Reader Request Week 2017 #4: Haters and How I Deal With Them
Posted on April 12, 2017 Posted by John Scalzi 57 Comments
For this one I received a couple of email requests, and I’m going to conflate them into a paraphrased question which goes like this:
Your site motto is “taunting the tauntable,” so why don’t you go after your haters more?
And I’m all, ooooh, so let’s talk about my haters a bit.
My haters generally break down into three categories:
1. A specific, embarrassingly devoted hater and his few dozen fans/sockpuppets;
2. A wodge of right-wing SF/F writers and their fans who got het up during the “Puppies” nonsense;
3. Various alt-right cranks who try to gang up on me on Twitter.
I’ll note there is some overlap between all three categories.
So, to begin, here are some things I know about haters, and how they relate to me:
First, I acknowledge that people are in fact perfectly free to hate and despise me, for whatever various reasons they choose to do so, and there’s very little I can or want to do about that, particularly when the John Scalzi they have in their head (and then assert to others exists in the world) has very little to do with me. People feel how they feel, and some people just don’t like me, and probably never will. Indeed, I could argue that there is a small contingent of people who at this point feel professionally obliged not to like me. And, well. C’est la vie. There are enough people in the world who do like me that I don’t generally feel a lack of positive attention, either personally or professionally.
Second, I recognize that the haters generally have a pretty low impact on my life, professionally or personally. Despite several years of committed hater action against me, including the active attempt to spread lies about my character and the state of my career, I’m one of the best-selling, best-known authors in my genre (and do pretty well overall as a writer), with lots of friends and colleagues, and some enviable professional opportunities. If my haters have been trying to drag me down (more on that in a second), they are delightfully incompetent at it, and have been for a while. I’ll note that this is a result specific to me; other people with other haters may have other, different and more serious problems with theirs.
Third, my time is limited these days — I have books to write, tours and other professional travel to undertake, other projects to develop, and (somewhere in there) friends and family and pets to cherish and spend time with. How much time should I devote to haters? Site motto notwithstanding, these days, the return on investment for me for engaging with haters in more than cursory, snarky fashion is pretty low. It doesn’t especially benefit my career, and while it used to be kind of diverting to poke at haters, these days it’s a low quality experience overall; it’s not as much fun anymore. Maybe I’ve grown up a bit — not a bad thing for someone who is 47 — or maybe the haters have just gotten more stupidly programmatic. Or both! Either way, meh.
Fourth, I’ve come to realize that some people are using hating me primarily as a transactional enterprise; they see some personal business advantage to holding me up as someone to be hated, and doing so allows them to, say, peddle to the gullible and strident wares that they might not otherwise be able to profitably market. To this respect the hating isn’t actually about me — if I didn’t exist, they’d just pick someone else who suited their needs. That being the case, why get worked up about it? Especially if it’s not having any noticeable effect on my own personal or professional fortunes.
Fifth, I look at who it is that is hating on me in a public fashion. In general they tend to be awful people, or people aspiring to be awful people, or (unfortunately) people who aren’t themselves awful but have managed to get themselves used by awful people and would rather double down on I meant to do that than extricate themselves. I’m okay being hated by them.
Sixth, look: Some people are just fucking unhappy. For all sorts of reasons. And that’s on them, but it’s easier to put it on someone else, and hey, why not me? I’m a pretty convenient target.
(There’s a seventh thing here, too: the possibility that somewhere along the way I’ve done something that genuinely merits someone hating me. Honesty compels me to admit this is a possibility. And to those people: I’m sorry I fucked up somewhere along the way, and that in fucking up, I hurt you. If you ever want to talk to me about it, I’ll listen. With that said, I don’t think most people who are getting off on hating at me publicly are in this category. Most of them, I don’t know or have even met.)
So, what to do with the three general categories of haters? In reverse order:
Alt-right cranks on Twitter: Generally employ the Scamperbeasts rule, and otherwise mostly ignore and mute. Life’s too short. Occasionally I’ll condescend to them before I mute them. The good news is that Twitter’s muting functions have improved recently so muting their nonsense is even easier than it was before.
Right-wing SF/F writers and fans: I mean, at this point I think this has generally fizzled out, no? I was a useful synecdoche for everything they thought was wrong in science fiction and fantasy for a couple of years, but the end result of that was… the world of science fiction and fantasy continuing to go on anyway, because at the end of the day publishing, even in science fiction and fantasy, is about what sells, and what sells is me (and a whole bunch of other people, including some of the right-wing writers who were griping about me). I didn’t go anywhere, they didn’t go anywhere, and ultimately I suspect most of the smarter writers and fans who were amped up about me just let it go. Which is fine with me! I wish the writers all the success they can have, and their fans happiness in reading. I’m perfectly happy to let all that go and move on. With that said I’ll still occasionally see someone in this grouping snarking on me. You do you, dudes.
Specific, embarrassingly devoted hater and his pals: I don’t have much time for this dude anymore, and I suspect it really bothers him. Cultivating the idea of a feud between us is a cornerstone of his publishing strategy, and asserting equivalency in our careers is how he tries to convince others he’s important. And while it’s nice every now and again to raise lots of money for charitable causes off his obsession with me, in a general sense I’ve been kind of busy. I pretty much don’t think of him unless he’s jumping up and down to get my attention, or trying to make a buck off my name. It’s a lopsided deal — he needs me, but I don’t need him for anything. My real annoyance at this point is that other folks are unintentionally doing this jerk’s desperately attention-seeking work for him, sending me updates on the latest nonsense he’s saying or doing, involving the version of me he peddles to his pals. If all y’all could resist the temptation, I’d be obliged. I don’t actually care about this dude.
“Don’t actually care” is where I mostly am with my haters these days, in fact, and I acknowledge it’s a nice place to be in. I’m blessed with work I like and people in my life I love, and the time I have now is all the time I’ll ever have. I plan to spend as much of it focusing on the things I like and people I love as I can, and rather little of it on the people who get off on hating me. Go on and hate me, dudes. It’s your karma. I have better things to do with my time.
(There is still time to ask a question for Reader Request Week. Go here for all the details, and to ask your question.)
1. Inasmuch as this post is on haters, I expect it may draw a few of them in. If you see a post one of these dudes might leave, let it be, please. I’ll be about to Mallet it presently.
2. Be assured that my haters will promulgate other reasons for why they hate me than the ones I’ve noted, because of course they would.
3. Me mentioning the “Puppy” event with regard to the Hugos is not a reason to re-litigate that whole damn tiresome affair in this comment thread. Please let it go.
4. I didn’t mention the name of my specific, embarrassingly devoted hater in the piece because it amuses me not to, but I don’t mind if you name him in the comment thread here. With that said, don’t turn your mentions of him into a two-minute hate, please. We all know he’s an awful person. Let’s not reiterate it endlessly.
5. For the sake of completeness I will note it’s possible and indeed even likely that I have haters who are not of the description noted above.
6. As ever, remember to be polite to each other, folks. Thanks.
Update: Oh, and:
7. This post should not suggest that from here on out I will always take a distant, Olympian attitude with hate tossed my way. I’m human, and I am me, and sometimes I’ll want to talk about it, or at least make fun of it, when it’s sent at me. What I am saying is that generally speaking I don’t much let it get to me. Some people are going to be determined to hate me, whether I merit such hate or not. So it goes.
I think the best thing about all this is I had to seriously think about what the hell the name of the Devoted Hater dude was. He’s just not anything anyone should need to care about and it infuriates him and I’m AOK with that.
One of the things I really appreciate about your blog is the transparency regarding your working life and the things that you deal with in it. I have pointed quite a few other writers this way as an example of what a working writer’s life looks like. Posting about the “haters” is useful since having strong, healthy boundaries in social media are critical. I haven’t mastered not ruminating on one-off comments for days, but your assertive approach is useful to those of us with less experience.
The site’s title is the perfect response to these idiots
I’m a relatively new “Scalzi” fan so I have no clue who “devoted hater dude” even is.
And I’m ok with that.
Thank you, JS. Your posts are frequently an island of calm in the sea of froth that is the internet.
Have a lovely week at home, sir. Enjoy the fam and the critters. Speaking of which, congratulations on Athena’s college acceptance! How very cool for everyone involved.
Awesome philosophy! I know the hater of whom you speak, and he is, indeed, obsessed with you. Like Glenn Close obsessed. People are funny, but haters are hilarious…
Thank you for this wonderful analysis. I wish you had a ‘like’ button or some other form of instant appreciation (though I would ‘love’ this response).
Will work well until the hater is AM…
No vegan haters out there still angry about taping a piece of dead animal carcass to a peaceful slave animal?
I have absolutely no idea who Devoted Hater could be (granted I’m pretty new to your work). But whoever it is really needs to get a life
I find it interesting that you have a specific devoted hater – I’ll resist the urge to google about it and instead let him or her continue to languish in obscurity. For the alt-right twitter haters, I find that folks who can’t separate an author from their work curious. My own politics are closer to your own (which is why I follow your blog, in addition to buying your books), but if they weren’t, I would still enjoy the work. I’ve always enjoyed the books of Jerry Pournelle and Orson Scott Card, too, although I certainly don’t agree with their politics. I even like Lovecraft’s writing, and from all accounts he was a racist asshole.
I wonder if it’s easier to separate the novelist’s behavior/beliefs from the novels because, for the most part, an author’s work is necessarily somewhat removed from their personal philosophies (with notable exceptions – Heinlein’s Lazarus Long and Gerrold’s Solomon Short, for example). I’ve found that I’ve soured on Bill Cosby’s comedy bits since the news of his despicable behavior came to light.
There is great wisdom in this post.
Being human, of course, John’s advice isn’t always easy to follow and, as he mentions, the ‘rise above and ignore’ can be hard for folks who actually ARE harmed by haters –
But I have to say – I think that such harm would be much harder for them if fewer folks looked to their own knitting and didn’t take the bait.
Thanks for the post, sir. It was a really refreshing read.
Uggh. More folks – not fewer.
My English bad? That un-possible!
A thoughtful and detailed way of saying, “living well is the best revenge…”
Will the taxonomy of Scalzi lovers be forthcoming? I would like to be included in the pet blogging and common sense ’bout politics branches.
Illegitami non carborundum. (Pardon my poor Latin-spelling skills.) Don’t let the bastards get you down. Happiness is best achieved by removing negativity. Nice post, Mr. Scalzi. Thanks!
@Kilroy: you clearly don’t understand cat-human dynamics. In that relationship, the slave animal was Scalzi.
@Scalzi: Long ago, you posted a demotivational poster lamenting that nothing you ever did would get more fame than taping bacon to a cat. Have you disproven this yet? If not, what will it take? (I know this is off-topic and outside the reader request window, but Kilroy’s comment made me think of it)
I had successfully wiped the Puppies from my mind until now.
Yeah, ignoring the sad obsessed bitter git drives him into paroxysms of rage, which is an awesome result. I’m glad you’re too busy living well to respond to his minor-league trolling anymore. He’ll never make the big league.
In my experience with haters of various flavors (admittedly far more limited than yours), the two responses they find most difficult to deal with are public ridicule and complete invisibility. You do a nice job of balancing between those two, and the lovely thing about it is that it protects your time/sanity for more useful endeavors while annoying the heck out of the haters.
Thinking back to my elementary school days, oh, about a half-century ago at this point, my late mother’s consistent advice for dealing with bullies was to either make fun of them or ignore them. Both options were hard for ten-year-old me to accomplish, but with age and privilege, they do become easier.
Thanks for setting us a good example, sir. And thanks also for your ongoing focus on things that really DO matter, because there are many of us who appreciate that a great deal.
You seem to have arrived at a healthy, admirably copacetic place on this topic.
There are those of us who, though we may live the rosiest of lives, are still compelled to obsess about that one insult made by that one joker.
Have you ever had that tendency? If so, how did you let go of it? Of not, can you point to anything specific that allowed you to avoid it? (Beyond the obvious “living well” strategy.)
I don’t know who the devoted hater is, I guess I’ll have to turn in my doppelganger card ;-)
Can I express my supreme disappointment in the lack of Shake It Off references in this post? I really can’t remember who the hater man is as there a couple pathetic puppies that spring to mind. Definitely a sad existence if your supposed nemesis ignores you completely because you are so boring and irrelevant (but is it sadder than inventing a nemesis remains an open question).
I vaguely remember who the fanatical Scalzi hater is. But you know what? Your Scamperbeasts Rule made me laugh and not care about making any further effort. Whatever readers should make better use of their time checking out the hit Turkish street cat documentary “Kedi.” It’s about Istanbul’s street cats, of course, but it’s also about the humans who relate to those cats in various ways…which sounds a bit like a Scalzi post about Zeus or the other Scalzi cats.
Having just visited The Hater’s website … wow. If I had a hernia that chafed half as his obvious self-inflicted wounds over your success must, I’d see a doctor.
“Synecdoche”; another word I had no idea existed! Thanks for continually broadening my vocabulary!
Been around long enough to remember the Puppies thing, but have also forgotten hater’s name and have no desire to find out. Living life well is the best way to move forward, because, of course, your life is yours and the hater’s life is his and life is what you make it, insert other platitudes here. I’ve seen in your posts through the years that you are truly grateful for what is good in this life and that is probably what keeps bringing good your way. Plus the cats. They are helping you attain good karma by keeping you humble, right? Enjoy your week off.
Haters are funny folks, and keep us entertained!
I will say, however, when I’m famous enough to have a blog, I’m gonna have a page called “I love Scalzi, but he is Occasionally Wrong on Some Things.” I will expound in great detail on that topic.
At least he hasn’t challenged you to a duel. But if he ever does, just ask yourself this: What would Armand d’Hubert do?
Right, we all need less hate and animosity these days. (It seems like it just keeps getting worse.) I was taught that if you can’t say something nice, it’s often better to say nothing at all. I guess I’m thinking back to your “Nine thousand (bad) names to call Ted Cruz” post. Which I still find disappointing. (Not in keeping with your general high moral tone.)
Thank you for your insightful thoughts regarding hate. After reading this post a day late, I went over to today’s post on Brain Picking web site, http://www.brainpickings.org/2017/04/12/paul-gauguin-letter-emile-bernard/ , and was treated to Paul Gaugain’s very similar belief to not be defined by those that hate you or your work.
Like several others who have commented, I’m a new fan, so I wasn’t familiar with your haters. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my life, it’s that it is wise to check out what the other side says, so I googled a little and visited a page or two. Conclusion? I started following you AND your cats on Twitter, and will henceforth ignore the twits (aka haters).
Good attitude, JS! Let them steam in their own soup without stirring it.
I like this quote by Henry James which seems appropriate for the topic:
“I don’t want everyone to like me; I should think less of myself if some people did.”
(Too bad the current Administration doesn’t take this into considerations when looking at who supports them.)
Jesus said “Love thy enemies”. Mind you, they didn’t have the internet in his day.
The last time I had occasion to think upon “that guy” was in the comments on a very different blog where one of the commentors got “that guy” confused with Neal Stephenson. It was a real record-scratch moment until the confusion was cleared up. I mean, Neal can be a bit much, but he’s not “that guy”.
Mocking haters (who aren’t in a position to actually hurt you) is kind of like a game with no re-play-ability. It’s fun the first time, but halfway through the second round you realize that it’s exactly the same and not going to change.
As a not-new fan, I remember back to the days of the Confederate- and childfree-haters. (I also remember the ‘Scooby Doo was a cult’ post quite fondly)
Is it ok to punch a nazi hater?
Trick question… if you even consider the question you are not even realizing that you are promoting hate, and you are not different from the nazi you think is ok to punch.
We all hate somebody, for different reasons, it is because we are not perfect, and they may not be either. You can hate people as long as you like, it is called freedom of thought, as long as you keep it to yourself and do not promote to punch them. It is ok to hate Enzo Cugino too, if you do not like the way he looks at Zoe. Killing him in The Last Colony was wrong though. Enzo Cugino did not deserve to die. We the Cuginos from planet Umbria do not promote hate against John Scalzi. We simply Want an acknowledgment that Enzo should not have died just because he looked at Zoe. Remember Enzo. We shall always remember him, we did not like him either, but he did not deserved to be crushed like a tod on the road, just because he stared at Zoe. Enzo Cugino will live forever in our memories. We will not stare at Zoe for that is not our interest. We shall not read any more of Scalzi’s book ever. The Cuginos from Umbria have spoken.
Is he talking about Venereal Disease?
….Jeez, does he still exist?
The guy above me is either off his meds, or doing a thing I don’t understand. :/
The Cugino’s council of planet Umbria would like to apologise for the tense error we made before mistyping the toad on the road. Our scalzian linguistic knowledge is limited.
It is not ok to crush a toad, not even on the road. It may make your tyres slippery too.
Long live Enzo Cugino.
The council has spoke.
Arvezz’e ( Which means: Thank you for the time you spent in listening to our tedious prose, may you have the best luck in the universe, and do not forget that crushed toads are slippery. )
[Deleted for boring me with pseudo-sealioning. In other news, it appears someone’s fans have caught wind of this post — JS]
I’ve run into news of Group #1 elsewhere more than I would like recently, but then some of it was because of Chuck Tingle and we’ve got to fully appreciate Chuck Tingle, I feel.
This comment thread will definitely sprout trolls (it already has), so comments off for the evening. Back on tomorrow morning.
Update: Comments back on!
I’m amused by how many people don’t know who the specific hater is, because being “That Guy That Hates Scalzi” is pretty much his entire identity any more and there are Scalzi fans who don’t even know who he is. Talk about failure. I’m kind of shocked he actually has fans left, I thought he mostly sat around talking to his sock puppets.
If you don’t read that guy’s stuff and don’t exist in his fangroup, you wouldn’t know. I didn’t know who the hell it was for a long time myself. Until the whole Rabid Puppies/Hugo thing, I don’t know how well he was known (if at all) before that. Though the April Fool this year…
I’m glad that haters don’t really affect Scalzi, but if he was a woman…well, we all know what kind of different experience he might be having. I seriously wonder if it is worth it to try to be a known female artist in this day and age and if it’s worth the amount of possible stalking/violence stuff I’d inevitably become a magnet for. I tried asking another female author one time if if was worth it and…well, she mostly mentioned the list of horrible crap she gets and I don’t think she actually answered if it was or not.
I’m well aware that my experience is mediated by the fact I’m a well-off straight white dude. It’s different for others, and not in a good way.
Jennifer, one of the very useful things about him making That Guy Who Hates Scalzi into his marketing schtick is that before that he was also That Guy Who Hates N.K. Jemisin. While the things he’s said about Scalzi aren’t exactly pleasant, they’re at least fairly specific to the Scalzi in his head, rather than being aimed at all the women of colour in his head as the Jemisin-hate was…
And of course, now he’s saying on his site “See, you’re writing about me again. Proves that you care about me. But I don’t care about you. No puppet!”
Personally, I think the nitwit who defines his entire existence by how much he hates scalzi deserves a medal. Like lamest supervillian ever.
The weird George Clooney movie “Hail Caesar!” has as the “villian” a bunch of 1950’s american screenwriters who are also secretly communist and basically dont do shit about it while telling themselves how they are just about to bring capitalist america to its knees. Their “great victory” was sneaking some secret communist ideology into a musical.
The screenwriters kidnap clooney, get 100k in ransom to put towards their communist dreams, but then the money is lost in the ocean.
Nitwit managed to kidnap the hugos and wipe out a couple categories for two years, but with the rule change, the long term effect is zip, nada, zilch.
This guy wouldnt make it through Mystery Men auditions and would mostly show up for the beer and pool.
Having dealt with a few unpleasant people in real life who develop a grudge & then can’t let it go, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have a high profile on the internet & attract a gaggle of them. That fear has also kept me from even joining up on Tweeter or MyFace, or whatever they are. As always, you are a beacon of sanity in the blooming, buzzing confusion. Thanks.
What did Oscar Wilde say? The best revenge is a good life. Right now Champagne glasses are clinking at TOR books due to the wild success of The Collapsing Empire. Who cares what losers think.
“Ok, DUDE you’re NOT my nemesis. My nemesis is Captain Hammer. Captain Hammer, Corporate TOOL. He dislocated my shoulder… Again… last week.
“LOOK! I’m just trying to change the world, OK? I don’t have time for a grudge match with every poser in a parka. Besides, there’s kids in that park, so….”
Get a copy of the latest New Yorker — there’s an excellent profile of Margaret Atwood, a woman whose work was a magnet for “haters” long before the internet and The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m sure she’d say it is very much worth being a woman artist but it’s never been easy, and sadly never will.
To paraphrase our host, being a college-educated white Canadian woman with a very well-established career isn’t exactly the highest difficulty setting in the writing game. But another thing that comes through in the profile is that Atwood has put a lot of effort into establishing — and maintaining — strong personal and professional networks, keeping clear boundaries between her public and private lives (which can be a lot harder than it sounds), and generally not giving a fuck for anyone else’s nonsense. You’re not born with that; you have to learn it. And it takes a LOT of practice, unfortunately.
Pedro : At least he hasn’t challenged you to a duel. But if he ever does, just ask yourself this: What would Armand d’Hubert do?
“Fine – we’ll throw boxes of the published print copies of our books at each other until one of us is crushed…”
One day some years ago, John posted an amusing MEME on this blog about so-called alpha males. I dashed off a quick comment here, saying that if I ever actually had to put up with an alpha male in my home, I’d probably kill him, which seemed like a good reason to avoid alpha males. Something like that, anyhow. Then I logged off and didn’t think about it again.
Until I was sitting next to John at a dinner a month later, and he asked if I had seen the hundreds of enraged messages in response to my comment. I had not—and I was surprised to learn that my comment had inspired a very specific group of insecure guys with way too much time on their hands to flock to John’s blog and piddle all over in their hysteria about what I’d posted.
I thought, wow, that’s pathetic. And I didn’t think about it again.
Until early 2013, when a long-winded jerk who seemed genuinely deranged was running for SFWA president. I’d never heard of him, but he claimed we’d had online contact before. So I poked around online a little… and discovered, oh, he was the pajama person who launched that days-long thread of hysteria on John’s blog in response to my comment the previous summer. It turned out he’s also had hysterics about it on his own blog, where he claimed (and it would not be the last time he claimed it) that in making that comment, I had been threatening him personally!
Gosh, who knew I could be so menacing that a self-proclaimed alpha-male I didn’t even know existed was scared of me?
To me, that experience sums up the entire relevance of that particular hater (as well as his sock puppets and his ardent minions). If he weren’t so vicious and repugnant, he’d be pitiable.
I must confess, I occasionally find your hater (whom it amuses me to refer to as Tedious Bore) entertaining, in a pointing-and-laughing kind of way. Not particularly Buddhist of me, but nobody’s perfect.