ETA: Could folks weighing in on what is or isn’t libel please also include your legal background and experience? It’s far too easy to play lawyer on the internet…
So half of my social media today is pissed off about the Tor thing, and the other half is saying, “Wait, what Tor thing?”
SHORT VERSION: A comment Tor’s art director made a month ago led to complaints and calls for boycott, which led to an apology from Tom Doherty, which managed to piss off pretty much everyone on all sides.
SHORTER VERSION: Theodore Beale has been jerking people around again.
LONGER VERSION: Mr. Beale is, among other things, the head of the Rabid Puppies Hugo Slate, which he stacked with himself and authors from the small Finland-based press he founded last year. He also seems to have a serious hate-on for Tor Books, as well as one of Tor’s NYT bestselling and Hugo award-winning authors, John Scalzi.
Seven Months Ago: Late last year, Beale was trying (and failing) to stir up GamerGate to boycott Tor Books and John Scalzi in particular:
“[P]erhaps #GamerGaters also need to let @torbooks and @pnh know that they will no longer be buying books from Tor Books as a result of John Scalzi’s oft-professed antipathy for genuine gamers concerned about the politicization and corruption of the games media.” (From Reddit: Pro-GG author Vox Day suggests an operation to boycott John Scalzi)
Commenters on that thread basically pointed, laughed, and got on with their lives.
This is one of many examples of Beale’s crusade against John Scalzi (whom he prefers to call “McRapey”), Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Editor at Tor), Patrick’s wife Teresa (whom Beale refers to as “the Toad of Tor”), and Tor Books in general.
May 11: Irene Gallo, creative director of Tor Books and associate publisher of Tor.com, referenced the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns in a comment on her personal Facebook page, after posting about publishing Kameron Hurley’s The Geek Feminist Revolution on Tor.com. When asked what the puppies were all about, she replied:
“There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.” (Source)
A short time later, Mister Beale became aware of Gallo’s comment and took a screenshot.
June 6: Beale posted his screenshot on Twitter, saying:
“The Creative Director at Tor Books libels #SadPuppies, Rabid Puppies, and #Gamergate on Facebook.”
He also took to his blog, saying, “this is libelous behavior we will be obliged to bring to the attention of the management at Pan Macmillan.” (Source)
Beale’s faux outrage was picked up and amplified by his commenters and folks like Sad and Rabid Puppy Hugo nominee Cedar Sanderson, among others.
But why did Beale wait almost a month to post this screenshot? He says on File770:
“I’ve held onto this since I had the screencap, which as you correctly note was made several weeks ago. As for the ‘sinister plotting’, I have long been in the habit of never using all of my ammunition at once, or pointing-and-shrieking for its own sake. I am a patient man and I didn’t strike back at TNH, PNH, or even John Scalzi right away either.” (Source)
He confirms this was part of his longer term plan to attack Tor, but doesn’t say why June 6 was the target date. However, a number of people have noted that June 6 was also the day the Nebula Awards were announced. The Nebulas are given out each year by SFWA … the organization that kicked Beale out almost exactly two years ago for racist comments about another author, among other things.
In other words, by posting his screenshot on June 6 and riling up his supporters, he had an opportunity to both attack Tor and try to overshadow one of SFWA’s biggest annual events at the same time. This is speculation, but seems consistent with Beale’s long-term grudges and his stated perception of himself as fighting a long term war against … I dunno. Pink gamma bunnies or something.
June 8: Tom Doherty posted a long apology at Tor.com, saying in part:
“Last month, Irene Gallo, a member of Tor’s staff, posted comments about two groups of science fiction writers, Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, and about the quality of some of the 2015 Hugo Award nominees, on her personal Facebook page. Ms. Gallo is identified on her page as working for Tor. She did not make it clear that her comments were hers alone. They do not reflect Tor’s views or mine. She has since clarified that her personal views are just that and apologized to anyone her comments may have hurt or offended.”
A number of people felt Doherty had thrown Gallo under the bus in an attempt to appease Beale and his followers. Responses from Kameron Hurley, Chuck Wendig, and many more criticized Doherty for publicly dressing-down Gallo, pointing out that Tor had offered no such public response or apology when a Tor employee publicly described a Tor author as “phony,” “arrogant,” and “incompetent.” Likewise, there was no public statement when it became known that Tor had been employing a serial sexual harasser for years.
Others complained that Tor didn’t also rebuke people like John C. Wright for his homophobic and bigoted remarks. However, it should be pointed out that an author like Wright is not the equivalent of an employee like Gallo.
People on the pro-puppy side of things were angry that Doherty hadn’t gone further, and continued to call for Gallo to be fired.
Today: The apology thread at Tor.com has almost 500 comments. People on all sides are expressing anger at Tor and Tom Doherty, and some folks are still talking about a boycott…
…which would seem to be exactly what Beale wanted when he posted that screenshot and released the rabid hounds.
I mean, come on. You don’t think the man who routinely calls John Scalzi a rapist gives a damn about “libel,” do you? Gallo’s comment was a weapon he could use to try to damage Tor Books. And right now, in the heat of anger and argument, it looks like he succeeded.
Realistically though, I can’t imagine this boycott will be any more successful than his last effort. And most of the internet will probably have moved on by the end of the week.
My Own Thoughts/Opinions:
- Beale is an asshole. I find it annoying when people dance to his tune. But I don’t see him having any long-term impact here.
- Gallo has every right to express her opinions, especially on her personal Facebook page. Doing so in the context of a comment promoting a Tor.com release? Yeah, I think that was a mistake. One for which she’s apologized.
- Doherty publicly chastising Gallo? I think that was a bigger mistake, and escalated the situation in nasty (and predictable) ways.
- Isn’t truth a defense against libel? Rabid Puppies was founded by a man who believes “the reason women shouldn’t vote in a representative democracy is they are significantly inclined to vote for whomever they would rather f***” (Source), and his champion author describes homosexuality as “perversion,” a “dark path” he compares to alcoholism (Source). Brad Torgersen, the head Sad Puppy, dismisses previous award-winning and nominated work as “affirmative action” fiction (Source), and spews things like, “Fuck you all. The forces of the progressive pink and poofy Xerxes were met at the Hugo Hot Gates, and repelled by a few brave dudes and dudettes with the stones to stand up to your bullshit.” (Source) Obviously, not every nominee and puppy supporter is an unapologetic bigot. But as a generalization based on things the highest-profile puppies have said? I think Beale would have a hard time winning that libel case of his.
- Everything I’ve seen of Gallo’s work has been amazing. She is damn good at what she does. Tor would be incredibly stupid to let her slip away, and while I can’t see the future, I don’t imagine they’re going to do so.
- Beale wants to foment hatred toward Tor. I’m disinclined to acquiesce to his request.