A Cereal Metaphor for the SFF Community


Imagine you have a bowl of cereal, and there are a bunch of other people with bowls of cereal, too.  Person A really likes Lucky Charms, which you think are OK, but you’re much more into Cocoa Puffs.  Person B likes neither, but prefers Mini Wheats, while Person C enjoys Lucky Charms, but discovered Trix and hasn’t turned back.  Along comes Person D.  They like Grape Nuts.  There’s nothing necessarily wrong with Grape Nuts.  Sometime’s it’s OK.  Heck, sometimes it’s even good if you’re in the mood for it.  Other times, it’s the thing you avoid in the morning because it’s like chewing on rodent food.  But Person D likes Grape Nuts, not because it’s good for them or tasty, per se, but because Grape Nuts is what their friends eat, and they like their friends a lot.

None of this would be a problem, of course, as one can like whatever they want.  Indeed, one should eat whatever they want in this metaphor because, well, it’s a free country (or a mostly free world or something; this metaphor isn’t perfect).  But unlike Person A or B or C or yourself, Person D believes you’re all ignoring Grape Nuts because you hate people who eat them.  There might be some truth to that.  You’re not overly fond of Grape Nuts eaters.  They make far too much noise when they chew and they’re constantly going on about how good Grape Nuts are for you…if you’d only stop being stupid by eating all those Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms and Mini Wheats and Trix, you’d see the light.  So you may not eat Grape Nuts for that reason, or perhaps because you just really hate Grape Nuts (it’s an acquired taste, after all).  So Person D says, “Fine.  I’m going to piss in your cereal so you can’t enjoy any of it.”

You’re understandably shocked by this.  Why would someone piss in your cereal just to make a point?  Isn’t that petty?  Isn’t that rude?  Isn’t that kind of the opposite of the purpose of eating cereal?  Isn’t all this supposed to be about getting some breakfast?  More importantly, while you can understand some dislike the love you share for Cocoa Puffs, you at least poured it into your bowl solely because you liked it; indeed, the inventor of Cocoa Puffs shared their own favorite cereals so you could maybe enjoy some Pops or Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Froot Loops, and so on and so forth, because that’s what we do in a community:  share cereals.  But Person D decided to piss in your cereal.

The question is this:  How do you get the piss out of your cereal?  Maybe you just pour another bowl.  Or try to ignore the piss taste in your mouth.  Or find a way to siphon out the piss and save your cereal before it’s too late.  Either way, someone has pissed in your cereal.  How you react is up to you.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

17 thoughts on “A Cereal Metaphor for the SFF Community

  1. The problem with metaphors like this is that they everyone thinks THEY are the ones getting their cereal pissed on, rather than being the ones doing the pissing. It can fit any viewpoint, and frankly any response to someone pissing in someone else's cereal that doesn't address the person doing the pissing seems to be problematically passive.

    The question isn't "how do you get the piss out of your cereal", because you can't. The question is: how do you keep people from doing such an extreme thing in the future, making it as rare an event as possible?

    • I think it's fairly obvious who is doing the pissing in this instance. They might believe there's a conspiracy against Grape Nuts, but even if that were true, it does not support the additional claim that the Cereal Award process is intended to make a point about the Award. This is the opposite of the Grape Nuts crowd, who have publicly admitted to pissing in the cereal in order to make a point (something about how pissing in the cereal reveals how biased the others are, when really all it does is demonstrate how much of a jackass one must be…since he or she is pissing in the cereal).

      So it's not so transferable to other situations. These people pissed in the cereal _on purpose_. This isn't a charge that doesn't apply to the situation, or which can be easily translated. If they're surprised that people will discount Grape Nuts on the basis that they don't want to deal with people who piss on the other cereals, then that's really just their inability to see how actions have consequences.

      As for how to stop all this from happening again: I don't know. Jason Sanford suggests making the voting process for cereal cheaper so more people can participate. I don't know that it would actually work. The bigger thing we should probably be asking is this: why do only 1/5th of registered members of the CerealCon actually vote for the Cereal Awards? It makes no sense to pay for the privilege to attend and do absolutely nothing for the award.

      But that's me.

      This cereal metaphor is lovely 😛

  2. Who is pissing in anyone's cereal? Did someone hack tor.com and post a Vox Day story there? Based on the evidence so far, everyone's voting for what they like. Has everything that's been on a Hugo ballot before this year been to your taste?

    • If one has been paying attention to the conversation surrounding some of the cereal choices, you'll notice one of those individuals has publicly stated that they pushed for a block-vote for purely political reasons — i.e., to make a point. That the works may be "good" in the eyes of said person is secondary to what is clearly a pissing in the cereal scenario.

      This was never about "the quality of the cereal." It was always "let's teach those sugary cereal lovers a lesson."

    • That came off more snarky than I intended it to. I didn't mean that as snark to you, Will. I meant "if one has been" in a very general sense. You may have missed the post in question, which I won't link to. But it's there…

    • I've only read a few posts on this issue—being the free speech guy, they mostly depress me or bore me—but it seems to me that none of the political folks in fandom propose slates with stories from people they see as the enemy—though perhaps I've missed those, of course. But when I see people say they'll downvote things without reading them, it seems to me they're doing the same sort of thing they're condemning. If people want to read ideologically, that's their right, of course. But they really shouldn't gripe about anyone else doing the same thing.

    • I think you may have got what I said reversed. It's the opposite. The Grape Nuts crowd deliberately created a ballot with cereals they liked largely based on politics (though not exclusively) and have publicly stated they did this on purpose to piss in the cereal. People saying they will vote No Award over voting for certain components of that ballot are responding to what they perceive to be the deliberate politicization of a ballot not for purely representation purposes, which is problematic in and of itself, but for the utter disdain this shows for the process and for the purpose of the award.

      Generally speaking, people won't like having someone piss in their cereal. If you like Grape Nuts, then fine. Eat them. Nominate them. But don't nominate them because you want to piss in the cereal. That's petty at best.

    • Okay, I may be working your metaphor too hard, but I still don't see how Grape Nuts fans trying to win gets any piss in my Ginger Granola. Maybe it's that I've been a vegetarian for much of my life and have never objected to anyone at the table eating meat while I eat something else. Maybe it's that I see a lot of agendas at work in the awards—some people push politics, some social identity, some genre. In f&sf, all I'm concerned with is the quality of the writing. If I'd had the power, I would've abolished the awards the first year that I became a pro. They've always been subject to the influence of cliques. It's only the goals of the cliques that has changed.

    • Certainly, the Cereal Awards have always been subject to voter blocs, etc. I think that's inevitable in any semi-populist award (which I consider these particular awards to be given their monetary entry barrier). And, of course, some people push politics all the time. I would be lying if I didn't admit that my political persuasion didn't influence what I eat for breakfast. However, I didn't nominate what I nominated because of my politics. I picked what I thought tasted best, which may or may not have been influenced by my view of how things ought to be. That's me, though, and I cannot pretend to speak for genre as a whole or any large segment of it or any particular group — just me and a few people I know.

      That said, the awards are, at their most basic, a celebration of the Cereal Award voting body's definition of "the best." It's a celebration of what we liked, if you will, and so the purpose of the award, though certainly manipulable, is to offer recognition to the cereals we loved. Gaming the system is inevitable to a certain degree, of course.

      For the face of the Grape Nuts crowd, and, indeed, many of the fans of said face, it was never exclusively about "the love" or "the best." If you read their comments and their posts, there's a clear sense that this was about looking at the lovers of Froot Loops and deliberately tainting the Cereal Awards by the inclusion of works which they may or may not think are actually good, but which they know would be controversial for the Froot Loops folks. This wasn't about "here are some works I loved," but about "let's do this because it'll be funny to watch them squirm." It was about politics, not cereals. If it were just about the cereal, that would be fine. I can get behind that, since it's no different than what Scalzi does when he mentions his work or someone else's. But I can't find a way to re-interpret the post-Hugo-announcement backslapping as anything but pissing in the Cereal Awards cereal.

    • I'm sure a lot of them liked Day's story. That's fine. But Correia has already publicly stated that part of his motivation for putting it on his Sad Puppy Ballot was to piss on the Hugo voters and the people with whom he disagrees. I don't think it's a small part, either. If he nominated everything on his ballot because he liked them and because it was never intended as a jab at the people he dislikes, that would have created a very different discussion, I imagine.

      Except on the subject of Day, of course.

  3. But paying for the privilege of attending may have little to nothing to do with the awards. Maybe your favorite author is at CerealCon. Maybe you go every year because you like the conversations and you run into some of the same crowd and enjoy their company. Maybe you think the whole thing is cool, but you just don't care about Cereal Awards. To them, the Cereal Awards just happen to be given out at the CerealCon they were going to for so many other reasons.

    Of course, people who attend CerealCon clearly love eating cereal, so I do agree that there is a conversation to be had about why many Cereal aficianados are not interested enough to nominate their favorite cereal or vote for the final ballot of cereals.

    • Joe,
      That's a great point. You may be right, which leads me to think Jason Sanford's idea about lowering the cost for entry may be a good idea after all. If the attendees aren't participating, then we really should have a wider swatch of readers participating in general, if not to avoid what I think is a bad situation, then at least to increase the variety of entries to the Hugos. Personally, I think the entry should be $5-$10, but I understand that such a cost is far below the current one. So $20 or something would be acceptable.

    • My thought was $25 for a voting membership, which I suppose would be the new price point for a "supporting membership" unless you start to get more bang for your buck with a supporting membership.

      The risk, of course, is that there won't be a significant jump in individuals purchasing a voting membership at the lower price point, and now the con is potentially getting less money to run the con / do whatever it is that con money does. Dropping the price only makes sense for the individual con if they can at least equal, if not exceed what they would make on the current supporting memberships.

    • Joe: $25 sounds reasonable. I think you'd also get more international folks voting if you lowered the price. Charles Tan recently wrote over on The Skiffy and Fanty Blog that a lot of Filipinos only make about $8 a day (maybe $250-$500 a month depending on your profession). So a $25 price tag is still really high for someone living there, I imagine, but maybe more doable than $40 or $50. I'm not sure how you solve that problem, though.

      And, yeah, dropping the price only helps if they can still earn the amount they need. I think if you dropped it to $25 or even less, that would be easy peasy. Hell, even $5 could net a LOT of voters, I imagine (if properly advertised in the community). But I'm a little optimistic on that front.

    • I would love to see the voting cost reduced to $5, but I suspect you'll have to get there gradually. There's no way in hell you'd ever convince the folks who work on the awards behind the scenes to make that drastic of a change.

      But, yes, $5 would be nice indeed, and it would make the award much more populist than it already is. I hope…

Leave a Reply