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The Tor Mess

ETA: Could folks weighing in on what is or isn’t libel please also include your legal background and experience? It’s far too easy to play lawyer on the internet…


So half of my social media today is pissed off about the Tor thing, and the other half is saying, “Wait, what Tor thing?”

SHORT VERSION: A comment Tor’s art director made a month ago led to complaints and calls for boycott, which led to an apology from Tom Doherty, which managed to piss off pretty much everyone on all sides.

SHORTER VERSION: Theodore Beale has been jerking people around again.

LONGER VERSION: Mr. Beale is, among other things, the head of the Rabid Puppies Hugo Slate, which he stacked with himself and authors from the small Finland-based press he founded last year. He also seems to have a serious hate-on for Tor Books, as well as one of Tor’s NYT bestselling and Hugo award-winning authors, John Scalzi.

Seven Months Ago: Late last year, Beale was trying (and failing) to stir up GamerGate to boycott Tor Books and John Scalzi in particular:

“[P]erhaps #GamerGaters also need to let @torbooks and @pnh know that they will no longer be buying books from Tor Books as a result of John Scalzi’s oft-professed antipathy for genuine gamers concerned about the politicization and corruption of the games media.” (From Reddit: Pro-GG author Vox Day suggests an operation to boycott John Scalzi)

Commenters on that thread basically pointed, laughed, and got on with their lives.

This is one of many examples of Beale’s crusade against John Scalzi (whom he prefers to call “McRapey”), Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Editor at Tor), Patrick’s wife Teresa (whom Beale refers to as “the Toad of Tor”), and Tor Books in general.

May 11: Irene Gallo, creative director of Tor Books and associate publisher of Tor.com, referenced the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns in a comment on her personal Facebook page, after posting about publishing Kameron Hurley’s The Geek Feminist Revolution on Tor.com. When asked what the puppies were all about, she replied:

“There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.” (Source)

A short time later, Mister Beale became aware of Gallo’s comment and took a screenshot.

June 6: Beale posted his screenshot on Twitter, saying:

“The Creative Director at Tor Books libels #SadPuppies, Rabid Puppies, and #Gamergate on Facebook.”

He also took to his blog, saying, “this is libelous behavior we will be obliged to bring to the attention of the management at Pan Macmillan.” (Source)

Beale’s faux outrage was picked up and amplified by his commenters and folks like Sad and Rabid Puppy Hugo nominee Cedar Sanderson, among others.

But why did Beale wait almost a month to post this screenshot? He says on File770:

“I’ve held onto this since I had the screencap, which as you correctly note was made several weeks ago. As for the ‘sinister plotting’, I have long been in the habit of never using all of my ammunition at once, or pointing-and-shrieking for its own sake. I am a patient man and I didn’t strike back at TNH, PNH, or even John Scalzi right away either.” (Source)

He confirms this was part of his longer term plan to attack Tor, but doesn’t say why June 6 was the target date. However, a number of people have noted that June 6 was also the day the Nebula Awards were announced. The Nebulas are given out each year by SFWA … the organization that kicked Beale out almost exactly two years ago for racist comments about another author, among other things.

In other words, by posting his screenshot on June 6 and riling up his supporters, he had an opportunity to both attack Tor and try to overshadow one of SFWA’s biggest annual events at the same time. This is speculation, but seems consistent with Beale’s long-term grudges and his stated perception of himself as fighting a long term war against … I dunno. Pink gamma bunnies or something.

June 8: Tom Doherty posted a long apology at Tor.com, saying in part:

“Last month, Irene Gallo, a member of Tor’s staff, posted comments about two groups of science fiction writers, Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, and about the quality of some of the 2015 Hugo Award nominees, on her personal Facebook page. Ms. Gallo is identified on her page as working for Tor. She did not make it clear that her comments were hers alone. They do not reflect Tor’s views or mine. She has since clarified that her personal views are just that and apologized to anyone her comments may have hurt or offended.”

A number of people felt Doherty had thrown Gallo under the bus in an attempt to appease Beale and his followers. Responses from Kameron Hurley, Chuck Wendig, and many more criticized Doherty for publicly dressing-down Gallo, pointing out that Tor had offered no such public response or apology when a Tor employee publicly described a Tor author as “phony,” “arrogant,” and “incompetent.” Likewise, there was no public statement when it became known that Tor had been employing a serial sexual harasser for years.

Others complained that Tor didn’t also rebuke people like John C. Wright for his homophobic and bigoted remarks. However, it should be pointed out that an author like Wright is not the equivalent of an employee like Gallo.

People on the pro-puppy side of things were angry that Doherty hadn’t gone further, and continued to call for Gallo to be fired.

Today: The apology thread at Tor.com has almost 500 comments. People on all sides are expressing anger at Tor and Tom Doherty, and some folks are still talking about a boycott…

…which would seem to be exactly what Beale wanted when he posted that screenshot and released the rabid hounds.

I mean, come on. You don’t think the man who routinely calls John Scalzi a rapist gives a damn about “libel,” do you? Gallo’s comment was a weapon he could use to try to damage Tor Books. And right now, in the heat of anger and argument, it looks like he succeeded.

Realistically though, I can’t imagine this boycott will be any more successful than his last effort. And most of the internet will probably have moved on by the end of the week.


My Own Thoughts/Opinions:

  1. Beale is an asshole. I find it annoying when people dance to his tune. But I don’t see him having any long-term impact here.
  2. Gallo has every right to express her opinions, especially on her personal Facebook page. Doing so in the context of a comment promoting a Tor.com release? Yeah, I think that was a mistake. One for which she’s apologized.
  3. Doherty publicly chastising Gallo? I think that was a bigger mistake, and escalated the situation in nasty (and predictable) ways.
  4. Isn’t truth a defense against libel? Rabid Puppies was founded by a man who believes “the reason women shouldn’t vote in a representative democracy is they are significantly inclined to vote for whomever they would rather f***” (Source), and his champion author describes homosexuality as “perversion,” a “dark path” he compares to alcoholism (Source). Brad Torgersen, the head Sad Puppy, dismisses previous award-winning and nominated work as “affirmative action” fiction (Source), and spews things like, “Fuck you all. The forces of the progressive pink and poofy Xerxes were met at the Hugo Hot Gates, and repelled by a few brave dudes and dudettes with the stones to stand up to your bullshit.” (Source) Obviously, not every nominee and puppy supporter is an unapologetic bigot. But as a generalization based on things the highest-profile puppies have said? I think Beale would have a hard time winning that libel case of his.
  5. Everything I’ve seen of Gallo’s work has been amazing. She is damn good at what she does. Tor would be incredibly stupid to let her slip away, and while I can’t see the future, I don’t imagine they’re going to do so.
  6. Beale wants to foment hatred toward Tor. I’m disinclined to acquiesce to his request.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 11th, 2015 12:46 am (UTC)
The Tor Mess
When I read Doherty's post, I initially wanted to delete Tor.com as a bookmark and omit my twice-daily visit to Tor.com. Two things made me change my mind: 1] I adore so much about the site: the original fiction, the rereads and rewatches, and the mere presence of Jo Walton. 2} The possibility of making Beale a pseudo-martyr to "free speech". Gallo has apologized like a gentlewoman, Scalzi has a contract for big money, and we will all have the last laugh.
Jun. 11th, 2015 12:54 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, I think the Doherty post on Tor.com was probably necessary on a corporate HR/Legal level. However, I think Tor.com made an enormous mistake in not disabling comments on that post. The results of allowing comments should have been entirely foreseeable, and I can't think of any possible upside they might have achieved.
Jun. 11th, 2015 03:35 am (UTC)
If it was neccesary, why wasn't there one after they fired Jim Frenkel? Why wasn't there one after Sean Fodera went after Mary Robinette Kowal?
Jun. 11th, 2015 05:55 am (UTC)
My read on the Fodera/Kowal situation is that that case -- unlike the present kerfuffle -- involved two specific individuals, and was resolved fairly quickly via direct online statements by those individuals. It wasn't a case where corporate!Tor needed to make a statement to anyone other than the principals.

The Frenkel affair is trickier. For one thing, I believe Mr. Frenkel may have been a consultant or independent contractor for Tor, rather than an employee, at the point when his case was brought to light and resolved. (The record is decidedly fuzzy on this point, but one source I looked at in checking back indicated that Mr. Frenkel was living in and working from Wisconsin while associated with Tor, which would tend to support this conclusion.) Legally speaking, that would give Tor less control over his conduct, less ability to intervene in matters outside his specific scope of work, and greater constraint on what they could say without making matters worse for one party or another. What they did -- severing their business relationship with Mr. Frenkel -- was what they could do.

The present case is distinctive in two ways. Ms. Gallo's statement references a less well-defined group than the victims in either of the other situations, and this is the only one of the three instances in which Tor as a company has been called out as a principal adversary. In the circumstances, I can see why corporate counsel might have felt it necessary to put out a public statement. I don't necessarily agree with the conclusion, but I can see how they got there.
Jun. 11th, 2015 12:17 pm (UTC)
The closest thing to a "defense" I could offer in this case is noting that, as a manager, if I were to find out that one of my employees was sexually harassing someone, I'd be dealing directly with HR, and would likely have very explicit instructions about what I'm legally allowed to say in public about the situation.

Mind you, if one of my employees was saying something nasty in their personal FB about someone we worked with, I also wouldn't address that in public (even if HR didn't care), because that's bad management and the mark of an asshole.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 11th, 2015 02:17 am (UTC)
"The problem is, Tor stepped right into it. They played right into Beale's hands..."

They did. No argument there. I suspect they were probably trying to make their statement and stay out of the deeper mess, but it failed spectacularly.
Jun. 11th, 2015 01:39 am (UTC)
Bonus points for the Barbossa quote. :)

Yeah, this whole thing is an enormous mess, created and perpetuated by the same entitled asshole-ness responsible for the vile GamerGate. I don't know that the TOR piece was strictly necessary, or if it was, perhaps it could have been worded differently. I absolutely hate that it seems to be exactly what Beale was after in the first place. (I did not know of the nickname for Scalzi, btw, but it does not surprise me. Having followed the awful, awful GG and the things that were repeatedly said/threatened to female game developers, I find I am shaking my head and thinking "Of course!" If John was a woman, you'd threaten to rape her, because that is how you attempt to minimalize and bully them, apparently, but since he is a man, turn the coin and call him a rapist." Either way it makes me absolutely ill and angry.)

And I wish these assholes would all go home and leave my favorite things in the world the f*** alone. I cannot begin to tell you how saddened I am that the GamerGate attitude and rhetoric and found its way to the SF/F genre.
Jun. 11th, 2015 02:14 am (UTC)
I wonder if we could turn this into a really twisted drinking game...

Also, argh.
Jun. 11th, 2015 03:26 am (UTC)
I suspect the chance of serious liver damage would be too high.
Jun. 11th, 2015 11:36 am (UTC)
You mean it isn't already?
Jun. 11th, 2015 12:22 pm (UTC)
Hic. I admit to nothing. Hic.
Jun. 14th, 2015 07:59 am (UTC)
Someone needs to come up with a Hugo Drama Bingo thingie at this point... Take a shot every time you hit Bingo; you'll be drunk in no time.
Jun. 11th, 2015 03:00 am (UTC)
Shortest version: Neo-nazi asshole Theodore "Teddy" Beale objected to being accurately described as a neo-nazi. He threatened a frivolous libel suit (the statements in question were clearly both true AND protected opinion, both of which are absolute defenses against libel in the USA) without even engaging a lawyer, and Tom Doherty replied "frivolous baseless no-lawyers non-lawsuit without any merit? FUCK THAT NOISE! A WOMAN MUST BE PUNISHED FOR THIS!" and went forth to attack his employee in a way he never did against any of his other employees who'd actually committed criminal offenses in the course of their job duties.

Edited at 2015-06-11 03:01 am (UTC)
Jun. 11th, 2015 05:47 pm (UTC)
He threatened a frivolous libel suit (the statements in question were clearly both true AND protected opinion, both of which are absolute defenses against libel in the USA) without even engaging a lawyer,

Which I'd say is fairly classic Teddy Beale.
Jun. 11th, 2015 06:29 am (UTC)
I agree, that the boycott notion is no good option. But I can't help wonder how Doherty fell so easily for Beale?

Why didn't he just let the silence ring and be done with it. An employee said true things on her personal facebook page. There was no need to step in. The only result he got was that he pissed off people, who were actually buying Tor books, while the Gamergaters/Puppies were already boycotting them anyway.

Doherty should find Bioware's David Gaider and ask him, how to grow a spine against these types.
Jun. 11th, 2015 08:53 am (UTC)
Wow. This makes me glad I haven't been following this whole mess at all. Been too busy editing. I am truly shocked by what's going on - it's a struggle to understand what kind of satisfaction people get from behaving in this way.

Thank you for the summary, but I think I will continue to keep it in an SEP field for now.

Edited at 2015-06-11 08:58 am (UTC)
Jun. 11th, 2015 12:23 pm (UTC)
Two phrases come to mind. No one is a complete waste of time, and this one is attributed to Galileo: Some people are for no other purpose than turning food in to shit.
Jun. 11th, 2015 02:19 pm (UTC)
This is what I get for going away on vacation....

Anyway, my take on it is that Beale is akin to tuberculosis (his initials of TB) or venereal disease (Vox Day's initials), and going and getting inoculated for both isn't a bad idea.
Jun. 11th, 2015 05:18 pm (UTC)
I've been inoculated against tuberculosis. It doesn't seem to be helping with this.
Jun. 11th, 2015 07:26 pm (UTC)
If enough people --including Doherty-- were inoculated properly against Mr. TB here, we'd not be in this mess.
Jun. 11th, 2015 02:22 pm (UTC)
As lousy as the rabid and sad are, I don't think "neo-Nazi" is accurate. I've seen no evidence that they have the sartorial flair the Nazis had :)
Jun. 11th, 2015 02:46 pm (UTC)
Nice (and sensible) summary. Thanks!
Jun. 12th, 2015 12:59 am (UTC)
I am suddenly seized with the desire to go forth and buy a copy of every work ever associated with Ms. Gallo.

Unfortunately, I need to pay bills instead.
Jun. 12th, 2015 07:27 pm (UTC)
As someone who has been following this mess quite avidly, if from the sidelines, I am really torn on this issue. On the one hand, I can’t really say I’m totally against employers stepping in when their employees are out of the line, considering I cheered out loud when a local government employee who was harassing a reporter on TV got fired. So, I don’t really feel like being up in arms about Tor stepping in when one of their employees spoke out of turn (in Tom Doherty’s estimation anyways, not mine.) I do think it’s an unfortunate pitfall of our social media-infused world that we really do need to step carefully around what we say online, and the rules for the other side can’t be different from the rules for ‘my’ side.

On the other hand, what I see as a difference here is good faith (ethically speaking, not legally, I'm not a lawyer!). The reported exposed the harasser to prevent further incidences, whereas Beale’s MO just seems to be to…stir up trouble. Whatever lets him sleep at night, I guess.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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