Frankly, I’m Embarrassed to be Your Colleague

To my fellow science fiction and fantasy writers.

Merriam-Webster online defines professionalism as follows: “the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well” The science fiction and fantasy genre is woefully lacking in such.

Reposted from my Facebook account:

Too many SFF people are little more than snotty-nosed toddlers throwing a tantrum over a trophy. If you have reason to think I’m talking about you, then I probably am. The behavior over the past six months has been a petty, pathetic, and unprofessional focus on the wrong reasons to be a writer.

Grow up and start acting like adults. Start acting like professionals instead of like Kanye West. While some people think there were victories this past weekend, all I see is a former honor cheapened to the point I don’t want one.

That’s right. I don’t want to win a Hugo award. I don’t even want to be nominated for one. I no longer feel like it’s an honor. It’s a burden for everyone involved.

Thanks for that. Maybe it’s time to consider growing up and acting like a professional.

The behavior from people I once considered professionals has me completely disgusted. SFWA defines a professional by the markets where you sell your fiction. That’s not how I define it. A professional is someone who acts like an adult in public. A professional is somebody who congratulates winners and accepts defeat gracefully, even if you think the voting has been rigged. A professional is one who exhibits professionalism as defined above.

Furthermore, a professional writer who is worried about winning a Hugo, a Nebula, or any other award is worried about the wrong things. A professional writer is a writer who cares more about craft than about accolades. A professional writer is a person who cares more about the audience built up over time, and less about who gets a pat on the back from a small segment of fandom. If that’s why you’re writing, maybe it’s time to reassess your priorities.

I don’t like watching people stress over what should be the most joyous occasion of their career. I don’t like seeing people withdraw because they were nominated for the wrong reasons. I don’t like feeling uncomfortable congratulating somebody for being nominated or for winning. It’s just wrong from any perspective.

And please, don’t take credit for the influx of cash into the Worldcon and Hugo coffers. That was an unintended consequence, an effect rather than a goal achieved, and you know it. Stop using that as justification because I suspect most of our genre would agree with me in preferring a shoestring Hugo award with meaning over the hollow trophy it has been morphed into.

This poor behavior is has, for more than a decade, been entrenched in our sub-culture. However, what I have witnessed over the past six months ranges from pitiful whining and immature tantrums to all-out thuggery. The Sad Puppies claim there is a bogeyman under the bed, but if you get down on your knees, lift the cover and actually take a look, it’s just a harmless cricket down there. The chirping might be annoying, but you won’t be eaten in your sleep.

The other side has players who are just as bad. Aside from childish mockery of the puppies themselves, we have colleagues who are ridiculing and discriminating against fellow writers because of their personal beliefs. Frankly, somebody’s religion is none of your business, and they shouldn’t have to hide their faith to be accepted in our genre. I’ve witnessed antisemitism, anti-Mormon, anti-Catholic, anti-anything-to-do-with-God with alarming regularity, and it thoroughly nauseates me regardless of my own beliefs.

Science fiction and fantasy fandom used to be among the most accepting groups around. We’re all geeks. Many of us withstood ridicule, harassment, and even violence while growing up, just for being different. We’re doing that to each other now, and I want no part of it.

My challenge to my fellow science fiction and fantasy writers is this: no matter how much you think you’ve been wronged, bury the hatchet. Act like the professionals you claim to be. While I realize there is one particular ass who will never act professionally, the rest of us don’t have to play by those rules. Those of you who have the most to lose by continuing this charade also have the most to gain by apologizing for the disruption. You don’t have to apologize for your beliefs, just for your behavior. Let’s kill both the puppy and the anti-puppy movements.

Let’s all grow up and start acting like professionals, as defined by Merriam-Webster.

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