Edward LearI’ve been involved in work-for-hire for the last couple of weeks, and am just coming up for air. Checking around my virtual environment, I notice the debate about the Hugo’s seems to have gone past the point of raging insults and into slash and burn territory.

This is a process that’s encouraged by the nature of the Internet itself. If this were a space opera, for example, the plot would play out something like this: The Puppies make a raid and take over territory at the Hugo Awards. Because this is considered an aggressive action, defenders of the award would assemble a force to shake them loose. They’d all let fly with photon torpedoes and phaser cannons set to “kill.” If the forces had to resort to hand-to-hand combat, they might bring out their light sabers and go at it in Star Wars style. The result would either be that the Puppies are driven off, or else they prevail and put down roots in their new territory.

The problem with this scenario, of course, is that all the battles are actually virtual. They’re being fought on blogs, websites, Twitter and Amazon accounts and in a few news outlets. This means that there can be no really decisive victory. Defenders of the Hugos can score against the other side with a well-turned phrase, but not really take back the stronghold.

We’re hardwired to defend our territory, but when it’s the Internet, we can’t really overrun the enemy and mount their heads on pikes around the city walls to warn off other offenders. The result is that posts slide quickly from logic into flames. Some people are getting into tort territory, trying to overcome the limits of the medium and actually get at the other side in the physical world. Putting up bad reviews for people on Amazon or talking about SWATing them goes past what’s fair in this kind of battle. It’s time to let things cool off.