TSR Chat with Rose Estes


The EN World kitten
Alzrius I usually agree with your posts but I’ve got to say that Williams doesn’t come off too badly in that excerpt.
I disagree, which should be okay. Reasonable people can, and do, disagree.
I actually find Gygax’s treatment of Kuntz was more troubling, verbally abusing and screwing over a guy who was almost like a son.
I agree that was bad, though in that regard I find myself putting that specific instance in context. Gary was fighting for control of the company, and probably saw the potential move to the Twin Cities as part of a Blume-backed plot to oust him. Now, that doesn't excuse his behavior (or his paranoia in that regard), but I find myself more sympathetic to him because of it.

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I'm sorry this thread about Rose Estes turned into an argument about Riggs' integrity on who was a worse manager of TSR.
You are right, and I apologize. I am deleting my many contributions to that argument, insofar as possible; I cannot delete the responses that I provoked and which quote me at length. I should not have contributed so heavily to derailing your thread and taking away from your touching and thoughtful OP.

Rose Estes deserves her flowers and I took away from that. It was a crappy thing to do and I am deeply regretful. Forgive me.
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The EN World kitten
Look, it is clear that we have a very different take on Riggs' book and I am not seeing it as having an agenda of defending Lorraine Williams, whereas you state that Riggs "openly went in with an agenda." Again, this is speculation on your part, and your evidence for it is his statement that "as I read some of the most intense and vicious attacks on Williams, I could not help but wonder what role misogyny might play in her villainization" (Riggs 67), which specifically describes him not starting with an agenda: "...as I read...I could not help but wonder..." Seeing a pattern during the course of your research and therefore speculating about it is the antithesis of going in with an agenda. It goes without saying that Riggs has biases, as do I, as do you, because we are all human beings. But that is not the same as going in with an agenda, which strongly implies shoddy journalism.
I find your take on Riggs' statement regarding his own take on the issue of Lorraine's "villainization" to be more generous than (I feel) is warranted. The very fact that he refers to it as being "villainization" to begin with, rather than investigating whether or not the strongly negative takes on her tenure were accurate or not, strikes me as being a fairly straightforward announcement of bias on his part, which goes hand-in-hand with his numerous disrespectful references to Gary Gygax as "Saint Gary."

To put it another way, he entertained that notion (that Lorraine's portrayal was the result of misogyny) based on...well...nothing, since he doesn't seem to provide a reason for why he wondered that in the first place. That he had such an inclination isn't the problem in-and-of itself; as you correctly noted, all people have such biases. But Riggs doesn't seem to have made any effort to check his, and instead indulges it throughout his book. That doesn't make the book itself not worth reading by any means, but it makes me less inclined to give credence to his assurances.
Similarly, you accuse me of falsely misrepresenting your position re. Riggs truthfulness but then you once again question it while offering zero counter-evidence other than your speculations about his potential biases: "I've never once called him a liar; I'm pointing out that his open display of bias on his part is justification for not taking his assertions to be unquestionable. He's certainly open about his methodology, and I don't think that anyone is challenging him on the facts (or saying his book isn't worth reading). But when he makes repeated displays of contempt for a particular individual, and then says "I couldn't find anyone who thought he was better to work for than his successor," the former undercuts the trustworthiness of the latter." So, you're not calling him a liar, you're just stating that his factual claim as a journalist cannot be trusted? Equivocate much? You are not challenging his interpretation of facts here, which is fair game, you are challenging his specific factual claim, which should be off-limits without presenting some form of proof.
Nuance is not equivocation. There is a very large area between "this person is (completely) trustworthy" and "this person is a liar." I see this as an instance of someone falling into that area; Riggs is giving us a personal assurance on his part that he didn't find anything to refute his viewpoint that Lorraine has been unfairly maligned with regard to Gary Gygax. I'm not saying he isn't telling us the truth as he sees it, but by that same token I don't find his word in that regard to be sufficient for me to regard that claim as airtight.
You assert that his "agenda" is "self-evident," and while you are entitled to your confidence in your personal beliefs, the fact that several people immediately questioned your interpretation of the book should suggest that what you take to be "self-evident," is not, at least not in the normally accepted usage of that term. I hate to quote Wikipedia, but this is an apt definition: "In epistemology (theory of knowledge), a self-evident proposition is a proposition that is known to be true by understanding its meaning without proof"; a classic example would be a mathematical axiom. Thus, I find ironic your statement that "When you openly speculate as to the motivations and biases of others, you tend to reveal your own." Does this statement apply to your own speculations about the motivations and biases of Riggs? Edit: full disclosure: I teach IB Theory of Knowledge so it is entirely possible that you and I interpret the term "self-evident" differently; to me it is a very strong truth claim, not merely an opinion.
Once again, I'll point out that two or three people saying they had a different take on something does not mean that a particular claim is somehow invalid. Likewise, you're once again confusing the issue, as most of the posters you're citing took exception to the idea that Riggs' book painted Williams in a bad light, which is not the same as them saying that they thought the book was unbiased. Putting aside that I don't think that "self-evident" means that literally no one can call something into question, I'm not the first person on these forums to point out that Riggs' presentations of his own opinion compromise the degree to which his book can be taken as a historical reference.
As for the Breault material, I cannot testify to his state of mind, but I point out that he recounts no personal experiences of Williams that have anything to do with her being a "toxic boss" as you characterized her, but he does offer one third-hand anecdote along with a bunch of bon mots about her physical appearance and her family. I don't see how anything beyond the third hand anecdote supports your claim, which barely strikes me as evidence and certainly not on Parr with Riggs' reporting or Rose Estes directly describing working with Williams.
I suppose that goes to the amount of sympathy we respectively ascribe to someone coming out of a toxic work environment. When the boss of a company is described as being feared by their employees, I tend to presume that those employees are going to have some bitterness (or other bad feelings) toward said boss that will come out after the fact. Such an environment is extremely stressful to work in, and given the power dynamics involved my inclination is to believe the person with less power over (those defending) the person who had more.
I stated that you cherry-picked words because you literally took a quote that was favourable of Williams and bolded the parts that supported your thesis; I subsequently did the reverse to show that the same quotation could be used to support the opposite thesis (and, in fact, the source offered the anecdote as evidence that Williams was not a terrible boss).
Again, that's not cherry-picking; I not only posted the entire quote, but I specifically called out "emphasis mine" when I did so. Likewise, you've made it clear that you think Williams' positives make up for her toxicity; I disagree.
Finally, I did not "[read] a bit too much into [your] choice of name usage" re. referring to Gygax as "Gary." I found it unsual and speculated that it indicated you might have known him, which it turns out that you did. I think it's cool that you met him; he's an icon. The icon of TTRPGs, really. That is all.
I'm not sure having spoken to him once or twice at Gen Con really counts as "having known him." Admittedly, it's more than I could say about Williams, though.

With regard to his being an icon (and because it seems like several posters here are getting tired of this digression), I'll let this be my last word on this subject in this thread:

I personally find Gary Gygax to be a more sympathetic figure than Lorraine Williams. While a comparison of their vices, both personal and professional, seems to come out roughly evenly, I don't believe that the same can be said of their virtues. Lorraine came from a background of considerable privilege, taking on uncontested leadership of a company because she wanted an "individual challenge" and a "great experience." (Ewalt, chapter 11) Gary was a principal in the company's founding, and his personal livelihood was tied to it (his background about working as a cobbler while being unemployed and having a family to feed is common knowledge to the point of needing no citation). Williams, by her own admission, didn't understand the product in question, whereas Gary had an undeniable love for it.

Now, there's more nuance to virtually all of the above (e.g. Gary's relationship to Arneson), and there's certainly an issue as to whether or not their respective virtues are more salient than their vices. That's up to every person to determine for themselves. But I think that there's value in being aware of the merits of both arguments, and that either position is eminently defensible.

And with that, I'm out.


Some other information that some may find interesting. After she left TSR and came back and got several files about her employment (which included a lot of her early manuscripts and work), she found assessments from her former bosses and employees. While there, she had a lot of respect for most folks there. She "adored Jim Ward". Which aligns with how other historians have said Jim was very loyal to his team.

But when she got those files, she read how several people had made comments like, "Rose is hard to control." and that hurt her feelings. I had begun to see a recurring theme with Rose. She is extremely creative, determined, and prideful (in a good way). Like so many people, she's complex, a combination of "I accomplished a lot so it's hurtful when people treat me like I'm a nobody off the street" with "am I really that good of a writer? Are you sure?"

When she told me about the comments "Rose is hard to control", I very much am convinced that's not a Rose problem, but a problem with her superiors. It's also a recurring theme, starting with her first boss. Remember how he didn't want anything to do with her suggestions, and after she kept asking, finally told her "do it on your own time then."? And when she dropped off that first book (Return to Brookmere), it sat on his desk for 3 months untouched until Penguin Random House saw it and snatched it right up (they knew those books were popular and thus demanded 3 more right away)?

Then factor in the misogyny we all know about not just because it was the late 70s/early 80s, but the stuff Gary has said publicly about women (even if you ignore the stuff witnesses have heard him say). To me, it is much more probable that "Rose is hard to control" actually means "Rose won't sit down, be quiet, and do what we men tell her to do." History has shown Rose was right about her decisions and ideas, and should have been listened to more often. She accomplished a lot, always overcoming hurdles thrown her way (child severe illness, then blatant misogyny in a career dominated by men). She deserves to toot her own horn, and deserves to be held in the same reverence as the other original TSR crew. I would posit, looking at the sales #s, that the Endless Quest books was the biggest gateway into new players joining D&D outside of the BECMI set. That's worth something.

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