In several categories, the Puppies took all but one nomination, and those remaining nominees have no doubt taken a read of the situation and realized that they stand a very good chance of winning a Hugo by default, which is probably something they feel very conflicted about. Taking a look at those nominees myself, I see some who would have seemed like deserving winners in any year (Julie Dillon for Best Pro Artist), and others that I don't know much about (Wes Chu for the Campbell Award). I also see the Best Fan Writer category, in which Laura J. Mixon is the only non-Puppy nominee. As difficult as this is to say, my plan at the moment is to rank Mixon below No Award, and I'd like to talk for a bit about my reasons for doing that.
Mixon is on the ballot because of a single post, "A Report on Damage Done by One Individual Under Several Names." George R. R. Martin endorsed her for a nomination, and whether or not that played a deciding role in securing it for her (his endorsement was made only a day before the nominating period closed, but on the other hand he does have a huge megaphone and the Best Fan Writer category has a relatively low profile and would thus be susceptible to his influence), it reflects the perception that Mixon performed a public service in writing that report, and that the Best Fan Writer category can and should be used to reward such service. I don't know whether I agree with that approach, but the fact that everyone (including Mixon herself) seems to agree that this is what happened makes it easier to discuss what message is sent by nominating and rewarding her.
The individual Mixon writes about was known variously as (to give a by no means complete sample) Wintefox, Valse de Lune, Pyrofennec, A Cracked Moon, and, most famously, Requires Hate. Under that last name, she published a blog in which she wrote angry, often harsh critiques of genre fiction, particularly epic and urban fantasy. She often came under fire for the angry tone of her reviews, and for her liberal use of violent rhetoric, often directed at authors or other reviewers she disagreed with. Defenders of the blog argued that the anger Requires Hate displayed was merely a performance meant to illustrate her disgust with the sexist and racist tropes and plot elements she disdained, that her reviews served an important function in dismantling the prejudice that still lingers within the genre, and that attacking her rhetoric amounted to dismissing her arguments for not being presented in the correct, conciliatory tone.
The Requires Hate blog was allowed to fade away around 2012, more or less coinciding with a loud, public blow-out with a number of authors including Liz Williams and others. Shortly thereafter, a young writer by the name of Benjanun Sriduangkaew began publishing well-received short stories in several major short fiction venues, even earning a Campbell Award nomination last year. Known to a small number of people within the industry was the fact that Sriduangkaew and Requires Hate were the same person. (Because that's the name under which she's continued to speak publicly, for the rest of this post I'm going to use the name Sriduangkaew to refer to this individual, even when referring to statements made under her other aliases; the impression I've formed, however, is that Benjanun Sriduangkaew is also a nom de plume--which, for the record, is a thoroughly legitimate and commonplace choice for which I see no reason to criticize her.)
What happens next is less easy to discern. What does seem to have been substantiated is that Sriduangkaew got into a fight with author Tricia Sullivan over the latter's most recent novel, Shadowboxer, which Sriduangkaew felt presented a skewed, Orientalizing view of its Thai setting. At some point she seems to have attacked the author Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, who refused to join in her excoriation of Sullivan's book. At another point--and the timeline here has been very hard to gauge, so I have no idea what happened before what--Sullivan and, apparently, Williams began a whisper campaign linking Sriduangkaew to the Requires Hate persona. This went on for several months and included, it has been claimed, contacting publishers and urging them not to buy stories from Sriduangkaew. Finally, last fall, Nick Mamatas, who is close with Sriduangkaew and knew her identity, made a public post linking her with Requires Hate, in what he claimed was an attempt to get ahead of the rumor mill. If Mamatas believed that his post would throw the burden of guilt on Sullivan and Williams, however, he miscalculated. When James Nicoll reported on the affair, the comments to his post became inundated with anonymous respondents all saying the same thing--that during the ten years that she was switching identities and "performing" rage, Sriduangkaew was also engaged in campaigns of abuse and harassment against authors and fans, many of whom were still too frightened to accuse her publicly.
My own feelings about this mess are deeply conflicted. I never thought much of the Requires Hate blog. I appreciate--and indeed have published--angry and performative reviews that make strident points about racism and sexism, but in Requires Hate's writing the ratio of rage to actual critique and insight didn't seem to justify the effort. Still, it was obvious that a lot of readers got something out of her writing and valued its existence, so when the rhetoric in her reviews turned violent and began to be directed at actual people, I quietly stopped reading. I had been vaguely aware that Requires Hate was one of several pseudonyms (which, again, I see nothing wrong with), but the only one I was aware of was the one under which she commented at Ferretbrain. There, she struck me as a bully, someone who perceived disagreement as inherently illegitimate and ruthlessly attacked anyone who expressed it. But, since the people on the site seemed to take this in stride, it hardly felt like my place to intervene. When the blow-up over the Requires Hate blog happened in 2012, I was sympathetic to a lot of the criticisms raised, but it also seemed clear that to stand against Requires Hate would mean standing with people I cared for even less, who would cheerfully use her behavior as a cudgel against all anti-racist, anti-sexist writing, and who would tar any angry review with the brush of "bullying." I was dismayed to discover that the friendly Sriduangkaew persona had been a front, but in the grand scheme of things we hadn't been friends and she hadn't owed me anything. It did not seem obvious to me that the extent of Sriduangkaew's deception justified its exposure.
I did not know about the abuse. When the allegations surfaced in the comments to Nicoll's LJ post, however, it seemed obvious that I should have guessed. Not only were there multiple accounts of it, but the behavior they described was entirely consistent with Sriduangkaew's public utterances, the viciousness merely turned up. In that light, Sriduangkaew's behavior--the multiple aliases, and even more tellingly, her consistent deletion of her internet history, especially where it could cast her in a negative light--was clearly revealed as that of a predator, who makes nice with those who have power and attacks those who don't. Sriduangkaew's apologies--one as herself and one as Requires Hate--only confirmed that impression. They both minimize or outright ignore her actual abuses. She is far too busy apologizing for offending the powerful to remember that she bullied and abused the powerless.
I've said all this not only to clarify where I stand on Benjanun Sriduangkaew (which is surely not something that anyone cared about) but to make it clear that I do see the value in Mixon's report, which collates evidence of Sriduangkaew's history and actions over more than a decade and in multiple guises. Abusers thrive when the communities around them forget who they are and what they've done. They actively encourage that forgetfulness--as Sriduangkaew has done by switching personas and erasing her own past. Especially in a community like ours, in which newcomers are always showing up, there is a great deal of value in having a single resource to point to whenever a certain name comes up. And there's no denying that something like Mixon's report is exactly how people with privilege and power should use them when abuse and harassment happen in their community. (Over at SAFE, the blog she established with Tade Thompson to provide a safe space where fans of color can hopefully be protected from abuses like Sriduangkaew's, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz writes about why she feels that this value justifies awarding Mixon the Hugo. Obviously, we disagree, but I strongly urge you to read her take in full, because it is an argument worth considering.)
There is a huge difference between acknowledging that something has value and giving it an award. The message that the latter sends is one that I, personally, am not comfortable with. To begin with, there are huge problems with Mixon's report. Some of them are not her fault--Sriduangkaew's self-editing and the fact that so many of her victims would only speak on condition of anonymity mean that Mixon lacks citations for many of her claims, and I can see feeling that the importance of her cause justified ignoring the conventions of good journalism. Others, however, were entirely within her control. The report consistently treats all of Sriduangkaew's excesses--her rage-blogging, her public bullying, and her private abuse and harassment--as if they were equally bad, whereas to my mind only the last one justifies the opprobrium that has descended upon her. In a particularly ill-judged segment of the report, Mixon divides the people who have sounded off about Sriduangkaew into "pro-abuse" and "anti-abuse," even though it should be clear to anyone that this is an enormously complex situation with many nuances. (UPDATE: I had misremembered that this segment was in Mixon's report. It's actually in another LJ post by azarias.) The report's emphasis on mathematical "proof"--Mixon includes charts and graphs to demonstrate, for example, that Sriduangkaew predominantly targeted women of color--feels perverse, especially given that Mixon is missing most of her sources. Worst of all, unsurprisingly, are the comments, which confirm my impulse from back in 2012 that most of the people who would take an anti-Requires Hate stance are ones that I want nothing to do with. It takes a mere instant for someone to show up and announce that Sriduangkaew's existence proves that all anti-racist writing is bullying. Another wonders aloud whether Sriduangkaew is "really" Asian. In her essay, Loenen-Ruiz writes that giving Mixon a Hugo demonstrates the genre community's commitment to protecting the weak and vulnerable. I think the comments on Mixon's report demonstrate something very different.
One thing that Loenen-Ruiz and I absolutely agree on: more than race or gender or anything else, this story is about power. There is, sadly, no shortage of abusers in the genre community, and whether they get excoriated as Sriduangkaew has (deservedly) been seems to depend a lot more on their power and connections than on what they've done. René Walling sexually harassed a female writer at Readercon. It took tremendous community organization and outrage to get him banned from that con (and where, might I ask, is Genevieve Valentine's Best Fan Writer nomination for her fearless and oh-so-eloquent writing about the experience of the harassment and the ordeal that followed?). Within weeks of that decision being handed down, Walling was volunteering at the 2012 Worldcon in Chicago, and being thanked from on stage by Best Novel winner Jo Walton. Jim Frenkel harassed women from his position as an editor at Tor for decades before anyone thought to do anything about it. Marion Zimmer Bradley sexually abused her children and enabled the abuse of countless others by her husband, Walter Breen, something that should, if we lived in a just world, have landed her in prison for life. Instead, the genre community seems determined to forget about it. This last year, Deirdre Saoirse Moen and James Nicoll did yeoman's work in publicizing the sordid details of Bradley's crimes--things that were known but not spoken of--but somehow no one seems to have seriously considered them for a Hugo.
I'm not trying to say that Sriduangkaew deserves a pass because so many other, more powerful (and whiter) figures in genre got one--she clearly doesn't. But when people like Walling and Frenkel and Bradley are allowed to skate by for years, while an author of George R. R. Martin's caliber (who is, quite justifiably, a prime target for the kind of angry rhetoric about race and gender that Requires Hate specialized in, and who just yesterday published a post in which he describes all such angry rhetoric as illegitimate) takes the time to sing the praises of Mixon's report... Well, it makes it easier to understand why so many people were willing to ignore the problems with Sriduangkaew's public behavior for so long. Loenen-Ruiz thinks that nominating Mixon for the Hugo shows that the community is taking abuse seriously. I think it shows that the community will happily excoriate abuse, but only when it's committed by someone of relatively low status.
Benjanun Sriduangkaew and Vox Day are two sides of the same coin. They're both bullies and trolls, who seem to take genuine pleasure out of causing pain and destruction. But at the end of the day, neither one of them is really our problem. Vox Day destroyed this year's Hugos and may have done the award permanent, irrevocable damage, but he's never going to get the prestige and recognition he so clearly craves. Sriduangkaew has hurt real people in a terrible and lasting way--and if you take nothing else away from this post, I'd like to be clear that I consider that unforgivable--but everyone now knows what she is and her career has suffered real damage (earlier this year Tor.com--whose parent company continues to publish Orson Scott Card and John C. Wright--came under fire for publishing a story by her). Neither one of them is our problem because neither one of them is in a position to have any real power over the community as a whole. Our problem--our real problem--is things like the inexplicable, sickening hostility directed at projects like Con or Bust, the People of Color in European Art History project, or Tempest Bradford's challenge to take a year off reading books by white men. Our problem is that the only thing that gets fandom up in arms over the prevalence of rape in Game of Thrones is when the rapist is a beloved male character. Our problem is that when fans of color complain about the uniform whiteness of Agent Carter they're told that what they want is "unrealistic," and criticized for harshing white fans' squee.
There's been a lot of talk in the last six days about Us and Them. The takeover of the Hugos by a cabal of reactionary, bigoted trolls makes it very easy for us to feel righteous and just, as the standard-bearers for social justice and equality. But the fact is that there are a lot of people on our side who don't feel like an Us, who frequently feel that their concerns, their points of view, their grievances, are not taken into account. What sort of message does it send to those people to give a Hugo to Laura J. Mixon and her report? Does it tell them, as Loenen-Ruiz claims, that genre is becoming a kinder, more equitable place? Or does it tell them that if they ever fuck up, they can look forward to being pounced upon while people with more power and status who have committed far worse crimes skate by?
In writing this, I realize that I will be seen as attacking Mixon. I'm very sorry about that and I hope that what I've written here doesn't cause her a lot of distress. My problem, in the end, is less with her than with the people who nominated her and who will now vote for her. (It is also worth acknowledging that I was a Best Fan Writer nominee last year and had reasonable expectations of being on the ballot again this year. To be honest, I'm relieved that I'm not--I wouldn't want to be in the middle of this mess--but you only have my word for that.) I also want to urge you, again, to read Loenen-Ruiz's post, because her perspective is important--arguably, more than mine. I would also, however, like to point out this post by Kate Nepveu, another