Pattern Matching: Lou Antonelli and the Sad Puppies

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.
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August 10, 2015

Pattern (broken)

One of the things I do is match patterns. I’ve noticed a troubling pattern when it comes to the Sad Puppies and I think it’s worth exploring in more detail.

I apologize for the messiness of the timeline, I’ve tried to be as concise as possible.

Lou Antonelli revealed during a podcast that he has sent a letter to the Spokane police regarding what he believed to be the dangerous and unhinged nature of David Gerrold’s discourse around the Hugo Awards. Jim C. Hines posted to Facebook about it about a week after the podcast went live (I think that’s where this got started, I may be wrong).

What Antonelli did was SWATting and is a known GamerGate tactic.

This isn’t the first time Antonelli has tried to intimidate someone over the Hugos. He threatened Aaron Pound via email because Pound called him an asshole on Twitter (note: Pound is a friend of mine and I saw the email in question shortly after it was received). Antonelli took the time to look up Pound’s work email address–which is not connected to any social media–and threaten him. He also called Pound’s workplace to confirm his employment. 

Fast forward to this past weekend. People start calling Antonelli out for the fact that he’d contacted the police, as well they should. That’s unacceptable behavior.  This moved him to apologize to David Gerrold.

Good for him! He apologized as a comment on Hines’s post. Got lots of praise for it! No apology on his public Facebook and I don’t believe he made a public apology directly to David Gerrold.  Nonetheless, Gerrold accepted this apology. But Gerrold also took some of the blame for Antonelli’s actions on himself and called for civility.

See, there’s that word. Civility.  Some people will never be civil enough for their (our) voices to count. Gerrold does not get to decree how we discuss or don’t discuss this incident.

In between Hines’s post, the ensuing discussion, and Antonelli’s apology to Gerrold, another thing happened.  Carrie Cuinn, editor of Lakeside Circus, decided to kill a piece she’d accepted from Antonelli. She even offered to pay a kill fee.

Antonelli decided to post this to his Facebook as a cautionary tale (linked instead of embedded because it’s a large image, right click and open in new tab to defeat the pop-up thingy). Note the complete lack of moderation in the thread. Note the editing of Cuinn’s letter. Note the further information in Cuinn’s post linked above–she received rape and death threats as a result of Antonelli’s action.

His initial response–made yesterday before Cuinn posted in more detail today–was a mealy-mouthed plea to his followers and friends to knock it off:

It wasn’t until after it became clear that Antonelli’s actions were unacceptable to the larger community, that he actually apologized to Carrie Cuinn.  It’s still unconvincing at best and is mostly self-serving.

Have you noticed the common thread in these retractions and apologies? They’re all about Lou Antonelli and they’ve all been made after he’s gotten a fair bit of heat for his behavior. Lou Antonelli is an adult human being who has, thus far, made it to his fifties successfully: has he not learned to think before he speaks?

If Hines hadn’t noticed the SWATting in the podcast and posted about it, would Antonelli have retracted and apologized? (I’d like to see evidence that he did retract his letter to Spokane PD.) Or would he still be pleased with the approval of his fellow Sad Puppies?  You’ll note that the main thing that Antonelli seems to be sorry about is that people found out what he’d done (nevermind that he boasted about it on a public podcast). If it hasn’t been, I bet you anything he’d still be proud of himself.

I think it bears emphasizing that by making a false report to police about David Gerrold, Lou Antonelli placed every single attending member of Worldcon in danger. This is reprehensible. The fact that David Gerrold forgave Antonelli for this is between the two of them; Gerrold does not get to accept Antonelli’s apology on behalf of the rest of the convention membership and to its staff and volunteers.

Making a knowingly false report to police is a crime in many jurisdictions.

The “knock it off” post is more of the same–after selectively editing Cuinn’s email before posting it and after allowing his friends and followers to impugn Cuinn’s business acumen and editorial integrity, he starts with more weasel words: “If anyone I know out there is contacting Carrie Cuinn…”  That’s not an acknowledgement that he’s behaved poorly. This is distancing himself from the actions of the people he has chosen to associate himself with as well as implying that he’ll be unable to publish anything in the future, either.  He’s the victim here–except this is all his doing.

Finally, let’s look at Antonelli’s actual apology.  Again, he didn’t know what he was doing–he thought people would applaud Cuinn’s actions, not go after her. He’s innocent in all of this, he doesn’t know people, he doesn’t have the connections that other people do–except he’s managed to get himself nominated for a Hugo, so maybe he does know some people?

This is a pattern of behavior for him.  He behaved abominably when questioned during his run for SFWA office in 2012–and after behaving abominably, apologized and had the apology accepted (at least for a while). After losing the election, he went on to form an alternative speculative writer’s group, SASS, which is a non-profit and accepts money for memberships but seems to be little more than a vanity project for Antonelli.

His modus operandi seems to be to incite an incident or seek one out, become abusive in some manner, and then only apologize if the target is high profile enough or if enough high profile people notice that he’s being abusive. His apology will contain a lot of language that deflects responsibility for his actions off him and onto other people or communities. Lather, rinse, repeat.  If he goes after you and you don’t make noise about it or if someone doesn’t make noise on your behalf, or if you’re not particularly high profile, you’re not going to get even an attempt at an apology.

I observe that Antonelli isn’t the only Sad Puppy who plays at this game. Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Brad Torgersen do, too. They argue in bad faith and cast themselves as the victims when called out on their terrible behavior. And in this most recent incident, Antonelli has escalated and upped the ante.

Honestly, I don’t know where to go from here. You’re supposed to end these sorts of essays with a call for action. I think I’ll end this with an email I received from someone who spent some time in a couple of rooms adjacent to Antonelli at Armadillocon recently.

A man I’d never seen before walks up to Antonelli and congratulates him on his nomination. This guy wasn’t very tall, maybe 5’9″ tops, but he had one of those big booming Texas male voices that fills a room. It was impossible not to hear him, and honestly, he didn’t care who in the room did hear. He wasn’t hiding anything.

And he starts talking to Antonelli about how well this year’s puppy campaign turned out, and how plans were well underway for next year. Strange puppy did most of the talking, but Antonelli wasn’t arguing with him or trying to send him away. There was an obligatory slam against the SJW scum getting their comeuppance, and someone arrived to have Antonelli sign something. Strange puppy wandered away.

[…]

Fast forward to the Hugo panel on Saturday night and a packed room. Panelists were Antonelli, mod Michelle Munzler, editor Jacob Weisman, Justin Landon, and Marguerite Reed. The mod deserves a medal for keeping things as civil as they were.

So Antonelli is outnumbered and he knows it. He plays the humble card, the “I didn’t know what the puppies were up to” card, the yeah, maybe I got the nomination the wrong way but I wasn’t going to turn it down card. Because of the conversation I’d heard–steam was coming out of my ears. I knew he was lying through his teeth.

Marguerite Reed doesn’t pull any punches. She let him do the humble bit for a few minutes and asked him flat out, if he’d said the following: “In a time when typical literary s-f is dystopian slipstream pornography, it’s nice to be reminded that there is still core s-f out there.”

And Antonelli’s face…changed. The kindly, slightly embarrassed grandfather vanished, replaced by this calculating, sly…evil looking man. He looked Marguerite Reed in the eye and said “A man’s entitled to his opinion.”

For me that was really chilling and an eye opener. In that split second it was very clear he hated her, hated me, you–all of us. He didn’t have to know us, or to have read a single thing any of us had written. To Lou Antonelli we are all part of some vast conspiracy that keeps men like him, men who write real SF, from getting the acclaim he feels they so justly deserve. He hated us solely because we existed, and we dare to think ourselves his equal.

If I had any doubts that what I’d felt then was a misinterpretation, this blog post he wrote three days ago put them to rest.

You can’t reason with that kind of unthinking, blind hatred. You can’t change their minds, or try to be friends with any of the puppies, because for them–not you, them–it’s an all or nothing proposition. It’s not a difference of opinion, or taste in choosing what to read or nominate for an award, it’s ideology. The only thing that would EVER be good enough for them would be for you become a true believer.

Then they’d find a way to beat you up over it, because […] was right. They are abusers and they glory in it.

That, I think, sums it up. The Sad Puppies–and their Rabid counterparts–are abusers. They don’t think anyone but themselves belongs in SFF and some of them are willing to go to absolute extremes to ensure this.

I think there’s only one way to counter this–and that’s by continuing to work to make SFF a larger and more inclusive community, a community where abuse is not tolerated either implicitly or explicitly, one where we work to raise everyone’s voice and call out problems as we see them. And, most importantly: one in which we read and write awesome stories that celebrate and explore all the weird and wonderful ways it is to be human.

Edited to add this screencap of Antonelli’s Facebook, where all sorts of people are enabling him and telling him he doesn’t need to apologize for anything (as before, right click and open in new window/tab to defeat the pop up thingy).

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15 Comments

  1. Aaron

    My post will be up tomorrow. It will now include a reference to this post.

    I was looking at LA’s “dystopian pornography” post and noticed that he has an unusual legal theory. I’m pretty sure he’s talking out of his rear quarters when he talks about “exaction”, which, as far as I can tell, doesn’t mean anything like what he claims it does. Then again, most non-lawyers step into perilous water when they try to opine on obscure legal theories.

  2. Marguerite Reed

    Thank you. What struck me was his *insistence* on his innocence. At one point he literally had his hands up in protestation. There was no ownership. And then later on his blog he had the sheer effrontery to insult the city of Austin. “Now, Austin is not like most of Texas. Between the bureaucrats of the state government and the denizens of academia created by the University of Texas, it’s much more like your typical bullshit East or West Coast political correctness enclave.” It takes no testicular fortitude to type nasty things while you’re protected by the relative anonymity of the internet. It’s quite another set of junk to try to pull the wool over the eyes of your audience and fellow panelists, and then insult the place once you’re home.

  3. NowhereMan

    “I observe that Antonelli isn’t the only Sad Puppy who plays at this game. Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Brad Torgersen do, too. They argue in bad faith and cast themselves as the victims when called out on their terrible behavior. And in this most recent incident, Antonelli has escalated and upped the ante.”

    To this I would also add Benjanun Sriduangkaew, who disingenuously pretended to apologize for all the horrible things she’d done–the advocation of rape, mutilation, and murder for her competitors, terrorizing people out of the genre, triggering a suicide attempt in another author–and then kept right on harassing people. And who, unfortunately, seems to have a sizable portion of the community in her pocket such that they don’t particularly care about all the people she’s hurt.

    When the atheist community began discussing how to deal with some prominent harassers a few years back, a phrase that some of the more social justice-oriented folks in that community began to use was “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” I.e., even if members of a community don’t harass someone themselves, if they tolerate those who do, they’re part of the problem. We (the community) need to stop walking past the standards that Beale, Sriduangkaew, Antonelli, etc. set. Regardless of their fiction or, in Sriduangkaew’s case, her nominal support of social justice advocacy. If this community can’t stand up to these people and make it clear that their actions are not okay, then this community is condoning their depravity. And of what use is such a community?

  4. Dolorosa

    Thank you for writing this. Noting patterns, keeping records, and highlighting such patterns of abusive, bullying, or troubling behaviour is the only way to build a safer and more inclusive community. I really appreciate you doing this work.

  5. Carta Straccia

    @Marguerite Reed:
    Coming from Austin that’s the sort of comment we take as a compliment.

    Glad he hates us, hope he stays away.

  6. Chris Hensley

    @NowhereMan: @NowhereMan: You make a very interesting point there. I would point out that this is also one of the differences between the Puppies and the left factions they claim to be fighting. Sriduangkaew still has her supporters, but the majority of the social advocates within the community have turned against her because of her actions. That includes those who are perceived as leaders. One of the Hugo Nominees for best Fan Writer is on their list for their take down of Sriduangkaew. Compare that to the Puppies. They continue to condone, defend and excuse the worst actors who support their cause. People whose actions are far more extreme then Antonelli’s. Day, Wright and Kratman all have a history of intimidation, violent rhetoric and spouting garbage which hits all the -isms. Yet the explicit leadership of the Puppies continue to defend their actions. The Sad Puppies even went and nominated Wright’s “Transhuman and Subhuman” which is openly misogynistic, homophobic and attacks religious minorities.

  7. Bill Stewart

    Wow, Antonelli’s “Are Hugos relevant?” blog post was really *special*. It’s a not-quite-actionably-specific threat to sue “some Tor editors” if the Puppies lose to badly, on the ostensible grounds that by bringing all of fandom to war against them, we’re threatening the future livelihoods of a bunch of really bad authors. Not everybody nominated by the Puppies is terrible – they nominated some work by people they didn’t ask first, and some movies Teresa liked, and I’d actually enjoyed Correia’s work last year, as light-weight comic-book escape fiction rather than literature. But if the stuff Antonelli and Beale and Kratman and Wright nominated themselves for is the best they can do, that’s plenty of reason not to bother reading their stuff again, even if Kratman hadn’t said his objective was to destroy the Hugos.

  8. yamamanama

    Well, that’s just like the Sad Puppies.

  9. Lisa Tuttle

    @Aaron: The idea of suing someone because you did not win an award — well, if you are looking to not only destroy the award but the entire theory and purpose behind said award system, that ought to do it. Although I think any such case would be thrown out of court, as most intelligent people do understand that not everyone who feels they “deserve” to win a popularity contest a) does and b) could. And if one person has had his career destroyed by not-winning, does it not follow that all the other hundreds of people who did not win or even get nominated could make the same claim? A moment of rational thought ought to put his claim to rest, but he is not speaking as a reasonable person.

  10. airboy

    Antonelli is a jerk. Filing a false police report is being a jerk and possibly a criminal. The editor who decided to drop his work was justified in her decision. I’m sure Antonelli has a few jerk supporters on the internet.

    But you are practicing guilt by association. One member of the other tribe is an outstanding jerk = all members of the other tribes are jerks.

    I’m a first time Hugo voter this year. Why? I have not read a Hugo novel in ages that I liked. I could not see Starship Troopers winning today. After Sad Puppies reached the general media, I discovered that you could pay $40 and vote on a Hugo. It was a fan award voted upon by a tiny, tiny sliver of fandom. Compare the tiny size of Worldcon compared to ComicCon or DragonCon.

    I read the nominees and voted what I liked. I plan to continue to do so. I also dislike most Hugo novel winners of the recent past. But I also read Goblin Emperor and Totaled – which were both excellent which I would not have read without being a Hugo voter.

    If you wish to believe that specific individuals are jerks and indicate what you dislike about their behavior – be my guest. If you wish to practice broad-brush guilt by association – then you are a major contributor to the problem. Not as bad as SWATing someone – but a contributor to the nastiness nonetheless.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      Airboy, I’m going to suggest that you pay closer attention. I mentioned two other Sad Puppies in my post. Both of whom who have been outstanding jerks–I provided documentation to both their public misbehavior, some of which was directed at me. This is a pattern of behavior that multiple Puppies engage in and there are enough of them doing it that I feel comfortable with saying that most Puppies behave abusively when it comes to their online interactions with people they disagree with.

      Have a wonderful day!

  11. Aaron

    @Lisa Tuttle: I think that the “exaction” theory is so off-base that any attorney who brought it would be potentially subject to Rule 11 sanctions (or whatever equivalent was implemented in their State legal code).

    Exaction is when a government official requires somebody illegally pay them for performing the duties of their office. It has nothing to do with private contracts, or private individuals doing things to one another. I can’t think of a legal theory that would cover “organizing to prevent someone from winning an award”. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there couldn’t be one, but this lawyer can’t think of anything that would be even close.

    Rule 11 is a rule implemented in Federal courts that imposes financial penalties on lawyers who bring completely frivolous claims. Most States have a version of this provision in their legal code. It is rarely enforced, because most lawyers don’t bring completely frivolous claims, but trying to sue someone for “exaction” for “No Awarding” a story in the Hugos would definitely fall into the category.

  12. Rick

    @aaron I’m a former torts professor (from decades ago, so I’m out of date) and I agree that the exaction theory is silly. A lawsuit in this arena probably runs into First Amendment and SLAPP issues, too, since it’s basically an assertion of “I’ll sue you if you publish a bad review.” It’s not really a SLAPP, since those typically involve comments on government actions, but it would raise enough of the same issues to be, shall we say, highly disfavored.

  13. Nancy Rubinstein

    I’ve come to this discussion accidentally (follow Jim W. and by extension, David G.). I don’t know much about the players. However, Mr. A’s comment, “Another whack from the fraternity paddle to keep me straight” jumped out and frightened me. This fellow sounds pretty abusive.

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