…and the beat goes on…the beat goes on….

Do sales figures really determine what’s best?

(Sony & Cher)

Not much has changed from last week to this, but I do know one thing:

If Mike Glyer’s File 770 isn’t nominated for Best Fanzine AND Best Related Hugo Awards next year, the uproar and controversy is going to make the 2015 Puppy Kerfuffle look like…hmmmm

ants tussling over a bread crumb?

two amoeba trying to absorb each other?

Igli getting rolled into a greasy little ball?

two kids screaming “sez you!” at each other on the playground?

Well no.  Not really.  The import of this particular kerfuffle can’t be reduced to such meaningless levels.  Despite all of the BS, it really is an argument over a very important aspect of fandom:

will fandom retain essential aspects of its (fastly fading) ghetto, or will it succumb to all of the requirements of popular culture, particularly those wherein the only measure of worth and value are the dollars associated with something?

Portions of the art world “ghetto” were aghast this past week when a “minor” Picasso sold for the highest amount a painting has ever sold for at auction – $179,000,000.00.

Various critics remarked that such auctions take works out of the public sphere; another tried to reconcile the “value” now associated with the painting (Women of Algiers) versus the value of what is arguably Picasso’s greatest work – Guernica.  And yet another critic lamented that people are buying this artwork not because they really value it, but so that they can say “I spent the most anyone has ever spent on a painting”.  Bragging rights, rather than art appreciation.  I didn’t hear any of them talking about the artwork itself.

It’s been demonstrated innumerable times that good, great, transgressive and game-changing art gets produced in ghettos, where the expectation of financial reward is the last concern (if it is a concern at all).

We know (if one can know) from the quantum world that the act of observation alters that which is being observed.  Money does exactly the same thing to art.  Introducing it into the equation alters the art.  Not necessarily negatively, not necessarily in significant ways, but alter, change and shift the dynamic it does.  Some art never sees the light of day due to a lack of money.  Some art is unfortunately all too prevalent because of too much money.  Some art gets altered because someone thinks the changes are necessary in order to get more money.

Fandom has long held the belief that money should never be allowed to become a motivating force behind its activities.  Fandom decides what it wants to do, and then goes about the business of figuring out ways to sacrifice to Mammon.  (I never heard anyone ever say “we need to get the dollars in the bank before we think about doing a con, or a fanzine, or a fan film…” What I have heard fans say is “let’s do a fanzine…a con…a film…a comic”).

The pups would have us believe that book sales, measured by dollars earned, ought to be the only measure that counts when it comes to determining what is Best in our genre.

That’s patently absurd, as anyone familiar with the world of consumerism ought to know without even thinking about it.  But it also goes against a long-standing tradition within fandom, one that has long served us well.

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