I have sat here, staring at a cursor blinking on a white screen, for some time now.
I have done this because I am absolutely terrified of making this blog post.
If you’re part of the SFF community, I guess you know what it’s about. If you don’t, I guess you can read a summary here.
I don’t know an incredible amount about Jonathan Ross. I’ve seen him on episodes of certain British panel shows I sometimes like to watch. He seems funny. If people have problems with his humor, that’s also fine. I can see how they would and I don’t think their concerns should be discarded or dismissed. His presence or lack thereof at the Hugo awards does not really affect me.
The fallout surrounding this event does, though.
I have never been to a Hugo awards ceremony. I’m sure it’s nice and I’m glad that it means so much to a lot of people. But I’m also aware of what I choose to write and where I choose to stand in the population of genre, so I long ago wrote off any chance of a Hugo being a possibility in my future. I chose not to let the Hugo affect me. That’s a choice I made.
And I’m mostly happy with that choice, if not 100%. John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal are people I consider dear friends in whom I have placed a great amount of trust and care for their thoughts. The Hugo is important to them and it’s sad to think that I won’t be able to connect with them on that particular subject. But on stuff like the time John wiped Doritos cheese on my sleeve or Mary looked at me scrutinizingly and expressed wonder as to how I get away with being as obnoxious as I do, we connect.
Connections are very important to me.
And that’s why this fallout bothered me.
It started as a disagreement, of that I’m sure. But I’m not sure where it stopped being a disagreement and started being uncomfortable. I hesitate to say it was outright nasty, but there was more vitriol and anger and rage about it than I had ever seen in a typical SFF kerfuffle. There’s a lot of talk about one side being hypersensitive or one side being callous and I don’t agree with that. I think it was more that the Hugos were apparently so important that they were worth being really vicious to other people over.
And I don’t at all understand that.
I don’t get the Hugos. A lot of people have claimed they don’t want the Hugos to feel hostile and alien to them, and they shouldn’t have to feel that way. But the Hugos have always felt hostile and alien to me. It was like visiting a war memorial with a veteran: I can understand the significance, but the emotional connection isn’t there on the same level it is for someone who’s seen it.
This isn’t a call for people to enlighten me. This isn’t a declaration that no one should care about the Hugos. This isn’t a call to action at all. It’s just me making a statement. I don’t get the Hugos. That’s fine.
Or it was fine.
Vitriol, in general, does not unnerve me. I’m a child of the internet; I’ve been called names, told to kill myself, received death threats, and so forth. The only thing that really unnerves me is when I don’t understand it. And that’s why this vitriol was difficult for me to see. On some level, I just don’t understand the SFF community, the people whose company I enjoy and whose friendships mean an immense amount.
Or so I thought.
It really came to me as I was writing this. Or rather, as I was thinking about how scared I was of writing this. And rest assured, as a dude who feels on the outside of this, I feel pretty scared right now.
I’m scared that older authors who I disagree with will use a lengthy history of influence to damage my career.
I’m scared of being called problematic or privileged or phobic.
I’m scared that people will react to my fear one of the two ways they know how and have a good chuckle at this, my meltdown.
I’m scared that people will react to my fear the other way they know how and avoid it entirely and I’ll be left here, pouring emotional honesty into a black hole.
But I had to write it. Because things don’t seem real to me unless I write them down.
And in writing it down did I realize that I’m not the outside. I think I understand it. Because as I sit here and think about all the ways I could be hurt in writing this, I sit here and think about all the ways in which I could hurt someone back to keep them from doing so.
And I wonder if that’s what we’re doing.
I’ve mentioned on this blog before that my childhood had its difficulties. Not the same difficulties as other children, but I had issues where I was bullied, where I was hurt, where I was afraid. As most primates learn, my perception of social order came about as a means of understanding that I could express dominance by hurting other people first and thus preventing myself from being hurt.
I wonder if we’re just hurting each other because we’re afraid of being hurt. I wonder if we’re trying to assert dominance over each other for fear of being edged out or silenced or made irrelevant. I wonder if we’re speaking out because we’re afraid of everything and afraid of each other. A friend of mine who I was talking over this with said it was going to be awkward at cons from now on, with a lot of authors feeling weird about each other. Maybe that’s the case.
Or maybe I still just don’t get it. I’m fine with that, too.
If it is, I don’t think I want to get it. When I was that kid just coming out of being bullied, I was not very pleasant. I hurt people all the time. One of the greatest parts of becoming a writer was becoming self-assured enough that I didn’t have to hurt people. I could make connections that felt good to make. I didn’t have to sever connections out of fear or pain.
I’m not saying that SFF is doomed or inherently flawed. These are discussions that clearly need to be made. But I find that so often it’s becoming a situation of “us” and “them.” I don’t want to be an us or a them, I just want to be me.
I want to write what I enjoy. I want to make friends, regardless of age or genre. If I hurt them or make them angry, I want to make it right without having to write them off. I want to make connections and I want to keep them. And I want to write this blog post.
Because this has been gnawing at me for a while now. And it wasn’t real until I wrote it down.
So, maybe there are aspects of SFF that are always going to be alien to me. That’s fine. Maybe this is just me trying to pre-empt my own fear by running away from it. That’s fine, too. I appreciate the Hugos’ value for what it does to friends, but I don’t think I can bring myself to get this invested in it.