Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” But I bet he never imagined the Internet where a lie can travel millions of times around the world before the truth even remembers it has shoes. In this highly connected online age, it seems all someone needs to do is write hateful nonsense about someone else, point back to their own handiwork while writing more hateful nonsense and enlisting others to do the same, then rinse and repeat as they work their way across the Internet. That’s been the tactic used to trash my reputation since 2002 by a group of competitors I call the architects of hate. I’ve been blogging about what these despicable persons have been doing for years and years, recently in the posts titled “Unethical Competitors,” “Authors Who Trash Competitors,” “Authors Who Are Trolls,” “Speaking Out About Haters,” and “The Internet Isn't the New Wild West” as well.
Their latest hatchet job? On Sept 2 2012, The Telegraph wrote an article on RJ Ellory titled “RJ Ellory, Author, Caught Writing Fake Amazon Reviews For Books.” On Sept 4 2012, a Huffington Post blogger picked up the story added some additions regarding other authors who’d been doing the same and posted the story with the title “RJ Ellory, Author, Caught Writing Fake Amazon Reviews For Books.” (And to be clear, anyone, actual credentials or not, can blog for Huffington Post and post just about anything they want. The author of this particular entry is a self-published author and blogger with a single book to her credit at the time.)
The blog entry was posted at 1:26 PM on Sept 4 2012 and a regular member of Go Indie posted a link to the article shortly afterward. I read the original article at that time but not the article as updated several times afterward (with final edits at 2:44 PM on Sept 4 2012). As part of the edits, the following was slipped into the article along with a link to an i09 post which was itself a post from a message forum:
“Science fiction and fantasy authors also found that frustrated writer Robert Stanek was sock-puppeting in 2009.”
The link that they used to make this nonsense seem legitimate? It’s to the following io9.com post from June 23 2009 (http://io9.com/5300748/how-much-damage-can-a-maniac-and-his-army-of-sock-puppets-do-on-amazoncom):
How Much Damage Can A Maniac And His Army Of Sock Puppets Do On Amazon.Com? Science fiction and fantasy authors, including Pat Rothfuss and David Louis Edelman, have started noticing a rash of one-star reviews of their books on Amazon.com, all at once, The reviews seem to come from newly created profiles, and often say the same thing in slightly different words over and over. And now, observers think they've fingered the culprit: frustrated fantasy author Robert Stanek. In the past, Stanek has had the habit of posting tons of "anonymous" one-star reviews of people's books which all said, "This guy is rubbish, if you want to read real fantasy, go read Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin and Robert Stanek!" The new batch of reviews don't mention Stanek by name, but do suggest that the authors should try serving in the armed forces to build character (a Stanek bugaboo.) And if you look at their profiles, the anonymous accounts have all tagged Stanek as a favorite author. All of this raises the question: How much damage can one anonymous maniac with an army of sock puppets really do to an established author on Amazon? [SFF World]Which is itself from a message posted on the forums at Sffworld.com made by Adam Whitehead on June 18 2009:
Okay, now this was pure surrealism.
Last week Pat Rothfuss made a comment on his Facebook about how THE NAME OF WIND suddenly started getting a rash of one-star reviews over on Amazon.com. Whilst the book has gone down quite well, it is understandable that, even on just a purely statistical level, some people out there don't like the book and are vocal about it, especially given the 'hype' it has received in some quarters. Fair enough.
But what was odd was that all of these one-star reviews were written one after another in a very similar tone by newly-created profiles and all seemed to be making the same, highly questionable, claims that the book was 'objectively bad' and that all of the 500+ positive reviews on Amazon had been written by Pat himself, his friends or family. They ignored the fact that the book has been an international bestseller, is published in multiple languages by reputable publishers, and just continued making questionable claims about the author's moral character. It was very weird. They then tried to get the Rothfuss' Wikipedia page eliminated and also made a very half-hearted effort to level similar complaints against Abercrombie, although I get the impression this was solely to make it look like they weren't just picking on Rothfuss.
All of this smelled like a rat, most notably when one of the reviewers started saying that Pat Rothfuss should go to Iraq to get the 'moral character' that only comes from serving in the armed forces. This was VERY familiar. Then I remembered that the legendary self-published, alleged author Robert Stanek kept making a huge fuss about how serving in the armed forces had been an important character-building exercise.
I dismissed the idea it could be Stanek though, as the critics weren't using Stanek's normal MO of ripping into the author and going "This guy is rubbish, if you want to read real fantasy, go read Robert Jordan, George RR Martin and Robert Stanek!"
Then today one of the other commentators following the situation on Amazon pointed out that almost all of these suspect reviewers had started 'tagging' Robert Stanek's books (you could see this on their profiles). By the time I checked them out, only three had them left, the rest having apparently removed them when they realised they were rumbled.
So there you have it, it appears that self-published, low-selling author Robert Stanek, infamously responsible for one of the biggest scams in SF&F history on Amazon (which Amazon still hasn't sorted out), is using his multitude of alias accounts on Amazon to tear down a new, fresh and critically-acclaimed author for petty and disturbing reasons.
Honestly, you could not make this up.
One of the same reviewers concerned has gone on to rip into David Louis Edelmen and Jim C. Hines' books as well. For those not in the know, both of these authors have posted blog entries about Stanek's activities in the past. Astonishing.
As I blogged about previously, Adam Whitehead is of course one of the original architects of hate and he actually did make it all up as he was one of the perpetrators who created the nonsense in the first place. He, David Langford, and others having started all this nonsense about me going all the way back to 2002. Incidentally, the "rash of reviews" on Patrick Rothfuss's book was exactly two reviews -- two reviews created by Adam himself and/or his associates, as I blogged about here.
The Huffington Post blog entry was re-posted in its entirety to the Oh No They Didn’t blog at 2:39 PM on Sept 4 2012 by an anonymous blogger, the basis of a BoomTron post on Sept 5 2012 by Matthew Funk, and the basis of an Oct 14 post on Philly.com by David Griesing.
Matthew Funk said: “And if Locke isn’t enough to prove a trend, there’s Stephen Leather, thriller writer, and Robert Stanek, sci-fi writer, and Orlando Figes, historian.”
David Griesing said: “Writers such as John Locke, Stephen Leather, and Robert Stanek have all been exposed for submitting bogus reviews.”
Note how my name is worked in without context and as if fact. And it’s how a message forum post by an architect of hate works its way across the Internet. That’s how these people operated in 2002, 2005, 2007, and 2009 when they spread other nonsense around in big ways as well.
It’s interesting to note that in 2009 when Adam Whitehead and the architects of hate were spreading that particular nonsense at Sffworld and many other sites, I had over 120 published books to my credit. Those books had been read by over 6 million people and translated into over 30 languages. Today, I have over 150 published books.
As a point of fact, I’ve had 7 or more books published every year since 1995 when my first book was published. My body of work encompassing many millions of words and many thousands of published pages should speak for itself. As anyone who’s written a few books can tell you, writing that many books for that many years is a full-time occupation and then some.
Writing that many books for that many years required a tremendous dedication to the writing craft and a tremendous dedication of time. But I loved the writing craft and that love of the writing craft kept me going, even if it meant working 80 to 100 hours a week.
For those who seem to have never done good, honest, hard work like that in their lives, let me be the one to tell them that when you work 12- to 16-hour workdays 7 days a week you don’t have time for anything. The only thing you want to do at the end of the day is collapse into a heap and maybe spend a few minutes with your kids before you tuck them into bed.
It’s interesting to note that while screaming about sock puppets and fake reviews for the past 12 years, the authors responsible for all this, their blogger buddies and their associates had no qualms whatsoever about creating sock puppets, writing fake reviews and threatening anyone who stood up to them. Over the years, they’ve created hundreds of sock puppets to spread this idiocy and spreading this idiocy is something they’ve worked tirelessly to do using every dirty tactic you could ever think of from hiring lawyers to send notices to paying off distributors to drop listings.
Those who have been active participants in these hateful activities include:
David Langford (author)
Stephen Leigh (author)
Jim C. Hines (author)
Victoria Strauss (author)
David Louis Edelman (author)
Patrick Rothfuss (author)
Tim Spalding (Library Thing)
Maureen Johnson (author)
Melissa Foster (author)
Adam Whitehead (Wertzone, Best Fantasy Books)
Patrick Dennis (Pat’s Fantasy Hot List, Best Fantasy Books)
As the victim of these hateful activities, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time investigating the motivations. David Langford (author), one of two originators of this, is one of several high-profile influencers who made Harry Potter Harry Potter. David Langford also is highly connected into Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and related fantasy franchise.
In 2002, when all this started, Harry Potter wasn’t the Harry Potter we know and love today and the franchise could have gone either way: success or failure. I’ve no doubt the sudden rapid success of Ruin Mist Chronicles and The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches put fear into Bloomsbury/Scholastic, as both Bloomsbury and Scholastic made contact with me personally multiple times during the years 2002 to 2007. On separate occasions, Bloomsbury and Scholastic requested reading copies of all the books, related marketing materials, sales history, and other promotional backgrounders. More than once, under the pretense of using the books in their book clubs; more than once under the pretense of possibly publishing the books.
In these years, I was also contacted several times by Gollancz, David Langford’s UK publisher. Once was under the pretense of publishing the books in the UK, and as with Scholastic, requesting reading copies of all the books, related marketing materials, sales history, and other promotional backgrounders. Gollancz, Orbit and several other UK publishers were particularly interested in my approach to publishing separate adult and children’s editions of my books, and this was something they would later do with the books of a number of authors, including with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. I mention this because having separate adult and children’s editions of my books has been a particular bone of contention for the parties involved with trashing my reputation.
Adam Whitehead (Wertzone, Best Fantasy Books, etc), the second of two originators of this, is an associate of George RR Martin and like Martin a conscientious objector. In 2002, when all this started, A Game of Thrones wasn’t the A Game of Thrones we know and love today and the franchise also could have gone either way: success or failure. I’ve no doubt the sudden rapid success of Ruin Mist Chronicles and The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches put fear in Adam and others as they started writing trash reviews of my books that kept mentioning George’s books and using the public trashing of my books as a promotional platform for George’s books has been a constant with them for the past 12 years.
The fact that Adam is a conscientious objector is of note as his associates were particularly hateful when it came to my military service. I am a distinguished combat veteran. When my nation called upon me to serve in dark hours, I did so without hesitation. Duty, honor, and country mean a great deal to me, and they always have.
For these despicable persons to try to claim that I wasn’t a combat veteran, hadn’t even served in the military or earned my military honors was the deepest of insults. Worse, was enduring years of threats and harassment from those who listened to this idiocy accused me of stolen valor.
As I’ve written about previously, here, in fall 2001, Reagent Press and I tested the market by publishing my first fiction book as a serial ebook. The test was hugely successful and we released ‘Keeper Martin’s Tale’ as a single volume in February 2002, where it quickly became a Science Fiction & Fantasy bestseller.
With the phenomenal sales, the book started getting reviews. First, two short supportive reviews from readers who liked the book, then a strange one-star review that said, among other things, “I’ve been had. This is nowhere near a 5 star book like all these reviews claim.” Another of my books, published shortly after my first, got a similar strange ranting one-star review—the second review ever for that book.
This continued. An anonymous one-star review soon asked “Is it just me, or what?” before trashing the book and me personally. A series of one-star reviews followed, one in mid April 2002 stating “For those who enjoy a great fantasy read, no one comes remotely close to George R. R. Martin's ‘A Song of Fire and Ice Series’. Stanek has the initial makings of a good storyteller, but he's still a long, long way off. Don't waste your time with this one...”
This was followed by an anonymous one-star review on April 19 2002 stating “There's no way it even begins to compare to the works of authors such as George R.R. Martin.”
Another one-star review, written in an identical style, with the title “What book are the rest of you reading?” soon followed in late April 2002. This review said, among many things, “After reading him for an hour, I had to go pick up Lord of the Rings just to confirm to myself that Tolkien's writing wasn't that bad. I don't see how Stanek can even be close to Robert Jordan or George RR Martin, its like comparing a high school english paper with War and Peace.”
The flow of one-star reviews from anonymous (and sometimes from someone using pseudonyms and newly created accounts that typically had only reviewed my book the day the account was created) continued into May 2002 when David Langford / Adam Whitehead wrote the following in Ansible:
“Amazon Mystery. Authors of fantasies on sale at Amazon.com have noticed a rash of oddly similar customer reviews that rubbish their work and instead recommend, say, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Robert Stanek. The number of Big Name commendations varies, but not the plug for self-published author Robert Stanek. Who could possibly be posting these reviews (many since removed by Amazon) under a variety of names? It is a mystery, but Ansible is reminded of how Lionel Fanthorpe's pseudonymous sf would often mention those great classic masters of the genre, Verne, Wells and Fanthorpe.”
After this appeared in Ansible, for whatever reason, I was suddenly being trashed all over the Internet by other authors, SFF bloggers, anyone with a bone to pick. Suddenly, authors, bloggers, others, who had never even read my work were writing hateful reviews and commentary, and just as often as not, they used sock puppets to do it.
Move forward to the present and the same core group is still doing the same dirty work and they’re just as active at it as they were in 2002. Why? Many are employed to do so, and by employed, I mean paid, as these types of activities are their full-time/part-time occupations. They are paid to be influencers, to be franchise makers and breakers.
Entertainment franchises are big business. The Harry Potter franchise has earned billions. The Game of Thrones franchise has surpassed a billion in earnings. With billions and hundreds of millions at stake, it’s no wonder why some organizations employ “actors” to do dirty work. And for relative peanuts, those “actors” will tirelessly work their social and online contacts to break some while making others.
Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches
Winds of Change
Seeds of Dissent
Pawn of Dragons
Tower of Destiny
In the Service of Dragons
A Clash of Heroes
A Dance of Swords
A Storm of Shields
A Reign of Dragons
Guardians of the Dragon Realms
The Dragon, the Wizard & the Great Door
A Legacy of Dragons
Dragons of the Hundred Worlds
Breath of Fire
A Daughter of Kings
Journey Beyond the Beyond
Into the Stone Land
Read the books if for no other reason than my competitors are desperate for you not to. If you enjoy the books, wonderful. If you don’t, there are plenty of other books out there.
Thank you for reading,