Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.
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April 21, 2014

supergreat shark

You know one of the reasons why my weekly links posts have so much depth? Why I read so widely?

It’s because I used to be afraid to speak. Instead, I read. That is how I participated in the community. I still read.

But I am no longer afraid to speak.

I feel that’s important for me to put out there after the last few days.

Complaining about the Hugo nominations happens year after year. And yet: this year, the year that saw organized bloc voting because a couple of assholes wanted to troll fandom, we’re not supposed to speak about it.

I am–I repeat–completely thrilled for the broad majority of the slate. I am over the moon that a bunch of the people and works I nominated made the final ballot. Even more so that there are works on the ballot that I haven’t yet read, and that I’m really looking forward to reading.

I have also reacted with dismay to the parts of the slate that are there because of those assholes. Others writing about this issue have implied that folks who are upset at this obvious and open gaming of the nomination process are blowing it out of proportion. For me, personally, a line was crossed that should not have been crossed and it was crossed deliberately. That will affect how I vote.

So. My troll infestation. That was fun, amirite?

The main thing I found incredibly interesting about it was how certain commenters felt they had the right to my space. The right to demand very specific answers from me. My refusal to engage except superficially led to goalpost shifting and increasingly vitriolic abuse and deliberate misreadings as well as outright lies about me.

After that, there was an insistence from both the trolls and other parties that I should judge the nominated works on their merits alone. These works do not exist in a vacuum and the context in which they are produced is, for me, relevant. The personal is political. I am not going to waste my time reading books written by people who hold me, my friends, and my family in contempt–and Larry Correia and Vox Day do. They have made this abundantly clear through their own discourse as well as through the discourse they allow and encourage to flourish in their comments.

My refusal to allow that sort of discourse to take root here is not a sign of weakness. It is a refusal to allow myself to be diminished and to be made smaller. I’ve spent too much of my life trying to be small, measuring out my life in coffee spoons.

It’s time to disturb the universe. Who’s coming with me?

(Thanks to Abi Sutherland, Alex Dally McFarlane, Jenny Thurman, and Rachael Acks for all helping in their own way to crystallize my thoughts.)

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37 Comments

  1. neongrey

    Hell yes. Honestly it’s stuff like this that makes me think I should put my webspace to actual use or something. I am never sure what to say but when I get into conversation I seem to have stuff to say so I bet I could manage!

  2. Natalie Luhrs

    @neongrey: I bet you could! You say interesting things on Twitter! And here!

  3. GeekMelange

    “It’s time to disturb the universe. Who’s coming with me?”

    I don’t have an axe… but I do have weapons that are lit on fire. So count me in.

  4. delagar

    These are excellent points.

  5. RebeccaS

    The thing about “judge the work on its own merits” that bugs me is that it must come from a place of privilege, where the speaker is not part of any of the groups the author has a history of being horrible about, and so does not have any concern themselves of experiencing that whiplash while reading.

    If someone has a chronic history of writing bile, why is it on us to keep giving them new chances? Why should it be on us to keep approaching, just in case *this* time we won’t be slapped in the face? Why should we be obligated to give any more of our mental space to those assholes?

  6. Dana

    I for one am in favor of you speaking.

  7. Meoskop

    “Judge the work on it’s own merits” is the flip side of “review the book, not the author” and in both cases it requests a freedom that no other profession has. Books are lovely things, that are marketed for actual money. Awards drive attention, which in turn drives sales. This is about salesmen and customers.

    As a customer, you may refuse to shop at the store that never has your size in stock. You do not have to eat at the diner festooned in confederate flags where the waitress called you a bitch. It’s the free market at work.

    Those who fear economic repercussions from their actions do so because they know those repercussions are warranted. They know they are wrong. They are fully aware that if people know they are (choose your qualifying phrase here) that those who do not condone such actions will not give them money.

    Fuck that.

    I left SFF book fandom for all the reasons we’ve seen illustrated here in the last few months. I took my money and I gave it to someone else. Someone who didn’t punch me in the metaphorical face for being their customer. I have no issue with those who can disregard the coddling of toxicity – it’s your time and your money. But I salute your refusal to be disrespected in your own house. I salute your choice to award honors on those you feel deserve it. Rage on, and let them run around with their firehoses out as they will.

  8. Bluestgirlblog

    The first time I loaded the image, the top text was cropped out, so it was just a shark saying “you are super great and faces are high in protein,” which was pretty awesome, too.

    Speaking up is scary. You are brave.

  9. Jonathon Side

    @Natalie
    Um. I just wanted to say sorry for the bit in my last comment where I kinda called you petty. I just couldn’t think of any other way to say it at the time. I’m sorry.

  10. Doug M.

    Don’t forget the part about “a tedious argument / of insidious intent”.

    — These guys are organized and they call on each other. Let one up in your comments, soon you have a dozen. Others (Scalzi, James Nicoll) have had the same problem. There is unfortunately no solution but the banhammer.

    Doug M.

  11. Natalie Luhrs

    @Jonathon Side: No need to apologize. It was not entirely untrue and I appreciate you saying it.

    @Meoskop: Coddling toxicity is a fantastic way of putting it. SFF has a real problem with making excuses for shitty behavior.

    @Bluestgirlblog: Thanks. You’re super-great, too. And faces ARE high in protein. Nom nom nom.

    @Doug M.: Indeed. They were definitely all coming from the same place, a place where their host was tacitly condoning their tactics. It was an interesting experiment and not one I’m likely to repeat any time soon.

  12. Victoria Janssen

    Great post. Also, I love the shark and his sentiments.

  13. neongrey

    @Natalie Luhrs: Yeah and honestly just looking at what you do with the links roundup, that seems pretty doable once a week or so when I don’t have a lot to say alone. I keep half an eye on a few different tangentially related communities so I bet I could come up with a pretty interesting mix.

    I will think about it some more, this might have potential if I can knuckle down and actually do it.

  14. Jonathon Side

    @Natalie Luhrs:
    Well ok then. 🙂 Thank you.

    Keep speaking up. I may not come here often, but you’ve always been pretty awesome. Or super great.

  15. DameB

    I will happily line up behind you!

  16. delagar

    Kind of off topic, but I just want to say how much I love your link pages!

  17. Tasha Turner

    I don’t remember how I 1st found your website. I think my husband sent me a link saying you had some great links to a topic I was interested in and he was right. I’m not online as much as I’d like to be so I don’t comment much but you are one of several women making me think about changing my mind about what to post about. I’ve generally been quiet and polite for 47 years and follow “don’t feed the trolls”. But I’m rethinking that as you and others have so many interesting things to say and sometimes after reading 5-10 post on a topic I feel like maybe I have more than just a few comments to add.

    I found it painful reading the comments on your last post and just wow on the entitlement and abuse. Keep up the good work. Moderating and banning are your friends.

  18. The Other Rick

    Ms. Luhrs,
    I haven’t spent a lot of time on this blog, so I was hoping you could help me out.
    Did you write about John Scalzi campaigning to be on the Hugo ballot when he used his blog for that purpose?
    Did you write about how TOR.com likewise encouraged its readers to vote for certain works to be included on the ballot?
    Considering the number of blogs that urge readers to vote for him for every work and begin promoting voting for his works *even before they are in print* will you likewise block Mr. Gaiman’s works in the future?
    Considering that you face no more risk than a few comments on your blog or perhaps your twitter account, do you honestly think that joining with thousands of others in condemning two writers is actually ‘scary’?
    And, finally, you state,
    ” …there was an insistence from both the trolls and other parties that I should judge the nominated works on their merits alone. These works do not exist in a vacuum and the context in which they are produced is, for me, relevant. The personal is political. I am not going to waste my time reading books written by people who hold me, my friends, and my family in contempt …
    …My refusal to allow that sort of discourse to take root here is not a sign of weakness. It is a refusal to allow myself to be diminished and to be made smaller. I’ve spent too much of my life trying to be small, measuring out my life in coffee spoons.”
    Does this mean you would support the return of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum?
    Thank you in advance.

  19. Arminda Jones

    @Natalie Luhrs: If you can’t take the heat, keep your mouth shut in public. Censoring comments only proves what a petulant, intolerant child you are.

  20. Jayhawker

    [quote]The main thing I found incredibly interesting about it was how certain commenters felt they had the right to my space. The right to demand very specific answers from me. My refusal to engage except superficially led to goalpost shifting and increasingly vitriolic abuse and deliberate misreadings as well as outright lies about me.[/quote]

    Holy hypocrisy, Batman! You just happened to write an entire blog post about 2 specific individuals cherry picking statements and blatantly slandering them with no evidence. And then you get upset when some commenters make a few statements giving you a taste of your own medicine?

    I’ve got to say I’ve tried every way I can to understand your reasoning and logic but it just does not compute. The Hugos are a popularity contest. The rules for voting and nominating make it such. When a popular author makes an honest open bid for support that’s to be expected right? But it’s only horrible and unthinkable when someone who is a big meany to you and your friends gets it done?

  21. Ann Somerville

    @The Other Rick:

    “Does this mean you would support the return of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum?”

    Yeah, not wanting to talk to bad faith actors or read shitty books is *exactly* the same as setting up an official index of banned books with the power and might to enforce their prohibition.

    You boys think mighty highly of yourselves. It’s not an opinion shared by sensible people.

  22. Ann Somerville

    @Arminda Jones:

    Yeah, no sexism or patronisation in that comment at all.

    How about you run back to that clubhouse of yourse and boast about how you done schooled that girly good? Because we all know that hit and run abuse is how *real* men do it.

  23. Tasha Turner

    @Jayhawker and @Arminda Jones:

    You know I was describing to someone the problem today and comparing good self-promoting to bad.

    1. Good looks like: hey my book/stories eligible for the Hugo this year are x.

    2. Really good looks like: hey my book/stories eligible for the Hugo this year are x. I also really enjoyed y books. Do you have suggestions for Hugos?

    3. Bad looks like: hey let’s make people mad/sad by nominating x books for the Hugo this year

    I’m not sure why so many of you are having a hard time understanding the differences between 1, 2, & 3. VD & LC have managed to piss people off although it’s with their STATED intentions and the number of people who seem to think that’s a good reason to vote not necessarily with their books actually being on the ballot… If LC had gone about this as example #2 we’d probably just be rolling our eyes at another stupid VD thing.

    I don’t mind the popularity contest nearly as much as I do with people who don’t want to win an award for itself but who think winning the award to piss other people off is a worthy goal.

    VD is just vile in his sexist, racist, homophobic hyperbole which comes out in anything I’ve ever seen written by him. I’ve only read a couple of LC’s blog post & comments where it seemed pissing people of was the highest goal to reach for and I can’t say that gives me much hope for his fiction. 1 or 2 of the others from the slate have stopped by to rant and ignore the difference between “my work is eligible” and “lets piss people off” so again not much hope for good fiction.

    It doesn’t help your cause when you come on over to @Natalies blog and rant. Try reading and seeing the difference between examples 1 & 2 from 3 and recognizing that when you ask why what Scalzi does (#2) is ok, what most authors do (1 or 2) is ok, and what VD & LC are doing (#3) is not ok. And running back over to LCs blog to say “well I told her/them” looks like you are waiting to get pats on the head (kinda like puppies actually). You haven’t accomplished anything but to reinforce our opinions that many of you are angry SWM who are trying to piss people off with your votes as you’ve not given us good rational reviews of the work up for the Hugos. We’ve had one or two “it’s the best thing I’ve ever read” but that’s not a useful review. For all we know it’s also the only thing you’ve read in the last few years.

    Sorry for such a long comment Natalie but geez you don’t deserve all this grief.

  24. jennygadget

    It’s always rather fascinating how some people think free speech works.

    Apparently the cost of speaking anywhere, at any time, where they can see is – according to them – having to put up with their bullshit and insults. Not just that they get to say it mind, but that one is somehow not playing fair if you don’t listen and respond to all of it. If you don’t HOST it on your own site even.

    Yet, at the same time, any sort of consequences for their own actions – such as not getting to speak on a privately run site – is proof that other people are being juvenile.

    I think it’s quite obvious who is being juvenile here.

  25. Paul (@princejvstin)

    @jennygadget:

    “You are being a hypocrite if you don’t let me s*it on your blog.”

    I was perfectly polite, but I’ve been banned (and then was accidentally Unbanned, and then banned again) from a site of someone whose views are in the VD/LC sphere. I dislike the fact I was banned, think it was juvenile–but do I think that the blog owner wasn’t entitled to do so? No. Her house, her rules.

  26. Jason

    Thanks for the advice. I’ll definitely take a look at Larry Correia’s books now.

  27. JudgeDeadd

    Ms. Luhrs

    Of course you have the right to censor or delete any comments you disagree with.
    The problem, however, is that other people also have the right to conclude that you are–well–the kind of a person who censors or deletes any comments they disagree with. And, logically, they’ll be right.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      Yes, because not allowing people to attack me in my own space is clearly THE WORST. I’ve hosted plenty of contentious discussions here and this was the first time I’ve had to ban people and moderate comments. So whatever.

  28. Ann Somerville

    @JudgeDeadd:

    And we could conclude that certain loud-mouthed and opinionated authors are so terrified of criticism that they use their spaces to incite their admirers to harrass and abuse anyone who makes such criticism, while hiding behind claims of suppressed free speech and oppression by the ‘politically correct’.

    And we’d be right.

    You dudes can say whatever you want about Natalie. She just doesn’t want you coming over here and shitting all over her space, making her regular commenters – of which you are not one – feel unsafe and unwelcome. You dominate and moderate your own places, so why don’t you stick to them? Seems you get more than enough attention that way without polluting places where your views and your abuse aren’t welcome.

  29. jennygadget

    “the kind of a person who censors or deletes any comments they disagree with.”

    Aside from the obvious hyperbole, it’s also rather fascinating how so many people in this “argument” keep failing to make the distinction between politics and disagreement on the one hand, and insults, deliberate disruption, and the belief that other people are less than human on the other. It’s almost as if they are being disingenuous in the hopes that we will forget that the “politics” in question includes assertions like believing that mere women such as ourselves are incapable of writing science fiction. But that can’t be possible, everyone here is arguing in good faith, right?

    Right????

    Completely unrelated: I totally support anyone’s choice not to discuss anything with anyone who thinks that, or associates with people who think that. Arguing that yes, I am human, is often a damn waste of time.

    @princejvstin

    was that quoting someone else? misquoting me? I’m confused

  30. dichroic

    @Tasha Turner: I hope you’ve said that same thing elsewhere – in places with more visibility than a comments thread, or that others have linked to your comment. I’ve been following this whole thing in a fairly distant way, and that’s the clearest summarization of it I’ve seen.

  31. Tasha Turner

    @dichroic
    Thanks for the compliment. I’m pretty sure that the comments here get more attention than anywhere I might post this on my own. My blog has been dead for a year, it’s too big for Twitter, and I don’t think most of my FB friends care much about the Hugos. Feel free to quote & credit me @turner_tasha or link to my website http://tasha-turner.com 😀

  32. lkeke35

    Hell to the Yes!

    Considering Vox Day’s treament towards N.K.Jemisen, and that I myself am a WoC, I can no more give this person the benefit of the doubt, then I can flap my arms and liftoff. I have to draw the line somewhere and he passed it long ago.

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