In Which Harlan Ellison Apologizes

I had forewarning of this a few hours before it was posted but wanted to wait until it was published. This went up on Harlan’s message board earlier:

– Friday, July 24 2009 16:35:36

Dear Ms. Bradford:

You have a number of good friends who also happen to be good friends of mine. They have rallied on your behalf, to contact me by phone (four today alone), to tan my bottom in regards to my, well, at best, at very minimally best, my “snarky” response to what I perceived to be yet another Total Stranger Meanspirited Internet Troll Assault. I fear there is still a tot too much “street” in me to let such perceived calumny go unanswered.

Apparently, I received inadequate information, some of which I interpreted incorrectly, some of which was simply wrong.

One of the heartrending epiphanies of the current Paradigm Shift is that the most adolescently ignorant demographic of this far-from-perfect society needs to (as my President said today) “ratchet down the noise-level.” The moment one such as I goes for the okeydoke and begins to believe this “geezer” bullshit, is the moment one realizes that we like in a Momentary-Celebrity Culture, and for everyone claiming sexism, racism, elitism, et al … there are 10,000 arrogant little twits, semi-literate, semi-humanoid, and less-than-semi-courteous, who truly believe that to have SURVIVED and STILL BE PULLING THE PLOW, is to grant them power over you. Depression and anger and suicide follow therefrom.

I am 75. I’m old, I ain’t senile.

I still work, I still publish, I still have very cool thoughts and do very cool deeds, every day. I’m not quite ready yet to let monkeybrain bloggers who need Google to know who Colette or Guy de Maupassant are, predicate my existence.

Mmm. I’ve drifted. Your friends tell me to back off and not attempt to exact the demonic vigerish that is my wont. Several people known and unknown to me personally advise me that you are rather a cranky soul yourself, so you shouldn’t be TOO ‘tude about my responding in kind.

That it turns out you’re not as deserving of my bestial attentions as others I’ve used as objects of scaphism, warms my li’l ole heart, and if any part of my reply to your various blogs here’n’there was over the line, consider this a gentlemanly apologia. I know this message will get to you, via one or another conduit, so here’s my IfYouTalkTheTalk you’d better be ready to WalkTheWalk: I have no idea where you live, but if you are anywhere near where I am, please name the time and the day, and my wife, Susan, and I would be condign taking you for an excellent meal at one of the great joints I frequent.

THEN–and ONLY then–you’ll be able to make your own informed judgment about me. And you won’t have to poison yourself with the fanboy/fangirl gossip that substitutes for ratiocination on this electronic asswipe of a medium.

You know where to find me.

Respectfully, Harlan Ellison

The person who forewarned me was one of the folks who called Harlan and the apology she reported to me was less equivocal than the above, but either way Harlan has said he’s sorry. And, as I suspected, someone or several someones have been feeding him “misleading” information about the whole discussion.

I have three things to say about this. The first is: wow, four people were willing to call Harlan Ellison on my behalf. I know who one of those persons are. I must say, you’re all very brave and very good friends. Thank you. (Also thank you to everyone who has commented here or on other posts expressing outrage and support of me, it means a lot.)

Second, I plan on accepting this apology and not worrying to much over some of the extant details because, as I said in my other post, I have no desire to “get into it” with Ellison. I’m glad someone gave him the facts, which is what I had wanted, but would rather re-enter the world where Harlan doesn’t care about what I say or do. That said, I can’t dictate what the rest of you do. There’s issues here and you’re free to discuss them.

Third, I’m sure some people’s heads are exploding because I got this apology, and not all for the same reason. I don’t expect to get apologizes from certain others but I do expect you all to show at least this level of decency now and in the future, okay? Okay.

ETA: for the defenders of Harlan’s honor who, strangely, started showing up en masse last night: Harlan APOLOGIZED. He apologized! It’s over. Go home! I’m not letting your increasingly bizzare attempts to defend/explain/make better what he did and what he said out of moderation because they are not helpful or appreciated. Plus, they are negated by the fact that he apologized. I accepted, I’m moving on. Why can’t you? Seriously.


  1. says

    I will endeavor to play nice. I make no promises. Overall this whole thing has left me tired. Even though I’ve had plenty of forewarning about Ellison somehow I failed to grasp the reality of his staunchest supporters. Someone told me I should be so lucky as to have him insult me and I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you didn’t feel lucky when this fat hit the fire. IDK I’m not trying to make this all about me it just seems like every time fandom fails the fail is just a little bit uglier.

  2. says

    I’m so tired of the whole non-apology apology. Why would he waste that much effort on something that says nothing? Better not to say anything at all.

    And he didn’t apologize for calling a black woman the n-word. That’s an insult to the entire SF industry, not just you.

    But fine; if you’re cool, I’ll shut up.

    Did ya’ll ever go out for that drink?

  3. says

    “Other people have spoken on your behalf because their words matter and I didn’t bother to read yours. You should totally understand my use of genocidal slurs at you because I imagined you said something bad about me. People say a lot of stuff on the internet so I don’t listen to anyone. I’m really awesome. You can come by for dinner and be my New Black Friend (TM) that proves it’s all ok even after I used demeaning words at you.”

    I don’t know about science, but there’s certain fiction in there…

  4. dragonet2 says

    As far as I can tell, Harlan does his best to be a professional horse’s ass. The whole “angry young man” was okay when he was younger. It just makes him look like a git now,

    It’s a weird apology. And I don’t ever, ever use the “n” word. It’s an epithet my father used and It offends me greatly. Even when the guys at the bus stop use it to one another.

  5. says

    Honest to whatever, Tempest, my admiration for you just keeps growing and growing and growing. (Not like it was small before.) You completely rock!

  6. says

    My head’s not exploding.

    It matches what I’ve heard about Harlan and some observations I’ve had of Harlan in action. It’s genuine and–from what I know of the Two Harlans, while he’s a nasty foe, he is an incredibly loyal and strong friend. He was very supportive to a mutual friend during a dark time, and at that time the friend in question was nowhere near the top of the SF writing world.

  7. Scott Lynch says

    What a fascinatingly self-aggrandizing semi-apology, encrusted with buck-passing and non sequitors.

    For a guy who decries the stupidities of the internet so loudly, he sure seems to let a tiny cadre of online sycophants jerk him around like a tool.

  8. says

    Wow. That’s… something, all right.

    Tempest, you’re awesome, and I really, truly appreciate your blogging and the way you go out and start conversations about sexism and racism and etc., offline, too. You’re hella brave on top of being all kinds of smart. Just wanted to say that.

  9. Noir says

    I don’t know how you make it. I want to spit at the racist bastard. How the hell being racist and sexist is… a way to show you were wrong?

  10. Lori S. says

    Wow, “Kay,” I was going to say that you joined an elite club when H.E. went after you, but now you’ve joined an even more elite club – someone he’s apologized to, too. Sort of. Close enough for the membership certification. I did say when this first broke that “a lot could happen, but he’s never gonna apologize.” I was at least half-wrong.

    All of which is a long preamble to saying that you are one class act and then some.

  11. maevele says

    that’s one fucked up ‘apology.’

    I admire the hell out of you for accepting it, given that he didn’t really apologize for any of the actual shit he did. regardless of how faulty his information was, he chose to react to that information with some really offensive shit.

  12. Jeff Priyor says

    He does this all the time…slams into people viciously, then issues a grand apology later, and the victim is stuck having to play nice and accept it. Bottom line is he got some press for his upcoming story. Sorry you had to be in the middle of it.

  13. says

    I’m not sure what the hell he was trying to say in there, but I’m not getting an apology out of that mess of words.

    Should you be at worldcon, I’d love to buy you a drink!

  14. says

    That is not an apology. But I’m not surprised.

    I am, however, so impressed with your restraint and generosity, and your ability to find a silver lining: “wow, four people were willing to call Harlan Ellison on my behalf.”

    Four people who have his phone number. I’m sure many more would’ve called on your behalf.

  15. Beth Plutchak says

    Ellison has been irrelevant to anything that matters to me in SF for a long, long time. I have been following your career, had the honor to meet you in the dealer’s room at WisCon, and have been buying your stuff. You, my dear, are the future of the field. -from a far side of middle-age, white fan.

  16. says

    Good Lord.

    Well, if the Grab the Boob stunt hadn’t done it, this certainly seals the deal for me. Never had any desire to read his stuff anyway.

    This guy needs to STFU while he’s behind. Sorry you had to go through all this.

  17. Pope Lizbet says

    I’m sorry you had to put up with this mess, Tempest.

    Karnythia, can I put up a post deconstructing the issue and apology in Take Back Sci Fi? Or is it too much to put up with? Because I think the issue of BUT HE’S ALWAYS BEEN LIKE THAAAAATTTTT and the non-apologies are worth deconstructing. But you’re tired.

  18. Pamela Dean says

    When I was seventeen, Harlan Ellison was my favorite writer in the whole world. I wish I’d had you instead.


  19. jaeleslie says

    You are wise. And you write well. We have met in the hall at WisCon with large legible name badges and like that.

    I am not going to take up space on your blog to talk about Harlan Ellison’s cluelessness.

  20. Daniel Steinberg says

    Yes, how dare that old white man say anything against You. He must be racist and sexist, obviously.

  21. Julia says

    So….saying he wants to slap her, calling her a nigger with attitude, using the gendered racialized insult “Omorosa”, and calling her “cuhluhed/colored” was nothing? Good to know.

  22. Justine Larbalestier says

    What a dropkick. Someone needs to teach him what “apology” means cause he clearly has no idea.

  23. Julia says

    I claim words don’t matter or have meaning, yet I am a professional author. WOO!!

  24. Livrelibre says

    Sorry you’re having to deal with this awful BS and keep being awesome and classy.

  25. says

    I realize I should just stay out of this and let all of this stand. There is nothing that I can possibly gain posting this, but Harlan is a friend of mine and though I certainly did not want him to enter the fray I know that he did it, in part, because we are friends and he thought I was being treated unfairly. Frankly I’d have been happier if everyone on my end would have stayed out of it and allowed me to deal with the entire thing myself. That didn’t happen and so here I am to bring a reality check to a lot of what is being said here.

    First Harlan never called Tempest a Nigger (I hate even typing that word) as many of you are stating here as bald fact. Moreover Harlan did not even call Tempest a NWA. Now I realize why many of you think this is what he said. Here on her Blog, Tempest said, “he hurls several insults at me, but some of my favorites are: I’m in the NWA, a Women of Cuhluh, and a swineherd.”

    As to the NWA what Harlan actually said was “She has dummied-up a truly insulting mock-cover of REALMS that is intended to be offensive to anyone who values my sixty years’ work. Now: watch your step. She is apparently a Woman of Color (which REALLY makes me want to bee-atch-slap her, being the guy who discovered and encouraged one of the finest writers and Women of Color who ever lived, my friend, the recently-deceased Octavia Estelle Butler). And she plays that card endlessly, which is supposed to exorcise anyone suggesting she is a badmouth ignoramus, or even a NWA.”

    If you take the time to actually parse the sentence in question you’ll see that what is actually being said is that Tempest plays the race card whether the person she’s interacting with is just disagreeing with her or if said person is calling her a member of the NWA. The latter would, of course, deserve to have the card played; the former would not. He did not say, “Tempest is….” That just didn’t happen. Tempest misread the sentence and I can only assume all of her friends either didn’t check the original or they also misread it.

    Harlan also did not call Tempest a Women of Cuhluh. What he actually said was, “Well, folks, if you’d like to give this termagant a taste of her own approbrium[sic], you got the Public Name in a Public Place, so have at it. Even those of you who are Merely Women, or even Women of Cuhluh.” The name in question is clearly intended for those minions of his that he is sending to do battle with Tempest, not for Tempest herself. As for calling Tempest a swineherd, yeah, he did call her that.

    I am not trying to defend anything that Harlan said here, he can do that for himself. If you want to think of him, or call him, a racist because he called Tempest a swineherd or because he said he wanted “to bee-atch-slap her” or because he claims she plays the race card to her own advantage, you have every right to your oppinion. I won’t agree with you, but I won’t try to say you are wrong for feeling that way. What you cannot do is say Harlan is a racist because he called Tempest a nigger or said she was a NWA because that did not happen. If you are going to make these kinds of accusations against anyone you have an obligation to get it right.

  26. Pamela Dean says

    This doesn’t make me very coherent either. You are most welcome, and thank you very much.