DisCon III appears to holds successful females to a higher standard than their male counterparts.

Investigator in hat and sunglassesOn the basis of a self-described ‘investigative report’ (which fails to meet any of the eight criteria required of such a report), DisCon III has removed the successful female publisher of Baen Books (Ms Toni Weisskopf) as DisCon’s Guest of Honour.

Or to put it another way, DisCon III is refusing to celebrate the success of the female publisher of Baen Books (Toni Weisskopf) because of the poorly argued hatchet-job undertaken by Jason Sanford concerning the adequacy of the moderating process on some of Baen’s forums. DisCon acted despite Ms Weisskopf immediately suspending all the forums while the company investigated. Indeed they removed Ms Weisskopf as a Guest of Honour four days after she had suspended the forum. The removal is the first time that such an action has been taken in the 80 years of WorldCons. (Note: the Macquarie Dictionary defines ‘hatchet job’ for Australian users as: ‘a verbal or written attack on a person, designed to destroy their credibility or ability to function’).

Firstly a couple points regarding my own background before I explain my concerns regarding the action, particularly given the many and significant failures of Mr Sanford’s report.

    • I am a trained and highly experienced Administrative Investigator, (7 years as the Manager Investigations at the Western Australian Ombudsman’s Office, and 9 years as the Deputy Inspector at the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services).
    • My own politics is broadly Socialist. And although a male I have strong feminist sympathies, which have been reinforced as the result of being married to a strong, articulate woman for nearly 40 years.
    • And lastly I am also one of the 64,280 registered users of Baen’s Bar. Like many, however, I have never posted, and have only visited the site once (when I registered).

Here’s a timeline with links to the main documents relevant to understanding the background to DisCon’s actions:

    • 15 Feb 2021 – Jason Sandford releases his self described ‘investigative report’ about ‘how Baen’s Bar, the private forum run by the science fiction and fantasy publishing company Baen Books, is being used to advocate for extremist political violence’: https://www.patreon.com/posts/baen-books-forum-47582408
    • 15 Feb 2021 – Toni Weisskopf, Baen’s Publisher announces that effective from noon 16 Feb the Bar has been closed (https://www.baen.com/bb021621):

‘It’s been brought to my attention by some helpful folks that speech not everyone agrees with, and that may have become unlawful speech, has occurred on Baen’s Bar. In order to fully investigate those serious allegations, and any violations of the Bar “no hitting” rule, we will be taking a break from the Bar as of noon February 16th, and encourage all our readers to enjoy their lawful conversations elsewhere for the time being.—Toni Weisskopf, Publisher’

Now to my concerns.

Firstly, Mr Sanford described his post as ‘an investigative report’. Unfortunately, while it may have been intended as such, it failed to meet most, and perhaps all of the eight principals of Excellent Investigations set out in Gareth Jones ‘Conducting Administrative Oversight & Ombudsman Investigations’ (Canada Law Book: 2009). These being:

    1. the investigator must be as independent as possible
    2. the investigator must be trained and experienced
    3. all potentially relevant issues must be identified and, where appropriate, pursued
    4. the investigation must be sufficiently resourced
    5. all relevant physical evidence should be preserved, collected and examined as necessary
    6. all relevant documentation must be secured and reviewed
    7. all relevant witnesses must be identified, segregated where practical and thoroughly interviewed on all the issues under investigation
    8. the analysis of all the material gathered in the investigations should be objective and based solely on the facts.

Some may argue that, despite Mr Sandford’s claim to the contrary, the report was not an ‘investigative report’ but simply a setting out of some concerns that warranted further investigation. I would normally agree with this argument except it was on the basis of the report that DisCon III took action to remove Ms Weisskopf as a Guest of Honor.

My concern is that despite Mr Sandford’s article not being fit for the purpose of serving as an ‘investigative report’ (see following), it served as the basis for DisCon III decision to cancel Ms Weisskopf’s attendance as a GOH (no other reason having been provided). Perhaps because she was a female, and the DisCon Committee fell into the familiar trap of holding females to a higher standard than their male counterparts. There is certainly an argument that can be made that the decision by DisCon to disinvite Ms Weisskopf may be the result of a fear of the ‘cancel culture’. A recent opinion piece in the Washington Post by Matt Bai https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/12/are-we-all-being-canceled-no-cultural-revolution-is-real/ makes it clear how dangerous this can be.

In conclusion I also note that DisCon’s action has robbed Mr Sanford of the opportunity he was hoping for to have a number of questions put to Ms Weisskopf at the convention.

The following addresses my concerns regarding Mr Sandford’s document as an ‘investigative-report’. Addressing each of the eight requirements for such reports in turn:

    1. The investigator must be as independent as possible.

While Mr Sandford appears on the face of the matter to be independent of the matters he is raising, this is not a matter that can be ascertained from his report. It would have been helpful if he had set out what relationship, if any, he had had with Baen’s Bar. However, given the warning in the opening paragraph, ‘Warning: This report includes discussions of possible political violence along with quoted comments containing racism, white supremacy, and more’, it would appear that he sought to write the report with the intention of making the report as contentious as possible to incite interest. I must stress, that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this approach unless you are seeking to portray the article as unbiased and suitable for others to make decisions on – which people have.

    1. The investigator must be trained and experienced.

According to Mr Sandford’s twitter profile he is an “Archaeologist turned author with a science fictional take on life.” His short story, The Eight-Thousanders is a finalist for the 2021 Nebula Award for Best Short Story. While all admirable, none of this means he is either trained or experienced in conducting an administrative investigation.

    1. All potentially relevant issues must be identified and, where appropriate, pursued.

One major issue I have with the report, as has Mr Flint, is that the report tars all of the SubForums with the same brush of containing “discussions of possible political violence along with … racism, white supremacy, and more”. For example he writes that “the Baen’s Bar forum definitely has a conservative tilt. This can be easily seen in many of the Bar’s most contentious subforums, such as those dealing with politics and other controversial issues.” This is a ridiculous statement which denigrates over a quarter of American adults and is playing towards his perceived audience. In Feb 2021 Gallup polling found that 32% of Americans identified as Democrats, 26% identified as Republican, and 41% as Independent.[“Gallup Historical Trends: Party Affiliation”. Gallup News. Retrieved 2021-01-16.”].

    1. The investigation must be sufficiently resourced.

One person, working remotely, regardless of the number of people who “gave me [Mr Sandford] feedback on this report prior to publication” does not a team make, particularly where the people involved were presumably simply checking the grammar rather than addressing the quality of the underlying investigation. The resourcing was, however, adequate to prepare an initial paper that could then be used by Baen Books to serve as the starting point for their own investigation, which it has done.

    1. All relevant physical evidence should be preserved, collected and examined as necessary.

Not relevant in this case – but see the next point.

    1. All relevant documentation must be secured and reviewed.

In my view this is Mr Sandford’s biggest failure. In seeking to assess the validity of Mr Sandford’s accusations I sought to access the original documentation – unfortunately this is impossible because the forums have been taken down, and the few screen dumps Mr Sandford took fails to show the complete thread of any discussion I sought to access. Unfortunately, given my experience I am only too aware of how selective people can be when preparing an argument.

In the one case where he does provide partial evidence from a thread last year titled ‘Soft Civil War & Trump’s Army,’ https://www.dropbox.com/s/z6x4w7ikewlkipq/BaenBarFeb2020_Captrandy_c.jpg?dl=0 which he believes demonstrates ‘racist comments and innuendos’ he quotes user Captrandy as stating ‘that political conflicts in the USA could be solved if “all the angry and non angry white males should stop going to work for a month or so.”’. I note that this was in response to an article in the New York Times referring to ‘white males’ and the quoted text is simply advocating a withholding of labour – which can by no stretch of the imagination be described as either racism, innuendo, or a call to violence.

In a further example, in Note 5 of Mr Sandford’s report he writes “that Bob Nelson has described being banned from the forum ‘for not agreeing with Mr Ringo’s vision of the universe.’ Nelson later wrote a more detailed post on what happened, describing how he argued against the sad puppies and other issues on the forum prior to being banned.” Have read Mr Nelson’s self-congratulatory blog posts I have to say that I most certainly would not accept Mr Nelson’s claims without checking the original Baen posts. Unfortunately they are presently not available.

    1. All relevant witnesses must be identified, segregated where practical and thoroughly interviewed on all the issues under investigation.

Here Mr Sandford has simply ignored the need to check with relevant witnesses which has resulted in significant errors. For example Mr Sanford writes:

For example, a Baen’s Bar user from India was nicknamed “The Swarthy Menace” on the forum by author Tom Kratman. People on the forum thought that was the height of clever humor.

As Mr Flint points out in his response

He provides one—and only one—example to substantiate his charge that Baen’s Bar has also become well-known in the genre community as a place where racism, sexism, homophobia and general fascism continually pop up. He is outraged that the racist nickname “The Swarthy Menace” was inflicted on a poor downtrodden fellow from India by the wicked Colonel Kratman.

I happen to know the truth about this incident, which is that “The Swarthy Menace” himself, whose actual name is Arun Pradhu, thinks it’s funny—and he developed the nickname with Tom Kratman. He did so because someone he got in an argument with assumed he was Caucasian and accused him of being a racist. He is also, by the way, hopping mad at Jason Sanford for lying about him.

If Mr Sandford had interviewed witnesses instead of relying on hearsay he might have uncovered the truth instead of leaving himself open to claims of sloppy work.

    1. The analysis of all the material gathered in the investigations should be objective and based solely on the facts.

Mr Sandford’s report is not an investigative report, it is a partisan and polemic argument. As such it fails the test of objectivity. Having said that, there is nothing wrong with such articles, except when they pretend a level of objectivity they simply don’t possess.

As a partisan and polemic post Mr Sandford does successfully appear to make the case that some parts of the forum may demonstrate a failure of moderators to ensure posters adhere to the forum’s ‘no-hitting’ rule, and the politeness that one might expect on a public forum. See Cat Rambo’s intelligently written article on moderation http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/2021/02/18/opinion-on-baen-books-moderating-discussion-boards-political-expression/

Recording of the audiobook for Nightfall starts 12 Jan

Tomorrow we start recording the audiobook for ‘Nightfall’, to be narrated and voiced by Alan Marshall, and Sally Bruce, two wonderful Perth actors. It’s been a while (Alan and I started planning this with Vincent from Zmok Books back in Aug) but that has just made me more excited!
 
Alan, who is also producing the audiobook, is planning to finish recording voices by the end of January, but post-production is likely to take a couple more months.
 
We’ve got the cover ready though – 😀
Nightfall - square audiobook cover

Sealion Press releases a new anthology – ‘Alternate Australias’

Congratulations to Sea Lion Press! And thanks to Jared Kavanagh for selecting my story ‘1827: Napoleon in Australia’ for his anthology Alternate Australias, amidst a fantastic group of fellow authors.

I’ll be posting more when I’ve had the chance to read the other author’s works, who include:

  • Simon Berading
  • Liam Connell
  • Wm. Garret Cothran
  • David Flin
  • Andrew J. Harvey
  • Jared Kavanagh
  • Matthew Kresal
  • Peter Rhodan
  • Natasja Rose
  • Colin Salt
  • Steven H Silver

https://www.sealionpress.co.uk/product-page/alternate-australias

https://andrewjharvey.com/shop/product/alternate-australias/

 

Crisis at Calista Station – Book Trailer

Just finished the Book Trailer for Crisis at Calista Station – enjoy.

More details at: https://www.andrewjharvey.com/sample/CrisisAtCalistaStation.html

Crisis at Calista Station (Book 2 in The Portal Adventures): Tania is tired of not having any friends because, every time her mother changes her job, they have to move. But this time Mom had really gone too far, dragging Tania away with her to a temporary posting as senior security officer on Calista Station.

Things start to look up when Tania meets Mark and his friends Windracer and Shr’un. Shr’un’s father is a technician for Malachi Mining, the same company where Tania’s mom works. But all is not well. Someone is stealing star-stones and smuggling them from the Station. When Shr’un’s father disappears, it appears he may have been involved, but then things go from bad to worse – Tania’s mom disappears as well! Now it is up to Tania, Mark, Windracer, and Shr’un, with a little help from Shr’un’s highly illegal AI, to solve the mystery and rescue the missing parents.

‘Crisis at Calista Station’, book 2 in the Portal Adventures is now available

Cover of Crisis showing Tania and Shr'un with Mark and Windracer in the backgroundI’m excited to announce that Book 2 in
The Portal Adventures, published by Peasantry Press is now available. The book is available from all good online book sellers, and on order from your local book shop (I’ve included direct links at the bottom of this post). Signed Copies ($17.59 AU), are available from here. You can also read samples of the book here.

Tania was getting tired of not having any friends just because every time her mom changed her job they had to move. But this time Mom had really gone too far and dragged Tania away with her to a temporary posting as senior security officer on Calista Station.
Things start to look up for Tania when she meets Mark and his friends Windracer and Shr’un. Windracer is an apprentice mediator, there to observe trade talks, while Shr’un’s father is a technician for Malachi Mining, the same company where Tania’s mom works . But all is not well. star-stones, gems forged in the heart of a dying sun, are being stolen and smuggled from the Station. When Shr’un’s father disappears, it appears that he may have been involved with the smugglers , but then things go from bad to worse – Tania’s mom disappears as well! Now it is up to Tania, Mark, Windracer, and Shr’un, with a little help from Shr’un’s highly illegal AI, to solve the mystery and rescue the missing parents.
Paperbacks and eBooks can be ordered from:
eBooks only
Paperbacks only

What I do in my spare time – the book trailer for Leonie Rogers ‘Amethyst Pledge’

April 20th, 2020 9:52 am

Working with words (writing, editing, and publishing) is now my full time job. Photoshop manipulations, and 3D animations using Daz3D is my hobby. The learning curve is quite steep but my progress has been fairly consistent, as demonstrated by my last trailer for Leonie Rogers’ ‘Amethyst Pledge’.

The book itself is now available for purchase online, by ordering from your local bookshop.

The Launch of ‘Trouble on Teral’

January 24th, 2020 9:42 am

 

A thank you to all those who attended the Book Launch of Trouble on Teral’ held at Rabble Books and Games in Maylands on the 12th of January. It was a great turn out and I ended up having a lot of fun, and selling a lot of books, including some Nightfall.

I have to particularly thank Charlie Staples who served as MC for the event, and Nat and Sam from Rabble who helped set

everything up and operated the till.

The ‘reading’ chair finally arrived and my workspace is now complete

January 10th, 2020 10:14 am
With the arrival of my new ‘reading’ chair on Christmas Eve my workspace in the loft is now complete.

The other photo shows the all-in-one machine (on the right) used for writing, while the graphics machine (on the left) is used for photoshop, Daz3D, and the occasional game. You can also just make out the bookcase holding Hague Publishing’s stock (Print on Demand is a wonderful thing).