More on My Reaction to Jason Williams and Resurrection House

I wanted to explain a little more about my reaction to Jason Williams and Resurrection House. This is partially adapted from a post I made on the private SFWA forums, but also changed significantly.

A fair chunk of this is also restatement and expansion of my previous post on the subject, so don’t expect anything too new.

First off, as someone who was on the board during the Night Shade mess, I had the opportunity to hear from a lot of people about their experiences with Night Shade and with Jason Williams. Of course, I wouldn’t talk about what I heard as an officer. However, since people knew I was studying the situation, some talked to me not member-to-officer, but colleague-to-colleague. Sometimes in confidence, sometimes not. I won’t tell their stories without permission because that’s their business, but I did hear a lot.

Based on what I heard, I will probably never work with Jason Williams. I say probably–time is long, and people can radically change their behavior. However, we’re not far distanced in time from when all this went down.

Another thing that would make me feel more comfortable would be to hear a mea culpa from Jason personally, and his intentions going forward. I have worked with other people who have harassed authors in the past. My requirement for that was that they describe to me what happened, what they did, and importantly, how they have changed their behavior to make sure that it never happens again. I felt that the situation was resolved in a way I could deal with, but I would never tell anyone else they needed to work with this person; sometimes one’s prior actions just mean that you lose future opportunities, such as some authors forever refusing to work with you.

In general, I think these discussions should happen publicly when possible. I think that for a few reasons:

1) When the discussions are all whispered from person to person, new writers don’t have a chance to learn about the situation.

There have been a number of situations in my career when I’ve known from other people’s personal reports that someone had a tendency to do X (like get really drunk and start insulting authors and anyone else nearby), and so when I published with that person, I knew what I was getting into. Then later when they got really drunk and insulted everyone nearby, I wasn’t taken by surprise. I already knew how to react. I thought that everyone knew this person had a tendency to do those things, but in fact, they didn’t. I did because I was under the wing of more experienced authors. Other writers who came into the industry at the same time as I did were caught flat-footed by the phenomenon. Some of them had invested parts of their careers with this person, and suddenly things went quite wrong for them.

This is effectively the same phenomenon that happens with sexual harassment at cons. People (often women) maintain a background network — “don’t get into the elevator alone with that person” — but the new person who doesn’t know anyone also doesn’t know not to get into that elevator.

2) People complain that rumor mills can ruin someone’s reputation, but actually, I think this is much more likely to happen with things that get passed whisper to whisper. An event can be easily distorted out of true when the evidence is hidden. A joke or speculation could be misconstrued as testimony more easily than if the words are out there to be double-checked.

2) When things are kept behind closed doors, it’s hard for individuals to realize that what’s happening to them is part of a pattern. For instance, I noted in my last post that Jason Williams had sent me (and a number of other authors) a bizarre, aggressive email. That’s only one data point. It doesn’t have a lot of meaning until other data points are highlighted.

A pattern can also help corroborate things. One person’s first-hand report that an editor has a tendency to get drunk and yell at everyone could be a grudge; two could be coincidence; ten is a heavy thumb on the scales.

This isn’t going to get rid of the whisper-to-whisper. There are lots of reasons why information has to be passed that way. People fear retaliation or further harassment if they speak out about their experiences. Again, this is parallel to what happens with sexual harassment where victims can be questioned, blamed, impugned, and so they keep their own counsel. There are other reasons, too, like not wanting to harm one’s career, or to burn bridges with mutual acquaintances.

I don’t want to tell people how they have to handle their bad experiences with publishers. No one’s obligated to go public. Sometimes warning your friends is the best you can do. But these are some of the reasons why I think going public can be helpful.

So, back to Resurrection House specifically. (This is the bit that’s adapted from my forum comment. It shouldn’t reveal anyone else’s private comments, but if someone feels it does, please let me know.)

1) It doesn’t seem likely to me that Resurrection House is going to terminate its relationship with Jason Williams no matter what happens from here. Whether or not I think that’s an ideal situation, it’s the one that exists on the ground.

2) There would have been a potential reason to keep stories private if there were a strong possibility that Jason wouldn’t be working with the press. Since there doesn’t seem to be, there are good reasons for people to be public. Writers who are going to sign up for a working relationship with Jason deserve to have as much information as possible so that they can make decisions about what to do.

I don’t know what information will become public. Maybe not much more, for all the reasons I’ve previously listed. Maybe a chunk more if there are fora provided for people to speak anonymously. I don’t blame people for deciding not to share stories publicly, but I think there are good reasons for those who decide they can.

3) I will therefore help support and publicize people who want to speak.

4) However, there are also actions Resurrection House could take that I would be happy to support and publicize as well.

Resurrection House has enough information now to go forward with the types of actions that would make me more comfortable with its existence and with its association with Jason Williams. If there were a question of terminating Jason’s employment, it would probably be necessary to have iron-clad proof, and to make sure to settle important questions about prior incidents. If employment isn’t on the line, then all that doesn’t matter. It’s clear: there’s a personnel problem. That’s obvious from the number of reports. One person could be a grudge, two a coincidence, but… well, it probably depends on your personal network how many reports you’ve seen, but the number isn’t small. It doesn’t matter who is essentially in the right; the facts at hand indicate that Jason is perceived by writers to have been abusive toward them.

So, I’d like to see Resurrection Press set up a plan. I’ve made suggestions on what that plan might be, and I’m sure there are lots of people who are smarter than me who could clarify or revise that plan. It should probably include some form of training on how to prevent harassment, both for Williams and other employees.

If Resurrection House makes such a plan and makes it public? I will totally link to that. That’s the first step in me being able to trust that this house won’t perpetuate previous problems.

If Resurrection House had come out with a plan to start with, I know that I personally would have been a lot less wary. It would have been a big step. I’d have known they were aware and on the ball to start with. “Hey, we know this is a thing that happened, but it won’t again, and here’s how.”

4) I probably won’t work with Jason Williams, as I said at the beginning of this post. But you know what I’d love? Never to hear another horror story. I’d love that a lot. I bet we all would.

Writer Beware and Other Posts on Resurrection House

From Writer Beware:

A brand new publisher has hung out a web shingle: Resurrection House. As of this writing, its website is pretty bare: a single page with a mission statement, a call for submissions, and a link to a cryptic YouTube video. As yet, no books have been published; there’s also no information about staff. You can’t even tell what genres Resurrection House is interested in…

What Google won’t tell you is that Resurrection House has another staff member: Night Shade Books founder and publisher Jason Williams. (Though Williams’ involvement with Resurrection House isn’t publicly disclosed, Writer Beware has seen a message posted by Teppo to a mailing list for Night Shade Books authors.) If that name doesn’t ring a bell, here’s a bit of background…

Mark Teppo has stated that Jason Williams will be working with Resurrection House only as an employee, with the title of Acquisitions Editor, and won’t have a hand in running the company. By all accounts, Williams is a talented editor. Still, even as an employee, his association with Resurrection House is a data point that writers should have the opportunity to factor in to their decision to submit.

More from Jeff VanderMeer:

Recently Mark Teppo created Resurrection House, a new publishing company aimed at recruiting new, up-and-coming authors. What isn’t as clear from the website, although it is in a private post that Teppo put on the Night Shade message boards, is that Jason Williams, one of the founders and operators of Night Shade has been hired as an editor there…

So let’s talk about Night Shade a bit…Depending on which Night Shade author you talk to, NS was guilty of lesser or greater sins. Some didn’t get paid. Some didn’t get paid and suffered a lot of passive-aggressive behavior. Some didn’t get paid and had to threaten lawsuits and received crappy, unprofessional behavior. And yet others got paid, didn’t suffer any or hardly any unprofessional behavior…

Ann and I, for example, decided never again to deal with Night Shade after doing our pirate anthology with them—despite getting paid. Ann was treated at best rudely by Night Shade and at worst in a sexist way—that project became a living hell for her…

Many of my personal experiences working with Night Shade were fine. I had and have quite a bit of respect for a number of their former staff members. I was very excited to see them picking up exciting titles that other publishers would not such as Will McIntosh’s brilliant SOFT APOCALYPSE.

My only personal negative experiences with Night Shade came from Jason Williams. In reply to a request for payment, Williams wrote a very nasty letter to myself and the other writers in an anthology, implying that we were unreasonable and ungrateful to demand payment on schedule. For me, payment on schedule for something minor like a short story isn’t a big deal. For others involved, it could mean making rent, buying medicine, paying bills. This is our labor and we deserve to be paid on time and according to our contracts.

It was a very small incident, but the letter was so stunningly bizarre and unprofessional… that I was not surprised to hear that he was acting unprofessionally with other writers and in situations in which there was much more on the line.

I don’t know if other people will come out with their stories about his actions. There are lots of reasons to keep one’s head down and try not to think about bad situations from the past. People fear retaliation, and they fear being hounded for telling their stories.

What I can say is that after what I’ve heard about Jason Williams’ behavior, I would never work with him.

I strongly urge Resurrection House to reconsider their involvement with someone whose recent, pervasive pattern of behavior has been damaging to so many authors. However, since this is unlikely, I hope they will do the following:

*Put Jason Williams through training courses on harassment
*Put the rest of their staff through the same
*Make sure that Jason Williams is subject to clear and regular oversight
*Make sure there are clear lines of communication through which authors can report problems, and make sure that they are well-treated and respected should they chose to use them

I would also like to see Resurrection House be publicly accountable for failures in this arena. One way that harassers get away with the same patterns again and again is that each incident is resolved privately — or never even named, due to wariness or fear of retaliation — and no one ever understands that their experience doesn’t just stand alone, it’s part of a web of experiences.

A Brief Survey of the Accomplishments of Chappie Writers and Editors

On my twitter feed, I wondered, what was the proper equivalent to lady editor? So I tried out a few.

With apologies to the authors, agents, and editors herein described, who I hope will find the joke fun:

Gentleman writer Ken Liu made a name for himself as much with his dapper dress as with his articulate storytelling.

Laddie editor Michael rose to prominence thanks to the help of his wife, Lynne Thomas, whose brilliant editing won her a Hugo.

Dude novelist Lavie Tidhar wrote stories with strong, active male protagonists, who worked alongside their female counterparts.

Chappie editor Niall Harrison persevered at Strange Horizons as a trail-blazing male among a staff of gender-fluid fiction editors.

Fella writer Chris East attracted novelist Jenn Reese with his willowy, nerdish charm.

Manly writer Kip charmed his wife, graphic artist Jenn Manley-Lee, into marrying him and helping to launch his career.

Bloke author Keffy Kehrli never neglected his appearance at signings: rakish hats and bright ties always accompanied his outfits.

Boy writer John Scalzi wrote charming space adventures that supplemented serious work by writers like Bujold and Bear.

Sonny boy agent Joe Monti made an effort to search out sonny boy authors who could join his stable alongside greats like Leicht and Howard.

Jonnie editor Nick Mamatas offended many readers with his shrill, testerical rantings.

And one last, for Mur Laffterty: Cock writer Dick Pricklington sported such a prodigious bulge that one editor suggested he sign his books in a swimsuit by the pool!

Late additions:

Prettyboy C. C. Finlay relied on a gender ambiguous pseudonym to lure readers into unknowingly picking up a book by a man.

Gent writer Paul Cornell was a master of work-life balance, continuing to write even after the birth of his baby.

Dudebro publisher Jason Sizemore proved males can stomach working in horror, though he acquired psychological stories, not splattergore.

Guy editor Jeff was often forgotten when he worked with his wife Ann Vandermeer who was always presumed the primary (or sole) editor.

Boyo cartoonist Barry Deutsch, though talented, didn’t do it alone; his acknowledgments admit script advice from writer Rachel Swirsky.

Stud editor John Klima is reputed to have slapped competing stud editor Jonathan Strahan; congoers gawked at the resulting “cock fight.”

Website Redesign

Thanks to my very excellent friend Nicole Thayer, I am gaining a new website made of wordpress instead of made by my HTML.

It’s not fully complete yet, but she has set up a blog for me, so I will have a fancy blog with a professional address that will also send duplicate entries to my livejournal where my friends are.

In order to make this post not a total bore, I will now add an amusing note:

*We took in our two fluffiest cats to the vet today and had the groomers give them lion cuts. They came home looking a bit like someone had glued the heads of our cats onto weird, gremlin bodies. I expected them to look more ridiculous and less pathetic.

I can’t tell if they miss their fur or not. I think they may miss looking like they are about twice as huge as they actually are.

Pictures will occur, I promise.