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January 25th, 2017
This is a reply to this post (http://ajodasso.livejournal.com/1829255.html
) by A.J. Odasso, who has preemptively blocked me from commenting:
I am disappointed—but not surprised—to be yet again vilified based on fabrications. Within certain circles, there is a consistent imperviousness to fact, as well as an inexplicable urge to demonize me in every possible case. The powers ascribed to me are quite miraculous—do I exert my baleful influence via hidden fangs, a mind-control ray, or merely dark ensorcellment? The careful omission of any reference to me from A.J.’s apology speaks volumes. Nor is it apparent whether David C. Kopaska-Merkel, the Rhysling Chair, is still my minion as well as a “colleague”—I, apparently, am not a colleague, despite publishing A.J. within recent memory.
No @sfpoetry tweets have ever come from me. My only Twitter account is @FJBergmann. Nor have I ever
disparaged fantasy; this is delusional. I WRITE fantasy—since well before joining SFPA. I publish fantasy—the 2014 Rhysling-winning long poem, “Interregnum,” by Mary Soon Lee, from Star*Line,
is strictly fantasy, and it has plenty of company therein. As Poetry Editor for Dark Renaissance Books, I acquired (pushed for, in fact) Mary’s Elgin-winning fantasy novel-in-verse, Crowned.
As A.J. and her friends have recently remarked on Twitter, and as I have long lamented, SFPA has a continuing problem with unsuitable Rhysling nominations—on that, there is widespread agreement. But when it comes down to specifics, everyone has a death grip on a different part of the elephant. Automatically including anything nominated defeats SFPA’s purpose and leaves us wide open to ignorant or spiteful nominations (vide
recent Hugos). While unsuitable poems are unlikely to receive votes, their presence defeats our larger purpose, which is to offer to the public a sampling of the best speculative poems of the given year.
Until 2017, all nominations were published in the Rhysling Anthology,
without any oversight. Due to concerns about the possibility of malicious nominations and the continuing presence of non-spec poems, the SFPA Executive Committee (the officers, Diane Severson, and I as Star*Line
editor) has been exploring improvements in the process, and empowered the Rhysling Chair to eliminate poems that in his estimation were not speculative. SFPA is conducting a survey to try to achieve consensus on whether any subgenres should definitely be included or excluded. The changes ought to have been clarified on sfpoetry.com, and steps are being taken to address this, but postings of eligible poems have never been cast in stone—every year, poems have been found ineligible after posting and removed, due to incorrect category, multiple nominations in same category, wrong year of publication, or withdrawal by author or publisher. In spite of careful checking, this has happened even after publication of the print anthology and after voting took place.
I would not dream of presuming that my editorial tastes should be assumed to be flawless—indeed, I’ve publicly invited discussion of my choices. I have too frequently seen editors or arbiters I otherwise respect make astonishingly inappropriate selections. All editors—and I am no exception—have blind spots. To declare one’s editorial decisions unassailable is the height of arrogance—as is to claim to be more capable than others of interpreting work from a culture not one's own. Editorial decisions that contradict one’s own opinions are not automatic indications of bias. They, like the nominations, are a combination of taste vagaries and luck. That’s the best system we have been able to put together so far.
Thanks for the delight expressed at my stepping down as Star*Line
editor. I have been urging applicants to come forward for quite some time; I was the one who proposed that editorial terms be limited to no more than 5 years. As a new editor has not yet been selected, I will remain Star*Line
's editor for at least another issue.
The positions and influence I hold within SFPA are the result of work, skills, and dependability. I have served as chief nag and production manager for nearly everything SFPA does for a long time. Efforts to find replacements for positions I hold have fallen mostly on deaf ears. I’ve done most SFPA publication layout for the last 5 years, virtually all website work from the redesign in 2010, and was Membership Chair as well as Rhysling Chair and Contest Chair. I'm grateful that we finally have a full slate of competent officers as well as our Membership Chair, Diane Severson, and that SFPA was able to fill all Chair positions without me this year.
Next year’s SFPA slots are open. But it’s easier to whine about the jobs others actually take on.
March 28th, 2015
Divide et Impera
Below is the reply I sent to the report from the WisCon committee investigating me for the supposed harassment of Rose Lemberg. Minor grammatical changes for clarity have been made, some terms have been expanded, and a correction has been noted, all bolded. WisCon could have sought to actively resolve these accusations and other problems long ago by acting as mediator and providing a forum; instead, it has fomented divisiveness by silence and unresponsiveness, and by enabling and legitimizing intolerance and deception as a means of furthering the dominion, within its shrinking realm, of what amounts to an ideological police state.
* * * * *WisCon Report Rebuttal
The tl;dr version seems to be that 1) I did nothing wrong with respect to the complaints being investigated; but 2) I should be punished anyway. To which my response is 3) this is both unethical and batshit crazy.
I consider this report to be in the true spirit of Requires Hate, about whom it was said “Every time she viciously insulted an author or a fellow community member, she framed it as bravely speaking out against racism and other injustices” and that she “plays the game of projecting interpretations onto things people say and then denouncing them” (comments from “A Report on Damage Done by One Individual”, November 6, 2014)—and macro-aggressive, and will treat it as such.
This report clearly states that the committee either found me innocent of the charges against me or was unable to prove that I intended any harm; therefore, it has no grounds upon which to penalize me in any way. The fact that the decision-making process dragged on and on until it was too late (I have subsequently discovered from the WisCon website that the deadline was extended from March 22 to March 29; while I received two e-mail reminders of the March 22 deadline, I never received any notice of the extension)
for me to sign up for panels this year is not lost upon me, and I consider that a deliberate—and unjust—surreptitiously administered additional
penalty. It seems that, faute de mieux,
given the specifics of the added criticism, I am being penalized for allegations that have nothing to do with WisCon, which I was not given the opportunity to refute, as I understood that I was being investigated specifically for reading my poem at the Moment of Change open mike. Like many WisCon attendees, I am passionate about many things—“caustic” seems an exercise in Shavian declension—and I challenge the committee to give specific examples with respect to WisCon.
Some of us are grammarians by nature, and some aren't. Some folks appreciate this and some don't. I owe my three main freelance positions and a number of other short-term jobs to having volunteered to proofread for periodicals, including Star*Line,
and subsequently being highly recommended. It should be obvious that nothing in my statements about editing was directed toward any poet, editor or publisher in particular; indeed, I was careful not to do so. A quick glance through the poems I have published in Star*Line
(which I am willing to make available) and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change
should demonstrate that I am perfectly familiar with the concept of deliberate stylistic variations in poetic language; this is so obvious a concept in poetics that I didn't feel that it was necessary to mention it. For those interested, Sam's Dot, now defunct, which as non-immigrant and non-ESL (to the best of my knowledge) has no excuse, towered above all others in spec po publishing in terms of editing errors and generally horrible production. I did not name them at the time because so many poets I knew personally had published books with Sam's Dot
that it was too late to fix. As I stated in my earlier reply to the committee's questions, I have a lengthy, pre-Rose history of complaining about the abysmal editorial standards in the SF community.
Of course this isn't a court of law, and conventions of justice and fair play obviously don't apply, but I am indignant that the committee would introduce unattributed allegations with no details that would allow me to refute them. I did not “derail” Shira Lipkin's panel, and would be happy to discuss what occurred there in much further detail; and the statement that “Bergmann does change her tone slightly for more well-known authors” is a sly aspersion that I completely deny; I would be interested to know to whom it refers—I doubt that the committee or my accusers are sufficiently knowledgeable about my circles of acquaintance or professional interaction. Finally, to even mention that I am supposedly going to be investigated for another incident of which I have no knowledge, without giving any particulars that would enable me to disprove it, is exceptionally shabby behavior.
The committee has unaccountably omitted from their report one of the most important reasons (certainly not limited to “only Bergmann's word”) why I read that particular poem at the Moment of Change reading—unaccountably omitted in its report, despite having the e-mail in question in their possession: that Sonya Taaffe, the editor at SH who rejected the poem immediately before the 2012 WisCon, specifically recommended that I submit it to Stone Telling,
Rose’s speculative poetry journal (as well as Mythic Delirium
and Goblin Fruit
). Sonya Taaffe has been frequently published by all three publications and has been published by them in turn, and is widely praised for the cultural richness of her poetry—presumably she is aware of Rose's editorial tastes and background, as she has apparently interacted with her extensively. At the time, I respected Sonya Taaffe’s judgement as a poet and an editor and valued her recommendation as to where to submit my poem—it is ironic that I thought, in view of her suggestion, that Rose might like
it. Despite her subsequent unethical behavior, I doubt that Sonya deliberately set me up—there are limits to my paranoia—therefore I believe that she found no “micro-agression” in my poem when she made those recommendations. To claim to find these qualities only after one’s clique has taken a stance is stunningly dishonest. As is the committee, to omit such a strong piece of evidence supporting my statement that I did not read the poem to harass Rose.The Toast
is a highly regarded feminist, social-activist and literary venue. Does the committee really believe that the editor there who accepted my poem
and another editor who subsequently requested it as a reprint for Enchanting Verses
were indulging in “micro-aggression”? Many, many people have told me how much they enjoyed the poem; people who are progressive, socially aware, and knowledgeable about poetry. And they have done so subsequent to its publication, with full knowledge of the accusations against me.
This reinforces my feeling that perception of “micro-agressive” anti-immigrant or anti-Russian content in my poem is solely dependent on personal hostility toward me and/
or anal-retentive nit-picking at the nano level. I not only intended no harm, I intended the opposite of harm. It is unconscionable that the committee is brushing away the damage I’ve experienced as the result of misinterpretation of my poem and my subsequent, widespread demonization.
It seems to me that the subtext here is that anyone who makes social-issues accusations automatically gets respect and credibility and is instantly and permanently empowered by this community, regardless of actual circumstances or lack of evidence, and that any harm done by the accusations is of absolutely no consequence, or even justified, simply because it is assumed from the get-go that any accusations must necessarily be true. I cannot begin to express the level of my dismay, here: the committee is saying that a) I was not guilty of these charges, and b) I deserved what I got, plus additional penalties? What is going on?
Rose and her cohorts were determined to continue viewing the poem “Green Reich” as an “odious” poem despite the fact that, as in my case, the poem was provably, unequivocally not written about Rose, as she claimed. In order to continue her victimhood status with respect to the poem, the discussion is simply kept in venues where no one is willing to question such assertions. Nor has she ever apologized publicly to its author or the then-editor of Star*Line
for the barrage of hate that her ridiculous accusation put them through. I’m certainly not holding my
breath in that regard.
Since my poem had nothing to do with Rose (and therefore cannot be “hurtful to Lemberg”), the idea that Rose, WisCon, or anyone else should be be given the authority to limit its publication is ludicrous—and I certainly do view attempts to do so as censorship.
Rose, it is now apparent in retrospect, has a spectacular and habitual level of grudge-holding that it never occurred to me to expect. I have already indicated to Rose in the plainest possible terms that I meant her no harm. I repeatedly offered to prove—as I have done to the committee—that the poem could not possibly have been about her, as she claimed. (She and her cohorts have been very careful to not take me up on that.) I have offered to meet with her to try and resolve our differences. I am not willing to apologize for an offense that I did not commit—I consider that the equivalent of apologizing for making the voice of Satan come out of someone's dental fillings. Regardless of what her supporters may think, Rose does not own poetry about birds.
Moreover, procedures like this give Rose, ADM, or anyone else acting from urges that span from narcissistic paranoia to self-serving malice the power to disrupt another person’s life for years, socially and professionally, solely on the basis of idiosyncratic interpretations of creative work. Do you all really feel that you are above such accusations? That others in your coterie won’t turn on you the moment it becomes advantageous to represent you as an enemy? I'm experiencing a horrified fascination that you are ready and willing to carry on Require's Hate's ostensible—and deplorable—mission.
The committee and those accusing me seem to be going out of their way to frame the most uncharitable interpretation possible. The poem is not about immigrants (and I would like to mention—again—that both my husband and I have immigrant parents); it is about SPAM. Specifically, Russian-bride spam, its tropes, and the experiences of the sort of individual who succumbs to its lures. The money-sucking variety are as likely to be from actual Russian women as from Martian women; the predatory aspect, as shown by the man’s behavior, is exploitative and dangerous to the actual women hoping to emigrate from desperate circumstances. Baba Yaga’s role here, as in many stories about her and similar characters, is as dea ex machina.
The committee seems to have no understanding of irony or humor.
The supposed anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant
interpretation of the “dollar-store bra” reference is similarly preposterous: the woman is still in Russia, buying the bras available there. Not “thriftiness," but poverty:
the horrendous quality of lingerie available for purchase in the former Soviet Union is legendary and was at one time widely mentioned in the media. It's possible, I suppose, to assume that the man has sent his intended the dollar-store bras, in which case the reference would be a comment on his
If we are to apply the same logical inferences (the committee stated in an earlier report that “we feel this would be out of character for her,” with respect to the idea that I read the poem “with malicious intent”)
that “cleared” me with respect to the accusation that I deliberately chose the poem I read in order to harass Rose
, Alex Dally MacFarlane, my chief accuser, has both colluded in and initiated on her own behalf a consistent pattern of covert behavior designed to destroy other writers. I refer you in particular to http://www.starshipreckless.com/blog/?p=9077
and various entries at http://laurajmixon.com/2014/11/pdf-record-of-a-report-with-comments/
. Note that Laura Mixon specifically asked for testimonies against Alex MacFarlane to be withheld for a subsequent separate report—which I hope is yet forthcoming, although there is already enough evidence to damn her utterly. And will you be banning her from WisCon? I strongly endorse that policy.
I have been told that “Saira Ali” (a pseudonym, I understand) is also one of Requires Hate’s inner circle, and I don’t doubt, if that is the case, that she is well aware of ADM’s machinations. To the best of my knowledge, I had never interacted in any way with either of these persons, other than to submit to an anthology edited by ADM, at a time when I had no idea that this crap was going on in the background. (I have recently found it necessary to interact with Saira Ali [and Rose Lemberg, for that matter] with respect to SFPA’s Rhysling Award, on a purely organizational level.)
It is obvious that I will no longer be safe at WisCon—and I know that I speak for others. I thought I was a part of the WisCon community and sympathetic to its agenda of promoting women and their writing, but I am apparently mistaken. What I’m not part of is a dwindling, vociferous clique with axes to grind, who distort evidence to fit their ideology. And the idea that, should I attend, everything I say and do will be surveilled and interpreted in the most negative way possible is nauseating. Fortunately, I've found that many people in the larger SF community listened to what I had to say, believed me, and supported me; I am not dependent on the approval of what WisCon has become.
In general, and in this instance specifically, I am not “abrasive and confrontational” without cause. Like many WisCon members, there are issues about which I feel strongly. I was publicly defamed without recourse—privately, it would seem, for a year beforehand and then publicly for another year and a half, nor does it seem to be ameliorating in certain circles, given the tone of the report—by a host of people, most of whom I’d never met or interacted with, who anticipated and circumvented due process. Exactly what is the WisCon-endorsed behavior under these circumstances?
First, covert defamation; and now, being spoken down to as if I were some kind of closet redneck. I have no intention of coming to WisCon under these constraints and negative misperceptions, much less volunteering in any capacity. “… feel comfortable at WisCon should they choose to attend,” my ass.
The committee gives ADM and Saira Ali a pass despite them being known participants in the macroagressions of RH, one of the nastiest and almost certainly the most treacherous individual in the SFF community. How can anyone possibly trust a word they say, or believe that their testimony can have no underlying motive? Occam’s Razor, anyone?
If the “Green Reich” episode is anything to go by, the folks who have defamed me will never let go of their accusations and never admit they were wrong—and via your attempt to penalize me, they have been legitimized. I certainly won’t accept any of the conditions herein cited and will not participate at WisCon as long as there is any attempt to impose them.
By implication, in the collective view expressed here, no odium or responsibility should attach in any way to those who defame or who call for attacks on another person based on imagined slights, hearsay, or their own advantage. Apparently, not only should WisCon attendees feel welcome to make accusations as they please on flimsy—or no—evidence, but those accused should be penalized simply for the temerity of having been in a position to be targeted. I’m calling out that bullshit. Fix it, or you will eat each other alive. Not that WisCon hasn’t pretty much already eaten itself.
What WisCon has become is not for me.
January 19th, 2015
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
), 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
). 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.
August 23rd, 2013
On a Brighter Side
... with scattered clouds. I'm back from Boston and National Poetry Slam, where I got to hang out not only with my fabulous Urban Spoken Word teammates, Brittany Crosby (who got me airline tickets!), Caitlin McGahan, and Tony Fudge, but also a few SFPA and VP folks. Disclaimer: We, and I in particular, did very badly (that is to say, last) in our two official bouts, but we got to do the haiku slam, the masquerade slam (where we introduced the concept of the Group Piece Persona Poem — the personas being Edward Snowden, Aaron Swartz, Julian Assange, and Bradley Manning), the horrible-poetry cover slam, and the loser slam, where Brittany and I rocked.
And we got to attend the semifinals and finals with no attendant pressure to keep us from relaxing. I picked up some horrible bug in the airport, so catching up with the backlog from the trip has been particularly onerous.
But, on the sunniest side of all, my chapbook Out of the Black Forest
2012), won the SFPA Elgin Award!
I can't help feeling that Kelli Hoppmann's
gorgeous illustrations for each poem helped a lot.Tags: elgin award
, urban spoken word
July 13th, 2013
Good Intentions Pave, Widen, and Add a SpeedPass Lane to the Road to Hell
I'm F.J. Bergmann. This post is a response to accusations made against me that can be read at storify.com/foxvertebrae/fj-bergmann
. You cannot imagine how non-delightful it is to discover that people you don't know are calling you "the worst fucking person" and "a shitty person in so very many ways!" for reasons that are untrue.
I do not hate any of the people Rose names, nor do I hate Rose herself, though I find her propensity for misunderstanding me regrettable. My involvement in the incidents referred to at these links consists of 1) calling for due process on behalf of a friend whom I thought worth defending; 2) participating in good faith in an ostensibly open speculative poetry event; and 3) becoming impatient with what I saw as an attempt to impute motives and meaning to a poem that I felt it transparently did not contain.
I normally don't spend time perusing other people's blogs, so I am often late to the party. I was not aware of the appalling comments linked above--or that there were people who disliked me this much--until two days ago, as a result of fallout from comments here: jimchines.com/2013/06/how-to-report-sexual-harassment-by-elise-matthesen/
(I found out about the Hines blog via Ansible).
I have spent the last two days composing a considered response. I'd like to take the incidents in which my involvement is discussed in reverse chronological order:
1) Most recently, I was extremely uncomfortable with the comments made on Jim C. Hine's blog after the posting of Elise Matthesen's "How to Report Sexual Harassment" there. I posted there for the purpose of a) calling for due process; b) providing first-hand, long-term knowledge of Jim Frenkel, the supposed perpetrator; and c) to raise the possibility that the incident had been misunderstood. It is now horribly easy to understand, in the wake of the shitstorm that descended upon me there, why almost no one who shared my views spoke out anywhere. I regret bringing up Elise's deafness (she uses the word "deaf," so I am respecting her choice, I hope); it did seem entirely relevant to the incident as it was described to me.
2) The Moment of Change
anthology reading at the 2012 WisCon was billed as an open mike, and I came partly as an overture of solidarity with the publishing of the new anthology, as well as for an opportunity to read my poetry and listen to other speculative poets. I certainly did not come with any intention of "disrupting" the reading; I came to support it, as a fellow spec poet, and I hoped that it might show Rose and others that I bore them no ill-will over the "Green Reich" debacle (3).
The poem I read, "Meet and Marry a Gorgeous Russian Queen," was written in 2009. In May of 2009 I sent it to a critique group of local poets who include two University of Wisconsin professors emeritae as well as a former Wisconsin poet laureate. It was a persona poem in the voice of an ignorant, sleazy, dishonest, diseased loser who has ordered a Russian bride online--who is savvy enough to turn the tables on her predator. The title was taken directly from a spam subject line, variants of which I still get constantly, and was part of a series of poems I had started writing that used spam subject lines as titles. The bride in the poem is not meant to be shown as a victimizer; it is quite obvious that the women who are imported to the U.S. as brides to internet-met strangers are, in general, exploited and endangered, and that the scam Russian-or-other-foreign-national-bride spam is about as likely to involve actual Russian women as the huge-stash-of-$100-bills-in-Afghanistan e-mails are to originate from actual U.S. soldiers stationed there.
In February of 2012 I submitted the poem to Strange Horizons
, where it was rejected in due course. The editor not only discussed the poem on Rose Lemberg's blog, but offered to provide a copy to interested parties. I am amazed that an editor of her stature would publicly comment on a specific submission under any circumstances, let alone offer to provide the poem to anyone else without the poet's permission. Is this in accordance with Strange Horizons
staff ethics policy? As an editor, I would not dream of breaching someone's privacy or copyright in this manner. Moreover, the rejection I received appeared to view the poem in a rather different light than her more recent description--it suggested, in fact, that I try submitting it to Mythic Delirium, Goblin Fruit,
or Stone Telling
! It's quite possible that this recommendation, which arrived shortly before WisCon, influenced my choice of what poem to read.
I am utterly mystified by the interpretations posted by Rose and her friends--especially the portrayal of the poem as anti-Semitic. I will be happy to send the poem myself to anyone who e-mails me at email@example.com to request it, as long as the poem is not made public (I would prefer not to post the poem here as it is not yet published--and I still have hopes in that direction).
I had read this poem at many venues, including local open mikes and slams. I picked it to read because I thought it was more overtly feminist than most of my other speculative poems and because previous listeners had visibly enjoyed it. I generally try to make eye contact with the audience when I read, and I was surprised by the poem's unenthusiastic reception. My husband, who was present at the reading, informed me that there was a distinct unpleasant vibe in the room after I had read, which puzzled me.
I did not know that Rose Lemberg was Russian or an immigrant. Then she read after me and clearly indicated that she was of Russian heritage. At that point, I was worried that I might have unwittingly given offense. I asked one of the anthology contributors whom I know slightly and who was also present whether she thought there was a problem and what she thought I should do. I got the impression from her that she didn't think there was anything to worry about, so I decided not to attempt to explain myself at the time. I have since learned from her that this was not the case; she was very aware that Rose thought I was attacking her, but did not feel comfortable discussing the situation with me. I absolutely did not read that poem to offend or annoy Rose.
3) S.A. Kelly's poem "The Green Reich" appeared in Star*Line
34.2 in June 2011, while Marge Simon was the editor (I have permission from Marge to send a .pdf of the issue to anyone on request; e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org). Rose Lemberg insisted that Kelly, a former ally (see the early days of the Absolute Write speculative poetry forum) had written the poem as a deliberate attack on herself. I found this transparently fallacious and said so on the sfpanet listserv and on my LJ (scroll down). It finally transpired that the poem had been posted in an Absolute Write forum in 2009, and critiqued there by some of his accusers, who found no fault with it at that time, as documented here: sak6.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/my-response-to-mike-allen-regarding-the-green-reich/
, and I thought that had definitively put an end to those allegations of harassment-via-poem from Rose.
Rose has now twice that I know of attributed deliberate malice, aimed at herself, to poems that demonstrably could not possibly have been intended that way. Let me reiterate here: "The Green Reich" was written in 2008, long before she and Scott Kelly had a parting of the ways. My poem, "Meet and Marry a Gorgeous Russian Queen," was written in 2009, long before I had ever, to the best of my knowledge, interacted with her in any capacity.
Regarding this year's (2013) WisCon: I went to the panel moderated by Shira Lipkin because I was interested in its topic, and like many in the audience, I asked questions and made what I thought were relevant comments. If I "derailed" the discussion in any way, this is news to me, nor did I have any intention of doing so. I would very much appreciate an explanation of anything I said that gave that effect.
I'm saddened to find out that the speculative poetry reading at this year's WisCon was deliberately structured for the purpose of excluding me. I'm glad that I did not know at the time; it would have spoiled my enjoyment of hearing the participating poets read. I was surprised not to be invited to participate in my capacity as editor of Star*Line
, but I assumed that it was because neither Star*Line
nor my own poetry has a specifically feminist emphasis.
I've been at WisCon every year for 14 years and love it (except for the norovirus episode). I have been on many panels over the years. I had always thought of it as a safe and welcoming place for everyone, including me. I have contacted email@example.com and offered to provide whatever information they request; I'm outraged at being labeled as a harasser and a "well-known bully."
To Rose: I don't hate you. I deplore your perception of me and my intentions. I'm astounded and grieved that you thought I deliberately harassed you. I am chagrined that you should have seen fit to forego WisCon on my account. WisCon is a wonderful experience and should be a safe place for anyone. I hope that you come to the next WisCon, and that you enjoy it. If you wish me to keep my distance from you, I'll respect that. If you would like to get together one on one--or one-on-[as many of your friends as you feel safe with]--I'd be happy to try to resolve our differences.
March 20th, 2013
Gender Bias in Publishing Redux
Most of this is a comment in response to the gender ratios for appearance in major literary publications posted earlier this month at VIDA: Women in Literary Arts
I am the editor of Star*Line,
the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association
, and the poetry editor for Mobius: The Journal of Social Change
. In Mobius,
I publish approximately twice as many male contributors as female (judging by author name); in Star*Line,
about three times as many men as women. For both, I receive twice as many submissions from men as from women.
I had calculated the ratios for Mobius
a couple of years ago, on the occasion of yet another discussion of gender bias in publishing. It pleased me that I was publishing work in the same gender ratio as the submissions, because I felt that it supported: a) that the quality of work from both genders was equivalent; and b) that I was not exhibiting a gender bias. (Of course, it could also be plausibly inferred that: a] one gender's work is far superior to the other; and b] I do
have a strong gender bias in the other direction.)
I should be less pleased to find that I am currently accepting a higher proportion of work from men for Star*Line
compared to the submissions ratio. However, I don't consider myself to be favoring men; I consider myself to be favoring good poetry; i.e., poetry that meets my standards and tastes. There are all sorts of potential explanations for the Star*Line
gender discrepancy; one possible explanation is that because a number of high-profile journals exist withing the speculative poetry genre that specifically promote women's issues and gender issues, female poets are submitting to those venues preferentially. (I welcome discussion regarding this phenomenon.)
A characteristic of male submitters: they form a higher percentage of the submissions because they submit more frequently than women—or, at least, are more frequently repeat submitters to the same venues. Persistence sometimes does
pay; if a poet's work is close to publishable quality and multiple submissions are sent, there is a much greater likelihood of one piece appealing to an editor.
Politically, I support affirmative action. However, I do not believe that the concept is appropriately applied to publication. A student or employee lacking skills or experience because of societal inequities can be brought up to speed; a poem, once published, is not generally alterable (and while my editing is hands-on, I have no intention of rewriting inadequate or unsuitable submissions in a manner that exceeds the abilities of the poets themselves).
Based on my submissions statistics, which I believe to be the norm, I think the real issue is not what's being published. The important question raised is: why are women not submitting in the same numbers as men? Superficial interpretation of statistics like those on the VIDA site further discourage women from submitting. The statistics that need to be stressed are not the publication or staff ratios, but whether there is any difference between the submissions ratio and the acceptance ratio—and then, if there is a difference, to talk about why it exists. The most obvious way for women to get published more is to submit more. And I suspect that the same holds true for applicants to review and editorial positions.
As an editor, I welcome submissions from both genders to Star*Line
At present, I publish as many poems as I can find that I like; if I begin to get more poems I like than I can publish, I will raise my standards. I will not change my acceptance policies, which are based solely on my own tastes and on suitability for the journal in question.
As a poet and writer, I can inform you that I am female—while my gender may not be immediately inferred from my byline, I take no extraordinary measures to conceal it. Also that, for the last several years, the acceptance rate for my poetry submissions has averaged over 50%—in many cases from paying markets. I have hundreds of published poems, have won numerous awards for my writing, and have had four chapbooks published by independent presses. No MFA; I got where I am by industriously reading, writing, performing and attending performances, and submitting—in that order of importance. I'm not trying to brag; I am saying, ladies, that this is doable.
Nor do I submit, as a rule, to venues that claim to consider submissions from women preferentially—that practice, I believe, actively denigrates female writers when it is undertaken for the purported purpose of rectifying gender bias. From where I see it, the problem is that of motivating female writers to submit more, to be more persistent—and that involves taking risks.
October 30th, 2012
I’ve won the 2012 Rannu Fund for Speculative Literature poetry award for my poem “Guests,” as well as an Honorable Mention for “Fairies vs. Robot Aliens.” Both these poems are currently unpublished—hint, hint, editors.
June 15th, 2012
Hiatus Goes Poof - My New SF E-Book
While lax in this arena of endeavor, I have been busy elsewhere. My new (and first) e-book, "Remember Me," was released today from Musa Publishing's Urania imprint (science fiction)! For 99¢, you can go buy it
Disclaimer: I'm using the term "e-book" loosely. This is actually an e-short-story, but we do not call it that because "e-short-story" does not slip as gladsomely off the tongue. The link will give you enticements and an excerpt, so all I will say here is that it involves a planet orbiting an orange giant star (Aldebaran), an interstellar theater troupe, an alien hate crime, and violet wine.
December 19th, 2011
What I Want for Xmas
A baby dragon. A tiny baby dragon. An adorable tiny baby dragon. An adorable tiny baby dragon with razor-like fangs and caustic, highly reactive urine. Which it can spray backwards.Tags: writer's block