Gabe Chouinard Destroys Online Community

Gee, just days after posting this about not doing projects with Gabe, he’s deleted a whole online community called Frameshift, which featured conversations/posts from Scott Lynch, Chris Billett, and Matt Stover. Way to go, Gabe. But this is typical. When he couldn’t continue with Fantastic Metropolis, he wanted to pull the plug on it. The only thing stopping him was Luis Rodrigues, who then took over…because Gabe was basically just going to suicide the site.

These patterns repeat. In another couple of years Gabe will be back, properly contrite, doing something else meaningless and truncated online. Sorry, but this guy is beginning to disgust me.

In the time he’s spent messing with people and promising projects since the days of Fantastic Metropolis, I’ve written two books, edited four more, and done tons of other projects. Completed them. Like normal people.

Jeff

Comments

  1. Shevchyk says

    If he’s not returning to speculative fiction, the least he could do is be a decent bloke and return what was taken: namely Frameshift and Scalpel.

  2. says

    There was also the urban drift forums, which weren’t very populated but had a tiny community nonetheless. I too got an email from Gabe informing me that he was gone for good from the SF scene.

    That type of thing really is off. Particularly the communities, as all it would require is an email exchange with people from the forums he deleted and I’m sure others would be willing to take over the hosting. But no, Gabe has the hump with the SF community and is not too bothered about the communities he destroys in the process.

  3. says

    I feel a little bad about all this still, because I haven’t spoken to Gabe since he had a brief vanishing act in the spring. However, I have been emailing him and trying to contact him. I also know Gary Wassner was calling him, and he’s obviously had the time to talk to Twelve Hawks (which is me*, by the way – jokes on you, Chouinard! Arf, arf…) so I guess I’ve done what I could to solve this outside of the public eye.

    It really is a shame that that’s all gone. We had some fantastic threads there (Bakker vs. Stover duking it out over the finer points of Nietzshe was not to be missed!) that I’d like to get back.

    My plan, for the record, is to build a new community at Frameshift.org, which I still own and control myself, or somewhere completely new. I’ll then use web archive to rescue what I can. I don’t really know the best way to do that, though. I’ll send an email round when that’s ready to go. It’d be nice to open it up to more new people.

    * lie

  4. says

    Still, it’s nice that the hospital have let him use his laptop and given him broadband access while he wait for those broken ribs to heal.

    Oh, wait …

  5. says

    Paul, you cynic! ;-)

    (translation: I’m glad I’m not the only one who is – a little guiltily – thinking along those lines…)

  6. d. alan parkes says

    I don’t get it at all. Chouinard is such a flighty pantywaist online, screwing up everything he touches and throwing tantrums at stupid shit.

    I met him at the bookstore where he worked, and have now known him casually for seven or eight years, well enough that we got together probably twice a month to drink beer and smoke cigars. I was introduced to him when he took me out to his car to give me a copy of Jeff’s own City of Saints and Madmen in hardcover, the one Gabe said he got from Jeff himself. Who does that for strangers? Only Gabe.

    In the years since then I and a lot of others he knew like Laptop Phil and Claudia (both SF fans who are sort of online) have watched Gabe go through seven layers of hell and more. I’m not surprised that he finally cracked completely. I expected him to have a breakdown for years now because no one can take as much personal chaos as Gabe did without going mental.

    I don’t condone anything Gabe has done. He’s a wrong headed fool, probably a lunatic, likely a complete twit.

    I still regret that most people here don’t know him, haven’t seen his dynamic and admittedly complex personality in action. I’ve seen how much good he’s done for people in Hudson and the surrounding towns. I’ve seen him doing talks on drug use, the hidden homeless and all sorts of social issues. I participated in his class on how to combat the effects of advertising on children. I saw him the day after he’d spent all night bagging groceries and organizing three hundred bags of toys for the Secret Santa program. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we were friends but what I do know of him is that hes an erratic but basically good person. He’s a better person than me, at least, and definitely a better father, embarassing as it is to admit but I bet Claudia would back me up on that one. Hell, I’m sick of hearing about his damn perfect little girls.

    Everything he touched turned to shit. That’s undeniable and absolutely reason to never allow him to do anything in SF ever again. Close him out, warn people off, don’t ever allow him to write or blog or anything again.

    At the same time, let’s not assassinate everything he is. Gabe made strong controbutions to SF even if he was only the one to get the ball rolling. He is a flake, but he was an enthusiastic believer who pushed people to do things. Surely even Jeff will admit that. Without Gabe’s insane belief, there never would have been a Fantastic Metropolis. It was his ambition, his drive that made it happen. He used to talk about it every time I went to the bookstore, and he was so passionate about it, it was fascinating. He certainly got me interested in what was going on in the field. Before that I only cared casual enough to look at the books on the shelves. Now I’m more informed because of Gabe. The same is true of street criticism or whatever. The groundwork is all Gabe, and you can’t and shouldn’t erase that or pretend differently. It’s a good idea and should florish.

    I won’t defend his behavior. He doesn’t deserve it. I feel bad for the people that believed him or gave him a chance, because he disappoints everyone. At the same time I can’t bring myself to hate him. Maybe you can and should. In my limited way I got to see him as he is, and its unfortunate that online only his warts showed.

    I didn’t mean to write an essay here, but it saddens me to see all the viper attitudes toward someone I kind of consider a friend. I sent him an email and his only response was

    “I got out of the hospital on Monday and at least I got some decent painkillers out of the deal. There are perks, I guess.

    I’m out of spec fic. My reputation is shot and I accept that. Wrong is wrong and I have to deal with it. Oh well. I hear there’s a great future in injection molding.”

    I hope that’s the end of the Gabe saga, truly. But I hope he’s just feeling sorry for himself and kidding about injection molding, because he would do much better continuing his work in public services. As long as he stays far away from SF.

  7. Jeff VanderMeer says

    I’m talking purely about his context regarding editing/writing. I am perfectly willing to accept he’s a good guy outside of that. Until evidence suggests otherwise. I do know I thought his personal situation, *as he himself expressed it* indicated he was at the very least selfish. As for FM–Luis Rodrigues is mainly responsible for FM. Period.

    Jeff

  8. Claudia says

    I am so glad you posted this post, j. allen parks. I have been reading all this stuff about Gabe, too, and wondering whatever happened to “buyer, beware”. I see that Gabe has done major wrong and let people down all over the place…but really…what kind of a business person does things like lay out thousands of dollars without more proof of who they are working with. I know nothing about business but I wouldn’t do that in a million years. Maybe there is so much yammering because the people who have been burned have learned a very tough lesson and maybe they should take a little of the blame? Just sayin’!

    I also know Gabe as a pretty good friend, a wonderful father, an excellent guide in all things Sci fi., and I think he has many cool talents. I have learned so much from him and he has widened my horizons in many fields. (sci fi, photography, graphic arts, design) Some of my favorite authors and internet friends have come via Gabe. I picked up right away that he had a mixed up life and dropped projects in a regular fashion. Irritating but also a part of Gabe that is pretty obvious from the get go.

    And I would challenge anyone to walk a mile in his mocs.

    Well, that is all from this loyal friend who was smart enough to not do business with him.

    Get well soon Gabe and I would like to buy you a cup of delicious coffee!
    Cheers,
    Claudia

  9. says

    That’s just plain annoying to read, Claudia. Sorry, but I’m not taking any of the blame for his irresponsibility and his lies. I continued to work with him, knowing his problems, and in part out of compassion for him because of his problems. I’m angrier with him for simply vanishing without a word, than for his false representations. We never even had a dispute. He just took the money and ran without looking back. He didn’t bother to explain. He simply stopped corresponding, smack in the middle of a new book release for me, nothing done, nothing finished, all the checks cashed.

    Please don’t lecture me about business. It wasn’t a business decision to work with him just because it involved money. It was a decison based upon a false sense of trust, some hope, and a strong dose of feeling sorry for him.

  10. says

    I appreciate his non-Internet friends standing up for him, and having met Chouinard in person I know he can be very charming and engaging, and I also realize that he has suffered through a series of staggering personal misfortunes that make Job look lucky. But that said, I have to agree with Gary that caveat emptor is a pretty flimsy excuse. As I’ve also mentioned on Chris’s LJ, I helped him out on a failed webzine some years ago in which he failed to pay writers what he promised. Because some of them were friends of mine I felt partly responsible and ponied up the money even though it was not my obligation. That was my choice, of course, and I could afford it and I certainly did not expect to be paid back given his situation. But what really bothered me is that he never acknowledged an obligation to these writers nor did he acknowledge that I had discharged a debt on his behalf. As with Gary, he simply ceased all communication. It is as if the people he deals with on the Internet are not real individuals, just insubstantial ghosts that he can screw over (and over and over) and then ignore without guilt, compunction or scruple. It’s almost pathological. And it’s worse when you see him come back out of hiding after a few weeks to start some new rrrevolutionary project, or forum or zine or website or whatever, and the cycle starts again. I feel bad that I wasn’t stronger in some of my warnings to people. I guess at the time I still deep down had some affection for Chouinard and to badmouth him seemed like backstabbing. But in the end I guess you can only screw over so many people for so long before it catches up to you, particularly in the relatively small genre community.

    Gabriel M (the other Gabe)

  11. says

    I too feel sorry for him, despite it all. But that doesn’t change how angry I am. As Gabe M said, when I saw him posting again on his new site, without even contacting me, calling me, anything….I was furious. You can’t imagine how it felt to see him online when he didn’t have the courtesy to reply to my emails and phone calls — tons of them. I thought it was pathological as well.

    He’s a charmer. And he charms by admitting that he’s a scoundrel and a rogue. He disarms you that way. It seems almost innocent and he probably thinks that he absolves himself from responsibility by proclaiming it so loudly. But we’re always responsible for our own actions. And what we do leaves a trail to the present that he’s finally discovered we are all following.

  12. Jeff VanderMeer says

    Gabriel:

    You shouldn’t feel bad about not being more aggressive in warning people about Gabe. I too kept giving him the benefit of the doubt again and again, as you should, because people deserve that. But you reach a point where a clear pattern of behavior warrants action, and clearly you and I and lots of other people have reached that point.

    As for the business end of things–Claudia, that’s a bit naive. A LOT of business in the world outside of genre is conducted on a handshake and a prayer. And I don’t think that they had any reason to believe necessarily, at that point, that Gabe was going to screw them. To shift the onus from the perpetrator to the victim is pretty bad.

    Jeff

  13. says

    Mo: Not quite sure why you have to remind me to breathe. It’s a perfectly reasonable and calm post. But perhaps I’m not breathing in what you’re breathing in.

    Jeff

  14. Nick Mamatas says

    Gabe emailed me this morning saying he wouldn’t be “returning to speculative fiction”.

    Wouldn’t that involve being in spec fic in the first place?

  15. says

    No, you do sound calm in this post, which is probably not easy given the nature of the subject.
    It was in case you had that quiet anger bubbling away. Hard to tell with just text though.

  16. says

    I didn’t detect any anger – quite the contrary. Of course I am well aware that Jeff only breathes in blue air (occassional cigar smoke?) and breathes out healing energies.

    In fact, if these healing energies had been breathed earlier, I wouldn’t have sent in one of my books to Scalpel for review.

    But hey, maybe it still will be reviewed, right !?!

  17. says

    “I also realize that he has suffered through a series of staggering personal misfortunes that make Job look lucky.”

    There’s personal misfortune of the “I got a chronic illness” type and personal misfortune of the “I was an asshole and people shit on me” type. Again, by his own admission, much of his “misfortune” has occured because he was a flighty asshole.

    This is all classic selfish behavior stuff: tearing down forums where other people have formed communities, clearing out projects that other people are involved in without consulting them. It’s burning other people’s bridges. Unless it turns out he’s seriously mentally ill, I don’t see any excuse for that except aforementioned flighty selfishness.

    And at least if we find out he’s mentally ill, it’ll all make a lot more sense.

  18. Phil says

    I’m with J. Alan Parkes on this one. Like him, I met Gabe in the bookstore, and ended up spending a fair bit of time talking with him on a wide variety of topics over several years. It’s been several years now since I’ve talked to him, so I don’t know how he has changed in that time. But in person at that time he was charming, charismatic, and introduced me to a number of aspects of SF that I would never have looked into on my own, And it is clear that he was doing the same thing for quite a few other people.

    As to what is going on now, I only ‘know’ what I’ve read here and on JonathonM’s various sites. So what he has done certainly looks bad (and I’m saying ‘looks’ because I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes). If half of what I’ve read is true and accurately reflects what happened, he has more than a bit of amends to make.

    The outrage over the business matter does puzzle me, though. While it is true that people do make business deals based on just a handshake, they are very selective in who they make deals with. Prior to shaking hands, they evaluate the likelihood that the other person will have both the capability, the intent and the determination to complete their part of the deal. For example, I don’t think that a diamond merchant from the jewelry district is going to give me a $10 million diamond just based on a handshake, no matter how much he thinks that I intend to pay him for it in the future. Gabe’s personal situation is well known to anyone in the community, at least to anyone who has been reading his blog. So it is hard for me to understand why people are so upset when the totally expected occurs – he can neither complete the project nor return the money. And to publically grouse about it reflects just as badly on the complainer as on Gabe, in my opinion.

    But that is as much as I’m going to say, because I don’t think that critically analyzing people in this way on the internet is proper (and maybe I’ve already written too much). Given the imperfections of the media, it is more likely to shed fur than to shed light. There has already been far too many things discussed in a public forum that should have been done privately. Nobody ends up looking good in these situations.

    Phil

  19. littlemouse says

    Just happened upon this site when I noticed this guys name. Sounds like he hasn’t changed in past 15 years. Have not seen him in 13. Suits me fine. Sounds like all the same shit, but with internet involved now.

  20. says

    It’s understandable why Gabe would want out after this debacle (his name being thrown around like toilet paper and everything). I’m happy that Chris was able to get the forums up and running again though. The people at Frameshift have gone through this a lot (earthquakes) so I doubt it really affects them much.

    I hope Gabe continues to write and think about SF, even if he says he is “out of it.” Regardless of administration/leadership quirks he may have, he is undoubtedly one of the best writers I’ve ever met (online only though, sadly), and has had the most impact on my own writing than anyone else, outside of a few long-dead writers.

    I understand that a lot of people have anger. I hope someday forgiveness comes. We are a small group of artists who have a lot to say. I feel sorry about the people who lost money and time, and the breaking of trust. That’s hard to earn back.

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