Signal Boosting

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.
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November 14, 2014

Lovely readers! You are all readers, yes? Yes!

I’ve been talking with friends privately about the current discussion in SFF fandom about Requires Hate/Benjanun Sriduangkaew and trying to get a handle on it. I’m not directly affected by the abuse, but I know people who were and my heart aches for the damage both to them and to our wider community. The last thing anyone wants to read is another essay, so I just have one thing I really want to say.

I know there’s been a lot of argument about whether or not a vicious review is abusive if it doesn’t contain specific threats and personal attacks. I’m going to say that when a reviewer’s body of work is notable primarily because of their tendency to hurl specific threats and personal attacks against people, the fact that they choose not to indulge this predilection in every single one of their reviews does not mean that there was an absence of a threat.  If we are so used to this type of destructive speech that we are willing to find its momentary absence an indication that a person is not abusive or threatening–perhaps we are doing it wrong.

In other words, I’m not going to parse which reviews were abusive or threatening and which ones weren’t. Seems to me that it’s not on me to decide. There are no “deserving” victims here.  Anyone who believes that needs to rethink their life choices.

So, in that spirit, I have compiled a completely incomplete list of links to works by some of the authors affected.

Read. Decide for yourself.

I didn’t do this on purpose, but I notice that  38% of the authors listed above are PoC. This is disproportionate to their overall representation in the field (which needs to change! We need diverse books!).

I also want to take this moment to signal boost SAFE, a PoC-led place for people to gather and talk about what’s been going on. I reached out to Tade Thompson, owner of the site, to clarify who was welcome to comment and he told me the following: “We’re not screening for race, we’re screening for bile.”

I would urge non-PoC to be respectful of the space and of the need for PoC to have a place where their voices are centered. Think once, twice, three times before commenting on the first post; however, there is a second post which is explicitly open to all targets of Requires Hate/Benjanun Sriduangkaew. If you were not a target, think about whether or not your participation at SAFE is appropriate (hint: it’s not).

As for comments on this post: I’m leaving them open, but I will be moderating heavily.

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13 Comments

  1. Mieneke van der Salm

    I’ve been silent on this mostly because I haven’t been affected directly by RH – though as many people do, I have friends who were – and I didn’t want to take space away from those who truly needed to speak out. But I’ve been listening attentively, for what it’s worth. And I also wanted to say, I’m currently reading Stranger and it’s great!

  2. Rachael Acks

    I am still so confused about this entire thing, man. Ever since the RH stuff blew up I feel like Troy walking in with pizza, and everything is inexplicably on fire.

  3. Dana

    For me, the extremely vicious reviews were a problem. That level of viciousness detracted from whatever critique was being made about the content of the book, to such an extent that the viciousness was all that came through. Saying authors should be killed or have acid thrown on them is not helpful at all.

    But a much, much greater problem, which you don’t really address at all here, was the way this person apparently berated their carefully chosen targets, repeatedly and over time, in some cases years, on many many platforms, singling out people to insult and threaten. And this person’s vicious attacks poisoned the atmosphere and eventually killed at least three online discussion groups. The threatening behavior toward fellow fans and writers is, to me, much worse than the book reviews, as ugly as those reviews were.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      @Dana: I agree that the other stuff is/was an issue and absolutely a larger one than what I did write about. I feel like that’s been covered pretty extensively in other places and I didn’t want to write a whole thing, especially when other people have written more eloquently than I have. I feel like it’s more appropriate for me to listen and support people as best I can.

  4. Dana

    Hi, Natalie: I love your blog and read all the time; this may be my first comment event ever here!

    I totally understand that you chose to address a specific part of the issue, and I love the idea of making sure that the books that were attacked get more exposure, and that readers who perhaps were put off by the hateful reviews get encouragement to take a second look. I think that’s a great idea.

    I have, however, seen concern on other blogs that if the impression that is left by this whole mess is that someone wrote bad and unfair reviews of books … well, that is not what the biggest problem is, by a long shot. It was the personal and ongoing harassment that really took this specific situation to a whole new level.

    I’ve followed the debate over book reviews in general, and situations where certain prominent authors are challenging book reviews, and authors getting upset about one-star reviews and calling the reviewers bullies simply for being negative — IMHO this current debate should not have the effect of, or be Exhibit A for, stifling a climate of robust and honest reviews.

    But again: I respect that you have chosen a specific focus. Thanks for the response.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      @Dana: I agree! Reviewing a work and saying that it is racist or sexist or homophobic is NOT on the same level as the body of work under the name of Requires Hate. Not even close. As someone who has reviewed a lot of books, I support the need for robust and honest reviews–reviews are for readers and not authors. This is a subject near and dear to my heart and it frosts my cookies to see people appropriating that ongoing conversation and applying it to this situation which is about someone who, over the course of many years, has been pretty awful to a lot of people and who disproportionately targeted PoC writers and writers at the beginning of their careers.

      This is a giant fucking mess, to be blunt. 🙂

  5. Julia

    Honestly what I have to say is Will Shetterly, Will Shetterly, Will Shetterly.

    Could I have a post with pi charts about the number of black women Will Shetterly has been harassing? How about a graph showing number of posts since 2009 dedicated to myself or Tempest?

    There is a big white male elephant in the room named Will Shetterly.

    I’m saying this with full awareness that mentioning his name is likely to summon Will Shetterly and he’ll probably go off on yet another series of rants about how he has been mobbed by evil SJWs such as myself.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      @Julia: This is a Shetterly-free zone. Sadly, this is the only place online I have that kind of control over.

      As for the other: yeah, I know. He also uses his name and no one I know passes off his shit as anything except what it is. Which is damn cold and wholly inadequate comfort, I know. I know.

  6. Veronica Schanoes

    OK, Will Shetterly is a ridiculous asshole. But so what? If we treat RH like WS, then basically we write off everything she says as nonsense and ignore her writing. It’s not like Shetterly is lauded in any of the circles I know.

  7. Ann Somerville

    @Veronica Schanoes:

    “If we treat RH like WS”

    If I understand it correctly, Julia wants WS to be treated like RH. I agree – even if I’m only one of his *white* victims, and in certain quarters, that’s not worth talking about.

    Shetterly goes after *women* – exclusively. And outs them, and doxxes them, and is still welcome to comment on blogs by people (men, exclusively) with self-declared liberal values.

    I don’t – really, really – don’t buy this bullshit about “Never mind RH, look over there at WS!” because a number of white women have called WS out over the years, to their cost.

    Nevertheless, he’s still a thing. And until he’s no longer welcome in any space which purports to support women’s right to write and have equivalent opportunities to men, or where the owner of that space has condemned RH for her viciousness, then we need to keep reminded people that Will Shetterly is an abuser and a danger. Yes, he’s a joke. But he’s a bloody menace too. I am sick of worrying where he will next spew crap about me, and what he’s written in one of his tedious little books. I’m sick of tripping over his comments on blogs by men I otherwise like, because those men don’t think he’s important enough to ban.

    Ban him, block him, do not engage. Same with RH. Abuse is abuse, and the colour and gender of the abuser is not a reason to handwave their behaviour away.

  8. RHW

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to establish that harassment and personal attacks by _anyone_ against _anyone_ is bad, regardless of the races involved. Requires Hate relied on this security flaw in social justice philosophy to excuse her behavior as “punching up.” No. Nobody should get punched, period.

  9. Veronica Schanoes

    I disagree. Sometimes it’s important to punch people. I’m not a pacifist in real life and I’m not about to become one when it comes to non-physical acts.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. RequiresHate/Winterfox/Benjanun Sriduangkaew Linkspam » Rants and Ramblings By An Old Bag - […] Signal Boosting by Natalie Luhrs […]
  2. Links from around the web: 11-17-2014 | By Singing Light - […] affected by the situation seem to be forced out of the discussions. So I’ll just link to this post…

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