I had intended to stay quiet about everything I know, but this post here on Tenkar's Tavern was, I suppose, the straw that broke the camel's back.
Or maybe because it's almost St. Paddy's Day and the Irish in me just won't let it go.
As much as anything, this blog post is a warning against centralized power, its corrupting nature, cults of personality, and the slippery slope of authoritarianism (yet I hope to keep this apolitical).
Now that I re-read this, it's really long, but I wanted to provide as much as possible so people wouldn't respond with "But, but sour grapes and stuff..." Yes, some of my interactions left me with bitter feelings, but this is not retaliation for a few slights. Rather, I want to shine a light on a very public figure before he becomes "too big to fail." This is to open discussion while it's still feasible to critique the Tenkar Empire without disastrous reprisal.
A little backstory, I've known Erik Tenkar for years, since I started blogging and writing OSR stuff back in 2014. He was a prolific and well known blogger in those days and his power and recognition has steadily grown since then.
For awhile, Erik and I didn't get along. But then we kind of got over that and became the kind of friends that's really more like online acquaintances. He helped me out with promoting various projects, and I tried to show him the same consideration and loyalty (like defending him against Facebook attacks from Stacey and company).
There were isolated moments, like when someone would mention Erik's name in a g+ thread, saying it would be nice if he'd blog about whatever they were kickstarting or selling, but didn't tag him, and he'd find out about it and angrily blog about people who think they're owed.
Looking back, that kind of thing was a trademark of Zak S. You'd mention his name in passing, and if it was anything but a glowing endorsement, he'd find out about it and criticize you or defend himself by clutching his "tavern keeper beyond reproach" pearls.
Or when I commented on his blog post with less than complimentary remarks, like Frog God Games virtually giving their old Pathfinder compatible stock away at a convention... those comments either never made their way to his blog or were deleted without comment.
Not too long ago, I asked if I could guest post on his blog, which he regularly encouraged. He said sure, but when I sent him the content, there was zero response and it never appeared. That I can sort of understand, because it was a little risque, having to do with Alpha Blue and legalized brothels in Nevada. Nevertheless, an email saying, "Sorry, that's too much." would have been nice.
And then there's the proposed OSR answer to the ENnies. Erik brought me into discussion and even asked me to be one of three judges. It was going to be Erik, one of the Spahn guys (I think) and myself. The OSR was going to have its own annual award. After several back and forth emails, it was suddenly dropped. I have no idea why. I asked, and got no reply. I assume it was because several OSR products were actually up for an ENnie award that year and a separate OSR award would seem redundant, but I'm still in the dark about those details.
As many of you know, Erik expanded his empire from blogging to podcasting and becoming a Discord fan. He and his helper, Pex, asked me to join. They created a channel or sub-section or whatever for Kort'thalis Publishing even before I could say yes. That kind of reminded me of the whole U2 and itunes debacle, but I didn't want to make a fuss. Ok, fine, I said.
Pex in particular would gently remind me on a regular basis to keep posting into the Discord void, so I did, even though it seemed no one was listening and I just didn't like the Discord format. In fact, I was so impressed with Pex's constant encouragement (eventually, it probably would have seemed like nagging, but maybe that's because I've been married for 7 years), that I asked if he'd be interested in working for Kort'thalis Publishing. He said yes after we negotiated compensation.
A short while later, I released my transhumanist blog post. It was a day or two before I could respond to anything because of my usual busy family life.
Basically, I was booted from Tenkar's Discord machine and Pex told me he wanted nothing more to do with me.
I received an email from Tenkar. The subject line was "Man did you step in it." In the email he states that he wasn't sure what my intent was, but that "flames were spreading" and there was a decision made to remove my publisher's channel."
Despite a few people coming to my defense and calling Erik "transphobic," I attempted to inform Erik on what was going on, why I posted it, etc.
He derisively responded with "Thanks for your concern. If I have something to say, You know where to read it".
I mentioned what had been happening on Twitter, and again one of Erik's spies reported the news back to him where he passive-aggressively responded in an email the following...
Twice on Twitter you claimed you were "kicked off" or expelled from The Tavern's Discord Server. Both times you were incorrect. Your Publisher's Channel was removed (as you were informed of) but you were still a member of the server. Since you desire to be removed from the server (based upon your own claims) we have now removed your membership from the server as you have indirectly requested.
I responded by asking why I'd want to stay somewhere I was clearly unwelcome? And that he was effectively exiling me from the Tenkar Empire. I haven't spoken to him since (but seeing him at GaryCon might be awkward).
Before the whole transhuman blog post, Tenkar had mentioned his support of my upcoming Cha'alt project. Said that he looked forward to seeing more and talking about it on the various places where he discusses RPG matters.
I never bothered to ask for his support when the kickstarter went live, weeks after the za'akier post. Partly because I was confident he'd refuse, but also because I didn't want the backing of someone like that, someone who turns his back on a friend because of some ruffled internet feathers, someone who purports to be an ivory pillar of virtue and integrity, but when it really comes down to it is no better or worse than the rest of us.
Erik, if you had taken money in exchange for mentioning products, that would be a lot less shady than what I've seen from you thus far.
At least I admit that I'm just an old school smut-peddler who's just as easy to corrupt as the next guy. Sure, I can be a dick sometimes. I also like to poke fun at sacred cows. Hell, that's why I've taken Satanis as part of my name. I'm down here in the dirt - below the dirt, actually; where the dungeons are... bedrock. Hell itself! I don't fire back at gamers with "How dare you, sir? I'm a humble bartender and have the utmost reputation!" pretentious twaddle.
Erik, get over yourself. The majority of people who've claimed that you have harassed them, most likely deserve it (deadbeat KS people, Stacey, etc.). But also know that you're presence is intimidating to regular folks, too. I, myself, hesitated before writing this because of who you are (OSR Emperor, Frog God representative, ex-cop, etc.), but I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I stayed silent.
To Erik's audience, I say this: Be careful of idolatry. The neutral ground of today may become the golden calf of tomorrow...
p.s. If anyone wants to get something off their chest or get sensitive information into the right hands, feel free to email me. If you'd prefer to remain off the record, I have no problem quoting you anonymously.