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On SFF, Community and Blogging

20 March, 2014

It’s not often I spend a great deal of time on Twitter (I simply don’t have time, and my life doesn’t revolve around my PC or phone), but every time I’ve dropped in on it lately, I seem to find a similar situation developing. I follow, not surprisingly, a large number of writers and people in the SFF (science-fiction and fantasy) community, and in doing so I’ve noticed something of a pattern. Every week or two, a new controversy seems to rise up, get everyone in a fluster for a few days, and then gradually die down. I’m not going to detail these controversies – they’re out there if you really care to look for them, spread across Twitter and Facebook and multiple blogs/forums.

In the past, I’ve taken the same approach to just about every hoo-haa: namely, trying to ignore them. Well, perhaps ‘ignore’ is the wrong word. Many of these controversies arise out of genuinely important issues, such as race and gender in the genre community, or harassment, or discrimination – these are topics I do care about, and I want to know what’s going on. However, I’ve purposefully tried not to get involved in these internet skirmishes; I simply don’t have an argumentative side, and confrontation of any kind tends to make me feel physically sick. For the sake of my own sanity, I choose to stay out of it.

However, in recent weeks, that’s been hard. Short of leaving Twitter altogether (which seems a shame, as it’s so frequently a repository of excellent genre news and discussion), it’s impossible to ignore these blow-ups. One of the latest revolved around women in SFF, and how little some people want us there – reading their arguments, some of them genuinely nasty, was enough to leave me feeling exhausted and upset. If so many people don’t want me here, I found myself thinking, why am I even bothering? Why don’t I abandon all genre sites and blogs, never attend another convention, stay off Twitter, even stop buying books?

It’s easy, and tempting, to retreat in the face of such negativity. There are days when I can’t face doing anything else. However, whilst I’m not the arguing type, I am bloody stubborn. It takes an awful lot to put me off for long, and being part of the SFF community is no exception.

This, then, is a mini manifesto, of sorts. As I said before, for the sake of my own sanity, I don’t intend to embroil myself in too many internet scuffles. However, that doesn’t mean I’ll ignore them entirely. I choose to counter all the nastiness floating around the internet with my own small piece of positivity: by blogging and tweeting about those books and authors I love, by promoting them to anyone who’ll listen, and by continuing to both read and write the sort of fiction I want to see more of in SFF.

Like the majority of people in this genre community, I am just one small fish in a very large pond, but it’s an ecosystem we all have to work hard to maintain if we want it to be a place everyone can live.

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