Harlan Ellison: The Norman Mailer of Speculative Fiction

[Photo removed at the request of Keith Stokes. Offending image available here.]

[UPDATE: Keith Stokes continues to play a game of cultural revisionism, regularly changing the filenames of his photographs to prevent people from seeing what happened for themselves. The photo, as of Tuesday, can be found on this page.]

Unpardonable.

This is not just a matter of “Harlan being Harlan,” as Ellison’s defenders will likely phrase it. This is not a matter of being politically correct. These are the actions of a boorish pig. It is unacceptable for anyone to get away with this. And the almost total silence of the science fiction community on this is appalling.

It’s one thing to goof around at a party — when the people know the other people involved and a little bit of this kind of nonsense sometimes occurs.

But when a woman goes up on stage and cannot be respected as a writer, particularly a writer who’s as great as Connie Willis, when she must be groped and demeaned as a sex object in front of an audience, then the time has come to re-evaluate the merits of the organization that hosts the awards ceremony, as well as the has-been “legends” who go up to claim and present awards.

Likely, speculative fiction writers will remain silent about Ellison’s groping. After all, Harlan Ellison will go after them or make phone calls or engage in sociopathic behavior or essentially intimidate anyone who disagrees with him. His loyal cadre of sycophants, who accept his every word and action without question, will stand back in awe as the man that they have inflated beyond belief continues to walk mighty and unquestionable steps.

If the SFWA has any balls, they will demand a censure. If Connie Willis has any dignity, she will demand a public apology. If Harlan Ellison has any honor, he will atone for his despicable conduct rather than revel in it.

If Harlan paralyzed a writer for life, would it be a case of Harlan “just being Harlan?” How does one writer stand so above the pale?

MORE REACTIONS:

Goblin Mercantiel Exchange: “The difference, then, is quite stark: it’s between dead-enders and people who actually have some kind of connection to the 21st century world at large–you know? The 21st century? Where shit like this shouldn’t happen?”

Gavin Grant: “What’s up with these dirty old men? They’re taking all the fun out of being in the genre and not inspiring anyone with anything but horror and the urge to vomit and throw out their books.”

Catherine Morrison: “So Harlan Ellison. What to do with him? The even more sad part of all this is that I don’t think people will particularly remember this in a year or two except as part of Ellison’s general assiness. Because groping a woman without permission doesn’t get you shunned in this world.”

Laurie Mann: “Connie is a much better role model for writers than Harlan Ellison.”

Lis Riba: “What does a woman have to do to get a little respect in this industry?”

And as of Monday night, there has been nothing about the groping from Neil Gaiman, John Scalzi, Bonig Boing, Rick Kleffel, and of course Harlan himself.

UPDATE: From Come Love Sleep on Gaiman: “(he basically says, he’s not gonna touch this situation with a ten-foot barge-pole, and other woman have been accusing him of being “complicit by [my] silence” in Harlan’s “public attempt to rape Connie Willis”, which is pretty stupid. Under those circumstances I’d find it pretty hard not to be really pissed off.)”

Meanwhile, Lis Riba suggests that “we can channel this energy into something positive,” while Ian McDonald notes that he found the grope “entertaining.”

UPDATE 2: Greg Frost talked with Connie Willis. (via Gwenda)

UPDATE 3: As reported by C. Billings in the thread, Harlan is now claiming that he did not grope, grab or fondle Connie Willis: “Would you, and the ten thousand maggots who have blown this up into a cause celebre, be even the least bit abashed to know that I apologized WAY BEYOND what the “crime” required, on the off chance that I HAD offended?” (The full response is in the thread.) Further, on the Harlan Ellison message board, messages criticizing the grope are being removed and IP addresses are being banned.

UPDATE 4: The thread has turned into what Ron has correctly styled “a shit-flinging contest” (and I am just as guilty). I have disabled comments. I suggest full contact jujitsu at your local gym as a surrogate.

UPDATE 5: Video and screenshot.

Be Sociable, Share!

49 Comments

  1. Argh, that’s classless and irritating. If that’d been me being groped I’d have had no problem smacking Harlan. Growing up insecure and without a good father figure to teach me how I Should be treated, I used to be groped all the time in high school and I was too weak to stand up for myself and had been taught by my father to mindlessly and at all times obey men no matter what. It made me feel horrible, disgusting and like completely worthless. Lucky for me I’ve found a husband who has taught me through his complete gentleman manners towards me how women Should be treated and now I’ve learned to stand up for myself and not stand for it. To be made into a sexual object in front of your peers on a public forum is beyond disrespectful, it’s despicable.

    Thanks for your post!

  2. Do you always take photos from other websties and post them on your site without asking permission or giving credit? Please remove it now.

  3. Thank you.

  4. That’s not treating someone like a sex object any more than rape is about sex. It’s a power/domination issue. He can do that to her and no one complains? He has the power, she doesn’t.

  5. I agree with everything except that it’s up to Connie Willis to demand an apology. He attacked her. She doesn’t owe anyone anything for that… However the community that watched, and the people who invited this man (with a reputation for bad behaviour) owe her an apology for what she went through, and Harlan Ellison owes her an apology. It is for the community– not Connie Willis — to demand that apology on her behalf… And then one on its own behalf — he didn’t only insult her, he insulted everyone in that room by forcing them to witness his assault, making them party to that assault, and expecting them to condone his behaviour.

  6. *Agog!*

    I have just (Tuesday) heard about this. Lisa Tuttle is visiting and I am sure we will have LOTS to say. But this is boorish (at the least end) and stupid (in the middle) and absolutely untenable (at the far end.)

    Not funny, not boyish, not supportable, not dismissable.

    Jane

  7. That’s Catherine Morrison, by the way.

  8. Hey Ed, Keith Stokes is playing his apologist little games with the photo again. I guess you mean “she was askin’ for it,” eh, Keith?

  9. What “total silence of the science fiction community”? From the number of people who’ve linked to my LiveJournal post so far, this is one noisy total silence.

    You need to take a few deep breaths before attacking particular individuals for not having sprung into action as quickly as you think they ought to. They have lives of their own and stuff you may not know about. Your last line is extraordinarily ill-considered.

  10. Patrick: That was as of Monday morning, when I wrote this post. And just to clarify, I phrased it “almost total silence.” The fact of the matter is that the heavyweights (other than yourself) are refusing to weigh in on this. And while I agree with you that they have lives (you think I don’t?), this diffidence still sends a resounding message that Harlan’s conduct is okay.

  11. Has anyone asked Connie about this ? As someone who’s known Harlan for forty years and has had reason to tell him about my disapproval (as has my wife Linda who once worked for him) of his actions from time to time, this behaviour is so untypical I find it impossible to believe. Maybe I’ve missed something, but so far I’ve seen no comment by Connie about the alleged incident.
    Mike Moorcock

  12. Was Neil Gaiman even AT WorldCon?

    Also, we should consider the possibility that there are ways people can make their feelings about issues and events known without blogging about them.

  13. Mike: Thanks for stopping by. I’ve pondered about asking Connie Willis about this. But out of respect for her, the last thing I want to do is give her more grief. If she wants to weigh in here, then she’s entitled to.

  14. Infighting is why we (for some ridiculously broad definition of “we”) never win.

    That said, here I contribute a little myself.

    I don’t think the picture you originally posted was of the grope that Ellison has now acknowledged and apologized for (in kind of a crazed Tom Cruise-ish kind of way). It’s definitely of some half-witted asinine behavior, but it’s wrong to suggest that it shows _the_ behavior in question (I’m pretty sure, anyway.)

    And for Patrick’s second-to-last line, I’d replace “have lives of their own and stuff you may not know about” with “motivations of their own and stuff they don’t want anybody to know about.”

  15. In another forum, Keith Stokes has convinced me that his reasons for fiddling about with the picture links aren’t what I suggested here. I don’t agree with his actual reasons, but I do think they’re harmless, especially in comparison to what I suggested they were. Sorry, Keith.

  16. Ian McDonald in his LJ says it was ‘entertaining’ to see Ellison grope Connie Willlis.

    Good, I’ll save some money not buying whatever he writes.

    Thanks for the anger here, and from Patrick, and all the good folks who really do get it.

    It’s not okay, it’ll never be okay, and if we as a community say it hard enough and often enough may be the message will get through.

  17. Ian McDonald has since apologized for that comment:

    it was just wrong. The only possible defense was that I was posting in an incredibly tired state and don’t know why I said that (at the time I thought it was theatrically outrageous) Stupid me.

  18. I’ve said this elsewhere now but since Harlan has admitted what he did and apologised, I will repeat that I’d like to know why Connie didn’t deck him, in spite of his multiple bypass. I’m sure she knows him better than many and probably let him off but someone should have spanked him. In my presence, through all the years I’ve known him and, on occasions, lived with him, I’ve never known him to behave like that, whereas I HAVE known the likes of Asimov and Bradbury, and not a few other better liked sf writers, behave like that almost obsessively at conventions, which is why I’ve avoided them. In the 1960s I was regarded as a party pooper because I complained about male writers’ attitudes (and not just sf writers) to women and wouldn’t condone the attitudes OR the actions and I found Harlan more inclined to agree with me than not. What I don’t like seeing is people in the sf community, who have done far less for that community than Harlan, seizing the chance to wag their fingers at him and generally use this incident to support their dislike of him. What he did was, as he says, unjustified. What he has done for others, including many women with poor self-esteem, however, has been considerable and frequently that good has been done by stealth.

  19. Edward, after being caught taking a photo and posting it on his website, failed to apologize and continued to show his character by deep linking directly to a photo on Keith’s site without even the courtesy of saying where he was linking.

    Now that he finally has the decency to link to the actual website, the photo can be seen.

  20. Keith: Did you get my email? I emailed you a private apology and immediately credited you and linked the photo, after you asked me to remove it on this site. Your continued bait and switch tactic seems more motivated by something else.

  21. There are still people in the world who get upset when people link directly to an image hosted on their website rather than to the web page it appears on?

    I’ll tell you what he’s motivated by, Ed: he’s a dinosaur.

    (That said, that picture was never of the grope, but of Ellison’s only slightly less offensive behavior BEFORE the grope.)

  22. Actually, what I said in response to the lady who wrote (politely)yesterday afternoon and asked why I hadn’t said anything about it, was

    I might have done, but seeing the first I’d ever heard of it was this morning when I got messages in on the FAQ line in from people accusing me of being “complicit by [my] silence” in Harlan’s “public attempt to rape Connie Willis”, I think that it’s already gone into weirdness meltdown, and I’m staying well clear of it. Obviously if Connie wants to say anything publically I’ll link to it.

    For the record, I wasn’t there, hadn’t heard of it, and am now puzzled as to why I’m meant to make public statements on things that I knew absolutely nothing about. I assume that the barking mad correspondents of early yesterday morning came from here, or were at least inspired by your weird little final paragraph. (Sure, Harlan’s a friend. So’s Connie. The last time I saw them both Connie and I were giving Harlan the SFWA grand mastership. So’s Patrick. So?)

  23. Of course, Neil. After all, much like Harlan’s followers, all of the people who read this site have no free will of their own, agree with everything I write, and are incapable of independent thought. That’s the way it works here at Reluctant. Give me another year and I’ll be as omnipresent as Ann Coulter.

    You really give me too much credit (I’m just a blogger, a third-rate op-ed columnist at best, for fuck’s sake), while wildly misinterpreting the “weird little final paragraph” you quibble with. The point here, which seems equally misunderstood by Patrick, is that the nonchalant attitude towards sexist overtures in the science fiction community has been tolerated for so long and that Harlan’s overture was, in some ways, the tipping point. The complicit silence by heavyweights AS A WHOLE is part of the problem. Because it suggests to the community that the behavior is okay. You folks, whether you like it or not, set the examples here. Particularly at cons.

    Thankfully this little incident has drawn people out of the woodwork. And hopefully this might change the troubling timbre (although there is still no mention of this on Locus).

    I’d also like to thank Mike Moorcock for being the only heavyweight willing to try and understand the where and why of the outcry.

  24. What an amazing piece of frothing self-importance this is. The SF community (hello, Michael Moorcock) will sort this problem out without Edward Champion’s completely unhelpful help.

    Contrary to Champion’s spluttering pronouncements, speculative fiction writers will not remain silent. Harlan’s fans will not regard the episode with admiration and awe. SFWA will have neither more nor fewer balls than it ever had. (And am I to understand that it was a self-proclaimed feminist who wrote that line? My goodness.) Connie Willis will still have vast reserves of dignity, no matter what Edward Champion says. And Harlan? Well, Harlan has apologized, in what for him is record time. The injured parties will arrive at their own conclusions about the apology itself.

    As for the various prominent webloggers Mr. Champion has invoked: at least one of them only heard about the incident when told that his name was being abused on this site. The others will or won’t speak to the issue as seems good to them, and their credit will be undiminished. (Several of them, perhaps all of them, will have decided that E. Champion is a buffoon; but that’s another matter.)

    Why Connie didn’t deck Harlan: I don’t know. Neither do you. It was her call: not mine, not yours. But if I had to venture a guess at the reason, it would be that she and Harlan were having an extremely fast-moving and complex set of interactions, and Connie Willis isn’t the sort of person who could smack someone without thinking about it. Even if she thought that hitting Harlan was an appropriate reaction–which is Edward Champion’s opinion, but may not be hers–the timing would have been off.

    Or maybe she doesn’t think that hitting people is a good idea. Again: it was her call. If she feels like explaining it, she’s more than capable of doing so. And if it turns out she doesn’t, it’s none of your damn business.

  25. Teresa: I was wondering when this would deteriorate into a irrational flame war. “Hatred, the only thing that lasts.” That’s the Bukowski line that applies to your crazed and relatively thoughtless fulmination, which, by the way, does not slice me in the slightest.

    Re: Harlan’s unquestioning admirers. Have you read the message forum lately? There are plenty there.

    Connie’s dignity: a personal opinion.

    I abused nobody’s name. I didn’t slander Neil Gaiman as a person or a writer. I didn’t impute that John Scalzi has three testicles. I asked why the silence for an issue that involves an audience, apparently the SFWA’s elistist posturing, the like. That was two days ago. The resultant clamor has proven me wrong. And I thank all for responding.

    As to the balls line, I henceforth amend it to read “non-gender specific testicular-like region.” There, are you happy?

  26. “And as of Monday night, there has been nothing about the groping from Neil Gaiman, John Scalzi, Bonig Boing, Rick Kleffel, and of course Harlan himself.”

    What am I, a dancing monkey? Am I suddenly required to address every SF scandal as it unfolds? Am I to be complicit in the idiocies of any particular person, whomever they may be, if I do not respond to an event in a matter timely enough to satisfy various other people who do not happen to be me?

    I actually do have a life outside of the blog world and science fiction. I’m not a brain in a jar, spitting out text. Monday night, I was asleep after a long day of travel and catching up on everything else in my life which needed tending to after a week away from home. I wasn’t even aware of this particular bit of scandal until Tuesday — yes, I was at the award when Ellison went grab-happy, but I missed that particular little event. I suspect that I was distracted by my new cheeseboard.

    But none of that matters. I’m not required to comment one way or another, and I more than vaguely resent what appears to be the implication that I am. If I want to address a subject publicly, then I will; if I don’t I won’t, and it’s not for anyone else to gainsay my reasons for doing either.

  27. I do wish he had groped Jo Clayton instead. “Silent dignity” be damned, her reaction would have been *more* than amusing.

  28. Oops, that sound read:

    I do wish he had groped Jo WALTON instead. “Silent dignity” be damned, her reaction would have been *more* than amusing.

    (where is my mind?)

  29. Hey guys —

    I’m all for open discussion, clearly, but I feel like Ed’s being unfairly targeted here. I daresay that all the people he listed would have been asked by someone or other for their opinion on this, or expected to offer one, regardless of his links. To pretend otherwise is simply disingenuous.

    But saying that Ed has no right to an opinion because he’s not part of “the community”? I don’t even know where that comes from. For better or worse, lots of people outside the community are watching this now and they have every right to offer their opinions. That’s all I see here, Ed offering his opinions. Disagreeing with the substance of Ed’s arguments is one thing, but implying that anyone outside The Chosen Field can’t have a valid say is ridiculous. Especially when you are talking to someone who has podcasts by Jeff VanderMeer and Octavia Butler right next to T.C. Boyle and John Updike. Ed actually reads within the field and follows it, something which I daresay most of us find a good thing on most days — so why should that be different when we’re discussing something most of us agree should never have happened and shouldn’t be condoned? I’m at a loss.

  30. Ed shot his mouth off about what other people should think and feel and do, naming specific individuals. That’s guaranteed to get you unpredictable results, no matter who they are. It didn’t help that what he said about them was stupid.

    Of course Ed has a right to his opinions. Who’s said otherwise? Neither has anyone denied that he’s a member of the greater SF community. But who the hell is he to dictate what Neil Gaiman should say about his friend Harlan Ellison, or how Connie Willis should react to something that happened to her personally, or what SFWA should do about it? My history with Harlan goes back twenty-eight years. Has Champion even been alive that long? And where does he get off passing judgement on John Scalzi for not writing about a dust-up Scalzi hadn’t noticed when it was happening?

    Guess what? All those big names in the SF community are human beings. We’re real. When you invoke us, we may show up. We have our own lives, our own agendas, and our interpersonal histories you have not the least notion of. We’re not just characters in Edward Champion’s daydreams.

    What you’re seeing isn’t elitism. It’s our lives. That’s what Ed’s stuck his foot into, in his remarkably offensive and overbearing way. I recommend you read HapiSofi’s advice for writers attending their first SF convention, paying particular notice to the bits about dealing with preexisting social structures and personal connections.

    The SF field is a surprisingly egalitarian place. You don’t have to “be somebody” before you can speak up. But if you do, you had damned well better be right. It’s the same rule for everyone. Edward Champion shot his mouth off, and he wasn’t right. If he wants to play with the big kids, let him take his lumps like one. He’d hardly be the first person who started his fannish career by making a public fool of themself.

    It happens. Get over it.

  31. Well, whatever else, I think he was right to speak up, as most people are when they do. Whether he was “right” is something we can only talk about because he did. I still think this is all a misdirection from the real issues at hand.

    And I don’t think I need to read the rules for attending one’s first SF convention, but thanks for the pointer anyway.

    I hope at least you can see how, “The SF community (hello, Michael Moorcock) will sort this problem out without Edward Champion’s completely unhelpful help,” could be read as, “Stay out of our sandbox, interloper.” I didn’t see anything there about “the greater community.”

  32. You know, if I were a lesser man, I’d add a few ad hominen remarks myself. But I’m still laughing my ass off over all the hallowed provincialism around here. Never did I claim to be some great authority. If I don’t matter, the question is why you, Teresa, care so much. That’s pretty damn foolish if you ask me.

    Never did I suggest that any of the science fiction writers I named weren’t human beings or that they did not have lives. I have no idea where this impression is stemming from, although I can at least see Scalzi’s point. And what’s more, at least Scalzi had a sense of humor about it. (I do hope he’s digging the cheeseboard.) Which is more than I can say for the Haydens.

    I have attempted to clarify where I was coming from (i.e., I am not singling any particular writer out), but it’s now a bit like trying to have a conversation with Ann Coulter.

    I say before and I say again: The comments here do not faze me in the slightest. It’s all visceral disagreement. There are no lumps here to take. Hell, these aren’t even small dollops. I see only ad hominen silliness instead of thoughtful disagreement and I’m happy to add more of your collective flummery to the ad hominen fiesta, if you’d like to carry on. I’ve gotta say, it’s been a hell of a lot of fun. And certainly everyone else has been enjoying it.

    And Teresa, you’re an editor. I may be a pipsqueak, but the least you can do is spell judgment correctly. We’re not in a courtroom.

  33. “Never did I suggest that any of the science fiction writers I named weren’t human beings or that they did not have lives.”

    But you have rather clearly suggested that we ought to have responded to the issue by a certain point in time, at that our silence on the issue up to a certain point in time defined by you equals some sort of complicity. To wit:

    “The fact of the matter is that the heavyweights (other than yourself) are refusing to weigh in on this… this diffidence still sends a resounding message that Harlan’s conduct is okay.”

    Your arbitrary deadline for these “heavyweights” to posit a response falls well within the “senator, when did you stop beating your wife” school of rhetorical cudgeling, and by its construction in fact does ignore that these people have lives. In my particular case I didn’t “refuse” to respond by Monday night — I didn’t know about the whole damn business, because I was traveling and taking care of non-SF/online-related concerns. I’m sure others have equally good reasons.

    Nevertheless, you made the decision that Monday night was sufficient time for all good SF folks to make a response, and that a lack of response equaled complicity, regardless of the practical aspects of life that might intrude — such as that a day after a Worldcon might be a day that SF writers might have too much else to do to get online to stick knives into Harlan Ellison, or alternately (if they were not at Worldcon) that they were busy with deadlines or projects or taking their kids to the first day of school or whatever and simply didn’t know that Harlan Ellison did one damn thing or another. We don’t all have a “Harlan-sense” which tingles whenever he does something outrageous, you know, nor do even the “heavyweights” keep up with every tittle and titter of the science fiction community.

    And as earlier noted, beyond all of this is the fact that you’re working from the proposition that any of us are obliged to respond because someone else who is not us (in this case, you) feels it’s incumbent on us to do so. You are standing in moral judgment of us because we are not performing to your standards. In fact, it’s not incumbent for any of us to respond in any way to anything we choose not to, and we have not failed morally if we don’t respond. Additionally we are not by default complicit in any alleged moral failings of any other person if we do not respond to said alleged moral failings in a time and manner suitable to a third party whom we don’t know nor nor have a psychic link with, which allows us to leap up and address every concern this third party has in a ready and convenient matter to him.

    A shorter way of saying all this is “I am not responsible for what I do in your fantasy life,” or in this case, what I don’t do. You say you never said that we aren’t human beings or don’t have lives, but either you are being disingenuous or, more charitably, don’t realize that the breadth of freedom that our being humans and having lives provides allows us not to respond to issues you feel we ought, when you feel we ought, and yet still be good and moral people, if we choose to be.

  34. “And Teresa, you’re an editor. I may be a pipsqueak, but the least you can do is spell judgment correctly.”

    This may not have been the best tactic for the guy who’s consistently misspelled “ad hominem” to take, especially when he’s made the term the centerpiece of his counter-counter-retort. Sorry, but at least you’re hearing it from me and not somebody you’ve alienated.

  35. “It’s the same rule for everyone. Edward Champion shot his mouth off, and he wasn’t right. If he wants to play with the big kids, let him take his lumps like one.”

    Actually, what strikes me as a huge part of the problem is that too many fans and writers confuse the OTHER sort of anti-social behavior for which Ellison is notorious with being provocative and passionately speaking truth to power, or railing against the moral decay of the universe, or whatever else you want to call it, when in reality most of the time he was just being a jerk, but people encouraged him anyway because (a) he was entertaining and (b) they secretly wished they had “the nerve” to “speak out” the way he did. Nor was he alone in this practice, because as TNH points out, it’s become somewhat ritualistically accepted “in the community” that you’re allowed to tear new assholes on people when you think they’re talking shit. And whether this is heralded as “frank and open debate” or “a lack of political correctness” or, to reach way back into the lexicon, “evolution in action,” a lot of times it’s just obnoxious. So it’s frankly no surprise that, after an adult lifetime of being encouraged to be obnoxious by his peers and fans, Ellison not only self-celebrates his behavior (“All the Lies that Are My Life,” anyone?) but continues to take it to new depths.

  36. Of all the dumb rhetorical maneuvers one can make, perhaps the dumbest is correcting a “misspelling” without checking to see whether it’s a legitimate alternate spelling. Definitely doesn’t win you points for being clever.

    I’m done here. I’ve concluded that the appropriate response to Edward Champion is to ignore him, since he doesn’t seem able to move or speak without causing himself more embarrassment. I’ve been willing to come here to see what (for instance) John Scalzi has to say; but hanging around any further is a waste of time.

  37. Announcing your public departure from an internet discussion is so USENET ca. 1998.

    In large part because of Ed, a wider public is now aware just how noxious the SF community can be and how a new generation of writers simply won’t stand for the goings-on by the previous cadre of so-called bigwigs. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t some degree of the same within other communities, but this certainly puts any skirmish that erupts in mystery circles to shame.

    And let’s point out one more thing: Ed made a list of people who hadn’t responded as of Monday night. Whether that was a callout or a demand or simply a sample list is subject to interpretation, but as of Thursday morning, the majority of those listed have, indeed, responded, some here in the comments section. There is such a thing as “no comment,” after all, but perhaps Harlan Ellison’s penchant for attention-seeking doesn’t only apply to the old man himself.

  38. So, first people are complicit in someone’s boorish actions because they don’t respond by an arbitrary deadline, and then when when they do respond, you call them, perhaps, “attention-seeking.”

    Nice.

  39. Well, good morning, everyone. I hope you slept as well as I did, but, given the vitriol here, it would appear not.

    If I’ve learned anything here, it’s that some members of the science fiction community are more concerned with devoting limitless words to saving face or defending whether or not they should respond (which could have just as easily been responded by a lack of response), rather than engaging in the more troubling issue of sexism. That’s what this thread SHOULD be about — the broader notion of sexist overtures currently accepted in the science fiction community — but instead I see an angry mob repeatedly justifying their recusal..

    And what does THAT say about the science fiction community? It seems that “playing with the big boys” means subscribing to a code of behavior in which one is supposed to submit to a decorum, I daresay a borderline sycophantism, that placates certain egos (indeed, the document linked by Teresa reminds me very much of a Miss Manners column) that goes above and beyond sexual harassment. How can anyone probe these issues in an atmosphere that essentially states “the SFWA will take care of this, little one” or “you want to play with the big boys, kiss our asses?”

    Well, if I see a woman groped by a boorish man in front of an audience and if I see the audience do nothing, and if I further see no one other than fierce LiveJournalers responding a few days later while the writers in a position to discuss and bring forth the issue remain silent, then I don’t really believe that the decorum or the so-called respect is earned. I want to know why the damn audience just sat there and did nothing. I want to know why something so obviously unacceptable is passed over in the interests of furthering a career. Because this kind of atavistic shit wouldn’t be tolerated in damn near any other setting.

    And, yes, Scalzi, your COLLECTIVE silence (not you or anyone specifically) WAS complicit. Ever heard of Kitty Genovese (ironically, the subject of a Harlan story)? You may not like it and I never asked you or anyone to like it. I pointed out a truism: the big boys in the science fiction blogosphere, the people who are generally in a kind of tizzy almost instantenously when it happens with somebody else, were silent or disinterested when it invovled Harlan Ellison. Indeed, in Gaiman’s case, “not touching this with a ten-foot pole” (as phrased by Come Love Sheep’s post, not Gaiman) suggested that not only were people aware of this, but that they had no intention of becoming involved at all.

    I wanted to understand this attitude. So I wrote the sentence in question. Now I understand it all too well. Bringing up any large points about acceptable behavior doesn’t hold a candle to heavyweight devoting endless paragraphs of whether he should weigh in or not. Lesson lerned. The audience who witnessed it doesn’t matter. This is “between Harlan and Connie.” Never mind the public setting.

    And, Ron, re: Comment 34, giving that you were urging me by email to out specific names (and I declined), this comment strikes me as self-serving.

  40. “And, yes, Scalzi, your COLLECTIVE silence (not you or anyone specifically) WAS complicit.”

    If neither I nor anyone specifically is complicit, how can we be collectively complicit? The SF community is not a soviet; it is comprised of independently acting individuals who respond according to their own whims and interests. If you maintain we are collectively complicit, then logically we are also individually complicit, all of us whom you choose to define as this community. Likewise, if you are giving some of us a pass as individuals, then it’s difficult to see how you may then assign overall and collective guilt, given the structural (or lack thereof) nature of the SF community.

    Moreover, your initial complaint regarding who had responded and who had not targeted specific individuals/blogs, so the rhetorical maneuver of retreating toward a collective guilt when these individuals have knocked out the the implicit and explicit basis for your argument is, at best, unpersuasive.

    You named names in an implicit attempt to assign shame to specific people, and then when they confounded your attempt toward moralizing your best defense was to change the structural underpinning of your argument, and then bitch about how people who are rather painstakingly trying to show you just where your argument goes wrong are using too many paragraphs to do so.

    Aside from this the proposition that there is a “silence of the community” is also wildly incorrect; people in the SF community are discussing it endlessly. However, the genesis of this particular thread was your apparent outrage that certain people had not discussed it in accordance your arbitrary timetable. However, people are not obliged to discuss any topic according to your whim or convenience. The apparent fact that you seem to have arrogated yourself the position of Science Fiction Discussion Scheduler is interesting, but inasmuch as the community is not a soviet or other collective, you can arrogate this position to yourself all you like, but none of us are obliged to set our watches to your time.

    In point of fact, Ed, the only way the SF community is silently complicit in anything regarding the Ellison-Willis event is if one accepts as valid the initial condition of your arbitrary timetable for a response. You have yet to forward a persuasive argument as to why your timetable should be considered as valid (while I, for one, have shown several examples of why it should not be considered valid), or, more importantly, why you should be allowed to set the timetable, and also, implicitly, why you should be the judge of who is complicit in SF and who is not.

    More to the point, you have yet to set out a compelling rationale as to why not responding at all is a morally wrong behavior, other than that you think it is. Godwin-izing up to Kitty Genovese is not a logically adequate response; I’m not going to spend the time to tear that particular argument apart, but rest assured it’s easily knocked down. Fundamentally, what this all comes down to is that you think I and others should respond. But inasmuch as you are not me, I’m not obliged to listen to you. Again, I’m not your dancing monkey.

    I realize these long answers appear to vex you, Ed, but the point of them is to help you see the logical fallicies in your arguments. The fact of the matter is that in this thread at least you’ve argued very poorly. Your fundamental thesis is good — Ellison’s behavior was indeed boorish and should be condemned — but every other position you have is pretty much bad and poorly thought out.

    It’s nice that many of those whom you have personally called out for a public shaming have responded, but you’ve shown little interest in understanding what they’re saying to you, because you’re apparently too busy trying to save face and to give the impression that you can go toe-to-toe with the people you’ve termed “heavyweights,” or suggesting that it doesn’t affect you when they dismantled your arguments with efficiency (the “the comments here don’t bother me in the slightest” gambit).

    My advice to you, which I rather suspect you’ll receive with sarcasm and suggest is condescending, is that you spend less time trying to defend your poorly-constructed arguments here and more time trying to understand what people here are trying to say to you. The fact people have devoted a fair amount of time to you here suggests they think you are capable of such understanding; it’d be nice if you proved them right.

  41. For the record, Ed, I didn’t urge you to out specific names; I suggested that LOCUS, the publication that reports on the SF community, would be the place that you’d EXPECT to cover this incident, and that if it made sense to attack ANYBODY for their silence, they’d be a more reasonable target than the people you were naming. In doing so, I also pointed you to the magazine’s “editorial blog,” which initially excluded the incident from its WorldCon report, but which has sent acknowledged that he didn’t see all of it.

    But, really, if this is how you’re going to react to having your spelling corrected, to hell with it. I’ll go comment on Scalzi’s blog, where things don’t degenerate into shit-flinging contests.

  42. Harlan has submitted his own mea culpa. The issue has been discussed. No one will EVER do anything so imbicilic again in the SF community. No one says it was right, but they say it is excusable. Harlan is human and made a mistake he admits to.

    Having made a similar mistake amongst a group I felt comfortable with (religiously offensive, rather than sexually), I know what it feels like to realize I’ve crossed a line and offended people I care about, and I KNOW I was harder on myself than anyone else could be.

    Speaking as a woman who has BEEN brutally sexually assaulted, I resent the invocation of Kitty Genovese as a hyperbole for this situation. It makes me sick.

    Not hiding my comments behind my nickname (just having used it because I use it everywhere),

    Kathy Morton

  43. While a lot of us have been writing about this little event ad nauseum (and I’m probably more guilty than anyone else, but, hell, I’m unemployed), I truly don’t think this quite reaches the “let’s throw all fandom into war” threshhold.

    In fairness to Ian McDonald and other folks in the audience, there’s no way they could have known that it hadn’t been planned in advance. Any of you out there remember how Marta Randall smacked Bob Tucker on the ass during the 1982 Hugo Ceremony? I’m pretty sure that had been planned. The audience could have assumed that “the grope” had been planned. It wasn’t, but how could Ian have known that?

    In fairness to folks like Neil Gaiman and Connie Willis, I’ve never seen them behave in any way other than respectfully towards other people. Often, setting a good example is better than raving on about a bad example. Neil wasn’t there, and Connie has every right to not discuss this matter if she doesn’t want to.

    Should Harlan’s awards be stripped because he, again, acted like a jerk in public? Of course not. They’re for his writing, not for his behavior. And this is hardly the first time he’s misbehaved in public.

    Should Harlan be censured by SFWA for his bad-boy behavior? Hard to tell. This is a high-profile incident because it happened during the Hugos. But has SFWA ever censured anyone for anything? And is this seriously the worst thing a science fiction writer has ever done?

    Should cons/bookstores/colleges/et.c. think two and three times before inviting Harlan out to speak? Damn straight. While Harlan was, apparently, fairly reasonably behaved around the readers at L.A.Con, he was almost consistantly unpleasant to the staff (and not just to me).

    While this has been a big deal post-con, it’s worth remembering that this was hardly mentioned at the con. The con went pretty well. Aside from this incident, the Hugo Ceremony went extremely well. And Connie’s maturity and level-headedness prevented a stupid little event to being something that many people in the arena never noticed at the time.

    If this incident raises people’s awareness of sexual harassment, it’s a good thing. Fans, particularly some male fans (and writers) have been kind of schizo on this issue for at least 30 years and maybe longer.

    Laurie Mann
    (Who missed witnessing the incident because she was the woman in blue standing behind Harlan with the Hugo)

  44. I think, and have said, that Ellison’s behavior was crap, and that the SF field should no longer put up with this sort of thing in the public behavior of its eminences. That while earlier generations may have found it cute, it’s not cute.

    If I were trying to discredit this point of view, I could hardly do better than to invent Edward Champion and his demands that various individuals should and must step forth and declare themselves, on his schedule and to his tune. That sort of maneuver is simply another form of bullying, the kind most frequently associated with more-hardcore-than-thou college radicals. It’s not as nasty as Ellison’s on-stage behavior, but mostly only because it’s even more ineffectual.

  45. Jeff VanderMeer August 31, 2006 at 7:04 pm

    This whole thread has begun to reek of madness, which makes Gaiman the only really sane one.

    Ed Champion isn’t a jerk. The people who didn’t respond right away aren’t jerks, nor should be expected to comment on something that had been discussed thoroughly before most of them even got home. Nor is anyone a jerk for pointing out this fact. Although maybe it didn’t have to be expressed so vehemently, as if Ed had killed somebody’s dog or something.

    The only jerk is Harlan Ellison, whose apology was accompanied by three other posts of varying stupidity.

    Mike Moorcock’s quite right that people shouldn’t use the incident to express their dislike for Ellison generally…except that most of that dislike is based on witnessing an amazing number of infantile and sometimes really crappy actions.

    Being someone’s friend doesn’t mean you implicitly excuse their actions by pointing to past actions. It’s quite entirely possible that a man can support the ERA, etc., and yet on a micro level be capable of rampant sexism (although, as I said on my blog–and I debated even posting on my blog because I wasn’t sure I had anything useful to say that hadn’t already been said–I think it’s more indicative of general boorishness).

    Patrick–Ed didn’t grope anybody. Don’t even try to equate Ellison’s grope with Ed being sincerely outraged over the event and maybe being a little over the top in his response.

    JeffV

  46. Recent comment from Ellison from his website:

    Would you be slightly less self-righteous and chiding if I told you there was

    NO grab…

    there was

    NO grope…

    there was

    NO fondle…

    there was the slightest touch. A shtick, a gag between friends, absolutely NO sexual content.

    Would you, and the ten thousand maggots who have blown this up into a cause celebre, be even the least bit abashed to know that I apologized WAY BEYOND what the “crime” required, on the off chance that I HAD offended? Let me ask you, Mark:

    1) Were you there?
    2) Did you see it?
    3) Are you standing on your soapbox to chide me via 3rd/4th-hand reportage by OTHERS who weren’t there?
    4) Do you also buy the infinite number of other internet brouhahas that turned out to be misreported?

    Here it is, Mark; and for any others who fit the shoe:

    In the words of that great American philosopher, Tony Isabella,
    “Hell hath no fury like that of the uninvolved.”

    Does not anyone READ WHAT I WROTE within fifteen minutes of learning of this? Does not anyone wonder why, if it was such a piggish thing I did, as one of those jerkwad blogs calls it, Connie Willis hasn’t, after twenty-five years of “friendship,” not returned my call on Monday … or responded to the Fedex packet of my posting here on Monday, which Fedex advises me she received at 2:20 pm on Tuesday?

    Can the voluble and charismatic Connie not even pick up a phone to tell the man whose work she “admires deeply” that he has gone a bridge too far? Is she so wracked by the Awfulness of it that she is incapable of saying to his face, you went too far? No one EVER asked her to “bell the cat.” She decided that was her role toward me, long ago. And I’ve put up with it for years.

    How about it, Mark: after playing straight man to Connie’s very frequently demeaning public jackanapery toward me — including treating me with considerable disrespect at the Grand Master Awards Weekend, where she put a chair down in front of her lectern as Master of Ceremonies, and made me sit there like a naughty child throughout her long “roast” of my life and career — for more than 25 years, without once complaining, whaddays think, Mark, am I even a leetle bit entitled to think that Connie likes to play, and geez ain’t it sad that as long as SHE sets the rules for play, and I’m the village idiot, she’s cool … but gawd forbid I change the rules and play MY way for a change … whaddaya think, Mark, my friend, am I within the parameters of brutish pigginess to suggest if she WAS offended, then I apologize … even if you and a garbage-scowload of asinine pathetic internet wanks get up on their “affront” and tell me how to behave?

    I’ve sat here for four days, quietly, having done as much forelock-tugging and kneeling as I feel — as I — I — not you — not fan pinheads in far places who jumped and bayed and went after me in a second — but I –who is responsible for my behavior — as I feel is proper. And for four days I’ve waited for Deeply Outraged and Debased Connie Willis — an avowed friend and admirer of my work for more than a quarter century –to get up off her political correctness and take her pal off the gibbet.

    I spent more hours traveling this benighted country, for eight years, state after state after state, lecturing in defense of women’s rights and passage of the ERA than any of you have spent mouthing your sophomoric remonstrances.

    As the Great American Philosopher Tony Isabella has said, “Hell hath no fury like that of the uninvolved.”

    My last word on this clusterfuck. If Willis wants in, she knows where you all are. She knows where I am.All the rest is silence.

    Harlan Ellison

    P.S. Including Mark’s post that precedes this one, I URGE YOU all to post this everywhichwhere, and let the poison drip where it will. Gloves come off now, onlookers.

  47. For those interested, HE commented further on the subject. Because of the length of his response, I won’t cut and paste the entire thing, but you can see his comments from the post on August 31 21:28pm there on his site, Ellison Webderland.

    Here’s the gist of it, though, straight from HE himself:

    “How about it, Mark: after playing straight man to Connie’s very frequently demeaning public jackanapery toward me — including treating me with considerable disrespect at the Grand Master Awards Weekend, where she put a chair down in front of her lectern as Master of Ceremonies, and made me sit there like a naughty child throughout her long “roast” of my life and career — for more than 25 years, without once complaining, whaddays think, Mark, am I even a leetle bit entitled to think that Connie likes to play, and geez ain’t it sad that as long as SHE sets the rules for play, and I’m the village idiot, she’s cool … but gawd forbid I change the rules and play MY way for a change … whaddaya think, Mark, my friend, am I within the parameters of brutish pigginess to suggest if she WAS offended, then I apologize … even if you and a garbage-scowload of asinine pathetic internet wanks get up on their “affront” and tell me how to behave?”

    Full disclosure: I’ve been banned from Ellison Webderland for comments I made on 8/31 14:28, regarding Josh Olson, Tim Richmond, and Cindy. You may or may not know these people, but HE said since I fucked with his friends, I can’t play in his sandbox anymore.

  48. I didn’t read the latest Harlan in great detail (I read his initial “apology” and simply gave up). However, Harlan was not at Hugo rehearsal. I don’t think he ever “prearranged” the grope with Connie. While I never saw “the grope,” Connie certainly alluded to it on Sunday as being unplanned.

    Harlan will never get it.

  49. I can’t go on ignoring this thread if Patrick, Laurie, and Jeff VanderMeer are going to join the fray.

    So: Hi, Jeff VanderMeer. I’m not going to distress Liz by getting into a fight with you. Still, I have to ask: How closely have you read this thread? Do you really stand by all of Ed Campion’s remarks? Do you think Neil Gaiman’s the only sane participant, and that Patrick, John Scalzi, Laurie Mann, and I are just randomly flailing about for no reason? I’m honestly curious.

Comments are closed.