Ethics and Morals, Marketing

Fear and Loathing at TOR

Almost since the advent of the internet, there have been warnings about what to say – or not – on it. The internet is a vast and mostly public arena. Imagine, if you can, standing in Grand Central Station and screaming slurs at the top of your lungs, while the sane people standing near you back away slowly. Online, this doesn’t happen. One person starts screaming and frothing at the mouth, and others are drawn like moths to the flame to scream along with them. 

This is disturbing and upsetting, but it is easy enough to avoid this kind of behaviour if you want to (and some like to troll-bait. Personally, I find it unkind to taunt the mentally ill and don’t stoop to pillorying their personal lives). On occasion, though, we are not dealing with a lone individual, but one that is tied to a corporate identity. And this situation is why most reputable companies have policies in place about the use of social media. Because when a person using their real name, which can easily be tied to their workplace, starts to cast slurs on their own colleagues, not to mention large sections of the business’s client base, that can reflect very badly on their employer. 

This is what is happening right now with TOR books. When the Nielsen-Hayden’s first began to cast false accusations on their personal blog, Making Light, Larry Correia made it very clear that we could not blame all of TOR Books for their behaviour. It is a large publishing company, after all, and they were only one (possibly two) employees. I agreed with him, not only because I have friends who are very fond of the man who once ran TOR, but because I am acquainted with him and it seems unlikely this is a policy he would allow to be promulgated through his company. When Moshe Feder sneered at fans for not being sufficiently… fannish enough, for lack of better words, I sighed and chalked it up to the same reactions of fear and loathing I had noted from the time that they learned that the Hugo nominations had not gone their way, some days before the nominations were officially announced. 

sad puppies

Sometime yesterday the comments of the Creative Director of TOR books came to my attention. Now, I have no idea who this woman is, but it seems clear that she is not fully aware of the gravity of her words. I’m not going to bother diagramming her initial sentence, as some have done to try and figure out her precise meaning. I think that is unnecessary. Taken as a whole, this is clearly a reaction of fear and loathing, not one of rational intellectual consideration. First of all, there is little in the statement that is true. There are two groups, known respectively as Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies. That much is true. The rest of it seems to reflect the policy that all of the attackers have been following. 

I wish I could say that I was being paranoid. I despise conspiracy theories, in large they are stupid. In this case, however, the evidence is mounting. From the Entertainment Weekly article where I first learned that I, as a nominee, was ‘racist, misogynist…’ and was dumbfounded and amused to be told by friends that the whole list of recommendations made by Brad Torgersen were white Mormon males… This has been increasingly clearly a company that was no longer in control of their employees, and those employees were determined to harm as many of us as they could possibly do, with absolutely no effort to discern any shred of truth. Irene Gallo simply blurts out the nastiest, most inflammatory things that pop into her head, as the author of the Entertainment Weekly article did, and it seems clearer and clearer that they are connected. 

Now, people are calling enmasse for a boycott of TOR. I cannot say that I blame them. Peter Grant’s reaction was unexpected, as we had just had a conversation about not blaming TOR. But as his wife commented: “Call a guy who spent 18 years and a lot of shed blood working for the end of apartheid “unrepentently racist, misogynist, and homophobic”, and he reaches the end of his tolerance. Imagine that.” Based on the accusations I have documented above, Ms. Gallo has endangered the employment of many people who have done nothing more than seek to raise awareness of the Hugo Award in a way she and her friends did not approve of. Make no mistake – this is not a political campaign. Whatever it started as, it is now a clash between a corporate culture, and the fans who support it through buying books and media. Those fans are having enough of this nonsense. 

Something that I am sure Ms. Gallo did not consider when she made her response so publically, beyond how it would reflect on her company, was how it would reflect on the authors her company relies on for it’s very existence. A publishing house creates nothing. They serve as distribution for the creative efforts of authors. At least two of those authors on the Sad Puppy group lists are published by TOR, and they are not small names: Kevin J Anderson and John C Wright. Both are very nice men, and their sales reflect my impression of their creative efforts: they write well. Certainly not, as Ms Gallo reports ‘bad-to-reprehensible works.’ I would say the same for Jim Butcher, who is one of my favorite authors, and who is painted with that same brush although fortunately not published by TOR. His reaction was very clear. butcher response

more butcher

I could go on, but this is long enough, and the points have been made. Clearly, this is the reason that companies need policy concerning public statements by their employees. And those employees need training in professionalism at least enough to know better than to make statements like this. And if they do so, to issue a gracious retraction when they realize they were wrong. Not to delete a thread, because that is not an erasure, it is a cowardly attempt to scrape the mess under the nearest rug. It doesn’t work, the archiving is already done by then. Nor does a gracious retraction include cat pictures when politely pressed for clarification of your statement. At this point, I will wait to see what TOR’s reaction will be. A responsible business would already be moving to rectify this. Sadly, the precedent for that is the Foglio’s and what happened to them

Jonny's attempt

14 thoughts on “Fear and Loathing at TOR

  1. Thanks for linking to my article, Cedar.

    I’m very glad to see that this is spreading far and wide. I personally regard it as the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. I expect lies and calumny from ill-informed SJW’s. When one of Tor’s senior personnel does the same, she automatically and irrevocably involves her employer in the brouhaha. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Tor has to say about this. When you get top authors like Jim Butcher pissed . . . watch out. Also, I think many indie authors like you and I have had just about enough. I’m independently published, not by a ‘mainstream’ publisher, but I sell tens of thousands of books every year. There are others like me. If we get together with some of the best-selling mainstream-published authors like Butcher, and we all speak with one voice, I suspect Tor might be in very serious trouble indeed.

    1. As I just told Amanda Green, this needs to become a groundswell that smacks Tor on teh chin, and hopefully knocks some sense into them. Without the fans, and the authors, they have nothing left as a business.

      I am a businesswoman, and I pride myself on professionalism. This offends me to the core, to see happening. As a professional, this offends me deeply. As a Sad Puppy, it’s just more of the same kicking they have been ganging up to deliver since before the nominations were made public. I think it is clear TOR has no policies in place to maintain professionalism in public by their employees, and they are going to regret that.

      Fans know when they aren’t wanted, and they will stop giving their support. It’s that simple.

      1. Cedar, I am very glad you mentioned this. The screaming lack of professionalism is what hit me in the head first (like a wet fish, no less).

        To be clear, I have no issue with Irene Gallo’s ability to hold this opinion privately. You can talk to friends and neighbors, yeah. You can discuss at work, at parties, and so on. But the internet is *by definition* an open forum. Like Sarah said, she’s shouting from the rooftops.

        Professionalism is a reputation hard won, and easily lost. The respect it demands can be wiped away with a single moment of inattention. Before, when Larry said don’t yell at Tor for stuff said on Tor.com, it made sense. There was the assumption of professional distance there. It was an absurd idea, boycott Tor? Whyever would we do such a thing? Especially when the next tasty book by John C. Wright, David Weber, etc, was coming out….

        And then we were called “unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic.” Our taste in books was “bad-to-reprehensible.” In a public forum, where the Creative Director was announcing one of Tor’s latest books, it took one simple question to turn things sour, and wipe away that hard-won idea of professionalism.

        I can’t imagine Toni Weisskopf, or Jim Minz making comments even close to what Irene said. All three are editors involved in the trad pub industry. They all are human (I presume, *grin*) and have the human frailties of politics and personal opinion. Yet I respect Toni and Jim because they couldn’t give a flying flip what *my* personal politics are, they just want to sell me good stories. And I want to buy them. The difference is stark, and clear.

        Good post, Miss Cedar. Take care, and good luck with your studies.

        1. Thank you. I am taking the summer off – pure bliss! – and writing, and getting married.

          I am looking forward to the yearly Hugo cycle being over. But the post I just published, with Tom Doherty’s statement, gives me some hope that things will be slightly less vitriolic going forward, at least from Tor.

  2. Wow. This whole thing got really weird, really fast. I mean, when SP started, there was flailing and arm-waving by the usual suspects, but this year… It’s like someone put something in the Kool-Aid and mass hallucinations have ensued. Reality has lost its meaning for these people. Rational thinking? It’s passe. Cogent, reasoned debate? Who needs that crap when they’ve got the ability to spew utter nonsense and have it swallowed.

    And yes, while I am sorry for the good, rational authors who are published through Tor, I won’t be buying Tor books any time soon. Maybe if enough authors and readers hit Tor’s pocketbook, they’ll do something about the people they employ. Until they do, their silence is tacit approval of bad behavior.

    1. Someone elsewhere suggested hitting the tip jar at an author’s website, with perhaps a note on why the money was being given, as a way to enjoy used books and bypass the publisher without damaging the author themselves.

  3. From MacMillan publishing’s posted Code of Conduct (http://macmillan.supadu.com/images/ckfinder/704/pdfs/Macmillan/MACMILLAN%20CODE%20OF%20CONDUCT%20USA%20July%202014.pdf):

    TAKING OUR RESPONSIBILITIES SERIOUSLY
    Specifically, directors, officers and managers are required to:
    • Ensure that they have an understanding of the major legal and reputational risks in their areas of responsibility.
    • Contribute to Macmillan’s risk assessment and risk management processes as required.
    • Create an atmosphere supportive of Macmillan’s internal rules, policies and procedures, encouraging employees to ask questions about the rules, policies and procedures and report suspected misconduct.
    • Make sure that employees who report to them are aware of, trained in and understand Macmillan’s internal rules, policies and procedures.
    • Consider an employee’s willingness to comply with Macmillan’s policies and procedures when assessing performance and/or considering promotion.
    • Ensure that employees understand that Macmillan will not tolerate retaliation of any kind against those who report potential misconduct.
    • Report any allegation or concern of fraud, illegality, misconduct or noncompliance to compliance staff or the Human Resources or Legal departments immediately.

    If they mean this as more than platitudes, then they need to start enforcing it.

  4. Wow. And yeah, Jim Butcher’s definitely neutral. I really don’t think he’s taking sides here, and he’s completely right about her utter lack of professionalism.

    (Thanks, by the way!)

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