Clarkesworld, a renowned sci-fi and fantasy web magazine, recently published first-time author Isabel Fall. The title of her story, “I Sexually Identify Myself as an Attack Helicopter,” hints at a meme typically used to delegitimize transgender people. But the story is anything but anti-trans: it’s a mind-boggling surreal war story that turns the meme upside down. It has been read and approved by sensitivity assessors, including some trans. Its author, Fall, is herself trans.
As far as I know, most of the social media reaction to the story has been positive. But a small number of disgruntled activists attacked the story to offend them. Their harassment of Fall was so unpleasant she asked Clarkesworld to unpublish the story, and the publisher complied. “I sexually identify as an attack helicopter” is canceled.
Clarkesworld Editor-in-chief Neil Clarke posted a lengthy note on deletion that politely objected to critics’ most unreasonable claims. Some had apparently claimed that Fall’s declared birth year – 1988 – was an alt-right dog whistle, since the double eight could be taken to refer to HH (H being the eighth letter of the alphabet), or “heil Hitler”. This, of course, is conspiracy nonsense (even though I was too born in 1988, so some people will probably think the plot is a bit deeper).
But for the most part, Clarke accepted the criticism and apologized for posting an article that offended a group of pathologically unreasonable people:
Even with the authorship of ownvoices [authors writing about their own race, class, sex, etc.] and reading ownvoices sensitivity, it is always possible to miss something. In this case, we can see two groups of trans readers with directly opposing views that are deeply rooted in their own experiences and perspectives. In some cases, what made history speak to some is also what alienated others. Neither perspective is wrong, but they seem incompatible with each other on some level. Knowing that this was a potentially controversial story, we should have employed a wider range of sensitive readers. This is not to say that those we worked with failed, but rather that they represented only a part of the community and that additional perspectives could have helped us inform us of a potential conflict. It may not have “fixed” things, but it would have provided opportunities to better prepare ourselves and our readers for what lies ahead. It was an oversight….
That we didn’t understand trans politics well enough to properly counsel a new author who was floundering in the deep end. I’m not suggesting that we tell an author what he can and can’t say, but if the previous two had been done correctly, we would have been in a better place to set it up. Due to these failures, our lack of knowledge contributed to the problem….
In the meantime, I offer my sincere apologies to those who have been hurt by history or the storms that have followed.
Clarke began her note with this statement: “This is not censorship. She needed this to be done for her own safety and health.” An author who cancels himself out due to the venomous harassment of a small cabal of ideological activists may not meet the strict definition of censorship, but it is certainly a blow to the spirit of freedom. artistic. A stronger defense of Fall and his work was deserved. It is surrender.
Writing in his newsletter, Jesse Singal artfully sums up the problem with Clarke’s statement:
Clarke could easily have posted a short statement in the general form of, “Unfortunately, the author of this story, Isabel Fall, received a wave of harassment after it was posted. She asked that it not be published and I accepted with regret. Instead, he chose to fuel the idea that because people were offended by this story, there was something wrong. How else can one interpret his claim that something was “missed” and could have been “fixed”? That’s what I mean when I say he pretends to support Fall but throws her under the bus: he absolutely accepts the framing of hysterical reviews online when there was no need at all.
But nowhere in this nearly 1,400-word statement will you find a clear explanation of exactly What is wrong with history. This is because the only specific answer to this question is something like, “Some people have very superficial but dear ideas about what the genre is, and because this story took a more complicated, heavy, and bigger approach. creative of his gender theories – one that challenged those ideas – these people became deeply offended. ” This is why a story in a major science fiction medium had to be unpublished.
This episode demonstrates one of the most salient and often overlooked facts about cancellation culture: the people most vulnerable to cancellation belong to the highly marginalized communities that culture enforcement officials ‘cancellation are supposed to protect. These attacks on wrong thinking do not help the oppressed. Indeed, it is often armed against them, like an attack helicopter.