Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No Good Deed

I should have known having Spinetingler Awards would cause me a lot of grief, and I really wish I could say that I don’t care about the criticisms, but I do. And not just for me. The reality is, whenever people start their commentary on who’s worthy and unworthy to be nominated for an award, they not only criticize the decisions of the judges, but they’re criticizing the authors of those works.

So when some loudmouthed asshole with more ego than talent comes along and starts trashing nominees,* I’m getting a bit pissed not just for myself, but for the writers and editors who deserve their nominations.

What ‘noirboy’ fails to grasp is that the award shortlists were compiled off of popular nominations. And because of how tough the short story category proved to be, I ranked the points differently. If an author recommended their own story they got one vote. If someone else recommended the story, it counted for two votes. And yeah, if there were ties, I cut Spinetingler stories first. Sorry, it was just impossible to be impartial.

In other words, Amra's story had to kick some serious ass and have strong public support behind her to get there. And she, like so many others, had no idea.

In other words, the people who made the list had readers recommending them. People liked their stuff. I think the best e-mail I had was from one of those writers, completely shocked that they’d been nominated. And then I saw Chris’s comment on his post, about how he had no idea people were even recommending his story until he saw the nomination list.

Which is a pretty cool feeling for a writer.

Maybe we should all pat poor little noirboy on the head and commend him for having the courage to go online anonymously, with no link to a blog of his own where people can express their dissenting opinions. I mean, it takes a real man to run around trashing people and scurry back under the woodpile like a rat. But I especially love how he seems to think he knows who people are voting for. He seems to be trying to badger other nominees with the threat that he’s campaigning for Charles Ardai’s story to win. Oooohhh. I’m sure everyone else is quaking in their boots. And thanks for the tip-off that if a bunch of Ardai votes start coming in “anonymously” I’ll have to check tracking on the e-mail source to make sure noirboy isn’t trying to rig it.

Like, for fuck’s sakes, you can’t do anything intended to be helpful or supportive without getting pissed all over in the process. I think at age 36 I’ve given up on the dream of getting substantially thicker skin. When people kick me (as someone else did this week about something else) it’s one thing. It may hurt but I can handle it for myself.

But I actually feel some responsibility, as though I set these writers up to be put under attack, because I put them on the ballot. I know – believe me, I know – that’s not the most rational way to think about it, but if it’s a sin to care about how others feel I’m guilty. Every potential nominee I cut from the list in every category was done with a knife in my heart. Some of my own favourite reads from the year didn’t make it.

Here’s my little challenge for the person Steve Allan so appropriately termed fuckhead: Put a name and a face to your assertions. If you really believe it all, if you really stand behind it, get a blog, use your real name, have an e-mail address and maybe your balls will drop. I’d dearly love for there to actually be something there for me to aim at. Otherwise it won’t hurt as much.

To those of you thinking about starting an ezine or running an award or doing anything else of value that’s meant to contribute to the genre you love, bear all this in mind. Think twice. Because people will come at you and try to get the knife in your back far faster than they’ll thank you for what you’re doing. If you’re doing it to be popular, I hate to be the one to break it to you.... Think I’m joking? For every story I accept there are several I reject, and some of those people walk away associating me with their negative feelings about being rejected. I know writers need to learn to deal with it, and I’ve been through it myself, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there who can’t wait to have a chance to take a shot at me to get even. Think it buys me favours and gets me positively reviewed? Man, most industry people don't even consider me an author because SC didn't have the "right" publisher, so I have to wait until May, 2008 until I'm "in" - whatever that means. I don't want reviews I don't deserve based on the writing, but the hard thing is that SC wasn't widely reviewed just because of industry prejudices and politics. I'm not even self-published but I've been treated like a leper.

(And hey, when people go on their blog and publicly criticize you and then say they're concerned about you, they're just full of shit. Someone who's concerned e-mails and discusses their concerns with you privately, instead of trying to trash you publicly and then cover over their bad behaviour with glib excuses.)

It’s just a reality of life. You get that kind of bullshit in everything, not just writing. Yes, I suspect a scathing Amazon review to turn up on my book any day now… Because that’s the petty kind of asshole noirboy is. I know it. His own behaviour proves it.

And truly, if noirboy wants to get published, perhaps he should spend more time writing than running around slamming people.

But he can pat himself on the back and feel mighty fucking special because yes, he hurt my feelings and he made me cry. I mean, yes I’m really sick right now and last night couldn’t sleep at all because of the coughing… and I am getting divorced, so maybe I’m a tad more emotional than usual, but still, kudos to you noirboy.

Between noirboy and the other person who did something more personal and private this week, it’s been a banner one for life in the writing business. This is why I sometimes think the authors who only look out for themselves are smarter. You try to do something, genuinely intended to help raise profile for quality work in the genre, to keep talented writers in the game particularly as it gets harder and harder to stay published, and people are only too happy to pile on and tell you to do things differently or that you got the nominations wrong or whatever. (Authors who blurb get criticized for blurbing too much, so they stop, while others will only blurb those from the 'right' publisher or those they're friends with - it's no wonder some people don't have much respect for this industry. Some days, I don't either.)

Well, you’ve got opinions about the awards, noirboy? Start your own fucking ezine and build it up over three years and then start your own awards so you can run it how you want to. It takes nothing but a big mouth and a lot of insensitivity to express a criticism, particularly one based off taste, but it takes a hell of a lot of work to get to the point where writers tell you you’ve helped them get an agent or a publisher.

I’m proud of every nominee on our list. And so glad I don’t have to vote in the short story category, because I loved all the nominees. So to you writers on the list who may have been feeling a bit down because of this, who are you going to listen to? A self-important jackass who uses anonymity to attack people, insulting women, Native Americans and others…

Or me. Sugar and spice personified. ; )

* Follow all the links from here to get the full background if you want to.


Stephen Blackmoore said...

"But I actually feel some responsibility, as though I set these writers up to be put under attack, because I put them on the ballot."

You're responsible for a small minded, insecure troll's tepid attempts to justify his own lack of self esteem by trying to belittle another's work and thereby bolster himself in his own imagination?

Damn. You are powerful.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Ha. You know what I mean. For the most part, the people nominated in all the categories didn't ask to be there, and for all I know there are some who aren't thrilled about being nominated. Maybe James Lee Burke hates Spinetingler. How should I know?

There was another round of criticism about one of the categories, not done quite as rudely, but still. It was a direct attack on one of the nominees. And since it coincided with the person finding out they'd been nominated, I felt bad about it.

I mean, a person has to be a real special kind of asshole to me for me to not give a damn about their feelings, and I know it's distorted, I just can't help feeling bad that the result of choices I made was that someone got attacked. That's the last thing I wanted.

Anonymous said...

Sandra, you have nothing to be concerned about. Characters like Noirboy don't matter. He's got a big case of sour grapes and instead of looking at his own writing and discovering the reason why he's not getting published, he's come up with a self-serving theory. I just had a read of the comments he made and it made me laugh.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to be nominated. It means that people read and like my story, and that's all I care about.

Anything this idiot has to say is quite unimportant. I just hope he looked at my blog and saw that my debut novel will be young adult. That would really stick in his craw with his whole theory of keeping the genre pure.

JamesO said...

I'm sorry you had to be on the receiving end of all this, Sandra, and I know for you Noirboy's comments were personal and hurtful, but I have to say thank you for pointing them out. I've not laughed so much for a long time. The boy's a complete asshat and his mad ramblings aren't worth getting worked up about. Take heart from the intelligent and crushing counter-arguments put by all the other people commenting.

I for one can't begin to express my gratitude to you for Spinetingler. It's provided me with hours of free entertainment and introduced me to a raft of talented authors I'd never have come across any other way. Whenever you get negative criticism like that, just look at the download figures and move on.

And as someone who dabbles in crime having started in comics and swept through SF and Fantasy on the way, I will happily pollute whatever genre takes my fancy. If Noirboy thinks I'm spoiling his chances of publication, then he can bite me.

pattinase (abbott) said...

You never get thicker skin. If anything it gets thinner--you should see my mother's.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Amra, ha! You know what I don't get, though. I mean, I sat back and watched and shook my head... but Spinetingler has never been strictly crime fiction. It's primarily what we end up publishing because people in that community know me, but it's always been a cross-genre magazine.

I never once said work from outside the genre wasn't eligible for the awards. People just inferred. Actually, there was a fantasy story on the long list that I read that I really enjoyed.

James, I'd like to see noirboy try to bite you. And I'm also thinking of Simon Kernick's love of fantasy - wouldn't that get under noirboy's skin?! Glad you found it so amusing. I know if it wasn't personal for me on any level I would have had a laugh. I can look at it objectively enough and say it's completely ridiculous, I'm just having enough of a bad week for it to be harder to shrug off.

Patti, was that supposed to be reassuring? LOL.

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

Don't you dare make yourself believe that any of this bullshit is your fault. Asswipes abound on the Internet, but I think most people who have read Spinetingler enjoy it and appreciate all the work you've done.

Hell, I'm tempted to start my own e-zine now.

Steve Allan said...

Long live Spinetingler and the awards! Sandra, you do great work and should keep it up. Noirfuck didn't start his tirade with Lyman because of the award nomination; he actually attacked him when the story was first published earlier this year.

Noirfuck needs to get a clue, but it has been fun to beat up on him.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh, yeah Patrick! Start an ezine.

In fact, I may have just the thing for you if you're serious...

Steve, I feel so much better knowing this asshat's been attacking Lyman all year. Wait, okay, that sounds wrong somehow. ;) Seriously, what a complete and total jerk. Poor Lyman. I was so pleased for him to be nominated, too.

Lyman Feero said...

In no way do I think that you are even a smidge responsible for this. Noirboy started his rant against me back when The Switch first got published. He didn't do it publically but privately in an e-mail. If anyone is responsible it is me for making his e-mail public.

You do good work. You lift writers up. I know full well the trials and tribulations of being an editor. You are to be commended for shouldering such a monumental task.

I didn't know about my nomination until Patrick Bagley ran it in his blog. To say the least just knowing I was nominated for a Spinetingler award made my day. I deeply thank you for wanting to take the extra step to reward writers' and Artist's works. The thoughts and opinions of a misguided child (and ultimately that's what noirboy is) shouldn't even phase you. For me they haven't and I'm the brunt of his lunacy.

I feel incredibly guilty that my problem became yours. Please wash your hands of any feelings of responsibility.

I'm no worse for wear and if I'm completely honest I take it as a huge compliment that my story so deeply disturbed Noirboy. It made the little bastard think and ultimately isn't that what all of want in our fiction, people to think about it?

Keep up the good work.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Please don't feel guilty Lyman. I'm just a super-sensitive type, and I've been having a rough week so I seem to be taking everything a bit personally.

We certainly don't start these things, or continue doing them, for the thanks. I mean, it's nice to have your efforts recognized - that's the whole point of the awards - and short story writers are amongst the most neglected in the business.

So I don't regret doing them. But I had to get it out of my system, so I've had my little rant.

And no, it's not your fault for making it public. What I'd like to know is where these guys think they get off? I mean, never, ever in my life have I been inspired to write to someone and tell them their work sucks or insult it. I still find it hard sending out rejection letters for Spinetingler. Because if you're a writer yourself, you know how much passion and effort goes into the process, and even if what someone writes isn't your thing, you can respect the writing process and how personally we all feel about our work. Are there places that publish 'names' first? Sure. I'm sure there are. Have I seen stories published I thought weren't that good? Absolutely. But I don't run over to google, search for the writer and send them a hurtful e-mail telling them their work is shit.

I mean, what the hell is wrong with someone, that that's how they feel better about themselves?

I know he's an ass. I also know as an author I should be all sweetness and smiles and not say it, but fuck that shit. I didn't sign over my soul when I signed my publishing contract.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh, and Lyman? Noirboy is 100% responsible for what he said about Spinetingler and Amra. He gets to hold that all on his own. Nobody put a gun to his head and made him say what he said. It's about time he took some responsibility for his actions.

It's a wonder he hasn't gone on a tear about the movie rights to Nathan's story being sold.

And although I don't know Charles Ardai, I feel confident that he would not be pleased to have this ass as his defender. He was plain enough about that sort of thing over the SOI/Edgar brouhaha.

Lyman Feero said...

Here's a tough question, Sandra. What happens if a Dale Chapel story lands on your desk?

Even after all this shit, I'd hope that you'd give it a read. Based on the recent discussions it would must likely be horrendous but you never know.

Sandra Ruttan said...

The only work that doesn't get read is work sent in without the release form... and work from one writer I personally banned after extreme harassment and a legal situation.

For the most part, it takes a fair bit for the stories to even get to me for reading. In other words, most of them are screened out by other readers. When they come back with unanimous opinions, or with a thorough assessment I trust, I follow through. I step in when there are wildly diverse opinions on a story that suggest more of a taste reaction. In the past, I've stripped out contributer info so that the name doesn't colour the assessment.

As of right now, all writers who submitted prior to October 31 that have not received a rejection letter have passed through to the second reading. Only about 1/3 of the stories submitted are getting to second reading, and of those I'm not sure what percentage we'll take. Maybe 50%?

It's tough to get published... but I've published people I'm not overly fond of, I've interviewed people I don't know or hang out with, and I've given positive reviews and referrals to people I'm definitely not friends with. It is, after all, supposed to be about the work.

Lyman Feero said...

That's what I hoped you'd say. Editing can lead to some pretty jaded attitudes. I'm glad to see it hasn't gotten to you.

I don't wish noirboy any ills, maybe some lessons in humility, but if he wants to write I hope someday he finds his way without stepping over people to get there.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Amen to that Lyman. As it should be.

And any writer who's been around for more than five minutes knows some rejections are off taste more than quality. That's a reality. It's terribly hard to write humour, and to write romance, fantasy, sci fi... all of that stuff. And I suck at romance and humour, but I also prefer reading dark stories. Down to a choice between some warped little noir tale and a more romantic piece, I'm probably going to go with the noir.

I suppose this could explain the divorce...

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

Fuck them, Sandra. There are mean spirited whiners everywhere.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hi Trace! Hope you're doing well.

And for the record, I'd rather fuck someone with class. ;)

Jack Getze said...

When are you going to learn this phrase, Sandra?

Let'em drink Drano!

And what Trace said, too.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I'm getting it printed on a tight t-shirt at chest level just to be sure noirboy will read it. ;)

angie said...

As you know, you've nothing to do with dorkboy's comments/brouhaha/call it what you will.

I'm actually kinda disturbed the little shit got so much attention out of it! He's clearly stuck in that post-adolescent/college arrogant ass phase. Lots of us went through it, though he's taken it to the next level. Just sad he's taken up so much time and energy. Honestly, other than scurrying out to take an ill-conceived and poorly-reasoned poke at an author, what's he done? Nothing. What interesting point does he have to make? None.

Let it go, move on, the stories rock (all of them), and this is an extra heaping helping of "who needs it & who cares." Or, y'know, something along those lines...

Chris said...

Okay, I'm a little late to the party, but you're damn right these nominations made a lot of writers' days. I just re-read my own post on the topic, and I'm glad it made you smile, but I don't think I did justice to how elated I was to be on that list. It was made all the sweeter by the fact that I love a lot of the stories I'm up against.

Oh, and Noirboy might suck, but that Lyman guy is bad news. I hear he punches kittens, and last week he stole my bike. So, um, vote for me!

In all honesty, Noirboy's comments just served to rally support behind the Spinetingler Awards. The only downside (aside of having to read Noirboy's ass-talking ramblings, that is) is him potentially turning folks off of Ardai's story with his praise of it -- a shame, since it's freakin' great.

Kelli Stanley said...

Sandra, if you're responsible for a little shit with a big mouth, self-righteously narrow-minded attitude, and a weak grasp on the English language, then maybe you're also responsible for the current US administration ... ;)

You've done nothing but make a whole lot of writers and publishing pros feel really goddamn good. And no author-and I mean no author--could honestly say he or she doesn't appreciate appreciation. I know how much the nom has meant to me. And I'm serious--it cured my pneumonia. :)

Now, get better, and let's look forward to 2008!