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-2
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-bergma
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.