That said, I've witnessed (and been guilty of) full-throated defenses against character assassinations based on little more than being a fan of the work. It's important for fans, who ought to be more informed than average, to be aware of and acknowledge the works' and creator's flaws. This both gives the fan more credibility, and by reducing the perceived personal protection the creator may feel from their fans, in aggregate should discourage bad behavior.
So thanks for sharing.
> "a world market for maybe five [building-size] computers" on my one-of-billions smartphone
Though in some of Asimov's books' terms, it easy to imagine that the internet would have counted to Asimov as having only one "building sized computer" and we just have billions and billions of terminals. The microcomputer revolution remade what the world calls a computer , and it's hard to predict futures when the words themselves shift out from under you. ;)
 Just as I like to half-jokingly predict the lasting impact of the smartphone revolution is that it is possible the word phone eats the word computer, bringing about AT&T's 50s retro future visions in a roundabout pathway they didn't foresee.
Asimov wrote about AI everywhere - positronic brains inside androids, multivac etc...
I'm very happy that these things are brought up loud and clear nowadays so no one can continue to be ignorant.
I think on some level, everyone who finds someone else attractive has at least some instinctual desire to touch them or hug them or kiss them, etc. It's the definition of sexual attraction. If all you've been told and all of your experience says "hey, go for it! It's not a big deal and occasionally they'll reciprocate," why would you refrain?
It's important for people to learn and understand at a very basic level that it's inappropriate, unacceptable, and degrading to the person on the receiving end. When I was in my mid 20's I used to work with a lot of young guys who would catcall and pester women all the time. I'd shake my head and ask them why they did that. Didn't they know it annoyed the hell out of the women (at the very least)?
Their response was usually along similar lines to the one quoted in the article: "well, some of them like it and occasionally it might work!" Without a real understanding of how flawed this logic was, these dudes had been taught that the ideal approach was just to proposition as many women as possible in the hopes that one might respond positively.
Without understanding the flip side, they just didn't consider or grasp the harm it caused to the vast majority of their "targets".
Whatever the context (sexual or not) it's important for people to learn how to go about that sort of implied social negotiation that ultimately might make these contacts non-problematic and perhaps even desirable. Just telling them "it's not okay" is not nearly as effective. Tell them it's not OK, and then ask them why they aren't doing it the right way. Do they feel that entitled to another person's boundaries?
Maybe people like Biden are the same. They just have a different sense of boundaries, and don't react themselves when other people touch or hug them. I don't know how asking them why they do something that feels perfectly natural to them would help.
Of course, but that's precisely why that implied negotiation is so important - far more perhaps than most people might realize. It's never okay to "move after" people who are clearly trying to keep their distance; that's creepy, almost predatory behavior. I don't care if it's Joe Biden doing it or just someone in your high school.
We're solving it by internalizing that externality (calling out cat callers) and I think that's the right thing to do.
I wonder if there is a mechanism (there probably isn't) which instead rapidly matches folks so that they can catcall exactly the people who want to be cat called, assuming there are any.
Human cultures have adapted all sorts of symbols and codes for social boundary negotiation. One really obvious and ancient one is the Wedding Ring. The fact that Wedding Rings are an "opt out" by default model in many folks' view for what is "fair game" is a problem to redress.
Another example that comes to mind from books I've read is the 70s "handkerchief code": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handkerchief_code. That one at least is more opt-in. There are descendants of that coding system still in use, of course.
In several of the real world conventions that I attend there's a growing pin and button culture that tries to encode directly and explicitly in English some negotiations, across a wide spectrum of consent/interest lines, things such as "I'm a hugger" and "Yes, I'm interested in socializing right now" (plus pronouns, and so forth). The advantage of making plain English over some cryptic code is nice for avoiding some forms of miscommunication, and you can do that in constrained settings like sci-fi conventions. They become a useful laboratory for exploring which ideas should possibly grow out into the real world, even though I don't think there are many ideas of how to do that "at scale" just yet.
(They are also laboratory experiments that some of them still fail and various communities are continually learning from them. Almost every broad consent has exceptions and navigating the line, for instance, of "I know I've given broad consent, but right now you need to accept that this particular circumstance is a no" is probably always going to be a challenge.)
Arguably a large part of the evolution of human communications has always been about social negotiation and we keep building new systems to signal/communicate/explore it. We've never perfected it, but maybe a big part of our human drive is that we keep trying.
It's interesting that the opt-in signaling culture arose in the context of symmetrically powerful relationships (two members of the same sex) vs a catcall culture (which is clearly between assymetric power relationships - a male and female). I wonder if the power imbalance has something to do with the consensuality of the interaction.
Though also an interesting counter-note to me is that the handkerchief code itself was commonly used in BDSM cases intended to signal the consensual creation of a power imbalance and asymmetry, and it is in (mixed gender) BDSM communities where I've heard most of the less publicly documented, but possibly more generally useful, successors to handkerchief code can be found. So asymmetric power structures have always been intertwined in the opt-in signaling, even if yes some of the early symmetry was probably a necessary bootstrap state.
I think this is what dating apps are for to some extent. Except the 'catcall' becomes ... conversation on a date. Although some of the apps are more on the catcall end of the spectrum.
Exactly. I think he would have been horrified if he actually understood the harm he caused. It sometimes amazes me how people who are extremely intelligent in some aspects of life can be so utterly clueless in other.
The Civil Rights Act of 1991 happened the year before he died. There was a big change in the way people saw this behavior between the 80s and now.
How many celebrities, who lived through that era, would now say that behavior is okay? I honestly think had he lived, he'd say he was wrong.
One of the reasons I left religion was principally this eternal damnation practice. It’s extreme. The variety of life and even the universe requires nuance and forgiveness.
Speaking of which, Asimov was certainly aware that "thou shalt not covet" and "whoever looks at a woman lustfully..." had been preached for a couple of thousand years, so it's not like he had no idea what he was doing could possibly be wrong.
I reject the idea that before the 1990s it was always acceptable to grope women in public. In older, more traditional and more conservative societies it was not acceptable.
My guess is that Asimov might have done something similar if he were alive in the #MeToo era. Some vague apologies, but no true reckoning of everything.
People are flawed. Some people are deeply flawed and fame has been for far too long an enabler foe behavior that should never be tolerated from anyone.
I can't imagine someone doing that in front of me. I don't even know how I'd act. Probably just sit there wondering if they really did just do that.
Please, mind it, I don't say that's what happened, I just say it looks like it and may be interpreted this way. A person can hide his intentions using awkward behaviour, of course. Prior information and context tip the scale in the end.
There's an interesting story about the early Buddhist monks who, while the Buddha was alive, would squabble and fight over "right view". So, even after giving up almost everything, they were still attached! The Buddha, in classic Buddha way, responded by walking into the forest to meditate alone.
Personally, I wish we'd all just relax and realize what assholes we ALL are, each and every one. There are no exceptions.
Where one person shrugs when a family member is insulted, another might come to blows to protect an idea of family. It's cultural, economic and political...it's belief.
Regardless of the merit of a comment, I downvote on principle when being baited like this.
Yeah, I really don't think so. The legacy of people with important contributions (technical, cultural, political, etc) is their work, not what they did in their private life, unless they were also moonlighting as the Boston strangler or something.
In 2500 nobody would care whether he did this or that. But they would probably still read some of his work.
Also I don't think anyone but an academic will be reading his work in a few hundred years. As much as I enjoy his ideas and his easy style he is actually mediocre.
I don't like to point out and say people's opinions are wrong but The Embire series are cornerstone of science fiction writing and will surely be read in the future. I can't imagine someone studying the history of scifi literature and skipping Asimov at any point in time.
Regular fans will continue to read Asimov, as they do today, 70+ years after some books where published.
In fact, there is (was?) a TV series coming up on Foundation as well...
Dickens is not read just because it was fun.
Asimov is more in the "for fun" category. They are creative, but you must avoid thinking deeper about those societies and people in them - it breaks those books.
So while it definitely plays role in sci-fi history, it is replaceable by next fun thing (Harry Potter or whatever).
Considering his first stories came around 1930 iirc, his books are already close to the "hundred years" mark, and still read, so we're past wondering about that...
People might not read Tom Wolf ('The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test' anyone?) but they'll sure keep reading Asimov and Clarke and Dick and co for a good while...
Asimov, re-reading him as an adult, is also quite mediocre. He writes space melodramas garnished with some neat ideas. He knew how to popularize scientifically novel ideas. He was genuinely imaginative. But you can't take his sentimental and cliched scenarios seriously.
Philip K Dick on the other hand I think might well be read in 500 years. His work, with its own many defects, often has something profound in it.
As ever these are just views.
I have no idea why you think I've proposed him "as an avatar of quality". I gave him as an example of someone who was once widely celebrated, but not that read anymore (much less in a "100 years").
In fact, talk about literary quality didn't enter my comments in this subthread at all. It's about whether people will still read Asimov, or whether they would care about the facts in TFA so that his legacy as a sci-fi leader is in danger, etc.
>Asimov, re-reading him as an adult, is also quite mediocre. He writes space melodramas garnished with some neat ideas. He knew how to popularize scientifically novel ideas. He was genuinely imaginative. But you can't take his sentimental and cliched scenarios seriously.
Well, a lot of well known sci-fi is mediocre, if "garnished with some neat ideas". That doesn't change the fact that it's good and popular for what it is (genre fiction, not high literature with subtle writing and profound truths). Or whether it will be read in 100 or 500 years. And I think Asimov will (well, if people are still around, that is).
would be an academic.
I certainly did dug back for most genres I follow to earlier history of the genre.
Without the Foundation series, I doubt there'd be the Culture novels - or at least not in that form.
Het also used the word "gay" as simply meaning happy in the Foundation series. Because it's written in the 50's. Remember all of those face slaps to calm down hysterical women you saw up til the 80's in movies? When I see it now I think "waaaaaaaaat" but it was a normal stereotype back then.
EDIT on the other hand, from the same page -
> In his two-volume Guide to the Bible (1967 and 1969), Isaac Asimov describes Jezebel's last act: dressing in all her finery, make-up, and jewelry, as deliberately symbolic, indicating her dignity, royal status, and determination to go out of this life as a queen.
Apparently some commenters here would have us believe that if there's a highly emotional woman, it's because the author hates women. Jezebel's/Jessie's husband and main character of Caves of Steel, Elijah, is himself kind of an anxious headstrong type who's wrong more often than he's right. Of course, this indicates with high certainty that Asimov also hates men.
Edit: Also worth noting that Bliss/Gaia in Foundation is pretty much the most powerful character in the Foundation universe. Mayor Branno, woman mayor of the First Foundation, is also revered as an incredibly capable and bold leader by all accounts.
Edit 2: And not to mention the young girl taken from Solaria, who is the only character to potentially rival Bliss. What a laughable claim that all the women in Asimov’s stories are weak or hysterical.
Despite its intricacies I found this particular part of their marital back story to be totally unconvincing and ineffective. Sorry Isaac.
Elijah and Jezebel - a match made in heaven...
I don't recall his works. But review the US family TV shows from the 1950s and 1960s and see the 'fond, goofy' portrayal of women -- it was everywhere. Similarly, many cartoons of that era ... shown across the nation in theatres ... cannot be seen anymore. The level of thick-headed, cloddish insensitivity was pervasive. We've changed as a culture in the US, and I'm grateful.
While I don't agree 100%, that never hurt any artist's commercial success or fan following...
In any case, for the sci-fi field he's one of the classics. Most others in the genre weren't exactly subtle deep literature either, it's the ideas and sci-fi exploration of them that count.
1) Asimov was a prolific writer who authored many works that were fundamental in shaping science fiction into what we know it as today
2) Asimov sexually assaulted women on a regular basis
But the way people see the first point will be through the lens of the second.
> The damage he caused was inseparable from his power. In general, Asimov chose targets who were unlikely to protest directly, such as fans and secretaries, and spared women whom he saw as professionally useful. There were exceptions—he chased the editor Cele Goldsmith around her desk—but he preferred to focus on women who were more vulnerable, which inevitably raises the issue of mentorship.
> Yet many of these encounters were clearly nonconsensual. When the author Frederik Pohl questioned his tendency to touch women “in a fairly fondling way,” Asimov replied, “It’s like the old saying. You get slapped a lot, but you get laid a lot, too.”
He's deliberately finding vulnerable women -- who may be forced to laugh off or allow his unwanted advances in order to keep their jobs (keep in mind the time period also -- women even having some of these jobs was something special in itself), and he's doing it to, ultimately, get sex.
That may not quite be the definition of rape, but it certainly isn't "a[n] unwelcome pinch on the butt."
Sounds to me like Asimov wasn't that far off from Weinstein -- keep in mind for every accusation of rape Weinstein is facing, there were dozens if not hundreds of women who claim lesser degrees of inappropriate actions. It's more likely that the women who would today, in the #metoo era, have reported legal sexual assault or rape, were silenced back then -- I can't imagine we will ever know though; maybe he stopped at just "pinches on the butt," but I doubt it.
How serious would we consider it, and how "traumatized" we would consider the person after the incident? (Some would call it "very serious". But then again there are people who suffer trauma over a wrong order at Starbucks).
At best most people would call it a tasteless antic or light bullying or crappy behavior (like farting in public)...
I would absolutely describe that as sexual assault; deliberately, just to emphasize that playful male aggression crosses lines that absolutely should not be crossed, including in the workplace. Touch my balls without my consent, and I won't care whether you're horsing around or making an awkward pass. It's assault, and it's sexual. It doesn't cheapen other kinds of sexual assault to draw clear boundaries.
Next time you're at a conference, try pinching a woman's butt in the middle of a crowded room. Let me know how that works out for you.
Only certain people, who think themselves as saints and that others should be too, and judge creators by their failings.
Most people care just for the work -- the fact they actually matters to them in 2020 and that they get to read --, and they could not give less ducks who some creator was and what they did in their personal lives.
Of course you can't really apply ceteris parabus to books, but normally you have to decide what you're going to read on limited information, two very different books might seem close enough given you know little about either. When you choose what to read you reduce all the context and comparison to a decision. "author was a creep" definitely makes me less likely to want to read his work, especially if they are still alive and could personally profit.
The choice should be for the best book. Not the nicest author.
In fact the "nicest author" would probably have the most boring work -- personal failings add spice to fiction writing (and poems, songs, etc).
I don't want to read scifi all the time. So when I do read a scifi book, I have tons of good ones to pick from.
I actually recently read Foundation by Asimov and I don't see what all the big deal is about. It presupposes faster than light travel but not the spread of ideas. Also his sexist attitudes are apparent. He basically states that the entire female population planet of the foundation planet isn't important.
That's probably the last Asimov work I will read in my lifetime, based purely on the quality of the work, and nothing to do with his character.
There are reviews, excepts, literary fame, word of mouth, tv adaptations, and several other things to get an idea about that. How moral the author was during their time on earth is hardly on my list of such things.
>I don't want to read scifi all the time. So when I do read a scifi book, I have tons of good ones to pick from.
Sure, but that's neither here nor there as to the point we're discussing. We'd have the same issue with any other genre (or even any other art rather than literature).
I don't have time to read all Sci fi books, nor do I have time to read all reviews. I have to make a decision on very limited information. That's why I said between two seemingly equal books, meaning equal reviews, prestige, whatever, if one author is a creep and the other isn't, I'll pick to read the book by the author who isn't a creep.
>Sure, but that's neither here nor there as to the point we're discussing. We'd have the same issue with any other genre (or even any other art rather than literature).
I'm not discussing the abstract concept of separating art from artist. I'm discussing how it applies to me. This topic has pretty extensive treatment in literary/critical theory.
The reason this is applicable to me is that I have a goal to consume all the best scifi, and I don't have enough time in my lifetime to consume all the best scifi. Therefore I can afford to be more picky. I personally choose to limit myself to the best of the best Sci fi that happens to not be written by creeps.
If someone told me the best scifi novel ever was written by Hitler, I would probably read it. But if someone told me Hitler wrote a pretty good scifi novel I would skip it until I read all the really good ones. And then maybe I'll switch to reading a really good book from another genre before reading a pretty good book by Hitler.
Also I find it much, much more important to apply this principle to authors who are still alive. I don't want to financially support authors who are creeps. If they are dead, then it just is really some completely arbitrary selection criteria that I choose to apply to limit the total number of works I could read from some super huge number I could never hope to consume in my lifetime to some slightly smaller super huge number I could never hope to consume in my lifetime.
Jesus, if we had omniscience into the personal lives of every person, and were to chose to disregard their works if they did things that are objectionable to the taboos of the day, we'd be naked, looking over our shoulders fearfully for leopards.
Also, do you by any chance listen to Led Zeppelin or some such band? Speaking of "groping girls", that is.
I personally would rather not glorify those people nor do I go out of my way to take in their art.
I don't feel like I'm missing much.
If I find out art I like was made by a bad person I don't clutch my pearls.
The relevance to the issue at hand is that science fiction is already a subgenre (though it is on the rise) that has a rather narrow range of fan base with an even more narrow range of potential authors. There are so few people writing good science fiction; I honestly wonder how much the carnal predilections of a now dead but no less prolific author is moving the needle.
If you could magically make science fiction authorship on par with being a YouTube personality in terms of perceived status, an army of Weinsteins and Dworkins couldn't keep little girls and boys out of crafting stories.
Just tell your kids to be themselves. They don't need to emulate anyone.
People can still "follow and emulate" the achievements he did, not whatever bad side.
Like people still try to follow all kinds of public figures, despite their known bad sides, from Hemingway to Jobs.
Else we would only follow saints.
() not to mention, if the tide turns, even the bad side could be "cool" again. There are even people into things like satanism or self-destruction, or womanizing, or machoism after all, and they too have their idols.
People could take issue in how their leaders, and people they interact with are today.
If, on the other hand, they take issue for past leaders being lauded for their "within-the-field achievements" despite their personal behavior (as if that has any bearing on the field), especially after 50+ odd years, then those people "driven out" weren't that driven to be in the field in the first place.
Would anybody go off of physics because Einstein was sexist (and worse), and still (rightly so) lauded as the greatest physicist (perhaps after Newton)?
Not sure when people forgot how to compartmentalise...
It affected his wife I think (she was actually good in math). I think Einstein behavior was more personal through. He was never in "public figure groping women while everybody knows about it and culture adjusts to accept and enable" category. And like, it is ok to talk about Einstein flaws too, why do we need to pretend that past figures were better then they actually were?
> they take issue for past leaders being lauded for their "within-the-field achievements" despite their personal behavior
Asimov was not successful despite his personal behavior. His personal behavior happened because of his success and escalated with success. It is the way people in power accepted the acts that they would not accept from somebody else.
The lauding of great people is often based on lie - either by omission or direct. The exactly same impulse of "must not criticize him" is what make people enable his behavior and would make people enable next successful person.
> then those people "driven out" weren't that driven to be in the field in the first place.
I think this is nonsense. Of course people take rational decisions about which field they can be reasonably successful in and where they can will be treated badly.
It is like with companies - most capable employees tend to leave faster when faced with toxic management.
>It affected his wife I think (she was actually good in math)
Yes, I'm talking about today. Would anybody go off of physics today, because Einstein is still very much lauded (and will probably forever be)?
>Asimov was not successful despite his personal behavior. His personal behavior happened because of his success and escalated with success.
Yes, but I'm dividing the two as the stuff remaining and actually accessible/relevant to people today (the actual work), and stuff where someone to be affected had to be there and present in his private life at the time.
So whether the success drove his personal behavior, the point remains, the public output we have today is the books. We don't care if Marlowe knifed a couple of people when enjoying his plays (in fact, come to think of it, J. S. Bach did too).
> The lauding of great people is often based on lie
After they are dead, the lauding is based on "what's in for us". If there are artifacts from which the future generations benefit, then the "at the time" dealings are not really relevant.
>I think this is nonsense. Of course people take rational decisions about which field they can be reasonably successful in and where they can will be treated badly.
Yes, but not based on what someone dead 30 years ago did 50+ years ago.
It matters because it influenced what people in gendre think about what is cool and what is wrong. It matters for us to understand how past culture really functioned, because past is used as argument today.
It matters because it shows how much of 1950 nostalgia is pure bullshit.
The full Bachs biography and Marlowe biographies are interesting too. At least for those of us interested in history beyond "cool stories".
You are just saying that hundreds of such "incidents" is simply not important enough to be remembered. But murder would be according to you. Where do you draw the line?
Frankly the callousness of people like Asimov bothers me. You're left with two possibilities. Either they simply don't care that they are making the other person uncomfortable, angry or scared. Or worse that they're getting off on that.
We don't care for the transgressions (including much more serious, down to murder, slave ownership, and other things) for 99% of historical figures...
I am not making excuses or forgiving anyone. I'm just trying to point out that using today's "acceptable" to judge the past will devalue everything that's ever been accomplished.
E.g., no doubt Salk had ideas about male/female roles in society that would be considered poorly today. That should be acknowledged as part of his time. Does that affect the success of the polio vaccine?
And? Why does that matter to you?
"I'm just trying to point out that using today's "acceptable" to judge the past will devalue everything that's ever been accomplished"
I disagree, even in the time of the Founding Fathers it was common knowledge that slavery was bad, they just didn't care. Is that not wrong?
And in this case, clearly Asimov knew that what he was doing was wrong. We can call out what these figures did as being wrong, while also acknowledging the work that they have done.
Mind you there are 2 or 3 volumes. It only really started some time after he was married; could be volume II if you only read the first.
A particularly horrifying axis is that between Marion Zimmer Bradley and her husband, Walter Breen. Bradley is merely accused (to be clear: I believe the accuser) but Breen was a convicted molester who was known to be problematic for years - with people in fandom just trying to manage the situation.
If this doesn't sound familiar from tech, you haven't been paying attention.
idk what to do about all this; it's pretty easy for me to pass on rereading Asimov or MZB anyhow. But the obvious lesson, still unlearned in many quarters, is "don't keep protecting harassers". To quote a better, or at least IMO more interesting author (please don't let him be a harasser too):
"Papa Hegel he say that all we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. I know people who can't even learn from what happened this morning. Hegel must have been taking the long view." - Stand on Zanibar, John Brunner
His books don't become worse because of alleged bad behaviour.
He's hardly unique in that. MZB's Mists of Avalon has similar issues from a different gender perspective.
Asimov looks especially crude now, with the distance of a few decades. I wouldn't be surprised if more recent fiction suffers a similar reassessment in time.
SF is rarely character-led and it may be optimistic to expect depth or nuance from it. Character design is more likely to be an aspect of fan service - give the readers a fantasy they can identify with, maybe add some flaws for spice - and not so much an opportunity for self-reflection.
I'm not sure his male characters are that much better.
Luckily, I don't feel that his books stand or fall by the characters in them. They are just vehicles used to explore the consequences of the technologies that Asimov presupposes.
I don't agree with this assessment at all.
The best SF I've read has believable characters with real motivations.
Off the top of my head:
* Paul McAuley's Quiet War series
* Ken McLeod's Fall Revolution series, "The Execution Channel"
* Bester's "The Stars My Destination" - a recent read, and the character arc is cribbed from The Count of Monte Cristo, but the SF parafernalia is a backdrop for the character.
I really don't think it's true anymore, see all Hugo award SF nominees and winners from the past few years. They are all character-led.
As an example, one old short story - I've forgotten the name - involves a space race from Earth to Jupiter and back (or something like that). The participants usually go full blast 1/2-way there, invert to slow down, then repeat to get back.
The main character starts with an engine problem or something, can't catch up, then in a burst of inspiration realizes he can use Jupiter's gravity to swing around, at speed.
Everyone at first wonders if there's a problem, then when it happens they realize the brilliance of what happened.
My interpretation is the author had just learned about gravity assist ("first used in 1959 when the Soviet probe Luna 3 photographed the far side of Earth's Moon" says Wikipedia) and structured the entire story around that concept.
The people were secondary to the orientation.
While it's true what you said about almost every famous story, most SF is not made of famous stories.
(I would be grateful if anyone can tell me the name of the story I just summarized.)
All of Asimov’s characters are broadly drawn embodiments of simple concepts; to the extent his stories have depth it comes from the interaction of those simple characters with each other an the constructed environment, but from subtly drawn, realistic characterization.
This is very much not limited to female characters.
Having known this about Asimov for quite some time, it hasn't kept me from enjoying that of his work I really like, but it has somewhat dulled my enjoyment of him overall as an author. In particular, although it's never been a favorite of mine anyway, I can't see myself being able to avoid noticing that _Foundation's Edge_ has a plotline that pairs off a middle-aged professor with a young, pretty, sexually open-minded woman who is "bottom heavy".
I also used to like Piers Anthony's books when I was young, and too naive to pick up on how much the author seemed to like writing about little girls panties and fetishizing pedophilia.
Some people can ignore the problematic elements, and some can't. You don't have to read The Shadow Over Innsmouth as metaphor for race mixing, but once you know it's there, you can't unknow it.
But more importantly, his behaviour kept others out of the field. It stopped them having their voice heard. His fame came at the cost of many other's. And there is no reason why we should allow that to continue. Don't read those who stole the voice others. They did not earn your attention, and you can give it to those who were less fortunate instead.
No they weren't.
> His fame came at the cost of many other's.
That's true for literally everyone that has ever been in the limelight.
> Don't read those who stole the voice others.
He didn't steal anyone's voices though, he 'just' (allegedly) sexually assaulted them.
> They did not earn your attention, and you can give it to those who were less fortunate instead.
Do you even hear what you're saying? 'Don't read these people because their works are actually good, read them because they're underprivileged!'
His early stuff is still absolutely fantastic though.
> argues against the method of reading and criticism that relies on aspects of the author's identity to distill meaning from the author's work.
I recommend Lindsay Ellis' video on the subject. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGn9x4-Y_7A
Many of the golden age authors rage from "just" problematic like Asimov to a lot worse (see for more: http://www.jasonsanford.com/blog/2018/2/golden-age-sf-not-go...). I still read these authors but I for one cannot help see the author in their books, and knowledge of their actions certainly influences how I interpret these books. I therefore don't believe in Death of the Author.
What you're talking about is a moral judgment, not a critical one. So not saying "this book isn't good because the author was bad", but saying "regardless of the book's qualities, we shouldn't read it because the author was a bad person".
This is part of the reason why I avoid reading about authors. Like the practice of symphonies doing auditions blind in order to avoid bias, I don't want my personal opinions of an author's life to taint my evaluation of their work.
How many historical works will we be left with after we've gone through all historical figures up to emancipation? We probably will have to give up even the theory of evolution.
No, it's not. I'm not talking about literary criticism or text interpretation. I'm talking about reading books for fun.
Are Caravaggio's paintings less beautiful because he killed someone? I think to suggest so is absurd. It doesn't mean you have to like the artist as a person, but to directly tie the value of a work of art to its creator is dangerously reductive.
I suspect that there is a spectrum here where some forms of art or expression are more directly tied to the nature of the creator than others.
Nowadays we are in a marketing-focused era where serious aesthetic thought is basically unknown to everyone but academics, so the natural result is that the identity of an artist is often more important than their work.
(Side note: performance art refers to a separate art field, e.g. Marina Abramović. Performing arts is the right term to use for music, singing, etc.)
But yes, of course there are various approaches to aesthetics and certainly some would say that the artist as individual plays more of a role in some genres than others.
What may make things worse is that the SF community does still attract a larger percentage of socially awkward young people, mostly men, who are also extremely passionate, so seeing that type of behavior normalized can have a larger impression on them.
This behavior needs to be stopped, but it needs to continue to be addressed in all communities.
I only started visiting Worldcon in the few years, but from what I see, there is huge awareness for it there, and these phenomenons do not exist there nowadays.
They probably exist in other sff events, the sad/rabid puppies didn't disappear yet sadly, however, since Worldcon is the face of the field, I wouldn't define it as a "problem of contemporary SF"
> SF community does still attract a larger percentage of
> socially awkward young people, mostly men
Should this be stopped too?
it's not just people protecting bad behavior, omerta within a social circle is often a failure of the state/society to safely protect people in the circle from being outed when they speak up while the problematic person gets away scot-free. you need to reach a critical cultural mass before people are confident in speaking up, because the fear of retaliation is often the motivation before the need to protect the circle, see i.e. the harvey weinstein case.
> If this doesn't sound familiar from tech, you haven't been paying attention.
this is an overly broad generalization, there's plenty of techies outside the big flashy companies built on top of the silicon valley hero cult pattern.
Then you probably can't read any great books, look at any great art, watch any great movie, listen to any great music, laugh with any great comedian, admire any great leader/politician, etc.
I hate to break this to you but there really aren't any saints in this world. And if you do find a saint, it just means he was just better at hiding his true self from the world.
Can you study physics after learning that Einstein was a racist bigot just like hitler?
"It would be a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races. For the likes of us the mere thought is unspeakably dreary."
Einstein worried about the "chinese" ( and by chinese he most likely meant asians ) taking over the world like hitler worried about jews taking over the world. Granted Einstein never did anything about it, though he indirectly helped in the nuking of the "automaton spiritless and obtuse 'chinese' children" in hiroshima and nagasaki.
If you were wondering, Newton wasn't any better.
Can you enjoy the Christmas Carol knowing that Dickens was a racist bigot?
Or maybe you should do what we are all taught in philosophy and the arts and learn to separate the art from the artist. They are not one and the same. You can appreciate the art and despise the artist.
Thankfully to us, Einstein was not just like Hitler. Einstein was an asshole to his wife and had few personal flaws, but he very conclusively did not displayed same behavior nor same opinions as Hitler. Einstein had also some good redeeming qualities like pretty strong anti-racism.
You never took a "philosophy of art" or aesthetics course? You never learned about "art qua art"? I distinctly remember discussing whether artists from tupac to roman polanski should be appreciated, whether their art should be banned, whether they should even be credited, etc.
> In any case, your sophomore-level tirade is moot
Thanks for the ad hominem. I hope your philosophy course taught you about that.
Isaac Asimov, Michael Jackson, Roman Polanski - can you enjoy their work knowing what you know about the creator?
Contextualizing works of art is important in some cases, and moreso if the art is political. In cases where author bias either isn't present or doesn't matter, however, I don't think it matters.
I note that he's not the only Mormon SF writer I've thought that about, though the other one that comes to mind has evolved his public politics over the last decade. But making that connection ("Mormon SF writer") may be an invalid cognitive bias.
I don't think so. There are so many books, movies, song, games, etc. that I could never consume them all so there is still a near infinite list of works for me to enjoy by creators who aren't known to be terrible people.
So why do some people get called out and lambasted while other continue (right now) to get away with it?
I think there is a mob mentality out there that controls the media and wants to take down a very specific set of people and leave the others standing.
Edit: To not be misunderstood I have personally suffered molestation as a kid/teen, and even the single photo of Asimov trying to kiss that girl is sickening. Power, fame and narcissism corrupts.
If you see someone doing something wrong, call them out. Like this article does. Otherwise they will simply keep doing it.
If you have a problem with someone not getting called out, call them out. Otherwise you are simply protesting the act of calling out because you're afraid to do so yourself.
Yes, thank God: this article (and the outrage it creates) will save young women from being groped by Asimov's corpse.
It simultaneously enrages one side against another while claiming it's actions are justified by it's own group, but no other group can act the same.
The accused should be taken to court.
But mobs don't like court, they want a lynching.
And how do you take someone to court for "being an asshole"? If you knew someone who is constantly doing extremely shady things, like screwing over their business partners or repeatedly cheating on their spouses, there's no way to "take someone to court" on those counts. Does that mean their shady dealings should never be exposed?
True justice requires a defence, even if you don't like it.
We cannot seriously talk about Columbus-the-brave-explorer without also talking about his acts of slavery and genocide.
We cannot take Asimov to court. We cannot take Columbus to court. But we can talk about them as real people, and look at their entire history, rather than as a single facet of their lives.
Mobs are still mobs. It's socially justified insanity.
They will remove Asimov books from libraries now, just wait. If we did the same for every author there would zero books left except propaganda from the controlling mob.
Asimov is obviously wrong, but mobs don't want a reasonable solution, they want blood.
If it were real, why is Lovecraft still on library shelves? Lovecraft is sure to go first.
If it were real, can you point out any of them?
Many things in the past have been legal that shouldn't have been. And many people have gotten away with wrong things, like Asimov.
So you think we should ignore the historical truth, the people he harmed? I absolutely disagree.
We can't even talk about the harms people caused without "mobs" getting mad about the conversation.
They're going to remove all of Asimov's books from libraries now because someone wrote an article about his behavior, despite that behavior being known about for decades, and not exactly uncommon within the community?
Please stop with the pearl-clutching concern trolling. There's no "propaganda from the controlling mob," no one is out for blood, no one is burning books en masse because mob justice.
When you write "undisclosed accusations", you mean that in addition to the disclosed ones, right? https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/01/23/complainant-u... describes Faïza Harbi's accusations.
> It would take almost a year before Harbi, with the help of MIT’s investigators, said she came to understand that Lewin’s interest in her was not motivated by empathy, and that their first conversations included inappropriate language. Shortly after contacting her, Harbi said, Lewin quickly moved their friendship into uncomfortable territory, and she was pushed to participate in online sexual role-playing and send naked pictures and videos of herself. After about 10 months, Harbi said, she resumed self-mutilating after seven years of not doing so.
> I wish to register that I disagree in the strongest possible terms with MIT’s decision to remove Prof. Lewin’s lectures from OpenCourseWare—thereby forcing the tens of thousands of students around the world who were watching these legendary lectures to hunt for ripped copies on BitTorrent.
Since those lectures are online, from multiple sources, I don't think that objection has much weight. Indeed, comment #3 points out one source (other comments point out other sources), and Scott Aaronson in comment #5 says it would be acceptable for MIT to host them on YouTube.
> If MIT no longer wants the videos hosted “in its name,” they could upload them to YouTube right now. They could even add a disclaimer at the beginning like, “These lectures by Walter Lewin are being provided for educational purposes. Lewin is speaking as an individual, and is no longer endorsed by MIT.”
I see little difference between MIT hosting them and Lewin hosting them on YouTube, and a cursory reading of Scott Aaronson's other comments suggests that Aaronson is okay so long as the videos are available, and there is a discussion forum. From comment #92:
> So maybe finding a separate entity to host the lectures and discussion boards really is the best solution, and I hope that happens soon.
I think it's here where you may get hoisted on your own petard and that's the price society pays for moral relativism...
Case in point, these days one who thinks abortion is obviously wrong is more likely to be scorned for calling it out than those they're calling out.
One can't sanely wish for, while at the same time deny the existence of absolute truth.
"If you [women] have the right to kill it, men should have the right to abandon it."
Seems fair to me. Though I think murder is horrific.
Low status men might notice they don't get invitations to dinner that other men get, but high status was effectively immunity: Asimov was important; you couldn't not invite him to a con or a party.
I will defend my comments! Men of that era, in that society, were incredibly sexist. Women suffered through that, and continue to suffer today.
If people here can only react emotionally without comprehending what they're actually reading, there's not much hope to improve anything.
Mad Men illustrated this very well (slight spoiler: especially consider what happened to Peggy, by Pete, early in the series..). Women were expected to take a lot 'on the chin'. After all, guys will be guys, right?
If others raised eyebrows about his behavior, it was only because it was more risqué than normal, but not out of any consideration for the victims.
Bayta was reasonable, I'll give him that.
Bliss was embarrassing. Sexy goddess implausibly falls for elderly academic man ... can you say "authorial wish fulfillment"?
the general problem is a massive bloat of amassed and received works. record keeping is almost exhaustive so new books, movies, shows and songs just keep piling up, and the immensity of choices is overwhelming. i wonder how many people are subscribed to dozens of channels on youtube but just never find the time to catch up with more than 2 or 3 videos a day, and their backlog just keep growing and growing.... overcommunication and data creep. i can see a near future where the virtual you goes off and tests entertainment products then comes back and offers recommendations. in a primitive way this is already happening it's just past-you helping make selections for present-you.
it reminds me towards the end of the middle ages, when chroniclers amassed hundreds of manuscripts and began creating world history by condensing it down into something readable and understandable. maybe the essence of the age we live in is that of the neo-chronicler, tools that will reconnect people with the passage of time.
An exception is when the older post has a very good comment. And in those cases I sometimes quote the comment partially.
More (less?) details in: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html
From the article:
> From an early age, Asimov was drawn to the communal aspects of fan culture, but he made it more difficult for women to experience that sense of community. Women have long occupied an ambiguous place in science fiction, where they have been alternately welcomed, dismissed, and harassed. Asimov took advantage of what he called the rising percentage of “shrill young girls” at conventions in the 1960s, and his unique position at such events—he was invariably the center of attention—made his example especially insidious. 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.
> Asimov has always meant a lot to me, and the best qualities of his work—his rationality, curiosity, and imagination—changed thousands of lives for the better. Yet the visible edifice of his hundreds of books needs to be balanced against the unseen wall that he built around the heart of science fiction. His actions had a negative impact on an untold number of women [...]
There's a common refrain heard recently regarding basically any historically male dominated domain, that women are not welcomed or encouraged. This is unfortunately all-too-common in software engineering. As a male software engineer, I feel as though no-one is welcomed or encouraged. I feel as though women are reacting to industries that have always been harsh and unwelcoming and feeling uniquely victimised.
Have you ever had someone grab your ass or try to kiss you without consent in a professional context? Ever had a corporate officer seem interested in hiring you, call you in for an interview, ask you on a date, and then decide not to hire you when you rejected them? Ever been told on the first day by a new boss about their open relationship with their spouse, and their search for new sexual partners? Ever had a coworker make an overtly sexist joke about your gender to your face? Ever been propositioned for sex by a stranger at a conference? Ever heard a friend explain that “I would never work for a woman boss. No offense, you’re not like most women.” Ever been denied a new job or a promotion because the decision-maker thought you might have a child within the next few years? Ever been the clear expert or authority in a meeting with multiple people and been repeatedly interrupted by someone asking the clueless novice next to you to explain what you were just trying to say? Ever had a novice badly try to explain the content of your own book to you, even after you mentioned you were the author? Ever gone to speak at an event and had someone ask you which speaker was your spouse? Etc. etc. ad nauseam.
If none of the above, then you probably are misunderstanding what people say when they claim to feel frequently unwelcome.
Someone has grabbed my cock without my consent as well.
> Ever been denied a new job or a promotion because the decision-maker thought you might have a child within the next few years?
In a professional context? Yeesh. Sorry to hear that (whatever the context). Sexual harassment/assault of anyone anywhere should be unacceptable.
I’m not asking whether this has ever happened to any man ever though. I’m asking if the specific guy claiming that nobody of any description feels welcome in the tech industry (and that women who claim that there is specific gender discrimination are just imagining things) has had any of those kinds of experiences.
As a man, I have had conversations about this topic with various male and female friends in the tech industry over the years, and anecdotally few if any of the men ever experience gender discrimination or sexual harassment in professional contexts while essentially all of the women do at least occasionally (some regularly).
Nah, let us focus on a caricature of the dominant evil male and let us live in a world of perpetual victimization while spewing lots of ideological Indoctrination.
(1) My impression (as a man myself) is that the vast majority of men in the tech industry are well meaning and respectful. It only takes a few – especially a few in positions of power – to make the whole culture feel unwelcoming.
(2) I have not called anyone “evil” here. Something can be inconsiderate, unprofessional, make someone feel unwelcome, be directly harmful, or have pernicious systemic effects when perpetuated at scale, while still not being profoundly depraved or irredeemably malevolent.
(3) Nobody is defending “ruthless female on female psychological (and even physical!) harassment and violence”.
In the past, this meant what's identified in the article: they would avoid the harasser when possible, and the presence of harrassers like Asimov was a deterrent to participation. Also, as with Harvey Weinstein, Jian Ghomeshi and others, there was a whisper network around him to ensure that women were warned of his behaviour. Male scifi writers would happily spend an evening drinking with him at a convention, unaware of any risk; females kept their distance as much as professionally possible.
Asimov knew, and was proud of, his status as "lech" (his word); I wonder if he was aware of the extent to which women tried to keep their distance from him.
This is a common theme that recurs amongst various forms of oppression: the oppressor's group doesn't have to think about the problem (this is a big part of privilege, btw), while the oppressed are forced to be aware of it and at least prepared to deal with it constantly.
Maybe women don't have access to the top VC circles but likewise many men also don't get access and still continue. The situation is not made for them, but why should that be an issue? It's not necessary that they have the best circumstances. The situation just has to be good enough and I think that's given.
There will never be balance at the top, simply because of the higher variance in male iq. The most intelligent humans will always be predominately men. And those men will never create equal opportunities because people thrive for the top to have an advantage. Why give away that advantage when you are there? Some will, but the overall system will be imbalanced.
So, why wait for better times instead of making the best out of now?
Why do we create startups that cater to the needs of abusive people by tolerating or even excusing their behaviour?
I am not arguing for startups to cater to the needs of abusive people. Quite the contrary, I am arguing to create startups that offer an opportunity for decent behavior.
Yes, you're right. That's what I wanted to say.
> I am not arguing for startups to cater to the needs of abusive people.
Then I stand corrected.
Upon strongly suggesting hiring her my then manager replied: “but she’s a girl!”.
Granted, he was almost 60 at the time (different generation and times) but my jaw dropped...
This guy who I really appreciated as a manager could have such views? I had no idea up to that point.
I’ve never personally known this happen to a “boy” in our industry.
This sort of behavior makes community aspect of it all much different for both genders.
As an anecdotal example, A coworker made some very uncomfortable racist remarks regularly to me after I (mistakenly) told him about my ethnic background. I left that job and the guy who took my position (middle-eastern) also experienced same thing already in his first two-weeks. We would both not consider the workplace (or the group) an unwelcoming environment, but would probably answer "yes" to the questionnaire asking of workplace discrimination.
You also may not have heard everyone's stories. I also have known probably orders of magnitude more women in CS than would necessarily be comfortable sharing unpleasant stories of harassment and discrimination with me. I think it's remarkable, of the women I've known fairly well, how many had stories like this (the civil eng one was really out there, to be clear).
They didn't tell you about it, at least.
Too bad they couldn't cruise through life with the social status of science fiction/fantasy nerd. Doors threw themselves open.
We need some real social scientists to step in and quantify exactly how wronged everyone has been. Then we can sort ourselves out and defer to those who have scored more offense points than ourselves.
Or we could stop prosecuting 40+ year old rage on behalf of other people.
Young men emulate high status older men, that is what I have
It seriously disturbed me when I read it.
Literary fiction is the opposite. It’s about people, their relationships and struggles, situated in reality. It tends not to deal with high concept counterfactuals which are the bread and butter of science fiction.
I'm rather confident that the folks involved in the actual piling of stones and likely forced to do so at sword point would have begged to differ.
Also, building border walls is apparently an unfashionable endeavor these days, I'm not sure why one built a 1000 years ago should be treated different.
Borges certainly doesn't describe the building of the Wall as a good thing:
> Herbert Allen Giles relates that those who concealed books were branded by a red-hot iron and condemned to build the outrageous wall until the day of their death. This information favors or tolerates another interpretation. Perhaps the wall was a metaphor, maybe Shih Huang Ti condemned those who worshipped the past to a work just as vast as the past, as stupid and useless.
Borges isn't comparing a good act and an evil one. He's comparing a great creation with a great destruction -- the building of an enduring historical artifact with the destruction of recorded history.
He is a bit -- at the end of the article there is a suggestion that they two acts cancel each other out, and we can agree that the burning of books is an evil one.