Expose or damage control?

The Guardian relies heavily upon certain left-wing SF/F authors while reporting on the Bradley revelations:

The world of science fiction and fantasy is in shock, following news that the daughter of the bestselling late fantasy author Marion Zimmer Bradley has accused her mother of abusing her as a child.

Authors such as John Scalzi, G Willow Wilson and Jim Hines have reacted to the allegations against a woman who had been regarded a pillar of the SFF community with horror. The writer Janni Lee Simner has announced she will be donating her earnings from a story set in a fictional world created by Bradley to an anti-abuse charity.

One wonders how John Scalzi’s one-word commentary via Twitter, Jim “Celebrate the Legacy of MZB” Hines’s belated attempt to cover his past as an MZB cheerleader, and a female convert to Islam who published her first novel in 2012 are deemed a reasonable representation of “the world of science fiction and fantasy”.  Scalzi, who spent more words denying that Ed Kramer was still on the SFWA membership list than he did discussing Bradley, is mentioned twice in the article, while Deirdre Saoirse Moen, who along with Moira Greyland is actually responsible for the revelations, is only mentioned once in passing.

Stephen Goldin, the longtime SFWA member and former editor of the SFWA Bulletin, whose posting of the MZB depositions on SFF.net substantiated Greyland’s accusations, isn’t mentioned at all. Neither is the original MZB tribute on Tor.com that prompted Mrs. Greyland’s original email to Miss Moen.

While it is good that coverage of the problem of child abusers in science fiction is spreading, this is yet another example of why you can never trust the mainstream media to do more than scratch the surface. That being said, this part of the article is poignant and illustrates the importance of exposing the monsters regardless of the cost to their reputations:

Greyland, writing to the Guardian via email, said that she had not spoken out before “because I thought that my mother’s fans would be angry with me for saying anything against someone who had championed women’s rights and made so many of them feel differently about themselves and their lives.  I didn’t want to hurt anyone she had helped, so I just kept my mouth shut”.

Greyland, a harpist, singer and opera director, said it was now clear to her that “one reason I never said anything is that I regarded her life as being more important than mine: her fame more important, and assuredly the comfort of her fans as more important.  Those who knew me, knew the truth about her, but beyond that, it did not matter what she had done to me, as long as her work and her reputation continued.”

It will be interesting to see if this is a genuine effort to dig into the larger problem of child abuse in science fiction or if it is an exercise in damage control. Meanwhile, Larry Correia’s #1 fan actually has a reasonable take on the Bradley revelations, comparing it to the Jimmy Savile scandal, and considering it in light of how people react to the moral failures of their cultural icons:

How far can we separate any cultural figure from the values they represent? And in rejecting the figure, do we risk rejecting values that should transcend the actions of any single individual? The Mists of Avalon and the Darkover series made Marion Zimmer Bradley a leader of the emerging feminist movement in science fiction, alongside writers including Ursula Le Guin, Joanna Russ and Margaret Atwood. In critical terms Bradley was rarely considered seriously comparable to those writers, but as a writer of popular, mythic fiction she reached an audience those more acclaimed figures of feminism SF did not.

Readers will ultimately choose whether the works of Marion Zimmer Bradley are remembered and continue to be read. Many readers, myself included, will agree with Redditor CJGibson that “to read/support these authors in spite of their positions or actions sends a tacit message that what they’re doing is OK”.

I don’t have any problem with people separating the work from the artist and continuing to enjoy it. The work and the artist are not the same and the work doesn’t NECESSARILY reflect the evils of the artist. I still listen to Lostprophets despite the appalling crimes of the band’s lead singer. (MZB’s work is no dilemma for me despite the observable overlap between her crimes and her fiction as I never thought much of her work in the first place.) I don’t believe in the whitewashing of history.

Where I have a problem, and where I believe a line must be drawn, is when the artist is still celebrated, honored, and lionized on the basis of his work while his known moral failings are ignored or even denied.