The Process

SFWA President John Scalzi has made another and more specific apology for the controversy over the most recent Bulletin. He defended Jean Rabe, editor of the Bulletin, and revealed the nature of his own pre-publication review.

I have said this before but it bears repeating: This is on me, and I accept both the responsibility and criticism for it. I have some read criticism of the Bulletin’s editor Jean Rabe, so I want to be clear that Ms. Rabe, in her role as editor of Bulletin, had my full support. She took over the Bulletin at a problematic time in the publication’s history, got it back onto a regular schedule and otherwise righted what was a foundering ship. When previous concerns about sexism regarding the Bulletin were aired, specifically the cover of issue #200, Ms. Rabe listened, understood and was responsive to them and solicited work relevant to the concern, in the hope of furthering discussion. She has always acted in good faith for the organization, and I have valued and continue to value her dedication.

As publisher, I was aware that there would be two articles in Bulletin #202 about the cover of issue #200, one by Jim C. Hines and one by Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg. I did not read Mr. Hines’ piece and glanced cursorily at the Resnick/Malzberg piece but did not give it a significant read; I do not as a matter of course closely read the Bulletin before it is published. It’s possible if I had more closely read the article I might have alerted Ms. Rabe to portions that might be an issue. She might then have had the opportunity to take those concerns back to Mr. Resnick and Mr. Malzberg, who I have no reason to believe would not have taken editorial direction.

This did not happen. I as publisher gave the go-ahead – and once again, the responsibility for the event, and the offense it caused, falls on me.

There are two reasons I wanted to quote from Scalzi’s post. First, it shows he exercised some actual review over the material before publication, and reports the casual inspection he made of the Resnick/Malzberg dialog. He had a more direct role than was generally known. His responsibility wasn’t simply that of a ship’s captain being held accountable for whatever the crew does on his watch. He’s supplied these details to make clear why “This is on me.”

Second, I wanted to comment on the speculation about what might have followed a more attentive pre-publication reading. I’m skeptical about the rosy vision of these authors taking “editorial direction.”   

This was a strongly-worded declaration by two men about their right to express themselves in the Bulletin in a manner that had already angered a number of members. A few editorial touches here and there were not going to keep the targets of the piece from noticing they’d been told off.

And any request for substantive changes almost certainly would have triggered another, different controversy. Whenever I’ve seen someone claim to be resisting censorship — or “thought control,” as Resnick put it — if asked to tone down his rhetoric, the person treats the request as another act of censorship.

2 thoughts on “The Process

  1. That was educational. There are an enormous number of comments from people who don’t understand that when someone says, “Ow, that hurts,” the best answer is not, “Don’t you dare infringe on my right to make you feel bad.”

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