Well, then, that’s a hell of a note.

5 May

Yet another rant, yet another what the fuck moment chez aztec.

On Sunday, Wendy posted her feelings about the current state of the romance blogging community.

On Monday, Sunita posted her reaction to that post.

Below are my responses to both blog posts, in the order I posted them.

At Sunita’s, I commented:

But I was surprised that people didn’t talk more about the fact that such simultaneous personas are not at all unusual. I’m not talking pen names, I’m talking full-blown personas, with separate social media accounts and blogs and biographies. I can think of any number of people off the top of my head who have done this in the past or are doing it now.

I am aghast that this is, apparently, common practice.

As you say, pseudonyms and pen names are common enough, and I have no problem as long as there is disclosure, and readers can find the information relatively easily–say, link to the alter-ego’s author page or what have you.

But what you are talking about, having two or more full blown personas without disclosure? It is that Jane did that and that apparently a number of people knew from the beginning while the rest of the world was, yes, duped, that fractured my trust in her. It is the fact that to this day the blog pretends to be by readers that finished off the job.

For years some people have scoffed at the notion of a romance community online, while some of us clung to the idea that it was possible for readers to connect as readers and to create bonds of trust.

So much for that notion.

At Wendy’s, I said:

Warning: rant ahead

I read this post last night and didn’t know how to respond.

I am not on twitter or Facebook, and the more I learn about them, the less likely I am to join either. GoodReads was never my thing, but after selling out to amazon? Zero incentive to make it my thing, even peripherally.

Like you, I feel ignored–that lone, small voice no one hears.

Then, this morning I read Sunita’s blog post about trust and secrets in romanceland, and I’m reeling.

Am I the only imbecile around who thought that, unless people disclosed it, they only had the one identity?

Because from that blog post, it would seem that a number of fairly well known people online are happy to have two or more fully constructed personas, through which they interact with other people without disclosure.

Not, mind you, pen names or pseudonyms, against which I have nothing. Hard to, when I have never been online as anything but azteclady myself, since 1999 or so.

Then we have the threats. I got a comment on my blog a couple of weeks ago linking to the STGRB site and stating that I should be sued alongside Jane Litte.

I didn’t approve the comment, but I didn’t delete it either. It sits there in my pending approval queue, reminding me of the risks I run every time I post anything, including the mildest review.

Should I be sued for my opinions? Hell of a world to live in, should that be the case.

There is the threat of doxxing, which also looms large for people in fields where most people conflate 50 Shades with porn, and romance with trash. Who wants to lose their job because of their hobby? Who wants to become even more vulnerable to violence, simply because some asshole thought women having opinions and daring to express them, deserve to be raped, beaten, killed?

More and more I am taking the stance that I am talking to myself. That there are very few people I can trust to be who and what they say they are–many fewer than I trusted just a few weeks ago.

Merriam commented at BookThingo, in part, that:

bloggers need to be running a mental checklist so they are consistent and comfortable with themselves. The mix of friendships, power relationships and business has tripped up a number of people besides Jane in this mess. If they had been asking themselves questions along the way, doing a conscious testing of their ethical approach to their blogging, it might not have trapped them in this public disaster

I will continue to be true to my own code of ethics and stop expecting anyone else, with very limited exceptions, to adhere to any code of ethics at all.

And I won’t expect anyone to trust me either. Why should they?

Sad as hell, but probably a lot less painful than continue to trust people only to be slapped in the face over and over and over with the truth.

I know that those last statements will offend some readers and bloggers, and I understand why it would–but saying anything else would be lying, and that’s exactly what has me feeling so isolated right now, knowing that there are a lot of people out there lying to me, without any compunction.

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8 Responses to “Well, then, that’s a hell of a note.”

  1. Lori 05/05/2015 at 1:23 PM #

    I’m going to be all over the board with this but here I go: I trust you. I have a very very small online/romancelandia community and I’ve found you to be honest, engaging and someone I listen to and whose words I think about. And I admire that you’ve been willing to think about things and change your opinion. People who take a position and can’t bend are people I don’t trust.

    I also know that when you present information you provide links and commentary to allow people a greater understanding of what you’re saying. And it helps me, as a reader, see a greater picture. I really appreciate that.

    Romancelandia is built on relationships because women build their lives on relationships. How I live is determined on who is there for me. At work: are my girls present? At home: is my daughter there? Online? Who are the monikers I know and trust. As relationships erode and new ones aren’t being formed, we’re suffering.

    And it’s also harder because the author/blogger/reader personas are all just becoming one and quite frankly, everything feels like its just another person trying to sell something to me nowadays.

    Sorry to ramble. But the thrill is gone and I don’t know what it’s going to take to get it back.

  2. kaetrin 05/05/2015 at 7:56 PM #

    For what it’s worth, I’ve never lied to you.

    • azteclady 05/05/2015 at 8:01 PM #

      I know you haven’t, and I don’t, won’t, blame people for keeping their friends’ secrets.

  3. Erin Burns 05/05/2015 at 9:48 PM #

    I lurked around romancelandia for a long time before I ever got brave enough to say the first thing. Heck, my blog start date was about 2 years before I got the nerve to publish the first post. And I quibbled mightily about whether to have a pseudonym or not. Eventually I went with being me publicly, directly connected to my real life job identity and everything. It just seemed like too much worry and stress, and disingenuous to boot to separate out that way . And it’s funny how that turned out, because I worried when we were interviewing prospective candidates that they would find me and think badly of my employer, or that prospective students or their parents would as well. And it turns out that it ended up being a plus because the person who we offered to and who eventually accepted said it was one of the things that made her take the job, because it made her feel like we were real people. So that’s really tangential, but I think perhaps because I made very different choices, I’m really struggling with this idea that people are forking their personas so radically. And I’m really cognizant that my decision has thus far turned out so well, and that’s not always, or maybe even usually, the case. So I’m not against pen names or pseudonyms as a whole. And one seperating real life from online presence seems very rational. But wholesale creation of an army of personas just seems so open to abuse, it feels akin to sock puppetry. Are these personas “friends”, do they interact? I’m not sure where the line is (obviously, I mean I couldn’t figure out how to manage a single separation), but I just don’t enjoy feeling like I need to give everything fish eyes.

    • Deirdre 07/05/2015 at 1:45 AM #

      My personae don’t interact. Of course, part of the reason they don’t is that I wanted them hidden because of ye old day jobbe.

      When I worked at Apple, I had a contractual obligation not to do anything that would be a business conflict of interest. For example, I couldn’t offer anything as a Kindle exclusive. (Nor, technically, could a hidden pseudonym. And I stuck to that.)

      That limited what I could write. As an example, iBooks doesn’t accept PI, and thus I couldn’t publish it, even under a pseudonym. Once my brain learns things like that, suddenly that’s where it wants to go.

      After I left Apple, the two companies most interested in interviewing me for a job were Google and Amazon, both of whom would have the same problems because both also sold books.

      Bah.

      The other main reason people have different pseudonyms: bookstore computers.

      Let’s say you write contemporary and dark paranormal. You make a name for yourself in dark paranormal selling through an average of 40,000 paperbacks, then go on to light contemporary. Your normal readers don’t pick up the contemporary, and your sales tank, maybe to 15k. Your next dark paranormal comes out.

      Guess how many the bookstores order?

      Hint: It’s not 40k.

      You can kill a career by having only one pseudonym. You can also kill a career by being too open about the pseudonym until the new sales pattern’s been established.

  4. SuperWendy 06/05/2015 at 7:41 PM #

    I marvel at the concept of whole other personas created out of whole cloth. That is nowhere near the same thing as a pseudonym. You go by AL online and I’ve met you in person (and even though I know your real first name I think I still called you AztecLady or AL in person LOL!). But I’m dealing with the same persona. Who you are as AL is who you are as Real Life name.

    I find the idea of personas distasteful (when JK Rowling made up a whole new persona for her Robert Galbraith pseudonym that bothered me too. Why not just say RG is a pseudonym for a multi-published author and leave it at that? Instead we get this whole backstory biography thing and…..ick!) but also exhausting. Gah, I can barely keep up with one persona. The idea of creating another one (or multiples) not only smacks of catfishing but who has the time? Just thinking about it makes my head ache.

    The argument is, of course, well shame on you for taking people at face value. You should know better than to be trusting and naive. And really, that’s just sad. I’m not sure I want to live in a world where I suddenly have to question every single thing I *think* I know about a person. Who wants to live like that?

  5. Deirdre 07/05/2015 at 1:22 AM #

    I’ve always been straightforward that I have other personae in the form of hidden pseudonyms. I did it so that I could keep my food job without losing it or making it harder to get another job. Now that I’m better known in the romance community under my own name than I am under my romance pseudonym, I’m kind of at a loss about potential ethical issues.

    There are people who, because I support Dear Author’s free speech side of the Ellora’s Cave case, don’t want to have anything to do with me because I “support” Jane Litte. For some people, it’s apparently too nuanced a position to note that I can support the free speech of someone I disagree with. And that I actually like embracing complexity and contradiction that would send others running.

    So there’s a valid question: Disclose? Don’t disclose? Should I even bother when I may never meet any of these people in person?

    In one community I’m in, I have already been advised not to disclose. That’s okay for that one community, but there are a billion others, and different admins will draw the lines in different places.

    • Deirdre 07/05/2015 at 1:27 AM #

      Oh, and these are complete personae, complete with blogs, social media accounts, and separate friends, but only one of them is a romance writer.

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