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You lost me at punished

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Aug. 9th, 2006 | 11:46 am

Bill Shunn, aka shunn, a writer I admire and a guy I like and have even roomed with, said this about the Slush Bomb:

But it sure looks to me like Gordon is being punished...

Um. A bunch of women writers, including award-winning writers, successful novelists, and Year's Best authors, as well as promising newcomers who've been honing their craft at Clarion, OWW, and elsewhere, want to send their best new stories to Gordon first. And this punishes him how?

A bunch of writers, who also happen to be readers, some of whom have given up on F&SF, and let their subscriptions lapse, and already feel alienated from the magazine, want to do something fun to reconnect with it and turn those feelings around. And this punishes him how?

Come August, Gordon will get to choose from a wider than usual selection of stories from better than average writers. There might even be more good stories than he can buy right away. And this punishes him how?

What the fuck am I missing? Why is this so complicated? Why does it deserve anything besides support, at best, or, at worst, disinterest and lack of participation? Why would anyone try to actively dissuade writers from submitting to pro market they like and want to appear in?

If there wasn't a gender context to this, it wouldn't be an issue. Nobody has every tried to talk writers out of their annual April Fool's Day Slush Bomb to Strange Horizons. From being a joke the first year, it's turned into an annual tradition that regularly supplies a couple good stories to the magazine. Many of the other stories end up being published elsewhere. Why isn't anyone rising up in rage and demanding that we stop the Strange Horizons slush bomb? It's been three or four years now, and nobody has ever suggested that we're punishing Strange Horizons by singling them out.

That's why all the anti-F&SF slush bomb protests sound to me like "Boo, ya uppity wimmen! There's no problem here. Don't do anything together. Go back to your rooms with your views and sit by yourselves and behave."

Somebody explain to me why the Strange Horizons slush bombs are okay and the F&SF slush bomb is a bad idea. What part of the middle-class educated white guy gene am I missing that all the "women, don't do this!" logic baffles me?

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Comments {169}

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shhhh it's a secrit

(no subject)

from: secritcrush
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:30 pm (UTC)
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What the fuck am I missing? Why is this so complicated?

So how does Gordon come out of this looking good? If he doesn't buy any stories some people will be annoyed. If he buys some, some people are going to say he caved to pressure. If buys some and it is a momentary blip, then other people will be annoyed that there was no long term change. (And let's be honest, the potential for this to change a lot of people's behaviours such that the slush pile takes on a dramatically different characteristic is small.) Somewhere, someone is going to be complaining about the aftermath, no matter what it is. And chances are there will be a goodly number of people who do. (Look how polarized the discussion has already been. It is unlikely to get better.)

I'm not saying we shouldn't do it. But let's be honest - chances are overwhelming that the experience will be damaging to him (and by extension his magazine) in some degree. People will be unhappy with him no matter what happens. You can say it is a necessary evil to cause change.

Don't say that you are picking him a bouquet of flowers though. It's far more complicated than that.

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The Pea

(no subject)

from: mekkavandexter
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:44 pm (UTC)
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I realize I live in a field of daisies, but I never saw this as a way to force gordon to buy or not buy wimmin writers, but rather a way to convince women writers that submitting to gordon is not as scary as everyone seems to think it is (everyone being those women that opt not to send their work)

but maybe i see it differently because I know charlie well enough to (assume to) know his intentions (more of a general statement, i would not assume to say you don't know charlie, but yanno, we know in a different way than General Publics)

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Jeremy lassen

(no subject)

from: jlassen
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:33 pm (UTC)
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Because all them uppity women, acting in an organized fashion, scares the shit, if only unconsciously, out of some people? Because it burst the tenative illusion that people (paricularly SF people of a certain gene rodenberry-esk stripe) hold onto dearly... that we live in classless, raceless genderless society that rewards people on merit alone? And that many people find it easier to pretend this is the case, rather than do anything about it?

(shrug.)

Or maybe I'm just projecting my own hangups onto this silly "debate." "Bomb" away, I say, because if it means a few more good stories end up at F&SF, it can only be a good thing. It's not like Gordan and his readers haven't been handling slush for a while now. I'm sure they'll figure out a way to handle it.
:)

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Hannah

(no subject)

from: buymeaclue
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:34 pm (UTC)
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Somebody explain to me why the Strange Horizons slush bombs are okay and the F&SF slush bomb is a bad idea.

There's no implication (or explicit statement) with the SH April Fool's subs that the magazine is doing something wrong.

Er.

Which isn't to say that I think the F&SF slush bomb is a bad idea, exactly. My feelings are mixed. But that's the difference, I think, at least in part.

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The Pea

(no subject)

from: mekkavandexter
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:38 pm (UTC)
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but i don't think the point behind the F*SF slushbomb is that the *magazine* is doing something wrong.

You can not publish stories you are not getting. I think it's a perceived wrong -- oh, F&SF does not publish women writers!!! Bad Men!
but yet we have prime examples of women writers who admit to not sending them their work...so how can F&SF publish more women writers if the women writers who are writing stories of substance and quality, are not sending their stories there?

maybe i miss the point, but yanno, that's how i see it.

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Rachel Swirsky

(no subject)

from: rachel_swirsky
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:34 pm (UTC)
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Hey, if you're missing the "hesh up, womenz" gene, maybe you're proof of evolution in action. Sounds like a pretty good adaptation to me. ;)

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The Pea

(no subject)

from: mekkavandexter
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:36 pm (UTC)
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people are asshats.
i think it really just comes down to that.
because really, you'd think SOMEONE would be all "why are you wasting SH's time with zombie unicorn stories!?"
but yeah, no one gives a crap about that.
it's stupid, really.
Personally I am going to punish Gordon with over 10K of girl cooties.

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shhhh it's a secrit

(no subject)

from: secritcrush
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:39 pm (UTC)
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because really, you'd think SOMEONE would be all "why are you wasting SH's time with zombie unicorn stories!?"
but yeah, no one gives a crap about that.


The difference is the editors at SH are receptive to the April Fool's stories. They announce how funny they found it every year. If they had been annoyed the first year and we'd kept doing it, I'm sure popular perception would have been very different.

Gordon is obviously not on board with the prank. It makes a difference.

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(no subject)

from: shunn
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:39 pm (UTC)
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You lost me at punished

That's too bad, because I thought the rest of my argument was pretty worthwhile. Can we agree that we have an honest difference opinion about methodology and tactics?

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sallytuppence

(no subject)

from: sallytuppence
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:57 pm (UTC)
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And you thought it was me who was going to beat you up!

(I'll probably have more to say about this later, after I've had a beer).

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(no subject)

from: stillsostrange
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:39 pm (UTC)
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Chance and Hannah's comments are right, imo.

But mostly some people live in a lightless void where there is no fun. :P

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Leah Bobet

(no subject)

from: leahbobet
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 06:53 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. You are a Hero of the Revolution.

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Comfort me with Apples

(no subject)

from: tanaise
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:44 pm (UTC)
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Perhaps it's that we never offically 'plan' the SH slushbomb, as it would give away the surprise if they knew what the theme would be, so it never gives people a chance to complain? Or maybe the sheer numbers that are suggested for the FSF slushbomb?

Though I'm not sure a) how many volunteered stories will *actually* be a part of the FSF slush bomb (for example, my story is not so much finished.) and b) I don't know how many of us are doing the SH slush bomb these days either, so it may actually be larger than I think.

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Affinity8

(no subject)

from: affinity8
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:48 pm (UTC)
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Good question re Strange Horizons slush bombs! I myself never understood that, but whatever.

My favorite argument to date, btw, is that women "limit themselves" by not submitting to F & SF. It's a good thing there are smart people out there to point this out. Otherwise, I might be fooled into thinking it's a smart submission strategy to send first to people who've bought you and pay well, then to people who reject you and pay well.

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Leah Bobet

(no subject)

from: leahbobet
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 06:56 pm (UTC)
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Heh, dunno...I consider it a duty to try and crack new markets. There are markets I can sell to, and that's good, but if I'm writing to them first I'm writing the same kind of story in some ways. Trying to crack a new market forces me to think outside of the box, stretch my brain muscles some. And it's deeply satisfying to mount another one on the trophy wall.

Maybe I just can't keep the competitive urge down. *g*

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Nick Mamatas

Slush Bomb A and Slush Bomb B

from: nihilistic_kid
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:51 pm (UTC)
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You really can't tell the difference? I mean, I know you can't tell the difference between my point that "F&SF is a minor league men's mag, so no surprises there" and the idea that women should abandon the magazine, the strawman argument you unapologetically put in my mouth two months ago. As if the only alternatives were Charlie's Great idea and Not Submitting At All. (And I called you on this at the time. Your response was apparently to ignore me entirely.)

Moreoverr, the SH April Fool's slush bomb is, you know, a joke. Which is why it takes place on April's Fools. SH is the April's Fool in this context...the bomb itself is a (joking) punishment. Even if the joke sometimes leads to publishable stories, that doesn't invalidate the joke. This slush bomb had as its genesis your mistaken belief about gender parity in F&SF. So, the slush bomb is there for your ego: ain't Charlie right after all? Further, the claim is that F&SF isn't publishing the right stories, or the right number of stories. The April Fool's bomb doesn't implicate SH in anything.


As far as this: Why would anyone try to actively dissuade writers from submitting to pro market they like and want to appear in? uh...you really have just stepped through the looking glass and left Planet Sense behind. The alternatives aren't Follow Charlie The Leader and Never Submit. If these writers like and want to submit to F&SF, they will. If they decide that F&SF won't publish their stories (due perhaps to their gender as writers, or to the gendered nature of their stories, or to mistaken notions about either of the above, or something else), well then, pretty much by definition they have decided, by not submitting, that they do not to appear in the magazine.

And what will the slush bomb do to change that? Nothing. It may well build a sense of community, but it may also create other problems. In addition to continuing to fetishize a moribund "Big Three", let's pretend that van Gelder does want to buy a "girly story" (for lack of a better term) this month. Perhaps he'll cut his one tall-tale, his one contemp fantasy, his one big SF piece, or any of the other fairly obvious slots he tries to fill with each issue, to let sometjing "girly" in. Well, he'll have plenty to choose from. However, that also means that the chances of any of the slush bombers being the author of that story go down. So what's being demonstrated here, except the Bradbury Method in reverse: submit what is expected and what everyone else is submitting to the specifics of what a magazine seems to want, and you won't sell a story.

It's a haphazard and silly experiment, and it ultimately, to me, seems to boil down to the fact that you're shocked that a pulp digest aimed at a predominately male audience publishes mostly males (and that this somehow becomes the problem of many many women who are magically mistaken about their own experiences), and to the rather silly idea that a magazine that is losing readers at a ridiculous rate is somehow amazingly important to The Future of The Genre.

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Re: Slush Bomb A and Slush Bomb B

from: ellameena
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC)
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And what will the slush bomb do to change that? Nothing. It may well build a sense of community, but it may also create other problems. In addition to continuing to fetishize a moribund "Big Three", let's pretend that van Gelder does want to buy a "girly story" (for lack of a better term) this month. Perhaps he'll cut his one tall-tale, his one contemp fantasy, his one big SF piece, or any of the other fairly obvious slots he tries to fill with each issue, to let sometjing "girly" in. Well, he'll have plenty to choose from.

Wow. Wow. Wow. Why do you assume that because the stories are authored by women that they will be "girly"? Why do you assume that the slush bombers are not going to send a tall tale, a contemporary fantasy, or a big SF piece? It's pretty amazing to me that you think women can't even write stories appropriate to the magazine. I went into this assuming there was no actual gender bias and that the slush bomb was just for fun--kind of a group affirmation, "go team" kind of thing. Now I'm thinking there truly are some ugly prejudices lurking out there.

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Melissa Marr

(no subject)

from: melissa_writing
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 04:53 pm (UTC)
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"What part of the middle-class educated white guy gene am I missing that all the 'women, don't do this!' logic baffles me?"

Well, I believe the problem is that you are intelligent & acting on it. Sometimes that frightens people. Maybe if you offered links to support groups for the the easily intimidated . . .

Seriously, egalitarian thoughts are difficult for some people, and in my experience, seeing them in a man sometimes is even more disconcerting for the easily startled.

Don't stress on it, Charlie. Lots of folks out here think your idea is pretty cool. Those that don't? Well, many of them still can disagree without feeling uncomfortable. The rest? Well, we just need to figure out how to get whatever EXTRA gene you have (b/c it's extra that you have not a lack) into their genetic soup.

IMO, GVG is lucky to get a plethora of texts from talented women. Just as he would be lucky to get a huge burst of texts from talented ____ (fill in w. your trait of choice). It's all cool.

Maybe if some of them get through, I'll actually buy a few issues again.

Melissa

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Kelly

(no subject)

from: retrobabble
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC)
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Hey, where's my memo that this was a Big Deal?

Oh, yeah. Tossed it out.

Guess I'll just have to send my story along because it amuses me to do so.

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bram452

(no subject)

from: bram452
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 08:16 pm (UTC)
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Hey. So since I came into the conversation late and you were kind enough to put me in the picture before, let me just ask you: How much do you feel like the slush bomb thing is an act of protest?

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Kelsey Johnson Defatte

(no subject)

from: cocoskeeper
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 05:10 pm (UTC)
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An editor "bombed" with QUALITY work isn't being punished ANY way you look at it.

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Kelsey Johnson Defatte

(no subject)

from: cocoskeeper
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 05:12 pm (UTC)
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Oh.

And although I in no way can guarantee the Slush Bomb is filled with quality work, something tells me that those who are participating, take this "bomb" of submissions very seriously and do NOT want to look like fools in the process. Therefore, I honestly believe these folks are sending this editor quality work.

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Jim C. Hines

(no subject)

from: jimhines
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 05:29 pm (UTC)
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"Somebody explain to me why the Strange Horizons slush bombs are okay and the F&SF slush bomb is a bad idea. What part of the middle-class educated white guy gene am I missing that all the "women, don't do this!" logic baffles me?"

First of all, am I allowed to disagree with you without immediately being pounced upon and told I'm an asshat, living in a lightless void, easily intimidated, sexist, and whatever other insults pop up between now and the time I finish the comment? I understand you're frustrated, but a fair amount of the pile-on has been pretty damn insulting to anyone who might feel troubled by what you're doing.

Personally, I don't see this as punishing Gordon. It's his job to edit the magazine, and JJA's job to read slush. You're giving them a fractionally greater number to choose from. I see that as a good thing.

FSF was singled out because of the perception that they buy more stories from men than from women. I've seen this debated, including some numbers suggesting they actually buy a proportionally greater number of stories from women, but that women massively undersubmit to this particular magazine. I'm not sure what point or long-term effect this slush bomb will have, and I'm a bit dubious as to how effective it will be, but I don't think it's hurting FSF, GVG, or JJA. And it got people talking, which I think is generally a good thing. (In some cases, it even got people listening instead of automatically bashing anyone who disagrees with them, based on a simplistic perception of "the other side's" arguments.)

I said before that I thought it was problematic to have the middle-class educated white guy rallying the women. Is it wrong for you to try to address a problem you see? Not at all. But you are the leader here, the coach calling the play and organizing the women to carry it out. This is going to raise questions for some folks. Among other things, it looks a little like the middle-class educated white guy (MCEWG) is coming to rescue the women writers.

Now the fact is, you're in a position with some power and influence. You're a damn good writer, you've got an in with FSF, and a lot of people respect you. And I'm not saying someone in a position of power shouldn't use that to help others, just because the other happens to be in a traditionally less privileged position.

In this case, you could have used that power to ask folks what they wanted to do. Start a discussion, get people thinking and debating and throwing out ideas. Maybe it would have been a slush bomb. Maybe it would have been "Submit under an androgynous pen name" month. Maybe it would have been a letter-writing campaign to FSF, I don't know. But instead, you said, "This is what I think we should do," and people hopped on board with you.

As for this bomb vs. the SH one, the goals are completely different. The SH bomb is an April Fool's day "joke," a tradition started by a bunch of people who wanted to have fun. And while some folks are having fun with the FSF bomb, that doesn't seem to be the goal. The goals, as I understand them, are to increase female submissions to FSF, to undo the alienation felt by female writers/readers in regards to FSF, and from your early posts, to establish whether there really is a gender bias from the FSF editors.

I don't know whether or not this will work. I think there might be better ways to go about it. I think there could be other ways to frame the whole discussion, for that matter. I don't believe you're hurting anything, but I do think there's a pretty clear difference between this and the SH bomb.

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squirrel_monkey

(no subject)

from: squirrel_monkey
date: Aug. 9th, 2006 05:41 pm (UTC)
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It didn't bother me in the beginning; I felt very enthusiastic about fun of 100 girls submitting together. Now, I'm a bit torn as more adversarial language crept in, and the whole thing became Charle vs Gordon vs Bill.

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