James Frenkel Leaves Tor

James Frenkel Leaves Tor

James FrenkelLong-time editor James Frenkel has left Tor Books.

Frenkel was one of the most accomplished editors at Tor — indeed, in the entire industry. I first came across his name in the mid-80s, when he was publisher of Bluejay books, a science fiction imprint that produced trade paperback editions of K.W. Jeter, Theodore Sturgeon, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Connie Willis, and many others. Among many other accomplishments, Bluejay Books first began publishing Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction anthologies.

Frenkel joined Tor after the collapse of Bluejay in the late 80s, where he edited some of the biggest names in the industry, including Vernor Vinge, Joan D. Vinge, Frederik Pohl, Andre Norton, Dan Simmons, Jack Williamson, Timothy Zahn, Greg Bear, and many others.

Frenkel’s departure from Tor comes following accusations of sexual harassment, stemming from an incident at Wiscon reported by Elise Matthesen:

Two editors I knew were throwing a book release party on Friday night at the convention. I was there, standing around with a drink talking about Babylon 5, the work of China Mieville, and Marxist theories of labor (like you do) when an editor from a different house joined the conversation briefly and decided to do the thing that I reported. A minute or two after he left, one of the hosts came over to check on me… So I reported it to the convention. Somewhere in there they asked, “Shall we use your name?” I thought for a millisecond and said, “Oh, hell yes.”

While Matthesen did not immediately identify the editor in question, he was famously ID’d by Mary Robinette Kowal in her June 18 blog post “Why am I afraid to name the editor?” Yesterday Tor senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden made the announcement via Twitter that James Frenkel was no longer associated with Tor Books.

Frenkel currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife, Joan D. Vinge. He has not yet made any public announcement regarding the issue.

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What did he actually do, anyway? I could not find it at either of those two links.

Dave T

I wondered too exactly what the specific offense was, and on further reading at diverse places learned that whatever it was, Mr. Frenkel has a history of it going back over a decade. According to numerous reports this was not an isolated incident.

Would still like to know the exact nature of the reported harassment, though. Repeated, offensive,sexually suggestive comments? Unwanted touching? Or something that might have been in poor taste like an off-color joke? What? Whatever it was it seems to have ticked off any number of women for quite a few years and now it’s finally come to a head.


“…back over a decade”
I read that too in the comments on Mr. Hine’s blog, though again there were no specifics on the nature of these incidents.

What distubs me is that Mrs. Matthesen seems the first one to have *done* something about it. There were lost of comments about ether having been warned about him or warning friends, but that is not really solving the problem, that’s more like sweeping it under the carpet.
Even worse, it makes those people guilty by proxy as they enabled him to continue whatever it is he does by not publicly exposing him.

Finally, and this is in no way meant to demean Mrs. Matthesen, not naming his crime (including his past ones) reminds me a bit of Kafka’s Der Prozess. I just don’t like people being judged without being given a specific reason.

Allen Snyder

I think Oliver, if I’m reading his comment correctly, just wasn’t aware that Ms. Matthesen *had* been more specific to the appropriate parties.

But I’m completely with you John. And not just in this specific case: There have been far too many public trials lately. CNN’s HLN (formerly, Headline News) seems to be pretty much Court TV these days!


Kafka was not the best reference and i apologize for that.

My point was that he is judged in public for something not known to the public. I’m still refering to the linked blogs in the original article; John’s post was commendable in witholding any judgement.

I wasn’t aware that this had moved into legal affairs which does explain the absense of specifics.

Dave T

John, thanks for your latest post here. I of course agree with your take on this. BUT, there sure are a helluva lot of people on other blogs and websites acting like they know _exactly_ what the offenses are, and have their torches and pitchforks out for Mr. Frenkel.

Do they indeed know the details, or are they just jumping on the first convenient bandwagon with their mob mentality hats on.

Talk about judging in the court of public opinion! It’s not those of us who aren’t aware of the specifics, but those who either _do_ know the details or those who would like people to think they do and therefore somehow think they have the right to join in the condemnation.

If it turns out that the assertions/charges against Mr. Frenkel prove to be true, and of such a serious nature as to warrant his condemnation, then you won’t find me trying to defend his actions. Far from it.

But without specifics, and some who claim to have the specifics not telling the rest of us, I’m going to remain cautious of anything I hear from supposed second hand sources. It’s far too easy for innuendo and falsehoods to spread like wildfire these days, and almost impossible to correct any false accusation once it’s in the minds of people. I’m just sayin’.

Sarah Avery

The part of Matthesen’s explanation that I found most encouraging was that publishing houses want to be formally notified if their editors (or whoevers) engage in harassment at conventions. It makes sense that they would be, but people aren’t always sensible.

Some years ago, a friend who keeps trying to persuade me to come to Wiscon–it’s the airfare that stops me–mentioned “that creepy guy from Tor who always behaves badly.” In my brain’s database of editors, I now had a temporary question mark next to the names of all the male editors I knew of at Tor: creepy harasser?.

Had the conversation ended there, I might have kept that question mark next to all those names indefinitely. Instead, I asked for a name, and my friend said, “Jim something. I’m blanking on the last name.” At that time, there were two editors named Jim at Tor, and the only one whose full name I remembered was Jim Minz.

If I hadn’t asked my friend whether Minz was the name she was having trouble remembering, I might have kept that little question mark next to Jim Minz’s name in my mental database for the past decade. But my friend said, “No, it’s Frank-something. Frenkel! That’s it. Frenkel’s the creep. Dodge him, and you’ll probably be fine at Wiscon.”

At the time, I didn’t expect any SF/F convention to be a harassment-free environment, so it didn’t occur to me to be surprised that he was still permitted to return to Wiscon. What did surprise me was that Tor put up with Frenkel muddying their name. And that’s a question mark I can finally expunge from Tor’s entry in my mental database. Good on them.


For full disclosure, I’m a friend of Jim Frenkel’s and not a fan.

I have heard Jim make comments at Cons that I considered off color, perhaps sexist. My interpretation is is this was him trying act macho or trying to get a conversation going. Clearly, a fair number of people he didn’t know found this creepy.

Now, he is going to pay a really high price for his politically incorrect conversations.

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