Why Are Some File770 Readers so Miserable?

Seriously. What is wrong with some of them? They presumably like science fiction. I thought the point of fandom was to share what you like. But some File770 readers like SF so much that they enjoy reading about the writing of science fiction, organizing events, giving lectures to other people, trolling websites, calling people rude names if they disagree with them…

Hopefully you see my point already. Liking something is positive. But I am not sure that all the readers of File770 like science fiction. When you talk about how their favorite event could do more to increase the appeal of science fiction around the world, they get angry. Why are they so defensive? Why does the thought of changing things to increase the popularity of science fiction make them so upset that they turn to innuendo, lies and abuse? These are the things they write, in public.

You may not have been aware of Superversive SF’s commitment to diversity, a word Blank uses 10 times in his post.

What is that supposed to mean? It means something like: “this guy is a closet racist/sexist/homophobe but I cannot justify that opinion, so I’ll use innuendo instead.”

When I started writing at SuperversiveSF, nobody told me there was a party line I had to stick to. If you really must, then attack me as an individual for the thoughts that I have. But it is cheap and divisive to try to turn every intellectual disagreement into a grudge match between gangs. That is a tactic used by bullies, especially when they know they have the biggest gang. So if you want to pick a fight with me, leave the rest of the SuperversiveSF crew out of it. I have my opinions, they have theirs, we are all individuals.

Also, I am not a closet racist, sexist or homophobe. And it makes me angry that I feel forced to write that after two posts which focus on the fact that the “world” science fiction convention, which hands out the “premier” science fiction award, is mostly run for and by Americans. Which is a fact.

The extrapolated Ray Blank: …and to stay even more relevant the Hugo Awards should primarily be about the best cat video…

I wrote about how the “world” science fiction convention, which decides the “premier” science fiction award, totally failed to notice a masterpiece of science fiction cinema, because it was made in the Soviet Union.

I do not have time to watch every science fiction film from every country, so it would be pretty cool if fans of science fiction from all around the world shared their advice on the best science fiction films. Then I would find out about more films like The Host. But the Hugos cannot help me, because they are not voted on by fans from all around the world. This observation has nothing to do with cat videos, or reducing standards. On the contrary, expanding the scope of awards from Hollywood to the whole world should increase range and quality.

I got the impression from Ray Blank’s previous ideas about Worldcon that he’s never actually been to one.

Now he has these ideas about the Hugos without seemingly being aware of what the Hugos are or that there are a plethora of other awards already on offer in the field of SFF.

All of these ‘facts’ are wrong.

I mentioned how the internet is an echo chamber for some people. They hear their own opinions reinforced, and that is what they want. To do this, they do not engage with an argument. Instead, they rephrase it, for the amusement of people who already think like them. They also invent new facts, to demonstrate how valid their reasoning is. I struggle to see the purpose of this activity, except as a weird way to achieve social bonding. Presumably tribes of cavemen used to smash the skulls of any strangers who wandered into their perceived territory, using the common ‘threat’ as a way to encourage closer ties within the tribe. The internet provides a less violent, but equally crude alternative.

Ray Blank has a Brian-like ability to be immensely concerned about things he won’t do anything active about.

That will teach me to contact the WSFS about the requirements for submitting a bid to host Worldcon in Qatar 2022, and to reach out to Arab SF fans to see if they have the appetite for such an event.

I can hear the File770 counter-arguments already. “But you cannot do it on your own!” No. I know that. Presumably one person had the idea for the first SF convention ever, and then talked about it with somebody else, etc etc. That is how stuff gets done. “But we would hate going to Qatar!” Yeah, I know that. That was my point, somewhat. You talk about running a ‘world’ event but then you mock the idea of taking that event to different places in the world. “Finland is different!” If I said Muslims suffer more prejudice than Catholics, then you would know perfectly well what I mean. So do not hold up Finland as a (potential) example of the Worldcon’s diversity.

What he really wants is for other people to spend more than half a century of accumulated goodwill to do things the way he says, without him having to do very much more than pound on his keyboard. Fat chance.

That is not what I am trying to do. I have heard a lot about my motives, which is odd, because nobody has yet invented a fantastic SF mind-reading device. Apparently, my horrible horrible motives mean I am totally totally wrong to point out very simple and obvious facts, like how 80 percent of this year’s Worldcon members will be from the USA, and how that shows the Worldcon is not very diverse for an event that has “world” in the title. That is what I wanted to do. Nobody needs to change because of what I wrote. I have no magic powers, no delusions of grandeur. But this kind of defensiveness suggests I hit a raw nerve. Might all these attacks, directed at my motives and behavior, be a convenient way of shifting the focus from inconvenient facts? For all the bile directed at me, not a single person has questioned the basic demographic data which underpins everything I wrote.

And then I heard how, if I care so much about diversity, I should: attend conventions in the USA which are about hosting conventions in the USA, then throw parties in the USA to persuade Americans to hold their event somewhere really different. Even though I am bound to fail. Because of the heat. And the alcohol. And the terrorism. And because I am a joke. Presumably this was all some kind of motivational technique to make me work harder, because they really really are doing everything they can to increase diversity, and anyone who says otherwise is wrong. Just like me. Wrong-o-wrong-o-wrong. Who can argue with that logic?

I should not generalize, but clearly something is askew with the File770 thought police. If I observed that the police force in North Charleston is 80 percent white, they would immediately jump to a single conclusion: institutional racism. So what conclusion do they resist so fiercely when I make a similar observation about Worldcon? Oh yeah. How dare I make that analogy! I must be pig ignorant!

The thing about institutional racism is that it is different, in quality, from saying any individual is racist. It occurs because of a mentality which says “this is the way things are done around here” and because “these are our traditions and nobody from outside is going to mess with them” and because “we have been doing things like this for 50 years so why should we change now?” Does that sound familiar? Those are all the things stated by File770 readers, when you suggest Worldcon and the Hugos could be a little less… racist. Go on. I will call it like I see it. They are racists. And they are too blind to see their own racism. Which is how racism works, most of the time.

I was being nice by focusing on nationality, because the available demographic data concerns nationality, not race. But they are racists. Go back and read what they actually wrote. Not a single File770 follower condemned the racism that was publicly displayed by other File770 followers. The Arabs are not a nation, they are an ethnic group, and File770 readers repeatedly made ignorant, intolerant comments towards Arabs in general. They confused different Arab nations with each other. They made unjustified generalizations about Arabs. They criticized all Arabs for laws that apply only in some Arab nations. They worried that the Arabs would blow them up, even though the statistics show the risk of violence is far greater in the USA than in many Arab nations. All of these comments were directed at the Arab people, not any specific nation or group of individuals. They were written by File770 readers who are too ignorant to distinguish between races and nations. So they are racist.

And by the way, I personally have no accumulated goodwill toward the Worldcon. Why should I? Why should anyone, unless they already feel part of the club, and benefit from membership?

I can understand why, in the late 1930’s, it may have seemed fine to start a ‘world’ society which ran a ‘world’ event which rarely aspired to leave North America, and only went to friendly nations when it did. Others might call that an example of cultural imperialism. I could start a bogus global SF organization tomorrow, and run a bogus global SF internet poll too, but it would not genuinely reflect the opinions of fans from around the globe. The “if you don’t like ours, then start your own” argument is nonsensical. I actually want more global outreach, not competitive division. But getting global outreach is made harder when one established group pretends they represent the world but does not really do that.

We can forgive and forget. Worldcon and the Hugos originated in different times, with different expectations. What I struggle with now is the idea of a 21st Century Worldcon, insistent on tradition, as if nothing can be improved. I rail against the low expectations of those who rush to defend the terrible lack of national diversity exhibited in the Worldcon data. I find something deeply contradictory in the idea of a world event where the number of African participants will equal the number of participants from the International Space Station, or whose map of the world looks like this:


And there was all the other abuse which was too mundane to analyze, such as:

He really is stupid, isn’t he?

If I wanted to engage with people like this, then I suppose I would be stupid. What would be really stupid is spending a lot of money to attend an event like Worldcon, in order to suffer abuse for daring to deviate from Worldcon groupthink. In that sense, some readers of File770 do a strange job of promoting an event they seemingly care for.

I was writing for the far more polite readers of SuperversiveSF, when someone else decided to copy and paste my words, to rile up his readers. So who are the real keyboard warriors? And if their opinions are so settled that no data could ever influence them, why do they seek alternative views, and then respond with venom?