(I’ll be away for the next few days at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto. If anyone else will be there and wants to meet up, drop me a line. As far as I know, Harlan Ellison won’t be there.)
Dora has written a great post on the subject of Ellison’s behavior at the Hugo Awards. If you haven’t read it already, stop reading this and go read that one first.
She linked to Ellison’s apology, which was the sort of non-apology I’ve gotten used to hearing from public figures when they don’t understand that they did anything wrong.
Would you believe that, having left the Hugo ceremonies immediately after my part in it, while it was still in progress … and having left the hall entirely … yet having been around later that night for Keith Kato’s traditional chili party … and having taken off next morning for return home … and not having the internet facility to open “journalfen” (or whatever it is), I was unaware of any problem proceeding from my intendedly-childlike grabbing of Connie Willis’s left breast, as she was exhorting me to behave.
Shorter HE: the opinion of you peons doesn’t count.
Note the introductory phrase, “Would you believe…,” suggesting that the reasonable reader would be surprised that he hadn’t heard about it. I believe this is being used ironically – i.e., that he thinks it’s eminently believable that one could avoid hearing about this because the complainers are out on the fringe. I can understand alternative interpretations here, though.
Note , however, the name-dropping (though I hadn’t heard of Keith Kato before, a quick Google suggests that he hosts invitation-only afterparties at a lot of conventions. In other words, to be at that party is to be important. Further note Ellison’s putting JournalFen in scare quotes and follows it a dismissive parenthetical. And finally, note that Ellison attributes the “problem” to a single source (JournalFen – i.e., Fandom Wank, which I hadn’t actually checked to find out about this).
Finally, there’s the contextualizing of the incident as a joke. Because Willis was telling him to “behave,” he groped her. Of course, the age old rule about jokes applies: if you have to explain ‘em, they ain’t funny.
Nonetheless, despite my only becoming aware of this brouhaha right this moment (12 noon LA time, Tuesday the 29th), three days after the digital spasm that seems to be in uproar …YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!
Emphasis, despite the capslock abuse, still seems to be on how long it took him to find out about it. Absolutely right about what? He hasn’t said yet.
IT IS UNCONSCIONABLE FOR A MAN TO GRAB A WOMAN’S BREAST WITHOUT HER EXPLICIT PERMISSION. To do otherwise is to go ‘way over the line in terms of invasion of someone’s personal space. It is crude behavior at best, and actionable behavior at worst. When George W. Bush massaged the back of the neck of that female foreign dignitary, we were all justly appalled.
What’s interesting here is not that he “gets it,” to the extent he does (though his reasons seem very male-centric – it’s bad because the behavior is crude, or because you can be sued for it); what’s interesting is that he’s talking in generalities, and when he brings up an example it’s someone else (and the woman is reduced to “female foreign dignitary”).
Finally, he gets around to talking about the incident:
For me to grab Connie’s breast is inexcusable, indefensible, gauche, and properly offensive to any observers or those who heard of it later.
I agree wholeheartedly.
“Gauche”? He didn’t break wind on stage, he groped somebody. That’s like slugging somebody and then apologizing for your bad manners.
I’ve called Connie. Haven’t heard back from her yet. Maybe I never will.
Implication: If Connie Willis doesn’t complain, neither should you.
This doesn’t work for me for a few reasons. For one, this wasn’t private behavior; it was on stage. More importantly, Ms. Willis is situated differently from other people commenting on the issue; she potentially has more to lose from a backlash from Harlan’s fans than a random blogger like me does. (Though on the other hand, I could use the publicity if I ever finish my novel.)
So. What now, folks?
Implication: it’s your problem, not mine.
It’s not as if I haven’t been a politically incorrect creature in the past. But apparently, Lynne, my 72 years of indefensible, gauche (yet for the most part classy), horrifying, jaw-dropping, sophomoric, sometimes imbecile behavior hasn’t–till now–reached your level of outrage.
Shorter HE: What are you, retarded? I’m the goddamn Harlan. And if you haven’t complained before, you can’t now.
I tend not to bother paying much attention to the personal lives of writers, so I’m not sure what else he’s been up to. I’ve heard about the Penny Arcade kerfuffle; I’m sure there are other incidents where he pissed people off, and it seems from this “apology” that he regards this as merely another of those times. This is orders of magnitude larger than that, and invokes privilege and institutional power in ways that other arguments don’t.
I’m glad, at last, to have transcended your expectations. I stand naked and defenseless before your absolutely correct chiding.
Shorter HE: I’m an asshole; what are you going to do about it?
The “I’m an asshole” defense, though, isn’t one. Never has been. It’s simultaneously an assertion of power (“I can act like this, and you still have to deal with me”) and a desertion of responsibility (“I’m just this way. Can’t be helped”).
With genuine thanks for the post, and celestial affection, I remain, puckishly,
Yr. pal, Harlan
Shorter HE: Ain’t I a stinker?
Funny, while I remember Puck (both the Shakespearean version and the Gargoyles version) being a trickster, I don’t remember him sexually assaulting anybody.
P.S. You have my permission to repost this reply anywhere you choose, on journalfen, at SFWA, on every blog in the universe, and even as graffiti on the Great Wall of China.
Implication: it doesn’t matter what you do; it can’t affect me.