“It’s okay, because someday they’ll all be dead.”
August 29, 2014 12:20 PM   Subscribe

“Worldcon is like a family reunion,” said longtime convention-goer and fanzine writer Curt Phillips, at a panel about the history of Worldcon. After a few days, I could only agree. It was indeed like being at a family reunion, in that it felt like you were spending your time with elderly relatives. You might want to talk to them and listen to their stories, but you’ll have to tolerate some offensive and outdated opinions along the way.
For the Daily Dot, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw examines how the growing generation gap is changing the face of fandom, comparing the recent London Worldcon with the Nine Worlds convention run the weekend before.
posted by MartinWisse (59 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
That was really interesting, Martin, thanks for posting.
posted by clockzero at 12:36 PM on August 29, 2014


Yeah I realised I was heading into old timer territory when it came to SciFi when I stumbled onto Homestuck and had (and still have) no idea what the hell is going on.
posted by PenDevil at 12:39 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


A red clip meant “leave me alone.” A green clip, and you’d soon be making friends.

This is so brilliant. I wish I could wear such kind of clips for everyday interactions.

The whole "old fans versus new" thing really gets me down, because I would love to go to a boring convention that is all about books and academic panels and doesn't involve television, superhero movies or people dressed up as anime characters* - basically I'd like it to be the MLA convention but about science fiction and without hiring - but frankly it seems like all the people who want to have that kind of convention are total dicks. The people I actually like are all sitting around on tumblr making what an older generation would call very inappropriate X-men gifsets and talking about their love for television shows that I find incredibly fascist and depressing.

*Because I am no fun.
posted by Frowner at 12:54 PM on August 29, 2014 [31 favorites]


Old-time fandom: being a fan of something.

New-style fandom: being a fan of being a fan of something.
posted by Legomancer at 12:57 PM on August 29, 2014 [19 favorites]


Frowner, I believe the convention you're looking for is ICFA. And the people who go are awesome, for the most part.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:01 PM on August 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think this misses the point. I don't think that old-phart Worldcon fans are hardcore lit fans. I think that what they really are is Worldcon fans.

This is why it's so hard to change the Worldcon. It's run by Worldcon fans, it's voted on by Worldcon fans, and Worldcon fans will make sure to let you know that you're not a Worldcon fan if there's any risk that you might change the precious Worldcon.

My answer? Don't go. Really. Not worth it. They'll die eventually, because that's what they all do. If you get enough votes, you can run the Worldcon the way you want it, but expect a ton of hostility.

You don't need to worry about marginalizing the Worldcon -- it'll do that all by itself. If you really want to run it, just get 1500 other people to join and vote for your bid and you'll win. The Worldcon is not that big, even with London hitting 10K, that's the only time that it's ever done so.

But really, if you have 1500 people willing to help with a con and pay for a membership? Go run your own con, and do things the way you think they should be done, and if Old Phart Worldcon fan comes to complain, you can tell them to stuff it, the Worldcon is that way.
posted by eriko at 1:06 PM on August 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


To be honest, while I don't deny the author their experiences and I've seen some of what they where talking about myself, I do think the comparison between Nine Worlds fandom and Worldcon fandom is unhelpful here and overdrawn.

For one, the comparision is constantly between the difference between Nine Worlds' official actions and the behaviour of one group of fans at Worldcon, ignoring that Worldcon actually did a lot similar to Nine Worlds, had its own heavily foregrounded code of conduct, also had special badges for first timers at the con or those who'd rather not be photographed, did their best to provide access and diversity, etc.

It also ignores that a large part of Worldcon fandom, young and old, was actually pretty welcoming to all corners of fandom, that there was plenty of cosplay and what you'd call media fandom on display and only a few curmudgonly reactionaries dismissing it.

The real criticism you could make of Worldcon is that it's very much orientated towards being a five day con with the expectation that you'll be there for the duration. A lot more happens at night after the official programme is over. This of course means that it's focused on those who can afford to take a week off to be at a con, less so to the walk-in fan.

And again, because it moves cities and countries each time, if you want to be a regular Worldcon visitor, especially if you're not living in North America, that means a lot of extra costs a proper regional con doesn't have.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:10 PM on August 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


Frowner: Check out Potlatch, Readercon, and WisCon.
posted by doubtfulpalace at 1:14 PM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


And a counterpoint, by an older fan of my acquaintance:

"While I concede that there are people who have been on the sff scene for a long time who could go up against the Bourbon Dynasty in a Learned Nothing and Forgotten Nothing Face-Off -

- am less than in any kind of sympathy with the Younger Person Who No It All and doesn't think that there is anything for them to learn.


My one WorldCon (many years ago, when I was just 20) left me feeling a bit lonely and befuddled -- I was the sort of person who'd always enjoyed the company of people older than myself, but I kept scraping between the edges of "Oh, this person is interesting, and they know a lot of neat stuff!" and "UM Does this person have opinions on anything besides Young People Doing It Wrong?" -- and all the people who were complaining about young people not being interested in SF fandom were, simultaneously, not being particularly welcoming to a young person who was interested in SF fandom.

(But I think at any convention there's a lot of "Oh, let me run off and see this person I haven't seen all year!" and so it can feel very cliqueish and even more so if you are perceived as an outsider because of age or gender or race or something else.)
posted by Jeanne at 1:16 PM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


MartinWisse: I broadly agree with you, although I think that most Nine Worlds attendees are there for at least a couple of days, if only because of the utter horror that is travelling to the Heathrow venue. Accordingly, smart con-goers will minimise travel time and maximise con time by staying overnight (which is what I'll probably do next year).

I went to Worldcon for the first time this year, and I also went to Nine Worlds last year. I had a very enjoyable time at both, and while they were different, I didn't pick up on the olds vs. new vibe at either con. Having said that, I'm told that due to the overlap in audiences this year this was one of the youngest Worldcons in a long time, which is kind of surprising given that it didn't feel particularly young to me.
posted by adrianhon at 1:34 PM on August 29, 2014


Very interesting (though I agree with MartinWisse that it's probably a bit overblown). My only WorldCon was in 1968, when I was just starting college, and I don't remember any sense of generational tension—we youngsters were in awe of the older fans and writers and aspired to be just like them. Of course, that's because we all swam in the same waters of unexamined sexism, &c. The world has changed, thank goodness; it's just sad that these old farts (sf people, for heaven's sake!) haven't been able to change with it.
posted by languagehat at 1:35 PM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm hoping to go in 2016, where it will be in Kansas City and thus very near me. In fact, I think I need to go post an AskMe about how to plan for this, because aside from my local, very new, and very tiny con, and conventions for my profession, I've never been to one before and have no idea how they work.
posted by PussKillian at 1:41 PM on August 29, 2014


This of course means that it's focused on those who can afford to take a week off to be at a con, less so to the walk-in fan.

I've attended a couple of Worldcons and had a great time in spite of being significantly younger than the median age at both. But I haven't been in a financial position to afford it in years now, even though I keep in touch with people I met at the last one. I don't blame Worldcons for this (or for the graying of the Worldcon demographic) so much as the lousy economic situation affecting younger people disproportionately.

When I can afford the time and expense, regular Worldcon attendance is something I want to do. Though by then I may be contributing to the graying phenomenon myself.
posted by asperity at 1:51 PM on August 29, 2014


They'll die eventually, because that's what they we all do.

Fixed in the interest of inclusivity.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:54 PM on August 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's been that way for a long time in old-school fandom. I've dabbled a few times at hanging out at the classic sf clubs in both the DC area and SF Bay since the early 1990s, and every time I feel like I'm among the fusty. It's not even a matter of pure chronological age, there are usually a few people my age or younger to go with the elders, and hell I've hung with old people who were far more adventurous and mentally flexible than I am. They just *feel* old -- BASFA seemed like it was more a fandom for Robert's Rules of Order than SF&F.

And at this point I'm middle aged and I actually grew up reading most of the old school SF, but I can still enjoy anime, navigate tumblr, and don't think passive racism and sexism is okay.
posted by tavella at 1:55 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sexism and racism - boo! Ageism, yay?
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:55 PM on August 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm hoping to go in 2016, where it will be in Kansas City and thus very near me. In fact, I think I need to go post an AskMe about how to plan for this

Book your ticket as early as you can, because that makes it cheaper, make sure you can book your hotel (through the con, so to get the con rate) early as well so you can have a room in or very near where the con is held. To keep costs down and if you feel comfortable with it, you can share rooms with another con goer; I've done that for British cons.

At the con itself, remember that a lot of the action happens outside of the official programming, hang out in the fan lounges, go to the various Worldcon bit parties and such. Don't be afraid to look at badges and talk to people if you recognise them from online...
posted by MartinWisse at 2:07 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was at Loncon 3 and I think the DailyDot piece is full of shit. It's written from an adversarial perspective, and guess what? If you go into any public event populated by several thousand people looking for evidence to support your thesis that some of the attendees are ass-hats, you will find ass-hats, because: public event.

This worldcon was less full of elderly elitist pale patriarchal penis people than previous ones, more diverse, and covered a wider range of fandom subcultures. London is a cosmopolitan world city, and it shows: when you get worldcons held in places like San Jose or San Antonio, well, that gives you a different pool of local attendees, in addition to the hard core of regular annual worldcon-goers who fly in wherever it's held.

The Loncon 3 committee were awake and paying attention to the harassment scandals that have hit other conventions, and barring some minor controversies at the planning stage (cough, Jonathan Ross, cough) it went off smoothly. As it was also the biggest worldcon ever, that's quite an achievement. Contra this piece, worldcon as an institution is changing as the dinosaurs die out.

TL:DR; I reckon the DailyDot piece is a fine example of clickbait via hatchet job. False controversy, do not buy.
posted by cstross at 2:52 PM on August 29, 2014 [13 favorites]


I have no experience with old school sci-fi cons, but at least in my regional area small non-profit anime cons are a lot of fun. It seems like most of them have drifted from being even primarily about anime to just being an annual gathering of young nerds. There is really a palpable sense of everyone being inclusive and progressive in a kind of unselfconscious way that is refreshing compared to pretty much any real life community I have been involved with.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:53 PM on August 29, 2014


This is not directly con-related, but the Sherlock fandom on tumblr is a great place to observe at least one generational divide in fandom, particularly with respect to fanfiction and its interplay with the original show (and to my chagrin, I'm about to reveal how much time I waste there "observing" it). This is only a microcosm of one specific conflict between new-school fandom and old-school fandom, but I find it endlessly interesting, particularly because both sides are mostly comprised of queer women so we can mostly but not entirely sidestep the broader generational divides of sexism and homophobia. Please pardon my prolixity!

Since the most recent season of Sherlock aired, two main camps have set up in the tumblr part of the fandom: TJLCers and anti-TJLCers. TJLC ("the Johnlock Conspiracy") started as a big joke and has since become shorthand for whether you think the show is earnestly developing the relationship between John and Sherlock, which is what the TJLCers believe, or queerbaiting, which is what the anti-TJLCers believe. For the most part, both sides "ship" John and Sherlock and many of the most outspoken anti-TJLCers are old-school slash fiction authors, so the conflict is simply whether they think the show will follow through on the romantic relationship, not whether they like the relationship itself. These camps have been clashing frequently and with surprising intensity since the term was coined.

Without generalizing too much, the TJLC folks tend to be younger and the anti-TJLCers are mostly older. While the tone has been quite antagonistic at times, the argument between these camps has been surprisingly academic and mostly focused on standards of evidence and style of argumentation. While TJLC folks mostly just want to talk to each other about all the things they noticed in the show that TOTALLY mean that John and Sherlock will someday kiss and base their conclusions on the quantity of evidence rather than the quality, the anti-TJLCers have made a number of academic arguments against their conclusions, most notably in a controversial post about "the resurrection of the author-god" (since deleted but reproduced with response here) and how it applies to Sherlock.

The TJLCers, for their part, often resent the anti-TJLCers' attempts to filter all conversation about the show through an academic lens (e.g. appealing to Barthes in a lighthearted argument about where the show is headed). There have been numerous arguments as to how exclusionary it is to only accept arguments couched in academic terminology, how it's poor form to walk into a room of people having fun and tell them they're doing it wrong, and how contradictory it is to claim that the show has no fixed meaning on the one hand (see the "author-god controversy*") while also claiming that TJLCers are wrong and John and Sherlock will never get together.

At a more basic level, though, the conflict is largely between younger people who believe it's plausible that the BBC would develop a slow-burn, will they/won't they queer relationship between two main characters on a high-profile TV show, vs older people who grew up in much more homophobic times who think it's a pipe dream and that these kids are getting their hopes up. To the young people, it's completely within the realm of possibility that John and Sherlock might kiss someday, while the older people are so resigned that it's an impossibility that they reject the idea out of hand.

I'm sure there is some interaction with the mainstreaming of fandom and fanfiction, which has caused similar controversies in the Teen Wolf (Sterek) and Supernatural (Destiel) fandoms as showrunners include innuendo to fuel fanfiction communities but have no intention of following through with it. Younger fans sometimes take these queerbaiting aspects of the show at face value while older fans often try to disabuse them of their optimism.

As an aside, for people who haven't caught up with the most recent season, there is some argument to be made that if you watch it without a heteronormative lens, the writers are earnestly foreshadowing the development of their relationship. I won't spoil anything but I still can't come up with a heteronormative reading for the ending His Last Vow (what did he always mean to tell John, exactly?), and there are numerous blatantly romantic tropes evoked between John and Sherlock, mostly without the jokey "wink-nudge" tone that accompanied overt mentions of their relationship in previous seasons. It's also heavily implied that Sherlock is gay at several points in the show. This season spent so much screen time on the relationship between John and Sherlock, platonic or otherwise, that it doesn't surprise me a bit that it would ignite this kind of controversy among fans.

* if you can't already tell, I just adore saying "the author-god controversy" and I think it's possibly the funniest argument ever held on tumblr
posted by dialetheia at 2:58 PM on August 29, 2014 [11 favorites]


(I would be shocked - like, really, worldview-upendingly shocked - if the Sherlock showrunners build in an overt romantic relationship. Partly because I am An Old, relatively speaking, and partly because I think that they can make a lot of money by including some fanservice stuff but nothing overt and thus keeping both the fangirl audience and the...er...nonfangirl audience.

You know what I'd really like to see? I'd like to see a version of Sherlock that [isn't so fucking fascist and in love with the cops and a non-elected government agency like this iteration] has at its core a realistic/non-fangirl-service relationship between Sherlock and John. While I feel like this whole matter of slash fic is complicated, I'm also not too comfortable with the oooh-cute-chibi-Sherlock-and-John-when-will-they-kiss aspect of the fandom.

But I mean, if the show actually does develop a slow-build relationship, I will be very surprised but basically pleased.)
posted by Frowner at 3:07 PM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


dialethia, that is some world-class beanplating going on in that fandom.

This did read like a bit of a hit piece; not much in the way of actual quotes/accounts of specific events at WorldCon, no questioning about whether anything not-ok happened at Nine Worlds. It made me doubt the writer/reporting.

However, I can also say that I am becoming more involved in a local progressive organization myself, and have been a little shocked to see so much gatekeeping, occasional racist/sexist/homophobic BS, and hostility to the youngers by those in charge, who seem to think of it as a clubhouse they don't want anyone to come into. (While also complaining that we have a hard time attracting younger folks)

Which is a bad attitude if you want your organization to survive your death.

I am trying not to be ageist, and certainly not all the older folks are like that, but I am developing a paranoid fear that I'll get reactionary as I age too and start acting that way.
posted by emjaybee at 3:12 PM on August 29, 2014


If I'm understanding the Mefi lexicon correctly, all fandom is beanplating.

I've witnessed both the olds and the youngs erecting barriers. Aging is something we all do, as fixed points out. We start out little, and promise ourselves we'll be different when we're big. Therefore we come equipped with psychic multitools to create age-dependent hierarchies.

As with classism, disablism, heterosexism, racism, sexism* and the other domination strategies we learn and deploy, when we're conscious that ageism is a thing, we can work around those patterns.

* in alphabetical order this time
posted by Jesse the K at 3:44 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Am currently posting this from DragonCon, for whatever that's worth. And I've noticed a good mix of older and younger folk here.
posted by JHarris at 3:45 PM on August 29, 2014


I am trying not to be ageist, and certainly not all the older folks are like that, but I am developing a paranoid fear that I'll get reactionary as I age too and start acting that way.

I wouldn't worry about it. By the time you reach that age, you'll call it Wisdom Born of Experience.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:16 PM on August 29, 2014


Man .... being someone who is a huge sci fi fan (maybe an old one? I like asimov ... and gaiman .... and mieville), i was really looking forward to attending Worldcon 2015 in Spokane. I had just assumed it would be awesome and full of sci fi awesomeness.

Maybe i was wrong.

slightly related: just went to the Comics Unmasked exhibit at the british library in london and it was fantastically aware of race/gender/social/unheard voice issues.
posted by sciurine at 4:51 PM on August 29, 2014


They'll die eventually, because that's what they we all do.

I swear that's what I mean to type. But I didn't. So, thank you for the correction.
posted by eriko at 5:25 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Kind of a related topic, but is anyone else ever repelled by "old man humor?" I work with quite a few older folks, and the jokes they tell... oh, man. Not only do they have excruciatingly long set-ups, but the punchline is always "something something DIRTY SEX." Every joke ends with a character being tricked, coerced, or accidentally involved in some sort of unpleasant sexual act, usually with a homophobic twist. I keep reminding myself that these guys grew up in the '50s when sex was some sort of ultimate taboo, so sharing a bit of lewdness with a friend was the height of awesomeness.

But then again, i don't think they get OUR humor. Me, i consider the Bad Lip Reading of Twilight III to be the pinnacle of hilarity...

Link

...and i can't really explain why. WHY is it so funny to hear the words "He's a meanie, he hurt my feelings, also he hurt my skin, and, and, he gets poor grades" coming out of Taylor Lautner's mouth? And don't even get me started on "doo-wogga-wooga-hava-chee, galla-bey-nah, grivvah-shemps!"

Kills me every time.
posted by ELF Radio at 5:49 PM on August 29, 2014


being someone who is a huge sci fi fan (maybe an old one? I like asimov ... and gaiman .... and mieville), i was really looking forward to attending Worldcon 2015 in Spokane

You should probably go, then. I appreciate the DailyDot piece as a single semi-journalistic data point informed by experience of two cons, but it's not even trying to be representative of everything going on at WorldCon. In this thread last year, I collected a bunch of links that might show off more of what it was like--the welter of info and recommendations and experiences and whatnot--and I'd suggest looking at that if you're not sure what all happens.

You'll also find in the same thread comments that reinforce the point the DailyDot piece makes. A couple of people mention the graying of the con. Someone makes an interesting comparison to an anime con held the week before in the same place. Etc. It's a big enough event for people to experience it in different ways without being wrong. And I intentionally omitted basing any links on one fairly egregious panel I attended in San Antonio:
3655 | Forgiving History
Convention Center: 006A • Panel, Literature
When you are reading your favorite writers of old, how do you deal with outdated views on race, gender, and violence - and still enjoy the writing? What classics can still be enjoyed despite our modern sensibilities?
I admit I went to see it sort of as a test of WorldCon's rumored backwardness. And it was certainly bad--not, like, newsworthy or anything, but really not good. Several clueless comments from it would probably be deleted if someone made them here. It was clumsy in the way the DailyDot piece vaguely suggests it would be and without a doubt frustrating to the audience members trying to share interesting and diverse points of view.

If you need to avoid WorldCon based on the chance you'll run across stuff like that, that's fair. Going to other more media-oriented cons is also reasonable. And I'm not saying I have a super well-calibrated detector for the bad stuff, but I had to actively seek it out based on a sense of anthropological curiosity to really see it myself.

So YMMV but, for me, the entire rest of the weekend was pretty awesome.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:57 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I went to both Nine Worlds and Loncon 3, and while the average age of the former may skew younger, there were far more similarities than differences. Both had a strong commitment to getting a diverse membership, and an inclusive programme. One of the things Nine Worlds is noted for having is many items related to transformative works, i.e. fanfic, fanvids etc., and if I look at the Loncon 3 programme, I see over 30 items with the tag Transformative Fandom. Really, not impressed with the the Daily Dot article.
I've been to both Nine Worlds cons (backed the original Kickstarter) and I've been to 15 Worldcons. Just re-upped for Nine Worlds 2015, and I've got this neat little glowing red crystal in my palm which I think means a full weekend badge.
posted by cobrabay at 6:14 PM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've got this neat little glowing red crystal in my palm which I think means a full weekend badge.

Are you sure it doesn't mean it's time to go to Carousel and Renew?
posted by rmd1023 at 7:49 PM on August 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Wait, does this article claim an example of the newfangled con being all shiny and new is the tweet "#nineworlds @kierongillen brings the cool"? The picture with the person standing in front of a projected image from a (nearly) THIRTY YEAR OLD COMIC BOOK?

I think Worldcons are a bad place to look at the state of SF fandom. Because they are generally 'far away', they tend to bring people who are older who have more money to spend on things like "going to another continent for a convention". More local cons are bringing new fans in and getting involved in new media and such much faster than worldcon.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:54 PM on August 29, 2014


dialetheia, the pro-TJLC and anti-TJLC divide isn't necessarily based on age, there's a divide between people who trust Moffat and people who are dreading the 'Sherlock and John are mistaken for gay dads' jokes in S4.

Also, not everyone in Sherlock fandom ships Sherlock/John.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:14 PM on August 29, 2014


elderly elitist pale patriarchal penis people

That line was originally in Sheb Wooley's "The Purple People Eater," but it was dropped at the insistence of the record label.

it's just sad that these old farts (sf people, for heaven's sake!) haven't been able to change with it.

It's interesting to see where individual limits lie. Gene Roddenberry gave us a wonderful view of a morally and technologically advanced future in which Earth's racism and nationalism and class differences were all defeated. But the women wear mini-skirts and the captain beds every alien chick he meets. And the captains were all male. Roddenberry took some big steps with his show, but he was still a creature of his upbringing and his society. I think of myself as being accepting and open-minded and whatnot, but I always wonder where my blind spots are and what normal thing I'll say someday that my juniors will consider obnoxious.
posted by bryon at 10:02 PM on August 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


This is so brilliant. I wish I could wear such kind of clips for everyday interactions.

One of the things I love about tumblr and twitter social justice cultures is that increasingly they are becoming cultures which deeply embrace the idea of consent on multiple levels. This actually has it's roots in fanfiction, where trigger warnings were the original face of consent culture (and something I grew to love; I wish other things had trigger warnings) and have been logically extrapolated out - with a few missteps here and there (the open source boob project, for example).

I have no idea how ultimately influential it will be, but it gives me a hope that I cling to for warmth.

I am trying not to be ageist, and certainly not all the older folks are like that, but I am developing a paranoid fear that I'll get reactionary as I age too and start acting that way.

I've bee thinking a lot about ingroup/outgroup marking and shibboleths these days, and I think all groups have a tendency toward exclusion and shibboleths, but that it can be deliberately worked against and it's easier now to do so than ever before. I spent some time yesterday explaining twitter, facebook, and tumblr to my boss as our company has decided to try to use them to raise our profile, and is including a certain amount of personal-time demands in the movement (never a wise idea). I'm much older than the running fans of tumblr, but I have a working vocabulary for a lot of shows because of who I follow on tumblr, and could learn more if I wanted to. There is a subset of the beanplaters of the internet who love nothing more than analyzing social interactions and laying out in/out/language/etc... for everything in sight, and it's often happening in public places.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:25 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


dialethia, that is some world-class beanplating going on in that fandom.

My theory is it's caused by the long gaps between seasons. Sherlock fandom has literally years of free time to pick apart every nuance of each 9.5 hour block of new content.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:16 AM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Gavia is a long-time friend of mine and actually stayed in my flat while she was at WorldCon. We also roomed together at Nine Worlds. From what she told me, the problem she had with WorldCon wasn't the fault of the con itself, it was a lot of the audience, who, like someone said in a comment above, have basically created their own WorldCon fandom. Our other friends who attended the con said the same thing; like, during a panel on diversity multiple people told me that some of the audience response was basically diversity = pandering, and that overall there was a general vibe of how dare these kids come in without understanding our history and want us to be more inclusive of them. Some of my friends who were there were tweeting blatant criticisms of the con and said they felt ok doing so because they didn't think most of the other attendees used social media.

I can't speak for WorldCon, as I didn't go, but I did spend the weekend before at Nine Worlds both as a panelist and as an attendee, and it was so much fun. I think a lot of what Gav felt was going from a con where it was our kind of people to one where she felt like an outsider -- something at least four other friends of mine also said they felt.
posted by toerinishuman at 2:35 AM on August 30, 2014


I wasn't able to afford both cons, so I went to Worldcon because I was a panelist. When I was young male and female SF fans were more alienated from each other than they are now. I only read SF by women in those days: Russ, Tiptree, McIntyre etc. I would not have wanted to go to Worldcon, because we were not welcome.

At least part of the reason that women, and varied ethnicities and sexualities have a greater presence in SF fandom is because of the long un-lauded battles of my generation of fans. Arguments that got us labeled as unreasonable, as 'abrasive', that lost us friendships. We did it because we had no choice, it was fight back or disappear.

But now I have grey hair. Apparently people at Worldcon were looking at me and thinking 'at least she will die soon'? Well I am in my fifties, so it's going to be a few decades yet. Sorry guys.
posted by communicator at 3:25 AM on August 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


My panel was about working class characters in SF. I said that I thought the warm response of SF fans to diverse characters was an indication of a desire for healing and reconciliation both within the psyche and in our fractured society. That we wanted to heal both our own minds and our society, by cherishing what had been marginalised.

There are both centrifugal and centripetal forces in fandom and in every person - forces that externalise and exclude, and forces that integrate and reconcile. In my opinion if you project certain (for example sexist) 'feelings' onto the old, just because they are old, what you are really doing is trying to deny those feelings in yourself. You are saying 'of course I am not prejudiced, it is just those horrible old people'. But that does not address the problem, it just maps it onto a vulnerable group.
posted by communicator at 3:34 AM on August 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


One audience member asked what had happened to slash fanfic. Why didn’t he see it in fanzines any more? What made it die out?

Ahaha....hahahaha...BWAHAHAHAHA... *wipes tear*
posted by Gordafarin at 8:03 AM on August 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Now that I've caught my breath - I'm clearly on the far other side of the generational divide from that gentleman. I didn't even know fanzines were a thing anymore.
posted by Gordafarin at 8:04 AM on August 30, 2014


communicator: as 'An Old' feminist myself, I appreciate your perspective. But I think we have to restrain ourselves from approaching youngsters with the "we worked hard to create the world you take for granted" line. It's true, but we want them to own it and move it forward, rather than feel like they have to constantly uphold some kind of legacy and pay subservience to their elders. It's a catch 22 for feminism - of course we want to be acknowledged for the work we've done, and that's a feminist position... but at the same time we have to be aware of the patriarchal temptation to claim authority.
posted by aunt_winnifred at 8:45 AM on August 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


> I think of myself as being accepting and open-minded and whatnot, but I always wonder where my blind spots are and what normal thing I'll say someday that my juniors will consider obnoxious.

Good for you. That attitude is the best antidote against smug assholery.
posted by languagehat at 11:18 AM on August 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


restrain ourselves from approaching youngsters with the "we worked hard to create the world you take for granted" line...like they have to constantly uphold some kind of legacy and pay subservience to their elders

What I actually said:

In my opinion if you project certain (for example sexist) 'feelings' onto the old, just because they are old, what you are really doing is trying to deny those feelings in yourself.

It is rude for people to want me to die because I am old. I am not asking for acknowledgement or subservience. I am asking for them not to wish for my death.

And, this does remind me of fighting sexism. Do you not honestly think there is a mismatch between my protest ('Do not say I should die') and my diagnosis ('we project dark feelings we do not wish to acknowledge in ourselves onto others') and the response ('stop demanding subservience').

Isn't that very mismatch of moderate request for equality to a response as if I were demanding the moon, isn't that very mismatch at the core of sexism and racism and other oppressive isms?
posted by communicator at 11:30 AM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sorry, communicator I was responding to this bit...At least part of the reason that women, and varied ethnicities and sexualities have a greater presence in SF fandom is because of the long un-lauded battles of my generation of fans. Arguments that got us labeled as unreasonable, as 'abrasive', that lost us friendships. We did it because we had no choice, it was fight back or disappear.

And I really didn't mean to refute your comment. I agree with your posts. I'm just adding further thoughts, in a spirit of collegiality, one grey hair (very much alive) to another. Forgive me for causing offense where none was intended.
posted by aunt_winnifred at 11:58 AM on August 30, 2014


No problem.
posted by communicator at 12:29 PM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Do fans of other literary genres have this kind of foofaw?
posted by IndigoJones at 3:46 PM on August 30, 2014


There are both centrifugal and centripetal forces in fandom and in every person - forces that externalise and exclude, and forces that integrate and reconcile.

This is a very true statement.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:10 PM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Do fans of other literary genres have this kind of foofaw?
I'm not sure that most other genres have the same kind of fan involvement, to be honest. I read mysteries, and I like mysteries, but I'm not aware of mystery cons or fanzines or whatever. I'm sure they're out there, but they don't seem to be as much of a part of the crime-novel-fan experience, and most readers think of themselves as solitary readers, rather than participants in a fandom. I think that romance does have a fair amount of fan involvement, and I have no idea whether there are similar divisions. My guess would be no, because I think that some of the divisions in sci-fi have to do with whether women are viewed as equal participants, and that's not exactly an issue in the world of romance.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:45 PM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Other literary genres have old-guard/new guard issues to sort out, but that's pretty universal across any cultural activity that people do in groups over extended periods of time.
posted by aunt_winnifred at 6:46 PM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think this really isn't just a generational gap thing - it's about your relationships to the things you enjoy.

I don't feel welcome at new cons, and with the new discussions floating around SF fandom. So much of it seems like "That thing you love? It is bad and you should feel bad if you like it without loudly disclaiming about it!" I just want to enjoy what I enjoy. I want to go to panels without people showing up to ambush authors about sexism or racism. I hate it when great authors are removed from GOH status because of something they said on their personal blog. I wish those people would just go away and have their own conventions without trying to make existing ones their personal firing squad. I am genuinely confused by those people - if you hate the panels or the authors on them, why come piss on everyone's parade?
posted by corb at 7:40 PM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


corb : "I am genuinely confused by those people - if you hate the panels or the authors on them, why come piss on everyone's parade?"

Who says the people critiquing things hate the things they're critiquing? Many people understand that it's possible to be a fan of problematic things and, as fans, want those things to be better.

There are options besides "uncritical acceptance of a work and everything about it" and "wholesale rejection of a work and its creator". Pointing out problems with a piece and discussing why it is the way it is and how it could be better are ways of trying to improve things.
posted by Lexica at 12:09 PM on August 31, 2014 [3 favorites]




That's a good article, Shmuel510 - thanks! And, yeah, some of us 'diverse' folks have been in fandom for 35+ years (and still are here).

One thing to note about generation shifts in fandoms is what constitutes canon or counts as "recent" awesome novels in someone's perception. For a 25 year old fan, Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" (just to pull the name of a well-respected sf novel out of a hat) was published more years before their birth than Stapleton's "First and Last Man" or Doc Smith's "Triplanetary" were published before my birth.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:19 PM on August 31, 2014


I just want to enjoy what I enjoy.

I want the same thing. And then things I love kill off all the female characters, or make it so they hate each other, and I'm thrown out of it and can't enjoy it. And things I love use the black characters so that they have no stories of their own, they advise the white male main character, and I die a little inside. And a transgendered woman shows up dead. Again. And the only time Asian people come through is when they're in shipping crates and dirty clothes being sold as slaves, or if someone needs to do some math. And the only female main character gets raped, and there's a whole story about how much her getting raped affected the male characters. And I realize that the male character I love is trying to pressure other people into having sex with him, and dear gods I remember that happening to me. And there are several awesome female characters in the same room, but they're all so focused on the men they effectively don't have a story, and then one of them dies so that everyone can feel bad for her boyfriend.

And suddenly it isn't enjoyable anymore.

I'm watching a show I love, and there are only three women with speaking parts, one is an extra, one is effectively a Deux Ex Machina, and one actually is a person but she's at the center of another fucking love triangle (well, square, but it was a triangle until this season) and I love it, I'm dying for the next season to start, I want to know what's going to happen SO HARD, but dear GODS would I love it more if there were more women, and maybe even a black person who isn't a Magical Negro and murdered by a white guy in a way leaving us sympathizing with the white guy. Asian and Latino is too much to ask for, I know. We can have magic, science, and aliens, but the idea of a Latino main character is just way too unbelievable.

I want the world inside my TV to look like the world outside of my TV instead of this alien place where everyone important is pretty and white and usually male.

I'm planning a book. One of my protagonists is female, and blue, and effectively a fairy. The other is a black kid. My brother asked me why I'd write about a black boy, because he'd be so difficult for me to relate to.

He didn't ask that about the female, blue, fairy chick.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:35 PM on September 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


I want the world inside my TV to look like the world outside of my TV instead of this alien place where everyone important is pretty and white and usually male.

The thing is - I really understand how something can not be enjoyable anymore. I've been there with things I loved that I've just decided I can't rewatch anymore. But what I don't get is the focus on attacking authors or writers for a remedy - for multiple reasons. First, what kind of remedy would you even really be asking for? If the author, for example, is sexist, then the book or show he's writing comes from his sexist worldview - the entire world he has created is tinged with his sexism. Any un-sexist characters he puts in are just going to be tacked on, they're not going to fit with the world, they won't be a part of the real story. It'll just be tokenization. "Oh, I have to put the one lady in there so the ladies don't get mad" or "I have to add a POC so people don't say I'm racist." But is that really better?

And secondly - if I don't like it anymore, but other people do, then by attacking the author and trying to get him to write differently, I'm interfering with the people who are immersed in the story and don't have those problems with it. I'm taking from the natural flow of the story as the teller gives it, and making it go my way instead. Maybe there are people who love, love, love love triangles/quadrangles, and you calling out the author means he'll be afraid to put them in, or will wrap them up with no real resolution and the viewers will never know how it would have ended.

When I think of that stuff - external influences changing the story - I remember when it happened to one of my favorite ever stories. One of the actors had been in a car accident, and one of the other actors pushed the show writers to make a better ending for his character than was going to happen, and so it did. And it was the least satisfying ending ever, because it didn't make sense with the characters as written. And I guess I wonder why anyone would want that - because if you just want to write your own endings, and not hear the story as it comes from the teller, isn't that what fanfic is for?
posted by corb at 10:16 AM on September 4, 2014


First, what kind of remedy would you even really be asking for?

For people who don't want to be racist to be more thoughtful about who they portray, who they focus on, and how they treat their characters. For creators to take the extra step of trying to understand people other than themselves and include that new knowledge in their creations. I love how in Sleepy Hollow a bunch of characters just aren't white because that is simply who they are; it's not even lampshaded. And those characters are important, so they have things to do, and their own stories and suchlike, and they don't exist simply to advise the white male character. This means that even if they are killed, it could be in service of their own stories instead of to show what kind of people the white characters are.

For people who don't want to be sexist to be more thoughtful about how many women they include in a creation, how they treat those women, and how race intersects with gender. For them to write about women they would like to be; one of my favorite podcasts right now has included several men talking about female characters they strongly identified with because those women/girls were awesome people, and I don't think they're alone in their ability to see themselves in interesting characters regardless of gender. The success of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is another example of how something dominated by women and girls can be of general enjoyment and self-identification, and I would really like to see a lot more of that.

For people who don't want to be homophobic to be more thoughtful about where and why they include gay and bisexual people, and to be thoughtful about how sexual orientation intersects with race and gender. To have them exist simply because they exist, and not to necessarily be punished for their sexual attraction or to show how liberal the straight main characters are. To show them having relationships like straight couples do, instead of resigned to always being alone with their primary relationships heterosocial. Teen Wolf has a lovely gay relationship which simply is and no one bats an eyelash; it even has differently-sexually-attracted, identical twins, which was completely unexpected (I had honestly expected the reoccurring-character to have background relationships before that happened).

For people who don't want to be transphobic to be more thoughtful about how and when they include trans people, and how they gender them when they do - as well as whether they are alive. For them to think about how trans gendered people can be of many races, genders, and sexual orientations. I adore Mrs. Hudson on Elementary and my only complaint is how little we see her - she is completely awesome, her own person, and there's even an awesome explanation for why she likes to clean (it's her coping mechanism). I adore Sophia on Orange is the New Black because she is a person with her own story and personality, and doesn't exist in service of showing the cis gendered main character is a good/bad person.

For people who don't want to be ableist to think about how and when they include disabled, differently abled, mentally ill, and others who fall within the spectrum. To include them as people, with their own stories and motivations, not as the albatross around the neck of the more important, temporarily-able-bodied main characters, or the evidence that the main characters are so awesome because they put up with this person no one should have to. To include people who have other characteristics as well - an Asian blind trans-gendered woman could have a fascinating story within which one could examine a lot of different assumptions and experiences, and she would make a fascinating tech person who uses voice software to do her job, for example.

And for people who don't want to engage in any of the above to just be honest about it and stop coming up with reasons why obviously main characters have to usually be white, male, straight, cis gendered, and temporarily able bodied or the story just isn't as good or what the creator meant. Be honest about why "humans" reflects such a small percentage of the population, with aliens/mutants/super heros/weirdos as stand ins so prejudice can be discussed and said to be bad without actually having to broaden the spectrum much. Yeah, being honest is riskier than saying, "I'd love to make a Wonder Woman movie, but we've already planned all these movies about guys and so we just can't do it." but most people know what Batman and Superman both having several reboots before Wonder Woman even shows up in someone else's movie means.

And secondly - if I don't like it anymore, but other people do, then by attacking the author and trying to get him to write differently, I'm interfering with the people who are immersed in the story and don't have those problems with it. I'm taking from the natural flow of the story as the teller gives it, and making it go my way instead. Maybe there are people who love, love, love love triangles/quadrangles, and you calling out the author means he'll be afraid to put them in, or will wrap them up with no real resolution and the viewers will never know how it would have ended.

Firstly, I'm baffled as to why "my critiquing this" has become "and therefore everyone will do what I want and people who like things as they are will be sad". I'm really not that powerful, and most of the people critiquing things the way I do are equally not able to "make" other people do what we want. (I happen to love MMF love-triangles, but mostly because I keep hoping someone, somewhere will take the obvious "sweaty pile of hotness" solution under advisement, but I'm sick of how they isolate women from other women, which was part of my critique of Haven).

Secondly, I'm baffled why "people like things as they are" should trump "people don't like things as they are." It's all of us just having opinions, right? Why is "things stay as they are" better/more important/more desirable than "change things so more people are included" or even what I'm asking for, which is "think about how we might change things so more people are included".

The natural flow of a story is anything but in collaborative story telling, especially in television where creators are regularly given notes from any variety of people with more or less knowledge about the shows themselves, the cannon, the history, and how to craft a story over time in that particular medium. This is simply another kind of note - a "here is a way to broaden your story" and "here is a way to bring more people into your story" - not the first step in inevitable mind control. I'd rather be Storm anyway.

When I think of that stuff - external influences changing the story - I remember when it happened to one of my favorite ever stories. One of the actors had been in a car accident, and one of the other actors pushed the show writers to make a better ending for his character than was going to happen, and so it did.

This seems like a really unexpected passage to end on, as you are critiquing creators for not ending things as you thought they should while objecting to me critiquing creators for a similar but more ideologically based thing. Is the issue you have with my and others' critiques that they are ideologically based, instead of based on your personal preference and assumed knowledge of how things should be (did you know the writers and the story they had planned before it was written or filmed?), or is there some other distinction between our critiques that I'm missing?
posted by Deoridhe at 5:04 PM on September 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


did you know the writers and the story they had planned before it was written or filmed?), or is there some other distinction between our critiques that I'm missing?

Sorry, yeah, they stood up at a convention and explained what had happened, that the writer had not intended to end things that way but the actor was really stubborn about it in response to feels about the guy's car accident. So it's not "this is not how I thought it should have gone" but more "clear evidence of external interference."

I get what you're saying though about how a lot of storytelling is collaborative. And honestly, sometimes those notes or ideas do wind up sparking really great things, and are really valuable. But I suppose, for me, the ambushes at conventions just don't seem collaborative - they seem punitive and shaming and demanding. "We don't like what you did, so we're going to organize a boycott/make sure you get uninvited to convention/disrupt your panel." Because if you're just trying to get your voices heard - it's actually shockingly easy to contact most creators. Email or letters will let them know what you want - and most authors do, actually, try to keep abreast of what their fans feel. So it feels like most people who are aggressively pursuing aren't just trying to let people know, they're trying to force change.

And maybe this isn't even you! But it seems like a lot of the new wave of fans are not just 'hey it would be really cool if this happened' but 'If this does not happen, I will fuck you and make your life hard.' Which seems kind of...abusively coercive.

And for people who don't want to engage in any of the above to just be honest about it and stop coming up with reasons why obviously main characters have to usually be white, male, straight, cis gendered, and temporarily able bodied or the story just isn't as good or what the creator meant.

But what would happen to that person? What would happen to the author or creator who shrugged and said, "I write the people I think about and spend time with and empathize with in my daily life, who happen to all be be white/straight/cis/ablebodied." I think a lot of writers also tend to Mary Sue, which means that the best characters tend to have a lot of traits similar to their own, because they are (albeit subconsciously) replicating what they wish they could be, or the best of what they see themselves, and what they would most like to happen to themselves. And that winds up sucking for a lot of people, because it means it's hard to find diverse stories, but if these people just won't or can't, what do you think should happen to them? Why do you want them to say that?

Because they're not saying those explanations in a vaccuum - they're coming up with those (usually bullshit) explanations as a defense to what they see as an attack.
posted by corb at 10:54 AM on September 5, 2014


Why do you want them to say that?

I want them to be honest because then we can actually talk about thugs, or not if they don't want too. When people lie it makes it more difficult to discuss things openly. People can, and have, simply refused to talk about things, as well, and that's also their right.

For example, I love John Scalzi's Redshirts. I get what it drew from. I was still sad at how white it seemed, and how there was one female on the central team, and she was the love interest (in an interesting way). The internal reasons why were solid, the external context made me a little sad, I'm still handing it around to family members who I think will like it. If I ever met him, I'd ask him to sign my book and tell him I think he's awesome. If I ever wrote or talked about Redshirts in the context of a critique, gender and race would be something I'd talk a lot about. If I was talking about representation in general it would bring this book up as an example of "good but not diverse".

The rhetoric of attack and control obfuscates this conversation. When someone brings up a blind spot in a book and the common response is "why are you attacking Scalzi? Do you think he's sexist? Racist? Let him write what he wants to write!" Then that shifts the conversation from "here are a bunch of common cultural blind spots, together we could unblinded them a bit" to some sort of attack and defense farce. It also really ups the ante in a way which entrenches the critiquing side as against fandom when in reality we're usually fans, we just bought our own hype that we could change the world into a better place through lazer guns and magic wands.

For the record, I'm using Scalzi as an example both because people who love fun and space opera should read his book, and because his history on the internet makes me fairly sure he won't send a horde of flying monkeys onto my head for saying things about his book, and thus destroying him forever. Also, I'm pretty sure water doesn't make him melt.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:39 PM on September 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


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