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Juggling

For the past month or two, I’ve felt like I’m struggling more than usual to keep up with everything. I’ve felt more stressed and frazzled, and I’m having a harder time making sure nothing slips through the cracks.

Then this weekend I stepped back and realized I’m currently juggling four different books in different stages of production. Rise of the Spider Goddess comes out in eight days, with Unbound being released a month later. I’m trying to finish up the first draft of Revisionary, and there’s more revision work I need to do on Secret Unnamed Project of DOOM.

Oh. Well, that would explain it, I suppose. It doesn’t make things any less of a struggle, but it’s helpful to realize there’s a legit reason for feeling frazzled, and it’s not all just in my head.

I’m thinking for 2015, I may need to step back and take a good look at my priorities and time management and such, because what’s worked in the past doesn’t seem to be working quite as well these days. I have some thoughts on that front, though I’m not ready to get into details publicly just yet. (I will note that million-dollar movie or book deals are always welcome, and would simplify certain things immensely. I’m sure they’d add complications of their own, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.)

On the bright side, we did make time yesterday to get out and see Big Hero Six, which was a lot of fun. A few plot questions, but still fun.

Anyway, things should calm down a little bit over the next month or so. And in the meantime, I hope you’ll bear with me if I’m taking a bit more time than usual to respond to things.

School Visit

I don’t do as many school visits as children’s authors and YA/MG authors do, but I occasionally get to stop by and chat with a class or a school. Today I got to go back to my old elementary school — the same school I attended in the late seventies and early eighties — and talk to two of the 4th grade classes.

We talked about the process of writing and revising and getting feedback and submitting your work. We talked about practice, and how nothing is ever perfect, and none of us are born knowing how to write. We made up stories about mummies that came out of the TV and a memory-sucking vampire that had lived in the ceiling of the school for the past thirty years. (In both stories, tragically, the teacher was the first to fall victim to these threats :-) )

It was a great deal of fun. I love talking writing with kids. There’s so much energy and enthusiasm and excitement. And sure, classrooms now have these weird Smart Boards that I never quite figured out how to use, but that’s okay.

Both classes had kids who were talking about wanting to write more of the stories we talked about, either rewriting them with their own ideas, or doing follow-up stories. And if a bunch of kids came out of those sessions feeling excited about writing and storytelling and creativity, I’m counting that as a win.

The box of chocolates they gave me as a thank you is a nice bonus ;-)

Thank you to Mrs. Huss’ and Mrs. Fulk’s classes for letting me spend some of the afternoon with you!

Windycon Pics

I had a great time hanging out and catching up with people at Windycon this weekend!

I’ve posted 40some pics on Facebook and Flickr. I was trying to push myself beyond using the automated settings. Most of these were taking with me manually playing with the shutter speed. Lessons learned…

  • White balance is my nemesis. I tried to adjust it, but only made things worse, so most of these were on the auto white balance setting, with color correction in Photoshop.
  • What looked about right on the LCD on the camera ended up being a wee bit overexposed when I pulled the pics up on the computer.
  • Almost all of these were taken with the flash off. Partly because the flash can be annoying, and partly because those pics tend to look washed out, and lose a lot of shadows.
  • Stage lighting is my other nemesis.

To those of you at Windycon, I hope I wasn’t making a pest of myself. I’m having a lot of fun hauling the camera around, and I’m trying to be considerate and polite with folks, but if I ever get annoying or obnoxious about it, I hope you’ll let me know.

And now, a few of my favorite pics from the weekend…

My son battles author Scott Lynch.

Steven and Elaine Silver. They just look so cute and happy together!

Author GoH Lou Anders posing with his audience after a reading.

Attila the Bun! (With hat.)

 

 

Windycon Schedule

I’m off to Windycon tomorrow.

My schedule isn’t finalized, but looks something like this:

Friday - Sunday

  • Hang out
  • Relax
  • Catch up with friends
  • Sleep in
  • Maybe crash a panel or two

I haven’t had a schedule like this in a while. It should be fun!

There are a lot of nifty people at this one, including A Lee Martinez, Lou Anders, and the SF Squeecast crew (minus Paul Cornell — I think he’s avoiding me).

Looking forward to seeing folks!

Cover Art: Rise of the Spider Goddess

I signed off on the final art for Rise of the Spider Goddess earlier this morning. All that’s left now is to finalize the text layout.

Patrick McEvoy delivered exactly what I was hoping for with the artwork. Given that this was a novel written — very badly — in 1995, based on the aftermath of a D&D adventure, I wanted a cover that blended D&D and WTF. I went for the same D&D-style feel with the font.

I’m quite pleased! What do you think?

More

Signal Boosting

One of many comments that’s stuck with me over the past few weeks is how certain voices are getting drowned out while others are amplified. So I wanted to signal-boost some folks.

  • Tade Thompson has created a blog for PoC to express themselves. The first post is “Why Are We Here?” “Recently, there have been a number of ructions in the SFF community involving PoC … In all these discussions one constant refrain has been the lack of PoC-led spaces for discussion and exploration of these matters. I think that’s a fair point. ‘Safe‘ is a direct response to that.”
  • Solace Ames on Requires Hate/Winterfox (Guest post on Foz Meadows’ site): “I hope the takeaway from all this is for writers of color to support each other in more organized ways. Criticize each other, YES, because a healthy critical culture helps everyone, but we need to stick together in the face of our overwhelming disadvantages. And I hope white people will think twice about using PoC pain to act out their psychodramas and engage in internet battles with us as the footballs…”
  • On POC/WOC as an identity category: it’s different from the inside, by VacuousMinx: “And even today, after all the revelations, not everyone is having that conversation in public. It’s still too painful and too dangerous for a lot of the involved parties. There are a lot of locked-down twitter feeds right now, which means that outsiders aren’t seeing anything close to the whole picture.”
  • Athena Andreadis: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Wrecker:
    • To those who are still trying to gaslight, discredit and silence BS/RH’s victims, I can only say, as Joseph Welch did: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
    • To those who were led into the trap of complicity, I say: come back to us. We all make errors of judgment. Humans are tribal, we want to be liked and to associate with success.
    • To those who were targeted and hurt, I say: you are not alone. Others know about the bullying and lies that almost broke you.
    • To those who stood in front of this wrecker, despite fear and real consequences, I say: you are the pillars who hold up the world.
  • Rochita Loenen-Ruiz: Standing Up and Speaking Truth: “Finding out about the stories of other victims has made me realize that to keep silent would be to do them a great disservice. The incident that took place between Alex, RH and myself was not pleasant, but there are those who have been silenced far longer by fear, there are those who have been ostracized and left out of conversations, there are those who have been shoved aside, dismissed and devalued.” (Alex Dally MacFarlane has a response here.)
  • Rachel Manija Brown: Not a Fun Post to Write: “This is why people found her so frightening, and why so many of the stories about her are only told anonymously. It’s not because she told everyone that they should be raped by dogs or have their hands broken with a hammer. It’s because she made those kinds of threats frequently enough, and was so vicious in general, that they became the subtext of everything she said. Another thing that frightened people was her tendency to harass people for months or years after a single encounter, pursuing them from platform to platform, long after ordinary trolls would have gotten bored and moved on.”
  • Kameron Hurley: On Becoming What You Hate, Redux: “Though I have scaled back those honest reviews, I miss them sometimes. I miss saying what I really think. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t occasionally consider creating another persona, a pseudonym, who could speak the raging, blinding, ballsy truth I want to piss all over the internet some days. But I realize this is my career. I’m a grown up. I suck it up. I save the pseudonym for another day. I carry on.”
  • Victor Fernando R. Ocampo: A Massive Disappointment: “As many before me have pointed out, this is not literary criticism, this is silencing. Those of you who enjoy hate as entertainment should take a long hard look into your mirrors. You may not like what you see.”
  • Chelsea Gaither: Thoughts on the Requires Only That You Hate drama: “I also know how incredibly easy it is for abusive personalities to lie their way out of a jam. Because I’ve seen it happen over, and over, and over, and OVER IRL. It creates an intensely damaging cycle that allows the abuser to continue to abuse their victims of choice. So if this really is a genuine apology from RH … good for you, girl. Please understand that it’s gonna take the rest of us a really, REALLY long time to trust you, but that’s because a lot of us have been badly hurt by you and we don’t want that to happen again.”
  • Tobias Buckell: May I draw your attention to the posts… “I do not call on anyone to ‘not publish’ the person’s current pseudonym that they are writing under. That is the tactic they have used, I will not stoop to that. But I damn well sure will draw awareness to the accounts of people speaking up and documenting how they were ill-treated. That shit’s gotta stop. Criticism and disagreement are one thing, this is another.”
  • Polenth Blake: Requires Only That You Trust: “…people in privileged positions, who rarely received death threats, constantly minimised it. It can’t be that scary, she really doesn’t mean it, etc. Easy to say when you’ve never been the target. Or you’ve only been the target in a few cases like that, where there’s never been a real risk of it being followed through, so it’s not that worrying. That meant the criticism was a lot harsher on anyone marginalised – usually women of colour – than it was for the privileged authors, with their legions of fans ready to defend them.”

Only a Sith Deals in Absolutes

ETA2: Anonymity and pseudonyms are important, and I believe they should be respected, for a number of reasons. However, I’m also aware that a handful of individuals have been actively shit-stirring and spreading disinformation in this ongoing conversation. VitaSineLibrisMorsEst will no longer be commenting on this blog. (Before anyone asks, no, this is not RH. Yes, I know who it is. No, I will not be sharing that information.)

ETA: I’ve gotten a wide range of comments and emails on this post. At least to some extent, I think I’ve screwed up.

  1. I am not defending RH. While I have some criticism of the way Laura Mixon presented her report, I’m grateful to her for doing so, and for shining a light on the abuse, harassment, and other attacks this individual has committed over the years. If my posts came off as a defense of RH, then that’s on me as the writer, and I apologize. This is someone who has been actively abusive, and while it might be ironic, given the title of this post, that’s something I absolutely do condemn.
  2. I’ve been told that some of what I’ve said here mirrors rhetoric being used elsewhere to portray RH as more of a heroic figure speaking truth to power, and dismissing her victims as whiny, thin-skinned authors out for revenge. To which I say Dammit, internets! But I see how I could come across as another voice in that chorus.
  3. A lot of people are hurting and afraid right now. RH’s victims are chief among them, and deserve support. I’ve been talking by email to minority writers who were stalked, threatened, and attacked by RH and her helpers, as well as to minority reviewers who are afraid because they see RH being condemned for her reviews as well as everything else. I believe all of these voices deserve to be acknowledged and heard.
  4. I tried to conflate a conversation about reviewing vs. bullying with a conversation about a specific individual who has hurt a great many people in the field. That was clumsy and stupid on my part. I should have picked one or the other. By trying to do both, I dulled and confused what I was trying to say. I’m sorry for that.

I’m continuing to struggle with all of this, and to sort it out in my own head. Thank you for your comments and your emails. Even the angry and critical ones. Especially those.

#

I’ve been thinking about some of the comments and emails I received after my blog post last week about online bullying and harassment. Several people expressed confusion about exactly what I was saying. Was I defending attacks on authors? Condemning angry reviews?

The answer was neither. I was trying — perhaps unsuccessfully — to acknowledge the damage this individual had done as well as the good.

That’s a little easier for me. To the best of my knowledge, I was never one of her targets. I get that it’s harder when you’re the one who’s been attacked. There’s an editor who’s publicly badmouthed me, calling me various names (“Rotten meat” is my favorite) and basically blacklisting me and a few other folks, among other things. When I see friends of mine working with him, I cringe. Don’t you know what this guy is like? How can you work with someone like that?

Maybe they don’t know what he’s like. Or maybe he’s actually a good editor, I don’t know. It’s hard for me to recognize there’s more here than my annoyance, and to recognize that he’s more than just a cardboard villain.

“Requires  Hate,” or whoever she is, hurt a lot of people. She bullied and threatened and harassed, and none of that is okay. She also raised valid critiques in her reviews, both of specific books and of the genre as a whole. Because yeah, a lot of SF/F is dominated by western culture, and is full of sexism and racism and cultural appropriation and other problems.

I’ve spoken to people who learned a lot from those reviews, and they’re scared to say so publicly, because it feels like an all-or-nothing conversation. The line has been drawn. You have to pick a side. And that’s damaging.

So I want to be very clear about my own thoughts and opinions here. Bullying is not okay. Threats and harassment, calls for violence against an author (or a reviewer, or anyone else) are not okay. Threatening and/or emotionally blackmailing others to condemn a work because you don’t like it, or because you don’t like the author, is not okay. So much of what RH did over the years was not okay, and these are behaviors we need to do a better job of recognizing and speaking out against.

But speaking up to say you find a book offensive? That it’s full of stereotypes, dehumanizing tropes, sexist or racist bullshit, and so on? Criticizing books and authors who perpetuate colonialism or the erasure and sidelining of women and minorities, of disabled and LGBTQ characters? That’s not only okay, it’s necessary. It’s important. Even when the reviewer is angry.

I’ve spoken with people who are watching this conversation and feel afraid, because they see a lot of rage and hostility toward a reviewer who identified as a lesbian and a woman of color. And while some of that rage and hostility feels justified, based on RH’s harassment and bullying, a fair number of us are falling into that all-or-nothing approach. RH is being condemned in entirety, and that includes both her harassment and her reviews and criticisms and so on.

I have a fair amount of power in our community, by virtue of being a published author, a Hugo-winning blogger, and a straight white American male. But imagine being a woman of color, a reviewer from a different culture, an LGBTQ reader, anyone who looks at the dominant narratives in our genre and sees themselves treated as lesser. Imagine feeling angry and wanting to speak up to power. And then imagine seeing quotes like these presented as evidence of damage done to a community by someone like you:

  • “Shit plot. Shit prose. Weeaboo maggotry.”
  • “It’s a regurgitation done without skill, with an extra dose of racism nobody asked for.”
  • “Easily the most overrated thing ever to come out recently, and I’m going to assume that people who gush over how groundbreaking it all is have only ever read Tolkien and Eragon.”

There’s a lot of anger in those comments. I may not agree with them, but so what? Reviewers are never 100% in agreement about anything. But those quotes are presented as part of the condemnation of RH. What’s the takeaway for other reviewers who feel that same anger? Will they be condemned or attacked if they’re not careful and gentle about how they post their reviews? Are they better off simply remaining silent altogether?

ETA: This in no way excuses comments and threats like:

  • “If I see *** being beaten in the street I’ll stop to cheer on the attackers and pour some gasoline on him.”
  • “her hands should be cut off so she can never write another Asian character.”
  • “Spread the word that *** is a raging racist fuck. Let him be hurt, let him bleed, pound him into the fucking ground. No mercy.”

I don’t think Laura Mixon was trying to silence anyone, and she’s done a tremendous amount of work putting that report together. I also give her credit for updating the report as she receives feedback. While I think there are some flaws, I believe that Mixon has done our family a service by bringing all of this out into the open. I know I’d certainly have flaws and problems if I tried to compile something that extensive.

But as this conversation continues, we have to step back from the all-or-nothing approach. Abuse and harassment are unacceptable. I don’t care who you are, or how you try to justify it. And I’m going to continue to work to do a better job recognizing and speaking out when I see it.

I also want to state for the record that blunt, pissed-off, negative reviews are not abuse. Anger is not abuse. Not that anyone needs my permission, but you have the right to your anger at books that rely on racist tropes, that treat women as objects to be raped or killed to motivate the men, that assume only white people exist or matter, that belittle your culture and community, or whatever else.

You have the right to express that anger, and you should be able to do so without fear of backlash from the author, or that the community will try to silence you for daring to voice that anger. Even if the book or story you’re putting through the shredder is one of mine. Because that review isn’t about me. It’s about you and your reaction to the work. And I support you and your right to tear it apart.

Online Bullying

ETA: Additional thoughts and hopefully clarification at Only a Sith Deals in Absolutes.

#

The website “Stop the Goodreads Bullies” is a good example of terminology abuse. See these posts by Smart Bitches,  Trashy Books, Stacia Kane, and Foz Meadows for more in-depth commentary, but the short version is that a bad review isn’t bullying. Hating a book isn’t bullying. The fact that someone doesn’t like your work doesn’t make you a victim. (On the other hand, outing, harassing, and slandering various reviewers, as StGB has done in the past…)

But this isn’t a post about Stop the Goodreads Bullies. This is me trying to sort out when nasty reviews actually do cross the line into bullying and harassment.

It started with a post by author Laura Mixon about the individual best known by the online moniker Requires Hate, recently revealed to be writing under the name Benjanun Sriduangkaew. Mixon describes RH as “a controversial rage-blogger,” which seems pretty accurate.

A lot of what RH blogged about were reviews. For example, her review of Throne of the Crescent Moon (an award-winning novel I quite enjoyed), notes, “This is incompetent writing” and “We are neck-deep in shitty romance tropes.” Harsh, definitely. As the author, I’d cringe a lot to read a review like that. But it doesn’t strike me as bullying. This was a review, and reviews aren’t about the author. They’re for readers. It isn’t like she was standing outside his window screaming that he was a lousy writer.

Likewise, when she reviewed Paolo Bacigalupi’s work by saying things like, “For a shit-crust topping on the shit-cake, have a gander at what Bacigagaga wrote in 1999,” it comes across as nasty. I find mocking Bacigalupi’s name particularly mean-spirited and childish. But is it bullying? I don’t think so. Not quite … it’s a review, not a directed attack at Bacigalupi personally.

But what happens when RH ends her review with a call to action, saying, “Spread the word that Paolo Bacigalupi is a raging racist fuck. Let him be hurt, let him bleed, pound him into the fucking ground.” I assume the threat is metaphorical, not literal, but it’s still a rallying cry to directly attack and harm the author.

Or when she attacks a transgender gamer with lines like, “Dear SMA, our trannies generally look much better and classier than you. Even the pre-op ones don’t look half as mannish and buttfuck-ugly.”

Or Tweeting an author that he should be flayed alive, dismembered, and burned with acid.

Or attacking a reader for liking a book she disapproved of.

There’s a fair amount in Mixon’s report that I hadn’t been aware of. Some of it is documented with links and screenshots. Other pieces are anonymous, or not yet sourced. I’ve seen RH becoming a topic of conversation in SF/F circles since she and Benjanun Sriduangkaew were revealed to be the same person, and RH posted a public apology. I expect that conversation to get much more intense as Mixon’s evidence and allegations come out.

I think it’s worth checking out Mixon’s report. I also think it’s worth recognizing the difference between a harsh review and outright bullying. Between the tone argument and active, malicious harassment. As a community, we kind of suck at this stuff. People overreact to negative reviews, then ignore harassment that goes on for years. (I’m thinking of Jim Frenkel here, among others.)

I think we all — myself included — need to do a better job of distinguishing between an angry or negative review and outright bullying/harassment. The former is inevitable, even healthy. People are allowed to be angry, to hate things we’ve written, to criticize us for our words or our actions they disagree with. But the latter needs to be recognized, called out, and challenged.