Yeah (updated)

David Moles is my hero.

Some are perhaps rightfully upset that he busted the password-protection wall of SFWA, but it’s nothing many others haven’t wanted to do for days. Charges of "copyright infringement" are ridiculous. I’m no lawyer (thank god), but if a comment on a private bulletin board can be considered "intellectual property," I fear for the people closely guarding such real estate. It made me think of a relevant quote from Thomas Jefferson:

It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.

Someone NEEDED to expose the truly venomous ideas some have been peddling, for however long it lasted. I think it’s graceful that David offered (and made good) on taking them down when asked.

Some SWFAns used to being behind closed doors seem much more concerned about their reactions being made public than they were about the very public incident.

Anyway, are they right to have barred him from the newsgroup? Sure. It’s policy. And he knew that when he did this. Good on you, Moles*.

p.s. For irony, definition of, see this comment at PNH’s, where it is revealed that at this year’s Hugos Connie Willis set the new record for fiction Hugos, beating out Mr. Mud. (If this isn’t true, please let me know.)

p.p.s. I agree with Jackie M.; keep your SWFA memberships if you can, folks, you’re needed there.

UPDATE: See Colleen’s excellent post from the perspective of an outsider who’s an SF fan:

Frankly, I don’t care why Ellison did it and other than hoping he privately apologizes to Willis (who might not want to hear it), I don’t care what he does from now on. But you can not call yourself a professional organization and then have this happen and not act on it. This was not a roast – it was not a meeting of comedians and beyond that, it was not a gathering where it was even possibly suggested that a man might grab a woman’s breast in jest. So it should not have happened. And when it does, then you need to take steps to set things right.

Folks were dressed up and hoping to win a great award for their work – it was a big big night for them. Why dirty it with this kind of joke and then, after it happens, why not apologize for it? Why not strive to bring some level of maturity and responbility and professionalism back to the evening?

I don’t care what every sci fi writer on the planet thinks about this. What I want to know is how can you possibly expect us, the fans, to care about who wins these awards if they are given out in an atmosphere that I would not allow at my neighborhood block party?

Go read the whole thing. (As a side note, she’s addressing World Con and the WSFS, not SFWA, which is appropriate– although it’d be nice if SFWA wasn’t just being the bastion of infighting about whether it was "okay" or not, when it clearly wasn’t.)

*ikins (note: inside joke)

53 thoughts on “Yeah (updated)”

  1. Well said Gwenda.
    I just got pounced on over there but really – can you imagine that a comparison is being made between having posts made public and having your breast grabbed?
    I’m sorry, but only a man would say that. And I hate getting all girl vs boy on anything but please.
    I just talked back to Ellen Datlow. God help me. (And I’m such a huge fan of hers!!)

  2. Yes, the heinous crime of quoting (essentially) public conversation, or even completely private conversations is ever so much more bad than, you know, groping someone publicly.
    It is nice to see sensible pro comments there–when I admire a book, I want the author to also be a cool person, so I’m always glad when that’s proven to be true.

  3. Regarding who has won the most fiction Hugos, Connie Willis exceeded Harlan Ellison’s record back in 2000. With this year’s victory, she leads by two.

  4. I thought at first what David did in using those quotes was not right and smacked a little of the self-righteous, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that this incident did not happen in a vaccuum — there have been other incidents that could be termed sexual harrassment that have taken place, been noted and ignored. This is something that most of us don’t want to see continued and what David did went a long way toward challenging the staus quo and allowing people to have secret conversations about it and then dismiss it in the larger context of the field. He’s taken down those comments that authors have requested and added text at the behest of the authors. If Moles gets kicked out of SFWA, I’m leaving with him. Not that anyone will really care. Instead of discussing his departure, SFWA should be discussing the incidents of sexual harrassment and how to deal effectively with them.

  5. Hey Jeff. For that message to get heard, I would suggest you post it over in the SFWA forums as well as here.
    I would suggest it, but your a friend of mine.

  6. Chris: OK, it’s done. I’m not much for and the sfwa forum, but the key ingredient that people are missing is that there is a larger context to the feelings that people have about the incident.

  7. Colleen, while I appreciated your posts over on David’s blog, please see the comments of Deirdre Saoirse Moen in the Depressing, Encouraging, Typical Thread: “David, your posting content from and links to a private newsgroup is just as unconscionable in my view as what Harlan did.”
    It’s sadly not true that only a man could say that.
    My only issue with David posting the private lounge crap is that now so much of the conversation is focused on what David did and, of all things, and SFWA policy, instead of the Grope and its implications. And, yeah, I’m as guilty of carrying on this distraction as anyone. But at least now more people know about some of the unbelievable garbage being shoveled in SFWA’s oh-so-hallowed official discussion forum of our “professional” organization.
    Aw, jeez, I’m talking about it again.

  8. I did read that comment from Deirdre this morning, Greg – Last night I was referring to something Michael had written – that both issues were essentially privacy issues and thus comparable. He has since clarified and backed down from that. The bizzaro world Deirdre comment was not up when I posted.
    I really didn’t want to make this a boy/girl thing in discussion (honestly) it just seems the overwhelming number of posters are men and many of them are trying to make this less than it is. And I wanted to be clear that it’s not a small thing – it’s something designed to make a woman feel smaller, to make her less.
    It’s hard to explain to a man I think but this sort of unexpected contact, in this context especially reduces you somehow. And even if Connie Willis just blows past it then the next woman might not carry it off so easily. It should not be reduced to a minor infraction or joke, for their sake, if not hers.
    And yeah, it has become just as much about private postings as it has about Connie Willis. But doesn’t that say something also? If so many people prefer to speak about that instead of what was done on the stage, well, doesn’t that say something about what really matters to the SF community?
    (And please don’t think I’m directing this at you Greg – I think your comments are dead on.)

  9. Colleen, I agree with you that, as a man, I can’t fully understand what that kind of uninvited contact does. I recently had my nuts poked by someone whom I really didn’t want to have touching me. It was inappropriate, uninvited contact, and I don’t want to be anywhere near this person without a lot of other people present.
    And you know what? I still don’t know what’s it like to be a woman having to put up with that kind of crap, because I’m a guy, and I was merely extremely annoyed, not threatened or demeaned or diminished. But I don’t have to fully understand what it’s like to be a woman groped at a con to speak out against it and ostracize the perpetrators of this kind of conduct. Because it is so clearly wrong and unacceptable. Obviously. For chrissake. So obviously.

  10. You are right right right Greg -and I was going to make a comparison for how it would be for a man but I figured that happens so rarely that most men wouldn’t have any experience there either.
    So I should have considered that you would know – on some level, as you say.
    But yes – why in the hell isn’t it obvious to everyone that this is just wrong, especially in this situation. Why do so many people have to debate about the wrongness????
    Ah well, at least everyone is talking about it. I guess that is something.

  11. Gwenda, I know I’m arriving late to this party, but I wanted to provide this little link from the FCC on what constitutes a hostile work environment.”
    If the SFWA were an office place, sorry, but they’d be in violation.

  12. Has BoingBoing posted anything about this whole situation? Does it fall within their brief? It certainly seems so. Why haven’t they, if they haven’t?

  13. So here’s my question: what’s the best way to refocus the discussion? For those of us who reacted so strongly to the initial incident because it was so clearly part of what we see as a hostile and sexist environment, I think that what we -want- the discussion to be about is that environment, not the quality of apologies or the nuances of message-board ethics.
    It’s like you’ve got a bunch of people saying “look, this crap happens all the time, and it’s totally not okay.” A response like “this is between Connie and Harlan” misses the point: Connie forgiving Harlan isn’t going to change what happened to all the women I know who’ve been groped at conventions. A response like “Harlan’s an old man and can’t be expected to change his ways”, that’s also missing the point, as is “what happened on stage was a joke gone wrong”: again, this fails to address the larger (more significant, more interesting, more worthy of discussion) issue at hand.
    I really do want to know what the prevailing opinion among SFWA members is on that larger issue. Do they think that the bad-touch experiences are uncommon? Do they agree that it does happen but just not think it’s really a problem? Do they agree that it’s a problem but just not have any ideas for how to fix it? That’s what I -want- us as a community to be talking about, and while I do realize that I don’t always get my way on these things, the fact that we’re instead talking about whether David Moles can be sued for what he did or whether some elder-statesman jackass is suitably contrite, it’s just frustrating beyond words.

  14. Excellent comment Susan and exactly what I would like to know too (and what I’ve been screaming about to no avail over at the insanity in David’s comments.)

  15. I went round and round with them at the SFWA private lounge, trying to convince them as to why David is not the one who needs to be censured. Tried to make the case that SFWA should lead the way on the issue of sexual harrassment and make a statement, put into place methods of censure, put aside some monies for the victims and even perhaps some money for the offenders to get treatment. Instead of really engaging these ideas, they were pretty much just hell bent on frying Moles — taking away his membership and/or suing him. Many of them said that SFWA should not be responsible for dealing with the sexual harrassment of its members, because SH is a societal issue. I made the case that it should want to be responsible. Anyway, bottom line — very frustrating, but I got the messaage across that if SFWA wants to be pertinent in todays world, instead of the pointless flapdoodle it is, it should support those members who have faced SH and offer assistance. In the long run, I might just as well have taken a nap. But I’m serious, if they drop David, I’m quitting. I know someone else said not to quit but to work from within. Fuck that. SFWA is useless.

  16. Ted I think Ellison’s ’68 Hugo for a tv script is usually counted as fiction win. At least the Locus Awards Index Hugo page counts it that way.
    As I read it, the Locus Awards Index says Ellison has won 8 Hugos, 7 for fiction. It says Willis has won 8 for fiction, but it hasn’t been updated to included this year’s results. This year brings her total to 9, which is two ahead of Ellison’s 7.

  17. Thanks, Ted. And you, too, Jeff. I hope it won’t come to that.
    Susan, I should have figured this would happen. All I can suggest is to talk about it other places — bellwether_talk, PNH’s LJ, wherever — and hope that while the unreconstructed are stamping and bellowing on my blog and in the SFWA lounge, the rest of the SF world can get something done.

  18. One comment on David Moles’s blog really made my blood boil:
    “One of the dangers of making rules is that it encourages rule-breakers to break them. It makes people think they’re rebels when they’re really clueless shitheads.”
    You mean, the way it happened at the 2006 Hugo Awards ceremony? I can’t recall the video clip showed security guards dragging Harlan Ellison offstage while he cried “FREEEDOMM!”
    No, the point made by Colleen and others is that rules are pointless unless they are enforced.
    I repeat: Rules are pointless unless they are enforced.

  19. Jeff F: Thanks for doing that–I know it can’t have been fun. I totally agree with everything you’re saying. And I’d quit SFWA if I were still a member, if they kicked David Moles out.

  20. Thank you, David Moles, for doing it. Normally, I would object to private remarks being reproduced like this. But this represents a case where the inner sanctum deserved a breach, if only because the conduct of those participating was laden with hubris and preserving an antediluvian power structure out of step with the 21st century.
    If anything, the reactions and the holier than thou stance from the SFWA’s ivory tower has made me extremely disinclined to have anything to do with the science fiction community. To my great regret, several stereotypes have proven to be true. The sanctimonious posturing, the evasion of responsibility, the arrogance of ANYONE suggesting that they are always right, and the notion that anyone outside the community is verboeten from expressing an opinion. (Strangely enough, most of the objections stems from the hard-sf crowd. I’ve never been much of a fan of that mostly heartless subgenre, which reminds me of Ayn Rand’s fiction in plotting and execution.)
    I’m a literary guy who tries to read as widely as he can, but I’m now extremely reluctant to interview any of these people about their work now or in the future. I know most of the folks in this thread aren’t driven by ego and have been exceedingly kind listeners, even when I do go frothing over the top.
    But I’m troubled that raising any objection leads me (and others) to be compared to a groper. As much as my outrage was expressed in an immediate visceral way, the outrage from those who responded was just as despicable and irrational, if not more so.

  21. Hey everybody — Lots here to respond to and I may try to later. Feel free to continue using this as a venom-free, constructive area; any unconstructive venom will be deleted.
    Ed — I can understand why you and Colleen feel that way (and I am sorry that you were made to feel an unwelcome participant in this conversation; it’s ridiculous). But I don’t think it’s fair to tar all of us with the brush of William Sanders and Co. That’d be like using Dale Peck as the representative of book critics or King Wenclas of literary writers. I already wrote too long a comment to Colleen about this, but ignoring those who are fighting the good fight and suddenly deciding that all SF is worthless is kind of ridiculous. IMO.

  22. I’m still trying to figure out why the Hugo people or the WorldCon people didn’t issue a statement immediately afterwards, or even a couple of days afterwards, condemning the initial act. I truly believe there wouldn’t be so much commentary about this on the blogosphere, or at least of this type, if *some* official body hadn’t dropped the ball. Surely there’s nothing controversial about saying “We don’t agree with nor did we sanction Ellison’s behavior” (that’s the lamest language they could have gotten away with–the minimum). Even those people who think this event has been blown out of proportion seem to agree the action itself was wrong. There’s a common ground, at least.
    Ed–er, that is a generalization. Especially considering not even 5% of all of the SF/F writers out there have even weighed in on this situation one way or the other.

  23. Gwenda: Thanks for saying that! The loud folks at SFWA aren’t even representitive of SFWA let alone of the broader sf community.
    And what Susan said. Let’s get back to talking about strategies for making sure shit like this stops. To be honest I’m still furious about what happened back at ICFA.

  24. Justine:
    Do you have any suggestions? I’m more than willing to help in any way necessary, including money if someone comes up with something that requires financial support.

  25. JeffV: That’s the rub, innit?
    It’s all very well to say what an individual woman’s response should be at the moment it happens but very hard to act on that. I’m a pretty strong woman but every time I’ve been groped I’ve been so shocked I’ve frozen.
    How do we make it clear that within our community it’s absolutely not okay to touch someone without their express permission? It’s a lot better that we stop the gropers than have the gropees learn “how to handle themselves”.
    Here are a few suggestions I can think of:
    I would like to see gropers cease to be invited to cons. This isn’t happening right now. The man who groped Kristin and (I think) others at ICFA continues to be invited back to ICFA every year and for all I know continues to grope.
    On the other hand, perhaps this widespread discussion is making it clear to the gropers that their behaviour will no longer be tolerated. At the very least this might be getting them to think twice.
    Keep talking about this. It’s been heartened that this incident has allowed lots of women who’ve been groped to talk about it out in the open. Up till now this discussion has only taken place in private amongst friends.

  26. Gwenda I responded a bit in my comments but I wanted to be clear that you understood I was just venting on my site. Hell, it’s named for Ray Bradbury so clearly I’m not going anywhere when it comes to loving sci fi.
    But – this has been so frustrating to read about – to see how comments became flameworthy so fast, how angry some authors got over what David did while glossing over what Harlan did and how so many SF folks seemed so intent on deflecting the initial conversation onto anything else (the whole freakshow over at Ed’s comments).
    I expected some folks to be idiots (we are all human after all). I just didn’t expect so many.
    Does that make any sense?
    Basically I read too many posts, got sucked into too many arguments, got too many really dumb responses to my constant question asking about lack of official response and late last night I popped.
    Then I read about Steve Irwin and got my reality check.
    I’m reviewing two Patricia McKillip fantasies and I think five YA fantasies in October. So yeah, I’m still here supporting this genre. I’m just a little bruised and more than a bit disappointed.

  27. I figured as much, but SF needs people like you and Ed paying attention (I truly believe that) and just wanted to give it some more perspective. Believe me, we’re all disappointed and depressed by it too. But I am still more hopeful than anything that this will matter and be a thing of good in the long run.
    I shouldn’t have responded before I had caffeine!

  28. Gwenda — speaking as a casual reader of science fiction who has never been to a convention (though I always used to think it might be kind of fun to go,) I’m really, really glad you’re having this discussion.
    I have one close friend who likes to read science fiction as well, and as I was discussing this with her I found myself saying “I’m glad I don’t have anything more to do with this genre than just reading from it.” That’s a lousy way to feel, and I’d like to get over it. I know the genre is not a monolith, but it’s been difficult to move past the “this is so revolting” gut reaction. And by revolting, I mean not only the original incident but the scapegoating of Ed, David Moles, you name it.
    So thank you Gwenda (and your commenters!) for making me think.

  29. I think the best thing to do is just talk about it, as openly as possible. It raises awareness in the community to make potential gropers (and their friends) realise that it’s not cool, so maybe they’ll think twice next time about doing it or accepting it. And it means that the next time someone gets groped, it won’t take her so much by surprise and she’ll know she’ll find support in the SF community if she speaks up (as opposed to feeling like she’s a newcomer and the groper is an authority figure, so the community must condone his behavior).
    For people who are getting a bad impression of the SF field because of this: please stick around! Really, while SF is an eclectic mix of people at all extremes, it’s got the highest concentration of awesome people of any community I know.

  30. Gwenda:
    You have written to me that I need to see the field as more than just a few folks mouthing off in the boards/comments, etc. and I agreed that I got angry at my own site last night and perhaps blogged a bit in haste. I spent the day pretty much not thinking about all of this other than some thoughts that I was blowing it out of proportion. But here is what Patrick Nielsen-Hayden did to me tonight at David’s site: (He starts by quoting me with “Colleen says” – my earlier comments are in quotes as he posted it.)
    Colleen says:
    “It occured however at an event hosted by a professional organization”
    No it didn’t. It occurred at the World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon”), an event run by volunteer fan committees since 1939.
    “for the sole purpose of providing awards as voted upon by another professional organization.”
    Wrong again. The Hugos are awarded by the members of the current Worldcon. (Members of the immediately prior Worldcon are also entitled to nominate; to vote, you need to be a member of the current one.)
    “(Hence my mention of both WorldCon and WSFS–they were both directly involved in the event.)”
    Worldcon and WSFS are essentially the same. The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) is the unincorporated body comprised of members of the current and forthcoming Worldcons. Neither is remotely a “professional organization.”
    I’m sorry to be so short with you, but you are making as much sense as someone who asserts that World War II began when Delaware attacked Batman.
    David says you’re on “the same side” as me. I don’t think so. I think you’re on the side of people who think they ought to be able to make pronouncements about what this or that organization should do, without troubling themselves to know the first thing about the nature of those organizations. I think you think it’s just silly fannish stuff you don’t have to know about before you moralize about what other people ought to do. I have no respect whatsoever for that, and it’s not on any “side” I care to be on.
    As I explained in my reply,(and this is in the smaller thread on David’s site – the one directly about his suspension) I was basing my assumption of organizational behavior on what I know outside the literary world. I did not realize that such structure did not exist, on any level, for the Hugos. Frankly, I can’t imagine that it doesn’t. However, that’s not my point. I have been very polite in my comment postings – I never said anything rude or inflammatory about Harlan (like some folks have) and not about anyone else. I asked about the actions of the organizations involved, I questioned their response, that is all.
    And I said it all very nicely. This is how I was treated in return. He is an editor for Tor, Gwenda. I freaking review Tor books. Bookslut might not be PW, but we get 200,000 visitors a month. And I have actively sought out the folks at Tor and told them I want to review more for both YAs and adults – I want to spread the word on Sci Fi & Fantasy to our readers. I work with Tor and they like me. In the capacity of reading and writing their books they seem to like me just fine.
    And please – Batman and WWII? I’m not an idiot.
    I don’t expect PNH to have any clue that I review for anyone (especially Booklist) but crazy me, I thought he would at least be respectful when replying on public sites to someone who has stated from the beginning that she is a fan.
    So now back to this whole Sci Fi community thing. Why or why would I possibly think now that my opinion, my reviews or my hard earned dollars are wanted here when someone who is an editor for a sci fi publishing powerhouse would so casually treat me like an idiot for such a stupid reason?
    I mean my God. What does he say to people he really doesn’t like?

  31. Ugh -should have previewed first. Forgot to italicize. PNH’s quote begins with “Colleen Says” and ends with “any side I care to be on”.
    After that it is all me.

  32. Colleen — I was going to write you. I saw that late yesterday and understood immediately where you were coming from. I don’t understand the contempt either.

  33. I count PNH as a friend. But, yes, he does get testy all over the internet at many folks regardless of who they are. One thing PNH is not is remotely status conscious. If you look at this thread you’ll read him having a go at me. Damn his eyes!
    I’m not defending PHN but I am saying that he does not represent the entire community anymore than me or Gwenda do. It’s big and diverse and messy and contains a range of views. There are many other sf editors who don’t get into online stoushes and who would not expect you to know the ins and outs of fan and pro organisations.
    I don’t expect you to. God knows many long-term members of the community have no idea either. I think that’s partly where some of PNH’s crankiness comes from—WorldCons (indeed pretty much all cons) are run by fans. Unpaid fans. It’s an incredible amount of work to do without any reward but the feeling of a job well done.
    There’s absolutely no reason why you would know that, given that many people attending sf cons have no idea either.
    I do agree with you. I want very much for an institutional body to step up and condemn what happened and talk about what’s going to be done in the future. I just don’t know who that body should be. I thought SFWA would be the obvious choice, but, well, that doesn’t look likely, does it?

  34. Justine, oh one who knows more about this than I do, would it be completely out of the realm of possibility for the con com to issue a statement?

  35. I’ve never heard of one doing so. Seems particularly unlikely for a worldcon cause it’s a different group of people every year and by the time the con is over they’re exhausted and hate each other and all they want to do is sleep for the next year. 🙂
    If something like this happened at WisCon (which it would NEVER) I think we’d make some kind of public statement. But then the core folks on the WisCon concom have been on it for years so it’s a very different situation.

  36. The real troubling thing about all this is that red tape prevents the Wondercon folks from issuing any kind of censure or statement. Resolutions must be approved at some point by any of the three meetings and, even then, others have to convince the people involved, who are slow and resistant to change (thanks, in part, to an inflexible constitution and an inflexible temperament — talk about a defense attorney’s dream).
    What this suggests to me is that various call-outs to the science fiction community weren’t nearly as unjustified as people claimed them to be. And it suggests to me that David Moles was more than right in posting these comments. If the Worldcon committee is prohibited from acting because of bureaucracy, then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to demand the SFWA or another body to issue a formal statement. Because, again, this isn’t just about Harlan. Like any civil war, this incident has revealed more fractures and gaping wounds than anyone expected. And I don’t see this going away anytime soon.

  37. I’m on my way out the door here so no time for long comment but what is really weird to me is that even though it’s a volunteer organization it is still organized enough to throw a massive convention every year – invite folks, get a venue, make sure there’s space, etc etc. So on the one hand you have a very organized (albeit volunteer) group, but on the other hand, don’t expect anyone to issue a statement.
    That goes for the Hugos group as well – they can organize enough to come up with nominees, get ballots out, tally votes, make sure presenters are there, make sure tables and chairs are there, etc.
    But again, can’t make a statement.
    It’s just really really weird to me (as an outsider). And honestly, I doubt I’ll ever get it.
    But thanks for explaining! 🙂

  38. Colleen:
    It’s weird to me, too. And the details of the two groups don’t matter to me. There’s still a central committee for both, and presumably somebody in charge.
    Just as a hypothetical, if I’d been part of the committee for either, I would have issued a statement on my own by now, even if it had to include the disclaimer that “I don’t speak for my fellow committee members” or whatever.
    As for Patrick, I’ve come to learn that when posting comments, he has just one mode: strident and in-your-face. In person, he’s delightful and fun to talk to, especially one-on-one. And he knows a hell of a lot about the field. But I think sometimes in his comments, he comes off as way too aggressive, treating each situation with equal gravity, despite, perhaps, a need to turn it down a notch sometimes.
    But I see him not caring about your role as reviewer or whatever as a strength. He says what he thinks, regardless of the situation. This is a strength, overall.

  39. Fair enough. I was just telling you this is his normal internet persona, just like Nick Mamatas has his or Fill-in-the-blank has hers. And that’s a crappy joke if you’re referring back to Ellison since, once again, you can’t equate words with a grope.

  40. It wasn’t meant to be a joke, though I was referring back to Ellison. I was saying that, especially this week when we’ve been complaining about how the big names aren’t appropriately censured when they step way over the line because of their privileged status — and that complaint includes the unchecked trolling and flaming and generally abusive language that apparently rules the SFWA boards — under the circumstances, it’s doubly unfortunate that Patrick is being verbally abusive and nobody can call him on it.

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