I find this guy fascinating, those dead eyes in that handsomely bland face, slightly nasal voice and the overcompensating with the hands and the bobbing and moving from side to side. It can distract somewhat from his point, which is of the well, duh, variety but argued quickly. Sort of a refresher course for internet culture.
Metafilter’s founder Matt Haughey has written an article going into greater detail about the site’s troubles with Google and its ad programmes. One thing struck me:
Over the course of 2013, a series of messages from the Adsense team hit me with varying degrees of severity. We were temporarily banned from the system due to some text questions talking about sexual health (questions from users that include terms for body parts etc., but Google interprets that as the site being “adult”) and had to greatly beef up our ad display blocking by subject matter.
This seems typical American to me, that obsession with making sure something isn’t porn. It doesn’t usually hurt actual porn sites because these use more specialised ad services, but does hurt sites like MeFi that can talk honestly about sex (among others) or worse, actual sex education sites. (These sort of shenanigans can hit actual sex workers even worse; e.g. Eden Alexander and her troubles with Wepay.
In general this sort of problem is caused because Google’s algorithms for which are a proper site and which an evil SEO farm are not good enough to actually do so with any degree of accuracy, hence long existing sites like Mefi (and, it wouldn’t surprise me, this site too) are caught in the crossfire. Google doesn’t care enough for this sort of collatoral damage to let actual humans judge, so the only thing Metafilter can do is either try and adapt to Google’s abritary rules, or find ways to lessen it dependence on Google.vMefi is now trying the latter.
My own blog is luckily only a hobby, not a business, but it does worry me how much Google is screwing around with my visibility; few enough people visit as it is…
Today I need to share some unfortunate news: because of serious financial downturn, MetaFilter will be losing three of its moderators to layoffs at the end of this month. What that means for the site and the site’s future are described below.
While MetaFilter approaches 15 years of being alive and kicking, the overall website saw steady growth for the first 13 of those years. A year and a half ago, we woke up one day to see a 40% decrease in revenue and traffic to Ask MetaFilter, likely the result of ongoing Google index updates. We scoured the web and took advice of reducing ads in the hopes traffic would improve but it never really did, staying steady for several months and then periodically decreasing by smaller amounts over time.
The long-story-short is that the site’s revenue peaked in 2012, back when we hired additional moderators and brought our total staff up to eight people. Revenue has dropped considerably over the past 18 months, down to levels we last saw in 2007, back when there were only three staffers.
Basically, Metafilter depends on Google referalls for ad revenue, Google changed their algorithms and hence MeFi and many other small websites fell off the pagerankings. The upshot is that three of the moderators have to leave their jobs and people are worried about the future of the site, myself included. On the positive side, the news has released a flood of donations to MeFi, but the worries about the long term viability remain.
It’s depressing. Metafilter came into my life at the time Sandra was dying, a welcome distraction and in it I found a community of smart, sane, amazingly friendly people; to see it in peril hits me where I live, almost literally. But more than that, Metafilter is the best of what the internet was intended to be, more than just a place to buy stuff or click like on, where the users are a community, not just the assets in some venture capitalist’s portfolio. It needs to survive.
Current SFWA president Steve Gould smack down its rightwing critics:
Just as SFWA doesn’t control what members and non-members say in non-SFWA spaces, it also doesn’t control what members and non-members say in response to members’ public comments, statements, essays, and blog posts. When persons say things in public that others find objectionable, it is likely they will receive criticism and objections. There is an odd misconception among some that Freedom of Speech includes freedom from the consequences of one’s speech and freedom from commentary on what one has said.
The idea that you be free to be a bigot, but that I shouldn’t be free to judge you on it is of course a cherished one amongst wingnuts, but not one we need to take seriously. Not even if it makes Glenn Reynolds cry, who I see is still up to the same old schtick I called him out on in the New York Times more than a decade ago. Being silent in the face of bigotry is a political choice.
Please also keep in mind that even if you believe that the list is a cynical exercise, there are people and work on that list who may be well worth consideration, who may or may not have even known they were part of (or would have consented to) being part of a cynical exercise. Consider that you would be doing them (and the Hugos) a disservice to dismiss them out of hand. I’ve seen rumblings of people suggesting they’ll put everyone on the Correia/Day slate below “no award” no matter what, but if you’re doing that, you’re making these fellows’ alleged point for them. Again: Why do that? It’s nearly as easy to read a work (or at least, read as far as can) and decide it’s just not for you. And if it is for you, well. Surprise!
No, you can’t and shouldn’t attempt to judge books or stories on merit that are on the shortlist as a political gesture. You can’t take the politics away and any gesture at judging on “merit” is naive or disingenious. If you don’t want the Hugo to become yet another front in the rightwing war on culture, the only sane thing to do is reject any and all of these nominations. Pretending that doing anything else is value neutral or objective harms those this stunt was aimed at, the women, people of colour and others whom the initiators want to drive out of science fiction. As Rose Lemberg argues, doing so also marginalises yet again exactly those voices:
Also, conciliatory statements often have the effect of diverting the attention yet again (along with the accompanying social praise and support) from the marginalized voices to the power brokers, thus increasing the social capital of those who already have it, while marginalized voices go unpromoted and unsupported – unsupported often in context of vicious attacks from those who deny Diversity Age fans their personhood.
People like Vox Day and Larry Correia and, yes, John Scalzi already get too much attention and consideration just for being straight white males, with all the privileges that entails (something which Scalzi to his merit of course has long realised). Even being outraged at the Correia/Day stunt is once again talking about the same sort of people we always talk about, rather than the people we should be talking about more.
So who and what should we be talking about? Here are some suggestions for further reading:
- Kameron Hurley has suggestions for if you loved Ancillary Justice and God’s War; first three entries on that list are some of the best books I’ve read this past year
- A while back Catherine Lundoff put together an overview of 1980ties LGBT science fiction and fantasy, for SF Signal.
- Pulp historian/nerd Jess Nevins did the same for IO9 chronicaling the rich history of prewar African-American and African speculative fiction.
- Alex Dally MacFarlane has a regular column on post-binary gender in science fiction
- The Women Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed magazine.
- Last but not least, SF Mistress Works, Ian Sales’ ongoing crusade to shine a light on the forgotten classics written by women. (To which I’ve contributed a few reviews as well.)
Anything else that should be on this list?
First, a bunch of right-wing scumbags campaigned to get some of their right-wing scumbag friends onto various of the shortlists. And they mostly succeeded – of the twelve people on their “ideal ballot”, seven made it onto the shortlists. What they did was perfectly well within the rules, and similar campaigns have taken place in the past – although none have been as successful as this one. Let’s be clear about this, however – this wasn’t because they wanted to see their friends on the shortlists, this was a direct attack on a part of genre fandom. And yes, it’s an attack on the part that exhibits the qualities genre fandom should exhibit – inclusivity instead of misogyny and homophobia, diversity instead of racism and marginalisation, progressiveness instead of regressiveness… you know, the qualities associated with civilised human beings.
Worse, this was a revenge attack for what happened with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, which cleaned up its act this year and gotten shot of some of the rightwing loonies cluttering up its publications. Vox Day and friends had problems with the SFWA, so they took revenge by pushing a political slate of nominations on their readers designed to annoy the liberals in their head. So in order to “punish” the SFWA they’re wrecking the Hugo Awards, which have nothing to do with that organisation. What they’ve done is legal even if it goes against the spirit of Hugo nominations. It’s a typical rightwing tactic, trickled down from how the Republican/Tea Party abuse of congressional procedures in real life American politics.
As such, it’s therefore much more of an attack on the Hugo Awards than the nomination of the Wheel of Time series, which misguided as you think it may be, is done out of a genuine love for these books, without any political undercurrent. This has happened before and will again, the only novelty being that an entire series has been nominated under the idea that it is a complete work, just like the Lord of the Rings books would’ve been had the Hugo existed then. Whether this argument holds merit for this particular series is debatable, but it’s not a problem for the Hugos as a proper, non-political award, unlike Vox Day’s stunt nominations.
Apart from the fact that Day is trying to punish SFWA by meddling with the Worldcon/Hugo Awards, the real problem is the politicalisation of the Awards, which hasn’t been done to the Hugos before, or at least not on this scale and this successfully. Of course, they imagine that they’re in a war with a leftist-liberal conspiracy to make science fiction politically correct, but we sane people do not need to encourage that delusion. It does make it harder though to solve this problem, when one faction thinks it’s in a war for the very soul of fandom while the rest of fandom just thinks it’s nominating the books and writers they like.
Even if there were an organised faction to oppose these chuckleheads, it couldn’t engage in the same tactics without destroying the awards. You can’t remove their slate form consideration because how it was nominated was all done according to the rules, even if the intent clearly goes against the spirit of the Hugos. At the same time, this slate should not be treated as normal nominations either, to be judged on merit, as S. L. Huang explains. The only thing left therefore is either to boycott the awards entirely and leave the wingnuts their victory, or to consistently vote No Award above the wingnut candidates. That latter would at least neutralise this attempt to game the Hugos. Unlike Ian, I have no real worries about the credibility of the awards outside this particular context; the Wheel of Time nomination or the idea that a couple of lesser books by popular writers are on the list doesn’t break the Hugo because that has always happened.Sometimes they even win.
Update: according to Feòrag, it’s better to list what you want, then No Award and not list the rightwingers, so their votes can’t be transferred.
Farnborough airshow 1968.
Vulcan world record 1961
Black Knight: Britain’s First Space Rocket 1958.
What killed it (1965).
Jason Mamford on playing Football Manager.
Whenever mainstream culture stereotypes geekdom as a bunch of greasy, cheeto-stained white guys in sweat pants mouthbreathing in the basement of their parents’ house, we bristle collectively, because we know it’s unfair and inaccurate – a caricature some forty years out of date. But when we ourselves make assumptions about what the “average geek” looks like, we still tend to picture some variant of this same guy, with his Boba Fett statues and Kirk v Picard t-shirt, and treat him, if not as a yardstick, then as genesis: the archetypal Patient Zero who first spread the disease of dorkness to his likeminded fellows. We think of women and POC as interlopers, latecomers, erasing the history of their participation in fandom in a bid to reassure a particular resentful, insecure cluster of white men that, even if they’re not the only fans around, they’re still the most important, because they were here first: that men like them were solely responsible, not just for fandom as a concept, but for all those geeky fields – like computing, video games, movies, science fiction and fantasy – with which it’s now associated.
To be honest, I should be the last to complain about this, as being a fat, bearded and ponytailed speccy bastard I’ve certainly profited from this image, being taken far more seriously at work or in fandom than I’ve sometimes deserved, just for looking the part. And I’ve certainly been guilty of assuming that fandom is mostly white and male, even when I should and did know better.
It’s a trap that Joanna Russ warned us about already, in How To Suppress Women’s Writing. If women, if people of colour, keep on being seen as new to fandom, even by those who welcome them to it, they never quite become part of fandom, regardless of how long they’ve objectively been a part of it. It’s that constant surprise that women are reading science fiction, playing games, writing fanfic, the privileging of supposedly masculine hobbies (videogames, roleplaying) over female ones (cosplay, fanfic) and the rewriting of history that excludes or minimises those who aren’t white men. Half the time it’s not even done consciously, just a reflection of the culture fandom moves in.
The struggle to make fandom as a whole more inclusive, more welcoming, might therefore (temporarily?) make those women and/or people of colour already in fandom feel less included as well as empower them, if the focus in such struggles remains on the novelty of having such exotic creatures in fandom. Or alternatively, if the onus remains on women, on people of colour or LGBT people to prove that they belong in fandom, have history in fandom. What we (white men) need to do is not just welcome, but embed everybody else’s history in our own, to take the Russ pledge: The single most important thing we (readers, writers, journalists, critics, publishers, editors, etc.) can do is talk about women writers whenever we talk about men.
Because we have been here before as fandom, in the sixties and seventies and we did try and be inclusive, be more welcoming. But what happened was that we got the “women in comics” panels, but then those became all any woman was invited to appear on. We need to move beyond feminism 101 and inclusion 101. How to do that? I’m not sure, but I still believe voluntary quotas are part of the answer.
Yeah, this needed to be made.