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Conservative Polish genre authors decry imaginary censorship
As I reported last month the Polish SF/F magazine Nowa Fantastyka apologized after publishing a story by Jacek Komuda about a gay man kidnapping children for pedophiles. Many of Nowa Fantastyka’s readers and authors slammed the story, which as the magazine’s editors admitted in their apology was rightly seen as “an attack on queer people and as propagating harmful stereotypes about them.“
The magazine later published a statement “saying they will publish a special queer issue of the magazine, and the editorial board is explicitly encouraging marginalized writers to submit.”
The story by Komuda was titled “Dalian, Bedziesz Cwiartowany!” (essentially, “Dalian, You Will Be Dismembered!”) and ran in the magazine’s July 2020 issue. The fantasy story featured a gay man whose partner was caught transporting kidnapped children out of the country as a sacrifice to pedophile priests.
Now 21 conservative Polish authors including Jacek Dukaj and Konrad T. Lewandowski have signed an open letter in support of the story, saying they’re offended by it being censored. The letter said the story was censored due to “political correctness” even though, it should be pointed out, the story was never actually removed or unpublished. Instead, the magazine simply apologized and said they’d publish a special queer issue in the future. (Update: Miss Aberra has now translated the letter to English.)
The letter from these 21 authors also said they understood literature was subject to critical discourse and debates even as they ignored how, in a major irony alert, that’s exactly what happened after the story was published.
It’s also worth noting that all but one of the 21 Polish authors who signed the letter are men. As Lewandowski wrote in a Facebook comment about the letter, “If anyone is paying attention to feminist quotas and asks why so few women are on this list, the answer is: Because they were not brave enough! When you have to stick your neck out, you can immediately see what feminism is worth...”
Despite the cries of censorship, this letter is being seen as “a smokescreen for spewing anti-LGBT+ bs.“ In addition, Andrzej Sapkowski, author of the Witcher series and possibly the most famous living Polish genre writer, did not sign the letter.
All of this is taking place against a continuing crackdown on LGBT activists in Poland, as described in this article by Human Rights Watch.
Hugo Awards update
The fallout from the recent Hugo Awards ceremony continued, with the genre debating and discussing a number of issues related to the fiasco. Here are some of the highlights:
- Martin P. created beautiful Sankey diagrams showing the votes in the different Hugo categories. “The #HugoAwards use a preferential, instant runoff ballot. After each round, votes for the finalist with the fewest votes are reallocated to the voter’s next-ranked choice until one finalist has over 50%. The flows show how these votes are reallocated.”
- Despite the cries of anguish from John Scalzi and many others, the Hugo ceremony did end up creating yet another debate in the genre about the SF/F canon. Scalzi pointed out that “As a practical matter, the science fiction ‘canon’ is already dead.” Meg Elison wrote a must-read thread, stating “Turns out, gatekeepers don’t care if you know or if you don’t. They instinctively know you don’t belong.” Other great comments on the topic came from A. T. Greenblatt, Foz Meadows, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Matthew Claxton, Charles Payseur, Neon Yang and Bree Bridges.
- A number of finalists for this year’s Hugos discovered they had no bios in the ConZealand program. Among the finalists raising this issue were James Davis Nicoll, Bogi Takács, and Claire Rousseau, who said “I was never asked to submit a blurb for this. There’s a blurb publicly accessible on my YouTube About page they could have used.”
- Bogi Takács posted the text of their Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer speech.
- Turns out Ann Leckie declined her Best Novel nomination earlier this year. She has now explained why in “The Hugos and The Raven Tower.“ Many kudos to Leckie for doing this.
- Very good article by Casey Lucas on how New Zealand’s best fantasy and science fiction writers got shafted on the global Hugo stage.
- Chris M. Barkley discusses a number of issues with the Hugos including discovering why the original tech crew were replaced three days before the ceremony. “The explanation that was offered was that the tech crew was too widely distributed across several time zones (AEST/NZST/PDT/EDT) and the producers wished to use a centralized crew based solely in the Pacific Daylight Time zone.” While the intention behind this last-minute change may have been good, the change likely compounded issues during the ceremony.
- One tech issue during the Hugo ceremony did give some laughs. According to the ceremony’s auto-captioning, the true names of Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders are “emily nuts and chocolate jackhammers.”
- DisCon III in Washington, DC, announced that Sheree Renée Thomas and Malka Older will host the 2021 Hugo Awards Ceremony.
Other News and Info
- Voting for the British Fantasy Award shortlist is now open. The British Fantasy Society is also seeking judges for the award. However as Katherine Fowler points out, there is already a representation problem with the judging pool, as after the first weekend of the juror application window the potential judges were “91% white. 93% cisgender. 73% straight. 79% non-disabled.” She adds “This is not representative of our diverse SFF community. Please, spread the word that the BFAs are looking for jurors from under-represented backgrounds"
- “Three-time Hugo Award-nominated editor Diana M. Pho has announced a new project dedicated to helping Black speculative fiction novelists get traditionally published. “Entitled #Edits4BlackSFF, the project will select nine finalists for a free query letter review and 10-page line edit of their manuscript(s), with the winner receiving both a free developmental edit and consideration for representation from a pool of 8 literary agents.” Complete details including application materials can be found here.
- FIYAH Literary Magazine has announced the creation of the Ignyte Awards as part of the inaugural FIYAHCON event. “The Awards seek to celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of the current and future landscapes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror by recognizing incredible feats in storytelling and outstanding efforts toward inclusivity of the genre.”
- Alex Acks has done a deep dive into whether genre magazines pull their stories from slush or solicitations. A must read for short fiction writers.
- Betsy Wollheim, editor and publisher of The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss, evidently believes he hasn’t “written anything for six years.” Wollheim “posted multiple messages on Facebook indicating her dissatisfaction with the fantasy author’s progress on the highly anticipated Book 3 in The Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy—currently titled The Doors of Stone—saying, in one reply to a Facebook friend, ‘I’ve had enough.’”
- The winner of the 2020 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming is Black Excellence in Gaming. “Rather than announce a shortlist and a winner, we choose to award the concept of Black Excellence in Gaming. We want to recognize the often-overlooked Black professionals throughout tabletop gaming’s history, up to and including the present day. This is overdue, deserving of the spotlight, and is but one small step.”
- Aidan Moher has started a new genre newsletter called Astrolabe, which will cover topics from science fiction and fantasy to retro gaming.
- Writer Beware warns about Lethe Press and Seventh Star Press. The latter press was founded by Stephen Zimmer, who has been accused of harassment. According to Writer Beware, Zimmer has evidently hired a lawyer who is going after people who criticized him online or shared those criticisms. Ironically, Steven Zimmer appears to be a free speech absolutist (see this linked image) who opposes hate speech laws and anything which might stop others from saying what they want. The hypocrisy here is overwhelming.
- “Double Dragon Publishing is closing down. The name has been acquired by online distributor Fiction4All, which will re-publish books for DDP authors who agree. Others’ rights will be returned, & DDP owner Deron Douglas says that all royalties due will be paid.”
- As File770 describes, “Editor Robert Price set off a rebellion among the contributors to his revival of a classic fantasy anthology series, Lin Carter’s Flashing Swords #6, when they got a look at the political diatribe in his Introduction. Several writers pulled their stories from the book and Pulp Hero Press told them it was being delisted. When one of the contributors, Cliff Biggers, received a copy of the book he (found) it had been released anyway, and aired his grievances on Facebook, including that the authors never signed a contract and have not been paid.”
- Holly Lyn Walrath writes that “Duotrope has released a competitor to Submittable. ‘Duosuma’ is a submission manager. I’ve beat this drum before, but these methods of charging fees per submission are nothing but bad for writers. It sets a precedent that fees=acceptable. They are not.” Walrath adds “What troubles me most about this is how many writers use Duotrope and will believe that this method of charging fees is acceptable because of the power Duotrope exerts. Their pricing info makes clear that they expect presses and mags to charge fees.” I agree with Walrath and it appears to me that Duotrope is trying to normalize submission fees with their new submission system.
- Victoria Strauss warns that “Self-publishing services provider Bookplate Press is the successor to Dog Ear Publishing, which closed earlier this year amid a blizzard of author complaints about money owed & non-performance.”
- The comic book industry continues to reckon with abuse issues.
- Marc Zicree issued a video “Apology to the Science Fiction Writers of America“ for using their membership email list to publicize his Space Command.
- I must admit I was unaware until now of the Mariko Aoki phenomenon, which is the theory that bookstores make you poop.
- Best tweet I’ve seen this week comes from Anthony R. Cardno: “‘When we get done here, I have to go put sunscreen on a naked coyote’ may be the best thing someone has ever said in one of my classes.”
- On a related animal note, the National Park Service issued a warning against sacrificing slower friends in a bear attack “even if the friendship has run its course.“
- Turns out the secret to selling books in 2020 is to put them next to the toilet paper.
- The Dream Foundry contests for beginning genre writers and artists will accept submissions from August 10 to October 11, 2020. Prizes for contestants are $1000 for first place, $500 for second, and $200 for third. There are no submission fees. Details>>
- The Aurealis Awards are “seeking expressions of interest from Australian residents who would like to judge for the 2020 Aurealis Awards” Details>>
- The Huntington Library announced a new Octavia E. Butler Fellowship worth $50,000. Details>>