I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but I am.
Quick summary (and please, someone correct me if I get this wrong): Helix
, an SF magazine of which I had not previously heard, is edited by a William Sanders. Sanders sent a rejection note to a Luke Jackson, who posted the full contents on the Web. Jackson later removed the letter and apologized for having posted it, in a very strange way, and said Sanders's words were being taken out of context.
Sanders's words included:
"“most of the SF magazines are very leery of publishing anything that might offend the sheet heads” and
“You did a good job of exploring the worm-brained mentality of those people - at the end we still don’t really understand it, but then no one from the civilized world ever can - and I was pleased to see that you didn’t engage in the typical error of trying to make this evil bastard sympathetic, or give him human qualities.” (excerpts from Tobias Bucknell's page because the original post has been removed
I am so floored that anyone would write those things, let alone in a rejection letter, that I hardly know where to start (but I'll try). One just doesn't talk
about people that way! "sheet heads"? "the worm-brained mentality of those people"? Jackson insists Sanders meant only his protagonist, but the "sheet heads" are potential readers, not characters, and his protagonist is singular, so I don't think context really helps.
Much of the conversation seems to revolve around whether Jackson had any legal or ethical right to post the letter in full. To me, that seems a bit beside the point; at the very least, he had the right to post excerpts such as Bucknell includes, and some of the people addressing these "rights" seem unconcerned about the attitudes
the rejection letter reveals, which I find far more frightening than the prospect of rejection letters being posted.rydra_wong
has a great set of links to the matter (and a somewhat related controversy over anthologies that emphasize male writers over female), in her posts for July 9 and 10.
Warning: most of her links connect to people condemning racism, but some of them quote or link to people who attack those who object to racism. Some of the language may not be work-safe, and parts are just really depressing; as I commented on one of Rydra's entries, Neil Clarke's comment, "Dear lord, people like that do exist. I think I must live a sheltered life or perhaps I just hang out with a better quality of people" largely sums up my reaction to this whole mess....