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Thread: The Drama Thread

  1. #1
    Darth Small Macheath's Avatar
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    The Drama Thread

    Everyone claims not to like (or "care about") drama, and by-and-large I think we do all try to hold ourselves to that standard.

    That said, every now and then I find myself tunneling through some rabbit hole of somebody else's problems, and I can't help but feel a morbid fascination. There's a particular brand of drama that can only come from the internet, perhaps because I don't know interesting-enough people. But I probably wouldn't want to.

    Today's topic is Zak S. (which stands for "Smith" in the real world, but "Sabbath" online). He's a writer and artist in the "OSR" scene for roleplaying games. OSR stands for old-school revival, and it's a backlash against more modern RPG settings and systems of current day ("safe" and "vanilla" and "accessible"), and often it involves much darker and grittier material, more lethal for the characters, more horrifying for the players. It takes glee in an almost antagonistic approach to "trigger warnings," spending nearly all of its time on the darker side of D&D-style tabletop gaming.

    I love it. I mean, the grim and disgusting fates that befall people in these books aside, there's a wild creativity involved in many of these supplements, with words and art blasting off the page into your eyeballs like nothing from Wizards of the Coast (subsidiary of Hasbro) is likely to have done in a long time. One of the biggest publishers of OSR material is called Lamentations of the Flame Princess, if that gives you some idea of the level of grimdark emo involved here.

    And "Zak Sabbath" has been a driving force of the OSR movement for ten years, wholly or partially responsible for many of my favorite indie books:


    These are just the ones on my shelf. Nestled in among many other cool indie books not written by rapists.

    Yup, turns out Zak is a huge, huge asshole. And it turns out this is well known in the OSR community online. I don't pay much attention to this sort of thing (it's "drama" and I don't like drama) but man, things have exploded today. So I find myself reading about all the controversies and blowups this guy has had in the last several years. One of my favorites comes from Patrick Stuart (of Blue Medusa) -- some time late in 2017, it seems Patrick decided Zak was a psycho/sociopath, and cut ties. He's been donating his proceeds from Blue Medusa to charity ever since. My favorite line here, though:

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Stuart
    You persistently adopt bold, challenging and widely-encompassing positions in arguments online and then defend your position through invisibly re-defining the original terms of your statement and forcing ever-more-narrow definitions of terms and evidence until it is logically impossible for you to be wrong.

    Clearly, you regard this as a natural and morally legitimate form of argument but for a wide variety of people watching this is a bad and flawed way to behave and reads like someone using technical trickery to avoid taking moral responsibility for being wrong and to dodge the possibility of ever having to actually back down on anything.

    ...

    You would not survive the rules you impose on others.
    Wow, trust a bunch of fantasy writers to go for each others' throats. That's behavior I recognize in myself and others, beautifully encapsulated in just a few words of English in a way I doubt I ever could.

    Anyway, I'm getting off track here. I think it's unfair to #BelieveWomen universally, and to blacklist people on the strength of accusations alone. I also think it's unfair to air your dirty laundry online, when you could call the police or a lawyer and take care of yourself in private. That said, there's a great weight of drama here, enough people agreeing with each other and telling the same stories, to convince me Zak is probably a pile of shit. There's also enough people concerned for each other that it does seem like this abusive dick could probably stand to be pilloried in a public way.

    What will I do about it? Well, I'm not going to burn my books. They're good books, I like them. And other people were involved in creating them. But if I see Zak's name on any materials going forward, I'm sure going to think twice or thrice about supporting him. Which is honestly a shame.

  2. #2
    Darth Small Macheath's Avatar
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    Today's blog post from Patrick Stuart, by the way, is written with Patrick's past Zak-stuff and all of today's new drama in mind, and concludes with the following:

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Stuart
    It's the dual-vision of being friends with Zak. There's this person who's such a great guy, and so interested in you personally, so talented, intelligent, charming and funny, with rare good taste.

    And then there is this other guy. The one that comes out in text form usually. In arguments about nerd stuff. This guy is condescending, aggressive, clever and manipulative. This guy will say anything to win some fucking internet argument and never, ever, ever admits wrong, backs down or recognises the humanity in his opponents.

    The first guy has friends who like him. They second guy has tools, things he uses, doling them out like playing cards or little army men.

    At first it seems like the vituperative shit online is just a flaw in the larger person. Something you will have to put up with, a manageable flaw in an otherwise good man.

    It takes a long fucking time to work out that the second guy is the real actual guy. That is the person making the decisions and for whom the decisions are made. The first person, the good guy, is just a set of behaviours he puts on like clothes.
    That's chilling. I've never known a Patrick Bateman, and I hope I never do.

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    Being completely uneducated about the community you're describing I have extra-little interest in this drama, however, I am interested in the #metoo aspect you mention. I'm of a similar mind that universal blacklisting seems harsh, especially when it's a single encounter that could be misconstrued by either party. Chris Hardwick & Chloe Dykstra come to mind. I'm still conflicted on whether to allow myself to listen to, what used to be, my favorite podcast. I haven't listened since her original article hit Medium.

    On the flip side of that, politics aside, Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation was complete bullshit. Seriously, leave the politics out of it, with literally hundreds of possible qualified persons who could fill that seat why push forward one that has so much shit on his wagon?

    This guy having multiple accusers with similar stories ... sorry dude, sounds like he's legit a dick and not worth your time. Plenty of talented artists out there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Macheath View Post
    That's chilling. I've never known a Patrick Bateman, and I hope I never do.
    I missed something, who's Bateman?

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    Quote Originally Posted by nynnja View Post
    Being completely uneducated about the community you're describing I have extra-little interest in this drama
    Yeah, I almost left a note regarding the extreme niche-ness of this particular batch of Hot Drama, I recognize nobody else is gonna know or care. But I thought it might be vaguely interesting nonetheless. Plus I just spent the last couple hours greedily devouring blog posts and reddit threads while I'm bored in the war room at work, so my perceptions are a bit skewed right now.

    Quote Originally Posted by nynnja View Post
    however, I am interested in the #metoo aspect you mention. I'm of a similar mind that universal blacklisting seems harsh, especially when it's a single encounter that could be misconstrued by either party. Chris Hardwick & Chloe Dykstra come to mind. I'm still conflicted on whether to allow myself to listen to, what used to be, my favorite podcast. I haven't listened since her original article hit Medium.
    Huh, I missed this. Time to dive down a new rabbit hole!!

    Quote Originally Posted by nynnja View Post
    This guy having multiple accusers with similar stories ... sorry dude, sounds like he's legit a dick and not worth your time. Plenty of talented artists out there.
    Oh yeah, no worries. That said, I'm still not burning any books. They're cool!

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    Oh wow, Chris Hardwick also sounds like a complete psycho. Same kind of person as Mr. Sabbath, it sounds like. There are a lot of creeps out there.

    That said, are there any corroborating sources on Ms. Dykstra's story? Other people making similar complaints, etc.? I'm perfectly happy to condemn him to the shadow realm of Me Giving Slightly Less of a Shit About Him Than I Already Gave, but that's easy for me to say as a non-fan.

    EDIT: I meeeeean...
    Last edited by Macheath; 02-11-2019 at 02:44 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Macheath View Post
    Oh wow, Chris Hardwick also sounds like a complete psycho.
    ...
    EDIT: I meeeeean...
    Right, that's why this sounds so messy. She says she has proof of the torment he caused her, however, the element of her trying to get him back could easily fall under Stockholm type behavior relating back to him being "a complete psycho". Thus my conflict over who's side to take.

    Both of them have been relatively public about their personalities, troubles, issues, etc. and Chris for sure has been in therapy for years. Perhaps his personality combined with her fragile state created a perfect storm where he inadvertently took a position of control that she wasn't strong enough to push back against .. blah blah conjecture blah... His current wife and former girlfriends mostly defended him, but Chloe also has many supporters saying they dealt with similar evils.

    At the end of the day I decided to un-follow all things Chris Hardwick. I've checked back in from time to time to see if there was any mea culpa or reconciliation, but haven't seen any yet so I stayed away. If he did willfully treat her like that he's a dick and not someone I should idolize, if he didn't I've got other people to look up to. :shrug:

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    Quote Originally Posted by Macheath View Post
    I think it's unfair to #BelieveWomen universally, and to blacklist people on the strength of accusations alone. I also think it's unfair to air your dirty laundry online, when you could call the police or a lawyer and take care of yourself in private. That said, there's a great weight of drama here, enough people agreeing with each other and telling the same stories, to convince me Zak is probably a pile of shit. There's also enough people concerned for each other that it does seem like this abusive dick could probably stand to be pilloried in a public way.
    The guy just posted an absolutely Lengthy rebuttal, containing evidence, testimonials, and all that jazz. I mean, that's what you do when you're online and somebody tries to destroy you, I guess. I have definitely not read his whole goddamn ridiculous post, it's like a billion words, but I will say: holy shit this is why drama is bullshit.

    You try to take it all in, but it's all varying degrees of fiction and you know that, so fuck it. Just absorb the delicious radioactivity, then go on with your life. I don't want to know Zak Sabbath or any of his weird girlfriends, but I do want a copy of Demon City.

    And if you want to listen to Chris "definitely a rapist" Hardwick's million podcasts, then you go right ahead.

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    So, Amber Heard tells the world Johnny Depp beat her up, the world #BelievedWomen and people have been boycotting Depp for 1-3 years. He's getting tossed out of some projects (Pirates, Invisible Man) and hated on for others (Grindlewald, Orient Express). Granted his acting has turned into a caricature of itself, but you can't even mention recent movies where he was legitimately good (Black Mass) without people rolling their eyes and gagging. This has all but ruined his reputation and taken a serious toll on his career.

    Now it turns out she was lying (imagine that) and was in fact the one who was abusing him. Unlike her story, he's bringing reams of evidence and witnesses in his defamation countersuit. But we #BelieveWomen around here, so evidence not required.

    I hope there's some contrition from the Tumblr crowd, and I hope people slow their fucking roll on the whole #MeToo movement. Sexual abuse is bad, abusers can lie too, but no, words aren't enough. If you're abused and you don't have evidence to back it up, by all means get yourself out of the situation, but you should damn well have a harder time flinging shit in the media (and on the internet) than people currently do. The Amber Heards of the world are going to create a Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf situation for the rest of you.

    EDIT: Should point out that this wasn't really a #MeToo or #BelieveWomen thing; it wasn't even sexual abuse (though I should really have said ALL abuse is bad, up above). This was a domestic violence scandal, and still is. But nobody can deny it got wrapped up in the same bow as the current movement, so I feel like it's pretty closely related to #MeToo. The fact that Amber Heard didn't tweet about some Hollywood exec grabbing her ass doesn't mean we shouldn't slow down on the #FuckAllMen side of things. Doubt is okay, skepticism is okay, and the court of public opinion is not the place to prosecute someone.
    Last edited by Macheath; 03-14-2019 at 09:08 AM.

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