Saturday, June 13, 2015

Anger, doubt and confusion at Tor?


As I mentioned earlier, I was contacted by an individual who works at Tor, and through him was put in touch with a second.  I've received a fair amount of information today, but I can't use it 'as is', for three reasons.

  1. The individuals concerned are afraid of the consequences if their identities are revealed.  They believe they'd be fired at once.  I've agreed to do everything I can to conceal their names.  In some cases, this means I can't directly quote what they told me.
  2. The information they provided has to be verified.  I explained to them that I couldn't simply take their word for something;  it had to be confirmed by external evidence.  They agreed that this was reasonable.
  3. Some of the information they provided may relate to matters other than the present scandal.  For example, one reported that a well-known individual at Tor was no longer employed there.  I was able to confirm this;  but in the process, it emerged that she'd left before the current situation arose.  Her departure is therefore an unrelated matter.  I want to make sure that if I say something about what's going on at Tor right now, it's definitely related to the current problem.

For all these reasons, I can't say too much right now.  However, I've shared some of the information with others who can confirm it for themselves, and may be able to make good use of it.  We'll see.

It appears that there's immense anger and bitterness among some senior personnel at Tor.  They reportedly believe the current backlash against that company is basically 'manufactured outrage', deliberately stirred up by Vox Day (whose name is allegedly an expletive there now).  Some have even asserted that the thousands of e-mails complaining about Irene Gallo's statement aren't genuine, but the product of a bot-net, a manufactured wave of pseudo-indignation that has no foundation in reality.  Apparently Macmillan and others involved aren't so sure about that, but it's a defense the SJW's are using with might and main.  It's also apparently why almost none of us have had any acknowledgment of our complaints, not even a notification that our e-mails have been received.  (Some correspondents who requested confirmation when their e-mails were opened have received it;  others have not.)

A major cause of the bitterness among the senior SJW's at Tor is that Macmillan is allegedly taking a much greater role in formulating Tor's policies and enforcing adherence to them.  The company is said to have a new social media policy that's been described as 'Draconian', and individuals have allegedly been warned that any further violations will be a terminally bad idea, career-wise.

Presumably as a result of this policy, I note that some very recent posts by some of the individuals concerned have already disappeared from public view on Facebook or other online venues.  Moshe Feder has gone so far as to state:

Although I've issued numerous disclaimers over the last few weeks to remind you all that I'm speaking here SOLELY FOR MYSELF and _not_ for Tor Books, Tom Doherty Associates, or Macmillan, I've decided that in the present circumstances, it would be prudent to provide a constant visual reminder of that at the top of this page.

Therefore, you will now find my employment listed at the top of the left column as being first of all with the newly minted Federal Books.

It'll be interesting to see whether Mr. Feder works as an independent in future.  I also noted last night that Irene Gallo is now listing her positions at Tor, but claiming that her opinions are "her own, not Macmillan's".  Both developments appear to me to be indirect confirmation of the above information.

The 'Tor two' also claimed that there's a divide between the upper-echelon SJW's there and what they call 'the lower levels' (where they work).  They assert that not everyone at Tor shares the SJW's opinions or outlook, but daren't say so publicly because they'd attract immediate retaliation.  They say there's more than a little schadenfreude at lower levels to see certain individuals taken down a peg or two.  They quoted a couple of comments that were side-splittingly funny, but which I can't repeat for fear of their being used to identify individuals who'd be harmed by that.  Perhaps one day . . .

They're worried about their own futures.  They say that any serious boycott of Tor will have very damaging effects, very quickly, because the company's margins are not good.  It's said to have bet its shirt on a recent contract with John Scalzi, and allegedly doesn't have that much liquid capital left to play with.  They're also afraid that if Tor is driven into the ground by a boycott, anyone who's worked there may have a 'toxic' label attached to them when they look for another job.  Apparently other publishers are taking note of the reaction stirred up by injudicious use of social media, and are tightening up on their own policies and procedures.  Anyone associated at high level with this crisis may receive sympathy from fellow travelers at other companies, but may find it difficult to actually get a position there, for fear of provoking a backlash from already-offended readers.

There's also said to be real anger and disdain directed against pro-Puppies authors who are making their voices heard over this crisis.  They're allegedly being called 'traitors', 'cowards' and 'opportunists'.  Apparently my name is mud, too.  I've been told a few of the things supposedly being said about me, and I've taken due note of dates, times and individuals.  I guess I should be glad - after all, any publicity is good publicity, right?  I don't think they're going to buy my books, though . . . perhaps I should donate a set?

I'm trying to obtain independent confirmation of a few other things said by the two people with whom I spoke.  If I do, I'll post more about them here.  I've also shared a few things with those who may be in a better position to make good use of them.  We'll see what happens.  Meanwhile, I've been advised that giving Tor and Macmillan only until Monday to respond is simply expecting too much.  There's apparently a great deal going on at present, and more time may be needed for them to work out how to handle this mess.  I'll accordingly delay any decision on what to do next until Friday, June 19th, and will so inform the individuals with whom I've been in correspondence.

Peter

44 comments:

Seal Of Lion said...

Interesting times we live in...

If the people from Tor are reading these, my best wishes and hopes they stay safe in everything.

Old NFO said...

Sounds like the rats are getting ready to abandon ship...

Ron said...

"They reportedly believe the current backlash against that company is basically 'manufactured outrage', deliberately stirred up by Vox Day."

To the best of my knowledge, VD merely blogged about your post with regard to Gallo's statements and he, along with Larry Correia, have counseled against a boycott of Tor. Mr. Grant, aren't you the person who originally broke this story and has contacted others in the field about the possibility of a boycott if Tor does not take appropriate actions to rectify the situation?

Anonymous said...

I generally don't get much involved and try to adopt a live and let live attitude, but the amount of vitriol from people who should be professionals (authors, editors, etc.) has made me rethink that stance a bit.

I didn't write to either Tor or Macmillan because, frankly, I didn't think sending a personal email would have much of an effect. I've never called for nor really participated in a wider boycott before, but I've come to the conclusion that (going off of things those in positions of power and authority at Tor have written on their blogs, on Twitter, or on Facebook) if the upper management of a publishing company has gone to so much trouble to make clear its disdain and what often felt like something verging on hatred, then the only polite thing for this reader to do find her story fix elsewhere. This is especially annoying to me as I've only just started a few series that are published by Tor.

To be clear: this is about professionalism for me, not about politics.

I'm sorry for any of those at Tor--regardless of their political persuasion--who have acted professionally and are having to deal with a storm not of their own making, and wish them the best of luck.

Barb Caffrey said...

What bothers me, Peter, is that the people at Tor apparently can't figure out who is "pro-Puppy" and who is merely angry that they aren't behaving more professionally.

Not that this is all that different of a position, mind. Whether you are a Sad Puppy or you aren't (I'm not), you should believe in fundamental fairness. And as such, SF&F fans are the lifeblood of any publisher; without fans, there would be no book sales. And without book sales, there would be no profit. Therefore no company...

I'm angry that my friends who are SPs have been vilified unfairly. I'm angry that at least one good and long-term friend has stopped speaking with me, because I said that the SPs may have a few good points even though my friend knows I'm not a SP.

I'm also angry that people who I've admired for years and who are in the book publishing business apparently cannot read for context or understand what they're reading.

Finally, I'm very happy that Jim Butcher is also unhappy and that he's said something about it. (That was the silliest thing Ms. Gallo did, as far as I'm concerned...her strategy was not thought-out at all.) There's an attitude I completely understand!

Nathan said...

Is the social media policy actually Draconian or is it just in line with other industries? Putting aside the politics on two of the fandom scandals, GG and SP, I've noticed that, compared to the rules of say, government contracting, both games journalism and print SFF publishing appear to be the Wild Wild West in terms of the stringence of ethical guidelines. That is, every actions and statements common in those fields would forfeit contracts and cause legal sanctions in mine.

As for Tor, it took a lot to kill the good will I had towards them as the publishers of the Wheel of Time. It will take as much to bring that back. If the senior execs can take off their Vox Day blinders and act with professionalism, I would be willing to reconsider my current preference against buying Tor. Federal Books, however, is radioactive, as far as I'm concerned.

Nathan said...

Strike "every" from the above comment.

Shadowdancer Duskstar said...

Fascinating developments indeed. Very curious how this will progress.

Jim Butcher said something? I tried to look it up after there was mention of it at File 770, saying that he had come down on the Puppy side (and they didn't quote him nor link) so I guessed it may have been on FB? I was worried that the SJBs and anti-Sad Puppies would go after him next for daring to say something at all.

I was actually sad that Tor was taking this to that point with their senior execs because there's a book that was mentioned some time back that looked like interesting reading, called "I am not a Serial Killer". I was looking forward to getting them, once I had a bit of slush money to play with, but if they're published by Tor, I wasn't sure to get them.

Timbo said...

This drawing a line in the sand is long overdue. I'm tired of being lectured at when all I am looking for is a good, thought provoking read. Also tired of finding SJWs hiding in historical novels. It didn't happen.

Well done, Peter, for confronting this. I expect some good to come of it.

Joe Katzman said...

In retrospect, perhaps it was kind of a bad idea for the Torling SJWs to start a fight with people who write books titled "War to the Knife."

Just a thought.

Very encouraged by the news of reasonable people behind the lines. This is something we'll need to plan for and incorporate in future.

dirty dingus said...

So the Torbots and CHORFs don't seem to grok why Gallo's comments were so bad. The following has been posted by me at various places and roundly ignored and/or disappeared and/or left in moderation.

I think you are misunderstanding the direction of the Tor apology and what I believe the major reason for it was. IMHO, it has to do with the last sentence about "bad to reprehensible". With that Ms Gallo managed to insult at least one bestselling Tor author - Kevin J Anderson - and one even bigger bestselling non Tor Author - Jim Butcher. A bestselling author can reasonably expect senior editorial staff of their publisher to not denigrate their works in a public forum especially when commenting on a post that is publicising other works from the same publisher.

Tor needs authors like this to want to sign with Tor and produce lots of books. Having senior employees call their work bad to reprehensible is not a good way to inspire authorial loyalty. In fact one suspects it does precisely the opposite and given that these days Indie publishing is a successful thing (and KJA is already publishing indie) having him decide to leave Tor is more likely to hurt Tor than hurt him. And of course he's not the only best selling Tor author who might be considered acceptable by Puppies and unacceptable by "anti puppies". Orson Scott Card and David Weber both spring to mind here. I don't know what the impact on Tor would be if those two plus KJA and his regular co-author Brian Herbert leaving would be but I imagine it would be significant in the hundreds of thousand to millions of dollars a year range.

Personally in Tom Doherty's position I'd have fired her and probably Moshe Feder too for that matter. It wouldn't have anything to do with sexism or any other *ism except capitalism and the desire to make a) payroll and b) profits.


If Tor does go down the tubes, I'm pretty sure that the reasoning suggested in that comment will be essentailly why.

The Overgrown Hobbit said...

With which of your books would you recommend a new reader begin?

Thanks.

RasmusF said...

Thank you for your work on this issue Mr Grant.

RasmusF said...

Oh, and of course an even bigger thank you to the anonymous torlings for giving us inside information.

Peter said...

@Ron: No, I learned of it elsewhere. I don't know who first broke the story.

@The Overgrown Hobbit: I try to write all my books so that they read as easily stand-alone as they do in their place in a series. I also try to make each book better than the last, so that the later books are probably better written than earlier ones. I'd suggest either the fourth book in the Maxwell Saga, 'Stand Against The Storm', or the second book in the Laredo Trilogy, 'Forge A New Blade'. Maxwell 5 and Laredo 3 should be out before the end of this year, God willing. Thanks for asking!

Cedar said...

@ShadowDancer *waves hi* If you look at my blog, and the post Fear and Loathing at Tor, that post has a bunch of screenshots I collected when this broke, including the Jim Butcher comments.

@Overgrown Hobbit *hi again!* my recommendation for a great starter book of Peter's work is War to the Knife, the first Laredo book. You could read Forge a New Blade first, but you'll have more context and besides, they are both great reads!

T.L. Knighton said...

Shadowdancer,

Cedar has a great write-up at her place, but the tl;dr version is that Butcher got angry at Gallo's unprofessionalism and lashed out about that. He's not said anything particularly pro-Puppy otherwise. However, for some people, getting upset about anything Gallo said (even though it applied to him as well) is proof that he's "one of us".

Mostly, I think he doesn't really care either way, but refuses to be libeled like that and just be quiet.

Anonymous said...

The allegation against Vox Day, as I understand it, is that Vox allegedly knew about Gallo's rant as soon as she posted it, but deliberately sat on it until the weekend the Nebulas were announced, so as to steal the spotlight. Of course, these are by and large the same people who jumped on a snarky comment Brad Torgersen made about Scalzi after being provoked, so I'd take that with a grain of salt.

Besides, if Vox sat on it for three weeks, then so did Tor, no?

And yeah, Vox's name sure looks to be an "epithet" with the Torlings; that was obvious in the Torcom discussion thread accompanying Tom Doherty's apology, where every attempt to point out that Tor employees shouldn't be publicly attacking Tor authors was met with "arguments" from Torcommers that boiled down to "But Vox Day! You apologize for Vox Day!". Similarly, John C. Wright's name over there now seems to be synonomous with homophobia.

(Like Vox needs anyone to defend him. The way he's living rent-free in their heads, he's doing a wonderful job of that all on his own. ;) )

And finally, I'd suggest - and have suggested to Tor, in writing - that a publishing house whose editors regularly attack the company's customer base and some of its authors for their political beliefs, and who threw a seven-figure book contract to a spiteful little jackass like John Scalzi (whose own Internet and social-media tirades are legendary - is in a poor position to complain about anybody else acting like a flaming ***hole on the Internet.

--Wes S.

Anonymous said...

Something else that just occured to me: Why would Tor "bet their shirt" on Scalzi when they have people like Brandon Sanderson in their stable? Especially after how lackluster I've heard "Lock-In's" performance was...



--Wes S.

RedJack #22 said...

I think they are in shock. They have believed for so long that only knuckle dragging idiots think other than they do, that being shown otherwise is very unsettling.

When your whole worldview is wrapped up in SJW groupthink, being exposed to a group of people who DON'T think that way is shocking. To find out that same group of people are not only your customers (hating your customers is a pretty common thing) but your PRODUCT, well that is a very challenging thing to contemplate.

RedJack #22 said...

--Wes S

John Scalzi is what they see as the present king of Sci fi. Reality has little to do with it, as they have much better writers in their stable.

He says what they want him to say, attacks who they attack, and is the "correct thinking" type of fellow. Of course, they will turn on him at some point. Ideologues always do.

Leonidas said...

What bothers me, Peter, is that the people at Tor apparently can't figure out who is "pro-Puppy" and who is merely angry that they aren't behaving more professionally.

The sheer lack of professionalism hovering around everything related to the traditional publishers these days is absolutely mind boggling.

Jim Butcher said something? I tried to look it up after there was mention of it at File 770, saying that he had come down on the Puppy side (and they didn't quote him nor link) so I guessed it may have been on FB?

Butcher has left several comments on Larry Correia's Facebook wall that... well, they're not exactly pro-puppy so much as "anti-anti-puppy."

Cedar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry Smith said...

Peter, thank you tremendously for your bravery and steadfastness in speaking out on these issues. I have never read one of your books, but I'm sure as hell going to start, and expect that I'll really like them. Thanks man!

Eric said...

I'd also like to recommend Peter's Walls, Wires, Bars, and Souls.

Michael Kingswood said...

"It's said to have bet its shirt on a recent contract with John Scalzi, and allegedly doesn't have that much liquid capital left to play with."

I'm going to have to call BS on this part. If $3.4 million over 10 years and 13 books is enough to put TOR of thin ice financially, they are in big, BIG trouble. And have been for a while.

VoK said...

Agreed.

Jeff Duntemann said...

@Michael Kingswood: I think you're right, and most of the grumbling about Scalzi's contract is sour grapes. What is undeniably true is that mass-market print genre fiction is a very low-margin business, even by the standards of print publishing as a whole, which has been having a difficult decade. (I'm a retired publisher in the tech trade book realm, and I used to talk to fiction publishers at the big BEA trade show. They envied us our high cover prices and high margins.) What could definitely be a threat to Tor is a broad boycott of their books. If every book in your frontlist generates 10% less revenue than projected, that's trouble, especially if it goes on longer than a year.

The asterisk is that Tor belongs to a huge cash pot named Macmillan. Cash is king in publishing, given the weird business model retail publishing has evolved since WWII. A boycott's effect on Tor would be less financial than PR. Macmillan would not like the bad PR and might take action on that basis alone. The financial effects of a boycott would probably be brief and not enough to kill the company, assuming Macmillan didn't decide to sell them off.

Brian said...

I don't work in legacy publishing, but I've been keeping tabs on the market. A lot of the information that's turned up points to the possibility that Tor--and all of the Big 5--really are in serious financial trouble.

An industry veteran recently informed me about the dissonance between the politics of Tor's bigwigs and the company's major revenue sources. It's no secret that Card, Herbert, and Sanderson are their biggest sellers--and those sales are propping up the writers' workshop experiments and intersectionalist manifestos favored by the brass. The latter titles get most of the PR and co-op while books that actually appeal to the customer base are dumped on the market with little to no support.

Food for thought: I saw Tom Doherty at Gen Con a couple years back. He mentioned how new authors used to get their start through mass market paperbacks sold at newsstands, drug store racks, etc. He acknowledged that these channels aren't viable anymore. When Brandon Sanderson asked him what Tor was planning to do about it, Doherty just said something amounting to, "It's a big challenge." You could feel this nervous vibe ripple through the room.

Anonymous said...

Of course Butcher is a Puppy. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma. If you recall recent media outrage, everyone who was ever associated with the University of Oklahoma is a racist.

(An OU fraternity is actually quite a bit lower status than the football team, whose offense at the statements might have been most significant in what resulted. If Boren ever gets sacked, it will likely be over team performance, and nothing else. Boren endorsed Obama in '08. How an OU leftist likes to think of there-self would've made the video highly upsetting.)

Harry said...

I would like to note that whilst I sympathise with the position of the lower-rung Tor employees who might be harmed by a boycott, it is their employer, & supervisors who are responsible for protecting them & their incomes, not me, or anyone else who might find this whole affair inspiring them to participate in a boycott.

George said...

In appreciation for all you good work keeping us informed on TOR issue, I have celebrated by buying my first copy of one of your books. Kindle version of "take the star road".

The whole "puppy' issue is having a major effect on my searching for new authors to buy.

MidKnight (#138) said...

Shadowdancer -

I found "I am not a Serial Killer" to be a good story. Well written - and disturbing. Dan Wells certainly has talent, even if I retroactively decided that this was a genre (sociopath tries to be "good") that I just don't have a taste for.

Dan, Brandon, and Howard used to do a very effective podcast called "Writing Excuses". Yes, I know it still exists, but adding MRK didn't help the show. She knows her stuff about styling/etc., but the depth of commentary for the length/format of the show suffered by wedging a fourth person into the 15-minute slot.

In short - I stopped listening even before MRK ticked me off for other reasons - but the older episodes are still excellent.

Donald Campbell said...

Cedar, I thought the link:
http://cedarwrites.com/fear-and-loathing-at-tor/
is probably better, although I'm glad you have Sarah in a cartoon

richard mcenroe said...

(Click) All right, (Click)I confess. (Click) I’m a bot (Click). Sarah Hoyt(Click) created me (Click) and stole the (Click) purloined OPM internet addresses (Click)just to practice cyberwar on (Click) defenseless social (Click) justice warriors (Click) and Tor employees. (Click) In fact as you (Click) read this(Click) I am busy (Click) sending all Tor’s confidential employee (Click) information to (Click) Nigerian financial-minister scammers (Click) Alex Jones mailing lists (Click) and Chinese mail order (Click) bride websites. (Click) Thank you for the loan of your bandwith and social media (Click) links.

Cedar said...

@Donald, that's what I get when I'm trying to compute with a tablet. Bless you for fixing it...

richard mcenroe said...

Betting the house on Scalzi sounds to me like going all in on a pair of threes...

richard mcenroe said...

Plainly, Vox Day is the new Dick Cheney, possessed of infinite, undetectable powers and an unending rapacity. Vox may even be as evil as Sarah Palin!

Unknown said...

Now that Macmillian is paying attention, I don't think it matters at all to them if the e-mails are from bots or not. They have their own policies about what is and isn't said publicly, and seeing what is being posted has got to horrify them.

I easily believe that this isn't all of Tor, let alone "official policy", but I also easily believe that they have gotten sucked into a echo chamber where enough high profile people believe this that anyone who disagrees is afraid to speak up.



By the way, for anyone who does want to e-mail Tor about this topic. Don't sign a form letter, or copy someone else's letter. When they get a whole bunch of mails that all say the exact same thing, they are going to believe that they are either a botnet-type of thing, or at best it's people being lazy and signing something they don't care that much about.

If you write your complaint in your own words, you will at least be counted as an individual complainer, not lumped in to some easily dismissed group (at least, by the corporate folks who really matter, the SJW types at Tor are going to try and lump every complaint as being faked)

David Lang

Paul, Dammit! said...

I've bought my last Tor book for a while, until this all settles out, and that means that word of mouth on book reviews among the 150 or so of my company's mariners who read SF will now be TOR free for the time being. I believe in loyalty before all else, and they obviously don't, so to hell with them for now.

Also, Peter, I finished "Forge a New Blade" last night. My favorite one yet. Thanks!

William Underhill said...

If anyone at Tor is under the impression that the email I sent was generated by a 'bot, they are more than welcome to contact me by return email to the address from which I sent it.

William Underhill

Mike M. said...

Hi - is there any additional, attributable information regarding the assertion that 'some' of the Tor management believe that the emails from fans are actually bots and scripts?

If it is just MF there is little point to writing a letter. If it is the actual leadership, the reverse might be true.

Wendy S. Delmater said...

I sent a nice, polite letter to Tor praising Tom Doherty and thanking him for using facts, reminding him that I'd met him a few times and thought he was very professional. I did not call for anyone's firing. I did not call for a boycott.

To discover that my POLITE, kind letter (no acknowledgement)was probably deleted unread because some idiot thought I was a bot....

I just spent 2 hours listing all the Tor/Macmillan titles in my library and told them my patience had snapped. What's a lower epithet than "no-Nazi?" Bot. It's not even human.

So I'm releasing the flying monkeys.

Unknown said...

@Wendy,

who told you that your comment was deleted unread? Peter said that some people who requested return receipts got them and others didn't, and that some Tor people are claiming that the flood of messages are from bots.

don't jump from these pieces of information to the conclusion that all of Tor is treating you as a bot.

The fact that you send your message separately, and it wasn't a boilerplate message, makes it FAR more likely that it was read.