Toxicity and me

If a person comes to you and tells you that I have a problem with them and that I am spreading vicious rumours about them, please do me the courtesy of notifying me before you assume that I am the spreader of vicious rumours.

You might also ask yourself what possible interest I would have in injuring a vulnerable young writer. Especially when I have recommended that writer. Especially when that writer and I have barely ever interacted—and then, only momentarily and with courtesy on twitter. At least, this is the case according to them and the name that they use. I have certainly interacted with this person under another alias.

If a person tells you that my work is this or is that you might ask how it is they know this when they haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet—according to the story they tell about their own identity, at any rate.

If a person is making friendly overtures to you and if they are lovely and sweet and very, very talented, you would be right to react with disbelief if someone suggests they are anything other than who they appear to be. This is because most of us—myself included—are accustomed to dealing with basically honest people. And most of us want to make our community a more inclusive, welcoming environment so we will bend over backwards to do so.

A person may be completely disinterested in social justice; they may indeed be using that platform simply to advance their own ego—there’s no crime in this. But they may also be using a platform to cause trouble and harm. They may be lovely to your face but not so lovely behind your back.

Be careful, guys.

I believe that a person’s work should be judged apart from their character—I can’t always do this myself, but I believe in the principle that everyone deserves a fair reading. If a person is a good writer, they are a good writer. End of. I don’t have an issue with anyone’s writing or with their right to be published or recognised or their ideas and their work hailed.

I don’t have an issue with a person having a history in which they wrote politically-charged diatribes of whatever stripe. But if that person then decides to enter the professional arena then I expect them to behave professionally and play by the rules that the rest of us play by.

It is ironic that the person who now says I’m spreading vicious rumours about them is actually a person I’d recommended to multiple anthology editors on the basis of their ability and the originality of their viewpoint. When that same person used their connections to bully and ostracize a close friend of mine, and when that person’s associate behaved in a transparently racist way towards my friend, I informed my publisher of the identities of the people involved (both of them new professional writers) in strict confidence. I also informed one of the editors to whom I’d recommended them—I haven’t had a chance to speak to the other yet, but as I don’t think he’s commissioning right now it’s less of an issue. I did this because I do not want to be seen to condone these young writers’ behaviour in any way—I recommended them, after all, and they turned out to be a poor choice of recommendation. And I want to put my colleagues on their guard that one of them may in fact be utterly two-faced and that the other has behaved in a racist, bullying manner. I do not take this sort of thing lightly.

If this is me spreading vicious rumours, then I’m guilty.

I welcome criticism of my work—as a published writer I consider it a privilege to receive even the most violent criticism because this goes with the privilege of being published. I don’t enjoy it, but I can take it.

I welcome and encourage and support a more socially open and respectful environment that is inclusive across many vectors, and one of the reasons I have kept quiet about this is because the last thing anybody needs is another shitstorm where a lot of people get hurt unnecessarily. But I will not stand by and do nothing when an individual and at least one of their supporters attacks people (like my friend) who are genuinely working hard and making sacrifices to bring diversity and mutual understanding to our field. And I will not stand by and do nothing when my own reputation is attacked. It is my understanding that this is what is now happening.

It breaks my heart that this post is necessary, but I believe that the movement toward equality in our field—and indeed in the world—is robust enough that the efforts of one individual to cause harm and to divide will not bring us down.

I don’t like secrets. I have not stated this person’s name publicly only because it was given to me in confidence by my friend who is vulnerable. If she chooses not to release the name, it is not my place to do so.

I apologise to my friend who has been targeted for abuse for bringing this out in the open when they would prefer it kept quiet.

I apologise to the people who have been hurt by this person’s other identity for allowing the deception to go on for so long.

You see the position I am in? Whether I speak or don’t speak, someone will get hurt.

There are plenty of people who know what’s going on and choose to allow it. That is up to them.