Debarkle Chapter 34: Part 3 Twenty Fifteen

The story so far…[1]

In 2005, right-wing columnist Vox Day and aspiring fantasy author Theodore Beale were revealed to be the same person and a member of the jury for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s premier science fiction awards known as the Nebula. The after-effects of the lengthy blog discussion on his extreme views on women led to a long-running feud between Vox Day on the one hand and the notable editors at Tor Books Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Day’s feud would also come to encompass best-selling science fiction author and later SFWA President John Scalzi.

In 2013 the SFWA was embroiled in internal conflicts around the issues of sexism and author behaviour. Those conflicts covered several issues but would lead to the eventual expulsion of Vox Day from the SFWA after he used an SFWA Twitter account to promote an essay where he called Black American fantasy author N.K.Jemisin a “half-savage”. Many right-leaning authors regarded Day’s expulsion and the outcomes of other controversies as attacks by left-wing forces.

In 2011, gun-rights advocate and aspiring fantasy author Larry Correia sought to promote himself and his debut novel as contenders for Worldcon’s famous Hugo Awards, with Correia gaining a finalist spot for the special Campbell/Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Correia followed this up with an increasingly sophisticated set of campaigns intended to promote himself and his publisher Baen Books for Hugo Awards. Supporters of Baen Books had long felt unfairly shunned by Hugo Award voters and suspected that Baen’s populist and often right-leaning output was being unreasonably looked down on by influential people within fandom.

In 2014, Correia’s Hugo campaign was entitled Sad Puppies 2 and on Correia’s slate was a story by Vox Day in a bid to make so many heads explode at the SFWA that “astronauts could see the crater from space.” Hugo Voters would place Day’s story sixth out of five, with the “no award” category beating Day.

In the aftermath, of the failed Sad Puppies 2 campaign and the SFWA controversies, a loose coalition of right-leaning science fiction writers had formed that went by the joking name “The Evil League of Evil”. There was no official membership but the most common list of names was:

  • Vox Day
  • Larry Correia
  • John C Wright
  • Sarah A Hoyt
  • Brad Torgersen
  • Tom Kratman

Each of the authors had work published by several publishers but they were also each closely associated with the publishing houses Baen Books or Vox Day’s own Castalia House.[2]

Meanwhile, also in 2014, a major hate campaign began in the field of video games, which became known as “Gamergate”.

The Political Context at the Start of 2015

We will touch on some of the political events of 2015 as we move through the year. However, the events of 2014 had already shaped events towards a politically fraught difficult one.

2014 had seen an Ebola outbreak in West Africa[3] and a revolution in Ukraine which led to increasing tensions between the European Union, USA and Russia[4] and the eventual annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia[5], and parts of Ukraine with majority ethnically Russian populations declaring breakaway states[6]. The conflict would have a worldwide impact when a Malaysia Airways passenger plane flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over Ukraine killing everybody on board[7]. As a consequence, 2015 began with tensions and rhetoric between Western nations and Russia at a high point not seen since the end of the Cold War.

Regional conflicts in the Middle East in the apparent unending chain of events that began with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, intensified during 2014 and would lead to further violence in 2015. The paramilitary group variously named ISIS, ISIL or Daesh[8] had become a major presence in Northern Iraq and in parts of Syria. The conflict with ISIS further embroiled the USA, Russia and other nations in conflicts within Iraq and Syria and would also inspire terrorist attacks around the world.

Within the USA, 2014 saw the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police lead to massive protests in Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri[9]. These protests and protest against the death of Eric Garner, who died while held in a chokehold by police in New York[10] led to greater prominence to a loose coalition of campaigns collectively known by the slogan Black Lives Matter[11]. The prominence of the movement’s campaign against police violence (not limited to, but with a specific focus on police violence towards Black Americans) would have increased prominence in 2015.

The acronym “BLM” would confusingly play a part in a wholly different stand-off between protestors and law enforcement in 2014. The US Federal Bureau of Land Management founds itself in a tense dispute with a rancher in Nevada by the name of Cliven Bundy who refused to pay for his use of Federal land to graze his cattle[12]. Bundy’s stance against what he regarded as the unconstitutional ownership of land by the US government took in a hodge-podge of American far-right beliefs including elements of the so-called Sovereign Citizens movement and the broader Tax Protest set of right-wing beliefs[13]. When the Bureau of Land Management attempted to confront Bundy, he called for a “Range War” which led to extremist militia groups joining his cause. The Bureau backed down to avoid violence.

Right-wing domestic terrorism had continued in 2014, including a shooting at a Jewish community centre in Kansas[14] as well as unrelated shootings in Pennsylvania[15] and Nevada[16]. In California, six people were murdered by a self-identified “incel” in an evening of violence fueled by hatred of women[17].

2015 opened with the world unsettled. The impact of the 2003 Iraq invasion and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis was still very present. The hope of social reform by the Obama administration was foundering against the reality of institutional violence. The internet, and in particular Facebook and YouTube were increasingly becoming a major source of news for many people, further fuelling fear and distrust.

It was going to be a long year. The first of many long years.


Footnotes

54 thoughts on “Debarkle Chapter 34: Part 3 Twenty Fifteen

  1. “Meanwhile, also in 2014, a major culture war how broken out in the arena of video games known as “Gamergate””
    Typo, I believe..

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Those typos are the most difficult to find, because the typo is a different word and does not show up on the spellcheck.

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  2. Meanwhile, also in 2014, a major culture war how broken out in the arena of video games, which became known as “Gamergate”.

    I really dislike the use of “culture war” in this sort of context. It implies that there were two equal sides, when in fact it was just an established thing which was being attacked by a hostile group (Gamergaters or Puppies), and it lends legitimacy to the hostile group as something which had a valid basis for their attack.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think ‘battle’ has that sense but the connotation I’d have with ‘war’ is one side is an aggressor attacking something (even in quasi positive analogies like ‘war on poverty’). Happy to use a better term though, if people have ideas.

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      1. I like “culture war” because it taps into a concept many people already recognize, no matter where they stand in respect to the conflict. And while it’s not without baggage, unlike “cancel culture” it’s not a term that can only be used if you embrace one particular viewpoint. Thus, it seems to fit well here in a pop history.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’d second “hate campaign”, though I don’t have a problem with “culture war” and don’t see it as particularly equivocating.

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        1. I think I prefer hate campaign. ‘Culture War’ works better for the Puppy stuff because there was a sense of some tangible objectives the Puppies have (win awards) that Gamergate simply didn’t have (not even the sanitised version of ‘ethics in journalism’)

          Liked by 2 people

      3. It was a repressive hate campaign for the culture war for the purposes of bigoted oppression and violent intimidation of women and other marginalized groups with whom they don’t want to share tech industries. It is a war, always been a war with plenty of bodies, and it is about what sort of culture we have regarding equal rights and opportunities.

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    2. Also term “war” in case of Ukraine is misleading, as it implies that there are two equal sides while even though it is clearly an unjustified and underhanded attack by an authoritarian state against a democratic state. It should be called “evil nazi terrorist attack against freedom”. Or maybe just call it “war”…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m sad to say that for right wingers and Republicans in the U.S. (re the Puppies), the Ukraine stuff really didn’t register much. When it did with pundits, the right wingers were in favor of Russia and Putin, not the Ukraine. Right wing conspiracy theories were that it was a false flag operation to claim that the Russians shot down the plane when they quite clearly did. So it created some worldwide tension and war fears between countries, but in the U.S., the authoritarian culture warriors were much more focused on the scary Black people and other civil rights terrors they made up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Meanwhile in Europe, the whole Ukraine thing was a big deal, because any media outlet reporting about Ukraine found itself inundated with negative comments, most of which probably stemmed from Russian paid-for trolls to the point that the media reported less and less about Ukraine to avoid the flood of troll comments.

      This became particularly bad around the time of the shooting down of flight MH-17, where the deaths of 298 people were trivialised by pro-Putin trolls to the point that they tried to portray it as if Malaysian Airlines and the passengers were at fault and not whoever shot an anti-aircraft missile at a passenger plane.

      My Dad had flown on the same route on a business trip very shortly before MH-17 was shot down, so the nonchalant reactions to the deaths of 298 people made me absolutely furious to the point that I got into an argument with a German speaking pro-Putin troll on Twitter.

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      1. My condolences, @Acoustic Rob

        MH-17 getting shot down was just a completely senseless loss of life. And given the route, it makes sense that there would have been Australians on board. There were also a lot of Dutch people on board, since MH-17 started in Amsterdam, and of course, Malaysians. Also a few Germans, because for many of us in North Germany, Amsterdam is the most convenient hub. Not that that stopped the German speaking pro-Putin trolls.

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  4. Even having lived through the nastiness of the next years, I still get a LOL at Teddy finishing 6th out of 5 stories.

    I said that a lot to people who were only peripherally aware of it:

    “Didn’t some bigot get himself nominated?”
    “Yeah, but he finished sixth.”
    “Out of…?”
    “Five.”
    *blink*

    And of course, considering Teddy’s subsequent and everlasting association with the number 5, it’s even funnier. He’d have been 5th that year if only there were TWO FIVES!

    Liked by 6 people

  5. As an active-voice fanatic, I’m going to nag about a perfectly serviceable key sentence:

    “ Day’s expulsion and the other controversies led many right-leaning authors to regard themselves as being under attack by left-wing forces within science fiction.”

    The events didn’t lead the people to do anything. The people interpreted the events as attacks. Would sentence work as:
    “Many right-leaning authors regarded Day’s expulsion and the other controversies as attacks by left-wing forces …”?

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Good to hear.
        Nah, it’s a typical formulation for a draft, where one often pulls ideas out by the tail. That’s why one revises, to present the ideas by the head.

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      2. “Many right-leaning authors regarded Day’s expulsion and the outcomes of other controversies as attacks by left-wing forces. They felt they were under attack by left-wing forces within science fiction.”
        Suggestion: Many right-leaning authors regarded Day’s expulsion and the outcomes of other controversies as attacks by left-wing forces within science fiction

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      3. I think you started and stopped because at the point where I checked out the article, I got to read:

        “Many right-leaning authors regarded Day’s expulsion and the outcomes of other controversies as attacks by left-wing forces. They felt they were under attack by left-wing forces within science fiction”

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    1. (hopeless pedant face) Being an “active-voice fanatic” is irrelevant to that sentence, since it’s already in the active voice. “Passive voice” is a specific grammatical construct, not just a synonym for “being vague about agency” or some such. A passive-voice version of the sentence would be “Many right-leaning authors *were led by*” etc. (Sorry, I see this *all the time* and it’s a pet peeve)

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I’m in favor of moar pedantry. Let’s go to the mat over the Oxford comma! Fuck the alleged subject of this draft! I will defend to the death your right to engage in pedantry. Pederasty, not quite so much. But some.

        Pedantry rules!

        I need to rant about something, and at this particular second, pedantry is IT!

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      2. My only comment on using the Oxford comma: use it or don’t; I only ask that you be consistent.

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      3. No, you’re quite right. Strictly speaking, the sentence was active, but I suggested the change because the original structure allowed the reader to shift responsibility for puppy delusions to events, and away from the people who chose to interpret them in a particular way. That seemed to me like a form of the Divine Passive (e.g. “mistakes were made”), in which people evade responsibility for their actions by removing human agency. I thought perhaps I should say that, but decided to go with the phrasing I used for the sake of brevity.
        But your explanation is still correct, and I share your loathing of the passive. Nice to find another grammar pedant!

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      4. We must be cousins. False identification of passive voice is a real problem! Don’t get me started on the writers who think the word “was” is an unfailing indicator of passive.

        Liked by 3 people

      5. Connie Collins: I had a well-published writer whose works I enjoyed tell me in all sincerity that I needed to rephrase “He was human” to not be passive voice. In a fictional world with multiple sapient species, it seemed important to note, and also, even if it were passive, is there a shorter and more efficient way to note that information? (I’m all for taking time to describe details and all, or for incluing, but there’s a time and a place.)

        Liked by 3 people

  6. I’m not sure that mentioning that Theodore called Jemisin a ‘half-savage’ in that essay that eventually got him expelled really conveys the egregious racism of what he wrote. After all, anyone ignorantly or disingenuously reading this might say that any individual might behave in a ‘savage’ manner and therefore could conceivably deserve to be called so without it being necessarily racist…but him saying that genetic science presently suggests that he and Jemisin aren’t equally homo sapiens sapiens is unequivocally, vilely a strike at a race, not an individual. Choosing the more equivocal epithet tends to tone your synopsis down in his favor, which I’m sure wasn’t your intent.

    I didn’t go to the source to get the quote, but Jim Hines did a write up that mentioned it. https://www.jimchines.com/2013/06/racist-takes-dump-in-sfwa-twitter-stream-news-at-11/

    Liked by 4 people

    1. “aren’t equally homo sapiens sapiens ” it is more racist and also more ignorant and very trollish but it is also a stupid game of Day’s part and in a short precis I don’t want to unpack it because he means something specific by it

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not wishing to descend into the bowels of Theo’s explications of why what he wrote is TOTALLY not racist (judging from the ‘homo sapiens sapiens’ allusion, I think I can figure out what his fig leaf of excuse for that one is, and it still doesn’t cover his naked bigotry), does he have an equally stupidly elaborate and fallacious rationalization of the illiterate Igbotu tribesman bit?

        Liked by 2 people

        1. The not equally homo sapiens sapiens thing is because people European descent have some degree (speculatively) from neaderthals and more so than people of recent African descent. So it is a stupid gotcha on Day’s part – people are supposed to express shock thinking that Day is saying that Africans are less homo sapiens sapiens whereas SURPRISE TWIST he is saying Europeans are less homo sapiens sapiens. Of course, we are all homo sapiens sapiens and the bits of descent we’ve variously got from older now extinct forms of humans is just part of the big genetic pot humans draw from. It’s one of those bits of scientific racism that gloms on to ANYTHING that might distinguish Europeans from Africans and if that means rehabilitating the image of Neaderthals from stupid cave men into the lost tribe of Atlantis, then that’s what they will do.

          So, it’s classic Day. It looks straightforwardly racist, but actually when you unpack it all and follow the specific meanings he is using and the careful caveats, it is in fact straightforwardly racist.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Yeah, I figured it was more or less that. Into what is supposedly a disagreement with Jemisin’s opinion on SFF writers and writing society, Day drags in the possibility that he questions the humanity of the woman of color he’s criticizing, then denies that he does, HOWEVER…bla bla genetics, not equally, etc. For Theo to say that mentioning the possibility that Jemisin isn’t really human isn’t actually racist because NEANDERTHAL GENES, HA HA!…is not going to convince anyone Theo is not racist unless they were already convinced to begin with and are impervious to anything else, IMO. So I don’t think omitting Theo’s overtly racist quote because some theoretical idiot might fall into Theo’s ‘clever’ ‘trap’ is really justified.

            Which brings me back to my previous question. I understand you think that it’s too much trouble to include the ‘not equally homo sapiens sapiens’ quote because you feel you’d have to sum up and poke holes in his transparently false pretense that it’s not racist, and that would allot him more space than he’s worth. But did he attach a similar longwinded fallacious rationalization that his comparison to an ‘illiterate Igbotu tribesman’ isn’t REALLY racist? You might use that quote instead, if not. It just seems to me necessary to show how truly vile Theo had showed himself to be, how thoroughly he deserved his expulsion – because that reflects a great deal on other protagonists in your story, Correia, Torgersen, et al…what they were willing to overlook when they welcomed him into their circle as their comrade.

            Liked by 1 person

      2. @jaynsand:
        My recollection some of Guided by the Beauty of their Weapons is that the ‘argument’ wasn’t that it wasn’t a racist statement so much as that he wasn’t saying that she was inferior by not being homo sapiens sapiens, but that his Denisovan genes made him superior.

        He has always, always been about being clever enough with language to have an obvious meaning that would get people annoyed but which was also deniable by reading it carefully. His entire concept of his own cleverness is based on his pedantry and ability to create statements vague enough that other people will react to the most obvious meaning and he can claim a different meaning was actually meant.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. When the scientific consensus was that species evolved by the equivalent of aging – with “less advanced” species being similar to the pre-adult stages of “more advanced” species, white scientists found that white people were measurably more adult than other people. Oddly, when the consensus shifted to a model in which “more advanced” species retained the youthful flexibility that “less advanced” species lost as they aged into fixed primitiveness, white scientists found to their surprise that the earlier measurements were wrong – white people were measurably less adult than other people. The same story with Neanderthal descent – which flipped from being a sign of primitiveness to an ennobling seasoning, the very moment that genetic results showed Europeans had a tiny bit more Neanderthal genes than other people. Weird, eh?

        Liked by 4 people

      4. NKJ is African-*American*, which means she has Neanderthal or Denisovan ancestors too. There aren’t any purely h.s.s. people unless their ancestors have lived in Sub-Saharan Africa forever and nobody ever procreated outside that group. African-Americans are in aggregate 15-25% genetically non-African (mostly white, some Native).

        Depending on which of her ancestors were gettin’ it on with each other, she might even have more Neanderthal or Denisovan ancestry than Teddy does…

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    1. I never heard of “either” of them except as “both” of them, and I’ve been in the faannish game since Reagan was prez. So I think “revealed” is too strong a verb here.

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    2. I knew Theodore Beale mainly via his Black Gate columns and in fact referred to him as “Theo from Black Gate” for a long time. I don’t know when I became aware of his Vox Day identity or his daddy’s legal woes.

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