Labels, Logic, and Lies

You know, I really hate talking about people. This blog is meant for ideas . . . I'd really much rather be discussing the oddity of Jake saying Regulus was a mere 300 ly from DS9, and other warp velocities stuff. But sometimes, one just has to stoop and rant.

1. The Label

A few months ago, I found a new word. Coined by an acquaintance of Star Wars author Karen Traviss, the term originally was meant to refer to Dune fans who, out of malice, stupidity, or brain damage, harass and/or terrorize authors and their business. That term, of course, is "Talifan". Traviss provided the following definition:

"I am very specific about what I mean by a Talifan; a fan (in any franchise) who insults and attacks creators and other fans over detail and is absolutely intolerant of different views, and bullies and defames instead of joining in a civilised and enjoyable debate. I can't imagine anyone believing that's acceptable behaviour."

Alas, some do think it's acceptable. Talifandom comes in many forms. Authors might simply be attacked by fans with a bone to pick and absolutely no sense of proper conduct, much as happened to Pablo Hidalgo, Karen Traviss, et cetera. Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert experienced it as a small-minded attack on their book's user reviews at Amazon.com. Robert A. Salvatore, author of the Star Wars book Vector Prime in which Chewbacca was killed, received numerous death threats. All have had their names slandered by obsessed fans upset about some damn thing or other.

However, the term has a much broader reach than merely referring to a negative segment of author-fan relationships. The same terror tactics used by animal-rights freaks like Pamelyn Ferdin's SHAC group . . . which are the same as those used by Wong and the Dirty Dozen-Or-So over at StarDestroyer.Net . . . are the same as those used by these Talifans.

As I said previously on the StarWars.com forums, "There is a small group of very vocal SW fans who feel that, no matter how much of a SW fan you are, if you disagree with their exact preference of what SW is supposed to be then you are the enemy, open to attack by any means necessary. I am thus in the august company of Pablo, Karen Traviss, Ryan Kaufman, KJA, Bob Brown, Nathan [Butler], Gary Sarli, and many others you wouldn't recognize who've upset this particular group of "Talifan". (Constant tangling with them can interfere with one's enjoyment of SW, which is why Bob Brown put away his blasters and my own fandom has waned at times. However, nowadays I just remember they are a venomous minority and go on unfazed.)"

And frankly, it makes me feel a little better about the world that the same segment of Talifandom that the SW VIP folks have dealt with happens to be the same one I'm acquainted with. The fewer of this sort there are, the better. After all, consider these three violent Talifantasies -- 1 & 2 about me, and 3 about Karen Traviss. While the existence of such material is bad enough, wouldn't it be even more disconcerting if three separate people were responsible? Happily, instead it's just one angry little guy in California who, since he tips the scales at 450 pounds and works a crap job, is a viable threat to no one except nearby Californians incapable of exceeding 0.84 miles per hour on foot.)

While Al-Qaeda and animal-rights terrorists are real terrorists because of their violent acts, the attempted use of fear and intimidation, not to mention genuine offline harassment and threats, by these Talifans is no less real. So it seems to me that referring to them with a near-terrorist moniker is entirely proper. Even the word "terrorist" is okay in a pinch . . . the threat of violence alone is legally sufficient, though (since these terrorists have no particular broad political or societal agenda) "criminal geek" is probably more accurate.

2. The Logic

Traviss's definition was pretty specific insofar as talifandom being a fan-on-fan or fan-on-author activity. In other words, the agent of talifandom has to be a fan.

That's all well and good, but what if an author is the one who uses "insults and attacks", and "is absolutely intolerant of different views, and bullies and defames instead of joining in a civilised and enjoyable debate"? "I can't imagine anyone believing that's acceptable behaviour", either, except Harlan Ellison.

What have we then? A Tali-Author, which is just a talifan who happens to have been published, also? Or is this person morally okay, to be allowed their behavior because they're an author?

Well, I for one reject the latter idea. That argument is rather similar to a racist who claims not to be racist because he or she is a member of a racial minority. Right and wrong have to be universally applicable or they mean nothing.

So what does this mean for Talifandom? Well, while the word itself might be confined to fans (what with the term originating from "Taliban Fandom" in the first place), the concept is universally applicable.

3. The Lies

Comparing people to Hitler or their arguments to Nazi positions has been prevalent online for a long while. "Godwin's Law" dates to 1990 or so, after all. I note this simply to point out that it would be all too easy to make a powerful and direct label like "Talifan" he argumentum ad nazium. Suddenly you'd have Talifans, Talifans, everywhere!

Unfortunately, this sort of thing is already occurring.

Back in November, I chanced upon a post at TrekBBS relating to StarTrek.com and whether or not its words about Trek canon carried any weight. The poster, "Therin of Andor", claimed that Richard Arnold had said StarTrek.com was a mere licensee, of no weight whatsoever. I noted contrary details in a fact-finding manner, and asked a few questions. At first, the only response was a vague second-hand statement from some random guy (who, unbeknownst to me, was actually a Trek author . . . which I presume is why he now uses the tagline "Writer" under his name). I requested a first-hand statement . . . and then all hell broke loose. The random guy unleashed an angry, cursing reply, and then a pile-on of other authors began. The second one claimed I was dishonest, obnoxious, pathetic, obsessed with them, and "couldn't care less about objective truth". All this from my two messages! (Of course, in reality he'd simply mistaken me for someone else . . . he claimed they had schooled me on canon "months ago", but in fact I had never discussed it with them.)

Now, in all fairness, I had never participated in the Trek Literature forum before, nor had I bothered to read any of the posts. (After all, what did I care about the books?) As a result, I was unaware of how touchy the authors are about the word "canon", since people apparently often note that their works are not. Further, I was unaware that the authors frequently banded together to fling poo at people (hence the second Trek author's use of "we" and "us"). That had been a subject of multiple user complaints in the "Moderator Actions" forum and elsewhere, and has also been the subject of a whole lot of jokes there or in the Lit Forum.

In short, I was inadvertently carrying about five tons worth of incendiary devices and had just unwittingly waded into an ocean of gasoline.

So it goes.

Immediately following Author #2's ludicrous diatribe, Author #3 piled on with a mish-mash of insulting statements which originated from his not having bothered to read my post. He even claimed that I had accused the authors of dishonesty and ignorance. And yet, seemingly by accident, he quoted something which actually was topical toward the questions I'd asked.

Only with the next post from a Trek Lit VIP did I get a worthwhile response, but even that was written with a sneer.

It was at this point I returned, and tried to put out the fire. Apologizing to Author #1, I noted that I had not recognized him, but that I'd read one of his novels and so on and so forth. He hadn't been a bad guy, after all . . . just a little snitty.

Author #2, however, had annoyed me. My response to him was somewhat less friendly, though not rude. I was simply more to-the-point, though I did aim for a bit of comic relief at my own expense.

And with Author #3, I again explained why I was asking the question, explained the basis of the questions, and thanked him for quoting something useful to me. (I did, however, make a smartass comment in reply to one of his misunderstandings, but as hostile as he'd been I felt okay about one ribbing.)

(He soon replied via private message, blaming his mood for some of his misstatements and trying to explain his misconceptions on other matters. He was just an e-book author, after all, and was polite, so we had a little manly-hug moment.)

Later, after updating my canon page, I returned to thank the Trek Lit VIP who'd given a worthwhile answer. To my shock, though, Author #2 had posted even more vitriol, claiming I was manufacturing beliefs based on my own unwavering preconceptions, lying about things, and so on. In short, he was hostile and weird.

So yeah, I responded. VIP or not, this guy was an asshole. Even so, my response was measured. I didn't flame him or even call him on his dishonesty. The most I did was point out that he was being unnecessarily hostile with his personal attacks, and I pointed out the profound contradiction he held and that he was flaming me over.

His response was "oh, lighten up", and some variations on that theme. In other words, I made my point. Sure, Author #2 had distracted me from the goal of my entering the thread, but only for a moment . . . "Therin" returned and noted that a VIP-of-Lit-VIPs (Paula Block) posted at TrekBBS, and to ask her the questions I'd been posting.

Considering the weirdos that had shown up in the thread I was in, that sounded like a good idea.

And so it was that a new thread was born.
Eventually Paula Block responded, and meanwhile the other VIPs entertained themselves both at TrekBBS and with comments about me at the SimonSays.com Pocket Books forums. I had, in no time flat, become the whipping boy of the Trek Lit VIPs in regards to all the people who'd used that dirty "canon" word before.

But I thanked Paula and, though I did make a snide remark at one of the authors who'd been particularly annoying, the conversation had ended on a relatively decent note. What probably should've happened at this point is that I should've taken the information I'd acquired, gone home, and updated my page accordingly.

But, alas, I ended up posting one of those little thread wrap-ups I liked to do, noting that in my rank-based scheme Paula Block's statements couldn't trump those of Jeri Taylor regarding the matter under discussion. This was true, of course, but the fact that I said it (or said much of anything) raised the ire of that weird e-book Author #3 anew, along with the rest of the angry author group.

The situation basically boiled down to Author #3 as the primary attacker and the other authors as peanut gallery. Author #3 . . . Kevin Killiany of BattleTech fame . . . pulled out all the stops . . . lies, misrepresentations, personal attacks, feigned innocence-abused, and so on. I have no idea how he got so riled up about things, given his earlier apology via PM, but it was no longer of consequence. As far as I was concerned, I was under fire, being unfairly maligned personally and my position under attack by a person making patently false statements.

As anyone who's dealt with me at all knows, I'm a defiant bastard. The StarDestroyer.Net gang found this out long ago, which is why I'm now #1 in the Google rankings for "Star Trek vs. Star Wars" and StarDestroyer.Net is not. Despite the strategic error of posting the thread wrap-up, I was not going to allow Author #3's bullshit about the facts and about me to go unchallenged.

So, I went about correcting him point by point, and while I wasn't outright flaming him I was certainly only being as respectful as his actions had warranted. And through it all, I kept trying to explain to him why exactly my position was what it was.

Killiany would hear nothing of it. Even when another poster diplomatically tried to explain to him and the other authors what I was saying in another way, and both Kevin Killiany and I both complimented him on his olive branch, Killiany then chose to press his attack, and repeated his earlier demand for my identity.

(Given how I've dealt with Talifans, do you really think I had any desire to give this nutbag my contact info? Of course not. However, another poster did a little search and found some of the SD.Net Talifan sites for him, so now he started sounding like Poe.)

My final response chastised him for his aggression in lieu of respecting the other fellow's olive branch, after which I again pressed his illogic, culminating as it did with his desire for more information about me. With this last post I finally called a spade a spade, identifying his frequent, direct, unmistakable lies for what they were. Finally, I asked him how far he wanted to go . . . he seemed bent on a full flame war, but if he'd just shut the f*** up then we could simply part ways. (I phrased it somewhat more diplomatically, however.)

Killiany simply replied that he was being deliberately baited, and the thread was closed soon after. Of course, since he had been the attacking party with me on defense all the way until the last message, I fail to see how I was doing the baiting. But hey, whatever . . . it wasn't like he was being consistent with himself or reality the rest of the time.

I expected this fellow to drop off the radar, but instead he decided not to. I knew this Trek e-book author was batshit, but I didn't realize how batshit he was. He soon joined up at StarDestroyer.Net to talk about me there. Like the old saying, "friends come and go; enemies accumulate", here I had a stark-raving lunatic joining up with the others.

I correctly predicted that he would quickly disappear from there, though some of my reasons were wrong. The guy claimed (to my surprise) to be a minister. I assumed this would imply that the anti-religious and just-plain-weird-religious sentiments at SD.Net would drive him away, but in fact in researching this post I discovered that his theology is quite peculiar anyway (or do all Presbyterians believe there were two creation events in Genesis with an Earth-razing war in between?). And of course I figured that as a minister the guy was more likely to be conservative, but again in researching this post I discovered that this guy is a rabid liberal/subjectivist loonie, which explains a lot about his rather fluid perception of reality.

So it goes.

In any case, though, he'd shown me that despite his claim to be a mental health professional (tacked on to his writing and teaching and ministerial duties and the other umpteen jobs he claims for himself), he was quite the psycho. I mean, if I'd gone to, say, some BattleTech forum and bitched about the guy, then I could see where I could be called obsessed. However, here was a situation where the guy had knowingly gone to the website of my opponents . . . even after previous comments by me about their behavior . . . and joined up with the purpose of talking smack about me.

In short, I had a Trek author obsessed with me. Oh sure, I don't think he had a shrine to me that he wanked to, but there was still a lot of obsessive wankery involved.

But after his disappearance from SD.Net, and considering that I had no more need to be in the TrekBBS Lit forum, Kevin Killiany dropped off my radar. I thought nothing more of him, except when I was working on the canon page update and pondered what a profound nutjob he'd been. I assumed that the obsession had waned.

I thought wrong.

Recently, Karen Traviss has been commenting on Talifan via her LiveJournal, just as I've been mentioning them here. And of course, the Talifans at StarDestroyer.Net have been obsessing over her every word.

It should come as no surprise that Kevin Killiany, freak and obsessed Tali-Author, showed up to give his two cents to Ms. Traviss. The wacko is still obsessed, evidently . . . and really, is it any surprise he'd show up? After all, I'd made my interest in the topic clear, what with Traviss and I dealing with the same StarDestroyer.Net freaks. Oh, but I'm sure it was mere coincidence.

Traviss had been pondering the idea of having a "who's who of the Talifan" sort of thing, and Killiany (rather ironically) had a suggestion:

"A guide to these creatures would be very helpful. I could send you a link to a thread on the TrekBBS (if it still exists, it's been months) where one of these creatures infiltrated the normally civil TrekLit forum."

I sound so dastardly and insidious! Skulking about in a peaceful meadow prepared to do wicked wicked things! I can't help but laugh at this, considering the TrekLit forum's reputation as home of the author wolfpack, and their low annoyance threshold with the word "canon".

"He sounded quite nice at first, but when he wasn't getting the answers he wanted he degenerated into telling Paula Block -- who oversees Star Trek licensing -- that she didn't have the right to decide Trek canon,"

Well, she doesn't. She has some say, but the buck has never stopped with her, much to Killiany's regret. He lied like hell to try to make it sound like it did, but it doesn't.

"accused a Pentecostal minister who asked by what authority he spoke of trying to learn his identity for the purpose of communicating death threats,"

The above is cute. I noted that I don't like to give out my personal information because of obsessive crazies online, and noted what those crazies have previously done (i.e. death threats, et cetera). Killiany not only identified himself with those crazies (which at least was honest on his part), but jumped to the conclusion that I thought he'd start making death threats.

Had he not said so I wouldn't have thought it, but y'know, he might be right. Maybe I should worry about him. (Fear not, I'm mostly kidding.)

What's also fun is that he identifies himself in the third-person using the nicest-sounding claimed title of his that he could find. After all, had he identified himself as an obsessive-compulsive nutjob who tries to find out about people online so he can go join up at the boards of those who threaten and harass them, it wouldn't sound as good, would it?

"told DS9 scrip writer David Mack he didn't know what he was doing"

Except I never talked to David Mack, nor did I tell anyone they didn't know what they were doing (except for Killiany himself).

"and informed Marco Palmieri and several Trek novelists -- including Keith DeCandido, Christopher Bennett, Andy Mengles, and Dayton Ward among others -- that they were just bitter failures because their work would never be considered canon."

This is the funniest part of all, and not just because Andy Mangels wasn't even in the thread. The funny part is this: after one of Author #2's early flame-fests in which he rejected the idea of canon and my reasoning abilities, I rather nicely said "The fact is that I have the utmost respect for what you fellows do, and there are a lot of great books and book-derived concepts that ought to be Star Trek canon. It is perhaps unfair that Jeri Taylor had the chance to canonize her own material. However, getting in a huff over the fact that you can't do the same isn't going to help you, and while flaming a guy for keeping track of the canon policy might make you feel better, that doesn't help you either."

Killiany, however, added all sorts of extra meaning to that. I'm particularly amused by his rendition of it as 'you're all bitter failures!' Given how often these guys hear the word "canon" and how much they loathe it, it's ironic that he'd inadvertently confess that what I said was more true than I realized by expanding upon it so.

"What stopped the mad whirlpool of good people trying to talk sense to this fellow was one helpful member posting a link to a page over at StarDestroyer warning people about this particular troll. A hand reference like the one you propose would be a great time saver in the future.

Go for it."

And here we come to the crux of the matter. Any talifan freakshow can write a hate page just like the one Wayne Poe and the SD.Net Talifan just wrote about Karen Traviss. (Of course, the fact that Killiany referenced StarDestroyer.Net, home of the anti-Traviss Talifan, tickles me endlessly.)

But if a crazed tali-author freak like Kevin Killiany, an author who obsesses over people who resist his flaming attempts, were allowed to add people to a list of talifans . . . well, then, the word and the entire concept ceases to have meaning.

Now me, I've been calling these talifan bastards to the carpet for years, even if I haven't had the word "talifan" to employ until the last few months. And I'll keep doing so, even if Killiany's effort to sack the word is successful.


Author said...

And incidentally, this post was not a declaration of war or anything silly like that, though I'm sure he'll probably continue his unacceptable behavior with me or others.

As far as I'm concerned, though, I'm through with the guy. He can keep being obsessed if he wants to, but I'm content that I've made my point.

Anonymous said...

I'm shocked and amazed that you can't see that they can see through the civility for what is truly beneath it: vile and disgusting arrogance that's got an insatiable need to conquer and destroy all those oppose your view.

How can you not see that?


Author said...

Yes, you're right, I know. I should've listened to what they told me months before I ever talked to them the first time.

("I hate temporal mechanics.")


Author said...

To see someone like Kvaadk outright lie about you like this is truely amazing. I have to wonder about what kind of a person he really is when a simple question about canon sets him off like that.

Actually, I figure he might be okay in person (and not simply because then he's within punching range, which seems to be what keeps most people's behavior in check). I think he simply proves the so-called "Greater Internet F***wad Theory".

I wouldn't say he's well-adjusted or anything, and I certainly wouldn't want to go hang out, but I find it unlikely that he just flips and goes batshit on random people as part of his daily routine.

(I recall an allegorical short story set long ago written by Thomas Mann. In it, a stuffy old man . . . in full tailed suit with top-hat and cane . . . is walking in the park when some young guy rides along the same path on a newfangled contraption called a bicycle. The stuffy old man goes totally nuts and starts trying to kill the guy with his cane for being such a punk and for, basically, interrupting his idyllic meadow with modernity. The old man's rage makes his old ticker go pop, though, and he dies on the spot.)

The issue simply boiled down to sociology. Much like StarDestroyer.Net is its own little subculture with certain acceptable behaviors and mores, so too are the Trek VIPs in the TrekBBS Trek Lit forum their own little subculture. Subcultures and the mechanics of groups of like-minded people aren't bad in and of themselves, mind you. Without groups of like-minded people doing things in unison our history would be much different. The problem is just that at times, a subculture can warp into an example of Orwellian groupthink, complete with outsider-Winstons being tortured for their opposition. When that happens, normal (or "more normal") people can find themselves in Winston's seat in a hurry.

Author said...

What you say is all true, Robert. But I still have to express some fustration over the fact that Killiany has Traviss' ear, and will be feeding her a rather vile lie about you, or anyone else he decides have placed on his list of enemies.

Well yes, that sort of thing is frustrating. Unfortunately, it's also a part of life. It's called different things in different situations . . . sometimes it's "office politics" where some petty, moronic suck-up has the boss's ear . . . or perhaps it's a punk talking to a girl, trying to disparage a guy she's seeing in the hopes of getting some from her, et cetera.

Perhaps in a more perfect world that sort of thing would never happen, or at least never work. Perhaps in the most perfect world it would be open season on such people. But this is not that world. The most we can do in such situations is continue to show, by words and actions, that we are not who the liars say we are. And, of course, on those occasions where the opportunity to unmask the villain to all comes, to do so (and relish the opportunity).

It won't always result in victory . . . but like I said, this isn't a perfect world.

Author said...

As for the Spacebattles thread and opposition "damage control", I had tried to respond via e-mail with the following (sorry if you didn't get it):

"That's what often happened around prequel episode releases . . . some people would notice the bloomin' obvious, and questions would be raised even by the casually-interested. Eventually, though, one of the SD.Netters would hit upon some creative piece of bullshit to explain it, then that got built upon by the others, and then they'd go around as a bloc saying that's the only thing it could be (and that you're an idiot if you don't agree). A few casual folks might be convinced by the flimsy excuse, but most folks (not being as interested in the topic) would either let it go 'cause it wasn't worth debating against the bloc or else they'd just chalk it up as a-subject-about-which-debate-exists and so not do much else with it.

Even with the flimsy excuses, the simple fact that there is resistance can be useful to keep casual folks from accepting things, simply because they have to decide for themselves. That takes more work than just being told. And, of course, when one of the sides uses reason but the other uses emotional persuasion and sophistry, it can be a good bit of work indeed. Casual folks just don't have time for that.

Of course, I'm speaking here of more than just the Vs. Debate . . . many subjects have similar issues. Evolution debates, politics . . . the list goes on and on."