Dear Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA, please shut the fuck up.

I know you value your freedom of speech. Good on you. However there are 1788 other members of SFWA who also value their freedom of speech and manage to exercise it without being raging assholes.

You are professional writers, so should know the power of words. I therefore must assume that you are deliberately being provocative and trying to set things on fire because you enjoy watching a flamewar.

There are 1788 other members who don’t. Scratch that… there are 1752 because some people just quit because of you.

I know, I know. Asking you not to be racist/sexist/elitist, or just for impulse control is tantamount to fascism and catering to the liberal mob. All the other members manage to do it. Why can’t you?

I spent four years in office and the first year I almost quit because I got so tired of getting hate mail. Then I realized that it was coming from the same dozen people, every single time. All the other members were lovely. It was easier to shrug off being called “impertinent,” or “wannabee” (Did I show you the Hugo I won since then), or “Nazi,” when it became clear that the vitriol didn’t represent all of SFWA, just a dozen rabid weasels.

However, I am sick to death of putting out the fires that you people start.

Please quit. And by “quit” I mean, please quit SFWA in a huff. Please quit noisily and complaining about how SFWA is censoring you for asking you to stop using hate speech. Please quit and complain about the “thoughtcrime” of asking people not to sexually harass someone.  Please quit and bellyache about the good old days when people could be bigoted jerks. I want you to express your opinions clearly so that everyone knows them and knows that you are quitting because the other members of SFWA want you to Shut the Fuck up.

With all sincerity,

Mary Robinette Kowal

 

[Edited to add: My site was crashing from traffic, so I had to turn "lockdown" on the caching. Your comments ARE being recorded, they just don't cause the page to refresh. I'll be able to set it back to normal later.]

246 Responses

  1. Kat Goodwin

    It would probably be very nice for the volunteer staff of SFWA if these twelve people went away. Which is exactly why they have no interest in going away. But it wasn’t one of the “rabid weasels” who put a Red Sonja picture on the cover of the Bulletin, or let Resnick (not a rabid weasel,) and others run their mouths in an official publication. And the reasons authors have left recently are bigger and deeper than some vocal, violently inclined members, and seem to have as much to do with business concerns as anything else. SFWA needs to get better at representing the interests of its 1700 plus members. That’s not easy — you all have lives and the job is tough. But it’s not the trolls who will bring SFWA down and tarnish its image, in my opinion. It’s the lack of attention to the 1700 plus who are quiet. Nonetheless, your post title is an understandable sentiment.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      Kat, I completely agree with you that the recent Bulletin issues were a serious problem. My impression though was that the major problem wasn’t the initial sexist remarks and cover, but that the third issue double-down on the position and accused people who had complained of being fascists. They talked about “thought-control” and “censorship” even though, clearly, they were not silenced. While Mike Resnick was always very supportive while I was in office, even when we didn’t agree, his column was a published version of the way the rabid weasels react to criticism.

      And yes, I agree that too much attention goes to a small group and not enough to the larger membership.

      1. SFWA member

        “the major problem wasn’t the initial sexist remarks and cover, but that the third issue double-down on the position and accused people who had complained of being fascists.”

        I agree with this. Missteps occurred and caused negative comment in the previous issues of The Bulletin. Shit happens, you clean it up, and you move on–which is what should have happened here. Instead, we got issue #202.

        I’ve seen lots and lots of “ideology” (sexism, feminism, “free speech,” etc.) argued all over the place ever since that excruciatingly unprofessional “Dialogues” in issue #202 was published, and I think that’s all beside the point in this matter. The point is, these writers and this editor had previously been criticized for content, which is a thing that many writers and editors experience in their careers… But rather than moving on and focusing on doing their work well, they instead decided to respond by throwing a public tantrum and attacking their readers (SFWA members -are- the Bulletin’s audience, whether that editor and those columnists like it or not) in the pages of the mag. Decisions like that always go very badly for writers on their blogs or other open internet forums. Doing it as paid columnist for a supposedly professional publication was bound to get them -and- the editor who approved it removed from those positions, especially given that rather than acknowledging such unprofessional content as a mistake, they’re standing behind it–which means they certainly can’t be counted on not to repeat such antics in the mag.

        1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

          I don’t want to get side-tracked into a discussion of what went wrong with the Bulletin, but I have to point out that Jean did seek input on this issue because she was aware that she had a blindspot. Scalzi is one of my closest friends, but that issue going out is firmly his fault, because he had the opportunity to proof it and failed to read the entire thing. Book tour. Writing career. These are good reasons for being distracted, but he still had a responsibility and didn’t do it. So, I don’t think that Jean should be taking the heat for this issue since her boss gave her the okay.

          That said, I do think she made the appropriate choice to step down. She’d done great work with the Bulletin, but the blind spot on current conversations about feminism was going to continue to be a problem.

  2. Alonso Quixano

    I didn’t even know SFWA existed until this morning, but I’ve bookmarked this letter because it’s so well written and I will check out your wonderful work. I’m a visual artist, a voracious reader and also fed up with this sort of behaviour within the arts community. You’re my kind of people! Screw toxic people- proud of you for taking a stand, Mary!

  3. Spider Robinson

    We give these people the only power they have: the power to annoy. Treat them as wolf-criers: ignore them. They are beneath the attention of grownups, like little boys who won’t stop loudly farting. The mistake is ours–agreeing with them that they exist–and we can stop any time we choose to. Wait until they’re done speaking, and then continue as if they hadn’t. Make the inside of their unpleasant heads their Coventry; themselves their only company there. A conversation can only occur if two sides consent to it. If they get no response at all but total silence, they’ll soon find some other attention-getting venue, somewhere else. Hopeably, a prosecutable one. We all write history together, and we can leave out anyone we choose.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

      Spider, I so wish that worked. Sadly, when I was an elected official, I had to reply to them. That was my job, to make sure every member was heard, even if they were miserable, vitriolic people who didn’t want to discuss, or debate, or even argue. They just wanted to be right.

      My conversations tended to be something like:
      Me: Hey, we should probably step the left to avoid that oncoming bus.
      Rabid Weasel: SFWA HAS A LONG TRADITION OF STANDING HERE!
      Me: Yes, but there’s a bus coming, so we should step to the left.
      RW: HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST WE STEP THE LEFT, WHEN CLEARLY WE SHOULD WALK TO THE LEFT!
      Me: I think we’re saying the same thing.
      RW: DO NOT TWIST MY WORDS! I SAID WE SHOULD WALK TO THE LEFT AND YOU SAID STEP.
      Me. …
      RW: YOU CANNOT REFUTE ME!
      Me: Look. There’s a bus. You need to move or it will hit you.
      RW: THREATS! ATTEMPTS TO SILENCE US!

      1. Jonathon Side

        Now I’m imagining they do that with everything.

        WEASEL: I am making a telephone call and it is not being answered!
        NONWEASEL: Maybe they’re out.
        W: That’s not good enough! THEY SHOULD ANSWER.
        N: Just try again later.
        W: I HAVE A RIGHT TO MAKE THIS CALL!
        N: But if they’re not answering, maybe they’re busy or something. Call later.
        W: BUT I HAVE A RIGHT TO MAKE THIS CALL NOW!
        N: Well, I guess they have a right not to answer.
        W: You mean they’re not answering on purpose? FASCISTS!
        N: …. I have _no_ idea why anyone would not want to talk to you…

        1. lkeke

          You mean reasonable folk vs. nutjobs? We occasionally get phone calls, just like this, at my job. So yeah, I think they’re like that everywhere.

    2. Alastair Mayer

      That has to be one of the most eloquent ways of saying “don’t feed the trolls” I’ve ever read, and I’m inclined to agree. But I sympathize with Mary’s point below. Sometimes it’s not so much a matter of feeding the troll as sticking a sock in it.

    3. Lee

      Sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but “just ignore the bullies and eventually they’ll stop bothering you” is advice which does not work, has NEVER worked, and amounts to telling the victim that it’s their fault for being bullied rather than showing the bullies that their behavior is unacceptable. This attitude is one of the things which allows the culture of bullying to continue unchecked, It’s still spinach, and I still say to hell with it.

      1. Sylvia

        Yes.
        “Ignore them” often translates to “let them hurt you and don’t do anything about it.”

        Enough already.

    4. Josh Jasper

      As someone who’s loved your work since before I was first on alt.callahans, please note that I say this with the deepest respect for you. You’ve made my life a better life.

      You’re missing something here.

      This isn’t about a conversation one can walk away from. It’s about the image SFWA presents to the world, who’s the face of it, and who’s going to see that face and decide that it’s not a welcoming one.

      We’ve reached a place where SFWA can only be welcoming to one of two groups. If nothing is done, one group are seriously considering scrapping the whole enchilada of SFWA. I know this because they’re people I know. Some I even call friends.

      These are the up and coming writers of this century. Writers like Saladin Ahmed, NK Jemisin, Scott Lynch, Seanan McGuire, Jim Hines, and our very own host Mary Robinette Kowal.

      These folks, and many writers I know like them are getting sick and tired. And many are leaving SFWA (I suspect Mary will stay and fight the good fight for a long time), because as per your suggesting, they decided to stop paying attention to a toxic cesspit. They will leave SFWA to the people who’re polluting it.

      That’s the oncoming bus Mary is talking about. Not the crappy behavior, but the departure of vital new voices in the field who should be happy to be in SFWA.

      We’re going to see one group or another abandon SFWA. SFWA has to choose now which group is going to depart. One because the toleration of Rabid Weasel Behavior has gone on long enough, or one because Feminism/Anti Racism Ruined Everything.

      We can pick one group, or the other. SFWA can’t support both.

      Anyhow, thanks for all you’ve done for me with your writing.

      1. Beth

        There is that rare occasion when Mike just has to throw someone out of the bar. The Rabid Weasels are that time.

      2. Mary Robinette Kowal Post author

        I just wanted to say that I think SFWA can be welcoming to lots of groups of people. My problem with the rabid weasels is that we are privileging a very tiny group of about a dozen, over the needs of the rest of the organization, which has multiple diverse groups within it.

        It’s totally possible to not be a feminist and also not be a rabid weasel. The difference is that someone who isn’t a feminist might bite, but they won’t respond to “Hey, that hurt!” by biting you more.

        A rabid weasel will take savage joy in inflicting more pain and even think that you deserve it. “You volunteered for this” or “You’re a public figure so you should accept that people will get angry” or “If you can’t stand the heat…”

        But the behavior of that small group of people will drive everyone away. It’s one thing to think you might be bitten. It’s another to know it. We know the rabid weasels bite. Why put up with that?

        1. Josh Jasper

          They may not drive *everyone* away. There are plenty of people people who’re weaselblind.

          They’ll almost certainly keep driving away certain groups, though. We both know SFWA is at a tipping point, and has to choose which group it wants to make welcome. They can’t have both. They’ve spend decades ignoring the rabid weasels. They just can’t do that anymore and keep people who the weasels go after.

    5. Seth Swanson

      I spent most of my early life being harassed and told “Ignore it and it will go away.” This is the biggest lie any adult ever made up and fed to a kid, largely because they didn’t want to deal with the situation. The only way to make bullies go away is to confront them. No problem ever just “takes care of itself.”

      Never, ever tell a kid who’s being harassed, or anyone for that matter, that they should just ignore it. Its probably the worst and most destructive thing you can do, short of joining in yourself.

      I’m all in favor of cutting the bile out of an organization that I hope to one day join.

    6. Jenrose

      Sometimes you have to say, “This behavior will not be tolerated here. Go away.”

      Waiting for someone to stop talking so that you can ignore them only really works if they ever stop talking.

      I was told many times as a teenager that the bad behavior of the men around me was something I should ignore. That I needed to grow a thicker skin.

      You know what I needed? I needed ONE adult to tell me at that point in my life that I was right to be upset when people violated my body, my personal space, my dignity. That such behavior was not acceptable and that I was right to be upset by it. That they would defend my right to not have people grab my ass or run their hands up my leg or grab my boob… that I had a right to expect someone to teach me the same way they were teaching the boy.

      Silence? Just let them get away with it. They thrive on silence. That silence let people who hurt me hurt others… because no one said anything, hoping they’d go away, hoping they’d get the message, hoping they’d stop.

      Good people speak up. Your idea that treating them like 2 year olds and ignoring bad behavior will fix the bad behavior? Is incredibly naive.

  4. BW

    Having been in a similar situation, they will complain loudly about how they are leaving and they will go… for about 2 days… they will be back like nothing has happened, except added to their list of complaints will be added being forced to leave.

    Banning them would likely result in a bit of community fragmentation, I think it’s worth the risk. Arranging for various bones to be broken wouldn’t shut them up however tempting. Short of getting them all into the same room, Cask of Amontillado style, you won’t be rid of them.

  5. (Now appearing in his usual sulpherous cloud) Tom Kratman

    I’m a really cheap date, Alex. I don’t drink anymore. Now some good coffee…

    Hmmm…not to question Hawking’s honesty, below, but I wonder if he can come up with a single example, even one, of my attacking anyone for being gay, lesbian, non-white, other than Christian, per se, as his/her post says, because I, frankly, am at a loss for any such occasion. Now attack without any particular principles or unnecessary restraint if attacked, sure…certainly, but that’s rather a different issue. I’m an attack dog, by nature, by instinct, and by several different kinds of education and training. That said, who knows, maybe he can come up with one. If so, God knows, my wife is going to be very upset when she discovers I only like white people…if that’s true.

  6. snelson134

    No.

    That’s really the only response they should make. If they are who I think, that’s the only one they will make. No, they won’t quit and spare you the necessity of exposing your inner Nazi by expelling them. No, they won’t stop writing exactly what they want to write. No, they won’t stop mocking you and your pretensions of tolerance, intelligence, or any other virtue you claim but don’t possess.

    No.

    Now, go away, you silly puppeteer, or we shall taunt you once again.

      1. Jonathon Side

        That would be snelson’s pretension of intelligence. Not sure why they thought you’d be offended by a Monty Python quote. I guess we’re lucky they didn’t bring elderberries and hamsters into it! Oh, what horror we have avoided!

        Or maybe they’re imagining that they were mispronouncing and mangling ‘puppeteer’ the way Cleese’s French soldier character turned ‘knights’ into ‘k’nigits’…

  7. Chuck Shingledecker

    Wow, Mary!!! Tell us what you really think! :) seriously, your last several posts have been awesome and inspiring. thank you for being someone brave enough to speak their mind. It is encouraging, especially for me who has been burned many times for speaking my mind.

  8. Roland Dobbins

    Since of the ‘up and coming writers of the century’ you cite, Scott Lynch is the only one who writes anything worth reading, I’m with the Rabid Weasels.

  9. Sylvia

    We’re not gate-crashing we’re site-crashing!
    Thanks for letting us know it’s teh same few loudmouths.

    I love your work, both published words and your ideas published on your blog. Please keep writing.

  10. johnb3950

    I didn’t know about SFWA, came here via a link from a Lilith Saintcrow site, but really admire your letter.

    I have no magic solution, but will comment that I recognize the twelve-asshole (or some other smallish number) phenomenon from many other places. I find it in Amazon forums and YouTube reviews.

    What IS it with these people? They are almost a recognizable sub-species of homo not-so-sapiens. Probably at work they are the ones described as “abrasive:” at home….I shudder to think.

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