Friday, June 28, 2013

Does SF Have a "Casting Couch"?

I was reading a blog post this morning about sexual harassment of a writer by an editor at a recent science fiction convention. The writer decided to make a formal report—and I applaud her decision, but among the concerns she listed for a writer making this choice, particularly a young writer just starting out, was concern that this could hurt her career, that the editor wouldn't buy her work, or that he would get her blacklisted so that nobody would ever buy her work.

Let’s look at these fears. One: The editor won't buy your work. This is certainly a possibility, but do you really want to sell to this editor? Do you want to work with him to polish your novel and get it into production? Given the lack of respect he has shown for your person, how is he likely to treat your work? Think about it. Then find another editor. There are lots of editors out here, and it's a pretty diverse group.

Two: The editor will get you blacklisted so that no other editor will ever buy your work. Not in this universe. Even in the days when all editors were men, there wasn’t that much unanimity of opinion. I sold my first novel to DAW Books, and I can imagine what Don Wollheim would have said about an editor who treated a woman like that, not to mention what his wife Elsie would have said—and possibly done—about the situation. And the next generation of editors, including the current head of DAW Books, Elizabeth R. Wollheim, has a lot more females in it. By now, we might even outnumber the men.

There are certainly reasons why a woman would hesitate to complain about such mistreatment. I was raised in an era where I wasn't even supposed to notice it. These days my feeling is that if I don't complain and do everything I possibly can to stop what he's doing, I am at least partially responsible for the damage to the next woman he hurts. SF does not have a "casting couch," and nobody should be left to believe that we find sexual harassment—or any other kind of harassment—acceptable.

If something like this happens to you, don't chose whether to report it based on fears for your career. Jerks like this are people you don't want to work with, and our field has plenty of decent, caring, and supportive people who are a joy to work with.