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Performative guilt.

Because I’ve seen a few posts trending towards “you should think about the ways you’re complicit and feel bad about it,” and because I grew up in a religious system and went to a high school that emphasized feeling guilty as a virtue and never touched on fighting oppression and making the world better for future generations, I’m gonna push back hard and say that feeling guilty is literally worthless.

It’s neither bad nor good. It’s what you do next that matters.

MJ Paxton on praxis.

They’re right and they should say it.

And while this attitude is certainly prevalent elsewhere, I’ve really noticed the way it’s crept into fandom in the last few years. Both in the sudden over-abundance of eat-your-vegetables-style meta posts,1 as well as in certain trends in fic tropes, particularly around “redemption” or “fix-it” fics that involve a transgression-guilt-absolution cycle2 between hero-villain pairings that focus solely on interior emotions and give zero attention to, like. Any actual concrete actions said characters could do to address whatever bads Villain Character did wrong in the first place.

And, like. Fair cop; teens and young twenty-somethings having bad takes on Twitter/Tumblr/the AO3 is not, like. Critically the end of the world or anything. But I do think the sudden rash of this stuff is reflective of a growing change in culture in general–in both progressive and conservative circles–and I Do Not Like It, in part because it reflects a moral worldview I find not just alien but also kinda… reprehensible? It’s a morality of helplessness, but of intentional helplessness; one that privileges feeling bad (in the “correct” ways) over any actual material effort. It is the morality of white fragility; so long as you cry pretty enough, and confess to enough “sins”, you’re absolved.

And I just… yeah. Hard pass.

  1. “You’re only ~allowed to like Whitecock Juggernaut if you acknowledge it’s Sinful by reblogging X Photosets of Designated Woke Pairing per day” which is, like… yikes. For so, so many reasons of yikes. []
  2. As opposed to, say, a more active one of transgression-realization-action which I’d argue used to be far more popular. []
2020-10-16T10:29:00+11:0019th October, 2020|Tags: culture, fandom|

Honestly I’m just tired…

So anyway if nothing else last night’s Hugo Award ceremony is pretty much the last nail in the coffin for the relevance of so-called “old guard” science fiction and fantasy. CoNZealand can issue all the mealy mouthed apologies they want but when it comes down to it they were still the ones who booked Martin full-well knowing the guy has a long, long, long history of chauvinist community exclusionism.1 Everything that happened last night—and I do mean everything—was blindingly obvious from a thousand paces.

Oh but, yanno. Marin is Famous™. And if nothing else Worldcon can always be counted on to kiss the asses of anyone it feels may bring it even the teensiest, tiniest bit of cultural relevance to its table.

Incidentally, the rough estimate is that there are about one thousand people that regularly attend Worldcons. One. Thousand. When it’s held in larger cities, i.e. with populations in the millions, it scrapes up into the higher four digits.

I live in a city of about 300,000 people. Our local annual media convention got around 5,000 attendees the last time it was run. It’s considered tiny for its type.

When Worldcons are held in similarly sized cities they struggle to get numbers in the hundreds.

And to be super clear about this: this is by design. It’s an open secret that there are people associated with Worldcon that want to keep it small and cliquish and closed to outsiders—by which yes you may absolutely read “anyone not a white American man”, give or take a degree or two—and they want to do that while simultaneously wanting it to be seen as the “premiere” driving force in science fiction and fantasy. It’s all the kids who were2 laughed at and spat on at school stomping off to make their own Cool Kids’ Club so that for once they can be the biggest fish in the smallest pond and shove all the even nerdier losers into lockers.

Is it any wonder, then, this long, slow, wheezing stumble into irrelevance?

And, to be clear, I do think think there’s something salvageable there. The Hugo Awards themselves are evidence of that; evidence of a growing diversity and a youthful energy. So is the anger things like last night provoke. But nothing is going to change, not really, when the next two years’ of Worldcons have snapped back, rubber-band-like, to the comfortable mediocrity of being hosted in the United States, and nothing is going to happen when guests of honor continue to be all white and awards hosts can’t even be bothered to learn to pronounce people’s names in prerecorded video.

Nothing here is new. And it is systemic, it’s connected.

And I’m just so fucking tired.

  1. However he isn’t, at least to my knowledge, a “missing stair“, as they say, which makes him the “non contentious” choice to represent the Famous Old White Men of SFF. Yes, we really, really are at the point where “doesn’t sexually harass, assault, and/or creep on attendees” is the fucking bar that people are trying to clear. []
  2. Or at least felt like they were… []
2020-10-21T11:08:07+11:002nd August, 2020|Tags: cons, fandom, hugo awards, sff, worldcon|

Worldnon.

John W. “Slavery Was Good Actually” Campbell won the WorldCon Retro Hugo for best shortform editor because of course he did and honestly I’m just tired.1

And of course I still have no access to anything because the concom can’t handle people having Discord emails separate to their Worldcon registration emails, which… c’mon, guys. Surely someone there has a thirteen-year-old with a Fortcraft: Minenite server who can teach you how to do this. I even raised a support ticket about it and they… changed my Worldcon registration email to my Discord email and still didn’t give me access to the freakin’ Discord.

And of course panels are solely being broadcast via Zoom, which… can we just not? I mean literally do not use this platform. Not to get too topical but it’s like the computer science equivalent of going to a packed movie theater with no mask because it’s “just more convenient.”2

So yeah no Worldcon for me, I guess. I paid how many hundreds of dollars for this?

  1. And of course Lovecraft won Best Series for the Cthulhu Mythos, although the 2020 Retro Hugos are for 1945, which was after Lovecraft’s death, and most of the work being doing to actually make the mythos The Mythos—as opposed to just “Some Shit One Guy Wrote”—at that time was being done by August Derleth. []
  2. Like… is it, though? Is it? []
2020-10-21T11:07:58+11:0031st July, 2020|Tags: cons, conzealand, fandom, sff, worldcon|

Sleep woke.

There seems to be a much deeper affection in these circles for corporate art — for the Marvel cinematic universe and its bland, calculated inoffensiveness, say — than there is for art made by artists. Movies like Wonder Woman and Captain America: Civil War are evaluated with a generosity of spirit that borders on delusion, cults of enthusiastic acclaim forming around actress Gal Gadot’s onscreen thigh jiggle and the “subtle homo-eroticism” of Thor: Ragnarok. 

Corporate art exists to please. It exists to reaffirm the status quo and to build affection for and loyalty to corporations. From the callous Islamophobia of the Iron Man movies to the US Air Force and CIA-approved wokeness of Captain Marvel and Black Panther, the whole enterprise is bent on saying as little as possible while looking as socially conscious as it can. Fandom’s fixation on finding gay themes and subtext in these blockbuster juggernauts was more understandable when independent gay art was harder to find, but today you don’t even have to brave a convention– you can dig it up with a quick search on Etsy or Gumroad. When independent artists release material featuring actual deviant sexuality, though — from gay content to incest — the reaction from these same people is overwhelmingly prudish. There is little to no desire among them to interact with adult work created by adult gay and trans artists. That art — small art, created for personal reasons — is too dangerous to touch, too full of moral imperfections and frightening images.

Gretchen Felker-Martin on extruded woke product.

Long quote, go read the whole thing, and see also this and this.

2019-11-14T08:52:15+11:003rd March, 2020|Tags: culture, fandom, pop culture|

Commercial media: Explosion! Fight scene! Car chase! Character X and Character Y Let’s You And Him Fight! Now they team up! More explosions! The whole galaxy explodes! Nothing will ever be the same!!!!!

Fanfic: Old friends, Character X and Z, retire to a remote cabin because of Reasons. Thing are tense because of That Incident! Can they spend 200,000 words slowly re-learning to love themselves, and each other? Now they’re hugging. I’m not crying, you are.

2020-01-06T07:31:36+11:0020th December, 2019|Tags: fandom, fanfic, pop culture|

Shippit.

A little old now, but still of interest: results from a survey on shipping in fandom.

One of my main take-homes from this is that the Fansplaining people have… some very different ideas about some aspects of fandom (in this case, shipping), than I do. Which I’d kind of intuited from some of the other things they’ve said in the past, but… here it is. With graphs.

2019-08-07T09:02:41+10:006th December, 2019|Tags: fandom|

Random things that bug me in fic.

Greatest Hits from Random Things That Bug Me In Fic:

  • Fics set in New York where people constantly brush up against each other.
  • Pinching. Of any kind.
  • That’s not how encryption works!
  • That’s not how RFID works!
  • That’s not how the government works!
  • That’s not how the military works!
  • That’s not how computers work!
  • That’s not how the Vikings worked!
  • That’s not how skyscrapers work!
  • That’s not how the publishing industry works!
  • That’s not how Michelin-star restaurants work!
  • That’s not how Australia works!
  • That’s not even Russian, bro.
  • THAT’S NOT EVEN COFFEE BRO!!!!!

And how could I forget my All-Time Ultimate Nitpick OTP:

  • That’s not how pronoun-antecedent agreement works!

 

2019-08-06T10:06:23+10:005th December, 2019|Tags: fandom, fanfic, writing|

Any North American peeps who’re interested in some assistance getting to the New Zealand 2020 Worldcon may be interested to note the 2020 DUFF nominations are now open.

Honestly, it’d be really good to get some “new blood”, as it were, into this so… y’know. Check it out?

2019-12-03T10:21:00+11:003rd December, 2019|Tags: fandom, sff, worldcon|

Blood and cum.

All this is the fruit of sexual repression, of the belief that non-normative sexuality belongs behind closed doors or even lock and key. Any sex worker could have told you the same. Many did. Tumblr’s porn ban, Facebook’s rules about soliciting or offering sex, it all contributes to a world where sexual knowledge and experience exist in a kind of lawless hinterland. And for what? So kids don’t see pictures of the brothers from Supernatural kissing? Children walk in on their parents during sex, endure the constant bombardment of pop culture’s sexual elements, and get their hands on sexual art regardless. The decision culture has isn’t whether or not they learn about sex, but how safe and loved they are while doing so.

Gretchen Felker-Martin on the queer grotesque.

2019-07-17T10:11:59+10:0021st November, 2019|Tags: culture, fandom, pop culture|
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