Along with SF Squeecasters Seanan McGuire, Paul Cornell, Elizabeth Bear, and Lynne Thomas, Cat won her 1st Hugo award for Best Fancast in Chicago last week!
I appreciate all the gentle pokings as to whether or not I am ok, as I haven’t posted in awhile. The reason is twofold: one, I have a novel due shortly and I’m basically totally focused on that and two, due to WordPress being a total jerkface, I have not been able to log in to my blog in two weeks.
Seriously, they should just label the “Update WordPress Now” button “Bork Your Situation Now.” Ugh.
So yes, I am fine, I’m just working hardcore and getting ready for Worldcon and cursing the name of the WordPress database.
Speaking of Worldcon! I will be there! I will be getting in on Wednesday and I’ll even be in Chicago for most of the rest of the week after the con, if any of my Chicago folk want to hang out.
Obviously, I will also be at the Hugos, as I am up for some. Kambriel has made me an epic space princess dress and a good time will be had.
This is my Worldcon schedule–please do come and see me! Say hello if you spy me in the halls/bars/loungey places. I am super friendly, for serious. I don’t have a kaffeeklastch, so if you want to chat, you have to be brave! I’m really looking forward to meeting a bunch of new people and hugging my friends SO HARD. I’ve not gone to many cons this year, so it’s been ages since I’ve seen a lot of everybody.
Hit me up if you want to plan meals, coffee, etc. And see a whole bunch of you next week!
Thursday 9am-6pm [Private] SFWA Board Meeting (Obvs, super long, will definitely be up for decompression drinks after! Also, if you are a SFWA member there’s anything you want me to deal with, consider, bring to the Board, etc, now is a good time to contact me, especially if you live on the upper east coast of the US, as I’m the Eastern Regional Director.)
Friday 10:30 am-12pm Columbus AB, Panel: Who Are You Really? A look at ideas about identity. What makes you “you”?
Friday 1:30-3pm Autographing Tables: Signing You bring it, I write my name on it.
Friday 4:30-5pm Grand Suite 3: Reading I haven’t decided what to read from yet, possibly my new Western novella or the Fairyland sequel, depending on the mood of the room.
Saturday 9:00 am-10:30 am SFWA Business Meeting This one you can and should come to if you’re a SFWA member.
Saturday 4:30-6pm Columbus CD Panel: When Quantum Physics Meets Magical Realism The way in which Quantum Physics describes the universe seems more and more to enter the realm of the fantastic. Where does reality end and fantasy begin?
Sunday 9am-10:30am Stroll With the Stars Basically, a constitutional walk with me, John Scalzi, Joe and Gay Haldeman, Kate Baker, Lawrence M. Schoen, Story Musgrave, Stu Segal, and S.J. (Not Tucker) This seems pretty stuffed with awesome to me, so you should definitely come! Also, I am a strange and alien person in the morning. It is not my time.
Sunday 12-1:30 pm Crystal B SF Squeecast Live! A live recording of our Hugo-nominated podcast, guest(s) to be announced.
Then Hugos! Then Hugos Losers Party! Go 70th Worldcon!
See you there.
In the nearly ten years of this blog’s existence, I have employed what one might generously call a laissez-faire style of moderation. I have deleted spam and threats to my person–and nothing else. People have always been free to be colossal jerks in the comments, and that’s in large part because my commentariat behaves itself on most occasions and colossal jerks usually get their asses handed to them by my very clever and awesome regular readership. I have felt that allowing the commenters to police the comment space was the best policy, because the content of the comments, in my ethical worldview, belongs to the commenters, and I believed it was not within my rights to remove their work even for the most egregious of offenses. I left crappy comments up as a warning to others–see the response this person drew. Don’t let it be you.
I can count on one hand the number of people I have banned and comments I have deleted. On the same hand.
I’ve always said: this is an open space. Don’t make me sorry for keeping it that way.
Well, it’s finally happened. Ten years was a good run, but I have been made sorry and things are going to change.
Iron-handed moderation is the standard on most large blogs, and it’s come to my attention that people relatively new to reading this one assume such a policy is in place here–that threads should and will be frozen, comments deleted, users banned. This conflict between what is assumed to be true and what is true has caused significant misunderstandings, and that’s at least in part my fault for not having a loudly stated moderation policy. If you assume I moderate like a motherfucker, then it logically appears that anything in the comments is something I think is at least nominally ok. Bad logic, weird logic, not at all appropriate logic when it comes to blog comments, but I can see how, when things get heated, it is a logic that can be leapt to.
But now, especially since my professional name is very prominently placed on the front door of this joint, I’m going to have to stop pretending that this is still a personal, intimate blog shared with a few of my friends. It is not 2003. Time to start acting like a grown-up internet girl and accept that this blog is widely read, and by a lot of people who haven’t been here since day one.
So. Welcome to Thunderdome.
These are the rules.
- Anonymous commenting is, now and forever, shut the eff off. There are as many ways to sign into Livejournal these days as stars in the sky, and the former policy (of screening anonymous commenting but allowing them because I wanted people to be able to participate in the conversation without declaring allegiance to a website) is not going to cut it. If you want to talk to me, most especially if you want to call me names, you have to use your big-kid words and put your name on it. After all, my name is on it. If one is accountable, all are. (All comments are automatically screened on the main site/non-Livejournal blog.)
- This is my Freeze Ray. There are many like it, but this one is mine. If I feel that you are being a craphead for no purpose other than because your head is made of shit, I will freeze your thread. (Being a craphead in service of the greater good may or may not be allowed on a case by case basis. And as it is my blog, I get to decide what the greater good is. You can decide it on your own blog.) If I feel that you are trolling or crossing the line vis a vis threatening or otherwise over the top rhetoric, I will freeze your thread. If your conversation rockets past useful and engaging and into fighting for fighting’s sake or just being miserable to each other, I will freeze your thread.
- If you act a fool, I will let people make fun of you. If, for a wild, random example, on a post about how women are not taken seriously and often threatened when they speak online, you decide to treat me like a bleating little girl and say that my post has been elevated to relevance only by a man’s notice of it, I will let people take you down like a JV quarterback at the ever-loving Super Bowl. Because it illustrates a point, I will not freeze or delete it unless it gets out of hand–but a long, long leash will be given to those handling a commenter who proves the thesis of the post. People like to feel like they can do something about injustice and assorted bullshit. If you give them a target, I will let them take their shots. It’s called catharsis. Don’t make yourself a vessel for other people’s catharsis. It’s not good for your health.
- This does not mean that you can’t disagree with me. Please do. Disagree eloquently, vociferously, and in good faith. For the purposes of my own goddamned space, I define trolling as: arguing disingenously, insincerely, or just to be contrary in order to cause distress or draw attention to your own super-awesome self. Arguing is not trolling. Arguing in bad faith because you want to rile people (or me) up is. The other side of that is that, even if you genuinely and sincerely believe, for example, that gay people shouldn’t marry or women shouldn’t vote, leaving such comments here is still trolling, because you know damn well how I feel about it and that I won’t change my mind, so mooing about such subjects has no purpose other than to get attention and incur rage points to your dubious account. Just don’t. If I feel that a heated argument has value to the greater discourse, despite its heat and rhetoric, I will leave it up. If it descends to abuse, I will freeze it but leave it visible. But warnings will be issued to argue more in the fashion of Jane Austen than Stone Cold Steve Austin, dig?
- I will now treat the comments section of this blog as a high-stakes game of Whack-a-Troll. Users will be banned. I have only banned two users in the decade of this blog. Both threatened me with rape and demonstrated knowledge of my whereabouts such that I took them seriously. You will not have to go nearly this far to get banned any longer. I take to heart Tiger Beatdown’s philosophy of “Every comment on this blog is an audition.” Repeated offenses of the above (or below) variety will get you banned. Stalking or otherwise harassing other commenters will get you banned. If you behave toward me in such a fashion that the mere sight of your username causes me anxiety, you will be banned with extreme prejudice. I am not going to take your fee fees into account anymore. My peace of mind is more important than your right to talk in my space.
- To this end, comments which veer wildly off-topic will be frozen or deleted. For example, there is no reason to post kitten pics to this post unless it is of my kitten or it is hilarious and contains a macro pertaining to strict moderation. But because kittens are cute and harmless, I will freeze such comments rather than deleting them. Carrying on arguments from previous posts or demanding that I answer for the crimes of kittens everywhere are abusive and disrespectful and stupid, and will be deleted. Repeated offenders will get Whacked.
- When a user is banned, I will comment saying “You have been banned for unacceptable behavior because REASONS.” These reasons may be enumerated or they may not, depending on how much time and energy I have to deal with you. Most will not get a personal note detailing offenses–if you have been banned, it’ll probably be pretty clear why. I am not preemptively banning anyone. We all have a clean slate as of today. Make good use of it.
- If you have something off-topic to say, say it on Twitter or Facebook or put Off-Topic in your subject heading and make sure it is something nice like “I don’t think you’ve seen this YouTube video of a pug filing her own taxes yet.”
- Keep in mind that I do not have a team of moderators. It is just me. I field all comments to this blog, I am the only person with access to it. Given the traffic here, this is sometimes a full time job. And I already have a full time job. Also, I am new at this moderation thing. I am not psychic, such that I know when you feel your boundaries have been violated or the discussion has gone too far for your comfort. So, in the tradition of the self-policing space that this always was, I am asking for your help. If you feel a comment has stepped over the line, or that a thread has passed usefulness and entered tail-chasing territory, please leave a comment with the words: Miss Bennet disapproves. (Yes, you may do this in threads and discussions of which you are a part.)
- This does not actually mean I will instantly freeze and/or delete the thread. It should act as a warning to commenters to slow their roll, and I will determine whether I feel the Freeze Ray needs to come out or not. Commenters who incur Miss Bennet’s wrath and modify their behavior accordingly will be given lenience. However, the final judgment lies with me. No one else (right now) has mod privileges. This is Open Source moderation–but I reserve the right to make the final call.
- Just…try not to be horrible. In return I will also try not to be horrible. I have always chosen to simply not respond to the ugliest comments, and I will continue that, only with more wielding of the banhammer and less patience. This is usually and can be a warm and welcoming space even for dissenters. We can argue and not be insane dick posses to each other. IT IS POSSIBLE. Treat this blog like a campsite: leave it better than you found it. I will try to take this angle with what I choose to post about. Let’s all just try to pass our Turing Tests and act like human beings rather than malfunctioning rage robots, shall we?
- If you have any further suggestions on how to improve the moderation of this blog, please leave them in the comments and I will take them under advisement. I didn’t even know how to turn off anonymous commenting until two days ago. I’m pulling together a policy from other blogs I frequent and my own temperament. It may well be that I’m missing something or being too lenient in some area. This policy is a work in progress–if you have wisdoms, I want to hear it.
- You will find this entry permanently linked from the sidebar. For further illustration of my New Visage of All-Mighty Avenging Stinkeye Goddess Bearing the Horned Helmet of Divine Moderation (And What She Thinks Of Your Nonsense) see this helpful picture.
You will notice that I have changed my username.
This is something of an end of an era. I have been yuki-onna on Livejournal for a decade. It was a name that mattered to me. So much that I refused to change it when Facebook and Google decided we all had to use our real names so that it was easier to sell to us, so knock off that creative thing you were doing for the first twenty years of the Internet.
But there is a conversation going on on Livejournal that involves a blogger that I’m sure you all know by this point, Requires Hate. Beginning with comments in my post on Readercon, a post which neither mentioned RH nor had anything to do with her, an idea has surfaced that I have not publicly denounced or blocked her, and so am responsible, on some level, for her words and actions. That I cannot speak on the subject of harassment, even my own harassment, unless I disavow a blogger and book critic that I have never met and only occasionally converse with.
In the course of that conversation, my username was brought up as an example of cultural appropriation. (Why attacking me for appropriation, in my books, in my username, is ok, but RH attacking others for it is not, I am at a loss to explain.) Because my username was Japanese and I am not.
I was, and am, angry about the unfairness of this. I chose the name while living in Japan, desperately trying to feel a connection with a place during a time in my life when I was so deeply depressed and unhappy that a goddess of death seemed just about the right speed for me. As things do online, it came to represent me and my reputation all over the net.
But the truth is that there was nothing not problematic about the reasons I was living in Japan–married to a naval officer stationed there, on an American base on foreign soil 66 years after the end of the war that put it there, in a town divided by race, a population forced to live with American sailors in nothing like harmony. Like it or not, I was part of that system. Whatever I came to love about the culture, it doesn’t really matter. I was there as part of an empire and that just plain sucks out loud.
I am not that person anymore. I was very young and very angry and very damaged. Maybe I am still those things. But it seemed a good time to change. I’m not yuki-onna anymore.
As for the rest of the conversation, and the number of times today I have had to say to my colleagues, people who know me and talk with me regularly and yet still cannot give me anything like the benefit of the doubt or courtesy, I don’t really know what to say. It seems pointless, at this stage, to insist that I am not responsible for my fans (and you know, RH blasted Palimpsest, along with a lot of the rest of the SFF readership, blasted it and shredded it and some of those people made it so personal and private, so disgusting and vicious, that I cannot talk about that book at all anymore. She’s hardly an uncritical fan of mine, and she was far from the worst of those critics.) nor for the actions or words of someone I have never met. I have no understanding of why I must answer for her.
I am deeply, deeply uncomfortable with the idea that we as a community of authors feel it is acceptable to circle wagons and demand that other authors denounce and disavow a critic publicly before being allowed to speak on other topics or be accepted as an actor in good faith. The more people tell me I must do this, the less likely I am to do it, because it’s bullying, plain and simple, it’s intimidation and if it’s so out of line when RH does it, so out of line that even people who have the audacity to speak to her without spitting in her face must be ostracized, then it is not ok to do it to peers and colleagues.
I believe that people should be able to voice their opinions, even if I disagree with them. Even if I agree sometimes and other times think that in a quest to answer injustice and be heard, they step over the line into cruelty. I am a complex person. I can believe at the same time that these injustices are real, and the inability to be heard is a genuine concern, and also not side with a critic on every issue. (Jesus, it’s called reading.) It is ridiculous that I have to say this. Did we demand anyone who wanted to be taken seriously publicly denounce Christopher Priest? We did not. It is brushing up against a bizarre kind of McCarthyist groupthink to do so, and it is not ok. This is not what we do as a community. I do not accept it. Are you now or have you ever been in contact with Requires Hate? No, no, no.
I will repeat what I have said, purely to stave off arguments on this point in the comments, though I don’t expect it to help: I do not believe that RH’s rhetoric comprises an actual threat to the person of any author, any more than wishing someone would die in a fire, as per common internet parlance, represents an actual intent to commit murder or arson. If I did, my attitude would be very different. Some of the authors RH has had unkind words for I number among my friends. Some I did number among my friends, only to find out today that that friendship is predicated, 4th grade style, on my never speaking to someone they don’t like. Do I like it when she goes incandescent on them? No. It fucking sucks, no less than when she did it to me. Do I sometimes learn something about my own bullshit? Yes. Do plenty of people say equally inflammatory things without inspring the curious loathing RH does? You bet. Do I sometimes get paralyzed in my own writing, because I will probably get it wrong? Yep. Is that a good thing? Very probably. Is comparing RH to Goebbels and the Aurora shooter appropriate? Come on.
Does that mean that I am somehow linked at the hip to RH and can be called to task for her? For crying out loud, that is some unfair shit. People praise her all over the place and don’t get appointed her White Guardian. I am an author. I am responsible for my own work, my own life, and really fuck all else. And I am just about at the end of my rope with this shit.
As it happens and with much sad irony, I myself Require Meds today. Due to a pharmacy shortage, I am off my medication. I am probably taking things too seriously. I am definitely exhausted, depressed, near tears and wound up very tight–which I say not to get all white woman’s tears on any of you, but because it is sometimes valuable to say “Hey. This is not fun and games for me and I have had enough.”
I have had enough.
If what is required of me in my community is to block and fucking deny her three times or something, I’m sorry, I just can’t do it. It’s the principle of being ganged up on and told I have to. Putting aside all the cultural issues, that I disagree with things people say ALL THE FUCK OVER THE PLACE and don’t say anything because I don’t have the energy to fight, I’m just a stubborn fucking person. I don’t like the precedent. Which other person that I follow on Twitter will I be taken to task for next? Which critic who liked a couple of my books will say something offensive such that I and no other reader of theirs must answer for it? No, no, no.
I fuck up quite enough on my own without having to take on the sins of someone halfway around the world.
If you have a problem with a person, talk to them. Fight with them. It is beyond weird to attack an unrelated author instead. And honestly, pretend I’m Britney Spears. Leave me alone.
So, yeah. New name.
I’ve been going over and over the events that occurred at Readercon in my head since I returned from Budapest. (In short, author glvalentine was repeatedly sexually harassed by former Worldcon Chair Rene Walling, she reported it, and instead of enforcing their stated zero tolerance policy which had been in place without question for four years and necessitated a lifetime ban from the con, the Board, almost certainly bowing to Walling’s SMOF status, told him he could come back after two years. Even after it became clear that this was a pattern and Walling had harassed others.)
This disturbs me on the plain level of someone whom I consider a friend being harassed at a convention and the Board cavalierly ignoring their own policy (whatever the wisdom of zero tolerance policies, that was the policy in place) because Walling, who used his own “need” to apologize to Valentine as an excuse to follow, grab, and further stalk her, apologized while being a friend of the Board. This is, honestly, exactly why harassment continues–everyone thinks the rules don’t apply to them, that they are special, that their friendships and power in their communities will allow them to do whatever they want.
In this case, it looks like all of that is right on the money.
But it further disturbs me because this is an incident of an author, an invited guest to a convention, being harassed by, no matter the super-awesomeness of his fanhood, a fan. If that cannot be taken seriously, how can any author feel safe at a convention? Because let’s be honest, authors who harass women are already welcome at many conventions, not policed in any way, and those who once harassed and no longer do because they are dead often have their “exploits” extolled with affection and nostalgia at con parties. Big men act with impunity, are even praised for it. ‘Twas always thus, and always thus ’twill be.
So, from whom is an author safe? The answer seems to be no one.
I love fandom. Fan activity and fans are wonderful and valuable. But we all know that fans can go sour and get extremely dangerous in their attachment to authors and books. It doesn’t happen every day, but it does happen. We all try to guard ourselves and our personal lives against the possibility of a lone fan cornering us. And now we are being told that as long as the fan has done enough cool things for fandom, the rules will not apply to him. If you are a good enough fan, you can grab authors you like and violate their physical safety and it’s A-ok. Just say you’re sorry and it’s cool.
Did you get the banhammer when you did it? Well, I guess you should have been a better fan. A more important fan. Or maybe you were just mentally ill and no one liked you so the policy was drafted specifically to ban you forever because you were Harassing While Being a Nobody and it was never intended to be used on anyone else.
And hell, one of the other people Walling harassed was also a SMOF. And no one even investigated or followed up on that incident. So it’s just a naked hierarchy of power. It’d be nice to know what level of BNF one has to attain to earn the rights and privileges Walling enjoys. His Tor.com column will continue. EDIT: I have been corrected. He is no longer writing for Tor.com and his last column was taken down over the weekend. I am very glad of this. He is part of the Kansas 2016 Worldcon bid committee. He is involved in the New Zealand 2020 bid. He is, like most harassers, entirely undiminished by this. It’s not really just the Readercon Board. The community as a whole is not holding him responsible.
I’m not sure there is a high enough prestige level to have complaints taken as seriously as Walling’s apology has been.
Here’s the thing. I’ve had issues at conventions. Some people have noted that I tend to travel with a pack at events. I have good friends around me most of the time. Some of this is social and some of this is protective. I feel safe in a pack. I look young, I present as very feminine, and I started publishing at 25, when the likelihood of not being taken seriously or respected was very high.
And both of the most serious things that have happened to me at conventions have happened at Readercon.
Please do not ask me to discuss these events. I will not. I did not report them at the time and see no purpose in dragging them up now. It is not the fault of anyone at Readercon or involved with it that this happened or that I did not report it. Both men were in positions of power over me, (people in positions of power do tend to do this kind of thing–it’s almost like they know they won’t be punished like a mere plebe), both would almost certainly say it was a misunderstanding–because that’s pretty much what people do when confronted. I decided long ago not to have the conversation that attends reporting incidents. I am not as brave as Genevieve Valentine. And since both situations occurred before the famous zero tolerance policy was even in place, I think I can be fairly sure that I made the right decision in keeping them to myself.
I have also had, somewhat infamously, my share of problems with the Readercon Board, most particularly one member who felt a proper response to disagreeing with me on the Internet was sending private, threatening emails and behaving in an insulting and aggressive fashion toward commenters to this journal. (I also did not post publicly about the emails, which I now regret. I was not brave enough.) I have been nervous about attending the convention ever since my own Internet dust-up with that Board member, because his social and physical behavior I find intimidating and I am well aware that to say he dislikes me is an understatement. I was told by the Chairs of the convention that his involvement would be phased out due to his unacceptable behavior–but that has clearly not happened at all as he is still instrumental on the Board and Committee, and thus, in this decision. That is not why I’ve not been able to go for the last two years–I was GOH at another convention in 2011 and traveling to Budapest this year–but avoiding him has become a priority when I do attend. For the last three years I have been, quite simply, afraid.
And what do you know? It IS Your Father’s Readercon, after all.
Which brings me to the point of this post, which is that I cannot in conscience continue to attend Readercon.
If the Readercon Board (which is different than the Committee, and I have nothing but respect and sympathy for the terrible position the Committee is in at this point) cannot bring themselves to care about the safety of its author guests, then I, as an author guest, cannot entrust my safety to Readercon. Everyone’s safety should be of utmost importance, of course. Valentine is not more important than a fan who is harassed. But in the status Olympics in which the Board is trying to medal, it has become clear that the only thing that protects me even a little as a female author, the fact that I am well-known and active in the community and if fucked with can make a lot of noise, is irrelevant if a harasser is sufficiently popular in the Big Boys Club. And of course, it never did protect me very well. Genevieve is also well known and active online. She can, and has, made a big noise. What has occurred was highly predictable. If they do not care about her, they will not care about anyone. If neither authors nor SMOFs can be ensured of their safety and that their violations will be taken seriously, how can any lover of books who just wants to go listen to some panels and get a first edition signed feel safe? And this is borne out by the large number of people crossing Readercon off of their calendars for the forseeable future.
Which means that the Board was fully willing to sacrifice significant portions of attendance, revenue, reputation, and possibly the con itself as it has been known, to protect a single man with a long track record of harassment.
How can I support this convention while this decision stands? I love Readercon–I used to drive 12 hours to attend. Now it is my local con. Despite my fear and nervousness, it is a place I want to be. But cons are working spaces for authors, as squirrel_monkey has pointed out, and I cannot expose myself to a workplace environment where harassment is tolerated if everyone likes the harasser a whole lot and he says sorry when caught.
This is pure nepotism and it is ugly as hell. He’s one of our own, don’t inconvenience him. Nevermind that the whole welcoming geek community thing we’re all so proud of should mean that everyone at a con is one of our own.
But what this should tell us is that the geek community–or at least Readercon–is just like everywhere else. The rules do not apply to the higher-ups.
If the policy is reconsidered and Walling banned, I, too will reconsider. But only reconsider–this is an issue of the culture of Readercon, the memes at work within it, and though I thought that culture had come a long way, it clearly has not, at least with regards to the Board. I cannot speak for anyone else, I only speak as an author and a member of the community. I have, however, certainly never run a Worldcon, so feel free to disregard my concerns completely.
The Board stated the following:
In the three years between Readercons 23 and 26 we will actively look for evidence of real and permanent positive change in his [Walling’s] behavior. It was made very clear to him that if we receive any substantiated reports of continued inappropriate behavior at any venue – during or after the suspension period – his suspension will become permanent.
And to that I say:
In the three years between Readercons 23 and 26 I will actively look for evidence of real and permanent positive change in the Board’s behavior, policies, and the environment created by both. I hope I have made it very clear to them that if I receive any substantiated reports of continued inappropriate behavior at this venue – during or after my hiatus – my hiatus will become permanent.