Response Part VIII

In Section B.2, Matthew Johnson appears to reveal the real source of the SFWA’s institutional fury, which is the fact that I have drawn attention to the organization’s increasingly shabby reputation and nonexistent integrity.  It is a little ironic, as again, there is nothing that I could do as a single member that could possibly be more damaging to the organization than its selective prosecution of me for a one-time action that several dozen members, including its current president, have provably committed.

And, as you’ll see, once again the Canadian Regional Director shows himself to be guilty of doing what he falsely claims I have done.

2. Attacks on the reputation and integrity of the organization

Mr. Beale has made statements on numerous platforms, including but not limited to his blog, that can be seen as attacks on the reputation and integrity of SFWA. This report does not consider the question of whether Mr. Beale’s statements meet the legal tests for defamation in any jurisdiction. Instead, it examines more broadly whether these comments were intentionally harmful to the reputation and integrity of SFWA and, if so, whether or not they were made as criticisms in the spirit of good faith. General evidence on whether or not Mr. Beale has been acting in good faith towards the organization is found in Section C.

However, there are specific questions which must be considered in asking whether Mr. Beale’s accusations were made in good faith:

  • Were the accusations either openly stated or clearly implied?
  • Did Mr. Beale present evidence to support his accusations?
  • Did Mr. Beale believe that evidence to be accurate and relevant?

Accusations of corruption and unfair business practices

Most of the statements made by Mr. Beale that can be seen as attacks on the reputation and integrity of SFWA relate to accusations of corruption and unfair business practices. For instance, he has described SFWA of being “the very people who have created a global cottage industry out of thinly disguised necrophilia and bestiality” (see Fig B.18) and accused SFWA of acting as a monopoly:

Comment from demonl: It’s amazing to contrast the online interactions of fantasy/sci fi writers with the online social interactions of model ship builders.

Comment from VD [Beale]: The difference is that one group of model ship builders isn’t actively trying to prevent another group of them from being able to build model ships. (See Fig B.19)

The majority of Beale’s accusations of corruption relate to the Nebula Awards and are found in two posts on his blog and one at the online magazine Black Gate. In his first post on the topic, “Amazon, the SFWA and authorial corruption” (December 27 2012) he states that “corruption… is absolutely rife within SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Organization” (see Fig B.20). While he avoided making the accusation openly in the title of the blog post, he was less circumspect in his tweet of the blog, which read “How SFWA corruption proves Amazon is right to limit author-written reviews” (see Fig B.21).

As noted above, there is an important distinction between genuine criticism of the organization and attacks on its reputation. There is nothing that inherently prevents an accusation of corruption from being genuine criticism so long as it is supported by evidence and done in good faith. The original “Amazon, the SFWA and authorial corruption” post offers no evidence, instead inviting readers to find it
in his post at Black Gate. The title of that post, “SF/F Corruption: Part I”, avoids making direct accusations against SFWA in the title, but within the text says “the Nebula Award is, first and foremost, a means for various small groups of people to shamelessly and dishonestly promote the works of themselves and their friends.”

Note that he does not frame this in terms of these individuals misusing or gaming the system, but in terms of the Nebula system – and by extension SFWA – being itself corrupt. (See Fig B.22) No evidence is provided for this beyond the actual Nebula results and Beale’s personal opinion of the aesthetic merits of various books that won or did not win awards. In the comments, Beale also implies further corruption in SFWA, saying “the Nebulas are the least of it” (see Fig B.23) and openly states that “Corruption in SFWA is a documented and easily proven fact” (see Fig B.24). In this comment, and another where he is challenged to substantiate his accusations, Beale says that “this is merely Part I” (ibid.) and “Did you miss the part about Part I?” (see Fig B.25)

So far as I am able to determine, however, no sequel to this post ever appeared at Black Gate, and his post at his own blog titled “SF/F Corruption: Part II” also provides no evidence, instead saying “I had intended to continue on the SFWA theme with which I began the Corruption in Science Fiction series, but a pair of articles concerning the legitimacy of the bestseller lists caught my attention” and then focusing on whether publishers are gaming bestseller lists (see Fig B.26)

In an edit to the original post on his blog, however, Beale did present what he claimed was direct evidence, and it’s worth looking at that in detail. In an edit to the original “SF/F Corruption: Part I” post, Beale added:

UPDATE: An SFWA insider confirms my observations: “[Vox] is correct when it comes to the inbred logrolling. As SFWA Bulletin editor from 1999-2002 I can attest to this first hand. A small clique and their “in” friends control quite a bit of what goes on in SFWA (at least it did back then and I have no reason to doubt that things have changed).” (See Fig B.27)

The phrase “An SFWA insider confirms my observations,” provided as it is without elaboration or context, would seem to imply two things: first, that the source is a member of SFWA; second, that the source agrees with Beale’s accusations of corruption in this post. Neither, however, is true. The quote is taken from commenter “Dave T.” in response to Beale’s Black Gate post, and the text is quoted accurately (see Fig B.28). Later posts by the same commenter, however, show that he had not been a member of SFWA since roughly 2003, or nine years before the post (see Fig B.29), and also that he did not agree with Beale’s overall point about the Nebula process (and by extension SFWA) being corrupt (see Fig B.30). Moreover, it is clear that Beale knew both of these facts, because he participated actively in the comment thread following the article and actually responded to Dave T’s second comment (see Fig B.31).

Therefore, it would seem that Beale knowingly misrepresented someone as a current member of SFWA who was not, misrepresented him as an authoritative source of evidence for Beale’s accusation (since the accusations related directly to the 2012 Nebulas, and Dave T. said he had not been a member since 2003) and misrepresented Dave T’s comments in order to provide support for an otherwise unsubstantiated attack on the reputation and integrity of SFWA.

As a result, it is my conclusion that Mr. Beale made open accusations harmful to the reputation and integrity of SFWA, provided no supporting evidence that would show that he was making an honest criticism in good faith, and furthermore knowingly distorted evidence in support of those accusations.

It is true that I have openly questioned the integrity of the organization’s award process as well as the competence of past and present officers.  The lack of authorial integrity with regards to awards and reviews is a real problem, as evidenced by Amazon’s decision to bar authors from reviewing books on its site. But let’s consider the opinions of some other SFWA members, including a few who have openly called for my expulsion.

“Funny thing is, the Hugos are the cleanest major award in American SF. The Nebs are dreadful.”
– Teresa Nielsen Hayden, March 11, 2005

“The Nebulas are one of the two major awards in literary science fiction, but their luster has dimmed over the last several years; they are no longer the equal to the Hugos in terms of relevance and timeliness, and their nomination process leaves them open to accusations of nomination via logrolling rather than literary quality.”
– John Scalzi, former SFWA president, 2007 platform 

“Getting back to the nebulas: log-rolling is indeed a problem. In fact, it’s encouraged by the structure of the nebula process. The only excuse for the process that I can see is that too much eligible fiction is published in any given year for the jury to read it all, so some sort of pre-filtering is necessary, and the way the pre-filtering evolved within the nebula process just happened to end up FUBARed beyond all recursive acronymisation.”
– Charles Stross, SFWA member, November 30, 2007

“For the 2009
ballot, SFWA members could see how many nominations each story received
in the lead-up to the ballot selection. I really liked this because it
allowed members to know which stories were gaining attention. If a story
was surging in the tally, many members would go out of their way to
read and consider it. However, there was a downside to having a public
tally–logrolling. People could see who supported each story. Because of
this, it was claimed some SFWA members pledged to vote for different
people’s stories if those people voted for their own tales. Now, I
personally thought this practice was rarer than people stated, but it
was still a concern.”

– Jason Sanford, SFWA member, February 20, 2012

“I have served on Neb juries too. And the Election Committee. I used to be a member of SFWA.  Trust me on this, I have never been as pressured and log-rolled for a
nomination as I have been by male authors. Right down to almost in
person physical arm twisting. Women hardly did anything at all, other
than send their works to me. And everyone does it.”

– C. Foxessa, ex-SFWA member, December 29, 2012

“I thought SFWA would be my ‘union’ capable of enhancing or
protecting my interests.  It’s not really been so.  At least in my very
limited experience. Especially not when I stumbled across an e-mail exchange between
several SFWA members who were essentially discussing ways to turf my
chances on the Nebula, Hugo, and Campbell ballots in 2012. Why
should I pay money to remain a member of an organization that seems
(too often?) to be infested with personalities who explicitly want to
hurt my career?  Or at least want to blunt my opportunities?”

– Brad Torgerson, SFWA member, July 9, 2013

“Remember kids, SFWA aren’t just clueless and sexist, they’re also a great platform for log-rolling piss weak fiction into award season glory.”
– Jonathan McCalmont, SF critic, June 13, 2013

I note that one need not present any evidence at all for one to express one’s opinion in good faith.  None of the SFWA members quoted here presented any, and yet they are not being prosecuted by the SFWA Board for their very similar opinions concerning the “dreadful” nature of the SFWA’s awards. Because I am no longer blogging at Black Gate, I don’t write much about the business of science fiction and fantasy anymore; it being an area of less interest to the readers of VP and AG than those of Black Gate.  So, I haven’t gotten around to finishing the series on corruption in SF/F.  I may never finish it. But the fact that I haven’t publicly presented my evidence yet doesn’t mean that it does not exist, nor do I face any obligation to present it to anyone.

Now let’s look at Matthew Johnson’s accusation that I thrice misrepresented DaveT’s comments and “knowingly distorted evidence in support of those accusations.”  Mark his weasely “it would seem” which suggests that the SFWA Board member knows he is playing fast and loose with the facts here.  And keep in mind that this is the SFWA Board member accusing me of harming SFWA’s precious “integrity” in his official SFWA capacity.  There are three components to his accusation.

1. The first charge of misrepresentation is false. I did not misrepresent anyone as a current member of SFWA who was not a current member.  I didn’t say anything at all about DaveT’s membership status as of December 2012, and I even provided a link to the comment where he made it clear that he quit the organization sometime around 2003.  It would have been more precise to describe him as “a former SFWA Bulletin editor who quit the organization” than “an SFWA insider”, but it is hardly misrepresenting him to describe him as precisely what he was, an SFWA insider who edited the official SFWA magazine for three years and knows considerably more about the organization than most of its members.

2.  The second charge of misrepresentation is false. I did not misrepresent DaveT as an authoritative source of evidence for my accusation.  Johnson is straight out lying here.  He claims: “(since the accusations related directly to the 2012 Nebulas,
and Dave T. said he had not been a member since 2003)”.  However, the greater part of my accusation and the subsequent discussion concerned the 2002 Best Novel award given to Catharine Asaro for The Quantum Rose; in addition to the post concerned prominently featuring the cover of that novel, there is even a debate about the connection of that award and her popularity which led to her being elected to SFWA office around the same time

I also denied making any accusations about the 2012 Nebulas in the very comment thread quoted by Mr. Johnson.

Jo Walton: “I am not a member of SFWA and never have been. I think that disposes of your accusations of my logrolling for a Nebula.”

Theo: “I never made any such accusation.”

More importantly, Johnson ignores the way I specifically stated that my accusations primarily relate to the period between 2000 and 2010 in my original post, the very time period during which DaveT was the editor of the Bulletin.

“One of the things that rapidly became obvious to anyone who attempted to
participate honestly in the system between 2000 and 2010 was that the
Nebula Award is, first and foremost, a means for various small groups of
people to shamelessly and dishonestly promote the works of themselves
and their friends.”

3. The third charge of misrepresentation is false.  I did not “misrepresent
Dave T’s comments in order to provide support for an otherwise
unsubstantiated attack on the reputation and integrity of SFWA.”  Here is where Johnson’s blatant dishonesty becomes impossible to deny.  He knowingly misrepresents DaveT’s reminder about the possibility of a simple statistical explanation for Tor’s many awards as a disagreement with my overall point. Johnson writes of DaveT:

“he did not agree with Beale’s overall point about the Nebula process (and by extension SFWA) being corrupt….”

That is totally false, as DaveT clearly did agree with and substantiate my overall point:

I have merely concurred with Theo that there are
shenanigans going on re the Nebs voting process that I think are
deplorable. There are cliques who stick together (as in most
organizations), and some of them even go so far as to purposely avoid
voting for certain types of SF they don’t like
(i.e. the perceived
Analog _stereotypical_ story, for but one example)…. I personally got fed up with the cliques, in-fighting, nastiness,
politics, and all the rest of it, which is why I resigned my Bulletin
editorship in 2002 and let my membership lapse a year or so later.” 
[Emphasis added]

What was Johnson’s basis for claiming DaveT disagreed with me?  Fig. B.30, which is below, next to the text from DaveT’s comment.

“If nearly 25% of all Nebs recs since 1986 were from Tor, then this
means that just over 75% of the Nebs recs since 1986 were not from Tor.
Now, take into account that Tor is the largest SF book publisher in the
United States and it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that a fair
number of their books might just earn a Neb rec. I bought a red car some years ago. A friend was quick to point out
that statistics showed that more red cars get into accidents than any
other color. To which I replied, “Maybe there are just more red cars on
the road.” To wit, maybe there’s just more Tor books to nominate from,
and they must be doing something right re quality and sales for them to
be the leading SF book publisher in the country (if not the world). Just a thought.”

It’s just a thought.  It is obviously not proof of DaveT failing to agree with my overall point.  In fact, it’s not even a disagreement with me!  I myself brought up the possibility that Tor is simply a very good publisher, in addition to some observations, such as:

  • “the unusually heavy involvement of its authors in the
    awards process”
  • “their representation in the organization’s offices”
  • “the confirmed logrolling in the recent past”
  • “how many of those award-winning books neither seem to sell particularly
    well nor be especially well-regarded by Amazon reviewers”

In fact, our only area of potential disagreement on the subject was that DaveT believes Tor is not cheating, but merely “has an active and successful marketing and networking strategy”, whereas, on the basis of my experience in the music industry, I am less certain that Tor Books has never gamed various awards and bestseller lists.  Tomato, Tomahto.

The only person who “knowingly distorted evidence in support of… accusations” here is Matthew Johnson.  By now, it should be abundantly clear that with his intentional misrepresentations and false accusations, Matthew Johnson, the current Canadian Regional Director and SFWA Board member, is considerably more harmful to SFWA’s reputation and integrity than I am.  And we’ve only reached page 21 of 34.

But since we’re on the subject of the Nebulas and the SFWA Board, I’ve heard there was a bit of disappointment at the SFWA’s secret headquarters following the 2012 Awards.

Response Part VII

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