Mike Resnick, Jaym Gates, and Yes, Go Ahead and Block Me

resnik

The late Mike Resnick – photo found at Goodreads

I’ll warn you now that this one is really long (if you include the screenshots), so if you’re a TLDR person, stop now.

Another warning: This is one of my rants about the culture wars that appear to be gaining momentum in the “official” world of science fiction and fantasy. It seems that it’s not enough to write a good story anymore.

I’d never heard of SciFi author Mike Resnick before he died. He’d won Five Hugos and other awards during his career, so that says something. He was heavily eulogized (if you’ll pardon the pun), and also memorialized by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. But he was also criticized.

Let’s get to his death first. From Heavy.com:

Resnick’s sad passing was confirmed in an update on a GoFundMe page that had been set up to help to cover the costs of his medical care. The update was given by Resnick’s daughter, Laura, who is also a writer of science fiction and of romance novels. Laura wrote in the update, “Laura Resnick here, Mike’s daughter. I’m very sad to have to tell you that my dad died very early today, January 10, 2020, a little after midnight.” Resnick is survived by his wife of close to 60 years, Carol.

It’s very expensive to die slowly in America. One of the places I found the gofundme link to help pay for Resnick’s medical expenses was SuperversiveSF.com. I’m sure the family still needs help, so if you can, help.

Although he passed on January 10th, I first heard about his death and him two days later when I was casually scrolling through Facebook. I came across a thread by Louis Antonelli where he asks the question, “OK, who is the female author who has been dancing on Mike Resnick’s grave?”

Oh, for more on Lou Antonelli, go to Wikipedia (I know, I know). He’s an old white guy like me (that plays into the body of my narrative later on – and yes, before you ask, he was part of the Sad Puppies controversy a few years back. A lot of people on both sides of those issues are still carrying deep scars).

gates

Jaym Gates – Found at Inkpunks

Anyway, I read a number of the comments on Facebook, but I lacked a ton of context. I did find a link to the “female author” in question and her FB commentary citing Resnick, who was a mere 48 hours cold at the time, Jaym Gates.

Before we continue, find out more about Gates at her website, this blog, and Goodreads.

Apparently, she didn’t have a lot of nice things to say about Resnick, as well as the late Jerry Pournelle, and renowned (and also dead) writer and professor Isaac Asimov (I guess people are easier to rant against when they are dead).

She made a long complaint, which I’ll post in a minute, but apparently what set her off (besides Resnick’s death) was a six year old online article called Science fiction authors attack sexism amid row over SFWA magazine.

Okay, for the record, if Resnick and Barry Maltzberg (who, at age 80, is still alive and able to tell his side of the story) are guilty of what they are accused of, then yes, they were wrong and demeaning toward women (Besides, I never understood why men in fiction get full body armor, and women get metal bikinis, plus always have large breasts…okay, I do understand, but it’s still stupid).

But the crimes, sins, and other misbehaviors of these individuals aren’t at the center of my commentary.

I was blocked from Gates’ FB page after commenting (like I said, I’ll get to that) but here is a screenshot of her original comments (If I’m not logged in as “me,” blocking “me” doesn’t work):

gates tantrum

Screenshot from Facebook

I’ll publish the plain text version at the end of my missive.

Now, to be fair to me, I was still trying to figure out the whole “Antonelli vs. Gates” thing, so I decided to ask about it. My main issue, regardless of what Resnick was or wasn’t guilty of, had to do with figuratively dancing on a person’s grave, especially when he obviously had loved ones who were grieving (and I hope they never saw what Gates said, and particularly were unaware of her astonishingly abysmal timing).

Here’s my comment and the response:

gates comments tantrum

Screenshot from twitter

I was blocked by Gates before I saw how folks replied to me. I guess that’s the best way to have a dialogue with people who might have views differing from yours. I do want to say to my critics above (not that they’ll ever see this) that if you post inflammatory comments in a public forum, the public can and will respond. If you want privacy, don’t use social media. Clear?

Okay, I get it. Gates was “triggered” in some emotional sense, and needed to respond. Blocking someone who asks an innocent question (but from Gates’s perspective, it was being a “predictable and unoriginal asshat,” – if I had chosen to be more original and less respectful, I’m sure I would still have been blocked) gives her a sense of power over me. From what I can tell, she assigns blame to Resnick for making her feel powerless, vulnerable, and unsafe, something she transfers to the SFWA in general. That explains her hostile tone, though I have no idea who she is when she isn’t “triggered.”

On FB she said:

I am always sorry for people who have lost their loved ones.

No, you’re not, because:

I am not sorry when another old white abuser leaves the field. I am not sorry when people talk about what they did because it is safe now.

So you can’t talk about how abused you feel when the person is still alive to tell their side of the story.

Okay (again), I get it. In abuse dynamics, the victim often feels they can’t tell their side of the story. They believe their abuser will be perceived as having more credibility or will take retribution against them afterwards. But was Resnick’s relationship with Gates abuser to victim? Were they that close? Did he have power over her day-to-day personal life? It seems she perceives it that way, which would explain the level of hostility she showed in her original commentary and in response to people like me. After all, I have exactly zero power over her, but even that was apparently intolerable to her. I’ll talk more about power in a minute.

She continued:

Because what isn’t happening in this discourse is mention of the writers who were driven out by these men. The African writers who saw their stories stolen by white men. The women who walked away because Asimov groped them or Pournelle shouted them down. The queer folks who were silenced and driven out.

The losses this industry has suffered from our own lack of understanding and our inability to really open the doors wide to the voices we desperately need are incalculable. Our old masters are dying, and I am sorry for their families and friends, but I am glad. Glad that new stories are being told, that new voices are being raised, that old ways are dying.

And hey, Jerry? I’m editing Conan and Red Sonja works, honey, and I just wish you’d lived long enough for me to shove it back in your face.

Interestingly enough, its people like Gates who have always given me doubts that any of my stories will be accepted in larger SF/F, just because I’m a dreaded white, straight, male, regardless of any of my actual behaviors. The idea of people like Gates, at least as I’m imagining it, is not that they want total inclusiveness, just to drive out people like me because they believe there are less than an infinite number of seats at the table.

More’s the pity.

Sorry, Jaym. Jerry is dead and anything you say now, can’t hurt him. I guess I’ll have to do, even though we don’t know each other. Go for it, if it’ll make you feel better. Try saying “Ok, Boomer.”

Yes, this is my own rant and Gates only has power over me if I surrender it to her. Yes, I did let her get me a bit wound up, but that’s on me, not her. On the other hand, as I mentioned above, anything…ANYTHING you say on social media, including Facebook, twitter, or blogging is fair game. If you don’t want the public to respond to you on an unencrypted, un-password protected web platform, express your opinion someplace else.

Since I’m not blocked by her on twitter, I wanted to see if she mentioned this whole thing on that social media platform. Lo and behold, she did. Very soon, I’ll have the dubious distinction of being blocked on twitter both by N.K. Jemisin and Jaym Gates (here’s my blog post relative to Jemisin), but at least Jemisin has the virtue of having won three Hugo awards.

Oh, right now, Gates has no idea I’m alive, except in terms of my brief FB comment. I’ll be gracious enough to post a link to this commentary on the aforementioned twitter conversation, and expect to be blocked at the speed of light.

Look, when someone disagrees with me, I’ll at least try to respond unless they’re over-the-top rude or cussing me out (or I’m too tired after my day job to summon the mental and emotional energy to reply). I did neither to Jemisin or Gates, but then again, I’m blindly walking into an emotional context that I have little experience with. Maybe from Gates’ point of view, disagreeing with her, even to the slightest degree, equals abusing her, or at least agreeing with her abuser.

I have been fair in reading one of Jemisin’s award winning novels and I even gave it a four-star review on Amazon (I’d understand her being miffed if I totally panned it). At some point, I may read some of Gates’ work, again to be fair.

First, though, I’ll start by sampling one of Resnick’s Hugo award winning short stories Kirinyaga. It’s in an anthology available through my local public library system.

Bottom line. If you’re going to rant at someone, at least do it while they’re still alive, or if they’ve died, wait a while before taking digital revenge for their abuse of you on their corpse. You can’t claim to be a compassionate victim while dragging their family’s feelings with chains over hot, flaming coals.

Now as promised, the plain text version of Gates’ original rant:

Adding some clarity: this was six years ago, and since a lot of folks seem to be missing a thing: we worked our asses off to make SFWA more inclusive, more open, more useful. I support the organization though I am unlikely to be a member again. Some of those scars run deep and I haven’t felt welcome or safe in SFF spaces since World Fantasy 2010, and specifically not after the last couple of storms I’ve had to muddle through.

Well, since this seems to be going around again. Bluntly, this was a fucking miserable year. The women of SFWA – most of us volunteer or barely paid – spent over a year trying desperately to right the ship that had been turned over by male tantrums, and the entire time, we were getting slammed by people from both sides who dismissed and erased us, repeatedly raising the men’s voices and their opinions and centering the discussion on the men.

The part of the story I didn’t share at the time is that I read the article in question and saw red for several days, and then I contacted several men who I knew would help me out. See, I learned from the WFC debacle: men wouldn’t listen to me, but they’d listen to my words from a man’s mouth. And I was young enough and female enough to know that it would end my career before it started if I went up against Resnick and company.

I pointed the article out to them and asked them to raise hell. They did. And we spent a year fixing that problem, and then a whole lot of other problems, too.

Resnick fought us every step of the way. So did Pournelle, and Beale, and a whole bunch of others. Those of us dealing with the situation were getting hammered from all sides, and we burned out pretty hard. And the whole time, I questioned why the actual fuck I’d set that fire.

In the end, I’m glad I did. It changed a lot. There was some much-needed growth. But christ, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I stopped writing during that time. I turtled up because I was told, literally, that I didn’t get to have a voice, I was only there to jump to the wishes of the grand masters of science fiction.

I am always sorry for people who have lost their loved ones. I am not sorry when another old white abuser leaves the field. I am not sorry when people talk about what they did because it is safe now.

Because what isn’t happening in this discourse is mention of the writers who were driven out by these men. The African writers who saw their stories stolen by white men. The women who walked away because Asimov groped them or Pournelle shouted them down. The queer folks who were silenced and driven out.

The losses this industry has suffered from our own lack of understanding and our inability to really open the doors wide to the voices we desperately need are incalculable. Our old masters are dying, and I am sorry for their families and friends, but I am glad. Glad that new stories are being told, that new voices are being raised, that old ways are dying.

And hey, Jerry? I’m editing Conan and Red Sonja works, honey, and I just wish you’d lived long enough for me to shove it back in your face.

Addendum – 1/27/2020: And here it is!

blocked

Screenshot from twitter.

But when I peeked in without being logged in, my comment was amazingly present with no responses. I wasn’t sure if she’d be able to delete it or not. At least I hope she read this blog post rather than reflexively “poofing” me.

unblocked

Screenshot from twitter.

7 thoughts on “Mike Resnick, Jaym Gates, and Yes, Go Ahead and Block Me

  1. As I mentioned above, she has since blocked me. I was discussing all this backchannel with a friend of mine and in the conversation, I remembered that right after the Country and Western concert mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017, a then CBS executive took to Facebook and celebrated the death of the country and western fans because she perceived them as “gun toting Republicans” who are pro-gun/pro-NRA and who somehow contribute to mass shootings at schools. The whole point (again) is that even if you have something against the person who has just died, you don’t figuratively dance on their graves within hours or days of their passing.

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  2. I thought we went through that already, that she (the CBS person) didn’t “celebrate.” I would characterize what this person in the topic at hand is doing as different from that other young lady.

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    • I mentioned the CBS VP because something similar happened right after Kobe Bryant died. A reporter went on twitter and brought up the rape allegations against Bryant from 16 years ago, even though he was never prosecuted. The reporter lost her job because of it. Maybe “celebrating” isn’t the right word, but it was terribly poor timing, and social media is unforgiving.

      On that note, read my Google essay if you really want to find out how unforgiving (and evil) technology has become, at least some of it.

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      • He was going to be prosecuted. (I won’t convey them here, but I’ve read a lot of the first-hand detail.) I wasn’t going to bring it up, but it was a bit surreal… all the accolades yesterday. Nevertheless, he seems to have really turned his life around in a comprehensive way. I wasn’t sure, at first, if he was the person I was remembering. I have a son who is more of a sports fan than the others (the others of my sons), so I had decided to double-check whether to call him because of the news and sort of mourn the loss together. But the article I found from a couple years ago confirmed this is one of the guys my son can’t stand. Another is the Steelers quarterback. Even the man who trims my hair delighted with me in the Patriots beating the Steelers big-time. Sports can be kind of silly, I suppose.

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      • I don’t follow sports, so Bryant’s death had no real impact on me relative to his fame. In these cases, I’m usually silent. I only brought it up in conversation because it came up elsewhere in relation to the original topic of this blog post. Even if you can’t stand someone, when they die, if you have nothing good to say, it is best to stay silent.

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