*Hugo Season is here again, and the cry of the butthurt is heard in the land. I don’t have time to deal with it, so nip on over to the inestimable Nicki Kenyon’s blog for … well, blunt opinions, language, and some criticism of a sometime beloved science fiction author and a never loved science fiction poseur and some totally unwarranted insults to a fermented body secretion. Given what’s going on, it’s time to rerun the post below.*
A Game Of Mirrors – A Blast From The Past From February 2015
I remember a more innocent time when we watched Law and Order AND didn’t snert behind our hands at “Ripped from the headlines.”
Now we don’t watch it, but my eyes on twitter has been branching out, and he told me their gamer gate episode was about how all these guys were upset at there being a female game developer, so they kidnapped her and raped and stuff.
How can they even? I mean, the worst PROVEN thing that happened to one of the SJW shills in gamergate was that someone wished she would kill herself, which she helpfully translated as “death threats.”
And Dan works in software and has for 30 years (though now the software has a math component at last) and the only time he hasn’t had a colleague who is in the same profession in his office and is female is for the last three years, and that’s because there’s only two developers. (They do have a female co-worker, but she does non-software stuff.)
Now, I know software isn’t the same as game design and gaming, but I’d be willing to bet there’s a massive overlap/similarity of conditions.
Female developers isn’t even a surprise. There might be fewer than men (not where my husband has worked, but hey) but not many fewer and they run the gamut. From what I understand, there are fewer in game development but if they are true geeks, they’re not only accepted but lionized. (I’ve experienced a similar effect as a space/science fiction true geek, (meaning I spaz on the concepts/science, not the feels) a community in which females are pretty scarce. Let me tell you, once a guy realizes I really am interested in space travel, it doesn’t matter how ignorant I am (and I am.) All their lives women have looked at them quizzically over this obsession. Finding out a woman shares it brings forth their very best.)
Besides, though I admittedly am not a gamer, I have skimmed enough articles to know that the problem here is not that WOMEN are writing anything, it is that there was suspicion of corruption in game journalism which happened to involve women. And also, as the catfight extended, that some gamers disliked a certain type of games they felt were getting unfair good reviews. Is that true? Don’t know. However, judging from the arguments the other side put out “games shouldn’t be fun” and “escapism is bad for you” I’d say whether journalists were corrupted by coochy or not, they’ve been corrupted by the same sort of “fake promise of prestige” that has seduced science fiction reviewers. In other words, they’ve become convinced of the rather juvenile idea that the purpose of entertainment (which is ultimately what science fiction and games are) shouldn’t be fun, but should be a lever for “changing society.”
And then I started thinking of other “moral panics” driven by the media (and they never tell you they were driven by the media, no matter what basis there was or wasn’t for things.)
Take the militia panic of the nineties. Every TV show, every conspiracy, the answer was “militias.”
There never was any real basis for it. Sure, there were crazy people. Fundamentalist cults. White supremacists hiding out in the country.
There always are. This is a very large country. There were even militias. We know. We were friends with a guy who was in one. He owned a large amount of guns and so did his friends. On the weekend they engaged in healthy exercise and shooting up targets.
Were they a menace to the government? Not any legitimate government. Not even Clinton. They were however concerned with the direction of the government expansion and they were survivalists preparing in the eventuality the S would hit the fan.
So, how to spin an entire moral panic out of this?
Well, you see, the media was guilty. To wit they were guilty of covering up for Clinton when his attorney general caused the death of the Korresh cult and when his ATF killed a family of white supremacists. [It has been pointed out to me Ruby Ridge happened under George H. W. Bush. I checked and this is true. [And not a surprise. H.W. or his son for that matter, were not exactly anti-statists] It is interesting in my mind I remember it as happening later, under Clinton. Now, I got my news at the time from TV and the papers. It tells you something that when I heard a lot about it was under Clinton, to justify crackdowns on “militias.” The murders might have happened earlier, but the full court press was under Clinton.]
I’m not saying, understand, either of those sets of people were good people, but they were the victims here, not the perpetrators.
In this country there are always crazy people doing crazy things. There are very few crazy things anyone deserves to die for.
But under Clinton this stuff happened, and the only way to deflect it was for the press to go on an almighty panic about “militias.” Until people forgot what the question is.
Or take the “satanic child abuse” panic of the eighties. If you hear the media talk about it now, this was the result of some fundamentalist parents going crazy and stuff. (Rolls eyes.)
In fact I was there and lived through it. I remember the TV programs filled with speculation, when they weren’t trotting out psychologist-abused children to babble lurid details. I remember newspaper articles going on and on about ZOMG satanic cults, their history, etc. For pages and pages, and pages.
I don’t remember any PROGRAMS on it, but then back in the eighties I was new in the country and the shows Dan and I watched were mostly vintage star trek and old sitcoms. There probably were some, though. These things always seem to be a coordinated effort between news and entertainment, one winding the other up.
Anyway, just from the headlines/tv programs, one would be excused in thinking that every daycare was a danger. So everyday parents who had to work and put kids in daycare worried. As they should have, given the barrage of “truthful” and “respectable” sources claiming this.
The truth behind it was a little more complex, and has been swept very deep indeed. I don’t know how many of you even remember this, because possibly you might have needed to be in the circles I was at the time (mostly my brother’s circles, which were hippie/ex-hippie/avant guarde. I mean, in my teens we watched an Ingmar Bergman film cycle in the smallest theater in town. You know what I mean.)
There was a very hip, very transgressive, very intellectual and credited in intellectual circles, idea that children were (and should be) inherently sexual with adults, and that to withhold sex from them retarded their development and trampled their rights. (Now my brother’s circle – at least to my knowledge – never engaged in the active side of this, not being thus inclined. One of the fondest memories of my childhood was going to the beach at eight with a group of ten or so long haired (male) hippie freaks, and – since we couldn’t afford a changing booth and they just wore their swim trunks under their clothes – having them form a circle facing outwards, so I could use the center of the circle to change in.)
I heard an echo of that in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s testimony. It was clear she’d heard this theory and internalized it, which caused her to buy the excuses of her pedophile husband. Science fiction writers – and readers – being Odd are capable of convincing themselves of the strangest things. As in “you have to be very smart/an intellectual to believe that utter bullsh*t.”
And I can’t tell you this for sure, because a) I was very young. b) there was no alternative media and this stuff has been pretty thoroughly memory-holed, though you can sometimes find echoes of it, particularly in European stuff, but I suspect our media and intellectual establishment fell for that theory head over heels.
Then when they realized the absolutely horrendous results and that child abuse leaves the victims scarred for life, (if not in therapy.) they swung around and created a whole moral panic over those other people abusing children. In this case the “other people” being some sort of mystical believers, though at the time they weren’t bold enough to accuse Christians. But after all, Satanism if a co-dependent belief with Christianity, so that was fine.
And then when that panic was revealed to be crazy, they accused everyone but themselves of it.
Now the panic is that in these geeky/low prestige fields people the journalists don’t fully understand are afraid of “the other” be they women, people of other races or sexual minorities.
This one is so weird that it leaves me trying to grasp it. As I said, all the geeky fields I know are not just welcoming but ridiculously welcoming of women who are genuinely interested in their passion. It’s the only thing that explains why at my age and avoir du pois I count as “hot” in my circles. But not only is it what the other side believes and resets to, but it is clearly and obviously the “narrative” that will be pushed.
They want to believe the issue people have with the way science fiction has gone, the way games are reviewed, etc are because some imaginary troglodytes, in a cave, probably in Alabama, object to the fact the people creating sf/f and games have innies instead of outies.
The thing doesn’t pass the smell test.
So, what is the truth of it?
The press and the intellectual establishment (which includes the publishing establishment) have been pushing science fiction into an unsaleable/unpopular direction for years. They had, for a while, control of what ended up on shelves, and people didn’t see anything else. They still have control of news.
And the direction they’ve been pushing in is “it shouldn’t be entertaining. It should effect social change.” (But why must it always change TOWARDS Marxism? Marx is after all a dead white male. Eleventy ;))
That is the prestige position in journalism and academia, and so that’s what’s got pushed.
However it’s been disastrous for print runs. So, as the field lies gasping and they’re all out of excuses (indie has proven that people DO still read and no, the American public isn’t illiterate) they have to justify their stunning lack of success. “It’s because we have women and minorities! The evil troglodytes hate women and minorities.”
The fact that women writers are now a majority in the field (and have been my entire professional life) and that if you add in that most editors are women there’s mighty little difference between SF cons and RWA doesn’t even give them any pause.
They’ve got to convince the public that the problem is hatred of women and minorities, because then the explanation for the collapse of the field is someone else’s fault, and they’re the enlightened heroes.
And the same, of course, goes for the gaming field. “Don’t look at the crap we’ve been praising and pushing you to buy. Don’t look at how difficult it is to find something you actually want to read/play. Buy the stuff we tell you, because otherwise you hate women and minorities, you evil h8ter.”
In fact, it is the games books vehicles of social change they’ve been pushing that are excluding of “others” if the “others” are male, or working class, or religious (of a religion not Muslim) or most things that are not white females in an academic environment.
But they hope to make enough noise and use it as the plot of enough TV shows (ripped from the headlines! Eleventy) and movies and articles to convince us they were right all along, the collapse of the field is not their fault, and we should believe them, not our lying eyes.
But we have an internet. And pointing fingers. And laughter.
I don’t think it will work.