So in yesterday's post I swore off flame wars and such. Time will tell if I keep to my word. But while I've sworn off these miserable wastes of time, I couldn't help thinking about them in a somewhat analytical light. And I noticed some stuff. Or at least I think I did. I'm putting it out there to see if people agree, as well as what they think.
When it comes to the big debates in the speculative community on the internet, the ones that really get people's hackles up, is it my imagination or does it seem that lately many of the biggest ones have revolved around stuff going on in the short fiction community? And doesn't it seem that it's often a fiction editor at the heart of the controversy? Take a look at the last year or so and here's the stuff that comes to mind for me (note: I'm going to try to provide links with a wide range of views to keep this as impartial as possible):
1) Whether Gordon Van Gelder was reading women's submissions with an unfair bias for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Here we have the publisher and senior editor of the one oldest and most respected print magazines in our field being called into question.
2) Not long after that came the much anticipated and updated article about whether there was gender bias among the major speculative magazines, which comes back to all the editors of these magazines. There was much pre and post-discussion regarding this one.
3) I'll add that I've had a spat or two during this period regarding issues with short fiction, but I'm an assistant editor as opposed to an editor. Also, I don't think my spats earned such widespead attention that they can be mentioned in the same e-breaths as these other examples. Of course, if anyone would like to call me out on these matters (friend or foe or other) say so under comments and I'll dig up links. I'm not going to pretend to be squeaky clean, but IMO these other examples really did draw greater attention.
4) Then last month we had the controversy surrounding Jonathan Strahan only having one woman appearing in the TOC of his anthology. So we've moved away from magazines in this scenario, but we're still dealing with an editor of short speculative fiction.
5) Even more recently (as in a couple of days ago) there was the controversy surrounding William Sanders, one of the co-editors of Helix Quarterly, when he used an offensive term in a rejection letter to a writer, and the writer posted said rejection online (and subsequently took it down). As you might expect, this one isn't even close to winding down yet. And this one deals with an online magazine.
6) And now we have the latest one. It's not a raging controversy just yet, but given the above examples I wouldn't be surprised if it turns into one, so I've decided to mention it. This one wonders if Gardner Dozois' rejection letters may have been less than savory because he focused on the legal implications of the William Sanders situation as opposed to the issues of bigotry. As I said, not a raging controversy just yet, but I'm seeing signs that it might erupt into something more. For the sake of completion, I'll note that this one targets the former fiction editor of Asimov's, and the editor of the last 25 editions of Year's Best Science Fiction, the current grandaddy among the speculative year's best anthologies.
So these are the examples I can think of off the top of my head. Feel free to mention others if they occur to you. I'm not commenting on any of them here, and I've tried to be as fair as possible in providing links to a wide range of opinions. Tempest (she of link # 6) and I don't even get along, but I don't mind giving her this bump in traffic (though I strongly suspect her blog does more traffic than mine overall) because I'm rather curious about this topic. So what do you think, folks? Is there a pattern here that should make us expect more of the same to follow with unfortunate regularity, or am I grasping at straws? And if there is a pattern, what do you make of editors being put under this constant microscope? Is it fair and right, and how much (if it all) is the internet distorting information or leading to miscommunications? The blogosphere is rather notorious for this sort of thing.
I realize that posting this sort of question and providing these links one on top of the next risks fanning a lot of flames, but hey, I'm the assistant editor at Realms of Fantasy. This matters to me. I'll ask people to keep things civil, though I worry this may not be a realistic request ...