I know you guys probably…

I know you guys probably haven't run into the whole Harlan Ellison mess re: K. Tempest Bradford, and I just don't have the emotional energy to recap it all for you -- and it's also kind of hard to link to, because it's mostly embedded in various message boards. If you're interested, you'll need to search for the conversation.

But I just wanted to say -- when I read the post where Harlan called Tempest a NWA -- a 'nigger with attitude' -- I started crying.

He's defending his post now by calling it 'snark'. Maybe that kind of language could be snark among close friends, or thirty years ago. I don't know. I've never in my life had anyone use that kind of language casually around me, and maybe that just means I'm sheltered. To me, hearing that said, out loud, feels like a vicious slap in the face.

When you post on a public forum, calling a black woman a 'NWA', the language does damage. It hurts. It makes me, personally, want to put away the SF novel I'm working on, because it's just too upsetting to think that a SF writer whose work I admire so much is willing to be so casually cruel and careless.

And when I see on Harlan's message board that people are actually defending what he said -- that's when I know that I can't even try to excuse this as coming from one man from a different era. There are no excuses, and this behavior is simply unacceptable. Or it should be.

13 thoughts on “I know you guys probably…”

  1. So that’s what that acronym means. I have been trying to figure it out since I saw this linked on the Carl Brandon Society discussion group. I did not guess that. You are right, it is hurtful.

  2. Oh no.

    All I had heard was someone denouncing Harlan’s latest escapade, without saying what it was about.

    I knew he was horrible (I’m still disgusted by the groping incident), but I didn’t know he was so hateful.

  3. I was pretty disheartened to read about this brouhaha. It’s just not okay and there’s no amount of backtracking that can change that. He went so far past the line this time…

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Shmuel, I don’t understand your comment. The point isn’t that Harlan’s attitude is news. The point is, look, he once again did something hurtful. He may not even realize how hurtful it is, but this time, it hurt me too, not just the person he was trying to hurt. And it probably hurt a lot of other people. And what hurts the most is that people are actually supporting him in it.

  5. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    I knew someone with more patience than I would gather the links — here it is:


    Since that round-up, Harlan has ‘apologized’ and Tempest has very graciously accepted the ‘apology’. I don’t think I would have, in her position, given just how bad of an apology it was.

  6. While I’m glad that Harlan apologized, I don’t think he really gets that calling people the n-word essentially dehumanizes people. Using his past association with OEB as a shield means=”I found one of the good ones. The rest of you all are a bunch of n-words until I grace you with my approval.”

    It infuriates me that this behavior has a hidden effect–do HE and his fanboy mob ever wonder why there are so few Fans of color? In DC–where I live–I see black folks reading black SF books by OEB and Steven Barnes and T. Due like it was freaking crack. And they wouldn’t go to a con if their life depended on it because crap like this.

  7. I guess I’m mystified as to why anyone is giving Harlan Ellison this kind of weight. I’m a latecomer to the sci-fi scene. I read Ellison once, was quite bored, and have no desire to read him again. I guess to all those who have been on the scene for awhile, whatever he does has gravity or meaning, but to the new generation…I just say, Jesus, let’s ignore and bury the old man. He doesn’t deserve all this attention, whether for good OR ill.

  8. With respect, Monica, I think all it accomplishes if we are silent is to give HE, his fans, and the community the idea that their behavior is somehow acceptable.

    HE alone does not deserve the attention, but he is one example of pervasive racism in the field, and that deserves attention.

    Mary Anne, I’m so sorry he hurt you too this time. I suspect if I’d come across the writing before having it ruined by the man’s pettiness and cruelty, I too would be hurt rather than angry.

  9. I am glad you posted about this mess, and I do hope the publicity brings a silver lining for Tempest and other POC who write SF/F. Thanks to your post I learned about Tempest’s writing, and also followed her links to the Carl B Society and lists of POC writers of SF/F, all new to me and plenty that I plan to check out. I hope that those who got upset about the issue will channel some of that outrage into supporting writers such as you and Tempest and others who do awesome work in speculative lit genres despite such ignorant attitudes & barriers.

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