Yeah, it’s a tongue-in-cheek title.
It seems like every year at this time I have a love-hate relationship with the internet. The Hugo Awards are open for nomination, and the internet divides into factions: Those who love the Hugos, and those who hate them. Both factions talk ad naseum about the award and why it is amazing/a horrible farce. Then the lengthy essays turn into diatribes about fandom and how fandom is important and I always get incredibly aggravated and sort of stay away from Twitter and blogs as much as possible until it is over.
Because I feel like, no matter what side of the line you are on, the discussion will always evolve into analyzing the right and wrong ways to be an author/genre contributor/fan. Every year I see the discussion degenerate from a worthwhile conversation about all of our places in the genre we love so much, to a discussion about who is right, and why everyone else is wrong, and who is the best fan out there and why. Everyone has something to prove.
I don’t have anything to prove.
We are all part of this genre because we love it. Reading books isn’t a hobby for those of us who dedicate so much of our time to running websites, writing books, podcasting, etc. It’s a way of life. It’s an outlet and a form of personal expression. We read and write because living one life isn’t enough for us. This genre stretches us and challenges us in ways that the world around us doesn’t. We read to learn. We read to discover. We read to forget. We read because we love it. We write because we are all full of stories waiting to break free.
There is no right or wrong way to be a fan, and there is no right or wrong way to give an award to someone. The world is changing. In my short time in speculative fiction (almost four years now), the genre has exploded. I see more and more SpecFic movies and television shows becoming popular. More people are picking up SpecFic books. The genre is getting younger, and broader in age, race, gender and whatever else. You can’t pinpoint us. You can’t box, label and categorize us. We are corporate executives and junior high school kids. No award will fit everyone perfectly, and trying to define the perfect fan, or award across a sprawl like that is impossible.
But there is room on this fun bus for all of us. The more people we welcome, the more we engage the sprawling range of our genre community, the more these awards and events will represent all of us.
Perhaps what annoys me the most about this Hugo award debacle each year is how personal it can get. I maintain that those of us in this genre have more in common than we realize. We all love this genre, and we all spend far too much time engaging in it (there’s never enough time). We are here because we love it, plain and simple. Speculative Fiction speaks to us on a level that other things really don’t, and no matter whether you are a YA reader, or a graphic novel reader, that’s something kind of amazing that pulls us all together. We love the same thing though we celebrate it differently. We love SpecFic, and that’s why we spend so much time stirring the pot, reading books, talking about books, discussing awards, writing books, drawing pictures, or whatever else we do. We love it, so we want to help it grow.
There is no right or wrong way to be a fan, no matter what stripe of fan you are – the author, podcaster, blogger, or publishing house guru. None of us are right, and none of us are wrong. We are all just loving the same thing in different ways. It’s impossible to categorize that. Perhaps there is room for some of these awards to improve and become more inclusive. That will happen through a broader audience involvement and the sheer pressure of time and evolution.
Discussion fosters progress, and I think these discussions that are happening are important. The genre is changing; it is impossible to deny that. Some people will embrace change, and some will reject it. That’s human nature. However, once we start focusing on what divides us rather than unites us, we start losing our way as a genre. We are all fans – indefinable, unique, cosmically different lovers of speculative fiction. In a genre that seems to, in many ways, celebrate being inclusive, evolving, and progressing, I find it sad that every award season the exact opposite seems to happen.
I doubt Bookworm Blues will ever win any sort of award, and I don’t really care. That’s not why I’m doing it. I run this website because I love reading and I want to share that passion with others. Period. That’s probably why I find it so important to focus on similarities – our passion for the genre and the written word – rather than differences, regardless of whether that’s a hit to my stat counter. I think it is important to celebrate accomplishments, no matter what form they come in.
What does this diatribe boil down to?
There is no wrong way to be a fan. There is no wrong way to participate in the genre we all love so much. There is no wrong way to love something. There is no wrong way to be nominated, or win an award.
Please keep that in mind during this Hugo season.