requires only that you hate

Hugos is over. Hurrah! The Sad Puppies won. Or didn’t, depending on which website you read. This means we now have another couple of months until it starts up again and one of the SciFi community’s most hate-filled controversies can consume us all again. What fun we’ll have as both sides point fingers, scream incoherently, raise banners calling for solidarity and and end to racism, and generally blog the shit out of the internet.

As an immature Indie hack not good enough to participate in such mighty literary events, I can’t wait for the next display.

For me, though, this wasn’t the controversy of the year. I mean, I don’t go to Cons. They’re full of people. And, once you’ve worked enough retail and customer service, the last thing you want to do on a weekend is go see more people running around with their entitlement boots on no matter what character they’re pretending to be for their YouTube channel.

No, the controversy of the year for me has been one which involved a little more personal hate. It was an interesting controversy on so many levels and it’s taken me this long to even consider writing about. I’m, of course, talking about the blog Requires Only That You Hate and the subsequent “doxxing” of its author as rising star, Benjanun Sriduangkaew.

First, I’ll talk about Benjanun. I started with her novella, Scale Bright, and it’s a great piece of Urban Fantasy set in Hong Kong. The prose style is different from much Urban Fantasy, though, by being poetic. It’s more of a literary style than the majority of Urban Fantasy which is often about as literary as your average Bestseller. Aliette deBodard (whose books I really like), also did the foreward to this one. There’s some really beautiful writing in this book. It’s no wonder her career was on a steep rise. Then doxxing really hammered a few brakes into her journey and no amount of apologies from her will be accepted.

If you never knew Requires Hate, or you only heard about her from internet articles, you missed something special. Something which was out of time and place. Something which belonged in Usenet during the 1990s. If you were involved in newsgroups back then, you’ll know what I mean.

A lot of people have called her a troll, which is an easy accusation to make. I was once called a troll so much that I ended up taking it as a badge of honour. I’d argue, however, that a troll doesn’t believe what they’re writing. A troll feels no passion in their rants other than a deep belly-curdling chuckle as they laugh at the rage of those who choose to respond with reason. A troll (in the usenet sense) might have been called a Devil’s Advocate anywhere else. A sociopath in other places.

But Requires Only That You Hate was something else. She had belief. And was passionate to the point of obsession. She ripped apart novels, movies, and television. She clawed it to pieces in sharp venomous prose which exposed the guts of her prey for the world to see. She sought to show the world how racist her prey was. How homophobic. She hunted down examples which she threw in your face as proof of the perpetuation of inequality. And she did it with a rabid glee which defied understanding when taken out of context of her writing style.

Aptly named, Requires Hate was never a passive observer. She was never a defender. She attacked with everything she had, throwing sharp-tongued comments at anything which appeared to conform to a social belief she found insulting. A lot of writers were caught in her high-beams. Many took the thousand cuts and said nothing. Others tried to defend. But you can’t defend against this kind of rage. You can’t contain it. You can’t push back on it. So, you either give in, or you end up responding with the same hatred.

And, I have to admit, when that happened it sure was amusing.

These days, when you read articles on her, you can read how evil she was. How horrible her words hurt. But what you find hard to find is an article discussing what it was Requires Hate was actually raging against. It’s almost like everyone thinks her passion was misguided. Aimless. As though she was just attacking her competitors with an anarchist's fervor. Others have made the claim that, as a writer, she was simply trying to undermine her competition.

But that really wasn’t it. The spite delivered by Requires Hate wasn’t for a commercial purpose. It was purely rage against what she once described as lazy writing. For example, one of her biggest sources of rage was finding rape in a novel purely for the sake of being there. God help the author who put a rape scene in their book to make their female character suffer. Woe to that author. Woe, I say.

Here I might make quick reference to one of her more powerful critics, George RR Martin, who has been on the receiving end of a Requires Hate comment more than a few times. It’s worth mentioning that, even if you didn’t read the books, you can see why he might really ping the rape radar, and why. Because, arguably, his books tended toward rape being “normal”. It almost made it “cool”. Especially once Game of Thrones became a tv series. And I don’t think anyone can argue Requires Hate was unduly focusing on the rape in this series, because you can’t talk about the series without talking about rape. It’s practically called Rape of Thrones, and even the porn parody has a hard time trying to figure out where the source ends and the parody begins except that porn has laws which prevent aggressive scenes which are portrayed in the television series.

When I found her blog by accident (due to a writer’s sad story on their blog), I had recently completed my first two novels. I had thrown them up and was doing okay with them. I thought I was the bee’s knees (like that pun?). I had actually been looking for people to look at my work. God help me if she’d found me. No one else would help me. You see, in my first novel, I had used a rape reference. Sure, no one ever got physically raped, but the bad guys make the reference. And that would’ve been enough for Requires Hate to impale me on a legion of spearlike verbal barbs which would have really hurt.

After reading one of her rants which lashed out at such lazy writing, I actually sat back and thought about it. Here I was writing a book about a heroine stabbing the shit out of people (because I like people that much) and I was trying to make a difference in my own stupid way, and I was basically conforming to what was, essentially, a social norm for white guy writers. If I could go back, I would like to write those comments out. That’s how influenced I was by this blogger’s work. In my subsequent books, I have not once written a rape threat and I never will in my books again. Because, she’s right. It’s fucking lazy.

In every book, a male character has a thousand ways they can suffer or be threatened. A thousand ways to be given guilt, fear, revenge, and hate. They can be made victims in a wide variety of ways both physical and mental. But, in most books, women only have one. Rape. Whether threatened or real, that’s all the female characters will be presented with.

In writing my next books, I had to actually think. I had to twist my brain cells and come up with something else. Something essentially heroic which would motivate and spur the heroine to greater sacrifice and hate. And you know what? That’s a challenge. A challenge I took and have decided to keep running with.

An argument often made by authors is “But this is what would have happened. It’s realistic.” You hear it so often, especially in defense of the rapes portrayed in the aforementioned Game of Thrones. And I’ve been examining that, too. In my novels, my books aren’t set on earth. People aren’t earth people. So, do they need to think this way? We’re writing SciFi and Fantasy. We don’t need “realism” on any scale. And, given the complaints about the use of the word fuck in my novels by an elf, I’d say realism is a poor excuse for anything.

Requires Hate scared people. She brought waves of razorblade comments and inspired more hate. She hurt a lot of people thanks to her sharp uncontrolled manner. But what she was trying to stand for was something most fantasy writers often say they stand for and may not always show in every aspect of their writing. I’ve heard rumours that a strong female character doesn’t have to be a rape victim. I know. Crazy, right? But this is why she screamed for equality of representation and a more positive portrayal of sex, race, and gender identity. Because it’s still so common for these elements to be used in a negative way in what can only be described as a dangerous cliché. I never understood some of the responses to her, which could have been curbed by, “You know what? You’re actually right. I did that and it’s fucking lazy.”

She was also quite open of her opinions of pretty much any white hetero male. Woe to us. Woe to me. But given the message she was trying to push, it’s no surprise. She saw inequality everywhere. Saw injustice in everything. Felt those injustices as a personal attack on her and, rather than cry in a corner, she lashed right back. There’s a lot of power in that. Power which can be frightening to some. Why didn’t I feel as negative to her as others? I should. I am, after all, a white hetero guy. I tick so many boxes of her sins that I can’t even begin to redeem myself. I wrote about rape, once. My sense of humour also wobbles deep into the territory commonly known as black. And if anyone ever doxxed me (yay, usenet!), Requires Hate would definitely want my testicles on a platter. Again.

I guess I admire her because I’m jealous of Requires Hate. Jealous because she had a belief she could remain true to. I wish I could feel that same drive. I’m not her, I never felt what she felt. I don’t possess the same focused rage. And, I see even on her twitter, Benjanun still holds her beliefs out there for all to see. I hope she lets Requires Hate back out of the box some day. Because we need her. The prevailing conception of people fighting for rights is that they should be peaceful. They should have clever memes of sunsets and asian people holding hands with white people. They should have pictures overlaid with rainbows. And, like lost hippies, they sing songs of love and acceptance. They stand in front of rabid racists and hate-filled Westboro monsters with silent reproach and a near-maternal sense of welcoming.

Requires Hate, however, stood there with knives. And said, “Fuck that bullshit. Bring it on.”

What’s amazing is the amount of hate on the internet left for her. There’s still people doing their best to worsen her reputation. To drive her back underground (where they argue she belongs). They call her the names she called them. Racist. Misogynist. Bigot. But the argument is real that she used their language. Their tools. She used the bigot’s arsenal right back at those she perceived as bigoted. It’s an interesting technique.

There’s no argument that if she wanted to be taken seriously, she went about it in a strange way. But, love her or hate her, I hope she made you think.

- published 30/08/2015

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