If you’ve got any stake in speculative fiction writing and publishing, you’re most likely aware of the frequent conflicts in that community. What once might have occupied a few heated pages on LiveJournal, or the leisurely back and forth at conventions and via mimeographed zines has changed forever. What we have now are live rolling arguments on venues such as Twitter and Facebook – and that’s just how it is now.
Blogs now seem to serve as some sort of halfway zone between an author/pundit platform, and a repository for lengthier arguments and essays on these topics.
The most recent development in fandom is that our internal conflicts are now external, and in recent times have even hit the pages of USA Today, the Guardian, The Huffington Post and the Washington Post(and probably others). There is a lot of bad blood, entrenched positions, and an almost even division on the old left/right fault lines. Quiet online rumblings are now open hostilities.
This makes me cautiously optimistic. I’m serious. No matter what your differences, conflict is always better than apathy. An old model of group performance goes like this
So the Storming (and perhaps the beginning of the Norming) that we are currently seeing is part of an observed trend in group behaviour. (By group, I mean in the broader sense that Fandom=people who have a shared interest)
I’m not sure if step 4 periodically goes back to steps 2 and 3 when Performance isn’t working, but history seems to indicate that it does. So it goes to suit that once this stuff gets sorted, a group Performs.
Whether this means a political fracture is inevitable (as the Norming) and then the Performing means two or more loose socio-political organisations/groupings will emerge is anyone’s guess. But there is change in the wind, thanks largely to the internet and social media. For those with a stake in speculative fiction writing and publishing, we definitely live in interesting times.
Maybe the Norming means that online salvos and attacks will become a normal part of the speculative fiction experience. Which is sad, but if that’s how things are meant to go, maybe some rules of engagement will emerge, unspoken or otherwise.
I’d like to think that maybe things will end up the way the Aussies do things. We’ve got a fairly small and spread out fandom, but we’re as connected as anyone else. Also, as vibrant and talented as anyone else – several Aussies have made it to the 2014 Hugo shortlist, taking up roughly half of the podcast shortlist. So we’ve got some knowledgeable commentators here, and they’re getting some well-deserved global recognition.
And you’d better believe that there are online spats here. All the time, over all the usual things that these communities argue about. But most of the time, folks of differing viewpoints/philosophies get along, and rub elbows at cons etc.
We’re a weird little pond, and it’s quite notable that unlike elsewhere, our award shortlists are more often than not female-friendly in recent years. Basically everyone gets a go, and I’d like to think that we’re a petri-dish of how things could be everywhere.
(note: of course we’re not perfect gender-wise and other-wise, but things are humming along nicely Down Under)
So it was interesting to observe a mini flare-up in Australian SF circles yesterday, between two people disagreeing over a “state of genre fiction” article. It followed the usual pattern of these online conflicts – innocuous article is posted, the little blue birds of Twitter begin to fly, and Facebook posts sprout underfoot with the beginnings of bad feelings.
But then these people took ownership of their disagreement, and a couple of well-stated apologies later and the whole thing was over. It was beautiful to see, and the cause of ire was addressed. Said apologies were both along the lines of “Wow, Twitter really escalated that. Our bad.”
In a diasporic community with all sorts of bad blood and current nastiness, this is the sort of Norming that I can live with. At the risk of sounding like “Can’t We All Just Get Along?” this may only be one example of online fandom etiquette as it could be. But it was great to see. Hopefully the future will bring constructive conflicts, and all of this energy and passion can be harnessed towards positive ends.
Again, we live in interesting times.
Okay, with all respect to those who have participated, I’m (regretfully) going to have to shut down new comments in this thread. I don’t want people to feel unsafe here, and I think things are starting to go circular anyway. Sorry, I’m not usually for censoring people but I have to stop this now. Hope folks understand!