Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tor-ments and Tor-tures

It's been an interesting day.  As I expected, I returned home yesterday to find a number of e-mails waiting for me relating to the controversy over Irene Gallo and Tor.  I've spent today e-mailing back and forth with a few people, and I'll share some of those discussions with you this evening.

First, a number of correspondents warned that boycotts are a two-edged sword.  What, one asked, if the other side of this debate launches a boycott of Baen Books in retaliation for a boycott of Tor?  Might that not destroy a publisher whom I like and respect?  I had to answer in the affirmative;  but I also pointed out that Baen has never taken a public stand for or against any group or side or perspective in SF/F fandom.  It's kept strict control of its staff, senior and junior, in that regard.  It's been extraordinarily careful to maintain neutrality, and I'm grateful for its efforts.  (It also publishes authors from all political perspectives, persuasions and backgrounds, from to-the-right-of-Attila-the-Hun to to-the-left-of-Trotsky.)  If only other publishers were as conscientious, we wouldn't be having this debate at all!

I don't think there are any rational grounds to boycott Baen (or any other SF/F publisher apart from Tor) at this time.  However, I'm forced to admit that there may be some who'll do so as a knee-jerk response to a Tor boycott, on a 'tit for tat' basis.  Should I - should we - refrain from boycotting Tor because we're afraid of such retaliation?  I honestly don't know.  I suspect (but can't prove) that people who buy primarily Tor-published books probably aren't in Baen's target market, and vice versa (just as I'm sure few, if any, liberal or progressive readers buy my books, because they wouldn't identify with the perspective from which they're written).  Nevertheless, there could be a non-rational spillover effect.  I'm not sure how to address this.  If readers have anything to suggest, please do so in Comments so we can have a useful discussion about it.

(Those who don't like some of the authors published by either Tor or Baen - either their work, or personally - are, of course, free to not buy their books.  That doesn't involve the publisher at all.  However, most of us probably do that already.  If I don't buy books by authors whose work I don't enjoy, that's not a value judgment about those authors or their outlook on life.  It's merely an expression of my taste [or lack thereof] in reading matter.  I'm sure some of those authors won't buy my books either, for the same reason.)

Some asked whether a boycott of Tor (or anyone else) would not have a stifling effect on free speech.  I'm forced to admit that it might . . . but I must also point out that the individuals at Tor whom I've mentioned in previous articles have themselves tried to stifle free speech in the SF/F community, and among authors, in far more draconian fashion.  They've abused their positions as 'gatekeepers' to shut out, from both Tor and SF/F as a whole, many authors whose opinions didn't coincide with theirs.  A boycott would, in effect, invoke Newton's Third Law ("To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction") in publishing terms.  (Can you imagine how someone like Teresa Nielsen Hayden or Irene Gallo would react to my novels if I submitted them to Tor?  I don't think they'd even be allowed into the slush pile, let alone out of it . . . yet I sell tens of thousands of copies of them every year.  Thank you, readers!)

One person asked what precisely I hoped to achieve if I called for a boycott of Tor.  I've already addressed that in previous articles, but to recap:

  1. I'd like Tor to publicly apologize for the efforts by all the employees I named to demonize and denigrate the 'Puppies' campaigns;
  2. I'd like Tor to publicly reprimand those employees;
  3. I'd like Tor to publicly put in place policies to prevent any recurrence of such an issue.

I'm not calling for dismissals or resignations - although in my years working in the commercial world, if I'd stepped on a sensitive portion of my anatomy as hard as these individuals have done from time to time, I wouldn't have been given the opportunity to apologize!  I'd have been fired on the spot, escorted from the premises, warned never to return, and then would have had the humiliation of reading a press release from my employers telling the world what they'd done and why.  That's simply the way it is in any responsible company . . . but it doesn't seem to be that way in Tor.  Why not?

I'm obliged to reader Bob M. for sending me the link to this news report today.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

The principal of North Miami Senior High School inadvertently injected himself into the racially charged national debate over police treatment of blacks with a social media comment — and it wound up costing him his position at the school.

The Miami-Dade County school district announced Wednesday that Alberto Iber had been removed as principal after going online to defend a white Texas police officer who waved a gun at black teens while responding to a call about an unruly pool party.

In a brief statement, the district said employees are required to conduct themselves, both personally and professionally, in a manner that represents the school district’s core values. The district said a replacement would be named shortly and that Iber would be reassigned to administrative duties.

“Judgment is the currency of honesty,” said Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho. “Insensitivity — intentional or perceived — is both unacceptable and inconsistent with our policies, but more importantly with our expectation of common sense behavior that elevates the dignity and humanity of all, beginning with children.”

There's more at the link.  It's a classic example of what I'm talking about.  Why did Tor not do the same thing the very first time one of its employees stepped out of line?  If it had, there probably wouldn't have been any more occurrences, and the enormous groundswell of resentment (even bitterness) against it would not exist today.  Talk about a missed opportunity . . .

I do feel real sympathy for Mr. Tom Doherty.  The man's a titan in the SF/F field, having been active for decades and nurtured the careers of many of its top authors.  I'm sure he absolutely detests the whole mess that's landed in his lap.  I'm sorry that I've contributed to putting it there - but I'd do it again in a heartbeat, as I explained in my open letter to him.  Some things are beyond ignoring.  Shakespeare put the dilemma well:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.

Personally, I can absorb a large number of 'slings and arrows'.  I've done so on numerous occasions.  However, when senior individuals in a company appear to offer nothing but 'slings and arrows' to those who hold different opinions, and one of them insults and denigrates experiences that have been a large part of my life, I tend to look rather harder at Shakespeare's second option.  I suspect many of my readers and fellow authors do the same . . . which is why we're now on the cusp of a boycott, unless something changes at Tor to make that unnecessary.

I hope it does.  I really, truly hope it does.


EDITED TO ADD:  Oh, my life . . . Moshe Feder, one of those at Tor of whom I've complained, has just doubled down on the stupid.

Mr. Doherty, you appear to have a member of your staff who's not interested in your attempts to defuse the crisis.  In so many words, he's just slapped you in the face - in public.  He's defied critics of Tor, publicly raising a finger at them.  He's daring you to do your worst.  He thinks you have no 'worst' to do - that you're toothless, impotent in the face of his SJW righteousness.

What are you going to do about him?


712lippy13 said...

Look at the time stamps of the posts. If I did that at work I would be fired and out the door so fast.

kamas716 said...

Of the 2000 books in my library, about 40 are from Tor and about another 40 are from other MacMillan imprints. So, my not buying from them isn't going to affect their bottom line much.

Even if a boycott isn't called for by you or anyone else, I'm still not buying from a company so lacking in control over their employees that they are able to publicly disparage their fans/coworkers/employees. I certainly wouldn't want to be associated with that company in any way.

Could other houses be hurt by a backlash of a boycott? Certainly. But I wonder just how much overlap between houses there are outside of a handful of authors (authors that these executives have already espoused their disdain) that the fans follow.

C. S. P. Schofield said...

I am always a trifle astonished at how easily people throw the term Nazi around. Mind you, there ARE groups that approach that degree of vileness and evil. Hell, there are people who actually pattern themselves on the Nazis. But it's rare. Even in the Islamic world, where various leader have, for whatever reason, been pushing the whole "PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS" bullshit, it isn't all that common, and in the West (where there are still WWI Veterans who might beat you to death with a cane for being a Nazi) it is really rare. The term shouldn't be used as interchangeable with "Jackass".

John said...

The Hugo/TOR controversy is mentioned on Instapundit today. Take some time to read the comments.

August said...

A boycott most certainly does not, in any way, stifle free speech.
Anyone can blog, self-publish, etc...
Speech can be had freely and easily whether there is a boycott or not.

tweell said...

My boycott is already begun. If others consider that a reason to retaliate against Baen, a non-involved company, that's on them. My only response there would be to purchase an extra book or two from Baen.

Someone who calls me a neo-Nazi should not expect, nor should they want me to do business with them.

TM said...

I'm not sure holding up the school that removed the principal as an example is what you should be striving for. Indeed, the overreaction of that school seems to me more of an example of exactly what you point out the anti-puppy side has done repeatedly: remove or eliminate someone from somethng because of their otherwise unconnected thoughts or statements. While I fully admit that Ms. Gallo's statements call her impartiality in her work with others in the field, I'm not sure it rises (or should rise) to the level of a firing offence.

Mignon510 said...

I apologize, in advance, for my intemperate response here.

F*ck them.

They started the fight decades ago, before I was born. _Now_ they wanna say, "Waitaminute, we didn't mean it like that..."

Too late to say I misunderstood.

F*ck them.

Mess with the bull, deal with the horns.

Anonymous said...

Gallo and her ilk at TOR have done more to stifle free speech than any boycott of the company ever will.They have proven to be unrepentant and will continue.

To decide not to stand up to such bullies and their sycophants for fear of retribtion is cowardice.

Everyone who boarded this ship knew that the destination was the maelstrom. It is too late now for doubts and fears, the only way out is through.


Anonymous said...


I wish to clarify that my staement concerning 'cowardice' was general and not specific. It was not my intent to denigrate you or anyone else.


Peter said...

@JackCrow: No problem. I didn't read it like that, anyway.

JohninMd.(HELP?!??) said...

Having put it in the public venue, I don't think you HAVE to call for a boycott, they sowed the wind, and will reap the whirlwind, at least as far as readers who are following the Hugo mess. As to blowback on Baen, or other houses, I don't think its an issue. Larry was correct that the SJWs are in the minority, which is why Sad Puppies got their shorts in such a twist. They're out-numbered, frikkem.

Mark said...

Note that Moshe has now either deleted the thread or made it private.

richard mcenroe said...

I don't believe the proglodytes COULD organize an effective boycott of Baen, for the same reason they failed to boycott Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby.

They don't shop at those venues to begin with. Same with Baen Books. Think there's a lot of John Ringo or Kratman readers among the Social Justice Warriors?