It is interesting when two worlds collide. As a distraction from completing a paper on Curation for September's Euprera Congress in Istanbul I looked up Edmund Cooper on Wikipedia. Cooper was a science fiction writer who appealed to the teenage me, and I was revisiting Who Needs Men? as part of my project to read 19 novels from 1972.
Depending on your perspective, Cooper was either a significant author very close to the top tier of Seventies SF or he was highly prolific hack now deservedly forgotten for his antiquated sexism.
On the evidence of Who Needs Men?, he was neither. It is an easy read but hardly startling in concept or delivery. Yes, it reflects and builds on late 60s/early 70s feminism in a way that feels uncomfortable to modern sensibilities, but it hardly challenges the standards of the time.
Not surprisingly, the first search result Google returns is a Wikipedia entry.
Edmund Cooper (April 30, 1926 - March 11, 1982) was an English poet and prolific writer of speculative fiction, romances, technical essays, several detective stories, and a children's book. These were published under his own name and several pen names. Cooper was among the 100-plus authors in Gollancz's "SF Gateway" initiative to "make thousands of out-of print titles by classic genre authors available as eBooks", starting in October 2011.
Further on, in a section headed Works and Criticism, we are told:
Two of his books depicted future Earths dominated by women after the genetic or physical need for men has been reduced. His attitude to women is said to have been controversial. Cooper was quoted as saying: "let them have totally equal competition ... they'll see that they can't make it". The theme of both books is actually a need to retain both sexes. Five to Twelve ends with the phrase "if we do not make any more mistakes, we can create a balanced world of men and women". The more cynical Who Needs Men? ends by asking whether love of woman for man is worth death for that love. Yes, says the heroine.
The suggestion that his attitude to women 'is said to have been controversial' is backed by footnote 7: ^ Edmund Cooper's Biography "commentary by the feminist mafia didn't help.'" Unfortunately, the link to the Biography no longer works: "The requested URL /cooper/index.htm was not found on this server."
Members of Edmund's family and members of his literary trust do not agree on certain aspects of his life. Therefore with great regret we have removed the biography from our site.
If you would like to contact Edmund Cooper's literary trust with questions about his life or works you can contact them via Dee Page firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking again at the Wikipedia entry, the Edmund Cooper: Revision History, starts to tell a story. There are a copule of recent changes, involving the addition of Cooper's inclusion in Gollancz's "SF Gateway" series; Andy Dingley felt it was "not a useful edition" and it is certainly arguable this is not appropriate so high up the entry.
A little earlier there was a flurry of activity around biographical detail and the assertion that "He became engaged at 16 to a teacher four years older than he was, and married her three years later", the deletion of which was labelled vandalism. It is back again today (July 19, 2012).
Go back to the start of the history, and it is not long before Dee Page becomes involved, deleting a chunk of bio (3 July 2006) and adding:
For information on both autobiography, biography and full bibliography contact the Edmund Cooper Literary Trust via e-mail to: Dee Page, Administrator on email@example.com
This does not impress Ben-w, who restores the biographical information. On his User page Ben-w says "I have fun creating and trying to improve articles on subjects that interest me and just as much fun with subjects that don't, as I find out things I didn't know. One of the things I've tried to do is save articles from deletion by improving them."
Dee Page takes a different view Revision as of 11:17, 4 July 2006
On advice the Literary Executor and legal copyright holder of the works and estate of Edmund Cooper, the Edmund Cooper Literary Trust, has removed the previous information on this site because of the factual errors and misleading information it contained. From the archives held by the Cooper Trust the present bibliography being compiled by The Trust runs to over eight hundred (800) pages which should give the reader some indication as to why the previous entry was so misleading and the extent the work being undertaken by The Trust.
The responses are predictable and, it has to be said, expressed politely.
Dee page, please indicate what is wrong with the 2006-07-03t22:04:31z version of the article, so it can be fixed; instead of blanking most of the article, which is considered vandalism. Challenging and removing unsourced info and copyright violations is fine, but please indicate when this is done in the edit summary. --Jeandré, 2006-07-04t12:11z
This page is not subject to the imprimatur of "the trustees" or of Dee Page. If there are inaccuracies, state what they are and/or correct them. Stop turning this page into a statement of the policies of the Literary Trust. Ben-w 17:05, 5 July 2006 (UTC)
Dee Page disagrees - at length (July 17):
The Trustees of the Edmund Cooper Literary Trust do have the imprimatur (see the Concise Oxford Dictionary) of the information on Edmund Cooper, because he so designated it; and by doing so we have a duty of care and we continue to hold that imprimatur whether it is on Wikipedia or not. The Trust has not said that it has a monopoly on facts relating to Edmund Cooper, but it does have a legal right to correct anything that may be wrong or detrimental to his oeuvre and the circumstances under which this oeuvre was created.
Five days later Ben-w is losing patience:
The Trustees or anyone else who wants to can edit the page to make it more accurate, and they have been encouraged to do so.They have chosen, instead, to engage in lengthy boring lectures about their Sacred Rights As Trustees. If there are inaccuracies, EDIT THE GODDAM ARTICLE AND FIX THEM. Ben-w 16:11, 21 July 2006 (UTC)
It is fair to say that back in July 2006 Dee Page didn't have a particularly deep unedrstanding of how Wikipedia works. If she had, she would have prsumably gone abut this in a different way.
Then again, there is a reason to have sympathy with her. Read further and there are indications of family tensions and, presumably, considerable hurt.
Reputation, and curation of reputation, is a tricky area. The discussion makes strong points that support the view that those close to an organisation or indivisual should have the right to amend or even delete inaccurate or false information.
At the same time, the dispute clearly illustrates the dangers of allowing those with too close an interest in a topic to believe they have the objectivity necessary to directly influence that which is presented as fact.