Friendship, and the SF Controversy “du jour”
Folks, I continue to be consumed by my edit for A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, which is the main reason I haven’t been online to blog in the past week-plus.
But there are other reasons.
One of them caused me to ponder what the meaning of the word “friendship” is all about. For when someone knows you for a long time, there is a presumption that if there’s a disagreement — regardless of what the disagreement is about — the other person will listen to you.
He or she may not agree with what you’ve said. But the other person will at least listen, and try to understand.
During this past week, I’ve seen more distress coming out of the community of science fiction and fantasy writers than I’ve ever seen before. I can’t really summarize this for people who don’t understand it, and it seems like “inside baseball” unless you’ve been caught in the crosshairs of this particular bit of internecine strife.
But the upshot of it is this: Writers are fighting other writers, mostly using words — something writers are very good at using, by definition. And rather than trying to find any common ground with one another, writers are continuing to duke it out with our words instead.
How does this have anything to do with friendship, you ask?
It’s simple. I have a friend, Jason Cordova, who got nominated for one of the most prestigious awards in SF&F — the John W. Campbell Award. He got nominated due to the auspices of a group that many other long-term SF&F writers do not like (this group being called the “Sad Puppies”). Jason was not the only writer to be nominated by the “Sad Puppies,” mind you, but he’s the one I know the best.
He is my friend. (You may have gathered this, yes?)
So when some long-term writers started saying that all the people who’d been nominated by the “Sad Puppies” were racists, or homophobic bigots, or the like, I protested. (Anyone who regularly reads my blog knows that I am not shy about such things.)
Jason is Hispanic. He has a sister who’s married to another woman. He is far from wealthy. He is an honored and honorable veteran of the military. And he’s written some lovely short stories along with his solo novel, CORRUPTOR, and several co-written novels with Eric S. Brown, most particularly KAIJU APOCALYPSE and MURDER WORLD.
I don’t think Jason in a million years thought that he’d ever be considered for the John W. Campbell Award, whether the “Sad Puppies” nominated him or not. But he was.
And, being a friend, I congratulated him. And then defended him, even though he probably did not need my defense, because that is what friends do.
To make things a bit more complex, one of the people who was upset was also my friend. This person saw my defense and became irate.
Instead of asking me what I was about, this person walked away. At this point, I don’t know if this person will ever return, either.
Now, there’s a whole lot I’m leaving out, partly by design. (As I said, it’s “inside baseball” for those who aren’t following it — lucky you.)
But the important thing is this: If you are my friend, I know we’re not always going to agree on everything.
(How boring would the world be if we did? But I digress.)
What I would hope we’d agree on is the fact that our friendship deserves at least a little care. A little understanding. A little bit of hope that maybe, just maybe, common ground can be re-established.
I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten upset with my friends, including Jason at times. I’m sure he’s gotten upset with me, too. We don’t agree in our political philosophy, we don’t always agree on other issues…but we are friends, and we work things out — sometimes by agreeing to disagree, sometimes by trying to meet each other halfway.
This is what friends do.
I wish that the SF&F community could try to do that now. Because SF&F writers have far more in common with each other than we do with anyone else…and it’s sad that instead of using our immense energy and creativity to create new worlds with, we’re instead savaging each other.
And as for my other friend? I will care about this person until the day I die. I owe this person a great deal, and I haven’t forgotten this.
But like Lillian Hellman, I will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.
Note: I thought long and hard before writing this. I am willing to discuss the issues of friendship and whether or not SF&F writers can somehow try to find common ground with one another again. Anything else will probably raise my blood pressure unduly; besides, there are many other places discussing these issues in far greater depth than I am.
I’ve taken a general course mostly because I wanted those who are just finding out about this issue to understand just how messy this nonsense is. I’ve already lost one friend over this because I chose to defend another friend I felt was being unjustly attacked.
I neither like nor dislike the “Sad Puppies.” I do respect many of them, most particularly Brad Torgersen and Amanda S. Green. (Before anyone asks, we’re not going to discuss the merits of the “Rabid Puppies” group right now. Or the lack thereof.) I feel they have a right to be heard, and under the rules, they did nothing objectionable. But to some, me saying that is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.
And I neither like nor dislike the vast majority of writers on the other side of this mess.
One thing I do know, though: No one should be threatening anyone else over this. Ever.
Anyway, the floor is open. I welcome comments, providing they are civil. Any that aren’t will be deleted. (You have been warned.)