NOTE: The following contains everything that I have to say about the controversy of the summer of 2008, concerning myself, my choice of words in personal correspondence, Helix magazine, and all that horse shit. I believe this covers everything - except for certain matters which for legal reasons cannot be discussed publicly at this time - and so I will not have anything further to say. Emails or other communications concerning this business are not solicited and will not be answered. - William Sanders



by J. Royce Frenulum, Sci-Fi Sphincter


Part 1 (Right in front of you, dumbass)
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


The controversy began when a writer whose story you rejected made public the contents of your rejection message -

Yes. Let's get that clear from the start. Specifically, a private email; and so basically its content was and is none of anybody else's business. I am under no obligation whatever to explain or justify anything in it. Anything I say about it, here or elsewhere, is because I choose to; and if anyone has a problem with what I say, or finds it unsatisfactory, tough shit.

You were saying?

A message in which you referred to Muslims as "sheet heads" -

Ballocks. I did not. That is a lie. Doesn't matter if David Langford did repeat it in his infantile little shitsheet, it's a God-damned lie.

Well, it's true that you later explained that you were referring to terrorists.

No I didn't, and no I wasn't. I'm afraid that one has been spread partly by people who thought they were defending me, but it's ballocks too.

"Sheet head" is, of course, a rather crude play on "shithead". Obviously it refers to people who are known (stereotypically, and incorrectly) for wearing textile head coverings - and indeed requiring their women to do so. Therefore it should be obvious that "sheet head" refers to a Muslim who is a shithead. More exactly, to a Muslim who acts like a shithead in the name of his religion.

Consider, for example, the young thugs who have assaulted non-Muslim women on the streets of European cities for dressing in ways they considered "immodest." Obviously they were acting like shitheads; but "terrorist" would be too strong a term. Or the "religious police" of Iran and Saudi Arabia; no one would deny that they are shitheads of purest ray serene - well, no one but another shithead - but what they do isn't what is usually meant by terrorism.

Or the gibbering whackjobs who demonstrated in the streets of Europe because of a few cartoons in a Danish newspaper; it would be a great exaggeration to call them terrorists, but they certainly were being shitheads.

Was the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas an act of terrorism? No, but it certainly was one of the most spectacularly shitheaded acts of the sheet heads.

So no, I never have used the term - which I've been using for years - to refer to Muslims in general, but I've never restricted it to terrorists alone, either. And never claimed that was what I meant in that email.

But you mentioned terrorists in your initial response to the post.

That's where a lot of people got confused. You see, there were two different things going on there. When I spoke of "the worm-brained mentality of these people" I was referring to people like the main character of the story under discussion - fanatics who turn to violence and terrorism. The "sheet heads" line came up later, when I was talking about publishers being afraid of offending the kind of people who raised hell about those cartoons. Different references, different meanings.

Which was not clear to those who read it, because they hadn't read the story. And there you have one of the biggest reasons why people shouldn't post the contents of a private message: the people who read it don't know the context, so they misinterpret the meaning - with, now and then and certainly in this case, the help of certain persons operating from private agendas - and, since so many Blogtrotters are pretty loose in the head to begin with, off they gallop in all directions with the light of PC righteousness in their tiny close-set eyes. Closely followed by the usual horde of ignorant idiots who don't really understand what it's all about but know that they have to join the lynch mob or risk ostracism from their cherished substitute for a life.

It has been argued, though, that even if you did not mean the term as insulting toward Muslims in general, it sounds too similar to such abusive expressions as "rag head" or "towel head."

I'm not responsible for the language used by other people. Or for the intellectual slovenliness and poor reading comprehension of those who can't tell one two-word phrase from another. That's as stupid as those people who get upset when somebody uses the word "niggardly."

But you have been known to make derogatory remarks about Muslims.

I have not. That's another damn lie. Of course I've made derogatory remarks about certain Muslims, but then so has everybody, even other Muslims. And I've been known to make derogatory remarks about the Muslim religion, but that's entirely different. Religions are fair game in my book - a religion is nothing but a set of opinions, after all, and what's wrong with ridiculing somebody's opinions? I've said plenty about Christianity, too, and I'm a Christian, even if I don't always act like it.

Which brings up another point: I also use the expression "Jeebus Nazi" to refer to Christians who behave like shitheads - the exact equivalent of "sheet heads" - and none of these PC geeks have ever complained about that.

In our first issue we featured a story by Janis Ian which was a savage satiric attack on Islamic attitudes toward women. We also ran a little comedy, by me, which mocked and ridiculed certain aspects of Fundamentalist Christianity. The former was attacked by numerous people as offensive to Muslims. The latter story drew no criticism at all, and was widely praised. Kind of a double standard there, wouldn't you say? Then too the phrase "bunch of fucking hypocrites" comes to mind.

As for my feelings toward Muslims, I spent a couple of years in Turkey. I had a lot of friends there, many of them very devout Muslims - and having a Turk for a friend is a great privilege, believe me. In fact I took a good deal of flak from some of the other Americans for "going native."

Not to mention a certain Muslim lady from Kazakhstan who inspired my best novel...but that's none of anybody's business.

Then you deny that the language you used was racist.

Racist? Of all the stupid things people have said during this affair, that has got to be one of the stupidest, but it's been one of the most pervasive. Some of these people have the God-damnedest ignorant-ass ideas...Muslims aren't a race, for God's sake. Islam includes believers from all the major races.

Of course I realize that "race" is nowadays quite commonly used to refer to ethnic groups, but incorrectly so. "Race" simply refers to a set of genetically transmissible characteristics producing certain physical differences, distinctive but not enough so as to constitute a separate species. For example, the familiar "Baltimore" and "Bullock's" orioles, formerly considered distinct species, are now classed merely as races of the Northern Oriole (Icterus galbula); likewise with the various races of the Northern Junco (Junco hyemalis) and so on.

"Race" is a useful scientific term for classifying variations within an animal species - and people, in case you've forgotten, are animals. (Homo sapiens, a name devised in the days before blogs.) That some have used it for evil purposes doesn't mean it has no validity. If we get rid of every word that some shithead has used for evil purposes, we'll be reduced to gestures and grunts. Which in the case of some of the Blogtrotters would be an improvement, but -

It could be said that you're merely being pedantic.

Sloppy language is both symptomatic and productive of sloppy thinking. And words have been damn good to me - they supported me for most of my adult life - so the least I can do is resist their abuse by ignorant idiots.

Bigoted, then.

As the Colonel used to say, I deny the allegation and defy the allegator. But at least that would be the correct word for what they think they mean.

But just accepting ad argumentum the whiners' misinterpretation of the offending phrase, we might ask: "Suppose an individual on occasion has been known to use a derogatory ethnic or racial epithet. Is that in itself sufficient grounds to call that person a bigot? Are you saying that anyone who would ever use such language is therefore a bigot?"

And we might add, "Because if that's what you're saying, then you're a self-righteous sack of shit."

But surely you admit that the expression you used would be offensive to most Muslims.

Don't call me Shirley. So what? There's no right not to be offended. I was pretty damn offended by the things these people were saying about me, but I never denied their right to say it - not until they started telling lies about me, and even then I didn't threaten them with legal action as I could have. Free speech includes the right to offend or it doesn't mean anything.

All the same, if any Muslims were offended, they never said anything to me about it, or to anybody I know. Not this time, not back in '06 when this first came up, not when we published Janis Ian's "Mahmoud's Wives" - not so much as an indignant email. All the shit that came our way was from PC Westerners. If that surprises you, you haven't been paying attention.

Now about -

No, no. Enough for now already. Let's break for lunch or something.


Let's talk about the problems you've had with some of the Helix writers over this.

Yes, let's. By now it's gotten to be a bigger issue for some people than the original mahoohah with the rejection note - and why not? At least it's based on some shit that actually happened, however bogus some of the accounts.

Apparently it began when a group of writers wanted their stories deleted from the archives -

Wrong, but I don't blame anyone for being confused, given the bullshit stories going around - including those told by some of the principals.

Let me back up a little. This whole thing began on July 7 - or rather that's when I found out about it, when somebody emailed me and told me. And I said oh, fuck, because I was about to leave on the following day for a long motorcycle trip, and didn't really have time for this.

But I went to check it out, at the page where it all started - the LJ of one William Preston - and, after posting a hasty reply, I looked over the thread to see if I knew any of these people. There was Lawrence, bless him, trying doggedly and of course in vain to talk sense to these nitwits; there was Nick the Geek, no surprise there, my magazine had gotten the Hugo nomination and his hadn't, poor fucker probably was wild with jealousy.

Mostly though, I didn't recognize them, largely because of the childish aliases they hide behind. But there was one I did know: Nora Jemison, a young lady of remarkable literary talent whose elegant writing had twice graced our pages. She was quite vehement in denouncing me, and expressed mixed feelings about being published in Helix.

I read that with shock and, yes, a certain hurt, because I had tried to be helpful and encouraging to her; and so I wrote to her, hoping to sort this out, and we had a brief exchange of emails in which she was very frank about her feelings. And I respected her honesty - I already knew she was a person of sincere if often weird convictions - and so, in a moment of weakness and very bad judgment, I told her that if she really felt that bad about her work appearing in Helix, I could have her stories deleted from the archives.

She wrote back graciously declining the offer, but I'd already left for the High Plains. And got back a week later, to find her reply in my inbox - and with it, dated several days later, another message saying that she'd changed her mind and would I please delete her stories from the archives.

Which was when I fucked up. I should have said, "No, Nora, I made the offer, you turned it down, that's it." Well, OK, I fucked up when I made the damn fool offer to begin with...but anyway, I was very tired, and I had more important things on my mind, so I replied that it would be done as she wished.

And that's how it began. Nora didn't contact me and demand that her stories be removed from the archives; I contacted her, and I made the offer - more fool I - and, after some indecision, she took me up on it.

Much of the controversy has centered on your reply to Yoon Ha Lee.

Oh, yes. I saw her message right after I replied to Nora's. That was when I realized I'd blown it.

You understand, I'd been on a bike in the wind and the heat for days, and I hadn't slept well the previous night. And worse than everything else put together, I'd visited my wife at the hospital in Norman, where she'd been for a year and a half, on my way home, and found out that her condition had taken a new and extremely disturbing turn for the worse.

And here was this message by another Helix writer, wanting in on the offer I'd made to Nora; and a look down the list showed me a couple more - and at that point I blew up. Here I'd tried to give a special break to one of my favorite Helix authors, and it was turning into a fucking exodus! It was just too much.

So, yes, I was pretty brutal in what I said to Yoon Ha Lee. Of course I didn't mean what I said about her story, or my reasons for accepting it; I was just saying that stuff in order to hurt her feelings, because I was in a hell of a lot of pain myself and she'd pushed me over what little edge I had left.

Yeah, I admit it, I was too rough on Yoon Ha Lee, and it's unfair that she got the full blast for what four people had done. And I don't offer the above as justification - but then I don't feel any need to justify myself. I had nothing against Yoon Ha Lee, but she had, after all, asked for it. Not that there was anything rude or offensive in her message, but she'd chosen to side with the people who were giving me shit, and you know, when you go fucking with somebody you have to accept that there may be consequences. I'm a normal person; when you hit at me, I hit back, and if at all possible I'll hit hard enough to discourage you from doing that again.

(I said I was a Christian. I never claimed to be a good one. I used to feel bad about this until I realized that trying to be like Jesus was presumptuous.)

There's another thing, too - I was being attacked by a God-damned hysterical mob. I had all these dipshits coming at me from all over, screaming their hate; they'd been at it for a week or more and getting crazier all the time. When the wire is down and the Claymores have all been fired and your forward positions are being overrun, it's time to go to full auto and blow the shit out of everything that comes at you. Yoon Ha Lee, or anybody else who chose to be part of that mob - or side with them - was, as far as I'm concerned, asking for it.

Some have said your handling of the matter was unprofessional.

Some can blow me. Sure, it was unprofessional. The whole thing was unprofessional, starting back when I sent Luke Jackson a detailed explanation of why I wasn't taking his story. Professional would have been, "Dear Mr. Jackson: Sorry, but I don't feel this story is right for Helix. Good luck placing it elsewhere." That's what professional editors do when they get an unacceptable story by an unknown newcomer: send a form rejection.

I'm not a professional editor. Helix couldn't afford to pay me if I were. Helix is a semiprozine - I can prove it by the Hugo ballot - and that makes me a semipro editor. So professional shmessional, I can express myself as I like.

I'll throw in one more thing, though: there was a sneaky aspect that hasn't been talked about. They all knew I was going to be out of town - I'd told Nora personally, and what one of them knows they all know; they all went to Heaven's Gate or whatever the name of that fancy workshop is, and they hang together like jarheads - and they waited until I was gone, and then sent their messages to the magazine, addressed to the "Editors." Obviously they were hoping Lawrence or somebody would agree to their requests while I was gone. Of course that didn't happen; the staff just put it all on hold till I got back. But trying to end-run the man in charge isn't my idea of "professional" either.

Getting back to Yoon Ha Lee for a moment, though - I might have come to feel guilty, might even have apologized. But then she showed my message around, put it up online for everyone to read; and when she did that, she forfeited any right to consideration. Yoon Ha Lee isn't some ignorant fool; she damn well knows better than to publicly circulate a private message. But she did it anyway, so the hell with her.

It's been said that it's unrealistic to expect any real privacy in electronic communications.

Technically true; it's not realistic in the sense of assuming that will be the case. That doesn't let anybody off, though. Just because something can be done doesn't make it right to do it.

An analogy: the front door of my home is not all that sturdy. Anyone who really tried could force it open. That doesn't make it any less a crime for someone to break in; and if I catch him at it am I supposed to say, "Oh, that's all right, Mr. Intruder, it wasn't realistic for me to expect that door to keep you out, please help yourself to my valuables"? Hell, no, I'm going to shoot him. Fatally, if possible.

You said there were four. Who was the other?

Beth Bernobich was one of the original founders and staff members of Helix, and she and I went back some years before that. She resigned from the magazine staff a couple of years ago, saying that she didn't think she had anything more to contribute, but that she hoped to remain friends with all of us; and she continued to associate with us on a friendly basis, and to be supportive of the magazine in various ways.

But here she was with a request to have her story deleted too. And she also wanted her name and picture taken off the staff page in the archives, and all reference to her participation removed, which did strike me as strange.

Still, I felt that her wishes should be granted; she had, after all, been part of the original project, and contributed her share of the startup money, and so it seemed to me she deserved special consideration. I told Melanie to do as she wanted, and in her case to refrain from posting the usual snide notice -

This would be the "pantiwadulous" line?

Right; when I agreed to let Nora and the others remove their stories, it seemed there ought to be something there - in case somebody still had a link out - and besides, I didn't want it to look as if I'd taken the stories down out of spite. So I was about to tell Melanie to substitute a page reading, "Story deleted at author's request" but then I thought that was a little too cold, so I added "pantiwadulous." Which was merely a little joke, though with truth in it - they'd gotten their panties in a wad, over something silly - but it seemed to piss them off, along with a lot of other people with no sense of humor. (Or, as Bud often says, not even a sense-of-humor-shaped object.)

Anyway, as I was saying, I made sure Beth was treated with special consideration. She subsequently repaid this by slagging on me and lying about me in various places, and generally being chickenshit hateful; but by this time I was no longer surprised by that sort of treachery and ingratitude. It seems to be the default mode for these people.

Let's break again. I need to, how to put it delicately, pee.


We were talking about your problems with some of your writers. Apparently it wasn't just the four you mention who were unhappy.

No indeed, though it took some time to learn the extent of the disaffection. But I heard that there was some pissing and moaning going on, so I posted an announcement that if anybody else wanted their stories deleted, they should speak up. At that time, you see, I still had the idea that this was something we ought to do; that in fairness, since we'd acceded to the wishes of a few, we should give everybody else the same chance.

This was when you demanded forty dollars for deleting a story?

Not at first. But then Melanie complained, quite reasonably, that all this was adding considerably to her workload. She felt she ought to get paid for the extra work; and I agreed, and so I amended the announcement: anybody who wanted his/her/whatever story deleted would have to pay Melanie forty bucks, that being her standard hourly rate.

Needless to say, nobody took me up on it; evidently their precious convictions, supposedly so strong and deeply held, weren't even worth forty bucks to them. But didn't the Blogtrotters howl! I had thought I had a pretty good idea just how stupid they were, but I found out I didn't have a clue. The level of idiocy in their posts at this point reached new heights, even for them.

Not that any of the writers themselves complained, at least to me. They came up with a different idea.

The "Transcriptase" site?

Aka US HATES HELIX, yes. Where the Silly Righteous Girls' Brigade - as a friend of mine calls them - put their stories up so people could read them without being contaminated by the horrible Sanders and his horrible friends.

But that's what I mean about not having realized the extent of the defections. Only a modest number of our writers joined up with UHH, but they included several of our best. Some of the names really surprised me; there were people I'd thought had better sense.

And some whose professions of indignation were pretty fucking hard to take seriously. After all, this wasn't the first time this had come up....

Back in '06 there was, as I say, some criticism of Janis Ian's story, which was seen as showing Muslims in a bad light. And I spoke up on several occasions to defend her; and on one of those occasions I used almost exactly the same words that set off the latest shitstorm - I said that everybody seemed to be afraid of offending the sheet heads.

And immediately there was a huge shitstorm, fully as big and fully as tiresome as the present one, complete with the same ignorant-ass "racism" charges and pretty much all of the same stupid things being said. It didn't last as long as the current one, in part because it was soon eclipsed by a whole new fecal wave concerning an incident at Worldcon: the legendary Harlan & Connie Show, which for a time was all anyone talked about.

But here's the point: at least some of the UHH gang knew about it at the time. How many, I don't know, but if they were at all in touch with the SF-blogging scene, or with people who were, during the late summer of '06, they had to have heard about it, because it was all over the God-damned place - and it didn't stop them from submitting their stories to Helix later on; and a couple of them had work already accepted, and they didn't ask to withdraw it. In fact none of them said a fucking word at the time.

(At least two definitely knew; Janis Ian knew about it, because I told her - she seemed to find it amusing; she certainly didn't show any distress or disapproval, and indeed later on she posted a link to her archived story on her website. And Beth Bernobich obviously knew, being part of the Helix staff, and she didn't say anything at the time; I know she's recently claimed that she resigned as soon as she heard about the "sheet heads" remark, but that's a lie, she didn't resign for another three weeks and even then she vigorously denied that it had anything to do with anything I'd said or done.)

You seem rather bitter about this.

Maybe "bitter" is too strong; it implies giving too much of a shit. Maybe "disgusted" would be more like it.

You know, this is a group that includes people I tried to help. Not all, no; I never had any dealings with Vylar Kaftan or Charlie Anders beyond accepting their stories and publishing them as written - they didn't need any editing - and Maya Bohnhoff is a long-established pro who didn't need any help from me. But there were some of them I really went some extra miles for, calling their work to the attention of editors I knew, nominating them for awards or helping get them on the ballots - or trying to - and whatever else I could do to help them out. Because that was a way to make up a little bit for the low pay, and because I really did believe they had talent and deserved a break.

And then they do this shit to me, start a whole new website for the specific purpose of trashing me - no question about it, there's my name big as shit, I'm what it's about and they want the world to know it - and how the fuck would you expect me to feel?

I worked with them on their stories, too, some of them didn't need much or any editing but there were some on which I worked closely with the author through extensive revisions and rewrites - and that's OK, that was my job and I was happy and even honored to do it. But I see that they appear in the UHH pages in their edited form, and that's pretty damn hard to take; they started the site to show how much they hate the evil William Sanders, but they're not too good to publish their stories with his editing....

Oh, hell, tell the truth: I'm disgusted at myself too. If only I hadn't put that stupid "non-exclusive" item into the contract...but I knew we wouldn't be able to pay professional rates, so I thought we shouldn't demand too much. I was thinking in terms of writers maybe getting a chance to sell their stories again to some other webzine; I didn't want to spoil their chances of picking up a few additional bucks. How was I to know they'd end up using it against us?

But then that's the story, isn't it? This whole wretched business came about because I was trying to do the right thing. None of it would have happened if I hadn't sent Luke Jackson a personalized rejection message - or rather if I hadn't agreed to look at his story, even though he didn't qualify under our submission guidelines. None of it would have amounted to anything but another meaningless shitstorm in Blogistan if I hadn't made an unsolicited offer to Nora Jemison to delete her stories; and Us Hates Helix wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't put in that "non-exclusive" bit. No good deed, they say, goes unpunished.

I ought to say something, though, about the many Helix contributors who didn't get in on this shit - either the UHH movement or the general slagging. I happen to know that at least some were approached, too. It's easy to forget, with all the noise generated by the SRGB, that the overwhelming majority of Helix writers refused to have any part of it, and several made public statements of support. It would be a hell of a thing if these good people were forgotten while the blowhards get all the attention.

Starting to rain again, got to bring the dog in. Be right back


Don't you feel any responsibility for the damage this has done?

To whom? (As we pedantic bastards say.) Or to what? Not to Helix, certainly. We took in just about the same amount in donations that quarter as the one before; we even got a few donations from people who said that the noise from the goober gallery had convinced them we deserved their support.

But you've announced that the magazine is closing.

Sure, but it's nothing to do with any of this. We made that decision back last fall. Actually we decided when we first started out that we'd go for two years, which would have ended with the spring issue; but then it looked as if we had a shot at a Hugo nomination, so we decided to go ahead and finish out this year.

Of course the Blogtrotters don't believe that; they're convinced that they brought down the Evil Empire with their hooting and turd-flinging. But I'd point out that earlier this year, before this shit started, I'd already announced that I was only going to take a very few more submissions, and that was why.

Jennifer Pelland, one of the chief UHH figures, can tell you that we were already going to close, because I told her before this ever started. She's even stated it publicly, as has Mike Allen, another UHH name.

(For that matter Beth Bernobich knows we decided on this last fall, because she was present when the decision was made. But I'm not counting on her telling the truth about it.)

Damage to yourself, then?

What damage would that be? It hasn't cost me a nickel. I retired from writing years ago, when I started getting Social Security and no longer needed the money.

Quite a few idiots did say that I was hurting my "writing career." One vacuum-brain even called for a boycott of magazines publishing stories by me! There's a good example of the stupidity of these people. Anybody who knew anything about me and my work would have known I'd long ago retired, hadn't written any new stories in a couple of years and had no intention of starting again. But they didn't know anything about me or my work; which is to say they were talking about something they didn't know anything about, and only ignorant idiots do that.

As for personally feeling any distress at being attacked by the Blogtrotters, if anything I'd consider it something of an honor. I admit that, as I've said, it was painful for me to see some of the writers whom I'd tried to help, or at least never done any harm to, turning on me like that; but compared to some of the ways I've been hurt in my 66 years - fuck, I've had hangovers that were worse!

You know, there's great liberation in not giving a shit. Once you attain that state there's nothing much they can do to you.

What about the ICFA?

Oh, that. Yeah, last year I got an invitation from some pretentious-sounding thing called the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts to be Guest of Honor at their big dick-waving in Florida in 2010. Some friends advised me to accept, so I told them I had no idea what my situation would be that far in the future, but if things worked out so I could attend, I'd do it.

Then this summer I got to thinking about it and realized I shouldn't have agreed - for one thing I no longer fly, which would have been a problem in itself, and for another, since I've retired from the field already, what could I possibly have to say in another two years that would be of any value?

But I kept putting off telling them, and then recently I got a snotty little note from them revoking the invitation. It wasn't hard to figure out why. Well, they saved me the trouble of writing them a regretful letter.

So you have no regrets about this affair.

The one real regret I do have is that some other people got hurt. This has been emotionally rough on some of our staff members, who found themselves the targets of attack - in some cases from people they'd thought were their friends - over something they had nothing to do with; and other people I know have been badmouthed for continuing to be friends with me. I feel bad about that; it's a measure of how despicable these people are, that they're willing to hurt those whose only guilt is by association.

I don't feel responsible, though. Because I didn't do anything wrong. They started it - first by reading a private message that wasn't addressed to them, then by talking a lot of stupid shit without a clue what they were talking about - and beyond that point, fuck it. Anything's OK as long as the other son of a bitch started it. You don't want to get nuked, don't bomb Pearl Harbor.

Isn't that a childish attitude?

Jesus tells us it is necessary to become as a little child. Who am I to say He's wrong?

But the Blogtrotters and their kind are great believers in the principle of the famous sign from the Paris zoo: "This animal is vicious - when attacked, it defends itself." They can slag on you till their tiny brains fall out, but stand up for yourself and you're a mean nasty reprehensible monster.

You seem to have a low opinion of bloggers.

Of bloggers in general, not at all. There are all sorts of bloggers, including many whom I respect. I'm thinking of starting a blog myself, in fact.

No, when I speak of the Blogtrotters I'm talking about a particular subculture - emphasis on the prefix, there - and, I'm sure, quite a small one, within the blog world. Generally they are associated in some measure with the speculative fiction community: fans, wantabee writers, wantabee critics and so on - though some appear to be simply free-range loudmouths looking for troubled waters in which to fish.

They hang out together in these little groups - which can join together with amazing speed for purposes of forming a lynch mob - in which a few Alphas deliver the official opinions and the peons fall all over each other to express their agreement. This is particularly important when a fatwah has been issued against some individual in the real world, for some supposed offense; quite quickly it becomes necessary not merely to agree with the condemnation, but to express one's agreement in sufficiently hysterical terms, lest one be suspected of being soft on the enemy.

Most of them are, of course, babbling idiots who not only don't know what they're talking about but wouldn't be capable of understanding it. For all their literary pretensions, few of them can read for comprehension - or can be bothered to make the effort - and almost none of them can follow a logical process of thought.

Not that it matters, once one of these shitstorms begins, because your typical Blogtrotter doesn't really care all that much about the supposed issue in question, or who's right or wrong. The important thing for their kind - the thing that overrides absolutely all other considerations - is their ongoing status within the group, and the good opinion of the others; it is, after all, the nearest thing to a life that most of them have. And so they jump in with all extremities flailing, whether they understand what's going on or not.

After one of these Blogtrotter raves has been going on for a little while, it gets to be like a Tarantino movie: it's no longer about what it's supposed to be about, it's about itself. Did I ever mention I can't stand Tarantino?

But no, I don't assume these people are typical of all bloggers. For that matter most of them seem to be on LiveJournal, which I am told is not highly regarded even by the rest of the blog world.

And their kind proliferate in other, non-blog venues as well. They've long been all over Usenet like flies on shit; and they frequently turn up at the Asimov's Forum. (So called because it's a good place to get stabbed in the back.)

You certainly seem to have trouble getting along with them.

Oh, well, that goes back to a whole different shitstorm from a couple of years ago, when we first started Helix. A lot of the wantabees were enraged that I wouldn't read their slushpile submissions, and they've had it in for me, and Helix, ever since. That's a good-sized part of what this current mahoohah is about, you know. They've been taking cheap shots at me and at the magazine from the start; they've just had unusually good luck with this one.

As I said before, there are those among the Alphas who have been operating from private agendas. But it would take too long to go into all that.

Enough to say that an adult human being with nothing better to do with his/her life than to hang out with a lot of other no-life geeks is a pathetic figure; but one who has at least some higher options - enough talent, say, to write copy for mail-order catalogs, or book reviews for SF webzines, and enough grasp of literary technique to teach Creative Writing - yet whose sense of self-worth is so feeble that he/she spends his/her time and energy seeking to impress a lot of useless ninnies, is more pathetic by far.

And anyone whose objectives and purposes are so petty that he/she/whatever has to resort to manipulating a bunch of neurotic nitwits is pathetic to some high exponential factor, in four digits at least.

I started to use the word "losers" but that would hardly be fair, since all people are by definition losers in the end; we all die, and if you don't think that constitutes losing you must have been listening to too many televangelists. Some people realize their innate loserhood early in life and deal with it with some degree of grace; some of us rage against it, to no purpose; the average person barely thinks about it at all. I don't know what the Blogtrotters think about it, but perhaps they are striving to make some sort of mark against the impending oblivion, posting their little messages as proof that they're still here. Like dogs leaving pee marks on a tree.

I get the impression you don't think much of people in general - that you regard them as stupid.

Of course. Christ, just look at them.

But of course you regard yourself as a superior individual.

Of course. Christ, just look at me.


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