One of the most frustrating aspects of dealing with my irrational anxiety attacks is the way they have kept me largely shut up when it comes to long-form electronic posting. My social phobia concerning short, sharp things like Twitter or Tumblr was pretty well broken back in 2012, following a glorious bit of impromptu shock therapy in which my girlfriend got me thoroughly tipsy and encouraged me to livetweet the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics. My issues with more involved forms of display have been less cooperative, and though a more rigorous new therapy regimen has borne some fruit, it’s obvious that blog and website updates from me have been scarce for some time.
This was especially frustrating in the wake of the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention, after which the ponderously self-important blowhard John C. Wright publicly accused veteran editor and lifelong fan Patrick Nielsen Hayden of both assaulting Wright’s wife and masterminding the long-term “corruption” of the Hugo Awards, to which the SF/F field largely replied: “Meh.” Now, some of that is certainly due to Wright’s tireless self-marginalization and frothing bigotry, but regardless, I think Patrick deserved better of his friends and colleagues. He deserved to have someone stand up and state plainly what he could not– that John C. Wright talks a big game about truth and courage, but that he is demonstrably full of shit.
I wanted to be that person. I prepared a lengthy post to that effect. And then anxiety did its usual crushing, grinding thing, and days became weeks, which became months. It is now the new year, Hugo chat has started up in earnest, and Wright is once again plying his mealy-mouthed combination of false civility and vicious nonsense on the subject. I have decided to weigh in with a reminder that the narrative Wright wants to push is an absolute full-blown fabrication.
Shortly after Worldcon, Wright posted a rant titled “Smeagol Nielson Hayden,” which you are encouraged to read (though do take a strong drink with you as an escort). You can find it at:
Everything I’m going to be responding to is taken from it, and Wright’s statements appear in bold text below. Wright begins by describing his attendance at the 2015 Worldcon:
I was asked beforehand more than once if I thought there would be any unpleasantness or insults from the few but vocal pests in jest I call Morlocks who have been steadily infiltrating and corrupting the science fiction community in general, and the Hugo Award process in particular, over the last twenty years. I answered in the negative. The Morlocks are a cowardly lot, and would not dare say to my face the foolish lies they say behind my back on the internet. Besides, like me, they came to have a good time and to celebrate our mutual love of science fiction, and applaud in the fashion of good sports what we each severally take to be the best the genre offers. I thought there would be no incident.
Note the striking way in which the tone of Wright’s rhetoric veers wildly from one paragraph to the next. One moment, his “Morlocks” are a dire threat from outside the field, “infiltrating” and “corrupting.” Three sentences later they share a mutual love of science fiction with Wright, and the circumstances of his disagreements with them have acquired a trivial hale-fellow-well-met sort of cast. Oh, what gentle shenanigans! This tonal shift is a constant tic of his; the opponents that are part of a “silly kerfluffle” will, just a few lines of text later, be described as willing Satanic defilers who must be fought with prayer, fire, and sword unto the ending of the world. You’d think there wouldn’t be much ideologically consistent wiggle room between these two extremes, but what the hell. Magical thinking pants always come with an elastic waistband.
Why was Wright at the Hugo Awards ceremony? He secured five nominations on the final Hugo ballot for 2015, and in this respect he was the most egregious beneficiary of a premeditated and publicly coordinated slate-voting campaign run by the people fandom has come to know as the “Sad Puppies” and the associated/overlapping “Rabid Puppies.” That’s not allegation, or conjecture, or opinion. It’s what happened. This campaign wasn’t even technically against the rules, though it was fueled by a baseless sense of paranoid entitlement and was certainly shepherded by a number of vocally antagonistic jackasses.
Now, any writer with the self-awareness of an eggplant casserole would have known to tread lightly in fandom following this clusterfuck, which, let me repeat, was a result of vote engineering by a dedicated minority rather than of general acclaim from the field. Instead, according to Wright’s very own account, he strolled good-naturedly into the Hugo Awards in the blithe expectation that everyone else would conveniently ignore the chicanery that had brought him there.
I am sad to report that I was mistaken. The Archmorlock himself displayed his courage against the short and girlish figure of my meek and gentle wife.
At the reception just before the Awards Ceremony itself, my lovely and talented wife, who writes for Tor books under her maiden name of L Jagi Lamplighter, and who had been consistently a voice of reason and moderation during the whole silly kerfluffle, approached Mr. Patrick Nielsen Hayden at the party to extent to him the olive branch of peace and reconciliation.
Before she could finish her sentence, however, Mr. Hayden erupted into a swearing and cursing, and he shouted and bellowed at the tiny and cheerful woman I married.
This is a load of crap. Having heard Patrick’s (hereafter also referred to as “PNH”) version of these events directly, and the version reported by several others, I say without hesitation or qualification that John C. Wright is a liar. PNH did not “erupt” into anything, and there was no shouting or bellowing. PNH and Lamplighter were at a reception attended by roughly ten dozen people, including a number of notable SF/F creators, editors, and fans. Isn’t it curious that none of them noticed an alleged shouting fit by one of the most instantly recognizable editors in the field? That none of them reported or commented on such an immediately newsworthy incident? That Wright himself, who was physically present at the reception, did nothing there or afterward, but was perfectly happy to take his story to the web a day later? What was that about other people not having the courage to “say to your face the foolish lies they say behind [your] back on the internet,” John?
The encounter between PNH and Lamplighter took place within arm’s reach of a small group of witnesses, including Laura Mixon, from whom I received a recollection of events before writing this. According to Mixon, she turned away from PNH and Lamplighter after Lamplighter’s initial approach, and took a seat that placed them directly behind her. The first notion Mixon had that the conversation had ended was when PNH sat down beside her a few moments later. That’s how much “shouting” and “bellowing” were involved.
As PNH told Mixon: When PNH realized who Lamplighter was, he said (closely paraphrased): “I’m a practicing Catholic, and I found your husband’s comments about me hurtful. His comments about Moshe Feder were the next thing to Blood Libel. I don’t want to talk to you, and please tell John C. Wright to shove his opinions up his ass.”
After PNH sat down, Lamplighter attempted to re-engage him in conversation twice despite his repeated declarations that he didn’t want anything to do with her. Mixon finally said, “Can’t you understand that he doesn’t want to talk to you?” and Lamplighter took the hint at last.
I should mention that during the last few months of the Sad Puppies kerfluffle, I once upon a time accurately described him, Mr. Moshe Feder, and Mrs Irene Gallo of Tor Books as ‘Christ Haters.’ The support of abortion, sodomy, and euthanasia rather unambiguously put a soul into the position of open rebellion against Christian teachings. In addition, any man who bears false witness against his neighbor, delights in poison-tongued gossip, and destroys writing careers of anyone who does not support his politics not only disobeys Christ, but violates the ordinary decency of ordinary men of good will of any faith.
That would indeed be the very comment that PNH found hurtful, except the full and actual quote is “Christ-Hating Crusaders for Sodom.” Isn’t that lovely? Ha ha! What a “kerfluffle!”
Wright’s casual allegation that PNH “destroys the writing careers of anyone who does not support his politics” is another flat-out lie. Who are these writers disenfranchised by PNH for reasons of politics? What is the process by which PNH was able to work this scheme upon them? This is an allegation that would shake the field to its foundation… if only it weren’t total bullshit. Patrick has in fact worked as an editor for writers whose politics are avowedly, publicly at odds with his own, and they would be very surprised to learn that he had destroyed their careers. As Beth Meacham, another veteran Tor editor, has said many times in public: “We edit books, not people.”
Also, isn’t that a cute bit about “any man who bears false witness against his neighbor?” Wright cleverly finds a means for authorial self-insertion even in the middle of a polemic.
It seems that Mr. Hayden is a Roman Catholic and was so deeply moved to offense by my words that he could not retain a levelheaded and professional demeanor while speaking with my short little wife. He shouted filthy words at her and stormed off. I do not know if there were tears in his eyes.
Except that, as we’ve established, PNH did maintain such a demeanor, and he did not shout at Lamplighter, nor did he “storm off,” unless moving three feet and taking a seat counts, in which case I would suggest that Wright needs to recalibrate his dramatic sensibilities. As for whether “shove it up your ass” qualifies as “filthy words,” your mileage may vary. My total lack of concern for Wright’s histrionic aesthetic prudery should be pretty clear at this point. The salient facts remain:
1. Patrick Nielsen Hayden did not verbally or otherwise assault L. Jagi Lamplighter at the 2015 Hugo Awards reception.
2. Patrick Nielsen Hayden does not destroy the writing career of “anyone who does not support his politics.”
3. John C. Wright is a liar.
And that’s it, right? What more is there to say? What more could anyone–
Before I continue, I should explain to the reader that Mr. Hayden, and no one else, was the driving force behind the corruption of the Hugo Awards in these last fifteen to twenty years.
Holy sweet fucking corn muffins from Mars.
I must at this point apologize to the reader for understating my case. John C. Wright is a lying hysteric. Full stop.
When he began his lonely detached recon mission from the rest of reality is anyone’s guess, but with this he’s vanished so far up the river that even Colonel Kurtz would come out of his mud bath long enough to note that that Wright badly needs to consider the benefits of modern psychopharmaceuticals. Precisely how a single Tor editor, acting alone, could arrange “the corruption of the Hugo awards” is left to the imagination. Let’s take this utterly bugfuck fantasy and condescend to put it under the lens of a few reasonable questions:
• How would this campaign of corruption be funded? Do you imagine SF/F editors as a career class are rolling in cash? If so, incidentally, how long until you start kindergarten?
• How would it be coordinated? Other people would, sooner or later, need to be suborned or at least consulted. How would messages be sent? How could fifteen to twenty years of necessary notes and e-mails remain completely hidden? How is it that in all that time, not one person approached by this alleged conspiracy would have felt uncomfortable with it, refused to participate, and then made its existence public?
• How would all the non-Tor publishers and authors be induced to cooperate with Patrick’s plans?
• Even if Patrick were to dispense with controlling the voters and go straight to fudging the results, how would he have been able to suborn the Hugo vote-counting process that is overseen by a different group of people in a different geographic location every single year?
I know Patrick. I admire him greatly. He is a brilliant ambulatory living history of SF/F and its fandom, and yet I am fairly confident that he forgets his own phone number about once a week. The notion that he has been masterminding the corruption of the Hugos, Blofeld-like, from a cluttered office in the Flatiron Building for twenty years requires a reality scaffold big enough to occult the sun.
It was he who spearheaded the infiltration what had once been the fans’ award and expression of love for the most excellent work in the field.
Here you see unfettered psychosis, dancing in the moonlight, naked of any last stitch of evidence. Read the implication– SF/F fans whose Hugo opinions are not congruent with John C. Wright’s are illegitimate SF/F fans. They do not actually belong to the community or within it. They were “infiltrated.”
Again, treating an insultingly shitwhacked notion with far more logical due process than it deserves, let me ask– where’s your evidence, John? Where’s your evidence for your public accusation that PNH has unilaterally and deliberately “infiltrated” illegitimate non-fans into the SF/F community for political reasons? Where did he find them? How did he recruit them? See again my bullet points above– how did he coordinate with them? Where did he find the time and resources to stage this operation?
(Readers, anyone willing and able to provide documentation for Wright’s assertions is invited to mail me however many Big Chief tablets are required to contain their crayon scribblings on the subject. If I receive multiple submissions, I will pick a winner and offer, in exchange, their choice of either the true location of Atlantis or the GPS coordinates of the vault containing Walt Disney’s cryogenically preserved head.)
Once, the Hugos were the popular award given to the best works by Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, Issac Asimov, Bob Silverberg, Ursula K LeGuin and Harlan Elison, and Roger Zelazny. After much patient effort, the Hugo Awards, together with the SFWA (the Science Fiction Writers of America) were controlled by a small clique of like minded creatures loyal to Mr. Hayden.
The Hugos were also the quirky popular vote that gave mysterious acclaim to yeast vat accidents like Mark Clifton’s They’d Rather Be Right, and delivered an inexplicable landslide for the fourth Harry Potter novel a decade before Tumblr was a thing. They also gave a There, There Isaac Asimov Hugo to Isaac Asimov for an infinitely belated fourth Foundation novel that left a flaming bag of dogshit on the philosophical porch of the previous Foundation novels. In more recent years, they have occasionally delivered rocket statues to what I think of as some real talent mausoleums. However, anyone who isn’t a thrashing self-absorbed pee baby understands that the Hugos are a crap shoot born at the intersection of popular tastes and ever-shifting geographic adjustments to the pool of eligible voters. As Oscar Wilde, or perhaps George Bernard Shaw once said, De gustibus non est disputandum, you pestilent fucking cockbag.
Thereafter, the Hugo voters awarded awards to the Tor authors Mr. Hayden selected based on their political correctness, and expelled those whose politics the clique found not to their taste.
If you look at the actual evidence from the Hugo results dating back to 2000, you’ll see that Patrick’s inexorable PC blitzkrieg has been so devastatingly effective that it has delivered best novel Hugos to Tor books a whopping five times out of fifteen. If you examine Wright’s larger figure and count back twenty years, you’ll see that Patrick’s all-consuming Social Justice Shoggoth has crapped out even worse, delivering a mere six out of twenty. If Patrick were running the sort of well-oiled secret machine conspiracy Wright alleges, that’s a spectacular shitshow. And as anyone who knows Tor Books and loves it well knows, if Patrick were running an actual conspiracy using Tor’s actual resources, six out of twenty is a success rate that suggests far more effective coordination than is remotely plausible.
Either way, John, that dog just won’t hunt.
None of this was done on merit. Editors and writers in the field have been silence or shoved to the sidelines thanks to the action of the clique. I mention no names in public, but those in the field recall the various false accusations leveled against numbers of people, both working for Tor and outside.
Wright names no names because there are no names to be named. There is no work to be shown. There is no evidence to be offered.
Look, John C. Wright is, in all modesty, a tediously pious moralizer, one of the most tediously pious moralizers shitting indigestible paragraphs today. Wright has rarely met a sentence to which he didn’t want to add twenty-three words and just a soupcon of plausibly-deniable Blood Libel. The most striking feature of John C. Wright’s religiosity is that it is indistinguishable from a professional troll’s deliberate attempt to discredit John C. Wright’s religiosity. Even an atheist can spot the thinness of Wright’s “Christian” ethos, smeared atop the fluff like the molecule-thin film of petrochemical butter on movie popcorn. Wright confuses concrete-dry levelness of tone with actual decency and civility, just as he confuses the Christianity of Christ with a viciously masturbatory conviction that God is his bigger, meaner cellmate who is going to pound every other inmate in the ass SO HARD in the showers, they won’t even believe it.
But that’s not really terribly important. Wright makes these points clear over and over again on his own time, and the fact that he’s a bigoted goofball is hardly a state secret. What is important is that nothing he’s tried to push about the Hugo Awards or about Patrick Nielsen Hayden has any scintilla of truth to it, and anyone who tries to tell you differently in the coming months is either a liar or a water carrier for a depressingly stupid conspiracy theory spun by liars.