The Framing Anecdote
Once upon a time I flopped down on a friend’s leather couch. It was summer in Madison, and I’d misjudged just how blisteringly, unpleasantly hot the 3-mile walk to her house would be. I get cranky when I’m too hot. So there I am, collapsed on her couch and clutching a glass of ice water like a dead-man switch for the Apocalypse, and what does she say?
“Guess what K called you earlier.” K, her boyfriend, was sitting in the room with us.
“What?” I asked.
“He called you a good housewife.”
K promptly explained the context for the comment. He hadn’t actually called me a housewife, though the words “good” “house” and “wife” had appeared in incriminating order with me as the subject.
Cranky when I’m hot, remember? “K,” I said. “Your girlfriend is trying to get you killed. You should probably do something about that.”
An Approach to the Subject
A ton of good stuff got published last year. I didn’t read all of it. Nobody did. I read a lot, though, and I liked a lot of what I read. My two favorite SFF novels from last year were, easily, Ancillary Sword and The Goblin Emperor. On the one hand we have a book that plays on my weakness for Strong AI characters, politics, and of all things, tea. On the other, we have the most adorable damn emperor ever to encounter court intrigue and not immediately die. These books are fantastic, I love them with squeefuls of kittens.
In case I have been at all unclear, I am not rational in my love for these books. I suspect it will be quite a while before the infatuation fades enough that I will be. I don’t mind. I enjoy this sort of obsession.
Both books have been nominated for a Hugo.
My first and, so far, only WorldCon attendance was at ChiCon in 2012. I went for a lot of reasons. Some of them were to spend a long weekend in Chicago. Some of them were to stalk the staff at Strange Horizons so I could demand that they start podcasting their content. Some of them were to meet other people who love the things I love, to introduce people to things I love they might not have heard of, and to find new things to love. I accomplished all these things.
But. It was too big for me. I am not naturally nice, friendly, or fond of people. I’m very good at pretending otherwise, but it gets tiring. I like small conventions because my baseline assumptions about the people surrounding me shift in a way that makes it easier to hide my rampant misanthropy. WorldCon was big enough that my baseline shifted the other way.
“Are you glad you went?” a friend asked me when I was explaining this after.
“Yeah. It was a good experience. But not one I need to do again right away. Or maybe ever. I dunno. I think maybe I won’t go back until I’m nominated for a Hugo.”
“Oh,” said my friend. “I knew you were starting to have success with the writing. Are you that good?”
“No. It’ll be a while before I get a Hugo nomination for writing.” Then, because I hadn’t thought this part through until that moment, “But I may have bullied my way onto the staff for Strange Horizons. They’re already overdue for getting a Hugo nomination.”
Strange Horizons received a Hugo nomination in 2013. That didn’t count for me because I wasn’t yet on the staff during the time covered by that nomination. That was absolutely fine. I was deep in fake-it-til-you-make-it mode with the podcast, and since the fund drive had barely hit the stretch goal for the podcast, I wasn’t even sure my conviction that they absolutely, desperately needed to have a podcast wasn’t personal delusion.
They got another one in 2014. But of course they did. They’d been overdue for nominations long before that. The podcast was incidental. I’m sure nobody actually listens to it and this is just a vanity project I’m doing because it makes my name notable without requiring me to read slush. Except.
An email here or there. People recognizing me at cons not as the person who talks too much on all the panels, but for being part of SH. Then tweets. Tweets are becoming a regular thing. I’m making people happy. I’m making SH fans happy.
This year Strange Horizons got another nomination. And this time? Yeah, I feel like a piece of that is me.
I’m going to Sasquan in August. I will be representing Strange Horizons at the Hugo ceremony.
Everybody knows you can be an asshole without breaking any rules other than “Don’t be an asshole.” You’re still an asshole. And when you piss in a pool, even if you like the smell of your own urine, other people are still going to be upset because, hey, they don’t. There are roughly 1,000 ways the good-faith puppies could have tried to accomplish their goals, and many of them would have been less annoying/upsetting/provocative than what they did. As for the bad faith puppies, well, they win just by playing.
The problem with the “pissing in the pool” analogy is that the only reasonable response is to get out of the pool and stay out until it’s been cleaned and the culprits are gone. That means that the people who want to do inflexible “No Award” against both puppy slates are absolutely correct and anybody who does anything else is willingly swimming in urine. That’s obviously madness.
My two favorite books from last year are up for the award. My favorite fiction magazine, which is now a little bit me, is up for the award. I’ve been staring, sniffing, and running pH tests for days now. There’s no urine there.
The Anecdote’s Payoff
My friend stares at grumpy, collapsed, overheated me. “That is not the reaction I expected from you,” she said.
“I know. Can’t afford to be predictable. Otherwise, it’d be too easy for you to manipulate me into killing your boyfriend for you. Besides, I’m hot and tired, and murder requires effort. I win more if I just sit here.”
I’m a cat person. I’ve never cared about dogs, even in juvenile form, and I still don’t. The good faith puppies, who really just want to draw attention to the modern heirs of Golden Age story-driven SF don’t have a beef with me. I read the whole spectrum, and I think the two authors who have first and second place for number of items on my shelves are Robert Heinlein and Terry Goodkind. Good faith actors who have no beef with me clearly haven’t attacked me, so I don’t need to respond as if I’ve been attacked. I can go about my life as I was.
As for the bad faith puppies, I said it earlier – they already won. But just because they won doesn’t mean I have to lose. I do not have to let their attempts to upset me constrain my actions. I do not have to let them ruin my party. They certainly can’t change the fact that “Yes, Fleet Captain,” is common parlance in my household, or that I ducked out of a meeting to tell my office Admin about Maia, the most adorable emperor ever in all time period.
Fandom isn’t a pool. It’s a body. Living. Breathing. Defecating.
By all means, let’s discuss our waste management. But let’s not forget to do all the good things bodies let us do, either.