Thursday, 30 January 2014

Does it have to be this way?

Perhaps it's always been like this, but I can't help feeling that the dialogue around SF&F has in recent years grown increasingly toxic and counter-productive. It may well have been just the same in the old days of mimeographed fanzines and letters columns - feuds run long and deep in literary circles - but there's no doubt that the nature of online discussion has raised the temperature, enabling flamewars and "fails" to flare up with numbing regularity. If they burned out as quickly as they started that would be one thing, but the online environment also helps to keep them running and running, the rhetoric growing hotter and the positions more entrenched, until the next flamewar kicks off and the cycle is sustained. Notably lacking (with, of course, some exceptions) is a general presumption of good faith on behalf of the participants.

It's SF award season again (this being a month with a vowel in it) so naturally thoughts have turned to the growing trend for writers to post lists of their eligible works. I don't personally care for these lists myself, and I've stated my position in a blog post. Other writers and commentators have made similar observations - most recently Adam Roberts, in a widely discussed post on his blog. Adam and I get on well and we feel essentially the same way about these eligibility posts, although perhaps Adam articulates his position more successfully than I do mine. Here's the thing, though: it's just an opinion. It's not worth the unpleasantness of falling out with another writer or commentator because they happen to take a different view. Paul Cornell, another writer I know and like, happens to regard eligibility posts as a fundamentally good and useful thing. So does Rachel Swirsky, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a Hugo ceremony. John Scalzi even goes so far as to open up his blog to other writers to post their own eligibility lists. Many readers have pointed out (as they did in the comments to my own blog piece) that it's actually quite a helpful thing to see a list of stories you might wish to consider when compiling your awards nominations. I might not agree with that, but my counter argument - that if you need to be reminded of something, it probably isn't award-worthy - isn't terribly easy to defend either, since it speaks only to my personal reading habits. I don't consume a lot of SF in a given year and I tend to be selective about what I do read, so it's relatively easy for me to recall the pieces I liked - if indeed there are any. But there are many readers who are much more engaged with the field than I am, and probably do read dozens or even hundreds of stories a year. From their point of view, I'm forced to conceed, those eligibility lists serve a genuinely useful function. So there's no need for an automatic presumption of bad faith on the part of those defending the lists, or to assume that the writers who publish them are doing so out of naked self-interest. I'll continue to take a jaundiced view of eligibility lists, but I'll accept that there are, on balance, some reasonable arguments to be mustered in their favour.

And yet ... within days of Adam Roberts' blog post, the conversation had become intensely polarised. Rightly or wrongly, the issue had become conflated with two different topics: the wider theme of self-promotion, and the under-representation of women writers in the field. Now, I have no problem with self-promotion at all. Almost everything I do as a writer that doesn't involve typing prose fiction into a keyboard is some form of self-promotion. This blog is self-promotion. Being on Twitter is self-promotion. Doing public events, going to conventions, doing phone-in interviews, doing reviews for free - it's all self-promotion and I accept it gladly because most writers do not have the luxury of a huge publicity machine to do the work for them. This is not the same activity as awards campaigning, and whether you regard eligibility lists as a form of campaigning, or a useful service for readers, it's surely distinct and separate from the larger business of self-promotion which is part of being a professional author. To think otherwise is, I think, an error. When John Scalzi, in an otherwise reasonable and good-spirited response to Adam's post, mentioned that Adam was "shy" of announcing the eligibility of his own work, Scalzi was making exactly that mistake. Trust me, I know Adam. He's an outspoken critic of the field, a confident and engaging public speaker, and not someone you could remotely describe as "shy". That's missing the point totally - and by the same token, it isn't shyness of modesty that prevents me posting my own eligibility lists.

Still, that was mild compared to the position articulated by another writer, Amal El-Mohtar, that to state a dislike of eligibility lists was a "peculiar, unbearable, vicious smugness", and that in arguing against such lists one is helping to silence exactly those writers who are most in need of attention. This struck me as wrong. My feeling was that, again, self-promotion and awards-boosting are being seen as facets of the same activity, whereas to my mind they are fairly distinct. I promote myself to further my sales, because that is what my livelihood depends on. Awards are an entirely different sphere of my life as a writer, and whether I'm nominated or not nominated (mostly the latter), I'd far rather that it didn't depend on the visibility of my eligible works. Furthermore, I couldn't really see how a newer writer was going to benefit by adding another voice to an already loud conversation. Regardless of that, though, the rhetoric had become more divisive. Who is honestly going to consider their position on a topic, when they've been described in those terms I quote above? It's a presumption of bad faith - the notion that we're saying one thing and thinking another. I'd rather assume that the opponents of eligibility posts are sincere in their stated positions, and that this also applies to the proponents. I didn't care for the particular tone of El-Mohtar's piece at that point, but her wider position - that eligibility posts are a platform for enabling newer writers to receive some sort of attention - is far from unreasonable, and deserves serious and civil discussion. To put it another way, it's something to think about, and perhaps it has shifted my attitude to a degree. It's also made me aware of Amal El-Mohtar as a writer and I apologise for not reading her work sooner.

The almost universal presumption of bad faith is once more on display in the reactions to Alex Dally MacFarlane's piece on the Tor blog, discussing the representation of post-binary gender in SF. Regardless of what you make of the piece, it sets out its position in extremely cogent terms, arguing that SF needs to think a bit more about the depiction of non-traditional gender roles, and that the field can't keep pointing back to forty year old books by Ursula Le Guin as if to say it had that one covered. The piece is suitably respectful to Le Guin, and makes only the mildest of demands on the field. You may or may not agree with it. My take was, this is interesting and I need to think about it.

And yet, the responses to the piece have been predictably intemperate, with an almost immediate crystallisation of "for" and "against" camps. Some of the rhetoric from the "against" camp has been astonishingly spiteful, although at this point I don't suppose I'm very much astonished. Shot through it all, though, is the presumption that Alex Dally MacFarlane is presumably out to destroy SF as we know it, as if anyone with a long-standing engagement with the field would ever want to do that. There is sensible and civil engagement with her points, but as in all these intensely polarised arguments, it's becoming very hard to tune the signal from the noise. Sarcasm and strawmen arguments abound; line are drawn and positions fortified; the presumption of good faith is all but lost.

Does it have to be this way? Can't we disagree with each other, but reserve the right to accept that the other person might, ultimately, have a point?







30 comments:

  1. I do think that the acceleration and inflammation of these issues has increased in the modern media age. Looking back at old fanzines, and the letters section of Locus, these issues have always been with the genre, but now are at a permanent, fever pitch.

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    1. I'd disagree only because I think it's a matter of degree, not emergence. There was plenty of vitriol in the early days of SFF (after all, half of all the major writers still around in the late 60s took hard positions on the Vietnam War...and then *published* their support or opposition in the magazines of the time). So the vitriol and binary-ness of SFF has always been there.

      But the Internet has accelerated it, I think, by making it much easier to engage with issues in the moment. The paper fanzines were slow, crawling things by comparison to the blogs and personal websites of today. And so people latch on a lot faster these days. Something happens, and there's a post about it in a few hours. There's no *need* to slow this down (for good or bad).

      Buy otherwise, yeah, we agree. It's hard to detach yourself from this stuff, though.

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  2. These debates seem to be of intense interest to those involved in them - but if you are not, then they just seem like people wasting a lot of time when they could be getting on with writing and reading good books.

    Awards have rarely been about the quality of the work and are more about the whims of the voters. Assuming that the Clarke or the Hugo or the Nebula goes to the best eligible novel is like suggesting that the best politicians always get elected.

    In terms of polarization - social media has exacerbated tribalism - so where someone steps out of "the tribes" set of views, the rest of the mob comes down on them like a ton of bricks. So expect more of it.

    But also remember most of your readers don't give a rats arse about these debates and as long as you keep writing entertaining thought provoking books, the readers will keep buying them.

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  3. Nice, thoughtful post Alastair, thanks. There's a whole cross-section of discussion in the speculative fiction community that - while I'm aware of it, and have opinions - I wouldn't engage with, because the current tone of the dialogue isn't the kind of thoughtful back and forth that I enjoy. It's frustrating, because there are some really interesting opinions being expressed, and a lot that bears thinking about.

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  4. It will continue to be this way as long as the Wiscon Failfandom Brigade (or what Will Shetterly calls Social justice Warriors) continues to insist that the rest of the field must accede to limiting their own speech to accord with the politically correct terminology of victimhood identity politics.

    If you can't even express the sentiments of a majority of the population (say, that the Ground Zero Mosque is a bad idea, or that Bradley Manning is, in fact, a man) without significant contingents mobbing you and demanding that your employer fire you, how can there be comity in the genre?

    If Barry Freaking Malzberg is now too politically incorrect for the genre for daring to call a woman beautiful, what hope do the rest of us have?

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    1. I have to agree with Lawrence. I've only been publishing in Analog magazine (and other places) for about four years. In that time I've had a good spot of "new boy" success: 2012 triple-nominee for the Campbell, Nebula, and Hugo, as well as a first novel sold to Baen Books, continued and acclaimed publications in venues such as Analog, etc. And I've been the target of more than a little "social justice warrior" antagonism. Going all the way back to the old letters column of Scott Edelman's Science Fiction Weekly. Where one could not defend the racial and gender diversity of Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica reboot, without bringing down derision and scorn from the "social justice warrior" contingent. For whom BSG 2.0 simply wasn't diverse enough.

      And I've been in a bloody interracial marriage for longer than many of these individuals have been able to drive a car! As of last count, 20 years. But that doesn't matter. I still get targeted because I don't mouth the correct piety. I also tend to stick up for people (like Elizabeth Moon) who have themselves been targeted. Almost always unfairly.

      But the "social justice warrior" bunch are on a slash-and-burn crusade within our genre. Resnick and Malzberg having been two of the more recent and high profile victims of this ideological junta. This group isn't really open to debate or discussion. They know in their hearts that they've already got all the right answers. All that's left for the rest of us is to a) obey, and shut up, or b) get ready for a mighty loud ass-chewing, courtesy of internet activists who have what I like to call "keyboard muscles": they're great at picking fights on-line, because the distance and safety provided by the medium guarantees they will never have to pay any penalty for their absurdity or their vitriol.

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  5. Lawrence: your response is unfortunately a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

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  6. I'm in league with a previous commentor: ignore all the contentiousness over what is ultimately subjective opinion-itis and get on with the reason we read SF. Instead of disrespecting a viewpoint, just think of great ideas and write about people/aliens having to deal with them. Very rarely does the Hugo or Nebula go to the best book, but there is my own subjective opinion rudely intruding on another point. The reality is that polarisation and argumentation have become rife in almost every debate. I can clearly see why an ancient writer speculated that our future society could become: "Men will be...not open to any agreement, slanderers...fierce...puffed up with pride..." And so it is, sadly. Try to stay out of it all, or it will suck you in.

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  7. To be clear, when I labeled Adam Roberts "shy," I was doing it with tongue firmly in cheek.

    That noted, excellent piece here with lots to think about. Thanks for writing it!

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  8. You folks are all writers, I'm a reader. Reading is my enjoyment, my recreation and my escape from my life working in the broadcasting industry.

    As an aside, if you want to see sexism and misogyny on a large-scale, go work in broadcasting.

    In any regard, most of the books I read are ones where I know what I'm getting before I even start. Yes, there are surprises, twists and turns along the way, but I pretty much know the direction a particular SF or F or Mystery novel is going to go. However, there are times when a book will surprise me other than with its plot. Gender and sex issues are those sorts of surprises - ones that make me stop for a moment and go, "Hmm."

    I was eleven years old when I picked up the book Dhalgren by Sam Delany. This was when it was fresh on the bookstore shelf. Oh, a big book, I said to myself. Some sort of huge sun and falling-apart city on the cover, I said. So I read it. The depictions of bisexuality in that book were the first exposure I'd ever had to the idea of two men being together. Honestly, that book really blew my mind in a lot of ways. What it did do was plant the seeds that there are other ways to be beyond what one it taught in church or in the media or by ones parents. Sam Delany didn't destroy SF and neither did a horrible writer who goes by the name John Norman. I admit that his philosophy is a bit archaic but the BDSM flavor of his world got me going. I think I was sixteen by that time. Yet one more alternative to my lifestyle to think about.

    I think the fear a lot of authors when they read what Dally wrote is that they believe their brand of SF will be locked out by editors for not conforming to the latest academic argument. Setting aside the fact that we are already in a new publishing era, the fact remains that as long as there are readers who want giant spaceships blowing up other giant spaceships, heroes of whatever gender saving people with blaster in hand, or emaciated teens jacking into the cyberwhatsit, there will always be room for writers to put out these sorts of works.

    One more thing and I'll call it a day. I have a couple of friends who are doctors of the PhD variety. I enjoy their company even if I don't always have a clue what they're talking about. I simply that that like politicians and the so-called One-Percenters, they live in a world that's too insulated from the average person. The arguments of this camp or that camp regarding gender or what-have-you don't matter to us. Yes, I might find it amusing because who doesn't like a good flamewar, but it's something that is in the end immaterial to my enjoyment of SF/F. Writers should write exactly what they please, period. If it resonates, people will read it. If it doesn't, tough luck.

    Hope this wasn't too tl:dr for folks. If it was, you missed my very brilliant analysis.

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  9. Does it have to be this way? I would like to say "no", but the folks who cannot resist taking conversations to these extremes would beg to differ.

    I would politely add this response to your statement that "if you need to be reminded of something, it probably isn't award-worthy":

    I am very active in the SFF community and find it impossible to keep up with the amount of fiction that comes out in a given year, particularly with the inclusion of the three categories of short fiction that are voted on in the Hugo awards. The lists of eligible works allows me a second chance to catch short stories, novelettes and novellas that I might have missed, as just happened this week with a particular work. I also find it helpful to be told what category of short fiction a story falls in. Call me lazy (I do) but I prefer it to be pointed out if a story is a novella, etc.

    I also like to see artists list their eligible works because it is unclear when a given creation is eligible. I have had more than one conversation with artists this year already about works that were on covers this year, for example, that are not actually eligible. Keeps me from wasting a nomination or promoting ineligible work in my ignorance of its eligibility.

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  10. The original post and the rebuttal both bothered me. In my opinion both exhibit logical fallacies in their arguments, but there again what people say often does. I posted on my blog here what I think.

    http://ashleyrpollard.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/logical-fallacies.html

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  11. One way I've found around this is to always make my normally male characters female and vice versa. I also try to make them all odd enough that you won't notice any nonPC things they might do

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  12. Alex's gender commentary went immediately off the rails when Alex said, "I want an END to binary gender as default in SF." If Alex had said, "I want to explore further the idea that binary gender in SF doesn't necessarily have to be the default," I am pretty sure the reaction wouldn't have been nearly as extreme. Alas, when one begins framing one's arguments in terms of should, or need, or must, then one has taken the position from the personal, and made it general. That we (all of us thousands in the joined field of SF/F) must "end" our use of binary gender as default.

    That's an imperative I have a hard time accepting, precisely because for the vast (and I do mean vast) bulk of potential readers, suggesting that there could be any other default besides binary is a pretty bizarre idea. Because for the wider public, gender and sex are synonymous. It doesn't matter what the academy may believe. Or even what SF/F (internal) may believe. For the wider public, binary gender truly is the default.

    Now, Alex may not like that. And Alex is certainly free to explore non-binary to her heart's content. But Alex didn't say she wanted to end binary gender as default in her fiction. She said she wanted an end to binary as the default, period. In all SF/F everywhere. Maybe Alex did not intend to go that broad, or be perceived as making an imperative, but if we're going to talk about civility let's please also talk about taking more care in the formulation of one's initial statements.

    Speaking for the self is one thing. Speaking for the whole genre? Quite another. Whether she intended to or not, Alex's wording seemed fairly clear, in that she was speaking as if the whole genre ought to comply with Alex's wishes. And that kind of framing is guaranteed to raise hackles.

    Because if there's one group that simply hates being told what to do -- by anyone, for any reason -- it's SF/F writers.

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  13. Anonymous Coward31 January 2014 15:55

    Brad, where do you read "must" in the sentence "I want an END to binary gender as default in SF"? Or "should", "need"? Saying "I want" is speaking about oneself.
    I want stuff to be different too. Don't you? Like, I want some people to stop polluting so much. How do I dare tell others what they should do? Because what they do affects me or people I care about.

    Congrats to Alastair for getting OTSB and its proeminent gender-neutral character out ahead of the controversy by the way!
    Some readers thought the pronouns were some kind of editing oversight. :-)

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  14. Intriguing post Al. Thanks.

    I think the arguments will always be there. Since a particularly significant blow up on the net a few years back I think some entrenchment have happened in all kinds of conversations. This medium has the unfortunately qualities of being lightning fast and quite anonymous. We can't really do much about that.

    That all this about listing things for awards could have a gender issue was something that I'd totally missed. It just shows how clueless I am in these circumstances I guess. Good someone told me! Thanks again.

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  15. I find myself wondering how much the toxicity of debate and the entrenching of camps these days is encouraged by what's happening in wider society, especially in the world of politics, where nowadays it seems that those in opposing parties *must* have opposing views and absolutely *cannot* work together.

    I've gone backwards and forwards on author eligibility lists myself. From "that seems quite useful" to "this practice is clearly wrong" to "actually, it may have some merit" to, where I am now, "no, the practice is wrong, what people really need is something that's similar but not quite the same."

    To summarise my position now - eligibility lists are useful because not everyone can remember everything that came out in the past 12 months. While it's easy to remember a good story from a month ago, it can be easier than you'd think to, if not forget exactly, overlook a stunning story from 11 months ago.

    So lists are useful. However, the best way such lists should be compiled and presented is by a third party, more or less neutral. Having one central list saying "here are all the valid stories" is much more egalitarian than having each author promote their own stories, as in this scenario everyone has the same reach.

    An author may have the best of intentions, but they cannot control their fanbase, especially if their fanbase is on the larger side. Relatedly, this is why I'm ultimately not convinced by Amal El-Mohtar's argument; it won't raise awareness of the authors in question as they're preaching to the converted. People read the blogs because they're already fans. With the best will in the world, an author with fewer fans is not going to get magically discovered by people after posting an eligibility post.

    As for 'more or less neutral', I say that because I also support individual readers and reviewers blogging their ballots, saying what they intend to nominate any why (for example, Martin at http://everythingisnice.wordpress.com is doing that at the moment). They're not neutral, as they're advocating for their favourites, but they don't have the same vested interest in what they're listing as the authors do, they're not just saying "this is eligible", they're saying "this is what I believe the best of the last year to be", which is an argument that I can learn from or engage with.

    I can't say too much about the other example you give, of the response to Alex Dally MacFarlane's post, as I only read a bit of the response to that before getting so thoroughly depressed that I couldn't engage with the discussion at all. Rather than actually engaging, all I saw was people reformulating arguments into things they could attack and thus responding to the reformulation instead of anything that had actually been said. Depressing. :(

    In conclusion, I agree with what you say here, and wish everyone else would too:

    "Can't we disagree with each other, but reserve the right to accept that the other person might, ultimately, have a point?"

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  16. It's also made me aware of Amal El-Mohtar as a writer and I apologise for not reading her work sooner.

    Good heavens, no need to apologise for that! I hope you enjoy it if and when you encounter it.

    Since I published that post I've seen my views misunderstood and misrepresented (not usually in bad faith), and I do want to follow it up to clarify some things, but the conversation seems so sprawling now I'm not sure of the value. So many things are conflated (some of which you quite rightly point to) and so many dichotomized (like rendering eligibility posts and recommendation posts mutually exclusive) that it's difficult to know where to begin.

    I do agree that the toxicity's a shame. I was aiming for bewildered passionate advocacy myself, and certainly bore no one any ill will; I thought I was criticizing a phenomenon, not individuals. All the more reason to revise if that didn't come across.

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  17. Great post, Al. I'm only going to comment on the awards eligibility posting issue, because it's one that irks me too, and that I pretty much agree with you on. I think readers and writers both have obligations. For writers, it's perfectly okay to summarise your year's output without making mention of awards. For readers, if you're going to engage in voting for awards, take it seriously - make notes of the stories and books you like as you read them and vote for them, not the ones you missed or the ones you think you ought to have read. It's that simple. (I might have blogged a little about this myself.)

    As for Amal, I didn't read so much into the tone of her post. I think frustration happens when you continually seem to meet resistance on what seem to you to be self-evident points, and that can easily colour things. As you point out, she made a few very relevant points. She's also a terrifically talented writer.

    Neil

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    1. Discussion has become peculiarly toxic in recent years - it's across various fields, but I suspect it stems from the kind of performance rage emanating from virtual spaces such as 4Chan. A number of the SJWs are either burning out or growing up (cf several sheepish blog posts from people who have now turned 30 and realised that they've been behaving like an asshole for the last decade and a half).

      My own policy now is either not to engage or, if I'm directly threatened, which has happened on a couple of occasions, to send the correspondence to the cops. Who the hell has the time?

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  18. Simeon Beresford1 February 2014 18:11

    Yes presumption of good faith is key to civil debate. So to loo look at an example inin the comments Elizabeth Moon's responses to her critics made her look good. Because she replied to her detractors with openness and in good faith. One could disagree with what she said but admire the way she said it.

    There are those I think who feel that a person of apparent integrity who disagrees with them must be in truth be lacking it. and therefore feel it appropriate to attack the person.
    I can,t say that I have noticed any group in politics religion or literature that is totally free of these arseholes. And I find it embarrassing when they espouse my own beliefs.

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  19. Thanks for the thoughts, all. I deleted one of Liz Williams' comments (at Liz's request) as Liz didn't think the first one had gone through.

    Couple of thoughts in passing - I like Amal's "bewildered passionate advocacy" - I don't think anyone should ever have a problem with heartfelt advocacy. And Liz W - yes, "performance rage" is far too evident from all corners of the SF sphere, and we could do with less of it.

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    1. Heartfelt advocacy, no. Rudeness, yes. Sometimes hard to tell the difference. (LW)

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  20. When you say...

    Does it have to be this way? Can't we disagree with each other, but reserve the right to accept that the other person might, ultimately, have a point?

    The vast majority do that, it's just most of them don't post, you get a few reasoned arguments in the middle ground, but it's mostly the people at the extreme ends of arguments that get their point across.

    So 95% do quietly think, and understand both sides, they just don't comment. 1% do, but you have 2% from each end, who unintentionally slightly drown the middle of the road views, that are there, just not voiced very loudly.

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  21. Let's assume that all the points in this (interesting) posting trump the counters given above, there are a number of reasons for an author to let folk know of a title being eligible for an award is that sometimes the eligibility rules can be a bit confusing to those who don't regularly vote. For example, this year the Worldcon will be in London and so will see fewer Worldcon regulars and a higher proportion of those whose last Worldcon was Glasgow and even (given the higher-than-usual rate of registration) a good number of first-timers. Here the Hugo ruling for 2nd year of eligibility if published outside of N. America the previous year can confuse unless a) they know the rule and b) they are aware of a works publishing history.

    Just a thought.

    Moving on to a related question, what of lists of eligible works compiled by fans? Each year we canvass our team for recommendations as to what they thought were the best works (published in the British Isles) of the previous year. We also open it to some regional SF groups. Those works with multiple recommendations get onto the list.
    This year's is here in case anyone is interested http://www.concatenation.org/news/news1~14.html#best_books

    Looking back at past years we have usually had titles that have subsequently gone on to be nominated for awards such as the Hugo, BSFA award etc, and sometimes even won the Hugo, Locus, etc. Quite surprising given that our list is British Isles only.

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  22. This brings us on to the Hugo fanzine category, and a confession from (probably in your eyes) a sinner. Because we ( http://www.concatenation.org ) only have three principal issues a year (spring, summer and autumn) we are not at the front of those folk who look at zines that are monthly or more bloggy (weekly if not near-daily) zines. Again as being British Isles based, we may not be in the front of the minds (or even the back of the minds) of the many N. Americans coming to the Worldcon this year. Normally we do not come out and remind folk we are eligible for the fanzine category, but given our age, and that only the past few years have we beefed up our presence (before that we were largely a text-only archive of our 1980s and 1990s annual print zine) and so only really have a shot this year, and have decided to remind people of our eligibility. (The next time the Worldcon is here we will be well over 30 years old and, given the biological status of the founding team, we may not be here then.) But it was a difficult call to make, including for the sound reasons against eligibility announcements you give in your piece.

    It was also a difficult call to make for the very reason of your post's subject of SF&F dialogue in recent years growing increasingly toxic and counter-productive. By reminding folk of our eligibility, would we actually end up alienating people? The bottom line has to be the assumption (hope) that the majority are decent rational and intelligent folk who are capable of making up their own mind and would not be unduly swayed by an eligibility reminder one way or the other, but include us in their list for consideration irrespective if whether or not we ended up being one of the five zines they actually nominated. If this encourages more people to nominate then surely this is no bad thing? For the fanzine category this last problem is particularly acute: the number Hugo nominating for novels last year (2013) saw 1,113 balloting, but voting for fanzine only saw 370! (A smidgen under a third of those voting for the novel.)

    Yes, some commenting on SF blogs may be 'intemperate' but surely that says more about them than the subject of their intemperence? (If 'intemperence' is a word?)

    And so finally to an observation. The above point should not be taken lightly. For example, last year there was a controversial guest post on a well-known British SF blog that attracted much ire and flame comment. Interestingly though, despite there being around a hundred or so universally commenting denouncing the post (and sometimes the guest poster) with nobody commenting supporting the post, surprisingly there were far more being silent (not commenting) but nonetheless clicking 'like' beneath the controversial post. More 'liked' it than gave a venomous comment, yet the venomous commenters toxic comments were clearly unproductive in that they stifled vocal support. Interesting that.

    Meanwhile related to self-promotion and authors there is
    http://www.kameronhurley.com/?p=13565

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  23. It's worth pointing out that my post was less about the ins and outs of eligibility lists - I've been over that - than it was about the dialogue surrounding that and other hot issues in SF&F. So I don't really think this is the place to get into the rights and wrongs of the individual award categories, much as I accept that there are any genuine problems with some of the divisions.

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    1. What dialogue? Dialogue implies a give and take between folks with differing opinions. There is very little of that these days.

      As for the rage, I've been guilty of that. I try very hard to avoid adding to the stack.

      Respects,
      Murph
      On the Outer Marches

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  24. Don't we live our lives competing with others on who's the best? sadly even normal conversations in this internet age has taken that hot-tar filled route. Listening thoroughly and patient discussion cannot be expected out of armchair wrestlers with freedom from identity. We are uncontrollable animals save the cultural norms.

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  25. You may have seen this by way of Twitter already, but just in case:

    http://www.cg-lair.co.uk/daleks/secemp000.htm

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