but still denies the presence of women within itself. That’s certainly what I got from reading the article.

  5. Wendell McKay

    Very late to this, as I just found out about Peters’s death. Sharing your commiserations, especially as I’m pretty sure it was you who got me into the Amelia Peabody books in the first place (all of which I ended up reading). Her non-fiction books on ancient Egypt were a pretty decent intro to the subject, too. RIP.

  6. Selki

    Re Barbara Michaels: I have *The Dancing Floor* by her and enjoy re-reading it from time to time.

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