John Ringo’s Selection as ConCarolinas Guest Sparks Controversy

ConCarolinas, happening in Charlotte, NC from June 1-3, has become another battleground in sff’s culture wars since announcing John Ringo as an Author Special Guest on April 9. Ringo is well-known for sharing his social and political views in a frank and provocative way. His selection as a special guest has caused other writers in ConCarolina’s orbit to rethink their participation, whether by actually dropping out, or publicly explaining their reasons for remaining on the program.

John Ringo

John Ringo defined the controversy from his viewpoint in a response on Facebook on April 12.

ConCarolinas:

An ‘issue’ has been raised at ConCarolinas, not by members of the con but by some of the other invited guests and attendees. It is the usual SJW sort of thing. I am a bad person with bad opinions and I need to shunned from society.

(Though they appear to have missed various of the usual ad hominems. They hit the regular ‘racist’, ‘misogynist’, ‘homophobic’ etc but seemed to have overlooked ‘xenophobic’, ‘transphobic’ and ‘Islamophobic.’ Just an oversight I’m sure they will correct.)

I am discussing this with the ConCommittee. However. It is currently between myself and the concom and I would prefer to keep it there for the time being. While I appreciate shows of support, try not to respond to this in kind. Just let me work the issue.

Were ConCarolinas the usual and standard ‘SJWCon’ I would not have accepted their invitation. But they’ve never had to deal with something like this so it’s a learning curve. Let them find their path, please.

Afrofuturist author Gerald L. Coleman provided the most thorough explanation for opposing Ringo’s appearance in an April 12 Facebook post:

Gerald L. Coleman

Seeing as people are beginning to draw lines and to share what they think is an appropriate response to the current situation at ConCarolinas, I think it would be illuminating, especially to the demographic of people who are not the target of the Special Guest in question, to understand why a person who would be a target (and often is) would decide not to go in response. I had not planned on sharing this but I think it’s important. Here is my letter withdrawing from ConCarolinas:

[Redacted],

I heard a lot of good things about ConCarolinas from the same people, but the decision to have someone like Ringo as a Special Guest has forced me to reconsider that assessment. ([Redacted] was in one of the fraught discussions online where she was attacked by people trying to defend both Ringo and the invitation. I’m not sure [redacted] will be attending either). Here’s a link to one of his vile diatribes, which includes this passage:

“The first point that has to be recognized as historically valid: White males have dominated the planet’s art, music, culture, politics and wars for centuries and often deliberately at the expense of non-European, non-white, etcetera. This is historically unquestionable and unassailable.”

http://crimeandtheforcesofevil.com/…/oh-puppies-when-will-…/

Now, is what follows a right and just evisceration of that behavior? No. He’s defending the agenda of the Sad Puppies and their toxic ilk. And using the pejorative term “SJW” or Social Justice Warrior as a derogatory insult as he attempts to attack the efforts to diversify publishing and fandom and make them more inclusive.

This is the guy you, and by you I mean the Con, have invited to be a Special Guest.

People of color in general and black folks in particular, who are members of the geek/nerd fandom community, including authors, often have difficulty finding conventions that are safe places for us to revel in our shared love of all things geek. Often we are given the impression, sometimes unconsciously, many times consciously, that we are not welcome – that it is not our space, and we don’t belong. So, it becomes vitally important for our sanity, our safety, and our well-being to be very selective in choosing which Cons we will attend.

To spend time, energy, and a not insignificant amount of money to attend a Con that doesn’t take our sanity, safety, and well-being seriously, by inviting a toxic voice who rails against our inclusion – and who is defended by members of the Con, it’s guests, and perspective attendees, is not only a bad investment but a bad idea in general.

I have been to Cons (Boskone, recently) where I was welcomed warmly and felt accepted and included. I’ve also been to Cons where a fellow Panelist told me discrimination against black authors was a figment of my imagination. I’ll be returning to one and not the other.

Who we give a platform to is incredibly important. Given the times we live in, the current state of our political affairs, and the general climate for people of color in general and black folks in particular, it says a lot that ConCarolinas is giving a platform to someone like Ringo. I can’t support that and am unwilling to subject myself to him or his fans who are in agreement with his toxic beliefs.

When I was a kid I knew how unwelcoming the world in general was going to be to me. But I always thought that fellow geeks/nerds who loved the same things I did like Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, comic books, and science fiction and fantasy would be different. That because they consumed content that talked about justice, equality, exploration, tolerance, acceptance, being kind and never cowardly, that I wouldn’t have to face that same toxicity in the ranks of the fandom. Sadly, that wasn’t and isn’t true. The same prejudices, biases, and toxicity exists in fandom and I have to navigate it.

I was excited to be accepted as a Guest for ConCarolinas. Imagine my disappointment when Ringo was invited as a special guest.

I won’t be attending. Please remove me as a Guest for the Con.

Coleman later posted a screencap of the ConCarolinas committee answer —

— which he described in these terms:

Here is ConCarolinas response to legitimate criticism and concern from black folks and women over their invitation to a “Special Guest” author whom we find deeply problematic (he’d start by calling me an “SJW” and go on to rant about the supremacy of white men in all things: see comments for attribution) and whom women in particular see as deeply misogynist (just Google John Ringo misogyny). Somehow they’ve managed to confuse resisting bias and toxicity with hatred. Several of us guests have withdrawn from our invitation over it. ConCarolinas? They apparently think we are engaging in hatred and they have no obligation to curate their guest list. So anyone can be a Guest? Anyone? And if “their passion for Science Fiction and Fantasy” happens to mean that people of color and women aren’t welcome? What then? The mind boggles …

It’s no longer possible to trace the full extent of the protests, as ConCarolinas has deleted some entries from their Facebook page which contained relevant comments, and at least one fan has restricted her FB remarks after being attacked by trolls.

Stephy Hamrick’s Facebook post from April 10 is perhaps the earliest example still accessible:

Just letting y’all know that I don’t feel safe attending with you bringing John Ringo there. He and his fans have such a long history of open misogyny that I can’t trust that I and other women will be safe with them there.

The next day, Stuart Jaffe wrote on FB:

I will not be at ConCarolinas this year. Y’all probably know why. If you don’t, I’m not getting into it on FB. That kind of conversation only goes in one direction on FB.

By April 12, the discussion had gone viral.

Jason Graves of Prospective Press wrote:

Choosing division over community isn’t a choice I expected from ConCarolinas. Prospective Press supports and welcomes diverse voices—voices of color, voices of gender, voices of inclusion, and voices of identity—and always has. When people CHOOSE to be hateful, they are no longer welcome at our table—inclusivity is based on mutual respect.

Madison Metricula Roberts said she was pulling out of the con:

I regret that I am no longer attending or performing at ConCarolinas. I wish the event, guests, attendees, and volunteers well!

While I have confidence in ConCarolina’s commitment to safety at the event, I still have concerns about comfort, safety, and response of the con in light of recent events.

And in a further comment on the same post Roberts said:

I want to be clear that I understand CC is in a difficult position, and it’s run by people I like. That said, I feel like they were unprepared for the backlash in booking a controversial guest who is known for cultivating or emboldening a subset of fandom that is not just politically conservative (that’s not the issue) but anti-inclusion. I am confident in CC’s harassment policy and security, but my gamergate-style anxiety is through the roof in spite of my rational assessment of the thing.

Other authors have felt pressured to drop out, or justify why they are not.

David B. Coe is still going:

Why I will be attending ConCarolinas:

  1. I made a commitment to the convention. Indeed, I signed an agreement saying I would attend. That agreement gives me no veto power over the people they may or may not invite. In short, I feel that I have a professional obligation to go. Others feel differently, and that is their right. But I have to do what feels right to me.
  2. I don’t believe in ceding ground to racism, misogyny, or bullying in any form. I don’t live in the Carolinas, but I have considered ConCarolinas my “home” con for years now. It is just about my favorite con to attend. Many of my closest friends in the business are usually there. I love it. And I will be damned if I will allow that convention and that community to be ruined for me by the presence of one guest.
  3. I believe (ME — this does not mean that I condemn any of my colleagues for thinking differently) that we on the Left have a responsibility to be tolerant, and I believe tolerance cuts many ways. If I saw that a con had invited a progressive author to attend, and that in response to this the attending conservative writers withdrew from the con, I would be appalled by their actions. I cannot in good conscience do what I would fault others for doing.
  4. I believe that for every voice at a convention that is inclined to attack those who would advocate for social justice and for the most vulnerable in our society and in fandom, there should be ten voices present who will defend those people and those principles. I wish to be one of that latter group of voices.

I understand that people I consider friends will see my intention to attend the convention as a betrayal. I am deeply, deeply sorry for that. To those who have withdrawn, I respect your decisions. I hope that you can bring yourselves to respect mine.

S.H. Roddy was far more emphatic in “Bad Decisions, Social Justice, and the ConCarolinas Kerfluffle” at Creepy Author Girl, explaining “Why my attendance at ConCarolinas is more important than my absence.”

Yeah, so everyone has heard the nonsense going down over ConCarolinas, right? If not, let me catch you up in three sentences:

  1. The ConComm invited John Ringo to be a special guest and he accepted.
  2. THE WORLD EXPLODED – meaning the mostly-liberal, mostly-welcoming regular ConCarolinas crowd freaked the absolute fuck out over this guy’s historical behavior and some not-so-far-fetched hypotheticals stemming from it.
  3. Some people got pissed and others withdrew from the con.

…Keeping this in mind, I’ll be going into ConCarolinas weekend wary, but professional. This is my career, damn it, and I refuse to give anyone enough power over me to make me walk away from a chance to further myself professionally and spend time with my friends. Neither this man nor his followers have any sort of pull or control over me. So what if there’s a chance there could be an altercation? I’m willing to take that chance, because to me, my presence and my ability to stand up for myself and the people I care about will be more effective than walking away. Why? Because I don’t have the same social pull as the man the con world is currently rallying against. Because my actual VOICE and my ACTIONS will speak louder than my absence.

Which brings me to my next point:

A very dear friend of mine felt so emotionally threatened over this announcement that she has withdrawn her attendance. I completely understand her decision, because this wouldn’t be her first racism rodeo, were it to happen.

Her action was based on previous personal experiences with this person. It’s not arbitrary or unjustified.

I support her decision, because she’s doing what she feels is best for her. I will always be there to support her, no matter what, because I love her. Do I wish the situation were different and she was still going to be there with me? Yes. Absolutely. I would love for any resolution which would guarantee her a seat beside me. But that isn’t the case, and it’s her decision to make.

Which brings me to my third point:

Someone else made the statement yesterday that basically amounted to “you can’t be everybody’s friend and if you’re not resigning in solidarity, then you’re not an ally.”

That pissed me right the hell off.

See, I’m usually pretty quiet on political and social issues. I’m not a political creature. If I were, I’d be in politics. I’m a freaking writer. I use words to entertain people. Well, mostly myself, but anyone else who happens to come along can enjoy them, too. I’m also not the type to use my books as a sociopolitical platform. That isn’t what I do.

Do I have opinions? Oh, yeah. Loads of ‘em. But I choose to conduct myself in a more or less professional manner because my opinions should have absolutely no bearing on my book sales.

So a fellow author piping up and telling me I’m suddenly not good enough because I’m not pissed off enough? Yeah, no. Bullshit.

Gail Z. Martin made a similar statement:

Please do not presume to tell me that I am not an ally or not genuine in support of a cause just because I do not hop-to every time someone gets upset about something.

I will decide which battles I fight and how I fight them. I will not be ally-shamed and manipulated into actions that violate my own judgment. Telling me I dare not make my own decisions or I’m somehow not pure enough by someone else’s arbitrary standards is bullshit.

I have been an ally and fighting some of these battles since before some of you were born, in times and places where there were serious consequences like losing a job, getting expelled or cutting ties with communities and family.

Working within the system for change is just as valid (and usually a whole lot more effective, albeit requiring patience) as just saying ‘f***-it, let’s burn the whole thing down’. You have no idea what conversations happen behind the scenes in private to advance causes, conversations that often yield results because of friendships built between people who don’t always agree on everything or walk in lockstep.

So do what your conscience demands. But don’t you dare attempt to shame others or judge the sincerity of their convictions because they didn’t make the same choice.

This is a manifesto, not a debate. Civil comments are welcome, but I’m in no mood to be f***ed around with, and if you piss me off I’ll block your ass.

Two other writers who posted justifications for why they still are going to ConCarolinas are Michael G. Williams and Faith Hunter:

Michael G. Williams wrote:

ConCarolinas’ choice to invite John Ringo is an affront to many people of color and women who were planning to attend. Ringo writes works containing unabashed aggression towards marginalized populations(1), then says in interviews he largely does not see what his characters do or say as “particularly controversial, crazy, evil, or illogical,”(2) though he does say in that same interview that he excludes “some of the stuff” in his novel “Ghost” from that.

I’ve seen a lot of conflicting opinions between other guests who feel the only right choice for themselves is to withdraw and those who say they want to go as a voice for the opposition rather than cede the platform to Ringo. I sympathize with both sides.

ConCarolinas had to know the situation they would create when they made this choice. No matter how apolitical they may declare an event to be, inviting an overtly political writer whose statements about writing and conventions are overtly political to attend a convention to discuss their writing is to create a political event. Speculative fiction in general is inherently and fundamentally political to begin with. Ringo’s is quite explicitly so.

As people have spoken out, Ringo’s fans have shown up to harass them.(3) The convention has remained silent on this obvious, observable behavior. I am forced to wonder what it will be like to be surrounded by these same fans, people who clearly are willing to go looking for a fight, who clearly are searching (of their own volition or at another’s direction) for any mention of Ringo so they can harass those who object.

All these – the invitation, the trolls, the silence – have made it impossible to feel good about participating, but at the moment I still plan to participate for two reasons:

– If I can use the privilege I enjoy as a white man to attend in greater safety and comfort than others in order to be a voice for a more humane view, to some degree I feel I should try. I’m the smallest of the small-fries. If I withdraw, no one notices. If I go, maybe I get a word in edge-wise.

– There are very few loudly queer guests at ConCarolinas. If there’s no presence by the two or three of us who always lobby for a Queer Fandom panel, who put ourselves out there as queer people who can be approached safely by attendees, and who make sure there is an unmistakeable queer voice in the proceedings, then queer fans may be left out to dry. I feel I have some degree of responsibility to be there for them, with them.

But as I say, this has made it VERY difficult to do so without tremendous reservation and regret. I am ready to walk into a tense situation on behalf of friends who no longer feel welcome. I am ready to be there to make sure my own community’s members do not feel targeted or harassed. But I can’t necessarily recommend anyone else do the same. I think already-marginalized people who are going should do some research into Ringo, observe the behavior of his fans, and carefully consider their choices. A number of guests have withdrawn. More may do so. I share their concerns and objections. We should not all lay down our dignity and our sense of safety because another guest has “Special” in their announcement, and the way the convention treats those who withdraw or feel threatened will certainly be remembered.

References:

(1) https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-revi…/john-ringo/ghost-3/

(2) https://michaelaventrella.com/…/interview-with-new-york-ti…/

(3) See, for instance, Faith Naff’s experience of having to lock a post because trolls showed up within minutes.

Faith Hunter said:

I have spent the last three days in a quandary over the ConCarolinas controversy and how to address it. I am keeping it simple. I have this to say.

ConCarolinas is my local convention.
I’ve attended it for over a decade.
I’ve met many friends and fans through the con.
I’ve signed a contract to attend the convention.
I will honor this commitment.
I will be attending the convention, where I plan to make my voice and views heard on panels. That’s how I’m choosing to deal with this. I understand there are others who feel they cannot attend, and I respect that decision. The convention has an explicit anti-harassment policy which all attendees must adhere to, and while I am there I will do my best to make sure that no one feels insulted, afraid, put down, or abused.
Edited to add — Y’all, I am asking you to please not call names or bring confrontation into the comments. I have been as non confrontational as possible. I’d like you to let it lie.

Seanan McGuire is one of 2018 ConCarolina’s Guests of Honor, therefore one of the faces of this year’s con, more so than any of the special guests. Attempts have been made to embroil her in the controversy, however, she has yet to make any comment.

Then, if you haven’t had enough, Fail. Fandom. Anon. is devoting a thread to arguments about the issue.

But things are by no means one-sided. John Ringo has received hundreds of expressions of support on his posts, and from his friends and colleagues.

One of them, Sarah A. Hoyt, even took the opportunity to relitigate the Sad Puppies controversy:

Sarah A. Hoyt You know, John Ringo is being stigmatized for a very distant correlation with Sad Puppies. A movement led by a man the state dept classifies as Latin, and which included a female ditto.
BUT minorities are offended that John supported this “racist” (Yep, we only supported writers who belonged to the human race. That’s how racist we are) movement, and feel they have to leave cons where he’s invited.
You know what, these aren’t the crazy years. The crazy years were semi-understandable. These are the running-down-the-street-with-underwear-on-head-singing-I’m-a-little-teapot years.

Stephanie Souders argues that Ringo’s conduct at Dragon Con should allay any fears:

John Ringo subsequently wrote a second response:

Here’s pretty much my take on the whole thing:

I spent four years ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, to go wheels up anywhere in the world in 18 hours for the purposes of going head to head with Soviet tanks in a war sure to end with nuclear fire.

I was willing to do so to support a simple word: Liberty.

A major part of that liberty was the right to freedom of expression. That ten thousand voices may be heard.

There was no such freedom in the Soviet Union. Freedom of expression is anathema to Marxism.

In this day and age, the SJWs, thought children of that evil empire, attack the right to freedom of expression at every turn.

I shall not be silent. I shall not be quelled. If facing down T-72s did not quell me, my current detractors (just the latest of many) stand little chance.

They have their right to free speech. They can say what they will, even if the attacks are petty, false and irrelevent. That is part and parcel of the freedom of speech.

They have that right due, in great part, to myself and my brothers and sisters in arms going back not just to our revolution, but to the battles at Marathon, Salamis and Thermopylae. This is a war that has gone on for two thousand years and will not end in victory to either side any time soon.

Let ten thousand voices be heard.

Let freedom ring.

In a comment on the same post he also said:

I do not bow to the social justice mobs? I speak my own truth? I judge a person not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character? And by that judgement, I find most SJWs (not your type, the type that ‘bans’ authors for their words) to be contemptible?

Meanwhile, ConCarolinas con chair Jada Hope has pulled the Ringo announcement from their FaceBook page, taking all comments with it. Hope also has gone to the FB walls of some people who’ve made negative posts saying “You’ve made yourself quite clear. If you have further concerns they may be sent to concarolinas@concarolinas.org” in an attempt to stem the flow of public complaints.

And the committee’s latest social media (April 13) was a tweet linking to the con’s anti-harassment policy which says in part —

…ConCarolinas reserves the right to deny membership to any individual who has practiced harassment or bullying either at other conventions or on social media sites.

ConCarolinas is an apolitical, non-religious organization. Discussions in panels and on our social media are to remain polite. Trolling will not be tolerated….

— in effect, brandishing the antiharassment policy at con members who criticize the Ringo choice in social media, implying their memberships are at risk.

107 thoughts on “John Ringo’s Selection as ConCarolinas Guest Sparks Controversy

  1. I got tired of a villain being signposted by rape a long time ago. It just isn’t very interesting, and it always lacks impact when it’s used as a throwaway “yep, this dude is eeeevil” thing because it isn’t written to have impact. It may as well be evil wallpaper, except that evil wallpaper would be considerably more original. The victims rarely matter. The event rarely matters. It’s just sort of there. And it’s lazy. I’d much rather have villains who are evil in some way relevant to the heroes specific values and beliefs. Something meaningful to the story. Not just some weaksauce generic “I have to show terrible things happening to women just so you know this dude is evil!”

  2. Judging them by that isn’t “pre-judging”, it’s just judging them by past behavior and personal experiences.

    I once attended a convention where all the tables at the hotel’s breakfast café were full one morning, so I wound up sitting with two con attendees whom I didn’t know. (I don’t remember whether I asked to sit with them or they asked to sit with me.) They were both male, older, Southern, and wearing kilts, and they got offended when I asked why (about the kilts, not the being male or Southern). We chatted a bit, and they were both John Ringo fans. (I had never before heard of John Ringo, so this didn’t convey anything to me.) They were also domestic partners. (My phrase–they said “lovers”–since it was clear from their anecdotes that they shared a home.)

    Within a few minutes, the more talkative of the two told me that he had intentionally shot his previous domestic partner (also male), and he went into considerable detail about the story. He also bragged about his guns and his willingness to shoot people with them.

    Where I come from, when breakfasting with total strangers by chance, we say things like, “Where are you from?” and “Are you enjoying the convention?” etc. Go figure.

  3. @Dann

    I really don’t care that he was referring to someone specific with whom he is friendly. I care that he put something that awful and dehumanising in a public post which was likely to be seen by people with similar backgrounds.

    I’m rather wishing I’d rot13’d it with a warning myself.

    @Mike, is that something you could do? I’m worried I might accidentally hurt people by quoting it directly. Or remove it entirely if that’s easier.

  4. “… it was possible to disagree politically and still be in the same room”

    You must not have been around during the Vietnam era, or you wouldn’t say that. Oh, you just meant in fandom? Sorry, nope. I was there.

    What we’re seeing here is yet another example of how nasty things get when people who have been marginalized forever stop just putting up with it. And some of that is always the people who weren’t marginalized remembering those halcyon days when their world was never challenged, and wondering what changed?

    My concern about going to a con that has chosen to feature Ringo, as I have said elsewhere, wouldn’t be as much about the man himself as what he brings in his wake: hypersensitive right-wing snowflakes who are looking for any excuse to be offended, and possibly even some who are actively looking to create trouble. The man himself I can avoid — don’t attend his panels, go to a different party if he’s in this one, be professional if he comes by the table. But there’s no way of knowing who his troublemaker fans are; it’s not as if they wear labels.

  5. Meredith: Tell me if I Rot-13’d the right part. (Or if I edited the wrong comment altogether!)

  6. @Mike

    Half of it, thanks! Could you get the first blockquoted thingy, too, please? I really appreciate it.

    ETA: But very much the right comment.

  7. “What we’re seeing here is yet another example of how nasty things get when people who have been marginalized forever stop just putting up with it. “

    Yep. We get an author saying that these marginalized people should be beaten and humiliated. And that if he wasn’t occupied, he’d be happy to beat them himself. And at the same time calling them prostitutes who have sex for favours.

    I think that comment by Ringo himself is good enough reason to not have him as a guest at a con.

  8. There is a reason that “No, John Ringo, No” has been a meme going back a decade now. Because I have not seen it here, I thought I would link to a couple of documents which illustrate some of John Ringo’s long history of behavior. Both are older, but both reflect comments he has made on this issue so it is fair to see them as part of the pattern. Warning: Both are long. Both contain ugly misogyny. One is a PDF.

    First, the origin of “No, John Ringo, No”, a reference of his ‘problematic’ novel Ghost.
    https://hradzka.livejournal.com/194753.html

    And, John’s own words about a similar encounter with critics from the left from 2006
    http://www.orthogonaltonormal.com/midden/RavenCon%202006.pdf

  9. @Dann – In my experience you’re much smarter than that, to equate calling half of Trump’s supporters deplorable – when Trump had been working very hard to gain the support of some of the most deplorable people in the US – with positing that mixing races will eventually result in offspring who barely register as human.

    Yes, people’s feelings were hurt when Clinton pointed out that a significant percentage of them had been brought to his camp by his ultra-nationalist, racist rhetoric. But you cannot deny that Trump had, at that point, gained the support of outright White Supremacists (the old-fashioned, hood-wearing, cross-burning type, not eg Sad Puppy types who simply claim to believe in an even playing field and not to see color). His support was, more than any major US presidential candidate in at least my lifetime, drawn from Klansmen, neo-confederates and neo-nazis.

    Ringo’s “joke” accepts as its premise that miscegenation degrades people.

  10. @A.G. Carpenter: TFTI on ConCarolinas’ “contract”. It still seems strange to me — I’ve never heard of asking a guest to sign a piece of paper, even if the concom thinks that a guest going back on the signature is no big deal. (OTOH, if they don’t why did at least one GoH think it was a big deal?) Sounds like somebody being bureaucratic — a bit like Arisia having a clause in its signature-required Code of Conduct releasing the con for any taking of photos (etc.) of members, but rather more active.

  11. People are using “contract” as shorthand, but ConCarolinas provides guests and performers with a Letter of Agreement (LoA) that details guest requirements from the con (dates and expectations mainly, like acknowledging con policies or expected programming participation hours) and any provided amenities (badges, companion badges, meal vouchers, fees, or whatever, depending on the guest or performer).

    It’s a good practice and good for record keeping and communication for both parties. More and more cons and events are adding this as a standard procedure. DragonCon does this too, for example, as well as many of the cons in our region.

  12. This seems apropos:

    That’s why a lot of people feature rape scenes, it seems. “This is a very bad dude,” a writer might say, “and I need to prove it to the audience.” And the audience might say, “Yes, that character WOULD do that. That’s absolutely in line with their nature.” And so they’re fine with it.

    Or maybe the writer just wants to signal to the reader that this world is extra, super-duper grim and gritty. The audience would then say, “Well, that’s the world this story’s set in. It’s monstrous and brutal. But them’s the shakes.” And so they’re fine with it. (This is basically adding ambiance to the story. “Let’s throw a little rape in the background,” the writer thinks, “so folks get the picture.”)

    But while audiences seem willing to sit and watch a young woman get raped to make these points, raping a six year old boy suddenly seems… excessive, right? It’s way over the line. No one wants to watch a sobbing child get sexually violated. So why are we willing to sit and watch one awful sex crime but not the other?

    And if you go through rape-heavy books, and swap out all the rape victims with young boys, then, shit howdy, you’d probably start thinking, “Whoa, what’s the fucking deal here? Why does this writer keep featuring scenes with this awful shit? Are they getting off on it? Do they think that I’m getting off on it?”

    And that’s a tough question. Are you getting off on it? Are you including this rape scene for titillation, to be sensational, to set tongues a wagging? Are you using rape as a tool, a signal, a way to tell the reader that you mean business?

    And is there no other way for you to do that? Do you have to make someone get raped for your story to work? Or do you just want to see it happen?

    So here’s the things you need to ask yourself if you’re writing a rape scene:

    1. What am I trying to do with this rape scene? What is its function?

    2. Is this necessary to the plot? Will this book fall apart if this rape scene is not included?

    3. Will this story focus more on the rapist than the victim? Will the victim essentially be forgotten?

    4. If I swap out this rape victim with a young child, will audiences still accept this scene? Or will they find this scene wholly unnecessary, and condemn me for it?

    Rape gets trivialized in the real world. It’s frequently hushed up or waved off. The victims are forgotten. So think long and hard about why you’re including it in your book. To use such a monstrous act as window dressing is to trivialize it further.

    –Robert Jackson Bennett, “Why Are You Writing a Rape Scene?” (emphasis mine)

    A not unrelated observation: Robert Jackson Bennett is a vastly superior writer to John Ringo.

  13. @Dann

    So far your contributions to the thread have been: to suggest that there’s not that much evidence, suggest that some of the evidence is being distorted, and to draw a false equivalence that others have covered already. Given that the article and comments have a plethora of examples of Ringo’s own words that’s pretty weak sauce.
    Why not be clear – say why you think people are wrong, with reference to the evidence.
    For example, there’s an con report written by Ringo himself that Christopher Hensley has provided, in which Ringo complains about having been ambushed by Feminazis. To pick out one little thing among many from that, throughout the report he refers to one woman – whose name he never got – as “Tits”. Tell me again how there’s “Not exactly a plethora” of evidence that Ringo is a mysogynist?

  14. Given Ringo’s behaviour as described in his own words in his con report, I’m surprised that he wasn’t kicked out, big name author or not. Okay, it was 2006, codes of conduct were not as common and the con was new, but that sort of behaviour is still inexcusable.

    If taking over panels and insulting other panelists is indeed a pattern for Ringo, a con that wants him as a guest should offer him readings, signings and kaffeeklatsche, but not put him on panels.

  15. Quite apart (but not unrelated) from the execrable behaviour described in those reports, I ask myself: What kind of meaningful input and relevant opinions can someone like John Ringo bring to a panel or an address? I stumbled over his claim that the Socialist Workers Party (one of many small Trotskyist factions), of all things, was the American sister party of the Nazis—that is over the top even for the “Nazis are leftists!!!111” crowd. In my experience, people who tend to be SO absurdly wrong in one area do not usually excel in other fields of expertise either …

  16. @ Laura. Did you ask him how he avoided getting arrested? I’m having a hard time getting over this story.

  17. @Murilegus
    Well, Ringo might have something of value to contribute to panels with topics such as “How to get weapons right in your fiction” or “Writing an action scene”, but what possessed RavenCon to put him on a panel about strong female characters, when his idea of a strong female character seems to be a teenage prostitute with a big gun.

  18. @Cora —

    Well, Ringo might have something of value to contribute to panels with topics such as “How to get weapons right in your fiction” or “Writing an action scene”, but what possessed RavenCon to put him on a panel about strong female characters, when his idea of a strong female character seems to be a teenage prostitute with a big gun.

    Referring back to the Prince Roger series — if we work with the hypothesis that Ringo wrote most of it, then he can indeed write strong female characters when he wants to. There are several in the series.

    (As an aside, one of the most amusing things in the series is that the unit’s chaplain is a female Satanist. ;-D )

  19. It’s a good practice and good for record keeping and communication for both parties. More and more cons and events are adding this as a standard procedure.

    I can certainly see the point of this. Some of my colleagues have started presenting their own LoAs to conventions after having bad experiences or major misunderstandings. It is a good idea to get the commitment and the main aspects of the appearance agreed upon in writing.

    I was once chair of a national convention for writers where (back in the days before everything was done on the internet) we printed and sent out a conference promo mailing to previous years’ attendees (whose addresses we had) announcing our keynote speaker, a few days after he agreed to the event. A week later…. he sent me a message saying that (wait for it!) he hadn’t bothered to look at his calendar when accepting our invitation, and now that he was looking at it, he saw that he had a prior commitment and coudn’t attend our convention after all.

    So we ate the money we’d spent on printed promo mailings announcing him as our speaker, we scrambled to find a new keynote speaker after having ALREADY announced one (so everyone I called knew that they were not my first choice), and I spent the next FIVE MONTHS saying, more times than I can count,, “No, not anymore. Yes, he was our designated keynote speaker early on, but he dropped out. No, he won’t be there. No.”

    Sure, speakers and guests will still cancel if they’ve got a signed paper. Stuff Happens, after all–accident, illness, bereavement, financial blows, bad weather, family emergencies, etc. But I think the DUMB stuff (ex. “I didn’t look at my calendar before I said yes”) is LESS likely to happen if people sign a LoA when agreeing to the do appearance; and based on my experience, I’d certainly wait for that signed LoA before making any announcements.

  20. @bookworm: “Did you ask him how he avoided getting arrested? I’m having a hard time getting over this story.”

    Yes. I asked all sorts of questions. Including asking his partner questions along the lines of, “Are you worried he might shoot you someday? Since he doesn’t regret shooting his previous partner and says he’d do it again? And since he’s talking about how willing he is to shoot people?”

    I asked why he wasn’t arrested for it. I asked why he wasn’t sued for it, etc.

    But it was a weird conversation in which answers to my questions were far from linear, so I don’t know how (or necessarily if) he avoided being arrested or sued. I had the impression that the cops did not get involved–but that makes no sense, since hospitals have to report gunshot wounds. Unless the wounded man didn’t go to a hospital, which is possible. I had the impression the wound wasn’t life threatening.

    Like I said, I got no cogent answers to my questions. (However, I did have the impression that the story was true, and one that people in the shooter’s family and community knew.)

  21. Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little: Your comment has been released. It had actually been filtered into the spam. Something comparable happened to six of Steve Davidson’s comments the other day. None of these were filtered into moderation. Has anyone else had comments disappear recently? The Askimet program has been doing a good job up til now.

  22. And, John’s own words about a similar encounter with critics from the left from 2006

    Against my better judgment, and in a truly classic case of procrastination (today I need to file my taxes, finish an overdue short story, and take a foster cat to the vet), I am reading this John Ringo 2006 con report now.

    The first thing I notice is that two people (a man and a woman) on his first panel at that con, both of whom he says had done panels with him before, both let him know that he talks too much on panels and is doing it again on this panel. So he… rationalizes and justifies his own behavior, and he fabricates theories about the woman… rather than entertain the possibility that he should stop hogging the floor. And then (shades of JDA!), rather than recognizing he’s getting negative reactions because of his behavior, he insists it’s because of his ethnicity.

    The whole report is page after page after page after page of this sort of thing. He whines, rages, and and complains about almost everyone being mean to him–at this con and also at other cons. He writes in excruciating detail about the panels he was on at this con, and how about terrible, stupid, ugly, wrong, pathetic, etc. the various other panelists were. (Hm, do you think this could be a clue about why some people don’t want to do panels with him?)

    In addition to naming and bitterly complaining about many people at this convention, he names and bitterly complains about many people he couldn’t get along with at other conventions, too. In his interpretation, the discord that seems ever-present in his con experiences is always everyone else’s fault. Everyone who disagrees with him on panels or in casual conversation is the subject of lengthy and vitriolic insults, ridicule, and belittling in his con report. And he repeatedly insists people object to him because of his race, sexuality, and/or gender (white heterosexual male), rather than because of his behavior.

    He also does a lot of name-calling (which appears to be entirely aimed at women) in this con report: ex. Stupid Bitches, Dumpy Lady, Screaming Feminist, Fat Lady, Tits, Miss Piggy, feminazis, etc. He also gives creepily detailed physical descriptions of some of his co-panelists: ex. “She was dressed in skin-tight jeans, a scoop neck shirt (wearing falsies, by the way) that showed off about 2.362 inches of cleavage,” etc. (Hm, could this be another clue about why some people don’t want to do panels with him?) He goes on and on and, indeed, on about how another man at the con, one whom he doesn’t like, is a “nobody.”

    This con report go on for, oh, maybe 15,000 words, spewing copious venom about the co-panelists he despised and fought with, people elsewhere in the con he despised and fought with, and so on.

    Yes, this was written 12 years ago, and, yes, some people change… But given that he was already a middle-aged man in 2006 (not a still-maturing youth), and there there are subsequent and recent instances of him writing rhetoric which isn’t at all inconsistent with this essay, and that I gather he himself doesn’t claim (?) to have changed a great deal in the past 12 years…

    Well, I think it’s easy to see why there are people who just don’t want to be at a convention with this guy. His self-description of his own behavior in this con report makes their decision seem perfectly understandable.

    However, just as I think that people who’ve decided not to attend ConCarolinas this year, because he’ll be a special guest there, shouldn’t be criticized for that choice, I also don’t think that people who have decided to maintain their plans to attend should be criticized, either. They’re going for their own reasons, and a convention is more than one thing–and more than one particular special guest.

  23. Reading that co report in Ringo’s own words, my biggest desire is to see a con report from a bystander, or even the woman he calls Haley (Who might well call herself Elizabeth — it’s pretty clear he thinks anyone who habitually doesn’t use their first name is somehow deficient) whom he seems to think is on his side, and I suspect strongly is not…

    I found one report form another congoer that mentioned the first panel he’s in and says nothing nice about him *or* Joy …, but that person never went to another of his panels.

  24. @Lenora Rose
    Do you have a link to the con report you found, which mentions Ringo’s first panel? Cause I’d really be interested in seeing somebody else’s perspective on this.

  25. looks like things have been partially resolved

    “Partially” resolved is probably overly-optimistic.

    Even if the con patches things up with people who withdrew, and even if those people now decide to attend… there’s still a lot of spilled milk and no clear way to mop it up.

    People who support/admire Ringo will be infuriated by this. People who may not care for Ringo but who nonetheless feel it’s completely wrong to disinvite a con gust will be appalled. And some people who were offended by Ringo being invited in the first place will remain disenchanted with the con.

  26. Cora: Unfortunately it’s a livejournal link

    The only other summary I could find of Ravencon 2006 was without any substance, a person who said they might talk about individual panels later and appears not to have, at least in the next few posts I was willing to skip through.

  27. @Laura Resnick

    I agree the cat will not be going back in the bag. I know at least one author who said she no longer has an interest in going given how careless they seemed to be over the concerns that were raised over inviting Ringo in the first place.

    As for Ringo and his fans, well, these days they always seem to be riled up about something.

  28. @Cora, if the panel that led to the con runners telling the moderator to be careful to actually moderate Ringo at the later panel is the one I’m thinking of, I was in the audience.

    I no longer have the program book, so I do not remember the names and CVs of all the panelists, but my recollection is (from my left to right) the panel consisted of a young woman (university student, probably 19-21 but I may be underestimating her age because I’ve reached the point where college graduates occasionally look like bar mitzvah boys to me) who had been published in her school’s literary and poetry journals; a man who had gone the self-publishing route and had self published a couple books and who was the moderator; John Ringo; and Elisabeth Massie, who at that point in time I think had more publishing credits than Ringo.

    The experience levels were not balanced, but with a strong moderator that might not have mattered. The moderator was, unfortunately, a weak moderator, and John Ringo steamrollered over him. I felt he was mostly dismissive of the moderator and the university student. He was also incredibly deferential to Elizabeth Massie. People on Jupiter would have noticed how differently he was treating Massie than the other two panelists. It was quite striking. I don’t remember what the subject matter of the panel was.

    So I’m not surprised that the con runners told moderators of subsequent panels that they needed a strong hand where Ringo was concerned and I don’t think it was done in a “keep the sexism in check” way, I think they just didn’t want him completely taking over the panel again.

  29. Jim — are you kidding me?! (I know you’re not.)

    People calling Ringo out for his hateful racist and misogynist opinions is being “hostile.”

    Me, I rather think that the person who publicly said this:

    “Women’s rights are ONLY a Western concept. Yes, there were some VERY SMALL groups in other societies where women had power. Very minor. Not generally represented. Even when they were large (Carthage) there was a specific reason (trade based) and they eventually lost to male dominated patriarchies (Rome.) The ONLY reason that women started to get any traction at all in society dates back to the Code of Chivalry which was influenced by the Cult of Mary which got started in the 13th century. And FORTUNATELY for women, and having just about zero to do with THEIR contribution, that ‘evil vicious dominant’ society that gave them SOME value as people (unlike Japanese, Chinese, Indian…) managed to smash every other major culture in the world.

    Not that we get any credit these days. Ungrateful bitches.

    And Chivalry (‘Don’t pull girl’s hair, don’t bully them, never hit a lady’) is the sole and only thing that has EVER given women ANY SORT OF FUCKING BREAK.

    Only. Thing.”

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/john-ringo/women-and-victimology/10151614328502055

    is the one who’s being hostile.

  30. @Laura Haywood-Cory, so, women are only entitled to whatever rights that men give them, and that can be withdrawn at any time by the men from whom this generous gift is given? Is that what he’s saying? Women can’t fight, lead, or actually do anything significant, but must be protected from men by men, delicate flowers that they are? Because that’s what it sure looks like he’s saying to me. My (female) friend who served in Iraq as a captain in the Army during Desert Storm, and my niece who is currently serving overseas in the Air Force, would have a few words for him. Few of those words would make it past the nanny-filter.

  31. Ringo is reaping the environment he sowed for long ago. Honestly, it’s not so hard to not act like a jerk, or insult people, or belittle women in general.

  32. @Lenora Rose and @Cathy
    Thanks for the link or respectively the panel report. From his own con report, it’s very clear that Ringo is dismissive towards panelists he considers less experienced or unimportant and respectful towards bigger names. It’s a really unpleasant attitude to have, but sadly not uncommon in that corner of fandom.

    @Jim C. Hines
    That response is truly something, especially since it’s pretty clear that the person(s) facing a hostile atmosphere won’t be Ringo.

  33. Carolinas Con: The con could not guarantee Ringo wouldn’t be walking into a hostile environment. John wanted to have fun. A reasonable request. The con could not guarantee that he wouldn’t be subject to people being ugly to him.

    Well, that spectacularly tone-deaf response certainly belies the con’s claim that it is utterly “apolitical”, doesn’t it? 🙄

  34. Pingback: John Ringo Out As ConCarolinas Special Guest | File 770

  35. @ DavidW:

    Honestly, it’s not so hard to not act like a jerk, or insult people, or belittle women in general.

    I agree.

    Yet traditionally in sf/f, ostracizing someone for acting like a jerk, insulting people, belittling women, etc. has been treated as much worse than acting like a jerk, insulting people, belittling women, etc.

  36. Well, that statement from the con is as graceless and sullen an announcement as I’ve ever seen.

  37. I’m a bit staggered that he wrote what he seems to think is an account of how he was the all-conquering white heterosexual man (he really, really wants us to know that he’s a white heterosexual man), sticking it to all those SJWs and Feminazis (all unprofessional compared to him, of course), and yet comes off as such an unmitigated arse. He boasted about sexual harassing an audience member, and then he nicknamed her “Tits” for his con report. Why not “Intern”? Or “Doctor”?

    I suppose it must play well with his base.

    It always puzzles me how little some anti-feminist conservatives think of men. I would be insulted to have such low standards as ‘not groping people’ waved around as an achievement and a gift.

    I don’t think I mentioned this earlier: People who decided not to attend the convention did nothing wrong. People who decided they would still attend the convention also did nothing wrong. I’m annoyed at the idea that there’s only one correct way to do allyship or activism. Life’s more complicated than that.

    I thought well of Ringo back in the day for being a good sport about hradzka’s post about Paladin of Shadows. Now I wonder how much of that was because hradzka is male and politically broadly right-wing. (Good fic writer, by the way. We were both in DC fandom at the time but my personal favourite of his is the Alien fic he wrote for the Yuletide exchange one year.)

  38. I think it is very interesting that plenty of people were willing to leave based on their beliefs but had no problem leaving the GOH Seanan McGuire with no support. If you don’t like Ringo, fine but why would you NOT support a GOH who thinks like you? I just don’t understand. It is an insult to her. SHE was the Guest of Honor, not Ringo. Personally, I could care less about either of them. I come to the Con to hang out with my friends, not for any particular guest. But that is just me. I will also add that Ringo was a guest at ConCarolinas in 2010 and there was no hubbub. The ConCom really had no idea there would be such a blow up based on past experience.

  39. @ Contrarius

    I read the first of the Prince Roger books, as I recall.

    The first major female character who pops up is described by someone plainly viewing her through a lust filled haze, but she has, for example, deliberately altered her uniform–changed the hemline and had the shirt made out of a filmier material, for example– to make herself more sexy. That kicked me out of the story at the time–I thought you were forbidden to alter your uniform? I later ran this past a filker with military experience and he got a weird look on his face and said “The best outcome for her is that she runs into a non-com senior to her who can say ‘go home and get dressed’ before she gets seen by any officers.”

    Anyway, so, you know, I’m not saying strong women can’t be sexy, but I AM saying that I see a difference between “strong female characters” and “wet dreams with weapons” and for me Ringo’s female characters fall into the second category. “Female prostitute with a gun” wouldn’t be far off, except that a good writer could write a story about a sex worker caught in some kind of scenario where carrying a gun became a good idea instead of a bad one and carry it off with respect for the sex worker as a person with human dignity, rights, and potential.

    Maybe it’s because I’m female and straight and the whole lustful titillation thing is not kicking in for me, I dunno. But when the women in a book are all served up with a side of lustful titillation (when that isn’t the main dish), maybe, just maybe, the author is somehow not seeing women as full human beings yet.

  40. @Janet: “no support” – not sure what you mean. Guests don’t roam the halls in packs [ETA: by which I mean, fighting each other or whatever, in some kind of con-based war], and McGuire won’t be on her own in the wilderness just because a few guests choose not to attend. Heck, what if they’d bailed for completely unrelated reasons? Would you still concern-troll about poor McGuire, all on her own – which she isn’t anyway – if a bunch of guests had the flu or whatever? 😛 I doubt it.

    Anyway, did you even read the post or comments? It sure sounds like you didn’t! Some guests are staying, while acknowedging the situation. E.g., so they can add to the voices of non-misogony/non-racists/etc. – to “support” other guests (and others), as you say.

    Of course, it’s not an insult to McGuire to bail on the con for reasons unrelated to McGuire ::eyeroll::

    Now, I can understand Ringo feeling insulted, but, you know, it sounds like he made his bed over and over again, so it’s tough to muster up much sympathy for him.

    Of course, since you claim you don’t care about McGuire OR Ringo, your faux-concern rings hollow to me.

  41. Janet: I think it is very interesting that plenty of people were willing to leave based on their beliefs but had no problem leaving the GOH Seanan McGuire with no support.

    It is very problematic to demand that people dealing with their own past negative experience attend a con just to provide moral support to someone else — just as it was hugely problematic that some people were demanding that Seanan exert pressure as the GoH to have Ringo dropped as Special Guest.

     
    Janet: I will also add that Ringo was a guest at ConCarolinas in 2010 and there was no hubbub.

    Given that Jerry Pournelle was the GoH, so people knew well in advance whether that was the atmosphere they wished to be around, it’s hardly surprising that there was no hubbub.

    The problem here was that Ringo should have been announced up front, so that anyone who didn’t want to be around that atmosphere could have declined from the beginning. But since the con chair clearly thinks Ringo is great stuff, it would have never occurred to them to announce him in advance.

     
    Oh, and on a completely unrelated subject, I see on the ConCarolinas staff page that the Volunteer Manager is named Janet Iannantuono.

  42. Oh, and on a completely unrelated subject, I see on the ConCarolinas staff page that the Volunteer Manager is named Janet Iannantuono.

    Related to someone in my author friends circle who has circle who has appeared to come down more on the side of those leaving the con over concerns of harassment by Ringo and his fans. So… This has been especially ugly for folks in the region.

  43. @Cat —

    The first major female character who pops up is described by someone plainly viewing her through a lust filled haze

    Taking that example out of context is unfair, though, because at the beginning of the Prince Roger books the main character (Prince Roger, natch) is SUPPOSED to be an unmitigated ass. His attitude towards women at the beginning is not intended to be seen as a good or normal thing. And IIRC (I may not — correct me if you remember the specific details) the woman you’re talking about is part of an assassination plot against him — so she would hardly be an example of normal military behavior either.

    But when the women in a book are all served up with a side of lustful titillation

    But, of course, that is not actually the case in the Prince Roger books.

    I can’t speak for any of Ringo’s other books — I started one and dnfed it.

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