You are viewing scendan

The Goblin's Gobbledegook - Connie Willis, Harlan Ellison, and the Inside Scoop
Links
My Websites
My Frodo costume site! Now, with Orc Armor! / My Science Illustration Portfolio. Dinosaurs, ho!
Costuming Groups I'm In
The One Ring Circus
/ Side by Side (San Diego Comic-Con 2004)
Pirates!
Tales of the Seven Seas Pirate Reenactors! / Talk Like a Pirate Day! Random
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
October 2012
 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
 
 
 
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 12:29 pm
Connie Willis, Harlan Ellison, and the Inside Scoop

Here’s the thing.  When Harlan Ellison took it upon himself to grab the spotlight at the Hugo Awards by grabbing the breast of the Guest of Honor, Connie Willis, it wasn’t funny.  Nor was it clever.  Nor was it satirical.  Nor was it a joke between friends.  And, just be clear, it was NOT part of a scripted routine.  Yes, the shtick between her and Robert Silverberg was a planned routine to make the evening amusing for the audience, but Harlan's actions were unplanned and unwanted.  It was a power-play.  It was demeaning.  It was sexual harassment enacted in a public environment.  It was reprehensible.

 

How do I know this?  Let me just say, I have an inside line.

 

No, really, I do.  This is quite likely the only time in my life I’ll be able to claim an inside line on ANYTHING.  But this time, I do.  Because I know an immediate member of the Willis family—Connie’s daughter—who was there during the Hugos.  And let me tell you, from what I heard from her, Connie Willis is pissed.  And rightfully so.

 

I've read a fair amount of speculation on what Connie Willis actually thought about what happened.  People have debated the deep inner meaning of commentary she made at a panel after the event.  People have pondered whether she and Harlan are, or were, actually good friends.  This is natural.  In some cases, this speculation tipped into the realm of victim-blaming, but not in all.

 

(And as a parenthetical note about victim-blaming, I want to be clear on something.  Connie Willis is under no obligation to do anything in this situation.  She was the one who was assaulted.  She deserves the support of others, not requirements by others.  She is under no obligation to remain silent, nor to speak out, nor to file a police report, nor to do anything else.  Let me state this again – she was the person who suffered the insult.  She has the right to decide what to do about it.  The person who should be expected to do something is Mr. Ellison, and that something is to make sincere amends.  In my opinion, and the opinion of others, that hasn’t happened.)

 

But back to the speculation about how Connie Willis might feel about all this. 

 

Harlan Ellison claimed, on his website, to have left an apology in a voice message for Connie Willis.  From what I understand from her daughter, the message could only loosely be construed by a chimpanzee whacked on smack as an apology.  And, in fact, I’m beginning to wonder if “chimpanzee whacked on smack” might not be a reasonably good description of Mr. Ellison himself.  Under the circumstances, I doubt it would come as a surprise to anyone to know Connie Willis isn't exactly happy.

 

Is this hearsay on my part?  You betcha.  But it’s hearsay via the Willis family, with my phrasing wrapped around it.  Any inaccuracies involved are my responsibility, inadvertent, and will be corrected if I find I’m factually wrong on any count.

 

So, look folks, here’s the situation:  Harlan Ellison behaved like a predator.  He assaulted Connie Willis in public, in a fashion designed to be humiliating, in a manner that demeaned her, and in a way that was NOT part of the evening’s script.  He grabbed her breast in front of a crowd – and with that intentional grab, he stated to everyone looking: 

Hey, everybody!  Connie Willis may think she’s an honored guest.  She may think she’s an acclaimed author.  She may think she’s in charge of this ceremony.  She may think we’re friends and I respect her.  But you know what?  She’s my bitch if I want her to be.  She’s my prop.  Her breast?  It’s my breast.  Her event?  It’s mine to disrupt.  Her talent?  It’s mine to denigrate.  Her gender?  It’s my weapon and I can use it to pump myself up at her expense.

 

I am Harlan.  I am male.  I must be the center of attention.  Hear me roar.

 

Like a rapist who uses the sexual act as a means to express power and control over someone else (usually female), he used a sexual gesture to express power and control over an esteemed author, a mother, a friend, and an honored guest of the convention.

 

Later, when taken to task, he posted on his own website.  He made an encouraging start, I will admit.  Here's a direct cut and paste quote: “iT IS UNCONSCIONABLE FOR A MAN TO GRAB A WOMAN'S BREAST WITHOUT HER EXPLICIT PERMISSION. To do otherwise is to go 'way over the line in terms of invasion of someone's personal space. It is crude behavior at best, and actionable behavior at worst… For me to grab Connie's breast is in excusable, indefensible, gauche, and properly offensive to any observers or those who heard of it later.”  Good for him.  He added, “"I am 100% guilty as charged, and NO ONE should attempt to cobble up mitigating excuses for my behavior."  

 

Yep, that went pretty well.  Until he torpedoed it by then signing off and defining his behavior as “puckish.”  Puckish?  Mr. Ellison, combining “puckishness” with your apology makes your apology meaningless.  You were not puckish.  You were not playful.  If you were a lesser writer, I’d say that you just phrased things badly.  But you’re not a lesser writer.  You’re a brilliant one.  To imply that your behavior was somehow winsome or cute is the tactic of an abusive husband who, when confronted by the target of his abuse, says, “Well, Jesus, woman.  It was just a joke.  Don’t take it so seriously.  Don’t you have a sense of humor?”  Believe me, working at a women's shelter and as a women's self-defense instructor, I hear these sorts of minimalizing tactics all too often.

 

It was not a joke.  It was a power play.  It was abusive.  It was rude.  It was absolutely unacceptable in civilized society.  You can’t apologize and minimize at the same time.  If you think that your 70+ year reputation as a bad boy will excuse you, that you can say you’re sorry while wearing a shit-eating smile and winking at your fan base, you are wrong.

 

Dead wrong.

 

We will not wink back.  We will not be charmed by your shit-eating smile.  We will not nod and say, “Oh, that Harlan.  He’s so puckish!”

 

You stepped over the line.  You treated an esteemed colleague like an object, you assaulted her onstage.  And in doing so, you not only demeaned her, you diminished yourself.  You made yourself a dinosaur, a Neanderthal, an atavistic throwback, and a caricature of your worst traits.  You made a good start at a public apology, then dug a hole right under it and collapsed it down upon itself.

 

Not funny, Mr. Ellison.  Please take your puckish tag-line, re-evaluate, and try again.  I would like to respect you once more.  I think a lot of us would.  Including your friend, Connie Willis, and her family.


Tags: ,
Current Mood: disappointed disappointed

138CommentReplyShare

kelbebop
kelbebop
Vodka Stinger
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 07:51 pm (UTC)

I wish I were as eloquent as you. Here you've said pretty much everything I've been thinking about the whole Harlan debacle, but much better than I ever could have!

May I have your permission to link this in my own LJ and point others here?


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 07:53 pm (UTC)

Absolutely, please do. :)


ReplyThread Parent
caramida
caramida
Brick (DBA Brian)
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 08:15 pm (UTC)

Well writ. Thank you.


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 08:17 pm (UTC)

No problem. Rants, my specialty.


ReplyThread Parent
kelly_yoyo
kelly_yoyo
Take your best shot, savage gypsy lover
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 08:40 pm (UTC)

Well said indeed.


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 09:06 pm (UTC)

Thank you. I hope that people continue to call him on this until he does genuinely, and without caveats, apologize to Ms. Willis.


ReplyThread Parent
frodobaggins252
frodobaggins252
A Simple Hobbit of the Shire
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 09:09 pm (UTC)

It was not a joke. It was a power play. It was abusive. It was rude. It was absolutely unacceptable in civilized society.

This, put quite concisely, IS Harlan Ellison. Pure and simple. I've dealt with him more times than I can to think, and he is unerringly boorish and downright offensive, period.

Why is it so many note male sf writers act in such a manner when their works prove that they are intelligent people? I've also had the pleasure (not) of handling Issac Asimov -- I was assigned as his handler/escort/ go-fer during a visit and appearance he had at the first college I attended. After enduring several gropes/brushes against/feel ups, I ended up explaining to him in no uncertain terms that, should he touch my body in ANY way one more time, not only would I scream at the top of my considerable lung power, his attorneys would be hearing from my attorney about a massive civil suit wherein I would end up owning ALL of his copyrights/royalties ad infinitum and in perpetuity, AND we wouldn't even begin to discuss the criminal assault and statutory rape of a minor charges that would give the press a field day. UGH!!! I stopped reading any of his works at that point and never will ever again.

On the other hand, I've also worked with folks such as Hal Clement, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ray Bradbury and was always delighted to be in their company -- and I even have enjoyed the company of Jack Chalker and Peter David, although I find some of their humor in person questionable.

Ah well -- you're hope people had more common sense than to misbehave in such a horrendous manner, but **shrug** it seems this is often not the case .


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 09:17 pm (UTC)

That's very interesting, and a bummer, regarding Asimov.

This, put quite concisely, IS Harlan Ellison. Pure and simple. I've dealt with him more times than I can to think, and he is unerringly boorish and downright offensive, period.

Unfortunately, for a lot of people, it seems that familiarity with this behavior breeds...if not complacency, then grudging acceptance. A sort of communal sigh of, "Oh, that's just Harlan, the pig." And that's a pity, because it means he's set the bar for his behavior so low, he can get away with almost anything instead of being called on it. (I am not saying you're doing this, by the way.)


ReplyThread Parent Expand

































weetanya
weetanya
Gradbot
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 09:14 pm (UTC)


ellison: *grabs* haha
willis: *decks* haha


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 09:18 pm (UTC)

Except Connie didn't deck him, judging (as far as I can tell, and rightly) that to do anything up there on the stage really played into his hands and also would have derailed and soured the rest of the Hugos, making it about that incident and not about the writers being honored. What a nasty place to be stuck.


ReplyThread Parent Expand













fionnbharro
fionnbharro
Fionn the Tetrapyloctomete
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 09:25 pm (UTC)

I've done some checking-around... from what I heard (albiet second- and third-hand), it was all a mistake.

Are we sure it was intentional? It seems to me that an 'on purpose' breast-grab in a stage in front of hundreds is kind of ... unthinkable.


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 09:28 pm (UTC)

Well, for one, Harlan himself said it was reprehensible and unacceptable and that he deserved the dressing down he got (that part of the apology I am impressed by...if only he hadn't torpedoed it). Secondly, it was not scripted...it was something he did on his own, unexpectedly.

So, no, while you're being a nice human being to give him the benefit of the doubt on this and I applaud you for it, I'm afraid it seems pretty clear that he did, in fact, misbehave and it wasn't a case of "Oops, my hand slipped and I just accidentally grabbed your breast in front of an assembled public."


ReplyThread Parent Expand








































blackbird_song
blackbird_song
Blackbird Song
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 10:36 pm (UTC)

I'm here via Kel's link. I had not been aware of Ellison's assault during the Hugos until I read this, so all that I can say is that this is a brilliant post on a disgusting subject. Thank you for writing it, and for making it public for all to see. It should really be published in a wider forum as the definitive writing on exactly what is wrong with this sort of behavior.

Well done. I'm only sorry that any such post was ever necessary.

Catherine


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 10:41 pm (UTC)

Thank you. Feel free to cross-post if you can think of an appropriate venue. And...hi! :)


ReplyThread Parent
howeird
howeird
Mister Eclectic
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 11:14 pm (UTC)

Nice rant. You're beautiful when you're angry.

Puckish, indeed. I suppose one could say that in his statement he went and pucked himself. But I won't.


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Wed, Aug. 30th, 2006 11:20 pm (UTC)

LMAO!

Ok, that pun definitely got me!!!! Good thing I wasn't drinking anything when I read it.

Rants R Us.


ReplyThread Parent
garfeimao
garfeimao
garfeimao
Thu, Aug. 31st, 2006 01:28 pm (UTC)

To say I was shocked at the event is an understatement. I believe she handled it well onstage and that's about as much as I'd like to say on the subject. He, on the other hand, was a boar the entire evening.


ReplyThread
awelkin
awelkin
A. Welkin
Thu, Aug. 31st, 2006 02:20 pm (UTC)

My husband, Bryon, who is an enlightened sort of chap, called Mr. Ellison a tree weasel last night upon hearing about the episode for the first time.

Tree weasel is in no way to be confused with puckish. It's one of Bryon's most perjorative insults. It means basically "person who tries to pretend he meant one thing when he really meant another."

I believe it fits.

Catherine


ReplyThread
sistercoyote
sistercoyote
Missing Left Sock Beast
Thu, Aug. 31st, 2006 02:25 pm (UTC)

I love the expression "tree weasel" and would like to steal it for future use of my own if I may.


ReplyThread Parent Expand

nike_victory
nike_victory
Nike
Thu, Aug. 31st, 2006 08:00 pm (UTC)

I'm just now hearing about this so I'm replying rather late, I know, but I'm pretty certain you're right - or at least, very close - about Connie's feelings on the matter, especially since I know for a fact that she wasn't looking forward to a SF cruise a year or so ago because it meant being stuck on a boat with Harlan Ellison. She's a sweetheart, but she's never hidden, at least from me, any dislike she feels for Ellison - and he's apparently given her plenty to dislike about him.


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Thu, Aug. 31st, 2006 09:31 pm (UTC)

Interesting. As I'd not heard about any of that from Connie's daughter, I can't comment on it. I tried to leave what I wrote about to what I'd actually learned - and a fair amount of ranting on my own part, I must admit. :)

Thanks for coming by!


ReplyThread Parent Expand











lavendertook
lavendertook
Lavender Took
Thu, Aug. 31st, 2006 08:03 pm (UTC)

Thank you. Really well said.


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Thu, Aug. 31st, 2006 09:30 pm (UTC)

Yer welcome! :)


ReplyThread Parent
bram452
bram452
bram452
Thu, Aug. 31st, 2006 09:18 pm (UTC)

I am Harlan. I am male. I must be the center of attention. Hear me roar.

Just one side note.

On behalf of the male gender, I'd like to say that Ellion's behavior is not representative of any version of manhood I acknowledge or respect. There are a lot of us external Americans who manage to not be assholes.

The kindest read I can give of Ellison is that he might be mentally ill and not in control of his behavior.

To the degree he's in control and just chose to act like that, I can think of a lot of things I'd call him. A man ain't on the list.


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Thu, Aug. 31st, 2006 09:29 pm (UTC)

Fair enough. And, to clarify, I did not intend with this sentence to tar all men with a black brush. I was more intending to imply that he was asserting HIS masculinity in an overt and offensive manner.

Fortunately, the vast majority of men - at least the men I know and I'm confident I know a decent cross-section - would never dream of doing something like that.

At least, not without express permission and not in front of a crowd!

:)

I hope I didn't inadvertantly offend. I hope this clarifies what I meant in that part of the rant. Thank you for dropping by my journal.


ReplyThread Parent Expand


folkmew
folkmew
Mary Ellen Wessels
Sat, Sep. 2nd, 2006 06:30 pm (UTC)

I was pointed here by a post in my blog http://folkmew.livejournal.com/264647.html

Thank you for the eloquent post. I agree that his response has made this much worse. I also agree that it was completely innappropriate. Even if he was being "silly" and "trying to look like a child" there are plenty of other ways to show that. Grabbing and tugging on her dress for example (not pulling it up I hasten to say)... plenty of other ways.

Sigh.

Oh well. I am not lucky enough to be friends with Connie Willis but she is among my favorite authors. I have enjoyed everything I've read by her. However, the very *first* book I read of hers I bought because I was lucky enough to be a fan GOH at a con with her. We were totally enchanted by her wit and style. (watching her and Marvin Minsky together was a treat for sure!) So I am quite convinced that she has style and elegance. I agree that it is quite up to her to decide how to respond but I suspect she will say nothing. I referred to this possible response as "moral high ground."

Siiiiiiiiiiiigh

Oh and off topic - Looked at yer web page and your drawings are gorgeous! My 4 year old son was especially impressed by the dinosaurs. He is an aspiring artist and loves to draw and paint. :-)


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Tue, Sep. 5th, 2006 05:09 pm (UTC)

Hello! Thanks for dropping by! :)

Yeah, it's really a shame that Mr. Ellison has behaved so badly around all of this. I, too, recently (finally!) saw the video. And while I will say that it looks like clowning (albeit very inappropriate clowning without prior permission), the fact that he has become so strident, nasty, and blaming of Connie Willis (not to mention claiming it was, more or less, a "vengeance boob grab") has really sunk the guy fairly low on the grub-o-meter.

It's a pity, really. I suspect all it would have taken was for him to give an initial apology that was sincere, that didn't involve the miminizing...and that probably would have been it. End of story. Apology accepted. I can't speak on Connie Willis's behalf, obviously, but had a I read an apology that just said, "I'm sorry" and left it at that, without blame-shifting or minimizing, I'd've been satisfied.

Talk about shooting oneself in the foot.

And...hooray for 4-year old dinosaur lovers! I began as one and clearly never grew out of it! I hope that your little boy continues to love dinos, drawing, and painting. :)


ReplyThread Parent
wyldemusick
wyldemusick
David Alexander McDonald (Steven E. McDonald)
Sat, Sep. 2nd, 2006 08:54 pm (UTC)

I was tempted to make this reply rather more xomplex and deeper of background, but I'm going to settle, at this point, for noting that my immediate response on reading Harlan's "apology" was that it was nothing of the sort, nor was meant to be, and is, rather, a typically nasty little "fuck you" to all involved, starting with Connie Willis.

HE is and always has been a prick. As the edge has come off of his talent, and his popularity has somewhat waned, his response is to be ever more the unpleasant little fuck, knowing how far he can push it and still maintain that degree of acceptance, though from the commentaries on encounter with HE I take it that he has crossed into his own red zone on more and more occasions of late, something that can be, generously, attributed to the effects of age upon his faculties or, being less generous, the efefcts of desperation upon his psyche.

Either way, it suggests a course of action that involves sidelining HE in the community as a protective mesure both for the sake of the community and to protect -- or barrier -- Ellison from his own degraded actions.


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Tue, Sep. 5th, 2006 05:11 pm (UTC)

Ouch. But sadly, your analysis (either of them, in fact) could both be true. It's a pity, really. I actually love a lot of his writing and fiction. :(


ReplyThread Parent
dandelion_diva
dandelion_diva
Little Dreamer
Sat, Sep. 2nd, 2006 10:52 pm (UTC)

Oh, *well* said!

Gessi


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Tue, Sep. 5th, 2006 05:11 pm (UTC)

Thanks! :)


ReplyThread Parent
mamid
mamid
Mamid
Mon, Sep. 4th, 2006 06:06 am (UTC)

Like I really needed a reason to not read his books. This just clinches it. I won't be reading them at all.


ReplyThread
scendan
scendan
Scendan
Tue, Sep. 5th, 2006 05:17 pm (UTC)

I like a lot of his writing, actually. *sigh*


ReplyThread Parent
subtilior
subtilior
Subtilior
Tue, Feb. 26th, 2008 02:34 am (UTC)

Even a year and a half after the fact, I'm furious at Ellison. The more so since I just finished "To Say Nothing of the Dog" - and, and Willis *dedicated* it to him. Shit on a swizzle stick - what kind of douche must he be, to do something like that? And how disappointed, as well as furious, she must have been. For someone whose work merits a dedication that reads of admiration ... well, a move like this is lousy.


ReplyThread
seymourglass33
seymourglass33
seymourglass33
Wed, Apr. 8th, 2009 08:12 pm (UTC)
I'm at work

and doing my best to avoid, by just wikipediaing Sf authors. I ran across this event the Willis-Ellison grab. I'm not surprised, since despite not really being familiar with his work, I am mildly familiar with his "legend," and the parodies done of him and that he's usually considered a fairly arrogant, and brilliant, person.

I don't disagree with most of what you said, though I didn't witness it. But I do disagree with your anger at the "puckish" comment. He probably was being "puckish," or at least in his own head, and never meant it as a outwardly aggressive behavior consciously. There's lots of times we do abhorrent things, for reasons we may not like to admit, that don't necessarily completely define us. And we may not even be able to recognize why we did those things.

Is Harlan a a($@#(* because of this? It's certainly an oafish, boorish thing to do - but I don't think any of us are completely free of guilt for doing horrible things. The idea of just deciding this totally defines a person I find patently absurd.

Self righteousness is just as big a crime. I'm not excusing it, I'm just saying that a lot of times one action doesn't define a person.

You create a body of work that is staggeringly incredible, create thoughts and worlds so singular, but your wikipedia entry has more devoted to this.

I think people who are going to stop reading his work because of this is silly - are you going to research every great writer, musician, poet, filmmaker, etc before watching their work to make sure they lived thier life according to your rules (I can think of quite a few others I've read who've done much worse than what Ellison did. BTW, I'm a hypocrite, here, too - there's writers whose political affiliations are so vulgar to me I'd never consider reading them. Life is gray.)

People often aren't their work - something that bothers me as much as it does others.

Ah, well. I thought it was a good post. I just think some of the vilification is unnecessary.

The thing about Asimov, I'm going to have to choose to ignore. Too depressing.


ReplyThread Parent Expand


elgrillador
elgrillador
Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 09:57 am (UTC)

Happy Birthday!


ReplyThread
clauclauclaudia
clauclauclaudia
Claudia
Fri, Jun. 27th, 2014 08:37 pm (UTC)

This is a long while ago now. But still, thank you for this post.


ReplyThread