“I think the Internet is a grand arena for poorly thought out words.” — Philippa Ballantine, 2/18/2014, on Facebook
Presently, The Science Fiction Writers of America are at odds with one another once again, its members still in a brouhaha over the divide between men and women in the business. It’s hard to say when this rift started. I know this debate has raged for a long, long time as I remember people engaging in spirited conversations about this when I first entered the publishing game in 2002. There’s been a lot of back-and-forth about feminism, misogyny, old guard mentality, new blood in SFWA, and the like, especially in the wake of the 200th issue of the SFWA Bulletin which attempted to harken back to nostalgic days of the Red Sonja-esque fantasy covers.
It all boiled to a fever pitch yesterday when John Scalzi posted this quote on his blog:
“The problem is that the ‘vocal minority’ of insects who make up the new generation of writers don’t scramble for the shadows when outside lights shines on them—they bare their pincers and go for the jugular. Maybe it is a good thing that SFWA keeps them locked up. The newer members who Scalzi et al. brought in are an embarrassment to the genre.”
— (name withheld) on SFF.net, during the recent unpleasantness.
I have a lot of opinions about SFWA, about the Bulletin, SFF.net and LiveJournal (where a lot of this discussion has raged), and about women in the business; but that is not what is driving me bananas. What I find to be completely and utterly nuts is this fallback position “professionals” (and when you think comparing your experiences with a celebrated Science Fiction author to “your irrational fear of dogs” is a good analogy I use the term “professional” loosely.) are taking. These defensive crouches range from a First Amendment-“I have the right to freely express my opinion on this…” argument to “I’m calling my lawyer!” which, I bet, the lawyer is thrilled to know you’re pulling them up on speed dial.
I have a piece of free advice for these professionals: Please, for the love of God, shut the fuck up. You’re making asses of yourself on many levels, the highest of these being—and let’s be blunt—that you honestly don’t know how the Internet works.
Online Protocol 101: If you didn’t know this by now, everything you say on SFF.net, on LiveJournal, on Facebook—on the Internet—is a public forum. Even the private forums are public. How so? Think about it: If you have a private group of, let’s say, five hundred people, then you have 499 people around you all able to read whatever misogynistic, antiquated, narrow-minded poo you are spewing. Did you ever stop to think, though, of the one thing everyone on this “private” board has in common? The ability to capture what’s on their screen. On the Mac, screen capturing is insanely easy. On a PC, screen capturing is insanely easy. This means in your “private” group, there are 499 potential leaks just waiting to happen. Additionally, many of the threads that make it to places like The Daily Dot are—as seen by The Daily Dot’s reporting—easily accessed by the public.
This apparent lack of privacy is part of what terrifies people about social media. I’d like to share another newsflash here: once your conversations are online—even the private ones that don’t happen on social networks—they are out in the open. Ask Anthony Weiner. Ask Jessica Cutler. Ask Justine Sacco. Ask any asshat who was fired for ranting in email or posting idiotic photos online. Once you upload something on someone else’s server, it is out in the open for the world to see. The Internet—if I may be so bold as to use an analogy of my own—is a loaded gun, and these “professionals” are the toddlers who are playing with said gun as a shiny, shiny toy, only moments away from pulling the trigger.
Instead of shunning the insects, maybe these pros could learn a few things from the next generation. Like, say, how technology works.
This isn’t rocket science. This isn’t even paranormal science. It’s real simple—if you have an opinion that you would rather wish wasn’t public knowledge, don’t share it anywhere online. Saint Fu. Please. Otherwise, you’re making a horse’s ass of yourself. Granted, it will make you easier to spot in a crowd, but you’re still a horse’s ass either way.
If you suddenly feel the desire to vent online, here are a few other options you can consider:
- Go for a walk. If you’re starting to get stressed out, just step away from the computer. Clear your head.
- Go to a gym and exercise. Run. Swim. Or better yet—go to the weight room, find the bag, and start punching.
- Read a book. Maybe not the book from the person that is making your blood pressure rise, but a book from an author you respect.
See the pattern here? These remedies involve stepping away from the computer. Pretty simple.
If you have something on your mind, and you find yourself about to post this little nugget of wisdom on an online forum or platform, stop and ask yourself this question—do I want to share this opinion with a garage full of strangers? If you’re not ready to share your wisdom with a garage, chances are you’re not ready to share it with the world.
Saint Fu, Sparky. STFU.
So says Tee Morris, one of the soldiers of John and Mary’s Insect Army and award-winning embarrassment to the genre.