…who are quibbling about whether it was legal for Luke to post that rejection letter or any rejection letter, let’s get one thing straight: No one would be whining and crying about this had he published a rejection that said:
Your writing is very good, but this story isn’t right for our market. The spec element isn’t strong enough for our tastes, but you might do well to try more literary markets because I feel the story has a lot of merit.
The only reason this is upsetting to Sanders and, I assume, certain other editors, is because that letter revealed bigotry. Bigotry that Sanders assumed Luke shared with him (and he might have) and thus he felt safe expressing it. It seems to me that the only reason this would worry any other editor is if they realized that rejections they’d sent out might reveal their own bigotry in some way. That would scare the shit out of me, too. Know what? I can’t feel sympathy for you over it, though.
We can spend the next week quibbling over whether or not rejections are private correspondence and whether it’s unprofessional to post one to public or private spaces. (I don’t believe it is based on the fact that, since I’ve been a writer, writers have shared rejections, either in whole or in part, in forums relating to writing. Also, I agree with those who’ve said that once a person says truly despicable, racist things in letter form, professionalism is already off the table.) It may very well be true that, from a legal standpoint, Luke didn’t have the right to do what he did. But, again, would anyone care if it hadn’t revealed what it did?
The fact that Gardner Dozois brought up the specter of a lawsuit makes me wonder what’s hiding in his rejection letters. Why else try to scare Luke in that way? Maybe it’s just general fear on the Internet that people of his ilk seem to have. Either way, it makes me extremely dubious about Gardner and anyone else who focuses solely on the whole private/public correspondence bit and not the raging bigotry. As Celia said elsewhere, this is similar to what got David Moles in trouble with SFWA. The people in question couldn’t defend their (terribly disappointing and, in some cases, disgusting) words and opinions, so they fell back on whining about privacy.
I’ve made a man of straw, would someone like to use it?
ETA: It’s been brought to my attention in comments that Sheila Williams was the first to bring up lawsuits. I mistakenly thought it was Gardner mainly because Luke mentioned him, not Sheila. That still makes me sad, because I am still annoyed with all this focus on whether it was okay for Luke to post the rejection instead of the important issue: Sanders’ bigotry.
I also hear that people are mad because I’ve cast aspersions at (on?) Gardner Dozois. I elaborated in the comments, but basically I stand by my assertion that I am extremely wary of people who jump to “How horrible of Luke to post that letter” and not “How horrible of Sanders to say such things!” Those who do not speak out against bigotry usually do so because they are afraid/intimidated into not doing so by their peers or because they just don’t see the bigotry as being all that bad. (There are other reasons, too, these are just the ones I come across most of the time.) I have some sympathy for people who fall into the first category and absolutely none for people who fall into the second.
Daughter of ETA: This very thoughtful comment explains how, in the context of the community and rules of the Asimov’s board, this particular annoyance began. Unless someone who actually hangs over there wishes to contradict this, I’m going to choose to believe this is how things work there. Which means that everything is Stephen Francis Murphy’s fault. And I have no trouble believing that. Above when I said there might be other reasons for reacting to the “oh, ethics and copyright!” and not “arg, bigotry!”? This appears to be one of those other reasons. I’ll amend my opinions accordingly.