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:

worldcon2015mapofworld

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?

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About Ray Blank

Ray Blank is one of several identities deployed by a confused cosmopolitan who splits his time between navigating the internet, wandering the countryside, and flying overseas to give talks about using the phone instead. The other identities are responsible for a book about flawed communications, a film about losing your mind in Arabia, and a website for professionals who worry about risk. The Ray Blank identity
writes science fiction stories and ceaselessly toils to subjugate the others.

  • Camestros Felapton

    “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.””

    As you point out later, a magic mind reading machine hasn’t been invented yet and so the proper name for your claim there is a ‘strawman’.
    MG did not say you were a closet racist/sexist/homophobe, nobody suggested it that I’m aware of and the comment did not imply it.

    If you or me or anybody is proposing a major change in an institution there will be other people who will say why they think you are wrong. We call this ‘debate’. Not all of it will be nice, some people may even be rude or suggest others have bad motives (as you do in your message above). This happens across all political boundaries and in most communities.

    If you are serious then you’ll need to cope with critics. Consider that hurdle number 1 in creating a SF/F award that you approve of. It is what others have to done before you.

    “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?”

    And that is fine…but then given the skepticism you raised about awards in general, and that you don’t see much current value in the Hugo Awards it does raise the question as to why you want to reform something you don’t like very much and don’t place much value on?

    If I didn’t like the Hugo Awards or Worldcon, I’d find something else. It isn’t some public institution or some government agency or really anything more than a bunch of people getting together and doing stuff they like to do.

    • Camestros Felapton, you are obviously a manipulator, an idiot, or both. It is ridiculous that you accuse me of a straw man argument whilst you offer… a straw man argument. MG commented on how often I used the word “diversity”. 10 times! I did not keep count. Why did he count? Not because he was making a serious argument about Worldcon traditions. He was obviously implying a lack of sincerity on my part. He was implying I am disingenuous when I write about diversity. You don’t need a special machine to spot an obvious smear like that. There is only one sensible riposte when someone uses grubby innuendo to engineer a baseless ad hominem attack. You tell them to fuck off. There is no point trying to engage with people who behave like that. Though maybe MG will not fuck off and stop reading SuperversiveSF, because he loves copying and pasting snippets of arguments so he can feel outraged by them, and to use them to feed his adoring army of self-righteous trolls.

      As for wanting to reform Worldcon, or the Hugo awards, I think it was clear that I have limited desire to do either. Any vestigial hope of improvement is reduced by every interaction with yet another of the Worldcon/Hugo champions who patrol free speech on the internet. Mostly I argued that the internet will inevitably reduce the influence of activities like Worldcon and the Hugos. I noted that changes could be made to counter that erosion of influence, though change would probably be rejected by Worldcon members and organizers. I am not going to lose sleep about whether changes are made or not. But I do like making fun of hypocrites and bullies, and it might discourage them from being quite so hypocritical, (though probably not in this case). So please allow me to do it some more…

      Worldcon. World-con. Worldcon. WORLDcon. See what I did there? The truth hurts, as is made abundantly plain by all the squeals and protests I have been hearing recently.

  • “Camestros Felapton, you are obviously a manipulator, an idiot, or both.”

    Well I’m not sure what you mean by a ‘manipulator’ but I’m OK with ‘idiot’ in the sense of a person who does manifestly not-sensible things. And what was that you said in your opening paragraph? ‘…calling people rude names if they disagree with them…’

    ” MG commented on how often I used the word “diversity”. 10 times! I did not keep count. Why did he count?”

    To make the point he did make – which is the section of SF fandom that has been recently very vocal about flaws in Worldcon and the Hugo Awards have not been known on the whole for their commitment to diversity (aside from improved representation for US conservatives) – hence the follow up to a link from Michael Z Williamson.

    I also find the juxtaposition odd but I don’t believe that is because you are some kind of closet something-ist. I just think your arguments look disingenuous when coming from the direction you are. For example in an earlier post you (or perhaps another writer – apologies if was somebody else) pointed at the Americaness of many of the criticisms of the Sad Puppy campaign (mentions of Alinsky, Fox News etc) and from that criticized the the non-Puppies for describing the issue in such American terms. However as a non-American it has been abundantly clear that such US terminology was appropriate because an awful lot of the Puppy critique of the Hugo Awards has been within a framework that is very much that of US conservative politics – even when made by non-Americans.

    I would think that if I had your audience and I wished to bring about improved diversity in SF I’d tackle the obvious and clear problem around you. The Superversive site is not unsympathetic towards the Sad Puppies. Presumably many readers here come to read the reviews of works by John C Wright and others. Perhaps many would like to see a Sad Puppy 4 list next year. Yet I don’t see this world diversity you are arguing passionately for being directed at your actual audience. It all seems directed at an aim of explaining why other people are bad and hypocritical. That doesn’t seem like a positive way to achieve your aims.

    Sad & Rabid Puppies this year nearly prevented The Three Body Problem from being nominated. There was little in the way of non-US contributions. The Day the World Turned Upside down also only got on the ballot because of a Puppy withdrawal.

    You could do a lot of good to genuinely advocate for improved representation of non-US SF/F by talking to the audience you do have. Instead you seem to be devoting your effort into campaigning for changes in an Award that you say you aren’t interested in.

    “he was implying I am disingenuous when I write about diversity.”

    Well I think if you had made that claim about MG’s comment you would be on more solid ground. However in your essay above you said something significantly different. You said ‘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.”’

    I think your argument DOES look disingenuous. I may be wrong but it is a reasonable criticism of the kind that reasonable people can have. It certainly is not the same as claiming somebody is a closet racist, sexist or homophobe.

    “There is no point trying to engage with people who behave like that. Though maybe MG will not fuck off and stop reading SuperversiveSF, because he loves copying and pasting snippets of arguments so he can feel outraged by them, and to use them to feed his adoring army of self-righteous trolls.”

    And this is how you intend to engage SF fandom in general? Hmmmm.

    • I’m going to keep this short because you’re boring me.

      And this is how you intend to engage SF fandom in general? Hmmmm.

      You’ve literally wasted an hour of your life arguing that the Worldcon and the Hugos do not represent SF fandom in general. So which way do you want it? Do you, MG, File770 fans, the Worldcon and the Hugos represent SF fandom in general, or are you just an unrepresentative “bunch of people getting together and doing stuff they like to do”. It seems that you speak on behalf of the whole world when it suits you, and otherwise speak for nobody but your unrepresentative selves.

      • “So which way do you want it? Do you, MG, File770 fans, the Worldcon and the Hugos represent SF fandom in general, or are you just an unrepresentative “bunch of people getting together and doing stuff they like to do”. ”

        I always prefer reality – WorldCon and the Hugo Awards do not, currently, represent SF fandom in general.

        • kastandlee

          WorldCon and the Hugo Awards do not, currently, represent SF fandom in general.

          Agreed. Nobody represents SF fandom in general. Worldcon and the Hugo Awards represent what the members of the World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated literary society with a fairly loose organization, want it to represent. If people don’t like that, they can go form their own conventions and their own awards, or they can work to take over WSFS and thus run Worldcon and the Hugo Awards the way they want.

          What they can’t do is set up their own “Worldcon” and their own “Hugo Award” because someone already owns the name. That’s no different than saying that you can’t start selling your own fizzy cola beverage under the name “Coca-Cola,” but there’s nothing unfair about it.

  • “You’ve literally wasted an hour of your life arguing that the Worldcon and the Hugos do not represent SF fandom in general. So which way do you want it?”

    Well I’ve always found going along with actual reality works best. The Hugo Award and Worldcon most certainly do NOT represent SF fandom in general in the US and even less so in the World as a whole. That is an empirical fact.

    Now *should* Worldcon and the Hugo awards become *more* representative of SF works in general? Yes, I believe so and notably that moves in that direction have faced significant push-back from the US right. The push back has come both in response to more British authors being nominated (notable how much of the supposed ‘left’ bias claimed by Puppies is targeted at UK writers) more women authors being nominated (notable how Brad Torgersen claims Ann Leckie’s win was a case of affirmative action) as well more ethnically diverse writers and more gender/sexuality diverse writers and topics (note writers on this site being dismissive of The Water That Falls From Nowhere and also If You Were a Dinosaur My Love).

    “It seems that you speak on behalf of the whole world when it suits you, and otherwise speak for nobody but your unrepresentative selves.”

    That whole strawman thing seems to be habit forming. I haven’t claimed to speak on behalf of the whole world but you knew that already 🙂

  • kastandlee

    Ray Blank on July 26, 2015 at 10:13 pm said:

    Any vestigial hope of improvement is reduced by every interaction with yet another of the Worldcon/Hugo champions who patrol free speech on the internet.

    And who, pray tell, has done anything at all to “patrol” your free speech? Guess what: freedom of speech does not include freedom from criticism, and for ridicule for proposing foolish things. When I say silly things, people make fun of me. Why should it be any different for you? What makes you such a special snowflake that you should be immune from criticism? You criticize Worldcon and the Hugo Awards, and you don’t expect a response other than everyone bowing down to your Superior Intellect?

    Mostly I argued that the internet will inevitably reduce the influence of activities like Worldcon and the Hugos.

    You could be right. In which case you will be able to say how wonderfully right you are. But why should people who have invested much of their lives as volunteers for a group throw away everything they’ve done to make you happy? What makes you so special? How much work have you done? How much of your time have you invested building up a community? Especially one where your level of prestige tends to be based on how much work you’ve done for that community?

    Worldcon. World-con. Worldcon. WORLDcon. See what I did there?

    Yep. And what’s your opinion about the championship of Major League Baseball? Are you setting forth on a campaign to demand that Major League Baseball immediately expand their playoffs to include every baseball team in the entire world? After all, how can it be the WORLD Series (the WORLD Series, the WORLD</em Series, the WORLD Series) unless every single baseball team in the world is part of it?)

    Ray, you appear to think that there needs to be a science fiction award that represents the opinions of every single consumer of science fiction and fantasy pop culture in the entire world, and that this Award should have massive prestige, and should cost not one cent to administer, and that it would be Perfect In Every Way. Please, go make one. Prove the rest of us wrong.

    Ray, you appear to think there should be Worldcons held in places where there do not appear to be any SF/F fans who are interested in spending years of their lives and tens of thousands of dollars of their own money to organize the event. Well, nobody’s stopping you from actually bidding for one, but you see to have a complete misconception about how things work.

    In other words: I’ll believe your theories when I see real results and real work from you.

    • In other words: I’ll believe your theories when I see real results and real work from you.

      Hmmm. Since I started questioning the international diversity of the Worldcon/Hugos, you’re only the 100th person to iterate an argument along the lines of: “you, Mr. Ray Blank, have not done enough to prove yourself to ME ME ME ME ME.”

      What is that phrase lefties sometimes use? Something about checking your privilege? Notice how my name does not include the term “world”. Why does Mr. Ray Blank need to justify himself to the We-Are-The-World Gang, when they don’t need to justify themselves to him? One of these interlocutors made a claim in their name, and it’s not me.

      You should combine forces with “the rest of us” (so you think of yourselves as a single homogenous group, not as individuals with differing opinions?) and come up with your consolidated list of demands. Because you do all make lots of demands. That way I can deal with every demand of the We-Are-The-World Gang at once, instead of separately replying to dozens of self-appointed spokespersons for the gang. But as you’re all proud amateurs, you’d probably struggle to put a consolidated list together. At the very least, it would cost you $40 per contributor.

      Also, I don’t really understand your argument about the World Series. Obviously that’s a good example of cultural arrogance. Involving Americans. And hence a good analogy to my observations about Worldcon. How does drawing this analogy help your argument, and not mine? Is it because I am not permitted to comment on one example of arrogance, without also commenting on another? That would be impractical. That would be like arguing I can’t comment on one instance of racism because I hadn’t commented on every other. But I grant the merits of your analogy. I didn’t use the analogy myself, because I don’t want to be simplistically, unfairly and inaccurately portrayed as anti-American. In other words, I didn’t want to invite yet more unfounded abuse from the We-Are-The-World Gang. But it seems I’ll get that abuse anyway, even if I don’t raise the analogy myself. And it is a superb analogy.

      • kastandlee

        Ray Blank:

        Hmmm. Since I started questioning the international diversity of the Worldcon/Hugos, you’re only the 100th person to iterate an argument along the lines of: “you, Mr. Ray Blank, have not done enough to prove yourself to ME ME ME ME ME.”

        Yep. There’s a reason for that. It’s called asking you for your credentials. What do you know about convention running. What do you know about running literary awards? They’re the same sort of questions people asked me when I showed up. And since I didn’t have any experience, instead of insisting that “you should do what I tell you to do because I said so!” I instead volunteered to work and learn, and I got involved with actual Westercon and Worldcon bids and spent my own time and my own money to work (quite a bit of it, actually; at least the mid five figures USD) on them. Along the way, I learned about how things worked. Over time, I built up enough experience to see how the system worked, and sometimes I even changed things to suit myself. Sometimes those changes didn’t work well, and I went back to the “traditional” practice. Sometimes, people complained, but went along with my changes, and today, those things are the traditional practice.

        What is that phrase lefties sometimes use? Something about checking your privilege? Notice how my name does not include the term “world”. Why does Mr. Ray Blank need to justify himself to the We-Are-The-World Gang, when they don’t need to justify themselves to him? One of these interlocutors made a claim in their name, and it’s not me.

        Fine. See what I said above. I’m one of the people who has worked to build up the World Science Fiction Convention and the World Science Fiction Society. I was Deputy Chair of the 1994 Worldcon. I co-Chaired the 2002 Worldcon. I’ve been a Worldcon division manager multiple times, including running the Events division (Hugo Ceremony, Masquerade, and other major events) in 2005. I’ve been an area/department head lots of times, and also have held non-supervisory staff jobs and simple on-the-day volunteer positions on many Worldcons. I’ve earned the right to say that I know more than a bit about how Worldcon works.

        Just because it says “World” in the title, Worldcon is not actually required to go to every single spot in the world and to track down every single consumer of SF/F pop culture entertainment in the world. It’s a club of people, and it always has been. In practice, it tends to follow the demographics of English-reading SF/F fandom. (Consequently, it tends to be American-dominated, because there are so many Americans.) It’s a hobby, and therefore it also tends to follow people who have enough discretionary income to be able to afford the hobby. And it’s 100% volunteers. Nobody’s getting paid. I know that’s possibly a very difficult concept for you to grasp, but it’s the truth. Unlike the growing tide of pop culture gate shows, Worldcon isn’t run by a Big Entertainment Corporation and nobody is getting paid to work on it. We’re all paying our own way, in fact.

        The way Worldcon works is for anyone who wants to actually be involved with it to get in the trenches and work at it. Not spout theories about how other people should spend their discretionary time and money. If you want to change Worldcon, you need to actually work on it. Set up a real bid. Convince enough other people that you’re right enough to pick you to run one. Then run one. If you do it right, other people will do what you’re doing, because success leads to imitation. Worldcon battles are usually won by the people who show up.

        Also, I don’t really understand your argument about the World Series. Obviously that’s a good example of cultural arrogance. Involving Americans….But I grant the merits of your analogy. I didn’t use the analogy myself, because I don’t want to be simplistically, unfairly and inaccurately portrayed as anti-American.

        You know, you may be right, but the World Series was the most obvious example I could think of about how not everything with the word “World” in it actually involves every single person in the World.

        Anyway, I challenge you to prove the rest of us wrong. Make your own Real Worldly Awards for Real Worldly People. Make your own EarthCon for the People of Earth.

        Seriously, I’ve said this to you and to everyone else who says that Worldcon must become more Worldly and that the Hugo Awards must be open to every person on earth and cost nothing and include everything: “No, not really, but if you are convinced you’re right, go forth and prove those of us who have actually been doing the work wrong.”

        You don’t want to start something new? Instead, you want to make over Worldcon and the Hugo Awards? There’s a process for it. You’re welcome to try, just like anyone else. Who knows; you might be right. But somehow I doubt you have the stomach for it.