Sweet Justice. (And puppets.)

http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=6047

According to Rule 34, someone is getting off on this.

According to Rule 34, someone is getting off on this.

Today’s opening act is a left-over I forgot to include in that last post: a bit of flesh sculpture I was not allowed to show off in “Pones & Bones” because it would have risked  spoiling a yet-to-be-aired episode of “Hannibal”. That episode recently aired, though, so the embargo is lifted. Behold: the hoofed, flayed, and headless wonder that I have christened Hoofnibal, both under construction at Mindwarp workshop (right) and during its formal debut during the episode “Primavera” (below) .

I would like to emphasize that there is no CGI in the sequence: Will’s hallucination is a puppet, moving in real time on the set. Let’s hear it for Practical FX.

*

More to the point, though: Let’s also hear it for The BUG!

A wee bit of background. Early in our courtship, Caitlin Sweet referred to me as “A DOOFUS” (the caps are hers). Stung, I could only reply “That’s Dr. Doofus to you, Unicorn Girl“— which was a not-too-subtle reminder that I write hard-as-nails SF while she writes fluffy rainbow fantasy.

The thing is, though, Caitlin does not write fluffy rainbow fantasy. The only rainbows you’re likely to see in her novels are those that swirl across the oily film on an open sewer. The Pattern Scars begins with its protagonist, a young girl called Nola, going into a trance at the sight of a bloodstain; the next day her mother sells her to the local brothel as a seer. It gets worse from there. (Oh, it seems to get better for a little while. It seems to get suspiciously, unbelievably better, even. But no. Way worse.) I like to think of myself as Captain Stoneface when it comes to my emotional vulnerability to most fiction; I literally teared up at the end of The Pattern Scars.

Caitlin turns tropes inside out. The Pattern Scars, at its heart, is an inversion of the Cassandra myth: instead of a seer whose truthful prophecies are never believed, Caitlin gives us one doomed to prophesy lies which are always accepted as gospel. The Door in the Mountain— part one of a two-parter which concludes with the imminent The Flame in the Maze— retells the Theseus myth through the eyes of an Ariadne who (in a bizarro twist on the sweet hapless innocence of her archetype) is a manipulative sadist driven by rage and jealousy. The supporting cast might best be described as the twisted love-children of Davids Lynch and Cronenberg (Icarus and Daedalus are two personal favorites). Caitlin is way closer to Martin than to Tolkien; the last thing you can call her is “Unicorn Girl”.

Is this not exactly the face that comes to mind when you imagine a female George RR Martin?

Is this not exactly the face that comes to mind when you imagine a female George RR Martin? (Photo: Martin Springett)

Which is, of course, exactly why she enthusiastically embraced the term the moment she saw it (although the official acronym is BUG— Beloved Unicorn Girl— because “UG” lacks the appropriate resonance. Also: Bed BUG).

My point is: Caitlin’s stuff is gritty, gorgeous, and unsentimental. If it contains anything even approaching cliché, you can be assured that that element exists only to be subverted or blown from the water at a later date. She does not do happy endings; the most you’ll get is an ambiguous one.

Did I mention that Erik Mohr"s cover art is also up for an Aurora?

Did I mention that Erik Mohr’s cover art is also up for an Aurora?

All of which means she’s not the kind of fantasy author the YA market is likely to swoon over. I think we’ve both lost count of the agents and publishers who’ve turned her down with some variant of You’re a brilliant, brilliant writer but your protagonist is so unlikeable: can’t you make her more like Hermione from Harry Potter?

No. No she can’t, you fucking idiots. She does not write to market. She has never once said I’m going to add a perky sidekick so the popcorn set doesn’t get away. All that matters to the BUG, when she’s writing, is whether the story works the way it’s supposed to. Whether it meets her standards.

And so her stuff gets ignored. Teenyboppers who stumble across it in search of the latest medieval fantasy with a plucky female protagonist scratch their heads and leave, their stomachs vaguely unsettled. When critics find it, they rave; but that doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should.

So I am very glad to point out that Caitlin Sweet’s The Door in the Mountain is a finalist for the Sunburst Award, YA category. That category, I think, is misplaced; but the recognition is not. It is, to put not too fine a point on it, About Fucking Time. And I can say this without fear of vote-skewing, because the award is juried.

Yeah, of course I’m biased. Of course she’s my wife. But she wasn’t always.

Why do you think I fell in love with her in the first place?

 

Space Invaders.

http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=6009

So, a few assorted and domestic pictures with which to see out the week.  To your right, as promised a few weeks back, some Rifters-based fan art from “Toa-lagara” over at Deviant Art (and also, now, in the Rifters Gallery, with her permission). Russians do dark art so beautifully.Immediately below, a special edition enhanced appearance of Philippe Jozelon’s evocative Echopraxie cover for Fleuve (my French publishers).  Interesting side note: the French edition is dedicated to “MICROBE. Qui m’a sauvé la vie”.  I know at least some of you will get the joke.

I remember writing this very scene.

I remember writing this very scene. (Click to embiggen.)

echopraxie

Now with 100% fewer distracting alphanumerics! (Click to embiggen.)

And finally…

This is pretty much a typical summer evening on the porch of the Magic Bungalow.

This is "Silverpaw", aka "TP" because he first came to us with what appeared to be toilet paper stuck on his butt.

This is “Silverpaw”, aka “TP” because he first came to us with what appeared to be toilet paper stuck on his butt. (You can still see a bit of it stuck to his left flank.)

The sock-clad foot is mine.

Silverpaw is without a doubt the most fearless of the bunch. You do not fuck with Silverpaw

Silverpaw is without a doubt the most fearless of the bunch. You do not fuck with Silverpaw.

At approximately 21:58 on the evening of June 18, 2015, while we were watching back episodes of "Bob"s Burgers", Silverpaw figured out how to open the front door.

At approximately 21:58 on the evening of June 18, 2015, while we were watching back episodes of “Bob’s Burgers”, Silverpaw figured out how to open the front door.

He made it as far as the Ponearium before we managed to lure him out the back. We locked the doors.

At approximately 22:02, Silverpaw was back inside. (Photo credit: Micropone Rossiter)

This may be our last transmission.

This may be our last transmission.

 

Gallo’s Humor.

http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=5984

Ah Jeez, here we go again.

The gun, it smokes.

The gun, it smokes.

The weird thing is, I completely see where Irene Gallo was coming from. I sympathize. I know what it’s like to see the assholes piling up outside the gate, to roll your eyes and shake your head at the inanities and the outright lies— even though it’s obvious that rolling your eyes and shaking your head accomplishes nothing, that reasoned argument accomplishes nothing because those guys didn’t arrive at their positions though reason. Hell, I myself— on this very ‘Crawl— have gleefully fantasized about Stephen Harper getting gunned down in the street, about Liz Cheney’s entrails being strung along a barbed-wire fence.

I get it. Sometimes you just blow up. It’s human. It’s natural.

Still. If we always did whatever came naturally, the only reason I wouldn’t have bashed in a few hundred skulls by now would be because someone else would have bashed in mine before I even hit puberty. Humanity comes with all sorts of primal impulses as standard equipment; I imagine many of Gallo’s defenders would not be especially happy if we let all those drives off the leash just because they were “natural”. One of the first things we point to when lauding Human exceptionalism is our ability to restrain our impulses. And if we fail sometimes— as we’re inevitably bound to— at the very least we can try to walk it back afterward.

So I can see myself in Irene Gallo’s shoes. And if I actually found myself there, I like to think I’d say certain things when those whom I’d intemperately described as Nazis or racists raised their hands to claim that they’d fought against Apartheid during their youth in South Africa, or that they were rabbis, or that they’d exchanged actual gunfire with the brownshirts:

“Holy shit,” (I like to think I’d say,) “You’re right. It’s just— I really hate these guys, you know? And the bile’s been building up for a while now, and when I got that question everything just kind exploded over the keyboard. I think my anger’s justified, but it called for a sniper rifle and I used a sawed-off shotgun. I really stepped over the line. This is me, stepping back, with apologies to those I impugned.”

What I would not have done, when challenged, is post a series of inane cat photos with the caption KITTEH! emblazoned across the top (although granted, Gallo did dial it back to “kitteh?” after a few iterations, when her strategy did not appear to be having the desired effect).

Things kind of went downhill from there. The internet— or at least, this little genre bubble thereof— blew up again, loud enough for the Daily Dot to notice way out in the real world. Tom Doherty stuck a boilerplate disclaimer over at Tor.com and was immediately vilified for being A) a misogynist asshole because he publicly reprimanded Irene Gallo when he should have given her a medal for speaking Truth to Power, and also for being B) a left-wing libtard pussy who gave Irene Gallo a slap on the wrist when she should have been fired outright. Gallo herself issued one of those boilerplate fauxpologies whose lineage hearkens all the way back to the ancestral phrase “mistakes were made”. None of it seemed to help much.

Blowing up is not the only thing that comes naturally to humans. Tribalism is in there too.

Before we go any further, let me just cover my ass with a disclaimer of my own: I am no great supporter of puppies, regardless of temperament. (Any regular on this blog already knows the kinds of furry quadruped who own my heart.) I understand that of the two breeds under consideration, the Rabids are far more extreme and downright toxic; Theodore Beale, judging by some of his pithier quotes, seems to be Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s bizarro twin, separated at birth. The Sads, in contrast, have enough legitimacy to warrant at least respectful disagreement and engagement from the likes of George Martin and Eric Flint; they have also distanced themselves from their more diseased cousins (although the point that the final Hugo ballot is more representative of the Rabid slate than the Sad one is well-taken). Even so, I don’t find even the Sad Puppies’ arguments especially meritorious.

So let there be no mistake here: I come not to praise Puppies.

I come to bury the rest of you.

*

As a former marine mammalogist, I feel especially qualified to pass judgment on this meme.  Is it just me, or does it seem a bit wonky that the victims of the piece seem to be the Victorian couple who just want to express their bigotry in peace, and the villain is the disenfranchised Otarriid who politely challenges their prejudice?

As a former marine mammalogist, I feel especially qualified to pass judgment on this meme. Am I the only one who finds it questionable that the heroes of the piece seem to be the Victorian couple who just want to express their bigotry in peace, while the villain is the disenfranchised Otarriid who politely challenges their prejudice with a request for evidence?

Eric Flint put forth the most reasonable take I’ve yet seen on why Gallo misstepped. Over on Tor.com and io9, a lot of people don’t buy it. They’ve made a number of arguments and hurled a number of insults, perhaps the dumbest of which was accusing someone of “sea-lioning” after they’d asked a single, on-point question. (The alleged sea-lion also claimed to be a part-time rabbi, so— assuming, as always, that we can take such claims at face value— you can understand how the whole Nazi-sympathizer thing might not go over especially well.) A lot of other claims were made repeatedly, though. Some, in fact, were repeated often enough to warrant their own subtitles:

 

You Can’t Handle the Truth

Doherty threw Gallo under the bus [get used to that phrase— it shows up 21 times under Doherty’s post alone, which is a bit ironic given the number  complaining there about the suspicious similarity of the puppy-sympathisers’ talking points]. He handed a victory to the Puppies when he should have backed her up for having the courage to tell the truth— and everyone knows it’s the truth because noun, verb, Vox Day.

Let’s ignore for the moment the hordes of sad-puppy sympathizers who’ve come out of the woodwork claiming to be anti-apartheid activists, Jews, people of color, married to people of color, queer, veterans— and who do not like being stuck on the same planet as Vox Day, much less the same political clade. I suppose you could call bullshit on most of them— this wouldn’t even be a proper internet argument if accusations of misrepresentation and sock-puppetry weren’t part of the background noise. So let’s set those personal testimonials aside for the moment, and consider a different fact:

Back when the Puppies first seized control of the bridge, Entertainment Weekly (and, I’m pretty sure, The Guardian, although I can’t find the pre-edited version online— maybe I’m thinking Salon) published remarks about the Puppies that were actually milder than Gallo’s. Within hours, it had deleted those remarks and published a meek, surprisingly unconditional retraction which described their own coverage as “unfair and inaccurate”. It was, in tone and content, quite similar to Tom Doherty’s more recent remarks on Tor.com.

I don’t know any Puppies. I don’t know if the people speaking out on their behalf are grass-roots or astroturf (although they can’t all be sock puppets— the gender, ethnicity, and partnerships of some of these folks are a matter of public record, and they’re not all straight white dudes). But I can only assume that these retractions occurred as a response to considered legal opinion. And the fact that different corporations caved so completely, printing such similar apologies, suggests to me that Irene Gallo’s “truth” was, at the very least, legally actionable. This is not a characteristic that usually accrues to Truth, outside Spanish Inquisitions.

 

The “Personal Space” Perspective.

Well, even if Gallo misspoke, she was just expressing a personal opinion on her personal facebook page. Tor had no right to censor what their employees say and do on their own personal time.

There’s gotta be a word for that— you know, for selecting the negative attributes of a few people you hate on a personal level, and projecting those traits onto an entire demographic. I only wish I could remember what it was…

There’s gotta be a word for that— you know, for selecting the negative attributes of a few people you hate on a personal level, and projecting those traits onto an entire demographic. I only wish I could remember what it was…

Go check out Irene Gallo’s personal facebook page. Most of the posts there consist of pimpage for Tor artists, cover reveals for upcoming Tor releases, various bits of Tor-related news, and genre award links. Hell, the very post that got her wrist slapped was a promo for Kameron Hurley’s The Geek Feminist Revolution, soon to be available from (you guessed it) Tor: and the heading she chose to capture eyeballs was “Making the Sad Puppies Sadder— proud to have a tiny part of this”.

The time stamp on that post reads Monday, 11 May 2015, 14:14

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using your personal facebook page as a delivery platform for employer pimpage. I think people should feel free to blur the line between their personal and professional lives until the two are nigh-on indistinguishable, if they like. But having erased those boundaries, you don’t get to reassert them at your convenience. And if anyone tries to claim, after the fact, that on this one occasion you weren’t really presenting yourself as a corporate spokesperson— especially when said occasion involves an advertisement for a company product, posted during work hours, presumably while sitting at your work desk— the demographic who takes this claim at face value will be either very small, or very stupid.

Evidently it was that second thing.

 

The Sexism Scenario

Isn’t it curious how Tor never feels the need to do anything when their male authors say more extreme things than Gallo ever did [Scalzi and Wright and Card get cited a lot in this regard, although I saw at least one lost soul wanting to know why Tor wasn’t calling out Vox Day]. Isn’t it telling how that Frenkel guy got away with harassing women for years before Tor cut him loose— but a woman makes one intemperate comment and they throw her under the bus? Misogyny much?

First, can we at least agree that Jim Frenkel’s tenure at Tor would have been over pretty much the moment he went onto facebook to proudly post selfies of his ongoing harassment of women? He lasted as long as he did because he committed his offenses in the shadows, where they could be more safely ignored by Corporate.

Tor is a colony organism; its fitness is defined in terms of profit margin. Like all corporate entities, it’s at least partially sociopathic. Its immune system responds most emphatically to threats that endanger its bottom line— which, almost by definition, means public threats. I think that anyone who regards Doherty’s response as an act of sexism is looking at the world through polarized lenses; to me, this reads above all else like an act of damage control. If Gallo had been male, I believe Tor’s reaction would have been the same.

As for those who somehow seem to think that authors are employees— that Tor’s legal liability extends not just to what Irene Gallo posts from her office computer during work hours, but to everything posted by anyone Tor has ever published— all I can say is, you’ve been seriously misinformed about the nature of the sacred bond between author and publisher. (Or maybe I have— maybe I should be complaining about Tor’s failure to provide me with health insurance and a regular paycheck.)

At the very least, you should have boycotted those guys the moment they started publishing Orson Scott Card.

*

Of course, Tom Doherty is not the only one to have come in for a world o’Twitter Rage. Much ire, as always, is directed at the Puppies themselves— much of it justified, in my opinion. But I’m not writing this to jump on that particular bandwagon, nor do I need to; you can’t swing a cat these days without hitting someone’s list of puppycrimes.

The hypocrisy of certain Gallonites, however, doesn’t seem to be getting nearly as much attention (at least, not here in the Civilized World; the Puppies may be all over it, but I tend to avoid those territories).  I’ve seen Sad Puppies go out of their way to distance themselves from the rabid end of the spectrum:

“Vox Day is an A-hole. As a Sad Puppy, I had to look him up on Google.”

— only to get shot down:

The fact that you joined a movement without adequately understanding what its leaders stood for, compounded by the fact that you continue to identify with that movement AFTER you’ve seen ample evidence of what they stand for, inclines me to give you zero credibility on this issue.”

and

“you are supporting [Beale’s] agenda.  That makes those who support culpable.  If they didn’t want to be associated with that reprehensible excuse for a human being, they should not have stood to be counted with him.”

Turn this argument around and see how you like it.

Imagine being told that you had no business advocating for social justice issues because you didn’t know about— oh, say, Requires Hate— prior to signing up. Imagine being told with a straight face— nay, with a righteously angry face— that you have “zero credibility” because you continue to advocate for social justice issues, even after learning of that vile creature’s existence.

Yeah, I know RH didn’t start the movement. She merely exploited it. But the analogy holds where it needs to: RH was, in her day, a significant player in the SJ scene, with allies who extended (and, as far as I can tell, continue to extend) into the halls of Tor itself. She was relatively central for such a decentralized movement— But she did not speak for everyone. If anyone told you that you couldn’t advocate for social justice without also supporting RH, how would you respond?

(As a side note, it’s nice to see RH’s influence so greatly diminished in recent months. She still spews the same BS— although her favored target seems to have shifted to “racist white women” in the wake of Laura Mixon’s report— but to far less effect. Think Saruman, reduced to whining in the Shire after being kicked out of Isengard. RH might even provide a valuable social service these days, functioning as a sort of rhetorical flypaper for idiots. As long as they stick to her, the rest of us can get on with our lives.)

Anyway.

Another common talking point is the obvious timing of this whole blow-out, of the fact that Beale sat on his screen-grab for weeks before releasing the hounds just prior to the Nebula Awards. This was manufactured outrage over phantom pain. Nobody was really hurt by Gallo’s comments; they were nothing but a convenient foothold from which to launch an attack.

Well, duh.

Beale is the enemy. That’s what enemies do, if they’re smart; they keep their powder dry. That’s one of the things that makes them enemies, for chrissake. That obvious fact should make it less advisable to play into their hands. Gallo said what she said— and to all those who’d say Jeez, let it go— that was four whole weeks ago, I’d answer Fine: why hasn’t the statute of limitations passed on all those Beale quotes I keep seeing, all of which are much older?

Not that I’m excusing Beale, mind you. I personally have a hard time believing that anyone could make some of his claims with a straight face. (White men don’t rape, so mistrust the victim unless she’s accusing a Black or Hispanic?) Maybe he’s just being ironic, although I’m more inclined to regard such statements as batshit insane. Either way, I’d laugh in the face of anyone who tried to impose a statute of limitations on Theodore Beale quotes; I suspect most of you would as well. By that same token, neither do we get to declare Gallo’s remarks off-limits after a measly month.

I imagine a number of you are already objecting to this equivalence on the grounds that Gallo’s single comment, ill-advised though it may have been, doesn’t come anywhere close to the levels of offensiveness that Theodore Beale manages even on a mild day. I tend to agree. I thought Gallo’s comment fell pretty wide of the mark, but I personally didn’t find anything especially offensive about it.

Then again, I’m not a Jewish person who’s been told he’s in bed with Nazis. It may be wise to defer to such people in matters of offense given and received.

*

Over the past few days I’ve sampled a fair number of blog posts and editorials dealing with Gallogate. I’ve recognized a number of the folks who’ve posted comments there, who’ve “liked” the relevant links and rejoinders sliding down my Facebook wall. Some I know only from their handles, when they’ve posted here on the ‘Crawl; others are personal friends.

They all support Irene Gallo.

I would too, if she’d only stood up and offered an apology that didn’t read as though it had been crafted by corporate mealworms. She fucked up; we all do, sometimes. She played into enemy hands. It was a minor and a momentary slip. But the real fuck-up was in how she and her supporters dealt with the aftermath.

There are good reasons to repudiate Puppies. There are legitimate arguments to be made against both Sad and (especially) Rabid breeds— which makes it all the more frustrating that so much of what I’ve seen lately boils down to dumb, naked tribalism. Fallacies that would be instantly derided if made by the other side become gospel; any who question are presumed to be With The Tewwowists (or more precisely, the sea lions). I’m reminded of my own observation back when the Mixon report came out: we’re not a community at all. We’re a bunch of squabbling tribes fighting over the same watering hole.

I didn’t want to write this. There’s so much other nifty stuff to talk about. Preserved soft tissue in dinosaur fossils, reported the same week “Jurassic World” premieres. Island nations, finally suing the Fossil Fuel industry for compensation over habitat loss due to climate change. And I still haven’t got around to writing my epic comparison of “Fury Road” and “Kingsman”.

It would have been a lot more fun to write about any of that. But this is just fucked. So many people bend the data to support forgone conclusions; so few put their conclusions on hold until they’ve followed those data to see where they might lead. So much gut reaction. So little neocortical involvement.

Judging by past experience, I could lose some fans over this. There’s even a chance I could lose actual friends (although I think most of the opportunists masquerading as friends got exposed the last time I took an unpopular stand on something). Which, if you look at it a certain way, is a good thing; it would add evidence to my argument about the evils of mindless groupthink. But here it is, for better or worse. I’ve never been much for bandwagons.

Unless I build them myself, I guess.