The Most Interesting Science Fiction Story You’ll Read This Year
So I’ve spent a day poring over this petition to SFWA about the bulletin editor position, and I’m still trying to make sense of it. Seriously–I can’t make sense of it. This thing is so badly written I can’t believe Gene Wolfe signed it without a little piece of himself dying inside. This is presumably a petition of some sort, yet includes such passages as the author’s positive opinion of the Jumper novels and a short biographical note on a Scottish lawyer from the eighteenth century (He settled in Philadelphia!). Then you have pages of email exchanges included verbatim. (The concept of a footnote being perhaps a bit too highbrow for Mr. Truesdale).
Since the subject of this morass of email exchanges, anecdotes from the eighteenth century, tangential conversations on political sensitivity, and assorted other pieces is ostensibly the illegality of editorial oversight, I was rather intrigued with the idea that this was all some kind of textual performance art to prove the opposite: Truesdale illustrating that you actually should edit words by writing something so hilariously bad that editing it would be self-evident to anyone reading it. How cool would that have been? I can see John W. Campbell smiling in Heaven right now.
But then I saw the final few words of the title of the document: “…2nd version.” Holy shit. There was an even worse version of this thing? Dave, you’re doing yourself no favors commenting on the job of an editor by releasing something so horribly edited.
Okay, I know what you’re saying: There must be a petition in there somewhere, right? After all, a petition, by definition, is a request to do something. Let me see if I can find it in this thing. Okay, I’ll admit it. I skipped to the end. You know, because in a well-written petition you end with your call-to-action. You clearly elucidate what it is that you’re requesting. Shockingly, there actually was some kind of call-to-action at the end. So what’s this petition everyone is so up in arms over?
[a] call for SFWA President Steven Gould to kill any proposed advisory board or any other method designed to censor or infringe on any SFWA member their First Amendment right to freedom of speech in the pages of the SFWA Bulletin.
Well, shit, I am down with that. But why did it take Truesdale over one-thousand fucking words to get to something so simple to understand? It’s like he was getting paid by the word and his mortgage was due. Anyway, I’m a big believer in the first amendment and freedom-of-speech. That’s why I support the ACLU like I’m sure all the other signatories do. In fact, with SFWA being incorporated in the United States, our members are constitutionally guaranteed their freedom of speech. It would be illegal for SFWA to limit that.
Wait. So why the fuck does this petition exist? This shit is already illegal. What is Truesdale going to do next, write a two thousand word petition to make sure that no SFWA board members commit murder?
I know. I know. I missed that the signatories want to kill any “method designed to censor or infringe” on those first amendment rights. Yes, this is a petition against future infringement of constitutional rights. The only thing more ridiculous than a petition to tell an organization to follow the law (rather than, you know, actually sue in a court over it) is to petition an organization to follow the law and to also follow the law in the future.
And that’s when it hit me. Wow. This actually is textual performance art. That genius Truesdale was being so cagey that he didn’t want to give it all away by putting Phil Dick’s name at the top of the list of signatories. This is the most science fictional petition of all science fiction petitions. It is petitioning SFWA not to do something it hasn’t even done yet.
Hey, Truesdale may be a shitty editor, but I kind of like this avant-garde piece of fiction-written-as-a-petition. The only thing that would make this more entertaining is if the entire subject of this petition turned out to be serious, and that Truesdale and the signatories never passed fifth grade civics. Actually, no, that would not be entertaining. That would just be sad.
So I choose to believe that this is actually an homage to Phil Dick. A poorly written one, sure. But an homage none-the-less.