The Helix fiasco first appeared as a small cloud on my horizon and soon welled up into a memorable storm. The initial affront consisted of a rejection letter containing language derogatory of Middle Eastern people. (While “worm-brained mentality” may be arguably restricted to terrorists, “sheetheads” is just plain racist.) Some authors previously published in the magazine objected to this when the letter escaped into the wild. When Yoon Ha Lee asked to remove her story, more rudeness emerged including a claim that the story “never did make sense” and the archive page was changed to, “Story deleted at author’s pantiwadulous request.” Then came the announcement that it would cost $40 to have a story removed from the archive. I watched the evolution with some bemusement: an epic demonstration of how not to behave. I also tracked it on my blog, “The Wordsmith’s Forge,” for discussion among the many writers and readers in my audience.
I will never forget the first time I heard a young cousin of mine—only a little older than 12, the “golden age” as they call it in this genre—say, “Why do you write that stuff? That’s white people’s stuff.”
Science fiction and fantasy, he meant. White people’s stuff.
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I wish this site weren’t necessary. I’d rather that everyone reading it were simply able to enjoy some fine stories and poems without the surrounding controversy.
I’ve left my work on Helix because I signed a contract to do so. William Sanders has kept his contract with me, and I will keep mine with him. All the stories reprinted on Transcriptase are allowed per our contracts. Although technically the current stories in Helix are available for us to reprint as well, all of us decided to wait until those stories were archived before reprinting them here, as a courtesy.
My business dealings with Mr. Sanders have been absolutely fine—he struck me as a trifle crochety, it’s true, but I’ve got some tolerance for crochety. Hell, some folks have histories that, when you look at it, I’d be surprised if they hadn’t turned out crochety. I had and have no idea if Mr. Sanders has such a history, but I was perfectly willing to shrug and say, “Eh, he’s like that.” Especially since he likes my work. I’m vain, I admit it.