Code Red: Problematic Authors Who Actively Hurt Communities

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This is a detailed list of authors who went out of their way and used their privilege to hurt others.

These authors have all exhibited behaviors that cause real harm to individuals or communities in a personal and deliberate way, whether that involves assault or using their platforms to consistently attack marginalized peoples.

On this page, I have listed the individuals to note, as well as articles and personal accounts of their behaviors, as well as charitable organizations who fight against the specific harms that each have caused.

Additionally, on my reviews, please look for this banner:

Any review with this banner indicates an author on this list.  If you see this banner, I myself have contributed to one of the listed organizations in an effort to offset the harm I have caused by recognizing this author’s creative work.

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 A

Alexie, Sherman

  • Harmful Behavior: Sexual Harassment, Racism
    • Proof:  Alexie didn’t even try to deny this himself, issuing a statement in 2018.  While it’s not the most satisfying apology, the self-awareness is there.  Worth mentioning, also, are Alexie’s comments about mixed individuals and native Hawaiians.  There’s a whole lot of points about his problematic nature in this article.
    • Notes from the Native and Sexually Harassed Communities:  One of the standout pieces accusing Alexie of harassment is Anne Ursu’s article on Medium.  Linda Gruno also shares a powerful piece on her personal experience with Alexie and his behavior toward her race.
    • Offset:  Even though Alexie is an important Native voice, it should not be at the expense of other Native voices, and his behavior against women is unacceptable.  Therefore, to offset Alexie’s behavior, I suggest supporting the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center or Mending the Hoop.

Asher, Jay

  • Harmful Behavior: Sexual Assault.
    • Proof:  News articles on this are pretty easy to find, but you can start with conversations in Bustle and Vanity Fair.
    • Notes from the the Sexually Assaulted Community:  Due to this particular allegation and topic, I am not seeking out responses from affected readers.  I do not want to out anyone’s trauma.
    • Offset:  While something like this can never truly be repaired, please consider donating to the Joyful Heart Foundation or RAINN.

Asimov, Isaac

  • Harmful Behavior: Sexual Harassment, Sexism.
    • Proof:  Asimov was never subtle about his sexual harassment – in fact, he’s advise others on how best to do it.  This Lit Hub article is a good (and unsettling) conversation about his lechery.  In fact, many articles mention it.  This one includes a discussion on why Asimov considered himself a feminist – because he didn’t want women to “drown the world in babies”.  And, of course, there was the 1962 lecture at the World Science Fiction Foundation called “The Positive Power of Posterior Pinching”.
    • Notes from Female-Identifying and Sexually Harassed Communities:  While the Orbit article linked above is a good example of a woman stomping her foot on Asimov’s behavior.  Additionally, he’s used so commonly as a blanket example in articles about sexual harassment, especially harassment at conventions, there’s no argument to be had about his bad behavior and the horrible precedent he set.
    • Offset:  Though many consider Asimov to be a part of the great science fiction tradition, women (especially those in elevated roles) are conspiculously missing from his work.  Therefore, to offset his bias, I recommend donating to the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) or Girls Who Code.

Atwood, Margaret

 B

Barrie, J. M.

  • Harmful Behavior: Racism, Sexism, Pedophilia (inconclusive), Manipulation.
    • Proof: As is often the case with classics, there’s no definitive proof of Barrie’s personality in these ways.  However, sexism in Barrie’s work speaks for itself and Tiger Lily, Wendy, and Tinker Bell are all troubling characterizations.  Other things, too, are quite obvious:  the Smithsonian magazine did a good job discussing his racism and Peter Pan’s adaptions throughout history.  And while pedophilia charges are unproved and conjecture, books like J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys discuss manipulation and mental/emotional abuse Barrie heaped upon the Llewelyn family.  Basically, Barrie wasn’t a nice guy.
    • Offset:  In honor of repairing the damaging caricature of Tiger Lily, may I suggest donating to the Native American Rights Fund (NARF)? … Also, just as a side comment, Barrie’s works are peculiar in that all rights to Peter Pan are retained by the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity.  Any licensed purchase of Peter Pan-related items directly supports this charity (which is a good thing, and unlike any other author on this list).

 C

Card, Orson Scott

 D

Dahl, Roald

  • Harmful Behavior: Racism, Sexism, Antisemitism, Fat-Shaming.

Dashner, James

  • Harmful Behavior: Sexual Harassment, Manipulation, Gaslighting.
    • Proof:  Please see this article from The Guardian or this one from the New York Times, as two examples.  Random House dropped Dashner after allocations as well.
    • Notes from the Harassed Communities:  Due to this particular allegation and topic, I am not seeking out responses from #OwnVoices readers.  I do not want to out anyone’s trauma.
    • Offset:  Please consider donating to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center to support victims of sexual assault and harassment and end sexual violence in our communities.

 H

Handler, Daniel (also: Lemony Snicket)

  • Harmful Behavior: Racism, Sexism.

Hutchinson, Shaun David

 l

Lackey, Mercedes (NEW)

  • Harmful Behavior: Ableism, Transphobia, Racism
  • Proof of Ableism:  Lackey writes scenes into both her Heralds of Valdemar and XX series that actively portray disabled or mentally divergent characters as less.  In Arrow’s Flight, Talia is blamed for her lack of control to the point of emotional abuse and villainization, rather than taught or supported.  In addition, Redoubt includes a character who has had an operation to correct a deformed leg which continues to suggest she’s “better now” and “no longer a burden”. This continues into Closer to the Heart, where a nonverbal character is also portrayed with ableist language.
  • Notes from the Disabled Community: Unfortunately, I was unable to located any self-identified individuals from the disability community commenting on Lackey’s disability representation.
  • Proof of Transphobia: In a Q&A on her website, Lackey said she would not write a transgender protagonist because it would be too niche and doesn’t fit with her agenda or worldbuilding.  Fans were offended and disappointed in this answer, as can be read here and here.  In addition, Lackey’s novella collection Trio of Sorcery presents a transgender villain whose identity is the source of their villainous deeds.  Finally, The Eagle and the Nightingale has problematic transphobic content.
  • Notes from the Trans Community: There are several trans individuals responding to the review of Trio of Sorcery, including this one that explains why the portrayal was so importantly bad.  Responses can also be found in this Tumblr thread.
  • Proof of Racism: Lackey has been criticized for relying on the Magical Native American in The Last Herald MageStanding Ground, and Black Gryphon.  She’s also been called out for orientationalism.
  • Notes from the Affective Communities: Unfortunately, I was unable to located any self-identified individuals from the Native, Black, or Asian communities commenting on Lackey’s race representation.
  • Offset: You can read up on the ACLU’s website on how to become an advocate for transgender people. To support those with disabilities, you can donate to the Disability Rights Education Fund – I would specifically recommend the Disability Media Alliance Project which has the specific goal of assuring accurate representation of the disabled community in the media.  Finally, to support one of the affected communities targeting through her racist writing, please consider reviewing this list of organizations to support the Asian community compiled by The Strategist.

 M

Moyes, Jojo

  • Harmful Behavior: Ableism
  • Proof of Ableism:  Me Before You is noted as deeply problematic due to the themes of disability and suicide that were written not only by an able person, but one who has managed to grossly misrepresent the value of the disabled community – from their happiness to their sexuality. and everything in-between. The message that the film and book both project is that “it’s better to be dead than disabled“.  In an interview Moyes defended her choices said it was unfortunate readers and viewers can away with that message.
  • Notes from the Disabled Community: Most of the links above are from the community.
  • Offset: Please consider donating to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which funds research on spinal cord injury and improving the quality of life for individuals and families affected by paralysis.  You can also donate to Journey Forward, who work with those affected by paralysis or spinal cord injury to achieve maximum mobility.

 P

Pullman, Philip

  • Harmful Behavior: Transphobia, Problematic racial depictions.
    • Proof of Problematic Racial Depicitions:  It’s worth taking a look at the “Gyptians”/the Roma people – this article has a good analysis.
    • Transphobic Proof:  In 2018, Pullman initiated a Twitter thread which implied the validity of transgender people was up for argument.  While ultimately landing at the time on support, the initial tweet and blatant ignorance was concerning.  When the issue resurfaced in 2020, he once again refused to draw the line.  This article from The Mary Sue is a good discussion of the problem in 2018.
    • Notes from the LGBTQIAP+ and Roma Communities:  While I was unable to find any blog posts or book tube videos responding to Pullman (if you have or know one, please let me know and I’ll link it!), I did go through the 2018 tweet and identify self-identified affected community replies:
    • Offset:  Want to offset Philip Pullman?  Consider donating to Voice of Roma (a non-profit which supports Romani-Americans), Gendered Intelligence (a UK-based non-profit that supports trans youth), or TGEU (a coalition that fights to protect trans rights in Europe and central Asia).

 R

Rowling, J. K. (also: Robert Galbraith)

 T

Tacitus, Cornelius (Historical)

 z

Zimmer Bradley, Marion (NEW)

  • Harmful Behavior: Pedophilia, Child Abuse.
    • Proof:  In 2014, Moira Greyland shared her history of abuse by her mother, Marion Zimmer Bradley. There were also notes of pedophilia in her books, possibly a reflect of her own preferences.  A great example of this is shared on Electric Lit.  In addition, there have been publications which suggested Bradley knew of the pedophilic sexual abuse of her husband and assisted him in his acts.  Most potent of these are Zimmer Bradley’s own words from court testimonies regarded her involvement in relation to her husband’s pedophilia; and the shared emails (with permission) from Greyland.  I do feel compelled to note that Greyland’s own beliefs about the LGBTQIAP+ community should be considered separately from her testimonies of abuse – I deeply disagree with the things she said about LGBTQIAP+, but that does not make her personal history and trauma any less true.  Further proof is easy to find, just Google.
    • Notes from the Community:  Due to the sensitive and traumatic nature of this particular offense, I will not be providing thoughts from the affected communities.  I refer again to Greyland’s emails.
    • Offset:  Greyland specifically requested folks to donate to RAINN if they wished to donate money.  In addition, I will add a suggestion to support Child USA, which is US-based non profit working to end child abuse and neglect.

 

Last Updated: 9/4/2021

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