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Science Fiction Fans and Niggas.

The American comedian Chris Rock used to do a routine called "Niggas vs Black People". Although it's certainly funny, it's perhaps more important as social commentary. The thrust of it is that those black Americans who are lazy and ignorant, and irresponsible, criminal even - the "niggas" - essentially spoil things for the black Americans who are none of those things. The "niggas" get away with it because the respectable "black people" feel it is wrong to criticise other blacks. It's a very astute observation.

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Chris Rock isn't anywhere near as famous in the UK as he is in the US. In fact, he's probably about as famous over here as Jonathan Ross is over there. Which brings me to the rest of my rant blog post.



Some background for those new to the story.

The Hugo Awards are the Oscars of SF and Fantasy literature. Although their reputation has been somewhat tarnished in recent years*, they are still the award that every SF or Fantasy*** author wants to win.

This year, the convention at which the Hugos will be announced is in London ("LonCon"). And the organisers managed to get Jonathan Ross**** to be the host. For non-Brits, Jonathan Ross is one of the biggest mainstream TV stars in the UK. He's mostly known as a chat show host - his closest American equivalents are probably people like Jay Leno or Conan O'Brien. He's also a massive geek. He used to own a comic shop, is a published comics writer and has made TV programmes about all sorts of really geeky obscure stuff. He's hosted the BAFTAs (the British Academy Awards), the British Comedy Awards and the Eisner Awards (the Comic industry awards). Basically, he's a goto guy for hosting awards ceremonies. You can expect some naughty and / or politically incorrect humour occasionally, but nothing exceptional. (Bear in mind that he was at the BBC, that most politically correct of broadcasters, for ten years.)

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Nevertheless, there was an outcry on Twitter at his appointment.

Or at least, there was an outcry from a certain type of person. This type isn't actually that common, but they all seem to be on Twitter, they're all very vocal and they aren't afraid to bully celebrities.

So after seven hours of Twitter abuse, Ross decided to withdraw.

Capture

So what was wrong with Ross? Well, I saw all of these arguments on Twitter and on blogs:

Argument 1: The 'Not One of Us' argument. He's not geeky enough. People who aren't hardcore SF fans have heard of him. We don't want people like him in our convention.
Argument 2: He's a celebrity. There'll be mainstream media there taking photographs. We don't want ordinary people to see us.
Argument 3: He's not politically correct enough. He'll tell jokes. I might not like them. Somebody might get offended.
Argument 4: He's white.
Argument 5: He's male.
Argument 6: He hates women.
Argument 7: Fat female geeks aren't safe around him and I'm a fat female geek.

That last one is absolutely 100% genuine, and wasn't from some random nutjob, it was from someone described as a major SF figure and a former Hugo winner. (Closer examination revealed that she was a relatively minor writer who won her Hugos for 'Best Fancast', although she has been nominated in more important categories. So we're not exactly talking J.K. Rowling here. She's also, to be honest, not that fat.)

To consider whether fat, female geeks would be safe around Jonathan Ross, let me introduce you to this lady:

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Her name is Jane Goldman. She is a screenwriter, and won a Hugo for her work on the screenplay of the movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Stardust. She also wrote the screenplay for Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class. She's definitely a geek. She's also (let's be honest here) not a size 8. And since 1988, she's been Mrs Jonathan Ross and is the mother of his three children.


Now I'm also a geek. And more specifically, I'm a science fiction and fantasy fan. The last book I read won the 1960 Hugo. The book I'm currently reading won the 1961 Hugo.***** The audiobook I'm currently listening to in my car didn't win, but its two sequels both did. London isn't actually that far away from me (a few hours). Yet I have no intention of attending 'LonCon' and in fact I've never been to an SF / Fantasy convention. I don't think I'd fit in.

You see, just as there are 'black people' and 'niggas', so are there science fiction fans and 'members of fandom'. And the more I read about this absurd reaction to Jonathan Ross, the more I think that 'members of fandom' are spoiling it for the rest of us.


Science fiction fans want lots of people to be science fiction fans. We want there to be more Star Wars films. We respect that some people prefer Star Trek (or even Stargate) to Star Wars. We want to see positive reviews of the latest SF books in the mainstream media and not being sneered at on BBC late night review programmes. We want classic books to be reissued and their authors receiving the acclaim they deserve. We value books because of the quality of the book, not the political correctness of the author. We like that teenage girls love Doctor Who. We want Firefly back.

That's not what 'members of fandom' want. They are elitist by nature. They want to exclude ordinary people. They aren't slow to remind you that they've been "in fandom" longer than you. They use obscure in-jokes and made-up words. They think the plural of fan is 'fen' (or rather they don't think this, but they use it to exclude ordinary people). Political correctness is everything to them. If there's a book with a transgendered, trisexual, ethnic minority hero/heroine/whatever who fights against evil corporations who are polluting the planet, then that's the one they'll vote for for the Hugo. They use terms like 'cis' unironically and insist that a panel of five experts must feature a 50:50 gender split. They look down upon female cosplayers who dress as characters who show a bit of flesh - or they are those cosplayers and then complain that in a room full of twenty-something men, one of the men stared. And then complain that a massively successful author is sexist because the cover of his latest novel features a female character with a small bit of cleavage and he described an editor as a "lady". An author with extremist left-wing views will be celebrated and voted for, no matter how plodding his or her book. A new author who writes a brilliant story with a seemingly liberal subtext will be cheered, until he later reveals himself to have a single political opinion at odds with the groupthink, whereupon he will be shunned and boycotts of his work arranged.


And you know what? I'm fed up of it. I may be a science fiction fan, but there's no way I'm going to LonCon.

I wouldn't feel safe.




* A common accusation is that because of the voting system**, the main award for Best Novel now goes not to the best novel, but to the best novel by a writer whose political views coincide with the sort of people eligible to vote. Political views of authors seem to be very important in this era of author's personal blogs.
** People who attend the Worldcon convention or are otherwise supporters thereof.
*** Actually, Fantasy in the conventional sense rarely wins.
**** For no fee. Because Neil Gaiman asked him to.
***** This is purely coincidental. I actually rolled a d100 to decide which of the 78 books on my To-read shelves I picked up next. The 1962 winner is also on those shelves. If I do the same die roll thing, and it comes up with Stranger in a Strange Land, I'll be somewhat taken aback. Come to think of it, the 1963 winner (Philip K. Dick's 'The Man in the High Castle') is also on those shelves.