Author Archives: Annalee

About Annalee

Annalee is a web developer, science fiction writer, and general purpose geek. On Twitter she's @LeeFlower.

Wednesday Geek Woman: Carrie Patel, Author and Game Designer

Carrie Patel

Photo courtesy of Carrie Patel

Carrie Patel writes both prose fiction and video games. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and her first novel is out this week from Angry Robot books. She’s also a narrative designer for Obsidian Entertainment, a game studio known for story-driven games.

I caught up with her via email to chat about how writing for video games compares to writing prose fiction. This is what she told me:

Storytelling in games is so varied – you have some (like Journey) that are beautiful and fabulous without telling their stories through words, and you have others (like Pillars of Eternity, the game I’m working on) that do most of their storytelling through text dialogue. To more directly answer your question, both media force you to examine and incorporate story structure in slightly different ways.

Books are completely linear and games, to varying degrees, are less so. With an RPG in particular, you need to strike a balance between giving the player agency and telling her a cohesive narrative that still hits interesting beats. You’re also free to define the protagonist of a novel in a way that you often aren’t with story-driven RPGs where the goal is to allow the player to define (or become) the protagonist. As a result, a lot of RPG companions and key NPCs tend to be pretty colorful–as a writer, your pour most of your big, bold characterization into these individuals. It’s fun, and it helps you provide certain reference points for the player–which NPCs do they find most sympathetic, and which do they tend to align themselves with? To sum up, working in both media has given me a greater appreciation for story structure–structure comes out differently, but it’s still critical to both media.

Her novel, THE BURIED LIFE, is a science fiction thriller set in the post-post apocalyptic underground city. Fans of steampunk, mystery, and awesome lady detectives should be sure to check it out.

Pillars of Eternity, her first complete computer game, is coming out from Obsidian in a few weeks. It’s an RPG in the style of Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment.

You can catch up with Carrie on her blog, Electronic Ink, or on Twitter as @Carrie_Patel.

Ghost in the Whitewash

Entertainment media is buzzing with news that a Ghost In The Shell remake may be coming soon to a theater near you, and Scarlett Johansson has been offered the role of Major Kusanagi.


Major Motoko Kusanagi  from Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

Major Motoko Kusanagi.

The Major apparently fell into a giant vat of whitewash on her way to Hollywood.

There’s already been a fair bit of backlash, thanks in part to the good folks at racebending, who do excellent work raising awareness about this problem and calling it out. Over on twitter, the hashtag #whitefandombelike kicked off around this issue, and went on to become a much broader conversation around race in fandom.

The defenses I’ve seen for whitewashing the part have fallen along predictable lines. There’s the classic “but we need big names to carry the project forward,” which last starred alongside Ridley Scott in Exodus‘s press tour. This argument is insidious in its circularity.

Are we to imagine that white stars spring fully-formed from the head of an Oscar, instantly famous? They get famous because people take chances on them. And if you’re white, there are a lot more chances to go around. The already painfully limited roles for women in Hollywood overwhelmingly go to white women. Even roles that should go to actresses of color–like the starring role in Ghost in the Shell–often get whitewashed, thus denying actresses of color the opportunity to even reach for the brass ring (this isn’t just women, of course–characters of all genders get whitewashed–but for actresses of color, racism and sexism act as multiplying factors to limit their opportunities even more).

You can’t claim that whitewashing is just about business and ‘star power’ rather than systematic racism while actively contributing to the very racist system that denies actors of color access to stardom.

We’re also seeing more tired variations on “but it’s fantasy!” The Major is a cyborg, after all. Bodies are interchangeable to her. But while her body might be a little more like clothes for her than bodies are for most of us, she still has a history of making pretty specific choices about the body she wears.

Rather, her creators have made specific choices, because pretending that fictional characters have the agency to choose how they’re portrayed is a cheap trick that’s pretty much exclusively used to silence criticism. But if you’re going to use in-universe arguments to justify whitewashing her, you can’t ignore all the in-universe evidence that doing so is a misrepresentation of the character. If you’re arguing that she can choose any body she wants, you can’t ignore the fact that the body she has consistently chosen across many stories has been Japanese.

Then there’s the folks saying that it’s okay because the remake is almost certainly going to be set in the US rather than Japan, as if erasing the culture from which a thing is being appropriated makes it acceptable. But even if they do set it in the U.S, it doesn’t automatically follow that the cast should be white. Japanese Americans are part of the U.S, too. Some of them are very talented actors, and all of them deserve to see positive representations of people who look like them on TV and film.

Casting a white actress to play a canonically Japanese character is racist, and tired old excuses don’t change that.

Further reading:


Why We’re Not Talking About GamerGate

Content warning: stalking, harassment, threats, violence–GamerGate, basically.

Geek Feminism’s lack of a statement about the GamerGate hate campaign has felt conspicuous to me. We’re a community dedicated to promoting justice and equality within geek communities. Documenting harassment and abuse in geek communities is one of our biggest projects. GamerGate is on our beat.

But while our fabulous team of linkspammers has been on top of the story, we haven’t put up a statement.

I spoke to some of our other bloggers about ways we could respond. The conversation we had was pretty illustrative.

Here are the ideas we had, and why we discarded them:

1: A “Seriously, Fuck GamerGate” Post

Why we didn’t:

“Fuck GamerGate” is a fairly obvious statement from us. It might be satisfying to say, but it adds little to the conversation.

And women who’ve said it before us have been stalked, harassed, doxxed, and threatened–some to the point of fleeing their homes.

2. A statement of support for GamerGate’s victims

Why we didn’t:

Telling folks we support them is nice, but it doesn’t provide the victims of these terror campaigns with the practical support they need to protect themselves. Talking about them has a very high chance of exposing them to even more abusers. When you’re the target of an organized campaign of terror, the last thing you need is more attention.

And women who’ve made statements of support have been stalked, harassed, doxxed, and threatened–some to the point of fleeing their homes.

3. An Ada Lovelace-style celebration of women in gaming, where we encourage folks to blog about games they love by women, and women in gaming who inspire them.

Why we didn’t:

We didn’t want to paint a target on anyone’s back.

Women in gaming who’ve gotten positive attention have been stalked, harassed, doxxed, and threatened–some to the point of fleeing their homes.

4. Present an iron hide and dare them to bring it.

Some of us feel guilty for not telling GamerGaters exactly where they can shove the horseshit they have the temerity to present as discourse.

Why we didn’t:

We want to live in a world where terror campaigns like this are ineffective; where that which does not kill us makes us stronger; where good triumphs over obtuse, selfish, cowardly evil. But wanting to live in that world doesn’t make that world real. In this world, oppression and injustice have built a system whereby that which does not kill us often leaves us personally and professionally damaged.

The fantasy that bravado would win the day is appealing, but daring abusers to come for us won’t do anything constructive. As much as we might want to put ourselves between GamerGate and its victims, we can’t. There are too many of them to successfully draw their fire.

We’d just end up getting stalked, harassed, doxxed, and threatened–possibly to the point of fleeing our homes.

By now, you’ve surely noticed the theme here.

It’s tempting to offer cheap platitudes to the women who’ve been the focus of these abuse campaigns, or those who might become them. To tell them to be brave, to speak their truth, to not let violent assholes scare them.

Platitudes won’t keep the cesspits of the internet from backflowing into their homes and workplaces. Platitudes won’t secure their computers and personal information; protect their families from detailed, sexually-explicit death threats; walk their kids to school; or stay at home to protect their pets while they’re at work. Platitudes won’t explain to their bosses why their companies’ websites are being DDOSed. Platitudes won’t stop bullets.

So before you lament how terrible it is to ‘let them win’ by being silent, please stop and think of a better way to phrase “I want to live in a world where the victims of abuse campaigns have a winning move.” Don’t ask women to sacrifice their names, careers, and safety to the fantasy that life is fair.

Telling women to be brave and speak up is telling them to face a violent horde unarmed. We don’t have an effective defense against these terror campaigns. We desperately need one. We’re going to follow up and see if we can develop any effective strategies.

In the meantime, I’ve already painted the target on my back, so I might as well say it.

Fuck GamerGate.

It’s Dangerous To Go Alone–I’m So Glad I Don’t Have To!

When Jim C Hines read the Code of Conduct during the opening ceremonies of this year’s North American Science Fiction Convention, I nearly stood up and cheered. I was so, so grateful to Con Chair Tammy Coxen and safety officer Jesi Pershing–and to Tom Smith and Jim, the Masters of Ceremony–for working to make DetConOne a safe and welcoming environment.

Mary Gardiner and Val Aurora of the Ada Initiative

I was also grateful to the Ada Initiative, who wrote the template anti-harassment policy in effect at the conference. The Ada Initiative is dedicated to increasing the participation of women in open technology and culture–including fan culture. One of their biggest victories has been drastically increasing the adoption of strong, clear, specific anti-harassment policies at conventions. I’m a proud supporter of the Ada Initiative and a member of their Advisory Board. Will you join me in supporting their vital work?

Donate now

Authors Mary Robinette Kowal and N.K. Jemisin–both tireless advocates for safety and diversity in Science Fiction–are supporting the Ada Initiative’s annual fundraiser this year.

Mary Robinette Kowal

The first time I saw Mary Robinette Kowal fight harassment was at a science fiction convention where a guy had just made a gross comment about a cosplayer in front of a packed room. While I was still trying to process what the guy had said, Mary fixed him with the most withering “what on earth just came out of your mouth” stare I have ever seen. The guy literally winced. Then he apologized–and for the rest of the night, he watched his mouth.

I remember thinking that I wished she’d been around when I was a thirteen-year-old cosplayer, getting propositioned for sex in the middle of the dealers’ room. Back then, harassment was so endemic to the Science Fiction community that I thought it was just the price of admission. No one else seemed to mind grown men following me around making gross comments, photographing me without permission, or inviting me to ‘private’ room parties, so I assumed it was a norm I had to adjust to.

I’m grateful for the progress the science fiction community has made since then. If science fiction fandom still looked–and acted–like it did back when I was that awkward thirteen-year-old girl, I’m pretty sure my aspirations of becoming a science fiction writer would be gathering dust on a shelf next to my old convention programs. Now a young professional breaking into the industry, I benefit enormously from the work the Ada Initiative, Mary Robinette, N.K. Jemisin, and others have put into making fandom a safer and more welcoming place.

I strongly recommend the Ada Initiative’s detailed timeline of the anti-harassment movement in science fiction. Part of feminist advocacy is giving credit where it is due, and the Ada Initiative’s timeline documents much of the hard work–and hard workers–behind making fandom a safer and more welcoming space.

NK Jemisin

I’m especially grateful to the writers and fans of color, including NK Jemisin (who’s fantastic Guest of Honor speech from this year’s Wiscon should pretty much be required reading), whose hard work and perseverance in the face of cluelessness, blatant racism, and ongoing threats and harassment has finally begun to change the discourse around race in fandom.

We still have a long way to go before organized fandom truly reflects the vibrance and diversity of the fan community. While this work will never get done without hundreds of volunteers carrying the banner, leaving the fight for diversity exclusively to volunteers is an unfair burden–a ‘second shift’ that falls disproportionately on women and marginalized fans. That’s why I’m proud to support the Ada Initiative, which pays advocates a fair wage to do this vitally important work.

Will you join me?

Words Aren’t Magic

So let’s talk about This Shit Right Here (that’s an link), in which technology consultant Jeff Reifman accuses Geek feminism blogger Leigh Honeywell and advice columnist Captain Awkward of harassment.

Last November, Reifman wrote a lengthy post about his relationship with an ex who eventually asked him to stop contacting her, then threatened to get a court order when he did not. He used her as an example to decry what he called ‘cutoff culture,’ and to suggest that women who want to cut exes out of their lives have an obligation to find some kind of ‘compromise’ to make sure their ex’s emotional needs are met.

Leigh and the Captain, both feminist activists, called him out. The Captain did so in this excellent post breaking down the entitlement and abuser-logic in his arguments. Leigh called him out on twitter. He wrote something in public; they challenged it in public.

Reifman then sent Leigh an email that prompted her to publicly and privately tell him never to contact her again.

So he wrote a blog post in which Leigh is very easy to identify to trash talk her for ‘harassing’ him, implying that it’s a a violation of Double Union’s Anti-Harassment Policy for her to call out his enormously-creepy behavior towards an ex who’d asked him to leave her alone (including publicly hashing out his relationship with said ex with roughly as much care for hiding her identity as he showed for hiding Leigh’s).
The Geek Feminism Code Of Conduct contains a section on things we specifically don’t consider harassment:

The Geek Feminism community prioritizes marginalized people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort. The Geek Feminism Anti-Abuse Team will not act on complaints regarding:

  • ‘Reverse’ -isms, including ‘reverse racism,’ ‘reverse sexism,’ and ‘cisphobia’ (because these things don’t exist)
  • Reasonable communication of boundaries, such as “leave me alone,” “go away,” or “I’m not discussing this with you.”
  • Refusal to explain or debate social justice concepts
  • Communicating in a ‘tone’ you don’t find congenial
  • Criticizing racist, sexist, cissexist, or otherwise oppressive behavior or assumptions

I wrote that section because people on an axis of privilege have a nasty tendency to appropriate social justice terminology (like privilege and harassment) and twist it around to serve their own point of view. They treat these words like magic incantations, as if it’s the words, rather than the argument, that convinces people.

Words are not magic incantations. They have meanings. Using a word without understanding its meaning just because you’ve seen other people successfully use it to convey a point is magical thinking.

Sometimes, the people who employ these words as magic incantations mistake other people’s refusal to engage for a victory–they must have successfully turned social justice sorcerers’ magic words against us, because we won’t argue with them anymore. Reifman himself engages in a version of this fallacy when he armchair-diagnoses his critics as ‘triggered’ rather than recognizing that their anger is a natural reaction to his demands for free emotional labor. The truth is more mundane: most of us are not interested in teaching reading comprehension to people whose comprehension is willfully limited to concepts that support their privilege.

This is the email that led Leigh to publicly tell Reifman to leave her alone:

From: Jeff Reifman
Date: Mon, May 12, 2014 at 11:03 PM
Subject: Responding to your tweets
To: Leigh Honeywell
Cc: [redacted mutual friend]

Hi Leigh, I don’t know if you remember meeting me – but I think we met
at Elysian, I’m actually close friends with [redacted mutual friend]. I saw your
tweets and your medium note and thought I would reach out.

I noticed that the comment policy on your blog asks that commenters be “
non-discriminatory, friendly, funny, or perspicacious” … I’m super
open to a discussion about this as long as comments are civil and
constructive. I would hope you would tweet as you wish others to
publicly comment on your blog.

Using the word shitbag … and repeated mentions of “fuck” both on
twitter and on medium doesn’t represent civil discussion very well.

the feedback I’ve received from the cutoff essay has been overall very
positive – but sometimes it triggers people … and I’ve now, only
twice, received attacks like this – you’re the second.

I’m open to talking about it – especially if you want to highlight
specifics … but I ask that you be civil and constructive …[sic]

Jeff Reifman

Translation: Tone argument, demand for free emotional labor and education, tone argument, tone argument, lurkers support me in email, tone argument.

You’ll notice that he CC’d a mutual friend of theirs. Then he went and wrote this follow-up post, using barely-pixelated avatars and so many direct quotes that Leigh and the Captain are laughably easy to identify. So for all his thinky thoughts about ‘shaming,’ he clearly has no problem with trying to shame people who call out his extremely inappropriate behavior.

Too bad he’s trying to do so with magic incantations.

Wednesday Geek Woman: Sofia Samatar, Author, Poet, and Editor

Sofia SamatarIn addition to being the poetry and nonfiction editor for the literary journal Interfictions, Sofia Samatar is the winner of this year’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Her novel, A Stranger in Olondria, has gotten rave reviews. It won the Crawford Fantasy Award; it was a finalist for the Nebula Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel; and it’s still a finalist for the British Fantasy Award and the World Fantasy Award. You can read an excerpt over on

Her short story “Selkie Stories Are For Losers” has been appearing on a lot of awards shortlists, too. It was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and the British Science Fiction Awards, and is still a finalist for the World Fantasy Awards. You can find links to more of her short fiction (and her poetry!) on her website.

The Hugo Awards!

It was a good year for women in Science Fiction and Fantasy at this year’s Hugo Awards, which were presented this evening in London, at the 2014 WorldCon.

Here are this year’s winners:

I’m thrilled that the Hugo Award for Best Novel went to Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. Leckie has been sweeping the genre’s major awards this year for her compelling tale of vengeance and identity. Ancillary Justice does interesting things with gender, and deftly handles social issues from drug addiction to colonization–wrapping it all up in a richly-detailed galactic epic. I can’t recommend it enough.

She was nominated alongside Charles Stross for Neptune’s Brood, Mira Grant for ParasiteThe Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, and Larry Correia’s Warbound, listed in order of votes received.

The award for Best Novella went to Charles Stross’s “Equoid.” It was nominated alongside Catherynne M. Valente’s Six-Gun Snow White, “Wakulla Springs,” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages, Brad Torgersen’s “The Chaplain’s Legacy,” and Dan Wells’s The Butcher of Khardov.

Mary Robinette Kowal’s “The Lady Astronaut of Mars won the Hugo for Best Novelette. It’s available for free at if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, and it’s another one that I can’t recommend highly enough (full disclosure: I’ve been a student in two of Kowal’s writing courses and I think she’s a delightful human being).

“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” was nominated alongside Ted Chiang’s “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling,” Aliette de Bodard’s “The Waiting Stars,” and Brad Torgersen’s “The Exchange Officers.” The voters decided not to award a fifth-place in the category, voting ‘No Award’ ahead of Theodore Beale’s “Opera Vita Aeterna.”

The award for Best Short Story went to The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere, by John Chu. Chu gave a touching acceptance speech, thanking the many people who have supported and encouraged him as he faced racism and heterosexism to pursue his writing career. His work was nominated alongside “Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, by Sofia Samatar, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky, and “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt.

We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative, by Kameron Hurley won the Hugo for Best Related Work. This is an excellent and well-deserving essay on the history of women in combat, challenging the common narrative that women can’t be heroes of genre fiction because it’s ahistorical. Definitely worth a read if you haven’t seen it yet.

It was nominated alongside Jeff VanderMeer and Jeremy Zerfoss’s Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative FictionWriting Excuses Season 8, by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Jordan Sanderson, Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It, Edited by Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas, and Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary, by Justin Landon and Jared Shurin.

In the Best Graphic Story category, Randall Munroe won for xkcd: Time, a four-month-long comic that was updated at the rate of one frame an hour. He couldn’t make it to London to accept the award, so Cory Doctorow accepted on his behalf–wearing the cape and goggles in which he’s depicted as a character in xkcd.

Also nominated in the category: Saga, Vol 2, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City, by Phil and Kaja Foglio and Cheyenne Wright, “The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who,” by Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton, and The Meathouse Man, by George R. R. Martin and Raya Golden.

The award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form went to Gravity, written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón and directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form went to Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere”, written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and directed by David Nutter.

Ellen Datlow took home the Hugo for Best Editor, Short Form. She was nominated alongside John Joseph Adams, Neil Clarke, Jonathan Strahan, and Sheila Williams.

In the Best Editor, Long Form category, the award went to Ginjer Buchanan, nominated alongside Sheila Gilbert, Liz Gorinsky, Lee Jarris, and Toni Weisskopf.

Julie Dillon won this year’s award for Best Professional Artist, nominated alongside Daniel Dos Santos, John Picacio, John Harris, Fiona Staples, and Galen Dara.

Lightspeed Magazine was this year’s winner for Best Semiprozine, nominated alongside Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Interzone, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

In the Best Fanzine category, the winner was A Dribble of Ink, nominated alongside The Book Smugglers, PornokitschJourney Planet, and Elitist Book Reviews.

The award for Best Fancast went to SF Signal Podcast, nominated alongside The Coode Street PodcastGalactic Suburbia PodcastTea and Jeopardy, The Skiffy and Fanty Show, Verity!, and The Writer and the Critic.

This year’s award for Best Fan Writer went to Kameron Hurley, author of insightful and incisive feminist commentary on the history and future of SFF as a genre and a community. She was nominated alongside Abigail Nussbaum, Foz Meadows, Liz Bourke, and Mark Oshiro.

The Best Fan Artist award went to Sarah Webb. Also nominated in the category:  Brad W. Foster, Mandie Manzano, Spring Schoenhuth, and Steve Stiles.

Worldcon also presents the  John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, which is not a Hugo, but is administered with the Hugos. This year’s winner was Sofia Samatar.

Samatar was nominated alongside Wesley Chu, Ramez Naam, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, and Max Gladstone. I’m thrilled to see Samatar go home with a Hugo, but I’m also pleased that fandom chose to recognize the talents of so many writers of color this year. If you haven’t checked out their work yet, it comes highly recommended. I’m personally really enjoying Samatar’s A Stranger In Olondria.

For more information on this year’s Hugo voting, check out the LonCon 3 site‘s detailed vote breakdown [PDF link].

I wrote previously about the attempt to stuff the ballot box for political reasons this year. I’m glad that fandom saw fit to reject this politicization of its biggest award, but since I’ve already seen folks trolling about ‘social justice warriors,’ this is your reminder that we have a strictly-enforced comment policy.

How will our Code of Conduct improve our harassment handling?

Warning for mentions of self-harm.

This is an edited version of an email I wrote to other Geek Feminism bloggers following adoption of the Geek Feminism Code of Conduct and during the drafting of Mary’s postmortem, in response to some concerns that we have not in fact improved anything over our previous ad hoc processes, particularly in cases where there are fears a harasser will threaten or commit self-harm in response to any consequences for their harassment.

Here are the differences I believe our Code of Conduct will make to handling harassment incidents in our community:

We’re removing harasser leverage.

Not strictly Code of Conduct, but code-adjacent: we’ve been working to eliminate single points of failure in our social and technical infrastructure, and are getting an established ethic in place of treating those as a problem both for logistical and for potential harassment/abuse reasons.

Our formal reporting process allows us to respond faster.

Previously, knowledge about the harasser had to work its way through back-channels. Relevant decision makers could go unaware of the situation for months, and the victim’s privacy was reliant the discretion of an expanding group of people.

Now, there is a clear reporting process that allows people with concerns to reach the people empowered to act on those concerns all at once, in confidence.

A Code of Conduct focuses the conversation on the specific incident in question.

Without a Code and anti-abuse team in place, any harassment situation is a conflict over what is and isn’t acceptable in the community. At least one person — the harasser — thinks what they’re doing is cool. Getting them to stop isn’t just about enforcing community standards — it’s also about establishing them.

With a Code in place, everyone has agreed ahead of time that these are the rules. Whether the harasser personally feels that it’s okay to — say — hug people without consent, they are bound by a harassment policy that forbids it. It takes the conflict out of the realm of values and concepts — “is it okay to hug people without consent?” — and into the realm of facts — “is this person hugging people without consent?”

A public Code of Conduct will help hold us accountable.

Another way that Codes of Conduct make communities safer is that public commitments help hold organizations accountable to their values. We have made a public commitment not to tolerate harassment, and to do whatever we need to do to prevent it — including removing people. That, again, takes the question away from general community values and into the specifics of the particular case in front of us.

None of us want someone to go hurt themselves, but none of us want harassers around, either. We’ve now publicly stated that the latter is our first priority in harassment cases. That moves the conversation from “is it okay to remove someone if they might hurt themselves?” to “is there any way to mitigate the risk that this person we have to remove might hurt themselves?”

That public commitment is also going to help inoculate us against second-guessing in other cases — like if we have to remove a beloved member of the community, or someone who we feel bad for because they are socially awkward, have no other support network, are going through a rough time, etc. I’m not saying it’s going to eliminate all difficulty or make us completely heartless to a person’s circumstances. But we’ve now put up our community’s reputation as collateral, which is going to provide a strong incentive to stick to our stated principles.

Our investigating process protects victims from the harasser and their friends.

Anyone who’s been part of a community that had to vote or consense on removing somebody knows that those discussions can flirt with community-wrecking disaster. If we didn’t have a process and I had to tell all the bloggers that, say, Liz was harassing me (she’s not, but if she was), fear of the ensuing drama would be a strong incentive against coming forward. I would be inclined to keep it to back-channels until I was confident I had enough support to get her removed and not get blamed for being mean to her/starting drama.

The anti-abuse team is empowered to keep my report in confidence and act on it — without me having to publicly name my harasser and potentially endure the whole community debating my safety in front of me (and my harasser).  That would make me feel more comfortable coming forward sooner.

There’s still a possibility that people might choose to leave the community over an anti-abuse decision, or debate it in their own spaces. But the decision will get made without a lengthy and potentially hurtful public discussion, and we’re not going to have it rehashed in GF spaces after the fact. Victims of harassment do not have to fear that their safety or integrity will be a subject of public discussion or debate within GF.

The Anti-Abuse Team can move faster than the community as a whole

Related to the above: the Anti-Abuse Team is going to be able to move faster because we’ve already explicitly been empowered to make the decision, and can do so without having to engage the entire community in a very difficult and probably painful discussion.

The new process protects those who have to interact with a harasser outside of GF.

If Alice has to work with Barb and Barb is expelled for harassment, whatever Alice’s personal opinions on the matter, she can honestly say that she wasn’t involved in the decision (if Alice is on the anti-abuse team, she can recuse herself from Barb’s case). If Barb holds it against Alice anyway, then the fact that a formal process was followed gives Alice a much more credible way to describe the problem if she chooses to take it up with her supervisor, or the leadership of another community.

It also takes Alice out of the conflict between Barb and Geek Feminism so that it’s not an interpersonal conflict between two employees/community members (which is likely to be perceived as the fault of both parties), but rather a conflict between Barb and a third party (Geek Feminism) that Barb is unprofessionally/inappropriately bringing into the workplace or into the other community.


At the end of the day, our process is only as good as the people who implement it, and it won’t solve everything. But it can make it easier and safer for victims to come forward, and improve the speed and quality of our responses. It will also help protect both victims and the community from some of the pain and ugliness that poor harassment handling can cause.

Quick Hit: the July/Aug Issue of F&SF is out!

I have a short story in this month’s issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

The story’s called “Seven Things Cadet Blanchard Learned from the Trade Summit Incident,” and it’s my very first fiction sale.

What’s it about? Fart jokes. Version Control systems. Women being awesome. What’s not to love?

Guest-edited by C.C. Finlay, this was the first issue of F&SF to accept electronic submissions. Seven of its thirteen stories are by women. I’m honored to be in the company of quite a few other wonderful writers, including Andre Norton Award winner Alaya Dawn Johnson and Hugo winner Charlie Jane Anders.

You can snag a digital copy of your very own from Amazon, or pick up the paperback from your local library or bookstore.

Do you have a cool project you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.