Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What unites Natalie Luhrs, Avalon's Willow, and Vox Day (a post that began as The art is not the artist #4: Samuel R. Delany)

In the last few days, I've noticed three members of the science fiction and fantasy community indulging in smears by association. They all begin with references to the pedophile Walter Breen.


Vox Day at The complicit silence: "As for those attempting to distinguish between the confirmed child molesters Bradley, Breen, and Kramer, and the SFWA Grand Master Samuel Delany, this raises the obvious question: has Mr. Delany actually denied ever having had any sexual involvement with underage boys? Has anyone from SFWA ever asked the known NAMBLA supporter about it? Or is this simply more silent complicity on the part of SFWA?"

Let me be clear here: NAMBLA creeps me out. I believe adults have a right to consensual activity, but children are not capable of meaningful consent because adults are more powerful than they are. Their fear of adults and their desire to please adults are easily abused by predators like Breen and Kramer.

But I also believe people should be judged for their deeds, not their thoughts. Just as men and women who write fantasies about rape should not be accused of wanting to rape or be raped in reality—a point that should be especially important to many fanfic writers—people with fantasies that creep me out should not be accused of enacting those fantasies simply because they've written about them. I agree with Ann Somerville's response to a commenter who referred to “Chip Delany supporting a pedophile-rights group”: don’t mention that Delany also says “I would have been so much happier as an adolescent if NAMBLA had been around when I was 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.”

There’s no suggestion anywhere that Delany is/was a child molester, and in the relevant quote, is speaking as himself as a child, not as an adult man attracted to children. Since he’s gay, it’s likely he’s talking about his attractions to men/males when he was young, when he was likely to be trying to make sense of this socially ‘unacceptable’ desire.

So why do you choose to elide Delany with MZB? NAMBLA is abhorrent and I question Delany’s judgement in supporting their views (if he’s been accurately quoted), but to suggest he has assaulted or molested children is really quite horrible.
Vox Day claims to be a Christian, so he should remember Jesus's words about glass houses. If someone goes through his writing and implies he did something he wrote about, he will have no grounds to complain.

That said, I agree with another point Vox Day makes: It is odd that SFWA expelled him for responding to N. K. Jemisin's insults with insults, but did not expel Ed Kramer.

As for Delany, if you haven't read him and love science fiction, read Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection, and the short stories originally collected in Driftglass. His work takes a different turn after that, but where it goes does not affect what was written before.

Speaking about Hollywood, James M. Cain said, "People tell me, don’t you care what they’ve done to your book? I tell them, they haven’t done anything to my book. It’s right there on the shelf." That truth applies to far more than movie adaptations. William S. Burroughs killed his wife, but killing her did not change a word of anything he had written. Whether you approve or disapprove of Delany's personal life, his work is what it is and always will be.


Natalie Luhrs at Silence is Complicity: "These social fallacies and the ability of predators to exploit them is what enables the Walter Breens and Ed Kramers and Jim Frenkels and René Wallings to get away with it for years and decades."

Genevieve Valentine's account of her encounter with Walling is at Readercon: The Bad and the Ugly. Elise Matthesen's account of her encounter with Frenkel is at How to Report Sexual Harassment. Though Luhrs links Walling and Frenkel to pedophiles, in both cases, the men were hitting on adult women. To use the language of an earlier age, they were behaving like cads. In that time, a woman would have been applauded for giving them a forceful slap that would make explicit her rejection of their attentions. Today, when some men believe "no" only means "try again", there's a lot to be said for reviving the slap.

But whatever you may think of Walling and Frenkel, nothing justifies casually associating them with pedophiles.


Avalon's Willow at Cause I'm a little 'WTF' that there are things people don't know by now rants about fourteen writers, including me, in a list that begins with a reference to Breen:

1. MZB supported her husband’s pedophilia and on occasion recruited for him.
That appears to be the only objectively true thing in her list. She associates the rest of her targets with pedophiles because they disagreed with her or her friends. Avalon's Willow is an identitarian—she believes men and white people may disagree with women and people of color who are not identitarians (which includes socialists like Adolph Reed Jr. and the Rev. Thandeka, and conservatives like Michelle Malkin and Herman Cain), but men and white people who disagree with identitarian women and people of color are racist or sexist. It's not logical, but it has the interior consistency of any belief system.

Defending the other writers on Avalon's Willow list would be easy, but it would also drag them through more abuse from identitarians, so I'll only address the charge that comes closest to me:

4. Emma Bull is married to Wankerface Shitsallot and is aware of his racism, creepinest and violence against non-white women and young girls and says and does nothing. In fact makes excuses for him and herself that they’re both from another era.
Now, I'm not aware that Emma has ever made an excuse for me. We do not share a mind. I think we have been happily married for over thirty years because we respect each other's right to disagree. I could say many things in praise of Emma, but in discussions of racism and sexism, I think these are the most relevant points: Any serious discussion of gender issues in our genre will include Bone Dance; any serious discussion of interracial romance will include War for the Oaks, and any serious discussion of fantasies set in places where the most common skin color is brown will include the Liavek anthologies.

As for me, when I read what Avalon's Willow said, I had three reactions in about thirty seconds:

1. Wankerface Shitsallot? *grin* When I was a boy and my family was part of the civil rights struggle in the South, the children of the Ku Klux Klan insulted me by saying things like "Shitterly's a niggerlover!" It hurt at first, because bullying and mobbing is especially hard to understand when you're a child, but now I hear insults and only pity people who think abusing others will improve the world.

2. "creepinest and violence against non-white women and young girls?" What the hell? Who have I ever been creepy with? Who have I ever been violent with? When have I targeted non-white women or young girls? Since she says this in a list that starts with a mention of pedophilia, her accusations are slander. Should I sue her?

3. "creepinest and violence against non-white women and young girls?" Oh! To her, "creepinest and violence" means I disagree in public comment sections with identitarians, "non-white women" means I disagree with people like her when I also disagree with white women like Coffeeandink and identitarian men of all hues. The "young girls" must refer to adult identitarian bloggers like Deepad who was in college during Racefail 09.

To answer the charge that I'm racist and sexist and generally otherist, here's my life in two pictures:

In 1964, I was part of a desegregation march in Florida:

me and my brother

In 2012, I worked a booth at the Minnesota State Fair in support of gay marriage:

me and Emma

In the years between those pictures, I wrote the first comic book series about a black female superhero that was published by a major comics company, a fantasy novel about a dark-skinned man traveling among pale-skinned people, and a semi-autobiographical fantasy that Ellen Kushner called "A masterwork. A particularly American magic realism that touches the heart of race and childhood in our country; it's 100 Years of Solitude for an entire generation of American Baby Boomers, and deserves the widest possible audience." The feministsf wiki said my “work features strong women characters and people of color”.

Yet when Racefail 09 occurred, people like Avalon's Willow made me wonder if I was racist in some meaningful way, so I took Project Implicit's test for race. When it said that I, like a large minority of white people, have "a slight automatic preference for African American compared to European American", I realized that the identitarian love of calling anyone who disagrees with them a racist is just another example of people with hammers treating the rest of us like nails.

Ah, well. Avalon's Willow and her friends follow Derrick Bell in their understanding of race and power. I prefer Malcolm X after he left Elijah Muhammad's cult, the Nation of Islam. Here are two quotes that identitarians would do well to ponder:

"I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think that it will be based upon the color of the skin." —Malcolm X / El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." —Malcolm X / El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

Belief systems can make believers have trouble seeing what's literal and what's metaphorical, so I'll spell out the second quote: So long as no one's committed physical violence against you, be peaceful and respect everyone.

Related: Fanfic has a child porn problem, and more about Samuel R. Delany

Pedophiles like science fiction: More on fanfic's child porn problem and Samuel R. Delany