Saturday, April 30, 2016

Quick Thoughts - The Puppies Are Not Exceptional (in any sense...)

At these moments I normally find myself drawn back to this poem that I wrote a rather long time ago now. It's perhaps a bit dramatic, but there it is.

I think the danger in all of what has surrounded the Hugos is to assume that it's gotten substantially better overall. That even if the Puppies get shut out of nominating process, even if they don't manage to fuck things up somehow, it will mean that the field as a whole is open and accepting and affirming. Which is not to say there aren't amazing, wonderful fans and writers and editors out there. Which is not to say there aren't amazing novels and stories and films and shows and graphic novels out there. Which is not to say there isn't hope. But it is to say that the Puppies are not part of some vocal minority of fans working to ruin everything for everyone else. They obviously make up enough of the fan population to succeed in fucking with the Hugos year after year now. They are here. They have always been here.

For me, it is easy to forget that sometimes. Maybe because I want so badly to believe it's not the case, that the Puppies are part of some outlier group that are simply refusing to die quietly. And maybe because sometimes I _can_ forget it. Sometimes I can squint my eyes and see all the stories that I love and that I myself can sell some fiction and have people even say nice things about those stories and I can pretend that's what the world is. But part of that arises from the fact that as a white cis-man my world isn't really all that bad and there aren't that many people trying to really take my voice, and I get praise and attention and affirmation as general background noise, as a sort of ether I can tap into at almost any time. And the other part of that is that I actively seek to avoid media and people that I'm pretty sure I will hate and that seeks to silence, erase, and oppress me (something that, again, is way easier for me to do and STILL I CANNOT COMPLETELY SUCCEED AT).

So no, the Puppies are not the problem as much as Trump is not what is wrong with American politics. They are symptoms of the problem—symptoms of widespread hatred and the idolatry of a sterilized and false past and present monoculture. "Make SFF Great Again" might as well be the rallying cry of the Puppies (if it's not already), but it's a story as speculative as the weirdest alt-history where Hitler won the American Civil War. SFF was never great. Sure, there were great writers, great stories, but there was never overwhelming equity or justice. There still is not. The call might as well be "Make SFF Great." But perhaps first the call should be "Make SFF Decent." That would be a nice first step. Unfortunately in a business where purchasing power is equated with "will be treated with human dignity," even that's not easy. The truth is that "fairness" is being used to describe "anyone can pay to play." But money is not fair. Who gets access to money and who does not and what people have to spend their money on to live and maintain their freedom is not fair. There is no justice in making people "vote with your wallets."

So how do we change things? How should we do that? I'm not sure. I'm going to get back to reviewing, and writing, and (yes, even though it's not fair) spending what money I can on stories and books that I want to read. What stories and books I love. And talking about stories and books, and trying to not be an asshole. Like always, the goal will be to reform what can be reformed and destroy what cannot be. And to try to carve out a space where people can be safe, and can tell the stories and read the stories they love. But also not to forget (and this goes pretty much only to the people who _can_ forget) that this is not some isolated incident. This is still where we're at in SFF.

Which, while I'm on the subject of stories I love, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Rosarium's campaign going on now. Seriously, $100 will get you print copies of 3 great-looking short story anthologies, 3 great-looking single-author short story collections, and 3 great-looking first issues of comic books (only $50 for ebook versions). Plus just so much good to check out. Tade Thompson's Making Wolf and Keef Cross' DayBlack and just lots of amazing work. Think about buying some stuff.

Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

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