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GamerGate and Ethics in Journalism

For anyone who doesn’t know, the seeds of the GamerGate movement began when game developer Zoe Quinn’s former boyfriend wrote a blog post accusing her of cheating on him, and of generally being “an unbelievable jerk,” which led to a campaign of harassment against Quinn. Quinn’s ex- alleged that one of the people Quinn had slept with was journalist Nathan Grayson, and that this led to a brief mention of one of Quinn’s games in an article that was published before the alleged relationship ever started.

Because GamerGate is all is about ethics in journalism. And also time travel, apparently.

The movement began its crusade for stronger ethics in journalism with such rallying cries as, “Next time she shows up at a conference we … give her a crippling injury that’s never going to fully heal … a good solid injury to the knees. I’d say a brain damage, but we don’t want to make it so she ends up too retarded to fear us.” People who spoke out in support of Quinn were attacked as well, and their personal information published online.

All right, fine. So this all started with a whiny man-child’s temper tantrum about his failed relationship. But then it evolved into a Very Serious Conversation about ethics in journal–

Actually, what happened next were death threats and other harassment against Anita Sarkeesian.

But that was all before Adam Baldwin coined the term “GamerGate”! Just because the not-yet-officially-named movement was born in the muck and slime doesn’t mean Baldwin couldn’t turn things around and lead the newly-baptized group into a more Productive and Important Discussion of ethics in–

Wait, no. Baldwin coined the term in order to spread the attack on Zoe Quinn. Sorry, my bad.

But soon women and minorities joined the #GamerGate boat, coining the new hash tag #NotYourShield to protest those who were focusing on harassment instead of ethics in journalism. Apparently a small minority of Angry Feminists™ and Social Justice Warriors were using GamerGate as an excuse to push their own agenda. But ethics affect everyone, and #NotYourShield clearly showed that most women and minorities weren’t upset about–

Whoops. Turns out #NotYourShield was born and raised over in 4chan, using sockpuppet accounts and such.

Well, I’m sure GamerGate soon turned their attentions fully to the issues of ethics–

I mean, after they got done sending death threats to game developer Brianna Wu, driving her and her husband from their home, presumably as ethical punishment for the crimes of Mocking GamerGate and Gaming While Female.

All that aside though, the core of the movement is to reduce the nepotism in gaming journalism, which game designer David Hill notes “was essentially coopted as a marketing arm for certain AAA publishers.” Aha! And now we see GamerGate finally focusing on its core mission to fix ethics in–

Oh … Hill goes on to note that GamerGate looks like “some strange bizarro world” where the people being targeted and attacked have nothing to do with the larger problem of ethics in journalism.

But the people making threats aren’t really with GamerGate. They’re all sockpuppets, and also, Wu and Quinn and everyone else have been posting threats against themselves to discredit the movement. Because we all know women lie, right? And the best way to criticize a group you don’t like is … um … by posting your own home address on the internet? I guess? So where were we. Ah yes, ethics in–

And now Felicia Day gets harassed and doxxed for expressing her concerns about GamerGate.

But the sidebar in the Reddit GamerGate group clearly says “No doxxing,” so it couldn’t have been anyone from GamerGate. Lots of GamerGate people are speaking out about how the harassment and doxxing has to stop because it’s awful, unacceptable, hateful behavior it makes GG look bad.

And maybe it wasn’t an official GamerGater. Because at this point, the top Reddit post in the GamerGate discussion also says, “Stop identifying as ‘#GamerGaters.’ You’re Gamers first, Consumers second.”

Problem solved! If nobody is identifying as GamerGaters, then obviously GamerGate isn’t harassing anyone.

Look, from reading through some of the boards, it’s clear there are people involved with GamerGate because they genuinely care about the problems in gaming journalism. And it sounds like there are legitimate concerns there, and things that need to be challenged and addressed. But there are an awful lot of people who jumped on the GamerGate bandwagon because it was an opportunity to troll and harass and attack women in gaming. Who view “Ethics in Journalism” as synonymous with “The Evil Social Justice Warriors are coming to Ruin All the Things!!!”

Sexism and harassment in gaming? That’s a legitimate and real concern too. And the GamerGate movement was born from it. Maybe it’s grown into a hydra with one head that truly just cares about ethics while another head is all about harassing women, and a third head is just mad at social justice warriors, but no matter how many heads GamerGate has sprouted, it only has one ass, and it’s been dropping an awful lot of particularly noxious crap for months now.

 

Open Thread: Good News

Share something positive in the comments. This is an open thread for any and all good news, because it feels like the world could use more of it these days.

For myself, I got a promotion at the day job a few weeks back, which was pretty cool. Also, our new cat Sophie is about to have her kittens. That should be a lot of fun, both because Kittens! and because my kids are really excited, and I get to enjoy their reactions as well. Finally, I’ve seen the final sketches for the Rise of the Spider Goddess cover art, and it is Nifty.

Your turn!

Victim or Perpetrator?

The Guardian recently published a piece called “Am I Being Catfished?” An Author Confronts Her Number One Online Critic. In the article, author Kathleen Hale describes her anxiety after her first book came out, how she obsessed over Amazon and Goodreads and other review sites. I can definitely relate to this part. Book #10 comes out in January for me, and I expect I’ll still be auto-refreshing the Amazon page every 15 minutes…

Hale asked Twitter for ideas about her next book, as a way to “connect with readers.” A woman named Blythe offered suggestions, which led to Hale checking to see if Blythe had read the book, and discovering not only that she had, but that she’d apparently given it a harsh one-star review and was warning other readers away from the book.

Yeah, that sucks. Especially if a reviewer is complaining about stuff that you don’t think was even in the book. (My favorite bad review of The Stepsister Scheme compares it to an S&M porno. WTF???)  Hale’s mother pointed her to the Stop the Goodreads Bullies site, where Blythe was listed along with more than 150 other reviewers, for crimes ranging from participating in organizing attacks on authors to “derogatory shelving” to reviews considered to be “bullying.” One of the StGB founders talked to Hale about her reviewer, no doubt reinforcing Hale’s belief that she was the victim of a bully.

Foz Meadows has a blog post about why the StGB site is…problematic.

Blythe apparently began tweeting about Hale online. And Hale began to engage in what she describes as “light stalking.” She eventually pulled herself away, but then a few months later, when a book club wanted Hale to do an interview with a book blogger, Hale suggested Blythe. Because she “longed to engage with Blythe directly.” This also involved doing a book giveaway, which allowed Hale to get Blythe’s home address.

I’ve done giveaways myself, which involves readers trusting me with their home addresses. I’ve also sent books to reviewers’ home addresses. I consider this a matter of trust and privacy, which is one of many reasons I get very angry about what happened next.

Hale dug into Blythe’s identity, questioning whether “Blythe” was a pseudonym. She rented a car and, in what she describes as “a personal rock bottom,” drove to Blythe’s home. She called Blythe at home work, pretending to be a fact-checker. She called again, this time identifying herself as Kathleen Hale and confronting her.

Blythe unfollowed her on Twitter, made her Instagram private, and blocked her on Facebook, essentially cutting off Hale’s options for online communication.

Dear authors: don’t do this. Just don’t.

When I tweeted about this, one woman told that Hale is the real victim here, and accused me of victim-blaming. She compared Blythe’s tactics to those of GamerGate (though I’m having a hard time finding where Blythe threatened to rape or murder Hale, or drove Hale out of her own home).

Online bullying is a thing. Trolling is a thing.

Bad reviews are also a thing. Hating someone’s book is not bullying. Sharing your opinion, suggesting others stay away from a book or an author, is not bullying. It might cost you some sales, and that sucks, but it’s not bullying, nor is it an organized campaign to destroy someone’s career.

Hale’s account does not convince me that she was a victim of online bullying. But even if she was, there comes a point where she crossed a line from victim to perpetrator. She admits to stalking Blythe online. She then began stalking her in real life. She showed up at Blythe’s home, called her on the phone.

Blythe criticized Hale’s book and probably cost her some sales. Hale stalked Blythe, presenting herself as a very real threat. She went to Blythe’s home. She called her to say, “I know who you are.”

Not okay. Even if someone said mean things about your book. Even if you’re anxious and depressed.

Which leads me to wonder why the Guardian published this piece in the first place. My friend Barbarienne sees it as a cautionary tale. She also sees it as a warning from the author: “Don’t do what I did.”

I disagree. While I see some recognition that maybe Hale made mistakes, and that she was personally in a bad emotional space, I don’t see any understanding or awareness of the lines and boundaries she crossed, or how serious those violations were. Nor does the Guardian provide any sort of context or acknowledgement of the same. Hale ends her post with the nostalgic admission that she still wishes from time to time for confirmation that Blythe has seen those old messages. There are people reading this article as if Hale is a hero standing up to the bullies of the internet.

She’s not. She’s someone who stalked and harassed a book blogger and reviewer. Someone who, to my reading, still doesn’t seem to recognize the lines she crossed. Someone who leveraged her harassment into an article for the Guardian.

Writer’s Ink: N. K. Jemisin

N. K. Jemisin recently posted a pic of her brand new tattoo on Facebook. Naturally, I immediately asked if she’d be willing to talk about it for Writer’s Ink :-)

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Jemisin … where exactly have you been? I’ve reviewed her books here and here. She’s a good writer, both in her fantasy novels and with her blog. Her next work is a novella called “The Awakened Kingdom,” coming out in December.

Here’s Jemisin talking about the inspiration behind her tattoo:

I’ve never really wanted a tattoo just to have a tattoo, even though I’ve liked and admired them on other people all my life. I’m a big believer in acknowledging life-milestones, however, whatever those might be — and on the day I sold my first novel (in 2007) and thus began my career as a professional writer, I decided that I wanted this tattoo. For those who’ve ready my Dreamblood duology, the inspiration for the tattoo is probably obvious. In the novel, Gatherers are symbols rather than people, and thus they’re known more by the unique tattoos they wear on their shoulders than by their faces. Nijiri, a young apprentice Gatherer, is “the blue lotus”. I chose his tattoo rather than that of Nijiri’s master Ehiru — “the black rose” — because even though I’ve achieved a lifelong dream, getting published was only the beginning of the next stage of my life; I have a lot to learn, still. It’s possible that at some point in the future, when I feel like I’ve achieved some major goal as a writer, I might add Ehiru’s tattoo to the other shoulder. For now, I haven’t earned that yet.

This was to be my first tattoo, and I’m picky, so I chose to wait several years to find the perfect design rather than go ahead and get something I might be less than happy with. After awhile I started to despair of ever finding a design I might like — and then, out of the blue, in preparation for Arisia (where we’ll both be Guests of Honor), I saw a blue lotus that artist Lee Moyer had created based on my descriptions of Nijiri’s tattoo. That was it! And hey, I had a birthday coming up on September 19th, which meant it was time to treat myself to a very special present. So with Lee’s gracious permission, I took the design to Willie, the tattoo artist I’d researched, and he modified it slightly to suit my skin tone, etc. (He’s awesome, BTW.) It took 3.5 hours in the chair, and it’s only now stopped peeling, etc. I’m super-happy with it. Been wearing sleeveless stuff more than usual, lately, to show it off all the damn time.

WI-Jemisin

Kindle Scout

A tweet from Damien Walter led me to Amazon’s Kindle Scout page, which I hadn’t heard about before. It looks to me like an Amazonian hybrid approach to publishing.

Basically, you submit your unpublished book of 50K words or more. After a short review period (to make sure your book is acceptable), you get a Kindle Scout “Campaign Page,” that includes the first 5000 or so words of the book. Readers nominate their favorites, and at the end of the 30-day campaign, the Kindle Scout team selects books to publish. From the FAQs:

“Nominations give us an idea of which books readers think are great; the rest is up to the Kindle Scout team who then reviews books for potential publication.”

If a book you nominated gets a Kindle Scout contract, you receive a free copy of the ebook. But you can only nominate up to three books at a time. Basically, Amazon is crowdsourcing their slush pile. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Baen does something similar at the Baen Bar, as I understand it. But I wince to think of the campaigning and clumsy self-promotion Amazon’s approach will likely create.

The publishing contract is for five years, and includes a $1500 advance and 50% ebook royalties. No indication of whether or not the terms are negotiable. For that $1500 advance, Amazon gets “the exclusive, irrevocable, worldwide right to publish e-book and audio editions of your Work, in whole and in part, in all languages, along with those rights reasonably necessary to effectuate those rights” for the duration of the contract.

(Data points: $1500 isn’t a bad advance for a small press, though I’d want to negotiate the rights grab. However, $1500 would be unacceptably low from a major publisher. Also, it’s not at all unusual to get a $1500 advance for a book’s English language audio rights alone.)

I find it curious that the ebook royalty rate is 50% for direct sales, lower than the 70% rate most self-published authors get for their e-books on Amazon. That royalty rate is definitely better than most traditional publishers offer. However, Kindle Scout royalties for third party sales are 75% of net, which is less desirable.

Clause 13 makes me rather nervous. “You acknowledge that we have no obligation to publish, market, distribute or offer for sale your Work, or continue publishing, marketing, distributing or selling your Work after we have started doing so. We may stop publishing your Work and cease further exploitation of the rights granted in this Agreement at any time in our sole discretion without notice to you.”

So the author gets a small advance with a good royalty rate for direct sales (though not as good as you’d get by publishing it yourself). You may receive some Amazon marketing, which is potentially helpful and important. But then again, you may not. Amazon also has the right to give up on you at any time, per clause 13. The author is stuck with the contract for at least two years, at which point you can request the reversion of your rights.

What I don’t see is any indication of what Amazon provides when they publish the book. Do you get an editor? A copy-editor? How much will they invest in cover art, if anything? What sort of publicity might they offer, and will that publicity extend beyond the borders of Amazon?

That makes me very uncomfortable. The whole thing feels a bit like a chimera of traditional and vanity publishing, combined with a manuscript display service.

I could be wrong. It looks like they’re just rolling this sucker out, so it’s possible the terms will be revised, or that more information will be forthcoming. But right now, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this as a top choice for new writers looking to get published.

ETA: Author Beth Bernobich contacted Amazon, and passed along the following information: “The book and cover must be ready to publish when you submit. So, they do not provide any editing, copyediting, or proofreading. Nor any cover art or design. And that contract? Non-negotiable. If you submit, it means you agree to the contract as is, and you cannot back out.”

Unbound: Chapter One

UnboundThe next Magic ex Libris book, Unbound, comes out on January 6, 2015.

I did a highly scientific poll over on Facebook, asking when I should post the first chapter online. While answers varied, the majority of people suggested “Right now!!!”

Who am I to argue? I put together the preview in both .pdf and .epub formats. Both files looked good and passed validation, but please let me know if you find a problem:

Unbound Chapter One [pdfepub]

There will be at least four books in the series, but in a lot of ways, books one through three have their own complete story arc. If I got eaten by a robot dinosaur today, I think this could work as a satisfying conclusion. And I’m very excited to share some of the twists and changes I’ve been building toward since book one.

A few people on Facebook suggested not posting the preview until the book was available for pre-order. Which makes me think I haven’t done as good a job as I should of letting everyone know that it is, in fact, available for pre-order :-)

Twelve weeks and counting…

Lovecraft Apologists and the World Fantasy Award

About three years ago, World Fantasy Award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor wrote an essay about Lovecraft’s Racism and the World Fantasy Award Statuette. Earlier this year, author and editor Daniel José Older started a petition to change the World Fantasy Award trophy to Octavia Butler. There’s been plenty of other discussion, but those are two of the pieces that stood out to me, and seemed to generate a lot of awareness and debate.

There is now a counter-petition to keep Lovecraft and fight back against the forces of the Social Justice League, or something like that.

I’m not sure we should make Octavia Butler the new WFA statuette, in part because I’m not sure any specific individual is the best image for an award meant to represent the world of fantasy. But I am 100% on board with getting rid of the trophy we have now.

WFA TrophyFirst of all, I’m sorry, but I find the trophy to be almost obscenely ugly. I get that it’s intended to be a caricature, and artist Gahan Wilson is obviously a skilled sculptor and artist. But Wilson’s style is described as “fantasy-horror” and “playful grotesque,” and I just don’t think one of the top awards in our field should be embodied by the word “grotesque.”

As numerous others have pointed out, there’s a deeper level of grotesqueness. Lovecraft undeniably influenced the fantasy and horror genre. He was also undeniably racist. In Nnedi’s blog post, she quotes Lovecraft’s 1912 poem “On the Creation of Niggers“:

To fill the gap, and join the rest to Man,
Th’Olympian host conceiv’d a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Filled it with vice, and called the thing a Nigger.

This isn’t the only example of racism in Lovecraft’s work, though it’s one of the more blatant. Phenderson Djeli Clark has an essay examining Lovecraft’s racism at Racialicious.

Steven Stevenson disagrees, and posted a counter-petition to “Keep the beloved H.P. Lovecraft caricature busts (‘Howards’) as World Fantasy Awards trophies, don’t ban them to be PC!

The very first sentence describes Lovecraft’s “racism” in scare quotes — because sure, the guy’s writing was full of references to “subhuman swine” and the “negro problem” and “sneering, greasy mulattos” and how blacks are “vastly inferior” and “negro fetishism” and a cat called “Nigger Man” and so on. But let’s not leap to conclusions and label such things racist.

Stevenson admits that some of Lovecraft’s personal views were “less than ideal.” But he quickly explains that Lovecraft was a product of his time.

This excuse is, to use the technical term, bullshit.

Lovecraft was a product of his time, and spewed an awful lot of hateful, racist shit in his fiction and in his personal writing. There are a lot of other authors who were a product of that same time, and they somehow managed to avoid dousing every page in fetid, over-the-top racism.

This isn’t to say Lovecraft’s contemporaries were perfect. L. Frank Baum wrote a nasty editorial regarding the Sioux nation. I could barely finish Edgar Rice Burrough’s first Tarzan novel. But while it is important to acknowledge historical and cultural context, Lovecraft’s bigotry is pretty extreme, even when examined within that context.

Samuel Bowers co-founded the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and was convicted of murdering several civil rights leaders. He was a product of his time. You know who else was a product of that exact same time? Mister Rogers. Any given time will produce a whole range of people, from amazing, kind, compassionate human beings to frightened, hateful cowards.

There’s no need to deny that Lovecraft was an influential writer. And nobody’s saying you’re not allowed to read or even enjoy his stories. (Though you might want to check out How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things.) But let’s not pretend the man didn’t hold and espouse some despicable views on race.

Stevenson hits other tired buzzwords and phrases in his petition. It’s just the “humourless PC crowd” who want the trophy changed. Arguing for that change is suggested to be a “fascist act.” He also throws in an attack on “the misandry … promoted by many self-described ‘feminist authors’.” Because if you’re going to play Defensive Apologist Bingo, you want to fill the whole damn board!

The complaints about Lovecraft and the World Fantasy Award aren’t about “diminish[ing] him for being male and Caucasian.” It’s about wanting something other than the bulging decapitated head of an over-the-top racist to embody one of the highest honors in our genre.

So yeah, if I haven’t made it clear before, add my voice to the crowd calling for a change. I don’t know that the trophy should be any specific individual, but at this point, I think just about anything would be an improvement. (Please don’t take that as a challenge to come up with something worse.)