Monday, April 18, 2016


I have a story in a feminist anthology titled Sisters of the Revolution, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. It came out in June of 2015. The idea for the anthology came from Jef Smith, an anarchist and very sweet guy who handled the PM Press table at Wiscon every year. He did a kickstarter to raise money for the book, hired the VanderMeers to edit and got PM Press -- an anarchist publisher in the Bay Area -- to bring the book out. Jef had chronic health problems and died recently, way too young. I think of the book as a memorial to him.

This brings us to a review of my story, "The Grammarian's Five Daughters," which came out in Jonathan McCalmont's blog Ruthless Culture. I don't know how he liked the anthology in general, since I did not read past his review of my story. He really didn't like it.

I'm not going to defend my story, except to say it's a fable or fairy tale about parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and prepositions.

Instead, I am going to list the things McCalmont said he didn't like in the review. All of these are apparently connected to my story in some way, though I am not always sure how.

1. He doesn't like the VanderMeers as editors.

2. He doesn't like deconstructed fairy tales. (I don't entirely understand this, since I don't really know what deconstructed means, though I checked several online dictionaries.)

3. He doesn't like stories about the magical power of stories.

4. He doesn't like creative writing programs.

5. He doesn't like the term 'mundane' and the slogan 'fans are slans,' both of which (according to him) are derived from the A. E. van Vogt novel Slan, serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in 1940. (The slogan clearly comes from the novel. I am less sure about 'mundanes' and 'mundanians.')

6. He doesn't seem to like science fiction fandom much.

7. He doesn't like books that flatter the readers or fiction that tells ordinary people they are special. (I would argue here. I think ordinary people are as special as anyone, and fiction should always say that all people are important. The culture all too often tells folk they are third rate and deserve the crap they get. Flattering the reader is another question. I would probably be against that.)

8. He doesn't like stories that say authors are special because they tell stories.

9. He doesn't like adverbs.

10. He seems to have problems with language, literacy and literature, which he sees as tools of capitalism and imperialism. (Yes, they can be. They can also be tools used in the struggle against capitalism and imperialism. I'm not willing to give them up.)

11. He doesn't like capitalism.

12. He doesn't like imperialism.

13. He seems to have problems with SFF feminism.

14. He doesn't like fantasy.

I feel like the person who handed Mr. Creosote the fatal after-dinner mint.


Patrick reminds me often that I can't let go of things that upset me. He is right. However -- and this is an example -- two things about the review really angered me. The reviewer accused me of defending capitalism and imperialism. No. Really no. And the reviewer kept saying my story was about stories and story-making. NO. It's about parts of speech. In particular, it's about prepositions. Grammar is not literature.


Blogger delagar said...

Having read his review, I can't help believing he read some other story -- not the one you wrote.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

It's an odd review. All I can think is -- something set him off, either my story or something else. Like Mr. Creosote, he blew up.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Therem said...

I read McAlmont's review when you linked it yesterday. It seemed like the product of dyspepsia. Perhaps related, I just laughed uproariously at this sentence in your post: "I feel like the person who handed Mr. Creosote the fatal after-dinner mint." :-)

6:37 PM  

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