Dear Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA, please shut the fuck up.

I know you value your freedom of speech. Good on you. However there are 1788 other members of SFWA who also value their freedom of speech and manage to exercise it without being raging assholes.

You are professional writers, so should know the power of words. I therefore must assume that you are deliberately being provocative and trying to set things on fire because you enjoy watching a flamewar.

There are 1788 other members who don’t. Scratch that… there are 1752 because some people just quit because of you.

I know, I know. Asking you not to be racist/sexist/elitist, or just for impulse control is tantamount to fascism and catering to the liberal mob. All the other members manage to do it. Why can’t you?

I spent four years in office and the first year I almost quit because I got so tired of getting hate mail. Then I realized that it was coming from the same dozen people, every single time. All the other members were lovely. It was easier to shrug off being called “impertinent,” or “wannabee” (Did I show you the Hugo I won since then), or “Nazi,” when it became clear that the vitriol didn’t represent all of SFWA, just a dozen rabid weasels.

However, I am sick to death of putting out the fires that you people start.

Please quit. And by “quit” I mean, please quit SFWA in a huff. Please quit noisily and complaining about how SFWA is censoring you for asking you to stop using hate speech. Please quit and complain about the “thoughtcrime” of asking people not to sexually harass someone.  Please quit and bellyache about the good old days when people could be bigoted jerks. I want you to express your opinions clearly so that everyone knows them and knows that you are quitting because the other members of SFWA want you to Shut the Fuck up.

With all sincerity,

Mary Robinette Kowal


[Edited to add: My site was crashing from traffic, so I had to turn “lockdown” on the caching. Your comments ARE being recorded, they just don’t cause the page to refresh. I’ll be able to set it back to normal later.]

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246 thoughts on “Dear Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA, please shut the fuck up.”

  1. Huzzah! From outside the SFWA, let me assure you that while the rabid weasels are extremely visible… it’s equally obvious that they’re feeling defensive and outnumbered. Which is a good thing.

  2. Seconded. Although I’m not yet in SFWA (trying!), I seriously question my goal of joining when I see the kind of nonsense coming out of it, lately. I try to remember that it’s only a few people, but when those few people are spewing the amount of vitriol and hate that these are, it is seriously discouraging to those of us who aren’t yet published and who look at being able to join SFWA as a goal.

  3. Perhaps it’s time to launch a new writers’ org, like Worldwide SFF, with branches in all countries where there are writers writing SF/F. I volunteer to bring cookies to the first meeting.

    1. You know, I ran for office the first time because people suggested that. My experience has always been that it’s easier to stage a coup than to build a new organization. Enough people speaking powerfully about what they want to see DOES make a difference. I think it is now, and that’s why the angry dozen have gotten so loud recently.

      1. Nobody of Import

        It’s not the only place I’ve seen that your observations about staging a coup was easier…it happens in the horse community; several orgs within the AHA could probably benefit the same way. Let’s just say that a consumer of SF and a one-time dilettante in the writing space is behind you on this statement.

      2. This is so for the larger world as well, both the speaking powerfully and the reaction to that.

        Thank you for this. Your words are a long, tall drink of cold water.

  4. Aaaand…amen.

    This whole business has been very offputting. As someone who–at one point–was very much looking forward to qualifying for SFWA, the behavior of a select few bad apples has made me question that desire. There are other problems, too, but…this is definitely one of them.

  5. ” All the other members were lovely. It was easier to shrug off being called “impertinent,” or “wannabee” (Did I show you the Hugo I won since then),”

    Like a Boss Mary.

  6. Well said. Well said indeed.

    I came across a questionable tumblr that (until a DMCA shuts it down) shows the underbelly of what has been going on.

    Rabid Weasels indeed.

    If you, one of the most polite, level headed and courteous writers I’ve ever met, are driven to this, then the Rabid Weasel Chorus has gotten annoying indeed.

    Thank you.

  7. Hooray! I can’t say it “had to be said” … because they have got away with it before … but I’m *so* glad you have said it … weasels, go away!

    Thank you … that’s really brightened my day

  8. I knew there was a reason I loaded the “kittens and confetti” app this morning. Thank you for this.

  9. The Rabid Weasel Contingent sees the control of SFWA, conventions, and polite society slipping out of the grasps of entitled, smug, straight white guys and the people who support the right of said Straight White Guys to leave festering trails of social slime wherever they go without consequence. The idea that THEIR behavior might have consequences is terrifying. So they’re going to try and hurt anyone who claims its time have come.

    I’m glad your’e standing up to them.

  10. Oh, thank you, thank you for saying this, with the extra backing of your experience serving, so I can explain once again why I want to stay in the organization.

    One more try for intelligence and civility and changing the world in a good way….

  11. I like the way, even though you’re clearly pissed, you seem so poised. Love this letter and the sentiment behind it. Keep making a difference!

  12. All of this stuff, combined with my state and others taking control of women by legislation, is truly blowing my mind right now. Are we sure this isn’t some huge shared-world project in which the SFF community is helping point out how completely INSANE it is the way women’s rights are being rolled back these days?

  13. I’m only an associate member, but I’m also a woman and a writer. I’m staying in SFWA because there are people willing to stand up for inclusion by saying GTFO. Thank you Mary!

  14. Hi there–

    You don’t know me; I saw this through a like-of-friend-of-friend on facebook. I just wanted to applaud a job well done. Cheers!

  15. Thank you, Mary. I realize you couldn’t say this while in office. I appreciate your willingness to say it now.

    (Not a SFWA member. If I someday qualify, I’ll join right up and steer clear of the weasels.)

  16. At first when I saw the title of the post, I thought you were going to write a clever Christmas jingle parody, excoriating the thorns in your side. I’m only slightly disappointed. 😉


    Who are the 12 speifically we are trying to destroy?

    1. Mike Resnick
    2. Barry Malzberg
    3. Vox Day
    4. John C. Wright
    5. Orson Scott Card.
    6. ??
    7. ??
    8. ??
    9. ??
    10. ??
    11. ??
    12. ??

    Please list all the names of the nazis so we can effectively purge them.

    1. Well given more than 12 people voted for Beale in the SFWA election you may have considerably few than 1752 supporters and more than 12 to expel

      1. I want to be really clear about this. There is a big difference between people that I disagree with and people who are rabid weasels.

        I am good friends with folks who have political opinions that I violently disagree with, but they aren’t assholes about it and I try not to be an asshole about my opinion either.

        There are about a dozen people who cross from being angry to being vitriolic, and go from having a political opinion to actual hate speech. When I was in office, those dozen made life miserable and they don’t appear to have let up.

        There were another fifty who had similar beliefs, but weren’t jerks about it. Coincidentally, about sixty people voted for Beale. The point of this is that it is possible to have a different opinion from someone and still treat them with respect. Rabid weasels just froth and bite and urinate on things.

  18. Thank you, Mary!

    I realize that the abusive trolls are only a small fraction of the membership, but they are allowed to control the public discourse. It is becoming a personal embarrassment for me to remain a member of SFWA. I urge the board to act on this. I am confident they want to.

  19. So it is ok for PC types to be rabid weasels but not anyone else. You Wymyn can enjoy your echo chamber. I don’t qualify for membership and never will. Seeing what the wymyn and geldings of SFWA want, I find that a good thing

      1. I think these are the magic words.

        Remember last week when Michelle Bachmann (R-Crazy Eyes) rambled on about how Teh Gheys were going to destroy Murica now that some of them can get married?

        A reporter asked Nancy Pelosi (D-Reality) what she thought of MB’s statement and she said “Who cares?”

        Trolls and rabid weasels are irrelevant, especially to those of us who care about the future more than the past. So we should ignore them.

        “Who cares?”

    1. Thomas Pinkerton

      Geldings! Ha! I love it when strutting cocks use terms like that. “Grr! You agree with women?! You must not be a /manly/ man.”

    2. It has been my experience that, given the same backing as a man gets, taught that the derision and denigration that you resort to is the product of a self-doubting inadequate who is so low that they would need the Hubble telescope to examine the belly of a slug, and recognised as a human being with her own particular abilities and talents, any woman can easily be ten times the man that you are in your own wildest fantasies.

  20. Thank you for this. My wife writes and I have heard a lot about SFWA, but almost all of it the bad message about what it is like thanks to these 6-12 buttheads. Your note that most of SFWA if made up of decent folk is important and needs to be heard.

  21. Please quit? Is that your way of saying you know you can’t kick them out so you will passive aggressively demand they leave so they don’t continue to hurt your-I mean everyone’s feelings?

    1. Really? Asking that people who are hateful little turds leave an otherwise good organization is the same as being passive aggressive? Glad you pointed that out, otherwise I never would have been able to tell.

    2. I’ve seen some of what these people have to say. If I were in SFWA I would not want to share the organization with individuals who do not believe I am human.

      The reverse is not also true. Asking someone to exercise impulse control like they have better manners than a five-year-old (and your average five-year-old would not lose impulse control in *this particular manner*) is not dehumanizing them. I feel sorry for you if you think it is.

    3. Do you hear the weasels sing,
      Singing the songs of angry men
      Lashing out at people
      Who do not agree with them.
      So we’ll mock them as a farce
      And kick em out on their bums
      We don’t want the hate in their hearts
      When tomorrow comes!

      ((I know Speckles is gone, but I really wanted to.))

    4. The title of the post is “Dear Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA, Please Shut The Fuck Up”

      But no, you’re right; totally passive aggressive.

    5. How is asking someone “please leave” passive-aggressive? It seems pretty straightforward.

    1. Jane Austen was also a mediocre, oversensitive wilting flower whose biggest concern was not ever being offended?

      1. Hey, Spec—As noted above, Ms. Kowall won a Hugo. Care to give us a list of your accomplishments? (And being a sniveling, insecure cro-magnon doesn’t count.)

  22. Bravo, Mary, bravo. It’s long past time the genre community acknowledged that we’re (mostly) grown-up, and that racism, homophobia, and sexism have zero place in our ranks.

  23. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences of speech. If you say racist/sexist crap and then catch flack for it you are not being censored, you are just being chastised for being a jerk. If you do want to be a jerk please be one somewhere else.

    1. That’s probably just what the police will say if they start arresting people for it.

      ‘You HAVE the freedom of speech, you just have to accept the consequence of jail time.’

      1. Well, no, because at that point, you’re violating the First Amendment. That becomes a State-sanctioned punishment for speech, which is not the same as saying that the public can shun you for the same speech.

        So, sure, that could happen (it does from time to time), but then you could sue the living daylights out of the government (and you would win in most cases — excepting libel, etc.). That is the reason why the folks identified by Mary never file lawsuits in relation to their loud-mouthed cries about censorship. They either know they cannot win in a 1st Amendment case, or they’re just crying about something they don’t understand.

        1. Shannon GInther

          “Well, no, because at that point, you’re violating the First Amendment”….So you are saying you have the right to verbally assault me, and I have no rights to defend myself…I just have to take that crap…….uh uh, that’s why its called verbal ASSAULT….there are penalties for being an asshat

        2. I don’t know if I can put this clearly enough: no, no one here is saying that.

          Does that help?

          The right to free speech is not violated because I ask you to leave my house; stop listening to you; ask you to shut up; shouting raging, vile abuse at you; listen politely and disagree rationally or indeed any combination of the aforementioned.

          The righ to free speech is violated in exactly two circumstances:

          1 The state silences you
          2 You are coerced into silence by some other party and the state doesn’t protect your rights.

          When a guest at dinner calls another guest a kike it’s not censorship to tell them to get the fuck out.

          Best wishes


        3. Jim,
          I don’t think this is your fault so much as a fault with the comments going out of wack. The comment you’re responding to was in response to another comment that more or less suggested that an SFWA policy on behavior would somehow end up or reflect some sort of police-based abuse (I can’t find the original comment anymore, so I am very poorly paraphrasing what it actually said; if that individual would please correct me, that would be great). Basically, I wasn’t responding to Mary or the general call to expel Beale or to call people out for crap behavior. I was specifically responding to someone who was talking about actual 1st Amendment violations — i.e., the police monitoring your behavior.

          Booting people from the SFWA would not Constitute a 1st Amendment violation. Obviously.

          My original comment (the one from which all this shot off) was in response to Dark Matter, who suggested there needs to be something in the SFWA Constitution that allows for booting people out based on poor behavior. While I agree that something should exist in the Constitution that makes it possible to remove people from the organization who are detrimental to its well being, my concern rests in the assumption that we can adequately define or determine what is and is not “good” or “bad” behavior. So the problem isn’t really a freedom of speech issue, but rather a definitional one. I’m just not sure the SFWA belongs in the business of monitoring behavior, except when it absolutely must.

          I hope that clarifies things. My apologies for the confusion. I probably should have made this all apparent when the comments starting going weird.

        4. Many trade organisations have a “Bringing the organisation into disrepute” clause. This is non contentious, and has been a well understood type of clause. You generally need to show that the comments were made in public, and knowingly went against the interests of the organisation, and harmed the function of the organisation. Those clauses exist because trade organisations are not debate clubs, they exist to further certain aims, and if members are undermining those aims the organisation should have functions to remedy.

        5. That’s fair enough. It’s something I said much much earlier in an original comment: a behavior-based policy that argues based on damage to the organization proper could easily be supported in most cases.

  24. “Shut the fuck up” is pretty much the text book example of *not* being passive-aggressive. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means… 😉

    Mary… beautiful.

  25. You received hate mail and death threats? Sounds terrible..why don’t you post the so everybody can see what you had to deal with

      1. Right but ultimately with out any force behind it or ability to command they do that thing you end up appealing to the “nobody here likes you so you should just leave” type argument normally employed by 3rd graders.

        1. How, exactly, do you propose a group let some members know that their behavior is unacceptable and detrimental to the group’s cause? One means is to have a respected member take them aside and tell them what’s not right, and assume the adult will change. Sometimes, that does not work. Another method is to ignore bad behavior and shower attention on good behavior, on the assumption that the person needs to grow.. Sometimes, that does not work. Another is public shunning, which can be either 3rd graders saying ‘go home’, the HR department firing, or a pope excommunicating.

          And sometimes you have to take the fools out back and beat the crap out of them to get the point across. Let’s hope we don’t have to resort to that.

        2. Good thinking, treating grown adults like children incapable of having their own opinions is a great way of commanding respect. All you end up doing is convincing those who already agree with you, and enforcing groupthink. But hey, it’s the RIGHT groupthink!

        3. So tell me again how liberal values of inclusiveness are so important and how they’d never abuse power to stifle freedom of speech?

        4. Borrowed from a lawyer friend who anticipated that I might need this. Thank you for being predictable.

          The First Amendment begins:

          Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech….

          and the Court has broadly interpreted the first five words to mean that the First is only a constraint on the government, that individuals and private groups are not so restricted and not subject to the First as a matter of law. Since SFWA is not a government agency, or a private agency with government subsidy, it is not required to uphold the First.

          Since this is my website, I get to say what is and is not acceptable here.

        5. To Hmm:

          Editing is not censorship. Editing is not censorship. Editing is not censorship.

          Censorship is when the government takes control of your website. Editing is when you take control of your own website. There’s no real feedom of the press without the right of the owners of publications to edit their own publications. Before the internet, no one ever imagined that publishers who edited their publication were “abusing power”, but the technology of automatically publishing comments on others’ websites has people assuming that they have a right to print anything elsewhere, that there’s some kind of constitutional right to troll. No one is denied a right to express themselves. In the internet era, nearly anybody can print nearly anything on the internet, where nearly anyone can see it, but if you can’t post your obnoxious abuse in the middle of someone else’s site, you think your speech is being stifled.

          EDITING is how we can keep speech free without being buried in ugly crap. There’s good editing and bad editing, but goddamn it, we need more editing. And if you react to editing like you’re being censored, you need to get a grip. You have a right to free speech, but not in my publication. You also have a right to assemble, but that doesn’t mean you can hold your tea party meetings in my living room.

      1. Absolutely – if people are behaving like that I never want to buy their books, and I’m sure there’s many more people with that view…

  26. All this brouhaha is over twelve people? Out of nearly 2000? Why don’t people simply ignore them? Or must SFWA be ideologically pure, and if so, how far will the march toward purity go?

    1. Why should everyone else have to put up with – and be identified with, as because they are loud, irritating, and self-identify as SFWA, they become part of SFWA’s public persona – absolute fucking bigots? As Mary pointed out, people are leaving the organization because of them. Much easier to have them leave than everyone else have to leave and start an SFFWA or equivalent.

      1. They seem to be putting up with you guys. Guess that makes them the tolerant ones.

        Trust me, no-one confuses the witch with the witch-hunters.

    2. Because these twelve rabid weasels also represent themselves as speaking ‘for the true SFWA’, and not only do they espouse this notion amongst themselves, they espouse it in grandiose self public statements and to members of the Press. Who then write news paper articles representing their words and behaviours as if they are truly representative of a significant membership of SFWA.

      1. Actually, most SFWAns–including me during my time as a SFWAn–have been disagreeing with Pournelle for decades. Disagreeing with him is a fine old tradition.

        And I kinda think he knows SFWA has a tradition of diverse thought. Where has he claimed to speak for the “true SFWA”?

        1. Didn’t mention Pournelle, who may or may not be part of the Dozen Mustelidae Rabidus. And it’s not too difficult to go find a screen captured copy of a post declaring that “SFWA is being taken over by a cabal”, and that Beale was their last best hope of presenting the Leftists from Capturing The SFWA Treasury!

          Rather than understanding that they were the kooks who were being tolerated, they now think that it’s all part of some “PC Liberal Feminist Cabal” plot to capture the funds and glory of a small trade association most people have never heard of.

          I think they might have a problem with understanding that the SFWA is actually being serious about being a trade association not just a social club. They are free to go form their own social club, and define it’s own rules and memberships. But the SFWA is a trade association, and it serves very different goals from the ones they appear to want it to.

          Maybe if we explained that the SFWA is actually a Trade Union, they might get so disgusted they’ll leave of their own accord.

    3. When a dozen people are shitting in your cornflakes, it’s not about how many people DIDN’T shit in your cornflakes.

      1. You don’t want to check how much feces is allowed in food in the US. Nor do you want to swim in public pools.

        Really, diverse thought calls for putting up with some shit. People who try to keep their environment too pure get the intellectual version of asthma.

        1. The difference between “presence of fecal matter in” and “shitting in” is intent. The purpose is not to drive to purity of who is present, or what they believe, but requiring a professional standard for they behave.

          In other words: I don’t care if you are a shit. I care if you go shitting on people.

        2. I’ve come across this idea before, that we require some level of antagonism to keep a society healthy and vibrant. It’s an interesting idea, but it’s always been in a sci-fi context, because AFAIK no real-life society has ever gotten to the point where that became an issue.

          As a white guy who’s generally seen as straight, *I* still seem to have quite enough shit in my metaphorical cornflakes. If my non-white/non-guy/queer friends ever feel that their world is becoming too shit-free for their well-being, I’m sure they’ll let us know.

          Until they do, I’m unwilling to make that call on their behalf.

          (Intellectual monoculture certainly IS a RL problem, but that’s not at all the same thing as respect for diversity. If anything, they’re opposed.)

        3. Not only that, but it’s one thing to be around someone who disagrees with you and considers your position to be wrong, even to the point of arguing fervently and frequently, and yet still considers you to have a right to your position and beliefs, still considers you as equally human despite differences in race, gender, sexuality, faith, or even comparitive intellectual merit.

          It’s another thing entirely to be around someone who not only disagrees, but chooses (wants, even enjoys) to use that disagreement as reason to shit on everyone and everything like a genetically engineered, faecally enhanced, superpooper monkey with explosive diarrhoea, out of some misguided assumption of superiority on the grounds of race, gender, sexuality, faith, morality, or comparitive intellect. And then gets offended when you don’t want them around.

          Just talking in hypotheticals.

      2. Two tablespoons of machine oil can contaminate an entire ship’s water supply.

        That about sum it up?

    4. I have wanted to be a member of the SFWA since I was 13. Possibly longer — we’re going back a few years now — but 13 is definitely when I remember deciding that I wanted it. There’s a chance I could qualify within the next couple of years. And this close to my goal? Yeah, suddenly it isn’t so bright and shiny and enticing anymore. Why? Because I, a grown woman in the year 2013, have no desire to associate with groups that have loudmouth misogynists or individuals who *are* loudmouth misogynists.

      1. Jason K. Chapman

        Please don’t let that deter you. There are a lot of great folks in the organization who aren’t like that at all.

    5. Why don’t people simply ignore them?

      Because spending four years ignoring them resulted in people thinking that their behavior was condoned.
      Because I’m tired of spending time trying to have a dialog with people who don’t want to be answered.
      Because being an asshole is not an opinion, it’s just being an asshole.

      1. Agreed. There is a vast difference between what a person believes and how they behave. A good example of this is Baen author Tom Kratman, who holds right-wing beliefs which I would describe not as neanderthal, but positively austrolopithicine. I would further guess that some reading this post find his beliefs positively offensive.

        However, when debating about those beliefs and issues – even when the debate becomes emotional – he is one of the politest, patient, and pleasant people I’ve ever dealt with. Despite the fact that I’m a flaming liberal and Tom and I disagree about everything remotely political, if I ever meet him in person I’m buying the beer.

        There is no need whatsoever to behave badly because you disagree with someone.

        1. Unless you are either queer or not white Christian on the internet, in which case he will not be what I consider polite at all.

          (No. No. I do not think “lipstick lesbian” is a useful contribution to discourse.)

          But that said, the distinction between belief and behaviour is a wide one. One can believe whatever one wants, but in professional fora some behaviour is not at all acceptable.

          That doesn’t just go for SFWA, but for everything.

    6. It’s strange, when a group has some obnoxious, bigoted, embarrassing members, everyone wants them to disavow themselves of those members lest they all get painted with the same brush. Yet when they are disavowed, sympathizers complain the embarrassments are being oppressed. I mean, I imagine some people don’t mind being associated with the embarrassments but they should still be able to recognize the difference between fascism and disassociation.

    7. as somebody who is well acquainted with massive trollage from the administration of usenet’s big-eight, and the means by which to deal with trolls of all stripes, i can guarantee you that a) 12 people can make enough noise to drown out all sensible dialogue. and b) ignoring is a sensible strategy for some, but not for all. ignoring them is also not simple by any stretch of the imagination. it’s quite difficult to do in fora where some people delight in troll baiting for their own entertainment, and worse, where newcomers drop in daily and are simply not aware who the trolls are. it takes enormous amounts of energy away from better pursuits. and it begs the question as to whether ignoring abusiveness is actually the best strategy from the point of view of encouraging a wide variety of speech (but not abuse). many people are driven away by abusive speech — for each abusive troll you ignore (= let get away with the bad behaviour) you lose several people who contribute something better.

      what’s “ideologically pure” about wanting the most egregious abusers of civil discourse gone? that wish doesn’t even initiate any actual procedure to expel; it merely expresses the immense frustration of the writer, which you seem unable to understand. if those people were actually expelled (as if), would the remaining 1800+ become a hivemind? why would that be? i see no reason for it. how do you suggest the SFWA deal with their abusive members? i’m not in favour of expelling people for differences of opinion, but freedom of speech (if it even applies in a private organisation) does not translate to freedom of verbal abuse. banning people from using official channels is also not censorship — they can use their own blogs and websites and newsgroups to spew their bile. they just can’t do it under the banner of the SFWA. what’s wrong with that? i grant you that every type of restriction can become a slippery slope, but IMO that’s no reason to avoid restrictions altogether.

    8. Or a professional organization could actually expect it’s members to behave professionally, and react accordingly when this fails to occur. Members of a professional organization of any sort should be able to expect that other members will behave with at least a modicum of civility.

    9. All this brouhaha is over twelve people? Out of nearly 2000? Why don’t people simply ignore them?

      All evil requires to flourish is for good men to remain silent.

  27. Well said, Mary. I think the ultimate problem is that a lot of people who are used to having privileged speech– to being able to say what they want, without fear of consequence– are suddenly feeling threatened when all these groups they had previously marginalized are suddenly asserting themselves in the manner of actual human beings with emotions, arguments, and desires.

    They much prefer the earlier era when they were in charge and no one called them out on condescending, self-righteous bullshit (whether it was accidental or purposeful bullshit, it was still bullshit). What I find hilarious is their response is now, “you all are just too delicate.” As though fighting to change a bullshit status quo is easier than tolerating a bullshit status quo? Please.

    When that argument doesn’t shut people up, they resort to words like “fascist,” “censorship,” and “PC,” when what they really mean is “we don’t like being called out for being assholes. Why can’t you all meekly tolerate us assholes like you used to?”

    Dear knuckle-draggers: No one is taking away your rights to free speech. We’re just telling you you’re going to be called out on your bullshit. No longer can you just pretend that your priorities and sensibilities are the only ones that matter. Welcome to Equality, assholes.

    1. In retrospect, I’d like to apologize for the ill-thought-out manner of my previous comment, and the way in which it reflects poorly on my skills as a creative writer.

      If I’d tried harder, I could have seriously come up with some less repetitive profanity. I mean, using the word “bullshit” five times? That’s just lazy. Had I been less angry, I could have perhaps come up with a more diverse array of insults that more accurately reflects the complete and total disdain I feel for people like Vox Day and his ilk, as well as anyone who thinks that being asked to not be racist, sexist turdmunchers representing a fascist-like level of infringement on their free speech rights.

  28. My image of Mary being all sweetness and light (other than the occasional creepy puppetry post) just took a hit. Thankfully, the image of her being awesome and badass just got stronger.

    Balance in all things.

  29. Well said. Public profanity is sometimes the only way to respond. Unfortunately, I watch too much British television and my mind doesn’t go to “weasels” as much as it goes to the c-word, which in British usage seems to be applied strictly to men too incompetently obnoxious to acknowledge except to tell them to shut the fuck up. But in American usage this would be exactly the wrong epithet to drop into this particular stew.

    You might want to take a page from Charlie Stross’s handbook for comment moderation. And SFWA should have the ability to publicly censor (in the parliamentary sense) its members who are acting like twats.

    1. If you don’t like cnut, try wankers, tossers, tosspots, dickheads, twats, fuckwits, nobs, dickcheeses, arse maggots, cock suckers, cocks, dicks, or arsewipes. They’re all good English words that mean roughly the same thing 🙂

      1. The only problem with some of those insults is that you do a disservice to fabulous people who have phalluses, engage in oral sex, masturbate or have vaginas!

        The idea of rabid weasels having any relation to my C sounds terrible! I don’t want em down there! 🙂

        1. So we need a new lexicon that grabs the lizard brain and punches it in the face, but in an organ-neutral way.

          I’m not sure that can happen. Profanity has its power in punching the lizard. Pulling back from that just leaves comedy which, in dire circumstances (as with these… idiots) is merely anodyne.

  30. Mary, bravo. Membership was a debate now resolved by your excellent and (by comments below and elsewhere) representation of the non – crappy SFWA. You rock!

  31. Thank you. Thank you for writing this now, thank you for dealing with this, thank you for the great work both in your writing and for SFWA under this duress.

  32. GOOD FOR YOU. Please continue upholding standards of decency. Don’t let those with entitlement issues get you down. I hope the 36 who quit return.

    If there isn’t a means to remove these people for their inability or refusal to maintain appropriate standards of behaviour – vilifying other members on the basis of race or gender or sexual orientation – then surely it’s time to introduce such a means into the SFWA constitution?

    1. To Dark Matter Zine:

      I think you’ll end up with a very difficult problem — how exactly do you determine what is and is not appropriate behavior? I suspect you’d have to define everything in terms of material or reputational damage to the organization proper. And from there, you’d have to treat everything on a case-by-case basis and with a great deal of care. Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming “thought police” (i.e., turning a segment of the SFWA into a monitoring device for its members behavior).

      I know that’s not what you mean to imply or anything. It’s just a likely consequence.

      That said, I think the greatest problem with all that has happened is the complete inability for the “weasels” (as everyone is calling them) to sit back and think about what they’ve said and why people are upset. I don’t think anyone is asking them to completely change into perfect people, but most of us would like to see mutual respect in professional spaces.

      1. >>I think you’ll end up with a very difficult problem — how exactly do you determine what is and is not appropriate behavior? I suspect you’d have to define everything in terms of material or reputational damage to the organization proper. And from there, you’d have to treat everything on a case-by-case basis and with a great deal of care. Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming “thought police” (i.e., turning a segment of the SFWA into a monitoring device for its members behavior).

        Back in the days before the internet, this was called “editing”. Decisions about appropriate behavior were called “editorial decisions”, and those who made them were called “editors”.

        There has always been bad editing and good editing, and disagreements about which is which. My father was a newspaper writer, and he shared an office with colleague who had a sign over his desk that said “every editor should have a pimp for a brother so he can have someone to look up to.”

        But editing was always considered necessary. Now, with the internet, some of us have acquired a crazy notion that editing is fascism. No wonder we’re all swimming in crap.

        1. Monitoring behavior is not the same as editing. That’s not what I’m talking about. DarkMatter suggested that the SFWA needed to change its policy with regards to behavior. But such a policy can never adequately account for what qualifies as “good” and “bad” behavior. There are obvious examples (Beale/Day), but those obvious examples don’t really need a policy specific to behavior. You can deal with Beale/Day easily enough on his lonesome (the most likely course is public censure, though a lot of us would just like to see him shoved into his little corner forever).

          The danger here is a real one: how do you determine what is and is not good behavior? There aren’t any easy ways to deal with behavior in terms of policy without inadvertently affecting innocent parties.

        2. It’s not actually easy enough to deal with bad behavior on a case by case basis, because without a clear policy, the person who is being expelled or suspended can claim persecution based on political or religious ideologies. SFWA had a Code of Conduct until 2008, when it was removed because of one problematic clause. I voted to remove it, but in hindsight, I think we would have done better to have rewritten it to deal with the trouble spot in the language.

          Things are always smoother when there are clear guidelines. You are correct though, that it is important to look at how any language or policy can be misused to suppress minority voices.

        3. I just don’t know how you can adequately represent “good” and “bad” behaviors in any kind of code of conduct. I understand the need for a defined policy, but short of a vague, used-rarely policy dealing with detrimental effects based on activity, it doesn’t seem viable to create something specific to behavior.

          But maybe I’m wrong. Is there a way to view the old code of conduct?

  33. Dear Ms. Kowal,

    Thank you very much for your post. While I am not a writer, I am an avid reader of science fiction. I just wanted to take the time to say “Thank you.” And heartily endorse your request. I do so hope they quit.


    Tom Saidak

      1. I’ve seen two nobodies whine about it under their (apparently) real names and someone mentioned Pournelle… who are the other nine?

        1. If I wanted to name them, I would have done so. That would have changed the nature of the conversation and made it about them, instead of about how we’re tired of putting up with bad behavior.

        2. Naming them would just feed their egos, which is exactly what you don’t want to do.

          It really doesn’t matter who they are. What matters is that the trolling behavior cease.

  34. Thank you, Mary. I admire you and your writing. I think it is time that the other 1700 plus members take back the public discourse. I think that I know a couple of these trolls and they are no better oral than written. I agree with Eileen that this is a personal embarrassment to many SFWA members, including me.

  35. Mary, I blow you kisses (in a totally non-harrassing way). The rabid weasels are the reason that SFWA sometimes has trouble getting good volunteers; tho’ they are few, yet they are loud and potty-mouthed. Unfortunately, the combined tactic of screaming loudly and having their fingers in their ears going “lalalacan’thearyou” makes it difficult for reasonable discourse. I am a SFWA partisan, but sometimes the weasels make me feel like I have to apologize for them, for SFWA, and for my participation in it.

    I second the motion: you weasels, go start your own treehouse and keep out all the gurls and other people who offend you. No one says you can’t talk, but no one says we have to listen.

  36. Not an SFWA member, just a reader, but I’ve been aware of the stench of rabid weasel through open discussions all over the place. Thank you for writing this, and bravo for making it so clear, concise, and beautifully sharp.

  37. There have been some nice turns of phrase in this, and I thought I’d introduce another I came across recently (I don’t think I saw it here): Shrill, testerical rantings. It’s good for many such occasions. My apologies for the lack of attribution. 🙂

  38. The only thing that could make Mary’s post more awesome would be to hear it read by Samuel L. Jackson!

  39. Mary, I work at a nonprofit, and for the first two years I was there, we also had a Weasel Problem. Just about a year ago, the weasels collectively quit, with Scenes of Great Drama, shouting the whole time about how without them, we would surely collapse.

    This year has been one of the most financially and socially successful periods in the org’s history. I have no real idea what the weasel contingent is up to (for a while they were rumormongering about us, but I think they got bored with that) and I am SO much happier that way.

    Good luck.

  40. As a life-long sf fan ever since my Dad gave me a copy of Have Spacesuit Will Travel when I was about 9, I am very pleased that you have spoken out about this coterie of coneheads. I long ago figured out that anyone who is an asshole at Cons (the one person already named here) is probably pretty much the same in all other contexts. Oddly enough–and luckily for them–this does not prevent me from enjoying their writing, but it does tarnish the experience a bit. I’m sorry they marred what I’m sure was otherwise a wonderful opportunity to head a group of some of the most creative and forward-thinking people around; but thanks for doing that, and thanks for speaking out when the time was appropriate.

  41. I am not a member of SFWA, hell, I hardly write letters any more. I refuse to read anything new about vampires, zombies, dystopias, teen or tween angst, Tolkien knock-offs, Star Trek or Star Wars derivatives, or women’s studies. I also refuse to get involved in series. What’s left? I have discovered it is likely not true that everybody has a book in them, not readable, anyway.

  42. It seems like the forums architectures themselves should be modified to permit shadow-bans.

    Shadow bans are a feature that Reddit implemented a while back to combat trolling. Normal bans will squelch a troll, but on sites like Reddit, that encourage anonymity by permitting near-instant alternate account creation, a banned troll would just create another account and continue to troll.

    A shadow banned user is effectively quarantined into their own alternate-reality forum, one where he can see and participate in all of the discussions, but nobody else can see him or his participation. A shadow banned troll wouldn’t notice he’d been banned, not at first. He’d puke out his bile for hours on end, not realizing that he was the only person able to see his own comments. This has the effect of significantly rate-limiting the troll’s damage, and also poses an existential question to the troll: are you SURE anyone is listening to your crap? If you aren’t sure, why are you doing this?

  43. Some people, obviously a minority, feel that they have the right to be “full frontal” in everything they do. Every opinion, every thought, every prejudice, every insult conceived must be broadcast in its rawest form because that’s freedom. People like this are either out and out bullies or just have an overblown opinion of themselves and can’t understand why everyone doesn’t listen to them and do their bidding immediately. They’re smart, dammit. Can’t everyone see that?

  44. Mary from yesterday

    “Since this is my website, I get to say what is and is not acceptable here.”

    How incredibly “open mined” of you, what was the criteria for banishment ? did you simply not agree with the commenter ? do you live in fear of debating the subject ?

    1. The criteria for banishment was that he moved from stating an opinion, which was fine, to being a jerk and it’s my house. I get to tell people when to leave, the same way you do at your house.

    2. It came down to certain individuals acting like jerks. I’ve never known Mary to refuse reasonable debate, but I don’t blame her for refusing to put up with the behavior she identified in her post *on her website.*

      Granted, that position is not without its criticisms, I suppose, but I understand the motive behind it.

    3. This website is Mary’s property, just as her car or her chair is. As such, she determines its use, at her sole discretion. She has no reason to be anymore open-minded than she wants to be. Criticizing her policies regarding it (such as who gets to post, what topics are covered, and whether she wants to debate anyone) is akin to criticizing her for decisions about who to or whether to loan her car.

      Myself, I plan on banning people who misuse apostrophes. Or who had the bad taste to be born on a Thursday.

  45. One of the nice things about this is that it’s self-illustrating: The weasels complain about it, both demonstrating the issue and identifying themselves. There’s a certain elegance to that.

    I came to the conclusion some years ago that trolling is basically a matter of people being so desperate for attention — and so lacking in social skills — that they provoke negative attention rather than get none at all. Hence “Don’t feed the trolls.” They don’t care about what they’re saying, they care about getting a response; if they can’t get one, they’ll go looking for victims who still shriek when hit.

    Re “editing is not censorship”: Freedom of the press includes freedom NOT to publish. Freedom of the press belongs to the person who owns and operates a press. If you don’t like how you’re being edited, you are free to find another publisher or become one yourself; on the Internet you can’t even claim that there are significant costs to doing so. You have the right to speak; you do *not* have the right to demand anyone help you do so, or that anyone listen.

    Toward that latter, I’ll also add that killfiles and mail filters and the like are also a form of (individual) editing, and are a marvelous thing in that they automate the process of ignoring trolls.

  46. It would probably be very nice for the volunteer staff of SFWA if these twelve people went away. Which is exactly why they have no interest in going away. But it wasn’t one of the “rabid weasels” who put a Red Sonja picture on the cover of the Bulletin, or let Resnick (not a rabid weasel,) and others run their mouths in an official publication. And the reasons authors have left recently are bigger and deeper than some vocal, violently inclined members, and seem to have as much to do with business concerns as anything else. SFWA needs to get better at representing the interests of its 1700 plus members. That’s not easy — you all have lives and the job is tough. But it’s not the trolls who will bring SFWA down and tarnish its image, in my opinion. It’s the lack of attention to the 1700 plus who are quiet. Nonetheless, your post title is an understandable sentiment.

    1. Kat, I completely agree with you that the recent Bulletin issues were a serious problem. My impression though was that the major problem wasn’t the initial sexist remarks and cover, but that the third issue double-down on the position and accused people who had complained of being fascists. They talked about “thought-control” and “censorship” even though, clearly, they were not silenced. While Mike Resnick was always very supportive while I was in office, even when we didn’t agree, his column was a published version of the way the rabid weasels react to criticism.

      And yes, I agree that too much attention goes to a small group and not enough to the larger membership.

      1. “the major problem wasn’t the initial sexist remarks and cover, but that the third issue double-down on the position and accused people who had complained of being fascists.”

        I agree with this. Missteps occurred and caused negative comment in the previous issues of The Bulletin. Shit happens, you clean it up, and you move on–which is what should have happened here. Instead, we got issue #202.

        I’ve seen lots and lots of “ideology” (sexism, feminism, “free speech,” etc.) argued all over the place ever since that excruciatingly unprofessional “Dialogues” in issue #202 was published, and I think that’s all beside the point in this matter. The point is, these writers and this editor had previously been criticized for content, which is a thing that many writers and editors experience in their careers… But rather than moving on and focusing on doing their work well, they instead decided to respond by throwing a public tantrum and attacking their readers (SFWA members -are- the Bulletin’s audience, whether that editor and those columnists like it or not) in the pages of the mag. Decisions like that always go very badly for writers on their blogs or other open internet forums. Doing it as paid columnist for a supposedly professional publication was bound to get them -and- the editor who approved it removed from those positions, especially given that rather than acknowledging such unprofessional content as a mistake, they’re standing behind it–which means they certainly can’t be counted on not to repeat such antics in the mag.

        1. I don’t want to get side-tracked into a discussion of what went wrong with the Bulletin, but I have to point out that Jean did seek input on this issue because she was aware that she had a blindspot. Scalzi is one of my closest friends, but that issue going out is firmly his fault, because he had the opportunity to proof it and failed to read the entire thing. Book tour. Writing career. These are good reasons for being distracted, but he still had a responsibility and didn’t do it. So, I don’t think that Jean should be taking the heat for this issue since her boss gave her the okay.

          That said, I do think she made the appropriate choice to step down. She’d done great work with the Bulletin, but the blind spot on current conversations about feminism was going to continue to be a problem.

  47. Alonso Quixano

    I didn’t even know SFWA existed until this morning, but I’ve bookmarked this letter because it’s so well written and I will check out your wonderful work. I’m a visual artist, a voracious reader and also fed up with this sort of behaviour within the arts community. You’re my kind of people! Screw toxic people- proud of you for taking a stand, Mary!

  48. We give these people the only power they have: the power to annoy. Treat them as wolf-criers: ignore them. They are beneath the attention of grownups, like little boys who won’t stop loudly farting. The mistake is ours–agreeing with them that they exist–and we can stop any time we choose to. Wait until they’re done speaking, and then continue as if they hadn’t. Make the inside of their unpleasant heads their Coventry; themselves their only company there. A conversation can only occur if two sides consent to it. If they get no response at all but total silence, they’ll soon find some other attention-getting venue, somewhere else. Hopeably, a prosecutable one. We all write history together, and we can leave out anyone we choose.

    1. Spider, I so wish that worked. Sadly, when I was an elected official, I had to reply to them. That was my job, to make sure every member was heard, even if they were miserable, vitriolic people who didn’t want to discuss, or debate, or even argue. They just wanted to be right.

      My conversations tended to be something like:
      Me: Hey, we should probably step the left to avoid that oncoming bus.
      Me: Yes, but there’s a bus coming, so we should step to the left.
      Me: I think we’re saying the same thing.
      Me. …
      Me: Look. There’s a bus. You need to move or it will hit you.

      1. Now I’m imagining they do that with everything.

        WEASEL: I am making a telephone call and it is not being answered!
        NONWEASEL: Maybe they’re out.
        W: That’s not good enough! THEY SHOULD ANSWER.
        N: Just try again later.
        N: But if they’re not answering, maybe they’re busy or something. Call later.
        N: Well, I guess they have a right not to answer.
        W: You mean they’re not answering on purpose? FASCISTS!
        N: …. I have _no_ idea why anyone would not want to talk to you…

        1. You mean reasonable folk vs. nutjobs? We occasionally get phone calls, just like this, at my job. So yeah, I think they’re like that everywhere.

    2. That has to be one of the most eloquent ways of saying “don’t feed the trolls” I’ve ever read, and I’m inclined to agree. But I sympathize with Mary’s point below. Sometimes it’s not so much a matter of feeding the troll as sticking a sock in it.

    3. Sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but “just ignore the bullies and eventually they’ll stop bothering you” is advice which does not work, has NEVER worked, and amounts to telling the victim that it’s their fault for being bullied rather than showing the bullies that their behavior is unacceptable. This attitude is one of the things which allows the culture of bullying to continue unchecked, It’s still spinach, and I still say to hell with it.

      1. Yes.
        “Ignore them” often translates to “let them hurt you and don’t do anything about it.”

        Enough already.

    4. As someone who’s loved your work since before I was first on alt.callahans, please note that I say this with the deepest respect for you. You’ve made my life a better life.

      You’re missing something here.

      This isn’t about a conversation one can walk away from. It’s about the image SFWA presents to the world, who’s the face of it, and who’s going to see that face and decide that it’s not a welcoming one.

      We’ve reached a place where SFWA can only be welcoming to one of two groups. If nothing is done, one group are seriously considering scrapping the whole enchilada of SFWA. I know this because they’re people I know. Some I even call friends.

      These are the up and coming writers of this century. Writers like Saladin Ahmed, NK Jemisin, Scott Lynch, Seanan McGuire, Jim Hines, and our very own host Mary Robinette Kowal.

      These folks, and many writers I know like them are getting sick and tired. And many are leaving SFWA (I suspect Mary will stay and fight the good fight for a long time), because as per your suggesting, they decided to stop paying attention to a toxic cesspit. They will leave SFWA to the people who’re polluting it.

      That’s the oncoming bus Mary is talking about. Not the crappy behavior, but the departure of vital new voices in the field who should be happy to be in SFWA.

      We’re going to see one group or another abandon SFWA. SFWA has to choose now which group is going to depart. One because the toleration of Rabid Weasel Behavior has gone on long enough, or one because Feminism/Anti Racism Ruined Everything.

      We can pick one group, or the other. SFWA can’t support both.

      Anyhow, thanks for all you’ve done for me with your writing.

      1. There is that rare occasion when Mike just has to throw someone out of the bar. The Rabid Weasels are that time.

      2. I just wanted to say that I think SFWA can be welcoming to lots of groups of people. My problem with the rabid weasels is that we are privileging a very tiny group of about a dozen, over the needs of the rest of the organization, which has multiple diverse groups within it.

        It’s totally possible to not be a feminist and also not be a rabid weasel. The difference is that someone who isn’t a feminist might bite, but they won’t respond to “Hey, that hurt!” by biting you more.

        A rabid weasel will take savage joy in inflicting more pain and even think that you deserve it. “You volunteered for this” or “You’re a public figure so you should accept that people will get angry” or “If you can’t stand the heat…”

        But the behavior of that small group of people will drive everyone away. It’s one thing to think you might be bitten. It’s another to know it. We know the rabid weasels bite. Why put up with that?

        1. They may not drive *everyone* away. There are plenty of people people who’re weaselblind.

          They’ll almost certainly keep driving away certain groups, though. We both know SFWA is at a tipping point, and has to choose which group it wants to make welcome. They can’t have both. They’ve spend decades ignoring the rabid weasels. They just can’t do that anymore and keep people who the weasels go after.

    5. I spent most of my early life being harassed and told “Ignore it and it will go away.” This is the biggest lie any adult ever made up and fed to a kid, largely because they didn’t want to deal with the situation. The only way to make bullies go away is to confront them. No problem ever just “takes care of itself.”

      Never, ever tell a kid who’s being harassed, or anyone for that matter, that they should just ignore it. Its probably the worst and most destructive thing you can do, short of joining in yourself.

      I’m all in favor of cutting the bile out of an organization that I hope to one day join.

    6. Sometimes you have to say, “This behavior will not be tolerated here. Go away.”

      Waiting for someone to stop talking so that you can ignore them only really works if they ever stop talking.

      I was told many times as a teenager that the bad behavior of the men around me was something I should ignore. That I needed to grow a thicker skin.

      You know what I needed? I needed ONE adult to tell me at that point in my life that I was right to be upset when people violated my body, my personal space, my dignity. That such behavior was not acceptable and that I was right to be upset by it. That they would defend my right to not have people grab my ass or run their hands up my leg or grab my boob… that I had a right to expect someone to teach me the same way they were teaching the boy.

      Silence? Just let them get away with it. They thrive on silence. That silence let people who hurt me hurt others… because no one said anything, hoping they’d go away, hoping they’d get the message, hoping they’d stop.

      Good people speak up. Your idea that treating them like 2 year olds and ignoring bad behavior will fix the bad behavior? Is incredibly naive.

  49. Having been in a similar situation, they will complain loudly about how they are leaving and they will go… for about 2 days… they will be back like nothing has happened, except added to their list of complaints will be added being forced to leave.

    Banning them would likely result in a bit of community fragmentation, I think it’s worth the risk. Arranging for various bones to be broken wouldn’t shut them up however tempting. Short of getting them all into the same room, Cask of Amontillado style, you won’t be rid of them.

  50. I’m a really cheap date, Alex. I don’t drink anymore. Now some good coffee…

    Hmmm…not to question Hawking’s honesty, below, but I wonder if he can come up with a single example, even one, of my attacking anyone for being gay, lesbian, non-white, other than Christian, per se, as his/her post says, because I, frankly, am at a loss for any such occasion. Now attack without any particular principles or unnecessary restraint if attacked, sure…certainly, but that’s rather a different issue. I’m an attack dog, by nature, by instinct, and by several different kinds of education and training. That said, who knows, maybe he can come up with one. If so, God knows, my wife is going to be very upset when she discovers I only like white people…if that’s true.

  51. No.

    That’s really the only response they should make. If they are who I think, that’s the only one they will make. No, they won’t quit and spare you the necessity of exposing your inner Nazi by expelling them. No, they won’t stop writing exactly what they want to write. No, they won’t stop mocking you and your pretensions of tolerance, intelligence, or any other virtue you claim but don’t possess.


    Now, go away, you silly puppeteer, or we shall taunt you once again.

      1. That would be snelson’s pretension of intelligence. Not sure why they thought you’d be offended by a Monty Python quote. I guess we’re lucky they didn’t bring elderberries and hamsters into it! Oh, what horror we have avoided!

        Or maybe they’re imagining that they were mispronouncing and mangling ‘puppeteer’ the way Cleese’s French soldier character turned ‘knights’ into ‘k’nigits’…

  52. Wow, Mary!!! Tell us what you really think! 🙂 seriously, your last several posts have been awesome and inspiring. thank you for being someone brave enough to speak their mind. It is encouraging, especially for me who has been burned many times for speaking my mind.

  53. Roland Dobbins

    Since of the ‘up and coming writers of the century’ you cite, Scott Lynch is the only one who writes anything worth reading, I’m with the Rabid Weasels.

  54. We’re not gate-crashing we’re site-crashing!
    Thanks for letting us know it’s teh same few loudmouths.

    I love your work, both published words and your ideas published on your blog. Please keep writing.

  55. I didn’t know about SFWA, came here via a link from a Lilith Saintcrow site, but really admire your letter.

    I have no magic solution, but will comment that I recognize the twelve-asshole (or some other smallish number) phenomenon from many other places. I find it in Amazon forums and YouTube reviews.

    What IS it with these people? They are almost a recognizable sub-species of homo not-so-sapiens. Probably at work they are the ones described as “abrasive:” at home….I shudder to think.

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