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.