My Magazine. My Voice. My Rules.

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I did not want to write this post. In fact, I would have skipped the topic altogether if maybe a dozen different people hadn’t asked me to weigh in. I also felt that I was one of only a handful of people who could explain some of what editor Sheree Renée Thomas went through this summer. She can’t be 100% honest without jeopardizing her job.

In brief, a U.K. author mentioned on his website that he had sold a story to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in July. Writer Christopher Rowe saw that notification and immediately asked F&SF why they were publishing this particular U.K. writer. Turns out he’s affiliated strongly with the National Front, a U.K. political party with horrible white supremacist views.

This all took place in public, putting editor Sheree Renée Thomas in the forefront of a social media shitstorm. Eventually, the acceptance was rescinded, which caused another shitstorm. She got no support in this at all from owner and publisher Gordon Van Gelder until he issued a very tepid statement at the end of August.

Before I go deeper into this, let me say that this sort of thing has happened hundreds of times before at many publications over the decades. In the days before the internet, it would happen in public after the story was published if the editor and publisher were unlucky. If they were lucky, they would somehow catch the problem before the story made it to print.

In those days, there was a grapevine among editors which worked about 50% of the time. The worst failure during my tenure at F&SF was when a male writer of great ability sent out his first few stories. When a male editor rejected him, he was all sweetness and light. When a female editor rejected him, this writer wrote a long screed in great detail about how he would rape the editor and maybe even kill her when he saw her next.

I got one of those. Every female sf/f editor got one.

The male editors thought our warnings were “exaggerations” and we were “overreacting,” even though the writer in question was a violent paranoid alcoholic who had been imprisoned for assaulting women in the past. The night of the 1998 Nebulas, during which his story lost, he got drunk at the event and tried to assault a friend of mine running the SFWA suite. Fortunately, others saw this and managed to stop the attack.

As I was looking up this man’s name, which I will not repeat, I saw a recent article by another male friend of mine asking if the writer was a victim of cancel culture because the man’s career only lasted until 2008.

Nope. He was published for a decade after that horrific event. A male sf editor even published another story even though he had been terrified by the writer, because he believed that no one should be judged by their behavior. Only by their writing.

He was wrong, as publishing learned with Norman Mailer and Jack Henry Abbott over four decades ago.

I have been quite reluctant to weigh in on the F&SF mess for personal reasons. I believe that rescinding that contract was the absolute right thing to do, and I will get to that in a moment.

But let me say this first:

I try very hard not to discuss The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I think Sheree Renée Thomas is a fantastic editor. She’s done a spectacular job at F&SF. I think she’s managed to honor the magazine’s traditions and bring it solidly into the 21st century.

I wish she had a better boss. But I have remained mostly quiet about Gordon Van Gelder. The transition between my editorship and his was ugly, with him sending a form letter to everyone with a story in inventory, telling them that the editing on their stories was poor and the stories needed to be re-edited. That was but one thing that he did when he came on board. The microaggressions continued for decades, including leaving me out of as much of the history of the magazine as possible (including the Wikipedia page, except as a name, until people complained).

The behind-the-scenes stuff got so ugly that a friend of mine, a big-name corporate lawyer, wanted to take my case for free because he said it was a textbook case of tortious interference. I did not let my friend or, later, another lawyer who offered, take the case because I was not going to edit any longer. I didn’t need editing work. If I had, I would have had to take them up on going to court.

But I was no longer interested in editing. I was more concerned with my fiction career. If Gordon and his friends managed to destroy my reputation under the Rusch name, I could—and did—write under pen names. I didn’t want to spend time in court, even though a few other lawyers (and one appellate court judge) who learned the story agreed that the case was a slam dunk.

But let’s just say that I have very little good to say about Gordon, and the lack of respect he showed, not just me, but most women in his orbit.

When he hired Sheree, I thought, Gosh, maybe being married and becoming a father helped him grow up. I was pleased that he hired a person I consider to be one of the best in the field. I was stunned that he hired a woman at all, given the crap he had said to me even before he followed me at F&SF. (He had bought The Best of Pulphouse from us when he was at St. Martin’s Press. That was…well, it’s another story.)

I thought of contacting Sheree directly when she was hired and warning her about my experiences with Gordon, but there was a distance of more than 20 years from my direct experience of the man to the start of her tenure. I thought that he had become a different person. After all, most of us change as we age.

But clearly, from his terse statements about a crisis in which he should have had Sheree’s back and did not, and from statements from Sheree’s predecessor, C.C. Finlay, Gordon has not grown up. He has just stayed mostly under the radar.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

PG had (and still has) a policy that basically boiled down to “Don’t work with jerks.” When he was practicing law, he wouldn’t accept jerks as clients. Even if they were rich.

Once, shortly after graduating from law school, he was working for a very, very bright man 35 years his senior who seemed like a wonderful guy when he asked PG to go to work for him. He gave PG a big bump in pay and PG was very pleased with his new job and the wide range of interesting new people he met in connection with his work.

All went swimmingly for a couple of years, then PG’s boss rather quickly evolved into a jerk. In short, he hired a curvacious woman with few job skills to be his secretary and spent quite a lot of time in his office with the door closed in meetings with his secretary. PG also knew his boss’s wife, who was a wonderful woman.

In short, a formerly nice guy had evolved rather quickly into a jerk.

PG skedaddled out the door at the first opportunity, and several months thereafter, the company collapsed. PG received a call from his former boss’s wife asking why he hadn’t told her what was happening with her husband.

So PG’s reactions to working with a jerk had caused him to behave badly toward the boss’s wife.

He can say that he only had to deal with one more jerk/boss in his life. A very nice non-jerk person had hired PG, but then the owners of the company fired the nice boss and replaced him with a jerk boss.

Fortunately, for the majority of PG’s working life, he was self-employed as an attorney and he worked hard to be a non-jerk boss for the people who worked with him.

2 thoughts on “My Magazine. My Voice. My Rules.”

  1. Don’t work with assholes. Good policy.

    There’s a corollary: as you climb the corporate/organizational ladder, don’t be a jerk yourself. And if you get fly-bys or unavoidable BS from the trash above you, try to shelter your people from it. You may be relatively powerless, but you can still be a good example and help with finding work-arounds. [Sometimes all you can do is leave — don’t let yourself be used to further the unacceptable or downright criminal.]

    True for all organizations.

  2. A novelist nobody has heard of is keeping a story written by a supporter of some political party nobody belongs to any more from being published in a magazine nobody has read in decades.

    Forget atomic energy, space cadets. That stuff is Eurocentric and heteronormative. Contemporary sci-fi is powered by the inexhaustible force of self-congratulation!

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