Carl Brandon Society Open Letter

Quite recently, something rather nasty happened to K. Tempest Bradford. On this blog, you know her as the angry black woman.

For various reasons, Harlan Ellison believed Tempest to have said some nasty things about her, so he wrote a publicly available letter which she discusses here. It contained the following paragraph (the “she” refers to Tempest):

She is apparently a Woman of Color (which REALLY makes me want to bee-atch-slap her, being the guy who discovered and encouraged one of the finest writers and Women of Color who ever lived, my friend, the recently-deceased Octavia Estelle Butler). And she plays that card endlessly, which is supposed to exorcise anyone suggesting she is a badmouth ignoramus, or even a NWA. Ooooh, did I say that?

Harlan later apologized to Tempest for this behavior, writing that:

Apparently, I received inadequate information, some of which I interpreted incorrectly, some of which was simply wrong.

Tempest accepted this apology. You can read his apology and her acceptance here.

I have no interest in dredging up the fight that caused these things to happen, and for all emotional intents and purposes the fight has been had and apologized for, and the apology accepted, said and done. However, this fight did happen in public, and I’m glad to see that the Carl Brandon society has written an open letter about it, outlining some guidelines that they hope science fiction and fantasy writers who are interested in opposing racism and sexism will bear in mind in the future.

The full text of the Carl Brandon society letter is here. Here’s an excerpt:

1) The use of racial slurs in public discourse is utterly unacceptable, whether as an insult, a provocation, or an attempt at humor. This includes both explicit use of slurs and referencing them via acronyms.

2) Any declaration of a marginalized identity in public is not a fit subject for mockery, contempt, or attack. Stating what, and who, you are is not “card playing.” It is a statement of pride. It is also a statement of fact that often must be made because it has bearing on discussions of race, gender, and social justice.

3) Expressing contempt for ongoing racial and gender discourse is unacceptable. Although particular discussions may become heated or unpleasant, discourse on racism and sexism is an essential part of antiracism and feminist activism and must be respected as such. There is no hard line between discourse and action in activism; contempt of the one too often leads to contempt of the whole.

I think these principles are abstractable to many contexts. Thanks to the Carl Brandon society for an intelligent response.

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5 Responses to Carl Brandon Society Open Letter

  1. 1
    Doc Washboard says:

    About twenty years ago, I wrote a snippy letter to Ellison complaining about something or other that he had written in a column. Within a couple of weeks, the letter had been returned by the USPS, stamped “Unsolicited Junk Mail.” On closer inspection, however, I saw that the envelope had been carefully slit open and just as carefully–almost invisibly–taped shut. When I pulled the letter out, I saw that Ellison had scrawled a reply at the bottom of the page which began with, “Dear Asshole,” and proceeded to rip me up one side and down another.

    The interesting thing about the interaction was that he had been able to get the USPS to foot the bill for his attack. I wonder whether this has always been a regular practice with him. He’s a charmer, to be sure.

  2. 2
    Angiportus says:

    That was an apology??
    The more I hear of Ellison’s antics, the less I want to meet him. There’s a fine line tween being a “character” who exposes/disrupts society’s shams/hypocrisies, and a jerk who just offends people who don’t need offending.

  3. 3
    Josh says:

    Doc Washboard–I wouldn’t be surprised. He boasts in an essay collected in The Essential Ellison about having gotten the post office to foot the bill for the dead gophers he mailed to a recalcitrant publisher.

    HJE treated me very kindly when I was a young fan of his work i 1983, and I believe that at one time his destructiveness was more than balanced by his generosity, overall. It seems more and more likely that this hasn’t been the case for a while.

    The CBS statement brilliantly articulates a bold stand in opposition to all kinds of trolls and thugs, including some of the uglier RaceFailures. Glad to see it.

  4. 4
    Katie says:

    What a repulsive man.

  5. 5
    RonF says:

    IIRC Harlan’s been guilty of “ready, fire, aim” before.