Sunday, November 2, 2008

Some Trolls Guard Treasure

So I've had an interesting experience over the last couple of days. I've had my first run-in with a troll and it's proven to be very rewarding. I reacted to him, then blew him off, then found myself processing the interaction in a way that took me by surprise. He strikes me as the kind of person who'll interpret any kind of attention as a victory so I told Rob-the-editor that after our first exchange I'd just ignore him -- but I think this is interesting enough to justify giving him some satisfaction.

Here's what he wrote to Swill, the lit mag for which I'm partially responsible -- it came to Rob-the-editor and he passed it on to me.

> Date: Thursday, October 30, 2008, 5:51 PM
> What the piss is the pay for publication in your magazine?
> Most lit mags list it, why should I need to contact you
> about it? List it, Goddamn it! Do it NOW!! I write stories
> that make Hemingway, Fitzgerald and others of their ilk look
> like candy asses, suckling at their momma's tit. I
> don't have time to be coddling dirt dumb editors who
> can't even layout a guidelines page - wake the hell up!!
> Christopher Roberts

Now when I received this it was four in the morning and I'd been in a shitty mood for days so I rose to his bait like a trout to the fly.

This was my response.

And this was his.

Sean - So entirely wrong. You are not the first to have received my missive - not a hobby, but blood sport. I've had editors check themselves into asylums due to the abuse.
As to being an asshole, dickwad or jerk,(do people still use that tired "epithet" dickwad?) I can only give the standard reply I give other editors I victimize - never me, always you.
Whether you like Hemingway or Fitzgerald (Both of whom I've read - so there, wrong again) is immaterial. They are merely reference point - bloodless.
Fourth-grader, again, you not me.
"(I wonder if this is your problem – were you breast-fed? It is important to an infant's physical development and ability to resist disease. Perhaps you suffered an early fever or a diet deficient in protein?)" Need I say it? Not me, that's all your trip. It seems as though you were pissed-up (Cockney for drunk) when you wrote this bit of tiredness.
"Perhaps you should consider text messaging as your medium of choice." No, I'm a true writer - nominated for the Pushcart. Perhaps you might think of putting your magazine to sleep and hop behind the counter at 7-11 and get to work.
Interesting you mention the New Yorker. I have a reportage/essay on the 3:AM Magazine website entitled, "The New Yorker, Collusion and All That" in the nonfiction section. Read it. The ending is a killer and speaks to the nit- picking proper grammar editors (ever hear of Kerouac?) like you. Thus they deserve the fate I mete out to them, as do you, at the end of my piece.
Veni, vedi, vici, - no!
I fucking rule,
Chris Roberts

The whole interaction did get on my nerves. And so I had to analyze why I reacted the way I did. What it comes down to is that I come from Richmond. I learned early on that if you let people get away with disrespecting you, they will eat your fucking life one bite at a time because they know they can. So if anyone gives you shit the only functional reaction is to jump on them hard, fast, and continually until only one of you is capable of walking away.

This just doesn't work on the internet.

Letting go of things is difficult for me. I wanted to send this guy another email pointing out how everything he said in his second note was covered by things I'd said. I wanted to point out that his writing in the second note was still lame. I wanted to go read his article in order to tear it apart. I wanted to explain to him that if he wanted to really get to me there were ways of doing it that he hadn't even touched on. (Just to start with, my response to him was pompous and clumsy and in bad need of an edit.) I wanted to mock his self-importance. Etc, etc.

And of course what I really wanted to do was put my fingers in his eyes and dial his face like a rotary phone. But I knew that any response on my part was a victory for him. He decided what the game was, he started playing, and he's the one who gets to pick the winner.

What he wrote bugged me. It bugged me because I'm still the kid from Richmond who gets beat up every fucking day and that kid is going to be pissed-off and ready to react for the rest of his life. I've got a seething cauldron of anger in my chest that will keep boiling until I die -- and it'll probably be a big part of whatever kills me. It's not like yanking my chain is any kind of a challenge.

I've been working on a big novel for the last four years. (If you're curious, look under The Ghost Rockers in my labels list.) And today I wrote the climax of the first volume. (That's why I didn't post earlier.) Even after all the time and thought I've put into the work I was still surprised by the way I handled the ending. And my approach came about as a direct reaction to dealing with ol' Chris.

See, when I looked at the way I felt about what he'd written to Rob and then to me, I had to ask myself some big questions and in the end they boiled down to something direct and powerful.

What kind of person do I want to be?

How would that person deal with this situation?

And when I looked at it like that the ending to The Ghost Rockers came into clear focus. It was a real gift. And it lifted my anger in a way that took me by surprise. I'm kind of glowing right now.

And that's a lesson I'll keep learning over and over again. Anything that happens to you can be processed productively as long as you ask yourself those two questions, the questions that help this kid from Richmond to keep growing up.

What kind of person do I want to be?

What would that person do now?


Anonymous said...

He's got form in this area; he recently called a nice woman in my ofice a "Limey cunt". His writing isn't very good, and there are hundreds of lunatics like him out there, but he does seem to be one of the rudest and most arrogant - in a competitive field!

Still, the knowledge that he will spend his life banging on closed doors and railing baffledly at the "injustice" of it all does afford me some pleasure.

Sean Craven said...

Anonymous, I'm glad you sent me this. Once my initial aggravation wore off I went to take a look at his article and man did it suck -- but in a way that made me feel sad for him.

It's more or less a simple complaint that the New Yorker wasn't publishing the geniuses of tomorrow, today. In other words a poorly written, vaguely abusive plea for someone, anyone to notice his under-appreciated genius.

It's pretty much exactly as you said it in your closing line. He's decided to try and piss off editors while wondering why he isn't getting published.

But hearing that he's a dick in person kinda removed the pity and left me feeling like I'm looking at a bug in a jar -- a bug I really don't like, whose sufferings, while lamentable, are still somewhat amusing.

A little freude for my schaden. (sic) Thanks, Anonymous.

robp said...

Well, if you ask me, (and it's online so I get to assume you are), "limey cunt" sounds like unnecessary citrus seasoning. I've never had reason to tamper with the natural flavor; perhaps the need for spice was assumed by someone unfamiliar with the taste.

Banging, of course, is generally enjoyable, but if he's doing it on closed doors that may explain the hostility.