Disclaimer: Uncanny has published several of my essays, including The Politics of Comfort, which seems relevant here…
Earlier today, the Twitterverse linked me to a “review” by Eamonn Murphy of Uncanny Magazine #14. Sarah Gailey screencapped some of the highlights on Twitter.
The full review is here.
(ETA: It looks like SF Crowsnest has pulled the review.)
Murphy begins his column with the following note:
Content Warning: This review contains sarcasm.
Oh, hell. He’s going to try to be clever, isn’t he. Please tell me Murphy isn’t one of those delicate man-flowers who think Content Warnings are coddling nonsense, while at the same time getting mortally offended that nobody warned him there might be non-male, non-straight, or non-white people in what he’s about to read.
He summarizes the first story thusly:
The first fiction is ‘Bodies Stacked Like Firewood’ by Sam J. Miller. When Cyd, a transgender person commits suicide, tragically unhappy due to our rotten society, some of his friends blame themselves. The narrator is a promiscuous gay ‘bottom’ who goes online looking for ‘fuck buddies’. That’s okay because he’s not a heterosexual man objectifying women’s bodies by only wanting them for sex.
My initial response:
This is why I put “review” in quotes, back at the start of this post. Because Murphy isn’t reviewing the stories. Of the 155 words he spends on “Bodies Stacked Like Firewood,” maybe a third of it attempts to share information from the story? I wouldn’t call it a summary, because Murphy doesn’t even try to summarize the story of Cyd’s visions, or of how his suicide brings two people together, or the themes of isolation and connection.
Instead, in this case, he seems to think he’s calling out some kind of hypocrisy, that it’s okay for a gay man to be promiscuous, but poor victimized straight men like him are vilified for treating women as sexual objects instead of as people. This despite the facts that:
- The story doesn’t really present a judgement on Kelvin’s promiscuity.
- Surprise! There’s a difference between “I have a lot of sex” and “I think women are things for me to use.”
Maybe Murphy doesn’t understand that distinction? But I get the sense that “Things Murphy Doesn’t Understand — and Doesn’t Want to Understand” would be an infinite Jeopardy category.
Muphy begins “reviewing” the next story by misspelling the author’s name:
Marc Rustad is ‘a queer non-binary writer’ (look it up, Stone Age Man!) and wrote ‘Monster Girls Don’t Cry’.
Side note: Merc Rustad also wrote “Exponentially Hoping” for Invisible 2.
After pointing out that Rustad is not a straight and traditional Manly Man like Eamonn-Manly-Pecs-Murphy-whose-nipples-squirt-uncut-testosterone, our
reviewer goes on to say:
This was well-written and the message of tolerance for those who look different has hardly ever been touched on by ‘Star Trek’ and similar so-called fantasy productions in the oppressive mainstream media.
I get it! Murphy’s using sarcasm to say that Rustad’s story is unoriginal because Star Trek and other fantasy productions have had stories about tolerance! Pretty clever, bro.
I guess we can all stop seeing those Marvel movies, since there have been plenty of other productions about white dudes named Chris saving the world. I’d meant to go see Rogue One, but we’ve had other stories about plucky rebels fighting fascists, so why bother? Saying “this story is bad because other stories have addressed similar ideas” is about as weak a critique as you can get.
But who knows. Maybe it really is just a Trek ripoff? Here’s the opening paragraph from Rustad’s story:
Your sister has too–large hands and too many teeth. Not in a sense that her gums are crowded or her fingers are long and she might have a career as a concert pianist. No, her hands are massive, thick–boned, tipped in wickedly sharp claws that shine like pearls. And her mouth—well. Her mouth is normal–sized, but it has so many, many teeth. When she smiles, you feel queasy. All the teeth, sharp and white, fit inside her mouth around her pink tongue, but how they fit rubs wrong against your understanding of reason and reality. You don’t look at Phoebe’s mouth, even when she smiles bright and laughs. Of course you love her. You’re both monster girls.
My bad. Murphy’s right. Rustad’s story is absolutely identical to Star Trek. (Did I do the sarcasm right?)
Some of the stories haven’t yet appeared on the public side of the Uncanny website, so I haven’t been able to read them yet. But Murphy continues his insightful commentary with notes like:
Tansy Rayner Roberts gives us a tasteless romp about dating and heterosexual love. Not a word about the cheap objectification of oppressed womankind that everyone knows is the true nature of such things. I was frankly disgusted by this appalling mainstream trash that perpetuates the white male phallocentric world viewpoint.
This well-crafted meditation on gods, man and fraud was entertaining, I suppose, but didn’t address any of the crucial issues of white supremacy, homophobia, neo-Nazism and misogyny which are helpfully listed in this issues editorial.
Those comments were about “Some Cupids Kill With Arrows” by Tansy Rayner Roberts and “The Unknown God” by Ann Leckie.
Short version? Eamonn Murphy has come to kick bubblegum and chew ass, and he’s all out of– Wait, that’s not right. Let me try again.
Eamonn Murphy has come to whine about people writing and talking about things that don’t center him as a straight male, and offer insightful critique and commentary. And, apparently, he’s all out of insightful critique and commentary.
Not only does Mr. Murphy start frothing at the mouth when a story includes a queer or trans character or talks about tolerance, he keeps frothing even when he thinks the story isn’t about those things. We’re talking about a man set to permanent froth, a cross between malfunctioning espresso machine and a dog who ate too much toothpaste and shat all over your carpet.
This carries over to his comments on the nonfiction as well.
I thought ‘Inferior Beasts’ by Mark Oshiro was a story because the header had a severe Content Note for descriptions of child abuse and homophobia … It turned out to be a review of J.K. Rowling’s ‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’, just the sort of garbage where you‘d expect to find child abuse. Turns out a kid gets beaten by his mother. My mother hit me sometimes and I was so upset by this that I couldn’t read further to find the homophobia but I’m sure it was there.
Murphy doesn’t expand about being hit by his mother, but whatever happened to him, apparently this means (if I’m translating the sarcasm correctly) that it’s no big deal for kids in movies to get beaten by their mothers. (Or groomed and used by an evil wizard. Or, you know, murdered.)
Because what better way to class up this review than by belittling and mocking the abuse of kids, amirite?
Murphy concludes by saying:
If you’re the kind of reader who thinks fantasy should feature admirable people struggling against great odds to save other people in some sort of metaphor for the real world, too bad. If you think Science Fiction should be about engineers or scientists solving the problems of environmental catastrophe, expanding population, terraforming Mars or other real social and political issues, too bad. If you think that Science Fiction magazines should have essays and articles about real life advances in science that can benefit all mankind, well…I pity you. I pity you.
Short version? You’re doing fantasy and science fiction Wrong, Uncanny Magazine!
Slightly longer version? You’re doing fantasy and science fiction Wrong, Hugo Award-winning and Parsec Award-winning and World Fantasy Award-nominated Uncanny Magazine!
I mean, come on! What would Nebula, World Fantasy, and Theodore Sturgeon Award-nominated and Shirley Jackson Award-winning author Sam Miller know about writing? Or Hugo-nominated fan and writer Mark Oshiro know about critiquing stories? Or World Fantasy Award-winner and Nebula, Crawford, Locus, Seiun, and Mythopoeic Award-nominated Theodora Goss? Or more-awards-than-I-can-list-here Tansy Rayner Roberts?
But of course, those awards don’t count, right? Because they don’t go exclusively to the kind of people and SF/F Murphy likes.
I was going to dismiss Murphy’s column as “Old Man Yells at Cloud.”
But it’s not just some guy yelling because parts of the genre have moved on from his childhood, and authors are writing stories about people who aren’t like him. Murphy isn’t just complaining. He’s gone full asshole. He’s the old man pissing defiantly up at the clouds, with predictable and inevitable results.
Murphy has every right to his opinion. All stories have messages and political context. If Murphy doesn’t like the politics or messages of these stories? If he finds them threatening or uncomfortable or simply alien? His loss. And SF Crowsnest has every right to publish Murphy’s opinion, no matter how odious I might find it.
Just like I have the right to call Murphy a whiny cloud-pissing man-baby who’s somehow so out of touch with the genre that he was Shocked and Appalled to find that Uncanny Magazine publishes good stories from a diverse range of authors. Seriously, how did he not know what he was getting into? It’s like he stomped into a Red Lobster and then posted a vicious, poorly-written Yelp rant because they had seafood there!
I don’t know why SF Crowsnest chose to publish that poorly-written Yelp rant. But hey, it’s their website. Maybe they’re building a Safe Place for cloud-pissers?
For everyone else, Uncanny Magazine has a bunch of fiction and nonfiction to read, with more coming next month.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.