Wednesday, February 20, 2008

And Now, In Keeping With Our Policy of Giving Equal Time To Opposing Viewpoints...

Jena Snyder, another On Spec alumnus, posted a minority opinion following my last rant. This is not the first time she and I have disagreed; there have been sparks and brush fires over the years, and we have not always liked each other. We continue to see eye-to-elbow on some things (certain traits of the law enforcement community, for example), but unanimity is a poor prerequisite for friendship — and when the sun goes down at the end of the day, we are still friends.

That is not why I'm singling out her comments for special attention, though. I'm doing that because I suspect a number of folks might share her doubts and opinions, even if they haven't expressed them here; and because these doubts have some substance to them; and because I believe I can answer them, since I thought long and hard before acting as I did.

So here, to save you the trouble of hitting your backspace icon, is what Jena said:
Sure, pissing someone off to the point where they come after you with a gun is a dangerous *act*, but how exactly does a picture of Mohammed in a spacesuit illustrate that the ideas in literary SF are free and unfettered and glorious and dangerous? All it says to me is "Hey, Muslims! Nyah, nyah, nyah, I wave my privates at you. I fart in your general direction." You might as well run a photo of a guy in a spacesuit skinning a live cat - it's controversial, it pushes buttons, and the spacesuit says SF.

Besides, it's been done. Not the spacesuit, but pissing off the Muslims. It's old, man. That button's as big as the one you have regarding cats.

If you couldn't win this battle by using a full-frontal attack, then why didn't you try a different strategy? And maybe a literary illustration - how about quotes from Sturgeon or Moorcock or Delany?

If you really want to take a stand on something, it's a hell of a lot harder to *stand* there and take a beating than it is to turn your back and walk away.
There are two issues here. The second concerns my choice of a specific image and the point I thought I was making thereby, and I'll get to that; but first and foremost is the nature of the AntiVeto Bomb itself. In the context of this larger issue, the reasons for any particular creative choice are irrelevant: the whole point of The Bomb was to override such arguments. The Bomb's very existence is an acknowledgment that there will be times when no agreement is possible; it was intended to keep us from always going the "safe" route in such cases. Some might point out — some have pointed out — that this means that I could, in theory, advocate genocide or child abuse or animal torture (instead of merely listing the major religions which have done so). But you might as well ban the use of hammers because I might use one to bash in some innocent skull. Implicit in The Bomb is the understanding that all those who wield it are responsible, intelligent adults, who will not invoke it for frivolous or hateful cause. In this particular case Diane seems to have thought that my (attempted) use was frivolous and/or hateful. I can only point out that a large number of mainstream media outlets did what I only tried to, and as far as I'm concerned that means we're talking about something well within the realm of reasonable disagreement.

The Bomb was intended to break the bottleneck at such times, and that's how I used it. For Diane to revoke it simply because she didn't like being overruled shows either a complete misunderstanding of what the device was intended to do, or a contemptuous disregard for that intension. (She has recently described the Bomb as "bait" designed to keep me from "resigning in a huff", which suggests a little of both. But she was there when the Bomb was designed, and I've kept her correspondence to me from those days, so I know her description is bullshit. I also know that she knows.)

There may be dispute over scope. The Bomb was designed to counteract editorial timidity: Diane thinks that should only apply to the selection of stories, while I maintain it should apply to editorials as well. But these are arguments over minutiae. The fact is, the only reason I've been at On Spec for the past seven years is because I believed a fairy tale I was told. The specific conditions that provoked my disillusion don't matter; what matters is that ever since Diane Walton has been General Editor, I have been serving under false pretenses.

Issue #2:

Why did I choose Mohammed in a spacesuit? Quite honestly, because I thought that was the safest of the available options. Does anyone really think that I'd have run into less opposition if I'd gone for an illustration of Sturgeon's incest society, or Moorcock's Jesus-as-congenital-imbecile? Would a thumbnail of Dhalghren's gay sexplay have passed muster? What about the more esoteric forms of radical idea-ness, the kind of stuff I've played around with on occasion: the nonexistence of free will, or consciousness as a maladaptive trait? I wouldn't have a clue how to iconise such things in picture form. But by now, pictures of Mohammed are embedded in the culture: they serve as an immediately-recognizable symbol for "risky territory", even though they're really not any more (or the National Post would not be running them). "Mohammed + space suit" says, to me, "controversy and science fiction". I dare anyone to suggest an image that more effectively thumbnails those sentiments.

Why do we need a picture at all? you may ask. Why not just let my words do the talking? Well, I could do that. But by the same token, one could ask why we need adverbs. Why adjectives? Why should an editorial be eloquent, or lyrically-written? Surely, we can make the point simply, and with minimal verbiage: Speculative fiction is good because it can deal with controversial ideas. The end. That says it.

But it's not very catchy, is it? It doesn't grab your attention. It doesn't engage your emotions. Visual icons are part of the tool set; and yes, you can always drive a wood screw with a dime turned on edge. You don't need to use a screwdriver. You just get a better end product when you do.

Am I just "waving my privates" at the Moslems, sticking out my tongue and going nyahh, nyahh, nyahh? There's no question that some people would find the picture offensive. But supposing I told you that I was offended by any depiction of, oh, politicians (let's say my religion forbids any depiction of Human leadership because it undercuts the supremacy of the Divine Creator). Are you sticking your tongue out at me if you go ahead and run a picture of Barack Obama? Are you waving your privates? Do you have to bend over backwards to respect every belief and ritual, no matter how stupid, just because it's framed in a religious context? How many of you cringed, just a little, to see me put the words "stupid" and "religious" so close together? Is there any religious tic so absurd that we can't ignore it without being accused of intolerance?

Look: by definition, any controversial idea is potentially offensive to someone. And nobody on the planet is willing to admit that they find something "offensive" because it challenges their beliefs; they'll find it offensive simply because, well, it's offensive. It's against God's Laws. It's AntiAmerican. Please, won't someone think of the children!? Case closed. And if you question those feelings, or ignore them, then yes: some will feel the breeze of my mighty testicles wafting across their faces. But that doesn't make my actions "old" or immature. It just means I can't be bothered to kneel and scrape before some altar that says we're not allowed to say anything that might hurt anyone's feelings, anywhere.

People say nasty things about me all the time. People hurt my feelings. People even wave their privates in my face. I've learned to deal with it. (In the latter case, I've even learned to enjoy it more often than not.)

Finally, Jena suggests I should have stayed and fought. How was I supposed to do that, exactly? Use my eloquent powers of speech to gather popular support? I did that. A majority was already in favour of running the picture: Diane told us that OS is not a democracy, imposed her will over ours, and then (ironically) referred to me as a "bully". She simply shut down any and all discussion. Am I supposed to grab the purse strings from three provinces away? Am I supposed to somehow wrest financial control of the magazine back into more reasonable hands?

Steve tried to heal the rift, before he left. He tried to be the diplomat, while at the same time making it clear he thought Diane was completely out of line. Diane told him that I was "a liability", and made it pretty clear that she considered my departure to be a good thing. So sure, it's harder to stand and take a beating than it is to walk away. But there has to be some reason to take that beating. There has to be the chance that some good might come from it. And the only good scenario I can envision now is one that gives my nose a chance to heal. And allows me to sleep at night.

BTW, that wonderful LOLprophet remix at the top of the post is courtesy of Yuval Langer, and is posted with his permission.

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Blogger John Henning said...

First time I've posted, but I love the blog and the novels (esp. Blindsight).

Just tangentially, as far as the depiction of Mohammed, how the heck can anyone know what swarthy bearded man in a Turban is or is not Mohammed unless you tell them (or put a big caption underneath stating "The Prophet Mohammed")? For obvious reasons, how could anyone know what Mohammed looked like? After all, with Jesus, even though it's probably not how he actually looked (if there ever was a historical Jesus), we can fall back on centuries of artistic depiction. This could have been Bin Laden in a fish bowl, for all I know of what Mohammed looks like.

However, that is neither here nor there in the discussion. I believe Orson Welles was once quoted saying (or possibly he was quoting someone else when he was quoted): "The theatre is a safe place for dangerous ideas." It's better to deal with the controversial challenges facing a free society with stories on the stage rather than in riots on the street. Of course, that applies to almost all fiction and should be an element of speculative fiction probably more than other forms and genres. And I doubt there is a safer arena than a quarterly Canadian science fiction digest.

As far as fundraising, was anyone paying the magazine to play it safe? Do The Canada Council for the Arts or the Alberta Foundation require adherance to any sort of "standards clause?"

To be honest, from a way outside point of view, I would have to think that this specific argument reached such a boiling point in large part because of the original story rejection that led to the veto bomb. I know that if I had been involved with something like that, I would be wary and waiting for something like this to pop up in the future.

At any time before now, did you ever suspect that your veto powers wouldn't be respected or honored? Do you think any uncertainty in that regard may have driven you to push this point more than you might have otherwise?

Either way, does it now even matter if you were bringing some biased expectations into the argument or not? The outcome revealed that the veto bomb did not really exist as promised and as that was the assurance you had for continuing with the magazine, seemed like you couldn't continue.

Had to be a tough decision, though. Even in the right, fights like these rarely feel like moral victories, do they?

February 20, 2008 6:38 PM  
OpenID bec-87rb said...

Me, personally, if I was gonna resign in a huff about something, I would pick something with more meat than a photo of a possible Mohammad in a little space suit. I see no grand principle here, Bomb or no Bomb. I do see a buncha editors of a sf publication getting twists in their knickers, though.

*scratches head*

February 20, 2008 6:52 PM  
Blogger Skorgu said...

Is it just me or do the counter arguments not make any sense? A clause was established with a specific situation in mind. That situation came to pass and the clause was disregarded by administrative fiat.

I don't see how that simple breach of trust isn't enough all by itself to spur a pair of resignations. If the rules change, there's no point staying in the game.

Good for you Mr. Watts, not many have the insight to see this kind of management by bullying happening as well as the balls to stand up to it.

Now go write more books :)

February 20, 2008 8:26 PM  
Blogger TheBrummell said...

I read the first half of the previous post, about all those authors I've never heard of and your (I assume justified) pride in helping them with this stage of their careers, and with bringing some good stories to a broader audience, and I thought "I should pick up a copy of this magazine I know nothing of, this "On Spec", and check out Dr. Watt's other, other work".

Then, I read the second half of that post, and this post, and I've decided I won't bother. Sorry, all those authors I've never heard of, I will not be reading your (probably excellent) stories any time soon, because I will be avoiding On Spec. Not that my newly-declared boycott will have any impact at all, since I just admitted I've never been a customer before. It's a bit like me declaring a boycott of "Martha Stewart Living", I suppose. Oh well.

Thanks for telling us this tale, Dr. Watts, and bravo for your principled resignation.

February 20, 2008 9:17 PM  
Blogger TheBrummell said...

Incidentally, the URL

is not yet assigned.

February 20, 2008 9:17 PM  
Blogger Alehkhs said...

Damn Peter! You've definitely got a supporter here.

Sorry that it came to this, but I'm glad that you did walk out. It's good to know that there are people today who won't be told to drown their principles and beliefs and opinions, just so others can keep their's high and dry.

I am in awe of you; a man who realizes it's better to jump ship and leave them sinking in the doldrums.

I support your decision completely,


February 21, 2008 2:04 AM  
Anonymous Julie K said...

If it matters, as a non-Canadian non-writer who has never read the magazine I understand and support your actions.

February 21, 2008 7:34 AM  
OpenID bec-87rb said...

On second thought - so this is about the failure to uphold the "Invocation of the Bomb Rule" article of the editor Constitution? As in, we all agreed on the rules, and that means *all* of us agreed?

I can see that principle.

I'm still not sure I would flounce off over it, but I do understand the playground rule about We All Agreed Beforehand.

February 21, 2008 3:30 PM  
Blogger SpeakerToManagers said...

I agree with your stand, as I said in my comment to the previous thread, but as you seem to have raised the relative importance of the issue of breach of trust over the issue of free speech in this thread, I'd like to expand what I said a little.

From the collegial point of view, trust among collaborators is fundamental to the enterprise; violation in a big way, as in this case, abrogates any agreements. How can you be expected to work with someone who's just revealed that she has lied to you for years about the basis and nature of your professional relationship? And that she holds your reasons for working with her in contempt?

I've seen this sort of situation before, in startup companies that were in the process of coming apart. The people who control the money often have very different ideas of why they work there than the people who create the intellectual property, and when bad business conditions start stressing people, these differences can suddenly create fundamental disagreements and dislikes. Usually, breaking the company up, or having one or more principals leave is the only solution that doesn't involve violence and/or acrimonious legal action. So your leaving On Spec is probably the best thing you could do for yourself and for the continued existence of On Spec itself.

I think people who say that you are overreacting to a minor slight have never seen just how poisonous those sorts of actions and declarations are to cooperation in a group.

February 21, 2008 4:04 PM  
Blogger David Nickle said...

Well, I've read the posts and the replies, and short of actually checking with the On Spec crew to see about the contractual status of the Cliff Burns Memorial Anti-Veto (which if it was a joke was never a very funny one), this sounds like a righteous exit. A sad and shitty righteous exit, but righteous nonetheless.

You know, I can understand editorial reluctance to wade into the Danish cartoon controversy. But understanding and applauding it are two different things.

February 21, 2008 7:01 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Lots of people said

...<lots of supportive things, for which I am grateful...>

and John Henning in particular said...

Had to be a tough decision, though. Even in the right, fights like these rarely feel like moral victories, do they?

No. Just feel kind of grumpy about it, albeit also pretty righteous.

There is one definite up side, though: more time for writing.

But then bec-87rb said...

....if I was gonna resign in a huff about something ... I do see a buncha editors of a sf publication getting twists in their knickers ... *scratches head* ... I can see that principle.
I'm still not sure I would flounce off over it, but I do understand the playground rule about We All Agreed Beforehand...

And I gotta say, bec, I wonder what's up with you. Sometimes your posts seem almost plausible, but other times you start slinging this passive-aggressive shit. You always keep that smiley on hand to show that you mean no harm, but even when you concede a point you couch your concession in the most dismissive terms you think you can get away with. "Flounce off". "Playground rule." "Twists in knickers." Still other times you can't seem to get your head around the idea that hyperbole is not meant as literal truth, and you earnestly undertake to inform me that Francis Collins is not, technically speaking, an actual moron.

On Spec is a dick-ass little magazine, sure. It isn't Newsweek or the NY Times. But that doesn’t mean that the issues underlying Steve's and my departure are trivial. The scale may be microscopic, but the issues are fractal: they are scale-invariant. They concern free speech and self-censorship, trust and the abuse of power, and they are important at merely human scales as well as institutional ones.

But I think you already know that, just as you already knew that I didn't really believe that Trekkies were as bad as Christians, or that Francis Collins was a clinical moron. You're hanging around here, smiling that needle-smile, for something else entirely. Maybe you're trying to pick a fight with me for some reason. Or maybe it has nothing to do with me at all; maybe you're like this with everyone.

But dude, you've got issues, and I seriously doubt you'll resolve them here.

February 21, 2008 9:51 PM  
Blogger Jena said...

As far as the first thing goes - Mohammed in a spacesuit - there was no big subtext behind my comment. I just meant the image didn't work *for me* and it made more sense *to me* to use a literary example in a literary magazine.

As for taking a stand... Sigh.

Your comment "In either case, I'm outta there. I resigned on Saturday" just sounded so damn flip, it made me angry. It struck me as "I took my ball and went home," not "I quit on principle." It also took me back to the days when I was the one always forced to find compromises to keep one editor or another - you, Derryl, Susan, Barry - from quitting.

Back in 1996, long before the Bomb, I wrote an editorial ("Talkin' About the Passion") where I described the On Spec editorial process: if an editor found a story that s/he was truly passionate about, even if the others hated it, passion won, and we bought the story. Where this differed from the Bomb was that the editor had to convince the others that the story met *all* the criteria we were looking for - strong SF element, voice, theme, etc. Above all, it had to be well-written. the Bomb may have been intended to keep us from taking the safe route, but instead, it felt like a threat hanging overhead. By nature, it didn't allow discussion. Yes, the understanding was that we were all responsible, intelligent adults. It still felt like a threat.

And of course when you invoked the Bomb and you were turned down, you felt you had no choice but to quit.
I shouldn't have been surprised, or angry.

I am disappointed, though. You and Steve and Derryl brought strong, intelligent opinions to On Spec, and kept the editorial voice wonderfully multifaceted. You will be missed, especially by the readers and the writers who submit their work.

February 22, 2008 11:34 AM  
Blogger Neal Asher said...

Some words seem to be missing throughout all this 'a gesture of solidarity'. That picture should have been allowed if for no other reason than that. It being refused tells me that the one refusing was either scared, or one of these politically correct cunts who thinks it's quite right if someone is arrested for laughing at a Moslem's beard but that Moslems demanding beheadings are misunderstood and should be forgiven.

February 22, 2008 12:17 PM  
Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

Of course, after I post at my own blog about all this, a thought occurs to me. Peter, it seems a tad ironic that you wanted to use (and were turned down on it) an image to illustrate an editorial about the difference between the written word and movies.

Also, you may be pissed off with the situation, but you were (and perhaps are, I don't know) still friends with these people, and I for one would be disappointed to see flailing doofuses come in here and shit on them as badly as has been done. "Politically correct cunts"? You don't have to be PC to be offended by the words, nor by the inaction of the host to step up to the plate and explain the limits.


February 22, 2008 5:12 PM  
Blogger jdavidson said...

Bah, who gives a shit about the picture, the picture was the catalyst to the real problem.

For those that poo-poo Peters reaction to the situation, I think you clearly undervalue the power of respect and responsibility. Both of which were instantly dragged through bloody stool when the respectful responsibility of welding a Veto-Bomb was yanked.

I don't see how this situation could go any direction but down down down should P had stayed. This lady clearly doesn't respect or trust her editors levels of responsibility and connection to the readers. Sad..

February 22, 2008 6:18 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Derryl said

Also, you may be pissed off with the situation, but you were (and perhaps are, I don't know) still friends with these people,

Actually, I can't say with any certainty that that's the case. While I've certainly not hidden my anger and grumpiness over this stuff, I've tried to restrict myself to slagging actions rather than people (not sure how successful I've been at this). But I've seen some of the things Diane has said subsequent to my resignation, and they contain both factual inaccuracies over my past behaviour and some pretty pointed digs at me as a person. In light of this, I'm coming to suspect that we weren't even friends when I thought we were...

and I for one would be disappointed to see flailing doofuses come in here and shit on them as badly as has been done. "Politically correct cunts"? You don't have to be PC to be offended by the words, nor by the inaction of the host to step up to the plate and explain the limits.

But Derryl, nobody has transgressed the local limits. I trust that everyone here understands that the comments made on this crawl represent the opinions of those who made them and no one else — and while I reserve the right to draw the line at some point (actionable slander, for example), I'm certainly not going to censure anyone for using the word "cunt" when I myself have refered to certain people as "fucking morons" in this same venue. (Even if I wanted to, how could I possibly sell those optics after all my righteous indignation on the subject of free speech?)

As for Neal's comments, my money's on his first alternative rather than his second (i.e., I think OS is more scared than downright cuntian), and I rather suspect he and I would find a whole lot of things to argue about over a pitcher — but the man calls 'em like he sees 'em, and it's okay for people to do that here. Hell, I've been offended by some of the stuff I've read on the 'crawl; but while I may challenge it, I haven't yet felt compelled to shut anybody down.

I hope I never do.

February 23, 2008 2:38 AM  
OpenID Branko Collin said...

"But supposing I told you that I was offended by any depiction of, oh, politicians"

Are you offended by a depiction of politicians, and if so, is that because of a deeply held religious belief? Because we (as in you, and I) that that is what happens with Muslems if Mohammed is depicted, and that's what makes the difference in my opinion.

Yes, Mohammed in a space suit (MIASS) is a excellent way of not just saying, but conveying the idea of "SF and controversy." But apart from that it is also a very real insult, and one you made with the full realization that it would be.

That's not to say MIASS was or wasn't the wrong choice, but your example just fell flat for me. There's no such thing as a hypothetical insult.

February 23, 2008 11:23 AM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Branko said...

There's no such thing as a hypothetical insult.

... And dammit, that's the very root of the problem, isn’t it? If someone's offended, they're offended. Sincerely, righteously, deep down in the bone. They burn, they seethe, and if someone tells them their anger is silly, that doesn’t make it disappear. It just makes it stronger.

But you can see that slippery slope a mile away — because if offense is fundamentally emotional, then it doesn't have to be defended rationally. All anybody has to do to censure, control, or silence opposition is to be offended by what someone says and convince enough people that "words are bullets", that hurtful speech is a form of assault and should be outlawed.

If I try a trick like that on my own authority — "You cannot use the word mattress because I find it offensive" — people would laugh me out of town, probably to a chorus of Sealy model-numbers. But if I clothe my offense in religious terms — "You cannot show this picture because God forbids it" — people take the same bogus argument a lot more seriously. You don't have to show harm. You need not demonstrate any kind of loss to income or personal welfare. All you have to do is invoke the disapproval of an imaginary friend, and vast swathes of society will accede to your demands.

I find it astonishing that our society should treat religious faith as though it confered some kind of exhalted all-purpose free pass, instead of as a neurological disorder. Only a loon would expect to be tax-exempt because he built a shrine for the worship of elves, but change that last word to "God" and you're away to the races. And I'm sorry, but allowing that kind of rationale any role at all in dictating what I can say and write and draw is not a concession I am prepared to make.

February 23, 2008 5:22 PM  
Anonymous Cliff Burns said...

I regard editorial interference with an extremely jaundiced eye. Nothing must take the edge off SF. It's all about boldly going...and all that. The best stories aren't the pleasant or reassuring ones, no, they're the ones that unsettle and anger and peel away layers of preconceptions. No one should retain veto power or else the rule breakers, the genre busters, the exceptions might not pass muster. The eccentrics and alternative voices would be found wanting...or too extreme. The future is rushing toward us. There's no time for squeamishness. We have to be able to tell it like it is. We can't avert our eyes or else it will be too late.

February 28, 2008 5:12 PM  
Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

Cliff, you're oddly right and wrong here. First, the kerfuffle is over a cartoon, not even an editorial, and certainly not over fiction. I agree that this will impact the fiction that we see come out of OS, but your clarion call is pointed in the wrong direction.

And considering pretty much every other magazine is indeed a dictatorship (quick! Who does Gordon Van Gelder answer to? Sheila Williams?), the concern you express makes me want to reach over and shake you and insist that you start your own magazine and see how long you last before resorting to a dictatorship since nobody else would have the taste you do.

And then I'd buy you a beer.


February 28, 2008 6:13 PM  
Anonymous Cliff Burns said...


I see where you're going but it's the mindset I'm talking about. SF fans, writers and readers, often complain that we're not taken seriously, that we're ghettoized and part of it might be because we don't have enough of an edge, we're too safe and mundane in our thematic and stylistic aspirations. Are we addressing issues or ducking them (in fiction or otherwise)? Are we running from real world concerns, hiding behind FTL and grey goo, claiming the concerns of the present have no role in the future? Are we boring and irrelevant when we should be as sharp as razors? Satire is a scalpel too many of us are afraid of handling, lest we get our fingers nicked...

February 29, 2008 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Cliff Burns said...

I would also add that ON SPEC is a small magazine, trying to survive in a niche market. Government subsidies to help pay the rent. Perhaps one thing that could distinguish it from its competitors is a feisty attitude, a reputation for printing stories and editorials and cover art no one else would dare to. Cutting edge and hip and constantly praised (and condemned) for being ahead of the curve, sharper and more fearless than its stick in the mud counterparts. Canadian SF needs an identity, something to separate it from the pack. ON SPEC could be part of that, consistently pushing the envelope, not shying away from the notion of offending, setting tongues to wagging (and, I'll bet, subscription rolls climbing). But such a tack requires courageous and far-seeing editors, porous guidelines and a fierce, independent heart...

February 29, 2008 10:10 AM  
OpenID bec-87rb said...


I just got around to looking at this one, to your reply to my head-scratching post! Wow!

I apologize. I'm sorry I hurt your feelings, or if I attacked you.

Okay, well, I already posted something on a later posting by the time I got back here, so it's too late to retroactively change tone or try again in light of this information, but I admit I am having a terrible time sometimes understanding you and talking to you in a way that doesn't annoy you.

I think you may have put your finger on something vital here, though: my emoticons and speaking obliquely are coming across as passive-aggressive, so I will try to speak as plainly as possible in future. It might be that you and I can't talk via writing? That'd be awful; you're intelligent and full of interesting ideas. It'd be bad if the communcation medium was just not workable.

In my defense, I did not know you weren't denigrating ST fans. ST fans get laughed at quite a bit, and dismissed quite a bit. I wasn't as sure about the fucking moron thing, though. I thought you might be serious, but I wasn't sure.

Telling me I have "problems" hurt my feelings. Btw.

Well, if it turns out we can't write back and forth without agitating each other, thanks for the exchanges thus far, it was interesting, and good health.

February 29, 2008 12:01 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

OK, since this thread isn't entirely dead yet, it's worth bringing up this latest piece of proposed legislation — currently at third reading — that the Tories are sneaking into law. Basically, Bill C-10 allows them to withdraw tax credits for any made-in-Canada movie or TV show that an appointed tribunal decides is "offensive". And since they can't make that call until they view the finished product, that means that the tax credits essential to financing so many Canadian productions can be withdrawn retroactively. Which means, in turn, that no bank or other funding source is going to invest in such productions, because there's always the chance that vital funding might fall through after completion.

This legislation could precipitate the collapse of Canadian filmmaking, on the pretense of protecting our delicate sensibilities from "offensive" content. (And I would hazard a guess that "offensive" will be defined widely enough to include anything critical of the conservative government.)

This doesn't apply to funding for the written word. Yet. But it's a telling indication of the mentality one must deal with when applying for gummint funding. It might even make me regard Diane's agonadal behaviour with a bit less contempt, if it weren't so obvious from her own words and actions that she agrees with C-10 in principle.

February 29, 2008 5:28 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

bec-87rb said...

I apologize. I'm sorry I hurt your feelings, or if I attacked you.

You didn't hurt my feelings. Attacked? I can't really say— that's the whole thing with passive-aggression. There's always this element of ambiguity, of deniability. It's hard to know what's going on sometimes.

...I admit I am having a terrible time sometimes understanding you and talking to you in a way that doesn't annoy you.

If you don't understand me, that's at least partly my fault and I'll work on it. If you want to avoid being annoying, avoid words like "flounce", or dismissive turns of phrase involving "knickers in a twist" or "playground rules". These terms are pretty unambiguous; they describe huffs and tantrums, emotional flightiness, not reasoned arguments or stands founded upon principle. They are dismissive of something that I obviously felt strongly enough to take serious action over.

Of course, if you do think I'm being a flighty and immature jerk, then it's your right to say that, even here. But don't smile and be cute and let innuendo do the talking, come right out and say it. I'll probably still be annoyed (I obviously don't think I'm "flouncing"), but I'll respect you for having the courage to call me out instead of hiding behind the smileys. I'll at least be annoyed at the things you say, not at the way almost-kinda say them. And then we can either hash out the differences, or agree to disagree, or whatever.

I think you may have put your finger on something vital here, though: my emoticons and speaking obliquely are coming across as passive-aggressive, so I will try to speak as plainly as possible in future. It might be that you and I can't talk via writing? That'd be awful; you're intelligent and full of interesting ideas. It'd be bad if the communcation medium was just not workable.

It's never been my intention to confuse anyone. At the same time, I hate emoticons of any sort, and I tend to express myself dryly sometimes; you're far from the first to take me seriously when I didn't mean to be.

There've been a few occasions when— speaking face-to-face with people I've previously only interacted with online, and speaking pretty much the same way in both contexts — the other guy will do a double-take and say "Hey, you just like arguing about ideas! You're not trying to attack people after all!" I've always been surprised when this happens, because while I'm not above attacking people online, when I am argueing about issues and ideas I'm pretty careful to keep personal comments out of it. But obviously there's something about me in person that mitigates my words. Obviously, online I can come across more harshly than I intend, and that bugs me because a) it means I antagonise people without meaning to, and b) you'd think someone who makes his livelihood through the use of words would be fluent enough to convey his thoughts and feelings without resorting to LOLs and :)s. But maybe not.

Anyway, I know I come across as more antagonistic than I actually am sometimes, and if I've done that in this case then apologies. But dude, you're not dumb; there's no way you didn't know what you were doing when you used those phrases.

Telling me I have "problems" hurt my feelings. Btw.

"Issues". I said you had "issues". But I wasn't trying to hurt your feelings. I was just trying to get you to stop with the dismissive phrases.

You're still welcome here. 'Nuff said.

March 1, 2008 2:18 PM  

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