RPG Writer Zak S Accused Of Abusive Behaviour
  • RPG Writer Zak S Accused Of Abusive Behaviour


    RPG writer Zak S (aka Zak Smith, Zak Sabbath) has been accused by multiple women of abusive behaviour in a public Facebook post by his ex-partner, and two other women.



    Photo from Wikipedia


    Zak Smith appeared in the video series I Hit It With My Axe, and is known for the Playing D&D With Porn Stars blog. He has also written several RPG books, most recently for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, consulted on the D&D 5th Edition Player's Handbook, has won multiple ENnies, and recently worked for White Wolf. As yet, he hasn't made any public response to the accusations.

    Since then, another ex-partner of Zak Smith, Vivka Grey, has publicly come forward with a further account of his conduct.

    This isn't the first time that Zak Smith has been accused of inappropriate behaviour (language warning in that link). The Facebook post, which was posted overnight, has been shared widely on social media, and takes the form of an open letter (linked above; it makes for unpleasant reading, so please be aware of that if you choose to read it).

    The industry has been reacting to the news. Amongst many others:


    I believe Mandy, Jennifer, Hannah, and Vivka. It must be terrifying to come forward like this. They have been put through horrible ordeals. I will not cover Zak’s work on this site, in my podcast, or elsewhere, and will not provide him with any kind of platform.
    Comments 282 Comments
    1. Yunru's Avatar
      Yunru -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Conan Trustrum View Post
      If Hitler had been given a Nobel Peace Prize prior to WWII, would you be arguing about how, after the war, it shouldn't be stripped from him because, hey, he earned based on his "merit" at the time?

      (Hint: yes, there is actually a correct answer to this question.)
      And the correct answer is yes.
      The trick to your statement is that a Hitler that earned a Nobel Peace Prize wouldn't of caused WWII purposefully in the first place.

      Of course, it's also a misleading comparison. The peace price is awarded based on the actions of the person, not the quality of their content.
    1. DM Magic's Avatar
      DM Magic -
      His Wiki page has some interesting edits: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zak_Smith

      "Zak Smith (born July 16, 1976), also known as Zak Sabbath, is an American artist and rapist."
      "Known for Abuse"
    1. Yunru's Avatar
      Yunru -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
      I think you are confusing "we take our personal biases of the content creators into account for all of our awards" and "we have a very low bar for what ought to be acceptable behavior in order to achieve recognition in our industry, and yet still some men seem incapable of clearing it, so they're out", which are two very different statements.
      Yes, they are. And an Ennie should have nothing to do with acceptable behaviour.
      An Ennie should be judged on the merits of the work alone. Hell, if it weren't completely impossible, the authors of the works up for voting shouldn't even be known at the time.
    1. Steve Conan Trustrum's Avatar
      Steve Conan Trustrum -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yunru View Post
      And the correct answer is yes.
      Stop there. The rest of your post is pure speculation and assumption.

      The fact that you said yes indicates you agree there are reasons someone can lose an award they earned based on the "merit" they displayed at the time it was earned. Your error remains in the fact that you think the ENnies are granted purely based on what the (fan) voters know of the product and not of the person who created it.
    1. Yunru's Avatar
      Yunru -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Conan Trustrum View Post
      Your error remains in the fact that you think the ENnies are granted purely based on what the (fan) voters know of the product and not of the person who created it.
      Of course, to assume otherwise questions both the integrity and the point of having an Ennie award.

      Of course, you're also conflating personal merit and the merit of someone's works. A peace prize is award based on personal merits, and should be retracted if those merits turn out to be falsified.

      An Ennie is based of off the merits of someone's work, and thus should only be retracted if the merits of that work is falsified.
    1. Steve Conan Trustrum's Avatar
      Steve Conan Trustrum -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yunru View Post
      An Ennie should be judged on the merits of the work alone.
      You are entirely assuming this is how they are judged.

      Since Zak won that award, there are people who supported him at the time who may have voted for him to win the award, but now state they will never buy a product from him again. Want to guess how they'd vote now for the exact same product?

      This is because fan-based awards are voted on for reasons beyond the merit of the work itself, your belief otherwise to the contrary.
    1. kenmarable's Avatar
      kenmarable -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yunru View Post
      And the correct answer is yes.
      The trick to your statement is that a Hitler that earned a Nobel Peace Prize wouldn't of caused WWII purposefully in the first place.

      Of course, it's also a misleading comparison. The peace price is awarded based on the actions of the person, not the quality of their content.
      The "trick to your statement..." Seriously?!! Is that some sort of "Ah ha! Gotcha!!"??

      This isn't a hypothetical.

      This is discussing what should be done as a community concerning someone who harassed people out of the industry and has been accused of being a serial rapist.

      This isn't some fun little logic game.

      People's actual lives have been messed up because of him. How we respond could be a factor in preventing future situations like this.
    1. Yunru's Avatar
      Yunru -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Conan Trustrum View Post
      You are entirely assuming this is how they are judged.

      Since Zak won that award, there are people who supported him at the time who may have voted for him to win the award, but now state they will never buy a product from him again. Want to guess how they'd vote now for the exact same product?

      This is because fan-based awards are voted on for reasons beyond the merit of the work itself, your belief otherwise to the contrary.
      What's your point?
      Unless it's believed that a majority of the votes were because of the author rather than the works (in which case the Ennie shouldn't have been awarded) that changes nothing.
    1. Yunru's Avatar
      Yunru -
      Quote Originally Posted by kenmarable View Post
      The "trick to your statement..." Seriously?!! Is that some sort of "Ah ha! Gotcha!!"??

      This isn't a hypothetical.

      This is discussing what should be done as a community concerning someone who harassed people out of the industry and has been accused of being a serial rapist.

      This isn't some fun little logic game.

      People's actual lives have been messed up because of him. How we respond could be a factor in preventing future situations like this.
      And?
      None of what I've argued affects how anyone treats him one iota.
      I'm not arguing against reprisals, I'm arguing against reprisals against the wrong thing (his works).
    1. bedir than's Avatar
      bedir than -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yunru View Post
      Yes, they are. And an Ennie should have nothing to do with acceptable behaviour.
      An Ennie should be judged on the merits of the work alone. Hell, if it weren't completely impossible, the authors of the works up for voting shouldn't even be known at the time.
      It's fairly easy to see that ENnies are not given to the work, but instead to the creators. That's why the creators are given physical awards. If authors didn't matter they wouldn't get an award.

      Authors do, in fact, matter.
    1. Yunru's Avatar
      Yunru -
      Quote Originally Posted by bedir than View Post
      It's fairly easy to see that ENnies are not given to the work, but instead to the creators. That's why the creators are given physical awards. If authors didn't matter they wouldn't get an award.

      Authors do, in fact, matter.
      Umm what?
      They win awards for their work. That's why they are given the award, because the thing they own won it. The author doesn't matter for who wins.
    1. jasper's Avatar
      jasper -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yunru View Post
      Was the award for his behaviour, or his work?
      If it's not for his behaviour, why should it be stripped because of it?

      .....
      Me and my wife have went round and round on this subject. What do you do to an award winner when his behavior is no longer acceptable. Or has become acceptable? (Alan Turning was prosecuted for being gay).
      There is no one answer. Some groups have struck awards from people being unacceptable. Some groups have given awards for past deeds once the behavior/etc have become acceptable. (see various Medal of Honors given to dead black troops).
      In modern times do we strike the persons name from the rolls, add an asterisk, etc?
      Do we unperson them by editing their name out of books, thank you's, etc. ?
      Does it various with fields? Sorry Bob you are now consider an terrorist, turn in your Noble Peace Prize.
      What happens after we unperson someone, we find out the behavior was misreported?
    1. Yunru's Avatar
      Yunru -
      Quote Originally Posted by jasper View Post
      Me and my wife have went round and round on this subject. What do you do to an award winner when his behavior is no longer acceptable. Or has become acceptable? (Alan Turning was prosecuted for being gay).
      There is no one answer. Some groups have struck awards from people being unacceptable. Some groups have given awards for past deeds once the behavior/etc have become acceptable. (see various Medal of Honors given to dead black troops).
      In modern times do we strike the persons name from the rolls, add an asterisk, etc?
      Do we unperson them by editing their name out of books, thank you's, etc. ?
      Does it various with fields? Sorry Bob you are now consider an terrorist, turn in your Noble Peace Prize.
      What happens after we unperson someone, we find out the behavior was misreported?
      It's why I'm such an advocate for the separation of creator and creation.
      I mean, the Abrahamic religions already do it, no-one's condemned Einstein for his part in making nukes (except himself), etc.
    1. Gradine's Avatar
      Gradine -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yunru View Post
      Yes, they are. And an Ennie should have nothing to do with acceptable behaviour.
      An Ennie should be judged on the merits of the work alone. Hell, if it weren't completely impossible, the authors of the works up for voting shouldn't even be known at the time.
      Fortunately, that's not how this works. Any of our choices within a free society, whether that be commercial (what product to purchase/artist to support) or based on recognition (what products and artists to promote or award), are free to be made upon whatever criterion we so choose, including morality and ethics. That's not a bug; that's a feature.

      That you think a rapist should still deserve an award if their artistic talent merits it is troubling to me, if not downright chilling. Continuing to support and recognize rapists for their works is a tacit endorsement of rape, regardless of how much you'd like to believe it isn't. It says "you can still rape and be celebrated within our community/industry." That is unequivocally a bad thing.
    1. Yunru's Avatar
      Yunru -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
      Fortunately, that's not how this works. Any of our choices within a free society, whether that be commercial (what product to purchase/artist to support) or based on recognition (what products and artists to promote or award), are free to be made upon whatever criterion we so choose, including morality and ethics. That's not a bug; that's a feature.

      That you think a rapist should still deserve an award if their artistic talent merits it is troubling to me, if not downright chilling. Continuing to support and recognize rapists for their works is a tacit endorsement of rape, regardless of how much you'd like to believe it isn't. It says "you can still rape and be celebrated within our community/industry." That is unequivocally a bad thing.
      Ummm no.
      Celebration of works is not celebration of person, get off your high horse.
    1. mjsoctober's Avatar
      mjsoctober -
      Whether ENies are given to the creator or the work, rescinding an award because of behaviour we wish to censure is a legitimate means of ensuring better behaviour in the community.

      If you want to work in this industry (or any industry, really), and hope to be recognized, respected, and awarded for your work, you better not behave in ways that are not acceptable.

      As for being political, ENWorld is a private company. They can make any statement they want by their actions, they have no obligation to any of us. The community will react to those statements accordingly. If the award is rescinded, and more people support that than don't, ENWorld will know which way to move forward.
    1. Steve Conan Trustrum's Avatar
      Steve Conan Trustrum -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yunru View Post
      Of course, to assume otherwise questions both the integrity and the point of having an Ennie award.

      Of course, you're also conflating personal merit and the merit of someone's works. A peace prize is award based on personal merits, and should be retracted if those merits turn out to be falsified.

      An Ennie is based of off the merits of someone's work, and thus should only be retracted if the merits of that work is falsified.
      Again, because you seem to somehow keep missing this point:

      The ENnies are voted on by fans. These fans are not sampled by the awards process itself so that the voting base is demographically vetted in any way, including which of the products they've been exposed to.

      It is literally a popularity contest more than it is a merit contest. Merit comes in to play with the hope that it is the reason why the products being voted on became popular in the first place.

      The votes are being made by people who are voting for what they personally like best from among a selection of products that, in all likelihood for most voters, are not all possessed and have even been looked at in their entirety (or at all.)

      And, all that aside, even if it were 100% merit, it's still a COMMUNITY based award. How a winner's personal life reflects on that community is often taken into account in situations like this.

      I mean ... damn, dude. Are you really this unaware? Do you live on an island where there were no other people for you to develop the rudiments of social interaction and responsibility?

      Because you really seem determined to die charging up the worst of all possible hills for the worst of all possible causes.
    1. raelik777's Avatar
      raelik777 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Slater View Post
      You completely put words in my mouth.

      What if it isn’t the victims fault AT ALL.

      AND glamorizing casual sex and acting as though it’s typically harmless ALSO hurts people.

      WOW, not everything is unidimensional .

      You are a pathetic key-board, virtue warrior. Look at your own moral character before you judge mine.
      I get what you were trying to say, but resorting to this sort of ad hominem attack does nothing to support your argument. Besides, it was misplaced and I'm not surprised it was interpreted as victim-blaming. The problem with the argument is that it is a gross over-generalization of what you call "an extremely liberal attitude towards sex". There is a whole spectrum of "attitudes towards sex" that exist outside the hetero-normative interpretation, and almost none of them represent a failing of moral character. There are almost no actual human beings that actually expect complete sexual freedom and complete emotional safety. Putting that out there is a blatant strawman, since nobody actually has that expectation. What she was describing wasn't simple "hurt feelings" because of poor expectations in a poly relationship. It was manipulation and abuse.
    1. Steve Conan Trustrum's Avatar
      Steve Conan Trustrum -
      Quote Originally Posted by Yunru View Post
      no-one's condemned Einstein for his part in making nukes (except himself), etc.
      Sigh.

      This assertion is about as valid as your earlier comment about a certain xenophobic writer.

      Perhaps you should spend sometime learning about more about Einstein and the role he played in the advancement of scientific ethics and responsibility.
    1. Steve Conan Trustrum's Avatar
      Steve Conan Trustrum -
      Quote Originally Posted by mjsoctober View Post
      Whether ENies are given to the creator or the work, rescinding an award because of behaviour we wish to censure is a legitimate means of ensuring better behaviour in the community.

      If you want to work in this industry (or any industry, really), and hope to be recognized, respected, and awarded for your work, you better not behave in ways that are not acceptable.
      This.

      So very much this.
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