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Trigger warning: Child Abuse
June 11, 2014 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Marion Zimmer Bradley, award-winning author (The Mists of Avalon, Darkover, amongst others) not only aided and abetted her husband in child abuse (Walter Breen, a man who was first convicted in 1954), she also took part in it, according to an email from her daughter published yesterday.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering (290 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
wow, I got my username from "The Mists of Avalon". I never knew this.
posted by Pendragon at 10:33 AM on June 11


Whoa.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 10:35 AM on June 11


Oh god, what.
posted by rtha at 10:38 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Damnit.
posted by tilde at 10:38 AM on June 11


I'd never heard any of this.

I picked up Mists of Avalon in middle school, and I stopped reading it about halfway through because all the sex made me uncomfortable. I'd read plenty of other books with sexual content, and I never could say why that book in particular made me uncomfortable, but it did.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:40 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


[Fixed attribution error, carry on.]
posted by cortex at 10:40 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I hate to say this, but I am not surprised. At the very least, I knew that MZB was one of those family members who was aware of abuse but in denial.

Some back-up information on Walter Breen and events leading to his expulsion from cons, Fancyclopedia.

It's horrible, but on the bright side, cons are getting better at pushing back against sexual harassment, and that sick SOB Ed Kramer no longer co-owns Dragon*Con.
posted by mitschlag at 10:42 AM on June 11 [11 favorites]


How utterly revolting.
posted by bearwife at 10:42 AM on June 11


What. I had no idea about any of this, let alone her involvement. Why is abuse swept under the rug? Almost everyone is vocally against sexual abuse, but when we find it, we don't talk about it, we don't ostracize the perpetrators (the victims however, are no longer welcomed). What is broken in us as a society?
posted by domo at 10:45 AM on June 11 [21 favorites]


saying how Bradley shouldn’t be blamed because her acts took place in the context of “multiple personal, biological and otherwise ‘material’, as well as legal and political forces,” and because her work was “TREMENDOUS”. So there you are.

I'll never understand this. I can understand (and take) the position that art should be separated from the artist; a work stands on its own no matter how much of a monster the creator is/was. But I can't understand saying great art, or great anything, excuses the creator's crimes. A child rapist is a child rapist.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:46 AM on June 11 [40 favorites]


A blog post excerpting and commenting on Bradley's depositions. Incredibly damning even without her daughter's testimony. Jesus.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:46 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Unfortunate timing.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:48 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


tor.com removed the birthday post precisely because of this issue.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:51 AM on June 11 [7 favorites]


I suspect part of the reason it was kept so quiet is that a whole lot of people got up in arms about how horrible it was that Walter Breen was banned from a con because of his history as a pedophile (the 'Breendoggle', if you want to google), with his wife MZB as one of his chief defenders of course. And thus he subsequently happily used fandom as a hunting ground for young children to rape for decades more because of it. A lot of very famous names aided and abetted the sexual abuse of children, should damn well be ashamed of themselves, and have never apologized. Acknowledging MZB's abuse would be acknowledging that what they did was wrong.

As I said over on James Nicoll's journal: The man who kicked Breen out of a convention was all but driven from fandom; Breen was not.
posted by tavella at 10:52 AM on June 11 [25 favorites]


Why is abuse swept under the rug? Almost everyone is vocally against sexual abuse, but when we find it, we don't talk about it, we don't ostracize the perpetrators (the victims however, are no longer welcomed). What is broken in us as a society?

I honestly wish I knew because I would do whatever I could to just *stop* it. All I can do is not shut up about it and not go away if I see it because that is the lowest of the low.

But the news absolutely disgusts me. Here is someone who had every opportunity in life and preyed upon an innocent...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:54 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


has anyone ever written an arthurian version where the abused mordred was the hero who finally slew the evil arthur? this is a story which begs for some balance.
posted by bruce at 10:56 AM on June 11 [6 favorites]


Shocking and terrible. Role models for female achievement in male-dominated fields, please don't be horrible people...
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:00 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Ugh. Wanting to throw all of her books in the trash right now, even though it wouldn't change anything. What an awful, horrible disappointment.
posted by vytae at 11:02 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Good heavens, I have been reading fantasy for decades and never knew this!

Also, I feel compelled to simplify your plea a little: Role models for female achievement in male-dominated fields, please don't be horrible people... We have few enough role models these days that we can't spare many!
posted by wenestvedt at 11:03 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Breendoggle, proving fandom fifty years ago wasn't any better than parts of fandom now.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:03 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


One of the reasons I stopped reading her books was her defense of Breen. I loved her Darkover series as a child, and it truly is excellent scifi. But turning a blind eye to child rape is beyond the pale. She knew? She actually participated? Fuck. May she roast in hell.

Breen was accused of molesting a ten year old before Pacificon blackballed him. Fans rallied to his defense. Note that none of the people defending him denied that he had a sexual interest in children, which was apparently obvious to everyone. Some of his fans even set up a legal defense fund in his honor.

He was convicted on child rape twice before he died. He passed away while serving a three year sentence.
posted by zarq at 11:05 AM on June 11 [11 favorites]


has anyone ever written an arthurian version where the abused mordred was the hero who finally slew the evil arthur? this is a story which begs for some balance.

It has in fact been mooted, though not lately. I doubt Disney has it in their hopper.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:05 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


And yes, this was one of those stories that you knew about if you were in fandom, but whose true horrors were always covered up. It's the extreme end of the sexism and harassment culture a lot of fandom engaged in, where it was normal for one writer to say "Hi, I'm Randall Garrett, wanna fuck" to female fans, while for another, Isaac Asimov, a bottom pinching contest would be held.

It's something that fandom is slowly struggling to move out of for decades now, but there is a largish minority that likes this and does everything to keep it that way.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:08 AM on June 11 [26 favorites]


What???? Well, shit.
posted by goo at 11:09 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the behavior existed before the achievements that put her on a pedestal. I know that large amounts of money can turn otherwise cool people into selfish assholes, but does it naturally follow that the adulation associated with having a 'fan club' turns 95% of people into hedonistic assholes?

I think the answer to that question is 'yes.'
posted by Mooski at 11:10 AM on June 11


The Mists of Avalon was one of those books I didn't read until maybe two years ago, despite having female friends I know and love champion its feminist retelling of the Arthurian legend.

Now I'm just sort of horrified.
posted by Kitteh at 11:10 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Is she a British personality? There seems to be a lot of that going around there right now. Rolf Harris, for heaven's sakes!
posted by KokuRyu at 11:11 AM on June 11


Breendoggle, proving fandom fifty years ago wasn't any better than parts of fandom now.

Or perhaps that it was many orders of magnitude worse? All the recent fandom scandals I can think of are laughable by comparison. Someone writes a story in an AU without native americans, someone outs a pseudonym on the internet, fandom as a whole sides with convicted sexual offender(s). One of these is not like the others.
posted by pseudonick at 11:13 AM on June 11 [14 favorites]


I am not part of this scene at all, but is there something about SFF or the creative world in general (e.g. Woody Allen) that fosters sexual abuse? I'm thinking of the Catholic church as an example - obviously there's no requirement for writers to be celibate, but is there some other common factor to point to?
posted by desjardins at 11:15 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this was kinda known already though the exact extent of her involvement is new. The best case scenario before this latest revelation was that MZB knew about the abuse and abetted it. I'm surprised how few people appear to have been aware of this?
posted by Justinian at 11:16 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


If Star Trek taught us anything, it's "never turn your back on a breen".
posted by dr_dank at 11:16 AM on June 11 [11 favorites]


but is there some other common factor to point to?

Implicit in your question is the idea that sexual abuse of children is more common in SFF or the creative world in general. I don't see any reason to believe that's true.
posted by Justinian at 11:17 AM on June 11 [21 favorites]


Domo,

That wonderful essay on Captain Awkward (which I read because of a post here) about friend/social groups and "creepers" helps explain a lot of the dynamics.

The other reason, I would suggest, is the predominance of the Five Geek Fallacies, especially number one, "Ostracizers Are Evil".

The woman who pointed out that Ed Kramer was abusing children, author Nancy Collins, was attacked for doing so. I believe there was another married couple who also spoke out about Kramer, and they were vilified in fandom also.

Plus, people don't want to believe that women can commit abuse, also. Women whose mothers abuse them - whether Mom has NPD like mine did, or is alcoholic, or has some other personality disorder - often get guilted really hard - "Oh, your mother did everything for you," "Honor your mother!", etc.

It must have been so hard for Moira, MZB's daughter, to live with the adulation her mother received unconditionally from the more rabid fans.
posted by mitschlag at 11:18 AM on June 11 [43 favorites]


I really liked Avalon when I was younger. Growing up, the Arthurian legends to me were bedtime stories, then books on tape, then actual books, and when I finally got to Avalon I came away from it thinking "ah, that's the real story."

This is horrible to hear. Poor daughter.
posted by postcommunism at 11:21 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


All the recent fandom scandals I can think of are laughable by comparison. Someone writes a story in an AU without native americans, someone outs a pseudonym on the internet, fandom as a whole sides with convicted sexual offender(s). One of these is not like the others.

You... may not be up to date on your fandom scandals. Sadly. I mean, yes, things are arguably getting slightly better in that it's "a sizeable minority" rather than "all of fandom" and "known sexual harasser" rather than "convicted sexual offender", but really, there have been about eight more verses of this in just the past couple of years, leading off with Harlan Ellison groping Connie Willis at Worldcon 2006 right up through James Frenkel sexually harassing someone at the 2013 Wiscon, being fired from Tor, and then being allowed to both attend and volunteer at Wiscon 2014. And those are just the two that lept into my mind; I've left off Readercon 2012 and a bunch of others.
posted by pie ninja at 11:21 AM on June 11 [29 favorites]


I think it is a lot simpler. Famous people get away with lots of horrible stuff because the people that worship and/or look up to them 1) don't want to believe that their idols could be bad people and 2) will actively attack people who attempt to expose the horrible stuff because of (1). It is in no way isolated to SF authors or nerd culture.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:22 AM on June 11 [22 favorites]


And yes, this was one of those stories that you knew about if you were in fandom, but whose true horrors were always covered up. It's the extreme end of the sexism and harassment culture a lot of fandom engaged in, where it was normal for one writer to say "Hi, I'm Randall Garrett, wanna fuck" to female fans, while for another, Isaac Asimov, a bottom pinching contest would be held.

It's something that fandom is slowly struggling to move out of for decades now, but there is a largish minority that likes this and does everything to keep it that way.


If you believe that you also should be able to say "Hi, I'm [MY NAME], wanna fuck", you're going to support the status quo in general. If you think that you are someone with power and authority, and that those with power and authority should be able to take advantage of those without, you're both going to fight to keep the disadvantaged vulnerable and to keep hold of your own power and authority, which you start ceding when you admit that maybe there's some stuff that people, no matter how much privilege and adulation they have, shouldn't do.

The problem with a lot of this thinking, of course, is that there's plenty of stuff that people, no matter how much privilege and adulation they have, shouldn't do.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:23 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


... she had an unequivocal natural bent towards her own sex - one of her earliest books, issued under the pseudonym "Lee Chapman" by Monarch Books in Connecticut, a cheap (in every sense of the word) publisher of paperback originals, was I am a Lesbian (1962). Other novels for Monarch along the same lines were The Strange Women (1962), My Sister, My Love (1963) and Twilight Lovers (1964), all as by "Miriam Gardner", as well as No Adam For Eve (1966), as by "John Dexter," for Corinth Books ...

Shudder. I read lesbian pulp novels as a teenager back then. I probably read some of hers. Weird.
posted by Carol Anne at 11:30 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


So it sounds like "fandom" and the implied cult of personality is very much a contributing factor. This is what I think of when people say to separate the art from the artist. I interpret it not as ignoring an artist's misdeeds, but not attaching any special significance the art has to the artist themselves.
posted by smidgen at 11:30 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Damn! hadn't a clue about any of this. I haven't read The Mists of Avalon since I was a teenager but it was one of those classics.
posted by Fence at 11:30 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Jesus fucking Christ. Reading through this now. I also love, love, loved the Darkover series - but there were one or two books that had some disturbing sexual shit. Mists of Avalon was one of them, but there were also one or two of the Darkover books that were just kind of..icky. Trying to remember what set me off about them now - I think there was in fact some normalized incest in Mists of Avalon. Oh! And one of the Darkover books is about the redemption of a violent rapist, but she seems to take a little too much glee in recounting the rape parts.
posted by corb at 11:33 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Also, I feel compelled to simplify your plea a little: Role models for female achievement in male-dominated fields, please don't be horrible people... We have few enough role models these days that we can't spare many!

I understand your point and share the sentiment, but in situations like this where a traditionally disenfranchised group is losing a role model in a field dominated by the, well, traditionally dominating, I think simplifying statements of woe is not the best idea.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:33 AM on June 11 [10 favorites]


I haven't read The Mists of Avalon since I was a teenager but it was one of those classics

Operative word here for me is 'was.' Then again I don't listen to Michael Jackson anymore and the last time I watched a Woody Allen movie was over a decade ago. My choices, not yours, but I believe the 'separate the art from the artist' is part of what enables this sort of thing to go on. YMMV.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:35 AM on June 11 [9 favorites]


I did a bit of googling, in hopes that I'd find that MZB's copyrights went to her descendants when she died, which would at least mean that buying her stuff would mean sending money to the victims of this abuse. But no, copyright belongs to a trust administered by her former editor. Gah.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:35 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Hopefully fandom will eventually learn to separate the artist from the work. I can understand loving a person's work but willfully ignoring all the warning signs about an artist because you simply can't believe that they would do such horrible things is one of the many things that bugs me about super fans.

I understand that many people get into various fandoms because they feel or felt outcast from other societies but there really is no excuse to harboring predators because you don't want to be exclusionary. To not only fail to believe credible reports but to also punish those who come forward with reports merely highlight the level of rot present in many fandom communities.
posted by vuron at 11:36 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]



I wonder if the behavior existed before the achievements that put her on a pedestal. I know that large amounts of money can turn otherwise cool people into selfish assholes, but does it naturally follow that the adulation associated with having a 'fan club' turns 95% of people into hedonistic assholes?


MSB was never an appealing personality. I don't have my copy of The Secret Feminist Cabal to hand for the details, but she was pretty unpleasant to other feminist SF writers and also wrote the "small group survives spaceship crash, must repopulate planet, therefore virtually forced breeding of women" story which inspired Joanna Russ's splendid (and very depressing) We Who Are About To....*.

She was also a closeted lesbian/bisexual/non-straight-person but/and made a bunch of homophobic remarks, was unwelcoming to her lesbian fans and until quite late in the game absolutely resisted the idea that there might be any *gasp* lesbians in her Darkover series. It sounds as though she had an unpleasant life, given her degree of fame and financial success. But tons of people have led unhappy, closeted lives and still neither condoned sexual abuse nor participated in it.



*IMO her best book, but fuck, is it a downer.
posted by Frowner at 11:36 AM on June 11 [20 favorites]


how in the fuck am I only NOW hearing about this? I'm horrified.
posted by janey47 at 11:38 AM on June 11 [6 favorites]


Implicit in your question is the idea that sexual abuse of children is more common in SFF or the creative world in general. I don't see any reason to believe that's true.

I didn't limit it to child sex abuse, but it does seem like there's a post about sexual harassment/assault at a SFF-type event every few weeks or so. Metafilter is probably a very skewed sample though.
posted by desjardins at 11:38 AM on June 11


(Wiscon?! of all places?)

I think modern SFF prodom/fandom is more likely to talk about these things publicly, debate them... and these days, debate them very rapidly after the event first happens.

I will give you this, though... With fields like acting, and modeling, you have very young people entering these fields who are naive, often particularly vulnerable to abuse. Jezebel has written about the sleazy goings-on in the modeling world, and we all have heard about scandals involving Hollywood. Because those fields are so glamorous, all kinds of people are interested in these stories (including those that aren't true, for instance, many of the claims in Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon are bullshit).

People have already forgotten many Washington D.C. or Wall Street scandals. But there are people ninety years or more later who want to hear about Fatty Arbuckle.

So, that's why you hear more about certain creative fields and abuse.
posted by mitschlag at 11:40 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Yeah, we've had huge, huge fights here about harassment at cons and what harassment policies should look like. I feel like a lot of those fights have happened because of a small but insistent number of people think no one should even ever be tossed from a con unless and until they're convicted in a court of law, and that harassment policies should first and foremost provide an iron-clad way to prevent absolutely all possibilities of false accusations.
posted by rtha at 11:42 AM on June 11 [20 favorites]


Christ Christ Christ the depositions. This whole "Sure I knew he was a pedophile intellectually" as though it were a fucking defense..
posted by corb at 11:42 AM on June 11 [13 favorites]


I didn't limit it to child sex abuse, but it does seem like there's a post about sexual harassment/assault at a SFF-type event every few weeks or so. Metafilter is probably a very skewed sample though.

The impression I got from this is that people in those fandoms finally feel empowered enough to begin trying to confront this stuff. That's a GOOD thing.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:42 AM on June 11 [13 favorites]


I didn't know anything about this. How awful.

On a very selfish, small level, I feel kind of betrayed. The Mists of Avalon was a life-changing book for me. I was 14, sick of YA books, and not sure where to turn. Looking back, I can see myself drifting away from reading. One day, I overheard some older girls talking about The Mists of Avalon and I thought it sounded interesting. My parents wouldn't buy it for me (too adult, they said) so I swanned on over to the public library and checked it out for myself. Over the next few weeks, I slept very little as I read it by the nightlight next to my bedroom door. My mind was blown.

So then I picked up books again, became even MORE of a bookworm, became a librarian, yada yada. I have always thought that The Mists of Avalon literally saved me from turning into a non-reader. With it came a big, huge world of Fantasy and Historical Fiction for grown-ups. The world had changed.

I re-read The Mists of Avalon every year. It's like the book version of Going to Summer Camp: for a few weeks, I get to live in a wonderful alternate universe with friends I only get to see once a year. The next time I read it, it'll be kind of weird and different.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:43 AM on June 11 [25 favorites]


The MZB testimony has a whole lot of "I don't remember" in it. Of course, the testimony was taken the year before she died, so age and ill-health played a part but you'd think finding out that your husband was sleeping with boys would stick in your memory.

MZB 's own testimony hints to a less than conventional home and sex life arrangement which would have been quite unusual in the 60's. There are statements that make you think of a hippie commune and/or perhaps polyamory arrangement.

And I really enjoyed the Darkover series. Sad.
posted by Gwynarra at 11:45 AM on June 11


Ursula K. Le Guin is still cool, though, right?

right?
posted by logicpunk at 11:47 AM on June 11 [14 favorites]


Le Guin is always cool.
posted by Justinian at 11:48 AM on June 11 [63 favorites]


If you read her daughter's email, she talks about staying on couches at other people's homes to get away from the "orgies" at her own, so yeah.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:48 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I just have to say that the harassment thing at Wiscon seems very, very shocking to me.

It's really disappointing how often this stuff boils down to whose ox is gored - your friend is a harasser; my friend is just misunderstood.

I think it's really, really important for people to scaffold these things in advance - what do you plan to do if someone you know and like is plausibly accused of something terrible? I suspect that a lot of people start reacting before they've finished processing and then don't back down. It's not enough just to have a policy and think "oh I will look at the policy if that ever happens"; you have to be familiar with the policy in advance and have thought about how you are likely to respond.
posted by Frowner at 11:52 AM on June 11 [15 favorites]


I am leaving this goddamn universe for the next one over if Ursula turns out to be horrible in this one.

I read the Mists of Avalon a million years ago and remember liking it (though not as much as I still love The Once and Future King); for me, the MZB books I've known and read most were some few of the Darkover novels. I haven't been able to read much of the deposition because my brain keeps wanting to run away.
posted by rtha at 11:53 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


oh god, I just got to the point in the deposition where they're clearly trying to confirm the daughter's testimony. "Did you ever state that those young boys got what they deserved?"
posted by corb at 11:54 AM on June 11


And you wonder why Atwood doesn't want to be called science fiction. Can you imagine her having to go to a bunch of these conventions every year? Sheesh.
posted by saucy_knave at 11:54 AM on June 11 [29 favorites]


This destroys me, that an author who helped me through a rough time turns out to have been the same sort of sexual predator that my father was. But, that so many defended her and enabled her, most of them women....that is the really disgusting part. Without tolerance, it is much more difficult to be a serial child raper.
posted by QIbHom at 11:55 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


a small but insistent number of people think no one should even ever be tossed from a con unless and until they're convicted in a court of law

Monday's post on Hospitality and Jerks provides a good counter arguement to those folks: If we exclude no one explicitly, we are just excluding a lot of people implicitly. Including people like me.
posted by fings at 11:55 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


At a convention last year, I listened to a woman in her fifties recounting, with great relish, the time she attended a convention as a teenager and Isaac Asimov grabbed her, bent her backwards and kissed her, while his wife just rolled her eyes. I wanted to say something, to object to this clear act of sexual assault, but she remembered it as one of the highlights of her life in fandom.

I don't know. Some people are horrible, and all people are complicated.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:57 AM on June 11 [11 favorites]


But there are people ninety years or more later who want to hear about Fatty Arbuckle.

Arbuckle was ultimately cleared, which probably bolsters supporters of others accused.

And remember that Fandom has historically been supportive of sexual deviants. Sometimes to their credit and sometimes not. Homosexuality and pedophilia were considered roughly on par in the sixties/seventies. See the brief prominence of the Pedophilia Information Exchange (PIE) in the UK.

This is not a defense of MZB, to be clear.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:59 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I have tried to listen to Michael Jackson songs in the last few years, but about halfway in, I start to feel...wrong. I know too much.

I've never been a huge Woody Allen fan (even before the stories of abuse, he was always such an obvious dick to women) so that's not been a hard thing to let go of.

I just hope none of the artists I actually love turn out to be something gross and monstrous like this. I feel for Bradley's fans.
posted by emjaybee at 11:59 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I was never really blown away by Mists of Avalon as a reader. I mean it's interesting as a post-modern deconstruction of the Arthurian legend but I never really found the characters to be particularly compelling but I also understand that in the vast wasteland of genre fiction during the period in which this was published it was pretty revolutionary even if I don't particularly feel that it has aged well.

However I can definitely understand why fans flocked in droves to her works and were willing to support her. I just wish that people could realize that horrible people can make wonderful art and that simply being a good or great artist shouldn't ever excuse people from doing horrible things.

She sounds like she was ultimately self-loathing and very conflicted by her own sexuality and was completely willing to partner with a completely loathsome predator for the sake of disguising her (and his) sexual orientation and sexual attractions. I ultimately think lots of people who marry sexual predators make all sorts of rationalizations for all sorts of reasons but ultimately she basically made the decision that her own self-interest outweighed the needs of the community, her own children and the victims of her husband.

For that she really deserves no pity and pretty much just loathing. Like her work if you must but don't suggest it to new readers because honestly she deserves to be forgotten.
posted by vuron at 12:03 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


corb i totally agree with your revulsion and disgust but maybe don't directly quote horrible bits in thread that people may have specifically chosen not to read?
posted by elizardbits at 12:03 PM on June 11 [12 favorites]


Without tolerance, it is much more difficult to be a serial child raper.

Hey don't go tarring tolerance's good name here! It's not "tolerance" to turn a blind eye to pedophiliac abuse. You're playing too fuzzy with the boundaries of ideas to conflate this with "tolerance."
posted by saulgoodman at 12:05 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Fuck fuck fuck fuck. Count me among those who loved Darkover and devoured it, and among those who came to SF/Fantasy through MZB. It was the perfect bridge between kids' books and adult books for me*. I read her Fantasy magazine and submitted (truly appalling) stories to it, and...basically, her books meant a lot, and I do not think I'll ever read them again. My heart goes out to Moira, and I hope she can find whatever measure of healing is possible.

*That said, my father handed me Three Men in a Boat at that age, which, you know, good call! Please no one tell me Jerome K. Jerome was a dick.
posted by kalimac at 12:06 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


oh sorry elizardbits! I think I'm still in this frozen stage of shock and "oh god get it off me".
posted by corb at 12:07 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


Would you prefer I use the word "enabling?" Because, really, that is exactly what supporting sexual abuse of children, directly or indirectly, is. Using "tolerance" (a word I dislike, because it implies superiority) was my attempt to be subtle.

Nor is tolerance always a good thing. There are things that are intolerable. Being raped when you are a small child is one of them.
posted by QIbHom at 12:08 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Frowner, there's a rather fascinating comment on the Wikipedia Talk page about a letter MZB wrote to the editor in the Winter 1954 Thrilling Wonder Stories:

"It's rather long and I don't feel comfortable excerpting it on my own, but it discusses birth control, specifically 'young females who believe themselves eminently qualified to judge for themselves how many children they ought to have and resented my implications that their squallings might be motivated by selfishness.' Here are two more sentences: 'America is swinging, slowly but surely, toward a matriarchy -- and decadence. Women, in their present emotional muddle, are NOT SUITED (sic) to assume important positions in the commanding of the world...my personal preference is for today's generation of mental eunuchs to recover their lost manhood and give today's women a good swift kick in the seat of their mass-produced pants!' "

Given that Darkover Landfall, which expressed much the same opinions, was in 1972, that doesn't seem to have been youthful fallacy (she'd have been around 24) that was later repudiated. So I think she may have been that peculiar kind of feminist who gets there by despising most other women.

...holy hell, I just went to the MZB talk page to get a link for my comment, and it has been totally erased. To the memory hole with all those nasty little details about her nasty little habits with kids.
posted by tavella at 12:10 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


> I also understand that in the vast wasteland of genre fiction during the period in which this was published it was pretty revolutionary

This is inexpressibly bad and sad. MZB was one of the very writers who kept it from being a vast wasteland.
posted by jfuller at 12:13 PM on June 11


Nah, just archived (there's a link on the right-hand side of the main Talk page) - probably somebody anticipating a flood of new comments.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:13 PM on June 11


...holy hell, I just went to the MZB talk page to get a link for my comment, and it has been totally erased.

No, just bumped to the second (archived) talk page -- ctrl-f for the quote, I don't believe you can link to a comment within that page directly -- as of today, probably to keep any influx of comments from the current news separate from the preceding discussions.
posted by cjelli at 12:16 PM on June 11


Oh god, people are being really awful to the daughter in the comments on the talk page - suggesting that her word shouldn't be given weight because of being mentally ill. Wikipedia, why are you so awful?
posted by corb at 12:20 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


But there are people ninety years or more later who want to hear about Fatty Arbuckle.

Arbuckle was ultimately cleared, which probably bolsters supporters of others accused.


FWIW, I read through a bunch of the Fatty Arbuckle stuff I was able to find online some years ago and came to the conclusion that he was in fact guilty, and that the 'exoneration' was the product of special pleading and wishful thinking with overtones of bad faith.
posted by jamjam at 12:22 PM on June 11


See also Wikipedia's rule on article talk pages not being forums to discuss the subject of the article.

As for linking directly, here you go. (I think that's where you wanted to go; Wikipedia uses section titles as anchors).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:22 PM on June 11


Q. So back in the 1960s you knew that it was not just an intellectual position for Walter; correct?

A. I knew that intellectually. I didn't have any physical awareness of it.

Q. Didn't Walter tell you that he was sleeping with [Victim X]?

A. He did. But you know how it is when you're told something, and everything people say needs people to say it and one to hear it.
No. No, I don’t know how that is.

Now i feel really dumb, because i had heard of Walter Breen, but didn't know he was married to Marion Zimmer Bradley.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:23 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the behavior existed before the achievements that put her on a pedestal. I know that large amounts of money can turn otherwise cool people into selfish assholes, but does it naturally follow that the adulation associated with having a 'fan club' turns 95% of people into hedonistic assholes?

I think the answer to that question is 'yes.'


Money and power can magnify what is there in ways that become unpalatable. But I am unaware of any way that money and power can actively turn someone into a child rapist. I view myself as a hedonist. There is no way I can imagine taking pleasure in doing something so horrible and damaging to a child. So I am kind of personally offended at the conflation here between "hedonism" and child rape.

I imagine that wasn't exactly what you intended to communicate but it basically is what you communicated. Power may corrupt but it doesn't tend to twist our sexual predilections into something alien. It may blur the boundaries such that relatively normal behaviors start getting a bit twisted but that is, again, a far cry from child rape.
posted by Michele in California at 12:24 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


well, that's revolting.
posted by bq at 12:24 PM on June 11


Holy shit. Mists of Avalon was extremely important to me in my early teens and such a foundational piece of my feminist thinking. How disappointing and enraging and horrible.
posted by naoko at 12:24 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


I think the Elizabeth Waters deposition is possibly even more enlightening than MZB's; it reveals just how much the people around MZB and Breen knew what was going on, and didn't give a shit. It also has, for those who want backup for Moira Greyland's accusation, two extremely revealing confirming passages -- I won't quote them directly, per people's request in the thread, but I commented on them here.
posted by tavella at 12:31 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


This is deeply upsetting and unsettling. I was just about to pick Mists up again and now I can't even bring myself to touch the book.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:35 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Hopefully fandom will eventually learn to separate the artist from the work.

I think that's insightful, and I also agree with the comments that blame fandom in part for enabling certain things. Some of the harassment and abuses couldn't occur in a more level-headed atmosphere, where authors and artists and actors weren't being adulated with displaced emotions that are really more about the work than its creator. "OMG Star Trek made me not alone in the world!!" is a perfectly valid hyperemotional response, and in fact it's kinda neat, but it needs to be tempered with a flatter, "Oh look, there's Brent Spiner. He was an actor on that show."
posted by cribcage at 12:36 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I know a frankly embarrassing amount of the genre's dirty laundry and I hadn't heard of this one.

Well, that's upsetting. <-- And that's an understatement.
posted by Zed at 12:37 PM on June 11


Wait, is something wrong with Brent Spiner?
posted by desjardins at 12:39 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


Hopefully fandom will eventually learn to separate the artist from the work.

Like I said earlier, I think that approach enables (abusive) artists to continue their abuses. If you are supporting the work you are by definition supporting the artist, which can mean they can continue (financially) to do whatever bad shit it is they're doing, or can tell them that obviously what they're doing isn't wrong because look at all the people buying my books/music/paintings/whatever.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:42 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Wait, is something wrong with Brent Spiner?

He's kind of a dick on Twitter sometimes.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:43 PM on June 11


and didn't give a shit.

No kidding. Here's a non-triggering but extremely upsetting passage.

And who did you learn -- who was it that you learned from -- who was it --

A. From whom.



Really? You're being deposed about child molesting and you care about whom?
posted by bq at 12:46 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


It reads like she was helping the lawyer finish a sentence s/he was stumbling over.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:48 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


tavella: I think the Elizabeth Waters deposition is possibly even more enlightening than MZB's; it reveals just how much the people around MZB and Breen knew what was going on, and didn't give a shit. It also has, for those who want backup for Moira Greyland's accusation, two extremely revealing confirming passages -- I won't quote them directly, per people's request in the thread, but I commented on them here.

Interestingly, there are some references to satanic ritual abuse in that link (specifically, that Moira thought she'd been a victim of it). So there might be some crossover with that whole issue.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:51 PM on June 11


What amazes me is there was an exchange on Twitter yesterday between (mefi's own) John Scalzi and a number of women SFF writers -- and Scalzi's reaction was appalled horror, whereas some of the women, professionals who'd been in the field for at least 2 decades, had already known this.

Apparently the word was out a long time ago, about MZB's individual predilections, but only within a relatively small subset of mostly women who were active in the SFF writer/fan community in the 80s.

I was a HUGE Darkover fan when I was in high school and college (although I never much liked Mists of Avalon, having imprinted on Rosemary Sutcliff at an early age), and it's going to be hard to handle that. I'm certainly never rereading any of my old Darkover novels.

People: why so awful?
posted by suelac at 12:52 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I think I'm still in this frozen stage of shock and "oh god get it off me".

no, totally, me too, i've been shouting grotesque selections of it across the office to my intern who has since put on headphones to avoid it
posted by elizardbits at 12:52 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Oh god, people are being really awful to the daughter in the comments on the talk page - suggesting that her word shouldn't be given weight because of being mentally ill. Wikipedia, why are you so awful?

It's almost as if lifelong mental illness might be one possible side effect of both witnessing and suffering from severe childhood sexual abuse by one or both parents.

I guess traumatizing your victims to the point they require psychiatric care and are therefore no longer considered credible witnesses is sort of like poking out the eyes of your rape victim so s/he can't identify you in court. (See also: choosing victims who already lack credibility as a result of trauma and/or stigma resulting from a history of foster care, sex work, past mental illness, etc.)
posted by blue suede stockings at 12:57 PM on June 11 [44 favorites]


I understand your concern feckless but I was more referencing people's admiration of the artistic merits of an artistic work to blind them to the unsavory aspects of the artist themselves. I can understand how various works of MZB were instrumental to the love of genre fiction for some readers and I can also understand appreciating them as artistic works but I never think that admiration of the work should supplant an honest assessment of the artist. Great art does not excuse human failings despite the near omnipresent narrative that great artists must engage in all sorts of vices in order to truly express the totality of human emotion.

Personally I think that's largely hookum and artists should not be immune to ridicule and scorn for their choices. It seems at the very minimum MZB let her fear that her husband's proclivities would endanger her material property (one of the deposition talks about fearing losing the house) enable her to rationalize her husband's (and possibly her own actions).

The level of denial about the nature of sexual desire if she honestly felt that an "impotent" man was unable to sexually molest someone seems mind-boggling plus the idea that prior to puberty children have no erogenous zones is laughably stupid to the point of idiocy. At a certain point in time it's clear that she's rationalized some sorts of sexual activity between adults and children as being "acceptable" even if they are clearly illegal and that she's seemingly condoning a morality outside of legal systems.

I don't really think that there is any excuse for her actions (or inaction) and yeah I'd be happy to tell people to never buy another book from her estate. If you want to read her work for it's place in the history of genre fiction just borrow a copy from someone (or a library) and don't contribute anymore to her estate. Especially since it seems that at least some people who benefit from her estate also took part in concealing the abuse.
posted by vuron at 1:04 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


the pain I feel is nothing compared to what her daughter and other victims feel -

but I am hurting, if only because her books were so important to me at an important time of my life. I came out as bisexual because of her books (Thendara House, specifically).

Now I feel like I can never go back and read them without the shadow of this knowledge poisoning the stories.
posted by jb at 1:05 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


And from Moira's own response on the Wiki talk page:

I deny mental illness. I don't know who is accusing me, but there is a difference between being mentally ill and being in the position of having to put one's own FATHER in JAIL.

Any efforts made to paint me as mentally ill are undoubtedly the result of an attempt to discredit my testimony against my parents: testimony which was sufficient to assist in his prosecution, arrest, and incarceration.

--Moira Greyland (added by User:Moiragreyland 6 May 2014, restored by User:Argyriou with formatting)

posted by blue suede stockings at 1:06 PM on June 11 [16 favorites]


I think it's crap all over. Survivors from just about every context and every community imaginable report that people will circle the wagons of denial rather than confront abuse. It's more public when it involves big name author as opposed to cousin, grandmother, assistant scoutmaster, college professor, or schoolteacher. But the dynamics are generally the same because people in general are a herd of turds, whether they're sexual libertarians or abstinence-only authoritarians.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:07 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


FWIW, I read through a bunch of the Fatty Arbuckle stuff I was able to find online some years ago and came to the conclusion that he was in fact guilty, and that the 'exoneration' was the product of special pleading and wishful thinking with overtones of bad faith.

The guy was tried three times in the midst of an intense media frenzy almost entirely condemning him as the poster-boy for Hollywood excess and he was not only not convicted by any jury but the last jury issued an explicit statement that they were not merely finding the charge unproven but that the evidence convinced them all that the charge was entirely unfounded and that no charges should ever have been brought. There's abundant evidence that the person who originally claimed that Arbuckle had raped Rappe was seeking to extort money from him (like the telegram she sent to lawyers in both San Diego and LA reading "we have Roscoe Arbuckle in a hole here chance to make some money out of him"). There was, moreover, precisely zero evidence supporting the claim--the doctors who had examined Rappe had found no evidence of rape or of any kind of physical trauma.

Unless you know of some hitherto unexamined cache of documents about that case, I suspect you may be misremembering the "Arbuckle stuff you found online years ago."
posted by yoink at 1:09 PM on June 11 [10 favorites]


That talk page is intense.
Regarding no citation for the daughters mental illness-The statement that she is a professional singer and harpist is not cited either. In fact, Moira Breen/Sterns professional career consists of playing the harp Friday nights at a local Starbucks in Reno Nevada. She also has a self-published DVD available on her website and was edited out of one background/extra role in a feature film. The point is taken, however, and I will not insert the info with a citation. She is a sad legacy of a talented but very disturbed author.Chief1 01:27, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
I take exception to this. I have been a professional harpist for over twenty years. I have played in literally hundreds of special events and weddings and parties, including one in Calabasas for Hillary Clinton and one in San Bernardino for Dianne Feinstein. Moreover, I have founded two opera companies and directed nine operas. I have a Master's in Music Performance. --Moira Greyland
posted by Jairus at 1:10 PM on June 11 [25 favorites]


I'm picking my jaw up off the floor. Holy crap.
posted by Hildegarde at 1:12 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


This might be the only place to put this seeing as it does intersect with how we view people we like/admire and their actions. Please forgive me if it seems derail-y.

A few months ago I had a sort of "Come to Jesus" moment in terms of an actor whom I didn't fan worship, but at least enjoyed his work. It's no secret that Adam Baldwin of Firefly/Chuck fame is an outspoken libertarian and usually my reaction was to roll my eyes and sigh distressedly. Until he started piling on Zerlina Maxwell and denying there was no such thing as rape culture. I didn't directly address him by using his Twitter handle because frankly, I didn't want to deal with him. I tweeted something like, "It's a damn shame that Adam Baldwin thinks that rape culture doesn't exist and basically all of his female fans are just liars when it comes to harassment."

Well. I received a series of very nasty tweets from Baldwin himself, one of which was an obscene cartoon regarding a certain part of the female anatomy. I was shocked and horrified. I responded with "I guess that's one way to treat a fan" and then I blocked him. Sadly, this didn't stop some of his diehard fans from coming after me, also saying gross things.
posted by Kitteh at 1:20 PM on June 11 [75 favorites]


... also wrote the "small group survives spaceship crash, must repopulate planet, therefore virtually forced breeding of women" story which inspired Joanna Russ's splendid (and very depressing) We Who Are About To....*.

That's totally not what the reviewers at the time made that book out to be about. They presented it as just sort of dull nihilism. Now I need to go find it.
posted by lodurr at 1:23 PM on June 11


Yeah, when Brent Spiner was mentioned as being kind of a dick online my first thought was “hey, he's not Adam Baldwin.” He's a solid actor who picked a couple of really good, nerdy projects, but he is also a hateful person.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:29 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


SF fandom and writer messes blow my mind. The De Camps were some of my babysitters as a kid (Catherine Cook De Camp and my mother knew each other through Phi Beta Kappa). A little older, I would hang out in NYC with my dad and cousins of his generation who knew Asimov. I took classes with Joanna Russ (and unfortunately, Janice Raymond, who basically wrote anti-trans* SF and called it feminist theory and US government trans* health policy). I know about a dozen other SF authors personally.
Effective art moves us emotionally, and of course we assign some of those feelings at the art's creators. Do the same thing in large groups and what we have are mobs ready to praise the ones who brought us pleasure, and attack anyone who gets in the way of those pleasures.
But to me, once a little girl listening to Asimov and my dad sprinkling their rocket talk (my dad worked in aerospace) with yiddishisms, he's still one of the adults who encouraged me to be smart and geeky and proud of it. Even though I now know he was also a sexual harasser and a formulaic stylist, at best.
posted by Dreidl at 1:31 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


I hope for her sake that Moira had a sense of what she was getting into. I'm afraid she's going to get dragged through the mud pretty hard for her openness. The insinuations about mental illness and alleged pretensions w.r.t. her profession are really just the start. If they haven't already, they'll shortly be followed by insinuations that she's doing this to garner fame or make money in some way -- get 'privileged victim status,' as the kids put it these days.
posted by lodurr at 1:34 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I'm always sorry to come across this topic, but honestly I thought it was old (if truly horrible) news, as it's been many years since I first heard about it, including the accusations of MZB's role. I've never read much of Bradley's work so it never affected me on the level of "writer I love is a monster."

And you wonder why Atwood doesn't want to be called science fiction. Can you imagine her having to go to a bunch of these conventions every year? Sheesh.

I'm not a convention-goer but this seems like a cheap shot even to me.

I am leaving this goddamn universe for the next one over if Ursula turns out to be horrible in this one.

I've only met her a couple of times but I can confidently say there is zero chance of this.
posted by aught at 1:36 PM on June 11 [11 favorites]


Wow, Kitteh. That's pretty awful. I'd known since reading his early fan-forum posts (ca. 2003, in the months following Firefly's cancellation) that Baldwin was pretty right wing, and I'd been content to just file him under People Who I Don't Agree With But Are Nonetheless Pretty Okay, but that's beyond the pale. You can consider my eyes opened.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:39 PM on June 11


That's totally not what the reviewers at the time made that book out to be about. They presented it as just sort of dull nihilism. Now I need to go find it.

Hm, I suspect they presented it as a sort of dull nihilism because it didn't seem plausible to them that a woman could possibly, possibly have reasons for not wanting to be treated quite literally as a brood sow on a random planet with no medical care in the company of about eight other people, most of whom were awful. Gee, why would anyone not a boring nihilist write a book objecting to being totally, violently sexually objectified in the service of the higher good? But also, it's a wonderfully written book and a great character study.
posted by Frowner at 1:40 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Sorry to continue the Brent Spiner derail, but the only thing I come up with in the googles is how gun nuts don't like his stance on gun control. Am I missing something else?
posted by Curious Artificer at 1:40 PM on June 11


Wait, is something wrong with Brent Spiner?

Since other people have suggested there are things wrong with Brent Spiner, I'll clarify to say that I am aware of none, nor did I imply any. I used his name precisely because he seemed a neutral example, and also because he immediately came to mind as someone who has commented that actors are just actors and not fodder for worship. It's entirely possible he's a massive dick, but I've never heard that, and he was friendly enough when I met him.

That talk page is intense.

I'm sorry to see her engaging with Wikipedians. I had this argument with a politician once: he really, really cared what his Wikipedia article said, and I told him to roll his eyes. When articles are just about random television shows or celebrities you've never met, it's easy to forget that Wikipedia culture is actually pretty vile. This is their corner of the world; these people don't get to be powerful or right in any other context of their lives, so by God you are not going to correct them on their turf.
posted by cribcage at 1:43 PM on June 11 [20 favorites]


Frowner: and until quite late in the game absolutely resisted the idea that there might be any *gasp* lesbians in her Darkover series.

Whaaaaaaaat? Nuclear grade denial.

I've gotten the shivers several times reading this thread. Childhood icon smashed to bits. I think I still have The Mists of Avalon and Hawkmistress in a box in a storage space in my home town. Couldn't bear to part with them fifteen years ago when I packed everything up to go travelling. Now the thought of reading them again makes me want to puke.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:45 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Since other people have suggested there are things wrong with Brent Spiner, I'll clarify to say that I am aware of none, nor did I imply any.

Thanks, cribcage. That does clear my question up.
posted by Curious Artificer at 1:46 PM on June 11


Frowner, I skimmed the wikipedia entry on it just now and that reminded me that one review I remember clearly was by Spider Robinson. I don't remember him mentioning the breeding aspects at all -- he just presented it as an anti-social decision, with the sex of the narrator being incidental. Having learned more about Russ since then, I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that mainstream characters would find her ideas a bit challenging. A lot of folks in SF are very heavily invested in the idea that they're cutting edge, and if you do something that reminds them of the ways they're still mundane -- especially w.r.t. social attitudes -- it can really hork them off.
posted by lodurr at 1:47 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I didn't know about all this stuff at all, but what occurs to me is that much like Piers Anthony (who I must clarify under the circumstances has not to my knowledge been accused of acting on anything like this), I read MZB's works as a young adolescent and thought of the sexual elements as just part of the storyline. As an adult coming back to them, I found a lot of the sexual bits, not just in Mists but elsewhere, to be really troubling taken as a whole. Like, I have heard Mists often referred to as "feminist", but I really don't feel like that's true by today's standards. Lythande was a book of short stories that I read until I'd totally destroyed the binding, but was hardly a great model of same-sex relationships. It was the best I had when I was thirteen, but it was not great stuff.

In retrospect, I am not happy to find out that the issues ran that deep, but I am not particularly surprised. I think like many things, it's important not to dismiss the quality of her work entirely; she clearly did some things that resonated well with many people. But that's not to defend her--that's because I think as a society we need to be clear on the idea that, yes, when people say it could be anyone, that means anyone, not just the people you already perceive to be kinda creepy.
posted by Sequence at 1:48 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I can't cut-and-paste, but some folks have wondered how this kind of thing can be allowed to happen. I've been thinking a lot about that question because I am part of a relatively small community where I have been bullied by a very highly-respected member. A friend was wondering to me why this person, whom we'll call Fred, isn't more commonly seen as the bullying, self-aggrandizing jerk he is, but is instead widely lauded. After some thought, this is what I wrote to her about it, and how this has seemed to me to be a model for abuse by respected people. It also makes me realize that I have made a conscious, and rational-seeming, decision not to accuse Fred of bad behavior publicly, because the cost to me would be very high, whereas it's relatively easy simply to remove myself from interacting with him. In my case, it's just dealing with a condescending manipulative asshole, but I know the stakes are often much higher than that.


This is what I wrote my friend:

Your e-mail about Fred got me thinking about the predictable pattern of his responses to any challenge, no matter how small. I've been on the receiving end of a number of these, so I'm very familiar with them. They go like this:

1. Even if the challenge was public, the response will be private. This, I think, is to promote a false sense of intimacy as well as, consciously or not, to keep Fred's public persona and private persona separate.

2. His response will begin with an endearment which is not earned by the relationship: "sweetie," or "dear girl," or "beloved," for instance.

3. "Credentialling" follows. This is an implicit, but nearly explicit way, of saying, "Do you know who I am?" Fred's expertise and experience are laid out in detail. The implication is, for instance, that a person who has been active in rights movements for X years could not be, say, sexist.

4. An explanation is offered. "You may not be aware that..." or "I come from a community that..." The problem is described as my failure to understand cultural differences, or ignorance on a point of acceptable behavior, or as being in some other way due to my own deficiency which Fred will now condescend to correct.

Further conversation repeats this pattern.

I've thought of Fred as a bully of a particular kind that is common among men in progressive social justice communities (and white people who have done anti-racist work, as well).

But last night I was watching a miniseries set in 1952, in which some women who worked at Bletchley Park during WWII recognize a serial killer's pattern and start to try to find him. At one point, one of the women goes to someone high up in the police department with the information they've collected, and gets the Fred treatment: condescension, belittling terms of endearment ("My dear Mrs. Gray..."), a reminder that the police are much better suited to solve this kind of thing than a group of housewives and spinsters, and an additional reminder that they have wandered outside their field of expertise, and that their sense that the police are not doing the right things in pursuing the case is caused by their faulty understanding of just what it is the police do.

Which is to say that, were Fred a smarmy executive in a TV show like Mad Men, and I a secretary, no one would have any trouble recognizing his behavior for what it is.

I have long puzzled over Fred's prominent and respected place in our community, and his private bad behavior. But this morning, I realized that these two things are not inexplicable at all, and that Fred is in fact a type. He is our version of those fundamentalist Christian leaders who are revealed to be sexually abusing teenage girls or something, and if you think about it that way, all the pieces fit pretty well into the model. Which is something like this:

1. The person has to actually be doing good. In Fred's case, who is going to argue that [redacted] is not good work? Nobody. Just like Christian leaders are doing work that, to their followers, seems important and good.

2. The good the person is doing has to bring them power and prestige in some way. Fred is clearly not buying yachts with his, but he gets a lot of attention, support, and admiration, as well as some modest financial support.

3. Through some flaw of personality, or some inherent property of having that kind of public adulation, or ego, or the Dunning-Kruger effect, the person has to somehow come to believe that "I am doing good" means "I can't do wrong."

4. Abuses of power, whether that's sexual abuse, diversion of funds from ministry to personal luxuries, or Fred's little habit of using condescension and iron-clad ego to smack down anyone who dares to challenge him in even the smallest way, happen in private, while continued good works happen in public. Praise and admiration therefore happen in public as well.

5. This serves to isolate any person who sees the abuse of power. Being bullied in private means that you are, or at least see yourself to be, alone in seeing the person in a negative light. Being surrounded by people who are admiring the person in public means that you are constantly reminded of how alone you are in your experience. Perhaps, unconsciously, this is why Fred is so active in [certain public areas of our community], where he gets lots of kudos and "thanks so much for that." I'm sure those responses feed his ego and bolster his self-perception, but they also serve as reminders to anyone who might want to blow the whistle on him that there is not likely to be much support.

6. The recognition that there is not likely to be support keeps people silent. I can't imagine taking on the shitstorm that would ensue were I to try to publicly say, "Fred is a respected member of our community, but he is also a bully, and that needs to be addressed." Fred's power is very limited and I've been able to remove myself from his sphere. But I don't think I'm being hyperbolic to say that Fred's position in our community is Sexual-Harrassing Evangelical Mega-Preacher writ small.

That's my new theory. I still don't really understand the underlying psychology of the pattern, but I feel like I understand the pattern. Fred is playing this out in our very small pond but if the pond were bigger, so would be the harm he could do.
posted by not that girl at 1:48 PM on June 11 [106 favorites]


Curious Artificer: "Sorry to continue the Brent Spiner derail, but the only thing I come up with in the googles is how gun nuts don't like his stance on gun control. Am I missing something else?"

I was under the impression that he was an anti-vaxxer. Turns out I was wrong.
Q yjn3n :
I remember reading an article sometime wayy back about your stance on vaccinations. Something about inferring that you were against vaccinating, care to clarify? (Say it isn't so.)

A BSPINER :
I'm not against vaccinating. My son goes to a pediatrician who is a very fine Dr. and doesn't believe in rampant vaccination. If it's needed, he vaccinates. But, he doesn't believe in giving vaccinations for diseases that don't exist in this country. He's very pro vaccination for areas where those diseases are prevalent.
posted by zarq at 1:49 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Frowner: and until quite late in the game absolutely resisted the idea that there might be any *gasp* lesbians in her Darkover series.

Whaaaaaaaat? Nuclear grade denial.


Yes, claiming no lesbians in Darkover is just confusing. There were a ton of lesbians - that was one of the reasons women would join the Free Amazons. Darkover was formative queer fiction for me.
posted by jb at 1:55 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Frowner, I skimmed the wikipedia entry on it just now and that reminded me that one review I remember clearly was by Spider Robinson. I don't remember him mentioning the breeding aspects at all -- he just presented it as an anti-social decision, with the sex of the narrator being incidental. Having learned more about Russ since then, I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that mainstream characters would find her ideas a bit challenging. A lot of folks in SF are very heavily invested in the idea that they're cutting edge, and if you do something that reminds them of the ways they're still mundane -- especially w.r.t. social attitudes -- it can really hork them off.

It also suggests to me that the ideas in the book were so strange, new and foreign that they were literally incomprehensible to a lot of male reviewers. As you'll see when you read the book, it's pretty didactic. You're not at all kept in the dark about why the narrator does as she does, and there's plenty of stuff that's directly about gender, both in the narrator's reflections and in comments by the other characters.

Honestly, I also really love the worldbuilding in the book, the descriptions...it's a sort of reframing of some of the glittery late sixties scifi poptimism (the kind where the future is all sparkly fashions, populist yet luxurious space travel and a well-meant but somewhat shallow multiculturalism - I actually like that kind of thing a lot in itself).

Anyway, though, it is brutal. Makes Camp Concentration look like an episode of Star Trek.
posted by Frowner at 1:58 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


I've gotten the shivers several times reading this thread. Childhood icon smashed to bits. I think I still have The Mists of Avalon and Hawkmistress in a box in a storage space in my home town. Couldn't bear to part with them fifteen years ago when I packed everything up to go travelling. Now the thought of reading them again makes me want to puke.

I'd look into dismembering the book and depositing it with appropriate recycling facilities within your community. I have done this when I've come across a vile book/author.
posted by tilde at 2:03 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


domo: Almost everyone is vocally against sexual abuse, but when we find it, we don't talk about it, we don't ostracize the perpetrators (the victims however, are no longer welcomed). What is broken in us as a society?

True story: There was a creep that frequented my SCA parties, over a decade ago. Everyone knew he was a creep (except his wife), but I thought he was "just" creepy. Then I heard two things: he had groped a newcomer's breast at a party, and young women had adopted a policy of finding out which staircase of the two in my house he was nearest, and used the other until he moved.

When I found this out, I immediately... decided to give him one more chance. Which I knew he'd screw up, but I felt I needed an "incident" to take action.

I got what I wanted; he even broke the law with his next behavior; AND YET when I banned him permanently from my property, the people who knew him, and knew he was a creep, and knew what he'd done to break the camel's back... told me I overreacted.

A very few said they had my back; mostly women, but some men.

The father of the pre-teen he had assaulted told me I overreacted.

His wife, who carefully kept a blind eye, told me I was "classless."

Because ultimately, I think most of us would rather have peace than justice; pleasantries than face truly ugly truths.

It's getting easier to stand up for what's right, but it's never easy.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:06 PM on June 11 [75 favorites]


and also wrote the "small group survives spaceship crash, must repopulate planet, therefore virtually forced breeding of women" story which inspired Joanna Russ's splendid (and very depressing) We Who Are About To....*.

Do you remember the name of this story? I've always been interested in Joanna Russ's work and I didn't know We Who Are About To... was a direct response to another work, particularly not a MZB work.
posted by aught at 2:11 PM on June 11


I hope for her sake that Moira had a sense of what she was getting into.

Given the fame her parents have and that she apparently testified at her father's trial, I suspect she has some idea.

I say this as someone who has long chosen to be open about the fact that I was molested as a child. People often act like I am some naïve little twit who thinks the world is filled with nothing but nice people or something. I often just boggle at such assumptions about me.

Also, given one of her public responses (quoted here), she seems pretty well equipped to handle the firestorm. She likely knows it will be a firestorm and, for her own reasons, decided to go ahead anyway.
posted by Michele in California at 2:13 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


Do you remember the name of this story? I've always been interested in Joanna Russ's work and I didn't know We Who Are About To... was a direct response to another work, particularly not a MZB work.

I don't, off the top of my head - she talks about it in one of the reviews or essays in The Country You Have Never Seen. If I have the chance, I'll look it up tonight.
posted by Frowner at 2:13 PM on June 11


I was following the facebook group pulled together to organize a local con. The con organizer posted one day that he wanted to adopt a version of the Scalzi policy for dealing with sexual harassment. I was surprised to see the resistance he got for it -- it was all about the 'inevitable' cases where someone (female) would get someone else (male) kicked out of the con.

to his credit, the con organizer (a guy I've come over the years to realize doesn't get half the respect he deserves, but I suppose I repeat myself) stuck to his guns, and made it clear that there was going to be a harassment policy that would have teeth.

For reasons like that, I think things might be getting better.
posted by lodurr at 2:14 PM on June 11 [12 favorites]


desjardins: ...but is there something about SFF or the creative world in general (e.g. Woody Allen) that fosters sexual abuse? I'm thinking of the Catholic church as an example - obviously there's no requirement for writers to be celibate, but is there some other common factor to point to?

Justinian: Implicit in your question is the idea that sexual abuse of children is more common in SFF or the creative world in general. I don't see any reason to believe that's true.

EXACTLY. I'm about as far from an apologist for the Catholic Church as one can get, but the raw facts are: Catholic priests are no more likely to rape nor molest children than the population at large.

The only difference is that they are protected by a sovereign nation with a trillion-dollar economy, a literally sanctimonious image, and the power and desire to relocate such pederasts, white-washing their histories. A big difference, to be sure.

And MZ-B, or any other disgustingly perverted celebrity who hurts others with their sexuality? They are instantly, implicitly protected by their celebrity status.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:17 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


... she seems pretty well equipped to handle the firestorm.

That was my impression, just from the tenor of her notes. But these shitstorms can get pretty shitty.
posted by lodurr at 2:18 PM on June 11


Do you remember the name of this story?

I would assume that's the novel Darkover Landfall, which describes the first years of colonization, including the obligation of all the women to breed.
posted by suelac at 2:19 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom: The celebrity status often has disproportionate weight in a small, insular community, like fandom. At least, it feels that way.
posted by lodurr at 2:20 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I just have to say that the harassment thing at Wiscon seems very, very shocking to me.

Having had a little secondhand experience with the way some of the people in charge at Wiscon view con harassment, this doesn't surprise me a bit. "That doesn't happen here" is a tremendously pervasive and toxic article of faith even in feminist communities.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:22 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I would assume that's the novel Darkover Landfall, which describes the first years of colonization, including the obligation of all the women to breed.

It is, now that you mention it. And now that I remember that, I think there's some stuff about Russ's comments on it in The Secret Feminist Cabal.
posted by Frowner at 2:23 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Maybe, lodurr. But Bill Clinton didn't pay much for a credible accusation from Paula Jones; Arnold Schwartzenegger got off with a decades-late pseudo-apology for multiple (admitted) sexual assaults; and I can name two famous directors who are hedged with admirers and defenders after assaulting minors.

I don't think it's just fandom at all.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:24 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


What the fucking fuck.

Whoah. Uhh..
posted by rmd1023 at 2:25 PM on June 11


The (LARP) con that I help run recently instituted as strong a anti-harassment policy as we could write in the immediate aftermath of the incidents at Arisia in Feb (as discussed by jscalzi here). Before our latest version we had a strong-but-vague policy (don't harass or we'll kick you out), but the time had come to have a more robust policy. There was no pushback from the team on the policy for a number of reasons, which include being LARPers, and on average more socially aware than a generic gathering of geeks, as well as knowing people personally involved with the Arisia incidents. Our new strong policy can be found at Our Rules page if anyone is interested in our approach.
posted by Davidicus at 2:26 PM on June 11 [10 favorites]


I should add, we improved our policy because of events that happened at other conventions in the area, and because it was the right thing to do, not because of any incident that had happened at our con in previous years.
posted by Davidicus at 2:27 PM on June 11


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "A blog post excerpting and commenting on Bradley's depositions. Incredibly damning even without her daughter's testimony. Jesus."

Deposition. What the goddamn fucking fuck. I can't even.
posted by zarq at 2:28 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


Because ultimately, I think most of us would rather have peace than justice; pleasantries than face truly ugly truths.


It's worse than that, it's a defense of the tribal/monkey troop hierarchy. A degree of violence and unpleasantness is acceptable, as long as it maintains the patterns of influence. The fear being, if that person is cast down, anyone could be. Thus an attack on someone high in the hierarchy is seen as an attack on everyone linked to their influence. Or so it's been in my experience.
posted by happyroach at 2:28 PM on June 11 [12 favorites]


My point is "tolerance" as it's usually used is not a word that describes putting up with behaviors or beliefs that are hurtful to others. Tolerance is what gets extended to people who are different in ways that shouldn't be anybody else's business and we wouldn't have any need for it if people weren't so prone to persecuting people for not conforming with all sorts of arbitrary personal ideas about how people ought to be.

It's not "tolerance" in any usual sense of the word to enable abuse or otherwise allow someone to harm others. It's important to point this out because some idiots these days like to confuse word meanings for deceptive politically manipulative reasons, like making people who argue for more tolerance in other areas of life look bad.

Anyway, this is a stupid derail. I think we all agree there's nothing tolerant about enabling abuse, which was my only point originally. To use the word "tolerance" in this context at all is a misnomer.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:29 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


(Sorry for not being clear: that last was in response to this previous response to me.)
posted by saulgoodman at 2:31 PM on June 11


I don't think it's just fandom at all.

Yeah, it's not. Just a few doors down on the front page is yet another post about the horrors of abuse perpetrated and covered up by the Catholic Church. People have a stake in the institutions (fandom, their local parish) - emotional if not financial - and will go through all kinds of contortions to avoid seeing or flat-out deny something that could damage the institution and their relationship with it.
posted by rtha at 2:33 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


It's particularly baffling to me how many people are rushing to slander a living woman to protect the reputation of one who died in 1999 and was already implicated as an accessory in serial abuse through court documents well before then.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:33 PM on June 11 [12 favorites]


I still don't really understand the underlying psychology of the pattern, but I feel like I understand the pattern. Fred is playing this out in our very small pond but if the pond were bigger, so would be the harm he could do.
posted by not that girl at 1:48 PM on June 11 [10 favorites −] [!]


This is going to sound apologist and it is really not. My hope is to give you some insight.

I have been sideways with someone influential for several years.

1) He is surrounded by sycophants who kiss his ass and, in some sense, protect him from reality. But they do not do it in order to protect him, really. They do it because they want something from him. I think dealing with me was a shock to him. I don't think too many people are bluntly honest with him, either out of fear of his power or out of currying favor. (I am some ninny who has a disdain for pecking order and honestly missed how powerful he was until well after I had badly stepped in it. And then my high handed personal sense of righteousness kicked in. Too bad, so sad. It sucks to be me. {shrug})

2) Anyone in a position of power will get attacked, no matter how nice and good they really are. There will always, always, always be someone not happy with what they are doing who will attack them and shit on them merely for having power, in essence. This makes it a little hard for them to tell when criticism is valid and when criticism is just assholery. I mean, they are still just human.

3) I am pretty darn clear that the individual I have tangled with is really not a terrible guy but that because he has influence, the friction between he and I has cost me more than it ordinarily would. So I think to some extent the fallout that you or I or others get up in arms about is not necessarily intended. It happens in part because of the position of power the individual occupies. I suspect that very often the individual in power does not even realize that certain things are fallout from their actions. If an ordinary person "snubs" another person -- is cranky, not having a good day, does not like that individual or whatever and refuses to speak to them in a public situation -- it may have zero consequence. But when someone in power does the same thing, it can place a chill in the air around the person who has been snubbed and cause many other people to want to avoid being associated with them lest they also fall out of favor or something. I suspect many people are not even conscious of their reaction to such things but it happens anyway.

----

lodurr, I know that it can get really ugly. I have often been on the receiving end of smaller public shitstorms. I have done a lot to walk away not because I can't "take the heat" psychologically but because I have real reason to be concerned about real world consequences which can and have impacted my life. I spent a lot of years intentionally trying to lower my profile and avoid excess attention. I only recently started reversing those efforts now that I think I am in a better position to get attention without it being overwhelmingly negative and problematic.
posted by Michele in California at 2:35 PM on June 11 [11 favorites]


Sadly a lot of sci-fi authors have done and still do lots of awful crap, and it's not always those that are "expected".
posted by ShawnStruck at 3:30 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


While it's likely there was some abuse, I'm troubled by Moira's testimony these depositions mention. As part of the same testimony that helped put her father away, Moira insists her father made her put marijuana in the spaghetti sauce, and stated she was forced to be a part of a Satanic ritual where they murdered a baby and an adult.

It's implied in the deposition of MZB that the lawyers agreed not to ask questions related to this. But the deposition of Elisabeth Waters is chock full of Satanic Panic questions. "Did you ever see satanic rituals at Greyhaven" "Were you at all concerned about renting an apartment in 1986 to Walter Breen if you knew that he was using marijuana?"

I don't think that she's lying. But memory and history can sometimes be two very different things, and the eighties and nineties are ripe with examples. I feel uncomfortably unsure how much the two might overlap in this case, though I believe there is some overlap. For Moira, I'm not entirely sure it matters. She should be treated for the psychological harm as she understands happened to her.
posted by politikitty at 3:32 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


as someone who was sexually abused in the era of satanic panic (by a guy who claimed at times to be a satanist and the antichrist) it gets really old to have my memories constantly questioned just because of the decade they happened in. she was in the home of a multiple times proven pedophile rapist and his chief enabler, it's not a huge stretch to believe what she's saying now.
posted by nadawi at 3:42 PM on June 11 [40 favorites]


ShawnStruck: "Sadly a lot of sci-fi authors have done and still do lots of awful crap, and it's not always those that are "expected"."

What is "anti-NDN"? I haven't heard that term before.
posted by boo_radley at 3:47 PM on June 11


What is "anti-NDN"?

In my community it would mean someone racist against Native Americans / First Nations people. I have no idea if that's what the author means in this context.
posted by Jairus at 3:51 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


The assertion that (MeFi's own) cstross is racist is both surprising and disturbing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:52 PM on June 11


...and Neil Gaiman a racist? I find that frankly impossible to believe.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:53 PM on June 11


In that context, they are definitely accusing Gaiman of being racist against First Nations/Native Americans/Indians. It was something he said about The Graveyard Book: "The great thing about having an English cemetery is I could go back a very, very, very long way. And in America, you go back 250 years (in a cemetery), and then suddenly you’ve got a few dead Indians, and then you don’t have anybody at all, unless you decide to set it up in Maine or somewhere and sneak in some Vikings.”

He apologised shortly after saying that.
posted by jeather at 3:55 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


At one end of the spectrum, there is behavior I have no trouble believing. Some of it was corroborated by other witnesses and participants. But you can't seriously tell me that you have no problem believing that she was taken by men in white robes and forced to watch two murders.

The fact that she made those allegations in her twenties after talking to her therapist gives me a lot of doubt. Not conviction that she's wrong. But doubt.

I say this as someone who was raped by her Goth boyfriend in the nineties, so this isn't about the general credibility of victims.
posted by politikitty at 3:56 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


>(Wiscon?! of all places?)

That was in reference to pie ninja's posting of this link. In fact, Jim Frenkel lives in Madison, WI, so his attendance at Wiscon is not surprising. Nor is the idea that Wiscon is (I hope, anyway, I don't know the history of it) proactive in having a strong anti-harassment policy--being a feminist con in a town known as a liberal paradise. (It is, that's one reason I live here.)
posted by gillyflower at 3:58 PM on June 11


But you can't seriously tell me that you have no problem believing that she was taken by men in white robes and forced to watch two murders.

The fact that she made those allegations in her twenties after talking to her therapist gives me a lot of doubt. Not conviction that she's wrong. But doubt.


I feel like this is the kind of thing that it would be helpful to source so we know exactly what was said.
posted by Jairus at 3:58 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


It's in the deposition by Elizabeth Warren. Search for satanic. It's referenced later that she told her therapist, who turned to the authorities.
posted by politikitty at 4:02 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


...and Neil Gaiman a racist? I find that frankly impossible to believe.

Why? Racism isn't just for Special Assholes who stand in line for it on purpose. It's a thing that infects all of us to some degree. Ideally, most of us only do or say a racist thing sort of accidentally or thoughtlessly, and not maliciously, and then when someone goes "hey, um, racist thing there that you said" we go, oh shit, gah, sorry! Like Gaiman did.

I think the "impossible to believe" thing is really at the heart of the terrible things that made this post possible. People find the horrible shit about MZB "impossible" to believe, like they found the horrible shit about her husband impossible. To be very clear, I don't think that you, fffm, would ever condone the shit they did or wave it away. But the "impossible to believe" attitude about something really common and (sadly) ordinary like a racist statement just because it was made by someone you admire is not necessarily a helpful or unproblematic point of view.
posted by rtha at 4:03 PM on June 11 [35 favorites]


politikitty: " I don't think that she's lying. But memory and history can sometimes be two very different things, and the eighties and nineties are ripe with examples. I feel uncomfortably unsure how much the two might overlap in this case, though I believe there is some overlap.

Just once, it would be nice to have a Metafilter thread about child rape and molestation without someone calling into question whether or not their testimony was accurate, because of [reasons.] In this case, the era in which they lived. Or for that matter their age, their supposed mentally instability, accusations of implanted memories or various authority figures manipulating them -- all of which are insinuations that have been made about rape victims in other threads on this topic.

For Moira, I'm not entirely sure it matters.

My feeling is that it doesn't matter at all. As someone who endured abuse and molestation as a child, I find it unbelievably frustrating when people do what you're doing here. When people speculate that rape victims might be misremembering their experiences, in order to discredit their testimony. It's disheartening to see someone gather their courage and publicly speak out about what has been inflicted upon them (not at all an easy thing to do) opening themselves up to the worst of humanity in the process, only to have their experiences dismissed as "well, memory and history can be two very different things" so who the fuck knows what happened?

She does. Barring evidence otherwise, that should be enough for us.

She should be treated for the psychological harm as she understands happened to her.

How about taking her words at face value?

I get that you're speculating. But in my opinion, it feels really disrespectful to the person who is saying, "I was raped."
posted by zarq at 4:04 PM on June 11 [24 favorites]


But doubt.

This is why so many victims of childhood abuse--sexual, physical, emotional--don't come forward. While I am not saying we should be automatically credulous of all claims, we should give the benefit of the doubt, rather than doubt itself.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:04 PM on June 11 [6 favorites]


ShawnStruck's list has been referenced on another tumblr here: http://nobugblog.tumblr.com/post/88401561012/cause-im-a-little-wtf-that-there-are-things-people.

The author appears to be happy with lumping the occasional minor written transgression which people have apologised for in with straight up abuse. Nice rhetorical gambit if you can get away with it. I especially like the "I have no intention of even being the Archivist for what was a little head’s up" quote they follow up with in response to being called out.
posted by pharm at 4:05 PM on June 11 [12 favorites]


(From the looks of things, the stuff that references current authors & editors is *probably* to do with RaceFail & the consequent fallout.)
posted by pharm at 4:11 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


While I am not saying we should be automatically credulous of all claims, we should give the benefit of the doubt, rather than doubt itself."

I went into this story as someone biased to believe her. As I mentioned upthread, I've been victimized also. I have dealt with the painful fall out that most people don't want to believe X is possible of wrong.

But once I got to the questions about the satanic ritual abuse, that went right out the window.
posted by politikitty at 4:12 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


But once I got to the questions about the satanic ritual abuse, that went right out the window.

You know, that's somebody ELSE alleging that she said that stuff. So, you believe this woman who is quoting Moira, but not Moira herself? Why?
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:18 PM on June 11 [11 favorites]


and then when someone goes "hey, um, racist thing there that you said" we go, oh shit, gah, sorry! Like Gaiman did.

Gaiman said one offensive thing once, and apologized for it. Which is more or less exactly not the same as being racist qua racist.

politikitty, I can only echo what zarq said. And if one considers the age at which her abuse started, one can easily see how 'adults doing hippy dippy weird shit in weird clothes in the 60's' could get muddled up into something else.

And on preview what showbiz_liz said.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:20 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


The assertion that (MeFi's own) cstross is racist is both surprising and disturbing.

It's also the only one without any kind of detail or explanation, and not something I have ever before heard alleged, so I feel okay about being skeptical.
posted by elizardbits at 4:22 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


Oh, I guess the Harlan Ellison one also has no further explanation but lbr saying he is a gross jerkface is as uncontroversial as saying the sky is blue.
posted by elizardbits at 4:26 PM on June 11 [11 favorites]


I think it's reasonable to have doubts about the kinds of very doubtful, extreme things that get claimed in ritual abuse cases, but we should keep in mind that we don't actually know what Moira claimed. We only know what someone said they remembered of a conversation that took place the better part of ten years prior.
posted by Jairus at 4:34 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Why? Racism isn't just for Special Assholes who stand in line for it on purpose. It's a thing that infects all of us to some degree.

No doubt it does. But just cold saying, in print, that someone is a racist, goes a lot beyond saying this, it seems to me.
posted by thelonius at 4:34 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


Have been following Charlie Stross for 10 years across various social media. He's a good guy. Thoughtful. Intelligent. Considerate. Compassionate. Have never seen or heard him say anything racist. Feorag caused a bit of an uproar back in '09 during the Racefail incident when she defended Teresa Nielsen Hayden on LJ by calling someone a "malevolent little cunt." That's about it.

Unsourced, unsupported accusations serve little purpose except to get people riled up.
posted by zarq at 4:35 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


The bit with Mercedes Lackey saying "I can't have any trans characters because they couldn't possibly get a sex change in a fantasy universe" (paraphasing) just does not compute.
posted by BungaDunga at 4:38 PM on June 11


Drat, I've just realised that my post was misleading & I can't edit it any more. The link is trying to reference the various accusations elizardbits, the following paragraph in my post was aimed at the original author of the list, not the one in my link.

Essentially, the old stuff is horrible & true, the new stuff is mostly RaceFail & MammothFail (which I only just found out about) fallout & is sort of maybe true if you squint at it in an uncharitable light & take individual statements out of context and ignore everything that individual has done elsewhere (even in the same thread of conversation perhaps). The cstross stuff is probably this link: http://rozk.livejournal.com/247442.html?thread=2342802#t2342802. But who knows, since the original author won't say.
posted by pharm at 4:38 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


It's not just fandom. It's people, people. We don't want bad things to happen, so we pretend they didn't and blame the victims for bringing it up.

Used to be the harassment counselor where I work. An administrator came and took my files, no lie, when something turned out to be a little more intense than usual. People want anti-harassment policies until they actually have to be enforced.

And in my sport, the Olympic guidelines for protecting minors were instituted and raised a shitstorm of fury when coaches and other people who have contact with minors realized they were going to have to do what we teachers have been required to do all along. They were outraged. Because it tried to force them to acknowledge that motives are not always pure.
posted by Peach at 4:41 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


elizardbits: "The assertion that (MeFi's own) cstross is racist is both surprising and disturbing.

It's also the only one without any kind of detail or explanation, and not something I have ever before heard alleged, so I feel okay about being skeptical.
"

Heads up-- the list isn't mine, just one I came across online from a blogger I trust.

Stross did a good amount of ass-showing during Racefail '09 (a large portion of which was deleted, even in the age of screencaps), the most famous of which was saying that the reason there was so much outrage wasn't coming from, say, hurt writers and fans of color but because it was all trolling-- a charge he later said he was mistaken on, after lots and lots and lots of words from other fans and authors of color. In matters of race, while he's not burning crosses on anyone's lawn, he has done the standard "but I'm a good socially liberal white dude" shuffle of saying that there is inherent racism in society or the notion of white privilege being something he benefits from as not true, most recently "In a nutshell: absolutist doctrines like the idea of original sin — or intrinsic racism, sexism, and homophobia — are deeply damaging to the person they’re pinned on, and can backfire by giving the recipient an excuse to not strive to do better. So: not a terribly helpful concept."

Being on Metafilter isn't a shield against these sorts of things. All it indicated is that you like the site enough to pay five bucks to comment and participate. Wil Wheaton is a mefi member, and he's done a lot of problematic things, too and been snotty to ndns and poc of color pointing it out (for a longer list, try here).
posted by ShawnStruck at 4:47 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]


i didn't think you wrote the list, i'm not accusing you of making baseless accusations. nor would i ever suggest that being on mefi automatically exempts anyone from potentially being a grotendous piece of shit.

and yes, wheaton is an asshat
posted by elizardbits at 4:54 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


No doubt it does. But just cold saying, in print, that someone is a racist, goes a lot beyond saying this, it seems to me.

Does it help if I acknowledge my own racism? Sexism? Homophobia? I was raised in a culture that is imbued with all of those and more, and I didn't escape any of that indoctrination despite my hippie feminist mom and memorizing all of Free to Be. I didn't go stand in line for seconds, but my life does not end when I acknowledge that I hold and sometimes (accidentally/inadvertently) express some really shitty and prejudiced opinions. I try to not make them again and again, and I try very much to not make "racist" or "sexist" a super-special status that can only be held by people who are as bad or worse than you-know-who. They are far more normal statuses than I would like and they are occupied by people who mean well and try hard as well as by people who are deliberate assholes.
posted by rtha at 5:00 PM on June 11 [19 favorites]


I have to admit I have just been briefly derailed in my "what the fuck is wrong with people" readings on MZB by discovering she wrote (under a pseudonym) one of the 1960's lesbian pulp novels I chewed through in the 1980's, "I Am A Lesbian".
posted by rmd1023 at 5:04 PM on June 11


To be fair, Gaiman has been sketchy about trans* issues.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:29 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Hi.

I lived with Marion for two years in my late teens/early 20s. I can say this: the woman I knew had been so ravaged by brain damage due to strokes that she really wasn't "all there" anymore.

Regarding the homophobia claims, and again, I knew post-stroke Marion: The house ("Greenwalls") was pretty quiet, and a refuge for at least one disabled woman and her (female) partner. If Marion was homophobic pre-stroke, she wasn't post. She was nothing but kind to Cindy and Jane and gave them a place to live in a neighborhood where rent was normally insane.

I have often thought that her strokes were brought on by the lawsuits and the revelation that her husband (who was not living with her; they had separate houses) was abusing children. I am pretty sure, based on what I've read and what I've heard, that Marion had a troubling childhood of her own.

Marion was also famously abrasive and impatient; the strokes only exacerbated that. She was also melancholic and moody, and cried when she listened to "Memory" from Cats. The woman I knew was often quite sad.

So, y'know, take my words with a giant block of salt: the Marion I knew was a flawed person, but also a generous person who created opportunities for publication to a lot of fresh writers, and often women who otherwise didn't have an outlet for their fiction. I owe her a great deal.

But really, for the memory of Cindy, who Marion generously gave a home to, I wanted to come in and say that post-stroke Marion was nothing but kind to her two live-in lesbians, and hopefully that means something.
posted by offalark at 5:30 PM on June 11 [11 favorites]


We're not doing a cadaver synod for MZB. The question here is all about biography and journalism. Specifically, whether Tor.com can do a laudatory puff piece that mentions family in passing but not the abuse allegations, and whether her daughter can legitimately contest that version of history. I think Ms. Greyland can do so, and I don't need confirmation of this incident or that incident.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:32 PM on June 11 [9 favorites]


I've been thinking about the satanic abuse claims and while satanic abuse claims have to my knowledge largely been completely discredited in a whole host of cases I think it's quite likely that a prosecutor in the 80s would've gone trolling for satanic abuse because honestly just about every ADA during that period was looking for satanic cults behind any sort of sexual abuse.

But the truth is unlikely to ever be known and ultimately is probably immaterial to the essential claims being pushed. It seems quite certain the MZB's husband was a serial pedophile and that MZB was at least complicit in his actions. I don't really know the motivations of the daughter in coming forward with further allegations now when any degree of justice is going to be denied to her as it seems like inviting a whole lot of drama for limited benefit other than to get her story out there.

So while the satanic abuse angle is quite likely to be specious I don't think we should just assume that while some aspects of her testimony might be suspect that all of her testimony is false. Attacking the credibility of a witness is a valid tactic in a court of law but that's really not what this is and I don't really see the benefit of attacking Moira's credibility now other than to protect a now deceased author and her estate.
posted by vuron at 5:34 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


it seems like inviting a whole lot of drama for limited benefit other than to get her story out there

This is another reason why so many survivors don't come forward.

"You are not alone" are four of the most powerful words in the entire English language. Whether you're a survivor of abuse, or queer, or a person of colour in a racist society, or a woman in a misogynistic society, or mentally ill, or even just having a shitty day, "you are not alone in your pain" is remarkably helpful and healing.

Spider Robinson's been mentioned in this thread already, and while I have long since grown out of his books, one thing has stuck with me: "Shared pain is lessened; shared joy is increased." Moira shared her pain not just to lessen hers, but to lessen the pain of all the other kids who have been abused and not listened to.

In other words, the benefit is hardly limited.

I suspect the puff piece on Tor.com was also a contributing factor in Moira deciding to come forward when she did.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:42 PM on June 11 [22 favorites]


So, y'know, take my words with a giant block of salt:

Okay.

It's nice that you had a pleasant enough experience with her. But I'm sitting here reading the transcripts of the depositions she gave in defense of her child rapist husband, and I'm having a really difficult time caring that she might have been nice to some lesbians that lived with her. All kinds of monstrous people can be nice when it suits them.
posted by palomar at 5:42 PM on June 11 [37 favorites]


> I've been thinking about the satanic abuse claims and while satanic abuse claims
> have to my knowledge largely been completely discredited in a whole host of
> cases I think it's quite likely that a prosecutor in the 80s would've gone trolling
> for satanic abuse because honestly just about every ADA during that period
> was looking for satanic cults behind any sort of sexual abuse.

If memory serves, Marion was "into" the occult scene, and in the Bay Area in the 70s/80s, that meant paganism/Wicca. (If I'm not mistaken, the name of her group was Darkmoon, started with her sister-in-law, Diana Paxson.)

A poorly informed persecutor could have twisted that into a witch hunt, so to speak.

I think she went back to Christianity toward the end of her life. But she definitely dabbled in non-traditional religions in her earlier days.
posted by offalark at 5:43 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


If memory serves, Marion was "into" the occult scene, and in the Bay Area in the 70s/80s, that meant paganism/Wicca.

Your memory is correct. I believe Starhawk name-checked her in her first book.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:45 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


> It's nice that you had a pleasant enough experience with her.
> But I'm sitting here reading the transcripts of the depositions she gave in
> defense of her child rapist husband, and I'm having a really difficult time
> caring that she might have been nice to some lesbians that lived with her.
> All kinds of monstrous people can be nice when it suits them.

I was primarily addressing the homophobia comments. The Marion I knew was not a homophobe. For all I know, that was a result of the strokes...or not? I don't know.

I bring up my viewpoint because I knew a flawed human being. I felt my perspective could add a unique angle to the conversation.

I've read the depositions, too. I don't remember if they came pre- or post-stroke. If post-stroke, I wouldn't trust them too much. Quite a lot of her was lost post-stroke, and her memory had huge holes.
posted by offalark at 5:46 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


offalark, I um... okay so I wrote the FPP so maybe I'm not the right person to be saying this, but it seems to me like a) you haven't read the other links, and b) you're doing the Thing that is the exact problem here: trying to find ways that a famous (and in your case well-liked personally) person couldn't have done horrible things.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:52 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


A bit of poking around suggests that she had her first stroke in 1989, after Breen's arrest, for whatever that's worth.
posted by sfred at 5:54 PM on June 11


Feckless - I wasn't saying that her getting her story out was in any way a bad thing in fact I generally think that when people are basically just motivated to get the record straight they tend to be most honest as opposed to when they are motivated by material interest. Being willing to come forward and brave the drama I think speaks to Moira's strength of character and personally make me more likely to believe her narrative than less likely.

I was just trying to provide a likely scenario for why satanic abuse ever entered the discussion as it's almost guaranteed that an 80s era ADA would seek to equate Wicca with Satan in the eyes of jurors.
posted by vuron at 5:55 PM on June 11


I'm curious as to why someone would be deposed, twice, if their testimony shouldn't be trusted too much.
posted by palomar at 5:55 PM on June 11


vuron, your statement now, and the one I was responding to, are basically saying opposite things. But I really don't want to get into an argument about it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:00 PM on June 11


offalark, I um... okay so I wrote the FPP so maybe I'm not the right person to be saying this, but it seems to me like a) you haven't read the other links, and b) you're doing the Thing that is the exact problem here: trying to find ways that a famous (and in your case well-liked personally) person couldn't have done horrible things.

I don't think I'm denying or confirming anything, because I can't; I know what I was told and what I saw when I lived there, I know what I have read in the depositions. I know what I saw of Moira, and what I saw of Marion and the rest of the Greenwalls/Greyhaven crew.

My main frustration is the piling on of hate. It seems like people are finding MORE reasons to hate her than just the initial post claim, and I felt like saying something.

It's a very human thing, and perhaps I should have just sat on my hands this time.
posted by offalark at 6:06 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


I bring up my viewpoint because I knew a flawed human being. I felt my perspective could add a unique angle to the conversation.

You bringing it up seems kind of like namedropping more than anything else. I will suggest that this is probably not a good thing to do in a thread like this. It probably will not make people go "Oh, wow, we are so impressed you knew this Famous Person."


You also said:

I owe her a great deal.

People with power often like making sure others owe them, especially if they have done terrible things. Gratitude makes people gloss over all kinds of things. And habits of that sort can last well after much of a person's mind is gone.
posted by Michele in California at 6:07 PM on June 11 [13 favorites]


I don't really know the motivations of the daughter in coming forward with further allegations now when any degree of justice is going to be denied to her as it seems like inviting a whole lot of drama for limited benefit other than to get her story out there.

My understanding of the timeline:

1. Tor.com publishes a tribute that mentions Breen and their children but not Breen's conviction or the allegations that MZB helped to coverup the abuse.

2. Deidre Moen protests the tribute piece both on Tor.com and on her own blog referencing public documents from the investigation and conviction of Breen.

3. Multiple other bloggers comment on whether Breen's conviction should be considered in writing biographical articles about MZB.

4. At some point in this, Tor.com withdraws the tribute piece.

5. Moira Greyland emails Moen who publishes the emails with Greyland's permission.

To me, it looks like Greyland choose to go on the record regarding an article about her mother that was already drawing a fair bit of controversy.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:08 PM on June 11 [8 favorites]


You bringing it seems kind of like namedropping more than anything else.

No, not the intent. Sorry if it seemed that way. Just knew a person, and throwing in my thoughts on her memory.
posted by offalark at 6:09 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


Perhaps we can simply accept offalark's contributions as they are. If you think they don't matter to your final judgement, that doesn't require discrediting her or gently coaxing her to recant. This thread isn't a trial and she's not a hostile witness.
posted by fatbird at 6:23 PM on June 11 [46 favorites]


IAmBroom: I don't think it's just fandom at all.

No, not just fandom. I did say 'sometimes'. Hell, have you ever seen the reverence with which people trade stories of being physically assaulted by Harlan Ellison?
posted by lodurr at 6:24 PM on June 11


I have known more than one person who was abused by people who at least portrayed themselves as satanic abusers. Whether "real" or "phony" it was still pretty darn traumatizing to the victims. Wouldn't surprise me if it happened in this case, but honestly this kind of abuse is satanic whether or not the perp dresses up, draws a pentagram, etc and so forth. It's still abuse either way and it's still evil and it's still incredibly damaging to the object of the abuse.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:32 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


fatbird, that street runs both ways. I was not trying to discredit her or coax her into recanting. I don't think anyone else was either. I think people were really pretty nice in suggesting that, given the atmosphere here, those observations are unlikely to be super warmly welcomed.

It's a tough topic all around and many people here have been abused. Emotions are bound to run high. I really think the reaction to offalark's comments could have easily been far uglier. I am sorry it hits a nerve for her and that the "pile on of hate" bothers her because she personally knew the woman in question. But it hits a much more raw nerve for quite a lot of people here who have been super restrained in their response to her.

Though I fully agree with what I think your intent is here: I would also like to not see this turn into a shitshow with offalark at the center of it.
posted by Michele in California at 6:37 PM on June 11 [4 favorites]


This doesn't surprise me, I'm afraid. I stopped reading the Darkover novels at the point where she seemed to be justifying mind-invasive child abuse.
posted by SPrintF at 7:18 PM on June 11


From my perspective, it's interesting that the focus of the debate is no longer MZBs actions, but on how reliable Moira's memories are.

Wherever it's intended as such or not, attacking a detail in order to put doubt on the whole account or argument is a classic discrediting/derailing strategy: "When in the defensive, attack". You can be sure that the defenders of MZB are going to be leaping on this detail to discredit everything else Moira said.
posted by happyroach at 7:20 PM on June 11 [13 favorites]


My main frustration is the piling on of hate. It seems like people are finding MORE reasons to hate her than just the initial post claim, and I felt like saying something.

It's a very human thing, and perhaps I should have just sat on my hands this time.


Another very human thing is emphasizing with those who've been abused.

You're siding with the abuser.

I trust your account of MZB's generosity. That doesn't erase the fact that she, at the very fucking least, enabled child abuse.

Are you okay with that?
posted by dogrose at 7:24 PM on June 11 [10 favorites]


I stopped reading the Darkover novels at the point where she seemed to be justifying mind-invasive child abuse.

Hm. I don't suppose someone could do a 25K foot summary on this?

I'm not looking for prurient details, just want to understand the dynamic. I'm always suspicious of the whole 'separate the art from the artist' thing -- art comes out of an ethos, and it's the ethos after all that is on the hook for ethically problematic actions. So it would be really surprising to find that a person who did awful things IRL, exhibited a fundamentally different ethos in their art.

I see it as related to the ends-means confusion that you see in a lot of idealistic movements. In the 'emotional intelligence' movement, for example, it's really common to encounter workshops where emotional manipulation and intimidation are used to 'teach' emotional intelligence 'skills.'
posted by lodurr at 7:32 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


I trust your account of MZB's generosity. That doesn't erase the fact that she, at the very fucking least, enabled child abuse.

It's also a very human thing to try and make someone even worse than they were. That's what I really am objecting to, after a long drive home and some thinking on the matter.

I am not denying Moira is telling the truth; I don't know, and I would never want to give the impression I am blaming the victim or ignoring the victim.

What I'm saying is: Marion was many things. But the Marion I knew, at least, was not a homophobe.

Are you okay with that?

Did I ever say I was?

Answer: Of course I'm not okay with it. Figuring out who Marion was and what she did and WHY has been one of the puzzles of my life.
posted by offalark at 7:49 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]


From my perspective, it's interesting that the focus of the debate is no longer MZBs actions, but on how reliable Moira's memories are.

Here's the thing. We don't have to take Moira's word for it, or debate about her veracity, because MZB herself confirms her complicity in child molestation in her own damn testimony.

On a side note, deleting a Kindle book doesn't have the same oomph that setting a paper book on fire would, which is about how I feel about her right now.
posted by corb at 7:58 PM on June 11 [13 favorites]


I'm generally a live-and-let-live person. Many artists these days are on twitter or facebook, so the offensively stupid comment is something of an inevitability. My do-not-buy list is pretty small, and none of those authors and artists are starving for my cash. Getting there involves actions above and beyond mere disagreement.

Especially since I read science fiction, I tend to take Le Guin's admonishment to heart that writing about androgynous hermaphrodites isn't advocacy that we should all become androgynous hermaphrodites. It's too easy to stare into the subtext of a novel with a handful of facts and come out swinging a theory. That's the path that leads to Sauron=Hitler. And, well, sometimes a story is author-insert wish-fulfillment, and sometimes its not.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:08 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


The Mists of Avalon was given to me to read by my favorite high school teacher because she thought I was old enough to get it and its feminist leanings. I also read/loved The Firebrand, but didn't get into her Darkover series. Also, I loved Black Trillium and only read it and learned of Julian May and Andre Norton because of MZB.

I'm not junking my copy of MoA yet, but I may decide to not replace it should anything ever happen to it.
posted by TrishaLynn at 8:11 PM on June 11


What I'm saying is: Marion was many things. But the Marion I knew, at least, was not a homophobe.

She was a child abuser and enabled child abuse, but she wasn't a homophobe.

If that distinction is important to you, you've got it.
posted by dogrose at 8:20 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


Here's the thing. We don't have to take Moira's word for it, or debate about her veracity, because MZB herself confirms her complicity in child molestation in her own damn testimony.


Can't really emphasize this enough. Setting aside what Moira says completely, assuming that MZB didn't touch her daughter at all, ever, what she admits to under oath in her depositions is still damning, and if I believed in an afterlife I would mean that literally.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:24 PM on June 11 [9 favorites]


If you're looking for an alternative to MoA, may I suggest Mary Stewart's Arthurian Saga?
posted by orrnyereg at 8:37 PM on June 11 [8 favorites]


What I'm saying is: Marion was many things.

That's always true, and I agree with you it's worth remembering. There is an important point to be made about direct victims and how their testimony can sometimes be unfairly doubted or discounter by society at large—but since MetaFilter isn't quite society at large, and since the victim isn't present in this thread but you are, I appreciate your speaking up. Your experience can add a useful and (for lack of a better word) teachable moment for some of us.

Criminal acts carry wider ripples beyond just the perpetrator and victim. They hurt other people. They complicate other people's lives. The farther you are from a criminal, the easier it is to distill the person into the crime. "He's a murderer." "She's a sex offender." But when it's someone you know, it becomes a lot more difficult to stop your emotions on a dime. And you shouldn't be made to feel bad or wrong for not being able to instantly reform your experience of a person into something else.
posted by cribcage at 8:54 PM on June 11 [23 favorites]


I haven't figured out how I feel about Mists of Avalon and The Firebrand now, books that were very fundamental to my growth and my life for a long time. I read them first almost 25 years ago, and it probably would be fair to say that they helped save my life. (I haven't read them since my teens, because I didn't dare to tempt the suck fairy and now because, well, I am conflicted. I never read her other books -- a couple/few of the Avalon sequels before I dropped them. )

I know the arguments about separating the artist from the art, something I can sometimes but not always do.

This isn't a terribly coherent comment. I am sad MZB and her husband did these horrible things. I am sad that they hurt so many people. And I am also sad that they took away a good and important part of my childhood (I know: it's a minor thing, in comparison; I'm not trying to suggest otherwise).
posted by jeather at 8:54 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Because ultimately, I think most of us would rather have peace than justice; pleasantries than face truly ugly truths.


Every family that I know well has that one uncle or cousin or whatever that every child is warned not to be alone with. Like a child has complete control over what adults are going to be around him at a family gathering, and like it's a child's responsibility instead of the adults' responsibility to not have that uncle or cousin there in the first place. But keeping peace in the family is always more important than any child's safety. My blood pressure's going up just typing this.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:12 PM on June 11 [19 favorites]


How she didn't get charges filed against her is what I'm wondering. Her deposition is so damning that so far I haven't found the worst, because as I read there's passages like this, about a 13 year old boy her and her husband tried to adopt, and who was found sharing a bed with her husband:
A. I thought of [Johnny Doe 1] as a little boy that came
over the house, and he used to sit on my lap.

Q. Did you think [Johnny Doe 1] was of the age to make
decisions whether or not he could have a sexual
relationship with Walter?

A. I was sort of ambivalent about that. [Johnny Doe 1]
was like a stray cat that somebody put out on the
street, and I think he was surviving any way he could.

Q. That would include having sex with older men?

A. Probably.
That's not the worst thing she says in that deposition.
posted by Catblack at 9:19 PM on June 11


My deep thanks to and admiration of the people in this thread who are survivors of childhood abuse who've shared their perspectives (both survivors who've come out as such and those who haven't).
posted by gingerest at 9:57 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


I loved Darkover as a young woman because it was feminist and queer (yeah right no lesbians on Darkover). I loved Mists of Avalon because it showed me how we could tell the story from the women's point of view. I loved the early Sword and Sorceress anthologies because they were about woman-centered SFF in a time when SFF was still mostly a boys' club.

I lost interest in a lot of her new stuff for various reasons in the 90s--her dismissiveness of the values of paganism and queerness that she'd championed in her writing earlier were a large part of it. The allegations that MZB had kept quiet about illegal things her husband did with underage boys (though not how underage) was something I had heard about in a vague way, perhaps because it was so well known in fandom (which I'm not in in any meaningful way) and that it wasn't necessary to rehearse the details in talking to other fans. I didn't know the details of how she'd covered up for her ex, or even the significance of who Walter Breen was, until the current round of discussion, and I had no idea her daughter had come forward as a survivor of molestation nor that she'd identified MZB as a perpetrator. I'm disgusted and heartbroken.

I won't necessarily be giving up the stories I loved, but I for sure won't be buying any more new Darkover books (not too much of a hardship, as the ones written from her outlines have been increasingly mediocre) and if I ever replace any of the ones I now own, they will be second-hand.

I'm also really disappointed in the Tor website about this. I'm acquainted with some Tor folks, though not well and not through SF fandom. Though they've disappointed me plenty in the past, I expected better from them than talking about MZB's legacy and not addressing any of the downsides, particularly since at least some of this information (about her covering up Walter Breen's crimes) is apparently very well known in fandom.
posted by immlass at 9:59 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Though they've disappointed me plenty in the past, I expected better from them than talking about MZB's legacy and not addressing any of the downsides, particularly since at least some of this information (about her covering up Walter Breen's crimes) is apparently very well known in fandom.
Well, that's part of the problem. It's 'known' that MZB was complicit in Breen's grooming and had been for decades, but it only became publically know when Stephen Goldin put up those depositions after her death. Even then, though it was there if you went looking for it, the idea that she herself was actively molesting people wasn't and worse, once the uproar over what Goldin did died down, both MZB and the abuse were quietly being forgotten.

It is actually possible that the original writer of that Tor post either was unaware of or not aware of the severity of what MZB did because while all the information is out there, you need to look out for it to find it.

That's one thing that fandom has been doing very badly, making sure people knew about harassers and molesters. If you were in the right circles, you knew not to be alone in a lift with Asimov frex, but nobody spoke about it openly other than to joke about it.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:13 PM on June 11 [5 favorites]


It is actually possible that the original writer of that Tor post either was unaware of or not aware of the severity of what MZB did because while all the information is out there, you need to look out for it to find it.

On the one hand, I didn't know other than "icky stories" because I didn't hear about it when it came out, so it was only second- and third-hand references that came across my radar. On the other hand, someone at Tor.com, like the editor who assigned or approved the piece, should have done a better job of vetting the post or knowing what was in it or something before it went live. And maybe that person didn't know either, but someone at the website of a SFF publishing house full of fandom insiders should have and said something. I know Tor.com is a blog and blogs have looser standards and all, but that post was at best badly executed. I expect Tor.com to behave like professionals; making that post in that manner wasn't very professional. Nor was disappearing it without discussing it--and a quick glance through the site suggests that's what happened.
posted by immlass at 11:09 PM on June 11


IAmBroom: "Because ultimately, I think most of us would rather have peace than justice; pleasantries than face truly ugly truths."

But you did the right and good thing, and their issues are on them. Just FYI from another Mefite.
posted by desuetude at 11:33 PM on June 11


Knowing about people after the fact is certainly necessary, but it would be better to be more prepared beforehand. Very few people are wholly monsters. A lot of people are Problematic, some to greater degrees than others. I worry a bit that looking for monsters could have kept her from not only seeing what was wrong with her husband, but what was wrong with her own behavior, and that this could easily happen again to many people in many contexts. Obviously the line should have been drawn miles before the point they reached, and yet at that point she does still seem to have been legitimately unsure about what counted as Bad Enough To Make It Stop. This could be dissembling, but it very closely matches the experiences of people who've been through abusive relationships or sexual assault--being in the middle of bad things can suddenly lead to you saying insane things like "he only shoved me, it wasn't like he gave me a black eye" and "well I was kind of out of it and anyway he's an okay guy". Victims do it, but so do others around them.

I feel like this is where we get with the groping and harassment: some people on both sides see the allegations as labeling the perpetrators as bad people, end of story. But--more than that, we need it to be okay to tell someone they're being inappropriate when they're being even a teensy bit inappropriate, so that nobody ever questions whether this thing that happened was bad enough to warrant saying something about. To stress that you aren't a monster if you've made someone just a bit uncomfortable, but you need to stop and, if possible, apologize. Every point after that might have bigger repercussions, but there is no magic point where a person becomes unredeemable, and also no magic point after which it finally becomes someone else's business to step in and say something about bad behavior. Identifying the monsters is better than nothing, but it's so many steps too late, isn't it?
posted by Sequence at 11:50 PM on June 11 [10 favorites]


There's merit in seeing the entirety of someone's life, good and bad. There's a huge amount of social and moral/ethical worth in forgiving and understanding someone as a human who does damaging and cruel acts.

But there is also priority of attention. When we talk about a long and frequently suppressed history of sexual abuse and abuse aiding, the first and primary voices to listen to are those harmed. They have had something taken from them - innocence, security, psychological wholeness - without their consent, so when it comes to the rest of us entering the situation as bystanders or supporters or in judgement - the weight of attention needs to go to the people with the least, the victims.

That means that adding comments about MZB's kindness to others or the impact of her writing needs to be reduced by an acknowledgement that this is less than the weight of the crimes and the damage done being discussed. Or it needs to be delayed to another discussion.

It's unfair to give equal space to supportive and positive things about MZB as to the terrible things she did. If it was fair, her daughter and the other children she hurt and helped hurt have been so deeply unfairly harmed that MZB's scale swings way way down.

It's not just additional detail about MZB, or irrelevant. It's actively putting a positive aspect of someone adjacent to the terrible things they have done to effectively diminish her crimes through a "only 99% wrong, 1% good" rebalancing, or to defer the discussion to MZB's struggles as a complex human, while not including any comparison to the struggles of her victims.

There must be a phrase for this reflexive action, our desire to humanize and look for goodness in people who do terrible things, to turn the spotlight on them and their reasons, while removing attention from their victims and their stories, effectively silencing them.
posted by viggorlijah at 12:10 AM on June 12 [11 favorites]


> "the pain I feel is nothing compared to what her daughter and other victims feel - but I am hurting, if only because her books were so important to me at an important time of my life. I came out as bisexual because of her books ..."

Me, too, jb. Exactly me too.

God.
posted by kyrademon at 12:45 AM on June 12


Monstrous people can become little old ladies and dear old men, just like everyone else. The frail, wrinkled and charming persona might be an authentic facet of the person, mellow with age. But they could have been a terror in their prime, victimizing the vulnerable when they were strong. One phase of life doesn't negate the other.

You hear about the sweet-but-forgotten elderly folks whose kids never bother to visit. And everyone says, what awful children, how selfish, how ungrateful and thoughtless, can't they spare some time when the poor soul has so little time left.

We see so little of the insides of other people's families. People never seem to consider there might be a reason the kids hightailed it to the other side of the continent - because they knew the tiger before it was toothless.
posted by Lou Stuells at 1:14 AM on June 12 [68 favorites]


Unsourced, unsupported accusations serve little purpose except to get people riled up.

I am shocked that comment and link didn't get flagged heavily and deleted by the mods. Wow.
posted by aught at 5:32 AM on June 12


You mean, the comment you quoted? Why would the mods delete that comment?
posted by lodurr at 6:05 AM on June 12


While I'm sure that every popular author has warts aplenty, I don't think one should put too much stock in unsubstantiated rumors stated as gospel on some blog. The MZB case is orders of magnitude beyond some regrettable thing someone may have said that one time. SFF authors, like people, are racists. They have certain closely, often subconsciously held views about the construct "race" and what it means - just like we all do. They say things that are unfortunate and racist from time to time, just like we all do. And the best of them will recognize, will own up to this when called on it, and learn from the mistake. So let's skip the ideological purity test, shall we?
posted by Mister_A at 6:38 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


As a creative person, I have a lot of trouble separating art from artist as I'm repeatedly told I must do. When I create something, it comes from me. it's a part of me, and it's influenced in so many ways by the contents of my brain and my character. I bleed onto that page, and it's me you see there. If I can't separate my art from myself, I couldn't expect other people to.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:00 AM on June 12 [11 favorites]


As a creative person, I have a lot of trouble separating art from artist as I'm repeatedly told I must do. When I create something, it comes from me. it's a part of me, and it's influenced in so many ways by the contents of my brain and my character. I bleed onto that page, and it's me you see there. If I can't separate my art from myself, I couldn't expect other people to.

I think it's more an issue of interpretation. As an artist, you should go all in on your art. However because art often involves taking things out from the attic, putting them on display, playing devil's advocate, and putting it all through a process of refinement, craft, and editing, art is an unreliable method of psychoanalysis of the artist. Cash probably didn't shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:09 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


You hear about the sweet-but-forgotten elderly folks whose kids never bother to visit. And everyone says, what awful children, how selfish, how ungrateful and thoughtless, can't they spare some time when the poor soul has so little time left.

We see so little of the insides of other people's families. People never seem to consider there might be a reason the kids hightailed it to the other side of the continent - because they knew the tiger before it was toothless.
posted by Lou Stuells at 4:14 AM on June 12
[26 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]



Thank you for saying this. I didn't realize how much I needed to hear this said.
posted by sio42 at 8:31 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]


I'm about as far from an apologist for the Catholic Church as one can get, but the raw facts are: Catholic priests are no more likely to rape nor molest children than the population at large.

Has this been empirically shown to be the case? There have been claims in some jurisdictions that the proportion of priests involved in abuse is as high as one in 15. And reasons for why there may be disproportionate numbers of sexual abusers in the clergy have been posited (one being that the vocation attracts some people fighting with unwholesome urges, who think that submission to God will help them in the fight).
posted by acb at 8:31 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]


There must be a phrase for this reflexive action, our desire to humanize and look for goodness in people who do terrible things, to turn the spotlight on them and their reasons, while removing attention from their victims and their stories, effectively silencing them.

Now and then, a gifset of Hitler flirting with Eva Braun makes the rounds on Tumblr, and with typical Tumblr earnestness, there's some overwrought struggling with the emotional impact of it that goes like this: "It makes me uncomfortable to be confronted by HISTORY'S GREATEST MONSTER having this human side," to which others reply that that's the point, he wasn't a monster, he was human being who is responsible for monstrous things.

It's not a challenge to MZB's victims when we retain a dim glimpse of her humanity, and it doesn't silence them when 1% of the discussion is contributions like offalarke's that remind us that MZB was a person who did evil, not an evil in herself. She's rightly condemned, and it really bugs the fuck out of me that she didn't end up in jail herself, and I'm also endlessly horrified and fascinated by the fandom's implicit tolerance and coverup of the whole shitty affair. And how do I feel comfortable spreading that blame around? Because I'm not willing to other MZB and simply declare her a monster and be done with it.
posted by fatbird at 8:32 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


Has this been empirically shown to be the case?

I recall a study to this effect, that there were no more than a statistically predictable number of molestors operating in the church. Statistical clumping is sufficient to explain apparent concentrations of molestors. The extensive reach of the abuse is due to the actions of the hierarchy protecting those molestors, moving them around and allowing them to operate for years or decades with impunity.
posted by fatbird at 8:34 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Count me in as someone who had no idea. I'd intended to read Mists of Avalon this summer (a girl I liked in high school 20 years ago carried it around for ages), but I've removed it from my checkout list.

Moira, if you're reading this, I believe you.
posted by mochapickle at 8:53 AM on June 12 [9 favorites]


fatbird: "Because I'm not willing to other MZB and simply declare her a monster and be done with it."

I'm okay with saying that someone who does such heinous things is a monster and irredeemable. Perhaps that makes me a terrible person. I don't know. But I truly think there are some acts which are simply unforgivable. Molesting a three year old is one of them. Rape of any young, defenseless child is another.
posted by zarq at 9:04 AM on June 12 [8 favorites]


I think it depends on how you define "monster." If your mental image of MZB now -- or even of Hitler, for that matter - is of a cackling supervillain devoid of all decency or emotion, then you're going to take any moment where they acted like people as somehow proof that they weren't that bad. Thing is, irredeemably evil people are still human. That they had lovers or proteges or puppies doesn't make them not evil.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:12 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Count me among those who think that 'monster' lets us all off the hook too easily.
posted by lodurr at 9:25 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


I'm okay with saying that someone who does such heinous things is a monster and irredeemable.

Redeemability isn't the issue here. She's not redeemed one iota by her later hosting of a lesbian couple and fostering a young writer's career. By being reminded that she's a person like us, we can start to understand, among other things, why so many around her did for her what she did for Breen: facilitation by covering up, by ignoring, by tolerating, by doubting, or even by participating.

Like mochapickles says: Moira, if you're reading this, I believe you.
posted by fatbird at 9:31 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]


Fatbird, I feel like you're illustrating why 'monster' dismissals are less than useful. They get in the way of helping us understand how this sort of thing happens.

Understanding doesn't mean excusing. Even empathy doesn't mean excusing. She did a shitload of wrong stuff. Even if I can find some empathy for her, that shit was still wrong as hell.
posted by lodurr at 9:47 AM on June 12 [10 favorites]


I read this yesterday, and I'm still speechless. I've been a part of the sci-fi community for decades, (albeit more on the comics side), and I had no idea about any of this. I'm devastated by it. MoA was such an important book for me; it has been a touchstone book, a thing of familiarity and comfort, that now...I can't even look at it.

I wept reading the depositions. My soul hurts knowing what I now know. Part of me wished I didn't know. Part of me feels such anger and outrage and disgust that I don't even know how to direct it. But most of me feels such compassion and protectiveness towards Moira. I believe you, Moira. You're not alone.

To the mefites who have shared so much, I say also to you that you are not alone, and I thank you for your bravery and your honesty.
posted by dejah420 at 10:24 AM on June 12 [8 favorites]


Every family that I know well has that one uncle or cousin or whatever that every child is warned not to be alone with. Like a child has complete control over what adults are going to be around him at a family gathering, and like it's a child's responsibility instead of the adults' responsibility to not have that uncle or cousin there in the first place. But keeping peace in the family is always more important than any child's safety. My blood pressure's going up just typing this.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:12 PM on June 11 [10 favorites −] [!]


I did not do this. My policy was simple and something a 2 year old could implement: Affection has to be mutual. If you say "no" to a hug or kiss and someone disrespects your "no," come get mom. I will enforce it.

I never had to talk to my kids about pedophiles or unnamed monsters who would do unspeakable things to them. I felt that discussion would rob them of the very innocence I was trying to preserve. I had to intercede once and only once and, yes, the other person was simply SHOCKED and told me I COULD NOT DO THAT. (Had they not backed down, I imagine I would have been arrested for assault because, no, you aren't touching my kid again, asshole. They do not owe you "sugar". And, no, I don't think this person was a pedophile, just someone who felt they had some right to physical affection from blood relative small kids -- a slippery slope I was unwilling to let my kids put so much as their pinky toe upon.)

My oldest later extrapolated for himself that if mom was unavailable for some reason, he had the right to enforce this rule with violence if necessary. I learned this years later because he was fully confident in his conclusion, so much so that he felt no need to remark upon such incidences when they occurred.

This could be dissembling, but it very closely matches the experiences of people who've been through abusive relationships or sexual assault--being in the middle of bad things can suddenly lead to you saying insane things like "he only shoved me, it wasn't like he gave me a black eye" and "well I was kind of out of it and anyway he's an okay guy". Victims do it, but so do others around them.

No, I don't think it is dissembling. I get accused pretty routinely of being a "rape apologist." Among adults, there often is not a clear, bright line where normal and perfectly okay romantic or sexual pursuit turns into something very not okay. It is a very complicated topic and I imagine I will spend a lot of years trying to figure out how to effectively tackle it. It gets a lot of hackles up. It is a very emotional subject.

As for MZB not being a homophobe in spite of seemingly homophobic things people can cite: I can believe that piece. It is entirely possible that her actions that appeared homophobic were defensive postures to protect herself against hostility in an era that was much, much more openly hostile (often with deadly intent) towards gays, bisexuals, etc. than what we see currently -- and what we see currently is plenty bad in many cases.

I also can believe terrible things happened to her as a kid and that is part of why she did these awful things. The problem with focusing on that is that pretty much everyone who ever did anything really awful had a terrible childhood. It does not work to say "It's okay for them to turn around and harm other people because of the harm done to them." I had terrible things happen to me as a kid. My policy as a parent was "The buck stops here." My sons are in their twenties. No one ever molested them. They have really good boundaries, even though I am sometimes not entirely clear where to the draw line, conversationally, because of my own childhood. I basically leave it up to them to draw the line where they are comfortable and it's not a big deal.

I realize that I spent a lot of time figuring out some of those principles and many other people lack some of the tools I had. I talk about what worked for me in hopes of empowering others to do better, not specifically to condemn them. My focus is generally not on the past, which is filled with endless unspeakable horrors going back to time immemorial. My focus is generally on the here and now and on the future. My focus is on trying to light one small candle rather than curse the dark -- to say "here are some tools that can help stop this while it is small, before it grows to monstrous proportions."
posted by Michele in California at 10:39 AM on June 12 [7 favorites]


acb: "There have been claims in some jurisdictions that the proportion of priests involved in abuse is as high as one in 15"

This may not be much more (or less) than the population at large. Russell's Secret Trauma declares a lifetime prevalence of around 16% positive for incest in a sample of San Francisco adult females, 5% with biological fathers. Finkelhor's Sexual abuse in a national survey of adult men and women reported a rate of 27% of the women and 16% of the men positive for childhood sexual abuse. You don't get to those kinds of rates without adult sexual predation on children (kin or non-kin) having a much higher prevalence than many people are comfortable acknowledging.

Why does it seem like we see it more in priests (or other semi-custodial non-kin authority figures)? I suspect families tend to keep this kind of thing hidden more efficiently and for longer than institutions unprotected by kinship relations. Also, there is confirmation bias at play, as well as a saliency bias stemming from societal norms against luridly and repeatedly reporting childhood sexual abuse and incest.

In the 1890s when Freud first started working with adult female trauma survivors, he was unsettled by the high prevalence of abuse. Initially he declared these were historically true, and was roundly pilloried by the male medical establishment. He then revised his theory to say that many/much of the accounts were based in non-historical phantasy, a claim which was both more and less outrageous, but more socially palatable. As a result, investigation into the epidemiology and prevalence of childhood sexual abuse was obscured and de-emphasized for a couple of generations. Herman in Trauma and Recovery has a lot more to say on this topic.
posted by meehawl at 10:40 AM on June 12 [13 favorites]


I think it's really, really important for people to scaffold these things in advance - what do you plan to do if someone you know and like is plausibly accused of something terrible? I suspect that a lot of people start reacting before they've finished processing and then don't back down.

This is a long way back in the thread now, but I wanted to QFT it anyway because I think it's really fucking important. Women — even very young women — are expected to put a lot of energy pre-planning how they will respond if they are raped. (We can see that expectation at work in the way people disparage female victims who don't react "rationally." The only way to guarantee that you will respond "rationally" in a crisis is to have planned ahead.) It seems fair for us to expect everyone else to put the same energy into thinking about how they would respond to a rape in their community, and for us to subject their response to the same ethical and rational scrutiny.

And planning ahead really matters. The first two times I found out that a male friend of mine was a rapist, I reacted very badly, because I wasn't prepared for it. I responded according to a set of default scripts I'd been handed by the culture around me, and not according to a script I'd written for myself.

The first time I was 16, the accused was my best friend, and I didn't push back against his story at all ("It was consensual at the time, she only went to the police because her parents found out and shamed her into it"). And that was even though I'd already seen enough to make me uncomfortable of the way he acted around girls he was attracted to. I think eventually his parents talked the victim's parents out of pressing rape charges. (!?!) I stayed friends with him for years afterwards, before finally drifting away because he made me vaguely uncomfortable for reasons I didn't want to name.

The second time I was 19 or 20, the accused was a housemate, and the victim was my girlfriend. I did all the shitty scared-boyfriend things that you do if you're still basically clueless the first time you hear that your girlfriend has been groped and threatened — including on the one hand, insisting to her that I wanted to kill him, and on the other hand, telling her that I wouldn't support her publicly in voting him out of the house until I heard his side of the story.

And both times, thinking back, I was just doing the thing I'd seen other people do, without thinking it through. These were the responses I'd seen, so they were the responses I gave, because in the moment I had no idea what else to do. It took hours and hours of going over that stuff in my head — in an abstract way, outside any specific incident — to finally feel clear on how I might respond better next time. But it was also incredibly liberating to reach that level of clarity, and to be able to cut some other creeps and assholes out of my life based on it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:14 AM on June 12 [18 favorites]


It's worse than that, it's a defense of the tribal/monkey troop hierarchy. A degree of violence and unpleasantness is acceptable, as long as it maintains the patterns of influence. The fear being, if that person is cast down, anyone could be. Thus an attack on someone high in the hierarchy is seen as an attack on everyone linked to their influence. Or so it's been in my experience.

Thanks, happyroach. That's a fascinating insight into potential causes. Gonna have to chew on that a while.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:51 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


(In regards to cstross, there was this Twitter thread about Rene Walling that was pretty headdesky.)
posted by kmz at 12:25 PM on June 12


Every family that I know well has that one uncle or cousin or whatever that every child is warned not to be alone with.

I think that's really sad. It's a chilling commentary on how child abuse is too often hushed up, becoming this dirty little family secret rather than being brought to light and prosecuted. Which puts others at risk, not just future generations (which is bad enough!), but unsuspecting people on the fringes, people who come into contact with the family who do not know to avoid that weird uncle or creepy cousin.

I do want you to know, though, that this is not true of my family (or indeed any family I know personally). So while it may seem like abuse is everywhere when you are caught up in this dysfunctional family dynamic, that's not always the case, thankfully.
posted by misha at 6:24 PM on June 12


The sexual predation numbers to me have always seemed alien, because they were so far from my experience. We just never had a sense of that happening in my family.

As an adult I realize there were several factors at play: First, I didn't know my extended family very well. There may well have been some I just didn't know about, but I saw them once a year for a few days, at best. Second, I learned as an adult that there was a known and talked-about history of sexual abuse in my paternal grandmother's family -- just not talked-about with us, until we were adults. (It was the reason she left home and got married at 16.) Third, my parents just didn't want us to think the world was that way. That was probably beneficial on the net, but it could also have backfired and made us unwilling to believe sexual abuse happened at all.
posted by lodurr at 6:53 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


most people who know my family would say they don't know a family crawling with childhood abuse. in fact that sort of reasoning was used to deny that the abuse happened when my aunts tried to raise the alarm, "you're from a good family! why would you make that sort of thing up? you should be ashamed!" all the same, both of my grandfathers, some of my uncles, a few of my cousins, and my brother are all child molesters.
posted by nadawi at 7:25 PM on June 12 [10 favorites]


in fact that sort of reasoning was used to deny that the abuse happened when my aunts tried to raise the alarm, "you're from a good family! why would you make that sort of thing up? you should be ashamed!"

I work in and around drug treatment. A disproportionate number of drug and alcohol problems are attributable to childhood trauma, and the most common of these is childhood sexual abuse.

Over the past ten/fifteen years or so, there's been an increasing trend to involve family members in the treatment process. Fuck me if many of the family members that I see that 'getting involved' are people that look to me to be the people -- in part, if not in total -- responsible for the problem in the first place.

You can see them putting pressure on treatment providers. "But why can't you provide me with information about the activities of my (forty year old) child? Confidentiality be damned, I'm his/her parent. I should be told these things!"

But the people I feel sorry for are those people (adults -- often well into middle age) whose parents are elected onto various committees, representing 'carers'. At what point will people start to acknowledge that the 'care' that these people provided was part of the problem, rather than being part of the solution?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:25 PM on June 12 [15 favorites]


Just yesterday a friend (X) found out that an individual (Y) had abused the privilege of their acquaintance: contacting X's friends, only to ambush them with clumsy propositions and then escalate rapidly to a barrage of explicit messages.

As soon as X was aware, all contact or association with Y was removed/blocked. But then... the 'me too's' started coming in. As it turns out, Y had been engaging in these behaviors for quite some time, over a period of months, targeting a number of people and using X as an introduction.

For most of that time no one had said anything to my friend about Y's bad behavior. Maybe they didn't want to talk about the unpleasantness of it, or maybe they didn't want to put X into an embarrassing situation, or any number of reasons. Certainly no one was obligated to say anything.

But so many people came out of the woodwork with their 'me too' stories - it freaked X out quite a bit. X felt responsible. There had been no hints - Y had never been inappropriate during their acquaintance. But because no one had said anything until the most recent target, the bad behavior went on and on, and more people were subjected to it.

It was very unsettling to have this microcosm story unfold as I was still occupying the headspace of this post, and thinking also about how things seem to go in fandom as mentioned in this thread, and in families, and so many of the convention sexual harassment issues of the last few years.

X and Y's issue is a really banal occurrence, not remotely noteworthy compared to what so many people face everyday. Except in the context of our social group, of course it's noteworthy. It's abhorrent, aberrant, and intrusive, and 'we don't get people like that around here' just as certainly as you don't get moray eels in your swimming pool.

But of course we did, and we can, and we probably will again, because it's not really a moray eel but more equivalent to a frog or snake and we've just been lucky most of the time so far.

There are a lot of social conventions and human nature elements that combine to result in people not saying anything when human predators do gross things. Certainly the predators make use of those factors to help with their camouflage. The factors behind sexual assaults going unreported are understood (leaving alone the issues that arise when things actually are reported.) I feel like this experience was a little nutshell scale version of that; I don't mean to minimize the experience of people who have been victimized - I mean in the local personal sense vs. the national statistics sense.

But not even in the nutshell version am I able to think of a way that to change the social atmosphere or custom, to create a different outcome where Y was called out much sooner. Even privately, among friends who might be surprised and horrified but would not be skeptical or hostile about a revelation like that - a pattern of not speaking up was adhered to.

That's hard - we're 'safe space' but it wasn't enough for people to speak up.

I didn't really mean to bash it all out here, the thoughts didn't line up until I was typing. Apologies if it doesn't belong - in my mind, at least, it's all stitches in the same cloth.
posted by Lou Stuells at 11:04 PM on June 12 [8 favorites]


Fuck. This is shocking and disgusting.
posted by homunculus at 11:23 PM on June 12


When I was growing up I felt like there were LOT'S of adults who wanted to sexually abuse me. I didn't think that was the word, just I could feel this yearning in them, to be too close to me... to touch certain places.

As I grew older I was told that it was probably my imagine or my issues. Maybe something happened to me I don't remember. Maybe so.

But I actually think now it's quite likely I was reading people very well. In life many of the people I got such vibes from and ignored my knowledge that they wanted to harm me sexually because "how dare I even THINK some nice person could have such intentions!" turned out to be abusers. And by the time they managed to abuse me they had already pushed past so many boundaries because I Was doing the proper thing and ignoring their use of my body to fill their urges in contact or closeness that made me uncomfortable for a long time.

And this is "harmless" things they would do. Sit too close to me, not even touching. Place their elbow touching my elbow. A leg touching my leg. Innocent.... harmless.....

Yet I knew every second what they were doing and I knew even before their was touch I can feel when someone is devouring me with their eyes, it's not so hard to see.

In some ways I feel like being open about sex, talking about it, creating safe spaces for people to express their sexuality consensually may help this, but it also will take more than that. I think many cultures get very repressive with sexuality not because they are just bad cultures meanly trying to deny their people pleasure, but because sexual urges can be terrifying and overwhelming. They can call people to do terrible things, and blind people to the feelings of the people they want to use to fill their urges.

I watched the Mists of Avalon and I remember liking it, I was a kid at the time. I was watching a lot of Xena Princess Warrior at the time and they fit well together. I'm pretty sure I didn't even watch very much of it but mostly remember the ads for it and a few scenes I saw and I liked how mystical it all seemed.

I think about how people who have beenabused are often pathologized and labelled for the behaviors they exhibit after. Things like "spliting" or black andwhite thinking.

Society responds this way to abuse too though. It's not so easy to erase the wonderful things ina person. In someone you loved and needed, who did wonderful and good things. To say they are all bad, or turn them into a monster in your head you have to delete all the good things you know about them... make those things no longer count. You have to be merciless and ignore the suffering of the monster... to dehumanize the monster. To see only a monster and not a human.

People have to do this if there is any hope of getting out of the dynamic of forgiving and loving a person who continually hurts you and maybe even NEEDS to hurt you in order to feel ok.

What if leaving them behind hurts them? How can you stop caring about their pain without dehumanizing them? It's not good for use to dehumanize people and most of us don't actually want to when it comes down to it. We would rather forgive, excuse, forget. Move on and make nice.

These wonderful loving traits in us, are exactly the traits that lead us to want to include people who prey on the vulnerable among us. We know we have our own darkness, we do our own harms. We don't want to become victims of black andwhite thinking, of taking one bad thing a person has done and erasing all oftheir humanity over it- and a majority of people don't have what it takes to take a strong stand against abusers unless they rally up a lot of rage within themselves for the task of harming the abusers and refusing to show mercy while doing it. Because cutting a person off from social support and favor is going to hurt them.. hurt them at their core. Most of us don't want to hurt people, so we have to turn them into monsters in our heads in order to hurt them.

I've listened to my family coping in the aftermath of my grandfather beinga molester. They talk a lot about the good in him. They empahsize not to have anger because "if you have anger you're only hurting yourself"

I feel like this mentality is vile. The huge onslought of emotions raging from anger to pain, to horror so grief that survivors experiences are healthy and normal emotions and are nota sign of survivors "hurting themselves". This is a further way that survivors get cut off from society because we rather abusers with pleasant emotions be allowed insocial circles (after all the person was really sorry and how do you know the survivor isn't making it up anyway???) than the yucky difficult emotions the survivor is left in. We don't want to see that.

So abusers find it easy to regain either their past social circle or a new one, much more easily because they are not drowing in the effects of abuse-- effects that are socially unacceptable to experience in public.

We expect survivors to go into hiding until they be normal and pleasant again. Take that to a therapist, right?

It's just so so so much easier to forgive and love abusers who claim their sorry or even don't say much about it at all, than to do the work of making society accessible for those who have been harmed, and safe for those who could be harmed.

I am totally grossed out by having watched the mists of avalon, as I am grossed out my grandfathers DNA running through my veins. I live because of him and all that was in him, capable of such deeds is in me.

In all of us really because I think sexual abuse was really the norm of sexual behavior for many more thousands of years of human history than sexuality was based in "choice" or "equality" which, while may have happened here an there in specific tribes or societies for periods of time, have rarely ever been the norm from all of history I know.

We'rea ctually going AGAINST the grain of our nature, trying to build equality, a vision of sexuality not based in arousal over exploiting the vulnerable or overpowering the weak. So much of the way we talk about seduction encompasses that dynamic even in mainstream societies that have made great efforts to rise above it.

I feel very forgiving that these urges are born within human beings.... who is to say why? That people who have more of the urges than others, or whose minds aren't as good at subjugated the knowledge they ahve such urges- are really such a different sort of person, or whether we escaped such urges taking us over more on chance than our having a better will to be good within us?

I understand the recieving end of such urges buta s a submissive person I really don't have any idea what it's like to be given urges to harm others for my enjoyment. What I have at the idea is repulsion and it may be that repulsion that saves me and many others from going there in my own mind.

That repulsion may be a voice some people are unfortunately lacking. In the consciousness thread (or maybe one of the links) there was some discussion about how consciousness may actually exist atoms themselves, who create formations wherein they can accomplish the states they prefer rather than be subject to the merciless laws of physics that control our universe. If this is how consciousness builds, then awareness of truth would include awareness of the feeling state of every single atom within a cell and within a compilation of cells that make up an organism, and within a group of organisms making up a society. We get disconnected from the feelings of other beings for many reasons including that we need to eat, and we need to walk and we need to achieve homeostasis, and all of these processes include causing harm to various beings, killing cells for food or because they are unhealthy....

None of us have fully in tact empathy if the definition of empathy includes awareness of the feelings of any sentient being in existence-- not to mention that such an awareness would destroy the human mind, we can't comprehend that much feeling. We stay shut down and manage our own internal worlds, and feel empathy for those in our own species and family mostly--- but many things, necessities, shut us down to empathy, and survival favors those with less empathy for things that are "non-self" and sexual access to others likely boosts our health.

I think that if you look at the history of a family, and a culture, you will find that various environmental forces pushed the development of different kinds of urges to increase survivability, and that, selfish people, who harm the welfare of those around them, have a higher survivability on an individual level. AS a society the welfare of everyone is improved when people work together rather than against each other, but that requires that a large majority be doing so and that there be enough resources to go around when this pro-social attitude is in action.

I'm just rambling and probably describing bodies of scientific work badly, but my point is really that I hope these fields of study will open up knew ways of understanding what forces tend to increase these types of behaviors in populations and what reduce it so that we might have better success in attaining a world where we really truly have very few if any cases of child abuse like this. It might mean people being willing to change the way they do things in ways that aren't as convenient or natural. Being willing to ostracise beloved family members or friends instead of keeping them involved to the detriment of those they have harmed or could harm. It might be supportive programs to help people who can't participate in society in the same way, have safe ways of getting social interaction where they aren't allowed to prey on the vulnerable.

I am actually hopeful, after all, we haven't really even identified child sexual abuse as public social problem until very recent inhuman history. I think we can work on this.... I think this is something we can change. I really hope so. And I feel a great sympathy for thoseabusers who may literally have been victims of their own urges and thought patterns more than any conscious will towards becoming a monster. Maybe we will have the science to determine the existance of "will" someday and can distinguish between people choose to be this way and those feel trapped in it, but for know I would guess there is a range and that the majority (if not all) fall into the category of victims themselves. Of what? Again, I feel like it's actually possible this is something we might someday understand with science, in a way that is impossible to understand now. We know that poor developmental variables can affect the development ofempathy and the growth of personality disorders and there's a lot we could likely learn about how to create environments for people that meettheir needs and support heir body and brain and psyche in developing into a healthy person with intact empathy (and disgust horror, at the idea of harming others, and the ability to imagine the experience of others instead of only feeling their own urges in dealing with others). I am hopeful.
posted by xarnop at 9:20 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]


--Every family that I know well has that one uncle or cousin or whatever that every child is warned not to be alone with. Like a child has complete control over what adults are going to be around him at a family gathering, and like it's a child's responsibility instead of the adults' responsibility to not have that uncle or cousin there in the first place. But keeping peace in the family is always more important than any child's safety. My blood pressure's going up just typing this.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:12 PM on June 11 [10 favorites −] [!]

-I did not do this.
posted by Michele in California at 10:39 AM on June 12 [5 favorites +] [!]


I never said, or implied, that you did. My comment was in response to an entirely different comment by another poster. I wish you wouldn't reply to my comment as if it was directed at you, which it wasn't.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:46 AM on June 13


I wish you wouldn't reply to my comment as if it was directed at you, which it wasn't.

That is not what I did. I offered my story to suggest another answer for anyone interested in it. I was not in any way taking it as a personal attack.
posted by Michele in California at 9:51 AM on June 13


Because I'm not willing to other MZB and simply declare her a monster and be done with it.

I am.

I am an abuse survivor. It has impacted my ENTIRE LIFE, and I can never get back what my abusers stole from me.

Yes, if you abuse children, you are a fucking monster, and nothing else you do in your life matters.
posted by MissySedai at 6:02 PM on June 15 [9 favorites]


I'm willing to consider her a monster as well. As in, dig up her skeleton and bury it again face down, arms crossed, her skull nailed down with a stake. Done in public, as a sign to all the other molesters out there. I"d like to see all the other people in the fan community who facilitated and supported her monsterdom put on trial as well, so their names can be from now on intimately associated with the molester.

SF fandom has an obsessive paranoia about witch hunts. Maybe it's time we had a few.
posted by happyroach at 10:27 PM on June 15 [4 favorites]


SF fandom has an obsessive paranoia about witch hunts.

This is true. It typically functions as a way of shutting down dissent. The mechanism is usually a pre-emptive shunning of the shunner -- IOW, a form of witch-hunt.

So initiating witch hunts is not likely to fix that. Changing culture to allow more open discussions will help. What SF fandom has is the pretense of open discussions. It's mostly about claim-staking and posing and dick-size comparisons by people with fairly fragile egos. You can see it in how the panel discussions play out, particularly when certain Big Personalities are in the room. You can see it in the favored critique model (Ellisonian evisceration).

It's a culture of aggression at a pretty fundamental level.

This in turn walks hand in hand with the libertarian traditions, which are all about defending your own territory and your own body and your body of ideas from outsiders. (See also the Lovecraft thread....)

You're not gonna fix that with witch hunts. They might feel satisfying, but they will only make the problem worse at a pretty basic level.

Basically, SFF needs to let go of its
posted by lodurr at 3:33 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Huh. I think I meant to delete that last clause. At least, I hope I did, becuase I have no recollection of what it was going to say.
posted by lodurr at 5:33 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


As an aside - Breen and MZB are long dead and gone. No justice available there. However, that piece of scum Ed Kramer still walks the earth. :p
posted by keptwench at 6:04 AM on June 16


Just my opinion. Justice also includes justice for communities and survivors as well, which is why we have remembrances for events that happened well into the past. If we forget that respected leaders in any area might be guilty of terrible crimes, we generally find ourselves gobsmacked with denial the next time it happens.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:37 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


For people that want a clearer understanding of just how egregious the behavior was that was excused for Breen, MZB, et al, someone has put up a wiki. All the trigger warnings in the world.
posted by tavella at 8:39 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


WHAT THE FUCKITY FUCK
posted by corb at 9:11 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


"No one thought he was actually psychologically damaging P--------- (she being so young) --- obviously ----- and ---- would have interfered if they thought he had been -- but the spectacle was not thought to be aesthetically pleasing."
posted by corb at 9:11 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Reading that link and understanding that half of fandom at the time didn't think there was a problem makes me want to burn 1960s SF down to the ground.
posted by corb at 9:15 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Good Christ. I know fandom has its issues today, but at least we aren't...doing what a lot of that letter is doing. Good God. Were these actual questioned things in the sixties, or is it some Berkeley/fandom is full of weirdos and we have boundary issues effect?

(Sorry for the strange language, but I don't want to accidentally trigger. Or, frankly, think about it all too much. I wish I hadn't read that.)
posted by kalimac at 9:33 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


there were a lot of really toxic and shitty attitudes about sex and entitlement in the 60s. It's one of the reasons why I can't read The Electric Koolaid Acid Test. There was this attitude, referenced in that article but unexamined within it, that if you declined sex from someone who wanted to have sex with you, that you were "anti-movement" or "square" or whatever. I mean, if you were a woman, anyway.
posted by KathrynT at 9:44 AM on June 16 [12 favorites]


but at least we aren't...doing what a lot of that letter is doing

Do we know that? I know a girl who goes to all sorts of cons, and has witnessed and experienced all sorts of totally inappropriate sexual behaviour. She's a take-no-prisoners kickass kinda person so those experiences have been brief, but it's still going on. And I'm talking about stuff happening openly in front of other people, not even the stuff going on behind closed doors.

Predators abound. And (as discussed at length here) because there is such an enormous complicity of silence around what the sacred monsters are doing that we really can't and don't know if anything has changed or how much.

Humans have this thing where we're always saying "well it's better now of course." Is it? Women and men are still being raped. Children are still being abused. Queers are still regularly attacked and/or killed. Women are still being attacked and/or killed just for being women, often by their significant others. POCs are still unfairly and disproportionately targeted in all sorts of ways.

And that's not some other country elsewhere on the planet. That's North America. Walk into an assembly at any elementary school, and there's probably a dozen (if not more) children in the room who are actively being physically or sexually abused. What's the statistic? One in three women you see walking down the street have been sexually assaulted in some way, at least once, in their lifetimes?

I can see--and I don't know how much I agree with it because it only just occurred to me--abuse and assault covered up even more now than 50-60 years ago, because even the accusation, especially if children are involved, is enough to destroy someone's life. Leaving people less willing to say anything unless they've seen it themselves; leaving victims in the position of not bothering to go to police because it's so damn hard to prosecute, let alone attain a guilty verdict, when it comes down to they said/they said. And abusers (speaking not from personal experience, but from the experience of an old friend) are more and more aware of physical evidence and how to not leave any.

there were a lot of really toxic and shitty attitudes about sex and entitlement in the 60s.

There still are in 2014 (I know you know this, I'm not mansplaining). I'm honestly not sure how much times have really changed, you know?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:02 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Avoiding the specific depictions of abuse that are in the thread, some comments stand out.
However, almost all Berkeley fans dislike G---- so no one cared much.

Alva agreed saying that he wanted to protect his kids of course, but that the situation was adequately handled at his house by having them barricade themselves in their orom.

I know from observation that he "cuddles" and has sex play with younger ones. But what I'm not so sure about is whether or not this sex actually hurts the kids.
I find it shocking that this was one of the more anti-Breen statements out there.
posted by jeather at 10:22 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


However, almost all Berkeley fans dislike G---- so no one cared much.

That line gave me such a sad. "Eh, nobody likes the kid so who cares?"

*shudder*
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:28 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


There still are in 2014 (I know you know this, I'm not mansplaining). I'm honestly not sure how much times have really changed, you know?

When I was in college (in my teens), I had a female classmate who was, I think, around 70 years old. She told me that when she was a young woman, she needed her husband's permission to have a job. Also, at one time, women did not have the right to vote in the U.S.

Those are pretty broad brush things but they are important. Women have acquired the right to have a political voice and to earn money. This is a far cry from equality but it impacts quality of life in big ways and small, in obvious and not so obvious ways. If you can't influence the law or lawmakers at all and if you cannot get a job without your husband's permission, that seriously cuts a person off from many things.

Because I was molested as a kid, I have read a fair amount over the years on related topics and thought a lot about what works and what does not. It is common for relatives to side with abuser if a girl is molested by a male relative and to tell the girl to stop saying ugly things about her uncle or whomever. I strongly suspect that is partly because women tend to be financially dependent upon men and if you think being routinely raped in a non-violent way is bad, hey, starvation and all that is generally worse. Someone with financial control over you can make your life a living hell without ever doing anything most folks would view as "abusive." So I think this is fear driven. And I think getting women economically (and politically) empowered is an important step in the right direction for putting a stop to a lot of icky sexual things.

We tend to lack much detail in our history books about how hard the lives of women and children were historically. History books tend to be filled with stories about men. So it can be hard to figure out some comparison but I think the answer is, yes, things are generally better in some respects than they used to be.

I think there is a lot of room for improvement. But I think, yes, it really used to be overall worse. I mean the most recent link describes a lot of people saying "gee, I didn't like it but I was unsure if it actually harmed the kids" while people in this discussion are expressing outrage at that. These were people in a relatively educated and privileged area who just didn't even feel clear if it was truly all that bad. So I think that also indicates, yes, things are different now. We may not know how to stop it but we at least have some general consensus that it is a bad thing.
posted by Michele in California at 10:28 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


No disagreement that the rights of women have seen a vast improvement (with lots more work to be done), just saying I'm not sure whether the kind of child abuse depicted here has actually gotten any better. YMMV. I think perhaps I did not express myself clearly enough, but if I try to it's going to turn into an argument, which would probably be pointless since we're on the same side in any case.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:35 AM on June 16


I think it has gotten better. Remember one of the opening words of that essay were talking about an event where a child was molested publicly in a way impossible to misunderstand, like, WTF levels - in front of several other people, some of whom thought it was funny, and others thought it was just in bad taste. But they thought the child was too young to have it be damaging or anything.

Fuck these people, man.
posted by corb at 10:43 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


No, not interested in arguing, but perhaps I failed to make myself clear:

Women tend to be the protectors of kids. I think women being so at the mercy of a man undermines their ability to protect kids. So I suspect there is some relationship here between how powerless women are and how egregious this stuff tends to be.

It isn't a clear victory against child abuse for women to get jobs because one result can be that kids are left with babysitters or become latchkey kids and that can make them more vulnerable to abuse, not less. But I also know of at least one case where a woman left her pedophile husband to protect the kid and in a society where a woman can't even get a job without her husband's permission, that is not possible.

And, also, what corb said. That was also part of my point.
posted by Michele in California at 10:45 AM on June 16


I think we're broadly in agreement, just looking at things from different perspectives, Michele. Cool?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:52 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


That line gave me such a sad. "Eh, nobody likes the kid so who cares?"

It was one of the more disgusting parts of a pretty jaw-dropping document. He's talking about a 10-13 year old kid -- he's a denizen of a place in time and culture that regards itself as particularly enlightened, and he's basically saying that because no one likes this 10-13 year old kid, we should all just be OK with Breen using him like a thing.
posted by lodurr at 12:14 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


I can see--and I don't know how much I agree with it because it only just occurred to me--abuse and assault covered up even more now than 50-60 years ago, because even the accusation, especially if children are involved, is enough to destroy someone's life.

I wonder about this, too. I don't *think* this is how it is? But I don't know, and I don't know how one could figure it out. In the threads we've had about harassment at cons and what kind of policies should be in place to address that, there are always a few people - and it's not just here, I see similar comments in threads about the topic in other places - who are so insistent that the merest whiff of an accusation of sexual harassment will end someone's career and that's why we should be careful. Because the potential consequences - like getting thrown out of a con - are the worst thing ever.

But apparently, for guys like Frenkel - well, he did lose his job at Tor, but he's still allowed to volunteer at cons and be part of that part of the sf community. Why? Because despite his documented harassment, that part of the community has apparently decided that his presence is more important than the safety of the women who attend, or the presence of women he has harassed.
posted by rtha at 12:16 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


There are lots of accounts of people back then who 'knew but did nothing' (w.r.t. child sexual abuse). These days there are also lots of accounts of people who 'know but do nothing' -- but it's usually about harrassment or abuse of adults. As you say, we don't know, and it would be hard to prove -- but that people don't seem to 'know about' the child sexual abuse at present, is a hopeful sign.
posted by lodurr at 12:21 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


It may be hopeful, lodurr. I want it to be a hopeful sign.

What worries me is that abusers are just better at covering their tracks.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:30 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


yeah, but tracks are harder to cover these days.
posted by lodurr at 12:35 PM on June 16


But apparently, for guys like Frenkel - well, he did lose his job at Tor, but he's still allowed to volunteer at cons and be part of that part of the sf community. Why? Because despite his documented harassment, that part of the community has apparently decided that his presence is more important than the safety of the women who attend, or the presence of women he has harassed.
That's the key point to remember when people are defending harassers like Frenkel or Walling, that if you don't put your house in order, you get people like Walter Breen being able to keep on molesting children at cons for almost fifty years after he was banned from one particular con for that because fandom thinks expelling him is literally worse than his molesting.

In all that's been available about Breen, the original documents that showed what he did have never been available, not even with the documentation that Stephen Goldin put up in 1999, until now; fandom has always been more interested in the effects the "controversy" has had on fandom, rather than in protecting children.

Every time we allow people like Breen to continue in fandom, we make it more unsafe for their victims.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:22 PM on June 16 [9 favorites]


You know, when Tehanu came out all those years after the Earthsea trilogy, and it was so charged with fury, disgust, and contempt, I thought Le Guin must have had very specific and egregious examples of child sexual abuse in mind as she wrote it. . . .
posted by jamjam at 3:07 PM on June 16 [8 favorites]


Martin, one point of correction: Breen died in 1993, ~thirty years after the Breendoggle issue was published. Which doesn't diminish your point.
posted by deirdresm at 12:10 AM on June 17


Is Frenkel still putting in appearances at cons? I don't follow constuff as close as I used to.
posted by Justinian at 12:46 PM on June 17


Yeah. He was at Wiscon again just weeks ago.
posted by Zed at 1:56 PM on June 17


I had missed this when it was posted, and saw it only because it was linked in an FPP about Terry Richardson.

Include me as yet another person who enjoyed Mists of Avalon and had no idea about any of this at all. It's awful and distressing and I doubt I will reread the book anytime soon, if ever.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:06 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


I read and reread her daughter’s words this week. I read, too, portions of MZB’s own court deposition (from her husband’s trial, also for child abuse) that I hadn’t read before. Then yesterday I took a deep breath, and I added up the advances from my two Darkover sales, my Darkover royalties, and (at his request) my husband Larry Hammer’s payment for his sale to MZB’s magazine.
On author published through MZB, Janni Lee Simner, does the right thing and donates her royalties for it to anti-abuse organisation RAINN.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:41 AM on June 18 [10 favorites]


Oh wow, that link to Moira's email now contains underneath it two poems by Moira which are....just intense as hell. Fuck.
posted by corb at 11:24 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Mainstream coverage in the Guardian: SFF community reeling after Marion Zimmer Bradley's daughter accuses her of abuse.
posted by immlass at 8:20 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


...is it petty that I am glad to see that because the Wikipedia guardians can no longer play the "oh, but that doesn't count, it wasn't a *real* media source" game when purging her bio?
posted by tavella at 1:18 PM on June 27 [6 favorites]


It's been days since this was last commented on, but I only just came to it. I've been looking over the depositions on Stephen Goldin's site, and I feel like I should mention two things, since they don't seem to have been brought up explicitly in this thread so far:

1) MZB's own abuse of Moira was documented long before this, in these depositions, specifically in the testimony of Elizabeth "Lisa" Waters, MZB's longtime secretary and lover. Moira's accusation that MZB had molested her (and MZB's apparent defense that "children before the age of puberty didn't have erogenous zones") can be found in the deposition under the heading "MZB's Treatment of Her Own Daughter."

2) That deposition affirms that it wasn't just Moira. Moira's claim that "I am not her only victim, nor were her only victims girls" is corroborated therein; Lisa quotes Patrick Breen, MZB's son-in-law, as saying that Walter didn't molest him, "which is more than I can say about my mother and some of my baby-sitters."

Lisa seems as gross and evasive in testimony as the others, frequently calling victims liars and saying they can't be trusted. She says over and over again that she didn't think it was worth investigating these things; in a characteristic remark, when asked whether she'd discussed whether various people had molested children with MZB, she sniffs that "I was brought up to believe that other people's sex lives were none of my business."

This whole situation is really just very awful.
posted by koeselitz at 8:48 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I wanted to say:

Overall, you get the idea that MZB herself has a lot of conflicting ideas about sexuality and children. On one extreme, Lisa points out that MZB said several times, particularly during the divorce and apparently in several books, that child molesters are evil and should be killed. But then we have MZB's evasions, which seem characteristic of evasions that wives who are at least partially aware of their husband's transgressions might give; she says over and over again, for example, that she believed Walter Breen was incapable of molesting children because he was "impotent," which as far as I can tell means nothing more than that he couldn't (or perhaps just didn't) have sex with her after a certain point. Another characteristic evasion is her claim that kids can just say no if they want to. But then we begin to get into the weird claims directly excusing pedophilia: she says that children "don't have erogenous zones" before the age of puberty.

It's interesting to me, because I have never read her books, but I know a lot of people who did read them and found them somehow very liberating when they were young. MZB stubbornly insists that children of a certain age are plenty able to decide whether to have sex with someone. I found this exchange rather telling:
Q. Okay. So at that time it was your belief that a 13-year-old child was perfectly able to make their own decisions regarding sexual contact with adults?

A. Oh, really, a-13-year-old child? I wasn't a child at 13, were you?
Her belief in the complete sexual agency of children seems quite liberating from the outside, and I gather that's where she's arguing from here and in her books – she's arguing in a sense that children should be allowed to discover themselves in the ways that they wish to, that these things need to be respected in them somehow. To children, who sometimes resent the strictures that actual nurturing creates around them, the breaking down of these barriers can feel magical and freeing; and, indeed, the sense of beginning to see beyond the walls of childhood is a natural part of development. But we see from Marion Zimmer Bradley's life – and apparently from a number of things in her books – that this was not that natural opening up that nurturing allows, but rather a breaking down of nurture itself. She was annihilating the essential early education and care that children need by suggesting to them and to anyone who would listen that that education and care is nothing but a set of silly rules to be ignored and violated as an act of liberating defiance.

And ultimately this often seems to manifest itself as the excuses of a pedophile who has violated the trust and the bodies of children: the claims that children could say "stop" any time they wanted to, that they don't really feel things in the same way as adults, that they aren't really violated unless there's an erect penis involved anyway – these are nothing but rationalizations, and poor ones at that.
posted by koeselitz at 9:06 AM on July 2 [7 favorites]


From the Guardian coverage linked above:

Russell Galen, the literary agent for the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust, which owns the copyrights to the literary works of Marion Zimmer Bradley and which is administered by an outside trustee, said he and the trustee were "aware of the allegations that have been made".

"Marion is deceased and we are not able to ask her about her side of the story, nor do we have any personal knowledge of the events that are being described. All we can say is that during the decades in which we worked with her, we found Marion to be a great friend and enormously kind person. She was much loved by many friends, especially in the literary community where she supported the careers of many writers at considerable personal expense. That's just a statement of fact based on personal knowledge, and is not meant to be a response to these allegations," Galen told the Guardian.


If I could teach the entire world one thing about abusers, it's that they work very, very hard to appear as upstanding pillar-of-the-community types in order (a) ensure easy access to children and (b) to promote doubt and get support if accusations are made (see Jerry Sandusky).

If "a great friend and enormously kind person" you know is accused of child molestation, give them the benefit of innocent-until-proven-guilty doubt. But also understand that there's a real chance that he or she acted that way towards you in order to keep you from discovering what she was doing to kids, and to reduce the chances you'd believe accusations.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:07 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]


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