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The "acrackedmoon" Affair and its Discontents

EDIT/UPDATE (25/01/2016): When I wrote this it was directly following the Mixon Report and thus was unable to a thorough social investigation beyond what was already written and claimed. Since then I have become convinced that my initial suspicions about the Report's opportunism, and the character of those lining up to punish/silence Sriduangkaew, were not only correct but did not go far enough. Only a few months after I wrote this at least one response to the Mixon Report was written, thus providing me with a bigger picture of the event. Since then (based on investigation, my own experience with Sriduangkaew's blog, interactions with her detractors and Sriduangkaew) I have become convinced that the targeting of Sriduangkaew was not only designed to silence her criticism of an author who was poised to release a best-selling work that was extremely orientalist (Tricia Sullivan's Shadowboxer), but was isometric to the open reactionary politics expressed by the "Puppies" gaming of the Hugos. But I will try to write more about this on my arts/culture blog.

EDIT/UPDATE #2 (05/11/2017): Since I first wrote this post, and since my thoughts represented in the above edit/update, I not only became a larger fan of Sriduangkaew's work (because, as I even noted in this post, it is excellent) but also ended up becoming twitter friends with her. When I wrote this post I had just released by first book; now my upcoming fourth book (Methods Devour Themselves) is one that I have co-authored with Benjanun. At the very least, any inaccuracies and messy apprehensions of the Mixonite character assassination that persist in this post, were what led me to this relationship and this book. 

As many of my readers will be aware, aside from being a raving commie I am also a fan of science fiction and fantasy [SFF].  I have not bothered to hide my nerdiness in this area––and have even written some posts on fantasy literature (as well as a novella)––so the following post, a brief departure from MLM speculation, shouldn't be that surprising.  Particularly since it is about the intersection of the SFF world and politics.

Moreover, those readers who are also SFF fans and leftists (and you should be the latter if you're reading this blog) will also be aware that the SFF internet community is filled with innumerable reactionary trolls who will go out of their way to defend their favourite authors from critique and attack/threaten/stalk anyone who targets said authors' dubious political commitments.  And if you've lurked the SFF forums on the internet for long enough you will also be aware of the internet personality, acrackedmoon (only one of her internet handles), who once maintained the notorious Requires Only That You Hate blog; the progressive community's loose cannon answer to these reactionary trolls: the progressive left's fantasy revenge troll who would use the same tactics upon the reactionaries and their favourite authors, doling out merciless abuse to those who wrote and/or supported misogynist/racist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist literature.

Recently, acrackedmoon has been outed as SFF John W. Campbell award nominee Benjanun Sriduangkaew, a queer Thai woman responsible for writing the pretty amazing novella Scale-Bright.  I actually just finished reading this novella (partially because I saw the forward was by Aliette de Bodard), extremely impressed by the beauty of its prose and haunted by the story, when I discovered that Nick Mamatas had "doxed" Sriduangkaew as acrackedmoon.  And since Mamatas––also a lefty though unfortunately a trot––was a fan of her blog, from what I can tell his revelation of her identity was intended to be preemptive so that she could manage the fall-out before the proverbial shit hit the fan.  Indeed, following the revelation Sriduangkaew offered two apologies for her behaviour: one on Requires Hate, and another on her author website.  Calculated author management designed so that Sriduangkaew can be properly integrated with the published authors of the SFF community?  A spectacle of controversy designed to promote an upcoming author?  These are questions that have been asked by the cynics who were on the receiving end of Sriduangkaew's ire.  But they aren't very good explanations: in some ways, if you know the entire history of the acrackedmoon phenomenon, the apologies make some sense; how this revelation could promote an upcoming queer woman of colour is beyond me, particularly since it is causing some to demand that her nomination for the John W. Campbell award to be revoked.

Read it now, you won't be disappointed.  Maybe I'll write a review in the near future…

While it is indeed the case that Sriduangkaew's controversial blog could be vitriolic, often devolving into the kind of identity politics that is close to liberal moralism,  this really says more about the kind of politics that passes as radical amongst a particular mainstream left. Many of those outraged at finding themselves at the point-end of acrackedmoon's piercing ire subscribed to variants of the same politics. Even worse, they're trying to pass off their dog-piling as a righteous cause when it really stinks of opportunism.  The reviews on Sriduangkaew's blog were, in many ways, the perfect consummation of this kind of critique: only Hegelian pure souls could escape criticism, could emerge unscathed. No work is free from the taint of the shit of reprehensible ideology, unfortunately, since we have been socialized by this ideology.  The bar is always set too high and, for several years, Sriduangkaew's various internet personas (although it seems questionable that she as many as the Mixon report claims) enforced this bar, but so did blogs such as Tiger Beatdown, which also subscribed to the same set politics.  So in this context Sriduangkaew's apologies make sense; they seem to be entirely aware of the limits of this kind of critique, the self-righteousness of the ire, the anger inherited by someone who, faced with the typical bullshit of the normative SFF community, retreats into the insularity of identity politics.

Regardless of the problems with her political approach, there was something in Sriduangkaew's online behaviour that I always found refreshing.  To be fair, I was never on the receiving end of her ire––nor did I always agree with her assessments in Requires Only That You Hate––which appeared to be doled out to everybody and everyone who got in the way of her analysis.  Even still, I found it quite laudable that she took the piss out of a lot of SFF sacred cows, trolled innumerable trolls with their own medicine, and made those whose entire existence and perspective of reality was silencing to so many others feel silenced.  My first encounter with her antics as acrackedmoon was the now infamous R. Scott Bakker debacle (the links have now been removed, as if her critique of Bakker's first "prince of nothing" novel, entitled Prince of Misogyny, never existed) that prompted Bakker to out himself as a misogynist by obsessing over the critique on his own blog, talking about how this criticism was causing him to lose sales, and claiming that he could not be sexist since his wife knew that he was not a sexist.  The very fact that she had caused a popular author with dubious political commitments (at least this critique of hers still exists) to freak out over a blogger, and then launch a campaign in which his fanbase was mobilized to defend his impeccability, was significant.

Hence, the chaos and panic in the online SFF community caused by Sriduangkaew amongst the ranks of those who once imagined they could say whatever they liked demonstrated that there was something, regardless of its problems, that was noteworthy in the acrackedmoon approach.  Which is why Laura J. Mixon's campaign to prevent Sriduangkaew from receiving the John W. Campbell award is so infuriating: it seems like a work of rank opportunism.  Offended by Sriduangkaew's past behaviour, but still caught within the same identity politics matrix that Sriduangkaew best represented, Mixon's post resorts to the worst kind of positivist empiricism: assuming that it cannot reject the politics that Sriduangkaew espoused, it attempts to demonize Sriduankaew by arguing that this SFF troll primarily targeted women (particularly queer and trans-) of colour.  Considering that it is completely impossible to know the actual identity of an internet personality, unless they suddenly become a public persona (as Sriduangkaew has), this positivist exercise is something of a joke––especially considering the horrendous state of Mixon's sourcing.  After all, anyone who has run a progressive blog for even a year knows that reactionaries will claim particular oppressed identities to give their backwards criticisms some sort of clout.  (I have stark and annoying memories of anonymous internet personalities claiming they were "black and queer" so as to justify the most racist, misogynist, and homo-/transphobic complaints.)  This kind of empiricism misses the point of the entire debacle: acrackedmoon primarily targeted the "great white hopes" of SFF authordom first and foremost, trolling their fans (who were anonymous internet identities that possessed the privilege to define themselves in the way they sought fit) only after the fact.  Mixon's stats are thus undermined by the fact that the identity-based information she uses to justify these stats is ultimately inaccessible.  In truth, this is mainly an attempt to dismiss Sriduangkaew by the very politics she represented because Mixon presupposes the significance of this politics and is so locked into justifying her ire of Sriduangkaew based on this judgment.  Thus, when Mixon complains about how Sriduangkaew "silenced" other voices of the online SFF community it becomes entirely laughable for those of us who begin by assuming that reactionaries should be silenced.  After all, the normative state of affairs, by the very fact of its existence, silences the other all the fucking time.

Whereas many of the authors that Sriduangkaew targeted will never be adversely affected by her trolling (regardless of Bakker's panicked assumptions to the contrary), the fact is that now a queer woman of colour who has produced some short stories and a novella of significant literary merit is being targeted by those who disapprove of her online history.  Some critics like Mixon argue that she should not receive this award; some authors and their fan-bases are trying to claim, simply because they dislike her counter-trolling history, that her literary production is garbage. If she was Bakker––who can write whatever he likes on his blog about asinine blind brain theory and misogynist evo-psych theories––then it wouldn't matter if she had trolled the online SFF community.  Hell, this community is filled with examples of whitedudebros who can do and say whatever they like (the Daily Dot brought up the example of Harlan Ellison) and still be treated as iconic.  And while it is true that other marginal voices, such as Jemisin, were unfairly targeted by Sriduangkaew's ire, the closing of ranks of a community that has had a history of problems with oppressive ideology upon someone who tried to counter this ideology in the limited realm of online forums is an exercise in self-satire.

Regardless of its problems––of its failure to promote any systematic political analysis, its reliance on a moralistic identity politics, its poor critique of authors-from-the-margins such as Jemisin––the Requires Only That You Hate blog will be a review site that I will miss, that is already being edited into obscurity by the demand that Sriduangkaew should fully integrate with the community of which she was once its bad conscience.  Whether or not she will be allowed to integrate remains to be seen now that these self-righteous campaigns, far more moralistic than her own crusade, have been levelled against her history.