Is 2009 going to end up going down in the Fannish History books the Year of Fail? Some days it certainly seems that way. I can’t remember a year with one incidence of or rallying against accused Fail coming one right after another as it has this year.
First there was Race Fail ’09, beginning in January and stretching through into April before morphing into Mammothfail in May. Even at WisCon 2009, at the end of that month, there was controversy over apparent racism and gender fail, despite the convention’s overall feminist-orientation.
After Readercon this month, there was sexism and ability-privilege wank reported and discussed by many. And Readercon also seemed to be the springboard for what could now be called Fishboob Fail, focused on the newly-relaunched Realms of Fantasy magazine. Sexism and race fail combined in this controversy over the magazine’s choice of cover art–and of course, when Harlan Ellison gets involved in any situation, one knows it’s going to get real ugly, real fast.
But wait, there’s more! Reports coming out of Comic-Con this weekend have noted Electronic Arts’ ill-advised marketing strategy, of placing a “sexual bounty” on their “booth babes”. sf_drama is all over the situation already, and no doubt further wank and rage over this will follow before the convention ends.
There have been other skirmishes brewing in the genre publishing world on the edges of fandom lately as well. Justine Larbalestier’s upcoming Young Adult novel “Liar” is causing a huge amount of controversy, at least over the American edition’s cover. The publisher seemed to think it necessary to put a white girl’s face on the cover, despite the book’s narrator and protagonist being of “dark skin and short black hair”, and sometimes mistaken for being a boy. Some also attempted to stir up a round of Trans Fail over Ellora’s Cave Publishing‘s new title, “Heart of a Forest”, which prominently features a transgendered character in a new take on the Robin Hood mythology.
So what is all of this Fail, and talk of Fail, going to lead to in the long run? Is it a sign of the changing, more progressive times, of people in certain groups and communities finally stepping up to say “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore!”? Is there going to be a positive outcome from raising awareness about so many issues of privilege in our society and fandoms, be they based on race, gender, ability, or otherwise? Or is there some danger that the people who most need to be reached in these discussions will stop listening from overload, from too much meta, too many incidents of metamobbing, from a sense of fatigue and lack of enjoyment in remaining active in certain areas of fandom? Is fandom becoming too much of a mine-field for potential accusations of Fail, or are these all vital issues that need to take precedence over some individuals’ discomfort, or “harshing” of their “squee”?
As always seems to be the case with these matters, truly only time will tell.