Star*Line is a predominantly SF poetry magazine…get over it

25 07 2009

This is intriguing.

In her review of the May/June 2009 issue of Star*Line, posted July 21, 2009, J. C. Runolfson states:

I should say up front that I’m not a huge fan of either sf poetry or fantasy poetry of the sword and sorcery persuasion, both of which are regular features in the pages of Star*Line. I much prefer mythic and folkloric-based poetry and horror poetry. I probably would not subscribe to Star*Line if it weren’t part of the SFPA membership package, and I often skim the poems in favor of the articles, short as most of them are.

Then three days later, in the comment section of this post by SFPA president Deborah P. Kolodji, Runolfson writes:

I am pondering possibilities for 2011. I don’t know where I’ll be then, but I have been giving serious thought to editorship, provided Marge would like a break at that point.–Jul. 24th, 2009 04:41 pm (UTC)

I think we can assume that by "Marge," Runolfson means Marge Simon, current editor of Star*Line.  I think we can further assume that Runolfson is eyeing the editorship of Star*Line at some future date.  Odd, given that she doesn’t like SF poetry, which is the kind of poetry that Suzette Haden Elgin, founder of the SFPA, sought to legitimize and promote all the way back in 1978.  In her essay "About Science Fiction Poetry," Elgin clearly states:

It seemed to me that the field of SF poetry badly needed rigor (the quality that makes hard SF hard), so that there’d be a way to stand up and argue for its literary value.

I noticed in Ms. Runolfson’s live journal profile that she seems to have been publishing her work in this field since about 2006.  I also notice on that list of "published works to date" an obvious lack of publications in Star*Line.  I am extremely curious as to why she wants to be editor of Star*Line.  She doesn’t like Star*Line.  She doesn’t publish in Star*Line.  She doesn’t like the type of poetry that Star*Line was originally intended to publish.

Am I missing something here?

I have been an off-and-on member of the SFPA, and contributor to Star*Line, for over twenty years.  I had been debating with myself about rejoining.  It is a matter of debate no longer.  I will be sending off my $21 as fast as I can write the check.  I might even FedEx overnight the damn thing.

Star*Line is and should remain a science and science fiction poetry magazine, if for no other reason than to respect its founder.  Same for the SFPA

If somebody wants to go start the mythic and folkloric-based poetry and horror poetry association (MAFBPAHPA), go for it.  Don’t try to remake SFPA, or Star*Line, into something that it is not, nor was ever intended to be.

Advertisements

Actions

Information

27 responses

25 07 2009
grayrose76

Scott, I strongly and emphatically disagree with you. It pains me to write this to you because I’ve known you for a while, it was you who encouraged me to submit my stuff. In fact, it was you who suggested (in early 2008) that I sent a poem to Star*line. Marge Simon accepted it. This was a fantastic/surrealist poem.
I sold four poems to Star*line total. Three were fantasy/surrealist pieces, and only my latest sale was an SF poem (a humorous/surrealist piece). It was also my first SF poetry sale. I am not an SF poet, as you very well know. And yet, I did not hear from Deborah Kolodji or Mike Allen, when they welcomed me into the society, that I should change my poetic themes because of Suzette Haden Elgin’s legacy, or because the acronym SFPA stands for Science Fiction Only.
I think we can assume that by “Marge,” Runolfson means Marge Simon, current editor of Star*Line. By their invitation, I get to talk to Marge, Mike, and Sam, rather than to Marge Simon, Mike Allen and Samantha Henderson. I assume that Jules, being in the field longer than I have, has gotten a similar invitation from Marge.
Jules is not being out of line at all by referring to Marge Simon as Marge. SFPA is not formal. You, however, are being impolite by referring to her as “Runolfson”. It would be appropriate if you were writing a review, but since you are expressing disagreement with her position, your choice of address is what is known in literature as impolite distancing. Just link to her username on LJ.
She doesn’t publish in Star*Line.
Oh yes she does. In fact, she recently sold them a poem.
If somebody wants to go start the mythic and folkloric-based poetry and horror poetry association (MAFBPAHPA), go for it. Don’t try to remake SFPA,
I am afraid that train has left the station. SFPA is not a SF-only organization, not even primarily SF. Mike Allen posts the breakdown of Rhysling award winners here: http://time-shark.livejournal.com/290248.html
As you can see for yourself, the membership is all-inclusive in its reading and voting preferences.
When you are suggesting that non-SF poets should leave and start a new organization rather than “change SFPA”, you are suggesting that some of our greatest talent leave this organization, including many Rhysling award winners.
For example, Amal El-Mohtar, who has not been publishing for 20 years, won the Rhysling award this year with her magical “Song for the Ancient City.” Amal reports that “Drew Morse, who tallied the results, said that it was the first time he’d seen a landslide vote in one poem’s favour, and described it as “almost unanimous,” if memory serves.” (here: http://tithenai.livejournal.com/220230.html). Let me also remind you that Amal and Jess run Goblin Fruit, a magazine that does not feature science fiction, and this has been generating much excitement (and Rhysling nominations), which tells you that some of its readers at least are active SFPA members. These editors, their poets, and their readers (myself included) would like the SFPA to reflect its non-SF membership in its name and its policies. Are you suggesting that all these people leave the organization?
That is not a very friendly sentiment, Scott.

25 07 2009
sa_kelly

“These editors, their poets, and their readers (myself included) would like the SFPA to reflect its non-SF membership in its name and its policies. Are you suggesting that all these people leave the organization?”
I want to make one thing sure above all others. I do not speak for the SFPA. That said, I believe that the SFPA should stand for what the SFPA founder intended. People who would like to move in some other direction should do so, rather than co-opt an artistic movement in-progress.
Science and Science Fiction poetry is a legitimate artistic movement, thanks to the efforts of a lot of people whom I have already named.
If you would like an artistic movement of your own, do the hard work.

26 07 2009
hooks_and_books

To imply that people who support other genres of speculative poetry outside of science fiction haven’t done the work to become not only included and accepted as authors amongst their peers, but amongst the greater speculative community at large is, quite frankly, insulting, especially considering the number of them (including past presidents of the SFPA) who have started magazines, presses, etc. in an effort to support speculative poetry of ALL genres.
The issue here isn’t one of co-opting, but one of inclusion vs. exclusion. Can the SFPA be considered an inclusionary environment and and inclusionary organization, encompassing growth and change, or should it stagnate as an exclusive organization that alienates members based on their preferred genre(s?) of choice? I think the past 20 years speak for themselves, and the SFPA has included and given safe haven to these other genres. It is not a matter of “should,” but what “is”. That being understood, Star*Line should represent that membership.

26 07 2009
upstart_crow

Hi there. I don’t want to dog pile on you, and I really am not trying to be rude when I say this, but: it seems to me that your suggestion would be a bit like turning time backwards. Science and SF poetry is still a legitimate movement, but over the years it has broadened to include fantasy and horror and a lot of work that combines these genres. For good or for ill, that’s where we’re at now. I don’t think this is co-opting, but the natural progression of a movement. I’m also not sure how drawing hard and fast lines between SF and science poetry and — I’m guessing fantasy and horror, here? — keeps any genre poetry vital. It seems to me that S*L has been accepting fantasy and horror poetry long before I began submitting in 2005, and suddenly saying, “nope, we’re only going to take science poetry and science fiction” … well, I mean, it seems like a step backwards, and stepping backwards really is impossible in art or literature.

25 07 2009
shweta_narayan

Am I missing something here?
Yes.

25 07 2009
sa_kelly

Shweta. Another friend that I have to lose for taking this position.
Thanks for reading ma’am. We can only guess at what you mean by “yes.”

25 07 2009
shweta_narayan

You asked a yes/no question.
And indeed, if you insist that the fantasists have no position in your group (even though we are currently members and you are not) then you will alienate fantasists. Similarly if you insult our friends without bothering to find out more about their positions. So it goes.
Nevertheless, I’m glad that, given you feel so strongly, you’re participating in the debate and not simply fuming about our participation, and I hope we can stay polite even if you want us out of your group.
I’ve responded to you here.

26 07 2009
sa_kelly

Shweta, I was a member back when you were in nappy’s, okay? I get the “you are not a member” argument; that is why I pushed it forward.
I don’t have a “group,” and I do not insist that the fantasists do anything. I don’t speak for Marge Simon, or the SFPA. I am voicing my own opinion,
Based on the links that I provided, in the post that we are commenting upon, I sense that a significant portion of speculative poets want to move away from what the SFPA has long stood for.
I’m all for it. Just don’t take Star*Line with you. Establish your own legacy.

26 07 2009
shweta_narayan

Ah yes, the “young lady” argument.
You’re right, Scott. You really have lost more than one friend over this. Not because of your opinion, but because of the arrogance, ad hominem attacks, and lack of accuracy with which you expressed that opinion.

26 07 2009
sa_kelly

Nothing “ad hominem” about it. Or arrogant, for that matter. I have made my point. You, and others, disagree. The attacks are not coming from my keyboard.

25 07 2009
dichroic

FYI, Suzette Haden Elgin is not exactly dead or unable to speak for herself; she’s very much alive and writing extensively as and, yes, writing a lot of science fictional poetry – which I think is mostly in her LJ and in an upcoming collection.
As I said in response to Rose’s post in spec_poetry, I’m an inclusionist myself. We’ve discussed the worry about low proportions of readers to writers; one way work on that is to include a wider variety, to draw in a wider variety of readers. I see no reason SFPA can’t stand for Speculative Fiction Poetry Association.

25 07 2009
hooks_and_books

Growth?
I’m seriously trying to figure out where this post is coming from. The SFPA, while it may have started focused solely on Science Fiction, has grown increasingly since 1978 to encompass not only poetry from the realm science fiction, but also fantasy, horror, mythic, even magical realism and other subgenres. The inkling for this inclusiveness could be seen by the 1979 Rhysling winner “Storybooks and Treasure Maps” by Steve Eng, which is clearly fantasy in scope, and not science fiction at all. Duane Ackerson’s “Fatalities,” which tied that year for the Short Poem category, is equally not science fiction, reading as magical realism instead.
The issue here is NOT whether or not Star*Line is Science Fiction Magazine or not: it clearly isn’t, as it publishes not just science fiction, but fantasy, horror and everything in between. Even the SFPA, on it’s homepage, defines Science Fiction poetry as “poetry with some element of speculation — usually science fiction, fantasy, or horror”. To limit the SFPA to only science fiction is to ignore 20 years of growth, expansion and inclusion. As with any artistic movement, inclusiveness tends to further growth and creativity as opposed to exclusiveness; I would certainly hope that the SFPA defined itself by its inclusiveness, not only in terms of members but also genres.

25 07 2009
grayrose76

Re: Growth?
Word.

26 07 2009
dichroic

Re: Growth?
There is also this, in ‘s own essay: “I wanted sf poetry first to prove that it could do the thing rigorously; after that, if it wanted to fly off into the never-nevers, it would at least be possible to point to the body of rigorous work and say, “When sf poets choose to, they can write like this; they’ve proved that, and now they have the right to break the rules.” ”
Maybe thirty years later, we’re entering stage 2. (You can argue pretty easily that poets have been breaking the rules forever, of course; but presumably SFPA can now point to thirty years’ worth of “rigorous” science fiction poetry as well; if that’s not enough of a body of work to bolster Elgin’s original point, nothing ever will be.) And if Elgin was right, then somewhere down the line I’d expect to see exactly what I am seeing now: some people aruging about whether it’s really time to move on, and others moving out in all directions (Goblin Fruit and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet seem like two prime examples).

26 07 2009
time_shark

Re: Growth?
Please repeat after me:

The SFPA has published and given awards to fantasy poetry since it was founded.

The SFPA has published and given awards to fantasy poetry since it was founded.

The SFPA has published and given awards to fantasy poetry since it was founded.

This misconception keeps sprouting again and again, no matter how many facts I spray it with.

26 07 2009
dichroic

Re: Growth?
I agree but…. just to do an intentions of the founders-style argument (though as I said elsewhere, is more than capable of speaking for herself anyway) it seems clear from her essay there that she *did* have an interest in providing a home and mouth for hard SF-poetry to speak through.
Where I differ from Scott and agree with you is that I don’t see that those words imply that that’s the *only* thing SFPA was meant to do at its origin. And I also don’t see that the original intentions are or should be a limit on what the organization and its publication do now anyway
(To revert to my intentions of the Founders metaphor, the US Constitution was originally intended to provide “universal” freedoms … to white male property owners.)

26 07 2009
time_shark

Re: Growth?
She did, and it ran aground immediately. See my latest post.

26 07 2009
time_shark

Star*Line is and should remain a science and science fiction poetry magazine

With all due respect — no it’s not. My first appearance in Star*Line, in 2001, was with a dark fantasy poem, “Saturn Devours His Children.” When I became aware of SFPA, David C. Kopaska-Merkel was the Star*Line editor. Since then there was Tim Pratt and now Marge Simon. I’ve sold fantasy and horror to all of them. How long has it been since you were a member?

Suzette Haden Elgin, founder of the SFPA, sought to legitimize and promote all the way back in 1978.

And that was 1978. This is 2009.
Suzette () is a wonderful person; her picture belongs beside the definition of awesome in the dictionary. But she hasn’t played an active role in SFPA since about 1981. Trust me, since then, the organization has evolved. Heck, the first time Rhysling Award was given to a fantasy poem was in 1979 (Steve Eng’s “Storybooks and Treasure Maps” is flat out fantasy, and the poem it tied with, Duane Ackerson’s “Fatalities,” is far too surreal to qualify as science fiction. And those who heard the 1979 long poem winner, Michael Bishop’s “For the Lady of a Physicist” read aloud at the Rhysling Award presentation this year, know that even that piece is not exactly typical hard sf.)
And double-heck: Suzette’s own Rhysling winner, “Rocky Road to Hoe,” 1988, is about a woman who can hear rocks speak. That ain’t sf.

26 07 2009
sa_kelly

You make some great points. However, I think that we are wandering a little far afield of the point(s) that I made in my original post.
There is (as evidenced by the links that I provided) a contigent of the Speculative Poetry community that wants to move in a different direction. Calling me crazy, or disparaging my ability to argue coherently, or abandoning me as a friend does not change this fact. It needs to be addressed.
Elsewhere, someone referred to me as a member of the “old guard.” I may well be, but clearly I do not speak for that group…if it even exists. As you may well have noticed, no one is jumping in to take my side of the issue. I speak only for myself, an obviously unpopular opinion.
But if I don’t say it, no one will. And it needs to be said.

26 07 2009
samhenderson

When I first saw this post I hadn’t time to respond – at least not appropriately – and now I see quite a few comments have been made. I’m going to try to articulate my original reaction, so I’m probably being repetitive here. Sorry about that.
As SFPA Treasurer, I will happily take your membership fee.
But I have to say that when you say that mythic, or folkloric, or fantasy poetry has no place in SFPA you are terribly wrong. It’s never been a “hard sf” poetry association only — witness such Rhyslings winners as Haldeman’s “Saul’s Death,” LeGuin’s “The Well of Bane,” Ford’s “Winter Solstice, Camelot Station.” Heck, Elgin’s “Rocky Road to Hoe,” which she parses (IIRC) in The Science Fiction Poetry Handbook is not sf-nal — it could even be classified as (horrors!) horror. To strike non sf-nal speculative poetry from parvenu of the SFPA would be wrong and terribly misguided, and divorce us from a field of exciting and worthwhile work. It would be as wrong as saying that sf-nal poetry is cold and inhumane and outdated.
I can’t speak for Ms. Elgin — although I feel she would disagree with you, and I feel the rigor she demands from the field includes non sf-nal speculative poetry — even if she DID intend the SFPA to embrace hard sf poems only, the organization’s moved beyond that. Our membership as well as the field has expanded — we have members who write only sf, only mythpunk, only scifiku, only fairy-tale retellings, and those who (like myself) write any combination of work that may be defined as speculative. Not to acknowledge this would be, for the organization, suicidal.

26 07 2009
time_shark

Huzzah and right on.

26 07 2009
upstart_crow

My thoughts exactly, Sam. 🙂

26 07 2009
sa_kelly

Thank you for sharing your thoughts here Sam. As the title of my post states, I feel that Star*Line is (and has historically been) “predominantly” SF. I never said that any type of poetry should be excluded, that is a position that was born out of the hysteria of a certain clique and was then attributed to me.
The thrust of this from the start is the alarming fact that someone who admits that they “are not a huge fan” of SF poetry might consider themselves a candidate for editor of Star*Line.
I’m afraid I don’t much care for that idea, and I said as much.

26 07 2009
samhenderson

Scott,you said “Star*Line is and should remain a science and science fiction poetry magazine, if for no other reason than to respect its founder. Same for the SFPA.” And you suggest that those with an interest in mythic/whatever poetry should form their own organization. That certainly sounds exclusionary to me, and I don’t think you should find it surprising that other people found it so.
I don’t by any means think the debate going on is “hysterical,” and I’ve got to tell you I find that a very triggery, loaded word. Without a ascribing this motivation to you, it’s been used historically to downplay the concerns and responses of women. I might ot agree with every point people are making in this debate/discussion, but I don’t see any of it as being uncontrolled emotion.
I think the concern with the editorship of Star*Line is not that the current editor is not doing a good job but that should one or the other type of speculative poetry take predominance in a publication that’s the organ of the organization. If that is true, then yes, conversely, someone who dislikes sf-nal poetry shouldn’t be the sole selector either. There are many options being discussed, including guest editors (something that happens now, with Bruce Boston editing a prose poem issue).

27 07 2009
dichroic

Interestingly, I’ve been reading this discussion as thoroughly as I can (it’s in enough places by now to be a bit confusing) and this post is the *only* place I can find that says SFPA should handle only any one type of poetry. Even in the original post quoted, says only that the balance should shift a bit, not that science fiction poetry should be kicked out. Obviously the balance *will* shift whenever any new editor takes over, to accord with that person’s biases; I think it’s to members’ credit that they’re discussing strategies to ameliorate that such as guest editors.
I’d also like to point out that mentioning that one might consider taking on the position is not either a surety or a hostile takeover.
And I’d like to second ‘s point about the word hysterical. The majority of people involved in tihs discussion have been women. There might be nothing wrong with a single use of the word, but that it is hard for any member outside a group to understand the weight of accumulated experience within that group – in this case, hard for a male to experience how many times women, collectively and singly, experience hearing our voices ignored or the importance of our opinions downgraded. It ought not to be so difficult – almost any human is part of *some* out-group and has had similar experiences to some degree – but I don’t think we as a species are very good at making that connection.
Thus, I regret to say, use of words like “hysterical” or “bitchy” tend to make many of us think the speaker is just being yet another troll or provocateur who will not listen to reasoned argument if it doesn’t come from people he already sees as allies. Another thread I’ve seen throughout this discussion is the frequent remark that the core issue of whether SFPA ought to privilege science fiction poetry really *is* a good discussion to be having at this time – so it would be sad to lose that discussion into a slapfight.

26 07 2009
sa_kelly

I would love it if Emily Gaskin was a guest editor one time.
Just sayin.

27 07 2009
tim_pratt

I published plenty of fantasy as well as SF poems when I edited Star*Line, and was not breaking with tradition by doing so.
I won the Rhysling with fantasy poetry, as have many others.
Star*Line is both a science fiction and fantasy magazine, and has been for a long time.
I mean no offense, but your premise, that Star*Line is predominantly an SF publication, is simply inaccurate. If you wish to start or support a pure science fiction poetry publication, that would certainly be interesting, but, as you say, “don’t try to remake SFPA, or Star*Line, into something that it is not.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: