Commentary on recent events in Horrorville? Pt. 1

Posted: April 20, 2016 in Controversy, News
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

White Supremacist on the Bram Stoker Award Jury – #RileyGate2016

The last few weeks have rocked the horror fiction community.  David A. Riley, posted on his blog that he was a  juror for the anthologies category of the Bram Stoker Awards. This lead to the discovery by some that  he was a  white supremacist.  I believe the issue was first noticed and raised by author Daniel Braum.  The horror community came out strongly on social media. There was a lot of “this is a slippery slope” arguments flying around and a lot of “You can disagree about a lot of things, but you have to draw the line at actual Nazis”.  Many called for him to be stood down. The HWA board decided that this type of action was not within their by laws and David Riley offered to step down which was accepted.  There was a lot of talk about this, and the event lead notable writer Brian Keene to sever all working ties with Horror Writers Association and HWA members over the incident. (Brian’s boycott itself was received with varying levels of support and ire within the horror community.)

The way I saw it was:

  1. Was David A. Riley a white supremacist/nazi?  Yes. A one time chapter leader of the National Front, there was evidence as recently as 2011 of him supporting white supremacy groups and racist ideology in blog post and comments on articles. Lots of people have written about it. (Refer to some of his statements here and here, and here.)
  2. Had he repudiated his views publicly?  No. By the time he’d offered to step down he’d started issuing various “but I bought something from a coloured person once”/”have a coloured friend” statements, but no actual repudiation of fascist or white supremacist ideology.
  3. Did Riley have any influence in the awards process whatsoever? Yes.
  4. Did his views them bring into question his ability to fulfil these duties without bias? Yes.
  5. Was his presence has a juror distracting from the award itself and bringing the award into disrepute?  Yes.

Personally, I was pretty pissed that David Riley was not stood down by the HWA, rather he (according to his own words) offered to step down and this was accepted. I think that’s a subtle distinction here that is important.  The HWA should’ve removed him from his office, if not because they disagree with his politics, if not because there was provable bias on his part – they should’ve done it on the basis that his continued position on the jury distracted and detracted from the awards and thus could not be continued.  I think Nick Mamatas made an interesting number of observations about the HWA’s ability/inability to do this.

I do have sympathy for HWA President Lisa Morton and the HWA Board generally on this particular issue which came out of left field. Most people know nothing about Riley even though his repugnant views had been highlighted a year previously when he was briefly involved and then fired from Weirdbook.  I also feel that given t his kind of issue had likely not occurred in recent years there was probably an lack of understanding on the part of the HWA Board on how to deal with such an incident.  I would like to note that I while I did not officially complain about David Riley to the HWA (Daniel Braum and Allyson Byrd et al had that well in hand), I did make a number of suggestions directly to Lisa Morton. These suggestions included a “root and branch” review of the Stoker tules and the HWA by-laws, so that they’re coherent and clearly give the HWA necessary powers to remove problematic people from committees and juries etc, with a minimum of fuss.   While I agree with Nick Mamatas that its a private volunteer org and the fact that roles were conferred upon people there is an implicit power to remove them from that role, etc…. It’ll all make it easier next time if this kinda stuff is clearly down in black and white.

Could this incident have been handled better by the HWA? Yes.  There should probably some analysis and discussion within the organisation about what is the best method to address issues and what is the best method by which to deliver those addresses and statements. Is social media he best place for that?

Do I hate on Lisa etc for perhaps bungling the matter slightly, particularly with the initial statement? No. People are human, with all that entails.  Having said that, it didn’t look like the board was really aware of all its options and it did not look good for the president to issue a statement that other board members characterised as inaccurate in comments under that statement.  Do I think that the statement seemed a bit hypocritical given the fact the HWA had launched a Diverse Works committee, aimed at highlighting the work of people of colour, LGBTI authors, etc? Yeah I couldn’t shake that feeling.

Was I outraged at amount of “slippery slope” / “free speech” / etc arguments made by a lot of people commenting on the thread?  Yes. It was particularly outraged. And blocked a few of them.

Do I find it encouraging that large numbers of people raised their voices and spoke about this issue? Yes that was great. I feel these voices fair outweighed those who would harbour a white supremacist in the name of free speech.

Is there room for improvement here (change to rules, bylaws, etc) and obvious things that can be done to prevent if rom happening again or to ease the resolution of an issue like this were it to happen again? Yes, and it’s up to the board to take action on that.

Am I hopeful that this wont happen again or that systems will be put in place to allow more effective and responsive governance in such another nightmare scenario?  I’m hopeful.

 

 

Stay tuned for Part II

 

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Comments
  1. guyanthonydemarco says:

    Note that the person you are discussing is David A. Riley from the UK, and there is another David Riley from Colorado who has nothing to do with this. FYI.

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