I wasn’t going to comment on the ongoing palaver that arose during and since the Eastercon awards ceremony. I think all that could possibly be said about that misjudged introductory speech must have been by now. So this post isn’t about that speech. It is however about the reaction to it. And I wouldn’t even be writing this if my site stats this morning hadn’t indicated that people had been touching in here using the following search term: “BSFA awards FAIL”.

See, like–I hope–most people, I’m hugely impressed with the ongoing efforts within our genre community to redress its ingrained assumptions and biases. More than impressed, I’m proud when I see it in action. The steps the genre has made in recent years are big ones, and I recognise that they wouldn’t have been made without some hard words being exchanged.

However. There are ways of exchanging those words. Ways of indicating where there is still room for improvement. Ways of complaining about mistakes. Ways that do not themselves involve hatred, vitriol and intolerance. It seems, the community’s desire for change has birthed a culture of Ahabs. Bead-eyed crusaders, sharpened dudgeons raised high as they scour the churning waters of social media for another sighting of the Great White FAIL. Dreaming of the sepia photograph of standing atop the bleeding, harpoon-spined carcass.

Okay, hyperbole, aside. The point of this is not that we should not be calling people out when they say or do something stupid or don’t respond to apologise fast enough, the point is to do so in a way that is tolerant and forgiving of human lapses, and allows the conversation to move forward without reducing anyone to blood and blubber. To go at it like a bunch of narcissistic, obsessive sea captains rushing to be first on the scene whenever a shout of  “FaaaAAAAILLL!” echoes across the waters, carries a tone of hate-primed aggression that is somewhat familiar.

It’s really pretty similar, isn’t it, to the sort of thing you might read in the Daily Fail.

4 thoughts on “Ahabs

  1. I’ve ben trying to explain the outrage phenomenon to my colleagues at work but was unable to articulate what was wrong about it. Thank goodness you have done it for me! As non-fans they could only agree with the sentiments expressed by the affronted Ahabs and were unaware of the potential damage such sentiment could do to a community. Let’s hope the storm dies down soon and we can return to calmer discourse.

    1. To be honest, Ian, it’s not even about fandom. It’s simply a matter of people not being dicks about shit.

    1. It’s a form of notoriety, I suppose. But wouldn’t you be rather known as an equitable persuader rather than, well, a bully?

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