Letter to twelve rabid weasels

Now that she’s stepped down from the board of the Science Fiction Writers of America after yeoman service, Mary Robinette Kowal is free to speak her mind about SFWA’s small clutch of absolutely horrific trolls. She’s called her post Dear Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA, please shut the fuck up. These people have dominated online… READ THE REST


I just want to know who these assholes are. Any guesses? She said “pros” and some have been dicks for decades so I’m going with Niven and Pournelle.


Good for her.

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I suspect you can add William Barton and Teddy Beale (duh) to that list.the latter to almost any list of fuckweasels though, so…


I read through the thread and it’s now infested with the trolls (of course). The trolls think saying “shut the fuck up” is passive-aggressive; I’d like to think they said that as a joke, but it’s more likely the mouth-breathers are simply that stupid.


As much as trolls are loathsome abhumans, I can’t help but be somewhat amazed by the concept of somebody trolling online forums for longer than I’ve been alive. That’s just a level of ‘You’re a broken excuse for a human being, son. Dedicated; but broken.’ that is hard for the mortal mind to fathom.


Loved this from the comments, in response to the usual “it’s only a dozen people, just ignore them” apologetics:

“When a dozen people are shitting in your cornflakes, it’s not about how many people DIDN’T shit in your cornflakes.” --Geoffrey


I don’t really get the point of the post. I’m all for calling people out for what they’ve done and what they’ve failed to do, but calling them out without mentioning any names seems a bit pointless. If you’re going to call someone out, do it properly. Call them by name, and give examples of what they’ve said and what they’ve done.


They may be included, as well as a couple of other actual well-known writers, but the most active and vicious trolls I’ve seen (from the outside) over there are semi-obscure wingnuts who write aryan-supremacist fantasies under the guise of “christian” science fiction. Scalzi’s hilarious response to one particular fruitcake’s obsessive attacks on him was to turn it into a fundraising opportunity for more inclusive causes.


Naming names just gives the trolls the attention they desperately desire so they can play out their saviour/teacher/victim psychodramas.

They know who they are, and they will stew over this, because

  • if they respond, they’ve named themselves trolls
  • if they don’t respond, they’re letting her get away with talking sass, because
  • everyone already knows it’s them, because the world revolves around them. Right? What if it doesn’t?

The amount of energy generated by the psychological tension these twelve ice weasels are experiencing could power an interstellar probe.


Some of these people undoubtedly have lawyers on retainer.


Well that’s two. Can Heinlein shout from the grave?

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I don’t think that’s really how it works, @bardfinn.

If they’re obscure enough to be thrilled by being called out by name, they’ll be just as thrilled to be mentioned obliquely, and just as certain to climb up on a cross and holler about what a martyr they are. And if they’re actually influential or well known authors that are carrying on like this, then all the more reason to call them out by name. An anonymous rebuke like this is easily ignored, with zero harm to their reputation.

That said, it’s her inbox, and her trolls, and they’re hers to deal with as she sees fit. I don’t envy her the task.


I dunno, I understand being reluctant to deal with even a bullshit lawsuit, but she does have reams of emails from these guys, and could probably get pro bono assistance if anyone was foolish enough to sue. And if she’s in a jurisdiction with an anti-SLAPP statute, well, god help them. Of course she might well prefer to write books…

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Indeed, an inability to banish the evil 1 percent from online communities is one of the major reasons I started the Discourse project. I wanted to create a free, open source forum with a built-in immune system that makes it naturally resistant to trolls, griefers, hateful people, and bad actors.

Online communities, even in the total absence of any formal moderation and moderators, should have a natural way to drive out the rare few community members who are consistently hateful and negative – because these people are poison. Left unchecked, they always kill the community. I’ve seen this pattern manifest itself over and over and over again in online communities and that’s sad because I believe it is largely fixable through better software. (It’s also fixable through skilled moderation, but rare is the online community that has skilled moderators present, willing, and able to do what is necessary.)

This is not just my opinion; there’s a bunch of science and research affirming the idea that bad apples spoil it for everyone:

However in this case it sounds like some of the leaders of the SFWA are the ones poisoning the community with bad behavior? That’s… substantially more complicated. Cutting off the head to save the body is major surgery and shouldn’t be attempted lightly.


OT but “mouth-breather” as a pejorative is pretty insensitive, if you care about such things. It’s an actual medical condition brought on my many issues, ranging from trivial to severe. I’m the last person to act all politically correct but just a head’s up. Put it this way, it’s akin to calling them a bunch of four-eyed dweebs, and implying that wearing glasses makes you a bad person.

Anyway, got that off my chest. If you’ve been following the SFWA, the Scribd scandals, Scalzi’s various writing, and the countless little spats over the years then you know mostly who is being talked about. You’ll also know that these are a bunch of older, white men who should know better but I personally cut them some racist-grandma slack, am aware they’ll largely be dead sooner rather than later and then hopefully we can remember how much good they’ve done in amongst the stick waving and lawn-yelling. I don’t think these are evil men, just men of a certain generation, given a platform from which to preach. In general, writers are massive egotists and often favour controversy.

I don’t want this to come over as being apologist, it’s not worth an on-line lynch mob is all I’m saying. Your mileage may vary - by all means call for their heads and make all the sort of judgemental, ill-advised declarations that we’re criticising them for in the first place. It’s wonderfully apt.


Ah yes, the old

let’s just wait for the old ignorant folks to die off, then we can finally change things around here


But seriously, it works! Just look at the entirety of human history! Not even kidding!


I have no idea if you’re being serious when you say you’re not kidding. That is how a civilised society changes. There generally aren’t massive societal changes, rather there is a gradual sea-change in opinion. Otherwise you have a bloody revolution so that all the intolerant people can be put to death. See? I did what you did.

And what DO you do with racist-grandma?

I am completely serious. I just sometimes wish the old people would do us the favor of dying off a little bit faster to speed things along. But no, now I get to read billboards telling me that some kid has been born today that’s going to live to an extra-extra-cranky-and-obstreperous 100 years old.

(But not me, though. When my turn comes you better believe I’m going to hang on as long as possible, and I’ll be cranky as hell about it, too.)


Seen from the lofty perspective of history, anything that isn’t a revolution may look like smooth, gradual change, but from the point of view of individuals history can be a series of monumental struggles. Like enduring a dozen years of continual sniping from old white guys with sexist-grandad syndrome for the sin of being president (of SFWA) and female, then waking up one day and realising that you don’t have to take that crap alone any more.

You hellban her – that is, you sequester her with other old racist folks who can all hang out all day together and talk amongst themselves about how the mud people are the cause of all their problems, without poisoning tender young minds. That is the real risk of Racist Grandma, that some kid would hear grandma ranting her nonsense and start believing it and propagating it into the future. But kids are usually smarter than that; they learn early to distrust old people. Can’t say I blame them.

Incidentally, that’s also what you have to do with communities that have these kind of schisms. The angry, hateful people get banished and have to go found another community where being angry and hateful is an acceptable behavior. Kind of depressingly Lord of the Flies, but that’s sort of how they like it, unless you believe they can be reformed.

(I got a lot of flak for this, but we studied stormfront.org as part of our forum research and it is really fascinating to me that the racists have comprehensive, coherent, detailed rules about not being dicks to other racists.)