I’m pausing in the midst of a raging culture war within the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America to look at a different group of people. As a group, they are very relevant to events in 2015 and beyond. For the SFWA Civil War, aside from calling it a ‘Civil War’ they had little impact but the conflict marks a point where a set of writers associated with the blog titled ‘The Mad Genius Club’ begin to assert a viewpoint on the arguments running through US (mainly) fandom.
As with other Dramatis Personae chapters I will rely on Wikipedia for biographical details as well as author websites and bios.
The Mad Genius Club was a collective writer’s blog that was established in October 2008 as a place for a group of writers to share experiences and offer tips and advice to people. The initial roster of authors was Australian writer Rowena Cory Daniells, Portuguese/American writer Sarah A Hoyt, South African writer Dave Freer, American writers Laura Resnick & Louise Marley and British writer John Lambshead. That roster would change gradually over the years and by 2011 several people had left and new writers Kate Paulk (an Australian living in the US) and Amanda S Green had joined. 2011 also marked a shift for the blog to a new WordPress format and a new URL.
The list of people involved with Mad Genius Club continued to evolve and it is important to note it was always a site where individual bloggers expressed their own views rather than some consistent blog-wide position. Not every author associated with the blog would have endorsed the views expressed by fellow bloggers.
For the major events of the Puppy Debarkle the writers associated with Mad Genius Club (MGC from here on) relevant to events were
- Sarah Hoyt
- Dave Freer
- Kate Paulk
- Amanda Green
- Peter Grant
Of those, the most significant were Sarah Hoyt and Dave Freer.
Sarah A Hoyt. Sarah Hoyt was born in the early 1960s and grew up in Portugal. With a talent for languages, she discovered a love for the works of Robert Heinlein at an early age. She married an American (fellow writer Daniel Hoyt) and moved to the USA but regards herself as being ‘born American’ in spirit. She has said that earlier in her career, she was shy about her politics but over time she has become more outspoken and as well as writing political commentary on her blog, she posts at the conservative-libertarian sites Instapundit and PJ Media. She has been published by a number of companies including Bantam Spectra, Ace and Baen, as well as publishing independently.
Dave Freer. Dave Freer was born in South Africa at the end of the 1950s. He lived there for much of his adult life including a career as an ichthyologist but moved to Tasmania in 2010. He’s published with Pyr and independently but most of his books have been published by Baen, including multiple collaborations with Eric Flint.
Of the others: Kate Paulk is an Australian writer who works in software testing, who emigrated to the USA; Amanda Green is an American and writes under a number of names in various genres; Peter Grant, is another South African but one who emigrated to the USA. Grant is a gun enthusiast who met and befriended future authors Larry Correia and Marko Kloos on gun forums in the 2000s.
MGC started as a ‘no politics zone’ but a blog about writing naturally touched on thorny questions about sex, gender, race and so-called “political correctness”. There was some criticism of the SFWA in so far as the organisation catered poorly for independent authors and was perceived as dealing clumsily during the period when major publishers were in conflict with Amazon.
The events around the SFWA Bulletin (see the last chapter), elicited a stronger response, although the sea change in tone was a little earlier. In chapter 22 (SFWA Civil War Part 1) I quoted Sarah Hoyt calling the culture war disputes at the time a ‘civil war’. That post’s initial issue was about criticism of author Orson Scott Card’s positions on homosexuality. Hoyt’s overall position on homosexuality and gay marriage was far more progressive than Card’s but she was angry at the treatment (in her view) that Card was getting within science-fiction communities:
“BUT all that is to our purpose nothing, because the point is not whether I agree or disagree with Mr. Card or whether or not homosexuals are unable to participate in other communities because of dual loyalties.https://accordingtohoyt.com/2013/04/13/when-the-civil-war-turns-hot/ 
No, the point is that as people talked more and more about what Card said, Mr. Card – who is to the left of me by some miles – became a pariah in science fiction. No, wait there. People attempted to make Mr. Card a pariah in science fiction… for saying that he didn’t think homosexuals could be good practitioners of their religion.”
Hoyt’s wider thesis was that publishing (and in particular science-fiction publishing) had become controlled by the left and was enforcing conformity that was stifling the genre.
“Again, the fact that to get published we had to go through a funnel of ideologically left editors and publishers (with the obvious exception) didn’t help.ibid
So in a way, the civil war in the field has been going on forever. It’s only that it was a cold civil war. The rest of us wanted to get published. We kept our mouths shut. If we opened them only Baen would take us, and Baen has a limited number of author slots. (Plus some of the stuff we wanted – and by that I mean I wanted – to write is not Baen-like.) “
To this end, the new wave of self/independent publication of ebooks was seen by Hoyt as a way for conservative and right-libertarian authors to sidestep left-wing gatekeepers in traditional publishing. It also meant that authors like herself could be freer to push back against what she regarded as a censorious and controlling left.
When the issue with the SFWA Bulletin broke, Hoyt would lament:
“When did the two sides exchange places, again? When did the left, once upon a time the purveyor of free love, freer skin and the more pervy the better stories become the purity squad, and when did the right decide that there would be something wrong with believing in the constitution?”https://accordingtohoyt.com/2013/06/01/give-me-that-old-time-religion/
This was followed by a longer (and I will say confused at times) defence of the Malzberg and Resnick columns, once again turning to a war metaphor to describe the situation:
“And this is the war in sf – between the increasingly irrelevant establishment trying to silence all the opinions they don’t like, and the rest of us who frankly m’dear don’t give a d*mn what they don’t want us to say. Complicated by the spiraling down of the traditional houses (thank G-d not Baen) putting everyone under stress it keeps getting nuttier and nuttier. They want to tell us what we can say and think. We want to tell them to shut up.”https://accordingtohoyt.com/2013/06/05/that-aint-no-lady/
At The Mad Genius Club proper, Kate Paulk also had a strong opinion on the SFWA argument about the Bulletin. Paulk blamed women feminists for the issue, introducing a colourful term for their motivation:
“Here’s the problem, in a rather crass nutshell. The Interchangeable Feminists have succumbed to the feminist flavor of the Glittery Hoo Haa. Unlike the romance version where the glitter unaccountably activates when the heroine takes off her glasses (presumably blindness is sexier), the Feminist Glittery Hoo Haa is a thing of mysterious magical powers allowing the possessor to be better than everyone at everything she tries, without having to work at it. She doesn’t even have to wiggle it to get magical results. All she needs to do is let HR departments know she has one (they seem to be shy creatures in the wild, hence the Interchangeable Feminist insistence on proclaiming they have one), and she’s on a fast track to promotions without having to actually do the work involved. That’s what underlings are for.”https://madgeniusclub.com/2013/06/06/storm_in_a_b_cup/
In Paulk’s opinion, Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg had done nothing wrong and neither had the editor Jean Rabe. Paulk concluded:
“So… Maybe instead of the witch hunt against all who offend the FGHH, we should be hunting the possessors of the FGHH and destroying the blasted things before the Hoo Haas cause any more hoo haas. Because of all the SFWA shitstorms I’ve seen, this has to be the most pathetic.”ibid
Hoyt had further posts in June defending the Bulletin issues but July would add a new dimension to their quixotic campaign against feminism.
On June 28 2013, John Scalzi turned his blog over to a guest post written by writer and artist Elise Matthesen. Her post explained the steps she had to take after being sexually harassed at a convention (specifically at the feminist science fiction convention WisCon). Matthesen had been harassed by an editor at a major publishing house and her post discussed her contact with the HR and legal departments at that publisher. The issue of sexual harassment at conventions and within publishing was not a new one but Matthesen’s post would eventually have a significant impact, leading to the resignation of editor Jim Frenkel from Tor Books.
In some ways surprisingly and in other ways predictably, several of the Mad Genius Club members decided to fold this sexual harassment story into the wider culture war argument they had with the SFWA. The process started with an addendum to a regular post from Dave Freer, who partly blamed the harassment on the power of publishers but was also dismissive of the claims and contrasted it with ‘real’ harassment.
At her own blog, Sarah Hoyt followed Freer’s theme of what constituted ‘real’ harassment. Her examples of what was NOT inappropriate behaviour at a convention included this anecdote:
“Some years ago, at a con, I entered the backroom of the barfly suite, where there were only a dozen guys. They were watching a racy movie and started to turn the channel, then said, “Oh, thank G-d, it’s Sarah” and kept it on. Was I disrespected? Were they objectifying me by watching nudie females? Ladies, gents and dragons: Watching nudie other sex (or same, depending) is what humans do, and often one of the only pleasures when you live in interesting times. For me to make the leap from what the guys were watching to an insult to me personally would require me to assume that I was one with the skinny little things pretending to have sex on the screen. The only reason for commonality there would be we have similar genitals.”https://accordingtohoyt.com/2013/07/03/what-is-harrassment/
And what constituted real harassment in Hoyt’s opinion? “Harassment is giving liars the ability – unexamined – to render someone a pariah” and in her opinion that is what had been done to Mike Resnick in the Bulletin scandal.
Back at MGC, Amanda Green was also angry about the situation, saying that while she condemned sexual harassment she thought that there was “also no excuse for this snowballing trial by social media”. Kate Paulk also folded this new issue into her previous SFWA theme:
“Now it’s possible that the Fainting Feminist Hoo Haas are such pathetic specimens that they think any kind of compliment is “harassment”. I don’t know. All I can say is that I haven’t been harassed at any cons, and I have it on good authority that I’m not so ugly that would explain the discrepancy.”https://madgeniusclub.com/2013/07/04/matters-of-perspective/
In 2013, the irony of the denizens of Mad Genius Club rushing to even a half-hearted defence of a Tor editor would not have been apparent, although even then they would normally be expected to side with authors over people with positions of authority in major publishers.
By August, Vox Day had been expelled from the SFWA and this prompted a continuation of the antipathy towards the organisation at MGC. Kate Paulk expressed confusion as to why Day had been expelled saying that it had “something to do with the SFWA Twitter account” and defended Day by seeing that he was only stating his opinions. Paulk also referenced an earlier scandal:
“Considering that a leading light of the industry can publicly grope a female author at an awards banquet and not even get a mild, “that was bad form” from the organization formerly known as SFWA, it’s clear that the real reason for Mr Beale’s eviction was his outspoken personal views.”https://madgeniusclub.com/2013/08/15/the-organization-formerly-known-as-sfwa/
Paulk’s comment was in reference to an incident in the 2006 Hugo Award ceremony when in an apparent ‘joke’ Harlan Ellison grabbed Connie Willis’s breast on stage. The ensuing controversy did lead to some action by the SFWA but not directed at Ellison. In 2013 Mike Glyer had also discussed the precedent around the incident in relation to Beale’s expulsion as it had led to a censure of an SFWA member:
“n 2006, after Harlan Ellison groped Connie Willis onstage during the Hugo Awards ceremony, Moles became upset with colleagues he felt were defending Ellison in a private SFWA newsgroup. He made some of their comments public on his blog…Some members attempted to get Moles expelled from SFWA. He was censured instead.”http://file770.com/sfwa-discipline/ 
Paulk citing the Ellison incident was highly disingenuous, after all Paulk and other members of the MGC had been criticising the current (2013) leadership of the SFWA for their moves to push back against sexism and harassing behaviour in a change from the previous approach.
Paulk went on to compare the SFWA to Nazis:
“So, since Mr Beale has been ejected from the Disorganization Formerly Known As SFWA for what amounts to thought crime, it’s obvious to me that the group needs a new name. When I suggested this to Sarah, she suggested the Selective Science Fiction Writers Association, SS for short. And gosh, wouldn’t you know it, that particular acronym would work remarkably well with what the group leadership seems to think. Just replace “jew” with “conservative” and they’re set.”https://madgeniusclub.com/2013/08/15/the-organization-formerly-known-as-sfwa/ 
When the SFWA gave Vox Day a copyright-takedown notice because he had republished their report on him, Kate Paulk was once again incensed saying the SFWA was trying to “make the terms of their expulsion vanish down the Internet memory hole by that item most beloved of corrupt media executives, the DMCA takedown”.
2013 marked a shift in the content at Mad Genius Club. While much of the material was still orientated around the problems of being a writer, events surrounding the SFWA had led to multiple posts taking an anti-feminist position. This would continue into 2014 and beyond.
Next Time: The SFWA Civil War Part 3 takes us into 2014, a year when the anti-feminist backlash would take on new forms
-  I believe this is the first post but it is phrased like the reader should already know what the general idea of the blog was http://madgeniusclub.blogspot.com/2008/10/introduction-monday-dave-freer-enter.html
-  According to the second post on the blog http://madgeniusclub.blogspot.com/2008/10/to-blog-or-not-to-blog.html which doesn’t list Lambshead but he had an introductory post the same month http://madgeniusclub.blogspot.com/2008/10/my-names-john-and-i-am-fantasy-writer.html On another note, Laura Resnick is the daughter of Mike Resnick but had long since left MGC when that blog involved itself in the SFWA controversy around Mike Resnick’s column at the SFWA Bulletin
-  based on the blogging roster at the old URL
-  https://accordingtohoyt.com/2014/07/04/i-was-born-american/
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_A._Hoyt
-  https://www.davefreer.com/about-dave/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Freer
-  https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2013/05/my-first-novel-is-published-at-last.html
-  https://madgeniusclub.blogspot.com/2008/11/dave-freer-posting-i-am-really-good-at.html
-  https://madgeniusclub.blogspot.com/2009/07/situation-makes-me-kinda-nervous.html
-  for example, Amanda Green reposted at Sarah Hoyt’s blog in 2012 https://accordingtohoyt.com/2012/03/03/and-the-lemmings-march-on-by-amanda-s-green/
-  specifically this essay by Card http://www.nauvoo.com/library/card-hypocrites.html
-  Hoyt describes Card as being to the left of her because he has in the past advocated for Democratic Party causes. She would also regard her more ‘liberal’ position on sexuality as not being further left because it was grounded in her libertarian beliefs, which she regards as being right-wing.
-  https://accordingtohoyt.com/2013/06/10/moo-like-this/ and https://accordingtohoyt.com/2013/06/11/the-mote/
-  https://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/06/28/reporting-harassment-at-a-convention-a-first-person-how-to/#comment-485695
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Frenkel
-  https://madgeniusclub.com/2013/07/01/stuck-in-the-middle/
-  https://accordingtohoyt.com/2013/07/03/what-is-harrassment/
-  https://madgeniusclub.com/2013/07/02/tilting-at-windmills-or-when-did-i-return-to-junior-high/
-  Chapter 22 SFWA Civil War Part 1 https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2021/04/09/debarkle-chapter-22-the-sfwa-civil-war-part-1/
-  I’m curious about the position of those SFWA members who asked for SFWA to censure Moles in 2006 on the issues consuming the SFWA in 2013
-  On a pedantic note, Day was insisting he was not a conservative in 2013 and preferred libertarian then. He has claimed to have never been a conservative.
-  https://madgeniusclub.com/2013/08/22/tofkasfwa-the-gift-that-keeps-on-giving/