Rocket Stack Rank Issues Apology, Hullender Off Locus Panel

Rocket Stack Rank has answered “An Open Letter With Respect to Reviews Published on Rocket Stack Rank” with an apology and commentary. The open letter was coauthored by Brooke Bolander, Indrapramit Das, Ada Hoffmann, Keffy R.M. Kehrli, Rose Lemberg, Sunny Moraine, Suzanne Palmer, Charles Payseur, A. Merc Rustad, K.M. Szpara, Bogi Takács, and JY Yang, and has been cosigned by well over 100 others since it was posted yesterday.

Rocket Stack Rank’s “Apology & Open Letter Responses” begins:

We apologize to all readers and authors we’ve harmed and offended. Greg [Hullender] has withdrawn from the Locus Recommended Reading List panel.

We apologize for offending non-binary and trans people who use “they” as their pronoun. Our criticism of fictional non-binary characters in stories hurt real people who read and identify with those characters. What we’d previously dismissed as differences of personal preference or as “neutral” linguistic arguments, actually exposed a major blind spot.

We also apologize for trying to “explain” trans people to a cis audience in two reviews (The Black Tides of Heaven & The Red Threads of Fortune). It is not our place to do that no matter how much history Greg had in the LGBT movement, and we should have known that.

Moving forward, we will no longer single out the use of “they” as pronouns for non-binary characters as a Pro or Con of a story. We will treat non-binary characters the same way we treat gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans characters. For existing reviews, we will update each with a correction and comment that links to this post. In general, if people tell us about errors in pronouns or gendering, we’ll thank them for their feedback and correct the errors.

We continue to listen and to learn, and we will do better.

The apology is followed by a paragraph-by-paragraph response to the Open Letter, accepting some of the criticisms, disagreeing with others, for example —

We do not promote ourselves as the one-and-only authority on short fiction, as evidenced by the search link we provide with every story that lets readers find reviews written by people with very different tastes from RSR, as well as direct links to recommendations from prolific reviewers where available.

Other parts of the response vary between accepting the criticisms and making further apology, explaining measures being taken to avoid similar problems in the future, and trying to document the inaccuracy of a few specific criticisms.

Meanwhile, Locus, which has been under pressure to drop Hullender from the Recommended Reading List panel, has issued this statement:

[Editor’s note: I have been covering this story in the Scroll, however, I did not want to delay reporting these developments for eight or ten hours til the Scroll is ready to post.]

76 thoughts on “Rocket Stack Rank Issues Apology, Hullender Off Locus Panel

  1. @JJ: I don’t appreciate being diagnosed and you shouldn’t do it to people so casually. Because I am curious, I did look up a few articles on passive-aggression, and I do have a couple of the traits. Since I’m not in a deep depression, I recognize them as aspects of depression. If you’d caught me at a bad time, though, you might have convinced me.

    Just above, you compare someone to a small child. Earlier, you said I seek attention.

    What’s wrong with what someone says is worth talking about. When you decide instead to talk about what’s wrong with someone, period, well, diagnosis is not discussion.

  2. @microtherion: (3) I fail to see the objective of the original discussion. Was it to be a sequence of people declaring themselves dissatisfied with the apology? A call to action? If so, what kind of action?

    The objective is virtue signaling. You’re trying to turn the discussion into some kind of philosophical debate about apologies.

  3. Why do you believe that to be the case, Lela? Your argument seems to require mind reading on your part.

  4. John A Arkansawyer: I don’t appreciate being diagnosed and you shouldn’t do it to people so casually.

    Passive-aggressive isn’t a diagnosis, it’s a behavior. Yes, it is linked to a number of different conditions (including just being an [redacted by blog owner]), but it is not a condition.

    It’s a behavior. A poor behavior. One you engage in quite frequently here on File 770, and I’m not the only one who has called you out on it at various points.

    I don’t care why you do it. I care that you frequently do it to me. It’s a petty and childish and offensive behavior, and it’s unnecessary. I’m sure that you perceive yourself to be a compassionate and loving person, but from my point-of-view, you’re a hypocritical and petty person. People who genuinely “love everyone”, as you claim to do, do not constantly engage in passive-aggressive behavior toward others, as you do.

  5. An incomplete list of why someone might engage in passive-aggressive behavior:

    • raised around one or more people who frequently engaged in passive-aggressive behavior, and have imprinted on it as being a normal and acceptable form of communication (it’s not);
    • raised by someone who taught them that “hinting” and “beating around the bush” are polite, and saying what you actually mean is rude;
    • fear that saying what one really means will result in loss of esteem or friendship from the other person, or from onlookers;
    • fear that saying what one really means will result in screaming, verbal abuse, or physical abuse, based on past experience with, or observation of, this or another person;
    • inability or unwillingness to deal with anything that might be uncomfortable or unpleasant;
    • lack of communication skills to express oneself effectively and maturely;
    • having the mistaken belief that burying the intended message in a joke, poem, or hyperlinked item is clever or obvious;
    • using it, consciously or unconsciously, as a way to manipulate people into providing a desired action or response;
    • using it as a way to “put one over” on the recipient, by delivering a message in a way that the recipient will not recognize as being hurtful or hostile, thus “getting the jab in” while escaping any consequences for that hurtfulness or hostility;
    • using it as a way of expressing hostility toward someone while maintaining plausible deniability (gaslighting): “I didn’t call you an idiot!” (I just strongly implied that you are one), “I’m just trying to help”, “I just want what’s best for you”.

  6. “Put one over” is a term that comes to mind when I see “a$$hole” in place of the word I am filtering for. (Not banned, but to monitor the level of toxicity between commenters.)

    I also don’t privilige active expressions of hostility over other kinds.

  7. Mike Glyer: “Put one over” is a term that comes to mind when I see “a$$hole” in place of the word I am filtering for. (Not banned, but to monitor the level of toxicity between commenters.)

    I had thought it was because of the issues between Scalzi and his stalker. I appreciate the correction, and will not use it going forward.

  8. “…raised by someone who taught them that “hinting” and “beating around the bush” are polite, and saying what you actually mean is rude;”

    This does not have to be a someone. It can be a whole country. This how it is often done in Sweden. You start with hints. You try to avoid confrontation by signaling disagreement, but in a way that does not have to be a start of a new argument.

    Most of your conversation in this thread is extremely rude by Swedish standards. But Johns statements are kind of ordinary (even if sometimes a bit irritating).

    Now, Sweden and US are on the total opposites regarding confrontational speech, so this is not strange. But is US so monolithic that there are no difference on what is seen as rude/passive-aggressive depending on where you are from?

  9. Hampus Eckerman: is US so monolithic that there are no difference on what is seen as rude/passive-aggressive depending on where you are from?

    Of course not. Differences may not necessarily be geographical, either, they may be due to differences in how people who live across the street from each other are raised. Passive-aggressive behavior is often something picked up from family members in an environment where it is considered normal.

    What I find amazing, however, is that all this time —
    and there must be at least a couple dozen occasions now, when I and other people have pointed out that John was engaging in passive-aggressive behavior —
    all this time:

    1) John has had no idea what that means;
    2) he has never bothered to find out what it meant, nor has he ever bothered to ask;
    3) when he finally did make an effort to find out, he apparently didn’t even take the few minutes it would have required to get a basic understanding;
    4) he has indicated that he has no interest in engaging in any self-scrutiny about why he does it, or how it affects the people he does it to.

    The problem with “hinting” and “beating around the bush” is that they put an emotional burden on the recipient: that person has to try to figure out whether the person delivering a message is serious, joking, or trying to communicate something other than what they are actually saying. The burden is on the recipient to try to “read between the lines” and figure out what the real intended meaning is.

    This is part of the reason it is a technique often used by highly-manipulative people; it keeps the recipient off-balance, it forces them to be constantly examining every word, every tone, every gesture, and continually questioning whether the interpretation they are coming up with is the right one. It is emotionally exhausting and causes self-doubt, and emotionally exhausted, self-doubting people are easier to influence and manipulate.

    Now if the person delivering the “hint” or “veiled message” and the recipient have known each other a long time, the recipient may have a history full of context which helps them to decipher the message correctly. They may even be comfortable communicating in that manner, such that it is not a stressful or unenjoyable experience for either of them.

    But I don’t know John, he doesn’t know me, and I resent like hell his presumption that it’s okay for him to dump on me the emotional burden of trying to figure out what he actually means, with his oblique quotes and poems that he apparently believes are so clever, and hyperlinks with no explanation to music videos where I’m supposed to listen to the words and figure out what he’s trying to say. It’s childish, and manipulative, and unnecessary. And my impression is that he “gets off” on screwing with peoples’ heads in that sadistic way.

    Fuck that bullshit.

    He is clearly intelligent enough and articulate enough to say what he actually means, like a mature adult. And if what I’m describing about his behavior isn’t what he intends, and if he doesn’t like the sort of person it is making him appear to be, then perhaps he should consider whether his chosen method of communication is really what he wants it to be.

    I know that you think that I am often blunt and even rude, Hampus. But you never have to waste emotional energy trying to figure out what I mean, because I’ve communicated it clearly to you. And if you have a problem with what I say, then hopefully you’re in a position to discuss that with me honestly with my words as a starting point, rather than having to worry that you’ve somehow completely misunderstood and having to ask a bunch of questions just to figure it out.

  10. JJ: “I gave you the benefit of the doubt in my first reply to you. I figured that you weren’t aware of Andrew Porter’s posting history here, and didn’t understand what he was saying.”

    I know Andrew. Like all of us, he has both noble and ugly characteristics. My approach in dealing with him is to look at the behavior. If it is noble, I can accept it. If it is ugly, I don’t accept it.

    In this case, I happened to be very familiar with the line that Andrew quoted, and with the context. My dad’s a fan of Pogo. I’ve read them all. Also, Pogo is cherished by old lefties and old fans who were growing up in the ’50s. That’s before my time but I know a lot of them.

    If you were to seriously give me the benefit of the doubt, it would be to entertain the idea that maybe I’m not wrong, and instead of jumping on me, we could have a conversation. Maybe you could learn something.

    “But then you persisted in — and are still persisting in — attempting to “explain” something to me where my original interpretation is correct.”

    Sorry, but your original interpretation was wrong. We’re gone over it. You didn’t know what Andrew was talking about. You guessed and got it wrong. The citations you cut and pasted at me only proved it.

    I’m not going to respond point by point to your other comments. What you said is deeply wrong, but it’s also ugly, We don’t need more ugly in this thread. Please think about what the hell you are doing. And please stop attacking me. You yourself said “There aren’t any enemies here”.

  11. Tom, you have not provided any evidence that my interpretation of Andrew’s comment is incorrect. My interpretation is utterly consistent with numerous comments he’s made here on File 770 over the last couple of years — some of which were so awful that Mike removed them.

    Andrew is perfectly capable of showing up and explaining, if he actually meant something different. (And again, this is the problem with “hinting”, when the only thing people have to interpret meaning is their prior experience with the person doing the hinting.)

    You might want to consider how the tenor of your posts to me changed after you found out that I was not male. I find it revealing.

    I have used up all of my emotional resources at this point dealing with John’s behavior toward me, which has been going on for months now, and I am not willing to spend any more of them on you tonight. Or possibly ever.

  12. “I know that you think that I am often blunt and even rude, Hampus. But you never have to waste emotional energy trying to figure out what I mean, because I’ve communicated it clearly to you.”

    Yes, and no. Blunt speech wastes emotional energy for totally different reasons. But I do not have problems with how you communicate to me, because we have adjusted to each other.

  13. I find it interesting that microtherion and I asked exceedingly similar questions of whst might be seen as opposing sides of this.

    I fail to see the objective of the original discussion. Was it to be a sequence of people declaring themselves dissatisfied with the apology? A call to action? If so, what kind of action?

    I asked similar of John and Andrew and Tom about their dancing around, and got half a straight reply from one of them.

    My answer to the original discussion was to note the specific and actual failures of this apology, to a) explain why it was not being accepted by many individuals, b) in hopes Greg may learn a little more and do better, c) in hopes other readers may see and learn from the mistakes made here when it comes their time in a position to apologize, and d) in hopes others will see and recognize and avoid doing similar harm to the trans and NB community in future. Some individual responders may not care one whit for doing b, but I think everyone wants a and d in particular.

    On the other side we seem to have people who want the apology accepted and the community to magically be unhurt by his bejaviour, not because it’s improved or he’s learned, but solely because Greg is a good guy. Or because he is not the enemy. But I’m not completely sure because people keep not wanting to say what they want (other than for JJ to be less confrontational which… JJ has answered well.)

  14. JJ: Tom, you have not provided any evidence that my interpretation of Andrew’s comment is incorrect.

    I absolutely have. You are suffering from a major case of confirmation bias. You are obviously a smart person, but you are using your intelligence to rationalize your behavior. You have not been thinking about what I’ve been saying, only about how you can fight me and win the argument.

    My interpretation is utterly consistent with numerous comments he’s made here on File 770 over the last couple of years — some of which were so awful that Mike removed them.

    That clearly establishes that you were responding to what Andrew posted before, not to his Pogo quote. Your argument isn’t really with me. It is with the shadow of Andrew’s posts from the past. And the shadow of Greg.

    Andrew is perfectly capable of showing up and explaining, if he actually meant something different.

    I don’t need to ask Andrew what it means. It’s a famous quote, and as I’ve explained, I grew up reading Pogo and know it well.

    (And again, this is the problem with “hinting”, when the only thing people have to interpret meaning is their prior experience with the person doing the hinting.)

    Texts have meaning. They are not a complete blank slate upon which you can impose whatever meaning you feel like. It is possible to discuss the meaning of texts. In the case of this Pogo quote, which is thoughtful, ironic, and kind, the discussion can be very interesting and useful.

    You might want to consider how the tenor of your posts to me changed after you found out that I was not male. I find it revealing.

    I didn’t find out you were not male. (Except now you just told me.) I was simply avoiding making any assumptions about your gender. Because that is the polite thing to do.

    I have used up all of my emotional resources at this point dealing with John’s behavior toward me, which has been going on for months now, and I am not willing to spend any more of them on you tonight. Or possibly ever.

    I don’t know who John is but if you’ve been getting in running arguments with more people than just me, think about it. You have been incredibly rude and abusive towards me, not because of anything I said or did, but because you cannot back down, even on a side topic that has nothing to do with Greg’s pronoun recognition disorder. Go ahead and flounce if you want, if it makes you feel better. You’re welcome to come back and converse with me, but please try for a civil and friendly conversation next time.

  15. Leonora: I asked similar of John and Andrew and Tom about their dancing around, and got half a straight reply from one of them.

    Was that me or some other Tom?

    I think RSR and Locus did the right thing in dropping Greg. Their apologies were grudging. Not as good as they could have been. Maybe they felt like their arms were twisted. But they took concrete action, which means a lot. They could have issued really nice apologies and done nothing.

    Completely agree that Greg needs to learn and do better. I hope that happens.

  16. @Tom Becker, most of us like to think we’re the good guys and if something is going sideways, the problem is elsewhere. I’m not sure if that’s true for you, but…you are not coming off as the good guy in this thread.

    Andrew Porter (distinct from Andrew, who is a very different person) posted a quote from Pogo that, because it would be consistent with every other piece of social criticism (that’s my polite way of describing what he actually does, because Mike puts the word I’d otherwise use into moderation) from him, I interpreted as “the world of SJWs is the problem.” I doubt Walt Kelly, who was notable for the kindness he mixed into his trenchant social commentary would have approved. I still don’t know what you actually think that quote means, because you haven’t been clear.

    @John A Arkansawyer, a data point for you. I rarely respond to you, even when you address me directly. Occasionally I do and say that I don’t understand what you’re saying. That’s because I’m lazy and can’t be bothered to unwind indirect speech. It’s not a diagnosis of your personality or anything else to say that your conversational style strikes me as being passive aggressive, which means it’s too much work for me. It sounds like I’d be giving most of Sweden a pass, so you’re in good company.

    @Lenora Rose, I’m one of those not very interested in b), mostly because I’ve not seen much deviation from his pattern of ‘say something horrible, double and triple down, disappear, return and act as if nothing happened.’ This time he offered an apology, but it was a poor one that demonstrated no real understanding of the harm he’d done, so I’m not sure it was much of a watershed moment.

    I think we all carry the possibility of change within us, but mostly we’re too comfortable being who we are to want to change.

  17. I can say with utter certainty that “We have seen the enemy and he is us” does NOT mean “There are no enemies.”

    Beyond that it could mean a host of things in this discussion.

  18. I’m mostly interested in b) and d). Those are the only ones that affect the future. Apologies can be good or bad, but they are useless if they lead to no change.

  19. Tom, you are fixated on what you believe the purpose of Pogo the cartoon strip to be, and ignoring that my point is that Andrew used the quote in a different manner.

    And that is all the emotional resources I have to allot to you today.

  20. @Hampus

    In regard to b), I have seen that Greg has gone through quite a few reviews, made edits, and left a comment about it being edited.

  21. Pingback: Loose-leaf Links #52 | Earl Grey Editing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *