Warning: This post deals with issues of child molestation and may not be safe for work or young children. These situations discussed herein are complex, and to keep this post from becoming longer than it is, I’ve not addressed all aspects that have come up in different places. Feel free to bring up in the comments things I’ve left out.
I don’t know how much some of you keep up with the controversies in the sff community (either observing or actively participating) and how many wish some of the more shrill people would shut up and write more (or in some cases just shut up). If you’ve been paying attention, you might be aware of revelations about several child molesters. The reaction to these revelations has been disturbing at times, to say the least.
What got the whole ball rolling was a post on Tor.com (since taken down) singing the praises of the late Marion Zimmer Bradley, followed shortly by this post from Diedre Moen. Bradley’s second husband, Walter Breen, had been convicted of child molestation. I remember reading that years ago in an obituary (in Locus, maybe?) when Bradley died. Moen’s post pointed out that she was an enabler to Breen’s depravity, something I had not heard. The post contained both quotes from the court documents regarding this as well as a link to Stephen Goldin’s site where there are further links to the complete depositions as well as additional information.
Shortly after Moen posted that information, Bradley’s daughter Moira Greyland came forward with allegations that Bradley had molested her beginning when she was three and ending when she was twelve.
Breen was tried and convicted, but it’s too late to for Bradley to face charges. Bradley and Breen are both dead, and if these things are true (and I think they are), I hope it’s quite warm where they are now.
There’s been quite a bit of bandwidth devoted to these revelations, with much of it in defense of Bradley. Not all but a great deal. I’ll address that below.
Next on the list is Ed Kramer. With all the commotion about MZB, Kramer’s name was sure to come up. He’s one of the co-founders of Dragoncon, and Dragoncon tried to sever ties with him for years because of his rumored pederasty. (They eventually did.) While Dragoncon was doing this, a number of people in the field were actively supporting him. Granted a man is innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law, and no reasonable person wants to be participate in rumor mongering, but when things are as open as they were here, you should really stop and think. Monsters can be kind and charming. It’s part of what makes them monsters. Kramer was recently convicted after pleading guilty.
A number of people over the years have supported Kramer and Bradley. Some certainly had no idea what was going on and chose to believe that nothing was, especially if someone said the stories were only rumors. It was easier that way. This is a perfectly normal human reaction. We tend to want to believe the best about people, especially if they are artists whose work we’ve enjoyed. And in Kramer’s case, he was manipulating the situation by doing everything he could to get the trial delayed while claiming he was being denied a speedy trial.
Other people willingly chose to close their eyes to what was going on right in front of them. And a few aided and abetted.
Jerry Pournelle addressed how much was known about Bradley and Breen in his circles in a comment on Sarah Hoyt’s blog. There are further discussions between Pournelle and some others on that post starting at Dave Freer’s comment further down the page. The whole exchange indicates how sticky things can become when trying to determine how much specific individuals may have known about what took place in a case like this when not everyone was in on the “open secret”.
There has been a great deal of discussion about whether or not an individual should continue to read Bradley’s and/or Delaney’s work. I’m not even going to try to link to it; there’s too much. Numerous readers have said that her books have helped them through a dark time in their lives. Other people have said they are going to burn anything they have by her and/or Delaney (who’ll be discussed next).
The question of to what extent an artist’s personal life can be separated from their work is one that won’t be settled in a single blog post. I doubt if it ever really can. It’s a complex question that’s too much a matter of personal conscience for everyone to reach a consensus on. What can be done is to not honor or support someone whose proclivities cross the line into abuse, perversion, or molestation.
Which brings us to Samuel Delaney. Delaney has been openly gay for decades. This is common knowledge in the field. What is less known is that Delaney is a supporter of the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). This is an organization that supports and promotes sexual relations between adult men and boys. In other words, it’s an advocacy group for pedophiles. I won’t link to the organization. You can look them up on your own if you’re so inclined.
Here are a few quotes from Delaney:
I think sexual relations between children and adults are
likely to go wrong and that most of them are likely to be, start off
as, or quickly become, abusive, that I also support a group like
NAMBLA?which I do. But that’s because I feel one of the largest
factors in the abuse is fostered by the secrecy itself and lack of
social policing of the relationships, Source
“I read The NAMBLA Bulletin fairly regularly and I think it is one of the most intelligent discussions of sexuality I’ve ever found. … Before you start judging what NAMBLA is about, expose yourself to it and see what it is really about, the issues they are really talking about; and deal with what’s really there rather than this demonized notion of guys running about trying to screw little boys. I would have been so much happier as an adolescent if NAMBLA had been around when I was 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.”
— Samuel Delany, science fiction writer (Queer Desires Forum, New York City, June 25, 1994).
I find these quotes extremely disturbing. I don’t know if Delaney actually advocates sex with children and teens, but he certainly isn’t taking a stand against it. As far as I know, there have been no accusations of him having sex with children or teenagers, and I am not saying he has. But he supports a group that advocates for pedophiles, calling their views “one of the most intelligent discussions of sexuality I’ve ever found”.
It’s interesting that SFWA recently named him a Grand Master.
You see SFWA has been acting like a thought police in the field lately. Two respected authors were taken to task over calling a female editor from the 1950s a “lady” and then fired when they refused to apologize for it (link here). Larry Correia calls someone a word that is often used to refer to female genitalia, and the torches and pitchforks were being passed around (link here). One author had a meltdown on Twitter over something a comedian who had been asked to host the Hugo Awards might say (links here and here). Then there was the individual (a lifetime member) SFWA ejected last year over a tweet linking to a blog post with racial content many found offensive. I’m not sure where to start linking on that one, there were so many posts. None from SFWA, which won’t even publicly name the individual in question.
Has SFWA or its leadership said anything about Delaney and his associations? Or Bradley and the allegations against her?
If they have, I’m not aware of it. I can’t keep up with every blog post or tweet out there, nor do I want to try. If there has been some type of statement from SFWA or any of its officers regarding these things, I would appreciate someone letting me know. They have addressed Kramer’s membership, sort of.
Here’s why the silence, the excuses, and the apologies are a mistake. In spite of the talk in recent years of fantasy and science fiction going mainstream, it really hasn’t. Sff on film has, driven in large part by the Marvel Comics blockbuster movies and other special effects oriented films. It’s cool to be a fan of those and to publicly exhibit your geeky side. But sff in film tends to focus on visuals, superheroes, and outer space, things that the general public feels comfortable with. The more unusual ideas about culture, technology, and sexuality remain in the written form.
There is still a large segment of the population that views sff, especially written sff, with suspicion. After all, it was those weird kids in junior high that carried that stuff around, played D&D, and were generally kind of creepy. At least in some people’s minds, and those stereotypes are still around.
And when the mainstream media picks up on the preeminent sff writers group defending child molesters and honoring writers who have views about adult-child sexual relations that are…problematic (and sooner or later they will), expect a backlash.
All it will take is some demagogue or self-appointed protector of our children’s minds looking for a boogeyman to stir things up. When some kid goes off the deep end and goes on a shooting rampage, one of the things the media focuses on is the kid’s interests. And they tend to fixate on things of a fantastic nature: role playing games, comics, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Which inevitably leads to a segment outside the sff field calling for a boycott or Congressional hearings or public book burnings or…you get the idea.
I don’t want that to happen. It’s time for some people in the field to draw some lines and say certain things are not acceptable. Under any circumstances. Ever.