Friday, January 24, 2020

Losing Respect for a Man I Admired

This causes me anger, and sadness: Asimov’s Empire, Asimov’s Wall:

"Over the course of many decades, Asimov groped or engaged in other forms of unwanted touching with countless women, often at conventions, but also privately and in the workplace. Within the science fiction community, this is common knowledge, and whenever I bring it up in a room of older fans, the response is usually a series of nods. The number of such incidents is unknown, but it can be plausibly estimated in the hundreds, and thus may match or exceed the long list of books that Asimov wrote.


"His admirers looked to him as a model of how to behave, and fandom was complicit for years in his serial misconduct in ways that have never been fully acknowledged."

At the risk of restating things already said in the above article...

I have been concerned about the number of sexual assaults and the sexism that still exists today at conventions, and in the science fiction community at large, and to know that one of my previously most personally admired authors is directly responsible for a significant portion of it makes my stomach knot up.

This doesn't change the fact that Asimov accomplished many things of note, and as the article says, he was a very prolific writer. Nothing can change that, but I will no longer view him with the respect I once had for him. How much more could he have done for science fiction if he had had self-restraint, and treated women as they deserved? How many would-be authors and talents are unknown because of his direct behavior and the example he set?

As much progress has been made in making fandom more inclusive, and safer for all individuals, there's still so much further to go, and there are still problems that cannot be ignored. A part of me worries every time someone I know attends a convention because of the legacy of men like Asimov and the men that surrounded him that didn't jerk him up short for his behavior. I do not subscribe to the idea that "it was a different time." Of course it was, but that doesn't make it any more okay then than it would be now.

I don't know if I will be able to read any more of Asimov's work in light of what I have learned today. If I do there will be a big part of my mind preoccupied with this new knowledge, and it will taint the enjoyment that should be my right as a reader.

Despite this disappointment, if I'm asked whether I would want to know about this kind of behavior from any other authors I admire, the answer is an unequivocal, "Yes!" Ignorance does not help anybody, and if we're going to solve these problems we have to hold bad actors to account for their actions. (Although I do not like what "call-out culture" has become because I think love, compassion, and teaching are the best tools to help people become better. I also believe in forgiveness, when it becomes appropriate.)

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