I mean … wow.
With all the excitement of E3 over the last week and my work on short stories, I haven’t really been following the Hugo Awards that closely. After all, most of what was being said had died down to a pretty standard echo chamber, to the point where checking out File 770 was starting to feel like loading the same page with the names on most of the articles transposed one posting down and the same comments from the day before. Honestly, I know that Mike Glyer is just trying to chronicle the whole thing, but at this point, its all become so samey that it’s not really doing anyone a service. It’s sort of like advertising for a product like Comcast. Everyone knows their product is trash, that they’re a terrible company, and that you can’t take anything they say in their advertising as true, but they keep saying it anyway.
File 770 feels like a lot of that right now. Insular makes a blog post with outlandish, unresearched claims. The next day someone else makes it with the same claims, even if the first claim has been completely disproven. They don’t care, and they’re not going to read anything that challenges what they want to believe. The end result is that reading File 770 feels a bit like standing in an echo chamber full of Comcast ads. And that comparison is actually relevant because of what happened sometime last week: an editor at Tor lost her head online and said some things she really probably shouldn’t have.
It’s a pretty common story. Employee of a big company forgets that they’re speaking on behalf of a company and says something they regret. In this case, it was an editor by the name of Irene Gallo, who apparently forgot that they were plugging a Tor book online when they made a slight dig at the Sad Puppies. Nothing big, just a dig, and in the internet world, not much to be bothered by. And that would have probably been the end of it had a reader apparently not familiar with the whole battle for things (a sleeping Ent) asked “Who are Sad Puppies.”
It was like opening a floodgate. What followed was a post more fit for 4chan than for a public Facebook book plugging, a post that managed to mix the words “neo-nazi” with “racist,” “misogynistic,” and “homophobic” into a treasure-trove of rage-inducing buzzwords, all in post that brushed anyone who had anything to do with SP works.
You can imagine how this has gone with the general public. Of course the SPs are mad—but they’re used to the mud-slinging, even if it’s coming here from a publisher rep. But the Ents? The readers who haven’t heard of this? This has been their first taste of things. The insulars have raised their voice loud enough to wake them up … and they didn’t like what they were hearing.
This is where things get really crazy, and I’ve got a little story for you. About five years ago, I found myself very excited for the release of the Microsoft Kinect—mostly because I wanted Dance Central (now I have all three, and yes, they are awesome). However, on a forum I hung out on, people were less than enthused. Many of them insisted that it was a prank, a fraud, and that no such device existed. No matter what evidence came forward. Someone played it? Cleverly disguised and lying marketing. Hands-on videos? CGI. None of it was real, they insisted. It was a fake.
They were fans, you see. Devoted fans of rival console companies. Therefore, something that looked this neat had to be false. They didn’t want to believe it. It wasn’t real.
Then it came out. I played one. I liked it. I bought one after about six months. I still use it. I’ve since returned to that forum.
Some fans are still claiming it does not exist. The Kinect is a trick, they say. You haven’t played one, you’ve been swindled by flashy lights and a team of clever programmers. The Kinect doesn’t really exist. To these fans, they are so dedicated to this idea now that they find it more believable that there is apparently a cartel of MS programmers in my house, modding my “fake Kinect” in real time so that it appears to work, than they do the idea of the thing they wanted so badly to not exist existing.
So, getting back to Tor. Tor has seen some negative publicity out of this Gallo’s comments. A lot of negative publicity. The Ents are, one by one, waking up. And they don’t like what they’re seeing. They’re seeing an editor of the company whose products they’ve enjoyed pointing fingers and shouting “Look at all the shouting that side is doing! Look at their shouting! It’s so loud! Can’t you see it!? If you like what they like, you’re shouting at me too, and I don’t like you for it!”
But here’s where things get … interesting. See, these Ents are the forefront, the ones just waking up to things because their interconnected and somewhat aware—on Facebook and other places where they can get their news—and suddenly they’re seeing this bout of name-calling flying by. Some of them, being targets of that name-calling, contacted Tor to complain. Now for the crazy part.
Apparently, Tor has decided to ignore the backlash and has offered an explanation that those who wrote in to Tor to complain about this editors are not real fans. Tor has offered the opinion running along the lines that they feel many of these fans writing in are not real fans of their books (and buyers), but just very reduced numbers of fans using botnets to promote their reaction.
Now do you see why I say “Wow?” Tor’s customer base has begun writing in en-masse (by the thousands from most numbers being claimed) and Tor’s response is to look at all of them and say “You’re not a real customer. Nananana you’re not real!”
How to express myself on this one? Tor …? You’ve screwed up with this one. Big time.
The public is reacting about how you’d expect. Obviously SPs have capitalized on it as a way of saying ‘Yup, look at what we were talking about in action’ or something like that (to be fair, it is kind of a silver bullet’s worth of ammo). But the real reaction is coming from those same fans.
Now we’ve got sites dedicated to collecting pictures of “not-fans” Tor collections they’ve purchased over the years. There are sites dedicated to gathering names, petition-style, to send to Tor. And probably a lot of other stuff that I have neither the time nor the full inclination to hunt down. Bottom line? Tor has, to borrow the words of a poster on this very site, done what the SPs have done. They’ve peed on the roots of the fandom. The Ents are waking.
Remember that post that I wrote a few weeks ago about the coming Ent March? Where I said that both sides were waking up the silent fans, the readers, and that the insulars would probably panic when that happened, because even if the Ents weren’t all for the SPs, they definitely weren’t going to be all for the insulars goals? Well, this is the beginning of that. And we’re already seeing the result. The insulars, angry that the Ents aren’t supporting them the way they thought they would, are now trying to insist that they don’t exist. Like the fans who refused to believe the Kinect was real, they don’t want to see the truth of what’s happening.
The thing is, now they’re orcs. Poking at the Ents and saying “Get out of here, we don’t want you in this forest. This forest is ours to do with as we please. You’re not real, you can’t be real or you’d say we’re right. Go away!”
Earlier I mentioned Comcast. Now I’m about to say something I never thought I’d say: Comcast has handled things like this better than Tor. And Comcast is a terrible company. They have a history of pissing off customers by doing things like changing their name to c*** or b**** on bills (among many, many other things). And what does Comcast do when the massive tide of negative customer support sweeps toward them? They fire the one responsible and assuage the customers. “We’re sorry we insulted you, the person in question has been dealt with, etc … etc … Please don’t destroy our rep any further than it has been.”
Tor is not doing this. While they have made a public statement that Gallo’s views are not their own, they’re also not making any moves to do much about it. Except, apparently, telling their readers that are writing in “You’re not a real reader. We don’t believe you because you’re saying something we don’t want to hear.”
The Kinect does not exist. There’s a botnet behind the curtain. You’re not a real reader.
Anyone out there ever been called a liar publicly when you weren’t, by someone who really enjoyed making the first strike with a pointing, tarring finger? How many times have you walked away from that thinking “Meh, maybe they’re right? I shouldn’t defend myself?” Not many? I didn’t think so.
Tor has just screwed up. Maybe this will wind down … but I think, personally, we just saw the first real signs of the Ents moving. Because several of them just reached the edge of the forest and saw what’s been done. And what they say in their circles of reading friends? That’s going to spread like the wildfire it is. Tor, in insisting that these readers and fans can’t be real because they aren’t getting with the program, just painted a massive target on the walls of their silvery tower and dared the readers to come knock it down.
This never ends well. Ever.
But hey, I guess I’ve got something to watch outside of E3’s Fallout 4 material.