I’m not going to regurgitate what’s already been said, because that just isn’t my style. If you know me at all, you know I prefer to instead fill noticeable vacuums, and there is indeed a vacuum I’m noticing in the dominant narratives that formulate the current Twitterstorm in regards to the subject at hand.
But before I get into it: Believe women. That much goes without saying and shouldn’t even be up for debate.
In reading what Katie, Meredith, Jhayne, Zoetica, Theremina and others have posted, it is quite clear to me that what they would really like more than anything is to make sure other women never have to deal with what they've dealt with (and I sincerely hope I’m not putting words in anyone else’s mouth 🙏). To do that, what must be fostered are certain principals. Any decision being made on the basis of “career” is not principled, but is instead championed by financial gain as the prime motive which is an inherently corrupt motive.
What I’m seeing from Warren’s friends, peers, and alumni right now doesn’t strike me as principled as much as it is calculated. They are either: a) Very quickly disassociating themselves from him. b) Privately siding against the women in question, while publicly? Dead silence.
Neither is sincere, because the true motivation behind both is a preservation of career. And “career” was a big part of the problem to begin with.
Allow me to explain.
When we talk about career, what we're really talking about is one's professional and social standing within a particular field. Warren's prominent professional and social standing within his field is largely what allowed him to connect with any of the women in question. It is that very prominence that allowed him to—over time—cross certain boundaries. If someone of similar prominence was to decide never to cross such boundaries solely for fear of what it might do to their career later down the line... that would still not be okay because the decision wouldn't stem from a genuine principal. If close friends and peers of Warren are now deciding to disassociate themselves from him primarily for the benefit of their professional and social standing within their fields... still not okay.
What needs to happen is for people to disregard such obsessions with “career” and instead think of the human being when dealing with others. No more thinking of people in terms of “fans”, “audience”, “groupies”, “mentors”, “leaders”, “heroes”, “opportunities”, or any of that nonsense. Human beings, period.
Of course, Warren has been a kind of mentor figure to an entire generation of people scattered around the world (regardless of him stressing that he is “not a role model”.) And his work has been creative fuel to thousands of individuals across numerous fields everywhere. With that in mind, it is understandable why so many are aghast by Warren's declaration: “I have never considered myself famous or powerful”.
However, based solely on my personal interactions with him, I can tell you that I've never met a more humble or self-deprecating person in my life. He is definitely nowhere nearly aware of his cultural prominence to the extent that... say, a Gaiman or Moore is. Furthermore, Warren definitely has an amazing eye for talent, and—upon spotting it—treating the talented individual as a peer regardless of said person's professional accomplishments or lack thereof.
Does that absolve him of the actions in question?
No, of course not! Because even if you weren't famous, those bad actions are still bad actions.
Funny, Bruce Sterling always said Ellis would “go down with arrows in his back”. But I doubt he anticipated arrows of this kind.
Very few people did (despite some of the now revisionist “oh my, it was obvious all along” reactions), which is partially why this whole thing is a bit of a blow to the gut. If the same sort of thing had come out about, I dunno, a Chuck Palahniuk for instance, I doubt anyone would feel betrayed. It's not so much because of Warren's exceptional brilliance or creativity, but I think it's because much of his work provided a kind of moral compass to the thousands of fringe people who connected with it. The thousands of people who metaphorically make up the “Children of Ellis” tribe.
The Children of Ellis, who by the way, Katie, Jhayne, and Zoetica all fall squarely under.
Hence, the exceptionally icky nature of this situation.
But perhaps the lessons to learn from Ellis lie not only in his work, but also in his mistakes: no matter how famous/established/loved you think you might be, never ever ever under any circumstance serially target the hot/young/goth constituency of your fanbase for sexual interaction, be it virtual or otherwise ffs.
The thing about Warren though, is that despite the old-cranky-bastard persona he's cultivated online, he is in actuality a person of immense kindness and selfless generosity. Truly. Beyond belief. This is something many of the women directly hurt by him would also agree to be true). I'm fully confident that he is capable of changing his ways and doing the right thing.
But I doubt he can do any of it if his friends turn their backs on him.
That is not how friendship works. Not one bit.