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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Storms and how they start

It's been a strange week, filled with odd things happening. Oddest of all, I've bought a house (it is not as this quote might lead you believe, in Sacramento California: that quote was taken from a longer interview with me about my fondness for backing things on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/blog/meet-a-backer-neil-gaiman).

The new house is something that's been in the works for a few months now: I saw somewhere in the Autumn, fell in love with it, convinced Amanda that I was in love, and we finally closed on it yesterday afternoon.

It's a lot like my old Addams Family house in the woods, only it's not an Addams Family house, more of little cluster of stone cottages in the woods. (The woman I bought it from had lived here fifty years exactly; the man whose family she and her husband had bought it from in January 1964 drew newspaper comics back in the Golden Age.)

The new house is a couple of hours from New York, and in order to close on it and take possession I unexpectedly (don't ask) found myself driving from Florida to New York State this weekend, via North Carolina (to see Maddy at college), vaguely worried that the snowstorms that have been circumscribing my movements for the last 2 months would have one final go at mucking up my travel plans. A storm was forecast, but it never happened.

I listened to the Best of Nick Lowe, David Bowie's The Next Day, and Simon Vance's Audiobook of Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan as I drove.

Driving meant that I missed a small storm which started on Twitter.

Back in January I got a request from the co-chair of the upcoming Worldcon in London (I don't know him, but he'd been given my email by a friend) asking me to forward an invitation to Jonathan Ross to host the Hugo Awards.

Jonathan is a UK TV and radio presenter, and, these days, a writer of comics. He's also one of the most highly regarded UK awards hosts. He's also become a friend of mine, has been for over 25 years. You can see us here together in the Search for Steve Ditko documentary.  (Here's the last few minutes of the documentary. Keep watching, and you'll see me with a smile big enough to break my face.) He was also the person who talked me onto Twitter in the first place.



I forwarded the invitation, along with a note telling him that hosting the Hugo awards is a really enjoyable thing to do, and got a note back from the chair saying that Jonathan had said yes, and could I put something up welcoming him when they announced it.

Jonathan said yes because he's a huge SF and Comics fan  -- in many ways, one of the most fannish people I know: he also writes SF comics. There's also a family connection: his wife, Jane Goldman, won a Hugo award (for best Screenplay).

It was announced that he would be hosting the Hugos. There was a storm on Twitter. I missed it, but people sent me the link, and it's summarised here: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2014/03/01/when-jonathan-ross-was-presenting-the-hugo-awards-until-he-wasnt

I was really glad I was a) on a Twitter sabbatical and b) driving while all this was going on.

The weirdest bit was, I understood some of the worry; I'd had it myself, 25 years ago, when Jonathan and I had first met, and he asked me and Dave McKean to be on his chat show to talk about VIOLENT CASES. I said "No, you make fun of people. This is comics. It matters to me. I don't want you making fun of it."

To convince me that he a) didn't make fun of people on his show and b) that he would never ever under any circumstances mock the comics and comics creators he loved, Jonathan asked Dave McKean and me to come to the recording of the show: he was interviewing writer/artist Charles Burns that night. The interview was respectful and incredibly nice.

We never did that interview, although he's interviewed me a few times since over the years, in various different contexts. (When The Wolves in the Walls came out, Jonathan interviewed me and Dave McKean in front of a crowd of adults and kids. His interview was perfectly appropriate for the audience...)  He's embarrassed me gloriously presenting the Eisner Awards.

I wasn't surprised that some people were upset by the choice of Jonathan as a host: as the convention says in their apology for their handling of this, and their apology to Jonathan and his family, at https://www.facebook.com/londonin2014/posts/804454159569536, they should have consulted better within their ranks, talked to their committees and so on, and made sure that that everyone was agreed that they wanted Jonathan as their host before they wrote to me and asked me to invite him.

If they'd known ahead of time that some people were going to have a problem with him as a choice of presenter (and I strongly suspect they did, given that one of their number had apparently resigned), they should have warned him and given him the option to withdraw, and at least prepared him. As it was, he and his family didn't know what hit them.

Twitterstorms are no fun when people are making up things about you or insulting you for things you didn't do or think or say. When scores of people from a group that you consider yourself a part of are shouting at you, it's incredibly upsetting, no matter who you are. And these things spill over and get bigger -- I was saddened to learn that Jane Goldman, Jonathan's wife, one of the gentlest, kindest people I know (and the person who, with Jonathan, got me onto Twitter, back in December 2009) had deleted her Twitter account because of all this.

I was seriously disappointed in the people, some of whom I know and respect, who stirred other people up to send invective, obscenities and hatred Jonathan's way over Twitter (and the moment you put someone's @name into a tweet, you are sending it directly to that person), much of it the kind of stuff that they seemed to be worried that he might possibly say at the Hugos, unaware of the ironies involved.

I sympathise with anyone who felt that Jonathan wasn't going to make an appropriate Hugos host, and with anyone who spoke about it to the convention committee, but do not believe a campaign aimed at vilifying Jonathan personally was wise or kind. And for those who thought that making this happen was a way to avoid SF and the Hugos appearing in the tabloids, I'd point to the Streisand effect, with a shake of the head.

I have won Hugo Awards, and I am incredibly proud of all of them; I've hosted the Hugo Awards ceremony, and I was honoured to have been permitted to be part of that tradition; I know that SF is a family, and like all families, has disagreements, fallings out. I've been going to Worldcons since 1987. And I know that these things heal in time.

But I've taken off the Hugo nominee pin that I've worn proudly on my lapel since my Doctor Who episode, The Doctor's Wife, won the Hugo in September 2012, and, for now, I've put it away.









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