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- People have pulled out of projects they were previously committed to, citing this as a reason. Even if you’re a New York Times or other bestselling author or editor (which is essentially meaningless metric parsing), or award-winner (Bram Stoker, World Fantasy, etc.), this is unprofessional, especially when one picks a side, won’t consider another interpretation, and essentially joins in acceptance of a false allegation.
- A business associate providing services withdrew their services as a result.
- Connections that I’ve had for years—and who know me better after all this time—are suddenly gone.
- There have been multiple rude comments on things I say or posts I interact with online.
- There are various examples of social media threads making hay of a single comment and besmirching my personal integrity (with no other concrete evidence), allegations of misconduct (libelous and completely unfounded insinuations of criminal activity), as well as unflattering and hurtful depictions of my wife and myself.
- This contretemps has been used as an opportunity to bring up old professional grudges (dating back years in some cases).
- There has been a misunderstanding that, although I am a public figure to some degree, I am not dead, and therefore one cannot just make up libelous, unsubstantiated allegations about my actions or character. I have committed no crimes here. I had a moment of snark. So have my accusers, but now they are edging into legally actionable defamation and injury, not mere name-calling. And so are their adherents.
- Deals I was involved in have been canceled, the reason being that the people I was to work with were pressured (basically intimidated) into severing their connection or they would face the wrath of a mob of people who would bar them from other projects in the future, as well as boycott reviewing or buying their work if it was affiliated with me.
- There have been sundry unfounded allegations that I (and my wife) have somehow “exploited” Mr. Nolan financially and in other ways. There is zero proof or reality to this; all they do is say it, and people are persuaded to believe it’s the case. In fact, it is a lie and edges into libel. Nolan, at 90 years of age, has repeatedly and forcefully spoken out against this assertion on social media, which has been stated most-often by one Brian Keene, a person who has alleged several bogus assertions against me and my family and friends, though never to my face (and, although he has said in the past he would have me on his podcast, he has reneged on that pledge). To rebut these falsehoods, Nolan has declared several times previously that Mr. Keene and his friends are “attention-seeking idiots and assholes” for saying these things, as are their followers for believing the allegations in the first place, as it insults Mr. Nolan’s integrity and his intellect.
- As a direct consequence, I was stripped of all programming duties at StokerCon 2018. Though I wasn’t banned from attending and my status in the HWA was unchanged (and I violated no association statutes), I chose not to attend as a result. I was accorded no due process and was denied a grievance process by the parent org, the Horror Writers Association (HWA). And though I didn’t violate any HWA/StokerCon protocols or commit any crimes, I was just swept into the carnage of a bandwagon effect. It’s unfair and unwarranted. I have no idea who the HWA complainants are, and I had no chance to appeal or be given some other level of recourse, such as a restriction (fewer panels, say), or a warning (which would have been fine; I was willing to apologize for the misunderstanding, but that was not offered as a possibility). In other words, other actions should have been enough to remedy this, but I was given no option or even a chance to defend my position or explain it.
- Many of the perpetrators attempt to hide their online bullying, which is quite often a violation of social media etiquette and protocol. They have engaged in this in the past, also, and been forced to stop.
- Meanwhile, minor players from the so-called “Bizarro/New Weird” scene in Portland make videos denigrating the person, sex life, heritage, marriage, upbringing, and works of S. T. Joshi, who is an Indian immigrant and Hindu secularist (now a US citizen). I have the publicly posted, three-minute video harangue. Furthermore, this example is not the only time they have mocked him racially, sexually, and professionally (as well as inaccurately) via memes, writings, or posts. These actions go beyond simple name-calling, and verge on hatemongering.
- Incredibly, one of the publishers being awarded the Specialty Press Award by the HWA at StokerCon 2018 is Eraserhead Press (which mainly publishes Bizarro and horror and is based in Portland). The strange irony of the intolerance and fragility of the people affiliated with this press (namely Mr. Keene) is very telling of the bias and hypocrisy on display here. Some of the same people responsible for (and supportive of) titles such as Baby Jesus Butt Plug, The Faggiest Vampire, Ass Goblins of Auschwitz, and I Am Genghis Cum (just a sampling of the titles) were complaining loudly for over a week about a simple, (purposely) misinterpreted comment online. Though I myself am unfazed by these silly titles and books, I am bemused that no one finds their “offense” at what I wrote—not to mention the HWA!—in the least duplicitous or odd, given that they claim to advocate the mockery and satire of culture, in part.
- A similar group—many of the same people, in fact—in the past accused a publisher/writer of being a “Nazi.” The person at issue had, in the past, right-wing views. But he committed no crimes that I am aware of and is entitled to his point of view, though I may strongly disagree with his perspective. His views are uncoupled from the HWA (which, to my understanding, has no official political affiliation or position), he was not promoting them either within the group or on his social media account, and he had voiced no obvious political statements in some time, even though he has a right to do so. In fact, he had previously served on a jury without incident, so this seemed doubly vexing as to the purpose in allowing him to be pressured from a subsequent jury, in addition to other problems that it caused him professionally.
- This same core group led to the cancellation of a writer’s retreat, and they also drummed a member out of the organization due to alleged sexual misconduct and financial malfeasance. The potentially criminal aspects of these behaviors are indeed troubling and unacceptable, but, to my knowledge, there has never been a civil or criminal case against this person.
- This same assemblage also tried to smear another author as a sexual predator, though there has been no evidence to that case, and it happened at the very same convention as the instance in the above notation. Again, it was all a situation of online vigilantism and unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing. The unproven incident happened at a party. But I was at the party, in a small hotel room (as were my wife and William F. Nolan), and while we saw the participants in the alleged scenario, there was no criminal conduct on display at any time. Other HWA members have stated as much publicly, and they have also been attacked by this cohort, especially by Mr. Keene (who, in addition to public disavowal of the HWA, somehow always figures in these accusations and online witch hunts; follow-up).
- Denigrating the disabled former president of the HWA, the now-deceased Rocky Wood.
- This same clique, headed by a colleague of Keene’s whose name is unworthy of even noting here, has also recently had a hand in having an editor/writer relieved of his editorial duties at the Australian Horror Writers Association (AHWA) over a Twitter post that was unrelated to organizational business. Here is a link to the thread.
- Other examples abound. This group has also conspired to smear my wife and myself as “ableist” on a podcast over a dispute online, which was actually about their overt ableism (the “satirical” ridicule of conventiongoers). They “acted out” the discussion and tried to paint us as mentally challenged, even though they were claiming to be in support of the mentally challenged. This sort of hypocrisy masquerading as “satire” and “humor” is typical of these people (for example, investigate their years long, sadistic torment of a mentally disturbed writer who lives with his grandmother).
- Similarly, there is an ongoing situation with a writer accused of sexual misconduct (this time at an HWA-sponsored event). So far there have been no legal repercussions from his alleged actions by the so-called victim(s). Yet he is barred from HWA-related activities over allegations. The HWA is not a “jury of his peers”: it is a non-profit organization that collects dues and provides no other protections or benefits (such as health insurance, pensions, etc.), which other orgs and guilds do (SAG, WGA, DGA, etc.). And yet, it issues damaging public statements and conducts itself in a judgmental fashion, nonetheless. If this individual did indeed violate aspects of the convention’s code of conduct, that should be revealed, and not simply be permitted as a sort of cover for extremists and their allegations, which may not have any merit.
- The HWA should scrutinize its function and role in these sorts of matters and strive for more objectivity. The U.S. has a First Amendment. People are allowed to have opinions. HWA membership does not preclude that. Additionally, the HWA is not doing itself favors by de facto selecting a side and administering “justice” by allowing itself to be manipulated by mobs or prominent members of the organization. In theory, whether neophyte or Lifetime Achievement Award-winner, each member should have an equal voice in matters of this nature, especially when accused of an infraction. That is the point of paying the dues to the association, and should be an implicit benefit of membership: protection from predatory actions, cyberbullying, and so on, and intercession regarding such immoral practices, to include spurious attacks on an individual’s character resulting in possible reputational harm.
- The org should have a more transparent process for grievance adjudication. I was given no chance to respond to complaints and was not even aware there was a problem initially. Two days later, I was told I could not participate in programming, but was not prohibited from attending or from membership in the HWA. Needless to say, I feel less compelled to stay with the org at this point.
- If a complaint is raised by someone—whether a member of the HWA or not—the HWA should allow the accused access to the information and names of the complainants, as well as the evidence and nature of the complaint, before any decision is made. The current climate of vigilante behavior and an increasingly toxic “call-out culture” is not only dangerous to the fabric of society, but also a potential legal problem for the HWA. Being falsely accused or misrepresented and having one’s reputation permanently tarnished for a snarky comment or some other minor alleged misstep are not acceptable remedies, and they are injurious to the accused. In effect, it becomes a case of shifting the burden of proof from the accuser (where it should reside) to the accused. It is not how the U.S. system of justice was created, and it is not a good footing for the org.
- With respect to the juries and the membership recommendation processes, it might be beneficial if the submissions were completely redacted (author[s], publisher, endorsements, and title of work). No cover letters, either. Blind subs would be potentially fairer with regard to picking the most meritorious works in both instances. It can be done automatically by requiring all works submitted to be PDFs.
- Authors or publishers should be prohibited from promoting works on the internal forum to discourage sharing information that has been redacted with the juries or potential recommendation candidates (the membership).
- Members of the Board and the Executive hierarchy of the organization should be prohibited from submitting or have works considered for Stoker Awards during their term of service. As it is, jury members are not allowed to judge their own works in the category that they are serving under (and are discouraged, rightly, from advertising their service on said jury), and this should be expanded to include all elements of the org, as it gives an unfair advantage to the works of Board members with respect to the voting process due to simple name recognition. This encourages favoritism in the voting membership toward people serving on the Board, promotes sycophancy within the org, and adds to the appearance of cronyism, deserved or not.
- There should be a limitation on the number of awards a person is able to win per category. Capping the number would discourage the domination of awards by a few well-known practitioners or members due to name recognition or popularity in lieu of strict merit (Stephen King, for example). I suggest no more than two (2) wins per category. Authors would still remain eligible for the Lifetime Achievement Award, even if they won the maximum number of awards in every category in their career.
- Winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award should become ineligible from winning future awards in any category. The reason is that this is the pinnacle of achievement within the org, given for overall impact during one’s career. In the interest of leveling the playing field for others, there is no reason to continue giving people awards simply due to name recognition.
- Board members should not be permitted to serve on the boards of other organizations during their tenure with the HWA. To serve on the HWA board, they must not serve on another board; likewise, if they do serve on another board for a different org, they should be ineligible for HWA service, as their service requires attention to the matters at hand, Too many of the same people serving on too many other boards in the field could potentially restrict diversity of thought, taste, and perspective.
“I didn’t know there was any psychological risk in laughter.”
“Then you have not been with it, friend-o. Most humor, you see, had its roots in cruelty.
In stamping out cruelty, we have automatically stamped out humor.
Therefore, there ain’t much to laugh at no more.”Surely we’re better, more discerning, and tougher than that?