Apparently, the latest SF/F community kerfluffle is around the fact that certain people would like to eliminate the fan writing categories for the Hugo Award.
Fellow Wyrdsmiths, Naomi Krtizer, who I swear knows everything about the Internet, told me about this when we hung out yesterday afternoon. She read Elizabeth Bear's really eloquent and awesome post about it out loud to me while we ate cookies (in my rocking chairs, no less!) on the front porch: http://matociquala.livejournal.com/2195044.html
I'm fairly certain a person could take one look at my LJ icon and understand where I fall on this issue. Hell, the fan category may be my ONLY HOPE for ever winning a Hugo at this point in my career. However, what I wanted to share here is about my experience with younger fans. As I noted on Bear's LJ, my fandom is young. Anime fandom just is. Most of them are at LEAST half my age. This rarely bothers me because my participation in my fandom is shielded by the Internet. I don't use my real name on AO3 and, because I went to Tumblr to follow some of my AO3 friends, I use my fannish handle there too. So, no one knows I'm 46. Except when I tell them...
...or they ask.
A young lady found me on Tumblr and squeed in a private message that she'd wanted to comment on my epic ByaRen fic that I was her favorite fic author ever, but she didn't have an account on AO3. So, she was happy to see that I was on Tumblr and yay! I wrote yay! back and thanked her and we got to talking about fandoms and life and such. She asked me (this was back in June) if I was off school yet.
I decided, like I do with a lot of decisions about coming out, to just go for it and tell her the truth-- that I've been out of school for SOME TIME. In fact, at 46, I was probably as old as her mother. I figured if I lost a follower because I'm too old for Tumblr, so be it.
I expected the conversation to die awkwardly and for her to quietly un-follow me.
Instead, she was... gratefully amazed to discover that she didn't have to give up fandom to grow up. That, as I told her, "Yes, my friend, you CAN grow up to be an otaku."
This is germane to the debate about the fan category because we need new blood, but they also need us. I had mentors when I entered fandom and considered a career as an SF/F writer. Older, grown-up, professionals who were living and leading by example... showed me that yes, some day, if I worked hard, I too could be on panels or maybe even finish a book and get it published. Because here were real people who wrote books on my book shelf. Just by existing, these mentors gave me hope. Made ME become the graying fandom that wonders where all the kids have gone....
So, yeah, we need them. But they need us too.
Plus I've never understood the need to stand above. Yeah, sure, everyone thinks they can write a book and it's much harder than all that, and maybe, as a professional writer, you feel deeply undervalued because society generally undervalues artists of all kinds. But there's no need to punish anyone who is in the middle of the process or who writes for completely different reasons. There's room for all of us. The Hugo is, in point of fact, fan nominated and fan awarded--unlike the Nebula which is nominated and awarded by the members of SFWA. I've not followed this kerfluffle enough to know whose bright idea this is, but I find it deeply weird to even suggest removing the fan categories from the biggest fan organized award in our profession/genre.