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.
One comes to a point where “Eh, he’s like that” doesn’t really cover it. Where “but he’s always been courteous and professional to me” doesn’t suffice. To add to the whole rejection letter business, we’ve also seen the insulting treatment of authors like Yoon Ha Lee and N. K. Jemisin. The responses to their requests to have their works removed from the Helix website were graceless, resentful, ugly. And the removal of the stories was used as a vehicle for yet another attempt at insult. The whole effect is of a grown man throwing a tantrum, not caring about anything but his anger, not caring that the mud he’s flinging is mostly landing on himself. And it sends a clear message to Helix authors—don’t you dare ever criticize or disagree with the editor! Do that, and you can just go fuck yourself. Oh, and your stories actually sucked.
Mr. Sanders is, of course, free to have and express whatever opinions he thinks right. He is also free to run Helix in any fashion that seems good to him. As I am free to be unwilling to work with an editor who treats his writers so disrespectfully. Who despises “political correctness,” insists on the right to fling ethnic slurs, but then demands that anyone around him approve of his actions, banishing anyone who might question or disapprove—essentially instituting his own brand of political correctness.
I think there are quite a lot of people who sincerely don’t believe they’re racist, who say and do racist things out of ignorance or the blindness of privilege. And if everyone refuses to speak up and say, “Look, that’s wrong,” because in their hearts they know the person in question isn’t really racist, it’ll just keep happening. Is Mr. Sanders racist? I wouldn’t presume to say. Is the use of ethnic slurs racist? Absolutely. The intention may or may not be racist, but the result certainly is.
I can’t applaud the use of ethnic slurs. I can’t ignore that, nor can I ignore the insults aimed at Helix writers, the willingness to deface the magazine itself just to get one more shot across. The vindictive attempt to hit a writer at the point of her (presumed) vanity, just to score points, to get back at her.
I won’t submit to Helix any further. I am not happy to be saying that. There’s a lot I liked about Helix, about its stated aims, about the authors Helix published. But I can’t in good conscience continue to submit there.