C'mon! Tell WOOD TV how you feel!

Feb 21, 20:47 by John Frost
No, not here! By regular old snail mail. It's the most effective way.
Feb 22, 08:13 by Jim Van Pelt
Hi, John. I also was bothered by the television story, mostly because it was unbalanced. The reporter hadn't done her homework.

Your editorial, though, said that a major publisher would have the station in court for slander. If Asimov's took the television station to court, it would lose. Asimov's, as a public performance, is subject to "fair comment," which means that someone can offer an opinion about the performance. Whether something is obscene, pornographic or inappropriate for children is a matter of opinion ("pornographic" has a legal definition, but it is entirely arguable--my guess is that taking quotes out of context from the issue would fulfill many areas definition of pornography, but that's a different argument), so the news station and the mother would win a court case.

The mother's problem is that she assumed that if children were selling the magazines that the magazines were appropriate for children, even though there was a selection of magazines labled for children (Asimov's wasn't in that list). By most standards, Asimov's is not appropriate for a middle school library, and, as much as I love the magazine, some of the stories are not appropriate for a high school one either.

I know, I know, I know that folks can rage against American hyposcrisy on sex, or that a normal high school hallway has more pornographic discussion than an average group of dock workers might have on a Friday night, but the truth of the matter is that most high schools are incredibly conservative places, and that conservatism is always set by the most conservative parent who is willing to complain.

It's a weird world.

Best,
Jim Van Pelt (mild mannered high school teacher by day--science fiction writer and sometimes Asimov's author by night)
Feb 22, 11:03 by Elizabeth Thomas
I agree with Jim Van Pelt.

A lot of people are getting their personal feelings about <i>Asimov's</i> involved. I understand. I love <i>Asimov's</i>. I read it when I was in high school.

However, I was also a very mature child, and I went out and bought it myself with my parents--both of them encouraged me to read anything I felt like, with the general opinion that any reading was good and if I read something inappropriate I would not be scarred for life. They were obviously not the most conservative of parents in that sense.

The magazine wasn't available for me in my school library. I definitely don't think <i>Asimov's</i> qualifies as a children's magazine, and in some cases, it does not qualify as a YA magazine. I have no problem with parents not wanting it in their school libraries or librarians not placing it in their libraries. Both of my parents are school librarians. You don't buy age inappropriate content for your library. One, only some of the kids will be able to handle the content. Two, if Jim's aforementioned most conservative of the conservative parents find it out, you have nothing to stand on if it isn't a book intended for the right age level.

What bothers me is the mother ran to the press instead of just dealing with it in her own school library, although she did seem very upset and people often get carried away when they are upset. What bothers me even more is that the Wood TV news not only misrepresented <i>Asimov's</i> to make it appear like a porn or erotica magazine, they outright lied about the facts and the quotes that their interview with <i>Asimov's</i> revealed.

In any case, I think it will blow over. Hopefully the coverage does not drop subscription rates.

Elizabeth Thomas
Student and <i>Asimov's</i> subscriber
Feb 22, 11:06 by Elizabeth Thomas
Sorry about the formatting mistakes, and I meant to say that "the mother ran to the press instead of just dealing with her own subscription." I am not sure if her school library subscribed or not.
Feb 22, 11:11 by Bluejack
For 'feature requests', editing your own posts and documentation on how to do formatting like italics are top of the list.
Feb 22, 11:34 by Elizabeth Thomas
For 'feature requests', editing your own posts and documentation on how to do formatting like italics are top of the list.
Feb 22, 11:35 by Elizabeth Thomas
Sorry again. I was just going to say thanks, and that I shouldn't have been so ambitious as to attempt to do italics...but then I accidentally hit the enter key...:)
Feb 23, 07:03 by John Frost
Jim Wrote: "I also was bothered by the television story, mostly because it was unbalanced. The reporter hadn't done her homework."

I'm not really sure I would characterize it this mildly. The tenor of the reporting was so ripe with smarmy, self-righteous horror, dressed up in the trappings of investigative journalism, my instinct was that this was not negligence, this was malice.

Jim wrote: "Your editorial, though, said that a major publisher would have the station in court for slander. If Asimov's took the television station to court, it would lose."

Maybe. Probably. But that's not always the point. Corporations with staff lawyers use them. Now, Asimov's or any other magazine might decide that letting something sink with as little fuss as possible is the best spin to put on it, but a court case for slander (or libel, I forget which), will often result in an out-of-court settlement involving a retraction or correction of errors. Newspapers have a history of so-called misprints, and if nobody complains, there are no retractions.

Jim wrote: "Asimov's, as a public performance, is subject to "fair comment," which means that someone can offer an opinion about the performance."

Sure, but there is a clear, legal distinction between opinion and fact. It may very well be the case that by the standards of Grand Rapids, MI, Asimov's is hard-core pornography. But the particular assertions in the news piece went far beyond expressing an opinion about the pornographic nature of the magazine. (Although, to that point, the unwholesome character of Asimov's should has to be evaluated on comparison with other magazines on the list. As I mentioned, any major women's magazine should suffice to demonstrate that Asimov's is not beyond the pale in terms of adult content.)

Another legal case Asimov's could make would be harrassment: the television station grilling national distributors in the most provocative and inaccurate language possible could be construed as harassment, and a cease-and-desist order could be requested. Again, it might be a tricky case to win, but it's not an unreasonable case to make.

Jim wrote: "I know, I know, I know that folks can rage against American hyposcrisy on sex,"

You know, looking back on my editorial, I think I failed to make the point that it's not the attitude towards sex that bothers me. In fact, (going to the news media aside) I completely approve of the Mother's actions. It is good for parents to take an interest in what their children are doing; it is very important to set limits for adolescents; it is equally important to talk to teens about these things. Personally, my standards, limits, and conversations would be different, but I embrace this diversity.

My problem was specifically with the journalism: Its manipulative character, and the rank injustices inherent in both their choice of Asimov's and their willful ignorance of the facts.

Feb 23, 07:08 by John Frost
Elizabeth wrote: "I have no problem with parents not wanting it in their school libraries or librarians not placing it in their libraries."

And also: "What bothers me is the mother ran to the press instead of just dealing with it in her own school library, although she did seem very upset and people often get carried away when they are upset."

Just to be clear, the issue wasn't really about whether Asimov's should be in the school library. I would imagine (although I don't know for sure) that there were other magazines on the fund-raising list that are also not in the school library.



Feb 23, 09:59 by Jim Van Pelt
I doubt that the article came out of malice or "willful ignorance," although I'll make a fine line here between willful and plain, ordinary ignorance.

I've worked in newspaper newsrooms before, and my guess is that the reporter heard about the complaint, read only the highlighted sections of the story, then rushed to production. I don't think her target was Asimov's, it was the schools (that's the intentional malice). Clearly she was irresponsible in her reporting,though.

As far as the legal angle goes, anything could happen in court. I mean, Asimov's could sue--I think they would lose--but what would they be suing for? They don't want to be labeled as middle or high school appropriate. The only thing they could fight would be the description of being pornographic, which, as I said earlier, is very hard to define. I don't think they have a case for harassment either, since freedom of speech covers the station contacting the distributor to voice their concern.

If anyone at Asimov's asked my advice about what to do (sure, that will happen *g*), I'd say what someone told me about some high school political matters: "Don't wrestle with pigs. All that will happen is that you'll get covered in shit, and the pig will like it."

A side issue, in some ways a more interesting issue, is that there isn't a readily-available, entry-level, YA appropriate SF magazine out there. There used to be. When I was in junior high in the late 60s, our school library subscribed to Analog. That's where I learned about modern, short SF. Now I don't think any of the major magazines are appropriate for a high school library (Asimov's, F&SF, Realms of Fantasy, or Analog). Analog is the closest, but it even falls off the edge sometimes. High school and middle school libraries don't have a magazine to subscribe to, because, as I said, schools are insanely sensitive to the complaints of the most conservative, vocal parent.

Fortunately there is a ton of age-appropriate material available, but a librarian has to pick carefully. Diana Trixler Herald, for example, publishes a book called Genrefluent, which is for librarians specifically, and it makes suggestions for books at http://www.genrefluent.com/. The American Library Association's young adult reading program also provides good lists. The Reading for the Future program at http://readingforfuture.com/ also helps.

I found what appears to be a really good YA appropriate anthology of modern SF from Patrick Nielson Hayden, entitled NEW SKIES at http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/new_skies.htm published last year.

The television news story was badly done, and I agree in spirit with everything that John talked about. I don't think that there will be many ripples from that story, though. What will be important is what the folks in the genre do (if anything) in resonse to it.
Feb 23, 11:06 by Jim Van Pelt
I relooked at the TV article, and I realized they never use the word "pornographic." Asimov's is described as being "adults only," that it contains "strong adult content" and "explicit tales about sex, drugs and molestation." A school principal describes it as "very inappropriate." Asimov's itself said that "it is an adult publication."

Now that I've watched it a couple more times, though, I can't tell exactly what the article's target is. You can be sure that it would be embarassing to the schools, but that doesn't seem like where most of the ire is pointed. QSP and Reader's Digest catches a lot of flak, but mostly it does seem to go after Asimov's.

The television station is probably patting itself on the back for its community activism, which is a trend in journalism, because the schools, Reader's Digest and Asimov's all agreed they would change what they do because of the story. Channel 8 is getting plenty of positive reinforcement for their work.

It's too bad that the reporter missed so much of the story while going for this story, though. My guess is that she would argue that Asimov's multiple awards, its long history and its storied list of writing alumni are irrelevant to the article she wrote.
Feb 23, 13:47 by John Frost
Jim wrote: "I'd say what someone told me about some high school political matters: "Don't wrestle with pigs. All that will happen is that you'll get covered in shit, and the pig will like it."

Good aphorism. I expect that's the case.

Jim wrote "A side issue, in some ways a more interesting issue, is that there isn't a readily-available, entry-level, YA appropriate SF magazine out there."

I agree. I would actually suggest that Analog is still that magazine, even though some material might occasionally be questionable to some audiences. I have read a smattering of Analogs over the past couple of years, and I think the character of the stories tends to aim for a teen-male market. Nonetheless, whatever the stories in Analog are, the magazine doesn't really market itself as a YA vehicle, and there is a need for one that does.

Jim wrote: "High school and middle school libraries don't have a magazine to subscribe to, because, as I said, schools are insanely sensitive to the complaints of the most conservative, vocal parent."

Not sure who's going to do this, or who's going to write for it, but it's a great idea.

Feb 24, 18:48 by Elizabeth Thomas
"Just to be clear, the issue wasn't really about whether Asimov's should be in the school library. I would imagine (although I don't know for sure) that there were other magazines on the fund-raising list that are also not in the school library."

Yes, I corrected the second instance when I mentioned libraries above accidentally. The rest was in response to Jim Van Pelt's point about appropriateness for school libraries. The reporters also took the magazine to schools to make sure they don't subscribe to it, so it is relevant, even if it wasn't the real issue.
Feb 24, 19:57 by Chris Dodson
Jim Van Pelt said: "I found what appears to be a really good YA appropriate anthology of modern SF from Patrick Nielson Hayden, entitled NEW SKIES at http://www.sff.net/people/doylemacdonald/new_skies.htm published last year."

That's a wonderful anthology, one of the best of its kind. NEW SKIES is a perfect template for what a YA SF magazine should be like: stories with contemporary relevance, that are age-appropriate but not pandering, that are sophisticated but not inaccessible.

I wonder how well NEW SKIES sold. I'm no expert, but I imagine there's a huge untapped market out there for something like this.
Feb 25, 14:42 by Jim Van Pelt
I e-mailed Patrick Nielson Hayden about NEW SKIES, because I thought it would make a good supplemental text to the science fiction classes I teach at the high school. Mostly I was worried about if they would keep it in print long enough to make the expenditure worth while. He said he thought that they would, and that they are doing a paperback version of it soon.

I will order hardback for the durability, but a cheaper paperback could be the perfect gift for a YA reader. It opens with the marvelous "They're Made Out of Meat." Terry Bisson has posted the story on line at http://www.terrybisson.com/meat.html for anyone who hasn't read it and would like to. In fact, his whole website is a treat.
Feb 25, 15:22 by Chris Dodson
Jim Van Pelt said: "I e-mailed Patrick Nielson Hayden about NEW SKIES, because I thought it would make a good supplemental text to the science fiction classes I teach at the high school."

Wow, I didn't even know high schools HAD science fiction classes. I wish there had been one when I was in school. All we got was a 15-minute film strip that started with H.G. Wells and ended with John W. Campbell.
Feb 25, 16:36 by Jim Van Pelt
I feel lucky that it's in the curriculum in our district. It isn't everywhere. I know that Patrick Swenson, the publisher and editor of Talebones and Fairwood Press, also teaches a science fiction class in his high school.

Even if it was offered everywhere, I'd suspect there wouldn't be enough qualified teachers. Of course, that hasn't stopped every high school in the country from offering British lit *g*.
Feb 28, 04:32 by David Shanahan
Does anyone know which issue of Asimov's triggered this whole mess? Might be worth a bit now on the 2nd hand market. "The Adults Only Issue". :-)

It would interesting to know which story/stories were so full of "sex, drugs and molestation" that they drove the mother to complain. Gosh darnit if she hasn't whetted my appetite for some SF porn...
Feb 28, 11:23 by E Thomas
It was the March 2004 issue. I have a lot of novels to read for class, so I haven't read it yet. As I understand it, the stories that are the most likely targets are "Tammy Pendant" by Chris Beckett and "What She Left Behind" by Sarah A. Hoyt.

Tammy is a teen prostitute who is (quoting Gardner Dozois)-- "a troubled young girl also tries to escape from an unpleasant reality, by trying to literally escape to another dimension, and by the end has learned the hard lesson that you CAN'T escape from your troubles; you have no choice but to face up to them and deal with them; maybe she'll succeed, maybe she won't." He also notes that author Beckett is a social worker. Hoyt's story is about a boy who overcomes childhood abuse, (quoting Dozois again) who escapes to a fantasy world but "ultimately rejects the temptation to so retreat from reality, rejects the fantasy world, and instead becomes a good man involved in the world, as a father and family man and a valued member of the community."

If you go to www.asimovs.com/forum and click on "Asimov's Banned" there is a discussion of this topic with many comments, including ones by esteemed editors in the field and people who have actually had a chance to read the issue. Look at the thread devoted to the March issue, though, for a more general discussion on the fiction in the issue and how it worked for people.
Mar 5, 14:15 by Janine Stinson
Hi Jim, this is Jan S., we've crossed paths over at the
Rumor Mill. Your analysis of the WoodTV story is right on the money. Speaking of which, I went to the station's Web site to try and ascertain who owns the station, and was not successful. I may not have looked in the right place. All I know is that they're an NBC affiliate. And whoever the film editor was on that story made sure the viewers saw the magazine cover at least twice. I hope Asimov's newsstand sales go up. <g>



Mar 29, 05:18 by A.R. Yngve
It struck me that nowadays, the covers of American SF magazines are much more prudish than their content.

It used to be the other way around: covers showed scantily clad (sometimes undressed) women menaced by incongruously horny aliens, or hopping about in bikini spacesuits (while the male hero wore a sturdy full-body suit)... The actual stories within these "pulp" magazines contained none of the sex suggested by the covers.

Maybe, now that SF magazines actually contain *some* sex, it might be legit to make their covers at least a little bit sexier? Cos' boring covers Do Not Sell Copies.

Fantasy publishers know how to make selling covers. Always a female Elf warrior with a massive cleavage in her breastplate...
;-P





Mar 29, 11:06 by Bluejack
Hear! Hear! Although Realms of Fantasy is incredibly cheesy sometimes, and I am occasionally embarassed to be seen reading it in public lest people misunderstand the nature of the fantasies in question, I do think the covers are fun, and funny, and occasionally even dramatic.

Science fiction covers, by and large, are just boring. One more planet rising over a barren lunar craterscape and I'm gonna... Ok, I'll still buy it. But not with any enthusiasm.
Mar 29, 19:41 by Chris Dodson
I agree with you guys, although I think we may be in the minority. I remember back when the January 2003 Asimov's came out, with the cover illustration for Bruce Sterling and Rudy Rucker's "Junk DNA", I was one of the only people on the magazine's forum who actually liked it. I thought the cartoon cover was quite refreshing after months and months of nothing but starscapes and planets.
Mar 30, 19:35 by Allan Rosewarne
Written by Bluejack
Hear! Hear! Although Realms of Fantasy is incredibly cheesy sometimes,


I have the following FYI. (maybe a little off topic) In 2002, at a Convention the question was posed to Shawn McCarthy and her reply was along the following lines 'well, I gotta say that the marketing folks tell me our newsrack sales have a 20% - 25% bump up when the more provocative covers are on an issue'. (not a direct quote) Ms. McCarthy's conclusion was as potentially embarassing as the covers might be to the content, she could not argue with the sales figures. So go figure.
Sep 29, 05:27 by Abizer Nasir
bluejack wrote

Science fiction covers, by and large, are just boring. One more planet rising over a barren lunar craterscape and I'm gonna..


The Third Alternative and now Interzone have covers that I find are quite acceptable for display on my daily commute. Now that is not something I would say for the old Interzone covers...
Sep 29, 08:24 by Bluejack
I haven't seen the new Interzone, but I loved the Third Alternative covers while they were sending me that for review -- interesting, beautiful, tasteful.
Jul 19, 11:24 by Allan Rosewarne
Ok, just in the last few days I read about the situation in Seaside, Oregon during October 2004. At the Seaside HS an instructor teaching an elective English course and was using John Kessel's Stories for men as part of the class's reading list; BTW, Sfm was originally published in IASFM during Oct/Nov 2002. A of the parent of one of the class's students then read the Kessel piece, determined that it was an unsuitable reading for HS student. The parent then presented the Kessel story to the HS principal, and the principal then made the decision to ban Stories for men from the course's reading list.

One can read the account of the Seaside situation on SFsite http://www.sfsite.com/columns/news0410.htm Stories for men is posted on-line at IASFM site, if you've not already read it.
Jul 20, 09:30 by Bluejack
Kessel's response to the situation was truly inspiring.
Nov 11, 05:01 by daisyfaith18@gmail.com
   

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