Once again, science fiction fandom shows us how to use the internet.
When it comes to the social internet, chances are that science fiction fans got there first. The first non-technical discussion forums on the internet — ancient mailing lists — were devoted to sf. The original high-traffic non-technical Usenet groups? Also sftnal. (This isn’t always something to be proud of — long before Donald Trump’s dank meme army, before Gamergate, sf’s “Rabid Puppies” and “Sad Puppies” were figuring out how to combine pop culture, the internet and far-right conspiratorialism into a vicious harassment machine).
Long before Twitter created — and then destroyed — a single, unified conversation that linked practitioners with the people who normally lived far downstream of their work, science fiction had created a single, unified “town square.”
And decades before a mediocre billionaire uncaringly smashed that unified conversation into a million flinders, sf fans and writers were living through their own Anatevka moment.
Twitter users bemoaning the end of the “unified conversation,” I am here from your future to tell you what happens next.
Tevye: Chicago, America? We are going to New York, America.
Lazar: We’ll be neighbors. My wife, Fruma Sarah, may she rest in peace, has a brother there.
Tevye: That’s nice.
Lazar: I hate him, but a relative is a relative.
Collective Action Inaction in Action
In the opening scenes of the 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof, the narrator, Tevye, introduces us to his village of Anatevka, which is a pretty fraught place where people are unhappy and danger is on the horizon. Nearly three hours and (spoiler alert) innumerable indignities and terrors later, Tevye and his neighbors leave the village, all to go their separate ways.
The kind of activism I do has a serious structural barrier: it’s esoteric. Even today, tech-policy issues are extremely niche. Indeed, tech-policy is a niche within a niche —most people have little technical knowledge and most people have little policy expertise, and the stuff I do requires that you have some of both.