This piece isn’t an attempt to evoke sympathy for Lou Antonelli or suggest he isn’t responsible for his own actions but I do genuinely wonder if he was set up by others.
I’m still piecing together recent events. There are two elements here:
- Dave Freer’s nutty theory about me.
- Lou Antonelli’s doxxing attempt*.
Looks like I get to star in my own conspiracy theory folks…
The Mad Genius
I don’t know when Dave Freer formed his theory. He has apparently been quite categorical with people in his circle about my identity for some time. In August 2016 he was apparently claiming I was an Australian writer who he knew by sight:
Anyway, no Dave Freer doesn’t know ‘me’ by sight and while Camestros Felapton is a writer, this clunky old meat robot isn’t. Also, he presumably didn’t mean a philosophy lecturer either. Also, also in Dave’s current theory the person he claims I am would have been in Scotland (at least until very close to the time of Hoyt’s comment).
The technical term for this ‘bullshit’. Dave Freer was bullshitting to other Mad Genius people that he had some sort of secret identity thing figured out.
Now there is an aspect of pseudonymity that Nick Mamatas has pointed out: by using a pseudonym you render arguments from personal authority and experience (beyond the pseudonym) untenable. I thing he is right on this point. I can’t use my background as a substantial argument that I’m correct if my background is confidential. Which is why I don’t rely on such arguments. If you think Camestros Felapton knows stuff about logic or history or whatever it is because of what Camestros Felapton has written NOT because of my personal details.
The point being, there’s no legitimate way for Dave Freer to undermine the many arguments I’ve made about science fiction, it’s future, publishing or the state of ideological coherence on the right by looking at my background because I don’t claim my background validates my arguments. My pseudonymity prevents me using an argument from authority.
As far as I can tell Dave introduced the ‘Fieldsy’ name in June 2017 at Larry Correia’s blog. This was in the comment section of Larry’s mega meltdown at Mike Glyer. I’m not going to link to it again because it is basically just a sewer. However, I will offer partial quotes from Dave. These are partial not to misrepresent what he says but so as not to re-air various attacks on other people. In addition, the order of comments at MHI is variable (I think it has an up-vote, down-vote thing), so some might be out of sequence.
“You helped, encouraged, supported, and twisted facts and lied for them. The fact that you’re a failure […] at the career ruining is not for want of trying, but rather because because you’re inept. You have a large amount of time for it, though. Don’t you have any work at your transfer-college in the UK?”
I’m not sure what a ‘transfer-college’ is by the way, a college people transfer to? Dave was claiming I’d attempted to ruin his or somebody’s career or that others had and I hadn’t stopped them. It was never clear. I challenged him on that. I’ve never maligned Dave Freer’s books or his fiction. I have challenged his claims with regards to the Hugo Awards and done so using facts and civility. However, the evidence shows that he took that as a personal attack.
In a later comment he demands my name and again asserts that I’m at a university. This was after(?) I pointed out that I’m an outsider. In truth I’m more of an outsider than Dave Freer. My complete publishing record is there in Smashwords – books by talking cats with weird covers 🙂
“Both your university peers and the traditional publishing bubble match your prejudices and worldview almost precisely. You’re not an outsider to your chosen arenas. You’re the establishment and trying to stay that way.
And as you happy to have done to you, your career and reputation… well, if this is true, prove it. Give us your name. What you’ve done is to my name, not a silly pseudonym.
Bet you won’t.”
The resentment and list of crimes I supposedly placed on Dave continue (names of others have been removed:
“(Dryly) Beneath one of the untermench who must excluded and silenced? Amazing. Surely such depths were never meant to plumbed. I’ve warned you and fellow travelers before: you survive merely because your opponents have exercised a degree of honor, nobility and generosity – and not repaid your side in kind. That’s run out now. We were not all your foes – but you treated us like foes. We’ve survived and managed to grow despite the whisper campaigns, the doors closed, the anthologies we’re not welcome to, despite outselling those who are welcome, the competitions excluded from, the blackballing, the cons we oddly don’t get invitations to. Yes, I still have friends on the ‘inside’ – I know I’m persona non grata, for pointing out the discrimination. You -as an individual – did your level best to dismiss it. The zeitgeist is changing – much faster than you realize in your University bubble. I once again advise to stop pushing the pendulum, and start acknowledging that these things need fixing ( it’s probably too late, but it may reduce the damage), […] -including you – are part of the problem. Otherwise, you, your partner, your friends, and your political views will find yourselves in what you imposed. And even those dull, old-fashioned ‘libertarians’ like me who believe in disagreeing with every word you say, but that you should have the opportunity to say them… will be able to do nothing, and are unlikely to be willing to try.”
I thought “you, your partner” was very odd – particularly in this histrionic doom-laden bit. I even wondered if he thought I was Greg Hullender and had just got the two of us confused (sorry Greg). I wondered if by partner he meant Timothy – bless his cotton socks. It’s clearer now that he meant Foz Meadows and presumably thought I’d get the hint – which I didn’t because that’s just batshit levels of wingnuttery.
I made several replies to Dave at that time but here is the relevant one:
// You certainly tried to discredit me.//
I certainly pointed out when I thought you were wrong. Ah! Is that what this whole thing is about? I dared say you were wrong? Seriously? That was the terrible crime I inflicted upon you? Dave, sometimes you are wrong.
// You were there, making snarky comments.//
And you were there making snarky comments. You are not some fragile creature – you are big enough and bold enough to cope with some snark.
//being a Nazi etc. //
Not only have I never said you were a Nazi, I have taken great pains to point out the political differences between the Sad and Rabids, and between people like yourself and the crypto-fascist Vox Day. I don’t throw out the term ‘Nazi’ casually e.g. I don’t claim people are Nazis because they cheered at an award ceremony.
//Your failure at the silencing and de-platforming isn’t precisely commendable. It was failure not the opposite. //
It was the opposite. Your voice got heard – you just didn’t like the reaction. Your position is an absurd one – that quoting you or linking to your posts or discussing your publically aired views amounts to being silenced.
// Give us your name. //
See my other comment about doxxing. If you are fishing for an identity the only relevant one is Camestros Felapton.
//Bet you won’t.//
Damn right I won’t. I’ve nastier enemies than you Dave Freer but you’ve not even come close to earning the first fragment of my trust to give you information that would put MY family in danger. Shame on you for even asking.
Dave replied (again a partial quote for the relevant bit):
“Thanks for the 10 bucks. It would have cost me a hundred if you’d been honorable and given your name. So: your promise is worthless. No real surprise there. Fieldsy, we know who you are, so we know why you do this and how false your assertions are. And your rationalizations may have helped other fellow travelers with their rationalizations. You know full well what was meant by the silencing and de-platforming, but you rationalize that that doesn’t apply to your behavior.”
Key points: “Fieldsy” and “we know who you are, so we know why you do this”. There’s a general air of your-doom-is-coming in Dave’s comments which I took as the standard line the pseudo-libertarians take these days (i.e. they think the far right will take over and deal with the ‘SJWs’ and it’s all the ‘SJWs’ fault because they had it coming etc). Based on recent events, this was not what Dave was trying to hint at. The message, perhaps poorly expressed or perhaps unnoticed by my obliviousness was meant to be: shut up because we know who you are and we will attack your partner. Point missed. I’m like some shopkeeper in a gangster movie who when the mob comes calling and they say “Nice shop you have here, shame if anything bad happened to it.” I’m thinking “Gosh they really think my shop is nice? How sweet of them to say so!” Yeah, for a smart guy I really can be very stupid.
“Fieldsy” meant nothing to me. Dave often makes unobvious literary allusions in his general writing (not a criticism, just an observation) and I assumed it was an in-joke. I did partly wonder if he thought that was my name but I don’t know of anybody called ‘Fieldsy’. In retrospect, it was a pun: ‘meadow’=’field’.
Skipping forward in time. There was a discussion at Mad Genius Club in early January on Jon Del Arroz being denied attending membership at Worldcon 2018. Greg Hullender made some comments, as did I. Given the topic it was relatively polite. A lot of the heat was being directed at Greg. I had commented rarely at Mad Genius for sometime (one brief comment earlier this January or maybe late Decemeber). Late into the discussion Dave Freer stated that I had been banned from there at some earlier point. I think he was genuinely mistaken but I’m not going to comment if they don’t want me to. I’ve pointed this out to Dave before – it’s fine for him to ban people he doesn’t want there but it’s even easier than that, as the blog owner all he has to do is ask.
“You and your partner are playing a very dangerous and foolish game.” Well that’s a WTF comment if I’ve seen one. This time the message is clearer – if I continue and there will be reprcussions that WILL BE DANGEROUS to you. Also, whatever this clamity that was waiting was something Dave Freer did not want to do personally. Also, why bother with a threat? I was happy to not comment their and also Dave had the technical means to prevent me from commenting there. It isn’t hard, ask Phantom.
Again note: “your partner”.
I’ve no doubt that Dave Freer had convinced himself of his Meadows theory and clearly believed that if his theory was made public that it would cause harm to the Meadows family. Of course his dire warnings made no sense when delivered to the wrong target.
Dave has form for elaborate theories built mainly on ill-will and wishful thinking. I assume his theory is based on free associations between facts he may have gleaned without considering whether they collectively made sense. The key elements being
- I talk about philsophy and logic a lot
- I have connections with both the UK and Australia
- Dave is convinced that I can’t just be some nobody with a blog (spoiler: I’m a nobody with a blog)
At some point he must have discovered the existance of Toby Meadows (partner to well know fan writer and author Foz Meadows) and the aesthetics of it were so good he ignored the inconsistencies (hint: in life do the opposite of that). Maybe, he even thought early on the ‘Australian writer’ Hoyt mentioned was Foz Meadows? The Pups made a big deal about my gender being ambiguous because they couldn’t parse my name? Who knows. The Buzzfeed article that carried my Brexit joke may have played a part but he also seems to have thought I was in the UK as recently as 2017. Who knows? It was a batshit theory but he clearly had been telling others about it. “we know who you are, so we know why you do this” – we, not “I”.
In Brad’s revelation post, Dave claims it is all down to IP addresses:
“Oh? REALLY? Then she would be very grateful that Lou revealed her ‘husband’ has a stalker who not only pretends to be expert in precisely the same fields…er meadows… as her husband, but also was SO devoted a stalker that he/she moved to Aberdeen IIRC (as evidenced by the IP address ‘Camestros’ used then) at the same time as Toby. And then, as evidenced by the IP address, moved back to Brisbane… at the same time as Toby. But wait. There’s more… And lives in the same town, claims to be a fan and somehow – in the tiny pond of Brissy sf fans never knew of her or hubby – among its leading lights. And of course she really does own the Sydney Harbour bridge she’s also trying to sell you”
This is a point where Dave crosses a line from being maliciously mistaken to directly lying to his audience. He wants here to pretend that he had a tighter claim. IP addresses are a strange beast, so I guess it isn’t 100% impossible that a device in NSW might show as Brisbane on some occasions…but not Aberdeen…and not in a way that somehow neatly tracks to movement of another person.
Beyond the Genii
But I’m skipping ahead. I’m saying Lou Antonelli was set up. Did Dave set him up? Don’t know but it is safe to say Dave was the source of the bonkers Fieldsy Theory.
The direct cause of Lou making a Facebook post (since removed by Facebook for violating community guidelines) was this post of mine on the SFFGuild. Specifically there were some comments on the 2014 attempt by Antonelli and others to set up an alternative to the SFWA that would also be apolitical in some sense.
That post revealed the Guild earlier than they had wanted and the Guild’s twitter account responded by engaging with many prominet SFF authors. The subsequent Twitter reaction was not kind to the Guild.
What I haven’t discussed is how I knew about the guild. That dates back to a post I’d hastily written on pay-to-play awards. That had started from my interactions with Richard Paolinelli and I wanted to do a follow up. Paolinelli had a reference to a SFFGuild, I followed the links and then wrote a post.
But…here’s a twist from earlier. I’m lazy and don’t get stuff finished (one of many reasons why me having a PhD is laughable). That original post on pay-to-play awards was a half hearted draft, I only finished it because the issue had become topical again because of tweet by…Foz Meadows…which I led that post with.
I assume for people who had already been primed to associate me with Meadows that would look like a smoking gun.
The Set Up
Here is Antonelli discussing his reasoning behind the Fieldsy theory.
“I had multiple reliable sources give me information regarding his identity. I verified much of the information myself. Of course, I want to protect my sources. Many people are scared of retaliation – a prerogative of the socially privileged and politically protected.
A key source stepped forward when they realized I was self-employed as a small business owner and not subject to retaliation.
I really wouldn’t care except Richard Paolinelli started a new writers group and Felapton jumped his ass without any provocation that I could see. Felapton has become tedious in his smug self-righteousness and has been mocking so-called Sad Puppies for years. There are no more Sad Puppies, but he’s using it as some kind of ethnic slur and attack term.
I stand by my sources, and I rely on the old journalistic standard that if a source insists on remaining anonymous, you must have a minimum of two of them with the same story. That goes back to Watergate. One of the reasons we see so much “fake news” these days is that people will accept a lone anonymous source which cannot be verified. In the case of Felapton, I had three different people who had the same evidence.”
So a few things.
- Three people told him the same thing but we know Dave Freer had been telling others his theory, so this amounts to two or three people repeating what Dave had told them i.e. rumours made up by Dave.
- “A key source stepped forward when they realized I was self-employed as a small business owner and not subject to retaliation.” A key source? They stepped forward? Somebody, asked Lou to do this.
- “I really wouldn’t care except Richard Paolinelli started a new writers group” this was the specific ‘crime’ for which he felt I should be punished.
Why would somebody ask Lou to do this? Well, not to harp on about his track record but clearly he is somebody who does not always fully think through his actions. But also, Lou is a somewhat fringe figure in the wider world of right wing science fiction community. He isn’t closely aligned with any of the groupings but has connections with each of them.
The ‘self-employed’ and ‘retaliations’ aspect is odd, as there is no shortage of self-employed people among the regular characters in right wing science fiction. However, it makes more sense if you think of it as deniability. As Dave Freer had previously suggested, he thought this doxxing-attempt would/should occur but he would rather not be seen to be the one to do it.
Clearly somebody asked Lou to do it. Suggested that this would get him the approval of his peers that he craves and that the ‘evidence’ was all there. Antonelli himself does not appear to know any of the ‘evidence’. When pressed on it he says that people told him.
I Don’t know. I doubt it was either Dave Freer or Richard Paolinelli, despite their names being associated with this whole flap. Dave is too subtle (he’d rather have continued to make dark mutterings for longer) and Paolinelli is the exact opposite (he’d have just announced it himself if he had thought it was worth saying).
But somebody did and it’s pretty clear that the person who did thought Lou Antonelli was a chump. Has Lou realised this yet, that a false friend was using him as cover to spread malicious gossip? I doubt it but at some point he’ll realise and it is a sad note to end on.
*[There’s a labyrinth of quibbles among the Puppies as to what is an isn’t a doxxing. To be clear, as Lou did not reveal private information about me, what he did is not technically a doxxing. However, he clearly was TRYING to do exactly that – so the correct term is ‘doxxing attempt’. The difference is the level of incompotence used.]