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November 2015



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bear by san

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.


The first time I read this, I was conscious only of mild interest and mild cynicism at the words of your link*, "Gosh," when I got to the all-caps bit, and a sense of mild dissatisfaction at the end.

Rereading, I conclude that the idea that as a public apology this is, in fact, an illusion. He's more emphatic than expected, and heaven knows I like having that explicit an acknowledgement that what he did was wrong. That's great. But the paragraph that starts, "So. What now," when I consider it, seems to come down to, "Yep. It was wrong. I'm a guy who does wrong things. Whatcha gonna do?" And the conclusion is overt, complacent mockery.

I'm thinking about this. In the first counseling class I ever took, the prof told us to pay attentions to the reactions we had to clients, because those were probably the reactions they were accustomed to eliciting from people, and we could learn a lot about what their world was like that way, and also that, in some cases, it was probably the reaction they desired to elicit.

Now, I'm considering how the last several lines of that note would make me feel if they were addressed to me (and since it's essentially an open letter, in a way they are). They would make me feel flushed and embarassed and resentful and wrong-footed. They make me feel like a younger sibling trying to hit an older sibling while the older puts one hand on the younger's forehead to keep him or her at arm's length and laughs at them. They're condescending. They're humorous, but people have long considered a pie in the face humorous, too. Those lines make the writer seem impervious, and an assailant foolish.

And I think, if I feel like that, probably that's not dissimilar to what other people feel, and it's probably not far off from what I or other people are intended to feel.

I don't think this is an apology.

* Along with pleasure that you have a tag for "noted without comment" and disappointment that you've only used it once.
Yes. That was my reaction to the ending - he is mocking everyone who is upset by his "Puckish" behaviour. I think, he mis-spelled that, though.

I'm also a bit perturbed. Did Harlan Ellison really write that self-serving "apology"? Is this really a typical sample of his current writing style? I only ever read one collection of short stories he wrote - I still have nightmares from it, but ... I had thought from all the hoopla that he was something else.
In his personal blogesque entries there, yes, that's what he currently writes like. He does not write like that in his fiction. (Which is (still) very affecting.)
Callunav's post is devestating. That was an excellent professor.

And while Ellison's fiction has absolutely nothing to do with this, what has he written recently that was affecting? What fiction has he written recently at all? I'd argue that the last even halfway decent thing he put out was Mefisto in Onyx, and that wasn't half as interesting as Jefty is Five, which itself wasn't as interesting as a lot of the sixties stories. Ellison is a fine example of a writer who should have gracefully shuffled off the stage a _long_ time ago. In this case, before I was even born.

But again, none of that has _anything_ to do with this situation except as a datapoint noting that "grace" seems to be something the man is incapable of.
Completely agreed on your last paragraph. (And on the assessment of Calluna's post.)

And, well. Honestly, I was actually kind of hazily responding (in my rush to leave work) to the sentiment I perceived in Kimuro's comment of, "If you disagree with what the man has done in some aspect of his life, thus, his art is no longer of any use." (Which is a sentiment which has mostly been avoided in this discussion, and I'm very glad of that. Certainly, you can choose to boycott an artist, but, for example, just because I no longer buy Orson Scott Card's work doesn't mean he isn't an interesting writer.)

That said, I think Ellison's work of the 60s and 70s had several daggers to the heart, and truthfully, I can't remember anything he's written since about 1985, so seriously, I should have worded what I said better.