Sunday, June 15, 2014

No, this should be my last post about Wiscon: Harassment by poetry

Start here, with a poem inspired by a spam subject line: Meet and Marry a Gorgeous Russian Queen: A Poem by F.J. Bergmann. The people on the internet who frame discourse would tell you what to think of it before you read it, but I won't.

After you read the poem, read rose_lemberg: harassers defending harassers, where you'll learn that Russians are an oppressed group in the US, and you'll get her interpretation of the poem. A surprising number of people who I'd thought were better readers have accepted Lemberg's version. They do not understand subtext or unreliable narrators.

Then read the author's explanation of the drama: fibitz: Good Intentions Pave, Widen, and Add a SpeedPass Lane to the Road to Hell.

And then follow links in the comments on the poem to see how other people are spinning this case of harassment by poetry.

In particular, I'm disappointed with The Strange Horizons Blog: Confidentiality statement added to guidelines. People who edit poetry should understand that poems which deserve the name of poetry are always about more than they seem to be.


  1. Panel topics Wiscon should contemplate discussing:

    • The McMartin Preschool Satanic Abuse Trial
    • Phrenology
    • Auras
    • Tulip mania

    I fear discussing Stalinist show trials would be too close to the real topic for enlightenment to ensue.

    I also wonder why any male science fiction professional would even consider attending Wiscon, given the very significant possibility of it being a career-ending event.

    1. Hmm:

      • McCarthy and Mao, Men Who Inspire Us

      * Defending Wicca While Hunting Witches

      It could be too much fun to come up with a full program.

      I don't think the divide at WisCon is as simple as male vs. female. "Intersectional" feminism has very little to do with feminism: it's a neoliberal-friendly approach to all social identities. If a straight white guy's polite and periodically checks his privilege when speaking, he'll do fine there.

  2. You know, as someone who's always wanted to publish science fiction, this is quite discouraging. And I'm not exactly typical of the majority of English-language science fiction writers in terms of my background! I also know that a lot of people from non-English-speaking countries have similar feelings. Intersectionality is massively hostile and alienating to leftists who are not American anarchists of the identity brand.

    I'm certainly not going to be submitting to Strange Horizons again. I've had enough trouble for my Marxist views already, even if my stories aren't meant to be read as political activism.

    1. I dunno if you should rule out Strange Horizons entirely; the editor-in-chief may've just being taking a stance based on the reports rather than the poem. But I wouldn't submit a poem to them. Someone with more time than I have could have fun going through a few of the poems they've published explaining how they're all offensive to somebody.

    2. I gather this is the person who inspired the Strange Horizons post: Sonya Taaffe said at Lemberg's LJ, "the poem moreover depends on a characterization of its Baba Yaga as an unattractive deceiver who strings the American along for as much as she can get out of him financially, which is not a component of the original folktales, but does play up to stereotypes of untrustworthy, chiseling (foreign) women. The American is a walking case of male privilege, but the poem ultimately presents him as victimized."

      Do they teach people about unreliable narrators anymore? Or does ideology simply kill people's irony detectors? I will grant immediately that my wild-eyed commieness sometimes makes me miss a joke on the internet, where Poe's Law rules, but poems, by their form, tell people to take a moment and think about what they've read. If an editor can't do that, she doesn't deserve to be called an editor.

    3. Just checked. Taafe is SH's Senior Poetry Editor.

  3. I have heard nothing about this particular row, so read the poem cold. I thought it was a heavily ironic piece about a nasty, deceptive loser who manages to entice a rather interesting Russian bride, and it seems probable from the ending that he is going to get a lot more than he bargained for.

    1. Thanks for saying so. Since I heard about the brouhaha before I read the poem, I had wondered a little if I would've interpreted it differently if I'd known nothing about it.