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 02:29 on 21-11-2014, Pear
Robinson L., thanks for your kind words and understanding. Thanks all for listening.

I'm nipping back in to say: I don't, can't, won't speak for all PoC, in case this gets brought up.

I recognise I've been very strong on white people stepping back. After further discussion and reading I want to honour the fact that some PoC welcome and encourage the comments of white people about the behaviour of PoC. I strongly disagree, so it's fair I'm not welcome in spaces created by them, and I myself want to disengage due to feeling unsafe in such spaces. Very reasonable, bright boundaries to draw. If any PoC feel this way who comment on Ferretbrain speaks up, I'll not engage, as I've had the space to make my own thoughts clear.

For everyone, I'd advise caution and be aware of what sort of space you're in and who you're engaging with. Sometimes you don't have to respond. I think this tendency comes of being some flavour of nerd--we want to argue! with facts! if others disagree, they're obviously not very clever and probably at least a bit evil! But we don't have to say your piece and can bow out, and we can give your support to individuals in private. I'm learning this, too. You're okay. I'm okay.

The most important thing to acknowledge is that there are so many different conversations going on, and they're mainly in places well away from the public gaze. I've been let down in some way each time I've spoken up publicly, but thankfully other people stepped off and it's okay. Let each story stand on its own and try not to disparage their speakers by saying they're "twisting" things. There are different strands of narrative and we can all care about different things at once.

Right now it's a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' for many of us PoC. Many of us are checking out in order to care for our mental health. It's been pretty taxing for me lately; I feel the need to fix fix fix everything when, no, no one person can fix this. I can only control what I say and do. So I'll be checking out now.
at 00:30 on 21-11-2014, Robinson L
Thank you, in turn, Pear (and you, too, Jamie); I've been trying to sort out my own thoughts on the controversy, and your posts have been immensely helpful in clarifying matters.

I'm also deeply sorry the situation for you, personally, is so shitty.
at 21:30 on 20-11-2014, Pear
Thanks everyone.

A good rule of thumb is that if you feel the need to add 'I just wanted to say...' then you may want to check whether you're actually just repeating yourself. It's fine to not explain or justify. Your apology stands on its own.

To be clear: it does not help the people who have been harmed by RH to characterise her as, in some way, intrinsically flawed through "imbalance"; that is, some kind of inherent unhappiness or mental health issues. It makes the discussion unsafe for people with mental health issues. Many don't feel the need to express or manage their feelings by verbally abusing others. It also obscures the fact that abuse is about power.

There's a tangle of power differentials in this situation. RH harmed people. RH was a victim. WS and other white abusers are lauded because only one type of person is allowed to be abusive and have the full consequences enacted upon them by the community. Legitimate harm and pain of PoC is being elided into the narrative of white people. White saviourism and navigating white supremacy are very, very fraught subjects for PoC. None of these cancel the others out. They are several different conversations.

I'm suspicious of almost all white allies (I just had one try to 'splain everything to me) who just don't get the fact that they should not appropriate the pain of PoC and ought to limit themselves to collecting other whites.

I hate this situation so much and everything about it makes me feel unsafe.
at 18:30 on 20-11-2014, Robinson L
I understand and can sympathize with the urge to explain oneself upon being called out for being offensive. I've certainly experienced times where I felt I had a potentially valid point which I just failed to communicate properly, and in some of those cases, I may even have been right. But in instances where I have given offense, especially where unequal power dynamics are involved, my priority is 1) to apologize for the harm I have already caused and make what amends I can, and 2) to do everything I can to avoid compounding that harm. I've found that, while attempting to explain where I was coming from may seem to me like it's a gesture toward making amends, it's more likely to compound the offense I've caused.
at 01:50 on 20-11-2014, James D
And also an actual apology should not contain the implication that the thing you're sorry for is that you're just too compassionate/otherwise virtuous.

That kind of apology makes me think he's probably not happy or not balanced.
at 00:59 on 20-11-2014, Melanie
You're still doing it! Look, nobody wants to see other people pontificating about how their actions show they're "probably not happy" or "not balanced" (language that is specifically a euphemism for mental health issues!) or some shit. It's gross and disrespectful.

And if everyone else is talking about whether/how someone's actions were harmful, butting in with "but how about how I imagine they feel about it" isn't showing how empathic you are; it's just derailing. And incidentally showing how little empathy you have for the people trying to actually discuss things.

And also an actual apology should not contain the implication that the thing you're sorry for is that you're just too compassionate/otherwise virtuous.
at 22:28 on 18-11-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
I apologize. I merely wanted to express the thought, that when a persons actions seem to contrast in such a way, they probably aren't making themselves any happier than others. I have no inkling of their mental status, but this observation might be true for any sentient being. But still, I apologize for my misplaced concern.
at 21:12 on 18-11-2014, Pear
Janne, speculating about a person's mental health is absolutely disgusting. Stop that. We need to examine RH's behaviour in a larger context where each and every person owns their actions, and not perpetuate shitty ableist ideas.

God, not even Ferretbrain is immune to the tendency of white people giving their opinions on the behaviour of PoC in this situation. You just can't help yourselves.


You are not helping.

You are not heeding other WoC's specific calls for you to hush in public spaces. No, you're just so eager to chip in. Do your racist whining in private, please.

Limit your criticisms to white people. Collect your own kind and stay in your own lane.

Us PoC are doing the same thing, only it's always us taking the fall and having to sort shit out in the back while white people dominate the stage and never have their careers compromised. We don't need white validation about what's ~* a step in the right direction*~

Also, Jamie wasn't calling for a re-centering around a particular book, more like a 'Hey, this has been overlooked, can we consider this too?'--again: it's WoC in particular who have had their reputations harmed in this situation, being used as shields by white women. This is for us to talk about, not for you to uselessly concern-troll over.
at 18:44 on 16-11-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
It is truly tragic, that the greatest harm in this seems to be to the community the majority of the victims were a part of and a member of whom RH was, that is POC and WOC in particular. And progressive causes in general, at least in the SFF world, which RH seemed to support. Whether genuinely I won't even try to guess. It may be enough to speculate that a person operating in such contrasting ways probably is not the most balanced person and most likely these actions did not make her happy either. Who knows?

Her reviews as RH were, although very aggressive and vitriolic, on target many times and the style I always took of being in the same way as take downs administered by some comedians like Bill Hicks for example. The tone was just so outrageous and over the top.

It is interesting, to focus on something connected to this, how big of an effect a solitary person can have in such a community as the online SFF community is, or rather some parts of it. And of course it remains to be seen what the effect in the end will be. Hopefully it will draw people together in the end. That Safe discussion is certainly in the right direction.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
at 13:38 on 15-11-2014, Arthur B
Because he's proved himself unable to keep his hands to himself?
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.).
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?
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.