Humans live deep within an apparently lifeless planet covered by massive ice sheets. Having to survive in confined spaces has bred a unique culture where deference and non-confrontation make co-existence possible.
Osaji’s opportunities are limited by the need to care for her aging grandmother. But all that is about to change as circumstances push her toward a journey like no other.
Arkfall is one of those pieces of fiction that seems to be reaching for a Golden Age sensibility – both of science fiction, with its sense of discovery and the new, and of exploration, with its rather more immediate sense of discovery. Gilman’s story certainly draws very strongly on both sensibilities, but is also a more modern work than that might imply.
There are two plotlines to Arkfall; one is the mutual adjustment to life on Ben of Osaji, our protagonist, who is a native to the planet but struggling with the collective-good model of society and the stifling impact of familial responsibilities, and Scrappin’ Jack, a spacer merc who strikes the reader as something of a caricature of an American pioneer. This is a problem for the work; Osaji seems to be an attempt to represent Native American cultures and traditions, but without any real depth or thought put into that, as a foil for Scrappin’ Jack, something reinforced by Gilman’s reference to Lewis and Clark in the introduction to this edition of the novella. That approach flattens out and completely fictionalises Native American culture insofar as it is at all present in the first place, which is only minimally at best; unfortunate because this is actually quite an interesting plotline as we watch these two intensely different characters negotiate the necessities of living together and interacting, and see how the compromises between them evolve.
The second plotline of Arkfall, and perhaps its subsidiary plotline, is actually the better and more emotionally impactful, and that is watching Osaji care for her grandmother, Mato, as she sinks further into dementia. This is presented beautifully, sympathetically, and honestly; while some of the most visceral scenes that can ensue are left out of the text, the increasing loss of self brought on by dementia, the disconnection from the world, the pain of watching someone fade away and stop being themselves, are all conveyed expertly and with a real sensitivity to the way that this can bring about an awful lot of pain for all involved. Gilman manages to not sentimentalise dementia nor to make it into some strange, alien, other thing, instead striking a difficult balance between the two that represents a more honest reality.
Had Arkfall been about Mato and Osaji, or even Mato, Osaji and Scrappin’ Jack, it would have been a wonderful, painful story, the kind of short piece that sticks with one; as it is, that unfortunately gets lost in the very problematic and somewhat messy wider story of cultural negotiations that has serious problems.
A Datin recalls her romance with an orang bunian. A teenage pontianak struggles to balance homework, bossy aunties, first love, and eating people. An earth spirit gets entangled in protracted negotiations with an annoying landlord, and Chang E spins off into outer space, the ultimate metaphor for the Chinese diaspora.
Straddling the worlds of the mundane and the magical, Spirits Abroad collects 10 science fiction and fantasy stories with a distinctively Malaysian flavour.
I first knowingly ran across Zen Cho at some point during Nineworlds, and then again at LonCon, in part through discussion of how fast copies of this collection had sold in the dealers’ room. I feel a little guilty, therefore, that it has taken me this long to get around to reading it, having scored myself a copy after the cons…
Spirits Abroad is a Fixi Novo book, and that means a few things. Primarily, it will use dialect and non-English terms, it will not translate them (though it does transliterate), and it will not italicise them; that leads to a smoother, more integrated reading experience in stories that are intentionally, in many cases, cross-cultural. It also won’t be apologetic about using Malaysian culture; Zen Cho is herself Malaysian, and the stories here all draw to a greater or lesser extent on that cultural heritage, without feeling a need to justify that. It’s a rather beautiful sight.
Of course, that’s the publishing house as much as the collection specifically; Spirits Abroad is more than simply unapologetic about being Malaysian. For a start, it’s a collection of damn good stories. There are ten stories collected in the volume in three loose categories; the first, Here, comprises about half the book and is three stories set in Malaysia while the second, There, is made up of four stories set amongst the Malaysian diaspora, largely in student communities in the UK, and the last, Elsewhere, is set in places that do not in fact exist. Each rough thematic grouping is consistent in that sense and in some of the themes that come through across the stories collected under those headings, but also has a variety in their actual content; Cho’s ten stories are so varied in what they’re doing, who they focus on, and what they are interested in, even while having shared characteristics, that to try to talk about the volume as a whole is almost pointless.
Instead, let’s briefly talk about each story. The three stories that open Spirits Abroad each deal with traditional Malaysian myths interacting with or living in the modern world; first the most familiar to Western readers, the idea of the witch, in a story that is as heartwarming and funny as it is emotionally moving and sad, packing a huge amount into only a brief space and discussing family, diaspora, the changes that happen in an individual when they leave their community and the strain of trying to assimilate to another country. The second story, ‘First National Forum on the Position of Minorities in Malaysia’, is one that has elements familiar to any student radical – a group brought together to try to advocate for minority rights but instead devolving into a round of nostalgia for the past, and dominated by a forceful personality; but Cho subverts expectations by introducing a mythical minority, the orang bunian, and drawing out of this a romance across worlds, that is beautiful and incredibly human in its emotional truth. The last story of Here, and the longest of the collection, is explicitly a vampire story and yet not, being about a family of pontianak; ‘The House of Aunts’ is a coming of age story, a feminist tale that really drives home the exploitation of women by men in their personal lives, and the myriad forms such abuse can take. It is also a teenage romance, and that combination works much better than it should; the lecturing of the Aunts to our protagonist on the theme “All men are bastards” contrasts with her teenage idealism and her own experience of the world beautifully.
There is a section that has a more uniform theme running through it; each of the protagonists of the stories is a Malaysian student in the UK studying, either at school for A-Levels or at university. Each of them is also straddling two worlds, having to deal with being in the UK while also being centred in the diaspora community; this is something a that is often discussed negatively in terms of tribalism, but Spirits Abroad excellently lays out some of the reasons for it – not least of which is not having to explain yourself if you associate with people coming from a shared cultural background, an automatic privilege to “domestic” students. The stories are wildly different in tone, from the brilliant humour and anti-romance of ‘Prudence and the Dragon’ (complete with scathing caricature of Boris Johnson) to the darker, creepier and yet still at times funny ‘The Mystery of the Suet Swain’; Cho’s control of voice and style is really strong, and going from story to story here is a joy as we see different parts of the Malaysian student experience in Britain dissected.
Spirits Abroad closes out on its most speculative section, Elsewhere. The three stories here are radically different from the previous works in that they don’t insert the supernatural into the everyday to create their analogies, but rather are wholly speculative; from the literally ancestral homes of ‘Liyana’ to the layering of alienness/alienation, cultural and physical, between diaspora generations in the science fiction of ‘The Four Generations of Chang E’, Cho creates incredibly human worlds that seem perfectly natural in her nonhuman settings. The stories here are the warmest in the collection, in some ways, feeling almost cosy at times, and while ‘Chang E’ doesn’t quite connect for me, a white Westerner living in their nation of origin, nor is it really intended to.
Zen Cho, in Spirits Abroad, shows such a variety of different storytelling approaches, but two things are clear; she has something to say with her fiction, and she will not be stopped from saying it. And a third thing, too – you should listen to what she is saying, not only because it is important, but because she is an excellent author of fiction, too.
There Needs To Be A War Going On Somewhere
Lieutenant James Shelley commands a high-tech squad of soldiers in a rural district within the African Sahel. They hunt insurgents each night on a harrowing patrol, guided by three simple goals: protect civilians, kill the enemy, and stay alive—because in a for-profit war manufactured by the defense industry there can be no cause worth dying for. To keep his soldiers safe, Shelley uses every high-tech asset available to him—but his best weapon is a flawless sense of imminent danger…as if God is with him, whispering warnings in his ear. (Hazard Notice: contains military grade profanity.)
The Red: First Light is military science fiction that sits somewhere between post-9/11 and post-Eisenhower antiwar politics; clear as to who to target – the Military-Industrial Complex, here described as defence contractors or DCs – but mistaking the reality of modern war, wherein contractors increasingly do the work on the ground, not the government-run military forces. Not that Nagata doesn’t acknowledge private security forces and independent military contractors, who are given a significant role in especially the non-“formal war” conflicts in the novel, but that they are sidelined away from things like anti-insurgency operations, something anyone familiar with the way we are currently at war in the Middle East will recognise as strange. It’s also a book whose politics are worn on its sleeve; Shelley is very outspoken and blunt in his anti-MIC rants which, while not being simply voice of the author, are clearly rewarded by Nagata.
It doesn’t help that the military itself does not reflect the real world military or the direction in which that is going; The Red: First Light has a military full of middle-class people from middle class backgrounds, on the whole, with good educations and alternative prospects. Unfortunately, this is not what the military of Western nations look like any more, increasingly drawing on the working classes and those with no chance for good education or good jobs, offering employment where otherwise there might be none; this failure to engage with the exploitative nature of the military-industrial complex makes it seem like the problem is only in the way it creates wars in foreign countries, not in the global wealth politics involved, a curious if telling omission.
The Red: First Light is not, however, simply a political manifesto against the financially-required wars or the eternal economic need for conflict. It is also a military science fiction novel in its own right, and this is where Nagata works some real narrative magic. The action inherent to a military science fiction novel can often feel forced, and the suspense unreal, but when our protagonist loses his legs early on it is clear the stakes are actually real, and that risk exists for all the characters; this early establishment of the stakes works very well when Nagata relies on it later on to question how real the stakes are. The action is the standard fast-paced violent material, but with a moral element not always found in milSF; The Red: First Light does deal with the issues of the morality of war and of following orders in battle while also maintaining the tension necessary to this kind of novel.
Character is a weaker area, as again is perhaps common to the genre. Shelley is the rebel who fits into the system, fighting against it while also reliant on it; the rest of the cast are really just ciphers against whose backdrop Shelley acts on the world, and who exist only for their emotional impact on Shelley. Nagata even manages, towards the end of the novel, to fundamentally fridge a character, who serves little narrative purpose before that except to be an emotional tie for Shelley; The Red: First Light really doesn’t ascribe much interest or humanity to any of the rest of its cast, and that has a sadly flattening on its emotional beats. The reality of the novel is that its first-person viewpoint just doesn’t care about other people, and while that could be used interestingly, it results instead in an awful lot of telling us about character rather than showing it – the cast being either indistinguishable or, in the case of a few characters like Ransom, distinct only because of their broad brushstrokes of personality.
The Red: First Light has one other plot element so far not mentioned, and that is the Red itself, the strange unknown force in the electronic Cloud that seems to be keeping Shelley alive. The problem here is again one of patchiness; not so much that its attention comes and goes – which allows for interesting dynamics in the story, including Shelley’s reliance on it and others’ faith in him based on it – but the attention that characters pay to it. Sometimes they are paranoid about its impact, other times blasé about its existence, and sometimes acting and thinking as if it didn’t exist; it feels almost as if Nagata sometimes just could not be bothered to factor it in to her characters’ reactions, and didn’t do a consistency-edit on that at any point.
In the end, The Red: First Light is a very exciting and fastpaced military science fiction novel, but Nagata disappoints on the character front and the attempts to engage with serious real-world issues of politics fall singularly flat.
Her latest mission sees newly promoted Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr escorting a recuperating major and his doctor to Crucible, the Marine Corps training planet. But when the troops are suddenly attacked by their own drones, Kerr is caught in a desperate fight to protect the major, his doctor and a platoon of untried recruits.
The third of Huff’s Valour books feels, in many ways, like a return to the first, with a little of the paranoia of the second thrown in for good measure. The Heart of Valour once again sees Torin Kerr given a group of soldiers she doesn’t know for a specific mission; in this case it is theoretically the not-so-simple task of escorting a major through his paces as part of his rehabilitative programme on a training run for recruits, which becomes horribly real – and horribly live-fire.
If this conjures up images of Valour’s Choice, in which Kerr is sent on a diplomatic mission which turns into a rerun of Rourke’s Drift, that is a reminiscence actually mentioned in The Heart of Valour; while there is a sort of intrigue subplot trying to peek out from among the action, it’s one whose content is so obvious, and whose resolution so clear from the start, that it is nearly pointless and fails to add much. In fact, that particular subplot simply seems to be a way to have Craig Ryder hanging about, rather than constructive of itself, or perhaps building towards something in the next book; in either case it feels clumsily bolted on and slows down the main, core military science fiction story.
That core of The Heart of Valour is, as noted above, rather similar to the first book in the series, but excellently carried off; the way Huff treats her Marine recruits, the majority of characters in the novel, is sympathetic and interesting, similar to the way she has treated Marines in prior books but also touching on their lack of experience and their heroisation of Marines with actual service. Huff also introduces some interesting new wrinkles, including some backstory to the di’Takyan; this introduces a subplot related to the way integration of different cultures affects unit cohesion and function, and is interestingly addressed, especially in the way discussion continues throughout the book on Marine problems versus species problems.
Mind you, the specific choice of cultural difference is a rather problematic one. The Heart of Valour sees a character taken out of action by the use of illegal hormone treatments to avoid what is essentially a cross between menopause and gender-change; the resolution to this plot is not sympathetic to this character, and avoids touching on discussion of why they might wish to avoid this change, instead presenting it as idiocy to not simply give in and go through with it. As a genderqueer reader, what Huff is doing here strikes very close to trans issues, especially issues of trans service in the emergency services and the army; and her conclusion that attempting to avoid betrayal by one’s own body is a foolish, dangerous decision is one that we see reproduced often enough as it is, and whose counterpoint – that one’s body should reflect one’s self, not vice versa – is far too rarely argued.
Heart of Valour, then, continues the fun, readable and enjoyable adventures of Torin Kerr, but also continues Huff’s track record of some particularly problematic writing in this series…
Éire is one of the most powerful empires in the world. The Anglian Dependencies are a dusty backwater filled with resentful colonial subjects, Europe is a disjointed mess, and many look to Éire for stability and peace. In a series of braided stories, Beth Bernobich has created a tale about the brilliant Éireann scientists who have already bent the laws of nature for Man’s benefit. And who now are striving to conquer the nature of time.
The Golden Octopus: Áine Lasairíona Devereaux, the young Queen of Éire, balances Court politics while pursing the Crown’s goals of furthering scientific discovery. When those discoveries lead to the death and madness of those she loves, Áine must choose between her heart and her duty to her kingdom.
A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange: Síomón Madóc is desperately trying to discover who is killing the brightest of Éire’s mathematicians. The key to saving lives lies in the future…and Síomón must figure out a way to get there.
Ars Memoriae: Éireann spymaster Aidrean Ó Deághaidh goes to the kingdom of Montenegro to investigate rumors of great unrest. But Ó Deághaidh is tormented by visions of a different timeline and suspects that someone in his own government is playing a double game….
The Time Roads: Éire stands on the brink of the modern age, but old troubles still plague the kingdom. An encounter with a mysterious stranger near death holds the clue to both the past and the future of the nation.
The Time Roads is part-novel, part-collection. Its four stories – varying in length from long short story through to average novella – could each be read in isolation, in theory, but the way Bernobich links them and makes each rely on the events of the others means one would get a lot less out of the book, and this review will therefore be treating the whole rather than the individual parts.
It’s a whole that works rather well. Bernobich’s alternate history isn’t actually interested in how it is alternate history, only in how the present of the world – a turn of the century present, granted – works; we’re not treated to long historical digressions on when the world of The Time Roads departed from the world we live in, to stories of how Éire not only broke free from but came to rule Anglia, how the whole face of Europe and the world is changed from that we know. Instead, this is all just taken for granted, revealed piecemeal as and when it becomes necessary without any infodumping. It’s an interesting handling, especially since the period is such a contentious one historically speaking; to release a book which goes right up to alternate-1943, and has stories specifically focused on alternate-1914, is a bold move this year.
It’s also bold to treat the Anglian Dominions the way Bernobich does; but not necessarily a good one – The Time Roads never really challenges whether Éireann rule over the Anglian territories is benevolent, rather than simply unjustified, and thus fails to really engage with some of the issues it raises. Any novel inverting the power involved in the history of Anglo-Irish relations should not simply valourise the Irish it empowers, and The Time Roads does exactly that; it feels like the worst kind of British self-delusion about our treatment of the Irish and Northern Irish populations over the centuries we have ruled there, especially when the Anglians start committing terrorist attacks in a seemingly unprovoked manner.
Of course, The Time Roads is not really concerned with this, which is part of why the problem arises. Instead, it is concerned more with playing with the idea of time and time-travel as tools and weaponry. Hence, the stories have an internal chronology that is absolutely rigid despite subsequent events, in some cases, stopping previous stories from having happened by the time of later stories; keeping clear what happened and what was subsequently erased from history is a challenge the reader must grapple with as much as the characters, and it works extraordinarily well at conveying some of the complexities and paradoxes of time travel, while remaining an incredibly readable novel.
The Time Roads‘ biggest strength is its characters. They are all interestingly human, from the royal Áine, concerned with status and the safety of her people (an almost dully ideal monarch in the first story, more interesting but still rather frustratingly idealised by the end of the collection) and trying to do what she believes is right through to the scientifically-focused Síomón Madóc and his sister Gwen, who have little care for the outside world other than a refusal to see their ideas weaponised. Each character is interestingly painted with their own idiosyncracies and desires, but the best of the set is Aidrean Ó Deághaidh, also the only character to play a major role in every story; conflicted about his country and ideals, driven but not always confident, Aidrean is the most relatable character because he is the most human, and seeing his development is fascinating.
In the end, The Time Roads works for me because it is written compellingly and does some fascinating things with character; but Bernobich also fails in some pretty spectacular ways, not least of which is her failure to engage with colonial politics while attempting to portray them. Tread warily!
DoI: Review based a copy of the novel solicited from the publisher, Tor Books.
A thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell – weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish.
On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.
Lavishly produced, packed with glorious Chris Riddell illustrations enhanced with metallic ink, this is a spectacular and magical gift.
The Sleeper and the Spindle is a strange mash up of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, sold largely on a single image by Chris Riddell of Snow Whie, as an armoured knight, kissing Sleeping Beauty.
That’s not unreasonable; Riddell’s art is absolutely essential to the experience of this book, his characteristic, strong, clear illustrations telling the story themselves as well as illuminating the text. The integration of text and art is excellent, not going down the route of comic books but nor simply describing the text; The Sleeper and the Spindle is as much an art project as anything else, and splash pages such as the famous kiss emphasise that. The high production values – a beautiful translucent dust jacket, metallic inks providing detail highlights that really make the pages pop.
Of course, The Sleeper and the Spindle is as much Gaiman’s work as Riddell’s. The story itself is an interesting subversion of both the Snow White story and Sleeping Beauty; Snow White is, here, our protagonist, a queen engaged to marry the prince who woke her. Her kingdom is threatened by an encroaching plague of sleep, centred on the palace of Sleeping Beauty in the neighbouring kingdom, so with the help of some of the dwarves she met as a princess she infiltrates the country, expecting to have immunity to magical sleep from past experience. The Sleeper and the Spindle follows the small party through the country, and Gaiman raises the creepiness of the story throughout, making it eerie and unsettling even as the familiar elements of the children’s version of the fairy tale crop up, such as the whole kingdom having fallen into sleep except the spiders, the thorn-encrusted castle, and more.
It’s the climax of the story that really makes The Sleeper and the Spindle interesting; subverting not only what we know about the fairy tale from Disney and countless other modern retellings, it subverts expectations Gaiman and Riddell have themselves set up, turning the standard model of the fairytale on its head with some serious style and panache. It’s a wonderful twist and, while clear in hindsight, on first reading it’s actually very well concealed.
This is only a slim volume, but it is a beautiful one; Riddell and Gaiman have collaborated to, in The Sleeper and the Spindle, breathe a whole new kind of life into an old fairy tale. Lovely.
Some months back, I provided space on my blog for Benjanun Sridungkaew to talk about her novella Scale-Bright (that post is here). That was, in fact, after an apparent? possible? blacklisting campaign against her due to her actions towards other authors, actions I was unaware of and largely carried out under a pseudonym, namely: Requires Hate.
The actions taken by Requires Hate – the hate, fear and pain spread under that and other monikers – aren’t mine to talk about. The suppression of the conversations around the genre, around issues of diversity, around issues of inclusion, around how to act within fandom? Those things are not mine to talk about. Nor are the actions of her supporters. None of these things were directed at me, though they have been directed at friends of mine, at people I like, at people whose voices – voices, note, attacking colonialism, assaulting racism and sexism head on, and fighting for diversity in concrete ways – I value.
It’s not my place to say how we move forward from here; I’m white and Western, so my privilege in this field – although not as great as that of some commenting and trying to shut others down for speaking from positions of privilege – is great. My job here is to facilitate. It’s to get voices out there that otherwise are being unheard. It is to stand behind people – some friends, some acquaintances, some I do not know – and, when they raise their voices, to help those voices to be heard.
Voices like that of Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, a very good friend:
Because of my position and because I had publicly supported Tricia Sullivan, I was accused of being complicit in racism and transphobia.
Regardless of this accusation, I continue to stand by what I have said. I cannot condemn a work based on a manuscript that has since been rewritten.
I am aware that things have been said about me. I am not sure what has been said and I do not know with how many this conflict has been shared. I had, at first, made a decision not to talk about this conflict as I valued Alex Dally MacFarlane’s work.
Tori Truslow who is one of the Nine Worlds organizers is Alex’s partner and it was clear that she was aware of what had taken place between Alex and me. I did hope that she would keep an objective position on this matter. It will seem illogical to many, but the position Alex and Tori occupied in UK fandom made me anxious and fearful when I went to Nine Worlds.
In all our communications, I had always supported RH in her desire to build a career as a writer. I respected her descision to maintain secrecy and her choice to take on a writing pseudonym. I do not know what RH’s real name is. I also do not know Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s real identity. I do know that Benjanun was a persona that RH donned in order to achieve her desire of being a published writer.
I had heard that Benjanun had been outed in public by Nick Mamatas, but Nick told me that Benjanun was spreading the rumor that I was the one who had outed her. I told Nick that this was an untrue accusation. I thanked him for taking the time to ask me about this and tried to think of what I could do.
I will admit that I was quite disheartened. Among the messages I received was one that accused me of sabotaging and destroying Southeast Asian writers. It is an accusation that has no ground in truth. My work has always been directed towards creating more visibility for writers coming from the margins. That these kinds of lies were being fed to the vulnerable is a deed that I consider unconscionable.
I’ve heard that Requires Hate a.k.a. Benjanun Sriduangkaew has tendered two apologies and that she has apologized to those who she has harmed. More than two weeks have passed since then, but I have yet to receive an apology for the untruths she spread about me and her attempt to destroy my reputation.
To say that all RH did was to utter words is a complete denial of what we are as writers. Words have power, and words wielded in hatred and violence are just has harmful as violence dealt out with fists.
It is clear to me that RH has made use of her words to create schisms and divisions. She created an atmosphere of distrust and fear. By her actions, she has harmed many who chose to put their trust in her.
(Standing Up And Speaking Truth; emphasis mine)
I believe Rochita, who is now being gaslighted.
Voices like that of Athena Andreadis, another active campaigner for diverse voices in the field and one with a story of her own:
I recommended that she own up to the RH identity to head off any unpleasantness, including people feeling betrayed if they were blindsided about her two very different personae. It was also clear from our second exchange that BS was not her real name but yet another handle. BS/RH didn’t like my advice and, realizing I wouldn’t become one of her acolytes, eventually stopped interacting with me.
Then I started getting odd reactions from an increasing number of people: whispers, insults, cold shoulders, abrupt unfriendings. Some of this came from writers whom I had invited to my anthology and paid pro rates, such as Alex Dally MacFarlane (a staunch RH lieutenant, who now had some clout as the editor of a Prime Books reprint anthology and a Tor columnist). Readercon, the only gathering my health allows me to attend without strain, notified me in 2013 they had “received complaints” about my panel proposal. MacFarlane, who had originally clamored to join my panel, attempted to disrupt it. My request for a reading slot for my brand-new anthology was denied and in 2014 I was not invited to Readercon.
As more people whom I knew befriended the BS persona, I told Nick Mamatas, who had become a buddy of sorts. A few months ago, I also told three others I deemed vulnerable, all in strict confidence. One of them was enticed into breaking my confidence. She informed me that BS “was upset” and “asked what she’d ever done to you that you’d say that about her” (i.e. that she was RH). The signs were clear that BS/RH had targeted me for isolation and expulsion from the SFF community: having proved unherdable, I was a potentially dangerous loose end.
When I told the story to Nick Mamatas, he mentioned that BS/RH had indeed sent him a note about me “spreading unfounded rumors” and “having it in for her”; I suspect she sent similar notes to all her editors and publishers as a pre-emptive strike. Nick also let me know that bad people can be good writers, whereas BS/RH’s adversaries were jealous “has-beens”. He didn’t answer when I asked if he deemed me disposable as well. Soon afterwards, he publicly stated that BS was RH, arguing that this would stop her predation while sparing her career. Many of the people who knew but did not see fit to tell me I had been targeted for slaughter have been beneficiaries of my personal and/or professional support.
I believe Athena, who is being attacked and ostracised.
Voices like that of Rachel Manija Brown:
I only exchanged about five or six comments with Winterfox, all during the span of a few days. That was the last direct contact I had with her, and I never posted about her. But she commented on me, on blogs and on Twitter, for the next three years.
She said the same sort of things about me that she said about a lot of people – that I was racist, homophobic, sexist, misogynistic, a rape apologist, stupid, despicable, and worthless. All this was expressed with intense rage and vicious profanity. She didn’t say that she wished I could be shot in the head or have acid thrown on me, or make any other threat of violence. But I saw her say those things about other people whom she also accused of being homophobic, sexist, racist, and so forth. I was clearly categorized in her mind as the sort of person who ought to be mutilated and killed.
Her harassment of me followed a pattern. Every time I posted on LGBTQ issues and sometimes when I reviewed a book with queer content, she would launch a wave of harassment. Sometimes she’d quote from my post and abuse or mock me, and sometimes her abuse would be on an unrelated topic. But whenever I mentioned queer issues, the harassment would start. Her intent was clear: to intimidate me out of speaking on queer-related topics and rights. That is an issue of great importance to me. I do fundraising for LGBTQ causes. Once I and two other women ran an online auction that raised $50,000 for marriage equality. That is the sort of activism that Requires Hate spent three years trying to suppress.
There were times when I didn’t post on LGBTQ issues, or posted only under lock, because I didn’t feel up to facing yet another onslaught of verbal abuse. So Requires Hate succeeded, to some small extent: she got me to shut up about queer rights a couple times. This is the person whose bullying is defended as being in the service of the greater good. Whose greater good did that serve?
Requires Hate/Benjanun Sriduangkaew recently put up a pair of apologies, one for each persona. She has never apologized to me, though she has had four years to do so. However, I don’t need or want an apology. We have all seen how words can be faked. But actions, whatever their motivation, are real.
I believe Rachel.
Voices like Chelsea Gaither, RH’s harassment of whom is “in the past”, but really isn’t:
Thank you for calling me an awful human being because I wrote that rape recovery makes people stronger, and that I find that recovery to be a sublimely beautiful thing. Thank you for believing that means I glorify rape and abuse. Thank you for making assumptions. Thank you for taking your own cause and turning it into something that’s all about hatred and not about dialogue, because that sure as shit stinks will make humanity better. Yes, I am sure it will. Answering hate with hate, murder with murder, and violence with violence has always solved all of the worlds problems.
Thank you for deciding that I don’t deserve to have a voice.
Thank you for showing me that you really are an inconsiderate, un-self-aware, remorseless piece of shit.
Fuck you for making me talk about this.
(Cerulean sins–chapter 47. Triggers. Consider yourself warned.; I reiterate the trigger warning. Followup more recently here: Fine. FINE. Thoughts on the Requires Only That You Hate drama)
I believe Chelsea.
And I believe the other victims who have laid their stories out to Laura J. Mixon, who have been harassed and bullied… and the majority of whom are not the straight white Western men RH and her allies claim to punch up against, but are women (60%) or people of colour (37%) (Source); people who RH is at best punching across to, and her allies are largely punching down at.
I don’t want my (white, Western) thoughts to get in the way of what I’m trying to do here, which is give a little bit of a boost, however small, to those targeted by Requires Hate. But what I did want to do is provide them with the same platform I provided to her. What you do with what you learned above is your own affair. If you can, speak out. If you can’t – because clearly speaking out is a risk! – then I can understand that, especially for those with less spoons, less social capital, more prominence, or any combination of these things.
Look after yourselves. If you can, look after each other. As for me, I’ll do my best to look out for and after all of you. If you need me, you know where to find me…
(Posted backdated for reasons of median-term curation; for the record, this post was put up at 00:19 GMT, 07/11/2014)