But it has been burning for a while. I’m going to briefly (for me) outline the history a bit before diving into the most recent battle fronts in this long-running war.
Yes, I’m talking about the current online flamewar going on in the sci-fi/fantasy world. The latest salvo has been over the Hugos with Irene Gallo calling anyone who thinks Sad Puppies has a point a neo-Nazi (thanks, hon! By the by, I was born Catholic and my grandfather was part of the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach so I’m just thrilled to be called that) but it’s been simmering since at least the 1980s when the geeks and nerds decided to start building their own worlds and lives where they could do their thing without having to put up with the overculture’s bullshit. We went our own way, did our own thing, and left the rest of the world well enough alone.
Then, of course, the stuff we were doing started to catch attention and the rest of the world wanted in on it. We’re tolerant and magnanimous so we said “sure, c’mon. Join the Internet.” We kept doing our own thing, hanging out on our usenet groups, playing MUDs, building early websites, and just generally chilling. We avoided the screeching harpies, the Ivory Tower Intellectuals, the fashionistas, the HR drones, and the hippy-dippy crowds and kept playing video games, reading sci-fi and fantasy, writing, and just generally adopting an outlook of “let everyone do their own thing and just leave us alone.”
And that was fine for a while. We got to show off how awesome our little worlds could be with epic movies like Lord of the Ring, The Matrix and books like Harry Potter, The Wheel of Time, Mistborn, and video games like World of Warcraft, Diablo III, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, and more. Still, for the most part, we left the rest of the world alone and the rest of the world left us alone. We kept spinning great stories, kept telling them and retelling them, made awesome networks and used the tech that our fore-geeks had built into companies like Amazon to share our culture. We didn’t really care much what the rest of the world was doing because we were too busy wondering who was going to win the X-Prize, building spaceships and space-faring companies, talking about how we could make money mining Near Earth Asteroids, planning out how we’d get to Mars.
After all, the rest of the world had been telling us what we wanted wasn’t important and didn’t matter. We took them at their word and left them do their thing so long as they left us alone to think up things like how to colonize other planets, whether or not you could genetically engineer dragons so they’d be real, and when the Singularity might happen. In our world, we didn’t much care if you were male or female or some variant therein. We didn’t care if you were homo-, hetero-, bi-, or a-sexual. We didn’t care if you wore jeans, Armani suits, had tattoos and piercings, walked around in your pajamas all day, watched porn or thought that Clark was better than Heinlein. All we really cared about was “is your idea cool? Will it work? Can you prove it?”
We weren’t interested in trying to set up elaborate government programs to ensure that every company, game, book, movie, TV show, poem, or military unit was a perfect representation of the rest of the population. We thought that it was a bit silly to try to force people into jobs based on superficial (or superfluous) traits instead of whether or not they were interested, qualified, and could fit in with the rest of their team. We were willing to listen to arguments that perhaps the overculture discouraged certain people from entering our specialized realms (math, science, tech, and engineering). However, we recognized that interest and personality-type were the main drivers and the intelligence played a role in whether or not a person could get into the STEM fields. After all, if you hate math, you’re hardly going to be a great computer scientist. If physics bores you, a career at CERN is probably out. If you’d rather talk about your feelings, you’re probably not destined for the engineering world and if you think video games are for losers, I doubt you’re going to fit in well in a company like Blizzard or BioWare.
So, for the most part, we didn’t care that our subculture had more men than women. The women (like me) who were part of it had absolutely no real place in the overculture. We didn’t face a lot of sexism in the geek realms — the guys are glad to have us and appreciate the way our minds work. True, they can sometimes say something that results in them suffering a brief bit of foot-in-mouth but then, so can we. We know that guys like to look at attractive women (unless they’re gay in which case it’s attractive men).* For the most part, we don’t care. Their desktops and screensavers don’t bother us so long as the women are mostly clothed. After all, they’re not asking us to dress like that. The superficial doesn’t matter much to us — actions do.
At any rate, things were rocking along just fine until three events happened that showed us that no matter how magnanimous and forgiving we were (after all, we’d sighed and gotten over the September That Never Ended, we’d come to grips with the AOLers and Spammers, we’d learned to filter out the overculture and had even — albeit, with difficulty — forgiven them for cancelling Firefly). The first was #GamerGate. The second was #ShirtStorm. And now the last is the HugoSpat.
We didn’t start the flamewar but, bless your overbearing over-culture hearts guys, we think it’s hilarious when you try to flame people who invented fireproof armor, can calculate the burst damage for the best PVP firemage build, and build flamethrowers for fun.
You’re in our world now and here, we make the rules. That is why folks like Irene Gallo and her brethren are going to lose because — at best — we go back to ignoring you and doing our own thing. At worst, we show the rest of the marginalized in the overculture that they don’t have to put up with your shenanigans either. After all, we’ve already showed the RIAA we don’t need them to help us find great music. We showed the big TV companies that we can damned well do without them. The Big Five are learning that we don’t need them to control the book market.
Do you really want to join them on Ye Olde Dustbin of the Dinosaurs?
*Women aren’t as visually-oriented as men but we do like to look at good looking guys (if we’re straight) or gals (if we’re lesbians). However, rarely are we going to plaster the walls and our computers with fine specimens because we’re wired a bit differently when it comes to what we like to look at and display. *shrugs* Men and women are different and that is a Good Thing(TM).
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