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Jan. 1st, 2015

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Photograph of New Orleans trolley graffiti by me.

Elizabeth R. McClellan (that's me) is a speculative poet, lawyer, and herder of cats who lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. When law permits me any time to think, which is not very often anymore, I blog about poetry, art, the awesome stuff my friends do, the things I'm reading, and stuff I think you need to know something about. Sometimes it is important to read the tags in my journal for full effect.
Please comment to be added. Posts about published works and fandom are generally public; anything else is anyone's guess. You can also find me on Livejournal, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Goodreads.

The 2014 Rhysling Anthology & Editor's Note

mermaid yay
I am so very pleased to announce that the 2014 Rhysling Anthology was released to Science Fiction Poetry Association members today and will be very shortly available for all to enjoy.  There are print editions in my living room & I'm intermittently texting various yays to my wonderful associate editor, Ashley Brown.

By mutual agreement, freely entered into, between myself and Bryan Dietrich, president of the SFPA, my original editor's note and comment as it appears in the first edition will not appear in full in the subsequent editions, but that a note regarding my redaction and a link to a copy of the full Editor's Note and Comments will appear in all future editions. This is not a capitulation to an act of censorship: this is a conscious choice made of my own free will, inasmuch as the issues discussed below are issues of immediacy and of concern primarily to the voting membership, and yet the information should be and will be preserved. (The link that will appear in print will probably not be to Livejournal, to avoid potential bit decay, but I am placing it here in the event that I cannot get it onto my personal website in an appropriate amount of time.)

I may comment upon my own comments later, but any such commentary will be reserved for after the public dialogue regarding the issues raised below that I have been promised in good faith by Bryan Dietrich, who has treated me with nothing but respect and courtesy throughout this process. Accordingly, comments on this entry will be disabled.

2014 Rhysling Anthology Editor's Note & Editor's Final CommentCollapse )
I look forward to the coming dialogue with Bryan Dietrich and to the hope of future change within the SFPA, and for the time being, this is all there is to say.
made of love

50 Books by POC Challenge


Nikki Giovanni, Racism 101.
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart.
Shobhaa Dé, Bollywood Nights.
Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist. (recommended by POC in Fantasy Roundtable)
Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, Zarah the Windseeker. (recommended by POC in Fantasy Roundtable)
Nikki Giovanni, Sacred Cows...and Other Edibles.
Virginia Hamilton, Justice and Her Brothers. (recommended by POC in Fantasy Roundtable)
Octavia Butler, Wild Seed.
Virginia Hamilton, Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush. (recommended by POC in Fantasy Roundtable)
bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody.


Zadie Smith, On Beauty. (recommended by thegreenyear)
Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower. (recommended by rocza)
Lorene Cary, Black Ice.
Virginia Hamilton, The House of Dies Drear.
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man. (recommended by leastlikely)
Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider. (recommended by sparkymonster)
Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. (recommended by sparkymonster)
Jan Wong, Beijing Confidential. (recommended by heliophobe)
Tom King, The Truth About Stories. (recommended by heliophobe)
Paulo Friere, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (recommended by Bill P.)

Chenjerai Hove, Shebeen Tales. (recommended by liquidwoman)
Bill Adler, Ines Hernandez, & Patricia Riley, Growing Up Native American. (recommended by liquidwoman)
Richard Wright, Native Son. (recommended by thegreenyear)
Richard Wright, Eight Men. (obliquely recommended by thegreenyear, who said I should read his short stories.)
Tayeb Salih, A Season of Migration to the North. (recommended by rocza)
Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large. (recommended by rocza)
Michael Dorris, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water. (recommended by liquidwoman)

Ngugi wa Thiong'o, The River Between. (recommended by leastlikely)
ZZ Packer, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. (recommended by leastlikely)
Buchi Emecheta, The Joys of Motherhood. (recommended by joyshine & leastlikely)


Junot Diaz, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. (recommended by hawkorhandsaw)
Richard Wright, Black Boy. (recommended by hawkorhandsaw)
Jorges Luis Borges, Borges: Collected Fiction. (recommended by hawkorhandsaw)
Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance. (recommended by hawkorhandsaw)
Haruki Murakami, The Windup Bird Chronicles. (recommended by hawkorhandsaw)
Mohamed Choukri, For Bread Alone. (recommended by leastlikely)
Mahasweta Devi, Imaginary Maps. (recommended by leastlikely)
Rawi Hage, De Niro's Game. (recommended by leastlikely)
Fadia Faqir, The Cry of the Dove. (recommended by leastlikely)
Zola Maseko, The Life & Times of Sara Baartman: the Hottentot Venus. (recommended by leastlikely)


Yamina Benguigui, The Perfumed Garden. (recommended by leastlikely)
Moufida Tlatli, Silences of the Palace. (recommended by leastlikely)
An Na, A Step from Heaven.
Horace L. Griffin, Their Own Receive Them Not: African American Lesbians and Gays in Black Churches. (linked by wondersheep)
Cristy C. Road, Bad Habits: A Love Story. (recommended by heliophobe)
Jan Wong, Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now. (recommended by heliophobe)

Feel free to suggest things to be added to this list! And check out 50books_poc for more great recommendations.

ETA: This post originally appeared December 31, 2009. My goal at the time of both reading and reviewing all these books was in retrospect impossible during law school. Bumping this post this date as a recommended reading reminder: all books with links I've read, unlinked still unread. Addenda & alternate recommendations will continue to appear below & are encouraged in comments.
If you haven’t been following the slowly-building SF/F fandom and genre dustup for the past few months, what follows may be of limited use to you, even if you follow the links.  Fair warning.

Natalie Luhrs did a really good job of explaining how John C. Wright is Lying About Everything in order to make the bigotry of those he champions appear to be liberal persecution of wrongthink instead.  Go read Natalie: she has the facts straight and presents them concisely.  Go read Foz Meadows fact checking all of Wright's assertions and finding considerable fault with their truthfulness.  Go read Wright’s most recent article, if you feel like doing that to yourself: I'm not going to up his Google rank by linking to it, but following either of the links above will get you there in one additional click.

But I want to talk to John C. Wright for a minute on a different subject – a couple of different subjects, actually.  Temporal law, temporal custom, and, briefly, the moral law which Wright espouses.  So here goes.

In your deception-laden polemic, Mr. Wright, you said something I want to address separate from the remainder of your revisionist history, worthy of the Ministry of Truth itself.

Quoth Wright:

"There are two ways for a sheep to be lead: one is by fear of the sheepdog, and the other is by following the sheep in front of him. The first is law and the second is custom.

Law is enforced by solemn ceremonies, oaths, judges in robes, policemen in uniforms, hangmen in hoods. It is objective, official, overt, masculine, and direct.

Custom is encouraged by countless social cues and expressions of peer pressure. It is subjective, informal, covert, feminine, and indirect."

Oh, John C. Wright.  Not being content to be wrong about your area of supposed expertise, you had to go be wrong about mine.  (Not touching the fact that you’re the professional author who doesn’t seem to know the difference between “lead” and “led” well enough to catch it in an article for publication. Nope.)

First of all, the attitude that law itself is “fear of the sheepdog” has merit only if you take the view that the purposes of justice are all exemplary and retributive.  There’s no room in the “fear of the sheepdog” model for government by consent of the governed, because the sheep don’t consent to be herded.  Yes, the thing that makes the government a unique actor in society is that it’s the one backed up by men with guns who can be authorized to shoot you in advance.  Then again, you demonstrate on a regular basis that your view of our constitutional government is a little bit out of plumb, given that you favorably repost articles on your blog in which advocating Keynesian economics (a subject on which I don’t have an opinion, to be frank) is asserted to be a violation of the First Amendment? Which…no, dear. No. That’s not how it works, I’m afraid.  Where is the fear of the sheepdog when we finalize adoptions? Where is the fear of the sheepdog when we do name changes? Where is the fear of the sheepdog when people enter into voluntary (i.e., not court-ordered and not mandated by contract) mediation and arbitration to resolve their differences?

But what I really take issue with is your view of the qualities of law and custom, because you sound like a Venutian trying to describe rainfall without ever experiencing it themself, only your ignorance is offensive rather than charming considering you have all the direct experience you need and are just willfully ignoring any facts that don't suit your preconceived notions.

 “Law is . . . objective, official, overt, masculine and direct.”  The hell you say.  Pardon me while I have an objective, official, overt and direct laugh at your expense, Mr. Wright.  It won’t be masculine, only because the sounds of bitter laughter that statement coaxes out of my tubes is distinctly a witch’s cackle.

Law is supposed to be impartial, which is not the same as “objective.”  Any lawyer who tells you law is objective is a liar.  (In truth, any lawyer who tells you law is impartial, rather than aspires to impartiality, is a liar too.)  For Pete’s sake, we decide Extremely Important Issues based on tests like “more likely than not” and “totality of the circumstances” and “reasonable person of like age and experience” and “qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.”  If you get out of your first semester of 1L year with the illusion that all law is objective, my guess is you’re not going to make it to your 2L year, since all of your required courses will teach you that certain things have both objective and subjective prongs and tests.

Law is official? Okay, admitted in part and denied in part.  It depends on how you’re defining law.  Of course statutes and case law are official, but they’re not the whole of the law.  Is legal scholarship, an important part of the body of the law, official? Not in any real sense, no. Plus there’s all the law out there that’s promulgated by an official body but doesn’t have legal effect (think the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or for that matter, the Declaration of Independence.  On a smaller scale, think about uniform acts and model codes, which may be identical to laws actually enacted by legislatures but themselves have no binding effect).  Lawyers had to devise a system by which we tell whether part of a legal decision is binding law (ratio decidendi) or instructive commentary that is still only opinion you can take or leave (obiter dicta).  Then we end up writing very official briefs and memoranda that play a role in even more official opinions of a court in which we debate whether a previous statement is law or not.  So very official.

This is where your officious pseudo-intellectual bullshit about my area of expertise really starts to break down.  Because let’s talk about “official” in the context of the practice of law and the administration of justice.  Some bailiffs call the court to order with statements included about God saving various entities (usually the country, the state and the court).  Some don’t.  Some judges like grown-ass lawyers to ask their permission to be excused at the conclusion of their business before the court, like little kids asking for the bathroom pass.  Some of them don’t.  Some courts require certain things that by the letter of the law can be done by simple filed notices to nonetheless be signed by the judge as orders (an extremely obnoxious practice for Reasons I won’t bore my readers with.)  Some judges get really pissed off if you speak to them when they’re not looking directly at you and will penalize you if you don’t fall into line.  Some judges impose more due process requirements on certain things than is actually required by law.  Male lawyers can wear striped ties to court but female lawyers shouldn’t wear stripy socks.  (The rules “permitting” women to wear pants in court have largely been struck, but there are still some courtrooms you go into knowing you’re better off in a skirt and blazer than a pants suit.)  None of this is “official.”  None of this is something you can learn by sitting down and reading books of “official” law promulgated by courts and legislatures and administrative bodies.  But heaven help you if you disregard it. Sounds like custom to me.

Law is overt? Again, admitted in part and denied in part.  Leaving aside the nebulous world of custom we navigate in order to practice law, plenty of shit the law does is not overt.  Just the entire idea of “constructive notice” relies on the idea that you can be placed on notice of something you can conclusively prove you never saw or were informed of.  Please tell me how printing notices in six point font in papers with a circulation in the low thousands is “overt.”  Please tell me how mandating that people have to speak in order to invoke their right to remain silent is “overt.” Please tell me how the secrecy of grand jury proceedings is overt. I’ll wait.

“Law is masculine” is one of those things that only makes sense if you’re talking about a language with gendered nouns, of which American English is not one.  “Masculine” and “feminine” applied to concepts or even behaviors are Humpty Dumpty words: they mean what you want them to mean based on what you want them to do for you at any given time.  I’m sure Wright disagrees with me: I’ve read his ranting on gender roles as necessary to moral society before and don’t care to dig it back up.  Law is traditionally male-dominated, sure, and that affects its customs.  But I forgot that the thesis is that law is discrete from custom.  Because that thesis is unsupportable, it’s easy to lose sight of it.

Law is direct? Oh, you sweet summer child.  You’d be positively adorable if you just stopped drawing on the walls in your own feces.  The law makes so many distinctions between direct and indirect things that your fallacious diametric is almost funny instead of sad.  Direct and indirect effects.  Direct and indirect control.  Direct and indirect parties.  Direct and indirect losses.

Of course, the reason you assert this nonsense so proudly, like a toddler saying LOOK WHAT I DREW and gesturing at a page full of green crayon scribbles, is that your view of the law is summed up by that sheepdog crap and the list of examples: solemn ceremonies, oaths, judges in robes, policemen in uniforms, hangmen in hoods.  All, of course, things with strong signifiers of HERE BE LAW.

But you can’t tell the D.A. on the train from the investment banker by their uniform of professional dress.  You can’t pick the IRS auditor out of a crowd, Mr. Wright, and yet the auditor is just as much an agent of the law as the police officer in the uniform (not to mention the undercover officer in baggy jeans and a t-shirt hiding the Kevlar).  The law uses confidential informants.  The law uses grand juries, as noted previously.  The law is present when two lawyers call each other to discuss settlement, whether they have their bar cards on their persons or not.  The law is present when the traffic court judge forgoes wearing a robe because it’s just one extra thing to bother with.  We don’t have hangmen in hoods any more, Mr. Wright: we have doctors who won’t identify themselves to the public injecting captives with drugs whose provenance and makeup the public has been deemed unworthy to know.

It’s okay to be wrong about things you don’t know anything about, Mr. Wright.  It’s less okay to declaim your pet theories about a thing when those pet theories don’t correspond to any known reality shared by the rest of us out here.  I could declare a whole bunch of diametrics in professional SF/F publishing and cherry-pick some nice examples to support my thesis.  But that wouldn’t be good enough for me to give my opinion in a court of law.  Because like you and my business, I don’t have sufficient “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education” to have an opinion about it that would be valuable to someone trying to evaluate competing claims about the nuts and bolts of your business.  What I don’t know about your business could fill a book.  Evidently, what you don’t know about mine would fill the entire Federal Register.

As an aside? I don’t think Dr. Harshaw would agree with your superficial assessment of law versus custom.  (Nor with your extensive ramblings on morals, given his comment on “Customs, morals – what’s the difference?” followed by his description of what you consider moral absolutes as “the psychotic taboos of our tribe.” In fact? You’re a textbook example of Harshaw’s definition of a prude: a person who believes “his own rules of propriety are natural laws.” Dr. Harshaw could admit that his own tastes were not the arbiters of what is correct for all people.  You cannot.)  Yeah, people who think like you don’t have a lock on allusions to Heinlein’s body of work, any more than you have exclusive license to make 1984 references.  You will, as they say, deal.

So let’s talk about custom, custom which you treat with such revulsion, and give it the same analysis as your description of law.

So custom is “is encouraged by countless social cues and expressions of peer pressure.”  Okay, perhaps. Certainly the way you tell you've violated custom is often by social cues, and we behave in certain ways because our friends do.  Let’s compare that to your talk of law, which is “enforced by solemn ceremonies, oaths, judges in robes, policemen in uniforms, hangmen in hoods.”

All the things you attribute to law, with the exception of ceremonies, involve violence or the threat of violence.  Oaths don’t have legal effect because you solemnly swear or affirm; they have legal effect because lying under oath is punishable by being taken away by men with guns.  Judges in robes are obeyed because of the men with guns and the hangmen with hoods.  Custom is sounding better all the time, to be honest: they may talk shit about you, but they can't lock you up.

When did social cues become a bad thing, John C. Wright? I’m not arguing that custom is never oppressive: it can be.  Likewise, peer pressure.  But just as lots of bad things come out of law, lots of good things come out of custom.  Neither thing is all one way. Diametrics and false dichotomies don't tend to stand up to real life, where lines are blurry and we have a spectrum instead of a binary.

So custom is subjective? Sure is. As in law, as addressed supra.  Should it be otherwise? Should we live in one homogeneous mass monoculture in which all custom is objective and without nuance? First off, for someone who likes to make dire pronouncements about Orwellian futures, that’s kind of a fucked up goal, sir.  Custom is subjective because cultures differ, and because the right thing to do is often a matter of circumstances. It’s polite to wipe your feet before you come in the house.  No one is going to treat it as a massive breach of protocol if you forget to do this because you’re bleeding, or in danger, or it’s so dry outside your shoes aren’t dirty.  It’s polite to express gratitude, but we make exceptions for that when people are in extremis, too.  It’s rude to call someone after you know they’ll be in bed, but if you’re suffering or hurt or it’s an emergency, the same person who would be rightfully irritated if you called to talk about the latest facile screed from a science fiction writer will say “if you were in the hospital you didn’t have to wait until morning to call.”  You tend toward absolutism, Mr. Wright.  Custom can’t do that, nor should it.  (Even law doesn’t do that, most of the time: that’s why strict liability is disfavored and most offenses, civil or criminal, have defenses and mitigation by circumstances.  That’s why you can’t be held liable for breach of contract if performance is impossible and why you aren’t arrested for not showing up to answer a subpoena if the courts are closed due to weather. SUBJECTIVITY OH NOES.)

Custom is informal? Really? Tell that to people who spend mid-five figures on black tie weddings.  If custom is so damn informal, why are there entire reams of paper expended on etiquette guides that tell you everything from how to address the Pope to how to act at religious ceremonies with which you’re unfamiliar?  Some custom is informal.  Some is not.  Like the rest of your forced diametric, here, this doesn’t hold up to scrutiny in light of real life.

Custom is covert? Oh, puddin’. Not really.  Again, I don’t know if something that occupies entire sections of bookstores (not to mention countless textbooks, if we’re talking anthropology and sociology and such) can be considered covert.  Some things are “unwritten rules” but even the “unwritten rules” are usually actually written down somewhere.  Small sub-groups have custom that is covert to a degree, in that people will be too polite to tell you to your face that you’re being rude and someone who likes you will probably end up correcting you privately to avoid embarrassing you.  But tip lines on receipts and ushers asking which member of a couple invited you to their wedding and even “please remember to wash your hands before leaving the restroom” signs suggest that lots of customs aren’t covert at all.

Again, I’m not even going to address your gendering of law and custom, because for one it’s inane, and for two, masculinity and femininity are entirely subjective, contingent upon culture and sub-culture, and (which will piss you off) reductive categories that suggest a false binary.  If you want to support your superficial thesis by defining your terms…well, frankly I’ll probably ignore that, because you’re bad for my blood pressure, but at least there’d be something to address.  As it is, this is like me arguing with your assertion that the letter B is purple and smells like cake.  Maybe to you, but that’s not an objective experience others can address, now, is it?

I don’t want to repeat myself too much, but if you think custom is indirect, you must not get invited to too many parties, or at least not the kind that expect you to R.S.V.P.  That’s not really indirect, now, is it? What’s expected of you is clearly laid out.

Maybe I’m being unfair.  Maybe your context elucidates what appears to be nonsense.

Quoth Wright:

No one will arrest you if you don’t tip the waitress, but your friends will look at you askance and recoil as if you exude a mephitic odor. If a man offends the unwritten rules of custom, he does not meet the hangman, but he does meet the gossip, whose role in life, for good or ill, is to criticize deviance from the social norms. When the social norms are sane, this social role is useful.
When law becomes corrupt, you have a police state. When custom becomes corrupt, you have a tyranny of hogwash.

No, still nonsense.  Nonsense with a few grains of truth: no one will arrest you for not tipping.  However, people do still “meet the hangman” for offending custom – just not a legally authorized hangman.  We call that “lynching” and it never stopped happening in this country we share.  Nor is it the “gossip” who punishes deviation from custom – it’s anyone offended by a violation of the social contract.  Gossips tell tales and try to whip up scandals around perceived or actual violations of the social contract.  But the waitress who complains to her co-workers that some cranky guy with a “I Support Vox Day” t-shirt left her a libertarian-themed tip card instead of cash, she’s not gossiping about the jerk who stiffed her.  Everyone criticizes deviations from the social norms, whether it’s the person tailgating them, the person who doesn’t give up their seat for another person who has demonstrable difficulty standing, or the person who feels comfortable declaiming their bigotry to the entire world and hides from criticism by draping themselves in the flag and/or pointing at the cross.  That’s what makes them social norms – members of a society behaving in a certain predictable way.  Your framing of the people who note and react to social custom violations as “gossips” is telling: it has the flavor of folks who tell people being abused that they’re the ones at fault for making a fuss.

(As a side note, I don’t think all libertarians stiff waitstaff.  I think anyone who leaves this card is a jerk, though, since they obviously didn’t cut back on “discretionary spending” enough to not go eat somewhere with waitstaff whose wages are based on tips. OH NO, CRITICISM. SUCH SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES.  SO TYRANNY. VERY HOGWASH.)

Corrupt law isn’t what creates the police state, sir: the thing about the police state is that all the laws can be followed exactly as they are written, but they are unjust (which is not the same as corrupt).  There’s a long gradation of legal corruption before you get to the police state.  All police states may have corrupt legal systems, but all corrupt legal systems aren’t police states.  Likewise, custom you find corrupt? Isn’t tyranny.  People are not terrorizing you just because they criticize your bullshit.  It ain’t tyranny if the consequences are purely social, with no harm to your person or taking of your property.  (Hint, based on some of your other recent writings: people choosing to not buy your stuff is not actually stealing from you or taking your property, and your readers are also not your property to be taken.)  Can custom be oppressive? Sure.  Is it tyrannical?  No.  Tyranny isn’t “other people won’t let me do whatever I want whenever I want without criticism as long as I don’t break any laws.”  In fact, people with that attitude tend to be the worst petty tyrants as soon as they get any power over anyone else, because they think they’ve been personally wronged whenever someone notes that their behavior is not acceptable or causes discomfort.  Often with reference to the majesty of the law, as if the First Amendment means “no one is allowed to criticize the things I say.”  Incidentally, most abusers react horribly to criticism and try to convince their victims that they are the ones in the wrong because their criticism hurts the abuser’s feelings or restricts their freedom.  Funny how that keeps coming up.  Frankly, it's an insult to the victims of actual tyrants to claim that anything you don't like is tyranny.  To paraphrase the wonderful sassycrass, you sound like someone rushing past bleeding people in the E.R. to complain that no one's treating your sunburn.

(Incidentally, sassycrass has a book coming out for five shiny dollars: email ThisMermaidLife at gmail dot com if you like absolute hilarity and breathtaking honesty all in one neat package.)

This is how law and custom actually work in the society you and I live in, Mr. Wright. The law is my business. I eat, sleep and breathe it, to be frank.  I suck at work-life balance.  I read statutes and case law for fun and I spend roughly half my days in courtrooms.

I get up every weekday and go to work.  By law, they have to pay me.  By custom, they expect me to be in the office at 8:00 A.M., with a myriad of exceptions and no enforcement for individual instances.  I don’t punch a time clock.  If I work four hours late one night and roll in the next day an hour after the office opens, no one says a word to me about it.  By law, the stuff in the fridge is the property of the person who brought it to work.  By custom, if I’m hungry, I can eat some of my boss’ lunch meat as long as I don’t leave her without enough to make a sandwich, and if she has been out of the office and her leftovers have been sitting there long enough that they’re not edible, she’s not going to accuse me of civil conversion or criminal theft for tossing them before they really start to smell.

By law, I have to drive within the speed limit and with care and caution to avoid collisions on my way to the office.  By custom, I sometimes let people make difficult left turns when I have the legal right of way.  By law, I can tow anyone who’s parked in our reserved spaces.  By custom, unless we have enough people in office that those spaces need to be freed up immediately, I leave them a note reminding them not to park in marked spaces and giving them directions to the free garage in the event that all the unreserved spaces are full.

By law, the government can’t put me in jail or fine me for the things I say or fail to say.  By custom, I still politely greet my assistant and my supervisor and don’t use too many curse words or complain about a judge’s or attorney’s behavior when there are clients in the office to hear me, and I don’t call opposing counsel or their clients a liar to their faces or over the phone even if it’s demonstrably true and provable by documentary evidence.

Let’s say it’s a court day, 'cause odds are it is.  By law, I can be penalized if I’m not on time to answer the docket.  By custom, if I show up late with a reasonable excuse, call ahead to explain, or even tell another attorney that I have motions in two courtrooms and please answer the docket for me, I will have fulfilled my obligations and won’t be penalized.  By law, I have to not disrupt the courtroom.  By custom, I will use honorifics with the judge every time I address them, won’t call opposing counsel or witnesses by their first names in hearings even if we are best buddies outside it, will have informal settlement conferences with people not represented by attorneys if there’s any chance the case can be agreed upon, and even though the dress code stipulated by the local rules of practice doesn’t address it, I won’t wear brightly striped socks under my suit pants or stick a band sticker on my briefcase.  By law, it’s the court’s responsibility to arrange a translator if someone appears to not be able to participate in a hearing due to a language barrier.  By custom, if I know that’s the case in sufficient time before that hearing and that person doesn’t have their own lawyer, I’ll call the court myself and make sure they know what’s needed.  I won’t even be socially penalized for failure to do that, because it’s not my responsibility.  I will be socially rewarded for doing it, though, because my business before the court will be concluded faster, my client will be happier that I avoided delay by going the extra mile, and I’ll get a reputation with the judge and the court as a person who is proactive and responsible as well as respectful of the need for due process and mindful of judicial economy.

By law, once I’m outside that courtroom, I can go stand in the public square and rant about how my God tells me that everyone who doesn’t think as I do is doomed to hell and perdition.  I can street preach loudly and aggressively.  I can yell at people whose pants are too tight by my lights, whose religion or doctrine deviates from mine, whose legal choices I find intolerable.  By custom, and by common fucking sense, even people who agree with me to some degree may edge away from me if I become that aggressive about my views, because needless aggression rarely wins severe converts.  I can’t think of a single voluntary conversion story that came about because someone screamed in someone else’s face how they were going to hell, or ruining society or contributing to moral decay.  The few times Jesus lost His temper that we know about, the people He lost His temper at didn’t immediately come running having seen the error of their ways. Even on the rare occasion that Jesus talked about hellfire? The people He foretold that He would tell to depart upon His left hand into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels?  Were all people who failed to care for their fellow humans, even those who had broken the temporal laws and been imprisoned.  Not people who failed to declaim the moral decay caused by those fellow humans.

Now, Jesus didn’t say this next bit, but based on your very public and repeated claims to be a New Testament believing Christian, I’m sure you’re familiar with it.  By custom, I’ll quote from the King James, although I don’t find it the best translation.

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. – Rev. 21:8.

Growing up, you know what I heard people call this verse? Not the “murderers go to hell” verse.  Not the “fornicators go to hell” verse.  Not the “witches go to hell” verse.  Not the “people of different religions” go to hell verse.

Revelations 21:8 is the “liars go to hell” verse.

And you, sir, you have been fairly conclusively proven to be a liar when it suits you.  A simple comparison of your description of events and statements with the actual events and the actual statements, which are still documented for anyone to see, shows that it's you who has the wrong end of the stick.  Which takes me to I John 2:4, the verse that says whoever claims to know God but does not keep God’s commandments “is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

And the person you accept as the living God on Earth told you the greatest commandment He gave you was that you love one another.

Judgment belongs to God, so I’m not going to say that God will place you among the goats on the Judgment Day for lying about why your friends got kicked out of professional organizations or disinvited from conventions, for claiming they did or said one thing in hopes no one checks back to find the much worse things they said and did that actually motivated the consequences they experienced.  I don’t know that, and the God I serve is a merciful, loving God, so perhaps not.
What I know is this.  There’s no love in your philosophy, Mr. Wright.  For all your talk of “virtuous pagans,” you don’t seem to understand that the love of the God you claim is infinite, that judgment is His and not yours, that the time you spend reviling others for practices you find immoral based on suspect Biblical exegesis could be better spent uplifting those in physical distress, as you were commanded to do to obtain the kingdom of God.

You don’t understand the law I practice, and you don’t understand the God you claim to serve.  Perhaps it’s time for you to stick to talking about things you do understand, lest you make a fool out of yourself, take the consequences of your foolishness, and still blame those consequences on everyone but yourself.

I’m praying for you.  And I’m praying for the people you victimize with your lies, and your vision of a theocracy free of the love and mercy of God, and your casual hate.  Sadly, I doubt this letter will remove the necessity for me to keep praying.  But where there's life, there's hope.


2013 Rhyslings: Awesome/Not So Awesome News

bullshit wittgenstein
Peeking my head up from the practice of law with some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that my Memphis Lovecraftian poem, "Memphis Street Railway Co. v. Stratton: 1915", originally published at New Myths, was nominated for a 2013 Rhysling Award by some wonderful soul. (It also got some lovely praise from very talented poet and editor Samantha Henderson over at Rose Lemberg's website prior to nominations, for which I am also thankful.)

This is wonderful news, and I am very happy about it, and grateful for the nomination.

However, I am extremely displeased with the Science Fiction Poetry Association, which sponsors the Rhysling Award, and this year's Rhysling Anthology editor, John Mannone. Like several other poets, I never received a copy of a proof of the anthology to check my poem against the original. (Even if I had, SFPA provided a 24-hour turnaround time, which is completely unreasonable.) As a result, my poem (and those of other poets who did not receive proofs) are riddled with errors that could have been avoided had we been provided with proof copies and a reasonable time in which to respond to them.

In previous years, the Rhysling Awards have been announced at Readercon, which was last weekend. Now, after Readercon dropped the awards, the vote has been pushed off to August, and the anthologies just began arriving in the mail yesterday. Mr. Mannone had more time than any previous Rhysling chair to prepare an anthology, and did a worse job than any I have seen since joining SFPA. (He also chose to give suggested edits on previously published poems that had been nominated as-is, which is an insult as well as against the whole point of an awards anthology. Stories are not edited before being included in the Hugo or Nebula packet; poems should not be edited before being included in the Rhysling Anthology.)

Edit 7/25/2013: fibitz aka F.J. Bergmann has commented below and noted that some of the delay was due to illness on the part of Mr. Mannone. This somewhat tempers my irritation with him as editor, as it appears others did the majority of the work during which errors were introduced. I, however, reject Ms. Bergmann's statement that the issue with the poems comes because of nominees making errors in the text; Mr. Mannone received a copy of my poem directly from me when an error neither I nor New Myths had noticed became apparent after the nomination, and the noted error was corrected in the anthology, meaning the other errors had to have been introduced during the editing process.

Is it a world-shattering, unearthly injustice that my poem and the poems of others will not be seen as intended? No. But it does matter, and it is important. Given people's past history with the SFPA, an organization I vacillate over continuing my membership in every year due to past events, I don't expect a reprint, a retraction, or even an apology, sincere or no. That would be too much to expect, at this point, from an organization that seems to pride itself on ineptitude at every level.

Poems are meant to be read as they were written. That said, I encourage anyone who was thinking of purchasing the 2013 Rhysling Anthology not to do so, and to inform the SFPA that you are not doing so, and why. For those voting in the 2013 Rhysling Awards, you may read my poem as it was written, with its line breaks intact, at the above link to New Myths. I encourage you to look at the list of nominees and, where possible, read their poems at the original sources rather than relying on the SFPA's poorly proofed anthology. Lisa Bradley aka cafenowhere has made a post that directs you to the correct version of her poem "we come together we fall apart" in Stone Telling 7.

Edit 7/18/2013: Alexandra Seidel has joined me in urging people not to buy the 2013 Rhysling Anthology, given the errors.

I still don't know what I will do when the time comes around again to renew my SFPA membership. I don't read Star*Line because I don't find it to be a quality use of my time. I spend the money each year because I value being able to nominate and vote in the Rhysling Awards and, now, the Elgin Awards for poetry collections. But if I see no sign that the SFPA is turning itself around from an in-group of back-patters, unapologetic bigots, enablers of unapologetic bigots, and, apparently, complete incompetents to an actual professional organization whose professional publications look, you know, professional, I may take that $25 and spend it on poets next year, instead of SFPA.

Enjoy the poetry, y'all. Let me know what you think in comments.

Update 7/18/2013: SFPA President David C. Kopaska-Merkel has sent poets omitted from the proofing process a belated proof along with an apology, so that a corrected .PDF of the anthology can be sent to those voting on the Rhysling Award. Nothing can be done about the print edition, but at least one member of SFPA is showing that they care about the integrity of our work. I still believe people should not purchase the poorly proofed print edition, and that the apology should be made public, but in the interests of fairness, wanted to note that at least someone is acting professional in response to this error, given my admittedly harsh commentary about professionalism in the OP.

Update 8/14/2013: Due to some initiative being shown by David Lee Summers, the 2013 Rhysling Anthology files have been updated such that if you buy a new copy from Amazon, the errors will not appear. This, I appreciate. Denise Dumars calling myself and others "Philistines" (incredibly problematic and erroneous word choice, that) for suggesting that people should not buy the 2013 Anthology with errors, however, is less forgivable, so it's still up to you whether you should spend your money in that direction, given that some people within SFPA seem to feel that no one should state their issues publicly in their own space.

Second update 8/14/2013: It has come to my attention that the reprint of the anthology still contains errors in the poems of at least two poets, one of whom had portions of her poem excised because apparently downloading a font for non-English characters is too hard. So, while I appreciate Mr. Summers' effort, I am still comfortable advising against buying the anthology and reading poems at the original sources instead.

help out maevele, get a haiku.

mermaid yay
A friend of mine whose financial security took a serious hit when they ended an abusive relationship is in a real bind. If you follow maevele (icecreamsocialistslut on tumblr), you already know the basics. Their living situation is tenuous, they have kids, they owe back rent to the tune of several hundred dollars due to “child support shenanigans” on the part of the abuser.

My friend alexandraerin has already made an offer to the people of the internet: get maevele’s ChipIn funded, and she will utilize her superpower of eating very dry things without drinking on camera for the amusement of all.

Like AE, I have nothing to sell. However, I am a poet. I write mostly speculative poetry (sci-fi, fantasy and horror). I’ve appeared in several magazines, the recent feminist speculative poetry collection The Moment of Change, and I won last year’s Naked Girls Reading Literary Honors Award. And I want to help my friend maevele.

So here’s the deal. Donate $2 or more to the ChipIn, forward your paypal receipt to popelizbet at gmail dot com, and I will send you either a haiku (a proper one, with the seasonal reference and all) or a scifiku (like a haiku, but on a sci-fi/fantasy theme) — your choice. All of these will be new: I’m not relying on some secret backlogged stash of short poetry. If I ever submit the poem anywhere, I’ll dedicate it to you (first name only if you prefer) and let you know where it will appear. Just tell me along with your forwarded Paypal receipt whether you prefer a haiku or a scifiku and whether you’d like any future dedication to be your full name, your first name, or no dedication.

I will do my best to have everyone’s poetry to them no later than Tuesday, August 7. The ChipIn only lasts until the fourth, so time is of the essence. It’s already 41% 47% 58% funded — your donation will help push it over the top. We're only trying to raise a relatively small amount of money, but in a very short period of time.

If you can’t donate, please signal boost the offers — you have no idea who out there in the wilds of the web might like their very own haiku in exchange for the cost of a lottery ticket, or have a fascination with watching alexandraerin eat a spoonful of cinnamon, a tube of dry saltine crackers, and a bowl of dry Cap'n Crunch.

Thank you so much!

very exciting news

chronically groovy
Last Friday, I found out that I won the 2nd Annual Naked Girls Reading Literary Honors for my poem "Razor Hair Girls." thegreenyear and I gathered to watch the Honors Gala via Skype, after which an entire roomful of people in Chicago got to see my shock and surprise and listen to me stammer about the importance of poetry via electronic means.

Today, the Naked Girls Reading have posted an interview with me and the text of my winning poem at their website. The interview includes the answer to the burning question "Do you read naked?" among other interesting tidbits - plus new poem. Check it out!

I am so humbled to have received this honor as the emerging writer of the year and hope all of you will enjoy the poem. If it's your holiday weekend, enjoy that too. :) As always, tell me how you are in comments.
So, I have a guest story up this evening at my dear friend alexandraerin's serial novel, Tales of MU.

The idea for this short - a one-shot look at a first-year law class at AE's magical Magisterius University - came to me a year and a half ago, got mostly written a year ago and promptly forgotten about. I was going through cleaning up my file, found it, did the work that needed to be done to get it ready, and AE was kind enough to let me guest-blog while she took care of other business this weekend. I hope you enjoy it...and that you check out Tales of MU in the future. Alexandra is pretty goddamn talented, in addition to being my homie, so I'm honored to be allowed to play in her universe.

Also, Middle Tennessee-focused arts group Chapter 16 did a lovely write-up of my nomination for the Naked Girls Reading Literary Honors Award, so be sure to check that out.

On my last post, cielamara shared an awesome story in comments of some fiercely piratical Lost Girls [Scouts] inspired at camp last summer by s00j's magical Wendy Trilogy. Next summer we're teaching them the LGPA Alma Mater. Bet on it.

Had a lovely Friday night with some blues music and some bacon-wrapped shrimp. Now to do laundry and hang out with a pit bull. What are you doing with your weekend? Tell me in comments.
mermaid yay
So much has been going on and I am halfway through the semester and have NO TIME to do anything, but the amazeballs have reached critical mass and now I must linkspam.

My new poem Panikos is in this quarter's issue of Stone Telling. stonetellingmag is an amazing magazine, one I've wanted to submit to since I started publishing, and I am so excited to publish with rose_lemberg and shweta_narayan, both of whom are excellent poets and editors. Panikos puts the god Pan into modern Nashville and lets him run. I hope you enjoy it, and the wonderful audio by s00j, and the wonderful rest of the issue featuring tithenai and yhlee. Terri Windling loves this issue. I am over the moon.

Speaking of exciting news involving rose_lemberg, she has announced the table of contents for her Moments of Change anthology, a feminist speculative poetry anthology in which I will have two poems. This table of contents is a thing of gorgeous beauty, containing work from csecooney, shweta_narayan, tithenai, yhlee, catvalente and a roster of heavy-hitting others, including Theodora Goss and Ursula K. le Guin. I am blown away to be included, much less to have two pieces included (Down Cycles and The Sea Witch Talks Show Business). I'll let you know when the book is available for pre-order: it will be on sale in time for wiscon.

I also have the very exciting news that my poem "Razor Hair Girls" has been selected as one of five finalists for the Naked Girls Reading Literary Honors Award. (Links related to this award may be NSFW due to the site design.) You can check out excerpts from the finalists here. On November 18, a lovely Naked Girl will read my poem live in Chicago, IL, along with the other finalists, after which the winner will be announced. I'll keep you posted with more details on this event and the award as they arise.

Not to forget the darker side of mermaids, s00j has been getting up to fantasticalness with her new poem Hot Wet Mess. Then she and gingerdoss decided to get up to even more shenanigans and improv the thing as a talking blues. Did you know mermaids do the talking blues? Now you know. Go give it a listen.

s00j's poem appears in the October issue of Apex Magazine. One year ago catvalente published my first professional sale, Anything So Utterly Destroyed, the poem that would go on to be nominated for the Rhysling Award. This issue is Cat's last as editor of Apex, and it is great, featuring a science fiction love story by shadesong and, in addition to Hot Wet Mess, a dark and lovely poem by tithenai. The cover art has to be seen to be believed. Seriously, just go buy the issue. It's well worth the $3 you'll spend to see this thing laid out as a cohesive whole.

It has been an amazing first year for me, publishing, meeting so many fantastic poets and writers, stretching my writing in directions it's never gone before. I could not have done it without so many of the women already mentioned, without my awesome editor thegreenyear, without all of you. I'm filled with love and gratitude and hope and all those good hippie emotions.

Tell me how you are in comments. I miss you all.


mermaid yay
beloved of monsters and women made free

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