You don’t control who gets to be fans

On the campaign trail in 2008, Sarah Palin said the following:

“We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.”

Ah, the “real” America – narrowly defined to where Palin felt she might get the most support. It’s easy to write comments like that off as cheap rhetoric but it is an infectious attitude that allows many Republicans to regard huge population centres of Americas as somehow not being ‘real’ Americans. If only your supporters count then every leader is a populist champion of the common folk.

With the Sad Puppies, the move was similarly absurd. Everybody who wasn’t a Sad Pup was quickly declared to be in league with Big Publishing. It didn’t matter if you a person with no connections with the publishing industry or even if you were actually a tireless promoter of independent publishing (e.g. Cora Buhlert, who does more to promote indy titles each day than Larry Correia et al does in a month), if you opposed the Sad Puppies you were declared an enemy of independent publishing — often by people like Larry Correia or Sarah Hoyt who were trad-published authors.

The only virtue this kind of appeal has is that it is neatly compact in its encapsulation of a set of vices:

  • It is a declaration of gatekeeping — they will get to decide who is real or not.
  • It is inherently being an asshole.
  • It is exclusionary in a lazy passive-aggressive way that allows them to be as racist or as sexist or as homophobic as they want without having to overtly target a group they don’t like.

As Comicsgatecomicscomicsgate is now on my roster of right-wing attempts to suck money from the gullible via anti-diversity rhetoric, I present for your consideration Ethan Van Sciver. When we last saw Sciver (or EVS as he is often acronymised) he was throwing a tantrum about Vox Day trying to co-opt the term “comicsgate”. Just to be clear about how hypocritical this is, consider the way he places himself or “comicsgate” (which he identifies as being HIM) as the champion of “fans”.

“ComicsGate IS the creative community working to please the fan community, or the customers.”


“We stand with the fan community. As always!”


“As it becomes more and more clear to normal people that SJWs were lying about #ComicsGate being “a harassment movement” () and that ComicsGate is an entirely healthy creative and consumer response to leftist toxicity in the comics industry…”

(all taken from EVS’s Twitter feed but representative of similar rhetoric in his videos).

It’s the same con-game as used by Palin, Sad Puppies and most recently by Vox Day on Comicsgatecomicscomicsgateof declaring themselves the champions of the ‘real’ fans or the ‘real’ people. If you are leftwing or heck, just want to read comics with more realistic women in them, then magically you aren’t real anymore and your purchases don’t count. That’s bad enough when it comes to comics, or with the Sad Puppies, books but when it comes to citizenship and who gets to be a ‘real’ American (or with Brexit rhetoric a ‘real’ Briton) it’s an authoritarian move aimed at disenfranchising people.

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26 responses to “You don’t control who gets to be fans”

  1. By “real Americans” in small towns, Palin meant white people. It was one of her big dog whistles, crafted by some of the same white supremacists now serving Trump. She was the Trump-prequel.

    The Puppies didn’t start off the champions of indie-publishing, as you recall from your timeline keeping. They defaulted to it when 1) their attempt to categorize their imaginary Hugo conspiracy as a bunch of leftie “literary” poor-selling elites who wanted to de-commercialize SFF and thus block bestselling Larry Correia didn’t work because it made no sense, was very bigoted and was easily refuted; 2) Beale came in and took over and wanted to attack Tor and ran the whole collapsing civilizations thing; and 3) several industry professionals and important, big name authors took them to task, refuted their ever shifting accusations and told them they were being silly.

    So they fell back on the civilization is under threat and collapsing if it changes to be more equal thing. The “real” people are always the ones who supposedly made a “good” civilization and thus were rightly in power and the “bad” people who want chaos are sending the good civilization into decline and degradation, taking it over. It’s the underlying principle of opposing civil rights and better inclusion. The gate-keeping is to protect their identities as the superior righteous, fighting off the vile cultural change artists — designated rulers and scrappy underdogs all at once.

    The indie market in books, stories and comics has been quite good for marginalized groups, giving them more opportunities and helping them make in-roads throughout the industries, often then also getting jobs and projects with non-indie, big companies. The claim by reactionaries that they own the small-time, experimental, independent creative efforts (or American small towns,) is manifestly false. But it fits into their theory of civilizations. The big companies have been “taken over” because they’re somewhat less bigoted in staff, operations, products and promotion, in response to civil rights efforts and to the marketplace. So now that civilization has declined, even though the “majority” still supposedly support it, they must work from without like an insurgency as the only people who really understand the problem (righteous superiority,) and can save it as it faces the inevitable collapse. This has been Beale’s whole shtick to get status in the rightosphere and it has been Gamergate’s main attempt, once they finished with calling a woman names for the imaginary sex life her vengeful ex made up.

    To Comicsgate’s dubious credit, it’s been their go-to fund-raising idea from the beginning. They truly believe they are saving comics from women assistant editors and gay people, etc. They believe that Marvel and DC Comics are facing collapse, which is probably the biggest counter-factual leap that’s been attempted in this movement so far. Plus they are basically overlaid with the ruining Star Wars people. It’s not just that they are the “real” fans — they are trying to assert that they are the only fans and creators who know anything, who logically should rule, the superior righteous. The Puppies did initially make that assertion but sort of backed off a bit, revisiting it now and again in their own bubble area. It doesn’t really gate-keep or control the fanbase (unlike politics and Palin.) It just causes damage and trouble for various people.

    The big problem with these groups, besides the harassment they do on the Net, is that corporations and prominent folk, while not particularly concerned with them regarding the market itself, don’t know how to handle them when they are super noisy, raising hell at a convention or on Twitter. They tend to try to reassure them, coddle them, turn their backs on their harassment victims for a bit to calm the waters. Until the “movement” gets more and more extreme, shouty, negative and negatively covered in the media, and goes after one or two prominent people who the companies do care about. And then there’s a collective hey, tone it down, this is silly response. Whereupon most of the “movement” pushes their focus into another area and see what they can do there. That’s going on in Comicsgate at the moment, though some of the leaders will continue to keep making some video ad money out of it for awhile.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I feel that the SFF sphere handled them pretty well, since we’ve had prominent writers (Scalzi, GRRM) and industry professionals (the Nielsen Haydens, Irene Gallo) speaking against the puppies from the start and also correcting their many silly claims. The games industry, on the other hand, handled the attack by exclusionary harrassers on their industry appallingly bad and basically threw harrassment victims under the bus to appease their supposed fanbase. The comics industry seems to be somewhere in the middle, though they’re waking up. Meanwhile, Marvel’s parents company Disney completely bungled the whole James Gunn thing and basically gave in to the demands of the far right to protect some nebulous family values, never mind that the target audience for Guardians of the Galaxy are people in their 30s and 40s.

      Liked by 3 people

      • It wasn’t just the far right that was upset about Gunn. A lot of people supporting women’s rights weren’t happy either. He did a nice pair of movies with GG, but I’m perfectly fine with somebody else who did not feel that he had to make public crude and bigoted jokes to be seen as a horror edgelord in his career take up the reins. Like, say, a woman even.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, feminists e.g. at the Mary Sue, have called out James Gunn about those tweets and he apologised, but that was years ago, before the first Guardians of the Galaxy film came out. The current push that got him fired was from the far right, particularly Mike Cernovich, who has said/tweeted/done a lot of stuff that’s worse. I suspect that Gunn wasn’t even their original target. They probably woud have preferred Kathleen Kennedy, Rian Johnson or someone else from Star Wars, only that they all showed more common sense regarding social media use, while Gunn’s old tweets provided an easy target. I guess the right also wanted a scalp in retaliation for the firing of Roseanne Barr. And Disney promptly folded and is willing to let a multi-million dollar film die (and that’s what it looks like at the moment) to appease some rightwingers.

        Liked by 4 people

      • I doubt it’s going to die; Disney isn’t going to abandon the possibility of all that profit unless we’re suddenly in the Mirror Universe where they’re a company that’s never merchandised and cross-promoted and squeezed every bit of goodness out of an idea.

        I suspect it’ll re-form at a later date, when heads are cooler. Even if it means a new script and recasting.

        Liked by 1 person

      • His apology was basically that he thought he had to do it to advance his career early on, but later found out that he didn’t so he tried to bury it. Which makes him a crappy person willing to walk all over others with bigotry as long as it serves him personally. And while I’m not hostile to the guy (his attitude is all too common in our rape culture,) and again enjoyed the Guardian movies, I’m thoroughly over interest in these people. I am done with the whole Hollywood reward the white guy jerks system. There are so many other talented people who never did this stuff and who have vision and have been discriminated against in Hollywood in getting opportunities in favor of guys like Gunn. I don’t care if the person who outed Gunn is a right wing propagandist — he didn’t make up what Gunn did, openly, publicly. He just brought it back up so that Disney couldn’t ignore it anymore. Everybody is replaceable; replacing him is a good move, though it cost Disney some severance money.

        And Gunn will be just fine. He’s a millionaire producer who still has executive producer credits and cashflow on the whole Marvelverse, has his own project coming out later and owns/is doing the Starsky & Hutch reboot on t.v. White guys like him don’t go down for getting fired off a franchise. Disney can get plenty of other people to front the Guardians, a part of the franchise that was winding down anyway. So give it to a woman for once and maybe then we can get rid of some of the sexist jokes that didn’t work in the first two movies as well.

        Liked by 1 person

        • In the long run this was an own goal for Cernovich. I’m hopeful that things are going to get better in the near future and there will be a lot of people who will demand that we ignore their past and treat their misogyny and racism as youthful play acting. Cernovich and Milo are two obvious ones who will try to rehabilitate themselves when the current ride is over.

          Gunn made two movies I liked but there are lots of other people who can make movies I like. He’s not going to be destitute and he’s probably not even going to stop making films. Ordinary people in ordinary jobs get sacked for far, far less – heck, Disney would have probably fired Gunn if GotG2 had fallen below the profit return they wanted.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. ” (e.g. Cora Buhlert, who does more to promote indy titles each day than Larry Correia et al does in a month),”

    Thanks, Cam. You’re making me blush.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Other than general assholishness (and yes, harassment), it also seems counterproductive. They bring more attention to the non-sexist/non-racist/whatevs comics that I and others never knew existed.

    It’s exactly the same as the people burning their Nikes. Probably a yooge overlap in persons.

    I am in the market for some new walking shoes and had given no thought to the brand, but now am considering Nike. If the RWNJ hadn’t had a cow everywhere, I never would have known, being as I am the opposite of athletic and never see such ads.


    • Also, I’m loving the exponential “ComicsGate”. Covers current and future developments, takes up less room on the page.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, it brings name awareness and that leads to browsing which leads to positive word of mouth:

      Anything that does well with loads and loads of people also attracts loads and loads of critics in equal proportion. Having those critics does not tank the works and creators who already have plenty of fans spreading word of mouth. It just means more people hear about the works, wonder what the fuss is about, check it out and some of them will also like the work and spread word of mouth. But of course, most of the folks making videos don’t care — they’re just after the money for the videos. The better the work they are criticizing does, the more attention they can get for their videos criticizing it, which in turn increases name recognition of the work they are criticizing which further helps the work’s sales. Which is everybody wins, I guess? If they didn’t do the mass harassment/doxxing/swatting/stalking campaigns, that is. Or cut the heads off of figurines of women characters to encourage violence against women and actresses and such.

      Also, this may be one of the best Twitter threads ever:


  4. Of course your political intro could have begun with other politicians writing off large segments of the US public. Perhaps “deplorables” or those “bitter people clinging to their guns or religion.”

    Many politicians in US history or even recent US history have claimed that those supporting their opponents were unworthy to be called US citizens.

    On the bright side, with epublishing distribution costs for books is much lower. This allows far more niche markets to be profitable. More people get what they enjoy and are willing to pay for. Truly we are living in a golden age of information. Those with limited space can accumulate far more books and more easily travel with them than ever before.


    • I didn’t pay overly much attention, since it’s still the politics of another country, but the way I understood it Obama criticised certain segments of America for their attitudes, but he did not say that they were not Americans, just Americans clinging to outdated attitudes. As for Hilary Clinton, the way I understood it “deplorables” was supposed to refer to certain problematic parts of Trump’s supporter base such as the KKK or the so-called alt-right (and I think we can all agree that the KKK is deplorable). She did not refer to every Trump voter nor did she say these people were not Americans.

      On the other hand, I agree with you regarding the positive effects of widely available digital publishing, which has made it possible even for niche works to find their audience and their fans. That’s also why I find it so sad that indie publishing or at least some very vocal parts has gone from “We can write and publisher whatever we want and find readers who like what we’re writing” to “Write what the market wants and if you don’t write to market, you’re a hobbyist and your views don’t count”.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Oh, Hillary was explicit. She said about half of Trump’s supporters belonged in the basket of deplorables. Funny how just about every Trump voter seems to think she meant them.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Mart: I’m not sure where you get “just about every” from. I haven’t seen a Trump supporter who doesn’t think Hillary was talking about all of them. They seem to have a unique definition of “Half”.


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