Monthly Archives: April 2015

It’s Tonka Toys! All the Way Down!

I keep pondering Tade Thompson’s recent post at SAFE: “I Own SFF Fandom (and so do you).” He cuts to the heart of something that has been very much on my mind.

MysticMountain_HubbleForteza_1564The Sad/Rabid Puppies claim a moral basis for their attack on the Hugos. They say that identity-based politics have polluted our storytelling traditions. They long for a return of the good old days when SFF stories were not about race, or gender, or sexual orientation, or cultural appropriation, or all those other pesky social-justice matters, but instead favored just-great-romps, without all the politics injected into them. And at this point my Spock ears appear and my right eyebrow floats up. I think, Fascinating.

You know what? When I read a story about a woman, especially an older woman, kicking ass and taking names in an exciting space opera or fantasy setting, I certainly don’t see politics. I see an exciting space opera or fantasy with characters I can really relate to. And I’m willing to bet my friends in the LGBTQI, dis/ability, and POC communities don’t see politics, either, when they read a story that has someone whose demographics match their own. They see that person who, like them, is fighting to find their way in the world, despite all the obstacles they face. (Obstacles that can differ, based on who we are and what we’ve encountered in our lives.) Who struggles to hold onto their humanity in the face of implacable hostility. Of denial of who they are.

The Sad/ Rabid Puppies seem to think of themselves as the true descendants of the grand masters of our modern pulp SFF tradition. I find this…interesting. The idea that stories about white guys overcoming obstacles—struggling to hold onto their humanity in the face of implacable hostility and denial who they are—is somehow less political than anyone else undergoing all those struggles—is simply so illogical to me that I can help but shrug and go, whaaaa? Because you know, the Grand Masters of SFF are my forebears, too.

Seriously, dudes. What would Spock say? (WWSS???)

I wrote recently about how the books of SFF writers like Heinlein and Silverberg and Simak and Asimov and Vance and Bradbury and Tolkien saved my life, when I was young. I was an abuse survivor (post1 | post 2), not to mention a really weird kid who didn’t fit in, and those science fiction stories I found in Prospect Branch Public Library saved my life. I didn’t care if they were written by a bunch of white guys. I cared that, like me, they spent all their time gazing at stars and poring over old tomes, dreaming up all these wild tales. Connecting our future with our past. Imagining all these different rich, complex, beautiful, scary worlds. Showing me that I wasn’t the only person who thought that way, and that my life wouldn’t always be crabbed and limited as it was then.

Speaking of Spock, I had the great good fortune of being around when the original Star Trek series ran, in 1966-1968. Only my parents were really strict about bedtimes. I was too little for ST seasons 1 and 2—my bedtime was 7:30, and the show came on at 8. By the time it started, sleep had gotten hold of me. But by the time the third season came on, my bedtime was bumped up to 8 pm!! So they would send me to bed, and turn out the light, and I would crawl into the hall, creep into the living room behind the couch, and watch the show—terrified of being discovered, but unable to resist the pull. And so I had the great good fortune to watch the last season of their original run.

I loved Star Trek. And when I discovered the written works, I loved Lord of the Rings. I loved Have Space Suit, Will Travel. Ring Around The Sun. I, Robot and Tau Zero. I loved all those books I discovered in the library that had been by old white dudes. I didn’t care who wrote it. I cared about the stories they told. It was my legacy, too.

To my fellow SFF siblings who are white guys and don’t understand this: you know, most of the time, anyway, I’m not mad at you. For one thing, anger takes a lot of energy. For another, #NotAllStraightCisWhiteGuys—there are lots of guys out there who get it. And for another, frankly, I quite fancy straight white guys. I married one. He’s brimming with awesome sauce (just saying).

Even so. Your demographics don’t give you first dibs on our SFF forebears. We are our ancestors’ children. All of us. Even if the field was mostly straight cis-gendered white guys back then (which, I honor their contributions, but btw, there were plenty of women, queers, and POC back then, too), the world has shifted. SFF is a powerful meme that has spread far beyond its origins, and will continue to do so.

We’re all part of the human race. We all descended from mitochondrial Eve. Someday, our descendants will be on that bus to Tau Ceti.

So now I’m going to put on my mom face and say boys, you need to share those Tonka Toys. Stop with the defensive clutch. Share the sandbox. Because it’s the right thing to do.

And you know what else? When we let more writers with various points of view in, they’ll bring more readers with them. And that means more readers for you, too, you know. Because lots of people will want to read your stories, if you’re a good enough writer, regardless of their demographics (or your politics). I promise.

And maybe, if you get a good close look at the sand castles the rest of us build with those Tonka Toys, you’ll come to understand that you are part of a much bigger universe than you seem to realize right now.

‘Cuz, you know. Sensawunda, and all that.

 

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Standing in the Borderlands of Discourse

First of all, I want to thank Rochita Loenen-Ruiz for standing up in favor of my Hugo nomination. Rochita, I know that wasn’t easy. I am proud to know you, and humbled by your friendship and support.

The rest of this is a post I started when I heard about the nomination, after writing my acceptance post. A lot of other things have happened since then, and I had a set of links I’d been noodling around with, which isn’t complete yet, but let me get this up and I’ll deal with the rest later.

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I want to draw people people’s attention to a post Rochita wrote recently at her own blog. It’s a must-read, heartbreaking essay about her fear of attending Dysprosium, the 2015 national British SF convention. Her encounters with Requires Hate & Co. have wounded her spirit in a profound way. How can anyone read her account and say it doesn’t matter, that we shouldn’t say anything that might hurt RH’s feelings—that we should take RH at her word that her abuses are all in the past and anyway, I was just picking on her and being racist and mean?

And it’s not just Rochita. SFF writer Colum Paget’s pain, when RH went after him for winning the James White award in lieu of her friend Tori Truslow (which, WTF? His story hadn’t even been published yet, and RH was trashing it and calling for him to be decapitated, based on a short excerpt of his story on the awards website) was as real and profound as Rochita’s. The harm done to him lasts to this day. I fear we have lost his writer’s voice, and I’m deeply sad about that. I have a serious disagreement with his political views, but he obviously has real talent and I don’t believe that the way to win an argument with him is to crush his spirit and silence his voice. He has the right to contribute his own stories to our community bookshelves, to find his readership.

While researching RH’s abuses, I heard stories like theirs over and over, day after day. If you weren’t the right demographics—the right ideology—if you didn’t toe the line—if you even looked at RH crosswise—then you were in for it.

The truth is, I have also been afraid. I’ve feared an attack, online or yes, even a potential real-life attack. Most of all, I’ve feared that speaking publicly about all this again could ignite a conflagration that makes RaceFail09 look like BakeSale09.

Some people have told me that for them, RH calling for people to be murdered or assaulted or mobbed was just hyperbole—performance art, in essence, and not meant to be taken seriously.

[Trigger warning: racial violence; homophobia]

I had a friend in college, a fellow engineering student. She was from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and her brother had been murdered in broad daylight in front of her eyes by a classmate of his, for dating the classmate’s sister. Because he was black and she was white. And the classmate was never even arrested, let alone prosecuted. I can’t even imagine what she and her family must have been through. How must they feel, to this day, wondering what her brother’s life might have been, had he lived?

And I have some close friends, a lesbian couple, who have been together for decades. When the marriage equality laws were passed in California they were finally able to marry, but I see them brace themselves, whenever I introduce them as a couple to others. They still feel that lingering fear, that need to be wary, because there are those who might attack them for openly wearing their sexual orientation in public.

In light of the severity and pervasiveness of these kinds of prejudice, it can be easy, I think, for activists to view social-media shaming campaigns, or political-purity checks at cons and publishers, as trivial in comparison, or as somehow worth the price. But the harm of online assaults is real and lasting. And unjust. Using your influence to have people barred from convention events or constrained from publishing their own works, as punishment for disagreeing with you, is both unethical and in some circumstances illegal.

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I have had numerous people say to me that as a result of what RH has done, concepts of social justice and intersectionality have been tainted for them. They have been used as a cudgel and thus devalued. This saddens me.

A lot of people already know what I’m about to say—many advocates have been writing about this since forever, and scientific studies back them up, time and again. But for those who doubt it, the science is in, and prejudice, stereotyping, bigotry, and unconscious bias are all very real. People are dying daily because of the color of their skin, their class/caste, their sexual orientation, or their gender identity. Women of equal capability have a harder time finding employment, and are paid less, than men for the same work—and for people of color here in the US, it’s harder still. People get erased from awareness due to their disability or differences in neurology. In other words, if you are straight, white, male, of middle or upper class, and able, then (on average) you’re playing life on an easier setting than others. (Mind you, it doesn’t necessarily mean things are easy for you; it just means it’s easi-er than it is for your peers whose demographics differ from yours.)

It’s a kind of cosmic cruelty that those who can most clearly see the damage done by prejudice and discrimination are the people who receive that damage, and that thus the primary burden falls on people experiencing oppression to speak out about it, if they want things to change. (And we have to do it over, and over, and over… which is deeply wearing.)

Because this fundamental unfairness is baked into our social structures, it’s much easier for people in a position of greater privilege to speak “reasonably” while denying the impacts of discrimination, to tune out or discredit the words of people who are speaking from a position of social disadvantage. I have always felt that because of this, it’s the responsibility of the person with the greater structural advantage to make room for the person who has been harmed or marginalized to speak.

It’s a kindness, in other words, to give people the benefit of the doubt when they speak about a form of discrimination or bias you have never experienced—to assume good intent, despite any exasperation or frustration they might express.

It’s as if you are inside the building and one of your colleagues has been locked out. Maybe you even accidentally locked them out. Maybe not, and it’s just a big misunderstanding. Either way, it’s the courteous thing to do, to open the door. To make room for them. Apologize for inconveniencing them, if you find you inadvertently made their life more stressful. (And avoid embarrassing or patronizing them, of course, or acting like you’re doing them a big favor. It’s their building, too.)

It’s this very sense of courtesy, of social obligation, that RH has exploited.

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Since social-justice concepts are true, they are a form of power. As with any sort of power, they need to be wielded ethically, or they can do a great deal of harm. People don’t control how much privilege, how many unearned advantages or disadvantages we are born with. What we can control is how we use the power we do have. For every one of us in this community, I would be willing to bet you that I could find someone who has greater systemic privilege than you, and I could find someone with less. (And you know? A person can be as oppressed as hell, and still be an asshole.)

It becomes much harder to talk about bias or prejudice, after what RH has done. We’re all too easily accused of hypocrisy, or assumed to be tainted by political association. Yet the injustices persist, regardless of whether we speak of them. Distrust and disbelief put locks on our mouths, our minds, and our hearts. We can’t build a community together unless we can speak honestly to each other.

And how do we distinguish RH’s actions from words spoken by people who are simply angry and hurt, in the heat of the moment? Or who use humor—snark and exaggeration—to make their point? Sometimes, sarcasm and gallows humor are all people have to keep them from falling into despair. Sometimes people need to put their foot down and say irritated or angry things. Because they have their own lived experience, that others can’t know, unless they speak, and anger is an appropriate response to abuse.

What are good rules of the road for how negative or sharp criticism can be, without going over the cliff edge? How can we preserve the good in our SFF legacy, without clinging to the aspects that have caused harm?

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In short, this is an awful situation we’re in. It sucks, that our community has been hacked in this way. It sucks, that someone who could have been an important voice for positive change has turned out to be someone very different.

And it’s not just RH. The Sad and Rabid Puppies’ attempt to sweep the ballots comes across to me as a blatant backlash against efforts to expand our field and increase diverse voices. Their poison-pill attack on this year’s Hugo ballot reveals contempt for the very spirit of our community. However flawed and clumsy its implementation might be at times, the Hugo awards process seeks to receive and amplify the relationship that each reader has for their favorite writer, their favorite artist, their favorite editor or work, in order to sum things up: to encapsulate the field’s zeitgeist for that moment in time. SFF as a form seeks room for different voices, for the Other. For tolerance and diversity. It’s part of our tradition. It’s in our DNA.

As I mentioned in a recent follow-up post to my report, internet trolls are by-and-large sadistic, manipulative, narcissistic sociopaths, who torment people because they like it. They enjoy the feeling of power it gives them to make others suffer. That fear and isolation many of us feel, that associated anger, even rage, at those we disagree with? The trolls among us stoke it. They feed on it. It’s what gives them their power over us. Are we going to allow that pattern to continue? Are we going to keep dancing to their tune?

What RH and the Sad/ Rabid Puppies have in common, in other words, is not their politics, but their hate.

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We in SFF have an obligation as a community not to collude in bullying through our silence. Cyber-bullying, like its real-life equivalent, knows no gender; no class; no race nor ethnicity nor culture; no political nor religious affiliation; no sexual orientation nor dis/ability status. A community can’t thrive if it allows abuses of its members to continue unimpeded.

I haven’t missed the painful fact that RH is not the only one who abuses others, some of whom are of greater status in our field. Even if we discount those who have miscast people’s efforts to expand SFF readers’ access to new, diverse voices as attempts to chase them, the self-styled successors of the old guard, out—oppression itself is a form of abuse that bears down on people of marginalized status. We live in a poisoned pool of unfair bias. The fact that RH wields as her weapon the prejudice people from marginalized groups face, when they are accused of being abusive for speaking uncomfortable truths, simply makes her own abuses that much more cruel.

I’ve spoken to an expert in the matter who has studied our case, who tells me that RH’s abuses (like Vox Day’s) are highly unlikely to stop by themselves, if she follows the trajectory of other people who act as she has. Over and over, for more than a decade, she has blown up communities by positioning herself as a victim and finding people to cover for her, who either feel they don’t have a right to criticize her, or are willing to overlook her behavior for the sake of other concerns.

That’s why I accepted the nomination, and why I continue to speak. The community is still at risk. I believe we need to find a way to send a clear signal* that the community stands firm on this basic principle: that our politics can’t outweigh our humanity. That everyone has a fundamental right to be here, to engage in online and in-person discourse without being threatened with annihilation. We have to find a way—not to deny our own beliefs and experiences—but to talk across the divides.

I don’t have good answers for how we can help the center hold, but I do believe we need to rally as a community around a set of norms. A covenant of sorts. An agreement that, whatever the fractures in our community—whatever our disagreements—whatever personal circumstances brought us to this genre in the first place—at its heart, SFF has room for all of us.

Every era has its defining challenge. Ours is to do the messy, difficult work of giving birth to that reality, by not giving in to the voices of hate, from without or within.

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*22 May 2015 Update: The original words were”A vote for me sends a clear signal….” I’ve edited them to acknowledge the concerns of those who have criticized me for campaigning. That’s not what this is about for me, and I’m on board with however people need to vote. What I’m looking for is for acknowledgment of the harm of abusive practices, and the importance of recognizing everyone’s right to be heard. #RequiresLove

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About that Hugo Nomination…

hugo_smAcceptance

So yeah. Wow. I am gratified—and stunned—to have been nominated for Best Fan Writer Hugo for my November, 2014 investigative report on Requires Hate/ Winterfox/ Benjanun Sriduangkaew (HTML | PDF). If you’re wondering why I was nominated, that’s the place to start.

Hugo nominators, I’m humbled by your vote of confidence. I’d be glad to win the award. I value the good opinion of my peers, but more importantly, being on the ballot sends a clear signal to the people who’ve been targeted by Requires Hate & Co. that the SFF community has their backs. Still, I’d trade a hundred Hugo nominations for an alternate version of our fannish history—one that didn’t include damage done to our people or our communities by those hiding self-serving agendas behind high-minded rhetoric.

I have accepted the nomination, to raise awareness regarding those who have been harmed, and those who have stood up against the harm Requires Hate has done. Again, thanks to George RR Martin for his signal boost of my report, as well as the other pros and fans who nominated me.

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bespinduel3

A Sad-Rabid-Hateful State of Affairs

An existential struggle is underway for the heart of our SFF community. The field has been battered repeatedly by ideological contention and controversy, as evinced by the bigotry-driven Sad-Puppies Hugos campaigners, who have infected our awards process with an astro-turfing virus. My own feelings about the matter are expressed better than I ever could by Abi Sutherland and Elizabeth Bear (EB1EB2).

Patrick Nielsen Hayden has also brought to people’s attention the fact that Matthew David Sturridge, reviewer for Black Gate, made the very difficult decision to turn down his Hugo fan writer nomination, as a protest against the fact that he was on the Sad-Puppies slate for bloc voting, when he opposes everything they stand for. It may well have been this act that led to my name ending up on the final ballot. I also want to give a nod to the other SFF fans and pros who would otherwise have made it onto the final ballot, if not for the Sad/Rabid Puppies campaign. You deserved better, and I would have been proud and honored to share a Hugo nomination with you.

Against this backdrop (“it’s all about ethics in Hugo voting”), Requires Hate’s long-running pseudo-social-justice-inspired campaign of hostility and aggression toward fellow SFF writers and fans has made it that much harder for our community to deal in a unified way with attacks from the extreme right.

Requires Hate’s attacks on fellow writers and fans, under the guise of social justice, have been happening under the radar for most people in the SFF community-at-large, but the impacts are far-reaching. The attacks have had a serious and demoralizing impact on a range of people who either are themselves vulnerable or marginalized, or else who read and/or write stories in diverse settings or with characters from diverse communities. In other words, the people harmed have been the very ones we want to nurture, promote, and elevate—and note, who often share the views and are even some of the same people as those under attack by the Sad Puppies.

As a result of Requires Hate’s actions, valuable members of our community have been silenced, harassed, even chased out of the field—people whose voices we need as we respond to campaigns like Sad Puppies. And Requires Hate’s attacks are still ongoing. If we are committed to protecting our community from assault by haters, in other words, Requires Hate’s actions matter just as much as the Sad Puppies’ do. Her situation is just a lot messier than theirs.

With Vox Day and his ilk, it’s not hard for decent, caring people to figure out where they stand. That’s not as true of Requires Hate. For me, her situation is more complicated. It’s awful and icky and sad, and raises all kinds of challenges and questions about how we engage with each other and how social-justice concepts should be applied in the real world.

But as hard as it is for us to wrestle with this—and as unnerving as it is to have this conversation under the gaze of the Sad-Puppies’ militant allies, the GamerHaters, who’ve done horrible things to people in the gaming community who are seeking to expand diversity in their own field—we have an obligation not to avert our collective gaze. People are still being targeted by Requires Hate, and the community is still at risk.

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Acknowledgments

I take full responsibility for the content of my report; however, numerous people gave me crucial input and support during my investigation, such  as pointers to other targets and documentation, feedback on my drafts, suggestions for significant improvements, and signal boosts during its release. Without them, there would have been no report. You all have my heartfelt gratitude. Some who helped have asked to remain anonymous, but for those who were willing to be named, I want to recognize their individual contributions.

For me, this all started with a Twitter argument late last September that I happened to spot in my feed. It seemed off, somehow. People I knew and respected were making serious allegations of lying—doxxing—collusion with bullying—against other people I knew and respected. Metaphorically, fists were flying, between people from whom I’d never have expected it.

When I reached out via email to some of the parties involved, I had no idea what I was in for. Initially, even in private conversations, those caught up in the blowup were reluctant to provide names or details, despite the fact that they were clearly deeply distraught. This was not a normal personality conflict or garden-variety fan-wankage.

As I dug further and spoke to more people, the matter began to take on ever larger and twistier proportions.

Death threats? Blackmail? Blackballing? People terrified to leave their homes? Online communities obliterated? Since 2003? WTF???

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Tricia Sullivan each had to make a tough call, in those first days. They were really on the firing line, with Requires Hate and her supporters leveling all kinds of false accusations at them.

Back then, it was hard to believe that anything could change Requires Hate’s trajectory, and from Trish’s and Rochita’s perspectives, sharing details of what had happened must have seemed most likely to just make matters worse. Feed the flames. Draw more people into what was already an ugly conflagration that had damaged personal and professional relationships. But they made a decision to trust that I would treat their information with care, and find a way to get the truth out there that the community could grasp fully.

They answered my questions in depth about the actions Requires Hate and her primary supporter Alex Dally MacFarlane had taken (buckle your seatbelts; even the condensed version is convoluted):

  • First, to (ultimately unsuccessfully) suppress publication of Trish’s book Shadowboxer, and when Rochita refused to knuckle under by pre-emptively trashing Tricia’s book in public;
  • To attack Rochita’s career through attempts to shut her out of convention events and have her blackballed by publishers (RLR1, RLR2); and
  • Last fall, to publicly attack both Tricia and Rochita for supposedly outing the Requires Hate as also being her new ingénue persona, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, as a means to deceive the community about the connection.

I’m deeply grateful for the trust Rochita and Trish both placed in me.

SFF writer and editor Athena Andreadis’s contributions were pivotal. It was in speaking to her only a day or so later—seeing the emotional toll it took to tell me her story, when I knew Athena to be highly intelligent, accomplished, and well able to handle adversity—that I began get an inkling of the scale of destruction Requires Hate had wrought. That took great courage.

SFF writers Rachel Manija Brown, Kari Sperring, and Liz Williams also showed fortitude and integrity. Each stepped up very soon thereafter, when they heard I was looking into the matter. They told me their own stories. They helped corroborate or correct key details of what had happened to them and others they knew. They identified prior blow-ups, targeting, and so on, which enabled me to begin fleshing out the prior history. Their insights and contributions were critical.

Numerous other targets and witnesses began coming forward to share their stories with me, as well, and/or provide important documentation, and I honor their contributions. For targets, it’s hard to speak your truth, when you fear (with good reason) that people either won’t believe you, or just won’t get why something that happened online could be so icky, so traumatic, so terrifying. For witnesses, the very real fear that cooperating or speaking up will put you in the line of fire next can paralyze your vocal chords.

In addition to the targets, other people early on made a conscious decision to step up, even though they didn’t have to. Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden were the first to sign on to help me wrestle with everything I was uncovering. Their moral support, strategic thinking, editing skills, and willingness to help get the word out were a godsend.

I reached out to Nalo Hopkinson after uncovering some evidence she might have been targeted. I learned she hadn’t been, but once she found out what was going on, she believed me—believed the targets—and provided important insights and suggestions for how to help the community. She showed clear-eyed kindness, love, and clear ethical boundaries that kept me grounded. She also supported me publicly when the report was released, which I know has strained relationships that are important to her. It calls me to show the same integrity. She was the one who came up with the Twitter hashtag #RequiresLove, which I think beautifully captures what our focus must be, to recover and right our fragile relations. I feel so fortunate to have her friendship and support.

Pat Cadigan, not a target at that time, had the titanium ovaries necessary to insist publicly on accountability and truth-telling, and behind the scenes provided moral support to several people who had been targeted. (Though she became a target after my report came out, for calling out a man on Twitter, who turned out to be a GamerHater, for pretending he hadn’t seen my report when he clearly had.) Sherwood Smith also provided moral support and wise counsel behind the scenes to some of the targets, and I know it meant a great deal to them.

Up-and-coming SFF writers Tade Thompson and Victor Fernando R. Ocampo responded to Rochita’s call to support writers and fans in the SFF community of color, helping them process what was happening, and—along with other people of color behind the scenes who prefer to remain anonymous—gave me a clearer perspective on some of the important inter-racial, -ethnic, and -cultural undertones of what was unfolding around us. This, and their willingness to be visible on the SAFE blog in a racially-fraught conflict, showed tremendous grit and compassion.

As I mentioned above, several who prefer to remain anonymous also provided support and information behind the scenes. Throughout my investigation, they demonstrated deep love for the field by uniting in purpose to protect those who were harmed, despite their personal and philosophical differences. You know who you are, and you have my undying thanks.

And for those who, however conflicted your feelings may be about my report or my nomination, and how it might affect our community—how it might be used cynically, for instance, as a tool by bigots to tear down the social safety net that progressive advocates have poured so much sweat and blood into—or who have seen personal and professional relationships disrupted, harming innocent parties—but who still made a decision to believe the targets, I want to honor you as well. I understand your concerns and thank you for supporting the people harmed despite your reservations.

I get why this is so hard to talk about. We are fragmented, as a global community, even within the progressive community, with many unresolved grievances in our past and no easy way to talk about them with each other. But we have to find a way, somehow. I have some more thoughts on this, which I’ll post in coming days.

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Postscripts

  • Comments will be closed. Teresa Nielsen Hayden at Making Light, has mad mod skillz that extend back to the early days of the internet. She has agreed to sponsor a discussion on community standards and how to create safe and productive online communities in a stormy political environment: how to maximize light and minimize heat. It should go up soon, so keep an eye out. I’ll post a link as soon as it’s up over there. Tade Thompson also invites people to discuss the situation at his blog SAFE. There are already several open threads there, and if he posts an additional one, I’ll include a link here.
  • Self- and other-care stuff, in case it’s needed, this Hugos season:
    1. (hat tip to Nalo, for inspiring this one) If you receive hate tweets by GamerHaters or RequiresHate, or anyone else, you can use Nalo’s #RequiresLove hashtag to make a commitment to donate to whatever cause they are hating on you for espousing. For instance, for every hate-tweet you get, you would donate $1 to a cause that fosters diversity in publishing or computer gaming. Whatever is affordable for you. Though I don’t FaceBook or Tumble, there may be ways to adapt this to those media as well. Be sure to ask your followers for support as needed! (And give a count of your progress! >:) )
    2. Don’t panic if people you’ve always been cordial with temporarily block or unfollow you, or take their account private for a while. Sometimes people are upset and need to create an extremely safe space around themselves, while they sort out conflicting feelings. This is all really difficult stuff to deal with. I believe that eventually the dust will settle and we’ll be able to look at each other with a clearer gaze than we can right now. Meanwhile, it’s better not to burn bridges or assume the worst of people who are simply freaking out.
    3. One successful method I’ve seen used to help protect someone receiving hate tweets, after of course screencapping (for PCs | for Macs) (Pro-tip: be prepared with the right software and practice a couple of screencaps before you dive into discussions, if you haven’t done it before), blocking, reporting, and muting, is for concerned friends to send the person under attack a load of fun and loving stuff—kitten gifs or friendly silly jokes, etc. It helps move the offensive stuff off-screen and remind them they are valued.
    4. If you see someone else come under attack by threats or slurs, I recommend screencapping anyway, even if it’s not you being attacked. Multiple copies don’t hurt. It’s not uncommon for a person under attack to feel overwhelmed and freaked out. They may click away or log out just to get away from the ugliness without capturing it. Picking up some of the slack for them, if you’re a bystander, can really help.
    5. For those who want to help out on their blogs by fostering discussions, preserving offending comments in the trashbin with their IP addresses intact would be helpful.
    6. Zoe Quinn, who was targeted by GamerHaters in the games community, has created Crash Override, an online anti-harassment website, to help combat cyber-bullying. The instigation was GamerGate, but targets of other online harassment can reach out to them for support on an individual basis, as well.
    7. I can be reached at loudly sing cuckoo at gmail dot com (without the spaces, and with the other obvious modifications). Response time can sometimes be slow, so please bear with me. <3
  • Several people have created lists of links to stories and books by people who were targeted by Requires Hate. One great way to support the targets would be to buy, review, and discuss their works with fellow readers (Pretty Terrible; Dangerous Jam. I’d really love for Tricia’s fantasy novel Shadowboxer to get some extra reader love—she got hammered hard last fall, and it’s a great book).

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2015 Philip K Dick Award Winner Announced!

Now that it’s official, I can finally talk about this! Being on the Philip K Dick jury last year, for paperback original works, was a terrific experience for me, enabling me to discover numerous talented writers whose books I would otherwise not have read. And the ballot this year, in my opinion, was exceptional. I’ve been wanting to talk about the great books we read for ages. Once we had settled on the final ballot, even before our final deliberations, I knew I could feel confident that we had done our job well, if any one of the candidates had won.

Here are some brief reviews of the winner and the special citation, but you should definitely also read the other books that were nominated. It was a really tough call this year, to settle on just one.

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WINNER: THE BOOK OF THE UNNAMED MIDWIFE by Meg Elison

From the Amazon book page:

The apocalypse will be asymmetrical. In the aftermath of a plague that has decimated the world population, the unnamed midwife confronts a new reality in which there may be no place for her. Indeed, there may be no place for any woman except at the end of a chain. A radical rearrangement is underway. With one woman left for every ten men, the landscape that the midwife travels is fraught with danger. She must reach safety— but is it safer to go it alone or take a chance on humanity? The friends she makes along the way will force her to choose what’s more important. Civilization stirs from the ruins, taking new and experimental forms. The midwife must help a new world come into being, but birth is always dangerous… and what comes of it is beyond anyone’s control.

My take:

A brilliant book. I found myself sucked into this book right away and it pulled me all the way through… dare I say by the short hairs??? I loved Elison’s unflinching look at what the world might look like, in a world traumatized by mass deaths–one starved of women and of new life.

This book begins as a plague ravages the world in a matter of weeks–and women are ten times more likely to die. And it renders surviving women sterile. I loved the idea of the Unnamed Midwife helping give birth to the new civilization to replace the old. I found the protagonist’s resourcefulness, vulnerability, and mental toughness convincing and ultimately very moving. The author’s reflections on loneliness, loss, and sexuality, and on the multitude of ways sexualized violence might erupt–not only into slavery, horrific abuses, and the like–but also into creative recombinations like the Hives, that enabled people to find a way to bond and connect when there are 10 men for every woman, were gut-wrenching. I enjoyed how she used a multitude of journals and the varying of voices to give a broader perspective on events. The ending delivers a hopeful and powerful closure that left me satisfied and wanting to see more from this writer.

SPECIAL CITATION: ELYSIUM by Jennifer Marie Brissett

From the Amazon book page:

A computer program etched into the atmosphere has a story to tell, the story of two people, of a city lost to chaos, of survival and love. The program’s data, however, has been corrupted. As the novel’s characters struggle to survive apocalypse, they are sustained and challenged by the demands of love in a shattered world both haunted and dangerous.

My take:

This book was my personal favorite. I LOVE this book. Brissett presents a disturbing, powerful story of love, loss, and a slow and inexorable genocide. Impressively, she uses a complex spiral format and does it so seamlessly that she makes it look easy. This book evoked strong resonances for me of Robinson’s Years of Rice and Salt and Crowley’s Engine Summer, with a side order of Catch-22. Beautifully crafted and powerful.

The fractious, loving, and passionate relationships between Antoine/Antoinette, Helen/Hector, and Adrian/Andrienne won my heart. The nature of their relationships was in constant flux, as their world transitioned to new expressions–lovers, friends, parents and children and adult siblings–but they always found a way to connect, as they sought to understand what was happening to them and around them. Beneath all this Brissett weaves a deepening mystery: what are the strange, hyper-intelligent animals that presage a transition? What is the dust and how is it connected to the fraying program that seems to control their lives? The glimpses we get of repeating yet contorted imagery and events begin to unveil the truth: that Earth has come under massive assault from an alien invasion and the characters’ lives are not their own. The reader’s horror grows as we realize the sheer scale of destruction. This is a very fine book, and it’s even more impressive to me that it’s a first novel.

 

Here are the other nominees. All really wonderful books–go and read them as well.

THE BULLET-CATCHER’S DAUGHTER by Rod Duncan (Angry Robot): A Steampunk mystery. Elizabeth is clever, slippery, a total illusionist, and at heart, deeply honorable. The book’s settings felt very real to me–from the greasepaint to the lion’s cages, to the dirty crowded colorful streets of London. I also loved the caper/ cloak-and-dagger plot, the circuses and gypsies, and the big reveal at the end, which I did NOT see coming and which really delivered. Lots of lovely stuff in this book. Good commentary on the human condition, and some nice touches on how power differentials across class, gender, and race both constrain people and can be subverted.

MEMORY OF WATER by Emmi Itäranta (Harper Voyager); This is a haunting post-apocalyptic tale of a world in which fresh running water is scarce, and a dictatorship that controls access to it. In our climate-change-threatened world, this book is very timely. The writer’s focus on the young women caught in a web of political powers far beyond their control, and their struggles to retain their dignity and to fight back was a unique take, and her prose is powerful and evocative.

MAPLECROFT: THE BORDEN DISPATCHES by Cherie Priest (Roc): Great trans-dimensional SF horror inspired by Lovecraft, the second in a trilogy. In book one, Lizzie Borden managed to singlehandedly save her town (and the world), by killing her father and stepmother with an axe. But that was only a temporary fix, and the monsters are finding their way back into our dimension. Yikes!

REACH FOR INFINITY edited by Jonathan Strahan (Solaris): It’s hard to weigh an anthology against a novel, but this is a stand-out space-faring anthology, chock full of original stories of the future by both well-known pros and newer voices. Writers featured include Ian McDonald, Ken Macleod, Pat Cadigan, Aliette de Bodard, Karl Schroeder, Hannu Rajaniemi, Karen Lord, Adam Roberts, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Alastair Reynolds, and Peter Watts, among others. Pick it up.

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