Some of you might remember a post I made a few months back, during the lead-in to the whole Hugo Awards Fiasco, that asked the question “Am I a fan of Science-Fiction and Fantasy?”
Well, to my surprise this morning, I have an answer.
According to George R.R. Martin, I am not. You probably aren’t either. Instead, you are a “casual.”
At least on the one hand, we can all nod and applaud for consistency. Martin’s comments about people not being “true” Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans was what prompted my first post on the topic, but now, in a comment saved by Dawn Witzke over on her blog, we have a very direct statement addressing Mr. Martin’s exact thoughts on the nature of things:
You’re making the same mistake that many of the Puppies did — assuming that more voters would make the award more relevant.
If it were only the number of voters that mattered, the People’s Choice Award would be more important than the Oscars. It’s not. The Academy voters are fewer in number, but they bring more expertise to the decision. Same’s true of worldcon fans. These are people who live and breath SF and fantasy, for whom “fandom is a way of life,” not casual readers.
Well, this is a fine switch from a few months ago. And, I might add, a stance that completely disagrees with the purpose of the Hugo Awards, as well as the voting body, that has been up on the Hugo Website for the last few years. And as Witzke pointed out, a stance that also is at complete odds with what the Insulars were declaring at the beginning of this whole thing. Then they claimed that the award was open to anyone and everyone, that all were welcome to come. Now it’s for the true fans, not the casuals.
This? This is class-based elitism. Plain and simple.
The truth is that the Hugo Award, as I have pointed out many times, says right on it’s own pages that it represents all fans of Science-Fiction and Fantasy, not just a select few who can go to the right conventions. In fact, it also says, right on that same page, that to vote “It is not necessary to actually attend the convention.”
This shouldn’t be shocking to anyone, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was. Sci-Fi and Fantasy crossed some lines with this last Hugo Award, some quite alarming ones. Slate voting was used to lock the awards so that authors with the wrong “political opinions” or that were even supported by others with the “wrong political opinions” were locked out of awards. “Ass-terisks” (their name, not mine) were given out in their place to mock those authors instead.
When I wrote I’m Not a Fan of Science-Fiction and Fantasy? one of the discussions that arose in the comments was a comparison of Martin’s attitude to activities and postings of the (slighty tongue-in-cheek) “PC Master Race” supporters online. For those not in the know, among gamers it is a sometimes joking, sometimes slightly serious (depending on who you talk to) collective of PC users who like to swarm internet gaming forums in support of the PC. “This game can only be experienced on PC,” “Don’t be a filthy casual console user …” Etc. Martin was compared to a more real (and certainly more serious) literary version of that. The “Literary Master Race,” to follow the naming convention. At the time, it argued against, and commemorators showed up to say that the comparison wasn’t legitimate, because certainly Martin wasn’t arguing that only a certain type of voter was welcome, this mythical ‘true fan’ that was a pipe dream.
Well, now it looks like we have Martin’s answer. He was. Literary Master Race. True fans. “Real” fans. Whatever you want to call them. Extreme con-goers. These are the people that should be “allowed” to vote for what the best Sci-Fi/Fantasy is. Not “casuals.”
There are a number of troubling implications from this mindset. I’m not even going to bother listing them out. I’ve voiced curiosity and concern about them before. But what really gets me—and incenses me a little—is the demeaning attitude.
I grew up on an island in Alaska. Middle of nowhere. Travel was expensive. Packages shipped that would take days to get elsewhere took months to get to our small town by barge. We didn’t have money to spend amassing a huge book collection. The library was what we had.
I grew up reading Science-Fiction and Fantasy novels. Everything from Zahn to Pierce, from Tolkien to Heinlein, to Brooks and Clarke. My friends and I would discuss what we were reading, swap interesting books, and recommend new reads.
We couldn’t afford to go to cons. The nearest ones were an insurmountable distance and cost away anyway.
So, by virtue of that (dare I call it … upbringing?) we are not real Science-Fiction and Fantasy fans in George R.R. Martin’s eyes. We are casuals, too feeble to be able to vote for the best of something. We just don’t understand something … dare I ask “What?” That those who attend the con regularly need to stick together and be rewarded? Is there some difference between one of “us” reading a book and someone who is a “way of life” fandom member? Are our minds too unenlightened by virtue of our upbringing or social standing, so that it’s the “true fans” calling to guide us?
Bull. This is unequivocally one of the largest piles of animal excrement I’ve ever encountered. So large, Mr. Martin, that I suspect that when you made this initial post above, you possibly had to seize both sides of your chair to pass it. You have postulated a brick of pure dung so pungent that I suspect you’ve lost your own sense of smell, because you’re passing this onto your followers and calling it cake.
Well, I can assure you, and all the other Insular “let’s keep everyone out of our pool so we can pee in it” mentality Hugo Award voters of one thing. I’ll be voting this year. That’s right. The “casual.” And I won’t be voting off of what political punchlines an author has dropped on his blog, what “social cause” hashtags they’ve posted on twitter, or even what “con group” they’re a part of. I’ll be voting off of one thing: The writing.
Your only option to stop me? Go public. Change the Hugo rules so that “casuals” like myself cannot participate, so that the Hugo once and for all officially closes its doors to the reading public and degenerates itself into a small, close-walled experience.
Because unless that happens, I, a lifelong reader of Sci-Fi and Fantasy and a “casual” will be voting.