Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear named in SFF misconduct allegations

Author Alexandra Rowland has accused fellow writers Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear (who are married) of abusing them, claims which they have vigorously denied. This story follows several other accusations of harassment in both the SFF lit field and in video gaming over the past two weeks.

This is a developing story and one facts are in some dispute. However, there has been enough discussion of it in the public sphere that at least a bald recounting of the events and claims is possible.

On Friday 26 June, author Alexandra Rowland wrote a blog post in which they accused fantasy author Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear, of abusing and grooming them for several years. Their full post can be read here. To summarise, Rowland contends that, in 2015 and at the age of 25 (twelve years younger than Lynch), they were propositioned by Lynch into having a relationship with him on the basis that he was talking his wife into having an open relationship. Rowland agreed but this subsequently triggered a series of hostile confrontations with Bear, who (in Rowland's contention) put the blame for the event on Rowland and not Lynch, and they subsequently walked away from the situation and cut all contact. Rowland also contends that this kind of problem has happened before with several other young writers (there have been several anonymous allegations of this type supporting Rowland's claim, but no other writer has come forward publicly).

Scott Lynch's initial response was angry and threatened legal action. A subsequent and more measured response rejected the claims in greater detail, although agreeing that he had a consensual relationship with Rowland with his wife's knowledge. Lynch rejected any notion of this being a pattern of behaviour on his part and he has had no contact with Rowland in three years.

Elizabeth Bear also gave a lengthy response (after Lynch's initial response but before his second) in which she categorised Rowland's behaviour as part of a pattern of inserting themselves, unwanted, into other people's spaces and not respecting boundaries. Writers CD Covington, Arkady Martine and Devin Singer provided some support for this assertion.

Writer Kurt Panakau also claimed that Rowland is acting in bad faith, and posted screenshots confirming a similar event happened with another married author three years before the Lynch relationship took place. It should be noted, of course, that bad things can happen to the same person twice. The other married author has not yet been identified.

An anonymous Twitter account provided support for Rowland's account of events, alleging that Lynch behaved towards the account-holder inappropriately at a convention.

Elizabeth Bear has further posted a claim that this issue has reignited long-standing Twitter feuds dating back a decade to previous clashes between SFF writers over other issues (particularly the RaceFail controversy of 2009-10), and anonymous accounts may be posting false information to further their own agenda and even scores. Other commentators have accused this of being deflection.

Many of the previous stories of abusive behaviour and taking advantage of power dynamics in the SFF field have had multiple witnesses and the alleged perpetrators have owned up to their own bad behaviour. This story is much more contentious and contended, and involves multiple allegations and denials on both sides, which is why I was more reluctant to cover it versus other allegations since the facts are in much more dispute. However, the story has become dominant in the SFF field in the last few days.

For my part, I have met Scott Lynch three times and Elizabeth Bear once (briefly on all occasions), and have had positive but brief online interactions with both. I have reviewed some of their books positively in the past. I had not heard of Alexandra Rowland prior to this story breaking.

Further developments are expected.


Anonymous said...

Why is Alexandra Rowland referred to as they/them?

Adam Whitehead said...

That is their preferred form of address.

Anonymous said...

Hey Adam, great job as always. I think the headline erroneously makes it seem as if there are now additional allegations against Lynch and Bear, especially if you're familiar with the story and see the headline. Maybe I'm wrong, though.

Aurelius Talhoffer said...

This sounds like a bit of a strech to me. At worst, a badly handled liason involvong two (three?) consenting adults, with no violence or coercion involved. As should have been expected maybe, things escalated, as they are bound to do when dealing with sexual and emotional relations. The injured party (Bear?) lashed out at the newly atrived third person.

Is this enough to be labelled harassment these days? I am truly confused.

Anonymous said...

There are lots of accusations/stories about Bear and Lynch's behavior from non anonymous sources in the responses to Rowland's original tweet. The whole thing is a mess.

Jens said...

I'm with Aurelius T. on this.
I don't see any abuse (unless there is more to the story than you've reported). This seems to have started as an affair between consenting adults, gone sour because of feelings.

Now, some folks may disapprove of the concept of open relationships but this is none of our business. Some may disapprove of the age gap but again none of our business - and it's not as if Rowland had been underage at any point of this affair.

Am I missing something?

Grack21 said...

This just dropped. I can confirm personally this is not RoH/etc.

Anonymous said...

I mean, can you really be "groomed" at 25?
Have we moved to a society where successful people in their field having consensual relationships with non-successful people are sexual predators?

Adam said...

Not to be callous but is this going to prevent the release of Thorn of Emberlain? It went from being available on amazon back to being unknown...

Adam Whitehead said...

Not really relevant to the current discussion, but a false date was put on Amazon for the book a while back, which I believe the publishers have been aware of and have been trying to resolve for a while.