The Shaper and the Shaped

I was lying in bed after the what passed for the Island’s biggest party in a hundred years, sleep evading me, thought passing each other like ships in the night with flashed lantern-signal passed between them. Yes, my mind is very like a dark ocean, with very few thought-ships in it. Our Scottish Country Dancing Teacher, Lady Mary Mactier, had had her hundredth birthday, and yes, she did dance, and for once she didn’t yell at me… I’m quite relaxed at being yelled at, I was inoculated against listening to it early in life, by an elder sister. It was still a stressful evening as I had been entrusted to the haggis. (An Island Haggis – one of the dwarf kind (the North going variety), which had been shot earlier that week and was well hung, and had been dangled by its feet too, until the body dropped off… at least that’s the way it smelled to me (or maybe that was the neeps). As there were no less than four pipers and a snare drummer, and two wee fellows filling in for Pussy Nancy (the cook in a mob cap who delivers the haggis, the tatties and the neeps), as we had a lady to address the haggis (do think the PC-police will be down on my neck for that? I’ll hand them over to the lady in question if they’re that foolish. It is to be hoped…) it was a grave responsibility.

Anyway, these drifting thoughts came back to one of the various speeches made, and the mention made of how this iron Lady (and she is that, it is also her title, and you could make my day by telling me it is an insult) of the effect that she’d had on so many people, shaping them and their direction in life.

Which had its parallels in the latest kerfuffle in Sf/fantasy circles – how Marion Zimmer Bradley, who was a feminist role model, a lesbian role model, and a child molester, who committed incest, who at the very least looked the other way if not abetted her husband, and certainly knew of his actions and tastes, editing his book on homosexual pedophilia (‘Greek Love’ – shudder) while her ‘husband’ also sexually abused his own child and a large number of other victims – his daughter told the cops of 22. It’s unlikely she would have known of all of them. The woman has been dead, as has her husband, for some years. The matter was brought into the open in fandom (though apparently at least her husband had long been suspected) in 1999, through testimony by one of the victim’s father. One. Out of however many were ‘shaped’ by this.

What brought it up again was a sycophantic praise paean for shaping and role modelling provided by Marion Zimmer Bradley published on Tor.com. Oddly the author – and whoever edited and allowed the piece to be put up omitted the parts about the husband and the sexual abuse. That took Dierdre Saoirse Moen reporting on e-mails from MZB’s daughter – quoting this “The first time she molested me, I was three. The last time, I was 12, and able to walk away … She was cruel and violent, as well as completely out of her mind sexually. I am not her only victim, nor were her only victims girls.” and of MZB’s partner, Walter Breen – “I put Walter in jail for molesting one boy … Walter was a serial rapist with many, many, many victims (I named 22 to the cops) but Marion was far, far worse.”

The silence from those who usually rush to frantically leap on sf and fantasy’s bandwagons to protest racism or sexism or homophobia or misogyny … crusades so often led by the likes of Jim Hines and John Scalzi, was deafening. The hush-up and belittling and usual chorus of disqualifying attacks were there from that team. Fortunately, a few other people were not so silent. It must be said, most of these were on the center/right of the political spectrum, but neither the original whistle-blower, nor the entirety of the left were thus silenced.

Eventually, damage control kicked in, and now even the mouthpieces of the left wing are finally admitting it was a bad thing, spinning as much as possible, carefully omitting why the story is fresh again, or the bits about drugs and orgies. Some of course, such as her agent Russell Galen, are still trotting out statements like this “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…”

And inevitably, proof that at least one village in England is missing one, Daimian Walter, with a sort ponderous inevitably attempts to make it the right wing’s fault that MZB’s daughter might be afraid of her mother’s fans… I daresay both wings and the center can attach some kind of godlike status to an author, but this author would have have had few fans on that side of the spectrum. The fans the daughter was afraid of… were feminists and homophiles.

Influential people – and authors are that, if they’re any good, and people who can further a writer’s career are huge shaping influences. I think MZB and Breen took full advantage of this, and the permissive side of the political spectrum they represented to so many. This number of victims they amassed takes almost constant grooming, constant search for fresh victims. It wasn’t Libertarians or Republicans who were the grateful literary proteges or the frequent attendees of the parties, with the drugs and orgies, the ones who turned a blind eye.

It’s these people who were part of the shaped, as were the children who were abused. I’d say those supporters and enablers at very least need to seriously evaluate both the writings that influenced them and the shape they have become. There has to be a taint there.

And of course, for the victims we must give our support and help, at least in dealing with that. It does seem to have long lasting damage, and come under unforgivable crime against them in my book.

As writers – and this is a writer’s site – we will be shapers, often merely by our inherent philosophies and attitudes. It’s been a balm to my soul this week to be reading Peter Grant’s War To The Knife (Laredo War Trilogy Book 1)
(which I highly recommend, reminiscent of L’Amour if he’d written Mil Sf, with clear-cut values and a similar level of honor) and dealing with an irascible old dance-teacher’s far sweeter legacy. The good ones just let you grow, give our minds food, give solid foundations, but that’s it. The ones who serve themselves in the guise of something else… they constrain and distort.

And all I want to do is tell stories of decent folk, and leave people feeling a little better about the world than when they started the book.

16 comments

  1. Dave, Peter was at Libertycon and I bought 3 of his trade paper backs at a con discount. If he had your Star Dogs in TB I would also have bought it! I’m not much on buying E-books. They don’t fit in well with my 6000 book SF/F library PB’s, TB’s and hardback books.

    1. Tom, Plans are underway to make sure paper copies of Dave’s books will be at LC next year. Sadly, unless a miracle happens, we won’t have Dave on hand to sign them.

      1. Tom, I am – in between other work, slowly getting the Trade paperback ready. I don’t think libertycon is on for a few years, but it is a goal. And I am a battler. I tend to get to my goals or die trying.

  2. As much as it pains me to leap to Damien’s defense, he doesn’t really blame the Right for this. I found his article very dull, with lots of obvious platitudes masquerading as wisdom, but it wasn’t his usual hate-fest, either.

  3. I saw someone try to claim that if the accusations were true, then the people talking about things now should have done something then.

    Greyland is a major source of information for this. She seems to have played an instrumental role in getting Breen jailed. She wasn’t doing nothing. At least some of what she said has been found correct by a court of law.

    Goldin is another source, he seems to have been actively doing something since he found out.

    The closest to the ‘knew and did nothing’ that still is a source of information is the newsletter by the guy who more or less said “I’ve come to believe that something ought to be done, but I’m afraid of liability and don’t want to be a square.”

    1. Yep, it would appear -to me anyway, that Greyland, Goldin, and Moen deserve great respect, and it appears that they surely did try to do something as soon asthey could. That hasn’t been what they’ve got. But there were many more victims than Greyland and Goldin’s son. Many more parents, and probably many more ‘I saw something but I didn’t want to be square/unpopular with a very powerful figure in fantasy publishing’. Those are the ones who should have done something then.

      1. Readig through the documents recreated at Goldin’s site (and I really would prefer he get the pdfs posted) yes, it appears they handled that as well as they could.

        The issues surrounding reactions to an assault of that nature – care/treatment of the victim, safety of others, respect for due process, possibility of errors and falsehoods, preventing future attacks and correcting/healing/rehabilitating/imprisoning the attacker – are so large as to not be able to be handled by any one (or three, or five) individuals. It is to be expected that there will be disagreements on how (or even *whether*) to address any particular point – f’zample, a person intent on protecting a victim might be very much against effective public prosecution of the accused attacker, and *for* an effective quiet homicide instead.

        Democracy is hard. We can not rely on someone else fixing the mess for us – everyone has to lend a hand. And we really don’t have the manpower to premptively turn down the efforts of others, even if we don’t entirely agree with the methods they would use. Loud long and noisy discussion and a fairly messy process are inevitable, I think.

  4. I feel sorry for the victims (OK, in truth I see the red curtain of wrath when I think about the victims) and the people who MZB helped with their careers through her anthologies and such, but who were never close enough to either MZB or the fans-in-the-know to have any idea what was going on, and who are now wondering if their own work is somehow tainted by (unknowing) association. Which may be one of the many good reasons for us in the SFF mob to police our own and not cover-up if we do stumble onto something vile, even if we agree with the creep’s politics or stance on [social issue].

    1. As I meant to say over at Hoyt’s, before life happened, this is part of why the guilty must be punished.

      Swift, impartial, efficient justice is not merely for the goal of preventing future victims, and encouraging potential future criminals to choose otherwise.

      When an outside party can sort through the chaos, and figure out who is and isn’t involved, there is much less ambiguity about what happened and who is culpable.

      This specific mess started fifty or sixty years ago. At least.

      I probably count as a fan of science fiction and fantasy. Between my age, the time I’ve spent living in what location, and the amount of contact I’ve had with fans, I’ve some ability to support my lack of involvement.

      There have been a lot of fans in fandom over that period of time. Many of them entirely unknown to me, and others whose character and actions I cannot testify to with certainty.

      Even if everyone were still alive, there has been enough time for recollections to develop issues.

      Practically speaking, we are going to look at this as individuals, the search through evidence will not be systemic, and few if any will be decisively cleared. This goes beyond fans, consider the Episcopal church in the Bay Area.

      If one would have an organization with a reputation that lasts and is unimpeachable, one must be very complete and rigorous in internal investigation.

      1. Sadly, as someone who reads my blog pointed out to me just today, it may be that merely being accused will be enough to crucify someone a man, especially if these feminists will get their way… and honestly, given how they react if someone doesn’t fall within the narratives they’ve set, I can seriously applaud Greyland her courage in stepping forward.

        http://legalinsurrection.com/2014/06/rape-culture-theory-ensnares-innocent-men/#more-90396

        Oh, and already, at least on campuses, Constitutional rights and legal representation apparently do not apply to men/ ‘accused rapists’. All that seems to be needed to declare guilt is an accusation, no need for burdens of proof.

        It already has federal backing and the changes happened just this year. They’re trying to make this into law.

        1. Do NOT get me started on the campus mess. I’ve been following it since the DoEd “Dear Colleague” letter a year and something ago, and it’s just gotten worse and worse. The website “Minding the Campus” is one of the best places for info. But you’d better have a strong stomach and blood pressure medicine at hand. I’m this close *fingers 1 cm apart* to starting to discourage boys from going to college unless they really, really know what they’re potentially getting into if they look sideways at a girl.

          1. I’m really hoping and praying that insanity doesn’t cross over here, but I’m starting to discuss with my husband how to train up our son how to avoid party scenes and avoid girls who think getting utterly sloshed is her right.

            On the more humorous front, I’m wondering if the Dad in a Reader’s Digest story I read about doesn’t have the correct idea. The story goes something like this:

            “I was queued up at the grocery waiting for my turn at the cashier. Just ahead of me is a father with his two young sons, my guess is six and eight years old or so. They’re surprisingly well behaved, just chatting to each other and their Dad as they wait their turn as well.

            The younger of the two asks his Dad if they can buy a packet of Skittles. The Dad replies: “No, because teenaged girls eat Skittles, and what are teenaged girls?”

            “Evil~!” the boys chorus.”

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