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March 06, 2014

When, Exactly, Did the Science Fiction Community Become a Pack of Braying, Censorious Scolds?

Jonathan Ross is a television host well-loved in Britain because their talent pool is small and they don't know any better.

No just kidding he's fine, I kind of like him. Most Americans will know Jonathan Ross, if at all, from accidentally leaving on BBC America after Doctor Who ends, or by searching for Doctor Who interviews.

I barely know the man's work at all but the thing that puts me off him, a bit, is that he's so ingratiating and ass-kissy with his guests. I get the need to ingratiate oneself, but he goes too far for my tastes.

This is actually germane to this story. I'm not entirely wasting your time.

Jonathan Ross was asked to host this year's Hugo Awards, science fiction's most prestigious awards. I made that last part up. When I say "most prestigious" I only mean "I've heard of them."

Why was he asked? Well, in addition to being a host on TV shows every single day (in Britain he's as ubiquitous as Buster Friendly and His Friendly Friends from the Philip K Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), he's also a science-fiction fan. He reads comics, he writes comics. He went to Comic Con last year as a guest of fanboi fave rave Neil Gaiman. He apparently hosted the Eisner (comic book) Awards there and did such a good job they immediately invited him back for next year's duties.

Plus, he's married to a science fiction writer -- a woman named Jane Goldman, who has herself won the Hugo Award. The very show he was to be hosting.

So let's be clear: He has a reason to respect the Hugo Awards, if he didn't already. If he suggested they were trivial or stupid, he would hear about it from his wife.

The perfect host, yes? Kismet, no?


Because his hiring sparked a Nerd Rage in the sci-fi community -- including among sci-fi writers and those in charge of other aspects of the Hugo Awards show. Their main complaint was that he is "controversial," meaning, I guess, that as a comedian, he has told some mean jokes. They objected not so much to jokes he had told before, however, but, in a science-fiction timey-wimey wibbly-wobbly sort of way, to the jokes they feared he might tell in the future, while hosting the show.

Let me repeat: this guy is no Ricky Gervais. I don't know him all that well, but if you define "edgy," one picture that will not appear next to that definition is Jonathan Ross' face.

And apparently it's caused a huge Twitter rage, with lots of attacks on the anodyne Ross.

The New Statesman takes it from here:

At Loncon’s request, [Neil] Gaiman asked Ross to take the stage at this year’s Hugos. “I think Jonathan would have been an excellent host,” he told me. “One of the things Jonathan is great at is making a room full of people feel comfortable. To be a Hugo host you need to be genuine, funny, respectful – and he is respectful, while still being cheeky. Jonathan would do it better than I did. And he agreed to do it for free because he is SFF family.”

Despite this, a vocal contingent resorted to petty name-calling on the Internet. Does calling someone a “grating fatuous bellend” not count as bullying if your subject is famous? I call bullshit. Does saying horrible things about someone because you think they might possibly say horrible things about you make you the better person? In this tirade about insults and slights, nasty bullies with little self-awareness recast themselves as the victim.

“What was peculiar about the attacks was they had constructed an ad hominem straw man to attack, who was sexist, sizeist, hates women and likes making everyone feel bad,” said Gaiman. “It doesn’t bear any resemblance to Jonathan. While he has occasionally said things that make you go ‘Oh god, your mouth opened and that thing came out’, he is a consummate professional.”

(Regarding the “sizeist” accusation, here’s what Ross’ teenage daughter Honey Kinny tweeted to Seanan McGuire, the most vocal of the Twitter pitchfork mob: “I was horrified by your outrageous and unfounded assumption that my father would ever comment negatively on a woman’s body. I’m Jonathan’s overweight daughter and assure you that there are few men more kind & sensitive towards women’s body issues.” When I emailed asking McGuire to pinpoint a moment in which Ross had ever made a fat joke, I got no reply.)

A "bellend," by the way, is apparently the glans. Yeah, I had to look that one up myself.

Ross agreed to do host the show for free, because he's sci-fi family (through his Hugo Award winning wife).

But nah: Let's attack him mercilessly and get him fired because being cruel to strangers is how we prove We Matter.

So now Jonathan Ross is fired, and the Hugo Awards will find some unobjectionable, totally-into-sci-fi host like, I don't know, Sarah Silverman.

Thanks to @slublog.

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posted by Ace at 04:17 PM

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