Life After Power

Aug 6, 04:48 by IROSF
Comments? This is the place to chime in.

Article can be found here.
Aug 6, 14:02 by Fred Kiesche
If the guy had just said "your story stinks" and left it at that, we wouldn't be discussing it at all. Brevity is sometimes best!
Aug 6, 16:14 by Norm Gillespie
IROSF is a spec fiction magazine, I guess, but I would have liked to see this issue examined in a larger context. I haven't followed more than the summaries of this debate, but it seems to me that there are serious ironies here nobody is talking about.

Yes, racism is ugly and should be confronted. You're not supposed to feel satisfied with yourself after you have.

It seems to me that these writers calling William Sanders a racist is like the big bad two-hundred-yard-wide kettle at the nuclear power plant calling my teapot black.

Despite public outcry and majority opposition from all over the world, the U.S. and Britain continue to occupy Middle Eastern countries. Uncounted people have been killed because of these incursions. Millions have been displaced.

Further, it is the policy of these "Christian" governments to torture human beings and keep them in concentration camps like Gitmo.

Nick Mamatas' article examines power. What power? Where? Helix is a little website that seems to rely on donations. The writers are people who make less for their fiction than convenience store clerks get for standing behind counters.

Meantime, about seven corporations own nearly all the publishing houses these writers hope will buy their books. Rupert Murdoch and Fox/Newsday own Harpercollins and several other publishers. AOL/ Time-Warner owns twenty-some book brands including Little, Brown. Viacom publishes 2,000 book titles a year.

http://www.mediachannel.org/ownership/chart.shtml

Since these same interlocking corporations own virtually all the TV and radio stations and newspapers, anybody who thinks we aren't suffering an information clampdown is more than na´ve.

You live in America or Britain and you aren't engaging in guerilla warfare against your government or sitting in on hunger strikes or whatever your conscience tells you is right, then you got no basis for criticizing other peoples' racism.

Barack Obama ain't going to save you. Look in the mirror and own up to the fact that you're a fascist. Then shut up. Or do something more than swat at straw dogs.
Aug 6, 16:28 by Bluejack
Before this turns into an enormous flame war, and lord knows the Helix thing seems to spawn flame wars, let me post a couple of guidelines:

* No personal attacks! You will be banned.
* Everyone has a right to his or her opinion, however... odd.
Aug 6, 16:31 by Bluejack

And, more directly, to ngillespie, I advise: don't lump citizens in with the actions of their government, or their corporations. Maybe not everyone is living up to your ideals of violent overthrow of a bad government, but very seriously not-racist people agree that's not the right way to change the world.

Moreover, I don't quite get how you turn a few people standing up against one act of racism (if that's even what this Helix thing is really about) into a diatribe on the actions of the entire Western World. That's... odd.
Aug 6, 17:38 by Josh English
Thank you for pointing out the unprofessionalism of both Luke Jackson and William Sanders in this mess. Printing the rejection letter was wrong.

I'd like to ask a question tangential to this article. Based on what you wrote:
As editor of Clarkesworld, I did read the story some time before Sanders received it;


Kelly Link, in an interview on Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing #54 also said that she hoped Lady Chruchill's Rosebud Wristlet wasn't a first market for most stories.

Whatever happened to the unwritten assumption that any given editor is the first editor to see a story? Was this only a myth? Is it only true for the top tier markets? Do the smaller magazines acknowledge they are small and getting the scraps from higher-up magazines' tables?


Aug 6, 17:58 by Bluejack
I've never heard of any such unwritten assumption, so I don't think that's a universal. I think pretty much all editors and most authors who have been making a serious effort at being professional understand that a text will probably go through many hands before it finds the right market.

I don't know any small press markets that believe they are getting the "scraps" -- Quintamid (publisher of IROSF) also publishes AEon Speculative Fiction.

The first point to bear in mind is that fiction is not positioned on a linear scale from "bad" to "good" -- different editors (or even the same editor at different times) may be interested in some particular aspect of storytelling across dimensions of content, style, characterization, and so forth. Moreover, a publication typically has some 'inventory' already in the pipeline, and editors are looking for particular stories that complement that inventory to flesh out specific issues.

Secondly, there are a lot of really good writers out there. There are a lot of great writers. So editors frequently have to pass on stories that they really like simply because they can't afford to buy everything they like.

Pretty much all professionals in the field will tell a starting writer the same thing: yes, match your story to markets that are suitable, and within that set, start with the market that pays the best and keep submitting until you sell. So in that sense, yes, we acknowledge that there's a filtering process by which top-tier or well-paying markets get first crack at more high-quality stuff. But that doesn't mean that small press markets are getting "scraps" -- it means they are choosing great material from a different pool.

Finally, one difference between top-tier markets and small press markets is that in the small press, editors are far more likely to work with authors to improve the story. Analog may pass on a story because, say, there's a disconnect in character motivation that weakens the ending a little. They're publishing monthly, and they don't stand much to gain from spending time working with stories that aren't quite there. Oh, they will if they see a diamond in the rough, but it's not the norm. Small press editors I work with and talk with love the process of helping stories that are almost there become really there. Authors benefit, magazines benefit, readers benefit.

However, we're not all as perfectly professional as we would like to be, and its events like this little Helix debacle that remind us of it, and give us an opportunity to figure out how to do things better.
Aug 6, 19:34 by Jean Marie Ward
Good article. I find the charges of "copyright infringement" very interesting.
Under current law, the recipient of a written communication (hard copy or email) is its owner and can publish it at will, unless there's some kind of pre-existing written agreement to the contrary. (Which is why the Fed and so many private email groups post warnings along the lines of "Thou shall not publish without prior permission.")
If Helix posted no such warning, Jackson did not violate Sanders' or the magazine's copyright (which only applies to the completed magazine anyway). If Jackson then posted something he "owned" on a site not protected by copyright or protected under Creative Commons, anyone could copy it, repost it, etc. What's more, given the nature of the discussion, the doctrine of Fair Use would protect the posting of significant excerpts (aka bleeding chunks) for purposes of public comment.
No, I'm not a lawyer, but I was a long-time editor of government periodicals and, later, the editor and publisher of a nonfiction web magazine. Copyright is something every editor has to deal with sooner or later, if only to protect his or her contributors' rights. So I find the apparent lack of understanding...odd.
Jean Marie
Aug 6, 22:56 by Nick Mamatas
<i>Whatever happened to the unwritten assumption that any given editor is the first editor to see a story?</i>

That simply means that the writer should not, in his or her cover letter, mention previous rejections a story may have received. This is purely practical -- why mention that other editors didn't like a story? Yet, some newer writers do feel the need to go on about the story's record in other slush piles.
Aug 6, 23:21 by Steven Francis Murphy
I find it endlessly fascinating that it is perfectly acceptable to violate privacy and professional standards per rejection letters if the objectionable material is racist, yet the same folks who are upset about this issue were upset about Obama voting in favor of the FISA legislation.

So, if I understand this correctly, privacy is trumped by the need to fight racism (certainly worth fighting against though I find many of the current tactics to be highly objectionable and worth standing in the way of) but privacy is NOT trumped by the need to make sure an Islamic Fanatic doesn't chuck another airplane into another skyscraper.

Right. Okay then, now that I know where the bulk of the SF community in Generations X and Y stand, I know to adjust my expectations accordingly.

Downward.

S. F. Murphy

PS: BTW, accusing Gardner Dozois of racism in his rejection letters because pointed out the copyright issue was wrong and the individual who issued that comment has yet to do more than simply issue a kinda sorta didn't really mean it but I did mean it anyway non apology.

Nothing has been done about that at all, nor has an article been written on the topic. Nor does this article mention anything about that aspect of the situation. Perfectly acceptable to attack someone using the race card if they so much as have an opinion contrary to your own.

As I said, I'll be adjusting my expectations downward.
Aug 7, 00:18 by Robert Lee
"I find it endlessly fascinating that it is perfectly acceptable to violate privacy and professional standards per rejection letters if the objectionable material is racist, yet the same folks who are upset about this issue were upset about Obama voting in favor of the FISA legislation."

One party to a correspondence choosing to release the contents of that correspondence is not even remotely the same thing as giving the government carte blanche to examine *all* correspondence.

"As I said, I'll be adjusting my expectations downward."

Is that the same as sticking your fingers in your ears and going "Bloo, bloo" or just close enough for government work?
Aug 7, 00:55 by Steven Francis Murphy
Rnlee, how is it not the same? If it is acceptable to violate standards due to Sanders' letter, then why it is not acceptable to violate everyone's privacy?

What is lurking in the letters of others in the SF community? Surely more than just racial biogtry and sexism. Why stop with Sanders?

More to the point, there is a professional standard that Luke Jackson violated. He posted the letter. He even admits he shouldn't have done it. He knows he screwed up. I've seen various defenses for the behavior, all of them untenable but let's play with the notion that nothing is sacred and we can post letters whenever we want.

Where once an editor might have taken the time to write a detailed piece of feedback to a writer such a Luke Jackson, now they may be a great deal more circumspect. In fact, if I were an editor (folks should be thankful that I have no aspirations in that regard) I would never send Jackson anything more than a standard issue boiler plate reject.

In fact, I don't even think I'd bother reading his material because he has shown he can't be trusted to keep even simple communication himself.

Tell you what, I'll be more than happy to let it slide once everyone else opens up their e-mail folders and shows what they have in them.

We can start with Nick's file. Or maybe yours rnlee.

S. F. Murphy
Aug 7, 01:06 by Robert Lee
"If it is acceptable to violate standards"

What standards? I mean, it's not particularly polite to throw what somebody said in private around, true, but once that somebody throws a racial slur into that private conversation, you've crossed the etiquette Rubicon. (And really, that line just got more and more absurdly blurred throughout this affair - by the end, Sanders was literally chiding anybody aligned against his astonishing misbehavior as demonstrating improper breeding, while at the same time publicly insulting any female author who took issue with him with the titular reference to underwear up the crack.)

"Where once an editor might have taken the time to write a detailed piece of feedback to a writer such a Luke Jackson, now they may be a great deal more circumspect."

Or maybe they'll just be a little more careful about assuming the writer is a fellow bigot and comport themselves with a little more decorum, in that regard. You know, since we're all about the etiquette and shit, here.

"Tell you what, I'll be more than happy to let it slide once everyone else opens up their e-mail folders and shows what they have in them. "

See, there you go again: your proposed solution to the problem you're alleging, improper exposure of private communication, is that *all* private communications be opened to public scrutiny. Seriously, you think a little is so bad that the only solution is a lot? I don't think you've thought any of this through, quite yet.
Aug 7, 04:27 by John O'Neill
Terrific article, Nick. I just stumbled across this whole issue in Eugie Foster's editorial in Transcriptase and thought that it had been discussed to death, but your whole notion that:

"Computer-mediated-communication has served to collapse hierarchies, and not only between layers of corporate power. The hierarchy between the recipient of a message and the general public has also been collapsed."

brings a fascinating new aspect to it. Indeed, if every wannabe writer is also a potential blogger, and thus publisher in her own right, then the whole established hierarchy between writers and editors is teetering. No wonder the old guard is aghast.

Nicely done.

- John

John O'Neill
Editor
Black Gate
www.blackgate.com

Aug 7, 04:45 by Robert Lee
"BTW, accusing Gardner Dozois of racism in his rejection letters because pointed out the copyright issue was wrong and the individual who issued that comment has yet to do more than simply issue a kinda sorta didn't really mean it but I did mean it anyway non apology."

Oh, and as I forgot to respond to this, earlier: yeah, you're absolutely right, and that crap in Bradford's blog provided the one moment of real chill to my heart in this whole mess. (Which was primarily an amusing example of somebody getting caught being an ass and then ensuring that his assitude would never be forgotten by piling on more and more of it.) The "WHAT HAS HE GOT TO HIDE?" tone of the insinuation was especially creepy.

Otherwise, I was just kind of glad she made such a stink about this, because it was stinkworthy, IMO. But yeah, that sucked, and she should have apologized for it, rather than rationalizing it further.
Aug 7, 05:09 by John O'Neill
S. F. Murphy wrote:

>More to the point, there is a professional standard that Luke
>Jackson violated. He posted the letter.

Hi Murph,

As an editor who's written several thousand rejection letters in the past few years, I appreciate what you're trying to do here. Unfortunately, I don't think this particular argument holds water.

Regardless of what we may try to hold up as "professional etiquette," writers share rejection letters all the time. This is a well-established fact of life these days. I've seen more of my rejection letters posted - in places like Critters, the SF Reader forums, and on SFF Net - than actual short stories I've published. Not once has anyone asked me for permission to do so.

I don't have the depth of experience Sanders does, but I learned early to assume that every rejection letter I write is essentially a public document. Sanders is a lot of things, but he's not stupid. He knows this as well as I do.

Incidentally, this isn't a new thing. Private letters become public - have a look at the collected letters of Lovecraft or John Campbell. Whisteblowers leak private correspondence to the press all the time - and thank God they do. Even if you choose to believe that William Sanders is a misguided innocent in all this, completely flabbergasted that a private letter has somehow defied the laws of physics and escaped into the public eye, pretending that the central issue here is an unprecedented violation of privacy makes you look a little naive.

Truthfully, I wonder if Nick has hit the nail on the head when he implies that the real outrage from the old guard (Sanders, Dozois, Truesdale, etc) has a lot more to do with loss of power than a breach of etiquette.

Sanders rejected Jackson. In the old days, that would have been it. But Jackson committed the unpardonable sin of not staying rejected - he published the letter, and asked for comment. Publishing is an act of power, one that used to be reserved for us select few. What gives Jackson the right to publish, without asking permission from us? How dare he? And what will happen to our power if, God forbid, EVERYONE does this? It's an upheaval of cataclysmic proportions, a complete reversal of the absolute power that editors once held over writers, and an insult far greater than the simple rudeness of exposing Sanders casual bigotry.

>Where once an editor might have taken the time to write a
>detailed piece of feedback to a writer such a Luke Jackson,
>now they may be a great deal more circumspect. In fact, if
>I were an editor... I would never send Jackson anything more
>than a standard issue boiler plate reject.

Actually, that's not true. Since now my rejection letters frequently speak to an audience (rather than just one person), I tend to take even more care with them. If anything, I'm a lot more detailed than I was when I started.

>He even admits he shouldn't have done it. He knows he screwed up.

I'm glad you can see it that way. To me, it looked like a Sanders browbeat a struggling writer - by telling him he'd never be published in Helix - into quickly taking the letter down and issuing a quaking apology. That sure doesn't add any weight to Sanders argument for me.

- John
Aug 7, 05:36 by Robert Lee
"Truthfully, I wonder if Nick has hit the nail on the head when he implies that the real outrage from the old guard (Sanders, Dozois, Truesdale, etc) has a lot more to do with loss of power than a breach of etiquette."

Yeah, of course it does. Which is one reason I'm not exactly keen on attempts to ferret out phantom racism behind those comments. It distracts from the primary and real issue.

"To me, it looked like a Sanders browbeat a struggling writer - by telling him he'd never be published in Helix - into quickly taking the letter down and issuing a quaking apology. That sure doesn't add any weight to Sanders argument for me."

Yep, that too. I had no real idea who Sanders was - save an editor at Helix - before any of this happened, and now I hope I never hear anything about or from the guy again. I can't say that about anybody else involved.
Aug 7, 06:15 by John O'Neill

>Yeah, of course it does. Which is one reason I'm not exactly
>keen on attempts to ferret out phantom racism behind those
>comments. It distracts from the primary and real issue.

Nicely put, rnlee.

- John
Aug 7, 06:34 by Bluejack
John, thanks for your contribution to this discussion. That was helpful.
Aug 7, 14:04 by Nader Elhefnawy
This is the first I've heard of any of this (ironically, even though I quoted Helix magazine in my article this month), though that probably has something to do with my horrid work schedule the last couple of months.

So I'll just say this. While I think the idea that e-mail is going to drastically level out power imbalances (which certainly exist between writers and editors/publishers) is at best a gross exaggeration, this does indeed speak to some of those issues, and a good, honest talk about all this that might actually go somewhere is long, long overdue.
Aug 7, 14:48 by Janine Stinson
Good article, Nick. I was going to write something about power loss and reputation saving and how much power readers might have if they chose to wield it, but it all wandered off down roads more suitable for blog entries, so I'll not go there. My inner revolutionary is pumping fist, however. (grin)
Aug 7, 16:17 by Steven Francis Murphy
Phantom racism? On that front, if racism is so deeply embedded in the subconscious, then one wonders what good it does to try and root it out.

Personally, I find the whole Unpacking the Knapsack nonsense to be a witch hunt in search of targets to focus liberal hatred upon, since it is pretty hard to find someone with a burning cross wearing a bedsheet these days. One may as well go looking for communists in every closet.

John, Luke Jackson admitted he made the mistake, not Sanders. Personally, had I been Sanders, I would have exercised my legal rights. But then again, I'm not an editor, do not want to be an editor, precisely because of this type of behavior among the writers.

As per sharing rejects, I don't share mine. I've got a couple I should share, especially concerning the new editor at Asimov's, but even though I have a mighty axe to grind with that person, I do not do so.

Besides that issue, there is the very simple issue of "Just because I can do it, should I do it?"

I think, at the end of the day, regardless of what Sanders or any other editor writes in their rejection letter, the answer is that you shouldn't post the rejection letter. You shouldn't share it.

And the thing that really twists my chain about this mess is that anyone who holds with that opinion is IMMEDIATELY attacked with the racist card. Something I am mighty tired of. It was old the first time I ran into it during the Clinton Era and it is old now.

But as I said in previous posts, it does illustrate very clearly the peers in my age group, their politics, their so called professional standards, and their method of doing things.

I'll be adjusting my expectations downward.

S. F. Murphy
Aug 7, 16:29 by Steven Francis Murphy
By the way, Luke is hardly struggling. He has been published in Adbusters (perfect place for him if you ask me) and I believe he as been published by Electric Velocipede or whatever that one is. Two sales that I know of not counting his Bewildering Stories credits and whatever else he has.

In other words, he is about on par, publishing wise, with where I am (two sales, barring one market doesn't kill a story sitting in the hopper, which in light of what Interzone did to my blog link at their site, I assume is a very real possibility).

Moreover, Luke has been at Asimov's Forum nearly as long as I have. He has been privy to most writing based discussions there (for those that think the place is a cesspool because many do not agree with Liberalism, you ought to get over yourselves and look at some other threads) so he knows what the deal is.

He's pleading ignorance of standards when there is no cause for him to do so and even if he didn't know anything about the standards in the field, he is a lawyer and that alone should have been enough to give himj pause about posting that letter.

Or let me put it like this.

How would any of you feel if you learned your lawyer, or doctor for that matter, were posting your letters and records on the internet?

As for the Editors having all the power, I don't buy that. Writers are still Readers (somehow folks think this magical transition occurs and our customer service concerns are ignored, something I noticed at Asimov's after the new editor took over). If I don't like the way an editor is doing business, I have options.

1. Stop subscribing, donating money, providing any support at all to that publication.

2. Stop submitting my work.

3. Explain to others why I feel the way I do and encourage them to do the same.

And before I am damned for suggesting this, I would like to note that more than a few in the Livejournal Blogosphere have suggested the very same tactics for dealing with editors and writers they do not care for. There was talk of a F&SF boycott due to GVG running Dave Truesdale's Column as well as for perceived gender imbalances in GVG's purchases.

I will also say this.

I keep reading among many who were upset about the whole Helix affair this constant refrain, "Science Fiction should be for everyone."

But that is not what they mean. They mean, "Science Fiction should be for Liberals and Progressives."

Conservatives, or anyone with an objection to Liberals and Progressives, need not apply. We should be shunned, according to some blog comments I have read.

Well, dwindling portion of the population or not (only someone in NYC would think that) folks like me have our wallets too.

And that should be kept in mind.

S. F. Murphy
Aug 7, 16:32 by Robert Lee
"Personally, I find the whole Unpacking the Knapsack nonsense to be a witch hunt in search of targets to focus liberal hatred upon, since it is pretty hard to find someone with a burning cross wearing a bedsheet these days."

Yeah, I think everybody here who *wasn't* already familiar with your vast body of work elsewhere on this topic is already aware that unless somebody's a Ku Klux Klansman, they can't possibly be racist, in your book, and anybody who highlights bigotry not expressed solely by Klan members is a big mean lying pants who hates white people.

"I'll be adjusting my expectations downward."

You keep saying that, but it's not clear how that's possible, as they would seem to be about sixty feet underground, already.
Aug 7, 16:37 by Steven Francis Murphy
Oh, rnlee, I missed your post on the Bradford accusation. I keep hearing that folks were upset with Bradford for doing that but I have yet to see an apology out of her for it.

And considering her personality, I suspect we will never see such an apology. But I wouldn't put it past her to use the same weapon against someone else at some later date.

There are legitimate reasons for the existence of the legal tools to fight racism, sexism and any other form of discrimination and more to the point, there are legitimate reasons for those tools to be as potent as they are. However, as with any weapon, they are prone to misuse and abuse.

Incidents such as the Bradford/Dozois Incident cause many to wonder why those tools are as powerful as they are. And more to the point, the next time she accuses someone of improper behavior in the manner that she did with Dozois, folks will wonder if they should take her seriously.

I, for one, will not.

S. F. Murphy
Aug 7, 16:46 by Steven Francis Murphy
rnlee, per what Sanders said in his letter, I have already said his use of the terminology wasn't smart. I've even said it over on that Asimov's thread which is splattered all over the internet. Folks keep missing that part.

But I do think he raises some legitimate points of contention with regard to Muslims and Islamic Terrorism. More to the point, attacking a fanatical sect within a greater religious body is not racism. That has been pointed out repeatedly. Still, if we grant that Sanders is racist for saying what he said, then anyone who complains about Evangelicals here in the States must be a racist as well, since the bulk of them tend to be white.

Moreover, I do not see what is objectionable at finding the Enemy vile and repulsive. These are people who have destroyed skyscrapers with aircraft, killed thousands of people not in uniform, cheerfully proclaimed that they would kill more and that their religion gives them all the justification they need. In the meantime, virtually no one in the greater global community of the Muslim religion does anything to put a stop to it.

This is a religion which sanctions, among other things, stoning a woman to death for losing her virginity, or getting raped by her uncle. They condone genital mutilation, marrying nine year olds off (which rates as pedophilia in my eyes), and find it honorable to strap vests of explosives to their chests in order to kill folks at the local Pizza Hut. Their concept of human rights is virutally nonexistent and they have nothing good to say about concepts such as women's rights.

So I'm a bit baffled as to how Sander's comments are racist. They target a religion and a fanatical attitude.

I'm even more baffled by my fellow Americans who pretty much act as if they have more in common with this particular enemy than they do with the rest of us here in the States.

Maybe it is a NYC city thing.

S. F. Murphy
Aug 7, 16:51 by John O'Neill

Murph, I really didn't expect to convince you with any of my comments. You've made your position as an unwavering apologist for Sanders clear enough. But your arguments are making less and less sense.

>Or let me put it like this. How would any of you feel if you
>learned your lawyer, or doctor for that matter, were posting
>your letters and records on the internet?

If my doctor and lawyer had been making a habit of posting records on the Internet for years, as aspiring genre writers have been doing, I would be an idiot to expect them to do anything else.

Sanders has had the exact same experience I've had for the past few years. I don't think there's any mystery why he chose to overreact to this case.

I do appreciate your tendency to lecture to me about what editors should and shouldn't expect, and I realize it's pointless to remind you that I might have more experience than you. But I hope you'll at least have a look around to see if there might possibily be some truth in it.

- John
Aug 7, 16:54 by Bluejack
Maybe it is a NYC city thing.


You keep bringing that in. I don't quite follow what it has to do with anything.

In any case, I think the issue of whether Sanders does or does not harbor some personal prejudices to be far less interesting than the point about the shift in power that Mamatas actually addresses. We can argue about what is or is not racism until our fingers are raw, and it would probably be a huge waste of time.

But let's think about what it means when authors, editors, and readers all have equal-but-different contributions to public discourse.

[Note: this was erroneously posted under the account of one 'Nathan' who's login I was debugging at the time. Big oops on my part! I'll never do it again, I promise!]
Aug 7, 16:57 by Robert Lee
"I keep hearing that folks were upset with Bradford for doing that but I have yet to see an apology out of her for it."

I'm really not comfortable discussing Tempest Bradford further with you, here, especially like she's in another room or something and we're whispering about her. As I said, I agree with you that saying what she did and then not really apologizing for it were both dick moves on her part, but we obviously disagree about her character, motivations and actions, on the whole.

Then again, I kinda like adjusting my expectations upward, personally.
Aug 7, 17:31 by Steven Francis Murphy
Bluejack, what equal power? I've been complaining about the change of the state of affairs at Asimov's for three years now. Falls on deaf ears. I've seen stereotypical stories of both rednecks and soldiers appear in that magazine, I have complained about it, kicked the walls, cancelled my subscription, the list is endless.

And has Shelia changed anything?

Nope. Well, that isn't true. The magazine has morphed into a clone of Strange Horizons. Not what I'm looking for as a reader.

So much for equal power.

As for the racism, how can we duck that issue, Bluejack. The definition of racism, which is by no means uniform within the community, is part of the controversy and I think inseparable from it.

As for the NYC thing, yeah, you're right, Bluejack. I should have been more clear. It is a blue state thing.

rnlee, if Tempest where standing next to me physically, I'd say EXACTLY the same thing to her face. I've told people that before. Besides, she gets around on the internet. I'm sure she is reading.

As for revising upward, I've been waiting to see what I consider to be some positive changes in the community for quite some time. Maybe some more stories out of the Midwestern United States where the stock character isn't some cornpone chewing redneck or maybe a story where the soldier isn't a Joe Haldeman clone. Back when Gardner was editor of Asimov's, I used to think it was entirely possible that you could write a story like those to and actually sell them.

Now I don't believe that to be the case. The Midwest is "Jesusland" to so many in the community (funny, as I can't stand bible thumpers myself).

I get pretty sick of it.
Aug 7, 17:34 by Robert Lee
"You keep bringing that in. I don't quite follow what it has to do with anything."

I think it's supposed to mean that 9/11 means nothing to you if YOU WEREN'T THERE, MAN. Or something, god only knows.

"In any case, I think the issue of whether Sanders does or does not harbor some personal prejudices to be far less interesting than the point about the shift in power that Mamatas actually addresses."

Yeah, agreed. And frankly, speaking of apologies that should definitely have been made, if Watt-Evans and Sanders had just acted like grownups - or, you know, PROFESSIONALS, since that term keeps getting tossed around by their apologists pretty freely - and apologized and asked what they could do to make this right at a few different points in the first days of this thing, we'd be having a whole different conversation right now, I think.

Instead, though, they tried to bury what had been revealed under a pile of EDITOR MAGIC, NOT FOR YOU MUGGLES, and pretty apparently, some people are still smarting over that tactic bombing, rather than just adjusting to the fact that it didn't work, and ain't likely to work better anytime in the future, either.
Aug 7, 17:38 by Robert Lee
"rnlee, if Tempest where standing next to me physically, I'd say EXACTLY the same thing to her face. I've told people that before. Besides, she gets around on the internet. I'm sure she is reading."

Jesus, let me restate that, slowly this time: I'm not interested in discussing her any further with YOU because I'm already familiar with your angry obsession with her and not interested in playing into that shit. I'm absolutely not interested in discussing her with you HERE, because we were asked already to keep this impersonal, and I also don't think it's cool to talk like that about somebody who isn't part of the conversation.
Aug 7, 17:42 by John O'Neill

>In any case, I think the issue of whether Sanders does or does
>not harbor some personal prejudices to be far less interesting
>than the point about the shift in power that Mamatas actually
>addresses.

Hi Nathan,

Well put. I agree completely.

Of course, my next question is how all this is going to evolve. If all writers can publish, and many writers can reach vast audiences through blogs etc, editors may have to work a lot harder to have something to offer writers.

- John
Aug 7, 17:58 by Nader Elhefnawy
I certainly don't want to marginalize the rights and wrongs of this particular case, but all the same, thanks for trying to keep us attentive to the larger issue JohnO.
Aug 7, 18:00 by Robert Lee
"If all writers can publish, and many writers can reach vast audiences through blogs etc, editors may have to work a lot harder to have something to offer writers."

I think there's still a role for gatekeepers even after a pointless hierarchy collapse - yeah, anybody *can* publish anything, anytime, and we're all pundits, now, which has had an obvious hastening effect on the lingering death throes of the daily newspaper, for instance. However, when people buy books, those who still do, they pretty much don't go and look around for the most obviously self-published books they can find, despite the availability, these days, of ten billion new ones a week, and hey - you can find them on Amazon, even!

Readers still want a vetting process in place when they're going to spend real money on reading material (and even if they're not spending money - there's a direct and observable correlation between popularity of sites running short fiction and the quality of editing on display therein), and writers still need and want editors, as gatekeepers and as co-shapers of material released under *their* names, too.
Aug 7, 18:03 by D. Nicklin-Dunbar
SFMurphy:So, if I understand this correctly, privacy is trumped by the need to fight racism (certainly worth fighting against though I find many of the current tactics to be highly objectionable and worth standing in the way of) but privacy is NOT trumped by the need to make sure an Islamic Fanatic doesn't chuck another airplane into another skyscraper.

Right. Okay then, now that I know where the bulk of the SF community in Generations X and Y stand, I know to adjust my expectations accordingly.


Whoah there. As an early member of the so called "Gen X", I can tell you that nothing trumps my right to privacy. Yes, I may give it up in certain circumstances (which do not include the ineffectual and idiotic "War on Terror"/"War on Drugs"/"War on Racism"/"War on Rationality"), and it may be taken from me by coercive heirarchal organizations like governments, but it is not trumped.

I get where you are going with this, I really do since I have been adjusting my expectations downward for years, yet such a blanket statement about those a bit younger than you raises ire.
Aug 7, 18:04 by Nader Elhefnawy
Quite right rnlee. Which is why I find all the talk of easy Internet democratization of the field hollow-at least, where the big picture's concerned.
Aug 7, 18:19 by Robert Lee
"Which is why I find all the talk of easy Internet democratization"

You mean here? Because I don't see any such talk in Nick's piece - and clearly, even getting through this relatively cut-and-dried series of events is in no sense "easy" for anybody involved.
Aug 8, 17:51 by Steven Francis Murphy
I'm 37, errant, which if my understanding is correct, places me in Gen X. Though I find I have almost nothing in common with most of them in the SF community.

And if the statement raises your bloodpressure, well, it was meant to.

rnlee, regardless of my personal feelings about Tempest, that shouldn't even be an issue per her conduct toward Gardner. And I see that you've joined the crowd of people who say, "Well, it was Murph who brought it up so we can give Tempest an out on it."

Splendid.

Aug 8, 21:41 by Luke Jackson
The article was interesting. I didn't know about Nick's role in bringing the rejection letter to light and I appreciated his take on my story.

This experience has really opened my eyes re the power of email and live blogging. The explosion was far more than I expected. Now it seems like I can't please anyone: Sanders says people who post private emails like me should be shot while others online have called me Sanders' "primary apologist."

I would discount the revolutionary power of email and the internet though. Power protects itself. A flamewar between an angry consumer and a CEO would probably head straight to the trashbin. A lot of people still think emails aren't "real" like a letter and can be safely ignored. Maybe the centralization of media power is being challenged, but there seems to be a lot of sound and fury and little practical consequence-- if anything, the furor makes it seem like each blog and forum is its own separate reality.

And S.F. Murphy, I definitely would call myself a struggling writer. Total monetary income in-hand (not promised) from writing: $83. Maybe enough to live on for a month, in India.
Aug 8, 22:22 by Bluejack
Welcome, Luke! Thanks for posting your take on the power question.

It must be at least somewhat amusing to be at the center of such a vortex of absurdity.
Aug 8, 22:58 by Steven Francis Murphy
Especially since Luke created it.
Aug 8, 23:25 by Marti McKenna
Ok, that not only sounds personal, it smells it...with something of that dead horse aroma.
Aug 9, 18:48 by Steven Francis Murphy
Marti, personal or not, it is a fact. Luke initiated this situation by violating a known professional standard (and being lectured about professionalism by Nick is a bit rich) in posting his rejection letter.

In fact, this is twice that I have pointed facts out only to have the retort be, "Well, it must be a personal attack so the fact does not apply." Whether it is personal or not does not matter. But if we want to trot into that territory, it is well known that Nick and Will Sanders aren't exactly friends.

So I'll make this point. How is this very article not a personal attack on William Sanders?
Aug 9, 19:31 by Bluejack
The point of the article was not to attack Sanders; I believe plenty of people have done that elsewhere. The point of the article was to examine the shift in power dynamic as illustrated by this brouhaha.

Nick is a colorful writer, we all know that. Obviously, he didn't stifle his personal opinion. But I thought Nick did a pretty good job of presenting how changing dynamics put all parties in a less-than-flattering light.

And Murph, I don't ask you to stifle your opinion either. All opinions are welcome.

In general, I'd prefer opinions to be phrased rationally, referencing the content of what a person is trying to convey rather than the attacking the person himself. I also know tempers flare in this crazy set of tubes.

In your particular case, I see someone who brings an expectation of enmity to the table; who strives to heighten the emotional conflict. ("And if the statement raises your bloodpressure, well, it was meant to.") Your first contribution to this discussion was reacting negatively to issues that weren't discussed in the original article at all. You eventually come across as though the whole thing is somehow about you. These kinds of contributions pretty much guarantee negative reinforcement.

You're welcome to participate: I always welcome sincere differences of opinion, conservative contributions to discourse, and so forth.

But you might want to ask yourself, what am I accomplishing? What do I want to change here? Because by assuming everyone loathes you and by lecturing others on the faults you perceive in their character, you really don't change anyone's mind. Your point about people's reaction to Gardner, for example: that's a good point. But you come to a new forum and toss that out with all bile and bitterness? You can't think that's an effective way to communicate!

Anyway, I remember a far more positive forum poster named S.F.Murphy a long time ago at the Asimov's forums. Yes, he took the conservative side of issues in a place where there weren't a lot of allies. But he didn't seem filled with rage back then. I'm sorry to see that he's changed so.
Aug 11, 17:41 by Robert Lee
rnlee, regardless of my personal feelings about Tempest, that shouldn't even be an issue per her conduct toward Gardner. And I see that you've joined the crowd of people who say, "Well, it was Murph who brought it up so we can give Tempest an out on it."

I absolutely have not, and FWIW, my own personal encounters with Tempest haven't been particularly pleasant - she tends to take any argument or criticism as a personal attack and she seems to be in love with her anger to an unfortunate degree. However, she's also fairly young and has lots of time and experience left on which to rub off rough edges. Sixty-something-year-old men, on the other hand, who haven't yet learned just to say "I'm sorry. I was wrong." and leave it at that are pretty much a lost cause.

I think I made my position re: the Dozois thing perfectly clear, and I don't see why you insist on rehashing it, let alone rewriting it to make me say things I didn't.
Aug 11, 18:39 by Robert Lee
and being lectured about professionalism by Nick is a bit rich

Yeah, because it's not like he's got - almost literally - like a hundred times the CV you do.
Aug 11, 18:47 by Robert Lee
A flamewar between an angry consumer and a CEO would probably head straight to the trashbin.

Nope, actually, they go even farther around the Internet and cause more ruckus than this story ever did. In fact, exactly those kinds of incidents have led to the only case law thus far saying anything about posting these kinds of emails online. SPOILER: you can post any professional correspondence online you like, particularly if it's notably threatening, insulting or obscene.
Aug 11, 20:20 by Bluejack
rnlee... do you have a citation or example of that last post? I only ask because I'd be curious to read up on it myself.
Aug 11, 21:30 by Robert Lee
Yeah, I'll have to dig around for a minute. Hold on.

Aug 11, 21:45 by Robert Lee
This is a pretty good link - although it's about cease-and-desist letters, it fits, and for the same thin dime, you get a discussion of the "Streisand Effect," which Sanders and Watt-Evans should have kept in mind and clearly didn't and a reference to one of the funner and more popular courtroom battles in modern history.

Obviously, anybody can bring a suit for any reason, and there still isn't a great decision trail on this kind of thing, but the costs of taking you to court are so great and the outcome so doubtful for any plaintiff as to render real risk pretty much nil - even if there weren't fair use issues involved.

Oh, and note that in the decision for Falwell, the defended use entailed 100% of the work in question. Fair use decisions do tend to work on a sort of reverse sliding scale that way: the shorter the work, the greater use is acceptable.
Aug 11, 23:31 by Bluejack
I thought some of you might appreciate this.

On whether publishing rejection letters should or should not be considered a private communication which may or may not be subject to some sort of expectation of privacy, I'd like to point out (as may have been pointed out in other forums; I don't know because I haven't followed the debate on all its various channels) that none other than Ursula K. LeGuin has published a rejection letter:

Rejected!

Ok, astute observers will notice that LeGuin did not publish the name of the editor or the publishing house. In this case, I take that as the gracious act of a highly successful author not wanting to personally embarrass some poor editor who must surely regret his or her decision.

That's not a direct corollary to the current conversation, but it's an interesting variant.
Aug 11, 23:34 by Bluejack
Oh, and thanks rnlee. That was an entertaining reference. Also not sure legal correspondence is a valid corollary as legal documents in general are usually available to the public, at least by the time they reach an actual court, and there is in any case a long tradition of making legal correspondence public. However, the author's advice is quite appropriate to the situation!
Aug 12, 11:28 by Nuno Fonseca
My first IROSF post. Kudos for me. :)
Thank you Bluejack for the LeGuin Variation! I was waiting for the moment that someone finally showed the fulcrum, and this is it. What is private in that rejection letter doesn't show, what is public does. I think that from every rational standpoint this seems to be the only defendable rule.
Personally, I'm insensitive to the fact that dozens, hundreds or whatever number of posts that reveal private comunications get around; that does not legitimize them, doesn't make them right. Science Fiction and literature in general teaches this: even if a lot of people do something they are not necessarily right in doing so. This is not to say that the goal for that may not a good one, or that they are wrong, but as an old portuguese saying goes: from good intentions is hell filled up with people (no religious affiliation here). Also, there are good reasons for the law to protect that privacy, even when you're comunicating with others.
So the question turns to the fact of Can we sustain the breaching of privacy? Can we open the gates? Do we really want to? And can we live with that?
The internet has been fertile about this, and the popular assumption that Nothing Is Private Online, is a dangerous one, though more and more inevitable. We have to live with it, but we are not obliged to like it or condone it.
In view of this, one may be against what Sanders said, and even feel grateful for knowing what he thinks about what he said (though this seems a bit open to debate). However, I feel that one has also to disagree as to how it came about. If we practise a little speculative thinking here we can all imagine situations that are abusive in that sort of reasoning/practice.
If I don't like a guy, let's wait for a lapsus linguae, or a uncontexted fiblet and throw it around! Take care that I'm not saying this is what happened in the Helix affair, but can we all honestly say there's nothing of this in it? I don't really know, and I don't really care. What I care for is that, either we tend to protect privacy or to tear it down.
The power shift Nick pointed out is very important to bear in mind. I'm not sure that gate-crashing privacy issues is a good thing, even from that perspective. Power asserts itself. It doesn't go away because we wish it; if a full leveling occurs it just takes a lateral move to somewhere (or someone) else and there we go again.
Editorial work is an exercise of power by definition; the editor exists to evaluate work writers choose to submit. In this case, it is true the power of the writer is a lesser one (choice of not submiting), but a private relationship between the two ensues. Not a public one. But then that gives power to the one who breaks the privacy, doesn't it? And how do we check the abuse of it?
This is highly entertaining stuff. Thanks to anyone involved in the discussion!

Aug 12, 13:05 by Bluejack
The power of the writer may be a lesser one in isolation, but the Internet changes the aggregate dynamic: in the old days, the writer sat at home, receiving rejection letters and publishing them only to his or her wall. Now, writers are not in isolation: they are (or can be) living in community with each other. And that community does have power.

At its best, that community acts like a responsible union, bettering the entire environment for editors, writers, and readers.

At its worst, that community acts like a mob.

Comparing old v. new I really don't see that writers ever kept rejections secret. They shared their fortunes with their friends, their family, their community; and if someone received something puzzling, wonderful, disappointing, or outrageous, most writers probably shared that with their community. Whether you call it real community or not, the Internet obviously creates the impression of community: and among many genre writers it is a large and very interest-specific community.

The Internet may or may not eliminate privacy, but it certainly blurs the line between public and private.

We have to live with it, but we are not obliged to like it or condone it.

It certainly seems that way...

I'm insensitive to the fact that dozens, hundreds or whatever number of posts that reveal private comunications get around; that does not legitimize them, doesn't make them right.

This matter of private communications is simply a social norm. It's not part of any contract that we sign, and as far as I've been able to determine, it's not law. Social norms are essentially arbitrary, and they are by definition "that which is the norm." Enough people violate a norm, and the violation becomes the norm.

The Internet, largely along generational lines, is facilitating or becoming the focal point of the shift in norms that happens from time to time in any case.

Changing norms are always uncomfortable to those who have reified the old norms in their own lives.

But as you point out, it's a fact, and we all have to live with it.

Actually, I take that back: you don't have to just "live with it." This Internet thing empowers you, too. You can find the community who agrees with you, and mobilize that community to action.

Because here's what's cool: the Internet can empower any community!
Aug 12, 13:07 by Bluejack
PS. Welcome, NunOf22! Thanks for chiming in!
Aug 12, 16:56 by Nuno Fonseca
"This matter of private communications is simply a social norm. It's not part of any contract that we sign, and as far as I've been able to determine, it's not law."

It could be argued that any law and/or social norm stems from a political or comunal will that is enforced by a tacit social contract between all the involved, taking us into political and sociological arenas, but I don't think we should go that far in the discussion.

I frankly admit not to know what the law states in your parts about these matters, but here (Portugal) we have one that says that any written correspondence between two people is private to them. This is relevant to the plundering of someone else's correspondence and to the breaching of that privacy by rendering public any of its contents without consent of both parties (by them or by third parties). This is largely applied to snail mail letters, and I'm not sure that there is ruling for e-mail.
And here, any of those actions are ilegal.

Now that I think of it, there are cases where employers try to fire employees making their case by making public use of what was written on private e-mails. Here those have been ruled as inadmissable. For now anyway. I think there are some similarities here.

Also, when a person shows a rejection slip to a friend or family, it doesn't amount to a public statement. If on the contrary, the slip is put on a message board, or shows up in a newspaper, televison, etc. the effect does amount to it.

There's a line, however smudged it may turn out to be. Publicity, as a law principle is one of the basis of democracy, but it does not run unchecked, it does not make room for an "anything-goes" territory. One of the barriers is really how much of the privacy of an individual one takes into account for protection.

If one publishes a named rejection letter in a print magazine here without the consent of both parties, it would be considered a crime (maybe for you a felony, since I'm not entirely sure of the technical distintion there), subject to a big fine and ultimately, prison. Even if the content is objectionable. Because a person has the right to its privacy (even if bigoted).

If we take away the privacy of all our actions what will it come to? Who will ultimately gain?

Nevertheless, that was what I was refering to, on the assumption (maybe wrong?) that there was a similar law over from where you write. And I thought that G.Dozois stand was more on that line, not entirely without reason, from my point of view.


You said "Enough people violate a norm, and the violation becomes the norm."

Still, doesn't make it right per se. It only makes it common practice. I always keep in mind my mother's words of "if everybody jumps into a well, will you?". We can all live with established practices that we condemn or simply don't like, but we all strive for our interests.

Do I think that the rejection should have been made public? I still don't. But do I agree with what it said? Of course not. And if I had some doubts about the intrinsic value of Sanders words, they were largely dispelled by subsequent atitudes. So I do think that the community should condemn it.

However, the privacy breach...I wonder if we won't take it too far. Unbridled Power often does that.

That is why I felt the LeGuin Variation (damn I like the sound of that) was the right thing to do. In terms of results, it often happens that publicising wrongful content is as effective and much less damaging to the community, than simple namethrowing, which is an excelent way for personal vendettas. Not always, but often enough.

I confess to some personal dislikes about the negative aspects of its use: atitudes that support or condone bullying and mobbing, extremes to what community standards may takes us if we give in easily, as you well pointed out. Maybe that is why I tend to the protection of privacy, though aknowledging the "safety in numbers" bit. (Tip of the hat here)

Anyway, it will go as it will, and we all run away with what we can, along with those that agree with us.

Hell, I'm happy just to be able to talk about it! And that is no small thing we all tend to forget and take for granted.

The SF comunnities are much richer for all our input.

Thanks for the warm welcoming! And sorry if this took too long to say :)
Aug 12, 17:48 by Bluejack
I think this should definitely be used for something more interesting than a rejection letter:

the LeGuin Variation
Aug 12, 20:09 by Nuno Fonseca
lol, you're right. I'm already on it, sharpening the pen with Ged-like silence.
Aug 13, 20:56 by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
In today's world, where it is easier than ever to click forward (no need to Xerox a memo) and distribute compromising information I think most of us are aware that unsavory stuff may get out. When wearing your professional hat (as an editor or writer) just watch your language, as we all do every day we have to use our work e-mail. A recent study published by InfoWorld and conducted by the American Management Association and The ePolicy Institute more than 50% of companies have fired employees for abusing email and the Internet. One of the most common causes for getting fired? 62% of people have been fired for sending emails with offensive language.

And what about the Rahodeb issue last year when the CEO of Whole Markets was outed as posting on a message board? Message boards, live journals, e-mail are definitely changing the old power dynamics. That drunken snapshot of you on Facebook can find its way to grandma, or worse, your boss a lot easier.

Aug 13, 21:42 by Bluejack
Yes, thanks for posting. I was trying to remember the Rahodeb fiasco. That was hilarious. Not specifically relevant to the Helix biz, but very appropriate to the discussion of how the Internet changes power dynamics.

(Those interested might enjoy this account of the matter.)
Oct 6, 11:48 by lerok.john212@gmail.com
This is really nice to know this


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