Are the Science Fiction “Culture Wars” Still Alive and Well?

dragon

Image found at DragonCon.org

I’ve tried to steer this blog away from the more controversial and/or political topics I’ve covered in the past, but then I read Richard Paloinelli’s missive Wikipedia or WikiPravda?. Richard and I share some similar viewpoints, but I lack many of the wounds and scars he’s received in the past, such as those attributed to Mike Glyer at the File 770 science fiction fanzine. I think I was contended with there exactly once. It actually impressed me, since relative to Glyer’s readership, I’m pretty much a nobody.

In the recent past, I’ve heard that Wikipedia, Patreon, and YouTube have been accused of attempting to shut out politically and socially conservative creative voices through censorship and defunding. Since I’m merely a consumer of Wikipedia and YouTube and wouldn’t know what to do with Patreon, I’ve had no personal experience, but on the other hand, I have no trouble believing they are all biased left, either.

Richard, however, seems to have tons of unpleasant experiences in those arenas and I have no reason to doubt his word. Apparently, some of the issue with Wikipedia has to do with an attempt to remove pages for certain politically conservative science fiction authors. These are people who are award winning writers, and yet, according to Richard and other sources, they were “nominated” for deletion.

The effort wasn’t successful, for now, which is reassuring, however Richard mentioned that a certain “librarian” has actively prevented three separate efforts to create a Wikipedia page for him. Last year, when I was debating with some folks in the blogosphere and on twitter about perceived biases in the Hugo awards, a librarian (maybe the same one) challenged me, saying I wasn’t a “real” science fiction fan. I took the time to investigate, and as it turns out “real” SF fans must have an extraordinary amount of discretionary time and nearly unlimited funds in order to buy and read all of the most recent SF/F novels, short stories, and what have you.

That actually inspired me to read more recent and popular works, including N.K. Jemisin’s award winning novel “The Fifth Season” (2015) which I subsequently reviewed. I even tagged her on twitter since I thought she’d be interested, but I guess I wasn’t complementary enough because she promptly blocked me.

Oh well.

Richard is mentioned on the Dragon Awards Wikipedia page, which is good, and he has His own page at Everipedia, which haven’t heard of before today.

It seems to be a Wikipedia alternative without the alleged bias. Sort of like how MeWe (yes, I created my own page, but I guess you have to be logged in to see it) is a more privacy oriented alternative to Facebook. I can’t see quitting Facebook any time soon, since a lot of publishing resources have their pages there but not on MeWe.

Back to the Dragon Awards. It’s a shame they don’t have a category for short stories. If they did, I might prevail upon some folks to nominate a few of mine. Hey, you never know.

Anyway, somehow, these awards have become controversial, at least according to the 2017 article Two science-fiction authors say they’re being used as proxies in a fandom culture war published at The Verge (yes, they lean left).

Actually if the information is correct and the Dragon Awards people nominated authors and their books without notifying said-authors, then refused to remove these writers from consideration upon request (they finally did), I could see the problem. However, that’s not all that The Verge article found amiss:

This year’s nominees have been widely split between enormously popular authors such as N.K. Jemisin, James S.A. Corey, Scalzi, and some lesser-known authors propelled onto the ballot by blocs of voters looking to score victories for their “side” in the culture wars.

Unlike the Hugos and Nebulas, the other major speculative fiction awards, the Dragon Awards are open to popular vote. Anyone on the internet can provide a nomination and then vote for finalists. That’s led to concerns that the results will be gamed by the political factions within science-fiction and fantasy fandom, because it’s happened before. Scalzi has been pointedly outspoken about progressive issues in science-fiction fandom and writing, and has been frequently been attacked and trolled by conservative and alt-right members of the community over his views. One particular faction of these fans calls itself the Rabid Puppies, and has worked to game another award, the Hugo Award, by stacking the nominees with their own set of works.

jemisin

Screenshot of N.K. Jemisin from YouTube – Found at Vox.com

Okay, the allegation is that popular authors, including people of color, were nominated for Dragons specifically to appear more progressive and inclusive than they actually are. The other “problem” is that ANYBODY can nominate and vote in these awards, unlike the Hugos and numerous others which require paying a fee and being a member of an organization.

I guess that system could be “gamed” by special interests groups, biasing the award as far right as the Hugos seem to be biased far left. On the other hand, from what I understand about the Hugos, they are biased left by design. Assuming that’s factual and that the awards administrators find no problem with said-bias, then what is really wrong with an award that leans in a different direction. Isn’t that inclusive, too (I know the answer to that one, but figured I’d toss it out there anyway)?

Both Jim C. Hines (I’ve got to get around to reading something he’s authored one of these days) and the previously mentioned N.K. Jemisin penned their own responses to the issue around the 2017 Dragons, and Jemisin was particularly polite and even handed in her article. Hines was a little more to the point, but in periodically (very periodically) reading his blog, his social and political viewpoints are pretty much front and center.

In the comments on Hines’ blog, I did find a link to John Scalzi’s commentary. Like Jemisin and Alison Littlewood (who I’m unfamiliar with, but then again, I’m not a huge horror fan), he also requested that his name be taken off of the Dragon Awards ballot, but later changed his mind.

Scalzi, like The Verge, mentioned something about “culture wars,” but as I understand the latter’s viewpoint, it’s okay to have such a war as long as their side wins. No room for other opinions or science fiction/fantasy writers who are politically right of center.

Assuming that the Dragons have gotten their act together as far as informing nominees and being good about anyone not wanting to be nominated, I’m glad there are awards that consider a wider range of creative people and their works. I’ll need to visit their website and see if I can get the other side of the story. The Verge, as well as Scalzi, Hines, and Jemisin, are only going to present one side, and I thrive on balance.

In other news, as I previously mentioned, so far this year, nine of my short stories have been accepted for publication. I checked my “submitted” folder and discovered that as of today, 18 of my stories are under consideration. Some, I think, have probably dropped down the rabbit hole since I submitted them six or seven months ago, and even after pinging the editors, still haven’t gotten a definitive word.

scalzi

Author John Scalzi pictured at the 2018 Phoenix Comic Fest – found on his Wikipedia page

I got up my nerve and even sent one in to Uncanny Magazine. This is where the cool kids are published. They pay a professional rate of $.08 a word and are a Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Qualifying Professional Market. That means any story they publish can, in theory, be nominated for a Hugo or other, similar award.

Let’s face it, I don’t have a prayer. I submitted another story to them months ago and it was promptly rejected. In fact, it was rejected by numerous publishers. The story I just sent them has been rejected twice before, but it was handy and barely fit the maximum word count limit of 6,000 (I wanted to send them a different tale, but that one’s over 10,000 words long).

Well, I’ve burned up a significant amount of my day writing, submitting stories and then reading and writing commentaries. Let’s see what I can do to waste the rest of my Friday.

Cheers.

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