Pixel Scroll 2/12/22 To Scroll The Invisible Pixel

(1) TAKE SANFORD’S SFF MAGAZINE SURVEY. Jason Sanford is running a new survey about how people view SFF genre magazines, described in his twitter thread about the survey. Sanford originally did a survey at the end of 2019 about people’s views on SFF magazines (also shared on File770). “I’d planned to release those results in the first quarter of 2020 but the COVID pandemic intervened. But having those pre-pandemic survey results allows me to run an identical copy of the survey right now and see if people’s views of SFF magazines changed over the last two years.”

Here’s the survey link at Google Docs

(2) AURORA AWARDS TIMELINE. Members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association have until midnight tonight (Eastern time) to add genre works to the Aurora Awards eligibility list that were done by Canadians in 2021.

On Saturday, February 19, they will open up the nomination forms so CSFFA members can select up to five different works in each of the categories to be on this year’s final Aurora Award ballot.  Nominations will be open for five weeks – closing on March 26 at 11:59 pm Eastern.  

(3) PROFIT IN ITS OWN LAND. The Guardian finds that entering public domain takes an unexpected toll on popular classics: “The Great Gapsby? How modern editions of classics lost the plot”.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” It is one of the most memorable literary payoffs in history, the end of F Scott Fitzgerald’s defining novel of the 20th centuryThe Great Gatsby.

Yet this famous ending will be lost to many readers thanks to the proliferation of substandard editions, one of which loses the last three pages and instead finishes tantalisingly halfway through a paragraph.

…In his study, to be published next month in the F Scott Fitzgerald Review, West contrasts the focus on accuracy of Fitzgerald’s publisher, Scribner, with today’s “textual instability incarnate”.

He pored over 34 new print editions released in the past year, from established and independent publishers and some that list neither the place nor publisher, although there are further digital ones: “Six are competently done, but the rest are rather careless, done just to pick up a slice of the yearly sales. While it was still in copyright, Scribner’s sold about half a million copies a year, which is remarkable for a backlist title.”

To his dismay, 17 editions dropped Fitzgerald’s dedication to his wife, Zelda: “Her name has been erased – a serious problem … because she was Fitzgerald’s muse. She was partly the inspiration for Daisy Buchanan.”

(4) A LONG GOODBYE. Jesse Walker shares a few quick thoughts about a new anthology in “Dangerous Visions and New Worlds” in Reason.

…The best thing about Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950–1985, an uneven but often incisive anthology of essays from PM Press, is that it covers the New Wave moment without limiting itself to the New Wave movement. The most talented New Wave writers are covered here—there are essays on J.G. Ballard, Octavia Butler, Barry Malzberg, and others—but so are TV tie-ins and porny paperbacks, showing how such ideas seeped through society…

(5) NOMMO SHORTLISTED WRITERS Q&A. The British Science Fiction Association and the Nommos Awards will hold a virtual event in March – date to be announced.

Last year the BSFA has funded 5 Nommo shortlisted writers  to virtually attend Worldcon, Discon 3. This March (date to be confirmed) we are holding a Q&A panel, based on the questions submitted by our readers. We are looking forward to receiving your questions on our facebook and twitter, or on a special email for the event: bsfa.nommo@gmail.com

Here is the list of participants in our Q&A.

Nana Akosua Hanson and Francis Y Brown (AnimaxFYB Studios)

Winners of the 2021 Nommo Award for best comic writer and best comic artist. All ten chapters of the winning comic are available here.

Nihkil Singh

Short-listed for the 2017 Illube Nommo Award for Taty went West and for 2021 Ilube Nommo Award for Club Ded.

His story ‘Malware Park’ is available here.

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

The winner of the 2019 Nommo Award for Best Short Story and the 2021 Nommo Award for best novella for Ife-Iyoku: The Tale of Imadeyunuagbon, available in Dominion An Anthology of Speculative Fiction From Africa and the African Diaspora, edited by Zelda Knight and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. ‘The Witching Hour’ won the Nommo award for best short story in 2019. Here is another story of his, ‘The Mannequin Challenge

Stephen Embleton

His novel Soul Searching was shortlisted for the 2021 Ilube-Nommo Award.  We offer our readers a chance to read an extract from it. His speculative fiction available to read online includes “Land of Light” – Imagine Africa 500 speculative fiction anthology (2015) 

Tlotlo Tsamaase

shared the 2021 Nommo Award with Innocent Chizaram Ilo.

Her winning story ‘Behind Our Irises’ was part of Brittle Paper’s anthology Africanfuturism edited by Wole Talabi is available to read here. Her most recent fiction is “Dreamports” and “District to Cervix – The Time  Before We Were Born” 

Tochi Onyebuchi

won the 2018 Ilube-Nommo Award for his novel Beasts Made of Night

His novella Riot Baby was shortlisted for this year’s Nommo Award, and won in its category the Fiyah Award. A free excerpt is available here. His novel Goliath is expected in January of this year.  A free excerpt is available here.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Twenty-three years ago, the film remake of the My Favorite Martian series premiered. It was directed by Donald Petrie as written by Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver, both had been writers on the Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs.

It has a good cast including Jeff Daniels, Christopher Lloyd, Elizabeth Hurley, Daryl Hannah, Wallace Shawn, Christine, Ebersole and Wayne Knight.  Ray Walston even showed up as Armitan/Neenert, a long ago-stranded Martian who has been masquerading as a government operative for years.

Some critics did like it, some didn’t.  As Robert Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times put it “The movie is clever in its visuals, labored in its audios, and noisy enough to entertain kids up to a certain age. What age? Low double digits.”  But Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times stated “Walston displays a crisp wit and blithe sense of whimsy otherwise lacking in this loser.”

What it didn’t make is money. On a budget of sixty-five million, it only made thirty-seven million. And it only gets a thirty percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 12, 1920 Louis Russell Chauvenet. Member of First Fandom, and a founder of the Boston’s Stranger Club which ran the first Boskones.  He’s credited with coining the term “fanzine” and may have also coined “prozine” as well. He published a number of zines from the later Thirties to the early Sixties. (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 12, 1929 Donald Kingsbury, 93. He’s written three novels (Courtship RiteThe Moon Goddess and the Son and Psychohistorical Crisis) that could be akin to the Asimov’s Foundation novels. Clute at EOSF says that the Asimov estate explicitly refused him permission to set Psychohistorical Crisis in the Foundation universe.  Now there’s a story there, isn’t there? 
  • Born February 12, 1933 Juanita Ruth Coulson, 89. She’s best known for her Children of the Stars series. She was a longtime co-editor of the Yandro fanzine with her husband, Buck, and she’s a filker of quite some renown. Yandro won the Best Fanzine Hugo at Loncon II in 1965. 
  • Born February 12, 1942 Terry Bisson, 80. I’m very fond of “Bears Discover Fire” which won a Hugo at Chicon V. And yes, it won a Nebula and a Sturgeon as well.  Some may like his novels but I’m really in love with his short fiction which why I’m recommending three collection he’s done, Bears Discover Fire and Other Stories, In the Upper Room and Other Likely Stories and TVA Baby and Other Stories.
  • Born February 12, 1945 Maud Adams, 77. Best remembered for being two different Bond girls, first for being in The Man with the Golden Gun where she was Andrea Anders, and as the title character in Octopussy. She shows up a few years later uncredited in a third Bond film, A View to Kill, as A Woman in Fisherman’s Wharf Crowd. 
  • Born February 12, 1945 Gareth Daniel Thomas. His best-known genre role was as of Roj Blake on Blake’s 7 for the first two series of that British show. He also had a minor role in Quatermass and the Pit, and had one-offs in The AvengersStar MaidensHammer House of Horror, The Adventures Of Sherlock HolmesTales of the UnexpectedRandall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Torchwood. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 12, 1954 Stu Shiffman. To quote Mike in his post, he was “The renowned fan artist, who generously shared his talents in fanzines, apas and convention publications, received the Best Fan Artist Hugo Award in 1990 and the Rotsler Award in 2010.” You can read Mikes’ gracious full post on him here. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 12, 1960 Laura Miller, 62. Author of an essay whose title tickles me to the end: “It’s Philip Dick’s World, We Only Live In It“. Originally appearing in the New York Times, 24 November 2002, it was reprinted in PKD Otaku, #9 which you can download here.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) WHO DREW? First Fandom Experience shows its detective chops and connections as they seek out the creator of this Thirties-vintage “Mysterious Early Fan Art”.

… Regarding the style of the piece, we believe it’s directly inspired by the work of Frank R. Paul — most specifically, this piece from Amazing Stories Quarterly, v1n1, Winter 1928, illustrating “The Moon of Doom” by Earl L. Bell….

(10) THAT’S NOT GIBBERISH, THAT’S SFF. Got to love this. Phil Jamesson “reading the first page of any sci-fi novel”. [Via Boing Boing.]

(11) BAKULA TO THE FUTURE. Will Scott Bakula be involved? Movieweb rounds up “Everything We Know About the Quantum Leap Reboot”.

…In Quantum Leap’s case, details of the new series are still sketchy, but it is believed that the premise will make the new series a continuation rather than a full reboot. Set in the same universe as the original, the new series will feature a new team of scientists resurrecting the Quantum Leap project, and attempting to find out what happened to Sam, whose fate was famously left up in the air by the original’s ambiguous finale….

(12) JWST TAKES SELFIE. “NASA beams back unexpected selfie of the Webb telescope from 1 million miles away” – see the image at Mashable.

We thought we’d never see the giant James Webb Space Telescope ever again.

The space observatory has traveled to its distant cosmic outpost, nearly a million miles from Earth. It doesn’t carry any surveillance cameras dedicated to monitoring the instrument as it traveled through space and unfurled. They were too complicated, and risky, to add.

But NASA still found a way to take a (somewhat coarse and eerie) selfie.

The space agency used an auxiliary lens on its powerful Near-Infrared Camera, or NIRCam, which will peer at some of the earliest stars and galaxies that formed in the universe, over 13.5 billion years ago.

“This special lens is meant for engineering, not science, and allows NIRCam to capture an ‘inward-looking’ image of the primary mirror,” NASA tweeted. “This image helps us to check that the telescope is aligned with the science instruments.”…

(13) YOUR NOTHING IN THE WAY STATION. This Budweiser Super Bowl commercial uses a lot of sf-style effects. But if that’s not enough reason to view it, you can get a head start by skipping it now!

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

2021 Nommo Awards

The 2021 winners of the African Speculative Fiction Society’s Nommo Awards were announced today in a ceremony held at DisCon III.

NOVEL

  • Akwaeke Emezi — The Death Of Vivek Oji

NOVELLA

  • Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki — Ife-Ikyoku: The Tale Of Imadeyunuagbon 

SHORT STORY

[Tie]

  • Innocent Chizaram Ilo — Rat And Finch Are Friends
  • Tlotlo Tsamaase — Behind Our Irises

GRAPHIC NOVEL

  • Moongirls — Nana Akosua Hanson (writer) AnimaxFYB Studios (art) – Ghana Drama Queens Collective

The event was hosted by DisCon’s Special Guest, Sheree Renée Thomas. She announced this year’s Ilube Nommo Award for best novel, which went to The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi.

In her opening speech, Sheree Renée Thomas said, “As newer audiences embrace storytelling from around the world, there is an excitement and openness to exploring rich tales that speak to the diverse cultural heritage that is born from not only Africa’s broad and diverse diaspora, but from the continent of Africa itself.”

Nana Akosua made an impassioned speech on behalf of the Drama Queens collective, “This year has been a particularly hard year for the Ghanaian Queer and Trans community. But I’d like to use this platform to say Hate will never win. All of the struggle will be worth it.”

In accepting her award for best short story. Tlotlo Tsmaase thanked the African online magazine Brittle Paper and the editor of its Africanfuturism anthology, Wole Talabi.  Innocent Chizaram Ilo thanked his editors at Strange Horizons.

For Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, the Nommo Awards are “…about self acceptance really, or acceptance from your own. One of the core purposes of awards is providing recognition or validation to writers at certain points in their careers. But writers from certain backgrounds, demographics, regions are unable to participate as fully in international activities and awards as much as they would need to due to financial barriers, economic, cultural, social and other such constraints. Now that’s where bodies like the Nommo step in.”

The other presenters were authors Suyi Davies Okungbowa and Tochi Onyebuchi, each a winner of a previous Nommo for best novel and Iquo Diana Abasi, editor of the African SFF magazine Omenana. The announcements were followed by readings from the winning works.

The African Speculative Fiction Society, composed of professional and semiprofessional African writers, editors, publishers, graphic artists and film makers, was founded in 2016.

The Nommos were presented for the first time in 2017. The awards are named for twins from Dogon cosmology who take a variety of forms, including appearing on land as fish, walking on their tails.

[Includes quotes from a DisCon III press release.]

2021 Lambda Literary Awards Finalists

The shortlists for the 33rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards were announced March 15. These finalists in 24 categories were selected by a panel of over 60 literary professionals from more than 1,000 book submissions from over 300 publishers.

The winners will be revealed during the virtual 33rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards Ceremony to be held on June 1.

Shortlisted works of genre interest are listed below. The complete roster of finalists is here.

LGBTQ Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror

  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse, (Gallery / Saga Press)
  • Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel, Julian K. Jarboe, (Lethe Press)
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, Zen Cho, (Tordotcom Publishing)
  • The Silence of the Wilting Skin, Tlotlo Tsamaase, (Pink Narcissus Press)
  • Subcutanean, Aaron A. Reed, (Self-published)

Works of genre interest in other categories include:

Gay Fiction

  • This Town Sleeps, Dennis E. Staples (Counterpoint)

Lesbian Fiction

  • Bestiary, K-Ming Chang (One World)

Transgender Fiction

  • Finna, Nino Cipri (Tordotcom)
  • The Seep, Chana Porter (Soho)
  • Trans-Galactic Bike Ride: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories of Transgender and Nonbinary Adventurers, Lydia Rogue (Microcosm)

Gay Romance

  • The Ghost and Charlie Muir, Felice Stevens (self-published)

LGBTQ Anthology

  • Love after the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction, Joshua Whitehead (Arsenal Pulp)

LGBTQ Children’s/Middle Grade 

  • The Deep & Dark Blue, Niki Smith (Little, Brown)

LGBTQ Comics

  • Apsara Engine, Bishakh Som (Feminist)
  • SFSX (Safe Sex), Vol. 1: Protection, Tina Horn, Michael Dowling, Alejandra Gutiérrez & Jen Hickman (Image)

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.]