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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