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Letters from Proxima Thule

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On Usernames and Blame
Lost Girl
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.

I can't even articulate how strongly I agree with pretty much everything you've said here. So I'll just send you hugs from Australia instead.


Oh, Cat. I am so fucking sorry.

You don't have to walk in lock step with anyone. People need to grow the fuck up and get lives. I don't always agree with you all the damn time, but I love your voice, I love how you think, and you make *me* think. For fuck's sake, if we all thought and talked the same, what a fucking boring world it would be.

Too many people are addicted to righteous indignation and rage. We don't need to be them.

Please take care of yourself.

And again (again again again), Palimpsest is one of my all time favorite novels and made me weep over the sheer beauty of the prose. It is a sorrow to me that people shredded it. To me, it says more about their own insecurities and the smallness of their souls than anything about you.

And finally, you will always be Lady Snow for me. No one can own an idea. No one. We can only share them. They are viruses like that. And saying that you can't take in some part of what being in Japan was for you, because you're not Japanese?

I call bullshit.

Hang in there. Please. And above all, do not let this silence you.

*holds you in the light*

I am sorry that you felt like you had to change your name and that you are being stressed out.

That said, I agree with everything else you said.

We're only responsible for our own words and deeds and are not required to be the internet's social police.

Write and share what you will and nothing else.

I have Thoughts about this, but I don't have the spoons to sort through them all right now. I read some of that "conversation" and fled because I just wasn't up to it.

But I will say that none of this feels to me like anything you should have to defend or justify, and I'm sad and protective of you as my friend that you feel pushed into this position. Sending hugs and support and random kittens your way.

And please remember to take care of yourself, okay?

How did you get dragged into this mutually assured destruction? I read the original post, argued with the most egregious comments and left it at that to write my own post where I just said that I liked some of the reviews that she wrote but increasingly she'd pull out the "I want to kick this writer in the head with steel toed boots" shtick and it did get rather boring. The Twitter feed in which she sent her followers to blogs was the tipping point for me.

Kind of too bad. She did have a lot of great things to say about literature and even cultural appropriation (even if she was way too fascist in this regard).

But I'm sorry to hear that you got appointed the Kindergarten teacher for a bunch of squalling brats by the default of your refusal to get involved in most of these fights. Really sucks.

I also agree completely with this post. And I am saddened by some folks' rhetoric on the internet and the bullying that they inflict on people with what seems to be their own bullshit.

Ironically enough I was just defending Nick Pacione and not just because getting called out by that crazy bastard is an amazing networking opportunity but also because no one cares what he says so engineering these mass attacks to complain about something he said on his blog in order to shut it down is just fucking pathetic.

Also his grandmother just died and as far as I can tell from reading his blogs, she was the only person that ever cared about him or put up with his messhguggas. I know he hates my guts and has leveled all the accusations against me (gay plagiarist who is out to ruin his career and sometimes he gets into the Jew thing but he usually pulls back for fear of seeming anti-semitic) but he is his own worst enemy. THere's nothing anyone can do to him that he hasn't done to himself.

Your decision to change your name, I can understand. It's shitty that someone else took you to task over it, when it's none of their damned business how you present anywhere, but I can see that, in fact, you are a different person and perhaps the name no longer fits as well as it did.

The other thing -- the idea that you have to somehow apologize for anything written by another human being so wholly unconnected to you -- is insane. Just outright insane.

(edited for clarity)

Edited at 2012-08-02 10:41 pm (UTC)

Agreed. Insane.
Especially when I won't even apologize for what I write.

(Deleted comment)
No words for you -- none seem appropriate. I don't know anything about RH. The suggestion that you are to apologize for someone else's words is just plain bullying.

Thought maybe this would make you feel better, because that's what I wish for you.


Edited at 2012-08-02 10:44 pm (UTC)

I agree with all of this post.

One of the things I best love about your writing is the way you open yourself up: there's honesty at the heart of all of your words.

I don't agree with every word you write; I don't agree with every word anyone writes. But even when I don't agree, I'm struck - again and again - by the you in those words. There is a beauty in being open. In exposing both pride and warts. You do that, always. In snippets of description. In rants. In celebrations.

I'm inordinately selfish as a reader, and I don't want to lose that.

People praise her all over the place and don't get appointed her White Guardian.

Aaaaaw yeeeah!

Me and RH, sittin' in a tree.

Is RH poly? We can share. I hear she likes girls.

Wow. I missed a lot, didn't I?

Just letting you know that I love you, you are a dear & marvelous human & friend.

Also, I fucking loved Palimpsest.

nex0s (mobile posting sucks monkey balls)

I know, right? What the hell is wrong with LJ? Welcome to 2012, jerks.

Wow. That is crappy that people are doing that.

I think you're amazing.

Also, days when meds run out suck. A lot. I hear you.

And this, dear Lady, is why I continue to curl up in the corner, here in your place.

Life is too short, and generally we all have better things to do.


I might feel bad about your "I require meds toooo" sympathy ploy (newsflash: that is not what "ironic" means) but since you were just absolute shit to someone who told you she had tried to attempt suicide, any sympathy I might have for you is gone forever. That was horrific. You should apologize, immediately.

It's not a ploy--what kind of person assumes that?

And she and I spoke on the phone. I was not horrific to her. I pointed out that her words also had effects. That she caused me deep pain as well. If she did not find it so horrific that she couldn't call me and discuss it, with us both apologizing to the other and becoming at least nominally friendly, I'm not sure where you get off telling me that my mental issues are fake. Calling people liars when it comes to their health is pretty horrific.

Edited at 2012-08-02 11:04 pm (UTC)

Thank you very much for this post. I said it before and I am saying it again - I am beyond appalled that some people seem to think you are responsible for RH. Authors are not responsible for their fans' speech or their fans' actions. There was no connection between your original post on harassment and the strange, misguided comment that implied that you cannot talk about harassment without first denouncing RH.

FWIW, I loved Palimpsest.