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 20:00 on 08-12-2014, Robinson L
I don't know how many people have been following this (I had not until yesterday) but Rolling Stone recently published an article about rape culture at the University of Virginia. Major trigger warning the rest of this comment and for the links.

This exposé unsurprisingly sparked a major backlash, particularly against the story of the primary witness, a woman named Jackie. Rolling Stone execs seem to have been completely unprepared for said backlash, and a couple of days ago, they published a retraction. The current version of the retraction's most-cited passage reads thusly:

We published the article with the firm belief that it was accurate. Given all of these reports, however, we have come to the conclusion that we were mistaken in honoring Jackie's request to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account.

Further in that paragraph, they affirm "These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie."

However, multiple sources give this as the original wording:

In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account.

"We have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced" - and no mention in the original of who was at fault for their journalistic mistakes.

From a websearch, it is apparent that rape culture apologists are taking the retraction as proof positive that the whole thing was a hoax, and their Google rankings suggest these articles are getting the most traffic.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine has published an article castigating Rolling Stone for failing to prepare for such backlash; for turning upon their primary witness (especially after denying her request to be removed from the article); and, ultimately, for printing a retraction in the first place, thus tacitly agreeing that the existence of potential discrepancies renders Jackie's story invalid or at least highly suspect. (The piece was published before Rolling Stone updated their retraction to walk back some of the victim-blaming.)

In light of how bad the discourse has become following Rolling Stone's retraction, my friend is asking for a signal-boost. (In my research into the whole sordid business, I also discovered this excellent blog post which also takes Rolling Stone to task and gives a stomach-churning breakdown of why a woman's memories of the rape perpetrated against her might not be %100 accurate.)

(Incidentally, while I'm not on Twitter, I've had a gander at the #IStandWithJackie twitter feed, and the name of one of the male trolls on it struck me as familiar: Mike Cernovich, also name-dropped in the Eron Gjoni/gamergate article Arthur posted the other day. It figures there would be an overlap.)

On a tangential note: in the final paragraph of my friend's article, she notes: "he burden of proof, in cases of rape, should lie with the accused, not the victim." This reminded me that in the past, I've often seen this argument met with "but what about presumption of innocence/innocent until proven guilty?" (and in a couple more intelligent cases, citation of black men in the Southern USA lynched in the late 19th-mid 20th centuries due to false allegations of raping or sexually harassing white women). I was just curious if anybody here knows of a good write-up which debunks this "presumption of innocence" line which I could archive for future use?
at 13:41 on 07-12-2014, Arthur B
Never has your username been more appropriate.
at 09:24 on 07-12-2014, Axiomatic
Hold on.

Are you saying a Gamergater is a bad person?
at 23:36 on 06-12-2014, Arthur B
So the guy who started Gamergate by posting an expansive slut-shaming hate piece on Zoe Quinn under the pretence of calling her out for abuse has apparently behaved far from innocently since the original posting.
at 10:54 on 06-12-2014, Shim
I feel like I should have something to say there, but actually I haven't read much in both original and translation.

The most striking one I remember is actually from one of the German Terry Pratchetts, Macbest I think, which didn't realise that "cut someone dead" is a metaphor.

To some extent I think actually non-invented terminology may be the hardest. You have some very complicated considerations: Does something similar exist in the target culture? Are the implications the same? Is the author using this in a traditional sense, or playing with it? Is the original word known in the target culture, and would it be better to use that, or a translation? Is the original word actually used in the target language, but with a subtly or completely different meaning?

For example, try vampires. The classic English vampire is derived from Balkan legends, but many cultures have their own bloodsucking creatures. Sometimes the traditional version is relatively similar to some Balkan traditions, as a risen dead body; others are more like demons or sorcerers. Plus, the English vampire is usually a suave, intelligent, cool superbeing loosely based on Dracula, with very little resemblance to either a risen corpse or an invisible spirit that feeds on life energy.

So, do you translate ‘vampire’ in, oh, Anne Rice? as the traditional word in that country for a bloodsucking entity, despite the substantial differences that might cause confusion or just seem completely wrong? It’s not much like a manananggal, but that’s a point of reference. Do you use ‘vampire’ and assume people will recognise it (bonus points if you can’t simply write “vampire” because the writing system is non-Roman or non-alphabetic)? Okay, now what if you’re translating Twilight? Or a novel where vampirism is actually caused by an alien parasite?

English (and, to be fair, most languages) has a habit of nicking words from other cultures and then using them differently. So to take another example, quite a few people are familiar with the idea of magical Japanese fox-spirits called kitsune. Except that kitsune is just the Japanese word for fox, and foxes are attributed certain magical powers sometimes, so there isn’t the same distinction that English readers will see. See also: fairy, elf, banshee, troll…
at 07:39 on 06-12-2014, Alice
I've been thinking about literature & translation lately, especially about how you translate the invented terminology in fantasy and sci-fi works. (Or in other genres, I suppose, though I imagine it's most common in sf.)

Mostly, it amuses me that one possible translation into German of "The Farseer Trilogy" is actually "The Television Trilogy" ("Die Fernseher Trilogie"). For obvious reasons, they chose "Weitseher" as a translation of "Farseer" instead...

Out of idle curiosity: what are the best/worst/weirdest/funniest (possible) translations of sci-fi/fantasy any of you have come across?
at 03:00 on 05-12-2014, Robinson L
Happy birthday, Drew.
at 13:42 on 04-12-2014, Drew C
Today, I turn 30 years old.

While I may grow older I refuse to grow up... :D
at 18:00 on 01-12-2014, Robinson L
I had the same problem initially, Orion. In my set up (which I've just checked on Windows, Linux, and my Chromebook) there's a little wheel icon just under the "X" symbol in the second window's full screen. The wheel icon (looks kind of like a piece of clockwork) is labeled "Actions" in windows, and the first option on the drop down menu when you click on it is "view full resolution." When you click this option, the e-mail pops in a new tab at the same size, but now it gives you the little magnifying glass icon which lets you zoom in; worked fine for me after that.
at 20:05 on 30-11-2014, Jamie Johnston
I'm not sure, I'm afraid. On a Macbook (which is what I'm using) you can drag two fingers in opposite directions on the track-pad and it will zoom in. That's how I did it. If you're using a not-Mac then I imagine there must be a way of doing the same thing but not sure what it is!
at 06:58 on 30-11-2014, Orion
Jamie, in the Tricia Sullivan imgur you linked, is there a way to get the second email in a legible size?
at 11:43 on 22-11-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
I'll just apologize again for my ill-thought ruminations, this time without rationalizations, definitely and categorically. And I wish well for everyone concerned.
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.