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Last month, Drew Himmelstein published an article called Children’s Publishing Reckons with Sexual Harassment in Its Ranks. The conversation and discussion will be familiar to many. When I checked, there were 475 comments, many of which named and talked about known harassers in children’s publishing and elsewhere.
Last week, author Anne Ursu published the results of a survey she’d done, along with a great deal of discussion and analysis, in Sexual Harassment in the Children’s Book Industry.
We’ve had similar conversations in the SF/F genre, and we’re seeing it in society in general. Sexual harassment isn’t limited to any one region or profession. If you think your field is immune, you should probably brace yourself for an unpleasant reality check coming your way soon.
As always, there’s been backlash. People — mostly men, from what I’ve observed — protest that #MeToo is turning into a witch hunt. “We all want to support real victims and punish real harassers, but what about all the innocent people whose lives and reputations are being ruined?”
Others worry about due process and false accusations. (Pathetically, the most recent false accusations I’ve seen came from trolls who complained about how easy it is to make a false accusation, and tried to prove it by making false accusations. Which…WTF, dude?)
Then there’s that sense of overwhelming disbelief. “I know harassment happens, but it can’t possibly be this big a problem, can it?”
Yeah, it can.
Study after study shows that sexual harassment, particularly (but not exclusively) of women, is common. Millions of victims in the U.S. alone. And for so damned long, companies have swept these incidents under the rug and created ridiculous hoops to discourage victims from reporting.
These two factors — the frequency of harassment and the backlog of unreported or silenced incidences going back longer than we’ve been alive — explain why we’re now seeing so many people coming forward. We’re dealing with one hell of a backlog. It’s why we’re going to see a hell of a lot more of these stories, now that the dam is beginning to crack.
It is overwhelming, especially if you’ve had the luxury of not seeing it. As a guy, I’ve rarely been directly affected by sexual harassment. I had the ability to close my eyes and get on with my life. Not anymore. And that’s a good thing. It means everyone has to face the facts — facts we’ve known about from study after study after study.
This flood is what the data has been telling us all along.
What About False Accusations and Due Process?
Employers, conventions, and other organizations need to have good harassment policies in place, and they need to follow those policies.
An individual who chooses to speak out about being harassed is not a company. They aren’t the judicial system. They’re an individual who has every right to disclose what a predator did to them.
We know false accusations of sexual assault or domestic violence are rare — just like false accusations of other crimes. I’ve not found reliable research on false accusations of sexual harassment, specifically. But in general, hysteria over the idea of women destroying men’s lives with false accusations has drastically overshadowed the reality.
There’s a proven epidemic of sexual harassment. There is absolutely no evidence for an epidemic of false accusations.
Yes, it happens. We had the false accuser of Roy Moore last year who inadvertently proved how good the Washington Post was at investigating and substantiating such accusations. There’s a notorious SF/F troll who likes to accuse a bestselling author of being a rapist, based on the troll’s inability to understand satire. There’s the case of Jemma Beale, who was jailed for 10 years for making false accusations of rape. And one individual in the comments of the Himmelstein article has said they made up an accusation about two men. (As of 2/14 at 5 p.m., the admins have not verified this is the same commenter who made the accusation.)
It’s not that false accusations never happen. It’s that they’re rare. But time and again, the overblown hysteria over false accusations is used to derail and drown out discussion of the demonstrably real flood of sexual assault and harassment.
Does “Believe women” mean women never ever lie and there’s no such thing as a false accusation? Of course not. What it means is that if someone says they were sexually harassed, the odds are extremely good that they’re telling the truth. (And those odds increase exponentially when multiple victims come forward.)
If a sexual harassment case goes to human resources or the judicial system, there should be a process to be followed. (Preferably a process that doesn’t actively punish victims for reporting.) I haven’t seen anyone suggest otherwise.
I’m neither a business nor a court. And I believe the victims.
But That Person Has Always Been Cool Around Me!
It’s hard to see someone you know named as a harasser. I’ve been there. I felt the instinctive shock and denial. I automatically thought back to my own interactions with the person, and I couldn’t remember anything inappropriate.
I had a similar reaction when I learned a friend at the crisis center where I volunteered had embezzled roughly $13,000 from the organization. I couldn’t believe it. He’d always been a kind, friendly, generally awesome guy. I’d never seen anything to suggest he was a thief.
But maybe that was because he didn’t march around stealing money in front of me!
It’s the same damn thing with harassers. They’re not running around harassing everyone who crosses their path. Predators choose and isolate their targets. They test boundaries. They use guilt and manipulation, and they make you question yourself. They get their victims into a situation where they can harass them without witnesses.
They also build relationships with people who’ll vouch for them. They don’t just groom potential victims; they also groom potential character witnesses. Harassers and abusers can be incredibly charming. They can do genuinely good things in other areas. You might like and trust them.
But saying, “All of my interactions with Bob have been great!” does nothing to address the accusation that Bob sexually harassed people. All you’re doing is saying he didn’t sexually harass you. Which is great, but not really relevant.
Let’s see how that conversation would look in a different context.
It’s a little exaggerated, I know, but hopefully you get the point?
This Is Only the Beginning
Sexual harassment is built on generations of inequity. It’s been going on for centuries. It’s not going to go away overnight. This is a long-term, systemic problem, and it’s going to need long-term work to try to fix it.
I get how disheartening it is. I’ve hated seeing people I respected and admired outed as serial harassers or worse. (I’m still pissed and grieving over Bill Cosby.)
You know what I hate even more? That their behavior was allowed to continue for so long. That so many women and men suffered because the rest of us looked away or refused to listen. That the careers and lives of so many victims were derailed.
However painful it might be to me to read these stories, it’s nothing compared to the pain of everyone who lived them. However tired I might feel, it’s nothing compared to the exhaustion of those on the front lines, fighting — demanding to be heard. Demanding change.
It takes tremendous courage to speak out about being sexually harassed. The least the rest of us can do is find the courage to listen, and to accept the reality of a problem we might not want to face.
“Imprinted,” my Magic ex Libris novelette, has been out for about a month. This was something of an experiment — my first original self-published tie-in title. Thus far, I think the experiment has been going well. Reviews are pretty positive, and the first month’s sales have been good enough to make me think I should to this again.
I figured people would primarily buy the ebook, and the numbers bear that out with a total of 775 sales so far. But to my surprise and delight, 101 people opted for the print version. That’s much more than I expected, and tells me it’s worth taking the time to create a print edition to go with the ebook.
My only frustration on the print side was that CreateSpace couldn’t get me copies in time for me to take them to ConFusion.
Almost all of the sales have come from Amazon, which was pretty much what I expected. Here’s the breakdown on sales channels. (iBooks is bundled into the Smashwords sales.)
Total income, before taxes, is just over $1,800.
Back when I started this project, I was torn between pricing the ebook at $2.99 or $1.99. The big difference is in how royalties are calculated. Years ago, Amazon began offering 70% royalties if your ebook was priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Everyone else more or less followed suit.
What this means is that the current price of $2.99 earns me roughly two bucks per sale. Pricing the same ebook at $1.99 means the royalties drop to 35%, or roughly seventy cents per sale. In other words, cutting the price by 1/3 would cut my royalties by 2/3. A lot of people said they’d happily pay the higher price to support me. (THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!)
I decided I’d start with $2.99, and after a month or so, I’d drop the price to $1.99. I’ll be making that price cut early next week. So if you’re feeling generous and want to give me that larger royalty bump, you’ve got a few more days. If you prefer to save a buck — which I totally understand and respect — check back next week.
Here are the sales links:
This has been Five Minutes of Self-Publishing Business Navel-Gazing. (Not to be confused with Naval-Glazing.)
I’ve got too much to catch up on after a week of con crud, so I’m gonna try to make this quick.
Background: Camestros Felapton is the pseudonym of a blogger who’s criticized the Sad/Rabid Puppy movement and players. Several of the people he’s criticized have attempted to uncover his real identity. (I think it’s been established that Felapton is male, but I’m not sure.) Recently, several folks have proclaimed Camestros Felapton to be the husband of author Foz Meadows.
Lou Antonelli, who first published this theory and claimed three anonymous sources had given him the same evidence, acknowledged that the evidence could be coincidence (though he was doubtful). Meadows has pointed out various inconsistencies in the so-called proof.
I tried to talk to Antonelli about some of this. It went badly. I’ve also commented publicly, which is how I got to be part of Dave Freer’s latest blog post over at the Mad Genius Club.
The Fact-Checking: Freer’s claims are in quotes. My responses follow.
“Because I’m a Sun Tzu kind of guy, I’d worked out who this anonymous bow-fly was.”
Freer worked out who he thought Felapton is. There’s definitely some overlap. But if even Lou Antonelli is admitting it could be coincidence, then whatever you might have, it isn’t proof. It reminds me of the Sherlock Holmes quote about choosing facts to fit your theory instead of basing your theory upon the facts.
Fun fact: this isn’t the first time folks have announced the real identity of Camestros Felapton.
“Mean Girl Commissar Jim Hines – who never found a SJW pogrom bandwagon he didn’t eagerly try and join, has decided that I am to be isolated and swarmed.”
I’ve criticized Freer’s part in this, particularly one of his comments about the Meadows family. That’s totally a pogrom, right?
“Hinesy really had to dig for this piece to be outraged by – it’s way down in the comments…”
Minor point: Yes, it was way down in the comments. No, I did not have to dig for it. Someone had shared it on Twitter. People do talk to one another, you know.
Here’s the comment in question:
“Foz is very careful not to talk much about the fact that for a ‘gender-queer’ leading author – she’s quite vanilla, Married, sharing the same name, being supported by and moving with her husband. So: either she’s the Rachael Dolezal of ‘gender-queer’ or he’s a straight man who tolerates her less-than-traditional interpretation of marriage… or he’s also, shall we say ‘genderqueer’ and using marriage as front. As that is a very reminiscent description of the situation between MZB and Breen, if that is the case, there are very good reasons to not draw attention to it.”
One could do an entire blog post about all the messed-up assumptions and bigotry in this paragraph. But it’s that last sentence that jumped the hate-shark. If you’re unaware, Marion Zimmer Bradley and her husband, Walter Breen, are known child molesters.
Even Lou Antonelli, when I pointed out Freer’s comment to him, said it was “hateful and out of line.” (This is one of the reasons I tried to talk to Antonelli — because despite everything, I believed him to have a sense of decency.)
“And for the record I can find no statement by Commissar Hines denouncing the left wing feminist lesbian-bi MZB or Breen, or expressing any sympathy or support for their victims, so one has to ask: why does HE finds it suddenly so bad to have someone compared to them?”
Gosh, if only Google existed. I’ve spoken here and elsewhere about Bradley and Breen’s predatory actions, and about those who looked the other way. Freer couldn’t find any of these instances because, presumably, he didn’t look. As with Meadows, he made an assumption, and doesn’t appear interested in facts to the contrary.
“[Jim’s] books have become so SJW preaching that they’re more like long left-wing talking point sermons…”
You caught me. My latest book is nothing but thinly-disguised preaching. The poop jokes are clever metaphors for, I don’t know, the Trump campaign? And don’t forget Gromgimsidalgak, the alien who plays video games on the ship’s bridge viewscreen. Clearly Grom is symbolic of GamerGate’s harassment of women.
I mean, I’m glad Freer reads my stuff. At least, I’m assuming he’s actually read them and isn’t just making stuff up again with no facts or evidence. But his interpretation is right up there with the reviewer who compared The Stepsister Scheme to S&M pornography.
“I haven’t been to twitter for years –since I found out as social media channel it sells miniscule amounts for the author – something like 1 book per 10K followers — but someone sent me a message that he has been stirring desperately to try get a nice pogrom going. To get people to denounce me, people he assumes are ‘friends’. Lots of pointing and shrieking from the mean girl powers of Traditional sf on Twitter – the ones who don’t write much, and sell less, but have all day to spend on Twitter. And his attack and reverse center is… That I said what most people think.”
In my experience, he’s right about social media generally being a poor way to sell books. Some people make it work, but in general, if you’re social mediaing to sell books, you’re wasting your time, and would be better off writing the next book.
As for getting people to denounce him? No. Denounce his comparison of the Meadows to MZB and Breen? Yes. The distinction can be difficult, but I think it’s important. I don’t know Dave Freer. I do know that he’s written some careless and hateful stuff that’s hurting innocent people. And yes, I think that should be denounced.
As for saying what most people think? I could be wrong, but I don’t believe “most people” look at a couple like Foz and Toby Meadows and immediately think of notorious child molesters. Some people do, sure. Those people tend to be hateful, ignorant bigots.
All of these blogs have additional posts related to this mess, if you’d like to dig deeper. As for me? I’ve got snow to shovel and a book to write about space janitors, unexpected penguins, survivalist librarians, and poop jokes. (You know, more secret SJW propaganda.)
Comments are turned off, because I don’t have time for ’em right now. If there are any factual errors in my post, please let me know via my Contact Page. Thanks!
ConFusion last weekend was amazing and wonderful and energizing and inspiring, as always.
Sadly, it was also ConTagious. I don’t think I caught the full-blown flu like some folks did, but I definitely caught some sort of con-crud. So this week has been a little less productive than I’d hoped. Apologies if I owe you emails or responses and haven’t gotten to them yet. I’m currently prioritizing a couple of deadlines and trying to catch a little extra rest.
Got to see and hang out with some great people, but as always, there wasn’t time to see and catch up with everyone I’d hoped to spend time with.
Naturally, I spent some of the con running around taking pictures. I’ve posted those over on Facebook. I think that should be a public album that anyone can see.
And that’s about it for now. Stay healthy, my friends!
ConFusion is one of my favorite cons, and I try to make it every year. They’ve got a lot of great people running the con, and they bring in so many wonderful writers and fans. I’ll be attending again this coming weekend, and looking forward to seeing everyone.
I was hoping to have some print copies of “Imprinted” available, but despite having ordered them a week ago, CreateSpace is saying they probably won’t arrive until February. Grumble…
Anyway, here’s where you can catch me on official panel-type things. (They’ve got the full schedule on their website.)
Some of these panels should be amazing!
I hope to spend most of my free time hanging out and doing the social thing. Please don’t hesitate to say hi!