A science fiction story that repurposed the transphobic meme “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” as its title has been removed from the magazine Clarkesworld following a “barrage of attacks” on its transgender author.
Isabel Fall’s story, which was published in Clarkesworld earlier this week and quickly went viral, opens as the narrator describes how they “sexually identify as an attack helicopter”. “I decided that I was done with womanhood, over what womanhood could do for me; I wanted to be something furiously new,” Fall writes. “To the people who say a woman would’ve refused to do what I do, I say – Isn’t that the point?”
Some readers felt the story was transphobic, with some accusing Fall of being a troll. There was also a raft of positive reactions from writers including Carmen Maria Machado and Phoebe North, who wrote an essay praising the story: “Thank you for making me feel seen and heard. We don’t get a lot of ourselves in fiction. We often only get scraps. This was more than that. A mirror.” However, due to the criticism, Fall asked Clarkesworld to remove the story from the monthly science fiction and fantasy periodical.To read Flood's entire article, click HERE.
This second excerpt is from Conor Friedersdorf's 1-19-20 Atlantic article entitled "The Talented Victim Is Not the Point":
The National Book Award finalist Carmen Maria Machado declared herself “crushed” and “angry” at “a trans sf/f writer being excoriated for writing a messy, gorgeous, interesting story,” and defended “stories that are dangerous, weird, jagged, ambitious,” because “art that bites off more than it can chew” can variously “change your temperature, provoke your heart, crack open your brain.” Sometimes, “what seems, to you, to be a failed experiment is actually not a failed experiment at all, and has provided someone else with brain-cracking or heart-provoking or temperature-changing,” she continued, and sometimes that value “only becomes clear in retrospect.”
Needless to say—or maybe not—short stories that are ahead of their time will be lost if their early critics succeed in creating an artistic landscape where ostensibly flawed work is quickly disappeared.
The science-fiction writer M. L. Clark urged better modes of engagement. “When a work *unsettles* you, & you have misgivings about whether the message is clear or ‘correct,’ absolutely, you should talk about it! Name how it falls short for you!” he wrote. “But also: allow it to be broken for you w/o asserting that its jagged edges can *only* be used as a blade, NOT because we shouldn't resist poor messaging, but because *effective* resistance doesn't just take the form of vehement public outcry & denunciation.”
The Vox critic Emily VanDerWerff opined, “This is a story with a lot––maybe too much––on its mind, and to see it written off as agitprop is sad. Art that only celebrates the bravery of trans people, or our fortitude in the face of all we must endure to be ourselves, is fine. But art should embrace our weakness, our shame, and our doubt, too. To insist otherwise is its own kind of prejudice [...].”
The left, as distinct from the right, has long dominated high and low art. To its credit, it has used that position in part to tell humanizing stories about historically marginalized people that increase understanding and empathy. America is a more inclusive place as a result. But I don’t know that a salutary tradition running from the films of Sidney Poitier to Will and Grace to Transparent and beyond can endure if Millennial creators and succeeding generations allow their art to be policed by the most essentialist, intolerant voices; or if they are persuaded that deleting a piece of fiction is more ethical than discussing it in the open if anyone at all feels harmed by it; or that it is wrong to truthfully relate one’s own experiences if they are in tension with political orthodoxies.
As Wesley Morris observed in an October 2018 essay:
The controversy over “Attack Helicopter” is another case study suggesting that rejecting “art’s for art’s sake” in favor of “art for justice’s sake” doesn’t necessarily yield more justice. It may help no one, harm many, and impede the ability of artists to circulate work that makes us think, feel, grapple, empathize, and learn. Americans will always seek out, discuss, and be moved by art that is messy, tense, and chaotic, whether the censors of any moment like it or not. If liberals stop producing art like that, illiberals of all sorts will fill the breach.Art might not have the privilege of being art for art’s sake anymore … It has to be art for justice’s sake … So we wind up with safer art and discourse that provokes and disturbs and shocks less. It gives us culture whose artistic value has been replaced by moral judgment and leaves us with monocriticism. This might indeed be a kind of social justice. But it also robs us of what is messy and tense and chaotic and extrajudicial about art.
To read the rest of Friedersdorf's article, click HERE.
If you want to read Isabel Fall's story "I Sexually Identify as An Attack Helicopter," you can find it right HERE.
This third excerpt is from Jane Ridley's 1-16-20 New York Post article entitled "Missouri Librarians Could Be Jailed for Loaning ‘Age-inappropriate’ Books":
Librarians in Missouri who loan “age-inappropriate” materials to children could face jail time if a controversial proposed bill is passed.
They would be forced to pay a fine or spend up to a year in prison if they refuse to comply with the proposed new rules designed to protect kids from sexual content.
Republican state Rep. Ben Baker wants panels of parents to decide what content is suitable for minors, with any public libraries that ignore the panels’ edicts stripped of funding.
His proposal has been attacked by critics as “a shockingly transparent attempt to legalize book banning.”
“The main thing is, I want to be able to take my kids to a library and make sure they’re not gonna be exposed to something that is objectionable material,” Baker told local news station KOAM. “Unfortunately, there are some libraries in the state of Missouri that have done this, and that’s a problem.”
Titles that have come under fire in Missouri over the past decade include the award-winning “Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, which includes references to masturbation; Kurt Vonnegut’s profanity-laced “Slaughterhouse-Five“; and “Speak,” a young-adult novel by Laurie Halse Anderson about the rape of a teenager.
“Every reader and writer in the country should be horrified, absolutely horrified, at this bill,” James Tager, of the freedom of expression group PEN America, said in an interview with the Guardian.
Tager said the planned move is “clearly aimed at empowering small groups of parents to appoint themselves as censors over their state’s public libraries.”
He added that books containing sexual themes, LGBTQ characters and explorations of the impact of sexual assault could be “on the chopping board if this bill is passed.”
“The fact that a librarian could actually be imprisoned for following his or her conscience and refusing to block minors from access to a book, that tells you all you need to know about the suitability of this act within a democratic society,” said Tager, PEN’s deputy director of free-expression research and policy.
His sentiments were echoed by the Missouri Library Association, which said it was opposing the bill since it will “always stand against censorship and for the freedom to read.”To read Ridley's entire article, click HERE.
And now, a timely quote from the late Ray Bradbury....
"War begets war. Destruction begets destruction. On Earth, a century ago, in the year 2020 they outlawed our books. Oh, what a horrible thing--to destroy our literary creations that way! It summoned us out of--what? Death? The Beyond? I don't like abstract things. I don't know. I only know that our worlds and our creations called us and we tried to save them, and the only saving thing we could do was wait out the century here on Mars, hoping Earth might overweight itself with these scientists and their doubtings; but now they're coming to clean us out of here, us and our dark things, and all the alchemists, witches, vampires, and were-things that, one by one, retreated across space as science made inroads through every country on Earth and finally left no alternative at all but exodus."
--Edgar Allan Poe speaking to the ghosts of Charles Dickens and Ambrose Bierce in Ray Bradbury's short story "The Exiles" (collected in THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, 1951)