Harlan Ellison Freaks Out at Mild Joke, Threatens to "Bitch Slap" K. Tempest Bradford for Being a "NWA"
The nutshell:

K. Tempest Bradford: "Fantasy magazines should have more male asses on the front of them, male asses like Harlan Ellison."

(Harlan Ellison gets a "Google alert" on the computer that he doesn't own. "My name has been used in vain!")

Harlan Ellison: "Shut up sassy young black woman or I will bitch-slap you!"

K. Tempest Bradford: "..."

Harlan Ellison: "I'm sorry I called you black. Do you want to get dinner with me and my wife? Get real comfortable? See where things lead?"

The full story:

So the magazine "Realms of Fantasy" relaunched after going out of business, and the new first issue has a picture of a mermaid on it. Controversially, you can clearly see that the mermaid has breasts:

Fish with breasts probably do it for some guys, even though merfolk surely have bizarre and demanding mating habits. But I guess there are men out there in the world who would love to discover a clutch of eggs lashed to an anchor (to keep the tide from washing them away) while scuba diving in some bay and then "fertilize" those eggs while trying to breathe veeeeeerrrry evenly into a wetsuit regulator.

However, K. Tempest Bradford, a New York speculative fiction writer, was aggravated by the breasts, and called for parity from the male editorial staff of "Realms of Fantasy," asking them to put more male junk in their magazine. The male editors were less than enthusiastic, so one of Bradford's fans took matters into her own hands, creating this magazine cover as a protest:

See how she called Harlan Ellison senile? But see how that really wasn't the point of this joke cover -- merely a fun bit of filler?

Harlan Ellison, eager to defend his reputation as a man fully in control of his faculties, wrote this letter to HIS fans on his website defending his reputation:

"For those of you who lust to box the ears of the Terminally Moronic whose pustulent idiocy has made the internet a plague-spa, one of my casual friends has passed along the name of the looneytune who started this whole "REALMS OF FANTASY-Ellison is a sexist" offensiveness.

Her name is Kay Tempest Bradford [sic].

And she has a blog, I guess.

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. Ooooh, did I say that?

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.

Hey, Kay, mama, y'wanna get into it with me, bring it swineherd!

Yr. Pal, Harlan"

Wow. Women of "Cuhluh." Swineherd. As in one who herds swine.

Bradford doesn't respond to this. She never called Ellison sexist. She never even made the cover. One of her fans just thought his name would be a funny joke on her joke cover. As a response, Ellison writes a frenzied letter to the world, saying he wants to "bitch slap" her while also backhandedly calling her a "nigger with attitude."

Of course, then you get the conspiracy theories.

Did Ellison really write that? Did Harlan Ellison's mind get hacked? What has Harlan Ellison even published lately beyond angry public letters?

But then a few days later, Ellison owns his initial statement, issuing an apology for being mis-led into thinking that Bradford wasn't one of the "good ones:"

"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 live 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"

Draw your own conclusions. Here's mine:

1). 75-year-old men who hate the internet should not worry about what people say about them on the internet. If they believe it is an "electronic asswipe of a medium," then why even participate?

2). Ellison needs to keep apologizing, this time for his assault and his racist vitriol. Assault is when you threaten someone; battery is when you do it. What if Harlan Ellison was a young black man and he had threatened to "bitch slap" an old white woman because she had called him "immature?"

3). It's upsetting that wistful, naked manicorns get the same tattoos as keg-can pounding frisbee golfers.

4). How do you prove that you are "not senile" when you are a professional maverick fiction writer? This is a question we must all answer as we age, hoping to still be relevant. It is good to learn from other people's mistakes.

5). Harlan Ellison is revealed as a prose-stylist who rewraps cliches to do momentary synesthetic damage that does not last, like a child pretending their slingshot is a bazooka. Writers kill with clarity of thought; not with volume. This has been a hard lesson that all of us have learned over the years while growing up with the internet and its excesses.

It is sad to see the strings fray behind the mind (and work) of your childhood heroes.

NOTE: Originally, this article said Bradford created the joke cover. Actually, it was one of her fans who created it, and Bradford just put it up on her website as a "funny thing."

Posted by miracle on Mon, 27 Jul 2009 03:20:28 -0400 -- permanent link

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