A Message From Tom Doherty: We Are An Apolitical Island, Nothing to See Here

Some of you may be familiar with the Rabid/Sad Puppies Hugo Award Scandal of 2015, which has basically been a study in gatekeeping, sexism, racism, and all the less-than-cute things we have all come to know and hate about…well, fandom. Last month, Tor.com’s Associate Publisher and Tor Books’ Creative Director Irene Gallo made statements on her personal Facebook page that expressed her disgust with the Rabid/Sad Puppy movement. She describes them as “right wing to neo-nazi,” and “unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic.” She also did not clarify that these statements were her own and not reflective of Tor.com/Tor Books as a whole.

You know. Even though they were on her personal Facebook page.

So, naturally, on Monday–coincidentally, mere days before the winners of the Nebula Awards were announced–Tom Doherty, Tor Books President and Publisher took to the Tor.com page to let everyone know that (1) that Sad Puppies is “not all (white) men,” (2) that Tor is about publishing a diverse set of books and has no political agenda, and (3) that Irene Gallo has been tamed and put back in her cage, y’all, so let’s get back to business and forget this ever happened.

I mean, I’m paraphrasing, but you get it.

I’m not going to spend time debunking the “not all (white) men” portion of the post because other people have already made this point about the Rabid/Sad Puppies’ agenda. I’m just going to let it sit there that the odd circumstantial nature of this statement coming out a month after Ms. Gallo’s words but just in time to distract from women basically sweeping the Nebula Awards. I will say that making a list of some of the women and people of color included on their slate to prove that they aren’t racist or sexist is a very, very weird thing to do if your site and/or publisher has no political agenda.

If we’re parading our receipts here, then let’s do the thing properly! Let’s have all the receipts. Hell, let’s make sure we incorporate Rabid/Sad Puppies’ champion John C Wright’s own comments on that very post, which includes gems like this one:

“I follow the Catholic teaching on same sex attraction and how one deals with it. In public, I have heaped scorn on those who use a children’s cartoon, one I loved, to insinuate their pro-perversion propaganda in a cowardly and craven way.”

Totally not homophobic. Totally.

And neither Tom Doherty nor Tor have shown to have any political alignments by making sure people know that the Rabid/Sad Puppies are a legitimate group with legitimate aims. None at all.

Here’s the thing about claiming to not promote a political agenda in the same breath as defending this group, going out of your way to throw a female editor under the bus, conveniently not mentioning that apologies don’t seem to be shared out equally on Tor, and then telling everyone you’re all about diversity–actually, here is the thing about claiming not to promote a political agenda, full stop: surprise, too bad, you’ve got an agenda regardless of whether you think you do.

This apolitical nonsense–and it is nonsense–suggests that you or your policies can stand on the sideline without your actions or words having any political effects or intentions. Very few of you (I hope) will be surprised to find that “apolitical” is a word that is typically used by white men because what the hell do they need politics for? They already own everything! They can stand back and be unaffected because nothing bad is going to happen to them.

There is this notion that white men are the unbiased, that they are the ones without an agenda, because obviously the only pro-straights are abject queerphobes, the only pro-whites are abject racists, and the only people who are pro-men are abject sexists. The rest of the normal, nice guys can rest fine because they don’t have an agenda, right? Let the rest of us bring out our receipts and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that something is racist/sexist/homophobic/etc.

Whatever his claims, Tom Doherty has displayed his priorities and politics very clearly. Tor.com and Tor Books does not want any controversies with loud and unhappy white men because that is Bad For Business. And guess what, y’all? That means Tor.com and Tor Books are Bad For Our Business.

So what are we to do?

I’ve seen a few tweets go by reminding people that they should continue to support Tor because the crumbling of a progressive establishment and punishing progressive authors and editors is exactly what the Sad and Rabid Puppies want to see.

Similar statements were made about ComicsAlliance and Chris Sims after his seven-year-history of harassing Valerie D’Orazio was uncovered. I’m not at the point where I’d like to suggest that we should burn Tor to the ground or leave ComicsAlliance in the dust. But the notion that boycotting Tor because it’s bad for their employees makes me uncomfortable. Anything that we boycott – anything – is going to have collateral damage to people who don’t espouse the views of the people in charge. The point is to get those people in charge to sit up and pay attention when sales fall, when site traffic goes down, when they get the bad rep they deserve. If the consequence of a Tor boycott somehow turned into a paycut for Irene Gallo or the loss of her job, then we would know exactly what we were dealing with in the first place and yes, we would be right to burn the damn thing down.

This laser focus on and demand for justice suddenly becomes a lot more squirmy and uncomfortable when we have to look at our own. We put all our hope into one thing and then when that thing fails us, we say it’s probably okay, rather than realizing that it means we need more of everything so that a boycott doesn’t mean destroying our one (naive) paragon of positivity. ComicsAlliance isn’t the only way you can get your progressive comics news, if you so choose. I’m going to guess that Tor isn’t the only way to get your progressive sci-fi whether as a reader or an author.

I’ll say this. I still read ComicsAlliance. I don’t read anything by Chris Sims. I will still probably check things out on Tor.com. I would have to think hard about whether I’d want any of my work published there.

And so the wheel turns.

J. A. Micheline

J. A. Micheline

JAM's been reading comics since she was 8. As a critic, she focuses on race and gender issues. She also writes prose fiction, comics, and the occasional angry tweet before bedtime. Find her on Twitter at @elevenafter.

4 thoughts on “A Message From Tom Doherty: We Are An Apolitical Island, Nothing to See Here

  1. “You know. Even though they were on her personal Facebook page.”

    Which is why because my website and fb page had gone more and more political

    Removed my employer from my profile

    Of course if the reason people come to your page is because of who you are employed by, that might be a problem

    If not Ms Gallo’s solution would have been simple. Not anymore I am afraid

  2. Interesting. This seems to validate the impression that the progressive or SJW editors and employees at Tor do rule the roost and it is in control of people who have the same opinion as Irene Gallo.

    Personally what she said was scurrilous and could be defined as hate speech. But she has the right to voice those opinions. So she should not be terminated as this was done on her personal facebook. Just as Brendon Eich should not have been pressured to leave.

    So do you agree that people such as that woman in Indiana should not be persecuted in social media for voicing she would not cater to a gay marriage?

    So if conservatives do the same it is all right?

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