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gary gibson
Posted on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 11:48 am:   

I suspect this may be hoary old territory for some people, but the occasionally unfortunate relationship between the mainstream press and sf has been the subject of a lot of discussion between myself and some fellow writers here in Glasgow, particularly in relation to an article that appeared the other day in a local (and quite influential) broadsheet newspaper, 'The Herald'. As most of you will know, the 83rd World Convention will be held here (about five minutes walk from my house! Excellent) next year, and the organisers held a press conference to this effect just the other week.

The reason for concern over the subsequent reportage lies in what appears to be the outright maliciousness of the article (you can find it here).

Myself and some other glasgow writers got talking about this, and decided it would be worth throwing this open to anyone on NightShade who considers it worthy of discussion - which I think it is, considering this is a city that won't only be hosting an event that'll be the biggest convention of any kind glasgow will see in '05, but will also bring millions of pounds of revenue to local businesses, as well as raising money for charity. How on Earth do you deal with these people? Ignore them and refuse to respond, or go on the attack?

Al - if you're reading this - I feel I should leave it up to you to put up a post of your letter, if you like.
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JV
Posted on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 12:23 pm:   

Well, here is my email to the author.
Jeff

Dear Alison:

Part of your article seems but a gentle mockery of the readers and fans of SF, which is fine and all in good fun. But part of it seems--forgive me--somewhat malicious (perhaps unintentionally), and reveals a rather profound ignorance of the sophistication and intelligence of SF and Fantasy as a genre, and the corresponding level of its readers. In short, you're promulgating stereotypes that are three-quarters myth and don't in any way reflect the diversity of the convention.

Take me, for example. I'm an American author of fantasy in a magic realist and surrealist vein who will be attending and participating in the conference. I won't be dressing up in a costume and I won't be talking about Star Wars or Star Trek (harmless as those activities are).

You might remember that your country's own esteemed Alasdair Gray has written both SF and Fantasy, and I sincerely doubt that anyone imagines he goes around babbling about Daleks.

I hope that when the convention weekend arrives, you'll attend, and perhaps get a rather eye-opening view of what the genre is all about.

Sincerely,


Jeff VanderMeer
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JV
Posted on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 12:30 pm:   

Of course, this is a fool's gambit, because if she does attend the convention, chances are she'll run into a group of klingons or chewbaccas as soon as she walks in the door! LOL!

JeffV
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gary gibson
Posted on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 02:04 pm:   

<sigh> ... this is, indeed, the typical scenario upon inviting journalists to such events. Mind you, I do know sf-friendly journalists here in Scotland, particularly one who writes for The Scotsman (and is a member of Edinburgh's sf writer's group)

... I did suggest maybe sliding into a notorious Glasgow bar called The Saracen's Head and slipping someone fifty quid to make sure Ms. Rowat wakes up some unsuspecting morning to find a severed wookie head next to her in her bed? And perhaps a daggered note, reading: 'tomorrow, you sleep with the (sand)worms'.
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JV
Posted on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 02:09 pm:   

LOL! Excellent idea.

Jeff
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al duncan
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 02:02 am:   

Yeah, I find it hard to express how fucking furious I was with this thoughtless bitch. Below is just the letter to the Herald that I drafted as my immediate response to the paper. Since her personal email address seems to be on the article, I'm also drafting something aimed at her directly, giving a slightly more level-headed and reasoned critique in the hope that I can get it through to her that...

a) It's for fucking charity. And she's pretty much actively discouraging people from going.

b) Her sniping is every bit as spiteful and cruel as sneering at the fat kid at school. She should fucking well thank her lucky stars that even the most socially inept of fans live in a fantasy world of funny ears and silly uniforms rather than the Columbine that rages inside some the skulls of other social lepers.

So...

Dear Sirs,

Re: You Wouldn't Believe The Warp Factor.

It really is refreshing to see the journalistic rigour and razor-sharp intellect with which Alison Rowan so mercilessly and so wittily savages the world of Science Fiction fandom with her trite generalisations, cliched set of stock images and stereotyped characterisations. Clearly the banal and formulaic nature of her "Sci-Fi fans wear pointy ears" article is a cunning parody of the medium's own innately low-brow nature. Obviously her ignorance of the facts - that some people actually enjoy getting drunk and chatting about (shock! horror!) fantastic literature - is an aping of the detachment from reality that she mocks so well. Plainly her puerile obsession with media fans in silly costumes, and blithe indifference to the potential pleasures of reading the latest, say, J.G. Ballard, is an attempt to show just how moronic you can look if you see a genre solely in terms of film and television. Bravo, Ms. Rowan. I don't think I've ever seen such a brilliant demonstration of the stultifying effects of hackwork and the sad and pathetic individuals that revel in it. Flog that dead horse, I say. Bring out those straw dogs. I applaud your scathing wit.

Never mind. If Ms. Ally MacBeal - sorry Ms. Alison Rowan - is more at home with Eastenders and other great members of the modern canon of Realism she should by all means steer well clear of the SECC next August. She could stay home and read instead. I recommend Homer's Odyssey, Rabelais's Gargantua or Dante's Inferno. Perhaps even the first epic ever written - Gilgamesh. It is a bit "weird" though, I have to warn you. Or go for something more modern - more Modernist even - such as Alasdair Gray's Lanark. Local writer, Alison. Rather good, too. Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Stanislaw Lem? Borges? Kafka? But no; on second thoughts, best stick with one of the many middle-class, middle-England, mid-life crisis melodramas available in a Borders near you. Bridget Jones, perhaps. Don't worry, Alison, there's a movie of that too, so if you can't be bothered to read the book I'm sure you can still come up with some lazy, glib insults to throw around. You certainly don't want to bother your little head with any of that silly science fiction nonsense, like Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 or Orwell's 1984. They're clearly worthless and utterly irrelevant in your life. Sorry, Alison? 1984. You know… Room 101… Big Brother…

No, Alison, not the tv show.

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jeff ford
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 06:05 am:   

Gary: This is an important issue, generally in literature, but it seems especially on a local level for your town with the convention coming up. Great letters from Al and JeffV. In general, from the limited amount of travel I've done in Europe, it seemed that SF/F are more accepted as literature there. This seems to be a case of an ignorant toad looking to boost her status by acting superior. If she's a Scott, I think Al should drive her to York and drop her off there after dark. Wasn't that the town you guys were telling me had a certain law? Drop a line here and let us know what if any response the letters get.

Best,


Jeff
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al duncan
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 06:45 am:   

Hey Jeff,

I can't remember about York (it might have been one of the other guys who mentioned that) but I know the Isle of Man still has a mad "Scot-free" bylaw. Shoot one half a mile inland and get off Scot-free or something. But even though it's an island and I can't actually drive, you know, I'm willing to give it a go. Just strap her to the hood of the car, grin like a madman, and put the pedal to the metal... trees, walls and the Irish Sea notwithstanding.

As one of my writerly role models once said...

"I ain't gonna hurtcha, Wendy. I'm just gonna bash yer head in. Gonna bash it the fuck right in."
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jeff ford
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 07:01 am:   

Al: All hypothetical, of course, of course... I think "Trees, Walls, and the Irish Sea Notwithstanding" is a great title for a story.

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Liz
Posted on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 12:52 am:   

(This has been doing the rounds in the SFWA lounge, as well)

Every so often, an article like this appears, usually when the hack has been scouring the depths of what they are pleased to call their brain for a story and a few cheap laughs.

The last time I saw something like this was on a documentary some years ago, which visited a UK con (media) and focused in on 2 uniformed ST fans. "What do you do in real life?" the presenter asked, with full condescension mode on. "I'm a barrister," one of the fans replied, "And he's a high court judge."

OTOH, there was an article in - of all publications - the UK edition of Cosmopolitan some years ago, which featured real female fans, and its tone was approving and interested.
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al duncan
Posted on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 03:01 am:   

Another on the plus side:

http://news.scotsman.com/archive.cfm?id=896772004

200 words versus 900 and it actually gets a few *facts* across:

So how did they kick off the press conference? What's the big deal here? How large is *largest*? Where is it then? How many have there been? What's the official title? What do people call it for short? What's *this* year's con called? So what good is this for Glasgow? How many pros will be there? What type of pros? How long will it last? So there's awards? A competition? Glasgow School of Art, no less? Who's in charge?

Whereas Alison, dear Alison, even manages to get the first of her tawdry thimbleful of facts totally wrong. But, hey, I guess you could mistake "63rd" for "83rd", if you write yer notes in crayons on yer school jotter.
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al duncan
Posted on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 03:25 am:   

Oh and, yes. Hypothetical, Jeff. Absolutely! Totally 100% hypothetical.

After all, if I strapped her to a car (facing me, I reckon, so she can "read my lips, ya gleetguzzling hack. I hope you die.") and then drove into the Irish Sea, well, even if I made it safe ashore meself... it would be a terrible waste of a car.
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fur
Posted on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 02:01 pm:   

Have a bit of sympathy for the poor thing - she's patently in denial. All those loving descriptions of "james" in lyra, dwelling on the rubbery perfection of mail-order vulcan ears, and make-your-own lightsaber instructions; she probably spends her evenings watching Dr Who repeats in her closet.

- but I think Al hit the alison on the head with 'thoughtless'; she can't even object to sf/fantasy uniformly, or rationally. Nothing about lotr/Angel/Buffy/Spiderman/Matrix/Alias or any of the rest of it, she's spouting out of date prejudices about cliches that barely exist anymore because she doesn't have the ability to think. Why waste hatred, or a car (although if you're looking for a driver...), on that? You might as well hate a goldfish.
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gary gibson
Posted on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 03:52 pm:   

... if you have trouble checking out the scotsman article (I couldn't initially get it to load without doing the following), skip filling in the registration details, go to www.bugmenot.com and follow the instructions.
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gary gibson
Posted on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 04:21 pm:   

Annnd ... here we go again!

"The genre is obviously low-grade escapism written for simpleminded adults or, at best, clever kids. Never mind any claims its writers may make for legitimacy, no matter on what grounds or with what evidence. Simply look at the reams of crap flowing through the bookstores like so many Big Macs—Billions Served!—and the truth becomes obvious. Or just look at the book covers."
(from http://maisonneuve.org/blog/index.php?itemid=363)

Not in relation specifically to the discussion so far, seeing as it's from an article concerning a new biography of PKD rather than anything to do with Worldcons, but ... still!
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Lou Anders
Posted on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 05:43 pm:   

For all the good that it will do:

Alison,
I truly hope your article was written tongue in cheek,
because if your understanding of the genre that
produced The Time Machine, 1984, Brave New World,
Slaughterhouse Five, Dhalgren, and Oryx & Crake is
that limited, you are guilty of talking very loudly
about a subject you obviously know nothing about and
coming across as quite ignorant. There is a world of
difference between a gathering of serious literary
writers & their admirers and a Star Trek convention. I
think you might benefit from broadening your
perspective.

Best,
Lou Anders
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Anonymous
Posted on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 03:12 pm:   

You lot are really a bit simple. All the girl wants to do is go to the newspaper editor and say, "Look at all the lovely fuss I've caused. Gimme a rise".

Gary should know better. He's got people like that littered all over his family.
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anna din
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 04:04 am:   

is it just me or is she wearing a nurses unifom in her byline pic?
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anaesthesia
Posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 05:10 am:   

No, I think she's some sort of weird freak that likes to dress up as Bridget Jones. And to think she has the cheek to talk about anoraks, wearing that C&A blouse and dress-suit monstrosity!

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