It’s been a tough and contentious year for Science Fiction/Fantasy writers and readers. Morale is a tad low, which is why the wonderful Alyx Dellamonica got us all sober-dialing our peeps to share the love for our wonderful, amazing, weird, fantastic community. You can read her post here.
For my contribution, I’m thinking about the people who first welcomed me into the world of SF/F on a professional level. My very first gig as a freelance reporter of sorts was when I was sent by Smart Bitches, Trashy Books to cover the Nebula Awards in 2013. I often think of how very differently my life would have gone if I had had a terrible weekend – if no one wanted an interview with me, if I hadn’t talked to people, if I had spent all my time in my room. But that’s not the weekend that I had – instead, people sought me out, brought me into conversations, and treated me so much as though I was a real-life professional that I became one.
I was treated with so much respect and kindness by so many people – Jaym Gates, who held my hand (figuratively) through my efforts to figure out how this whole interview thing was going to work, Cliff Winnig, Kyle Aisteach, Alethea Kontis, Sarah Beth Durst, Leah Bobet, Lee Merriweather, E.C. Meyers, and so many more people who reached out to me and said, “Oh, hey, we should introduce you to…”
At that same conference, Connie Willis gave me a NINETY-MINUTE INTERVIEW. It was AMAZING. She was incredibly kind to me and generous with her time and I’m not kidding you guys, your IQ actually increases just by being in the same room as her. If I ever achieve Connie-level status in any field, I hope I remember to treat people the way Connie treated me. On a similar note, I had a wonderful discussion with Mary Robinette Kowal about Austen and dresses and Doctor Who – thank you, Mary; I hope the spa visit was great!
I got to go to one more Nebula Awards Weekend (where I met Francesca Myman and her octopus bling!) but I’m missing the Nebulas for this year and next year, and I’m so sorry not to be there. I want to acknowledge that not everyone has such a great experience. First of all, a ton of people, mostly women, have risked everything in their professional and personal lives to combat harassment and I benefit enormously from their courage and their sacrifices. Thank you to everyone who has reported harassment and fought for safer spaces. I’m also grateful and humble in the presence of writers and fans of color, with disabilities, and who identify as LGBTQIA, because I realize that they do not always feel welcome and safe, and that they face enormous pressure to educate the rest of us when they might prefer to be writing their awesome stuff in peace. The world of SF/F would be so horribly diminished without you. Thank you so much for being part of the world and part of SF/F.
SF/F is a family. Like every large family, it’s pretty dysfunctional and noisy. Like every large family, there are feuds and deep-seated, horrible resentments (the fight over the Hugo’s involves huge personal and cultural stakes but at it’s core it’s remarkably similar to a fight a certain family of which I may or may not be a part of had over a certain deceased relative’s furniture). There are members of this family who I have, frankly written off. YOU ARE OUT OF THE WILL. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. Some members of the family are sick and do not want or respond to help. Some are a danger to everyone around them. Some of the feuds are petty and some serious, but when I read about these feuds and vendettas online my heart sinks.
But I never feel that way when I actually go to a convention or a conference of SFF/F writers, even when I go during contentious times (like, say, any time at all, ever). When I attend a convention, I feel like we are all on the same team – mourning rejections, celebrating successes. As a reviewer, my position is pretty weird but at my core I’m a fan – I’m in awe of anyone who writes a book, even if I think the book is shitty. It’s still a book! Be proud! And next time, use spell check! I feel like I’m where I belong – in my weird family, where I hang out with some relatives all the time and others none at all, but we’re still sort of related, even those horrible, horrible people who I’ve written out of the will. I mourn them because I want everyone in my family to get along and I’ll cut them out of the will in a flash if I think they are creating an unsafe space for my other beloved family members but at heart I’d much rather convince them to be as welcoming to others as others have been to me.
Our feuds are loud and noisy but they don’t define us – or maybe they do define us, in the best way, because they show that so many of us will not be refused a seat at the table and will not allow others of our kin to be refused a seat either. We, a family, have to fight to be the best family we can be, and in a very small way I saw that demonstrated at that first Nebula Awards Weekend, on the first day, when I was so shy, and Jaym set up all my interviews, and Cliff and Kyle said, “What do you write? Oh, you are interviewing people this weekend? You should meet this guy – hey, come over here and meet Carrie, she’s a writer for Smart Bitches Trashy Books!”
It was as though they said, “Look, there’s plenty of room at this table! Pull up a chair!” So I did. And I’ll never ever leave, and I have a chair for all of you who are willing to treat others with the same kindness and respect that was shown to me. Thank you, my family!