How to Suppress Disabled Fans

how to suppress
With thanks to Joanna Russ. I am keeping the “she” pronouns as in Russ’s text, and also because it refers to the experiences of Mari Ness, Haddayr Copley-Woods, and Lee Martindale (in this I09 essay and interview), but this is applicable to people of all genders, and to all people who need access.


She didn’t ask for access/accommodation.

(But if it’s clear she did the deed. . .)

She asked for access, but she shouldn’t have. (It’s too expensive, too difficult, too fussy, conrunners are too busy.)

She asked for access, but look how she asked. (Too quietly, too loudly, too soon, too late, she was rude, too wishy-washy, too oblique, too pushy, she asked the wrong people, she did not write an essay about it, she wrote essays in all the wrong places, we did not see the links, she sent emails to the wrong people, we lost the emails, conrunners work very hard).

She asked for access, but if she wanted to get it… (she should have volunteered, she should have paid more money, she should have respected the conrunners).

She asked for access, but she isn’t really a participant like the other participants, and it wasn’t really asking.

She asked for access, but she does not really need it. (She’s not that disabled, it can’t be that bad, she’s just whining, she’s only doing this to get attention, her friends will help her, somebody else will help, she will sit on the ground with other panelists elevated, other panelists will sit on the ground with her)

She asked for it, but she’s an anomaly. (It’s too much bother, it’s too much to spend on just one person, she will not need it again, no other people need it.)

She asked for it BUT. . .


Comments are moderated. Depending on how heated this gets, I may close comments. Thanks for understanding.


#accessiblecons and Geek Social Fallacies

Earlier today, I had a series of tweets on accessibility and geek social fallacies under the #accessiblecons hashtag. I am putting my tweets in a post with some additional links and edits.


I have thoughts about #AccessibleCons and Geek Social Fallacies. There’s been a lot of talk about Geek Social Fallacies in the last few years in the context of geek communities and the social repercussions of abuse. We talked about how abuse is glossed over or minimized, sometimes for many years or even decades, because of Geek Social Fallacies 1 and 2: “ostracizers are evil” and “friends accept me as I am.”

Ater some years in fandom, I get this feeling that many – most? – geeks are secretly proud of Geek Social Fallacies. Many, most of us have been bullied and/or excluded. It feels wrong to exclude others, when we are afraid in turn to be excluded.

Except those Geek Social Fallacies only seem to apply to certain people. They do not not SEEM to apply to disabled fans.

Con after con after con, conversation after conversation, geeks ostracize disabled and neuroatypical geeks.”Friends accept me as I am,” except for that geek in a wheelchair who keeps being invited to panels, but is without a ramp for YEARS. And it’s never, ever “friends accept me as I am”, it’s “your access is too expensive”, “we did not know,” “it’s your fault.” Disabled fans give up on the field and leave, while serial sexual harassers will have friends who accept them as they are, defend them, claim they were misunderstood.

And let’s not pretend that it’s only the disabled and neuroatypical fans who are excluded from Geek Social Fallacies.”Friends accept me as I am” unless you are [insert marginalization here], then Geek Social Fallacies will not apply to you.Then you are too costly, too fussy, too loud, too touchy, too sensitive, then you harsh the squee, then you are erased.

Why is it that calling out serial sexual abusers AND at the same time getting Mari a ramp BOTH harsh the squee? “Ostracizers are evil?” Then why do we need to have the conversation about the appalling lack of accessibility at many major cons over and over and over for years?

“Geek Social Fallacies” are in themselves a fallacy. There are many people – not just the disabled -pushed away from fandom.

It’s not expensive to get a ramp in the US with pre-planning. Most hotels have them ready because they are ADA-compliant. If you invite a person in a wheelchair to speak at a con, and there is no ramp, you ostracized them. Own it.

It’s not because it’s too difficult, too expensive, it’s not because the fan did not ask nicely or loudly or politely enough. It’s because you did NOT accept them as they are. It’s because you ostracized them. Will you own it?

Year after year, I see defensiveness. I see the same arguments repeat. It’s too pricey. It’s the disabled person’s fault. Where are our Geek Social Fallacies when it comes to access? Can we as a community stop ostracizing disabled fans already?

As Lev Mirov (@levmirov) effectively summarized, it’s “come as you are” unless you are disabled, then it’s “don’t come.” We need to fix this.

Thank you for reading.

If you are a conrunner, please consider before commenting here with more defensiveness. Thanks.

Ranra’s Unbalancing

My Birdverse poem “Ranra’s Unbalancing” is up at Strange Horizons. It’s about a ruler trying to save her people from disaster; also about quince seeds.

For those following Birdverse, Ranra is the mythic matriarch of the Ranravan/Kekeri family (who appear in Geometries of Belonging and in my older novelette Held Close in Syllables of Light). It’s something of a theme in my Birdverse work that Ranra’s descendants think about her story, each in different ways. “Ranra’s Unbalancing” is in Ranra’s own voice.

I put a lot into the reading of it, too – the mp3 is available as a part of the November poetry podcast, with readings of other poems by Octavia Cade, Lev Mirov, and Alice Fanchiang.

The traditional song quoted in my poem is “The New York Trader”. I really like this version of it by Kadril.

This poem would not have been possible without the support of my Patreon backers. This year, Patreon support allowed me to write many Birdverse pieces that I would not have otherwise written. If you like my work, I hope you consider supporting me.

Two in-depth reviews of “Geometries…”, and a bonus!


My Birdverse novelette “Geometries of Belonging” has been reviewed  by Ada Hoffmann for her Autistic Book Party series and by Paige Kimble for their Unmonstering series. These are both in-depth, thoughtful engagements with the story and especially with the story’s focus on  disability,  neuroatypicality, and mental illness. I am extremely grateful to these and other reviewers who truly get this story and what it is doing, for whom it works not just a s a piece of fantasy writing but as a commentary on the lives we live.

From Ada Hoffmann’s review:

In “Geometries”, Healer Parét, the protagonist, is a mind-healer who can magically cure people of all sorts of mental ailments. But Parét’s cures are imperfect, and impermanent, and often have to be repeated – and, most importantly, Parét never heals without the patient’s consent.

This gets Parét into trouble when he meets a genderqueer autistic teenager named Dedéi – a patient whose parents and grandparents want a cure (both for their gender and for their neurotype), but who desperately and emphatically does not want to be cured, and is capable of saying so, loudly and repeatedly.

Approximately zero story time is spent on the decision of whether to perform or not perform a cure. It is obvious to Dedéi that they do not want to be cured, and it is obvious to Parét that he will not perform mind-healing on a patient like Dedéi who does not want it. The conflict in the story comes, not from agonizing over what it would be appropriate to do with Dedéi, but from the fallout and social consequences of Dedéi and Parét both sticking to their principles.

From Paige Kimble’s review:

Rose is also in conversation here with the Miracle Cure narrative in SFF, the remaking of disabled characters to fit into the normal box.  But the truth of it, their own knowledge of this experience and their own feelings that are simpatico with mine and so many others’…that is what really makes ‘Geometries’ sing (like bird song, perhaps) for me.

Thank you, Ada and Paige, for your thoughts. It is a thrill that my Birdverse work continues to resonate.

As a bonus, Charles Payseur pairs “Geometries of Belonging” with mulled wine on The Monthly Round at Nerds of a Feather:

A story about age and consent, about power and choice, about strength and healing, “Geometries of Belonging” by Rose Lemberg is a mulled wine, a drink best served hot with a dense rush of flavors and a comfort for cold autumn nights.

If you enjoyed my Birdverse work, please consider supporting it on Patreon.

Story sale to Uncanny Magazine

I’ve signed the contract and I can announce that my new Birdverse short story, “The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar,” will appear in Uncanny Magazine. It’s the happiest story I wrote since… hm. It might just be the happiest story I’ve ever written, period.

It’s about two artists and their art and a very great distance that separates them, and it’s about sand and jewels and glass, and I am very happy to be able to share it with you soon.

Thank you, Lynne and Michael!

More Birdverse reviews

A.C. Wise highlights my work and “Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds” in particular as a part of her Non-Binary Authors to Read feature:

It is a story rich in imagery and sensory detail. It is a story about magic – who is allowed to use it, and what kind are they allowed to use. It is a story about language – who is allowed to speak, and what happens if they cannot. It is a story about love – what would you do for its sake, how far would you travel, what would you give up and leave behind. And it is a story about self – coming to know who you are, and seeing others more clearly in the process. Lemberg also uses the tale to explore gender in fascinating ways….[The story] presents the notion of gender as something both rigid and fluid, each binary choice coming with its own weight. As mentioned before, it’s soaked in sensory detail, transporting the reader to the world of the tale. Overall, it’s lovely on many levels and a wonderful starting place for Lemberg’s work.

“Geometries of Belonging” is now on the Tiptree Recommendations list, along with “Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds.” Thank you very much, anonymous recommender!

Tangent Online review of “Geometries…”:

…Lemberg overlays strong themes of consent and identity with enjoyably complex characters and setting, deftly introducing each element in its proper time. A surreal magic system reflects on the characters’ diverse personalities while providing a sense of otherness.

Charles Payseur reviews my worldbuilding poem, “Three Principles of Strong Building,” as a part of his Strange Horizons roundup:

Ah, something to hold me over a little while longer while waiting for the next Birdverse story to read. This poem sheds some light on the system of magic created in the stories and also just does a fine job examining the relationship between the land, the individual, and the creations of the individual. […] The poem itself seems part of some larger text, an instructional one designed to inform the reader of the relationship between land and mind, mind and building, land and building. Triangles all, balanced and balancing, and damn I want more stories now.

I’m working on it, Charles!!!

Patreon updates!

I’ve switched my Patreon to monthly payments. The previous per-creation arrangement was not really working for me, as I ended up constantly worrying whether new pieces were worth charging for, and in the end, nothing felt quite worthy of posting for pay. The monthly payments feel liberating. They also give patrons more predictability – you know what you will be charged each month, regardless of how often I post.

Which is to say, you can support my Patreon with as little as $1 a month to gain access to snippets, worldbuilding, poetry, drawings, and more. Support is encouraging and allows me to continue creating.

I’m posting a new Birdverse poem today. I hope you will consider supporting my work. And a very big thank you to my existing patrons!

“The Shapes of Us, Translucent to your Eye”

When the Unlikely Academia call came out, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to write anything at all. I’m not very good at writing for specific calls. But then I read Amal El-Mohtar’s story Pockets, and I sat down and this story came out of me.

The Shapes of us, Translucent to your Eye” is a story told from a point of view of a junior professor of color who is also an immigrant, inspired by Warda from Amal’s story.

Here’s a review from Charles Payseur, who is speedy and wonderful:

This is an amazing way to close out the issue, with the shortest story so far. In it, Warda is a university professor at a time when being a university professor is kind of one of the worst things to be. Having seen the harrowing that higher education, that education in general has seen in my own state, I can imagine that elsewhere the story is similar. […] Warda’s struggles to fight against, to rise despite, is an inspiring gesture, inspiring because it flies in the face of those who would say that it’s not enough, that why bother if it can’t fix anything. When really the battle is lost if you’re taking life pass/fail. It’s not about the grade but the knowledge, the power that language holds, the power that education and fellowship holds. (read the full review here).

It’s a very short story, and I hope you give it a read.

Julia August’s story in the same issue, “Soteriology and Stephen Greenwood,” is a highly enjoyable lighter take on Unlikely Academia – recommended.

“Geometries of Belonging” reviewed

My new Birdverse novelette “Geometries of Belonging” has been well-received so far. As I wrote before, this is a painful and hopeful story for me; I guess it’s just generally emotionally fraught to be showing a close PoV of someone who is so conflicted, someone who has so often been on the receiving end of judgment. It’s good to see the positive reactions – through reviews, tweets, and recommendations.

Charles Payseur at Quick Sip Reviews writes,

“… This is the second story I’ve read in this setting, and this one only gets more complicated, more rich and more fleshed out. It follows Parét, who is a healer of the mind, a man with power but with a deep sense of shame, of guilt, of worthlessness. […] There is so much good here. So much good that I can’t hope to capture it all in this review, but the landscape is so solid, and the setting is magic and raw and Parét is an amazing character to capture it all, to have to examine those things he doesn’t want to. For all that he’s a passive character, a submissive character, he is alive and vibrant and I want more of this. All the more of this, please. Yes. For now, I will have to content myself with waiting for more stories set in this world to come out.” (read the full review here)

Liz Bourke at / Sleeps with Monsters writes:

Rose Lemberg’s “Geometries of Belonging” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 1st October 2015) is a prickly, complex sort of story. Its main character, Parét, is a healer of minds, a person with very low self-esteem of their own, who is also in a committed relationship with an important politician. […] Parét ends up in a complicated pickle when the family of one of their lover’s political rivals wants them to “cure” a child—an autistic child—of the family into being a proper granddaughter, rather than the person they really are. The prose is blunt and powerful, the narrative compelling, and the worldbuilding both deep and lightly-sketched, lending an impression of a full world while only touching on what is immediately important.

It is a very enjoyable read, and I thoroughly recommend it.
(read the full review here)

Some kind person added it to the Hugo 2015 nominees wiki – thank you!!

Thank you very much, Charles and Liz, and everybody who has read and recommended the story so far.

Oh, and another one of my Birdverse novelettes, “Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds,” is in the Tiptree recommendation list. Thank you, mysterious recommender!

Birdverse at Strange Horizons

The Strange Horizons fund drive has reached $11,000, and that means that my Birdverse worldbuilding poem, “Three Principles of Strong Building,” is up in the bonus issue – together with Shweta Narayan’s “Nettle-Stung” and “B’resheet” by Julia Burns Liberman.

Nettle-Stung” is illustrated by the poet. I love this so much.

Strange Horizons: the First Fifteen Years

If you donate $10 or more, you will get an eBook copy of “Strange Horizons: The First Fifteen Years“, which includes my epic queer poem “Between the Mountain and the Moon.”

Also, watch this space for more fundraising goodies very soon.

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Rose Lemberg is a queer immigrant from Eastern Europe and Israel. Her work has appeared in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Unlikely Story, Uncanny, and other venues. Rose co-edits Stone Telling, a magazine of boundary-crossing poetry, with Shweta Narayan. She is currently editing a new fiction anthology, An Alphabet of Embers. For a quick taste of Rose's writing, try the Sampler. You can support her work on Patreon.

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