As you all probably know by now (or ought to if you are reading this) an author nominated for last year’s John W. Campbell Jr. Award for Best New Writer – Benjanun Sriduangkaew – has fessed up to being the person(s) responsible for the hate & critique blog Requires Only That You Hate. And to being a whole slew of other online personalities that have engaged in attacks, intimidation and generally unacceptable behavior, largely directed towards other members of the SF community (notably other authors who might or might not be a ‘threat’ to the budding career of a new SF author).
My first reaction to this whole BenjanunGate thing was a literal “Bwuh huh?”, followed by a violent, dog-like shaking of the head. Kinda like Chekhov did after the ear worm was forced into him. The sense of disconnect was staggering and physical. Someone who wants to be a successful genre author – someone who wants to win awards and praise for their work, get invited to conventions to display their wonderful self for all and sundry, someone who wants to hobnob and influence and pontificate, critique and all the rest – someone who wants to be accepted as a fully-fledged, honored and valuable member of our community has chosen a strategy of attack, intimidation, harassment?
Only on the internet.
Well, no. It’s happened before. Notably in Soviet Russia during World War II. But back then its name was megolomania and its face was one Josef Stalin.
Don’t get me wrong – I can see the twisted logic behind it. Attack, destroy, belittle, chase away others who are entering the field at the same time you are; create a paucity of new voices, make people wary of working with those others, make them question their purchases of stories, to the point where there are only a handful of others as-yet unproblematic (many of whom, as it turns out, may have been working together at various stages of this thing) and what is the market left with but to purchase, award, laud that remaining handful? Yay them – they just won science fiction.
Were this strategy not the product of a twisted logic, its flaws would have been easily identified and the whole thing avoided by simply not getting started: the realization would have dawned that the SF community IS a community; it talks to itself out loud (bad habit, that) – and I’d like to believe that it is inhabited by a well above average set of individuals. People who put two and two together and smell rats. Thousands of people who style themselves writers. People who spend thousands of hours in front of a keyboard attached to the internet who are searching and hoping for any excuse NOT to write.
The BenjanunHate thing isn’t over, not by a long shot; no one yet knows how many layers deep this thing goes – Benjanun may not be Benjanun (clues abound). I have my suspicions.
Meanwhile, author Laura Mixon has spent an inordinate amount of time researching and explaining and if you want a good, solid summary of the whole sordid thing, I strongly suggest you read this.
After, you can read the ‘apologies’ published on the blog and follow the links in Laura’s post. (Set aside a decent amount of time)
One thing is for sure: SF doesn’t have a big enough population for us to be eating our own like this. The big question though is – what do we do about this kind of thing in the future?