Monday, April 15, 2013

Small worlds

Ever notice how a lot of guest stars on one sitcom show up on another show? Hey, that Rob Huebel guy shows up a lot--30 Rock, Modern Family, Happy Endings. And hey, Seth Morris, from Go On, has a recurring role on Happy Endings and pops up in Childrens Hospital--with Rob Huebel. And they both show up on the improv podcast Improv4Humans.

If you start paying attention to these faces and also constantly watch TV with your iPad on IMDB, you'll notice all these connections, many of which go back to where these guys trained (UCB, iO, Second City, the Groundlings) and what comedy groups they were in before.

It's a small world in comedy.

It's also a small world in science fiction and fantasy.

I don't just mean in the sense that Joe Hill and John Scalzi seem to be friends. Or that John Scalzi is friends with Mary Robinette Kowal. Or that M. R. Kowal is involved in a podcast with Brandon Sanderson. Or that Brandon Sanderson has been published in anthologies by John Joseph Adams. Or that etc., etc. In other words, it sure does seem like everyone knows everyone; and that, by and large, they all get along on some level.

(Maybe not on every level: I'm fairly sure that Larry Correia, who is pretty conservative, has different politics than many of the writers he is friends with and vice versa. This is a GOOD THING--not our differences, which are real, but our similarities, which are also real.)

Now, there is a very real danger in small-worldism, which is that people are "nicer" than they should be. That is, it's possible that people pull their critical punches, that they are more positive out-loud than they feel in-quiet.

The joke here is, of course, Zizek's: if a friend asks you what you thought of their academic presentation, you say "interesting"--that's the response that shows the proper first-blush non-committal performance of a relationship. It's the equivalent of asking someone how they're doing: it's not a serious question, but it is a serious way of showing some basic human connection. If you automatically jump into a critique, it won't feel like a conversation about the issue, but an attack on the person.

So I put this out as a question: is there a serious danger of small-wordism and nicey-niceness in the sff community? Or is there a level of community that allows personal friendship and professional critique?

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