Tuesday, September 16, 2008

the end of Helix

The whole Helix / William Sanders controversy has been covered to death already, so I’m not going to get into that. For the perspective of the writers, check out Transcriptase. For the perspective of William Sanders, go here. It’s been done, and really, not much more needs to be said.

Except this.

I found out from Jennifer Pelland’s blog that Helix is closings its virtual doors.

Pelland makes it clear that she was aware this was in the works before the controversy, and other Helix writers chimed in to agree in the comments of that post. From Pelland:

I can vouch for the fact that they'd made these plans months before the kerfuffle.* In fact, knowing that made it more difficult for me to decide how to respond to the aforementioned kerfuffle. Saying that I'd never submit to them again would have been a hollow threat, because I knew that I'd never have another chance to send them a story anyway. And I wasn't sure that a boycott would have any effect on a magazine that was on its last two issues.

But there you have it. The news is out, and I will gladly vouch for them when they say that the kerfuffle didn't have anything to do with them closing their doors. – Jennifer Pelland

So, that’s it. Right? More or less. The announcement originally came from William Sanders, as it should, seeing as he is the editor of the publication.

The point is, all this was decided long before the Blogtrotters went into their latest shit-flinging frenzy. So as much as it no doubt pleases them to believe that they were responsible for taking down the Great Monster, they should rather offer thanks to the freeloaders who, simply by sitting on their rumps and doing nothing to support the magazine, did more to terminate Helix than all the sillywhining bastards put together.

Of course they won't believe this; they will choose to believe what they want to believe, just as they always do. If there is one thing the Blogtrotters and the Silly Righteous Girls have demonstrated throughout this affair, it is their total imperviousness to reality. – William Sanders

Now, I was bothered by the initial comments of Sanders which precipitated this whole thing as I would be bothered by pretty much anything that smacks of inappropriate hatred and racism. Sanders defended himself and I choose to believe that the intentions of his remarks were misunderstood. That he did not purposefully intend for his comments to reflect his views on ALL Muslims and that they were directed solely at terrorists. Fine. This, of course, does nothing to address the fact that his comments DID, in fact, come across as racist to a number of readers and that it should easily be understood why and how they came across as racist. Sometimes intention doesn’t matter.

So, when several writers expressed a problem with what Sanders said, he fired back. To me, Sanders came across as being offended and very angry that someone could possibly be offended by what he said. He lashed out, childish, and with venom.

Not to get too deep into the initial issue, as this has all been covered before, but what bothered me most about this whole situation was not necessarily the opening statement (bad as it came across), but rather in how Sanders responded to the criticism. It appears, and I’m couching my language in how I see it rather than in declarative statements because I don’t know the man and I only have my perception to work with, but it appears that Sanders was so angry that anyone would possibly be offended by something he said and no longer wish to be associated with his magazine that he accused those writers of having their panties in a wad (more or less) and of being cowards, among other less complimentary things. This is what bothered me the most. The fact that William Sanders could not comprehend that someone would honestly disagree with his viewpoint and that they did so in accordance to what they believe and that their actions followed their belief and not follow the crowd.

You’d think, or at least hope, that the announcement of the closing of Helix would be the end of it, but still the man keeps firing off his mouth to reassure everyone that the controversy had nothing to do with the closing of Helix. And that’s fair, to that extent. It is worth knowing this is a planned action with purpose. But still, Sanders continues to take shots at those authors who dared to take a stand for what they believed in.

He still considers the actions of the Transcriptase writes to be “ill-judged” and that at least two of the writers are “dishonest”.

Also you can check with your own heroines of the US HATES HELIX committee.

Jennifer Pelland, for one, definitely knew quite a long time ago that we were going to be closing, because I told her. In fact she withdrew a story she had submitted, and substituted a better one, after I explained that this would be her last chance to get a story into Helix. Jennifer is an honest person, however ill-judged her behavior in this matter; she'll tell you the truth.

I sort of think I said something to Samantha Henderson about it too, but I won't swear to that.

And of course Beth Bernobich knew about the decision, since she was still a member of the Legends group at the time we were discussing it; but I have no confidence in her telling the truth about anything. - William Sanders

Now, just as I don’t know William Sanders personally, I don’t know Jennifer Pelland or Beth Bernobich. Maybe Beth is a liar. But maybe not, and my guess is that the offense here is that Bernobich had the gall to be offended and sign up with Transcriptase. Just a guess.

My response to this whole situation was to not even be a “freeloader”, support Helix or go to the Helix website. I have read three of the Helix stories on Transcriptase – the Jennifer Pelland stories, because she writes damn good stories. I plan to read some more, starting with Nora Jemisin. Given the statements of Sanders, even if Helix was to continue, I just can’t support that market in any form.

At the same time, I am sorry to see a paying market for speculative fiction to fall by the wayside, even it was intentional. I feel there should be more opportunities for quality fiction to see the light of day and have the writers paid. Judging solely by the work of Pelland, William Sanders has an excellent editorial eye.

On the other hand, I can’t divorce the stories or the magazine from the personality and statements of the editor. I don’t judge the stories or the writers by having been published in Helix, nor will I boycott the writers, but the leadership of Helix caused Helix itself to be something I could not support. Am I glad that Helix is closing its doors? No, not really. I do remain troubled by the words and attitude of William Sanders. I would have rather Sanders stepped down and Helix continued, but that was not an option here.

If anything positive comes out of the Helix controversy and from the closing of Helix, let it be this: Transcriptase. Check out the stories. There are three from Jennifer Pelland that I can vouch for as being outstanding.

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