Apparently we have now entered the era of the grand jeté. In ballet this is means a jump starting in a high kick in which the dancer leaps off from one leg and lands on the other.
In real life it means someone hears that a friend is supporting a cause they heard is racist, sexist, homophobic, and after demanding explanations and a grand Maoist self-examination, picks up her tulle skirts and LEAPS into deciding the friend is really an enemy in disguise, I guess having been taken over by pod people.
This didn’t happen to me. I only saw the leaper’s announcement — rather proud — of her grand jeté. The person she was sure was now an enemy and had changed beyond all recognition is a friend of mine, one of the most honest, decent people you’ve ever met, who has, in many ways paid for his high principles with a slow career and monetary loss. (Yes, as have I in a way, only my principles aren’t as high, I just can’t look at myself in the mirror after supporting a cause that killed a hundred million people, so I don’t, even by inference.)
Now, I’m handicapped here by having seen only one end of the conversation — i.e. this person’s claim she’d asked my friend for explanations, and that his response was “underwhelming” — and so she was unfriending him, denouncing him, burning him at the stake. Okay, I made that last one up, but only because they aren’t close enough geographically for her to do that.
Knowing my friend, I’m going to guess the “underwhelming” came from the fact that this fan who had been a friend was asking him to renounce and denounce positions that had never been his.
For some reason, more than the creepy pasta of Entertainment Weekly (Creepy pasta, as I understand from hearing my kids talk is an internet horror story, designed to disturb and frighten the readers. It often involves monsters and it’s set in the modern day and often around geek preoccupations. It is also understood that it shouldn’t be believed. I mean that’s the underlying assumption of the genre. The term comes from copypasta — a block of text that gets copied and passed around — and I’ve never seen a more perfect description of what Entertainment Weekly did, telling a scary story about racist/sexist/homophobic monsters in science fiction in a way unbelievable to anyone who did even a modicum of research); more than the professional colleague unfriending me over my support of Sad Puppies; more than the twitter sh*tstorms in which I was proclaimed a white mormon male, this made me incredibly sad.
It made me incredibly sad because this person was a friend’s friend and I remember when she was sane. It made me sad, because she swallowed whole the lies of a howling mob, rather than think first “this person I know, he is sound. If the strangers are all howling in unison, maybe there’s an agenda.” It saddened me because my friend is less involved with this than I am, and the level of character assassination over casual assassination is scary.
It saddened me because of this are things like the cultural revolution woven.
When I posted about this on FB, one of my “friends” came forth to howl that you know, people would think I was homophobic, since I’d put so much effort into getting a Hugo for Vox and John C. Wright.
I’m pinching the bridge of my nose and bowing my head and betting G-d to give me patience. This is what I meant. If you’re inclined to the Grand Jeté, you should at least do a modicum of googling to prove your facts before you leap. Vox is nowhere near Sad Puppies 3. Yes, his house is, but none of us writers has full choice over the houses we get bought by, nor do we police our publishers’ beliefs. We’re in this to make a living.
As for John, he doesn’t need me to defend him, but I’ll just say his beliefs are more nuanced than his posts often give the impression, but even if they weren’t I am not in the habit of evaluating authors by thought-crime, imputed or real. If I were there are lots of my colleagues I couldn’t read since they are at least soft supporters of communism, an ideology responsible for the death of a hundred million people.
But I’m not in kindergarten. I don’t demand artists I enjoy be carbon copies of me. I can read around the parts that offend me. I can also understand how sheltered Americans, misled by their excellent educations can have come to believe communism was good. I don’t assume these people are evil, nor do I scream to burn the witch.
The other side, on the other hand, seems bound and determined to set fire to the world to defend their right to keep rigging the Hugo. They seem to want to implicate us in all sorts of crimes, explicit and implicit, of association and of declaration, for the sake of making sure they keep control over science fiction.
Science fiction, people. The backwater of the genres as far as sales.
This where this grand battle is taking place. It would be like fighting world war three over someone’s backyard.
It would irk me less if they hadn’t been taking science fiction down the sucking drain hole of “literary cred” (which in the modern age largely means Marxist utilitarianism.)
As it is, though, we don’t have a choice. Because they’re fighting for what is our home, what we believe in, we must stand and fight.
I suspect, my friends, that this fight — oh, not over the Hugos, but over something else equally small that you care about passionately — will come to you. Into your hobbies, into your job, into your home and into your friend circle.
When it does remember that you have no choice but to fight. The end gambit the other side is aiming for is a Cultural Revolution of Chinese proportions, in which all dissenters, and eventually members of the revolution themselves perish. If we let them continue with this, if we let it have its way, the grand jete will go on, jumping to conclusions and creating exclusionary tribes out of out of context quotes, wrong words, wrong thoughts, wrong associations.
It might seem what you’re fighting for is too small to bother, only remember they’re fighting for this because they already control the large arenas.
And we must fight now, now that we’re driven to the narrow personal spaces. We must push back and take the larger institutions from them too.
It won’t be easy and it will hurt like hell, partly because humans are social and tribal creatures, and many worthy but not very bright people will swallow the slander, the out of context quotes, the guilt by association and because the other side fights by all of those means and always have.
But a human being has to stand somewhere. And standing on the side that isn’t howling for absolute compliance in thought as well as in did seems like a good place to me. Because I’ve seen the other side in action, and they can’t run their own heads, much less the world. And because they are working from a set of assumptions that has nothing to do with reality. And because their beliefs always end in mass graves.
In the end we win, they lose. Because the very devices that allow them to win the war of words handicap them in reality.
Stand and don’t give an inch.