Dennis R. Upkins, known on LJ and DW as neo_prodigy, is the owner and maintainer of the now-defunct Foc_U (Fen Of Color United), a blogger at the now-defunct Ars Marginal, an ex-mod at Scans Daily, and a truly awful writer of young adult fiction. He makes a great deal of noise about fighting racism and homophobia, so numerous other SJWs give him a pass on his virulent misogyny and his contempt for non-macho gay men.
The most notorious example of his issues with women is a LiveJournal post of his, now locked, in which he refers to slash fans as "heterosexist" "misandronists" whom he is tempted to visit "with piano wire." (Screencap; FFA discussion.) In a second now-locked post, he writes:
And the next breeder (specifically: speshul str8 wymnz) who tries to mansplain/white-cite/straight-talk down to me and defend that walking heterosexism simply because they have a homophobic fetish because they're too fucking trifling to deal with their own sexuality, I'm paying them a visit with a lead pipe in tow.
In yet a third post that was locked after the fact, Neo talks about how, if he were straight, he'd have "perfect endgame" in case he were ever married: He and his wife would have sex three times a day, "because my wife would be that sexy," and he would "personally administer her birth control pills," even checking her mouth to see if she'd swallowed it. Screencap here.
Neo also insists that he can teach all of us "str8 white bitches" "How to Slash Better." In this post, he describes himself as "a man. A proud alpha male in fact." He also assumes that he speaks for all gay men and all men in general when he states that "When it comes to two men, it's about the sex. All bets are off. We fuck. Don't need to know your name. We don't even have to like you." Also, "Sex Is With Men Is About Domination," and "There's No Crying In [Gay] Sex: Neither Before Nor After." Nonnies mocked this post here, here, and here. And Neo also wants to teach us how to "respect the boundaries of gay men." (FFA discussion.)
When Mercuryblue144 challenged Neo's concept of slash with an intelligent and respectful comment, Neo called them a troll and hurled abuse at them. (FFA discussion.) Similarly, when his then-friend Ankhesin_Mie, whose work Neo asked him why the casts of his stories — billed as "progressive, sophisticated multicultural tales featuring compelling complex and diverse protagonists [...] an alternative to the derivative status quo" — are so white, he abandoned the friendship and declared her a traitor.
Neo's fuckery started to come to wider light with the publication of his debut novel Hollowstone. As discussed on FFA in late summer 2011 (Aug. 23, Aug. 24, Aug. 30, Aug. 31, and Sep. 3), he wrote rave reviews of it on Amazon under sockpuppets, and he got his little minions to leave positive reviews as well. Here's Absolute Write's discussion about this.
The Hollowstone and West of Sunset readalongs
On July 12, 2011, in a thread titled "The classic for our times," OP says, "Give me a number between 1 and 248 and I'll give you a line from neo_prodigy's masterpiece." Here's a sampling of the posted bits:
- Page 14: Upon noticing me a pair of brunettes quickly clutched their purses and sped away. "You're better than them," a voice said behind me. I spun on my heel to face the figure. Tall and muscular, if I had to guess, he was probably the school quarterback. Sandy blond hair, sharp blue eyes, he wore a disarming smirk. "Cindy Robbins and Toni Marrett. Two of the most stuck up skanks at this school. I would know, I did them both in the hot tub last month."
- Page 57: A teacher conducts an "intermediate music theory" class by having the students perform for him: "You will attempt to play your instruments, I will cringe and then will make the futile attempt to make you great." All of the students are terrible except for Neo's self-insert the protagonist, despite having had no formal training, and the teacher praises him while shaming the rest of the class. ("This is even more hilarious when you remember that this is from a guy who calls Stephanie Brown a Mary Sue.") With bonus casual misogyny from the teacher: "Miss Robbins, for the sake of your music and your love life, I do hope that you learn how to blow properly." OP, who says they "actually had to edit most of the insults from the quoted passage, because it was getting too large and gratuitous," adds that the teacher instructs another student to get rid of her gum by 'do[ing] what you do with half the football team and swallow.'"
- Page 61: My curiousity piqued I perused the archives of Cal's blog searching for snippets about his past. His talents as a writer were undeniable. His journal also chronicled his numerous - and I do mean numerous - sexual conquests. Those were some of his most vivid posts and to those who didn't want anything left to the imaginations.
- Page 66: Following dinner we attended a local carnival. Cal acted like a big kid-more than usual-insisting on riding every ride possible. He squealed with delight each time he and I rode the roller coasters. Of coarse my eyes were shut closed with my hands around my crucifix. Wisely the girls waited on the safe firm earth holding the teddy bears that Cal and I had won for them.
- Page 73: "Get the hell out of my way" Chris warned. "the lady doesn't want to leave," Cal said, "and seeing that you're really starting to piss me off, you're going to want to get gone. "I'm about two seconds from kicking your ass" Chris said.
- Page 108: "Mr Scott! Nolan bellowed. "Much like a jealous wife, I don't appreciate being stood up so you can hang with the boys to discuss football!"
- Page 150: Raphael was flanked by three other angels. I recalled previously seeing the two male angels outside my dorm on campus. Nasira, was the most captivating of the four. Arabic, the dark-skinned beauty stood as a contrast to her male peers.
- Page 163: "Execution it is then. Besides, if you're man enough to stand against those White supremacists at school, I'm man enough to do this. Even of the crowd does opt to kill whitey."
- Page 212: "And you clearly have no idea who you're fucking with," I said. "But let me explain it to you. I just spent the better part of the year going toe to toe with crazed gunmen, mobsters, hitmen, bookies, drug dealers, gang bangers, dirty cops, racists, jocks, crooked politicians and two psychotic killers. If you honestly think you can succeed where they all failed, then bring it!"
- Page 230: "Thank you ladies and gentlemen of the jury," Bonds said. "This was a difficult and trying case and emotions are no doubt running high. However, the burden of proof has not been met in this case and as such I cannot follow the verdict of the jury. Ms. Goddard you are free to leave. Court is adjourned."
- Page 247: I gazed at the school one last time. Memories of the last three years overtook me like a current. Each one poignant and bittersweet. Finally I hopped in the Charger and threw on my shades. "all right Cal, this one's for you." And with that I sped off from Hollowstone for the last time.
- Unspecified page: Inhaling a huge breath, I stabbed Miller in his stomach, at least that's where I aimed. The destination was in fact a bit further south. "AHHHHHHH!" Miller screamed, clutching his crotch. "AHHHHHHHH!"
15) Some internet expert will try to “school” you on the realism of your fantasy story and will try to school you on the dynamics of a region you’ve lived in your entire life. This can often be fun when you pull out endless tons of research, historical data, facts, and shut said experts down, hard.
When everybody had stopped laughing, another nonny suggested a second thread of bits from Denny's Great American Novel, and Hollowstone Nonny obliged.
On June 9, 2014, after a great deal of excited anticipation, another nonny did a readalong for Neo's then-new novel, West of Sunset. This sophomore effort has somehow managed to be even worse than Hollowstone: the same casual approach to punctuation (especially commas), doors that "clank" as they open, lolarious dialog tags, a character with the unfortunate name of "Bidella" (others are named "Canon," "Colt," and "Nemesis"), action scenes informed by business-speak, a piss-poor homage to Army of Darkness, casual disdain of femininity in gay men, cops always having super-accurate gaydar, an Orthodox Jewish "missionary," the angel character telling Neo's self-insert that his "demeanor and maturity" are unusual among mortals and that he's "most precocious" and "a credit to humanity," more creepy misogyny with bonus "even straight girls want to fuck me," and same self-insert's jeans becoming "far more cramped" when an immortal character talks about how he's "at the top of the food chain already." (OP summarizes the plot for those who are wondering WTF is going on but don't want to put themselves through reading the book.)
The Jim Hines posts
In 2014, YA writer Jim C. Hines posted a series of essays by marginalized participants in the sf/f scene. These essays were popular enough on his blog that he also paid the authors for the rights to release them in an anthology called Invisible. Overall, the project was so well received that he did it again in 2015... and this time, one of the participants was Upkins.
It didn't go well.
The mess started when Hines posted Upkins' essay on his blog and on his LJ. The nonny who first brought it to meme’s attention (there’s a second thread here) says, ”Reading through it, it's basically a long complaint that people aren't buying his books.” Highlights, so to speak, with FFA commentary:
- ”As a black author I get ignorant emails from some failed hack that I have too many white characters in West of Sunset, yet this particular cretin has no issue watching a marathon of Star Trek or Game of Thrones.” — The OP of the FFA thread believes this is a passive-aggressive swipe at Neo’s ex-friend Ankhesen_Mie, who ”read through his books and asked him why, if he talks so much about diversity and representation of POC, his stories are so incredibly white.” Another nonny notes that West of Sunset’s cast of characters is 70% white — ”[a]nd that's not getting into how many of the characters play into offensive stereotypes, especially the women.”
- ”Homophobia is wrong and should never be supported or enabled, unless the culprits are Orson Scott Card or Chuck Dixon or Steve Moffat. Then the goalpost is shifted to ‘can we separate the artist from their art?’… Interesting how the issue of separating the art from the artist wasn’t raised when Isaiah Washington was fired from Grey’s Anatomy for his homophobic remarks and conduct.” — As a nonny angrily points out, Neo is glossing over the fact that Washington physically assaulted a co-worker and threatened to assault others. There is also scorn for Neo’s assertion that Dixon, let alone Card, have gotten away scot-free with their homophobia.
- ”Between [my] standing up for black women, other WoC, and PoCs, and LGBTQs...” — Meme response: ”Aha. Ha. Haa.”
- ”Which brings me to Hollowstone. Point of fact, the book actually did pretty well.” — Its stats indicate otherwise, although Hines' posts may have given it a bump.
- “I had the privilege of having comments on Hines’ LJ:
Dennis feels wronged.
I included gay authors in the book. In retrospect, I should have done what [Nick Mamatas] recommended when I realized I was not getting enough stories about POC. But I did publish one by Tenea Johnson.
Sean Wallace and Prime were invaluable assets. The final decision to buy and include a story was mine. They advised me on how many queer stories would be wise for a general readership on all four books I did with them (often white, heterosexual male marketplace for Civil War books). But I am neither bigoted or homophobic. [Editor's note: It should be noted that Sean Wallace is a close associate of Winterfox.]
Also, in full disclosure, Dennis and I did have a sexual tryst.
LJ commenter Damiana_Swan tells Berman she’d heard that the story Neo submitted contained explicit sex, despite the guidelines for the anthology disallowing it, and when asked to revise that part “he threw a fit.” Berman replies that he was so busy during that period he cannot remember if this was true or not. He adds, however, “Asking an author for a story is never a guarantee of a sale; Dennis should have known that I might not like what he had written. He wrote the tale he wanted to write. It did not suit my needs as editor. And now he maligns me.”
Elsewhere on Hines’ post, Damiana_Swan discusses her previous “(rather unfortunate) experience” with Neo:
I can tell you that his favorite epithet seems to be "racist homophobic hypocrite" and it comes into play... widely. And frequently. I've seen it applied to a long-time gay activist as well as to Steve, and also to my partner when he (gently) called Mr. Upkins on violating the rules of a discussion group dedicated to diversity in fantasy.
And Mr. Upkins publicly referred to a black female professional as a "house slave" because she collaborates with my partner, and she had pointed out to Mr. Upkins that her own years of experience working with my partner did not involve racism, homophobia, or hypocrisy.
Unfortunately, I have absolutely zero respect for Mr. Upkins at this point, and that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he is gay or that he is black. It is entirely to do with his behavior and the fact that he repeatedly chooses to libel other professionals who started out on his side and wanting to work with him.
FFA discussed these comments. Unfortunately a white feminist waltzed in to claim that ”I still feel in a position of less power than any man.” She walked some of this back after other nonnies told her off for ignoring oppressions other than misogyny. This subthread was frozen.
After all this came out, Hines decided that, while he wasn't going to take Upkins' post down, he also didn't want to buy it for the second volume of his anthology (which has since been published). Upkins, however, who had already discussed all of this at length, noting that Upkins was a jackass and critiquing Hines' actions.
Other Neo discussions and links
- Fail_Fandomanon's first Neo thread.
- Korinna/The Icewoman Cometh has several LiveJournal posts, plus several Tumblr posts, about Neo. She also contributed to Alpha Male Neo, a Tumblr all about him.
- sf_drama has covered Neo a number of times; here are two posts. This FFA thread details Neo's reaction to the first sf_d post, which is of course to call all participants in that thread "bigoted white women."
- Unfunny Fandom discusses Neo's slut-shaming misogyny, particularly in Hollowstone. (FFA discussion.)
- "Who's creepier? Neo_Prodigy or W!ll Sh3tt3rly?"
- Neo claimed on both foc_u and and Ars Marginal that everybody criticizing Riley's extremely suspicious Arkh Project is a cis white straight person trying to shut it down. (FFA discusses the foc_u post.)
- Here, a nonny links to some Neo spew on "the myth of black homophobia," in which he manages to blame white women for everything once again, while typically erasing the participation of people other than str8 white bitchez in slash writing.