Jason Cordova writes a guest post on Sarah Hoyt’s blog that boils with justifiable outrage over liberal Fantasy authors and fans flocking to support their late High Priestess, Marion Zimmer Bradley, over revelations that she and her boyfriend were serial child abusers. If you’re not familiar with the story (and have a strong stomach) I urge you to check out these links and others.
As a boy, I enjoyed some of Zimmer Bradley’s works like Mists of Avalon, while others seemed to exist solely to score leftist political points — while these were often lost on my adolescent self, the sexual politics certainly detracted from the storyline. Knowing what I know now, I’ll never be able to pick up one of her works again without feeling dirty.
The publisher in me wonders what her editors and publishers knew at the time. Were they in the dark? Did they have an inkling, but decide to turn a blind eye in order to protect a valuable author? I don’t ask in order to judge, but because these questions are much tougher for a publisher than they are for a reader.
As a reader I can choose to tune out any author based on their politics or their character. But as a publisher, sometimes you wonder whether you have a responsibility to the work and to readers to give a work of substance and quality an audience — even if the author is otherwise odious.
My inclination is to apply a test of character as well as one of quality to authors I want to publish, but is that fair? Seldom is the case as clear cut as Zimmer Bradley’s. As a young editor I pursued Stephen Glass as an author before it became known that he was a phony, despite warnings from a couple of smart folks that his stories didn’t ring true. If I had succeeded in landing him, would I be complicit in his fabrications?
Here at Liberty Island we do our best to make sure the authors we publish are folks you would be happy to have as next door neighbors, but it seems inevitable that (being human) we’ll fail that test at some point. And when that happens people will have the right to question and judge us based on the decisions we made. It’s only fair.
Cross-posted from Liberty Island, image via wikipedia