Tor’s Dumb Letter


Out here everything hurts, from Mad Max: Fury Road

A brief history: For years, Tor editor Jim Frenkel was widely known as a serial sexual harasser at conventions. What was done about it? Not much, for a very long time. Eventually, he was encouraged to resign after the public outcry became too much, which was announced with typical corporate blandness.

Last year, Tor contracts manager Sean Fodera publicly attacked one of Tor’s authors, Mary Robinette Kowal, in a typically gross and sexist way. He later apologized, in a half-assed way, and she graciously accepted.

In May of this year, on her personal Facebook page, Irene Gallo (Creative Director at Tor Books) described a group of extreme right wings fans who call themselves “Sad Puppies” as extreme right wing fans. She also described a group of fan who follow a neo-Nazi (he denies the label even though he fits it) who call themselves “Rabid Puppies” as neo-Nazis. That neo-Nazi screencapped her remark and filed it away so he could release it as the Nebula Awards were given out, to distract people from the award winning books.

Did Tor CEO Tom Doherty release a letter apologizing publicly for Frenkel’s or Fodera’s behavior, while insisting that they should have been smarter about separating the personal from the professional? Of course not. For one thing, Frenkel’s shitty behavior happened while he was representing Tor Books at public events. For another, they were dudes and their victims were women.

However, it took Doherty less than 24 hours to issue a letter of apology for Gallo’s comment on her personal Facebook, and assuring the internet that he’s going to talk to her about being clear on the when she’s speaking for herself and for the company.

Now, there’s a lot of backstory here, and a lot of issues I don’t have time to go into. For one thing, I have a personal policy to not talk about literary awards, which only two exceptions: to mention them when marketing an author’s work (“Check out [title] by Hugo-winning author [name]”), or when it’s funny. This isn’t funny and it’s not marketing, so I’m not much interested in talking about the awards.

I’m also uninterested in the typical hair-splitting that always comes with these conversations, like, is it fair to call a group of people “extreme right wing” when some few don’t identify that way? Did Gallo intend to call Sad Puppies neo-Nazis? Is it fair? Is it nice?

My interests lie here: What was Tom Doherty thinking when he wrote and posted this letter of apology? And why is he faulting Ms. Gallo for not being clear enough on the division of personal and professional social media?

When I looked at Making Light this morning, the site clearly said the Nielsen Haydens work for Tor, but there was no disclaimer about their opinions being solely their own, etc. Why should there be? It’s 2015; people know the difference between personal and professional spaces. At least, they ought to.

But of course, Gallo is a woman, and the loudest voices enraged by her remarks are men. Unlike the Frenkel or Fodera incidents, Gallo’s requires correction from the highest level. Frenkel can get a bland announcement that he’s no long associated with the company; Gallo must be corrected in public. The double standard is disappointing.

Even worse, what is Tor thinking leaving the comments open on the letter? Is it a honeytrap so people like John C Wright can embarrass themselves by claiming not to be homophobic in the most homophobic way?

Or maybe Mr. Doherty thinks Ms. Gallo hasn’t been getting her full share of abuse as a woman on the internet.

Whatever it was, opening comments puts Tor right in the center of this Puppy controversy, and lets internet creeps direct other internet creeps to the company’s site to vent their rage. No apology that Ms. Gallo ever offered would be good enough, so why does Tor have to provide a space on their own site to let them say so?

All Tor needed to do was send out a tweet that read something like: “Opinions employees post onto their private social media are theirs alone. They do not represent the company as a whole.” Boom. Done.

By all accounts, Irene Gallo does an excellent job. Tor should treat her better. And for god’s sake, shut down those comments.