Friday, August 11, 2017

Moral Panic at the Dragons

So the Dragon Award nominees have been announced. Since the Dragons draw from a wider population of voters than just a small coterie of industry insiders, the selection represents a broad spectrum of works, including tradpub stalwarts like John Scalzi, a heavy leavening of books published by Baen, releases from small presses like Castalia House, and a growing segments of independent writers, such as Richard Fox, B. V. Larson, David vanDyke, and newcomer Mark Wandrey. This is what should be expected at any award claiming to be a fan award, as a quick look at what is selling at Amazon reflects the diversity of authors and publishers that people are actually reading.

Cosplay of "2B" from Nier: Automata
Well. mostly. I'm not sure how the utterly panned and ridiculed Mass Effect: Andromeda--a game whose poor sales caused the closure of its development studio--got on the ballot for video games. But I think that little aberration will settle itself out in the voting process. It's a flip of the coin if Nintendo nostaglia or Nier: Automata's cosplay hotness will take that category. But one thing is clear about ME: Andromeda's chances: the guys don't want to play it and the girls don't want to dress up as it.

What is also clear about the Dragons is that the moral panic that has seized tradpub science fiction and fantasy, and thus the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the laughably named Worldcon, and the Hugo Awards, has swept into the Dragon Awards. This shouldn't be a surprise as the industry insiders that make up the traditional publishing houses, SFWA and Worldcon have, since the late 2000s, acted as an inquisition looking for a witch to burn. But tradpub's moral panic is a microcosm of the greater moral panic sweeping through the West, which Styxhexenhammer666 describes in detail in his video:

In quick summary, a moral panic arises when a false consensus of society is challenged, usually during the rise of a new communications technology, by the existence of people that contradict it. Styx details how this worked during the Red Scare and the Satanic Panic. He also how today's current false consensus that everyone in the West is Progressive and fascinated with ideas of equality. He also reminds us that those who stood up and fought against the moral panic are remembered fondly when it is over.

The cry of the current group of witch hunters is to label their opponents as "racist", "sexist", or "fascist", labels that the tradpub mob use incessantly to maintain their false consensus even as challenges such as Baen, Sad Puppies, and indie show the cracks in their reality. Not only are there some people who actively oppose the false consensus on the grounds that it does not describe reality, there's an even more sizable portion who just don't care and fail to include in their stories the concessions to the false that the witch hunters demand must be included. And, most damningly to the tradpub consensus is that these rebels make more money and sell more stories than the tradpub favorites. But the cry of "heresy" still holds some power, so some authors who want to court the favor of the tradpub group attempt to disavow connection with rebel thought so that the witch hunters will pass them by.

This has led three writers to try to pull their nominations from the Dragon Awards, acts that have brought the usual witch hunters in the media running. And the same old lies are spouted in the hopes of dusting off that old scarlet letter and perhaps even burning a witch. Meanwhile, the cracks in the false image of reality continue to show. Among the amusements this time around is that a black author claims racism in a convention hosted in Atlanta, America's Black Mecca, and one certainly racially more diverse in attendance than the collection of lily white authors at Worldcon.

So far, the Dragon Con administrators have tried their best to walk a middle road through the battlefield made by the witch hunters, albeit with a few missteps. What they should do is open the floodgates wide. Use a little convention money to advertise, especially with such actual celebrities that attend Dragon*Con as an Adam Savage or Austin Creed/Xavier Woods. Get a Pewdiepie or other prominent YouTubers to shill for the Awards. And then sit back and watch as the loud voices screaming against heresy get deluged by the greater fandom who only wants to have fun and reward the books, movies, and games that they enjoy.

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