For a while, a few years back, I thought I might have an evil twin.
I kept running into people at cons who’d met him: Man, he coulda been your clone, they’d say. He’s tall and gangly and kinda sardonic — smaller in the nose, maybe — he’s writing this book about the neurological impossibility of free will, and he’s worried that it might get used to justify serial sex killers or something…
Turns out his name was Scott Bakker (R. Scott Bakker, actually — I never bothered to find out what the R stood for), and while I remain mystified that anyone would mistake him for me, he turned out to be quite an interesting guy. We hung out a few times at cons, debated the finer points of pop neuro over beers, got along way better than you might expect from our orthogonal backgrounds (his formal training is in philosophy, for chrissake). He was popular at such events; always shooting the shit with someone, always going point-counterpoint around a table of writers and readers, always engaging, always attentive. Throughout the course of these events, I never saw him treat anyone with anything other than respect; and the belated discovery that Caitlin and Scott had been good friends for years before I’d known either of them came as no surprise whatsoever.
Remember that: it’s central.
When I had the chance to blurb Scott’s novel Neuropath — a book that dealt with many of the same issues as Blindsight, but within the confines of a thriller format that was far more accessible than my own vampires-in-space niche effort had been — I jumped at the chance (although I don’t think Tor ever used the blurb). Scott wrote Neuropath as an experiment in formula: he ploughed through a bunch of conventional thrillers to get a feel for the form, said Shit, I can do that, and did.
Where he really made his name, though, was in fantasy: firstly with an epic trilogy called The Prince of Nothing. The first volume is called The Darkness That Comes Before, and despite fair amount of critical acclaim (apparently it subverts pretty much every overused trope in the standard fantasy toolbox), there are inevitably people who do not like it. C’Est la vie.
Also, there is at least one rabid animal who hates it, someone who goes by the monicker “acrackedmoon”.
Notice what I did there: I reduced a fellow human being to the status of a mentally-diseased animal. I thought long and hard about doing that. It surprises me a little that I’m willing to sink so low, so early in the discussion (maybe I won’t; maybe I’ll have second thoughts and edit it out before I post.) (Guess not.) I’d generally show more restraint, but for the fact that acm has beaten me to that particular punch by referring to Scott Bakker as “a self-important little roach”. She calls him a number of other things, too, but I figure that particular shot justifies my own epithet (which at least accords acm the dignity of remaining a mammal).
The post in question was written last August, but it seems to have reignited with the new year and is even now garnering fresh comments both at acrackedmoon’s blog and at Bakker’s (here, here, here). Acrackedmoon has issues with what she sees as rampant misogyny in Bakker’s works. She calls him a “sexist douche” and an “egocentric snowflake”; one of her followers chips in with “misogynistic piece of subhuman garbage”. Apparently The Darkness That Comes Before is one unending Festival-O’rape, and any iteration of the argument that Writing about something is not the same as promoting it is nothing more than nerdy white-boy white-washing.
This might be a good time to point out that by her own admission, acrackedmoon has never read past the first six pages of The Darkness That Comes Before. Neither has she ever actually met Scott Bakker, although she’s “read impressions” of people who’ve met him, and inferred from these that he is “pompous and ridiculous”. Having hung out with the man myself, I can only say I’ve seen no such evidence; but then, I’m a “nerdy white boy”, and acm explicitly dismisses my perspective going in.
Here’s the thing, though: I can’t argue with her about the book, because I’ve read even less of it than she has.
I probably couldn’t argue with her anyway; go to her blog, and see what happens when others have tried. Argument does not seem to be the point over there (what else could you expect of a site entitled “Requires Only That You Hate”?). Acrackedmoon meets virtually every challenge with insult and ridicule. But the thing is, sometimes you can see hints of something like reasoned debate sneaking past the vitriol. Speaking as someone who knows Bakker casually, who knows several folks who know him well, I’m confident that she’s dead wrong about his worth as a human being; that makes her a generally unreliable witness, as far as I’m concerned. Based on her writing, she strikes me as kind of a hateful human being (that blog title again) — But I haven’t read the book. And I am a nerdy white male, so there are some things I probably won’t get even if they’re staring me in the face.
As it happens, though, I know someone who has read The Darkness That Comes Before, and who is not a nerdy male (she is white, but you can’t have everything). I happen to be married to her. Her opinion on this matter is far more informed than mine, and I would ask you all to read her thoughts on the subject. Because while I’m far from Scott Bakker’s bosom buddy, I know him well enough to know that he’s a smart guy; he’s a good guy; he’s well-respected by those who actually know him.
And the kind of shit that acrackedmoon is throwing around really should not go unchallenged.