writing rengeek magpie mind

November 2014

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writing rengeek magpie mind

noted without comment

Harlan Ellison issues a public apology.

Would you believe that, having left the Hugo ceremonies immediately after my part in it, while it was still in progress ... and having left the hall entirely ... yet having been around later that night for Kieth Kato's traditional chili party ... and having taken off next morning for return home ... and not having the internet facility to open "journalfen" (or whatever it is), I was unaware of any problem proceeding from my intendedly-childlike grabbing of Connie Willis's left breast, as she was exhorting me to behave.

Nonetheless, despite my only becoming aware of this brouhaha right this moment (12 noon LA time, Tuesday the 29th), three days after the digital spasm that seems to be in uproar ...YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!

IT IS UNCONSCIONABLE FOR A MAN TO GRAB A WOMAN'S BREAST WITHOUT HER EXPLICIT PERMISSION. To do otherwise is to go 'way over the line in terms of invasion of someone's personal space. It is crude behavior at best, and actionable behavior at worst. When George W. Bush massaged the back of the neck of that female foreign dignitary, we were all justly appalled. For me to grab Connie's breast is in excusable, indefensible, gauche, and properly offensive to any observers or those who heard of it later.

I agree wholeheartedly.

I've called Connie. Haven't heard back from her yet. Maybe I never will.

So. What now, folks? It's not as if I haven't been a politically incorrect creature in the past. But apparently, Lynne, my 72 years of indefensible, gauche (yet for the most part classy), horrifying, jaw-dropping, sophomoric, sometimes imbecile behavior hasn't--till now--reached your level of outrage.

I'm glad, at last, to have transcended your expectations. I stand naked and defenseless before your absolutely correct chiding.

With genuine thanks for the post, and celestial affection, I remain, puckishly,

Yr. pal, Harlan

P.S. You have my permission to repost this reply anywhere you choose, on journalfen, at SFWA, on every blog in the universe, and even as graffiti on the Great Wall of China.

Comments

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The tone of "but I'm such a cute, lovable scamp!" undermines the apology. If he's sorry about anything, it's that he didn't get away with it, that people have finally gotten tired of puttin up with his sexist-asshole behavior and are calling him on it. Girls these days just have no sense of humor!

Somebody really needs to smack that boy.
Ellison is 72, and probably beyond saving. But there are plenty of men in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties who will be with us for a good long time, and may be trainable. (Please note here, I am talking about the ones who are *not* already decent human beings.)
Oh, I agree Ellison's beyond saving. But I still think he should be smacked.

If only for the sake of the generations to come after him, who need to know how truly dangerous being a sexist asshole can be.
Not to mention girls who may need affirmation that they don't have to put up with this shit!

As I said in riba_rambles, part of my reason for posting was that if this could openly happen to Connie Willis, what defenses remain for someone younger and/or more vulnerable?

"What, are you dense? You retarded or something? I'm the Goddamn Harlan Ellison."

I think Ellison's biggest problem is that he's a rock star* trapped in the body of a once-huge writer.

*for values of 'rock star' that include groupies, breaking guitars and - especially - trashing hotel rooms.

Also, groupies
.

I'm still confused: why do I care?

It doesn't bug me that he is most-likely a fucked-up bastard and a lame excuse for a human being (which I'm sure a lot of you are calling him), or that he even groped her, necessarily....but that he did it in front of a crowd of people at an official awards ceremony. It's just...inconceivable that you could justify embarassing everyone present in that way. You have to either a.) be the most stupidly oblivious idiot in the entire world, or b.) the world's biggest jackass. It's probably the second one...

The funny thing is, I didn't even know about this guy before I heard about this, like, two hours ago. I can understand why you all care, but normally I wouldn't be so quick to judge someone based on the testimony of others...

But, well, his 'apology' speaks for itself and him, I think...*shrug*

this is kind of tangential

I've seen, several places, people saying that This Is Going To Be Harlan's Last Con and thus there's no point in fandom itself dealing with it via banning him from a con or what have you. (As opposed to any legal actions that might occur, although I hasten to add that I haven't heard of any possible legal action and don't anticipate it happening.)

I'm certainly not sitting there going, "Yeah, let's lynch him!" because I /wasn't/ there and don't know details, but given what Rachel's said and given what he himself said about his actions at the awards, I don't see that fandom (or, rather, parts of fandom) enforcing consequences in a con context is useless. It would be a positive action taken by whatever portion of fandom chose to do so, and even if he never goes to another con (or, anyway, another World Con, whatever), it would still indicate that whatever portion of fandom acted in such a way means what it says, in terms of what it does and does not allow and welcome. And a consequence is still a consequence.

(I put the disclaimer that I'm not active in fandom all that much, except insofar as occasionally going to Boston-area Cons, so I am to some extent just talking out of my hat. But I mean well...?)

Re: this is kind of tangential

He's said he won't go back to cons, but people have "retired" from their jobs or their social activities or their habits three times, and possibly more, before it stuck.

If he ever decides he does want to go again... it might be a revelation to him if he's no longer welcome as a guest or a panelist or anyone other than a paying congoer.
As a person who has experienced sexual harrasment from fellow students before even entering highschool, I find this so-called apology from him incredibly self-congratulatory and hollow, if not outright offensive. I can't even begin to express how much this attitude of his pisses me off.
It's a start. Of a sort. *waits for the apology to Rachel*

*sigh* Me, I wasn't there. All I know about it is what I heard online "Did you hear? Harlan grabbed Connie Willis' breast!" Um...yeah...and in front of hundreds of people (or so I assume). I can see this happening several ways, from the deliberately offensive, to the joke that went over like the proverbial lead zeppelin. And I think that if Connie Willis was offended by his behavior, and wants an apology, it is hers to ask for. And I am equally certain that if she was offended and tells him, that a sincere apology will be forthcoming (if it hasn't happened already). I don't think that the online lynch mob that wasn't even there deserves an apology. There are a lot of folks out there who "hate" Harlan Ellison...and most of them have never so much as been in the same room with him.

Harlan has offended a lot of people over the years, and I can understand why. Having spent some time with him behind the scenes at a book signing one day, I got to watch him metamorphosize into "ranting and raving Harlan Ellison". But behind the scenes? People don't believe me when I say that I thought he was sweet. And maybe because he was nice to me, I am biased. But what if the two lines online were "John Scalzi grabbed Connie Willis' breast. The audience was horrified." Or "Patrick Nielsen Hayden grabbed Connie Willis' breast." Would the wolves be howling for blood, or just saying "Dude, that was *so* out of line"?
If Scalzi had done something like that? Dude, he's mine and I love him.

But you shoot your own dog.

The fact of the matter is that Ellison assaulted at least two women at Worldcon. One is a friend of mine; one is a writer that I respect and have never had an unpleasant interaction with.

I am so within my rights to disapprove that it's not funny.
When I say "mine" above, I mean, of course, my friend. *g* It occurs to me that other people may not know my verbal shorthand.
Not trying to start any Scalzi rumours, just needed a name. I guess I'm just trying to figure out what should be considered an "assault". As I said, I was not there.

And it's probably a good thing Isaac Asimov is dead. He had a reputation for regularly feeling up women at conventions. I know one fellow that Asimov got by mistake in a crowded elevator.
*nod*

I don't think John would ever do something like that (for some odd reason, women (and men, and small children) tend to run up to John and hug *him*.) but if he did, I would pillory him.

And that's actually what this is. A good old-fashioned New England pillorying.

Oh, I'm not denying that people who do that kind of thing can't be sweet

I've seen tons of people in my lifetime act one way towards me and others, and act like kittens the next around other people. All I'd like to see for once from certain types of individuals is, at the very least, less arrogance and a little more humility. Not like I'm counting on anything. I'm not asking for his head, and perhaps I shouldn't let traumas from my childhood influence my judgement, but I'm simply not impressed by his "apology". And I'm well aware it really isn't my business whose friends are whose. It's just that this thing has brought up a lot of past issues for me.

Even though I don't agree with her on the pr0n issue, this post

does do some justice about my feelings about other people's defensive attitudes towards their friends-

http://caitriona-nnc.livejournal.com/142264.html

Again, not my business with who one chooses to associate with, I'm just not fond of people telling what others should do or think because their individual experiences were so positive.

Re: Oh, I'm not denying that people who do that kind of thing can't be sweet

I'm just hoping that people who were not involved can back off and let people who were handle it. As I said, I have no idea what happened.

Re: Oh, I'm not denying that people who do that kind of thing can't be sweet

There are some eyewitness reports in the comment threads here and at Patrick's place.

The thing is, all SFF prodom *is* involved. For us, this is about standards of behavior in our community, and whether we're going to permit a male writer who happens to be an honored elder of that community to get away with abusing other members of it--one of whom also happens to be an honored elder.

This has gone on in the past, and been swept under the rug. People will tell you who not to get on an elevator with, but you know what?

I shouldn't have to know that. And the young writers coming up after me are as entitled to a workplace free of sexual harrassment as any working woman or man in the world.

As far as I'm concerned, that's what this is about.

Re: Oh, I'm not denying that people who do that kind of thing can't be sweet

I am not an SF pro. I have no desire to write anything. I don't have enough time in my life, currently, to get involved heavily in fandom. But I read SF/fantasy, I watch some shows, one of the ways I identify myself is as a fan.

So no, I'm not gonna back off.

As part of the larger fandom, I think that this is an important discussion to have, particularly if we can continue focusing less on, "Yeah, Harlan sucks," and continue working on, well, a clear understanding of what we're trying to move towards here. (I should make it clear that while there's been some Ellison bashing, I think most of what's been said has been fairly straightforward and not vicious.)

To answer several earlier questions, I don't want Harlan's head on a platter. If someone I liked had done this (like, I dunno, Bear), I'd be requesting similar kinds of things.

I just want it known that this kind of stuff isn't welcome. And honestly, while Asimov was a nice guy and all, he shouldn't ought to have been doing that either.

Private encounters where people want to be consenting adults, fine. Private encounters where there isn't consent, not so fine. Public enounters where the lines are not clear, not fine.

I also, in a larger sense, want an atmosphere where women are fully welcome. /I/ usually feel fine. Other folks I know don't. I've worked (just by being myself) at making women more part of some aspects of fandom; I'll continue working on that. It's not that I think we're excluded. I just think some attitudes in some parts of fandom need to be worked with.

Re: Oh, I'm not denying that people who do that kind of thing can't be sweet

I have someone at work, I call him our resident dirty old man, who's helpful and friendly and rather inane, and someone who can get past his talking about the weather and nothing else might call him sweet. He's the person to call in certain kinds of crisis, and he's got me out of at least one potential disaster.

He's also backed a couple of the girls into corners and kissed them, or tried, on the mouth. He offers people candy, gives backrubs but only when asked or given a reason to think it's wanted -- the worst he's done to me is a pat or a grab to the shoulder, but I've been told by several sources that I ahve body language that tells people I won't put up with things.

Re: Oh, I'm not denying that people who do that kind of thing can't be sweet

Oops, hit the wrong key at the wrong moment and posted half a message.

My point is, nobody is all one thing. Harlan Ellison is sweet. He's also a pretty darn good writer. He's also a person who's made other people who didn't deserve it weep, or humiliated strangers for his own pleasure.

And now, he's also assaulted someone.

Which makes this no longer a question of whether he's a nice guy, or capable of beign one. It's got nothing to do with who he is, or what he's like. It's about a criminal act.
Ok, going to post a thought here, prompted by a discussion with my husband last night. I've posted it in a couple of other places as well, so apologies if you trip over it more than once.

To give Ellison credit, this was actually bizarre behavior for him. He has made a lifetime out of being obnoxious and abrasive, but physically (not verbally, just physically) he has always been more...chivalrous, towards women at least, and at least as far as I know. It is genuinely an odd line for him to have stepped over.

To throw out a thought: the unpleasant medical reality is that he has had several cardiac events, and has been quite ill in the past. A badly-functioning heart tends to spawn off microscopic blood clots. These do not cause major, dramatic damage, as they only stick in the smallest and finest blood vessels; however, they have a tendency because of this to cause creeping, insidious damage, including unobvious "silent strokes" with small areas of local damage.

When this happened to my father a few years ago, some very noticeable effects were poor impulse control and a tendency towards inappropriate sexual behavior -- a really devastating change in a man who had always had a strict rule of conduct. Other effects can be increasingly erratic behavior, increased aggressiveness...yeah, you get the picture.

I agree that Ellison's apology is a bit...hmm...but I think he does realise that he's crossed an unacceptable line, and I find the fact that he has apologised at all significant, since let's face it, the man is not exactly known for making any apology when he's a jerk. What I wonder is if we are actually seeing the result of poor impulse control that he genuinely doesn't have the ability to check, now. We don't know that he isn't in full possession of his faculties and still just being a jerk, but we don't know that he is, either, and this Con seemed to mark some odd behavior even by the usual Ellison standards. We don't know. He might not know. If it is a deterioration of behavior that he isn't in control of and that we might see more of, then it is going to be quite devastating for him and for Susan, both.
So, translation: "I got back from the trip, found out everyone was pissy at me (since I had no idea you'd all be *so* sensitive about this), and, well, yeah, you're yelling at me. So? You know I've been a jerk in the past, why should this surprise you? I know what I did was wrong, but, gosh, I'm still gonna do it anyway. Yell at me, I don't care."

WTF.
E,

Might I invite you (and anyone else who might be interested) to wander over to bellwether_talk, where folks have started up a discussion about creating safety in SF/F circles?
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