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09:19 pm: Statement regarding Alex Dally MacFarlane
I believe that I have been intentionally harmed by Alex Dally MacFarlane (ADM), and I wish to make a public report of my experiences. Until revealed in her role as what has been described as the chief lieutenant of Requires Hate (RH) (see starshipreckless.com/blog/?p=9077 and elizabethbear.com/?p=2506 and laurajmixon.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/A-Report-on-Damage-Done-by-One-Individual-Under-Several-Names.pdf), it never occurred to me that I had been specifically targeted by her. By inference, I am now convinced that this was the case.

I first became aware of ADM as one of the people to publicly accuse me in the wake of Rose Lemberg’s claims that I harassed her by reading my poem “Meet and Marry a Gorgeous Russian Queen” at the Moment of Change-sponsored open mike at WisCon in 2012 (see fibitz.livejournal.com/6742.html and alexdallymacfarlane.com/2014/05/wiscon-2012-report-fj-bergmann-harassing-rose-lemberg/). I reiterate that the poem had nothing to do with Rose, was provably written before I had any interactions with her, nor did I intend my reading of the poem to cause her any distress. I believe that the misinterpretation of my poem—and the subsequent lies about it—were deliberately fomented. I am told that Rose has distanced herself from WisCon’s investigation of my alleged harassment of her, and that WisCon’s investigation stems specifically from formal complaints by ADM and Saira Ali—also said to be part of RH’s inner circle, who has now made private her blog page accusing me. I now suspect that Rose’s and others’ perception of the events in question may have been manipulated by an individual lacking in ethics.

I was repeatedly advised not to feed the trolls. That if I ignored the fuss, it would die down. Because I was innocent of wrongdoing, I pushed myself to act as I normally would have. I submitted the poem to literary magazines and other venues, and it was eventually accepted, along with three other poems, by The Toast, an edgy, funny, feminist online publication. I told the Toast editors about the controversy surrounding the poem and offered to withdraw it if they felt uncomfortable with its background; they said that it seemed like “a nutty misunderstanding” and that it was their favorite among my poems, and it duly appeared (the-toast.net/2014/06/11/poem-f-j-bergmann/). Writers whom I respect have enthusiastically praised the poem; it has subsequently been requested as a reprint by another editor. I continued my volunteer activities with the Science Fiction Poetry Association and other literary organizations. I am grateful that these organizations, my employers and associates, whom I made aware of the controversy, continued to support me unconditionally. I attended WisCon this spring for the 15th year in a row, where I volunteered when the call went out for help with registration. Subsequently, I was widely denounced, again—as was WisCon for allowing me to attend and volunteer.

The accusations produced in me a real, physical despair. In June 2013, when they first surfaced, I began having chest pains—which returned when I had to slog back through years of e-mails and internet entries to document evidence refuting the charges against me for WisCon’s investigating committee. As of January 2015, that investigation is still ongoing. I felt like the protagonist of Maupassant’s “La Ficelle,” who goes insane and dies after never being able to convince his community of his innocence. I was too discouraged to attempt the past two NaNoWriMos; what point would there be in finishing a novel if no publisher would touch it? Editors of several speculative journals aligned themselves openly with my accusers and made it clear that my work was no longer welcome. Despite my efforts to push myself to write and submit as I normally would have, I found it intimidating to send work to editors to whom I hadn’t submitted before—and a number of those submissions received curt, rude rejections or were never replied to at all.

My reputation, my self-confidence, and my ability to write and be published—to say nothing of the time available in which to do it—have been impaired by baseless accusations. All of these are intangibles, but they are desperately important to me—and they were stolen by a small number of individuals, some of whom were deceived and manipulated into seeing me as an enemy, and at least one who, I believe, deliberately chose to try to discredit me within the genre.

Of course ruining one’s rivals is a proud literary tradition—see despair.com/road-not-taken.html. But one doesn’t expect to be the focus of such activity in this day and age, especially in the minuscule sub-genre that is speculative poetry. It never occurred to me to indulge in the sort of paranoid ego trip that would have allowed me to suspect that my accusers had ulterior motives—until the cumulative evidence of RH’s and ADM’s activities became impossible to ignore.

In 2012, when I publicly read at WisCon the poem that ADM and her coterie claim was intended to harass Rose, I had just become the editor of Star*Line, the official journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association—one of the reasons I attended that reading was to invite participants to submit their work to Star*Line. I had also just won the Rannu Fund Award for Speculative Poetry, which I believe to be the largest financial award within the subgenre, and I had already won a Rhysling Award, which is the most prestigious. I have had hundreds of poems published in literary venues, have won a number of national and international poetry awards, and am also the poetry editor of Mobius: The Journal of Social Change. I believe that, like many of the writers whom RH has been shown to have specifically targeted, I was perceived as an up-and-coming writer within the field of speculative poetry, and apparently a threat to ADM’s ascendancy in that gene.

I now wonder just how much ADM’s attacks on me have to do with her own blossoming reputation as an Important Speculative Poet—she has subsequently appeared on speculative poetry panels at major conventions throughout North America and the UK, been given a column on tor.com, been published in speculative poetry venues where I am no longer welcome, and the like. I’m wondering how much her influence had to do with SFPA no longer being welcome at Readercon, where we traditionally announced the Rhysling Awards. I’m wondering how much she had to do with Liz Bourke (also a tor.com columnist and, at the time, a friend of ADM), without explanation, refusing to allow her nominated poem to be considered for SFPA’s 2014 Rhysling Award. In the wake of the activities of RH and ADM, it’s a nasty climate to be productive in.

My experience with Alex Dally McFarlane, taken individually, is not at all conclusive. However, in the context of statements from others who have come forward, many of which are present in or linked from Laura Mixon's report, I think that a clear pattern of her misbehavior is emerging, and that her motives are undeniably suspect. I hope that my statement will encourage other victims to make their experiences known, and that the weight of group testimony will ensure that ADM is accorded the scrutiny and consideration that she deserves.

—F.J. Bergmann
demiurge@fibitz.com

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