April Fails Day

Mark R. Kelly notified his Facebook readers around noon today, “Locus Online’s traditional April 1st spoofs, this year by Hal Graftswey, Paoli du Flippi, and L. Ron Creepweans, are now posted.” Those who waited too long missed out — within three hours Kelly yanked the items in response to what he termed a “kerfuffle” and posted this apology:

We would like to offer our apology for the offensive April Fool’s post that was published on the site today. The April Fool’s pieces were not seen by the Locus HQ staff before being posted — it was an ugly moment this morning when we saw the post already online, and we immediately took steps to remove it. Of course, being after the fact, it was too late, and the offense had already happened.

We did not find the post funny at all, and it does not reflect in any way the opinions of the magazine staff. We apologize for it appearing under our auspices.

The offending article was “WisCon Makes Burqas Mandatory for All Attendees” by L. Ron Creepweans. The Creepweans pseudonym is also part of the Locus April 1st tradition but after Kelly deleted the piece Lawrence Person revealed himself as the author.  

Person also posted an archival copy on his BattleSwarm blog. It begins:

Today the SF3 ruling committee for the Madison, Wisconsin-based feminist SF convention WisCon announced that starting this year, all attendees would be required to wear burqas.

Person has been contributing April 1st gags to Locus Online since 2002. He explained why he selected WisCon as the target of this year’s satire:

For those tuning in for the first time, this was a direct jab (in humorous form) at WisCon’s previous decision to yank their Guest-of-Honor invitation to Elizabeth Moon for daring to voice (in the mildest possible form) politically incorrect thoughts about certain aspects of modern Islam.

Meanwhile, commenters at Locus Online responded to its apology by continuing to berate the staff and demanding assurances against future offenses. Mark R. Kelly was provoked into ending the April Fool’s tradition:

I always thought that SF/F readers were more tolerant, less apt to take offense, than other folks; but apparently not. (Death threats!). So, no more April 1st spoofs ever.

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44 thoughts on “April Fails Day

  1. Well, I guess if you can’t tell the difference between being offensive and being funny, then it’s a good idea to avoid trying to be funny.
    — D.C.

  2. Well, I think if he had just done that as a minor headline (like the ones they do in The Onion) instead of as an article (which I didn’t find very funny), I’d have thought it kinda funny.
    This did lead to a Rumor of the week nomination at BASFA – ‘Locus On-lIne Eschews Wiscon Coverage” which I thought was a nice little pun.

  3. Satire is only useful in so far as it mocks the powerful and/or draws attention to unexamined and questionable patterns of thought. I’m not sure how insulting Feminists and Othering Muslims achieves either of those goals.

    ‘Satire’ aimed at the already humiliated and victimised is really nothing more than bullying.

  4. Lawrence could have equally accurately had Wiscon making Orthodox Jewish practice in garbing mandatory, and all women forced to cover their hair or wear wigs, and men to wear head coverings and tallis.

    Is that hilarious? If so, ok. If not, why not? If not, why do the same reasons not apply?

  5. @Gregory Benford:
    “I thought the Wiscon piece very funny indeed. Have we lost all sense of satire?”

    I can inform the esteemed Mr. Benform that this is indeed the case. The Internet killed it, with, I’m afraid, the fullthroated participation of my generation, who, enabled by this technology, are determined to take relentless and disproportionate offense at Every Single Slightest Fucking Thing Ever. I’m not saying there was ever a golden age, but I’m pretty sure, without having been around then, that, say, DongleGate and ElevatorGate wouldn’t have happened in the SF conventions of your youth. (Google for the whole sad saga if you are brave.)

  6. ..And Jonathon M’s comment is a case in point of the attitude that has become orthodoxy. I know better than to be drawn on it, so I will just invite people to read it and discover what the “left” has become.

  7. A powerful organization that oppresses women and treats their faces as obscene is not a target for satire? Coulda fooled me. The joke failed for me because Elizabeth Moon was fired as GoH not for opposing burqas, but for blaming individual Muslims for the organization’s misogyny, which is a mistake some people still make about Catholics.

  8. What Darrah Chavey said. As for people who are not the target of the offensiveness who say they find it funny, they have, as it’s popular to say these days, no skin in the game. And as for Mark Kelly, if he wants to react by stalking off and pouting and trying to blame the humorless feminists for his decision of No More April Fools Ever, that’s his problem, not ours. And as for Lawrence Person, his mischaracterization of the original fuss (quoted by you above) is sufficiently grotesque that no, he should not be trying to write light humor about it.

  9. Mark has since revised his original statement. It now says: “Apparently I have a higher threshold for being offended, or even detecting possible offense, than others. (This is not the first time something like this has happened, if not to this degree.)”

  10. When this controversy brewed over yesterday I realized how rarely I do think the Locus April Fools items are worth a laugh, though occasionally I like one of them. To succeed with me the joke needs to be surprisingly apt as well as insightful about the sf field, in character with what I come to find on Locus the other 364 days of the year. Person’s sabot-round quickly sheds any sense of April Foolishness to detonate a mundane political payload likely to bore anyone it doesn’t offend.

    You can see from links on Person’s blogroll that Islam is a regular concern of his. That explains his choice of where to deliver the satirical hammer blow. Whereas if I was a satirist searching for the weak point in Wiscon’s handling of Elizabeth Moon, I would have focused either on the vetting of the guest (why did her views come as a surprise) or the meaning of diversity if such a popular sf writer cannot be honored at Wiscon. Bear in mind satire is essentially a verbal attack, so the satirist is not going to be trying to deliver an evenhanded, warm or sympathetic viewpoint. I’m not likely to satirize people in a situation I empathize with, even if I don’t like the outcome. I read quite a few posts by people who thought Wiscon needed to make its decision to disinvite Elizabeth Moon as a GoH to preserve the community that supports the con and empathized with the conrunners who had to choose which of several competing values, all compelling, would decide the question.

  11. Locus Online’s apology post continues to change and evolve. It now ends:

    From Liza Groen Trombi, editor-in-chief of Locus magazine: The writer who penned the offensive Wiscon post will no longer be contributing to or associated with Locus in any way, online or in print. The Locus Online editor will retain his editorial autonomy, with the understanding that nothing like this can or will be permitted to happen again.

    I’ve worked very hard in the past three years to build a better, more modern Locus, with greater parity, social awareness, and more inclusive coverage. I will continue to work to that end, despite obstacles. I am mortified that this happened on my watch; my apologies to you all.

  12. I posted this to Mark Kelly’s apologia; it’s awaiting moderation — but given some of the comments above, I wanted to post it here, too, if you don’t mind, Mike.

    “There is no reason to stop posting April Fool stories as was reported you have announced by Mike Glyer in FILE 770.

    “The problem is that you and the April Fool tradition were USED and your trust abused by someone who used the A. F. as an opportunity for deliberate offense based on a nasty form of contemporary political action. Just make it clear that the April Fool stories may NOT be used for axe-grinding. Make sure that the jokes are made in good faith rather than for deliberate hurt. In other words, use better editorial judgement and vet the copy.

    “On a personal level, Mark Kelly, I am appreciative of the work you do in reflecting the news value of Locus Magazine in web form. Thank you for your unpaid and thorough effort, and please don’t let this cause you to stop.”

    The last paragraph applies to you and File 770 as well, Mike. You’ve been doing this for, Great Ghu, 35 years. That’s a hell of a record and a lot of effort, and an indication of how much you care about our little subculture.

    Good on you, Mark Kelly, Dave Langford, and Andrew Porter.

  13. Mark deserves your kudos. He’s been doing fine work at Locus Online for a long time. Also, the SF Awards database he maintains is something I refer to constantly.

  14. Good to know where your sympathies lie; my reading time is already limited and now I don’t have to waste any of it on File 770.

  15. While I’m sure I have views that would annoy you, you haven’t explained why my thoughts about the Wiscon/Elizabeth Moon decision do. It was a hard situation for the Wiscon committee to be in. As a conrunner I’ve been through other crises, seen the tension in other communities that needed to choose which positive value will be upheld at the expense of another to reach a practical decision. Which is compromise, and compromise offends someone — in some instances, everyone. Anyway, my views on the Moon controversy are public record — see here for what I said at the time.

  16. Leaving aside the fact that being offensive was never supposed to be the purpose of the Locus April Fools posts, and that LP apparently remains clueless as to what was offensive about it …

    He retains the freedom to be offensive. Just not in the name of Locus. He is now employing his freedom to be offensive, overtime and with bells on, in his own blog, which is where it belongs.

  17. I just posted this to Lawrence Person’s BattleSwarm weblog:

    You had the privilege to write one of the annual Locus April Fool pages, and have for several years.

    This year you chose to use that privilege to rake up the coal of a dead incident back into roaring flame.

    Mr. Kelly and the other staff of Locus had it pointed out to them that the piece went past the level of good fun and into that of offensiveness based on a political p.o.v. that, whether true or not, considers itself persecuted and was aimed at a group holding another political view which also considers itself persecuted, whether true or not. Now there is screaming and name-calling and further insulting material being expressed by both groups. Good job of “let’s you and him fight.”

    You were free to write what you wanted on the Locus website because you had been well-behaved before, I presume. However, this year instead you did the written equivalent of throwing a candy bar into the swimming pool so you could point and laugh at the people trying to get out of the pool.

    (I’m being generous here by using the candy-bar in the metaphor. Your action possibly could be taken as the written equivalent of actually throwing fecal matter into the pool, but I would prefer to presume not.)

    After reader complaints, Locus decided to pull the piece, not having themselves wished to be raking a dead fire back into flame.

    Now you crow that you’ve been persecuted by a political mob and get to grin at your friends about how you’ve stirred up so much shit.

    The matter was over for WisCon. The matter was over for Elizabeth Moon. Nobody was yelling at anybody else. Then you came along.

    You misused your editorial privilege at Locus to deliberately provoke some people into emotional pain. Locus, as a responsible publisher, had the duty of either agreeing with it, regardless of its noxiousness, or pulling the piece and apologizing both for.letting themselves be taken in by you and for your public bad manners. Now, unless there has been another change, the funny tradition is canceled, to the detriment of everyone who enjoyed it as a good joke.

    What it seems that you and your most vocal friends cannot see is that your piece wasn’t taken down for its politics, but for its betrayal of faith that you would be a responsible human being and not deliberately act out in an ill-mannered way.

    Again, it wasn’t your politics or persecution, it’s that you were *rude* to the readership and to Locus and *abusive* of your privilege.

    Nobody is trying to censor you here on your own weblog, on which you are free to write whatever you wish. It was co-opting another weblog’s audience to bring a dead issue back to flaming heat, without asking the other weblog whether they wanted to be used for that co-opting.

    To sum up, people aren’t yelling at you to censor you in the name of “political correctness. They’re yelling at you because you’re a rude little son who deserves a spanking for acting out.

  18. @David K. M. Klaus

    Against my better judgement, I feel compelled speak my mind about this. I find the original piece a good deal less rude and offensive than the vicious, bullying self-righteous rage of you and your friend’s reaction. Much like the vicious, bullying reaction to Moon’s original (fairly anodyne) blog post, not that anyone really wants to dredge up that debate, myself included. Let me point out that Person’s attempt at satire is clearly an attempt at satirizing what he perceives to be the general PC tone of the Wiscon organizers, not merely the Moon incident, although that’s the most notorious. Burkhas do indeed prevent “lookism”, right?

    A mature reaction to Person’s piece (and, mutatis mutandis, Moon) would be to say, “Well, this is a fairly lame attempt at satire, the author is obviously fairly right wing, but it’s well within the domain of acceptable discourse, I’ll register my disagreement and move on.” The vicious denunciation, bullying and hectoring tone, veiled threats (death threats in private communications, the Locus peole say) and demand for rigid ideological conformity reminds me of doctrinaire Marxists I’ve known. (I consider myself on the left. Now I know you don’t think of what you said as “bullying” or “hectoring”, but the tone of contempt, verbal aggression, and unjustified conclusions about motivations slung in this comment is unmistakeable to an outsider.

    Now you crow that you’ve been persecuted by a political mob and get to grin at your friends about how you’ve stirred up so much shit.

    Person says quite clearly he did not expect such an outraged reaction. You can call him a liar if you wish but that’s a form of verbal aggression equally as rude as anything you’re accusing him of. I would rather suggest that you stirred your own shit in order to whip yourself into the self-righteous fury the left wing purity brigade specializes in so well. I have seen the Internet lynch mob mentality play out time and time again. It’s a sick dynamic on either side. Oh how I know it, because here I am positioning myself as the universally hated “Man who is above the fray”, but I guess somebody has to. You need to chill, the hell, down.

  19. Ahh, final thought:

    @David K. M. Klaus:

    Now you crow that you’ve been persecuted by a political mob and get to grin at your friends about how you’ve stirred up so much shit.

    Again, if you believe this was his motivation, why are you playing into his hands by providing him with a mob? Ex concessis, you actually seem to be agreeing with the characterization of the reaction to this as “mobbish.”

    I myself am a fairly opinionated person and I often struggle to find the appropriate tone in disagreements of this sort. I will simply say that I don’t think you and your friends have found it in this case.

    BTW, thanks to the moderator for (apparently) whitelisting me and allowing this debate to go on.

  20. Stokes — If there were an orthodoxy that frowned upon the demonisation of Muslims and the systematic denigration of feminists then I would happily be a part of it. However, a glance at the mainstream of western culture will inform you that such an orthodoxy exists nowhere except in the paranoid fantasies of privileged white men.

  21. Lawrence Person says his April Fool’s piece, which he posted to his own blog after it was withdrawn by Locus Online, had 19,700 hits in the first two days – that “the failfandom brigade only ensured that it would be seen by 20 times as many people as would have seen it otherwise.”

    But is the internet someplace where viewership equates to approval? There are a lot of viral videos about antics nobody would want to imitate.

    I suspect this is a case, to paraphrase Stephen King, of when people see an orange cone on the highway they start looking for the wreck.

    There can be unexpected benefits of going to look. That’s how I found a trackback from Carrie Cuinn’s dual critique of Person’s April Fool piece and an article in the recent SFWA Bulletin about lessons to be learned from the popularity of the Barbie doll.

  22. Sometime dead issues still rankle. But far wiser to amuse some folks by the novelizations forthcoming of Tolkien’s laundry lists than an isolated long ago personal incident.

    Too bad. I liked the spoof page.

  23. Well, one of the people who hadn’t seen it on Locus and went to Person’s blog was me, and it wasn’t out of approval. It was to inform myself so that I wouldn’t speak out of ignorance of the facts. The point of getting it off Locus wasn’t to censor it, and if Person thinks it was he’s pretty foolish about it. It was to indicate in no uncertain terms that Locus did not approve, and neither did all the other people who weighed in in that direction. What Person wants to say on his own blog is his own business.

  24. Robert Whitaker Sirignano: I thought the tenor of your last comment was opposing the beating of dead horses, but there you go in the same post. Nobody’s going to _novelize_ Tolkien’s laundry lists. It’s Frank Herbert’s laundry lists that are getting novelized. Tolkien’s laundry lists will instead get published in carefully transcribed and minutely annotated scholarly editions. I’ve nothing against mocking posthumous publications, but please get right the kind of posthumous publications you’re mocking.

  25. “A powerful organization that oppresses women and treats their faces as obscene is not a target for satire? Coulda fooled me. The joke failed for me because Elizabeth Moon was fired as GoH not for opposing burqas, but for blaming individual Muslims for the organization’s misogyny, which is a mistake some people still make about Catholics.”

    Arthur, Islam isn’t an “organization” any more than “Christianity” or “Buddhism” are.

  26. Your local mosque is an organization. Various Christian sects, such as the Catholic church, are organizations, with hierarchies and often legal status as non-profit corporations. Islam is a worldwide religion, with more than one variety; surely you don’t want to claim that Sunnis and Shias are part of some unifying “organization”, do you/

  27. I can’t figure out why over two weeks after Supergee posted his comment you and Gary are here deconstructing it based on a fragile copyediting complaint.

    However, I’ll play along. I am pretty sure both Sunnis and Shias feel they are part of the unifying “organization” established by Allah and which they each carry out as the Five Pillars of Islam.

  28. I make no claims to explaining Gary’s motivations. I’m not replying to, or deconstructing, anything from 2 weeks ago; I was simply responding to a couple of recent comments.

  29. “Then why is “organized religion” a commonplace expression?”

    Because it refers to the fact that sects are organized. Christianity is a religion. Methodism is a sect. Judaism is a religion. Lubavitcher Hasadim are a sect. Buddhism is a religion. Nichiren Buddhism is a sect. Islam is a religion. Sufism is a sect.

    Religions are also commonly divisible by denomination and schools. These also tend not to be organizations, but might be.

    The Catholic Church is an organization. Protestantism is not. Episcopalianism is. Baptists are not. The Baptist General Convention of Texas is.

    An organization has a hierarchy. Again, the Catholic Church does, but “Christianity” does not. “Christianity” is not an “organization.” Islam and Judaism similarly are not “organizations.” Though sects and groups may have hierarchies, the religions certainly do not.


    I hope this answers your query, Mike.

  30. Not really, because you have avoided answering why you treat this verbal shortcoming, if it is indeed a shortcoming, as a refutation of Supergee’s comment.

    And should I let slide your verbal sleight-of-hand? I think not. The common phrase isn’t “organized sects” it is “organized religion.” Still, I could be using it wrong. The answer is bound to be in the Wikipedia somewhere.

  31. Yeah, but someone probably has already deleted it as “not neutral point of view.”

    “Editors like to pee in it, they they like the flavor.” — Jubal Harshaw, Stranger in a Strange Land

  32. “Gary, not all organizations are hierarchical. Many are, but not all.”

    Fair enough. Doesn’t change the correctness of any of the rest of what I said, though.

    “Not really, because you have avoided answering why you treat this verbal shortcoming, if it is indeed a shortcoming, as a refutation of Supergee’s comment.”

    I’m not understanding what you mean by that. I said what I had to say. I’m not clear what I was supposed to be “refuting.” I was merely correcting Arthur’s repeatedly referring to Islam as an “organization,” rather than a belief system.

    Arthur: “A powerful organization that oppresses women and treats their faces as obscene is not a target for satire? Coulda fooled me. The joke failed for me because Elizabeth Moon was fired as GoH not for opposing burqas, but for blaming individual Muslims for the organization’s misogyny, which is a mistake some people still make about Catholics.”

    If you want to argue that Islam as a belief system does this, fair enough, but there’s no Organization Of Muslims that all or most or a plurality of Muslims belong to. There are beliefs that all Muslims adhere to, but no organization they all join. Same for Jews and Christians.

    “The common phrase isn’t ‘organized sects’ it is ‘organized religion.'”

    I’m not following what point you are trying to make.

  33. The practice of making relevant humour inevitably involves putting one’s head on a block and hoping it isn’t cut off. Judging nicely how far you can go in poking a sensitive issue will generate a laugh — an inch too far and the blade will fall. In each case there are also differences in the audience. What cracks up a room full of the easy-going may still go awry if just one member of the audience wraps itself up in self-righteousness and indignation and makes a scene. Hardly anyone at present is more sensitive than a Muslim.

    Having said that, I have no idea whether Locus went over the line with its April Fool’s gag or not. We won’t be allowed to judge for ourselves, because it was taken down and, as usual when these things happen, the Underlings are blamed.

    Of course, it is often the entire purpose of making an issue politically sensitive — to stifle debate and comment. It sometimes fails … by making people like me a little more curious. But too often it succeeds. I wouldn’t want to have a copy of Locus in my luggage while clearing Iranian customs right now.

  34. “We won’t be allowed to judge for ourselves, because it was taken down and, as usual when these things happen, the Underlings are blamed.”

    Of course, nothing even faintly controversial is ever ever ever ever ever ever ever not screen-shot by many people.

    Let me help: http://bit.ly/1080Gjl

  35. That’s awesome. If only I had thought of linking to Lawrence Person’s blog within the text of my post!

  36. Yes, you absolutely wrote in your post: “Person also posted an archival copy on his BattleSwarm blog,” with a link to the post.

    I leave it to Taral to explain why it’s all such a puzzle to him, as when he wrote: “Having said that, I have no idea whether Locus went over the line with its April Fool’s gag or not. We won’t be allowed to judge for ourselves, because it was taken down and, as usual when these things happen, the Underlings are blamed.”

    Otherwise, you can give the person a fish, or a URL, or a pointer, or you can try to teach them the obvious about how to pick up a fish.

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