The “Bitch from Worldcon” post and appealing to your base


It’s been more than a week since Hugh Howey posted his Bitch from Worldcon (now deleted) but I think it’s worth talking about anyway. Yes, it’s sexist rape culture bullshit for him to fantasize (even jokingly) about his big moment–which is apparently winning an award–standing in front of a crowd of people, and singling her out to say “Suck it, bitch” while grabbing his crotch.

Hello, small-minded fantasy of success. Hello, sexual threats to a woman he himself believes to be mentally ill. Hello, completely creepy behavior. I don’t care if he thinks it’s non-serious; it’s bullshit.

However, the real point of the post becomes clear right here:

Crazy girl asked who I was published with. “Self-published,” I said. No point in mentioning the Random House deal or the SFWA membership. Those weren’t what I was most proud of. The girl shook her head sadly and also knowingly. It was a complex bit of head shaking.

Bold added by me.

Who is Howey’s main audience? a) other self-publishers who have anointed him the next Amanda Hocking and b) readers who imagine themselves to be cutting-edge iconoclasts predicting the end of the old publishing paradigm. This is his “base,” and as much as he’d like to (and is) expanding beyond them, he’s still making the effort to hold them close.

On one hand, self-publishing is never going to have the legitimacy people want until they stop acting like they’re being assailed from all sides. I say this as a self-publisher myself. There is no revolution, only new opportunities. The people trying to get you to take one side or the other, whether that’s a “crazy girl” at a convention or a best-selling author featured in WSJ and Salon, are wasting your time and/or trying to sell you something.

What’s more, this post is a classic example of numbers #3 and #4 of my post about using social media to build a strong community of assholes. Howey isn’t sending his readers out to attack anyone–perhaps he understands that he shouldn’t punch that far down–but it’s still us-vs-them rah rah bullshit designed to instill loyalty more than inform.

It’s a shitty post. It’s not funny unless you’re looking to wave around pompoms with Howey’s name on one and Amazon’s on the other. It demonstrates that no amount of money or success will make you a better person. And it’s how a lot of authors create their brand.

Added later: Howey has apologized. Someone should explain that “I was just joking!” isn’t much of a defense.