The Great Science Fiction Civil War – Part 5 (The Death Threats)

The Great Science Fiction Civil War – Part 5

The Death threats

I didn’t plan to post about this today. What happened is this: I jumped onto Facebook and saw a link to this blog post by Mary Robinette Kowal, who interrupted her vacation from the internet in celebration of her husband’s 50th birthday to issue a plea for people to stop sending death threats and hate mail to Larry Correia, Brad Torgerson, and others on the Sad Puppy slate.


This is not the news I hoped to hear today. Mary is the sweetest, most likeable person I’ve ever met. She is friends with pretty much everyone in the industry. On the rare occasion somebody does tick her off, she remains elegant in dressing them down. To have her break a promise to her husband in order to scold some who are arguably on the side she leans toward in the Great Science Fiction Civil War means a serious line has been crossed.

To now, this has been a war of words. Incindiary remarks and voting blocks are legitimate volleys in this type of conflict. They make statements and score points against the other side. The line is drawn where threats against a person’s livelihood, health, safety appear. Threats against a person’s family are even further into forbidden territory.

Stacking a ballot in an awards election is an internal affair. It’s something that can be addressed with rules changes, voting no award, or continuing to vote for the most deserving candidate on the slate. When the volleys in this war become physical threats, threats where lawyers and cops are invited into the conflict, that’s going too far.

What I see happening is escalation and some desperation. Writers have a reputation, whether deserved or not, of mental instability. Usually such a reputation has some basis in fact. What happens if this conflict is taken to the next level? Imagine you wake up one morning to discover your favorite target from the other side was found murdered. If you’ve sent hate mail or worse, death threats, where does that leave you?

As much as you may despise the work they produce, people like Vox Day, Teresa Nielsen-Hayden, John Scalzi, Larry Corriea, and many others, all have a legitimate place in the genre because they all produce work that people read. But, nobody is forcing you to read any of it. Nobody gets to say, “You can’t write that.” Censorship is a hideous thing, and censorship by intimidation is an abomination.

Both sides are railing against apsects of the other side’s core being. We are never going to agree; we’ll never have a common world-view. That isn’t an excuse to obliterate those who disagree with you. We’re writing fiction, people. That’s right, we’re having a big fight over stuff that isn’t real. We’re fighting over made-up people and places that in the grand scheme of things don’t matter all that much.


Both sides need a time out. Go stand in the corner and think about what’s been going on instead of escalating one more notch. Go on! Think about why it’s necessary to respond at all. Think about why you feel a need to escalate. How do you escalate a death threat? With a pipe bomb?

I’ve been calling for a cease fire for over a month now, and that has been completely ignored. Somebody has to step up and say ENOUGH! I hope people hear Mary’s call for an end to it, but I fear her call will join mine, as the radio guys used to say, down in the mud (Weak signal buried under excessive noise).

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