ETA. 29 Jan – got some hostile feedback indicating I’d glossed over the content of the original tweet. Fair point: have edited the first para to include more detail.
ETA. 24 Jan – the invective surrounding Dr Gee from the scientific community has now reached the point of being beyond ridiculous. Since his one comment on his ill-judged tweet, he has been compared to Ike Turner, wife-beaters in general and terrorists. I fully expect an upgrade to “axe-murderer” the following morning, for God’s sake. This is unedifying, and I want to post my support for Dr Gee, whom I found warm, supportive and charming.
There is a lot of buzz going around the internet at present about one of the editors in the worldwide science magazine Nature, Dr Henry Gee. He is getting a lot of stick for issuing an angry tweet about a person critical of him, using his official account. This tweet mentioned the critic by name: while that is not a total secret, she generally blogs pseudonymously. It also slighted the status of her work by saying it was of no consequence. Before we go any further, I want to say that I don’t condone that tweet. Neither, on reflection, does Henry Gee himself.
But then – Seeing references on my twitter feed, and looking through the archives that this person had written, I saw her refer to Dr Gee in 2011 as a “feminist antichrist”.
And that stopped me short.
Because I have had dealings with Henry Gee, when I sent him those two relentlessly feminist short stories he published in 2010 and 2011, and which – gasp! surprise! – he was happy to publish. Apart from being uncomfortable with referring to a Jewish man as “the antichrist”, such a term was not my personal experience of him at all and she might imagine that she speaks for quite a few people – but she does not speak for me.
Please be aware that in what follows I am not speaking as a scientist, nor is this a “free pass” for Henry Gee or anyone else to go rampaging around the internet or treating anyone badly. I am every bit as scientific as Sarah Palin. (On a good day, when Russia is visible from my house.) And I have spoken to people in the biz who disagree with me. That’s fine. I’m sure the man is no saint: few of us are.
I am speaking only as a writer of short stories, who found Henry Gee a pleasure to work with and prompt and charming in his responses. I had submitted many stories to far more right-on, “acceptable”, leftish fantasy and sci-fi magazines, and had had them all rejected while some friends of the editors appeared there on a depressingly regular basis. That’s not to say he didn’t reject me either – he did on my third submission, probably because it didn’t have enough hard science. But at least I knew that there was a valid reason behind his decisions. In short, I trusted him – and like many Irishwomen I don’t trust easily. And I would not hesitate to recommend Nature Futures subbing to my writer friends. I can see from looking through the archives that women and minorities are properly represented. I’ve no fear whatsoever on that front.
Again – I’m speaking as a fiction writer. I cannot speak for any other discipline.
Part of the long-running animosity between Dr Gee and others comes from a story Dr Gee published in Nature Futures in 2011 called “Womanspace”, which many feminists condemned for being sexist. I wanted to specifically mention my own stories which he published prior to that simply to balance the record. (Incidentally, I thought “Womanspace” was rubbish. Sorry.)
Perhaps Dr Gee needs to review his conduct in light of what has happened. I will not defend him for any occasions where I was not present. And he is like everyone else, answerable for any inappropriate actions on his part and should answer for them.
But he has not been, in my experience, a “feminist antichrist”. Quite the opposite. He opened the door for me to publish and write feminist fiction and I think that needs to be said too.