One of the most interesting things – and by interesting I mean scary – about the reaction to Sad Puppies 3 is that many people who are anti-puppy (always wanted to write that) were mad at Brad for “not telling people you were putting them on the slate.”
Okay. The accusation is not true. Brad actually told people, except for a couple he legitimately forgot to contact.
But let’s not defend Brad on that front, because when we are defending him on that front, we’re already swallowing whole a pretty bizarre assumption of the other side.
Instead, let’s step back and take a deep breath.
What are the Hugos?
They’re awards, right? They’re awards given, supposedly, for the best science fiction and fantasy of the year, right?
In theory, theoretically as it were, who is supposed to nominate: why, Lord love a duck, right? Any reader of science fiction who pays at least the supporting worldcon membership.
And who gets to make recommendations for nominations? Well, from what I’ve seen over the years, anyone with an interest in sf/f. I could, tomorrow, (well, not tomorrow, but at the beginning of the next set) put my list of recommends on the blog, whether I meant to vote for them or not. (I.e. whether I paid the membership or not.)
Readers, reviewers and various other side-spurs of science fiction do that pretty much every year.
So, if I did that, would I have any obligation, no matter how remote, to tell people I was putting them on my slate? Why? I mean, I might, as a friendly gesture, send a note saying “I love your books and I’m putting such and such on the slate.” BUT WHY would I HAVE to?
I mean, when I won the Prometheus and the two other times I’ve been nominated, all I got was an email saying “you’ve been nominated.” No one warned me. And trust me, ten years ago that announcement would have frozen me solid, instead of causing me to dance in my office.
That is because ten years ago, I lived in a state of fear. And the fact that my fear was real and serious is justified by that accusation to Brad, “You bad bad man, when you decided these people deserved awards, you didn’t TELL THEM you were putting them on a recommend list.”
I lived in fear because of the implied end of that sentence “And you knew that because you associated them with you, a known conservative, we would make their lives miserable and do our best to end their careers.”
And that, my friends is what I realized when I sold my first novel in the late 90s. Most Americans might not be that sensitive to the “climate” but I was. I had after all grown up in a socialist (at best, during the better times) country where to graduate you had to present the proper progressive front. I knew the signs and the hints and social positioning of “further left than thou.” For instance, my first SF cons, as an author, in the green room, I became aware that “a conservative” was a suitable, laughter inducing punchline for any joke; that all of them believed the Reagan years had set us on course to total dystopia; that the US was less enlightened/capable/free than anywhere else; that your average Republican or even non-Democrat voter was the equivalent of the Taliban.
As for Libertarians, I will to my dying day cherish the dinner I had with my then editor to whom I was describing a funny incident at MileHi where for reasons known only to Bob, I found myself in an argument with someone who wanted to ban the internal combustion engine. My editor perked up and (I swear I’m not making this up) said “Oh, a Libertarian.” At which point my husband squeezed my thigh hard enough to stop me answering. But yeah. That was a not uncommon idea of a libertarian. If it was completely insane and involved banning something, then it was a libertarian.
I once overheard the same editor talking to a colleague and saying that if she got submissions across her desk and they were – dropped and horrified voice – somewhat conservative she recommended they try Baen.
Which the other editor (from a different house) agreed with, because after all, they weren’t in the business of publishing conservative works.
This immediately put me on notice that in the field if you were a conservative (I presume libertarians were worse, or at least they seemed to induce more mouth foaming. And though I was solidly libertarian and – at the time – might have qualified as a Libertarian, I suspect if faced with my real positions they would have classed me as conservative, because my positions were self-obviously not left and that’s all it took.) there was only one house that would take you, and if what you wrote/wanted to write wasn’t accepted by then, then you were out of luck.
After that I lived in a state of fear
I imagine it was similar to living in one of the more unsavory periods of the Soviet Union. You saw these purges happen. Whisper-purges. You got the word that someone was “not quite the thing” or that they associated with so and so who associated with so and so who was a – dropped voice – conservative. Suddenly that person’s books weren’t being bought and somehow people would clear a circle around them, because, well, you know, if you’re seen with a – dropped voice – conservative they might think you’re one too. And then it’s off to Neverland with you.
I found a few other conservatives/libertarians (frankly, mostly libertarians) in the field, all living in the same state of gut clenching fear.
We did such a dance to test both the reliability and discretion of the other before revealing ourselves that we might as well have developed a hanky code. [Blue for true blue Conservative, white for pure Libertarian, red for the blood of our heroes, brown for OWL (older, wiser libertarian), purple for squishy conservative, baby blue for Brad Torgersen.]
Conventions were nerve wracking because I watched myself ALL the TIME. And you never knew how much you had to watch yourself. Suddenly, out of the blue, at a World Fantasy the speaker, a well known SF/F writer went on about Howard Dean, our next president. The room erupted in applause, some people stood to clap, and I sat there, frozen, unable to actually fake it to that point but too shocked to even put a complaisant expression on my face.
This is one of the instances where I think if I didn’t give myself away I gave them the impression I was not very bright and therefore untrustworthy. Another would be the letter exchange with a gentleman who went after my first Analog story. Another instance would be that I actually could not help myself and defended Heinlein at all possible occasions.
They were never sure enough that I was a – dropped voice – conservative, but they were sure enough that my books had the strangest issues with distribution and marketing. I. e. like the year I had six books out and not one on the shelves anywhere. [Yes, I have considered the possibility that maybe my books sucked, but a) if that was the case then why did they keep buying? b) why are the same books making me a paycheck every month indie?] And I was never one of the “darlings” who got promo or even really nice treatment (by editors) at cons (until I worked for Baen.)
Btw, speaking of Baen, when I was picked up by them after my first series tanked and no one else would touch me, I was overjoyed. The agent who had been trying in vain for years to get SOMEONE to buy me, promptly told me that I couldn’t work for Baen because of the Baen taint. (yeah, that – dropped voice – conservative taint – this while Baen publishes anyone from any political color provided they like the story.)
One time I came into the room at a con and found one of my editors talking to another of my editors. I could tell from the expression, the startled look at me, that news that I might be a – dropped voice — conservative had been conveyed. I hoped I was being paranoid, but I wasn’t. My treatment by that other house immediately changed, overnight.
So I lived in fear, unable to associate normally or make friends with anyone. It was like being spied on all the time and knowing the worst construction would be put on my actions and words, even if the actions and words were not political, even if I just forgot what the week’s hate and the week’s cause was.
I got tired. I got really tired. I know authors who walked away after one or two books because they simply couldn’t take it anymore. I know others – gentle souls – who didn’t realize they’d been blacklisted on suspicion of being – dropped voice – conservative. This was particularly true of Libertarians (and libertarians) who never thought of themselves (I still don’t) as “conservatives” and couldn’t understand it when I tried to explain it.
All this was justified, you see, because in the minds of the establishment and establishment hangers on, conservatives are creatures shown as “right wing” on movies and tv (none of whose writers would know a true conservative, much less a libertarian if one bit them in the fleshy part of the *ss [and libertarians might.] They give conservatives (which again is everyone to the right of Lenin) informed attributes never found in the real creature: conservatives, in their crazy little heads, are people who are racist, sexist, homophobic, ultra-religious in a medieval fashion or a crazy-evangelical (there are some, but not many) one.
Informed attributes for those who don’t follow the link, are a characteristic of lazy, sloppy writing, particularly common in fanfic AND beginner writers (though we all do it, but hopefully not in contradiction to our real writing.) This is when you tell the reader that the character is kind or socially conscious or whatever even though the rest of your writing shows exactly the opposite. (One of my ex-fledgelings had a penchant for this. Would inform you the character was so nice and universally loved, and then show he was the ass everyone rode in on and most people hated him. Eh.)
The informed attributes of “conservatives” in gatekeeper circles for SF/F are just that. Someone informed these people that “conservatives” are sexist, racist, homophobic religious fanatics and they believe it without checking it against every day reality.
Here I am tempted to insert snark about their preferred modes of writing, but I won’t. I’ll just say that once in a group populated mostly by them I found that if a person was good but didn’t proclaim it, then they were horrible. No, I don’t get it either. But somehow it works for them. They HEARTILLY believe this stuff, because someone told them.
And frankly if someone were racist, sexist, homophobic (religious fanatics I don’t care either way, unless they chase me down and make me believe as they do) I wouldn’t want to work with them either.
So, if you are revealed, through… what are the words of the old act of contrition? “Your thoughts, your words, what you’ve done and what you’ve failed to do” or indeed, whomever you associate with at a third remove, or whom you failed to denounce on denouncing day, to be a – dropped voice – conservative they don’t want to work with you. And if they have to work with you, they’re going to do it at as arm’s length as possible.
When I realized I couldn’t watch everything and didn’t have the energy to keep up with the hate or the enthusiasm of the week (there is a reason most of the darlings are single or at least childless) I told my husband I was dropping out. But by then there was indie, and I was working for Baen, and he convinced me to stay on.
Still, such was the reflex of that fear that the first time I was mentioned on Instapundit I reached up to wipe the scarlet L from my forehead.
Now? I’ve come a long way in seven years. By baby steps. But now I don’t hide I’m a libertarian. (Technically an OWL – waves brown feathery scarf.)
And still that naked “you should have told them you were putting them on your slate” and the implied, scary because we intend to f*ck up their lives because you like their work made me catch my breath and remember the fear.
The people who preach to you of inclusiveness and love (SF is “love” apparently); the people who are hunting for writers of various colors of the rainbow to give awards to demand (and receive) perfect lockstep abasing compliance with their beliefs.
The prize they held hostage was a writers ability to make a living.
Fortunately there is indie. They haven’t realized it yet, but what they hold in their hands is nothing. And the more they show their colors, the more they pursue their little purges (now in public) the less they’ll be taken seriously.
We haven’t yet reached the point when “banned by the New York Publishing establishment” is a badge of honor, but unless I mistake my gut we’re not very far off.
And it’s a beautiful thing. A scarlet l on my forehead, and an American flag on my heart, and what is it to you, and who made you keeper of other’s thoughts, other’s ideas, other’s art, other’s opinions?
Are you so empty, so vacant, so devoid of creativity and joy that all you can do is tear down the designated targets?
Well, then, you have my sympathy. But you no longer have my fear.
And you never had my allegiance.
Depart from us in peace and go find someone else who might still fear you. It won’t happen here.
Ask not for whom the puppies bay. They bay for you.