bullies and stifling multiculturalism

Ah, here we go, another late Friday night confessional post, which likely no one will see.

Once upon a time, many moons ago, in 2002, there was a Worldcon in San Jose, prior to which I had made a terrible enemy.

A person I thought was a friend, because they acted like one, and I tend to take those sorts of things at face value, decided to unfriend me. As this was in the time before facebook, she couldn’t just unfollow or block me, heh —  so rather than telling me or just ignoring me thoroughly, she and a cadre of people went around telling everyone they knew that I was crazy and a bad writer. Did I mention she was low-level famous? Because yeah, she was, she was a famous TV writer’s assistant and everyone, I mean everyone, groveled to her. She was a big important fish in our very shallow pond.

The whole experience was shattering. I didn’t understand why she’d decided to stop being my friend, muchless why she’d decided to spread spurious lies about me to all sorts of writers I knew and didn’t know. Her friends went out of their way to approach editors to ‘warn’ them about me, and tried very hard to poison SFF’s rather inbred social well.

Luckily for me, I’d been around for awhile by then — I’d been attending cons regularly since 98, and was active on SFF.net, then the hip-SF nerd place to be. And because I knew people in person, and they knew me in person and online, most of the gossip was quickly stopped, because people would hear it and say, “Cassie? Really? Nahhhhh, that doesn’t sound like her.”

(In addition, at the time I was a shitty writer still — so it’s not like I had mss for consideration on many people’s desks, heh.)

But the whole con was like a strange test on a cruel reality show. You — contestant #1! — Try to spend four days among your peers acting with impeccable grace and manners as other people flounce away when you join group conversations! Try to ignore when people haul other people you’ve just met aside to ‘warn’ them about you before you’ve even said a word! Pretend you are made out of ice when people make a show of skipping your elevator because you are in it!

It was lovely, let me tell you.

I realized all I could do was concentrate on what I could manage — my attitude, and how I reacted to the frequent snubbing, and how often I could nervously put lip gloss on in an attempt to look professional at all times, heh. (God bless you, MAC lipglass. Never change.) And by the end of it, I managed to have a good time with my friends who knew better and who mattered — many of whom still matter in my life today.

Now, I already had an unnatural affinity for the underdog in things prior to that — but that experience pretty much sealed it, and turned me into the person I attempt to be today.

Forgive me this digression, but it ties into this: Laura Mixon’s Report on Damage Done By One Individual Under Several Names.

I’ve been aware of Requires Hate and her bullying reviews for some time. She’s taken apart friends of mine, and whatever valid points she might have made were completely lost inside her vitriol. I have met acid attack survivors. You do not get to threaten acid attacks on anyone, in any context, ever. There is no, ‘Oh, I was just joking’ with acid attacks. It is a hard line in the sand.

And I personally know what bullying in the writing community is — but what she did to other people was a step far, far beyond. Goading people into overdoses? Stalking them with a cadre of cronies and sock-puppets, always ready to attack? I cannot even begin to imagine how bad that kind of bullying would be. At least I was insulated by a prior reputation and friends. How many people did she attack that didn’t have any protection? Reading the comments at the end of that post — it turns my stomach to think on how many people she hurt, who all thought they were alone — which was precisely what Requires Hate wanted.

Apparently I was never on her radar because I was white (if you read the report you’ll understand) but she was definitely on mine. I was worried about her and people like her would come at me with pitchforks if they ever read my books — namely, Shapeshifted.

If you’ve read my books, you know I’ve gone way-way out of my way to create a universe that is multicultural — because I want it to reflect the world in which I live in and the places that I work. In addition to being tired of the normal skinny half-this, half-that PI littering urban fantasy, I was tired of the books I read being entirely full of white people — so I wrote against that as well, from Nightshifted on out.

Shapeshifted in particular though — I knew it would be a dangerous book. It’s set in a Latino community and while I may work with that patient population, and I was raised in Texas — I knew I didn’t know enough. So I spent three months of the six months I had to write it studying up on culture, Santa Muerte, girl gangs, curanderos, etc, in a desperate attempt to Get Things Right. Not only because I wanted to get them right for rightness’s sake — but because I didn’t want to be swarmed by an angry mob if I got anything wrong.

And there’s a little something wrong with that.

I knew that if I did screw up something worth mentioning, someone would tell me, and I would have to accept that I was wrong, no matter what I did. I definitely did not become a culture master in my three months of cramming. I would have to be gracious and considerate and try to do better next time out. I was totally prepared for that boom to drop — and grateful when it never did.

But it would have been way, way, way easier for me to not even to try to write another culture in the first place. Lord knows thousands of writers do it. Hundreds of thousands, more like.

I have to say it’s frustrating to make a good faith effort to try to do something right and know that even with the best of intentions it might explode on you (especially at the time when RH was at her most active) like a fumbled hand-grenade.

And there’s something sorrowful in that. Because the more examples of multiculturalism you get out there, done right, even by white people, the better things are going to be in the world. The more opportunities we’ll have to understand each other, to see one another working together for the betterment of all. I’m not saying that people who screw things up shouldn’t be told that — they should, and I would hope they’d be gracious and be given time to reflect — but that’s clearly not going to happen when they’re being threatened with acid burns simultaneously.

In writing Shapeshifted, I took a chance. Most people don’t know what it’s like to sit down and really write a book — with the power in them to actually finish one, one under contract that will see the light of day — and know that every choice they make in it could be held up for scrutiny later. It’s like trying to do a perfect run on a video game on the hardest setting.

I know I’m not a demon for trying to do something out of my comfort-zone — and neither were the multitudinous other writers that Requires Hate hunted down to mock and belittle mercilessly.

If we don’t try to change, and change better, change will never come. But I guarantee you no positive change has ever come from cruelty, bullying, intimidation, stalking, or threats of acid.

 

12 thoughts on “bullies and stifling multiculturalism

  1. # Apparently I was never on her radar because I was white (if you
    # read the report youll understand) but she was definitely on mine.

    I need to point out that this isnt true. I’m white, and I was very much on her radar, as were a bunch of others. I was attacked by her in 2012, and many of the things you describe above were exactly the same for me, except I didn’t, and still don’t, know for sure how much people were avoiding me and how much was being said behind my back, and how much it was all in my head. One aspect of how RH’s tactics worked was that she made you think everyone was against you, and in some ways that becomes the truth, because you widthdraw from people, feeling that they dont want you around them, whether it’s true or not.

    My personal experience of RH was that she mostly attacked white people, and mostly white guys, I was astounded to see the graphs depicting just how many of her victims didn’t fit into my demographic, because almost all the stuff I saw from RH was racist anti-white and anti-male abuse.

    But this is the game she played, she somehow managed to keep her victims in isolated groups, so as they all felt everyone else was against them. It’s not true that anyone was outside her target deographic, because her target demographic was anyone who was in her way. A lot of white people got horribly attacked by her, as did people-of-color, straight people, gay people, cis people, trans people, etc, etc. I think it’s important that we don’t ‘drop anyone’ from the list of victims, because then we can see we were all in this together.

  2. # in a desperate attempt to Get Things Right. Not only because I wanted # to get them right for rightnesss sake but because I didn’t want to be
    # swarmed by an angry mob if I got anything wrong.

    The problem with requires_hate, was that you couldn’t get it right. No amount of research could protect you from her, she could always find something in your work to attack. And if she says that something’s wrong in the way you’ve depicted a community, who is in a position to argue with that? Most people haven’t done your research, so they can’t judge your accuracy, so they will tend to believe the accusations.

    There’s an educational game that I found myself playing after I’d been attacked by her. I analyzed anything new I wrote for potential points of ideological attack. Then I rewrote them. Then I tried attacking them again. I quickly realized there was no way to write a story so that it couldn’t be attacked in this manner. A story is a big complex multi-faceted thing, and RH once attacked a story of mine on the basis of less than ten lines that were published as a teaser, so if she could do that there’s no way that one could write a full story without giving her some avenue of attack.

    Whatever you write, people can find stuff in, or project stuff into. And who’s to say those things aren’t there? The author will say not, but the jury of social media will just think “Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?”

  3. At least one person read your post, and I’m looking forward to reading your book.

    I really resonated with your story about fearing RH’s reaction to a book set in another culture. Whenever I’ve seen authors being encouraged to ‘write the other,’ that’s been the unaddressed elephant in the room … and folks who said ‘of course you’ll get some things wrong and be told so’ contributed to the problem, even if unknowingly, by indicating (to someone who had RH in mind) that such attacks were both OK and only to be expected.

    That’s what happens when we talk around what’s really bothering us, instead of saying it straight out. But I’m as prone to that as anybody else. It’s something we’re all always working on, I think.

    That said, I’m beginning serious revisions on a fantasy novel with a retired hospice nurse protagonist and would appreciate any cultural insights you had time to give me!

  4. I totally get you on writing another culture. While European readers said a short was culturally dense (a term of respect), I wondered if I’d dug deeply enough.

    It bothers me that I know RH attacked people that I knew, and that I didn’t know it was going on.

    And I remember that so-called friend blackballed you, and I’ve been pissed off about it ever since. You hadn’t sold a lot then, but you weren’t a bad writer, and I’d still love to see some of your older books see the light of day.

    But I guarantee you no positive change has ever come from cruelty, bullying, intimidation, stalking, or threats of acid.

    Someone asked this question, and it’s been haunting me ever since. How do we know RH isn’t actually white and male?

  5. I know nothing about the greater anything that you’re talking about, in relation to bullying whatnot, but this:

    “Because the more examples of multiculturalism you get out there, done right, even by white people, the better things are going to be in the world. The more opportunities we’ll have to understand each other, to see one another working together for the betterment of all.”

    Amen. Amen so hard.

  6. I see it!

    I was at that con with you. As I recall, I was following you around like a little puppy because that was my first con and you were about the only person I had met before. I also had no idea that was going on.

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