Chapter no 11



The first tweet comes from an account named @Athena LiusGhost, created earlier this week; no profile picture, no words in the bio:

Juniper Song, aka June Hayward, did not write The Last Front. I did. She stole my book, stole my voice, and stole my words. #SaveAthena.

Then, dated a few hours later, several sickening follow-ups in the thread.

June Hayward befriended me a few years ago to get closer to my process and my work. She came over often to my apartment, and I would catch her rooting through my notebooks when she thought I wasn’t looking.

The proof is in black and white. Read my previous novels. Compare them to the prose in The Last Front. Read June’s debut novel, and ask yourself: is The Last Front a novel a white woman could have written?

For let’s be clear: Juniper Song Hayward is a white woman.

She’s using the pen name Juniper Song to pretend to be Chinese American. She’s taken new author photos to look more tan and ethnic, but she’s as white as they come. June Hayward, you are a thief and a liar. You’ve stolen my legacy, and now you spit on my grave.

Shame on June. Shame on Eden Press. Daniella Woodhouse must withdraw the current edition from bookstores and return the rights to Athena’s mother, Patricia Liu. All future editions should be published under Athena’s name alone.

Do not let injustice stand. #SaveAthena.

There’s a penultimate tweet tagging over a dozen prominent Twitter accounts, begging them to RT for visibility.

Then a final tweet, tagging me.

My vision’s gone fuzzy by the time I read to the end. I take a breath, and my bedroom tilts. I can’t stand up; I can hardly move. My mind’s fizzled out; I can’t form coherent thoughts anymore, I can only click REFRESH on @AthenaLiusGhost’s page, reading the tweets over and over again, watching as the thread slowly gains traction. In the first several hours, it garnered no likes, and I had a wild hope that this, like all crazy fringe accounts, would just fade into the ether. But all those tags must have grabbed it some attention, because fifteen minutes after I first see it, people start responding to the thread. Some book blogger with six thousand followers retweets the first tweet, and then some aspiring author who’s gone viral several times for their literary “hot takes” (which mostly have boiled down to “y’all need to take a critical reading course” and “not all villains are problematic”) quote tweets it with the addition Sickening if true. Oh my god. And then the floodgates are open. People start replying:

Are you fucking serious? Where’s the proof?

Always thought there was something off about Song. Hmm. Sounds like another Yalie “prodigy” is just a big, lying fraud. WTF!!! SEND HER ASS TO JAIL!

I can’t move away from my laptop. Even when I finally get up to pee,

my eyes remain glued to my phone. The healthy thing to do would be to shut down all my devices, but I can’t step back. I have to watch the whole disaster unfold in real time, have to see exactly who has retweeted it and who is responding.

Then the DMs start coming. They’re all from total strangers. I don’t know why I even open them, but I’m too curious, or too masochistic, to simply delete them.

Die, bitch.

June, have you seen these tweets? Are they true? You need to defend yourself if not.

You should burn in hell for what you did. Racist thieving whore. You owe Mrs. Liu every cent in your bank account!!!

I was a fan of The Last Front. This is incredibly disappointing. You owe the entire book community a public apology, immediately.

I’m going to come to DC and beat the living shit out of you. Racist bitch.

It’s after that last one that I finally hurl my phone across my bed. Holy shit. My heartbeat is so loud in my eardrums that I stand up, pace around my apartment, wedge a chair under my front door (no, I don’t think someone’s about to barge in and murder me, it just feels that way), and then curl up on my bed, where I pull my knees up to my chest and rock back and forth.

Oh my God. Oh my God.

It’s all over. People know. The whole world is about to know. Daniella will find out, Eden will fire me, I’ll lose all my money, Mrs. Liu will sue me, she’ll decimate me in court, Brett will drop me as a client, my career will be over, and I’ll go down in literary history as the bitch who stole Athena Liu’s work. They’ll make a Wikipedia page about me. They’ll write endless think pieces about me. You won’t be able to mention my name among industry professionals without knowing sneers and awkward laughter. I’ll be a meme. And not a single word I write will ever be published again.

Why in God’s name did I publish The Last Front? I want to kick my former self for being so stupid. I thought I was doing something good. Something noble—to bring Athena’s work into the world the way it deserved. But how could I ever have imagined this wouldn’t all come back to bite me in the ass?

I’ve been so stable up until now. I’ve done such a good job of managing my anxiety, of focusing on the present instead of all my terrors and insecurities, of compartmentalizing the horror of where and how I got my hands on that original manuscript, of moving on. And it all comes flooding back now—Athena’s hands flying to her throat, her bluing face, her feet drumming against the ground.

Oh God, what have I done?

My phone, faceup on my bed, keeps flashing blue with new notifications. They look like alarm sirens.

I burst into wails, loud and ugly, wanton like a toddler’s. My own volume frightens me; I’m scared my neighbors will hear, so I turn my face into my pillow, and that’s how I stay, muffled and hysterical, for hours.


subsides, my pulse slows, my throat goes hoarse from sobbing, and I have no tears left to cry. My panic attack ebbs, probably because I’ve obsessed over the worst-case scenarios so many times now that they can’t scare me anymore. My social and professional implosion is now a familiar concept, and, paradoxically, that means I can think again.

I reach for my phone, and as I scroll through Twitter, I realize perhaps this situation isn’t as bad as it first seemed. There’s no way the person behind @AthenaLiusGhost knows what truly happened. They’re right about the central thesis, but wrong about all the other details. I’d never been to Athena’s apartment except for that first and final time. I met Athena in college, not in DC. And I certainly didn’t befriend her intending to steal The Last Front. Until the night Athena died, I didn’t even know it existed.

Whoever this person is, they’ve made a very lucky guess at the truth. But they’ve fabricated the rest. And that suggests they do not, in fact, have any concrete evidence.

Perhaps, if all they have are suspicions, there’s a way to clear my name. Perhaps there’s a way to exorcise this ghost.

My mind keeps wandering to the implications of that Twitter handle— Athena Liu’s ghost—and the memory of Athena’s face at Politics and Prose, her eyes glittering, her lips curled in a patronizing smile. I push it away. On that road lies madness. Athena is fucking dead. I saw her die. And this is a problem for the living.


email: There’s something weird going on. Do you have a moment to get on the phone?

He must have seen the tweets already, because he calls me not even five minutes later, though it’s nearly nine in the evening. I pick up, trembling. “Hey, Brett.”

“Hi, June.” His voice sounds flat, though I can’t tell if I’m projecting. “So what’s going on?”

I clear my throat. “I’m guessing you’ve seen the tweets?” “If you could clarify—”

“The ones that say I stole The Last Front from Athena Liu.” “Well.” A long pause. “So, yeah. It’s not true, is it?”

“No!” My voice flies up in pitch. “No, of course not. I don’t know who’s behind it, I don’t know how this started . . .”

“Well, if it’s not true, then don’t make such a big deal of it.” Brett doesn’t sound nearly as upset as he should be. I thought he’d be angry, but he just seems mildly irritated. “It’s just some troll; it’ll blow over.”

“No, it won’t,” I insist. “All sorts of people are going to see it. They’re going to form opinions—”

“So let them form opinions. Eden’s not going to take the book off the shelves on the basis of some internet gossip. And most consumers don’t have their eyes glued to Twitter—trust me, it’s a very small fraction of publishing that’s going to care.”

I make a gross whining noise. “My reputation with that fraction

matters, though.”

“Your reputation is intact,” he says breezily. “It’s all allegations, isn’t it? Totally groundless, right? Don’t issue a response. Don’t get entangled. If they’ve got nothing, they’ve got nothing, and soon enough people will see it for the nasty character assassination that it is.”

He sounds so confident, so wholly unconcerned, that I feel a flutter of relief. Maybe he’s right. Maybe this will get construed as bullying—the Twitterati are always vehemently against bullying. Maybe it’ll all be good press for me in the end.

Brett yammers on for a bit longer, citing examples of other famous authors who have been targets of online hate campaigns. “It never hurts sales, Junie. It never does. Just let the trolls say what they want. You’re going to be fine.”

I nod and bite back what I want to say. Brett’s right—there’s no point in escalating this, since any response only gives the allegations legitimacy. “Okay.”

“Okay? Good.” Brett sounds like he’s ready to be done with this call. “Don’t worry so much, all right?”

“Hey, wait . . .” The thought has just crossed my mind. “Have you heard anything from the Greenhouse people?”

“Hmm? Oh, nah. But it’s only been a week, they’re probably resting up from their trip. Give them some time.”

I feel a niggling dread then, but I tell myself I’m being silly. It’s not like these two things are connected. Justin and Harvey aren’t necessarily glued to Twitter, following the latest book gossip. They’ve got better things to do. “Okay.”

“Just relax, June. You’re going to get some haters. It comes with the territory. If it’s not true, then you have nothing to worry about.” Brett pauses for a moment. “I mean, it’s not true, is it?”

“No! God. Of course not.”

“Then block and ignore them.” Brett snorts. “Or better yet, block Twitter altogether. You writers are too online to begin with. This will blow over. These things always do.”


snowballs; the more people that see it, the more who feel it necessary to weigh in with their own opinions and agendas, creating an explosion of discourse branching off the instigating conversation. Past a critical mass of visibility, everyone in the industry starts talking about it. And @AthenaLiusGhost, whoever they are, has nearly a thousand followers by now. They’ve reached that critical mass.

The Athena-June scandal, as it’s being now referred to, has become the Discourse of the Moment. This is wholly different from the Lily Wu discourse, which involved a dozen people at most. This time, there’s blood in the water. Silence isn’t an option. Everyone has to declare a side, or they’re accused of complicity. (SMH at so many supposed allies staying silent now that their friend’s been exposed, tweet anonymous accounts happily stirring the pot.) A lot of high-profile writers straddle the line, trying to cover their asses but also establish loyalties at the same time.

Plagiarism is terrible, writes one author. If Hayward really did plagiarize—and we don’t know yet if she did—then she owes her royalties back to Athena Liu’s family.

It’s awful if it’s true, writes another. But until there’s substantiated proof, I hesitate to

join this lynch mob.

There’s then a heated debate over whether it’s appropriate to use the words “lynch mob” when describing a white woman, and it ends with dozens of people calling the above referenced author a racist. Said author’s account is locked within hours.

It’s the Twitter accounts that are non-notable public figures, who have nothing to lose and everything to gain by digging their claws into me, that are most vicious.

She used to write as June Hayward, tweets a user named reyl089. But she published her book about China as June Song. Fucked up, right?

The literal definition of yellowface, writes one reply. I don’t think they know

what “literal” means.

So pathetic, crows another.

And without fail, the evergreen Will white people ever stop whiting?

Someone else tweets a photo of me taken off my Instagram paired with a photo of Scarlett Johansson, captioned: Corporate wants you to find the differences between these two images LMAO.

The replies involve every mean-spirited observation about my appearance you can imagine:

I swear to God why do all white women look the same.

Ok aside from the fact that ScarJo could actually get it LOLLL

Is she squinting because she wants to look more Asian or cuz she’s not used to being out in the sun?

I should have stopped looking once I’d glimpsed what I thought was the bottom of the pit of internet stupidity. But reading discourse about myself is like prodding at a sore tooth. I’m compelled to keep digging, just to see how far the rot goes.

I search Twitter, Reddit, YouTube (already three book bloggers have put up videos titled variations of “Spilling the tea on Juniper ‘Song’!”), Google News, and even TikTok (yes, this has reached the infants on TikTok) by the hour. It’s debilitating. I can’t focus on anything else. I can’t even leave my apartment; all I do is lie curled up in my bed, scrolling alternately on my laptop or my phone, reading and rereading the same updates across the same five websites.

People make up absurd rumors about me. Someone says my past reviews on Goodreads are racist. (All I did was write once that I couldn’t relate to an Indian writer’s romance novel, because all the characters were unlikable and way too obsessed with their family duties to the point of disbelief.) Someone says that I regularly harass and bully people who criticize my work. (I put out a snide subtweet about a particularly dumb

review of Over the Sycamoreonce, and that was three years ago!) Someone claims that I once hit on them at a convention by “complimenting their skin in a very racist way.” (All I said was that their red dress really brought out the yellow undertones in their skin. Jesus, I was just being nice. I didn’t even like the dress that much.) And yet the Twitterati have now spun that into a narrative about how I have a fetish for Asian people, which is proven by my recent BTS retweets and the fact that I played some Japanese video games once and tweeted about how hot the characters were, which means I obviously have a perverted obsession with emasculated and submissive Asian people. (Except I don’t even like BTS that much, and the video game characters in question were designed to be European, so what gives?)

All the red flags are in the text itself, writes an anonymous Tumblr account, which I found by clicking through “citations” on a Reddit exposé. See on page 317, where she describes A Geng’s almond eyes and smooth skin. Almond eyes? Really??? White women have been fantasizing about Asian men for decades. (But I didn’t even write that description! Athena did!)

Someone who did a text comparison of The Last Front and Athena’s other works using NLP programming on Python announces that there is a “stunning frequency in overlap of key words in both texts.” But the words in question are things like “said,” “fought,” “he,” “she,” and “they.” By that standard, couldn’t one argue that I plagiarized from Hemingway?

My detractors scour every public statement I’ve ever made about The Last Front to cherry-pick them for further proof of my awfulness. Apparently it’s not appropriate to call stories about Chinese people “romantic,” “exotic,” or “fascinating.” Apparently my description of this book as a drama undercuts its potential critique of racial capitalism. “I object to the characterization of the laborers as indentured servants,” I said once. “The Chinese government volunteered these troops for World War One in an attempt to win soft power with Western countries. The laborers went out of their own free will.” (This perspective is “ignorant of the pressures of Western hegemony” and “totally clueless about the coercions of global capital.”) “These men were largely illiterate,” writes Adele Sparks-Sato. “They were recruited by promises of higher wages, yes, but many had no idea what awaited them in Europe. That Hayward/Song would characterize their employment as free and without coercion demonstrates, at best, scholarly dimness, and at worst, a malicious indifference to the conditions of the Global South’s working class.”

They call The Last Front a “white savior story.” They don’t like that I’ve shown valor and bravery by white soldiers and missionaries; they think it centers the white experience. (But those men did exist. One missionary, Robert Haden, drowned trying to save a Chinese man when the steamship Athos was torpedoed by German submarines. Doesn’t his death matter, too?)

And they’re calling me a racist for saying that the laborers were recruited from the north because the British thought southerners from warmer climates would be unsuitable for manual labor. But that’s not my view, it’s the view of British army officers. Why can’t they sort out the difference? What happened to critical reading skills? Also, is it even racist to say that people from the north are better suited for cold climates if it’s true?

I want to issue a line-by-line rebuttal. I made the creative choices I did because I wanted to broaden the number of human experiences in the story, not to hew closely to stereotypes, good or bad. Similarly, I included depictions of racism in the text not because I agree with them, but because I wanted to remain faithful to the historical record.

But I know it won’t matter. They’ve already decided on their narrative about me. Now they’re just collecting “facts” to back it up.

They don’t know me. They can’t know me; they’ve never met me. They’ve taken bits of information about me strewn across the internet and pieced them together into an image that fits their imagined villain but has no bearing on reality.

I don’t have yellow fever. I’m not one of those creepy dudes who write exclusively about Japanese folklore and wear kimonos and pronounce every loan word from Asian languages with a deliberate, constructed accent. Matcha. Otaku. I’m not obsessed with stealing Asian culture—I mean, before The Last Front, I had no interest in modern Chinese history whatsoever.

But the worst part is, sometimes the trolls have me doubting my own understanding of myself. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the one with a warped version of reality, whether I really am a sociopath who fetishizes Asian women, whether Athena did in fact feel terrified of me throughout our friendship, and whether my presence in her apartment that night was more nefarious than I thought. But I always nip those creeping worries in the bud. I stop my thoughts from spiraling out, just like Dr. Gaily taught me. It’s the

internet that’s fucked, not me. It’s this contingent of social justice warriors, these clout-chasing white “allies,” and Asian activists seeking attention who are acting up. I am not the bad guy. I am the victim here.


fair, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re in the wrong.

Brett, bless him, puts up the following statement: “The recently made allegations against my client Juniper Song are utterly groundless and ill-intentioned. The online attacks have been nothing short of character assassination.” He waxes on a bit about my unimpeachable writing talent, about how hard I’ve worked at my craft since he signed me four years ago, and then finishes with, “I and the Lambert Agency stand firmly behind Juniper Song.”

My team at Eden don’t say a thing, which annoys me a bit. But given the sheer number of accounts tagging Eden urging them to drop my contract, Eden’s indifference is a vote of confidence in and of itself. Daniella sent us a concerned email when the allegations first circulated, but when Brett assured her there was no truth to the accusations, she counseled us to keep our heads down. We don’t want to legitimize the claims by responding. Our team has found that in the past, engaging with trolls only emboldens them. I’m sorry this is happening to June, but we do believe the best thing to do is to keep quiet.

“These are wild accusations to make without solid proof,” tweets an internet personality who is largely famous for having reasonable and nuanced takes on unreasonable situations. “These are people’s livelihoods at stake. I’m troubled by how eager this community is to delight in the suffering of others. We all need to do better.”

A pop-culture blogger with conservative leanings and seventy thousand followers launches a hate campaign against Adele Sparks-Sato.



entertaining to witness, but to be clear, I do not condone such actions. I guess it’s nice to have someone speak in your defense, but in a perfect world, they wouldn’t be frequent commentators on Fox News.)

Eden’s Angels, bless them, are firmly on my side.

From Jen: So normally I don’t agree with fascists but he’s right about ASS lmao.

Marnie: Well you don’t need to be a fascist to know that!

Jen: You alright, though? Hanging in there?

Marnie: This is horrendous. I am so, so sorry you’re going through this. Let me know if there’s anything we can do. You are so brave.

Jen: It’s tall poppy syndrome. They hate seeing young women succeed. That’s all this is. I get shit like this all the time from male CEOS. They can’t STAND us.

Marnie: They’re dogpiling on you for clout and attention and they know it. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

Jen: Don’t wrestle with pigs, and all that!! Block it out, Junie. Ignore the haters. RISE ABOVE!!


close my eyes, I still see that azure-blue screen. I still imagine the likes racking up on yet another takedown thread about me.

I do try a digital purge. Everyone keeps urging that I do this, as if pretending Twitter doesn’t exist will solve all my problems. Trolls feed on your attention! Jen keeps reminding me. What’s on the internet can’t hurt you if you don’t look at it. But it doesn’t feel like a cleanse; it feels like sticking my head in the sand while everything is falling down around me. I can’t ignore the damage. I have to track the exact trajectory of the hurricane, because knowing the precise moment it’ll hit and where will make things hurt less. At least, my brain is convinced this is so.

I try taking a walk, to lose myself in details like birdsong and splattered sunlight and the wet patches left by the rain on the cement, but the world outside feels so insubstantial, irrelevant, like a video game environment that’s still buffering. Sometimes I do manage to forget it all for a moment, but then my focus slips and I think back to my phone lying on my bed, buzzing with more and more notifications. And then my breathing quickens, and my head swims, and I know I’m on the verge of an anxiety attack, so I double back to my apartment and curl up on my bed and whip out my phone for another hour of doom-scrolling, because that is paradoxically the only thing that calms things down.

I can’t eat. I want to eat—I’m starving all the time, and I keep ordering huge, hot, greasy delivery meals of pizza or pasta bowls, but the moment I start to chew, my thoughts begin to spiral again about my impending professional implosion and then I can’t take another bite without gagging.

I can’t sleep. I lie awake every night until the sun comes up, feverishly refreshing various threads and accounts to see who’s retweeted or

responded to what, composing imaginary responses in my head, then composing imaginary rebuttals to the backlash to those responses.

I wish I had an exit strategy. I wish there were some magical apology I could make, or defense I could offer, that would make everything stop. But there is no point, I know, in getting embroiled in the mess. Anything I post will become further evidence that people can use against me. And what would an online victory even look like? There’s no way to reverse the exposure, to make the internet forget about me. I’m marked forever. Every time someone Googles my name, or brings me up at a literary conference, the association with this plagiarism scandal will foul the air like a persistent fart.

I know some authors who have been able to jump from scandal to scandal with their reputations perfectly intact. Mostly white. Mostly male. Isaac Asimov was a serial sexual harasser; so was Harlan Ellison. David Foster Wallace abused, harassed, and stalked Mary Karr. They are still hailed as geniuses.

Sometimes, I think ruefully to myself that maybe this is just something I have to get through. An online raking over the coals feels like a rite of passage every notable author must now undergo. Last year, a YA writer was driven off social media for encouraging her fans to leave one-star reviews on another writer’s debut (afterward, it transpired the debut writer had stolen her fiancé). In any case, both writers involved just signed new, six-figure deals for their follow-up trilogies. And Marnie Kimball, Daniella’s favorite author, has gotten in hot water at least a dozen times, always for tweeting something edgy and indefensible, like The classics are just better and if you don’t get them, you don’t know how to read. Sorry. Her sales are doing fine. Maybe Daniella’s right. Maybe silence is the best response.

Even Athena suffered her own period of online vitriol, though in her case she really had done nothing wrong. Two years ago, she’d tweeted some uncontroversial, bleeding-heart thread about the recent rise of hate crimes against Asian Americans. I’ve never been so nervous to be in my own skin, she’d said. Until now, I never felt so much like this country was not my own. It read as a little cheesy and narcissistic, but whatever; it was a cause close to her heart, and you couldn’t exactly hate on someone who was afraid of being attacked on the street.

But then some anonymous account with an emoji of the Chinese flag in the bio asked her, If you care about Asians so much, why are you dating white?

I don’t know why Athena responded. One never argues a racist troll into submission. But she must have been feeling defensive, or raring for a fight, because she quote tweeted the reply and said: Who I date has nothing to do with my politics. Hating on interracial couples? Is this 2018?

Then the floodgates opened. Hateful messages inundated her replies and DMs. She showed some of them to me when we met up for coffee later that week, and they were utterly vile:

Shut up and go suck white cock

WAMF couples are unnatural. WAMF is how you get Eliot Rodger. You want me to come shoot you up like Eliot Rodger?

The whites will never love you LOL stop trying honey

Don’t you dare speak for Asians. You lost that right when you let a white man colonize your cunt.

By the time she took her account private, the AMRAs (the Asian Men’s Rights Activists, she called them) had already found her author account and email address. She started getting death threats. Screenshots of the initial Twitter encounter started circulating on Reddit, on which the main thread eventually acquired over a thousand posts, many of them screenshotted photos of Athena and her then-boyfriend, Geoff, pulled from their respective Instagram accounts, with captions like RACE TRAITOR and

Some Asians have no loyalty for their race. They only want white cock, white money, white baby. But some day they will wake up and learn that white supremacy will not save them. Pray that this girl learns before it is too late.

Someone hacked her author website so that when you clicked on the

home page, all you found was a cartoon of an Asian woman with slants for eyes prostrating herself to a crowd of slobbering white johns.

Here for you, I’d texted her, because it seemed like the appropriate thing to say. People are such assholes.

Thanks, she answered. Then: I’ll be okay, I think. It’s just so fucking scary. Like, I don’t feel safe in my own home.

I’d thought she was exaggerating back then. Athena was good at that,

playing up her fear for sympathy, the way she played up her vulnerability for attention at barcons all the time. Anyhow, the internet was just the internet. What, was some Reddit lowlife living in his mother’s basement

really going to drive hundreds of miles to DC to accost her outside her apartment? Back then, I’d thought this ugly thought: Why couldn’t she just stay offline for a while and focus on the fact that she was rich, pretty, and successful?

But now I know exactly what Athena meant. You can’t shut it out. You lose all sense of security, because at every moment—when you’re sleeping, when you’re awake, when you’ve just put your phone down for a few minutes because you’ve hopped in the shower—dozens, maybe hundreds, maybe thousands of strangers are out there, mining your personal information, worming their ways into your life, looking for ways to mock, humiliate, or worse, endanger you. You come to regret everything you’ve ever shared about yourself: every photo, every meme, every comment on a YouTube video, every offhand tweet. Because the trolls will find them. I deleted as much of my digital footprint as I could in those first twenty-four hours, but the Wayback Machine still exists. Someone mocks my enthusiastic review of Wonder Woman from 2018: Of fucking course Hayward loves white woman savior narratives. How much do you want to bet she loves the IDF, too? Someone pulls up a photo of me at my high school prom: This dress is Juniper Song’s villain origin story. Someone posts information about the test prep company where I used to work: Parents, if you’re using this service, BEWARE of Juniper Song! If I hadn’t quit Veritas already, I truly believe that these people could have gotten me fired.

You all need to get outside, a prominent writer had complained once on Twitter. Get some fresh air. Twitter is not real life.

But Twitter is real life; it’s realer than real life, because that is the realm that the social economy of publishing exists on, because the industry has no alternative. Offline, writers are all faceless, hypothetical creatures pounding out words in isolation from one another. You can’t peek over anyone’s shoulder. You can’t tell if everyone else is really doing as dandy as they pretend they are. But online, you can tune into all the hot gossip, even if you’re not nearly important enough to have a seat in the room where it happens. Online, you can tell Stephen King to go fuck himself. Online, you can discover that the current literary star of the moment is actually so problematic that all of her works should be canceled, forever. Reputations in publishing are built and destroyed, constantly, online.

I imagine a crowd of angry voices and pointed fingers, converging on me to rip pieces of flesh from my body like the naiads did to Orpheus, until

all that’s left is the prurient, whispered question, “Did you hear about Juniper Song?” and fragments of rumors growing darker and more distorted; bloody, decomposing shreds of my virtual identity; until there is nothing left but the statement, justified or not, that Juniper Song Is Canceled.

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