The golden age of SF wasn't golden for everyone

I came to science fiction and fantasy fandom late in life. Don't misunderstand — I've been reading SF/F since I was a young child. I also read my grandfather's SF/F magazines while growing up and, through their letter pages and columns, learned about the larger genre community. About friendships and conventions and fanzines and cosplay and filking and everything else that brought people together around a shared love of SF/F.

As a child growing up in rural Alabama, I regretted not being able to take part in fandom. I didn't even attend my first convention, ConText in Columbus, Ohio, until 2007. I often felt like I'd missed out on so much by only taking part in fandom relatively late in life.

But now, I'll glad that happened. Now I'm glad I didn't take part in fandom when I was young. Because as I step more and more into fandom, I've learned about SF/F's dark side. About how the SF/F community ignored and overlooked the predators among us.

You want examples?

  • As others have said, Forrest Ackerman is having his own #MeToo moment. However, Ackerman's sins went beyond harassing women to also being known for not paying and/or exploiting authors along with rumors of child porn and more.
  • As Jim Hines has written, "Isaac Asimov’s proclivity for groping women was so widely known that in 1961, the chair of Chicon III wrote a letter inviting him to give a lecture on 'The Power of Posterior Pinching.' Marcus Ranum recalls confronting Asimov at a Worldcon some 30 years ago, after Asimov groped his girlfriend in an elevator. The convention kicked Ranum out. In their view, the true crime wasn’t Asimov’s harassment, but Ranum’s complaint about it."
  • Stories are coming out about Arthur C. Clarke being a pedophile. For one story on this see Peter Troyer's essay at Vice. Until I read this essay I assumed the pedophilia allegations against Clarke were smears because he was a gay man in a time and place where that wasn't acceptable. Troyer's essay changed my mind and, even though he didn't name Clarke, it's obvious Clarke is the author he's referring to.
  • There's also Ed Kramer, well-known SF editor and co-founder of Dragon Con who pleaded guilt to child molestation.
  • And don't forget Marion Zimmer Bradley, who both sexually abused kids and allowed her husband Walter Breen to do the same. And while Bradley's conduct was unknown to most people during her lifetime, Breen's wasn't, with fandom groups like Worldcon actually debating whether to ban him for sexually abusing kids.

And that's merely the tip of the iceberg. The genre is filled with stories about the horrific actions of fans and writers who aren't famous. For example, the first convention I attended, ConText, imploded over an inability to deal with sexual harassment issues

I understand how these revelations pain many people. I grew up on the fiction of Asimov and Clarke. I still love their stories. I'm frequently published in the wonderful magazine named after Asimov. But that doesn't mean I'm willing to overlook what is being revealed or has been revealed about their behavior.

I also understand that SF/F fandom once felt besieged and looked down upon by society at large, and that this gave some people the urge to ignore behavior which should never be ignored.

But if the SF/F genre is to continue growing it must be open about the sins previously done in the name of fandom. In addition, fandom must never again tolerate such horrible acts.

I love science fiction and fantasy. I love the great people I've met in SF/F fandom. But despite that love, I refuse to ignore the harm fandom has allowed to happen to many people.

We all should stand together to demand that the SF/F genre do better in the future.