Facerail

Will Shetterly has posted an enormously comprehensive chronology of the events of 2009 which have since come to be known as, “RaceFail.” (click here to see it.)

As with Jay Lake, I am quite certain Shetterly and I stand at different corners of the political boxing arena. As with Jay Lake, I find it telling that the usual suspects have made an enemy of Will; a man who is, ideologically, a natural ally.

Anyway, good reading, especially if you’re wanting to get a broader spectrum of opinion on events as they transpired.

Will has also coined a wonderful new word: failfen — SF&F fans (fen!) who are also devotees of ‘fail’ as it happens in the so-called ‘community’ of SF&F. Failfen were on the forefront of the tiny little stink in a tiny little place known as FishBoobFail — and for which I am immortally emblazoned at at least one liberal fan wiki site — and failfen continue to be on the lookout for the latest in ‘fail’ wherever it might show itself. Because failfen are the ultimate, unquestionable sentinels of political truth and social justice in our beloved SF ghetto.

I’d like to add another word to the discussion: facerail.

The word rail when used as a verb means, “to utter bitter complaint or vehement denunciation (often followed by at or against.)” During RaceFail, such railing was the hallmark of the discussion, with the self-appointed guardians of SF community political propriety railing at length against various authors, editors, publishers, other fans, and so forth. The attitude was one of, “in your face!

Facerail. Facerailer. Are you a facerailer? Have you facerailed anyone lately? Doubtless there are still many out there — fans and authors alike — who have been clever enough to avoid a high-dudgeon tongue-lashing from the facerailing failfen.

Facerail: to excoriate with extreme language and over-the-top self-righteousness, the supposedly racist actions, words, thoughts, or demeanor of someone you don’t know well enough to properly judge in such a manner.

Facerailer: one who engages in the act of facerailing. Often caucasian, often female, always on the internet, many times from behind a LiveJournal alias. But not always. Can be non-caucasian, non-female. May use real name. Forever and eternally obnoxious.

ETA: Allfailfenrail: the general present-tense state of conspicuously going out of your way to enage in failrail of any sort, against any perceived ism — real or, as is usually the case, imagined. Can be considered either a subset of, or superset over, facerail.

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8 thoughts on “Facerail

  1. Maybe. I walked into it in 2006 and I didn’t even know it. Since then I’ve gradually stopped caring who I might upset when I stick my toe into this zombie-like kerfuffle. LOL!

  2. I like it!

    But izanobu is right. A friend refers to them as a “powerful claque” because some of them do have some influence in the industry. My advice to all newer writers is to state your position, then disengage, at least until the next bit of facerailing.

  3. Thanks for posting this, that’s a word to remember. I’ve seen easily a half dozen of these “Race Fail” things over the last few years, and seen a lot of people I respect being caught on the wrong side of them. In each case it was a basically decent person being excoriated over a real or perceived slip of the tongue, and then making the fatal mistake of believing that they were talking to people who were actually interested in conversation rather than extracting penance. In every case, too, LiveJournal acted as a disease vector, quickly spreading links to lots of followers and groups to urge like-minded people to pile on.

    I also find it interesting how well this meshes with another common observation: Any conversational evolution that does not hew very closely in matter and tone to, well, railing against their target, is decried as “derailing”.

    … You know, this may be the first web comment in three years I’ve made that I did not either use my full name or link back to my web page from. Damn, that’s depressing. But I can’t convince myself that cowardice is the wrong decision, either.

  4. John, sometimes prudence might seem cowardly to the foolish or the foolhardy. Thanks for the comment. Since the “powerful claque” didn’t seem able to stop me from winning WOTF or selling to one of the top SF magazines, I have decided they’re not nearly as “powerful” as their rep might make them out to be. I have further concluded that the enormously poor karma they are creating for themselves — by relentless seeking and attacking innocent targets — will come back to haunt them in all kinds of unfortunate ways. So any worry I had — last year — has pretty much left the building.

  5. Thanks for commenting, Will! Had I not been facerailed by SF’s Omarosa in 2006, I’d probably not have bothered with any of it. But the way she handled that exchange, and the way she and her clique (“claque?”) have proceeded, has left me feeling like it’s worth it — for me, in my circumstance as SF author and white half of a white/brown marriage — to speak up. There is more than one way to be “progressive” about ethnicity and race issues. To my mind, antiracism is poisonous to the broader discussion and I am vehemently against it, just as I am against Critical Race Theory.

  6. Is that a reference to “Why is the Universe full of White people?” I just skimmed that, and man, she twisted your words like she was drying a rag.

    One of my constant frustrations is that “antiracism” has two meanings. In the general sense, it’s mighty hard to find anyone in 2010 who isn’t an antiracist. Every web page by every major corporation and political figure has something about diversity.

    It’s the ideological sense that’s pernicious, and much of its perniciousness comes from not having a clear way to distinguish it from a general opposition to racism. I’d been using “ideological antiracism” and a few variants, but now I think I’ll try settling on “antiracism theory”, because at least that stresses the fact that it’s just another theory for understanding the world, and they become theorists, which also stresses the fact that about all they do is talk.

  7. Brad,

    I came here from you “about” page because I had to discover Facerailing. Unfortunately both of the links in the post are now broken, so I’m still mostly at a loss.

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