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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Author Conduct: A Slippery Slope to Insanity (Part Two)

Now to part two of my Author Conduct deal.

The Cole A. Adams/Kevin W. Reardon/Steve Berman Fiasco
Alright, so basically here is what happened:
Steve Berman is an editor who said of Kevin W. Reardon's story "The Portico Angel" that "a bad opening crippled this story for me plus the various relationships felt off." Shortly after Reardon sent a rather unprofessional and rude email to Berman, to which Berman replied as any professional should and let it go. Then, Berman, who is also a writer, made some comments about his writer's block and depression over writing (such an unusual thing for us writers, I know) only to receive a strange comment from someone calling themselves Cole saying the following:
You should really just kill yourself.

Obviously, that'd be no great loss to literature.

Just do us all a favor and take down your blog first.
Of course, this didn't sit too well with folks, for obvious reasons. But, it didn't end here (of course, why would it?). No, this Cole person (now calling himself Cole A. Adams) on a different, but related post, took matters to a different level by saying:
There--you said it yourself. It is all futile. You write for attention, and while you are getting attention here, it will never be enough. It will never satisfy. Writers who are in it for attention or money usually burn out at middle age, as you are doing now. You have accomplished nothing. You will accomplish nothing.

You mentioned, in one of your posts, that you live in an apartment with windows. Is it a high floor? If it is, you should go now to the window, and look out. Twilight, of the day, of your life. Open the window and feel the wind. If Dault will come to you, take your cat in your arms and jump. Jump, Steve. Don't fear the reaper. You can make this sense of emptiness end. The pain can be over.

Life is futile, but for the desperation. You have the power to bring a stop to that, Steve.

Give in. Give up now.

You know I understand.
And that's shortly before Berman broke the news that it was Kevin W. Reardon all along (I'll direct you to the full post and Reardon's responding comment because it's too much text to re-post here: the short version is that Berman caught on, Reardon pretended like he never meant to be anonymous or some crap and made it seem like the whole thing was about getting the review removed and some other nonsense that defies logic).

What do I make of all this? Well, as everyone has pretty much already said, if Kevin W. Reardon has any sort of successful writing career after this it will be a miracle, maybe an act of charity out of pity for the pathetic state this man has put himself in. SteveBerman isn't just some random guy who sprung up yesterday. He knows quite a few people, and so does Elizabeth Bear and many of the others who have spoken. Add in the fact that the blogosphere has latched on to this story, spreading it, as it should, like wildfire, and you really have a writing career that has just been stomped to dust and by no fault of any publisher, editor, reader, etc. Berman's review didn't kill Reardon's career. In fact, Berman's review likely only helped Reardon's career by driving new readers to Reardon to see what Berman was really talking about. Reardon killed this all on his own.

What surprises me most about this whole thing is the manner in which this career was killed. Reardon didn't kill it by accidentally misspeaking, nor by failing to publicize or get reviews. Reardon killed it by telling someone else that they should commit suicide and then claiming that Berman isn't really a writer because Reardon, being the oh so literary, in-it-for-the-art/love (bullshi*t), wouldn't want to live if he couldn't write.

Let's not ignore the fact that Reardon called Bermans' anthology a "competing anthology," which goes counter to Reardon's claim that he's not "in it for the money." If he wasn't he wouldn't give a sh*t what Berman had to say or whether there are supposed "competing" works out there (which is another pile of b.s., by the way, which is for another post). People who do this for the love aren't going to be concerned about competing anthologies. In fact, if you really write "for the love," then you're not submitting at all. As soon as you submit, you're not doing it for the love anymore. You're doing it for entirely selfish reasons. For the love goes right out the frakking door. This is the same for people who post their fiction online. You may think "oh, yeah, I'm just doing this for the love," but the reality is that you're doing it so people will see it and perhaps enjoy it, otherwise you wouldn't do it and keep it all to yourself (like certain poets that Reardon mentions). This is what a writer does: reach out to an audience, no matter how small.

But Reardon, of course, is supposedly the "high and mighty" one, telling us that he would kill himself if he couldn't write. If anyone honestly believes that they should die if they are unable to write (even for a short while), then they should immediately seek psychological help. It's clear to me that Reardon is actually mentally unstable. There is nothing normal about telling someone to commit suicide or believing that death is the only solution to most of our problems. This is a sign of a pathological behavior. Reardon is insane and if any of his family, who I pray have not abandoned him for the same reasons that the writing community has, will try to get him help. If Reardon were to pay attention to any of this, or any of the stuff going on about him out there, I would ask him: Why? What made you think, for a moment, that this was okay? Is this normal where you come from?

The William Sanders deal pales in comparison to this, because Sanders never technically hurt anyone. He pissed a lot of people off and offended most, but his comments and words only hurt people that allowed themselves to be hurt. Reardon, if he had been so "fortunate" to have latched on to an individual who might have actually killed himself, could have caused serious damage. What if Berman was actually suicidal? What if it had crossed Berman's mind? And what if Berman had killed himself? Would we even be having this discussion over whether writers should be careful what they say here?

No, we'd be having a different discussion over the limits of free speech on the Internet and Reardon would likely be on his way to prison. We should remember that when we say things on the Internet it can have an affect on people. We should all stick to some sort of moral code with our words. It's all well and good to make fun of people, to say mean things, to use foul language, to ridicule religion, politicians, etc., but there is a line, and Reardon crossed it. This is something that isn't isolated to just this incident either. There have been many other cases where similar things have occurred, even cases where an individual made the suicide public via a webcam feed and people sat there enjoying it (presumably because they thought it was a joke.

This isn't a laughing matter. While we are welcome to say just about anything we want on the Internet, we have to face the consequences of those words should something happen. And we shouldn't have to face them if we play it smart. Go ahead, ridicule people, rip on politicians, call people f*cking morons and other such things, but know the limit to that.

But perhaps all of this talk of limits and lines is wasted on Reardon. You'd think that a mentally stable individual would be capable of knowing the limits. I certainly would never tell someone to kill themselves, even if that someone pissed me off. It takes someone with poor reasoning to ignore that little man or woman in the back of our heads telling us, as Jim Carrey would put it: "Ah, ah, ah. Driving into oncoming traffic is counterproductive!"

I guess common sense is really dying these days. If it's not one thing, then it's another.

Anywho. Feel free to leave a comment telling me to kill myself!

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  1. People do the strangest things. Although I try not to... fortunately most of the time I succeed.

    If you're going to do something as rude and unprofessional as the angry Kevin R. did, I'd suggest not to do it in the presence of any permanently recorded media... especially the internet.

    On that note, I'd avoid any placing any super-drunk or nude photos on Facebook too... heh.

  2. That goes without saying...People have a weird idea of how the Internet actually works :P.