Crossing Lines: How Far is Too Far?


I was looking forward to writing this morning. On Beyond, not on this. But after the weekend’s events, and yesterdays response … I can’t just not say something. This has reached the point of insanity.

Change is rough. We all know that. Sometimes, people have a really, really hard time dealing with it. Especially when personal opinions come into it, and someone has to admit that they’re wrong. Or even worse, hypocritical. Looking at history, there have always been moments of shift that people have fought against. Some are good (suffrage) and some are bad (1930s Germany). Lately I’m getting reminded a lot of history.

Ever seen the film Remember the Titans? Disney flick, good flick, even if not the most historically accurate. Anyway, there’s a scene in it that was called to my memory a little while ago. In this scene (assuming I remember correctly), the daughter of the head coach is playing with the daughter of the assistant coach in the living room when there’s a smashing sound and a brick flies through the window. Attached to the brick is a hate message decrying the coach for daring to have anything to do with the community (or with football or something). Basically, it was a hate message, designed to scare and chase away. On a brick thrown through a window.

In light of what’s happened this weekend, this scene comes to mind because it’s exactly what the insular clique that’s been ruling the roost of Sci-fi (particularly the Hugos) stooped to this weekend, metaphorically speaking. Bricks through windows. Shouted insults. Character assassination. Dehumanization of “the enemy.”

This weekend, a number of very similarly worded articles went up in the public news sphere. These articles were run in a number of places, including Entertainment Weeklyi09, and The Telegraph, to name a few. Since then, there’s been a backlash—a backlash that has seen at least one (and I would imagine) several of these articles rewritten, because these articles weren’t just “coverage.” No, they were slipping into outright character defamation territory. They were gunning for libel (and personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing someone take them to task on that, because it was just sick).

These articles were bricks thrown at windows. They were public insults accusing the people in charge of organizing Sad Puppies 3 of being all sorts of thing. They inferred and accused the members of the movement of being misogynistic and racist, of having a platform of decrying women and anyone who’s skin color wasn’t white. The attack was widespread and quick, and came loaded with very loaded words designed to procure kneejerk reactions from anyone who read them. It made accusations that those working with or in Sad Puppies were an offshoot of GamerGate. And a whole lot of other accusations and decrying was done.

It was sick, really. And not the good kind of “sick.” I’m using that term in the same sense one uses when talking about the scene from Remember the Titans, where a coach gets a brick thrown through his window to scare him and his family because he’s “different.” These articles were metaphorical bricks.

Today, Brad R. Torgersen posted a response to the articles, a response in which he uploaded a picture of his own family in order to stave off some of the accusations made by these articles (he also has links to at least one of the unedited originals to which he is replying). He had to respond to what was essentially, a public smear job.

This isn’t right.

It comes from other angles too. Other responses from different angles came out over the weekend. Multiple proponents of the insular group made public statements about the nominations for the Hugo. Many of them were not the books they had expected, because Sad Puppies had drawn in a lot of fans who could vote. Responses such as “…traditional fannish values has no choice but to only consider nominees _not_ backed by [Sad Puppies] and, if not satisfied that those deserve to win, to then vote No Award in as many categories as necessary.” (Steve Davidson)

That’s right. Don’t consider any nomination that isn’t from the “traditional fan” (who is what, exactly?), and if those are the only nominations possible, don’t consider them (which as I understand it means reading them) and don’t vote for them.

And again, there’s more fear mongering. Here’s another: “Does the desire to expand fandom mean we have to welcome every imaginable kind of person? I think a moment’s reflection reveals that no, we do not. The SF convention that finds itself sharing a hotel with the International Association of Cheerful Child-rapers can probably be excused for not inviting them to come visit the con suite.” (Patrick Nielsen-Hayden)

While there’s some logic with this statement … there’s also a very glaring usage of the term “Cheerful Child-rapers,” as if to imply that those who would do that are somehow on similar ground with those in the Sad Puppies movement.

Again, this is just sick.

Of course, there’s a reaction. People are speaking back against what’s been said over the weekend. They’re picking up the bricks and holding them up for a moment so that the rest of the crowd can see what’s been thrown, but then they’re putting them where they belong: the garbage.

It’s still sickening. This has gone past a group being upset that their little power base is breaking apart. This has gone into territory that respectable people probably wouldn’t have strayed into, willingly or otherwise. Fear mongering. Character attacks.

And warnings. Like any time a group has used such tactics against their “enemy,” the message to the rest of the group is clear: Stay put, do what we say, or the brick will come for you next. As a guy who’s trying to make it as an author, what message am I supposed to take here? That I might be the next one to wake up with my name dragged through the mud if I don’t “toe the party line?” Crud, that I might face a slandering of my works, my name, and my associates because of the color of my skin? Or my sex? Bear in mind that although a number of the SP individuals and nominations are not white and male, I think the continued labeling of them, along with all the other accusations, says something about what the insular group seems to think of them. And it’s worrying.

What’s the message here? Fear? Is that it? If you’re not one of us, we’ll make sure of it? The brick will be coming for you next unless you say we’re right?

As an up and coming author, what’s my recourse supposed to be? I guess at this point, I’m just glad that there are writers out there who are willing to take the bricks and stand up for things. Because I really can’t do much on my own but keep writing—although now it looks as though it might not matter what I write as long as I make sure it conforms to a certain groups ideology. As long as it does, the gates are open. But if it’s not … they’ll shut every door that they can.

Am I probably putting a bit of a target on my forehead for saying so? Well … yes. But with something that’s crossed this many lines … well, at this point something rational has to be said, so I’ll add my voice to that. And I’ll be honest, I’d rather be an author who faces the bricks than one who hides from them and retreats. I enjoy writing—scratch that, I love it. But seeing the world of Science Fiction and Fantasy stoop to the level of digital bricks, well … Maybe I’m just still idealistically naive when it comes to what the industry’s social strata is like. Maybe it’s like this all the time.

It doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really want to get back to writing something fun and inspirational. This was almost depressing.

Edit: Personally, I’d rather not have stuff like this clogging the blog, to be honest. I’d rather that all the posts I make here could be the writing guides, the book discussions … the fun stuff, in other words. And I’m really hoping that this firestorm burns itself out, because I’d rather get back to doing writing stuff rather than discussing things that are this fueled by vitriol, and selfishness. These are depressing. The other stuff is fun.

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