Sunday, July 1, 2018

What Harlan Ellison's haters won't tell you about the Connie Willis groping incident

There are awful people in fandom who're taking full advantage of Harlan Ellison's death. The most obvious are going to the pages of his grieving friends and posting their take on why Ellison was a monster. The subtler ones are writing about him and saying without explanation that he groped Connie Willis.

On Facebook, Sheila Finch shared a fair account of their history:
I was at the 2005 Nebula Awards in Tempe, AZ, when Harlan was made a Grand Master. Connie Willis was (I think) Toastmaster. At some point, she made a speech about him -- and called him up to sit at her feet while she roasted him. It went over the edge, and many people felt quite uncomfortable (as did I) At the Awards ceremony itself, Harlan came up to the stage and returned the "friendly" insults. He got the better of her, I think, but both were out of line.Nobody seems to remember how this one started when they talk about Harlan's bad behaviour. I have a feeling that this back-and-forth had become something of an in-joke between them -- there's at least one clip on You Tube showing juvenile behaviour at a World Con.But it was inappropriate when celebrating Harlan's well-deserved GM.
I added this about what happened a year later, in 2006, at WorldCon:
The groping incident will probably be mischaracterized forever. They were doing a skit in which Harlan was supposed to be a baby. He tried to improv something to be funny that was a total failure. What Willis made of it, no one knows because she has not said. You would think people would honor her silence, but that’s not what humans do.

So far as I know, in a long and public life, that was the only thing he did that could be called groping. It’s odd that it’s so talked about when there are grandmasters who were infamous for groping.
To people who live in black and white worlds, context doesn't matter. Ellison was not a writer for them.

ETA: Despite her silence, I have no doubt that Willis thought Ellison had gone too far. He thought so too. That's why he apologized.

Related: A few words about Harlan Ellison

ETA 2: One of his haters insists that he denied groping her. That's based on an attempt Ellison made to clarify what happened. He said "there was the slightest touch. A shtick, a gag between friends, absolutely NO sexual content."

The video exists. You may decide for yourself whether, in going too far, he went as far as his haters insist:

Related: What Harlan Ellison's haters won't tell you #2: A tiny bit about Ed Kramer