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On Usernames and Blame
Lost Girl
catvalente
You will notice that I have changed my username.

This is something of an end of an era. I have been yuki-onna on Livejournal for a decade. It was a name that mattered to me. So much that I refused to change it when Facebook and Google decided we all had to use our real names so that it was easier to sell to us, so knock off that creative thing you were doing for the first twenty years of the Internet.

But there is a conversation going on on Livejournal that involves a blogger that I'm sure you all know by this point, Requires Hate. Beginning with comments in my post on Readercon, a post which neither mentioned RH nor had anything to do with her, an idea has surfaced that I have not publicly denounced or blocked her, and so am responsible, on some level, for her words and actions. That I cannot speak on the subject of harassment, even my own harassment, unless I disavow a blogger and book critic that I have never met and only occasionally converse with.

In the course of that conversation, my username was brought up as an example of cultural appropriation. (Why attacking me for appropriation, in my books, in my username, is ok, but RH attacking others for it is not, I am at a loss to explain.) Because my username was Japanese and I am not.

I was, and am, angry about the unfairness of this. I chose the name while living in Japan, desperately trying to feel a connection with a place during a time in my life when I was so deeply depressed and unhappy that a goddess of death seemed just about the right speed for me. As things do online, it came to represent me and my reputation all over the net.

But the truth is that there was nothing not problematic about the reasons I was living in Japan--married to a naval officer stationed there, on an American base on foreign soil 66 years after the end of the war that put it there, in a town divided by race, a population forced to live with American sailors in nothing like harmony. Like it or not, I was part of that system. Whatever I came to love about the culture, it doesn't really matter. I was there as part of an empire and that just plain sucks out loud.

I am not that person anymore. I was very young and very angry and very damaged. Maybe I am still those things. But it seemed a good time to change. I'm not yuki-onna anymore.

As for the rest of the conversation, and the number of times today I have had to say to my colleagues, people who know me and talk with me regularly and yet still cannot give me anything like the benefit of the doubt or courtesy, I don't really know what to say. It seems pointless, at this stage, to insist that I am not responsible for my fans (and you know, RH blasted Palimpsest, along with a lot of the rest of the SFF readership, blasted it and shredded it and some of those people made it so personal and private, so disgusting and vicious, that I cannot talk about that book at all anymore. She's hardly an uncritical fan of mine, and she was far from the worst of those critics.) nor for the actions or words of someone I have never met. I have no understanding of why I must answer for her.

I am deeply, deeply uncomfortable with the idea that we as a community of authors feel it is acceptable to circle wagons and demand that other authors denounce and disavow a critic publicly before being allowed to speak on other topics or be accepted as an actor in good faith. The more people tell me I must do this, the less likely I am to do it, because it's bullying, plain and simple, it's intimidation and if it's so out of line when RH does it, so out of line that even people who have the audacity to speak to her without spitting in her face must be ostracized, then it is not ok to do it to peers and colleagues.

I do not agree with, and am offended by, a good portion of the post that started all of this--but I will not denounce the author of that post either, nor link to it, because it's not ok. It's not ok to send a mass of readers over there to tell the author she's wrong, and it's not ok to blacklist a person because you think they're wrong on the internet.

I believe that people should be able to voice their opinions, even if I disagree with them. Even if I agree sometimes and other times think that in a quest to answer injustice and be heard, they step over the line into cruelty. I am a complex person. I can believe at the same time that these injustices are real, and the inability to be heard is a genuine concern, and also not side with a critic on every issue. (Jesus, it's called reading.) It is ridiculous that I have to say this. Did we demand anyone who wanted to be taken seriously publicly denounce Christopher Priest? We did not. It is brushing up against a bizarre kind of McCarthyist groupthink to do so, and it is not ok. This is not what we do as a community. I do not accept it. Guilt by association? Are we serious? Are you now or have you ever been in contact with Requires Hate? No, no, no.

I will repeat what I have said before, purely to stave off arguments on this point in the comments, though I don't expect it to help: I do not believe that RH's rhetoric comprises an actual threat to the person of any author, any more than wishing someone would die in a fire, as per common internet parlance, represents an actual intent to commit murder or arson. If I did, my attitude would be very different. Some of the authors RH has had unkind words for I number among my friends. Some I did number among my friends, only to find out today that that friendship is predicated, 4th grade style, on my never speaking to someone they don't like. Do I like it when she goes incandescent on them? No. It fucking sucks, no less than when she did it to me. Do I sometimes learn something about my own bullshit? Yes. Do plenty of people say equally inflammatory things without inspring the curious loathing RH does? You bet. Do I sometimes get paralyzed in my own writing, because I will probably get it wrong? Yep. Is that a good thing? Very probably. Is comparing RH to Goebbels and the Aurora shooter appropriate? Come on.

Does that mean that I am somehow linked at the hip to RH and can be called to task for her? For crying out loud, that is some unfair shit. People praise her all over the place and don't get appointed her White Guardian. I am an author. I am responsible for my own work, my own life, and really fuck all else. And I am just about at the end of my rope with this shit.

As it happens and with much sad irony, I myself Require Meds today. Due to a pharmacy shortage, I am off my medication. I am probably taking things too seriously. I am definitely exhausted, depressed, near tears and wound up very tight--which I say not to get all white woman's tears on any of you, but because it is sometimes valuable to say "Hey. This is not fun and games for me and I have had enough."

I have had enough.

If what is required of me in my community is to block and fucking deny her three times or something, I'm sorry, I just can't do it. It's the principle of being ganged up on and told I have to. Putting aside all the cultural issues, the shit I am offended by and do not think should stand, that I disagree with things people say ALL THE FUCK OVER THE PLACE and don't say anything because I don't have the energy to fight, I'm just a stubborn fucking person. I don't like the precedent. Which other person that I follow on Twitter will I be taken to task for next? Which critic who liked a couple of my books will say something offensive such that I and no other reader of theirs must answer for it? No, no, no.

I fuck up quite enough on my own without having to take on the sins of someone halfway around the world.

If you have a problem with a person, talk to them. Fight with them. It is beyond weird to attack an unrelated author instead. And honestly, pretend I'm Britney Spears. Leave me alone.

So, yeah. New name.

Edited to Note: anonymous commenting is turned off. If you want to call me an asshole, you're going to have to use your name.

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