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Public face versus unity by groupthink


“As you know, I’ve been worried about the direction of conventions, of fandom, of the… public face of our field,” begins Sarah A Hoyt as she justifies re-posting Toni Weisskopf’s blog.

Toni begins:

The latest fooforaws in the science fiction world have served to highlight the vast cultural divide we are seeing in the greater American culture. SF, as always, very much reflects that greater culture.

Both introductory lines lulled me in to a false sense of security before Toni continues, apparently supporting historical decisions to excommunicate people whose ideas and ideals did not suit the power-brokers of the day. Toni supports their actions although the power-brokers and exiles were apparently all male – would Toni have been welcome in this group in any role other than as a servant organising conventions, making coffee and baking cakes?

Toni continues:

So the question arises—why bother to engage these people at all? They are not of us. They do not share our values, they do not share our culture.

And I’m not sure there is a good enough argument for engaging them. There is only the evidence of history, which is that science fiction thrives on interaction. Artists, readers, authors, editors, all united in discussing the things that are cool and wonderful, together. We share a belief that the future is worth engaging. It’s an on-going conversation, and it’s worked well that way.

Toni appears to advocate having a conversation and yet she’s talking about unity in conversation. It’s as if Toni’s ideal conversation is where all are in agreement although groupthink has been the downfall of many.

Wikipedia defines groupthink as:

…a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.

A healthy community learns to manage conflict. Studies have found that communes most likely to survive and thrive manage conflict well. Communes that implode or fizzle out do not manage conflict well.

The same can be said of broader communities: if conflict is managed well – treating members with respect and listening to their points of view in order to achieve constructive outcomes – then the community will thrive.

The alternative? Not so good.

Paul Weimer (a white dude in America) tumbled his thoughts advocating for equity and community.

John Scalzi has more than a few words on the subject. For humorous snark you can’t go past his opening salvo.

As both Scalzi and a twitter-friend who DM-ed me pointed out, readers may think Weisskopf’s views reflect upon her authors as she’s the head of Baen publishing. Weisskopf’s views are not her authors’ views. That is to say, some of Baen’s authors may agree with Weisskopf but, as in any diverse community, not all agree with her sentiments.

Baen is also pretty progressive as a publisher in some ways: they offer a free library of ebooks for readers to sample earlier works written by the Baen stable of authors.

Toni Weisskopf won a Rubble Award for her contribution to science fiction. The irony here is this award was given to Toni for using her initials for her professional practice in publishing, an industry that disadvantages – even excludes – women.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


  1. Uh, you all do realize that you’re utterly mischaracterizing Toni, who explicitly says she wishes there were someone to take the Bob Tucker role and cut back on the mutual excommunications — and doing so my quoting her out of context by the way.

    Are you aware of a linguistic structure called “the subjunctive mood”?

    And that you’re complaining about it being exclusionary to complain about being informed that your views are no longer welcome and being excluded — not to mention harassed and threatened — for those views?

    No, I guess you probably aren’t.


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