Monday, June 8, 2015

An open letter to Tom Doherty of Tor Books

Tom Doherty, one of the seminal figures in science fiction and fantasy publishing over the last several decades and owner of Tor Books, has published a message on Tor's Web site concerning the current brouhaha over comments made by one of his editors.  You can read the whole thing there, but I'll publish a few salient points here.

Ms. Gallo ... did not make it clear that her comments were hers alone. They do not reflect Tor’s views or mine. She has since clarified that her personal views are just that and apologized to anyone her comments may have hurt or offended.

. . .

In short, we [Tor] seek out and publish a diverse and wide ranging group of books. We are in the business of finding great stories and promoting literature and are not about promoting a political agenda

Tor employees, including Ms. Gallo, have been reminded that they are required to clarify when they are speaking for Tor and when they are speaking for themselves. We apologize for any confusion Ms. Gallo’s comments may have caused. Let me reiterate: the views expressed by Ms. Gallo are not those of Tor as an organization and are not my own views.  Rest assured, Tor remains committed to bringing readers the finest in science fiction – on a broad range of topics, from a broad range of authors.

There's much more at the link.  I urge you to read it in full.

I don't have an e-mail address through which to reach Mr. Doherty, which is unfortunate.  I'd have preferred to communicate with him in private concerning this matter.  On further reflection, though, the comments from Tor staff members in the public forum have been the cause of the problem;  so perhaps it's appropriate that my personal response should be in that same forum.  Therefore, here's an open letter from me to Mr. Doherty.  If I can find an e-mail address for him, I'll send it to him directly as well.

Dear Mr. Doherty,

I suppose I should begin by apologizing for any impertinence in writing to you like this.  You're a seminal figure in science fiction and fantasy publishing, owner of one of the largest publishers in the field, and with decades of experience under your belt.  I'm a relatively unimportant self-published author, selling a few tens of thousands of books per year and earning a living for myself in the field as best I can.  I've been drawn into the present controversy over Tor due to the conduct and views of some of your staff.  I'd like to respond to them, and to your message on earlier today.

Mr. Doherty, I spent eighteen years working with the victims of racial and tribal violence in South Africa, trying to overturn the vicious and racist policies of apartheid.  The white government sought to rule by diktat, and the so-called 'liberation movements' who opposed it sought to render white rule impossible through terror.  Groups such as ours that sought to bring relief and new hope to areas of conflict were targeted by both sides.  We paid a heavy price for our beliefs.  Twenty-seven of us died during those years, and more have died since.  I've written here from time to time about some aspects of our experiences.  If you'd like to know more, try this article, or this one.  As for my attitude towards racism, try this article for a start.

Given that background, you'll understand that to be told by Ms. Gallo that, as a supporter of the Sad Puppy campaign, I'm "unrepentantly racist", is utterly unacceptable to me.  Furthermore, I've fought (and I mean exchanged gunfire with) real neo-Nazis who sought to impose Nazi-like ideals of racial purity on a country at war with itself.  Thus, to be told that I'm a member of an "extreme right-wing to neo-nazi group" is equally unacceptable.  I could go on cherry-picking individual clauses out of Ms. Gallo's statements, but why bother?  I think you can understand why I exploded with anger when I read it.  She has no idea about those realities.  I do.  I will bear their scars, mental, spiritual and physical, until the day I die.

What makes it even worse is that her comments are merely the latest in a series of similar utterances by other current and former senior employees of Tor.  They've been made over the past three years, during which the Sad Puppies campaigns have been organized.  In particular, I refer to Patrick Nielsen Hayden, his wife Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and Moshe Feder, as well as author John Scalzi, who appears to be a spokesperson for Tor's views on the matter.  As I said in an earlier article about this imbroglio:
There's an old military saying when bad things happen:  "Once may be an accident.  Twice may be coincidence.  Three or more times is enemy action."  In the same way, I could understand one senior Tor representative holding such views.  I might even accept two.  Four is too many.  This is not coincidence.  It's concerted, organized, deliberate enemy action.  Tor as a publisher appears to either espouse, or tolerate (and actively encourage), views like this.  The utterances of these individuals appear to indicate that the company supports lies, slander, libel and viciousness as debating and/or promotional tactics.

I, and many others, believe that the comments, insinuations and accusations by the individuals I've named are factually false, slanderous, libelous and unfounded.  I cannot speak for those others, but I've reached a point where I will no longer under any circumstances accept such utterances without responding.  In discussions with other authors and individuals involved in the situation, it's become clear that I'm far from alone in feeling this way.  We're all boiling mad, to put it as plainly as possible:  and we're going to act on that, unless and until Tor resolves its internal problems openly, in the same public forum where previous transgressions have taken place, and in an acceptable manner.

Mr. Doherty, you have assured your readers that "the views expressed by Ms. Gallo are not those of Tor as an organization and are not my own views".  I am fully prepared to accept that they are not your personal views, and I thank you for making that clear.  However, in the light of the paragraph from my earlier article quoted above, I think you can understand why I am absolutely unable to accept that the views Ms. Gallo expressed are not those of Tor as an organization.  I believe they are Tor's views, because they've been reiterated many times by the individuals I've named, and AT NO TIME has Tor done anything to repudiate, control or apologize for what they have said.  "Three or more times is enemy action", Mr. Doherty:  and by their words and attitudes, these individuals have made it abundantly clear that the organization they help to manage, direct and operate is the enemy of anyone associated with the Puppies campaigns, even if only as a sympathizer, not an active participant (which perfectly describes my own involvement to date).

Mr. Doherty, with the greatest possible respect to you as an individual:  until Tor publicly dissociates itself from the outrageous positions taken by the individuals I have named (all of them), publicly rebukes those concerned, and takes steps to make sure that no such statements are ever again made by senior members of the company, I shall be unable to believe any assurances that their views are not those of Tor.  Actions speak louder than words - and so does the absence of actions.  All Tor has offered is words.  It's time for actions.  What is Tor going to, not say, but DO about the situation? - because unless and until it does the right thing, others are going to do what they believe to be necessary and appropriate under the circumstances.

There is very little time left to address these issues before this situation gets out of control.  For the sake of all of us in the SF/F community, I hope Tor uses it wisely.

With personal respect to you and yours,

Peter Grant.


Wraith said...

Well done, Sir! May I offer you a crowbar to pry your boot out of their collective ass?

Wraith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keith Glass said...

DaddyBear said...

Well said. I can take disagreement over positions or values. I can take disagreements over what is and what isn't good writing. I won't support anyone who takes it to the gutter and tries to make points through personal attacks and innuendo, regardless of their 'side' in any argument.

It's a shame that it's come to this, but until Tor and other publishers learn that what we want is to be entertained and informed, not belittled or clubbed over the head, I don't see me buying a lot of books from them.

Byron clark said...

Very well written, Mr. Grant, Very well done. Thank You

tweell said...

Agreed. Non-apology, not accepted. Boycott is in effect.

Unknown said...

Sure looks like she used a work computer and work time to make the post. If she did tor owns the post.

Da Curly Wolf said...

Yeah I haven't bought or read anything from Tor in years so to boycott them won't bother me at all. which is a shame because I've had people nagging the ever loving shit out of me to try Sanderson. Was thinking about it too. nope.

Joe Vasicek said...

Thank you for that open letter, and for sharing your experiences in South Africa. Evil is strengthened when it is frivolously invoked for the purposes of caricature, so I appreciate both you and John C. Wright responding with your personal and family experiences in facing down the real thing.

I do not know if a reader boycott is prudent, but I do know that as a writer, neither Tor Books nor will receive any of my stories until their corporate culture has been demonstrably changed, and the toxic individuals now in senior positions within the organization have either been dismissed or have made amends. I cannot in good conscience associate myself or do business with them otherwise.

Keith Glass said...

OK, my ENTIRE email list for Tor/MacMillan/Holtzbrinck: CEO of MacMillan. Currently on "Walkabout". You'll get an Auto-reply Tom Doherty, head of TOR Executive Director of Legal Affairs for Employment. MacMillan. Code of Conduct Compliance Macmillan Fiction Publicity Chief MacMillan HR Chief Executive Assistant, St. Martin's Press. Current POC for John Sargent Global COO for MacMillan

PDF of my letter to them at:

Old NFO said...

Thanks for the eloquent reply Peter, and one homes you WILL get a proper response.

Rev. Paul said...

What they said. Well done, sir!

Angry Gamer said...

Great letter...

I think that these kind of hyperventilating post where people accuse "Nazi" or whatever should be strongly denounced.

This kind of over the top rhetoric is commonplace with certain parts of our society and just needs to stop. Until we actually have groups actually commit the atrocities that Nazi's did... well comparisons should not be made.

good job

Linoge said...

Thanks for posting this, Peter. I, and others, posted a link back to this on Mr. Doherty's post on; hopefully that will get this letter the attention it deserves.

TGreen said...

When you live in a sheltered environment, your definitions shift to cover the range of your experiences.

I hope Ms Gallo actually reads your open letter and is wise enough to ...recalibrate.

::tips his cap to one who has walked the walk::

Cameron said...

When an employee tries the "sorry you were offended" approach, it's time to make them an ex-employee.

This incident and your response to it should be a PowerPoint presentation for a Business 101 lecture called "Don't do this!"

RandyBeck said...

Well said. Thanks for taking the lead!

If things go according to type, and if they're just plain tone deaf, their next step will be a promise to send the offenders to sensitivity training.

Gay_Cynic said...

Well done and well written. I am generally skeptical regarding boycotts, but phrases such as "good start" and "can't hurt to try" come springing to mind as this kerfluffle heats up.

Thankfully, we have Baen out there as a ready replacement for Tor on our bookshelves.

kamas716 said...

Yes, well said. Frankly, Tor has lost me as a customer, but you have gained another one.

Anonymous said...

Very well said, however, I would have refrained from the "impertenent" remarks. Quite simply, it matters little who he's been. He's in CHARGE of Tor. Ultimately, that makes him responsible for the conduct of the employees of his company he's responsible FOR.

He does not deserve deference just because of his past accomplishments on something like this. What has he done for us today? A pap apology and NO DISMISSALS of the inappropriately behaving employees.

As a former CxO type, I can assure you, I'd have handed out pink slips over this stuff Irene and others did- and then apologized.

Without that, it's just mere words.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to any reply you receive.

tom said...

Unfortunately TOR is owned by a German conglomerate and Mr Doherty is probably just the first editor among equals with some additional duties.
Tor was founded by Tom Doherty in 1980 and sold to St. Martin's Press in 1987. Along with St. Martin's Press, Henry Holt and Farrar, Straus and Giroux, it became part of the Holtzbrinck group, now part of the Macmillan in the US.

Shootist said...

What would Mr. Heinlein do?

Al said...

My deepest compliments, Mr. Grant. That letter was absolutely brilliant. I do not envy you your experiences... I cannot even imagine what your experiences must have been like, and I can say without even a moment's hesitation that I pray I never have to.

You were right on-point, and what you said is, unfortunately, absolutely correct. The company has made NO effort to refute what Ms. Gallo said... and I can imagine most of the people whom she was 'snarling' at do not expect them to, unless there is some kind of significant difficulty caused by the situation.

Beside that... as far as Ms. Gallo is concerned (and I base this statement on the arrogance of her supposed 'apology'), we are not intelligent enough to understand that what she said was nothing close to an apology. This was a token gesture, so she can say to her associates that she 'apologized' to a group of people she has absolutely NO respect for.

As far as she's concerned, she's given all the 'apology' she has to.

Harmon said...

As a mere reader, I am pleased at Mr. Grant's report about where the writers are on this. My own pitiful contribution vis a vis Tor is that I will only buy known quantities from them - I.e., if I know I like the author, I'll buy his books from Tor if that's the only option. But I won't buy new authors. I won't buy authors whose writings are unknown to me, unless I get a recommendation from someone I can respect - Hoyt for instance, and Grant will be another. If an author gets [insert award] and his book is published by Tor, I won't buy it if I am not familiar with the author.

And therein lies much of the damage that awaits Tor's actions. I personally don't mind what the leftists have brought to the table, in terms of broadening perspectives. But I very much mind their attempt to exclude those who have other perspectives. And that, it seems, is what so many leftists do, or agree to silently.

I didn't do any Hugo nominating, but I will do some voting. It will be based solely on what I perceive as writing which I am willing to say to someone else, "you must read this!" Frankly, I generally don't like John Wright's writing, but you must read The Plural of Helen of Troy. Twice. I think that The Three Body Problem must be poorly translated, but I'm afraid you must read it. Others on the Hugo ballot I won't name but can't even finish reading. Truthfully, were it not for Sad Puppies 3, I wouldn't have read anything on the ballot, and because of them, I will.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. In general, a business shouldn't be blamed for the opinion of its employees, and should tolerate even extreme views when employees say things "on their own time", even though a business has the legal right to fire employees for their political views (and *should* have that right to be protected from government harassment). But as you say, a business can't have its employees as a group take a political position and then retreat, saying, "it's just their personal views". In fact, it's hard to believe that someone at Tor who *didn't* hold those views would survive there--- they'd be fired within five minutes.

Given that, if the company doesn't want those opinions taken as its own, it must at a minimum say if it disagrees with employee statements, not just that it likes publishing good books. Really, it should go further and say that it strongly disapproves of its employees' opinions but as a matter of policy doesn't want to suppress them and would equally not punish an employee who joined Sad Puppies--- if, indeed, that's the truth.

Anonymous said...

I applaud your pushing back: that takes guts, and I hope you get a response that satisfies you. But I have to take issue with one implication of what you've written. You've exchanged gunfire with neo-Nazis, thereby proving your non-Nazi / anti-Nazi bona fides. I have not done so, nor have I had occasion to do anything like it. Am I, for that reason, fair game for an accusation that I'm a Neo-Nazi if I happen to be winning an argument with a leftist? Or does one who makes such an accusation deserve severe censure _regardless of the target of that accusation_ in the absence of strong evidence offered in support of (and simultaneously with) the accusation? I can understand your desire to use your extraordinary personal history for rhetorical advantage against your opponents, but do you really want to accept the premise that an unsupported, vile accusation should be _refuted_ (as opposed to the accusation's being contemptuously disregarded, and the accuser's being roundly censured)? That premise works to the advantage of the vilifiers, and all too often places their victims in the severely disadvantageous position, rhetorically, of having to prove a negative.


Peter said...

@SicTransit1565: I think my blog post tonight may address some of your questions:

Patri Friedman said...

The problem is, what you are saying seems an awful lot like all the SJW microagression crap. "Your business must publicly apologize for the hateful speech of your employee which has offended a small minority of listeners by abasing yourselves, and promise not to do it again" - that's what the other side does. It doesn't become right just because it's our side that is doing it.

I can understand that you are personally offended by this personal comment. But I think that all of us - especially those not part of the dominant intellectual paradigm of leftism - would benefit from a cultural shift back to "religion and politics are not topics you discuss at the conference table or dinner table; they are personal; and that should be kept separate from work". And I'm sorry to say that in your (quite reasonable) state of being triggered, you are pushing the wrong way.

I agree that in this situation, it is not quite as simple as separating personal & professional; you give reasons to be concerned that this is actually a Tor-wide set of beliefs. But I think the bar there should be very high. If 4 employees of a medium-sized company happen to be conservatives, and to say things critical of the left, I don't think that company should be tarred as "conservative", boycotted, and encouraged to crack down on their employees daring to have and express personal opinions.

It should be OK to have political opinions that some people consider to be stupid, wrong, hateful, and inaccurate. It should not get you fired. That is not moving towards a better society, it is deepening the war instead of working for peace.

Peter said...

@Patri Freeman:

1. I doubt very much whether it's just 4 employees. They're the visible part of the problem, but like an iceberg, I'm willing to bet there's a lot more below the surface than above it.

2. I haven't called for anyone to be fired - only reprimanded. Others are calling for dismissals or resignations, but not yours truly.

Anonymous said...

We have it on good authority from folks on Tor that if you want anyone there to pay attention, you had better send a physical, snail mail letter.
(Mrs. John C. Wright)