BattleTech community closes ranks to support an LGBTQ fanzine

A crisis of conscience compelled the original creator of the BattleTech subreddit to clean house over the weekend. That creator, Reddit user ddevil63, returned with a vengeance, removing every single moderator of the 15-year-old, nearly 50,000-member message board after those mods had repeatedly banned any mention of a fan-made BattleTech-themed zine written by queer authors. Representatives of BattleTech publisher Catalyst Game Labs tell Polygon they are now in contact with ddevil63 and working on a new way forward for the at times toxic online community of big stompy robot fans.

BattleTech Pride Anthology 2023: Queer Tales from the Inner Sphere is a fan-made zine with five short stories produced by queer authors. The zine features a forward with contributions by author Michael A. Stackpole and a short story by Russell Zimmerman, both authors of officially licensed BattleTech content. But when the BattleTech Pride Anthology was initially mentioned on the BattleTech subreddit, it was repeatedly taken down by moderators for violating what they said were several longstanding rules against injecting politics into the message board. But users pushed back, noting among other things that the existence of queer people is not a political issue at all — their erasure, however, is.

That’s when ddevil63 rolled in, called bullshit on the entire moderation process, hit a few buttons, and started over from scratch.

“I originally created r/battletech 15 years ago because I wanted a place to talk about Battletech on Reddit,” ddevil63 wrote on Sunday. “I have not been active as a moderator or contributor but I regularly read posts and comments. Yesterday was when I became aware of the removal of the Pride Anthology post and the rightfully deserved backlash. I have no moderation or community management experience but I’m trying my best to right any wrongs.”

Polygon has reached out to ddevil63 for additional comment.

While the main BattleTech subreddit was in turmoil, Catalyst Game Labs’ newly minted community and marketing director Rem Alternis was caught flat-footed and in the middle of moving house. (Alternis uses a pseudonym to protect her identity from online trolls, a common practice for those who work with fan communities that can be toxic.) While the developer had a number of accounts on file, including on Reddit, it did not have a practice of fully exercising its authority as the steward of the decades-old brand in these kinds of social media spaces. So, Alternis and her team quickly spooled up a lifeboat of sorts — an officially sanctioned BattleTech subreddit with a trusted team of moderators. Nearly 8,000 users have already signed up.

That’s when ddevil63, already in the process of cleaning house, reached out to Alternis. Later this evening, Alternis said, she and ddevil63 will meet to make plans for how to move forward — together, as a united front.

“I think that […] how we choose to react, and what we choose to react to does say a lot about the company,” Alternis told Polygon today in a video call. “There’s an opportunity here to show who Catalyst is on the inside. […] To be able to say,Hey, this is who we are. BattleTech is for everyone, and respect is a right.And that’s how we’re going to operate our communities.”

“Hateful people that were building their own brand […] under the name of a company’s flag — whether it’s Warhammer, or Games Workshop, or Catalyst or whoever — they’re gonna realize that [we] don’t care what your stances are, your opinions are,” she continued. “If you can’t be respectful of other human beings, you’re not welcome in this community.”

Battletech Pride Anthology 2023: Queer Tales from the Inner Sphere remains available as a free download.

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