I’d almost call it professional, if it weren’t for his earlier behavior.

The Minneapolis trip derailed me from posting in a more timely fashion about William Sanders of Helix, who made offensively racist comments in a rejection letter (thus sparking ickiness elsewhere), and subsequently responded rudely to yhlee when she asked for her story to be removed from the Helix archives — but if you’ve missed the storm about this one, follow those links and you’ll get the gist.

The purpose of this post is to spread the word that Sanders will be accepting requests for removal from the archives for a limited time only. I can actually understand that — though it would be nice if he specified an actual time limit — because it’s annoying to have to field those kinds of things, and technically the Helix contract (I am told) grants him the right to keep it non-exclusively in the archives.

On the other hand, any tiny modicum of professionalism exhibited in that message (and it was small to begin with) was obliterated when he replaced yhlee‘s story with the message “Story deleted at author’s pantiwadulous request.”

So. Y’know. Helix apparently was invitation-only anyway, but it’s officially a place I don’t want to be invited to.

ETA: Nevermind. Scratch anything positive I said or even implied about his decision to confine deletion requests to a narrow window. He’s apparently decided to charge forty bucks to any author asking for their story to be pulled down on account of his recent behavior.

0 Responses to “I’d almost call it professional, if it weren’t for his earlier behavior.”

  1. jimhines

    $40? Are you freaking kidding me?

  2. wishwords

    You’re kidding. Is this guy eight-years-old or what? He’s just making it all worse for himself.

  3. delkytlar

    I do not in any way endorse William Sanders’ expression of his views, but I understand that the $40 is to be paid directly to his webmaster/webmistress for the additional work such requests are making for her. She is not a paid employee of Helix, and expected to only need to work on their site on a quarterly basis. I don’t know her normal rates, but this sounds reasonable if she does have to drop other projects to accomodate these writers for something contrary to the terms of their contracts with the magazine.

    • Marie Brennan

      Sorry, I’m still not buying it. Deleting stories is not going to take her that long, and if Sanders wanted to be professional about it, he would compensate her himself. (Or figure out how to remove the stories himself, which is not exactly hard.)

      • delkytlar

        I do not know the details of how long it takes her to remove a single story. It appears that if a story gets taken down, all references to it on the site, other than the title appearing on the issue’s TOC also get removed. So, if there are news items about award eligibility, or nominations, or wins, those are also being removed. As I noted, I don’t agree with Sanders’ views or the notice he put up in their place, but I don’t believe he has any obligation to eat the cost of removing stories that he is removing as a courtesy to the writers.

        Let me posit this a different way, then. You’ve sold a book to a publisher, who publishes it to moderate success. Some time later, the publisher begins publishing a line of books that are totally contrary to your political or religious way of thought, and being clear that this is his way of thinking. By the terms of your contract, you have no right to revert your book from that publisher. Do you still demand reversion on the principle? Should the publisher eat the cost of withdrawing the books from distribution? Should he let you have any existing copies of the work sitting in his warehouse for free?

        Having read his newsgroup on sff.net about the situation, he did not set the rate. The webmaster did. Again, I’m no apologist for William Sanders, but the man does seem to be making a reasonable request in this case.

        • Marie Brennan

          I don’t demand it, no, because I recognize that I signed a contract which gives me no such right. I may ask for it, politely. But I’m afraid your analogy breaks down for me, because this is a situation where scale matters; withdrawing a book from distribution is a lot more work than deleting it online, and claiming the existing copies in the warehouse has no analogy in this case. As far as scrubbing all references, that’s Sanders’ choice to do: so far as I’m aware, nobody has asked for anything other than the removal of the story itself. He doesn’t have to do that extra work if he doesn’t want to.

          As noted, it was also Sanders’ choice to either a) say no or b) handle it at the usual quarterly update, so as not to dump this sudden workload on his webmistress. But nowhere in the contract does it say he can decide, arbitrarily, to charge you for the privilege of ending your association with him.

          Elsewhere, I saw the ng comment where his webmistress brought up cost. She said her rate was $40/hr. I don’t believe she said each one of these was an hour of work. Sanders is the one who decided to institute this charge. I stand by what I said before: if he was interested in professional behavior, he would take the stories down himself, get someone else to do it as a special site update, or compensate the webmistress herself, for whatever amount of time she actually spends doing it. It’s pretty obvious from the rest of his behavior that he’s not instituting this charge primarily because he feels bad for the extra work he’s putting on her.

          • delkytlar

            I’ll agree the analogy is not perfect, but this situation is unprecedented, so “close enough” is the best we have for comparison.

            As far as scrubbing all references, that’s Sanders’ choice to do: so far as I’m aware, nobody has asked for anything other than the removal of the story itself. He doesn’t have to do that extra work if he doesn’t want to.

            With regard to this point, I’d probably do the same in his place. His editorials in Helix itself have indicated his view on Islam and terrorism (he’s published several stories with Islamic settings and plots), so this recent incident should not be news to anyone, particularly people who have been published in the magazine where the editorials appeared. If writers want to distance themselves from Sanders’ views on the subject, he right to distance himself from those writers by clearing his pages of their references. If Helix’s ‘money’ or publication was good enough before this incident, pulling out after the fact is a bit… well, none of the words I type here read in a way that some wouldn’t find insulting, so I’ll just say… ill-advised (though that’s really not what I mean.

            I’m no empath, but one thing I do know about the Helix staff (several of whom are friends of mine) is that they all appreciate one another, and are very considerate of each other. You may not believe that Sanders has the webmaster’s interests in mind, but I’m quite comfortable believing it because I know the group involved.

          • Marie Brennan

            He apparently has a habit of scrubbing the evidence of his behavior, so a great many people had no idea he was like this. It isn’t just the racism (though that’s part of it, too); it’s the unprofessional eight-year-old responses to people. I imagine a great many of the people pulling out after the fact wish they’d known to stop before they got in.

            I don’t know any of the people involved, of course. But I’ll admit I look askance at anybody who chooses to work with a guy like this, however “considerate” he may be of those he calls friends or co-workers. It’s how a person treats all the rest of the world that I judge him by.

          • delkytlar

            I suppose that’s fair enough. I’ve seen the signs of his views, both in private and public forums, but can’t expect everyone to have done so. While I don’t expect that anything I write would be appropriate for Helix, I don’t hold any editor or publisher’s personal views against them when choosing the best venue for my work. That decision is, for me, strictly based on the publication and the market, not the personalities involved. If I did base it on such things, my first short story sale might never have happened, and I never would have tried to write anything else.

  4. delkytlar

    As I understand it, he’s acknowledged that he did handle the first three or four requests gratis, and planned to do so for the rest. It was only when his webmaster notified him that this was added workload not covered by their agreement that she proposed the rate, and he communicated it.

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