- This is a living timeline. I will probably be editing and adding links to it as time goes on.
- This is an outsider’s perspective. I am not a member of SFWA.
- I have great respect for a large number of people in SFWA and for the organization itself. I’m doing this not to drag SFWA through the mud, as it were, but to provide a reference for people who are trying to figure out what’s going on—I’ve been involved in the discussion from the beginning, and I’m having trouble keeping track of the sequence of events.
- If people have corrections or additions to this timeline, or if you feel a link is of particular importance for me to include, please feel free to contact me.
The important people and organizations involved whom I shall mention below:
- SFWA is the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, the professional organization of SFF writers.
- Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg are professional SFF writers who had a regular column in the SFWA Bulletin, the official publication of SFWA.
- Jean Rabe was the editor of the SFWA Bulletin when this timeline begins.
- John Scalzi was the president of SFWA when this timeline starts. Steven Gould took over as president on July 1, 2013.
- Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day) is a member of SFWA who is well-known for extreme, dehumanizing views.
- N.K. Jemisin is a professional SFF writer and a woman of color (which becomes relevant later in this timeline).
- Laura Resnick is a pro SFF writer and is also Mike Resnick’s daughter (some of the links below reference her without context).
- David Truesdale is a well-known reviewer in the SFF community and a former member of SFWA, as well as a former editor of the SFWA Bulletin.
- Mary Robinette Kowal is a professional SFF author and the former vice president of SFWA.
Most other people mentioned are SFF writers, reviewers, bloggers, or other interested members of the community.
An Incomplete, Admittedly Biased Timeline
SFWA sends out Bulletin #200 to its members. The issue features this cover along with an article by Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg about “lady editors” (following a column in a previous issue about “lady writers”). The use of the word “lady” to distinguish “female writers/editors” from “writers/editors” bothers some folks, as does the column’s emphasis on the physical attributes of these literarily accomplished women, and there is a quiet rumbling of complaint about both the column and the cover. Most of the complaints I saw online were of the level of sighing and eye-rolling, and were not anonymous—at least, not the subset of them that I saw—which is important for later. Salient points:
- The later Internet blowup was not provoked by Resnick/Malzberg’s use of the term “lady.” I’m seeing a few rumblings of criticism saying that the (current) reaction is out of proportion to such a mild offense, but the current reaction is not in response to that column, and criticizing it as out of proportion to the “lady editors” sentiments is a mischaracterization of the debate.
- Here’s an excellent analysis of why the cover of that Bulletin is so problematic.
SFWA sends out Bulletin #201 to its members. The issue features a column by CJ Henderson espousing Barbie as a role model, as she is a “nice girl” who “maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should.”
- Again, there are complaints.
- The complaints, or at least the subset of them that I saw, are again not anonymous.
- The complaints are still relatively muted. The blogosphere has not blown up. Yet.
May 31, 2013
The content of SFWA Bulletin #202 hits the web. In it, Resnick and Malzberg spend the six pages of their column excoriating the people who criticized their previous column. They use phrases like “thought control” and “liberal fascists,” toss around accusations of censorship, and compare their detractors to Stalin and Mao. They also imply that their detractors are anonymous cowards. This is when the Internet throws a fucking shitfit.
- Here’s my response, with links to the full text of the article (credit Natalie Luhrs at Radish Reviews for posting the scans).
- The blogosphere blows up. Twitter blows up.
- People begin resigning from SFWA.
- Then-SFWA-President John Scalzi takes responsibility and invites criticism.
- It’s pointed out that the people complaining are very much not anonymous, contrary to the claims in the column. (This is Jim Hines’ link roundup of a large segment of the protest, same as the link above. Too many to link here.)
- It’s pointed out several places that Resnick and Malzberg are paid (indirectly through SFWA dues) to write the column. Many people wonder where the editorial oversight fell down.
June 1, 2013
SFWA announces an official task force to figure out what to do. The blogosphere continues to blow up.
June 2, 2013
The explosion in the blogosphere has become epic (again, see Jim Hines’ post for links). John Scalzi takes full responsibility for the offensive material in the Bulletin and apologizes.
- In Scalzi’s apology, he admits that he only glanced at the column and did not read it in its entirety before approving it for publication.
- Most people take Scalzi’s apology in good faith, considering his track record of being a good guy. He does receive criticism from some corners for his diplomatic wording.
- Women who blog about their anger start getting hate mail, including death and rape threats.
- The discussion starts to widen to sexism in the SFF community in general, and the dismissal, objectification, and harassment women in the field still face.
- It’s pointed out multiple places that SFWA does have a pre-existing policy on sexual harassment in all of its official spaces.
- There is no call (that I saw) to expel Resnick from SFWA (Malzberg is not a member).
June 5, 2013
Jean Rabe, the editor of the Bulletin, resigns. Elsewhere, the explosion across social media is dying down. People are still angry, but many appear to be adopting a “wait and see” attitude toward what the task force decides.
June 8, 2013
Author N.K. Jemisin gives the Guest of Honor speech at the convention Continuum in Australia. In it, she mentions the recent problems with sexism in SFWA chronicled above, and also references the (losing) bid of Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day) for SFWA President. Beale is well-known for his dehumanizing views concerning women and people of color, and Jemisin laments that he got even 10 percent of the votes cast in the SFWA election (held earlier in the year).
June 13, 2013
Theodore Beale responds to Jemisin’s GOH speech on his blog using appallingly racist and threatening language. He promotes his blog post through the @SFWAAuthors Twitter feed. The tweet is removed promptly as a violation of the rules of the feed. Amal El-Mohtar calls for the expulsion of Theodore Beale from SFWA for the misuse of an SFWA platform.
- There’s a new explosion in the blogosphere. Many, many people echo El-Mohtar’s call. Since this incident also involves an SFWA platform, it ends up continuing the debate regarding the Bulletin about discourse in SFWA spaces and what boundaries SFWA should put on those spaces.
- People not in SFWA say if Beale is not expelled, it will color their opinion of the organization and its accolades.
- Much distinction is made between authors’ personal views and the opinions that get disseminated with some level of SFWA sanction or in SFWA spaces (the Bulletin, the Twitter feed, the forums).
On this day, SFWA also announces a plan for going forward with the Bulletin. It’s somewhat overshadowed by the Beale controversy.
June 16, 2013
Bryan Thomas Schmidt writes a “call for civility” (link goes to a saved version) which boils down to him telling the people protesting that they’re too angry and should be nicer in discourse. This infuriates people anew (including me). His sentiments are echoed in a few other corners of the SFF community, to the great frustration of the people trying to call for change.
June 18, 2013
John Scalzi posts an official statement assuring SFWA members that the Board is considering their concerns (regarding Beale, presumably, though he is not mentioned by name in the statement). Speculation abounds that a decision will end up coming from the new Board, which is set to take office July 1.
June 20, 2013
News hits Twitter of a promotion for a book perceived by some to be racist on the main @SFWA Twitter feed (the author has clarified what happened in comments). The book is by an SFWA author not previously involved in the controversy. People call for the tweet to be removed and the Twitter feeds to be moderated. The tweet is removed pending a review and eventually released on the @SFWAAuthors Twitter feed instead, where it is found not to violate the rules. (Corrected 7/3/13 thanks to private correspondence, further clarified after the author’s response in comments.)
June 24, 2013
More salient, thanks to Natalie Luhrs at Radish Reviews and her epic link collections, the following come to light:
- Mike Resnick commented on Theodore Beale’s blog on June 22 and basically doubled down. Beale referenced his comment on June 23 (screencap) with more of his trademark commentary.
- Posts from a public newsgroup reveal that Resnick and Jean Rabe were warned in advance that the the column in Bulleten #202 would blow up the community and that people would “want their (Mike’s and Barry’s) heads on a platter.” Former editor Jean Rabe posts to that same newsgroup, obliquely giving her opinion of the whole issue and implying she will be leaving SFWA over it.
June 28, 2013
Author Elise Matthesen details how she formally reported Tor editor James Frenkel for sexual harassment at WisCon. Matthesen’s detailed report of the process is disseminated widely, and sparks further discussion on the sexism and harassment faced by women in the SFF community, particularly in the context of the previous month.
July 1, 2013
An anonymous tumblr starts posting excerpts from a private forum that features some SFWA members using sickening language to attack some of the people protesting about the sexism and racism. Only a few SFF pros are involved, but some of the statements made are appalling.
SFWA announces a survey will be forthcoming to members inquiring as to what they want out of the Bulletin going forward.
The new SFWA Board takes office, with Steven Gould as president.
July 2, 2013
July 3, 2013
The anonymous tumblr (referenced July 1) announces a DMCA notice has been filed against it. Across social media, the conversation about the tumblr has two main areas of discourse: one regarding the revelations of what was said, and the other regarding the breach of confidentiality. Some SFWA members wonder about the sff.net forum outed by the tumblr (which is not the main SFWA forum) and whether it is in practice open to all SFWA members, whether it is subject to SFWA moderation, and whether it is paid for by SFWA dues.
Former SFWA VP Mary Robinette Kowal posts Dear Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA, Please Shut the Fuck Up. The post spreads like wildfire and the slang of “weasels” for the people making the abusive statements quickly catches on.
July 4, 2013
SFWA announces an update on the Bulletin task force.
Theodore Beale reprints an email from the SFWA Board on his blog; the email is informing him about the first steps the Board is taking on the complaints against him. He posts a follow-up on it the next day, including further communications from the Board. (Links go to screencaps.)
July 9, 2013
In light of Beale publicizing on his blog pieces of the confidential SFWA investigation into him, SFWA makes an announcement reassuring members that no names were shared with Beale and nor was any other information from a complaint shared without obtaining that member’s permission.
July 11, 2013
Tor senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden announces on Twitter that James Frenkel is no longer working for Tor. It is not made known whether this is related to Matthesen’s formal sexual harassment report.
August 14, 2013
Theodore Beale announces on his blog that SFWA has expelled him. He includes a copy of the notice. (screenshot)
SFWA makes an official announcement about the expulsion (it does not reference Theodore Beale by name, but confirms a member has been expelled).
Trisha Lynn is sent a DMCA notice from SFWA for posting scans of the Resnick/Malzberg articles online for criticism and commentary purposes. It turns out the takedown notice was sent in error, but there are still copyright concerns expressed. In the end the issue is resolved to the satisfaction of all parties by the articles being excerpted instead of reproduced in full.
December 13, 2013
SFWA advertises for the position of Editor-in-Chief for the new Bulletin. Among many, many other duties, it mentions that the Editor-in-Chief will review cover art, look to solicit articles within the “vision of the Bulletin,” and work with the board and volunteers during a proofing and review process for each issue.
End of January – Beginning of February 2014
David Truesdale (who is not currently a member of SFWA) begins circulating a petition calling SFWA’s decisions regarding stronger editorial standards of the Bulletin “censorship.” His original draft of the petition uses inflammatory racist and sexist language, including a comparison of SFWA’s editorial decisions to the enforced cotton-picking of slaves, and is signed by Gregory Benford, Robert Silverberg, Barry Malzberg (also not an SFWA member), and Mike Resnick. A revised, slightly less inflammatory version is released shortly thereafter. See links to both versions at Radish Reviews in their entirety, including the signatories as of 2/10/12. (credit Natalie Luhrs)
February 11, 2014
SFWA posts a statement reassuring members that the fearmongering (my word, not SFWA’s) in Truesdale’s petition is “express[ing] concerns for something that does not and will not exist.”
February 15, 2014
The same public sff.net newsgroup that has previously played a part has been active regarding the controversy re-stirred by the petition, and among other aspects of the controversy the voices there are reported on in an uncomplimentary fashion by The Daily Dot.
One of the people quoted is Sean Fodera, who works in the contracts department for Macmillan (which owns Tor, which publishes both Mary Robinette Kowal and John Scalzi). The posts he made on sff.net refer to former SFWA VP and Hugo-award-winning author Mary Robinette Kowal as an “unperson” and slam her for her style of dress at awards shows (“tight-fitting gowns and plunging necklines”) and in some photos on her website (“For a long time, her website featured an array of photos of her in a diaphanous white outfit, posing on a beach [...] they were not innocuous writer headshots [...] recumbent on the sand with legs exposed [...]“).
(Not that it should matter, but here are some pictures of Mary Robinette Kowal at awards shows, and here are the pictures of her in the “diaphanous white outfit” on the beach. Setting aside for a moment how wrong it is on every level to attack a female author on her mode of dress, there is no metric by which the way Ms. Kowal dresses is inappropriate or unprofessional.)
February 16, 2014
Sean Fodera threatens to sue both The Daily Dot and everyone who linked to the article. Predictably, this causes the article to spread even further.
February 17, 2014
Mary Robinette Kowal posts “Me, a Useful Representative Example” about the constant abuse against women in the SFF field.
February 18, 2014
Former SFWA president John Scalzi posts “Join the Insect Army” (art by Ursula Vernon). References to “John and Mary’s Insect Army” spread across social media.
February 19, 2014
Natalie Luhrs of Radish Reviews, who had been a key voice and a tireless breaker of news throughout the prior year’s and the current controversies, posts “Fallout,” a reminder that the whole picture is much larger than the individual examples that are happening and that the silencing of women is happening all over.
February 20, 2014
February 27, 2014
SFWA announces the return of the Bulletin.
This timeline was last updated on February 27, 2014. This timeline was last edited on February 27, 2014.
Jenett on Dreamwidth collected a very extensive link roundup of all the responses to Elise Matthesen’s convention sexual harassment report.
The indefatigable Natalie Luhrs at Radish Reviews has been doing continuing link roundups throughout, which provide a more detailed commentary on events. Her posts so far include:
- Linkspam, 5/31/13 Edition
- Further Thoughts on SFWA (with links)
- Linkspam, 6/7/13 Edition
- This Week in Racist Bullshit
- Linkspam, 6/14/13 Edition
- How Not to Have a Conversation: A Case Study
- Linkspam, 6/21/13 Edition
- Update on the Recent Unpleasantness
- Linkspam, 6/28/13 Edition
- Harassment and the Back Channel
- Linkspam, 7/5/13 Edition – Part 2
- Linkspam, 7/13/13 Edition
- Oh Dear: SFWA Bulletin Petition (also linked above)
- Fallout (also linked above)
- An Apology Is Made
My own posts on the subject so far are:
- Dear Mike Resnick, Barry Malzberg, and the SFWA for Giving You a Platform: Fuck You.
- More on SFWA and the Bulletin
- Final Thoughts on the SFWA Thing, and Additional Linkspam (Final? If only . . .)
- More SFWA Stuff
- SFF Community, Please Make It So I Can Stop Blogging Angrily About You.
- This timeline
- The Tiresome Fringe of SFWA: the Gift That Keeps On Giving
- Can We Please Not Rewrite History, Folks? (More on the SFWA Petition, and Links.)
Once again, please feel free to send corrections, additions, or salient links my way.