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Books, Memory, and the Passions of Fans

It's hot out tonight, and the new kitten is delighted that a moth has found its way in through the window that lets the cats play on the second floor porch. While it's leaping around, trying to catch the moth, I'm sitting here pondering memory, fandom, the nature of proof and the various qualities of internet bullies.

Back in High School, I had a best friend. We talked about everything, even the classes we didn’t share and the books we didn’t both read. Maybe especially those things. We certainly read and loved most of the same stories, each of us lending books to the other. While we shared a similar taste in fiction, it wasn’t identical. There were certain books that were very popular at the time that she enjoyed, but I didn't. After talking with her, I felt blessed that I could properly understand fannish conversations about those books without devoting my limited free time to finishing them. (You don't, after all, have to read an entire book to be certain it's not to your taste.)

It being High School, there were also opportunities to do things like compete for scholarships. One of these competitions was a SAT-like test that included a lot of questions about topics not well-covered in the average high school class, and one of this college's concentrations was philosophy. I scored very high on that test and was offered a small partial scholarship to the sponsoring college. The thing is, I didn’t take even one philosophy course in high school. I didn’t read any of the texts. But because my friend did, and because she enthusiastically talked about how foolish this or that dude was and why, I knew the answers to the philosophy questions on that test.

Now, you say, that’s all very well and good, but what does it matter? Why am I blogging about a long-ago test for a scholarship that I didn't accept because it wouldn’t have covered travel costs to and from the distant college?

Well, you see, there’s these trolls on Twitter who have claimed that I am a liar etc. etc. etc. They assume that I must not have read read certain Hugo nominees because, when asked to name a character in a Castalia Press-published story, I interrupted my work on my WIP to say that I didn't want to play trivia games.

I could simply laugh off the trolls. I'm female and my partner is transgender, so there's no way I could avoid being lumped with the SJWs, after all. But I also heard someone at Worldcon suggesting giving a simple “test” to see if a person had actually read all the nominees as a requirement for voting.

Now, having entertained myself at many convention parties by quietly listening to fans argue passionately about what really happened in one or another book or TV show, I have to say that any such test is inherently flawed. I have heard people argue about the names of characters, the sequence of events, who said what, and even how stories ended. People’s brains work very differently. Some remember names well, others can describe every detail of how the characters dressed, others analyze the plot and ridicule plot holes, others can recount dialogue in detail, and so on.

Forgetting an author’s or character’s name is not proof a person didn’t read something. And the offer of that scholarship (or if you discount my personal experience, the existence of Cliffs Notes) shows that knowledge about a writer's work isn't proof that a person did read it.

As to the bullies--nah. I have better things to do than write about them.

I'll just say that having gotten to sample so much of the output of Castalia House this year in the Hugo voter packet, based on the qualities of the content, I am not the least bit tempted to send any of my money that way in the future. (And no, I am not going to review or discuss those stories. While I enjoy writing reviews of stories I loved when time and energy allows, I have no interest in putting down other writers by publicly panning their work just because I didn't like it.)

Your tastes may differ from mine. That's all right. I never thought that I had to agree with all of my friends about whether a book is worth reading, much less whether it is worthy of an award.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
seekerval
Sep. 3rd, 2015 09:30 pm (UTC)
Sorry to hear the 'net Trolls have been at you. Glad you know how to shrug off the actions/words of bullies ... Since they are ubiquitous.
wyld_dandelyon
Sep. 3rd, 2015 11:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Do I really know how shrug them off? I'm not so sure about that. I certainly know how to laugh at them, but still, no matter how untrue and inappropriate, the insults they spew are hurtful.

I'd feel better about having them show up if they really wanted to talk about science fiction, instead of transparently showing their agenda of belittling and attacking people they assume disagree with them. On the other hand, that transparency lets me know the type of person I'm dealing with. But still, ewwww.
seekerval
Sep. 4th, 2015 11:53 am (UTC)
Well, of course, insults hurt. But discounting the small-minded cruelty with laughter/amusement is a way of shrugging them off. Perhaps not deep in your heart, but out on the surface so they can't see the affect they are aiming for.
mount_oregano
Sep. 3rd, 2015 09:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you for writing this.
wyld_dandelyon
Sep. 3rd, 2015 11:40 pm (UTC)
You're very welcome.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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