Not the post I started writing . . .

In the course of looking for something else entirely, I came across the following:

“I can only suggest that [two writers] – not their story, but the authors themselves – be piled in the middle of the floor and set fire to.”

Now, oddly enough, this was nothing to do with the Latest Thing to Hit Fandom™ , which can be admirably summarised and discussed at

http://laurajmixon.com/2014/11/a-report-on-damage-done-by-one-individual-under-several-names/

but was written by James Blish under his “William Atheling, Jr.” alias in the fanzine Skyhook (Winter 1952-53 issue) and reprinted in his collected “Atheling” columns The Issue At Hand (1964).

It certainly echoes much of what the mysterious RequiresHate/Winterfox/Acrackedmoon/Benjanun Sriduangkaew/various other internet handles posted over the years. It also raises the question of where and how “robust speech” and “performance criticism”, and genuine exploration of uncomfortable facts become simply unpleasant personal attacks, and where that shades into bullying and harassment, and where the use of a pseudonym may be a cloak not for defence, but for attack.

Blish’s “Atheling” columns were written as thought-out attacks on what he saw (with considerable justification) as the low standard of writing and editing in the science fiction of the time (the early 1950s). Among the stories anatomised were those of a James Blish – having noted that, the recollections of several people reading and writing sf at the time (when I asked a few I happen to be in contact with) were that, while the identify of “Atheling” in the first few columns was something of a mystery, Blish was identified as the author quite quickly – and certainly by the time the book was published in 1964 there was no secret.

Blish was a member of the 30s/40s fan group, the Futurians – about whom it was said (by Frederik Pohl) “No CIA nor KGB ever wrestled so valiantly for the soul of an emerging nation as New Fandom and the Futurians did for science fiction”. (Mostly) very young and (mostly) left-wing, the Futurians were addicted to feuds and squabbles, and some of these feuds took bitter and virulent forms.

So nothing changes much . . .

Oddly enough, no-one at Worldcon pulled me into a corner and said “Guess what? Benjanun Sriduangkaew is Requireshate!” I found out when everyone else found out – technically: I was aware that RH still was spreading her poison, and that there were rumours, but it didn’t seem the most important thing in the world and I guess I made no effort to find out what these rumours actually were. What has really interested me about the whole thing is, despite the small-circle controversy and rather pathetic attempts to defend hate-speech and racism because that’s how people talk on the internet and anyway it wasn’t really hate-speech and racism because [I always get lost here], the number of people who have just said:

 

“Who?”

 

Followed by those who said:

 

“Yes, I saw her blog and it was vile so I stopped reading it.”

 

Unfortunately, as is being charted on Laura J. Mixon’s website, a considerable number of people were being targeted and felt that no-one was there to help. Others accepted the political colouring over the racism and hate-speech and made excuses, were taken in, felt that the sometimes valid points that were made justified the fact that they were made in such a way as to close down any sort of debate or discussion. Others genuinely felt that in helping and promoting “Benjanun Sriduangkaew”, they were encouraging the diversity that the literature badly needs, rather than encouraging more mind-games.

And many of us actually didn’t feel in the slightest bit threatened, because we were either not directly involved, or were confident enough in our identities not to be particularly bothered about what some blogger on the edge of our horizons thought of us, when there were real issues to be confronted and dealt with.

And at this point, what was going to be a much longer piece, about the nature of real literary feuds (see my previous post), the school-playground culture of fandom, and how what might have been fun in the more enclosed environment of the 1950s doesn’t wash any more, gets deleted. The discussion over at http://laurajmixon.com/2014/11/a-report-on-damage-done-by-one-individual-under-several-names/ is where real people, affected by this episode (if something going on for over ten years can be called an “episode”) are having their say, and where discussions are beginning to take place about what might actually be done to combine the twin goals of allowing as many voices as possible the chance to speak for themselves and to have proper robust but adult discussions about serious matters. People over there are making points more eloquently than I can.

Oh, and I found this by accident too, though you might guess what I was googling for:

 

“All I believe tells me that I cannot be a part of ANY ORGANIZATION that requires hate of my fellow men as an operational necessity”.  From Reconciliation Road: A Family Odyssey by John Douglas Marshall

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