Safe Space as Rape Room: Science Fiction Culture and Childhood’s End (Part 5 of 5)

Thursday , 31, December 2015 23 Comments

Full Series

I am discovering that the keeping of secrets to hide shame is poison, and I am trying to recover from the echoes every day. You can too. I have learned it was not my fault when it happened and it is not your fault either. Free yourselves. – Mark Greyland

The final installment of this feature is devoted to something to often buried in the roar of denials and accusation: the victims.

A very small number of the hundreds of past victims have come forward with the truth.

Heidi Saha, with the editor of the infamous An Illustrated History of Heidi Saha,  Forry Ackerman, at Lunacon 70.

As a child, Ken Smith was molested by Walter Breen multiple times and reported it to the police when questioned, thanks to the accusation of Moira Greyland, Walter’s daughter. As an adult, Ken Smith continued a lawsuit against Breen (then his estate), Marion Zimmer Bradley and Elisabeth Waters that had been begun on his behalf by his mother. When of legal age to do so, Smith made his case and identity public. A settlement was reached in his favor against Bradley and Waters two years later, a month before Bradley died of heart attack.

Victor Salva’s most prominent victim responded to his abuse with a brave and public counterattack on Hollywood powerhouse Disney, who greenlit and backed Salva’s SF film Powder, about an abused “special” boy who “heals grown ups with a touch.” The powerful studio was undeterred, and Salva would go on to direct the teen slasher series Jeepers Creepers. But had Winters not spoken out, Salva would not be on the public radar as a known predator.

“I needed to face this. I’ve lived through years and years and years of pain and trauma. I’m being healed daily: It’s unreal the amount of stuff that’s built up all these years that’s starting to be released. But it doesn’t work like, ‘Boom! — I’m OK now.’ ” Nathan Forrest Winters, 1995

Another victim of Bradley and Breen was their own son, Mark, and although he values his privacy intensely, he was willing to come forward with a few important thoughts, including:

“My sister has been exceedingly brave in admitting to details of what happened to her. I am not so brave, the words themselves are coals on the tongue. To speak them is to be burned by them. If I leave out details it is because I mean to. Too much of my past is alive in my head to be able to share it. If you do not know you will sleep better at night. Sometimes I write poetry to paint the shadows of memory obscuring the light of day. That is more than enough.” – Mark Greyland

Another victim of pedophilia and science-fiction fan named Andrew also questioned the noisy silence of Science Fiction leaders on the issue, who, following the explosive revelations of the Breen, Bradley, Waters cover-up and the Kramer sentencing, preferred to express childish and displaced rage once again into “safe” political screeds tangentially related to abuse.

(Note: the below originally appeared in the comments at Jim C. Hines’ blog, and was republished at Larry Correia’s site, so those are the “Jim” and “Larry” he references. It is not without some irony that the man being rightfully and righteously accused of unreasonable silence on the problem of pedophilia in science fiction (Jim Hines) is himself a rape crisis counselor.):

  • Andrew
  • JUN 18, 2014 @ 17:20:14

“Hey Jim,

I’m a survivor.

I’m trying to think of a way to say this that isn’t going to either sound like I’m an MRA or that I’m trying to invalidate the good work you do with other survivors. But I really think the way this issue has become political and how I see you contributing to that is really… uh… not okay.

I think you’re probably a good dude. I can’t imagine you not being a good dude given the amount of work you do with survivors and the depressing toll I know that work takes. BUT (I know you were probably sensing a but, and I’m sorry to have to do this in a thread where you’re already taking a pummeling) I’m going to step on your toes a bit here.

I’m doing it because I think you’ll listen and because it needs to be said.

Okay, here goes:

Why are you focusing on Larry Correia?

I just don’t get this.

At all.

Why are you responding to a piece by a guy who thinks rape is wrong and just disagrees with you on the exact nature of the problem and the solution? I’m not saying those aren’t large gaps. I’m not saying I don’t think he’s wrong about rape culture. I’m not saying I don’t think he’s wrong about education (another survivor I know actually works in those groups with those people and says its effective and I trust him, although to be honest even giving offenders that much help makes my stomach turn).

But why is Larry Correia a target?

I don’t agree with a lot of what Larry has to say, but I’ll be honest and say I still like him. He reminds me of a couple of uncles I have and some friends I used to argue with at a couple construction jobs I had. He’s really loud and says some shit I don’t agree with but you also see him actually trying to help other writers and doing stuff for charity all the time.

So, I get that you guys have serious disagreements. I get that he’s called you names. You feel attacked and that makes sense that you’d want to focus on him.

BUT (and this is what’s bugging the shit out of me): The community just found out that Marion Zimmer Bradley was a child rapist. As in, she raped children. She put her hands on kids. I’ve just found out that the community knew she was a procurer and turned a blind eye to child-rape for decades on top of all of that. And no one talks about it.

No one in the community who usually talks about this stuff is talking about this.

I was five when I was victimized. That story hit me right in the guts. I figured I’d see everyone talking about it, trying to do some agony origami and figure out what to say about it that might bring some kind of useful awareness to the community. The silence has been deafening.

I get that Larry is loud and he says things that people don’t like. But maybe fandom needs a voice like that? Before you disagree, Larry’s website is the only place I’ve heard anything even WHISPERED about Samuel R. Delany. I can’t quite seem to figure out why that is.

Samuel R. Delany was just honored at the Nebulas and quoted in NK Jemisin’s speech (I agree with a lot of what she has to say, but I just don’t get how this isn’t at least being pointed out) and Samuel R. Delany outright without any kind of doubt or apology speaks up for NAMBLA.

NAMBLA is a group that advocates grown men raping young boys.

That’s so fucked up I don’t even have words for it.

Look at his Wikipedia page. If you can stand to do it, go to NAMBLA’s website. They quote him right goddamn there.

I’m not going to say that being a male survivor is harder than being a female survivor. But I will say that when you’re a male survivor not nearly many people are willing to talk about it. Giving a pass to a guy who supports NAMBLA is not okay. It’s not okay. Focusing on Larry Correia when that shit is not being talked about is not okay.

It is not okay.

I’m hoping you didn’t know. I’m hoping NK Jemisin and K Tempest Bradford and Mary Robinette Kowal don’t know. I saw everyone tweeting happily when he won his award. Because if you guys all know and aren’t saying anything about it and maybe even turning a blind eye because it’s really hard…

Well, I’d even kind of get that.

People talk a big game until that stuff is at their doorstep and then it becomes really easy to look away. We’re all human. No one’s invincible or infallible.

This is about the ugliest thing you can look at as a person.

But it’s still not okay.

I know none of you are under any obligation to condemn Samuel R Delany or Marion Zimmber Bradley. But when you’re going to start attacking people and you choose Larry Correia….

I just don’t get this.

Of course, Mark Greyland’s sister Moira has rightfully earned credit from many more people than just her brother. It was her brave, matter-of-fact email to Deidre Saoirse Moen that exposed how power, codes of silence and community approval could foster the endemic problem of pedophilia within SF:

“The first time she molested me, I was three. The last time, I was twelve, and able to walk away.

I put Walter in jail for molesting one boy. I had tried to intervene when I was 13 by telling Mother and Lisa, and they just moved him into his own apartment.

I had been living partially on couches since I was ten years old because of the out of control drugs, orgies, and constant flow of people in and out of our family “home.”

None of this should be news. Walter was a serial rapist with many, many, many victims (I named 22 to the cops) but Marion was far, far worse. She was cruel and violent, as well as completely out of her mind sexually. I am not her only victim, nor were her only victims girls.” – Moira Greyland”

“None of this should be news.”

None. Of. This. Should. Be. News.

Being a victim doesn’t automatically make you right, but compare these reasonable, measured, deep and thoughtful responses of the victims to those of the pedophile-defenders.

A special mention should also be made of author Nancy A. Collins, whose work highlighting, denouncing and investigating Ed Kramer’s crimes met with intense professional and personal blowback from Kramer’s many defenders.

Compare the above responses to, say, this one at Will Shetterly’s excellent investigation into the problem: “At NAMBLA’s site, Linda Frankel’s Beyond Bounds: Intergenerational Relationships in Science Fiction and Fantasy begins by asking ‘Why read or write science fiction and fantasy?’ Her answer boils down to ‘Because that’s where the stories about adults having sex with children are.'”

By the time Heidi Saha was 14 years old, she was such a convention regular in the 1970s that Forry Ackerman (of Famous Monsters of Filmland) and publisher James Warren thought she was ripe for her own special magazine, featuring photos of the child cosplayer.

“An absolute delight! I love her!” – Isaac Asimov, promoting An Illustrated History of Heidi Saha, a fourteen-year old girl famous for portraying Vampirella at conventions.

There is no middle ground here. This issue really is that divided: you are either for the victims, or against them.

A final word of thanks to all the survivors of this horrific crime who have -either privately or publicly in the comments provided their insights and thoughts on this matter. This unique knowledge that you never asked for and certainly never deserved has been very helpful in this modest attempt to shed further light on this number one problem in science fiction circles that has been allowed to feed on darkness for far, far too long.

23 Comments
  • Aeoli Pera says:

    Moderate is just another word for coward. Let me know when the real cleanup gets the green light.

  • Christopher says:

    I just gained a newfound respect for Nancy A. Collins – to be honest, I’m not a fan of her work – it’s just not my speed, but the fact that she was willing to do what so many of her cowardly colleagues will not. Much respect.

    I will say it loud and say it loud, if being a “Fan” means tolerating, and covering for, and praising these monsters, then I am NOT a “Fan” and I will commit everything I can to bring down “Fandom.” They deserve it.

  • Blue SFF Reader says:

    Millstones all around for the Trufen who support these child-molesting villains.

    Carthago delenda est.

  • Toddy Cat says:

    Was Ackerman a pedo?

    • Daniel says:

      He wrote most of the very unsettling internal content on the Saha book. He described the 14-year old girl as:

      “”…she’s Lilith, Lolita & Lorelei melded into one fantastic young colt around whom there’s already a cult.”

      • Kestrel says:

        Disturbing quote is disturbing.

        • Daniel says:

          Also “The young Goddess known as Heidi: supple, blonde reed of womanhood, bending in the wind of the sighs of her would-be wooers, her stricken swains. Heidi the delightful, the full-of-life dweller on the pink cloud of fantasy and wonder. Heidi — unbelievably refreshing, soft and shy, wildly exciting — Heidi — a poetic blend of fantasy and wondrous reality.”

          And others. Not right.

      • Don says:

        When I read Forrey’s stuff I guess I was too young even to notice the ads like that. Nor would I have understood who ‘Lolita’ was.

        Like a lot of young boys I liked monsters and monster movies. Makeup and special effects.

        Seeing this now gives me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was reading those magazines and never saw the sickness. I quit reading those magazines just about the time I would have understood them.

        Now I’m just physically ill. I was reading stuff put out by monsters and I had no clue what they were.

  • I saw Powder long before I heard of Salva or the controversy over it. Yet the shower scene jumped out at me as shoehorned in, completely unnecessary to the plot, as if the director just wanted to film one boy watching another one shower.

    I’ve read some twisted stuff, but I think you can tell when the creator is just getting off on it. Those captions about Heidi strike me the same way that scene in Powder did: like the magazine existed to give him an excuse to write them.

  • Andrew says:

    I’m the same Andrew that wrote the above comment and the ones on the other entry. Given that this particular subject has made me pretty mad a few times (and I think unhelpful in the larger scheme, and that’s what is important to me) in the past I wanted to add a couple of more helpful comments here for the people who might be browsing this. Given the subject matter and the people who might visit I think these would be the most helpful things I can say.

    1. Reporting: the most common and recurring theme I hear in stories where someone fails to report child abuse is that they heard about it for the first time, got too freaked out to do anything, and then lived in shame of not doing anything and kept silent. In fact, given the frequency with which these things go unreported, that’s probably the most common reaction by far.

    If you’re reading this and you’re in that kind of situation please do something very, very hard and forgive yourself right now. If you can’t forgive yourself, accept my forgiveness. However many times you failed and however many times after you could have done something… all of that is in the past now. You can still do something right now and it will still make a difference.

    Reach out to the authorities. Even if they don’t get everything right, they’ll establish a record and do what can be done. The record will follow the person around and make it easier to catch them in the future. None of the options are perfect here, but that’s the best one you have. It’s a lot easier to tag someone for hurting a kid than it used to be.

    DO NOT try to “take care of it on your own.” You can’t be everywhere, you’re not a prison, and you will vastly overrate your ability to keep an offender contained. Not only have I never heard of that working out, I don’t even know anyone who has heard of someone doing that with any degree of success.

    DO NOT fool yourself about the person’s ability to reoffend suddenly vanishing. Sometimes in families what you’ll hear is “We made an agreement to not let anyone be alone with that person” or “well, they just stopped doing that now” as if that solves the problem. That’s wishful thinking and if you’re honest with yourself you know it too. Maybe they stopped hurting one person. Maybe one of their victims moved away. Maybe they’re in a wheelchair now. What happens the next time someone comes along though? Call the cops. If you’re too late to save someone in particular you’re not too late to save someone else.

    2. Treatment: If this happened to you too the single best thing you can do is go to a group treatment.

    If you feel like this just can’t ever be made right, it can’t. I won’t lie to you. You’ll have issues about it forever BUT it’s important to put that in the context that you’ll have issues about everything you’ve experienced forever. This issue is no different and you can minimize its impact and move on. It can heal and you can live a full and happy and productive life. Even if you don’t feel like it can ever be made right taking the first step of going somewhere and talking to other people about it is really, super helpful.

    People handle their childhood abuse in different ways. Even more than the help you’ll get just by talking about it with people who understand and learning coping strategies you’ll start to realize that some of the limitations you have aren’t really part of you. A lot of those limits are just something you created to keep yourself safe and you don’t need them anymore.

    Personal therapy is also helpful (I’m not going to lie, going to a group treatment setting was probably the single most difficult and uncomfortable thing I’ve ever done, not just because it was physically impossible to give everyone a seat facing the door and close to an exit. So if you’re not ready for that it’s totally, completely understandable) but you really want to see a specialist. A therapist who doesn’t specialize might just feel sorry for you and odds are you’ve had enough of people feeling sorry for you. Sorry isn’t going to help you.

    You need someone who will help you and giving real actual legitimate help in these circumstances is really hard. But it can be done if you’re willing. Do whatever it takes to make that first step, even if once you get there you find all you can do is sit down in front of another person without talking about it. It will get easier if only by virtue of the fact that you don’t get worse at anything by trying.

    3. Rape victims aren’t broken/Humanity isn’t fragile

    Being a survivor of sexual assault sucks. Who knows what symptoms you have. Probably some of them are embarrassing and/or pretty weird. They’re also probably really common and treatable. Please don’t feel like you’re so broken that you don’t have any value as a person anymore because it’s not true.

    This isn’t stuff you talk about in casual settings and it isn’t stuff you can talk about with just anyone, but you can talk about it and you can also do it in a productive way.

    One of the best, most human laughs I ever had in my life was in group therapy. A guy was telling this awful story, so bad that if you heard it in a cop drama the detective would probably throw up just to illustrate how awful it was, and I was similarly impacted to the point I was about to leave the room. Then the group leader, who was about ninety years old and deaf as a post, kept asking the guy to repeat himself. By about the fourth or fifth time this guy is repeating the worse thing you can possibly imagine, this switch flipped in his head and he was just annoyed and exasperated that an old person couldn’t hear what he was saying. We caught each others eye, because he’d done the same thing to me earlier, and we both startled giggling.

    If you think church giggles are bad, try childhood rape survivor group therapy giggles. Everyone sort of left us alone and thought we were crying.

    My point being this: what happened to you or whoever you know may have been awful beyond explaining, but humanity still exists and the wonders of life still exist apart and separately from that and they can still be experienced. Might be hard to get to that point where you get to them again, but you CAN get there and those good feelings ARE worth it.

    It wasn’t until that moment when that guy and I laughed that I knew I’d eventually be okay again.

    4. Speak up:

    I’m just some guy that likes to read science fiction in an age where every author I read can’t stop talking about rape and/or engaging in ideological warfare. Which, if I’m being fair, has good and bad sides.

    When this issue first came to my attention I couldn’t figure out why everyone wasn’t talking about it until I remembered that this is how everyone reacts when this stuff is close. Rape makes people want to vomit and shower. Or roll up inside and turn away because it hurts too bad to look at it. It’s not easy to be productive about it by a long stretch. Writing about wizards and spaceships doesn’t make someone different in that regard and I don’t think I appreciated that enough earlier. So I want to try to be helpful.

    For all the rape culture stuff that gets tossed around you can really reduce it to one word and that’s: Silence.

    People who rape count on you being too shocked, too thrown off, and feeling too guilty and complicit for not doing something right away to speak up. Don’t let them get away with that. Speak up. Find help. Do whatever it takes to snap back to reality. I don’t care who you are or how you vote, that’s the single best thing you can do for yourself or anyone else.

    If someone says they support NAMBLA say: “That’s fucked up.”

    If you know about this is happening to you or someone you know, call the police.

    If you want help knowing where to start here is a link:

    https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/responding/reporting/how/

    There are resources for how to handle this.

    • pdwalker says:

      Thank you for speaking up Andrew. I mean that.

    • Daniel says:

      Andrew, thank you from me for your numerous contributions to this series. They are priceless.

      • Andrew says:

        I’m just an anonymous internet guy so as uncomfortable as it is for me to discuss, it’s not like it follows me around. Moira Greyland and her brother are my heroes for being public about it. They brought “wow, so brave” to a whole new level where it actually meant “wow” and “brave” in real life again.

        And you can’t be thanked enough for talking about it. No one else had the guts and you deserve full credit. It’s not easy stuff to bring up, people ALWAYS want to turn away, and the sorts of mind-bending excuses about why “it isn’t what it seems like” are an infuriating headache.

        You guys are pretty clearly in the right on this one. I hope people actually start to discuss it in a helpful and productive manner. Haven’t given up hope on that yet.

  • Jill says:

    You are correct. There is no middle ground.

  • Toddy Cat says:

    I gotta admit, with regards to Ackerman, that’s a pretty odd way for a (then)fifty-eight year old man to write about a fourteen year-old girl. The early Seventies were a really strange time, and a lot of things were considered acceptable back then that would be out of bounds today, as I recall – but there’s no doubt that behavior of that sort would have been considered unacceptable by most people, then or now. What the Hell did Asimov think that he was doing, endorsing crap like that?

    • Phelps says:

      Asimov thought he was alone with fellow travelers.

    • Contrarius Est says:

      Those *were* messed-up things for Ackerman to be writing. But also remember that this was the same decade in which 12, 13, 14, and 15-year-olds were routinely hanging out at nightclubs and becoming the “baby groupies” of rock stars like David Dowie, Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, and so on. Look up Sable Starr and Lori Mattox sometime.

      This was a serious problem of the era. No, it was not in any way restricted to the sff world.

      • Daniel says:

        The problem was not limited to the 1970s. Breen’s crimes stretch back to the 1940s. He knew Ackerman to the point of lining up at least one child for his Creature Features show. Crimes were commited under fandoms auspices in the 80s, 90s and 2000s.

        Strange era indeed. But much, much more than that.

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