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.
Of course there are two “Hugo seasons”. There’s the nominating season where we all complain about what to nominate, how lousy the field is, etc. Then there’s the actual award season, where we complain about who did or did not win.
The funny thing is this was never restricted to the interwebs. People did the same complaining, discussing, moaning in Ye Olden Times. It just took longer and as a result, I think, was less “heated”. Or, if heated, the heat was contained and moved slow enough not to inflame the entire community.
We can’t make the internet move slower (well, until network non-neutrality kicks in…) but we can think before we tweet or post.
Al Reynolds, in a blog post today, makes an allied point, Fred
I think you have a better chance at an award than I, but neither of us review books and the like for the chance of a reward, now do we? We’re fans because that’s reward in itself.
My frustration is not when there are arguments about what text to select. My irritation is when people rant about why the award must be flawed. I agree with your post and have avoided these arguments.
Until this year I’ve pretty much ignored awards and whatnot with the exception of the times when I pick up a random book and notice that it was nominated for or won an award. And I admit, even this year I’m not going to follow things too closely. But even I’ve noticed that there are large factions of people on all sides of the debate, talking about how everyone else is wrong in whatever they choose to do or how they choose to like things. Whether it’s reviewing, writing, liking what other people write or review, there are always very vocal people a little too willing to stand on soapboxes.
But you’re right. Or at least, I agree with you when you talk about the reasons you like genre stuff and why you do what you do. There may be some wrong ways to be a fan (stalking people, for example, or threatening others who don’t follow your own personal likes or dislikes), but those are few and far between, and there are dozens of right ways to be a fan.
Also, it wouldn’t surprise me for Bookworm Blues to win some sort of award someday. You’re remarkably influential and inspirational, you write well and you’re insightful. But an award would be the icin on the cake, really, and who eats a cake just for the icing? :p
It is sad how these conversations with a negative slant crop up during different times of the year in the genre community.
I am a generally optimistic person and though I understand there are flaws in the awards process, I love the seasons where people are talking about what to nominate/vote for and the books they feel deserve to be recognized. I enjoy it enough that I am participating in the Hugo process for the first time this year and am excited about doing so.
I’m sure there are those who won’t agree with my choices, but that is fine. I’d prefer to be a part of the process rather than stand on the sidelines and complain as some of the people you describe in your post do.
I too think the genre is strong and do not buy into the doom and gloom predictions of science fiction’s death, etc. Those arguments seem incredibly silly when I end up buying more new books each month than I could ever realistically read.
Agreed. There’s no “right way” to be a fan. This is one of the things that irritated me about one of the fanzine nominees last year; in one of their columns, the author seemed to suggest that there’s something not-quite-fannish about academic engagements with fandom (by that I mean people who analyze, criticize, examine works, etc., perhaps in academic settings or just on blogs, a la Adam Roberts). It was like a slap in the face, since I *am* an academic and consider myself a pretty hardcore fan of SF/F.
Point is: you’re right. Anyone who says there’s a “right way” is usually kidding themselves or flat out wrong (with exception to those handful of times when they might be right).
I don’t really have anything to add past yey, agreed. *hugs*
[…] Sarah, over at the Bookworm Blues review blog wrote a piece the other day entitled Hey Fans, You’re Doing It Wrong. […]