2018 Elgin Awards

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) has announced the winners of the 2018 Elgin Awards for best collections of speculative poetry published in the previous two years. Named after SFPA founder Suzette Haden Elgin, awards are given in two categories: best chapbook and best full-length book.

2018 Elgin Award Results:

Full-Length Book Category

First Place: Liberating the Astronauts • Christina M. Rau (Aqueduct Press, 2017)

Second Place: Satan’s Sweethearts • Marge Simon & Mary Turzillo (Weasel Press, 2017)

Third Place: Love Robot • Margaret Rhee (The Operating System, 2017)

Chapbook Category

First Place: A Catalogue of the Further Suns • F. J. Bergmann (Gold Line Press, 2017)

Second Place: Astropoetry • Christina Sng (Alban Lake, 2017)

Third Place: The Terraformers • Dan Hoy (Third Man Books, 2017)

This year’s Elgin Awards had 22 nominees in the chapbook category and 30 nominees in the full-length category, one of the largest years since the awards were first established in 2013.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association was established in 1978 and has an international membership representing over 19 nations and cultures including United States, Italy, Canada, Brazil, United Kingdom, Ireland, Romania, Poland, Denmark, Germany, France, Spain, Israel, South Africa, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, the Hmong, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

[Thanks to Josh Brown, 2018 Elgin Award chair, for the story.]

2018 Rhysling Awards

Mary Soon Lee and Neil Gaiman are the winners of the 2018 Rhysling Awards presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA).

The winners were chosen by SFPA members, with 140 votes cast in the short poem category, and 93 in the long poem category.

Short Poem Category

First Place
“Advice to a Six-Year-Old”
Mary Soon Lee • Star*Line 40.2

Second Place
“How to Grieve: A Primer for Witches”
Sara Cleto • Mythic Delirium, May

Third Place
“Gramarye”
F. J. Bergmann • Polu Texni 12/26/17

Long Poem Category

First Place
“The Mushroom Hunters”
Neil Gaiman • Brainpickings 4/26/17

Second Place
“For Preserves”
Cassandra Rose Clarke • Star*Line 40.4

Third Place
“Alternate Genders”
Mary Soon Lee • Mithila Review 9

The 2018 Rhysling Anthology can be ordered through the SFPA website. The editor and 2018 contest chair is Linda D. Addison. The book design is by F.J. Bergmann, Cover image is “Dark Mermaid” by Rowena Morrill.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]

Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association Celebrates New Board Members and Its 40th Year

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) has voted in F.J. Bergmann as their new Vice-President and Renee Ya as their new secretary. A SFPA press release gives brief bios for each:

F.J. Bergmann is no stranger to the SFPA and has stepped away from her five-year run as the editor of Star*Line Magazine to step into the role as Vice President. She is the poetry editor for Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, and is the managing editor for MadHat Press. As she completes her 10th year of membership with us, we look forward to her experience, insight, and vision assisting our efforts in building vibrant cultural spaces around the world for speculative poetry & poets.

Renee Ya is a Hmong American writer, photographer, and space shaman who has volunteered at SFPA for the last three years. When she’s not saving the world, she’s a Project Manager in the video game industry. Her skills and firm grasp of the underpinnings of the SFPA will be of use as the SFPA expands our programs and outreach this year.

40th Anniversary: SFPA is an international organization celebrating its 40th year in 2018. The organization presents the Rhysling, Elgin, and Dwarf Star awards, and hosts talented science fiction, fantasy, and horror poets in its publication Star*Line.

What is science fiction/fantasy poetry? The definition is broad with results as diverse as speculative fiction. It’s poetry with some element of speculation—usually science fiction, fantasy, or horror, though some include surrealism and some straight science. Yes, that means alien love triangles. Yes, that means ghost cats and ghouls. Yes, that means epic sagas and magic. And poets in cosplay.

To participate in SFPA’s international community dedicated to “the weird, wonderful, and wickedly written” visit them at Facebook, on Twitter at @sfpoetry, their website sfpoetry.com, or their blog specpo.wordpress.com.

Pixel Scroll 12/23/17 Pixels Sold Separately. Some Scrolling Required

(1) POPULAR SF ART INSPIRES FILM, Simon Stålenhags’ art book is becoming a movie reports Swedish news source Boktugg. Thanks to Hampus Eckerman for the translation:

The right to film Simon Stålenhag’s latest art book The Electric State has been sold to Russo Brothers Studio. The sale was preceded by a bidding where several studios showed their interest.

Simon says that it feels very exciting.

–        This has never been a goal, but I have loved movies since I was a kid, so it is a little bit of a dream actually. An unexpected dream!

The Passage (in English The Electric State) was released in December 2017 by the publisher Fria Ligan (The Free League). The release was preceded by a kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2017, which attracted over 3 million Swedish crowns. It is Simon Stålenhag’s third art book, his first two titles Tales from the Loop and Things from the Flood have made him a world-famous visual storyteller.

Russo Brothers Studio is run by the brothers Joe and Anthony Russo who directed several Marvel films. The film director is expected to become Andy Muschietti (who made the new film based on Stephens Kings It).

What do you think about them winning the bidding?

– They felt very good in our conversations. But above all, I’m very happy to have Barbara and Andy Muschietti with me, I loved It and they are absolutely amazing people. We just had the same picture of what is important in the book, and in movies in general, says Simon.

Simon Stålenhag himself will be an executive producer for the film, which means that he will be involved in all important decisions, such as role crew, scriptwriting and selection of managerial positions.

Will the story work as it is in the movie format or does it need to be adapted?

–        I suspect we will want to get a little more drama to fit the long-film format. With emphasis on “a little”, everyone in the team really agrees that the characters and the journey they make in the book is what we’re going to make a film about, says Simon Stålenhag.

(2) CHRISTMAS IN THE COLONIES. Cora Buhlert’s holiday fare includes a work in English: “Two new releases just in time for the holidays: Christmas on Iago Prime and Weihnachtsshopping mit gebrochenem Herzen”

Let’s start with the English language story. Back during the first July short story challenge in 2015, I wrote a little story called Valentine’s Day on Iago Prime, in which a couple attempts to celebrate Valentine’s Day at a new settled space colony.

I’d assumed that this was the first and last time I’d ever visit the colony of Iago Prime. However, I try to write a holiday story every year. And when I searched for ideas for a holiday story for this year, I suddenly thought “Why not write a science fictional holiday story about Christmas in a space station or interplanetary colony?” And then I thought, “Why not reuse the Iago Prime setting?”

The result is Christmas on Iago Prime. The protagonist this time around is Libby, a little girl whose scientist parents are due to spend a whole year on Iago Prime, including Christmas. Libby is not at all thrilled about this, at least at first. Kai and Maisie from Valentine’s Day on Iago Prime also appear and they have big news to share.

Available on Amazon and plenty of other ebook sellers for .99 USD/GBP/EUR.

(3) THE LONG RUN. A New York college made a video showing off its science fiction collection:

The City Tech Science Fiction Collection is held in the Archives and Special Collections of the Ursula C. Schwerin Library (Atrium Building, A543C, New York City College of Technology, 300 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201).

This large collection comes to City Tech from an anonymous donor. It includes nearly full runs of every professional science fiction magazine from 1950 to 2010, and an almost comprehensive collection of science fiction until 2010. There is also a significant amount of science fiction criticism, and selections of fringe texts, including horror and the supernatural.

 

(4) SFPA LEADERSHIP. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association announced the selection of two officers, F.J. Bergmann as Vice-President and Renee Ya as Secretary.

F.J. Bergmann (Madison, Wisconsin, USA) has been a member of SFPA since 2007, its webmaster since 2010 and recently stepped down from 5 years as Star*Line editor…

Renee Ya (Bay Area, California, USA) is a Hmong American writer, photographer, and space shamen who has been volunteering at SFPA for the last three years with varying capacity from keeper of the voting forms to periodic updates to the website.

(5) PARADIGM SHIFT. A revolutionary interpretation: “Physicists negate century-old assumption regarding neurons and brain activity”.

Neurons are the basic computational building blocks that compose our brain. Their number is approximately one Tera (trillion), similar to Tera-bits in midsize hard discs. According to the neuronal computational scheme, which has been used for over a century, each neuron functions as a centralized excitable element. The neuron accumulates its incoming electrical signals from connecting neurons through several terminals, and generates a short electrical pulse, known as a spike, when its threshold is reached.

Using new types of experiments on neuronal cultures, a group of scientists, led by Prof. Ido Kanter, of the Department of Physics at Bar-Ilan University, has demonstrated that this century-old assumption regarding brain activity is mistaken.

In an article published today in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers go against conventional wisdom to show that each neuron functions as a collection of excitable elements, where each excitable element is sensitive to the directionality of the origin of the input signal. Two weak inputs from different directions (e.g., “left” and “right”) will not sum up to generate a spike, while a strong input from “left” will generate a different spike waveform than that from the “right”.

“We reached this conclusion using a new experimental setup, but in principle these results could have been discovered using technology that has existed since the 1980s. The belief that has been rooted in the scientific world for 100 years resulted in this delay of several decades,” said Prof. Kanter and his team of researchers, including Shira Sardi, Roni Vardi, Anton Sheinin, and Amir Goldental.

(6) BACK FROM BOSTON. Marcin Klak’s conreport — “Smofcon 35 or what do you do when you are not organizing a con”.

Handling Feedback panel was not related to programming only, but the programme feedback is important for the development of the convention. There were some discussions concerning the methodology of collecting feedback, but one thing that got stuck with me the most was how to determine whether we should resign from inviting a panellist for the next year. It is obvious what to do when we receive negative feedback about the panellist’s skills. It is more complicated if we have a good panellist who is not behaving properly or who makes racist or homophobic comments during the panel. Nchanter’s solution of checking the negative feedback with co-panellists and finally basing our decision on the reaction of the person in question is a really good and fair approach. It makes sure that we verify the situation and it allows us to predict whether the same situation is likely to happen again in the future.

(7) HELL ON WHEELS. RedWombat saw a reference to “Jane Austen’s Fury Road” and started riffing….

(8) IT’S A WONDERFUL TRIVIA

Sheldon and Leonard of The Big Bang Theory were named after the actor/producer Sheldon Leonard.  He played Nick the Bartender in the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.  Also, producer of The Danny Thomas Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Spy.

The Muppets, Bert and Ernie, were also named after two characters from It’s a Wonderful Life.  Bert the policeman and Ernie the cab driver.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 23, 1823 A Visit From St. Nicholas, attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, first published.
  • December 23, 1947 Beauty And The Beast hit theaters
  • December 23, 1952 – The original The Day The Earth Stood Still premiered in Spain.
  • December 23, 1958 — Ray Harryhausen’s The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad premiered in theatres.
  • December 23, 1960 — Art Carney starred in a Christmas-themed episode of The Twilight Zone.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) FULL KIT WANKER. For the three of you who haven’t seen this yet –

(12) BY YNGVI. Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind knows it’s the time of year to send up a traditional favorite: “‘Twas Night Before Christmas”.

…At one point Harold Shea and the Norse god Heimdall are imprisoned by Frost Giants after losing a fight with them. While there they encountered a fellow prisoner who comes to the front of his cell every hour on the hour to yell, “Yngvi is a LOUSE!”

Thus began a debate which fascinated science fiction fandom for decades. Was this Yngvi indeed a louse or had his good name been falsely besmirched? At the Denvention, the 1941 worldcon, Milton Rothman (who went on to become a nuclear physicist and science fiction author) put forward a motion at the business meeting to the effect that Yngvi was not a louse only for it to be defeated. A subsequent motion was then passed stating that Rothman himself was a louse….

…So I sat back in my chair to wait for my guest
To reveal himself fully and the why of his quest

It took a few moments of squirming and kicking
Before he appeared rather than sticking

It was Yngvi of course, I could tell by his dress
An amazingly scrofulous, glorious mess…

(13) FUNGUS AMONG US. “When this old world starts getting me down….”: “‘Remarkable’ truffle discovery on Paris rooftop raises hopes of more”.

There was celebration among French foodies after a wild truffle was discovered on a Paris rooftop.

The discovery, at the base of a hornbeam tree in a hotel roof garden near the Eiffel Tower, is thought to be a first for the city.

Truffles usually grow further south, in more Mediterranean climes, and are dug up by specially-trained pigs or dogs.

Prices for the aromatic fungi have recently doubled to more than 5,000 euros ($6,000) a kilo.

(14) LAST JEDI. Marc Scott Zicree (“Mr. Sci-Fi”) offers the opinion of a “Star Trek Writer on The Last Jedi.”

(15) THE MALL’S MY DESTINATION. I don’t doubt it. Mine could be up there somewhere.

(16) SAVING HUMANITY. If anything can … “H.G. Wells and Orwell on Whether Science Can Save Humanity”.

…Wells foresaw many of the landmarks of 20th-century scientific progress, including airplanes, space travel, and the atomic bomb. In “The Discovery of the Future,” he lamented “the blinding power of the past upon our minds,” and argued that educators should replace the classics with science, producing leaders who could foretell history as they predict the phases of the moon.

Wells’ enthusiasm for science had political implications. Having contemplated in his novels the self-destruction of mankind, Wells believed that humanity’s best hope lay in the creation of a single world government overseen by scientists and engineers. Human beings, he argued, need to set aside religion and nationalism and put their faith in the power of scientifically trained, rational experts….

…Orwell was not bashful about criticizing the scientific and political views of his friend Wells. In “What is Science?” he described Wells’ enthusiasm for scientific education as misplaced, in part because it rested on the assumption that the young should be taught more about radioactivity or the stars, rather than how to “think more exactly.”

(17) THE SHAPE OF BEER. From The Hollywood Reporter: “Guillermo del Toro on Seeing a UFO, Hearing Ghosts and Shaping ‘Water'”.

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s taste for sci-fi and fantasy doesn’t come from nowhere. When he was younger, the acclaimed director recalls, “I saw a UFO.”

“I know this is horrible,” del Toro continues. “You sound like a complete lunatic, but I saw a UFO. I didn’t want to see a UFO. It was horribly designed. I was with a friend. We bought a six-pack. We didn’t consume it, and there was a place called Cerro del Cuatro, “Mountain of the Four,” on the periphery of Guadalajara. We said, ‘Let’s go to the highway.’ We sit down to watch the stars and have the beer and talk. We were the only guys by the freeway. And we saw a light on the horizon going super-fast, not linear. And I said, ‘Honk and flash the lights.’ And we started honking.”

The UFO, says del Toro, “Went from 1,000 meters away [to much closer] in less than a second — and it was so crappy. It was a flying saucer, so clichéd, with lights [blinking]. It’s so sad: I wish I could reveal they’re not what you think they are. They are what you think they are. And the fear we felt was so primal. I have never been that scared in my life. We jumped in the car, drove really fast. It was following us, and then I looked back and it was gone.”

(18) ALTERNATE SOLOS. Will Lerner, in “Harrison Who? Here’s The Actor Who Almost Played Han Solo” for Yahoo! Entertainment. profiles Glynn Turman, who came This Close to being Han Solo, which would have meant that Han Solo would have been played by an African-American actor.

Before Star Wars started filming in 1976, director George Lucas auditioned dozens of actors for the first episode of his space saga, since rechristened as A New Hope. Over the years we’ve learned that Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Kurt Russell all read for the part of Han Solo before the role went to Harrison Ford. But there was a lesser-known candidate who almost scored the gig: Glynn Turman.

Turman, 70, started his career on Broadway, when he was cast as a 13-year-old in the original production of A Raisin in the Sun alongside legends Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee. Steadily picking up more and more screen roles through the ’70s, Turman finally got his chance to shine in 1975 as the lead of Cooley High. In the slice-of-life feature, Turman played a proxy of sorts for screenwriter and Good Times creator Eric Monte — a gifted young writer who aspires to a life beyond his housing project. Cooley High showcased Turman’s ability to play a scoundrel capable of great achievements. It’s no big surprise that performance captured the attention of Lucas.

(19) WALLY WOOD SANG? The comics artist seems to have branched out. It’s collectible, if not very listenable.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 2/27/17 That’s it! Scroll Over Man, Scroll Over!

(1) ACADEMY INVITES LE GUIN. Ursula K. LeGuin has been voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters reports SFGate. The 87-year-old Le Guin is one of 14 new core members of the Academy.

The arts academy, an honorary society with a core membership of 250 writers, artists, composers and architects, once shunned “genre” writers such as Le Guin. Even such giants as science fiction writer Ray Bradbury and crime novelist Elmore Leonard never got in.

Academy member Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, advocated for Le Guin.

“As a deviser of worlds, as a literary stylist, as a social critic and as a storyteller, Le Guin has no peer,” he wrote in his recommendation, shared with the AP, that she be admitted. “From the time of her first published work in the mid-1960s, she began to push against the confines of science fiction, bringing to bear an anthropologist’s acute eye for large social textures and mythic structures, a fierce egalitarianism and a remarkable gift of language, without ever renouncing the sense of wonder and the spirit of play inherent in her genre of origin.”

(2) 2017 RHYSLING ANTHOLOGY COVER REVEAL. Hat tip to F.J. Bergmann.

(3) NEW FICTION WEBZINE. Science fiction and fantasy book imprint Strange Fictions Press will officially launch Strange Fictions SciFi & Fantasy Zine on February 28 with “This Chicken Outfit,” by Pushcart nominated author, A.L. Sirois. Siriois’ short stories have appeared in ThemaAmazing Stories, and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. He has also contributed comic art for DC, Marvel, and Charlton.

Strange Fictions will focus “on publishing speculative short fiction, nonfiction, art, and poetry twice a week for genre fans worldwide.”  New stories, poems, and essays will appear every Tuesday and Friday. Subscribers can sign up for email notifications whenever a new story is posted.

Strange Fictions SF&F Zine is open to submissions from both new and experienced genre writers, and details can be found at the website.

Authors of acquired pieces for Strange Fictions SF&F ‘Zine will receive a flat fee payment of $5 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 4,999 words and under and $10 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 5,000-10,000.

(4) ALOFT. Martin Morse Wooster recommends Miyazaki Dreams of Flying as “a lovely compilation of flying scenes from Miyazaki films, including an interview where the great animator expresses his love of airplanes.”

(5) DEFYING THE LAW…OF GRAVITY. In “Mars Needs Lawyers” on FiveThirtyEight, Maggie Koerth-Baker looks at the many problems of international law that have to be solved in we’re ever going to have successful Mars missions.  For example:  if you have astronauts from five countries flying in a spacecraft that’s registered in Liberia, how do you figure out which country’s law applies?

For instance, a limited number of satellites can orbit the Earth simultaneously. Put up too many, and you end up with an expensive game of celestial bumper cars. But some countries — Russia and the United States, in particular — had a big head start on gobbling up those slots. What do you do if you’re Nigeria? Today, Gabrynowicz said, the international community has settled on a regulatory system that attempts to balance the needs of nations that can put an object into geostationary orbit first with the needs of those that aren’t there yet but could be later. And even this compromise is still extremely controversial.

The same basic disagreement behind them will apply to Mars, too. And it’s at issue right now in the U.S., as lawmakers try to figure out how best to implement the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act — a bill signed by President Obama in November 2015. That law states that U.S. companies can own and sell space resources — including minerals and water. But the details of what this means in practice haven’t been worked out yet, Gabrynowicz said. Legal experts say that those details will make the difference in terms of whether the law puts the U.S. in violation of the Outer Space Treaty.

This question of whether space should be an Old West-style gold rush or an equitably distributed public commons could have been settled decades ago, with the 1979 Moon Agreement (aka the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies), which would have established space as part of the “common heritage of mankind.” What this would have meant in practice is not totally clear. But at the time, opponents saw it as having the potential to ban all private enterprise and effectively turn the heavens into a United Nations dictatorship. It ended up being signed by a handful of countries, most of which have no space program. But it is international law, and if humans go to Mars, though, we’ll likely end up debating this issue again.

(6) GAME WRITING. Monica Valentinelli gives an “Overview of Game Production and the Role of Writers” at the SFWA Blog.

One of the things I enjoy doing as a game developer is hiring new writers. In almost every case, writers are shocked to learn how many levers and pulleys there are in game production. This tends to hold true regardless of what kind of game a writer is contributing to; in part, this has to do with the process of transitioning from a consumer’s mindset (e.g. fan, critic, reviewer) to that of a creator’s. Sometimes, however, the process is confusing because there are aspects physical development that writers aren’t always involved with. A good example of this is that developers often regard word processing documents with an eye for production when they redline and provide comments. What’s laid out vertically on a page in text isn’t how it will be rendered in the final product, and that has a huge impact on what the writers are hired to write, edit, and make changes on. Sometimes, the number of words that fit on a page or a screen can also shape a writer’s assignment, too.

Other, lesser-known aspects of production might include:

  • Canon or Setting Bible creation
  • Systems/rules documentation
  • Marketing copy and sell sheets
  • Outlining and project management
  • Mock-ups and proofs for manufacturing
  • Playtest or beta editions

(7) DISNEY’S DUDEFRÉRES. Another clip from the live-action Beauty and the Beast shows LeFou singing “My, what a guy, that Gaston!” With Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou.

(8) VOIR DIRE STRAITS. Shadow Clarke juror Jonathan McCalmont followed his introductory post with an entry on his ownblog, Ruthless Culture “Genre Origin Stories”.

A couple of things that occurred to me upon re-reading the piece:

Firstly, I think it does a pretty good job of capturing how I currently feel about the institutions of genre culture. To be blunt, I don’t think that genre fandom survived the culture wars of 2015 and I think genre culture has now entered a post-apocalyptic phase in which a few institutional citadels manage to keep the lights on while the rest of the field is little more than a blasted wasteland full of isolated, lonely people. One reason why I agreed to get involved with shadowing the Clarke Award is that I see the Shadow Clarke as an opportunity to build something new that re-introduces the idea that engaging with literary science fiction can be about more than denouncing your former friends and providing under-supported writers with free PR….

McCalmont’s post includes a high overview of the past 40 years of fanhistory. I was surprised to find many points of agreement, such as his takes about things that frustrated me at the time they were happening, or that I witnessed affecting my friends among the LA locals who founded anime fandom.

Regardless of whether they are conventional, idiosyncratic, or simply products of distracted parenting, our paths into science fiction cannot help but shape our understanding and expectations of the field. Unfortunately, where there is difference there is bound to be misunderstanding and where there is misunderstanding there must inevitably be conflict.

The problem is that while the walls of science fiction may be infinitely porous and allow for inspiration from different cultures and artistic forms, the cultural institutions surrounding science fiction have shown themselves to be remarkably inflexible when it comes to making allowances for other people’s genre origin stories.

The roots of the problem are as old as genre fandom itself. In fact, the very first Worldcon saw the members of one science fiction club deny entry to the membership of another on the grounds that the interlopers were socialists whose politicised understanding of speculative fiction posed an existential threat to the genre’s continued existence. A similar conflict erupted when the unexpected success of Star Wars turned a niche literary genre into a mass market phenomenon. Faced with the prospect of making allowances for legions of new fans with radically different ideas as to what constituted good science fiction, the institutions of genre fandom responded with sluggishness indistinguishable from hostility. Media fandom was born when traditional fandom refused to expand its horizons and the same thing happened again in the early 1990s when fans of anime decided that it was better to build their own institutions than to fight street-by-street for the right to be hidden away in the smallest and hottest rooms that science fiction conventions had to offer.

The institutions of genre culture may pride themselves on their inclusiveness and forward-thinking but this is largely a product of the excluded not sticking around long enough to give their own sides of the story. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have been offered the chance to get in on the ground floor when science-fictional ideas began to manifest themselves in different ways. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have chosen to protect the primacy of the familiar over the vibrancy of the new and the different….

Cultural commentators may choose to characterise 2015 as the year in which genre culture rejected the misogynistic white supremacy of the American right but the real message is far more nuanced. Though the institutions of genre culture have undoubtedly improved when it comes to reflecting the diversity not only of the field but also of society at large, this movement towards ethnic and sexual diversity has coincided with a broader movement of aesthetic conservatism as voices young and old find themselves corralled into a narrowing range of hyper-commercial forms.

I thought that was well said. Unfortunately, I also read the comments.

(9) BELATED BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • February 24, 1909 – August Derleth
  • February 26, 1918 – Theodore Sturgeon

(10) THE STRAIGHT POOP. “Do Cats Cause Schizophrenia? Believe the Science, Not the Hype” advises WIRED.

The link between schizophrenia and cats goes back to the 1970s, when psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey learned that viruses from dogs might trigger multiple sclerosis—a neurological condition—in humans. “That got me thinking about which animals host which infectious agents,” he says. Soon, he learned that cats host the most successful infectious bacteria in the world: Toxoplasma gondii. Looking into previously published research, he found plenty of studies showing that schizophrenics often had higher levels of toxoplasma antibodies in their blood than people without the mental illness.

Then he started surveying schizophrenics about their life history, and found that many had indeed lived with cats. But what’s important isn’t just if, it’s when. See, Torrey’s theory isn’t merely that T. gondii causes mental illness, it’s that it somehow alters the development of a person’s brain during crucial periods of brain development—and probably only if that person is genetically predisposed to schizophrenia. It’s a complicated hypothesis, and even after four decades of study, Torrey says he’s still not totally convinced it’s fact. Hence, his continued research on the subject.

Still, every study he publishes—his most recent, dropped in July of 2015—attracts the media like nip. Same with refutations, like the one published this week. The authors analyzed a dataset of 5,000 UK children, looking for a correlation between cat ownership during critical ages of brain development and behavioral indicators of later psychosis (like dark thoughts) at the ages of 13 and 18. Their statistical analysis of the results showed no correlation. Most (but not all) news websites ran with some variation of “Relax, Cats Don’t Cause Schizophrenia.”

But that’s not what the study said.

(11) GUESS WHO. From 2015. David Tennant’s NTA Special Recognition – his reaction: “Actor Sees A Tribute Video On Screen. The Realizes It’s For Him And He Can’t Believe It”

(12) TELL YOUR FRIENDS. Carl Slaughter says, “This documentary convincingly demonstrates how the Batman movies/trilogies reflect the cultural era in which they were produced.”

  • 60s Batman  –  prosperity
  • 70s  –  disillusionment  –  no Batman movies
  • Batman  –  escapism
  • Batman Returns  –  anti rich
  • Batman Forever, Batman & Robin  –  safety
  • Batman Begins, Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises  –  fear
  • Batman versus Superman  –  extremism

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

2017 Rhysling Award Nominees

The Science Fiction Poetry Association has finalized its 2017 Rhysling Award candidates.

The Rhysling Award is given in two categories. “Best Long Poem” is for poems of 50+ lines, or for prose poems, of 500+ words. “Best Short Poem” is limited to poems of no more than 49 lines, or prose poems of no more than 499 words.

SFPA’s F.J. Bergmann confirmed this year’s entries broke all the new records set last year for the highest number of nominated poems the award has ever had (93 short and 60 long), coming from the longest list of publications, 77. Strange Horizons and Star*Line (SFPA’s own newsletter) tied for publishing the most nominees, 11.

Short Poems (93 poems)
“3d printer” • Francis Wesley Alexander • Scifaikuest November
“Adolescence” • Ken Poyner • Star*Line 39.4
“After” • Herb Kauderer • Asimov’s SF November/December
“Always the Black and White Keys” • Corrine deWinter • Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase Vol. III, ed. David E. Cowen
“Annie&Diana/One Canoe” • Shari Caplan • Nonbinary Review 11: Anne of Green Gables
“Antagonist” • F.J. Bergmann • Spectral Realms 5
“appendage sale” • Susan Burch • Star*Line 39.2
“The Architect of Bonfires” • Tonya Liburd •  Space & Time 127
“The Ash Manifesto” • Rose Lemberg • Strange Horizons 10 October
“At the Robot National Convention” • Alan Ira Gordon • Star*Line 39.3
“The Bird Prince” • John W. Sexton • Faerie Magazine Summer
“The birds forget to sing” •  Carl Mayfield • Abbey 147
“Black Bull of Norroway” • Jane Yolen • Goblin Fruit Winter
“Bones Knock in the House” • Mary McMyne • Rose Red Review 18
“Bottle Cast Upon A Dry Sea” • G.O. Clark • Asimov’s Science Fiction February
“The Box of Dust and Monsters” • Beth Cato • Devilfish Review 17
“A Bug in the System” • Anton Cancre • Quick Shivers about Bugs (Cosmonomic Multimedia)
“Build a Rocketship Contest: Alternative Class A Instructions and Suggestions” • Wendy Rathbone • Asimov’s SF January
“Christmas on Mars” • Carolyn M. Hinderliter •  Scifaikuest Vol. XIII, No. 4
“Classification of Folktales” • Margaret Wack • Strange Horizons
“The Dark between the Stars” • G.O. Clark • Star*Line 39.4
“Death Rides USAir At Night” • Jane Yolen • Parody 5:1
“Descent of the Composer” • Airea D. Matthews • Poem-a-Day October 24, Academy of American Poets
“Doppelgänger and the Ghost” • Lev Mirov • Eye to the Telescope 22
“Dorothy Delivered” • Kathleen A. Lawrence • Altered Reality Magazine 1
“Exotic Heads Trimmed Neatly” • John Reinhart • Eye to the Telescope 21
“Falling (A Part)” • Alexandra Erin •  medium.com June 8
“The Fantasy of Hans Christian Andersen” • KH Van Berkum • Strange Horizons February 8
Feles Alieni Vere Sunt • Neile Graham • Devilfish Review 17
“*For Quick Sale*” • Greer Woodward • Lupine Lunes, ed. Lester Smith (Popcorn Press)
“Foreign Policy” • David Barber • Star*Line 39.3
“The Frog” • K. Cassandra O’Malley • The Well of Changes (Bag Person Press) [reprint permission unavailable]
“George Tecumseh Sherman’s Ghosts” • Marge Simon • Silver Blade 32
“The Genius” • Sara Backer • Mithila Review 3
“The Giantess’s Dream” • Ada Hoffman • Twisted Moon 1
“Godzilla vs. King Kong” • James S. Dorr • Dreams and Nightmares 103
“History Teacher” • Gary Every • Star*Line 39.4
“How far does night have to fall?” • F.J. Bergmann • The Future Fire 38
“I Left My Heart in San Francisco. I Left Yours Somewhere in Colorado …” • Matt Betts • Underwater Fistfight (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
“Ink” • Akua Lezli Hope • Yellow Chair Review, Horror Issue, October
“Invocation of Diana” • K.A. Opperman • Eternal Haunted Summer Summer
“The Last Woman on Earth” • Mary Stone • Amethyst Arsenic 6:1
“Learning the History of War” J.J. Steinfeld • Star*Line 39.3
“Less than Human” • Marge Simon • You, Human (Dark Regions Press)
“The Long Run” • Neil Gaiman • Uncanny November/December
“Loose String” E. Kristin Anderson • Coe Review 47.1
“Love in the Time of Apocalypse” • Ann Thornfield-Long • Silver Blade 31
“Marginalia on Eiruvin 45b” • Bogi Takács • Bracken Magazine 2
“Martian Garden” • John Philip Johnson • The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction July/August 2016
“Memorial (for Jonathan Franzen)” • Tim Jones • New Sea Land (Makaro Press)
“The Memory Machines” • Jane Williams • The Pedestal Magazine 79
“My Corpse My Groom” • Ashley Dioses • The Audient Void: A Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy 1
“My Pet Alien” • Dennis Caswell• Rattle Fall
“A Natural History of Snow” • David Clink • The Role of Lightning in Evolution (Kelp Queen Press, CZP)
“Nothing Goes Away” • A.J. Odasso • The New England Review of Books
“Of My Wounds, There Are Many” • Stephanie M. Wytovich • Sanitarium Magazine 48
“The Old Ones gather” • Terrie Leigh Relf • Scifaikuest May
“Orpheus” • Ace G. Pilkington • The Horror Zine June
“Past Imperfect” • Deborah L. Davitt • Poetry Quarterly Summer
“The persecution of witches” • Ali Trotta • Uncanny 11
“The Phosphorescent Fungi” • D. L. Myers • Spectral Realms 4
“Propagation” • Layla Al-Bedawi • Strange Horizons 18 April
“Quack” • Neal Wilgus • Dreams and Nightmares 104
“Quasar” • Triin Paja • Cleaver 14
“Returning” • Mary Soon Lee •  The Open Mouse May 6
“Richard Feynman’s Commute” • John Weswick • The Were-Traveler December 21
“Riding the Dark” B.J. Lee • Frostfire Worlds February
“Robot Testimonial Z” • Margaret Rhee • Mission at Tenth
“Rusalka” • Jane Yolen • Mythic Delirium 3.1
“Sappho and the Woman of Starlight” • John W. Sexton • Eternal Haunted Summer Winter
“Selkie” • E. Kristin Anderson • Faerie Magazine Summer
“Skin” • Alice Fanchiang • Liminality 10
“Song of the Encantado” • Jeremy Paden • Apex Magazine 83
“Space Opera” • Vince Gotera • Altered Reality Magazine 1
“The Sparrows in Her Hair” • Hester J. Rook • Strange Horizons 18 July
“The Spook Tree” • Cindy O’Quinn • Blood Moon Rising Magazine 66
“Star Dust” • Josh Brown • Illumen 25
“Stellar Quake” • John C. Mannone • The New England Journal of Medicine 375:1305
“Supercomputer Spends the Night” • Danielle Zaccagnino • Weirderary 4
“Sutekh From The Throne” • Denise Dumars • Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase Vol. III, ed. David E. Cowen
“Terran Mythology” Shannon Connor Winward • Analog Science Fiction and Fact October
“This Rat” • Anne Carly Abad • Chrome Baby 48
“To Live In The Zombie Apocalypse” • Burlee Vang • Poem-A-Day December 20
“To the Girl Who Ran Through Crop Circles” • Karen J. Weyant • Strange Horizons 18 August
“Until Dawn” • Michael H. Hanson • Poetic Hustles 2 (Black Freighter Productions)
La Villa de Sirenia” • Jack Ralls • Star*Line 39.4
“Well, Water, Stars” • Adele Gardner • Silver Blade 32
“Why Elephants No Longer Communicate in Greek” • Timons Esaias • Why Elephants No Longer Communicate in Greek (Concrete Wolf)
“Widening Gyre” • A.J. Odasso • Not A Drop anthology (Beautiful Dragons Press)
“Witch Lord of the Hunt” • Ashley Dioses • Eternal Haunted Summer Spring
“The woman on the bus encounters time dilation” • Daniel R. Jones • Altered Reality Magazine
“World’s Tiniest Human” • Muriel Leung • The Adroit Journal 16

 

Long Poems (60 poems)
“Absentation” • Lesley Wheeler • Thrush Poetry Journal November
“Adam’s Rendezvous with Dante” • John C. Mannone • Last Darn Rites Anthology (Whitesboro Writers, 2016)
“Alice-Ecila” • Steph Post • Nonbinary Review 10: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
“At Issue, the Miramo” • Ken Poyner • Dreams and Nightmares 103
“Best of” • Sarah Ann Winn •  Found Poetry Review: Bowietry
“The Blind Elephants of Io” • Karen Bovenmyer • Shortest Day, Longest Night (Arachne Press)
“The Butterflies of Traxl IV” • John Reinhart • The Pedestal Magazine 79
“The Chinese Pirate Ching Shih Plays Go With a Hooded Opponent” • Kendall Evans • Abyss & Apex 59
“Cobblestone Dragon” • Herb Kauderer • Polu Texni July 11
“Dame Evergreen” • Rebecca Buchanan • Faerie Magazine Winter
“The Dark Lord’s Diary” • Lee S. Hawke • Star*Line 39.1
“Data Mine” • Alexandra Erin • medium.com October 24
“The Death of the Horse” •  Beth Cato • Remixt Magazine 1:8
“Defender Prime” • A.C. Spahn • Outposts of Beyond July
“Elegy for Iain Banks” • Vince Gotera • Star*Line 39.3
“Exploratory Colony 454—15th May, 2052” • Lore Bernier • Eye to the Telescope 20
“First Lesson” • Mary Soon Lee • Silver Blade 30
“For Lonnie” • Holly Walrath • Liminality 9
“Further” • F.J. Bergmann • Lovecraft eZine 38
“Getting Winterized: A Guide To Winter Living” • Elizabeth R. McClellan • Angels of the Meanwhile April
“god-date” • Brandon O’Brien • Uncanny 9
“The Great Unknown” • Bruce Boston and Alessandro Manzetti • Illumen Spring
“Houses of the living, houses of the dead” • Jenny Blackford • Ipswich Poetry Feast International Poetry Competition, Highly Commended
“I Will Be Your Grave” • Tlotlo Tsamaase • Strange Horizons 7 November
Im Wald • Sandi Leibowitz • Mythic Delirium 3.2
“In Defence of Science” • David Clink • The Role of Lightning in Evolution (Kelp Queen Press, CZP)
“The Inconceivable Shape” • Simon Smith • Chrome Baby 45
“Interview with a 22nd-Century Sex Worker” • Darren Lipman • Strange Horizons 4 July
“The Journeymaker to Keddar (II)” • Rose Lemberg • Marginalia to Stone Bird (Aqueduct Press)
“Legend of the Albino Pythons and the Bloody Child” • Bruce Boston & Alessandro Manzetti • Polu Texni 18 April
“The Leviathans of Europa” • Christina Sng • Polu Texni 10 October
“The Lies You Learned” • S. Qiouyi Lu • Liminality 7
“little stomach” • Charlotte Geater • Strange Horizons 26 September
“Luminous Decay” • Robert Frazier • Dreams and Nightmares 103
“Morning During Migration Season” • Beth Cato • Star*Line 39.4
“Not Like This” • Mary Soon Lee • Apex Magazine August 4
Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas Lost at Sea, 1527” • Lisa M. Bradley • Strange Horizons 3 October [reprint permission declined]
“Phoenix Fire, Tabula Rasa” • Kim Eun-byeol • Stone Telling 13
“The Poem Gardens of the Ascari” • Rohinton Daruwala • Strange Horizons 13 June
“Portrait of the Captain with Small Waiting Objects” • T.D. Walker • Recompose 2
“Revolution” • Holly Lyn Walrath • Abyss & Apex 58
“The Rime of the Eldritch Mariner” • Adam Bolivar • Spectral Realms 5
“The Robot by the Fireplace” • Ken Poyner • Eye to the Telescope 20
“Rose Child” • Theodora Goss • Uncanny 13
“Salome’s New King” • Terry Miller • Devolution Z: The Horror Magazine 10
“Sargasso Sea” • A.J. Odasso • Remixt Magazine 1:1
“Spoiler Alert” • Matt Betts • Underwater Fistfight (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
“The Starlet Who Married A Monster” • Robert Borski • Lupine Lunes, ed. Lester Smith (Popcorn Press)
“Storm Miners” • Deborah L. Davitt • Blue Monday Review August
“Surviving a Canadian Poem” • David Clink • The Role of Lightning in Evolution (Kelp Queen Press, CZP)
“Talk to the Machines” • Johan Jönsson • Dreams and Nightmares 104
“Thirteen Ways to See a Ghost” • Shannon Connor Winward • 2016 SFPA Poetry Contest
“To the weaver, from the woman who slew Bakunawa” • M. Sereno • Stone Telling 13
“Väinämöinen Sings” • Jennifer Lawrence • Eternal Haunted Summer Winter
“We Shall Meet in the Star-Spackled Ruins” • Wendy Rathbone • 2016 SFPA Poetry Contest
“Were-” • Naru Dames Sundar • Liminality Summer
“Werewolf” • K.A. Opperman • Spectral Realms 4
“What Wants Us” • Karolina Fedyk • Star*Line 39.1
“When Coyote Called Down the Stars” • Aaron Vlek • The Were-Traveler December 21
“When the Gunman Comes” • Edith Hope Bishop • Mythic Delirium 2.3

 

A Speculative Kerfuffle

The Science Fiction Poetry Association is taking nominations from members for the Rhysling Awards until February 15. A.J. Odasso, Strange Horizons Senior Poetry Editor, nominated two poems published by Strange Horizons (which is within the rules) but originally one of them was rejected as insufficiently speculative. The nomination was soon restored – amid charges of racism against Rhysling Award decision makers,  and raking up the personal history of another SFPA volulnteer. And debate continues over the elusive definition of “speculative poetry.”

A.J. Odasso protested against the original decision in a January 14 tweet and followed up on January 17 with a blog post “Concern re: removal of a 2017 Rhysling Award nomination”.

Since nominations are currently open until February 15th for this year’s Rhysling Awards, I did what I usually do: nominate one short poem and one long poem, both of which happened to be poems that I and one of my co-editors had published in Strange Horizons during the course of 2016.  In addition to meeting the line-count requirements, both poems were published in the correct year, in a magazine of speculative literature.  There are rules against nominating your own work, but there are no rules against nominating work you’ve had a hand in publishing.  And it’s a good thing there aren’t, because reading submissions guarantees you’re at the front lines of reading the most exciting new work your community has to offer.

[The poem was selected for Strange Horizons by another poetry editor. Strange Horizons has four.] 

… While I was at Arisia this past weekend dashing from panel to panel, I received an upsetting message from the current Rhysling Anthology Chair [previous SFPA president David Kopaska-Merkel].  My nomination for the Short Poem category, Layla Al-Bedawi’s “Propagation,” had been accepted, but my Long Poem nomination, Tlotlo Tsamaase’s “I Will Be Your Grave,” had been rejected.  I was being asked to find a different long poem to nominate because Tlotlo’s piece was apparently not speculative enough.  First of all, I’d never heard of nominations being rejected; second of all, the nomination had already been made public on the website.  Poets had already been engaged in excitedly congratulating each other on their nominations for more than a week.  I was instantly outraged on Tlotlo’s behalf, as I can’t think of any universe in which publicly announcing a nomination and then deciding to revoke it after the fact isn’t bad form.  I spent a number of hours on email urging the [award] Chair to reconsider this decision in light of the fact that it would be deeply, deeply hurtful to the poet after they’d already seen their nomination, but Tlotlo’s piece was removed before the day was over.

… Mistake or not, this action is problematic for more reasons than I can reasonably delineate in one blog post.  At worst, it’s exclusionary and, yes, even racist to claim that a poem by a writer of color, published in a speculative magazine, is not speculative enough by white/Western standards to be worthy of nomination.  At best, it really is just a mistake, but even at that juncture, it had been publicly posted before being revoked.  It’s flat-out bad form to essentially tell someone, hey, congrats, you’ve earned this honor, and then say, oh, oops, sorry, our bad, it just didn’t conform to standards, we’ve got to pull it.  No matter which way you consider it (and, frankly, I consider it in both), Tlotlo’s owed an apology.

SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra responded the same day as the first tweet —

The same day that Odasso’s post was published, Lev Mirov took up the racial issue.

Elizabeth Barrette, in “Rhysling Award discrimination”, vigorously prosecuted the charges of racism and cultural insensitivity, beginning with an explanation of the African literary context of the poem, then launching into populist arguments against SFPA leadership.

…These perspectives are routinely excluded from white society and, especially, recognition such as awards. Often there’s no representation at all; when black people win awards, it tends to make the news because it doesn’t happen much. It’s usually not because the people rejecting them are the kind of racists who think black people are inferior. It’s because they think black ideas are uninteresting and irrelevant — in this case, “not speculative enough.” Not “good enough.” Not “really” speculative poetry. Not “worthy” of being permitted to compete at all. The awards typically go to things closer to the middle of the bell curve. Usually it’s because people don’t vote for black literature; the perspective shown by the award chairs and officers of the SFPA is common, though by no means universal. But sometimes it’s enforced from the top down, like this case when an African poem shows up to the literary lunch counter and is thrown out the door by organizational fiat. The member who nominated it is not permitted to have a voice regarding what speculative poetry “is,” the poem is not permitted to compete in the award despite meeting the technical standards, its author is excluded from the privileged circle of nominees, and the general membership is prevented from voicing our opinion about what is or is not “speculative enough” and “good enough” through our votes for the Rhysling Award. At the same time, this high-handed move directly blocks everyone else’s mindful efforts to promote diversity in speculative poetry by forcibly removing the option of voting for this poem. Our opinions and work don’t matter; we don’t get a choice. Someone else gets to decide that. Someone with more power. Someone more important. Someone who gets to say which poems and poets can sit at the literary lunch counter, or not. Institutionalized racism is difficult to fix precisely because of examples like this where someone in power can directly thwart other people’s hard work in solving the problem.

The Twitter exchange continued on January 17 –

Then, on January 18, this bluntly-worded tweet came out from the SFPA Twitter account.

And A.J. Odasso, in a comment added to the orignal post, asserted —

The SFPA is populated by a handful of people who really are as exclusionary as they appear to be, and they’ll go to any lengths to insist that they aren’t. And they don’t even seem to understand that a thing can still be racist even if they don’t intend it to be. Like we haven’t covered that enough?

In a further exchange of comments, Odasso laid the blame for the SFPA tweet at the feet of F.J. Bergmann, because SFPA’s webmaster had earlier tweeted an unsympathetic response from her personal account, and immediately dragged Bergmann’s WisCon controversies into the discussion.

However, Bergmann proved not to be the author of the SFPA tweet, that was SFPA officer Diane Severson:

I am Diane Severson, membership and communications chair of the SFPA, who tweets from @sfpoetry . It was not FJ Bergmann who made those blunders on Twitter, but me. I feel sick about this whole situation. I find it very difficult to respond to accusations such as had been made within the context of a tweet.

… We put our collective foot in it with Tlotlo Tsamaase’s poem. I hate that this sort of thing keeps happening to us. We are not evil. An unfortunate few (6 people) are tasked with running the organization. It is the desire of ALL of us to increase inclusivity and diversity within the organization and in our publications. I know that many feel it is not our job to police what is SpecPo. It has never been our intention to do so. With regard to early nominations, we had an unfortunate misunderstanding among those of us determining a nominated poem’s eligibility, which is not just whether it is Spec or not, since there are actual mistakes nominators make in regards to eligibility (year of publication, length, nominators membership, etc.). It was always our intention to ask the nominator for an “explanation” in the event the chair thought it didn’t seem speculative. It’s unclear to me whether that happened, AJ. Barring that we had intended that if only one of the officers thought it was “spec enough” it should be included. In this case, they were split in their impressions and the chair mistakenly thought we’d agreed it should be unanimous.

Odasso responded with an apology to Severson:

I’d like to apologize for my less tactful moments in all of this, too, up to and including assuming the identity of who made the tweets.

Severson continued:

It’s so hard to navigate these issues. No one gets the benefit of the doubt that missteps are unintentional and therefore one is always put in a defensive position. Instead of being informed of one’s errors and given a chance to rectify things, accusation and yes, intolerance is very often what’s led with. Like I said, I’m sick that this keeps happening, but I also have a hard time understanding why people don’t talk to us before tearing us a new one.

Severson also told Odasso that she actually owed the apology to Bergmann, but Odasso replied that Bergmann was deserving of her comments.

SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra made a public statement on January 19, to which he appended this unofficial comment showing he favored the restored nomination:

I always hope that we respect the premise that even if we don’t think of a particular poem as speculative by our personal definitions, at least one of our other members esteemed that poem enough to nominate for consideration. It stands, then, that we recognize those works as a professional courtesy, within reason. Or unreason, if that’s your thing.

The next day, on January 20, SFPA Secretary Shannon Connor Winward, gave her perspective in “Arbitrating Spec”.

….I’d like to share my thoughts, as both a writer and fan of speculative poetry as well as an SFPA officer with firsthand knowledge of the events that transpired.  I believe that, although it may be at times uncomfortable, this is one of those difficult conversations that needs to be had.

WHAT IS SPECULATIVE POETRY?

One of the first issues to appear on my radar as an elected officer of the SFPA was the fact that, even within an organization dedicated to speculative poetry, not everyone agrees on what “speculative” means.  While this may seem like a philosophical or semantic question, it’s also a practical one.  The SFPA exists to foster community among people who read and write speculative poetry.  Each year the SFPA publishes two award anthologies (the Rhysling and the Dwarf Stars) of speculative poetry, bestows the Elgin Award for chapbook and book-length speculative poetry manuscripts, and hosts a speculative poetry contest with cash prizes, with the express purpose of highlighting the very best speculative poetry being written today.  Without a clear, working consensus of what speculative poetry is, what’s the fucking point?

…And yet.  As an officer of the SFPA, it is my responsibility to help recruit, vet, and assist those people we appoint as Editors and Chairs of our organization’s endeavors.  This year’s Rhysling Chair, David Kopaska-Merkel, is a notable member of the SFPA and the wider speculative poetry community – a person with a breadth of experience and demonstrated ability.  We were thrilled to have him take the helm for this project, and to vest him with the responsibilities as well as the discretion required for the role.

I am deeply troubled by the accusations on social media that David acted irresponsibly in deeming certain poems ineligible, or that his actions were done with malice, with the intent of purposely excluding some voices.  As Rhysling Chair, it is David’s job to ensure that all nominated poems meet the criteria for eligibility, which by extension includes determining whether the poems count as speculative, even though there is not – as yet – any clear policy to guide him in this.  David’s solution was to bring each poem that he found questionable to the attention of the executive committee, seeking our input, before making his final determination.  His was a measured, conscientious approach.  And while I did not personally agree with each decision that he made, I was willing to support them.

Members of the SFPA and in the greater community have questioned the right of one person to decide what counts as speculative – and given that as a community we’ve yet to land on a universal definition, it’s a valid question.  It has been argued that the fact the nominated poem first appeared in one of the most celebrated speculative markets in the field should automatically qualify the poem as speculative, which is also an excellent point—I even suggested as much myself at one point during one of the many discussions in our list-serv, saying that any poem published in a speculative journal had already been vetted by an editor and should get an automatic pass.

But on the other hand, a point that I haven’t seen vocalized is the fact that magazine editors, too, exercise personal discretion.  They make decisions based on the same personally or culturally defined and often arbitrary standards and preferences and biases that we, as readers, exercise—and they have the right to do so, because of the task that has been entrusted to them.  Similarly, the Rhysling Chair is tasked with interpreting the organization’s guidelines to the best of his or her ability, which also implies a degree of individual, even arbitrary discretion—and that is what happened.  Without any clear guidance in the form of official policy, and with only the less-than-unanimous opinions of the executive committee (a microcosm of the larger spec community), he made a judgment call.

Personally, I am glad that “I Will Be Your Grave” was reinstated.  I believe that surrealism has a place in the speculative genre, and that poems like this are doing interesting things with language and imagery and genre tropes that should be recognized.  But as an officer, I believe the takeaway from this issue has less to do with righting a perceived injustice, and more to do with improving the Rhysling process.

I think, as a community, we need to look at the central issue –how do we define speculative, and, more importantly, who/how do we empower to apply that definition when it comes to featuring poems in our annual award programs—including our anthologies, which we hold up to the world as the best representatives of what speculative poetry is?

To accomplish this, we need to move away from the merry-go-round of debate (and name-calling) that is endemic in our social media and forums.  We need to work together to define clear and equitable guidelines for both the nomination process and the vetting system—assuming a vetting system for “speculative” should even exist….

It so happened that Winward had already opened a poll on her website asking people what is and isn’t “speculative.” Now the results are in — establishing that, much like the definition of “science fiction,” few can agree on what it is.

[Thanks to Robin A. Reid for the story.]

2016 Rhysling Award Nominees

The Science Fiction Poetry Association’s 2016 Rhysling Award candidates have been finalized reports F.J. Bergmann.

The Rhysling Award is given in two categories. “Best Long Poem” is for poems of 50+ lines, or for prose poems, of 500+ words. “Best Short Poem” is limited to poems of no more than 49 lines, or prose poems of no more than 499 words.

Bergmann says this is the highest number of nominated poems the award has ever had (71 short and 44 long), coming from the broadest list of publications as well, 59. Strange Horizons has the most nominees, 11.

 Rhysling Award Candidates
Short Poems (71 poems)
“Abandonarium” • Stacey Balkun • Devilfish Review 13
“Hard Being A God” • David Barber •Star*Line 38.4
“Tech Support for the Apocalypse” • F. J. Bergmann • Dreams and Nightmares 101
“Time Travel Vocabulary Problems” • Ruth Berman • Dreams and Nightmares 100
“The Astronaut’s Heart” • Robert Borski • Asimov’s SF, September
“Forever Tracking” • Bruce Boston • Grievous Angel, May
“Aboard the Transport Tesoro • Lisa M. Bradley • Uncanny 7
‘hell-bent’ • Susan Burch • Grievous Angel, February
“Fried Okra” • Beth Cato • Tales of the Talisman 10.4
“Elegy for WLC” • David Clink • The Dalhousie Review 94:3
“Portrait” • David Clink • OnSpec Magazine, Winter
“The Sun Never Rises” • Michael Coolen • Latchkey Tales 2.6
“Secondary Ghosts” • P. S. Cottier • Australian Poetry Journal 5:2
“Pleistocene Park, Mammoth Steppe, Siberia” • Mark Danowsky • Star*Line 38.4
“Worlds in Collision” • Bryan D. Dietrich • Farrago’s Wainscot, 2015
“Ligeia” • Ashley Dioses • Spectral Realms 2
“On The Other Hand” • James Dorr • Grievous Angel, August
“Why Have We Not Been Visited?” • Martin Elster • The Asses of Parnassus, 11/30/15
“Institutional Memory” • Alexandra Erin • Star*Line 38.1
“The Argument Box” • JD Fox • Abyss & Apex 55
“The Boats” • Adele Gardner • Abyss and Apex 56
“The More It Changes …” • Delbert R. Gardner • Songs of Eretz Poetry Review
“Couples Therapy” • Howie Good • The Los Angeles Review of Los Angeles 10
“Robot Agonistes” • Alan Ira Gordon • The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan/Feb
“How Eternal Night Was Created” • Vince Gotera • The Syzygy Poetry Journal 1:2
“Gaunt” • Charles Gramlich • The Pedestal Magazine 76
“Mummies” • Richard Hedderman • Rattle 49
“Glinda’s Dilemma” • Gloria Heffernan • Parody 4:1
“Selenites” • John Philip Johnson • The Pedestal Magazine 76
“Kraken” • Tim Jones • Interstellar Award
“Moth and Memory” • Sandra Kasturi • Postscripts to Darkness 6
“Venice Letting Go” • Sandra Kasturi • Postscripts to Darkness 6
“hard copy” • Herb Kauderer • Asimov’s Science Fiction, August
“luddite’s dream” • Herb Kauderer • Star*Line 38.4
“The Changeling’s Gambit” • Sasha Kim • Strange Horizons, 9/14/15
“re-entry heat” • Deborah Kolodji • Mariposa 32
“The Only Time Machine” • David Kopaska-Merkel • Sub- Saharan Magazine
“Rip Van Winkle On Mars” • David C. Kopaska-Merkel • The Martian Wave, 2015
“Post-Apocalyptic Toothbrush” •  Betsy Ladyzhets • Strange Horizons, 6/29/15
“Ode to Dorothy Gale” • Jenna Le • Nonbinary Review 4
“Flora and Fauna” • James Frederick Leach • HWA Poetry Showcase Volume II
“The Dreaded Dreadnoughtus” • B.J. Lee • Frostfire Worlds, November
“The Washerwoman’s Daughter” • Mary Soon Lee • Crowned: The Sign of the Dragon: Book 1 (Dark Renaissance Books)
“Postlude” • Nolan Liebert • Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry, October
“B’resheet” • Julia Burns Liberman • Strange Horizons, 10/7/15
“An Introduction to Alternate Universes: Theory and Practice” • Sandra J. Lindow • Gyroscope Review 16:1
“Under the Cancer Tree ” • Sandra Lindow • Tales of the Talisman 10.4
“Four Chambers” • Shira Lipkin • Mythic Delirium, September
“Challenger” • Bronwyn Lovell • Strange Horizons, 6/8/15
“It Came to Pass” • Mark Mansfield •Star*Line 38.3
“The Subtle Arts of Chemistry” • Elizabeth R. McClellan • New Myths, March
“The Woman Sings Her Marriage Into Being” • Lev Mirov • Through the Gate 7
“Bone-House” • A.J. Odasso • Liminality 4
“Transition Metal” • A.J. Odasso • My Dear Watson: The Very Elements of Poetry (Beautiful Dragons Press)
“In Fits of Wildest Dreaming” • K. A. Opperman • Spectral Realms 3
“The Palace of Phantasies” • K. A. Opperman • The Crimson Tome (Hippocampus Press)
“Requiem” • Matt Quinn • Eye to the Telescope 16
“Lola” • Gabby Reed • Strange Horizons 7/20/15
“Attack of the Saurus” • John Reinhart • Star*Line 38.4
“Lot’s Wife” • Michelle Scalise-Piccirilli • HWA Poetry Showcase Volume II
“He Promised Me The Moon” • Marge Simon • Abyss & Apex 55
“Serving the Blind Girl” • Marge Simon • Silver Blade 28
“Before I Kill You (An Arch-Villainelle)” • David Sklar • Stone Telling 12
“Raven Speaks” • Michael Spring • Absinthe Poetry Review 2
“buried pet turtles” • David Lee Summers • Zen of the Dead, ed. Lester Smith (Popcorn Press)
“Origami Crane/Light-Defying Starship” • Naru Dames Sundar • Liminality 5
“Philomela in Seven Movements” • Natalia Theodoridou • Mythic Delirium, June
“An Unrequited Love Process Loops” • Marie Vibbert • Asimov’s Science Fiction, February 2015
“The Sun Ships” • Steven Withrow • Eye to the Telescope 16
“Crater Conundrum Pizza” • Greer Woodward • 2015 SFPA Poetry Contest Winners
“Passenger Seat” •Stephanie Wytovich • An Exorcism of Angels (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

 

Long Poems (44 poems)
“Toujours Il Coute Trop Cher” • Mike Allen & C.S.E. Cooney • Spectral Realms 3
“I Dreamed a World” • Colleen Anderson • Polu Texni, 3/2/15
“Season of the Ginzakura” • Ryu Ando • Strange Horizons, 7/13/15
“Seasons in a Moon Ocean” • Daniel Ausema • Dreams and Nightmares 100
from “Sunspots” • Simon Barraclough • Poetry, December 2015
“Chronopatetic” • F. J. Bergmann • Dreams and Nightmares 100
“Resonance Redux” • Bruce Boston • Resonance Dark and Light (Eldritch Press)
“Black Momma-faces” • Angela Brown • Silver Blade 28
“Dali’s Apostles” •  David E. Cowen • The Horror Zine, December 2015
“The Comet Elm” • Martin Elster • 2015 SFPA Poetry Contest Winners
“Observations from the Black Ball Line Between Deimos and Callisto” • Alexandra Erin • The Martian Wave, 2015
“A Brief History of Human Evolution” • Gary Every • Tales of the Talisman 10.4
“Actaeon” • Alice Fanchiang • Strange Horizons, 11/11/15
“Deliverance” • Adele Gardner • Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, 6/28/15
“The White Planet” • Albert Goldbarth • Boulevard 31:1
“Letter to Zelazny from Olympus Mons” • Vince Gotera • The Syzygy Poetry Journal 1:2
“Artist Signature” • Susan Gray • Lunar Mission One, 10/16/15
“Illusions of Man” • Deborah Guzzi • Silver Blade 26
“Reversed Polarities” • Nin Harris • Strange Horizons, 6/1/15
“Thirteen Ways of Looking at Blackbeard” • Ed Higgins • Parody 4:1
“Drowned City” • Ruth Jenkins • Liminality 3
“Typhon & Echidna: A Love Story” • Sandra Kasturi • Gods, Memes and Monsters: A 21st Century Bestiary, ed. Heather J. Wood (Stone Skin Press)
“Dragonslayer” • Mary Soon Lee • Crowned: The Sign of the Dragon: Book 1 (Dark Renaissance Books)
“Training: Stances” • Mary Soon Lee • Crowned: The Sign of the Dragon: Book 1 (Dark Renaissance Books)
“archival testimony fragments / minersong” • Rose Lemberg • Uncanny 2
“Long Shadow” • Rose Lemberg • Strange Horizons, 9/3/15
“And then the stars …” • Matt W. Mani • The Pedestal Magazine 75
“Interiora II” • Alessandro Manzetti • Eden Underground (Crystal Lake Publishing)
“Et je ne pleurais jamais les larmes cicatrisantes magiques; c’est seulement un mensonge joli” • Elizabeth R. McClellan • Niteblade 31
“Changeling” • Lynette Mejia • Liminality 6
“An Unexpected Guest” • Lev Mirov • Liminality 5
“Poetry Set: Red Wire, Monsters, Slipknot” • A.J. Odasso • SWAMP Writing 17
“Halloween” • K. A. Opperman • The Crimson Tome (Hippocampus Press)
“It Begins With A Haunting” • Krysada Panusith Phounsiri • Dance Among Elephants (Sahtu Press)
“O Dervish of the Restless Heart” • Saba Razvi • Nonbinary Review 6
“The Coming Dark” • Wendy Rathbone • Star*Line 38.2
“ugly bags of mostly water” • Yann Rousselot • Dawn of the Algorithm (Inkshares)
“The Noble Torturer” • Sofia Samatar • Bluestockings Magazine, 7/28/15
“Keziah” • Ann K. Schwader • Dark Energies (P’rea Press)
“Adarna” • M. Sereno • Strange Horizons, 12/21/15
“Twenty Years” • Christina Sng• New Myths 32
“The Woman in the Coffee Shop” • Christina Sng • Lontar: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction 5
“The Iterative Nature of the Magical Discovery Process” • Bogi Takács • Through the Gate, March
“A Love in Twelve Feathers” • Shveta Thakrar • Strange Horizons, 10/19/15

Update 02/23/2016: Corrected several entries based on update provided by F. J. Bergmann.

Bergmann’s Rebuttal Now Online

F. J. Bergmann has posted the full text of her rebuttal to WisCon’s report about her alleged harassment of Rose Lemberg here.

Note: The WisCon report is not a published document (a copy was provided to Bergmann so that she could respond with any comments), however, the rebuttal was written for an audience that knew its contents. As a result Bergmann did not restate all the context for some arguments that an outside reader would find helpful.