The Parable of the Fruit Punch Czar: A meditation on power, responsibility, and community

As fortune, good or ill, would have it, I picked the weekend before a busy and hurried week to launch this blog, and have not had the time I’d have liked to follow up with a post of any substance. In the interest, then, of not letting this field lie fallow overlong, allow me to point the Gentle Reader to someone else’s excellent thoughts.

I have Making Light linked over in the sidebar under the Essentials category of my blogroll. For almost nine years it’s been one of my very favorite places on the Interwebs; though I’m not the active commenter there I was years ago, it’s still one of the sites I make sure to check in on regularly even when I don’t have time to run down every interesting online rabbit-hole I’d like to. For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Making Light is the weblog of SFF editors Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden and their friends and fellow-travellers, swelled by a host of excellent commenters (who refer to themselves collectively as the Fluorosphere). For people who enjoy smart and eye-opening discussions of writing, art, fandom, language, communities, politics, publishing, and a host of related subjects, there’s no other place quite like it.

So here, from last weekend, is a small taste of what makes ML great: Teresa’s tale of the Fruit punch czar, a distillation of patterns observed in the delegation, assumption, and transferrence of responsibilty. It’s framed in the community of SFF fandom, but describes a phenomenon that’s all too universal. Like many of the things the Nielsen Haydens and company write about, it has the effect of condensing a lot of small ideas you might not have known you knew into something fascinating and revelatory. And, like almost everything Fluorospheran, the discussion in the comments is at least as good and illuminating as the post itself.

For me, having been through changes in a lot of organizations (professional and otherwise), and having observed several of the weird and uncomfortable things that can happen when a role is passed from the person who defined it, this is an enormously useful bit of terminology. Certainly I’ve seen a lot of batons passed in situations where it might have helped to be able to say “Uh-oh. This is a Fruit Punch Czar in the making.” It’s hard to say how much just having that knowledge can prevent such things from occurring, but, jeeze, it sure couldn’t hurt.

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About Dan L-K

I write, I edit, I make music, I enthuse nerdily about nerdy things. View all posts by Dan L-K

One response to “The Parable of the Fruit Punch Czar: A meditation on power, responsibility, and community

  • Dan L-K

    I meant to do this the other day, but I wanted to also highlight (for my own future edification if nothing else) this comment in the thread, from the wise and perceptive Abi Sutherland:

    “Generalizing back out again: one of the constant stresses on organizations is that people are always going to want to do things they don’t turn out to be capable of. They apply for jobs beyond their capacity, volunteer for things they can’t manage, make commitments they can’t keep. People are at times over-optimistic, weak, vulnerable, depressed, low on self-esteem, and defensive. And sometimes dealing with that becomes an emotional pit and a time-suck, and risks rewarding neediness instead of the effort of overcoming it. And yet, if you can get those same people turned in the right direction, valued, supported and rewarded for the right things, you can get many wonderful and shiny things done.

    “I don’t have an answer. I don’t know if there is one; if there is, I wish it were more widely known.”

    (The whole thing’s good, but that’s the gold.)

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