Saturday, May 16, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Community and Me

I want to talk (write?) about community today. Because I find that, as an introvert and someone living kind of out-of-the-way, that community is rather difficult to find, difficult to maintain. I know, I know, I have this blog and all, but don't be fooled—I am rather terrified of people. I walk the weird line between I was always the person raising my hand in class to I was also the person always incapable of talking to people outside of class. Probably no surprise there. But as I'm going to be off to WisCon this next week, I figured I would talk a little bit about things in regard to trying to fit in somewhere in SFF.

I discussed a bit last week one of my forays into community that…did not go exactly as I had wanted. Which, really, probably sums up an awful lot of my attempts to find somewhere to belong. Which probably sums up a lot of people's attempts to find somewhere to belong. Especially in SFF. In some ways, SFF is the land of outcasts, or at least can seem that way at times. Growing up, it was a love of things SFF that helped me to escape and imagine a better world, a world where I wasn't afraid and awkward and could feel some measure of freedom and respect. I think that's why many people end up in SFF, because it captures that hope for somewhere to belong. But obviously, feeling outcast isn't a one size fits all sort of thing.

My wanting a place to belong is not at all the same as someone turning to SFF as an escape from an abuse situation, from an unsafe world. My feeling outcast walked hand in hand with growing up in a privileged situation. I was still safe. I didn't get beat up. I didn't get threatened. I was just…lonely. And maybe in need of figuring myself out. But SFF was still where I turned to try and find a place to belong. As many do. The thing is, I think that also makes SFF a place where many people who have been outcast from various other groups turn around to find outcasts that they can in turn make further outcasts. Look at the Puppies. Most of them would probably say that they are the wounded party. Most would say that they were just trying to have a place of their own, that they are trying to save SFF.

Only SFF isn't one thing. It isn't one group. There are a great many groups within it. And so when I tried to find people who shared my interests, I did. But bonding over a love of SFF is…well, it's great and all but obviously there are a great many flavors of love for SFF. And mine…well, I brought t his up in my Destroying SF Quick Thoughts that it hasn't always gone well. Instead of being a bastion for the outcasts, some parts of SFF seem very much "conform or be punished." I mean, there is an entire "do not read list" put out by GG and the harassment and abuse some authors and fans have to endure because of their interests and passions is just terrible. So to say that sometimes SFF can be a scary place is to put it mildly.

But thank Glob for the internet and second chances. Though there are some scary factions of SFF out there, there are also many amazing talents and voices and groups and sites that are doing great work at helping people express themselves safely. For every community that I joined and then rather fell out of, there were others that I could join. Or lurk around. I swear probably a big reason I don't get more into fandom and online communities is I'm afraid I will pour myself into it and then it will all blow up in my face. Because I have a tendency to want to do A LOT when I join a thing. This can be very good. This can also be very not-so-good, because if for whatever reason I get disappointed with what I'm doing or feel like what's the point I tend to crash and burnout. Which can be tough when interacting with people is intimidating.

But I keep trying. I really like what I'm doing here at Quick Sip and with Nerds of a Feather and just in general. And there is definitely a part of me that wants more and more but because of time I am trying real hard to be careful with what I sign up for. Still, I love the connections. The feeling of community. I had a great time at WisCon last year despite pretty much being a turtle the entire time. It was great fun and I hope to do more this year. And who knows, maybe next year I'll try to be on a panel or something.
Anyway, there are my rambling thoughts out ahead of WisCon. Please excuse any weirdness these next two weeks as I will be trying to keep up with reviews. Trying. Not so sure about the succeeding. But thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

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