Note: the front half of this post was originally going to be separate from my post about the Best Fan Writer Hugo Award. Rick pointed out that the light opening could be seen as minimizing the subject, which was not my intent.
Is There a Statute of Limitations for Being an Ass on the Internet? (Or: Why I’m voting No Award first on the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer this year.)
Asking for a friend.
(That was a joke.)
Well, it both is and it isn’t, because I’ll bet those people who’ve known me for five-ten-twenty-more years remembered something of their own to wince about.
One of the Problems of the Internet
One of the special problems of the internet is that everything that’s a still-valid web page appears to be happening now. Save for obviously “ZOMG, how 90s” pages that call attention by their dated look and sixteen web-safe colors, things feel like they’re happening now, even when they’re not.
Sure, there are contextual clues in many pages—dates, technology choices, etc.
I’m not sure that changes the emotional weight of something feeling fresh and new, though.
Not long after I wrote my Laura J. Mixon piece on Requires Hate, I had a little nagging in my ear:
When did this happen?
Followed by questions like: am I punching down by signal boosting? Why didn’t I see what writers of color were saying about it before jumping on it?
By the time I returned to the land of real internet (instead of catching slight breezes of it in St. Vincent and the Grenadines), the initial furor had died down. I did read another piece (now gone) that made me think.
I didn’t do anything until February 8, when I added the update to the end. Almost a month later, I wrote this post. and got into several conversations about it, and updated that post accordingly.
Then the Hugo Award Nominees Were Announced
…after George R. R. Martin signal boosted that Laura J. Mixon should get the fan writer nomination, she does. Further, she’s the only fan writer standing after you take away the puppy slates’ nominees.
By the time the nominations were announced, I pretty much knew how I felt, though I didn’t really have a sense of how the actual nominations would unfold.
My Own Organizing Principles
These are some of my organizing principles, and it’s impossible to really discuss how I feel about Mixon’s post without them.
- I value people trying to live less hateful lives.
- I believe that people change for their own reasons, on their own time schedules. Which may be never.
- Not everyone will change for the better, and your definition (or mine) of “better” may be wrong.
- It’s not necessary (or even desirable) to forgive everyone who’s harmed you. It’s one’s own judgment whether that should happen.
- I believe shunning is evil, where shunning is defined as person A trying to encourage person B not to communicate with person C else sanctions will occur. I belonged to a cult that did shunning (Scientology) and I’m over it. Hence, I still have friends who dislike each other. Vehemently.
I’m not asking that my guiding principles be yours, but: I really believe in redemption and/or self-improvement.
I read this long piece from Abigail Nussbaum and I’m concurring—in the legal sense, meaning: I agree with her decision to rank Laura J. Mixon below No Award—but I disagree with Nussbaum’s reasons.
First, there is no question in my mind that Requires Hate/Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s behavior years ago was reprehensible. She agrees.
Second, there’s an obvious conflict of interest here: I was also eligible for best fan writer. One of the things I had to decide was whether or not I was going to nominate Mixon. In the end, I did not. So, regardless of how the nominations wound up, I’d made that choice before the nominee outcome was known.
Voting No Award for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer
My reasons, let me how you them.
- The events Mixon’s post mentions were, essentially, 3-10 years ago. Had they been contemporary, I’d have felt they were more relevant.
- Mixon’s post happened after Sriduangkaew started to get recognition and after Mamatas outed her.
- I disagree with Nussbaum that the topic isn’t sufficiently fannish.
- I agree that I think fan writer should be about a body of work and not a single post (says the person who got a quarter million hits for the best-known of my own posts last year). For a single post, Best Related Work is more relevant (as Kameron Hurley won for her “We Have Always Fought” piece).
Much of this information was available for years and only came to be posted because it affected a new writer’s career.
You know, the writing career that Sriduangkaew was now focusing on instead of harassing people.
Statute of Limitations
Most of us are never going to live the lives of a Sādhu, and I’m sure even they have moments they’re less than proud of. It’s entirely possible that some people become Sādhu because they’d done things far worse than you or I have.
The Internet allows us to hold onto hate longer and spread it farther, and that’s not always a good thing.
I don’t have an answer for what the statute of limitations should be for being an ass on the Internet. I’ll just say that the base federal (US) sentencing guidelines for involuntary manslaughter are 10-16 months.
For killing someone. (Not intentionally, obviously.)
Maybe we ought to think about this three-to-ten year thing.
No, this Does Not Mean
…that people who were harmed by Requires Hate / Winterfox should “get over it.” You have a right to feel however you feel.
I just question lowering the boom so long after the situation had changed so significantly.
Some may question: well, if that’s too late, what about Marion Zimmer Bradley?
I’ve heard no evidence that, at any point in her life, MZB felt any remorse about the part she took in raping children and allowing children to be raped (by her husband). Her only care was separating from him to reduce her financial liability. Also, half of that story (her as perp) had never been told until I broke it last year. Plus she’s dead, so it won’t affect her career, though it’s probably affected her heir and co-authors.
Nussbaum Nails How I Feel
In a later comment, Abigail Nussbaum added this, and it reflects my feelings:
My problem is with what the zeal of that exposure reveals about our community, and with the message that I think is sent by rewarding it. You and I obviously disagree about what that message is, and you may be right, but let me be clear again that we do not disagree about the harm that Sriduangkaew has caused.