Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #44

Names and Legacies 

By Chris M. Barkley: If I had told you a month ago that legacies of three of the biggest names in the fantasy and sf community would come under scrutiny and that one in particular would have his name removed from two prestigious awards, you probably would have looked at me oddly and thought I was crazy.

Well now, welcome to Crazy Town.

I, on the other hand, would not have been surprised as much because of what had happened a year ago.

Tuesday, November 27 2018, was the BEST day of Linda Fairstein’s life. Well, you could say it was the LAST best day of her life because forty-eight hours later, it began to unravel.

Fairstein, an acclaimed and best-selling crime writer of many years, awoke that day to find out that her peers in the Mystery Writers of America had named her as a Grand Master, the highest award of their organization could bestow. She was being honored for her series of 20 novels featuring Alexandra Cooper, a sex crimes prosecutor.

When she found out, she took to Twitter, writing,“How is THIS news for a thrilling surprise. I am Mystery Writers of America 2019 GRANDMASTER…..I’m pinching myself.”

But, almost immediately, prominent crime writers, with novelist Attica Locke in the lead, were protesting the announcement. Locke explained vociferously that Fairstein was directly responsible for the false imprisonment of five innocent men. 

Linda Fairstein’s previous occupation was a district attorney for New York City. For nearly a quarter of a century she was the lead prosecutor of the Sex Crimes Unit in Manhattan. In that capacity she became a feminist icon for her tough stances on crime and advocacy for victims’ rights in court.

Unfortunately, she was also responsible for personally supervising the prosecution of the Central Park Five, a 1989 case in which a jogger was brutally beaten and raped. The five Latino and black male teenagers were arrested, questioned, tried and eventually convicted for the heinous crime. They all claimed that the confessions they signed were coerced and that they were innocent. In 2002, all of them were exonerated by DNA evidence, freed and were given a substantial financial settlement from the city.

So, when the MWA reversed themselves, they released the following statement:

“After profound reflection, the Board has decided that MWA cannot move forward with an award that lacks support of such a large percentage of our members. Therefore, the Board of Directors has decided to withdraw the Linda Fairstein Grand Master award. We realize that this action will be unsatisfactory to many. We apologize for any pain and disappointment this situation has caused.”

By this past June, Dutton, her current publisher, had dropped her and activists on social media outlets called on the public to boycott her books and anyone selling them.

Fairstein exacerbated her situation by not apologizing for what happened or at least admitting that our judicial system failed these young men miserably. But no; instead she doubled down and she stood by their original convictions despite the evidence to the contrary, and hinted that if they were not guilty of that offense, they were probably guilty of something else and absolutely deserved exactly what they got. When HBO’s drama about the Central Park Five, “When They See Us” was aired this past spring, it featured a less than flattering portrayal of Fairstein. 

When I heard about Linda Fairstein’s problems with the Mystery Writers of America, I got into an semi-argument with a bookselling friend about what should happen to her. He stated, unequivocally, that her actions in her life should have nothing to do with her work as a writer. 

And, In a fair and a just world, that would happen. But, as we have seen repeatedly over the advent of the internet and social media outlets, there are people out there who would vehemently oppose the most harmless and innocuous you could come up with, including kittens. knitting and lawn bowling. 

I told my friend back then that while it was more than likely that Linda Fairstein probably did deserve the MWA honor, people, her peers, critics, and the public at large and the tidal forces of social interaction she helped foment were going to deny her because of her past actions and her adamant defense of them. 

And the very same scenario has played out again, in high definition no less, in these past few weeks. 

When Jeannette Ng made her speech denouncing John W. Campbell, Jr. at the Hugo Award Ceremony three weeks ago, it set off a tsunami of arguments, retrospectives and reassessments of Campbell, the late Alice Sheldon (best known under her pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr), Amazing Stories founder Hugo Gernsback and other various literary luminaries of the past and present.

John W. Campbell, Jr.

By sheer coincidence, I discovered Campbell the editor in high school, several months after he died. My neighbor, Michaele, had a subscription and loaned me her copies of Analog, which were among the last he had edited. The stories were ok but what really caught my eye were the strangely cranky editorials, which made me curious enough to want to meet him. It was well enough that he had departed; had I gone back a few years and read of his 1968 endorsement of George Wallace for President, that would have been quite enlightening.

From 1937, for their first fifteen years or so, Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction magazine (and for the few years it existed, its fantasy counterpart, Unknown) were the biggest influences in sf literature and fandom at large.

But, along came Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas. And Horace Gold. Cele Goldsmith. Frederik Pohl. Ian and Betty Ballantine. Joseph and Edward Ferman. And Harlan Ellison.  And many other editors and publishers who followed in their footsteps. Like all good literary movements, sf diversified, became more inclusive and expanded.

 And Campbell himself? Not so much.

To be sure, he still was respected by authors and artists who produced for him. And don’t forget that he was the first to serialize Frank Herbert’s magnum opus, Dune, and, ironically, the very FIRST story by one James Tiptree, Jr (who is waiting on deck, so to speak).

But Campbell was estranged from a number of major authors such as Robert A. Heinlein, whom he had clashed with over ideological and political differences. 

When the two awards were established in his name two years after his death, John W. Campbell, Jr. was so well thought of and revered that there was no virtually opposition from any of the sponsors; Conde Nast Magazines (which later morphed into Dell Magazines) and the World Science Fiction Society (as the administrator) for the Best New Writer and the Memorial Award for Best Novel by late authors Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss. (The Gunn Center Conference of the University of Kansas formally took over the administration of the Campbell Memorial Award in 1978).

Harrison wrote this of the awards in 1977:

When John died it was a blow to all of us. After the memorial service a number of his writers were talking, and out of the talk came the Astounding anthology, what has been called the last issue of the Campbell magazine. It was a good tribute to a good editor. There is another tribute I think of just as highly, the award for the best SF novel of the year presented in his name and memory. An award I am sure he would have loved because it instantly became involved in controversy when the first prizes was presented. How John enjoyed a good argument and a good fight! That this fight sprawled through the letter columns of Analog for some months would have cheered him even more.

(For those among you who are intensely curious about that first recipient, the very first winner of the Memorial Award for Best Novel award was Beyond Apollo by Barry Malzberg, a book whose plot and themes probably would have turned his brain inside out. Don’t believe me? Check it out sometime.)

In the wake of the events of the past three weeks, Campbell’s grandson, John Campbell Hammond, has expressed some distress and disappointment over the removal of his name from the two awards. Others have been more pointed in their criticism, calling it a reactionary response of “political correctness” or “erasure”. 

Mr. Hammond may be saddened but at least he can be consoled by the voters of the 1944 Retro-Hugos, which held his grandfather in some high esteem because they awarded him in the Best Editor, Short Form category.

Here’s the thing; while he was a brilliant innovator in our branch of literature, there is also no doubt that his views on women and race were abominable. We can only speculate how much better things might have been if he hadn’t been such a person. Looking back, it is quite evident that the only thing holding up his reputation up for all these decades was white privilege, willful or unknowing ignorance and racism. 

And what’s happened to Campbell is not “erasure” but, as John Scalzi elegantly put it on his blog, a “reassessment”. And part of that process is a condemnation of your past actions.  

Alice Sheldon

Almost immediately in the wake of all of this, The Tiptree Motherboard, the administrators of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, were inundated by requests that they change the name of their award, citing that Alice Sheldon (the alias behind the Tiptree pseudonym) had committed the murder of her spouse, the ailing and terminally ill Huntington Sheldon, and then committed suicide.

Where I had no doubt that removing Campbell name was correct thing to do, I was equally adamant that Tiptree’s name should remain in place.

I am proud to state that I voted for Sheldon’s Hugo winning novella, “Houston, Houston, Do You Read,” on my very first Hugo Awards ballot back in 1977. At that time, no one knew “James Tiptree, Jr.” was other than a as a damn good writer. Upon first reading, I found her short fiction to be entertaining, intensely personal and incredibly enlightening. And I still do.

The bubble burst the very next year when, in her guise as Tiptree, slipped up and revealed to several of her correspondents that her mother had recently died. That led a few clever people to a Chicago newspaper obituary and directly her real identity.

Sheldon continued to write, as Tiptree and “Raccoona Sheldon” until her and her husband’s deaths in 1987. It was long rumored among her friends and family that she and “Ting” had made a long-standing murder/suicide pact if either became too ill for the other to care for. In her 2006 Hugo Award winning biography, The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, author Julie Phillips did not state conclusively that this was the case. Recently, Phillips wrote on Twitter:

“The question has come up whether Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr) and her husband Ting died by suicide or murder-suicide. I regret not saying clearly in the bio that those closest to the Sheldons all told me that they had a pact and that Ting’s health was failing.

Ting’s son Peter Sheldon also said there was a pact, and that Ting was declining. Alli probably wanted to die more than Ting did. But the pact didn’t have to do with his blindness or disability. He was going, and they chose to go out together.”

Recently on the Tiptree Motherboard, Phillips elaborated further:

“Ting didn’t leave a statement, but all Ting’s friends that I talked to plus his son Peter were unanimous that it was a pact, and that Ting’s health was failing when it happened. The only one who cast doubt on that was the lawyer who talked to her on the last night, James Boylan. He didn’t know either Ting or Alli very well, and I have doubts about how well he understood what was happening. I’m planning to write up what I know, because I left too much room for doubt when I wrote the book.”

I got into a very brief argument on the Tiptree Motherboard Twitter feed with a troll (with no previous history of posting) who stated unequivocally that Sheldon was nothing more than a common murderer.  I countered that while John W. Campbell was a serial offender in life, Alice Sheldon should not be condemned forever for one desperate and tragic choice.

Even moreso, the name “James Tiptree, Jr.” and the meaningful and influential fiction that was presented under that name has transcended the life of the author. I believe that the award cannot be what it is, a celebration of the exploration of sex and gender roles in fantastic fiction without that name attached to it.

On 2 September, the Tiptree Motherboard issued a lengthy statement covering the controversy and stated that a name change was not in the offing. Two days later they, issued the following clarification: 

 We’ve seen some people discussing this statement and saying we’re refusing to rename the award. Of course it’s easy to read what we’ve written in that way; our apologies. While this post focuses on the reasons why we have not immediately undertaken to rename the award, our thinking is ongoing and tentative, and we are listening carefully to the feedback we are receiving. We are open to possibilities and suggestions from members of our community as we discuss how best to move forward. You can contact us at [email protected].

So, at least for the foreseeable future, The James Tiptree Award will remain as it is.

Hugo Gernsback

Our last person of interest is Hugo Gernsback, an immigrant from Luxembourg who founded the 1926 magazine Amazing Stories, the very first publication completely devoted to publishing science fiction (which he originally dubbed “scientifiction”). Through it, he also created the “Science Fiction League”, a club whose members published letters in the magazine and corresponded with each other eventually met in person, thus creating the first wave of sf fandom and conventions. 

But before Amazing Stories, Gernsback was better known as a publisher of all sorts of other publications. He was notorious for not paying his contributors very much (or in some cases, not at all) and his business practices were seen by many at the time as very shady or outright fraudulent.

As author Barry Malzberg once wrote:

Gernsback’s venality and corruption, his sleaziness and his utter disregard for the financial rights of authors, have been well documented and discussed in critical and fan literature. That the founder of genre science fiction who gave his name to the field’s most prestigious award and who was the Guest of Honor at the 1952 Worldcon was pretty much a crook (and a contemptuous crook who stiffed his writers but paid himself $100K a year as President of Gernsback Publications) has been clearly established.

The very next year, the Science Fiction Achievement Awards were first given out at the11th Worldcon in Philadelphia. And despite his scurrilous reputation, people began to nickname this new award, “The Hugo”, after him! And I have no doubt that this just tickled his fancy up to his death at the age of 83 in 1967. The name became so universally used that by1992, it was officially codified into the Constitution of World Science Fiction Society.

I am amused that some people are showing some genuine outrage that the most prestigious award in sf is named after such a scoundrel. And not because I think it’s a bad idea. Oh no, on the contrary, this might be a GREAT idea whose time has come. 

All these pundits have to do is come up with a name to replace “Hugo Award”. Something that has a consensus of fandom behind it. A name that can be protected legally by the World Science Fiction Society. And…

A name that will have to endure at the very least, four or five years of committee studies and formal Business Meeting debates, amendments, substitutions and serpentine votes.

To those who wish to embark on this fool’s errand, I wish you all the luck on this Earth and all of its known (and unknown) alternate versions as well. 

In any event, fame and legacies are all fleeting and a fool’s deepest desire. All that really matters in life in the long run are your family, friends, memories and knowing that you tried to do the right thing and the best you can under the circumstances.

My advocacy of new categories for the Hugo Award will probably be my legacy. And I’m hoping for more. But It is my hope that my work will not stand and that others will study, deconstruct, demolish and build on the ashes of my efforts.

I hope a new Best Dramatic Presentation category is even more expansive and inclusive. The Editing category should formally include anthologies and author collections. Manga should definitely be included in the description of the Comics and Graphic Story category. And a Best Translated Novel award (or, at least a test of such a category) should be inevitable and welcomed, not feared.

If I had to single out one of the greatest moments in my life in fandom, I could tell you exactly when it happened, the night before the 2012 Hugo Awards Ceremony at Chicon 7.

My partner Juli and I were hanging out in the Hyatt Regency bar overlooking Michigan Avenue when we were approached by a woman and her partner. She said she sought me out to to thank me personally for working so hard to establish the Best Graphic Story category in which she was a nominee that year. I, in turn, congratulated her on the nomination and wished her the best of luck.

And the next day, Ursula Vernon won her first Hugo Award for her graphic omnibus, Digger. She did not thank me on stage. She didn’t have to because she already had.

It is always better to give than to receive. And I have always strived to create the possibility to give the highest award we have to the most deserving creators. And that is all I have ever wanted.

Or needed.

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22 thoughts on “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #44

  1. As an alternative, perhaps a BM motion to recommend the name of Hugo Gernsback to be retroactively changed to Greno Gashbuck? I’ll vote for a Hogu to Gashbuck.

  2. Chris, there are a few things that need to be corrected and added to your post in the section you devoted to Gernsback.

    Like so many – usually those who are attempting to excoriate the man – you quote Barry Malzberg who very similarly said in his own book Engines of the Night:

    “At the risk of aligning myself with Hugo Gernsback, a venal and small-minded magazine publisher whose reprehensible practices, long since detailed, were contemptible to his contributors, partners, and employees, –

    I think that he did us a great service and that were it not for Gernsback, science fiction as we understand it would not exist.

    the literature did not exist; before he gave it a medium of exclusivity, its dim antecedents were scattered through the range of popular and restricted writing without order, overlap, or sequence. It was the creation of a label and a medium which gave the genre its exclusivity and a place in which it could begin that dialogue, and it was the evolution of magazine science fiction — slowly over the first decade, more rapidly after the ascension of Campbell — that became synonymous with the evolution of the field.”

    More from Malzberg on the subject here on the Amazing Stories website, and more from me on the same subject on the same site here which primarily deals with the fact that quotes, partial quotes, quotes out of context and misquotes from and about Gernsback have been perpetuating for years and largely conspiring to paint a negative picture out of proportion to reality.
    According to one expert – Mike Ashley – it was a ‘thing’ to bash Gernsback, a task undertaken by no less than Damon Knight, James Blish, Brian Aldiss, Sam Lundwall and Darrell Schweitzer, whose opinions nearly convinced Ashley not to write his book The Gernsback Days. Fortunately Mike dug deeper and found that much of the criticism and contempt was ill-founded, distorted history or could arguably have had personal/political motivations behind them.
    Gary Westfahl also chose not to “believe the critics” and wrote up his factually based analysis in The Mechanics of Wonder: The Invention of the Idea of Science Fiction (which he forcefully credits to Gernsback).
    Beyond attempting to undermine his contributions on a literary basis (Aldiss, et al), others have attacked Gernsback on a financial basis: he didn’t pay, he paid less than full payment, he had to be sued to pay, he “paid upon lawsuit” (a ‘humorous’ take on “paid upon publication”).
    One such claim involves no less a literary figure than H. G. Wells who, it is claimed fought with Gernsback who was improperly reprinting stories in his magazines.
    Gernsback and Wells had come to an agreement – after a fair amount of letter writing – of a fixed fee for reprints of all of Wells’ extant work. Who knows why there was a tiff, but Ashley suggests miscommunication – that Wells was thinking “pounds” while Gernsback was writing “dollars”. Perhaps Herbert George had seller’s remorse when he saw how well the magazine was doing.
    Or take Donald Wollheim’s much storied law suit to recover payments owed him and other authors. (I have great respect for Donald and his contributions btw): but let us not forget that at the time this was happening, Donald was also fighting with all and sundry over “control” of science fiction fandom (thank goodness he was), including Gernsback, and it is quite possible that the lawsuit was in part motivated as an act of sabotage; or perhaps it was a relatively minor case of late payment that was allowed to be blown up into a bigger event for political expediency.
    If one reads the well researched and footnoted histories and biographies that are out there – as opposed to the more popular (and thus more widely read) opinion pieces published in many of the magazines (who would stand to benefit in some fashion or another by a diminishment of Gernsback’s shadow) – a very different picture emerges, one, owing to the many citations, quotes and footnotes – must be considered far more accurate and far closer to reality than the popular opinion some are continuing to promulgate now that “bashing” Gernsback is once again in vogue.
    Whether his present day critics and accusers go and read those histories is immaterial; any decision regarding the presence of his name on an award MUST be based in fact – and fact within its proper context – not on supposition, personal feelings or popular sentiment.
    Those facts strongly suggest that Gernsback is not guilty of racism, misogyny, antisemitism or murder and they suggest that he may have had some tiffs over money, a circumstance not out of character with being a magazine publisher in the early years of the 20th century. Arguments over dollars that may have been tied up with personalities and politics do not in any way rise to the same level of consideration as the known words and actions of Campbell and Sheldon.
    (In fact, the more his history and background is delved into, the more it appears that his reputation was attacked, at least in part, to help elevate Campbell’s reputation.)

  3. Chris, if you really want to protect your legacy you need to educate yourself more. Until last year Section 2.2 of the WSFS Constitution read:

    “World Science Fiction Society”, “WSFS”, “World Science Fiction Convention”, “Worldcon”, “NASFiC”, “Hugo Award”, the Hugo Award Logo, and the distinctive design of the Hugo Award Rocket are service marks of the World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated literary society.”

    It now reads

    “Every Worldcon and NASFIC Committee shall include a notice in each of its publications that clearly acknowledges the service marks of the Society. The Mark Protection Committee shall supply each Worldcon committee with the correct form of such notice.”

    The change is because it’s different in each country.

    The World Science Fiction Society Mark Protection Committee, which monitors for violations and shuts them down, reports back to the Business Meeting every year.

  4. I took it as written that the attacks on Tiptree and Gernsbeck were in bad faith; they were just from people trying to protest the removal of Campbell’s name. Does anyone seriously disagree with that?

    In general, I think we should focus on the works of authors, editors–artists in general–and pay little attention to their personal lives. Exceptions should be rare and only for behavior thought extreme even by their contemporaries.

  5. I appreciate this roundup of the recent controversies, I followed some of the Twitter discussions but that’s always like listening to snippets of conversation where you don’t usually see the start of finish.

    Two quick notes:

    1) When They See Us is a dramatization of the Central Park 5 story and it’s on Netflix, not HBO.

    There is also a Ken Burns doc called the Central Park Five, made in 2013. Can’t remember if it originally appeAred on Pbs or HBO but it’s currently available to stream thru Amazon, free have Prime. Both have been highly recommended. There’s also an Oprah-hosted follow-up discussion with the actual Five on Netflix that ties into the fictionalized series.

    2) I think the current calls to change/changes in awards can also be connected to the dropping of the Lovecraft caricature as the World Fantasy Award trophy and the renaming of the children’s kit award that used to be named after Laura Ingalls Wilder based on similar reassessment of their racist views. It all seems to be something of a piece, the overall theme of which is that you can’t seriously claim to welcome diverse authors when your awards are named for people who would have rejected or discriminated against them but those authors works are the standard of quality that authors should aspire to produce (or at least that’s the implied meaning).

  6. There may be some people calling for a change of name for the Tiptree award in bad faith, but all the people I have seen talking about it are good faith upset about the murder-suicide. Many are disabled people feeling very unsafe because of all the apologia they are hearing. There is some evidence that Alli and Ting had at least a vague agreement about going together, but a lot of evidence that he was not ready to go, and no evidence that he agreed that night. It doesn’t matter if I said ten years ago that I want to die with you; if you kill me tonight without asking, that’s still murder.

    The number of caretaker murders of disabled people are high, and the coverage is almost always sympathetic rather than outraged. This leaves vulnerable people feeling both unsafe and devalued, and the reactions to this discussion have not helped. I have come around completely to their point of view, and support changing the name of the award. I am regretful about it, because I have many fond feelings about the name, but I believe that it is important and that it’s time.

  7. Looking back, it is quite evident that the only thing holding up his reputation up for all these decades was white privilege, willful or unknowing ignorance and racism.

    This is … overstatement. His reputation was mixed even when I got active in fandom, thanks to (among others) Bester’s amusing story — but I think you would find on deeper research that old+white+male authors who found the later Campbell hard to stomach still acknowledged his role in their development as authors, and hence on the field of SF. I entirely agree that his name does not belong on an award for the best in new SF. However, I doubt that McComas, Boucher, or most of the other editors you cite would have found the SF of Gernsback or Tremaine worth their efforts; Campbell’s requirement for more-measured prose and some element of scientific plausibility are part of the evolution of SF, no matter how much he later dragged down his magazine.

    And as a side note (@Steve Davidson having noted other issues with a quote): given Malzberg’s massively negative views of almost everything, I don’t think he’s a trustworthy source for cutting someone down.

  8. I agree with Lenore Jones that some of the people rejecting the Tiptree award name were quite sincere, though I’m still uncertain about changing the name.

  9. I have found it amusing the number of people running around say holding different opinions than them is worse than murder.

  10. I don’t know who runs the James Tiptree Jr. Award, but I desperately want them to rename it “The Alice Sheldon Award”.

  11. Regarding Linda Fairstein, I was okay with withdrawing the MWA Grandmaster Award, though they probably shouldn’t have awarded it to her in the first place, since it wasn’t exactly news that Fairstein was a controversial figure. I have one foot in the crime/mystery/thriller genre and knew that Fairstein was controversial because of a few dodgy cases she was involved in during her time as a prosecutor. I also knew that there were quite a few people who didn’t like her and wouldn’t review her books.

    However, I take issue with Ms. Fairstein losing her publishing contract and people calling for booksellers to remove her books. And there is a difference between renaming and withdrawing awards and removing books from sale. Plenty of awful people have written books which are still on bookstore shelves. And note that books by H.P. Lovecraft, John W. Campbell, Hugo Gernsback, James Tiptree Jr, and Laura Ingalls Wilder are still available for purchase for everybody who wants them. Ms. Fairstein’s books should also be available to those who want to read them. Furthermore, “When They See Us”, the Netflix series which caused the backlash against her, is not a documentary, but a dramatisation of the 1989 rape case, which chooses to focus not on the rape victim or the rapist’s other victims (one of which he killed in front of her young children), but on the five young men who were (falsely, it turned out) accused. Director/showrunner Ava Du Vernay made her choice how to tell the story and that’s perfectly all right, but the series is one interpretation of what happened, not the one and only truth.

    Also I found it notable that both the backlash against Linda Fairstein as well as the calls to rename the Campbell and Tiptree Awards were often driven by people from whom these events were news. Because Campbell’s problematic views have been known for a long time, as was the murder/suicide of Alice and Huntington Sheldon and Hugo Gernsback’s attitude towards paying writers. Just as it was known that Linda Fairstein was involved in dodgy cases during her time as a prosecutor

  12. @Cora Buhlert: from what I’ve read, the “dramatisation” is a lot closer to the facts than anything Fairstein presented, either then or later. And why should it concentrate on the real rapist and what they did? (A crime, however horrific, is not ameliorated when an overeager prosecutor commits crimes against other people.) Fairstein has been riding high off the hog for a decade or more, and is unlikely ever to be brought to justice for deeds far worse than either Campbell or Wilder is known to have done; why should anyone continue to publish her, or any store add to her fat purse by selling her books?

  13. People already had the right not to buy Linda Fairstein’s books and in fact many did so, because there were quite a few people in the crime fiction world who never read or reviewed her, even though she is a popular author.

    I simply feel that those who want to buy and read her books should have the right to do so. Just as people who want to read e.g. Lovecraft’s books or even Mein Kampf can do so.

    Also, while what happened to the five young men was horrible, it’s far from the only miscarriage of justice in the US, let alone the worst. Innocent people have been exonerated after decades in prison. Some have even been saved from execution at the last possible second, while others subsequently proven to be innocent have been executed. Does anybody go after the prosecutors or judges in those cases? Not that I know of.

  14. @Cora Buhlert: Its arguable that if those judges and prosecutors DID suffer the same fate as those they falsely prosecuted, then they might take a bit more care with their standards of evidence. In any case, I have little patience for the “Relative Privation” logical fallacy- the mere presence of other injustices does not mean a given injustice shouldn’t be dealt with when brought to attention.

  15. It really is such a depressing fact that Linda Fairstein spent much of her career arguing against the belief that Women although not being guilty of encouraging their own sexual assault were none the less guilty of dressing provocatively, and then to turn around and use that belief against black and minority people saying that if they weren’t guilty of the rape then they were probably guilty of something is just despicable.
    @Cora i’m quite surprised to see you make the comments you did about Fairstein, five black and Latino men were falsely accused of rape and imprisoned because of their skin colour by a prosecutor Who still believes that they were responsible despite all evidence to the contrary, and unfortunately white feminists will defend her because she did some good things in the past.

  16. I don’t think any publisher should be forced to publish any author they don’t want to. Fairstein is just as capable as any other author who doesn’t have a publishing contract of self-publishing her works.

  17. @Cora Buhlert: a lot of cases of abusive judgments can be ascribed to a large net of circumstances, just as many airplane accidents (which I’ve been following, as a former private pilot) are the consequence of a long chain of often-minor errors. From what I’ve read of this case, Fairstein bears a large share of the blame for this misjudgment; since she still maintains her Trumpian claim that the men were guilty, ISTM that public shunning is appropriate.

    Prosecutorial discretion cuts rather close right now — I’ve been watching the fallout from the “Straight Pride” (aka “our superstitions justify our abuse of minorities”) parade here in Boston. Latest word is that a state Supreme Court judge has overruled a district judge who claimed the local prosecutor wasn’t allowed to dismiss disorderly-conduct (i.e., victimless) charges filed by overzealous police against people protesting the parade. In recent decades there have been many right-wing moves to limit the discretion of judges (e.g., the infamous three-strikes law); the rest of the political spectrum has been much less effective at constraining the discretion of prosecutors — who, being largely elected (where judges are largely appointed), have every motive to play to public paranoia.

    @ULTRAGOTHA: ISTM that would be an excellent way of testing whether her popularity with fans is affected by the publicity from a major publisher. One can also dream of Puppies blowing their money on her books, leaving them less to cause trouble elsewhere.

  18. @Chip Hitchcock: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that the judge had no authority to make the DA prosecute those cases. I for one am relieved, though not thrilled right now with either the police union (no surprise there) or Marty Walsh.

    Returning to the original topic, I do think Fairstein’s history as a prosecutor is relevant here, because she used it to promote her crime writing career.

    Also, I am going to shed no tears for someone merely losing a book contract, when she has publicly said that she doesn’t care that the black teenagers she railroaded weren’t guilty of the crime she prosecuted them for, because they had surely done something worth locking them up for.

  19. @Vicki Rosenzweig: are you sure the entire court has now ruled? I get the Globe major stories by email, and haven’t seen an update on yesterday’s news that a single SCOTCOM justice had slapped down the district judge (hence my phrasing); if the full court has backed the solo, that’s good news, but I wouldn’t expect them to move that quickly.

  20. @Chip — everything I read indicates that a single judge issued the ruling, and that was all that was necessary. The case is over now, and the full court won’t look at it.

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