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Choosing “Sides”

“I am not doing it because I was pressured by anyone either way or on any ‘side.’” -[Author]

“[Author] is everything any good leftist could ever want in a Hugo nominee, and they got hounded off the ballot by the LEFT.” -Brad Torgersen


I’m conflicted about starting this post with those particular quotes. A handful of people have withdrawn their names from the Hugo ballot, and have asked to be left out of the anger and arguments, which I can certainly understand. I removed the name of the author in question because I don’t want them getting dragged into my rant here. But at the same time, this pair of quotes is one of the best illustrations of something I’ve been frustrated with for years.

I am so damn tired of the insistence on shoving everyone and everything into an artificial “Us vs. Them” framework. The Puppies thing is just the latest example. The only clearly defined “side” in this mess is the puppies themselves, and even that’s a slippery argument. Is Theodore Beale of the Rabid Puppies on the same side as Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia? Correia suggests they are: “Look at it like this. I’m Churchill. Brad is FDR. We wound up on the same side as Stalin.” But what about the commenters? Can people support some of what the puppies said they wanted — say, greater awareness of tie-in work in Hugo nominations — without having to swear allegiance to all things rabid?

What about the people on the respective puppy ballots? Is Sheila Gilbert of DAW on the puppies’ “side”? (Given that she has basically zero online presence, and that I’ve chatted with her about this, I can state for a fact that she was not contacted about being on any slate, nor did she know anything about it.) What about the creators of The Flash? Mike Resnick was on the slate, but has spoken out against the kind of bloc voting the puppies represented. (I’m unable to find the link where I read his comments on this, however.) Does choosing not to remove yourself from the slate or ballot mean you’re in lockstep agreement with Beale, Torgersen, and Correia?

I keep coming across commentary and arguments that assume you have to be either pro-puppy or anti-puppy. In broader discussions, you’re either us or you’re the enemy. Left or Right. Puppy or CHORF. Lately, I’m seeing more accusations of blacklists and gatekeepers and people’s careers being hurt because of their politics or beliefs or whatever, because some publishers are for Us and some are for Them, and you can’t succeed in this business without swearing allegiance to the Evil Gun Nuts of Baen or the Evil Tree-hugging Lib’ruls of Tor.

To be honest, that last bit is funny as hell. Baen publishes folks like Eric Flint and Lois McMaster Bujold. Jim Baen wanted to buy my very first book, and Baen continues to buy my shorter work for some of their anthologies. Then there’s Tor, which publishes Rabid Puppy darling John C. Wright, as well as Hugo award-winning author Orson Scott Card.

The “Us vs. Them” framework does nobody any favors. It’s simplistic, childish thinking. Pointing out that a particular author is a homophobic bigot based on things he’s said? Fair enough. Accusing anyone who likes said author’s work of being a homophobic bigot? Sorry, no. Torgersen and Correia have gotten a lot of ugliness hurled their way in all this — some of it has been truthful, and right on par with what they’ve been hurling, but some has been absolutely over-the-line and unacceptable.

I’ve talked to conservative friends who’ve described various microaggressions and flat-out attacks toward them and/or their religious beliefs. I’ve been attacked for beliefs I don’t have, simply because someone assumed I was on the other side. More recently, when I criticized the Sad Puppy slate on Twitter, I had someone accuse me of being a child molester. I spoke out against GamerGate and got a doxxing threat in my email within the hour. Then there’s the editor on the Sad Puppy ballot who publicly blacklisted and badmouthed me and a few other authors for not being on his “side”…

And I don’t get a fraction of the abuse, harassment, threats, and worse that people in more marginalized groups do, simply for daring to exist and speak out. Simply because people decided they were “Them,” and therefore fair targets for abuse and hate.

I know some of the Sad Puppies desperately want there to be some kind of Social Justice Warrior Conspiracy that’s been manipulating the Hugos and persecuting them for years, because that creates a simple narrative with them as the feisty rebels striking a blow against the Evil Empire. But there’s been zero evidence for it. Correia himself said he’d audited the Hugos a few years back and found no sign of anything suspect.

Are there systemic problems that permeate the genre, and our cultures in general? Of course. Malinda Lo has done a tremendous amount of work and analysis of diversity in fiction and the overall lack thereof. That doesn’t mean everyone has to be drafted into one of two like-minded armies of Pro-Diversity and Anti-Diversity warriors.

Some of the problems are linguistic. Hugo-nominated author Eric James Stone said recently, “In my opinion, accusing someone of racism is one of the severest charges one can make against someone’s moral character.” I disagree. I’ve absorbed the racism, sexism, and homophobia of my culture for almost as long as I’ve existed. I blogged about that a bit back in 2010. It took me years to recognize my own problematic attitudes, and to start actively working to change them. If I say I believe someone is being racist, I don’t see it as the severest charge against their character; I see it as recognizing we’re all imperfect beings who should be working to do better. (I recommend reading Stone’s entire post. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he has some good and valid points.)

MCA Hogarth talks about fear of being attacked for being one of Them, of deprecation and insults and criticism that generalize from “This individual is a nasty, bigoted human being” to “Christians and Republicans are the Enemy.” Once again, I don’t agree with everything she says — I’m particularly skeptical that anyone has the power to destroy a career with one Tweet — but I also think the fears she talks about are real and valid and worth thinking about. In many contexts in the U.S., to be Christian or Republican is to be the majority. To have power. But contexts vary, and this isn’t always the case in SF/F and fandom.

Part of my anger at Torgersen and Correia is because I feel like they deliberately encouraged this Us vs. Them mentality in order to win support and votes. They invented an evil cabal of “Them,” then rallied people to join their side against this fictitious enemy. Which only increases the abuse and the hatred. And please note: I’m angry at them as individuals, not because they’re conservative, or because of their views on gun control, or because they might have a different religious belief than I do. I’m angry because whatever problems were out there, these two individuals actively made them worse, and they hurt a great many people in the process. Themselves included.

Fandom is not two distinct sides. It’s a bunch of people who like things in a really big genre, a genre that has guns and spaceships and dinosaurs and dragons and magic and manly men and genderfluid protagonists and grittiness and erotica and humor and hard-core feminism and sexism and racism and hope and stereotypes and anger and messages and politics and fluff and were-jaguars and superheroes and so much more.

Criticism is not war. Choosing not to read or support things you don’t like isn’t censorship. Liking something problematic doesn’t make you a bad person.

We’re not perfect. And we’re going to keep arguing and fighting amongst ourselves. It’s part of being human. It’s part of being a fan. We’re really freaking passionate about the things we love. (If you diss Season Four of Legend of Korra, then hell yeah I’m gonna argue with you!)

But I swear, the next time I see someone arguing not against what someone said or did, but against their own imagined cardboard caricature of “Them,” I swear by Asimov’s Mighty Muttonchops I’m gonna feed that person to a goblin.

As always, I’ll be moderating comments if necessary — not based on what imaginary “side” you’re on, but based on whether or not you’re acting like an asshole in my space.

ETA: I’ve made several minor edits for clarity since this post went live.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 37 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 26th, 2015 12:52 am (UTC)
Another indication that the whole "sides" thing is oversimplified: David Weber, who's published with great enthusiasm by both Baen and Tor -- and whose name is not to be found on any of the Puppy slates, despite much of Weber's work being exactly the sort you'd think at least some of the Puppies would dearly love to promote.

Which is, mind, probably just as well for Weber in the circumstances....
Apr. 26th, 2015 01:19 pm (UTC)
Weber as a nominee
I may be wrong,but I don't think Weber had anything published that was eligible. However he has in past years and was never nominated. Considering a lot of works that have been nominated in the last 10 years and won that I was not aware indicates many awards are going to lesser known work because they are not as popular.

That was the point. Many authors that are very good and have excellent sales in the field have not been nominated. So perhaps the idea that a small cabal pushing a certain type of fiction is valid
Re: Weber as a nominee - scarlettina - Apr. 26th, 2015 02:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Weber as a nominee - jimhines - Apr. 26th, 2015 02:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Weber as a nominee - nelc - Apr. 26th, 2015 03:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Weber as a nominee - roseembolism - Apr. 28th, 2015 12:27 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Weber as a nominee - nelc - Apr. 28th, 2015 02:24 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Weber as a nominee - nelc - Apr. 28th, 2015 02:30 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Weber as a nominee - starcat_jewel - Apr. 28th, 2015 04:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Weber as a nominee - redxcrosse - Apr. 26th, 2015 04:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Weber as a nominee - djonn - Apr. 26th, 2015 06:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Weber as a nominee - naath - Apr. 27th, 2015 10:23 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2015 02:04 am (UTC)
Well said, as always, Jim.

I don't know why people can't play nice. It seems to me like there is a lot of anger and angst being channeled into something pretty swell and ruining for everyone. Bah.
Apr. 26th, 2015 01:23 pm (UTC)
Bendan Eich
He was pushed out of Mozilla because he committed the sin of contributing money to the petition for Proposition 8. He would have been allowed to stay if he recanted. He refused and was pushed out. So yes, careers have been ended if they end up on the wrong side of the current social justice narrative.

Right now a boycott of the real estate, hotels and resorts of the 2 gay man who recently hosted Ted Cruz are being boycotted by some outraged in the gay community.
Re: Bendan Eich - swan_tower - Apr. 26th, 2015 05:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bendan Eich - funwithrage - Apr. 26th, 2015 11:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bendan Eich - cissa - May. 1st, 2015 07:03 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Bendan Eich - funwithrage - May. 1st, 2015 04:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2015 02:06 am (UTC)
I’m particularly skeptical that anyone has the power to destroy a career with one Tweet

I dunno that anyone can wreck someone else's career with one tweet. People have certainly ended up destroying their own. With just one tweet. :(
Apr. 26th, 2015 02:50 pm (UTC)
That was my thought upon reading that particular sentence. The internet is a world of instant reaction and instant rage. It's dangerous out there. And that makes me both sad and cautious.
(no subject) - sylvanstargazer - Apr. 27th, 2015 01:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2015 03:09 am (UTC)
if an author is being an asshat, I no longer buy them, or even suggest them to someone reading in the genre. If I already have some of their books, they get exiled to the garage.
Apr. 27th, 2015 03:22 pm (UTC)
I don't immediately exile such books. I figure if I've already paid for 'em, I might as well read 'em and reap some return on my investment. Not doing so, IMO, means the asshat wins: I gave him money and got nothing in return. That's not an effective boycott on any level.

Granted, those books will naturally tumble a bit further down my TBR list as a result of said asshattery, but I do intend to get to them. Someday.
(no subject) - martianmooncrab - Apr. 27th, 2015 08:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2015 03:28 am (UTC)
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Apr. 26th, 2015 01:28 pm (UTC)
A proverb used in Civ IV that I've been playing the last coupld days come to mind.

"Those who tell the truth should do so with one foot in the stirrup." Turkish proverb (voiced by Leonard Nimoy)
Apr. 26th, 2015 02:34 pm (UTC)
This is the that I fear we will never ascend to the levels of 'one world' and a unification that would be necessary if we are going to overcome the problems we have and actually get to the stars. We're 99%+ identical at the genetic level, yet we're still divided on the melanin concentration in your skin.

The thing that makes me truly sad is that most of the people stirring up this trouble wouldn't say it to your face, but behind the relative anonymity of a DSL connection they're quite happy to spew forth their bile and explode when someone calls them on their shit.

I really can't see the human race maturing over the last 20-30 years. Maybe a mass extinction event would be the best thing.

Martin Luther King had a famous saying (paraphrased) 'Our technology advance has so far outstripped our morality that we now have guided missiles and unguided men.' Easy to adopt it to how people behave on the internet.
Apr. 26th, 2015 02:55 pm (UTC)
Excellent post, Jim. Clear-eyed and thoughtful as always. And thanks for the links to the pieces by Lo, Stone and Hogarth. I'd missed those in my reading.

You said, "Part of my anger at Torgersen and Correia is because I feel like they deliberately encouraged this Us vs. Them mentality..." I couldn't agree more, and it saddens me, too. Fandom has always been a fractious, raucous, argumentative community, but generally speaking we pull together. Kerfuffles come and go that split us up temporarily, but I've never seen us so split on an issue so broadly. It makes me really sad.
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:01 am (UTC)
The term "fan-feud" effectively means just such a fractious (but, in the long run, meaningless) schism over trivia. I've been thru one, when my local SF club split over the issue of who should be the club president (there was no formal voting process). We're used to that. We deal with it and keep going.

What the Pissing Puppies have done is to bring the politics of the American religious right wing -- Us vs. Them, demonizing, rules-lawyering, and the ever-shifting story as other people point out the lies -- into fandom. And yes, that's far worse than anything else they've done. This is why we can't have nice things.
(no subject) - cissa - May. 1st, 2015 07:06 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 26th, 2015 06:46 pm (UTC)
Excellent post.
I believe this started with Beale being removed from the SFWA for using the SFWA promotional twitter feed to link to his post calling a black female writer "half savage" because of her race. See a recent interview for his explanation of the pseudo-science that people from Africa are less intelligent, uncivilized and more violent than people from elsewhere.
Then Brad and Larry did not win nominations they had hoped for and convinced themselves there is a cabal of those who control the Hugos keeping out their conservative, Christian, gun-loving kind.
Together the three produced two nearly identical slates of candidates for their supporters to vote for.
I am just sorry there are so few nominations so widely scattered that those who agreed with them when voting in unison can dominate the Hugo ballot under current rules.
I like science fiction, of all kinds.
It makes make me happy.
I don't expect all nominations to be the most popular works but reflect a variety.
The rabid and sad puppies dividing our community, creating an Us vs. Them, diminishes that happiness.
Apr. 29th, 2015 12:50 am (UTC)
According to Beale's comments on File770, this is all about getting revenge on John Scalzi and Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden, for an exchange they had in a thread ten years ago.

Edited at 2015-04-29 12:50 am (UTC)
Apr. 26th, 2015 09:55 pm (UTC)
Ah, the false bipolar deconstruction. Us vs. Them. Insider vs. Outsider. Self vs. Other. It is, unfortunately inherent to the human condition. We do it so naturally, that when we don't stop to think about it, it can be hard to consider otherwise.

Hey look, that liberal arts degree was good for someone. Like once. :D
Apr. 27th, 2015 10:20 am (UTC)
Dividing the world is a useful and necessary habit. Every time I want to sit down, I divide the world into 'chair' and 'not-chair' and sit on the former. Edible/not-edible, predator/prey: we *literally* live by categorising things.

Even the distinction of 'people like me/people not like me' (I hate the standard use of this) is helpful: it tells me where I can geek out and make stupid puns and when that's not appropriate.

It's the ranking that is toxic: we are better than they.

What the extremely diversionary language here seems to spring from is an underlying scarcity belief: there are only so many resources, and if we let everybody sit at the table, we won't get fed. When you combine that with entitlement, it becomes "'they' are taking 'our' (jobs, awards, recognition, audience)", and one of the means to justify 'defending ourselves' from 'those people' is to deny the humanity of others - we need to keep them under control otherwise they'll (harm themselves/harm others). I don't think you can address that by _just_ insisting that we're all equal; you need to find ways of addressing that existential fear, too. And quite frankly, I have no idea how.
(no subject) - roseembolism - Apr. 28th, 2015 12:36 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 27th, 2015 07:06 pm (UTC)
Jim, you rock.

Also, history shows that it's depressingly easy to incite mobs to unthinking hatred and violence. Internet pile-ons are one manifestation of this (their only redeeming feature is the lack of physical violence - until things escalate one more step, into the physical world). It's also very easy for anyone with a scintilla of writing talent to written demagoguery, whipping reader's emotions into a froth and galvanizing them to speech and action.

That's why I think writers have a particular responsibility to use that power for good, only with careful consideration of whether it's justified in a particular instance and with care to limit fallout.
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:10 am (UTC)
ursulav made what I think is a useful observation elseNet. She made an analogy between the traditional laws of hospitality and the traditional method of nominating / voting on the Hugos.

Many families have a very strong tradition that if someone is a guest in your house, you have a responsibility to provide them with food and drink. Others don't, and in the latter case you may hear someone say, "I won't tell my crazy uncle that he can't come to my family gathering, but I will tell him to bring his own food if he does, because I won't feed him." And for people who have the "feed guests" tradition, that's just... unthinkable.

Similarly, she says, fandom-as-a-whole has for decades had the deep-rooted overall tradition of "you don't game the Hugos", and now that someone who never absorbed this cultural value has done it, we're all sort of flailing about trying to figure out WHY it made us so angry. It's because they've done the unthinkable.
( 37 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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