by Nalini Haynes
As I’ve learnt more about this beast referred to as ‘science fiction fandom’ and fan publications, I’ve struggled with my response. People have enormous expectations of me as Dark Matter’s editor, expecting me to read their zine or blog, expecting me to listen to their podcast. When they’ve felt let down, the results have not been pretty. What they forget is that life’s too short to drink bad coffee. And there is only so much coffee one person can drink in a day.
There’s no point drinking bad coffee: bad coffee tastes burnt or weak or bitter. IT’S UNPLEASANT. I’d rather drink water than bad coffee unless I’m in desperate need of a caffeine fix to help me cope.
Drinking coffee takes very little time, less time than reading an article or zine on the web and a lot less time than listening to podcasts. Podcasts can distract from boring tasks like housework as long as you can hear the podcast while you work.
But there are only so many hours in the day I’m prepared to do housework AND THERE ARE MANY MORE PODCASTS THAN HOURS.
There’s an expectation that I, as a zine editor, will read ALL THE ZINES and write letters of comment.
Not going to happen.
I read some of the zines some of the time. I can’t read them all.
I only find some of the things interesting some of the time. Just as I’m not interested in looking through someone’s baby photos, I’m not interested in reading private correspondence published online in a fanzine.
Eminently respectable science fiction clubs on the other side of the world are running worthwhile events for their members. I can’t attend the events so I’m not interested in reading their future program even though THEY ARE WONDERFUL PEOPLE.
It’s not possible for one person to listen to all the podcasts, especially if that one person is also studying, creating her own zine, reviewing books and so on. I’ve chosen a handful of podcasts to follow and even then my listening isn’t regular.
Podcasts rely on being able LISTEN.
I can’t listen to a podcast and write or even plan to write something at the same time.
I can’t listen to a podcast while I’m vacuuming or putting the clothes away because I can’t hear it.
I can’t listen to a podcast on the train because TECHNOLOGY FAIL. And lack of $ to fix a low-priority inconvenience.
So I’ve chosen podcasts I enjoy with intelligent speakers talking about science fiction and fantasy. I enjoy well-paced podcasts without lots of waffle and a positive focus like SF Squeecast. Occasionally I’ve flicked off SF Squeecast because conversation has ground to a halt but generally they maintain momentum.
While I’ve enjoyed the Writer and the Critic, this year their episodes have been irregular and today their website was down. Thus I’ve got out of the habit of listening to them. The downside of tWatC is that if they discuss a book in depth there isn’t much point reading it. (Spoilers, people!)
I’ve enjoyed Starship Sofa but I tend to prefer my fiction stories in text or visual format. This might seem weird but it’s about available time: if I only have X number of hours to listen to podcasts, I want the podcasts to be professional development (how to review or write a book). I don’t want more stories distracting my brain while my subconscious is assembling a review.
Life’s too short for that shit
Just as we choose to read and watch enjoyable stories, just as we choose to walk down safe streets while avoiding streets where we’re likely to be mugged, I choose to read affirming or interesting articles that engage with issues while respecting others. I choose to listen to podcasts that are affirming.
I choose to avoid articles, zines and podcasts that have attacked me personally.
I choose to avoid writing by authors who are known for attacking my demographic or other down-trodden people groups.
I’m not going to go in the water if a shark is likely to have a bite.
I’m not going to go to a website, fanzine or podcast where people are going to put down or attack myself, my work or my beliefs.
People have communicated their anger over what they perceive to be my failure to contribute to their fan publication. A podcast I supported is no longer on my list after participants who seemed to be drinking too much wine put down all fanzines everywhere.
This is my choice.
A friend on Facebook was rallying people to object to a Facebook page ranting against breastfeeding; she said it was abusive.
I disagreed; I thought they’re entitled to have their say IN THEIR SPACE. Even if they are talking bullshit. I won’t read it. I won’t comment on it. In short, I WON’T GO IN TO THEIR SPACE.
I have friends on facebook who are right-wing and proud of it. They’re allowed to have their say on their page and in their newsfeed. I’m allowed to hide their posts so I can’t see them and to unfriend them if it gets too much.
If anyone posts crap on my Facebook wall – especially if it’s an abusive rant at me in my space – then I block them.
IT’S ABOUT BOUNDARIES.
If you came to my house and hurled abuse at me, you’d never be invited back. I may also call the police.
What you do in YOUR house is your business.
If I went to your house and I felt uncomfortable, I’d leave.
I’m not drinking bad coffee.
To sum up
If I don’t read your zine/blog/website or listen to your podcast, maybe I’m too busy. Maybe I haven’t heard about the wonderful thing you’re doing. Maybe what you’re doing doesn’t interest me. Maybe I’m protecting myself by drinking good coffee.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the interwebs, we all need to be selective.
We need to drink good coffee and live well.
(Apologies to those who don’t like coffee.)