Friday, July 22, 2022

Quick Sips 07/22/2022

Hi all! The good news is that I turned in my Locus column for the month (on time! Woo!) and have been very busy releasing some exciting things in my non-profit work. It has meant that I’m probably not as far as I’d like in my reading for next month, which will be another doozy, but I think I’m not in the worst place to get it done. So things continue. In sad news, my ability to attend WorldCon in person this year has fallen through, and I am rather bummed about that because I was hoping I’d be able to, it being in my quasi-hometown of Chicago (I’m from the suburbs). So…yeah.

In other news, I see that we’ve waded once more into the Fan vs. Pro debate, which is a perennial favorite of no one’s and yet happens all the time. The controversy here comes from a proposed change to the language of the WSFS constitution covering the Hugo Awards, to define “professional” and “non-professional” as basically meaning “for money” and “not for money.” And while I can understand why this is sort of a thing, I also find this rigid fixation on this implying that there’s a problem when… I’m unconvinced that there is one.

But let me explain a little. The reason this debate keeps on happening is because of a general sense of “the pros are taking space away from fans” which crops up when certain categories (I’d guess fan writer and fancast) have nominees and winners who are considered “pro.” Tucked into this as well is a general sentiment and hostility toward certain publications that have been popular in the Semiprozine category (more on that in a little bit). The train runs where because some of the winners in the fan writer and fancast categories include published authors (sometimes prominently published authors and/or editors), and because Uncanny (let’s not avoid this one) won the Semiprozine category multiple times in a row, there is a Problem.

But…is there? The most compelling arguments I’ve heard for why the fan vs pro distinction needs to be more codified is that the current system rewards people who get published by large (professional or semiprofessional) publications and are paid for it, which might go against some spirit of “fan-ness” the awards were supposed to be rewarding. But not only has the landscape of fandom changed, largely thanks to the internet, so too has the realities of participating in it.

To sidetrack a moment, there’s also a motion in the proposed changes to the Hugo rules to remove the participation requirement threshold that might result in these same fan categories being no awarded because they didn’t get enough engagement from the larger voting body. It’s a proposal that I support, but I also feel that many people who would not support removing the no award threshold also support the fan vs pro distinction. Which is to say, they are actively working to kill the fan categories and just don’t want to admit it. Because I can tell you that removing anyone who has done paid fan work from the fan categories would also make the larger voting body less likely to vote in those categories.

It’s maybe a little harsh, but I’ll say that the fan work that the people for the fan vs pro want to see more represented on the ballot…just isn’t that popular. It’s not that it’s not valuable, it’s not that it’s not relevant, but…it’s not incredibly popular. I understand that the thinking is that taking the “pros” out of these categories will make it more fair for fans, but not only is that some gatekeeping bullshit logic, it would also result in even less engagement with the fan categories. And the changes to the constitution would go much farther than just making fan categories less popular—it would effectively nuke the Semiprozine category, arguably reducing eligibility to the point of irrelevance. And that is how these attempts read, that in seeking to try and establish rules enshrining a non-monetary, pure “fan” ideal, destroying the very categories is preferable than seeing them continue to go to the “wrong sorts.”

The work to protect, promote, and reward fan work is important. I know that people probably won’t see me as “impartial” in this because I probably don’t pass whatever “fan” purity test they’ve designed to determine who’s actually a “pro in fan’s clothing” or however they frame that. I have been a Hugo finalist in fan categories multiple times, and I’ve made money off of my fan work, though it’s always also been available for free to read for the most part. But I’m also not popular enough to likely win a Hugo. Does that make me want to rewrite the Hugo rules so that those more popular than me will be disqualified and I can win a shiny trophy?

I write some fanfiction. Not a huge amount, and not super often, but I do. My fandoms are small, obscure, and niche. I would never win a fanfiction award (if there were them) because I do not write either in larger fandoms or in popular modes (tags). Do I think my fanfiction is good? Yes. Do I wish that it got more hits and kudos? Also yes. Do I want to kick the popular fandoms off of AO3 so that my relative popularity might increase? No, because not only is that a shitty thing to do, it would actually make my work less visible and less relevant.

Fan work is a changing thing. Working against that and rejecting new audiences and more popular fans is only working to increase the invisibility of the amazing work being done out there. Say what you will, but someone engaged in non-paid fan work who gets a chance to appear at a higher profile semipro or pro publication gets to draw attention from that paid work to their non-paid work. That how platforms work. That’s not a bug, that’s a feature. Treating it like it’s a problem is actually discouraging fans from submitting work for publication at larger venues where their work could not only reach a larger audience but lead those readers back into the larger and more obscure areas of fandom. Just…

Anyway, the fan vs pro debate is a frustrating one to have. Hopefully people vote that provision down. I would but, as reported above, I won’t be able to attend in person this year.

In other news, I left it up to Twitter, who decided that I should make my next video game play be Final Fantasy VI (the PS1 Final Fantasy Anthology version). While it wasn’t the one I was most excited about, I do trust that the internet knows what it’s talking about, and anything that helps me get through the backlog of JRPGs I have for the PS1 and PS2 is a good thing. I only just booted it up and I am already intrigued. We’ll see how it goes.

Otherwise, not too much to report. I did take a small break from my X-Men read (still in the mid-to-late 90s) to check out Earth X, which I remember form the sketchbook that Alex Ross did. As a series it has some problems, mostly from the source material and the white male dominance of early Marvel. But I did like the idea that the whole Marvel U is basically down to this Celestial egg that was planted in the Earth which caused the appearance of superpowers as a kind of antibody against extraterrestrial invasion. That was well done, and I might seek out the other sequels to that. Indeed. In the meantime I wrapped up my Excalibur reading with the Pryde and Wisdom and Kitty Pryde: Agent of SHIELD minis, neither of which were very good but there it is.

Anyway, stay cool and fabulous! Cheers!


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