Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 16:20 on 16-11-2014, Arthur B
I’m not sure I see the value in re-centering a discussion about online communities tolerating stalking and abuse around the Sullivan book, however.

I'm not sure that Jamie was necessarily advocating that so much as suggesting that there's really two conversations here - one about Shadowboxer, one about RH's activities and whether and where they crossed the line and how communities can handle that, and that the chorus of white people loudly denouncing RH was drowning out both of them.
permalink
at 13:43 on 16-11-2014, Chris A
I think you're right to insist that it's important - especially as RH seems to have been disproportionately inclined to go after women of color - that the white voices in online SFF don't drown out all other conversation. I know that lots of others have made the same point, and that a PoC-only discussion is underway over at Safe, which is worth following.

I’m not sure I see the value in re-centering a discussion about online communities tolerating stalking and abuse around the Sullivan book, however.
permalink
at 01:24 on 16-11-2014, Jamie Johnston
The source of the latest blowup is this.

The initial blowup happened when Nick Mamatas publicly connected the identities on Ello.

Well, it's worth going a little further back in time than that.

In 2012 Tricia Sullivan, a white, US-born, UK-based writer, asked Valse for her opinion on the manuscript of a novel Sullivan had written set in Thailand. (Valse is Thai and lives in south-east Asia.) Valse alerted Sullivan to a number of harmful tropes and attitudes that various aspects of the text played into. Sullivan thanked her, apologized, said she would not publish the book or write about Thailand any more.

This year it was announced that the book, Shadowboxer, would be published in October. (I'm not sure exactly when the announcement was made but people have been adding the book to their 'to read' lists on Goodreads since February.)

In July Sullivan had correspondence with Alex Dally MacFarlane, who knows Valse and knew about the Valse-Sullivan e-mails back in 2012, and with their mutual friend Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. In the course of that conversation MacFarlane made clear that she strongly disapproved of Sullivan's decision to publish Shadowboxer, while Loenen-Ruiz's position was that it wasn't the place of non-Thai people to make those criticisms. Loenen-Ruiz told Valse (whom she knew) about the argument, as a result of which they had a falling-out.

It was in the context of all this that Valse's various internet pseudonyms started to be linked to her fiction-writing pseudonym, apparently in early September but mainly by Mamatas in early October. Mamatas claimed to be revealing the information in anticipation that Valse's 'enemies' were preparing to do so themselves.

Mamatas' post itself has no date on it, but on Monday 13 October it was said to have been made 'late last week', which should mean around 9-12 October.

I'm not entirely clear about what happened next but there are suggestions that Valse thought and said that the link between her pseudonyms had been initially published by Sullivan and / or Sullivan's acquaintance (friend?) Liz Williams and that the information had been disclosed to Sullivan and / or Williams by Loenen-Ruiz (who had known it for some time) as a result of the arguments between her and MacFarlane and Valse.

It now seems to be generally agreed that neither Sullivan nor Williams published the information before Mamatas, although Sullivan did make this post on 3 October naming no names but referring (as she herself confirms) to Valse in a way that must surely have been fairly transparent to at least some people who were in the know.

Loenen-Ruiz has also denied that she told Sullivan or Williams, and Sullivan has denied that she got it from Loenen-Ruiz (though she seems to admit that she did have it from somewhere and that she had it before Mamatas published it). Mamatas had the information because he was one of the publishers of Valse's fiction. At one point there was a suggestion that Valse gave Mamatas permission to reveal the information but I understand that that is no longer generally believed.

It's also clear that rumours were circulating before Mamatas published, but it isn't clear where those had come from, whether there was any truth to Mamatas' talk of the rumours being circulated by Valse's 'enemies', or who those 'enemies' were supposed to be.

The reason I think it's important to go back to 2012 with this is that the sudden concentration on Valse has left very little space for discussion of Sullivan's decision to publish a book that she had previously accepted was racist and shouldn't be published. In particular that space has been taken up by a lot of white people having opinions about Valse. Loenen-Ruiz has asked white people to put this sort of commentary on hold, and I'd encourage white people in this space to do that. There needs to be space for people of colour to have, especially Thai and south-east Asian people, to talk about Shadowboxer and things like it, and also to talk about what it is and isn't okay for a Thai woman to do in the course of challenging racism and sexism in genre fiction.
permalink
at 21:51 on 15-11-2014, James D
Well, I'm certainly not condoning it, but I'm sure many people running cons value ticket sales and attention over just about anything else.
permalink
at 20:44 on 15-11-2014, Arthur B
I guess if you value controversy over having your guests not be groped or assaulted that might make sense.
permalink
at 20:15 on 15-11-2014, James D
Because he's proved himself unable to keep his hands to himself?

Isn't that exactly why he keeps getting invited, though? At this point, everyone who knows anything about Harlan Ellison knows he'll almost certainly generate some sort of controversy anytime he gets invited anywhere. He's like a human trainwreck; everyone knows he's an asshole, but everyone wants to see what he'll do next.
permalink
at 13:38 on 15-11-2014, Arthur B
Because he's proved himself unable to keep his hands to himself?
permalink
at 13:09 on 15-11-2014, Ashimbabbar
I fail to see why the creator of Dangerous Visions should NOT be invited to every party…
permalink
at 10:27 on 15-11-2014, Axiomatic
Well, I'm flattered to be mistaken for a native English speaker, but I'm actually Slovenian, and English is my second language. Ha-ha! Privilege-check AVOIDED!

I do have to admit that, despite everything the Nazis did here, they aren't a sore spot anymore. Now, the topic of collaborators, on the other hand, still sparks flame wars in the letters section of newspapers to this day.
permalink
at 18:00 on 14-11-2014, Robinson L
@Cheriola: I want to add my apologies to Arthur's regarding the Downfall parody and being overly flippant.

No, you aren't being over-sensitive, and I appreciate your courage in posting your response. (Your description of spending many hours agonizing over getting the wording of your post and over whether or not to submit it resonates with my own experience of posting on difficult topics; I recognize it must have been very stressful, and I apologize again for my part in making it necessary.)


Re: stories
Yeah, I've listened to three of her short stories in podcast form because they're available free from Clarke's World. I'd no idea of the connection at the time - I checked them out because she was recommended on the diverse speculative fiction blog linked in the playpen a while ago (I can't find it again now).

It's been a while for all of the stories - the best I can remember of them is a sense that I didn't get them, and wasn't so enthralled as to make an effort to get them. Beyond that, nothing much to say about them one way or another.
permalink
at 05:14 on 14-11-2014, Chris A
I haven't heard anyone talking about awards disqualification or anything like that. Out of curiosity, I went and read a story of hers, Courtship in the Country of Machine-Gods.

The protagonist meets her future wife, and they go off to war with a technologically inferior culture of pale-skinned foreigners. They eliminate the hopelessly-outclassed enemy army in a battle in which the protagonist's wife performs an unprecedented miracle of mass destruction, then exterminate the race with a biological weapon devised by the protagonist. At home, the protagonist's wife loses her mind, which the protagonist restores to her by largely unspecified forbidden means.

The prose is a bit reminiscent of Valente's:

But when all else is gone there is the wreckage of our story, and within that, there is us. When I am done playing a small piece out for an audience and whispering it to myself, I will be able to begin again. I will go back to when we were young, and whole, and perpetual: a day of the scythe, in a garden festooned with lights.

The narration is done in the first person, and all of it - the protagonist's meeting with her wife, her account of the genocide, her wife's breakdown and recovery - is utterly emotionless. I've seen Sriduangkaew's style described as 'dream-like,' which is apt: there's a quality of elision to the whole thing that distances the reader from both the narrator and her society.

It's a baffling story. If one decides that the narrator and her culture are unsympathetic (see: genocide), it could almost be read as a race-inverted portrait of colonial expansion. Except that the narrator's culture has no interest in expansion: it is clear that the foreigners, with their "snake-woman-fruit" myth and "trade, abjection, conquest" paradigm, are the colonialists, who simply have the misfortune to stumble upon a more advanced civilization with no compunctions about exterminating them.

It's tempting to surmise that the offhandedness of the genocide, and the inscrutability of the narrator and her culture, are the point. The narrator says that the foreigners needed "to refit us into a narrative they could understand; we must be made to exist in relation to them, ciphered in their language"; certainly, if the reader is aligned with the foreigners, the text resists this imperative.

Yet the bulk of the story concerns marriage, which is virtually all that the speaking characters discuss with one another. The account of the narrator meeting her wife, their betrothal, the breakdown and recovery - all of which come about effortlessly, inevitably, aseptically - gives the story its shape as well as its title. That account falls completely flat.

I guess the best that I can say about the story is is that it's successful at not being what it says it isn't? Which is admirable, I suppose. But what Sriduangkaew meant to accomplish here, I have no idea.
permalink
at 23:07 on 13-11-2014, Bjoern
Arthur, I don't disagree with you there and I do neither say she shouldn't get the award nor that she should be ostracized. I'm just arguing that if your are on that step (and a JWCJR is the proverbial foot in the door) for my definition you've become a "public figure" rather than a private person on the internet. It just resolves around the question whether she is the victim of an act of aggression (doxxing).

You argue that she is (and I undestand where you're coming from), I see it differently (and try to outline my personal parameters for that p.o.v.).
permalink
at 22:49 on 13-11-2014, Arthur B
To me a JWCJR nomination is enough for that and at that point I think it's acceptable to be linked to previous online behaviour, even if you don't personally consent.

Well, hold on, that sort of reward is supposed to be judged based on the work, not how nice a person the author is. If the nominated story doesn't read like a RH diatribe, should it not be judged on its own merits?
permalink
at 21:52 on 13-11-2014, Bjoern
@arthur: I disagree on the first part, but to me that has to do with the question at which point you become a "public figure". To me a JWCJR nomination is enough for that and at that point I think it's acceptable to be linked to previous online behaviour, even if you don't personally consent. Hypothetical: If Vox Day had written some of his homophobic ideas under a pseudonym, shouldn't they be linked back to him?

And, yeah, SF is rampant with racism and sexism, and guys like Harlan Ellison are still invited to every party. We still got an award shaped like H.P. Lovecraft. That's a metric ton of problems and that's something that should be tackled by all of us. But I (as a white, straight man, so take this as man-, straight- and or whitesplaining) don't see this as a coordinated attempt to get rid of her because she is a female, non-white and queer author.

And - if the quotes from the Mixon report are correct - then several of these things were problematic even just as a reader and/or online reviewer. But, again, I think that the move into another position may just automatically strenghthen people's interest to collect things like this. Quite honestly, I think that far fewer compilations of Vox Day's horrible outpourings would have been created if he just was a voice on the internet.
permalink
at 21:35 on 13-11-2014, Arthur B
@Bjoern: It's a removal of anonymity without consent in a way which makes it easier to invade their privacy, so I'd say whether or not you call it doxxing it's in the same family of thing.

Either way, I'm perturbed by the way fandom is suddenly closing ranks against RH now, after they have been doxxed/unmasked/whatever you want to call it. If RH was as toxic as the Mixon report says, isn't that a big problem regardless of whether or not she is also a published author? If the things they said were beyond the pale then they were beyond the pale before anyone knew about their writing activities. If they weren't beyond the pale for a reader, they shouldn't be verboten for an author.

Meanwhile, numerous white men who churn out SF say awful shit so regularly you can set their watch by them. They retain an audience.
permalink
at 20:16 on 13-11-2014, Bjoern
To be honest, I'm not sure that linking a public figure to previous writing, even if done pseudonymously, really constitutes "doxxing somebody". And that post by Laura Mixon also does not exactly come across as a sock puppet hatchet job.
permalink
at 20:05 on 13-11-2014, Michal
The source of the latest blowup is this.

The initial blowup happened when Nick Mamatas publicly connected the identities on Ello.
permalink
at 17:20 on 13-11-2014, James D
After 5 minutes of extensive Google research, it seems like the gist of it is she got doxxed, and given that her fiction writing career is getting some traction, she decided to publicly apologize and shut down the Requires Hate blog. This is muddled by the apparent use of sock puppets by her enemies to imitate her in an effort to smear her name.
permalink
at 15:51 on 13-11-2014, Andy G
@Cheriola: Just don't try to get them to pronounce "Angela" correctly (or at least German-ly)! My particular bugbear recently has been the way that Angelique Kerber's surname gets pronounced.

What is this blowup? Dare I ask?

P.S. Thanks Cheriola and Robinson!
permalink
at 11:47 on 13-11-2014, Chris A
Was the person who used to post here under the name Valse the same person who ran the "Requires Only That You Hate" blog?

I believe so.

The Requires Hate blowup has been hard to look away from. Not so much because of the author/reviewer sock-puppetry thing, but because of the nature of RH's criticism - and her abuse - in the context of an online SFF community that's been trying very hard to improve on social justice issues for a while now. Where is the line between criticism and abuse, and does it change depending on the identities of the parties involved?
permalink
at 11:08 on 13-11-2014, Arthur B
So, sorry but no, I can't find that meme funny no matter how deserving of scorn the issue that is being parodied. And I'm frankly weirded out by any European person older than me who can.

I apologise for being flippant about it and will try to keep this in mind in future. (If you catch me posting further Downfall memes in the Playpen quite so uncritically you have my full permission to yell at me for it.)
permalink
at 10:28 on 13-11-2014, Cheriola
1. Belated congratulations, Andy!

2. I don't want to kick off a big discussion, I'm just curious because I only just caught up on the latest writer/reviewer internet blowup. Was the person who used to post here under the name Valse the same person who ran the "Requires Only That You Hate" blog?

3. Axiomatic: Yes, in most German dialects (and apparently Austrian, too), "Stalin" is pronounced with a "Sht" sound. So? Do you see me going around mocking the way anglophone people are almost always mangling my language beyond recognition on American/Canadian/UK television, or insisting on calling historical people like Friedrich II of Prussia "Frederick"? I'd like to see you pronounce "Chancellor Schröder" correctly - you're simply just lucky "Merkel" provides no difficulties to anglophone ears and tongues right now.

Sorry, pet-peeve, but I really hate how English native speakers frequently act like their language is the only Right One and how any foreign accent is seen as sufficient reason to make fun of people bothering / being forced to learn their language, which they only have to because UK colonial history and American cultural/economic hegemony makes English the lingua franca of most of the world. You can't change your position of power in this context, but you can refrain from sneering.


4. Re: Downfall parodies. Personally, I think that meme is just as insensitive and offensive as any invocation of Godwin's Law online, like terms like "feminazi". Implying that whatever or whoever you want to mock (whether the issue deserves to be mocked is irrelevant) with the comparison to Hitler is even in the same general ballpark as the crimes against humanity committed by the Nazi party is inexcusably belittling those real world attrocities. And jumping that video on people in a harmless, supposedly entertaining context is also potentially triggering. Not just to Holocaust or WWII survivors and the generations who have loved ones who are/were Holocaust or WWII survivors (I know young Native Americans who get triggered by western genre movies, or the annual reminder of Thanksgiving, so I don't think there's ever a acceptable time frame for using genocide as a source of comedy.)
But also to me personally - in fact, I haven't watched the link Arthur gave because I know the clip usually used and just reading the reference used this frivolously is upsetting me more than enough right now. (Or rather, it was several days ago when the topic came up - I had to calm down a few days to be fit to post politely.) I don't even have any family directly affected by the Nazis except for one grandfather getting drafted against his will but managing to act too near-sighted to shoot straight and getting sent back to a civil post within a year, and one stupid then-teenage great-uncle-once-removed, whom I've never met, who let the school propaganda talk him into signing up voluntarily. (He thankfully ended up safely in a Scottish POW camp long before the war was over.) But still, when I see Hitler ranting about loosing the war down in a Berlin bunker, my mind jumps to my Silesian-immigrant grandmother being gang-raped by Red Army soldiers as one of an estimated 2 million women when they finally took the city, or Berlin being 'defended' in the end by brainwashed teenage boys because the high command was too proud / too insane to give up (thankfully I know that none of my uncles would have been above 10 years of age in 1945), or the small town I live in now being carpet-bombed by the Allies with thousands of delay-action bombs not because it was necessary to win the war at that point, but to keep industrial infrastructure, a few scientists and some enriched plutonium they wrongly thought was stockpiled here out of the hands of the Sovjets. Nevermind the civilians, or the people born long after the war who still occasionally have their houses destroyed these days because of this "scorched earth" policy - that small advantage in the oncoming Cold War was apparently even worth bombing the nearby concentration camp along with the town.

So, sorry but no, I can't find that meme funny no matter how deserving of scorn the issue that is being parodied. And I'm frankly weirded out by any European person older than me who can.


...And you probably all think I'm being oversensitive now, or that I don't have any right to complain because my nationality will always be an acceptable target to mock and offend without worry. I suppose that is true. I have certainly needed to work up the courage to post this over the last few days, and I've been wasting several hours this morning adjusting and re-adjusting my phrasing and wavering over the post-button indicisively.
Still, I think some people need reminding occasionally of what effect certain topics can have. If not for me, at least think about any Jewish / LGTB / Slavic / Romani / etc. people reading in whatever forum you post that crap, for whom the mental association isn't "LOL, he sounds ridiculous - like a toddler throwing a tantrum" but rather Hitler -> Holocaust -> "If I had been born then and there, I'd have been enslaved and murdered. And there are still some people who think like that and glorify the Nazis today."


permalink
at 10:12 on 13-11-2014, Andy G
Anyone else seen Interstellar and mystified by the overwhelmingly ecstatic response? I thought it was dull, long, emotionally hollow and intellectually vapid. I generally like Nolan's films but I thought this one simply didn't hang together at all.
permalink