Finding Reality in Hate: Personal Attacks, Stalkers, Unethical Competitors

On January 5, I contacted a guy who appears to have been writing malicious nonsense about me since at least 2009 and asked him to remove an objectionable review from GoodReads. This also is a guy who is friends with many of the bloggers and several of the authors who have been writing personal attacks about me online for years.

I joined GoodReads at the beginning of January 2013. Immediately after I joined, Tyson was one of several people who modified their reviews. To me, it seemed these people wanted to make sure their reviews were the first thing anyone--and me in particular--saw when they looked at particular books I'd written. All sort of a welcome to GoodReads greeting for me from these folks.

In this particular case, Tyson reposted his review from 2011 to give it a new date, January 5 2013. He also added the text of the review which had been on his blog. This moved his review to the top of the listings and made it appear as a new review.

Reading what follows should help you get a feel for just how far outside of reality all this nonsense that they keep cooking up really is and just how much rage some of these people have inside them. As you read this, note the timestamps: The conversation via GoodReads messages is finished when this person goes over to Sffworld and tries to stir up the mob, saying specifically "I haven't heard anything back from him, but then again this just happened tonight."

For the record, the ____ I've inserted replaces a threatened act that I stated in the message but is best left in private, regarding a specific incident, which was prosecuted successfully in April 2012.

Tyson lives in Lakewood, WA. From his messages, he believes I don't know that (and that I don't know what he's been doing). In his messages, he tries to act like he's offering helpful advice while he twists the knife with the other hand.

Let's start with his nonsense on Sffworld. His alias is DurzoBlint:

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January 6th, 2013, 02:40 AM #1

Just Threatened by Robert Stanek on Goodreads

I am sure that many of you are familiar with Mr. Stanek and way back in mid-2011, I wrote and posted a review of his book The Kingdom and The Elves of the Reaches on Goodreads. When I originally posted my review, I heard absolutely nothing from him. That is until about a week ago when I changed my review from a link to my review site to the actual review for all the world to read.

Now, Mr. Stanek is threatening me with slander (slander for those of you keeping score at home is defamation that is spoken [not written as in my review]). He also claims that my review has in fact harassed children that enjoy his books. Not sure how that can occur. Has anyone else had this issue with him, or with a different author? How did you respond, if you gave any response at all.

I did respond and told him I would alter the review where I felt he could possibly feel that he was being personally attacked as to avoid "libel" or where children could be "harassed"(I even went so far as to set him straight on the two forms of defamation). However, I remained vigilant in my rights to post a negative review of his book.

I haven't heard anything back from him, but then again this just happened tonight. I am not worried about any repercussions but I am curious as to what other reviewers have done in the past if something similar occurred to them.

Didn't quite know where to post this thread, so Mods feel free to move it to its proper location if this is not the proper place.

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Although Tyson says he didn't quite know where to put his post, I'm fairly confident he knew exactly what he was doing when he posted that message to the Books and Literature - Fantasy / Horror discussion. This location ensures his post is seen by just about everyone who logs in to the site, which is what he wanted.

He's been an active member of the site since March 2009, having actually participated in other threads there and elsewhere regarding me specifically. What he wanted to do was to get the most eyeballs, stir up the mob, get people angry and have them retaliate--as ever.

So what precipitated this? Here are the GoodReads messages between Tyson and myself.

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My message:

Jan 05, 2013 09:40pm

Dear Tyson,

I understand you did not enjoy my book. However, many readers have and most of my readers are children. As a result of posts like yours, many people have been harassed and most of them were children who were unable to defend themselves.

What you've written constitutes slander and under defamation laws you are personally liable for any damages caused by such. Rather than pursue legal action, I simply ask you to do the right thing.

I do not appreciate your personal attacks. I ask you to remove your review and refrain from posting in the future.

Thank you,

William Robert Stanek

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Jan 05, 2013 11:19pm

His response:

Mr. Stanek,
Grow up. Stop using children as a shield to protect yourself from negative reviews. There is no slander in the review (for your own information slander is spoken, libel is written). I maintain my right to freedom of speech by posting a negative review. Since I reside in Korea, I am not under American jurisdiction of defamation laws. Which even if I did, your case is about as solid as a wet paper sack. Considering you are a veteran, I would assume you of all people would support a person's right to free speech. And would have enough backbone to be able to take a little criticism, guess not.

The review has been up for quite some time (Mid-2011). The change was making the review for all to see without needing to click on the actual review website. You didn't have an issue with the review until it was made plain for all to see. However, since you have an issue with parts of my review, and to appease you I will remove the first paragraph of the review where "children" could, for some reason, known only to you, some how be harassed. Which should appease you under Section 230. The remainder of the review stands as is.

This is why you have such negative press. You take everything as a personal insult instead of taking reviewer's critiques and using them to improve. You would win over more readers and fans if you engaged them intellectually instead of cramming a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo that anyone with a high school diploma knows is total malarky. It is your online antics that have turned the reviewing community against you.

While I commend you on publishing books, that does not automatically mean that you are an accomplished author or that you should receive automatic acceptance. Accomplished authors work with their peers and constantly work to improve themselves while building a rapport with their audience and fans. Something you have failed to do.

Tyson Mauermann
PS- We are not on a first name basis.

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Jan 05, 2013 11:39pm

My response:

Dear Mr. Mauermann,

I appreciate this change. As an associate of multiple people who have written personal attacks against me online, you know very well what has been going on and that it has been going on for many years. These persons were extremely vindictive and personal in their attacks, and this is something you also know.

I've rarely engaged these persons, though they seem to have created all sorts of untrue nonsense stating I have.

Children have been harassed because of related nonsense. One of these persons threatened to ____ a child. Hope you can live with that on your conscience.

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Jan 06, 2013 12:17am

His response:

Mr. Stanek,

Really? You really think that the allegation that someone else threatened a child is going to make me not sleep at night, or somehow make me increase my opinion of you? Simply by using this random fact in correspondence with me has lowered my opinion of you a hundredfold. I have absolutely no connection with a random act of violence and you want to put the blame on me? I sleep quite well at night. It is silly, over-the-top antics like your last three sentences that have put you in the doghouse with the reviewing and online community at-large.

Do not presume to know what I do and do not know; however, if you are referring to who I think you are, they are highly regarded individuals in not only the reviewing community, but the publishing community as a whole. While they may have personally attacked you in the past, your attempts to elevate the argument only proved that they were not dealing with a rational person. Which again, I direct you back to your last three sentences you wrote to me.

Book reviewers, fans, and the occasional reader love their books, but never have I been witnessed to anyone threatening a child with physical harm. Not sure who these individuals are, but the online community would certainly condone that type of behavior and seek to identify that individual so that the proper authorities could take any and all legal action pursuant to the the law to prosecute them. I personally feel as if you are a bit delusional about a great many things.

This is all very unfortunate as I can tell you have a great passion for your novels and the world you have created; however, the way you have gone above and beyond to vilify and discredit negative reviews and book reviewers has led to the position you are in. My advice to you, and you can take it or leave it, is to grow from each positive and negative review instead of lashing out at the individual. Not everyone's tastes run as parallel to your own. That is the beauty of a review.

Furthermore, you have no inkling as to who I am. For all you know I could be in law enforcement or serving in the armed services and have seen many horrible things that far outweigh [what you attempted to hang upon my conscience.

I have done my best to be civil and not hang any moral obligations on you. I have also done my best to give you some advice as someone who is involve in the reviewing community. You can take it or leave it. But I ask you to refrain from contacting me again. I will uphold my end of the bargain and leave the review in its current form (which you have stated is adequate) and refrain from reviewing anything else in your catalog and in return I ask that you abstain from anymore correspondence with me as I plan to do the same. This will be the last time you hear from me. Best of luck in the future.

Tyson Mauermann

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Unethical Competitors

I am the author of 150 books, celebrating #150 this year in fact. Millions of people around the world have read my work. I write as William Stanek for technical works and Robert Stanek for other works. My first professionally published book was Electronic Publishing Unleashed, published in 1995.

For over a decade certain competitors have used downright nasty, unethical tactics to tarnish my good name and reputation while strongly positioning themselves within the industry. They’ve hired promoters to spread falsities while spreading praise for themselves, set up fake websites to do the same, compelled others to disparage. They’ve used intimidation and harassment to ensure readers couldn’t talk about my books in public forums. They’ve coerced distributors into dropping listings, hired lawyers to send notices—and much more.

Apparently, I was supposed to sit quietly and not say a word about what they were doing—ever. I did in fact ignore them for a number of years, but that only emboldened them to do more harm. Finally, fed up, I blogged about what they were doing in May 2007 @ http://www.robertstanek.com/rsblog2.htm — this was about 5 years after all this started and only after these same competitors took over the Robert Stanek author page fans had created on Wikipedia and used it to spread their nonsense. It was the first time I had said a word publicly about what these competitors were doing. Prior to this, my only involvement was to ask Wikipedia to take down that bastardized page. My contact was with Wikipedia and not these persons.

Blogging about what they were doing sent them into another multi-year rampage because I was supposed to sit quietly while they ruined my career. The next time I commented about any of this was on my blog in 2009 —http://www.robertstanek.com/rsblog1.htm  — when these persons used a picture with myself, my entire family and Brian Jacques at his book signing in my hometown of Olympia Washington and made all kinds of noise about how it was a supposed scam where they said I photoshopped myself into the picture to make it look like I had a book signing with Brian Jacques—or whatever variation of such generated the most outrage at the moment. The picture was posted, with Brian’s permission, on a tribute page about his books and his visit, found here: http://www.themagiclands.com/brianjacques.htm.

At this point, this was the sum and total of my commentary on the matter, but according to their postings and running comments I supposedly deserved all their nonsense because I was raving about how they were attacking me all over the Internet. If defending yourself and your reputation with a few blog posts is raving all over the Internet, then I guess I was raving.

Who are these people? Largely, they’re direct competitors—authors who write in the genres (fiction books) I write in and their blogger friends. This nonsense started in 2002 when Keeper Martin’s Tale was topping the Science Fiction & Fantasy lists at Amazon.com. The book was highly ranked for several months when the nonsense started. Initially, it was a couple of odd reviews. The third review ever of Keeper Martin’s Tale was titled: “I’ve been had.” The review went on to say the book was “nowhere near a five star book and I was conned into buying this book by all the five star reviews.” The book had exactly two previous reviews and both were short, a few sentences. Elf Queen’s Quest got a similar review around the same time—which was the second review ever for that book and from a reader supposedly “conned into buying by all the five star reviews.” Keeper Martin’s Tale was published in print February 2002 and in ebook in August 2001—the book had sold many thousands of copies on Amazon.com since its publication.

In May 2002, the following appeared in David Langford’s 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.”

The people behind that post made sure for whatever reason this kicked off a firestorm within the fantasy community. Before long people were posting about how I was a conman, a fraud, a guy who wrote fake reviews and used sock puppets. For the record, later when I learned of this nonsense, I looked to see if any such reviews rubbishing anyone existed. The only review I ever saw, written in this timeframe, was a five-star review of George R.R. Martin’s book from a reader that mentioned they had bought Martin’s book after reading my book, Keeper Martin’s Tale. Of note also is that I had about 65 books to my credit by this time (2002), which had sold many millions of copies collectively and was also previously a columnist for PC Magazine and Dr. Dobbs which were widely read (readership in the millions for PC Magazine back then).

Regardless, what followed was a flood of nastiness that went through multiple fantasy forums and blogs and also resulted in my books getting flooded with one-star reviews and hateful comments. Largely, this nonsense came directly from competing authors and their associates.

The nonsense reached a fever pitch in 2005 when these hateful people learned my book, The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches, was the #1 bestselling book on Audible.com. That sent them into a feeding frenzy that went across the Internet and into nearly every fantasy book discussion forum. Suddenly, my books on Audible were flooded with nasty reviews too.

In 2005 my books were praised in three printed books: The Complete Idiots Guide to Elves and Fairies (June 2005), Ancient Art of Faery Magick (Sep 2005) and Popular Series Fiction for Middle School and Teen Readers: A Reading and Selection Guide (Children's and Young Adult Literature Reference) (Jan 2005). This was exciting news and when I found out I shared the news with readers.

Seeing me talk about this, these hateful people started spreading malicious lies that no publication had ever mentioned my work and I was supposedly fraudulently claiming publications had.

Anyone who bothered to look would have found otherwise—but it seemed no one who went on the war path about this bothered to check the facts. I don’t know why but I suspect some people are just mean and hateful and don’t care, while others may have believed the people spreading the lies were beyond reproach: The lies were coming from professionally published competitors. Some with many books to their credit. [This was before Look Inside the Book was available on Amazon BTW.]

This was accompanied by another strange post in David Langford’s Ansible (Sept 30, 2005) about how I supposedly hired a lawyer to contact Glasgow University: “Now it can be told. The mystery complaint that caused such trouble for the Ansible archive at Glasgow University has been forwarded at last. Apparently, however factually based and written in a spirit of fair comment, light-hearted squibs are fraught with peril if they refer to fantasy author Robert Stanek.” There’s more but I won’t include it here. Again though, the people behind the post ensured it kicked off a firestorm.

In February 2007, my book, The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches, was praised and reviewed by the leading magazine for YA librarians, VOYA. Within a few months, they started spreading malicious lies that I wasn’t a best-selling author, that any claim I made to have ever been #1 was a lie, and backed their claims by stating no publication had ever mentioned my books and that no library had ever stocked my books. Shake your head if you want, I know I have. It makes no sense that any rational person would believe this nonsense but these hateful people used this nonsense to work others up into angry frenzies in forums and discussions time and again. Those angry people then spread the nonsense and posted many hateful, malicious things about me on blogs, in reviews, and in discussions.

By this time, the group posting character attacks and slinging mud in my direction included quite a few competitors who were directly associated with fantasy publisher Tor. Not only that, when their blogger friends trashed me, they used Tor.com and Tor.com related Facebook pages to distribute their nonsense and seemed to be given additional visibility within the fantasy community for doing so. Some of these competitors even started web sites to praise themselves and their friends while trashing me (and sometimes others).

Around 2007 a new group related to a then-newcomer with big friends came in swinging with nastiness. That author's #1 fan, and friend, started posting the same nonsense to his blog and elsewhere. The author (himself or a representative of his) joined in by posting about how I was supposedly a fraud on his blog/site in what seemed an effort to get his readers involved in the nonsense—and they did get involved in a big way for the next few years.

These nasty things continued. My book, Stormjammers: The Extraordinary True Story of EW in the Gulf War, was published and received good reviews in the press. I’m a distinguished combat veteran, having received many accommodations for my wartime service, including our nation’s highest flying honor, the Distinguished Flying Cross. Around 2008, when these people saw that the book was still selling well, they started spreading a malicious lie that I hadn’t received the Distinguished Flying Cross and wasn’t even a combat veteran. This resulted in some of the worst harassment I’ve ever encountered.

This was rapidly growing into something worse, darker and angrier. The people at the core of this began posting online how I was delusional and mentally imbalanced—and here’s the kicker: and that I deserved everything I was getting because of my supposed rantings about what they were doing.

This continued for several years and was spread to new corners of the Internet. Some of these started going around to various websites and getting them to remove any positive discussion of my work. In mid-2008, my publishers and I started a year-long promotion campaign to showcase my work and try to undo the great harm these persons had caused, spending $100,000 on advertising with schools and libraries. Our advertising was primarily in periodicals read by schools and libraries. This culminated in a big promotion at the summer American Library Association convention that included a 4-page spread in the show’s daily newsletter.

Several of the competitors who had been trashing me online and/or their representatives came back from the show with renewed purpose to destroy me. One, who either attended or knew someone who did, posted malicious nonsense about me on his blog / Facebook page. His readers went rabid with their attacks—some going as far as stalking anyone who talked about my books online anywhere.

The Fantasy genre is a billion-dollar industry. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why so much effort was made to harm my image, damage my career, and ensure I couldn’t compete as effectively as I should have been able to in the marketplace. Meanwhile, the hateful people behind the nonsense and those related to them? A few are multimillionaires.


World's Greatest Rejection Letters, a Few Catch 22’s of the Trade and One Glorious Ride

I’ve been writing stories for 35 years—ever since I started writing for the school newspaper as a kid. In honor of my 150th book, due out this year from my publishers, I’m taking a look back at where I began. I never stopped writing once I started all those years ago, I got really serious about the craft in Summer 1983 but it wasn’t until 1986 that I finished something I no longer considered a draft or an unfinished work—that being my first full-length novel. A done-novel and not a draft-novel. At the time, I was in the military and stationed in Japan. When I left Japan at the beginning of 1989, I had four finished novels and was on my way to Survival Training, followed by Air Combat School, and finally to a posting in Germany as a combat flyer.

Somewhere in there I met and married my wife of 22 years. Germany though was a tough posting for newlyweds as I was deployed somewhere or on temporary duty elsewhere most of the time, including two tours of combat in Iraq. I did manage to write from time to time, finishing a 5th novel by the time I left Germany in the fall of 1991 for a new posting in Hawaii. It was in Hawaii that I decided to get serious about my job/career path. I enrolled in college as a full-time nights/weekend student and also started educating myself about how to get my work published.

1993-1995 were my years though, and years of many firsts. I sent out my first queries for publication. I learned about the rejection letter—that dreamkiller, that insensible article, that form letter often given out without a care (or even a manuscript ever having been read).

I learned all about how multiple submissions were frowned on because you should preferably send a manuscript only to one publisher at a time so you could wait 3 to 6 months for your form letter rejection instructing you your manuscript wasn’t read/wasn’t what they wanted or that you needed an agent to even make it out of the slush pile—the slush pile being the giant mail bins where manuscripts are/were dumped until someone took a manuscript out of its envelope and put it (typically) unread into the obligatory SASE (self-address stamped envelope you provided) for return.

I learned all about the Catch 22 of have agent / get published. You needed an agent to get through the slush piles (or so I was told quite a few times) only to be told by agents that I needed to be published to be considered by the agency so that I could get published. Neither publishers nor agents ever seemed to get the irony of that.

I learned all about fee-charging and non-fee-charging agents too. Some agents charged a fee simply to agree to read your work so they could—drum roll please—send you a rejection letter. They never seemed to get the incongruity of such a thing either.

I also made it through the slush piles at multiple publishers flying solo (er, having given up on agents… though not completely… ;-). Del Rey wanted to see my full manuscripts and the full series synopsis (this was for Ruin Mist Chronicles), so did Tor. Both the Del Rey and Tor requests came from executive editors. The one I was most hopeful about was from Betsy Mitchell, who would go on to become Editor-in-Chief at Del Rey.

It was a breathless sort of wait during the weeks that followed, only to end with dashed hopes. Betsy Mitchell’s letter was nicely written saying "The fantasy world you have created is truly wonderful and rich. Your characters seem real and full of life. It's a creative, provoking, and above all, thoughtful story! ... Unfortunately, your book is not the right fit for Del Rey."

The rejection letter from the executive editor at Tor was equally as fun: "The writing style is strong... the ideas are interesting and the writing good! ... The story isn't right for our line of books. We feel it's too hard to launch a new series by a new author at this time."

I didn’t buy into the idea that it was too hard to launch a new series by a new author. There were new books by new authors being published all the time. Undaunted, I made the rounds again, sending out samples and queries. A few months later when both Ace and Bantam asked to see my full manuscripts and series (Ruin Mist Chronicles) I completely forgot about the boatload of form rejection letters from all the other publishers I’d sent my queries too... ;-).

While I waited for responses, I also started looking at new areas to write in and how I could tie that into the career path I had chosen: Computer Science. I completed my Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science degree program in 1994, and was working to complete my Master of Science degree program. In my job in the military I was working deep in mainframes, Unix computing and this thing called the World Wide Web. The Web was new at the time and relatively few outside the military and academia had ever used it.

Cramming 6 years of school into 4 years while working full-time hadn’t left much time for breathing let alone writing, so by this time I was rather exhausted of the whole affair. I could’ve easily thrown in the towel. It’d been a long journey. It’d been an eventful journey.

On a whim, I drafted an outline for a book about publishing on the World Wide Web. I found the name of an editor at a publisher called Macmillan and sent the outline along with a query. I’m not sure why I picked that one editor at that one publisher, but I did. I expected it would be months before I got a response. I focused on completing my courses so I could graduate from my Master’s program.

Unexpectedly, I got a response from the editor almost immediately. A phone call, received by my wife, that I was to return. This was right before Thanksgiving (November 1994). I’d come home from a swing shift so it was about 2 AM when I got the news. I don’t recall sleeping that night, if I did I don’t remember. What I do remember is the phone call the next day—the call that changed my life.

Within days of that call I had a contract in my hand and a week later I was writing a “little” book called Electronic Publishing Unleashed. Originally, I was supposed to just be a contributor to the book but the publisher liked my work so much I ended up as the lead writer, writing ~800 pages of the 1050 pages.

The book was written and published to a break-neck schedule. I started in December finished by May and the book was published in September. Before I had even finished, the publisher signed me to a second book, Web Publishing Unleashed—a 950-page monster. I wrote right through graduation and into the fall, finishing ~750 pages by late October. That book was published in March 1996. Both books were huge bestsellers.

Web and Internet technologies moved, so fast that by the end of 1997 I had 10 published books to my credit. I never had time to breathe in those years, but I know one thing for certain. I know none of it ever would have happened if I’d given up. If I’d thrown in the towel back in 1994, I’d’ve missed out on the ride of a lifetime (and all the great rides that followed too).

Hanging in there for a decade is not something everyone can do. For many it’s simply not practical, but you have to believe in yourself, even if no one else does. Not everyone will make it. But if you love the craft, even if you never make a living at writing, it should be time well spent.

So, if you're a writer, enjoy the writer's ride. Triumph in the small joys. Words written. Pages finished. Characters and worlds created. A reader reached. A world changed, if only in the smallest of ways.