If you’ve ever followed Twitter as your friends walked into a conference or convention, you’ve seen this. Someone sees a fellow cosplayer, a T–shirt from their favorite obscure fandom, 201–level discussions of issues that are ignored in mass media, or even the simple lack of the background nonsense they deal with everywhere else, and they are home. They’ve found their people.
A software startup, a magazine, a political campaign, an event, or an organization—there is nothing quite like seeing all your hard work and sacrifice build something new. Creation is a heady thing that only becomes more intoxicating when shared. When you create together, you don’t have to wait for the final product to exult. You can celebrate each accomplishment, each step of realized potential, as your baby comes to be.
In these family–like, affinity–based, collaborative creative spaces, we often use the language of family. We take our lonely pursuits and turn them into opportunities to connect. We use the world’s indifference and hostility to spur the building of spaces where we belong. We create bonds that can, in the best of times, give us what family gives.
Unfortunately, many of the problems of these spaces are the problems of family as well. We pressure each other to conform to the way “we” do things, whether our traditions are helpful or harmful. People play favorites, both in relatively harmless and grossly toxic ways. Abuse is perpetrated, both among peers and across inequities of position and resources. We protect the family as a unit over the individuals who make it what it is.
Most of all, we have deep emotional investments that make addressing these problems more complicated.
So begins my new essay for issue #3 of Uncanny Magazine, published today. You can read the whole essay here. Only half the issue is currently available online, but if you’re taking Tempest Bradford’s reading challenge, the editors of Uncanny will send you this full issue for free. Just ask them for it.