Friday, September 01, 2006

And The Real Harlan Ellison Stands Up

I had thought the matter pretty much done (thankfully). Ellison apologized, as many thought he ought. Knowing he and Ms. Willis have been friends for a very long time, I thought that was that, and good on the guy for the mea culpa. Let the two of them sort it out in private.

And let those other fellas of fandom who needed to take heed of their space-invading ways get a clue.

But, lo and behold, HE posts again yesterday, August 31st, at Unca Harlan's Art Deco Dining Pavilion, and he's now laying accusations that seem to say, basically, "Connie's fault. She started it."

Officer, she was wearing that tiny skirt and giving me the come-hither look. She provoked me! I was just following her lead...

So...what...HE is now the victim? Connie's the dastardly harasser?

(Another's disgust.)

For me, that's the last straw. Whatever admiration I had left for the man's talent has been overcome by nausea at the man's character.

A bit of backstory: I'm a fan of Ellison the Writer. I've bought every book by HE that I could find. I have multiple copies of some, depending on if they were reissued with new covers. I've even defended his clear talent, his stature in SF, when, in the recent blog debates, someone disgusted by his personal behavior (in general, not just with Connie Willis) then denigrated his creative output.

I don't downgrade the man's talent. It's evident and speaks for itself. I don't think it's necessary to sling mud on the body of work because one dislikes the man in the body.

In fact, though he is on the opposite spectrum from me in several areas (spiritual and political for two), I've not let his venom for folks like me keep me from enjoying his writing. (I don't expect writers to think like me or vote like me or worship like me on all matters, or even most)

For years, from women and men both and from the seventies to the present, every single person I've known who has met or dined with HE says he is abrasive beyond endurance and too rude for normal folk to bear. This includes fans and writers. A great number of written accounts over the years attest to the menacing attitude--profanities, cutdowns, provocations. Some champion him wholeheartedly--which is good, we should all have loyal pals--and other friends only with buts: But that's Harlan. That's just the way he is.

Recently, the Penny Arcade guys, Laurie Mann, and others who attended cons this year have talked about (and added to previous accounts of) HE's continuosly boorish behavior. The insults. The criticisms. The self-important ranting. The lack of cooperation. The absence of courtesy. On and on. I wasn't there, of course, but when witnesses pile up like this, what is one to think? Smoke signal after smoke signal for decades=some kind of real fire.

And, of course, there's been the notorious and questionable goings-on with regard to TLDV.

So, this latest rant at his Pavilion just leaves me terribly disappointed. It negates the previous apology. It makes him seem a very small man, and I don't mean his physical height. External height means bupkis.

A man of high character has the humility to be courteous and not to dilute apologies. Those are two signs of a really tall character.

Harlan Ellison is the only writer to whom I ever sent a handwritten thank you card. And I've come to regret it.

Gosh, that makes me sad.


A.R.Yngve said...

During the last few days, while I've been following this debate on the weblogs, woman after woman has come forward in the blogsphere with testimonies.

And they tell us how "Big Name" writers have harrassed, groped, even slapped women at conventions and awards gatherings.

This is depressing. Writers who I really admired as a kid -- for their SF stories and novels -- suddenly reveal another, sinister, even primitive side. And mind you, not in private, but in public -- in front of witnesses, as if they didn't care!

Being a man, I feel compelled to do some serious soul-searching.

Mirtika said...

Thanks for the comment.

I think what the Ellison apologists are missing is that this was the tipping point. Women's complaints of sexual ickiness from name writers and non-names has been diverse and widespread, but we just went along. Somehow, this public event galvanized the gals and some of the men into saying, "Ya know, that's enough."

Which is a good thing.

Unlike some of the more incensed, I don't want to become a mob. I'm not out to take away Ellison's honors or Asimov's (another one known for the less than sensitive sexual manner) or anyone's. Good writing and good imaginations deserve their props. I don't even want to see the guy charged with harassment as some do. I simply want him and his kind to cut it out. Women of whatever stature--cause we ain't all up there in the stratosphere of talent and admiration of Ms Willis--should feel comforatable at cons. Men, women, gay, straight, Christian, Buddhist, Democrats, Republicans, etc. Everyone should be able to enjoy their fandom experience. I think the Anti-Bush shirts are as out of placea at a con as a pro-Bush one, and female groping is as out of place as groping a guy's backside. Any activity that seeks to marginalize a group is just not polite as an event like a "WorldCon." And given the long-time male-dominated sense of SF in general, any invasion of female space is particularly dismissive of a gender.

The event should be about stories and films and art and wonder. That's what I believe. Not making folks feel "less than" for whatever reason. I think all of us should curtail our personal furies for whatever time we spend in a group with diverse elements. I just thought that was old-fashioned courtesy. You try to make others feel welcome and comfortable, even if you have issues with their politics/perspectives/outside activities/creeds/gender.

But maybe I'm idealistic here. And maybe it's a good thing I could never make it to a con. I still believe in the civil duty to be polite when humans gather together in a place for a purpose.