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Diversity in “the fandom” (by which I mean a broad umbrella term that encompasses SF, fantasy, comics, conventions, and such related geeky pursuits) is a big issue lately, which is an awesome thing. But it’s one of those things which, because it involves human beings, tends to be complex and confusing at times.

I’m thinking just this moment of John Scalzi, who picked up a Hugo at WorldCon for his book Redshirts. I have not read the book myself, but Mrs. Gneech has and declared it an enjoyable read– I don’t have any doubt that it deserves the award. And Scalzi is certainly someone who at least tries to champion the broadening of horizons.

And yet… well, and yet… given recent events, I’m not sure how I would feel in Scalzi’s place. Scalzi, like so many Hugo winners, is yet another privileged white dude, and on some level, does that cheapen the accomplishment, no matter how hard he may have busted to get it?

I ask this because, although I’m certainly nowhere near being in contention for a Hugo myself at the moment, given my upcoming career change it’s not an unreasonable goal for me to shoot for… and I am also yet another privileged white dude. Scalzi and I share a lot of qualities, and a lot of opinions, and a lot of sensibilities, so it’s not hard for me to project myself into that place and wonder how I would feel there.

Certainly if he has any of these thoughts, he hasn’t said so, and I honestly don’t know if it wouldn’t be churlish if he did. The whole topic is fraught with peril. If you are a Scalzi here, what are you supposed to do? Turn down the Hugo? Recuse yourself from the running all together and throw away a valuable career opportunity? Use the moment to call for change (while still benefiting from the system)? Or just do as he has done, smile and say “thank you” and be yet another privileged white dude who won an award when some other just-as-talented, just-as-worthy author not in that category didn’t?

I don’t have a good answer for this. I’m open to suggestions!

-The Gneech

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.


Sep. 3rd, 2013 09:41 pm (UTC)
"White privilege" is bunk, and what's worse it's the sort of bunk which is essentially disguised white racism. Do you notice that whites apparently have this "privilege" even in relationships where they are subordinate to non-whites, and that whites get Extra Special Sparkle Brownie Status Points for "confessing" their "privilege," but non-whites are forever denied this source of status? Do you also notice that "acknowledging white privilege" in fact involves giving up nothing of any real material or even social-status value?

Though yeah, given Scalzi's role in advocating this toxic meme, I do think that he deserves to have his achievements devalued using it. Nothing's funnier than a fool being hoist by his own petard.

Oh, and Scalzi also deserves contempt for his role in subverting and weakening the SFWA by turning on Malzberg and Resnick. But that's another issue entirely.
Sep. 4th, 2013 12:24 am (UTC)
No, it isn't.

-The Gneech
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Sep. 3rd, 2013 10:47 pm (UTC)
You said that you "don't have any doubt that [Redshirts] deserves the award." If that's the case, then there is no reason to think that John should turn the award down or recuse himself. The core belief here is that great writing should be celebrated, no matter whom it comes from.

So what do you do? You do what John is already doing. Use your audience to change the culture. Make pleas for more inclusiveness. Promote great authors that don't fit into the white male geeky mold. Do what you can to make and celebrate great art.

Cultures don't change quickly, especially not when they're being told that they're wrong and should change the way we tell them to. We can't teleport our culture into the future any more than we can force cultures stuck in the past to being on our level (a lesson that would have been helpful for a lot of us about 12 years ago). It's endlessly frustrating to see injustice and backwards thinking in our communities, and it makes us want to do ALL THE THINGS to try to correct it. But nothing is served by not celebrating great art.

Edited at 2013-09-03 10:48 pm (UTC)
Sep. 4th, 2013 12:27 am (UTC)
I guess! I just think about how I'd feel in that situation. But I'm also the guy who tends to vote for other people when I'm nominated for an award as it is. :P

(no subject) - jordan179 - Sep. 4th, 2013 01:34 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 4th, 2013 12:49 am (UTC)
It's a shame the manuscripts can't be submitted anonymously to the panel before being published--keep the name/jacket portrait from affecting their decisionmaking. I'm not sure what else would keep the accusations of favouritism or pandering to minorities at bay.
Sep. 4th, 2013 01:49 am (UTC)
Even if they could, the fandom is a pretty small world, there's no way knowledge of who was who could be kept out of the equation.

Sep. 4th, 2013 02:05 am (UTC)
The Hugos are voted on by a tiny percentage of the actual fans of genre fiction, and the only books that make it to the ballot are books from major publishers. As such, it's an award that has relevance to a very small fragment of the people who love science fiction and fantasy.

Worldcon's membership--the people allowed to vote for the Hugos--last time I attended was 6000. Compare that to DragonCon's 50,000-ish, or ComicCon's 130,000+. I think it's pretty clear that the Hugos reach a very narrow audience, and the majority of people probably don't even know about them.

It's a nice award, but winning it doesn't mean what it used to mean. I wouldn't get too worked up about all the white dudes winning it when the indie revolution, gaming and media are blowing the doors on genre wide open for the rest of the world.
Sep. 4th, 2013 02:21 am (UTC)
Good point. :)

Sep. 4th, 2013 05:17 am (UTC)
Diversity is BS.
Really, it is. No one (and I mean NO ONE) is sitting out there and making any rules over who can and can not be a fan of anything. Or a member of any fandom. Especially not any Furry or Science Fiction or Fantasy fandom. Even suggesting that might be the case is laughable and makes me wonder if you run in some very small circles.

As for writing? Pul-lease. While publishers do put limits on what books they will publish, those limits are pretty much based on what they think will sell. As for the readers? I'm sorry but when I pick up a book I have no idea what color/race/sex that the writer is. Oh I can take a guess on their sex based on the name assuming of course that the name is their real name, but there is no picture of the author. So how do you know? (More than a few authors write under pen names, some of which are the opposite sex of the author - also there are 'authors' out there who are really two people writing as a team).

Also, how is Scalzi 'another privileged white dude'? He rich or something? Because being white isn't any kind of privilege in this day in age. May have been 40 years ago but now? Hardly, more of a handicap truth be told. These days whenever they come around with those little 'surveys' at work to find out what race you are I make sure to mention that I'm part AmInd. Cause I saw what happened when I used to just check off 'white'. Learned real fast what a mistake that was, as a minority I don't get laid off first.

So saying that there is 'white privilege' in the world of these fandoms is really pretty foolish. Why do more white male authors win the hugo? Well maybe because there is MORE money in writing other stuff, so only a small group of people who tend more to be male write it. A 'C' level romance writer makes way more money than an 'A' level science fiction writer. Just look at 'Shades of Grey'.

And how come you're not going on about the lack of white males in the romance genre? Don't see much white privilege over there, do you? Or in Fantasy? Most of the Fantasy authors these days are women as well.

No one really cares WHO wrote the book that they enjoyed, they just want to get the next one. With all of what you wrote about about 'white privilege', something that doesn't exist in the world today, all I can think of is that you are incredibly racist. Sorry.

Sep. 4th, 2013 12:40 pm (UTC)
Scalzi would be the first to tell you that he's a privileged white dude.

In fact, he already did: Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

-The Gneech
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Sep. 4th, 2013 09:05 am (UTC)
The only one of this year's shortlisted Best Novels that I've read is 'Throne of the Crescent Moon' by Saladin Ahmed. Absolutely loved it. Still, somewhat surprised to see it get a Hugo nomination.

Why? Not only is it a debut novel, but it's pretty traditional heroic fantasy, and pretty traditional heroic fantasy doesn't tend to win the Hugo, or even get nominated. That award is generally for SF and more avant-garde fantasy it seems to me. TotCM is more the sort of thing that wins the Gemmell Legend Award.

So I'm left thinking "Was this nomination simply because Saladin Ahmed has an exotic sounding name, looks a bit ethnic and isn't an established white male writer?"

I hope I'm wrong. I hope that political correctness isn't going to corrupt the Hugo Award. Until that doubt goes away, I will always have this suspicion in the back of my mind that makes me doubt whether I should bother with a Hugo-nominated book that isn't by a white male, because maybe it was only nominated to avoid an all-white-male shortlist.

That's what political correctness does. It weakens not only those with "privilege" or "Privilege" or whatever bullshit term these people come up with, it also weakens those whose interests it is supposed to promote and protect.
Sep. 4th, 2013 12:43 pm (UTC)
So when a traditional heroic fantasy novel not by a dude with an exotic name gets a nod, do you immediately wonder if he got it because he was white? 'cos if not, that's privilege at work again.

Privilege isn't "a thing bad people do to good people," it's a social pattern that we're all caught up in, like it or not.

(no subject) - philmophlegm - Sep. 4th, 2013 02:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Sep. 5th, 2013 02:05 am (UTC)
ursulav has touched on this as well in a very thoughtful posting which I highly recommend you read: http://ursulav.livejournal.com/1552309.html

Highly Edumicational reading from both of you, I am grateful that you both are willing to push the boundaries.

Sep. 5th, 2013 03:35 am (UTC)
I read Ursula's post, actually; a very different set of issues overall, but certainly related. Thanks for the heads-up!

(no subject) - jordan179 - Sep. 5th, 2013 04:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 5th, 2013 02:06 am (UTC)
Sep. 5th, 2013 03:23 am (UTC)
I hadn't read that particular essay before, but I've read similar. It points out one of the fundamental difficulties in discussing the topic of privilege-- people who benefit from it haven't necessarily done anything wrong. That's what I was getting at earlier when I said that privilege is not a thing that bad people do to good people, it's a social pattern that we're all caught up in.

To use a rather melodramatic example, think of it like riding on a train that hits a car. YOU didn't hit the car, you didn't WANT the car to get hit-- but that doesn't alter the fact that the car got smashed.

It's not about guilt. It's about trying to get that damn car off the tracks.

(no subject) - jordan179 - Sep. 5th, 2013 04:08 pm (UTC) - Expand

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