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March 30, 2003

Hard-bitten tongue
Posted by Teresa at 08:33 PM *

It would not be proper for me to say anything here about what happened this weekend Elsewhere On The Net. Besides, Movable Type doesn’t support glasses of Coke.

Comments on Hard-bitten tongue:
#1 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2003, 09:29 PM:

When a man suffers a public indignity, he has grounds to be upset.

When the news of the indignity is met with approval, glee, delight, and wistfulness at having missed personal witness thereof by
very nearly every woman of even his passing acquaintance who should chance to hear of it, I should think that the man has grounds to consider the advisability of his habitual conduct, and perhaps even to engage in a degree of introspection, however potentially painful he might fear it should prove to be.

#2 ::: Mary ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2003, 09:38 PM:

So it's not proper for Teresa to say anything. Fine, But could someone else with a clue fill us in, or at least drop a broad hint?

#3 ::: Josh ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2003, 10:16 PM:

Mary: Short version: Jo Walton poured Coke on David Brin at the Tor party as Boskone. Jo's version of events is here.

Brin then responded elsewhere in Jo's comments, not doing much to garner sympathy for himself.

#4 ::: Chuck ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2003, 10:16 PM:

If it would not be proper to say anything, then nothing should have been said.

#5 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2003, 10:24 PM:

I thought the Coke thing happened weeks ago? Or do you mean the comments are new? I'll go read the comments from this weekend.

#6 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2003, 11:46 PM:

I'd never point out that Jo Walton was a Tor author. Never.

#7 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 01:03 AM:

Graydon's comment should be e-mailed to the man in question, if said individual actually has a working e-mail address.

The clear thing that he doesn't understand is that the person who regrets the incident most, is Jo, herself.

#8 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 01:45 AM:

He actually said the lurkers support him in e-mail! He said this to Jo Walton!

#9 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 01:47 AM:

Having read the latest on this, I merely note that I have a refillable fire extinguisher, pressurised by compressed air, which normally holds about three gallons of water.

#10 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 03:35 AM:

I should like to add: he actually says (in Jo's comments section) that he has no idea why he's been judged harshly in Britain.

Having been around fandom in the UK at the time, all I can say is: my mind, she boggles.

#11 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 05:33 AM:

Graydon's comment should be e-mailed to the man in question, if said individual actually has a working e-mail address.

I agree. Brin has posted it to the comment thread: brin@cts.com.

#12 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 07:24 AM:

Having been one of the cheering hordes (not there, because I stayed away from my favorite con filled with my favorite people BECAUSE of Brin and public (online) disagreements with him) I was delighted to read Jo's words.

I wonder--has Brin actually mused upon Graydon's comments?

Jane

#13 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 09:26 AM:

Figures. I go to Boskone and miss the most dramatic part. I will link and read more about this. Not having met either party, I don't mind saying I don't like Brin as a writer. But Jo Walton does herself credit with her post about the incident.

#14 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 11:32 AM:

What I'd love to know is whether or not Brin was aware of the Boskone-Arisia split at the time he made that guest of honor speech.

#15 ::: Lis ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 11:48 AM:

In response to Jon's post:
I'm not sure how much he knew about Arisia, but at one point in his GoH speech, Brin suggested fandom 'adopt' high school and college groups. "Take MIT. No, MIT doesn't need help. Take Harvard." I raised my hand during the question period afterwards and told him that Harvard has been running a SF con for three years running, and he seemed surprised. I later found out that HRSFA had previously invited him to Vericon for this year's con, but he declined due to other commitments.

[Since Brin is a Tor author, I want to be careful about bringing the flamewar here, but you can read my immediate comments on Boskone and Brin's speech in my journal here with a followup here.]

#16 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 12:48 PM:

Lenny said, "The clear thing that he doesn't understand is that the person who regrets the incident most, is Jo, herself."

This is true. Jo has mentioned, at least twice, that she sent him an apology. She even posted the text of the apology. It seems to have been wasted on him, unfortunately.

I'm sure this is putting Teresa and Patrick in a tough spot, since both are Tor authors, and that's another concept that Brin seems not to have recognized -- that Jo and her friends (a.k.a. "posse" and "minions") had just as much right to be at the Tor party as he did.

#17 ::: Rachel Heslin ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 02:10 PM:

See, from what I know of Brin, I think his response in her blog comments was genuine. I think he's not aware of how he comes across to others.

He reminds me of a mutual friend of ours who honestly adores women, thinks they're wonderful and fascinating and sexy and brilliant -- and has no idea that

  1. he intrudes on personal space,
  2. flirting is only fun if it's mutual, and
  3. not saying "no" is not the same as saying "yes."

He's still a good friend of mine (not Brin; I only know him casually), but sometimes it's awkward, like when I got appointed to tell him that he was two steps from a sexual harrassment suit. He had no idea he was being offensive or intimidating, and it came out of left field for him. He's a bit more aware now, but sometimes I just have to shake my head and move on.

#18 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 04:31 PM:

It is, however, in a man of mature years, wide accomplishment, and advanced degrees of learning, inexcusable that he is not cognizant of his own conduct and countenance.

A stripling of fifteen may well be excused certain lapses on grounds of simple clue deficency -- provided, in my view, that they exhibit at least moderate willingness to correct that deficiency -- but in any person of mature years, the burdern of their conduct rests upon them, that it be civil and not otherwise.

#19 ::: Rachel Heslin ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 05:24 PM:

Well, my buddy is 41 and has a BA, MA, PhD and JD, so he's no stripling himself.

I will admit that this sort of encroaching behavior makes me uncomfortable, and I've become more adept at pointing it out and requesting for change. At the same time, I've chosen amusement over outrage.

Do I think Brin deserved a pop bath? Maybe.

Do I think it hurt anything other than his pride? No.

Am I suprised that Brin responded with injured innocence (and attack)? Not really.

Do I think that some people are congenitally clueless, regardless of their intellect? Yep.

Do I think that, at this stage in his life, anything we say is going to affect how he views the world? Probably not.

Is this going to cause me to not vet his next manuscript if asked? Probably not.

So, yeah, as far as the burden of his conduct resting upon him, he will probably reap what he sows, regardless of whether or not he understands the reason. I've just been having amusing images of hundreds of cola gifs being emailed to his cts account....

#20 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 05:59 PM:

Oh, but I am quite certain that he did not deserve it. (I will note that Mrs. Walton is herself very clear that he did not deserve it.)

What I am noting is that he is responsible for the outrage, not for any specific response to that outrage on the part of another person. These are very distinct things, and Mr. Brin seems, from his comments on the matter, to have both his awareness of his own responsibility for his conduct and the distinction between outrage and a response to outrage deeply muddled.

Given the frequent social and political consequences of this sort of muddle, I cannot begin to bring myself to find it amusing.

#21 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 06:09 PM:

Two boors acting like boors at a party. So what?

#22 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 06:41 PM:

Civility seems like a little thing, until you need some, and it isn't there.

That's worth being concerned about.

#23 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 07:14 PM:

I had to bite my lip REAL HARD the Sunday
night of Boskone when a certain California
writer said the exact same line to a Boskone
committee member. Real hard.

#24 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 07:24 PM:

Toni, Jo Walton is never a boor.

#25 ::: Neil Gaiman ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2003, 01:27 AM:

Oh dear. Leaving aside the merits of pouring coke in people's hair, and even whether or not it was deserved (I wasn't there, I consider myself an agnostic in the matter) as I read the final set of comments, I found myself thinking that it is better to say nothing and have people suspect you are a knave or a fool than open your mouth and prove yourself either.

Possibly "The incredible sexism and cowardice of a small woman reaching out to do public violence toward a large man is something that we are going to have to include in our repertoire of objectionable things, during the next century," is a sentence that actually makes sense, and I'm simply unable to parse it. It hovers at the edge of making sense and then goes all Ed Wood on me.

Anyway speaking as a medium-sized to largish man, I would like to go on record as saying that if a small woman reached out to do violence to me by pouring coke on my hair, I can imagine a number of solutions of which Miss Manners might approve. Some of them involve soda syphons, although I can also think of several that would begin with me laughing heartily and clapping the small woman on the back while booming loudly, "I like you lad! You've got spunk! What say we go and get stinking drunk together?"

#26 ::: Glass ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2003, 03:29 AM:

Dear Neil, I think the point is that if anyone poured coke in your hair on whatever provocation, fans would not be lining up to say gleefully "And he deserved it!" In fandom, your reputation tends towards your deserts to a remarkable degree... or so I've noticed.

#27 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2003, 08:44 AM:

Neil: Naturally, I favor responses involving soda syphons. I was playing with one just the other day, and was impressed by its firepower. (My lunch companion was very understanding about having her egg cream violently slopped out onto the table.) On the other hand, laughing and offering to buy the person a drink is nearly as much fun, and has been known to mend an amazing range of social breaches.

A third option, assuming they stick around for it, is to stand there for a few seconds dripping coke, with your mouth hanging open and your eyes round as cat-food cans, then say "I have a sense that there's something you're trying to tell me."

It's a tough choice.

Jo has said that what she reacted to was his tone, not his content. What I know is that (1.) I've seen her be patient and helpful, and extend genuine sympathetic understanding, to some prize idiots; and (2.) she has a very good ear.

#28 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2003, 11:18 AM:

One of those nitpicks--I don't think of Jo as especially small, nor of Brin as particularly large. Was I just not paying attention, or is the point more that they certainly wouldn't be evenly matched in a fair fight?

Graydon, I think it's easier on the nerves to not believe that there are things people ought to have learned by certain ages. It's clear that some haven't, and saying "you should have known that already" doesn't help. Actual teaching (and I hope you've forwarded that earlier "consider that you might be getting useful feedback" comment) may help.

Is there a clear gender split between the pro-Coke dumping and the anti-Coke dumping comments?
Have all or most of the pro-dumping people had dealings with Brin?

#29 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2003, 11:56 AM:

Nancy, they weren't evenly matched, and it wasn't a fair fight. Brin never had a chance.

I'm male, and have had dealings with Brin in the past. While I can't precisely say that I'm pro-coke-dumping, I must admit that the news tickled me greatly when I heard it, and I'm richly entertained by the subsequent reverberations. (Does that mean my soul is in danger?)

#30 ::: Menolly ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2003, 12:35 PM:

One should note that Brin does not, in fact, have hair for Coke to be in, making the cleaning up even simpler. (And as a local-to-Brin fan, I have interacted with him on several occasions.)

#31 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2003, 02:09 PM:

Nancy:
I have not sent anything to Mr. Brin, nor will I. It is a strong policy of mine to have as little as possible to do with people who invoke great and sweeping principles to explain why they themselves were in no way at fault.

#32 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2003, 03:49 PM:

Graydon, good policy.

It's an interesting example of why clues are important--Brin behaves in ways which make him less likely to get (or hear) good advice. I've thought a little about what exactly he needs to learn, and haven't yet figured out a way to phrase it. Even if I do, I don't know him well enough (nor do I want to--he makes some interesting points, but I don't like his writing well enough to read it in detail) to figure out how to say it in a way that he would be likely to hear it.

#33 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2003, 07:37 PM:

What impresses me about all this is the number of people who've said, broadly in these words:

"I can't count the number of times *I've* felt like throwing my drink over David Brin".

I loved the faintly pained tone he used to ask why everyone was ganging up on him so. Guess what? The quote above is why.

#34 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2003, 10:41 PM:

Thank you, Graydon. That makes me want to start a commonplaces file for Making Light.

#35 ::: Janice Morningstar ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2003, 03:28 AM:

{He reminds me of a mutual friend of ours who honestly adores women, thinks they're wonderful and fascinating and sexy and brilliant -- and has no idea that

1.9he intrudes on personal space,
2.9flirting is only fun if it's mutual, and
3.9not saying "no" is not the same as saying "yes."

He's still a good friend of mine, but sometimes it's awkward, like when I got appointed to tell him that he was two steps from a sexual harrassment suit. He had no idea he was being offensive or intimidating, and it came out of left field for him. He's a bit more aware now, but sometimes I just have to shake my head and move on.}


{Do I think that some people are congenitally clueless, regardless of their intellect? Yep.}


I have never had more than a casual conversation with David Brin, so I don't know about his case, but what the quotes above indicate is that there are people who ARE clueless, and do not naturally pick up on social cues, due to a brain differently-wired. In many of these folks, it is due to a neurological condition such as autism, nonverbal language disability, or Asperger syndrome. Many of these people really *do not* read body language, facial expressions, tones of voice, sarcasm, etc., in spite of the fact that they may be intellectually very able otherwise.

Since my son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (a form of high-functioning autism) a year ago, I've done a lot of reading about it, and I've come to the conclusion that fandom is a hotbed of AS. Many of them are particularly awkward and clueless when dealing with members of the opposite sex. I think that what the first writer does 97 gentle correction 97 is a good first response, and maybe second as well. Of course, no one need tolerate any unwanted attention, and I know that I have met many fans whom, no matter what their problem, I give a wide berth. Just be aware that the cluelessness may be, literally, real.


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