Daily Archives: October 28, 2012

A Few Process Notes on “Fan Letter”

I’ve had a few questions about how I came to write “A Fan Letter to Certain Conservative Politicians,” so for those of you who are interested, here are some process notes.

* The predicate cause, I think clearly to most people who are following politics these days, was Indiana senatorial candidate Richard Mourdoch opening his mouth wide enough to stuff in everything below his belt regarding abortion and rape during his debate the other night. It was the cherry on top of a whole summer of general stupidity regarding rape emanating from (as I delicately put it) certain conservative candidates, and I’d pretty much had enough of it at this point.

* The piece you see is the second one I wrote; the first one I wrote was a pretty standard “are you fucking kidding me?” rant in which I wrote the point that not allowing a woman control of her body gives her rapist control of it by default, but then skipped past it to other points. About half-way through I realized I mostly wasn’t saying anything anyone else hadn’t already, and that the issue about rapists having control of women’s bodies and lives was one that was both compelling and one that I, at least, didn’t see discussed a whole lot. So I chucked the previous piece and wrote this one.

* I wrote it from the point of view of a rapist, I think obviously in retrospect, because it would have a stronger impact if I did. A couple of people have asked me (not entirely unwarily) how I could get into the head of someone like that. The short answer is, folks, fiction is what I do. I try to put myself in the heads of a lot of different people. I will note that in this case, I was very happy to get out of that particular head as quickly as possible. I don’t often squick myself out writing a piece, but this is one time I definitely did.

* After it was done, I read it and realized I had absolutely no idea whether it worked like I wanted it to work, or if I overshot the goal and ended up in a place where it would do more damage than anything else. So I asked Krissy to read it and tell me if it worked; while she read it I went off to run errands. When I came back she said “It works, but you’re going to catch a lot of shit for it.” Well, shit I could handle. So I published it. If Krissy told me it didn’t work — and she would have — then it wouldn’t be out there. I trust her judgment in general and in this specific case, she had a better perspective on it than I could have.

* I wrote the piece to be read — I think that this much is obvious — but I should note that I wanted to write it for the same reasons I write about anything here: It was something that was on my mind, I had thoughts about it, and I have a place to say them at and an audience to say them to. Attaching any additional motives to its writing is probably overthinking my thought process as it involves Whatever.

* I will note that in this case I know it had the potential to spawn a “lively” comment thread, and that had I not finished The Human Division earlier in the week, I might not have written it (or would have at least kept the idea for a later time) because I wouldn’t have had time to babysit the comment threads. There is some irony that the fact largest time suck aspect of Whatever isn’t the time I take writing my words, but the time I taking riding herd on everyone else’s. Fortunately I had time this week. Also, fortunately, the thread needed relatively little moderating. So thanks, folks, for that.

A Small But Shining Example of How to Be Wrong

Blogger Joé McKen catches one of my regular detractors making a spectacularly dumb move, and then watches him flail about, trying to rationalize his unintentional comedy gold. No, I’m not going to link to the detractor’s site directly, because among other things the site is full of racism, sexism and general ick; McKen’s got the links if you want them, and all the relevant details if you don’t.

Over on McKen’s site, one of the commenters there, who is also a frequent commenter here, wonders about whether my detractor could be on the hook for libel. Certainly the detractor’s headline for the particular blog entry in question (“John Scalzi is a rapist”) is factually inaccurate; the detractor is (now, at least) aware it’s so; presuming McKen’s account of event is accurate, which I have no reason to doubt, it wasn’t published with the intent to be satire or hyperbole nor has much chance of being considered so now; and obviously, being branded a rapist, and having it believed, would be detrimental to my public and private life. So if I had a mind to sue my detractor for libel, he might have to hope I am enough of a public figure that it would obviate all those other factors and he wouldn’t be squashed like a bug.

But why sue? I’m happy to have him leave it up as a testament to his both his credulity while he thought it was true, and his mendacity now that he knows that it’s not. It’s a cogent reminder of what both his opinion and credibility is worth.

(Comments closed here to help foster the conversation over at McKen’s site. If you go there from here, do be as polite and courteous to him as your host as you are to me. I thank you in advance for that.)