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2005-06-08 9:28 AM
The flaming sword of justice
I leave the flaming sword of justice in its scabbard longer than I used to in, say, my twenties. Partly this is because I learned it hurt people. Partly it's because the more you use it, the less anyone pays attention. And partly it's because I have lesions in my word recall area and can't deliver Harlan-Ellison-fast cuts anymore. Not reliably, anyway, and not when I haven't had my tea.
Only drawing when you're sure is a good idea. I'm sure about PublishAmerica. I'm sure about abusive writing teachers. I thought I was sure about David Montgomery. (You can already tell how this is going to turn out.)
Montgomery writes reviews for the Post, the Globe, and Mystery Ink, which he also publishes. I called him out on Paul Guyot's blog over a pattern of behavior: Name-calling and cheap shots. Since he's also a writer trying to finish his first novel, I was particularly galled by the way he talked (in a previous conversation) about writers who had finished theirs.
His response didn't address anything I cared about; rather than say "Sorry," or "I didn't mean to say that there," I got "I've never read your work." This was clearly evasion. Not only is the guy behaving wrong, but he's not copping to it.
A highly-placed person in the genre showing a pattern of disrespect to writers? And I'm in the unique position of knowing the inside of the business but not having a book in front of him any time soon?
Flaming Sword of Justice!
Ten drafts later--I'm 39; I know this human can be more hurtful than he means to be--up goes my response: You're a guy who can't finish his novel, yet you feel free to demean others who finish and sell theirs? You're a highly-placed, influential person who acts like this? WTF?
Instant response from Guyot: That wasn't fair, and Montgomery never said those things.
Huh? Yeah he did... it's right in front of me. I'm re-reading it. It still says what it did before. The flaming sword of justice flickers a little, but I shake it and it gets going again pretty good.
I won't line-item the next day or so. Nobody emailed me to say I had the wrong guy; nobody said anything, really. But the damn sword kept flickering. And nobody emailed to say Thank you for saying what we can't, which is what usually happens after a sword event against someone in power.
I email my old editor--do you know this Montgomery? I laid into him online and now I don't know if I got the right guy. The response comes: No, don't know him.
There are some other emails, too. This morning, a straight answer from Guyot: Yes, I think you took him wrong. And the suggestion that calling a guy out for something he said on a different thread isn't right.
I have my arguments with the latter point; I think the only place to call somebody on a pattern of behavior is on the latest instance of the pattern. But the real question to me is whether I did Montgomery wrong--and in at least two opinions (Guyot's, Elaine Flinn's), I did.
David, I have no excuse except that I thought I saw clearly. Offering to buy you a drink at the next mystery convention we're both at seems insufficient (and I'm not writing mystery now anyway, so I'm not at the conventions). I don't know what to do to begin to make up for my mistake except what I wanted you to do: Cop to it.
I'm copping to it. I still don't understand how, but enough people have said I got you wrong that I believe it.
And there's that damn flicker.
I took the babies to the park yesterday morning with their Uncle Jason, and told him about it. He said injustice is how you learn about justice. Collateral damage. Slicing the wrong guy teaches you.
Yeah, well. My lesson gets paid for by somebody else.
Which is probably, itself, the lesson.
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