Saturday, May 9, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Still Here

So recently I stepped back from one of the things I've been doing for a little over a year now. I don't really want to say what it is because I don't want to name names. It was definitely a learning experience and it probably made me better at doing a lot of things but it was rather case and point why being part of a group in SFF can be…a bit fraught at times. And it made me look at my own personal responsibility in associating with a group that does not always do things that I am comfortable or okay with. It made me look at my own moral culpability in everything the group did, no matter how much I was vocally opposed to it.

Now, by and large, things start because they seem like a good idea. And, to be honest, by and large I still don't regret the time I spent with the group. Kinda. Sorta. It's complicated. Like many people no doubt do, I joined because I felt a lack. I wanted to participate in something, to be a part of something, and I saw a chance and took it. I was accepted and I was super thrilled to be a part of it. The complicated-ness of it, though, started pretty early and never quite left. I felt I could basically say my opinion, but it was always under the umbrella of other opinions. And I could not stop others in the group from doing…some things I did not agree with at all.

And the group did teach me a lot. Perhaps not always in the ways it intended, but it taught me all the same. Unfortunately, the more I did the more I was reminded that the group wasn't really for me. The more I did the more I realized that the discussions I was having did not leave me excited to be a part of SFF. They did not fill that lack I felt that made me join the group. I dreaded discussions. I dreaded feeling like yes, I could say my piece, but that I'd be hammered at by other members of the group until I stopped talking. That my opinion, my feelings, would at best garner a "let's agree to disagree." So what did I do? Well, I will admit that I strayed a bit. Like an employee not letting their work know they're seeking alternate employment, I applied elsewhere. But oh, the guilt.

I don't feel like a particularly strong person. I feel constantly filled with conflict and worry. I didn't want to be some sort of cheat or traitor. I didn't want to let the group down, despite that the group kinda made me feel like crap. And so when I found other groups, and when I started this blog, I stuck around in that original group because I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I didn't want them to think I didn't like them. I didn't want to be ungrateful for being given the chance to be a part of something that was my first step into SFF discourse. I kept working, but I got quieter in the discussions. I took on less things to do because I was doing more elsewhere.

And then my work situation changed a bit and I've had less time and cannot keep up with everything I was doing. I was faced with the prospect that I had to step back from something. Now, I hold no great illusions. This blog gets probably a decent amount of traffic for what it is, but I'm not winning any awards. It's just a place to get out my thoughts on the stories I read. And the poetry and some of the nonfiction. Because that's what I want to do. But it reaches less people than this other group. So in all fairness I should have stopped my Quick Sip Reviews and accepted that I didn't have time for it.

And I agonized this for an extra month while still trying to do everything. My partner is amazing and has helped tremendously but cannot, unfortunately, fabricate time itself, and I came to the point where I had to look at why I didn't want to make the call. And it was because I knew in my heart of hearts that I couldn't give up this blog. It does way more for my mental health than that other group. It's what I want to be doing. So I stepped back from the other group instead. And oh, the guilt. But I hope that will fade. I hope that I've made the right call.

And this brings me just a little bit to my point. That SFF is a right fucked up place sometimes. There are many roads to it, many reasons for being drawn to it. They don't always fit the dominant narrative, and I think that's what it needs more of. Obviously there's going to be some backlash. It's really obvious in some places but in others it's a bit more subtle. And for those who are approaching green, without guides and without much support, it can be easy to feel that SFF is not a place you'd want to belong. For those who enter into groups only to suffer for it, I can completely understand the urge to just want to check out entirely. But I, personally, am glad that I stuck around at least long enough to find better groups and better spaces. I'm glad I'm still here.

And thank you, everyone who's bothered to read these reviews, for making the decision to choose what I wanted over what I felt obliged to do that much easier. It wasn't easy. Like, at all. But that there are some people out there reading these reviews and sometimes commenting and generally just being awesome makes doing this something I want to keep doing. So thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur


  1. It's always hard to move on and make a change. Good job you for excellent self-care, even if it was difficult. And thanks, as always, for this excellent resource you provide. It's been a huge influence on me and helped my short fiction reading so much. I'm very happy you're going to continue!

    1. Thank you! I tend to get super guilty about "quitting" anything that I've started, but then I also tend to be terrible at judging what I can take on and still be happy/sane. So I'm glad that I'll (hopefully) have a bit more time to spend where I want it and that you're enjoying the reviews and all! The trick now will be to resist the urge to do even more because I have "more time" now. I apparently also get guilty when I feel I'm not working hard enough to justify my presence in a space... But thanks for reading!

  2. Great post! You are so right about the fraught nature of SFF fandom. It's a relief to see people speaking up about it. And it is hard to walk away from a group, so good on you for knowing when it was necessary and taking the step.

    Calling attention to short fiction the way you do here is important. Everybody writes it, it seems, but often nobody appears to be reading it. Your posts fill an important need.

    1. Thank you so much! I agree that more attention should be paid to short fiction (and not just because I also write it). I just think that short fiction, because it is less of an investment than longer stuff, can be much more experimental and can push a lot of boundaries that novels and other longer forms just don't. But thanks for reading! I'm glad you find it useful!