Debarkle Chapter 25: The SFWA Civil War Part 3

Previously on Debarkle: Towards the end of John Scalzi’s terms as SFWA President, a series of controversies arose over sexism and racism within the organisation. A common theme was resistance to change from a group of SFWA ‘old guard’.

[content warning: a later section discusses issues around child abuse]

By August 2013, the expulsion of Vox Day from the SFWA was seen by some as putting a line under the controversies that had been consuming the SFWA that year. Cora Buhlert rounded up events with a blog post that finished with:

“But at least the SFWA saga had come, if not to a “happily ever after” then at least a “happy for now” ending.”

However, in many ways, Vox Day’s behaviour had been a loud but minor sideshow to events. The core group of objectors to the SFWA’s more progressive direction still had the same objections and issues. What was lacking was a nexus on which another round of arguments could be had.

Elsewhere, other people had been drawing their own conclusions, including (as we saw in the last chapter) some of the writers at Mad Genius Club. A different take on the situation came from Baen author John Ringo, who saw ulterior motives in John Scalzi’s behaviour during the year.

“If anyone has been wondering why Scalzi has been picking the rather stupid fights he’s been picking lately: [link to an announcement of John Scalzi’s Redshirt’s winning a Hugo Award] That’s why. There’s nothing wrong with Scalzi’s writing. This is a reasonably good novel (from what I’ve heard) with no real SF or literary merit beyond being a reasonably good novel. But he’s been speaking truth to power about the degradation of women in SF along with other idiocracy and so he’s beloved by all the has been liberal neurotics who control the Hugo voting and balloting. Look to many more in the future as long as he toes the Party line. Huzzah.”

Ringo was convinced that there was nothing particularly special about Redshirts and that it had only won because John Scalzi had been appeasing the people who ‘control’ the Hugo voting. Why the Hugo Awards would have an overtly pro-feminist establishment, while Scalzi had been struggling with an apparently anti-feminist old guard at the SFWA was unclear, doubly so as some of the figures pushing back at the SFWA were also Hugo Award veterans (for example, veteran author Robert Silverberg). For Ringo, a feminist/liberal cabal was a simpler answer to why he had not made any impression on Hugo voters. Meanwhile, in the comments to Ringo’s post, Larry Correia assured people that he would mount another Hugo Award campaign in 2014:

“So I’m totally going to so it again this year. Bigger. Because I am motivated entirely out of spite. 🙂”


January brought news of one possible consequence to the SFWA in-fighting: a break-away organisation? The Society for the Advancement of Speculative Storytelling announced its first permanent president. At File 770, Mike Glyer carried the story with additional information:

“Judging by a comment on Lou Antonelli’s blog, SASS seems to have coalesced in reaction against the hostile exchanges then happening in the SFWA Forum per se, and not in support of any particular outcome. “[The] group is for people sick of PC bullshit …” he said initially, then amplified, “This group is a safe haven for people to meet together over their common love of speculative fiction. If someone WHO BELONGS TO SASS attacks anyone in the group for something that [has] NOTHING to do with speculative fiction, they don’t need to belong SASS. They can join other outfits.””

The board of SASS included Vice-President Brad Torgersen and Secretary Lou Antonelli. Without wanting to throw in too many spoilers for the story of the Debarkle, I won’t tease readers with how this organisation would go on to develop. After a flurry of activity in 2014, the blog for the organisation remained silent until 2020, when Louis Antonelli announced that he was standing for the SFWA board (he lost)[1]. Whatever trauma 2013 had thrown at the SFWA, it wasn’t going to break into rival organisations.

Meanwhile, after the resignation of its editor and furore over the SFWA Bulletin, the organisation decided to restart the magazine and in December 2013 began the process of finding a new editor to work within a new set of guidelines. In February 2014, that process had become too much for Dave Truesdale, editor of Tangent Magazine and a former editor of the SFWA Bulletin. Believing the magazine was going to become dominated by ‘political correctness’, Truesdale began to organise a petition.

Blogger, reviewer and fan-writer Natalie Luhrs was sent a version of the petition but to her surprise, discovered that Truesdale had originally been circulating a long and more inflammatory version of the petition. Both version though carried a similar theme that the SFWA’s new model for the Bulletin amounted to censorship and an attack on free speech. Luhrs naturally was puzzled as to how either concept made sense for an edited professional magazine:

“Ultimately, though, Truesdale’s argument is thoroughly dishonest.  He’s trying to get people riled up over someone editing the publication and he’s doing so in an incredibly offensive and gross manner.  He’s claiming that this is a free speech issue when it isn’t. SFWA is not the government. They can’t stop you from saying whatever damn fool thing you want. All they can do is stop you from saying it in their publication.”

In the comments to Luhrs’s post, former SFWA Vice-President, Mary Robinette Kowal pointed out that Dave Truesdale was not even a member of the SFWA. Even more notably, author Robert Silverberg added a comment to explain both his support and involvement in the revisions to the petition:

“Neil Clarke seems to see no difference between the authors of a piece revising it before it is made public and the imposition of a board of review to make sure that the editor of a publication does not print anything that might offend any part of the membership of the group that receives that publication. The first is the normal revision of a draft that any writer does before releasing material to be seen by others. A number of us saw flaws in the original Truesdale draft and asked that they be removed, and they were. The second is the formal statement that the organization’s own editor is not to be trusted to apply common sense and appropriate taste to the work of editing. One would hope that readers of SFWA’s magazine would not take offense at anything they read in a publication that is intended to help them in the pursuit of their professional careers, but the appropriate way of objecting to such offensive material would be to write a letter of protest to the magazine, not to force the editor to be overruled in advance by a committee that determines what might be deemed offensive.”

Robert Silverberg at

Despite the lack of clarity in the petition’s thesis, it attracted some notable signatories including Harlan Ellison, David Gerrold, and Gene Wolfe, as well as Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, David Brin and Gregory Benford. Naturally, Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg (whose columns in the Bulletin had been central to the arguments in 2013) were signatories, as was Brad Torgersen as a former Nebula Award nominee[2]. However, given the length of even the amended version, it isn’t entirely clear what people were endorsing. The text is more of an essay, including a set of emails between Truesdale and the SFWA president. However, towards the end there is a more conventionally petition like section that shows the intent of the petition:

In light of the preceding correspondence we, the undersigned, object to the new SFWA requirements for editor of the SFWA Bulletin, as set forth on the SFWA website. Specifically, we have the following objections: A “review board” implies a group of persons, as yet unnamed, who can veto content submitted by members if the board deems it “offensive” to a sub-group of SFWA. This opens the door to censorship of opinions that do not jibe with the personal beliefs of those on the review board, whereas SFWA should be open to the airing of many varieties of opinions, especially on such sensitive subjects as sexism, racism, religion, and politics. The proposed requirements are so vague that they leave many critical questions unaddressed. Several among them: Given that it is our strong belief that there should be no “advisory” or “review” board, who would hypothetically sit on this board and how would they be chosen? Would advertising copy (book or magazine covers) be subject to review as well, especially in the high dollar advertising rates the Bulletin charges for its special Nebula issue? The editor of the Bulletin should have discretion over its contents; that is why he or she is chosen as editor. There should be no advisory or review board. In view of these considerations, we ask that SFWA (1) withdraw this slate of requirements for the Bulletin and (2) open a discussion where all viewpoints can be considered on this matter before drafting any further sets of guidelines for SFWA publications.

The petition received broader coverage at places such as File 770 and The Daily Dot[3], as well as support from the Mad Genius Club[4]. Meanwhile, Brad Torgersen had his own ideas about how to fix the SFWA. His plans including stricter rules for membership so that it would only be for professional authors and higher fees. He also called for the organisations “front men” to be employees (rather than elected officers), hired to run the SFWA like a business and thought the Nebulas should be abolished. He also wanted a strict ‘no politics’ rule:

5. No politics, no politics, no politics.
SFWA should not, as an org, concern itself with who is sitting in the U.S. White House, nor the U.S. Senate, nor the U.S. Congress. It should not concern itself with overseas military operations, nor domestic social welfare programs, nor city and municipal elections. SFWA should also not concern itself with social studies and humanities department theory, to include sex and sexism theory, transgender theory, race and ethnic theory, and so forth. The SFWA ought to be a business org dedicated to protecting and expanding the business opportunities of its members. Anything outside of business concerns would be strictly off the table. Something for individual members to pursue on their own time, outside the walls of the org. This will most likely not ever happen because the present SFWA body is increasingly dominated by amateur and pro-am voices who want to make SFWA into an explicitly political organ with explicitly political doctrines, to include the org’s own magazine — its content, its editorial slant, etc. Ideally, the SFWA Bulletin would be neither Mother Jones nor The National Review. Alas, the reality is that the Bulletin is going to reflect the loudest opinions and voices in the present org, regardless of whether or not these opinions have anything to do with business, or whether the voices have any qualifications to speak on business matters.”

The blame for the SFWA’s move leftwards (as Torgersen perceived it) was due to these less established authors. That a younger (and more diverse) membership were more likely to be less well-established writers escaped him, even though he was still a relatively new writer.

Despite some high profile support, Truesdale’s petition had little impact. The SFWA President noted its existence and moved on[5]. However, discontent was still rumbling around the same forums where many of the SFWA’s old guard could be found. This became clear with the release of screenshots of discussion from a list-serv thread used by several long time SFWA members and people associated with the organisation. In an article on the issue, The Daily Dot used this cautionary tagline:

“When you’re going to rant about how sci-fi publishing is being invaded by women and minorities, make sure you’re not doing it on a public forum.”

The article highlighted some derogatory comments by editor and agent Sean P Fodera, that specifically targetted Mary Robinette Kowal. Fodera blamed Kowal for the “whole anti-sexism matter” and went on to suggest she was hypocritical because of how she dressed. Fodera’s reaction was to threaten to sue people for libel because of the article[6] but unsurprisingly that fueled only more commentary and mockery. Eventually, Fodera apologised but the incident illustrated how entrenched the problem with sexism within the SFWA and publishing was. Any moves on issues such as the representation of women, casual sexism or sexual harassment were still likely to get significant and organised pushback from influential people including famous authors or people with influence in publishing.

2014 brings a more shocking scandal

[content warning for issues around child abuse]

Peace may not have broken out exactly at the SFWA but the pushback had demonstrably failed. However, Vox Day was still looking for ways to foment scandal and bad publicity for the organisation that had kicked him out in 2014. To do that he would need to exploit a different issue.

On June 3 2014 published an essay celebrating the life and work of Marion Zimmer Bradley. The article covered many biographical details about the writer (who had died in 1999) and talked about the influence of her work. However, what was glaringly missing was the history of child sexual abuse by her husband Walter Breen and her defence of Breen’s actions over several years. It was a shocking and unjustifiable omission but it was also an aspect of Marion Zimmer Bradley that many of her readers simply were not aware of.

Writer Deirdre Saoirse Moen rightly took to task for hiding this aspect of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s life from the essay[9]. Saoirse Moen followed up her first post on the issue by making contact with Zimmer Bradley’s (now adult) children. What she learnt from them was even more deeply shocking than what was already public (if rarely spoken about) knowledge. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s daughter had replied to Saoirse Moen’s emails explaining that not only had Marion Zimmer Bradley enabled Breen’s abusive behaviour but that Zimmer Bradley was also herself an abuser who had abused her own children.

Saoirse Moen’s posts on the issue made international headlines. The Guardian newspaper covered the shocked reaction among the writers and fans:

“The world of science fiction and fantasy is in shock, following news that the daughter of the bestselling late fantasy author Marion Zimmer Bradley has accused her mother of abusing her as a child. Authors such as John Scalzi, G Willow Wilson and Jim Hines have reacted to the allegations against a woman who had been regarded a pillar of the SFF community with horror. The writer Janni Lee Simner has announced she will be donating her earnings from a story set in a fictional world created by Bradley to an anti-abuse charity.”

The revelations were very difficult for many people to cope with. As with many famous authors, Zimmer Bradley had been an influential writer for people at a seminal time in their lives. Her fantasy works often dealt with sexual issues that many people have said helped them understand their own issues.

Not one to let a tragedy go by without making use of it, Day decided that the revelations could be used to demonstrate that he had been right all along. Having spent over a decade bemoaning the evils of women science fiction writers, here, at last, was a genuine example of one who had behaved undeniably monstrously[11]. For an added bonus to Day’s narrative, the revelations had been precipitated by that hagiographic article at for which he could blame Patrick Nielsen Hayden (and John Scalzi as well for no good reason).

Whether Day only considered using claims of paedophilia against the SFWA once the revelations about Marion Zimmer Bradley occurred or whether he had already been considering it was unclear. Day would later state that he regarded using false accusations of paedophilia as a useful rhetorical attack[12]. Homophobic groups have also attempted to claim paedophilia is an inherent danger in recognising basic human rights of LGBTQI people, a tactic Day would have been familiar with.

Day sent off an indignant letter to the SFWA, conflating a variety of issues with Marion Zimmer Bradley and his own recent expulsion:

First, as a tolerant and inclusive organization, does the behavior which SFWA tolerates include abnormal sexual behavior such as homosexuality, child abuse, torture, and incestuous rape by its members? Second, will the SFWA Board be purging Marion Zimmer Bradley from SFWA’s historical membership list and removing all references to her, her estate, and her estate’s agent from the SFWA web site? Third, will the SFWA Board be retroactively expunging from the Nebula Awards list Marion Zimmer Bradley’s 1976 Best Novel nomination for The Heritage of Hastur and Mary C. Aldridge’s 1990 Best Short Story nomination for “The Adinkra Cloth”, published in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. As a former life member of SFWA expelled by the current SFWA Board for a tweet deemed inappropriate, I should be very interested to hear SFWA’s formal position on homosexuality, child molestation, torture and incestuous rape by its members. I look forward to reading your response.

As a new salvo in the SFWA conflict, it didn’t gain much traction except with Day’s own followers. Zimmer Bradley had died in 1999, long before the current board had much sway. Furthermore, he was now demanding of the SFWA that they take steps to censor member’s behaviour (or in this case an ex-member) for actions outside of the organisation. Despite his supposed concern for child safety, Day’s letter contained no concrete proposals that would further the cause of protecting children from abuse.

However, Day had two other targets to use to help portray the SFWA as in some way sympathetic to child abuse. The first was an attempt to use author (and SFWA Grandmaster) Samuel Delany’s frank discussions about his sexuality and his sexual experiences as a child to cast him as abusive or as endorsing abuse. Delany would later speak about this at length in response[13].

Day’s third target had some more substance. Ed Kramer was an editor of fantasy and horror fiction and co-founder of the major pop-culture convention Dragon*Con in Georgia. Kramer had been arrested in 2000 on charges of child molestation and had spent over a decade fighting those charges. In the process, he had enlisted the support of many people within science fiction communities who believed he was either innocent or was being treated unjustly by the court system. Famous names who had provided him with some support included Harlan Ellison and former SFWA President Robert Sawyer — unwise of them but at no point were they endorsing his actual crimes.

In December 2013, Kramer’s trial finally started[15] and he had pleaded guilty[16]. In June of 2014, Day noted that according to the membership directory that he had access to, Kramer was still a member of the SFWA[17]. In fact, as was later revealed, Kramer was not still a member in 2014 as he had let his associate membership lapse.

Day would continue on this line of argument but at the time gained little traction. In the context of the disputes of 2013, a focus on Zimmer Bradley (who had received some support from no less than Robert Heinlein at the time of Breen’s expulsion from Worldcon) or Ed Kramer (associated with Dragon*Con, a convention favoured by many right-leaning authors) or indeed on SFWA’s external reprehensible actions were not beneficial to the idea that the SFWA should mind its own business when it came to author behaviour.

However, this tactic in 2014 was more of a trial run for Day. The idea of using child abuse claims as a kind of rhetorical weapon was one Day was experimenting with and would use again in the future.

Next Time: Larry Correia campaigns again in Sad Puppies 2



129 responses to “Debarkle Chapter 25: The SFWA Civil War Part 3”

    • “Moen” is a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? *grin*

      Yes, people do tend to mistype “Deirdre” in a variety of ways, but I’m sure Cam will tidy that up shortly. While he’s at it, though: My sweetie’s surname is actually not “Moen”, but rather “Saoirse Moen”; she chose at the time of our marriage to adopt a double-barrelled surname sans hyphen, leading to her name getting endlessly mis-parsed, especially given her lack of a middle name.

      By the way, Cam, thank you in particular for that paragraph noting how difficult it was for many longtime MZB fans to come to grips with the horrific truth about her crimes, a cruel blow to many who had found her Darkover and other fiction works to help them get through troubled times in their own lives. Deirdre fully understood (at the time) the reason for MZB fans’ angry reaction, and so scrupulously avoided acting to make their loss worse.

      Deirdre (and I) also pushed back against Theo Beale and followers’ subsequent sloppy and transparent attempt to imply guilt by association through innuendo.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Rick, you and I have a number of mutual acquaintances who were very hurt. I suspect, like me, you just don’t mention MZB at all to them. I don’t say “Darkover” unless the other brings it up.

        Literally NO ONE knew till Dierdre found out — fans, friends, anyone.

        It’s a cliche but it’s true. Be it pedophilia or serial killing, it’s hidden so well that no one, even close friends, suspect it. “I had no idea, s/he seemed like such a nice person, good neighbor, pillar of the community.” Bystanders and onlookers are truly innocent.

        (Or at least it used to be; nowadays many people are less surprised, at least about the violence.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • My sweetie’s surname is actually not “Moen”, but rather “Saoirse Moen”; she chose at the time of our marriage to adopt a double-barrelled surname sans hyphen, leading to her name getting endlessly mis-parsed, especially given her lack of a middle name.

        Late to the thread, but speaking from experience: Hyphenating the barrels together does not help prevent mis-parsing (specifically, mistaking the first half for a middle name) nearly as much as one would think.


  1. Typo patrol:

    other people had been drawing there own conclusion

    s/b “their” (also, since people is plural I think “conclusions” should be too)

    not only had Marion Zimmer Bradly enabled

    s/b Bradley
    Both instances of “Delaney” should be “Delany”.

    at no point where they endorsing

    s/b “were”

    not still a member in 2014 has he had let

    s/b “as”


  2. Looks good. Some extra details come to mind — you don’t need them, so you must be doing a good job editing your research!


  3. Should “steps to censor member’s behaviour” use censure instead of censor?

    Also you mention that SASS announced their first permanent president, but you never say that it was Michael A. Burstein. (The last name does appear in the link.) Probably not important, but I felt I had missed something while I was reading it.


    • In retrospect I was surprised that Burstein was stooging for Antonelli. I used to follow what Burstein was doing fairly closely, because he was always running for things in his hometown.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. In Sweden, the calls in Dave Trusdale’s petition is actually enshrined in law since 250 years ago.

    To give legal protection to a magazine or newspaper, there needs to be one editor that is responsible for everything. This means that this person is the only one with power to decide what should be included or excluded. No owners are allowed to restrict this and they should not try to affect anything written in the magazine.

    In exchange, the individual journalists get legal protection, as does anonymous sources, and anyone who wants to sue the magazine has much harder legal requirements to win a case.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It would be nice with an appendix at the end, showing all new organisations created to supposedly replace SFWA. Perhaps together with listing all new awards that tried to replace the Hugo’s (thinking of the rocket turds I think Ken Burnside created and whatever the garden ornaments were names).

    Liked by 3 people

      • I just keep loosing track over how many new awards/organisations that have been created.


          • I was going to marvel that he was still paying to keep that online, then I discovered he recently broke a four-year silence to add a post calling me a son-of-a-bitch, which as you know was considered strong language on the 1940s. I must don my fedora and chastize him severely.

            Liked by 3 people

            • Sorry, I hadn’t clocked the date on the most recent post. I thought it was all 2016 stuff.

              Also…who does that? Post a single message on a long dead blog that surely nobody has visited in years? It’s like saying something without saying something and yet ensuring you are on record saying it.

              Does a tree that falls in a post on a blog nobody visits make a sound?

              Liked by 2 people

          • I’m wondering who Lou thinks is going to hold this discussion he wants to host. The site has only ever had 15 comments altogether, none on its last two posts in 2016 and just one comment on the post before that.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Mike Glyer: I’m wondering who Lou thinks is going to hold this discussion he wants to host. The site has only ever had 15 comments altogether, none on its last two posts in 2016 and just one comment on the post before that.

              Every time he posts something and you notice it and put it in a Scroll, he gets roundly mocked for his stupidity. I suspect he wanted to be stupid somewhere without being mocked for it, so he chose a place that you wouldn’t see.

              Liked by 2 people

              • I generally don’t link to abuse, and have never linked to this particular site of Antonelli’s. More people will be clicking through from Camestros’ mention here today than have ever looked at it before. Streisand Effect.


        • The funniest part is, if P was going to react to your reveal like that, he needed to make a solemn commitment to himself to follow through on really establishing the organization. Because his initial aspirational setup of the website was something to be giggled at, but his utter and complete failure to do anything after he went ballistic at you was full-on, belly-laugh funny.

          Liked by 2 people

    • Don’t forget the one-off Jovian Award, which was the brainchild grudge award given out by Father Of The Year Mike somebody, who took his kids to the 2015 Hugo Award Ceremony without first warning them that there was likely to be a strong reaction against the works which the Puppies had cheated onto the ballot – and then blamed everyone but himself when his kids got upset.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. It might be good to have a brief summary of what if anything Truesdale’s petition was specifically saying the SFWA should do or not do, under all the free-speech rhetoric. It’s possible to piece together an idea based on the reactions and on knowledge of what these things are generally like, but right now I think to a blank-slate reader it’d be a bit unclear whether the various signatories mentioned were signing onto a general “PC = bad” statement, or a “Malzberg & Resnick were right” statement, or “there shouldn’t be a review process above the level of the editor”, or “there shouldn’t be any review process”, or all of the above.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Around May 2015, Deirdre and I spent a fair amount of time engaging with Theo Beale and entourage on his blog — entirely civilly on both sides — trying to talk good sense (as we saw it) to them about matters including the legacy of the Breendoggle and about what modern Worldcon Business Meetings are and aren’t (something we felt we could reasonably speak to, as WSFS Business Meeting regulars).

    At one point, one minion (“Matthew”) had a go at Deirdre personally, suggesting her “intellectual toolkit” had been inadequate to raise before Pacificon II’s concom a principled objection to Breen attending. In what I considered a nice comeback, I replied: “If any preschooler could have had the moxie to tell the Pacificon II concom that, Deirdre might have. But I think she might at that age have had a little difficulty pronouncing ‘intellectual toolkit’.”

    Calendars. They’ve heard of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s a bit of a tangential point, but the civility of your discussion was not lost on Beale. When traffic picked up on my blog in 2015 he recommended I enlist you as a sort of sgt-at-arms in my comment section. Because a blogger needs to time free to create, and not spend it all sorting out the commenters. He named a couple of his Ilk as examples of people who filled that role for him. (I didn’t enlist anyone, so don’t feel left out.)

      Ironically, now that he’s used alt-right and white supremacist politics to raise his traffic to an even greater magnitude, he spends more time than anyone else fending off views and various kinds of acting out that he doesn’t want on the site.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Mike, it’s an honour to be nominated, and all that.

        It’s seemed to me that you and your helpers do a fabulous job of credential-herding, and I’m not sure I’d have been able to match it.

        Liked by 2 people

      • One of the things I learned coming out of Scientology is that the people who didn’t abandon me while I was in were the ones still there for me when I got out. The people who’d carefully kept a distance, but still kept contact, were the people there to rely on when everything went to hell.

        Because of that experience, I feel that the “good roads, fair weather” approach is good with many people one fundamentally disagrees with. (Yes, I realize there’s a privilege axis to this.)

        Note that I’m not saying go out of your way to keep in contact, or make a point of having conversations, just occasionally reinforcing points of agreement when they happen. This is one reason I tend not to cut people off, just limit contact instead.

        In 2015, we were on vacation and I read the MIxon report when I was on almost zero bandwidth, and went off on it…without taking the time to think about it. That was a real mistake that hurt people, and my walking that back permanently lost me friends and contacts in the field. But I stand by it.

        As I said on Twitter the other day:

        > It fascinates me that there’s this white person calculation of “x is PoC” and “y is PoC” and therefore x, writing about y’s culture in a racist way, must not be racist because…all PoC are interchangeable?

        And if x decides to be rude about the critique, well, clearly, she should be shunned for life.

        I note the irony of Natalie Luhrs’s current Hugo nomination pointing out that GRRM is not the anti-racist he claimed to be when piling onto the Mixon report.


        • Apologies, firstly, for getting your name wrong more than once.

          The Mixon Report and Requires Hate will be getting its own chapter. I’m convinced that if the Puppy campaign hadn’t dominated 2015, there would have been a better examination of everything in the dynamics of the Mixon Report.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Just let me throw in the alternative that the Puppy crisis multiplied the audience that paid attention to the Mixon report. You can see from reading it there had already been years of discussion about this issues happening in different forums. But it came up at exactly the time the Worldcon community was asking itself how do you deal with powerful abusers who organize through social media. The report, while important in its own right, resonated with the immediate issues of this additional community.

            Liked by 3 people

            • True that aspect of the issue (how do you deal with powerful abusers ) was given added emphasis and also at a time when the community was under attack. I think the discussion would have been more complex sans-Puppies (not necessarily *better*, it might have been very ugly but different)

              Liked by 2 people

          • Without the Puppy slating, here’s who would have been on the ballot for Fan Writer in 2015:

            129 Laura Mixon
            89 Abigail Nussbaum
            78 Liz Bourke
            76 Natalie Luhrs
            69 Mark Oshiro

            While I do believe that Mixon’s piece did an important service of shining light on the toxic behavior of someone who only stopped after almost a decade of harassment and abuse because they were unmasked, I am not at all confident that Mixon would have won Best Fan Writer. But because of the Puppy slating, we will never know.

            Liked by 1 person

      • It was a strange time, but, in both of our cases, our cultivated habits served us well, by which I mean, our instinct to be kind, be honest & morally consistent, and be willing to speak civilly with just about anyone and seek common ground if possible.

        In Deirdre’s case, this reflects her background as a once fairly high-profile defector from the Church of Scientology. During the period when she was freeing herself from that cult — before and after — she was lastingly grateful for friends and acquaintances who kept friendly relations open and who had no truck with enforced shunning. Largely because of that experience, she draws a firm line against participating in the latter practice, both on the Internet and elsewhere. (Her qualifier to that is that she will avoid financially supporting certain people, e.g., she won’t pay to see a Tom Cruise movie, because of his ongoing Scientology involvement. But she wouldn’t refuse to talk to him.)

        For my part, I grew up having very close and warm relations with my emigrant-Norwegian extended family, all of whom were Robert Taft / Goldwater / Nixon / Reagan Republicans with whom my immediate (and politically left-ish) family agreed on very little. E.g., Tante Mary kept trying to feed me table grapes during family meals, and 10-year-old me would politely decline because we supported Cesar Chavez and the UFW — the point being I grew up seeking common ground and not picking fights over disagreement. But this also meant that I as an American liberal grew up amidst six decades of left-wing posturing, attempts at circular firing squads over special jargon and shibboleths du jour, and decided from about 1968 onwards to opt entirely out of that mishegoss, in the name of greater personal dignity and concentrating preferentially on battles that actually matter.

        So, in both of our cases, when we kept being told by our “side” that we mustn’t talk to Theo and his Dread Ilk because they are Bad People, and that we would probably be shunned as Bad People by Association, we pretty much reflexively both thought “Sod that for a lark, mate” and instead went with being kind, being honest & morally consistent, and being willing to speak civilly with just about anyone and seek common ground if possible. Works for Us[tm].

        Liked by 1 person

        • There’s much to be said for the enlightened approach to life. I must admit that with respect to Vox Day my own was — I didn’t know why he wanted to talk to me but he was avowedly trying to destroy an institution I supported and I was not going to foreclose the possibility of him telling me useful information.

          Liked by 2 people

      • No worries on the name. I am not as sure about the RH examination had the Puppy thing not gone down at the same time. Part of that is the dynamics of how people view “us” vs. “them,” and how people rationalize bad behavior. It’s one of the reasons I think Kij Johnson’s “Ponies” is one of the most (horrifyingly, despite the cutesy layer over the top) insightful stories about human behavior ever.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Mike (and also to JJ), you’re right about powerful abusers who organize through social media. We’ve seen that happen.

        However, I’d like to remind you of the relevant concept of “punching up” vs. “punching down.” Great link on the Goodmenproject. In critiquing the behavior of marginalized people, one has to be careful not to punch down hard, regardless. Yes, regardless.

        So, who has more power here?

        Person A:

        * Wife of recent SFWA president
        * Part of a writer’s conference held each year by, among others, an editor at Tor (and I think he was publisher for a time)
        * Lives in the US, attends events in the US and is known in the US
        * Published by major houses including Tor and Baen, for multiple novels
        * White

        Person B:

        * Has lived all her life in Asia, and is not personally (IRL) known to more than a few in the community (if any)
        * Published by small press, and no novels published (at that time)
        * Non-White

        First, let’s stipulate that damning criticisms of Person B could be validly made. Let’s also stipulate that such criticisms could be made without punching down.

        I’d argue that Person A nuking Person B’s writing career is the greater harm, and therefore more abusive, than anything B did to A. Or to C or D for that matter.

        My opinion is that it’s likely the Mixon report was intentionally harmful, and should be looked at that way (regardless of how you feel about Bee). Just as the Puppy saga was intentionally harmful to the Hugos.


        • I have no quarrel with your purpose to offer a thoughtful opinion. I just don’t find punching-up-punching-down to be trustworthy concepts, I’ve seen them misused to assert immunity for individuals who have learned the ways to use social media to make other people’s lives miserable.


        • Deirdre: I’d argue that Person A nuking Person B’s writing career is the greater harm

          I’d argue that Person A did not nuke Person B’s career. Person B nuked their own career with their horrific behavior. (And did they really? I still see B getting published. I still people reading and reviewing B’s work.)

          There are often severe social and financial consequences to the perpetrator when severely bad behavior is publicly revealed. I don’t give read or money to anything which Person B has written or contributed to – nor do I read or give money to an anthology featuring stories or novels written by Day, Correia, Wright, Torgersen, Hoyt, Freer, Antonelli, or the rest of their despicable associates, either.

          People often get fired or lose contracts when their employer finds out that they’ve been engaging in harassment or abuse. When someone engages in horrific behavior, they know that, among other things, they are risking their careers and incomes by doing so.

          B was well into adulthood and should have known better, but only stopped their years of horrific behavior when they were finally unmasked (and there’s some evidence that they’ve still been engaging in some bad behavior since then). I’d argue that Person A prevented 8+ years of horrific abuse (much of it to vulnerable BIPOC authors, some of whom are no longer writing because of it) from becoming 20 years of it.


      • Mike, of course I don’t want to see ongoing abuse, and the issue here is that abuse was given power, not just with the report, but the Hugo nom and award.

        But one bigger issue is glossing over the fact of someone having written about Bee’s culture and her rudely critiquing it (re: Shadowboxer)…is valid. In fact, I’d like to incorporate asymbina’s post by reference.


      • @JJ: I’d have probably voted for Natalie that year if it had been a fair election. But that’s RWNJ for you, they hate fair elections because they know they can’t win.

        @Deirdre: Point of data. I had absolutely NO idea who Laura Mixon was, despite having attended cons (and Worldcons) since the early 80’s. Never heard of her Whereas I definitely knew who RHate was and had read some of her stuff. She was much more of a thing online.

        The Report didn’t entirely destroy her career, either; she’s still publishing under BS, so I guess she’s been redeemed? (shrug)


      • Camestros, will do.

        JJ, you’re of course free to like/dislike whomever. Lots of people still think that the Internet isn’t real life, sometimes with horrifying consequences. One of the things she’s expressed regret about was assuming that the people on the other end of the wire weren’t feeling criticism deeply. She knows she was wrong about that. I think this is one of those things where I first met people IRL I’d known online in 1982, and to my knowledge, she hasn’t ever, so it doesn’t surprise me that she’d be slow to come to that realization.

        A significant chunk of what she published later was either bought earlier or in self-published. She’d certainly have had a novel out several years earlier, though.

        Personally, I want to be in a world where people are encouraged to grow as people, even if they’re still pretty far from that (by your stated standards). As someone who has been stalked (by Scientology) and knows what a drain it can be, I empathize with people who’ve had stalkers, which Bee has. They are not sources for credible scholarship; would you trust what Scientology said about me?


        • Deirdre: Personally, I want to be in a world where people are encouraged to grow as people

          I agree with this, but I also want to be in a world where there are actual consequences for horrific behavior. Often, experiencing consequences is what finally makes the perpetrators grow as people. Or if they don’t, then they need to continue experiencing consequences.


  8. Mike wrote:

    I was going to marvel that he was still paying to keep that online, then I discovered he recently broke a four-year silence to add a post calling me a son-of-a-bitch, which as you know was considered strong language on the 1940s. I must don my fedora and chastize him severely.

    But you have to admit that coinages like “Mike Glyer, the Lavrenty Beria of the s-f establishment” are almost worth a ducat or two to support the cause. (Finally, I’m a Chekist by implication. Mom would be so proud!)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “Why the Hugo Awards would have an overtly pro-feminist establishment,” Feminist control of the government/churches/the media is a popular bogeyman among right-wingers. It’s amazing how Rush Limbaugh ever had a career when feminists won’t allow anyone in the media to question their politics.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Cam: Here you go

    Quote from the comments “For my part, I note that SFWA has changed its character since they started letting the ballots be counted by the League of Women Voters. It does kinda explain why LeGuin (!) would get named Grandmaster but Pournelle would not.”

    (this was back when describing people who have non-medical degrees as “Doctor” was the correct procedure for conservatives. I know that things have changed).

    Liked by 3 people

  11. So many right-wingers — all *outside* of SF fandom, I hasten to add — are SO AGAINST things they do themselves, I confess to worrying about children in their vicinity when they go on about pedophilia.

    Like the senator who’s against gay rights using gay pick-up signals in the airport men’s room, the Republican ditto who paid for a rent boy to go on vacation with him, the fervently anti-everything pastor getting caught with a male prostitute and a bag of meth. Falwell Jr. being a *literal* cuckold, Mar-a-Lardo* mouthing “family values” platitudes while banging porn stars, tear-gassing a church, and supporting a candidate who hit on babysitters and girls at the mall. All the Republicans accusing the Democrats of being corrupt and taking bribes from companies and cooperating with foreign countries when they do it themselves. The whole “It’s OK if you’re a Republican” mindset.

    It might just be that calling someone a pedophile is the worst thing you can accuse them of nowadays, and thus gets a lot of attention and hurts your target. But I literally do think of the children.

    (Teddy’s only doing it for attention, just like everything he does. Not that he cares about actual children who were killed and wounded by his hero Brevik.)

    Of course they seem to be just going ahead and doing it openly now, like Matt Gaetz being the only Congresscritter to vote against a human trafficking bill while committing statutory rape and violating the Mann Act. Eric’s Dad* probably IS going to shoot someone in the middle of a street — heck, he’s already killed hundreds of thousands through COVID.

    *These are courtesy of Colbert, who stopped using the former pResident’s name a while back and invited Twitter to come up with alternative terms. He uses only those, with an on-screen credit for the Twitter handle who provided it. It’s funny and connects with the audience both.


    • Lurkertype: All the Republicans accusing the Democrats of being corrupt and taking bribes from companies and cooperating with foreign countries when they do it themselves.

      I forget which one, but there was an extremely-detailed methodology put forward by Republicans explaining how they think a certain voting machine system was gamed by the Democrats in a certain state to change the results of an election. An analyst pointed out that the method they described would actually work on the system of a different voting machine company which is used in McConnell’s state, where I think McConnell’s re-election totals were massively off from the voter polls and his re-election seemed improbable.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. 1) It should be noted that the reason the SFWA gave the petition very little interest and shrugged it off was that it was against an Editorial Review Board that did not exist nor was immediately planned to exist. An Editorial Review Board had been one of the possibilities discussed for dealing with the fact that having the president of SFWA being the reviewer/approval for the Bulletin contents (controlling the editor) was a bad idea and too much for the president to do (Scalzi having dropped the ball there.)

    But Silverberg just decided to believe in the conspiracy theory of it soon existing and sell the danger to his pals. He let Truesdale rant about how women were evil in the petition while being rather deceptive to a number of major authors to get them to sign it. The biggest fallout from the Bulletin petition was the awakening about just how easily some members of SFWA and the field could be tricked into acting against women authors. And this came up again and again dealing with various crises at different conventions and the muttered reactions of Silverberg and others to award acceptance or convention speeches that tackled the discrimination history in the field. For authors who were supposedly very against censorship, they were quite intent on silencing authors bringing up issues they didn’t want to deal with. It seemed like the only free speech they were interested in preserving was snarky remarks about women’s breasts and such — speech that was unprofessional, broke rules and created a discriminatory and silencing climate for marginalized authors in the field.

    Note again that Silverberg whines that if SFWA women get upset about something in the Bulletin, they can write a letter to the editor to complain, as if in the 1960’s — his younger era. He refuses to acknowledge the power imbalance of this idea, although many other people brought it up and argued it. It’s the Hoyt strategy of pretending power imbalances and discrimination don’t exist while insisting on special powers for those in dominant groups and/or who have power — the power to break the rules and the power to decide what the rules will be and what is and isn’t a problem, protecting the power of the dominant over the rights and opportunities of the marginalized and less established writers.

    2) Ringo’s attack on Scalzi over Redshirts is more in Beale’s method of attack. Scalzi was a bestselling author and Redshirts had done the best of all his titles so far and had been optioned for a t.v. series. The next year he would ink a landmark deal with Tor for ten years of books. Winning the Hugo Award certainly didn’t hurt Scalzi but it wasn’t something he needed to get ahead.

    And far from being happy with Scalzi as a defender of feminism, many people/women were furious with Scalzi for letting sexist drivel into the Bulletin and for other issues. And some have still not forgiven him for it. Others did partly because he took full responsibility and tried to make amends. But far from being seen as a defender of feminism, Scalzi is mainly seen as another white straight guy who thus gets the lion’s share of publicity and publisher support and who occasionally is willing to be an ally or at least not actively hostile to his fellow women authors.

    Ringo’s approach was to label Scalzi a voluntarily inferior man who was insincerely courting women’s approval, said women somehow having magically taken over the Hugos. He paints Redshirts — a book he hasn’t read — as super woke when in fact, since it satirized and homaged old science fiction shows, it was not particularly feminist. And Ringo is arguing that instead of lifting one of their fellow women up to get the award, they instead gave it to Scalzi, an already bestselling straight white guy who got more resources from Tor than most of their women authors. It doesn’t make sense again, but it makes for a great emotional conspiracy theory for insecure men and laid the groundwork for Larry and the Puppies to make their accusations willy-nilly and include Scalzi in their claims of vote rigging, even though he didn’t really fit with the others they attacked.

    3) I never even heard of Breen and his abuse until I read articles about Kramer incidentally. I wasn’t a huge MZB fan, though she was seminal in the field and I had friends who had published in her sponsored anthologies. Finding out that MZB herself was also abusive wasn’t a big surprise to me once I knew about Breen. Because MZB’s work did not always stick to straight sexuality, she was declared to be part of the hippie progressive front (she was not) and progressives were chastised for not thoroughly condemning her and rejecting her, even though many were. It was similar to the peddled conspiracy theory that prominent Islamic clerics had not condemned the 9/11 attacks even though numerous ones did and repeatedly.

    Beale used the situation to attack the SFWA for ousting him. Note that he downplays his actions as simply an inappropriate tweet. The reality was that he had launched a racist attack from an SFWA official account, exposing the organization to legal liability. Instead, he dismisses his own behavior and builds a conspiracy theory of SJWs in the SFWA out to get him and silence him, even though he was an insignificant author in the field. it was this narrative that led to Larry making the fateful decision to include Beale as one of his Puppy nominees and try to upset Jemisin and other marginalized authors, attracting more publicity. I hadn’t known that Beale went after Delany but it certainly fits as Delany is one of the earliest prominent Black SFF writers and Beale believes Black people to be inherently inferior and dangerous.

    And sadly, MZB’s daughter, who is conservative in politics, would continue to be used and abused by the Puppies and other conservative authors to create more baseless conspiracy theories. There’s no question that in the 1920’s-1980’s era of SFF, a lot of bad things happened and a number of prominent authors caused them, information known by some at the time but squashed, only to come bubbling up in the present. But that’s exactly the history that progressive and marginalized authors are dragging out into the light and pointing out why it still creates discriminatory problems for them in the field. The silence authors like Beale, Larry, Ringo, etc. want to keep enforcing is the same silence that let MZB, her husband, Kramer and so on do what they did.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Teddy and the Ilk using Moira for their own self-aggrandizing bullshit was especially low — re-victimizing a victim, as it were. For basically no result. Certainly not a positive one for anybody.

      Liked by 1 person

      • @Cora:

        At least one of the signatories of Truesdale’s and Silverberg’s petition was a woman writer, namely Susan Shwartz.

        I’m going to post, here, an unsolicited and arguably irrelevant personal endorsement: Back when’s mailing lists existed and had public access to us of the Great Unwashed who were able to use the NNTP netnews protocol for access, I was an avid participant in Susan’s newsgroup (/mailing list / Web forum), there, and judged her to be a winning combination of astuteness, a strong moral centre, and a sense of style, and excellent grasp of effective rhetoric. To my knowledge, I’ve never met her, but I liked her a whole lot (from afar).

        If Ms. Shwartz ever felt like telling me her views about Truesdale’s and Silverberg’s petition, and why she signed it, I’d be fascinated to hear details, and would trust to her accuracy and sincerity. Call me an optimist, if you will, but I have faith that her view would make sense as presented, and be interesting to hear.

        (Susan was an exec at a major US bank, and very much a fan of following proper, documented procedure and having guardrail procedures against mishap. Her view may owe to that.)

        On the larger matter, speaking for myself, I have regarded controversies within SFWA as inherently not my business in the first place. Deirdre was a SFWA member during the period in question, so I heard about them, but personally would no more time spend time editorialising about internal SFWA squabbles than about those in any other professional guild of which I was a complete outsider.

        Internet culture (as a figurative person) holds that it’s in order for anyone, anywhere, any time, to editorialise about This Thing That Bothers Me in any sphere of action whatsoever. I submit that Internet culture is a fool.


      • Susan Shwartz wasn’t the only woman to sign the petition. C.J. Cherryh and Nancy Kress signed it, for instance. That’s why it was all a bit of a shock. Some of the signees admitted that they hadn’t read the petition that protested an imaginary conspiracy theory and others said they’d seen different versions of the petition, presumably that didn’t have the parts about how it was a bad idea that women were given the vote, etc.

        People weren’t horribly angry at the women or even most of the men who signed the petition. They were disappointed that the signers were more concerned about possible future censorship of men (their pals) speaking sexism to women than they were newer women SFF authors being silenced about sexism and discrimination that affected how they were treated in the field. Shwartz has been able to have a career in finance and writing SFF because the feminists in the past did not entirely just suck up the discrimination inflicted on them in the past but risked their careers and necks to speak up and demand changes to the cultural climate. They didn’t “toughen up” and submissively accept the sexist discrimination, they spoke up against it — just as they did about the Bulletin.

        Shwartz, like a lot of women who went through even worse systematic sexism in their history unfortunately is taking the position that younger women have to go through that repression and treatment too or at least are too whiny. But that treatment blocks women in careers. It leaves them behind because they have to go through an obstacle course that men don’t, when men have the power to speak over women and the women are expected to be silent and not complain about it. And that’s not even getting into the racism aspects for women of color. She essentially is telling women to hobble themselves and take what they can get, what men and a sexist society allow, rather than demanding further change.

        So I don’t think anyone thinks Shwartz is a horrid person. Bigotry only occasionally operates from horrid people. The majority of the bigotry and discrimination in our societies comes from rank and file people who are nervous about what change will mean from what they are used to in the past. So if I sat down and had a conversation with her, it would be a little different of a one than maybe you might have. I have a daughter working in a man-dominated, rape-happy industry. I don’t want her to “toughen up” to that. I want the industry to change and her be free to speak and have equal opportunities for her career because she is an equal human being.

        I would also hope that unlike Shwartz she doesn’t fall for imaginary conspiracy theories. 🙂


        • Some older feminists expressed similar views during #metoo.
          Of course it’s a common attitude towards “kids today” (though a particularly toxic one). One book I read discussing the sleep deprivation med students and residents endure said older doctors have a “I went through it, they need to do the same” attitude, even though sleep deprivation is obviously bad for making good medical (or any) decisions.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, there are more than a few older women in fandom who have the attitude (which they occasionally post, on discussions of harassment and assault in fandom spaces) that they’ve managed to deal with shitty treatment from men for years just fine, so other women should be perfectly able to do so as well, and by the way, it’s just awful when women cause problems in fandom by filing harassment complaints, it’s ruining everything. 🙄


    • I liked MZB both as a writer (not some of her later Darkover books) and an editor (she gave me a rejection that was curt but quite spot-on about the flaws). Depressing to learn about the abuse, but not surprising. By that point I was old enough that Big Reveals about people’s behavior rarely startle me. Seen too many of ’em.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Lurkertype wrote:

    Rick, you and I have a number of mutual acquaintances who were very hurt. I suspect, like me, you just don’t mention MZB at all to them. I don’t say “Darkover” unless the other brings it up.

    Of course. I don’t mean this in any way as glibly as it’s doubtless going to sound, but I try to live Oscar Wilde’s dictum that “A gentleman never gives offence accidentally.” (Well, “attr.)

    Less joke-ily phrased: When Deirdre (after consultation with Moira Greyland) dropped her bombshell and The Guardian then gave it worldwide effect, I watched with mounting horror as many in fandom, and many authors associated with Greyhaven and/or MZB fandom whom I revere, such as Deborah J. Ross and Diana Paxson, reacted first angrily and then with an evident feeling of pain and loss. Simple empathy and tact suggest I do and say nothing that would make their hurt worse. Full stop. So, if someone wants to talk about it, I listen, and concentrate on doing no harm.

    Literally NO ONE knew till Deirdre found out — fans, friends, anyone.

    It’s complicated. Stephen Goldin knew (eventually), and tried to inform the SFF community about MZB’s incriminating court deposition she gave in 1998, a year before she died. Goldin had gleaned the text of Bradley’s testimony and included it on a Web site devoted to that purpose at However, that stunning testimony had not been widely noticed and, by the time 2015 rolled around, his pages had been gone for quite some time. After the 2015 scandal, Deirdre got back in touch with Goldin and with his permission re-hosted it, giving further collaboration of Moira and Mark Greyland’s testimony and about other related crimes MZB committed.

    In truth, we’ll probably never be able to establish who if anyone (outside of Breen and MZB) had been contemporaneously aware of MZB’s crimes against her and others’ children and turned a blind eye to them. It’s a sub-zero cold case about sub-zero cold cases. The Dread Ilk’s response to that situation was “In that case, put them up against the wall posthumously.” Mine was “If you find competent and relevant evidence, I’d love to know the truth of that. Until you do, sorry, the handwaving and posturing doesn’t interest me.”

    As I pointed out several times on Theo Beale’s blog, despite a lot of bloviation there about it having been established before Pacificon II that Breen was a “pervert” (the Ilk’s term) and had undergone an arrest a decade before, the actual evidence of a criminal history available to the concom (not to mention surrounding fandom) in 1964 was extremely vaporous; thus the controversy. And as to MZB herself, I know of nobody other than poor Moira and Mark who was aware of her culpability at that time. Nor did the Ilk, of course; thus their handwavium. (I wasn’t at Pacificon II. I was in Mrs. Redondo’s first grade class at Las Lomitas School, Menlo Park. But I could already pronounce “mens rea”.)

    If I had to guess, I’d speculate that knowledge of MZB having been a bad apple had been just about zero until the 1998 deposition, which as mentioned remained, even then, obscure until Deirdre blew the case open in 2015. But that’s necessarily just a guess.


    • Rick Moen: If I had to guess, I’d speculate that knowledge of MZB having been a bad apple had been just about zero until the 1998 deposition, which as mentioned remained, even then, obscure until Deirdre blew the case open in 2015. But that’s necessarily just a guess.

      My impression is that it’s not that they didn’t know she was a bad apple, it’s that their Overton window for “bad apple” was over somewhere near child murder. Reading Donaho’s letter, it seems pretty apparent that a lot of the people involved in the GGFS and Greyhaven didn’t regard adults having sex with adolescents and teenagers as something untoward (much less horrifying); a lot of them even defended it or reacted with a “why not, if the kid wants to?” shrug.

      The people who actually knew she was a bad apple in terms of interactions with children (and I suspect there were plenty, given that the household was so large that members of Greyhaven constructed fake “normal” family trees for the kids’ school projects because of all of the intertwined sexual relationships) weren’t saying anything, because to them that didn’t fit the definition of anything wrong.


      • JJ, I’ll take your word for that. I’ll admit I didn’t look closely, because, well, it was all pretty horrifying, and I prefer People Whom You Are Glad You Don’t Know to be only fictional, as otherwise it’s just depressing.

        I’ve mentioned on Cam’s blog in the not-too-distant past that, a bit over a year ago, 23andMe (without my seeking this) “outed” my bio-mom to me — quite a wonderful person whose privacy I protect — and she disclosed that the bio-dad was a politically conservative, one-year-married, 44-year-old Federal prosecutor named Robert Howard Schnacke, later (1970) appointed by Nixon to a life appointment to the Federal District court in San Francisco. Bio-mom was, at the time, a 16-year-old.

        Which means that the illustrious Mr. Schnacke (1) was unfaithful to his wife, (2) violated his oath of office, and (3) committed a felony (which his staff knew about and covered for, by the way).

        I have little polite to say about the late Judge Schnacke: It’s just as well that he died in 1994, long before I learned of our genetic relation, as I would not have approved of the old SOB, wished he’d died in prison rather than putting other people there, and would have told him so. But what has been interesting is that, several friends I’ve related the above facts to, most but not all of them male, had the reaction “So?” (and saw nothing wrong with that liaison) My point is, age of consent is still, even today, a surprisingly (to me) contentious issue, so I’m not surprised to hear about outright vileness (by my standards) during the 1960s.

        There are long stretches when I don’t “get” this country. I was born here, but I never assume I share values or even word meanings with my countrymen, as often it turns out I don’t.


        • Yeah, I think it’s pretty horrific that’s it’s still legal in a lot of states (if not all of them) for parents to forcibly marry off underage daughters against their will.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Also, I’m really sorry to hear about your biological antecedent… but very glad that you won’t be going to prison or sued into bankruptcy for what might have happened had he still been alive when you found out about it.

          Liked by 1 person

        • There was an op-ed a few years ago about how if politicians and preachers can’t keep it in their pants, we shouldn’t make it a crime for teachers to bang their students.
          And back when Harvey Weinstein was pushing “let Roman Polanski come back to this country and get his Oscar!” as a social justice cause (I didn’t know he was the instigator until it was mentioned in passing in Kate Harding’s Asking For It), a couple of op-eds were very sympathetic (he hadn’t raped his victim, he’d seduced her!)


      • A few weeks ago on Twitter (I’ve since done the rare thing of deleting my side of the conversation; I usually only delete tweets if I posted something before I was finished) I was having a conversation with a conservative Christian on the topic of abortion. We actually agreed on quite a lot, but he wanted me to argue my case in his order. Literally, when he said that “consent comes later” (in the structure of argument pro/con permitting abortion), I noped out.

        Consent is a huge, huge issue we’re still struggling with, especially for women, underage women, elderly, disabled, or the mentally ill (on issues where they would at least have some capacity to say yes or no).

        Liked by 2 people

        • Deirdre: Consent is a huge, huge issue we’re still struggling with

          I remember feeling extremely uncomfortable with some of elements in the PERN books and Darkover books; in hindsight, I understand why, but at the time, I was too young and had neither the context nor the ability to articulate “this is very non-consensual and rapey”. And everyone raved about what a fantastic feminist work The Mists of Avalon was, but I hated it; it had consent violations and assault all over the place, and I didn’t see why women being the perpetrators was any less horrifying than when men were the perpetrators (and with background knowledge of the author now, of course, the issues I saw with that series seem like a rather obvious red flag).

          And then a couple of years ago, I read a novella by a popular author in a popular series where the good main characters engage in a major bodily consent violation of a secondary character, but it’s portrayed as being “necessary” in order to achieve the triumph of good. And wow, did I really react strongly to that, because my awareness of the issue of consent has really grown in recent years. I look back at when I was very young, things that were done to me, and things which I did to others, which were not considered anything extraordinary in our culture at the time, but which rather horrify me today.

          I am so glad to see people teaching kids now that they don’t have to hug whatever relative or family friend unless they genuinely want to, and that it’s not okay for boys to touch girls or excuse their doing so as “they’re just showing they like you”. There were a lot of things done to us as children – by adults and by other children – which we now recognize to be abuse.

          Liked by 1 person

        • The religious conservative insistence (#notallconservativesbuttoodamnmanyofthem) that consent is a bad standard and shouldn’t even be an issue is damn horrifying.


      • JJ: I never finished reading an MZB novel. I tried. Now I get why. David Gerrold said The Catch Trap really spoke to him in his younger days, and I have a copy I could have read at any point since he said that…and haven’t.

        In the Pern series, I started with Ruth (The White Dragon) and pretty much ended there. I read some of her other work, just never really bonded with Pern apart from Ruth.

        In general, I find the good vs. evil plots completely warped because everyone’s actually grey, and that structure is often used (IRL) to withhold and manipulate (a la Ender’s Game) in too many cases without being straight about it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Deirdre: In general, I find the good vs. evil plots completely warped because everyone’s actually grey, and that structure is often used (IRL) to withhold and manipulate (a la Ender’s Game) in too many cases without being straight about it.

          Ugh, don’t even get me started on Ender’s Game; there are so many things wrong with that book – despite which it is still worshipped by so many fanboys, but for being the opposite of what it actually is.

          I read all of the Darkover books, multiple times, decades ago. I loved that series. It definitely gave me some strong women characters to read about, in a time when there was a severe dearth of them in science fiction. I was so devastated about the news of MZB. It makes me ill now, just thinking of her and those books. I am so angry about what she did to her children, and so angry at her for giving me something wonderful and then destroying it. 😦

          Liked by 1 person

      • JJ: I considered adding the point about Ender’s Game being unintentionally ironic, given LDS church history. The book I’m actually a fan of is Speaker for the Dead, though it has a whole bunch of horrifying twists in it, I thought the idea of trying to speak the truth about someone’s life was cool. (Rick and I were talking the other night about some of the horrifying body mutilation twists of OSC’s books, and I wondered aloud how much of it was dysphoria of some sort.

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        • I totally agree that Speaker for the Dead is actually a great work; it really confronts the horrors that Ender has committed and explores the culpability we have for committing horrific acts even though we’re not aware that’s what we’re doing. I also liked the way it explores how something can seem utterly horrific, but is reasonable when it’s evaluated in its proper context (or vice versa).

          Sadly, I don’t think most of the fanboys ever get that far. I think my library has something like 20 copies of EG and 3 copies of SotD.

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      • I remember when Deirdre’s report about MZB’s crime came out, I was horrified but not as surprised as I should have been, because there were consent issues and incest scenes aplenty in her work.

        Of course, plenty of authors have written about dubious or outright non-consensual sex, relationships with big age differences where one partner is underage, incestous relationships, etc… and yet haven’t sexually abused any children. But there was a notable pattern in MZB’s work.

        That said, you’ll find plenty of dubious consent and outright rape, relationships with huge age and power differences, etc… in any kind of fiction from the late 1970s and 1980s and well into the 1990s. Anne McCaffrey’s work is full of consent issues and older male characters falling in love and eventually entering into relationships with much younger women they’ve known since childhood. And the so-called bodiceripper romances of the 1970s and 1980s were notorious for female protagonists getting raped and abused by the supposed heroes to the point that encountering a handful of such books put me off the entire romance genre for years. Thankfully, conversations around consent have evolved significantly in the past 30 years..


        • Foz Meadows has written about reading so many books as a teen with abusive, Damaged Man-Pain-Feeling male leads she was quite flabbergasted when she read a book where the abuser was labeled as Bad — wasn’t he the female lead’s destined love? Wouldn’t she heal him and fix his damaged self?
          There’s a particularly loathsome book called The Dice Man from the 1970s that involves a guy who starts rolling dice to decide randomly what he’ll do next. His first random choice is to rape his neighbor’s wife. It’s presented as edgy convention-breaking, rather than rape. More follows. (my review here:


      • Cora, and then there’s Piers Anthony.

        You’re right that it was far more normalized back when I was a teen, and I’m really glad things are changing for the better.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I never read The Dice Man (deliberately so), but I did pick up an idea of its content by osmosis. The flaw in the premise is that the protagonist chose to put particular outcomes on the roles of the dice; he hadn’t truly given up his volition in his actions.


        • Which would not bother me if the choices were “do I drink a triple scotch or a glass of milk?” Putting rape on the list, though … And even before that, he’s quite clear that if he wants to rape someone and doesn’t, he’s stifling his true inner self.


  14. Lurkertype wrote:

    Deirdre should adopt a middle name of equally non-intuitive Irish spelling to really mess with people further. Aoife, maybe. Or Eabha

    I like you; you’re obviously trouble. As Alice Roosevelt Longworth quipped (embroidered onto a pillow she used as a social prop in DC society): “If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.”

    For reasons Deirdre can relate if she wishes, she adopted “Saoirse” as a de-novo surname in early adulthood, when she de-complicated the original name her parents had given her. Over in Ireland, however, that is not known as a surname, only as a given one (subtype feminine). So, “Deirdre Saoirse” was a perfectly fine but is obviously (if viewed with Celtic knowledge) a synthesised one.

    I’m told that Gaelic orthography follows quite reasonable rules, BTW. One just needs to learn them.


    • I get a mite confused between the slightly-differing Irish and Scottish Gaelic orthography, but other than that I can usually sound things out and only move my lips a little.

      (I like that this thread has drifted, as all good fannish topics do.)


      • Irish orthography incorporates the several major dialects (with regional pronunciation differences), which is why so many vowels (and a few consonants) are tossed. Just different ones are tossed depending on the ruleset you’re currently using.

        I’m just really glad I didn’t change the spelling of Deirdre to the alternate: Daoirdre.


        • I have trick, which I don’t do out loud, if imagining I’m attempting a Northern Irish accent, seeing how the vowels turn out and adjusting accordingly. Not sure why NI works but it’s what helps me shift my vowels accordingly eg how ‘Fionn’ can be Finn Anglicised but the same root can be Fiona. Can’t same my (ie the meat robot’s) surname in the Gaelic original though.

          Liked by 1 person

  15. @JJ: If, hypothetically, Judge Schnacke had still been above ground when I found out about his illicit August 1957 liaison with a 16-year-old, I most certainly would have kept quiet about the entire matter until he shuffled off this mortal coil — because Mom didn’t raise no fools. Nor would I have knocked on the gate of his and his equally accomplished wife’s Hillsborough mansion, asked for a hug from dear-old-bio-dad, and asked to meet my half-siblings. (Ms. Schnacke was, if memory serves, the first female DA in California history.)

    Post-1994, if Clan Schnacke ever becomes irate about my (or bio-mom’s) telling tales about the old goat, we can tell them to go pound salt, as defamation against the deceased is just not a thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Just as an addendum (sorry, posted before quite finishing): My statement that (hypothetically) I would have told Judge Schnacke to his face that he was a felon, and that I wished he’d been locked away, is in no way inconsistent with my careful caution about defamation law: The one person you can safely tell that “Person A is a no-goodnik statutory rapist” is Person A, provided you’re not aware of anyone else overhearing — because then the defamation tort’s required element of “publication” remains missing and cannot be established to your detriment.

    It’s weird: I studied quite a bit of law, and had sky-high LSAT scores. Biological determinism? I don’t buy that, but note the datum anyway.


  17. @JJ, I never touched the Darkover books (might never, now, after the MZB revelations), and something about The Mists of Avalon seemed off-putting from afar, but I won’t flatter myself by claiming I smelled consent issues. Pern, on the other hand, which I inhaled as bubblegum reading in the late 1970s, yes, the many consent violations bothered me quite a bit, and the framing of “this is just a normal consequence of telepathy mixing with randy dragons” seemed suspiciously convenient and pretty sleazy.

    But I’m suddenly reminded of something earlier, around 1974, involving mainstream lit. I was a skinny high-schooler taking a summer-session English literature class at Menlo College, a private 2-year college adjoining my prep high school, and one of the required readings was Kingley Amis’s Take a Girl Like You (1960). Amis was practically the dean of the Angry Young Men lit movement, and author of the breakout novel Lucky Jim, which set a certain neo-realist tone and style for the Angry Ones.

    The assigned novel was a supposedly comic novel, centring around the clash of values between protagonist Jenny Bunn, a comely (and traditional-values) 20-year-old from the North of England who’s come to North London to teach schoolchildren, and 30-year-old local teacher Patrick Standish’s frustrations about trying to finagle her into bed. The pivotal scene near the end (skipping a lot of picaresque swinging-London bits) involved Patrick, after Jenny had broken up with him, deliberately taking advantage of Jenny lying tired and drunk at a friend’s house, and having sex. Jenny is later upset, then conflicted, then comes to accept what happened as inevitable. More or less: The End.

    Our very bored professor asked a bunch of us in turn our reactions to the novel, and I don’t think he expected much. Several others gave anodyne praise to one thing or another from Amis’s plot, and then it was my turn. Heedless of the fact that I was about to make a bunch of enemies, I poured forth my stored-up bile, sort of like this: “Well, since you ask, Patrick barging into the guest bedroom in Julian’s house, finding Jenny, and banging her in the knowledge that she was near-unconscious with booze and fatigue was utterly vile, I rather resented Amis’s implication that this is just boring reality and nothing to spend time on, and I wanted to take a shower to wash away some of my disgust.” Long pause. Two guys who’d spoken just before me glared. I glared back. The professor was visibly amused. In retrospect, I realise I was the best entertainment the poor underpaid guy had had in weeks.

    Anyway, that was my wake-up call that the Anglo-American cultures had some consent issues to work out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved the John Hughes movies when I was young, and remembered them quite fondly. Years later I saw Pretty in Pink again, and OMG, the rape and the racism and the misogyny in it. It made me ill. And that was what we were being sold as “comedy” and “romance”. (Likewise for Revenge of the Nerds.)

      Liked by 1 person

    • And oh god, the movie Passengers. Guy accidentally awakened on a sleeper ship cruises the passenger lists, gets the hots for one woman, deliberately destroys her cryo capsule, then woos her while pretending she was accidentally awakened, too. She eventually finds out, gets really angry and rejects him, then “comes around”, forgives him, and takes him back: cue happy ending. And that came out in 2016!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fortunately that one got a level of criticism it wouldn’t have a few years previously, including general film critics who usually avoid spoiling Big Twists explaining the entire plot of the movie and telling people not to spend money on it.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Speaking of consent issues, though not in film, one of my lasting shames about my participation in the unfolding of the MZB thing: I didn’t check with Mark Greyland before posting. Moira was ready to talk about it; Mark was not. I’m not sure he ever truly would have been, but we’ll never know for sure.


      • Yeah, that’s really a tough one. Moira needed to be able to speak her truth, but it was going to be extremely difficult for her to do so without it being Mark’s truth, too. And one could hardly expect her to remain silent if she was ready to, and needed to, speak.


      • Exactly, and I may not have changed what I did after the piece (or about the piece), but at the very least not blindsiding him would have been kind. I’m a very in-the-moment person in some ways, and very decisive, so things may have unfolded the same in all other respects.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. @Kat wrote a lot of stuff including:

    […] She essentially is telling women to hobble themselves and take what they can get, what men and a sexist society allow, rather than demanding further change.

    Your long passage strikes me as an impressively rich harvest of abstract theorising from a very modest seed-investment of observed fact. As a longtime Lebowskist, I’m of course glad to give space to, like, your opinion. But I suspect it involves sketchy notions of proximate causation. (I’m returning to that point shortly; it’ll take a couple of paragraphs.)

    Although I never paid much attention to the Truesdale petition to SFWA President (and spouse of Laura Mixon) Steven Gould because, as mentioned, it was a small internal squabble inside a professional guild of which I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member, I recall its general outlines, and that there were, I think, two somewhat differing draft versions. Ms. Shwartz signed version 2. Skimming through it, I first wade through many paragraphs of badly-written “whereas”-type assertions and complaints about non-SFWA-member Truesdale having for a while not received responses from President Gould. Gould politely got back to Truesdale, explained the delay as his having been busy finishing a book — and explaining among other things that Truesdale’s jeremiad against an editorial oversight committee was an objection to something that was not contemplated, that at most SFWA was contemplating (possibly) an committee to advise but not manage the SFWA Bulletin’s editor. Truesdale replied back (and saw fit to include this in his petition) a rather paranoid (IMO) attempt to fine-parse Gould’s wording for ideologically offensive ideas, and concluded his meandering e-mail with some non-question questions. Gould correctly and politely replied “[…] but your email is not a question. It’s a polemic […].” Quite.

    A petition by definition is a written instrument to ask the target to do or not do something. After a great deal of injury to innocent electrons, the petition finally got to the point after many pages of fluff: “In view of these considerations, we ask that SFWA (1) withdraw this slate of requirements for the Bulletin and (2) open a discussion where all viewpoints can be considered on this matter before drafting any further sets of guidelines for SFWA publications.

    Except, as you (Kat) noted, no “slate of requirements” had been implemented, so the petition amounted to “We, the undersigned, ask you to reverse the action that you haven’t in fact taken.”

    It all strikes me as an absurdist misadventure worthy of Gogol or perhaps the author of Lieutenant Kijé. But “telling women to hobble themselves and take what they can get” sounds like an impressive edifice of theorising balanced atop very little. But that, like, just my opinion, man.

    To digress slightly (but I’ll angle back to relevance), starting around 1991, I noticed yet another weird psychological quirk of Americans, one that in my opinion has gotten worse and more troublesome over time: willingness to accept assigned outrage. I was working at a software company where just about everyone in every department was staking out positions in the lunchrooms and elsewhere about Prof. Anita Hill’s testimony against USSC nominee Clarence Thomas before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Neither of my Senators was on that 14-member committee.) The hearings were nearly the sole subject of office conversation, and people seemed fixated on Prof. Hill’s credibility or lack of same. I stood out as pretty much the sole technical employee not bothering to editorialise.

    Finally, my department’s admin assistant somewhat gingerly asked my opinion at the end of a long workday. I said “Near the beginning of Judge Thomas’s testimony, a Senator asked him if he’d formed an opinion about Roe. v. Wade. He replied that he had not. Given his preceding years of service on the Federal bench in Florida, there are only two ways to interpret that statement. If he was telling the truth under oath, then he is inherently unqualified for the Supreme Court on account of mindless incompetence and neglect of his trade. If he was lying under oath, then he is inherently unqualified on account of perjury to the Senate. Either way, he should not be confirmed.”

    This got me a “Huh!” and a bemused look. The idea of bypassing all the impassioned posturing — the assigned outrage du jour — and looking to the governmental substance just hadn’t occurred to her, apparently.

    The incident alerted me to (many) Americans’ tendency to line up and stake out personal opinions on any point of controversy just because someone wants and expects them to — and I distrust the handing out of assigned outrage and look closely at underlying details. E.g., even before Prof. Hill was called to the witness table, I’d flowcharted my concerns:

    Q: Are either Sen. Feinstein or Sen. Boxer on the Judiciary Committee?
    A: Nope. So, they have no committee vote. Drop through to:

    Q: Are Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Boxer on record as opposed to the Thomas nomination?
    A: Yes. No need to lobby them. Done.

    (Events have of course proved that Thomas was indeed shamefully lying, but that’s another discussion.)

    When the SFWA petition came up, my flowchart was even simpler:

    Q: Am I a SFWA member?
    A: Nope. Done.

    And I got all of that time back, time useful for many substantive things, including helping women in my profession, (where unlike in SFWA I had influence and hiring authority), to not be convinced to hobble themselves and to not settle.


    • Rick Moen: But “telling women to hobble themselves and take what they can get” sounds like an impressive edifice of theorising balanced atop very little.

      No, I forget where it was (I’m sure Cam remembers), but IIRC Schwartz actually said something along the lines of “women just need to toughen up and suck it up”.


      • Yes, I’m aware that is widely attributed to Shwartz. What I don’t have is the context. (Probably, with context, I would find her view purblind. But I don’t have that context.)

        Without objection, however, what was under discussion was her having signed Truesdale’s version 2 petition, and speculating futilely (for lack of information) about why. I could speculate that she didn’t take the time to sort out the background facts, but I really have no data. And, my point is, Kat certainly doesn’t, either.

        What I do know is that I’m wary of ideological posturing and assigned-outrage public drama, some of the reasons why being my other point.


      • It was in one of the leaked forum posts and it wasn’t quite that bad. It was something like that SFWA women shouldn’t need protect because they should be the ones doing the protecting (maybe). Still not good


  19. Thanks, Cam. What I was trying to get at, with JJ, and may not have been clear, is that (unless I’m missing something quite badly), in Kat’s post to which I had replied, Kat had said Shwartz signing Truesdale’s petition is what (in her view) constituted Shwartz “telling women to hobble themselves and take what they can get, what men and a sexist society allow, rather than demanding further change” (etc.). Not some cranky forum posting of Shwartz’s issued during internecine fighting that Kat was not claiming to have that set of effects.

    I didn’t argue with Kat’s opinion; I just noted that it’s a pretty abstract ideological gloss of someone merely signing a (rather confused, pointless, and purposeless) petition requesting that SFWA not do something it was already not doing. Of course, Kat may be correct, I guess (though it’s such an abstract alleged chain of causation that I’m not sure it’s even a testable hypothesis), or Shwartz might have intended some other symbolic meaning. I don’t know what she was thinking (any more than the various other signatories such as David Gerrold). People interested in finding out might get around to asking her, rather than psychoanalysing her remotely from across the Internet.


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