Editorial confidentiality: a public statement

by Shweta Narayan and Rose Lemberg

Recently, an editor outed a pseudonymous writer using the writer’s private information available to him as an editor/publisher. The editor in question later claimed that he received permission from the author in question. The author in question has not, to our knowledge, made a public statement either confirming or denying that permission was given.*

Editors and publishers often have access to their submitters’ legal information, and more – the submitters’ wallet name, address, phone, etc. This one-directional access creates a power imbalance between editors and authors; trust in editorial discretion is necessary for submitters – all submitters, but especially those who may fear violence or other reprisals – to be able to work in this field.

As editors of Stone Telling magazine, we, Shweta Narayan and Rose Lemberg, believe that when editors publicly disclose such information, it erodes trust between editors and writers, and creates an atmosphere of suspicion and fear in the community. Even when permission is given, if a formerly pseudonymous author desires to make legal and other information publicly available, it is best done by someone other than an editor.

Certain information may need to be shared when disciplinary action is at stake, e.g. by conventions or legal authorities, but we feel that a public outing of writers by editors/publishers is problematic even in these cases.

As editors of Stone Telling magazine, we, Shweta Narayan and Rose Lemberg, pledge never to publicly reveal confidential information disclosed to us by submitters – this includes people whose work we choose to publish, and people whose work we choose not to publish. We have, previously, published work by pseudonymous authors while keeping strict confidentiality, and will continue to do so.

As an editor of An Alphabet of Embers and other anthologies, and as an editor of any future projects in fiction and poetry, I, Rose Lemberg, pledge never to publicly reveal confidential information disclosed to me by submitters – this includes people whose work I will choose to publish, and people whose work I will choose not to publish.

We call other editors in genre to join us in this pledge.

ETA from Shweta. How the specific author feels about being outed in this particular case is irrelevant to our post, because the bigger issue is editorial confidentiality/ethics, and we have been in contact with multiple authors who are frightened by this situation.

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* This entry is strictly about editorial process. Comments about the situation alluded in the first paragraph, as well as about specific personalities involved, will not be allowed to pass moderation.

Dualities

My mythic SFnal poem “Dualities” is up in Mythic Delirium.

The universal flow of prime numbers
unleashed from your/my sleeves
surrounds you/me in pillars of light. I/you never
understood math, you/I never
knew much about architecture, languages,
the processing of speech into data and storysong, that
wordshaping that anchored me/you in the ground. You/I navigate
between stars with motion/no motion
that exists outside timeflow and yet bound in it; the manifold, unfolding
along the pathways of the veins.
(read all of it at Mythic Delirium)

The science fictional parts of “Dualities” are set in the Boundless Universe, a very old universe of mine in which I have hardly written anything, but in which I suddenly have two other upcoming pieces: “Archival Testimony Fragments/Minersong“, a poem in Uncanny; and a short story, “Stalemate,” in Lackington’s.

“Dualities” is matched in the issue with Michele Bannister’s wonderful “The Ensouling of Spacecraft,” which I wholeheartedly recommend.

A poem sale

My seasonal poem “The law of germinating seeds” will appear in a future issue of Goblin Fruit. Very happy about this. I love Goblin Fruit.

“The law of germinating seeds” is a land-poem; there’s a small series of them now, together with “Landwork” (Goblin Fruit), “The rivers, the birchgroves, all the receding earth” (forthcoming at Strange Horizons) and “Earth Map” (forthcoming at Mythic Delirium). These poems are also indirectly connected to the Journeymaker Cycle, but do not feature the same characters.

“These are the roads…” sale

I am pleased to announce that I sold “These are the roads that loop and entwine me,” a short story/magic realist memoir about leaving the Soviet Union, to the inaugural issue of Bahamut. Bahamut is a new biannual print journal focusing on the progressive fringe in transnational literature. It is edited by Darin Bradley and Rima Abunasser, and it will be published by Resurrection House. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the first issue!

An Alphabet of Embers reading period, update

We’re about 2 weeks away from the end of the reading period for An Alphabet of Embers. We are reading until Sep 30th (inclusive of that day).

We’ve received many wonderful stories, and are hoping to receive many more before closing to submissions. Please do not be discouraged from submitting! You’ll never know whether something will fit unless you send it in for consideration.

A few things which are in the guidelines and which I’d like to reiterate:

1) I will consider up to two stories per author. If you have submitted one story already, you can submit another. Please do not submit more than two.

2) No simultaneous submissions. If you want to send your piece elsewhere, please withdraw it from AoE first.

3) Please check the guidelines before submitting!

RESPONSE TIMES: I will send all responses after the submissions window closes. I will respond to all submissions before the end of October.

Happy writing and submitting! This anthology will rock.

Announcing: Stone Telling 11, Reverberations

We are happy to announce the cover and lineup for the 11th issue of Stone Telling magazine, featuring all new-to-us voices. The issue is scheduled to go live in the next 2 weeks.

ST 11 cover

ST 11 cover

Poetry:

Isabel Yap, The Monkey Climbs the Tree, as the Turtle Watches
Valeria Rodríguez, Vertigo and Annihilation
Gillian Daniels, To the Creature
Shruti Iyer, Confluence (Triveni Sangam)
Michael Matheson, No Fixed Points In Space
Peg Duthie, Ballad Breath
Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas, Coyolxauhqui
Kythryne Aisling, Nothing Writes To Disk
Sara Norja, Kuura (extract from a Finnish-English dictionary)
Saira Ali, I do not know your ἀλφάβητος
Margarita Tenser, Labyrinth Soup
Ruth Jenkins, Scales
M Sereno, The Exile, i.

Review: Alex Dally MacFarlane reviews The Haunted Girl, by Lisa M. Bradley (Aqueduct Press, 2014).

Uncanny: sale and interview

I am pleased to announce that my poem “Archival testimony fragments/minersong” will appear in Uncanny. This is a SFnal poem, which is rare for me, and it is set in the same SFnal universe as another poem of mine, “Dualities, ” which is forthcoming in Mythic Delirium.  I am thrilled that “Archival testimony fragments/minersong” has found a home; it is the first poem I wrote as a part of An Alphabet of Embers Kickstarter poetry rewards.

Uncanny has also just published a mini-interview with me. I talk about languages, genderqueerness, and uncanny things that happened to me. Thank you, Michi Trota, for conducting the interview!

Two new sales

I’m happy to announce that my poem, “The Mikveh of Past Meanings,” will appear in Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History, edited by Claire Trévien and Gareth Prior. I am very excited about this project and cannot wait to see the final product.

I have also sold a SFnal short story, “Stalemate,” to Lackington’s for their Institutions issue. It’s been accepted a while ago, but it’s finally possible to announce! I love Lackington’s, and am very much looking forward to the fourth issue.

 

Let’s Talk about Category Structure and Oppression!

The essay mirrored below was written by Shweta Narayan. I mirror it here because it is important, insightful, and timely; it draws on Shweta’s research into cognitive science to help us understand how we process and are affected by cultural concepts (such as ‘bird’, ‘whiteness’). Comments should go to Shweta’s Livejournal entry or its Tumblr crosspost, but if these avenues are not accessible to you and you wish to comment, you are welcome to comment here.

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Originally posted by shweta_narayan at Let’s talk about category structure and oppression!

This has been a v long-brewing post; I’ve been meaning to make it, or something like it, since 2009. Many thanks to Rose Lemberg, Arachne Jericho, Sonya Taaffe (sovay), and Nathaniel J. Smith (elsmi) for helping me finally get it together in a coherent fashion. Any errors or problems are my doing, not theirs.

We tend to have this idea that categories, like “bird” or “food” (or like “human” or “white”, which is what this is all really about) are like solid boxes. Entities are either in them or out of them, with a clear and unchanging boundary, and everything inside is an unsorted & equal jumble, and everything outside ditto.

This notion gets strongly underscored by our cultures, so it can be hard to … er… unpack. But the fact is, cognitive categories aren’t actually like boxes. They have internal structure, and fuzzy boundaries (which people can draw in different places, and move depending on context), and these things matter hugely in how we think about and deal with oppression.

I’m going to start by talking about research on the category “bird”, because there’s been a lot of it (c.f. Eleanor Rosch‘s work in the 70s and early 80s, which kicked it off), and it’s pretty neutral so it’ll be easier/less triggery for people to think about the category structure.

So! The “bird” category has (somewhat culture specific) internal structure. For example, most Americans will agree that a robin is a better example of a bird than an albatross, and an albatross is a better bird than an ostrich. (And while bats are not birds, they are better birds than horses are, and horses are better birds than refrigerators are; so the gradations continue to some extent outside the category boundary).

This internal category structure has a number of cognitive effects/characteristics:

1) If you ask people to just write down as many birds as they can, they’ll list the more prototypical (category-central) ones first. More peripheral members of the category do not come to mind at first.

2) In reaction time tasks where people are asked to respond yes or no depending on whether or not a presented item is a bird, people will press yes faster, with fewer errors, for prototypical birds.

3) The structure that emerges from these two experimental measures matches the structure that emerges if you just ask people to rank birds in order of which ones are the “best” birds. Once you ask people to structure their categories they have really strong, consistent, and replicable intuitions about that structure.

4) People’s idea of similarity is asymmetric: they will, for example, say that albatrosses are more like robins than robins are like albatrosses.

5) People reason from the prototype to the whole category, but not the other way around. So, for example (according to experimental results), people reason that if all the robins on an island caught a disease, the ducks would catch it too; but not vice versa.

6) People’s use of linguistic hedges (really, sort of, technically, etc) is based on prototypicality too. So you can say an emu is technically a bird, but you can’t say a robin is technically a bird.

7) Over time, some characteristics can become more prototypical. Others can’t. The US adoption of the eagle as a standard animal has made it a more prototypical bird; and the hooked beak has become a more prototypical characteristic than it used to be. But yeah, eagles can still fly. An emu is never going to be a prototypical bird.

This is all pretty innocent when it comes to birds! But there is evidence that this sort of category structure is everywhere in human cognition (e.g. people will say 4 is a better even number than 1374.) Now, robins excluding emus from the bird-category, or claiming to understand how emu-ness works because of their experience as robins, might sound like the stuff comic strips are made of; the human dynamics are less funny, and far more harmful to their targets.

So, moving domains to socially relevant categories:

1) Able neurotypical not-fat not-poor straight cis white anglophone American Christian men are considered to be prototypical humans (prototype here = privileged default). So. If you ask people to think of famous people, they will think first of famous able neurotypical not-fat not-poor straight cis white anglophone American Christian men. And their exceptions will normally fall outside this prototype in only one or two ways.

This is how a lot of casual erasure happens. (btw it’s also what’s happening when editors “just happened to think of” a lot of poets/writers/artists who aren’t marginalized, and when poets/writers/artists “just happened to think of” prototypical characteristics to portray.)

2) If someone is not an able neurotypical not-fat not-poor straight cis white anglophone American Christian man, it will generally take people longer to categorize them as human. And the further they are from this prototype the longer it will take to make the judgment. Now, if people take that extra time, we’re probably good; but do they? When they sort resumes / run job interviews, when they’re trigger-happy cops, etc?

3) (horrific examples tw) Consider the structure of the category “American citizen”, which often gets treated as either-or. But the prototypical citizen is white, abled, and Christian (at least). Consider who counts: who gets protected under US law. And consider whose ID gets checked, who gets stop & frisked. Whose mass incarceration and state-sanctioned murder is business as usual. Who gets called “an illegal”, or told to “go back home”, regardless of their actual documentation. Who gets demands for their birth certificate once elected to high office. Whose languages are considered ok if spoken in the US, whose accent if they’re speaking English.

(Non-Americans, when we talk about American privilege, we need to understand that it does not apply equally to all people with US citizenship; it applies only to the people who get counted as “proper” Americans, according to this category structure & the context.)

3b) (Horrific example tw) Where you draw the category boundary can be person and culture specific. Which is okay with birds, you’ll only annoy scientists if you decide an emu isn’t a bird, but what about the category “human”. What about the people who decide that if you’re Black, or disabled, or a trans woman or all three, then you’ve fallen outside the human category and your murderer isn’t really a murderer? The murderers who call their Black victims “it”? The settler laws about Aboriginal Australian people, that only recently categorized them as human?

3c) This also applies for categories like whiteness. Who counts as white depends on who’s drawing the boundary, where, when, for what purposes. I think we do need to talk about which people’s whiteness is marginal/conditional and can be revoked by category-central white people. We can’t do that, however, without also talking about how people in these groups benefit from conditional/marginal whiteness, by mostly gaining white privilege while denying whiteness whenever questions of race/racism come up. I am suspicious of people who will only talk about how their whiteness is marginal when other people are talking about racism.

3d) Obviously I could go on, but consider also the category of English. Whose English counts as actual English? And within that, whose is proper English?

So yeah (3) tl;dr: This is how a lot of active casual bigotry happens.

4) Am albatross is more like a robin than a robin is like an albatross; a queer WOC is more like a cishet white man than a cishet white man is like a queer WOC. Which characters in stories count as “relatable”?

Everyone is expected to relate to a cis straight white anglophone American man. We’re all like them, they’re just (default, category-central) people after all! But they’re not like us. We’re the albatrosses, here. How can the poor robins be expected to relate to us? This is why they think it’s so ludicrous that they should be expected to read about marginalized characters (who are nothing like them!!) but think it’s normal and fine that marginalized people should be expected to read about category-central characters.

Conversely, it’s also why they think they know our experience perfectly well and can talk over us; after all, we’re just like them, except in a few (stereotyped) ways. They’re default people! Unlike us.

5) (Horrific example tw) While people know perfectly well that diseases will spread from category-central members of humanity to peripheral ones, they often don’t realize it goes the other way too. In the 80s, a lot of people thought AIDS was a “gay disease” – it wouldn’t hit straight people! (And bi/pan/polysexual people don’t exist after all, c.f. the erasure caused by (1)). Sooo yeah, they didn’t care, till it did start hitting a lot of straight (white) people.

6) (TERF warning.) Consider how some TERFs say, “Of course I think trans women are women! – Technically. But like, not real women.”
So long as they can make that linguistic hedge in some form – so that they’re not actually expected to treat trans women as fully women, as fully human – they’re fine with it. This is part of how they contradict themselves so blithely without hitting cognitive dissonance.

This is one method of moving the goalposts. Our understanding of categories is fluid and context-dependent, and we shift from thinking about the prototype to the whole category and back more than we normally consciously realize, and we can use the same word, often, to refer to either; and oppressors can use that to pretend they’re speaking in good faith and being “reasonable”, while in fact they’re changing their definitions on the fly to suit their convenience.

7) Consider whiteness again. Within a US context, some groups (e.g. white Jewish Americans) have become more white than they historically were, and benefit from co-signing whiteness. They are still not category-central; their inclusion may still be marginal; but by default, they are now on the inside of the category boundary. Whereas other groups (e.g. South Asian Americans) do not get to cross the line no matter how strongly they buy into whiteness, because Blackness, and therefore darkness, is an exclusionary feature. But what that means, too, is that South Asian Americans do get privileged over other groups, most notably Black Americans, and need to understand that the power dynamics of whiteness do not end at the boundary of whiteness.

For more central but still not default people (both within and outside the category!), aligning with & co-signing the category-center brings clear advantages. That’s not true for people who are always, definitionally, excluded.

I’m going to start my wrap-up by talking a bit about derailing (getting in before defensive-privileged-commentors do so, haha). Often it works by changing the category under discussion – forcibly redrawing the boundary, and thereby changing the center of the category & what’s being talked about. Example that I see all the time: “Trans women are awesome!” gets derailed with “ALL women are awesome!” By making the category “all women”, the derailer does not merely extend the statement to more people. No, by changing the category and evoking the new category’s cisnormative prototypes, they change the subject entirely – recentering themselves and pushing trans women off to the margins.

“Not All Men” works in sort of the opposite way. By creating this hypothetical subcategory of Not-All-Men and forcing attention to it, it derails discussion away from, & attempts to undermine statements about, the category as a whole.

So! When talking to other people, in fandom and outside it, we need to be aware of category-centrality as well as membership. Especially because categories like whiteness are not boxes, but rather spectrums, with a central core of “real”, unarguable members, and an uneven periphery of conditional members, who can get kicked out by the category center as convenient, but still benefit from some or all of the privilege most of the time. Understanding this helps us understand the mechanics of derailing, and the mechanics of marginalization/exclusion done by not-central members to even-more-non-central members, as well as the mechanics that central members use against us all.

Why An Alphabet of Embers is Love

When I first envisioned the anthology, I knew that I wanted to do more than to create a book: I wanted other artists to create art that relates to the book. The whole process of fundraising for An Alphabet of Embers became just that, art enabling more art to be born.

The adventure began with a brilliant cover by the Hugo award-winning artist Galen Dara – this art is also being offered as postcards and posters to the Kickstarter backers!

60210aee200d43b4f13745ef4c40ad45_large
 

And then I wrote the lyrics and commissioned a piece of music from one of my favorite creators, Emily Jiang; and as a stretch goal that has been reached, the Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours will be writing lyrics and music as well!

 


BACT: C.S.E. Cooney, Amal El-Mohtar, and Caitlyn PaxsonEmily Jiang
 

And then I asked a bunch of poets to write science poetry about forgotten and overlooked figures of science and technology, for a bonus chapbook called Spelling the Hours! The book will include work by Sofia Samatar, Sonya Taaffe, Michele Bannister, Mari Ness, and many others! And it will be wonderful.

 

 

Spelling the Hours

Spelling the Hours

 

And then Bogi Takács started creating Ember Letters for backers, and we are almost to a full set – some of these will be offered, free of charge, to backers who pledged at the 25$ level and higher:


Pofembers-small-jpg Kofembers-small-jpgJofembers-small-png
And I have been drawing critter pictures for backers (more information and pictures in this entry!)

 

for Isanah

for Isanah

 

for Stuart

for Stuart

And then Kythryne Aisling of Wyrdling Studios created an exclusive series of Phoenix jewelry especially for the project. A piece will be included in the 200$ treasure boxes and two higher-tier rewards! In addition, Kythryne offers 5$ off a custom jewelry piece worth 50$ and higher, to every backer who pledged 25$ and more! (offer good for two years).

 

 

Phoenix pendant

 

But wait, there is more from Kythryne: she is also creating jewelry inspired by the Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours’ “Ballads from a distant star,” a cycle of music that will include the song BACT are composing for us.

DSC_7774_400w DSC_7778_400w
 

But wait, that’s not all! Our 8k stretch goal includes a whole joke issue of Stone Telling, choke-ful of rhymed mermaids, illustrated by B&W photographs of Mippo the plush hippo! Shweta Narayan and I will be co-editing this marvel of marvels, should we reach 8k!

 

 

Mermippo wants YOU!

Mermippo wants YOU!

 

And ALSO, Saira Ali of Kitabiyat press will be creating broadsides of one story from An Alphabet of Embers, printed on a 19th century letterpress, and sent to all backers who pledged 45$ and higher, for no additional charge (but we need to hit 8k for that to happen).

 

 

Letterpress magic

Letterpress magic

 

To round out the sheer awesomeness that is An Alphabet of Embers, we will create an audiobook if we reach 9k :D :D :D

Is that all? No, that’s not all! For higher-level backers, I will be creating: custom poems, non-fiction essays about linguistics and folklore, and treasure boxes full of TREASURE. There are a few more poems, boxes, and essays left!

And of course, I am already reading submissions to create the very best anthology of marvelous, short, surrealist, magical, beautiful writing  – which, thanks to our backers, will also now be lavishly illustrated!!

An Alphabet of Embers is going to be a work of many people – writers, poets, artists, musicians, jewelry-makers, and even hard-working blue plush hippos, as well as your intrepid editor and Team Stone Bird. So thank you, all of you, for getting us this far; and we’ll get farther yet. So if you’re dithering, dither no more :D :D There are only 57 hours left to pledge!

 

 

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