Hate Mail Entries
Posted on March 17, 2005 Posted by John Scalzi 15 Comments
I had a request to repost the “How to send me hate mail” entries from 2002 — which surprised me since I though I had already reposted them. Apparently not. I will eventually repost them in their appropriate archived month, but for now, here they are in one omnibus edition. You’ll find them behind the cut. Please note that they are positively swimming in profanity, so the more sensitive among you are warned.
March 7, 2002
(Note: Ample profanity in today’s edition)
Got some hate mail yesterday for my comments about Ted Rall’s cartoon, but it wasn’t really choice hate mail, so I think it’s a good time to offer up a primer on How To Send Me Hate Mail. Please pay attention, since these are valuable tips for composing winning hate mails that will stand out from the crowd.
First off, let’s be clear that I do make a distinction between hate mail and people who disagree with me and e-mail to say so. E-mail me with a legitimate comment or question, no matter how negative, and I typically respond civilly. In Scalzi’s World, it’s not a crime to disagree with me, even if it does speak poorly regarding your judgment. However, if you just e-mail spew, I consider it hate mail and respond as such. Now that we’re all clear, here are my Hate Mail Tips:
1. Don’t Expect Too Much. The fact is, hate mail really doesn’t bother me, since fundamentally, if you’re not my wife, a member of my immediate circle of family and friends, or a client, I don’t actually give a damn about what you think of me. Life’s too short to sweat other people’s opinion, especially the sort of algae-grazers who have nothing better to do than write hate mail. Really, what useful person has the time for that? So, despite your best efforts, I’m just not likely to collapse into a heap of self-loathing on the basis of your hate mail. Sorry to disappoint; it’s just the way I am.
Since I don’t take hate mail to heart, what I’m looking for in hate mail is pure entertainment value. Which brings us to point number 2:
2. Be Creative. Honestly, if you’re going to take the time to tell me how much you hate me, make some effort to do it in a way that’s not going to bore me. I’ve been called an “asshole” so many times in hate mail that it’s just lost all its charm, as have all the major profanities. So, I take points off for profanities, unless they’re used in really new and exciting ways. Here’s a quick workshop on that, using that old reliable, “Fucker”:
“Fucker” — No good. Plain. Uninspiring. Trite. Hardly registers a blip. Needs oomph. Needs… a modifer!
“Toad Fucker” — Better. “Toad” is not the usual modifier here, so that’s good, and of course it’s an interesting mental visual. But let’s assume that any single modifier of “Fucker” is already old news, especially when it involves a noun springing from the animal kingdom. What we really need to do is to fuse “Fucker” to a string of truly interesting words. Like:
“Choad Mongering Krill Fucker” — Now we’re talking. This insult works on so many levels. “Choad,” of course, is a great piece of slang, not nearly utilized to its full potential in everyday invective, so it’s still a nice fresh slap to start the insult. “Mongering,” likewise a great verb: Sounds great, first off, but also obscure enough to thrill — after all, who mongers very much anymore? “Krill Fucker” implies that you’re so hard up you’d screw a baleen whale’s morning snack and, inasmuch as krill are microscopic shrimp, it also says you have a dinky little wanger (otherwise, of course, how could you fuck a krill? It’d just break apart). Finally, the phrase lends itself to multiple variations: “Dick Whoring Shrimp Porker,” for example. The possibilities really are endless.
(While we’re vaguely on the subject of animals, if you’re going to compare someone to an animal, remember that lower orders of primates are intrinsically funny. Some of my favorites phrases: “Trepanned Lemur,” “Ass-Mastering Aye-Aye,” and “Enema-swilling Loris.” Best of all, you don’t even have to modify “bush baby.”)
Remember, I get a lot of hate mail. To really register, you have to do the work. The satisfaction of knowing I’m really paying attention makes it worth the effort.
3. Prepare to Be Graded.
If I don’t think your hate mail is up to snuff, I’ll send it back with the suggestion you try harder. For example, yesterday someone sent me a message which was, in its entirety: “You’re a prick, an’ so’s your little fuckin’ friend” (referring to Ted Rall). I sent back, asking if that was really the best this guy could do, mentioning that I’d gotten better insults from retarded monkeys (as you can see, I don’t respond back to such slack efforts with my “A” material).
The response: “Go fuck yourself, you nitwit.” Again, not especially compelling. “A trepanned lemur could do better,” I gently suggested, bringing out the lemurs in a bid to inspire my correspondent. “Please try again.” He countered by saying Ted and I were “tremendous fucking idiots,” which, in my book, was still rather disappointing. To his credit, however, he did appreciate the lemur reference. Which just goes to prove my point.
Look, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a little effort when it comes to hate mail, so if I don’t think the effort’s there, I’m going to call you on it. On the flipside, if you come up with a choice piece of spew, I’ll compliment you on your form, and if it’s really good, I’ll probably start using it as a .sig quote for my e-mail. Here’s one of my favorites:
“You can continue to be a negative force in the universe, spewing putrid venom, childish disdain, and unmitigated disgust for everyone who doesn’t offer you sex or money–or whatever else it is that you might like.”
I mean, how can you not appreciate the craft? I used that as a .sig quote for months.
4. Be Accurate.
The hate mailer in the first part of tip 3 called me a “fuckwit cartoonist,” which would be a passable insult (“fuckwit” is okay) were it not for the fact that I’m not a cartoonist nor have I ever been. The guy just assumed that since I was talking about Ted, I was a cartoonist myself. I pointed out his error and the guy got all huffy — like his erroneous assumption was somehow my fault! Just remember that when you assume, you make an “ass”-mastering aye-aye out of “u” and “me.” I’ll be watching for those little slip-ups.
Hopefully these tips will inspire those of you who aspire to write me hate mail to new and ever more creative heights. Good luck! I’ll be waiting to see what you come up with — and I’ll be sure to let you know just what I think of your efforts.
March 13, 2002
Some follow-up on the “How to Send Me Hate Mail” column from a couple of days ago, which is now apparently making the rounds in Blogdom:
* One correspondent was surprised I didn’t make mention of the tactic of spewing insults in other languages as a way to spice up an otherwise bland and unimpressive piece of hate mail. While I do recognize this tactic, I have to say I don’t typically recommend it because the whole point of hate mail is that the person you’re sending it to actually has to be capable of understanding what you have to say to them. Also, I find that many people just use it as an excuse to say the same old things, just in another tongue.
For example, scheisskopf is no more original than its English analogue, “shithead,” although it’s hard to deny that the German version does have that whole guttural German locomotive thing going for it. Said correspondent also suggested that German is possibly the best language for insulting, excepting maybe Russian. This may or may not be true, but I will say I’ve heard very good things about Arabic as a swearing language as well. Someone out there who speaks Arabic will have to let me know.
Ultimately I don’t think there’s a problem sending hate mail with choice bit of spite in another language, but if you’re going to go down that road, I think it would be vastly more effective if the sentiment expressed was somewhat original, no matter what language it is in. Any fool can call other people scheissköpfe, but think how much more interesting Urintrinken FroschGebläse (piss drinking frog blowers) would be. Not only is it vastly more interesting, but it could also double as the name of an industrial metal band from Bremen. It’s just something to think about.
* The same correspondent extolled the virtues of Latin in hate mail, offering up as an example the word Homonecropetapyrobestiphiliac (“One who who prefers sleeping with under-aged, dead animals of the same gender while they are on fire”) for my consideration. Having taken Latin as a teenager, I am always heartened to see people using this language in new and exciting ways, which this certainly qualifies. However, I will take a moment to note that I think the suffix “-philiac” (“lover of”) is kind of overused, the “go to” Latin suffix everybody hits when they decide to dazzle their hate mail recipient with their erudition.
In place of “-philiac” may I instead suggest instead: “-phage” (“eater of”), a suffix whose novelty has not yet worn off and thereby packs an extra bit of a punch, and also sounds better coming out of the mouth: “Philiac” sort of peters out at the end, but “Phage” hits you with an exploding fricative right at the beginning and never lets go.
Also, it’s just wacky. Try Homonecropetapyrobestiphage: Sure, you could see why someone somewhere might want to have sexual congress with a dead gay flaming pre-teen metazoan, but who on earth would want to eat one? It’s still on fire. You’d burn your mouth. That’s just plain crazy.
* A different correspondent asked me to rate a particular insulting phrase he personally enjoys, which, in more polite language, translates out to “Pig loving, female genitalia striking enthusiast of National Socialism.” The unmodified phrase has a certain pungency to it, I’ll admit, but this is a good time to bring up an old rhetorical chestnut: Never involve the Nazis.
Calling someone a Nazi just sucks all the air out of any insult — it’s overused and it’s taking the insult nuclear at the same time. There are so many other discredited political philosophies that would be so much more interesting. Call someone a Fabian sometime. See what happens then. But when it comes to Nazis, the only people who should be called Nazis are people who actually are Nazis. And, of course, then it’s not an insult (except to the rest of us).
* Best hate mail in the last few days is this one — kids, read and learn:
“You are an utterly subhuman scatology study with all the wit of a crack-addled porpoise preparing to play a game of Boggle. You are a deficient wang wrangler with nothing on his mind other than a cancerous growth attempting to create functioning neurons, and being mistaken by your pedestrian gray matter as a hostile organism. Were you to reproduce, you would surely spawn a creature that can only be described as hideous and mongoloid–no doubt it would spend its time clubbing pigeons to death and drinking the blood of rats to sustain its unholy life. I sincerely hope that you melt into a roving puddle of bile and live out your days enveloping and slowly digesting discarded disposable diapers in a landfill somewhere in a highly radioactive area, such as Chernobyl.”
Excellent. The only misstep is “wang wrangler” — too alliterative for my tastes, but otherwise a fine contribution to the form. Top that, folks.
Actually, I like “wang wrangler.” I mean “jerk off” is such a great insult, even if, in the literal sense, most people are, in fact, jerk offs, even if they don’t admit it. So it’s a creative, somewhat poetic reimagining of a common insult that does so much by simply playing on a minor cultural taboo.
Furthermore, I think this monkeyspank’s one redeeming quality is his willingness to forgo the F bombs and flog the fuckin’ bejeezus out of his thesarus staurated mind.
(That took waaaay too long to type. Maybe I should do some work today.)
Maybe your next contest could be to write you hate mail. (Krissy and Athena being totally off-target, as per the rules of last contest.)
Nah. I get enough as it is.
The thing I don’t quite get, though –
You’ve [the abstract “you”] written a beautiful, vitriolic, elegantly phrased bit of hate mail. (On the matter of elegant, never rule out a well-placed bit of inoffensive Latin. Not the dead-cow-fucker kind, but the random-educatedness kind. I digress)
So what do you do? You send it… to someone you don’t like. It’s a work of art, man! You’re wasting it! I mean, I can understand this – say – on Usenet, where you get to have others read it, but… it just seems silly. Certainly the people I dislike enough to hatemail them are people I wouldn’t want to spend fifteen minutes crafting something for…
I guess I can see the stylistic argument – if you’re going to do something, do it properly – but it still doesn’t seem quite right to put that much love into something which is intended for someone you hate.
You’re looking at it the wrong way, Andrew. If you’re going to invest enough psychic energy in hating someone, you might as well make it worth the effort.
Also, of course, from my end it’s fun to reject someone’s hate mail on the basis on unoriginality, because nothing annoys a hate mailer more than to know his hate mail not only didn’t work, but you’re asking him to try again for a better score. Man, they hate that.
I post hate mail I’ve received on my web site. With comments, of course.
Nothing cracks me up like the long list of hatemail Maddox has posted on his site, along with his replies. He’s usually at his best when it comes to that.
no doubt it would spend its time clubbing pigeons to death and drinking the blood of rats to sustain its unholy life.
I hope you sent this microencephalic Cartesian reject a copy of the famous Athena Goth picture.
“I hope you sent this microencephalic Cartesian reject a copy of the famous Athena Goth picture.”
No, no. The guy who sent it to me was, like, “Hey! Is this good hate mail? Huh? huh?” — i.e., it’s not actually directed at me (or Athena), it’s more of a general example of the genre.
1. My personal favorite hate phrase is “pathetic excuse for a human being.” Not because it’s particularly clever, I just think it conveys the emotion well.
2. I once spent most of a summer dredging through newspaper archives looking for book reviews written by Mark Twain. One thing I discovered was that when Mark Twain didn’t like a book, he was not shy about it – makes that James Valvis guy look like the model of restraint. Anyway, those are a good source of insults. And since very few people have ever read any of Twain’s reviews (other than the Fenimore Cooper one), I seem very original. You don’t have to go looking through newspaper archives to appreciate the bile; just look through one of Twain’s nonfiction books, like Christian Science, or read some of the speeches (“Disappearance of Literature” has one of my favorite lines of all time). To misquote Dan Simmons, “If you’re going to steal, steal from the masters.”
3. You said that the hate mail guy “appreciate[d] the lemur reference.” What form did this take? How does one segue from “You’re a tremendous fucking idiot” to “Dude, that was pretty funny”?
“‘English is a clumsy, lurching fool of a language.’ ‘But it expresses hate well.'”
My personal favorite hate phrase is “pathetic excuse for a human being.” Not because it’s particularly clever, I just think it conveys the emotion well
As much as I enjoy the mental imagery of a subhuman miscreant wandering about beating small animals to death, I’m not sure I like the use of the word mongoloid. Do you think the writer actually intended a anthropology based racial slur, or do you think he (or she) did not entirely understand the meaning of the word?
Or, for that matter, am I in error? It may be that I misunderstand the specific connotation of the word.
“I’m not sure I like the use of the word mongoloid.”
Well, it is supposed to be hate mail.
Methinks he’s not 100% clear on the meaning of the word “Mongoloid.” a Mongoloid is any person of Asiatic descent, with the most notable features being the epicamphal fold around the eyes.
What I believe he was after was the victim of “Mongolism,” the original name of the genetic defect we all know as Down’s Syndrome. Those unfortunate souls have the same eye shape on average, without the accompanying fold. It’s a minor error in substance, with rather far-reaching connotations.
For the record, this particular example of social engineering becoming Darwinian failure in an attempt to disparage the native intelligence and capacity of his target, made an seemingly inadvertant racial slur. This shows a lack of basic research and a prediliction for dictionary vocabulary lessons rather than any true intelligence and thought. Too bad, really. It really was very well-written.
I’m just not huge on lack of forethought and racial slurs. Last I checked, we were internally all pretty much identical in our internal function. The things that separates us from the lemur he aspires to be are our capacity for abstract thought(and therefore language), and opposable thumbs.
He appears to have both, even if he can’t seem to use the full value of the first.
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