I like smoking lightning

Posted: 11th January 2015 by Christian in Blog
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I won’t do this often, this talking about me. But…

About nine years ago, I had me an internet stalking incident. Anonymous person, turned out to be persons, created a livejournal to make fun of me. Used my photos shopped em up to mock me. Made posts in my ‘voice’. No big. I make no special effort to be liked and I don’t dissemble. People come at me now and again.

Then, somehow, they’d gotten ahold of work that wasn’t for publication. Work I was getting ready to submit to publishers. Mocked that too. Mocked the quality of my work. Mocked my ambitions. All that stuff. It got nasty and mean.

In the end, all it was was two cats making fun of me because they didn’t like me as a person. And when I figured it out, it all ended with my then-girlfriend making a telephone call to one of the stalkers that ended in him weeping on the phone. Turns out, it was just jealousy because I’d made friends with a girl he fancied and started a relationship with another. The other guy, well, he’s unimportant and can be forgotten.

I never named and shamed. What’s the point? I just wanted out of the situation and, honestly, no one ever shunned a friend because they did something bad. It stopped. Case closed. Next.

I know who they are, though. And, I’ll tell you the truth, because I’m just a human, I do take a little bit of nasty solace from hearing those sobs.

Move on.

But – this all lasted about a month. And in that time, I never felt like my safety was threatened. But I remember the outrage. The sick feeling that someone might see those words and dismiss my attempts at being a writer. Was this an actual threat to my work and my desire to do this for a living? My graphic novel ‘Witch King’ had just been released and we were trying to get press and I didn’t bloody need it. I remember the frustration I felt at not being able to fight back. At the wondering ‘who dislikes me enough to do this?’ and being unable to leave it the hell alone.

Not the worst stalking in the world. Not death-threats. Not rape threats.  I never felt unsafe, although I worried for my career and reputation. But… a taste. A real taste of it.

Move on.

Around 2012 I discover a blog called ‘Requires Hate.’ It reviewed SF/Fantasy books in the cruelest terms possible. Something wasn’t homophobic, it was written by a homophobic shitlord who should fuck off forever.

I read it for a month or so, bizarrely amused that such a ferocious thing existed. It said horrible things but, well, always in the service of a review. And I found it prickling the pretensions of the identitarian left were quite hilarious.

But then, the calls to acid-attack authors began. Research about the author ‘acrackedmoon’ revealed a fairly unpleasant history of trolling and attacking women and queer writers. Calls for others to be sexually assaulted by dogs and other such delights.

Black humor became morbid fascination. Watching a woman who shrieked about her own identity and demanding she be deferred to because of it seemed the end game of identity politics in SF writing to me. She could say anything, do anything, and people would defend her because she was an Asian lesbian and that meant any action against her was automatically racist and homophobic. Madness.

But people bought into it and that began to sit very poorly with me.

Especially, especially when details of her life came out and it was revealed she was ethnic Chinese, educated in England. In short, part of a rapacious economic class. When people talk about oppressors, they seemed to focus on dodgy readings  of novels, not on what oppression actually is. As if a naff novel was worse than inheriting punishing class-privilege that actively, actually hurts people in demonstrable, physical ways.

Then I noticed that authors, in the name of God, authors! were sucking up to this increasingly vicious critic. They were piling on the whole ‘Oh my God so sexist, racist, homophobic slit their throats!’ dogpile. Other critics joined this Requires Hate person, eager to get in on the fun.

I’ve known bullies all my life. Part of what makes them bullies is that they gather these little gangs around them. People who will gladly serve power, no matter how cruel, just to have a place.

Nerds, wildly happy to swap places with the bullies. Exuberant that their place in the hierarchy meant they could throw punches, not take them.

In fact, so much SF criticism had shifted to trying to find evidence of writer’s various phobias and isms. Making someone cry was like taking a scalp. It was scoring points. And if writers defended themself, ‘white woman’s tears!’ and ‘awww poor white man!’
If you weren’t white, well, internalised racism, yeah?

Watching people try to pin down venerable writer, the openly gay since the 50s, black man Samuel Delaney as a pederast, who had spent decades writing about gay desire, at times when you could serve jail for it, let alone the risks to your personal safety, was pretty much the end for me.

In 2012, I started publishing comics again. My work with artist Michael Maier, Eldritch Kid, gained some small attention and I was part of a documentary about my publisher. I went to an awards ceremony as EK was nominated. I was not comfortable. For starters, a sea of white skins which, you know, would have no meaning or signification at all, except that… these are the radicals demanding an end to Caucasian hegemony? An unfair thought but there it is.

It all seemed exceptionally middle-class and I felt very exposed in my cheap suit. Drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, swearing, all the signifiers of my life and class seemed boorish. Were these the authors similarly the kinds of people to make outlandish claims against their fellows to please an authoritarian identitarian? Were the critics?

Who was just waiting to throw a punch the second they got behind a keyboard?
It would be wrong to say I felt unsafe. But I certainly knew I’d never make that scene.

Recently, Requires Hate was outed as a new fiction writer who received much praise.Of course, she was outed. Just found out about it this week. She’s in the ‘She has stars in her hair and wind in her fingertips’ sort of school of imagist pile-on fantasy. Not much interest to me but people dig it.

And her most vicious dogs turned on her. Lots of rewriting history. Lots of arse-covering. Lots of people left having to explain why they stood with a woman who took great pleasure in suggesting her opponents were, automatically, racists who should be brutally murdered. This all raises a question.

Who’ll be the next Requires Hate?

It’s clear the position is a coveted one in the world of science-fiction criticism. People are already defending her as a radical non-white voice. As if vicious attacks were a cogent intellectual sociopolitical position. Who’ll have enough oppression bucks in the bank to act like a beast, held up on the shoulders of people who talk a good game about equality and justice, but are just there for blood and the thrill of making people afraid.

People give me a lot of career advice. I don’t take much. I should be a lot more involved in the SF writing community. That I should get out there and promote myself. But the enthusiastic reception of Requires Hate, well, it makes me remember that month 9 years ago.

Makes me think that here’s a community that I can’t relax around. Consider suspect politically. Who when I listen, I can hear the sound of baying hounds.

A community I can’t trust.