Sunday, 11 March 2018

Dark Clouds in My Tiny Slice of M/M Heaven

*This is a very LOOOONG post, apologies in advance

While this is a book-related post, I’m veering slightly off with this one. It’s not a review/excerpt/promo/Top 5 post. It’s just me making sense of what’s happening right now in the m/m romance world and unscrambling my thoughts on it.

There’s a big scandal happening right now, thanks to Santino Hassell. I won’t go into details because my knowledge of it is all scattered and I don’t want to skew any details. Whether on Twitter or FB, or even Goodreads (GR), a simple search will land you tons of results.

I’m here talking about it because frankly the GR thread is too huge a platform that intimidates me. I just don’t have the energy for that even though I've been following it closely. But I’m trying to make sense of all my feelings around this situation and I found this to be my only acceptable outlet.

I’ll start by saying I was a huge fan of Santino. Even the few people in RL who I can talk books with know how much I adored his writing. I followed him in every SM platform. I promo’d the hell out of his books (I will leave at ‘he’ for simplicity sake). I reviewed the heck out of his books… Typical fan stuff…

As much of a fan as I am though, I’ve still kinda’ remained on the periphery. I’ve always considered myself as insider who’s on the outside. I can fangirl like the best of them but I’ve always felt iffy becoming too close to any author because I’ve always felt like I won’t be able to review objectively once I cross a certain line and that’s not what got me blogging/reviewing in the first place. I just really like to read and offer my thoughts on books. Whether people listen or not, it doesn’t even fully matter. In my mind, at least my thoughts are out there.

So by being a Santino fan, yes, I’ve joined his groups, excluding Patreon though just because I wasn’t in the financial position to do so and I felt like buying and promo’g his books are plenty support as they were. I stayed on top of his Twitter posts. So yes, I’ve seen times in the past when he talked about someone going after him. But I didn’t realize how deep it went. It sounds like there were more on FB too but I’m more a Twitter gal. And truthfully, I saw early on how he seem to thrive on drama so I just chalked it up to that. Nevertheless, although I didn’t do what some of his rabid fans did, like go after the ones who’s “wronged” him, I also kept silent, and stayed out of it.

This is now part of my struggle. In a way, I suppose my silence meant that I didn’t believe the other party. I don’t know the other party(ies), I was only there because I’m a fan, so it must mean they were on the wrong side…. sigh… And sadly, even when things were starting to bubble in the last month or so, when things starting to pop up on my Twitter bec of RTs/replies from Twitter friends that I have little interaction with, I still thought “ooh, boy, another drama that Santino has found himself embroiled in” and just shrugged it off. At that point, I was still giving him the benefit of the doubt… oh how wrong was I!


And, with all that's come to light, these are my thoughts these days:

· This whole thing about him not being who he really is, whether he’s a she or he’s a they, it’s one thing to maintain this kind of persona in public, but when the same persona is also used privately when interacting with fans especially, that’s just deceit. You can’t have your cake and eat it too! You want to maintain your privacy, that’s fine. Remain the enigma that you are. You must’ve had valid reasons to do so and fans would’ve respected that. And I would think you would’ve have understood your limitations because of this boundary you’ve set for privacy sake and all. But no, you want to be able to represent voices based on your persona, and you want to be able to be out there in public events with this persona as well. If you were truly honest and respected your fans, you would’ve fixed all this before doing any of that.

· This whole thing about his Patreon and subsequently, the medical issues he brought up on several occasions. Yes, I get that there is “caveat emptor” in any monetary transactions. But these people who are up in arms  about how much of a fraud he is, not only did they financially support him in essence, they also inadvertently gave emotional support because of the sob story he provided. They’re angry because they’re hurt. Walk a mile, people… tsk-tsk…

· More importantly, the confessions that have recently come out about abusing people’s trust and sometimes appropriating their stories later for the sake of a plot, this is the most wrong of all. There is no defending this, period! I can't even begin to imagine how hurt these people must be. It breaks my heart.

· His most recent apology post on his website… I’m sorry to say but a day late and a dollar short. When it comes to public confidence, it's all about TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY, no? Believe it or not, people can see thru bullshit and sidestepping, surprise, surprise... sigh... As they say, you can fool some people some of the time, but you can't fool all people all the time...

· This whole thing with his author friends, some who stayed side by side with him lashing back with their own posts. Some of these authors are authors I’ve come to love because of their work. This is as big a struggle for me. I’ve read all their apologies. I know they’re trying to be sincere, but it’s also coming across as trite and very PR-y. On the one hand, they say that they’re also trying to make sense of things at their end. On the other, Santino himself mentioned on his web post that he’s stepping away from his friends because they don’t deserve to be sullied along with him. So which is it? Is this him just throwing you under the bus? That you didn’t know anything and you felt just as manipulated? Is that why you acted the way he did? Or are you still friends and you’re just letting him walk away from you? Which then means that if he didn't step away, you’ll still be up in arms with him?


Now, here we are, here I am. After all’s said and done, what now?

I haven't even be directly hit with this debacle and it still left me with all kinds of emotion, I can only imagine what those directly involved felt. Fwiw, kudos to all the brave souls who finally found the courage to bare themselves and tell their stories. May you find the healing that you deserve.

At this moment, I will leave my existing reviews of all the Santino books I've read, esp for the ones I've received an ARC for. I will hold up my end of the bargain, and consider it as my last act of kindness. It's in no way a denial of people's experience esp those who Santino has hurt. As for the books I've bought but not read, I will just let that be.

As for Santino's author friends, pls don't make me write you off completely. Not that you'll notice but I think I'll stay in the far recess of the background for now. If you need time to process, so be it... I'll be watching more closely.

My emotions over this will dull in time. I know I can retreat back to the pages of my happy place. But those people, those people directly affected, the real victims, the blow they took, I truly hope they have the help and support they need and they can move on.


Since we’re no longer living in times where the only thing you know about authors are what you read at the back of their books or what you read in interviews, the kind of access have changed how we interact with each other. Regardless, at the end of the day, there is such a thing as respect and kindness. Regardless of how you present yourself to the world, there is such a thing as authenticity.

And if I can end this with a message, it'll be this: Santino, your die-hard fans will continue to love you no matter what, but that will not negate how your past actions have hurt so many people, including your friends. I hope you seek the help that you seem to need. I hope you don't find yourself on the other side of the same situation... I suppose these words will be my last act of kindness.


Thanks for dropping by!


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