A common gag in comedy – and, sometimes, in drama – goes like this: Person A asks Person B to explain a particular thing, then cuts them off or ignores them when they do. Invariably, the point is that Person A is varying degrees of rude, overbearing and oblivious, and/or that Person B is boring, bullied or inept. It’s a cruel bit of humour, and while it can occasionally be employed with a light, teasing touch among characters who are and remain friends, the most common usage highlights the casual ease with which egotists silence others.

For Person B, it’s never a joke, even if the script requires them to shrug it off and keep going. For Person B, there’s no point asserting themselves in the face of Person A’s rudeness, because Person A doesn’t care.

And right now, I’ve been made into Person B.

Rationally, I know there’s no point in arguing with a stranger who declares himself an expert on my life, but who pointedly won’t listen to or engage with anything I say. Any testimony I make, no matter how truthful or heartfelt, can’t possibly sway him: he’s as convinced of his own unassailable rightness as he is my mendacity. Whatever I do or fail to do next, this person will see it as proof of his own intelligence. If I fail to respond, he’ll say I’m afraid of hearing the truth; if I do respond, he’ll claim my defensiveness proves his point. That being so, if I’m damned in his eyes no matter what, the only sane choice is to please myself and speak, not to this Person A, but to our mutual audience, in the hope they prove more receptive to sense than he.

As I mentioned in my last post, various men in the Sad Puppy camp have recently started claiming that my husband Toby is the anti-Puppy blogger Camestros Felapton. I have already stated, for the record, that he is not, as has Camestros: nonetheless, Brad Torgersen, Lou Antonelli and Dave Freer, none of whom I’ve ever met in person, refuse to believe either one of us.

By the public admission of both Freer and Antonelli, the “evidence” they have is circumstantial: they have an IP address they know belongs to Camestros and an identical IP they claim belongs to my husband – though on what basis, they’ve never said; certainly, my husband has never had just one IP in the entire time I’ve known him, and almost never comments online outside Facebook – and have thus concluded that they must be the same person. Apparently, “Australian with a philosophy background and a connection to SFF who’s recently lived in the UK” is such a weird, specific category of person as to defy any possibility of coincidence otherwise.

The fact that tens of thousands of people travel between Australia and the UK each year and that a large number of them must necessarily have similar interests is, to their mindset, irrelevant. Likewise, the fairly substantial overlap between philosophers and SFF fans, a commonality which has been a personal source of many enduring friendships, has seemingly not occurred to them. Back in 2015, I even reviewedPhilosophy and Terry Pratchett, a collection of academic essays about Pratchett’s work; a fact I mention, not because I expect the Puppies to agree with my analysis, but because the existence of such a book should serve as some proof, at least, that fantasy-loving philosophers aren’t an anomaly.

To say nothing of philosophy-loving fantasists, either: off the top of my head, I can think of multiple SFF authors with a more than passing relationship to philosophy and its associated disciplines, most notably Jo Walton and China Mieville. Indeed, I’m hard-pressed to think of any really good SFF author who doesn’t, at some point in their writing, employ at least a basic level of philosophical musing. The whole of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is basically one long, comic-philosophic ramble, and while Douglas Adams was – and remains – a truly unique individual, it’s impossible to claim that his writing has had no impact on the genre.

The point being, “SFF-reading Australian who knows some philosophy and has travelled to the UK” is not exactly an elite, exclusive category of person, and once you acknowledge this fact, it’s pretty much impossible to justify concluding that the few, superficial similarities between Camestros and my husband negate any possibility of coincidence.

Let’s be brutally honest, here: the only reason the Puppies think that Toby is Camestros is because he’s my husband. If Toby Meadows, philosopher, was a person with no connection to Foz Meadows, would Freer, Antonelli and Torgersen still be so goddamn certain that he was Camestros? Even if they’d managed to find some tweet or public comment of Toby’s to validate his interest in SFF – and he does enjoy some SFF, though his tastes are often different to mine – I doubt they’d have been as certain as they profess to be now. It’s my name that’s their smoking gun, and as such, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that they’ve taken me as their starting point and worked backwards from there. Toby, as mentioned, has a fairly small internet footprint beyond his professional life, and as none of the Puppies are academic logicians, the chance that they’d have heard of him in that capacity seems remote. No: instead, they remembered that I have a philosopher husband – a fact I’ve never kept secret – and decided to look for clues that fit him into their theory.

Or rather, Dave Freer did, and the others followed him. In all this mess, it now seems pretty clear that Freer is the key instigator of the Toby Is Camestros theory, and having already doubled down on that front, he has now constructed a second tier to his beautifully crafted argument (to steal a phrase from the late, great John Clarke) to explain why neither I nor Camestros has rushed to confirm his suspicions.

That theory? Oh, simple: I’m out as genderqueer, therefore Toby is gay, our marriage is a sham, and we don’t want people in the SFF community to ask questions about our relationship because we’re afraid of being compared to child predators Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Yeah. That’s literally Freer’s argument. Note: “Fieldsy” is his name for Toby, who he thinks is Camestros, because Meadows = fields, obviously. You can read the whole screed for yourself at the link, but here’s the salient section:

dave freer mzb quote

And it’s here that we reach the point where Freer has well and truly made me Person B to his Person A. This entire theory hinges on his unhinged, offensive and deeply homophobic assessment of my life, identity and marriage, but I already know that Freer doesn’t care to hear from me, nor will he believe whatever I have to say for myself. So what I say now, I don’t say for him, nor do I say it for Lou Antonelli or Brad Torgersen. I say it for myself, for the truth of the record, and for the benefit of anyone else who cares to view me as a more reliable source of information about myself, my husband and our lives than a man who has never met us and who demonstrably disdains what he thinks we are.

So:

I didn’t know I was genderqueer until after my son was born, and even then, it was hardly a straightforward realisation. At the time, I no more had a context for the dysphoria pregnancy gave me than my childhood self had understood why I often wanted to pass as a boy, or why I split my room into gendered halves, or why, in my teenage years, I sometimes wanted to rip off my skin when my clothes and body felt wrong. I didn’t have a word for what I was, let alone a framework to help me ask the right questions about it. I knew I wasn’t straight – I figured out I was bi in my teens – but gender identity remained beyond me for years.

I’ve been with my husband for a little over eleven years, and married to him for ten. He’s always known I was bi, and when I finally worked up the courage to tell him I’d realised I was genderqueer, he supported me, even though it was something he hadn’t expected. He supports me still, and I love him for that, and for a great many other reasons besides. My husband is straight, but I am not – and that’s not an oddity, either. I could make a list of SFF authors who are straight with a bi or genderqueer partner, or who are bi or genderqueer themselves with a straight partner, but I’d rather not subject anyone else in the queer SFF community to Freer’s toxic searchlight. Sufficed to say, we’re far from being the only ones, and if Freer thinks that my relationship merits a comparison to that of child abusers just because of my queerness, then I’m not the only person he’s thus insulted.

And it is an insult, regardless of Freer’s claims that he’s only saying what anyone might think. It is also uniquely hurtful – and again, I say this with no expectation that Freer himself cares for my feelings. Manifestly, he does not, and will doubtless rejoice to know that he’s upset me. Nonetheless, I am upset. I’ve tried to pretend that I’m not, but I am, and having admitted as much to myself, I feel no shame in admitting it here. Before all this, I’d never heard of Freer at all, and while I’m aware that the public nature of my life online means that I am, in a sense, accessible to strangers, there’s a great deal of difference between having someone object to my writing, and having them construct malicious falsehoods about my personal life.

In the past few days, at least one person has asked me if I’m really sure that Toby isn’t Camestros; that maybe he’s doing it all behind my back. Freer, Torgersen and Antonelli have laughed at the idea that, if Camestros isn’t Toby, then surely I must be grateful for their alerting me to the presence of a stalker-impersonator – as though they aren’t the ones rifling through my marriage in pursuit of a link that is not, was never, there.

I am, in many ways, a privileged person. In certain others, I’m not. It’s no exaggeration to say that the last five years nearly killed me: I’ve been physically sick since my son was born, debilitated by a postpartum infection whose consequences went medically undetected until late last year, playing merry hob with my immune system and mental health all the while. Even unaware of the physical side of my illness, I was still fighting Seasonal Affective Disorder, postpartum depression, gender dysphoria and the situational depression of being trapped in a cold, isolated part of the world with a new baby. It took years of desperate, difficult work to get to a point where my mental illness was addressed sufficiently for the physical symptoms, always omnipresent, to finally stand out as having a separate root cause, rather than being purely a side-effect of everything else. I was not okay for a long time, and I’m only now just starting to get really, truly better.

Which means that, for most of the past few years, in ways both large and small, my husband has been my carer. When I was debilitated, unable to get out of bed,  he was the one who dressed, fed and drove our son to childcare in the mornings, taking on innumerable domestic duties far beyond his usual half share, all while maintaining a full-time job as a lecturer and researcher. The fact that he has been superlative at his work in this time is a credit to his skill. He has published original papers in top-tier journals for his field, won prestigious grants and been invited to speak at multiple institutions in the UK, Australia and Europe, all while teaching a full courseload, and if you know anything about academia, you know that takes an enormous amount of effort.

My husband works harder than anyone else I know. Whatever he does, he does to 100% of his capability, and – which is even rarer – while constantly self-reflecting on his methods. The fact that he has achieved so much while frequently looking after our son – and after me – is a testament to his dedication. The idea that, amidst all the strife of the last five years, on top of everything else, he somehow found time to run a secret SFF blog that keeps more abreast of the Puppies than I’ve ever cared to be – that he found time to read novels, watch films and binge TV shows with which I’m unfamiliar, and that he did this all without my knowledge? Pull the other one.

From my perspective, the whole thing is absurd. I know who I am and who Toby is, and that ought to be good enough for anyone.

Except that, right now, I’ve been declared unqualified to speak truthfully about my own life. In the eyes of Freer, Antonelli and Torgersen, I’m too biased to be trusted. The idea that they have biases of their own – that they want Camestros to be Toby; that they want me to be lying – doesn’t rate a mention. So, yes: I’m upset that anyone would use my gender identity as a reason to try and invalidate my marriage, or to compare either me or my husband to predators, and I’m tired and highly irritated at having to spend precious time rebuking such obvious bigotry.

But what really infuriates me – what makes this all feel so viscerally personal – is the extent to which the theory that Toby is Camestros utterly dismisses, ignores and invalidates the lived reality of everything my husband and I have struggled through together. The past five years have contained a lot of individual wonder, but they’ve also been hellish. We’ve seen our son grow from infancy to school-age. We’ve moved from Bristol to Aberdeen to Brisbane. We’ve battled illness and mental health issues and the UK Visa Authority; we’ve thrown every spare scrap of energy into parenting, into furthering our careers, into helping each other through it all, and damned if it hasn’t been difficult.

It’s been so fucking hard, in the way that everyday life is hard: there are no trophies for getting out of bed when you want to die, no prizes for calming down after the umpteenth unnecessary argument or finally agreeing to try therapy. There’s just a new list of things to do, a new set of obstacles to overcome, and little moments in between where your child says I love you and paints dinosaur pictures that you stick on the fridge, and bigger moments strung throughout of friends and family, friends and family, shoring you up through the storm of your life like a levee.

I don’t owe anyone an interior view on my identity, my marriage or my health, but what I’ve offered here, I’ve offered for myself, because I’m angry and hurt and tired, and I want to react like a person. It’s human to be upset when someone lies about you, and if you have to pile conspiracy on conspiracy to explain why that isn’t actually true – why normal human reactions are really signs of Treachery – then maybe, just maybe, you’re not as rational as you thought.

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Comments
  1. Carole-Ann says:

    Well done, Foz! You have every right to be annoyed and upset. I respect your courage, and that of your husband too. Thank you for allowing us/me to see a little of your world. Be brave; those men will lose interest sooner rather than later. **Respect** and **Hugs**

  2. Paul Weimer says:

    Ugh. I am so sorry that you and your husband have been so callously attacked and trashed by this horde of self-deluded twits.

  3. […] Foz Meadows has written a very moving piece here: https://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2018/01/29/a-personal-note/ […]

  4. lauowolf says:

    Looking at this, I am totally amazed and impressed with the both of you!
    (And a little less likely to nag you about The Rare Book 3 – sniff, she says, left hanging on the edge of the cliff.)
    But yeah, my husband is an academic, and, yeah, their double-life theory is enough to make a cat laugh.
    I think our idea of a secret double-life is pretty much along the lines of I squeezed in a nap!

    Anyway, after reading this statement and Camestros Felapton’s latest, I wonder whether there is any legal action you could take?
    The insufficiently-veiled threats they are making at CF are actually pretty nasty.
    And though they are addressing them to CF, they are explicitly targeting you guys, not him.
    And this is not harmless stuff.
    I don’t know whether or not this horror made the Australian news in a big way:
    https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/13/us/swatting-suspect-kansas-police-shooting/index.html
    Now I’d assume that US-style wackos might be thinner on the ground in Brisbane than here, but having madmen pointed in your direction is, at the least, uncomfortable.
    And I wouldn’t be surprised if it were illegal to do this to someone.

    These people have already attempted to smear both of you in an attempt to damage your professional reputations, and further, and more despicably they have implied you are abusive parents.
    And now they are explicitly revelling in how this online kerfluffle they manufactured could have violent real world consequences.
    It is through no lack of trying on their parts that these efforts have so far fallen flat.
    But since they have tried to instigate attacks on you in the real world, you, in turn, now have real world protections.
    … they can call you all the names they like online, but trying to falsely point child protective services at your family, or to incite their unbalanced fans — they do know their audience, I guess — that is another matter.
    There are laws against libel, and there are laws against conspiring to commit violence.

    At the very least, you should assemble the relevant files, and make them part of the public record where you live.
    People do this kind of thing to protect themselves from abusers, and that’s what the puppies are these days, abusive shits.
    It would be worthwhile talking to a professional.
    Have you a friendly lawyer of your own, or does SFWA have council?
    And are there other routes that offer some kind of repercussions for the sort of reckless endangerment they are spewing?
    At the least, cease-and-desist order might be appropriate.

  5. lauowolf says:

    Oh, feel free not to take the above out of moderation, if you think the pups might see it as something to chew on.
    Me, I don’t care, but do whatever you think best for yourselves.

  6. gregm91436 says:

    So sorry you have to put up with this. For those who’d like to send you some support, is there a specific book of yours you recommend us buying, like AN ACCIDENT OF STARS?

  7. […] A Personal Note: Blog post by Fox Meadows about the ongoing nonsense. […]

  8. Crap. I thought I’d finish this post, then laugh at the crackpots on the other side, but this is repellent by any standard. Even without insinuating that you and your spouse are pedophiles and abusers.
    Well, I guess I don’t have to worry about reading Freer, like, ever.

  9. You are both so much better than these arseholes. I know academia and I know philosophy as a field. I know there’s no way your husband could do all you describe and maintain this intense secret life this life-wasters ascribe to him.

    I’m so sorry you have to deal with this on top of all else you have been through. And that you’ve had to expose all that to the Internet because of their shitty behaviour. I guess it only goes to show how little is going on in these people’s lives that they imagine other people have the time for that.

    You and your husband remain great, and I hope this will soon be merely something in the past that happened to you.

  10. Lurkertype says:

    You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t use reason to get into.

    The Pups’ fear of anyone who’s not 100% straight (and cis-male) leads them to literally insane ideas. They also seem to be unable to realize a) there are billions of people in the world and not all of them know each other b) not-straight does NOT equal pedophile (most pedophiles are straight men, in fact) and c) SF writing is not a zero-sum game.

    Not to mention IP addresses are notoriously dodgy and not good evidence.

    I agree you ought to document this and perhaps give a heads-up to your local PD. I don’t know the harassment laws in Australia, but there ought to be something. I know libel laws are much stricter there than in the US, so you probably have a case whether you pursue it or not.

    Please give Toby a hug for being such an amazing human being! And for apparently having figured out how to have an extra 8-12 hours a day to run an entirely different personality while in the opposite hemisphere. There’s an SF concept, and could he please share with the class how to access this?

    I read your story about Miranda, Ariel, and Puck last night and it’s just lovely.

    Enjoy your summer and the sprog.

  11. Craig Gidney says:

    The homophobia (that all non-trad marriages are fronts for predation) is particularly vile.

  12. Bisexual SFF author married to an allocishet man here with solidarity, blankets, hugs, hot tea, and flamethrowers. You and Toby are amazing and so badass for living through this moment and every moment leading to this one. Never forget that. And fuck anyone who makes you think otherwise.

  13. I’m sorry you’re going through this. My best wishes to you and your family.

  14. Foz, I am so sorry to hear about this and to hear about the hardships of the last few years. You (and your husband, and your child) are people of great worth and deserve better.

  15. enigmaticblue says:

    I want to say that as a person who identifies as asexual and genderqueer, who has a similarly understanding and heroic spouse, I very much look up to you for fighting through the illness, and am blown away by this attack. Because it is an attack on so many fronts, and they will never see it as such.

    I wish you both good health, happiness and peace.

  16. […] (1) PAIN FOR PLEASURE. The sheer, greedy click-seeking that fuels this kerfuffle is being paid for by the pain of the targeted family, as Foz Meadows makes clear in “A Personal Note”. […]

  17. Hampus Eckerman says:

    The pups are conspiracy theorists. That is what made them come together and that is their defining characteristic. I am so sorry you became the target of their latest conspiracy theory. All best wishes for you and your husband.

  18. I am very sorry that you and your husband are the target of such a mean-spirited campaign.

  19. Jamie Crowther says:

    This was an incredibly brave and moving post. I’m sorry such a cavalcade of idiots are impacting on your life like this. I hope the harassment dies down soon (though knowing what people like this are like, it’ll probably only be because they’ve found someone new they are harassing instead).

  20. Walking in to this just now I have to say Freer is, well, the most boring whiner I’ve had the misfortune to try to read a post by in quite a while. If he writes his books with the same attention to detail it’s surprising he’s still writing at all. Long on begging the reader to “please-please-believe-me-ignore-my-sad-lack-of-facts” but lacking a single hard fact or incriminating screenshot or link, Freer manages to do the one thing he hopes no one would notice: he paints himself not as a writer pointing out a (perceived) wrong but one jealous of whatever you have that he thinks he deserves.

    I’ve rea both post and I came away with this: you have a good career, a strong marriage, great husband, and a dinosaur loving child, and Freer will always be that forever yapping, whiny little dog endlessly piddling on the clean kitchen floor of life.

  21. kk says:

    You do deserve a medal though for getting up and calming down and fighting to be your authentic self in the midst of messy real life, and sometimes not being sure who that is that you are fighting to be. It will make a difference. I know a classmate of my daughters who is genderfluid and a young teen and I know that people who’ve been honest about their identity make her world better and easier.

  22. lenorarose says:

    I have been watching this at the beginning with mirth then with increasing horror, and this post crystallizes why it was horror that wins. I am so sorry these people are so abusive, inattentive and nonsensical in their conspiracy theories.

  23. Hannah says:

    I’m sorry you’ve been poorly and so happy you’re starting to heal. I’ve always thought you were one of the sanest voices and clearest minds I’ve found online. Wishing you sunshine and friendly dragons – life does get better. And reading this was a privilege, thank you.

  24. jaynsand says:

    I’m sorry for the difficulties you’ve been through.

  25. Kathodus says:

    I don’t know if this is any solace (not like it’s a vast amount of money or anything), but I’ve subscribed to your Patreon as an attempt to somewhat ameliorate this nonsense.

  26. Ros Jackson says:

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve been the target of these attention-seeking prats. They have no credibility or influence.

  27. rantalica says:

    Hi, we met at Loncon, me having a fangirl moment, and you being quite lovely about it. Having a child is never easy, and to deal with all of what you wrote on top if it: wow, you are amazing!

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