I Have No Shame and I Must Gossip

Breaking in to point to the chatter that Harlan Ellison groped Connie Willis (scroll to 3) — sans permission, natch, as the verb groping more or less implies — on stage during the Hugos.

Why was there no groping in Glasgow? Kim Newman and Paul McAuley would have been far less disturbing (and funnier), I’m sure.

But seriously, I think this news is going to remind a lot of us of a certain ICFA banquet gone terribly wrong. It must stop.

Updated: This is one of the most disgusting photos I’ve ever seen. Someone please put Ellison down. Immediately. Update of Update: As Ed points out, someone’s pulling a revisionist bait and switch so we are now linking to a different disturbing photo (meant, I suppose, to imply that it’s OKAY he grabbed her boob, because at some point she kissed him) instead of the mic/mouth one. But it’s still up here (scroll down) — if you want to see something hugely disturbing, anyway.

Updated again: Ed is right on.

Updated yet again: And so is Gavin.

34 thoughts on “I Have No Shame and I Must Gossip”

  1. Listening pleasure

    The Agony Column has Harlan Ellison’s WorldCon lecture (MP3) which starts with the angrier I get the more demented I get, and quickly moves to If by the end of my talk I have not insulted your physical infirmity, your

  2. If this is true and nobody reacted to this (i.e., Harlan can get away with this and Marv Albert can’t), then the audience ought to be ashamed for this double standard.

  3. Arrghhhhh!
    I’m wondering if it would be possible to draft some kind of “motion for censure” at the SFWA level. And if he and his apologists want to raise hell about it, let them. They’re in the wrong. Better for others to see what fools they are.
    This has to stop.

  4. Ed — I’m sure there were reactions, but I also suspect no one said a word to him.
    At the ICFA banquet I referenced, a similarly “legendary” SF writer (if not with quite the same reputation for being an asshole) made inappropriate “jokes” and later groped a woman on a balcony. (There were other hijinks going on before and during the banquet as well, all very macho.) There was definitely a cotingent that waved it off as, “Oh, that’s just him being him! He’s been that way for years!” A bunch of us have not been back in years because of this.
    At least that organization followed up with an inquiry into the matter and gave some stern talkings to after the fact. Some board members were very upset by it. Although they declined to do much more than formulate a sexual harassment policy — as I remember it anyway — because, understandably at that point, no one who was groped wanted to come forward and file a formal complaint.
    Alan — I couldn’t agree more.

  5. I’m wondering if it would be possible to draft some kind of “motion for censure” at the SFWA level. And if he and his apologists want to raise hell about it, let them. They’re in the wrong. Better for others to see what fools they are.
    Alan, I put a link to Patrick’s LJ post in the primary SFWA discussion newsgroup. Reaction has been fairly muted thus far, except for some “Harlan being Harlan” noise.

  6. I am glad that I do not own any books by Harlan Ellison. Somehow I doubt I’ll be buying any in the near future.
    (However, you win at blog post titles.)

  7. Ed – yes Albert plead guilty to misdemeanor assalt, but he was back as the main play by play man for NBC within a year – I think he pretty much got away with it.

  8. Ellison’s gotten away with crap behavior for years. This is just a little more out there than usual for him. Personally, I think he’s insane.

  9. You know this horror with Connie Willis is not unfortunate or terrible or rude – it’s illegal and it’s wrong and quite frankly Ellison needed to be decked for his behavior.
    Go ahead – call me a feminist, but I would have smacked the twerp down, big time. Cleary, taking the high road is lost on him. He needs to feel some physical humiliation.
    (My heroine is kicking butt these days in the book – I think it is rubbing off one me – either that or all those living in Alaska made an impression…..)

  10. The groping photo has mysteriously disappeared, replaced by the kissing one. Looks like someone’s playing cultural revisionist.

  11. Yeah man, you should just update your link. While it should be noted that the photo in question is _not_ of Ellison assaulting Willis, it does demonstrate general fuckwittery.
    And of course, given the photo that he retagged, the text of his “See, whatever happened later, she was asking for it!” argument is just barely sub, eh?

  12. Must mention that Marv Albert was alone in a hotel room with a woman with whom he had a sexual relationship and he forcibly sodomized her then had her blow him against her will. That’s not the same as groping on a stage. That’s rape.
    As for the stage grope, I wish Connie Willis had decked him, or elbowed him in the face. And I wish Harlan Ellison didn’t behave like a turd.

  13. I’ve known Harlan for forty years or more. Aside from being a loyal husband, his relations with women have been conventional in the extreme. My wife Linda worked for Harlan as his assistant for many years. She is, as many know, an active feminist. I am also known as an active pro-feminist. While she has had reasons to chide Harlan for his sexism on occasions she agrees with me that the behaviour described is totally out of character. Sounds like the worst sort of scandal-mongering to us.
    Mike Moorcock

  14. Mike: The behavior may be out of character, but even Harlan himself has confirmed that he groped Connie Willis, while also pointing out that what he did was inexcusable (without offering an “I’m sorry” or an “I apologize”).
    Truthfully, I had thought too at first that it was scandal-mongering, but given that no less trusted a source than Patrick Nielsen Hayden broke the news, there was good grounds for veracity.

  15. Reaction has been fairly muted thus far, except for some “Harlan being Harlan” noise.
    And the attitude that Harlan being Harlan is somehow all right is one I have never understood, not from the first WFC I attended, where he was GOH and I couldn’t understand why people thought his awful behavior is funny. It’s only funny if the larger community has conditioned you into thinking it’s funny, that anything that’s “Harlan being Harlan” is amusing and even to be expected.
    From outside, though, well, even before this year’s Hugo’s the whole situation was more than a little dysfunctional and creepy.

  16. Yes, I stand corrected, having read Harlan’s admission and apology. I must say this is so out of character that I remain shocked, but I still think he has more courage and has done more for the sf community than almost any other person within it. And I think Connie should have decked him. Mind you, that multiple bypass probably made her hold the punch. If I’d been there I’d have picked him up and dunked him in a cocktail glass. But I still find the tone of American self-righteousness a bit hard to take and in a sense I understand the impulse even if I don’t like the action. I stay away from this stuff as much as I can these days rather than endure it, but there are some ancients out there who might remember the odd incident I was involved in and feel a twitch or two in their wagging finger.

  17. Said “admission and apology”:
    From the Ellison website bulletin board:
    “Nonetheless, despite my only becoming aware of this brouhaha right this moment (12 noon LA time, Tuesday the 29th), three days after the digital spasm that seems to be in uproar …YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!
    iT IS UNCONSCIONABLE FOR A MAN TO GRAB A WOMAN’S BREAST WITHOUT HER EXPLICIT PERMISSION. To do otherwise is to go ‘way over the line in terms of invasion of someone’s personal space. It is crude behavior at best, and actionable behavior at worst. When George W> Bush massaged the back of the neck of that female foreign dignitary, we were all justly appalled. For me to grab Connie’s breast is in excusable, indefensible, gauche, and properly offensive to any observers or those who heard of it later.
    I agree wholeheartedly.
    I’ve called Connie. Haven’t heard back from her yet. Maybe I never will.
    So. What now, folks? It’s not as if I haven’t been a politically incorrect creature in the past. But apparently, Lynne, my 72 years of indefensible, gauche (yet for the most part classy), horrifying, jaw-dropping, sophomoric, sometimes imbecile behavior hasn’t–till now–reached your level of outrage.
    I’m glad, at last, to have transcended your expectations. I stand naked and defenseless before your absolutely correct chiding.
    With genuine thanks for the post, and celestial affection, I remain, puckishly,
    Yr. pal, Harlan
    P.S. You have my permission to repost this reply anywhere you choose, on journalfen, at SFWA, on every blog in the universe, and even as graffiti on the Great Wall of China.”

    This was immediately followed by:
    “Did I fail to mention, I am 100% guilty as charged, and NO ONE should attempt to cobble up mitigating excuses for my behavior? As with everything else I REALLY DO (as opposed to the bullshit that is gossiped third-hand by dolts), I am responsible for my actions 100% and am prepared to shoulder all consequences, instead of shunting them off to Vice-President ScaryGuy.
    Adultly said, Yr. pal, Harlan”

    And then:
    “On a more serious note: if, in fact, Connie (or Courtney, or Cordelia) were/are/might in any way be offended by this latest demonstration of give’n’take jackanapery between Connie and Harlan (now in its longest-run on Broadway), you may all rest assured I will apologize vehemently, will crawl to Colorado through broken glass and steaming embers, and beg her (their) forgiveness. I need no one to prompt me.
    Harlan Ellison, a friend of Connie Willis”

    Mind you, I pointed out on that same board that no “if” caveat should be added; that an immediate apology should be made directly to Ms. Willis.
    And I’m pretty sure that that’s what will happen.

  18. Hey Michael —
    I appreciate your comments, and your shock that it turned out to be true. I would disagree that what you’re seeing is self-righteousness, I think it’s more disapproval and an overall being fed up with the way the SF community has tended to gloss over or tacitly reward behavior like this in the past. The reason this incident is the focus of so much attention is because a) it’s egregious and offensive and b) it was egregious and offensive in a very public forum. Lots of things that have built people’s level of frustration with certain types of behavior have not been public incidents that can be discussed like this.
    I think Patrick Nielsen Hayden hit the nail on the head in a comment he made in response to someone saying that they’d have more sympathy for the uproar if Ellison’s behavior hadn’t been rewarded by the community in the past. He said:
    “Good point, but if you look around, you’ll note that the majority of people who are expressing serious anger with Ellison in this matter–like, for instance, Gavin Grant–aren’t people who have indulged similar behavior in the past, because, by and large, they weren’t around for that behavior in the past.
    “They’re a different generation and they’re not responsible for all that. What they’re saying is that they flatly don’t want to see crap like this at public events at SF conventions. They’re right.”

  19. Here is HE’s susequent remarks on the subject on the Pavilion on Ellison Webderland. Posting two comments because of the length. The first from “Mark”, and HE’s rebuttal:
    – Thursday, August 31 2006 20:12:58
    just some thoughts…
    You know what bothers me more than What Happened? The reactions here.
    As has been stated, how Willis deals with it is her business.
    But consider a few things here:
    1. I would expect an adult to be cognizant of the fact that there are children and young people present who would not necessarily understand the context of a boob grab (should an acceptable context exist).
    2. One does not joke or use purposefully exaggerated hyperbole in a true apology. An apology is contrition, not another poorly thought-out comedy routine.
    3. If you apology has the phrase “if I offended…”, it is not an apology. It’s a passive aggressive way of saying “You’re offended, but I don’t see why.”
    4. Harlan has lots of fans. Lots of people exist who do not read him, know his personality or, most importantly, care about either. They can be offended and not have to take his accomplishments and personality into account to excuse his behavior.
    5. One’s accomplishments and personality are no excuse.
    6. One’s accomplishments and perosnality are often the very reason some people think they can get away with bad behavior.
    7. One does not lob an apology on his own website to someone he is supposedly good friends with for something that obviously upset the friend and a lot of other people. Good friends call each other in such circumstances. The offender does not passive aggressively put on a public show to effectively embarrass the person further by forcing them to demand an apology.
    I could go on, but let me share how I have dealt with guys who grab boobs without permission. I’m an out gay man. Four times now I have been witness to “playful” unwanted boob grabs. Each time, I have “playfully” reached over and cupped the guy’s crotch. Each and every one–including the one gay guy–were horrified and offended–including two I’ve known for years. Familiarity has nothing to do with it. It’s an invasion. All you guys here who think it’s no big deal, please stop by so I can hold your balls. All you women here who think it’s blown out of proportion, get some self-respect.

  20. And HE’s response:
    – Thursday, August 31 2006 21:21:38
    …AND MARK:
    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.

  21. Give me a break. MUD the victim?
    I really want us to stop talking about Himself now, because he’s clearly getting off on it. Yuck.

  22. Gwenda (and all): I’ve removed myself from all backblogs. (This is my last comment on this mess.) I similarly urge everyone to (momentarily) put this bilious incident behind them and enjoy the Labor Day Weekend. Emotions are still running high and I’m convinced that nobody is in a position to talk about this without resorting to the vitriol that Harlan himself so clearly gets off of.

  23. It’s obvious that there’s a history of ill will between Ellison and Willis, with the former exhibiting great resentment over the “considerable disrespect” Willis allegedly showed him at the Grand Master Award Weekend.
    Frankly, I’m surprised that someone as outspoken as Ellison could not find a better–and private–way to make known to Ms. Willis his true feelings about her alleged mistreatment of him. Now he’s gone and done this stupid thing, much to the chagrin of his fans and to the glee of his detractors.

  24. Please disregard my previous question, I found the explanation in the Comments thread.
    Now, I hope this controversy will eventually produce some science fiction stories/novels that deal with the issue.
    Cue inevitable puns:
    -“I Have a Mike In My Mouth And I Must Grope”
    -“The Beast That Flouted Love Of Decorum At The Heart Of The Worldcon”

  25. Ray Palmer, undeserving target of Harlan Ellison’s meanness for many years, is laughing somewhere.
    Ellison has largely made himself a pseudo-celebrity by his outrageous actions. As many older writers and fans remember (but do they DARE to speak?) Ellison intentionally recruited fans to harass and ridicule an aging and already crippled Palmer at SCIFI Conventions in the 60s and early 70s, intentionally distorted and took out of context what the man said, and did everything he could to ruin him. Palmer, of course, was the one-time editor of Amazing Stories who started the whole “Shaver Mystery” rolling. In addition to being a legendary force in early scifi and fantasy publishing, he was a kind-hearted gent who loved the fans and also committed the Harlan-ordained ’sin’ of having an interest in exploring the paranormal, UFOs, and other strange phenomena.
    Yep, Palmer is laughing somewhere, and given Ellison’s history, it’s probably a lot more pleasant somewhere than Harlan will end up–despite all the ass-kissing from pros and fans alike.

  26. Forgot to mention–In one harassing incident, Harlan’s stooges caused Palmer, already elderly and crippled, to fall and hurt himself when he was cornered in an elevator at a convention.
    Despicable, but everyone pretends not to remember, and kisses his ass.

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