As the Hugo nomination announcement draws close Brad Torgersen has another post up detailing the concern and fear that so many in the SF field feel when they dare to express ungood opinions.
Sarah Hoyt did a bang-up job highlighting this in one of her recent blog posts. She talked about how she had to constantly watch herself: what she said, who she associated with, what signs she might give the editors or the other authors or even the fans that Sarah was the “wrong” kind of writer. I know what Sarah is talking about, on a very intimate level. Sarah’s not kidding. In fact, she’s almost being too nice about it. The field (of SF/F publishing and fandom) is soaked with fear. Moreso now than — I dare say — at any time in its history.
I think part of it comes from our general societal fear factor. Activists of all stripes have discovered that — through the magic of the internet — even very small fringe groups can make themselves appear more substantial, by crowd-sourcing their efforts and using Alinsky-style tactics to threaten and punish businesses, politicians, public figures, actors, musicians, comedians, writers, you name it. If there is somebody capable of being pissed off at a thing in this world, that somebody is (at this very moment) staging, or preparing to stage, a letter-writing campaign, a boycott, a comment thread mob, a twitter storm, or some other type of harassment designed to shut the target down. Force the target into the defensive posture. Make the target apologize, capitulate, scrape his belly, mewl for forgiveness, etc.
And the sad part is: this usually works. Folks know that behind every activist mob, there is the threat of a) bad publicity and b) a law suit. Folks don’t like either of those things. So if push comes to shove, a targeted business or individual will almost always try to give the plaintiffs what they want. Either in the form of superficial concessions, or worse yet, by converting and flying the plaintiffs’ own flag — See, world? We’ve changed! We’re one of the good guys now! Not like all these other evil people who’ve not seen the light! Forward, comrades!
Nobody is safe. Not in any area of our world. Witness the poor comet probe scientist who was mobbed and shamed into a tearful Soviet-style mea culpa by the so-called feminist activists — who were outraged that he had worn a loud bowling shirt with James Bond style women depicted in the print. Such a shirt would not have caused anyone to bat an eyelash 20 years ago. Now? Now, it’s a hanging offense.